6 standard missions of the Confederate Secret Service - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

6 standard missions of the Confederate Secret Service

Popular history remembers the Confederate States of America for a lot of things, but having a developed government capable of almost anything the United States could do is seldom one of those things. But it did have all the trappings of a democratic government, including a Treasury Department, an Electoral College, and even coordinated clandestine activities.

Spies. They had spies.


They’re, like, the first thing new governments get. Catch “Turn: Washington’s Spies” on AMC.

I describe the Confederacy’s secret soldiers as a kind of Secret Service, but that’s not entirely an accurate description. The mission of the U.S. Secret Service is not only to protect the President and other American leaders, but to act as an investigation and enforcement arm of the Treasury Department. They track down counterfeiters and other fraudsters while assisting on anti-terror and counter-narcotics task forces with other agencies. But intelligence is not their mission.

In the Confederacy, it could have been. The Confederate government had countless secret agents in their employ, so many the Confederate government couldn’t always track them all. They were assigned many, many roles.

Sabotage

In the early morning hours of a balmy August night in 1864, an American barge parked on the James River was filled with stores of supplies for the Siege of Petersburg. After about an hour, the barge exploded, destroying an estimated million of Union supplies. Its destroyer was Capt. John Maxwell of the Confederate Secret Service. He and a handful of other saboteurs destroyed a number of Union supply carriers, sunk Union ships, and allegedly destroyed the river steamship Sultana, killing thousands in one of the worst maritime disasters in American history.

Rose O’Neal Greenhow was a DC socialite who provided the Confederate Army with enough information to win at First Bull Run.

Intelligence

Like any other army fighting a war, the Confederate Army needed information about their opponents. More than that, the Confederates needed to know what was happening in Washington, who their friends were, and other such information. There were many Northerners willing to oblige them.

James Murray Mason and John Slidell were captured by the Union on their way to Britain. They were later released.

Foreign Agents

The Confederate States were, like most rebellions, eager to have international recognition of their independence. Confederate agents operated in Europe and elsewhere looking for this kind of support. They also measured public sentiment for or against their cause while providing any useful military information they could pick up. The US and Britain almost came to blows after two Confederate agents were captured from a British ship and detained.

“They’re over there!”

Signal Corps

The Confederate version of the US Army’s storied unit not only conducted battlefield communication for the Confederate armies in the field but also took on a number of espionage-related missions. They gave the Confederate artillery the positions of Union troops and maintained a secret telegraph line of communications for its spies that extended all the way to Canada.

Much of the Signal Corps’ mission logs were destroyed in the Union capture of Richmond, so the full extent of their clandestine activities may never be known.

Confederates were so renowned for their use of torpedos that the Union had guys who did nothing but disarm them all day.

The Torpedo Bureau

The Confederates were very vulnerable to the vast superiority of the Union Navy. The solution for them was to mine or torpedo everything in sight. To this end, they hired two brothers who developed Confederate torpedo technology, taking them from crude wooden shells filled with gunpowder to disguised canisters which looked like coal that would be smuggled into the boiler rooms of Union steamships.

Land mines and sea mines were soon to follow.

Raids from Canada

Like modern-day green berets, Confederate agents recruited Canadians and sympathetic northerners to launch raids on American outposts in the north of the country. One such raid was the St. Albans Raid of St. Albans, Vermont in 1864. Locals of the Vermont area were forced to swear loyalty oaths to the Confederacy at gunpoint as the raiders robbed the three local banks, gaining money and notoriety for the Confederates.

Military Life

Watch Army Special Forces do their own dive training

When we think of Green Berets, we think of tough, highly-trained troops that have been groomed to take on high-priority missions. Seeing as the military is home to a number of unique specializations, it’s easy to assume that when it comes to any kind of amphibious assault or landing, you’ve entered Navy or Marine Corps territory — right? Not necessarily.

The U.S. Army does some of its own diving. In fact, the U.S. Army actually operates a number of its own ships, too, for moving stuff around. In an instance of Hollywood actually getting it right, the 1986 film The Delta Force touched on one instance in which dive training proved very useful: infiltrating a target.


Chuck Norris prepares to infiltrate a terrorist base in ‘The Delta Force.’ The diving is not Hollywood BS.

(Cannon Films)

So, how do Green Berets learn how to carry out such missions? Well, to even get into the Combat Diver Qualification Course at the Special Forces Underwater Operations School, soldiers must first demonstrate outstanding physical fitness and pass swim tests. Once a Green Beret has arrived in Key West, Florida, they face seven weeks of training.

The training is extremely tough — one of three candidates who attend the school will not pass the course. After another series of tests (known collectively as “Zero Week”), Special Forces diving students learn how to handle SCUBA gear and re-breathers and learn all the skills required for an amphibious insertion. Then, It all culminates in a field training exercise.

One-third of the soldiers training will wash out of the Combat Divers Qualification Course.

(U.S. Army photo by Linda L. Crippen)

Check out the video below to see an old-school video about Green Berets putting their dive training to good use.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJhMxdZAJ64

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Tolkien’ trailer depicts WW1 influence on ‘Lord of the Rings’

World War I veteran John Ronald Reuel “J.R.R.” Tolkien published The Hobbit in 1937 and followed it up with The Lord of the Rings (1954-1944), books that would shape fantasy epics forever. The stories take place in Middle Earth, a medieval-esque land inhabited by humans, elves, dwarves, hobbits, dragons, orcs, and trolls, as well as sorcerers and wizards and witches and all manner of magics.

Thanks to sexy Legolas Peter Jackson, everyone has heard of Tolkien’s creations, but not everyone knows where he drew his inspiration from. Finally, the biopic Tolkien will tell the author’s tale.


TOLKIEN | Trailer 2 | FOX Searchlight

youtu.be

Watch the trailer:

Tolkien was a language scholar, specializing in Old and Middle English, which explains how he was able to invent his own languages for Middle Earth so perfectly. In 1915, Tolkien completed his studies at Oxford and became a second lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers. After training, he finally embarked for France in June 1916 and saw action almost immediately at the Battle of the Somme.

His service during World War I would heavily influence his writing, which the trailer alludes to brilliantly as the great dragon Smaug manifests in the flames of war.

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Tolkien would lost two friends in the Battle of the Somme, a heavy toll for anyone to bear. Tolkien would also suffer from ‘trench fever’ — a typhus-like condition — that would heavily debilitate him for the rest of his service.

Also read: How Tolkien’s war experience would influence ‘Lord of the Rings’

The journey from warrior to artist is a fascinating one, and Tolkien is one of the greatest. He had already begun writing some of his earliest tales, and after the war he sought employment as an Assistant Lexicographer on the New English Dictionary and later as an Associate Professor in English Language at the University of Leeds.

Based on the trailer, the film appears to celebrate Nicholas Hoult’s Tolkien, from his early education, love of language, and close friendships; to the war; and, of course, to his relationship with Edith Bratt, played by Lily Collins.

For fans of his work, the film looks promising.

For anyone who knows the toll that war can take, the film looks familiar — and perhaps promises a way “back again.”

Tolkien is directed by Dome Karukoski and will open on May 10, 2019.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea’s dictator was cheered like a rock star in Singapore

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the man who has held Asia on the brink of nuclear war for years, was loudly cheered and celebrated as he made his way around Singapore on a night out.

Around Singapore, media outlets stood perched and ready to catch a glimpse of the young leader as he toured the city’s finer establishments. Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump has not been seen outside since getting off his airplane, as he crams for June 12, 2018’s summit.


Video taken at the Marina Bay Sands hotel and shopping center shows Kim heading in and likely up to SkyPark, the famous rooftop of the iconic hotel.

SkyPark features swimming pools, bars, and restaurants and is a big tourist attraction.

Hear the enthusiasm in the room as he enters:

Kim has lived in North Korea much of his life, and didn’t leave the country between 2011 and early 2018, when he went to Beijing to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Kim was also photographed with Singapore’s minister of foreign affairs in what’s likely the first selfie of his life.

Kim lives under constant fear of assassination, as the administrator of a state that keeps untold thousands in political prisons while it seeks to threaten the world with nuclear weapons. He likely hasn’t had many nights out on the town like this.

Meanwhile, less than half a mile away, Trump is preparing for their historic meeting.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This WW2 pilot acquired a massive advantage after crashing

After joining the RAF in 1928, Douglas Bader was assigned to a flight squadron flying Bristol Bulldogs at Wrigley Airfield. During one of his flights, Bader was reportedly ordered not to perform any aerial acrobatics maneuvers or fly below 2,000 feet.


He didn’t listen.

While trying to show off his unique skills, Bader accidentally crashed his plane and ended up crushing both of his legs. The downed pilot was rescued and later fitted with prosthetic legs and had to relearn how to walk.

Related: This is how the ‘Handsomest Man in the Luftwaffe’ lost his looks

Reportedly, doctors determined he’d probably never fly again — they were wrong.

Now grounded, Bader learned new skills, like dancing and playing tennis and golf. His rehabilitation was going well, but he wanted to get back into the air and fly.

A Bristol Bulldog on display at a U.K. aviation museum. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

For the next few years, Bader requested piloting roles in the RAF but kept getting denied. It was recommended he go to the Center Flying School to test his abilities with the new, modern planes. The biplanes he once flew were “out of the fight” and had since been replaced by the more modern fighters, like the Hurricane and Spitfire.

He passed the tests with flying colors.

By 1940, Bader was assigned to the 19th Squadron and was given a Spitfire to undertake flying patrol missions. Soon after, he finally saw action over Dunkirk as he provided overwatch during the evacuation and took down two German planes in the process.

While flying his plane, Bader discovered a shocking new advantage. Since he didn’t have legs, he was unlikely to black out from the effects of G-force.

When a pilot conducts aggressive maneuvering, blood flows out of the brain and travels downward, toward the legs. Since Bader was a double amputee, he managed to stay in the fight much longer than his enemies — his blood had nowhere to go.

After the conflict at Dunkirk, the now-experienced pilot was promoted to squadron leader.

Squadron Leader Douglas Bader (center) and fellow pilots of No. 242 Squadron. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

The squadron mainly consisted of Canadians, and their morale appeared to be low due to a high casualty rate. As Bader began racking up kills once again, the men’s confidence quickly rose.

Bader managed to tally 25 confirmed kills before taking too much damage and crash landing once again.

Also Read: This WW2 Ace fought for both sides of the war

The Germans took the flying ace prisoner. He attempted numerous escapes but was recaptured each time. He’d remain a POW until 1945 when he was liberated from the prison camp by U.S. forces.

Learn more about this unique ace in the video below:

 

(Simple History | YouTube)
Articles

This is what a silencer for howitzers looks like

For those moments when you absolutely, positively have to train your artillery but you don’t want to wake the local population, accept no substitutes. Yes, artillery silencers are a thing.


Pictured without a gun to suppress. (photo from TheFirearmBlog)

These photos were taken at an artillery range in Germany. The vehicle using the giant suppressor is an M109G 155mm self-propelled howitzer. Apparently the locals don’t like the sound of freedom.

The sides can be opened to allow the expansion of the muzzle blast. (photo from TheFirearmBlog)

A report from the Defense Technical Information Center reveals the U.S. Army has some silencers of its own, for both 105 mm and 120 mm to be used at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds.

Residents across Chesapeake Bay experience considerably louder noise than other nearby communities because the artillery’s blast sound is highly directional. Something had to be done.

The steel construction allows for it to be lifted into position and used when firing at a 30-degree elevation. But it cannot be attached to the turret, because tests showed it affected recoil and harm the turret barrel.

Looks like a weird hammer to me. How about you? (photo from TheFirearmBlog)

The Firearm Blog also found a patent for a potential tank silencer, which would attach to the muzzle of the tank’s main turret.

Seems cumbersome.

The holes on the silencer are kept as small as possible to keep the decibel levels lower, which is most effective behind and in front of the suppressor. The total cost of the construction is $100,000.

Silencers can reduce artillery noise by as much as 20 decibels, which may not seem like much, but is the difference between listening to your television and listening to your blender.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This anti-aircraft tank was the worst thing ever built for the US military

The M247 Sergeant York was officially designated as a “self-propelled anti-aircraft gun” but was for all intents and purposes a tank chassis with anti-aircraft guns attached to the top. The vehicle was named for one Alvin York, a famous and highly decorated WWI hero who captured over 100 German soldiers pretty much single-handedly. Unfortunately for the U.S. tax payers who spent just shy of $2 billion on it (about $4.8 billion today or, humourously enough, after appropriately adjusting for inflation to make the dollar values match, about 1/11th what the entire Apollo program cost), the final version of the weapon ended up being so useless its automatic targeting system couldn’t distinguish between a toilet vent fan and a jet plane, the vehicle itself couldn’t keep up with the tanks it was designed to protect, and it was made obsolete by advances in enemy weaponry after only a few dozen faulty units were made. Here now is the story of the forgotten M247.


This particular weapon was developed by the defunct off-shoot of Ford known as Ford Aerospace in response to a contract put out by the U.S. Army in 1977 requesting what they referred to as an, “Advanced Radar-directed Gun Air Defense System.” This was later re-dubbed, “Division Air Defense” which was itself shorted to DIVAD in official documentation.

In a nutshell, the Army wanted a drivable anti-aircraft system that was to serve alongside their newly developed M1 Abrams and M2 Bradley tanks in battle. The contract was put out in direct response to a battle tactic known as “pop-up” which essentially involved helicopters harassing tanks from a distance by hiding behind cover and then popping up briefly to let loose a volley of anti-tank missiles (which themselves were a newly developed technology) before hiding once again.

The U.S. Army found that the tactic was almost impossible to counter with the ground-based weapons it had available at the time as their leading anti-aircraft weapons system, the M163 Vulcan, only had a range of 1.2 KM (3/4 of a mile), while newly developed anti-tank missiles, such as the 9K114 Shturm used by the Soviets, could hit from a range almost five times greater than that. To add insult to injury, the Soviets had no problem countering the pop-up attack method thanks to their ZSU-23-4 Shilka, which is essentially what the United States wanted to copy.

An M247 Sergeant York on display at Sgt. Alvin C. York State Historic Park, Tennessee. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

To minimize production time and cost, the Army specified that the basis of the newly developed system had to be mounted atop an M48 Patton tank chassis (something the Army had in great surplus). Further, the system had to more or less use off-the-shelf parts, rather than anything being developed from scratch.

As to the final specific capabilities it was supposed to have, it had to be able to keep up with the M1 and M2’s cruising speed and be able to lock onto any target within 8 seconds, all with a minimum 50% chance to hit a target from 3 KM (1.9 miles) away with a single 30 second volley. It also had to be able to continually track up to 48 moving aerial targets, automatically identifying enemy aircraft, and intelligently prioritizing which should be shot down first. All the gunner had to do then was to select the target from the generated list and fire.

Several companies responded to the request with proposed systems, with the Army ultimately narrowing it down to two entrants- one developed by Ford Aerospace and one by General Dynamics, with both companies given $79 million to develop prototypes.

After extensive testing of two prototypes made by each company, in which General Dynamics’ reportedly shot down 19 drones vs. Ford’s 9, Ford was awarded the contract…

As you might have guessed, this decision was controversial, not just because the General Dynamics prototype outperformed Ford’s by a considerable margin, but because, unlike every other entrant, the M247 used more costly 40MM shells instead of 35MM ones which were extensively used by NATO at the time. Rumour had it that Ford stood to make more money from the use of 40MM rounds due to a business deal they had with the manufacturer. However, it should also be noted that the Army may have had good reason to favour the 40MM given its larger size and a newly developed 40mm round that had a proximity sensing fuse built in.

Whatever the case, Ford Aerospace won the lucrative contract and began immediate production of M247s in 1981.

And this is where hilarity ensued.

Read More: In World War I, Alvin York captured 132 German soldiers pretty much single-handed

Every M247 Ford produced had problems, mainly centered around their automatic targeting system. This ultimately led one soldier to speculate that the only way the M247 would manage to take out an enemy would be by “driving over the top of it.”

As an example of some of the issues here, in 1982 Ford was set to demonstrate the M247 to a gathered crowd of VIPs and military brass. However, the moment the M247’s tracking system was turned on, it immediately targeted the stands the gathered people were sitting in, resulting in complete chaos as those present trampled one another to get out of the way. Of course, the M247 required the operator to tell it to fire, so there was no real danger here, but one can imagine staring down a pair of 40mm cannons in a live demo would be a tad frightening.

After a while, the engineers thought they’d managed to fix the issue and the demo resumed, only to see the M247 shoot into the ground rather than the drone target it was “locked on” to.

In the aftermath, a Ford Aerospace executive claimed the “glitch” had been caused by the M247 being washed before the demonstration, damaging the targeting system. This explanation didn’t sit well with military brass or the many journalists present, one of whom, Gregg Easterbrook, mused that perhaps Ford Aerospace didn’t realize that it rained in Europe where the M247 was to be deployed.

Other problems with the M247’s targeting system included its seeming inability to tell the difference between helicopters and trees and its penchant for locking onto random other ground-based objects as threats. The most infamous example of this was that time an M247 ignored a passing drone it was supposed to be targeting and instead locked onto a nearby latrine exhaust fan, marking it as a low priority, slow-moving target.

The M247’s targeting system was so poor that even when presented with an unrealistically favorable scenario, such as a helicopter hovering completely still in mid-air, it still missed and took an agonizing 12 seconds just to acquire the target.

M247 Sergeant York DIVAD (Wikimedia Commons photo by Ryan Crierie)

How was this targeting system so bad, given that it was developed using off-the-shelf parts that were shown to be reliable already? Mainly because the radar was one designed for the F-16 fighter jet. (In fact, it worked very well in the open air.) However, despite the efforts of the Ford and Army engineers, the random objects on the ground continually wreaked havoc on the radar’s ability to track low flying aerial targets like pop-up attacking helicopters. It also had significant problems tracking high flying targets because when the turrets were raised up they got in the way of the radar… (*queue Yakety Sax*).

On top of all this, the M247’s turret also couldn’t turn fast enough to track fast-moving targets and the hydraulics leaked in even marginally cold weather. Not a problem, of course, given it’s always balmy in the regions that were once the former Soviet Union… (In truth, even if it was balmy, it turns out the tracking system also struggled in high ambient temperatures and had trouble dealing with vibrations, such as generated continually when the M247 moved over the ground.)

Another major problem, as previously mentioned, was that the M247’s top speed wasn’t sufficient to keep up with the M1 and M2’s cruising speed, meaning it literally couldn’t drive fast enough to travel with the things it was specifically designed to protect. You might at this point be thinking that one’s on the Army because they’re the ones that made Ford use the M48 Patton tank as the base, and that’s not an entirely unfair thought. However, it should be noted that the M48 was previously capable of keeping up here, but Ford added about 17 tons to the original 45 in their modifications of the turret, making the tank much slower than it had previously been.

Despite all these problems to units being delivered, the Army continued to pump money into the project, mostly because there wasn’t a backup option and there was a very pressing need for such a weapon. However, rumors of the Army faking positive results for the M247 via putting it in unrealistically favorable conditions (such as hovering the drones and attaching radar reflectors), including Oregon state representative Dennis Smith going so far as to publicly accuse them of this, ultimately led to something of an inquiry on the matter. Specifically, in 1984, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger decided to oversee a set of amazingly expensive tests costing $54 million ($144 million today) to better determine what this weapon could and couldn’t do.

The man for whom the M247 Sergeant York was named. This battle scene was painted in 1919 by artist Frank Schoonover. The scene depicts the bravery of Alvin C. York in 1918. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

The tests did not go well. When the system utterly failed to hit any realistically flown drones, they resorted to having them fly in a straight line.  After further failures to actually hit a target, the drones were made to hold still and equipped with radar reflectors… (Rather ironic for a weapon named after a famed WWI soldier known for his incredibly sharpshooting ability.)

All was not lost, however. In one of the rounds of tests where a drone was moving the M247 did manage to slightly damage it, knocking it off course, at which point the safety officer remotely self-destructed it as he was supposed to do if a drone did such a thing. Nevertheless, this was interpreted by the press as the military trying to make it look like the M247 had actually managed a kill, leading to even more outcry that the Army was just trying to fake the results to make the massively expensive M247 look good.

(As to that cost, while it’s widely reported today that the project cost close to $7 billion (about $18 billion today), in fact, that number includes about three decades of anti-aircraft weapon development leading up to and including the actual figure of about $1.8 billion (about $4.8 billion today) spent on the development of the M247s.)

In any event, around the same time of the debacle that was the 1984 tests, the Soviet Union were deploying longer-range anti-tank missiles that were capable of being fired outside of the then current range the M247 could effectively counter the attacks, even if the system did aim properly.

Thus, despite the pressing need for such a system with little in the way of a backup, Weinberger, with support from Congress, some members of which had been present at the test, canceled the project rather than trying to sink more money into it to fix it. In the coming years, most of the M247s found their way onto target ranges where they were destroyed in various tests by weaponry that could actually aim properly. Today, only a handful of M247s still exist, one of which can be found at the Sgt. Alvin C. York State Historic Park.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How Florent Groberg earned his Medal of Honor

Just shy of twenty years ago, Florent Groberg was getting ready to graduate from high school. He was a newly-minted American, an immigrant from France. Like many Americans, he went on to college and studied things he was passionate about while playing college sports in his spare time.

Unlike many Americans, Groberg didn’t go off to work in the civilian sector after graduating. Groberg joined the U.S. Army and became an officer in 2008. That decision would alter the course of his life forever.


President Barack Obama presents the Medal of Honor to retired U.S. Army Capt. Florent Groberg

Since entering the Army in 2008, Groberg has had some 33 surgeries and was retired from the service. His time in the Army was, of course, consequential for many, not just himself. His second tour in Afghanistan would be the defining event of his service.

He was a Personal Security Detachment Commander for Task Force Mountain Warrior in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province in August 2012. One day, while escorting high-ranking senior American and Afghan leaders to the provincial governor’s compound, Groberg noticed one person making a beeline for their protected formation. Noticing a significant bulge in the man’s clothing, the Army officer didn’t just shout at the man, he ran toward him.

Before anyone else could react, Capt. Groberg used his body to push the would-be suicide bomber away from the formation, not once but twice before he could detonate his vest. The blast killed four members of the formation but it could have been a lot worse – Groberg managed to push the man well outside the formation’s perimeter, limiting the damage to the group, while taking the brunt of it himself. The blast detonated a second vest nearby, which blew up almost harmlessly.

For Groberg, the first explosion was anything but harmless. The blast took off half of his calf leg muscle while damaging his nervous system, blowing his eardrums, and delivering a traumatic brain injury – but it could have been a whole lot worse.

You can catch Florent Groberg speak at the 2019 Military Influencer Conference in the Washington, D.C. area on Sept. 8-10, 2019, courtesy of Caliber Home Loans.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Coast Guard addresses missed payday, how to get help

To the men and women of the Coast Guard,

As you are aware, much of the government, including the Department of Homeland Security, remains unfunded, and it is not clear when this lapse in appropriations will end. In the coming days, our service will begin to pass critical military and civilian pay-processing milestones necessary to meet regular pay cycles. Unfortunately, without an appropriation, a continuing resolution, or another legislative measure, the Coast Guard will not be able to meet the next payroll.

Let me assure you your leadership continues to do everything possible, both internal and external to the service, to ensure we can process your pay as soon as we receive an appropriation; however, I do not know when that will occur. Moreover, many of you may be aware of proposed congressional legislation that separately provides pay for the Coast Guard. I cannot predict what course that legislation may take.


(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Matthew Masaschi)

I know you have many questions during this difficult time. As the commandant mentioned, please do not hesitate to reach out to your chain of command, the chief’s mess, the ombudsmen network, our chaplains, as well as other resources. In addition, I encourage you to visit the Coast Guard’s website that has the most up-to-date resource links and frequently asked questions at https://www.dcms.uscg.mil/budget/. I encourage you to frequently revisit this website as it will be updated as new information is learned and additional FAQs are developed.

I can announce the Coast Guard Mutual Assistance board just approved an increase to interest-free loans with a focus on the junior workforce. Now, E-5 and below, GS-6 and below, and wage grade equivalents are eligible for a loan up to a maximum of id=”listicle-2625970578″,000 for those with dependents and 0 for those without dependents. Personnel in other paygrades may also qualify if dire circumstances exist. If you require this assistance, please check with your CGMA representative to apply.

Please know that your entire senior leadership team is pursuing every possible avenue to mitigate the effects that this unprecedented event is having on you and your families. In similar fashion, I implore each of you to take an active role in caring for your fellow shipmates and their loved ones. Thank you for your continued dedicated service to our nation.

Semper Paratus,
Adm. Charles W. Ray
Vice Commandant

This article originally appeared on Coast Guard All Hands. Follow @USCG on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Sergeant Major of the Army shares his reading list

Recently, I spoke with the Sergeant Major of the Army about COVID-19 and the challenges and opportunities we are facing right now as an Army and a Nation. He highlighted that now is the time to reassess our goals and set new ones.

One of your goals might be to read a book or two during this time. Goals are important and they are even more important now, as we all deal with the necessary restrictions to stop the spread.


We spoke again this week and he shared his reading list with me. He found that reading has helped him grow professionally and as a person. SMA Grinston also shared that reading helps him take a mental break from the day-to-day stressors of life. He even says that if he wasn’t a reader, he wouldn’t be the Sergeant Major of the Army.

You will notice that most of the books on this list aren’t about military battles or written by people in the Army for people in the Army. For the SMA, he likes to read about things outside the military to get new and fresh ideas. We both hope you find something on here that interests you.

The Reading List – in the SMA’s words:

live.staticflickr.com

1. Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard M. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein

This is a controversial book –which is one of the reasons I like it. I read it when I was the FORSCOM Sergeant Major and it’s about choice architecture and how small changes to our environment can make a big difference. For example, the authors discuss an elementary school that placed food in different locations in the cafeteria to “nudge” the kids to make healthier choices…and it worked.

Since reading this book, I look at how I can make small changes to the placement of things in my personal life or in the Army to make it better.

c1.staticflickr.com

2. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Action by Simon Sinek

I read this book as a brigade or division sergeant major, and it reminded me that sometimes in the Army we jump to the end first. When we ask our soldiers to do something, we focus on the how or the what and forget to explain the why.

Our enlisted Soldiers are smart, and when you explain the why to them, it increases their commitment to the mission. Sometimes, there isn’t enough time to explain why we are doing something, especially in the middle of a firefight, but most of the time we can. And as leaders, this is where we need to start.

media.defense.gov

3. The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success and Happiness by Jeff Olson and John David Mann

After I was nominated Sergeant Major of the Army, people asked me for the keys to my professional success. I struggled to answer this question until the commander of the Old Guard recommended this book. Slight Edge helped me define for others how to be successful in the Army and how I got to where I’m at today.

The authors of this book look at what happens when you do something that no one else is willing to do and continue to do it over a long period of time. I’ve been in the Army for 32 years and every morning I wake up and do physical fitness. I read books for self-development. Doing those small things over time, year after year, made a difference in the long run. It’s about developing the discipline and commitment over a long period of time to achieve your goals.

live.staticflickr.com

4. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

I think I was a Platoon Sergeant or Sergeant First Class when I read this book. Malcolm Gladwell discusses how it’s not only innate abilities that make people successful, other factors play a major role too –like timing.

One of the examples he uses in the book is Bill Gates. Growing up, Bill Gates had access to a computer early in his life which afforded him the opportunity to get 10,000 hours of practice with programming. Yes, he was born in the right place at the right time, but he also took advantage of the opportunity to make himself better.

This book has helped me focus on looking at the opportunities within assignments. I remember when I was nominated to be the brigade sergeant major of an infantry brigade. That job gave me the requisite skills and opened doors that led me down a path to where I am today. We all have the opportunity to be an outlier if we have the right mindset.

5. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck

Since reading Mindset, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t reference or think about it. She writes about two mindsets: Growth vs. Fixed. A growth mindset says that even though I’m not good at a certain skill, I can learn and get better over time. With a fixed mindset, we don’t even try because we think we can’t grow beyond our current skill set. This line of thinking becomes more dangerous the higher in rank and position that leaders go in the Army.

6. Becoming a Resonant Leader: Develop Your Emotional Intelligence, Renew Your Relationships, Sustain Your Effectiveness by Annie McKee

I read this one as a corps sergeant major and this is probably my all-time favorite leadership book. Have you ever worked for someone and knew they weren’t listening to anything you said? As leaders, our level of emotional intelligence has a major impact on the morale of our Soldiers. We have to listen to our people and be mindful and show empathy.

This book made me a better leader, sergeant major, and follower. I started paying more attention to my own mindfulness.

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7. Winning by Jack Welch

I read this one around the time I was a sergeant first class or first sergeant and it taught me about the importance of managing talent. Welch writes that the top 5% of any organization needs to be identified and properly managed. He also writes that there is a large population of strong performers that will never be the top 5%, but are also important to the organization. He discusses how to identify, manage, and motivate both groups.

8. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

This is the hardest book to read on this list. It took me a while to get through but I found it beneficial to understand the psychology of decision-making. I gained a much greater understanding and appreciation for how the mind works.

It’s difficult to read, but it helps us better understand how the mind works. If you like sociology and psychology books, this is a great starting place. The higher I go in position in the Army, the more I realize how important it is to understand human behavior. I have a greater appreciation now for how logic and emotion work together in the decision-making process and I know I’m a better leader and person for it.

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9. Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein

I read this one when I was a staff sergeant. I remember my battalion commander making all the officers read it and I wanted to learn something alongside them.

This was another controversial book when it was written. Heinlein uses science fiction to talk about what it means to be a citizen; he addresses the need for corrective training and several other issues that we see playing out today. This book is a fun read and makes for a great discussion between leaders in a unit.

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10. Once an Eagle by Anton Myrer

I read this one when I was a brigade sergeant major. It’s a thick one so if you decide to tackle it, it might take you awhile. I like Once an Eagle because it covers an entire career of an individual, his commitment to the Army, and the lessons he learns along the way. I found that when I read it, I put myself in the shoes of the main character and reflected on my own career.

Start today

During our interview, Grinston said he hopes you will want to read and take the opportunity now to start the habit of reading for professional development.

“I know life is difficult right now for a lot of people. But we will get through this.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This awesome tech lets US soldiers learn to fire a heavy machine gun before they ever set foot on a range

With modern technology, US soldiers can learn the essentials of operating everything from grenade launchers to .50-caliber machine guns before they ever set foot on a firing range.


Soldiers with the New Jersey National Guard’s D Company, 1-114th Infantry Regiment recently conducted virtual-reality training on a number heavy weapons at the Observer Coach/Trainer Operations Group Regional Battle Simulation Training Center at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey.

Capt. James Ruane, the company’s commander, explained the virtual-reality system to Insider, introducing how it works and how it helps the warfighter.

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New Jersey National Guard soldiers train with a heavy weapons simulator at the Observer Coach/Trainer Operations Group Regional Battle Simulation Training Center, Feb. 8, 2020.

U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht

This virtual-reality system, known as the Unstabilized Gunnery Trainer (UGT), gives users the ability to operate mounted M240B machine guns, Mk 19 grenade launchers, and .50-caliber machine guns — all heavy weapons — in a virtual world.

“When the gunner has the goggles on, he’s able to look around, and it is almost like he’s in an actual mission environment,” Ruane told Insider.

The virtual-reality system is designed to mimic a heavy weapon mounted on a vehicle. In the simulated training environment, users can engage dismounted and mounted targets, as well as moving vehicles and stationary targets.

“It’s the same type of targets they would engage on a live-fire range,” Ruane said.

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A New Jersey National Guard soldier on a heavy weapons simulator, February 8, 2020.

U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht

The “weapon” is designed to feel and function much like an actual machine gun or grenade launcher.

“When you pull the trigger and actually fire this thing, it moves,” the captain said. “It has the same recoil as a weapon system would. So it gives the gunner as real of an experience as you could have in a virtual environment.”

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A New Jersey National Guard soldier trains with a heavy weapons simulator, February 8, 2020.

U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht

To operate the gun, the user even has to load ammunition.

There are, however, limitations to the system that prevent it from being a perfect one-for-one training platform for the real deal.

For example, this virtual-reality training platform does not factor things like jams or barrel changes in, despite both issues being important parts of operating a heavy machine gun.

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New Jersey National Guard soldiers practice on a Virtual Convoy Operations Trainer, February 9, 2020.

U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht

In addition to the single gunner training system, there is also a convoy trainer for three vehicle crew members and a dismount.

“In this setup, you have a driver, you have a vehicle commander, and you have a gunner,” Ruane told Insider. “You also have the ability to have a dismount, and all members of that crew are plugged into the same virtual system.”

“They are all wearing the goggles,” Ruane added. “They all have weapons systems attached to the [VR] system, including a dismount who would have an attached M4.”

“They operate like a crew,” he said, telling Insider that while the training, usually carried out over the course of a weekend, is focused on taking troops through the gunnery tables, the simulator can also be used to train forces for convoy protection missions and other more complex mission sets.

The training normally involves two vehicle crews, but it could be connected to other systems for training with a platoon-sized element.

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A New Jersey National Guard soldier trains with a heavy weapons simulator, February 8, 2020.

U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht

The company commander said he has seen marked improvements in performance since the introduction of the virtual reality trainer a few years back.

“I’ve definitely seen a dramatic improvement over the last five years,” the captain said.

“In the beginning, crews would have to go two or three times through gunnery,” Ruane, who has been with his company for five years now, told Insider, explaining that soldiers would make “simple mistakes.”

“Now,” he said, “crews are able to get through their engagements and get qualified as a crew” with some of “the highest scores that we’ve seen in the scoring cycle over the last five years.”

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New Jersey National Guard soldiers train with a heavy weapons simulator, February 8, 2020.

U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht

Ruane says virtual reality has enhanced their training in a big way.

“A lot of people think, especially some old-school military people, think that the virtual-reality stuff takes away from the actual live-fire ranges, when in fact this is actually an enhancer,” he explained, adding that “when you get out to the live-fire ranges, it is going to be muscle memory at that point, and it’s going to go flawlessly.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The survivalist’s guide to fashioning a blade from scraps

As far as useful tools in a jam go, it’s tough to beat the general practicality of a knife. Whether it’s marking a trail, field dressing an animal, or defending yourself, a sharp piece of steel on your hip can solve a number of problems you may face in a survival situation; which is exactly why so many people maintain a good quality knife in their EDC (Everyday Carry) loadout. But what if you find yourself stuck in a long-term survival situation without ready access to a knife?


You could go on without one, or you could make one, using nothing but a few common hand tools and some scrap metal.


I found this scrap carbon steel in a metal recycling bin behind my neighbors shop.

Scrap metal

The first thing you need to do is find yourself a suitable piece of metal. While you can usually get a sense of the sort of metal you’re working with with a visual inspection (stainless steel holds a shine while carbon steel will brown or rust, for instance), your top priority is finding a sturdy piece of metal that’s somewhat close to the size and shape of a knife. The closer it starts in size, the easier a day you’ll have. For a good survival knife that fits well in my hand, I usually prefer a piece of metal that’s somewhere between 10 and 12 inches long, less than a half inch thick, and 1.5 to 2 inches wide, but it may take some work to cut your piece into those dimensions.

Low carbon scrap steel is soft and doesn’t make for excellent knives, but in a pinch, even a rusting blade that needs sharpening is better than no blade at all.

Tools

There’s no getting around the need to have a hack saw when working with metal. In fact, if the scrap metal you locate is too long, it’s the only tool you can’t do without. Beyond that, all you really need is a metal file or access to plenty of sidewalks or blacktop. Any of the three will do.

Other tools that could help are a C-clamp or vice, sharpie, clips, and sandpaper.

Cut the steel into the general shape of a blade

Use your hacksaw to cut your scrap steel until it meets your general length and width requirements. The harder the steel (based on carbon levels and if it’s been treated) the harder the cutting will be. Be patient and careful not to hurt yourself. If you need to make this knife, chances are good no ambulances will be coming if you suffer a nasty gash.

If you don’t have a clamp, you can step on the handle and saw near your feet for leverage.

Once you’ve got it cut somewhat to shape, saw off a corner to create what will become the point of the blade. If the steel is too wide to fit into your hand comfortably, you can keep on hacking to narrow down the handle portion as well. This is a lot more work, but can also provide a ridge if you’d like to add a handguard down the road.

The ridge between the handle and blade creates a stop on one side for a handguard when you’re making more elaborate knives.

Grind, grind, grind

If you have a metal file, hold the knife in one hand while carefully using the file to shape the profile of the blade. Be careful, if you have access to a vice, put the blade in it while you work. If not, finding a pair of work gloves can help keep the skin on your fingers.

By using the width of the metal to dictate the size of the blade, you only need to shape one corner.

Once the rough profile of the blade has been shaped, re-orient how you hold the knife to work on the blade’s edge. This will take a long time, and if you’re so inclined, you could spend a whole day or more making one very pretty, even edge. If you’re in a hurry, however, file it down until you have a reasonably fine point and a good sharp edge and leave looking pretty for the guys that aren’t making their own knives out of garbage.

If you don’t have a metal file, you’re not out of luck. Sidewalks and black top are very abrasive surfaces, and you can whittle away at the metal edge of your blade using either with enough patience and care. This is a great way to shave your knuckles, and you will ruin your driveway, but I’ve managed to fashion a workable blade or two using this method.

Making a handle

Depending on the tools you have on hand, there are probably rough metal splinters hanging off the edges of your knife and once your hand gets sweaty (or bloody) keeping a grip will be impossible. Fortunately, there are lots of materials that make for decent handles.

You can put some real time in to weave a leather strap, or just tightly wrap 550 cord around the handle.

Lots of military guys are familiar with making things out of paracord, and knife handles are no exception. Leather belts, rope, and duct tape are all excellent knife handle materials. Wrap the material around the handle of the knife as tightly as you can, overlapping it by however many layers as necessary to make the handle a comfortable girth.

Then get your ass out of dodge with your new prison-shank in hand.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Saudis ramp up oil production to hurt Iran and Venezuela

U.S. President Donald Trump says Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has told him Riyadh will ramp up oil production in response to turmoil in Iran and Venezuela.

The Saudi government confirmed the two leaders had spoken about global oil markets, but made no mention of any agreement for Riyadh to increase production.

The June 30, 2018 conversation comes as oil prices have ticked upward following Trump administration pressure on allies to stop buying oil from Iran.


In a post to Twitter, Trump said Salman had agreed to an increase, but did not indicate a time frame for the possible 2 million barrels.

“Just spoke to King Salman of Saudi Arabia and explained to him that, because of the turmoil and disfunction in Iran and Venezuela, I am asking that Saudi Arabia increase oil production, maybe up to 2,000,000 barrels, to make up the difference,” Trump said in a June 30, 2018 tweet.

Trump added: “Prices to high! He has agreed!”

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