5 more of the most unconquerable countries in the world - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

5 more of the most unconquerable countries in the world

The true conquest of a country is more than just invading its land borders. To truly conquer a country, an invader has to subdue its people and end its will to fight.

There are many countries in the world with a lot of experience in this area and there are many more countries who were on the receiving end of some subjugation.

At the end of World War II, the age of colonialism was officially ended for most of these conquerors and what grew from that end was a rebirth of those people and their culture, which just went to show that their people were never really subdued in the first place.

And then there were some countries that either never stopped fighting or have been constantly fighting for their right to exist ever since they won their independence. Some of them overcame great odds and earned the respect of neighbors and former enemies.

The alternative was to allow themselves to be subject to some foreign power just because they didn’t have the latest and greatest in military technologies.

 

Related: The 5 countries that are most impossible to conquer

 

In the last installment, we looked at countries whose people, geography, sheer size, populations, and culture would never allow an invader to conquer them. This time, we look at smaller countries who took on great powers as the underdog and came out on top.


1. Vietnam

The Vietnam War wasn’t some historical undercard match, it was actually a heavyweight championship fight – the United States just didn’t realize it at the time. The history of Vietnam’s formidable people and defenses date well before the Vietnam War and even before World War II.

Vietnam has historically been thought of as one of the most militaristic countries in the region, and for good reason. Vietnam has been kicking invaders out since the 13th century when Mongol hordes tried to move in from China.

While it wasn’t Genghis Khan at the head of the invading army, it wasn’t too far removed the then-dead leader’s time. Kubali Khan’s Yuan Dynasty tried three times to subdue the Vietnamese. In the last invasion, Khan sent 400 ships and 300,000 men to Vietnam, only to see every ship sunk and the army harassed by the Vietnamese all the way back to China.

5 more of the most unconquerable countries in the world
“Khan? Never heard of her.” – General Tran Hung Dao

Vietnam maintained its independence from China for 900 years after that.

In more modern times, Vietnam was first invaded by the French in force in 1858 and they couldn’t subdue the whole of the country until 1887, 29 years after it first started. It cost thousands of French lives and the French even had to bring in Philippine troops to help. Even then, they won only because of a critical error on the part of Vietnamese emperor Tu Duc, who terribly misjudged how much his people actually cared for his regime.

The Japanese invasion during WWII awakened the Vietnamese resolve toward independence and they immediately started killing Japanese invaders – and not out of love for the French.

They famously gave France the boot, invaded Laos to extend their territory, and then invaded South Vietnam. That’s where the Americans come in.

5 more of the most unconquerable countries in the world
Cue the music. You know the one.

The American-Vietnam War didn’t go so well for either side, but now-Communist Vietnam’s dense jungle and support from China and the Soviet Union gave the North Vietnamese the military power to match their will to keep fighting, a will which seemed never-ending, no matter which side you’re on. North Vietnam was able to wait out the U.S. and reunite Vietnam, an underdog story that no one believed possible.

Vietnam’s resistance to outsiders doesn’t end there. After Vietnam invaded Chinese-backed Cambodia (and won, by the way), Communist China’s seemingly unstoppable People’s Liberation Army with its seemingly unlimited manpower invaded Vietnam in 1979.

For three weeks, the war ground Vietnamese border villages in a bloody stalemate until the Chinese retreated back across the border, taking an unexpectedly high death toll.

2. Finland

Though not much about early Finnish history is known, there are a few Viking sagas that mention areas of Finland and the people who inhabit those areas. Those sagas usually involve Vikings getting murdered or falling in battle. The same goes for Norwegians, Swedes, Danes, and virtually anyone else who had their eyes set on Finland.

In the intervening years, Finns allowed themselves to be dominated by Sweden and Russia, but after receiving their autonomy in 1917, Finland wasn’t about to give it up. They eventually became a republic and were happy with that situation until around World War II began.

That’s when the Soviet Union invaded.

5 more of the most unconquerable countries in the world
Bad call here, Uncle Joe.

The invasion of Finland didn’t go well for the USSR. It lasted all of 105 days and the “Winter War,” as it came to be called, was the site of some of the most brutal fighting the world has ever seen to this day. Finns were ruthless and relentless in defending their territory.

For example, the Raatteentie Incident involved a 300-Finn ambush of a 25,000-strong Soviet force – and the Finns destroyed the Russians almost to the last man. The Finnish sniper Simo Hayha killed 505 Russians and never lost a moment’s sleep. When the retreating Finns destroyed anything that might be of use to an invader, it forced Soviet troops to march over frozen lakes.

5 more of the most unconquerable countries in the world
Frozen Soviet troops were also left out for display by the Finns, just to let the Russians know what fate awaited them.

Lakes that were mined by the Finns and subsequently exploded, downing and freezing thousands of Red Army invaders.

The Winter War is also where Finnish civilians perfected and mass-produced the Molotov Cocktail.

From the British War Office:

The Finns’ policy was to allow the Russian tanks to penetrate their defences, even inducing them to do so by ‘canalising’ them through gaps and concentrating their small arms fire on the infantry following them. The tanks that penetrated were taken on by gun fire in the open and by small parties of men armed with explosive charges and petrol bombs in the forests and villages.

This was the level of resistance from a country of just 3.5 million people. Finns showed up in whatever they were wearing, with whatever weapons they had, men and women alike. In short, Finns are happy to kill any invader and will do it listening to heavy metal music while shouting the battle cry of, “fire at their balls!”

3. Israel

If part of what makes the United States an unconquerable country is every citizen being able to take up arms against an invader, just imagine how effective that makeshift militia force would be if every single citizen was also a trained soldier. That’s Israel, with 1.5 million highly-trained reserve troops.

5 more of the most unconquerable countries in the world
Also, they’re all insanely attractive.

Israel has had mandatory military service for all its citizens – men and women – since 1949 and for a good reason. Israel is in a tough neighborhood and most of their neighbors don’t want Israel to exist. This means the Jewish state is constantly fighting for survival in some way, shape, or form and they’re incredibly good at it.

In almost 70 years of history, Israel earned a perfect war record. Not bad for any country, let alone one that takes heat for literally anything it does.

Not only will Israel wipe the floor with its enemies, it doesn’t pull punches. That’s why wars against Israel don’t last long, with most lasting less than a year and the shortest lasting just six days. As far as invading Israel goes, the last time an invading Army was in Israel proper, it was during the 1948-49 War of Independence. Since then, the farthest any invader got inside Israel was into areas seized by the Israelis during a previous war.

Now read: The hilarious way an Israeli spy convinced Syria to help Israel

In fact, when an Arab coalition surprised Israel during Yom Kippur in 1973, the Israelis nearly took Cairo and Damascus in just a couple of weeks.

5 more of the most unconquerable countries in the world
In all your years, you will never look as cool in uniform as Moshe Dayan and his eyepatch.

More than just securing their land borders, Israel keeps a watchful eye on Jewish people worldwide, and doesn’t mind violating another country’s sovereignty to do it. Just ask Uganda, Sudan, Argentina, Germany, Norway, France, Italy, UAE, Tunisia… get the point? If a group of Jewish people are taken hostage or under threat somewhere, the IDF or Mossad will come and get them out.

The Mossad is another story entirely. Chance are good that any country even thinking about invading Israel is probably full of, if not run by, Mossad agents. Israel will get the entire plan of attack in plenty of time to hand an invader their own ass.

Just before the 1967 Six Day War, Mossad agent Eli Cohen became a close advisor to Syria Defense Minister. He actually got the Syrians to plant trees in the Golan Heights to help IDF artillery find the range on their targets.

4. Japan

One of the world’s oldest civilizations, Japan was able to keep its culture and history relatively intact over the centuries because mainland Japan has never been invaded by an outside force.

Contrary to popular belief, the “divine wind” typhoons didn’t destroy the Mongol fleets outright. Mongol invaders were able to land on some of the Japanese islands, but after a few victories and a couple of stunning defeats, the Japanese exhausted the Mongols and they were forced to retreat back to their ships. That’s when the first typhoon hit.

5 more of the most unconquerable countries in the world
The ultimate in “be careful what you wish for” lessons.

Mongols invaded again less than seven years later with a fleet of 4,400 ships and some 140,000 Mongol, Korean, and Chinese troops. Japanese samurai defending Hakata Bay were not going to wait for the enemy to land and actually boarded Chinese ships to slaughter its mariners.

Since then, the Bushido Code only grew in importance and Japan’s main enemies were – wait for it – the Japanese. But once Japan threw off its feudal system and unified, it became a force to be reckoned with. Japan shattered the notion that an Asian army wasn’t able to defeat a Western army in a real war, soundly defeating the Russians both on land and at sea in 1905, setting the stage for World War II.

Although the attack on Pearl Harbor was not a great idea, the Japanese made sure the Americans knew that any invasion of Japanese territory would cost them dearly – and they made good on the promise, mostly by fighting to the death. The United States got the message, opting to drop nuclear weapons on Japan to force a surrender rather than attempt an invasion. Even though the U.S. got the demanded surrender, Japan was not a conquered country. The United States left Japan after seven years of occupation and the understanding that Communism was worse than petty fighting.

“Bushido” began to take on a different meaning to Japanese people. It wasn’t just one of extreme loyalty to traditions or concepts, or even the state. It morphed throughout Japanese culture until it began to represent a kind of extreme bravery and resistance in the face of adversity. While many in Japan are hesitant to use bushido in relation to the Japanese military, the rise of China is fueling efforts to alter Japan’s pacifist constitution to enable its self-defense forces to take a more aggressive stand in some areas.

5 more of the most unconquerable countries in the world
Sleep well tonight, China.

Since the end of World War II, Japan has worked not to dominate the region militarily, but economically. Japan’s booming economy has allowed the country to meet the threats raised by Chinese power in the region, boosting military spending by billion and creating the world’s most technologically advanced (and fifth largest) air force, making any approach to the island that much more difficult.

5. The Philippines

The 7,000-plus islands of the Philippines are not a country that any invader should look forward to subduing. The Philippines have been resisting invaders since Filipinos killed Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. For 300-plus years, people of the Philippines were largely not thrilled to be under Spanish rule, which led to a number of insurrections, mutinies, and outright revolts against the Spanish. As a matter of fact, for the entire duration of Spanish colonialism in the Philippines, the Moro on Sulu and Mindinao fought their occupiers. That’s a people who won’t be conquered.

5 more of the most unconquerable countries in the world
And the Moro fought on.

By the time the people of the Philippines rose up to throw off the chains of Spanish colonizers, there was already a massive plan in place as well as a secret shadow government ready to take power as soon as the Spanish were gone. This revolution continued until the Spanish-American War when the Americans wrested the island nation away, much to the chagrin (and surprise) of the Philippines.

Freedom fighters in the Philippines were so incensed at the American occupation that U.S. troops had to adopt a new sidearm with a larger caliber. Moro fighters shot by the standard-issue Colt .38-caliber M1892 Army-Navy pistol would not stop rushing American troops and the U.S. troops in the Philippines were getting killed by lack of firepower.

Meanwhile, the Philippines created a government anyway and immediately declared war on the United States and, even though it ended with the capture of rebel leader Emilio Aguinaldo, American troops would be in the Philippines until 1913, attempting to subdue guerrillas in the jungles and outlying islands. Until, that is, Japan invaded.

If you want to know how well that went for the Japanese, here’s a photo of Filipino freedom fighter Capt. Nieves Fernandez showing a U.S. soldier how she hacks off Japanese heads with her bolo knife.

5 more of the most unconquerable countries in the world
Fun Fact: She was a schoolteacher before she started collecting heads.

So, even though the actual Armed Forces of the Philippines might be a little aged and weak, anyone trying to invade and subdue the Philippines can pretty much expect the same level of resistance from the locals. Consider hot climate and dense jungles covering 7,000-plus islands, full of Filipinos who are all going to try to kill you eventually — the Philippines will never stop resisting.

Like the Moros, who are still fighting to this day.

MIGHTY FIT

How my transition impacted my health

It’s been nearly three years since I officially ended my Active Duty service. The first six months of my transition were rough. After speaking to a lot of fellow former service members, I realize that my experience is not an outlier, but rather, it’s the norm.


5 more of the most unconquerable countries in the world

Hardest part about the military… logging into sites that don’t take a CAC card.

(Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash)

Civilian stress vs. Military stress.

In the Marine Corps, I was trained to deal with all sorts of tactical stresses. But civilian stresses? Not so much. When it came to work, insurance, or liberty, I could blame Uncle Sam for everything:

  • “Sorry, can’t make that baptism/wedding/ graduation/ (insert family event here). I have to move to Japan for work.”
  • “Yeah, the healthcare system is fugged; I’m on Tricare though, watch anything good on Netflix lately?”
  • “I put my name on a list to live off base, but if it doesn’t work out, we’ll just be put in the tower, end of story.”
  • “I PCS in June. I’ll either go to Camp LeJeune or get sucked into the vortex that is the Pentagon. Not much I can do.”

In the military, every moment of my life was planned out for me, until suddenly… it wasn’t. When I “got out,” all I had was choice, and I didn’t always make the right ones. In fact, it sometimes seemed like there were no right choices–just varying degrees of wrong.

5 more of the most unconquerable countries in the world

There wasn’t a big picture for me anymore.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Robert Knapp/Released)

I lost my sense of purpose.

I was actually embarrassed about these realizations for a long time. I was a Marine Corps Officer. I did alpha stuff for a living. There are literally thousands of movies made about my old job.

How could I fess up to being lost and stressed? It felt like I would be admitting defeat to an enemy that hundreds of millions of Americans deal with every single day. That’s not very alpha.

On top of the stress and state of general lostness, my sense of purpose was gone. I felt that my time in uniform had been helping the greater cause. I was helping people. At the very least, I was impacting my Marines’ lives and helping them become better every day.

It’s a lot harder to become excited about sending emails and filing TPS reports in the civilian world when it seems that the only people that are being helped are the company owners or stockholders. That’s not really a mission statement I can get behind.

5 more of the most unconquerable countries in the world

1 turns into 10 very quickly.

(Photo by Quentin Dr on Unsplash)

My health suffered.

I had spent the most testosterone-packed years of my life under the government’s thumb. I signed up at 17. For a decade, I was expected to be: sober, on time, awake at 0600, on-call 24/7, and never take more than 96 hours of liberty/leave.

As soon as I was let off the leash, I had some catching up to do. I slept when the sun was up and spent all night howling at the moon for months. It took a toll on my body; I gained weight, I lost energy, and I got sick a lot.

5 more of the most unconquerable countries in the world

My cornerstone was gone.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Drake Nickels)

Worst of all, I stopped training.

Staying up late and spending all day stressing about “coulda, shoulda, wouldas” made me lose sight of the one thing I actually had control over. Me. More specifically, my training and diet.

This was the hardest-hitting of all my issues because it made everything else worse. It’s a lot harder to stay healthy if all you’re putting into your body is junk food and not moving.

Exercise is a natural stress reliever. Without it, I was living in a state of chronic stress.

I had the all too common reaction to physical training that I’ve seen dozens of times first hand. No more PFT…no more PT for me. The overwhelming majority of us do it. It’s like the military induces some traumatic memory of what exercise is supposed to make us feel like as well as how much we should hate ourselves for not working out.

It becomes a physical punishment when we train and a mental punishment when we don’t train.

Recognizing that it doesn’t have to be either one of those punishments was the key to me getting back in the gym.

5 more of the most unconquerable countries in the world

Great advice.

(Photo by Johnson Wang on Unsplash)

Combating civilian stress with training.

I knew I had to make changes. I wasn’t in the position to come up with some grand overarching ethos that would cure all my woes. I needed something simple.

I started by making my training mandatory. I knew it made me feel better. Having stress hormones pumping through my veins 24/7 was the literal reason I felt like I was failing. Training hard helps relieve some of that cortisol and frees up the body to actually repair itself. That was the state I needed to get into regularly if I ever wanted to think clearly enough to actually turn my business into a success.

I started losing some of the extra fat I had put on, I got stronger, my performance increased, but the most important benefit of training hard was that I didn’t hate myself anymore.

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Getting your sense of purpose back.

My military service was a high-point in my life, but it isn’t the summit I need to plant my flag on. That’s much higher, and I have a lot more work to do. I was great then, but I’m greater every day that I decide to train and sink my teeth into another bite-sized piece of life.

The Marine Corps made it easy to feel like I was part of something bigger and helping people. Military service isn’t the only option in life to help other people though. By taking care of myself first, getting my training in line, and staying healthy, I’m able to take all the skills and discipline I gained from my service and directly apply them to my current mission.

I know that objectively my life looked fine, but internally, I felt like I was crumbling. Plenty of us live our whole lives with that feeling. I’m lucky that I managed to shift my perception after only six months of the vicious cycle.

Maybe it took you years.

Maybe you’re still in it.

Maybe you never served in the military, but you experienced a different transition that made you feel helpless, alone, and chronically stressed.

It doesn’t matter. Our perception is our reality. If your reality isn’t great, the only thing you can do is change your perception.

The best perception shifter I know of is…training hard.

If you aren’t training, start training.

If this resonates with you at all, I’d love to hear your story no matter what stage of the process you’re currently in. This link will take you to a survey that will allow you to do just that.

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MIGHTY CULTURE

3 military storytellers who know the real cost of war

It’s particularly poignant when members of the military community share their own stories. Hollywood has a fascination with depicting battles, wars, and heroes, but there’s an intimacy and truth that comes from the minds of those who actually lived those experiences.

Who better to explore war than those that fought it? Than those that are haunted by it? Than those who lost someone on the battlefield?

In honor of Veteran’s Day, we are proud to amplify the stories of three members of our own community who are exploring the military experience from very different, and yet very universal, perspectives. From memoirs to war poems to coffee digital publications, these storytellers are contributing to the dialogue about what it means to serve.

You won’t want to miss their work:


Just got my copy of #TheKnockattheDoor. I’ve read #BrothersForever and am looking forward to reading this. @TMFoundation @rmanionpic.twitter.com/adIdbBkBs3

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Ryan Manion

Ryan Manion has devoted her life to carrying on the legacy of her brother, 1st Lt. Travis Manion, who was killed in the line of duty while serving in the United States Marine Corps. On April 29, 2007, Travis was ambushed in the Al Anbar province of Iraq, along with his fellow Marines and their Iraqi Army counterparts. “Leading the counterattack against the enemy forces, Travis was fatally wounded by an enemy sniper while aiding and drawing fire away from his wounded teammates,” reads his bio on the website of the Travis Manion Foundation, which empowers veterans and families of the fallen to thrive.

Ryan, who has served as the President of the foundation since 2012, is a well-respected member of the military community. On Nov. 5, 2019, Ryan joined Heather Kelly and Amy Looney Heffernan to release Knock at the Door, a book that shares their experiences about joining the Gold Star family and the inspiring and unlikely journey “that began on the worst day of their lives.”

BABGAB It’s time to caffeinate the troops! For every bag of BRCC coffee you buy through November, we’ll donate a bag to the deployed troops overseas spreading freedom on a daily basis. #brcc #americascoffee #babgabpic.twitter.com/vBANDYQnmL

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Logan Stark, U.S. Marine Corps

Logan Stark trained as an Infantry Assault Marine with the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines before becoming a Scout/Sniper on multiple deployments, including one to Sangin, Afghanistan. After his military service, he earned a degree in Professional Writing from Michigan State University, where he directed For the 25, a film about his Afghanistan deployment.

As the film garnered attention, Stark went on to write for USA Today and the New York Times’ At War blog. Now, he’s the Producer of Content at Black Rifle Coffee Company, where he manages the creation and dissemination of caffeine and freedom social media content. BRCC recently launched Coffee or Die, their online magazine sharing military stories and humorous anecdotes from the vantage point of veterans.

5 more of the most unconquerable countries in the world

2019 Gannon Award Winner “The Art Of Warrior Poetry”

Justin Thomas Eggen, U.S. Marine Corps

Justin Thomas Eggen’s military career within 2nd Route Clearance Platoon, Mobility Assault Company, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division includes operating as a heavy machine gunner during Operation Moshtarak and clearing the IED threat for Operation Black Sand and Operation Eastern Storm in Sangin, Afghanistan. Like most veterans, Eggen struggled with many invisible wounds when he returned home from combat.

He decided to face the emotions straight on and became a writer, using pen and ink to explore his deployments through poetry. Since the release of his first book, Outside The Wire: A U.S. Marine’s Collection of Combat Poems Short Stories Volume 1, Eggen has released several volumes of work and connected with other veterans on speaking engagements, book tours, and a spoken word book tour with two other veteran poets they dubbed “The Verses Curses Tour.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 of the best military recruitment videos from around the world

Making a military recruitment video is a challenge. In a single television spot, you have to convince someone to make the life-altering choice to enlist in their nation’s military. America, traditionally, has always put out a true and tested message: Your life will be better for joining the team. We put forth an extreme effort to create an excellent, compelling commercials that plant the seeds of patriotism and duty.

And then there are the other nations of the world. Some take direct cues from America’s overly-badass commercials while others take a more grounded, realistic approach. Others rely on comedy to draw in potential recruits. Either way, the following ads are all very well done.


This is just a handful of the standouts. If you know of others that top these, let us know!

Republic of Korea Armed Forces

South Korea didn’t have to make such an over-the-top, badass recruitment video — service is mandatory in the country — but damn, they did anyways.

I honestly can’t tell if this ad is supposed to convince young potential recruits to join up with the rest of those bad mother f*ckers or if it’s planting a flag in the ground for any North Koreans watching. Either way, this ad is just so freakin’ cool.

Royal Marines of the United Kingdom

Marines hold a special place in warfighting as they’re always groomed to perfection and the selection process indiscriminately weeds out the stragglers that can’t keep up. The same goes for our brothers across the pond, the Royal Marines.

Not only does the ad show one of the coolest military obstacle courses in the world — the underwater culvert from their endurance course — but it sends a clear message: If you’re not up to the task, don’t even bother applying. And we’re sure it worked — reverse psychology is awesome like that.

Irish Defense Forces

One of the more annoying misconceptions of enlisting is that you have to be a big, muscular, alpha jock to even be considered. It’s simply not true. Your body will develop in training and you’ll adapt to the military lifestyle; the qualities of a good troop are there from the start.

This video is beautifully made and shows how civilian skills are great in the military and how they can be applied in a time of war.

Russian VDV Paratroopers

You know, I’m honestly not sure if this was an official recruitment ad (or if it were meant to be taken seriously), but damn is it catchy.

A military recruitment video has just one function — to keep the idea of military service in the viewers’ minds. I just wish I could get this song out of my head…

Royal Netherlands Army

No one wants to serve with that boot-ass recruit who claims they “can’t wait to get a knife kill.” And there’s a zero-percent chance that the drill instructors won’t beat the stupid out of them.

That’s why it’s so great to see a country to openly tell these idiots to not even bother wasting everyone’s time.

In case you were wondering, “ongeschikt” translates to “not suitable”

Ukrainian Ground Forces

If there is one piece of military equipment that means more than anything to troops worldwide, it’s their shovel or e-tool (mostly because not every troop gets issued a woobie, and that’s sad).

This video from Ukraine is a masterpiece in terms of filmmaking and storytelling. This video is beyond amazing and, honestly, it was hard to put this one in second place. It only didn’t take top honors because, well… you’ll see.

Swedish Armed Forces

Beautiful. Even though this takes a direct jab at how nearly everyone else in the world recruits troops, I can’t stop laughing.

A+ for finally saying it like it is.

MIGHTY FIT

How a club drug is curing PTSD

Portland, Chicago, Berkeley, Dallas, Denver, and Oakland are all making moves to decriminalize psychedelic drugs that have been shown to have therapeutic applications.

So in your lifetime, you may see the decriminalization and eventual legalization of magic mushrooms, MDMA, LSD, mescaline, and DMT.

How is this not bigger news?!

It begs the question though… Are these “drugs” actually helpful in treating illness?


Well, to answer that question, allow me to take you on a very shallow dive of what MDMA has managed to do for veterans with PTSD in just one study.

Put your preconceptions and socially conditioned ideas about these drugs aside and try to take in this information as if it’s the first time you’re hearing about it.

How MDMA is being used to treat PTSD | The Economist

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Ecstacy is good for more than just raves

In 2010 scientists studied the effects of MDMA assisted psychotherapy on 19 veterans and/or first responders with treatment-resistant PTSD. Some of these guys had been experiencing PTSD for more than 19 years. Greater than 57% of the participants no longer met the diagnosis for PTSD after the study concluded. Remember, these people were previously resistant to all PTSD treatment.

The long term follow up had some other findings worth noting:

  • Only 2 of the participants that finished the study had a relapse that resulted in unimproved symptoms of PTSD.
  • 16 of 19 were attending therapy before enrollment in the study. Only eight were still in therapy during the 2-month long-term follow up.
  • Everyone wanted to do more sessions afterward and thought that they would be beneficial.
  • 13 of the 19 participants reported improved cognitive function. There are no negative cognitive side effects to MDMA with respect to this study.
  • No participants suffered from substance abuse after the initial treatment.
Healing Trauma in Veterans with MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy

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Expert discusses MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD

What is even more telling to me than the numbers are some of the direct quotes from the participants.

  • “The therapy made it possible for me to live”
  • “The MDMA provided a dialogue with myself I am not often able to have, and there is the long-term effect of an increased sense of well-being.”
  • “I was always too frightened to look below the sadness. The MDMA and the support allowed me to pull off the controls, and I … knew how and what and how fast or slow I needed to see my pain”

The picture painted by these quotes is a complex one. The therapy was life changing for many of the participants, but it wasn’t easy, as is obvious from this statement by one of the participants.

“…one of the toughest things I have ever done…” That’s from someone who went to war. The therapy was on par with combat for this individual.

Anyone who has taken a hard look at their “shit” whether it be from war, an abusive childhood, or just having to live with being human, knows that it can be the hardest thing you ever try to do. Burying it deep down and ignoring it is the easy route.

Breakthrough for Psychedelic Medicine

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More than PTSD

Okay, so that’s PTSD and veterans, obviously a topic close to my heart and the rest of the We Are The Mighty family, but there is a whole host of other conditions that are being studied/treated with psilocybin, the psychedelic compound in magic mushrooms.

The most interesting aspect of these studies, in general, is that the drugs aren’t curing anything. The psychedelics aren’t doing the work; the patients are. The psychedelics are simply helping people get out of their own way so that they can help themselves, especially in mental conditions.

The cancer treatments are a little different. Cancer isn’t being cured. The studies are looking at whether these drugs can help people with cancer-associated depression and anxiety. Also, it seems to be helping people become okay with dying.

From personal experience, I can attest that these compounds can show you exactly what it means/feels like to die. Depending on your experience and the way you set up the experience, the fear of death could be completely erased.

More on mental health and meditation here.

The science of psilocybin and its use to relieve suffering

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Do the work

Without going total hippie on your ass, I’d like to leave you with this one idea.

The boom in psychedelic research is great news for humanity. When done correctly with pure substances, there seem to be no side effects whatsoever from these compounds. No side effects is basically unheard of when it comes to current PTSD medications.

The main reason is that these drugs aren’t doing much more than helping us let our guard down. The world is filled with a whole lot of really messed up shit that conditions us to protect ourselves. Veterans are one of the most stark examples of what happens when you experience something truly terrible.

You close off. You bury deep. You try to fight the memories. You try to change the past in your mind. You take responsibility for something you had no control over in the first place.

The research on psychedelics is showing us that what actually needs to happen is the opposite of all those things. We need to forgive ourselves, let go, and become okay with moving on. Facing your own death and coming to terms with it helps in dealing with the deaths of others as well.

Sometimes we just need some help to do those things. A properly set up psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy session may just provide the help needed. The opportunity to face your demons may be accessible and legal in a city near you within the next few years.

5 more of the most unconquerable countries in the world

Share and promote this research if you’re on board with helping veterans. The reason this research is being conducted is because of people that care. The system isn’t set up to promote this research. We have to speak up to get our brothers and sisters treatments that could change their lives. Visit MAPS for information on how to help and donate to this cause. Share this article if there’s someone you know who could benefit from this type of treatment. Comment on Facebook and keep this conversation going. Send me an email at michael@composurefitness.com if you have had an experience or know someone who has had an experience with these substances that you think would help shed some light on this conversation. We need to be the keepers of our health and the health of our brothers and sisters.

To get on the inside of the Mighty Fit community, join our Facebook group here. It’s where all the Mighty Fit faithful gather to share knowledge and motivate each other.

5 more of the most unconquerable countries in the world
MIGHTY TRENDING

The Chinese military’s new propaganda video is epic

China’s People’s Liberation Army released a chilling video last week called “I am a Chinese Soldier,” which was first spotted in the West by the National Interest.

The 2:20 minute video, released on August 1 for China’s Army Day, emotionally underscores the sacrifices made by service members of the PLA while showing off some of the country’s latest weaponry.

At one point in the propaganda video, the narrator says “peace behind me, war in front of me,” which The National Interest said could be interpreted to mean war is “inevitable.”


The National Interest, which provided a translation of the narration, also pointed out that no female soldiers were depicted in the video — just mothers and wives sending their husbands or sons off.

Check out the video:

The high-quality video also likely instilled a lot of pride, something which Eric Wertheim, a naval expert with the US Naval Institute, recently told Business Insider is at least in part China’s reason for building a fleet of new aircraft carriers that may soon be on par with the US’ Nimitz-class carriers.

But China’s grand ambitions for a world-class military likely goes beyond pride and domestic politics, as Beijing continues to set its sights on the East and South China Seas, Taiwan, market access overseas, and more.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Spec Ops leaders tell Congress they’re in the ‘risk business’

Calling the breadth and capability of the U.S. Special Operations Forces “astonishing,” the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict discussed the global posture of the nation’s special operations enterprise during a hearing Feb. 14, 2019, on Capitol Hill.

Owen O. West appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee with Army Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command.

West said that while special operations forces make up just 3 percent of the joint force, they have absorbed more than 40 percent of the casualties since 2001. “This sacrifice serves as a powerful reminder that special operators are in the risk business,” he said.


The assistant secretary said the National Defense Strategy has challenged all of DOD to increase focus on long-term strategic competition with Russia and China, and the SOF enterprise is in the midst of transformation; “something special operators have always done very well.”

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Assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict Owen West.

Any transformation starts with people, West said, noting, “In November, Gen. Thomas and I issued the first-ever joint vision for the [special operations forces] enterprise, challenging professionals to relentlessly pursue the decisive competitive advantage.”

Not stretched thin

West told the committee he is “proud to report to you that our SOF is neither overstretched nor breaking, but very healthy and eager to defend the nation against increasingly adaptive foes.”

As an integral part of the joint force, special operations troops are integrated into every facet of the NDS, Thomas told the committee.

“For the last 18 years, our No. 1 priority has been the effort against violent extremist organizations,” the general said. “As part of the joint force, we continue to be the … major supporting effort in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Lake Chad Basin; everywhere [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-] affiliated organizations are. We are relentlessly pursuing them to ensure this country never, ever endures another 9/11.”

A more lethal force

Thomas noted that Socom remains focused on finishing the effort by, with and through the United States’ many coalition partners.

“At the same time, again, as part of the joint force, we’re endeavoring to provide a more lethal and capable special operations force to confront peer competitors,” the commander said.

To build a more lethal force, strengthen alliances and partnerships and reform for greater performance and efficiency, Socom is reshaping and focusing its forces on capabilities, while also developing new technological and tactical approaches to accomplish the diverse mission that Socom will face in the future, Thomas said.

“The emergency security challenges will require Socom to be an organization of empowered SOF professionals — globally networked, partnered and integrated in relentlessly seeking advantage — in every domain for the joint force in the nation,” the general said.

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A CV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft takes off with a team of special tactics airmen assigned to the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron during exercise Emerald Warrior 19.1 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Jan. 22, 2019.

(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rose Gudex)

In addition to its responsibility to man, train and equip the world’s most capable special operations forces, over the past few years, Socom has experienced considerable development in another legislative role as a combatant command, he said.

Global mission sets

“We are currently assigned the role as the coordinating authority for three major global mission sets: counterterrorism, countering weapons of mass destruction and recently, messaging and countermessaging,” Thomas said.

“These roles require us to lead planning efforts, continually address joint force progress toward campaign objectives, and recommend improvements for modifications to our campaign approach to the secretary of defense,” he explained.

In parallel, Socom is pursuing an aggressive partnership with the other combatant commands with global portfolios: U.S. Cyber Command, U.S. Strategic Command, U.S. Transportation Command and U.S. Space Command, Thomas said, which is designed to leverage Socom’s respective capabilities to provide more agile solutions to DOD.

Emerging technologies

“We are increasing our investments in a wide spectrum of emerging technologies to include artificial intelligence/machine learning, automated systems, advanced robotics, augmented reality, biomedical monitoring, and advanced armor and munitions development, to name a few,” the general said.

“Leveraging our proven ability to rapidly develop and field cutting-edge technology flowing from our focus on the tactical edge of combat,” Thomas said, ” joint experimentation initiative will bring together innovative efforts from across our special operations force tactical formations to ensure that commanders’ combat requirements are addressed with the most advanced concepts available.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

Britain’s highly successful balloon attack against the Nazis

In perhaps one of the oddest British strategies against Nazi Germany, British troops launched almost 100,000 hydrogen-filled latex balloons into Nazi-controlled territory to set fires and short out power wires as part of Operation Outward.


5 more of the most unconquerable countries in the world

Women’s Auxiliary Air Force members recover a kite balloon.

(Royal Air Force)

Operation Outward was the result of an accident. Barrage and observation balloons in World War I got more coverage than in World War II, but the floating sacks of hydrogen were widely used in both conflicts. You can actually spot them in some of the more famous D-Day photos from later in the day or over the days and weeks that followed.

(The 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion was the only Black combat unit that came ashore on D-Day, though plenty of Black logistic and engineer units were there on June 6.)

But in September 1940, a few British barrage balloons broke free during a storm and drifted across Scandinavia, pissing the Scandinavians all the way off. The steel tethers these balloons dragged behind them had a pesky habit of shorting out power lines and otherwise damaging infrastructure.

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A U.S. Army Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, known as JLENS.

(U.S. Arny)

Ya know, about like what happened when that JLENS aerostat (blimp, basically) broke free in October 2015.

But when it happened in the Scandinavian countries in 1940, the Brits were all, “Wait, what’s bad for the goose is bad for the gander, so let’s apologize to Scandinavia but then do the same thing, on purpose, to Hitler’s Third Reich. Screw those guys.”

The British relied on a couple infrastructure advantages for this plan. Britain’s electrical grid was more developed, and therefore more susceptible to disruption, but it also featured faster circuit breakers. This meant that Britain’s grid, if hit with balloons trailing wires, would suffer relatively little damage. Germany’s, with slower breakers, had a real risk of losing entire sections of the grid or even power plants to balloon disruptions.

So, even if it led to a balloon trading war, Britain could expect to hold the upper hand. And so weather balloons were filled with hydrogen, fitted with either spools of wire or incendiary devices, and floated over the channel into Germany.

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An “incendiary sock” like those used to burn German towns.

(UK National Archives)

The wires were relatively thin. Experimentation showed the designers that they didn’t need the thick steel of normal tethers to short lines, cause electrical arcs, and damage German power distribution. The electrical arcs were the real killer, draining power from the grid, overworking the components of the power generation, and weakening the transmission lines so they would later break in high winds.

The incendiary devices were filled with wood shavings and paraffin wax.

Both types were made to fly over the channel at a little over 20,000 feet, then descend to 1,000 feet and do their work. They needed winds of about 10 mph or more to be as effective as possible.

And they worked, well. The idea wasn’t to cripple Germany in a single blow, but to cost them more in economic damage and defensive requirements than it cost Britain to deploy them. And, thanks to the low-cost materials Britain used, Britain only had to pay around the U.S.equivalent of .50 per balloon. Shooting a balloon down could cost much more than that in ammo, and that was if it was shot down by air defenders. If fighters had to launch, the fuel and maintenance would be astronomical.

And balloons that weren’t shot down could easily do hundreds to hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage. In 1942, a balloon launch overloaded a power plant at Böhlen so badly that the plant was completely destroyed. And while the power was off in this and other events, German units were made less ready for combat, and German wartime production was slowed.

Assessments found during and after the war painted a picture of constant disruption on the German side. In occupied France, there were 4,946 power interruptions during the program, most of them caused by the balloons. In 11 months from early 1942 to early 1943, Germany had 520 major disruptions of high-voltage lines.

And at a cost of .50 a balloon plus the wages of balloon launchers, mostly members of the Women’s Royal Navy Service, the more than 99,000 balloons launched were a hell of a deal.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Weblo’s final flight: A special operations military working dog receives hero’s goodbye

“Our working dogs are selfless in everything they do simply to please their handlers and those who work with them,” said Sergeant Major (retired) Jeremy Knabenshue, a veteran who worked as a K9 handler in the U.S. Army. “They give everything they have — to include their lives — without question to protect their pack.”

During a recent interview with Coffee or Die, Knabenshue spoke about his relationship with Weblo, his Military Working Dog (MWD). After a stint as an MP, Knabenshue became a K9 handler for a Special Missions Unit working alongside some of the most elite operators in the world. His work there, particularly his relationship with Weblo, had a profound impact on him. He served with that unit until retirement.


“When I was first assigned Weblo, he was a beatdown dog from Holland that flinched at every sudden move,” Knabenshue said. “I spent every single day for a year going to work to spend time with him and build our relationship until we deployed.”

5 more of the most unconquerable countries in the world

(Photo courtesy of Jeremy Knabenshue.)

On Knabenshue’s first deployment, Weblo was shot. They were working with a squad from 3rd Ranger Battalion, and Knabenshue credits the dog’s actions for saving his life. He treated Weblo, and “that night of saving one another’s lives solidified our bond to one another.”

“Personality-wise he was one of the guys.” Knabenshue said. “He was more than just a dog or a tool. He lived with us and was part of the team.” That relationship extended onto the battlefield as well — they had reached such a strong point of mutual understanding that few words had to be spoken. They moved together, fought together, and hit objectives together — all as one.

One night in Afghanistan, Knabenshue, Weblo, and an assault force of American operators boarded a helicopter and flew toward an enemy position. They expected to make their way to the target building when they landed, but chaos erupted as soon as the wheels touched the ground. People were running erratically, weapons were being fired, and they had to fight just to get to the objective — which should have been a simple 10 minute walk.

5 more of the most unconquerable countries in the world

(Photo courtesy of Jeremy Knabenshue.)

As they made it to the target compound, they began to move along one of the exterior walls. The next step would have been to hit the front door and assault the compound as usual; Knabenshue sent Weblo up front to check for booby traps before breaching.

When Weblo turned left instead of right, Knabenshue said that his first instinct was to become frustrated — now instead of breaching, he had to grab another assaulter and go get this dog who appeared to be distracted or disobedient. However, when they discovered Weblo, his jaws were clenched on a man clutching an AK47, who was lying in wait for an unsuspecting soldier to enter the breach.

This man had not been spotted by anyone on the assault force nor by the air assets circling in the sky — but he was spotted by Weblo.

5 more of the most unconquerable countries in the world

(Photo courtesy of Jeremy Knabenshue.)

This was how it went for six deployments — two to Iraq and four to Afghanistan. When they weren’t in a combat zone, training took them deep into the jungle, over rigorous mountain terrain, and helocasting into the water.

When Weblo came to the end of his military service, he went to live with Knabenshue. No longer under threat of death or permanent injury, their friendship continued to grow. And then Weblo was diagnosed with cancer.

As the dog’s health steadily declined, Knabenshue knew it was time to have him put down comfortably. He contacted a trusted veterinarian to set the date. But one day he took special notice of the airfield near his house, and an idea came to him. Knabenshue knew a truck wouldn’t suffice for Weblo’s last ride — he deserved more.

5 more of the most unconquerable countries in the world

(Photo courtesy of Jeremy Knabenshue.)

On March 8, 2016, everything fell into place. When Weblo and Knabenshue stepped onto the airfield and heard the thundering of the helicopter rotors, the dog’s chest swelled. Knabenshue swears that, for a moment, Weblo once again looked like a young working dog barreling across the Afghan countryside.

Also on the helicopter was the veterinarian. As they circled in the sky, Weblo felt the wind in his fur as he had so many times before among his fellow warriors. Following a painless injection, Weblo quietly, comfortably passed on.

After they landed, Knabenshue carried Weblo back to his truck to say goodbye.

“There will never be another Weblo for me,” Knabenshue later wrote on his blog. “I miss him daily and wish that somehow he could still be here. His death hit me far harder than any of the deaths of friends I’ve lost over the years. He was more than a pet or partner, he was an extension of myself as I was a part of him. His ashes are now placed on a shelf over my bar so that he can still look over and protect us.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

Articles

4 things that got a Nazi an automatic Iron Cross

Germany’s highest awards for valor, the Iron Cross, was the most awarded of the top tier medals of any nation in World War II. But Germany awarded more top-tier valor awards than any other country for two very good reasons. First, most German troops fought for the duration or the war unless they were crippled.


As German ace Gunther Rall put it, that meant Third Reich troops’ destiny “was either the Iron Cross or the wooden cross.” They would be heroes or they would die in the attempt.

5 more of the most unconquerable countries in the world
The Iron Cross second class. (Photo: Public Domain)

Second, German troops could earn the Iron Cross with a series of events, like succeeding in enough aerial battles, rather than for just a single act of extreme valor like in most militaries. While the medal was awarded for singular military achievements and bravery, it was also automatically warranted after a service member completed a challenging act.

Here are four things that would get a World War II German soldier an automatic Iron Cross:

1. Destroying a set number of enemy tanks

5 more of the most unconquerable countries in the world
A German Tiger tank rolls forward in the Battle of Kursk. (Photo: German Army archives)

For German tankers, the “easiest” way to earn an Iron Cross was to achieve enough tank victories to qualify. While the number required increased as the war ground on, 50 was the magic number for a few years. That’s 50 Allied tank kills before a single tank managed to kill them.

2. Killing a set number of Allied planes

5 more of the most unconquerable countries in the world
(Photo: Public Domain)

German Luftwaffe pilots could net an Iron Cross by accruing an ever-increasing number of points. Single-engine aircraft were worth one point, dual-engines netted two points, and four engines were worth three points. Fighters could get the Iron Cross second class for becoming an ace (downing five enemy aircraft).

3. Sinking a set amount of Allied shipping

5 more of the most unconquerable countries in the world
Photo: German Federal Archives

For submariners, the Iron Cross was usually awarded for sinking tons of Allied supplies. The Iron Cross second class usually required sinking 50,000 tons of shipping, while the Knight’s Cross, a higher level of the same award, would be granted to those who sank 100,000 or more tons.

4. Downing a “Night Witch”

5 more of the most unconquerable countries in the world
(Photo: Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0 Douzeff)

Oddly enough, pilots could earn an Iron Cross for downing a single wooden biplane, as long as it was being flown by the Night Witches.

These were older, frail planes piloted by Soviet women who would carry a few bombs at a time and drop them on Nazi massed forces, breaking up German attacks on Soviet positions. But the planes were so slow and quiet that they were hard to find and harder to fight, so the Luftwaffe promised an Iron Cross for a single kill.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of April 6

Well. The world still isn’t doing too great right now and the ghost of Nero is somewhere out there presumably fiddling. Another week of social distancing, binge-watching shows you never thought you’d care about and there’s still a shortage of sh*t tickets as we haven’t even gotten to the apex of this pandemic.

The news seems bleak at the moment but there are cases of folks coming out the other side of this sickness. In particular, two WWII veterans – Bill Kelly, 95, and Bill Lapschies, 104. Now, I’m not the type of guy to bring up “feel good” fluff pieces for the sake of feel-good-ness. I bring them up because their interviews are both perfect responses of what you’d expect from the Greatest Generation’s vets.


Kelly responded with a, “I survived the foxholes of Guam, I can get through this coronavirus bullsh*t!” and Lapschies, who celebrated his 104th birthday with a full recovery, says he’s “pretty good. I made it. Good for a few more!” After some internet sleuthing, Lapschies does appear to be the oldest survivor of the coronavirus from what I could find.

Just goes to show you that even in the worst moments, veterans of all eras have an instinctual habit of keeping a stiff upper lip and a sense of humor. Speaking of which, here’s some memes…

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2FQIllj8C4cfLXqbGgPcdPLh6WCVUCnk91pDGrLeLWSIFpE31H-NHrRC–E_mNi-I59RaO5YH18Z3YpugfeccC22Wy3WvLEG6Q5UBLV35a&ho=https%3A%2F%2Flh3.googleusercontent.com&s=164&h=c78275c191ee8b8784df9f849e95a9ba338275c29b25916e41e16b86d6c3e806&size=980x&c=2126619738 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252FQIllj8C4cfLXqbGgPcdPLh6WCVUCnk91pDGrLeLWSIFpE31H-NHrRC–E_mNi-I59RaO5YH18Z3YpugfeccC22Wy3WvLEG6Q5UBLV35a%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Flh3.googleusercontent.com%26s%3D164%26h%3Dc78275c191ee8b8784df9f849e95a9ba338275c29b25916e41e16b86d6c3e806%26size%3D980x%26c%3D2126619738%22%7D” expand=1]

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

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(Meme via US Army WTF Moments Memes)

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(Meme via Call for Fire)

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(Meme via Not CID)

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(Meme via Army as F*ck)

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(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

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(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)

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(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

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(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

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(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

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(Meme via ASMDSS)

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(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

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(Meme via Pop Smoke)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force special ops can’t afford the AC-130 gunship lasers

The Air Force is short of funding to speed development of a laser weapon for what is already one of the most lethal platforms in the U.S. arsenal — the Special Operations AC-130J Ghostrider gunship, Air Force Lt. Gen. Marshall Webb testified April 11, 2018.

“We’re $58 million short of having a full program that would get us a 60-kilowatt laser flying on an AC-130 by 2022,” Webb, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, said at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging threats.


Webb was responding to questions from Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico, who said at the current pace of testing, and funding, a laser weapon for the AC-130 would not be operational until 2030.

“I’m quite concerned with the crawl-walk-run approach when I think we’re reaching a point in the technology where we could literally jump from crawl to run” on the laser weapon, Heinrich said.

Heinrich said the current plan called for progressive demonstration steps in moving from a four-kilowatt laser to a 30-kilowatt version, “which really isn’t operationally relevant.”

If the previous steps were successful, the Air Force would then move to a 60-kilowatt device, and “at that rate the system would not be fieldable until 2030,” Heinrich said.

“What’s wrong with skipping the 30-kilowatt demo entirely and moving to something that could be used in the field?”

5 more of the most unconquerable countries in the world
An AC-130.
(Photo by Josh Beasley)

“I would couch this as a semi-good news story,” Webb said. “I don’t disagree with your assessment at all,” he told Heinrich, adding that “we’re starting to see funding that would accelerate what you’re talking about” but there was still a $58 million shortfall.

Webb earlier pointed to the funding problem in a February 2018 roundtable discussion with reporters at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Florida.

Military.com reported then that Webb said “The challenge on having the laser is funding.”

“And then, of course, you have the end-all, be-all laser questions. Are you going to be able to focus a beam, with the appropriate amount of energy for the appropriate amount of time for an effect?” Webb said.

“We can hypothesize about that all we want,” he continued. “My petition is, ‘Let’s get it on the plane. Let’s do it, let’s say we can — or we can’t,”

The AC-130J Ghostrider’s current suite of armaments led retired Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold, the former commander of Air Force Special Operations, to dub it “the ultimate battle plane.”

In 2015, a 105mm howitzer was added to the existing arsenal of AGM-176A Griffin missiles, GBU-30 bombs, and a 30mm cannon.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom

As in so many American conflicts, Coast Guard units and personnel in Operation Iraqi Freedom or OIF, performed several missions; including escort duty, force protection, maritime interdiction operations or MIO, and aids-to-navigation, or ATON, work. From the very outset of Middle East operations, the Coast Guard’s training and experience in these and other maritime activities played a vital role in OIF.


Late in 2002, Coast Guard headquarters alerted various units in the service’s Pacific Area and Atlantic Area about possible deployment to the Middle East. From November 2002 through January 2003, these units began activation, training and planning activities for an expected deployment in early 2003. In January, Pacific Area’s first major units deployed to the Arabian Gulf, including the high-endurance cutter Boutwell and ocean-going buoy tender Walnut. Both of these vessels had to cross the Pacific and Indian oceans to arrive at the Arabian Gulf and begin operations. Their responsibilities would include MIO and Walnut, in conjunction with members of the Coast Guard’s National Strike Force, would lead potential oil spill containment operations.

5 more of the most unconquerable countries in the world

Port Security Unit 309’s port security boat underway.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Atlantic Area provided many units of its own, sending the high-endurance cutter Dallas to the Mediterranean to support and escort Military Sealift Command shipping and Coalition battle groups in that theater of operations. Atlantic Area sent four 110-foot patrol boats (WPBs) to Italy together with support personnel and termed their base of operations “Patrol Forces Mediterranean” or PATFORMED, and it sent four WPBs to the Arabian Gulf with a Bahrain-based command called “Patrol Forces Southwest Asia,” PATFORSWA.

The service also activated Port Security Units and law enforcement boarding teams, LEDETs, which had proven successful in the Gulf War in 1990. Atlantic Area sent PSU 309 from Port Clinton, Ohio, to Italy to support PATFORMED while Pacific Area sent PSU 311 from San Pedro, California, and PSU 313 from Tacoma, Washington, to Kuwait to protect the Kuwait Naval Base and the commercial port of Shuaiba, respectively. LEDET personnel initially served aboard the WPBs and then switched to Navy patrol craft to perform MIO operations.

5 more of the most unconquerable countries in the world

Coast Guard Cutter Adak, a 110-foot patrol boat, interdicts a local dhow in the Northern Arabian Gulf.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

At 8 p.m. on March 19, Coalition forces launched Operation Iraqi Freedom. When hostilities commenced, all Coast Guard units were manned and ready. On March 20, personnel from PSU 311 and PSU 313 helped secure Iraq’s offshore oil terminals thereby preventing environmental damage and ensuring the flow of oil for a post-war Iraqi government. On March 21, littoral combat operations began and the WPB Adak served picket duty farther north than any other Coalition unit along the Khor Abd Allah Waterway. Adak captured the first Iraqi maritime prisoners of the war whose patrol boat had been destroyed upstream by an AC-130 gunship. On that same day, Adak participated in the capture of two Iraqi tugs and a mine-laying barge that had been modified to plant its deadly cargo in the waters of the Northern Arabian Gulf.

Once initial naval operations ceased, Coast Guard units began securing port facilities and waterways for the shipment of humanitarian aid to Iraq. On March 24, PSU 311 personnel deployed to the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr and, four days later, the WPB Wrangell led the first humanitarian aid shipment to that port facility. In addition to their primary mission of boarding vessels in the Northern Arabian Gulf, Coast Guard LEDETs secured the Iraqi shoreline from caches of weapons and munitions. Buoy tender Walnut, whose original mission included environmental protection from sabotaged oil facilities, surveyed and completely restored aids to navigation for the shipping lane leading to Iraq’s ports.

5 more of the most unconquerable countries in the world

Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Bruckenthal, a damage controlman, made the ultimate sacrifice during a boarding operation as member of a Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment team.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

On May 1, President George Bush declared an end to combat operations in Iraq. However, in less than a year the Coast Guard suffered its first and only death associated with OIF. On April 24, 2004, terrorists navigated three small vessels armed with explosives toward Iraq’s oil terminals. During this attack, the Navy patrol craft Firebolt intercepted one of the watercraft and members of LEDET 403 and Navy crew members proceeded toward the vessel in a rigid-hull inflatable boat or RHIB. Terrorists aboard the small vessel detonated its explosive cargo as the RHIB approached, overturning the boat and killing LEDET member Nathan Bruckenthal and two Navy crew members. Serving in his second tour of duty in Iraq, Bruckenthal had already received the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and Combat Action Ribbon. He posthumously received the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart Medal and Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal. He was the first Coast Guardsman killed in combat since the Vietnam War and was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

In OIF, the Coast Guard demonstrated the importance of a naval force experienced in shallow-water operations, MIO, port security and ATON work. The PSUs performed their port security duties efficiently in spite of their units being divided between three separate port facilities and two oil terminals. The WPBs operated for countless hours without maintenance in waters too shallow for Navy assets and served as the Coalition fleet’s workhorses in boarding, escort and force protection duties. The personnel of PATFORMED and PSU 309 demonstrated that Coast Guard units could serve in areas, such as the Mediterranean, lacking any form of Coast Guard infrastructure. PATFORSWA performed its mission effectively even though it was the first support detachment established by the Coast Guard. Fortunately, Walnut never had to employ its oil spill capability, but proved indispensable for MIO operations and ATON work on the Khor Abd Allah Waterway. Cutters Dallas and Boutwell provided much-needed logistical support, force protection and MIO operations. OIF was just one of the many combat operations fought by the Coast Guard since 1790 and its heroes are among the many members of the long blue line.

This article originally appeared on the United States Coast Guard. Follow @USCG on Twitter.

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