This infantry commander received 3 Silver Stars in 5 months - We Are The Mighty
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This infantry commander received 3 Silver Stars in 5 months

 


This infantry commander received 3 Silver Stars in 5 months
(Photo: U.S. Army)

Fred K. Mahaffey was a distinguished veteran of the U.S. Army who eventually rose to the rank of four-star general. It was during his time as a battalion commander in Vietnam that he, on at least three separate occasions in five months, risked his life to save his men. He received a Silver Star for each action.

Mahaffey was the commander of the 2nd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division. On Jan. 26, 1969, his units were engaged in the Ding Tuong Province. He ordered his command and control helicopter to begin conducting low passes over the battlefield so he could survey the action and coordinate support between his men.

Then he had the helicopter drop him off, and he began leading the fight from the ground. Throughout the night, he came under intense fire four times but stayed at the front to rally and direct his forces.

A few months later on Apr. 29, the 2nd Battalion was conducting a reconnaissance in force mission in Long An. One of the infantry companies found a larger enemy element and engaged in a firefight. Mahaffey once again ordered his helicopter to the battlefield.

When he arrived, he began flying circles over the battlefield and selected targets for artillery fire despite the fact that he was under severe anti-aircraft fire. After the company had surrounded the enemy, Mahaffey had the helicopter land so that he could help his men eliminate the Vietnamese element.

Between May 12 and 13, Mahaffey completed his hat trick. Again, his forces were conducting a reconnaissance in force when they encountered a large enemy element. Mahaffey called in both artillery and air strikes from the bird and made constant adjustments to the fire missions to maximize their effects.

This infantry commander received 3 Silver Stars in 5 months
Soldiers on the ground guide in a helicopter during a resupply mission in Vietnam. (Photo: U.S. Army)

He then joined the forces on the ground and kept calling in missions, some as close as 35 meters from his own position. He stayed on the battlefield and coordinated the support fires until his men were able to destroy the enemy element completely.

For these three engagements, Mahaffey received three Silver Stars, but that’s not the full extent of his heroics in Vietnam.

He also received two Distinguished Flying Crosses. One was for his actions leading from the sky throughout the Vietnam deployment.

The other Distinguished Flying Cross resulted from actions taken on Apr. 6, 1969, when he saw two enemy soldiers maneuvering near his men. He ordered the bird to conduct low passes while he fired on the soldiers with his M-16, killing them both. He then landed, recovered their weapons and documents, and took off again.

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First 10 women graduate from Infantry Officer Course

Ten female lieutenants completed the first step in becoming U.S. Army infantry platoon leaders on Wednesday by graduating from the first gender-integrated class of Infantry Officer Basic Leader Course.


Twelve women started the 17-week course at Fort Benning, Georgia, and 10 met the standards to graduate alongside 156 male classmates.

“The training of an infantry lieutenant is a process until they step in front of that rifle platoon, and this is but the very first step in that process,” Lt. Col. Matthew Weber, battalion commander of the course, told reporters Wednesday at Fort Benning. “It’s a critical one because we are very much focused on training and preparing the soldiers, the lieutenants, to ultimately lead a rifle platoon.”

This infantry commander received 3 Silver Stars in 5 months
FILE – Soldiers participate in the U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s Cultural Support Assessment and Selection program. | US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Klika

The graduation of first 10 women from the infantry course comes a little more than a year after Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver became the first women to graduate Army Ranger School in August 2015. Maj. Lisa A. Jaster became the third woman to graduate from a gender-integrated Ranger course two months later.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter in December ordered all military jobs, including special operations, opened to women. His directive followed a 2013 Pentagon order that the military services open all positions to women by early 2016.

Army officials maintain that it hasn’t taken long for gender integration to become the norm in training.

“We have been integrating women into the military for years; they have fought and bled beside us for years,” said Maj. Gen. Eric Wesley, commanding general of the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning. “This is an important moment, but this is something that is in many ways business as usual.”

Fort Benning officials would not release the names of the 10 female graduates. Their next stop is Ranger School, Weber said.

Then, whether they are successful or not, they will go into other courses, including Airborne School, Striker Leader Course and then Mechanized Leader Course — a process that will take about a year to complete.

“Once they have completed all those courses, then we will have deemed them fit to lead whatever type formation out in [Forces Command] and they will depart Fort Benning,” Weber said.

Female infantry officers will leave Fort Benning and go to Fort Hood, Texas, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Wesley said.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley has directed that gender-integration first focus on leaders at those two installations, Wesley said.

“We are priming the pump and enabling success by initially focusing on two installations and then ultimately they will start to migrate out to other installations,” he said.

Griest and Haver are following the same path.

Griest, a military police officer from Connecticut, was granted transfer to the infantry branch April 25, 2016. Haver, an AH-64 Apache helicopter pilot from Arizona, has been approved to transfer into the infantry, and “we are still awaiting final word on when that is going to come down,” said Brig. Gen. Peter Jones, commandant of the Infantry School.

“Upfront, I will tell you this makes us a better Army and the reason it makes us a better Army is that this whole issue has driven us — it has been a forcing function, to ensure that we had the right standards aligned to each occupational specialty in the Army,” Wesley said.

Establishing gender-neutral standards has been the “culmination of two years of different work done by Training and Doctrine Command, with physical scientists looking at what is the physiology of moving weight and what is the difference between infantrymen and field artillerymen?” Jones said.

“We have the scientific data that shows these are the propensity skills that you have to do and the physiology to do those.”

Benning officials maintain that gender integration has not lowered standards.

“There has been no change in the standards,” said Infantry Officer Basic Leader Course Command Sgt. Major Joe Davis. “There is no change in the course … we are in the business of producing leaders. It doesn’t matter if they are male or females.”

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ICE detained this Afghan man who helped the US military

Rights groups are calling for the release of an Afghan man with a special visa given to those who assist the United States military overseas who has been held by immigration authorities for nearly three weeks.


Abdul, whose full name is not being revealed for security reasons, arrived at the Newark, New Jersey airport on March 13 as part of the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program. Afghans who are in life-threatening danger are eligible for this status. 

“Border agents coerced him into signing away his fundamental rights, even though the federal government understood his life was in danger in Afghanistan because of his service to the United States,” Jeanne LoCicero, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement.

The man and his family had previously been attacked by the Taliban armed group. U.S. immigration authorities are trying to deport him. 

Abdul, who holds a sponsorship letter from a retired U.S. Army sergeant, worked as a cashier for five years at a cafeteria next to the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul until February, shortly before he departed for the United States.

Instead of a warm welcome, Abdul was detained on arrival.

This infantry commander received 3 Silver Stars in 5 months
Customs at Ramstein Air Base. (Photo: Jeremy Bender/ Business Insider)

“If they had stamped his passport, he would be a lawful U.S. resident,” Jason Scott Camilo, an immigration lawyer representing Abdul, told Al Jazeera.

Camilo said the Afghan was initially interrogated for 28 hours by agents from the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs (ICE) agencies. 

The lawyer said Abdul was without legal counsel for more than a day. He was held in “a big waiting room. There’s a couple of jail-like cells without beds…he couldn’t sleep,” Camilo said.

Shortly before his scheduled deportation, the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) filed a case on Abdul’s behalf, which was denied. It then filed an emergency appeal and a court placed a temporary stay on his deportation pending a review of his case. 

Abdul has since passed an initial interview for refugee status and is awaiting a court review in mid-April. However, he remains locked up in the Elizabeth Detention Center, a private facility contracted by ICE.

Betsy Fisher, IRAP’s policy director, said Abdul’s detention is part of a larger clampdown on the Special Immigrant Visa program.

In December 2016, then-president Barack Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which only allocated 1,500 more SIV visas. With so few visas available, Fisher explained, interviews for applicants at the U.S. embassy in Kabul ended on March 1. 

“There are roughly 10,000 people still waiting for SIVs,” Fisher told Al Jazeera. “The fact that applicants are now in indefinite limbo because Congress has failed to provide the number of visas we knew were needed is a disgrace and abandonment of our allies.”

Abdul is the second Afghan SIV recipient to be detained in March. On March 4, a family of five that had been granted approval to move to the U.S. because of their father’s work was detained in Los Angeles. 

Al Jazeera contacted ICE and CBP for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.

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US think tank says Israel planned to use a nuclear bomb in 1967

JERUSALEM (AP) — A leading Washington think tank has detailed what it says was a secret Israeli plan to detonate an atomic bomb in the event it faced defeat in the 1967 Mideast war.


The operation never took off. But details about the doomsday scenario, in which Israel planned to set off a nuclear weapon atop a remote mountain in the Sinai Peninsula, shed new light on the fearful climate at the time. It also could undermine Israel’s decades-long policy of nuclear ambiguity.

The Nuclear Proliferation International History Project of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars unveiled a website Monday devoted to “Operation Shimshon,” the codename for what it said was the hastily arranged plan.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry had no comment.

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These are the details of recent strikes against ISIS

US and coalition military forces continued to attack the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria July 15, conducting 29 strikes consisting of 46 engagements, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported.


Officials reported details of July 15 strikes, noting that assessments of results are based on initial reports.

Strikes in Syria

This infantry commander received 3 Silver Stars in 5 months
Marines with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit fire their M777 Howitzer during a fire mission in northern Syria as part of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve. (USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Zachery Laning)

In Syria, coalition military forces conducted 22 strikes consisting of 24 engagements against ISIS targets:

— Near Abu Kamal, three strikes engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed three oil stills and a vehicle.

— Near Shadaddi, two strikes destroyed an ISIS staging area and an artillery system.

— Near Dayr Az Zawr, eight strikes destroyed 44 ISIS oil storage tanks, 22 oil stills, five cranes, a vehicle and a wellhead.

— Near Raqqa, nine strikes engaged five ISIS tactical units and destroyed 14 fighting positions, two anti-air artillery systems and a vehicle bomb.

Strikes in Iraq

This infantry commander received 3 Silver Stars in 5 months
USMC photo by Cpl. Andre Dakis

In Iraq, coalition military forces conducted seven strikes consisting of 22 engagements against ISIS targets:

— Near Qaim, a strike destroyed a vehicle.

— Near Beiji, a strike destroyed a vehicle bomb and a vehicle bomb-making facility.

— Near Mosul, two strikes engaged two ISIS tactical units and destroyed three fighting positions.

— Near Qayyarah, two strikes engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed seven boats, an ISIS-held building and a fighting position.

— Near Rawah, a strike engaged an ISIS tactical unit.

July 13-14 Strikes

This infantry commander received 3 Silver Stars in 5 months
Army photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Manne

Additionally, 10 strikes were conducted in Syria and Iraq on July 13-14 that closed within the last 24 hours:

— On July 13 near Raqqa, Syria, two strikes damaged nine fighting positions and suppressed five mortar teams.

— On July 14 near Raqqa, Syria, five strikes engaged three ISIS tactical units, destroyed two fighting positions and two ISIS communications towers, and damaged four fighting positions.

— On July 14 near Kisik, Iraq, a strike damaged eight ISIS supply routes.

— On July 14 near Mosul, Iraq, a strike engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed 11 tunnel entrances.

— On July 14 near Qayyarah, Iraq, a strike engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed four boats, an ISIS-held building and a fighting position.

Part of Operation Inherent Resolve

This infantry commander received 3 Silver Stars in 5 months
Army photo by Sgt. Joe Padula

These strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to destroy ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The destruction of ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria also further limits the group’s ability to project terror and conduct external operations throughout the region and the rest of the world, task force officials said.

The list above contains all strikes conducted by fighter, attack, bomber, rotary-wing or remotely piloted aircraft; rocket-propelled artillery; and some ground-based tactical artillery when fired on planned targets, officials noted.

Ground-based artillery fired in counter-fire or in fire support to maneuver roles is not classified as a strike, they added. A strike, as defined by the coalition, refers to one or more kinetic engagements that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single or cumulative effect.

This infantry commander received 3 Silver Stars in 5 months
Army photo by Sgt. Ben Brody

For example, task force officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIS vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against a group of ISIS-held buildings and weapon systems in a compound, having the cumulative effect of making that facility harder or impossible to use. Strike assessments are based on initial reports and may be refined, officials said.

The task force does not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target.

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Here’s the Navy’s plan for light carriers

In the wake of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the Navy to find a way to get more aircraft carriers into the fleet quickly.


As Japan “ran wild” during the first six months of the war, nine Cleveland-class light cruisers were converted into aircraft carriers. The ships served during World War II, with one — USS Princeton (CVL 23) — being sunk during the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

The United States Navy later added two more light carriers, the Saipan-class vessels USS Saipan (CVL 48) and USS Wright (CVL 49)

This infantry commander received 3 Silver Stars in 5 months
A lineup of the major American carriers in World War II. In the back is USS San Jacinto (CVL 30), an Independence-class light carrier. (U.S. Navy photo)

Now, the light carrier could be making a comeback. According to a report from Popular Mechanics, the Navy has received $30 million to come up with a preliminary design for a light carrier. This is being pursued at the behest of Senator John McCain (R-AZ), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

This infantry commander received 3 Silver Stars in 5 months
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Ranking Member Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., listen as retired Gen. David Petraeus testifies at a hearing in Washington, Sept. 22, 2015.

The report noted that the Navy had operated what amounted to “light” carriers in the Cold War. However, these “light” carriers were the fleet carrier designs (the Essex-class and Midway-class vessels), which had become “light” due to the development of the super-carriers, starting with USS Forrestal (CV 59).

The most notable of these “light” carriers, were the three Midway-class ships: USS Midway (CV 41), USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV 42), and USS Coral Sea (CV 43).

This infantry commander received 3 Silver Stars in 5 months
USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV 42), a Midway-class carrier. (U.S. Navy photo)

In World War II, the light carriers helped bolster the air power of the Third Fleet and Fifth Fleet. Mostly, this was by adding a huge complement of fighters. According to “Aleutians, Gilberts, and Marshalls,” Volume VII in Samuel Eliot Morison’s “History of United States Naval Operations in World War II,” an Essex-class carrier usually carried 36 F6F Hellcats, 36 SBD Dauntless dive bombers, and 18 TBF Avenger torpedo bombers.

The usual air group for an Independence-class light carrier was 24 F6F Hellcats and 9 TBFs. Independence-class light carriers displaced 11,000 tons, compared to 30,000 for the Essex.

This infantry commander received 3 Silver Stars in 5 months
USS Cowpens (CVL 25) with aircraft on the flight deck. (U.S. Navy photo)

What could be the light carrier of today?

Popular Mechanics looked at two options. One was essentially to use the America-class amphibious assault ship to operate about 20 F-35Bs from, along with MH-60R helicopters and V-22 Osprey tankers. The other option is to modify the America design to use catapults and arresting gear to operate planes like the F/A-18E/F and F-35C.

This infantry commander received 3 Silver Stars in 5 months
The U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA-6) returns to Huntington Ingalls Shipyard, Pascagoula, Mississippi (USA), after completing sea trials. (U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Aviation Ordnanceman Lawrence Grove)

Either way, these carriers would not have the capabilities of a supercarrier like USS Nimitz (CVN 68) or Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78). The air groups would be smaller, and the light carriers would not likely have nuclear power.

However, the lighter carriers could handle a number of missions — including convoy escort and operations like those in Libya or Somalia, freeing up the supercarriers for major conflicts against a country like China or Russia.

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Canadian sniper sets new world record for a long-distance kill

A Canadian sniper operating in Iraq set the world record for a long-distance confirmed kill at 3,450 meters, or 2.14 miles just last month.


According to Robert Fife of the Globe and Mail, this soldier functions as part of Canada’s contribution to the war against ISIS, and serves as a member of Joint Task Force 2, the country’s top-tier special operations unit.

This infantry commander received 3 Silver Stars in 5 months
Joint Task Force 2 recruiting poster. (Photo Canadian military)

Fife reports that the shot was part of a response to an ISIS attack on Iraqi security forces. To break up the attack, coalition forces, including sniper teams, engaged the enemy element from a distance, picking out targets and dropping them from afar. The JTF2 sniper’s kill shot took around 10 seconds to reach its mark after exiting the barrel of the rifle.

Yet-to-be-released video footage of the shot apparently further adds credence to the claims surrounding this incredible feat.

It may surprise you that this isn’t the first time Canadians have held the record for a longest confirmed kill. In 2002, Cpl. Rob Furlong, a marksman with 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry set a record for a kill at 1.5 miles breaking the previous record set at 1.43 miles, held by… you guessed it, another Canadian – Master Cpl. Arron Perry, also of the same unit.

This infantry commander received 3 Silver Stars in 5 months
Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, during a 2017 military exercise. Photo by Sgt JF Lauzé (Canadian Army)

Furlong’s shot was exceeded in 2009 by a British army sniper, Craig Harrison, who dropped a pair of Taliban machine gunners while serving in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

The JTF2 sniper reportedly used a McMillan Tac-50 rifle, known as the C15 Long Range Sniper Weapon in Canadian service. The C15 is chambered to fire the same .50 caliber round the M2 heavy machine gun utilizes, though for shots that require considerable amounts of precision.

Interestingly enough, the record prior to Perry’s 2002 kill stood at 1.42 miles, held by legendary US Marine sniper Carlos Hathcock, who actually used a modified M2 outfitted with a scope to take his shot in early 1967. Both Furlong and Perry used the C15 for their long-distance shots in 2002.

The secretive JTF2 exists in the same vein as the US Navy’s Special Warfare Development Group, also known as DEVGRU. Like its American counterpart, the Canadian unit is primarily tasked with counterterrorism, though it can be used for direct action, high value target capture, and reconnaissance operations as needed. It’s also one of the smallest units of its kind in the world, recruiting very selectively from the three branches of the Canadian military.

This infantry commander received 3 Silver Stars in 5 months
CANSOFCOM operators practice a rooftop insertion during a building takedown exercise (Canadian Army)

Potential JT2 “assaulters” are put through a difficult selection and training phase, designed to weed out candidates quickly so that only the toughest remain. Following selection, assaulters can be assigned to various specialties within two operational fields, air/land and sea. The unit regularly cross-trains with foreign partners around the world and at home in Canada.

Though JTF2, in comparison with similar units like the Special Air Service and DEVGRU, is very young in its history, it has already racked up a number of commendations for its actions on the battlefield, especially with its service in Afghanistan over the past 15 years.

In 2004, members of the unit were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation because of their actions as part of Task Force K-Bar, the first Canadian unit to hold such an honor since the Korean War.

Very little is known today about what JTF2 does in Iraq. It is known that the unit was first deployed late last year to the beleaguered country, supplementing other coalition special operations units currently active in the area.

Though it’s possible that JTF2 has carried out direct action assaults, it’s generally understood that their primary mission in-country is to serve in a training and advisory role with Kurdish fighters in the battle against ISIS.

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This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly

He’s piloted an AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter gunship in combat, but Marine Capt. Kyle Lobpries is still chasing that next adrenaline rush.


On Memorial Day, wearing a high-performance Jedei II wingsuit, Lobpries stepped off an airplane at 36,215 feet over northern California. For more than eight minutes, he flew like a bird.

He floated to Earth before his parachute deployed at 3,003 feet and carried him onto a field nearly 19 miles away and nearly set a distance record for wingsuit flight.

Thrilling enough? Yes and no.

Next month, Lobpries will compete in speed skydiving. Goal? Maximum velocity.

Don’t people, like objects, descend at 120 mph?

This infantry commander received 3 Silver Stars in 5 months
Photo courtesy Kyle Lobpries Facebook

Generally, yes, but freefall speed increases by reducing friction. Tuck yourself in from the belly or spread-eagle position and fall head-first, for example, and a skydiver could reach 180 mph, according to the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, the World Air Sports Federation. Get into a tight, lean position – think slender torpedo – and a skydiver could hit 300 mph or more.

That’s Lobpries’ goal.

So far, he’s hit 297 mph in training. At such speeds, the 33-year-old is flying nearly twice that of his own helicopter. Straight down.

“It’s pretty scary,” he admitted. “When you go that fast, everything is vibrating and shaking and kind of blurry.”

Next month, he’ll compete in speed skydiving at the FAI World Parachuting Championship in Chicago, Sept. 10-21. Speed diving is the newest recognized discipline by FAI, which will crown champion whoever tallies the “fastest speed possible over a given distance.”

Last year, the top speed over a 1-kilometer descent was 317.5 mph, according to SkyDive magazine.

(Speed skydiving shouldn’t be confused with the recent jump by skydiver Luke Aikins, who leapt from 25,000 sans parachute into a big net and the Guinness Book of World Records for highest skydive without a parachute. And it’s not the same speed record adventure-skydiver Felix Baumgartner got when he reached 833.9 mph and broke the speed of sound falling 127,000 feet to Earth in 2012, still the highest skydive.)

As a kid in Texas, Lobpries saw wingsuiters on TV and thought, that’s cool. He made his first jump, a tandem ride, as a 19-year-old college freshman and since has amassed various parachute ratings and qualifications and some medals, even as his military flight career took off. He got the requisite 200 jumps before jumping with his first wingsuit, in 2010.

“I remember my heart beating very fast. I was very nervous,” he recalled of that jump from 12,500 feet.

It’s been his great passion ever since and between overseas deployments. “I think this is the more truer way to fly, to actually use your arms to support yourself in the air,” he said.

Wingsuiting to a layperson seems like a complex feat of science and physics. With his grounding in aviation and aeronautics, Lobpries pores over jump and flight data and calculations. He’s working on designing the most efficient and fast wingsuit design.

Lobpries lives near San Diego and is the Marine Corps liaison officer with Tactical Air Control Squadron 12 at San Diego Naval Base. It’s a non-flying billet. Outside of work, chances are good he’s in the air or somewhere maybe riding his Ducati 1199 Panigale S.

Every one of his jumps requires a lot of thought and study to ensure safety and solid performance. Lobpries spent months planning and preparing for the May wingsuit flight near Davis, California. He slimmed down to 172 pounds, building strength and stamina through a clean diet and strength conditioning that include core exercises and yoga, despite nagging lower-body injuries from a 2014 bad landing. His May 28 training jump, at 30,000 feet, went well.

Two days later, Lobpries and several skydivers boarded the Cessna, sucking on oxygen before they parachuted from 30,000 feet. Lobpries stayed behind when they jumped. “My plan was to go as high as possible,” he said.

This infantry commander received 3 Silver Stars in 5 months
Courtesy Kyle Lobpries Facebook

Lobpries had FAA clearance, a GoPro camera, three GPS devices and a potential world record in mind as the Cessna climbed to 36,215 feet. (That’s cruising altitude for a commercial jet.) Frost covered the windows as the Cessna pushed beyond its ceiling limits. “It was definitely rocking and rolling up there,” he said.

With heaters tucked into his gloves and breathing apparatus on his face, Lobpries stepped off into thin, -62 degrees Fahrenheit air. “I had trouble breathing. I couldn’t exhale,” he recalled, but he managed to clear a frozen exhale valve. He listened to audible altimeter readings and focused on his micro movements. “I just continuously thought about body positioning,” he said.

Lobpries jumped with no specific landing zone in mind. “I asked the pilot to drop me off 18 miles north of the drop zone, and I would fly south as far as I could,” he said. A straight path gave him the best shot to maintain the proper glide slope. A slight tailwind took him over farmland, a small town and “one guy that waved” as he flew over. An FAI judge tracked the 8:27 flight and took the GPS devices for verification.

If FAI-verified, Lobpries thinks it’s the longest distance and highest duration wingsuit jump to date. “I want to set a bar,” Lobpries said, “and if someone breaks it, that’s fine.”

“The draw is just the goal. Just like somebody wanting to run a marathon … or become a lawyer,” he said.

He hopes his record “will inspire people to accomplish” their goal. He’s recently taken up BASE jumping. But for now, he’s focused on Chicago and reaching 300 mph and, perhaps eventually, a speed skydiving record.

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Air Force defends nuclear cruise missile

The safety and survival of American civilians along with countless US military assets hinges, to some extent, upon the existence of a nuclear-armed, air-launched long-range stealthy cruise missile able to elude sophisticated enemy air defenses and threaten or strike targets deeply lodged in enemy territory, senior Air Force officials said.


At first glance, this concept could resonate as somewhat extreme or exaggerated — given the existing US “Triad” of nuclear weapons to include ICBMs, air-dropped bombs, and submarine-launched nuclear firepower.

However, in an exclusive interview with Scout Warrior, Lt. Gen. Jack Weinstein, Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration, said that the emerging Long-Range Stand-Off weapon, or LRSO, is intended to function as a critical element of the US military nuclear arsenal.

This infantry commander received 3 Silver Stars in 5 months
US Air Force image by R.L. House

Along these lines, senior Air Force leaders continue to argue that engineering a new, modern Long-Range Standoff Missile with nuclear capability may be one of a very few assets, weapons or platforms able to penetrate emerging high-tech air defenses. Such an ability is, as a result, deemed crucial to nuclear deterrence and the commensurate need to prevent major-power warfare.

Therefore, in the event of major nuclear attack on the US, a stand-off air-launched nuclear cruise missile may be among the few weapons able to retaliate and, as a result, function as an essential deterrent against a first-strike nuclear attack.

The Long Range Stand-Off, or LRSO, weapon will be developed to replace the aging AGM-86B Air Launched Cruise Missile or ALCM, currently able to fire from a B-52.  The AGM-86B has far exceeded its intended life span, having emerged in the early 1980s with a 10-year design life, Air Force statements said.

Unlike the ALCM which fires from the B-52, the LRSO will be configured to fire from B-2 and B-21 bombers as well, service officials said; both the ALCM and LRSO are designed to fire both conventional and nuclear weapons.

While Air Force officials say that the current ALCM remains safe, secure and effective, it is facing sustainment and operational challenges against evolving threats, service officials also acknowledge.

This infantry commander received 3 Silver Stars in 5 months
AGM-86 ALCM cruise missile

“We’ve had cruise missiles for a very long time. The first cruise missile was the hound dog, so we’ve had cruise missiles since the 1970’s and what we’re doing now is developing a long-range standoff weapon for a modern A2-AD (defensed Anti-Access/Area Denial) environment. People write articles that say these weapons are destabilizing, but I don’t understand that. They’re not destabilizing when they’re protecting your nation,” Weinstein said.

In effect, the rapid evolution of better networked, longer-range, digital air-defenses using much faster computer processing power will continue to make even stealth attack platforms more vulnerable; current and emerging air defenses, such as Russian-built S-300s and S-400s are able to be cued by lower-frequency “surveillance radar” — which can simply detect that an enemy aircraft is in the vicinity — and higher-frequency “engagement radar” capability. This technology enables air defenses to detect targets at much farther ranges on a much larger number of frequencies including UHF, L-band and X-band.

Furthermore, Dave Majumdar from The National Interest writes that Russia is now developing a next-generation S-500 air-defense system able to destroy enemy aircraft at distances up to 125 miles.

Russian officials and press reports have repeatedly claimed its air-defenses can detect and target many stealth aircraft, however some US observers believe Russia often exaggerates its military capabilities. Nonetheless, many US developers of weapons and stealth platforms take Russian-built air defenses very seriously. Many maintain the existence of these systems has greatly impact US weapons development strategy.

Accordingly, some analysts have made the point that there may be some potential targets which, due to the aforementioned superbly high-tech air defenses, platforms such as a B-2 stealth bomber or services now-in-development next-generation bomber, the B-21, might be challenged to attack without detection.

This infantry commander received 3 Silver Stars in 5 months
A B-2 Spirit | US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III

A stealthy, high-tech nuclear armed cruise missile, such as an LRSO, may indeed in some cases be one of a very few weapons able to hold certain heavily defended or hard-to-reach targets at risk.

The U.S. Air Force has released a request for proposals, RFP, to industry for its Long Range Standoff, or LRSO, nuclear cruise missile program.  Up to two contract awards are expected in 4th quarter fiscal year 2017, a service statement said.

A report in “Inside Defense” says the service intends to buy 1,000 new cruise missiles and expects the LRSO program could cost about $17 billion for the missile and its nuclear-capable warhead.

Along these lines, a report from “War is Boring” explains that the Air Force’s budget request for fiscal year 2016 calls for around $1.8 billion in spending on the missile during the next five years.

“There will be two versions—one to carry an updated W80 thermonuclear warhead, and another packed with conventional explosives for non-nuclear attacks,” the War is Boring report states.

The Air Force plans to start fielding LRSO by 2030.

LRSO to Keep the Peace

Weinstein made the argument that if, for example, the Russian military believed having an advanced nuclear cruise missile would give them a distinct advantage – they would be likely to pursue it. As a result, US deterrence strategy needs to ensure its offensive nuclear fire power can match or exceed that of any potential rival. This conceptual framework provides the foundation for why many US military leaders believe it is vital for the Air Force to have an operational LRSO.

“If another nation believes they can have an advantage by using a nuclear weapon, that is really dangerous. What you want to do is have such a strong deterrent force that any desire to attack with nuclear weapons will easily be outweighed by the response they get from the other side. That’s the value of what the deterrent force provides,” he said.

However, several reports have cited a group of US Senators who are making the case against development of LRSO, claiming it would both be redundant, too costly and too “destabilizing.” The concern, grounded in nuclear non-proliferation sensibilities, maintains it could further inspire nuclear arms-race type provocations and introduce new, more threatening elements into the air-triad of the nuclear arsenal.

In addition, a report in The National Interest cites the Federation of American Scientists as saying that LRSO would be redundant, expensive and not necessary.

“The FAS believes that a new, stealthy and conventionally armed cruise missile, the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range (JASSM-ER) is a better and cheaper choice. “The new nuclear cruise missile will not be able to threaten targets that cannot be threatened with other existing nuclear weapons,” writes Hans Kristensen, director of the FAS’s Nuclear Information Project, according to the report from Mike Peck of The National Interest.

At the same time, the FAS statement does not seem to address the concern from Air Force leaders that a longer-range nuclear threat may, in fact, be necessary in today’s high-tech threat environment. The LRSO, naturally, is being engineered to launch both nuclear and conventional attacks. While many details and plans for the weapon are, quite naturally, not available for public discussion, it takes little imagination to point out that the LRSO is being designed to be much more capable than both the ALCM and JASSM-ER in terms of range, command and control technology and stealth characteristics.

Weinstein also reiterated that the existence of an LRSO will not destabilize decision-making regarding the potential employment of nuclear weapons. He emphasized that, despite the presence of an LRSO, nuclear weapons will only be fired by the President of the United States.

“The actual truism when it comes to nuclear weapons is that no one in the United States military releases nuclear weapons – nobody. The President of the United States releases nuclear weapons, therefore when we develop new capability based on the environment we’re in, based on defensive systems that other nations have, it doesn’t make us able to use them any quicker or any faster,” Weinstein explained.

LRSO B-52

The historic and somewhat iconic B-52, which is now bombing ISIS, will be among the platforms to be armed with the emerging LRSO; the idea is to equip the large bomber with long-range conventional and nuclear attack potential. The Air Force is now upgrading the platform with new radios, data links, avionics and weapons capability to ensure the older aircraft remains relevant and function for at least several more decades.

This infantry commander received 3 Silver Stars in 5 months
A B-52 Stratofortress | US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christine Griffiths

“You have to look at the history of it. We needed something that would go high and fast and penetrate to say – ‘well the world has changed.’ It goes low and we use it in conventional conflicts, and then we use it to fight ISIS and we use it to defend on a nuclear standpoint, and it’s a great platform that has many years left in it,” Weinstein said.

Air Force Statement: LRSO Acquisition

“The RFP identifies the contract requirements and proposal instructions for the LRSO’s Technology Maturation and Risk Reduction, or TMRR, phase.  After receipt of industry proposals, the Air Force will conduct a source selection and award contracts to up to two prime contractors.  The prime contractors will execute a 54-month effort to complete a preliminary design with demonstrated reliability and manufacturability, which will be followed by a competitive down-select to a single contractor.”

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One of the Soviet Union’s top Cold War spymasters just died

Yuri Drozdov, the Soviet spymaster who oversaw a sprawling network of KGB agents abroad, died on June 21. He was 91.


The Foreign Intelligence Service, a KGB successor agency known under its Russian acronym SVR, didn’t give the cause of Drozdov’s death or any other specifics in a terse statement.

Drozdov, a World War II veteran, joined the KGB in 1956 and was dispatched as a liaison officer with the East German secret police, the Stasi. In 1962, he took part in the exchange of Soviet undercover agent Rudolf Abel, convicted in the US, for downed American spy plane pilot Francis Gary Powers.

This infantry commander received 3 Silver Stars in 5 months
Photo of the former chief of KGB Directorate “S” general Yuri Drozdov and a former soviet NOC Sergey Zhirnov at the office of consulting firm Namakon in Moscow. (Photo via of Wikimedia Commons)

The story was made into Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster “Bridge of Spies” in 2015 as well as the Soviet movie “The Shield and the Sword,” a 1968 classic that Russian President Vladimir Putin once said inspired him to join the KGB.

On June 21st, Putin himself offered condolences to Drozdov’s wife and two sons in a message published on the Kremlin’s website. Drozdov was “a legendary spy and an outstanding professional” who was also “an incredible person and true patriot,” Putin said.

This infantry commander received 3 Silver Stars in 5 months
Photo courtesy of Russian State Media

Working under diplomatic cover, Drozdov served as the KGB resident in China in 1964-1968, and in the United States in 1975-1979.

In 1979, he came to head a KGB department overseeing a network of undercover agents abroad, the job he held until resigning in 1991. The agents who lived abroad under false identity were called “illegals” and were considered the elite of Soviet intelligence.

In December 1979, Drozdov led an operation to storm the palace of Afghan President Hafizullah Amin that paved the way for the Soviet invasion.

Drozdov also founded the KGB’s Vympel special forces unit intended for covert operations abroad.

The SVR praised Drozdov as a “real Russian officer, a warm-hearted person and a wise leader.”

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These Gold Star parents donated a climbing wall to honor their fallen son

When Elinor and Arty Nakis brought home the body of their 19-year-old son who had died during a transport mission while deployed with the Army National Guard in Mosul, Iraq, in 2003, an eagle soared over their Sedro-Woolley home.


Another eagle flew overhead on the way to Nathan Nakis’ memorial service, Elinor Nakis recalled.

And in 2008, when the Nakis family helped install indoor climbing and bouldering walls in honor of their son at the Camp Black Mountain Boy Scout camp in Whatcom County, an eagle was there, too.

That’s why Elinor wasn’t surprised to see a young eagle soar overhead Saturday morning during the dedication of the bouldering wall at its new home near Cascade Middle and Evergreen Elementary schools in Sedro-Woolley.

“(Nathan) would be so proud,” she said.

After spending years in storage at a Janicki Industries facility in Hamilton, the bouldering wall formerly housed in Whatcom County is ready to carry on Nathan Nakis’ memory in the community he grew up in.

“We expect this thing to get a lot of use,” Arty Nakis said. “We took the protective covering off last night and it’s already getting used.”

Nathan, a 2002 Sedro-Woolley High School graduate who started in school at Evergreen, was heavily involved with the Boy Scouts, his mother said.

As an adult, the Eagle Scout volunteered and worked at Camp Black Mountain and helped build the camp’s first rope climbing course, Elinor Nakis said.

When the course would close for days at a time due to inclement weather, Nathan would tell his mother how much he hoped to see a covered climbing facility for the Scouts to use. The wall located between the Evergreen and Cascade campuses is covered by a roof.

After his death, the Nakis’ could think of no better way to honor their son.

“Elinor and I have always felt that it took the help of our community to raise our sons,” Arty Nakis said at the dedication. “When we lost Nathan, we felt the support and love of this community stronger than ever.”

When the Boy Scout camp closed in 2012, the climbing wall built in Nathan’s honor couldn’t be salvaged, Arty Nakis said, but the bouldering wall was removed so it could one day find a new home for more to enjoy.

“It’s an honor and a privilege,” Sedro-Woolley School District Superintendent Phil Brockman said. “It’s an honor to have ‘Nathan’s Boulder’ on our campus. Our kids look forward to playing on this.”

The wall is set to be used not only by students attending the schools, but also by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Skagit County’sSedro-Woolley club that shares the same property.

“This is perfect,” Arty Nakis said. “I couldn’t imagine a more perfect spot.”

The district’s special needs students will also utilize the wall for hands-on learning experiences, something that Elinor, a 21-year employee of the Sedro-Woolley School District, is glad to see happen.

“(Whether) it’s Scouting or through the schools, you’ve got to get (kids) out of their comfort zone,” Arty Nakis said. “It builds confidence and trust in each other.”

For Rotary International of Sedro-Woolley President David Bricka, the project took on a special meaning as he remembered his nephew Brian Gurney, who died in December as a result of injuries sustained during a 2014 hiking accident at Pilchuck Falls. Gurney was 19 at the time of the accident.

“(Brian and Nathan) were two great young men that had such an impact,” Bricka said. “They both had 19 years of actively living.”

Sedro-Woolley Mayor Keith Wagoner, a veteran himself with a son currently enlisted, thought the bouldering wall was a perfect fit for the community.

“I have so many friends that went and didn’t come back,” Wagoner said. “Literally thousands of hands have touched this thing. It’s not a monument you stand back and look at.”

Alec Giess, who served with Nathan Nakis and was in the vehicle with him the day Nakis died, drove up for the dedication from Cannon Beach, Oregon.

Giess has become part of the family, Arty Nakis said.

“It was a combat mission on a crummy day,” Giess said. “Everybody liked (Nathan). (Nathan’s story) won’t end now. It’ll keep going.”

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11 best-ever nicknames of military leaders

A lot of people get nicknames in the military, usually something derogatory. But not these guys. These 11 military leaders got awesome nicknames by doing awesome stuff.


Here’s what they are and how they got them:

1. Group Capt. Sir Douglas “Tin Legs” Bader

 

This infantry commander received 3 Silver Stars in 5 months
(Photo: Royal Air Force photographer Devon S A)

Group Capt. Sir Douglas Bader was a Royal Air Force hero of the second World War known for his exploits in the air and frequent escape attempts as a prisoner of war in Nazi Germany. He did all of this despite the fact that he lost his legs in 1931 in an air show accident. He was drummed out of the service due to disability but returned when Britain entered World War II. He wore two prosthetic legs and earned his insensitive but inarguably awesome nickname.

2. Capt. Michael “Black Baron” Wittmann

This infantry commander received 3 Silver Stars in 5 months
Capt. Michael Wittman was an evil Nazi with an awesome nickname. (Photo: German military archives)

Michael Wittman was an SS-Hauptsturmführer, the SS equivalent of an army captain, in command of a tank crew in World War II. From his time as a young enlisted man to his death as a captain, he was known for his skill in tanks and scout cars. As the war ground on, Wittman became one of the war’s greatest tank aces, scoring 138 tank kills and 132 anti-tank gun kills.

He was recognized with medals and a message of congratulations from Adolph Hitler. He was giving the nickname “The Black Baron” as an homage to the World War I flying ace, “The Red Baron,” Manfred Von Richtofen.

3. General of the Armies John “Black Jack” Pershing

This infantry commander received 3 Silver Stars in 5 months
(Photo: US Army)

General of the Armies John “Black Jack” Pershing led the American Expeditionary Forces through World War I and became one of America’s highest ranked officers in history, second only to President George Washington.

Pershing’s nickname was originally a horrible epithet given to him by students while he instructed at West Point. They angrily called him “[N-word] Jack” in reference to his time commanding a segregated unit. The name was softened to “Black Jack” and has become a part of his legacy.

4. Gen. Norman “The Bear” Schwarzkopf

This infantry commander received 3 Silver Stars in 5 months
(Photo: US Army)

Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf is probably best known for his leadership of Desert Storm. He sported two colorful nicknames. He didn’t like the most famous one, “Stormin’ Norman,” probably because it alluded to his volatile temper. But he seemed to have a fondness for his second, “The Bear,” an allusion to his 6ft., 4in. height and nearly 240-pound size.

In his autobiography, he described his wife as “Mrs. Bear” and he named one of his dogs “Bear” as well.

5. Lt. Gen. James “Jumpin’ Jim” Gavin

This infantry commander received 3 Silver Stars in 5 months

Lt. Gen. James Gavin is probably best known for the same achievement that gave him his nickname, commanding one of America’s first airborne units and literally writing the book on airborne operations, FM 31-30: Tactics and Technique of the Air-Borne Troops.

Even after he rose to the rank of general officer ranks, he kept conducting combat jumps with his men. He landed in Normandy as a brigadier general and jumped in Operation Market Garden as a major general, earning him another nickname, “The Jumping General.”

6. Gen. Sir Frank “The Bearded Man” Messervy

This infantry commander received 3 Silver Stars in 5 months

Gen. Sir Frank Messervy was a successful cavalry officer in the British Indian Army in both World Wars and later served as the first commander of the Pakistan Army. In garrison, he had the appearance of a stereotypical, well-groomed Englishman. But he famously neglected to shave during battles, leading to a thick beard when he was engaged for more than a few days.

7. Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller

This infantry commander received 3 Silver Stars in 5 months

One of the greatest heroes of the Korean War, Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller tried to join World War I but the conflict ended just before he could ship out. Instead, he fought in anti-guerilla wars, World War II, and the Korean War. But for all of his battlefield exploits, he received a nickname for his physical appearance. His impeccable posture and large frame made him look “chesty,” so that became his name.

8. Maj. Gen. Smedley “The Fighting Quaker” Butler

This infantry commander received 3 Silver Stars in 5 months

Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler was born into a Quaker family in Pennsylvania in 1881. Despite the Quakers’ aversion to violence, Butler lied about his age to become a Marine Corps second lieutenant in 1898, developed a reputation for being fierce in a fight, and made his way to major general while receiving two Medals of Honor in his career.

Butler also received a brevet promotion to captain when he was 19 for valorous action conducted before officers were eligible for the Medal of Honor. In recognition of his huge brass ones, his men started calling him “The Fighting Quaker.”

9. “The Constable” Gen. Charles de Gaulle

This infantry commander received 3 Silver Stars in 5 months

Gen. Charles de Gaulle was the highest ranking member of France’s military in World War II and led Free French Forces against the Nazis after the fall of France.

De Gaulle gained the nickname “The Constable” on two occasions. First, in school where he was known as the “Grand Constable.” After the fall of France, the nickname was bestowed anew when British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called him “The Constable of France,” the job title of ancient French warriors who served Capetian Kings until the 10th century.

10. Staff Sgt. William “Wild Bill” Guarnere

This infantry commander received 3 Silver Stars in 5 months
Photo: US Army

Staff Sgt. William Guarnere fought viciously against the Germans as a paratrooper in Europe and gained a reputation for it, leading to his nickname “Wild Bill” and his portrayal in Band of Brothers.

Because of his exotic last name, he also gained the unfortunate nickname of “gonorrhea.”

11. Francis “The Swamp Fox” Marion

This infantry commander received 3 Silver Stars in 5 months

Brig. Gen. Francis Marion was best known for leading guerilla fighters through the woods and swamps of the southern colonies during the American Revolution. After repeatedly being harassed by Marion and his men, the British sent Col. Banastre Tarleton to hunt him down.

Marion evaded Tarleton over and over again. When a 26-mile chase through the swamps game up empty, Tarleton complained that he would never find that “swamp fox” and the name stuck.

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Japan’s 5th gen. stealth prototype takes to the skies for the first time

This infantry commander received 3 Silver Stars in 5 months
JASDF


The Mitsubishi X-2, Japan’s first foray into the world of 5th generation fighter aviation, took to the skies for its maiden flight just yesterday, lifting off with the traditional gear-down configuration from Nagoya Airfield, home of the Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation. Originally known as the ATD-X, the aircraft has been in development for over seven years, with no less than 220 domestic Japanese companies involved as program subcontractors. The flight lasted a total of 26 minutes, with the launch occurring at 0847 local time from Nagoya, and ending at 0913 local at Japan Air Self-Defense Force Gifu Airbase, escorted along the way by a Mitsubishi F-2 fighter.

The X-2 isn’t actually a fighter, however. Mitsubishi, and the Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF), will instead use it as a technology demonstrator and a testbed to develop and mature concepts and hardware which they’ll eventually use on an indigenous 5th generation stealth fighter, presumably also built by Mitsubishi. The design of the aircraft is fairly similar to the broad architectural layout used on the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II, but lacks the dark gray radar-absorbent coating the latter jets utilize to further diminish their radar cross section (RCS).

The X-2 actually only around 46 feet in length, in comparison to the F-35 which is 51 feet long, and the F-22 which is 62 feet long. It’ll fly, for the moment, with one pilot though there seems to be space for a second cockpit behind the primary. It includes thrust-vectored IHI XF5-1 turbofan engines which use three paddles (per engine), probably to afford it a three-dimensional vectoring ability unlike the F-22’s two-dimensional vectoring capabilities. Mitsubishi will also be testing a “Self Repairing Flight Control Capability”, which will allow the aircraft’s onboard computers to detect malfunctions or damage to flight control surfaces, and accordingly adjust the the aircraft to achieve stabilized flight, at least until the aircraft can return to base.

The ultimate goal of the X-2 program is to develop a fighter that can best anything China has to throw at it, including the country’s new J-31 and J-20 fighter aircraft, which are supposedly on the same playing field as other fifth generation fighters in development today. The X-2 actually has the F-22 Raptor to thank for its origin, as the program began when Japan’s attempts to buy the Raptor for the JASDF were shot down by the US government, with a formal prohibition on foreign sales of the F-22. Japan plans on procuring the F-35 Lightning II for the JASDF as well.