The 9 best war movies of 2018 - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

The 9 best war movies of 2018

It was a good year for the war-military movie genre. There weren’t many of them made this year, but the quality was much, much better than in years past. There could be many reasons for this; the rise in military veterans wanting a say in how their lives are depicted onscreen, Hollywood looking to real-world stories for source material, or just a general focus on what works and what doesn’t in filmmaking.

Whatever the reason, it was a good year. To show our appreciation, we’re presenting to you nine of our favorites. After all, a good, old-fashioned war movie marathon is the perfect New Year’s Day recovery tactic.


9. ‘7 Days in Entebbe’

This film recreates the hijacking that led to one of the most daring rescue operations of all time, Israel’s now-famous Raid on Entebbe. 7 Days In Entebbe is a story set from the point of view of the hijackers. It’s not a great film for its depiction of what it’s like to be a hijacker or hostage, but the action is good, and the film really brings the era to life.

Related: 6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces

8. ‘Overlord’

World War II is a great setting for any film of any genre. You can set any story in any place on Earth, and it will be slightly believable because Nazis are the ultimate insane, evil villains. While everyone loves a great WWII drama, every now and then, someone gives the World War II sub-drama a spin and adds an element that is surprising and fun. This time, it’s zombie horror.

Now Read: Why we’re pumped about the new ‘Overlord’ film

Paul Rudd stars a baseball legend Moe Berg in the WWII drama “The Catcher Was A Spy.”

7. ‘The Catcher Was A Spy’

By now, America knows what to expect from a Paul Rudd movie. The Marvel alum’s wry smile and sharp wit are fun and appealing in comedies and action-adventure movies. But The Catcher Was A Spy is a dramatic take on the life of Red Sox legend Moe Berg, who famously supplied information to the Allied war effort in Japan and Eastern Europe.

A great cast backs up Rudd, whose depiction of the anti-heroic Berg in this film based on Berg’s real exploits.

Related: This Boston Red Sox catcher changed the course of World War II

6. ‘Hunter Killer’

This is one of only two movies on the list that isn’t based on a true story, but much of what went into making the film was real. For example, Butler and crew really lived on a submarine with U.S. sailors. In the movie, a submarine commander assembles a team of SEALs to prevent a coup in Russia and prevent a potential World War III. What’s the most fun about this movie though, is the way the producers drummed up buzz for it. Gerard Butler visited troops, gave a Pentagon press briefing, and even played Battleship with We Are The Mighty.

Next: Gerard Butler totally gets why troops hate military movie mistakes

5. ‘A Private War’

A Private War is the story of war correspondent Marie Colvin, one of the world’s best war photographers. She had seen action in Chechnya, Kosovo, Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone, and more. She is famous in the world of journalism for repeatedly coming under attack for just being a journalist. Colvin was one of the last journalists to interview Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi as she covered the Syrian Civil War.

4. ‘Operation Finale’

Operation Finale was the name the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad, gave to the capture, imprisonment, and extraction of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann from Argentina. He hid there as a factory worker at a local Mercedes-Benz plant under the name Ricardo Klement. Once the Mossad found out where he was hiding, it wasn’t long before they hatched a daring plan to put “The Architect of the Holocaust” on trial in Israel.

Now Read: How ‘the most dangerous man in Europe’ hunted his fellow Nazis for Israel

3. ‘Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero’

This year was the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I and Hollywood did not miss the chance to remember the brave men — and canines — who fought it. Stubby was a stray who also happened to have fought in 17 major battles, saved an entire regiment from a chemical attack, and then pulled everyone out of an artillery barrage before he went back to find the missing and wounded.

No — you’re crying!

Related: A stray dog named ‘Stubby’ was the most decorated dog of WWI

2. ‘They Shall Not Grow Old’

World War I had quite the effect on author JRR Tolkien. His most legendary works, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are based on his time there, a way for the veteran to make sense of the horrible killing. So, it makes sense that the director who brought those works to the silver screen also brings a bit of Tolkien’s own experiences along with it. Though They Shall Not Grow Old has nothing to do with Tolkien, Jackson’s closeness to the material is apparent in this documentary film, as his grandfather served in the Great War.

The critically-acclaimed documentary uses previously unseen film reels from the archives of the UK’s Imperial War Museum.

Read On: After 100 years World War I battlefields are poisoned and uninhabitable

1. ’12 Strong: The Declassified Story of the Horse Soldiers’

In the days following the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. sent its most capable insurgent-wrangling troops into Afghanistan with the intent of supplying and coordinating those who were already aligned against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. These Special Forces troops provided air cover and strategic planning to the Afghan Warlord-led Northern Alliance who had been struggling to oust the Taliban since they took control of Kabul in 1994.

But to get there and be effective, the Green Berets had to adapt to the environment and technology available to them, and their success came at a real cost.

Full Story: The Special Forces who avenged 9/11 on horseback

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy is spending more time in the freezing Arctic with Russia

Some 50,000 troops and thousands of vehicles are ranging across Norway and the Norwegian and Baltic seas for NATO’s exercise Trident Juncture, which officials have said is the alliance’s largest exercise since the Cold War.

The focus for the dozens of ships and planes taking part turned in November 2018 to the naval portion of the exercise.


All 29 NATO members and Sweden and Finland are taking part in Trident Juncture, but only about 16 countries are joining the naval drills, bringing 65 ships and submarines and eight maritime-patrol aircraft.

The maritime contingent will be split — about 5,000 sailors and 30 vessels on each side — sometimes facing off against each other.

US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Forrest Sherman the North Sea, Oct. 23, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist Seaman Raymond Maddocks)

US Naval Forces Europe-Africa chief Adm. James Foggo, who is leading Trident Juncture, has said the exercise, which is done regularly, was scheduled for autumn in the northern latitudes for a reason: “We’re toughening everyone up.”

Harsh conditions have taken a toll. Before Trident Juncture’s official start on Oct. 25, 2018, two Navy ships carrying Marines to Iceland for pre-exercises had to take shelter at Reykjavik. (The exercise ends on Nov. 7, 2018.)

On one of them, the USS Gunston Hall, heavy seas damaged the well deck and landing craft and injured sailors. The conditions also restricted what Marines could do in Iceland.

US Marines board a CH-53E Sea Stallion helicopter aboard USS Iwo Jima during an air-assault exercise in Iceland, Oct. 17, 2018.

“Our Marines and their amphibious ships were coming to Iceland, were going to spend some time in the port of Reykjavik, and also conduct a practice amphibious land and a practice amphibious air assault,” Foggo said on the latest episode of his podcast, “On the Horizon.”

“Because of the weather, we did not get the amphibious landing off, but that is part of the learning curve of operating at this time of year in the latitudes of the high north,” he added.

“We’ve made it quite clear that we will look for operational risk management first,” Foggo said. “This is an exercise, not a crisis, but weather can be as capable an adversary as another nation that invades your territory, and we’re finding out that there’s some very challenging conditions out there.”

‘Colder temperatures, higher winds, and unpredictable seas’

The Marines have continued on to Norway, conducting an amphibious assault and other cold-weather operations.

Thousands of sailors from NATO navies, including roughly 6,000 with the USS Harry S. Truman carrier strike group, are still at sea, operating in what can be tough conditions.

After a shortened deployment around Europe this summer, the Truman left Norfolk in late August 2018 and sailed into the Arctic Circle on Oct. 19, 2018, becoming the first US aircraft carrier to do so in nearly 30 years.

Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Michael Powell moves ordnance on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, Oct. 23, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Gooley)

Since then the strike group has been in the Norwegian Sea, at times working with Norwegian navy ships inside that country’s territorial waters, Lt. Cmdr. Laura Stegherr, a spokeswoman for the Truman strike group, said in an email.

The group took several steps to prepare its ships and crews to be “confronted by the trio of colder temperatures, higher winds, and unpredictable seas operating in the Norwegian Sea and north of the Arctic Circle,” Stegherr said.

“This included ensuring all sailors exposed to the elements — such as sailors working on the flight deck, sailors conducting underway replenishments, and bridge wing lookouts — were outfitted with durable, high-quality cold-weather gear,” Stegherr added. “All equipment, from as small as a computer monitor to as large as a forklift, was secured for sea.”

Operational planners, meteorological and oceanographic experts, and navigators worked together to chart a safe course, Stegherr said.

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Airman Angelina Peralez mans a sound-powered phone for an aircraft-elevator operation in hangar-bay control aboard the USS Harry S. Truman, Oct. 29, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Victoria Granado)

The high flight deck on a carrier would likely be spared from the churn at sea level, said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

But ocean spray can reach topside on a carrier, Clark said, and “if you get some precipitation or something, you’ve got to think about going up there and de-icing the deck, which, if you’re on a ship, that could be a huge hassle.”

Crews on aircraft carriers and amphibious assault ships also have to worry about aircraft, which are vulnerable to the cold.

“When you go up in the North Atlantic, even at lower altitudes you’re running into some temperature problems, and you’ve got much higher humidity, so icing can be a problem” on fixed-wing aircraft, Clark said.

Rotor blades on helicopters and other aircraft can accumulate ice, weighing them down.

“Also hydraulics are a problem,” especially for aircraft, Clark added. In intense cold, “the hydraulic oil starts to become too viscous, and the system is designed to operate at a certain level of viscosity, and if it starts to become too thick, the pressure goes up and you could end up blowing seals.”

Sailors signal an E-2D Hawkeye ready for launch on the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, Oct. 27, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Gooley)

On ships with the Truman, like guided-missile destroyers USS Farragut and USS Forrest Sherman and guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy, where crews are closer to the water, harsh conditions can be felt more acutely.

“On a surface ship you’ve got parts of the ship that are not very well heated,” Clark said.

On “the bridge, for example, you have sliding doors, essentially, that go out to the bridge wings, and in the bridge wings you’re exposed. You’re out there exposed to the elements, and the bridge itself is not particularly insulated, because it’s got a bunch of windows.”

“It sort of affects people’s performance, just because you’re constantly cold,” Clark added.

On surface ships, the masts and antennas sprouting from the superstructure can gather ice, affecting the performance of that equipment and even the handling of the ship — in extreme cases, the ship’s centers of gravity and buoyancy can be affected.

De-icing solutions are available, but they aren’t always effective on every surface. “So you kind of have to constantly go up there and chip and clear ice off of the mast,” Clark said.

Sailors on the guided-missile destroyer USS Farragut supervise the refueling probe during a replenishment-at-sea with fleet-replenishment oiler USNS Big Horn, Oct. 20, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Cameron M. Stoner)

Even below deck, the outside environment is still a factor.

“For the engineering plants, you use the seawater to cool a lot of your components,” Clark said. “In the case of a surface ship that’s got gas-turbine power plants, you use that to cool the gas-turbine power plant, depending on how old the ship is.”

Cooler water can make engines and other components more efficient, but water that’s too cold can also take a toll.

“If you’re trying to cool a gas-turbine generator … there’s kind of an ideal temperature range that you want to maintain it at,” Clark said. “So if the cooling water becomes too cold, it’s hard to keep it in that normal range. It actually gets too cold, and you start to get less efficiency out of your turbine.”

Using water that’s too cold to cool components can also lead to condensation, which in turn can cause corrosion or short-circuits in electronics, Clark added.

Gunner’s Mate 1st Class Christopher Carlson watches the Royal Norwegian navy frigate HNoMS Thor Heyerdahl pull alongside the USS Harry S. Truman, Oct. 26, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist Seaman Joseph A.D. Phillips)

‘Rebuilding our muscle memory’

Despite the challenges of operating in northern latitudes, the Navy says its presence there will grow.

The “Truman is making the most of an operating area where carriers typically haven’t gone for a couple of decades, and in doing so, we’re kind of rebuilding our muscle memory,” Foggo said on his podcast. “It’s very important that we take those lessons back home for other future strike-group deployments … because it’s very challenging conditions up there.”

The Truman strike group returned to Norfolk in 2018 after three months deployed in the 6th Fleet area of operations, which cover the eastern Atlantic and Europe.

That was a departure from the usual six-month deployment — a change comes as a part of the “dynamic force employment” concept touted by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis as a way to add unpredictability to US military operations.

The Truman’s trip to the Arctic Circle is also part of that — “showing the Russians that we’re not bound by this constant carrier presence in the Middle East, so that we can go and operate closer to Russia and into areas that Russia traditionally has operated in, like in the Cold War,” Clark said.

“The other thing is to get US naval forces more practiced operating in these environments in case they have to in the future,” Clark added. “Because in particular one of the things they’re likely doing is anti-submarine warfare.”

An MH-60R Seahawk helicopter lands on the USS Harry S. Truman, Nov. 5, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist Seaman Joseph A.D. Phillips)

The submarines in Russia’s Northern Fleet, which is based not far from Russia’s border with Norway, are considered highly capable, Clark said. Foggo himself has warned about Russian submarines — their land-attack cruise missiles in particular.

During its deployment earlier this year, the Truman was joined by a larger-than-usual number of destroyers, which are outfitted with sophisticated anti-submarine-warfare gear.

“That’s the primary trend up in the Northern Fleet,” Clark said. “So I imagine a lot of what the carrier strike group is doing up there is anti-submarine warfare.”

Stegherr said strike group aircraft had carried out operations at sea and over land to support Trident Juncture and that “the strike group conducted high-end air, surface and subsurface warfare operations” with partner forces, which were meant “to refine our network of capabilities able to respond rapidly and decisively to any potential situation.”

The Truman strike group’s presence in the North Sea, the Norwegian Sea, and the Arctic Circle “demonstrates to our allies and partners that we will uphold our commitments, regardless of the vastness or the unforgiving nature of the sea,” Rear Adm. Gene Black, commander of the Truman strike group, said in a statement.

“This may be the first strike group to operate for this length of time this far north in many years, but it will not be the last.”

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

Articles

These stories of female concentration camp guards will haunt your dreams

At first, concentration camp guards during the Nazi regime of World War II were male. However, with the introduction of female guards to Auschwitz and Majdanek, a new era began and German officials soon learned that these incoming women were quite good at their jobs. By the end of the war, more than 3,500 women acted as camp guards, making up almost 7 percent of all Nazi guards employed.


With no special training or particular background, these women either volunteered or were recruited through shrewd marketing techniques. Mostly young women and unmarried, or possibly married to a man who worked in the camp. Many felt they were doing their duty to their country.

1. Maria Mandl

Maria Mandl was one of the head guards at Auschwitz, despite her gender, and was known for her cruelty, which aptly earned her the nickname “The Beast”. It’s supposed that she had her hand in up to half a million deaths. While she was unable to climb the ladder in her field to the very top as a woman, she had absolute control over all the female prisoners and the rest of the female employees. She was only forced to answer to one man. Her tactics vary, but tales of her behavior resonated with prisoners.

Maria Mandl after her arrest in 1945.

Many say she would stand at the entry gate and, if any inmate happened to look over at her, that individual would be taken away, never to be heard from again. She also put together an orchestra at the camp and, after regular work hours were over, the prisoners would be forced to march in time to the music. The orchestra often coincided with executions.

After Auschwitz was liberated, Mandl fled to Bavaria. After her capture, she underwent interrogations, and showed high levels of intelligence. She was turned over to Poland, and was sentenced to death by hanging.

2. Irma Grese

Grese was one of Mandl’s inferiors, who also worked at Auschwitz and served as a warden for female prisoners. Her reign, however, was short and she only made it to the age of 22 before being executed for her war crimes. This was still plenty of time for her to earn her own nickname, just like “The Beast” — her boss. Grese became known as the “Hyena of Auschwitz”.

She managed to earn the second-highest rank available to females, and routinely participated in picking which of the prisoners would go to the gas chamber.

Irma Grese in 1945.

Greece’s actions are immortalized in a memoir that was written by one of the camp prisoners. It says that Grese loved to terrify the women in the camps, and that she specifically picked women who were remotely beautiful, sick, or weak.

During her trial, witnesses said she would allow half-starved dogs to attack prisoners; she also enjoyed shooting prisoners and would beat them to death with a whip. In addition, Grese also had several love affairs at the camp, one of which resulted in a surprise pregnancy; she then entrusted one of the prisoners to give her an abortion. After the war was over, she had hoped to pursue a career in acting.

3. Hermine Braunsteiner

Braunsteines was the first Nazi war criminal extradited from the United States. Working at Majdanek, she was known as the “Stomping Mare”.

Her most infamous actions include lifting children by the hair to throw them onto trucks headed to the gas chambers, hanging young girls, and stomping women to death. She became known for her crazy tantrums and could be expected to lash out with a riding whip at the slightest provocation.

Hermine Braunsteiner in 1946.

As the Soviets approached, Braunsteiner fled to Vienna, then remained jailed for a year. She was later granted amnesty and lived in Austria, under the radar, until she met an American on vacation. They married, moved to Canada and then later to the United States.

No one knew of her past and she became known as a friendly housewife. A Nazi hunter and a reporter ran across her in Queens and exposed her actions. While her husband said he knew of her work, he did not know exactly to what extent her cruelty ranged.

4. Margot Dreschel

Dreschel headed to Poland in 1942 for the new Auschwitz II-Birkenau concentration camp. She headed up all the camp offices and soon became known as a horrific sight for most prisoners. She often disguised herself as a doctor and went to conduct indoor selections within the camp. With a trained dog in tow, she would make all prisoners undress, take their shoes and then make them stand for hours, naked.

Margot Dreschel in 1945.

She frequently went to and from various camps to help with the selection of women and children for the chambers. She fled the camp after Germany’s surrender, and while in the Russian zone, several former prisoners abducted her and took her to the Russian Military Police. She was executed by hanging within the month.

5. Ilse Koch

Koch worked at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp and later at Buchenwald. She is mostly known for her participation in an experiment during which she picked out prisoners with tattoos to be murdered and then skinned. The skins would then be used for study, as one of her colleagues was writing a paper on the relation between tattoos and criminality.

She was arrested in 1943 by the Germans for charges of enrichment and embezzlement, then acquitted in 1944; however, she was arrested again by the U.S. in 1945.

Ilse Koch, taken after her capture.

The trial process was not easy, though. During her first trial, she announced that she was eight months pregnant, from one of her many affairs. She was given life in prison and then served two years, before her sentence was lessened to four years, due to lack of evidence. However, she was re-arrested and tried again. Witnesses stated they saw her with human-skin lampshades made from the tattooed skin.

She was delusional and thought that her victims were coming back to harm her. Eventually, Koch committed suicide in her jail cell at the age of 60. Her son, who regularly visited her after being born in prison, was shocked by the news. Now, her body rests in an unmarked grave.

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Hobbs & Shaw’ dunks on ‘Game of Thrones’ finale

“Hobbs & Shaw,” the Fast & Furious spin-off film starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jason Statham, came strong out of the gate Aug. 2, 2019, earning $60 million at the box office. The movie was filled with quippy dialogue, badass action, and a few surprise cameos, including Ryan Reynolds playing Locke, a CIA agent who recruits Hobbs (Johnson) to help takedown the semi-superpowered Brixton (Idris Elba). Reynolds’ performance has been met with praise (and a few fan theories), however, a few fans are upset that his character gave a major “Game of Thrones” spoiler at the end of the movie.

Warning: This post obviously features spoilers about “Game of Thrones.”


Throughout the movie, Hobbs is shown discussing “Game of Thrones” with his daughter, including making a reference to the show’s most iconic catchphrase (you know nothing, Jon Snow). Later, in the post-credits scene, Hobbs receives a call from Locke, who ends up spoiling the ending of the show in a very Reynolds-esque way.

Hobbs & Shaw Final Trailer (2019) | Movieclips Trailers

www.youtube.com

“Jon Snow had sex with his aunt and then he killed her!” Locke says.

It’s a throwaway joke but it’s also accurate, as Snow does end up killing Daenarys in the series finale after she unleashes her dragon on civilians. Of course, we live in the age of post-spoilers, so it’s hard to imagine anyone getting too worked up about the show’s ending getting spoiled months after the series finale aired.

Still, if you know someone who has been holding off watching the divisive finale, you may want to give them a heads up before they watch “Hobbs Shaw.” Otherwise, they may end up holding a life-long grudge against Reynolds.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Navy wants to replace Vikings with drones

The return of great-power competition has the US military refocusing on the potential for a conflict with a sophisticated adversary whose submarines can sink the US’s supercarriers.

Defense experts are increasingly concerned by a resurgent Russian undersea force and by China’s increasingly capable boats.

But the centerpiece of the US Navy’s fleet has a decade-old gap in its submarine defenses, and filling it may require new, unmanned aircraft.


A US Navy S-2G Tracker in the foreground, accompanied by its successor, the S-3A Viking, over Naval Air Station North Island, California, in July 1976.

(US Navy photo)

‘It’s got legs’

During the Cold War and the years afterward, aircraft carriers had fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters for anti-submarine-warfare operations. For much of that period, the fixed-wing option was the S-3 Viking.

Introduced in 1974, the turbofan S-3 was developed with Soviet submarines in mind. It replaced the propeller-driven S-2 Tracker, carrying a crew of four. It wasn’t particularly fast, but it had a 2,000-mile range and could stay airborne for up to 10 hours to hunt submarines.

“It’s got legs,” said Capt. John Rousseau, who flew the Navy’s last Vikings as part of an experimental squadron before their retirement in early 2016.

It had strong surface-search abilities to find periscopes, a magnetic anomaly detector to search for submerged subs, and gear to analyze sounds from sonobuoys it dropped in the ocean. Its search and processing capabilities tripled its search area. And in a war scenario, it could fire Harpoon missiles at ships and drop torpedoes and depth charges to destroy submarines.

An S-3A Viking with a Magnetic Anomaly Detection boom extending from its tail in May 1983.

(US Navy photo)

“It can go fast and long. The radar, even though it’s old, there’s not many better. We still spot schools of dolphins and patches of seaweed” when patrolling off California, Rousseau said in 2016.

The Viking performed a variety of missions, including cargo transport, surveillance and electronic intelligence, search and rescue, and aerial refueling, but it was a mainstay of the carrier anti-submarine-warfare efforts.

Helicopters deployed on carriers typically perform close-in ASW, usually within about 90 miles of the ship. The S-3, with a longer range and the ability to linger, filled the midrange-ASW role, operating about 90 to 175 miles from the carrier.

Land-based aircraft, like the P-3 Orion and now the P-8 Poseidon, have flown the longest-range submarine patrols.

‘The leadership totally turned over’

As the sub threat lessened after the Cold War, the S-3 was reoriented toward anti-surface operations. During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, an S-3 attacked a ground target for the first time, firing a missile at Saddam Hussein’s yacht.

“Navy One,” a US Navy S-3B Viking carrying President George W. Bush, lands on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003.

(US Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Gabriel Piper)

An S-3 designated “Navy One” even flew President George W. Bush to the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in May 2003. Some of the Navy’s last S-3s operated over Iraq in the late 2000s, looking for threats on the ground.

The S-3 was eventually able to deploy torpedoes, mines, depth charges, and missiles.

With the addition of Harpoon anti-ship missiles, the S-3’s designation in the carrier air wing shifted from “anti-submarine” to “sea control,” according to “Retreat from Range,” a 2015 report on carrier aviation by Jerry Hendrix, a retired Navy officer who took part in force-structure planning and carrier-strike-group operations.

Amid shifts in Navy leadership and the rise of new threats after the Cold War, the S-3 lost favor. It officially left service in 2009. There was nothing to replace it.

“There was a slow transition in the makeup of the air wing, as well as a slow transition in the changeover in the leadership of the air-wing community,” Hendrix, now a vice president at Telemus Group, told Business Insider. As a naval aviator, Hendrix spent over a decade in P-3 patrol squadrons that routinely conducted maritime patrols looking for foreign submarines.

“By the time we got … to replace the S-3, essentially the leadership totally turned over to the short-range, light-attack community, led by the F/A-18 Hornet pilots, and also they’ve been operating for the better part of 20 years in permissive environments,” Hendrix said, referring to areas such as the Persian Gulf, where threats like enemy subs are almost nonexistent.

Because of the lack of other threats, the S-3 was relegated largely to a refueling role during its final years, mainly as a recovery tanker for aircraft returning to the carrier.

“When it came time to make a decision, they said, ‘Well, we really don’t need the recovery tanker. I can do recovery tanking with other Hornets, and this anti-submarine warfare doesn’t seem all that important to us because there’s not submarines around us,'” Hendrix said. “So they made a decision to get rid of the S-3.”

A US Navy S-3 Viking refuels another S-3 Viking over the Caribbean Sea in May 2006.

(US Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Christopher Stephens)

The S-3s that were retired had thousands of flying hours left in their airframes. Dozens are being held in reserve in the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona.

“They actually got rid of the S-3 early in the sense that the community still had a viable population of aircraft,” Hendrix said.

Their departure left a hole in carrier defenses that remains unfilled, especially when carrier groups are far from the airfields where P-8 Poseidons are based.

More helicopters have been added to the carrier air wing, Hendrix said. “However, the helicopters don’t have either the sensors or the mobility to be able to really patrol the middle zone” in which the S-3 operated.

Sailors on the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell load a MK-46 torpedo on an MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter during an ASW exercise in the Pacific Ocean in March 2014.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Chris Cavagnaro)

Nor does the arrival of the P-8 Poseidon — a vaunted maritime patrol aircraft introduced in 2013 to replace the P-3 — make up for the Viking’s absence, according to Hendrix.

“We haven’t brought the P-8s in in a one-to-one replacement basis for the older P-3s, and so they’re not really in sufficient numbers to do the middle-zone and outer-zone anti-submarine-warfare mission for the carrier strike groups,” he said. “So we haven’t filled that requirement in force structure.”

‘The Navy could mitigate this vulnerability’

Amid the increasing focus on facing a sophisticated adversary, discussion has intensified about changing the composition of the carrier air wing to replace the capabilities — anti-submarine warfare in particular — shed after the Cold War.

“ASW will become an increasingly important [carrier air wing] mission as adversary submarine forces increase in their size, sophistication, and ability to attack targets ashore and at sea using highly survivable long-range weapons,” said a recent report on the carrier air wing by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

A Navy S-3B Viking from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson on January 23, 1995. It carries a refueling pod under its left wing, and openings in the fuselage for dropping sonobuoys are visible in the rear.

(US Navy photo by PH1 (AW) Mahlon K. Miller)

Longer-range anti-ship missiles allow subs to be farther outside carrier helicopters’ operational range, the report argued. (Long-range land-based weapons may also hinder ASW by reducing the area in which the P-8 can operate.)

“The increasing range of submarine-launched cruise missiles may result in [carrier air wing] aircraft being the only platforms able to defend civilian and other military shipping as well as high-value US and allied targets ashore from submarine attack,” the report added.

Unmanned systems — sensors as well as unmanned underwater and surface vehicles — are seen as an option to extend the carrier’s reach. (The Navy has already awarded Boeing a contract for unmanned aerial refueling vehicles.)

“The Navy could mitigate this vulnerability using distributed unmanned sensors to find and track enemy submarines at long ranges and over wide areas,” the CSBA report said, adding that ships and aircraft in the carrier strike group could then use anti-submarine rockets to keep enemy subs at bay rather than trying to sink all of them.

Boeing conducts an MQ-25 deck-handling demonstration at its facility in St. Louis, Missouri, in January 2018.

(US Navy/Boeing photo)

The need to operate at longer ranges with more endurance and higher survivability also makes unmanned aerial vehicles appealing additions to the carrier air wing, according to the CSBA report.

“There’s potential there,” Hendrix said, but he added that using the vehicles in the ASW role would be complicated.

“A lot of times doing anti-submarine warfare, there’s a lot of human intuition that comes into play, or human ability to look at a sensor, which is a very confused sensor, and pick out the information” that may indicate the presence of a submarine, he said.

Much of the midrange mission vacated by the S-3 Viking is done within line-of-sight communication, meaning a range in which sensors can communicate with one another, so, Hendrix said, “you could use an unmanned platform to go out and drop sonobuoys or other sensors … and then monitor them, or be the relay aircraft to send their information back to” the ASW station aboard the carrier, where humans would be watching.

“I could see an unmanned platform playing in that role in the future.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Warrior shares why he stayed in the Army after injury

Taking care of others, and showing love and appreciation for others, is a core reason why retired Maj. Dennis “DJ” Skelton chose to stay in the Army. He continued to serve for 21 years, even after suffering grievous wounds during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004.

Skelton told his story to a large crowd of soldiers, veterans, and Army civilians during the “Why We Serve” ceremony hosted by the Army’s chief information officer/G-6, Sept. 5. During the event, 30 young men and women from the Baltimore and Richmond areas raised their right hand to take the Oath of Enlistment.

“I was kind of a punk kid growing up in a small farming community in South Dakota,” he said. “I barely graduated high school and had absolutely no discipline whatsoever, which is why I had a hard time holding down a job.”


Shortly after getting expelled from the University of South Dakota, Skelton eventually found his way to an Army recruiting office. A year later he was sent to training at Monterey, California, to learn Chinese at the Defense Language Institute.

Retired Maj. Dennis “DJ” Skelton shared his story to a large crowd of soldiers, veterans, and Army civilians during a “Why We Serve” ceremony, Sept. 5, 2019.

(Courtesy photo Maj. Dennis DJ Skelton)

At one point, two officers pulled Skelton aside and asked him, “‘Why are you here?'” Skelton looked up and couldn’t answer the question, he said.

Instead of turning Skelton away, the two officers decided to take an opportunity to encourage the young private. They encouraged him to become an Army officer.

“That was the first time in my life that I had been pulled aside by someone that looked at me from a distance and chose to spend some extra time with someone they did not know. They saw something in me that I didn’t see,” Skelton said.

Skelton eventually made it to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. After graduation, he moved to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. Not long after his arrival, he was told to prepare for a deployment in Iraq.

“I remember sitting on the tarmac waiting for the plane to load up,” he said. “No one in my unit has ever [deployed] before. I remember standing in front of my platoon — naive — and I looked at those family members and said, “‘I promise you this: I will bring all of your sons and daughters home.'”

Two months later, Skelton was wounded and in a coma. One of his soldiers, “went through a volley of fire to drag my body through the kill zone,” during a battle in Fallujah, Skelton said emotionally.

Battling for his life, Skelton was flown back for treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Maryland.

“This is 2004, and there was no Warrior Transition Unit. West Point professors, [and] enlisted soldiers that I served with found out that I was wounded and showed up at the hospital. They would cook food every night and delivered it to my parents, sister, and loved ones, because I couldn’t do that,” he said with sorrow.

Retired Maj. Dennis “DJ” Skelton discusses why he chose to stay in the Army after suffering grievous wounds during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004, during a “Why We Serve” ceremony at Fort Belvoir, Va., Sept. 5, 2019.

(Army CIO G6 photo)

A year later, Skelton was out of the hospital, and the Army was quick to start his medical evaluation board process. It was one thing to be injured, but the feeling of rejection and being told he no longer provided value to the Army felt worse, he said.

Skelton eventually convinced the Army to let him stay as he spent the next six years bouncing through various assignments.

“For six years, I did what everyone told me to do: ‘Be resilient.’ And for six years … what I learned is that I hate the word resilient more than any other word in the English language.”

To others, resilience is the measurement of time that it takes to get back to normal, Skelton added.

“For six years, I tried to get back to the point where I had two eyes [and] two limbs so I could go hunting, climbing, and fishing. That was a source of happiness. I want to go back to a time when I was not peppered with shrapnel so that I can look handsome again,” said Skelton, with sadness in his voice.

“The reality is we can’t; these negative things that happen to us are now forever part of us,” he said.

It took time, but Skelton eventually saw his injury as a source of his strength. Through it all, he recognized that each person brings value and worth to a team or organization, he said.

So to answer the question, ‘Why do I serve?’ I made a promise on a tarmac that I bring my soldiers home,” he said.

“Even though it took six years, I finally made my way back into the infantry. And even though it wasn’t [my same] platoon, I got to command the same company in which I was a platoon leader,” he said. “Some of my privates were now my NCOs. And I got to bring them back home.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How this soldier escaped the killing fields to join the US Army

May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and Joint Base Lewis-McChord will celebrate the diversity and honor of its service members, including Sgt. Maj. El Sar, I Corps command chaplain sergeant major, a Cambodian-born American who lived through atrocities as a child in his homeland and is now proud to call America home.

More than 1 million people reportedly died as a result of the Khmer Rogue communist regime’s Cambodian genocide from 1975 to 1979, at the end of the Cambodian civil war. A 1984 British film, “The Killing Fields,” documented the experiences of two journalists who lived through the horrific murders of anyone connected with Cambodia’s prior government.


It was more than a film for Sar, who lost several family members to the horrific killings. He spent time in refugee camps and prisons before arriving in America as a 12-year-old refugee with his mother and siblings.

“I’m proud to be an Asian American,” Sar said. “I don’t forget my heritage — but I’m glad to be an American.”

As a child, Sar grew up in the jungles of Cambodia. He lived through the Vietnam War, Cambodian civil war, Khmer Rogues’ Killing Fields, the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia and Thai refugee camps and housing projects, he said.

“I was slapped, thrown in prison, hands tied behind my back, shot at, nearly drowned in a river, walked three days and nights through the thick jungles of Cambodia and evaded Vietnamese troops, the Khmer Rouge, pirates, criminals, Thai security forces and (avoided) more than 11 million landmines,” Sar wrote in a Northwest Guardian commentary published in February 2018.

Sgt. Maj. El Sar, I Corps command chaplain sergeant major.

He told of the deaths of his grandparents, father, a brother, uncles, aunts and other relatives. His remaining family members were robbed by Thai security forces.

Sar and his mother, Touch Sar, older sisters, Sopheak and Phon, and younger brothers, Ath and Ann, came to America as refugees. They arrived in Houston, Texas, June 26, 1981.

At that point, Sar had never been to school and had “zero knowledge, skills, abilities or understanding of life,” he said; however, “Coming to America was like arriving in Heaven.”

He learned English by watching television.

“I watched a lot of commercials, like for Jack in the Box and (Burger King) ‘Where’s the beef?'” he said, with a laugh.

In 1989, Sar graduated from Westbury High School in Houston and earned a criminal justice degree from the University of Houston in 1994. Next, he graduated from the Houston Police Academy in 1995.

Although Sar had long wanted to become a police officer, he realized a stronger passion and joined the Army in August 1996.

“I followed my dream to serve my country,” he said.

After basic training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Sar began a 21-year military career that included multiple deployments and duty stations. He has been at JBLM since June 2017.

“I like travel; I like deployment, and I love serving my country,” he said.

Sar initially wanted to be in the Infantry, but he was told he is color blind, to which he adamantly disagrees. Testing revealed he’d make a good chaplain’s assistant, he said.

Sar became a Christian while watching a film about Jesus while in a refugee camp in Houston.

“I learned about Jesus and how he sacrificed and died for me,” Sar said.

Being a military chaplain is the perfect fit for Sar, he said.

“I can go in the field shooting and spend time helping people,” he said. “I love taking care of America’s sons and daughters.”

Sar and his wife, Lyna, have three children ranging from 9 years old to 11 months.

The couple met through his aunt in Cambodia, who lived in the same village as Lyna.

“One year later, I asked God and he gave me the go ahead,” Sar said. “We’ve been married 15 years. She is a wonderful woman.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian troops and equipment said to leave Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin says more than 1,000 military personnel and dozens of aircraft have been withdrawn from Syria over the past several days.

Speaking at a ceremony for military-college graduates in the Kremlin on June 28, 2018, Putin said the withdrawal continues.

“Thirteen planes, fourteen helicopters, and 1,140 personnel have left [Syria] in the past few days alone,” Putin said.


Russia has conducted a bombing campaign in Syria since September 2015, helping reverse the course of the seven-year civil war in Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s favor.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

Putin initially ordered the start of “the withdrawal of the main part of our military contingent” from Syria in March 2016, but there were few signs of a pullout after that announcement.

In December 2017, Putin again ordered a partial withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria, but since that time fighting has flared up again among various warring factions.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The crazy way British pilots took out incoming V-1 missiles

One week after D-Day, Germany began launching a new, secret weapon at London. The distinctive roar of V-1 flying bombs would slowly fill the air and then suddenly cut out, followed shortly by the massive explosion as a warhead went off. Dozens would fall in the first week, and the Royal Air Force had to scramble to stop them.


This led some pilots to, after expending all of their ammunition, take more drastic measures to stop the bombs: flying wingtip to wingtip until they either crashed or tipped the bomb off course.

The V-1s had pulsejet engines, and prop-driven planes couldn’t keep up with them. But, if a pilot flew to high altitude and then dove toward a passing V-1, the speed from the descent would allow them to keep up.

The first intercept took place on June 15, 1944, the third day of V-1 attacks. A Mosquito pilot was able to shoot one down with his guns, and others soon followed.

But the pilots had limited ammunition, and it was tough to hit the fast-flying V-1s. And each bomb could kill multiple Londoners if it wasn’t intercepted.

So some pilots began to experiment with a risky but valuable alternative. If a plane flew close enough to a V-1, the wind off the plane’s wings could nudge the flying bomb off course. And if the disturbance was enough to flip the V-1 over, known as “turtling,” then it would often fail to explode.

A Spitfire nudges a V-1 missile off course during World War II.

(Public domain)

But this had obvious risks. If the pilot accidentally bumped the V-1, they could crash into the ground alongside the bomb. A soft bump was obviously no big deal. It would just help the pilot tip the bomb over. But a harder strike was essentially a midair crash, likely clipping or breaking the pilot’s own wingtip.

Despite the risks, the work of pilots and gunners on the ground saved London from much of the devastation. 1,000 of the bombs were shot down or nudged off course in flight. And, the bombs were famously inaccurate, which was lucky for Britain. Of the approximately 10,000 flying bombs fired at the city, around 7,000 missed, 1,000 were shot down, and about 2,000 actually hit the city and other targets.

Eventually, this would result in about 6,000 fatalities and 16,000 other casualties.

In October 1944, Allied troops captured the V-1 sites targeting London and were able to stop the threat there. Unfortunately, that was right as the Germans got the V-2 program up and running, The faster, rocket-powered V-2s were essentially unstoppable with anything but radar-controlled guns.

An American JB-2 Loon based on the German V-1 missile.

(San Diego Air and Space Museum)

After the war, Allied powers experimented with the weapons and some, including America, made their own knockoffs. Some were shot down as flying targets for pilots, but others were held in arsenals in case they were needed against enemy forces. Eventually, the invention of modern cruise missiles made the V-1s and V-2s obsolete.

MIGHTY FIT

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 3

This is it, part 3. There’s some weird stuff on this list, but don’t make the mistake of overlooking something or you may miss out on that “1 weird trick” to more gains than you ever thought possible. I’m only partially joking, I give a very clear recommendation to help boost your own endogenously produced free testosterone…check it out below.


If your workout is typically less than an hour you literally don’t need this supplement.

(Photo by Sgt. Jonathan Wright)

Intra-workout (AKA something you need to take while training)

I covered this pretty solidly in my article on PFT nutrition here. I covered it even more completely on my website here.

I’ll sum it up for you one more time just to really beat this horse harder (I hate horses after all).

If your workout is less than 90 minutes, it’s probably completely unnecessary.

If your workout is 90 minutes or longer a simple beverage of ~40 grams of fast carbs, like Gatorade, ~15 grams of protein, and electrolytes (AKA salt and potassium) like those provided in a Gatorade every hour at and after the 90-minute mark should satisfy your need.

Maybe there’s an intra-workout that satisfies that need more simply than some fruity flavored protein powder and a Gatorade. I’m not sure, I haven’t looked that deeply into it recently. If you have one that you like, tell me in an email at michael@composurefitness.com, and I’ll include it in a future article on the best intra-workout supplements.

The one that seems to be purchased the most on bodybuilding.com contains no carbs and costs nearly dollars. That’s a bullshit product that completely misses the point/purpose of an intra-workout.

How to Increase Testosterone Naturally | Science Explained

youtu.be

Testosterone support

This is a good time to talk about blends, proprietary recipes, and trademarked ingredients. If the supplement you are considering has any of these in them, DO NOT buy that supplement. These terms are just clever marketing and, more often than not are an excuse to hide the fact that the supplement is completely ineffective.

The specific testosterone support supplement I looked at in my bodybuilding.com search didn’t contain half of the vitamins/minerals that have been shown to have the most efficacy in boosting testosterone. It did have a bunch of unverified nonsense and herbal remedies in it like fenugreek, maca, and boron. I wouldn’t spend any money on this or any similar product for testosterone support.

If you truly have a testosterone deficiency, talk to your doctor about getting a no kidding testosterone cycle to help your medically recognized deficiency.

If you are simply trying to increase your testosterone because you think that’s good then try taking these with a dietary fat containing meal for at least a month to see if things change for you:

  • zinc (10–30 mg)
  • magnesium (200–350 mg)
  • vitamin D3 (50–75 mcg / 2,000–3,000 IU).

Buying those three should be much cheaper per serving than any nonsense that is 15 ingredients mixed together.

Of course you could just get this one from your diet.

(Photo by Iñigo De la Maza on Unsplash)

Omega-3 fatty acids

Before I even get into Omega-3s ask yourself why you’re taking it. If it’s for joint health, then continue on. If it’s for heart health, stop and have a more in-depth conversation with your doctor. It seems that even though Omega-3 fatty acids have a positive effect on triglycerides and blood pressure they don’t actually seem to prevent cardiac events.

As far as joint health goes, the rule is simple. You want to be supplementing with 3 grams of combined EPA and DHA to get the effect you’re searching for. If the supplement you’re looking at has that serving size and no other nonsense in it, go for it.

Alternatively, you probably don’t need to supplement if you are eating fatty fish like salmon a few times a week. Make the decision for yourself. If you have access to salmon regularly, I don’t know why you’d waste your time taking more pills than you need.

Pssst… Tryin’ to get a pump?

(Photo by Sgt. Kevin Stabinsky)

Pump stimulator

WTF is this/why do you need it? Seriously, I want to know. If you take something that is specifically designed to give you a pump, email me at michael@composurefitness.com and tell me why.

The pump stimulator I looked at had two ingredients that seem to be intended to do something:

  • Glycerol: It’s supposed to help your muscle cells to hold on to more water and therefore increase output. I found one weak paper on the topic. I’m not convinced. It will probably make you feel like you have a bigger pump since it’s allowing more water to be stored in your muscle…the only group I can see caring about this is bodybuilders. But even then, it may inhibit vascularity due to the increased water retention. TLDR: Meh.
  • A proprietary blend of something containing nitrate and who-knows-what-else. Stay away from trademarked or patented combinations like the plague. They lack evidence and efficacy (translation: it’s someone trying to pull the wool over your eyes.)
How Do Muscles Grow ? #1 HYPERTROPHY

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Mass gainer

Sure. If you’re trying to put on weight and everything else fails, then maybe try a mass gainer.

Actually, hold on a second there. There is a very clearly defined way to bulk:

Eat a calorie surplus.

I lay out a very clear set-by-step guide for how to do this in the smartest/simplest way possible in The Ultimate Composure Nutrition Guide (Which is free in my Free Resources Vault here).

If you choose to achieve said calorie surplus using a mass gainer, then go ahead. All a mass gainer typically is just a butt-ton (or is it an ass-load? I always get them confused) of carbohydrates… Guess where else you can get carbohydrates. In just about every delicious food!

If you prefer the mass gainer over all other foods, I guess go ahead, weirdo. In my own personal experience of anyone, I’ve ever seen purchase mass gainer is that it sits on top of the fridge 80% full until it expires. Pretty sure that’s the definition of a waste of money.

(ME)

Those are the 12 most commonly purchased categories of sports nutrition supplements purchased on bodybuilding.com. Chances are you’ve seen them in your local supplement store/megastore and considered purchasing one or all of them. Hopefully, this guide has shown you where to spend your money and where to save it.

As I mentioned multiple times throughout this article, if you have any questions or alternative opinions on my take on these types of supplements, do not hesitate to email me at michael@composurefitness.com.

As always, when it comes to nutrition, your number one solution to any dietary need or hack should be to alter your diet of real foods to get adequate quantities and proportions of macro and micronutrients. Only after you have that dialed-in like I very explicitly outline in The Ultimate Composure Nutrition Guide should you bother walking down the supplement aisle.

If you made it this far in the article, you clearly care about your health and fitness. Why then have you not joined the Mighty Fit FB group? If you are in the group, post in there which category of sports supplements that I covered in this article that you are the most disappointed by.

MIGHTY MOVIES

4 of the ways the ‘Sons of Anarchy’ are like your infantry squad

The brotherhood of an infantry squad is hard to match. No matter where you go after you leave, you’ll struggle to find that same type of camaraderie. Sure, there are civilian jobs out there that offer something similar, but let’s face it — nothing will ever rival getting sh*tfaced in the barracks on the weekend with your best buds after a long week of putting up with your command’s bullsh*t.

That’s why we love watching shows like Sons of Anarchy.

The fictional motorcycle club happens to embody a lot of the things we loved about “being with the homies” in our squads. The way they interact with each other and their overall lifestyle runs eerily parallel to the way grunts conduct themselves.


If you’ve watched the show, this won’t come as a surprise but, in case you haven’t, these are the ways Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original are a lot like your infantry squad:

Nothing else compares…

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. A. J. Van Fredenberg)

Brotherhood

SAMCRO is all about the brotherhood. They’re always looking out for each other and going to extreme lengths to help one another. It’s not just about your duty, it’s about the love you have for the people with whom you serve. Being in an infantry squad helps you develop this mentality.

And sh*t like this will suck less.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. William Chockey)

Loyalty

Oftentimes, you won’t have to be asked to do things because you’ll want to do them without being asked. You know that your actions are for the betterment of the squad. The guys to your left and right depend on you and you them. This loyalty will be a driving desire in everything you do.

Even working out is something that benefits your squad mates.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. A. J. Van Fredenberg)

You go beyond “for the club”

After you get used to your squad and you’ve established your loyalty and brotherhood, you’ll begin to go beyond what’s required of you to help out the squad. You might even start taking MarineNet courses you’re interested in to help boost your squad’s effectiveness.

At the end of the day, SAMCRO members make choices and do things because of their love and loyalty to the club.

You’ll do anything for your squad.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Dedication to one another

When one of your brothers is going through a rough time, you’ll feel a drive to do whatever you can to help them out. If someone hurts your squad mate in one way or another, no matter what it is, you’ll be out for blood. This is honestly one of the things that makes the Sons of Anarchy such an interesting group of people to watch.

MIGHTY TRENDING

12 awesome photos of the Army pounding ISIS then playing baseball

About a mile from the Iraqi-Syrian border is a US military fire base where approximately 150 Marines and soldiers are still hammering ISIS in Syria with artillery.

“To get to the firebase, you fly by helicopter over Mosul,” NPR’s Jane Arraf reported on July 2, 2018.

“And then just a little more than a mile from the Syrian border, there’s a collection of tents and armored vehicles in the desert,” Arraf said, adding that the US troops have been at the remote, temporary base for about a month.

In early June 2018, the US Army released a dozen photos showing the base and the troops firing M777 howitzers and M109 Paladins to support the Syrian Democratic Forces clearing ISIS from the Euphrates River Valley.

Then a few weeks later, the Army released photos of the troops playing an improvised game of baseball as dusk sets in and smoke clouds billow in the background.

Check them out below:


(U.S. Army photo)

Here’s part of the base, which appears to be surrounded by a sand barrier for protection.

It’s about 100 degrees at the camp, and is crawling with scorpions and biting spiders, NPR reported.

U.S. Army Soldiers with the 3rd Cavalry Regiment fire artillery alongside Iraqi Security Force artillery at known ISIS locations near the Iraqi-Syrian border, June 5, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo)

And US troops are firing M777 howitzers.

Read more about the M777 here.

Iraqi Security Forces fire at known ISIS locations near the Iraqi-Syrian border using an M109A6 Paladin Self-Propelled Howitzer, June 5, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo)

As well as M109 Paladins.

Read more about the Paladin here, and watch a demo video of it firing from inside here.

(U.S. Army photo)

Here’s a wide shot of how the M777s are set up.

But US troops are not alone at the base as they’re operating alongside Iraqi forces.

“Iraqi commanders normally select the targets,” NPR’s Arraf said. “The strikes are mostly in remote areas. The U.S. military says it takes care to avoid civilian casualties.”

Iraqi Security Forces are ready to fire at known ISIS locations near the Iraqi-Syrian border using an M109A6 Paladin Self-Propelled Howitzer, June 5, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo)

U.S. Army Soldiers with the 3rd Cavalry Regiment fire artillery alongside Iraqi Security Force artillery at known ISIS locations near the Iraqi-Syrian border, June 5, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo)

(U.S. Army photo)

The 155mm rounds “weigh about a hundred pounds each,” Sgt. Jason Powell told NPR. “And sometimes we get up to 12-round fire missions. So with your gear on and hauling these rounds, these guys are fricking animals.”

Source: NPR

U.S. Army Sgt. Juan Vallellanes-Ramos, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, prepares to bat during an improvised game of baseball near the Iraqi-Syrian border, June 23, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo)

Here’s the first shot of the troops playing baseball.

“I think Fourth will be good spent playing ball,” Private Clayton Mogensen told NPR. “We’ve got a few baseballs here, and we take the handle from a pickaxe and set bases up and just have a good time.”

(U.S. Army photo)

U.S. Army Sgt. Peter Scaion, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, swings an improvised bat during a fun game of baseball near the Iraqi-Syrian border, June 23, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo)

(U.S. Army photo)

U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Michael England, rounds the bases during a fun game of baseball near the Iraqi-Syrian border, June 23, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo)

But it’s unclear if he scored.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army is getting this new squad vehicle to lighten its load

Infantry soldiers often carry an array of supplies and gear that together can weigh anywhere from 60 to 120 pounds, said Capt. Erika Hanson, the assistant product manager for the Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport.

But the SMET vehicle, which the Army expects to field in just under three years, “is designed to take the load off the soldier,” Hanson said. “Our directed requirement is to carry 1,000 pounds of the soldier load.”

That 1,000 pounds is not just for one soldier, of course, but for an entire Infantry squad — typically about nine soldiers.


Late May 2018, during a “Close Combat Lethality Tech Day” in the courtyard of the Pentagon, Hanson had with her on display the contenders for the Army’s SMET program: four small vehicles, each designed to follow along behind a squad of infantry soldiers and carry most or all their gear for them, so they can move to where they need to be without being exhausted upon arrival.

“I’m not an infantry soldier,” Hanson said. “But I’ve carried a rucksack — and I can tell you I can move a lot faster without out a rucksack on my back. Not having to carry this load will make the soldier more mobile and more lethal in a deployed environment.”

The four contender vehicles on display at the Pentagon were the MRZR-X system from Polaris Industries Inc., Applied Research Associates Inc. and Neya Systems LLC; the Multi-Utility Tactical Transport from General Dynamics Land Systems; the Hunter Wolf from HDT Global; and the RS2-H1 system from Howe and Howe Technologies. Each was loaded down with gear representative of what they would be expected to carry when one of them is actually fielded to the Army.

Vehicles the Army is considering to fill the role of the Squad Multi-Purpose Equipment Transport.
(U.S. Army photos)

“Nine ruck sacks, six boxes of MREs and four water cans,” Hanson said. “This is about the equivalent of what a long-range mission for a light Infantry unit would need to carry.”

Hanson said that for actual testing and evaluation purposes, the simulated combat load also includes fuel cans and ammo cans as well, though these items weren’t included in the display at the Pentagon.

These small vehicles, Hanson said, are expected to follow along with a squad of soldiers as they walk to wherever it is they have been directed to go. The requirement for the vehicles is that they be able to travel up to 60 miles over the course of 72 hours, she said.

Three of the vehicles are “pivot steered,” Hanson said, to make it easier for them to maneuver in off-road environments, so that they can follow soldiers even when there isn’t a trail.

One of the contenders for SMET has a steering wheel, with both a driver’s seat and a passenger seat. So if a soldier wanted to drive that vehicle, he could, Hanson said. Still, the Army requirement is that the SMET be able to operate unmanned, and all four vehicles provide that unmanned capability.

All four contenders include a small, simplistic kind of remote control that a soldier can hand-carry to control the vehicle. One of those remotes was just a light-weight hand grip with a tiny thumb-controlled joystick on top. A soldier on patrol could carry the light-weight controller at his side.

More advanced control options are also available for the SMET as well, Hanson said.

“All can be operated with an operator control unit,” she said. “It’s a tele-operation where you have a screen and you can operate the system non-line-of-site via the cameras on the system.”

When soldiers on patrol want the SMET to follow along with them, they can use the very simple controller that puts a low cognitive load on the Soldier. When they want the SMET to operate in locations where they won’t be able to see it, they can use the more advanced controller with the video screen.

Hanson said the Army envisions soldiers might one day use the SMET to do things besides carry a Soldier’s bags.

“It’s for use in operations where some of the payloads are like re-trans and recon payloads in the future,” she said. “In that situation, it would be better for a soldier at a distance to be able to tele-operate the SMET into position.”

This small joy stick device has been designed to control one of the four vehicles that the Army is considering to fill the role of the Squad Multi-Purpose Equipment Transport.
(U.S. Army photo by C. Todd Lopez)

The “re-trans” mission, she said, would involve putting radio gear onto the SMET and then using a remote control to put the vehicle out at the farthest edge of where radio communications are able to reach. By doing so, she said, the SMET could then be part of extending that communications range farther onto the battlefield.

One of the vehicles even has an option for a soldier to clip one end of a rope to his belt and the other end to the vehicle — and then the vehicle will just follow him wherever he walks. That’s the tethered “follow-me” option, Hanson said.

In addition to carrying gear for soldiers, the SMET is also expected to provide electric power to soldiers on patrol. She said while the vehicle is moving, for instance, it is required to provide 1 kilowatt of power, and when it’s standing still, it must provide 3 kW.

That power, she said, could be piped into the Army’s “Universal Battery Charger,” which can charge a variety of batteries currently used in soldier products. Vendors of the SMET have each been provided with a UBC so they can figure out how best to incorporate the device into their SMET submissions.

Hanson said the Army hopes that the SMET could include, in some cases, up to five UBCs on board to ensure that no soldier in an Infantry squad is ever without mobile power.

Next step

In November 2017, the Army held a “fly-off” at Fort Benning, Georgia, where 10 contenders for the SMET competed with each other. Only the developers of the vehicles were involved in the fly-off.

“From those, we down-selected to these four, based on their performance,” Hanson said.

To make its choice for the down-select, she said the Army looked at things like mobility and durability of the systems.

Now, the Army will do a technology demonstration to down-select to just one vehicle, from the remaining four. To do that, Hanson said, the Army will first provide copies of the competing SMET vehicles to two Army Infantry units, one at Fort Drum, New York, and one at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Additionally, Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, will also get a set of the vehicles.

“Over the course of the tech demo, we’ll be getting feedback from the soldiers and the Marines on what systems best fill the need for the infantryman,” she said.

The technology demonstration, she said, will last just one year. And when it’s complete, feedback from soldiers and Marines will be used to down-select to just one system that will then become an Army program of record.

“I think the best part of the program is the innovative approach the team is taking to field them to soldiers before they select the program of record,” Hanson said. “That way, it’s the soldier feedback that drives the requirement, not the other way around.”

Hanson said she expects the program of record to begin in the first quarter of fiscal year 2020, after which the Army will go into low-rate initial production on the SMET. By the second or third quarter of FY 2021, she said, the first Army unit can expect to have the new vehicle fielded to them.

Hanson said the Army has set a base price of $100,000 for the SMET.

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