Journalist Joe Klein, author of Primary Colors and writer for The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Time, (among others) now brings us Charlie Mike: A True Story of Heroes Who Brought Their Mission Home.
The book’s quick description says it’s “the true story of two decorated combat veterans linked by tragedy, who come home from the Middle East and find a new way to save their comrades and heal their country.” But this book is more than that.
Charlie Mike tells the story of Jake Wood of Team Rubicon and Eric Greitens of The Mission Continues along with those who assisted them and helped build these monumental veterans’ service organizations.
“Service” is the key word in this book, and in the cases of Wood and Greitens, the service is from the veterans. Charlie Mike, as the name implies (Charlie Mike is military speak for “Continue the Mission”) is as much about the needs of communities around veterans as it is about veterans. Like a The Mission Continues fellows says, these are challenges, not charities.
Eric Greitens is a Truman Scholar, Rhodes Scholar, and Navy SEAL whose SEAL service was (unofficially) cut short after exposing fellow SEALs drug use on an exercise in Thailand. He was inspired after visiting injured Marines at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland to found an organization which would help veterans heal themselves by continuing to serve, even if they could no longer serve in the military. He founded The Mission Continues with the help of Kaj Larsen, a fellow SEAL whose story is also covered in the book. The Mission Continues gives fellowships to veteran to help “redeploy” them into their communities.
Jake Wood and William McNulty are two former U.S. Marines who were frustrated with the way disaster relief organizations handled enlisting volunteers in the aftermath of the 201o Haiti Earthquake. They decided to just go and do whatever they could, and with a little help and guidance from Jesuits on the ground in Haiti, doctors they met along the way, and their good friend Clay Hunt, they did just that. Their efforts there became the model for Team Rubicon, an non-profit organization that uses the skills and work ethic of American veterans and teams them with experienced first responders to deploy emergency teams to disaster areas. Wood was one of The Mission Continues first fellows.
These organizations, their founders, and the veterans who staff them are prime examples of the attitude of the post-9/11 community of American veterans. The tales of their lives and how these organizations came to be are ones of integrity, personal sacrifice, tragedy, and brotherhood. Their stories are inspiring, and their legacy is already legendary. They represent the newest greatest generation.
Joe Klein does justice to these amazing stories, and that makes Charlie Mike one of the best military books of the year.
In the fog of war, service members are forced to make decisions that will haunt them for the rest of their lives. Some decisions are based on actionable intelligence, and others are based on gut intuition; ultimately, anyone who deploys and sees combat will come up against the question of whether or not they’re making the right decision.
Recon, Robert Port’s latest film, explores just that. Stationed in Italy during the middle of WWII, Recon follows four American soldiers over a day as they’re ordered out on patrol on what might be a suicide mission. The men witness their sergeant kill a local right before they’re ordered out on patrol, so none of the foursome know if they’re being sent out to perish or succeed.
Unlike other war movies that explore the external motivating forces that drive the plot, Recon examines the internal challenges that deployed soldiers come up against. Recon is based on the 2010 novel Peace, written by Air Force veteran Richard Bausch.
Recon is the feature debut for Port, who won an Oscar for his 2003 documentary short, Twin Towers. Recon stars Alexander Ludwig (Vikings), Sam Keeley (68 Whiskey), Chris Brochu, and RJ Fetherstonhaugh. Franco Nero (Django, Die Hard 2, Django Unchained, John Wick: Chapter 2) stars as the local who leads the unit through the forest.
The film initially premiered at the Austin Film Festival last year. Despite its relatively low budget, Recon features some impressive production values. Most surprisingly, the entire film was shot in Canada – a fact that’s not obvious since the entire film takes place in a wintry forest.
So, what makes Recon different than all the other WWII movies out there?
In an interview with WATM, Port noted that Recon isn’t just a film for WWII veterans – it’s a film for all veterans. It’s also a film that asks much of its viewers – namely how to be empathetic toward America’s veterans. He wants the viewers of Recon to question their morality and mortality, just as the film’s characters do.
“What’s something I should do the next time I see a veteran? What’s it like to walk in their shoes? It’s easy for us to judge, but unless we were there, we don’t know,” said Port.
That’s something Port spent his life trying to imagine. After narrowly escaping Hitler’s invasion, Port’s grandfather came to America and then enlisted in the military to fight in Europe.
“He never talked, as many of the greatest generation don’t do, about the actual killing. Instead, he talked about how human beings needed to look out for one another,” said Port, noting that that’s a commonality that all veterans share.
It’s a question that Port has spent much of his life trying to answer, so when the opportunity came to work on the film, he jumped at the chance. Port hopes that his audience will watch Recon and then explore how they can give back to the veteran community.
In an interview with WATM, the film’s star Alexander Ludwig, of Vikings, said that working with a script where the main character was driven by internal forces rather than external obligations was life-changing.
“For me, that really helped me get into the psyche of what it would be like to be someone in 1944 in Italy and deal with the psychological and physical trauma they had to endure,” Ludwig said.
Aware of his ability to go back to his hotel room each night after filming, Ludwig said he still isn’t sure how the WWII soldiers endured.
“I can’t even say I know what it’s like to go through anything like that. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and I’m so grateful to be able to share this wonderful story with the world,” Ludwig added.
Recon launched November 10 as a one-night Fathom event in AMC, Cinemark and Regal theaters nationwide and is now available On Demand Everywhere, learn more at http://www.reconmovie.com, #ReconMovie.
In the roughly seven months since the 2nd Brigade deployed, the unit’s numbers have swelled to more than 2,100 paratroopers deployed to Iraq.
It is the largest contingent among the thousands of Fort Bragg soldiers serving as part of an international coalition to defeat ISIS. That coalition is led by Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commanding general of the 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg.
On July 10, Work said the Falcon Brigade can be proud of its efforts to defeat ISIS through advising and assisting its Iraqi partners.
A few years ago, officials said the Iraqi army was largely defeated — broken, dispirited, and pushed to the gates of Baghdad. Today, it is celebrating a major victory.
“Our mission, the reason we matter, is to help the Iraqi Security Forces win,” Work said. “The fight continues, but they have dominated ISIS in Mosul. The key now is establishing a durable security that enables governance to extend its reach.”
While Iraqi forces have been at the forefront of the victory, American paratroopers have played no small role in the success.
“It’s been hard, violent work every day,” Work said of fighting in Mosul. “The Iraqi Security Forces have fought doggedly to take terrain from ISIS and liberate the people of Mosul. ISIS had years to prepare its defense, and it gave nothing away. Our partners took it from them, and we’ve been helping them attack. At the same time, we are extraordinarily proud of our partners. They assume the lion’s share of the physical risk, but we attack a common enemy together. Their success is our success.”
When the brigade’s soldiers arrived in Iraq, the battle to defeat ISIS was still raging in east Mosul, Work said.
Now, that part of the city is thriving “despite being just over five months removed from intense ground combat.”
Work said the brigade’s paratroopers gave invaluable support to their Iraqi counterparts, advising and assisting ground commanders and providing artillery fires, intelligence, and logistical support.
As the fight moved to west Mosul, the paratroopers moved with their Iraqi counterparts, inching closer to the embattled city.
“We helped decimate a formidable ISIS mortar and artillery force in west Mosul,” Work said. “We helped destroy ISIS infantry, logistics, and suicide car bombs so that our partners could continue to attack on the hard days. We were with the commanders calling the shots, delivering fires that helped them dominate, and we always put them first. Every day and every night.”
Townsend congratulated Iraqi forces on July 10 for their “historic victory against an evil enemy.”
“The Iraqis prevailed in the most extended and brutal combat I have ever witnessed,” he said.
As commander of Combined Joint Task Force — Operation Inherent Resolve, Townsend is the top general overseeing the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. He’s one of several hundred 18th Airborne Corps soldiers who form the core of the anti-ISIS headquarters.
Several other Fort Bragg units, including the 1st Special Forces Command, are also deployed in support of the campaign.
Townsend spoke to members of the media via a video feed from Baghdad.
He said ISIS has now lost its capital in Iraq and its largest population center held anywhere in the world. That’s a decisive blow to ISIS and something for Iraqis to celebrate.
Townsend said forces also are making progress against ISIS in Syria, where partner forces working with American and coalition troops have surrounded ISIS’s capital of Raqqa.
The general said ISIS would fight hard to keep that city, much as it did in Mosul.
“Make no mistake, it is a losing cause,” he said.
Townsend said Iraqi forces have a plan in the works to continue to pursue ISIS in other parts of the country. He said he doesn’t anticipate any decrease in US troops in Iraq following the liberation of Mosul.
American forces, including those from Fort Bragg, are expected to play a key role in those efforts.
While the city of Mosul is now firmly under the control of Iraqi forces, Work said, no one will be celebrating too long.
“A lot of hard work remains. The Iraqi Security Forces will continue to attack the remnants of ISIS, search for caches, and free the people of west Mosul,” he said. “The transition for the Iraqis to consolidate their gains is critical now. It requires detailed intelligence, organization, and logistics. Our paratroopers will continue to give our best advice, help our partners attack ISIS, and keep enabling their operations.”
The 2nd Brigade deployed seven battalions to aid in the anti-ISIS fight. Most of the soldiers are involved in providing security or advising their Iraqi counterparts.
But, Work said, all soldiers contributed to the efforts and successes of the unit.
“All seven of our battalion teams have been tremendous. 37th Engineer Battalion has run a major staging base that is the hub of all logistics for a very decentralized coalition adviser network,” he said. “407th Brigade Support Battalion assists the Iraqis with advancing their own logistics while also sustaining and maintaining our adviser teams. Finally, the 2nd Battalion of the 319th Field Artillery devastated ISIS’s once-formidable mortar and artillery battery.”
Work also said the brigade has relied on junior soldiers to step up and fill important roles in the fight.
“We have a junior intelligence analyst, Spc. Cassandra Ainsworth, who is brilliant. We rely heavily on her thinking, on her analysis, and synthesis when we are making major recommendations to Iraqi generals,” he said. “We also have a junior signal soldier, Spc. Malik Turner, whom I count on daily to keep us connected securely in very austere environments. He is exceptional.”
Work said the brigade was the “right team at the right time” to help in Iraq.
“There is a lot of hard work ahead, but the Falcons — some of the best trained, best equipped, and best led paratroopers in the world — helped the Iraqis win in Mosul,” he said.
With the city liberated, Work said, the soldiers’ attention will turn to securing those gains, improving the Iraqi forces, and taking the fight to ISIS forces in other parts of the country.
“The first priority is helping the Iraqis sink in their hold on west Mosul, helping them set conditions that allow the government to start delivering services and political goods,” he said. “Mosul is also a major battle in a much broader campaign to eliminate ISIS, and the fight continues. We will continue to give our best military advice, but the government of Iraq will decide the next objective. Whatever they decide, we are confident that we will continue to help them attack our common enemy.”
A retired University of Wisconsin administrator was elected national commander of the nation’s largest veterans organization today during The American Legion’s 99th national convention.
Denise H. Rohan, a Vietnam-era veteran of the US Army, is the first woman to be elected to the top position of the 2 million member American Legion.
“Women were allowed to vote for national commander of The American Legion back in 1919, before they could vote for the president of the United States,” Rohan said. “The American Legion has always believed that a veteran is a veteran regardless of gender, race, or religion. If I can offer a different perspective than other Legionnaires, that’s great. But I am excited to build on the great programs, dedicated service and proud legacy of the many Legionnaires who came before me.”
Rohan has served The American Legion since 1984. While commander of Post 333 in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, she established Sons of the American Legion Squadron 333 and chartered Boy Scout Troop 333. She has also served as the department (state) commander of the Wisconsin American Legion.
She was employed with the University of Wisconsin Madison as the assistant bursar of student loans until her retirement in 2012. She managed the University of Wisconsin Madison, University of Wisconsin Green Bay, and University of Wisconsin Colleges’ $120 million loan portfolio made up of approximately 200 different federal, institutional and state programs in compliance with all laws, regulations, and policy.
Rohan was responsible for the efficiency and design of the computerized student loan accounts-receivable system.
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
The Air Force and its mission partners successfully launched the AFSPC-5 mission aboard the Space and Missile Systems Center procured United Launch Alliance Atlas V launch vehicle at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, May 20, 2015.
Tech. Sgt. Bruce Ramos, a 1st Special Operations Group Detachment 1 radio operator, raises an American flag from an MC-130P Combat Shadow while it taxis at Hurlburt Field, Fla., May 15, 2015.
The U.S. Navy flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels, perform a flyover during a graduation and commissioning ceremony for the Naval Academy Class of 2015.
The guided-missile destroyer USS Chafee (DDG 90) departs Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for an independent deployment.
BIG STEP – On Tuesday, May 19, students at the U.S. Army Special Forces Underwater Operations School conducted helocast drills. Helocasting is an airborne insertion technique used by small special operations forces to enter denied areas of operations.
An Army AH-64 Apache air crew, assigned to 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division conducts pre-flight checks prior to an air-assault operation, part of the Network Integration Evaluation 15.2 exercise at Fort Bliss, Texas.
Landing craft air cushion conduct an amphibious assault during the MARFORPAC-hosted U.S. Pacific Command Amphibious Leaders Symposium (PALS) at Marine Corps Training Area Bellows.
An M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank with 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, fires its 120 mm smoothbore cannon during a live-fire event as part of Exercise Eager Lion 2015 in Jordan.
Rescue crews from the Coast Guard 1st District don immersion suits to practice cold water survival in Boston Harbor near the John Joseph Moakley Courthouse.
A Coast Guard crew aboard a 45-foot Response Boat-Medium patrols Boston Harbor near the John Joseph Moakley Courthouse.
When Army basic training soldier Jennifer Campbell was told to run through smoke on the obstacle course, she leaned into it and went for the awesome photo moment of charging through the thickest plume of smoke.
Unfortunately for her, it wasn’t white smoke; it was o-chlorobenzylidene malononitrile, a potent form of tear gas used to teach basic trainees to trust their chemical masks and other gear. But Campbell wasn’t wearing chemical gear; she was running full speed and sucking down air on an obstacle course.
So the young soldier got two lungs full of the agitating gas, forcing violent coughs as her drill sergeants got a good laugh and the other trainees scrambled to get their masks on.
But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and Campbell got her own laughs when the winds shifted and the rest of her platoon got hit unprotected, including the drill sergeant who triggered her episode. See how it all went down in the Go90 video embedded at the top.
We Are The Mighty and Marine Corps veteran, actor and comedian Rob Riggle present The Rob Riggle #InVETational Golf Classic. The veteran/celebrity golf tournament will raise money and awareness for the Semper Fi Fund. The Rob Riggle #InVETational Golf Classic will take place at the world-class Valencia Country Club in Los Angeles on Dec. 5, 2016.
During this high-octane golf tourney, veteran and celebrity teams will contend for the lowest scores and most laughs to raise funds and awareness for the renowned Semper Fi Fund, one of our nation’s most respected veteran nonprofits. Semper Fi Fund provides immediate and lifetime support to post-9/11 critically ill and injured service members from all branches of the military. Since inception, Semper Fi Fund has assisted over 16,800 service members and their families totaling more than $133 million in assistance.
“The #InVETational celebrates two of my greatest passions – veterans and golf,” Riggle said. “I am excited to partner with We Are The Mighty, a media brand that veterans love and trust, and Semper Fi Fund, which assists thousands of veterans and their families. It’s truly an honor to serve my fellow veterans with this special event.”
“We are honored to partner with Rob to give serious golfers and entertainers the chance to use their sport to bring attention to the great work of Semper Fi Fund,” said David Gale, WATM’s CEO and cofounder. “We Are The Mighty is committed to sharing the experiences of our nation’s military and will feature the remarkable stories of the veteran athletes participating in this tournament.”
Semper Fi Fund President and Founder Karen Guenther added, “As a Marine veteran, Rob Riggle truly understands the sacrifices our nation’s military heroes make for us every day, and how important it is to be there to support these men, women and their families for a lifetime. We are thrilled to be working with Rob and WATM to bring attention to the many needs of recovering and transitioning veterans and their families.”
Best known for his roles in “The Hangover,” “21 Jump Street,” “The Other Guys,” “Step Brothers,” “Modern Family,” “Dumb and Dumber To,” and “The Daily Show” among other popular movies and TV shows, We Are The Mighty’s InVETational host Rob Riggle served over twenty years in the U.S. Marine Corps and Reserves as a Civil Affairs Officer and Public Affairs Officer across the globe including in Afghanistan. Riggle cares deeply about our veterans and has used his success as a comedian and actor to support those who have served our country.
The Rob Riggle #InVETational Golf Classic will be produced by We Are The Mighty in conjunction with charity golf tournament expert Bob Levey of Independent Events & Media. The tournament will be featured on wearethemighty.com and shared via WATM, Riggle, and Semper Fi Fund social media sites. Celebrity and veteran golfers from Semper Fi Fund’s athletics program will be announced soon.
Ants vs termites –the rivalry that predates human language — is fought on a global scale. Although termites and ants are both considered pests, many people do not understand that termites and ants are mortal enemies. If nested close, ants and termites engage in war. When it comes to battles of insect proportions, the larger bug doesn’t always win.
Colony vs colony
Milligram for milligram, termites would easily emerge as the winner on a one-on-one fight. They’re larger than ants and have strong, coordinated soldiers as well. Scientists have identified that most termites are two to three times bigger than ants. Also, termites have heads that appear to be built for combat. However, the aspect does not apply when ants and termites wage war. When termites lock horns (no, not literally) with ants, it is usually not close to a fair fight. Termites get annihilated by ants. Despite their size and weight, ants tend to be more aggressive than termites. Termite colonies are numerically inferior ant colonies.
Termites are, in fact, defensive creatures and have no reason to attack ants: they are not interested in the ants’ food; whereas ants will happily use termites AS food and appropriate their tunnels.
In most cases, ants invade termites’ nests and kill the warriors and the queen on sight. The death of a queen virtually is the end of the termite colony. For this reason, some ant species have been known to specifically prey on termites for food.
Termite soldiers last stand
Although ants are generally superior in combat, termites also have an ace up their sleeve. There are unique, blocky adaptations that have been identified among termites’ heads. The heads are defensive, and there are cases where termites throw them up as they try to stop ant attacks. Some species also use them to intimidate intruders and warn the nest. As a last resort, some termites will use their heads to block tunnels into the colony in an attempt to buy the workers time to collapse passages. In most cases, this allows the termite defenders to hold the ant assault and pave new ways for the queen to escape. This last stand sacrifice is the only effective way to keep the queen alive when all else fails.
Lesser of the two evils
Most ants are less damaging to human habitation compared to termites. If you had to choose one or the other, most people would pick the one that doesn’t destroy your property value. People who have studied wars against these pests have been trying to use ants to get rid of termites. However, the practice is not recommended as one would require a supercolony of ants to get rid of all the termites. Using ants to destroy termites’ colonies by killing their queen is not feasible – yet.
Studies have identified that wars cull the old male and female termites from a colony as well. They are used as front-line soldiers when fighting against ants or any other enemy. The senior termites take a colony gate position and prevent enemies such as ants from accessing their queen. In most cases, the female soldiers are sailed forth while engaging ants. The younger soldiers usually stick to the nest and act as the final line of defense while engaging invaders. This aspect indicates that termite soldiers have an age-based task allocation that makes it more difficult for them to be over-powered by ants.
Regardless of the genetic advances termites make, they are no match for the ant. The desire to dominate and get more food is the major reason why ants and termites declare war on each other on sight. To ants, termites are the food.
Feature image: WATM composite, images via Wikimedia Commons
President Donald Trump’s national security adviser is calling on Russia to re-evaluate its support for Syrian President Bashar Assad, leaving open the possibility of additional U.S. military action against Syria.
In his first televised interview, H.R. McMaster pointed to dual U.S. goals of defeating the Islamic State group and removing Assad from power.
As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was making the Trump administration’s first official trip this week to Russia, McMaster said Russia will have to decide whether it wanted to continue backing a “murderous regime.” Trump is weighing next steps after ordering airstrikes on April 6.
“It’s very difficult to understand how a political solution could result from the continuation of the Assad regime,” McMaster said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“Now, we are not saying that we are the ones who are going to affect that change. What we are saying is, other countries have to ask themselves some hard questions. Russia should ask themselves [why they are] supporting this murderous regime that is committing mass murder of its own population?”
He said Russia should also be asked how it didn’t know that Syria was planning a chemical attack since it had advisers at the Syrian airfield.
“Right now, I think everyone in the world sees Russia as part of the problem,” McMaster said.
After the chemical attack in Syria on April 4, Trump said his attitude toward Assad “has changed very much” and Tillerson said “steps are underway” to organize a coalition to remove him from power.
But as lawmakers called on Trump to consult with Congress, Trump administration officials sent mixed signals on the scope of future U.S. involvement.
While Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, described regime change in Syria as a U.S. priority and inevitable, Tillerson suggested that the April 6 American airstrikes in retaliation for the chemical attack hadn’t really changed U.S. priorities toward ousting Assad.
Pressed to clarify, McMaster said the goals of fighting IS and ousting Syria’s president were somewhat “simultaneous” and that the objective of the missile strike was to send a “strong political message to Assad” to stop using chemical weapons.
He did not rule out additional strikes if Assad continued to engage in atrocities against rebel forces with either chemical or conventional weapons.
“We are prepared to do more,” he said. “The president will make whatever decision he thinks is in the best interest of the American people.”
Reluctant to put significant troops on the ground in Syria, the U.S. for years has struggled to prevent Assad from strengthening his hold on power.
U.S.-backed rebels groups have long pleaded for more U.S. intervention and complained that Washington has only fought the Islamic State group. So Trump’s decision to launch the strikes — an action President Barack Obama declined to take after a 2013 chemical attack — has raised optimism among rebels that Trump will more directly confront Assad.
Several lawmakers said on April 9 that decision shouldn’t entirely be up to Trump.
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, praised Trump’s initial missile strike for sending a message to Assad, Russia, Iran, and North Korea that “there’s a new administration in charge.” But he said Trump now needed to work with Congress to set a future course.
“Congress needs to work with the president to try and deal with this long-term strategy, lack of strategy, really, in Syria,” he said. “We haven’t had one for six years during the Obama administration, and 400,000 civilians have died and millions of people have been displaced internally and externally in Europe and elsewhere.”
Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, agreed.
“What we saw was a reaction to the use of chemical weapons, something I think many of us supported,” he said. “But what we did not see is a coherent policy on how we’re going to deal with the civil war and also deal with ISIS.”
Still, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R- S.C., said he believed that Trump didn’t need to consult with Congress.
“I think the president has authorization to use force,” he said. “Assad signed the chemical weapons treaty ban. There’s an agreement with him not to use chemical weapons.”
Their comments came as Tillerson planned to meet with Russian officials. Russia had its own military personnel at the Syrian military airport that the U.S. struck with cruise missiles. But in interviews broadcast April 9, Tillerson said he sees no reason for retaliation from Moscow because Russia wasn’t targeted.
Russian forces were notified in advance of the strike against the Shayrat Airfield in Syria using the established deconfliction line. U.S. military planners took precautions to minimize risk to Russian or Syrian personnel located at the airfield. (Photo from DVIDSHub.net)
“We do not have any information that suggests that Russia was part of the military attack undertaken using the chemical weapons,” Tillerson said. Earlier, U.S. military officials had said they were looking into whether Russia participated, possibly by using a drone to help eliminate evidence afterward.
“We’re hopeful that we can prevent a continuation of the civil war and that we can bring the parties to the table to begin the process of political discussions” between the Assad government and various rebel groups, he said.
Haley said “getting Assad out is not the only priority” and that countering Iran’s influence in Syria was another. Still, Haley said the U.S. didn’t see a peaceful future for Syria with Assad in power.
McMaster, Cornyn, and Cardin spoke on “Fox News Sunday,” Tillerson appeared on ABC’s “This Week” and CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Haley and Graham were on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and Haley also appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Associated Press writer Josh Lederman contributed to this report.
Don’t get me wrong, Pathfinder was a tough course, and I proudly wore the winged torch for much of my career. But the only reason I went to the school was for the badge, and if most people are honest with themselves, that’s why they went, too. After all, the course is often derisively referred to as “Badgefinder.”
I learned some useful skills in Pathfinder School, but I probably didn’t need to go to a dedicated school to learn them. The hardest part about Pathfinder was memorizing the capabilities, tables, and charts necessary to calculate things like forward throw, HLZ and DZ sizes, and cargo capacity. Those are important things to know how to do, but (like for Air Assault School), you will rely on hard copy versions of that information, not your memory, if you need to do it for real.
Additionally, most of the people who attend Pathfinder end up never being in a Pathfinder unit, much less use those skills operationally.
Pathfinder has a long and proud history, but it has outlived its utility. It’s time to furl the school’s colors, retire the badge, and put those resources to better use.
The United Kingdom’s Navy is experiencing a big manpower shortage brought on by years of intentional recruiting shortfalls. As a result the British approached the U.S. to help fill the gaps, but the needed help came from the Coast Guard not the Navy.
The first time the Royal Navy used American Navy personnel it resulted in the War of 1812. Now, more than 200 years later, the discussion is much more amicable. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul F. Zukunft explained the situation at a recent event:
“Sixteen years ago, the Royal Navy was looking at budget challenges and they figured that one way they could meet budget is if they bring in no new personnel accessions,” Zukunft said. “They did that for three years. So now, over 16 years later, you’ve got this big hole in the Royal Navy in sea-going ratings, engineers and electricians.”
The Coast Guard agreed. The Royal Navy will soon host 36 enlisted men and women from to support its Type 23 Frigate operations. The UK needed machinery technicians and electrician’s mates first and foremost. This is actually not the first collaboration, as the Royal Navy and U.S. Coast Guard have been longtime partners, especially through Joint Interagency Task Force South, a key counter-trafficking task force in the Caribbean.
When Adm. Zunkunft asked Lord Zambellas why he didn’t ask for sailors from the U.S. Navy, the First Sea Lord replied: “Well, you have old ships, we have old ships. Yours aren’t under warranty, ours aren’t under warranty. When they break, far away from home, the first thing you do is call is the duty engineer to come down and fix it. You don’t call a contractor.”
Al Qaeda asked its aspiring recruits to fill out an application in order to join, according to documents the US government seized at Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan and released on May 20th.
The application asks for basic information (name, age, education level, criminal history), but includes more terrorism-specific queries, like “Do you wish to execute a suicide operation?” and “Who should we contact in case you became a martyr?”
The form was released as part of the declassification of a trove of documents seized during the May 1st, 2011 Navy SEAL raid in Abbottabad in which Osama bin Laden was killed.
When Al Qaeda was first created, the group noted in a memo that there were four requirements for membership — swearing allegiance to the emir and being obedient, obtaining a personal referral from a member of Al Qaeda’s inner circle, and displaying “good manners,” according to the recent book “ISIS: The State of Terror,” which also discusses Al Qaeda’s origins.