When was the last time you chose Deliberate Discomfort? - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

When was the last time you chose Deliberate Discomfort?

There’s a reason why elite Special Operations courses always begin with intense physical training. The shock value of initial stress overload is the best discriminator while assessing an individual or group’s willingness and capacity to accomplish difficult tasks. It’s because after twenty minutes, when you are tired of holding a log over your head, you can’t fake it any longer. When the pressure is on and the stress increases, your true personality comes out.


The vocal, motivated cheerleader types who try hard to encourage others? They suddenly shut up. The pessimists who are there because they were told to be there but don’t really want to be there? They suddenly quit. The eternal optimists who are always positive and see the good in everything? They suddenly wonder if they have what it takes to make it in the first place. The playing field is now even because everyone is in survival mode and doing whatever it takes to get by. Fatigue makes cowards of us all.

Eventually, there is a moment when everybody is miserable and focused on themselves. Our heads are down, and we are contemplating when the suffering will end. As the level of stress increases, our brains narrow our focus, and our sensory attention goes inward. Our body language reflects, as the pupils dilate, heart rate increases, breathing intensifies, heads go down, shoulders slump, and our thoughts begin to race: What in the hell did I get myself into? When will it all end? How much longer can I keep this up? Is it all worth it?

During log PT on day one of selection, for whatever reason, almost counterintuitively, even though it spent energy on something that was risky, I looked up. I looked up and looked around. I deliberately chose discomfort. The guys around me were all suffering just as badly as I was, if not worse. In that moment, my friend Pat lifted his head up as well. He looked around, and we looked at each other. He shouted, “Let’s go, J. You got this!” I shouted words of encouragement back at him, even though it required energy that could have been used on myself.

More guys lifted their heads and looked around. We began to focus on one another rather than on ourselves. Looking up became infectious. Strangely enough, we began to forget about our pain, the time seemed to move faster, and the log felt lighter. The reality is that nothing changed about the situation except our attitudes. The conditions still sucked, it was hot as hell, our bodies still strained, and the logs didn’t get any lighter. It was our minds that had changed. We began choosing how we thought, deciding where to direct our attention and energy.

In these difficult moments, situations that make or break individuals and teams, we find our collective purpose. When the pressure is on and you’re on a team, it’s never about you. It’s about the people to your left and right who are going through the experience and process with you. In this moment, I found purpose. My purpose was to make the team succeed.

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Misery is suffering without a purpose. The guys who make it through these types of courses are the guys who experience an aha moment. When they realize that they’re not alone. That they are on a team and the success of the team is more important than their own personal success.

The people who don’t make it are the guys who are self-centered, who don’t risk any energy that doesn’t immediately serve their own interests. The people who don’t look up.

The secret to the elite mind-set of Special Operations Forces, no matter how many books you read or podcasts you listen to, is to look up.

The same “look up” mind-set applies to the everyday mundanity of real life. As a lot of well-intending families do, my wife and I are committed to attending church services every Sunday. As a couple with young children, parenting lessons come early and often. Our daughter is a toddler with boundless energy, which means that we spend a good majority of the service outside in the foyer. Whenever she acts up, screams, or causes a distraction during the sermon or in Sunday school, we do the polite and sensible thing and remove her from the situation.

After several months of faith in the foyer went by, my wife and I looked up at each other and asked ourselves, “What are we doing here?” We don’t hear the sermon; we don’t hear the Sunday school lesson. We just sit out in the foyer and distract our daughter. What’s the point of getting up early and getting dressed to come to church and play with our daughter in the foyer?

I thought back to my experiences during log PT. I was embarrassed that I had forgotten that critical lesson from years ago. I realized that I wasn’t going to church for myself. I was going for the other members of the congregation. I asked myself, “What can I do this Sunday to serve the church and church members’ needs?” Sitting out in the foyer with a screaming daughter, maybe all I could give was a hello or a smile. If that was all I could give, then I would give that. For me, Sundays are sacred because they represent our commitment to spending that quality time together in fellowship to reflect and celebrate our common values and beliefs. This is the foundation of our collective purpose. Is the quality of time we invest now showing an immediate return? Certainly, not immediately, but that’s a limited and short-sighted way of looking at the situation. That’s the same reason why people decide to quit: the log is too heavy right now, and they want to make the pain stop. It’s not about the log, and it’s not about the foyer. It’s about the people to our left and right.

We chose a different perspective and approach to the situation. Through this choice, we realized that if we continued our routine, our daughter’s behavior would eventually improve. By the time she is old enough to know better, this routine as a deliberate and weekly choice will not just be something she does but an integral part of who she is. Suddenly on Sundays, chasing my daughter in the foyer doesn’t seem as bad as it once did.

Articles

Watch this F-16 blow the crap out of a drone with air-to-air missiles

When it comes to unmanned aerial vehicles, there’s clearly a love-hate relationship within the military.


The Air Force is scrambling to find and train new pilots to fly the robot warriors, which hunt down high-value targets and fire missiles with relentless precision. But military planners are also concerned about increased access to the technology by America’s enemies, with ISIS using booby-trapped drones as IEDs and some groups actually dropping grenade-sized bombs on U.S. and allied targets in Iraq and Syria.

But one thing everyone can agree on is that the unmanned planes make for great aerial targets. They’re relatively inexpensive, can be programed to maneuver like a manned fighter and are tougher to acquire and track than a full-sized plane.

That’s why America and its allies in Europe are using the technology to help train their pilots, launching them in swarms and throwing up top-tier fighters to do battle. In this video, Danish F-16s fire advanced missiles — including the AIM-9x Sidewinder and AIM-120 Sparrow — at drone targets to hone their skills.

It’s an amazing look at how the advanced missile technology makes for an “unfair fight” in the future battle for the skies.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SdWBjhUrw5U
MIGHTY CULTURE

The story of a Navy warship’s dangerous encounter with Russian fighters

When the Navy destroyer USS Donald Cook sailed into the Baltic Sea in April 2016, it had been more than two years since Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine.

Tensions between Russia and its NATO and European neighbors were still high, and the intervening period had seen a number of uncomfortable and even unsafe encounters between their forces, for which NATO often criticized Russia.

Adm. James Foggo, then a vice admiral in charge of the Navy’s Sixth Fleet, had those in mind as the Cook sailed into the Baltic.


“I had warned them going up there that as they passed through the Danish Straits and into the Baltic that they should be prepared for something like that and that the only way that the world would recognize that it happened is if they had a recording or a photograph,” Foggo, now commander of US Naval Forces Europe and Naval Forces Africa, said on the US Naval Institute’s Proceedings podcast.

A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft makes a very-low-altitude pass by USS Donald Cook, April 12, 2016.

(Photo by US Navy)

“So the commanding officer [of the Cook], Chuck Hampton, told me afterward, ‘Well, I had six combat cameramen on each bridge wing.’ And I was like, ‘Wow, that’s a lot,'” Foggo said.

“He goes, ‘Well, you told me if something happened I had to be prepared,'” Foggo added. “So that was part of their ‘man battle stations’ type drill for close-aboard contacts.”

Guided-missile destroyers like the Cook are the Navy’s premier air-defense platforms and are often tasked with guarding other ships, aircraft carriers in particular.

Two Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft fly over USS Donald Cook, April 12, 2016.

(Photo by US Navy)

‘Here comes this Russian hot dog’

The encounter with two Su-24 fighter jets, which took place about 80 nautical miles from the Russian Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad, was one of two the US destroyer had on April 11 and 12, 2016.

On April 12, a Russian helicopter flew around the Cook seven times at low altitude in what the ship’s commander deemed “unsafe and unprofessional” passes.

A short time later, two Su-24s made 11 more close-range, low-altitude passes in what the Navy said was “a simulated attack profile.” The jets didn’t respond to safety advisories from the Cook, whose commander deemed several of their maneuvers “unsafe and unprofessional.”

The April 11 incident was especially dangerous because of what the Cook was doing and because of how the Russian pilot behaved.

A Russian Kamov KA-27 HELIX helicopter flies low-level passes near the USS Donald Cook in international waters in the Baltic Sea, April 12, 2016.

(Photo by US Navy)

“What a lot of people don’t know is that at the time they were doing what we call a ‘hot-pump’ of a Polish aircraft that was doing deck landing [qualifications],” Foggo said.

“So the Polish helicopter had landed and was being refueled while the rotors were turning, and here comes this Russian hot dog in his jet, doing several hundred knots, and the distance between wingtip and the deck of Donald Cook was about 30 feet,” Foggo added.

That was the closest of the 20 passes the Russian jets made that day, according to US officials, who said the Russians flew so close they created wakes in the water and that it was among the “most aggressive” Russian acts in some time.

A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft makes a low-altitude pass by USS Donald Cook, April 12, 2016.

(Photo by US Navy)

The fly-by that took place during the refueling was deemed unsafe by the Cook’s commanding officer, and the ship suspended flight operations until the Su-24s left the area.

“I asked Gen. [Philip] Breedlove and Gen. [Frank] Goranc … ‘would you ever fly your F-16 that close to a moving platform like Donald Cook?'” Foggo said.

“And they said, ‘No way, if the guy sneezed he might have buried his wing into the Donald Cook,'” Foggo added. “Now what would’ve happened then? We’d be explaining that this was a pilot error and not a shoot-down of that aircraft.”

Breedlove and Goranc are retired Air Force generals and fighter pilots who both led US Air Forces in Europe and Africa; Breedlove was also NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and head of US European Command.

Two Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft make multiple low-level passes over the USS Donald Cook, April 12, 2016.

(Photo by US Navy)

‘Wings clean’ vs. ‘wings dirty’

Encounters between NATO ships and aircraft and their Russian counterparts increased after the seizure of Crimea. US forces involved frequently deemed those encounters “unsafe.”

In years prior, “the Russians would typically fly with what we call a ‘wings clean’ configuration, which is no weapons on the wings,” Foggo said on the podcast. “Now in the interactions and the intercepts I see today, they’re coming out ‘wings dirty,’ or they have weapons on board.”

“That’s another bit of the calculus that goes in the commanding officer’s mind on … what is the intent of that pilot, and at what point is [the commanding officer] obliged to defend his ship under defensive rules of engagement,” Foggo said.

Foggo didn’t elaborate on those rules of engagement, but a European Command spokesman told Navy Times at the time that the Cook’s commanding officer didn’t feel threatened, and a retired Navy commanding officer said that, under the circumstances, the Russian aircraft didn’t present a credible threat.

Two Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft fly over the USS Donald Cook, April 12, 2016.

(Photo by US Navy)

Encounters at sea still happen but are less frequent, Foggo said.

“I don’t have as many negative interactions … between Russian Federation navy and US or NATO assets,” he said. “They tend to act very professionally. It’s mostly in the air with intercepts, and those could possibly be due to different pilots … is it an air force guy in the cockpit or a navy guy? It depends, and every situation is different.”

US Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, NATO’s current Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and head of US European Command, said this summer that encounters had decreased and that “unsafe” intercepts had “diminished tremendously.”

“What I can assure this audience is that well over 99% of the intercepts that occur in the air are actually safe,” Wolters said at an event in Brussels in June. “In many of the cases where they’re unsafe, when you take a look at the experience level of the operators that were involved, it typically turns into a young man or woman that was probably just hot-dogging it a little bit more than they should.”

“For every one intercept that a Russian aviator commits against a NATO aircraft, we actually have three NATO intercepts” of Russian aircraft, Wolters added, according to Military Times. “That gives you a little bit of a feel for the readiness disposition of your NATO force.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the Navy may look to this Army workhorse for special ops

For years, the Navy has been planning to buy Lockheed’s newest version of the Sea Stallion helicopter, the CH-53K King Stallion. In fact, they’ve already pre-ordered 200 of the new helicopter. But Lockheed’s new bird is running into a lot of stumbling blocks, ones that have the Navy careening toward a tried-and-true Army favorite: The Chinook.


The Chinook took its first flight with the U.S. Military in 1961.

The Pentagon has directed the Navy to look at buying maritime versions of the Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopter, a version that is protected against the corrosive seaborne environment of aircraft carriers and amphibious warfare ships. Lockheed’s billion King Stallion program has run into a series of technical problems and delays over the past few months. The program is delayed by more than a year and still has “100 outstanding deficiencies that require resolution,” according to Sen. James Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Since one of the missions for the new King Stallion is moving heavy cargo, not just any replacement will do. That’s where the Chinook comes in.

The CH-53K King Stallion.

“There is simply no other helicopter that comes close to the performance of the CH-53K or that can meet Marine Corps requirements,” said Bill Falk, Lockheed’s King Stallion program director. The Marine Corps agrees, saying adapting the CH-47 for maritime operations is no simple fix or easy upgrade. The Marines believe the Chinook can’t provide the heavy lift necessary for future operations.

Boeing, of course, disagrees, saying the helicopter already “conducts ship-based operations for U.S. Special Forces and international operators, and enjoys a strong reputation among all the U.S. services.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why there are shipwrecks underneath the farms of Kansas

As you may or may not know, the U.S. state of Kansas isn’t exactly a coastal state. The body of water it does have access to is the Mississippi River System and its tributaries, namely the Missouri River. It turns out the mighty river system that once provided a vital artery for American commerce is still hiding a few hidden surprises, namely steamboat shipwrecks in farm fields, far from where any ships should reasonably belong.


This is way more dangerous than you think.

(Arabia Steamboat Museum)

Anyone reading at this point is likely wondering how on Earth shipwrecked steamboats are under farmers’ fields instead of at the bottom of the Missouri River. Just outside of Kansas City lies the wreck of the steamboat Great White Arabia, a ship that sunk in the Missouri in 1856. Rumors circulated for decades that just such a ship was somewhere under Kansas City, but this was written off as local legend. The locals believed it was filled with barrels of Kentucky bourbon. The truth is the ship was still there, but instead of bourbon, it was filled with champagne.

The champagne, along with all its other cargo, furniture, and provisions, were perfectly preserved by the dirt and silt beneath which it was buried. In 1987, a team of locals from Kansas City decided to see if the rumors were true and began to research where it might be – and how it got there.

They found it within a year.

(Arabia Steamboat Museum)

It turns out that Steamboat travel along the Mississippi River and the rivers that make up the Mighty Mississipi was incredibly dangerous. Hundreds of steamboats were sunk in its powerful waters and along with their hulls, so went the lives of passengers, crews, and whatever else the boats were carrying. The Great White Arabia was carrying 220 tons of cargo and 130 passengers when it went down. The boat was hit by an errant log in the river, the most common reason for boats sinking at the time, and went down in minutes. The passengers survived. This time.

The crew who worked on unearthing the Great White Arabia has discovered another wreck, the Malta. The reason both ships ended up at the bottom of cornfields instead of the rivers is due to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It turns out the Missouri River hasn’t always been in the same place. The Army actually altered the shape of the river at the end of the 1800s. It made the river narrower, thus speeding up the river’s current and making travel times much shorter. When it moved the river, ships that were once sunk suddenly found themselves buried.

For more information about Kansas’ farm shipwrecks, check out the Arabia Steamboat Museum, which houses the ship’s perfectly preserved cargo.

Articles

This is the biggest predictor of success in military special ops

Creating a fool-proof selection program as well as finding the right entry requirements to test candidates is something the military, police, special ops, and fire fighter worlds constantly seek to perfect. I recently was asked the following question by a few friends who are either active duty or former Tactical Professionals (aka military, special ops, police, swat, and fire fighters):


Do you think there will ever be a measurable test or metric to predict the success of a candidate in Special Ops programs?

My unqualified short answer is… maybe? I think there are far too many variables to test to create a measurable metric to predict success in selection programs or advanced special operations training. Now, this does not mean we should stop looking and creating statistical analyses of those who succeed and fail, or testing out new ideas to improve student success. There is no doubt that finding better prepared students will save money, time, and effort, and it’s worth remembering that much of the entry standards are based on those studies. The ability to measure someone’s mental toughness (aka heart or passion) may be impossible, but there are groups making great strides with quantifying such intangibles.

U.S. Navy SEALs exit a C-130 Hercules aircraft during a training exercise near Fort Pickett, Va.

Recently, Naval Special Warfare Center (BUD/S) did a three-year study on their SEAL candidates attending Basic Underwater Demolition / SEAL Training. If you are looking for the physical predictors to success, this is about as thorough of a study as I have ever seen to date.

The CSORT — Computerized Special Operations Resiliency Test is another method of pre-testing candidates prior to SEAL Training — while still in the recruiting phase. The CSORT is part of the entry process and has become a decent predictor of success and failure with a candidate’s future training. Together with the combined run and swim times of the BUD/S PST (500yd swim, pushups, situps, pullups, and 1.5 mile run), a candidate is compared to previous statistics of candidates who successfully graduated.

Can You Even Measure Mental Toughness?

This is a debate that those in the business of creating Special Operators still have. In my opinion, the “test” is BUD/S, SFAS, Selection, SWAT Training, or whatever training that makes a student endure daily challenges for a long period of time. The body’s stamina and endurance is equally tested for several days and weeks, as is one’s mental stamina and endurance (toughness) in these schools. The school IS the test. Finding the best student — now that is the challenge.

Related Articles/ Studies:

Here is a study on general “Hardness” with respect to Army SF graduates.

Some other intangible qualities of successful special operators.

Some Science of Mental Toughness.

Building Blocks of Mental Toughness.

Training to Think While Stressed. Thinking under pressure is a common trait of successful operators.

Stew Smith works as a presenter and editorial board member with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). He has also written hundreds of articles on Military.com’s Fitness Center that focus on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The US Navy Parachute Team: From UDT ‘Chuting Stars’ to Navy SEAL ‘Leap Frogs’

How did the Navy “Leap Frogs” parachute demonstration team come to be?

In 1956, a frogman from Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) 21 — one of the predecessor teams of the Navy SEALs — acquired a main and reserve parachute after answering an advertisement from Mechanics Illustrated. This frogman, named Jim McGee, and Lt. j.g. Bruce Welch, another UDT frogman, took to the air in a two-seated Aeronca Chief aircraft. The pair alternated between piloting and skydiving duties as they began experimenting with free-fall jumps. The word spread like wildfire among a community of adrenaline seekers from UDT 21 and UDT 22, and soon they formed the South Norfolk Parachute Club.

The sailors smartly affiliated with the Parachute Club of America, which later became the United States Parachute Association. In 1959, the US Army’s 18th Airborne Corps’ Strategic Army Corps Parachute Team — now better known as the “Golden Knights” — set the gold standard for parachute demonstrations. Through these relationships and under the Golden Knights’ guidance, the Navy had the tools to bring its own demonstration team into being. 

The US Navy Parachute Exhibition Team, nicknamed the “Chuting Stars,” was established in 1961 for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of naval aviation. They participated in naval air shows throughout the early 1960s until budget cuts temporarily grounded the team. They didn’t gain official recognition as the Navy Parachute Team until 1969.

Eventually, the Navy Parachute Team on the West Coast adopted the name “Leap Frogs,” while the jump team on the East Coast continued the “Chuting Stars” tradition. When the Chuting Stars were disbanded for good in the mid-1980s, the Leap Frogs took over the role for all Navy demonstrations across the United States. Today, the Leap Frogs consist of active-duty Navy SEALs, Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen (SWCCs), and support personnel.

Their signature yellow parachutes display the words “NAVY,” “SEAL,” or “SWCC” as they float above the spectators in football stadiums and baseball parks. 

“Jumping into the Cubs stadium is always an honor, and it’s a huge privilege,” said retired US Navy SEAL Jim Woods of the Chicago’s Wrigley Field. “[It’s] kind of the American tradition to jump into one of the oldest baseball fields in the United States. It was a lot of fun in and on it.”

Whether it is a night jump or day jump, the Leap Frogs certainly entertain. “Before every demonstration we first do a ‘streamer pass’ to help us gauge wind speed and direction,” according to the Leap Frogs official website. Once they leave the plane to perform, they create intricate formations, use canisters attached to one foot to release colorful smoke, and sometimes they even hang an American flag or a Navy SEAL trident emblem flag below them. 

When the Leap Frogs land, they greet smiling and curious spectators of all ages. The Leap Frogs serve to spread the word about Naval Special Warfare to communities all over the United States.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

A young Iranian woman criticized the Ayatollah to his face

Criticizing Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is widely seen as among Iran’s so-called red lines. Dozens of intellectuals, activists, and politicians have been sidelined, harassed, or jailed for challenging the man who holds the final political and religious say in the Islamic republic.

Yet in late May 2018, a female student rose in Khamenei’s presence to harshly criticize the state of affairs in the country, including actions by powerful bodies controlled by the Iranian leader that have been cited by critics as major barriers to reform.


Sahar Mehrabi called for “deepening democracy” in Iran in the May 28, 2018 speech, delivered at an annual Iftar gathering that Khamenei holds to celebrate the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan.

Mehrabi offered a list of “numerous crises” facing the country, including increasing social inequality, declining public trust, environmental problems, and discrimination against minorities. She asked Khamenei what he would do to tackle those issues.

She indirectly pointed the finger at the supreme leader, noting that the bodies under his watch are virtually untouchable. “The impossibility of conducting investigations into the work of some of the institutions under the supervision of Your Excellency, such as the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the judiciary, the state broadcaster, and the Mostazafan Foundation” — a reference to one of Iran’s largest foundations — “is in itself problematic,” Mehrabi said.

Mehrabi offered a list of “numerous crises” facing the country, including increasing social inequality, declining public trust, environmental problems, and discrimination against minorities. She asked Khamenei what he would do to tackle those issues.

At the meeting, Khamenei responded that while he appoints the heads of some of those powerful bodies, including the judiciary and the state broadcasters, he does not specifically manage their work. “For example, regarding the state broadcaster, I’ve always had and still have a critical position vis-a-vis both current and past managements,” he said.

Seemingly acknowledging other problems, Khamenei added that “taking all issues into consideration, I believe the Islamic establishment has made progress in the past 40 years in all its ideals.”

Mehrabi also echoed some of the positions espoused by relative moderate President Hassan Rohani, criticizing Iran’s aggressive Internet censorship, pressure on the press, the arrest of students, what she described as a crackdown on women “under the pretense of guiding them,” and the situation of opposition figures Mir Hossein Musavi and his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, along with reformist cleric Mehdi Karrubi, who have been under house arrest since 2011 for challenging the Iranian establishment.

“What answer does Your Excellency have in response to questions, criticisms, and protests?” Mehrabi asked.

She suggested that the only way forward is a return to law and the country’s constitution “with all its articles.” “The solution is to accept the right of the people to determine their fate and to be allowed to participate in their political, social, and economic life,” Mehrabi said.

Mehrabi added that no hope lies in the Iranian expat groups calling for regime change in Iran.

Regime Change Needed?

Monarchists and others have intensified their demand for an end to Islamic rule in Iran just as the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has pushed a tougher line toward Iran, including by abandoning the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers trading curbs on Iran’s atomic activities for an easing of international sanctions.

Some analysts interpreted a recent speech by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in which he made 12 demands on Tehran, including ending all nuclear enrichment and ending its support for proxy groups, as a return to U.S. calls for regime change in Iran.

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Pompeo has said that regime change is not a U.S. aim in Iran.

In her speech, Mehrabi said the answers to Iran’s problem lie “within the Islamic republic.” “In our view, the solution is the deepening of democracy — democracy based on all people, all minority, workers, teachers, students, the forgotten layers of society,… and the poor,” she said.

Khamenei later added via Twitter: “I [understand] the feelings of that young person who says the situation is very bad. But I don’t support her comments at all.”

Mehrabi’s speech was praised by an editor of the hard-line Tasnim news agency, which is affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards, as “the peak of democracy” in Iran.

Others challenged such a claim, complaining that so long as media outlets are being shuttered, students banned from studies, and state broadcasters made to reflect the views of hard-liners, there cannot be talk of genuine democracy in Iran.

Mehrabi’s criticisms came amid frustration over the state of the economy, which sparked nationwide protests in December 2017, and January 2018, that quickly turned into protests against the Iranian establishment and the 78-year-old Khamenei himself.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why these Navy cats spent more time at sea than you

Sailors are a superstitious bunch. Cats were said to bring good luck on ships and prevent bad weather. While nobody can prove or discredit myths like that, what cats actually did was successfully catch rodents. In killing diseased-ridden rats, cats helped make for a safer, healthier journey, thus further fueling superstitions.


Historical evidence dates the link between cats and sailors as far back as their domestication in Ancient Egypt and through the Viking golden age — but why? For starters, cats have a natural reaction to barometric pressure changes.

So, if you come to know the habits of an on-board cat very well, once they start to take an unusual liking to shelter, you can intuit a storm is incoming. This, plus the fact that every ship needs a mascot made cats very welcome among sailors.

That blur in the lower middle is the mascot cat of the USS Pensacola. Because cats took photos in the 1860’s as well as you’d expect them to.
(Courtesy of the United States Naval Institute)

Ships’ cats were very well taken care of during their service. They would receive rations like any other sailor, were given bunks and living spaces like any other sailor, and they got plenty of love and attention like any other sailor.

Sailors would generally leave the cats alone to hunt any rodents that sneaked aboard while docked. And, during the lonely months at sea, cats were big morale boosters when solemn sailors needed a friend.

Don’t you just hate being woken up for firewatch?
(Courtesy of the United States Naval Institute)

One of the most well-known naval cats was Unsinkable Sam of WWII. As the story goes, he survived the sinking of three ships before retiring. He was first aboard the German battleship Bismark as a kitten (originally named Oscar). When it sank in May 1941, he was found adrift by the HMS Cossack, the ship that destroyed the Bismarck.

When the HMS Cossack sank in October 1941, Sam was with the picked up with the surviving crew and taken to Gibraltar and served as the ship’s cat for the HMS Ark Royal, which then sank in November 1941. Because he still had six lives to go, the Royal Navy saw fit to grant him shore duty as mouse-catcher at the Governor General of Gibraltar’s office.

His likeness is immortalized at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England.
(Oscar, the Bismarck’s Cat by Georgina Shaw-Baker)

MIGHTY TRENDING

President is considering a permanent U.S. presence in Poland

U.S. President Donald Trump has said his administration was considering a request for a permanent U.S. military presence in Poland.

Trump made the comments in Washington on Sept. 18, 2018, before a meeting at the White House with Polish President Andrzej Duda.

“Poland is willing to make a very major contribution to the United States to come in and have a presence in Poland, and certainly it’s something we’ll discuss,” Trump said, adding that “we’re looking at it very seriously.”


Poland has requested the deployment several times and has offered up to billion in funding for a base. U.S. forces currently serve in Poland as part of NATO’s back-to-back rotation program.

President Donald J. Trump and President Andrzej Duda.

(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Poland has said a permanent U.S. presence is needed to counter Russian military activity in the region.

Russia has objected to the proposal, saying it views NATO expansion toward the east as a threat to stability in Europe.

Featured image: President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump with Andrzej Duda, President of the Republic of Poland, and Mrs. Kornhauser-Duda.

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

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14 amazing yet little-known facts about the Korean War

We call it “the Korean War;” the North Koreans call it the “Fatherland Liberation War.” Whatever you call it, on June 25, 1950, North Korean tanks rolled across the 38th Parallel, the border that separated the Communist-controlled and supported North from the capitalist and Western-backed South. It was the first test of Western adherence to the Cold War doctrine of containment, a strategy to stem the forced spread of Communism worldwide.


It was a brutal war that pitted the Soviet Union, People’s Republic of China, and North Korea against the United Nations, led by the United States and South Korea. The war started with a wildly swinging pendulum of momentum that almost drove Western forces into the Sea of Japan. They were saved only by a heroic UN stand at the Pusan Perimeter and one of the most daring amphibious landings in history at Inchon. The Western counterattack drove the Communists all the way to the Yalu River, the North Korean border with China. The subsequent Chinese intervention pushed the then-heavily outnumbered Americans back to the original border and a subsequent two-year stalemate until an armistice ended the fighting in 1953.

It was in Korea that some of the most legendary American military heroes said their most famous lines, made their most famous stands, and overcame seemingly insurmountable odds. The Korean War came just after the long, good fight of World War II, at a time when the world was weary of war. Just a few years later, the cultural fabric United States would be forever altered with coming of the war in Vietnam. Being sandwiched between and subsequently overshadowed by these other two, the Korean War has come to be called the Forgotten War, both by historians and the men who fought there. In an effort to relegate that nickname to the dustbin of history, here are some facts about the Korean War you may not have already known.

1. A U.S. Army sergeant in Moscow was the catalyst

Stalin prevented a war on the Korean Peninsula since the end of World War II, for fear of an all-out war with the West. When the KGB recruited an Army NCO from the code room at the U.S. Embassy, they discovered the U.S. had moved the bulk of its forces in the region to Japan. Stalin now believed the U.S. would not move to defend Korea and gave North Korean dictator Kim Il-Sung the green light to invade the South. Stalin was wrong. The Army sergeant’s identity was never discovered.

2. The South was far from Democratic

Rhee with Gen. Douglas MacArthur

The first President of South Korea, Syngman Rhee, jailed or assassinated his political opponents. He also had an active secret police force to root out North Korean agents, but they detained, tortured, and killed many innocent civilians. Days after the start of the Korean War, he ordered the Bodo League Massacre, killing more than 100,000 suspected communist sympathizers and their families. Rhee was ousted when thousands of protesters overran the Blue House in 1960.

3. The U.S. knew about the North’s military buildup

The nascent CIA noticed the North Koreans moving their army toward their Southern border but thought it was more of a defensive measure. They reported to Secretary of State Dean Acheson that an invasion was unlikely. They didn’t know the Soviets already broke American military and diplomatic codes and knew the U.S. couldn’t mount an effective response to an invasion.

4. It was technically a “police action”

President Truman never asked Congress for a declaration of war, and Congress didn’t offer one. That was back when we cared about these kinds of things. Instead, Truman placed the fighting under the aegis of the United Nations, since Korea itself was a construct of UN agreements. For the first time since WWII, U.S. troops fought in combat at Osan, thirty miles South of Seoul.

5. The U.S. dropped more ordnance on Korea than in the entire Pacific during WWII

The Korean War absolutely devastated North Korea, and this memory is a major reason why so much animosity still exists to this day. The United States dropped 635,000 tons of bombs on the North, compared to 503,000 pounds dropped on the entire Pacific Theater in WWII, killing an estimated 12-15 percent of the population. Curtis LeMay estimated an even higher proportion – he claimed 2o percent.

6. It featured the first all-jet dogfight

On November 8, 1950, 1st Lt. Russell Brown engaged a MiG-15 in his F-80 Shooting Star. The MiG was clearly a superior fighter and this discovery led to the development of the F-86 Sabre. It wasn’t superior enough to allow the MiG to win the dogfight, however. Lt. Brown downed the Communist jet. The skies over Northwest Korea featured many dogfights in the war years and soon became known as “MiG Alley.”

7. Frostbite was one of the most prevalent injuries

Thousands suffered from frostbite, while many suffered from trench foot or a combination of both. Temperatures during some of the coldest fighting were as low as -54 degrees fahrenheit. The MASH unit (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) was just one of many battlefield medical innovations designed to stay close to the front and save the lives of more combat injured troops.

8. Seoul changed hands four times

The South Korean capital sits just 35 miles from the North-South border. It was first captured by the North Koreans on June 28, 1950, just three days after the North invaded. It was retaken by UN forces that September. The Chinese seized the city in January 1951 but lost it two months after that.

9. The first year was the deadliest

Roughly a quarter of all Americans killed during the Korean War died between August and December 1950, during the battles of the Pusan Perimeter, the Chosin Reservoir, and Kunu-ri Pass. 178,426 UN troops died in Korea, compared to more than 700,000 Communists. The first American, Pvt. Kenneth Shadrick died near Osan.

10. Army Special Forces created an army of their own

The 8240th Army Unit, Army Rangers and other soldiers with experience in partisan warfare from World War II raised and advised local partisan armies in Korea on how to fight behind enemy lines and sabotage the Communists. The 8240th would advise more than 38,000 partisan fighters.

11. It was more than just Americans and Koreans fighting Communists

Ethiopian troops fighting in Korea

Being a UN police action, other countries joined the coalition of forces fighting to keep the South safe for capitalism, if not democracy. Significant forces came from Great Britain and the Commonwealth countries, especially Australia and Canada. Turkish forces faced their biggest military challenge since World War I at the Battle of Kunu-ri Pass. Other countries who gave significant troops included Ethiopia, Colombia, Thailand and the Philippines.

12. Generals weren’t far from the fighting

These days, you don’t hear much about general officers in the thick of the action unless they’re visiting a combat unit or are on some sort of tour or inspection. That wasn’t true during the Korean War. General Douglas MacArthur went to Korea himself during the Battle of the Pusan Perimeter to assess the situation there and determine how to proceed (the Inchon Landing is what he came up with).

From left to right: Puller, MacArthur, and OP Smith

Army General William F. Dean was among the last to retreat from Taejon as the North advanced. He wanted to make sure all his men and material made it out as orderly and safely as possible. While trying to help a wounded troop, Dean was knocked unconscious and captured by the Communists.

As the war raged on in and around the peninsula, a slew of Generals would find themselves in combat. Oliver P. Smith directed the breakout of the Marines surrounded at the Chosin Reservoir and led them back to the port of Hungnam. Chesty Puller was still racking up awards and decorations in Korea. He was promoted to Brigadier General after landing at Inchon and fighting at the Chosin.

13. The Korean War never ended

Armistice talks took more than two years to complete. The real hang-up was over the repatriation of POWs. Eventually, the North conceded and an armistice was signed. The signatories didn’t end the war, however, just the fighting. The war continues to this day.

14. Korean War veterans are becoming just as rare as WWII vets

The conflict itself fizzled out quietly. The men who fought in Korea didn’t come home to parades or parties and kissing in Times Square. The job of fighting the Communists fell to the generation who bore the burden of combat without hesitation or complaint, even after the world forgot the heroism they displayed or the people they kept safe. At the rate of an estimated 500 per day, they are slowly and silently passing into history, just as their war did.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A brief history of the prestigious Combat Infantryman Badge

Of the many accouterments on a U.S. Army uniform, nothing lets everyone know that they’re in the presence of a badass like the Combat Infantryman Badge. While the Combat Medic Badge (for medics, obviously) and Combat Action Badge (for everyone else) are highly respected, there’s a certain prestige that comes along with the CIB.


Creation

On Oct. 27, 1943, the War Department officially established the Combat Infantryman Badge under Section I, War Department Circular 269. It was created to award infantrymen for their hard work and dedication to their country.

It was also seen, in part, as a recruitment tool, considering that being an infantryman wasn’t a very coveted job at the time. They suffered the worst casualties and received the least recognition. The badge would at least try to address the latter.

In case you were wondering why the CIB outranks the CAB… That’s why. (Image courtesy of U.S. National Archive)

Expert Infantryman Badge

Created alongside the Combat Action Badge was the Expert Infantrymen Badge (EIB). It was meant to build esprit de corps among the infantrymen who trained harder than others. On March 26, 1944, 100 NCOs from the 100th Infantry Division were selected to undergo three days of hell to prove their worth. Only ten made it through and were personally presented the award by Lt. Gen. Lesley J. McNair.

If you earned both the CIB and the EIB, you are only authorized to wear one.

Since one says you know infantry stuff and one says you’ve done infantry stuff, many choose the CIB. (Photo by Spc. Patrick Kirby)

Extra Pay

They may not have been the ones to make the sky blue, but Congress loved the infantry, too.

Between the time it was created in 1943 until 1948, recipients of the Combat Infantryman Badge (and eventually the Combat Medical Badge) were awarded an extra ten dollars a month pay. When adjusted for inflation, that’s about $146 a month.

Since infantrymen never change, we all know where that $10 went. (Image courtesy of the National Archive)

Three-time recipients

The CIB can be awarded multiple times for fighting in different eras. The four qualifying eras are WWII, the Korean War, Vietnam and other Cold War conflicts, and the Global War on Terrorism. Back in the day, it wasn’t too uncommon to find a CIB with a single star above it and, even today, you can still find salty infantrymen who fought in Somalia in 1994. To date, there are 324 recognized infantrymen who have earned the award three times — all for fighting in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam.

It’s kind of impossible to have earned the CIB for Korea, Vietnam, and the Global War on Terrorism because that’s a 48-year time gap and the soldier with the longest time in service, Gen. John William Vessey, gave Uncle Sam 42 years.

But being a three-timer gets you a permanent spot in the National Infantry Museum! (Photo by Z. F. Hanner at the National Infantry Museum)

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This biplane could be one of the deadliest North Korean weapons

While much of the world’s attention is focused on the effort by North Korea to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) with working nuclear warheads, there is another weapon that is also quite deadly in the arsenal of Kim Jong Un’s regime. Ironically, it is quite low-tech.


That weapon is the An-2 Colt, a seventy-year-old design that is still in front-line service, which means it has the B-52 Stratofortress beaten by about eight years! So, why has this little plane stuck around, and what makes it so deadly in the hands of Kim Jong Un?

An-2 Colt on skis. (Photo: Dmitry A. Mottl/CC BY-SA 3.0)

According to MilitaryFactory.com, the An-2 has a top speed of 160 miles per hour, and a range of 525 miles. Not a lot when you compare it to the B-52, which can go 595 miles per hour and fly over 10,000 miles. China is still producing the plane, while upgrade kits are being developed by Antonov. The plane was in production for 45 years, and according to the report from Korrespondent, thousands remain in service.

When it comes down to it, what seem like fatal weaknesses actually make the An-2 deadly in modern combat.

The reason? The plane usually flies low and slow – and as such, it is very hard for modern fighters like the F-22, F-35, and F-16 to locate, track, and fire on. Not only that, the slow speeds and low-altitude operations meant that large portions of the plane can be covered with fabric, according to Warbird Alley. There are also a lot of An-2s in North Korea’s inventory – at least 200, according to a report by MSN.com.

A look at the inside of the An-2, showing seats for passengers. Or commandos. (Wikimedia Commons)

While the plane is often used to deliver troops or supplies, the real threat may be the fact that it could carry some other cargo. While North Korea is just now developing nuclear warheads that fit on missiles, there is the frightening possibility that a nuclear weapon could be delivered using an An-2.

That is how this 70-year-old biplane design could very well be North Korea’s deadliest weapon. You can see a video on the An-2 below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pljj4M8WhYs