A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today's special operations - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations

If there was one single place that could be called the front lines of the clandestine Cold War, Berlin was it. The city, like the rest of Germany, was divided. It was a bastion, deep inside the heart of the Eastern Bloc, where Westerners could roam relatively freely within their sector by day and sneak into enemy territory under the cover of darkness.

A divided Berlin was the setting for so many stories, many of which are just now coming to light. And many of those stories are about Detachment-A, a Special Forces unit so secret, many in Special Forces couldn’t even know about it.

If World War III broke out, their mission was not to win — they were 110 miles behind enemy lines and couldn’t possibly win a pitched battle. Their mission was to just buy time for NATO. Along the way, their training helped develop the units and tactics used by American special operations the world over.


Retired Special Forces soldier and former CIA agent James Stejskal was among among the members of Detachment A. He served in it for nine years and just wrote a book on the recently-declassified unit, called Special Forces Berlin: Clandestine Cold War Operations of the U.S. Army’s Elite, 1956-90. Working behind enemy lines in an unconventional conflict is one of the foundational duties of the U.S. Army’s Special Forces, but Detachment A had no misconceptions about what would happen in a war with the Soviet Union. They would operate as small teams inside and outside of Berlin, tripping up the Red Army in any way they could.

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations
The veterans of Detachment A today.

“We were going to, basically, break out of the city. Two of the six teams would stay behind and cause trouble inside the city. Four of the teams would go outside the city,” James Stejskal told WATM. “A railway network, basically called the Berliner Ring, would carry the majority of the Russian forces from east to west. Our mission was to report on and sabotage the railway, communications… to cause as much havoc as possible.”

Stejskal grew up with the military. His father was drafted for World War II in 1941, before Pearl Harbor. He would earn a commission during the war as a combat engineer in Patton’s XII Corps. His father even went to Germany during the Korean War. The younger Stejskal was always interested in intelligence, commando, and what he calls the “darker arts.” He read about the British Special Operations Executive and the Office of Strategic Services during WWII and it captivated him. So when it came time for him to join the Army, the Green Beret called to him. He joined with Special Forces on his mind. But Det A was so secret, he didn’t know it existed even after he earned his place among the elite.

“I only found out about it on one of my exercises in Germany,” he recalls. “We jumped into it, into Southern Germany for our annual winter warmer exercise and one of the guys on the ground that met us was a civilian-clothes guy, speaking German. Only later on in the exercise did he start to speak in English to us and, before too long, I figured out that he was actually American. He told us he’s from a unit Berlin and he couldn’t really talk about it.”
A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations

(Courtesy Photo)

That piqued Stejskal’s interest. He continued to dig into it and, as one thing led to another, he found himself in Berlin. Detachment A was the closest unit to the old OSS that a soldier could get in to. Speaking German, the men of Det A wore their hair long, civilian clothes, and worked with soldiers from other countries. Their commander was a Czech officer and their Sergeant Major was a German who was in the Bundeswehr, both veterans of World War II.

“It’s a strange feeling. We were 110 miles behind the East German border, with about 12,000 allied troops inside West Berlin surrounded by close to a million Russian and Warsaw Pact soldiers,” He says. “Oddly enough, I think most of us were very energized to be where we were.”
A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations

This would be an Emmy-winning TV show today. Mad Men, eat your heart out.

During peacetime, they performed protection duties for VIPs and – most importantly – they trained. Detachment A trained with the British Special Air Service, who taught them to watch how the Germans and Israelis performed anti-terror operations, like clearing a hijacked aircraft. They soon became the U.S. Army’s first counter-terrorism team, long before Delta Force or SEAL Team Six. Charlie Beckwith, Delta’s first commander, came to Berlin to see Detachment A for himself.

“He came over to Berlin to see how we were doing things and took a lot of our training techniques and tactics and exported them back to Fort Bragg, about 1980,” Stejskal says. “The commander of SEAL Team Six, Marcinko, he also came over and observed. We did our operability training with Delta Force later on in the 1980s. We also trained a lot of the SEALs in the city.”

Aside from forming the foundations of modern Special Forces and SEAL Team operations, veterans of Detachment A also took their knowledge back home, joining police departments as local SWAT teams popped up around the United States. They trained law enforcement and military alike in building assault tactics, urban combat, and clearing buildings. But if war broke out, these soldiers had no illusions about their fate.

“I never thought about it being certain death, but it could have,” says Stejskal. “I think we would’ve been hard-pressed to survive more than 72 hours, but you never can tell. You’re anticipating you’re going in to a very bad situation, but you got the best tools, the best cover, and everything else. You have a confidence level that you can do it, but you, there’s always that element of uncertainty that you don’t have everything under control, so that’s part of the energy that fuels you when you’re there.”
popular

Everything you need to know about the hospital ship heading to New York—and the ones that might replace it

Typically, hospital ships are large. The two currently in service, USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) and USNS Comfort (T-AH 20), are behemoths of the ocean, sporting designs based on supertankers.

Just how big are these vessels? According to Military Sealift Command, the Mercy and Comfort are almost 900 feet long, displace 69,552 tons, and have over 1,000 beds for wounded troops. They were purchased and converted in the 1980s and one is based on each coast of the United States.


A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations

USNS Comfort (T-AH 20)

(US Navy)

Unfortunately, time wins out eventually, and these ships are getting up there in age — both started life as a supertanker more than four decades ago and have been used as medical ships for the last 30. Not only are these ships old, they’re also fairly alone in military service. With just two hospital ships in service, the military runs the risk of entering something similar to the Coast Guard’s heavy icebreaker situation. The Mercy and Comfort are also slow — they can reach a top speed of 17 knots. What did you expect? Supertankers aren’t known for their speed.

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations

The Military Sealift Command’s joint high-speed vessel USNS Spearhead (JHSV 1) patrols the Atlantic Ocean as part of the Africa Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kenan O’Connor)

So, it should come as no surprise that the Navy wants to replace them. But how? Well, at SeaAirSpace 2018 in National Harbor, Maryland, Austal presented an interesting idea. This is the company responsible for the Independence-class littoral combat ships and the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transports. Austal thinks a modified version of the latter could do the job.

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations

A model of Austal’s proposal for a new hospital ship based on the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transports.

(Harold Hutchison)

Now, the modified Spearhead has a lot less capacity (maybe 6 critical-care beds and another 12 hospital beds), but it is faster and there would likely be more than two. As a hospital ship, it remains unarmed — because nobody, in theory, is to shoot at it (doesn’t always work in practice). The model at SeaAirSpace 2018 was, like Mercy and Comfort, painted white and marked with the Red Cross.

It remains to be seen if these small, fast, hospital ships will end up on the high seas.

Lists

5 reasons bourbon is the most American drink of all time

Bourbon is a liquor that has a place in your hand all-year round. Whether it’s sipping a mint julep on a hot summer’s day or spiking the egg nog (like George Washington might) to make Christmas with the family that much more fun (or bearable), there is just never a bad time for a bourbon beverage.


Despite being named for a house of French kings, there are myriad reasons why we should take a moment to take stock (literally and figuratively) of America’s distinctive, home-grown, and distilled liquor.

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations
And if you want to get technical, those French Bourbon kings helped George Washington and the Continental Army create America, so show some respect.

Bourbon’s all-American status goes well beyond the fact that it’s an American-born corn-fed whiskey created by a Baptist minister in Kentucky — although I can’t think of a more American birth for anything.

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations
Unless you can figure out how to get cheese, baseball, and apple pie in there, too.

A 1964 act of Congress made bourbon the official spirit of the United States of America, or as they put it, “America’s Native Spirit.” Which says a lot, both about America and the U.S. Congress… and probably the people who voted for them.

It should be noted that many, many great bourbons are Kentucky-based but it isn’t necessary for a bourbon to be made in Kentucky for it to be considered a bourbon. This is not champagne we’re talking about. The necessary qualifications for a whiskey to be a bourbon are as follows:

  • It’s made with 51 percent corn.
  • It must be aged in a new white oak barrel, with the inside charred before adding liquor.
  • It can’t have any color or flavor additives
  • Bourbon must be between 80 and 160 proof (40-80 percent alcohol)
There are real reasons why bourbon is a product that could only have been American-made. So, put that vodka-soda down, comrade, and get a bottle of Evan Williams for the coming July 4th holiday. Your friends and family will thank you.

Now if you want to drink bourbon like a sailor, try the classic Whiskey Smash!

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations

American Oak repels British cannonballs while making an excellent liquor flavor. Amerigasm.

1. Those oak barrels are only found in North America.

Bourbon must be aged in a new American White Oak barrel every time. These barrels are never reused by bourbon makers. I think they’re shipped off to Scotland so they can age scotch whisky in them with peat moss and haggis or whatever. No, America’s bourbon only uses them once — by law (no joke) — and they’re mostly found only in America.

When the U.S. Navy needs to patch up Old Ironsides, the USS Constitution, they use white oak from a grove specifically for the ship, called “Constitution Grove,” at a Naval timber reserve at Naval Weapons Support Center in Crane, Indiana.

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations

Both of them always make faces that imply 120 gallons was not enough.

2. Bourbon fueled the exploration of the United States.

Lewis and Clark didn’t take water with them on the expedition to map the Louisiana Purchase, but you can be damn sure they remembered to bring 120 gallons of bourbon to fuel their two-year trek to the Pacific Ocean.

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations

America runs in your veins, whether you like it or not.

3. American icons f*cking love bourbon.

What did Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Harry Truman, Walt Whitman, Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, Jack London, Mark Twain, Anthony Bourdain, and John Wayne have in common? No, they weren’t all taken over by the reptile aliens and replaced: They loved American bourbon.

When Grant’s critics appealed to Lincoln to try and have him fired for his drinking, Lincoln offered to send Grant’s preferred brand to all his other generals — and you can still buy Grant’s favorite bourbon today. President Truman began every day of his life, even as President, with a glass of the hard stuff.

Even Winston Churchill loved American bourbon, which can be partly explained by the fact that the British bulldog’s mother was American born.

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations

Fear of the President of the United States leading an Army into your hometown: keeping people from being tarred and feathered since 1794… Probably.

4. The young U.S. Army ran on booze, not its stomach.

An army still needs to eat, but how do you pay for the food that fuels that army — or, specifically, the U.S. Army? It was excising taxes on distilled spirits for the fledgling United States that bought the guns and grub that defeated the British and put down rebellions (including the rebellion against the taxes) in the country’s early years. Rum and whiskey can also take some claim for this, but it was bourbon that kept the country together in the war to come.

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations

The face you make when you used to be a bartender but now you’re President during the Civil War.

5. It was the glue that saved the Union.

When the border state of Kentucky remained in the Union, it allowed Abraham Lincoln to use taxes on distilled spirits to pay for much of the Union war effort. The Confederacy prohibited bourbon production because it wanted to use the corn to feed troops and the copper stills to make cannon.

Bad call.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Postal Service is suspending service because of polar vortex

The United States Postal Service said it would suspend mail delivery in some states on Jan. 30, 2019, because of extreme cold from a polar vortex in much of the country this week that has sent temperatures plunging well into negative degrees.

“Weather forecasters are warning of dangerously cold conditions in parts of the nation,” the agency said in a press release on Jan. 29, 2019. “Some places could see wind chill readings as low as 60 below zero.”


It added that “due to this arctic outbreak and concerns for the safety of USPS employees, the Postal Service is suspending delivery” on Jan. 30, 2019, in several three-digit ZIP code locations:

  • Michigan: 486-491, 493-499
  • Indiana: 460-469, 472-475, 478, 479
  • Chicago: 606-608
  • Lakeland: 530-532, 534, 535, 537-539, 541-545, 549, 600, 602, 601, 611
  • Detroit: 480-485, 492
  • Central Illinois: 601, 603-605, 609, 613, 614, 616, 617
  • Northern Ohio (Cleveland and Lima areas): 441, 458
  • Ohio Valley (Cincinnati and Columbus areas): 452, 430-432
  • Western Pennsylvania: (Erie and Bradford areas): 165, 169-177, 188
  • Northland: 540, 546-548, 550, 551, 553-564, 566
  • Hawkeye: 500-514, 520-528, 612
  • Dakotas: 580-588, 570-577
  • Eastern Nebraska: 680-689

It’s unclear when deliveries will resume in those areas.

What To Expect As The Polar Vortex Brings Extreme Weather To The US

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More than 220 million Americans will be forced to contend with below-freezing temperatures. The temperature in Chicago on Jan. 30, 2019, was about 20 degrees below zero, according to the National Weather Service, with the windchill extending even more into the negatives.

“It’s cold, period,” the NWS’s Chicago office said, adding that it’s rare to see temperatures in the -20s and windchill figures below -45.

In many places, it’s simply too cold for people to be outside safely. The NWS, as well as other weather and medical officials, has warned that the frigid wind can cause hypothermia and frostbite in minutes.

“You’re talking about frostbite and hypothermia issues very quickly, like in a matter of minutes, maybe seconds,” Brian Hurley, a meteorologist with the Weather Prediction Center, told The Associated Press.

More than 1,500 flights were canceled in Chicago and other airports on Jan. 29, 2019, because of the weather — and Jan. 30, 2019, isn’t looking any better, with 2,461 cancellations nationwide as of 8:45 a.m., according to FlightAware.

Schools were closed in Chicago and parts of eastern Iowa on Jan. 30, 2019, in addition to closures in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

13 new photos from the Air Force’s D-Day flyover

Seventy-five years ago, tens of thousands of men were churning their way through the hedgerows of Normandy, fighting tooth and nail to liberate French towns and to ensure the security of the tenuous toehold that the Allies had opened against Germany in Operation Overlord on D-Day. This toehold would grow until it was a massive front that made it all the way to Berlin in less than a year.


Now, 75 years later, the U.S. and Allied militaries are celebrating their forebears’ success with a series of events in the U.K. and France. As part of these celebrations, the U.S. Air Force flew two F-15E Strike Eagles with special, heritage paint jobs over the fields and hedgerows of modern day Normandy on June 9, 2019. Here are 13 photos from an Air Force photographer sent to document the event:

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

The special Strike Eagles are part of the 48th Fighter Wing and took off from Royal Air Force Base Lakenheath, England, for the flyover. During the D-Day invasion, U.S. Army Air Corps fighters and bombers took off from English air bases to support the landings on the beaches, pushing back the Luftwaffe screens and reducing the number of bombers and dive bombers that troops on the ground would have to endure.

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

The Army Air Corps’ bombs softened targets and reduced enemy artillery positions and other defenses, but the fight in the hedgerows was still bloody and vicious. And the German coastal artillery had to be eliminated to keep as many pilots in the sky as possible.

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

But the pilots who preceded the modern Air Force began the important preparations for D-Day months ahead of time, sending increased bomber formations against Germany, including Berlin, for five months ahead of D-Day. These bomber formations doomed the Luftwaffe, Germany’s air force, in two ways.

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

First, there’s the obvious. The bombers destroyed German factories and war machines, annihilating German equipment and crippling the country’s ability to rebuild it. But Germany responded by sending up their fighters to stop the bombers, and that’s where new American fighters came into the fray.

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

The P-47s with drop tanks led the charge in 1943, but other fighters joined the fray at the end of ’43 and start of ’44. The P-51B, along with other fighters including the British Spitfires and Typhoons, slayed the German fighters that rose to counter the bombers. By June 1944, the Luftwaffe was a shadow of its former self.

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

Army Air Corps pilots gave their lives to prepare for June 6, 1944, and other pilots would make the ultimate sacrifice on D-Day and in the weeks and months that followed. But that perseverance and sacrifice paid dividends, allowing for the Allied defeat of Nazi Germany in May 1945.

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations

(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Ben Franklin helped establish the Post Office to win the Revolutionary War

The Post Office is in dangerous peril right now, and like most Americans, you might be wondering what you can do to help. Well, the most obvious thing is to send more mail. Buying a pack of Forever stamps helps, and so does sending little notes in the mail. It’s fun to send postcards and notes and equally exciting to receive something besides junk mail or bills, plus you’re doing your civic duty in helping prop up a bona fide American institution. One other thing you can do is get a clear understanding of how our post office came to be and what factors contributed to its formation.

The USPS got its start in 1775 during the Second Continental Congress. During the Revolutionary War, American colonies relied on communication via horseback riders who transported messages between cities, towns, and the battlefields. Making sure the mail was delivered quickly and efficiently was difficult. Still, it was also critical to the survival of the colonists and the service personnel who were fighting the Revolutionary War. Because of its vast importance to the earliest days of America, it’s often said that the post office helped create American democracy. Though the earliest Americans might not have realized it at the time, introducing a standardized postal service was the first step in creating a connected and unified country.


Three months after the Battle of Lexington and the Battle of Concord, the Continental Congress looked to Benjamin Franklin to formally establish a postal service. As the first Postmaster General, Franklin had a lot of work to do, with limited time and a limited budget. But one thing he did have on his side was the support of leadership and the early American public’s support. Everyone understood that there was something very important to be gained by establishing a national postal service and something critical that would be lost without it.

Franklin was the publisher of The Pennsylvania Gazette, and the year he was appointed postmaster, he leaned into a distinct fringe benefit of his new role. He was able to send his newspaper to readers at no cost. This helped the Pennsylvania Gazette gain a large circulation and helped serve another purpose as well – it educated the public on what was happening with the war. In 1753, Franklin was appointed the postmaster of all 13 colonies. During his tenure, he traveled extensively along the postal routes to find the most reliable and efficient route for riders. This helped lay the groundwork for our current post office, and it helped create a system of communication for everyone living in the country at the time.

The connections Franklin created on postal routes also allowed battle messages to reach leadership faster. Being up to date on troop movements, morale, and supply needs helped command chains stay ahead of the British and contributed greatly to the Revolutionary War effort.

Of all the founding institutions introduced during the earliest days of forming America, the Post Office is incredibly overlooked and undervalued, underappreciated, and unstudied. For many decades, the post office served as a de facto connection between citizens and the government. Prior to introducing the post office, knowledge of public affairs had always been limited to a specific and elite population. America needed something new, something that would allow news to be circulated throughout the entire country. The founding members of the Continental Congress wanted something different for the country they were creating and realized early on that a post office would be the central network by which they could spread information and provide access to knowledge.

Unlike other post offices in mainland Europe, Franklin wanted the American post office to transport not just mail but also ideas. In addition to delivering letters and cards, the post office creation subsidized the delivery of newspapers, which helped create an informed electorate. This was unmatched at the time and helped bind together the early colonists and set the expectation that Americans should always have open access to information. Now more than ever, that open access to information is important, just as Franklin knew two hundred years ago.

MIGHTY MOVIES

You can get paid $1000 to marathon every Marvel film

Counting Captain Marvel, there are 21 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And, if you’re planning on binging every single movie (sans Captain Marvel) at home before Avengers: Endgame hits theaters, there’s no a chance to make a little cash on the side. CableTV.com is paying one fan to watch all 20 films back-to-back. (Sadly, Captain Marvel is not yet available on Blu-ray so it isn’t part of the promotion.)

Starting with Iron Man, and going all the way through Ant-Man and the Wasp, a solid binge of these 20 films can earn you $1000 bucks. (Which, if we’re being honest, actually seems low?)


Anyway, whoever takes on this challenge will not only receive id=”listicle-2632762462″,000 in cash, but also every MCU film on Blu-ray, and a bunch of Marvel stuff to make your binge-watching experience comfortable, including a Captain America popcorn popper, a Thanos Infinity Gauntlet mug, and an Iron Man snuggie.

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations

(Disney)

CableTV.com is also throwing in a 0 GrubHub gift card, as you’ll definitely work up an appetite watching that much superhero badassery.

It’s a dream assignment for any Marvel superfan, but we crunched the numbers and we’re sorry to say that it’s not exactly a financially lucrative gig,

The total runtime of the 20 films is 42 hours, 52 minutes. Simple division tells us that, excluding the value of the other prizes, you’d make about .32 in cash per hour on this challenge. It won’t be enough to put you in Tony Stark’s tax bracket is what we’re saying.

Still, it’s a great way to spend almost two days, particularly if you don’t need much sleep and want to be especially well prepared for the release of Endgame on April 26, 2019.

If you’re interested in applying, there’s a pretty simple form to fill out on CableTV’s website. They’re looking for someone with a larger social media following and a strong argument as to their Marvel superfandom.

Applications are due on April 15, 2019.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army Emergency Relief is poised to assist all service members during pandemic

Army Emergency Relief (AER) was formed in 1942 with the mission to alleviate financial stress on the force. Since they opened their doors they’ve given out $2 billion dollars in aid. They remain a part of the Army, and assistance is coordinated by mission and garrison commanders at Army bases throughout the world. With the continual threat of the coronavirus looming, AER is ready and not just to serve soldiers – but all branches of the military.


Lieutenant General Raymond Mason (ret.) has been the Director of AER since 2016 and feels passionate about his role at AER and what the organization can do for military families. He shared that the one thing that keeps him up at night is the soldier or military member that doesn’t know about AER.

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations

“If a soldier, airman, sailor, marine or coast guardsman is distracted by something in their life…. like finances, they probably aren’t focused on their individual training. They aren’t focused on their unit mission and if we send them into a combat zone with those distractions they are a danger to themselves and their buddies on their left and right,” said Mason. That’s where AER comes in.

AER is a 501c3 non-profit and receives no federal funding; instead they rely on the generous donations of others to make their mission a reality. Mason also shared that AER has close relationships with all of the other services relief organizations, with them often working together to serve those in need. For example, a coastie can walk into an AER office on post and get the same help as a soldier, although the representative they work with has to follow the guidelines of their branch’s relief organization.

Their biggest concern right now is information. “I want to make sure everyone from private to general knows about our program,” said Mason. He touched on the new environment of social media and the exploding availability of aid to military families. While he shared that it can be a good thing that there are so many organizations devoted to supporting the military; there are also some really bad agencies out there. Mason shared that AER is working hard on more strategic communication and marketing of their relief program to prevent that.

“This isn’t a giveaway program, it’s a help up. You get back on your feet and get back in the fight,” said Mason. AER is also open to all ranks, knowing that anyone can need assistance at any time. They can walk into AER and know that they’ll have their back. AER maintains a 4 out of 4 star rating with Charity Navigator, shared Mason, and it’s something they are very proud of.

There are military members who are reluctant to request help through relief agencies out of fear of reprimand or negative impacts to their career. While AER encourages members to go to their chain of command with their needs, even granting approval for first sergeants to sign checks up to 00 – Mason understands it isn’t always easy. As long as they are outside of their initial trainings and have been serving over twelve months, they can go through direct access to get help without involving command.

As the military orders a stand down on travel due to the coronavirus, guard families are concerned. Many of them are unable to hold civilian jobs due to the frequent schools, trainings, TDYs and deployments. With orders being canceled or held, this means financial ruin could be just a paycheck away. AER will be there for those families and stands ready to serve them.

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations

But all of this costs money, something that AER will always need to continue to support military members and their families. They are stepping up their donation requests by engaging with American citizens and corporations. “We’ve never done that throughout our history and we are doing it for the first time,” said Mason. He continued by sharing although they’ve received support from them in the past, they’ve never asked. Now they are asking.

AER just began its annual fundraising campaign, which kicked off on March 1 and will run through May 15, 2020. For the first time, they are really involving the bases and have turned it into a fun event that each group can make their own, Mason shared. There will be an awards ceremony later on in the year to celebrate those who went the extra mile.

He also shared that AER and most relief societies receive a very low percentage of donations that are actually received from active duty, which is concerning. Mason stated that it isn’t about the amount that they give, but that they do give. “Military members fight for each other. When in combat you fight for your buddy on your left or right. If you aren’t willing to reach in your back pocket to help your buddy on your left and right, we have a problem,” said Mason.

“Leave no comrade behind” is the army’s creed – it is a motto that all should take to heart, especially at home.

To learn more about AER and how you can help their mission, click here.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How US special-operations forces helped the US military win its first post-Cold War victory

  • As the threat from the Soviet Union declined in the early 1990s, a new challenge for the US arose in the Middle East.
  • The first Gulf War was a textbook conventional war, but it featured an array special-operations missions that helped secure victory.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, the US military shifted its focus from Russia to the Middle East.

In August 1990, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded neighboring Kuwait, starting an international crisis that would end with Iraq’s defeat by a US-led coalition six months later.

Although Operation Desert Storm is considered a textbook conventional war, it was full of special-operations missions.

Let us into the fight!

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations
Delta Force personnel in civilian clothes guarding Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf during the first Gulf War in 1991. 

The first and biggest hurdle US special-operations units faced was getting into the battle.

Army Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, the four-star commander of US Central Command and the war’s military leader, viewed unconventional-warfare units with skepticism.

Initially, Schwarzkopf was adamantly against special-operations units having any significant role in the conflict — though he did accept some Delta Force operators as personal bodyguards.

Conversely, his second-in-command, British Gen. Sir Peter de la Billière, immediately called in the Special Air Service (SAS), which he had served in and commanded, and Special Boat Service (SBS). The SAS and SBS, the British equivalents of Delta Force and SEAL Team 6, respectively, offered unconventional-warfare options to the war effort.

Meanwhile, after some persuasion from the White House and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Schwarzkopf relaxed his no-commandos policy.

Here is a brief breakdown of the notable operations they conducted.

US Army Special Forces

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations
Members of US Army Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 525. 

Army Special Forces operators set up observation posts on the Saudi-Kuwaiti border to monitor Iraqi moves. Special Forces teams also conducted prisoner-snatching operations to provide the Coalition with more human intelligence, perhaps the most valuable form of intel.

One team, Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 525, was compromised when Iraqi boys spotted its members conducting a special reconnaissance operation 150 miles inside Iraq.

Alpha 525 chose not to kill the boys and instead tried to escape and evade. Over the following hours, the Iraqi Army almost overwhelmed them numerous times. The Green Berets escaped only because of their disciplined marksmanship and the close-air-support they received.

Special Forces teams also conducted Foreign Internal Defense (FID) by training allies and partner forces. Although not as shiny as raids and ambushes, FID was key to the victory because it brought Coalition units up to speed and was the glue that kept the multi-national force together.

Green Berets embedded with coalition units also served as liaisons, primarily between coalition units and US aircraft, and called close-air-support.

British Special Air Service and Special Boat Service

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations
British infantry during Operation Desert Storm. 

British special-operations units played a vital role in the military buildup during Operation Desert Shield and during combat in Operation Desert Storm.

Alongside their US counterparts, SAS and SBS operators hunted for SCUD missiles in the Iraqi desert and conducted special reconnaissance along the Saudi-Iraqi border and within Iraq.

SBS operators also conducted a highly publicized assault on the British Embassy in Kuwait City, which the Iraqis had captured.

They also participated in a lesser-known operation on the outskirts of Baghdad, in which nearly a full squadron of SBS operators, accompanied by some American commandos from a Tier 1 unit specializing in signals intelligence, went after the Iraqi Army’s underground fiber-optics communications network. Saddam had used the network to communicate with his mobile SCUD launchers in the desert.

Ferried in by two special-operations Chinook helicopters, the joint commando force spent close to two hours on the ground digging for the cables. With dawn approaching, the operators managed to locate the cables and rig them with explosives, destroying them and frustrating Saddam’s communication with his most dangerous weapons.

US Navy SEALs

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations
Members of Navy SEAL Team 8 and French commandoes hang on a special patrol insertion/extraction rope secured to a CH-46D helicopter as part of an exercise during during Operation Desert Storm, February 1991. 

Navy SEALs conducted special reconnaissance operations along the Iraqi and Kuwaiti coasts to gather intelligence on Iraqi moves.

In the first hours of the ground war, SEALs conducted diversionary raids on the coast to fool the Iraqis into thinking that a large-scale amphibious operation was coming. The diversion — bolstered by the presence of US battleships — worked, allowing Coalition ground troops to arrive from the desert in the opposite direction and overwhelm the Iraqis.

SEALs conducted Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure (VBSS) operations in the Persian Gulf, often assaulting suspicious ships, and a SEAL element from SEAL Team Two went ashore to destroy a Tomahawk missile that had failed to detonate in order to prevent the Iraqis from getting the technology.

A SEAL platoon was also one of the first US units to enter Kuwait City during its liberation.

US Army Rangers

A battalion of Rangers was sent to Saudi Arabia as a quick-reaction force for the Tier 1 units.

The Rangers were also to assist Delta Force if it mounted a hostage-rescue operation in Iraq or Kuwait to free any of the hundreds of Westerners who Saddam captured in during the invasion and held as human shields.

Rangers also conducted a raid against a telecommunications tower near the Jordanian-Iraqi border, destroying it and capturing several prisoners.

US Air Force Commandos

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations
A Pararescueman meets a Navy F-14 pilot during the Gulf War’s first successful combat search-and-rescue operation, January 21, 1991. 

Air Commandos don’t usually get as much publicity as their sister-service comrades because more often than not Pararescuemen, Combat Controllers, Special Operations Weather Technicians (now Special Reconnaissance operators), and Tactical Air Control Party airmen are attached to other special-operations units as individuals.

During Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Air Commandos mainly saw action alongside Delta operators in the hunt for the SCUD missiles. But they also did some traditional Air Commando tasks.

A Pararescue element conducted the first rescue operation of the war on January 21, 1991, after a Navy F-14 Tomcat was shot down in Iraq. A special-operations MH-53J Pave Low helicopter carried the team behind enemy lines to save the pilot, though the F-14’s radar officer was captured.

But not all missions went well. During the Battle of Khafji, in a Saudi city close to Kuwait’s border, an AC-130H Spectre gunship was shot down by an Iraqi portable surface-to-air missile, killing its 14-man crew—the largest loss of life in a single incident in Air Force Special Operations Command’s history.

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

Military Life

4 reasons why showering on deployment is disgusting

Before deploying to a developing country, service members go through a variety of medical screenings and receive vaccinations to prepare their bodies for the microorganisms they’ll come in contact with while overseas. After we arrive at our destinations, it’s necessary to keep ourselves as clean as possible to prevent getting sick and developing skin infections.

Some troops have to rough it, rinsing off using bottles of water, showering under bladder systems, or wiping themselves down with baby wipes to keep clean. Others are lucky enough to have showers setup near their berthing areas.

At first glance, cleaning our ourselves with a handful of baby wipes might sound pretty bad compared to using community showers — but you might prefer those wipes after reading this.


A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations
Navy Seabees as they shower while stationed in the Pacific, WWII.

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations

Senior Airman Dustyn White collects a water sample at the Lima Gate entry point at the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing in Southwest Asia. The water entering the base is tested for pH, chlorine, and fecal coliform.

(Photo by Master Sgt. David Miller)

Questioning the water source

The bacteria on our bodies like to grow and get smelly, making frequent showers an essential. However, the quality of that shower is dependent on the type of soap you use and the cleanliness of the water with which you rinse.

If there are showers set up in your FOB, be sure to look into how often the water is tested. Someone should be checking pH, chlorine, and fecal matter levels.

The baby-wipe option might actually be a healthier choice.

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations

Always wear your shower shoes.

I’m standing in a puddle of… what?

Military showers are known for being use at high frequencies by service members who use the facility in a timely manner. As with any community-shower setup, not all the water goes down the drain immediately, and puddles being to build up.

As the next person in line, it’s pretty gross to have to step into a pool of murky, leftover water. You should be wearing shower shoes, but even then, puddles could’ve risen higher than your protective soles — and it might not be just water you’re dipping your toes in.

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations

Open bay showers

The open bay shower has been around for decades and will be around for many more. This setup is ideal for rinsing off large crowds who need to freshen up. Unfortunately, getting sprinkled with water that’s splashing off of someone else’s dirty body can make you feel even nastier than before.

Cleanliness of the highly-used, private shower stalls

On deployment, the vast majority of the military community wakes up, shaves, and then takes a quick shower. Showering off in a private stall may feel a little closer to home, but it also might be a curse in disguise.

When you’ve been forward deployed for months, you’ve probably found yourself in some fairly filthy places. Once you return to the FOB, a hot shower sounds like a good idea before settling down. However, the private stalls are pretty small — there’s not much moving around in there. Be careful as you touch the walls and knots — they might not be sanitized as often as you’d hope.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

The US Navy is fighting a coronavirus outbreak on the hospital ship USNS Mercy

The Navy is working to defeat a novel coronavirus outbreak among personnel serving aboard a hospital ship on the West Coast, the service told Insider on Tuesday, confirming earlier reporting by The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Seven members of the medical staff aboard the USNS Mercy, currently pier-side at the Port of Los Angeles, have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.


A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations

USNS Mercy departing San Diego Bay, its home port, in 2008.

Wikimedia Commons

All infected personnel have been taken off the ship, as have individuals believed to have come in close contact with them. In addition to the seven who definitely have the coronavirus, another 112 personnel were quarantined ashore as a cautionary measure.

A spokesperson for the Navy’s Third Fleet said that the outbreak has not affected the ship’s operations.

The Navy explained to Insider that the ship is taking precautions to protect the health and safety of the crew, adding that the ship, like hospitals ashore, has infection control procedures.

The Navy’s massive hospital ships, USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy, were deployed to New York City and Los Angeles to relieve the pressure on local hospitals overwhelmed by the coronavirus.

The USNS Mercy left San Diego on March 23 and arrived in Los Angeles a few days later. The USNS Comfort was rushed out of maintenance and sent quickly to New York City on March 28.

Since they arrived at their respective destinations, the two ships have consistently operated under capacity.

The USNS Mercy is presently treating 20 non-coronavirus patients, including one ICU patient. The USNS Comfort, which was retasked to treat both people with the coronavirus and those with other ailments, is currently treating 70 patients, including 34 people who are in intensive care, the Pentagon told Insider.

In total, the USNS Comfort has treated 120 people, 50 of whom have been discharged. About half of the patients treated had the coronavirus.

The USNS Comfort has had four members of its crew test positive for the coronavirus. Three have fully recovered and returned to work, and one is in quarantine.

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations

USNS Comfort.

Defense Department

The Navy says there has been no impact to the USNS Comfort’s mission.

“The Comfort was set up to provide assistance and care for patients, and that is exactly what we are doing,” a service spokeswoman said in a statement.

In addition to small outbreaks aboard the Navy’s hospital ships, the service is battling outbreaks aboard other ships, the most serious on the deployed aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, which has nearly 600 coronavirus cases. Several sailors have reportedly been hospitalized, and one sailor aboard the carrier died of related complications.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is why bigger is better when it comes to aircraft carriers

Let’s face it, the new Gerald R. Ford-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers are pretty damn expensive. According to Popular Mechanics, this ship cost $13 billion to build and also involved another $4 billion in research and development costs.


So why not build a smaller, cheaper carrier?

Well, let’s lay it out. The British were able to use the Invincible-class carriers, which came in at about 20,500 tons, according to naval-technology.com. It could carry up to 24 V/STOL aircraft and helicopters, including nine Sea Harriers or Harriers.

These ships were enough to win the Falklands War, but it was still a close call.

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations
An Invincible-class light carrier with a Nimitz-class CVN. (Photo: US Navy Airman Robert Baker)

Here’s what a Ford-class carrier displacing about 100,000 tons (according to a Navy fact sheet) can bring to the table: Four squadrons of multi-role fighters (one with 12 F-35Cs, three with 12 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets), plus an electronic warfare squadron (five EA-18G Growlers), an airborne early warning squadron (four E-2D Hawkeyes), and a pair of C-2 Greyhound cargo planes. There’s also a helicopter squadron with a mix of MH-60R and MH-60S helicopters.

So, what about a somewhat smaller carrier, like France’s Charles de Gaulle or the Russian Kuznetsov? Well, naval-technology.com notes that the 42,500-ton de Gaulle can carry up to 40 planes, including the Rafale M, Super Etendard, and three E-2C Hawkeye, plus helicopters. The 58,500-ton Kuznetsov carries 18 Su-33 Flankers and 17 Kamov Helix helicopters according to MilitaryFactory.com.

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations
Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov. (Department of Defense)

How long would either carrier last in a fight with the Ford? Well, after the Kuznetsov Follies, it’s hard to give a wooden nickel for the Russian carrier’s chances. Hell, a Midway-class carrier would likely take the Kuznetsov down. The French carrier would be toast as well.

Why? Because their air wings would still be much smaller than what a Ford-class carrier could bring to the fight. That is ultimately why the United States is sticking with its big carriers. A carrier’s primary weapon is its air wing. The bigger the carrier, the more planes it can have in the air wing.

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations

You can see this video that also helps explain why small carriers are a stupid idea.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBYFVAe5WHw
Articles

7 lies sailors tell their parents while deployed

College life and Navy life are very different, but there’s one thing they have in common: worried parents.


Whether you’re in college or the Navy, you can count on parents constantly checking in and asking a million questions. These conversations can feel like investigations; especially during deployments.

While Navy parents worry about their sons and daughters being in harm’s way, sailors are usually worried about more important things, like when’s the next port visit and what are their duty days. A little white lie can ease a parent’s worries. Here are some of the most common ones offered:

1. “I’m only allowed one call a month.”

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

2. “Sorry I won’t be able to call you during my next port visit, I have duty the entire time.”

3. “Of course I’m eating healthy, midrats is the healthiest meal of the day!”

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations
Photo: U.S. Navy

4. “With the hours I work, I have no desire to stay out late.”

5. “Yes, I am spending my money wisely.”

6. “No, I never drink during port visits.”

7. “I spent my entire Hong Kong port visit sightseeing.”