The Syrian Air Force is getting ten new Su-24M2 “Fencer D” all-weather strike aircraft, courtesy of Vladimir Putin. The regime of Bashir al-Assad received two right away, with the other eight coming soon. As a result, the Syrians gain a very capable weapon for use against ISIS or moderate rebels supported by the United States.
The Su-24M2 is the latest version of a plane that first took flight in 1967 – and it has been in service since 1974. The Fencer, comparable to the General Dynamics F-111, was designed to deliver over 17,600 pounds of bombs on target any time of day – or night – and in good weather, bad weather, or any in between. Su-24s are fast (a top speed of just over 1,000 miles per hour) and can reach deep into enemy territory (a combat radius of about 400 miles). The plane has seen action in the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, the Iran-Iraq War, over Lebanon, Desert Storm, civil wars in Tajikistan, Libya, and Afghanistan, the South Ossetia war, and the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
The Su-24M2, which first flew in 2001, adds the capability to fire the AS-17 Krypton anti-radar missile, the AA-11 Archer, and the KAB-500Kr television-guided bombs. The plane also received a more advanced “glass cockpit” with new multi-function displays (MFD), GLONASS (Russia’s knockoff of the Global Positioning System), a new heads-up display (HUD), and a helmet-mounted sight, allowing it to use the Archer to its maximum effectiveness.
The Soviet Union built over 1,400 Su-24s from 1967 to 1993. That 26-year production run alone is quite impressive. So was its wide exportation to a number of countries in the Middle East and North Africa, including such responsible regimes like Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya, Hafez al-Assad’s Syria, and the Sudan. Yes, all of them state sponsors of terrorism. A bunch of Iraq’s Su-24s made their way to Iran during Desert Storm. (Iraqi pilots preferring the Ayatollah Khameni’s hospitality to getting blown out of the sky by the allied coalition.)
The transfer comes as part of Russia’s military assistance to Assad’s regime. Syria had 22 Su-24s prior to this deal, 21 of which were bombers, one a reconnaissance plane. The Syrians had been upgrading some of their planes to the Su-24M2 standard. Now, they will be getting another ten very advanced deep-penetration bombers.
Despite the solemn reminder that over 2,000 individuals perished that day, the instances of self-sacrifice and valor offer a source of inspiration to Americans.
Captain Bennion of the USS West Virginia is one of those men, immortalized forever for his stubborn refusal to give up his ship or abandon his men during one of America’s darkest hours.
Mervyn Sharp Bennion was born in Utah Territory in May of 1887. He successfully graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1910, ranked third in his class. His roommate, Earl C. Metz, recalled the Mormon farmer’s sharp mind during his academic years. “He was able to concentrate mentally to a degree I have never seen equalled. He could read over a thing once and he had it. He had a perfectly marvellous brain and mental processes,” Metz recollected.
After graduation, Bennion served aboard the USS North Dakota as a lieutenant during the First World War. He methodically rose in the ranks of the Navy until he received command of the USS Bernadou in 1932. He returned to the Naval War College for a short time, and served as an instructor. On July 2, 1941, Bennion assumed command of the USS West Virginia of the U.S. Pacific Fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor. A little over five months after receiving the command he would be dead.
His brother, Howard Sharp Bennion, published an account of his deeds in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Captain Bennion was casually shaving in his cabin on the morning of December 7 before heading out to church service. This stillness in his cabin was disrupted when one of his sailors burst through the door and alerted him that a wave of Japanese aircraft was headed directly toward the vessel.
Bennion rushed to the deck and issued a series of orders to prepare for the imminent attack. It was not long before a low flying Japanese torpedo bomber dumped three bombs on the West Virginia, causing severe damage and tearing a hole in its side.
On his way to the Flag Bridge a fragment of metal tore through the air and gashed Bennion in the abdomen. The projectile nearly decapitated him, tearing his torso to shreds and damaging his spine and left hip. He was unable to move his legs and his entrails protruded from his stomach.
A pharmacist’s mate came to his aid and placed a makeshift bandage over the mortal wound. Bennion demanded that the man go attend to other wounded sailors and continued to issue orders amid the chaos.
Bennion refused to be moved an inch from his location until the first Japanese attack ended. During the lull before the second wave arrived, he finally permitted himself to be placed on a cot under a sheltered position on the deck.
As he lay protracted and in agony, he resumed issuing commands and receiving reports when the second wave struck an hour later.
Due to the combination of the loss of blood and shock, he began to lose consciousness. A few of his men tied him on a ladder and carried the makeshift stretcher to the navigation bridge out of the way of flames and smoke engulfing the vessel.
Barley coherent and somehow still clinging to life, Bennion again ordered his men to leave him and look after themselves. Roughly 20 minutes later he passed away, one of the thousands of Americans to perish that day.
One officer who remained alongside Bennion to the end proudly proclaimed that “the noble conduct of Capt. Bennion before and after being wounded met the highest traditions of the naval service and justified the high esteem in which he was universally held. I consider it my great good fortune to have served under him.”
Bennion’s body was transported home and buried with honor in Utah. He was afterward awarded the Medal of Honor for his inspirational leadership. His citation read: “For conspicuous devotion to duty, extraordinary courage, and complete disregard of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. As Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. West Virginia, after being mortally wounded, Capt. Bennion evidenced apparent concern only in fighting and saving his ship, and strongly protested against being carried from the bridge.”
Despite being incapacitated early in the action at Pearl Harbor, Bennion refused to abandon his ship and nobly encouraged his men until the bitter end.
Congress just nixed a plan that would have made women register for the military draft.
Lawmakers on the House and Senate Armed Services Committees stripped the requirement of women to register for Selective Service that was inserted into the forthcoming $618 billion defense bill, which will be voted on by both chambers within the next few days, according to The Washington Post.
Current law requires all male US citizens aged 18-25 to register for the draft. The provision requiring women to do the same was part of early drafts of the bill, added after a number of military leaders and women’s rights advocates offered support for it following Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s removal of restrictions placed on women in combat.
While the bill doesn’t change the Selective Service System, it does call for a review of whether a military draft is still worthwhile and cost-effective, according to Military Times. The last time a draft was ordered was during the Vietnam War.
Dropping women from draft registration may be a signal that the next Defense Secretary could reinstitute the policy excluding women from some direct combat jobs, such as infantry and artillery. Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ordered the policy change in 2013, but since Congress never passed a law affirming it, a stroke of the pen could roll it back.
Like most general officers commissioned right after the Vietnam War ended, Gen. Martin Dempsey’s firsthand experience of dealing with combat losses came relatively late in his career. During the summer of 2003, then-Major General Dempsey was commanding “Task Force Iron” in Iraq when the post-invasion lull ended and the insurgency began going after American troops.
“We started taking casualties,” Gen. Dempsey recounted. “And during the morning briefing, after we talked about the high-level mission items and what we called ‘significant incidents,’ we’d flash up the names of the fallen and have a moment of silence.
“The names were up there on the screen and then, whoosh, they were gone,” he said. “After about two or three weeks of the same thing, I became really uncomfortable with that. One minute it was there and real, and then the next minute it was somebody else’s problem.”
Gen. Dempsey attended a number of the memorial services held at the forward operating bases downrange for those killed in action.
“They were both heart wrenching and inspirational,” the general said about the services. “To see the love that these soldiers had for each other made me take my responsibilities that much more seriously.”
But as he greeted the battle buddies of the fallen, Gen. Dempsey wasn’t sure what to say to them that would help at those moments. “I had nothing,” he said. “I mean, I’d say, ‘hang in there’ or ‘we’re really sorry about what happened’ . . . I felt so superficial.”
Then it hit him one morning after he was just waking up in his quarters in Baghdad. “A phrase was echoing in my head,” he remembered. “Make it matter.”
He did two things immediately after that: First, he had laminated cards made for every soldier who had been killed to that point. The cards were carried by all the general officers in theater as a constant physical reminder of the human cost of the war. In time the number of casualties became so great that it was impractical to carry the cards at all times, so he had a mahogany box engraved with “Make it Matter” on the top and put all but three of the cards inside of it. He would constantly rotate the three he carried in his pocket with the ones in the box.
Second, from that point forward when he would address the soldiers in units that had experienced losses, he’d simply say, “Make it matter.”
“They knew exactly what I meant,” Gen. Dempsey said.
Five years after Gen. Dempsey’s introduction to the challenges a two-star leader faces during periods of significant combat losses, Marine Corps Major David Yaggy, a veteran of three combat deployments, was an instructor flying in the rear cockpit of a Navy T-34C trainer on a cross-country flight between Florida and South Carolina when the airplane went down in the hills of Alabama. Yaggy and his flight student at the controls in the front cockpit were both killed in the crash.
The day of that crash is burned into the memory of Maj. Yaggy’s widow, Erin. She first heard from a realtor friend that a helicopter had gone down, and she immediately went online and saw a report that, in fact, a T-34 had crashed in Alabama. Fearing the worst, she put her 18-month-old daughter Lizzy in a stroller and went for a walk, in denial and hoping to avoid any officials who might show up to tell her that her husband had been killed.
During the walk, she received a phone call from her cousin. “Where are you?” she asked.
“I’m at your house,” he replied. That was all he said.
Erin ran home pushing the stroller, in her words, “like a crazy person.” When she arrived she caught a glimpse of a uniform, and she broke down, hysterical. “That didn’t go so well,” she said.
She had a long period of vacillating between shock, anger, and sorrow. “I felt like other people wanted me to cry,” she said. “I was like, ‘I don’t want permission to cry, I just want him here.”
The sister of the flight student killed with Erin’s husband convinced her to get involved with Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), and she wound up making the short trip from Baltimore to Washington DC to attend her first Good Grief Camp — the organization’s signature gathering — when Lizzy was four years old.
General Dempsey had just taken over as Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army when his aide briefed him that he was scheduled to address the TAPS Good Grief Camp attendees gathered in a hotel ballroom across the interstate from the Pentagon. Although the general had heard of TAPS and was armed with the requisite three-by-five cards filled with talking points provided by his staff, when he got there he realized he wasn’t fully ready for what he was walking into.
“I walked into this room with 600 kids all wearing big round buttons with images of their parents, and I knew I was ill-prepared,” Gen. Dempsey said. “It was emotionally overwhelming. It’s hard enough meeting a single family that’s had a loss. It’s another thing altogether meeting 600 families.”
Gen. Dempsey started his appearance with a question-and-answer session, and after a couple of innocent ones like “do you have your own airplane?” and “do you like pizza?” a little girl dramatically shifted the mood by asking, “Is my daddy an angel?”
“I was stunned,” Gen. Dempsey recalled. “How do you answer that question?”
The general thought for a few moments before calling an audible of sorts. Fearing that he could well break down if he tried to talk he decided to attempt something else.
“I knew I could sing through emotion instead of trying to speak,” he said.
So he answered that, of course, her father was an angel — like the fathers of everyone there — and that the entire group should sing together because singing is joyful and the fact that their fathers were angels should bring them great joy.
Then he launched into the Irish classic, “The Unicorn Song,” including a lesson in the proper hand gestures required during the chorus. Soon the entire room was singing.
After his appearance, General Dempsey asked Bonnie Carroll, the founder of TAPS, if he could meet the little girl who’d asked the question and her family, so Bonnie introduced him to the Yaggys. The general was immediately struck by Lizzy’s spark, and, as Erin put it, Lizzy was drawn to the man with lots of silver stars on his Army uniform who’d raised her spirits by singing with all of the kids.
“His timing was perfect,” Erin said. “Before [General Dempsey’s singalong], Lizzy had just said, ‘I don’t want to talk about daddy being dead anymore.’ Her attitude changed after she met General Dempsey.”
At the following year’s Good Grief Camp, they began what blossomed into a tradition: Lizzy introduced him as the keynote speaker.
“She stood up and said, ‘this is General Dempsey. We love him, and he loves to sing, and he makes us feel good,'” the general recalled. “And she finished with, ‘and now my friend, General Dempsey.'” With that, once again, General Dempsey had to fight back tears as he faced hundreds of military survivors.
General Dempsey and his wife Deanie stayed in touch with the Yaggys, exchanging email updates and Christmas cards. The third year Lizzy introduced the general he’d taken over as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Pentagon’s senior-most position. Before they got on stage together she gave him a little box with an angel-shaped medallion in it, saying, “You’re my guardian angel.”
The general was deeply moved and wanted to return the gesture, but all his aide had in his possession was a ballcap with the numeral “18” on the front of it, signifying the 18th CJCS. He wrote in black ink on the bill: “To Lizzy — From your chairman friend. Martin E. Dempsey.”
“It was so cute to see her wearing that hat for the rest of the night,” Deanie Dempsey said. “Here was this little girl in this long green dress with a ballcap on.”
“She wore that hat all the time after that,” Erin said. “She even took it to bed with her.”
The entire time General Dempsey served as the chairman he only had two things on his desk in the Pentagon: The mahogany “Make it Matter” box full of the laminated cards that profiled those who were killed under his command in Iraq and the guardian angel medallion Lizzy gave him.
When it came time for the general to retire, the Pentagon’s protocol apparatus sprang into action — after all, a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff change of command is like the Super Bowl of military ceremonies. As the officials were coordinating all the moving parts, including the details surrounding President Obama’s attendance, they were surprised to learn who the outgoing chairman wanted to introduce him. They pushed back, but the general was insistent.
The day arrived and at the appropriate moment in the event, a little girl on the dais confidently strode by the dignitaries and political appointees and the President of the United States and stood on the box positioned behind the podium just for her.
And without any hesitation, Lizzy Yaggy delivered her remarks to the thousands in attendance, and finished with, “Please welcome my friend, General Dempsey . . .”
The Navy recently approved low-rate initial production (LRIP) for a special, underwater drone system designed to conduct counter-mine operations for the service’s littoral combat ship.
Program Executive Officer for Unmanned and Small Combatants recently granted Milestone C approval to the Knifefish Surface Mine Countermeasure Unmanned Undersea Vehicle Program, according to a news release from Naval Sea Systems Command.
The Navy is expected to award an LRIP contract to Knifefish prime contractor General Dynamics Mission Systems, the release states.
The Knifefish system is designed to deploy from an LCS as well as from other offshore vessels to detect and classify “buried, bottom and volume mines” in highly cluttered environments, according to the release.
Knifefish consists of two unmanned undersea vehicles, along with support systems and equipment. It uses cutting-edge low-frequency broadband sonar and automated target recognition software technology to act as an off-board sensor while the host ship stays outside the minefield boundaries, the release states.
A Knifefish unmanned undersea vehicle training model undergoes crane operations aboard the Military Sealift Command expeditionary fast transport vessel USNS Spearhead as part of a training exercise enabling mine countermeasure missions from an EPF as a Vessel of Opportunity.
(U.S. Navy photo by Master-at-Arms 1st Class Alexander Knapp)
The Navy hopes to approve a full-rate production decision for the system in fiscal 2021 after additional testing of LRIP systems, according to the release. The service plans to buy 30 Knifefish systems in all — 24 in support of LCS mine countermeasure mission packages and an additional six systems for deployment from other vessels.
The Navy conducted formal developmental testing and operational assessment from January through May 2019 in multiple locations off the coast of Massachusetts and Florida, according to the release. The Knifefish tests involved operational mine-hunting missions against a simulated target field.
The Knifefish was developed from technology designed for General Dynamics’ Bluefin Robotics Bluefin-21 deep-water Autonomous Undersea Vehicle, a system that was involved in the unsuccessful search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The head of the Missile Defense Agency has expressed concerns about America’s long-term ability to defend the homeland in the face of growing threats from North Korea.
The U.S. military conducted a successful intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) intercept test in May. An interceptor launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California eliminated a mock long-range missile fired from the Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific. The results of the test have boosted the MDA’s confidence, but there is still much more work to be done.
Vice Admiral James Syring, the director of the MDA, told the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday that the recent intercept test was an “exact replica” of what the U.S. would face in the event of a North Korean missile strike.
“The scenario that we conducted was maybe more operationally realistic than not,” he explained.
North Korea has tested multiple new ballistic missile systems this year. The Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile and Pukguksong-2 medium-range ballistic missile could be the technological predecessors to liquid and solid-fueled ICBM systems.
“Today, we are ahead” of the threat, Syring explained in his testimony, “We need to stay ahead.”
“I would not say we are comfortably ahead of the threat; I would say we are addressing the threat that we know today,” Syring testified. “The advancements in the last six months have caused great concern to me and others, in the advancement of and demonstration of technology of ballistic missiles from North Korea.”
North Korea does not yet have an ICBM, but it appears to be moving in that direction at an accelerated pace. While the North may still be several years from developing this kind of technology, defense officials believe that it is necessary to assume that North Korea can “range” the U.S. with a long-range ballistic missile.
In the wake of the recent test, the Department of Defense upgraded its assessment of the capabilities of the U.S. missile shield. For years, the U.S. has maintained “limited capability” to defend against North Korean missiles. The Ground-based Midcourse Defense system has “demonstrated the capability to defend the U.S. homeland from a small number of intermediate-range or intercontinental missile threats with simple countermeasures,” the Pentagon said in a recent memo, according to Reuters.
Nonetheless, the system needs improvements. “It’s just not the interceptor, the entire system,” Syring said June 7, “We are not there yet.”
“We have continued work with the redesigned kill vehicle. We have continued work with the reliability of the other components of the system to make it totally reliable,” he said. “We are not done yet.”
Some expert observers have suggested that the recent intercept test may not have been as realistic as the MDA claims, leaving something to be desired.
“I think Syring was overstating the case,” Joshua Pollack, editor of The Nonproliferation Review and senior research associate in the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, told The DCNF. “A real situation involving ICBM attack could include such unpleasant circumstances as multiple, simultaneous launches on different trajectories; decoys and chaff; intercepts in the shadow of the Earth (not illuminated by sunlight); and attacks on the [Ballistic Missile Defense] system itself by various means.”
“The intercept geometry, as depicted by MDA, in no way, shape or form resembles a [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] ICBM attack against [the continental U.S.],” Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program in the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, tweeted Wednesday. “To be fair, MDA was right to walk before trying to run. A (sic) easy test is totally fine, but Adm. Syring appears to be over-claiming a bit.”
The range of the mock ICBM was 5,800 kilometers, which would give the missile a much slower closing speed than a real North Korean ICBM covering a distance of 9,000 to 11,000 kilometers would have. Faster closing speeds, according to Laura Grego, a senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, “give the interceptor less time to make course corrections, and are therefore more stressing for the interceptor.”
The head-on engagement trajectory of the May test is also inconsistent with the likely conditions of a North Korean strike.
“This test approximates many aspects of an intercept against an ICBM launched from North Korea, but the target and intercept geometry would be very different in a real attack,” Lewis told TheDCNF. “The missile would be launched closer to the interceptor site, would have a significantly longer range, and (in the case of an attack on DC) moving away from the interceptor site at a much greater angle.”
“MDA is limited by the existing test infrastructure and the very high cost of tests, so we should be reasonable about how realistic MDA can make any test,” he added. “But, in exchange, MDA needs to be reasonable in making claims about what has been demonstrated.”
Other scholars, however, believe the recent intercept test was a big breakthrough.
“This is a good day for homeland missile defense and a bad day for Kim Jong-un,” Thomas Karako, the director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in response to the test.
During the June 7 congressional hearing, Syring said that in an actual combat scenario, the U.S. would fire off a salvo of interceptors to better address the threat.
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On May 18, 1291, Acre, the last Crusader stronghold in the Middle East, fell to the Muslim Mamluks, ending Crusader control of the Holy Land.
European Christian Crusaders had been reeling from Sala-a-din’s conquest of Jerusalem in 1187. The Third Crusade recaptured Acre (in modern-day Israel) for the next 100 years. But in that time, one by one, Crusader cities would fall to the Mamluk Sultanate.
The Muslim Mamluks came to power in the region in 1250, marking a shift in the balance of power in the region. The Muslims were then able to compete with the heavy cavalry of the Crusader knights – and they did.
Crusader cities in Caesarea, Haifa, Galilee, and Antioch sparked more Crusades from Europe, but they were largely ineffective. Latakia fell in 1278, Tripoli in 1289. Acre was surrounded.
The Crusaders hoped for either an army from Italy or an unlikely alliance with the Mongols. Neither materialized and the Mamluks laid siege to Acre on April 5, 1291. By May 18, Al-Ashraf Khalil’s 222,000-strong army entered the city and killed its Crusader defenders, ending the last Crusader control of the region.
The Siege of Acre, also known as the Fall of Acre, marked the end of further crusades to the Levant. With the fall of Acre, the Crusaders lost their last major stronghold of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, and by 1302 with the loss of Ruad, they were no longer control any part of the Holy Land.
Featured Image: Siège d’Acre (1291) by unknown 14th century French artist (Gallica Digital Library)
The Soviet Union was known for fielding extreme machines — from the largest submarines ever built to gargantuan nuclear-powered battle cruisers — unmatched by any other country in history. So it should come as no surprise that during the Cold War, they also built what is believed to be the fastest submarine in history.
Though NATO dubbed the submarine as part of the “Papa” class, it was the only boat of its kind ever built. The Soviet Navy commissioned the vessel the K-162 in late 1969, just around 10 years after the project which led to its creation was initiated.
Using the teardrop-shaped architecture which at the time was new and revolutionary in the submarine world, the K-162 was optimized for speed to the tune of nearly 45 knots (51 miles per hour) underwater during a high-speed dash. It was armed with a complement of 10 cruise missiles and 12 torpedoes with the purpose of attacking and destroying surface formations and flotillas of enemy ships.
At the time, the Soviet Navy sought to deal with the rising threat of American battle groups centered around the “supercarrier.” These battle groups, guarded by heavily-armed destroyers, cruisers and submarines, were incredibly powerful projections of American naval force, and were without equal in the USSR.
Instead of building up similar carrier groups, the Soviet Navy decided to task its submarines with inflicting irreparable damage on American groups to render them ineffective. The K-162 became a part of this solution, with its missiles serving as the primary method of attacking enemy surface vessels.
Using a pair of nuclear reactors coupled to steam turbines, the K-162 could achieve blistering speeds which would allow it to surprise a carrier group, launch an attack and then leave the area before the group could respond with a counterattack of its own. In 1971, the submarine demonstrated its ability to dash at high speeds, supposedly achieving 44.85 knots at maximum power.
However, for its incredible speed, the K-162 came with a laundry list of limitations and drawbacks. The costs involved with designing and building the submarine, to begin with, were sky-high, and quickly deemed a poor investment as only one boat would be created, not an entire class.
The K-162’s speed proved to be its own undoing, as well. Noise is the primary method of detection for submarines, and the K-162 generated a lot of it, especially during its underwater high-speed runs. Its various engineering components and machinery were not appropriately “noise dampened,” making the vessel extremely detectable while at sea.
Further, the K-162 could not perform its high speed dashes without damaging itself. Any protrusions on the surfaces of the sub were buckled or bent out of shape due to the pressure of the water rushing over and around the hull. With poor hydrodynamics, the submarine couldn’t achieve the same speeds after, without a return to port for repairs and a refit.
Yet another failing was the fact that K-162 could only fire the opening shots of battle before having to return to port. In combat, a submarine could return to its tender, sailing a safe distance away, to rearm and reload. The K-222 could rearm with torpedoes, but its cruise missiles — its main armament for its primary mission — were only able to be replenished after returning to port.
The K-162 later renamed K-222, and was removed from active service in the early 1980s, though it has since been suspected that it was used to test technologies and practices that would later be used on future Soviet nuclear submarines like the Alfa and Victor class of hunter/killer attack boats.
The Russian Navy completed the K-222’s scrapping by 2010, marking the end of the fastest submarine to have ever existed.
Assuming you haven’t been living under a rock for the past year or so, you probably know that a handful of female officers made history by graduating the US Army’s prestigious Ranger School and that one female Soldier tried (and failed) to join the Ranger Regiment.
You may have also noticed that there are, all of a sudden, a lot of “internet experts” on Rangers, or anything to do with Rangers. If you actually do know a thing or two about Rangers, then you know all these so-called experts are creating mass confusion and hysteria on the interwebz. So, in an effort to set the record straight, I thought I would lay out the pertinent information that anyone needs to know about this topic.
Ranger Training and Assessment Course (RTAC) – The RTAC course is a 16-day preparatory course for Ranger School. It is run by the Army National Guard Warrior Training Center, and primarily used by National Guard students, but open to students of any unit. It is located on Fort Benning, Georgia and is divided in to two phases: RAP phase and Patrolling phase. All National Guard soldiers who want to attend Ranger School must pass this course first. It should be noticed that many Army installations run a similar course to prepare their soldiers for Ranger School in a similar way.
US Army Ranger Course (Ranger School) – Ranger School is 62 days long with a 42% graduation rate, and is considered the Army’s toughest leadership course. Ranger School is a mentally and physically challenging course that teaches small unit infantry tactics and develops leadership skills under austere conditions meant to simulate the exhaustion of real combat operations. The course falls under the US Army Training and Doctrine Command, and is run by the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade, which also runs the Army’s Airborne School, Jumpmaster School, and Pathfinder School.
The course incorporates three phases (Benning, Mountain, and Swamp), which follow the crawl, walk, run training methodology. After completion of these three phases, Ranger School graduates are considered proficient in leading squad and platoon dismounted operations in a variety of climates and terrain. Upon graduation, they are awarded and authorized the black and gold “Ranger Tab” on their left shoulder.
After completion of the course, graduates return to their units and are expected to take leadership positions shortly after their return. Soldiers of any military occupational specialty (MOS), and any branch of service, as well as some allied nation service members can attend this course. There are no formal pre-requisite courses for attendance at Ranger School. Ranger School does not require students to be airborne qualified before attending. It should be noted that although soldiers are considered “Ranger Qualified,” graduation of this course does not qualify a service member for service in the 75th Ranger Regiment.
75th Ranger Regiment – The 75th Ranger Regiment is a special operations unit that falls under the US Army Special Operations Command, which falls under the US Special Operations Command – the parent organization of other SOF units such as Navy SEALs, Marine Raiders, and Army Special Forces “Green Berets.” The 75th Ranger Regiment’s mission is to plan and conduct special missions in support of US policy and objectives. They are considered the go-to direct action raid unit, and have killed or captured more high value targets in the War on Terror than any other unit. The Regiment is composed of four Ranger battalions: 1st Ranger Battalion on Hunter Army Airfield, GA, 2nd Ranger Battalion on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA, and 3rd Ranger Battalion and Regimental Special Troops Battalion on Fort Benning, GA. They are readily identified by their tan beret’s and red, white, and black “Ranger Scroll.” All soldiers assigned are graduates of either RASP 1 or 2.
Rangers assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment are expected to go to the US Army Ranger School before taking a leadership position, but are not required to attend before serving in the Regiment. It should be noted that Ranger School and the 75th Ranger Regiment are completely different entities under completely different commands with completely different missions, and one is not needed for the other.
Ranger Assessment and Selection Program 1 (RASP 1) – RASP 1 is an 8-week course ran by the 75th Ranger Regiment and boasts an approximate 33% graduation rate (that number can vary based on time of year as well as other factors). It selects and trains soldiers in the rank of Private through Sergeant for service in the 75th Ranger Regiment. Upon completion of this course, graduates have the basic capabilities to conduct operations as a junior member of a Ranger strike force or command element.
RASP 1 is divided into two phases. Phase 1 is the primary “weeding out” phase, as well as conducts initial standard testing, such as the timed road marches and PT and swim tests. Phase 1 also includes the notoriously brutal “Cole Range” week of training. Phase 2 focuses more on the special operations-peculiar skills needed for service in the Regiment, such as explosive breaching, advanced marksmanship, and advanced first-responder skills. Upon graduation of RASP 1, the new Rangers are awarded the Black, Red, and White “Ranger Scroll” as well as the Khaki (tan) Beret. At this point, they are considered full-fledged Rangers and are assigned to one of the four Ranger Battalions of the 75th Ranger Regiment. It should be noted that Ranger School is not required before attendance at RASP 1, but some students are Ranger School graduates already. Airborne School is a required pre-requisite though, as all soldiers need to be airborne-qualified for service in the 75thRanger Regiment.
Ranger Assesment and Selection Program 2 (RASP 2) –RASP 2 is a 21-day course that is ran by the 75th Ranger Regiment. It is for soldiers in the rank of Staff Sergeant and above, and all officers volunteering for assignment to the 75th Ranger Regiment. This course assesses and selects mid- and senior-grade leaders for assignment to the 75th Ranger Regiment and teaches them the operational techniques and standards needed for their time in the Regiment. Upon successful completion of this course, graduates are awarded the Black, Red, and White “Ranger Scroll” as well as the Khaki (tan) Beret and are assigned to one of the four battalions in the 75th Ranger Regiment. It should be noted that Ranger School is not required before attendances at RASP 2, but most students are already Ranger School graduates.
Small Unit Ranger Tactics (SURT) – SURT, formerly known as “Pre-Ranger Course (PRC),” is a three-week program that is run by the 75th Ranger Regiment, for Rangers already in the Regiment who will be attending the US Army Ranger School. Because the 75th Ranger Regiment and the Ranger School are so different, this course is designed to prepare Rangers for the “School” way of doing things, and ensure they have the best shot at success in Ranger School.
Hopefully this short primer explains all the nuances of anything relating to the Army Rangers, and maybe even answers a few questions that are floating around in response to the pending female graduates of Ranger School. Chief among them, “Why aren’t they going to the Ranger Regiment if they passed Ranger School?” Because Ranger School has nothing to do with the 75th Ranger Regiment and is definitely not the selection course for service in the 75th.
Last week rapper Nicki Minaj performed a concert in Angola, which is not necessarily a big deal except she reportedly received $2 million dollars for the show from Unitel, a mobile phone company owned by the family of Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos. Dos Santos has been in power in Angola for 36 years and is widely considered a dictator.
Minaj posted photos of herself with the President’s daughter Isabel dos Santos on her Instagram, saying:
“Oh no big deal…she’s just the 8th richest woman in the world. (At least that’s what I was told by someone b4 we took this photo) Lol. Yikes!!!!! GIRL POWER!!!!! This motivates me soooooooooo much!!!!”
According to an open letter to Minaj from the The Human Rights Foundation, the Dos Santos family make their money through “exploiting Angola’s diamond and oil wealth to amass an illegitimate fortune while maintaining control over all branches of the government, the military, and civil society … it his policy to harass, imprison, or kill politicians, journalists, and activists who protest his rule.” Minaj performed the show anyway, which she has a right to do. There are no limitations for visiting or working in Angola.
There is still the stigma of legitimizing what is one of the top most corrupt governments in the world (the most in southern Africa). But Nicki Minaj is not the first star to perform for a questionable government. Here’s a rundown of a few other A-listers who’ve been willing to make despot’s toes tap:
1. Jennifer Lopez -Berdymukhamedov’s Turkmenistan
“We wish you the very, very, happiest birthday,” Lopez said to Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov before singing to him at a huge celebration in his central Asian country.
Human Rights Watch calls the Berdymukhamedov regime “one of the most repressive in the world, marked by new levels of repression.” Berdymukhamedov seized power in 2007 after the only person more mad than he is, Saparmurat Niyazov, died. (Niyazovchanged his language’s word for bread to his mother’s name, renamed the month of September after the book he wrote, and once tried to build a permanent structure made out of ice in the middle of the desert). Berdymukhamedov proceeded to honor himself with a giant bronze and gold statue of his likeness in the Turkmen capital of Ashgabat.
Leaked diplomatic cables confirm Queen Bey and Company performed gigs at parties thrown by Qaddafi’s sons Hannibal and Mutassim in Italy and St. Barths. All four claim they donated their fees to earthquake relief in Haiti. Also, Lindsay Lohan was there.
Hannibal escaped Libya during the civil war that ousted his father. He was briefly taken captive in Lebanon this month but was set free soon after. Mutassim got his around the same time as his father, when he was captured by Libyan rebels outside of Sirte. The rebels stabbed him in the throat.
3. Nelly Furtado – Also Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya
Around the same time as Beyoncé’s work with the Qaddafi family came out, Furtado self-identified on Twitter. She was paid $1 million to perform for the family at an Italian hotel in 2007. (Which seems remarkable because few can name two Nelly Furtado songs without googling her, and the Qaddafis liked her enough to buy an entire concert.) Still, Furtado wasn’t Colonel Qaddafi’s true love. We all know who that was:
The singer promised to give the money away to an unnamed charity. In 2012, she released a song called Arab Spring.
4. Michael Jackson – King Hamad’s Bahrain
It’s hard to call a U.S. ally a dictatorship, but while half their bicameral legislature features elected officials, the other half is appointed by the King who can rule by decree. When the late King of Pop fled there in 2005 after being acquitted of child molestation charges, the Khalifa family provided for him in exchange for a private show and a recorded album.
While the singer took the money from the dictator, he never made good on the promise of a performance or a recorded album, so maybe Jackson was performing a service by swindling the monarch.
5. Sting – Karimov’s Uzbekistan
In 2009, Sting performed for a man who’s best known for boiling his enemies alive. Islam Karimov’s rule was celebrated via a festival funded and planned by his daughter, Gulnara Karimova, the “Uzbek Princess.”
The Uzbek regime is the dictatorship likened closest to North Korea. Karimov is so power mad, he sees his daughter’s popularity as a threat, jailing her and her family in her home. Sting accepted a $2 million payment for his performance. Sting refused to apologize, saying he believed that boycotts only isolate dictator-ruled countries. Karimov banned Sting’s music shortly afterward because the Police alum called him a dictator.
6. Lionel Richie – Qaddafi’s Libya. Again.
Richie was the first to perform for the dictator’s family inside Libyan borders, though it was a celebration of Qaddafi surviving a U.S. attack on his compound in Tripoli, in front of the bombed-out compound which Qaddafi never rebuilt. The singer has never spoken about the performance.
7. James Brown, B.B. King, Bill Withers – Mobutu Sese Seko’s Zaire
Sese Seko put on a festival celebrating his rule in what he called Zaire (now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo) in 1974. The dictator, who would go on to embezzle $5 billion, put up the cost of the Zaire 74 Festival, which was promoted by famed boxing promoter Don King as part of the build up to the Mohammed ali-George Foreman fight (dubbed the “Rumble in the Jungle”).
8. Kanye West – Nazarbayev’s Kazakhstan
The rapper was hired to perform at the wedding of Kazakh dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev’s grandson. The former Russian Soviet Republic is sharply criticized by human rights organizations for its serious violations and deteriorating situation.
Yeezy was paid a reported $3 million for his appearance, which was recorded on Twitter and Instagram. Kanye West was able to express himself at the mic, unlike the rest of Kazakhstan, a nation suffering a harsh and unprecedented crackdown on freedom of expression and political plurality with the imprisonment of outspoken opposition and civil society activists.
9. Mariah Carey – José Eduardo dos Santos’ Angola
Yeah, same dictator, same place. Carey performed in Angola in 2013 at the behest of her manager, Jermaine Dupri, whom she would fire the next year.
This wasn’t the first time Carey performed for a dictator. In 2010, she publicly apologized for a 2008 New Year’s celebration performance, which is a nice segue to . . .
10. Mariah Carey – Qaddafi’s Libya
She was paid an undisclosed sum for performing for the Qaddafi family at a private residence in St. Barth’s. As part of her penance, she reminded everyone how much money she regularly gives to charity even as she pocketed her payment and released a statement:
“I was naive and unaware of who I was booked to perform for, I feel horrible and embarrassed to have participated in this mess. Going forward, this is a lesson for all artists to learn from. We need to be more aware and take more responsibility regardless of who books our shows. Ultimately we as artists are to be held accountable.”
If you somehow are on the internet and haven’t seen the viral BBC interview of an expert on South Korea being interrupted during a BBC interview by his children, then you can see it here.
The dad is impressively collected as his wife rushes in to grab the children and pull them out, but the internet had a field day with the interview.
Now, a U.S. Air Force crew has created a spoof video where a pilot is attempting to read her takeoff clearance back when the crew starts stumbling in. Another airman, probably the chief, has to rush in and grab the other crewmen out of the cabin.
The results are pretty great. You can check the video out below:
When we think about all the elements of fitness, it is not difficult to realize that strength training is a critical component to all candidates, students, and active members in any tactical profession. But how is Tactical Strength different from other strength-training programs for athletics?
Special Ops, military, police, firefighters, and first responder and emergency service personnel are the tactical professionals I deal with on a daily basis. The common denominator of these professionals who do their job at the highest level is STRENGTH. Tactical strength allows the athlete to potentially prevent injury, increase power, speed, and agility. But strength is also the initial phase of building muscle stamina. For instance, to get your first pullup requires strength. The strength exercise to get your 20th pullup requires a muscle stamina / endurance exercise, with strength as a starting point. Taking your strength foundation and evolving it into a muscle stamina and work capacity is the main difference between typical one-rep maximum (1RM) strength used in athletic training and tactical strength.
A tactical strength program should be geared to increasing work capacity, durability, and protect against injury, but not create world record lifts. You can have an advanced level of strength and still be good at running, swimming, rucking, or whatever cardio vascular endurance event your job requires.
Tactical Strength is the element of fitness that allows the tactical athlete to grab, carry, push, pull, or lift heavy pieces of equipment or people when needed. There are more elements of fitness required for the tactical athlete, such as endurance, muscle stamina, speed, agility, mobility, flexibility, and power.
However, unlike an athlete that specializes in a particular sport, the tactical athlete has to be good at ALL OF THE ABOVE elements of fitness. For the regular athlete, depending on your sport and the level of competition, you have to only be great in one to two elements of fitness.
Tactical strength is very similar to athletic strength. As with athletics, there are several types of strength that are required of the tactical athlete. A foundation in strength training means you have strong muscles, bones, and connective tissues of the core and extremities, as well as grip strength. Being strong and having a foundation of strength is critical to ALL of your other abilities. This does not mean you have to bench press or dead lift a truck, but being strong will assist in your ability to make power when you need it most. The most basic way to measure strength is to record the amount of weight lifted in one repetition. However, this program will focus more on the three to five repetition range for strength. While 1RM weight lifts are fun, the goal of this program is not to build competitive powerlifters, but strong tactical athletes.
Cardio vascular endurance can compete with maximum strength in many athletics, but the tactical athlete must remember that this is not a specific sport. There is never a need to ONLY specialize in a single element of fitness like strength, endurance, or speed/agility. You have to diversify to get good at all the elements of fitness (as discussed in previous article on fitness weaknesses), which may mean you do not beat your previous 1RM of a 400 pound bench or a 600 pound dead lift that you did in college. THIS ISN’T COLLEGE OR A SPORT! It is your job, and it could be your life or a team mate’s life if you lack any of the fitness elements. Neglecting too many of the elements by specializing in just one or two can be detrimental to your abilities to do your job at a high level.
Army Spc. David Helton, Company A, 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, puts more weight on the barbell at Combat Outpost Apache in Wardak province, Afghanistan. | DoD photo by Fred W. Baker III
How to build strength
Building strength is similar for the athlete and those in tactical professions, in that the progresses are typically linear with relatively lower repetition sets and longer rest periods. Adding mass (muscle) is one of the benefits, but there are many ways to progress each week with added strength. Take any lift (bench press, dead lifts, power clean, squats, weighted pullups, etc.) and try some classic and favorite GO-TO strength building plans, such as the following:
Drop sets: To do drop sets, change it up between sets by either decreasing reps while increasing weight, or decreasing weight with increasing reps. For strength, I like to do a 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 or a 10, 8, 6, 4, 2 with increasing weight for each of the five reps shown. You can also build up close to your one rep max and then, quickly and with little rest, drop the weight in regular 10 to 25 pound intervals after maximum effort at each weight. Do this until only the bar remains. However, this is more of a strength / muscle stamina lifting drill that is great for building work capacity.
Other Drop Sets / Double Drop Sets: Doing each weight twice before increasing the weight / decreasing the reps is another way to push max strength to new limits. The 4, 4, 3, 3, 2, 2, 1, 1 is such a set / rep scheme that works great as you push nearer to you 1RM effort.
5 x 5: You cannot go wrong with this classic strength set / rep routine. Choose a weight that is about 75 to 80 percent of your 1RM effort lift. Do 5 repetitions of that lift. Rest a few minutes and repeat for 5 sets.
Two-Pops: Another favorite is multiple sets of 2 repetitions. Increase the weight each set, starting with a light warmup set. Start to add weight, but only doing 2 reps per set. Increase weight each set and keep doing 2 reps until you can no longer achieve 2 reps. That 1 rep that you last recorded can be a 1RM for you if you take your time and rest for a few minutes in between lifting in the 2 reps sets.
Typically, these strength cycles can last 4 to 8 weeks and can go up to 12 weeks. Some like to only do lifts for a particular body part once a week. I prefer doing upper body lifts 2 to 3 times a week and full body / leg movements done 2 to 3 times a week. This type of frequency goes well with building work capacity needed for the tactical profession.
Do not forget that even though you are back in muscle-head mode, you cannot forget other elements. Yes, that means cardio as well. For our group, we arrange our strength training during a no run / non-impact cardio cycle, and it works nicely for proper gains in all lifts. However, we keep our cardio up with swimming, rucking, and other non-impact machines like rowers, bikes, and elliptical machines, mainly using speed intervals for the workouts.
In Tactical Fitness, you have to not only focus on a few components of fitness, but have a diverse program so you can remain good at all elements that may be important to your profession. Components like endurance, muscle stamina, flexibility / mobility, and even agility should not be neglected when the focus is purely on strength and power.
What are some of your GO-TO strength-building routines (set / rep schemes)?
Iraq’s prime minister on July 4 congratulated his fighters on “the big victory in Mosul” — even as fighting with Islamic State militants continued in Mosul’s Old City neighborhood where Iraqi forces are about 250 meters from the Tigris River and facing increasingly brutal resistance.
Haider al-Abadi spoke during a press conference in Baghdad, less than a week after he declared an end to IS’ self-styled caliphate after Iraqi forces achieved an incremental win by retaking the landmark al-Nuri Mosque in the Old City.
“Praise be to God, we managed to liberate [Mosul] and proved the others were wrong, the people of Mosul supported and stood with our security forces against terrorism,” al-Abadi said.
His remarks came on the third anniversary of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s sermon at the al-Nuri Mosque, from where he declared an Islamic caliphate on IS-held lands in Syria and Iraq.
Also during the press conference, al-Abadi added that he has given instructions to rebuild and stabilize areas of the city already freed from the militant group.
Inside Mosul’s Old City, civilians fleeing Iraqi advance are increasingly desperate. The elderly and weak are carried across mounds of rubble in blankets. Soldiers — increasingly fearful of the Old City’s inhabitants after a string of suicide bombings — hurry the groups along.
A middle-aged woman with a gaunt, pale face fainted as she fled past the destroyed al-Nuri Mosque. Two soldiers carried her to the roadside and tried to revive her with cold water.
Largely cut off from food and water for months, humanitarian groups are reporting a spike in the number of displaced people suffering from malnutrition and dehydration.
“None of the previous battles were like this,” said Iraqi Maj. Faris Aboud, working at a small field hospital just outside the Old City.
“In a single day we received 300 wounded,” Aboud, a father of three continued. “For me, seeing the wounded children is the hardest, we see children who have lost their entire families under the rubble, they have no one now.”
Lt. Gen. Abdel Ghani al-Asadi, of Iraq’s special forces, said earlier in the day that Iraqi forces are just 250 meters (yards) from the Tigris River, in the western half of Mosul. The Tigris divides the city roughly into its western and eastern half, which was liberated from IS militants back in January.
IS militants who remain trapped in just a few hundred meters of territory in the Old City are now in a “fight to the death,” al-Asadi said, adding that IS fighters are increasingly resorting to suicide bombings and that he expects the fighting to get even heavier as they are pushed closer to the river.
Iraqi forces marked a significant victory this week when the Rapid Response Division retook Mosul’s main hospital complex on the city’s western side.
The building that once held the city’s best medical facilities now sits devastated by the fight. For weeks, a handful of IS snipers perched in the main hospital’s top floors held back hundreds of Iraqi forces.
Iraqi forces launched the operation to retake Mosul, the country’s second largest city, in October. IS overran Mosul in a matter of days in 2014. At the height of the extremists’ power, they held nearly a third of Iraq.
A man who asked to only be referred to as Abu Abid, for fear for his family’s safety, was waiting to get a spot on a truck after fleeing the Old City.
“That place, it was absolute death,” he said. “We will never be the same. Once the fear has been planted in your heart, you can’t get rid of it.”