Here in the United States, we tend to think of nuclear weapons in much the same way we think of the space race and the Cold War: like a relic of a bygone era in which America emerged victorious. Unfortunately, that era isn’t quite as bygone as it seems: space defense is once again a topic of serious concern, America is once more at the precipice of an international arms race, and both China and Russia have unveiled massive new nuclear weapons in recent years.
America does still boast the second-largest arsenal of nuclear weapons on the planet, lagging just behind Russia who, like the Soviet Union, has always invested heavily in deterrence through guaranteeing Armageddon. The problem is, America has largely chosen to rest on its nuclear laurels since the fall of the Soviet Union, resulting in a significant difference between the nuclear tech in Uncle Sam’s arsenals and that of America’s most powerful competitors.
Russian Topol-M nuclear ICBM preparing for the annual Victory Day Parade.
The Air Force is currently on the hunt for the company that will build America’s next generation of nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), but until that contract has been completed, the U.S. will continue to rely on silo-launched Minuteman IIIs and submarine-launched Trident missiles, with yields of 475 and 100 kilotons respectively. These weapons are quite powerful, with the weaker trident producing an explosive yield more than six times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima and the Minuteman III clocking in at nearly five times more powerful than even that.
However, despite all the carnage one could deliver with 475 kilotons of nuclear fury, America’s mighty Minuteman III missiles are not only far behind Russian and Chinese competitors in terms of technology and the ability to counter missile defense systems, they are woefully underpowered.
These mushroom clouds represent the yields of each nuclear weapon.
(Individual mushroom cloud courtesy of Flickr)
China’s newest ICBM, the DF-31, for instance, boasts a massive 1 megaton yield, or 1,000 kilotons. That means China’s new 42-foot nuclear missile has more than twice the destructive power of America’s workhorse ICBMs. Powerful as the DF-31 may be, if you’re impressed by that, you haven’t looked in Russia’s inventory lately.
Russia’s massively powerful RS-28 Sarmat, or simply, the Satan II, carries a whopping 50 megaton nuclear warhead. For those who aren’t fond of arithmetic, that’s the equivalent of 50,000 kilotons and is so powerful that America’s Minuteman III missiles barely even register by comparison.
America’s ICBM’s would barely be visible compared to the RS-28 Sarmat’s yield.
(Individual mushroom cloud courtesy of Flickr)
Like China’s DF-31, the RS-28 Sarmat could forgo the single large warhead for a group of smaller ones, but the reduction in yield would likely be offset by the distribution of the weapon’s payload: in short, multiple warheads can destroy a larger swath of territory than a single large warhead tends to.
Of course, with Russian officials claiming their doomsday-weapon nuclear torpedo carries a positively gigantic 100-megaton warhead, even the Satan II isn’t the biggest kid on the nuclear block.
Of course, the sheer destructive yield isn’t the only measure of a nation’s nuclear capabilities, but it does pay to maintain a healthy frame of reference when it comes to ways the world could end. After all, when it would take more than 105 American ICBMs to match the destructive power of just one Russian nuke… we should all be a little concerned.
Screengrab from “Air Force 2030 — Call to Action” video
The U.S. Air Force has quietly built and flown a brand-new aircraft prototype that could become its next-generation fighter, the service’s top acquisition official announced Tuesday.
Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, revealed during the virtual 2020 Air, Space and Cyber conference that the new aircraft is part of the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program, which defies the traditional categorization of a single platform, featuring a network of advanced fighter aircraft, sensors and weapons in a growing and unpredictable threat environment.
“NGAD right now is designing, assembling, testing in the digital world — exploring things that would have cost time and money to wait for physical world results,” he said. “NGAD has come so far that the full-scale flight demonstrator has already flown in the physical world.”
During a roundtable with reporters, Roper declined to give specifics on the project, except that the craft was created using digital engineering, which allows the service to bypass the regular manufacturing process for parts and gives developers more flexibility to design and change blueprints. The service announced Monday that any weapon made using digital concepts will have an “e-” prefix in an effort to showcase these innovative processes.
The new aircraft has “broken a lot of records and is showing digital engineering isn’t a fluke,” Roper said. He declined to comment on whether the defense industry has taken part in the endeavor.
While he touted the expedited process of digital methods, “we don’t want our adversaries to know what they are,” Roper added.
The news comes four years after the Air Force laid out initial plans for what its future fighter jets might look like.
The Air Force hopes to move fast on its futuristic projects. Roper last year debuted the Digital Century Series acquisition model, with the goal of using interconnectable, agile software and competitive technology prototyping to put together a combat-ready fighter jet in an estimated five years’ time. The service recently finished a business case analysis on the model’s validity, according to Defense News.
The Navy last month revealed that it has established its own NGAD program office in an effort to speed up the fielding of a new fighter prior to the 2030s, according to USNI News. But plans and discussions with industry are in the very early stages, USNI said.
The Air Force has proven it can accelerate and manufacture aircraft: The first “Century Series” aircraft initiative debuted in the 1950s and produced fighter-bomber variants such as the F-100 Super Sabre, which took roughly two and a half years to develop.
While many envision a futuristic manned fighter as a successor to today’s fifth-generation platforms, Roper has said the NGAD program could include fighters and autonomous drones fighting side-by-side.
For example, the autonomous Skyborg — which aims to pair artificial intelligence with a human piloting a fighter jet — is intended for reusable unmanned aerial vehicles in a manned-unmanned teaming mission; the drones are considered “attritable,” or cheap enough that they can be destroyed without significant cost.
In July, the service chose Boeing Co., General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems Inc. and Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. to move forward on the Skyborg program.
On April 6, 2008, two Special Forces operational detachments and more than 100 Afghan commandos began an air assault into a mountain fortress above the Shok Valley.
Six and a half hours later, two members of the assault were killed and nine seriously wounded, over 100 enemy fighters were dead or captured, and eleven men had earned some of the nation’s highest awards for valor. This is what happened.
Entering Shok Valley
The assault was to capture leaders in Hezeb Islami al Gulbadin, a regional insurgent group in Afghanistan. The targets were holed up in a mountain top village surrounded by farm terraces and tall cliffs, providing tough ground for an assaulting force to cover. The village itself was made of strong, multistory buildings that would provide defenders cover while allowing them to fire out.
The American and Afghan force flew to the valley in helicopters. Their initial plan called for a quick insertion close to the village so they could assault while they still had the element of surprise. Their first landing zone was no good though, and so they were dropped into a nearby river and forced to climb up from there. The delay allowed insurgent forces to set up an ambush from the high ground.
Combat breaks out
After the helicopters departed, enemy fighters directed automatic weapon and rocket fire on the American and Afghan National Army soldiers. Their interpreter was killed almost immediately and the communications sergeant, Staff Sgt. Dillon Behr, received a life-threatening wound to his leg. He continued fighting, attempting to suppress some of the incoming fire.
Meanwhile, the assault team had already reached the village, and so found themselves cut off when the forces behind them began taking fire. Despite the precarious position he and the lead Afghan commandos were in, Sgt. David Sanders began relaying the sources of incoming fire to the Air Force joint tactical air controller on the mission.
The mission commander, Capt. Kyle Walton, told an Army journalist later that year about the initial bombings on the target. They were all danger close, meaning friendly forces were within range of the bombs’ blast.
“I was standing next to the combat controller, and when we got to a place where we could talk, he called in close air support, and the F-15s rolled in immediately. I knew my guys were up there, and I know that when you call in danger close air, you are probably going to get injured or killed. I called back to Sanders and asked if he was too close. He said, ‘Bring it anyway.’ Bombs started exploding everywhere. When I called to see if he was still alive, all I could hear him saying was, ‘Hit them again.’ ”
The Air Force JTAC, Airman Zachary Rhyner, would go on to call over 70 danger close missions that day, using eight Air Force planes and four Army attack helicopters to achieve effects on the target.
Three-story explosion and sniper warfare
As the battle continued to rage, both sides were using controlled, focused fire to wound and kill enemies. But a massive explosion after an American bomb hit a three-story building in the village brought on a brief lull in the fighting.
“Good guy or bad guy, you’re going to stop when you see that,” Staff Sgt. Luis Morales, a Special Forces intelligence sergeant, told the Army. “It reminded me of the videos from 9/11 — everything starts flushing at you, debris starts falling — and everything gets darker.”
The Americans and Afghan commandos used this time to consolidate some of their forces.
Both before and after the explosion, snipers on each side were playing a key role. For the Americans, one of their top assets was Staff Sgt. Seth E. Howard, a Special Forces weapons sergeant.
Near the command node, Howard was well-positioned to see the enemy fighters draw close to Walton and the JTAC. To prevent them being killed or captured, Walton stepped away from his position and moved into the open to engage the advancing fighters. He halted their advance, allowing Rhyner to continue calling in bombs.
Rhyner’s bombs would also be instrumental in protecting the command node. He sometimes had to order bombs within 100 meters of his and Walton’s position.
Planning to leave
American forces and Afghan commandos had more problems as the day wore on. The weather at the outset of the mission had been tricky, but the team was getting reports that a dust storm was getting worse and would stop air support before nightfall. That would leave them without bombs, helicopters, or an exit strategy. Meanwhile, surveillance platforms showed another 200 enemy fighters moving to the battlefield.
Walton had requested medical evacuation multiple times, but enemy fire made it impossible. And with six seriously wounded men, a closing window to exit the battlefield, and the serious danger of being overrun, Walton began looking at pulling the team out. But there was a problem. The initial plans had called for the team to leave by descending back down the terraces, a route now closed due to intense enemy fire.
Sanders had managed to break out of his besieged position in the village when another green beret forced a route open. Now, Walton asked him to recon a route down the sheer cliffs to the north of the village.
Sanders told the commander that the route was bad and it was possible that some climbers might break their backs or necks attempting it, but they’d probably live. The situation was so dire, Walton approved it as an exit strategy.
Leaving Shok Valley under heavy fire
Team Sergeant Master Sgt. Scott Ford led the organization at the top of the cliffs. He had less wounded team members carry the more seriously wounded down. One team member made the climb while carrying his leg that had been amputated by a sniper round early in the battle. Others were nursing wounds sustained from both insurgent fire and the effects of all the “danger close” bomb drops.
Ford was defending the top of the cliff other soldiers were climbing down when he was struck in the chest plate by a sniper round. He jumped up and continued fighting, but he was struck again. This time, his left arm was nearly amputated. Ford then finally began his own climb down the mountain, continuing to lead his men as he did so.
Howard, the sniper from above, stayed until all the other Americans and the Afghan commandos had left the mountain. He defended the top of the cliffs with his last magazine before pulling out.
One Afghan commando and an interpreter died, but all of the Americans survived the battle. The Army estimated the insurgents suffered over 150 dead and an untold number of wounded, according to an Army article. Eight insurgents were captured.
After the battle
Many of the wounded members of the team returned to service, including Ford and Sgt. 1st Class John Walding, the team member who lost his leg early on and carried it down the cliffs. Walding is attempting to return to his team, an ambition he describes near the end of this Army video about the battle. He later became the first amputee to graduate the Special Forces Sniper Course.
In a ceremony on Dec. 12, 2008, 10 members of the team were awarded Silver Stars. Rhyner was awarded the Air Force Cross during a separate ceremony in 2009.
Several new technologies are being developed that, once combined, will provide Soldiers an unprecedented overview of the battlefield.
That assessment came from Army personnel at Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center’s Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate here, who hosted a recent media visit.
Those technologies involve the marriage of micro-displays with augmented reality.
The Army’s preferred method of acquiring new technologies is to use what industry is already developing for consumers, or modifying that technology for its own use, said Rupal Varshneya, an electrical engineer at CERDEC.
The Army employs its scientists and research laboratories for designing needed technologies that industry is not interested in pursuing, she said. Such was the case when the Army needed a very bright, high-definition micro-display, about the size of a postage stamp.
(U.S. Army photo by David Vergun)
First off, the Army approached makers of smartphone, tablets, TVs and even the gaming industry, she said. None of them were interested in making the micro-display because they didn’t foresee consumer demand or profit potential.
So Army researchers at CERDEC went to work.
David Fellowes, an electrical engineer at CERDEC, said researchers worked in stages building displays with progressively greater capability. About eight years ago, they developed a monochrome version.
Then, several years later, researchers developed a new silicone technology and manufacturing methods that enabled the micro-display to increase in brightness, he explained.
“If you’ve ever tried looking at your cellphone on a sunny day, it’s really hard,” he said. The increase in display brightness was such that Soldiers would now be able to see the tiny micro-display in sunlight.
Although the technology was being developed for dismounted Soldiers, other program managers took notice, he said. For example the program manager responsible for Apache helicopters wanted their pilots to have them for head-mounted displays.
They are not yet fielded for the Apaches, but a contract for them has already been signed. Other program managers wanted them for night vision goggles and even for weapons sights, he added.
(U.S. Army photo by David Vergun)
The next step, he said, was to develop an extremely high resolution, 2048-by-2048-pixel display in full color. That advancement came to fruition recently, and some of them were on display.
The next phase of development had to do with taking the improved micro-display and pairing it with augmented reality, using the Nett Warrior system.
Sgt. 1st Class Justin Nelson, in charge of Soldier testing at CERDEC, was suited up in the Nett Warrior System, with a helmet-mounted micro-display attached. The media could see what he was seeing in his micro-display on a large TV screen.
Previously, Soldiers had a small radio attached to their chest, he said. Whenever they needed to get location coordinates or other data they had to look down and lost situational awareness to their front. Nelson compared it to a person walking across a busy street looking down at a cellphone. “Not good.”
The micro-display attachment to the helmet allows Soldiers to stay focused on what’s in front of them, he said.
The micro-display not only gives Soldiers a clear view of what’s ahead of them, night or day, it also can accommodate overlays such as maps and symbols showing friendly forces and enemy forces. In this way, it replaces traditional night vision goggles.
Furthermore, information that’s wirelessly fed into the micro-display, such as maps and symbols, can be shared among other Soldiers using the device, as well as leaders in the tactical operation center, he said.
(U.S. Army photo by David Vergun)
They all have the ability to share the same picture of the battlefield and can add or manipulate the symbols as needed, he said.
Researchers are also adding micro-displays on the Soldiers’ weapons and feeding that display into the one attached to the
Soldiers’ helmets via a tablet worn on the waist. That enables Soldiers to get a split view of what’s around them plus the target the weapon is trained on, he said.
So if the rifle is pointed rearward and the Soldier is looking forward, the image shows both views, he explained, adding that creates novel ways for Soldiers to fire their weapons, such as shooting over a wall without being exposed.
The entire system is currently being tested by Soldiers at Fort Benning’s Maneuver Center of Excellence, he said.
Military spouses get a bad rap. One need only mention that he or she is a military spouse and the dependa accusations start to flow, especially on social media. But that oft-maligned stereotype is far from the full picture. For every walking caricature, there are hundreds of hard-working, goal getters – pushing past those PCSes, deployments, and solo parenting struggles to blaze their own trails and grab those brass rings. Here are five butt-kicking milspouses who make us all proud.
Brianna Keilar is a CNN anchor, a senior political analyst … and the wife of Army LTC Fernando Lujan. They met when Lujan was working on the National Security Council at the White House and Keilar was CNN’s Senior Washington Correspondent. Though Keilar is better known, by far, for her very public day job, she’s hardly a closeted milspouse. She hosted events for Blue Star Families in 2018 and 2019 and wrote this essay about covering the news with a husband deployed.
Cadets in SS394: Financial Statements Analysis learned from Cracker Barrel Old Country Store CEO Sandy Cochran and Dollar General Chairman of the Board Mike Calbert.
(Image via West Point SOSH Facebook page)
2. The CEO
Sandy Cochran is pretty much who we all want to be when we grow up. The former Army brat doesn’t know how to fail. She was a member of the National Honor Society, the tennis team, captain of the cheerleading squad, and president of her class at Stuttgart American High School. She went to college on an ROTC scholarship and was honor grad of her Ordnance Officer Basic Course. She qualified as a paratrooper and served in the 9th Infantry Division first as a Missile Maintenance Officer in the 1st Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery, and then on the Division Staff, while attending night school to earn her MBA.
Cochran left the Army in 1985 (but not the Army lifestyle) and began working her way up the corporate ladder, while married to Donald Cochran, who served in the 82nd Airborne Division, the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and in Army Special Forces as a High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) parachute team leader. Fast forward through a couple of decades’ worth of both of the Cochrans’ amazing accomplishments (Seriously. They. Have. Done. So. Much.) and in 2009, Sandy was hired as the CFO of Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. Two years later, she moved into the CEO job, where she has spent nearly a decade successfully leading the company and its 73,000 employees.
It’s a tale as old as time…Pattie Millett already had an impressive legal career when she met and fell in love with a sailor. Like so many other military spouses, Pattie decided to figure out a way to make it work. She and her husband Bob got married, had two children, and when he deployed, Pattie did the job of two parents raising their children … while also managing her heavy caseload as a lawyer in the United States Solicitor General’s office.
And this is where her story is a tad different.
She argued a case before the Supreme Court and briefed five more while her husband was deployed. Then, in August 2013, Pattie became Judge Millett when she was confirmed by Congress to serve as a United States Circuit Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, to the seat vacated by Judge (ahem, now Justice) John Roberts, who was elevated to the United States Supreme Court — where our Pattie had already argued 32 cases. In fact, Pattie’s name even made it on the shortlist for a SCOTUS nomination — and we wouldn’t be surprised if she gets considered for that auspicious position again.
Oh, and did we mention that Pattie also has a 2nd Degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do? She earned it during all her free time.
(Image via Facebook)
4. The Olympian
When she’s all dressed up for her organization’s annual gala, you’d be forgiven for mistaking Sally Roberts for a fairy tale princess. But looks can be deceiving. Sally is hardly the type to sit around waiting to be rescued.
Not only is she a two-time Olympic Bronze Medal-winning wrestler and three-time National Women’s Wrestling Champion, she’s the founder and executive director of Wrestle Like a Girl, a national non-profit organization that is largely responsible for making girls’ wrestling a sanctioned high school sport in a growing number of states, bringing women’s wrestling into the NCAA, and for girls’ wrestling currently being the fastest growing sport in the nation.
Sally, an Army Special Operations veteran and the wife of a recently retired Army Special Forces soldier, started the organization not only to introduce more girls to the sport, but also to show girls that they can do anything.
We can’t imagine a better example of that than Sally.
Anna Chlumsky’s character Amy Brookheimer on the television series “Veep” is unflappable, the kind of woman who can handle absolutely anything. The actor, however, admits that being a military spouse can make her a little … flappable.
Anna and her husband, Shaun So, met when they were both college students at the University of Chicago. He enlisted in the Army Reserves and deployed to Afghanistan while they were dating. Anna wrote about her experiences for Glamour magazine, saying, “Being a family member … of a serviceman or -woman is a lonely experience. Every military spouse or loved one has, at one time or another, felt as if no one understands what they’re going through.”
She said her friends were supportive, but they didn’t always understand. “The concept of war was so foreign in our cosmopolitan world,” Chlumsky wrote. “Either people didn’t pay attention at all, or they read too much. I’d meet strangers who, upon discovering my boyfriend was in the Army, would look at me like I was living out some eighties romantic comedy, dating a guy from the wrong side of the tracks.”
The U.S. Air Force has officially authorized the use of two-piece flight suits while on duty.
Starting immediately, the two-piece flight suit — otherwise known as the two-piece flight duty uniform, or “2PFDU” — is authorized to be worn in both garrison and deployed locations, the service said in a news release April 22, 2019.
“The 2PFDU continues an effort to provide airmen with improved form, fit and function to perform their duties in any environment,” the release states. “Squadron commanders will now have the flexibility to make combat uniform decisions based on what is best for their airmen to meet mission requirements.”
Last week, Military.com spoke with Maj. Saily Rodriguez, the female fitment program manage officer for the human systems program office within the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, about upgrading current fighter pilot and aircrew flight suits, which are typically a one-piece garment for men and women.
U.S. Air Force demo pilots walk off the flightline during the Heritage Flight Training and Certification Course at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Feb. 28, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Jensen Stidham)
Advantages of a two-piece suit include greater ease in using the bathroom and improved overall comfort, Rodriguez said.
Along with meeting safety regulations, a two-piece flight suit, to be comprised of a standard top and bottom, would have to accommodate the needs of all aircrew members, she said.
The Air Force on April 23, 2019, said the traditional, one-piece flight duty uniform (FDU) will continue to be an option for aircrew.
A two-piece uniform has already been in use in the Air Force for those flying cargo airlift or helicopters.
The service in 2017 said that airmen flying these aircraft — anything aside from a fighter and without an ejection seat — had begun wearing the Army Aircrew Combat Uniform, known as the Airman Aircrew Combat Uniform in the Air Force, or the A2CU.
First Lt. Kayla Bowers, a 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot, looks out of the cockpit of her aircraft.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden)
The uniform looks very much like the Air Force’s Operational Camouflage Pattern, or OCP. Commanders across the force had begun giving some airmen the option to wear the A2CU as a duty uniform during training or while deployed.
Giving airmen the option to wear the 2PFDU “aligns with the traditional FDU, elevating the significance of squadron focus and identity, which supports [Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen David Goldfein’s] intent to revitalize squadrons,” Lt. Gen. Mark D. Kelly, deputy chief of staff for Air Force operations, said in the release.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Sunbaked skin presses against the butts of rifles, as sweat runs down foreheads, brimming along chin straps and soaking into shirt collars. Their eyes scan the urban terrain, searching for enemies from the surrounding grassy hills of Camp Guernsey, Wyoming.
Marines and airmen from around the globe trained together for the first time in the advanced tactical course from June 9-20, 2019.
“Move, I have you covered,” said Marine Corps Sgt. Justin Roman, Marine Corps Security Forces Training Company instructor.
Shots ring out and echo through a desolate neighborhood of tan shipping containers stacked and strewn about. Feet pound and guns sway as a small-fire team run to their next sheltering place. A cadre calmly walks behind, eyes watching for mistakes.
“A small mistake in training could cost you your life in a real-world situation,” said Staff Sgt. Jesse Koritar, 90th Ground Combat Training Squadron training instructor. “Correcting mistakes in a controlled environment will instill muscle memory and effective tactical decision making will become normal.”
A machine gun lets loose from a dark window aimed for a dilapidated shack near their shelter. The sound reverberates through their rib cages as they press forward to their objective.
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Nicholas Ponce, 90th Security Support Squadron tactical response force member, holds down a tactical angle during the advanced tactical course at Camp Guernsey, Wyo., June 19, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley N. Sokolov)
“It’s important to break their fears,” Koritar said. “When it comes to ‘the moment’ we don’t want them to freeze and cause the potential death of others.”
Getting the students into a normalcy of hearing gunfire and moving forward, despite inner fears, is paramount to molding a successful tactical response force and is one of the goals of ATC.
The team stacks up for their next move, communicating each other’s positions. All the while, covering down on different tactical angles, with their M4 carbine, watching for a shooter.
From a window overlooking an open courtyard, shots are fired. With the distraction from another fire team, they can move towards their objective. Passing by windows, one member scans for possible targets, while his partner watches their back.
“Clear. Move,” Roman said after each window.
Marine Corps Sgt. Spencer Hockaday, Marine Corps Security Forces Training Company instructor, rappels Aussie-style down the Cheyenne Fire Department training facility in Cheyenne, Wyo., June 17, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley N. Sokolov)
The modified shipping containers now tower overhead, blocking them from view of their counterparts in the courtyard windows.
They clear out a makeshift building, planning to move farther into the city. Lined up at the door, an airman sends out cover fire as the team makes a run for shelter.
Pop! A plume of white smoke escapes a training improvised explosive device set off by the first airman’s advance between two buildings.
“The first two,” said Staff Sgt. Mathew Nason, 90th GCTS training instructor. “You’re dead.”
The mission must press on.
“We get them exposed in the urban environment or with the payload transporter van so they know what to look for,” Koritar said. “The trip wire and IED training is important, it’s a simple attack and the threat is real.”
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Ryan Mason II, 91st Security Support Squadron tactical response force member, and Senior Airman Kevin Freese, 341st Security Support Squadron TRF, navigate terrain during the advanced tactical course at Camp Guernsey, Wyo., June 19, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley N. Sokolov)
In the clouds a UH-1 Huey from Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, banks to land in an open field for infiltration and exfiltration exercises down the road. Another team runs, heads tucked down, below swishing blades to load up.
Over the course of 11 days, the students learned a multitude of skills, including: urban operations, rappelling down a 56-foot rappel tower, helicopter operations, close quarters combat and PT van and vehicle assaults.
“I am learning a lot of new stuff I haven’t seen before and the stuff I already know, I am just practicing and getting better at it,” said Airman 1st Class Jose Villalvazo-Vazquez, 91st Security Support Squadron tactical response force member. “At the end, no matter if you know it or not, practice is what helps you perfect it.”
Not only does every student need to polish their individual skills, they also learn to work as a cohesive team.
“At the beginning of this course one of the classes’ weaknesses was team cohesion,” Koritar said. “We have guys who come from different bases, who have never worked together. When they walk into our door we teach them to have accountability, to take care of their people and to meet and rise to a higher standard every day.”
Airman 1st Class Benjie Phillips and Senior Airman Alvaro Aguilera, 91st Security Support Squadron tactical response force members, clear a multi floored building during training at the Cheyenne Fire Department training facility in Cheyenne, Wyo., June 17, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley N. Sokolov)
The course mixes the members into groups and expects them to quickly learn how to communicate and work as a cohesive team. Communication is important during combat situations; however, there is a more prominent reason for a team like this to bond together.
“I tell these guys, you’re going to eat together, sleep together, you’re going to hang out on your off time together, to build that foundation to trust their buddy,” Koritar said. “You want all of your guys on the same page, that tight-knit community where they are ready to die for their buddy if need be.”
Creating a team that would walk through hell together isn’t a tranquil task. It leaves sweat stains, dirt-streaked faces and bruised and bloody limbs.
“We have been failing, we’ve been growing, we’ve been getting to know each other. That’s what it means to learn,” said Villalvazo-Vazquez.
To protect one of America’s greatest assets, it takes dedication, pride and a well-taught team. The perfect team is constantly looking for improvements, budding to be the best and is willing to train and work in the most grueling of conditions.
“The goal is to take a trained member from any base and have the tactics across the board to be the same throughout,” Koritar said.
The ATC had their first blend of students including Marines and airmen from around the globe; some traveling from as far as, Aviano Air Base, Italy and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
U.S. Air Force Airmen disembark a UH-1 Iroquois, during the advanced tactical course at Camp Guernsey, Wyo., June 19, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley N. Sokolov)
“Integration of different people including Marines, allows us to see different aspects in training,” said Airman 1st Class Damion Rodriguez, 91st SSPTS TRF member. “The mixed course forces us to get to know other people, how they see things, and how they work and cope with responsibilities and tasks given.”
The learning and improvement observed throughout the training wouldn’t be a possibility without a central location and experienced cadre shaping members to TRF standards.
“These exercises are beneficial to the students because they don’t always have the training areas or the equipment and resources to actually make these complex scenarios happen,” Koritar said. “At Camp Guernsey we have the training ranges, time and cadre to help evaluate and mold these guys and help them become successful and do the TRF mission.”
After gallons of water have been converted into sweat and uniforms abused by rocks and dirt, the students skilled in all areas of the TRF mission earn the right to graduate. Thus allowing them to be placed on any fire team and not miss a beat, ensuring America is continuously under protection from adversaries around the globe.
It’s the summer of 1968 in Vietnam, a sergeant with Company K, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment was forced into a position he never could have imagined. He had to lead his entire company through a deadly enemy ambush after the company commander, platoon commander, and senior enlisted leadership were wounded in the fight.
These were the circumstances of retired Marine 1st Sgt. John J. Lord during the battle of Hue City, nearly half a century ago, during the Vietnam War.
Lord was awarded the Navy Cross, the nation’s second highest award for combat bravery, during a ceremony at a Marine Corps Birthday Ball celebration in Vancouver, Washington Nov. 17, 2018. The Navy Cross award was an upgrade from a Bronze Star that Lord received in 1975, seven years after he put himself in the cross-hairs of the North Vietnamese Army when rescuing his fellow Marines who were wounded.
Lord took over command of the entire company and located one of the only working radios and then started directing air support against the enemy.
U.S. Marines fighting in Hue.
The day immediately following the battle, now retired Lt. Col. Michael Sweeney began pushing for Lord to be awarded the Navy Cross for his heroism and valor during the fight. Even after the Bronze Star was awarded, Sweeney continued to push for the Navy Cross. Finally, 43 years later, Sweeney’s efforts bore fruit.
According to his citation, Lord’s actions helped turned the tide of the battle. However, he always stayed true to his men and their efforts during the fight.
“Everything on that citation is true except one thing they left off,” Lord said. “They left off the Marines who served with me that day.”
Four of his fellow unit members were in attendance the night of the ceremony, and stood at Lord’s behest to receive a standing ovation from all who were in attendance just like they did for Lord just moments prior. Lord proclaimed how honored he was to serve with these Marines and how important they are to the mission.
“I can only stand here and say how proud I am to have served with you Marines — and corpsman, I won’t forget you too,” Lord said. “I am honored to call you brothers in arms.”
Like fellow Baseball Hall of Famer Ted Williams, pitcher Warren Spahn had his career interrupted by World War II. Unlike Williams, who was already famous when he was drafted, Spahn achieved notoriety after the war. Span had what ball players call “a cup of coffee” (a brief appearance in the majors) in 1942, pitching just four games before he was drafted.
In his Hall of Fame career, most of it for the Boston/Milwaukee Braves, Warren Edward Spahn won 363 games, ranking sixth overall; the most for a left-handed pitcher. A seventeen-time All-Star, Spahn’s career included thirteen seasons with twenty or more wins, three ERA titles, two no hitters (at ages 39 and 40), and a World Series championship and Cy Young Award (both in 1957). Career highlights included an epic 16-inning pitching duel on July 2, 1963, at age 42 with 25-year-old Juan Marichal and the San Francisco Giants.
The game was scoreless when it went into extra innings. Five times Giants manager Alvin Dark went to the mound, intending to relieve Marichal and each time Marichal refused. On Dark’s fifth trip, in the 14th inning, Marichal growled, “Do you see that man pitching for the other side? Do you know that man is 42 years old? I’m only 25. If that man is on the mound, nobody is going to take me out of here.” In the bottom of the 16th inning the game was still tied 0–0. With one out, Giants outfielder Willie Mays hit a solo home run, winning the game. Marichal had thrown 227 pitches, Spahn 201, with the latter allowing nine hits and one walk.
Spahn entered the Army on Dec. 3, 1942, at Camp Chaffee, Ark., a combination training facility and POW camp, and one of the many military bases being built in the crash-construction program overseen by Lt. Gen. Brehon Somervell. Following basic training, he was sent to Camp Gruber, Okla., where he was assigned to the 276th Engineer Combat Battalion. He continued to play baseball, and helped pitch the battalion’s team to the post championship.
A 1963 publicity still from the 1960s ABC network television series “Combat!” showing Warren Spahn as a German Army soldier.
(Photo by Dwight J. Zimmerman)
On Nov. 4, 1944, Staff Sgt. Spahn and his unit, part of the 1159th Engineer Combat Group, boarded the Queen Mary for France. Of the men in the unit, Spahn later said some had been let out of prison if they would enlist. “So these were the people I went overseas with, and they were tough and rough and I had to fit that mold.”
Spahn soon found himself in the middle of action in the brutal Battle of the Hürtgen Forest and the Battle of the Bulge. Spahn recalled being surrounded and he and his men having to fight their way out. During one of the coldest winters on record, Spahn said, “Our feet were frozen when we went to sleep and they were frozen when we woke up. We didn’t have a bath or change of clothes for weeks.”
In March 1945 the 276th was at Remagen, Germany, working around the clock to repair the Ludendorff Bridge. Though damaged by demolitions triggered by retreating German troops, it had not been destroyed, making it the only Rhine River bridge captured by the Allies. On March 17, at about 3:00 p.m., Lt. Col. Clayton Rust, the 276th’s commander, was standing about in the middle of the bridge talking to a fellow officer. Suddenly everyone heard what sounded like rifle shots – rivets were being sheared off from trusses and beams. The bridge, weakened by the demolitions, heavy troop and vehicle traffic, and vibration from artillery fire and construction equipment, was collapsing. A total of 28 men were killed or missing and 65 wounded. Eighteen men were rescued from the river, including Col. Rust. Spahn was among the wounded, getting hit in the left foot by a piece of bridge shrapnel.
The 276th received the Presidential Unit Citation for its actions at Remagen. Spahn was also awarded the Purple Heart. In addition Spahn received a battlefield commission, which lengthened his service by another six months. Discharged in April 1946, he returned to the Boston Braves in time to post an 8–5 season.
Historians and fans later claimed that Spahn’s four years in the Army cost him the chance of reaching 400 wins. But Spahn disagreed, saying, “I matured a lot in those years. If I had not had that maturity, I wouldn’t have pitched until I was 45.” Elaborating on the point, he said, “After what I went through overseas, I never thought of anything I was told to do in baseball as hard work. You get over feeling like that when you spend days on end sleeping in frozen tank tracks in enemy threatened territory.”
Warren Spahn retired in 1965. In 1973 he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Two years before he retired, Spahn made his acting debut in the television show “Combat!” — a cameo as a German soldier.
A YouTube video of American troops crossing the Ludendorff Bridge can be seen here below:
If there’s one generally accepted rule of warfare, it’s that you should never invade Russia during the winter. Hitler tried it and failed horribly, Napoleon tried before that and found equally terrible results, and the Swedes who fought in the Great Northern War would tell a similar story.
Supply lines running thin in the freezing cold and enveloping mud spells doom for anyone attacking into a Russian winter — or does it? For some reason, history tends to overlook the many times Russia has lost in the cold, despite their home-turf advantage.
1. The Japanese — Russo-Japanese War
Because the giant nation’s borders have changed throughout history, it’s hard to pinpoint what exactly constitutes the “Russia” part of a “Russian winter.” Most historians would define it as invading west of the Steppes, but technically, the Japanese attacked Russia by taking Russian-controlled Korea and Manchuria.
Japan invaded and conquered the Korean peninsula in February 1904. Ironically, Tsar Nicholas II couldn’t get the supplies needed from the Western half of Russia due to intense winter weather — the same conditions that, supposedly, make Russia impregnable. As a result, the Japanese were able to fortify and held the territory until the end of WWII.
2. The Finns — Continuation War
As hard fought as the Winter War between Finland and the USSR was, the Finns managed to hold onto their independence by ceding 11% of their bordering lands to the Soviet Union. Later, Finland sought to regain these lands by making an enemy-of-my-enemy pact with Nazi Germany in 1941.
Finnish forces pushed through to Leningrad so “successfully” that it made Hitler confident he could do the same. Except, in this case, “success” meant that cannibalism wasn’t too widespread. Though trying, the Finns were able to hold onto territory until 1944, when Finland sided with their archenemy, Russia, to fight off Nazi Germany.
3. The Swedes — Ingrian War
Swedish invasions combined with ongoing Polish aggression (detailed below) in the early 17th century kicked off what has since been known in Russian history as “the Time of Trouble.” Sweden sought to capture the Russian throne, and they started by launching an offensive on Novgorod, which resulted in the successful installation of a Swedish monarch.
To find eventual peace, treaties were formed and broken and reformed and rebroken and finally reformed in favor of Sweden. Either way, the Swedish Kingdom pushed the Russians back to Kola and, in the process, kicked off what the Swedes call their “Age of Greatness.” Eventually, the Russians and Swedes formed an uneasy alliance because both of them were more focused on another common enemy: Poland.
4. The Poles — Livonian War
Not to be outdone by the Swedes, Poland also got involved with conflict in the Russians around the turn of the 17th century. Swedish and Polish armies invaded Russia from different fronts and would eventually fight each other. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth get most of the credit for invading Russia because they seized and held territory in the name of Roman Catholicism.
The Polish king, Stefan Bathory, lead a widely-successful, five-year campaign against Ivan IV (or, as history knows him, Ivan the Terrible). It would take years for Russian forces to reunify under the Romanov dynasty and defend the Kremlin.
5. The Central Powers — WWI
During WWI, the Germans managed to push the Eastern front all the way to Petrograd (St. Petersburg) and caused enough instability to forever change Russian history. Germany pressured Russia into the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918, which made Russia give up control of Poland and the Baltic States after fighting through the long winter of 1917-1918, effectively putting an end to fighting on the Eastern Front.
This was also what would sway public support for the Communist Red Army. In a way, the Czardom of Russia was completely destroyed because they lost a war fought in a Russian winter.
6. The Mongols — The Golden Horde conquests
And, of course, the grandsons of Ghengis Khan very successfully curb-stomped the Kievan Rus’ at the height of the Mongol Empire. They cleared out Ryazan and Suzdal in December 1237 and eventually pushed their way into Kiev by December 1240. They were without supply lines (they were nomads — they didn’t rely on them) and were very much on Russian soil as winter set in. Their primary means of battle, the cavalry, were very susceptible to the rigors of winter, but still dominated.
Nearly every harsh element of harsh winters should have crippled the Mongol forces. Instead, the Mongols only stopped because they had little interest in holding territory.
The Iranian capital was hit by power outages amid protests in Tehran over worsening economic conditions in the country.
The semiofficial Fars news agency reported that Tehran was hit by a blackout for several hours on June 27, 2018, due to the “overheating” of the nation’s power grid.
The Iran Power Network Management Company, a power supplier, said consumption reached a peak at 4 p.m. local time on June 26, 2018, prompting the blackouts.
The Energy Ministry has said electricity consumption has increased by some 28 percent compared to 2017.
Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian said in April 2018 that electricity output from hydropower plants would decrease because Iran was experiencing its worst drought in the past 50 years.
Ardakanian said power outages were inevitable and urged consumers to use less electricity.
The power shortages in Tehran coincided with demonstrations in the capital and other cities over the falling value of the national currency, the rial.
The value of the rial has plummeted by nearly a half in the last six months, helping feed a spiral of rising prices for everyday goods.
The currency’s fall accelerated after U.S. President Donald Trump announced in May 2018 that he was pulling the United States out of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers and reinstating U.S. sanctions against Tehran.
Protesters on the streets and in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar staged demonstrations for three consecutive days starting from June 24, 2018.
There were no reports of fresh protests on June 28, 2018, a day after a heavy police presence on Tehran’s streets and at the Grand Bazaar.
Early Sunday, a fire broke out below decks on the USS Bonhomme Richard which is currently docked in her home port of San Diego.
The fire was reported to be as a result of an explosion below deck, possibly originating in the hangar bay of the amphibious assault ship. The first reposted call went out around 10am and was later expanded to a three-alarm call for the San Diego Fire Department.
Injuries have been reported for 17 sailors and 4 civilians, but no details have been confirmed.
The Bonhomme Richard, named after Revolutionary War hero John Paul Jones’ famous ship, is primarily used to embark, deploy and land elements of a Marine assault force in amphibious operations by air, landing craft and amphibious assault vehicles. It can also act as a light aircraft carrier. The ship was commissioned in 1998 and San Diego became its home port in 2018. She has deployed numerous times in support of Operation Iraq Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and was part of humanitarian efforts in during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami disaster.
Young Ethan Larimer has always dreamed of joining the Army and following in the footsteps of his father, Daniel Larimer, who was a “Blackhorse Trooper,” as soldiers of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment are known.
However, Ethan has a unique neurological disorder — Charcot-Marie-Tooth neuropathy type 4J, or CMT4J — that will prevent him from joining the military. Because of his medical condition, Ethan has difficulty with motor functions and uses a wheelchair.
“Ethan has dealt with his disease very well,” said Daniel Larimer. “He has been hospitalized for weeks on end at times as well as continuous physical therapy. One thing Ethan has taught me is that even if you have some barriers or limitations, that doesn’t need to be your life.”
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Justin May)
Though Ethan will never be able to serve in the Army due to his disability, he still dreams of riding into battle on the back of tanks. When Ethan’s mother, Victoria Perkins, contacted the 11th Armored Cavalry about fulfilling Ethan’s dream, the famed Blackhorse Regiment was happy to oblige.
Ethan recently spent a day with soldiers of the 11th Armored Cavalry, who helped Ethan check off all the items on his bucket list. Upon arrival to Regimental Headquarters, Ethan was inducted into the Blackhorse Honorary Rolls, an honor set aside for those who have served the regiment above reproach. The regimental commander then presented Ethan with the Regimental Command Team coins.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Justin May)
Ethan was able to see demonstrations of several guns, including the M240B Machine Gun, Browning M2 .50 Cal. Machine Gun, M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, and M4A1 Carbine. He also got to drive his wheelchair into a tank and see a helicopter.
“Through his diagnosis and living with CMT4J, Ethan has shown great resiliency,” said Col. Joseph Clark, Regiment Commander, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. “My interaction with Ethan was inspiring, because he maintains positivity, and refuses to allow his disability to stop him. Throughout the day, he was curious and asked many questions about what we do. His personality, his drive, and his grit is exactly what I look for in my troopers, and I am honored to have made him a Blackhorse Trooper.”
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Justin May)
Ethan was given a personal “Box Tour,” an event where people are shown the ins and outs of training and battles at the National Training Center in Irvine, California. Then he led a platoon during building clearance drills through the streets of “Razish,” a simulated town at NTC.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Justin May)
Later the 11th Armored Cavalry’s Horse Detachment gave Ethan a tour of the stables and brought some of the horses out to greet the young Blackhorse Trooper. The Horse Detachment conducted a special demonstration for Ethan and his family to mark the end of Ethan’s day.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Justin May)
“Even though I am no longer a service member, the post and the unit I was a part of really pulled out all the stops to accommodate my son,” said Daniel. “We are all really grateful to come back and see what the Blackhorse has become and to hear ‘Allons’ again.”