The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

If you’ve ever wanted to be a space shuttle door gunner, pay attention: the weapon you might be operating could look something like this monster – the only projectile weapon designed for and fired in orbit around the Earth. Of course, it was the Soviet Union during the Cold War, who else would do that?


The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

These are the people who taught terrorists to hijack planes just to be dicks to the West.

Despite some initial successes, the Soviet Union ended up losing the Space Race in a big way. Their loss is exemplified by the fact that the same day the Americans put men on the moon, the Soviets failed to land a probe there. So after a while, the disparity in technology irked the Soviet Union.

Most important to the USSR was the idea of American spacecraft being able to literally get their hands on Soviet satellites. Anti-satellite operations were something both powers prepared for, but the idea that the satellite itself would need protection up there all alone prompted the Soviets to arm one of theirs, just to see how that would go.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

This is how that would go.

The Soviets built a station code-named “Almaz,” a space station that held spy equipment, radar, and the R-23M, a 37-pound 14.5mm automatic cannon that could fire up to 5,000 rounds per minute that was accurate up to a mile away. There was just one problem: aiming the cannon. The cosmonauts in the station would have to rotate the entire space station to point the weapon.

It was supposed to be the first manned space station in orbit, but the Russians were more concerned with developing the weapon than they were other aspects of the capsule, like sensors and life support. So instead of building their grand space station, they slapped together what they had with the R-23M and a Soyuz capsule, called it the Salyut before launching it into space in 1971.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

All this space station and not one Death Star joke.

The CIA knew about every iteration of the Soviet Salyut spy stations, but what they – and much of the world – didn’t know is that they actually fired the R-23M while in orbit. On Jan. 24, 1975, Salyut 3 test fired its weapon before the station was supposed to de-orbit. The crew had not been aboard for around six months at this point. While the Soviets never released what happened during the test, the shots and the station were all destroyed when they re-entered the atmosphere.

Firing a gun in space would be very different from firing on Earth. First, there is no sound in the vacuum of space, so it would not go bang. Secondly, the Soviets would have had to fire some kind of thruster to balance out the force exerted on the capsule by the weapon’s recoil; otherwise the Salyut would have been pushed in the opposite direction. The weight of the projectile fired would determine how fast you would fly in the opposite direction.

Not to mention that shooting the weapon into Earth’s orbit could cause the bullets to hit the station itself from the opposite direction.

Articles

17 photos that show how high schoolers are turned into badass Marine infantrymen

Marine Corps infantrymen are certified badasses capable of destroying enemy positions and forces with high levels of violence.


But wait, Marines aren’t born out of forges in the ground like Uruk-hai. So how does the Marine Corps take soft, pliable high school graduates barely able to work a condom and turn them into infantrymen capable of thrusting bayonets through enemy fighters like it ain’t no thang?

Well, first:

1. All Marines go through Marine Corps recruit training, starting off at the famous yellow footprints.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit
New recruits of Charlie Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, receive a Uniform Code of Military Justice brief at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Angelica Annastas)

2. During recruit training, the recruits learn to accomplish basic military tasks and to cede their personal interests to the needs of the team.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit
U.S. Marine Corps recruits with Company G, 2d Recruit Training Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, low crawl at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif., Oct. 18, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Robert G. Gavaldon)

3. The 12 weeks of recruit training are, to say the least, uncomfortable. Lots of time crawling through sand and mud, ruck marching, and building muscle through repetitive stress.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit
A U.S. Marine Corps recruit with Company G, 2d Recruit Training Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, low crawls through an obstacle during a training course at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif., Oct. 18, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Robert G. Gavaldon)

4. But the future infantrymen get their first taste of combat training here, learning to stab with their bayonets and shoot with their rifles.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit
A U.S. Marine Corps recruit with Company G, 2d Recruit Training Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, practices close combat techniques at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif., Oct. 18, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Robert G. Gavaldon)

5. And of course, they get to work with the famously kind drill instructors.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Roger T. Moore, a drill instructor with Company D, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, corrects a recruit aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif., June 20, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Erick J. ClarosVillalta)

6. At the end of all of this, they earn the right to call themselves Marines and march in the graduation ceremony right before…

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit
A U.S. Marine with Company B, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, stands in formation before a graduation ceremony aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif., June 17, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Erick J. ClarosVillalta)

7. …they’re sent to the Infantry Training Battalion for 59-days of learning, patrolling, and physical hardship.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit
U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, Infantry Training Battalion (ITB), School of Infantry-East, observe their surroundings during a reconnaissance patrol as part of a field training exercise at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Jan. 12, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Manuel A. Serrano)

8. The Marines learn a large number of new basic infantry skills and a few advanced infantry skills.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit
A U.S. Marine assigned to Alpha Company, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry-East, moves to contact during a field training exercise aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., Jan. 12, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. James R. Skelton)

9. Some of the most important skills are the less flashy ones, like land navigation …

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit
A U.S. Marine with Alpha Company, Infantry Training Battalion (ITB), School of Infantry-East, finds the azimuth during a field training exercise at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Jan. 12, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Manuel A. Serrano)

10. …and long hikes.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit
U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Eric A. Harshman, a combat instructor assigned to Alpha Company, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry-East, takes accountability of Marines and gear during a conditioning hike aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., Jan. 12, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. James R. Skelton)

11. But of course, there are plenty of awesome trips to the range.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit
A U.S. Marine with Kilo Company, Marine Combat Training Battalion (MCT), School of Infantry-East, fires an M240G Medium Machine gun during a live fire exercise on Camp Lejeune, N.C, Jan. 13, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Manuel A. Serrano)

12. Marines learn to fire everything from machine guns and rifles to grenades and rockets.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit
A U.S. Marine with Alpha Company, Infantry Training Battalion (ITB), School of Infantry-East, ejects a shell casing after firing an M203 grenade launcher during a live-fire range at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Jan. 12, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Manuel A. Serrano)

13. Even those big, beautiful mortars will make an appearance.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit
A U.S. Marine assigned to Alpha Company, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry-East, fires an 81mm Mortar during a live-fire exercise aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., Jan. 12, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. James R. Skelton)

14. But the mother of all machine guns is probably the most beloved weapon in the arsenal: the M-2 .50-caliber machine gun.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit
Marines with Company A, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry-West (SOI-West), fire the M2A1 .50 caliber heavy machine gun as part of their basic infantry training Sept. 20, 2016, at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. (Offical Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Joseph A. Prado)

15. Besides navigation and weapons skills, the Marines have to learn skills like how to administer first aid in combat.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit
A U.S. Marine with Company F (Fox Co.), Marine Combat Training Battalion (MCT), School of Infantry-East treats a simulated casualty while conducting Military Operations in Urban Terrain during their Basic Skills Readiness Exercise (BSRE) aboard Camp Geiger, N.C., Jan. 31, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jose Villalobosrocha).

16. But the crux of a Marine infantryman’s job is combat as a member of a rifle team.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit
U.S. Marines with Company F (Fox Co.), Marine Combat Training Battalion (MCT), School of Infantry-East conduct Military Operations in Urban Terrain during their Basic Skills Readiness Exercise (BSRE) aboard Camp Geiger, N.C., Jan. 31, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jose Villalobosrocha)

17. The culmination of all this training is the 24-hour Basic Skills Readiness Exercise where they’re assessed on everything they learned in training, ensuring that they are ready to perform as expeditionary warfighters around the world.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit
U.S. Marines with Company F (Fox Co.), Marine Combat Training Battalion (MCT), School of Infantry-East conduct Military Operations in Urban Terrain during their Basic Skills Readiness Exercise (BSRE) aboard Camp Geiger, N.C., Jan. 31, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jose Villalobosrocha)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Navy says it has top-secret information about UFOs

The Navy has said it has top-secret information about unidentified flying objects that could cause “exceptionally grave damage to the National Security of the United States” if released.

A Navy representative responded to a Freedom of Information Act request sent by a researcher named Christian Lambright by saying the Navy had “discovered certain briefing slides that are classified TOP SECRET,” Vice reported last week.

But the representative from the Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence said “the Original Classification Authority has determined that the release of these materials would cause exceptionally grave damage to the National Security of the United States.”


The person also said the Navy had at least one related video classified as “SECRET.”

Vice said it independently verified the response to Lambright’s request with the Navy.

Lambright’s request for information was related to a series of videos showing Navy pilots baffled by mysterious, fast objects in the sky.

The Navy previously confirmed it was treating these objects as UFOs.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

An image from a 2004 video filmed near San Diego showing a UFO.

(CNN/Department of Defense)

The term UFO, along with others like “unidentified aerial phenomena” and “unidentified flying object,” does not necessarily mean the object is thought to be extraterrestrial. Many such sightings ultimately end up having logical and earthly explanations — often involving military technology.

A spokeswoman for the Pentagon had also previously told The Black Vault, a civilian-run archive of government documents, that the videos “were never officially released to the general public by the DOD and should still be withheld.”

The Department of Defense videos show pilots confused by what they are seeing. In one video, a pilot said: “What the f— is that thing?”

The Pentagon spokeswoman Susan Gough said this week that an investigation into “sightings is ongoing.”

Joseph Gradisher, the Navy’s spokesman for the deputy chief of naval operations for information warfare, told The Black Vault last year: “The Navy has not publicly released characterizations or descriptions, nor released any hypothesis or conclusions, in regard to the objects contained in the referenced videos.”

According to The Black Vault, Gradisher said the Department of Defense videos were filmed in 2004 and 2015. The New York Times also reported that one of the videos was from 2004.

You can watch the 2004 video here, as shared by To the Stars Academy, a UFO research group cofounded by Tom deLonge from the rock group Blink-182:

FLIR1: Official UAP Footage from the USG for Public Release

www.youtube.com

One of the videos was shared by The New York Times in December 2017, with one commander who saw the object on a training mission telling The Times “it accelerated like nothing I’ve ever seen.”

Another pilot told the outlet: “These things would be out there all day.”

Pilots told The Times that the objects could accelerate, stop, and turn in ways that went beyond known aerospace technology. Many of the pilots who spoke with The Times were part of a Navy flight squadron known as the “Red Rippers,” and they reported the sightings to the Pentagon and Congress.

“Navy pilots reported to their superiors that the objects had no visible engine or infrared exhaust plumes, but that they could reach 30,000 feet and hypersonic speeds,” the Times report said.

Scientists also told The Times they were skeptical that these videos showed anything extraterrestrial.

Gough, the Pentagon spokeswoman, would not comment to Vice on whether the 2004 source video that the Navy possessed had any more information than the one that has been circulating online, but she said that it was the same length and that the Pentagon did not plan on releasing it.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

An image from the 2015 video.

(NYT)

John Greenewald, the curator of The Black Vault, told Vice in September that he was surprised the Navy had classified the objects as unidentified.

“I very much expected that when the US military addressed the videos, they would coincide with language we see on official documents that have now been released, and they would label them as ‘drones’ or ‘balloons,'” he said.

“However, they did not. They went on the record stating the ‘phenomena’ depicted in those videos, is ‘unidentified.’ That really made me surprised, intrigued, excited, and motivated to push harder for the truth.”

US President Donald Trump said in June that he had been briefed on the fact that Navy pilots were reporting increased sightings of UFOs.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Remember: All troops and DoD civilians can get TSA Precheck

Service members are trusted to defend the nation, surely they can be trusted when boarding a plane.

This is the thinking of the Transportation Security Administration, which is pushing to ensure that service members and DOD civilians know they can use the TSA Precheck program.

“Service members are already enrolled in TSA Precheck, but many do not know they are,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in a recent interview. Pekoske, a retired Coast Guard vice admiral, wants all those eligible to use this free program.


Smart security

All service members of all components of the armed forces and students at the armed forces’ service academies are automatically enrolled in TSA Precheck. Their DOD ID numbers — a 10-digit number that should be on the back of your Common Access Card — serve as their Known Traveler Numbers.

Civilian employees must opt into the program using milConnect website at https://milconnect.dmdc.osd.mil/milconnect/. Their DOD ID number is also their KTN.

Again, there is no cost for military members or civilians. For the general public that enrolls in the program, the cost is .

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, makes remarks during a Veterans Day ceremony at Transportation Security Administration headquarters in Arlington, Va., Nov. 10, 2014. The event highlighted TSA’s new initiatives which include efforts to hire more veterans and to make travel easier for service members and veterans.

“This is a real benefit for being a member of the armed forces, and it is good for us from a security perspective,” Petoske said.

To obtain their positions, service members and DOD civilians undergo background checks, and most have security clearances. They are trusted to carry weapons in defense of the United States or to safeguard America’s secrets. So the TSA decided that there was no need for them to take off their shoes and belts at a checkpoint to get on an aircraft.

Using TSA Precheck

All travelers must add their DOD ID number to their Defense Travel System profiles to access TSA Precheck while on official travel, but eligible service members and civilians can also use it on personal travel, Pekoske said.

“If you go on any airline website, when you are making flight reservations, there is a box for the KTN and that is where they put their DOD number in,” he said. “Once you put the number in — especially if you are a regular flier on that airline — every time you make a reservation, or a reservation is made by the DOD travel service for you, they will automatically pick up that number.”

“The effort makes sense from an agency perspective and it is also a way to say thanks to members of the military and the civilian members of DOD and the Department of Homeland Security who sacrifice so much,” the administrator said. “It’s a really good program and it provides a direct benefit to those who keep us free.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Apparently this is what it takes to trust a robot

What does it take for a human to trust a robot? That is what Army researchers are uncovering in a new study into how humans and robots work together.

Research into human-agent teaming, or HAT, has examined how the transparency of agents — such as robots, unmanned vehicles or software agents — influences human trust, task performance, workload and perceptions of the agent. Agent transparency refers to its ability to convey to humans its intent, reasoning process and future plans.

New Army-led research finds that human confidence in robots decreases after the robot makes a mistake, even when it is transparent with its reasoning process. The paper, “Agent Transparency and Reliability in Human — Robot Interaction: The Influence on User Confidence and Perceived Reliability,” has been published in the August issue of IEEE-Transactions on Human-Machine Systems.


To date, research has largely focused on HAT with perfectly reliable intelligent agents — meaning the agents do not make mistakes — but this is one of the few studies that has explored how agent transparency interacts with agent reliability. In this latest study, humans witnessed a robot making a mistake, and researchers focused on whether the humans perceived the robot to be less reliable, even when the human was provided insight into the robot’s reasoning process.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

ASM experimental interface: The left-side monitor displays the lead soldier’s point of view of the task environment.

(U.S. Army illustration)

“Understanding how the robot’s behavior influences their human teammates is crucial to the development of effective human-robot teams, as well as the design of interfaces and communication methods between team members,” said Dr. Julia Wright, principal investigator for this project and researcher at U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory, also known as ARL. “This research contributes to the Army’s Multi-Domain Operations efforts to ensure overmatch in artificial intelligence-enabled capabilities. But it is also interdisciplinary, as its findings will inform the work of psychologists, roboticists, engineers, and system designers who are working toward facilitating better understanding between humans and autonomous agents in the effort to make autonomous teammates rather than simply tools.

This research was a joint effort between ARL and the University of Central Florida Institute for Simulations and Training, and is the third and final study in the Autonomous Squad Member project, sponsored by the Office of Secretary of Defense’s Autonomy Research Pilot Initiative. The ASM is a small ground robot that interacts with and communicates with an infantry squad.

Prior ASM studies investigated how a robot would communicate with a human teammate. Using the situation awareness-based Agent Transparency model as a guide, various visualization methods to convey the agent’s goals, intents, reasoning, constraints, and projected outcomes were explored and tested. An at-a-glance iconographic module was developed based on these early study findings, and then was used in subsequent studies to explore the efficacy of agent transparency in HAT.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

Researchers conducted this study in a simulated environment, in which participants observed a human-agent soldier team, which included the ASM, traversing a training course. The participants’ task was to monitor the team and evaluate the robot. The soldier-robot team encountered various events along the course and responded accordingly. While the soldiers always responded correctly to the event, occasionally the robot misunderstood the situation, leading to incorrect actions. The amount of information the robot shared varied between trials. While the robot always explained its actions, the reasons behind its actions and the expected outcome of its actions, in some trials the robot also shared the reasoning behind its decisions, its underlying logic. Participants viewed multiple soldier-robot teams, and their assessments of the robots were compared.

The study found that regardless of the robot’s transparency in explaining its reasoning, the robot’s reliability was the ultimate determining factor in influencing the participants’ projections of the robot’s future reliability, trust in the robot and perceptions of the robot. That is, after participants witnessed an error, they continued to rate the robot’s reliability lower, even when the robot did not make any subsequent errors. While these evaluations slowly improved over time as long as the robot committed no further errors, participants’ confidence in their own assessments of the robot’s reliability remained lowered throughout the remainder of the trials, when compared to participants who never saw an error. Furthermore, participants who witnessed a robot error reported lower trust in the robot, when compared to those who never witnessed a robot error.

Increasing agent transparency was found to improve participants’ trust in the robot, but only when the robot was collecting or filtering information. This could indicate that sharing in-depth information may mitigate some of the effects of unreliable automation for specific tasks, Wright said. Additionally, participants rated the unreliable robot as less animate, likable, intelligent, and safe than the reliable robot.

“Earlier studies suggest that context matters in determining the usefulness of transparency information,” Wright said. “We need to better understand which tasks require more in-depth understanding of the agent’s reasoning, and how to discern what that depth would entail. Future research should explore ways to deliver transparency information based on the tasking requirements.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is America’s Funniest Home Videos: Military

The folks over at America’s Funniest Home Videos, like, the actual producers of that show, have released a full 10 minutes of funny clips from the military that are actually fantastic with everything from funny training accidents, to hilarious pranks, to Joe doing stupid stuff in the barracks or on deployment.


★CRAZY Military Moments ★ | Army FAILS & Funny Soldiers | AFV 2019

www.youtube.com

Some of them are common experiences that always have hilarious moments, like when soldiers stumble and fall fantastically while coming out of a rollover trainer. Others are a little more niche, like the foreign soldiers (probably British) conducting an amphibious assault who accidentally jump into waist-deep mud.

But the whole collection really shines when you see the soldiers doing stupid games that you’ve never tried. For instance, I’ve never made a wind-powered vehicle out of a poncho liner, some old wheels, and broken office chairs. But I want one. And my personal heroes are now the troops who lifted an entire tent off the ground and moved it so their buddy, asleep on their cot, would inexplicably wake up outside.

The full collection is available above (duh, you know what YouTube embeds look like). It’s mostly U.S. service members, but there’s a smattering of allies and even some clips that might be from rivals. The videos appear to have accumulated over decades with soldiers in ACUs appearing just moments from grainy shots that look like they’re from the ’80s.

Skip to 4:34 for the guy who accidentally launches himself onto a fire extinguisher.

But, by far, top recommendation comes at 7:01 when some apparent trainees play a game that appears to be an adult version of quarters. Remember quarters? The bloody knuckles game from school, not the drinking game. The one where each player takes turns making a fist on a table while the other person slides a quarter across the table as fast as they can to try and bloody the first player’s fist.

Yeah, these guys play that, but with a shoe instead of a quarter and a crotch instead of a fist. 10/10, would show the clip to trainees and hope it catches on.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How US troops helped with the Thai cave rescue

Defense Department personnel continue to assist in the rescue operations in Thailand to evacuate the remaining four boys and their coach from a flooded cave system, the director of defense press operations said July 10, 2018.

The DOD effort consists of 42 deployed military personnel and one member from the Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group Thailand, Army Col. Rob Manning told reporters at the Pentagon.


“Coordination and interaction with Thai military, Thai government, and other multinational civilians and government entities remains extremely positive and effective,” he said.

U.S. personnel have staged equipment and prepared the first three chambers of the cave system for safe passage, he said. They are assisting in transporting the evacuees through the final chambers of the cave system, and are providing medical personnel and other technical assistance to the rescue efforts, he added.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

Saman Kunan died while laying oxygen tanks for a potential rescue of the trapped boys.

(Facebook)

Multinational rescue effort

“We continue to fully support the multinational rescue effort and pray for the safe return of the remaining members of the team,” Manning said.

The soccer team and their coach entered the Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai province in northern Thailand on June 23, 2018, and were trapped by floodwaters. Eight boys have been rescued so far.

Manning paid tribute to former Thai Navy SEAL Saman Kunan, who died after delivering oxygen tanks in the cave.

“The death of the former Thai Navy SEAL illustrates the difficulty of this rescue,” Manning said. “His sacrifice will not be forgotten.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This firebase was once the “evilest place in Afghanistan”

On a high plain in the Paktika province of Afghanistan, sits a remote outpost known to many simply as Firebase Shkin. In the early days of the War in Afghanistan, it was a hotspot of insurgent activity. According to Col. Rodney Davis, by 2003 Shkin was known as “the evilest place in Afghanistan.”


The firebase, looking like a cross between an old Wild West fort and the Alamo, sat right on the border in the middle of a major infiltration route for the Taliban from Pakistan. Contact was inevitable. Making matters more difficult was the ambiguous loyalty of the Pakistani Border Guards and armed forces in the area. The remote location meant that help was a long way off if things took a turn for the worse. Finally, the high elevation, 7,700 feet, meant every patrol was grueling.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit
Paktika Province in Afghanistan (Wikimedia Commons)

Patrols wound through wadis and mountain passes on dirt tracks with names like Route Saturn, Chevy, and Camaro. Friendly Afghan Militia Forces inhabited adjoining buildings and ran the dreaded South Camp – a captured insurgent’s worst nightmare.

The base had first housed Special Forces soldiers and Rangers before being handed over to conventional forces from the 82nd Airborne Division, part of Task Force Panther, in 2002. The first casualty from the 82nd in the War on Terror was incurred here on December 20, 2002 when Sgt. Checo, assigned to D Company, 2nd Battalion 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR), was killed in action. The firebase was often unofficially referred to as Firebase Checo in his honor.

Task Force Panther was relieved by Task Force Devil in January 2003. The elements of Task Force Devil, particularly those operating out of Firebase Shkin, were essential in establishing the tactics and standards of conventional forces operating in low-intensity conflicts. This information would be used to great effect as the war in Afghanistan grew and more troops came into the country. For the soldiers of Task Force Devil—and those that followed—these were lessons learned the hard way.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit
Sergeant Ryan Creel (Combat Camera) films soldiers attached to 1-87th, 10th Mountain Divition searching the mountian side, just outside Shkin Firebase in Afghanistan. (US Army Photo by PFC Jory C. Randall)

In April 2003, a contingent centered on elements of B Company 3rd Battalion 504th PIR, supported by gun trucks from D Company as well as artillery and other support, took control of the firebase. Contact began almost immediately. On April 25, a quick reaction force from the firebase was ambushed by Al Qaeda fighters. Using a reverse-slope ambush, a technique taught to them during their war against Russia, the Anti-Coalition Militia (ACM) inflicted significant casualties on the firebase’s most recent inhabitants.

Two Americans were killed in the exchange and several others wounded, including the company commander, a platoon sergeant, and a forward observer. One of the soldiers killed was Jerod Dennis from B Company. The airfield at Orgun-e would later be named Dennis Army Airfield in his honor. The site of the battle, Losano Ridge, took its name from an Air Force Tactical Air Controller, Raymond Losano, who was also killed that day. However, the paratroopers gave better than they got sending the Al Qaeda fighters back across the border into Pakistan with heavy casualties.

The fight was further complicated by its proximity to the border and the fact that it happened in plain view of Pakistani outposts there. The response from the Pakistani side was to deliberately block and draw weapons on the American quick reaction force that was attempting to cut off the fleeing ACM fighters.

The soldiers of Firebase Shkin continued to engage the ACM and expand on their doctrine throughout the summer of 2003. As their commander, Capt. Dave Buffaloe, put it,I was given an opportunity that no other captain in the Army was given: to fight his own combined-arms, coalition, joint, multi-agency fight in his own Area of Operations.” Ambushes were frequent and the operations tempo was demanding, especially as there were only six dismounted infantry squads at the time.  

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit
U.S. Marine Sgt. Zachary Zobrist engages enemy during firefight in Afghanistan. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Ezekiel R. Kitandwe)

By the end of the summer, Task Force Devil began rotating out of the border firebases and handing over responsibility to the incoming 10th Mountain Division task force. For the soldiers of 1st Battalion 87th Infantry that meant it was their turn at Firebase Shkin.

Though contact had tapered off towards the end of the paratroopers’ tour, the ACM came back hard to test the new unit in the area. On August 31, 2003 the task force lost its first soldiers of the tour in a large scale firefight with Anti-Coalition forces. In September Afghanistan’s most intense combat in 18 months claimed the life of another soldier, Evan O’Neill, in a firefight around Shkin. The attack was more sophisticated than earlier Al Qaeda attempts against the American soldiers. This attack involved mortar rounds and what seemed to be an attempt to down an American helicopter. The whole fight, once again, took place within view of the Pakistani Border Guards, who did nothing to aid America or its allies.

The soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division would continue to battle against insurgents in the lonely reaches of Shkin, Afghanistan before they themselves were relieved. The tenacity of the American soldiers at Firebase Shkin would bring relative quiet to the area. Eventually Firebase Shkin would be overshadowed by places like the Korengal Valley and fighting such as the Battle of Wanat. But those who served there in the early days of the war will always remember the hell that was the evilest place in Afghanistan – Firebase Shkin.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Put the homeschool schedules down until you read this

And just like that, all of America became homeschoolers.

As resources are furiously pinned to social media, it quickly becomes overwhelming to newbie parent-teachers trying to choose what tools to fill their children’s long days with. Rather quickly, most of you will hit walls. Walls that I too hit, full of rookie mistakes made trying to recreate the actual school day or classroom schedule within my home.


I’m here to tell you to throw that all away. To slowly and happily sip your morning coffee and read this.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

Whatever you do, don’t try to recreate the school day at home.

As a former public school teacher turned travel schooling mom (google that in your spare time), the first mistake typically made is both the course load and daily schedule. Classrooms educate on average 20-30 children simultaneously at various levels of learning. At home, you have one student-yours. He or she will accomplish a school day’s worth of work in far less time.

The beauty of homeschool is that it is meant to be flexible, individual, and guided by learner’s passions. You will learn to “do school” at times when your child is the most focused. This may mean 1-2 lessons first thing in the morning, then creative passions, exploration, and fun until later in the evening when they finish up a few “core lessons.” At this very moment, homeschoolers are on thousands of varied schedules. The best part? There’s no wrong answer. So spend the first week or so tuning into your home and child’s rhythms before charging forcefully ahead into a schedule.

Pursuing interests is the best form of education

What’s the best modality for educating your children? Good conversation. I could start and end this article there.

Once you realize “core curriculum” takes up only a tiny fraction of time, something else will begin to fill the days…passion. The deep pursuit of self-interest is the beautiful gem of homeschooling. Now is the best time for your children to take up a love of art study, Claymation, geology, gardening, or marine biology via the unlimited library of content available online. Allow them to spark a new interest or immerse themselves completely in a passion for discovering a world they never knew existed.

The simplest, yet effective way to spark passion is to discover the world around you through intricate observation. On the way to the beach, my children noticed several tsunami hazard zone signs. A series of questions, answers, and google results led to over an hour of becoming mini experts at 4 and 8 years old. The subject was tangibly relevant to them; thus, they pursued the study fiercely. Experiences like this are worksheet free. Developing a love of learning is the ultimate goal of education.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

Let them participate in what we are all going through

Knowledge is empowering. Your children are aware the world is changing around then, no matter how innocent they may be. Each new day we experience a global pandemic forcing the world into quarantine, shutting down schools, and infringing upon our way of life, which is a time worth documenting.

Allow your children to become historians and reporters. Generations all go through something, and this is something noteworthy. Invite your children to document what they see in the world around them and how they feel or what they understand is going on. Not only is this highly educational (spelling, grammar, creative writing, history, etc.), but it is also helpful to frame an otherwise scary situation for young minds. Together, each day you can go over their journals to help shape or clarify things for them. It is also an opportunity to solidify in their minds how you are doing all you can to keep your family safe.

This time is a gift. A gift to stop and reengage with your children all over again. To get to know them deeply as individuals in this season of life. To make the memories and connections necessary to sustain them into adulthood.

Take a breath, take it easy, and simply enjoy discovering each day together.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s what those massive NATO war games look like

Around 50,000 troops from 31 nations, including the 29 NATO allies, Finland, and Sweden, are participating in NATO’s largest exercise in decades — Trident Juncture 2018.

More than 250 aircraft, 65 ships, and 10,000 vehicles are taking part in air, land, and sea drills, as well as special operations and amphibious exercises, in and around Norway.

“There’s a strong deterrent message here that will be sent,” Admiral James Foggo, head of US Navy forces in Europe and Africa and commander of Allied Joint Force Command in Naples, Italy, told reporters in October 2018. The Russians, who were invited to observe the drills, “are going to see that we are very good at what we do, and that will have a deterrent effect on any country that might want to cross those borders, but especially for one nation in particular.”

These photos show NATO allies and partners training for an Article 5 scenario, a collective defense situation where land, air, and amphibious assets mobilize to repel an adversary threatening the sovereignty of a NATO ally or partner state.


The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

(Photo by 1st German/Netherlands Corps)

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

(Photo by Sergeant 1st Class (OR-7) Michael O’Brien USA-A, JFC NATO PAO)

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Menelik Collins)

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

(Photo by Hille Hillinga, Mediacentrum Defensie)

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

(Photo by Hille Hillinga, Mediacentrum Defensie)

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

(Photo by Cpl. Kevin Payne, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Europe and Africa)

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

(Photo by Hedvig Antoinette Halgunset, Royal Norwegian Navy)

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

(Photo by Cpl. Kevin Payne, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Europe and Africa)

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

(NATO Photo By WO FRAN C.Valverde)

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

(NATO Photo By WO FRAN C.Valverde)

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

(Photo by Hille Hillinga, Mediacentrum Defensie)

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

(Photo By WO FRAN C.Valverde)

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

(NATO photo)

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

(Photo By WO FRAN C.Valverde)

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

(NATO photo)

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

(Photo by Hille Hillinga, Mediacentrum Defensie)

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by lance Cpl. Margaret Gale)

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

(Photo by Kevin Schrief)

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

(Photo by Kevin Schrief)

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Deanna C. Gonzales)

U.S. Marines with 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit conduct an amphibious landing from ship to shore, carried on a Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC), during Exercise Trident Juncture 18 in Alvund, Norway, Oct. 29, 2018.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA diagnoses 4,000 cases of colon cancer each year: how to get screened at home

Denise put off a screening colonoscopy for two years. When she finally did, she was diagnosed with rectal cancer.

“I was fortunate. My cancer was in the early stages and surgery offered me a cure. The prep was not that bad. The sedation made me wonder, ‘Is that all there is to it?’ The moral of my story is if I had waited until I had symptoms, it would have been too late.”

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the U.S. It is also the second leading cause of cancer deaths, behind lung cancer. The yearly death toll from colorectal cancer in America exceeds the total number of American combat deaths during the entire Vietnam War.


The Veterans Health Administration recommends screening for colorectal cancer in adults age 50 through 75.

The decision to screen for colorectal cancer in adults age 76 through 85 should be an individual one, taking into account the patient’s overall health and prior screening history.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

Six out of ten deaths could be prevented

In the past decade, colorectal cancer has emerged as one of the most preventable common cancers. If all men and women age 50 and older were screened regularly, six out of ten deaths from colorectal cancer could be prevented. Screening is typically recommended for all between the ages of 50 and 75 years. VA diagnoses some 4,000 new cases of the disease each year in veterans.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

Colorectal cancer is cancer of the colon or rectum. It’s as common in women as it is in men. Most colorectal cancers start as a growth called a polyp. If polyps are found and removed before they turn into cancer, many colorectal cancers can be prevented.

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month: A perfect time for veterans to get screened.

Questions? Here are the answers, including symptoms and how to prevent colon cancer.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

3 reasons Marine Corps infantry will always love the M249 SAW

The M249 Squad Automatic Weapon is a Marine Corps favorite because it can suppress the enemies of freedom at the max rate of 800 rounds of democracy per minute. The max range of 3,600 meters is enough to reach out and touch the enemy – and for the Corps to forgive the heresy that the Army had her first. The M249 SAW served as the light machine gun of choice for the Marine fire teams since the 1980s. The commanders of today want to put this ol’ gal out to pasture but the Marine Corps infantry will always love the M249 SAW.

1. She’s a millennial

For the sake of brevity let’s disregard the weapon was designed in the 1970s but implanted in the 1980s. Anyone who has fired the weapon can attest to the euphoria of holding down the trigger of this belt-fed beauty at the cyclic rate. She saw action in the Gulf War, Somalia, Bosnia and Kosovo. She was the queen bee in Iraq and Afghanistan. The millennial generation of war fighters patrolled the mountains of the Korengal valley with her. Troops cleared the streets of Fallujah and dominated the sands of Helmand province with this piece of American engineering. When the M249 SAW sings, she retakes the initiative from the insurgency with overwhelming fire power. The SAW is to OIF/OEF era Marines what the M60 is to Vietnam era devil dogs.

2. A reliable weapon

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

The weapon system comes with an additional barrel to provide a sustainable rate of fire without melting the barrel. Barrels of other SAWs should not be interchanged due to head spacing of each individual weapon system. A machine gunner can carry a combat load of 600 rounds of ammunition and, the Assistant Gunner, who can carry an additional combat load as well. It is considered light weight at 18 lbs, yet the weight adds up on patrol. If the Gunner and A Gunner run out of linked ammunition the M249 SAW can use M16 magazines. The versatility of this weapon provides an adequate base of fire for fire teams to maneuver, close with, and destroy the enemy. With proper maintenance and a well-trained trigger puller, officers can rest assured that they can employ a fireteam with this weapon to lethal effect.

3. It’s just plain fun to use

Why put a suppressor on it? Because, that’s why. Many moons ago, when I was young boot PFC, my unit held a machine gunner competition. The final event was to saw a 2×4 in half with…the SAW. That’s the best thing about this weapon, there is so much ammo for it. In 2012, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines received the M27 or the Infantry Automatic Rifle (IAR) as part of the Marine Corps’ wide survey. It was up in the air at the time whether the IAR would replace the M249 SAW or replace M16 series all together. While the IAR was less prone to jams and easier to maintain, it did not provide the same level of suppression as it’s predecessor. The Squad Automatic Weapon will be phased out eventually by newer technology but the Marine Corps infantry will always love it anyway. Flaws and all.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How to defend your coast without sailors or guns

An engineer at the respected RAND Corporation has a suggestion for small countries that want to keep their enemies at bay but can’t afford a proper navy: use loads of sea mines and drones. It seems obvious, but the advice could prevent America getting dragged into a world war.


The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

Explosive ordnance disposal technicians simulate the destruction of a submerged mine.

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Charles White)

Engineer Scott Savitz names a few countries in his RAND post, such as Bahrain, Taiwan, and the Republic of Georgia, two American allies and a potential future member of NATO. While all of them spend significant portions of their GDP on defense, they are all also potential targets of larger neighbors with much larger navies.

So, it’s in the best interest of these countries (and the U.S.) if those countries can find a way to stave off potential invasions. RAND’s suggestion is to spend money on mines and drones, which require much more money to defeat than they cost to create. This could cripple an invading fleet or deter it entirely.

While mines are a tried and true — but frowned upon — platform dating back centuries, modern naval tactics give them short shrift. Unmanned drones in water, air, and on land, however, are reaching maturity.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

A Royal Norwegian Naval Explosive Ordnance Disposal Commando collects information during a mine-countermeasure dive during exercise Arctic Specialist 2018.

(U.S. Navy)

The idea is for the smaller nations to build up mine-laying fleets that go on regular training missions, laying fake mines in potentially vulnerable waters. This would create two major problems for invading nations: An enemy force capable of quickly saturating the water with mines as well as thousands of decoys that would hamper mine-clearing vessels.

And, mine clearance requires warships to sail relatively predictable patterns, allowing the defending nation to better predict where invading forces will have vulnerable ships.

The drones, meanwhile, could be used for laying mines, directly attacking enemy ships, conducting electronic surveillance, or even slipping into enemy ports to attack them in their “safe spaces” — a sort of Doolittle Raid for the robot age. They could even be used to target troop transports.

While the Russian, Iranian, and Chinese Navies are much larger than their Georgian, Bahrain, and Taiwanese counterparts, they don’t have much sea-lift capability, meaning that the loss of even a couple of troop ships could doom a potential invasion.

All of these factors could combine to convince invading forces to keep their ships at home, or at least slow the attacking force, meaning that reinforcements from the U.S. or other allied forces could arrive before an amphibious landing is achieved.

It’s easier to contest a landing than it is to throwback an already-fortified foothold.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

A underwater drone used to measure salinity, temperature, and depth information is recovered by the U.S. Navy during normal operations.

(U.S. Navy)

For Bahrain and Taiwan, both island nations, ensuring that an enemy can’t land on their coast nearly protects them from invasion. As long as their air forces and air defenses remain robust, they’re safe.

The Republic of Georgia, on the other hand, has already suffered a four-day land invasion from Russia. While securing their coastline from naval attack would make the country more secure, it would still need to fortify its land borders to prevent further incursion.

The Soviets fired this secret heavy cannon while in orbit

A Navy drone, the Fire Scout, lazes a target for the MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopter that accompanies it.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Third Class Trenton J. Kotlarz)

For America, allies that are more secure need less assistance and are less likely to collapse during invasion without large numbers of American reinforcements.

But, of course, mines remain a controversial defense measure. They’re hard and expensive to clear, even after the war is over. And while sea mines are less likely to hurt playing children or families than leftover landmines, they can still pose a hazard to peacetime shipping operations, especially for the country that had to lay them in the first place.

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