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These are the Coast Guard’s special operations forces

After the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, it was pretty clear everybody in the government had to get into the anti-terrorism game.


From the formation of the Department of Homeland Security out of a host of separate law enforcement and police agencies, to a more robust role for Joint Special Operations Command in the hunt for terrorist leaders, the American government mobilized to make sure another al Qaeda attack would never happen again on U.S. soil.

For years, the Coast Guard had occupied a quasi-military role in the U.S. government, particularly after the “war on drugs” morphed its domestic law enforcement job into a much more expeditionary, anti-drug one.

But with the World Trade Center in rubble, the Coast Guard knew it had to get into the game.

That’s why in 2007 the Deployable Operations Group was formerly established within the Coast Guard to be a sort of domestic maritime counter-and-anti-terrorism force to address threats to the homeland and abroad. As part of SOCOM, the DOG trained and equipped Coast Guardsmen to do everything from take down a terrorist-captured ship to detecting and recovering dirty nukes.

For six years, the DOG executed several missions across the globe and prepared for security duties in the U.S., including deploying for the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and helping with anti-piracy missions off the African coast (think Maersk Alabama). The DOG even sent two officers to SEAL training who later became frogmen in the teams.

But in 2013, then-Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert Papp disbanded the DOG and spread its component organizations across the Coast Guard. And though they’re not operating as part of SOCOM missions anymore, the Coast Guard commandos are still on the job with a mandate to conduct “Ports, Waterways and Coastal Security” missions in the maritime domain.

“The PWCS mission entails the protection of the U.S. Maritime Domain and the U.S. Marine Transportation System and those who live, work or recreate near them; the prevention and disruption of terrorist attacks, sabotage, espionage, or subversive acts; and response to and recovery from those that do occur,” the Coast Guard says. “Conducting PWCS deters terrorists from using or exploiting the MTS as a means for attacks on U.S. territory, population centers, vessels, critical infrastructure, and key resources.”

The primary units that make up the Coast Guard’s commandos include:

1. Port Security Units

These are the Coast Guard’s special operations forces
Boat crews from Coast Guard Port Security Unit 313in Everett, Wash., conduct high-speed boat maneuvers and safety zone drills during an exercise at Naval Station Everett July 22, 2015. The exercise was held in an effort to fine tune their capabilities in constructing and running entry control points, establishing perimeter security, and maintaining waterside security and safety zones. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Zac Crawford)

These Coast Guard teams patrol in small boats to make sure no funny stuff is going on where marine vessels are parked. The PSU teams work to secure areas around major events on the coast or bordering waterways, including United Nations meetings in New York and high-profile meetings and visits by foreign dignitaries in cities like Miami.

2. Tactical Law Enforcement Teams

These are the Coast Guard’s special operations forces
Tactical Law Enforcement Team South members participate in a Law Enforcement Active Shooter Emergency Response class at the Miami Police Department Training Center, July 20, 2012. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Anderson).

These Coast Guard teams are an extension and formalization of the service’s counter drug operations. The TACLETs also execute the same kinds of missions as SWAT teams, responding to active shooter situations and arresting suspects. These teams also participated in counter-piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden and in the Suez Canal.

3. Maritime Safety Security Teams

These are the Coast Guard’s special operations forces
U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team (MSST) 91114 patrols the coastline of Guantanamo Bay, Jan. 14. MSST 91114 provides maritime anti-terrorism and force protection for Joint Task Force Guantanamo. (photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Elisha Dawkins)

When the security situation goes up a notch — beyond a couple minimally-armed pirates or a deranged shooter — that’s when they call the Coast Guard’s Maritime Safety Security Teams. Think of these guys as the FBI Hostage Rescue or LA SWAT team of the Coast Guard. They can take down a better armed ship full of pirates, can guard sensitive installations like the Guantanamo Bay terrorist prison or keep looters in check after Hurricane Sandy.

4. Maritime Security Response Team

These are the Coast Guard’s special operations forces
Tosca and her Maritime Security Response Team canine officer sweep the deck of Mississippi Canyon Block 582, Medusa Platform during a joint exercise May 21, 2014. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Robert Nash)

The Maritime Security Response Teams are about as close to Navy SEALs as the Coast Guard gets (and many of them are trained by SEAL instructors). The MSRT includes snipers, dog handlers and explosive ordnance disposal technicians who are so highly trained they can detect and dispose of a chemical, biological or radiological weapon.

MSRT Coast Guardsmen are the counter-terrorism force within the service (as opposed to an “anti-terrorism” which is primarily defensive in nature), with missions to take down terrorist-infested ships, hit bad guys from helicopters and assault objectives like Rangers or SEALs. The force is also trained to recover high-value terrorists or free captured innocents.

“It’s important to know that the MSRT is scalable in the size of their response to an event or mission,” said a top Maritime Security Response Team commander. “Depending on the scope of the mission or the event, will determine how many team members are needed to deploy and their areas of expertise, in order to effectively complete the mission.”

 

Lists

7 of the best sounds you’ll hear in combat

Being on a foot patrol in a war zone means you’ll need to have your eyes peeled and your ears open; troops need to be able to visually identify possible threats and hear commands and other instructions. When a firefight kicks off and bullets start to fly, things can get pretty damn hectic — and loud. In most cases, the “ground pounders” usually get a fix on the enemies’ position in a matter of minutes.


Once that happens, adrenaline kicks in and time moves a bit differently, but there are a few sounds you’ll never forget.

Related: 14 images that humorously recall your first firefight

Here are seven of the best ones:

7. When your platoon sergeant says, “Hey gents, watch this!”

At times, well-trained troops make it a game to blow up the enemy’s position. It’s also a morale booster. When the platoon sergeant wants to draw a crowd to witness their combat efforts, you know the attack is about to be freakin’ epic.

These are the Coast Guard’s special operations forces

6. The whistle of incoming ordnance

Calling in mortars on the bad guys means they weren’t sneaky enough to fire a few rounds at your position and then bug out. Once you hear the whistle of incoming ordnance, it’s just a matter of time before a mortar detonation will follow.

These are the Coast Guard’s special operations forces
Boom.

5. The BRRRRT of an A-10

This is hands down one of the best sounds you can ever hear in combat. Just to know you have a tank killer flying above you makes a world of difference on a foot patrol.

These are the Coast Guard’s special operations forces
Troops love that gun.

4. When the platoon passes word of a “gun run.”

After the ground troops get a fix on where the bad guys are hiding, the platoon sergeants love to call upon the efforts of their flying arsenal that patrols the skies.

A “gun run” is when an attack plane or helicopter initiates a nose dive toward a target with their heavy machine guns blazing. After they complete the “gun run,” they’ll fly back up and out of the enemy’s range. They’ll return if called upon and authorized.

These are the Coast Guard’s special operations forces
God bless the USA…and her air superiority. (U.S. Army photo by Pvt. Austin Anyzeski, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment)

3. Silence

After all the commotion, the sound of silencing the enemy offensive is awesome. But knowing you’re still standing tall and healthy is the one best feelings ever.

We love rubbing in a victory. (Image via GIPHY)

2. When “RTB” is announced over comms

“RTB” is short for “return to base.” Hearing these words calmly spoken after a firefight means you guys did your job and it’s time to go home to debrief and eat chow.

Also Read: 6 questions you asked yourself after your first firefight

1. The “hiss” of the smoke grenade popping.

After a gunfight, most ground troops will “pop smoke” when they leave an area to give themselves cover of smoke. The hiss of the smoke grenade is an excellent way to put a mental check mark in the win column.

Articles

The Army is ditching the Stryker Mobile Gun System

On May 12, 2021, the Army announced the divestiture of all M1128 Stryker Mobile Gun Systems by fiscal year 2022. The decision follows a comprehensive analysis that highlighted obsolescence and systemic issues with the MGS’s outdated cannon and autoloader.

These are the Coast Guard’s special operations forces
The Stryker MGS holds 8 rounds in the autoloader’s carousel and 10 rounds in a replenisher at the rear of the vehicle (U.S. Army)

First produced in 2002 by General Dynamics Land Systems, the M1128 MGS is a variant of the Stryker armored fighting vehicle. The Stryker itself is based on the LAV III light-armored vehicle manufactured for the Canadian military by General Dynamics.

Equipped with a 105mm M68A1E4 rifled cannon, the MGS is capable of dealing with a wide array of threats. Although it is not designed to engage in direct combat with tanks, it is capable of destroying armored vehicles with the M900 kinetic energy penetrator round. Lighter vehicles are addressed with the M456A2 high-explosive anti-tank round. The M393A3 high explosive plastic round excels at destroying bunkers, machine gun nests, and knocking down walls in support of infantry. Finally, the M1040 canister shot is used to engage dismounted infantry. The MGS is also equipped with a coaxial M240C 7.62x51mm machine gun, an M2 .50 caliber machine gun, and two M6 smoke grenade launchers.

These are the Coast Guard’s special operations forces
The main gun is separated from the crew compartment, so stoppages can only be cleared by exiting the vehicle (U.S. Army)

Crewed by a commander, a gunner, and a driver, the MGS was designed to increase the firepower of the infantry rifle company. Initially, 27 MGSs were allocated to each Stryker Brigade Combat Team. A standard SBCT rifle company organically operates one platoon of three MGSs to support the company’s three rifle platoons. As of 2017, each SBCT is equipped with three platoons of MGSs and three platoons of ATGM Strykers equipped with the TOW missile system.

The Army purchased a total of 142 Stryker MGSs. However, three have been lost in combat. One of the chief complaints of MGS crews and a major factor in the Army’s divestiture is the vehicle’s autoloader. Although the system is widely used amongst European armored vehicles, the MGS was the first U.S. Army system to be fielded with an autoloader. Since its introduction, the autoloader has been costly and difficult to maintain. Additionally, the Stryker chassis used on the MGS has a flat bottom which makes it susceptible to modern threats like IEDs and improved anti-tank mines.

These are the Coast Guard’s special operations forces
Although the MGS is being divested, the Stryker will remain an integral part of the Army’s mechanized infantry (U.S. Army)

The divestiture of the MGS will not leave soldiers lacking in firepower. “Decisions on when it is best to divest a system currently in the force are not taken lightly,” said LTG James F. Pasquarette, Army Deputy Chief of Staff, G-8 (Programs). “The Army has done its due diligence to ensure lethality upgrades will remain intact to provide our Stryker formations the capabilities they need in the future.” New projects like the Medium Caliber Weapons System and the Mobile Protected Firepower Light Tank program look to bring enhanced lethality to Army formations. Moreover, existing system like the Javelin and the 30mm autocannon are receiving regular updates to ensure that soldiers maintain every advantage on the battlefield. It’s worth noting that the Army is continuing to support other Stryker variants with upgrades like V-shaped hulls.

Featured image: US Army

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Air Force’s first chief of staff snuck to the front to kill 3 Germans

He would later be the first top officer of the independent U.S. Air Force, a job he earned partially by leading the Allied air forces against Germany and Japan, but in World War I Carl Spatz was just a captain in charge of America’s aerodrome in France. So, when his bosses tried to order him home near the end of the war, Spatz begged for a week at the front and used the time to shoot down three German planes.


These are the Coast Guard’s special operations forces

U.S. Air Service Illustration showing World War I combat between Allied pilots and a German pilot.

(United States Air Service)

(Spatz would change his name to Spaatz in 1937 at the request of his family to hide its German origin and to help more people pronounce it properly, like “spots,” but we’re using the earlier spelling here since it’s what he used in World War I.)

Spatz’s main job in World War I was commander of the 31st Aero Squadron, and building up the aerodrome at Issoudun where American flyers trained on their way to the front. This was also where large amounts of repair and logistics were handled for the small but growing American air service.

The job was important and indicated a large amount of trust in Spatz, but he hadn’t gone to West Point and commissioned as an infantry officer in order to watch everyone else fight wars while he rode a desk.

For most of the war, he did his job dutifully. He led the improvements at Issoudun Aerodrome that turned it from a mass of hilly, rocky mud pits that broke plane after plane to a functioning air installation. But that meant that he facilitated the training of units like the 94th and 95th Aero Squadrons and then had to watch them fly off to combat without him.

Future American aces like Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, Lt. Douglas Campbell, and Capt. Hamilton Coolidge, passed under Spatz.

American pilots spent most of 1917 traveling to France and training, but the 94th Aero Squadron launched its first hostile mission in March 1918, and U.S. pilots were off to the races. Over the following six months, some American pilots were lost in a single day of fighting while others became ace-in-a-day or slowly racked up kills.

All the while, Spatz stayed at Issoudun, doing work.

These are the Coast Guard’s special operations forces

American pilots and gunners chewed through German pilots, but it was a tough fight. American troops joined the air war in 1917 and 1918, three years after some german pilots began earning experience.

(U.S. Army Pvt. J.E. Gibbon)

So when Spatz was ordered to the U.S. around late August 1918, he begged for a week on the front in France in order to get a little combat experience under his belt before returning home. That request was granted, and he went to the front in early September as a recently promoted major.

But in the first week, Spatz saw little combat and achieved no aerial victories, so he stuck around. He stuck around for three weeks, volunteering for missions but failing to bag any enemy pilots. But then, on September 26, he knew that an aerial attack was going down at Verdun and he asked to stay on duty to fly in it.

He went up on a patrol across enemy lines and took part in an attack on a group of German planes. The fighting was fierce, and Spatz was able to down three German planes in fairly quick succession. But even that wasn’t enough for Spatz once he had some blood on his teeth, and he gave chase to a fourth German plane fleeing east.

This was a mistake. Spatz flew too far before realizing that the rest of the friendly planes had already turned around because they were at bingo fuel. Spatz didn’t have enough gas to get home. But, despite his mistake, Spatz was still a disciplined and smart officer, and he went to salvage the situation as best he could.

He set himself up to get as far west as possible before his engine ran dry, and then he coasted the plane down to the ground, managing to crash into friendly territory, preventing his capture and allowing his plane to be salvaged.

For his hat trick, Spatz was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. He would spend the interwar years advocating for air power while bouncing through between captain and major as the Army raised and lowered the number of officers who could be at each rank.

But in World War II, he quickly earned temporary promotions to major general and then lieutenant general. After the war, he was promoted to general and then appointed first Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force in September 1947.

Articles

This ‘El Sal’ soldier kicked *ss with just a switchblade

In 2012, knife manufacturer Condor named a new tactical switchblade after Cpl. Samuel Toloza, one of 380 El Salvadorans who fought in Operation Iraqi Freedom.


Corporal Toloza was part of a small force of Central Americans in Najaf, Iraq in 2004. The El Salvadoran force made their way from their main base to an outpost of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps where they suddenly found themselves surrounded by elements of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army .

 

These are the Coast Guard’s special operations forces
Toloza deployed to Iraq in 2004 (via Samuel Toloza)

 

Toloza’s unit was caught by surprise when the insurgents attacked. The “El Sals” withheld using their heavier guns for fear of inflicting civilian casualties, but sniper fire and RPGs were taking its toll on the small force.

They fought the Mahdi Army for hours but soon ran out of ammunition. With one dead and twelve wounded, the four remaining Central Americans tried desperately to hold on.

“I thought, `This is the end.’ But at the same time, I asked the Lord to protect and save me,” Toloza told reporter Denis Gray in 2004.

They moved the wounded to their truck and tried to get back to their main base. That’s when insurgents tried to kidnap one of Toloza’s wounded comrades.

Bad move.

The young corporal said a prayer and pulled a 3-inch pocket switchblade, his last weapon, on the attackers. Toloza stabbed anyone who came near his friends, no matter what weapons they carried. Horrified and completely surprised by the ferocity of an El Salvadoran on a stabbing rampage, the insurgent fighters backed off.

 

These are the Coast Guard’s special operations forces
Toloza after the fighting in 2004. (via Samuel Toloza)

“We never considered surrender. I was trained to fight until the end,” the then-25-year-old Toloza told the Washington Times.

Toloza was able to keep knifing the insurgent fighters long enough for an American relief column to arrive. When the Americans saw how Toloza managed to save his entire unit, they awarded him the Bronze Star for valor.

These are the Coast Guard’s special operations forces
Toloza’s knife in 2014.

 

Toloza had just picked up the switchblade at a quick PX stop before heading out, the BBC World Service reported. It cost him a dollar.

Salvadoran media dubbed him “El Rambo Salvadororeño.”

For the records, Condor’s 6-inch “Toloza” model is 3 inches longer than the actual switchblade Cpl. Toloza used to save his entire unit from annihilation.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The heroic four chaplains and the sinking of the USAT Dorchester

During World War II, a troop transport ship made from a converted luxury coastal liner was hit by a German torpedo on its starboard side in 1943, dooming the ship and many of the men aboard. Amid the chaos, four chaplains representing three Christian sects and the Jewish faith moved between the wounded and scared, comforting them, distributing survival gear, and ultimately sacrificing themselves.


These are the Coast Guard’s special operations forces

The USAT Dorchester.

(U.S. Coast Guard)

The USAT Dorchester had been converted from a luxury coastal liner during World War II and was sent on a cross-ocean journey carrying 902 crew, troops, and civilian personnel to Greenland. The ship had to cross through submarine-infested waters.

The passengers were under orders to sleep clothed and in life jackets in case of an attack, but while the upper decks and outer air were cold, large sections of the ship were hot from the engines that propelled the ship. Those housed on the lower decks typically slept in their underwear or just a shirt or pants. Across the ship, life jackets were unpopular off duty because they were uncomfortable.

But on February 3, 1943, 150 miles from Greenland, a German U-boat spotted the convoy which consisted of the Dorchester and two other transport ships as well as three Coast Guard cutter escorts. U-223 was on the hunt for Allied shipping, and troop transports were choice targets. The German vessel fired a spread of three torpedoes.

Two missed, but the third shoved through the hull and exploded in the boiler room.

These are the Coast Guard’s special operations forces

Coast Guard cutter Escanaba rescues Dorchester survivors

(U.S. Coast Guard image)

The ship lurched, knocking men from their beds. The electrical systems failed instantly, and the ship began filling with water. Throughout the ship’s dark passageways, disoriented men stumbled from racks and the ground, struggling to dress and get to the open deck in time.

Some men forgot to get dressed until they emerged into the frigid, open air.

In the middle of the fear and danger, four men emerged as a center of calm. Four chaplains were assigned to the ship. Army Lt. George L. Fox was Methodist, Lt. Alexander D. Goode was Jewish, Lt. John P. Washington was Catholic, and Lt. Clark V. Poling was a Dutch Reformed minister.

Two of the men had struggled to join the military. Goode was rejected by the Navy before joining the Army, and Washington had to cheat on his eye exam because a BB gun accident had robbed him of most of his sight in one eye.

These are the Coast Guard’s special operations forces

Lt. George Fox, a Methodist; Lt. Alexander Goode, a Jewish Rabbi; Lt. John Washington, a Roman Catholic Priest; and Lt. Clark Poling, a Dutch Reformed minister, on the deck of the USAT Dorchester as it sinks.

(U.S. Army)

On the deck of the Dorchester, the men ministered to the scared and wounded. They helped organize the men up top, and Goode, the rabbi, gave his own gloves to Petty Officer John J. Mahoney, a sailor who had forgotten his belowdecks. Mahoney would later say that he believes Goode already knew he would stay on the ship.

The extensive damage to the hull and the boiler room ensured that the ship would sink quickly, so the men were rushing survivors off the ship as quickly as possible. The life jackets ran low, and all four chaplains gave their vests up to save others.

Back in the open, the chaplains ministered to the men as the ship sank into the waves only 20 minutes after the torpedo hit. Two Coast Guard cutters were scooping men out of the water and into lifeboats, but it wasn’t fast enough. The last survivors to escape the ship said that their last view of the chaplains was of them on deck, standing arm-in-arm, singing hymns and reciting religious passages to comfort both survivors and those who would drown with them.

These are the Coast Guard’s special operations forces

1948 stamp commemorating the four religious leaders.

(U.S. Air Force)

Approximately 672 men died, and 230 from the Dorchester survived the attack and sinking. The American public and Congress pushed for the men to receive Medals of Honor, but the medal requires that the heroic actions take place under enemy fire.

The chaplains were posthumously awarded Distinguished Service Crosses instead, and Congress later created a new, one-time medal named the Four Chaplain’s Medal that was awarded by President Dwight D. Eisenhower during his final days in office in January 1961, almost 18 years after the sinking of the Dorchester.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Win $10 million in DARPA’s low earth orbit launch challenge

On April 19, 2018, DARPA announced the DARPA Launch Challenge, designed to promote rapid access to space within days, not years. Our nation’s space architecture is currently built around a limited number of exquisite systems with development times of up to 10 years. With the launch challenge, DARPA plans to accelerate capabilities and further incentivize industry to deliver launch solutions that are both flexible and responsive.

“Current launch systems and payload development were created in an era when each space launch was a national event,” said Todd Master, the DARPA Launch Challenge program manager for DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. “We want to demonstrate the ability to launch payloads to orbit on extremely short notice, with no prior knowledge of the payload, destination orbit, or launch site. The launch environment of tomorrow will more closely resemble that of airline operations—with frequent launches from a myriad of locations worldwide.”


The commercial small-launch (10kg-1000kg) industry has embraced advances in manufacturing, micro-technologies, and autonomous launch/range infrastructure. DARPA seeks to leverage this expertise to transform space system development for the nation’s defense. Frequent, flexible, and responsive launch is key to this transformation.

These are the Coast Guard’s special operations forces
The DARPA Launch Challenge is designed to provide more incentives for the development of flexible, responsive launch systems.
(DARPA illustration)

In late 2019, qualified teams will compete for prizes, with a top prize of $10 million. Teams will receive exact details on the payload in the days before each of the two launch events, with only a few weeks’ notice about the location of the first launch site. Once they successfully deliver their payload to low Earth orbit (LEO), competing teams will get details of the second launch site. Teams again will have just days to successfully deliver a second payload to LEO, for a chance at a prize. Final ranking for the top three prizes will depend on speed, payload, mass, and orbit accuracy.

DARPA is coordinating closely with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which is responsible for granting licenses for commercial space launches and will be involved throughout the challenge. Competitors participating in the DARPA Launch Challenge are required to obtain FAA licenses for all launch activity conducted under this effort.

A competitors’ day with representatives from DARPA and the FAA will be held in Los Angeles May 23, 2018. To register to attend or for additional guidelines on how to participate in the challenge, please visit www.darpalaunchchallenge.org.

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

MIGHTY GAMING

How the US military is using ‘violent, chaotic, beautiful’ video games to train soldiers

Violent video games have become embedded within American culture over the past several decades and especially since 9/11. First-person shooters, in particular, have become increasingly popular.

These games – in which players are positioned behind a gun – have turned a generation of kids into digital warriors who fight terrorists and battle alien invaders. Many play first-person shooters for pure, innocent enjoyment. Some like achieving objectives and being a part of a team. And, for others, it simply feels good to eliminate an enemy – especially someone who’s trying to harm them.


For the U.S. military, the rise of first-person shooters has been a welcome development. In recent years, the military has encouraged many of its soldiers to partake in the thrill of violent video games as a way to continue combat training, even when not on active duty. (In fact, using games to teach military tactics has been a longstanding practice in the U.S. military: Before video games, troops were encouraged to play military-themed board games.)

The games allow soldiers to take their combat roles home with them and blur their on-duty responsibilities with their off-duty, noncombat routines and lives.

But what effect have these video games had on U.S. soldiers? How accurately do they depict military life? And do they actually help recruit, train and retain troops?

These are the Coast Guard’s special operations forces

The games in the Arma series strive to simulate combat. In this sequence from Arma 2, a helicopter insertion goes wrong as troops try to take a contested airfield.

(YouTube/GamerDudester)

From battle screen to battlefield

As part of a study, we interviewed 15 current and former members of the U.S. military who were between 24 and 35 years old to understand the role violent first-person shooter games played in their recruitment and training.

The majority of interviewees told us it was important to stay in the mindset of a soldier even when not on duty. To them, first-person shooters were the perfect vehicle for doing this.

Game preferences varied among the soldiers we interviewed, but popular titles included “Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2” and “ARMA 2,” which a current member of the Army said was “one of the most hardcore assault experiences in gaming.”

These are the Coast Guard’s special operations forces

In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, players fight a campaign across the world and in space during a war between the U.S. and Russia.

(YouTube/Bolloxed)

Meanwhile, an Iraq War veteran described “Call of Duty: Black Ops 2” and “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” as “the ultimate first-person shooter experiences ever” and “intensive and highly realistic approaches to tactical combat. The choice of attacking with stealth or unleashing an all-out frontal assault full of mayhem is yours. It’s violent, it’s chaotic, it’s beautiful.”

In this, the Iraq War veteran seems to say that video games can reflect real-life combat situations, an attitude that others share.

Altered realities

But it’s tough to make the case that games accurately simulate what a soldier’s life is really like. First, military tours of duty are not solely made up of hard-charging, chaotic battles, like those in first-person shooters. The majority of soldiers won’t participate in any full-frontal combat operations.

Second – and, most importantly – in the digital world there are no legal and ethical considerations. When things go wrong, when innocent people are killed, there are no ramifications. If anything, the games warp these real-world consequences in the minds of players; in 2012, psychologists Brock Bastian, Jolanda Jetten and Helena R.M. Radke were able to use brain scans to show that playing violent video games had the potential to desensitize players to real-life violence and the suffering of others.

In a 2010 article for the Brookings Institution, political scientist Peter Singer quoted a Special Forces soldier who was involved in the production of “America’s Army 360,” a video game developed to recruit and train enlistees.

These are the Coast Guard’s special operations forces

An American city burns in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

(YouTube/Bolloxed)

“You lose an avatar; just reboot the game,” the soldier said. “In real life, you lose your guy; you’ve lost your guy. And then you’ve got to bury him, and then you’ve got to call his wife.”

Indeed, journalist Evan Wright wrote in his book “Generation Kill” that solders were on “intimate terms with the culture of video games, reality TV shows and internet porn.”

Real-life combat, however, was something entirely different.

“What I saw was a lot of them discovered levels of innocence that they probably didn’t think they had,” Wright wrote. “When they actually shot people, especially innocent people, and were confronted with this, I saw guys break down. The violence in games hadn’t prepared them for this.”

Thus video games might suck soldiers in – offering a tantalizing taste of the glory and excitement of battle. But they do little to prepare them for the types of threats that actually exist on the battlefield.

“When I really think of the government seeing that as training, I laugh,” one of our interviewees told us. “But I also feel a bit uneasy.”

Militarizing legions of gamers

Regardless of their effectiveness as training tools, violent video games can certainly act as a valuable tool for connecting the military with potential recruits. In addition to influencing the decisions of gamers to pursue military service, they can also be used to promote the geopolitical goals of the military.

Journalist Hamza Shaban, in a 2013 article for The Atlantic, described just how deep the Army’s relationship had become with the commercial gaming industry, creating what he dubbed a “military-entertainment complex.” According to Shaban, the games that emerged from this relationship – an exciting, simplified, easy-to-play version of warfare – encouraged gamers to consider a career in the military.

These are the Coast Guard’s special operations forces

Frontlines: Fuel of War attempts to simulate what World War 3 in the near future would look like.

(YouTube/Best War Games Channel)

Meanwhile, games such as “UrbanSim,” “Tactical Iraqi” and “Frontlines: Fuel of War” teach players and potential recruits about the discourse of modern-day warfare. Missions include battling Islamic militants, winning over potentially hostile populations and establishing pro-Western, pro-democratic societies. They engage with the fundamentals of insurgency and counterinsurgency, present the dangers of improvised explosive devices and highlight the military usefulness of weaponized drones.

However, to some of the soldiers and ex-soldiers we spoke to, the value of playing first-person shooters amounted to little more than propaganda.

“The idea of us training using these games is a bit of a [disaster],” one said. “What the U.S. seeks to achieve through the use of these games is not entirely within their control. It might be a cheap way of getting us involved … but it’s hardly ‘training.'”

Another called first-person shooters “more like brainwashing than anything.”

“But you have to be pretty stupid to buy into all this,” he added. These are the Coast Guard’s special operations forces


This article was created by Scott Nicholas Romaniuk, University of Trento and Tobias Burgers, Freie Universität Berlin.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is what those ‘metal things’ were on Normandy beaches

Joshua T. asks: What were all those metal things you see on the beaches in pictures of the Omaha landing?

The Normandy Invasions represented one of the single largest military maneuvers in history. Beginning on June 6, 1944, the invasion was the largest amphibious assault of all time and involved what basically amounted to the collective might of a large percentage of the nations in the industrialized world working in tandem to defeat the Nazi war machine. One of the most iconic images of the invasion was that of a French beach covered in oppressive-looking metal crosses. As it turns out, those crosses were merely a small part of an expansive network of sophisticated defences the Allies managed to somehow circumvent in mere hours.


Dubbed “the Atlantic Wall” and constructed under the direct orders of Adolf Hitler himself in his Directive 40, the formidable defences stretched and astounding 2000 miles of the European coast. Intended to ward off an Allied invasion, the Atlantic Wall consisted of endless batteries of guns, an estimated five million mines (of both the sea and land variety) and many thousands of soldiers who occupied heavily fortified bunkers and fortresses along its length.

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German soldiers placing landing craft obstructions.

The wall has been described as a “three-tier system of fortifications” where the most valuable and vulnerable locations were the most heavily fortified while positions of lesser importance became known as “resistance points” that were more lightly defended but would still pose an imposing obstacle to any invasion force.

In the rush to create defences, gun batteries were haphazardly thrown together, consisting of basically whatever the Nazis could get their hands on. As a result, everything from heavy machine guns to massive cannons cut from captured French warships were utilized in the construction of fortresses and bunkers. Though they looked threatening, this “confusing mixture of sizes and calibres” proved to be an issue for the Nazis when they couldn’t scrape together the ammunition to arm them all. Still, the guns, in combination with the several other layers of defences, were believed to make the coast of Europe “impregnable”.

The largest of these guns represented the first line of defence of the Atlantic Wall and the Germans spent countless hours practise shelling “designated killing zones” experts predicted Allied ships would most likely use to invade. After this were expansive submarine nets and magnetic mines chained to the ocean floor to deter submarines and ships. In shallower water, the Nazis attached mines to sticks and buried large logs deep in the sand pointed outwards towards the ocean — the idea being boats would either be taken out by the mines or have their bows broken against the poles.

After this was a defensive emplacement known as the Belgian gate which were large heavy fences attached to steel rollers which could be positioned in the shallows. Following this were millions of mines lying just beneath the sands waiting for soldiers who managed to make it ashore.

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Czech hedgehogs.

Along with all of this, there were also those metal cross thingies — or to give them their proper name, Czech hedgehogs.

As the name suggests, the Czech hedgehog was invented in Czechoslovakia and was mostly designed to serve as a deterrent for tanks and other armoured vehicles, as well as in this particular case if the tide was right, approaching ships attempting to land on shore.

Originally designed to sit along the Czechoslovakia-Germany border as part of a massive fortification effort conducted in the 1930s, the hedgehogs never ended up serving their original purpose when the region was annexed by Germany in 1938.

It’s reported that the Czechs originally wanted to build a large wall between the two countries, but a cheaper solution was found in the form of these hedgehogs, which could be mass-produced by simply bolting together beams of steel.

So what purpose did they serve? Put simply, if a tank or other such vehicle tried to drive over one, the result was inevitably it becoming stuck on the thing, and even in some cases having the bottom of the tank pieced by the hedgehog. When used on a beach like this, as previously alluded to, they also had the potential to pierce the hulls of ships approaching the shores if the tide was high at the time.

On top of that, particularly the anchored variety of hedgehogs proved difficult to move quickly as even massive explosions didn’t really do much of anything to them.

Speaking of anchored hedgehogs, it isn’t strictly necessary for the hedgehogs to be anchored to anything normally. It turns out that tanks trying to drive over the unanchored ones had a good chance of getting themselves stuck just the same. In these cases what would usually happen was the hedgehog would roll slightly as the tank tried to power its way over, with then the weight of the tank often causing the steel I-beams to pierce the bottom of the tank, completely immobilizing it. In fact, in testing, unanchored hedgehogs proved slightly more effective than their anchored variety against heavy vehicles.

Czech Hedgehog (World War II Tech)

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However, because of the tide issue in this case, to keep the hedgehogs in place, those closest to the water did have thick concrete bases anchoring them in the sand.

Using about a million tons of steel and about 17 million cubic meters of concrete, the broken wall these Czech Hedghogs created was a much more viable option than trying to create a solid wall over such a span, while also not giving the enemy forces too much cover, as a more solid wall would have done.

That said, while initially a deterrent, the hedgehogs ended up helping the Allies after the beaches were secured, as they proved to be a valuable source of steel and concrete that was repurposed for the war effort. For example, almost immediately some of the steel beams were welded to tanks, turning them into very effective mobile battering rams.

Yes you read that correctly — the Allies cut up dedicated anti-tank fortifications and welded them to their tanks to make them even more badass of weapons.

The Soviets also made extensive use of Czech hedgehogs, often using the concrete to literally cement them in place in cities and along bridges to halt German armored divisions in their tracks. As you can imagine, just one of these in a narrow street proved to be an extremely effective barrier that also left the enemy trying to get rid of it open to weapon fire.

While some Czech hedgehogs were constructed to specific factory specifications, which stipulated exact measurements (usually 1.4 meters in height) and materials (anything sturdy enough to survive around 500 tonnes of force), most were made of scavenged materials.

In the end, the hedgehogs along with the countless other fortifications proved to be a formidable, but not impassable obstacle for the Allies. In fact, thanks to a massive, concerted bombardment effort from the naval and air-based forces of the Allies, strategic commando strikes, and the bravery of the hundreds of thousands of troops who physically stormed the beaches all those years ago, all of the defences were bypassed in a matter of hours, though at the cost of several thousand lives on D-Day alone.

Bonus Facts:

  • The beaches of Normandy were shelled so heavily and so thoroughly mined that to this day it’s estimated that 4% of the beach still consists of shrapnel.
  • Czech hedgehogs are near identical in design (save for their massive size) to caltrops — a tiny metal device designed to always land with a jagged spike pointed straight into the air used extensively throughout history to hinder advancing enemy, particularly effective against horses, camels, and elephants, but also foot soldiers.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here are all the famous people who died at the Alamo

A lot of people died at the Alamo, especially considering it was a fortification that wasn’t supposed to be manned at all. It was only when Col. James Bowie arrived at the Alamo to remove the guns did they realize its strategic importance. Sadly, this didn’t translate into Gen. Sam Houston providing any reinforcements. Some volunteers arrived, however, and among them were some famous names.

But it would not be enough, as the garrison was heavily outgunned and outnumbered and the Mexican Army was not taking prisoners.


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William B. Travis

The original artist of the now-famous “Line in the Sand,” Travis straight-up told the defenders of the Alamo that they were all that stood between Santa Anna and the rest of Texas. After telling the Alamo’s men no reinforcements were forthcoming, he drew the line with his sword and told those who were willing to stay to step over it. All but two did so. Travis was supposedly hit in the head by a Mexican round early in the assault on the Alamo.

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Davy Crockett

The legendary frontiersman and former U.S. Congressman departed the United States for Texas because of his direct opposition to many of then-President Andrew Jackson’s Indian policies. His presence at the Alamo was a good morale boost for the outnumbered Texians, but it would not be enough to prevent them from being overwhelmed. During the assault on the Alamo, Crockett and his marksmen were too far from the barracks to retreat there, and were left to their own devices as Mexican soldiers swarmed around them.

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Jim Bowie

Bowie was a legend among Americans and Texians long before he started fighting for Texas independence. He had already led Texian forces on two occasions before coming to the Alamo. During the siege, Bowie was actually bedridden with fever and likely died in his bed, fighting Mexicans with his pistols.

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Micajah Autrie

Autry was a War of 1812 Veteran who fought the British in the Southern United States. He roamed the new country for a while, finally settling in Louisiana after quitting farming to become a lawyer. When the Texas Revolution started, he raised a contingent of men from Tennessee to march to the Alamo from Louisiana.

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James Bonham

Bonham came to the Alamo with Jim Bowie because of his growing discontent with U.S. President Andrew Jackson’s policies. Bonham himself raised a troop of Alabama militia to join the Texian revolutionaries. It was Bonham who rode out of the Alamo to look for more men and material to support the defense of the fort. Three days after he returned, he was slaughtered with the rest of the defenders.

MIGHTY TRENDING

General Charles “CQ” Brown confirmed as America’s first black service chief

General Charles “CQ” Brown has officially been confirmed as the next Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, the branch’s highest military position, following a unanimous confirmation from the U.S. Senate on Tuesday. The historic vote secured Brown’s position as the 22nd Chief of Staff in Air Force history, and the first black service chief in the history of our nation.

Brown rose through the ranks as an F-16 pilot with more than 2,900 hours in the cockpit and at least 130 flight hours in combat environments. Brown’s talents in the cockpit eventually led him to serving as an F-16 pilot instructor before moving on to a variety of command positions, including his recent role as the commander of Pacific Air Forces.


Throughout his impressive career, General Brown has repeatedly stood out among his peers. First commissioned in 1984, Brown went on to earn a master’s degree in aeronautical science and was singled out at Air Command and Staff College as his class’ distinguished graduate in 1994. He has commanded Air Force Weapons School, two fighter wings, the U.S. Air Force’s Central Command, and also served as the deputy commander for U.S. Central Command.

The historic 98-0 Senate vote to confirm Brown saw Vice President Mike Pence presiding over the process–an unusual move as the Vice President historically serves as s tie-breaker in hotly contested votes. Instead, Pence said he attended to confirmation because of its historic significance.

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Vice President Pence wasn’t the only leader to extend their congratulations to General Brown. Chief of Space Operations and fellow service chief, Gen. Jay Raymond also congratulated Brown on his confirmation.

“Gen. Brown is an innovative leader who clearly understands the complex and evolving strategic environment we face today as a Department,” Raymond said. “He clearly understands the importance of leading across all domains to compete, deter and win — especially in war-fighting domains like space. I am thrilled with Gen. Brown’s confirmation. I couldn’t ask for a better teammate.”

Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett took to Twitter to point to Brown’s credentials and accolades as a military leader.

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Brown’s confirmation comes at a challenging time for America, as protests regarding racial injustice continue to take place in cities all around the nation, following the murder of George Floyd while in police custody.

Earlier this week, Brown released a heartfelt video in which he described the challenges of being a black man in America, and an officer in the United States Air Force–a dichotomy Brown described as having to lead two distinct lives.

“I’m thinking about having to represent by working twice as hard to prove [that my supervisors’] perceptions and expectations of African Americans were invalid,” he said in the video. “I’m thinking about the airmen who don’t have a life similar to mine, and don’t have to navigate through two worlds. I’m thinking about how these airmen see racism, where they don’t see it as a problem because it doesn’t happen to them, or whether they’re empathetic.”
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The officer responsible for Floyd’s death has been charged with second degree murder and the other three officers involved in the incident have also been taken into custody–but the incident itself has served as a pivot point for many Americans who have used Floyd’s death as an impetus for positive change in their community and nation. Protests throughout the country calling for racial equality have garnered support from service leaders in the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps–but it was the Air Force that first spoke out about race in recent weeks.

On June 1, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright published an Op-Ed on his social media accounts outlining his concerns as a black man and the senior enlisted leader of America’s Air Force.

“Like you, I don’t have all of the answers, but I am committed to seeing a better future for this nation. A future where Black men must no longer suffer needlessly at the hands of White police officers, and where Black Airmen have the same chance to succeed as their White counterparts. Trust me, I understand this is a difficult topic to talk about…
Difficult…not impossible…
Difficult…but necessary.”

Following CMSAF Wright’s post, the current Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General David Goldfein, also released a statement and the two leaders released a number of videos and participated in town hall discussions about race within their branch.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


MIGHTY MOVIES

Here are 5 Vietnam War movies you should re-watch

As the weather turns cooler and you look for yet another thing to help keep you sane while you’re stuck indoors, might we suggest you return to the originals and re-watch any one of these classic Vietnam War movies.


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(Metro Goldwyn Mayer)

First Blood

We’re listing this one first to get it right out there in the open. Yes, we’re talking about Rambo here, but in our humble opinion, First Blood is one of the best Vietnam War movies of all time. Don’t believe us? Well, consider this.

The majority of Vietnam Veterans weren’t given any kind of preferential treatment on their return to America. Discounts? Forget about them. Being thanked for their service? Not in a million years. That’s one of the reasons why First Blood is such a standout Vietnam War movie – it shows a part of our country’s history that many have forgotten forever. It helped educate the general public about the challenges of Vietnam Veterans, both in the field and once back at home, too.

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(RKO Pictures)

Hamburger Hill

This gritty war movie focuses on 14 soldiers from the 101st B Company, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiments during a 12-day battle that occurred in the northern part of South Vietnam near the A Shau Valley.

Debuting in 1987, the film showcases what it was like for the Screaming Eagles as they endured an uphill battle against a well-entrenched enemy under awful conditions.

The real battle of Hamburger Hill claimed the lives of 39 soldiers from the 187th and left almost 300 wounded. This film absolutely holds up to any other film that attempts to explore the sacrifices made by infantrymen.

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(Metro Goldwyn Mayer)

Platoon

Platoon won the “Best Film” of 1986 and for a good reason. This movie manages to explore combat from the ground level, and does what many war movies can’t do – it shows the combat experience for exactly what it is: scary, full of dread and lots of worries. The reason this film manages to be successful where others aren’t might be due in part to the fact that Oliver Stone, who wrote and directed it, was a Vietnam Veteran. In interviews, Stone said that he was just trying to make a film for himself and for those like him, to remember the war for exactly what it was.

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(American International Pictures)

Rolling Thunder

This one might not be on your radar, in part because it’s a low-budget movie that never won any awards. It was written by the same person who wrote Raging Bull and Taxi Driver and an unknown director. The result is a film that’s part war rage and part revenge fantasy and is probably relatable for most Vietnam Veterans returning from war.

Two POWs get a hero’s welcome upon returning to Texas, but things fall apart immediately after and only go from bad to worse. The movie traces these two characters’ lives as they come to terms with understanding their new normal.

This is the kind of movie that will completely captivate you and tap into the frustration that many Vietnam war movies try to illustrate.

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(Universal Pictures)

The Deer Hunter

The cast of The Deer Hunter elevates it into the cinematic hall of fame status. Starring Robert de Niro, Meryl Streep, and Christopher Walken, the cast is as impressive as the storyline. What further sets this film apart is the fact that John Cazale (Fredo from The Godfather) makes his last appearance before his death from bone cancer.

The harrowing POW sequences in this film are dark, gritty and utterly memorable. The Deer Hunter is one of those movies that will remain with you long after you’ve watched it.


Articles

7 kids who joined (even commanded) military units for a day

Make-A-Wish Foundation sets up special experiences for kids diagnosed with life-threatening medical conditions. While kids can wish for forts in their backyard, shopping sprees, or trips to Disney, some choose to get in the dirt and mud with the U.S. military. These 7 kids used their wishes to join (and in a couple of cases command) military units.


1. Evan takes command of Naval Air Station Fallon.

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Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Pablo Jara Meza

When Evan was offered a wish from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, he wished to become a Top Gun fighter pilot. The commander of Naval Air Station Fallon welcomed Evan into his office and had an instructor escort him around the school. Evan was then able to attend a Top Gun graduation ceremony where he received an honorary certificate. His escort, Major Chip Berke, told a Marine Corps journalist, “There were so many volunteers to help escort Evan and his family, but I was fortunate to get the job. Evan tells me that I work for him. He even asked to be taken back to ‘his office’ a few times after leaving Base Admiral Mat Moffit’s desk.

2. Jorge makes brigadier general in minutes.

Jorge’s Wish from Michael Kroh on Vimeo.

Jorge was promoted to brigadier general for the day soon after arriving at Camp Pendleton, California to meet Brig. Gen. Vincent A. Coglianese, Commanding General of Marine Corps Installations – West. While in command, he rode in assault vehicles, attended a Marine Corps boxing lesson, and supervised an amphibious assault demonstration held in his honor.

3. Ian Field packs a 20-year career into two days.

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Photo: US Army

The Army’s 1st Infantry Division learned Ian Field wanted to be a soldier for his wish and their 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team set up a two-day event for Ian to climb from private to command sergeant major April 14-15, 2011. He began by enlisting in the Army and being promoted to private first class. He then fired weapons, trained with grenades, shot artillery, rode in a helicopter, drove a tank, and rescued an injured comrade. As a final event, now-Command Sgt. Maj. Ian Field led his squad during a ceremony commemorating their time together.

4. Carl “pilots” his plane right into the ocean.

Carl, an avid history buff, asked to be a World War II pilot for the day. Specifically, a pilot on the run after being downed. The Air Force trained him in survival skills before he flew to Hawaii. Soldiers and Marines welcomed him at the Hawaii airport with 1940’s military vehicles and gave him a tour of military museums and installations on the islands. Then, he was flown in a Navy bi-plane to a remote beach where he had to cut himself out of a parachute, find his gear, and lead his dad to safety. While they were setting up their position, a pair of Navy SEALs swam in and Carl led their assault on an enemy camp.

5. Andrew becomes a Marine, sailor, soldier, and airman in one day.

Andrew toured multiple bases and served with the Navy, Air Force, Army, and Marine Corps in a single day for his wish. First, he visited March Air Reserve Base and toured a C-17 in a custom flight suit and helmet and saw a Predator drone and F-16 up close. Then he headed to the Marine Corps’ Camp Pendleton where he became an honorary sergeant major. The Navy showed him some of their inflatable boats and let him fire weapons on a computerized shooting range before the Army showed him around their vehicles.

6. Riley learns the Ranger’s Creed in time for graduation.

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Photo: US Army Army Capt. Jeremiah Cordovano

Riley Woina chose to be a Ranger for a day and practiced jumping out of planes with them before witnessing an actual airborne parachute drop with the 6th Ranger Battalion at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. During airborne training, a Ranger pulled Woina’s reserve parachute for him and accidentally gave the boy a black eye, but Woina decided to continue with training. He also assisted the Ranger candidates in clearing a room and was able to fire off some blank rounds from an M4 and M249. At Ranger graduation, he recited the Ranger Creed from memory.

Riley gave an interview to the Fort Benning Public Affairs Office where he discussed why he chose to be a Ranger for his wish, available here.

7. Jacob makes a World War II movie to honor the military.

Jacob Angel wished to be a World War II soldier in a movie depicting the exploits of World War II heroes. In the film, embedded above, he has to take a hill and fly the American flag over it.

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