It’s been said that Marine Corps infantry chief warrant officers have more weapons knowledge stored in their pinkie fingers than most people will learn in a lifetime. And our experience over the years hasn’t chipped away at that assumption one bit.
Dubbed “Gunners,” these limited duty officers hail from the enlisted ranks and spend the balance of their careers acting as infantry experts for a variety of ground-related commands, including divisions and schools.
Basically, if you have a question about a weapon or tactic for the grunts, the Gunner knows what’s best and how it works. And more than that, the Gunners are the ones who more often than not nudge the Marine Corps into new directions.
But apparently, some grunts think throwing a muffler on the end of their guns is going to make the iron less effective — slowing down the bullet, decreasing the stopping power and making it less accurate. Most firearms aficionados know cans make rifles better, but coming from a Gunner, the statement has more weight.
So that’s why 2nd Marine Division Gunner CWO 5 Christian Wade put together this video to prove to his fellow Marines that using suppressors make the rifle better.
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
A sunset is seen through the nose of a B-25 Mitchell during a military tattoo held at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, Sept. 16, 2015. The “warbird flight” consisted of two B-25 Mitchells, two P-40 Warhawks and a P-51 Mustang.
A P-51 Mustang flies over Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Washington, during a military tattoo Sept. 16, 2015.
Soldiers in Basic Combat Training low crawl through the final obstacle during the Fit to Win endurance course at Fort Jackson, S.C., Oct. 1, 2015.
A soldier, sets up a claymore mine during the JMRC’s Expert Infantryman Badge Competition at the Hohenfels Training Area, Germany, Sept. 29, 2015.
IWO TO, Japan (Sept. 29, 2015) Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 5 conduct a special patrol insertion/extraction exercise aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). Ronald Reagan and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, provide a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
PACIFIC OCEAN (Sept. 28, 2015) An AV-8B Harrier II assigned to the Black Sheep of Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 214 lands on the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) during flight operations. Boxer is underway off the coast of Southern California conducting routine training exercises and maintenance in preparation for its upcoming deployment.
11th Marine Regiment works through the debris and fog in order to fire rounds during Supporting Arms Coordination Center Exercise on San Clemente Island, California, Sept. 25, 2015. The exercise is the first time these Marines and sailors will work together at sea in preparation for deployment.
A AH-1Z Cobra with 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force lands aboard the USS New Orleans during the PHIBRON-MEU Integration exercise off the coast of San Clemente, California, Sept. 27, 2015. This marks the first at-sea exercise for the PHIBRON-MEU Marines and Sailors as they work together in preparation for deployment to the Pacific and Central Command areas of responsibility in early 2016.
USCG Cutter Healy uses spotlights while navigating through ice Sept. 20, 2015. The lights allow the helmsman to see pressure ridges and other obstacles, aiding in the completion of a safe night passage through the Arctic Ocean.
Time for some ice training USCG Cutter Healy crewmembers conduct ice rescue training Sept. 4, 2015, while underway in the Arctic Ocean. Qualified crewmembers stand ice rescue watch any time scientists or others are working on the ice.
Shaolin Kung Fu is one of the oldest and most intense forms of Chinese martial arts. Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and a number of other martial arts movie stars have also made Kung Fu one of the most famous forms.
As a part of a religious order, the Shaolin monks were persecuted by Chinese Communists during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution. The temple was mostly destroyed and stayed that way for years. But when Jet Li made “Shaolin Shi,” it was enough to make Mao give in: the temple was rebuilt and some much-needed tourism revenue came in as Kung Fu made a comeback.
Here are a few things you may not have known about Kung Fu and the elite Shaolin Monks.
1. The founder of Shaolin Kung Fu was from India.
Legend has it that the founder of the Shaolin order, a Buddhist monk from India named Bodhidharma, spent nine years meditating in a cave near his monastery. The legend has it that to keep him from falling asleep, the monk cut off his eyelids and threw them on the ground.
Pre-Workout would not be invented for another 1,500 years.
Green Tea began to grow from the spot where he threw his eyelids and now Buddhist monks use green tea to maintain their focus during meditation.
2. Kung Fu is studied in a “Kwoon.”
The word “dojo” is reserved for places that teach Japanese martial arts, like Aikido. When entering a kwoon, bow at a 45-degree angle with your hands at your chest — the right in a fist, and the left open-palm.
This represents the yin and yang and that your heart is at peace.
3. Kung Fu practitioners wear a different uniform.
Again, much of the look of the loose-fitting
gi and colored belts comes from the Japanese practice. Traditional Chinese Kung Fu doesn’t use colored belt levels (though some Western teachers might use them as a teaching tool). Chinese Kung Fu uses a uniform that is tight at the ankles and sometimes even at the wrists.
4. The most elite Shaolin monk was a werewolf.
Ok, he wasn’t an
actual werewolf. In the late 19th century lived a monk named Tai Jin. The poor guy suffered from a condition known as hypertrichosis. Also known as “Werewolf Syndrome” because of the insane amount of body hair that grows on affected areas.
It might have helped his self-esteem to know that, according to legend, he was the best fighter in all of China.
No comfort for Chewbacca here.
Tai Jin was abandoned at the monastery as a baby because of his body hair. The monks raised him and trained him. He eventually dedicated himself to one form of martial art. Legend also has it that upon meeting the 12 masters of Shaolin, the boy threw a dagger into the ceiling, killing a would-be assassin. He explained to the masters that he could hear 13 people breathing, not just 12.
For more about the Shaolin monks and their founder, check out the above episode of Elite Forces.
In 2013, the Obama Administration drafted what became known at “the Playbook,” an 18-page drone strike policy guideline laying out how the President orders a targeted killing of an enemy combatant abroad. A few days ago, the administration released a redacted version of the policy as a result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union.
The Presidential Policy Guidance (or PPG, the official name of Obama’s “playbook”) first place an emphasis on capturing the enemy, instead of raining death from above. If capturing the terrorist (referred to in the PPG as the “HVT,” or High-Value Terrorist) is not “feasible,” the policy outlines the steps to be taken to designate an HVT for “Lethal Action.”
1. We know who we’re supposed to be killing
According to the PPG, only “an individual whose identity is known will be eligible to be targeted.”
2. They’re definitely up to something
The strike will be approved if the “individual’s activities pose a continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons.”
3. We definitely know where the person is
U.S. forces have to know with “near-certainty” that an HVT is present.
4. Only lawful combatants are hit
The attacking drone operator has to have “near certainty that non-combatants will not be injured or killed.”
6. Capture isn’t a feasible possibility
This rule actually only means that capture isn’t feasible at the time of the operation. So this really just means the U.S. could capture the HVT or just wait and kill it later.
7. The HVT’s host country is no help
The government where the terrorist lives isn’t going to do anything about it, so we have to handle it ourselves.
8. We really just have to kill this person
“No other reasonable alternatives to lethal action exist.”
At this point, number five might be glaring at you, but there’s not even a hint at what the redacted criterion might be. Even the 2013 PPG summary memo released by the White House left out this factoid and any glimmer of its contents.
Since Obama took office, there have been 373 drone strikes abroad, with an estimated 4,000 killed. (Up to 966 of those deaths were civilians.) Four Americans have been killed by such drone strikes, but only one – the 2011 targeting of American-born Yemeni cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki – was a planned target.
CAMP PENDLETON, California — Maj. David Palka had seen combat before in Iraq and Afghanistan, but roughly 90% of the Marines under his command — tasked with setting up a remote fire base in northern Iraq in 2016 — had only heard the stories.
Their trial by fire in March 2016 came just hours after they landed on Army CH-47 helicopters under cover of darkness in Makhmur, Iraq. Getting off the helicopters at around 2 a.m., the Marines were in what was essentially open farmland with a large protective berm of dirt around their small perimeter.
“By 0900, we received the first rocket attack,” Palka told Business Insider. As a captain, Palka had led the Marines of Echo Battery, 2nd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment when it was attached to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) from Oct. 2015 to June 2016.
On Monday, Palka was awarded the Bronze Star medal (with combat “V”), the fourth-highest combat award, for what his battalion commander called “sustained valorous leadership.” He’ll also receive the Leftwich Award later this week, a trophy presented annually to a Marine company or battery commander who displays outstanding leadership.
Palka and his unit’s foray into Iraq to set up an artillery support base was previously shrouded in secrecy. But new details have emerged from that mission, showing that they were under constant threat and directly attacked more than a dozen times during their two-and-a-half months there, according to interviews and documents reviewed by Business Insider.
“When they got the call, they were ready,” Lt. Col. Jim Lively, the commander of Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, and Palka’s battalion commander at the time, told Business Insider.
‘It was no surprise that we were rocketed’
When Palka and others among his advance party left their helicopter on March 12, they marked the first American boots on the ground in Iraq to set up a quasi-permanent base since US forces left in 2014.
At what would be named Fire Base Bell — in honor of Staff Sgt. Vincent Bell, a Marine who died in Afghanistan in 2011 — Palka and his Marines began to establish security and build bunkers to protect from enemy fire.
The base was initially protected by 60 infantry Marines from Echo Co. 2/6 armed with rifles, machine-guns, and mortars, along with an Army unit providing radar equipment that would detect and zero in on rockets fired from ISIS positions. Marine artillerymen brought four M777A2 Howitzers to the base just days later.
The base was small and had no creature comforts, and troops dug holes where they would man their guns, fight, and sleep.
“It was austere. There was the constant threat 24/7,” Palka said. “My other deployments, you’d come back to a [forward operating base]. Or we’d remain on a FOB and shoot fire support in support of maneuver. We didn’t have an adjacent unit to our left and our right. We were the only general purpose ground force forward. There was no wire.”
Though the Pentagon tried to keep the presence of Marines being back in Iraq quiet, those efforts were thwarted just one week after Palka arrived.
On March 19, Bell was hit once again by rockets fired from ISIS positions located roughly 15 miles away.
“It was no surprise that we were rocketed,” Palka said, noting that military planners had determined that Russian-made 122mm Katyusha rockets were the weapon of choice for ISIS at the time.
“I had received indirect fire on previous deployments, but nothing that large,” he said.
Unfortunately, the first rocket impact that day was a direct hit on the 1st gun position on the line. “As soon as it impacted, it was obvious there were casualties,” he said.
27-year-old Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin was killed, and eight other Marines on Gun One were wounded. Immediately, the other Marines began running toward the rocketed position to render medical care, despite a second rocket landing just a few hundred meters away.
“It was amazing to see them,” Palka said. “The manifestation of all of our training coming to fruition.”
Meanwhile, the Army counter-battery radar site honed in on where the rockets had come from. And Palka, according to a military document summarizing his performance, calmly assessed casualties, called for medical evacuations, and executed an artillery counter-fire mission of seven rounds back at ISIS’ firing point. The document noted that the enemy’s rocket position was “effectively” suppressed.
“Dave kept the team focused while they did the evacuation of casualties,” Lively said. “They ran the counter battery mission [as] the fire base was attacked.”
‘This was as kinetic as anything that I had experienced before’
Echo Battery’s mission in Iraq was to set up a small outpost that could provide indirect fire support to Iraqi troops on the front lines. Artillerymen kept busy doing just that. Over the course of slightly more than 60 days at the site, the unit fired more than 2,000 rounds, including high-explosive, illumination, and smoke.
Those efforts made them a big target, as ISIS shot more than 34 rounds at their positions during that time. All told, the unit was attacked on 13 different occasions, which included rockets, small arms, and suicide attacks.
“This was as kinetic as anything that I had experienced before,” Palka said.
On two occasions, the base was attacked in a coordinated fashion by about a dozen or so ISIS fighters armed with suicide vests, small arms, machine-guns, and grenades.
The first, which came just two days after Cardin’s death, began with an ISIS fighter detonating his suicide vest against an obstacle of concertina wire.
The Marines fought back over a period of three hours on the night of March 21, eventually killing all of the ISIS fighters with no American casualties. The artillerymen, just over 2,000 feet from the enemy positions, fired illumination rounds as the grunts on the perimeter engaged with their rifles and machine guns.
“I’d say that ISIS and the enemy that we encountered in Iraq this past time… they were more bold. The fact that they would infiltrate the forward line of troops and attempt to engage a Marine element with foreign fighters,” Palka said. “Their weaponry, and their tactics were more advanced. They were more well-trained than any other force that my Marines had directly engaged on previous deployments.”
While Echo Battery fired its guns almost “daily,” it expended much of its ammunition in support of Iraqi forces gearing up to assault the city of Mosul later that year. Ahead of the October offensive to take back Iraq’s second-largest city from the Islamic State, the unit fired off more than 1,300 rounds in support of Iraqi troops attempting to take back villages on the outskirts of the city.
“Our mission was to provide force protection fire support to Iraqi security forces, which we did,” Palka said.
The unit also had a number of “firsts” besides its presence back in Iraq, to include the Corps’ first combat use of precision-guided fuses — which make artillery rounds hit with pinpoint accuracy — and the successful employment of the Army’s TPQ-53 Radar system alongside Marines, which helped them quickly identify where rockets were coming from so they could be taken out.
“There’s nothing I can put into words about how I feel about the Marines in that unit,” Palka said. “Words don’t do it justice. There’s something that you feel and sense when you walk into a room with them.”
Iran has unveiled a fighter jet which it says is “100-percent” locally made.
Images on state television showed President Hassan Rohani on Aug. 21, 2018, sitting in the cockpit of the new Kowsar plane at the National Defense Industry exhibition.
It is a fourth-generation fighter, with “advanced avionics” and multipurpose radar, the Tasnim news agency said, adding that it was “100-percent indigenously made.”
State television, which showed the plane waiting on a runway for its first public display flight, said that it had already undergone successful testing.
The plane was first publicly announced on Aug. 18, 2018, by Defense Minister Amir Hatami, who gave few details of the project.
The United States has demanded that Tehran curb its defense programs, and is in the process of reimposing crippling sanctions after President Donald Trump withdrew from a landmark nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.
Trump called the 2015 agreement, under which Iran pledged to curb its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief, “the worst deal ever.”
The first permanent deployment of F-35B Lightning II fighters outside the U.S. took place last week, and the location is probably no surprise.
According to a Marine Corps release, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, or VMFA-121, has now become permanently based at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni.
A F-35B Lightning II with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, lands at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Jan. 18, 2017. VMFA-121 conducted a permanent change of station to MCAS Iwakuni, from MCAS Yuma, Ariz., and now belongs to Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. The F-35B Lightning II is a fifth-generation fighter, which is the world’s first operational supersonic short takeoff and vertical landing aircraft. The F-35B brings strategic agility, operational flexibility and tactical supremacy to III MEF with a mission radius greater than that of the F/A-18 Hornet and AV-8B Harrier II in support of the U.S. – Japan alliance. (USMC photo)
According to F35.com, VMFA-121 consists of 16 F-35B fighters. In its previous iteration as VMFA(AW)-121, the squadron had 12 F/A-18D Hornet fighters, a number that was reduced to 10 as planes wore out, according to a BreakingDefense.com report from last April.
The deployment comes as tensions between the United States and the People’s Republic of China have increased over the South China Sea, a potentially volatile maritime flashpoint. China issued a warning after White House press secretary Shawn Spicer said, “So it’s a question of if those islands are in fact in international waters and not part of China proper, then yeah, we’re going to make sure that we defend international territories from being taken over by one country.”
Two F-35B Lightning II aircraft with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, prepare to land at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Jan. 18, 2017. VMFA-121 conducted a permanent change of station to MCAS Iwakuni, from MCAS Yuma, Ariz., and now belongs to Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. The F-35B Lightning II is a fifth-generation fighter, which is the world’s first operational supersonic short takeoff and vertical landing aircraft. The F-35B brings strategic agility, operational flexibility and tactical supremacy to III MEF with a mission radius greater than that of the F/A-18 Hornet and AV-8B Harrier II in support of the U.S. – Japan alliance. (USMC photo)
Spicer had echoed comments made by Rex Tillerson, President Donald Trump’s nominee to serve as Secretary of State, during his Senate confirmation hearings. According to a FoxNews.com report, Tillerson said earlier this month, “You’re going to have to send China a clear signal that first, the island-building stops, and second, your access to those islands is also not going to be allowed.”
In recent months, the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) carried out operations in the South China Sea. In December, China used a H-6 Badger to assert its claims as marked by the “nine-dash line.” There have also been close encounters between Chinese J-11 fighters and U.S. Navy P-8 maritime patrol aircraft and EP-3E electronic surveillance planes in recent years, according to a report by the Daily Caller.
In 2012, Mullah Falzullah, a high-ranking member of the Pakistani Taliban, ordered his thugs to murder Malala Yousafzai, a schoolgirl who had become outspoken in her advocacy for women’s education. Yousafzai survived and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.
A pilot was at a ground control station similar to this one when controlling the MQ-9 Reaper that blasted the terrorist responsible for the attack on Malala Yousafzai.
(USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Don Branum)
The exact drone that took the terrorist out wasn’t identified in media reports, but seeing as the MQ-1 Predator was retired in March, 2018, the drone used was likely an MQ-9 Reaper, a larger drone that entered service in 2007. Just as the Predator helped make the world a better place one strike at a time, the Reaper is very capable of doing so as well, famously interrupting an ISIS execution.
The Reaper can carry up to four AGM-114 Hellifre missiles (the Predator was limited to two), and can also be configured to carry GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs and GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions. It normally flies at about 230 miles per hour and has a maximum range of 1,150 miles.
MQ-9 Reapers have been operating in Afghanistan since 2007.
The Hellfire missile, the preferred weapon in targeting terrorists, has a maximum range of five miles and travels at Mach 1.3. The missile has been in service since 1984 and was primarily intended as a tank-killing weapon for use by the AH-64 Apache helicopter. The missile has since become the basis for the British-designed Brimstone.
The Reaper/Hellfire combo will likely take out a lot more terrorists in the future, in addition to providing precision strike capabilities against other targets.
The Air Force Special Operations Command runs 37 Reaper drones that have just been upgraded with better sensors, upgraded weapons software, and extra fuel tanks so they can kill more targets and watch more objectives on missions against ISIS and other enemies.
Identifying ISIS targets often requires a long information-collection period, and killing them takes a rapid engagement once the kill order is given. The upgraded drones are better at both stages of the hunt.
The sensor ball from the original MQ-9 Reapers was replaced with a high-definition camera. The software that controls the camera was also upgraded to enable automatic detection of threats and the ability to track 12 moving targets at once. Better communications gear was installed to allow ground controllers and others to see the higher quality video coming from the drones.
Reapers can carry up to 14 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. The upgraded version carries the same munitions but can now fire them in a “super ripple,” firing a missile every 0.32 seconds. The external fuel tanks give the Reaper pilots more time to identify targets, track them, and plan the engagement before firing.
American drones have already had a lot of success in the fight against ISIS. Jihadi John, the British-born militant who conducted many of the Islamic State’s early, high-profile executions, was killed by two Hellfire missiles fired from a drone.
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) departs San Francisco. | US Navy photo by Lt.j.g. Pete Lee
Aircraft carriers are the cornerstone of America’s naval capabilities. They’re able to project air power anywhere in the world without having to depend on local bases.
And they are truly massive.
Spanning 1,092 feet long — three times the length of a football field — Nimitz-class warships like the USS George H.W. Bush are the largest aircraft carriers. See below for a selection of pictures showing how massive America’s aircraft carriers are:
The USS Nimitz conducts an aerial demonstration.
The USS Nimitz conducts an aerial demonstration. The USS Nimitz conducts an aerial demonstration. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Aiyana S. Paschal/ Released
An aircraft director guides an F/A-18C Hornet onto a catapult aboard the USS Harry S. Truman.
US Navy photo
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) transits the Strait of Hormuz.
US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class John Grandin
Sailors scrub down the flight deck of the USS George Washington (CVN-73).
Sailors man the rails of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) while departing Naval Base Coronado.
The USS George H.W. Bush is underway.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Brian Stephens/Released
PCU Gerald R. Ford is floated for the first time.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joshua J. Wahl/Released
Blue Angels fly over the USS George H.W. Bush in the Atlantic Ocean.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Terrence Siren/Released
The USS John C. Stennis conducts flight operations.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Matthew Martino/Released
Sailors man the rails as the USS Nimitz (CVN-68) enters Pearl Harbor.
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Kelly M. Agee/Released
The USS Carl Vinson is underway in the Persian Gulf.
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alex King/Released
Sailors observe as the USS John C. Stennis sails alongside the USS Ronald Reagan.
The USS George Washington (CVN-73) leads the George Washington Carrier Strike Group.
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ricardo R. Guzman/Released
The USS Ronald Reagan transports sailors’ vehicles.
US Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class Shawn J. Stewart/RELEASED
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) departs San Francisco.
US Navy photo by Lt.j.g. Pete Lee/Released
The USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) performs a full-power run-and-rudder swing check during sea trials.
USS Harry S. Truman performs swing checks.
F/A-18 Hornets demonstrate air power over the USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74).
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Ignacio D. Perez/Released
The USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) transiting the Strait of Hormuz.
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class John Grandin/Released
The USS Enterprise is underway with the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group in the Atlantic Ocean.
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Harry Andrew D. Gordon/Released
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) returns to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
US Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Daniel Barker/Released
The USS Abraham Lincoln and USS John C. Stennis join for a turnover of responsibility in the Arabian Sea.
US Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Eric S. Powell/Released
The hot weather is here so remember to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate (unless you’re in the southern hemisphere and then remember to wear thick socks and change them every morning). For both hemispheres, remember to quickly treat any injuries with Motrin.
For now, grab some shade (or a heater) and check this week’s 13 funniest military memes:
A number of elite units from multiple nations are gathered to train at an air base, with over 100 aircraft sitting on the flightline for a two-week exercise.
Sounds like just another Red Flag, right? Wrong.
This exercise is a “flag,” but it’s not at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. Instead, it’s taking place in Israel. And appropriately enough, it’s known as Blue Flag.
While several Red Flag exercises are held each year in the U.S., the Israelis hold one Blue Flag every two years. In 2013, four countries took part. This year, according to DefenseNews.com, seven will be in the skies over the Middle East nation: the United States, France, Germany, India, Italy, Poland, and of course, Israel.
One big difference between Red Flag and Blue Flag is the fact that Blue Flag doesn’t have a lot of head-to-head action between the participants. The exercise usually puts the 100 or so planes in as a multi-national “Blue Force” dealing with an external “Red Force.”
Week one of Blue Flag is spent getting familiar with the area. The second week is the actual combat exercise, usually involving the Red Force trying to hit friendly targets. The Blue Force tries to stop them, in a variety of missions, both air-to-air, and air-to-surface.
Past Blue Flags have drawn rave reviews from the United States Air Force.
“The Israelis provided an excellent training environment, which offered us the opportunity to learn from each other and to take advantage of good airspace, surface threat replicators, and challenging scenarios,” said Lt. Col. John Orchard after Blue Flag 2013 in an Air Force release. “It was a real pleasure integrating with our Israeli, Italian and Greek partners who all offer unique tactical, strategic and cultural perspectives.”
While the nightlife may be very different from the Vegas strip — and it’ll be a little harder to find a good ham sandwich between sorties — Blue Flag 2017 promises to be very interesting for the participants.
When Allied troops landed in Normandy, Gen. George Patton had two jobs. One had been to lead the fictional First United States Army Group, a part of Operation Fortitude, to deceive the Germans as to the Allies’ actual intentions against Normandy. His second was training his real unit, Third Army.
Once the Allies had secured a beachhead, Patton took Third Army to Northern France where it became operational on August 1, 1944. By the time Third Army went into action, the Allies had spent nearly two months fighting for a breakout to no avail.
The thick Norman hedgerows and stiff German resistance had slowed progress to a crawl. Patton had other ideas.
As Third Army broke free of the restrictive hedgerows, Patton showed that he was truly a master of maneuver warfare and combined arms tactics.
Patton would use armored reconnaissance scouts to range ahead of his forces to find the enemy. Once found, he used his armored divisions to spearhead the attacks. Armored infantry, supported by tanks and self-propelled artillery, would attack in force.
Every breach in German lines was exploited by more armor which kept the Germans from being able to effectively regroup.
Patton also pioneered the use of tactical air support, now known as close air support, by having tactical fighter-bombers flying cover over his advancing columns. This technique is known as armored column cover and used three to four P-51s or P-47s, coordinated by a forward air controller riding in one of the tanks on the ground.
Patton’s Third Army headquarters also had more staff dedicated to tactical air support and conducting air strikes against the enemy than any other formations in Europe.
Making the best of these new techniques, much like the Germans had with the Blitz, Patton’s first moves were to drive south and west to cut off the Germans in Brittany and open more ports on the coast to Allied shipping.
Using speed and aggression, Third Army had reached the coast in less than two weeks.
Those forces then turned around 180 degrees and raced east across France.
The 28th Infantry Division on the Champs Élysées in the “Victory Day” parade on 29 August 1944. Photo under public domain.
Patton’s forces moved so fast that normal tactics were insufficient.
Light aircraft that normally served as artillery spotters were pressed into the airborne reconnaissance role.
To keep up with his troops, the 4th Armored Division’s commander, Maj. Gen. John Wood, would often task one of his aerial artillery observers, “Bazooka Charlie” Carpenter, to fly ahead to his armored columns so he could personally deliver orders.
Carpenter was famous for mounting bazooka’s on his light aircraft and attacking German armor – just the kind of fighting man Patton wanted in his army.
As Patton’s troops pushed east, they continued to drive the Germans back. Along with actions by the Canadians and Poles to the north, they were beginning to form a pocket around the German Army Group B.
The neck of the pocket was closing at Falaise, which was held by the Canadians. Patton was driving his men hard to effect a link-up and trap Germans attempting to retreat from Normandy.
Much to Patton’s dismay, Gen. Omar Bradley, commander of the Twelve US Army Group, called him off. Due to the fact that his forces were fighting the Germans all over Northern France, Patton could only commit four divisions to blocking German escape to the south. Bradley was worried that stretching Patton’s line further could lead to him being overrun by German forces desperate to escape the trap.
Undeterred, Patton consolidated his forces and continued his drive out of Normandy.
With the Germans retreating from the area, Patton set his Third Army to give chase.
Depleted German units were easily overcome.
The 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, recalled to England the month before, lamented that Patton continually overran their drop zones and kept them out of the action.
On August 25, 1944, the 4th Infantry Division, a lead element of Patton’s Third Army, arrived at the outskirts of Paris. Allowing the French 2nd Armored Division to take the lead in the liberation of their capital, the division moved into the city.
Just five days later, Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Northern France, was declared over.
Patton, however, was not done. He had his eyes set on Germany and continued to push his forces.
As Third Army drove hard towards the French province of Lorraine, they finally outran their supply lines. On August 31, Patton’s drive ground to a halt. Patton assumed that he would be given priority for supplies due to the success of his offensive, but was dismayed to learn that this was not the case.
Eisenhower favored a broad front approach and allocated more incoming supplies to Montgomery for his bold plan – Operation Market Garden.
Despite their success in defeating German units all across France and driving further than any other force, the men of Third Army would have to wait for their chance to drill into Germany.