As we have explained in posts we have published recently, F-117s continue to zip through the Nevada skies despite being officially retired in 2008. Actually, the iconic stealth jet is doing probably much more than “just flying around”. The most recent sightings have seen the aircraft actively taking part in seemingly complex missions, flying the aggressor role alongside 57th Wing F-16s as The War Zonereported just a few days ago.
Anyway, it’s certain that some F-117s have been retired once for all. In November 2014, we spotted an F-117 fuselage being transported on a truck trailer was seen back on Nov. 14, 2017. More recently, on Aug. 16, 2019 at 4:09 PM aviation expert and photographer Chris McGreevy spotted another fuselage being hauled by a truck along Columbia Way (Ave. M) near the joint military/civilian use Palmdale Regional Airport outside Palmdale, California. While we don’t know where the first F-117 ended, we know everything about the latter one: nicknamed “Unexpected Guest”, the aircraft in question was #803 (82-0803), an F-117 that entered active service in 1984, flew 78 combat missions (the most of any Nighthawk) starting from Panama’s “Just Cause” operation and was retired in 2007 after logging 4,673 Flight Hours.
Peace Through Strength: F-117 Display at Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
The “Unexpected Guest” was prepared for public display at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, through an operation dubbed Operation Nighthawk Landing. The interesting video was released for the official ribbon-cutting ceremony held on Dec. 7, 2019, during the Reagan Foundation and Institute’s annual Reagan National Defense Forum. It includes footage of the F-117 stealth jets throughout their career, from the era when they flew under the cover of darkness at Tonopah, when an early form of biometric scanner called the Identimat built by Stellar Systems was used, to their last days of official operations before “retirement” (or something like that….). Long live the Stealth Jet!!
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
On Aug. 6, 1941, P. Siomes, a German priest, was sitting in his room when the sunny, summer day outside was suddenly lit by an even brighter light that blinded him just before an explosion of sound and heat slammed into the building he was in.
The next month, he gave a full recounting of the hours and days following the bombing in a statement to the U.S. Army.
Author’s note: This article is based on a statement from P. Siomes, a German priest who was in the outskirts of Hiroshima when the bomb dropped. His English is great, but not perfect, but we’ve decided to be as honest to his original text as possible when transcribing. This leaves a few minor grammar and spelling errors, but we do not believe it hinders comprehension. His full statement is available here.
An atomic cloud rises over Hiroshima after the bomb is dropped.
(509th Operations Group)
Siomes was part of the Society of Jesus, headquartered in a church at the edge of Hiroshima, and he remembers it being about 8:14 when the city center suddenly filled with a bright, yellow light. He described it as being like the magnesium flash from a camera, but sustained. Over the next ten seconds, he felt an increase in heat, heard what sounded like a small and distant explosion, and was halfway to his door when his window suddenly exploded inward.
He was later glad to have made it away from the window, because he later found that his wall was filled with large shards of glass from the explosion that would’ve been embedded in him instead of the wall.
Siomes had believed that the damage to the building was from a bomb that burst overhead, assuming that the light was an unconnected phenomenon. But when he went outside to check the damage, all the worst damage was on the side of the building facing the city, and there was no bomb crater in sight.
A Red Cross Hospital is one of the only things left standing after the bomb. Near the center of the city, even the buildings that survived the blast were consumed within hours and days by the fires triggered by the heat and radiation.
(Hiroshima Peace Media Center)
But looking out into the city, he could see the extent of the damage. Houses were burning closer to town, and nearby woods were already becoming a large inferno. As the men at the facility, mostly monks and priests, begin helping fight the flames, a storm started, and rain began to fall.
Yes, the skies were clear before the bombs dropped, but a sudden rainfall is actually one of the very weird side effects of a nuclear blast. This would help fight the fires, but it also carries tons of irradiated dust, debris, and ash back to earth and helps it cling to the skin of survivors, but Siomes didn’t know this in 1945.
He and his fellow Christians began assisting the wounded in addition to fighting the fires. One of the priests “had studied medicine” before he took his vows, and the priests gave as much medical support as they could.
Father Noktor who, before taking holy orders, had studied medicine, ministers to the injured, but our bandages and drugs are soon gone. We must be content with cleansing the wounds. More and more of the injured come to us. The least injured drag the more seriously wounded.
A military document provides a guide to the extent of destruction caused by the single bomb on August 6.
(U.S. Army illustration)
And the damages to the city and surrounding area weren’t limited to just the immediate effects of the bomb. High winds damaged infrastructure and knocked over trees and buildings for hours after the initial blast. Siomes believed that this may have been caused by the fires pulling in more air, and research after the war backed him up.
Finally, we reach the entrance of the park. A large proportion of the populace has taken refuge there, but even the trees of the park are on fire in several places. Paths and bridges are blocked by the trunks of fallen trees and are almost impassable. We are told that a high wind, which may have resulted from the heat of the burning city, had uprooted the large trees.
Later on, Siomes would see some of this chaos himself. He went into the city with others to search out some of the missing priests, and they were able to find their quarry. But as they tried to make it back out ahead of the fire, they kept finding wounded trapped under debris, and attempted to rescue them, but then had to move on as the fires got close.
Eventually, they’d take refuge in Asano Park and, as the fires got close:
A very violent whirlwind now begins to uproot large trees, and lifts them high into the air. As it reaches the water, a water spout forms which is approximately 100 meters high.
This infrastructure damage made it harder for survivors to organize themselves and render aid, which was catastrophic as new emergencies kept popping up. Worse, planners had never envisioned losing an entire city in one fell swoop, and they had concentrated key supplies in a few caches near the city center, all destroyed by the bomb and fires.
For Siomes, the priests, and the monks, this all meant that their aid would necessarily be limited. It took more than a day for them simply to find out where all of their own survivors were. Some of them even had the exotic new injuries that only nuclear bombs can create.
One of the priests had been serving in the city when the bomb hit, and while he was processing the sudden burst of light, his hand was already blistering from what would later be identified as radiation. It was the equivalent of an instant, severe sunburn.
Father Kopp is bleeding about the head and neck, and he has a large burn on the right palm. He was standing in front of the nunnery ready to go home. All of a sudden, he became aware of the light, felt the wave of heat and a large blister formed on his hand.
Father Kopp was lucky; he had actually been near the epicenter of the blast but was well protected by the structure which held firm.
The city of Hiroshima after the bomb was dropped on August 6, 1945.
(U.S. Navy Public Affairs)
As the hours turned into days, the survivors kept tending the wounded and eating what they could find. Bodies lined the rivers and streets, and only skeletons remained of most of the buildings. Survivors had to drag the bodies or carry them on available carts out of the city, gather wood, and then cremate them in the valleys.
Rumors and stories began to rise, especially among the fifty or so refugees that were housed at what remained of the church, about what exactly had happened.
Some were likely propaganda or ill-informed attempts to explain what had happened:
As much as six kilometers from the center of the explosion, all houses were damaged and many collapses and caught fire. Even fifteen kilometers away, windows were broken. It was rumored that the enemy fliers had first spread an explosive and incendiary material over the city and then had created the explosion and ignition.
View, looking northwest, from the Red Cross Hospital which survived the bomb. The other structures are largely ones re-built after the bomb.
Some of the rumors were reports of how different victims suffered from the bombs:
Many of the wounded also died because they had been weakened by under-nourishment and consequently the strength to recover. Those who had normal strength and who received good care slowly healed the burns which had been associated with the bomb. There were also cases, however, whose prognosis seemed good who died suddenly. There were also some who had only small external wounds who died within a week or later, after an inflamation of the pharyax and oral cavity had taken place.
A paragraph later, Siomes recalls:
Only several cases are known to me personally where individuals who did not have external burns died later. Father Kleinserge and Father Cisslik, who near the center of the explosion, but who did not suffer burns became quite weak some fourteen days after the explosion.Up to this time small incised wounds had healed normally, but thereafter the wounds which were still unhealed became worse and are to date (in September) still incompletely healed.
But the biggest surprise probably comes at the end of the document where Siomes shares debates between he and his peers about the morality of the bomb.
He doesn’t come to a final decision, but he does note:
None of us in those days heard a single outburst against the Americans on the part of the Japanese, nor was there any evidence of a vengeful spirit…We have discussed among ourselves the ethics of the use of the bomb. Some consider it in the same category as poison gas and were against its use on a civil population. Other were of the view that in total war, as carried on in Japan, there was no difference between civilians and soldier and that the bomb itself was an effective force tending to end the bloodshed, warning Japan to surrender and thus avoid total destruction.
It’s an argument that continues today, but apparently consumed some of the immediate attention of survivors in the hours and days following its first use.
The NBA and China are locked in an escalating feud sparked by a tweet that voiced support for protests in Hong Kong.
For over 18 weeks, millions of people in Hong Kong have taken to the streets for increasingly violent protests. Initially, protests centered around a proposed bill that would have allowed for the extradition of Hong Kong residents to China to face trial. Now, demonstrations have ballooned into a fight against police brutality and Chinese encroachment on the semi-autonomous city.
Though the bill has since been withdrawn, protests continue and have recently seen a spike in violent clashes between police and protesters as China marked its 70th anniversary on Oct. 1, 2019. The topic of Hong Kong protests remains a sensitive issue for China, and China has been known to take harsh action against companies that so much as reference its domestic affairs or appear to threaten its authority.
As described by The New York Times, basketball is China’s most popular sport, with a market representing hundreds of millions of fans. According to CNBC, more than 640 million people in China watched the 2017-2018 NBA season.
On Oct. 11, 2019, Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets, tweeted out an image which voiced support for protests in Hong Kong. In the days following, Chinese leagues, streaming services, sponsors, and partners, have cut ties with the Rockets and the NBA.
Here’s everything you need to know about the feud, from the initial tweet to the escalating backlash.
On Oct. 4, 2019, Morey tweeted out an image that voiced support for a protest group in Hong Kong.
In the since-deleted tweet, Morey posted the symbol of Stand With Hong Kong, an activist group that has been behind calls for foreign government intervention in Hong Kong.
The tweet immediately prompted backlash from Chinese social-media users, who targeted his account with angry messages and calls for his firing.
In response to the backlash, Tilman Fertitta, the owner of the Rockets, addressed the controversy on Oct. 5, 2019.
Seeking to do damage control, Fertitta distanced the team and its shareholders from Morey’s statement.
“Listen….@dmorey does NOT speak for the @HoustonRockets,” he wrote.
He later defended Morey on ESPN, saying that he had “best general manager in the league” but that Rockets had “no political position.”
On Oct. 6, 2019, the Chinese Basketball Association, which represents China in the International Basketball Federation, announced it was halting cooperation with the Rockets in response to the tweet.
The CBA’s president is Yao Ming, the former NBA All-Star who played for the Rockets from 2002 to 2011.
“The Chinese Basketball Association strongly disagrees with the improper remarks by Daryl Morey, and has decided to suspend exchanges and cooperation with the team,” the CBA said in a statement on its official account on Chinese microblogging platform Weibo.
Several of the Rocket’s sponsors and partners announced that they would no longer broadcast games.
State broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) and the livestreaming platform Tencent Sports, announced on Sunday that they would no longer broadcast Rockets games.
The Chinese consulate in Houston said in a statement that it was “deeply shocked” by what it described as Morey’s “erroneous comments on Hong Kong.”
“We have lodged representations and expressed strong dissatisfaction with the Houston Rockets, and urged the latter to correct the error and take immediate concrete measures to eliminate the adverse impact,” the statement said.
On Sunday evening, the NBA responded and called the tweet “regrettable.”
Morey on Sunday responded to the firestorm on Twitter, saying his views did not necessarily reflect those of the NBA or the Rockets.
The NBA also issued a statement:
“While Daryl has made it clear that his tweet does not represent the Rockets or the NBA, the values of the league supports individuals educating themselves and sharing their views on matters important to them,” the statement read.
On Oct. 7, 2019, Democrat and Republican lawmakers hit back over the NBA’s ‘shameful’ response to Chinese backlash.
Some lawmakers came out in support of Morey and criticized the NBA for distancing themselves from the league manager.
“As a lifelong @HoustonRockets fan, I was proud to see @dmorey call out the Chinese Communist Party’s repressive treatment of protesters in Hong Kong,” Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said on Twitter on Monday.
“Now, in pursuit of $, the @NBA is shamefully retreating.”
Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski of New Jersey slammed the NBA for “apologizing” to China.
“And the #NBA, which (correctly) has no problem with players/employees criticizing our govt, is now apologizing for criticizing the Chinese gov’t,” Malinowski tweeted. “This is shameful and cannot stand.”
The NBA issued another statement on Oct. 8, 2019. This time, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the league would not “censor” players or team owners.
“The NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say,” Silver said in a statement. “We simply could not operate that way.”
“I do know there are consequences from freedom of speech; we will have to live with those consequences,” he added. “For those who question our motivation, this is about far more than growing our business.”
Following Morey’s statement, Chinese broadcasters said they would stop broadcasting NBA games.
“Any speech challenging a country’s national sovereignty and social stability is not within the scope of freedom of speech,” CCTV said in its announcement that it would be halting all broadcasts of NBA preseason games.
Tencent Sports followed the measure and issued a statement saying that it would temporarily stop showing all NBA preseason games.
Fans have since weighed in on the controversy. On Tuesday, fans began showing up to games with T-shirts and signs voicing support for Hong Kong.
At the Philadelphia 76ers exhibition game against the Guangzhou Loong-Lions of the Chinese Basketball Association at Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday, two fans were escorted out of the arena after holding up signs and cheering in support of the protests.
The 76ers responded in a statement, saying the protesters caused a “disruption” and were at the center of “multiple complaints from guests.” Wells Fargo Center said the two were given “three separate warnings” for “disrupting the live event experience.”
On Wednesday, some NBA fans at the Washington Wizards vs. Guangzhou Loong-Lions game in Washington wore “Free Hong Kong” T-shirts and holding protest signs said their signs were confiscated.
On Oct. 9, 2019, all of the NBA’s official Chinese partners cut ties.
All of the companies on the NBA’s list of wholly-owned Chinese sponsors had suspended ties with the league as of Wednesday, according to CNN Business. Those businesses included CTrip, China’s biggest online travel website, and the Chinese fast-food chain Dicos.
On Wednesday, promotional material for a preseason game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Los Angeles Lakers was removed from buildings across Shanghai.
On Oct. 10, 2019, a reporter for CNN was cut off from asking a question to NBA athletes about the conflict.
Christina Macfarlane, a sports correspondent for CNN, was shut down during a media event with Rockets players James Harden and Russell Westbrook.
She asked the players if they would “feel differently” about voicing their thoughts on political and social affairs in light of the controversy.
“Excuse me, we’re taking basketball questions only,” a team representative responded.
The NBA later issued an apology, saying that the representative “inappropriately interjected” and that the response was “inconsistent to how the NBA conducts media events.”
And Nike, a major partner of the NBA that provides the league with team apparel, pulled Houston Rockets gear from several stores in China.
Managers at five Nike stores in Shanghai and Beijing told Reuters on Thursday that they had been told in a company memo from management to pull all Rockets merchandise from shelves.
Three stores in Shenzhen, a Chinese city which borders Hong Kong, took down all Rockets merchandise along with NBA merchandise. Three stores in Chengdu, the capital of the Chinese province of Sichuan, also removed Rockets gear.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Since Russia’s incursion in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea in 2014, the US and its NATO partners have worked to reverse the drawdown of forces that took place in the decades after the fall of the Soviet Union.
“After the end of the Cold War and the reunification of Germany, everybody, including the United States, had hoped for this period of partnership with Russia and a significant reduction in the threat of a conflict. It really was a lot of optimism,” said Ben Hodges, a former Army lieutenant general who led the US Army in Europe between 2013 and his retirement in 2017.
“But also one of the side effects was that everybody began to significantly disarm, including the United States,” Hodges said.
The tendency to reduce forces after a conflict is “understandable,” Hodges said. “The problem with that is because there was a widespread belief that Russia was going to be a partner, that we could start disassembling a lot of the infrastructure that was needed” for military operations in Europe.
Polish Brig. Gen. Jaroslaw Gromadzinski, left, and Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of the US Army Europe, at Grafenwoehr Training Area in Germany, Jan. 31, 2017.
(US Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)
The US Army alone saw its presence in Europe fall from about 300,000 troops during the Cold War to about 30,000 today. Bases were shuttered, and units were withdrawn or deactivated. In early 2013, the Army pulled its last 22 Abrams tanks from Europe, ending its 69-year run of having main battle tanks on the continent.
“So that left us with no armor force in Europe, and then of course … the maintenance and sustainment and all the things that are required to keep armored vehicles functioning was also dismantled,” said Hodges, who is now the Pershing Chair in Strategic Studies at the Center for European Policy Analysis.
But the absence of armor was short-lived. In January 2014 — two months before Crimea was annexed — 29 upgraded Abrams tanks returned to Germany to be part of a pre-positioned equipment set for use in training areas there and across Europe.
A Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle completes an uncontested wet-gap crossing near Chełmno, Poland, June 2, 2018.
(US Army photo by 1st Lt. Ellen Brabo)
Since April 2014, land forces on the continent have taken part in Operation Atlantic Resolve , which the US Army in Europe has led “by conducting continuous, enhanced multinational training and security cooperation activities with allies and partners in eastern Europe.”
The US and its NATO partners have focused on redeveloping many of the capabilities they had during the Cold War — “so increased artillery and air interaction, maneuver, river crossings, all of these things,” Hodges said.
The change in focus “started under the Obama administration, after the Wales summit and in the Warsaw summit, where the alliance said we’ve got to transition to a deterrence posture vs. just assurance,” Hodges said, referring to NATO meetings in the UK in late 2014 and in Poland in summer 2016.
“So that meant increasing capabilities and capacities and regaining some of … what we call joint and combined warfighting skills that we used to have.”
Tanks, helicopters, and logistical units have all returned to Europe over the past four years, carrying out scores of joint exercises along NATO’s eastern flank. The Army has also launched nine-month, back-to-back rotations of armored brigade combat teams.
US Army vehicles conduct a tactical road march in Germany during Combined Resolve X, April 22, 2018.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Sharon Matthias)
“We no longer have an armored brigade in Europe, so we have to depend on the rotational brigade, and so you had to relearn how to maneuver, which by the way we used to do back during the Cold War quite a bit,” Hodges said.
“In Iraq and Afghanistan, [for] everything we were doing you had individuals or units come over and fall in on the equipment that’s already in place,” he added. “So this is a different [approach.] We’ve had to practice the deployment.”
A NATO internal report seen by German news outlet Der Spiegel at the end of 2017 found that the alliance’s ability to rapidly deploy throughout Europe had “atrophied since the end of the Cold War.” NATO forces would be unable to move troops fast enough and lacked sufficient officers and supplies in Europe, the report said.
NATO’s bureaucratic and logistical obstacles were highlighted in January 2017, when a convoy of US Army Paladin self-propelled howitzers traveling from Poland to southern Germany was stopped by German border police because the Polish contractors transporting them did not have the proper paperwork and had violated several regulations.
Locals in Nachod, Czechia, watch US Army vehicles cross the Czech-Polish border en route to Lithuania during Exercise Saber Strike 18, May 30, 2018.
(US Army Reserve photo by Capt. Jeku Arce)
Over the past year, NATO has made a number of organizational and operational changes to address these problems.
The NATO internal report recommended setting up two new commands to streamline military operations. One would oversee operations in the Atlantic Ocean , supporting the movement of personnel and material. The other would manage logistical operations on the ground in Europe, facilitating movements across an alliance that has grown considerably since the Cold War.
The latter, called Joint Sustainment and Enabling Command, was approved in June 2018 by NATO defense ministers. German officials have already said it would be based in the southern German city of Ulm.
“This command is going to be responsible for the rapid reception and responsiveness and reinforcement of NATO forces to the eastern flank, or anywhere, actually,” Hodges said.
Germany’s location and transportation capacity makes it the ideal location for the command, Hodges added, calling it an “important step to improve our ability to not just move, but to reinforce and to further develop the logistics infrastructure that’s needed.”
M1A2 Abrams tanks and other military vehicles are unloaded at the port in Bremerhaven, Germany, Jan. 6, 2017.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Micah VanDyke)
“Some people have asked me, ‘Well, didn’t we do this for like 40 years during the Cold War?’ and the answer is yes, we did, except it was all in West Germany,” Hodges said.
“So the inter-German border was as far east as we had to go. Now with the alliance including the Baltic countries, Poland, Romania, the distance to go from our main logistical hub in central Germany to Estonia, for example, is the same thing as going from St. Louis to Bangor, Maine,” he said. “So it’s huge challenge logistically, and the infrastructure has got to be further developed to enable that.”
Several recent “firsts” for NATO forces in Europe illustrate that renewed focus on mobility.
US Army vehicles, including M1 Abrams tanks and Paladin self-propelled howitzers offload in Gdansk, Poland, Sept.14, 2017.
(US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jacob A. McDonald)
When that unit disembarked in Gdansk, it was “the first time two armored brigades transition[ed] within the European theater, sending a full complement of soldiers and equipment into Germany and Poland in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve,” a US Army spokesman said at the time.
The 2nd ABCT also finished its nine-month stint with a first. In late April 2018, the unit carried out a tactical road march with over 700 vehicles on public roads between the Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels training areas in southeast Germany — the first time the exercise has been done at the brigade level in 15 years.
A few weeks later, the next force arriving for a nine-month rotation in Europe — the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team from the 1st Cavalry Division — disembarked at the port of Antwerp in Belgium, across the continent from its base in Germany.
“Sometimes what is old is new again, and that is coming in here,” Maj. Gen. Steven Shapiro, head of 21st Theater Sustainment Command, said at the time. “Antwerp and Rotterdam were major ports when we were operating during the Cold War … We are coming back to Antwerp in a big way.”
A US soldier guides an M1 Abrams tank off a ship at the port of Antwerp, Belgium, May 20, 2018.
(US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jacob A. McDonald)
NATO began adding ports to its repertoire about three years ago, Hodges said, and doing so had several benefits.
“One was to reestablish capabilities in all these ports, because the port labor force, they had to relearn how to unload Abrams tanks and helicopters and all, so we needed them to get back in the game, and we also frankly wanted to demonstrate that we could come in in a variety of different places,” he said.
“We’ve focused on Bremerhaven” in Germany, Hodges added.
“That would obviously communicate a vulnerability to the Russians or other potential adversaries, so we’ve used Gdansk. We’ve used Bremerhaven. We’ve used Klaipeda in Lithuania. We’ve used Thessaloniki and Alexandropulis in Greece, and Constanta in Romania,” he said. “Back in the Cold War, Antwerp and Rotterdam were important ports for us, and so I’m glad to see that US Army has touched that one again.”
But obstacles to NATO’s ability to move around Europe are still largely political, and it will require political action to resolve them, Hodges noted.
Latvians view US Marine Corps HMMWVs during an event demonstrating military vehicles and gear involved in Exercise Saber Strike, in Liepaja, Latvia, May 30, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Adwin Esters)
“The ultimate way that this improvement in military mobility will happen is through cooperation and coordination between NATO and the European Union,” he said.
The EU has the right infrastructure — roads, bridges, and railways — as well as the mechanisms to encourage members to act and to apportion resources for them to do so. Hodges pointed to the EU’s recent formation of Permanent Structured Cooperation, or PESCO, for defense and security issues.
Identifying what needs to be done and what is needed to do it will still take time, however.
“This is just like a highway project in the States,” Hodges added. “This is going to take a lot of time in Europe, but at least now it feels like all of the nations have grasped the significance of it, and when you’ve got at the top level of NATO and the European Union addressing that … that’s encouraging.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Melvin Pender was a 25-year-old soldier headed to the 82nd Airborne Division when he first tied on some running shoes to race, but it quickly became clear that he would become a legend in the sport. He was fast. So fast, in fact, that the Army would twice recall him from active duty to train for the Olympics.
A helicopter deposits troops in the Mekong River Delta of Vietnam.
(U.S. Air Force)
The first recall came in 1964 for the Tokyo Olympics, where Pender placed sixth. After the games, he went to officer’s candidate school. A few years later, Pender was sent to the Mekong Delta of Vietnam as a platoon leader.
The fighting was fierce, with rounds tearing through the underbrush to crash into the bodies of American soldiers. One day was particularly bad for Pender and his men.
“You couldn’t see the enemy; they were shooting at us from the jungles,” Pender told his friend Keith Sims during an interview. “And, uh, I had one of my kids killed. This young man died in my arms.”
U.S. Army soldiers take a break during a patrol in Vietnam.
(Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr. Collection, Texas Tech University)
Later that same day, Pender was told that he had to go home. The Army needed him to run in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, this time as part of a four-man relay team. Pender tried to stay, but was told it wasn’t optional.
“And I told my men, I says, ‘I’m going back for you. I’m going to win this gold medal for you guys,'” Pender told Sims.
But the 1968 Olympics were roiling with the same racial tensions that were consuming America as black athletes protested racial violence in the states.
When we got to Mexico, we start getting threats from the president of the Olympic Committee, saying if we demonstrated in the Olympics, ‘I’m going to send all you boys home.’
How are you, how are you going to call someone ‘boy’? I mean, here I just got out of combat, seeing people die defending my country, and you’re going to call me a boy? They don’t make boys like me.
While Pender opposed the restrictions that were being placed on black athletes at the games, he acceded to orders from a colonel to not take part in any protests.
He focused on the games and the promise he had made to his men to win a gold medal for them.
“To be on the relay team, it was my time to shine,” he said. “I ran my heart out. We ended up winning the race at a world record time of 38.2 seconds.
The world record in the event has been beat numerous times since, but only by fractions of a second each time. Pender’s team’s 38.2 second run is still less than two seconds from the current world record of 36.84 set by a Jamaican team (You can see the race on YouTube here).
Despite Pender keeping his head down at the games, he did end up tangentially connected to protests. His roommate was John Carlos, one of the athletes who famously gave the Black Power salute on the podium during the U.S. Anthem, something that the athletes and Pender maintain was about asserting black humanity, not disrespecting the anthem. Pender told Sims:
You know, when Carlos came back to the room, I could see the hurt in his eyes and he just said, ‘I did what I had to do, Mel.’ And that’s when I told him, I said, ‘I’m so proud of you.’
They was not trying to disgrace the national anthem of America. What was happening was wrong. They were trying to show the world. ‘Hey, we are human beings. We are human.’ That changed my life.
Carlos and another demonstrator were stripped of their medals. Pender, meanwhile, went back to Vietnam after the games and received a Bronze Medal for his service. He rose to the rank of captain and served as the first black track and field coach at West Point before retiring with 21 years of service in the military.
Pender lives in the Atlanta area with his wife and recently told the Atlanta Journal Constitution the he still believes America “is the greatest country in the world,” a sentiment he shares with during motivational talks at high schools and other venues.
Most of the quotes in this article came from a recent StoryCorps interview between Keith Sims and Dr. Melvin Pender. A two-minute excerpt from that interview is available here.
The Air Force is determining how best to move forward with the Defense Department’s new hazing and misconduct policy, aiming to follow guidelines while still keeping some traditions associated with the practice of “tacking-on” rank or insignia during promotion ceremonies, the top enlisted leader of the Air Force said Feb. 22, 2018.
The policy, released early February 2018, includes a definition of hazing that explicitly encompasses “pinning” or “tacking-on” during promotions.
“We want to be able to provide our senior leaders out in the field the right guidance on what they should do in lieu of these promotion ceremonies, which we have every month,” said Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright. Wright sat down with Military.com during the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium here.
Wright said he knows there will be pushback from airmen on “the cultural birthright” to pin on new stripes, and while the Air Force-specific policy is still being crafted, the message is “clear-cut.”
“We need to make sure that we really understand the department’s intent exactly,” he said. But “I don’t think [the Air Force] will straddle the middle” between the guidance and the pin-on practice.
While the term “pinning” or “tacking-on” may evoke the infamous tradition of pounding new rank into an airman’s chest hard enough to break the skin, the term also encompasses less extreme physical actions, such as an “atta-boy” nudge or other physical gestures of congratulation. In unofficial capacities, however, more dramatic hazing and abusive behavior may still persist.
“We’ll be in line with the DoD policy, again, we just have to figure out what it means, and exactly what we want to articulate to commanders in the field,” Wright said.
He said the guidance language is there for a reason.
“I hate to say and believe tacking and pinning ceremonies that we do in the Air Force were collateral damage, but this was probably aimed at some of the tacking and pinning and hazing that’s done, not just in a formal promotion ceremony in front of a crowd of people, but … in Special Operations or some other career field, some other specialty where you’ve achieved something significant and go through some ritual to culminate that process,” Wright said.
Tolerance of hazing has never been the Air Force’s message, he said. Leaders have tried to tackle various ceremonial issues that, for one reason or another, have gotten out of hand.
“I’ve worked for commanders who’ve decided, ‘Hey this is too much, so let’s stop doing that,’ ” Wright said, without specifying any incidents.
Whatever comes next for airmen, he said it’s always been about achieving a milestone in their careers.
“Airmen get excited for a day or two, then they move on, and realize that, ‘Man, I’m just thankful to get promoted, my family was able to be there, so if I don’t get the biggest guy in the world to knock me off the stage, then no problem,’ ” he said.
The Pentagon on Feb. 8, 2018, put forth a new policy — DoD Instruction 1020.03 Harassment Prevention And Response in the Armed Forces — aimed to deter misconduct and harassment among service members. The policy reaffirmed the Defense Department does not tolerate any kind of harassment by any service member, either in person or online.
The guidance went into effect immediately, outlining the department’s definitions of what is considered harassment. However, each service — Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps — is in charge of planning its implementation, outlining steps and milestones in order to comply with the instruction, which supersedes any past anti-harassment policies.
Among activities that specifically define hazing are oral or written berating for the purposes of humiliation, “any form of initiation or congratulatory act” that includes striking or threatening to strike someone; encouraging someone to engage in “illegal, harmful, demeaning, or dangerous” activities; breaking the skin, as with rank insignia or badges in “pinning” rituals; branding, tattooing, shaving or painting someone; and forcing someone to consume food, water, or any other substance.
“Service members may be responsible for an act of hazing even if there was actual or implied consent from the victim and regardless of the grade or rank, status, or service of the victim” in either official or unofficial functions or settings, the policy continues.
Upon the policy’s debut, some airmen and Air Force veterans took to the popular Facebook group Air Force Amn/nco/snco to criticize the policy’s ban on the “tacking-on” tradition.
“It’s an honor to be tacked on!” wrote one former airman.
“This is why we should halt all Wing level promotion ceremonies and give the role back to the squadron to address promotions how they see fit for morale and unit bonding,” wrote another.
Others questioned what other policies will erode practices over time. “What little heritage and traditions we had… they’re gone now… no wonder the morale is at an all-time low,” wrote a retired airman.
Wright did not specify when the Air Force plans to present its own guidelines.
“We will have to convene, next time I sit down with the boss [Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein] … [to determine] where we want to go,” he said.
Additionally, the Pentagon will receive a first-of-its-kind report on hazing in the ranks, tracking data and victim reports in order to better standardize reporting information and case collection. Services need to meet that report deadline by Dec. 1, 2018.
When a locked-down America tunes into the May 25 premiere of NBC’s “The Titan Games”, sports-starved viewers may notice a familiar face competing for the title and $100,000 grand prize: Chantae McMillan Langhorst, the track and field Olympian and nude high-jumper for The BODY Issue of ESPN The Magazine.
“One of the biggest reasons I wanted to do “The Titan Games” was its challenges that I have never faced before and will never face again,” McMillan said. “I’m doing obstacles on the show that are strength and cardio all at one time. Each event is over in five minutes, but you’re so fatigued afterward.”
The 32-year-old from Rolla, Missouri knows all about pushing through fatigue. McMillan is not only an elite athlete, but an Army wife to Warrant Officer 1 Devon Langhorst, a helicopter pilot stationed at Fort Rucker, Alabama and mom to 18-month-old Otto. She is also the daughter of two career soldiers.
McMillan competed in the 2012 Olympics in London as a heptathlete and was training for the 2020 Olympic Trials as a javelin thrower when the coronavirus pandemic caused mass cancellations of sporting events. After competing in one track meet in March, organizers of future meets canceled their competitions.
At first, McMillan was unruffled.
“I thought, okay, my next meet will be in May, then trials in June,” she said.
The Tokyo Olympics and its trials were postponed until 2021. The initial disappointment turned out to be a “blessing in disguise,” she says.
“I was like, ‘Alright, let’s go,'” McMillan said. “It takes a lot of weight off my shoulders, because from March to June I didn’t know if I could be where I wanted to be, so I was kind of stressed out.”
McMillan lost her 64-year-old father in 2015 to appendectomy complications, right before failing to qualify for the 2016 Olympic games. She bounced back, becoming an Army wife and mom in 2018 and switching from heptathlon to javelin, one of her strongest events.
She’s still aiming for Olympic glory — just a year later than originally planned. She and her coach, two-time Olympic hammer thrower Kibwe Johnson, are training her body as if she were throwing her way through a normal season.
“A couple weeks ago, coach asked me where my strength is, and I feel the strongest I’ve felt in years,” McMillan said. “I feel very powerful. Now it’s just translating onto the field. I feel so strong.”
That strength has not gone unnoticed by those outside the track and field world. In November, a casting producer for “The Titan Games” asked McMillan to audition for the show’s sophomore season after seeing her training photos and videos on Instagram.
McMillan auditioned alongside thousands of others to be a competitor. She succeeded and spent the first two weeks of February filming in Atlanta. Not only did she get to meet Dwayne Johnson, the show’s host, McMillan also connected with plenty of fellow athletes.
“It was very amazing, being around so many people who are likeminded and striving to be the best they can,” McMillan said. “It has still carried on to this day to motivate me to be better.”
The show’s obstacles, designed for 13 episodes with entertainment in mind, were vastly different than the pure “run-jump-throw” actions McMillan said she is used to in track and field.
“They’re just weird obstacles that challenge you in ways you never thought you could be challenged,” McMillan said.
This season of NBC’s show pits professional titans like Super Bowl champion Victor Cruz, UFC fighter Tyron Woodley and “American Ninja Warrior” star Jessie Graff against “everyday” athletes like McMillan. Four of the 36 competitors are active-duty military members.
Viewers can expect to be surprised at who makes it to Mt. Olympus, the show’s ultimate event, McMillan said.
“I think people will be able to connect with all of us, the way our stories are going to be told,” she said. “It’s not every day you’re around motivated people like that.”
A typical Fieldcraft Survival classroom. (Go90 Oscar Mike screenshot)
For our final installment of the Mighty Holiday Gift Guide, we want to politely remind you that going out and getting active with a group of likeminded individuals is, when all is said and done, the best kind of therapy for what ails the modern psyche.
Whether you deployed to combat zones or burned your PT belt as soon you could specialize into admin; whether you’re a veteran looking for new purpose on the homefront or a civilian curious about what happens when you push beyond the bounds of civilization; let us suggest, with all requisite seasonal jollity, that you seek out a school like Fieldcraft Survival, squad up with their Tribe and give yourself the gift of training under an expert like Mike Glover.
As a Special Forces Weapons Specialist, Sniper, Assaulter/Operator, Recon Specialist, Joint Terminal Air Controller (JTAC), Team Sergeant, and Operations SGM, Glover spent 18 years acquiring the kind of skillset that would make him a force multiplier in the field and, upon transitioning, the kind of dude who would have to start a survival school.
Look, it’s easy to return to the comforts of home and get complacent. Honestly, if that’s what you want to do, you’ve earned the right. But brotherhood is what you miss the most about the military. And those bonds can be made anew, out in the bush and the muck, shoulder to shoulder, facing just the right amount of suck to bring up the best in you. When you give yourself a task and a purpose and a struggle to overcome, you invest this second life of yours with meaning.
The holidays can get pretty materialistic. But if you give yourself the right gift – the gift of a challenge – the person you want to be, or wish you were, might be out there waiting for you, just few weeks hard march into next year.
Go get ’em.
And Happy Holidays, from all of us at We Are The Mighty.
The 2017 We Are The Mighty Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Propper, a tactical apparel and gear company dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. All views are our own.
Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.
The State Department says a US government employee working in China suffered “subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure” that later led to a diagnosis of “mild traumatic brain injury” — resulting in a warning to all US citizens in the country.
The strange incident recalls a similar spate of reports from Cuba, where US officials reported symptoms consistent with a “sonic attack,” or exposure to harmful frequencies.
“The US government is taking these reports seriously and has informed its official staff in China of this event,” the State Department warned in a health alert. “We do not currently know what caused the reported symptoms, and we are not aware of any similar situations in China, either inside or outside of the diplomatic community.”
The State Department went on to advise: “While in China, if you experience any unusual acute auditory or sensory phenomena accompanied by unusual sounds or piercing noises, do not attempt to locate their source. Instead, move to a location where the sounds are not present.”
Emily Rauhala, The Washington Post’s China correspondent, reported that the State Department confirmed the US worker’s ailment was diagnosed as a mild traumatic brain injury, something US officials in Cuba also experienced.
The Post reports that Chinese and US officials are looking into the matter. Americans working in Cuba suffered permanent hearing loss, severe headaches, loss of balance, brain swelling, and disruption to cognitive functions.
The US originally called the Cuba incidents “sonic attacks” but later backed off that phrasing as medical experts examined the patients and found their symptoms and conditions to be of mysterious origins.
Medical testing revealed the embassy workers in Cuba developed changes to the white-matter tracts that let different parts of the brain communicate, officials told the Associated Press.
But a purposeful attack hasn’t been ruled out as the source of the brain injuries now linked to two countries.
“The unique circumstances of these patients and the consistency of the clinical manifestations raised concern for a novel mechanism of a possible acquired brain injury from a directional exposure of undetermined etiology,” a study about the victims in Cuba concluded.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The US State Department updated a travel warning to India during violent escalation in fighting along the border between nuclear rivals India and Pakistan.
The State Department warned women against a troubling rise in sexual violence and all travelers against potential terror attacks.
India and Pakistan, bitter rivals for decades, have been fighting inside Kashmir, a disputed border region which each country administers in part. The fighting kicked off after a Feb. 16, 2019 terror attack killed 40 Indian security forces.
Air battles, shelling, and ground fighting have followed sporadically since that attack, with planes being shot down and Pakistan temporarily closing its airspace.
The State Department has called for “increased caution in India due to crime and terrorism,” and for US citizens to stay at least 10 kilometers away from the disputed border region, and not to enter Kashmir at all.
An Indian Air Force Mirage 2000.
(US Air Force photo)
“Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and government facilities,” State warned.
State also cautioned about the larger India-Pakistan border, ethnic insurgent groups in the northeastern states of India, and Maoist extremist groups in Central and Eastern India.
Across India, the world’s largest democracy, State cautioned that “rape is one of the fastest growing crimes in India.”
“Violent crime, such as sexual assault, has occurred at tourist sites and in other locations,” the warning continued.
“If you decide to travel to India… Do not travel alone, particularly if you are a woman,” the statement read, linking to a guide for women travelers.
Across the border in Pakistan, the State Department urges visitors to reconsider travel to anywhere in the country, but has not revised this recommendation to reflect recent fighting.
Update: This post has been updated to reflect that the State Department had a similar travel warning in place before the terror attack in Kashmir.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The U.S. Army recently released a video in which Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey implores all of those serving to get out there and share their reasons for enlisting — to, ultimately, recruit their friends. The video is entitled, Everybody is a recruiter.
So, ladies and gents: it’s official. Each and every soldier within the United States Army is now a recruiter. Who knew that we’d all manage to get in without even going through the recruiting course at Fort Knox? Now all we need to do is get our recruitment numbers up and we can all sport a recruiting badge!
If you can’t read between the sarcastic lines, SMA Dan Dailey probably has no intentions of shipping everyone into USAREC and crowd shopping malls across the country. First off, that’d be a logistical nightmare. And secondly, if we were all recruiters, then there’d be nobody left to mop the motor pool when it rains or perform lay-outs for the eight change-of-command ceremony this month.
What SMA Dailey was trying to convey is that everyone had their reason for joining and everyone should share their stories with civilian friends and family members in hopes of inspiring them to follow suit. But that’s not as fun as imagining a ridiculous situation in which we all become actual recruiters.
Here’s the video for the full context. For a look into the daily lives of Army recruiters through the lens of a joke that’s (mildly) at the expense of the most senior enlisted soldier (from one of his biggest fans), read on:
We can’t let them realize the Army isn’t all rainbows and sunshine until they get to Basic, now can we?
(U.S. Army photo by Lt. Col. Matthew Devivo)
1. We’ll all learn to smile through unpleasant situations
One of the biggest challenges a recruiter faces is keeping their military bearing at all times of the day. After all, recruiters, to many civilians, are the face of the military. As much as you’ll want to choke-slam that particularly obnoxious teenage applicant through your desk because they referred to you as, “bro,” you can’t. Not even once.
We’ll all have to quietly smile, correct them, and hope we don’t scare them into checking out the Navy’s recruiter instead.
The paperwork doesn’t even stop when you finally get them to swear in. It only ends when they’re the drill sergeant’s responsibility.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Brandy N. Mejia)
2. We’ll all become experts at doing mountains of paperwork by close of business
So, you’ve managed to get someone interested in enlisting — great work! Your job here is done. Just kidding — you’ve only just begun.
Think back to when you enlisted. Remember all that paperwork that was shoved in your face? That’s nothing compared to the paperwork recruiters have to complete. As a recruiter, you’ll have to scrub through every piece of paper that the applicant has touched to make sure they’re the right fit for the Army. Birth certificates, diplomas, arrest warrants — you name it. You’ll get so good at reading SAT scores that you’ll be able to sense which MOS a recruit is suited for well before they do.
It’d be great if all the people coming to the Army booth at the fair actually wanted to enlist — instead of just wanting to fail to impress their friends on the pull-up bar.
(Dept. of the Army photo by Ronald A. Reeves)
3. We’ll all learn to motivate lazy applicants who can barely do a single push-up
There’s nothing more disheartening than finding yourself staring down some scrawny kid who’s probably never broken a sweat in their life after spending the last twelve business days filing out their paperwork. You’re going to have to force out a smile and give a rousing, “you can do it!” when they start trembling after just one push-up.
But, hey, they don’t have any neck tattoos or active arrest warrants, so they’re the best chance you’ve got at getting your numbers up. God forbid you ever let your numbers slip near the end of the quarter…
But hey! At least you get your own snazzy business cards!
(Photo by Steven Depolo)
4. We’ll all judge our lives based on how “incentive points”
Oh, yeah. The incentive points. We couldn’t forget to include the primary reason why every recruiter drinks heavily when they get off duty. Recruiters need to get a certain amount of potential applicants to walk through their doors or else they face a stern talking-to. On one hand, the recruitment quota (or “goals”) isn’t as bad as most people make it out to be. On the other hand, it’ll likely become the single-most important thing in your life.
Getting those nice, little stars on your badge is basically the infantry equivalent of shooting better at the range. The better you shoot/recruit, the better your chances of winning impromptu pissing contests that have nothing to do with the situation at hand.
“What’s life like in the Army?” — Well, at first you’ll hate it. Then you won’t. Then you’ll miss it about two weeks after you get your DD-214.
(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Andrew J. Czaplicki)
5. We’ll all have to deal with the worst questions at all hours of the day
At some point in your recruiting career, you’ll get so tired of answering so many stupid questions that you’ll just stop sugarcoating everything. Now, it’s not out of some moral footing, but mostly because lying takes too much creative effort by the time you’re answering that question for the 87th time.
“So, I won’t be able to become a Delta ranger sniper and do James Bond sh*t?” — Not with that attitude you won’t! “What options are available for my ASVAB score of 25?” — Night school. “If I don’t like it, can I just quit at any time?” — Technically, you can quit whenever you feel like, but legally? F*ck no.
Kilroy, the bald guy with the long nose hanging over a wall, may be the world’s first viral meme. While it didn’t originate with U.S. servicemen in World War II, it resonated with them. And Kilroy has had staying power all over the world well after WWII.
The graffiti originated with a British doodle called “Mr. Chad,” who commented on rationing and shortages during the war. Often accompanied by the phrase “Wot? No Sugar”, “Wot? No engines?”, or anything decrying the lack of supplies in Britain at the time. “Eventually,” etymologist Eric Shackle writes, “the spirit of Allied unity merged, with the British drawing appearing over the American phrase.”
The little graffiti doodle became a national joke. GIs and civilians alike would compete to draw “Kilroy was here” in the most remote, obscure places. “Kilroy was here” suddenly appeared on the torch of the Statue of Liberty, Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the Marco Polo Bridge in China, a girder on the George Washington Bridge in New York, and even the bellies of pregnant women in hospitals.
Kilroy the name is widely considered to originate from J.J. Kilroy, a welding inspector at the Bethlehem Steel Shipyards in Quincy, Massachusetts. The New York Times told the story of how Kilroy, tired of co-workers claiming he didn’t inspect their work, began writing “Kilroy was here” with a crayon, instead of making the usual chalk mark. When these ships came in for repairs in worldwide ports, wartime workers would open sealed compartments to find the doodle. This random appearance would be an amazing feat from the repair crews’ perspective since no one would have been able to access these areas.
For years, rumors and theories abounded about the origin of the name. In 1946, the American Transit Association held a contest, offering a full-size street car to anyone who could prove they were the real Kilroy. J.J. Kilroy entered and corroborated his story with other shipyard workers. The ATA sent the trolley to Kilroy’s house in Halifax, Mass. where he attached the 12-ton car to his home and used it as living space for his nine children.
Marines at Camp Pendleton will get to field-test more than 50 different new technologies next month ranging from palmtop mini-drones to self-driving amtracs, from wireless networks to precision-guided mortar shells. Plus there will be plenty of classified systems the Marines can’t talk about, including cyber and electronic warfare gear. Technologies that do well may graduate to a more formal Operational Evaluation (OPEVAL) or to further testing in the Marines’ big Bold Alligator wargame on the East Coast this fall, Col. Dan Sullivan, chief of staff at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory here, told reporters in March.
(The name of April’s exercise, in classically military fashion, is — deep breath — the Ship To Shore Maneuver Exploration and Experimentation Advanced Naval Technology Exercise 2017, or S2ME2 ANTX).
That’s a lightning pace for the Pentagon. It normally takes 18 to 24 months to set up a technology demonstration on this scale, and this one is happening in nine, said Aileen Sansone, an official with the Navy’s Rapid Prototyping, Experimentation, Demonstration (RPED) office. The project launched last summer, when Col. Sullivan’s boss, Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh — in charge of future warfare concepts — reached out to deputy assistant secretary John Burrow — in charge of RD, testing, and evaluation.
It was only in October that the project team put out its special notice inviting industry proposals. Well over 100 operators and engineers from different Navy and Marine Corps organizations evaluated the 124 (unclassified) submissions and whittle them down to 50 that would ready for the field by April, said Navy Capt. Chris Mercer, Burrow’s director of RPED. (Another 50 technologies, not quite as ready, will be on display for visiting dignitaries but won’t be used in the exercise).
“It drives the analysts crazy. Analysts don’t like to go fast,” Sullivan chuckled to reporters. “Are you accepting risk? Yes, you are.”
Some of the 50 technologies will probably just plain not work, the team told reporters, and that’s okay. In fact, failing “early and often” is an essential part of innovation. “If we don’t fail, we didn’t do our job,” said Mercer. “This is the time to fail” — before the Marines decide on major acquisition programs, let alone take a technology into combat.
The project has high-level support to take that risk, including the enthusiastic backing of acting Navy Secretary Sean Stackley, who used to head Navy Department Research, Development, Acquisition.
“This exercise provides a unique opportunity for warfighters to assess emerging technologies and innovative engineering in support of amphibious assault operations,” Stackley said in a statement to Breaking Defense. “We are grateful to the government and industry vendors who participate and bring their expertise to assist in supporting our nation’s security.”
“SecNav’s committed to really accelerating the rate of our innovations and using the new authorities that have been coming to use since about 2015 to really rapidly prototype and rapidly field,” said Mercer. But even as you go fast, he added, you have to make sure “you’ve got the rigor in the process that allows us to use the new authorities.”
So what kinds of capabilities will this project deliver to the field? Almost all of them rely on rapid advances in information technology, and many are outright robotic, like the various drones and self-driving Amphibious Assault Vehicle. There’s no single silver bullet, Sullivan and co. said, and the real tactical payoff comes from combining technologies. That’s why the Marines organized the experiment not by technical categories — e.g. one team handles all unmanned aerial vehicles, another unmanned watercraft, another networks — but by mission, which required experts in different fields from different agencies and companies to integrate disparate technologies towards a single purpose.
The team defined six mission areas and gave them nifty codenames:
Shield: “early intelligence (and) reconnaissance,” using, for example wide-ranging swarms of robotic scouts in the air, sea, and land, which would allow Marines to identify far more landing sites and potentially bypass defenders by coming ashore in unexpected places. Instead of landing en masse at an obvious 1,000-meter-wide beach, said the Warfighting Lab’s Doug King, “I want to go through a gap in the mangroves.”
Spear: “threat identification,” e.g. covert drones coming in for a closer look with high-powered sensors and sending detailed data back using hard-to-intercept transmissions.
Dagger: “(follow-on) reconnaissance threat elimination,” e.g. more drones and manned platforms marking obstacles and mines.
Cutlass: “maneuver ashore,” e.g. unmanned boats carrying Marines ashore at high speed or unmanned Amtracs swimming in on their own power, with expendable decoy drones.
Broadsword: “combat power ashore,” e.g. battlefield 3D printing of spare parts and unmanned ground vehicles providing fire support or carrying supplies.
Battleaxe: “amphibious C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance),” e.g. high bandwidth networks, resisting to jamming and hacking, that can tie the whole operation together.
Because of the laser focus on amphibious landings, the Ship to Shore Maneuver task force deliberately didn’t look at other promising technologies, such as, well, lasers. For operations at sea, the Navy already has a drone-killing laser aboard a ship in the Persian Gulf, while the Marines are developing a truck-mounted laser for air defense ashore. Likewise, Sullivan said, the “Sea Dragon” effort with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment is focused more on smaller technologies that a Marine squad can carry with it once it’s landed ashore.
What the Ship to Shore Maneuver task force has taken on is the defining task of the Marine Corps: amphibious landing in the face of armed resistance. That’s especially hard when the armed opposition now has so-called Anti-Access/Area Denial defenses: precision-guided cruise missiles with hundreds of miles of range, strike aircraft, submarines, drones, with the sensors to find targets and the networks to coordinate them.
“Our generation grew up in an environment where we were the only ones who had precision guided munitions. We were the only ones who had UAS (drones). Air supremacy was guaranteed; maritime supremacy was taken for granted,” Sullivan said. That’s changed.
“For a long time, we were talking about countering shore-based defenses by standoff, but anti-ship cruise missiles (are) just going to continue to extend the range, so we’re going to have to get and persist within that envelope — and if you look at the totality of the capabilities that we’re experimenting, it’s giving us the ability to do that,” Sullivan said.
“At some point, we’ve got to dismantle the A2/AD integrated defense system,” said Sullivan. “To be considered a great power, you have to be retain a forcible entry capability.”