Since first coming into service in 1980, the M1 Abrams tank has become a staple of US ground forces. The 67-ton behemoth has since made a name for itself as an incredibly tough, powerful tool that has successfully transitioned from a Cold War-era blunt instrument to a tactical modern weapon.
The US as well as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Australia use the Abrams as their main battle tank.
When the Abrams finally saw combat in 1991, it impressed operators with it’s effective rounds and virtual invulnerability to Iraqi tank fire. No Abrams was destroyed by Iraqi tank fire during the Persian Gulf War.
In fact, the only Abrams lost during the Persian Gulf War were destroyed by friendly fire, sometimes on purpose so they couldn’t be reclaimed by Iraqi forces.
The Abrams benefited from having superior range and night-vision abilities compared to their Soviet-made counterparts.
During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Abrams became involved in urban warfare while clearing cities. Urban warfare is the worst situation for tanks, as their range is limited by buildings and they can be attacked from above, where their armor is weakest.
In his book “Heavy Metal: A Tank Company’s Battle to Baghdad” Maj. Jason Conroy reports a lopsided victory where an Abrams unit destroyed seven Soviet-made T-72 tanks at point-blank range with no losses on the US side.
Today, the Abrams remains the US’s main battle tank, one of the most successful tanks of all time, and the king of the battlefield.
Once, when the United States went to war, that war was felt by everyone in the country. The wars’ effects seeped into every facet of American life. The primary reason for this was the draft. Selective service meant that anyone in America could be called up to serve and fight a war at any given time. This included movie stars, politicians, and even star athletes — some of whom never made it home.
Sports fans know the stories of baseball players Moe Berg (who served as an OSS agent during WWII) and Ted Williams (who was in the Navy and Marine Corps for WWII and the Korean War). Less well-known are those NFL players who fought for the United States. Football’s popularity only came about relatively recently, whereas baseball has long been “America’s Pastime.”
When Spring Training rolls around, we’ll remember the MLB players we’ve lost but, for now, let’s take some time during the NFL’s Salute to Service Month to remember those players who were also our brothers in the profession of arms. This is a list of those who died in combat; the list of the NFL’s veterans is much, much longer.
Keith Birlem, Washington Redskins (1943)
Birlem became an Army Air Forces officer during World War II after just one season in the league. After a bombing mission over Europe in 1943, the pilot attempted to land his damaged B-17 Bomber in England, but was killed in the resulting crash.
Mike Basca, Philadelphia Eagles (1941)
Basca enlisted in the U.S. Army after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The former Eagle was a tank commander with the 4th Armored Division. He was killed with the rest of his crew after an anti-tank round struck their vehicle in France in 1944.
Alex Ketzko, Detroit Lions (1944)
Ketzko was a son of Michigan, having played football for Michigan State and then later for the Detroit Lions. After the 1943 season, Ketzko enlisted in the U.S. Army. He eventually found himself in France, where he was killed in action in December, 1945, at just 25 years old.
Walter R. “Waddy” Young, Brooklyn Dodgers (1945)
Young was a big-time athlete out of Oklahoma. He started the Sooners off on their way to becoming a powerhouse sports team, bringing them to their first-ever Orange Bowl Game. After playing for the NFL’s Brooklyn Dodgers (yes, they were a football team, too), he signed on to fly B-24 Liberators over Europe and B-29 Superfortresses over Japan during World War II. On Jan. 9, 1945, the legendary athlete was killed in a plane crash during a run over Tokyo.
Don Wemple, Brooklyn Dodgers (1944)
Wemple died on an Army Transport plane flying in the China-India-Burma theater of World War II. The onetime Brooklyn Dodger and Army officer was on his way to India in 1944.
Charlie Behan, Detroit Lions (1945)
After one season with the Lions, Behan decided to join the Marine Corps. He was hit in the mouth by shrapnel on Okinawa. Stuffing cotton into the wound to continue the fight, then-Lt. Behan led his troops up Sugar Loaf Hill and was killed guiding his Marines over the top. He was posthumously award the Navy Cross.
Al Blozis, New York Giants (1945)
The All-Pro tackle joined the Army in 1943, despite being much too tall to conform to standards. The 6’6″ literal giant broke the Army’s grenade throwing record before being shipped out to lead a platoon of troops in France in 1944. After two of his men were lost in the Vosges Mountains, he set out to find them by himself and was never heard from again.
Young Bussey, Chicago Bears (1945)
After the 1941 season, Bears QB Young Bussey left the NFL to join the war effort after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The young Bussey was killed during the invasion of the Philippines.
Edwin B. “King Kong” Kahn (1945)
Kahn spent three seasons in the NFL with the Redskins, staying with the team after they moved from Boston to Washington. He signed up for Army service as a First Lieutenant and was wounded in the invasion of Kawajalien. He died of wounds incurred in the invasion of Leyte in the Philippines in February, 1945.
Howard “Smiley” Johnson, Green Bay Packers (1945)
Johnson traded his Packers green for Marine Corps greens after two seasons in Green Bay. The Marine officer was killed in action while leading Marines into battle on Iwo Jima.
Jack Lummus, New York Giants (1945)
The Giants’ Jack Lummus played only nine games in his NFL career before enlisting during the 1941 season. He eventually became an officer candidate and began training with the elite Marine Raiders. Lummus was one of the first Marines to land on the island of Iwo Jima in 1945, and for two weeks directed artillery fire onto Japanese positions on Mount Suribachi. Lummus was wounded by shrapnel but managed to knock out three Japanese fortifications so his Marines could advance.
Lummus then lost both of his legs to a land mine and died at an aid station. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his outstanding display of battlefield skill and leadership.
Don Steinbrunner, Cleveland Browns (1967)
The Browns’ Offensive Tackle was just one of two NFL players who died during the Vietnam War. He played for Cleveland during the 1953 season where the Browns lost the championship to the Detroit Lions. He joined the U.S. Air Force in 1954. Steinbrunner was on a defoliation mission over Vietnam in 1967 when his C-123 Provider was shot down. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Bob Kalsu, Buffalo Bills (1970)
The All-American tackle was drafted in 1968 by the Buffalo Bills but went to the University of Oklahoma on an ROTC scholarship. To fulfill his obligations to the military, the Bills’ rookie of the year entered the Army as a 2nd Lieutenant with the 101st Airborne Division, landing in South Vietnam in November of 1969. He was killed in the infamous attack on Fire Support Base Ripcord in 1970, just hours before his wife gave birth to their son back home.
Pat Tillman, Arizona Cardinals (2004)
Like many NFL players who enlisted in a time of national need, Tillman joined the military in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001. By June 2002, he was a soldier and on his way to the Army Rangers. He would go on to serve in both Iraq and Afghanistan before his death in a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan.
The reverberations surrounding Tillman’s death has been felt by the NFL and its players, the veteran community, nonprofits, and even college football players – to this day – honor Tillman’s spirit and memory.
The end of a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move does not always mean that you’re having your household goods delivered immediately. Thankfully, the military offers some free storage with each move. But what happens when your free government storage ends?
Last summer, my family PCS’d from Europe to the US. We decided to renovate our house before moving in, and so we moved in with my mother “temporarily.” In August.
Our household goods arrived in September, and so our 90 days of temporary storage began. When the 90 days was up, my husband requested, and was granted, an extension for another 90 days. Which ended a bit ago. And we’re still at my mother’s house.
After evaluating all the options, my husband decided that our best choice was to keep our household goods in their current storage location, but start paying for the storage ourselves. In this type of situation, the military still retains responsibility for the final delivery fees, which makes this option attractive.
After approximately 4,276 emails back and forth between the company who has our storage shipment, the personal property people, the transportation management people, and the legal services office, we were told that in order to “move” (not move) our items from government storage to personal storage, we would have to have the shipment inspected. The price for the inspection is based upon weight; ours is somewhere in the $900 range.
We asked a lot of questions about who is responsible for the items at which point in the process, and got a lot of conflicting answers and a lot of “well, the rules keep changing” type of answers.
Then, we had to decide what type of insurance we wanted on the items in storage: the free basic coverage or additional coverage for an additional cost. There was a lot of back and forth about whether which insurance choice required inspection, but it seemed we were paying for an inspection anyway, so I never did get all the details about that issue.
Which brings us to today, when many questions were answered and even more questions were developed.
We were told to show up at the warehouse at 9 am to inspect our shipment. When we arrived, we were taken to a corner of the warehouse with 11 of our 15 crates staged. We repeatedly asked “how does this liability thing work?” and “At what point the process do we file a claim for damages that occurred prior to today?” but didn’t get a lot of answers. We also didn’t get any instructions.
Our very nice crew started uncrating our items. Anything that was in a box or a wrapped tub, we noted any damages to the carton, and all furniture was unwrapped and inspected. The moving company rep was making notes and we were making notes and discussing which damage was new and how much was old moving damage or just normal wear and tear of life. I took some pictures of damage that was notable, and I thought things were going pretty well. Items were being re-crated as we went, and the process was smooth and organized.
After lunch, someone in the company decided that the process wasn’t moving fast enough, so they simultaneously added an extra crew member and instructed them to “just get everything unpacked.” I should have put my foot down right then, but I couldn’t possibly have anticipated the chaos that ensued. Instead of taking things out, inspecting what needed to be inspected, and then putting things back, it became a mad rush to empty the remaining 8 crates onto the warehouse floor. I did occasionally ask, “Um, how is this going to work?” and was repeatedly reassured that they had a plan.
Once every crate was unpacked, the team decided to do a thorough search through the approximately 250 items, looking for 5 missing items. This is when I realized that my discomfort was not irrational – this was madness! The day was ending, we had 8 crates of stuff scattered across about 1000 square feet, with random things stacked this way and that, and about 10 items of furniture unwrapped but not yet inspected and additional items still wrapped. I’m not sure if it was the tone or the actual words, but the crew finally got the message that we were not happy. They pulled in additional crew members and everyone started frantically organizing and inspecting and (still!) looking for the missing items.
During this frenzy, it somehow became clear what was happening with regard to the inventorying. The crew wasn’t helping us inspect for damage to make a claim; they were inventorying the condition of items to cover their own liability. Any information being used for our claim needed to be coming from our notes. This makes perfect sense, in retrospect, but it would have been significantly more helpful to have known that BEFORE we started, not 7 1/2 hours into unpacking and repacking.
At 5 p.m., some guy who we’d not yet seen (despite having talked to at least 10 people) showed up and announced that the warehouse was closing for the evening and we’d have to come back tomorrow. Whoa, Nellie! Number one, we’re not available tomorrow. Number two, this is the sort of information that should have been shared at any point prior to now. Number three, the reason we’re in this situation is because someone in your company decided that the previous system wasn’t working and messed with it. I’m pretty irritated that has somehow become my problem.
After a few heated words, it became clear that we really didn’t have any choice but to return. Neither my husband or I can cancel our activities for tomorrow, so it was decided that the company would do their inspection, repack as much as possible, and leave out the items that we needed to inspect when I return on Friday.
On the way out, we checked with our office contact and asked a few more questions. It was at this point in time that we were told that we should have been making all those damage notes on the claim form. I asked where we got those and was informed that we should have been given them at the beginning of the day. She tracked down our forms and handed them over for us to transcribe all our notes before returning on Friday. It seems that our 70 days to claim damage starts with today’s inspection. Nice to know.
It feels like there is a lot more to say about this “process,” and I suspect I’ll be updating this as things evolve, but I want to get it all out to you while it is fresh in my head.
If you find yourself in a situation where your government storage ends before your storage needs end, be sure to explore all the other options. Hopefully, this will provide some insight into the option of keeping your items with the same company that is already storing them. It is by no means a complete or definitive guide, but our experiences that may help you do it better than we are.
The elite U.S. Coast Guardsmen of the specialized forces deploy around the globe to fight terrorism and prevent attacks.
The Coast Guard anti-terrorism mission is most perfectly exemplified by two groups: the Maritime Safety and Security Teams and the Maritime Security Response Team. The MSRT and the MSSTs were part of the Coast Guard Deployable Operations Groups before the DOG was dissolved in 2013.
The Maritime Security Response Team is the group that answers the 911 call and rapidly deploys when an impending terrorist attack is suspected or underway at an American port or waterway. They’re also charged with conducting higher risk law enforcement missions.
Like the MSRT, the Maritime Safety and Security Teams can rapidly deploy when necessary — they secured sensitive areas in Boston within hours of the Boston Marathon bombings — but they focus on longer missions, deploying to American and friendly ports that are at increased risk of attack and establishing a semi-permanent presence.
Twelve MSSTs provide security at ports from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to New York Harbor, from San Diego to Anchorage, Alaska and Honolulu.
“Special operations” technically covers only Department of Defense assets. The Coast Guard, operating under the Department of Homeland Security, classifies its elite operators as Deployable Specialized Forces.
See more photos of them below:
A Maritime Security Response Team member pulls security during a ferry boarding in an exercise Oct. 22, 2015.
The MSRT members quickly gained control of the ferry and searched it for radiological threats.
A military working dog with the MSRT was brought in to search the vessel while his human counterparts controlled it.
A member of a Maritime Safety and Security team patrols New York waterways in Nov. 2003.
Military spouse careers are a unique balancing act. We are always teetering between what is best for ourselves, our military members and our families. The military lifestyle means many things are out of our control. What can spouses control in this uncertain, often stressful, amazing adventure called military life?
Control Over Our Careers
We do not envision ourselves pursuing an education, vocation or degree to land a job and work our way up the ladder, only to have it fall apart once we marry into the military. None of us plan for our careers to take a back seat to that of our beloved member of the armed forces. We have our own career aspirations. We do not aspire to be underemployed or unemployed. Unfortunately, this is often our reality. When do military spouses get to put our careers first and submit our “dream sheet” for life?
Luckily, there are many resources available to enable us to have more control over our careers, despite the challenges presented by the military lifestyle. Organizations and publications exist to tackle the military spouse employment issues identified by recent Blue Star Families Military Family Lifestyle Surveys. Specific resources encourage educational, mentoring, advocacy and entrepreneurial opportunities for spouses. There are work-from-home, flexible, telework and remote work options available if we know how to search for them appropriately. We can take control of our careers by utilizing available resources and researching our options. Included below is a list of a few available career resources specifically for military spouses.
Balancing our careers with our family’s well-being
Like all working parents, we must consider what our career options mean for our families. Our goals and aspirations may not be the best thing for all parties involved. We are always balancing our happiness against what is best for our children. The military lifestyle means deployments, long periods away for one parent, and frequent moves. These types of challenges compound the need for us to focus on others above ourselves. We want to provide stability for our families when the military cannot.
As spouses, we do have control over recognizing and prioritizing the needs of our family and ourselves. We can have honest, open discussions with our military members and families about our career goals, needs, and dreams. Our children learn from watching us as parents. As military spouses, we have a unique opportunity to show our children how to develop a strong work ethic, appreciate career and gender equality, set goals, and pursue dreams.
Our service member’s careers can benefit ours
In a perfect world, the military member’s career and that of the spouse always align. The reality is, the service member’s career always comes first. The active-duty opportunities dictate our location, home choices, our children’s schools, and, ultimately, our career opportunities as military spouses. However, we can control how we advocate for ourselves regarding the service member’s career. Perhaps if we compromise, the next duty station can provide options that benefit both careers. The following location might hold additional educational opportunities for spouses. If childcare is an issue, we can advocate to move closer to our support resources.
We are not that different from our career-oriented civilian spouse counterparts. Any families with two employed parents struggle with similar balancing acts. However, the military lifestyle brings an added layer of complexity. There is a lack of control over one’s own life that comes along with the military. They are called orders for a reason. Military members, spouses, and families do not have a choice.
However, as spouses, we can choose how we deal with the orders. We can make career choices that allow us to have less uncertainty and anxiety in our lives. We can pursue our dreams and passions. We can determine our career destiny separate from that of our military members. We may not have control over what the military hands us, but we do have control over how we handle what comes our way. Perhaps, we can find more life balance and career satisfaction if we focus on what we can control.
The higher-ups at the U.S. Army Garrison Fort Carson instituted a new ban on the sale of alcohol past 2200. It’s going to be put in place on Monday, June 17, so this will be the last weekend troops there can buy liquor through AAFES until 0800.
On one hand, I totally understand the frustration. Which soldier hasn’t run out of beer at midnight and needed to stumble to the Class Six to pick up another six-pack? That’s part of the whole “Lower Enlisted” experience. On the other hand, I get why. It’s a reactionary step that the chain of command took in response to the rise in alcohol-related incidents while not outright banning alcohol in the first place.
There’s an easy workaround, and it’s probably one the chain of command might already know and actually prefer. Just stockpile all the booze in the barracks room. Think about it. If all the booze is in one place, there’s no safer place for a young soldier to get sh*tfaced drunk. A few steps away from their bed, there’s an NCO within shouting distance at the CQ desk, usually the unit medic is nearby, and any alcohol-related issues can be handled within house.
So if you’re stationed at Carson, here are some memes while you stockpile booze like it’s the apocalypse.
Israeli Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin announced that its F-35 aircraft, known as Adir, “are already operational and flying in operational missions.”
“We are the first in the world to use the F-35 in operational activity,” Norkin said via the official Israel Defense Forces’ Twitter account on May 22, 2018.
In an interview with the Haaretz newspaper, Norkin said F-35s had been used in two recent strikes, but it was unclear if the aircraft supported the missions by providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance or conducted the strikes.
Early May 2018, Iranian forces “fired 32 rockets, we intercepted 4 of them & the rest fell outside Israeli territory,” Norkin tweeted, referring to a counterattack in the Golan Heights.
Israel responded by attacking multiple Iranian weapons and logistics sites in Syria. “In our response attack, more than 100 ground-to-air missiles were fired at our planes,” he said.
Israel declared initial operating capability of its Lockheed Martin-made F-35I in December 2017. Middle Eastern outlets have said the fifth-generation stealth aircraft has likely made flights before for reconnaissance missions over or near Syrian territory, but those reports are unconfirmed.
Critics at the time wondered why the F-35 wasn’t used, since the aircraft would have been better able to evade enemy radar. But pilots and former members of the Israeli Air Force said use of the F-35 would have been risky so early in its operational lifespan.
“If they thought that the targets were so strategically important, I’m sure they’d consider using them. But they weren’t. So why risk use of the F-35s at such an early point in their operational maturity?” retired Israeli Air Force Brig. Gen. Abraham Assael told Defense News at the time.
Israel in August 2017, signed a new contract with Lockheed for its next batch of 17 aircraft, following two previous contracts for 33 aircraft.
IAF officials have expressed interest in buying up to 30 additional aircraft.
Amid rising tensions on Israel’s northern border, the IDF is launching its largest drill in close to 20 years, with tens of thousands of soldiers from all branches of the army, simulating a war with Hezbollah.
The drill, dubbed “Or Hadagan” (Hebrew for “the Light of the Grain”), will start on Sept. 5 and end on Sept. 14, The Times of Israel reported. Named after Meir Dagan, the former head of the Mossad, the exercise will see thousands of soldiers and reservists and all the different branches of the IDF – air force, navy, ground forces, intelligence, cyber – drilling the ability of all branches to coordinate their operations during wartime.
According to military assessments, the northern border remains the most explosive, and both sides have warned that the next conflict would be devastating for the other.
While the primary threat posed by Hezbollah remains its missile arsenal, the IDF believes that the next war will see the group trying to bring the fight into Israel by infiltrating Israeli communities to inflict significant civilian and military casualties.
The ten-day drill will focus on countering Hezbollah’s increased capabilities, and also include simulations of evacuating communities close to the border with Lebanon, The Jerusalem Post reports.
Israel last held an exercise of such magnitude in 1998, a drill that simulated a war with Syria and was led by Meir Dagan.
“The purpose of the drill is to test the fitness of the Northern Command and the relevant battalions during an emergency,” a senior IDF officer told Haaretz. In the drill scenario, the cabinet tells the armed forces to vanquish Hezbollah – “as I understand it, the state in which Hezbollah either has no ability or desire to attack anymore,” said the officer.
A top U.S. official has met with the Ukrainian foreign minister in New York to discuss “cooperative efforts against Russia’s malign influence,” among other things, the State Department says.
A statement said the Sept. 25, 2018 meeting between U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan and Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly also touched upon Russia’s “use of energy projects to extort and intimidate Ukraine and other European allies,” as well as Kyiv’s progress in implementing political and economic reforms.
Sullivan reiterated that the United States “will never recognize Russia’s attempted annexation” of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and reaffirmed “strong U.S. support” for the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, according to the statement.
Relations between Moscow and the West have deteriorated to a post-Cold War low over issues including Russia’s seizure of Crimea in March 2014, its role in wars in Syria and eastern Ukraine, its alleged election meddling in the United States and Europe, and the poisoning of a Russian double agent and his daughter in Britain in March 2018.
Fighting between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists has killed more than 10,300 in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.
Moscow’s support for the separatists and its illegal annexation of Crimea prompted the United States, the European Union, and others to impose sanctions on Russia.
Washington has also threatened to impose sanctions over the construction of an underwater natural gas pipeline to deliver Russian natural gas directly to Germany under the Baltic Sea, circumventing the traditional route through Ukraine.
Speaking at the UN General Assembly on Sept. 25, 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump said that Germany “will become totally dependent on Russian energy if it does not immediately change course” on the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which aims to double the capacity of an already existing pipeline.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was scheduled to address the assembly later in the day.
Featured image: U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan.
Two Navy destroyer collisions in the Pacific this summer that claimed the lives of 17 sailors were preventable and resulted from multiple failures on the part of senior officers and sailors standing watch to avert disaster, according to a new investigation released October 31.
The destroyer Fitzgerald collided with the Philippine-flagged tanker ACX Crystal off the coast of Japan on June 17, claiming the lives of seven sailors when compartments flooded.
Two months later, on Aug. 21, the destroyer John S. McCain and Liberian-flagged container ship Alnic MC collided near the Straits of Malacca, causing the deaths of another 10 sailors.
“Both of these accidents were preventable and the respective investigations found multiple failures by watchstanders that contributed to the incidents,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said in a statement released Nov. 1. “We must do better.”
Released investigations totaling 72 pages showed that errors and failures — ranging from inadequate training and knowledge to undue fatigue — played roles in both collisions.
The Fitzgerald was not operating at a safe speed appropriate to the number of the ships in the area, officials found, and failed to notify other ships of danger and take proper action.
In addition, they found, watchstanders were paying attention only on Fitzgerald’s port side, not on the starboard side, where three ships presented a collision risk.
In the case of the McCain, the report found, errors compounded following mistakes in operating the ship’s steering and propulsion.
The ship made too sharp of a turn to the port, or left, side, just before the collision, officials found, a mistake due in part to the fact that several sailors on watch during the collision had been temporarily assigned from the cruiser Antietam, which has significantly different steering controls.
“Multiple bridge watchstanders lacked a basic level of knowledge on the steering control system, in particular the transfer of steering and thrust control between stations,” investigators found.
The release of the reports comes a day before Richardson and the commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, Adm. Philip Davidson, are set to discuss the way forward for the Navy in a press conference at the Pentagon.
Hours after the McCain collision, Richardson commissioned Davidson to complete a 60-day comprehensive review of Navy surface warfare deployment and training practices and determine areas for improvement to prevent further disasters.
“We are a Navy that learns from mistakes, and the Navy is firmly committed to doing everything possible to prevent an accident like this from happening again,” Richardson said Wednesday. “We must never allow an accident like this to take the lives of such magnificent young Sailors and inflict such painful grief on their families and the nation.”
As of Monday, Christopher Miller is the new (acting) Secretary of Defense. He is now responsible for the entire US military behemoth. A tough proposition, despite his experience navigating bureaucracy as the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center and as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict.
But Miller has a vast special operations background to assist him in his new position.
When the terrorist attacks took place on 9/11, Miller, who was a major at the time, was commanding a Special Forces company in 3rd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group.
Army Special Forces primarily specialize in Unconventional Warfare, Foreign Internal Defense, Direct Action, and Special Reconnaissance. Their ability to partner with a government or guerilla force and train, organize, and lead it to combat is what distinguishes the unit from the rest of America’s special operations forces.
A mere few days after the 9/11 attacks, Colonel John Mulholland, the then commander of the 5th Special Forces Group, sent Miller to Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT) with instructions to get the unit into the fight. SOCCENT is responsible for all special operations in the Central Command’s (CENTCOM) area of operations, which is Central Asia and the Near and Middle East.
At the time, the Pentagon was somewhat at a loss on how to respond to the attacks. The shadow of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan loomed above the planning process. There was no question that the US military could pound to history Al-Qaeda and their Taliban protectors. But a full-blown invasion would be susceptible to the same tactical and strategic woes the Soviets had encountered – fast forward 19 years, and this has become apparent.
So, the unconventional warfare approach gained traction in some planning circles. Why shouldn’t we send Special Forces teams with all the airpower they can handle to partner with friendly forces and defeat the enemy, a small group of planners asked.
Known as the “True Believers,” these men pushed for an unconventional warfare approach to Afghanistan. And they managed to persuade their superiors. The outcome was a sweeping campaign, with Special Forces soldiers, CIA operatives, and Tier 1 operators at the forefront, that defeated Al-Qaeda and drove the Taliban out of power.
In all of this, Miller was key in getting his unit to be a core part of the Joint Special Operations Task Force Dagger, which led the fight. (If you wish to learn more about how that campaign was fought from a Special Forces perspective, Eric Blehm’s “The Only Thing Worth Dying For” offers a brilliant account.)
Miller went on to participate in the invasion of Iraq in 2003. And, as the commander of 2nd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Miller was responsible for all Special Forces operations in central Iraq in 2006 and 2007. All in all, he was responsible for 18 Special Forces Operational Detachment Alphas (ODAs) and three Special Forces Operational Detachment Bravos (ODBs).
Interestingly, Miller’s appointment as the Secretary of Defense means that both the top civilian military leader and the top military leader, General Mark Miller, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are Special Forces qualified, both having served in the 5th Special Forces Group.
On a side note, like in General James Mattis’s case, the administration will have to obtain Congress’ approval in order for Miller to become a permanent Secretary of Defense. By law, no person who has served in active duty as a commissioned officer can be appointed as the secretary of defense within seven years of his separation from the service. Miller retired in 2014, so he is a year away from meeting the constitutional (non-waivered) requirements for the permanent position. With a new administration coming in, however, that might not be necessary.
The US Navy has declared its F-35Cs ready for combat, but the service’s own testing data says the stealth fighters designed to take off and land on aircraft carriers are nowhere close to ready, an independent nonpartisan watchdog reports.
“The F-35C is ready for operations, ready for combat and ready to win,” Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller, commander of Naval Air Forces, said in February 2019 as the Navy announced that the fighter had achieved initial operating capability. “We are adding an incredible weapon system into the arsenal of our Carrier Strike Groups that significantly enhances the capability of the joint force.”
But the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit government-accountability group, warned March 19, 2019, that despite these claims, the F-35C, like the other variants, “continues to dramatically underperform in crucial areas including availability and reliability, cybervulnerability testing, and life-expectancy testing.”
An F-35C Lightning II carrier variant joint strike fighter.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Eli K. Buguey)
While still secretary of defense, Jim Mattis demanded last fall that the Navy and the Air Force strive to achieve a fleet-wide mission-capable rate of 80% for their fighters by October 2019. The Navy’s carrier-capable F-35 variant is apparently nowhere close to that target, having consistently achieved unacceptably low fully mission-capable rates.
The mission-capable rates for the Navy’s F-35Cs dropped from 12% in October 2016 to zero in December 2017, with figures remaining in the single digits throughout 2018, the oversight group reported, citing Navy documents. The US Navy, according to Military.com, also has only 27 of the required 273 F-35Cs, and the mission-capable rates do not apply to aircraft in testing, training, or depot.
“The fully mission capable rate for the full fleet is likely far below” the target set by Mattis, the watchdog concluded.
It said the Navy had opted to move forward with the aircraft “in spite of evidence that it is not ready for combat” and that it could “put at risk missions, as well as the troops who depend on it to get to the fight.”
The group’s analysis follows the release of a disconcerting report from the Defense Department’s director of operational, test, and evaluation in January that called attention to F-35 readiness issues, such as life expectancy, cybersecurity, and stagnant aircraft availability.
Two F-35C Lightning II aircraft.
(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)
“Fleet-wide average availability is below program target value of 60% and well below planned 80% needed,” the official report said. “The trend in fleet availability has been flat over the past three years; the program’s reliability improvement initiatives are still not translating into improved availability.”
The F-35 Joint Program Office responded to that report, saying the problems presented in the report were being “aggressively addressed.”
The JPO told Business Insider that as of January 2019, the mission capable rate for the Navy’s F-35C was 56 percent. “The Program Office has identified the enablers to increase our mission capability rates,” a JPO spokesman explained.
“We will continue to learn and improve ways to maintain and sustain F-35C as we prepare for first deployment,” the Joint Strike Fighter Wing commodore, Capt. Max McCoy, said as the Navy’s carrier-capable variant was declared “ready for combat” February 2019. “The addition of F-35C to existing Carrier Air Wing capability ensures that we can fight and win in contested battlespace now and well into the future.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.