Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead

Three Fort Bragg soldiers were among those killed during an attack in Africa earlier this week.


The soldiers, assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group, were attacked while conducting an advise and assist mission in Niger on Oct. 4, according to the Pentagon.

A fourth soldier, who had been missing in Niger for two days, was found dead on Oct. 6, officials said. According to reports, several Nigerien troops were also killed or wounded.

News of the fourth soldier makes Oct. 4 the deadliest day for deployed Fort Bragg soldiers since July 14, 2010, when seven soldiers were killed in two incidents in Afghanistan.

Three of the slain American soldiers were identified Oct. 6 as Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, 35, of Puyallup, Washington; Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio; and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Lyons, Georgia. The fourth soldier had not been identified as of Oct. 6.

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead
Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright (left), Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson (center), and Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black. Photos from US Army.

Two US service members were also wounded in the attack. They were evacuated in stable condition to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, officials said.

The attack on US and Nigerien forces occurred in southwest Niger, approximately 120 miles north of the capital of Niamey.

According to US Africa Command, which is based in Germany, the Special Forces soldiers were providing advice and assistance to Nigerien security force counter-terrorism operations.

US troops have been in West Africa for years, bolstering the defense capabilities of partner nations while combating terrorist groups like Boko Haram and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

The 3rd Special Forces Group has played a large role in the region since 2015, when the group refocused its efforts to Africa after more than a decade of constant deployments to Afghanistan.

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead
Boko Haram fighters. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

A spokesman for US Army Special Operations Command said the incident is under investigation.

Black, a Special Forces medical sergeant, and Wright, a Special Forces engineer sergeant, were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group. Johnson, who served as a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear specialist, was assigned to the Group Support Battalion.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with this soldier’s family as we mourn the loss of this dedicated Green Beret,” Lt. Col. David Painter, the commander of 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, said Oct. 6. “Staff Sgt. Black is loved by so many in our battalion, and his life was spent in service to his family, his friends, his team, and his country.”

Painter said Wright was also an exceptional Green Beret, “a cherished teammate and devoted soldier.”

“Dustin’s service to 3rd Special Forces Group speaks to his level of dedication, courage, and commitment to something greater than himself,” Painter said. “We are focused on caring for the Wright family during this difficult period.”

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead
Green Berets. Photo courtesy of US Army.

Lt. Col. Megan Brogden, the commander of the Group Support Battalion, said Johnson was an exceptional soldier.

“We, as a nation, are fortunate to have men like Jeremiah,” she said. “He not only represented what we should all aspire to be, but he lived it. His loss is a great blow and he will be missed and mourned by this unit.”

Black enlisted in the Army in October 2009 and his awards and decorations include the Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Special Forces Tab, Ranger Tab, Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, and Marksmanship Qualification Badge — Sharpshooter with Rifle.

Wright enlisted in July 2012. His awards and decorations include the Joint Service Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Special Forces Tab, and Parachutist Badge.

Johnson enlisted in October 2007 and his awards and decorations include two Army Commendation Medals, five Army Achievement Medals, three Army Good Conduct Medals, the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Armed Forces Service Ribbon, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, Driver and Mechanic Badge, and Marksmanship Qualification Badge — Expert with Pistol and Rifle.

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead
USAF photo by Master Sgt. Russell Martin.

According to reports, Nigerien military leaders said a patrol of defense and security forces and American partners were near the border of Mali when they were ambushed by a group with a dozen vehicles and about 20 motorcycles.

On Oct. 4, chief Pentagon spokeswoman Dana W. White said this was the first time American forces had been killed and wounded in combat in Niger.

White and the director of the Joint Staff, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, briefed members of the media on the attack. They stressed that American troops were in a support role, but McKenzie said that role can be dangerous.

“I think clearly there’s risk for our forces in Niger,” he said.

McKenzie said efforts to combat violent extremists in Africa were part of a global campaign against terrorism.

He said that with success in other parts of the world — namely Iraq and Syria — it is inevitable that terrorists will seek out safe haven in other countries.

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead
A US Army Special Forces weapons sergeant observes as a Nigerien soldier bounds forward while practicing buddy team movement drills during Exercise Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, March 11, 2017. Army photo by Spc. Zayid Ballesteros.

“They tried to go to Libya; it didn’t work out real well… And I don’t want to make Libya into a model success story, but they’ve been unable to establish themselves there,” McKenzie said.

The general said American forces would continue to work with forces in Niger and neighboring countries to increase their military capabilities and stop terrorists from taking root.

But he cautioned against concluding that the Niger attack showed a growing foothold for terrorist groups.

“I think that it does reflect the fact, though, that we’re having enormous success against the core, the very heart of this movement,” McKenzie said. “But we’re going to be operating across the surface of the entire globe, for quite a while to complete these operations. This is simply a manifestation of that.”

Neither White nor McKenzie would comment on the medical support available to the US troops, but 3rd Special Forces Group soldiers have previously prepared for deployments to Africa under the assumption that such support would not be close by.

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead
Nigerien army soldiers shoot targets under 60mm illumination mortar rounds as a part of Exercise Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, March 9, 2017. Skills learned in exercises in Flintlock can be used in the multinational fight against violent extremist organizations.

Their training in recent years has included trips to Duke University Medical Center and other medical facilities to learn techniques that can support them in austere environments away from modern medical centers.

McKenzie said the military was constantly evaluating the type of support deployed troops need.

“Anytime we deploy full forces globally, we will look very hard at the enablers that need to be in place in order to provide security for them,” he said. “And that ranges from the ability to pull them out if they are injured, to the ability to reinforce them at the point of a fight.”

In statements, elected leaders sent their condolences to the friends and families of the fallen soldiers.

Sen. Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican, said the sacrifices of the three soldiers identified Oct. 6 would not be forgotten.

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead
Senator Thom Tillis. Photo courtesy of WUNC.org

“This is a tragic reminder of the dangers facing our brave service members as they combat terrorism across the globe to keep our country safe,” he said.

Rep. Richard Hudson, a Republican whose district includes Fort Bragg, said Fort Bragg and Special Forces communities were mourning for their comrades.

“We pray they feel God’s comfort and know we are standing with them and support them — always,” Hudson said. “These elite soldiers have served in the most dangerous corners of the world, always ready and willing to put country before self. We are grateful for their service and will strive to honor their sacrifice.”

The 3rd Special Forces Group has supplied a steady rotation of troops to Africa since 2015 and is also at the helm of a lieutenant colonel-level command based in North and West Africa.

The group’s soldiers are focused on a 12-nation area of operations that includes Libya, Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria, Niger, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, and Burkina Faso.

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead
Nigerien service members react to contact during Exercise Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, Mar. 3, 2017. Army photo by Spc. Zayid Ballesteros.

Officials with the group have said the Special Forces soldiers are “all in” on the Africa mission and committed to helping partner nations solve problems, not only with terrorism, but also poaching, illegal drugs, and human trafficking.

Teams of Special Forces soldiers, known as Operational Detachment Alphas, or A-teams, often work closely with military partners as well as US Department of State and US AID, among others.

Earlier this year, Painter, the commander of 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, told The Fayetteville Observer that the Africa mission was different from what the soldiers experienced in Afghanistan, but not without risks.

“It can potentially be equally as dangerous but much less known,” Painter said of working in Africa. “None of these are easy missions.”

Quoting Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc, then-commander of Special Operations Command-Africa, Painter said “The US is not at war in Africa, but make no mistake, the Africans are in many places.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

8 rarely seen photos from World War I

“The Great War” was named for its size, not the experience of fighting it. Troops lived and slept in the mud and rubble, they fought through heavy machine gun fire and poison gas to roll back Imperial Germany’s occupation of France. About 2.8 million American men and women would serve overseas before the war ended. Here’s a quick peek at what life was like for them:


Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

MIGHTY TRENDING

See the Coast Guard and Navy own cocaine smugglers in the Pacific

Members of the US Coast Guard, US Navy, US Customs and Border Patrol, as well as the Colombian navy, intercepted a go-fast boat laden with cocaine in the eastern Pacific Ocean in early April 2018.

The various forces fought a fire on the smuggling vessel before off-loading more than 1,000 pounds of cocaine.


A CBP Air and Marine Operations P-3 patrol aircraft spotted the boat, technically called a low-profile go-fast vessel, in the waters of the eastern Pacific on April 7, 2018. Go-fast boats are specially made vessels, typically made of fiberglass, designed to carry large quantities of drugs with a low surface profile, which helps them avoid visual or radar detection.

The crew on the P-3 reported the go-fast boat to the Joint Interagency Task Force-South, which directed the crew of the US Navy coastal patrol ship USS Zephyr to make an intercept.

After spotting the Zephyr, the crew of the go-fast boat began to throw their cargo overboard. They then jumped overboard themselves when their boat caught fire.

US Coast Guard Navy go-fast smuggling boat drug bust fire

A US Coast Guard law-enforcement team launched from the Zephyr caught up with the go-fast boat and rescued four suspected smugglers. Coast Guard and Navy personnel then fought the fire aboard the suspected smuggling vessel, extinguishing it in about 90 minutes, according to a Coast Guard release.

Coast Guard personnel and other US law-enforcement personnel were then able to recover about 1,080 pounds of what is believed to be cocaine. The Colombian navy ship 07 de Agosto arrived during the recovery to assist with documenting the case. The go-fast boat, which was severely damaged, was intentionally sunk.

“There was no doubt in our minds what needed to be done to salvage the evidence needed for a successful prosecution even if it meant laying Zephyr alongside a burning hull, with the intense heat and acrid smoke hindering our 90-minute firefight,” Lt. Cmdr. Grant Greenwell, commanding officer of the Zephyr, said in the release.

‘We’re basically giving all of this illegal activity a free pass’

The waters of the Pacific along South and Central America have become a particularly busy venue for traffickers.

Colombia, the only South American country with both Pacific and Atlantic coastlines, is the world’s largest producer of coca, the base ingredient for cocaine. (Bolivia and Peru are the only other major producers.)

US Coast Guard go-fast smuggling boat drug bust rescue

Traffickers typically launch from secluded areas on the Pacific coast in Colombia, Ecuador, or Peru and head north. Limited government presence and corruption allow traffickers and criminal groups to operate with relative freedom in these areas, particularly in the coastal areas and inland waterways in western Colombia.

In recent years, trafficking routes have moved farther out, sometimes going around the Galapagos Islands, likely to avoid detection in waters closer to shore.

“During at-sea interdictions in international waters, a suspect vessel is initially located and tracked by US and allied, military or law enforcement personnel,” the Coast Guard said in its release. “The interdictions, including the actual boardings, are conducted by Coast Guard members.”

The cargoes that make it through are typically off-loaded somewhere in Central America — Coast Rica in particular has become a busy drug-transit hub— and then they’re moved up the coast via another ship or overland through Central America and Mexico toward the US border.

More than 90% of the cocaine that makes it to the US comes through the Central America/Mexico corridor, though there are signs that traffickers are trying to increase production in Central America itself.

US Coast Guard go-fast boat drug bust fire

The US and international partners have stepped up their operations in the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, including Operation Martillo, a US, European, and Western Hemisphere initiative launched in 2012, and through the US Coast Guard’s Western Hemisphere strategy, which started in 2014.

The US Coast Guard has warned repeatedly in recent years that its resources fall short of what is needed to fulfill its interdiction responsibilities in the US’s southern maritime approaches.

“In 2014, we knew where about 80% to 85% of the activity was taking place, to include when a go-fast [boat] was leaving Colombia or Ecuador or somewhere in Central America with a shipment ultimately destined for the United States,” Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft told Business Insider in December 2017. “But on the best of days we could probably put a ship over next to and a plane above maybe 10% of that 80% to 85%. We’re basically giving all of this illegal activity a free pass.”

Zukunft said the ultimate goal was deter traffickers and the people who sign on to transport drugs and contraband.

“We want these smugglers to look at that same risk calculus and say, ‘You know, you can’t pay me enough to move a shipment of illegal drugs, because I don’t want to get arrested. I don’t want to spend the next 10-plus years of my life in a US prison, where I’m severed from my family in isolation.'”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marine who witnessed Iwo Jima flag-raising dies before battle’s 76th anniversary

A Marine who was present for the Battle of Iwo Jima’s history-making flag-raising has died days before the battle’s 76th anniversary.

Elwood “Woody” Hughes died Feb. 2 at age 95, the Daily Herald newspaper reported. Hughes, of Illinois, landed on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima on Feb. 22, 1945, the day before the flag-raising. He was a private first class at the time, who had joined the Corps in 1943 and had served under legendary Marine Corps Gen. H.M. “Howlin’ Mad” Smith, known as the father of U.S. amphibious warfare.

In a 2020 interview with American Veterans Center, Hughes described being part of the 5th Amphibious Corps Signal Battalion attached to the 5th Marine Division. He worked with the famous Navajo Code Talkers, once delivering an urgent message for relay. He described his role on the island as that of a runner or “gofer,” downplaying the danger of his work. But he admitted he could hear the close “rat-a-tat-tat of machine-gun fire” from the command center.

“We were very close to mortar fire … we would get a siren … they would tell you to take cover,” he said.Advertisement

Hughes, who was an active member of his Marine Corps League detachment in Arlington Heights, Illinois, called the Battle of Iwo Jima the “most historic event in the history of the United States,” but said he spoke about it in tribute to those who gave their all in the battle.

Hughes, one of his state’s last survivors of the battle, made a decision in 2019 to speak publicly about his story, adding his name to a flag touring the country with the names of the other Iwo Jima survivors on it.

“They kind of treat people like me as a celebrity and a hero, and I feel I’m not. I shouldn’t be, because the heroes never walked off of Iwo Jima,” he said in the 2020 interview. “I feel I’m doing it more for the honor of those who sacrificed their lives on Iwo Jima.”

The Battle of Iwo Jima stretched from Feb. 19 to March 26, 1945, and involved some 70,000 U.S. Marines. It was a consequential, but costly, U.S. victory; with nearly 7,000 Marine casualties, it was the bloodiest battle of the Corps’ history.

The Marines’ raising of the U.S. flag on Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi became a symbol of the Corps’ indomitable spirit.

Then-Navy Secretary James Forrestal reportedly said, “The flag-raising on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next 500 years.”

Hughes was also known in his community as a longtime high school basketball coach and physical education teacher, according to news reports and his obituary.

“Due to his vivacious character and his unique outgoing style, Woody was instantly likable to all who met him. He was often remembered for his smile, a story, and a gleam in his eye,” his obituary reads. ” … Woody will be greatly missed by all those who know him.”

Articles

Special operators just rescued a high-profile prisoner from al-Qaeda

Ali Haider Gillani, the son of an ex-Pakistani prime minister, was rescued by U.S. special operators and Afghan commandos in a joint operation in Paktika province May 10.


Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead
A U.S. Special Forces soldier patrols with Afghan Commands from the 2nd Commando Kandak. Photo: US Army

The strike force killed four enemy combatants in the raid with no reported loss to friendly forces. Gillani was unharmed in the rescue mission.

The focus of the operation, “was to go after al-Qaida-related targets in the area, and there was an indication that there may have been a hostage being held with them,” U.S. Army Brig. Gen Charles Cleveland told the AP. “So it was a nice surprise to get that.”

Gillani and his father are members of the Pakistan People’s Party, a group which has sponsored and led several major offensives aimed at Islamic militants.

Gillani was originally kidnapped in May 2013 while campaigning for the Punjab provincial assembly. Pakistani leaders are often threatened or attacked by the Pakistani Taliban, especially if the leaders are perceived as likely to threaten the Taliban.

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead
Then-Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani speaks with President Barack Obama in a 2012 nuclear summit. Photo: White House Pete Souza

The kidnappers had been attempting to negotiate the release of several high-profile al-Qaeda prisoners in exchange for Gillani’s safe return.

Gillani was flown to Bagram for medical evaluation and is scheduled to return to Pakistan once cleared by doctors.

The raid was conducted as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, the current campaign of America’s mission in Afghanistan. It is part of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Norway asked for 300 more US Marines

Norway will ask the United States to more than double the number of U.S. Marines stationed in the country in a move that could raise tensions with neighboring Russia, top ministers have said.

The move announced by Oslo’s foreign and defense ministers on June 12, 2018, comes amid increasing wariness among nations bordering Russia after Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in 2014.

Nine nations along NATO’s eastern flank last week called for an increased presence by the military alliance in their region amid concerns about Russian aggression.


Some 330 U.S. Marines currently are scheduled to leave Norway at the end of 2018 after an initial contingent arrived in January 2017 to train for fighting in winter conditions. They were the first foreign troops to be stationed in Norway, a member of NATO, since World War II.

The initial decision to welcome the Marines in 2017 irked Russia, with Moscow warning that it would worsen bilateral relations with Oslo and escalate tensions on NATO’s northern flank.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide told reporters on June 12, 2018, that the decision to increase the U.S. presence has broad support in parliament and does not constitute the establishment of a permanent U.S. base in Norway.

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead
Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide

Oslo will ask Washington to send 700 Marines starting in 2019, she said, with the additional troops to be based closer to the border with Russia in the Inner Troms region in the Norwegian Arctic, about 420 kilometers from Russia, rather than in central Norway.

“There will still be a respectful distance with the Russian border,” Soereide said. “We can’t see any serious reason why Russia should react, even if we expect it will again this time since it always does about the allied exercises and training.”

The Russian Embassy in Oslo was not available for comment.

To ease Moscow’s concerns, before becoming a founder member of NATO in 1949, Oslo said it would not station foreign troops on its soil unless it was under threat of attack.

The ministers said Norway still abides by that commitment and claimed that the new U.S. troop presence would be “rotational,” not permanent.

The new troops will be rotated in for five-year periods, they said, while the posting of U.S. troops in Norway since 2017 was only for six-month intervals that were extended repeatedly.

Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen told reporters in Oslo that the expanded military force in the country is intended to improve the training and winter fighting capability of NATO troops.

“The defense of Norway depends on the support of our NATO allies, as is the case in most other NATO countries,” he said. “For this support to work in times of crises and war, we are are totally dependent on joint training and exercises in times of peace.”

In addition to posting more troops in Norway, the ministers said the United States has expressed interest in building infrastructure to accommodate up to four U.S. fighter jets at a base 65 kilometers south of Oslo, as part of a European deterrence initiative launched after Crimea’s annexation.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Marines wonder what to do next in the Middle East

In 2017, small American advisory elements here in Northern Iraq were operating at battle tempo as they mentored and assisted Iraqi units in a pitched fight to reclaim the city of Mosul from ISIS control.


That fight was won decisively, with an official Iraqi declaration of victory in Mosul in July 2017. And to further cement the advantage, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared complete victory over ISIS in Iraq on Dec. 9, 2017, just days before a Military.com visit to the country.

Among the Marine advisory units remaining at Al Asad and Al Taqaddum air bases in Anbar province, there is the satisfaction that comes with a mission accomplished.

But for some, victory brings its own unease: As the Marines endeavor to work themselves out of a job in Iraq, what lies beyond the current mission remains unclear.

When Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller paid visits to Al Asad, Al Taqaddum and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad during a December tour of deployed units, his tone was congratulatory.

“You’re part of history now, because you were in Iraq when ISIS was defeated, tactically,” he said. ” … You have been catastrophically successful. The way this thing has turned in the last year is pretty epic. So, you should be proud of what you’ve done and what you’ve contributed to.”

Neller’s parting words to the Marines amounted to an order to hold down the fort for the duration of the deployment.

“You will not get blown up. You will not get attacked. No one will let anyone come in here who is a bad person and do anything to anybody … Do your job, until the wheels of that airplane leave the ground to take you home,” he said.

Drawing down

While pockets of ISIS fighters remain in Iraq and military advisers continue to pay attention to the Syrian border and work to prevent more extremists from entering the country, planners are already discussing how and when to bring home the Marine elements deployed in support of the fight.

These discussions dovetail with those ongoing at the joint level and in diplomatic channels.

The Associated Press reported Feb. 5 2018, citing a senior Iraqi official close to al-Abadi, that an agreement with U.S. leaders stipulated 60 percent of troops in Iraq will come home, while about 4,000 will remain in an advisory capacity amid ongoing efforts to eradicate remaining ISIS elements and restore security.

Also read: Why some Marines in combat zones don’t get Combat Action Ribbons

Decisions regarding individual units can be made and executed rapidly, as was seen in late November 2017, when officials with the joint task force overseeing the fight against ISIS announced that a Marine artillery unit deployed to Syria would be coming home early. A replacement unit, which had already conducted specialized training ahead of a planned deployment, was told to stay put stateside.

In Iraq, the first Marine Corps element to leave will likely be the additional security presence at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, roughly 150 Marines who have been sourced from the Corps’ crisis response task force for the Middle East since 2015. During his tour, Neller told Marines he looked forward to bringing that contingent home soon.

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead
James Mattis, then a Marine general, speaks to Marines in Iraq. (USMC photo)

“I think we’re close,” Col. Christopher Gideons, commander of Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Central Command, told Military.com during a December interview in Baghdad.

While pulling the extra Marine Corps element out of Baghdad would signal improved confidence in the local security situation, Gideons pointed out that the embassy could be reinforced again within hours if conditions change.

“It’s not like if we pull the Marines out of there, we’re leaving the embassy, and State Department personnel, alone and unafraid,” he said. “That’s an hour-and-a-half flight from [an undisclosed task force hub in the Middle East] to here.”

Decisions about how and when to redeploy contingents of several hundred Marines at Al Taqaddum and Al Asad will likely be made in spring 2018. In addition to security elements at each base sourced from the crisis response force, the Marines maintain smaller colonel-led advisory elements in each location: Task Force Spartan at Al Taqaddum, and Task Force Lion at Al Asad.

Related: How the Marines ripped through the Iraqis in Operation Desert Storm

For the Marine Corps, the smallest and most junior in rank of the services, the cost of providing these senior advisory units is not insignificant.

“You all came from units, and nobody came to your unit and replaced you when you left,” Neller told the troops at Al Taqaddum. “I’m sure they’d love to get you back. I’m anxious to get you back too. But I also don’t want to do something that would be so risky that it would cause you to risk all the success you’ve gained.”

Decision-forcing point

In an interview with Military.com, Neller pointed to the Iraqi parliamentary elections as a possible decision-forcing point. Whether or not al-Abadi is re-elected, Iraqi leadership will then be best positioned to express what support they would like from the United States going forward.

“You’ve got two colonels … at Al Taqaddum and Al Asad, people slated to come in to replace both of them, what are they going to do?” Neller said. “So this happened pretty fast; so we’ll give everyone some time to figure it out.”

While Neller said the two elements represented a very senior capability for what has rapidly become a sustainment mission, he also expressed concern that a hasty decision based on ISIS’ apparent defeat could lead to instability.

“Right now, we’re sitting, kind of adjusting and let the situation kind of settle,” he said. “Because it’s not settled; It’s settling … the [ISIS] caliphate is technically gone, but there’s still other things moving.”

A new focus

For the Marines’ crisis response task force in the Middle East, which operates across a half-dozen countries, the turn the fight against ISIS has taken could mean an opportunity to focus majority efforts on non-combat operations for the first time in the unit’s history.

Created in late 2014 in the wake of the 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, the unit was designed to be a multi-purpose 911 force custom-built for the region.

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead
(image via Marines)

The unit wasn’t built specifically for the fight against ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria. But it was tasked with supporting Operation Inherent Resolve immediately. For its entire existence, the anti-ISIS fight has been the unit’s central focus.

Gideons, the task force commander, said roughly 500 Marines from the task force continued to operate in Iraq and Syria in support of efforts to defeat ISIS as of late December.

“But we still have a responsibility, day in and day out, to be a theater-wide crisis response force,” he said. “So I think it’s this juncture of, ‘OK, we’ve got a lot of capability in the [task force], let’s support OIR.’ But OIR is drawing down, do we want to keep that there … or take those things that we pushed into Iraq and Syria, make [the unit] kind of whole again and ready to respond across the region?”

There’s no lack of regional hot spots to vie for the unit’s time. Regions that may present missions for the task force, Gideons suggested, include Afghanistan, where U.S. troops advise local forces battling ISIS and the Taliban; Yemen, where Iran-backed Houthi rebels have attempted missile attacks on American ships; and the adjacent Bab el Mandeb strait, a key transit choke point between Yemen and the Horn of Africa.

“It’s an interesting crossroads,” he said. “There’s a tremendous amount of capability.”

Whether the unit will stay the same size in the transition process remains to be seen.

Read more: “Severe Clear” is the Iraqi War through the eyes of frontline Marines

Neller told Marines forward-deployed to Norway that he’d like to “pull back” from the Middle East slightly in favor of concentrating more manpower and resources on Russia and Europe.

The Marines’ 2,300-strong crisis response force, equipped with half a squadron each of MV-22 Ospreys and C-130 Hercules aircraft, is designed to be scalable, able to grow or shrink based on regional combatant commanders’ requirements.

But Gideons said he didn’t anticipate any change to the size of the unit in the near future.

“Just at my level, I think we’re probably about right; there’s an element of right-size,” he said.

Tasting victory

As senior leaders negotiate the way forward, Marines on the ground continue to ponder the implications of what they’ve accomplished.

Master Gunnery Sgt. Johnny Mendez, operations chief for Task Force Lion at Al Asad, is still marveling at how quickly and decisively the Iraqi troops he helped advise moved to defeat ISIS and reclaim their country.

Compared with what he observed during a deployment to Anbar province a decade ago in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Mendez said he’d seen a transformation in the soldiers’ attitude, drive and determination to win.

“Ten years ago, we were doing operations; we were doing full support,” he said. “Now, it’s nice to see, from the backseat, that they’re actually taking pride in what they’re doing. It’s different.”

Related: These photos show Marines fighting ISIS from their new base in Iraq

The change had less to do, he said, with the Marines’ assistance than it did with an elemental struggle, driven by ISIS’ wanton destruction and disregard for human life and dignity.

“Honestly, it was just the fight between good and evil,” Mendez said. “I think it was the local population and the local people were done seeing so much bad being done. They took pride in, this is their country. I couldn’t put my finger on it [before], but that was it.”

Col. Damian Spooner, the commanding officer of Task Force Spartan at Al Taqaddum, said he had observed a similar change.

During a Military.com visit to the base, Spooner said it had been more than a year since it had come under enemy fire, another indicator of how Iraqi troops, rather than Marines, were prosecuting the fight.

“Ten years ago, when we were here, I would have given anything to have the Iraqis doing the fighting, instead of Marines dying every day over here,” Spooner said. “And now, here we are, and the Iraqis are going out. I think what’s important about that is, they have earned this. They have liberated Iraq, they have defeated Daesh, and it gives me hope for the country that there’s something there that they have earned, and they’re not going to give it up easily. I think that’s very important.”

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Carreon, current operations officer for the crisis response task force, cautioned that the fight isn’t over, and that ISIS, denied control of major cities, would move underground and mount an insurgency campaign.

But even in the current lull following a declaration of victory, Carreon said emotions are mixed among deployed Marines.

“I think Marines want to kill bad guys, right?” he said. “So if you take that out of the equation, I don’t know how that makes us feel. Probably not happy.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

A meteor blew up over a Space Command base

A curious and credible Tweet from the Director of the Nuclear Information Project for the Federation of American Scientists, Hans Kristensen, on August 1, 2018, at 5:14 PM Washington D.C. time claimed that a, “Meteor explodes with 2.1 kilotons force 43 km above missile early warning radar at Thule Air Base.”

The Tweet apparently originated from Twitter user “Rocket Ron”, a “Space Explorer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory”. The original Tweet read, “A fireball was detected over Greenland on July 25, 2018 by US Government sensors at an altitude of 43.3 km. The energy from the explosion is estimated to be 2.1 kilotons.” Rocket Ron’s Tweet hit in the afternoon on Jul. 31.


The incident is fascinating for a long list of reasons, not the least of which is how the Air Force integrates the use of social media reporting (and non-reporting) into their official flow of information. As of this writing, no reporting about any such event appears on the public news website of the 12th Space Warning Squadron based at Thule, the 21st Space Wing, or the Wing’s 821st Air Base Group that operates and maintains Thule Air Base in support of missile warning, space surveillance and satellite command and control operations missions.

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead

An early warning radar installation in Thule, Greenland

(USAF)

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory did provide a Tweet with a screenshot of data showing record of an object of unspecified size traveling at (!) 24.4 Kilometers per second (about 54,000 MPH or Mach 74) at 76.9 degrees’ north latitude, 69.0 degrees’ west longitude on July 25, 2018 at 11:55 PM. That latitude and longitude does check out as almost directly over Thule, Greenland.

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory showed the object’s reentry on their database.

(NASA)

When you look at NASA’s Near Earth Object (NEO) Program database for objects entering the atmosphere you see that, “The data indicate that small asteroids struck Earth’s atmosphere – resulting in what astronomers call a bolide (a fireball, or bright meteor) – on 556 separate occasions in a 20-year period. Almost all asteroids of this size disintegrate in the atmosphere and are usually harmless.” That is a rate of one asteroid, or “bolide”, every 13 days over the 20-year study according to a 2014 article by Deborah Byrd for Science Wire as published on EarthSky.org.

But there are exceptions.

You may recall the sensational YouTube and social media videos of the very large Chelyabinsk meteor that struck the earth on Feb. 15, 2013. Luckily it entered the earth’s atmosphere at a shallow trajectory and largely disintegrated. Had it entered at a more perpendicular angle, it would have struck the earth with significantly greater force. Scientists report that Chelyabinsk was the largest meteor to hit the earth in the modern recording period, over 60-feet (20 meters) in diameter. Over 7,000 buildings were damaged and 1,500 people injured from the incident.

www.youtube.com

What is perhaps most haunting about the Chelyabinsk Meteor and, perhaps we may learn, this most recent Thule, Greenland incident, is that there was no warning (at least, not publicly). No satellites in orbit detected the Chelyabinsk Meteor, no early warning system knew it was coming according to scientists. Because the radiant or origin of the Chelyabinsk Meteor was out of the sun, it was difficult to detect in advance. It arrived with total surprise.

Northern Russia seems to be a magnet for titanic meteor strikes. The fabled Tunguska Event of 1908 was a meteor that struck in the Kraznoyarsk Krai region of Siberia. It flattened over 770 square miles of Siberian taiga forest but, curiously, seems to have left no crater, suggesting it likely disintegrated entirely about 6 miles above the earth. The massive damage done to the taiga forest was from the shockwave of the object entering the atmosphere prior to disintegration. While this recent Thule, Greenland event is very large at 2.1 kilotons (2,100 tons of TNT) of force for the explosion, the Tunguska Event is estimated to have been as large as 15 megatons (15 million tons of TNT).

It will be interesting to see how (and if) popular news media and the official defense news outlets process this recent Thule, Greenland incident. But while we wait to see how the media responds as the Twitter dust settles from the incident, it’s worth at least a minor exhale knowing this is another big object that missed hitting the earth in a different location at a different angle and potentially with a different outcome.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China and Australia are getting along better, but still cold

Following a successful surprise meeting on Nov. 8, 2018, Beijing and Canberra want to be friends again.

That’s good, but it won’t change the fact that, for the Chinese people, Australia has made “probably the worst” impression out of all Western nations, The Global Times has noted in a strongly worded opinion piece.

Despite a reportedly warm first encounter on Nov. 8, 2018, between Australia’s newly enlisted foreign affairs minister Marise Payne and Chinese state councilor and foreign affairs minister Wang Yi (王毅 ) in Beijing, the strident Chinese tabloid had some tough truths to share for those hoping for a thaw in the frosty bilateral relationship.


In a typically withering opinion piece titled “It will be more difficult for China and Australia to repair people-to-people relations than to restore political relations,” the publication compared Australia unfavorably with US President Donald Trump.

At least when Trump was openly hostile toward China, people could understand why, the paper suggested.

“Trump has launched an unprecedented trade war with China, but the Chinese people can at least understand the rationale of the US. But Chinese people do not get why Australia is so hostile to China (in the last two years),” the opinion piece reads.

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead

United States President Donald Trump.

In fact, the resumption of high-level meetings between China and Australia will come a lot easier than rediscovery of the once mutually admirative and friendly feelings between the two peoples, the paper observed.

Making the enemy less of an enemy

“Due to its performance in the past two years, Australia has left a bad impression on the Chinese people, probably the worst of all Western countries,” the opinion column said.

It continued: “The Chinese people understand that we must make friends with the outside world and try our best to make the enemy less than the enemy. Therefore, it is acceptable to improve the relationship between China and Australia rationally. However, people’s understanding of the Australian position in recent years is difficult to change in a short time.

For almost a decade really, Australia has been caught in a bit of a slow motion PR trainwreck in China.

Emerging of a once-in-a-generation trading boom that peaked around 2007, relations ironically began to sour around the same time the Mandarin speaking China expert Kevin Rudd was voted into office the same year.

We don’t want to talk about Kevin

The rot really began when Rudd famously delivered an unanticipated dressing-down of China in a speech at Beijing University, using a little-known and controversial word ‘Zheng you’ to describe a friend who is unafraid to tell it like it is.

Unsurprisingly the ensuing blunt assessment of China’s various faults in fluent Mandarin before an audience of hyped-up, patriotically infused, pre-Beijing Olympic students has never been forgotten, or forgiven.

What has followed has been a shopping list of insults, perceived or real, that have stretched the relationship to a breaking point.

Chinese public opinion can grasp that Australia is economically close to China, but politically and strategically attached to the US, the Times noted.

“But Australia has taken the lead in boycotting China’s so-called “infiltration” of the South China Seas … Australia also took the lead among Western countries to exclude Huawei from participating in 5G construction.”

Salt on the wound

“This is to say that salt was sprinkled on the wounds (伤口上的盐) of China-Australia relations.”

This position stands in contrast to the broad reporting of events in Beijing on Nov. 8, 2018, where foreign minister Wang Yi indicated that the two sides had found “an important common understanding.”

The flashpoint of Nov. 8, 2018’s discussions this time centered on the South Pacific, after Australia’s prime minister announced a surprise multibillion economic, diplomatic and security dollar fund to counter China’s rising influence in the region.

Beijing and Canberra should work together in the South Pacific and not wake up one day as strategic rivals, the State Councilor and former Ambassador to Japan said on Nov. 8, 2018.

“Australia and China are not competitors, not rivals but cooperation partners and we have agreed to combine and capitalize on our respective strengths to carry out trilateral cooperation involving Pacific island states.”

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead

Australian prime minister Scott John Morrison.

An important extended thread in China’s 21st century Maritime Silk Road, the redrawing and rebuilding of trade routes, sea lanes and infrastructures, Wang said that China would prefer to be Australia’s partner in driving infrastructure in the Pacific.

Wang spoke of forming a “tripartite cooperative” with Pacific nations after Morrison announced a rebooting of Australia’s engagement with its neglected “backyard,” of which the centrepiece is a billion infrastructure fund to potentially lure island states away from the maritime leg of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

All well and good for the islands, the Times said, “but it is uncertain whether (people to people ties) will recover.”

“Let Australia pay the price …”

On Nov. 6, 2018, Australia flagged concerns at the United Nations Human Rights Council review in Geneva on the Communist Party’s aggressive expansion of “reeducation” camps directed against local Muslim populations in western China’s Xinjiang province.

“In an interview, Payne said that she would ‘talk about human rights’ in Beijing. This information shows that China-Australia relations will not be too calm in the future,” the Times cautioned.”

The example of Australia tells us that cooperation does not necessarily mean that each other is a friend … of course, we have to build leverage to harness (the advantages) of a complex relationship.”

“Australia said a few words of disrespect to China, but if it does actions that harm China’s actual interests … then we should respond, let Australia pay the price, and steer mutual cooperation through struggle.”

However, foreign minister Wang said that since taking office, the newly elected Australian government (this one is about two months old, and it’s not elected) has made “positive gestures” toward developing China-Australia relations on many occasions.

According to the state council news agency Xinhua, both sides also vowed to “promote bilateral ties on the basis of mutual trust and win-win results.”

“We stand ready to strengthen communication and coordination with Australia in multilateral mechanisms, as a way of jointly safeguarding multilateralism and free trade,” Wang added, in a clear nod to China’s need to shore up multilateral support as the damaging trade war with the US continues to impact the economy.

A country, yes, but also a kind of sandbox for experimentation

Xinhua noted that Payne acknowledged Australia does not regard China as a military threat and that a prosperous China is a positive and significant outcome for the entire world, as is custom on these occassions.

Meanwhile, the Times closed it out like this.

“Australia is a middle-power Western country not far from China. It is important to say that Australia is important to China. It doesn’t matter if it is not important. China should regard relations with Australia as a sandbox (一块沙盘) for experimenting with the relationship between China and the West.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Navy uses WWII-era ‘bean-bag drop’ for aircraft communication

One-hundred-ten degree heat radiated from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) as an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter swooped in and dropped a message resurrecting an 80-year-old aircraft-to-ship alternative communication method.

Historically, war tends to accelerate change and drives rapid developments in technology. Even with superior modern capabilities, the US Navy still keeps a foot in the old sailboat days and for good reason.

During the sea battles of WWII, US Navy pilots beat enemy eavesdropping by flying low and slow above the flight deck and dropping a weighted cloth container with a note inside. This alternative form of communication was termed a “bean-bag drop.”


During the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, Japan, a Douglas SBD Dauntless pilot spotted a Japanese patrol vessel approximately 50 miles ahead of USS Enterprise (CV 6). The pilot believed he had been seen by the Japanese and decided not to use his radio but flew his SBD over the Enterprise flight deck and dropped a bean-bag notifying the ship of the Japanese patrol boat ahead.

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead

A US Navy Douglas SBD Dauntless drops a message container known as a “bean-bag” on the flight deck of USS Enterprise while crew members dart to catch the message to deliver it up to the ship’s bridge.

(Naval Aviation Museum)

A video posted by Archive.org shows actual video of a SBD rear gunner dropping a bean-bag down to the Enterprise flight deck that day and shows a sailor picking up the bean-bag, then running to the island to deliver it up to the bridge.

The bean-bag design progressed when USS Essex (CV 9) ran out of them and Navy pilot Lt. James “Barney” Barnitz was directed to provide replacements. Barnitz went to see the Essex Parachute Riggers and out of their innovation, the bean-bag was cut and sown into a more durable form.

Fast-forward 80 years to August 2019, when Boxer’s Paraloft shop was tasked to make a new bean-bag specifically for a helo-to-deck drop.

“I started with the original measurements of the bean-bag used on the USS Enterprise in 1942 and built this one to withstand the impact of a drop but also weighed down for an accurate drop,” said Aircrew Survival Equipmentman 1st Class Carlos R. Freireizurieta, who works in Boxer’s Paraloft shop.

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead

Aircrew Survival Equipmentman 1st Class Carlos R. Freireizurieta sows together naugahyde and web materials that will be used as a message delivery container between aircraft and ship, Aug. 10, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Frank L. Andrews)

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead

An actual message container called a “bean-bag” used to deliver messages from an aircraft to the ship during World War II.

(Naval Aviation Museum)

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead

Aircrew Survival Equipmentman 1st Class Carlos R. Freireizurieta with a message container known as a “bean-bag” he designed and sowed together, Aug. 10, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Frank L. Andrews)

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead

Naval Air Crew (Helicopter) 2nd Class Joe Swanso conducts a bean-bag drop exercise to communicate with amphibious assault ship USS Boxer, Aug. 4, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Brian P. Caracci)

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead

Naval Air Crew (Helicopter) 2nd Class Joe Swanso conducts a bean-bag drop exercise to communicate with amphibious assault ship USS Boxer, Aug. 4, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Brian P. Caracci)

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead

Naval Air Crew (Helicopter) 2nd Class Joe Swanso conducts a bean-bag drop exercise to communicate with amphibious assault ship USS Boxer, Aug. 4, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Brian P. Caracci)

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Bradley Peterson runs to a bean-bag that was dropped on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer during an exercise to communicate with an MH-60S Sea Hawk, Aug. 4, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Brian P. Caracci)

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Bradley Peterson runs to a bean-bag that was dropped on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer during an exercise to communicate with an MH-60S Sea Hawk, Aug. 4, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Brian P. Caracci)

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Bradley Peterson runs with a bean-bag that was dropped on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer during an exercise to communicate with an MH-60S Sea Hawk, Aug. 4, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Brian P. Caracci)

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Bradley Peterson runs with a bean-bag that was dropped on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer during an exercise to communicate with an MH-60S Sea Hawk, Aug. 4, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Brian P. Caracci)

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Bradley Peterson runs with a bean-bag that was dropped on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer during an exercise to communicate with an MH-60S Sea Hawk, Aug. 4, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Brian P. Caracci)

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 dumb things Marines would do in the Space Force

Marines never change. We’re simple creatures. Whether it’s in the air, on the land, at sea, or in the outer reaches of space, we’re going to find a way to restrict everyone’s liberty by doing what we do best: getting drunk and fighting things.

Any place we go, you’ll know we were there. Not just because of the trail of destruction and bodies we leave in our wake, but because we’ve found a way to distinguish ourselves by looking and acting like the most primitive humans to ever exist in the modern era.

This type of thing will not change in space, no matter how far we go. Here are a few things that Marines will still do, even if we’re in the Andromeda system:


1. Get married to an alien stripper in their first month

Once we establish colonies on other planets, you know there will be tons of alien strip clubs and tattoo parlors set up just outside the gates of any military installation — and you know where they’ll get their business? The Space Force Marines. One of the FNGs is bound to fall in love with an alien stripper and marry it within a month of arriving on station.

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead

It’ll become a competition to see who can hit someone on a planet’s surface from orbit.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

2. Throw space rocks at each other

When Marines get bored of waiting, they end up finding rocks to throw at each other. No, I’m not kidding. This is a popular pastime among Marines.

This won’t change, even if they’re in space. If anything, the lowered gravity will only make this more enjoyable.

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead

We might even try to eat it.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

3. Find dangerous alien creatures to interact with

If you’ve ever been in a desert with Marines, then you know we’ve got some uncanny ability to find rattlesnakes and scorpions to play with. Here’s what would happen in the Space Force: Marines arrive on a new planet and find some kind of acid-spitting alien creature and decide it would be a good idea to pick it up and keep it as a pet.

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead

Pro-tip: Don’t touch anything you aren’t familiar with.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

4. Eat strange, alien plants

There’s always that one Southern guy in your platoon who, while in a jungle, will just rip moss off trees and drink the water from it — or they’ll see some leafy plant and chew on it when they run out of tobacco.

Chances are, they’ll do the same on some distant planet.

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead

The Mars rover already did it, but it lacked a human touch.

(NASA/JPL/Cornell)

5. Draw penises on everything

Marines have this weird obsession. If you’ve ever seen the inside of an on-base porta-john, then you know what I’m talking about.

The Navy recently had an incident where a pilot drew a penis in the sky using contrails, which means Marines must to find a way to top that somehow.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 of the biggest ways you can still be a boot after service

Veterans are a diverse group filled with all sorts of different types of people. Much like any other group, there tends be a lot of disagreements among its members over all sorts of things, like if growing a beard means you’re no longer a Marine or whether Okinawa is a real deployment (it’s not). But, at the end of the day, some people get out of the military acting a lot like they did when they first showed up.

When you first get out of boot camp, you’re called a “boot.” You’re the new employee — the FNG, if you will. As a freshly minted service member, there are some traits you likely exhibit, like being covered head to toe in overly-moto gear or telling every single person you meet that you’re a part of the military.

Most of us outgrow these tendencies as we settle into the routine of life in service. But we’ve observed a strange phenomenon: After service, some veterans regress to their boot-like behaviors. Specifically, the following:


Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead

You can make fun of them, but remember that it’s just that — fun.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Rylan Albright)

Insulting other branches

It’s one thing to joke around with other veterans by calling the Air Force the “Chair Force” or the Coast Guard “useless,” but it’s another thing entirely to be a genuine a**hole because you actually think your branch is best.

As a boot, you might really feel this way — after all, you just endured weeks of pain to get where you are and pride fools even the best of us. But if you still feel this way after you get out… You’re still a boot.

Gatekeeping

Dismissing someone else’s status as a veteran or a patriot because they don’t share your views is just dumb. Boots think people aren’t real patriots if they don’t join the military, but there are plenty of other ways to be patriotic outside of joining the armed forces.

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead

Neither of these two are superheroes — but both might think so.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

Talking up your service

Being in the military doesn’t make you some kind of superhero. You’re not the supreme savior of mankind because you’re a veteran. You’re a human being who made a noble choice, but that doesn’t make you Batman.

…maybe Bootman.

Telling everybody you meet about your service

Boots, for some reason, will tell every man, woman, child, and hamster that they’re in the military.

Some veterans are guilty of this, too, but it usually comes in the form of replying to any statement with, “well, as a veteran…” It’s not any less annoying.

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead

You know this is where most of your time went.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. M. Bravo)

Exaggerating your role

Some veterans love seeing themselves as modern-day Spartans or Vikings. In reality, a lot of us ended up cleaning toilets and standing in lines. Boots have the same tendency to over-glorify what they do in the military, making their role in the grand scheme of things seem much more important than it actually is.

All in all: Don’t be that guy.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump hits Turks with sanctions in a row over US pastor

The US has imposed sanctions on two top Turkish officials on Aug. 1, 2018, in a long-standing dispute over Turkey’s detention of an American pastor.

The US Treasury Department targeted Turkey’s Minister of Justice Abdulhamit Gul and its Minister of Interior Suleyman Soylu, whom they say played a major role in the arrest and detention of the evangelical Christian pastor Andrew Brunson.


“Pastor Brunson’s unjust detention and continued prosecution by Turkish officials is simply unacceptable,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. “President Trump has made it abundantly clear that the United States expects Turkey to release him immediately.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders reiterated the Justice Department’s words at a press briefing Aug. 1, 2018, and said that Trump had personally ordered the sanctions against the officials who played “leading roles” in Brunson’s arrest.

Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Brunson,50, is originally from North Carolina, and has led a small congregation in the coastal Turkish city of Izmir since 1993.

He was arrested in 2016 and has been accused of orchestrating a failed military coup attempt against Turkish President President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He has been imprisoned in Turkey for the last 21 months on espionage charges, though he was moved to house arrest last month because of health concerns.

Brunson has denied any wrongdoing. He faces up to 35 years in jail if convicted.

There are suspicions that Brunson’s detention could be politically motivated. Erdogan has openly suggested a high-level strategic swap with the US in exchange for Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish preacher living in Pennsylvania who has been accused of masterminding the 2016 coup attempt.

Since the failed coup, Erdogan has instituted sweeping executive powers, which allow him to select his own cabinet, regulate ministries and remove civil servants, all without parliamentary approval.

Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics for 15 years, was sworn in as president in July 2018. Opponents say his newly enforced executive powers have lurched the country towards authoritarianism .

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