The 82nd Airborne Division has a long and storied history. It also has a very significant mission for the United States: It’s America’s fire brigade — sent to a hot spots around the world to draw a line in the sand whenever needed. It did just that in 1990, at the start of Operation Desert Shield, but a lot of time has passed since then.
During Saber Strike 2018, an international exercise held annually in partnership with the Baltic States and Poland to rehearse the deployment of troops in defense of those nations, the 82nd Airborne Division was used to send a pointed reminder. The world needed to know that this division remains ready to act.
With the help of nine U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III transport planes, roughly 700 paratroopers from the famed division, as well as some from the British Army’s Parachute Regiment, dropped into Latvia, simulating a no-notice deployment.
A paratrooper gathers his equipment after making a landing during Saber Strike 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven)
It took ten hours for the planes to take the troops to their drop zone in Latvia. In addition to the paratroopers, they also dropped vehicles, like the High-Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), and equipment, including FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank guided missiles and .50-caliber sniper rifles.
The message was clear: In less than half a day, the United States and its allies can have troops on the ground, equipped and ready to fight.
But here’s something you may not know about the 82nd Airborne Division: There is always a brigade ready move anywhere in the world with just 24 hours’ notice. This is known as the Division Ready Brigade. Inside that brigade, one battalion can arrive anywhere in the world within 18 hours or less.
Not only did paratroopers from the 82nd make a jump into Latvia, they brought vehicles like HMMWVs, too!
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven)
In 1990, the deployment of those forces to Saudi Arabia stopped Saddam Hussein at the Kuwaiti border with Saudi Arabia. It was a clear message that said crossing the border would lead to war with America.
Their rapid deployment as part of Saber Strike 2018 sends a similar message to Putin: The United States of America can and will rapidly respond if you try to attack the Baltic States. Hopefully, as it did in 1990, such a deployment will give a hungry, aggressive nation pause.
World War I is not the bloodiest war in the history of war, but rapid advances in technology as well as the failure of military leaders to adjust their tactics resulted in possibly the bloodiest day in British military history when the nation lost almost 20,000 troops on July 1, 1916.
The roots of the bloodshed of July 1 date back before the war even started as the Gatling Gun gave way to true machine guns, originally known as “gunpowder engines,” and advances in mortars, artillery, and even the standard rifle made soldiers of all types much more lethal.
Members of the British Border Regiment rest in dugouts during the Battle of the Somme in 1916.
(Imperial War Museums)
But, importantly, many of these breakthroughs favored static defenses. Soldiers could march forward with machine guns, but they would struggle to quickly emplace them and get them into operation. Defenders, meanwhile, could build fortifications around their machine guns and mow down enemy forces with near impunity.
After the war started in 1914, Germany managed to quickly move into France before getting bogged down in a line that eventually stretched across Europe. A German attack at Verdun in early 1916 became a black hole for French troops. The attack was designed to bleed France dry and force it out of the war.
The Germans expected Britain to launch its own attack against German lines to relieve the pressure from France. And Britain did have a plan for an attack, but it would prove to be a failure.
General Sir Sam Hughes watches a British attack at the Battle of the Somme, October 1917.
(BiblioArchives, CC BY 2.0)
A joint British-Franco assault was scheduled for the summer. The main thrust was to come along a narrow stretch of the River Somme and the first day would see approximately 100,000 British troops rushing German lines in what was hoped to be a quick advance.
Soldiers with the Royal Irish Rifles sit in a communication trench on July 1, 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
(Cassowary Colorizations, CC BY-SA 2.0)
But the battle wasn’t over. While small changes in tactics and the later introduction of the tank reduced the number of casualties that Britain took, the battle would wage on for five months and the combatants eventually inflicted over 1,000,000 casualties on one another.
Benjamin C. Bradlee was a legendary newsman who led The Washington Post through the Pentagon Papers Affair and the Watergate Scandal, stories that cemented the publication’s world-class status. He set the standard for excellence in journalism and organizational leadership. He also had a legendary sense of humor.
He studied at Harvard, where he was a member of the university’s Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps detachment. Shortly after graduating in 1942, he was sent to the Pacific Theater as a newly-minted ensign. At 20 years old, he was made officer of the deck. At 21, he was, as he put it, “driving a ship around the Pacific Ocean.” He chose the Navy for a reason.
“That was such a “good war,” he told the U.S. Naval Institute’s Naval History magazine. “And serving in the Navy was such a guarantee of action. You weren’t going out to the Pacific Ocean in a destroyer or cruiser without being in the middle of it all.” He was onboard the USS Philip, a destroyer in the Solomon Islands campaign.
In that same 1995 interview, he recalled a time when a reader questioned his patriotism, loyalty, and integrity.
“A guy once wrote a letter to me that started off, ‘Dear Communist,'” Bradlee said. “He impugned my patriotism and certainly impugned my war. I promptly wrote back, ‘Dear A-hole. This is what I did during the war, so don’t give me any sh-t.’ It turned out that he had been in the Marine Corps during the war. We had taken his division to Bougainville and then to Saipan. We had been in some of the same battles. He wrote back, saying I wasn’t such a bad guy after all, and we started a great correspondence.”
His obituary, written by the 50-year veteran Post reporter, Robert G. Kaiser also remembered Bradlee’s patriotism in the same vein:
“Mr. Bradlee’s wartime experience left him an unabashed patriot who bristled whenever critics of the newspaper accused it of helping America’s enemies. He sometimes agreed to keep stories out of the paper when government officials convinced him that they might cause serious harm.”
He became the leader of The Washington Post newsroom in 1965, transforming it in what his Washington Post obituary describes as “combining compelling news stories based on aggressive reporting with engaging feature pieces of a kind previously associated with the best magazines… charm and gift for leadership helped him hire and inspire a talented staff and eventually made him the most celebrated newspaper editor of his era.”
He was almost awarded a Purple Heart for taking a piece of Japanese shrapnel in rear — his rear, not the ship’s — a piece he kept for most of his life.
“It must have hit the deck first or maybe even the stack, then the deck, and then bounced up and hit me in the ass. It was hot when I picked it up. I had it here on my desk, but one of the kids took it to school for show-and-tell and never brought it back.”
For his life’s work, Bradlee was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor the United States can give a civilian, in 2013. He died the next year at age 93.
The United States Special Operations Command just tested a high-energy laser on the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, marking the first time such a weapon has been deployed aboard a rotary-wing aircraft.
According to a press release from defense company Raytheon, the test was a complete success, “providing solid experimental evidence for the feasibility of high resolution, multi-band targeting sensor performance and beam propagation supportive of High Energy Laser capability for the rotary-wing attack mission.”
“This data collection shows we’re on the right track. By combining combat proven sensors, like the MTS, with multiple laser technologies, we can bring this capability to the battlefield sooner rather than later,” the release quoted Raytheon vice president of Advanced Concept and Technologies for Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems Art Morrish as saying.
The Apache used a HEL mated with a version of Raytheon’s Multi-Spectral Targeting System, which combined electro-optical and infrared sensors, against a number of targets. The data from this test will be used to future HEL systems to address unique challenges that stem from their installation on rotary-wing aircraft, including the effects of vibration, downwash, and dust.
The Apache has had laser systems since it entered service in 1984, but the lasers were low-power systems that are used to guide AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles. A HEL will have the ability to destroy targets.
An Army release noted that the service has also tested lasers on the Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck in April 2016 and the Stryker this past February and March. In both cases, the lasers downed a number of unmanned aerial vehicles. The Navy has a laser on board USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15, formerly LPD 15), which is currently operating in the Persian Gulf.
Lasers offer a number of advantages over artillery and missiles. Notably, they are invisible, and the power of the weapon can be adjusted to handle a specific material, like steel plating or Kevlar. HELs can even be set for non-lethal effects on people.
Tommy Macpherson was known to his enemies as the “Kilted Killer.” The Scotsman fought with the British 11 Commando during World War II, roaming the countryside with French Resistance fighters and causing so much havoc and damage that the Nazis put a 300,000 Franc bounty on his head.
No one ever collected.
Especially not any Nazis.
Imperial War Museum
For a guy with a huge bounty on his head, you’d have never known it to look at Macpherson. He dressed in the same tartan kilt he would have worn back home in Edinburgh as he did killing Nazis in Operation Jedburgh. But just getting to Europe for the operation was a slog of its own. Macpherson was captured during a raid on Erwin Rommel’s headquarters near Tobruk in 1941. He spent years making no fewer than seven escape attempts from POW camps across Italy, Germany, and occupied Poland. He was finally successful in 1943, escaping to England via Sweden. He immediately rejoined his commando unit, just in time for Operation Jedburgh.
The Jedburgh operators were going to parachute into occupied Europe and embark on a stream of sabotage and guerrilla attacks against the Nazi occupiers. Macpherson, knowing he would have to use the full force of his personality to take command of the resistance fighters, the Maquis, he chose to wear a full highland battle dress, including his Cameron tartan kilt. It worked.
Hell yeah it did.
(Imperial War Museum)
Macpherson and his squad immediately began cutting a path of destruction across The Netherlands, destroying bridges and killing or capturing any German troops and officers who came through that path. It was said that Macpherson and company managed to successfully conduct some kind of operation every day he was deployed in Western Europe. But his crowning achievement came in France in the days following the D-Day invasions, stopping the Das Reich Panzer Division in its tracks.
Coming from the Eastern Front, this SS Panzer division was particularly brutal. When Macpherson saw them for the first time, he saw at least 15,000 men and 200 tanks and other armored vehicles that he had to knock out of the war before they pushed the Allies back into the sea.
Russland, Appell der SS-Division “Das Reich”
(German War Archives)
Using plastic explosives, grenades dangling from trees, and one anti-tank mine, the British commando, and his Maquis unit managed to slow the Panzers down to a crawl. They chopped down trees at night, used hit and run attacks with their sten guns, and placed booby traps everywhere, anything they could to keep the Panzers away from the Allied landing for as long as possible. The effort worked, and it took the SS two weeks to cover what should have taken three days.
His biggest achievement came without firing a shot, however. He had to keep another Panzer division, some 23,000 men strong, from taking a vital bridge in the Loire Valley. He somehow managed a parlay with the opposing commander, meeting the command deep inside German-held territory. He told the Germans he could call on the RAF to destroy his entire column – which he couldn’t do.
“My job was to convince the general that I had a brigade, tanks and artillery waiting on the other side of the river,” Macpherson later said. “In truth, the only thing I could whistle up was Dixie, but he had no way of knowing that.”
Macpherson was just 23 years old negotiating the surrender of a Panzer division.
The German looked at the young man in full highland battle dress and offered his surrender on the condition they could carry sidearms until they were met by the U.S. 83rd Infantry. Macpherson agreed, almost singlehandedly knocking an entire tank division out of the war, securing the Loire Bridgehead. He survived the war and continued his service in the British military. He died in 2014.
Imagine a 150-kiloton nuclear bomb exploded in the city closest to you.
Do you know how the city, its surrounding region, and its inhabitants would be affected? If you can’t think of much more than “a lot of people would die,” you’re not alone.
“We live in a world where nuclear weapons issues are on the front pages of our newspapers on a regular basis, yet most people still have a very bad sense of what an exploding nuclear weapon can actually do,” Alex Wellerstein, a historian of science at Stevens Institute of Technology, wrote on his website, NuclearSecrecy.org.
To illustrate that, Nukemap lets you build a hypothetical nuclear bomb and drop it anywhere on Earth. The software uses declassified equations and models about nuclear weapons and their effects — fireball size, air-blast radius, radiation zones, and more — to crunch the numbers, then renders the results as graphics inside Google Maps.
The first version of Wellerstein’s tool came out in February 2012, but he upgraded it to version 2.5 this month. Users thus far have set off more than 124 million explosions in Nukemap.
Nukemap 2.5’s new features let you see where a cloud of radioactive fallout might drift based on local weather conditions. Fallout refers to the dirt and debris that get sucked up by a nuclear blast, irradiated to dangerous levels, pushed into the atmosphere, and sprinkled over great distances. The updated tool also lets you export your scenarios, load them into mapping software like Google Earth, and explore them in 3D.
“I hope that people will come to understand what a nuclear weapon would do to places they are familiar with, and how the different sizes of nuclear weapons change the results,” Wellerstein wrote on his site.
Picking a bomb and a target
We decided to test Nukemap 2.5 using its preset for the North Korean government’s underground test blast on September 3.
Some experts think that device, perhaps a thermonuclear bomb, yielded an explosion of roughly 150 kilotons’ worth of TNT. This was the country’s most powerful nuclear explosion to date — about 10 times as strong as the Hiroshima bomb blast of 1945, which caused some 150,000 casualties.
The main effects of the nuclear blast display as four colored zones:
Fireball (0.56 miles wide): In the area closest to the bomb’s detonation site, flames incinerate most buildings, objects, and people.
Radiation (1.24 miles wide): A nuclear bomb’s gamma and other radiation are so intense in this zone that 50% or more of people die within “several hours to several weeks,” according to Nukemap.
Air blast (4.64 miles wide): This shows a blast area of 5 pounds per square inch, which is powerful enough to collapse most residential buildings and rupture eardrums. “Injuries are universal, fatalities are widespread,” Nukemap says.
Thermal radiation (6.54 miles wide): This region is flooded with skin-scorching ultraviolet light, burning anyone within view of the blast. “Third-degree burns extend throughout the layers of skin and are often painless because they destroy the pain nerves,” Nukemap says. “They can cause severe scarring or disablement, and can require amputation.”
Clicking the “radioactive fallout” option didn’t produce any exposure zones for this hypothetical explosion. A note toward the bottom of our Nukemap results explained: “Your choice of burst height is too high to produce significant local fallout.”
Casualties and radioactive-fallout zones
When we switched the height to “surface burst,” a very different picture emerged: The thermal and air-blast zones shrank, but the fireball nearly doubled in area, and the radiation zone nearly tripled.
We also enabled the new radioactive-fallout settings based on local weather. And to see the human effects, we ticked the “casualties” option, too.
Luckily, local winds in this hypothetical scenario were moving west-southwest, blowing most radioactive fallout into the Pacific Ocean. If a person were to stand outside in a 100-rad-per-hour zone for four hours, they would get 400 rads of radiation exposure, which is enough to kill 50% of people by acute radiation syndrome.
According to Nukemap’s casualty estimator, however, this blast would still kill about 130,000 people and injure 280,000 over the next 24 hours. The tool says this does not include radioactive-fallout effects, among other caveats.
“Modeling casualties from a nuclear attack is difficult,” it says. “These numbers should be seen as evocative, not definitive.”
Google Earth’s view
We were eager to try the export feature, but it appears to need some work.
For example, the fallout zone appeared in an area different from the in-browser calculation — almost due south of San Francisco, instead of west-southwest.
But it was still useful — in a gut-wrenching way — to see the size of a nuclear fireball (the yellow half-dome in the image below) in 3D as it related to a major city, engulfing entire neighborhoods.
Wellerstein and others at Stevens Institute of Technology — based in Hoboken, New Jersey — are working on a related project, called Reinventing Civil Defense, which aims to “develop new communication strategies regarding nuclear risk that have high potential to resonate with a public audience.” The project was awarded a $500,000 grant and is expected to debut in 2019.
Veterans stuck inside can turn to reading a catalog of more than 61,000 classic, free e-books and audio books at Project Gutenberg.
People can read books online or download them for reading offline, including popular e-readers.
In addition to reading, there’s a selection of audio books available on the site. The site also offers books in dozens of languages, including hundreds in Spanish.
The books are mainly older literary works whose copyright expired. Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allen Poe, Robert Louis Stevenson, Oscar Wilde, Jack London and Jane Austen are some of the celebrated authors. People can read about characters such as Moby Dick, Frankenstein, Peter Pan, Tiny Tim and Alice in Wonderland.
Searching for books
Users can search for books a variety of ways. Project Gutenberg offers a list of the most popular books, latest books, a search feature, or a random book selection. Users can also browse the digital bookshelves by categories, genre, age group or topic.
The bookshelves are broken into categories. These range from animals to history to science.
One of these categories is a section called the “Wars Bookshelf.” This section has books about the Revolutionary War, Boer War, English Civil War, Spanish-American War, U.S. Civil War, and both world wars. Selections from this bookshelf range from Marine landings in the Pacific during World War II to stories of Bull Run to audio versions of Patrick Henry’s “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech. The U.S. Civil War and World War I are the biggest sections, with hundreds of titles.
There’s also a “Children’s Bookshelf” that offers fairy tales, fiction books, school stories and more.
Project Gutenberg also needs help digitizing, proofreading and formatting, recording audio books, and reporting errors. People interested in helping can find more information on the website. They can help produce e-books by proof-reading just one page a day.
The website receives hundreds of thousands of downloads each day and several million each month.
But even now, 18 months after his retirement, there are things that happen in our daily lives that make me smile because I am certain they’re completely foreign to my friends who are married to “civilians.” These are 6 such things:
6. You’ve ever had to say, “don’t you knife hand me!”
I might say this at least once a week. Okay, once a day. That knife hand is fierce and even my 5-year-old will employ it from time to time. Oorah.
And even then, my husband is stressed out. After all, if you are on time, you’re late. I’m not mad at this one (most days). My teenager has also learned this life skill and will do just about anything not to be “on time.”
Even though he’s no longer active duty, we still have duffle bags, green socks that I swear multiply if they get wet after midnight, paracords, backpacks, and those little black, clicky pens. Everywhere. And don’t even think about trying to get rid of those green t-shirts. Just don’t do it.
3. Your spouse, before bedtime, says, “I’m gonna go check the perimeter.”
Firearm strapped to his hip, my husband will go check the perimeter just to make sure we are all safe. I love this, but I don’t think any of my non-military spouse friends get this level of security each night. I’ll take it.
2. When you can’t watch military films or TV shows…
We’ll settle in for a great movie or TV show that has something to do with the military. Then, like clockwork, he pauses the DVR. “First of all… that ribbon is in the wrong place. And look at those stripes! No way does an E-5 have that many years of service. Who is advising this film?!”
You know the one I am talking about. When a movie, TV show, or really great military-related commercial comes on and it touches your veteran. You look over and he/she is biting that bottom lip just slightly, eyes are welling a bit, but they are trying hard not to cry.
You realize it has reminded them of someone who didn’t come home or an experience they may never feel ready to share and you’re reminded of just how incredible your spouse is for signing on that line and agreeing to pay the ultimate price for our country.
And then you say a little prayer of thanks that your spouse is one of the lucky ones.
So, you’ve been navigating the vast ocean of civilian life, all while growing an impressive beard and wearing that veteran’s hat to places. Suddenly, one day, you get a letter — orders for Individual, Ready Reserve Muster. But at this point, you’ve been out for so long, and you’re wondering why they’re calling you back. Well, the Marine Corps wants to check in and make sure you’re still ready to be called back into active service should they need you back in the rain, dealing pain.
It may seem like an inconvenience and, sure, it might be, but it’s really not that bad. It’s only a few hours on the weekend, and you can choose to go in the morning or the afternoon. On top of that, you’ll get paid somewhere around $250, for three hours of time. You might show up and hear a bunch of fellow Marines complain, but it’s not a field op. It’s not raining. You just sit in a few rooms, fill out some paperwork, and then you’re on your way.
Overall, here’s what you can expect:
It almost brings a tear to your eye. Almost.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Lucas Vega)
You get treated like a human being
There’s going to be a ton of staff NCOs and officers hanging around muster. None of them are going to yell at you for your lack of shave, haircut, or proper greeting of the day. Not a single one will hit you with a, “hey there, Devil Dog,” just to chew your ass for not saying good morning.
Furthermore, when you talk to the admin clerks and other Marines running the muster, they won’t even require you to address them by rank. Here’s the thing: they know you’re a Marine, but they actually just treat you like another person, which is an improvement.
Waiting in lines
Did you expect anything different? Most of your time at muster will be spent in lines… go figure. Waiting to leave rooms, waiting to have someone look at a medical form, etc. You know the drill. Honestly, it’s not as bad as any other line you’ve been through in the Marines. Not even close.
The only thing that makes those lines bad is the fact that you’re trying to get out of there to go do civilian things, like eat real food, not shave, and not worry about formation.
It’s seriously not bad.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Daniel Hughes)
No, not your underpants — you know what we mean. You’re going to get two briefs for a max of, like, 20 minutes, tops. One is from the VA and the other is to tell you about your options in the Reserve. It’s definitely not anywhere near as bad as annual training briefs, which span the course of several days, and last for about eight hours each.
Right after you go through the briefs, you’ll fill out a medical form to list any ailments you may have. If you do have some medical issues, you’ll wait to go into a room for a screening where they’ll decide whether or not you’re still in good enough condition to deploy if necessary. Otherwise, you go straight to the administrative room.
It doesn’t take long, honestly.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Daniel Hughes)
This part probably takes the longest, and it’s mostly just waiting (again, go figure). You’re just there to verify that your contact information is correct as well as your Record of Emergency Data and other things. It’s just a quick scan, sign, date, and then you verify your bank information, turn in the paperwork, and you’re out of there.
A lot of other people might complain but, realistically, IRR Muster is not the worst thing you could do on a Saturday — especially when you compare it to your Saturdays spent as a Marine.
Late Tuesday night, June 5th, 2018, 1st Lt. Joshua Philip Yabut was charged with driving under the influence of drugs, felony evasion, and a felony count of unauthorized use of a military vehicle. He stands accused of stealing an M577 armored command vehicle from Fort Pickett and driving it into downtown Richmond, Virginia before surrendering to authorities.
The alleged joyride began around 7:50pm and ended at roughly 9:40pm. While these are serious crimes that will have serious consequences, the fact that there have been no reports of damage or injury to any civilians or property makes this okay to point out that this whole ordeal is actually really funny.
(Meme via Artillery Moments)
Yabut is the company commander of Headquarters Company, 276th Engineer Battalion and has served over 11 years in the military. He deployed to Afghanistan in 2008 with the Illinois National Guard.
This gives Yabut the perfect opportunity to not only crack jokes about him putting the “LT” in “LosT” and we’re certain that his zero-f*cks-given attitude can be traced back to his E-4 days.
Then there’s the actual act itself. The reason why many people are describing what was going on as a “joy ride” is because he was live tweeting the entire time, starting off the night with a tweet that (poetically) reads, “wutang clan ain’t nothin to f*ck wit booiiiiiiii.”
The day of, he also posted, “thinking about putting my packet in tbh.” And just a day earlier, he tweeted, “all i wanna do is get an anime wife.”
Already, there are many misconceptions floating around the case. Firstly, he was charged with driving under the influence of drugs, but it hasn’t be clarified exactly what he was on. He did have an M9 pistol, but it was his personally-owned weapon and there was no ammunition. And just to clarify things for civilians, the M577 is an armored, tracked vehicle — but it isn’t a tank.
Waltz explained that, while US Special Forces were trained and prepared as combat warriors, much of their work involved training, cultural understanding and psychological efforts to explain the messages of US freedom and humanity.
“Until America is prepared to have its grandchildren stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our grandchildren, we won’t be successful,” — Mullah Ghafoordai – tribal elder in Eastern Afghanistan
It was a profound and decisive moment – which seemed to reverberate throughout mountain villages in Eastern Afghanistan…… an anti-Taliban Afghan tribal elder told Green Beret Michael Waltz he could no longer cooperate with US Special Forces in the fight against insurgents in his country.
Waltz had spent months having tea with friendly Afghans and tribal leaders in the area and, he reports, made great progress with efforts to collaborate against the Taliban. They shared information, allowed US allied Afghan fighters to be trained by Green Berets and, in many cases, joined US forces in the fight.
The tribal elder’s comments were quite a disappointment for Waltz, who vigorously argues that the fight against the Taliban, terrorists and many insurgent groups around the world – will take 100 years to win.
Waltz recalled that President Obama’s 2009 announcement that the US would be withdrawing from Afghanistan by 2011, engendered new risk and danger for Afghans cooperating with US forces.
Although, in the same speech, Obama announced US troop numbers would increase by thousands in the near term, a declaration of an ultimate withdrawal created a strong impact upon friendly Afghans, Waltz said.
Obama’s announcement, which has been followed by subsequent efforts to further draw-down the US presence, changed the equation on the ground in Afghanistan, compromising the long-standing cooperation between the friendly Afghan tribal elder and Waltz’s team of Green Berets in fight against the Taliban, Waltz argued.
“It is going to take multiple generations of winning hearts and minds,” Waltz recalled, explaining his frustration and disappointment upon seeing a long-standing collaborative partnership collapse amid fear of Taliban retribution.
Although much has happened regarding permutation of the US-Afghan strategy since that time, and specifics of Obama’s intended withdrawal date subsequently changed, there has been an overall systematic reduction of US troops in recent years.
During July 6, 2016 U.S. President Obama said he would draw down troops to 8,400 by the end of his administration in December 2016; this approach greatly increased pressure on US Special Forces, relying even more intensely upon their role as trainers and advisors.
Green Berets had already been among the most-deployed US military units, often deploying as many as 10-times throughout the course of their career.
“Green Berets don’t easily ask for help and do not easily identify themselves as having an issue, but it is OK to say you have a problem. The Green Beret Foundation understands the mindset of “America’s Quiet Professionals”, and because of this, we are in a good position to help identify needs and render assistance,” Ret. Maj. Gen. David Morris, Chairman of the Board of the Green Beret Foundation, told Scout Warrior.
While there have been many who both supported and opposed Obama’s Afghanistan strategy, sparking years of ongoing debate, Waltz maintains that impact of the 2009 announcement upon the US Special Forces’ effort in Afghanistan brought lasting implications and spoke to a larger issue regarding US-Afghan policy.
“We are in a war of ideas and we are fighting an ideology. It is easy to bomb a tank, but incredibly difficult to bomb an idea. We need a long-term strategy that discredits the ideology of Islamic extremism,” Waltz added. “We are in a multi-decade war and we are only 15-years in.”
Waltz explained that, while US Special Forces were trained and prepared as combat warriors, much of their work involved training, cultural understanding and psychological efforts to explain the messages of US freedom and humanity.
“This was kind of the premise behind George W. Bush’s freedom agenda. These ideologies have narratives that specifically target disaffected young men who see no future for themselves or their families,” Waltz explained.
Some of the many nuances behind this approached were, quite naturally, woven into a broader, long-term vision for the country including the education of girls and economic initiatives aimed at cultivating mechanisms for sustainable Afghan prosperity.
The reality of a multi-faceted, broadly oriented counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan is the premise of Waltz’s book – “Warrior Diplomat,” which seeks to delineate key aspects of his time as a Green Beret.
The book chronicles this effort to attack Taliban fighters with so-called “kinetic” or intense combat techniques – alongside an equally intense commensurate effort to launch an entirely different type of attack.
Diplomatic or “non-kinetic” elements of the war effort involved what could be referred to as war-zone diplomacy, making friends with anti-Taliban fighters, learning and respecting Afghan culture, and teaching them how to succeed in combat.
“While Green Berets perform direct combat missions, their core mission as the only Unconventional Warfare unit in the US inventory, is to train, coach, teach and mentor others. A 12-man A-Team can train a force of 1,000 – 2,000 fighters and bring them up to an acceptable measure of combat readiness. If you stop and think about it, that is 1,000 to 2,000 of our sons and daughters who do not have to go to war because of this training,” Morris said.
Addressing the issue of cultural sophistication, Morris explained how Green Berets are required to demonstrate proficiency in at least one foreign language.
Citing the Taliban, ISIS and historic insurgent groups such as Peru’s Shining Path – and even the decades-long Cold War effort to discredit communism, Waltz emphasizes that the need for a trans-generational, wide-ranging approach of this kind is by no means unprecedented.
History is full of urban legends… The fog of war doesn’t fade when history’s most notorious monster and a gallant British soldier are on both ends of the story.
When British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain visited Adolf Hitler at Munich in 1938, he found the German dictator owned a reproduction of a painting by Italian artist Fortunino Matania. The painting depicts a British soldier at the Battle of Menin Crossroads in WWI carrying another to safety.
Chamberlain asked Hitler – a clearly firm German nationalist – why he would choose to have a painting depicting Germany’s WWI enemies in the Berghof, his mountain retreat. Hitler replied that the painting featured a soldier who spared his life in combat.
“That man came so near to killing me that I thought I should never see Germany again,” Hitler is alleged to have said. “Providence saved me from such devilish accurate fire as those English boys were aiming at us.”
That British soldier is believed to be Henry Tandey, a Victoria Cross recipient who remembers sparing a German soldier’s life at Marcoing. At just 27 years old, Tandey led a bayonet charge at Marcoing. He and his nine fellow Tommies took out a German machine gun nest and took 37 prisoners before sending the rest of the Germans in retreat.
Tandey fought in the First Battle Ypres in 1914 and the Somme in 1916, where he was wounded. He was out of the hospital in time for the Third Battle of Ypres in 1917, and in 1918, was at the capture of Marcoing, where he recalls sparing a German soldier’s life.
“I took aim but couldn’t shoot a wounded man,” Tandey remembered, “so I let him go.” Tandey said the German soldier nodded in thanks, and disappeared.
The accuracy of the story is disputed by historians. Though Hitler’s special interest in the painting is odd, he is known to have owned it as early as 1937, acquired from Tandey’s old regiment.
Historians argue that the faces of both men would likely have been unrecognizable, covered in mud and blood (and who-knows-what-else). They also argue that Hitler, even though he was a message runner, would have been up to 50 miles north of where Tandey was that day. Either that, or the future dictator was on leave.
Later, during WWII, a Coventry-based journalist approached the British WWI vet and asked him about the alleged encounter. As Tandey stood in front of his home, which had just been bombed by the Luftwaffe, Tandey said:
“If only I had known what he would turn out to be… When I saw all the people and women and children he had killed and wounded I was sorry to God I let him go.”