Alleen Cooper’s son Larry was serving in Vietnam during that war — and, like many mothers who children have served in wartime, she set him letters. Her son returned from the war, and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, but she hasn’t stopped writing.
In fact, according to WHNT.com, her son was not the first serviceman overseas to get a letter. She began writing troops during World War II.
“A lot of soldiers don’t get any mail at all,” Larry Cooper told WHNT.com, adding that Mrs. Cooper’s mission is personal.
According to WGNTV.com, since she started keeping count six years ago, Mrs. Cooper, a 98-year-old grandmother from California, has written over 7,000 letters by hand, and all of them have been unique and at least four pages long. And let’s just repeat the fact that she’s been doing this since World War II, folks.
Just prior to Memorial Day weekend, she connected with one of the servicemen she had written, Marine Staff Sgt. Chris Cantos. When Cantos deployed to Afghanistan in 2010, his unit had no internet access. Their only lifeline was what gets derisively called “snail mail.”
“She would always send us clippings and jokes. She would tell us about her day,” Cantos told WHNT.com.
One of the other troops who received a letter was a wounded soldier in the hospital. He had lost an ear, and needed to get a new one.
“All of the time I think of these people and their families at home,” Mrs. Cooper told WHNT.com.
These days, she will admit her hands are getting tired. But she will keep writing the troops for as long as she can.
The US Navy just released an impressive video of two of its aircraft carriers exercising in the Philippine Sea, but a new report from the US government said these massive floating air bases could be sitting ducks for Chinese missiles.
The USS Ronald Reagan and the USS John C. Stennis carrier strike groups conducted “high-end dual carrier operations” during the training in November 2018, a US Navy statement said.
The two carrier strike groups include guided-missile destroyers — meant to protect the carriers and other important assets — which trained with the carrier’s complex air, surface and antisubmarine warfare operations, according to the Navy.
The Navy said the exercise was dedicated to preserving a “free and open Indo-Pacific,” which has become code for countering Beijing’s growing dominance in the South China Sea.
Ships with the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group and John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group transit the Philippine Sea during dual carrier operations.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaila V. Peters)
But even with two massive carriers, eight other ships, and about 150 aircraft flying overhead, the US government itself strains to believe it can stop China from locking down the region.
“If the United States had to fight Russia in a Baltic contingency or China in a war over Taiwan, Americans could face a decisive military defeat,” a report from the National Defense Strategy Commission — a bipartisan panel of experts handpicked by Congress to evaluate the 2018 National Defense Strategy — explained.
The report specifically points to “China’s anti-access/area-denial capabilities,” or Beijing’s ability to use long-range missiles to keep US systems, like aircraft carriers, out of the combat zone.
These area-denial capabilities have taken aim at the US’ most expensive, most powerful, and most vulnerable systems: aircraft carriers.
China’s DF-21D “carrier killer” missile was specifically built to destroy aircraft carriers. While the carriers sail with guided-missile destroyers meant to protect them from incoming missile fires, there’s no guarantee they could block the carrier killers. Even if the destroyers could knock them down, China has a massive fleet of these missiles and could simply overwhelm the ships’ defensive arsenals.
The DF-21D has a range of about 800 miles, and with the max range of US Navy carrier aircraft tapping out at about 550 miles, China can force the US to either back down from a fight or risk losing a carrier.
“Detailed, rigorous operational concepts for solving these problems and defending U.S. interests are badly needed, but do not appear to exist,” the report wrote of the area-denial missiles and other threats to the US.
“Put bluntly, the U.S. military could lose the next state-versus-state war it fights,” the report concludes.
Here’s the video of the carriers training in the Philippine Sea:
[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2Fmedia%2Fthumbs%2Fframes%2Fvideo%2F1811%2F640845%2F1000w_q75.jpg&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fcdn.dvidshub.net&s=925&h=2dcfab797ffdb5ff92c7c524ab64c67e654febc489e12241cf73ae6c6f4e156e&size=980x&c=456130137 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252Fmedia%252Fthumbs%252Fframes%252Fvideo%252F1811%252F640845%252F1000w_q75.jpg%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fcdn.dvidshub.net%26s%3D925%26h%3D2dcfab797ffdb5ff92c7c524ab64c67e654febc489e12241cf73ae6c6f4e156e%26size%3D980x%26c%3D456130137%22%7D” expand=1]USS John C. Stennis and USS Ronald Reagan dual carrier strike force exercise.
Did the prime minister or the grunge icon say these things?
On the surface, the two have nothing in common. The Washington-born front man for Nirvana led the group to rock stardom. Eventually becoming known as “the flagship band” of Generation X, and Cobain as “the spokesman of a generation.”
On the other hand, Sir Winston Churchill served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and led Britain to victory over Nazi Germany during World War II. Both Cobain and Churchill were student of literature — Cobain a poet and Churchill a writer. Churchill was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953 for his overall, lifetime body of work.
Besides their different walks of life, the two seem to have a similar outlook. We gathered some of their most famous quotes to make this quiz. Can you guess who said what?
The purpose of combat is to deny the enemy control an area by inflicting the largest loss of life possible. When a friendly troop is wounded on the battlefield, the first step in first aid is to remove the enemy through violence or repel them long enough to retrieve the Marine and bring them to safety. This is the primary reason why Corpsmen have a rifle – to protect their patient during Tactical Field Care. The best thing a Marine can do to immediately help a casualty is kill the aggressor.
An Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK) is to be used on yourself, not for others. Therefore, every troop is issued an IFAK and must wear them consistent with their battalion’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). First Aid and Combat Life Saver drills are regularly trained in the infantry to the point where they can be done in the dark. Additional items can be added but these essentials cannot be taken out.
Marines across all ranks are trained in the use of these items, considerations and prevention of common mistakes when employing these medical devices. Certified training and practical application are supervised to prevent injury from improper use in training. So, if you are a civilian, do not just grab an IFAK and start practicing on your family.
This typically applies to life threatening bleeding from an extremity. Amputations, severe lacerations, gunshot wounds can all be treated quickly and effectively using a tourniquet. This is the only medical treatment performed if there is still a threat present. If there is no threat present, junctional wounds can be packed with gauze or a hemostatic agent to control bleeding.
To help keep the wound clean and minimize contamination, gloves are provided in all IFAKs to be used by the person treating the owner of the IFAK.
For sterilization and cleaning of an area.
To treat minor wounds.
Used to secure other items provided in an IFAK.
When applied to a wound, causes the wound to develop a clot that will stop the flow of blood and will remain within the wound until removed by medical personnel…Combat Gauze is a 3×4 inch roll of sterile gauze that is impregnated with kaolin, which helps promote blood clotting…The combination of sterile gauze and proprietary inorganic material allows Combat Gauze to be non-allergenic.
Field Medical Training Battalion, Camp Pendleton, CA, Combat Lifesaver/Tactical Combat Casualty Care Student Handout
Back in 2009 when I first entered the fleet, IFAKs contained Quickclot, which was used to heat seal open wounds in conjunction with bandages. I remember my Corpsman saying that it caused additional problems during surgery for the casualty. The controversial use of Quickclot also brought up chemical concerns. By 2010, Quickclot was phased out and Combat Gauze was used to stop the bleeding by packing a wound with as many as needed to create a clot. Combat Gauze can also be used to make a pressure dressing.
A Triangular Bandage can be used as a sling or improvised as a tourniquet. It can be adapted to be used as the Combat Life Saver Handout states “The only limitations are on the CLS’s (Combat Life Saver) imagination.”
Used to treat burn injuries
The H bandage is used to treat bleeding wounds and abdominal wounds. It has a bigger pad and a longer dressing to be able to wrap around the patient. It has a H shaped clasp to allow better cinching to provide pressure, thus the name.
Used for cleaning and water purification.
Additional supplies not provided in an IFAK:
You read that right. Corpsman are known to carry around tampons because they are really good at absorbing blood. The first time a Marine sees a Corpsman pull one out there is usually a giggle. That is, until the Corpsman tells said Marine it’s for bullet wounds. No more giggles.
Feature image: U.S. Marine Corps/ Sgt. Justin Huffy
American tankers were slightly late to the armored game, historically. Britain first rolled out the tank in the Battle of the Somme in 1916, before America even joined the war. In fact, America wasn’t even able to get its first tank, the M1917, to production in time to fight in World War I.
But America came roaring back in World War II with pioneers of armored doctrine, including the first American tank officer, George S. Patton. Since then, tanks have had a respected place in the pantheon of American combat arms. Today, tankers drive the M1 Abrams tanks into battle. Here’s what makes them so lethal.
Abrams tanks are highly mobile, capable of propelling themselves at speeds of over 40 mph despite their approximately 68 short tons of weight. That weight goes even higher if the tank is equipped with protection kits like the Tank Urban Survival Kit (TUSK).
Once it gets within range of its target, the Abrams crew can fire their 120mm smoothbore cannon, the M256A1. The cannon can use a variety of ammunition including high-explosive, anti-tank (HEAT) ammo; canister rounds that are basically tank-sized shotgun shells; and sabot rounds, depleted uranium darts that shoot through armor and turn into a fast-moving cloud of razor-sharp, white-hot bits of metal inside the enemy tank.
Marines with 1st Tank Battalion fire the M1A1 Abrams tank during the 11th Annual Tank Gunnery Competition at Range 500, Feb. 20, 2016. The competition was divided into six segments to test the skills of the tank crewmen. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Ali Azimi)
These tank rounds make short work of most enemy tanks, but they’re also heavy. Loaders have to move them from storage racks to the gun by hand, and each round weighs between 40 and 51 pounds.
A pallet full of 120mm rounds sit waiting to be loaded and fired from the M1A2 tanks during gunnery. Considering that just one 120mm round weighs roughly 50 pounds, an entire 14-tank company is a force to be reckoned with. (Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Leah Kilpatrick)
While Abrams can survive open warfare, crews prefer to hide and maneuver their tanks into better position as often as possible to protect the tank from enemy infantry, armor, and air assets. Covering the tank in local camouflage is a good first step, and using the terrain to mask movement is important as well.
Concealment is tricky in a tank, but it increases survivability and allows the tanks to conduct ambushes.
Army and Marine Corps logistics officers have to work hard to ensure the heavy tanks can always be deployed where they are needed. While Abrams can be airlifted, its much cheaper to ship them by boat.
When it would be dangerous or too expensive to drive the tanks to their objective, they can be loaded onto trains or special trucks for delivery.
But the most impressive way to deliver an Abrams is still definitely driving it off a plane.
The tanks can operate in most environments, everything from snow-covered plains…
An M1A2 Abrams Tanks belonging to 1st Battalion, 68th Armored Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade, 4th Infantry Division fires off a round Jan. 26, 2017 in Trzebien, Poland. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Corinna Baltos)
…to scrub-covered plains…
Marines with Company A, 4th Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, fire a M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank during their annual training at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., July 19, 2016. Marines fired the tanks to adjust their battle sight zero before the main event of their annual training. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Gabrielle Quire)
…to sandy deserts.
An M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank fires suppressive rounds at targets during Hammer Strike, a brigade level live-fire exercise conducted by the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, at the Udairi Range Complex near Camp Buehring, Kuwait. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Christopher Johnston)
To make sure they can always get to the target, tank units sometimes bring specially equipped engineers with them. The Assault Breacher Vehicle is built on the M1 chassis but features a number of tools for breaking through enemy obstacles rather than a large number of offensive weapons.
The front of the breacher is a plow that can cut through enemy berms, creating a path for tanks.
An Assault Breacher Vehicle drives through a lane in a berm during breaching exercises aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Dec. 8, 2016. Marines with 2nd Tank Battalion along with 2nd CEB worked together to conduct breaching exercises in which they provided support fire while Assault Breacher Vehicles eliminated tank pits and created a lane in which tanks may safely travel, aboard Camp Lejeune, Dec. 8-10, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Preston McDonald)
The main purpose of the plow is to scoop up and either detonate or remove enemy mines. Mines that don’t go off are channeles to the sides of the path, creating a clear lane for following tanks.
An Assault Breacher Vehicle uses its mine plow in order to scan the surrounding area for potential threats during breaching exercises aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Dec. 8, 2016. Marines with 2nd ank Battalion along with 2nd CEB worked together to conduct breaching exercises in which they provided support fire while Assault Breacher Vehicles eliminated tank pits and created a lane in which tanks may safely travel, aboard Camp Lejeune, Dec. 8-10, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Preston McDonald)
The breacher vehicles can quickly create a lane through IEDs by firing one of their Mine-Clearing Line Charges, a rocket-towed rope of explosive cord that explodes approximately 7,000 pounds of C4, triggering IEDs and mines.
The M1 Abrams is still a titan of the battlefield, allowing tankers to be some of the most lethal soldiers and Marines in any conflict.
Marines from Company C, 1st Tank Battalion, prepare their tank for the day’s attack on Range 210 Dec. 11, 2012, during Steel Knight 13. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. D. J. Wu)
Less than 900 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival recipients are serving in the military, and the Pentagon has no idea what will happen to them.
President Donald Trump officially declared an end Sept. 5 to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program initiated by the Obama administration to allow illegals to remain and work in the country without fear of deportation, but what that rollback means for the military is still up in the air. The program’s protections will begin being phased out in six months, but DACA recipients whose permits expire before March 2018 can renew for another two-year period.
For now, the Pentagon is working closely with the Department of Homeland Security to find out what this policy change will mean for DACA recipients currently in the military. Out of 800,000 DACA recipients, the Pentagon said that less than 900 are currently serving in the military.
“There are less than 900 individuals currently serving in the military, or have signed contracts to serve, who are recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival authorization,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Paul Haverstick told The Daily Caller News Foundation in a statement. “These individuals are part of the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest Pilot Program. The Department of Defense is coordinating with the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security regarding any impact a change in policy may have for DACA recipients. The Department defers to our colleagues at DHS on questions related to immigration, naturalization, or citizenship.”
Those with DACA status have been allowed to enlist in the military since 2014 through the MAVNI program.
A total of 10,400 immigrants who have made it through MAVNI have received US citizenship, but MAVNI has been put on hold as of last year.
In an op-ed for The Washington Post published Sept. 4, former Obama administration Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said that if DACA ends, soldiers who are part of the program could be deported immediately. Panetta argued that GOP Sen. John McCain should allow the bipartisan Dream Act to be added to the annual defense bill, which would give illegal aliens a pathway to citizenship.
The pilot of a stricken Sukhoi Su-25 “Frogfoot” close-air support plane blew himself up with a grenade rather than be captured by an affiliate of the radical Islamic terrorist group, al-Qaeda. The action now has Russian Air Force Major Roman Filipov up to receive the Hero of Russia award.
According to a report by the Daily Mirror, Filipov had briefly engaged the terrorists with a Stechkin machine pistol, killing two of them, before realizing he was about to be captured. He then defiantly shouted, “This is for my guys!” and pulled the pin on the grenade.
TheDrive.com reported that the Su-25 had been shot down by a man-portable, surface-to-air missile. Though the exact type of missile is unknown, it was likely one of several types.
Last year, the economic and political instability in Venezuela resulted in advanced Russian-made SA-24 “Grinch” surface-to-air missiles appearing on the black market. TheAviationist.com reported that the missile in question might have also been a Chinese-made FN-6 surface-to-air missile. The FN-6, which entered service in 1999, has a maximum range of about 3.25 nautical miles and a top speed of almost 1,300 kilometers per hour. It has infra-red guidance and is man-portable.
These shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles are also known as man-portable air-defense systems, or MANPADS.
This is not the first time that the Su-25 has faced the MANPADS threat. During the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, the United States sent the FIM-92 Stinger surface-to-air missile to Afghan rebels. Russia lost almost 450 aircraft during that conflict, with the Stinger getting credit for a number of those kills.
According to MilitaryFactory.com, the Su-25 Frogfoot entered service in 1981. In addition to Afghanistan, it also saw action in the Iran-Iraq War and the Second Chechen War, among other conflicts.
There’s a reason Navy carrier pilots are so cocky.
Their jobs would be challenging if they were just steering small hunks of metal through the air at high speed in combat, but they also take off and land on huge floating hunks of metal moving at low speed through the waves.
In this video from PBS, the already challenging task of landing on a floating deck gets worse in rough seas. With large waves striking the USS Nimitz, the flight deck pitches dozens of feet up and down, making the pilots’ jobs even harder.
Assets like the S-400 air-defense system — believed to be able to target aircraft from as far as 250 miles away, even the latest stealth aircraft — have been set up around Kaliningrad, which is Russia’s exclave on the Baltic Sea, further south on the Crimean Peninsula and around the Black Sea, and on the Syrian coast, which provides a base from which to reach into the eastern Mediterranean.
Surface-to-air missile systems deployed around Kaliningrad, which is tucked between Poland and Lithuania, were “layered in a way that makes access to that area difficult,” retired Air Force Gen. Frank Gorenc told The New York Times in January 2016, when he was head of the US Air Force in Europe and Africa.
“There are varying degrees of capabilities” at each of those sites, Ben Hodges, who led the US Army in Europe before retiring as a lieutenant general at the end of 2017, told Business Insider at the beginning of November 2018.
“But the one in Kaliningrad and the one in Crimea are the most substantial, with air- and missile-defense and anti-ship missiles and several thousands of troops” from Russia’s army, navy, and air force, Hodges said. “That’s part of creating an arc of A2/AD, if you will.”
Russian state media said another battalion of S-400 missiles had assumed combat duty in Crimea at the end of November 2018, amid a state of increased tension with Ukraine over a violent encounter between their navies in the Black Sea.
Other air-defense systems, including the less advanced but highly capable S-300, are deployed in the region, including in the Black and Baltic seas. Other deployed A2/AD assets include coastal missile batteries firing anti-ship missiles.
When those systems — long embraced by Moscow to counter NATO’s technical and numerical superiority at sea and in the air — are paired with electronic-warfare and radar systems, the concern is they could limit NATO’s freedom of movement, especially in situations short of all-out war, when offensive options are restrained.
But “the alliance is alive to these challenges” and would “be prepared to use all the different things that would be required” in response to them, Hodges said, without elaborating.
Russian S-400 Triumph launch vehicle.
Navy Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, who recently took over the Navy’s newly reestablished Second Fleet, which oversees the eastern half of the Atlantic Ocean, echoed Hodges during an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Nov. 28, 2018.
“Without going into things I shouldn’t talk about, I’m confident that we can operate in an A2/AD environment, in a contested environment,” Lewis said when asked about Kaliningrad and A2/AD. “In fact, I know we can.”
“I know we can with our carrier force. I know we can with our surface force. We have a very clear way of doing that. It is based upon maneuver,” he added. “It’s based upon physical maneuver. It’s based upon maneuver in the spectrum, and it’s based upon our ability to keep quiet when it’s time to keep quiet and talk when it’s time to talk.”
There was still room for improvement, Lewis said, but he was confident US forces could get there.
“That’s something that we’re really, really focused on, and we have been focused on for a number of years now, and we’re getting a lot better.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Russia is seeking to undermine European democracies and sow doubt in the West through malign activities and a “fog of lies,” the head of Britain’s domestic spy agency has told European intelligence chiefs.
In a May 14, 2018 address in Berlin, MI5 chief Andrew Parker said that Russia was carrying out “aggressive and pernicious actions” and risks becoming an “isolated pariah.”
Parker’s address to the gathering hosted by Germany’s BfV domestic intelligence service was the first public speech outside Britain by a serving head of the agency.
Parker said that a March 2018 nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia was a “deliberate and targeted malign activity” on British soil, and one of Moscow’s “flagrant breaches of international rules.”
London has blamed Moscow for the poisoning of Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence operative who became an informant for Britain’s MI6 foreign spy service, in the first use of a nerve agent in Europe since World War II.
Skripal and his daughter were both found unconscious on a bench in the English city of Salisbury on March 4, 2018. Moscow has repeatedly rejected the accusation that it was behind the attack.
Parker also condemned what he called a disinformation campaign mounted by Russia following the attack.
He said there was a need “to shine a light through the fog of lies, half-truths, and obfuscation that pours out of their propaganda machine.”
Skripal, 66, remains in the hospital. His daughter Yulia, 33, and a British police officer injured in the attack have both been discharged from hospital, while an investigation to identify the culprits is under way.
Parker also thanked the international community for its joint response to the incident, with 18 out of 28 European countries agreeing to support Britain in expelling scores of Russian diplomats.
The MI5 chief also said that the Russian occupation and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula cannot be acceptable and neither is meddling in Western elections.
Parker also stressed the importance of post-Brexit security ties, warning that Europe faces an intense and unrelenting terrorist threat.
The extremist group Islamic State is plotting “devastating and more complex attacks,” Parker said.
“The security challenges we are facing are stark, but we will counter them together,” he concluded.
On Sunday, North Korea launched a missile into the Sea of Japan for the first time since US President Donald Trump took office.
South Korean officials told Reuters that the missile, a land-based adaptation of the submarine-launched KN-11, doesn’t have the range to strike the US but has another trait that’s just as troubling, if not more: solid fuel.
North Korean missiles usually rely on liquid fuel and have to be gassed up similar to how you’d fill up a car.
North Korea, like many nuclear powers, mounts its nuclear-capable missiles on trucks.
Road-mobile missile launchers can hide easier, launch from almost anywhere, and take an enemy by surprise — but liquid fuel complicates all that.
To launch a liquid-fueled missile, a giant convoy of military trucks must drive out to a location, fuel up the rocket with the multiple types of fuel for the different stages of launch, and then fire away. This requires dozens of trucks and associated military personnel. Such a large-scale deployment is much harder to conceal from a vigilant foe.
“Liquid-fueled missiles are more vulnerable to tracking and preemptive strikes. Solid-fueled ballistic missiles are not fueled on site and therefore pose more of a threat, because solid-fueled ballistic missiles require less support and can be deployed more quickly,” Kelsey Davenport, the director of nonproliferation policy and a North Korea expert at the Arms Control Association, told Business Insider.
With a missile like the one tested on Sunday, North Korea could simply park a truck and let it fly.
That’s exactly what the video of its latest launch shows:
“Another striking feature of the test was the transport erector launcher that was used to launch the missile. Images indicate that it ran on treads rather than wheels,” Davenport said. “This allows North Korea to move its missiles through more difficult terrains.”
To counter such a sneaky launcher, an adversary would have to spend extensively on surveillance and recon technology.
So while North Korea remains without an ICBM to directly threaten the US mainland, its successful launch of a solid-fueled missile means it has developed a destabilizing technology that could strike US military bases, South Korea, or Japan with a moment’s notice.
RMS Titanic in Southampton England April 9, 1912 (Wikimedia Commons).
Who has never been daunted by the idea of packing gear for an extended field op? You have to make a list of everything you will need or you think you will need, you have to make sure that your gear’s weight is what the S-3 says it’s supposed to weigh, everything has to fit. When it’s only for leave, your life doesn’t depend on these preparations. You might get chewed out, but you rarely run the risk to freeze to death or turn to cannibalism.
However, when it comes to exploration, expeditions, adventures and other journeys, preparedness is everything. In the most remote corners of the planet, what you carry is all you have, and every decision can be a matter of life or death. Indiana Jones, with his bullwhip, Fedora hat, and roguish charms, might make exploration look easy, but it takes a lot more than an impish smile and witty replies to survive through those expeditions. It requires planning, knowledge, grit and leadership to be a successful adventurer. Some expeditions made it, leading to great discoveries and the retreat of the world’s frontiers. Proper prior planning prevents piss-poor performance, as it is said in the Corps.
It might seem strange to imagine that Christopher Columbus, a man celebrated for opening an entire continent to European exploration, might have led a failed expedition. However, it makes a lot more sense when we know that the proposed aim of the expedition that reached the Americas in 1492 was actually to reach the Indian subcontinent, then known as the East Indies, by sailing westward and circumnavigating the globe. Also, we cannot say that his voyage was a failure, but the lack of knowledge regarding world geography was sure to stand in the way of his first purpose. At first, he was so sure to have reached his destination that he called the natives “Indians.” Although he travelled four times to the Americas, he never reached India.
The Burke and Wills Expedition
What happens when you combine a man with no experience of life in the Australian bush and an exploration commission? An unmitigated disaster. In 1860, the Australian government was offering a reward of 2000 pounds to whoever would cross the continent north to south. The Royal Society of Victoria organized an expedition of 19 men, led by Robert Burke and William Wills. However, the interior of the Australian continent was largely unknown to non-natives. The expedition was ill-prepared for the challenges they would face. Scorching temperatures would reach 122°F in December. Not to mention the severe vitamin B and C deficiency caused by a lack of knowledge on the local flora. Monsoon rains and rough terrain allowed only one man to survive the return trip.
The Darien Scheme
This is a failed venture that almost bankrupted an entire country. In order to compete against England’s trading power at the end of the 17th century, Scotland tried to establish a colony that would serve as a trading post on the Isthmus of Panama. It rested on the Gulf of Darién, a region that is considered one of the deadliest on Earth. Plagued with poor planning and poor leadership, the scheme was set for failure. Due to epidemics, poor provisioning and a lack of demand for goods, the English and the Spanish Empires came together to ensure the doom of the colony. When the few survivors returned to Scotland, they were often shunned by their families, as the failure of the expedition led to the near financial ruin of the entire country.
The Terra Nova Expedition
In 1910, two rival expeditions were vying to reach the South Pole first. One, led by experienced Norwegian explorer Roal Amundsen, managed to reach its objective on the Dec. 14, 1911. However, in contrast to that team’s relatively smooth trip, the team led by British Captain Robert Falcon Scott went through Hell and never came back from it. The difference came down to planning and preparation.
The British mindset at that time had some very precise, rigid ideas about what was and wasn’t appropriate. Dogs were a no. For Scott, sled dogs were not a grand enough way to travel, unlike horses. Moreover, he didn’t train his men to ski prior to the journey, he took five men when he had packed for four, mishandled the fuel and wrongly marked the return route. The team eventually made it to the South Pole, over a month after Amundsen’s expedition, but none of them survived the return trip.
The Titanic was a tale of hubris. The ship was unsinkable… yet, it sunk on its maiden voyage on April 15, 1912. At the time, it was the biggest ship afloat, not only in length but also in weight. It was nearly twice as heavy as the second biggest ship. Confident in the size of the ship despite its flawed design, its engineers thought it would be enough to withstand any collision or weather conditions, so they allowed themselves to skimp on safety measures.
In the example made famous by the movie, the Titanic only carried 20 lifeboats, which only allowed room for 1178 passengers. It was more than was legally required, but it was still not enough for the 3327 people it could take on board. As a result, out of the 2224 passengers and crew who were part of its maiden voyage, over 1500 died. To date, it is still the deadliest sinking of a cruise ship in times of peace.
For the first time since its meteoric rise in 2012 amid the chaos of war, al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria is in retreat, battling rival militant groups in the north and fighting for survival in a key foothold near the capital, Damascus.
Over the past three weeks, the extremist group has been driven from nearly all of the northern province of Aleppo, losing dozens of fighters in battles there and in nearby Idlib province.
The fighting poses a major challenge to the militant group, already beset by infighting and a string of assassinations that have taken out some of its top leaders. Unlike previous battles in which al-Qaeda-linked fighters were able to quickly crush their opponents, the fighting has been particularly fierce, with the militants losing dozens of villages.
The al-Qaeda-linked coalition known as the Levant Liberation Committee is still one of Syria’s most powerful armed groups, with fighters numbering in the thousands.
While the U.S.-led coalition and Russian-backed Syrian troops have focused on driving the Islamic State group from the country’s east, the al-Qaeda-linked group has consolidated its control over Idlib, where it remains the strongest force despite its recent losses there.
After the defeat of IS, al-Qaeda is seen as the main jihadi group that rejects any peace talks to try to end Syria’s seven-year conflict. Its presence in northern Syria and in the Damascus suburbs of eastern Ghouta has provided a pretext for President Bashar Assad and his Russian backers to wage war against opposition-held territory, since various de-escalation and cease-fire agreements have excluded al-Qaeda.
Several hundred al-Qaeda fighters holed up in eastern Ghouta have become a burden to the armed opposition battling government forces there, which has pressed the extremists to leave the area for their stronghold in Idlib in order to avoid the current crushing offensive.
The group’s presence has also raised concern in nations from Turkey to the United States that fear the global network founded by Osama bin Laden could use its presence in northern Syria to launch terrorist attacks around the world.
The recent fighting appears to have been triggered by the February 2018 assassination of a senior al-Qaeda official, Abu Ayman al-Masri, who was riding in a car with his wife when members of a rival militant group, Nour el-Din el-Zinki, fired on their vehicle, killing al-Masri and wounding his wife.
The killing led to battles in Aleppo and Idlib that have raged for the past three weeks.
The shooting was preceded by the merger of Nour el-Din el-Zinki and the ultraconservative Ahrar al-Sham, both former al-Qaeda allies now turned enemies.
Amid the recent battles, the new coalition, the Syria Liberation Front, has forced the al-Qaeda fighters to retreat west to Idlib.
The insurgents say that the war against al-Qaeda will not stop until the jihadi group is crushed in Syria — an ambitious goal. It is also a striking statement, considering the rival groups once turned to al-Qaeda’s experienced and battle-hardened fighters for support in the battle against Assad’s forces.
Yazan Mohammed, a media activist based in Idlib province, said that although al-Qaeda has lost some territory in the recent fighting, the group is far from being defeated.
The al-Qaeda fighters are “not scouts. They are an organized and powerful group,” Mohammed said.
In recent years, tens of thousands of rebels and civilians from around the country have fled to Idlib or been forced there by government troops, raising concerns that the presence of al-Qaeda will give the government a pretext to storm the province under the cover of Russian airstrikes as it has elsewhere, including in Aleppo in late 2016 and in the current offensive in the eastern suburbs of Damascus.
Brett McGurk, the top U.S. envoy for the coalition battling IS, said in 2017 that Idlib is the largest al-Qaeda haven since bin Laden’s days in Afghanistan.
“This war will not stop,” said Bassam Haji Mustafa, a senior official with the Nour el-Din el-Zinki group. “This is a real war against al-Qaeda, its extremist ideas and terrorism.”
After the recent battlefield losses, a senior al-Qaeda commander, Abu Yaqzan al-Masri, released an audio asserting the militant group will soon crush the offensive and the focus will again be “to fight infidels,” an apparent reference to the West.
The commander’s comments coincided with a counteroffensive in which the al-Qaeda affiliate regained some villages it had lost earlier, although its presence in Aleppo province has almost ceased to exist.
Local activists said the al-Qaeda counteroffensive was backed by members of the Turkistan Islamic Party, a powerful group consisting mostly of jihadis from China’s Turkic-speaking Uighur minority.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks Syria’s seven-year conflict, says the fighting that broke out on Feb. 20, 2018, has killed 223 fighters on both sides, including 132 from al-Qaeda’s affiliate.
Despite losing dozens of villages in the recent battles, it is unlikely that al-Qaeda will be defeated easily in Idlib, where the militants have crushed many of their opponents in recent years.
“They will not be able to defeat the Committee,” said Abu Dardaa al-Shami, who sometimes fights with the al-Qaeda affiliate but refused to take part in the current battles, saying he only fights against government forces.