This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields - We Are The Mighty
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This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee | Airman Online


Music from a fife and drums rang in the ears of a father and son as they sat around the campfire. Brian E. Withrow and his 14-year-old son, Josh, talked with fellow re-enactors, also clad in Union blue, the night before their first re-enactment at the Battle of Cedar Creek in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.

Now and then, the discussion turned to times on the battlefield when the re-enactor could almost feel as if he was actually walking in the boots of a Civil War Soldier.

Fifteen years later, the Withrow duo are back in camp at the same Virginia battlefield, except the son is now a 29-year-old re-enactment veteran, and the father plays a commanding general’s assistant chief of staff . What hasn’t changed is their shared love of history, and the one thing that has kept them returning to re-enactment battlefields is the search for those special times when they feel almost transported back in time. They call those times “Civil War moments.”

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee | Airman Online

“An example was at the 145th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, and we were doing the battle through the cornfield,” said Brian, a retired lieutenant colonel and munitions officer. “It was early morning, still dark, with just the glimpses of light coming up. There was a mist over the field. The artillery was firing, and I could see the blasts from their muzzles.

“In front of me, the very first wave of federal soldiers was given the command to go into the cornfield. For that brief moment, there were no telephone poles, no vehicles. There was just the cannon fire and musketry fire with one of the just-right conditions and glimpses that give you that moment of, ‘Wow! That must have been what it was like.'”

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee | Airman Online

An interest in U.S. history from his youth led Brian to consider the re-enactment hobby when he was stationed at the Pentagon in 1997, with the numerous Civil War battlefields in Maryland and Virginia. Josh shared the love of history, so the two attended re-enactments together as spectators until his father asked him if he would like to try the hobby with him. They watched the 136th anniversary re-enactment of the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia in 1999, and after talking to re-enactors in the 3rd U.S. Infantry, Company B, they decided to join the unit.

Josh was still two years away from his 16th birthday, so he wasn’t able to carry a weapon at their first re-enactment at Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park later that year, but as it turned out, he was right where the action was. In the Battle of Cedar Creek in the fall of 1864, forces led by Gen. Jubal Early over-ran federal forces, although Union Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan later made his famous ride to lead a rout of the Confederates, which helped the Union crush the resistance in the Shenandoah.

“I was too young to carry a gun, and I didn’t have any shoes that would fit me, so I had to stay in the tent while my dad went to take the field,” Josh said. “But, of course, the battle came to me. I was sitting there inside the tent, while there were two rows of infantry firing at each other around me, and it’s lighting up with the gunpowder. It was so dark outside, and all you could see were the flashes of the muzzles of the guns. It was just one of the coolest things I’d ever seen, and we were thinking, ‘We are going to keep on doing this.'”

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee | Airman Online

Brian’s interest in re-enacting began with a question about his ancestors’ role in the Civil War. Through his research and participation in re-enactments, he was able to correct what the family believed about an ancestor who fought and died in the war. For years, the family’s oral history showed that George Dugan, a private in the 10th Illinois Infantry, died in a Confederate prison in Andersonville, Georgia. By the time he’d participated in the 150th anniversary re-enactment of the Battle of Bentonville, North Carolina, Brian had learned he actually died in action there, a fact he didn’t know when he attended the same battle as a private 10 years earlier.

“I now have a personal connection,” Brian said. “Not only had he died there, but fortunately for my family line, he had a son who ended up being my great great-grandfather.”

A glance at the uniforms in a closet in the family home in Stafford, Virginia, shows the variety of ranks Brian portrays in his hobby. He plays the role of Union Soldiers, as well as those from the Revolutionary War, from the ranks of private all the way up to the commanding general of the Union Army. After he retired from the Air Force, Brian let his beard grow, which coupled with the cigar he often has in his mouth in camp, gives him a resemblance to a U.S. history legend, Gen. (and former President) Ulysses S. Grant.

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee | Airman Online

While on the board of directors that created the Stafford Civil War Park, Brian portrayed a colonel in the 55th Ohio Infantry at the grand opening in 2013, and spectators saw the beard and cigar and mistook him for Grant. The mistaken identity kept happening at subsequent reenactments and historical events, even to the point where Confederate re-enactment forces “captured” him, thinking they’d caught the overall Union commander. He was eventually asked to portray Grant for the 150th anniversary re-enactments in 2011 and 2012.  Brian impersonates the famous general for the Civil War Impressionists Association in annual events at the National Mall in Washington and at numerous Civil War historic sites.

“I’m still a private in Company K of the 3rd U.S. Infantry, so I still go out and do events as an infantry private,” Brian said. “Then again, I can put on three stars, and I can be the commanding general. I can play a private or the general-in-chief with equal enthusiasm.”

When he began the hobby, Brian had no interest in portraying an officer. He was still on active duty, and he wanted to experience a taste of a Union private’s daily life. However, after his Air Force retirement six years ago, he had an opportunity to join the Army of the Potomac headquarters staff as a guidon bearer for the command officer, which was appealing to him because of his love for horses, and in the past year he’s served as the commander’s assistant chief of staff.

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee | Airman Online

The night before the re-enactment at Cedar Creek, Brian was also promoted to brigadier general and will transition into the role of the staff’s commanding officer.

Serving as an officer in a Civil War re-enactment unit is obviously completely different from an active-duty career. For example, there is no Uniform Code of Military Justice to keep them bound to the unit or to commander’s orders. Still, Brian has found common ground between the two. Safety, self-aid and buddy care, and survival training, as well as his logistics knowledge from a career in munitions, have all come into play at different times in the field. Also, Soldiers in the 19th century operated on a code that wasn’t too different from the Air Force Core Values.

“From my research, I can’t say that they had what they called core values,” he said. “But clearly, in particular, the Soldiers who had been trained formally through the military academies during that time period, had a value system based on personal honor and morality. I think those attributes defined what it meant ideally to be a good Soldier then, and those traditions from our early American military experience are what evolved into what we call our core values now.”

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee | Airman Online

For just a few days, re-enactors like the Withrows not only try to help re-create historic battles, but also get a taste of the living experiences Soldiers on both sides endured in the Civil War. Along with the bonding experiences when they swap war stories and glimpses of their lives with fellow re-enactors, they also sometimes experience some harsh conditions. They faced below freezing weather at the Battle of Sailor’s Creek in April, and there was the other extreme, where they faced temperatures above 100 degrees with elevated humidity at the 150th Battle of First Manassas in July 2011.

“We got just a little taste of some of the environmental conditions these Soldiers went through,” Brian said. “The difference was we came out and may experience some of those conditions for a weekend. That gives you an appreciation for the fact that these guys did this week on end, month on end, on forced marches of 10 to 15 miles, summertime and wintertime. Again, we get this little glimpse, just a little taste of what they may have experienced.”

These days, it is difficult for both father and son to make every battle as they were able to do when Josh was younger. He’s not able to attend most re-enactments because of his schedule as a legislative affairs manager for Freedom Works in Washington. Since his father retired, his schedule as a government employee at Fort Belvoir also keeps him busy. But their love of the hobby remains as strong as it was around that campfire 15 years ago. Hearing the fife and drums still sounds sweet to their ears.

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Congress and the Air Force are in a tiff over who will manage a space war

The Air Force is mired in a political war on multiple fronts. on one side, it’s fighting new legislation to create a “Space Corps,” on the other, it’s feuding with other service branches over who will take the lead on space operations.


House lawmakers advanced a proposal in late June to hand the Air Force’s current responsibilities outside of Earth’s atmosphere over to a newly-created Corps. The Corps would serve as a unified authority over satellites and spacecraft under U.S. Strategic Command.

The legislation would establish a new U.S. Space Command and make the new chief of the Space Corps the eighth member of the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
A remote block change antenna designated as POGO-Charlie, operated by Detachment 1, 23rd Space Operations Squadron at Thule Air Base, Greenland July 26, 2016. Detachment 1 provides vital support to Schriever and the Air Force Satellite Control Network, providing telemetry, tracking and command technologies. (Courtesy Photo)

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson opposes a Space Corps on grounds it would make the military “more complex, add more boxes to the organization chart and cost more money.” The Navy is also opposed to a Space Corps, but only because they want to take a lead role in space operations, arguing they could resemble operations at sea.

The inter-service feud over future space operations has experts thinking about whether or not any branch of the U.S. military is prepared to lead in that theater.

“The challenge here is that neither service is 100 percent ready to fight a true war in space,” Harry J. Kazianis, director of defense studies at the Center for the National Interest, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “While the Air Force and Navy have assets that certainly have applications towards space, waging war in what is still technically a new and challenging domain is asking a lot.”

The military uses satellites for a variety of tasks from navigation to spying and missile defense. Threats against satellites have largely been an afterthought in today’s asymmetric wars against technologically-lacking terror cells, according to a report published in August by the U.S. National Academies.

Satellites are vulnerable to weapons rival military powers, like Russia or China, are developing, according to Gen. John Hyten, head of U.S. Strategic Command. China destroyed one of its own satellites in 2007, and likely tested a ground-based missile launch system to destroy orbiting objects in 2013.

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
Artist rendering of an experimental U.S. military space plane. (Photo from DARPA)

“We must remember, if war were ever to break out with a near-peer competitors like Russia or China, U.S. military forces would be fighting in all domains — land, air, sea, space and cyberspace,” Kazianis said. “Winning in one domain will have consequences and pressure for the other services.”

Some experts think creating an entirely new military bureaucracy could be expensive and add to the current confusion.

“What would make the most sense is for the Navy and Air Force to work together and avoid inter-service rivalry on this important issue,” Kazianis said.

This wouldn’t be the first time branches of the military competed brutally for access to space. During the Cold War space race with the Soviet Union, the U.S. armed services competed among themselves to develop advanced rockets. This inter-service rivalry led to some early confusion and duplication, according to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

Though some argue a Space Corps could oversee U.S. grand strategy in space, selecting one of the current military branches to lead space operations could be counterproductive.

“We need a service that understands that its core mission is to provide such services to all of our armed forces, to be able to deny them to any adversary, and to protect all American space assets, whether military or civilian,” Dr. Robert Zubrin, a scientist who has written about space warfare and developed NASA’s mission plan to visit Mars, told TheDCNF.

“I don’t see any of the three current armed services being able to comprehensively grasp and prioritize that mission. An officer rises to the top in the Army, Navy or Air Force by leading troops, ships or aircraft into battle. They do not do so by developing and implementing a comprehensive strategy to seize and retain space supremacy,” Zubrin said.

The Air Force and Navy adopted a joint “AirSea Battle” concept doctrine in 2010, renamed Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver in the Global Commons (JAM-GC) in 2015.

“Ultimately, we need to get out of the mindset of ‘this is my turf’ and think about fighting the wars of the future with a multi-domain mindset,” Kazianis said. “This is why the military must push forward on things like AirSea Battle’s successor, JAM-GC. This is the only way to win the wars of the future.”

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

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This Georgia congressman was the father of the modern Navy

Georgia Democratic congressman Carl Vinson supported the Navy and the rest of the armed forces from the House of Representatives from 1914 to 1965. On the road to World War II, he pushed through the legislation that turned the U.S. Navy from a small, neglected force into a behemoth capable of fighting in two oceans at once.


Vinson took office in late 1914 and was named to the House Naval Affairs Committee soon after. He served there throughout World War I and became friendly with then-Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt.

687px-Carl_Vinson_(D–GA)-house-armed-services-committee-house-committee-naval-affairs Rep. Carl Vinson as a young Democrat from Georgia. (Photo: Library of Congress)

After the end of World War I, a number of treaties sought to limit the size of navies maintained by the major powers. The U.S. was a signatory to these agreements and Vinson didn’t seek to outgrow them.

But when American naval might shrank too far below the treaty limits, he fought hard to grow it to its maximum allowed size.

He struggled for years against three presidents — including Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover — before being reunited with Roosevelt. When Roosevelt rose to the presidency, Vinson co-authored the Vinson-Trammell Act which passed in 1934 and allowed the Navy to grow to its fully allotted size.

Vinson spent the next few years continuing to advocate for increased air power, especially in the Navy. When the “war in Europe” showed signs of becoming a second World War, Vinson pushed for Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Harold R. Stark to speak in front of the Naval Affairs Committee.

Stark called for 200 new combatant ships and 20 auxiliaries. The plan had been put together by Vinson and Stark and, luckily for those two, news of France’s surrender to Germany had reached American newspapers that very morning.

Congress, galvanized by the fall of France, pushed the bill through both houses and Roosevelt signed the “Two-Ocean Navy Bill” barely a month after Vinson had put it in front of the committee.

This allowed the U.S. Navy just over a year to prepare for World War II before it was hit at Pearl Harbor. The shipyards that churned out battleships, carriers and other vessels to attack the Japanese and defend against the Germans were stood up and manned before the war with ship orders that Vinson had lobbied for.

After the Axis surrender, Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz was asked what factors allowed America to win World War II. He replied, “I do not know where this country would have been after December 7, 1941, if it had not had the ships and the know-how to build more ships fast, for which one Vinson bill after another was responsible.”

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
Retired Rep. Carl Vinson, at center-right, accepts a model of the aircraft carrier that will bear his name from President Richard Nixon. (Photo: Jack E. Kightlinger via the National Archives and Records Administration)

Adm. William D. Leahy wrote in his book, I Was There, “In my opinion, the Georgia representative had, in the past decade, contributed more to the national defense than any other single person in the country except the president himself.”

Vinson’s contributions to the Navy and, later, the Department of Defense, earned him monikers like the “Father of the Navy,” “Backstage Boss of the Pentagon” and the “Patriarch of the Armed Forces.”

At Vinson’s 90th birthday party, President Richard Nixon told the crowd, “As you know, we have just begun to develop nuclear carriers. The first one was named the Eisenhower, the second one was named the Nimitz, the great naval commander of World War II. The third is just beginning, and it will be named the Carl Vinson.”

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
The USS Carl Vinson sails during a training mission in the Pacific on July 17. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class D’Andre L. Roden)

Vinson was also honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Special Distinction, awarded by President Lyndon Johnson.

Vinson died in 1981, but the USS Carl Vinson still sails the waves. It is most often called to patrol the Pacific.

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This mortar could someday deliver an ammo resupply during battle

Ambushed on a patrol and going Winchester on ammo?


Here’s the fix: call for mortars.

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
A new US Army patent claims new technology can deliver emergency resupply with a mortar round. (Photo: U.S. Army)

That’s what a new Army patent is trying to do by developing a new way to deliver resupply in tough situations via a mortar shot.

[Editor’s Note: The original Army story link is not active]

The so-called “Ammunition Resupply Projectile” would be a special section attached to the mortar round that could be guided by GPS navigation and steer itself right where soldiers need it.

Talk about “danger close.”

“This concept allows a guided package to be delivered with incredible accuracy — 10m CEP — within minutes,” said Ryan Decker, one of seven named on the patent application, according to the Army.

The Army wants to develop a tube-launched projectile that deploys a navigable payload in flight to accurately deliver the supplies to a distant target.

A tail section is secured to the payload deployment section, which includes a steerable decelerator system, the Army says. The tail section incorporates the guidance and navigation system and a parafoil control mechanism.

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
Schematic illustration of a resupply mission. Projectile is fired toward the downwind direction of a stranded solider. In flight, the guided parafoil payload is released, which then executes an optimized maneuver to accurately reach the target. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)

When the payload is first separated in flight it acts like a shell to protect the cargo and it is guided to the intended target via the parafoil with the aid of the guidance and navigation system.

Thanks to new parafoil technology developed by Professor Oleg Yakimenko of the Naval Postgraduate School dubbed “Snowflake,” the cargo’s guidance system can be packed small enough to allow room for extra supplies.

Engineers wanted something that could help “a Soldier pinned down during battle, who depletes his supply of ammunition and currently has no reasonable method of resupply until rescue arrives,” Decker said.

“This invention is even more beneficial when it is realized that the payload can be easily swapped from ammunition to any device of similar size, such as additional resupply items, surveillance electronics, or even a submunition which can all be delivered accurately and on target,” Decker added.

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America’s bloodiest war was initially hilarious

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
Battle of Fort Sumter


The Battle of Fort Sumter kicked off one of the bloodiest wars in American history and, for the most part, was itself the opposite of bloody.  Actually, in hindsight there were some pretty funny moments.

When South Carolina seceded from the United States on December 20, 1860, all federal forces in the state were put on alert – they were now in unfriendly territory.  In Charleston, Union Major Robert Anderson saw the situation deteriorating and moved his small force of 85 soldiers from Fort Moultrie – on the mainland overlooking Charleston Harbor – to Fort Sumter in the middle of the harbor.  Fort Sumter was unfinished when Anderson’s men occupied it and by the time of Lincoln’s inauguration a few months later on March 4, 1861, the men were running low on supplies.

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
Union Major Robert Anderson (L) and Confederate Brigadier General PGT Beauregard (R)

Across the water, Confederate Brigadier General Pierre Gustave Toutant (PGT) Beauregard saw the Union men running low on supplies and demanded their surrender on April 11.  Anderson refused and the next morning at 4:30am, the Confederate forces took the first shots of the Civil War.  What followed was a 34-hour exchange of artillery fire, most of which came from the Confederate side.  Guess how many people died.  Zero.  Actually, according to Mark  Collins Jenkins, more animals died than people – one mule.

After 34 hours, Anderson decided he had had enough and agreed to surrender.  The first casualty of the war was nearly Roger A. Pryor, an emissary from Virginia who visited Fort Sumter shortly after the battle.  Pryor sat with Union officers and got up to pour himself a drink without asking, which would have been a pretty badass move.  However, instead of pouring what he thought was whiskey, he actually poured a glass of iodine and drank it all in one gulp.  Fortunately for him, Union doctors quickly pumped his stomach and saved his life.

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
Roger Atkinson Pryor

The first casualty of the war came shortly after Pryor’s incident and occurred during the Union surrender ceremony, which generously included a 100-gun salute.  The salute was cut short, however, after the Union soldiers accidentally placed their stockpile of ammunition too close to their cannon.  High winds were blamed for carrying sparks from the cannon to the ammunition, which set off a large explosion that killed one Union soldier and mortally wounded another.  The ceremony ended and the next day, the Union troops withdrew from the fort.

It would’ve been nice if the rest of the war went the same way, but by the time the war ended four years later, between 700,000 and 900,000 soldiers and civilians were dead on both sides, making it the bloodiest war in American history by some estimates.  Bummer.

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A brief look at the 350+ year history of the Royal Marines

The United Kingdom’s Royal Marines are heirs to a warfighting legacy older than the entire U.S. military.


They fought in both Gulf Wars, both World Wars, and literally dozens of other conflicts around the world since the Royal Marines were established in 1664.

The Royal Marines were first organized as a group of 1,200 land soldiers assigned to sea service in the Royal Navy. They made a name for themselves 40 years later when they seized the Gibraltar fortress alongside Dutch allies and then held that fortress against sieges for nine months.

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
(Photo: YouTube/Royal Navy)

They were instrumental in the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and conducted numerous amphibious assaults throughout World War I and World War II.

It was during World War II that the Royal Marines began organizing as commandos and adopted their distinct dark green berets. Since the end of World War II, these troops have been deployed to combat every year except 1968.

To learn even more about the Royal Marines and to see footage from their exploits since 1664, watch this video from the British Royal Navy:

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9 reasons why military camouflage works — or doesn’t

Sun Tzu once said that he who is prudent and lies in wait for an enemy who is not, will be victorious.


To be honest, in a way, that is exactly what camouflage is all about. It is not about colors, shapes, or ninja stuff. It is about knowledge, patience, and the manipulation of anything anywhere.

All to achieve one goal: to become the environment. In this article, I am going to give you a small, bitter taste of the art of camouflage.

When I was in the Israeli Airborne SF, I served with one of the SR groups. My secondary specialty in my team was what we call in the IDF, a ‘builder.’ Basically, someone who is capable of concealing anything, from one man to an entire team or vehicles in any environment.

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
Eliran Feildboy. Photo courtesy of Breach Bang Clear.

What is camouflage?

Back in the days, when I used to assist as an instructor for the next generation of builders, one of the first questions I asked the young soldiers in every introduction lesson was, ”What does the word ‘camouflage’ mean to you?”

The majority of the answers were split into two: hiding or disappearing.

While both might sound correct, those two words describe a long-living misconception that one experiences when he gets involved with task-oriented concealment work.

Long story short, the majority of the time camouflage begins with understanding the nature of observation.

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
Applying standard camo. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod.

The purpose of it is not only to hide, but to make you part of the environment, allowing you to safely observe, document, and, when necessary, respond.

Being a master of camouflage means being able to live off nature’s hand for 72 hours (or more), being just hundreds of meters away from the objective, and being able to observe the point of interest all the while.

Let’s say camouflage is the art of manipulation–the controlling of reality.

Fundamentals of Camouflage

There are three fundamental camouflage actions. These are the main principles that are found in any concealing construction.

  • Hiding: The action of hiding is setting a barrier that separates you physically, and often visually, from the surrounding environment and its unfolding reality.
  • Blending: Resembling your surroundings by combining different, like elements into a single entity. The main difference between success to failure lays in properly blending subtle details.
  • Disguising: In short, disguising is an action we perform to alter an existing shape or form. We do that to eliminate or create intentional target indicators, such as smell, shape, or shine. Disguising, for example, is adding vegetation to a Ghillie suit or collecting branches to conceal my hide side.

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
Photo courtesy of Breach Bang Clear.

Target Indicators

Knowledge is power. One of the keys to perfect camouflage at the tactical level is the ability to understand what kind of X or Y signatures my presence creates that will lead to my exposure.

TI, or target indicators, are about understanding what signatures my enemy creates in a specific environment. Those target indicators suggest presence, location, and distance in some cases.

There are two dimensions to consider when detecting and indicated presence. The first–and oldest–dimension is basic human sense. The other is technological.

Human Sense

While smelling, hearing, and touching are obvious senses, but those senses normally only come into play in short distance.

Let’s focus on ‘seeing.’

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
Snipers with 1st Sapper Company, Burundi National Defense Force, observe enemy movement, donning field-made ghillie suits. USMC Photo by 1st Lt. Dominic Pitrone

The visual sense is, by far, the most reliable sense for humans. We use it up to 80% of the time to collect information and orient ourselves. So, what kind of visual signatures could I leave that may lead to my exposure? In short:

  • Shape – The perfectly symmetrical shapes of tents or cars, for example, don’t exist in nature. Those, and the familiar shape of a human being, are immediate eye candy.
  • Silhouette – Similar to ‘shape,’ but with more focus on the background. A soldier walking on top of the hill or someone sneaking in the darkness with dark clothes against a white wall–the distinction of a foreground element from its background makes a target indicator sharp and clear.
  • Shine – Surface related. Radiance or brightness caused by emitted or reflected light. Anything that my skin, equipment, or fabrics may reflect. Popular examples would be the reflection of sunlight on hand watches, skin, or optics for example.
  • Shadow – Shadows are very attractive and easy to distinguish for human eyes, depending on a shadow’s intensity. For example, caves in open fields stand out for miles and are very easy to recognize. As a result, we never use caves for hiding, as they’re a natural draw to the eye.
  • Color – Let’s make it sure and simple–wearing a pink hoody to a funeral is a good way to stand out. Match your environment.

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
Army photo by Pfc. Dixie Rae Liwanag/Released

Technology-Based Target Indicators / Multi-Spectral Awareness

Oh boy, this is where the real challenge begins! I’m actually going to risk it and say that ghillie suits are becoming less and less relevant today due to increases in technology.

Before we will dive into all that Einstein stuff, these are the main wavelengths used by different devices to find your ass:

  • Infra-Red / NIR – Used in NVGs, SWIR cameras, etc. Night-vision devices, for example, use active near-infrared illumination to observe people or animals without the observer being detected.
  • UV – UV radiation is present in sunlight. UV-capable devices are excellent, for example, in snowy environments for picking up differences undetectable by the naked eye.
  • Thermal – Your body generates a temperature different from any immediate background, such as the ground in the morning or a tree in the evening. Devices tend to set clear separations between the heat or cold of different objects, resulting in pretty nice shapes that are easy to distinguish for the observer.
  • Radar (radio)– A radar system consists of a transmitter producing electromagnetic waves, an emitting antenna, and a receiving antenna to capture any waves that return from objects in the path of the emitted signal. A receiver and processor then determine the properties of the object. While often used to detect weather formations, ships, structures, etc., there are numerous devices that can give you an accurate position of vehicles and even humans. It’s a long story, hard to manipulate. Such devices exist already in the tactical level.

It is nearly impossible to eliminate your signature against devices who work within the wave length. The only solution is to understand what the human being sees through advanced optics and manipulate the final result.

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
Army photo by Andrew Zimmer

Buckle up and get your aspirin – we’re moving into the science stuff.

The human and its environment emits different signatures that can be picked up by different technological devices that make use of different types of waves.

Cones in our eyes are the receivers for tiny visible light waves. The sun is a natural source for visible light waves and our eyes see the reflection of this sunlight off the objects around us.

The color of an object that we see is the color of light reflected. All other colors are absorbed.

Technically, we are blind to many wavelengths of light. This makes it important to use instruments that can detect different wavelengths of light to help us study the earth and the universe.

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
Army photo by Sgt. Jeffrey Alexander

However, since visible light is part of the electromagnetic spectrum that our eyes can see, our whole world is oriented around it.

Until recently.

With the advancement of technology, humanity slowly cracked and understood the existence of other light waves.

We began to see those dimensions through different devices.

Since the visual camouflage has foiled many plans throughout a history of wars and conflicts, militaries around the world began researching the possibilities of using non-visible wavelengths in detecting the signature of specific objects in specific environments.

Summary

Camouflage is not about hiding and it’s definitely not only about wearing a ghillie suit or digging deeps foxholes.

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
Soldiers with the Estonian Defense Force defend their position May 12, during Operation Siil in Oandu, Estonia. Army photo by Sgt. Juana Nesbitt.

It’s an involved, looping process that starts with understanding how humans detect and continues with manipulating this detection.

The old standards, such as ghillie suits, are becoming less and less relevant to the modern battle space as detection technologies advance.

New predators such as SWIR or advance thermal cameras are hard to beat unless you know the device, the interface, and the humans who use it.

As Albert Einstein once said, technology has exceeded our humanity–so get creative.

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This sex cult used salad bars as a bioterrorism weapon against American voters

In 1981, a spiritual leader named “Rajneesh,” aka “Osho,” aka Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, an Indian mystic and guru who advocated open attitudes toward sexuality, rejected Mahatma Ghandi and Indian socialism founded an “intentional community,” aka commune, aka “cult” in rural Oregon. They originally wanted to found an agricultural cooperative, but it soon became apparent to residents of what is today Antelope, Oregon, the closest town to the cultists they were up to so much more than that.


This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
You must be this tall for brainwashing

They set up a six million dollar, 64,000-acre ranch near Antelope, complete with 93 Rolls-Royce automobiles and private jets, all with money donated by his followers. His disciples dressed in red, worked all day, did drugs at night, and had sex with and in front of their leader. Rajneesh claimed the sex he taught them could cure them of their phobias and give them spiritual enlightenment.

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
Ummm… and now could one of our less hairy members use some healing?

The followers, called “Rajneeshees” immediately entered conflict with the locals of Antelope over the use of the massive tract of land, but with only 50 people in the tiny town, compared to the Rajneeshees 7,000, they didn’t stand much of a chance. The townspeople tried to disincorporate themselves, but the measure was voted down, overwhelmed by Rajneesh’s registered voter corps. The cultists were very aggressive, initiating lawsuits, voting to change name the town to “Rajneesh,” and even allegedly attempting to murder state politicians.

The cult began flying people into the area via their series of private jets. The cult’s de facto leader, a woman named Ma Anand Sheela (aka Sheela Silverman) exacerbated the growing conflict with her crude and inflammatory rhetoric. She was dismissive of the townspeople’s complaints. Locals began to talk openly about hunting Rajneeshees in “turkey shoots.” Things were coming to a boiling point.

5_America's-most-dangerous-cult Air conditioning is for winners.

Antelope wasn’t the only town targeted by the Rajneeshees. In an attempt to pack the Wasco County government with Rajneesh’s followers, the cult targeted the voting population of The Dalles, Oregon.

In order to incapacitate The Dalles voting population so only cult members would be healthy enough to make it to the polls on voting day, the cultists spread Salmonella enterica Typhimurium on salad bars and in salad dressings throughout the city. 751 people picked up salmonellosis, 45 of those were hospitalized. No one died, but the locals were immediately suspicious of the rash of food poisonings. There were too many for it to be coincidental. Local leaders and citizen suspected the Rajneeshees. The evidence was purely circumstantial, however.

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
If you’re eating at Taco Time or Burgerville, food poisoning is likely to happen eventually.

Rajneesh, who was in a self-imposed isolation the entire time, finally came out and spoke up as a governmental inter-agency task force was being assembled to take on the cult. He called a press conference to blame everything on Sheela, who had conveniently just fled the country.It was almost an entire year later, but once the task force was formed, search warrants were issued and the Rajneeshee ranch was raided. Law enforcement found copies of The Anarchists’ Cookbook as well as samples of the salmonella strain used in the attack.

Rajneesh blamed the running of the commune on Sheela and admitted his complicity by remaining in isolation. He was fined and given a suspended sentence before being deported.

12_America's-most-dangerous-cult She seems okay with it.

Ma Anand Sheela and another woman were extradited to the U.S. from West Germany, while Rajneesh himself  couldn’t find a country who would take him until he ultimately ending up back in India where he started. Sheela served 29 months of a twenty year sentence. Rajneesh died in 1990.

It was the only instance of bioterrorism on American soil until the 2001 Anthrax mailing attacks. The camp is now a Christian youth camp.

 

All cult photos © 2003 Samvado Gunnar Kossatz, used by permission

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ISIS snuck behind Iraqi forces in this surprise counterattack in Mosul

A major Islamic State group counterattack July 7 along the northern edge of Mosul’s Old City neighborhood has pushed Iraqi Army forces back some 75 meters (82 yards) and is threatening recent gains in other Old City fronts, an Iraqi military officer said.


The officer said the attack was launched just after noon July 7 and estimated it was carried out by 50 to 100 IS fighters. A doctor at a medic station said he received more than a dozen wounded Iraqi soldiers.

Both men spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

Iraqi security forces have retaken almost all of Mosul — Iraq’s second largest city — from IS militants who overran it in 2014.

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
Photo from DoD.

In late June, IS counterattacks on the western edge of Mosul — neighborhoods retaken months earlier — stalled the push by Iraqi forces to go deeper into the Old City as they forced a reallocation of Iraqi ground forces, coalition surveillance, and air support.

Unlike the July 7 attack, the late June counterattack was launched from outside Mosul, most likely from Tal Afar, an IS-held town some 60 kilometers (37 miles) west of Mosul.

The counterattacks underscore the extremist group’s resilience in Iraq, despite significant territorial losses and months of heavy fighting with Iraqi forces backed by US air power.

The pockets of IS-held Mosul now measure less than a square kilometer.

Also on July 7, The UN’s migration agency suspended operations in two camps — the Qayara air strip emergency site and the Haj Ali camp — near Mosul hosting nearly 80,000 displaced Iraqis due to sporadic violence and exchange of gunfire.

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
An Iraqi federal police takes a break before another day’s offensive to liberate and secure West Mosul, Iraq, March 2, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Hull)

IOM spokesman Joel Millman said the security situation prevented six water-tanker trucks from entering the Haj Ali camp, where temperatures reached the low 50s Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) in recent days.

Humanitarian groups have repeatedly suspended operations in and around Mosul due to security concerns since the fight to retake the city from IS began last October.

In April, the United Nations suspended operations in the same area due to security threats along the road south of Mosul’s western half.

In February, the UN suspended operations in eastern Mosul weeks after the area was declared fully liberated as IS attacks continued to inflict heavy civilian casualties.

In both instances, the UN resumed operations within a matter of days.

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Mattis makes a statement about Marine ‘misconduct’

The purported actions of civilian and military personnel on social media websites, including some associated with the Marines United group and possibly others, represent egregious violations of the fundamental values that are upheld at the Department of Defense, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said today in a statement.


“The chain of command is taking all appropriate action to investigate potential misconduct and to maintain good order and discipline throughout our armed forces,” Mattis said.

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
General Mattis.

“Lack of respect for the dignity and humanity of fellow members of the Department of Defense is unacceptable and harmful to the unit cohesion necessary to battlefield victory,” the secretary continued. “We will not excuse or tolerate such behavior if we are to uphold our values and maintain our ability to defeat the enemy on the battlefield.”

Related: It’s not a scandal; it’s sexual harassment — Marines investigated after sharing nude photos without consent

Defense press operations director Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters today that Mattis spoke several times during his confirmation process about military service and unit cohesion and how those are predicated on the core values of trust and mutual respect.

All Held Accountable

“Our leaders at all levels of the chain of command will be held accountable to ensure that each member of our military can excel in an environment that maximizes their talents and [will have] no patience for those who would degrade or diminish another service member,” Davis said.

The secretary will meet with uniformed and civilian leaders in the days ahead and ensure that they are taking all appropriate actions to maintain good order and discipline, the captain added.

“The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is investigating…web sites and other services are looking into the matter, as well,” Davis said.

Values

“Our values extend on- and off-duty, and we want personnel experiencing or witnessing online misconduct to promptly report matters to their chain of command,” the captain said.

Also read: Marines’ nude photo scandal is even worse than first realized

Davis said service members who might feel uncomfortable reporting alleged online misconduct to their chain of command have alternative avenues that include family support services, equal opportunity offices, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program, the inspector general and law enforcement.

(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Combat veterans use ancient epics to cope with war

The trials of Odysseus are really not that different from the struggles of those learning to readjust after wars of today, modern veterans are finding.


A small group of military veterans has been meeting weekly in a classroom at the University of Vermont to discuss The Iliad and The Odyssey for college credit — and to give meaning to their own experiences, equating the close-order discipline of men who fought with spears, swords, and shields to that of men and women who do battle these days with laser-guided munitions.

Homer isn’t just for student veterans. Discussion groups are also being offered at veterans centers in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The Maine Humanities Council has sponsored sessions for veterans incarcerated at Maine’s Kennebec County jail, as well as for other veterans.

Also read: 4 myths about veterans you can dispel at work right now

For many in the UVM class, Homer’s 2,800-year-old verses seem all too familiar: the siege of Troy, the difficult quest of Odysseus to return home after 10 years at war, his anguish at watching friends die, and his problems readjusting to civilian life.

Stephanie Wobby, 26, a former Army medic originally from Sacramento, California, is a combat veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan and is one of two women in the UVM course; she has been to traditional post-traumatic stress therapy sessions, but said, “this is far more effective for me.”

“It still resonates, coming home from war, even if it was however many years ago,” said Wobby, a junior majoring in chemistry. “It’s the same.”

In a recent class, Dan Wright, 26, an Afghanistan veteran and UVM junior, wore a T-shirt bearing the slogan “Down with my Demons” while the group discussed The Iliad.

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
Odysseus departs from the Land of the Phaeacians. (Painting by Claude Lorrain)

“It was talking about being scared to die and, like, when you are on the field, you don’t think about it,” said Wright, 26, of Halifax, Vermont. He said he was involved in near-daily firefights during a nine-month combat tour in Afghanistan in 2012.

Enrollment in the class taught by John Franklin, an associate professor of classics, is limited to veterans; the current class includes veterans from wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. There are no papers or tests, and the grade is based entirely on class participation and an understanding of the material.

More: Irreverent Warriors combat PTSD with comedy and community

The people who work with the veterans at UVM felt it was a tragedy when they heard last week that a former Army rifleman expelled from a program to treat veterans with PTSD took three women hostage in California and fatally shot them. With Homer, they are working to avoid the idea of the damaged veteran, said David Carlson, the coordinator of student veterans’ services at UVM and a Marine veteran of Iraq in 2005 and 2006 who sits in on the classes.

“From my end, all it does is make me think the work we do with veterans every day is that much more important,” Carlson said.

Homer-for-veterans is the brainchild of Dartmouth College classics professor Roberta Stewart, who is now hoping for a grant that will allow her to expand the idea nationwide.

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
an episode from the ancient Greek epic poem the Odyssey. (Artwork by Arnold Böcklin)

Stewart read some blog posts by U.S. service members fighting in Iraq in 2003. She recognized their graphic descriptions of war and the difficulties many faced readjusting to life after combat and reached out to one veteran who appeared to be having a hard time.

“I said to him, ‘Homer can help you. Homer knows,'” Stewart said.

Stewart never heard back from the veteran she told about Homer, but the light bulb stayed on. A decade ago, she wrote to the Department for Veterans Affairs hospital in White River Junction, Vermont, suggesting the idea. Officials were skeptical at first, but she eventually won and started her first group.

Related: This psychedelic drug could be approved to treat PTSD

Navy Cmdr. Amy Hunt, the operational support officer for the Naval Special Warfare Command in San Diego, hopes to set up programs for still-serving Navy Seals and overseas support personnel.

“Using Homer, because of the distance involved and also it’s great storytelling, is a way to break into those experiences,” Hunt said.

In its different guises at the locations where classes and discussions have been offered, veterans from World War II to those just home from Afghanistan have seen themselves in the struggles described by Homer.

“It was no different then, the soldiers coming home war from war and dealing with these issues than it is now,” said Norman “Ziggy” Lawrence, of Albion, Maine, a Vietnam-era veteran who now leads some of the discussion with jailed Maine veterans. “It opens that avenue so that they can speak to issues that they are having.”

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All about the chemical agent VX that allegedly killed Kim Jong Nam

The death of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, in the Kuala Lampur Airport, was apparently due to the use of the deadly nerve agent VX.


According to a report by the London Telegraph, the Malaysian police do not believe that anyone else is at risk, but teams are sweeping the airport to decontaminate areas where the suspected killer may have been. The Associated Press reported that four individuals who Malaysian police are interested in have fled the country, including a North Korean diplomat and a worker with the regime’s state-run airline.

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
An M55 rocket being disassembled at Umatilla Chemical Depot. This was one delivery system for VX, a very deadly nerve agent. (US Army photo)

VX was first developed by British scientists in the 1950s as an insecticide. The deadliness of the agent caught everyone by surprise, and it soon found its way into American arsenals. The telegraph notes that those who are hit may feel one of two opposite initial reactions: Giddiness or nausea. Shortly afterwards come the convulsions as the nervous system shuts down.

A victim’s one chance for survival when exposed to VX is a rapid administration of atropine. That drug counters the effect by blocking nerve receptors that VX seeks to overwhelm. The Telegraph notes that Western intelligence agencies believe that North Korea has about 5,000 tons of this nerve agent.

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
DOD graphic showing the effects of various chemical agents, including VX. (DOD graphic)

The United States had VX in stock, with one delivery system being the BLU-80 “Bigeye” chemical bomb, according to Designation-Systems.net. After the 1996 Chemical Weapons Convention, the United States discarded all of its VX – and other chemical weapons.

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields
(YouTube screen grab from John Mason)

The nerve agent was used as a plot point in the 1990s action movie “The Rock,” which starred Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery. The details surrounding it were not accurate technically.

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Metal Giants ‘Queensryche’ Take On War

There has been a major split between lead singer Geoff Tate and the rest of the band in recent months, but a few years ago, legendary metal band Queensryche was tightly focused on “American Soldier,” the band’s take on the modern experience of war.


Here’s the first video they produced for the album:

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