The Navy's latest aircraft carrier deployment had an unusual start as the service aims to be more unpredictable - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

The Navy’s latest aircraft carrier deployment had an unusual start as the service aims to be more unpredictable

The US Navy’s latest aircraft carrier deployment began in an unusual way, and it appears to be part of efforts to make the service less predictable.


In a break from the norm, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and its strike group deployed immediately after completing a final certification exercise instead of first returning to the carrier’s home port.

Carrier Strike Group 10, a formidable naval force consisting of the Eisenhower, two cruisers, three destroyers and more than 6,000 sailors, set sail on deployment right after completing the Composite Unit Training Exercise, the Navy announced Thursday.

“Upon the successful completion of C2X, strike groups are certified and postured to deploy at any time,” US 2nd Fleet spokeswoman Lt. Marycate Walsh told Insider.

“IKE’s timeline for departure was demonstrative of the inherent agility of our naval forces,” she continued. “There is no one size fits all policy; operations at sea routinely flex for a variety of reasons.”

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Eisenhower in the Atlantic.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class James Norket

At times, the Navy has adjusted deployments in response to unexpected problems.

For example, when the USS Harry S. Truman suffered an electrical malfunction in August, its strike group deployed without it, forming a surface action group instead.

As the Truman underwent repairs, the USS Abraham Lincoln, the carrier sent to deter Iran, had its deployment extended — one of several extensions that allowed the Lincoln to set a record for longest carrier deployment since the Cold War.

But the Eisenhower’s latest deployment, as The Virginian-Pilot notes, appears to be a part of the Navy’s efforts to implement dynamic force employment, which the Navy argues makes the fleet much less predictable and strengthens deterrence against potential adversaries.

The Truman executed the first DFE deployment in 2018, when it sailed into the North Atlantic and Arctic shortly after returning from the Mediterranean.

After that deployment, Adm. James G. Foggo III, commander of US Naval Forces Europe-Africa and Allied Joint Force Command Naples, Italy, said: “The National Defense Strategy makes clear that we must be operationally unpredictable to our long-term strategic adversaries, while upholding our commitments to our allies and partners.”

The Navy’s latest aircraft carrier deployment had an unusual start as the service aims to be more unpredictable

It is unclear where the Eisenhower is currently headed.

“The sailors of IKE Strike Group are trained and ready to execute the full spectrum of maritime operations in any theater,” Rear Adm. Paul Schlise, commander of Carrier Strike Group 10, said in a statement.

“Carrier Strike Groups,” he said, “are visible and powerful symbols of US commitment and resolve to our allies and partners, and possess the flexibility and sustainability to fight major wars and ensure freedom of the seas.”

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

Articles

The US Coast Guard just seized $11 million in drugs

A U.S. Coast Guard crew based in Astoria, Oregon, returned after a 2.5-month deployment that yielded the seizure of $11 million in cocaine and marijuana, officials said.


The Steadfast, which earned the nickname “El Tiburon Blanco,” or the white shark in English, returned April 23 after seizing 700 pounds of cocaine and 170 pounds of marijuana. The cutter’s deployment included a 69-member crew, plus helicopter personnel from the Air Station Humboldt Bay and a law enforcement team, said spokeswoman Senior Chief Rachel Polish.

The crew patrolled the eastern Pacific Ocean and seized the drugs from two smuggling incidents off the Central American coast, according to a news release. The crew unloaded the drugs April 20 during a port call in San Diego.

The Navy’s latest aircraft carrier deployment had an unusual start as the service aims to be more unpredictable
U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast (WMEC-623) along the western seaboard of North and Central America. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Polish said she could not disclose, for security reasons, the specific locations and general trajectory taken by the Steadfast for those operations. However, the crew traveled 12,000 miles that began with a training stop at a U.S. naval station in Washington before heading south, according to the news release. The crew also stopped in Mazatlan, Mexico, with $2,500 in supplies and equipment, and guardsmen helped repair and paint a classroom and exterior of a school.

Also read: 6 of the biggest cocaine busts in Coast Guard history

Polish said the deployment was part of the broader Operation Martillo — Spanish for hammer. Since its launch in 2012, the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and other agencies have seized 693 metric tons of cocaine, $25 million in cash, and hundreds of vessels and aircraft, and they have arrested 1,863 people, according to the U.S. Southern Command website.

Drug smugglers off the Florida coast called the Steadfast “El Tiburon Blanco” when she was based in St. Petersburg, according to the news release. The vessel’s reputation for busting up smugglers made her the first cutter to be awarded the “gold marijuana leaf, indicating one million pounds of marijuana seized,” officials said.

The 49-year-old Reliance Class Cutter made her home in Astoria in 1994.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US State Dept. in Europe to discuss ‘Iran-backed terrorism’

The U.S. State Department says its coordinator for counterterrorism is traveling to the three Scandinavian countries to discuss matters including “Iran-backed terrorism” in Europe.

The State Department announced Ambassador Nathan Sales’ trips to Denmark, Sweden, and Norway in a Jan. 29, 2019 statement, saying that Iran “remains the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.”


“In recent years the regime has directed or backed terrorist plotting in France, Denmark, The Netherlands, Albania, and elsewhere,” it added.

In January 2019, the European Union approved fresh sanctions on Iran’s intelligence services and two Iranian nationals, accusing them of attempting — or carrying out — attacks against Iranian government opponents on Danish, Dutch, and French soil.

The Navy’s latest aircraft carrier deployment had an unusual start as the service aims to be more unpredictable

Nathan A. Sales prepares to sign his appointment papers to become Ambassador-at-Large and Coordinator for Counterterrorism at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 29, 2017.

(State Department Photo)

Tehran denied the claim, saying the accusations were aimed at damaging relations between Iran and the EU.

The Dutch government in 2019 accused Iran of likely involvement in the killings of two Dutch nationals of Iranian origin in 2015 and 2017. Both were opponents of the Iranian regime.

In October 2018, Denmark accused Iran’s authorities of planning to carry out attacks on its soil on Iranian exiles belonging to an Iranian opposition group, while France blamed Tehran for a foiled bombing attack that targeted a rally organized by another banned group near Paris in June 2018.

And in December 2018, non-EU member Albania expelled Iran’s ambassador to Tirana and another diplomat, saying they were suspected of “involvement in activities that harm the country’s security.”

Precise reasons for the move were not given, but U.S. officials said it sent a clear message that conducting “terrorist operations in Europe” was unacceptable.

The alleged plots in Europe have strained relations between Tehran and the European Union, which has been working to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal after the United States pulled out of the accord aimed at preventing Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.

The U.S. State Department said that Sales’ talks with Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian officials will also touch upon the prosecution of foreign terrorist fighters who traveled from Europe and other parts of the world to fight alongside the extremist group Islamic State in countries such as Syria and Iraq.

“The United States is urging its partners to repatriate their citizens and prosecute them for the crimes they have committed,” the statement said.

It said that a 2017 UN Security Council resolution requires states to combat terrorist travel, using tools including terrorist watch lists and airline reservation data.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Delta Cartoonist: Toad Jumper

Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.

Student: “Sergeant, how long do I have to deploy my reserve parachute if my main fails to open?”

Sergeant: “The rest of your life, son… the rest of your life.”

There is no argument that Tier-1 units routinely engage in dangerous training: climbing skyscraper structures, engaging in gunfights in close quarters and confined spaces, hunkering down nexts to explosive breaching charges that are barely an arm’s reach away as they ignite… A cringe-worthy component to that list that hooks every seasoned operator’s attention is airborne operations, because most things that go wrong during them can be fatal.

The feature image, Toad Jumper, is of course a parody of “towed jumper,” an airborne term used to describe a paratrooper whose static line, a 15-foot nylon cord that pulls open the jumper’s parachute, doesn’t separate from the aircraft. On the rare occasion that the parachute pack fails to break free from the static line anchored to the jump aircraft, the paratrooper will be towed behind the aircraft at ~120MPH spinning and slamming against the airplane. It is a horrid and deadly event.

The Navy’s latest aircraft carrier deployment had an unusual start as the service aims to be more unpredictable

Paras line up and hooked up. Static lines are hooked to anchor cable; they are routed correctly OVER the men’s arms. Mac’s had looped under his arm.

My best friend and renowned firearms trainer Patrick Arther “Mac”McNamara was a towed jumper on his very first training jump with the Army’s Airborne School in Ft. Benning, GA. His static line had unfortunately looped under his arm, cushioning the tug of the line and preventing it from effectively pulling his parachute loose.

Mac spun wildly and bounced off of the kin of the aircraft… then his static line fortunately was able to pull away his pack and deploy his parachute canopy correctly. The violent tug of the static line ripped his biceps muscle from his humerus bone and pulled it down to his forearm. He was in severe pain and unable to use his damaged arm.

When it rains it pours, and since Mac was not able to use his arm, he could not steer his parachute for a safe up-wind landing. Rather than face into the wind a parachute defaults to running down (with) the wind at higher speed. Mac braced himself, cringing before the impending impact with the ground.

The Navy’s latest aircraft carrier deployment had an unusual start as the service aims to be more unpredictable

Patrick McNamara frame grab from one of his training videos reveals the gnarly scar on his left biceps, a staunch reminder of being a towed (toad) jumper

He hit with great speed tumbling and flipping in excruciating pain. Landing is the most critical step in a jump that the jumper can have the most control over. The jumper must correctly assess the wind direction and turn himself to face into the wind by maneuvering the lines that suspend him from his canopy.

A paratrooper must perform a proper Parachute Landing Fall (PLF) to preclude broken bones and other injuries, and finally, a jumper must quickly securehis parachute to prevent being dragged across the ground resulting in potential death.

Now, the instructors on the Drop Zone, the Black Hats, saw Mac’s cartwheel landing and began to scream at him through electrically amplified megaphone:

“HEY LEG! WHO THE HELL TAUGHT YOU TO DO A DOWN-WIND LANDING, LEG!”

A leg was a term used to refer to a soldier who was not airborne qualified. By military doctrine, soldiers can be referred to as regular straight-leg infantry, and airborne infantry. Leg is a mildly derogatory term, yet a moniker of pride used by airborne forces.

The Navy’s latest aircraft carrier deployment had an unusual start as the service aims to be more unpredictable

Airborne pipe-hitters from the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) packed in their jump aircraft

Now Mac was being dragged by the wind across the ground further contributing to his anguish, as he could not release his parachute connection on his chest. That further infuriated the Black Hats:

“GODDAMNIT LEG, PULL YOUR CANOPY RELEASES, LEG… YOU STINKING LEG!!!”

A fellow student ran in front of Mac’s inflated parachute and collapsed it. Mac now had to stow all of his parachute into a kitbag and carry his gear to an assembly zone where students were gathered… all with just one good arm and the other in extreme pain.

The Navy’s latest aircraft carrier deployment had an unusual start as the service aims to be more unpredictable

Airborne soldier about to make contact with the ground; always a tense moment

Mac stumbled to the assembly point. His assessment of the event sums up what an amazing warrior Pat Mac is, and why I regard him such esteem to this day (words to the effect): “I didn’t really know what to think at the time; I mean, it was my first time and I really had no idea what to expect. To me, that was just what jumping was like… what every jump would be like… and I was willing to accept that.”

Pulling open his BDU shirt he saw that his biceps had been reassigned south of his shoulder to his forearm; the skin was stretched so tight that it had taken on a transparent form revealing the color of the sinew and blood vessels thereunder. He showed it to a couple of other students to see if their arms all looked the same way; none did. Only then did Mac realize his plight.

Mac had to have surgery to pull his bicep back up to his humerus to re-attach it, leaving him a gnarly scarred reminder. One of my team brothers in Delta also suffered the same fate as Mac in jump school. His static line looped under his arm. When he jumped he was momentarily towed; his biceps torn and pulled down to his forearm.

His biceps never really recovered to its original position, rather a bit low on his humerus toward his elbow. It really looked funny when he flexed his biceps, intentionally flexing it often in the gym with accompanying remarks such as: “(flexing) Just came in to pump up ol’ Betsy here… I know she looks pretty ripped now, but you should have seen how ripped she was in jump school!”

The trauma associated with a towed jumper scenario would easily be “quittin’ time” for most folks, with no fault assigned or explanation required. For Pat McNamara it was just one entry in a long line of threats that tried to beat him down and prevent him from obtaining his warrior goal. He went on to be arguably the best physically fit and top-performing Delta Operator of our era, and continues today to even exceed the standards that we maintained in the Unit.

The Navy’s latest aircraft carrier deployment had an unusual start as the service aims to be more unpredictable

McNamara’s personal domain

MIGHTY TRENDING

Head of Afghanistan ISIS reported killed in Nangarher

Authorities say the head of Islamic State militants in Afghanistan has been killed in a strike on the group’s hideouts in Nangarhar Province.

The National Security Directorate said that in addition to Abu Saad Erhabi, 10 other members of the militant group were also killed in a joint ground and air operation by Afghan and foreign forces on Aug. 25, 2018.


The Aug. 26, 2018 statement said a large amount of heavy and light weapons and ammunition were also destroyed.

There was no immediate confirmation of the report.

The Navy’s latest aircraft carrier deployment had an unusual start as the service aims to be more unpredictable

U.S. and Afghan National Security Forces stand in formation during a transfer of authority ceremony on Forward Operating Base Fenty, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, Dec. 5, 2012

Amaq, the extremist group’s news agency, carried no comment on the issue, and there was no reaction from the NATO-led Resolute Support mission.

Sometimes known as Islamic State Khorasan, the group has built a stronghold in Nangarhar, on Afghanistan’s porous eastern border with Pakistan. It’s now one of the country’s most dangerous militant groups.

It’s unclear exactly how many Islamic State fighters are in the country, because they frequently switch allegiances. The U.S. military estimates that there are about 2,000.

Featured image: A U.S. Army UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter assigned to Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, Task Force Knighthawk makes its approach into Forward Operating Base Fenty in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, Dec. 13, 2013.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 unwritten rules that all soldiers know

The world is full of unwritten rules. Don’t make eye contact over a urinal wall. Order your usual or cheaper food when a friend is picking up the tab. I before E except after C or when sounded as eh as in neighbor and weigh, or when its the word science and a bunch of other exceptions. (That last one is less useful than others.) Here are seven rules that all soldiers pick up:


The Navy’s latest aircraft carrier deployment had an unusual start as the service aims to be more unpredictable

Yes. You suddenly outrank most people in the room. Congratulations. Now, please recognize that you don’t know anything yet.

(U.S. Army Spc. Isaiah Laster)

The LT absolutely does not outrank the sergeant major or first sergeant

Sure, on paper, all Army officers outrank all enlisted and warrant officers in the military. But new second lieutenants have zero experience in the Army while chief warrant officers 4 and 5 generally have over a decade and platoon sergeants and above have 10-ish or more experience as well. So none of those seasoned veterans are kowtowing to kids because they happen to have a diploma and commission.

Instead, they mentor the lieutenants, sometimes by explaining that the lieutenant needs to shut up and color.

The Navy’s latest aircraft carrier deployment had an unusual start as the service aims to be more unpredictable

“Hey, POG! Can I get my paycheck?” “No.”

(U.S. Army Sgt. Elizabeth White)

Finance will get it wrong, but you have to be nice anyways

Every time a group of soldiers goes TDY, deploy, or switch units, it’s pretty much guaranteed that at least a few of them will see screwed up paychecks. Get into an airborne slot and need jump pay? Gonna get screwed up. Per diem from a mission? Gonna get messed up.

You better be nice when you go to finance to get it fixed, though. Sure, they might be the ones who screwed it up. But the people who are rude to finance have a lot more headaches while getting pay fixed. So be polite, be professional, and just dream about beating everyone you meet.

(Caveat: If you’re overpaid, do not spend it. Finance will eventually fix the mistake and garnish your wages.)

The Navy’s latest aircraft carrier deployment had an unusual start as the service aims to be more unpredictable

Your plane is late. And the pilot is drunk. And the fueler is missing. It’s gonna be a while.

(U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Alexandria Lee)

All timelines get worse with time

The initial mission or travel plans for any Army scheme will likely have time built in for breaks, for maintenance, for error. But as D-Day comes closer and closer, tweaks and changes will yank all of that flex time out of the timeline until every soldier has to spend every moment jumping out of their own butt just to keep up.

Count on it.

The Navy’s latest aircraft carrier deployment had an unusual start as the service aims to be more unpredictable

If it’s in your bag and kit, you have it. If it’s on the logistics plan, you might have it. If you have to request it in the field, you probably won’t have it.

(U.S. Army Spc. John Lytle)

Don’t rely on it being there unless you ruck it in

All big missions will have logistics plans, and they might be filled with all sorts of support that sounds great. You’ll get a bunch more ammo and water seven hours after the mission starts, or trucks will bring in a bunch of concertina wire and HESCO barriers, or maybe you’re supposed to have more men and weapons.

Always make a plan like nothing else will show up, like you’ll have only the people already there, the weapons already there, the water and food already there. Because, there’s always a chance that the trucks, the helicopters, or the troops will be needed somewhere else or won’t get through.

The Navy’s latest aircraft carrier deployment had an unusual start as the service aims to be more unpredictable

Dropping uniform tops, driving in all-terrain vehicles, and piling up sandbags are all fine. But pulling an umbrella in that same weather will cause some real heartache.

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Andrew Carroll)

Officers do not carry umbrellas (neither will anyone else)

This one actually comes from a formerly written rule that literally said that male officers couldn’t carry umbrellas. But the sort of weird thing is that the official rule has been withdrawn, but almost no one carries an umbrella in uniform, and you will be struck down by the first sergeant’s lightning bolt if you tried to bring one to formation.

And God help the soldier dumb enough to bring one to the field.

Don’t steal personal items; don’t steal anything from your own unit

Look, no one likes a soldier who jacks gear. But some units like failing hand receipt inspections even less, so there’s often pressure to get the gear needed by hook or by crook. But there are some rules to grabbing gear or property. (Turns out, there is honor among thieves.)

First, you do not steal personal property. If it belongs to an individual soldier, it’s off-limits. And, if it belongs to your own unit, it’s off-limits. You don’t shift gear in your squad, in your platoon, or often in your company. But for some folks, if there are some chock blocks missing from their trucks, and the sister battalion leaves some lying around, that is fair game.

The Navy’s latest aircraft carrier deployment had an unusual start as the service aims to be more unpredictable

The guy at the front of the formation is a wealth of knowledge, knowledge that most of his students will be told to forget at some point.

(U.S. Army Spc. Tynisha L. Daniel)

Doesn’t matter how your last unit/drill instructor did it

This is possibly the most important. New soldiers go through all sorts of training, and then their first unit does all sorts of finishing work to get them ready for combat.

But that unit doesn’t care how the drill instructors taught anything in training. And other units don’t care how that first unit did business. Every unit has its own tactics, techniques, and procedures. So when you arrive at a new unit, stash everything you learned before that into a corner of your brain to pull out when useful. But fill the rest of the grey matter with the new units techniques.

MIGHTY FIT

6 stereotypes you’ll see in every military gym

The military is full of individuals from all cultures who come together under one roof to workout and better themselves, both physically and mentally. Over the past few decades, the government has spent vast amounts of cash in designing and building some amazing and well-equipped fitness centers for the troops.


Now, joining a military gym isn’t as easy as getting roped into a monthly subscription by someone at the front desk — first, you’ll have to go through boot camp. But once you do become a member, you can use any fitness center run by the military. But no matter where you are, the very first time you use these workout facilities, you’re going to encounter some interesting gym-goers.

Don’t let these 6 stereotypes scare you away!

Also Read: 6 things you should never do or say at the gym

The creeper

You’ll probably catch a guy or girl peeking at you in the mirror when you’re not looking. We’ve got a name for people like that: “creepers.” Most of the time, they’re completely harmless — they’re just admiring your figure, but it can get annoying after a while.

Now, when you’re stationed in the infantry, having a girl show up to a predominately male gym is like finding the Holy Grail. It doesn’t happen too often, but when it does, many a gym-goer is guilty of becoming a creeper.

The Navy’s latest aircraft carrier deployment had an unusual start as the service aims to be more unpredictable

Well, well. Look who’s here again?

(U.S. Marine photo by Lance Cpl. John Robbart III)

The gym rat

It doesn’t matter what time of day you go to the gym — you’ll see this person when you enter and they’ll still be there working out as you leave. They’re so jacked that it seems like they live at the gym. Seeing these guys will leave you wondering, “do these guys ever go to work?”

The popular one

Everyone loves this guy or gal. They’ve got a winning smile and they say hello to everybody else in the gym. You know what? We like this stereotype, too, so we’re not going to hate on them. We’re just going to move on.

The Navy’s latest aircraft carrier deployment had an unusual start as the service aims to be more unpredictable

Now, there’s no proof he’s grunting, but it looks like he should be.

(Army photo by Spc. Cassandra Monroe)

The grunters

When you’ve got your earphones in and you’re listening to some great tunes, its tough to hear the sounds you’re making as you lift those heavy weights. Unfortunately, everyone else in the gym totally hear you.

We get it — that leg press looked extremely hard to push out, but when you’re screaming louder than a woman in the throes of childbirth, it gets distracting. Grunting is a way many people motivate themselves, but nobody wants to hear your bellows while they’re trying to concentrate.

The ab checker

Most gym walls are plastered with mirrors. We use these mirrors to check our form, gawk look at other people, and monitor our physical progress. Some people take it a step further, though, periodically lifting up their shirts to check out their abs as if they might disappear somehow.

The Navy’s latest aircraft carrier deployment had an unusual start as the service aims to be more unpredictable

Nothing motivates you to workout harder than focusing on a picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The daredevil

This brave trooper doesn’t mind twisting his or her body into some interesting positions in order to get their pump on. You’ll see the “daredevil” doing handstands, muscle-ups, and clapper push-ups in the middle of the gym and they don’t care what kind risk is involved.

Military Life

Watch Army Special Forces do their own dive training

When we think of Green Berets, we think of tough, highly-trained troops that have been groomed to take on high-priority missions. Seeing as the military is home to a number of unique specializations, it’s easy to assume that when it comes to any kind of amphibious assault or landing, you’ve entered Navy or Marine Corps territory — right? Not necessarily.

The U.S. Army does some of its own diving. In fact, the U.S. Army actually operates a number of its own ships, too, for moving stuff around. In an instance of Hollywood actually getting it right, the 1986 film The Delta Force touched on one instance in which dive training proved very useful: infiltrating a target.


The Navy’s latest aircraft carrier deployment had an unusual start as the service aims to be more unpredictable

Chuck Norris prepares to infiltrate a terrorist base in ‘The Delta Force.’ The diving is not Hollywood BS.

(Cannon Films)

So, how do Green Berets learn how to carry out such missions? Well, to even get into the Combat Diver Qualification Course at the Special Forces Underwater Operations School, soldiers must first demonstrate outstanding physical fitness and pass swim tests. Once a Green Beret has arrived in Key West, Florida, they face seven weeks of training.

The training is extremely tough — one of three candidates who attend the school will not pass the course. After another series of tests (known collectively as “Zero Week”), Special Forces diving students learn how to handle SCUBA gear and re-breathers and learn all the skills required for an amphibious insertion. Then, It all culminates in a field training exercise.

The Navy’s latest aircraft carrier deployment had an unusual start as the service aims to be more unpredictable

One-third of the soldiers training will wash out of the Combat Divers Qualification Course.

(U.S. Army photo by Linda L. Crippen)

Check out the video below to see an old-school video about Green Berets putting their dive training to good use.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJhMxdZAJ64

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TRENDING

US in a hurry to question special operations in Africa

The deaths of four U.S. Special Forces soldiers in Niger last month have raised questions about America’s role in the fight against violent extremism in a sparsely populated region of Africa.


Before the October attack, in which at least four Nigerien soldiers were also killed, some members of Congress said they were aware of U.S. operations in Niger, but others — including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) — said they did not know U.S. troops were on the ground in Niger.

U.S. involvement includes more than 800 troops, according to Pentagon officials. There are also two drone bases in the country.

The Navy’s latest aircraft carrier deployment had an unusual start as the service aims to be more unpredictable
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks with reporters about recent military operations in Niger Oct. 23, 2017, at the Pentagon. (DoD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

Niger and Burkina Faso want the U.S. to do more to support local governments in their fight against extremism, mainly by funding a new regional task force. The first-year operating budget for the five-nation force has been projected at $500 million. The United States is considering making a contribution of $60 million.

A decade of involvement

The heightened U.S. presence in the Sahel dates back to at least 2007, when the Pentagon established the United States Africa Command, AFRICOM. The command, based in Stuttgart, Germany, works with regional partners in Africa to strengthen security and stability. Since at least 2013, U.S. forces have conducted missions to train, advise, and assist in Niger, collaborating with local authorities to clamp down on armed extremists.

Niger has been a particularly important strategic partner in the region. During the Obama administration, the U.S. built drone bases in the capital, Niamey, and in the northern city of Agadez.

“Because the government of Niger has been a strong ally to the counterterrorism efforts, it’s been natural for the United States to station its counterterrorism forces in that country,” said Lisa Mueller, an assistant professor of political science at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota.

But the Green Berets’ deaths have brought new scrutiny to U.S. partnerships in the Sahel, and it is unclear how — or if — the Trump administration might shift its policy in the region.

The Navy’s latest aircraft carrier deployment had an unusual start as the service aims to be more unpredictable
A US Army Special Forces weapons sergeant observes as a Nigerien soldier bounds forward while practicing buddy team movement drills during Exercise Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, March 11, 2017. (Army photo by Spc. Zayid Ballesteros.)

Some activists and U.S. lawmakers are concerned that some regional partners have authoritarian governments. Even Niger, said Brandon Kendhammer, an associate professor and director of the International Development Studies Program at Ohio University, is “problematically democratic.”

Still, Kendhammer characterized U.S. involvement as a net positive. “It’s pretty clear that these investments do make a real difference in the ability of the region to provide its own security,” he said.

Seeking input has been key to that success, according to Kendhammer. Despite perceptions among some observers that AFRICOM works unilaterally, the command has a track record of seeking local expertise and wide-ranging perspectives, Kendhammer said.

Green Beret deaths

Pentagon officials expect to complete their investigation into the Niger attack in January.

Based on what is now known, the U.S. soldiers killed last month were involved in exactly the kind of work that troops stationed in the Sahel undertake, Kendhammer said.

Related: This is the general demanding answers for the families of the soldiers who died in Niger

A big part of that role involves training local forces via workshops and fieldwork. Training can cover everything from basic operations to advanced tactics, including rapid response to terrorist attacks. To maximize their impact, the U.S. follows a “train the trainer” model, Kendhammer said, working with elite local forces who, in turn, share knowledge and skills.

No one has claimed responsibility for the October attack, but the Pentagon suspects possible involvement by militants affiliated with the Islamic State group, one of several extremist organizations operating in the Sahel.

That presence typically involves local militants who pledge allegiance to an international organization like IS or al-Qaida. Such an affiliation might signal tenuous ties — occasional mention in an IS publication, for example — or ongoing communication with the broader network.

Either way, affiliating with an established terrorist organization can be more pragmatic than ideological. According to Kendhammer, the particular group alleged to be behind the Niger attack was previously affiliated with al-Qaeda and switched in 2015 or 2016 to find a better strategic partner.

The tactics employed by local militants hinge on undermining U.S. efforts. As VOA previously reported, it is likely that villagers in Tongo Tongo, where last month’s attack occurred, helped lure U.S. and Nigerien forces into a trap. The villagers’ willingness to assist militant groups reflects concerted efforts within those factions to build trust with local populations while fomenting contempt for America.

The Navy’s latest aircraft carrier deployment had an unusual start as the service aims to be more unpredictable
Tongo Tongo in Niger. (image Google Maps)

Daily Beast contributor Philip Obaji Jr. reported this month that residents of Tongo Tongo blamed the U.S. for a 2016 grenade attack that killed six children. No evidence has linked the U.S. to the incident, but local militant groups have pushed the narrative of an American-led slaughter to “win the hearts and minds of the local population,” Obaji wrote.

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

Financial constraints

Governments in the Sahel say they need far more funding to carry out critical missions tied to two task forces: the newly-formed G5 counter-terrorism force and the Multinational Joint Task Force, a longstanding effort based in Chad that has been revitalized to fight Boko Haram.

Burkina Faso’s minister of foreign affairs, Alpha Barry, told VOA’s French to Africa service this month that the G5 force needs more help from the U.S., whose recent pledge will assist regional militaries but not the G5, according to Barry.

Despite its bases and troop deployments, U.S. investment in the Sahel, particularly in Mali and Niger, has so far been eclipsed, both financially and militarily, by the EU and France, Mueller said.

Local solutions

Concerns about lack of funding and efforts to demonize the U.S. may have a common solution: more local initiatives and buy-in. But bringing those solutions to fruition is easier said than done.

“In U.S. government discourse about West Africa, [we tend] to talk about the need for everything to be regionally oriented and for everything to be an African solution to an African problem. And those are good ideas in principle, but they don’t always translate directly into obvious policy,” Kendhammer said. “Not every regional initiative is going to be the right regional initiative. Not every local solution is going to be the local solution that’s actually going to solve the problem because countries have different interests.”

Read More: This timeline shows how the Niger operation went down

In the end, countries’ interests will dictate how well a solution works. In the Sahel, that’s complicated by a diverse host of local players, each with its own economic and security concerns.

For Niger, fighting extremism is less about combating a homegrown threat and more about securing its borders. “It might be tempting to look at Niger – a country that is approximately 99 percent Muslim in its population – and assume that Nigeriens are radicalizing. And as far as I can tell, that’s just not the case,” Mueller said.

Instead, threats have spilled into the country from all sides, putting Niger in the crosshairs.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Two Air Force generals rumored for next Chairman of Joint Chiefs

Two U.S. Air Force generals are being considered to become the military’s next top general with the anticipated retirement of Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford in 2019, according to a new Wall Street Journal report.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen David Goldfein and U.S. Strategic Command’s Air Force Gen. John Hyten are among those being considered by the White House to be next chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, Journal reported Aug. 19, 2018.


Goldfein, Hyten and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley are also under consideration to become the next vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the Journal said, citing U.S. officials. The position is currently held by Air Force Gen. Paul Selva.

A White House spokesperson declined to comment to Military.com about the reported moves on Aug. 20, 2018. A Defense Department spokesman declined to confirm the moves, but noted that the military routinely makes senior command changes.

The reported proposal to elevate Hyten comes at a time when the Defense Department is focused heavily on expanding its space and nuclear enterprise. As the STRATCOM chief, Hyten has emphasized the need for nuclear modernization as well as the growing demand for bulked-up defenses in space as adversaries like Russia and China continue to exhibit hostile behavior in the domain.

While Hyten in recent months has not publicly commented on President Donald Trump’s proposed Space Force, the general has made clear that space is becoming a more contested arena.

The Navy’s latest aircraft carrier deployment had an unusual start as the service aims to be more unpredictable

Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford

“We have to treat space like a warfighting domain,” Hyten recently told audiences at the 2018 Space Missile Defense Symposium, reiterating previous comments he has made. “It’s about speed, about dealing with the adversary,” he said, as reported by Space News.

Goldfein has also made efforts to make his service more competitive and collaborative. As Air Force Chief of Staff, Goldfein has stressed the importance of partnerships with allies and joint services, as well as the imperative to develop a more streamlined approach to carry out the military’s global operations.

For example, with the Air Force’s ‘Light Attack’ experiment, Goldfein has said the importance of procuring new planes isn’t solely about adding new aircraft, but also about developing ways to work with more coalition members to counter extremism in the Middle East.

“Is this a way to get more coalition partners into a network to counter violence?” he told Military.com in a 2017 interview. “[This] isn’t an incentive for us not to lead,” he said. “It’s the incentive for us to grow … to have more partners in this fight.”

Trump is looking to nominate new leaders across various combatant commands as rotations for current leaders come to an end, Wall Street Journal reported.

Among the reported moves:

  • Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, Jr., director of the Joint Staff, to command U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East. McKenzie, who was often seen briefing alongside Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White, would replace Army Gen. Joseph Votel.
  • Army Lt. Gen. Richard Clarke to lead U.S. Special Operations Command. Clarke is currently the director for Strategic Plans and Policy on the Joint Staff at the Pentagon. He would replace Army Gen. Tony Thomas in the job, which oversees all special operations in the U.S. Armed Forces. Thomas is anticipated to retire next year.
  • Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, current U.S. Air Forces Europe-Africa commander, to become the commander of U.S. European Command and NATO supreme allied commander-Europe. Wolters would replace Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, who has overseen the steady buildup of forces on the European continent following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

Top general says US commandos and Arab allies squeezing ISIS in Syria

American special operators teamed with Arab fighters in Syria are poised to take a key town north of the Islamic State stronghold in Raqqah. If they succeed it would be an important blow to the Islamic insurgency and assist the government of Iraq in taking back its second largest city.


Since late June, jets from the United States, France, and Australia have been pounding ISIS positions in the city of Manbij, a key northern crossroads town north of the ISIS-held town of Raqqah in Syria. Kurdish and Syrian-Arab fighters who make up the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, are squeezing hundreds of ISIS fighters in the town, said to be a key transit point for bootleg oil and illicit arms for the terrorist group.

“I’ve been extraordinarily pleased with the performance of our partner forces, the Syrian-Arab coalition, in particular,” said Central Command chief Army Gen. Joseph Votel during a press conference at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

“This has been a very difficult fight. This is an area that the Islamic State is trying to hold onto,” he added.

Pentagon chief Ash Carter said the campaign in Manbij is part of an effort to squeeze ISIS into Raqqah in Syria and Mosul in Iraq. Defense officials have hinted that a full-on assault on Iraq’s second largest city is imminent, with regional leaders meeting July 20 at Andrews to flesh out a post-takeover plan.

“In play after play, town after town, from every direction and in every domain, our campaign has accelerated further, squeezing ISIL and rolling it back towards Raqqah and Mosul,” Carter said. “By isolating these two cities, we’re effectively setting the stage to collapse ISIL’s control over them.”

Al Jazeera reports that ISIS has lost nearly 500 fighters in Manbij as SDF fighters with American help have squeezed the terrorist enclave. The SDF has suffered less than 100 dead.

The success in Manbij comes as an opposition watchdog group claimed a U.S.-led airstrike on the town killed 56 civilians July 19. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights report, the dead include 11 children.

Carter said the anti-ISIS coalition, dubbed Operation Inherent Resolve, is looking into the allegations.

“We’re aware of reports of civilian casualties that may be related to recent coalition airstrikes near Manbij city in Syria,” Carter said. “We’ll investigate these reports and continue to do all we can to protect civilians from harm.”

The Navy’s latest aircraft carrier deployment had an unusual start as the service aims to be more unpredictable
A Peshmerga soldier fires at a target from his foxhole during a live-fire exercise near Erbil, Iraq, Feb. 8, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jessica Hurst/Released)

Votel added that Kurdish and Syrian-Arab parters are working to keep the 70,000 civilians in Manbij out of harms way.

“What I’ve been most impressed with is the deliberateness and the discipline with which our partner forces have conducted themselves,” Votel said. “They are moving slowly, they are moving very deliberately, mostly because they’re concerned about the civilians that still remain in the city.”

“And I think that that speaks very highly of their values and it speaks very highly of what they’re about here. We’ve picked the right partners for this operation,” he said.

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

4 critical components to the success of the first total penis transplant

Doctors at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Maryland announced the first-ever successful total penis and scrotum transplant was performed on an Afghanistan veteran recently. The recipient was wounded in an IED attack that left him without sexual or urinary function but left his internal organs unharmed.

The procedure was performed on March 26th and the unidentified “sergeant” will have urinary function by the end of the week.


The wounded warrior will also regain complete sexual function in roughly six months. Testicles that could contain semen were not part of the procedure due to the ethical issues associated with having children through the donor’s genetic material.

The Navy’s latest aircraft carrier deployment had an unusual start as the service aims to be more unpredictable

Though there have been successful partial operations performed elsewhere, this is the first total penis and scrotal transplant, with more tissue transplanted than ever before. The 14-hour procedure required a number of considerations.

1. The donor.

The donor was a recently deceased man whose identity has not been released. According to USA Today, a statement from the donor’s family (which includes a number of veterans) was read by the President and CEO of New England Donor Services.

“We are so thankful to say that our loved one would be proud and honored to know he provided such a special gift to you,” the statement reads. “We hope you can return to better health very soon and we continue to wish you a speedy recovery.”

2. Rejection.

The recipient’s body could possibly reject the foreign tissue at any time. The sergeant will likely have to take immunosuppressants to ensure the acceptance of the new tissue. To further diminish the likelihood of rejection, the recipient was infused with the donor’s bone marrow to reduce the level of medication necessary to prevent a rejection.

3. Complete sexual function.

The sergeant’s body was connected to his donated organ through three arteries, four veins, and two nerves in order to give him full blood flow and sensation.

4. Hundreds of similarly wounded servicemen.

Between October 2001 and August 2013, an estimated 1,367 male service members sustained injuries to their genitals and urinary system. 73 percent of those included scrotal injuries, 33 percent included the testes, and 31 percent included the penis.

Articles

15 quotes from Gen. Mad Dog’ Mattis, slayer of bodies

Marine Corps Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis is known for his aggressive tactics and his even more aggressive quotes.


While he embraced counter-insurgency tactics with the rest of the military, his quotes put a decidedly lethal spin on “low-intensity combat.” Check out these 15 great Mattis quotes — but be warned… they’ll make you want to charge into hordes of America’s enemies with nothing but a Ka-Bar:

1. “The first time you blow someone away is not an insignificant event. That said, there are some a-sholes in the world that just need to be shot.” (America and Iraq: Policy-making, Intervention and Regional Politics)

The Navy’s latest aircraft carrier deployment had an unusual start as the service aims to be more unpredictable
Photo: U.S. Marine Corps

2. “I come in peace. I didn’t bring artillery. But I’m pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you f-ck with me, I’ll kill you all.” (Slate)

3. “I’m going to plead with you, do not cross us. Because if you do, the survivors will write about what we do here for 10,000 years.”

4. “Fight with a happy heart and strong spirit … Demonstrate to the world there is no better friend, no worse enemy than a U.S. Marine.” (Letter from Mattis to his troops just before the Iraq invasion)

5. “I don’t get intelligence off a satellite. Iraqis tell me who the enemy is.” (Press conference in Iraq via National Review)

The Navy’s latest aircraft carrier deployment had an unusual start as the service aims to be more unpredictable
(Photo: U.S. Department of Defense Erin A. Kirk)

6. “Find the enemy that wants to end this experiment (in American democracy) and kill every one of them until they’re so sick of the killing that they leave us and our freedoms intact.”

7. “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”

8. “Be the hunter, not the hunted: never allow your unit to be caught with its guard down.” (Letter from Mattis to his troops just before the Iraq invasion)

9. “The most important six inches on the battlefield is between your ears.”

The Navy’s latest aircraft carrier deployment had an unusual start as the service aims to be more unpredictable
(Photo: U.S. Navy Chief Mass Communication Specialist Eric A. Clement)

10. “You are part of the world’s most feared and trusted force. Engage your brain before you engage your weapon.” (Letter from Mattis to his troops just before the Iraq invasion)

11. “There are hunters and there are victims. By your discipline, cunning, obedience and alertness, you will decide if you are a hunter or a victim.” (Told to troops at Al Asad, Iraq)

12. “No war is over until the enemy says it’s over. We may think it over, we may declare it over, but in fact, the enemy gets a vote.”

The Navy’s latest aircraft carrier deployment had an unusual start as the service aims to be more unpredictable
(Photo: U.S. Navy Chief Mass Communications Specialist Shawn P. Eklund)

13. “There is nothing better than getting shot at and missed. It’s really great.”

14. “You cannot allow any of your people to avoid the brutal facts. If they start living in a dream world, it’s going to be bad.”

15. “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them. Actually it’s quite fun to fight them, you know. It’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right up there with you. I like brawling.” (Said during a panel discussion in San Diego, via CNN)

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