America has lost 2 service members in 2 days in Afghanistan - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

America has lost 2 service members in 2 days in Afghanistan

A US service member died in a non-combat incident in Afghanistan Sept. 4, 2018, marking the second American death in two days in the war-torn country.

The incident is currently under investigation, according to an Operation Resolute Support press statement that was decidedly short on details. The fallen’s name will be released 24 hours after the individual’s next of kin have been notified.


MIGHTY TACTICAL

Everything you need to know about the Army’s new drone school

Army instructors at Fort Benning, Georgia recently opened a new drone training school to teach young soldiers to become as familiar with these tiny flying devices as they are handling M4 carbines.

The 3rd Squadron, 16th Cavalry Regiment, 316th Cavalry Brigade opened its new small unmanned aerial system, or SUAS, course facility June 11, 2018, and recently began giving classes to basic trainees “so they can become familiar with drones before they show up to their units,” Sgt. 1st Class Hilario Dominguez, the lead instructor for the class, said in a recent Defense Department news release.


Students at the SUAS course showed basic trainees how the drones fly and how to describe them if they see one flying over their formation.

Capt. Sean Minton, commander of D Company, 2nd Battalion, 58th Infantry Regiment, said his recruits learn how to fill out a seven-line report when they spot a drone and send the information to higher headquarters by radio.

America has lost 2 service members in 2 days in Afghanistan
A Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle.
(U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)

Trainees also learn how to hide from an enemy drone and disperse to avoid heavy casualties from drone-directed field artillery.

“Our enemies have drones now,” Minton said. “And we don’t always own the air.”

Instructors teach Raven and Puma fixed-wing remote-controlled drones and a variety of helicopters, including the tiny InstantEye copter, which flies as quietly as a humming bird, according to the release.

The students who attend the SUAS course are typically infantry soldiers and cavalry scouts who go back to their units to be brigade or battalion-level master trainers, Dominguez said.

Having trained and certified experts from the course builds trust among company and troop-level commanders so they worry less about losing drones because they distrust their drone pilots’ skills, Dominguez said.

Staff Sgt. Arturo Saucedo teaches precision flying at the course. He tells his students to think of the small helicopters as a way to chase down armed enemy soldiers.

America has lost 2 service members in 2 days in Afghanistan
RQ-11B Raven

“Instead of chasing him through a booby hole, you just track him,” he said. “Now you have a grid of his location, and you can do what you need to do.”

The new drone schoolhouse was created inside a former convenience store.

“This building represents an incredible new opportunity to the small unmanned aerial system course,” said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Barta, 3-16 commander, during the SUAS building opening event.

“For several years now it was operating in small, cramped classrooms insufficient to meet program instruction requirements. Thanks to the work many on the squadron staff, the 316th Brigade S4 shop, and the garrison Directorate of Public Works and Network Enterprise Center, we were able to turn the vacant structure into a vibrant classroom, training leaders to make the Army better.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The harrowing true story of a US soldier who was shot 13 times

U.S. Army Specialist Jay Strobino was with his team in Rushdi Mullah, a small farming village in Iraq’s infamous Triangle of Death, on Feb. 1, 2006. They were there on a mission to grab a suspected enemy insurgent. Everything was going according to plan as they searched the house — no surprises.

That all changed when a truck full of insurgents rolled into the opposite side of town and pinned down a corner of their outer cordon. Strobino was about to be in the firefight of his life.


America has lost 2 service members in 2 days in Afghanistan

The “Triangle of Death” became infamous during the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

(Image courtesy of the US Army Center for Military History.)

Strobino, along with three others, made their way to the corner. He killed one of the insurgents who was trying to make it across the road; the resulting break in fire allowed him and his team to run across the street, closer to where the other enemy combatants were.

His team snuck behind a row of houses, where Strobino shot another insurgent through a window of an adjacent house. They then moved to the house that the remainder of the insurgents were behind. With his SAW gunner on the rooftop of the last building, Strobino and two others maneuvered to the back of the property.

Behind the house, there was a shed and a fence surrounded by bushes. Strobino was the first to scale it but not without some difficulty.

“When I got over, I saw two insurgents spaced about 10 to 15 feet apart, facing away from me. I held my aim but didn’t want to fire because everyone else I shot that day wouldn’t die, and we were taking up to 15 rounds to stop [them from] advancing or firing,” he said. Insurgents in Iraq were known to take drugs before going into battle that would often allow them to keep fighting even after suffering mortal wounds.

America has lost 2 service members in 2 days in Afghanistan

U.S. Army Specialist Jay Stobino in Iraq.

(Photo courtesy of Jay Strobino.)

So he stayed put for the moment, waiting on his teammate to get over the fence, but his teammate kept getting caught. The two insurgents Strobino had zeroed in on turned to face him, and he was forced to fire. Fortunately, his squad leader soon made it over the fence and was able to join in the fight.

There was still another insurgent left, though. He was aiming his AK-47 around the front corner of the house, firing back at Strobino and his squad leader. In response, his squad leader threw a grenade, and their team followed after.

“I ran to the front corner of the building and peered around. His weapon was up and out of the front doorway. I put my weapon on burst and turned the corner, hoping to grab his barrel,” he said.

The enemy fighter heard them coming and had already started moving toward Strobino and his other teammates when he came around the corner. Strobino pulled the trigger, sending the target to the floor; however, the target fired back.

Strobino was hit, and it was bad.

“My leg was broken and my ulnar nerve was hit in my arm,” he said, “and I lost control of my right hand.”

America has lost 2 service members in 2 days in Afghanistan

Strabino in the hospital after suffering 13 bullet wounds in a firefight in Iraq.

(Photo courtesy of Jay Strabino.)

The two soldiers with him had taken cover behind a truck, and Strobino planned to throw a grenade. But the moment he pulled it out, the insurgent threw his own over the truck where his team was positioned and came out firing. He sprayed his weapon again, hitting Strobino a second time.

“At this point, I thought everyone was dead and I was immobilized. But my squad leader called out my name — I couldn’t believe it. I threw my grenade over to him so he could arm it and toss it around the corner,” Strobino said.

But the grenade didn’t kill the insurgent, and with his condition quickly deteriorating, getting Strobino out of there became the priority. The other members of his team pulled him behind the building. His platoon sergeant and his radiotelephone operator (RTO) moved up, bandaged him, pulled security, and called for a medevac.

The insurgent was still in the house. A second team threw multiple grenades into the home before going in. Two of those soldiers took rounds; one of them died on the medevac back to Baghdad. After that, they called in Apaches to finish the job, blowing up the house.

Strobino’s condition was so dire that his parents were nearly summoned in fear that he wouldn’t make it home. He immediately went under the knife and had surgeries every 12 to 24 hours. From Iraq, he was flown to Germany for two weeks and eventually back to the U.S., where a long road of recovery awaited him.

Strobino had been shot a total of 13 times, and it cost him more than just blood. “I lost a large portion of my right femur and couldn’t walk on that leg for six months,” Strobino said. “I lost a lot of that quad group as well.”

America has lost 2 service members in 2 days in Afghanistan

A portion of the wounds Strobino received during the firefight.

(Photo courtesy of Jay Strobino.)

He had to teach his brain how to perform small physical tasks again. He got winded standing at the side of his bed while two people held him. Fortunately, the great people at places like the VA hospital in Augusta, Georgia, and the Fisher House helped him pull through.

“The Fisher House is like a Ronald McDonald house for wounded vets,” Strobino said. “It’s practically five-star accommodations for the family members of a wounded veteran that are recovering at the adjacent hospital. The family has their own private room. There’s a huge shared kitchen, laundry room, dining rooms, relaxing rooms. Everything is handicap accessible. And the families stay there free of charge.

“It helps the veteran because they can have family there while they are trying to recover,” he continued. “And it also helps the families because they are living in an area with other families going through similar situations. They can all empathize and help each other out.”

At the end of 2006, Strobino was awarded a Silver Star for his valor in combat. The citation reads:

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918 (amended by an act of July 25, 1963), takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Specialist Jay Christopher Strobino, United States Army, for exceptionally meritorious achievement and exemplary service as a Team Leader in 3d Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 502d Infantry Regiment, 2d Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), attached to the 4th Infantry Division, during combat operations in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, on a mission on 1 February 2006 in Rushdi Mulla, Iraq. Specialist Strobino’s exceptional dedication to mission accomplishment, tactical and technical competence, and unparalleled ability to perform under fire and while injured, contributed immeasurably to the success of his unit in Rushdi Mulla, Iraq, and reflects great credit upon himself, his unit, the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and the United States Army.

“The absolute biggest thing is to stay positive,” he said, in regard to facing an unexpected challenge. “Surround yourself with positive people and feed off each other’s energy. Know that you’re not going to be able to do it alone, and it’s not going to be easy. But be sure to celebrate each small victory.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Britain revives its carrier warfare program with trip to U.S.

Britain’s newest and most powerful aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, is on its way to America to train with F-35 jets for the first time.

The British Royal Navy’s £3.5 billion ($4.5 billion) aircraft carrier left the UK for America on Aug. 18, 2018, to start September 2018 training with F-35B jets based at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, the Royal Navy wrote on its official website.


Crowds turned out to wish the carrier well on its 3,400-mile trip from Portsmouth, a city on England’s south coast.

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The deployment is significant because it will mark the first fighter jet landing on a British aircraft carrier in eight years.

Shortly after leaving, the crew carried out their first relief effort: two baby pigeons were found on board, which had to be fed porridge through a syringe and returned to land in a helicopter, the Royal Navy said.

“While our focus for the deployment is getting the new jets onboard for the first time, we are also prepared to conduct humanitarian relief, should we be called upon to do so. We just didn’t think that would be quite so soon,” Lieutenant Commander Lindsey Waudby said.

The first landing on the HMS Queen Elizabeth will happen at the end of September 2018, according to the Portsmouth News. The jets are expected to perform 500 take-offs and landings over an 11-week period, the Royal Navy said.

The F-35B is designed to operate from short-field bases — like on the Queen Elizabethand has vertical landing ability.

It can also take off and land conventionally from longer runways at major bases.

Watch one landing here:

www.youtube.com

The jets will be flown by four F-35B pilots from the Integrated Test Force, a unit that includes British and American pilots.

On this mission, three British pilots — a Royal Navy Commander, a Squadron Leader from the Royal Air Force, and one civilian test pilot — will be joined by a Major from the US Marine Corps, UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “As the US’s biggest partner in the F-35 programme, we jointly own test jets which are on track to fly off the deck of our new aircraft carrier later this year.”

He said the training will “strengthen our special relationship with US forces.”

HMS Queen Elizabeth is the third largest aircraft carrier in the world at 280 meters long and a weight of 65,000 tonnes. In total, there will be about 1,500 people on board, the Portsmouth News reported.

It is expected to be on active duty in 2021.

Before leaving for America the carrier was in Portsmouth, running helicopter tests using Chinook Mk 5 helicopters and Merlin Mk 2s:

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

New engravings on the USMC War Memorial honor Iraq and Afghanistan Marines

On Nov. 22, the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, and the United States Marine Corps dedicated new engravings on the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial to include the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns.


The names and dates of principal U.S. Marine Corps campaigns and battles are engraved at the base of the Marine Corps War Memorial as well as the Corps motto, “Semper Fidelis,” which means “always faithful” in Latin. The memorial also features the phrase, “Uncommon valor was a common virtue,” a quote from Admiral Chester W. Nimitz in honor of the Marines’ action on Iwo Jima. While the statue depicts a famous photograph of a flag-raising on the island of Iwo Jima in World War II, the memorial is dedicated to all Marines who have given their lives in defense of the United States since 1775.

“As the Deputy Commander of Special Forces in Iraq and retired Navy SEAL, I saw the commitment, patriotism, and fortitude that American servicemembers and their families display while serving our country. It’s a great honor to be a part of memorializing the Marines of the Global War on Terror,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “Our warriors who serve in Iraq and Afghanistan see more frequent deployments as our nation has been at sustained combat for longer than in any previous point in our nation’s history. The Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are warriors in the field and leaders in the community, I salute them and am grateful for their service.”

America has lost 2 service members in 2 days in Afghanistan
As part of an ongoing restoration project, Iraq and Afghanistan have been added to the engravings on the base of the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, VA. (Photo courtesy of US National Park Service)

President Trump has proclaimed November National Veterans and Military Family month. The Department of the Interior and the National Park Service recognize veterans and their families by caring for the battlefields, monuments, and memorials like the U.S.Marine Corps War Memorial that honors those who have served and who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom.

“These engravings represent the 1,481 Marines to date who gave all, as well as their surviving families and a Corps who will never forget them. The U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial is a living tribute to warriors. It is a sacred place that symbolizes our commitment to our nation and to each other,” Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, General Robert B. Neller said.

Related: The USMC War Memorial is about to get a $5 million facelift

Made possible by a $5.37 million donation by businessman and philanthropist David M. Rubenstein, the rehabilitation project also included cleaning and waxing the memorial, brazing bronze seams, and re-gilding letters and inscriptions on the sculpture base. Over the past four months, every inch of the 32-foot-tall statues of Marines raising the flag was examined. Holes, cracks, and seams on the bronze sculpture were brazed to prevent water damage.

“Today we’re simply adding two words to the Marine Corps memorial – Afghanistan and Iraq – but what they stand for is historic and should make every American pause and give thanks for the sacrifices of life and limb that our armed forces have made to protect our freedoms. It is the greatest of privileges to be able to honor our troops and military by helping to restore this iconic memorial,” David M. Rubenstein said.

America has lost 2 service members in 2 days in Afghanistan
As part of an ongoing restoration project, Iraq and Afghanistan have been added to the engravings on the base of the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, VA. (Photo courtesy of US National Park Service)

Rubenstein’s donation, announced in April 2015, was a leadership gift to the National Park Foundation’s Centennial Campaign for America’s National Parks.

“Mr. Rubenstein’s commitment to America’s national parks is as inspiring as it is generous,” said Will Shafroth, president of the National Park Foundation. “We are extraordinarily grateful for his transformative gift to honor the bravery and sacrifice of U.S. Marines represented by this iconic memorial, an image imprinted in the collective memory of our nation.”

The next phase of the project will replace lighting, landscaping, and specially designed educational displays about the significance and importance of the memorial. The project is expected to be completed by fall 2018.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The FBI just issued a warning about your hacker-friendly smart TV

If you own a smart TV — or recently purchased one for the holidays — it’s time to acquaint yourself with the risks associated with the devices, according to a new warning issued by the FBI.

Smart TVs connect to the internet, allowing users to access online apps, much like streaming services. And because they’re internet-enabled, they can make users vulnerable to surveillance and attacks from bad actors, according to the FBI warning.


The #FBI will never call private citizens to request money. If you receive this type of call, it is a #scam. Report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at http://ic3.gov . #CyberMondaypic.twitter.com/NrPLZ1jHqo

twitter.com

“Beyond the risk that your TV manufacturer and app developers may be listening and watching you, that television can also be a gateway for hackers to come into your home,” Beth Anne Steele, an agent in FBI’s Portland bureau, wrote in the warning.

“A bad cyber actor may not be able to access your locked-down computer directly, but it is possible that your unsecured TV can give him or her an easy way in the backdoor through your router,” she added.

Hackers have also proven that it’s possible to take control of smart devices in people’s homes. An investigation by Consumer Reports last year found that Samsung and Roku smart TVs are vulnerable to hacking.

“In a worst-case scenario, they can turn on your bedroom TV’s camera and microphone and silently cyberstalk you,” Steele wrote.

Here are the steps that the FBI recommends all smart TV owners take to protect their privacy:

America has lost 2 service members in 2 days in Afghanistan
America has lost 2 service members in 2 days in Afghanistan
America has lost 2 service members in 2 days in Afghanistan
America has lost 2 service members in 2 days in Afghanistan
America has lost 2 service members in 2 days in Afghanistan
America has lost 2 service members in 2 days in Afghanistan

6. The FBI has asked anyone who believes they’re a victim of cyber fraud to report it to their Internet Crime Complaint Center.

The FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center can be found online here.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

How aerial delivery helps troops in combat

In combat, logistic resources are arguably the most important assets needed to sustain soldiers. “Beans and Bullets” is a common Army phrase utilized for decades that puts a special emphasis behind the importance of logisticians and their capabilities.

Since arriving into theater soldiers of the 824th Rigger detachment, North Carolina National Guard, and the 101st Resolute Support Sustainment Brigade have teamed up to tackle the demanding requirements of rigging equipment and air dropping resources to sustain the warfighter.


Aerial resupply operations is a valuable asset to U.S. and NATO Coalition Forces in Afghanistan. It is the most reliable means of distribution when ground transportation and alternate means have been exhausted. Aerial resupply enable warfighters in austere locations to accomplish their mission and other objectives.

“Aerial delivery is extremely vital and essential to mission success,” said Chief Warrant Officer Two Freddy Reza, an El Paso Texas native, and the senior airdrop systems technician with the 101st RSSB. “Soldiers in austere environments depend on us to get them food, water, and other resources they need to stay in the fight.”

America has lost 2 service members in 2 days in Afghanistan

Soldiers of the 824th Quartermaster Company and the 101st Resolute Support Sustainment Brigade load rigged pallets of supplies on to a C-130 aircraft. Soldiers conduct their final aerial inspection with Air Force loadmasters before delivery.

(Photo by 1st Lt. Verniccia Ford)

All airdrop missions require approval authority through an operation order. Once approved, parachute riggers from both units work diligently to get the classes of supplies bundled and rigged on pallets for aerial delivery in under hours 24 hours.

Since arriving to Afghanistan, this team has delivered more than 150,000 pounds of supplies varying from food, water, and construction material. Mission dependent, sometimes the rigger support team is responsible for filling the request of more than three dozen bundles, carefully packing the loads and cautiously inspecting the pallets before pushing them out for delivery.

Aerial delivery operations have substantially contributed to the success of enduring expeditionary advisory packages and aiding the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade while they train, advise, and assist Afghan counterparts.

“This deployment has helped developed me to expand my knowledge as a parachute rigger,” said Spc. Kiera Butler, a Panama City, Florida native and Parachute Rigger with the 824th Quartermaster Company. “This job has a profound impact on military personnel regardless of the branch. I take pride in knowing I’m helping them carry out their mission.”

Item preservation is important; depending on the classes of supply, some items are rigged and prepared in non-conventional locations. Regardless of the location the rigger support team does everything in their power to ensure recipients receive grade “A” quality.

“During the summer months it would sometimes be 107 degrees, with it being so hot we didn’t want the food to spoil so we rigged in the refrigerator. This allowed the supplies to stay cold until it was time to be delivered,” said Butler. “It was a fun experience and we want to do whatever we can to preserve the supplies for the Soldiers receiving it.”

America has lost 2 service members in 2 days in Afghanistan

Soldiers of the 824th Quartermaster Company and the 101st Resolute Support Sustainment Brigade rigged several bundles of food and water at the Bagram, Afghanistan rigger shed. The rigged supplies will be loaded on to an aircraft and delivered to the requesting unit.

(Photo by 1st Lt. Verniccia Ford)

The rigger support team continuously strives for efficiency. Through meticulous training, they have been able to execute emergency resupply missions utilizing Information Surveillance Reconnaissance feed. This capability allows the rigger support team to observe the loads being delivered, ensuring it lands in the correct location.

When they are not supplying warfighters with supplies, Reza and his team conduct rodeos to train, advise and assist members of the Afghan National Army logistical cell, and NATO counterparts on how to properly rig and inspect loads for aerial resupply.

“During training we express how important attention to detail is, being meticulous is the best way to ensure the load won’t be compromised when landing,” said Reza. “Overall it was a great opportunity to train and educate our Afghan National Army counterparts on aerial delivery operations.

This training will enable the Afghan National Army logistics cell to provide low cost low altitude — LCLA loads to their counterparts on the ground, utilizing C-208 aircrafts. This training is vital to the progress of the ANA logistics cell as they continue to grow and become more efficient.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Articles

This retired Navy pilot rocks the nation with speed metal karaoke at 82 years old

John Hetlinger left the Navy pilot ranks for aerospace engineering. He succeeded in that field, working for NASA on the Hubble Space Telescope for NASA before retiring in his late 60s.


That’s when he got into karaoke, singing at karaoke bars in pleated shorts and pants and nice polo shirts. He’s apparently got a thing for polos with toucans, which is kind of sweet.

Oh, but the songs he sings are heavy metal, and Drowning Pool’s “Bodies” appears to be one of his favorites to perform:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BfR5O2PXzfc
That’s Hetlinger on his recently aired episode of “America’s Got Talent” where he wowed the judges with his performance. You can see Hetlinger perform a longer version of the song, where he includes some profanity, in this 2014 show from when he was a spry 80 years old.
(H/T NPR)
MIGHTY CULTURE

How this man went from being a refugee to a Marine will inspire you

Every day, young American men and women join the military to serve their country and see the world — and they do. U.S. troops have a global impact. For many kids and communities around the world, their introduction to America is via the troops stationed near their homes or moving in and out of embassies.

For one eight-old boy living in Liberia, West Africa, watching how U.S. Marines conducted themselves in his neighborhood made him want to flee to America and become a member of the “few and the proud.”

In 1994, 18-year-old George Jones left his home in West Africa with his family after surviving a brutal civil war. Upon their arrival, Jones took some college courses, but the school expenses began to weigh too heavy. Jones left school and decided he needed to do something great with his life, so he enlisted in the Marine Corps and shipped out to Parris Island in South Carolina.

Jones selected the infantryman MOS to help protect his brother who also enlisted as an “03” rifleman one week ahead of him.


America has lost 2 service members in 2 days in Afghanistan
Marine rifleman Cpl. George Jones takes a moment for a photo op while in the field.

While deployed on a ship with a Marine Expeditionary Unit, Jones was told by a well-respected Marine officer that he had what it took to get accepted to Officer Candidate School. This motivating information inspired Jones, and he applied for commissioning through the Broadened Opportunity for Officer Selection and Training (BOOST) program.

The prideful Marine stuck it out through all the hardship of OCS and met his goal of becoming a Marine officer.

America has lost 2 service members in 2 days in Afghanistan
Capt. George Jones as he stands proud of being a Marine officer.

“If a young kid from Liberia came to the United States as a refugee, went through school, received a degree and had the privilege to lead sons and daughters as an officer, I think you can achieve anything.” — Marine Capt. George Jones proudly stated.

Capt. Jones now serves as an Operations Officer for the 3rd Marine Division and plans to retire from service in the next couple of years. This Marine is a great reminder that we can overcome some insane obstacles in order to reach our goals.

Check out the video below to hear this motivating story from the driven Marine himself.

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Warriors in their Own Words: The ‘Tunnel Rats’ of Vietnam

If fighting the well-defended Viet Cong on their home turf wasn’t dangerous enough, imagine having to crawl your way through a series of extremely tight and narrow underground tunnels to capture or kill them.

Such a terrifying prospect was reality for the brave “tunnel rats” of Vietnam, soldiers tasked with entering and clearing the makeshift tunnels dug by the VC in Vietnam. CW Bowman, Gerry Schooler and Art Tejeda spent days maneuvering through the tunnel complexes, clearing and destroying lethal booby-traps. Hear their stories:


In 1946, Viet Minh (a predecessor to Viet Cong) resistance fighters began digging the tunnels and bunkers throughout the countryside to combat the French, whom they would eventually defeat. By the time the Vietnam War broke out, the Viet Cong had over 100 miles of tunnels from which to spring deadly ambushes on American and South Vietnamese forces before vanishing. The numerous ‘spider holes,’ as the tunnel entrances were sometimes called, were conveniently located and well camouflaged — nearly impossible to detect.

Armed with only a flashlight, a single pistol, or maybe just a knife, a “tunnel rat” didn’t have much in the way of defense as they crawled in to clear these tunnels.

Here’s what you didn’t know about these courageous troops:

America has lost 2 service members in 2 days in Afghanistan
Sgt. Ronald H. Payne, a “tunnel rat”, bravely searches a tunnel’s entrance during Vietnam War

 

1. The shorter the better

Many of the “tunnel rats” from Austraila, New Zealand, South Vietnam, and America volunteered for the dangerous position.

However, the brave troops that were picked for the job were commonly the shortest grunts in the platoon — for obvious reasons.

2. Most “tunnel rat” dogs didn’t work out

It’s well-known that dogs are great at detecting IEDs in modern warfare, but they weren’t too good at sniffing out the many booby traps placed by the North Vietnamese around tunnel entrances.

3. Their rate of fire

If a soldier took enemy contact, their training taught them to adjust their rate of fire. Instead of firing multiple shots, the troop would commonly fire single shots, making use of echoes to confuse the enemy. After deafening shots rang out and reverberated off of tunnel walls, the enemy would left puzzled as to how many rounds they had left.

America has lost 2 service members in 2 days in Afghanistan

4. To wear a gas mask or not to wear a gas mask…

When entering a tunnel, many troops decided against wearing gas masks as they obstructed breathing and vision. Although crawling into a wall of gas was a possibility, many “tunnel rats” chose to take their chances.

Check out Simple History‘s video below to learn more about the dangerous job these brave tunnel rats had.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy will use drones to seek and destroy underwater mines

The U.S. Navy plans to deploy fast, high-tech surface drones equipped with advanced wireless technology able to find, attack, and ultimately destroy underwater enemy mines, all while operating at safe distance from a larger, manned surface host ship, such as a Littoral Combat Ship, service officials said.


Naval Sea Systems Command is currently working with industry to develop, assess and analyze mine-neutralization technologies for its emerging Mine Countermeasures Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MCM USV) — a multi-mission surface drone countermine platform slated to be operational by 2019. Capt. Jon Rucker, Program Manager, Unmanned Maritime Systems, PEO LCS, told reporters recently at the Surface Navy Association Symposium.

“MCM USV will ‘take the man out of the minefield’ when it comes to Navy mine countermeasures operations,” Alan Baribeau, spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command, told Warrior Maven.

America has lost 2 service members in 2 days in Afghanistan
A German mine swept up in Australian water by an auxiliary minesweeper visible at center right. (Image from Naval Historical Collection)

The current exploration of mine-neutralization technology is happening alongside the ongoing integration of advanced sonar mine-hunting payloads onto the USV – the AQS-20 and AQS-24, Baribeau explained.

Overall, the MCM USV represents the next-iteration of surface-drone technology, extending beyond the mine-detecting Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS) now going through testing and builders trails, Rucker said.

“The UISS provides the Navy’s first unmanned minesweeping capability and the MCM USV with towed sonars provides the Navy unmanned volume and bottom mine hunting capability,” Baribeau said.

Textron Systems is now on contract with the Navy to integrate the AQS-20 and AQS-24, sonar payloads which will expand range and detection technology.

“UISS was foundational program that then migrated into expanding within the mine countermeasures technology,” Wayne Prender, Unmanned Systems Vice President of Control Surface Systems, Textron Systems, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

Also Read: Collision at sea sidelines US Navy mine sweeper and nuclear submarine

Building upon these efforts, the Navy is also planning for the MCM USV to incorporate an ability to “destroy” mines from USVs as well.

Neutralizing mines, once they are found, is the aim of this longer-term Navy effort to go beyond detection and succeed in destroying mines as well. As part of this effort, the Navy is now considering the Barracuda Mine Neutralization System — a technology described by a Navy solicitation as “a modular, low-cost, semi-autonomous, expendable neutralizer conforming to the A-size sonobuoy form factor.”

Navy documents further specify that Barracuda will use wireless communications, therefore allowing for a “tetherless” operation for the MCM USV. Military Aersopace electronics describes mine neutralizers as mini underwater drones armed with explosives which travel to an identified underwater mine – and then explode.

Barracuda will first be deployed from an LCS before potentially migrating to other surface or airborne platforms, Navy statements indicated.

Mine neutralization will naturally work in tandem with sonar systems which, Baribeau explained, can both send imagery data back to a host ship in real time through a line of sight connection or store sonar information for post-mission processing.

America has lost 2 service members in 2 days in Afghanistan
A port view of the guided missile frigate USS SAMUEL B. ROBERTS (FFG-58) in dry dock in Dubai, UAE, for temporary repairs. The frigate was damaged when it struck an Iranian naval mine while on patrol in the Persian Gulf. (Image Wikipedia)

Navy Surface Drone “Ghost Fleet”

Incremental steps forward with surface drone countermine technology is all unfolding within a broader strategic context for the Navy aimed at architecting a “ghost fleet” of interconnected, unmanned vessels able to perform missions in a synchronized fashion.

Pentagon and Navy developers are advancing this drone-fleet concept to search and destroy mines, swarm and attack enemies, deliver supplies and conduct intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance missions, among other things.

Swarms of small aerial drones, engineered with advanced computer algorithms, could potentially coordinate with surface and undersea vehicles as part of an integrated mission, developers have explained.

As communications and networking technologies continue to evolve rapidly, drones will increasingly be able to function in a cross-domain capacity, meaning across air, sea, land and undersea operations.

Aerial swarms, for instance, could detect an enemy surface vessel and relay information to unmanned surface vessels or undersea drones to investigate or even attack. All of this could operate in a combat circumstance while needing little or no human intervention.

The Ghost Fleet effort involves a collaborative venture between the Office of Naval Research, the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office, and the Navy.

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Watch the Army test its upgraded Stryker vehicles armed to destroy Russia’s best tanks

Army personnel recently traveled from Germany to the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland for testing and training on new variants of the Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle.


The soldiers tested out Strykers armed with a 30mm cannon as well as with a common remote-operated weapons station that allows soldiers inside the vehicle to fire Javelin antitank guided missiles.

Twelve of the Stryker variants — six with 30 mm cannons and six with Javelin missiles — will head to Germany in January for more evaluation by US troops before the Army hopes to deploy them to a forward position in Europe next summer.

Troops from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, who took part in the testing in Maryland, spoke highly of the new features on the vehicle, which has been nicknamed “Dragoon” after the regiment.

(Army News Service (ARNEWS) | YouTube)”It’s doing a lot more damage and you’re getting better effects,” Staff Sgt. Randall Engler said.

Previous variants of the Stryker have been armed with either an M2 .50-caliber machine gun or an MK19 grenade launcher. The request for more firepower came in response to recent military operations by Russia.

“This capability coming to [2nd Cavalry] is directly attributable to Russian aggression and we are actively working with our foreign partners in how to help shape our formation,” said Lt. Col. Troy Meissel, the regiment’s deputy commanding officer, according to the Army.

The new armaments don’t make the Stryker a fighting vehicle, but Meissel said the search for heaftier weapons stems from the reduction in manpower in Europe from 300,000 during the Cold War to about 30,000 now.

“How do we, as an Army, make 30,000 soldiers feel like 300,000?” Meissel said. “This new ICV-D is one of the ways that can help us do that.”

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A Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle-Dragoon fires 30 mm rounds during a live-fire demonstration at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, Aug. 16, 2017. Army photo by Sean Kimmons

Advancements in Russian armor have been cause for concern among military planners in the West. Moscow’s new Armata tank will reportedly be outfitted with an active-protection system, which uses radar and projectiles to detect and counter antitank and anti-armor weapons.

The US Army is also looking at APS for the Stryker and its Abrams tank, though the latest variant of the RPG is rumored to have an APS countermeasure.

Relations between Russia and US allies in Eastern Europe have grown more contentious in recent months, particularly in the run up to Russia-Belarus military exercises in September that will reportedly see 60,000 to 100,000 Russian troops deployed to Belarus and western Russia.

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Russian T-14 Armata. Wikimedia Commons photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin.

Countries in the Baltics have warned of more ambitious Russian espionage efforts, and NATO aircraft have tangled with their Russian counterparts numerous times in over the last year.

The US has done several military exercises with partners in the region this year and increased deployments, including of Patriot missile air-defense systems, to NATO member-states in Eastern Europe.

Military.com has more footage of the new Stryker variants in action.

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Here’s how volunteers are stepping up to fight terrorism

Hunkered down in sniper positions on the top floor of an abandoned building in the Syrian city of Raqqa, two Americans and a British volunteer face off against Islamic State snipers on the other side of the front line. The trio, including two who were battle-hardened by experience in the French Foreign Legion and the war in Iraq, have made the war against IS in Syria their own.


They are among several US and British volunteers in the decisive battle against the Islamic State group for Raqqa, the city in northeastern Syria that the militants declared the capital of their self-proclaimed caliphate in parts of Syria and neighboring Iraq.

The men joined US-allied Syrian militias for different reasons — some motivated by testimonies of survivors of the unimaginable brutality that IS flaunted in areas under its control.

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People’s Protection Units work towards peace. (Photo from KurdishStruggle on Flickr.)

Others joined what they see as a noble quest for justice and a final battle with the “heart of darkness,” in a belief that violence can only be met with violence.

Taylor Hudson, a 33-year old from Pasadena, compares the fight for Raqqa to the 1945 Battle of Berlin in World War II that was critical to ending the rule of Adolf Hitler.

“This is the Berlin of our times,” said Hudson, who doubles as a platoon medic and a sniper in the battle against the militants. For him, IS extremists “represent everything that is wrong with humanity.”

Syria’s war, now in its seventh year, has attracted foreign fighters to all sides of the complicated conflict.

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Photo courtesy of Kurdish YPG Fighters Flickr.

Islamic extremists from Europe, Asia, and North Africa have boosted the ranks of the Islamic State group, as well as rival radical al-Qaeda-linked groups. Shiite Iranian and Lebanese militias have sided with the Syrian government, deepening the sectarian nature of the conflict that has killed over 400,000 people and displaced over 11 million, half of Syria’s pre-war population.

On the anti-IS side — though far less in numbers than the thousands of foreigners who swelled the IS ranks — most Western foreign volunteers have been drawn to the US-allied Kurdish militia known as The People’s Protection Units, or by their Kurdish initials as the YPG. The US military has developed a close relationship with the YPG and its extension, the Syrian Democratic Forces, in the war against IS.

Related: US special operators, artillery, gunships support Raqqa offensive

Some Western volunteers have died in battle — earlier in July the YPG announced that 28-year-old Robert Grodt, of Santa Cruz, California, and 29-year-old Nicholas Alan Warden, of Buffalo, died in the battle for Raqqa.

Since launching the push on Raqqa on June 6, the US-backed forces have conquered a third of the city.

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Under ISIS reign, the city of Raqqa has been turned into a veritable hell for its residents. (Photo from Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently.)

Hudson, who has been fighting in Syria for the past 13 months, said he was moved to tears by stories in the media of Iraqi Yazidi women who were enslaved by IS militants and looked for a way to help. A pharmacy student who learned combat medicine in the field, he said he had treated some 600 wounded ahead of the march onto Raqqa.

The presence of Western anti-IS volunteers in Syria has created something of a conundrum for their governments, which have often questioned them on terrorism charges.

“I am not a terrorist,” said Macer Gifford, a 30-year former City broker in London, who came to Syria three years ago to volunteer first with the Kurdish militia. Now he is fighting with an Assyrian militia, also part of the US-backed forces battling IS militants.

“I am here defending the people of Syria against terrorists,” he added.

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Raqqa, Syria. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Gifford has been questioned by both his British government and by the US government. At home, he has written and lectured about the complex situation in Syria, offering a first-hand experience of IS’ evolving tactics.

He believes the militants can only be defeated by sheer force.

“The Islamic State (group) is actually an exceptional opponent,” Gifford said. “We can’t negotiate them away, we can’t wish them away. The only way we can defeat them is with force of arms.”

For Kevin Howard, a 28-year old former US military contractor from California who fought in Iraq in 2006, the war against the Islamic State group is more personal.

A skilled sniper who prides himself in having killed 12 IS militants so far, Howard said he is doing it for the victims of the Bataclan Theatre in France, where the sister of one of his best friends survived. The Nov. 13, 2015 attacks claimed by IS killed 130 people at Paris cafes, the national stadium, and the Bataclan, where 90 died.

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Photo from Kurdishstruggle Flickr.

“This is a continuation of that fight, I think if you leave something unfinished, it will remain unfinished for a lifetime,” he said, showing off his 1972 sniper rifle.

On his forehead and neck, he has tattooed the “Rien N’empêche” — or “Nothing Prevents”— words from the song of the French Foreign Legion in which he served, and “life is pain.”

“For me this is a chance to absolutely go to the heart of darkness and grab it and get rid of it,” he added.

From his sniper position on Raqqa’s front line, he peeked again through the rifle hole. For Howard, the orders to march deeper into the IS-held city can’t come soon enough.

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