American military heroes typically spend a lot of time fighting in other countries. The leaders of those countries can give medals or official thanks, but sometimes they induct American warriors into their chivalric orders and turn them into knights. For American citizens the honor comes without the title of “sir” or any of the official perks, but it’s still way better than a challenge coin.
1. Gen. James Doolittle
Medal of Honor recipient and leader of the Doolittle Raid, Gen. James Doolittle also has a number of honorary knighthoods including Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath from Great Britain, the Order of the Condor of Bolivia, and the Grand Order of the Crown from Belgium.
2. Adm. Chester W. Nimitz
The naval hero who commanded the fleets at the battles of Midway, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and others was named to two foreign knighthoods. First, he was appointed as Knight Grand Cross of the Military Division of the Order of Bath by Great Britain, then Knight Grand-Cross in the Order of Orange Nassau by Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands.
Gen. Omar N. Bradley was a five-star general, World War II and Korean War commander, the first Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and the first Chairman of the NATO Committee. For his years of military service, Bradley was made an honorary Knight Commander of the British Empire.
5. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower
General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower has way too many knighthoods to list here, but some highlights include: Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath from Great Britain, Grand Cordon with Palm of the Order of Leopold from Belgium, and the Grand Croix of the Legion of Honor from France.
6. Gen. Douglas MacArthur
Douglas MacArthur retired from the Army in 1937, but returned in 1941 after a request from President Roosevelt. Gen. MacArthur went on to become commander of occupied Japan and of United Nations Forces in Korea. For his World War II service, MacArthur was appointed as a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath of Great Britain.
7. Gen. George S. Patton
A veteran of the Border War with Mexico, World War I, and World War II, Gen. George S. Patton was named to numerous orders including the Order of the British Empire, the Order of Leopold, and the Order of Adolphe of Nassau, among others.
Ships from the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and other cruiser-destroyer units based at Naval Station Norfolk sailed into the Atlantic in November 2018 for the East Coast’s first Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training, or SWATT, exercise with a carrier group.
SWATT is a relatively new addition to the Navy’s training repertoire, and it comes a years-long period in which the force was focused on anti-piracy and other high-sea policing operations rather than on a high-end fight against a sophisticated adversary.
SWATT exercises are led by warfare-tactics instructors from the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center, or SMWDC, which was set up in 2015 to help the Navy develop experts in surface warfare operations.
The exercises are meant to take place in between ship exercises where a crew trains and qualifies for its missions and advanced exercises where an entire amphibious ready group or carrier strike group gathers to train.
Culinary Specialist First Class Marcus Madison stands watch on the bridge of the guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze, Nov. 3, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist Seaman Nikki Custer)
The idea is deploy instructors, both senior and junior surface warfare officers with specific training, to train with other sailors in the group, imparting advanced knowledge of weapons and tactics — similar to the Navy’s “Top Gun” training for aviators.
“Warfare Tactics Instructors (WTI’s) improve ships’ proficiency in carrying out missions in the surface, anti-submarine, integrated air and missile defense, and information-warfare domains,” said Lt. Cmdr. Nick Van Wagoner, a WTI and lead planner for the exercise.
SWATT exercises also provide training for amphibious warfare and mine warfare.
Instructors aim to inculcate a process of planning, briefing, executing, and debriefing among a ship’s crew. “This model utilizes a crawl-walk-run approach,” Van Wagoner said, “allowing teams to build and develop skills as they move from basic to more advanced events.”
Crew teams receive “over-the-shoulder mentoring” through SWATT drills, the Navy said.
Setting up SMWDC three years ago was “the beginning of an important cultural shift in the surface fleet to rapidly increase surface force tactical proficiency, readiness, and combat capability,” Rear Adm. Dave Welch, the SMWDC commander, said in a Navy release.
An MH-60S Seahawk helicopter crewman watches simulated fast-attack craft approach the USS Kearsarge during a Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training (SWATT) exercise, June 24, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Ryre Arciaga)
Carrier strike groups and amphibious ready groups based on the West Coast have already gone through SWATT exercises. In 2018, the amphibious ready group based around the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge carried out the first SWATT exercise for an ARG based on the East Coast.
The Lincoln carrier strike group’s SWATT exercise helps fulfill the Navy’s training vision, Welch said.
“This first East Coast CSG SWATT represents our commitment to the entirety of the surface force,” he said in the release. “SWATT provides a critical path for warfare and strike group commanders to develop the combat capability needed by our numbered fleet commanders to compete effectively in an era of great-power competition.”
Those numbered fleets include established commands like 7th Fleet, which oversees the Pacific, and 6th Fleet, which oversees Europe and the eastern half of the Atlantic Ocean. A recent addition is 2nd Fleet, which was reactivated in May, 2018 to oversee the East Coast and the northern and western Atlantic Ocean.
As with SWATT, the reactivation of 2nd Fleet was part of preparations to fight an opponent who can fight back.
An E-2D Hawkeye prepares to launch from the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman in the North Sea, Sept. 30, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Gooley)
“Our National Defense Strategy makes clear that we’re back in an era of great-power competition as the security environment continues to grow more challenging and complex,” Adm. John Richardson, the chief of US naval operations, said at the reactivation ceremony.
The Navy has made a number of changes in response to that competition, including shuffling carrier deployments to inject some unpredictability into their operations — part of the “dynamic force employment” concept touted by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
In July 2018, the USS Harry S. Truman and its strike group returned to Norfolk after just three months at sea rather than the typical six-month deployment.
In October 2018, the Truman sailed north of the Arctic Circle, the first carrier to do so since the early 1990s, where it joined forces from every other NATO member for exercise Trident Juncture, which NATO officials have said is alliance’s largest exercise since the Cold War.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Whomever America chooses in 2016, among his or her first orders of business will be to spend a lot of time getting briefed on where the U.S. military is deployed.
Service members around the world are currently conducting airstrikes, raids, bilateral training missions, and other operations to help America and our allies. These six ongoing conflicts will certainly still be on the plate when the next president gets up to bat:
1. Iraq and Syria
Few people need a primer on what is going on in Iraq and Syria. ISIS holds territory and is murdering thousands of people. America’s involvement against ISIS has been slowly growing.
We’ve lost three service members there. Army Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler was killed while rescuing potential victims of an imminent massacre, Marine Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin was killed in a rocket attack while providing fire support for coalition fighters, and Navy SEAL Charles Keating was killed while rescuing other American advisors caught by an ISIS surprise attack.
While the Obama administration has tried to keep America’s footprint on the ground relatively small, 300 troops in Syria and approximately 4,000 in Iraq, the Navy and Air Force have been busy conducting air strikes to support both American and coalition ground forces.
Of course, ISIS operations aren’t limited to Iraq and Syria. Portions of Libya’s coastal areas are controlled by the terror organization. A few dozen U.S. troops, most likely Special Forces soldiers or other operators, are deployed there to help the competing national governments fight further ISIS attacks.
These missions are expected to continue for at least the next few years as both terror organizations have proven resilient.
5. Eastern Ukraine
American troops aren’t deployed to eastern Ukraine where government troops fight Russian-backed separatists. But, the U.S. has provided training and equipment for government forces while Russia has provided materiel and troops to the separatists.
A fragile cease-fire from late 2015 has reduced, but not eliminated, fighting in the Donbass region and both sides are violating the cease-fire. Ukraine has failed to remove heavy guns and other equipment and Russia has deployed more fighters and equipment to the area. There’s no sign that this conflict will be done when the next president takes office and most signs point to it actually being worse.
6. South China Sea
The conflict in the South China Sea is currently bloodless but has the potential to become the biggest fight on this list. Multiple nations claim territorial rights in the South China Sea, an area that controls a huge amount of sea traffic and is estimated to have large oil and natural gas reserves.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The US Navy and regional allies have reportedly noticed an increase in Chinese radio queries to foreign ships and planes operating in the South China Sea — some said to be less than friendly, and others actually threatening.
“Leave immediately,” Chinese forces in the disputed Spratly Islands warned in early 2018 when a Philippine military aircraft flew close to a Chinese outpost, The Associated Press reported July 31, 2018, citing a new Philippine government report.
“Philippine military aircraft, I am warning you again, leave immediately or you will pay the possible consequences,” the report said the Chinese forces threatened soon after, according to the AP.
In the latter half of 2017, Philippine military aircraft patrolling near contested territories received at least 46 Chinese radio warnings, the government report says, according to the AP. While these warnings have traditionally been delivered by Chinese coast guard units, they’re now thought to be broadcast by personnel stationed at military outposts in the South China Sea, the news agency reported.
US Navy destroyers.
(US Navy photo)
“Our ships and aircraft have observed an increase in radio queries that appear to originate from new land-based facilities in the South China Sea,” Cmdr. Clay Doss, a representative for the US 7th Fleet, told the AP.
“These communications do not affect our operations,” he added, noting that when communications with foreign militaries are unprofessional, “those issues are addressed by appropriate diplomatic and military channels.”
The Philippine military tends to carry on with its activities. “They do that because of their claim to that area, and we have a standard response and proceed with what we’re doing,” Philippine air force chief Lt. Gen. Galileo Gerard Rio Kintanar Jr. told the AP.
Though an international arbitration tribunal sought to discredit China’s claims to the South China Sea two years ago, China has continued to strengthen its position in the flashpoint region.
In recent months, China has deployed various defense systems — such as jamming technology, surface-to-air missiles, anti-ship ballistic missiles, and even heavy bombers — to the South China Sea, leading US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis in June 2018 to accuse China of “intimidation and coercion” in the waterway.
An EA-18G Growler takes off from a flight deck .
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Ethan J. Soto)
Beijing, however, argues that it has a right to defend its sovereign territory, especially considering the increased frequency of US Navy freedom-of-navigation operations in the area; it has conducted more than half a dozen since the start of the Trump administration.
Despite Chinese warnings and objections, the US military has repeatedly made clear that it will maintain an active military presence in the South China Sea.
“International law allows us to operate here, allows us to fly here, allows us to train here, allows us to sail here, and that’s what we’re doing, and we’re going to continue to do that,” Lt. Cmdr. Tim Hawkins told the AP in February 2018.
The US military has also expressed confidence in its ability to deal with China’s military outposts in the region should the situation escalate.
“The United States military has had a lot of experience in the Western Pacific taking down small islands,” Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff, told reporters in Ma 2018, adding: “It’s just a fact.”
In early 2018 the US disinvited China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy from participating in 2018’s iteration of the multilateral Rim of the Pacific maritime exercises, citing what it characterized as alarming Chinese activities in the South China Sea. The Philippines has at least twice raised the issue of radio warnings with Beijing, the AP reported July 31, 2018.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Stalking and intelligence gathering are different from creepin’, right? We’re pretty sure there’s a distinction. But good glass (i.e. a scope) can help with all three.
According to John Ratcliffe Chapman’s book Instructions To Young Marksmen, the first truly telescopic rifle scope was invented in 1835 and 1840 — put together by Morgan James with design help from Chapman himself.
Demand for (and improvement of) the rifle scope quickly increased until, with the advent of the Civil War, it became strident — though only in some circles. Although the use of marksmen with scoped rifles was considered by many generals to be ungentlemanly or even murderous, many a Whitworth, Kerr, Sharps, or Kerr Whitworth rifle went to work on Civil War battlefields with side-mounted Davidson, Vernier, Creedmore, and other scopes.
Some of them were a couple feet long (or longer), and extraordinarily heavy.
And things have certainly come a long way since then, as Nikon, GPOTAC, and Atibal aptly demonstrate.
One company building good rifle optics is Nikon. Most of you associate them with cameras, but they manufacture all sorts of “glass,” including binos and riflescopes. They’ve recently introduced a new line of scopes they call BLACK.
Another company is GPO – they’re about as little known as Nikon is well known, but we hear some good things about ’em. They’ve just introduced their GPOTAC 8XI Riflescope.
They’ve taken a German design and upgunned it with some high tech features. Then there’s Atibal, whose sights and spotting scopes — specifically the MROC — have made a pretty good impression on some of our friends in a short amount of time (and are rumored to be releasing a 3-12 variable soon).
Now, let’s be clear, we haven’t personally tried any of these. We’re just huge fans of optics because we’ve seen first hand what a force multiplier good glass can be in a real fight. From reflex sights to variable power first focal plane fightin’ scopes, glass is good. If you’re still running irons alone, you likely still have a rotary dial telephone. Going “old school” is all well and good for your social media persona, but blows a hard one wants the metal starts hitting the meat.
Not that we’re judging you or anything.
Anyway, here’s three new pieces of glass for your Thursday Threesome.
1. Atibal MROC
The Atibal MROC is a 3 x 32 magnified optic that demonstrates in one small package just how improved our ability to reach out and see (then shoot) somebody has come. MROC stands for Modern Rifle Optic Component. It features an illuminated laser-etched reticle, fixed at three power magnification with an illuminated compensation chevron (for bullet drop) included (it’s calibrated for 5.56mm). The manufacturer advises it has a 37.7 field of view at 100 yards, which they describe as the “…largest field of view of any 3x prismatic scope currently on the market.”
An expanded field of view, of course, can make the difference between putting one in his noggin and catching on in yours.
The lens is FMC (Fully MultiCoated) to reduce glare and reflection. It is also intended to improve clarity of view. Windage and elevation adjustments are made by hand (no tools necessary, and ALL CAPS (see what we did there?) are leashed so you don’t lose them on the range or in the field. An integrated and detachable picatinny rail provides mounting options. The MROC runs on a single CR2 lithium battery.
Speaking of batteries, you might want to co-witness yours in case it goes dead. Not sure what that means or how to it? Easy – we’ll learn ya right here.
Here are the specs on the Atibal MROC as they provide them (or, you can find more online here). We’ll provide more info as we get. The price point on these, taken in context with what we hear about their performance, piques our interest. Follow ’em on Instagram, @atibalsights.
F.O.V FT@100YDS: 37.7ft
F.O.V Angle: 7.2°
Eye Relief: 2.8″
Click Value: .5 MOA
W/E Max. Adj.: 60 MOA
Parallax Free: 100yds
Battery Type: 1x CR2
Lens Coating: FMC
2. GPOTAC 8XI Riflescope
“[The] GPOTAC 8Xi is a scope like no other – it’s amazing. It’s packed with optical brilliance and technical features expected from super-premium tactical riflescopes. We were very careful to make sure every demanded feature available was jammed into this optic. You’ve got to see this scope.”
That’s what owner and CEO of GPO, USA says anyway. And it’s jammed full of vitamins too! You know though, if you can overlook the sensational, breakfast cereal commercial style prose, you’ll find the 8Xi does indeed seem to have some interesting features.
The 34mm tube optic will initially be offered in what they call the 1-9 x 24i version, with something called the “iControl illuminated mil-spec reticle” — and it’s a first focal plane reticle too, which is a huge plus-up in our minds. Turrets are locking metal milrad, with what the describe as “GPObright high transmission lens-coating technology.” It features double HD glass objective lenses, “fast focus” rubberized oculars, and wide machined-aluminum magnification adjustment rings. The horseshoe center point is fiber optic driven, with an auto-off feature to prevent unnecessary battery drain (and provides an alert when the battery is down to 15% remaining life).
Yes, the press release sounded like it was written by Billy Mays, but this is another one we’re actually very interested in. You can check it out online here; full specs are at the bottom of the page. They’re on Instagram (sorta), @gpo_usa) and Facebook. FYSA they’ve also just released a binocular line.
Remember – even the best gear in the world will avail you nothing if you rely on equipment to compensate for skill and honed ability. Train accordingly.
3. Nikon BLACK Riflescope Series
The BLACK Line optics are not Nikon’s first — they’ve had ProStaff, Monarch and other styles for years. However these are some of the first ones Nikon has manufactured specifically for tactical applications.
Its lineup includes five versions of what the company calls the BLACK X1000. That selection includes 4-16×50 and 6-24×50 models with X-MRAD or X-MOA reticles synced to windage and elevation turrets. Nikon describes what you see through the glass is a, “…visually clean, yet highly functional and advanced too for estimating range or maintaining holdovers.” (Not sure what all that means? Read this piece about Minute of Angle).
Their 1-4×24 scope uses what they call the “SpeedForce” reticle (nothing to do with Barry Allen, Jay Garrick, Wally West or anyone else drawn by Alex Ross). This reticle is intended to be used with the scope dialed to true 1x. It features an illuminated double horseshoe intended to assist in quick target acquisition, better ability to hit a moving target, and more precise intermediate range holdovers. (You can learn more about MILS here; we break it down Barney style.)
They’re all built with a 30mm body using an aircraft grade aluminum alloy, and they’re TYpe 3 anodized. The turrets are spring-loaded and “zero-reset”, and MSRP ranges from $399.95 up to 649.95. You can expect ’em to start showing up in the Spring and early Summer — meaning they’re just in time to let you, uh, provide “overwatch” on the beach or where they’re sunbathing out back of sorority row.
Follow Nikon on Instagram for lots of pretty pictures; @nikonusa.
This has been your Thursday Threesome. Got a tip on some new gear we should look at? Hit us up on the Instagramz, @breachbangclear, or drop us an e-mail at SITREP(at)breachbangclear.com. You can also send us a PM on Facebook. Don’t post nuthin’ to our wall. We never read it.
More news as we get it. You can also follow our Be Advised column (warning: occasionally NSFW).
A Hawaii lawmaker and Army officer who was serving his first term in the U.S. Congress died July 20 after a nearly year-long battle with cancer.
Congressman and Army National Guard Lt. Col. Mark Takai succumbed to pancreatic cancer at his home in Aiea surrounded by his family, USA Today reported. He was 49.
Takai was born and raised in Oahu, Hawaii. Before being elected to Congress, Takai represented his home district in the Hawaii state House of Representatives for 20 years. He joined the Hawaii Army National Guard in 1999 and was commissioned as a 1st Lieutenant.
The first-term Democrat announced earlier in 2016 that he would not seek re-election due to his condition.
His military service took him to Kuwait in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He first served as a company commander for the 29th Brigade Support Battalion and then as the Camp Mayor for Camp Patriot, Kuwait. He not only served in the military in Hawaii, he also represented the military in Hawaii, as his district included Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and Fort Shafter.
“To honor those that gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country, we must renew our commitments to those currently serving our nation, many currently in harm’s way around the world,” Takai said in a statement on Memorial Day. “Their willingness to answer the call of duty deserves our unwavering gratitude every day.”
Takai served on the House Armed Services Committee and the House Committee on Small Business. In November 2015, he introduced the Atomic Veterans Healthcare Parity Act, extending government compensation to those affected by cleanup operations after bomb tests on Pacific islands.
Takai’s military awards include the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster, the Army Achievement Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
“Today, the people of Hawai’i mourn the passing of U.S. Rep. Mark Takai,” Hawaii Gov. David Ige said in a statement. “He proudly served his country in uniform, including 17 years with the Hawai’i Army National Guard. Mark humbly and effectively served the people of his state House and Congressional districts. In the often tumultuous world of politics, he has been a shining example of what it means to be a public servant.”
Joe Serna escaped death so many times while deployed with the Army’s Special Forces. He was blown up by explosive devices on multiple occasions over three combat deployments to Afghanistan. One threw him from his vehicle, another nearly drowned him in an MRAP in an irrigation canal, and a Taliban fighter detonated a grenade in his face. Like many combat veterans of his caliber, both mental and physical wounds followed him home.
After his medical retirement, alcohol-related events landed him in hot water with the law until the day he violated his probation and ended up in front of North Carolina Judge Lou Olivera.
Serna’s MRAP was thrown into a canal by an IED in 2008. Three other soldiers drowned, including one who rescued Serna.
In 2016, Serna’s record of offenses and failure to follow his probation put him in front of a North Carolina Veterans Treatment Court, a system of justice designed to hold returning veterans accountable for their behavior while accepting the special set of circumstances they might be struggling with in their daily life. Veterans Treatment Courts demand mandatory appearances, drug and alcohol testing, and a structure similar to the demands of the service.
Judge Lou Olivera was presiding over Cumberland County, North Carolina’s veterans treatment courts. Olivera is a veteran of the Gulf War and is especially suited to handle cases like Serna’s. The judge ordered the green beret to spend 24 hours in jail for his probation violation, not anything unusual for a judge to do. What Olivera did next is what makes his court exceptional.
Olivera convinced Serna’s jailer, also a veteran, to allow the judge to share Serna’s sentence. Judge Olivera was volunteering to be a battle buddy for the green beret while he did his time. The judge drove Serna to the neighboring county lockup, where jail administrator George Kenworthy put them both in jail for the night.
“He did his duty,” Serna told People Magazine. “He sentenced me. It was his job to hold me accountable. He is a judge, but that night he was my battle buddy. He knew what I was going through. As a warrior, he connected.”
Serna had no idea Judge Olivera planned to share his sentence as the two drove to the Robeson County, N.C. jail. Olivera knew of Serna’s combat records, and that the green beret spent a night in a submerged in an MRAP, struggling to stay in an air pocket, with the bodies of his drowned compatriots around him. So a night spent in a cramped box seemed like a harsh sentence that could trigger harsher thoughts, but the judge knew the soldier had to be held accountable. So he decided he wouldn’t be alone in the box.
“Joe was a good soldier, and he’s a good man,” Olivera said. “I wanted him to know I had his back. I didn’t want him to do this alone… I’m a judge and I’ve seen evil, but I see the humanity in people. Joe is a good man. Helping him helped me. I wanted him to know he isn’t alone.”
A good meal after a hard day in the field can make everything a little bit better. MREs aren’t that meal but they try to be. Everyone has their favorite ration meal, even if he or she has to doctor it up a bit by mixing different parts from other packages (here’s a list of ration recipes).
No matter how U.S. military rations change, there is always one meal in the box which makes you wonder who thought it would be a good idea. This is a list of those meals that made us yearn for the days of lettuce and powdered eggs from a field mess.
1. Vegetable Omelette
It’s understandable the military would want to come up with vegetarian options. Why anyone decided eggs would be a good idea is what’s hard to understand. Cheese tortellini wasn’t bad, why not use that as a starting point?
Instead, we have this monstrosity, aka the “vomelet,” which has all the flavor of cold scrambled eggs and all the texture of dried papier maché. It’s every bit what you imagine eating Spongebob Squarepants must be like.
2. Ham and Lima Beans
This is a throwback meal to the days of C-Rations. Lima Beans and Ham (aka “Ham and Motherf**kers”) was so bad, it was the Voldemort of field grade lunches, as troops wouldn’t even dare to say this meal’s name. When GIs gave rations to hungry civilians in Korea, the Koreans would throw this particular meal back at them. Troops added cans of cheese sauce and/or cracker crumbs to try to make this war crime palatable.
3. Jamaican Pork Chop
Jah, mon! Come on have little slice of this leather with some pepper on it. Uncle Sam try’nta save jah money by feeding jah garbage rejected by hog farms.
Seriously, if we’re talking about jerks, it’s the clowns who wanted to give us some of our favorite international cuisine but decided Jamaica was close enough. This is like eating the sole of your boot with noodles. To be fair, the guys over at MRE Info love this one.
4. Country Captain Chicken
Country Captain Chicken will give you Current Traumatic Stress Disorder. Imagine someone squished together a handful of Chicken McNuggets, flattened it out, then dried it in the sun for ten days. Then imagine they soaked the newly formed patty in a bath of tomato sauce and citrus juice, and what the hell, let’s throw a couple of almonds in there. Chunks of tomato and black beans round out the most awful thing anyone ever tried to pass off as food.
5. Buffalo Chicken
Buffalo Chicken might be the signature flavor of America and while the MRE version of Buffalo Chicken may not be all that bad, the effect on your stomach is like having forty tailgating Bills fans making a mess of your insides. Dig the latrine before you crack this bad boy open.
6. Beef Frankfurters
You know a meal has to be good when its nickname is “Fingers of Death,” right? Right. Beef Frankfurters deserved every single insult ever lobbed at them. While I can understand the urge to give troops in the field a taste of home through a good ol’ American hot dog, if you’ve ever tried this ration, the only home it makes you think of is Hannibal Lecter’s.
More than 30,000 pounds of pure cocaine sit on the pier next to the USS McInerney (FFG-8) just after it was offloaded. The $3.9 billion in drugs were seized in two separate busts in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Coast Guard/Bobby Nash)
Ordinarily, patrolling the waters near Central and South America for drug traffickers is a job largely left to the U.S. Coast Guard. But since April 1 of this year, the U.S. Navy has surged assets to the region to assist with the mission — and helped reel in more than $2.5 billion worth of contraband to date.
The operation has gotten presidential attention and is ongoing, with the Navy destroyer Pinckney publicizing a recent major bust this week. The Pinckney, homeported in San Diego, executed a seizure with an embarked Coast Guard law enforcement detachment July 24, seizing more than 120 kilograms, or 265 pounds, of suspected cocaine from a single ship. In total, the haul was worth some $4.5 million.
“While on routine patrol, approximately 200 nautical miles southwest of Jamaica, a helicopter assigned to the ‘Wolf Pack’ of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 75 located the vessel and Pinckney soon arrived on scene,” Navy officials said in a release. “After coordination with the Government of Colombia and Colombian Navy, the vessel was searched and six suspected drug smugglers detained. The mariners are now in Government of Colombia custody.”
The crew of the Pinckney also secured medical evacuation for one detainee for whom treatment was deemed necessary for survival.
Heads of U.S. Southern Command have long expressed their wish for more U.S. Navy assets in the region to stop a drug trade tied to tens of thousands of U.S. deaths every year. Under the enhanced counternarcotics mission, those ships and aircraft are in place, at least for now.
Top officials say the billion drug trade, which thrives in unstable regions, has taken advantage of the added instability of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
“Since the end of March, we have employed, in the U.S. Southern Command Area of Responsibility, 75% more surveillance aircraft and 65% more ships than normal for drug interdiction,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in a July 10 news conference from Doral, Florida. “These additional assets include four Navy destroyers, five Coast Guard cutters, and eight aircraft. Currently, nearly a dozen Navy and Coast Guard ships and over 15 aircraft from across the interagency are supporting our efforts, in addition to security forces deployed to the region.”
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Navy’s 4th Fleet, Cmdr. Katherine Meadows, said in a statement to Military.com that additional Defense Department capabilities added in the ramp-up include a continuous rotation of Navy destroyers and MH-60 Seahawk helicopters; Navy littoral combat ships; P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft; Air ForceE-3 AWAC and E-8 JSTARS aircraft for reconnaissance; and an Army Security Forces Assistance Brigade company for advisory support. The Coast Guard has also increased its cutter and helicopter presence, and 22 partner nations have aided the effort.
“All of our ships have an embarked [Coast Guard] Law Enforcement Detachment onboard,” Meadows said. “The Navy supports the detection, while the Coast Guard has the authorities to seize narcotics and detain illicit trafficking suspects.”
To date, she said, the Navy has participated in the seizure of 16,396 kilograms of cocaine — more than 36,000 pounds — and 16,601 marijuana. The overall enhanced mission has “disrupted or seized” more than 38,000 pounds of marijuana and more than 98 metric tons of cocaine, she said.
“The operation has denied transnational criminal organizations more than .5 billion in criminal profits from the smuggling of narcotics that kill thousands of people every year and cause substantial human suffering in the U.S. and around the world,” she added.
That’s up from under billion on July 10.
Meadows did not provide comparison figures for the same period last year, but Esper said the U.S. military had been able to increase targeting of known drug operations by 60%. And at the Doral news conference, SOUTHCOM Commander Adm. Craig Faller said drug “disruptions” had increased by 15%.
“And 60 percent more targeting is a big deal for us because that means we can put more assets on more targets. And the enemy has seen that,” Faller said. “We’ve gotten information from our intelligence agencies that says the enemy has watched that and they’re waiting, and they’re stockpiling and they’re trying to change their tactics.”
For centuries, friends and foes of Russia marveled at the fierce fighting skills of their Cossack Warriors. The Cossacks fought to defend the Russian Czar against any manner of enemies – from Ottoman Turks to Napoleon’s Grande Armée, through a World War, and even against the Bolshevik Red Army.
They expanded the borders of the Russian Empire, conquering Siberia and the Caucasus regions for the Czar, all the way to the Bering Sea – capturing one-sixth of the Earth’s land area. Their martial prowess was unmatched in the region for a long time and they refused to be tied to any master. Even the name “Cossack” in the Turkic languages of the time and area meant “free,” “adventurer,” or “wanderer.”
Cossack loyalty to the Russian Czar was earned over centuries of fighting to maintain that independence. Many Czars were faced with Cossack uprisings and were forced to deal with them in their own ways, from putting down the rebellion or forcibly moving the population to another area of the Russian Empire.
From a young age, Cossacks raised their children to be elite warriors and ethnically Cossack in every way possible. Training could begin in infancy and only ever stop in an actual pitched battle.
Eventually, the Russian nobility came to accept the Cossacks, endowing them with certain rights and privileges in the Empire for their continued service in defending Russia’s borders. And they earned those rights, too. After his Grand Armée was forced out of Russia, the Cossacks harassed them all the way back to France. It was the Cossacks who captured Paris and unseated the French Emperor.
When the Empire fell during World War I and the Czar abdicated, the Cossacks were divided between the Red and White factions of the Russian Civil War. They fought primarily for the White (anti-Communist) Russians, which earned them persecution when the Bolsheviks won the war and founded the Soviet Union.
The persecution got so bad, many Cossacks fought for Nazi Germany during WWII.