Army Veteran spends his days comforting the dying - We Are The Mighty
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Army Veteran spends his days comforting the dying

Julian Scadden, by his own admission, was not always all that likable.  He had some rough edges.


“I didn’t use to be a nice guy,” he said. “In fact, I use to be a bouncer.  I would take out my frustrations by throwing guys out of the bar.  I’m 5-foot-4 and I just loved throwing big guys out of the bar.”

But that was a long time ago.  The 67-year-old Vietnam-Era Veteran now spends his days doing quieter work.  He’s a housekeeping aide at the Denver VA’s Community Living Center. But his custodial skills are not his primary contribution to the hospital.   Over the last nine years Scadden has developed another skill:  comforting Veterans in their final hours.

Good Instincts

“Julian is an incredibly important part of our care team here,” said Dr. Elizabeth Holman, a palliative care psychologist who works with Scadden. “He has an instinct for what people need when they’re nearing the end.  Sometimes they just need his quiet presence.  Sometimes they need words of encouragement.  He’s just so ‘present’ with these Veterans.  He makes them feel safe.”

He’s so humble…he doesn’t realize the tremendous value of his services, and of his heart.

She continued:  “It makes such a difference, to spend your last moments with someone who is kind and caring. And it’s such a comfort to family members, knowing that their loved one wasn’t alone when they died.”

“I didn’t think I would be any good at it,” Scadden admitted. “I didn’t think I could handle it. But they give you training.”

Scadden’s training, however, got off to a rough start.  At one point his trainers began to wonder if he really had the ‘right stuff’ to become a member of the Denver VA’s Compassion Corps  —the volunteers who spend time with dying Veterans.

“They had their doubts about me,” he said.  “During training they told me I was doing everything right except one thing.  I said, ‘What’s that?’  They said, ‘You have to learn how to talk to people!'”

It was a sad truth.  Scadden’s people skills had become a bit rusty.  He had plenty of compassion, but it was hidden somewhere deep inside where no one could see it.

“I had to learn to be polite,” he said.

And so he learned.

Army Veteran spends his days comforting the dying

Of Ducks and Water

“I’m glad they were patient with me during the training,” said the Army Veteran.  “Once I completed the training they just put me out there and I took to it like a duck to water.  And it’s made me a better person, to be honest with you.  I think this is my calling.  This is what my higher power wants me to do.”

But not all patients — even those who are dying — believe in a higher power.  And that’s okay with Scadden.

“My very first patient didn’t believe in a higher power,” he recalled. “But about a week before he died, he told me to thank my higher power for allowing me to be there with him.”

Scadden said that during his nine years of hospice work he’s seen some patients get very angry at what’s happening to them.  Some get mean.  Some get abusive.

“You see every kind of scenario,” he said.  “Some of them are just scared, or confused.  They don’t want to die. They’ll ask things like, ‘Why me?’   They feel like they’ve led a good life, and they don’t understand why they have to go through all this suffering.”

Other patients, as the end nears, slip quietly into a coma.  Scadden said this can be unsettling for some family members, who feel they can no longer communicate with their loved one.

“Just because their eyes are closed doesn’t mean they can’t hear you,” he said.  “I try to explain that to the family.  I tell them, ‘Talk to him, tell him you love him, because he can still hear you.”

Articles

Stopgap budget adds new visas for Afghan allies

A last minute budget to fund the federal government through the rest of 2017 includes money to help as many as 2,500 Afghans who helped U.S. forces during the war there emigrate to America.


The so-called “Special Immigrant Visa” program allows Afghans who have supported the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and face threats as a result of their service to apply for refuge in the United States, supporters say.

Advocates who’ve pushed for more visas say Afghans who helped U.S. forces are under near constant threat by Taliban and ISIS sympathizers in that war torn country and the SIV program is critical to saving lives.

Army Veteran spends his days comforting the dying
After more than six years, Robert Ham finally welcomed friend and former interpreter Saifullah Haqmal to San Antonio, Feb. 16. Ham, now an Army Reserve staff sergeant with the 311th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) in Los Angeles, worked with his congressional representatives and the State Department to bring the Haqmal family to the United States. (Photo courtesy of Staff Sgt. Robert Ham/released)

“The increased number of visas is a great relief for our Afghan allies who risked their lives alongside us,” says retired Marine Lt. Col. Scott Cooper, who’s the director of Veterans for American Ideals.

“Many of our service members are alive and were able to come home because of these brave wartime partners,” he told WATM.

The SIV program has been under constant threat, as some lawmakers — including now Attorney Gen. Jeff Sessions who was previously the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee — argued the waivers could have allowed potential terrorists into the U.S.

But advocates said the SIV applicants are some of the most thoroughly vetted immigrants allowed into the country and have already proven themselves loyal in battle.

Since the SIV program began in 2013, more than 43,000 allies from Iraq and Afghanistan — along with their families — have been resettled in the U.S.

The State Department reportedly shut down the program for lack of funding earlier this year at a time the Afghan allies faced increasing threats from a resurgent Taliban and the so-called ISIS-affiliated Khorisan Group.

Advocates claim there are still about 30,000 Afghan and Iraqi citizens whose lives are at risk for helping U.S. forces. The new money means the program can be started back up immediately, Cooper said.

Some lawmakers applauded the new money for the SIV program, calling it a “lifesaving development.”

“Allowing this program to lapse would send the message to our allies in Afghanistan that the United States has abandoned them,” said New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

“Going forward, it’s critical that Congress overcome obstruction to this program and regularly replenish the number of visas available to avoid future brinkmanship. The lives of Afghan interpreters and support staff literally hang in the balance.”

 

Articles

This is what Mongol MREs looked like

It is believed that Napoleon who coined the phrase “An army marches on its stomach.”


The adage was as true then as it was in ancient times, and for the Mongols who traveled thousands of miles to conquer and plunder, eating was a daunting task.

Because of their lineage as nomads and herders, the Mongols perfected how to travel light and still be able to fill their bellies. Sure they lived off their conquered lands, but between engagements they had their own version of berserker Rip-Its.

For Mongols on the move, the food they carried was usually dried. The hordes would carry dehydrated foods like dried meat, dried curd, and 10 pounds of milk dried down to a paste.

Take the dried milk for instance. To make it, the Mongols would evaporate the milk in the sun in which it turned into a chalk-like substance that made it easy to transport. Once mixed with water, the dried milk paste turned into a low-carb fatty and quite possibly the world’s first protein shake that would suppress his appetite.

Army Veteran spends his days comforting the dying
The Mongols used mares milk to build their version of a protein shake

Another use of the milk was turning it into an alcoholic drink known as ” kumiss” or “airagh.” This was their preferred drink and was made from mare’s milk. Rubruck mentions that the Mongols made kumiss by using “a great quantity of milk, which is as sweet as cow’s as long as it is fresh, they pour it into a big skin or bottle, and they set to churning it with a stick prepared for that purpose, and which is as big as a man’s head at its lower extremity and hollowed out; and when they have beaten it sharply it begins to boil up like new wine and to sour or ferment.”

But when winter arrived, food became scarce for the horses, so they drank up all the milk themselves. With the lack of dairy, the Mongols sought other foods — ones that at time appeared stomach churning. The diet of a Mongol warrior involved just about everything that walked or crawled. According to Marco Polo:

They live off meat, milk and game and on Pharaoh’s rats (marmots or jerboa), which are plentiful everywhere in the steppes. They have no objection to eating the flesh of horses and dogs and drinking mare’s milk. In fact they eat flesh of any sort.

According to the 13th-century traveler Giovanni da Pian del Carpini:

They eat dogs, wolves, foxes and horses, and, when in difficulty, they eat human flesh. Thus, when they attacked a particular Chinese city, and their emperor himself conducted the siege, they found after they had besieged it a long while that the Tartars had used up all their supplies and did not have enough for all the men to eat, so they took one of every ten men to eat. They even eat the afterbirth which comes out of a mare with the foal. Furthermore, we saw them eat lice. They would say, ‘Why should I not eat them when they eat my children and drink their blood?’ We actually saw them eat mice.

If rations really got low, Marco Polo states that on “occasion they will sustain themselves on the blood of their horses, opening a vein and letting the blood jet into their mouths, drinking till they have had enough, and then staunching it.” However, a Mongol warrior knew not to do this or to drink from the horse too long. Horse blood was the last resort.

Army Veteran spends his days comforting the dying
Dogs, horses, bugs…even people sometimes made up the Mongol horde diet. (Photo By Matthew Paris – Chronica Majora, Public Domain)

Mongols lived on what we call today a paleo diet, but calling it “ketogenic” diet sounds more accurate, as it consists of high-fat, adequate-protein, and low-carbs. Such a diet based on protein leaves one full. Moreover, the Chinese who ruled the Jin Empire in northeastern China noted to their surprise that no puff of smoke came from the Mongol encampment and noticed that the warriors were able to survive off little food and water for long periods.

What the Chinese soon learned is that their soldiers could not go as long as the Mongols due to their dependence on carbs. Without a steady amount of carbs to stay energized, the Mongols could go for a few days before hunger set in since their bodies used the fats and proteins as energy. Overall, the Mongols were not fussy eaters as the accounts show.

Articles

Trump nominates VA undersecretary to take over top job

President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday announced he will nominate Dr. David Shulkin, the undersecretary for health at the Veterans Affairs Department, to take over the top job at the agency.


Trump made the surprise announcement during a press conference in New York, saying Shulkin is “fantastic” and will do a “truly great job,” The Associated Press reported.

Also read: What you need to know about the Navy SEAL Trump picked for his cabinet

If Shulkin is confirmed, he would be the first non-veteran to head the VA. With its nearly $180 billion budget, the VA is the second-largest federal agency behind the Defense Department.

Many veterans groups had pushed for Trump to keep current VA Secretary Robert McDonald on the job, but the president-elect has signaled he wants someone else to reform the agency in part by giving vets more access to private care — an issue he frequently raised during his campaign.

Army Veteran spends his days comforting the dying
Photo by Robert Turtil | Department of Veterans Affairs

A selection for the post, expected last month, was delayed after the two frontrunners — Dr. Delos “Toby” Cosgrove, an Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam and president and CEO of the Cleveland Clinic, and Luis Quinonez, an Army veteran of Vietnam and founder of IQ Management Services — dropped out of consideration.

Shulkin was confirmed for his current position at the VA in 2015. In that role, he oversees the Veterans Health Administration and a health care system that covers nearly nine million veterans across more than 1,700 sites.

A physician, Shulkin has previously served as president at Morristown Medical Center, Goryeb Children’s Hospital, Atlantic Rehabilitation Institute and the Atlantic Health System Accountable Care Organization, according to his VA biography. Shulkin also previously served as president and chief executive officer of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.

He received his medical degree from the Medical College of Pennsylvania, and completed his internship at Yale University School of Medicine, and residency and fellowship in general medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Presbyterian Medical Center.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

Footage of a Coast Guard drug interdiction where one Coast Guardsman jumps onto a narco-submarine and forces the hatch open has gone viral. And for good reason. It was possibly the most insane thing I’ve seen all week, but it’s actually not a shock to me. The Coast Guard does insane stuff like this all the time, but it’s never really talked about as much.

I get it, we all mock the Coasties. It’s the price you pay for being the little brother. But when you consider this, their elite snipers, and their track record for going toe-to-toe with narco-terrorists while the rest of us are stuck at NTC or 29 Palms… I think it’s time to admit that some Coasties may be more grunt than a good portion of the Armed Forces.


Just don’t be surprised when that sub-busting Coastie with balls of f*cking titanium calls you a POG at the American Legion. These memes go out to you, dude. Keep giving the Coast Guard an awesome name.

Army Veteran spends his days comforting the dying

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

In case you missed the video, here’s an accurate representation of it…

Okay. Here’s the actual link.

Army Veteran spends his days comforting the dying

(Meme via PT Belt Nation)

Army Veteran spends his days comforting the dying

(Meme via Call For Fire)

Army Veteran spends his days comforting the dying

(Meme via Not CID)

Army Veteran spends his days comforting the dying

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Army Veteran spends his days comforting the dying

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

Army Veteran spends his days comforting the dying

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

Army Veteran spends his days comforting the dying

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

Army Veteran spends his days comforting the dying

(Meme via Weapons of Meme Destruction)

Army Veteran spends his days comforting the dying

(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

Army Veteran spends his days comforting the dying

(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)

Army Veteran spends his days comforting the dying

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

Army Veteran spends his days comforting the dying

(Meme via ASMDSS)

MIGHTY HISTORY

Russia has pledged to go ahead with a massive WWII memorial parade despite its growing coronavirus outbreak

Despite steadily mounting infections from the coronavirus in Russia, President Vladimir Putin has so far refused to cancel a massive parade celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Soviet triumph Nazi Germany.

The annual Victory Day parade on May 9 typically includes tens of thousands of troops, military equipment, and hundreds of thousands of spectators.


The event came under fire last week after social media footage showed thousands of re-enactors rehearsing for the event, despite a government ban on gatherings of more than 50 people.

One video, found by Rob Lee, an open source military researcher who focuses on former Soviet militaries, shows re-enactors at a military base in Alabino, outside of Moscow.

Video purportedly of Russian troops at the Victory Day Parade rehearsals in Alabino who aren’t quite meeting the 1.5 meter social distancing requirement instituted by local officials. https://vk.com/milinfolive?w=wall-123538639_1404052 …pic.twitter.com/JIQLTPFUMQ

twitter.com

Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny circulated the video, and other politicians criticized organizers for letting them go ahead.

The government announced it would halt rehearsals, but still planned to hold the main event on May 9, according to the Guardian.

The 2020 parade had been scheduled to be especially large, given its importance marking the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazism, which cost tens of millions of Soviet lives.

Putin had planned to include not only the cream of Russia’s modern military but thousands of WWII-style re-enactors armed with historically accurate gear.

Army Veteran spends his days comforting the dying

To prepare for the event, Russia spent years accumulating working models of the famous Soviet T-34 tank, sourcing them from as far afield as Laos and Albania.

Russia’s coronavirus outbreak, currently at 6,000 recorded cases but growing fast, may yet end hopes of the parade going ahead.

Russian government officials have attacked news organizations that report on the increasing number of cases in Russia, as well as anyone who suggests the event should be canceled.

static.kremlin.ru

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: “May 9th is a sacred date for millions upon millions in Russia and [ex-Soviet] countries. The Victory Day parade is scheduled (sanitary measures taken) and will march on Red Square,” according to the Guardian.

Alternative plans being considered for the parade, according to multiple Russian media outlets, include conducting the parade for TV cameras without a live audience, or postponing it until other historically significant anniversaries in September or November.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

A 52-year-old former Navy SEAL is starting his freshman year at Yale

Navy SEAL James Hatch was on a mission to find Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan in 2009. It would be his last. After 26 years in the Navy, he was seriously wounded and eventually left the military. Since then, he has done a number of interesting things, but he is now set for the next iteration of his life – the Ivy League.


Army Veteran spends his days comforting the dying

Hatch was wounded in Afghanistan while looking for Bow Bergdahl. The wound ended his career.

If you didn’t quite catch how long Hatch had been in the Navy before Bergdahl walked off his post, his 26 years as a Navy SEAL and dog handler before leaving the service in 2009 makes Hatch a 52-year-old freshman today. But as daunting as the first day in a new school can be, Hatch is unlikely to be deterred by social anxiety. If anything the former special operator sees it as another challenge to be handled.

“My experience in academia is somewhat limited, at best,” he told NBC News. “But I want to learn, and I feel this can make me a better person. I also feel my life experience, maybe with my maturity — which my wife would say is laughable — I think I can help some of the young people out.”

Army Veteran spends his days comforting the dying

James Hatch and his service dog, Mina at Yale.

Hatch joined the military right after high school instead of going to college. He joined the Navy and became a SEAL spending his career serving in some of the most dangerous and topical areas in the world. After leaving the military in 2009 four years shy of a 30-year career, he suffered from depression like many separating vets. Drinking, drugs, and attempted suicide became the norm. But Hatch sought help and is now turning everything around. Aside from joining the ranks of the Ivy League elite, he also runs Spikes K-9 Fund, a non-profit that pays for healthcare and protective gear for police and military working dogs.

He got into the school through the Eli Whitney Students Program at Yale. The Eli Whitney program is for students with “extraordinary backgrounds” who have had their educational journeys interrupted for some reason. Hatch seems to be the perfect fit for such a program. On top of that, the GI Bill, scholarships, and Yale itself will cover the costs of his tuition.

“He brings just an incredibly different perspective,” the Director of Admissions for the Eli Whitney Students Program told NBC. “We don’t have anyone here that is like Jimmy and just his life and professional experiences will add tremendously to the Yale classroom, to the Yale community.”

In particular, his fellow Yale students will see Hatch in class with his service dog, Mina – whom they already love.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the US is vulnerable to space-based attacks

Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats warned about threats from space at the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on worldwide threats on Feb. 13, 2018.


“As if we don’t have enough threats here on earth, we need to look to the heavens — threats in space,” he said.

“The global expansion of the space industry will extend space-enabled capabilities and situational awareness to nation-states and commercial space actors in the coming years. The primary concern relates to satellites and anti-satellite capabilities.”

Right now, the U.S. military is heavily reliant on GPS and signals sent between satellites in space. Col. Richard Zellmann, commander of the 1st Space Brigade, a unit within the Space and Missile Defense Command, said that up to 70% of the Army’s combat systems depend on signals sent from space.

Also read: China and Russia can now kill American satellites

In his prepared statement, Coats said Russia and China, having recognized the value of space-based communication and reconnaissance, “will continue to expand their space-based reconnaissance, communications, and navigation systems in terms of the numbers of satellites, the breadth of their capability, and the applications for use.”

Army Veteran spends his days comforting the dying
A Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block 1A interceptor is launched from the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) during a Missile Defense Agency and U.S. Navy test in the Pacific Ocean, Feb. 13 2013. (Department of Defense)

To make matters worse, Russian and Chinese anti-satellite (ASAT) capabilities are becoming increasingly advanced. Those capabilities include (ASAT) missiles, satellites capable of performing kamikaze-style attacks, jamming technology, and “directed-energy weapons” that could “blind or damage sensitive space-based optical sensors, such as those used for remote sensing or missile defense.”

Related: SpaceX launching a third top-secret satellite

China and Russia continue to at least publicly promote diplomatic efforts to prevent the militarization of space. But as Coats pointed out, “many classes of weapons would not be addressed by such proposals, allowing them to continue their pursuit of space warfare capabilities while publicly maintaining that space must be a peaceful domain.”

Coats estimated that Russian and Chinese ASAT weapons will probably “reach initial operational capability in the next few years.” If those weapons were to take out American satellites, American warfighting capabilities would be seriously hampered.

In the words of Zellmann: “When you start taking away those combat multipliers, we need to go back then to the days of the industrial-age army where you have to have three times as many people as the adversary does.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Israel is not even a little threatened by Iran – this tweet proves it

Israel trolled Iran on June 4, 2018, with a gif from the film “Mean Girls” after Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for their complete annihilation.

Khamenei tweeted that Israel is a “cancerous tumor” that needs to be “eradicated,” and referenced the Palestinian “March of Return” movement which has seen several large-scale protests along the Gaza border in recent weeks.


The Israeli Embassy in the US responded to Khamenei’s colorful language with a gif from the 2004 film “Mean Girls,” in which Regina George, played by Rachel McAdams, Cady Heron, played by Lindsay Lohan’s character, “Why are you so obsessed with me?”

The embassy’s response has over 18,000 likes and 7,000 retweets.

Many of the commenters praised Israel’s witty response to Iran’s threats of annihilation. One user asked in Hebrew: “Who is the 15-year-old boy responsible for the embassy’s Twitter?”

—YaronR (@yaronriko) June 4, 2018

Some called for the poster to receive a raise.

Israel and Iran have recently been sparring online and offline; in May 2018, the two exchanged fire in Syria.

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

Articles

This Marine veteran stole a plane and landed it on a New York City street – to win a bar bet

Marines don’t take kindly to being told something is impossible. Thomas Fitzpatrick was that kind of Marine. He landed a single-engine plane right outside of a New York City bar after making a bar bet with another patron.


Marine in WWII and Army veteran of the Korean War, “Tommy Fitz” was having a drink in Washington Heights one night when another patron bet him that he couldn’t go to New Jersey and be back in 15 minutes.

For anyone else, this might have been impossible.

Army Veteran spends his days comforting the dying

In fact, the Police Aviation Bureau called it next to impossible, estimating the odds of success at “100,000-to-1.” Shortly before 3 a.m. on Sept. 30, 1956, the “twenty-something” Fitzpatrick hopped in a single-engine plane at New Jersey’s Teterboro School of Aeronautics and took off without lights or a radio.

“Supposedly, he planned on landing on the field at George Washington High School but it wasn’t lit up at night, so he had to land on St. Nicholas instead,” said Jim Clarke in an interview with the New York Times’ Corey Kilgannon. Clarke was a local resident at the time and remembers seeing the plane in the middle of the street.

Army Veteran spends his days comforting the dying
You losers play GTA and call it a game. Tommy Fitz didn’t play games. (Reddit user SquirtieBirdie)

According to the New York Times, locals called the first landing “a feat of aeronautics.” The owner of the plane did not press charges. Fitzpatrick was given a $100 fine (almost $900 when adjusted for inflation) for violating a city law which forbids landing airplanes on New York City streets. He also lost his pilot’s license. And that was that.

Until Fitzpatrick did it again, two years later.

This time, the Marine veteran stole the plane at 1 a.m. from Teterboro School and landed it at Amsterdam and 187th Street. He stole the second plane because someone at the bar didn’t believe that he stole a plane the first time around.

Army Veteran spends his days comforting the dying
28 minutes by car, under 15 by plane. Just trust us on this one.

For the second theft, the judge threw the book at Fitzpatrick, sentencing him to six months confinement.

“Landing on a street with lampposts and cars parked on both sides is a miracle,” said Fred Hartling, whose family was close to Fitzpatrick. “It was a wonder – you had to be a great flier to put that thing down so close to everything.”

Aside from his two skillful drunken landings, Tommy Fitz was also a Purple Heart recipient and earned a Silver Star in Korea.

During a strategic withdrawal, Corporal Fitzpatrick noticed a wounded officer, about 100 yards forward of his position. In attempting a rescue, he and a companion were seriously wounded. Cpl. Fitzpatrick despite severe pain and loss of blood made it back to safety, directed a second successful rescue party, organized and provided covering fire to support the rescue. For this action, he was awarded the Silver Star.

Thomas Fitzpatrick died in 2009 at age 79, survived by his wife of 51 years. As of 2013, the Washington Heights neighborhood still had a drink named for ol’ Tommy Fitz: the Late Night Flight.

Courtesy of the Dinner Party Download:

.5 oz Kahlua

1.5 oz vodka

.5 oz Chambord

5 blackberries

1 egg white

dash simple syrup

Army Veteran spends his days comforting the dying
The Late Night Flight. (photo from the Dinner Party Download)

“…Pour Kahlua into the base of a cocktail glass.

In a separate mixing glass, muddle the blackberries, add Chambord and one ounce of vodka, and shake with ice.

Strain carefully into a layer over the Kahlua.

In another mixing glass, shake egg white, syrup, and remaining half ounce of vodka — without ice — to create an emulsion.

Layer this fluffy white foam on top…”

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

How to defend your coast without sailors or guns

An engineer at the respected RAND Corporation has a suggestion for small countries that want to keep their enemies at bay but can’t afford a proper navy: use loads of sea mines and drones. It seems obvious, but the advice could prevent America getting dragged into a world war.


Army Veteran spends his days comforting the dying

Explosive ordnance disposal technicians simulate the destruction of a submerged mine.

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Charles White)

Engineer Scott Savitz names a few countries in his RAND post, such as Bahrain, Taiwan, and the Republic of Georgia, two American allies and a potential future member of NATO. While all of them spend significant portions of their GDP on defense, they are all also potential targets of larger neighbors with much larger navies.

So, it’s in the best interest of these countries (and the U.S.) if those countries can find a way to stave off potential invasions. RAND’s suggestion is to spend money on mines and drones, which require much more money to defeat than they cost to create. This could cripple an invading fleet or deter it entirely.

While mines are a tried and true — but frowned upon — platform dating back centuries, modern naval tactics give them short shrift. Unmanned drones in water, air, and on land, however, are reaching maturity.

Army Veteran spends his days comforting the dying

A Royal Norwegian Naval Explosive Ordnance Disposal Commando collects information during a mine-countermeasure dive during exercise Arctic Specialist 2018.

(U.S. Navy)

The idea is for the smaller nations to build up mine-laying fleets that go on regular training missions, laying fake mines in potentially vulnerable waters. This would create two major problems for invading nations: An enemy force capable of quickly saturating the water with mines as well as thousands of decoys that would hamper mine-clearing vessels.

And, mine clearance requires warships to sail relatively predictable patterns, allowing the defending nation to better predict where invading forces will have vulnerable ships.

The drones, meanwhile, could be used for laying mines, directly attacking enemy ships, conducting electronic surveillance, or even slipping into enemy ports to attack them in their “safe spaces” — a sort of Doolittle Raid for the robot age. They could even be used to target troop transports.

While the Russian, Iranian, and Chinese Navies are much larger than their Georgian, Bahrain, and Taiwanese counterparts, they don’t have much sea-lift capability, meaning that the loss of even a couple of troop ships could doom a potential invasion.

All of these factors could combine to convince invading forces to keep their ships at home, or at least slow the attacking force, meaning that reinforcements from the U.S. or other allied forces could arrive before an amphibious landing is achieved.

It’s easier to contest a landing than it is to throwback an already-fortified foothold.

Army Veteran spends his days comforting the dying

A underwater drone used to measure salinity, temperature, and depth information is recovered by the U.S. Navy during normal operations.

(U.S. Navy)

For Bahrain and Taiwan, both island nations, ensuring that an enemy can’t land on their coast nearly protects them from invasion. As long as their air forces and air defenses remain robust, they’re safe.

The Republic of Georgia, on the other hand, has already suffered a four-day land invasion from Russia. While securing their coastline from naval attack would make the country more secure, it would still need to fortify its land borders to prevent further incursion.

Army Veteran spends his days comforting the dying

A Navy drone, the Fire Scout, lazes a target for the MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopter that accompanies it.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Third Class Trenton J. Kotlarz)

For America, allies that are more secure need less assistance and are less likely to collapse during invasion without large numbers of American reinforcements.

But, of course, mines remain a controversial defense measure. They’re hard and expensive to clear, even after the war is over. And while sea mines are less likely to hurt playing children or families than leftover landmines, they can still pose a hazard to peacetime shipping operations, especially for the country that had to lay them in the first place.

Articles

One of Iran’s largest warships caught fire and sank in the Gulf of Oman

In the early morning hours of June 2, 2021, a fire started aboard the Iranian fleet replenishment oiler IRIS Kharg, used to resupply Iranian ships at sea. An estimated 400 sailors were aboard but Iranian state media only reported 33 injuries from the blaze. 

There has been no statement or speculation about the cause of the incident, but Iranian officials have told the Associated Press that an investigation is underway. 

Kharg was the largest ship in the Iranian fleet until January 2021, when the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy launched the port ship IRIS Makran. Makran is the largest military vessel in the Middle East, but the loss of the Kharg is a tough blow for the IRIN. It was one of Iran’s three replenishment vessels, which extends the potential range of its fleet of smaller blue water warships. 

Though not crippling to the Iranian Navy, the loss of the ship also hampers the Iranian Navy’s firepower in the region. The vessel carried significant armaments but was also capable of conducting helicopter-based operations in and around the region.  

The fire aboard the Kharg is just one more event in a series of unexplained events in and around the Persian Gulf region, with much of the bad luck happening to Iranian assets. In 2020, the IRIN Konarak was struck by a friendly missile during a training exercise, killing 19 sailors. January 2018 saw the IRIN destroyer Damavand crash into a breakwater in the Capsian Sea, killing two. 

The year 2021 has been far worse for the Iranian Navy. An anchored ship in the Red Sea, believed to be a base of operations for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, was suddenly attacked by an unknown force. Although many assume the attackers were Israeli, the Israel Defence Forces never claimed responsibility. 

The Iranian ship, called the MV Saviz, was thought to be a staging area for Iranian incursions on the Arabian Peninsula and elsewhere. Iran claimed its continued presence in those waters was part of an international anti-piracy effort. 

Iran’s activities in and around the Middle East are often conducted from its warships. In 2019 the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump accused the Iranian Navy of trying to hamper commercial shipping using mines attached to the hulls of ships by divers. 

Iran has long threatened to mine the Strait of Hormuz, a major shipping lane through which much of the world’s oil passes. The U.S. Navy caught the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps red-handed removing one of these mines, known as “limpet mines,” from a ship’s hull in the strait.   

Kharg was a British-built oiler that had been purchased by the government of the Shah of Iran. It has since been heavily modified with dry storage areas and Soviet-made anti-aircraft weapons.  Though the Makran has many of the same capabilities as Kharg, American analysts believe Makran can’t completely replace the loss of the large oiler. Kharg was not only able to refuel ships at sea, but also handle heavy cargo containers and other stores. 

The large replenishment oiler had a storied history, serving as a minesweeper for three years in the Iran-Iraq War, assisting foreign ships against Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden, and making port calls around the world – including the first-ever visit to Saudi Arabia by an Iranian ship.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back

Chatter about a new wave of troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq have been making the rounds for days. Today, Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller made it official. 

As Miller began his announcement behind the backdrop of the Pentagon press room, he spent time pointedly stating that the moment was owed, “To the many patriots who had made the ultimate sacrifice and their comrades who carried forward their legacy.” He reminded those watching of the over 6,000 American lives lost in the war and how over 50,000 American lives were forever changed by visible and invisible wounds.

Miller spent Tuesday morning briefing members of Congress. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who rarely goes against Trump’s decisions, objected to the withdrawal. He wasn’t the only Republican in Congress to do so. Joining him in concern was Acting Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman and Florida Congressman, Marco Rubio (R).

Although concerns were raised by a number of military and congressional leaders in the days prior to the announcement, on Tuesday, Miller made the troop withdrawal official. “I am formally announcing that we will implement President Trump’s orders to continue our repositioning of forces from those two countiries,” Miller stated. “By January 15, 2021, our forces – their size in Afghanistan – will be 2,500 troops. Our forces and their size in Iraq will also be 2,500 troops by that same date.”

Miller was recently appointed as Acting Secretary of Defense after the President fired Mark Esper from the position via Twitter.

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1325859407620689922

According to CNN, prior to his firing Esper sent a classified memo to the White House, which detailed conditions that hadn’t yet been met for a safe withdrawal of U.S. troops. There is speculation that the memo combined with Trump’s apparent loss of the presidency led to Esper’s firing.   

Despite reported military leadership objection to the withdrawal without conditions met and the leaked memo indicating it was a unanimous chain of command objection, Miller forged ahead today announcing President Trump’s official order. “This is consistent with our established plans and strategic objectives… supported by the American people and does not equate in a change of U.S. policy or objectives. Moreover, this decision by the president is based on continuous engagement with his national security cabinet over several months,” Miller stated. 

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley stated to NPR in October that, “The whole agreement and all of the drawdown plans are conditions-based. The key here is that we’re trying to end a war responsibly, deliberately, and to do it on terms that guarantee the safety of the U.S. vital national security interests that are at stake in Afghanistan.”

“I have also spoken with our military commanders and we all will execute this repositioning in a way that protects our fighting men and women,” Miller stated. He continued, “Today is another critical step in that direction and a result of President Trump’s bold leadership…we will finish this generational war and bring our men and women home.” 

The Acting Secretary of Defense did not offer any reasoning to the accelerated troop withdrawal despite conditions not being met, nor did Miller take any questions following the reading of his prepared statement.

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