Army's 1st SFAB unit returns from Afghanistan says advisor mission a 'success' - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Army’s 1st SFAB unit returns from Afghanistan says advisor mission a ‘success’

The 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade deployed in March 2018 to Afghanistan to carry out the inaugural mission for the newly-created SFAB concept. The brigade returned in November 2018, and leaders say their experience there has proven successful what the Army hoped to accomplish with the new kind of training unit.

Army Brig. Gen. Scott Jackson, 1st SFAB commander, spoke May 8, 2019, at the Pentagon as part of an Army Current Operations Engagement Tour. He said the Army’s concept for the new unit — one earmarked exclusively for advise and assist missions — was spot on.

During their nine-month deployment to Afghanistan, Jackson said the 800-person brigade ran 58 advisory teams and partnered with more than 30 Afghan battalions, 15 brigades, multiple regional training centers, a corps headquarters and a capital division headquarters.


“That’s nearly half of the Afghan National Army,” he said. “I believe we could only accomplish our mission and reach these milestones and validate the effectiveness of an SFAB because the Army got it right — the Army issued us the right equipment, and provided us the right training to be successful. But most importantly, we selected the people for this mission . . . the key to our success is the talented, adaptable, and experienced volunteers who served in this brigade.”

Lessons learned

Jackson outlined two key lessons learned from the unit’s time in Afghanistan. First, they learned their ability to affect change within those they advise and assist was greater than they thought.

Army’s 1st SFAB unit returns from Afghanistan says advisor mission a ‘success’

Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Velez, center, an advisor with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 3rd Squadron, interacts with Afghan Command Sgt. Maj. Abdul Rahman Rangakhil, left, the senior enlisted leader of 1st Kandak, 4th Brigade, 203rd Corps, during a routine fly-to-advise mission at Forward Operating Base Altimur, Afghanistan, Sept. 19, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

“As our Afghan partners began to understand the value of 1st SFAB advisors, they asked us for more,” Jackson said. “So our teams partnered with more and more Afghan units as the deployment progressed.”

Another lesson, he said, was that persistent presence with partners pays off.

“Units with persistent partners made more progress in planning and conducting offensive operations and in integrating organic Afghan enablers like field artillery and the Afghan air force than unpersistent partnered units,” Jackson said.

Those lessons and others were passed to the follow-on unit, the 2nd SFAB, as well as to the Security Force Assistance Command.

Another observation: the Afghan military is doing just fine. They’re in charge of their own operations. And while U.S. presence can provide guidance when needed — and it is asked for — the Afghans were proving successful at doing their own security missions without U.S. soldiers running alongside them. It turns out that just having an SFAB advise and assist presence has emboldened Afghan security to success.

“We saw enormous offensive maneuver generated, and not just at the brigade level,” said Army Lt. Col. Brain Ducote, commander of the 1st Battalion, 1st SFAB. “They weren’t overdependent. They were able to execute offensive operations themselves. It was a huge confidence builder when we were sometimes just present. Even if we didn’t support them, just us being there gave them the confidence to execute on independent offensive operations.”

Confidence is contagious

Ducote said that the confidence moved from brigade level down to battalion, or “kandak” level. Commanders there also began running their own offensive operations, he said.

“They believe in themselves,” the lieutenant colonel said. “The Afghan army has tremendous freedom of maneuver and access to areas where they want to go. If they put their mind to it and they say we’re going to move to this area to clear it . . . they are good at it. And they can do it. Would they, given the choice, want advisors with them? Absolutely. Why not? But let there be no mistake: the Afghans are in the lead, and the Afghans can do this.”

Army’s 1st SFAB unit returns from Afghanistan says advisor mission a ‘success’

Advisors with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 3rd Squadron and their 3rd Infantry Division security element exit UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters during a routine fly-to-advise mission at Forward Operating Base Altimur, Afghanistan, Sept. 19, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

Ducote said Afghan success is evident by their expansion of the footprint they protect, such as in Kunar and Kapisa provinces, for instance.

“[There are] all sorts of provinces where they expanded their footprint and influence,” he said. “And the people absolutely support their security forces.”

Also a critical takeaway from Afghanistan and an indicator of the value of the SFAB mission there is the authenticity of relationships between SFAB advisors and Afghans.

Building real relationships

During their nine months in theater, the 1st SFAB lost two soldiers to insider threats. Army Capt. Gerard T. Spinney, team leader for 1st Battalion, 1st SFAB, said that what happened after the attacks revealed the strength and sincerity of the relationship between Afghan leadership and SFAB leadership.

Army Cpl. Joseph Maciel was working for Spinney in Tarin Kowt District, Afghanistan. He was killed there by an Afghan soldier in July 2018 — a “green on blue” threat.

“His sacrifice will never be forgotten,” Spinney said. “But we still had to continue advising afterward. That day, my partner, a kandak commander . . . wanted to come see me.”

Spinney said the Afghan soldier who had killed Maciel didn’t belong to this commander — but that commander still wanted to meet with him.

Army’s 1st SFAB unit returns from Afghanistan says advisor mission a ‘success’

Afghan soldiers listen to a map reading class taught by Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Davis, an advisor with 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, Sept. 18, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

“He was very adamant coming to see me,” Spinney said. “He was angry. He was embarrassed. He was determined to rid [his own] unit of anything like this. And it was sincere. During the deployment he lost many soldiers. I had to sit with him and almost echo the same sympathies. I think the relationship got stronger.”

“You have to be there with them, good times and bad times, successes and failures,” the captain said. “That’s how you build trust, that’s how you show you care. He was there for us that day. Our relationship survived. And I’d say from that point on he wanted to make us feel safer. From that point on we saw differences in security . . . they took care of us because they wanted us there.”

Jackson said that insider threat might have derailed the 1st SFAB mission. In fact, he said, he suspects that was the intent of the enemy that carried out those threats. But it didn’t happen that way, he said.

“It didn’t derail the mission,” Jackson said. “Despite a brief pause maybe, as we reassessed what happened and what we needed to do both on the Afghan side and the American side, in the end our relationship was stronger.”

Ensuring success

The SFAB concept was first proposed by Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley. And since then, Jackson said, the Army has put a lot of effort into ensuring the success of the SFAB mission. That includes, among other things, training, people and gear.

Ducote said the equipment provided to 1st SFAB was critical to its success in Afghanistan.

Army’s 1st SFAB unit returns from Afghanistan says advisor mission a ‘success’

Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Davis, an advisor with 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, teaches a map reading class to Afghan soldiers Sept. 18, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

“These teams are operating at distance, in austere environments,” Ducote said. “In some cases without electricity. We need the right equipment to be able to extend the trust that we give to them, and the trust that we extend to them. We want that to be manifested through the right equipment — communications specifically.”

He said the gear that proved essential to SFAB success included medical, communications and vehicles — and all were adequately provided for by the Army.

“The Army got it right what they gave us,” Ducote said. “We were able to do that mission, at distance.”

Home again

Back home now for six months, Jackson said the brigade is back to repairing equipment, replacing teammates and conducting individual and small-unit training to prepare for its next mission. He said their goal is to provide the Army a unit ready for the next deployment, though orders for that next mission have not yet come down.

The advise and assist mission is one the Army has done for years, but it’s something the Army had previously done in an ad hoc fashion. Brigade combat teams, for instance, had in the past been tasked to send some of their own overseas as part of security transition teams or security force assistance teams to conduct training missions with foreign militaries. Sometimes, however, the manner in which these teams were created may not have consistently facilitated the highest quality of preparation.

Army’s 1st SFAB unit returns from Afghanistan says advisor mission a ‘success’

Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Velez, an advisor with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 3rd Squadron, flies in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter on his way to Forward Operating Base Altimur, Afghanistan, Sept. 19, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

The SFAB units, on the other hand, are exclusively designated to conduct advise and assist missions overseas. And they are extensively trained to conduct those missions before they go. Additionally, the new SFABs mean regular BCTs will no longer need to conduct advise and assist missions.

The Army plans to have one National Guard and five active-duty SFABs. The 1st SFAB stood up at Fort Benning, Georgia, in early 2018. The 2nd SFAB is based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, but is now deployed to Afghanistan. The 3rd SFAB, based at Fort Hood, Texas, is now gearing up for its own first deployment. The 4th SFAB, based at Fort Carson, Colorado, is standing up, as is the 54th SFAB, a National Guard unit that will be spread across six states. The 5th SFAB, to be based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, is still being planned.

“As subsequent SFABs come online, it creates a huge capacity for the rest of the combatant commands in the world,” Jackson said. “I would be confident to say that there are assessments ongoing to see where else you could apply SFABs besides Afghanistan.”

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

Articles

How Magpul dominated the world of US military rifle magazines

The US Air Force used the results from a 2015 US Army test of commercial magazines to make its decision to replace Army magazines with Magpul’s Gen 3 PMAG, according to Air Force officials.


The Air Force put out guidance in July that all government-issued M16/M4 magazines – including the Army’s new Enhanced Performance Magazine – will be replaced by the Magpul PMAG. The announcement occurred in the “USAF AUTHORIZED SMALL ARMS and LIGHT WEAPONS ACCESSORIES (as of 28 July 17).”

Military.com asked the Air Force how it came to the decision to choose the PMAG, and it sent the following response:

“When pursuing any capability based requirement, and before conducting any tests, the Air Force will first work closely with our joint partners to see if they have conducted any testing,” said Vicki Stein, a spokeswoman for Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center.

Army’s 1st SFAB unit returns from Afghanistan says advisor mission a ‘success’

“In this instance, we utilized the US Army Aberdeen Test Center’s M855A1 Conformance Testing on Commercial Magazines to make our decision.”

Military.com contacted Program Executive Office Soldier for comment on this but has not received a response yet.

In May, the Army announced it was planning to evaluate how well the service’s M4 and M4A1 carbines perform using a polymer magazine as part of a Solder Enhancement Program project that was approved in February, according to Army weapons officials at the NDIA’s Armaments Systems Forum.

What is interesting is that the Army test report on commercial magazines that the Air Force used to make its decision is dated Jan. 2015, according to Stein. US Army TACOM didn’t unveil its new Enhanced Performance Magazine until 2016.

Army’s 1st SFAB unit returns from Afghanistan says advisor mission a ‘success’
A polymer-based magazine. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The Air Force should be commended for using the Army’s existing test data rather than conducting a redundant test to make its decision.

The question that remains unanswered is why didn’t the Army come to the same conclusion as the Air Force and choose the PMAG when it appears that the service’s own test data shows the PMAG as the top performer.

Soldiers have used PMAGs in their weapons in combat for years because of their proven reliability.

Marine Corps Systems Command in December released a message which authorized the PMAG polymer magazine for use in the M27 infantry automatic rifle as well as in M16A4 rifle and M4 carbine.

Army’s 1st SFAB unit returns from Afghanistan says advisor mission a ‘success’
An AKMR with a PMAG. Image from Magpul.

Air Force officials did say that the Army Enhanced Magazine is also still authorized for use.

But the Air Force guidance on magazines states that 1005-01-615-5169 (Black) and 1005-01-659-7086 (Tan) Magpul – Gen 3 Polymer Magazine with window will replace 1005-01-630-9508 through attrition. The 1005-01-630-9508 is the Enhanced Performance Magazine (tan mag w/blue follower) the latest US Army magazine.

The PMAG will also replace 1005-01-561-7200 MAGAZINE, CARTRIDGE (tan follower) and 1005-00-921-5004 MAGAZINE, CARTRIDGE (green follower), the document states.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Video shows C-17 taking on the ‘Star Wars’ canyon

“Star Wars Canyon” (aka Rainbow Canyon) which empties into the Panamint Valley region of Death Valley National Park has become very popular among serious aviation photographers from all around the world who daily exploit the unique opportunity to shoot military aircraft during their low altitude transit through the so-called “Jedi Transition.”

While you may happen to see any kind of combat aircraft thundering through Canyon, fast jets (including warbirds) are, by far, the most common visitors to the low level corridor. However, if you are lucky enough, you can also have the chance to spot a heavy airlifters during low level training.

As happened at least twice in the last days when the C-17 Globemaster III 33121/ED belonging to the 418th Flight Test Sqn, 412th Test Wing from Edwards Air Force Base, performed some passes in the Start Wars Canyon.


The following video, taken by John Massaro, shows the pass on April 18, 2019. As said it’s not the first time a C-17 cargo aircraft flies through the Jedi Transition, still it’s always interesting to see such a heavy aircraft maneuvering at low altitude through the valleys.

Star Wars Canyon…Jedi Transition…C-17 Low Level Pass

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Here’s what I wrote about low level flying, commenting a cool shot of an F-35 flying the the Sidewinder low level route in California recently:

[…] what makes the low level training so interesting, is the fact that aircraft flying the low level routes are involved in realistic combat training. Indeed, although many current and future scenarios involve stand-off weapons or drops from high altitudes, fighter pilots still practice on an almost daily basis to infiltrate heavily defended targets and to evade from areas protected by sophisticated air defense networks as those employed in Iran, Syria or North Korea. While electronic countermeasures help, the ability to get bombs on target and live to fight another day may also depend on the skills learnt at treetop altitude.

To be able to fly at less than 2,000 feet can be useful during stateside training too, when weather conditions are such to require a low level leg to keep visual contact with the ground and VMC (Visual Meteorological Conditions). Aircraft involved in special operations, reconnaissance, Search And Rescue, troops or humanitarian airdrops in trouble spots around the world may have to fly at low altitudes.

That’s why low level corridors like the Sidewinder and the LFA-7 aka “Mach Loop” in the UK are so frequently used to train fighter jet, airlifter and helicopter pilots.

And such training pays off when needed. As happened, in Libya, in 2011, when RAF C-130s were tasked to rescue oil workers that were trapped in the desert. The airlifter took off from Malta and flew over the Mediteranean, called Tripoli air traffic control, explained who they were and what they were up to, they got no reply from the controllers, therefore continued at low level once over the desert and in hostile airspace.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

You should have joined a military parachute team when you had the chance

Six military parachute teams from around the world are training together with the U.S. Army’s Golden Knights to sharpen their skills and share lessons learned.

About 80 parachutists have been dotting the sky each day with colorful parachutes identifying them as Army, Air Force, Navy or one of the international training partners from the British Army.

“They learn from us. We learn from them,” said Lt. Col. Ned Marsh, commander of the Golden Knights, the U.S. Army Parachute Team. “We establish joint and combined interoperability. That familiarity boosts safety among parachutists in preparation for shows thousands of feet about the ground.”


Amazing Helmet Cam Footage From The U.S. Army Parachute Team “Golden Knights”

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Amazing Helmet Cam Footage From The U.S. Army Parachute Team “Golden Knights”

Joint training is a normal part of the Golden Knights’ annual certification cycle; however, in the past, each of the other teams have come separately for training. This is the first time all seven of these teams have come to train together at the same time. Throughout the week they are developing advanced skills and maximizing safety standards for combined military performances at show sites for the 2019 season.

In addition to the Golden Knights, the teams here for training include: the British Army’s Red Devils, the U.S. Army Special Operations Command Black Daggers, the U.S. Navy Leap Frogs, the U.S. Air Force Wings of Blue, the U.S. Special Operations Command Para Commandos, and Fort Benning’s Silver Wings.

Army’s 1st SFAB unit returns from Afghanistan says advisor mission a ‘success’

Talk about precision.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brandan Parra)

“It’s great to be over here and get some cross training,” said British Sgt. Maj. Dean Walton, who is one of 13 Red Devils who traveled to Homestead for the week. “Each team does things differently, and we can always improve. If we can improve and do things better and safer, it’s great to learn from each other how we can perform public displays.”

During the demonstration season, the Golden Knights perform with other U.S. and foreign military parachute teams at numerous events across the globe. Providing training for these teams is a key mission of the Army Parachute Team.

“There is no rivalry between the teams,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Hardy, USASOC paratrooper from the Black Daggers. “We all have good bases and we build off of that. If you look at the little targets on the drop zone, it’s a friendly rivalry to see who can land closest to the ‘X.'”

Army’s 1st SFAB unit returns from Afghanistan says advisor mission a ‘success’

The Black Daggers use this training to perfect their demonstration team skills.

(Photo Credit: Lara HartmanPoirrier)

For the British Army’s Red Devils, the camaraderie is about much more than coming together to train each year. The team’s history with the Golden Knights dates back to the 1960s.

“When the Red Devils were originally formed, it was the Golden Knights that helped us get set up,” Walton said. “During the 1960s for an event, we actually jumped into Stonehenge with the Golden Knights.”

In June the Golden Knights will jump with the Red Devils for a demonstration in the United Kingdom.
“Personally, the best part is getting to train with these guys,” Walton said. “They are exactly the same as us. Similar sense of humor, similar experiences, and it’s great to meet up once a year. We have some quite good friends on the teams.”

The Golden Knights, based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, are one of U.S. Army Recruiting Command’s key outreach teams dedicated to creating awareness about the Army and educating the American public about the opportunities and benefits of service.

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

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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’s 1st SFAB unit returns from Afghanistan says advisor mission a ‘success’

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.

Articles

Gurkha soldiers are rebuilding vets homes after massive earthquake

When a massive earthquake struck two years ago in Nepal, a sudden coalition formed to help. Service organizations, allied militaries, and others rushed from near and far to dig out survivors and provide help. And some native Gurkha soldiers are still there, lending their expertise to the rebuilding of hundreds of homes.


A total of 8,891 people are thought to have died and another 22,300 injured in the earthquakes on April 25 and May 12, 2015.

Army’s 1st SFAB unit returns from Afghanistan says advisor mission a ‘success’
A Nepalese soldier carries a young earthquake victim from a U.S Marine Corps UH-1Y Venom helicopter assigned to Joint Task Force 505 to a medical triage area at Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu, Nepal, after a 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck the country, May 12, 2015. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Ricardo Morales)

One of the military forces that rushed in were Gurkha soldiers from the British Army in Operation Leyland. The Gurkhas are recruited from the same region of Nepal that was worst hit, and the troops were deployed to help their own families and forebears.

But the Gurkhas didn’t leave once the emergency passed. They’re still taking turns rotating into the area to help rebuild the homes of Gurkha veterans. Operation Marmat was a deliberate deployment of about 100 Gurkhas at a time to build homes with materials purchased by the Gurkha Welfare Trust.

Army’s 1st SFAB unit returns from Afghanistan says advisor mission a ‘success’
A Gurkha soldier helps rebuild the home of a former Gurkha rifleman during Operation Marmat, an ongoing effort to rebuild the homes of Gurkha veterans. (Photo: Facebook/British Army)

In addition to their labor in the mountains of Nepal, the Gurkhas have raised money — approximately $65,000 — across the world with an emphasis on the United Kingdom where they are based.

An update from the British Army Facebook page says that 800 homes have been rebuilt by the trust and 61 of them were built with labor from the active duty Gurkha soldiers in the past two years.

Another 300 homes are still slated for reconstruction. People who want to help can visit the Gurkha Welfare Trust.

Army’s 1st SFAB unit returns from Afghanistan says advisor mission a ‘success’
A Nepalese soldier from the Royal Gurkha Rifles regiment of the British Army stands guard in Sanger, Afghanistan. (Photo: U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan David Chandler)

Gurkha soldiers have served the British Army with distinction for over 200 years, including deployments to both world wars, Iraq, and Afghanistan where they served alongside American troops.

To learn more, check out this short video from the British Army (you must be logged into Facebook to see the video):


Articles

4 things that got a Nazi an automatic Iron Cross

Germany’s highest awards for valor, the Iron Cross, was the most awarded of the top tier medals of any nation in World War II. But Germany awarded more top-tier valor awards than any other country for two very good reasons. First, most German troops fought for the duration or the war unless they were crippled.


As German ace Gunther Rall put it, that meant Third Reich troops’ destiny “was either the Iron Cross or the wooden cross.” They would be heroes or they would die in the attempt.

Army’s 1st SFAB unit returns from Afghanistan says advisor mission a ‘success’
The Iron Cross second class. (Photo: Public Domain)

Second, German troops could earn the Iron Cross with a series of events, like succeeding in enough aerial battles, rather than for just a single act of extreme valor like in most militaries. While the medal was awarded for singular military achievements and bravery, it was also automatically warranted after a service member completed a challenging act.

Here are four things that would get a World War II German soldier an automatic Iron Cross:

1. Destroying a set number of enemy tanks

Army’s 1st SFAB unit returns from Afghanistan says advisor mission a ‘success’
A German Tiger tank rolls forward in the Battle of Kursk. (Photo: German Army archives)

For German tankers, the “easiest” way to earn an Iron Cross was to achieve enough tank victories to qualify. While the number required increased as the war ground on, 50 was the magic number for a few years. That’s 50 Allied tank kills before a single tank managed to kill them.

2. Killing a set number of Allied planes

Army’s 1st SFAB unit returns from Afghanistan says advisor mission a ‘success’
(Photo: Public Domain)

German Luftwaffe pilots could net an Iron Cross by accruing an ever-increasing number of points. Single-engine aircraft were worth one point, dual-engines netted two points, and four engines were worth three points. Fighters could get the Iron Cross second class for becoming an ace (downing five enemy aircraft).

3. Sinking a set amount of Allied shipping

Army’s 1st SFAB unit returns from Afghanistan says advisor mission a ‘success’
Photo: German Federal Archives

For submariners, the Iron Cross was usually awarded for sinking tons of Allied supplies. The Iron Cross second class usually required sinking 50,000 tons of shipping, while the Knight’s Cross, a higher level of the same award, would be granted to those who sank 100,000 or more tons.

4. Downing a “Night Witch”

Army’s 1st SFAB unit returns from Afghanistan says advisor mission a ‘success’
(Photo: Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0 Douzeff)

Oddly enough, pilots could earn an Iron Cross for downing a single wooden biplane, as long as it was being flown by the Night Witches.

These were older, frail planes piloted by Soviet women who would carry a few bombs at a time and drop them on Nazi massed forces, breaking up German attacks on Soviet positions. But the planes were so slow and quiet that they were hard to find and harder to fight, so the Luftwaffe promised an Iron Cross for a single kill.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Bail denied for suspected Russian spy

A U.S. judge has denied a request by a Russian woman accused of working as a foreign agent who sought to be released on bail pending her next hearing.

Prosecutors have charged that Maria Butina had worked for years to cultivate relationships with U.S. political organizations and conservative activists.

They have charged that her work was directed by a former Russian lawmaker who allegedly has ties to Russian organized crime and who was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in early 2018.


Butina’s defense lawyers sought to persuade a Washington judge to release Butina to house arrest pending her November 2018 hearing.

But Judge Tanya Chutkan rejected that request, agreeing with prosecutors who said Butina might flee the country.

Army’s 1st SFAB unit returns from Afghanistan says advisor mission a ‘success’

Maria Butina’s mugshot after being booked into the Alexandria detention center.

Federal prosecutors said in court filings that they had mistakenly accused Butina of trading sex for access. They said they misinterpreted one of Butina’s text-message exchanges but said there was other evidence supporting keeping her in custody.

Butina, 29, has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which include conspiracy and acting as an unregistered foreign agent.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Nazis designed a crazy, one-man, spherical tank

During World War II, Nazi engineers designed and built a number of revolutionary super or “wonder weapons” (wunderwaffe), including a wide array of aircraft, guns, and ships. Among these weapons is a mysterious small, round tank named the Kugelpanzer (literally meaning “spherical tank”). This odd little tank was never seen in the European theater, and very little is definitively known about its purpose.

What is known is that it was made in Germany and shipped to Japan, and then later captured by the Soviets in 1945, probably in Manchuria. Today, the only one known to exist can be found in the Kubinka Tank Museum in the Odintsovsky District, Moscow Oblast, Russia.


Powered by a single cylinder, two-stroke engine, Kugelpanzer has a slit in the front (presumably a driver’s view port), and a small arm and wheel in the rear (perhaps for stability and/or maneuvering). Its hull is only 5 mm (.2 in.) thick, and it isn’t fully clear what type of metal comprises its armor (no metal samples are currently allowed to be taken from it).

Popular theories of its purpose include reconnaissance, as a mobile observation post for managing artillery fire, and as a cable-laying vehicle; however, there is little evidence to support any of these hypotheses, since there has never been any documentation found that explains the vehicle or its design.

Army’s 1st SFAB unit returns from Afghanistan says advisor mission a ‘success’

The Kugelpanzer.

Given the dearth of evidence, as you would expect, speculation is rampant, and one intriguing theory even posits that it was commissioned by the Japanese as part of their kamikaze strategy of suicide missions.

By August 1944, the ailing Japanese military had been at war in the Pacific for 7 long years, beginning with the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937. During this period, rather than being captured, and wanting to get in one last lick, some Japanese pilots had begun the practice of crashing their mostly disabled planes into enemy positions (and killing themselves in the process).

Through most of the Pacific War, this was an informal, voluntary act; however, as the war was winding down, the desperate Japanese command (who were running out of qualified pilots and whose aircraft at this point in the war were outdated) decided that they would get the most out of their unskilled personnel and obsolete machinery by incorporating planned suicide missions into their battle strategies. As such, in the fall of 1944, Japanese forces began a series of kamikaze strikes. (Click here for more on the origin of the kamikaze and how pilots were chosen for this duty.)

In addition to improvised devices, such as simply strapping bombs onto existing aircraft, the Japanese military began manufacturing specialized equipment. These included the aircraft Ohka (“cherry blossom”), as well as suicide boats, such as Shinyo (“sea quake”). Even tiny submarines were made, including a modified torpedo named Kaiten (“returning to heaven,”) and Kairyu (“sea dragon”), a two-manned craft.

Army’s 1st SFAB unit returns from Afghanistan says advisor mission a ‘success’

A Japanese Ohka Model 11 replica at the Yasukuni ShrineYūshūkan war museum.

Given this mindset of many Japanese military leaders, it has been theorized by some that the Kugelpanzer was a part of this plan, with a few key points often put forth to support this theory. First, like all of the other suicide machines, it was small and designed to be operated with a limited (1-2 man) crew; second, it wasn’t equipped with any apparent offensive weaponry, though it has been speculated that it was meant to have a machine gun mounted in the front; and third, its hull was rather flimsy (5 mm thick) when compared to that of other armored vehicles, but on par with that of at least one other suicide craft.

For instance, the Type 97 Chi-Ha, said to be the “most widely produced Japanese medium tank of World War II,” had 26 mm thick armor on the sides of the turret and 33 mm thick armor on its gun shield. On the other hand, the Long Lance torpedo from which the Kaiten manned torpedo was developed had a comparably thin shell at 3.2 mm (.13 in.) thick – much closer to the width of the Kugelpanzer outer housing, than the strong armor of the Type 97 tank.

For further reference, the thickness of a common World War II helmet (the M1) was at .035 to .037 inches (just under 1 mm), sufficient to (at least sometimes) stop a .45 caliber bullet. So, essentially, the 5 mm thick walls of the tank would have been sturdy enough to relatively reliably stop many types of enemy bullets from getting in, but thin enough to give way easily from a blast within, to do maximum damage. At least, so this particularly theory goes.

Whatever its intended use, the Kugelpanzer certainly has gone down as one of the more unique weapons developed during WWII.

Bonus Facts:

  • The aforementioned Japanese one manned torpedo-like submarines called kaitens were just modified torpedoes that allowed the person inside to control them. They also featured a self destruct mechanism if the person failed in their mission. This was necessary as there was no way for the person inside to get out of the torpedo once sealed in. Early models did include a mechanism to escape once the torpedo was aimed correctly, but not a single soldier seems to have ever used this feature, so it was quickly abandoned. Each person who died as a kaiten pilot would earn their family ¥10000 (about 0 today). Kaitens were ultimately not very successful primary because they could not be deployed very deeply and were stored on the outside of the submarines. This isn’t so much a problem for the kaitens as it was for the submarines carrying them who would have to stay very near the surface. This resulted in an average of about eight submarines carrying kaitens being destroyed for every two ships destroyed by the kaitens. Each kaiten was about 50 feet long; could reach a maximum speed of about 30 miles per hour; and contained a warhead at the nose.
  • The Japanese were not alone in making suicide attacks a part of their 20th century battle strategy. During the Sino-Japanese War, Chinese soldiers of the “Dare to Die Corps” effectively detonated suicide bombs at the Battle of Taierzhuang (1938), the Defense of the Sihang Warehouse (1937) and the Battle of Shanghai (1937).

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

Articles

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

Some much deserved tender loving care begins August 22 in the nation’s capital. The revered US Marine Corps War Memorial — often referred to as the Iwo Jima Memorial — will get new gilding on its engravings and pedestal, plus a meticulous cleaning and wax of its five immense 32-foot bronze figures, a 60-foot flagpole, and granite base.


There also will be updated lighting, new landscaping for the surrounding parkland, and improved infrastructure, according to the National Park Service.

Army’s 1st SFAB unit returns from Afghanistan says advisor mission a ‘success’
Five Marines and a Navy hospital corpsman raise the flag on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima.

The rehabilitation is a big project. It also uses no taxpayer funds.

The upgrade was made possible through a $5.4 million donation from businessman and philanthropist David M. Rubenstein, a man who believes in what he calls “patriotic philanthropy.”

Army’s 1st SFAB unit returns from Afghanistan says advisor mission a ‘success’
David M. Rubenstein. (Photo from Flickr user Jean-Frédéric.)

Besides his many donations to academic, art, or hospital-related institutions, Mr. Rubenstein has donated close to $100 million in recent years for historic preservation projects to restore the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and other major sites. Now, it is Iwo Jima’s turn.

“It is a privilege to honor our fellow Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice to attain and preserve the freedoms we enjoy. I hope this gift enables visitors to the Iwo Jima Memorial to better appreciate the beauty and significance of this iconic sculpture and inspires other Americans to support critical needs facing our national park system,” Mr. Rubenstein said on announcing his donation.

The Marine memorial draws 2 million visitors a year and was dedicated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on November 10, 1954, the 179th anniversary of the US Marine Corps. The entire original cost of the statue — $850,000 — was donated by individual Marines, friends of the Corps, and members of the naval service. Again, no taxpayer funds.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Perks of PCSing: Turning a move into an adventure

Having been married to someone in the military for almost a decade at this point, there are two things I learned quickly that will almost always be true. The first is that no matter what, there will always be at least one MRE somewhere in your house. The second, is that you will have to move. You will move a lot, you will move often, and there is a high likelihood you will have to move somewhere unfamiliar. While PCS and other forms of military travel are put on temporary hold right now, it can still be helpful to think of ways to make some of the more stressful, and sometimes more time consuming aspects, work for you.

Any move, military or otherwise, comes with obvious stressors and things to consider. From prospective jobs, future school districts, housing, and arguably the most stressful: trying to convince your friends to help pack the moving truck. While there are options in the military to have your things professionally packed and moved, my husband and I have always taken the more hands-on approach. Albeit more tedious, it has kind of become tradition for us. It gives us one last chance to say goodbye to friends we’ve made, pay them in pizza and beer and convince them that we really didn’t mean to pack some of those boxes so heavy.


Army’s 1st SFAB unit returns from Afghanistan says advisor mission a ‘success’

I’ve gotten a lot of great advice from people over the years about the best way to adjust to a new duty station. It’s easier when you have built in ice breakers like school aged kids or more social hobbies, but overall, everyone learns to adjust in their own way. Something else that seemingly less significant or explored is the actual act of getting from point A to point B.

Even during the anxiety and uncertainty of our very first move, my favorite part of a PCS has always been hitting the road and making conscious efforts to plan our route in a memorable way. Our duty stations have been all over the country, so we’ve been able to cover some significant ground in a relatively short amount of time. There’s something about taking what is typically deemed more utilitarian and turning it into its own experience that really seems to feed the soul.

When I think about some of my favorite memories with my husband and kids, I think about our PCS roadtrips. Our oldest son visited the Grand Canyon and traveled through 23 states before his first birthday. We spent an entire day driving around Albuquerque, NM visiting filming locations from Breaking Bad, which admittedly was more of a personal bucket list item, but my husband had control of the radio that day, so we found a happy compromise.

Our youngest son travelled from Oregon to Louisiana before he was even born (nothing goes better with being seven months pregnant than driving 7 hours a day for a week straight). Both of our boys have managed to get really close to crossing off all 50 states since they’ve been our roadies. We’ve made our way through the good, the bad and the ugly of truck stops, hotels and roadside attractions–few things compare to some of those alien museums in Roswell, which really have the potential to encompass all three traits seamlessly.

We take the time before our move to look at a map and see what’s out there. Sure, there are days where it really is about getting up early and putting in those long hours to get some mileage under our belt, but we always try to counter that with something fun. Sometimes it can feel like “making the best out of a bad situation” if the move comes at an inopportune time, or there are outside factors at play.

One of the realities of being a military family is having a lot of things decided for you. That can seem like a daunting thing, and I would be lying if I said there weren’t times where it was really hard for us in one way or another.

Army’s 1st SFAB unit returns from Afghanistan says advisor mission a ‘success’

At the end of the day it’s about looking for those silver linings in the inevitable. Taking stock in the situation and being able to make it into something you can look back on and appreciate having been in that place at that time. So many things in life are done with the outcome in mind, not the process. Military members and military families will undoubtedly spend a lot of time going from point A to point B, it comes with the territory. What that does however, is offer up the opportunity for adventure. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but sometimes it’s worth taking a detour.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TRENDING

South Korea wants to lower its bar for peace talks with the North

South Korea’s president said Feb. 26, 2018, that the United States should lower the threshold for talks with North Korea and that the two countries should start a dialogue soon.


President Moon Jae-in made the remarks in a meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong one day after a senior North Korean official told Moon that his country is willing to open talks with the United States.

Also read: North and South Korea to train together at the Winter Olympics

The officials were in South Korea for the closing ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics on Feb. 25, 2018.

According to his office, Moon asked for China’s support for U.S.-North Korea talks, and Liu responded that China would help facilitate them. Moon also said that North Korea should show a commitment to denuclearization, something it has refused to do.

Earlier, the U.S. said the international community needs to maintain maximum pressure on North Korea until it gives up its nuclear weapons development.

Army’s 1st SFAB unit returns from Afghanistan says advisor mission a ‘success’
President Donald J. Trump and President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

“We will see if Pyongyang’s message today, that it is willing to hold talks, represents the first steps along the path to denuclearization,” the White House said in a statement.

Moon met Feb. 25, 2018, with a North Korean delegation led by Kim Yong Chol, a former general whom South Korea has accused of being behind two attacks on the South that killed 50 people in 2010. Kim told Moon that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un wanted to improve ties with Washington and had “ample intentions of holding talks,” according to the South Korean president’s office.

Related: North Korea’s brinkmanship will continue right after the Olympics

The North Korean delegation met with Moon’s national security chief on Feb. 26, 2018. Moon’s office said the two sides agreed that the Olympics had been a meaningful stepping stone toward restoring inter-Korean ties, and to continue to collaborate to seek a permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula.

South Korean protesters burned a North Korean flag and used a knife to slash a portrait of Kim Jong Un near a hotel where the North Korean delegation was staying.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Sexual assault at Fort Bragg up 28 percent over last year

A summary released by the Department of Defense shows reports of sexual assault from Fort Bragg increased by 28 percent in 2016 over the year before.


The summary says Fort Bragg received 146 reports of sexual assault in 2016 compared to 114 reports in 2015.

Army’s 1st SFAB unit returns from Afghanistan says advisor mission a ‘success’
Sexual assault in the service is a very real problem, reports show. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Armando A. Schwier-Morales)

The News Observer of Raleigh reports that the summary notes that the location of the assault and the location of the report don’t necessarily coincide.

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

Camp Lejeune had 169 reports of sexual assault in 2016, compared to 164 the year before.

At Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, the number of reports dropped, from 49 in 2015 to 27 in 2016. Seymour Johnson Air Force Base had 13 reports in 2016, unchanged from the previous year.

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