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

NATO is boosting deployments after Russian threats

Amid increased Russian aggression, including the Kremlin’s unveiling a new “Satan 2” nuclear missile, NATO forces announced on Oct. 27 that they were increasing deployments of troops to nations most likely to suffer an attack if Russia goes on the offensive.


Most of the forces are being sent to NATO’s eastern flank, according to a report out of a meeting between the NATO defense ministers who just wrapped up two days of talks in Brussels.

Army’s 1st SFAB unit returns from Afghanistan says advisor mission a ‘success’
A Romanian soldier of the 33rd Mountain Battalion Posada fires a semi-auto PKM while conducting a simulated attack during exercise Combined Resolve VII on Sept. 11, 2016. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Army Spc. Nathaniel Nichols)

Russia has consolidated its military control and NATO believes it has 330,000 troops massed near Moscow. NATO has described its new deployments as a measured response. NATO’s new deployments consist of only about 4,000 soldiers.

The alliance will send a previously agreed upon four multinational battalions to its borders with Russia. A German-led battalion is headed to reinforce Lithuania, a Canadian-led battalion is reporting to Latvia, a British-led battalion is deploying to Estonia, and a U.S.-led battalion is protecting Poland. Most of the forces will arrive at their destinations in 2017.

Army’s 1st SFAB unit returns from Afghanistan says advisor mission a ‘success’
U.S. Soldiers with 2nd Cavalry Regiment master the Rough Terrain Run task during the European Best Sniper Squad Competition at the 7th Army Training Command’s, Grafenwoehr Training Area, Bavaria, Germany, Oct. 26, 2016. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Army Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)

Britain had originally pledged 650 men for the battalion in Estonia, enough for a headquarters and a few companies of frontline fighters. But the British Secretary of State for Defence, Sir Michael Fallon, announced on Oct. 26 that Britain would deploy 800 troops instead. Those 800 soldiers will sport tactical drones and Challenger 2 main battle tanks.

All of the NATO battalions being deployed are made up of multinational forces led by a battalion headquarters from a single nation, according to IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly. The U.S.-led battalion going to Poland is the largest force planned in the agreement.

Army’s 1st SFAB unit returns from Afghanistan says advisor mission a ‘success’
Polish soldiers of 17th Wielkopolska Mechanized Brigade move a simulated wounded soldier during a react to contact scenario during exercise Combined Resolve VII at the U.S. Army’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels Germany, Sept. 12, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Gage Hull)

The U.S. also agreed to a deal with Norway that calls for 330 Marines to deploy to that country. The Marines have previously cooperated with Norway in NATO training exercises set in that country, says CNN.

America has pledged $3.4 billion to increasing defensive measures in Europe in 2017. A portion of the money will go to staging more military equipment near vulnerable NATO areas.

All of this activity comes amid continuously heightening tensions in Europe. Russia has continued to invest heavily in military infrastructure and exercises despite tightening budgets in Moscow.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Navy’s oldest nuclear-powered attack sub arrives in port one last time

The Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Olympia (SSN 717) arrived at Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton to commence the inactivation and decommissioning process on Oct. 29, 2019.

Under the command of Cmdr. Benjamin Selph, the submarine departed Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for a final homeport change.

“We are happy to bring Olympia back to Washington, so that we can continue to build and foster the relationships that have been around since her commissioning,” said Selph. “The city loves the ship and the ship loves the city, I am glad we have such amazing support as we bid this incredible submarine farewell.”

Olympia completed a seven-month around-the-world deployment, in support of operations vital to national security on Sept. 8, 2019.


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

Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Olympia returns to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, after completing its latest deployment, Nov. 9, 2017.

(US Navy Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Shaun Griffin)

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

Sailors assigned to Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Olympia load a Mark 48 torpedo from the pier in Souda Bay, Greece, July 10, 2019.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kelly M. Agee)

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

Machinist’s Mate (Weapons) 3rd Class Raul E. Bonilla, assigned to fast-attack sub USS Olympia, prepares to load a Mark 48 torpedo for a sinking exercise during the Rim of the Pacific exercise, July 12, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Michael H. Lee)

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

Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Olympia transits the Puget Sound, arriving to Bremerton, Washington, where it’s scheduled to begin the inactivation and decommissioning process at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, October 29, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Victoria Foley)

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

Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Olympia transits the Puget Sound, arriving to Bremerton, Washington, where it’s scheduled to begin the inactivation and decommissioning process at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, October 29, 2019.

(US Navy photo Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Victoria Foley)

The boat’s mission is to seek out and destroy enemy ships and submarines and to protect US national interests. At 360 feet long and 6,900 tons, it can be armed with sophisticated MK48 advanced capability torpedoes and Tomahawk cruise missiles.

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

Articles

‘The Fighting Season’ nails the gritty realities of the Afghan War

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


“The Fighting Season,” is a six-part documentary from actor and veteran supporter Ricky Schroder and DirecTV. But it’s not just another war documentary.

The series culls out many of the hard-to-explain details of deployment in Afghanistan — the frustrations and setbacks and small victories. And in so doing, it gets it right.

“The Fighting Season” drops the viewer into the war without injecting any pretense or agendas. The film captures the nuance of asymmetric war, how soldiers suss out the difference between friendly locals and insurgents. It shows how the bad guys build an ambush against a backdrop of relative calm.

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

The infantry platoon talks about how happy they are that the Afghan National Police didn’t accidentally shoot them when the American platoon approaches the Afghan base in the dark. An American security team is in open disagreement with their colonel about how to complete their mission. The American’s sense of progress takes a major step backward as an Afghan National Police sentry allows a vehicle with an armed passenger right through their checkpoint in Kabul.

And the documentary feels like Afghanistan. It’s gritty and unpolished. The soldiers smoke, dip, and cuss. They forget to wear eye protection.

It feels like being back on the FOB and at the outpost.

“The Fighting Season” will debut on Audience Network Tuesday, May 19 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

In lieu of a traditional advertising campaign, DirecTV is pursuing a social media campaign using the hashtag #TheFightingSeason. For every post with the hashtag, they’ll donate $1 to Operation Gratitude.

NOW: The most-epic military movie ever needs your help to get made

AND: Nepal was hit by a huge aftershock – these photos show the US military response

MIGHTY CULTURE

Let them walk on the grass: The role of senior NCOs

At the qualification range, a group of Soldiers congregate during the lunch break. Unexpectedly, a Sergeant Major descends upon them In his growling voice he barks about their uniform deficiencies and how the range is not to standard. As quickly as he appears, he vanishes, and for a few minutes, Soldiers awkwardly stare at each other thinking, “what the hell?” The proverbial Sergeant Major storm did little to change the unit, and the Soldiers resume their meal and continue as if it never happened.

The role of the senior noncommissioned officer is not ensuring all Soldiers have eye protection and reflective belts or ensuring the lawns in their footprint are pristine, fixing deficiencies using the “leadership” methodology described above. Young Soldiers across the Army picture master sergeants and sergeants major holding coffee cups, spewing anger, and never actually doing anything. The problem with the senior NCO leadership is this image and the fact that they’ve made this image a reality!


When senior NCOs see a unit’s problem with standards and discipline they think it’s a problem that can be fixed right away with a spot correction, but in reality it is a systemic problem of failing to develop the unit’s NCOs and aspiring leaders. NCOs in a unit not enforcing standards either don’t know the standards or are ignoring them. A senior NCO can go around making all the spot corrections in the world; it will never fix corner cutting, shortcomings of communication, and lack of discipline.

The senior NCO’s job is to establish the standard, outline the expectations, and develop leaders across their formation. This leadership eventually trickles down to the most junior Soldier. However, the current methodology of leadership from the first paragraph and perception of senior NCOs is something leaders must overcome to fulfill their roles.

Here are five ways senior NCOs can enhance the image of our profession and, more importantly, improve their unit.

Get out. Emails can be checked at a later date. The window to engage with Soldiers is limited, while access to a computer usually is not. Running effective meetings frees up space to see Soldiers. Identify quality engagement opportunities that maximize presence across the formation.

Speaking with the leadership and disappearing to another event before engaging the Soldiers who are actually doing the training doesn’t change perceptions. Ensure leaders understand the expectation that battlefield circulation is an opportunity to see training and highlight the great work of leaders and Soldiers in their formation.

Teach. In most cases, the senior NCOs are the most experienced tacticians, with the most deployments, live fires, and combined training center rotations. Offer techniques, tactics and best practices to make the event better. Share this wisdom with not only the NCOICs, but with the most junior Soldiers. Attack the negative images of senior NCOs from both angles; from the top down and the bottom up.

Even if the senior NCOs aren’t experienced in their Soldiers’ field, their perspective can help them understand the bigger picture and relevancy of the tasks or training.

Listen. Establish two way communication with Soldiers at events. People like to talk about what they do. Learn about them, their concerns, issues, and complaints. Don’t interrupt, listen and take notes to fall back on and read later.

Ask leaders and Soldiers what help or resources they need. This is something a senior NCO can impact immediately. Helping to fix problems with range control, logistics, line unit and staff relations, and coordination between units is NCO business.

Remember the people you talk with don’t see the world from the same lens as a senior NCO. When responding, do not belittle or be condescending, you will lose the battle for personal respect, damaging the reputation of the senior leadership position.

Make the Correction. Any unsafe acts need to be corrected immediately. However, in most cases, there is another approach than the sergeant major storm. Meet with the leadership before departing. Have a professional conversation with NCOs discussing the issues and why it’s important for everyone to enforce the standard. Enable and empower the NCOs to make the correction. It doesn’t matter if leaders agree or disagree with the standard, it’s the NCO’s job to enforce them.

Finish by highlighting a positive. The first engagement and the last will be the two things people remember. It is easy for anyone to dwell on the negative, but at most training events, there are good things happening. This may be the only time that Soldier sees their senior NCO leadership and that impression will stick for a while.

Follow up. Before visiting the unit again, reflect on the notes taken. Address the issues and concerns, and follow up with unit leadership if they people weren’t at the event. Send an email to leaders to reinforce the message. The next time there is an opportunity to observe the unit, see if things changed.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the Army should consider bringing back the Pathfinders

There’s an old saying: “It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.” This perfectly sums up the role of the U.S. Army Pathfinders — that is, until Big Army cut sling load on them.

As of Feb. 24, 2017, the last Pathfinder company in the active duty United States Army, F Company, 2nd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, cased their colors, putting an end to decades of highly trained soldiers quickly inserting themselves into hostile territory to secure sites for air support. Before that, the provisional pathfinder companies across the Army quietly cased their colors as well.

The decision to slowly phase out the Pathfinders was a difficult one. Today, the responsibility resides with all troops as the need for establishing new zones in the longest modern war in American history became less of a priority. Yet that doesn’t mean that there won’t be a need for their return at any given moment.


Army’s 1st SFAB unit returns from Afghanistan says advisor mission a ‘success’
It’s not an understatement to say that there is a bunch of math you’ll need to do on the fly. Hope you’re well-versed in trigonometry.
(U.S. Army photo by Lori Egan)

The Pathfinder schools are still at Fort Benning and Fort Campbell today, but they’re largely just seen as the “go-to” schools for overzealous officers trying to stack up their badges. Still, the training received there gives graduates many essential skills needed to complete Pathfinder operations.

To be a Pathfinder, you need to satisfy several prerequisites. Since their primary focus is on establishing a landing site for airborne and air assault troops, you must first be a graduate from either or both schools. The training leans heavily on knowledge learned from both schools, such as sling-load operations, while also teaching the fundamentals of air traffic control.

All of this comes in handy because Pathfinders in the field need to know, down to the foot, exactly what kind of area makes for a suitable, impromptu paratrooper drop zone or helicopter landing zone. These tasks are delicate, and human lives and hundreds of thousands of dollars are often on the line. That’s why Pathfinders need to know specifics, like how far apart glow sticks must be placed, to get the job done. Details are crucial.

Army’s 1st SFAB unit returns from Afghanistan says advisor mission a ‘success’
If only there were a unit, typically a company sized element within a Combat Aviation Brigade, that has spent years mastering the art… Oh well…
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jeremy Lock)

These are skills that simply cannot be picked up on the fly. A typical Joe may be able to cover the physical security element of the task, but establishing a landing zone requires some complex math and carefully honed assessments. Creating drop zones for paratroopers is less mission-critical, as the paratroopers themselves are also less mission essential.

Still, the job of establishing landing zones is now put in the hands of less-qualified troops. Pilots can typically wing it, yes, but the job is best left to those who’ve been specifically trained for the specialized task.

Hat tip to our viewer Tim Moriarty for the inspiration.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Russians had Women’s ‘Battalions of Death’ in World War I

Saying that World War I was really bad for Russia is like saying Hitler was a somewhat unstable veteran of the Great War. While the Tsar fielded the largest army in the world at the time and should have been able to trounce the Germans, years (maybe decades) of neglecting modernization hampered the Russians. Roads were impossible and railways were inadequate. Casualties were heavy and the conditions were deplorable. Even drafting men for the war was difficult. Life in the Russian Empire was so bad, the Tsar would be toppled and replaced by the Soviet Union.

Before the Tsar was forced to abdicate, the Russian Empire tried a last-ditch effort to fill its ranks: hiring women.


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

Congrats, you’re hired.

When the Great War first began, Russians were only too happy to serve in their country’s military. It was (on paper, at least) one of the most vaunted fighting forces on Earth at the time. But Tsarist Russia’s poor infrastructure, the indecision of the Russian high command, and the lack of adequate food, supplies, and other war resources soon made life miserable. When word got out about the deteriorating conditions on the front, good men suddenly became hard to find. Women, on the other hand, had been trying to join the regular army since day one. These women soon demanded the government form all-women’s military units.

The Tsarist government, facing an increasing manpower shortage, finally gave in. It formed 15 all-women’s battalions in an effort to replace its missing manpower with womanpower. They included communications battalions, a naval unit, and the aptly-named Women’s Battalion of Death. Of the 5,000 women who served in these units, 300 of them would join the Battalion of Death and march to the front in 1914.

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

Maria Bochkareva was awarded multiple medals after stabbing Germans to death in the trenches.

Led by the peasant fighter-turned military leader Maria Bochkareva, the women were highly-trained and tightly-controlled by Bochkareva. While her harsh (sometimes brutal) leadership kept a majority of potential volunteers from joining, the 300 or so who did stay became some of the most hardcore Russian troops of the First World War. They first saw action in the Kerensky Offensive of 1917. It was a terrible loss for the Russians, who lost 60,000 troops in the fighting. But it was a stunning victory for the Women’s Battalion of Death.

When ordered to go over the top and storm the enemy trenches, the women never hesitated, even when the men at their side did. In one instance, the Russian women made it through three trench systems before the lack of reinforcements necessitated their retreat. Bochkareva, though wounded twice, earned three medals for bravery in combat. With the effectiveness of the women in combat proven on the front, other women were deployed back home.

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

Back in St. Petersburg, things weren’t going so well for the Tsar and his government. Another women’s battalion had to be deployed to the Winter Palace to defend government ministries and the people who were running them. This is where history could have been made or turned back. When the Bolshevik fighters attempted to take the city, the women weren’t at the Winter Palace, they abandoned the government ministers to their fate and went to guard the supplies. Eventually, they were overcome by the Bolsheviks and forced to surrender. When the Bolsheviks officially took power, these women’s units were disbanded, with varying success.

Women who wanted to fight the Bolsheviks stayed in their units, joining the White Russian forces in the Russian Civil War. Others went home and became Soviet citizens. Many would live long enough to see women conscripted once more when Russia was again threatened from the outside, taking up arms against the Nazis and forming an essential element to the resistance of the Soviet Union – many of whom would go on to earn the title Hero of the Soviet Union.

Humor

6 things you’ll never hear an infantryman say

If you know anyone who has served in the infantry, then you’ve probably noticed that they have a… unique sense of humor. They have this amazing ability to make everything they say sound super sarcastic. It’s a gift that gets passed down through many generations of infantrymen. It’s what gives them the incredible ability to be seemingly unaffected by the endless stream of bullsh*t that life in the infantry provides.

Other service members (read: POGs) have a hard time understanding just how tough it is to serve in the grunts. Considering the nature of their job — killing the bad guys — life in the infantry breeds some pretty crass humor. The hard-chargers use every curse word in the book and, when “the book” is exhausted, they’ll make up new ones. Although few topics are taboo among grunts, there are a few things you’ll never hear them say.


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“Heading out to the field is my favorite way to start a Monday morning.”

This infantryman needs theirs head checked if this ever spills out of their mouth.

“I think I’ll stay in all weekend to do all my online training.”

The sad thing is that many of the senior enlisted, who were once juniors, try and influence their men to stay in and study. It’s a strange world we live in…

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“No beer’s allowed in the barracks? I’m okay with that.”

Underage drinking is illegal — but is extremely common in the barracks. Getting caught with beer, really, isn’t a big deal. Despite that, we always find ways to hide it before field day inspection on Fridays: we drink it ahead of time.

“Barracks duty on a four-day weekend? That’s what I’m talking about!”

The military requires that there always be a set of open eyeballs lurking around the barracks. Getting ‘voluntold’ to stand duty while everyone else is off having fun is a real b*tch.

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“I joined the military thinking my senior enlisted would truly respect my opinion and that’s exactly what happened.”

Nope! I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone care what an E-1 has to say.

“Man, I hope we go on a long hike in the pouring rain.”

Nobody wishes it, but it happens all the time. Even when there’s not a blemish in the sky, as soon as a grunt unit steps off for their ruck march, dark clouds rush in and piss on everything.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

What’s made the Abrams tank so lethal for 40 years

The legendary M1 Abrams tank has been on the testing ranges and battlefields for 40 years, saving dozens or even hundreds of crews who were able to unleash hellish fury on their enemies while surviving dozens of blows from enemy tanks’ main guns.

It’s all thanks to American and British engineering that has stood the test of time.


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An MBT-70 fires an anti-tank missile in testing.

(Mark Holloway, CC BY 2.0)

That’s right, British engineering was a key ingredient in creating this dominant war machine.

The need for the M1 program came about because of the failure of the MBT-70 program, a joint U.S.-German program to develop a replacement for the M-60 Patton, a capable but aging tank that wouldn’t be able to hold the line against Soviet armor forever.

The MBT-70 would have had a low profile, good armor, and a massive 152mm main gun that could fire anti-tank missiles. It was fast, hitting 43 mph in testing, which would’ve made it the fastest tank in the world at the time. And it had a weird feature where the driver’s seat was located in the turret but automatically rotated to always face the direction of travel.

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An MBT-70 prototype at the United States Army Ordnance Museum at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.

(Mark Pellegrini, CC BY-SA 2.5)

But for all its bells and whistles, the MBT-70 had a lot of problems. It was too heavy to use most of the armored infrastructure then available in Europe, including recovery vehicles and bridges. It cost more than originally planned, too. But worst of all, its caseless ammo had a tendency to swell, making it unusable in combat and potentially even starting fires inside the vehicle.

The project was ultimately canceled due to costs, but some of the technical specs and designs were carried over into the XM1 project, which would churn out its first M1 Abrams in 1978. The M1 shared the low-profile of the MBT-70 as well as blowout compartments for ammunition and a shallow turret.

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An M1 Abrams taking part in Getica Saber 17.

(U.S. Army Spc. Kelsey M VanFleet)

The Abrams was even faster than its speedy predecessor. On paper, it was slated to peak at 45mph, but in capable tankers’ hands, it was a little faster. Originally, its gun was shrunk down to 105mm, but later models were upgraded to 120mm — still a far cry from the 152mm of the MBT-70. But with sabot rounds controversially made from depleted uranium, it still had enough power to punch through nearly anything. Even modern explosive reactive armor has trouble with sabot.

But the the most revolutionary upgrades that the Abrams brought to the table are in the armor and engines. The armor is Chobham armor that Britain quietly revealed to the U.S. while it was developing the Abrams. It is, essentially, a layered sandwich of reactive plates encased in metal with elastic layers underneath. It provides great protection against high-explosive rounds, kinetic energy penetrators, and armor-piercing rounds.

The initial Abrams was so popular with tankers that they gave rave reviews in 1982 to a visiting writer and bragged that the tank would “remain contemporary” for at least 10 years. 30 years after that article was published, the notion seems cute.

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An M1 Abrams tank fires in Strong Europe Tank Challenge 2018.

(U.S. Army Christoph Koppers)

But the Abrams hasn’t survived for so long because it was awesome rolling off the line. The tank has been upgraded every few years since its debut. It has received not only a new gun, but improved optics and a better powertrain. And those are just the upgrades implemented before the 1990 Gulf War.

Since then, everything from the ammo to the armor to the electronics have been upgraded. It can power its computers without running the high-consumption turbines, its formerly vulnerable gas tanks are now better protected and it has defenses against IEDs and large anti-tank mines.

It has even gotten reactive armor with the TUSK — the Tank Urban Survival Kit. This is basically a bunch of bombs strapped to the outside of the tank that deflect enemy blasts and penetrators.

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Iraqi soldiers practice M1 Abrams night driving.

(U.S. Army Sgt. Paul Sale)

The newest Abrams variant, the M1A2 SEP V3, actually improves the tank so much that it’s still at the top of a lot of “Best Tank” lists, even among experts, mostly thanks to sustainability and reliability upgrades, but also thanks to a new round designed to defeat enemy reactive armor.

But the planned SEP V4 will introduce more upgrades including a new, multi-purpose round with a laser rangefinder and the ability to be programmed for different targets just before it’s fired.

The Army is looking at finally, possibly, moving on from the M1 Abrams after the SEP V4 upgrades. The argument is that there are new tank designs, like the Russian T-14 or Chinese Type 99, that the Abrams cannot stay ahead of, and so a new design from the ground up should be fielded. If so, let’s hope that design is good enough to last over 40 years, too.

Articles

Here’s what it would look like if a modern Army fought the Battle of Gettysburg

The Battle of Gettysburg was one of the bloodiest in American history with over 7,000 soldiers killed in three days of fighting.


(A single civilian, Mary Virginia Wade, was also killed.)

But if the modern military fought the battle, the costs could easily be much higher as today’s artillery, mortars, jets, and helicopters make every exchange more costly. And the increased range and firing rate of the M16 instead of Civil War rifles would make the missteps of generals even more catastrophic.

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A squad designated marksman scans his sector while providing security. (Photo: U.S. Army)

When the two sides first clashed at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863, it was largely an accident. Union Brig. Gen. John Buford, the head of cavalry for the North, had sent men to scout the area around the city and they ran into a group of men commanded by Gen. Harry Heth heading into the city to find supplies.

While many Union leaders thought there were only a few rebels in the area, and many rebels thought the Union forces were just a militia group, Buford and a few others suspected the truth. The two major armies in the eastern theater had just stumbled into one another.

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Mounted infantry is now known as mechanized infantry. (Photo: U.S. Army)

But Buford was a pioneer of mounted infantry tactics and ordered his subordinates to prepare for a pitched battle the following day. He spent the bulk of that night getting the lay of the land and planning his attack. But, if he had been in command of modern, mechanized infantry, he wouldn’t have needed to.

Instead, he would have sent his dismounts forward to search out the enemy encampments and would have brought his Strykers up with them. Meanwhile, any UAVs he could wrangle up would be flying ahead, searching out the enemy.

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An MQ- Reaper remotely piloted aircraft performs aerial maneuvers over Creech Air Force Base, Nev., June 25, 2015. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Cory D. Payne)

But Rebels with modern communication equipment would have reported the chance engagement in the city to their higher headquarters. Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, who knew that the Union was pursuing them north, would likely have sent out his own scouts and drones to search for enemy forces.

When each side learned that their enemy was nearby, heavily armed, and deployed near the vital strategic crossroads of Gettysburg, they would have surged all assets to take and hold the key ground.

Buford’s mechanized infantry would likely have taken the same heights that it did in 1863, but this time it would have positioned Strykers with TOW missiles behind cover and sent those armed with machine guns to cover the approaches to the heights. Most infantry squads would dismount and take up defensive positions on the heights.

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A U.S. soldier engages enemies during a training exercise. (Photo: Commonwealth of Australia)

Meanwhile, each side would begin calling up close air support and alerting the Air Force that they needed air battle interdiction immediately. Unfortunately, when the jets arrived, they would be too busy trying to establish air superiority to start hitting ground targets.

As the duel began to play out in the sky, artillery units on the ground would begin lobbing shells at precision targets and using rockets and howitzer barrages to saturate areas of known enemy activity.

This is what makes it unlikely that Mrs. Mary Wade would be the only civilian casualty of a modern Gettysburg.

The Union forces would likely congregate in a similar fishhook that first night as they did in the actual battle on the second day.

But here is where things would go wrong for the Union. When Maj. Gen. Daniel Sickles made his ill-fated move into the peach orchard, the Confederates would have been able to pin his men down with machine gun fire and then concentrate their artillery fire, wiping out Sickles and most of his men.

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(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Ismael Pena)

Unfortunately, that would mean that U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command at Fort Detrick, Maryland, would not receive Sickles’ leg as a permanent display.

Down most of a corps and under fire, the Union would fall back to the heights once again and move forces to defend the flank where Sickles once was.

But Lee might once again make his great mistake of the battle. With a corps ground under his heel and the Union center losing men to guard the flank, he would order Maj. Gen. George Pickett, newly arrived on the battlefield in transports, to push against the seemingly weak Union center.

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Like this, but with even more destruction. (Scan: Library of Congress)

But as Pickett leads his men across the 1-mile of open ground to the Union center, his men would be cut down. The Union Strykers and Abrams would fire from behind cover and, while a few of them would be taken out by Confederate Javelins, TOWs, and other weapons, they would still wreak havoc.

Gunners on the ridge would open up with M2 .50-cals and M240Bs, walking the rounds on incoming Confederate infantry as they bounded into range. Union artillery would, once again, saturate the area. Fisters would identify command vehicles and pass their locations to helicopters and artillery crews for concentrated destruction.

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(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Reece Lodder)

Missiles would arc back and forth across the Gettysburg fields in the wee hours of July 1. The whole Battle of Gettysburg, fought over a three-day period in real life, would have played out on an advanced timeline with modern-day weapons of war.

But the outcome would likely be the same: Lee’s undersupplied, outnumbered troops would attempt to force the high ground against defenders who reached most of the important terrain first; a false sense of confidence after the Confederates took advantage of Sickles’ mistake would have led them to gamble much and lose it all.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This insanely talented sniper was known as ‘The White Death’

Considered the deadliest sniper of all time, Simo Hayha joined Finland’s Civil Guard at the age of 17 and quickly established himself as an excellent marksman. It was here that he honed his skills with the Mosin-Nagant, developing a talent that the Soviets would soon come to fear.


Hayha regularly practiced his warfighting craft by accurately firing his bolt-action rifle 16 times per minute at a target 500-feet away — which is a challenging task.

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In 1939, the Soviet Union invaded Finland in what would become known as the “Winter War,” or the Russo-Finnish War.

Although the Finns were highly outnumbered, they had the home-field advantage and turned to guerrilla-style fighting to defend their territory from the encroaching Red Army.

In the beginning, Hayha found himself fighting against an enemy force of 4,000 with just 31 other men at his side.

Related video: 5 of the most badass snipers of all time – Featuring John Cena

On Dec. 31, 1939, Hayha scored 25 kill shots while dressed in all white to perfectly camouflage himself among the snow-covered terrain. The talented marksman would stalk his targets in freezing temperatures for several hours. Using the surrounding snow, Hayha packed himself deep within the frozen ground to decrease his chances of being noticed.

Hayha preferred using iron sights instead of optic scopes as other snipers had grown to favor. Although it was harder to get a fix on a target, using iron sights helped him avoid detection from light reflected off the scope.

As Hayha tallied up his kills, he was given a nickname that would write him into the history books — “The White Death.”

He tallied 505 kills, the highest count from any significant war. All of the kills were accomplished in fewer than 100 days — meaning he averaging over five per day. Hayha ended up getting wounded in the war; shot by an explosive bullet which nearly took off his lower left jaw.

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He survived the wound and continued to live a long life. Hayha passed away in a veteran’s nursing home in 2002 at the age of 96.

Check out Simple History’s video below to learn more about this talented sniper’s record-setting life.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Japan’s F-35 aircraft carrier will be a Chinese navy killer

Japan on Dec. 18, 2018, announced what everyone had long suspected: Its Izumo-class “helicopter carriers” would host F-35B short-takeoff, vertical-launch stealth jets, and the platform will be transformed into a weapon Tokyo hasn’t wielded since 1945.

Japan announced on Dec. 18, 2018, that it would change its defense guidelines and buy 105 more F-35A stealth jets, as well as roughly 40 F-35Bs that can take off vertically from its flat-decked Izumo ships.


Japan said it would retrofit its two Izumo carriers to handle the extreme heat and pressure of the F-35B’s vertical launches from the decks in a pivot from its post-World War II pacifist stance, citing rising threats from China, Russia, and North Korea.

Japan has long sought a long-range, fifth-generation aircraft to defend its far-flung island claims as Russia and China routinely test its borders with fighter jets buzzing its borders, but the US hasn’t yet offered it anything that can do the job.

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F-35B prepares for a vertical landing.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Dana Beesley)

The F-22, the US’ first fifth-generation fighter, came across as an ideal solution for Japan’s defense needs, but the US refused to sell, saying the cutting-edge technology was too critical to share.

The F-35, of which Japan wants to become the world’s second-largest buyer, has much of the F-22’s stealth and avionics prowess, but has much shorter range.

But according to Justin Bronk, an aerial-combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, putting F-35s on a carrier at sea that can close range to island flash points, Japan may have finally solved its problem.

“This is about being able to put capable air power near some of their island possessions, especially given that there’s a lot of Chinese capability being specifically developed to hit forward air bases,” Bronk told Business Insider, referencing China’s growing rocket force.

“Having something mobile that’s harder to hit that can deploy fifth-generation air power makes a lot of military sense,” Bronk said of the carriers.

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The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter destroyer JS Izumo.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaila V. Peters)

Not just island defense, but a navy killer

Japan’s Izumo carriers occupy the traditional role of launching an amphibious attack to take or retake an island with while providing air power overhead, but the F-35s bring something that attack helicopters just can’t do.

China has deployed a “great wall” of missile defenses around the South China Sea and its mainland. China’s ever-growing navy also patrols the water with increasingly powerful air defenses.

“Basically, any naval task group worth the name is, from an airman’s perspective, a formidable mobile air defense network,” Bronk said. China’s navy ships have “powerful radars, very large interceptor missiles, and are designed to defend against swarming attacks,” he said.

Unlike air-to-air missiles limited in size by the jets that have to carry them, ship-based missile interceptors can measure more than 20 feet in length and have powerful boosters giving them better range and speed. Additionally, recent Chinese navy ships have emphasized these kinds of missiles and have deep magazines and many vertical launch cells for the aircraft-killing missiles.

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The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey with the JS Izumo (right) on the South China Sea.

(US Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kryzentia Weiermann)

But China’s navy likely has very little experience fighting stealth aircraft with its sea-based radars.

The stealth design of the F-35B will allow Japan’s military to “to operate at reasonable risk tolerance of advanced air defenses,” said Bronk, who called the jets “a lot more survivable in high-end warfare” than Japan’s fleet of F-15s.

In the future, Bronk said Japan will most likely leverage the F-35B’s extreme surveillance and recon capabilities to provide weapons-quality target information to other platforms, like Japanese or US warships, which can fire off their own missiles and allow the F-35Bs to stay in stealth mode without opening up the weapons bay.

For Japan, the new class of F-35B carriers signals a major shift in defense posture and the acknowledgement that defending their island claims may require high-end warfighting against China’s navy.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Air Force pararescuemen awarded Bronze Stars for heroic actions in Afghanistan

Two Air Force pararescuemen assigned to the 48th Rescue Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, received the Bronze Star Medal with Valor on Oct. 1 for missions supporting Army Special Forces teams in Afghanistan in 2019.

Master Sgt. Adam Fagan and Staff Sgt. Benjamin Brudnicki earned the nation’s fourth-highest military honor during a ceremony at the Arizona base.


Both men were awarded for carrying out lifesaving rescues during raids against the Taliban.

While assigned to the 64th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron at Kandahar Airfield, Fagan was attached to a combined force of US and Afghan Special Forces for a raid in Helmand Province on March 24, 2019. As the team approached a Taliban compound in Sangin, they were attacked by small-arms fire from a fortified position as well as an improvised explosive device, according to Air Force Magazine.

Fagan was recognized for his actions under fire in helping to save an Afghan commando who was wounded.

“The heavy small-arms fire, coupled with rocket-propelled grenade blasts and multiple [IED] detonations pinned down the Afghan Special Forces team and hindered access to the critically wounded casualty,” Air Force Magazine reported. “Without hesitation and with complete disregard for his own safety, Sgt. Fagan took immediate control of the dire situation and engaged the fortified enemy position, repeatedly exposing himself to heavy fire.”

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Two Bronze Stars with valor sit on a table at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, on Oct. 1, 2020. US Air Force Master Sgt. Adam Fagan and Staff Sgt. Benjamin Brudnicki, 48th Rescue Squadron pararescuemen, were presented Bronze Stars with valor for their actions in Afghanistan. Photo by Senior Airman Jacob T. Stephens.

Fagan engaged enemy forces to allow the rest of his team to reach the Afghan commando, who Fagan then treated before calling for a medical evacuation and moving the commando to the helicopter landing zone under small-arms fire and grenade attacks. He also provided cover for the helicopters to land.

“The culmination of Sgt. Fagan’s exceptionally brave actions and speed of patient delivery led to the destruction of an enemy weapons cache, the elimination of five enemy insurgents, and ultimately saved the life of a coalition partner,” the award citation states.

At the ceremony, Fagan attributed his success to his extensive training in calling in and executing medical evacuations.

“I knew what I was physically able to do, I knew I could treat that guy under fire in the dark,” he said at the ceremony.

Brudnicki was also assigned to the 64th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron at Kandahar when he was attached as a medic to a combined force of US and Afghan Special Forces on May 3, 2019, for a counterinsurgency mission in Helmand.

In a village known to be a Taliban stronghold, the commandos breached a compound and were engaged by enemy fighters.

“[Brudnicki] and his team utilized the Taliban’s own kill holes against them with decisive small-arms fire,” according to Air Force Magazine. “At distances of less than 5 feet, he engaged relentlessly with personal weapons and hand grenades, despite their cover being damaged with a rocket that failed to detonate.”

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Pararescuemen and Marine force reconnaissance members board a CV-22 Osprey at a training drop zone in Djibouti to conduct free-fall jump operations as part of joint training. Photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Gregory Brook.

When a civilian was wounded in the fight, Brudnicki braved “effective enemy fire from an adjacent compound” while running through an open courtyard to rescue and stabilize the individual.

When an Afghan commando was severely wounded and pinned down, Brudnicki “rushed to join the fight and engaged the enemy’s fortified position by again crossing the open courtyard and exposing himself to grave danger,” according to the award citation. “He successfully suppressed the enemy, allowing partner force commandos to remove the casualty from the courtyard.”

Brudnicki then set up a collection point for wounded troops and created a plan to transport blood and evacuate people.

“His actions resulted in seven enemies killed in action, including a Taliban commander, and saved the lives of two coalition partners,” the citation states.

“My team leader quickly led the assault as we eliminated the enemy with small arms fire and hand grenades at room distance,” Brudnicki said in an Air Force release. “I treated multiple casualties with advanced medical interventions and helped coordinate exfiltration while my team continued to eliminate the threat.”

Pararescuemen work under the motto “that others may live.”

“It is an honor to be recognized, however, the experience and brotherhood created with my team overseas is the most valuable piece for me,” Brudnicki said. “The Air Force best utilizes its special warfare assets when putting them to work in the joint environment, and I am proud to be a part of that.”

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


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