The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators

On Sept. 14, 2012, 15 heavily armed Taliban fighters disguised in U.S. Army uniforms infiltrated Camp Bastion, a large Marine Corps and British forces base and Afghan National Army training complex. Camp Bastion could accommodate some 30,000 people, so when the Taliban split into three teams to wreak havoc on the base’s interior, things could have gone very badly for the Marines.

The infiltrators made it all the way to the flight line, where their coordinated, complex attack began by targeting the Marines’ Harrier aircraft. It would be the single biggest loss of American airpower since the Vietnam War. It would also be the first time that the maintainers and pilots of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VMA-211) operated as riflemen since World War II.


The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators

A video released later showed the attackers dressed for the assault.

The fighting began at 10pm local time with one Taliban team engaging the flight line personnel, another targeting the refueling area, and a third focusing on destroying aircraft using explosives and RPGs. It was an aircraft explosion that signaled the start of the attack.

Within minutes, six Harriers were burning on the tarmac, the Marine helicopter area was surrounded by fires, and the cryogenics and fuel pit areas were on fire as small arms crackled and tracers lit up the night sky. The Taliban brought everything from hand grenades to heavy machine guns and caught the Marines completely off guard.

The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators

Lt. Col. Christopher Raible’s memorial.

Marines scrambled to protective barriers as RPGs exploded around the flight line. They initially believed it was an attack of opportunity from outside the base — a random, lucky hit from rockets or mortars. But after ten explosions, one every ten seconds, it was clear that this was more than a few lucky shots. The Troops in Contact alarm began to sound. They called in the British quick reaction force, but they were on the other side of the base and the Marines would have to hold their own until they arrived.

The Marines quickly moved to don their flak jackets and retrieve their rifles. The Taliban weren’t going to stop at the aircraft. They fired RPGs at the building that housed Marine workstations while another hit a building that contained the medical section. An anti-personnel RPG killed the commander of VMA-211, Lt. Col. Christopher Raible, before he could organize a defense. Shrapnel from one of the RPGs lodged in his neck as he was leading a crew full of mechanics and maintainers out into the night as a rifle unit.

The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators

By this time, every Marine was operating as a rifleman. Weapons and ammo were doled out to anyone without one and Marines began taking up their fields of fire. The air wing was a total, confusing mess as the fuel bladders blew up, temporarily turning the night into day.

A Huey aircraft commander and two enlisted Marines were the ones who brought the weapons to the flight line area. They went to check on the entry control point and began to take fire from the cryogenics area. A Huey crew chief manned an M240 to suppress the enemy fire.

At the same time, Marines were struggling to get remaining aircraft in the air to provide close-air support. All they could muster was two Hueys and a Cobra, but the Marines managed to get them ready to fly in the midst of the confusing, intense attack. Thick smoke, burning ordnance, and enemy fire loomed as flight line Marines took up defensive positions to cover the helicopters’ takeoff.

The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators

One of the Harrier jets destroyed in the raid.

When the helicopters were airborne, things changed quickly on the ground. They told the JTAC to concentrate fire toward the enemy position in the cryogenics facility. When the southern wall of that building lit up with tracers, the AH-1 Cobra helicopter peppered the building with 20mm rounds and UH-1V Venom Hueys tore through it with 300 .50-cal rounds while a gunner on the ground hit it with 600 rounds from a GAU-17.

After the aerial hit, the British quick reaction force arrived and cleared out the infiltrating Taliban in the cryogenics facility with 40mm grenade launchers. That left four Taliban hiding in the T-walls near the flight line. As Marines on the ground attempted to converge on the remaining Taliban attackers, guns from the helicopters eliminated the last of the threat.

When the smoke cleared, two Marines, Lt. Col. Raible and Sgt. Bradley Atwell, had been killed. Allied wounded numbered 17, six Harriers were completely destroyed, and another two were damaged, along with an Air Force C-130E. Three fuel bladders and a few sunshade hangars were also destroyed. All but one of the attacking Taliban fighters were killed in action. The attack caused some 0 million in damages.

The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators

Maj. Gen. Charles M. Gurganus, left, and Maj. Gen. Gregg A. Sturdevant were forced to retire just one year after the raid.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

The story doesn’t end there. The Marine Corps wanted to know how 15 heavily armed Taliban fighters were able to get onto the base in the first place. It turned out the commander of Bastion, Maj. Gen. Charles Gurganus, reduced the number of Marines patrolling the base of 30,000 from 325 to 100 just one month before the attack, leaving the base guarded by troops from Tonga. He and Maj. Gen. Gregg Sturdevant were forced to retire in the days following the incident. Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James Amos, said the two failed to accurately assess the strength and capabilities of the enemy in the area and failed to protect their troops.


Sturdevant was the Marine aviation commander of the base and was blamed for inadequate force protection measures on the flight line area that night. The two Marines who went to check the entry control point found it unmanned before they started taking fire from the cryogenics facility. Meanwhile, the British review of the attack found that only 11 of 24 guard towers were manned that night. Both generals retired with fully pay and benefits.

Later, it would be revealed that the attackers spent months posing as poppy farmers, probing the base defenses and testing reactions from perimeter guards. They were able to map out the base, its defenses, its fuel farms, and the airfield. They were even trying to target Prince Harry, who was stationed on the base at that time.

MIGHTY HISTORY

8 books about the Iraq War that will give you something to think about

The morning of March 19, 2003, marked the beginning of the Iraq War that would eventually lead to devastating loss for both countries. With its roots in the first Persian Gulf War, some argue that the Iraq/U.S. conflict was inevitable, while others consider it an unnecessary war.

After dictator Saddam Hussein’s refusal to abandon Iraq in 2003, U.S. and allied forces launched a full-scale attack. What followed were years of American occupation, a large number of Iraqi and American casualties, and a growing tide of opposition to the seemingly unending war. The Iraq War spanned nearly the entirety of two presidential administrations in the United States, leading to shifting strategies and new technologies. Eventually, the Obama administration withdrew the final troops in 2011, but the long years of warfare continue to affect the Iraqi nation. These Iraq War books recount, analyze, and revisit the effects and experiences of a war that some have deemed preventable.


The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators

(The Feminist Press at CUNY)

1. Dreaming of Baghdad

By Haifa Zangana

A humane approach to Middle Eastern affairs, Dreaming of Baghdad is a hauntingly beautiful memoir that will leave you with a new perspective on the “War on Terror”. We follow Haifa Zangana’s experience as a political activist during Saddam Hussein’s reign in Iraq. She — along with a small group who resisted Saddam’s rule — was eventually captured and imprisoned at Abu Ghraib.

There is a stark illumination on the psychological disturbances experienced by individuals under dictatorship. Zangana is brutally honest when retelling her story of exile and incarceration; she experienced the agonizing loss of friends and comrades through torture and death in prison. A first-hand account that shifts between time, place, and subjectivity to comment on how the trauma of power and war affect our memory.

The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators

(Skyhorse)

2. Packed for the Wrong Trip

By W. Zach Griffith

The relatively unknown prison at Abu Ghraib garnered global attention once photos of the abuses inflicted on prisoners were released. Abu Ghraib quickly became the focal point of a worldwide scandal. Just a few months after the photographs were released, the 152nd Field Artillery Battalion of the Maine National Guard arrived to serve as guards. Originally trained and meant to serve in Afghanistan, the soldiers were deeply unprepared for the scrutiny they would receive and the attacks they would soon endure. The group of citizen-soldiers were forced to rely on each other in order to survive one of the darkest prisons in the world and change it for the better.

The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators

(Open Road + Grove/Atlantic)

3. The Finish

By Mark Bowden

Get inside the political choices that brought down Osama bin Laden. Bowden’s narrative takes the reader all the way back to President Clinton’s administration to discover the many seemingly minor actions that allowed al-Qaeda to grow. After Bin Laden’s terrorist organization wreaked havoc through the 1990s and early 2000s, taking him down became a top priority for foreign intelligence services around the world.

The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators

(HMH)

4. Why We Lost

By Daniel P. Bolger

Firsthand experience and understanding brings a new perspective to American actions in the Iraq War. With a career as an army general that spanned over 35 years, Daniel Bolger provides a candid look into U.S. led campaigns with an insider look into the meetings, strategies, and key players of the war.

Bolger’s main argument is that we lost the Iraq War because the American forces never knew who they were truly fighting. As Bolger puts it, “Every man shot by U.S. soldiers wore civilian clothes. If he had an AK-47, was he getting ready to shoot you or merely defending his family? If he was talking on a cell phone, was he tipping off the insurgency or setting off an IED, or was he phoning his wife?”

The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators

(Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)

5. The Iraq War: The Military Offensive, from Victory in 21 Days to the Insurgent Aftermath

By John Keegan

His background as a military historian with extensive knowledge on warfare gives Keegan’s discussion a refreshing, objective perspective. Keegan collated a well-detailed look into Iraqi history, from its origins in the Ottoman Empire to Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. The Iraq War, despite its broad title, primarily recounts the 21-day invasion by the United States and allies that removed Hussein from power. As an explanation of the factors that led to the war, this is an unmissable resource.

The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators

(Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)

6. The Mirror Test: America at War in Iraq and Afghanistan

By J. Kael Weston

This powerful 2016 book examines the relationship between warfare and diplomacy. Like many of the other authors on this list, Weston had an inside look into the U.S. government during the Iraq War. Weston was a State Department official — serving over seven years in Iraq and Afghanistan. Weston uses this experience to show both the war and his own personal journey throughout the narrative. As a firsthand witness, he saw the sacrifice and casualties caused by a devastating war. The book follows Weston as he visits families, memorials, and the grave sites of 31 soldiers who perished in a helicopter crash on January 26, 2005 — an operation he personally ordered. This deeply affecting tale reckons with Weston’s and the country’s actions in Iraq.

The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators

(Bloomsbury Publishing)

7. Run to the Sound of the Guns: The True Story of an American Ranger at War in Afghanistan and Iraq

By Nicholas Moore

This eyewitness account of the Iraq War is presented through a series of vignettes as Nicholas Moore recounts the development of the Ranger Regiment. He chronicles the challenges troops had to face and adapt to while hunting for Iraq’s Most Wanted. Serving in an elite special operations unit, Moore was intimately involved in the war on terror, spending over a decade with the U.S. Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment.

Moore discusses the search and rescue of Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell and the devastating loss of the Chinook helicopter crash, which killed 38 men and one military working dog. Moore sees the events both as a soldier and as a husband and father who nearly lost his life in a global war against terrorism.

The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators

(Random House Publishing Group)

8. The Strongest Tribe: War, Politics, and the Endgame in Iraq

By Bing West

This is a straightforward recapitulation of the Iraq War that reconfigures the reader’s understanding of the long-lasting conflict. Whatever your political stance, West puts it all under the microscope and leaves you questioning what you thought you knew. From the United States’s entrance into the war to the brink of defeat in 2006, to the unimaginable turnaround in 2007, West criticizes the Bush administration and Army generals as he travels between the Pentagon and Ramadi. In the end, West asks us to reflect on our mistakes to avoid repeating history.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

China plans new satellites to spy in South China Sea

China reportedly wants to extend its surveillance state to the South China Sea by launching satellites to watch “every reef and ship” in the contested sea.

Beginning in 2019, China will begin launching satellites to monitor the region, as well as enforce “national sovereignty,” the South China Morning Post reported Aug. 16, 2018, citing China’s state-run China News Service. Six optical satellites, two hyerspectral satellites and two radar satellites will form the Hainan satellite constellation system, creating a real-time “CCTV network in space” controlled by operators in Hainan.


“Each reef and island as well as each vessel in the South China Sea will be under the watch of the ‘space eyes,'” Yang Tianliang, director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Sanya Institute of Remote Sensing, told SCMP. “The system will [reinforce] national sovereignty, protection of fisheries, and marine search and rescue.”

The ten new surveillance satellites will allow China to keep a close watch on disputed territories, as well as the foreign ships entering the area. The project is expected to be completed by 2021, with three optical satellites going up in the second half of 2019.

The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators

The northeastern portion of the South China Sea.

The satellites, according to Asia Times, would be able to scan the entire 3.5-million-square-kilometer waterway and create an up-to-date satellite image database within a matter of days. Beijing has apparently promised transparency, stressing that it will share information with other countries.

Beijing’s efforts to alleviate the concerns of other claimant states are unlikely to result in a sign of relief, as China has been significantly increasing its military presence in the region this year by deploying point-defense systems, jamming technology, anti-ship cruise missiles, and surface-to-air missiles to Chinese occupied territories. China’s militarization of the South China Sea resulted in the country’s expulsion from the latest iteration of the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) naval exercises by the Pentagon.

In recent weeks, China has come under fire for issuing threats and warnings to foreign ships and planes operating in the South China Sea, an area largely upheld as international waters in a 2016 rebuke to China. “Philippine military aircraft, I’m warning you again: Leave immediately or you will bear responsibility for all the consequences,” a Chinese voice shouted over the radio recently when a Philippine aircraft flew past the Spratlys. China issued a similar warning to a US Navy plane on Aug. 10, 2018.

The incidents came just a few months after Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis accused China of “intimidation and coercion” at a security forum in Singapore.

“China has a right to take necessary steps to respond to foreign aircraft and ships that deliberately get close to or make incursions into the air and waters near China’s relevant islands and provocative actions that threaten the security of Chinese personnel stationed there,” the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement to Reuters on the matter.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Macedonia has to change its name before joining NATO

NATO approved its newest member on Feb. 6, 2019, after Macedonia agreed to change its name to secure admission.

All 29 members of NATO signed the accession protocol for Macedonia, beginning a process of ratification that is likely to result in the Balkan state joining the world’s most powerful military alliance.

Macedonia has been trying to join NATO since it became independent 28 years ago. But every application had been blocked by neighboring Greece because of a regional dispute over Macedonia’s name.


Greece agreed to stop blocking Macedonia if it formally renamed itself the Republic of North Macedonia. Lawmakers in both countries in June 2018 agreed to the deal, known as the Prespa Agreement, which is due to take effect soon.

The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators

Permanent representatives of the 29 members of NATO signed the Accession Protocol for the future Republic of North Macedonia in Brussels.

(NATO)

Greece objected to the name Macedonia — which the country adopted in 1991 when Yugoslavia collapsed — because Macedonia is also the name of a region of Greece. Politicians in Greece argued that the name suggested the country had ambitions to one day rule Greek Macedonia as well.

Greece also argued that Macedonia was wrongly associating itself with the historical figure Alexander the Great, also known as Alexander III of Macedon, even though he came from modern-day Greece.

Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov told the Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak in January 2019 that the name change could happen in “a matter of days.”

The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators

The name Alexander spread through Europe in the 4th century thanks to Alexander the Great.

According to NATO’s processes, all 29 members, including Greece, would need to ratify the accession.

Any country could technically veto it. But that’s unlikely, as the only one to object had been Greece until the Prespa Agreement:Macedonia would change its name, and in return Greece would stop blocking its NATO membership.

If the other 29 members ratify the accession, Macedonia would then pass its own ratification legislation, at which point it would become a NATO member.

The decision to change the name split the country. An advisory referendum in late 2018 was rejected because of low voter turnout. The country’s parliament later agreed to the change.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg described Feb. 6, 2019, as “a historic day.”

The latest country to join NATO was Montenegro in 2017. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, and Ukraine have expressed interest in joining.

Countries aspiring to join NATO have to demonstrate that they are in a position to further the principles of the 1949 Washington Treaty and contribute to security in the Euro-Atlantic area.

They are also expected to meet certain political, economic, and military criteria, including spending a minimum proportion of gross domestic product on their militaries.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

Criticism of trailer for ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ caused design change

Making Alita, the humanoid main character in “Alita: Battle Angel,” work next to live-action characters onscreen was the biggest challenge for the visual effects team to bring to life in the film.

You may not have realized it, but a lot of work went into making the character’s big, bright brown eyes look just right, especially after the film’s first trailer.


“We had our original design, all based on the original artwork and [producer] Jim [Cameron]’s artwork and [director] Robert [Rodriguez]’s artwork, and even after the first trailer that came out, we got some criticism online about, ‘Hey, the eyes are too big. They don’t look right. Uncanny valley,'” visual effects supervisor Eric Saindon told Insider during a visual effects press day for the film at the Walt Disney Studios lot.

The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators

Here’s how Alita looks in the first trailer released for the film.

(20th Century Fox)

Based on the Japanese manga series “Gunnm,” the film follows a female cyborg, Alita, who has trouble remembering her past.

Saindon said the visual effects team spoke with Cameron and Rodriguez after the trailer came out in December 2017 to see what they thought of the criticism and whether or not they should change Alita’s look at all as a result.

“‘Do we want to shrink the eyes?'” Saindon said. “They came back and both said, ‘Absolutely not, we’re going to go bigger on the eyes.'”

“We didn’t actually go bigger on the eyes, but we did enlarge the iris,” Saindon continued. “We reduced the amount of sclera, the white around the eyes, and it sort of just popped everything back together. It popped her to be that manga character, but to be able to sit next to a live-action character. You never questioned it.”

You can see how Alita changed from that first trailer to the final film here. It’s a subtle change you may not have noticed:

The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators

Alita’s face is also softened a bit more in the final film. The lighting in this scene is a bit brighter on her face now.

(20th Century Fox)

Why Alita’s eyes were the most important to get just right

For the team, it was important to get the eyes right because not only is that the first thing you see when you meet Alita, but they believed that was going to be one of the main things that helped sell the believability of the character to audiences.

“Eyes are really critical in an actor’s performance,” said animation supervisor, Mike Cozens. “That’s why, you know, as shots get more intimate, we cut in closer and closer… Eyes are sort of what are telling you what’s going on inside the head, keeping that performance alive in the eyes, beyond the design and into performance was really critical, a critical part of the storytelling.”

The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators

Here’s how Alita looks when she opens her eyes for the first time in the films first trailer versus the final film.

(20th Century Fox)

“Truly, the eye size shouldn’t matter,” added visual effects supervisor for Lightstorm Entertainment, Richard Baneham. “Ultimately, when we look at a screen, I think it’s point-four of a second for us to read whether there are eyes onscreen or not. We immediately, as humans, go to that, because we want to understand how somebody is emotionally, what their state is. It’s what we do when we meet people, it’s how we read the room.”

Baneham said that regardless of the eye size, you can usually tell a person’s emotional state almost instantly through posture and their facial expression. That’s why it was important to get Alita’s eyes just right.

“So long as you communicate properly the emotional state of the character, the eye size, not that it’s irrelevant, it shouldn’t be the thing that’s in the way,” added Baneham. “We often say on our side, you don’t smile with your face, you don’t smile with your mouth, you smile with your eyes… As soon as you, you can cut to a pair of eyes and tell whether somebody’s smiling.”

The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators

If you covered up everything but Alita’s eyes in this image, you would be able to tell she’s smiling.

(20th Century Fox)

This isn’t the first time a trailer’s criticism has resulted in changes to a film.

After the release of the first trailer for the Sonic the Hedgehog film in April 2019, the video game character’s design sparked criticism and jokes online.

As a result, the film’s director, Jeff Fowler, said Paramount and Sega were going to redesign the character and the movie was moved back four months to February 2020 “to make Sonic just right.” In November, a new and more recognizable design for the character was revealed, satisfying fans.

The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators

The image on the left shows Sonic’s original design. The image on the right shows how Sonic looks after the redesign.

(Paramount Pictures)

How does the “Alita” visual effects team feel about receiving audience criticism right away after a trailer’s release?

“I didn’t mind hearing input from the outside world. It really solidified us, though,” said Saindon of reactions to the first trailer. “It kind of got everybody together and the real choices that were made beforehand kind of held. There was hardly any change, if you will, because I remember having, we had various different sizes and stuff out there and we were pretty big on the trailer, and it just kind of stayed there. It just made everybody reconsider what they were doing.”

“Whether she had big eyes or not, towards the end, I think all of us realized it was worthwhile worrying about it, and certainly it’s all about this expression that’s getting through or not getting through and worrying about that.”

The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators

Most of Alita’s design comes directly from the performance of actress Rosa Salazar who embodies the character.

(20th Century Fox)

Baneham added that it’s about making sure the audience invests in the character and comes along for the journey.

“That’s what you care about first and foremost, is making sure when the audience watch the movie, they’re not thinking about the technical aspects of the movie in any way, sort or form. They go on this, hopefully, immersive journey with the character,” said Baneham of what he wants viewers to get out of watching “Alita.”

“All the changes that happened afterward were not about, you know, pandering to the noise in any way. It was about bettering the character,” Baneham added.

“Alita: Battle Angel” is one of 10 finalists in the visual effects category at the 92nd Academy Awards. The Oscar nominations will be announced Monday morning.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

Everything you need to know about Zimbabwe’s ousted dictator

Robert Mugabe is the only head of state that Zimbabwe has ever known in its 37-year existence.


He resigned from the presidency on Nov. 21, 2017.

Mugabe — the longserving president of Zimbabwe — was put under military control in what amounted to a coup ending his authoritarian rule.

On Nov. 21, members of parliament in Zimbabwe started impeachment proceedings against Mugabe.

Over the past nearly 40 years, the now 93-year-old Mugabe has gone from an African independence hero to being widely perceived as an authoritarian tyrant.

Here’s a look at the life and career of the controversial Zimbabwe leader:

The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators
Robert and Grace Mugabe, 2013, in Harare, Zimbabwe (Photo from Wikimedia Commons user DandjkRoberts)

Robert Gabriel Mugabe was born February 21, 1924 in what was then Southern Rhodesia. The territory had been in British control since 1888.

Mugabe was born on a Catholic mission near Harare, now Zimbabwe’s capital, and educated by Jesuit priests. He first got work as a primary school teacher.

He moved to South Africa to attend the University of Fort Hare, known at the time as a center of African nationalism.

Mugabe is often compared with South African leader Nelson Mandela, another Fort Hare graduate who went on to lead his country out of white rule. While both men were revolution leaders, critics note the diverging paths they took once in power.

Returning to Southern Rhodesia, Mugabe became involved in politics. At the time, the country was dominated by white minority rule. Below, a Rhodesian government soldier holds African villagers at gunpoint in 1977, as they’re interrogated about anti-government guerrilla activity.

Perhaps the embodiment of white minority rule was Ian Smith, below on the right. Named prime minister of Southern Rhodesia in 1964, Smith quickly declared independence from Britain in 1965, naming the country Rhodesia. “The white man is master of Rhodesia. He has built it, and he intends to keep it,” Smith said.

Smith ruled over Rhodesia until 1980. He said in 1966 that “The white man is master of Rhodesia” and declared in 1976 that there would be no black majority rule, “not in a thousand years.”

Mugabe spent 10 years in jail — from 1964-1974 — for opposing white rule. While in prison, he earned three degrees, adding to four he already had.

Read Also: The dictator of Zimbabwe was ousted in a coup overnight and no one really knows what’s next

Upon his release, he eventually gained leadership of the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army, which was locked in a brutal civil war with the Smith-led white government. Mugabe became known as the “thinking man’s guerrilla,” espousing Marxist ideas.

At the end of the war, Mugabe was elected Zimbabwe’s first black leader in 1980. His party, Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), was swept into power. Here he is emerging from parliament following its official opening, alongside his wife Sally.

Mugabe was quickly welcomed on the international stage, speaking at the United Nations General Assembly in 1980 as Zimbabwe became a newly admitted member.

Things started to change as Joshua Nkomo — a former Mugabe ally during their shared fight for an independent country — emerged as Zimbabwe’s leading opposition figure. Below are Mugabe, left, and Nkomo, right, as revolutionaries in 1976.

In 1982, Mugabe initiated military action in Matabeleland against perceived uprisings, blamed on Nkomo.

Mugabe sent North Korean-trained army units in to Matabeleland. Mass graves were later discovered — prompting accusations of genocide — and human rights groups estimated that 20,000 people died.

His first wife, Sally, seen by many as the only person capable of restraining him, died in 1992.

The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators
Robert Mugabe and Grace Mugabe at a Politburo meeting. Grace was previously thought to be the successor to the Presidency. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons user Brainy263)

In 1996, Mugabe married his former secretary Grace Marufu, who eventually went on to become almost as controversial as her husband.

Mugabe became president of Zimbabwe in 1990, after serving as the country’s prime minister. During the decade, the government took increased control of the economy and land redistribution continued, in an effort to move the country’s prosperous white-owned farms to black ownership.

The 1990s also saw some of the first public uprisings against Mugabe, as students and workers took to the streets to protest the seemingly increasingly authoritarian government.

“Officially, Zimbabwe remains a parliamentary democracy, but in reality Mugabe presides over the country as a tyrant in the classical sense of the word: an autocrat who rules exclusively for his own gratification, with contempt for the common good,” Philip Gourevitch wrote in a 2002 New Yorker profile.

The new century saw Zimbabwe’s economy crash, shrinking by more than a third from 2000 to 2008. Unemployment skyrocketed to more than 80%.

Much of the blame for Zimbabwe’s economic woes could be blamed on the land reform programs, which amped up in 2000, as black war veterans violently took over white-owned farms, a move Mugabe supported.

By the end of the decade, Zimbabwe was hit was hyperinflation, abandoning its currency in 2009.

Despite both popular and political pressure, Mugabe refused to give up power. In 2008, Mugabe said “only God” could remove him from office.

Read Also: 22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, writing from Zimbabwe in 2010, reported that many black citizens wanted a return to white rule. “It would have been better if whites had continued to rule because the money would have continued to come,” one 58-year-old farmer told Kristof. “It was better under Rhodesia. Then we could get jobs. Things were cheaper in stores. Now we have no money, no food.”

Mugabe’s age became increasingly apparent as he entered his 90s. A public and well-documented fall in 2015 was confusingly denied by the government.

As Zimbabwe prepared for general elections in 2018, there were few indications that the country would soon see the likely end of the world’s longest serving leader.

Mugabe’s rapid downfall started in mid-November, following the expulsion of two consecutive vice-presidents and the rise of Mugabe’s wife, Grace.

“Gucci” Grace Mugabe, as she has come to be known for his lavish spending in the face of the country’s poverty, had seen her own standing in Zimbabwe’s government quickly rise since taking over the ZANU-PF women’s league in 2014.

The Zimbabwe army took to the streets of Harare on November 15, placing the capital and the Mugabe family under military control.

On November 19th, Mugabe was widely expected to announce his resignation — but didn’t. Zimbabwe’s parliament has now pledged to impeach him if he doesn’t leave office.

Mugabe finally announced his resignation on Nov. 21.

Articles

The 7 people you meet in basic training

1. Baby-Faced Bryan

The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators
Photo: playbuzz.com


Congratulations, you’ve just become a parent. In order to survive basic training, you must now not only cover your own ass, but watch out for this guy’s as well. Because if you don’t, your platoon is going to get slapped with mass punishment, and no one wants that. Bryan somehow managed to make it through his young life without developing skills of any kind. He’s the kind of guy who hesitates when you ask him how to spell his own name.

You will watch him struggle to make his bed with his gangly 18-year-old arms and be torn between the desire to help him or to strangle him with his own sheets. But you will help Bryan, because he needs you. And because if you don’t, he will forget his kit, wear white socks to inspection, and make your life a living hell. And who knows, maybe after a few days he’ll start to pick up on things. Totally kidding — you’re probably  stuck with this kid for the long haul.

Something Bryan might say: “Hey … hey guys? Can somebody show me how to shave?”

2. Renaissance Richard

The antithesis of Baby-Faced Bryan, Renaissance Richard is a super-smart, talented, and accomplished guy. Unfortunately for you, this also makes him a bit of an annoying a–hole. Richard is usually around 30, and he won’t let you forget how he managed to be the valedictorian at his private college, build his own house, and become a brain surgeon in the time between high school graduation and now.

Richard can do anything — except keep his mouth shut. He’s the guy who makes a big show of “helping” recruits, and letting everyone know how he would do something. No one asked you, Richard. He’s also notorious for crashing your conversations so he can chime in on things like his opinions on Syria, when all you were discussing is what’s for dinner. Rich is a fine recruit, but your drill sergeant will hate him. Why? The same reason you do: he’s a pretentious a–hole. Nobody wants to work with someone who can’t accept rank and needs his ego stroked.

Something Richard might say: “Sure it would be interesting to invade Easter Island, but you need to consider the political ramifications … ”

3.  The Dreamer

The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators
Photo: Black Hawk Down

The Dreamer has wanted to join the military since he first saw “Saving Private Ryan” at an elementary school sleepover. He dreams of not only becoming a great soldier, but the greatest soldier America — and the world — has ever seen. Just a teenager, he’s the guy who gets too distracted by his daydream of running through battle in slow-motion to shine his shoes, and can be heard quoting “Top Gun” and “Band of Brothers” in the DFAC.

The Dreamer’s all talk, and has no real-world experience when it comes to surviving anything more than a Hot Pocket shortage. Because of this, he will often take on tasks that are way too much for him to handle, bringing down your drill sergeant’s wrath on all of you when he fails. Think of him as Baby-Faced Bryan’s annoying half-brother. Eventually he should focus a little more on the task at hand instead of his “military destiny,” but until then you’ll just have to tune him out.

4. Shady Steve

Steve’s a little older than some of the guys in basic training, but you’re never positive what this dude’s age is — and that’s just the way Steve likes it. When pressed about his past, his stories never quite match up, leaving you wondering just what is true (hold up, did he say that he was a parole officer, or was he talking about his own parole?).

You don’t know him at all, but he just seems like the type of guy who decided to enlist because his meth ring went south. One thing you do know for sure is the fact that any outing with Steve quickly devolves into “Hangover”-level catastrophe, so you better steer clear of that. He’s not a bad trainee. And he’s probably not a bad guy — but he’s got your drill sergeant keeping an eye on him, so you probably should too.

5. The Old Dude

This salt and pepper recruit may not actually be that old by civilian standards, but 34 is pretty ancient in basic. And since it took a colonel to approve his age waiver, maybe he should have just stayed home and played Risk instead. Whether he enlisted because the Army’s his last chance to retire before 65 or because of a mid-life crisis is anyone’s guess, but don’t write this guy off right away.

The Old Dude is usually in surprisingly great shape, and that’s because he’s old school. While most of the recruits in their twenties have spent their pre-military lives playing Call of Duty and chowing down on Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, he’s been downing raw eggs for breakfast and running five miles a day. Also, The Old Dude has lived a lot longer than you — he’s seen things, and he’s wiser for it. When you need some advice or perspective on life, he’s the person you’ll want to turn to.

6. Gun-Happy Garret

Garret is a simple man. He joined the military because it allowed him to pursue his three passions: shooting, chewing dip, and spitting. Garret does not know that tobacco isn’t allowed in basic. He is furious when he finds out. Garret barely managed to complete his GED, and it shows. You are not confident that he can spell America, and are terrified of the day this neanderthal gets his hands on an automatic weapon.

To your surprise, however, Garret is actually kind of a genius when it comes to weapons. He can disassemble and reassemble his weapon with his eyes closed. He can tell you every part of his rifle and how it works, and help you with your own. Your rifle will never shine quite like his does. He is a weapons savant, and you start to wonder if there’s more to Garret than meets the eye. Trust us, there isn’t. He’s the best mark in the platoon because he spent his childhood shooting mice and raccoons behind a trailer park, not because he’s the chosen one.

 7. The Blue Falcon

This guy. This guy is the absolute worst. If you could combine a weasel and that stoner kid from your Spanish class who would constantly beg you for test answers, you’d have something close to a Blue Falcon. The Blue Falcon of your platoon is lazy, disloyal, and just a textbook pain in the ass. Can’t find your extra pair of socks? Did part of someone’s kit go missing? Check the Blue Falcon’s nest. And God forbid you screw up in front of this guy — he’ll rat you out to your drill sergeant faster than you’ll know what’s happening.

The Blue Falcon’s sneaky, so it sometimes takes a while to know who yours will be. But every unit has one, and they will become the bane of your existence.

Something The Blue Falcon would say: “First sergeant, first sergeant! Private Snuffy is … ”

Associate Editor David Nye contributed to this article.

Articles

300 Marines will deploy to help counter Taliban insurgents

Afghan officials appear confident a planned deployment of about 300 U.S. Marines will help local forces reverse insurgent gains in the embattled southern province of Helmand.


Backed by airpower, the Afghan National Army has intensified offensive operations in the largest Afghan poppy-growing province, after the Taliban captured the strategically important district center of Sangin in late March, although government officials continue to dispute the claim.

Afghan forces in overnight operations are reported to have killed dozens of insurgents and destroyed several narcotics-producing factories in Helmand.

The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators
Lance Cpl. Mike Carro holds security for Marines in South Central Afghanistan. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jemssy Alvarez Jr.)

The provincial governor, Hayatullah Hayat, says national security forces are prepared and better placed this year to beat back the Taliban. They already have cleared areas around the provincial capital of Lashkargah and nearby districts.

“We have [also] started clearing pockets of [insurgents] in Garmsir district, in Marjah district, and also this will be done in Sangin district,” Hayat told Voice of America.

Marine backup

Hayat sounded upbeat about a planned deployment of Marines in Helmand, saying it will boost local efforts to evict the Taliban, which is currently in control of most of the province.

“I am quite sure they will have definitely lots of positives to bring in the frontline and also changing the security situation down in Helmand,” Hayat noted. He emphasized that Afghans will continue to lead the security operations, and U.S. Marines will serve in an “advise-and-assist” role.

The Pentagon announced in January it will send a task forces of about 300 Marines back to Helmand in the wake of rapid insurgent advances and heavy casualties inflicted on Afghan forces during the 2016 fighting season.

Marines will be returning to an area where they have engaged for years in intense deadly battles with the Taliban. This will be the first deployment since 2014 when the U.S.-led international forces combat forces withdrew from Afghanistan.

Peace talks offered

Governor Hayat again urged the insurgents to quit fighting and join the Afghan government-led peace process.

“I think the only solution [to the conflict] in Afghanistan is negotiations. It’s the land of jirgas (tribal dispute resolution councils) and it’s the land of talks. Any problems, even if they were big or small, can be resolved through negotiations and dialogue,” he said.

The Taliban has extended its control of influence across Afghanistan since the withdrawal of U.S.-led international combat forces two years ago, and efforts aimed at encouraging the insurgents to come to the table for peace talks with Kabul have not yet succeeded.

Russia plans to host a multi-nation conference of Afghanistan’s immediate and far neighbors on April 14 to try to jump-start peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

Representatives of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, India, China, and several former Soviet Central Asian states have been invited to the talks in Moscow.

The United States also was invited to attend the meeting, but turned down the invitation, questioning Russian objectives and intentions for initiating the process.

A Taliban spokesman said late March it was not in a position to comment, and would not consider whether to attend the Moscow talks until the group received an invitation.

Articles

Meet the F-16 pilots who turned their wartime experiences into hilarious songs

Some vets with a tendency toward showmanship like to take their talents to YouTube or Hollywood when they hit the post-service world.


The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators
These guys sang a couple songs that pissed their CO off (bravo!). (Photo: Amazon.com)

But the former F-16 fighter pilots behind Operation Encore took the old-school approach and are working to shatter some of the caricatures of veterans through music. The result is a blend of music genres from a variety of military-affiliated artists that range from folksy bluegrass to present-day pop rock — all of it relating to experiences of war that poke fun at life in the service and lament the tragedy of war.

Chris Kurek is the co-founder and partner with Viper Driver Productions. He’s better known as “Snooze,” one of the two founding members of the band Dos Gringos, a pair of F-16 pilots who released four satirical albums full of songs with titles like “I Wish I Had a Gun Just Like the A-10” to the NSFW drinking song “Jeremiah Weed” to the Willie Nelson-esque “TDY Again.”

The band kicked off when Kurek and his fellow jet jock Robert “Trip” Raymond were deployed to Kuwait for Operation Southern Watch and later Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“We were out there for six months, there was nothing else to do,” Kurek said. He and Raymond wrote some songs and performed for the rest of their squadron.

Their songs drew what Kurek described as “wonky eyes” from some, but their squadron commander was very supportive, encouraging them to record the songs on CD, even offering to put up the money.

“We were kind of writing on stuff that pointed out things that drive you crazy in the military,” he said.

After the band’s return stateside, they went to Texas to record their first CD, “Live at the Sand Trap.”

Turns out Dos Gringos’ wing commander was less than pleased with their extracurricular enterprise and barred them from performing at the Cannon Air Force Base Officer’s Club.

But the band went viral in a 2003 sorta way via the enlisted maintenance personnel who particularly dug the song, “I’m a Pilot,” Kurek said. The semi-satirical ditty about a self-centered fighter jock — which evokes a sound similar to some songs from the 80s band Warrant — was passed around the flightline.

Eventually, Dos Gringos would put out three more albums —”2,” “Live at Tommy Rockers,” and “El Cuatro” — before the band had to go on hiatus due to pressure from higher ups as Raymond rose through the ranks.

They were not done with music, though. Both felt some frustration with how some caricatured vets and with what they perceived as an effort by Nashville to cash in on the veteran experience.

Kurek recounted that the war wasn’t always patriotism or sadness, pointing out there was a lot of “goofing off and laughter” because of “boredom.”

The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators
Stephen Covell, a former Army medic who contributes to Operation Encore. (From OperationEncoreMusic.com)

“Vets can write about anything,” Kurek said. Eventually, in a conversation with Erik Brine, a C-17 pilot who was a later addition to Dos Gringos, Kurek recounted someone asking, “I wonder if there are any other people who did what we did on deployment – bring a guitar and write songs.”

They began a search, and it was a pair of submissions from Stephen Covell, an Army medic who served with the 82nd Airborne Division, that prompted them to create Operation Encore.

“Those two alone were the best I ever heard,” Kurek said. “They conveyed a combat vet’s experience.”

Covell’s submissions pushed Kurek and Raymond to launch a Kickstarter campaign to pay for airfare, studio time, mixing and mastering.

The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators
Rachel Harvey Hill, a military spouse who has contributed to Operation Encore. (From OperationEncoreMusic.com)

While two albums, “Volume 1” and “Monuments,” have so far been released, Kurek notes the process has been a challenge, largely due to the way the music industry has changed. Kurek recounted that when the first Dos Gringos album came out, CDs were still king. The rise of iTunes and digital downloads were one shift which evened out – the volume increased, even as they got less per song.

With Operation Encore, though, the big challenge has been the fact that the music industry has shifted once again to streaming services, and it takes hundreds of thousands of streams to get real money. Furthermore, Kurek pointed out that Dos Gringos was a niche market, and their audience knew what they would get.

Operation Encore is different.

“Operation Encore is a compilation, not one band, sound, or genre,” he explained, pointing out some of the songs were pop rock, others country or bluegrass. Furthermore, the singers who appear are scattered all over the world. Just getting the performers together for a concert would entail airfare, hotel rooms, and equipment rental. Not to mention all the stuff that is in the riders for the artists.

The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators

Kurek, though, is still hot on his Iraq War-era band.

“I wish we could do one more Dos Gringos album,” he said.

Operation Encore’s CDs can be purchased at CDBaby.com, or bought as digital downloads from iTunes, Amazon.com, and Google Play. Dos Gringos CDs are also available at CDBaby.com, and can be purchased from iTunes, Amazon.com, and Google Play.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Hundreds rescued from wildfires by military helicopters

The situation in California has worsened as 25 separate wildfires are currently burning across the state torching property and stranding fleeing citizens. Overwhelmed, California firefighters summoned National Guard and USN helicopters to aid in the extraction of hundreds of individuals trapped by the flames.

Over the holiday weekend, many people went to the Sierra National Forest, staying at the Mammoth Pool Reservoir, a popular camping spot. The “Creek Fire,” which reportedly started Friday night, quickly began spreading and trapped over 200 people. The fire was aided by record-breaking temperatures and accompanying dry air and winds.


Massive “Creek Fire” Threatens Town of Auberry – RAW Footage

www.youtube.com

Raw footage from ON SCENE TV on September 8, 2020.

Ch-47 Chinooks and UH-60 Black Hawks began responding to the area to evacuate the trapped campers. The rescues began Saturday night and went into Sunday morning. In total, helicopter crews rescued 214 people, several of whom were severely injured. It was reported that the helos were within 50 feet of the flames while loading people on.

Outside of Fresno, wildfires trapped more people as they were trying to escape the burning forest, in the areas of Lake Edison and Chinese Peak.

On Monday night, National Guard and U.S. Navy helicopter crews were dispatched to the area to conduct rescue operations. Heavy smoke thwarted rescue attempts and helicopters were kept at bay until flight conditions improved.

Helicopters were able to access the area by Monday night and began extracting those trapped by the flames. Equipped with night vision, helicopter crews flew through the darkness, rescuing 35 more people, some of whom were reported to have had injuries. Rescue flights continued throughout the day on Tuesday, rescuing another 148 people as the inferno ripped through the California forests.

At the time of this report, some 385 people and 27 animals have been saved from the wildfires by the helicopter crews. It is unknown how many people are still trapped.

Cal Fire’s firefighters have been fighting these aggressive wildfires non-stop since Saturday. One firefighter has already been killed. Three others were injured when their remote fire station was overtaken by the fire. Fourteen firefighters were at the location and were forced to deploy their emergency shelters. The three firefighters injured suffered smoke inhalation and burns. They were airlifted to Fresno; two are stable and one is in critical condition.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, this year so far 87 wildfires have burned, resulting in 4.7 million acres burned; 2.2 million of those acres have been in California. This is a new worrisome record for California, as experts say that peak wildfire season has not yet arrived.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.


MIGHTY TRENDING

Coast Guard finally getting back-pay after shutdown

Some Coast Guard families began receiving back pay Jan. 28, 2019, while bracing for the possibility that another government shutdown on Feb. 15, 2019, could again leave them scrambling to cover bills and put food on the table.

In Oregon, Stacey Benson, whose husband has served 19 years in the service, said back pay from the 35-day government shutdown was in her family’s account Jan. 28, 2019.

Coast Guard officials said they are working to deliver back pay by Jan. 30, 2019, to all of the more than 42,000 Coast Guard members affected by the longest government shutdown in history.


Benson, who helped start up “Be The Light” food banks for struggling Coast Guard families during the shutdown, said the food banks essentially closed Jan. 27, 2019, after President Donald Trump signed a bill Jan. 25, 2019, opening the government for three weeks while Congress and the White House seek agreement on funding for a border wall.

The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators
(Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi)

However, Benson said that volunteers are “making arrangements” to restart the food banks “just in case” the government shuts down again Feb. 15, 2019.

“If it happens, we’re prepared for the worst,” she said.

At the food bank in Astoria, Oregon, Benson estimated that 50,000 to 70,000 pounds of goods had been collected for distribution, including “pounds and pounds and pounds of ground beef and huge bags of dog and cat food.”

The shutdown strained donors’ resources to the point they’re asking for donations themselves.

Brett Reistad, national commander of the American Legion, said efforts by the group to assist Coast Guard families had essentially drained the veterans organization’s Temporary Assistance Fund.

“I’ve been in the Legion 38 years,” he said in a phone interview, “and I’ve not experienced an instance like this.”

Reistad added that the Legion was reaching out to supporters to replenish the fund.

During the shutdown, the Legion distributed more than id=”listicle-2627427178″ million from the fund in the form of grants of 0 to id=”listicle-2627427178″,500 to needy Coast Guard families, Reistad said. Since Jan. 15, 2019, the organization had approved about 1,500 grants to a total of 1,713 families — specifically targeted at the 3,170 children in those families, he added.

The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators

Coast Guard Cutter Resolute.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael De Nyse)

“We try to stay out of politics” as a veterans service organization, Reistad said, but “we have to recognize the possibility of this happening again.”

“These are our brothers and sisters,” he said of Coast Guard members. “They were out there risking their lives, saving lives” during the shutdown without pay.

He asked anyone interested in replenishing the Temporary Assistance Fund to visit Legion.org for more information.

The White House was standing firm Jan. 28, 2019, on the president’s demand for .7 billion to fund an extension of the southern border wall. Trump said over the weekend that he would allow the government to shut down again or declare a national emergency to take money from the military budget if Congress doesn’t agree to fund the wall.

At a White House briefing Jan. 28, 2019, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the solution is to “call your Democratic member of Congress and ask them to fix the problem. This is a simple fix.”

She said Trump “is going to do what it takes” to provide border security.

He would prefer to do that through legislation, Sanders said but, if Congress balks, “the president will be forced to take a different path.”

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

Articles

The American Legion just elected its first female national commander

A retired University of Wisconsin administrator was elected national commander of the nation’s largest veterans organization today during The American Legion’s 99th national convention.


Denise H. Rohan, a Vietnam-era veteran of the US Army, is the first woman to be elected to the top position of the 2 million member American Legion.

“Women were allowed to vote for national commander of The American Legion back in 1919, before they could vote for the president of the United States,” Rohan said. “The American Legion has always believed that a veteran is a veteran regardless of gender, race, or religion. If I can offer a different perspective than other Legionnaires, that’s great. But I am excited to build on the great programs, dedicated service and proud legacy of the many Legionnaires who came before me.”

Rohan has served The American Legion since 1984. While commander of Post 333 in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, she established Sons of the American Legion Squadron 333 and chartered Boy Scout Troop 333. She has also served as the department (state) commander of the Wisconsin American Legion.

The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators
Denise H. Rohan. Image from American Legion.

She was employed with the University of Wisconsin Madison as the assistant bursar of student loans until her retirement in 2012. She managed the University of Wisconsin Madison, University of Wisconsin Green Bay, and University of Wisconsin Colleges’ $120 million loan portfolio made up of approximately 200 different federal, institutional and state programs in compliance with all laws, regulations, and policy.

Rohan was responsible for the efficiency and design of the computerized student loan accounts-receivable system.

MIGHTY CULTURE

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

Everyone who deploys during a holiday makes a special effort to feel as if they aren’t really missing it. No matter how short the war is, no one wants to miss one of those crucial days. Even if the entire buildup and fighting lasted just a few months, you still want that piece of home. The Louisiana National Guard was no different in the Gulf War. No way were they going to miss Mardi Gras.


So the celebration may not have been as raucous as it is on Bourbon Street. Nor was it a family affair as it is in other wards and and cities in Louisiana. Still, it was important to the men and women who deployed to Saudi Arabia during operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield. Mardi Gras isn’t something to be casually missed, so the unit threw their own version: Saudi Gras.

In 1990, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded neighboring Kuwait, sparking off a huge U.S. military buildup in Saudi Arabia call Operation Desert Shield as a bulwark against further Iraqi aggression. It was part of a larger plan to go on the offensive and expel Iraq from Kuwait in an operation known as Desert Storm. The forces required to execute Desert Storm and secure Saudi Arabia took a while to arrive. From August 1990 to January 1991, American and Coalition troops began arriving in the Saudi Kingdom.

One of those units called to action was the Louisiana National Guard, who arrived in late January and early February. Their only problem was that Mardi Gras began on Feb. 12 that year.

The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators

(Louisiana National Guard)

Mardi Gras is a Christian tradition, a celebration that begins on the Feast of the Epiphany and runs through Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. While Mardi Gras may not be a big deal in the rest of the United States, for the French-descended people of Louisiana, it is. For them, it’s more than beads on Bourbon Street – it’s a time of celebration, good food, parades, and family. Some 8,000 miles away from the French Quarter, the members of Lousiana’s National Guard deployed to Saudi Arabia decided they wouldn’t let the holiday pass them by.

Saudi Arabia saw its first-ever Mardi Gras celebration, dubbed “Saudi Gras” by those who were a part of it.

The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators

(Louisiana National Guard)

The beer was non-alcoholic (by necessity and general order), the parade queen was a Lt. Col. who volunteered to dress in drag, and the Saudi Gras King, a member of the 926th Tactical Fighter Group and native of New Orleans, was given the title “King Scud.” Elsewhere, Louisianans formed ad-hoc krewes, those celebrating Mardi Gras with the pledge to form a group that hosts a party, builds parade floats, and attends social events all year long.

You can take the troops out of Louisiana, but you can’t take Louisiana out of the troops.

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