A deafening explosion followed the commands as a 155mm artillery round exited the tube of an M777A2 during Operation Swift, Iraq, Dec. 22, 2018.
Troopers from the Field Artillery Squadron “Steel,” 3rd Cavalry Regiment “Brave Rifles,” conducted a gun raid to provide supporting fires for Operation Swift — a series of artillery and airstrikes against ISIS targets in the Makhmour Mountains.
Operation Swift was the first artillery raid conducted in support of Combined Joint Task Force — Operation Inherent Resolve, and demonstrated the Coalition’s capability to provide dynamic fires in support of the Iraqi Security Forces.
U.S. Army Soldiers from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment execute nighttime fire missions with an M777A2 howitzer during a gun raid mission with Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in Iraq, Dec. 22, 2018.
(Photo by Sgt. Edward Bates)
“Doing the first artillery raid, having never air assaulted a howitzer in theater, was a great experience,” said 1st Lt. Aaron Palumbo, platoon leader. “It taught us just how light we could personally pack and helped us identify the feasibility of transporting a Howitzer with rotary-wing assets,” said Palumbo.
High explosive charges echoed across Camp Swift night and day as the fire direction center meticulously choreographed the fire missions with airstrikes on multiple ISIS weapons caches and hiding spots throughout the mountains.
“It felt as if we were moving mountains before the mission,” said Palumbo. “Now, we have identified friction points and know how to execute future missions with increased lethality.”
The barrages of artillery fire were intended to destroy resources of ISIS fighters and send a message that no enemy location was safe from the lethality of the entire coalition force.
U.S. Army Soldiers from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment load and elevate an M777A2 howitzer during nighttime fire missions for a gun raid mission with Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in Iraq, Dec. 22, 2018.
(Photo by Sgt. Edward Bates)
“It was interesting being part of the first artillery raid, and doing an artillery mission in combat like we would during home station training,” said Spc. Deavon Shafer, ammunition team chief.
During the onset of Operation Swift, Steel troopers both observed coalition aircraft dropping ordnance on known ISIS positions, and reinforced those fires with their own M777A2 howitzer that was air assaulted into position.
The artillery raid was a proof of concept to pass onto future artillery units in theater and a demonstration of the partnership between the ISF and Brave Rifles Troopers in the fight to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS in Iraq.
When not firing, they trained with the 3rd Federal Police Division soldiers at Camp Swift on the unique weapons systems of both units and conducted artillery training with soldiers of the 12th Brigade, 3rd Iraqi FEDPOL Artillery Battalion.
A trooper with the Field Artillery Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, connects a sling leg from an M777A2 howitzer to a CH-47 Chinook before executing a gun raid mission with Ira-qi Security Forces in Iraq, Dec. 16, 2018.
(Photo by Sgt. Edward Bates)
“The training felt the same as training we do internally — we learned something new,” said Spc. Kevin Mahan, M777A2 gunner.
Operation Swift was the first of its kind in theater and will not be the last.
“Task Force Steel executed the artillery raid in conjunction with fixed wing airstrikes to mass joint fires in the Makhmour Mountains and continue the physical and psychological degradation of ISIS,” said Maj. Simon Welte, squadron executive officer. “Our operational tempo remains high against ISIS and this raid serves as another example to our ISF and Kurdish Security Force partners that we are committed to the lasting defeat of ISIS in Iraq.”
Brave Rifles Troopers are deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, working by, with and through the Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition partners to bring about the lasting defeat of ISIS. Brave Rifles Troopers will eventually be replaced by soldiers from the 1st Brigade Combat Team “Bastogne,” 101st Airborne Division, and the Steel Sqdn. has paved the way for future missions.
Bastogne soldiers will continue to provide support to the ISF and deliver massed fires utilizing a variety of firepower to defeat ISIS’s combat power and ideology.
The United States has begun investigating whether uranium imports threaten national security, launching a process that could lead to more tariffs being imposed on imports from Russia and Central Asian countries.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced the probe on July 18, 2018, and said it would cover the entire uranium sector, including mining and enrichment, as well as both defense and industrial uses of the radioactive metal.
“Our production of uranium necessary for military and electric power has dropped from 49 percent of our consumption to 5 percent,” Ross said, suggesting that to be so overwhelmingly dependent on imports could jeopardize U.S. security.
He pledged a thorough, fair, and transparent investigation of the matter.
The United States imported id=”listicle-2588064431″.4 billion worth of enriched uranium in 2017, along with 0 million in uranium ores and id=”listicle-2588064431″.8 billion in uranium compounds and alloys, according to Commerce Department data.
In addition to being used in nuclear weapons, uranium fuels about 20 percent of U.S. electricity generation and is used to power nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers.
Canada and Kazakhstan account for about half of the imported uranium used in U.S. power generation, according to the Energy Department.
Cascade of gas centrifuges used to produce enriched uranium.
(U.S. Department of Energy)
Former Soviet republics provided more than one-third: Kazakhstan 24 percent, Russia 14 percent, and Uzbekistan 4 percent. About 10 percent came from four African countries.
Washington outraged major U.S. trading partners, including Canada, China, and the European Union, by citing national security concerns as justification to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum.
Those tariffs, which hit Russia’s steel and aluminum industries hard, touched off a wave of countermeasures against U.S. agriculture and other goods, alarming many U.S. businesses and lawmakers.
The announcement that Washington is now targeting uranium comes after the Commerce Department said it was investigating hundreds of billions of dollars worth of cars and auto parts imported every year to determine whether that undermines U.S. national security.
The probe of uranium imports is in response to petitions for an investigation filed in January 2018 by two U.S. mining companies: Ur-Energy and Energy Fuels. They called for a quota that reserves 25 percent of U.S. demand for domestic production.
“Increasing levels of state-subsidized nuclear fuel are expected to be imported from Russia and China in the coming years, which would likely further displace U.S. uranium production,” the mining companies said in their petition.
“If Russia and its allies take control of this critical fuel, the threat to U.S. national and energy security would be incalculable,” they said.
According to the Energy Department, as uranium prices tumbled to just over per pound between 2009 and 2015, employment in the U.S. uranium sector fell more than 60 percent, to just over 600 workers.
A female officer has neared the halfway mark of the Marine Corps Infantry Officer Course – further than previous women have progressed.
According to a report in the Marine Corps Times, the unidentified officer has roughly eight weeks left. Two female Marine officers have graduated the Army artillery course, and one had graduated the Army’s armor course. As many as 248 women are in ground combat units that were once restricted to men only as of July 19, 2017.
“These are successes that never seem to get out in the press,” Gen. Glenn Walters, the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps said during a media roundtable.
The event also touched on what the Marine Corps Times report described as measures to “eliminate attitudes” that lead to the investigation of a Facebook group known as Marines United.
The opening of direct ground combat roles to women was announced in 2012, but the effort turned controversial in 2015 when then-Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus criticized a Marine Corps study that showed that 69 percent of the tasks were performed more efficiently by all-male units.
No women have yet entered Marine Special Operations Command’s combat elements, but some are in support units. The first woman to try to complete SEAL training as an officer dropped out after a week, according to a report by DailyWire.com, which noted another female sailor is training to be a Special Warfare Combatant Craft crewman.
Descendants of Soldiers and other veterans of World War I will soon be able to visit a national memorial in the nation’s capital that commemorates the sacrifices of their great-grandfathers who fought in “the Great War.”
An array of politicians, military leaders, veterans, and officials from the World War I Centennial Commission officially broke ground for the National World War I Memorial, Nov. 9, at Pershing Park in Washington, D.C.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of U.S. involvement in World War I. It was April 6, 1917, when the United States declared war on Germany. The first American Soldiers would make their way across the Atlantic in June of that year.
The new memorial to those who served in World War I will share a space with an existing memorial dedicated to General of the Armies John Joseph “Black Jack” Pershing, who served as commander of the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I. The site is a short walk east of the White House.
Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley attended the groundbreaking as one of more than a dozen officials. He told those in attendance that World War I provided many lessons learned. Along with lessons in strategy, operations, and tactics, the world also learned lessons in politics and government, he said.
“But if there is one lesson most of all to learn, it is the lesson to vow to never let it happen again,” Milley said. “The way to prevent war is to maintain your preparedness for war, in the words of George Washington, our first president.”
Milley said the pre-WWI Army was made up of fewer than 200,000 Soldiers who were spread across the nation in mostly law enforcement-type roles. To accommodate the needs of conflict in Europe, the Army grew quickly to some 4 million Soldiers. Still, the United States military was unprepared for that conflict.
“A state of unpreparedness led to many casualties in the battles of the Argonne and many others,” Milley said. “So if there is one lesson for us to learn as a nation, it is to be prepared. If you want to sustain the peace, then have large, ready, credible military forces that can do whatever the nation asks it to do in order to ensure this experiment in liberty is passed on to the next generation and the generation after that.”
Milley said the new WWI memorial will help Americans today fulfill their duty to remember what has happened in the past, and to honor those who sacrificed.
“As the chief of staff of the U.S. Army, it is my deep honor to be here today and honor those Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines that perished in the first world war,” Milley said. “It is our duty to remember what they fought for, and why they fought. It is our duty to carry on that legacy and ensure the peace goes on into the future.”
A MEMORIAL THAT RESONATES
Seated next to Milley at the ground-breaking event was Joe Weishaar, the now 27-year-old architect, who at just 25 was chosen to design the memorial.
“For the last two years it has been my privilege and honor to be a part of what I consider one of the most noble undertakings today, and certainly in my own life,” Weishaar said. “Rather than design a landmark that is pompous, ostentatious, or bombastic, we find ourselves here, in a small park, on America’s main street, tasked with the creation of a memorial to a group of men and women who gave themselves in service and sacrifice without the thought of how or why or when they would be remembered.”
It will be Weishaar’s architectural design, and the artistry of sculptor Sabin Howard, that will finally provide a memorial to give those WWI veterans the recognition they earned, but never asked for.
“It may be long overdue, but today marks another point in the journey of making sure they are not forgotten,” Weishaar said.
Weishaar said it was back in June 2015 that he first saw a notice advertising a design competition for a national WWI memorial to be based in Washington, D.C.
At the time, he’d never been to the nation’s capital, he said, and had just assumed such a memorial already existed there.
“We had memorials to the other notable three wars of the 20th century,” he said.
After reading that notice announcing the design competition, he said he went online to research WWI, including photos from the war that he found through the National Archives.
“The thing that pulled me in were the faces and the names and the stories of the young men I was looking at,” he said. “As somebody who grew up in a quiet corner of Arkansas, I felt these people were kindred spirts. We came from small towns, we were roughly 25 years of age, some even five or six years younger, and we were experiencing the larger world for the first time in our lives. The fact that these were men and women who boldly stepped out into the world to defend countless others only cemented my admiration for them. Deciding to submit a design was one of the easiest choices I’ve ever had to make in my life.”
The centerpiece of the new memorial will feature a large bas relief bronze sculpture that follows a single Soldier through his own personal WWI experience, beginning with that Soldier leaving home, and his daughter handing him his helmet. Other scenes depict the Soldier marching off to war, fighting, and eventually returning home.
Other elements in the memorial will include a pool and green space.
“I wanted to create something that would resonate with people the same way it did when I looked at those photographs,” Weishaar said. “That somehow you could reach across time and touch the people of a generation past. Those people were real, they were courageous, and they sacrificed everything for a better future. To everybody who has ever served to protect this nation and to everybody who will visit this memorial, there will now be a new place to be reminded of the past and a new place to say thank you.”
No, I’m going to be honest because the truth needs to be said. The lack of childcare and the extensive regulations preventing effectively running centers is unsuitable to the needs of those it serves.
Military families cannot maintain financial security without stable employment, and they cannot maintain stable employment without adequate childcare. From extensive waitlists to limited hours, military families are often left scrambling to find child care. This leads to families using uncertified daycare facilities, over capacitated in-home care, and other, sometimes unsafe options for child care.
Did you know that military child care facilities service over 200k children? According to the latest Congressional Research Service report, there are about 23 thousand employed at military child care facilities around the world. These facilities bring in 400 million dollars in fees alone. This number does not include additional funding provided by Non-Appropriated Funds (NAF) or other entities. It’s no surprise that the Army receives the bulk of financial support from Operation and Maintenance Funds. However, what is intriguing is that they have the least amount of allocated child care slots for military sponsors than any other branch. Why is that? Another military mystery.
Before obtaining child care at an on-post military installation, you must register your child. Some installations offer walk-in registrations for child care, while others require appointments to be made. You are required to produce medical documents, including physicals and shot records for all children. This is a standard operating procedure as child care facilities on and off-post want to ensure the health and well being of your child.
However, If your child has special needs like he/she takes daily medications, has an IEP, or allergies, buckle up because it’s going to be a bumpy process. I have both a child with special developmental needs and a child with food allergies. You can imagine how long and arduous the registration process can be—collecting documentation from doctors, meeting with the SNAP team, waiting for approval, all painstakingly redundant. Once you’ve made it past the registration process, you have crossed over to the waitlist realm, where weeks turn into months, and even years.
So tell me, what’s the longest you’ve waited for military child care?
The longest I’ve waited was six months. I honestly checked my child’s status every day for at least two of those months. The explanations for the long waitlists were: limited staff and lack of space within child care facilities to accommodate families in need.
The Military Child Care Act was originally created in 1989 because of concern for the conditions of off post child care facilities. However, the DOD’s evolution of caring for diverse military families has been slow to accommodate the needs of the 21st Century military family. With that being said, many strides have been made. Some installations offer date night care once a month allowing parents after-hours care, up to date academic curriculum to help prepare children for school, and FCC’s to help with overflow.
The staff members I’ve personally encountered are kind, loving, and have genuinely cared for my children. But many of them were overworked and often expected to excel with limited resources. Despite this, there is a way you can help positively impact military child care facilities.
What You Can Do
Speak up about insufficient care at your local installation.
Volunteer at the CDC. Jobs like planning activities, cutting projects, and other office work does not require you be an employee and allows the center’s employees to man more childcare rooms.
Together, we can help make our military child care facilities accessible and adequate for everyone. Holding our leadership accountable and asking them to fight for our families isn’t wrong, accepting sub-par care is.
HSV-2 Swift came under attack off the coast of Yemen this past weekend and suffered serious damage from what appears to be multiple hits from RPG rockets. Photos released by Emirates News Agency show at least two hits from rockets that penetrated HSV-2 Swift’s bow, in addition to substantial fire damage.
According to media reports, HSV-2 Swift is being assisted by the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers USS Mason (DDG 87) and USS Nitze (DDG 94) as well as USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15). The vessel is currently being towed away from Yemen.
HSV-2 Swift was acquired by the Navy from Incat, a shipbuilder in Tasmania, in 2003, where it served for a number of years in Pacific Command, European Command, and Southern Command until 2013, when the first Joint High-Speed Vessel, USS Spearhead (JSHV 1) replaced it. During its deployments, HSV-2 Swift primarily carried out humanitarian missions, including for relief efforts in the wake of the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the 2006 Israel-Lebanon War. The vessel also took part in a number of deployments, like Southern Partnership Station while in U.S. service.
In 2013, the vessel was returned to Incom, where it was refitted and then acquired by the National Marine Dredging Company in the United Arab Emirates, where the ship was used to deliver humanitarian aid. HSV-2 Swift was on such a mission to not only deliver medical supplies but to extract wounded civilians when it was attacked this past weekend. Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, claimed to have sunk the vessel.
HSV-2 Swift displaces 955 tons of water, has a top speed of 45 knots, and has a crew of 35. The vessel can carry over 600 tons of cargo on nearly 29,000 square foot deck.
The Merchant Marine in World War II was supposed to just tool around the world’s oceans, delivering supplies to ports and troops in Europe, Africa, and the Pacific while the real fighting was done by sailors, soldiers, and Marines. But due to German U-boats and other attackers, the mariners actually operated in an extremely dangerous niche.
A U-boat reloads new torpedoes during World War II.
Regardless of when the attack came, most merchant vessels didn’t have any kind of sonar or radar, not even all Navy vessels had those detection systems in World War II. So, unless your ship was in a large convoy with a naval escort, you won’t know a U-boat was there until it attacked.
German sailors manning deck gun in preparation for attack in North Atlantic Sea. HD Stock Footage
When the U-boat attack got under way, it played out in one of two ways. If there were no threats of a U-boat in the area, you would find out you were under attack when a black hulk slowly surfaced in the nearby waves, a few sailors poured out of it, and the deck gun began firing on your ship.
These were often capable of sending 3.5-inch rounds into the hull of your thin-skinned cargo vessel, allowing water to pour into the lower decks and slowly send you deep into the sea. And since the attacking vessel is a tiny U-boat and not an enemy destroyer or cruiser, there’s no way to get rescued. You have to paddle your lifeboats through a sea filling with oil from the sinking ship, potentially as it’s on fire.
And, believe it or not, that’s, by far, the preferred option.
That’s because the other likely method of attack from a U-boat comes via its torpedo tubes, which means there’s no surfacing ship, no scramble of sailors to warn you. You might, might notice a darkness in the water before a stream bubbles starts racing towards your ship.
If you look a few feet ahead of this stream of bubbles, you’ll see the 21-inch diameter, almost-24-foot-long metal tube barreling towards your ship at nearly 35 mph. It will reach you. It will hit you. And its 600-pound (or heavier) warhead will rip apart the hull.
What happens next depends almost entirely on what cargo is being carried. Got a bunch of foodstuffs like grain and fruit? The boat will sink fairly slowly, and you’ll have a chance to escape. But if you were carrying lots of heavy war materiel, like tanks and planes or, worse, industrial goods like iron and coal, you’re pretty much screwed. The weight and density will take the ship down in minutes.
But the worst came when the ship was carrying fuel or oil. The massive explosion from the torpedo warhead would often rupture any tanks on the targeted vessel, providing a massive burst of heat as the pressure wave mixed the targeted fuel with the outside air, virtually guaranteeing massive fireballs and explosions as the torpedo exploded.
The Allied tanker Dixie Arrow sinks after being torpedoed in the Atlantic Ocean by a German submarine.
When you’re on a tanker and the tanks suddenly explode, there’s not a lot to be done. The steel around you has likely been twisted, the decks are burning hot and searing your flesh, and the blast wave has likely scrambled your brain. If you’re lucky enough to survive, you now have to overcome your scrambled brains, make it through the burning corridors, and then try to get in a boat and get away from the deck before the suction takes you under.
If you did make it out of a shipping ship, your ordeal isn’t over. Traditionally, combat ships would rescue survivors from enemy vessels once hostilities were over. If a cruiser sinks a destroyer, then once the destroyer crew surrenders the cruiser crew would begin taking on the survivors and would later take them to POW camps.
But U-boats barely have enough room for the crews. They can’t take on survivors. So, after sinking anything from a fishing trawler to a destroyer to a passenger ship, the U-boat crew typically can’t do much more than offer some loaves of bread or water before sailing away. They wouldn’t even tell other Allied ships where to pick up the survivors, at least not at first, since that would give away the location of the subs.
Surrender of German U-boat, U-858, 700 miles off the New England Coast to two destroyer escorts, May 10, 1945.
Even if your ship was in a convoy, there was no guarantee that you could be picked up by friendly ships since a U-boat wolf pack could sink the entire convoy, leaving dozens of life boats in its wake, filled with slowly dying soldiers desperate for water or food.
To add insult to injury, Merchant Marine members were rarely paid for any period where they weren’t actively crewing a ship, and no, lifeboats don’t count. So their harrowing trial to survive at sea is performed for free, solely for the hope that they’ll survive.
And throughout all of this, the U.S. would often keep the sinkings of ships secret, reporting just a couple of ship losses every week while dozens might have gone down.
Developed by Raytheon in 1989, the FGM-148 Javelin is a large, shoulder-mounted, infrared-guided missile system capable of piercing 600mm to 800mm steel armor.
The Javelin is a medium-range missile system that fires up to 1.5 miles, weighs about 50 pounds, and costs about $126,000 — plus $78,000 for each missile.
Once the soldier has locked onto a target using the infrared guided system, he or she simply squeezes the trigger and then can take cover, according to the National Interest, because it’s a fire-and-forget system. This means the operator doesn’t have to make any adjustments to the missile flight after firing — as they do with most long-range systems.
Ultimately, it’s “one of the premier portable anti-tank missile systems in the world,” the National Interest said.
Reports have shown that Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas have Russian T-34, T-64, variants of T-72B, and even T-90 tanks.
Javelins can take out all of these, except possibly the T-72B3Ms and T-90s. The latter two sport new Relikt armor, which consists of an explosive layer of armor on top of another layer. They also have grenade and flare decoys that can divert missiles.
Either way, the Javelin has never been tested against Relikt armor, and therefore it’s unknown if the missiles can take out the T-90s and T-72B3Ms.
In any event, President Donald Trump still needs to sign off on the plan — which could take months — to send Ukraine the Javelin and other defensive weapons.
There also remains speculation about the plan’s intentions. “This idea doesn’t flow from a policy or strategy” and could be a political move rather than military one, Michael Kofman, a Wilson Center senior fellow, told the Washington Post.
Questions also remain about whether or not providing weapons to Kiev will inflame the conflict. While France and Germany are concerned that fighting will increase, some US officials, such as Kurt Volker, the US special representative to Ukraine, think it will decrease the fighting.
Russia — which has used Syria to test out its new armaments — and even some US generals, however, are champing at the bit to test how the east and west weapons match up against each other.
At least 10,090 people — including 2,777 civilians — have been killed, and nearly 24,000 have been wounded, through May 15, according to the UN. More than 1.6 million people have been internally displaced.
US special operations is researching how to counteract a new breed of warfare that Russia, China and Iran have been using quite successfully in recent years, Defense News reported.
Known as gray-zone conflict or hybrid warfare, it encompasses “activities conducted to enable a resistance movement or insurgency to coerce, disrupt, or overthrow a government or occupying power by operating through or with an underground, auxiliary, or guerrilla force in a denied area,” according to the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act.
In response, US special ops is looking to develop “predictive analytic technologies that will help us identify when countries are utilizing unconventional warfare techniques at levels essentially below our normal observation thresholds,” Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Theresa Whelan told Congress on May 2.
That’s because in hybrid warfare, aggressors will try to mask who they really are, such as Russia’s use of “little green men” in Crimea and in eastern Ukraine where its own special operations forces helped support an insurgency.
“Without a credible smoking gun, NATO will find it difficult to agree on an intervention,” according to NATO REVIEW Magazine.
The Pentagon study will help the US identify early evidence of unconventional warfare, Whelan said.
Many people in countries along Russia’s border, especially in the eastern part of those countries, have close cultural ties, like language and history, to Russia. Therefore public opinion about identity and Russia in these regions is oftentimes sharply divided.
No one yet knows how the US will actually try to counteract such warfare, but “technology will play a significant role,” Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, told Business Insider, specifically mentioning artificial intelligence, robotics and drones.
The presence and use of special ops will also increase, as they already have in places like Iraq and Syria. “More special ops died last year than conventional forces,” Lemmon said. “I think that points to the future of warfare.”
This new kind of warfare also brings up questions about the rules of engagement, and how the US can counteract it without triggering a full-scale conventional war.
“I genuinely think no one can answer that,” Lemmon said. “It is taking the idea of warfare into a totally different realm.”
While the results of the study are two years late, the Pentagon expects to have an “answer with our thoughts” before the end of June, Whalen told Congress.
Fighting holes have been used as effective defensive positions for decades, stymieing the enemy’s deadly offensive movements. Some branches of service refer to these dug-in positions as “foxholes,” but both terms refer to the exact same thing.
How a fighting hole is constructed depends greatly on the amount of time a troop intends to spend occupying a position. If a troop intends on staying in the fight from a single position for a prolonged period of time, it might be outfitted with entertainment options to stave off the boredom that comes from long hours of waiting. In this case, it’s not uncommon to find things left behind by a previous occupant for the next troop to enjoy.
But, when a fighting hole is constructed and is only going to be occupied for a short period, the troops within need to get clever with killing time. So, if living in a fighting hole is in your near future, learn from the troops before you.
Here’s few ways troops have killed time while dug-in on the front lines.
Then-Lt. Micheal “Spicy” Dorsey with a smile on his face while in the COC at OP Taylor, Sangin, Afghanistan, 2011.
(U.S. Navy photo by HM3 (FMF) Tim Kirkpatrick)
Continuously listen in on the radio
Although there’s always someone monitoring the comm gear to relay important messages as they come through, military radios can also be pretty entertaining if you listen closely enough. Communications between various units sometimes plays out like a military soap opera.
Troops request various items, get denied those items, and, if you’re lucky, they’ll hold down the “push to talk” button on the handset as they talk sh*t after being rejected.
We call these epic fails “hot mics.”
Smoke cigarettes until the sun goes down
In Afghanistan, Pine cigarettes run about a id=”listicle-2581849130″ per pack. Ground troops bring a little cash with them to the front line, so they’ll often buy smokes off the locals. When there’s nothing else to do, they’ll chain smoke ’em for entertainment. The only problem is, once the sun goes down, smoking a cigarette is a violation of force protection.
No one wants to bring danger to their brothers just to get a nicotine fix.
HM3 (FMF) Tim Kirkpatrick thinks about the beautiful Southern California warm weather while freezing his ass off in Sangin, Afghanistan, 2011.
(U.S. Marine photo by Lt. Micheal “Spicy” Dorsey)
Think about the sh*t you’re going to do when you get home
While you’re stationed in a desolate area with virtually nothing to look at but a handful of villagers doing their laundry, troops’ minds start to wander, thinking about what they’ll do once they get home. Whether it’s going surfing, registering for school, or just going out to drink a cold beer, plenty of ideas drift through a troop’s mind as they man their defensive position.
Pvt. Codi Hoffman waits in a fighting position that he and a few fellow Soldiers built during a battalion-wide field training exercise.
(Photo by Sgt. Christopher M. Gaylord)
Build narratives of imaginary firefights
When troops are positioned in fighting holes, there’s a strong chance they’ll take incoming fire — it’s less a matter of ‘if’ and more a matter of ‘when.’ So, they stay close to their rifles and predict where a threat may come from. They develop a narrative in their head of what actions they might take in order to fight off the bad guys — and maybe score a cool kill shot in the process.
Screw watching Hollywood movies, grunts create their own fiction while they’ve got nothing but time on their hands.
A precision strike missile was fired on April 30, 2020, at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, and hit a target 85 kilometers away. (Lockheed Martin)
U.S. Army modernization officials want to field a new mid-range missile that can kill targets at triple the distance of the 500-kilometer-range Precision Strike Missile (PrSM). For context, that’s enough range to fire from Washington, D.C. and hit Florida.
The new surface-to-surface missile that the Army wants — which would be capable of operating between 500 kilometers to 1,500 kilometers, or 310 to 930 miles — could be positioned in strategic areas in the Pacific island chains to deter China, Brig. Gen. John Rafferty, director of the Army’s Long-Range Precision Fires Cross-Functional Team (LRPF CFT), said in a recent service news release.
“What a dilemma that would create for our adversary,” Rafferty said. “How we would change the calculus in a second, if we could deliver this kind of capability out there.”
Modernization officials hope to introduce the new mid-range missile sometime in 2023, according to the release. The effort is currently a research project by the officials at the LRPF CFT, Field Artillery School, Fires Capability Development Integration Directorate, and Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office.
The long-range precision fires effort is the Army’s top modernization priority and the focus of several strategic-range weapons programs.
The PrSM recently completed a successful April 30 test at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. The next phase of testing will include four shots, one to be fired out into the Pacific Ocean from the California coastline.
“We’ll go to Vandenberg Air Force Base, and we’ll test it out into the ocean and see how far it will go,” Rafferty said in the release.
If successful, the PrSM will have a maximum range of 500 kilometers, or 310 miles, compared to 300-kilometer, or 186-mile, range of the MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) it will begin replacing in 2023.
The Army is also working with the Navy to develop and field a hypersonic missile battery by 2023. The joint-service effort successfully tested a common hypersonic glide vehicle across the Pacific in March. An Army unit is slated to start training on the system without the live rounds next year, according to the release.
But the project is not without controversy, Rafferty said in the release, adding its feasibility is being examined by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
“We’re going to get a fair evaluation,” he said. “They appreciate the operation and utility in our approach of a volume of fire with more affordable projectiles.”
Even if the system is not expected to be fielded soon, Rafferty said that science and technology projects such as strategic long-range cannon will ultimately help with deterrence.
“It’s not just moving units around and fielding systems,” he said in the release. “It’s also where our research and development is and where our science and technology investment is. So, we’re having an effect with our approach to this.”
A surprise maneuver at the end of December 2018 ensured Coast Guardsmen got their final paychecks of 2018, despite the government shutdown that began on Dec. 22, 2018.
But the shutdown has dragged on, and the income for some 50,000 personnel, including 42,000 deemed essential personnel and required to work during the shutdown, remains in doubt as the first payday of 2019 approaches.
Salaries for the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps are covered by the Defense Department, which got its full funding the for the fiscal year in the fall of 2018. But while the Coast Guard is a military branch, it is part of the Department of Homeland Security, funding for which had not been approved by the time the shutdown began.
Coast Guard operations have continued, however.
Coast Guard personnel prepare a sling that will hoist a 12,000-pound beached buoy, near Chatham, Massachusetts, May 9, 2017.
(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Barresi)
On Dec. 23, 2018, Coast Guard crews on training exercises in Hawaii were diverted twice, first to medevac a snorkeler who was having a medical emergency and then to rescue passengers from a capsized vessel. In January 2019, Coast Guard crews in the Pacific have been involved in searches for crew members from two different vessels.
Officials said on Dec. 28, 2018, that the Homeland Security Department had found a way to supply about million needed to cover pay for the Dec. 31, 2018 pay period, but they said they would be unable to repeat it for the Jan. 15, 2019 payday.
There is some money within the Homeland Security Department that has moved around to keep things going, but some activities, like issuing licenses, has been curtailed. Funding for other services, like child-care subsidies, is also running out, further complicating life for service members and their families.
During the first week of January 2019, the Pay Our Coast Guard Act was introduced to the Senate by Republican Sen. John Thune, cosponsored by Republican Sens. Roger Wicker, Susan Collins, Cindy Hyde Smith, and Democratic Sens. Marla Cantwell, Richard Blumenthal, Doug Jones, and Brian Schatz.
A family poses with Jane Coastie at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in New York City, May 29, 2017.
(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Himes)
The bill would pay active, retired, and civilian Coast Guard personnel despite the shutdown. It would also fund benefits for retired members, death gratuities, and other payouts.
Thune’s measure was first introduced in 2015 but died after being referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee. After a grassroots effort generated 141,015 letters to congress members asking for its reintroduced, the bill was resubmitted on Jan. 3, 2019, the first day of the 116th Congress.
“All we know so far, is that if this isn’t resolved by the 10th they will not get paid on the 15th,” Coast Guard spouse Stephanie Lisle told ConnectingVets.com. “Hopefully the bill gets passed.”
The bill garnered support from more than a dozen veterans groups, but it would also have to pass the House of Representatives, which is now controlled by Democrats, and be signed by President Donald Trump.
Early January 2019 Trump said he was prepared to keep the government shut down for “months or even years” after he and Democratic leaders again failed to resolve his demand for billions in funding for a border wall.
“We won’t be opening until it’s solved,” Trump said on Jan. 4, 2019. “I don’t call it a shutdown. I call it doing what you have to do for the benefit and the safety of our country.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Sheik Abdul Hasib is a stout Pakistani who chose to fight under the flag of ISIS in eastern Afghanistan. The area he chose as his redoubt is the border with Pakistan, not too far from where Osama bin Laden and the Arab-speaking jihadis chose to build caves and fight the Soviets in the ’80s. Now seeking to tax poppy growers in the Nangahar province and establish ISIS Khurahsan, the long-haired Pakistani Orakzai tribal fighters have been streaming over four mountain passes from the Khyber and Orakzai regions in Parchinar since 2015. Since then, they’ve terrorized the locals, beheading children and elders alike, and launched a number of violent attacks in Afghanistan.
The Afghan anti-terrorist force began in Kabul and expanded to other major urban areas. Unlike the military, they’re trained by the world’s most elite counter-terrorism units to work in intense scenarios in which hundreds of civilians may be at risk. Photo from Recoilweb.com
ISIS established a foothold in the Pakistan tribal areas in mid-2014 with the fracturing of the “little T” Taliban that was made up of former Pakistan-based Taliban fighters. Leaderless, they flowed northward into Afghanistan in 2015 when around 70 ISIS trainers travelled from Syria to school them in tactics, public relations, and ambushes. Led by Abdul Rauf Khadem, a former bin Laden confidant, ISIS began paying three times the Afghan government salary, and twice that of the Taliban. They launched their new sub brand, ISIS-Khurasan, with brutal videos of hapless villagers being blown up and other filmed executions. Islamic religion tradition insists that horse-mounted jihadis carrying the Black Flags of Khurasan will signal the retaking of the Holy Land and the end of Christianity. Not surprisingly, ISIS PR cameramen filmed chubby Pakistanis jogging and jerking along on Afghan nags carrying black flags in their videos.
The cash and the PR campaign worked. In September 2015, the UN estimated ISIS penetrated 25 out of the 34 provinces.
The Crisis Response Unit is legendary in Afghanistan. They’re never seen in public and stay on their base until a crisis occurs, and then they deploy in minutes directly into a hostage situation. Photo from Recoilweb.com
When I met with Resolute Support commander General “Mick” Nicholson in December, he made it clear that although the NATO side of the war was treading water, the counter-terrorism fight wasn’t hindered by a lack of funding or increasing intensity. While the USA waited patiently for the election to end, General Nicholson made his move.
On April 13, 2017, the sky lit up above Achin and the ground shook through eastern Afghanistan as US special operations forces dropped a 12,000-pound MOAB munition that detonated above the exact area ISIS selected as their headquarters.
Nicholson’s air strike had maximum effect. The USA turned the ISIS fighter’s concealment and isolation into their damnation. About 90 fighters were killed instantly by the pressure wave and collapsing buildings.
Although the rank and file of ISIS K were decimated, the work of actually finishing the job was left to US ground operators and Afghans. Ten days later, at 10:30 p.m., 50 US Army Rangers and 40 Afghan commandos went in on the location of Sheik Hasib, gunning him down about a mile away from where the bomb went off in Mohmand Valley. As in all special operation ground missions, drones, AC 130s, F16s, and Apaches provided constant top cover and ISR support. Down below, air controllers coordinated the troops moving forward, calling out targets and hostiles for Afghan commandos. ISIS in the east was snuffed out like a candle.
(Photo from Recoilweb.com)
The top leadership and 35 members of ISIS were finally removed because they had crossed the line. They had carried out a devastating March 2017 attack on a 400-bed military hospital in Kabul in which ISIS personnel disguised as medical staff killed scores of people. Enough was enough.
Although MOAB was a global headline grabber and there’s every indication that America is getting back into the fight, much of the dirty work of killing terrorists face to face has been left to the Afghans. It’s for this reason that I visited a little-known counter-terrorism unit high above the hills of Kabul.
It’s Friday, the day off in Afghanistan, but Lieutenant Colonel Abdul Raqib Mubariz, the head of Afghanistan’s elite’s counter-terrorism team, has invited me over. He’s clean-shaven, tall, and eager to meet me. He runs the Afghan Crisis Response Unit 222, or CRU 222 for short. He’s unapologetic about his team. His and his men’s job is to kill terrorists in Kabul. Fast.
It’s a brutally simple idea taught to them originally by the SAS and carried forward in their training by American, and now Norwegian, commandos. When suicide bombers try to take hostages en masse, the unit’s mission is to get in and kill them without restraint. In their brutal experience, the faster they kill terrorists the lower the casualties.
Their spotless base sits on the old site of Camp Gibson, overlooking the outskirts of Kabul.
Kabul is the fifth fastest growing city in the world. Under the Taliban in 2001 the population was barely 1.5 million; today almost 4 million people call Kabul home. Photo from Recoilweb.com
Mubariz walks me around the camp and explains the unit has three groups, one active, one in training, and one in reserve. On operations they have a 60-man protection unit and three operations groups. They work 15 days on and 15 days off, and they’re set up to respond to a crisis quickly; their goal is to be out the door within five minutes of a call.
He expresses pride that his men can “assess a situation, form a plan, and have all the belligerents dead within minutes. Instead of the hours it used to take, now we can be ready in three minutes.”
To underline the seriousness and intensity of their task, he estimates that last year 97 of his 7,000-person, nationwide staff were killed. The high-casualty rate doesn’t faze his enthusiasm for the task.
The training for the anti-terrorist squad lasts four months with a dropout rate of 10 to 15 percent of the class. “We get better training than the commandos, but we work together,” Raqib tells me, talking about another Afghan special mission unit that operates in the rural areas of the country. “We recruit from all over the country.”
I want to understand how this unit ended the March 2017 hospital attack, the most brutal terrorist act after the recent bomb attack at Camp Shahin. He offers to have his men perform a demonstration.
The men roll up to a practice building in armored Humvees, dismount, and take a knee; they lay out a protective circle and deploy snipers. They set up a command and control center, gather intel, and agree on an entry plan. Then, the teams deploy and breach, clearing each room until they reach the top.
(Photo from Recoilweb.com)
The men are fast, aggressive, and their actions appear well rehearsed. But this is an empty building with a journalist sticking a camera in their faces, not a burning building with martyrs killing their way to a 72-virgin afterlife.
The 222 benefits from the knowledge passed on by foreign military advisors. Norwegians from the Marinejegerkommandoen were also on hand supervising and offering training guidance. The Norwegians declined to be officially interviewed, but 222’s opinion of them is effusive. “We love it when they taught us how to shoot off the back of motorcycles in the dark,” one commando laughs.
To understand 222’s tactical response to the Kabul hospital attack, I met with the officer (unnamed at his request) that led the hospital attack.
The soft-spoken colonel describes the siege. “It was Wednesday, March 8, 8:45 in the morning. The first car bomb went off at 9 a.m. at the rear of the hospital. By 9:45 a.m. we were stuck in all kinds of traffic. We travel in armored Humvees, five men to a vehicle. We had to hit cars to get out them out the way. We were waved around to a different entrance from the normal entrance when the second car bomb went off.”
The remnants of a vehicle bomb during the March 8, 2017, ISIS attack on the Sardar Daud Khan Military Hospital in Kabul. (Photo from Recoilweb.com)
The eight-story pink Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan Hospital is in the Wazir Akbar Khan District of Kabul and is the largest military hospital in Afghanistan. Named after the last prime minister before the Soviets landed, the staff provides medical care to members of the Afghan military and their families. There are also two floors filled with wounded Taliban fighters along with a VIP wing; in addition, there are soldiers housed here who are wounded so seriously they can’t be sent home.
“It was complicated when we arrived on scene because we had more than 1,000 doctors, patients, and visitors.” The colonel says there were 400 beds in an eight-floor building and an unknown number of terrorists wearing suicide vests with grenades, knives, and rifles inside. “I was just thinking how we can protect civilians before we can kill the terrorists.”
The men ISIS sent to cause mayhem weren’t just suicide bombers, but fourth-generation suicide fighters called inghimasis, or “those who plunge” into battle. The four attackers were let into the hospital by an employee, the colonel tells us. They put on white lab coats and began to shoot indiscriminately, using knives to kill bedridden victims to conserve ammunition.
“Once the Afghan Army commandos arrived, I stopped everyone and explained how we can work together. We have British SAS tactics; the Afghan Special Forces uses American [tactics]. We have different training and tactics, and we could kill each other.”
The units deconflicted by leap-frogging each other as they cleared the buildings seven floors, floor by floor.
“We are clearing each room, but ultimately we run to the shooting,” says the colonel. “The problem was most of the victims were being stabbed with knives and [the attackers] were dressed in lab coats like many of the hostages. On the second floor we killed the third man; we shot him, and he blew up. Again we ran to the shooting. In various rooms, there were people hiding. The gunman had killed one or two people in each room.”
The responders killed another shooter on the fourth floor as he was hiding behind a bed. “We found another terrorist on the fifth floor. We shot him, and he blew up.”
Like many Afghans, and out of respect for the dead, he won’t describe the specifics of the dozens of victims. Most of the people had been killed with knives. Later I find out from one of the men who was there that a pregnant women, the wife of a military officer, screamed, “You can’t kill me!” He looks down and describes the brutality, “They cut out her child and then killed her.”
(Photo from Recoilweb.com)
Finally, there were 65 hostages on the top floor being held by the last gunman.
“I had heard shooting from the rooftop, and I requested an air drop,” says the Colonel. “The Mi-17 will carry 15 troops and can land on the roof where people were fleeing. Some were on the window ledges outside. [Our] snipers were using the windows, but there weren’t clear shots in the confusion. There is a green house on the top floor, and we went up and found the hostages.”
“We were using CS grenades and wearing gas masks,” he says. “It’s hard to see through the mask when you’re running and the smoke. So I aimed for his center of his vest and he exploded, killing some of the hostages.” When I ask him why he didn’t take a head a shot he looks up and just gives me a pained look.
“I think we were done by 14:00. We then had to coordinate the removal of the dead and wounded, and order ambulances since all the staff had fled.”
At the end, over 60 people were dead and roughly as many were wounded.
The attackers were trained in Pakistan and were reportedly told to kill as many people as possible before detonating their suicide vests. (Photo from Recoilweb.com)
UNDERSTANDING THE ENEMY
Colonel Mir Ebaidullah Mirzada from Kapisa province explains how ISIS recruits and trains for these attacks. “I was in military school in high school, then I joined CID police. I spent 31 years in the intelligence service,” he says. His job now is to make sense of these attacks and understand the enemy. That enemy, he says, is increasingly more foreign.
The history of the CRU also coincides with violent attacks launched from Pakistan.
“There was a series of attacks in Kabul in 2005. At that time there was no special unit. They sent police, members of the Afghan National Directorate of Security and the Army, and there were a lot of civilian casualties. It was then they decided to create the CRU. National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar established a division of special police when he was interior minister.”
The work of CRU 222 is not without sacrifice. In 2016, 97 members of the Afghan national anti-terrorism group were killed. (Photo from Recoilweb.com)
The first unit was 222. They started with 100 members; now they have around 7,000. Ebedullah was one of the originals. “We started with Hungarian and Bulgarian AKs, Russian PiKas (PKM), and Iranian RPGs. We swapped to Russian AKs [after] seven years with a gift of 20,000 AKs, and now, thanks to the US Embassy, we’re using M4s.
The men of the 222 still have to tape their flashlights to the barrel and make do with Chinese knockoff gear. They favor the bright green laundry bag camo pattern sprayed on their gear. It used to take three hours for the unit to jock up, and now it takes them less than five minutes to get out of their compound. Still, a Colonel gets by on $600 a month, and some of the men aren’t fully kitted. But they don’t complain. He pulls out the dossier on the attack on the hospital attack.
More than 70 percent of Kabul’s population lives in illegal settlements like these hillside homes built without permits or proper sanitation. These migrants include thousands of former jihadis returning from Pakistan. (Photo from Recoilweb.com)
“The attackers were from Pakistan, two from Tajikistan, and two were Afghan. The people know that Pakistan is behind this.” He takes pains to read the next sentence carefully.
“They trained for four months by Major Ahmad from ISI Punjab, in Mansehra near the military base at Rawalpindi. This information comes from the ‘other side,'” he noted with a smile. Manserhra is only 13 miles north of where bin Laden was found and killed in Abbottabad.
Recruiting is done from the madrasas, free religious schools sponsored by Sunni donors from the Gulf area.
(Photo from Recoilweb.com)
Mirzada lays out the training process. “They pass three steps to come. The first step is for ISI people who operated under the guise of being scholars who train young people. They identify those who respond to extreme ideology.”
Despite the steady stream of violent attacks, the people of Kabul go on with their daily lives. In 16 years the country has experienced dramatic growth and education. (Photo from Recoilweb.com)
“In the madrasa they’re separated, and when they say, ‘I want to be a martyr,’ they’re ready. Then the preparation work stops. They blindfold them and take them to a military base. There they’re trained about three months on weapons, explosives, and what destiny awaits them in paradise. Before the plan [takes] place they set up companies to provide fake IDs, transportation, and lodging. They transport them to Kabul without weapons.”
Typically, he says, they’re between 14 and 25 years old, mostly from poor families. Their family gets paid 400,000 Pakistani rupees, just under $4,000 US, after they’ve reached the end of their path to martyrdom.
“The handlers train them again to get used to the area where they speak Pashto,” Mirzada says. “There are also people who know Farsi. Once they learn the area, then they ship in the weapons. There are also people who are responsible to make the film. Even when they rush and fight, they’re always filming. Before they attack they film a speech and they get injections to make them brave.”
The elite reputation of CRU 222 attracts hundreds of young Afghan recruits; 15 percent will drop out during training. (Photo from Recoilweb.com)
One witness in the media insists he heard one of the men talking to “Mullah Sahib,” which sounds like Mullah Hasib, the head of the ISIS cell in Nangahar. The man gunned down after the MOAB was dropped by US forces. Mirzada closes the file.
When and if another hostage situation occurs, CRU 222 sits waiting for the call, stopwatch at the ready.