The US and its coalition partners have dropped more bombs on Afghanistan in the first ten months of 2018 than any year in the past five years, the US military revealed Nov. 29, 2018.
Between January and October of 2018, the US-led coalition dropped 5,982 bombs in support of Operation Freedom Sentinel and Operation Resolute Support, significantly more than the previous years.
Coalition strike aircraft flew 6,584 sorties during that time, 783 of which involved the release of a weapon, the US Air Forces Central Command’s Combined Air Operations Center disclosed in its monthly Airpower Statistics report.
The Trump administration made airpower a priority for the war in Afghanistan. With the relocation of Air National Guard KC-135 refueling tankers from Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar to Kandahar last fall, the US-led coalition has been able to increase the number of airstrikes against the Taliban and other enemy combatants.
In addition to the refueling tankers, a number of A-10C Thunderbolt attack aircraft, HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters, and MQ-9 Reaper drones were also shifted to Kandahar, Military.com reported Nov. 28, 2018.
A U.S. Air Force MQ-9A Reaper.
The US and its coalition partners have made progress in the fight against ISIS, but while the number of bombs falling on Afghanistan is on the rise, the coalition continues to struggle to secure victory against a surging and brutal Taliban foe.
The Afghan government’s control of the country has been slipping over the past few years, falling from 72 percent in 2015 to just over half in the third quarter of 2018. In that period, Afghanistan lost 28,529 security force personnel, the Afghan president said in November 2018.
The US continues to suffer losses as well.
Five US troops were killed in November 2018, one to an insider attack, one to accidental friendly fire, and three to an improvised explosive device. Thirteen US service members have died fighting in Afghanistan in 2018, as US forces have largely shifted to advise, assist and training missions.
The Taliban “are not losing right now, I think that is fair to say,” Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said. “We used the term stalemate a year ago and, relatively speaking, it has not changed much.”
Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
“We do believe the Taliban know that at some point they do have to reconcile,” Dunford added, stressing that the key is to pressure the Taliban, which has also suffered heavy losses, to eventually negotiate.
Reporters from the Washington Post recently questioned President Donald Trump on America’s presence in Afghanistan. “We’re there because virtually every expert that I have and speak to say if we don’t go there, they’re going to be fighting over here. And I’ve heard it over and over again,” he replied.
He further remarked that there is talk of peace, but added that he was unsure if that is a real possibility.
Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon Nov. 28, 2018, Mattis said the peace process is “picking up momentum,” but did not go into additional detail.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Taking a break from their pre-season training camp in O’ahu, Hawaii, the LA Clippers basketball team, coaches, and staff paid their respects during a tour of the USS Arizona Memorial on Sept. 27, 2017.
Service members from all branches of the military accompanied them at Merry Point Landing, located on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, to guide them through the hallowed grounds of the memorial.
It wasn’t a publicity stunt — the only official photographer was on site was Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Meranda Keller. No news site has reported on this at the time of this article’s writing.
These players are genuinely here to honor resting place of the 1,102, of the 1,117 sailors and Marines who lost their lives Dec. 7, 1941.
While at the memorial, players were each guided by service members who would tell them of the history of the site and what happened on that tragic day.
After the tour, the Clippers spent time with the troops. They joked and took photos with members of the Armed Forces.
Cybersecurity firms have found clues that last weekend’s global “ransomware” attack, which infected more than 300,000 computers in 150 countries, could be linked to North Korea.
The security companies Sympantec and Kaspersky Lab said on May 15 that portions of the “WannaCry” ransomware used in the attacks have the same code as malware previously distributed by Lazarus, a group behind the 2014 Sony hack blamed on North Korea.
“This is the best clue we have seen to date as to the origins of WannaCry,” Kaspersky researchers said.
But it’s possible the code was simply copied from the Lazarus malware without any other direct connection, the companies said.
Symantec said the similarities between WannaCry and Lazarus tools “so far only represent weak connections. We are continuing to investigate for stronger connections.”
Israeli security firm Intezer Labs said it agreed that North Korea might be behind the attack.
Vital Systems Paralyzed
The WannaCry virus over the weekend paralyzed vital computer systems around the world that run factories, banks, government agencies, and transport systems in some 150 countries.
The virus mainly hit computers running older versions of Microsoft Windows software that had not been recently updated.
But by May 15, the fast-spreading extortion scheme was waning. The only new outbreaks reported were in China, where traffic police and schools said they had been targeted, but there were no major disruptions.
The link to North Korea found by the security firms will be closely followed by law-enforcement agencies around the world, including Washington.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s homeland security adviser said on May 15 that both foreign nations and cybercriminals were possible culprits.
Symantec and Kaspersky said they need to study the code more and asked for others to help with the analysis. Hackers reuse code from other operations at times, so even copied lines fall well short of proof.
U.S. and European security officials told the Reuters news agency that it was still too early to say who might be behind the attacks, but they did not rule out North Korea as a suspect.
The Lazarus hackers, acting for impoverished North Korea, have been more brazen in pursuit of financial gain than some other hackers, and have been blamed for the theft of $81 million from a Bangladesh bank.
Moreover, North Korea might have motives to launch such a large-scale, global attack as its economy is crumbling under some of the stiffest-ever UN economic sanctions imposed over its repeated testing of nuclear bombs and ballistic missiles.
The United Nations Security Council on May 15 condemned Pyongyang’s latest missile test the previous day, and vowed to take further measures, including possible new sanctions, in response to its “highly destabilizing behavior and flagrant and provocative defiance” of existing prohibitions against such tests.
Whoever is responsible, the perpetrators of the massive weekend attacks have raised very little money thus far — less than $70,000 from users looking to regain access to their computers, according to Trump’s homeland security adviser Tom Bossert.
Some private sector cybersecurity experts do not believe the motive of the attacks was primarily to make money, given the apparently meager revenues that were raised by the unprecedented large operation. They said that wreaking havoc likely was the primary goal.
The countries most affected by WannaCry were Russia, Taiwan, Ukraine, and India, according to Czech security firm Avast.
Bossert denied charges by Russian President Vladimir Putin and others that the attacks originated in the United States, and came from a hacking tool developed by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) that was later leaked online.
“This was not a tool developed by the NSA to hold ransom data. This was a tool developed by culpable parties, potentially criminals or foreign nation-states, that were put together in such a way as to deliver phishing e-mails, put it into embedded documents, and cause infection, encryption, and locking,” Bossert said.
British media were hailing as a hero a 22-year-old computer security expert who appeared to have helped stop the attack from spreading by discovering a “kill switch” — an Internet address which halted the virus when activated.
The Army’s new “Vision” for future war calls for a fast-moving emphasis on long-range precision fire to include missiles, hypersonic weapons and extended-range artillery — to counter Russian threats on the European continent, service officials explain.
While discussing the Army Vision, an integral component of the service’s recently competed Modernization Strategy, Secretary of the Army Mark Esper cited long-range precision fire as a “number one modernization priority” for the Army.
Senior Army officials cite concerns that Russian weapons and troop build-ups present a particular threat to the US and NATO in Europe, given Russia’s aggressive force posture and arsenal of accurate short, medium and long-range ballistic missiles.
“The US-NATO military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, for example, is in the range fan of Russian assets. That is how far things can shoot. You do not have sanctuary status in that area,” a senior Army official told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Russian SS-21 Scarab
The senior Army weapons developer said the service intends to engineer an integrated series of assets to address the priorities outlined by Esper; these include the now-in-development Long Range Precision Fires missile, Army hypersonic weapons programs and newly configured long-range artillery able to double the 30-km range of existing 155m rounds. The Army is now exploring a longer-range artillery weapon called “Extended Range Cannon,” using a longer cannon, ramjet propulsion technology and newer metals to pinpoint targets much farther away.
Army leaders have of course been tracking Russian threats in Europe for quite some time. The Russian use of combined arms, drones, precision fires, and electronic warfare in Ukraine has naturally received much attention at the Pentagon.
Also, the Russian violations of the INF Treaty, using medium-range ballistic missiles, continues to inform the US European force posture. Russia’s INF Treaty violation, in fact, was specifically cited in recent months by Defense Secretary James Mattis as part of the rationale informing the current Pentagon push for new low-yield nuclear weapons.
The Arms Control Association’s (ACA) “Worldwide Inventory of Ballistic Missiles” cites several currently operational short, medium and long-range Russian missiles which could factor into the threat equation outlined by US leaders. The Russian arsenal includes shorter range weapons such as the mobile OTR-21 missile launch system, designated by NATO as the SS-21 Scarab C, which is able to hit ranges out to 185km, according to ACA.
Russian medium-range theater ballistic missiles, such as the RS-26 Rubezh, have demonstrated an ability to hit targets at ranges up to 5,800km. Finally, many Russian long-range ICBMs, are cited to be able to destroy targets as far away as 11,000km – these weapons, the ACA specifies, include the RT-2PM2 Topol-M missile, called SS-27 by NATO.
It is not merely the range of these missiles which could, potentially, pose a threat to forward-positioned or stationary US and NATO assets in Europe — it is the advent of newer long-range sensors, guidance and targeting technology enabling a much higher level of precision and an ability to track moving targets. GPS technology, inertial navigation systems, long-range high-resolution sensors, and networked digital radar systems able to operate on a wide range of frequencies continue to quickly change the ability of forces to maneuver, operate and attack.
While discussing the Army Vision, Esper specified the importance of “out-ranging” an enemy during a recent event at the Brookings Institution.
“We think that for a number of reasons we need to make sure we have overmatch and indirect fires, not just for a ground campaign, but also, we need to have the ability to support our sister services,” Esper told Brooking’s Michael O’Hanlon, according to a transcript of the event.
The Army’s emerging Long-Range Precision Fires(LRPF), slated to be operational by 2027, draws upon next generation guidance technology and weapons construction to build a weapon able to destroy targets as far as 500km away.
LRPF is part of an effort to engineer a sleek, high-speed, first-of-its-kind long-range ground launched attack missile able to pinpoint and destroy enemy bunkers, helicopter staging areas, troop concentrations, air defenses and other fixed-location targets from as much as three times the range of existing weapons, service officials said.
Long-range surface-to-surface fires, many contend, could likely be of great significance against an adversary such as Russia – a country known to possess among most advanced air defenses in the world. Such a scenario might make it difficult for the US to quickly establish the kind of air supremacy needed to launch sufficient air attacks. As a result, it is conceivable that LRPF could provide strategically vital stand-off attack options for commanders moving to advance on enemy terrain.
Esper specifically referred to this kind of scenario when discussing “cross-domain” fires at the Brookings event; the Army Vision places a heavy premium on integrated high-end threats, potential attacks which will require a joint or inter-service combat ability, he said. In this respect, long range precision fires could potentially use reach and precision to destroy enemy air defenses, allowing Air Force assets a better attack window.
“This is why long-range precision fires is number one for the Army. So, if I need to, for example, suppress enemy air defenses using long-range artillery, I have the means to do that, reaching deep into the enemy’s rear. What that does, if I can suppress enemy air defenses, either the guns, missiles, radars…ect.. it helps clear the way for the Air Force to do what they do — and do well,” Esper said.
Army Secretary Mark Esper
(U.S. Army photo by David Vergun)
In addition, there may also be some instances where a long-range cruise missile — such as a submarine or ship-fired Tomahawk — may not be available; in this instance, LRPF could fill a potential tactical gap in attack plans.
Raytheon and Lockheed recently won a potential 6 million deal to develop the LRPF weapon through a technological maturation and risk reduction phase, Army and industry officials said.
Service weapons developers tell Warrior a “shoot-off” of several LRPF prototypes is currently planned for 2020 as a key step toward achieving operational status.
Esper also highlighted the potential “cross-domain” significance of how Army-Navy combat integration could be better enabled by long-range fires.
“If we’re at a coast line and we can help using long-range weapons … I’m talking about multi-hundred-mile range rockets, artillery, et cetera, to help suppress enemies and open up the door, if you will, so that the Navy can gain access to a certain theater,” Esper explained.
While Long-Range Precision Fires is specified as the number one priority, the Army Vision spells out a total of six key focus areas: Long-Range Precision Fires; Next-Generation Combat Vehicle; Future Vertical Life; Army Network; Air and Missile Defense; Soldier Lethality.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
Music from a fife and drums rang in the ears of a father and son as they sat around the campfire. Brian E. Withrow and his 14-year-old son, Josh, talked with fellow re-enactors, also clad in Union blue, the night before their first re-enactment at the Battle of Cedar Creek in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.
Now and then, the discussion turned to times on the battlefield when the re-enactor could almost feel as if he was actually walking in the boots of a Civil War Soldier.
Fifteen years later, the Withrow duo are back in camp at the same Virginia battlefield, except the son is now a 29-year-old re-enactment veteran, and the father plays a commanding general’s assistant chief of staff . What hasn’t changed is their shared love of history, and the one thing that has kept them returning to re-enactment battlefields is the search for those special times when they feel almost transported back in time. They call those times “Civil War moments.”
“An example was at the 145th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, and we were doing the battle through the cornfield,” said Brian, a retired lieutenant colonel and munitions officer. “It was early morning, still dark, with just the glimpses of light coming up. There was a mist over the field. The artillery was firing, and I could see the blasts from their muzzles.
“In front of me, the very first wave of federal soldiers was given the command to go into the cornfield. For that brief moment, there were no telephone poles, no vehicles. There was just the cannon fire and musketry fire with one of the just-right conditions and glimpses that give you that moment of, ‘Wow! That must have been what it was like.'”
An interest in U.S. history from his youth led Brian to consider the re-enactment hobby when he was stationed at the Pentagon in 1997, with the numerous Civil War battlefields in Maryland and Virginia. Josh shared the love of history, so the two attended re-enactments together as spectators until his father asked him if he would like to try the hobby with him. They watched the 136th anniversary re-enactment of the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia in 1999, and after talking to re-enactors in the 3rd U.S. Infantry, Company B, they decided to join the unit.
Josh was still two years away from his 16th birthday, so he wasn’t able to carry a weapon at their first re-enactment at Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park later that year, but as it turned out, he was right where the action was. In the Battle of Cedar Creek in the fall of 1864, forces led by Gen. Jubal Early over-ran federal forces, although Union Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan later made his famous ride to lead a rout of the Confederates, which helped the Union crush the resistance in the Shenandoah.
“I was too young to carry a gun, and I didn’t have any shoes that would fit me, so I had to stay in the tent while my dad went to take the field,” Josh said. “But, of course, the battle came to me. I was sitting there inside the tent, while there were two rows of infantry firing at each other around me, and it’s lighting up with the gunpowder. It was so dark outside, and all you could see were the flashes of the muzzles of the guns. It was just one of the coolest things I’d ever seen, and we were thinking, ‘We are going to keep on doing this.'”
Brian’s interest in re-enacting began with a question about his ancestors’ role in the Civil War. Through his research and participation in re-enactments, he was able to correct what the family believed about an ancestor who fought and died in the war. For years, the family’s oral history showed that George Dugan, a private in the 10th Illinois Infantry, died in a Confederate prison in Andersonville, Georgia. By the time he’d participated in the 150th anniversary re-enactment of the Battle of Bentonville, North Carolina, Brian had learned he actually died in action there, a fact he didn’t know when he attended the same battle as a private 10 years earlier.
“I now have a personal connection,” Brian said. “Not only had he died there, but fortunately for my family line, he had a son who ended up being my great great-grandfather.”
A glance at the uniforms in a closet in the family home in Stafford, Virginia, shows the variety of ranks Brian portrays in his hobby. He plays the role of Union Soldiers, as well as those from the Revolutionary War, from the ranks of private all the way up to the commanding general of the Union Army. After he retired from the Air Force, Brian let his beard grow, which coupled with the cigar he often has in his mouth in camp, gives him a resemblance to a U.S. history legend, Gen. (and former President) Ulysses S. Grant.
While on the board of directors that created the Stafford Civil War Park, Brian portrayed a colonel in the 55th Ohio Infantry at the grand opening in 2013, and spectators saw the beard and cigar and mistook him for Grant. The mistaken identity kept happening at subsequent reenactments and historical events, even to the point where Confederate re-enactment forces “captured” him, thinking they’d caught the overall Union commander. He was eventually asked to portray Grant for the 150th anniversary re-enactments in 2011 and 2012. Brian impersonates the famous general for the Civil War Impressionists Association in annual events at the National Mall in Washington and at numerous Civil War historic sites.
“I’m still a private in Company K of the 3rd U.S. Infantry, so I still go out and do events as an infantry private,” Brian said. “Then again, I can put on three stars, and I can be the commanding general. I can play a private or the general-in-chief with equal enthusiasm.”
When he began the hobby, Brian had no interest in portraying an officer. He was still on active duty, and he wanted to experience a taste of a Union private’s daily life. However, after his Air Force retirement six years ago, he had an opportunity to join the Army of the Potomac headquarters staff as a guidon bearer for the command officer, which was appealing to him because of his love for horses, and in the past year he’s served as the commander’s assistant chief of staff.
The night before the re-enactment at Cedar Creek, Brian was also promoted to brigadier general and will transition into the role of the staff’s commanding officer.
Serving as an officer in a Civil War re-enactment unit is obviously completely different from an active-duty career. For example, there is no Uniform Code of Military Justice to keep them bound to the unit or to commander’s orders. Still, Brian has found common ground between the two. Safety, self-aid and buddy care, and survival training, as well as his logistics knowledge from a career in munitions, have all come into play at different times in the field. Also, Soldiers in the 19th century operated on a code that wasn’t too different from the Air Force Core Values.
“From my research, I can’t say that they had what they called core values,” he said. “But clearly, in particular, the Soldiers who had been trained formally through the military academies during that time period, had a value system based on personal honor and morality. I think those attributes defined what it meant ideally to be a good Soldier then, and those traditions from our early American military experience are what evolved into what we call our core values now.”
For just a few days, re-enactors like the Withrows not only try to help re-create historic battles, but also get a taste of the living experiences Soldiers on both sides endured in the Civil War. Along with the bonding experiences when they swap war stories and glimpses of their lives with fellow re-enactors, they also sometimes experience some harsh conditions. They faced below freezing weather at the Battle of Sailor’s Creek in April, and there was the other extreme, where they faced temperatures above 100 degrees with elevated humidity at the 150th Battle of First Manassas in July 2011.
“We got just a little taste of some of the environmental conditions these Soldiers went through,” Brian said. “The difference was we came out and may experience some of those conditions for a weekend. That gives you an appreciation for the fact that these guys did this week on end, month on end, on forced marches of 10 to 15 miles, summertime and wintertime. Again, we get this little glimpse, just a little taste of what they may have experienced.”
These days, it is difficult for both father and son to make every battle as they were able to do when Josh was younger. He’s not able to attend most re-enactments because of his schedule as a legislative affairs manager for Freedom Works in Washington. Since his father retired, his schedule as a government employee at Fort Belvoir also keeps him busy. But their love of the hobby remains as strong as it was around that campfire 15 years ago. Hearing the fife and drums still sounds sweet to their ears.
Thirty years is a long time to stick it out in any career, let alone one where a person is routinely put into harm’s way over and over again. But that’s exactly what retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Victor Wright did. Wright served our country for thirty years, first as a Sailor and then later as a Soldier. Wright’s decade’s long career offers him a prestige that many never receive. He’s served in every conflict since the Vietnam War.
For those in the military, it’s often difficult to find a path. We want adventure but we also want stability. OCONUS moves are a way to see the world but they take us far from home. It’s even more difficult to find that balance with high op-tempos and jobs that take all our energy.
But none of that stopped retired Army Sgt. First Class Victor Wright. Instead of getting bogged down with the details, his thirty-year career kept him pushing forward. Wright didn’t let the challenges of work-life balance stop him from achieving his goals.
A Legend in the Making
Victor Wright enlisted in 1974 because he wanted to see the world. He served on the USS Enterprise, the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Wright deployed to Vietnam shortly after enlisted. During his three decades of service, Wright earned twenty-four awards.
Whereas some might use their accomplishments as an opportunity to brag, Wright remains honest and unassuming. Wright insists he’s not a legend or a hero, despite the fact that his campaign rack might say otherwise. Instead, he maintains he’s just “enjoyed his life” exploring the world.
The humble sixty-two year-old Victor Wright retired on August 21, 2018. After his retirement, Wright began working as an Apache Helicopter Mechanic and Instructor. In true Army fashion, he’s always looking for a way to give back – a by-product of his 30 years of service, no doubt.
Under his instruction, new service members not only learn new vocabulary and how to employ technology, but how to live a life fulfilled and well-travelled.
Wright remains optimistic regarding the future of the Army. “I’m coming off the wall, and I’m glad there are others that are still willing to stand.
As one of the last retiring Vietnam War veterans, we can only hope that Wright’s dedicated service and commitment to America continue to inspire future generations of warfighters.
Belgium’s Federal Public Service announced that the cat’s owner contracted the disease after a trip to Northern Italy, one of the most infected regions in the world. About a week after the onset of their human’s symptoms, the cat followed suit, with diarrhea, vomiting, and respiratory issues. Poor kitty.
Tests conducted at a veterinary school in Liège on vomit and feces samples from the cat confirmed the vet’s suspicions: High levels of the SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus were found. Blood tests will be conducted once the feline exits quarantine and antibodies specific to the virus are expected to be found.
When COVID-19 first hit our shores, many media outlets (ahem, New York Times) were quick to jump on the fact that the virus was not yet shown to infect dogs. This has proven untrue — two dogs in Hong Kong were infected — and is beside the point. Dogs are not a primary vector for the disease, but if their owner is infected, they can certainly pass on the virus. This is why experts advise steering clear of strange dogs when you’re on solitary walks no matter how friendly they are.
Still, the experts don’t seem too panicked about this development.
“We think the cat is a side victim of the ongoing epidemic in humans and does not play a significant role in the propagation of the virus,” Steven Van Gucht, virologist and federal spokesperson for the coronavirus epidemic in Belgium, told Live Science.
That’s good news for the humans of the earth, especially the cat people. The good news for the felines of the earth is that the cat in question recovered from the virus after just nine days with all nine of its lives intact.
When it comes to nuclear weapons, we hear a lot about ICBMs and SSBNs, but what is likely America’s most common nuke isn’t a missile – it’s dropped from a plane. We’re talking, of course, about the B61 gravity bomb, which has been around for a while and is going to be around for a long time.
This is perhaps America’s most versatile nuke. Not only has America built over 3,000 of these bombs, but it was the basis for the W80, W84, and W85 warheads, the key ingredient in nuclear missiles, like the BGM-109A Tomahawk Land Attack Missile – Nuclear, the BGM-109G Gryphon Ground-Launched Cruise Missile, and the MGM-31C Pershing II intermediate-range ballistic missile. Quite impressive, isn’t it?
The B61 came about as the result of a need for weapon that could be delivered by high-performance jets. When it was being developed, the F-4 Phantom and other jets capable of hitting Mach 2 were starting to enter service. The earlier nukes, like the Mk 7 and B28, had been designed for use on slower planes, like the F-86 Sabre, F-100 Super Sabre, and the F-105 Thunderchief.
What emerged was a bomb that came in at roughly 700 pounds — compare that to the 1,700 pounds of the B28 or the 1,600 pounds of the Mark 7. In addition, the bomb had what was known a “dial-a-yield” capability, allowing for the selection of explosive yield, ranging from three-tenths of a kiloton to 340 kilotons.
The B61 is currently being upgraded to the B61 Mod 12 standard, which adds GPS guidance to this versatile weapon. The new system could be in service as soon as 2020, possibly allowing the United States to replace the B83 strategic thermonuclear bomb.
Check out the video below to learn how the B61 was developed and built:
Necessity is the mother of invention. Sometimes, the military translates this axiom as “if it’s stupid and it works, it isn’t stupid.” So while the idea of this simple squeegee handle saving lives sounds silly, there are six people who sure are glad to be window washers that day.
As if being a window washer on a New York City skyscraper wasn’t harrowing enough, the sheer terror didn’t stop for these six men that day, even though they were in the building. Polish immigrant Jan Demczur and five others were in an elevator in the North Tower on Sept. 11, 2001, when the building was struck by American Airline Flight 11.
The cleaners were on their way up to work when the elevator suddenly started plummeting down to earth.
Victoria Dawson, in her July 2002 article in Smithsonian magazine “Handed Down to History,” wrote that Demczur or one of the other men managed to press the emergency stop button on the elevator. But stopping their sudden descent was only half of the problem – they still needed to get out.
“We felt a muted thud,” said Shivam Iyer, one of the other workers. “The building shook. The elevator swung from side to side, like a pendulum.”
When they finally forced open the elevator’s doors, they were faced with walls of sheetrock and smoke started to fill the elevator shaft. A voice warned them of an explosion in the building. They were on the 50th floor and the express elevator they were on didn’t stop there. It was lucky that someone had a pocketknife and the men were able to start cutting through the wall. Then, Demczur dropped the knife down the elevator shaft.
“I was very upset with myself,” he told Smithsonian. “We had a problem and now a bigger problem.”
There was no time to think. One of his coworkers simply grabbed up the squeegee from their work bucket and resumed working on that wall. The men took turns going to town on the wall with the squeegee handle. Eventually, they punched through four layers of sheetrock, finally punching into a tile wall under the sink of a men’s room. They escaped from the building – via a stairwell – as soon as they could. It took them 90 minutes.
As if shortages of toilet paper, bottled water and hand sanitizer were not enough; shooters are reporting ammunition shortages amid the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak. The response to the virus seems to be responsible for the next nationwide shortage of ammunition and possibly firearms.
The ever prescient Alexander Crown, recently penned an article for RECOIL, When the Brass Dries Up and lays out some of the more recent ammunition shortages and how to cope with them. It seems very timely amid reports we have been hearing since early February.
We’ve seen subtle signs of a panic buying here and there the past few weeks but it looks like the lid is about to blow off.
A looming shortage of ammunition and firearms
A reader from Arizona, Brent Stuart, tried to purchase two cases of pistol primers last week from Sportsman’s Warehouse in Phoenix, AZ, this afternoon and was told he could only purchase one case. The clerk at the counter told him there was a new corporate policy limiting the amounts of firearms, ammunition and reloading components purchased in a single day. According to the employee, he had received a copy of a memo from corporate headquarters that morning limiting firearm, reloading components and ammunition purchases temporarily.
The memo states:
With increased demand and limited supply on select items, Sportsman’s Warehouse has implemented the following purchase limits to ensure our product reaches as many of our customers as possible. Firearm Limits:
Handguns (any type): 2 per customer per day.
Modern Sporting Rifles: 1 per customer per day.
Ammunition and Reloading Components Limits:
All Bulk Handgun and Centerfire Rifle Ammunition (100 rd + count box): 1 Per caliber, per customer per day.
Bulk Rimfire (200 rd + count box): 1 per customer per day.
All Handgun, Rimfire and Rifle hunting ammunition: 3 boxes per customer per day
All 25 ct. shotgun shells: 10 boxes per gauge per day.
All primers: 1k per day.
Keg powder (4,5,8): 1 per day.
All 1lb powder cans: 1 per day.
We tried contacting Sportsman’s directly Friday 3/13 and our call was placed on hold for more than 30 minutes. So, we took the liberty of calling a few of the local stores in Reno and Carson City, Nevada. Both stores reported no limits on anything, but said ammunition was flying off the shelves. One employee reported a 75% decrease in stock on the shelves within the two hours he had been there. The other stated that it would not surprise him if such a policy would be put into place soon as a measure to stop ammunition and firearm shortages due to COVID-19.
Online retailer blames COVID-19 for buying surge
Online ammunition retailer, Ammo.com, reports a significant increase in sales since February 23, 2020. The company believes that this surge corresponds with the public concern regarding the COVID-19 virus.
When compared to the 11 days before February 23 (February 12 to 22), in the 11 days after (February 23 to March 4), Ammo.com’sber of transactions increased 68%.
Alex Horsman, the marketing manager at Ammo.com, said of the surge, “We know certain things impact ammo sales, mostly political events or economic instability when people feel their rights may end up infringed, but this is our first experience with a virus leading to such a boost in sales.” Horsman continued, “But it makes sense. A lot of our customers like to be prepared. And for many of them, it’s not just facemasks and Thera-Flu. It’s knowing that no matter what happens, they can keep themselves and their families safe.”
We queried another big box store, Cabela’s and Bass Pro-Shops, who reported that ammunition is selling at a record pace. Week to date tallies for Herter’s 9mm 115-grain FMJ ammunition is 5,589 boxes. That’s 279,450 rounds and it’s not even Saturday. Month to date sales are 40,152 boxes for 2,007,600 rounds and we are not even halfway through March for just that one type and brand of 9mm ammo.
Cabela’s had no plans to limit purchases at this time.
Firearm sales and COVID-19
Firearm sales numbers are always difficult to nail down definitively, but at least in Nevada, calls into the state’s background check system have been taking in excess of 2 hours. At certain times after waiting for 30 minutes or more a message tells the dealer that the queue is full and disconnects the line, causing them to call back in and having to wait again.
We’ve witnessed that happening while in several different gun shops and ranges over the past several weeks. It appears more people are buying firearms than usual.
Firearm and ammunition sales in California are reported to be five times above normal due to COVID-19.
A shooting range in Clovis, California, had to stop customers from buying ammunition to take home because they were running out of ammunition for the range. The Firing Line owner Jake Belemjian says people are stocking up on ammunition because of COVID-19 and the shop can’t keep up with the demand.
If this were not bad enough, the NRA is reporting that today, an ordinance has passed in Champaign, IL, to empower the mayor to “[o]rder the discontinuance of selling, distributing, dispensing or giving away of … firearms or ammunition of any character whatsoever.”
Apparently, politicians want to fan fears of limiting access to firearms and ammunition, leading more people into panic and creating more shortfalls in supply. We have speculated that the State of Nevada’s background check system’s extensive hold times may be the work of an anti-gun governor ordering staff cuts or allocating personnel elsewhere, but it seems coincidental with the timing of COVID-19.
The fact that it is an election year with an outspoken anti-gun candidate on the presidential ticket could add fuel to this fire and spur along potential ammunition and firearm shortages even without COVID-19, but probably not this early in the cycle.
Is This a Nationwide Shortage?
Dealers and distributors who have maintained good inventory should be able to continue to service customers. Most shooters who’ve gone through these shortages before have learned from the past and planned accordingly.
We aren’t yet seeing a firearm shortage due to COVID-19 in our neighborhood, but there may be an extended ammunition shortage on the way if it is not here already. In 2014, it was 22 LR, according to Ammo.com that caliber is moving a lot, but the surprise we found topping their list of most in-demand ammunition for the past few weeks was 40 SW.
40 SW: 410%
12 gauge: 95%
380 ACP: 43%
45 ACP: 35%
308 Winchester: 32%
22 lr: 29%
We would never tell anyone to not buy ammunition. Just don’t act all panicky and act like the folks who are building toilet paper forts in their garages.
Speaking of which, Franklin Armory has a smoking deal on Government issue “MRE” toilet paper and it comes with a free BFS-III binary trigger. Of course, that means that you will probably need to buy more ammunition.
The current NATO force structure in Eastern Europe would be unable to withstand a Russian invasion into neighboring Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, a new think tank study has concluded.
After conducting an exhaustive series of wargames wherein “red” (Russian) and “blue” (NATO) forces engaged in a wide range of war scenarios over the Baltic states, a Rand Corporation study called “Reinforcing Deterrence on NATO’s Eastern Flank” determined that a successful NATO defense of the region would require a much larger air-ground force than what is currently deployed.
In particular, the study calls for a NATO strategy similar to the Cold War era’s “AirLand Battle” doctrine from the 1980s. During this time, the U.S. Army stationed at least several hundred thousand troops in Europe as a strategy to deter a potential Russian invasion. Officials with U.S. Army Europe tell Scout Warrior that there are currenty 30,000 U.S. Army soldiers in Europe.
The Rand study maintains that, without a deterrent the size of at least seven brigades, fires and air support protecting Eastern Europe, that Russia cold overrun the Baltic states as quickly as in 60 hours.
“As currently postured, NATO cannot successfully defend the territory of its most exposed members. Across multiple games using a wide range of expert participants in and out of uniform playing both sides, the longest it has taken Russian forces to reach the outskirts of the Estonian and/or Latvian capitals of Tallinn and Riga, respectively, is 60 hours. Such a rapid defeat would leave NATO with a limited number of options,” the study writes.
“AirLand” Battle was a strategic warfighting concept followed by U.S. and allied forces during the Cold War which, among other things, relied upon precise coordination between a large maneuvering mechanized ground force and attack aircraft overhead. As part of the approach, air attacks would seek to weaken enemy assets supporting front line enemy troops by bombing supply elements in the rear. As part of the air-ground integration, large conventional ground forces could then more easily advance through defended enemy front line areas.
A rapid assault on the Baltic region would leave NATO with few attractive options, including a massive risky counterattack, threatening a nuclear weapons option or simply allowing the Russian to annex the countries.
One of the limited options cited in the study could include taking huge amounts of time to mobilize and deploy a massive counterattack force which would likely result in a drawn-out, deadly battle. Another possibility would be to threaten a nuclear option, a scenario which seems unlikely if not completely unrealistic in light of the U.S. strategy to decrease nuclear arsenals and discourage the prospect of using nuclear weapons, the study finds.
A third and final option, the report mentions, would simply be to concede the Baltic states and immerse the alliance into a much more intense Cold War posture. Such an option would naturally not be welcomed by many of the residents of these states and would, without question, leave the NATO alliance weakened if not partially fractured.
The study spells out exactly what its wargames determined would be necessary as a credible, effective deterrent.
“Gaming indicates that a force of about seven brigades, including three heavy armored brigades—adequately supported by airpower, land-based fires, and other enablers on the ground and ready to fight at the onset of hostilities—could suffice to prevent the rapid overrun of the Baltic states,” the study writes.
During the various scenarios explored for the wargame, its participants concluded that NATO resistance would be overrun quickly in the absence of a larger mechanized defensive force posture.
“The absence of short-range air defenses in the U.S. units, and the minimal defenses in the other NATO units, meant that many of these attacks encountered resistance only from NATO combat air patrols, which were overwhelmed by sheer numbers. The result was heavy losses to several Blue (NATO) battalions and the disruption of the counterattack,” the study states.
Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia could be likely Russian targets because all three countries are in close proximity to Russia and spent many years as part of the former Soviet Union
“Also like Ukraine, Estonia and Latvia are home to sizable ethnic Russian populations that have been at best unevenly integrated into the two countries’ post-independence political and social mainstreams and that give Russia a self-justification for meddling in Estonian and Latvian affairs,” the study explains.
While the Pentagon’s European Reassurance Initiative calls for additional funds, forces and force rotations through Europe in coming years, it is unclear whether their ultimate troop increases will come anywhere near what Rand recommends. Pentagon officials would not, at the moment, speculate as to whether thoughts and considerations were being given to raising forces levels beyond what is called for in the initiative.
At the same time, the Pentagon’s $3.4 Billion ERI request does call for an increased force presence in Europe as well as “fires,” “pre-positioned stocks” and “headquarters” support for NATO forces.
Officials with U.S. Army Europe tell Scout Warrior that more solidarity exercises with NATO allies in Europe are also on the horizon, and that more manpower could also be on the way.
“We are currently planning the future rotations of units through Europe. The heel-to-toe concept will increase how often they’re here for the Armored BCT mission, but it won’t increase how many are here at once — that will remain just one at a time. We currently have some aviation assets on a rotation here but plans aren’t yet firm on what that looks like going forward. We’ve requested additional funding for National Guard and Reserve manpower which may come in the form of full or partial units or even individuals,” Cathy Brown Vandermaarel, spokeswoman for U.S. Army Europe told Scout Warrior in a statement.
Increased solidarity exercises would be designed to further deter Russia by showing allies cooperation along with an ability to quickly deploy and move mechanized forces across the European continent, Vandermaarel added.
The Rand study maintains that, while expensive, adding brigades would be a worthy effort for NATO.
Buying three brand-new ABCTs and adding them to the U.S. Army would not be inexpensive—the up-front costs for all the equipment for the brigades and associated artillery, air defense, and other enabling units runs on the order of $13 billion. However, much of that gear—especially the expensive Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles—already exists,” the study says.
The Russian Military
Russia’s military maneuvers and annexation of the Crimean peninsula have many Pentagon analysts likely wondering about and assessing the relative condition of the former Cold War military giant’s forces, platforms and weaponry.
Russia has clearly postured itself in response to NATO as though it can counter-balance or deter the alliance, however expert examination of Russia’s current military reveals it is not likely to pose a real challenge to NATO in a prolonged, all-out military engagement.
Russia’s economic pressures have not slowed the countries’ commitment to rapid military modernization and the increase of defense budgets, despite the fact that the country’s military is a fraction of what it was during the height of the Cold War in the 1980s.
While the former Cold War giant’s territories and outer most borders are sizably less than they were in the 1980s, Russia’s conventional land, air and sea forces are trying to expand quickly, transition into the higher-tech information age and steadily pursue next generation platforms.
Russia’s conventional and nuclear arsenal is a small piece of what it was during the Cold War, however the country is pursuing a new class of air-independent submarines, a T-50 stealth fighter jet, next-generation missiles and high-tech gear for individual ground soldiers.
During the Cold War, the Russian defense budget amounted to nearly half of the country’s overall expenditures, analysts have said.
Now, the countries’ military spending draws upon a smaller percentage of its national expenditure. However, despite these huge percentage differences compared to the 1980s, the Russian defense budget is climbing again. From 2006 to 2009, the Russian defense budget jumped from $25 billion up to $50 billion according to Business Insider – and the 2013 defense budget is listed elsewhere at $90 billion.
Overall, the Russian conventional military during the Cold War – in terms of sheer size – was likely five times what it is today.
Overall, the Russian military had roughly 766,000 active front line personnel in 2013 and as many as 2.4 million reserve forces, according to globalfirepower.com. During the Cold War, the Russian Army had as many as three to four million members.
By the same 2013 assessment, the Russian military is listed as having more than 3,000 aircraft and 973 helicopters. On the ground, Globalfirepower.com says Russia has 15-thousand tanks, 27,000 armored fighting vehicles and nearly 6,000 self-propelled guns for artillery. While the Russian military may not have a conventional force the sheer size of its Cold War force, they have made efforts to both modernized and maintain portions of their mechanized weaponry and platforms. The Russian T-72 tank, for example, has been upgraded numerous times since its initial construction in the 1970s.
Analysts have also said that the Russian military made huge amounts of conventional and nuclear weapons in the 80s, ranging from rockets and cruise missiles to very effective air defenses.
In fact, the Russian built S-300 and S-400 anti-aircraft air defenses, if maintained and modernized, are said to be particularly effective, experts have said.
In the air, the Russian have maintained their 1980s built Su-27 fighter jets, which have been postured throughout the region by the Russian military.
Often compared to the U.S. Air Force’s F-15 Eagle fighter, the Su-27 is a maneuverable twin engine fighter built in the 1980s and primarily configured for air superiority missions.
While many experts maintain that NATO’s size, fire-power, air supremacy and technology would ultimately prevail in a substantial engagement with Russia, that does not necessarily negate the Rand study’s findings that NATO would be put in a terrible predicament should Russia invade the Baltic states.
Although they say a lot, these are six things you’ll never hear a Marine recruiter say:
6. “When you get to MEPS, make sure you disclose all of your medical issues, especially if it’s not already in your paperwork.”
Since recruiters are in the business of making their quotas and enlisting all the people they can, the advice they give also includes finely crafted verbiage that will cover their ass should something arise during your screening.
No recruiter wants to see their next potential “poolee” disqualified for any reason.
“No, I don’t have asthma.” (Image via GIPHY)
5. “We get just as much funding as the Army does, so don’t worry about getting issued any gear that’s outdated.”
You can Google the Marine Corps annual budget. Spoiler: It’s nowhere near what the Army earns.
4. “If a drill instructor ever gets in your face, remind them you’re a big deal and he or she shouldn’t bother you again.”
Good luck with all that. A recruiter isn’t going to set you up for that type of failure.
Never say these words. (Image via GIPHY)
3. “If you want a real career in infantry, you should consider going to the Army instead.”
Although the Army and Marine infantry are similar in various ways, the Corps prides itself on the ground pounders it produces. In fact, they’ll commonly advise youngsters to pursue a job in the MOS followed by, “you can lat move later.”
2. “Every movement you do in the Corps, you’ll do at your once pace. Senior Marines are known for their patience.”
The Marine Corps was founded on Nov. 10, 1775, and on Nov. 11, the rivalry between Army soldiers and Marines began. Over the next couple of centuries, the inter-branch, verbal slap-boxing evolved into the passionate, “all in good fun” fight we know today.
The munitions for these verbal attacks are often exaggerated, sometimes malicious, but always spawn from some truth. Whether it’s your living standards or your vernacular, one thing is for certain, Marines will let you know what they think of you — and in the case of the U.S. Army, we will be heard.
8. Soldiers insist on saying we are the same.
Every Marine has the experience of going home on leave and finding themselves in a bar (probably with some friends from high school) when suddenly, it happens: The sound of a young soldier detailing the trials and tribulations of his day-to-day in the Army, culminating in the statement, “Army, Marines; it’s all the same shit.”
The violation of 242 years of exponentially growing ego and pride saturates his thoughts like the cranberry juice in that soldier’s vodka. The same? We may seem similar (and we are), but we are not the same. The Army is the same as Marines in the way dogs are the same as wolves. The way turkeys are the same as Eagles. The way dolphins are the same as killer whales.
7. Only a small portion of the Army is combat-oriented.
Ever heard of a Marine veterinarian? No? Would you like to know why? Because that isn’t a thing — but it is in the Army. The Army has such a huge budget that they have room for completely non-combat and support specialties that seem to have no place in the military.
Every Marine Corps MOS is either infantry or in direct support of infantry. Shout-out to the cooks, supply, administration, and all those responsible for the bullets, beans, and Band-Aids needed to win America’s wars! The Marines don’t even have medical or religious personnel; they borrow from the Navy. Meanwhile, the Army is busy training entomologists, dietitians, and shower/laundry and clothing repair specialists.
6. The Army gets high-speed, low-drag gear while Marines are rocking hand-me-downs from Desert Storm.
I started my career with an M16 A2, carried an M16 A4 for many years, and I remember the pride I experienced the day I was finally issued an M4. I was a sergeant with five years logged. It was so light and compact, I felt like a kid on Christmas. Meanwhile, big Army is issuing one of those elite Veterinary Specialist Privates an M4 on day one.
My NVGs were either non-existent on night patrols or so old that all I could see was green. The Army is rolling deep with brand-new, up-armored vehicles, each outfitted with a handy-dandy Blue Force Tracker. Meanwhile, Marines are riding dirty in a soft-top, high-back HMMWV that’s been spray-painted green.
The rank is ‘sergeant.’ It has never been, nor will it ever be, ‘sarge.’ Also, staff sergeant, sergeant first class, 1st sergeant, and sergeant major are all different ranks from sergeant. When you call everyone sergeant, nothing makes sense.
Also, why in the yut do you call a 1st Sergeant ‘Top?’ There are over ten ranks that outrank him. It’s not even the top enlisted rank. Why are you doing this?
4. Lower standards.
This one isn’t even up for debate. Fact: Male Army Physical Fitness Tests (APFT) require a 2-mile run at a 6:30 pace, 82 sit-ups, and 50 push-ups. This is the most demanding standard the Army has and they reserve it for the 27 to 31-year-old men (since I guess those are the only four years you are expected to be this fit).
In the Corps, Marines are expected to run 3 miles in 18 minutes (6-minute pace), do 100 sit-ups in two minutes, and 20 dead-hang pull-ups for a maximum score of 300, regardless of age.
Doesn’t sound the same does it?
How about marksmanship? In official Army qualification courses, one must shoot targets (single and pop-up) from three firing positions: supported prone, unsupported prone, and foxhole (replaced the kneeling position). In order to qualify, one must hit at least 23 out of 40 pop-up targets at ranges varying from 50 meters to 300 meters (approximately 80 to 327 yards).
In order to qualify as an “Expert” shooter on the rifle range for the Marine Corps, you must score a combined score of 305 or greater. “Marksmen” is the lowest score obtained, a scoring range of 250-279, with “Sharpshooter” placing second, a combined score falling between 280-304. The target distances are 200, 300, and 500 meters and the targets are engaged in a variety of firing positions, from the prone, sitting, kneeling, and standing. None of which are supported by anything other than the Marine’s strength and skill – and that’s not an opinion, it’s science.
3. Marines are a little jealous of very particular things.
Not knowing what it is to field day and not having to have a fresh haircut every seven days must be nice, but no one in the Marine Corps will know because these are just parts of life in the Corps.
2. They can wear their utility uniform anywhere.
This one most likely belongs with the jealousy paragraph, but with a slight difference: Marines don’t want to wear the dirt suit anywhere outside of base anyway.
Seeing a bunch of soldiers getting bumped up to first class because they are peddling their uniform to the public can be a little irksome. It’s not that the Marines are any less noticeable — the farmer’s tan and ridiculous haircuts help them stand out just fine. Jarheads just don’t get the upgrades and comps that a uniformed soldier does and, in turn, there is a deep rage that grows with every priority-boarded soldier that saunters by a devil dog.
1. The Army has literally tried to eliminate the USMC on several occasions.
Following almost every American war, there was a proposal to either disband or absorb the Marine Corps into the other services. Then-Army Chief of Staff Dwight D. Eisenhower championed the strongest attempt after WWII to President Truman.
In the end, the rivalry between the Army and Marines akin to a sibling rivalry and any outside threat that decides to take their chances with any branch will find out real quick how strong the bond between branches really is.