A little-known group of specially-trained Coast Guardsmen are playing a key role in securing a presidential retreat in Florida and guarding against the smuggling of doomsday weapons out of war-torn Syria.
“This is a team that’s not sand lot ball. These are the pros that have very unique weapons skills and training and not everyone makes this team,” said Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft during a breakfast meeting with reporters April 12. “These teams are if anything probably over employed right now in terms of their optempo — both on the anti-terrorism front and on the counter-terrorism front as well.”
Established in the years after 9/11 to provide another layer of special operations capability both in the United States and worldwide, the Coast Guard previously housed these various specialized teams under one command, dubbed the “Deployable Operations Group.” Comprised of highly-trained boat teams, crisis response forces and counter proliferation experts, the DOG was disbanded in 2012 and its units dispersed to separate commands.
Despite its troubled past, the Coast Guard’s special operators are front and center in some of America’s most high profile missions. Zukunft said his teams are providing maritime security for President Donald Trump when he visits his golf resort at Mar a Lago in Florida, working closely with the U.S. Secret Service to protect world leaders from potential attack.
“I had three teams providing force protection for presidents of the two largest nations in the world — China and the United States — at Mar a Lago. That’s what these teams do, Zukunft said. “We’re seeing more and more of these nationally significant security events in the maritime domain.”
The service’s capability also includes Coast Guardsmen trained to locate and secure chemical and nuclear weapons — operators that are part of the Maritime Security Response Teams. Similar to SEALs, the MSRT Coast Guardsmen can take down ships, oil platforms and other vehicles used to smuggle WMD material over water.
It’s members of these MSRT units that are currently deployed to help the U.S. military guard against doomsday weapons leaking out of Syria and other regional hotspots.
“We have a full-up [counter terrorism team] deployed right now in the Mediterranean in support of CENTCOM. It’s an advanced interdiction team in case there is any movement of a weapon of mass destruction,” Zukunft said. “This is a team that if necessary, forces itself onboard a ship … and they have all of the weapons skills of special forces, but they have law enforcement authority.”
Despite the rocky road in the unit’s formation, Zukunft is confident the Coast Guard’s special operations units are here to stay.
“To turn the lights out and then decide ‘whoa we have this threat’ — it’s going to take [a while] to reconstitute that, and in doing so the assumption would be that we will never have a terrorist attack directed agains the United States ever again,” he said. “I am not willing to make that assumption. I am all in.”
Terrorism-related deaths around the world are down for the second straight year, according to the Institute for Economics and Peace’s annual Global Terrorism Index.
“There was a 22% decrease to 25,673 deaths [in 2016] compared to the peak of terror activity in 2014 when over 32,500 people were killed,” the IEP said in a statement.
Still, as the total number of terrorism-related deaths has decreased in the last two years, the number of countries experiencing terrorism-related deaths increased in 2016.
More countries experienced at least one terrorism-related death in 2016 than in any other year since 2001, with 77 countries affected — 11 more than in 2015.
94% of all terrorism-related deaths happened in the Middle East and North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia.
Four of the five countries most affected by terrorism — Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria — recorded an improvement. Nigeria saw an 80% reduction in terrorism-related deaths, as Boko Haram has been hit hard by the Multinational Joint Task Force.
Iraq was the only country of the five most affected by terrorism to record an increase in deaths, as ISIS increased suicide attacks to make up for lost territory.
The past year also had more terrorism-related deaths in OECD countries than in any other year since 1988.
Conversely, Central America and the Caribbean experienced only 12 deaths — less than 0.4% of the total number.
There may be a reason for the low number in those regions — 99% of all terrorism-related deaths in the past 17 years have happened in countries that have an ongoing conflict or high levels of political terror.
“Although these gains are encouraging, there are still serious areas of concern. The future stability of Syria and Iraq will play a critical role in determining the impact of terrorism in the years ahead,” Steve Killelea, executive chairman of the IEP, said in the statement.
Tensions between the US and Russia and increasing activity in the Arctic have drawn more attention to the countries’ otherwise quiet boundary in the high north.
The Bering Strait, between Alaska and Russia’s Far East, has long been an area of low tension and cooperation on matters like waterway management and fisheries enforcement. But expectations of increased commercial and military activity in the Arctic have raised the strait’s strategic profile.
“The Northwest Passage and the Northern Passage all link through one strategic waterway in the West, and that’s through the Bering Strait,” retired US Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser said at a Wilson Center event in October, referring to sea routes along the northern coasts of Canada and Russia, respectively.
“The issues that we’re facing and talking about in the GIUK Gap, you need to be very cognizant that they could also appear in the Bering Sea,” added Fraser, who led Alaska Command in the mid-2000s.
Fraser is not alone in that assessment. At a Senate hearing in March, the Navy’s top officer, Adm. Michael Gilday, said he expected the Bering Strait to be “strategically as important as the Strait of Malacca or the Strait of Hormuz.”
The US military has been active in those straits for years, but its activity in and around Alaska is increasing.
“I think we ought to pay a lot of attention to the Aleutians,” Fraser said at the October event. “They provide, really, a string across the approaches into the Bering, and as more and more strategic activity happens … through the northern approaches, the Aleutians are going to be a strategic and key terrain.”
The Air Force and Space Force will be “key contributors” to addressing issues that arise in the region, Fraser said.
Other service branches want to increase their training in Alaska, and lawmakers have pushed for more investment there.
The US Army Corps of Engineers recently approved plans to expand the port of Nome, on Alaska’s Bering coast. That “will not only help from a national-security perspective but … help [local communities] to reduce the cost of living,” Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski said at another event in October.
‘Not so much about signaling’
Russia’s Far East and Arctic regions are sparsely populated, and after the Cold War the military infrastructure there deteriorated, but Moscow is refurbishing those facilities.
“The physical proximity to both Canada and Alaska … makes the Far Eastern flank of the Arctic as … important to the Russians as the European flank, or NATO flank, of the Arctic,” Alexey Muraviev, head of the Department of Social Sciences and Security Studies at Australia’s Curtin University, told Insider this summer.
The work includes expanding and upgrading airfields to handle strategic bombers and support all-weather operations, though Russia is “mindful of China” and concerns it may have about such activity near their shared border, Muraviev said.
Russia has renovated Arctic bases to support maritime operations along the Northern Sea Route and added new radars and other installations to detect an airborne attack. The easternmost Arctic radar facility is on Wrangel Island, just 300 miles from Alaska.
Russia’s Pacific Fleet has received a variety of new ships and has increased its exercises. A major naval drill in August led to close encounters between Russian ships and US fishermen near Alaska.
That was Russia’s first significant exercise in the region in some time, but it wasn’t clear if it was a response to US actions, according to Michael Kofman, director of the Russia Studies Program at CNA, a nonprofit research group.
“A lot of big Russian military exercises, it’s not so much about signaling,” Kofman told Insider. “It’s much more about them actually being able to do it … to mass forces, to exercise farther away from the actual naval bases.”
Kofman was skeptical that the Bering Strait would take on the same strategic significance as the GIUK Gap but said the sea lines of communication that run through it mean it would be important if the US pursues a sea-control strategy in a conflict, particularly one with China, which brands itself a “near-Arctic power” and is increasingly active there.
“China’s quite interested in the Arctic,” Kofman said, “and the United States is always interested not just in Russia but anywhere China gets interested.”
A sheriff’s deputy received minor injuries after his vehicle was struck by a train in Midland, Texas on May 21, 2019.
Two Midland County Sheriff’s Office SUVs attempted to drive around a slow-moving, west-bound train at a railroad crossing when an east-bound train struck the lead vehicle.
The west-bound train had offloaded some cars and was trying to get out of the deputy’s way, Midland County sheriff Gary Painter said during an interview with KWES. The west-bound train; however, blocked the deputy’s view of the incoming east-bound train that was moving “at a high rate of speed.”
The railroad crossing sign was functioning at the time of the crash, but the deputy made the decision to cross the railroad tracks, Midland Reporter-Telegram reported.
The deputy’s vehicle flipped over after it was struck by the moving train. Video footage from a witness showed the scene:
The deputy behind the impacted vehicle pulled the injured deputy through his windshield, according to KWES. The deputy who was hit sustained minor injuries and was taken to a hospital.
The deputies were initially responding to a call of a baby who wasn’t breathing, KWES reported. (The baby is alright, Painter told KWES.)
The Federal Railroad Administration estimated in 2015 that motorists are 20 times more likely to die in a collision with a train than with a vehicle. Most of the collisions involved trains traveling less than 30 miles per hour.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Defense Secretary called the invasion of Iraq a “strategic mistake” at a conference last year, in an audio recording obtained by The Intercept.
In a wide-ranging speech at an ASIS International Conference in Anaheim, California that covered everything from Iran, ISIS, and other national security issues, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis told attendees: “We will probably look back on the invasion of Iraq as a mistake, a strategic mistake.”
The assertion is not particularly controversial, given the faulty intelligence that led to the invasion, the many missteps afterward, and the unraveling of a country that eventually gave birth to the terrorist group ISIS.
But it is interesting as it’s the first known instance of Mattis portraying the invasion in a negative light, especially given his leadership of 1st Marine Division in 2003, which he led across the border and, eventually, into Baghdad.
“I think people were pretty much aware that the US military didn’t think it was a very wise idea,” he said. “But we give a cheery ‘Aye aye, Sir.’ Because when you elect someone commander in chief — we give our advice. We generally give it in private.”
Mattis, like many other generals before the war, offered his advice to his boss Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on the problems of going into Iraq. This frank advice is expected of high-ranking military officers, but ultimately it’s up to the civilian leadership to make the decision.
Still, seven retired generals eventually came out publicly against Rumsfeld in 2007 in what was dubbed “the generals’ revolt.” Mattis, still on active duty at the time, was not among them.
He was asked specifically about whether there was a scenario in which he may have retired in protest during a talk in San Francisco in April 2014. Mattis allowed some unethical orders and other scenarios that would lead him to do so, but he said, “you have to be very careful about doing that. The lance corporals can’t retire. They’re going. That’s all there is to it.”
He added: “You abandon him only under the most dire circumstances, where the message you have to send can be sent no other way. I never confronted that situation.”
Since retiring from the military in 2013, Mattis has given a number of speeches while working as a fellow at Dartmouth and Stanford. In July 2014, for example, he told students at Stanford: “There is no strategy right now for our engagement with the world. We need to know the political end state for what we want to achieve.”
When retired U.S. Marine Willis “Bill” Hansen was shipped off to the Vietnam War, he took his sea-bag and a library book…which traveled with him for 52 years.
Hansen joined the Marine Corps in 1964 as an unassigned infantryman and was later attached to a battalion in Okinawa, Japan. Although Hansen deployed to Vietnam as a machine gunner, he was provided the opportunity to work in recon through the length of the war.
He held on to the book The Kimono Mind by Bernard Rudofsky, during his entire 13-month deployment in Vietnam and never got around to returning it to the base library.
In an interview, he states, “When I first got to the island, I wanted to learn a little bit about the culture and where I was staying. So I checked out a book from the library that I figured would give me a little insight into the culture. I intended to return the book, but it slipped my mind.”
Going full circle, Hansen’s son, Lt. Col. Richard Hansen, who used to dress up in his father’s recon uniforms as a child, is now the commander of the same unit in Okinawa that Hansen served under in the Vietnam War.
The coincidence of it all renders a fateful moment. Hansen finally got the chance to return the book when he was invited to the 3rd Reconnaissance Marine Corps birthday ball in Okinawa. He was welcomed by the current staff of the library and relinquished his possession of his literary companion to their shelves (fee-free), where it will stay, until someone else checks it out and flips through its pages, oblivious to its journey through time.
Christopher Nolan has now applied his moody and precise visual style on World War II. The “Inception” and “The Dark Knight” director tells the story of the “Miracle at Dunkirk,” a large-scale evacuation that saved approximately 338,000 Allied troops.
“Dunkirk” features frequent Nolan collaborator and “Mad Max: Fury Road” star Tom Hardy, Academy Award winner and “Bridge of Spies” star Mark Rylance, and Shakespeare master and robot-spider enthusiast Kenneth Branagh.
“Dunkirk” opens July 21, 2017. Watch the trailer below.
Myth: The way a soldier’s horse is portrayed in an equestrian statue indicates how the soldier died.
This myth, perpetuated by many a tourist guide the world over, simply isn’t true.
(Not unlike how tourist guides around the equator will often tell you that what hemisphere you’re in effects the way the water swirls down the toilet or drain. They’ll even sometimes take you a few hundred meters on one side of the equator and show you water swirling one way, then a few hundred meters from that on the other side of the equator and show it swirling the other. Magic! In fact, of course, what hemisphere you’re in has almost nothing to do with the way water swirls down toilets and drains.)
An example of a tourist guidebook that perpetuates the equestrian myth is the 1987 Hands on Chicago:
At Sheridan Road and Belmont Avenue, the statue of [General] Sheridan beckons troops to battle. The horse General Sheridan rides is named Winchester…Winchester’s raised leg symbolizes his rider was wounded in battle (the legs of [General] Grant’s horse are on the ground, meaning he was not wounded).
This gives a pretty good account of the myth as it is generally stated, but leaving out the third commonly said option of the horse having both front legs in the air, implying the soldier died in battle. Another caveat is that if the rider died of complications from wounds received in battle, but at a later date from the battle, most versions of this myth have it that just one leg should be up as with the people who were wounded but didn’t die of complications from the wound.
According to the US Army Center of Military History, no such tradition has ever existed. This is not surprising considering that examples of multiple equestrian statues of the same person tend to be inconsistent in terms of the horse’s legs positioning. But let’s not take the US Army historian’s word for it, let’s look at some examples.
First, take a walk around Washington DC, which has the largest collection of equestrian statues of any city in the world. From this, you’ll quickly be disabused of the notion that the depiction of the horse’ legs has anything to do with the way the person died, with only about 30% of this city’s statues conforming to the above “rules”. (Given that there are 3 options here, that 30%-ish seems rather fitting.)
One of the oldest known equestrian statues in the United States is the 1853 statue of General Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Park, Washington D.C., which was made in celebration of Jackson’s victory over the British at the Battle of New Orleans.
In this statue, the horse has both forelegs in the air. Of course, Jackson did not die in battle, but of tuberculosis. The person who cast that sculpture, Clark Mills, was the first sculptor in the United States to cast a horse with a rider where the horse has some of its legs in the air (in this case both) — at this point it was more of a mark of the skill of the artist to have the horse with legs in the air rather than any sort of tradition relating to battle and death.
In cases where the same sculptor made multiple equestrian statues that could potentially apply to this “rule,” such as the case of world renowned Irish sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, we see that he, at-times, violated the supposed tradition and other times seemed to adhere to it.
One such statue he made of General William Techumsa Sherman has one of the front legs of the horse raised.
Indeed, General Sherman was wounded twice in battle, and even had 3 horses shot out from under him. He did not die in battle, but lived to the ripe old age of 71, and is thought to have died from pneumonia. So from that respect, this one fits. It should be noted, though, that this statue also has one of the horse’s rear legs lifted. The equestrian statue horse legs myth doesn’t seem to cover what that potentially would mean…maybe…just maybe…it means the horse is supposed to look like it’s running and has nothing to do with the rider’s death/wounds…
There is also a major equestrian statue of General Sherman at the General Sherman Memorial in Washington DC. This statue has the horse with all four legs on the ground. (This is a common theme where multiple equestrian statues exist. One would guess the differences have something to do with sculptors wanting theirs to look markedly different than the already existing statue(s).)
The only place where this equestrian statue “tradition” seems to hold with any sort of consistency is with a few statues of soldiers who fought in the Battle of Gettysburg. (This is thought to be how the myth got started in the first place.) Of the nearly 500 monuments at Gettysburg, there are 6 equestrian statues. Five of the six conform to the myth and the sixth loosely does, but the problem is the statue of General John Sedgwick, who died at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House- his equestrian statue has all four hooves are on the ground.
(Aside: General Sedgwick’s last words were: “What? Men dodging this way for single bullets? What will you do when they open fire along the whole line? I am ashamed of you. They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance.” He then took a bullet through his head fired from about 900-ish meters (1000 yards) away.)
Of course, it could be argued that this “tradition” was meant only to refer to what happened at the battle of Gettysburg, in which Sedgwick was not wounded nor did he die in. If that’s the case, then his is correct. However, if that’s the case then the statue of James Longstreet in that collection is not. He wasn’t wounded in Gettysburg, but his statue has the horse with one foot raised.
(He was wounded in the Battle of Glendale, so that would fit there, but not if we’re limiting the statue’s positioning based on the battle of Gettysburg to make the statue of General Sedgwick fit.)
Even then, it seems odd such a code would be created just for 6 statues of prominent people who fought in the battle of Gettysburg, and even more odd that if the code did exist that they would have broken it in one of the statues. Given there is no record of the sculptors having done this intentionally, and the discrepancy, it’s really not clear that this is what they were going for. It’s possible given the small sample size and that this is the only place we find this somewhat consistent correlation, it just randomly happened to work out that way with the way the sculptors decided to make the statues.
So this covers pretty thoroughly the statues in America. What about the equestrian statues across the pond? The Ancient Romans had numerous examples of equestrian statues, but unfortunately nearly all were destroyed or melted down for use in other things. One of the very few surviving equestrian statues from Rome was of Emperor Marcus Aurelius who died in 180 of an illness.
His horse in that statue has one foreleg up in the air. There is no record of Marcus Aurelius ever being wounded in battle and as a prominent Roman and eventual Emperor, it’s unlikely he saw much direct, close-up battle time (though was a part of many battles).
(Aside: funny enough, probably the only reason the statue of Marcus Aurelius survived when most all the others did not is that for a long time it was misidentified as a statue of Emperor Constantine the Great, who was a Christian Emperor. Why is this important to its preservation? Because many of the Roman statues were melted down to make things like church bells, coins, and sculptures for churches. Melting down a statue of Constantine would have been borderline blasphemy.)
There is a surviving equestrian statue of Emperor Constantine with the horse having both front legs up. Constantine did not die in battle, rather of natural causes.
Fast-forward to more recent times, in Medieval Europe and there really aren’t many equestrian statues, as they were (and are) very expensive to make and require a skilled sculptor. The few examples that exist don’t seem to correlate at all with any sort of horse leg tradition. For one brief, slightly more recent example, we have King Louis XIV who had an equestrian statue at Versailles with both forelegs on the horse in the air.
Louis XIV died of gangrene at the age of 77, not in battle.
Given that many a sculptor has worked on equestrian statues throughout history, if there is supposed to be some sort of code, even if not generally followed, there would be documentation of it somewhere — after all, they have to pass that code on. Not surprisingly, there is not.
It’s almost as if the sculptor just chooses the horse’s attitude to suit personal artistic preference…
Various media websites are reporting that two individuals (one Polish and one German) may have found a ‘long forgotten’ German train from World War II that was filled with gold, gems, and guns. Rumors go the train is 150 m (495 ft.) long and may contain up to 300 tons of gold. It’s said its located in a tunnel under the mountains, that collapsed.
The train is believed to have gone missing in 1945, trying to hide the treasure from the advancing Soviet Red Army is what is now the Polish city of Wroclaw (Breslau).
A law firm in southwest Poland says it has been contacted by two men who have discovered the armoured train. They are demanding a 10% ‘finders fee’ of the value of the train’s contents.
“Lawyers, the army, the police and the fire brigade are dealing with this,” Marika Tokarska, an official at the Walbrzych district council. “The area has never been excavated before and we don’t know what we might find.”
“In the region we actually two gold train stories,” Joanna Lamparska, a local historian, told Radio Wroclaw. “One is supposed to be under a mountain and the other somewhere around Walbrzych. But no one has ever seen documentary evidence confirming the existence of such trains.”
The U.S. Marine Corps has a reputation for making amazing videos about their training and capabilities, but Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command’s new video about defensive driving and precision shooting takes the cake.
It’s like “Top Gear” had a baby with “Hot Shots”:
The Marines going through the training do some awesome stuff in the video, like executing actual rollovers:
And it shows them apprehending simulated targets who attempted to flee in a vehicle:
The whole video is pretty great, but be warned that it increases the desire for an Eagle, Globe, and Anchor by at least 13 percent. Check it out below:
Veterans stuck inside can turn to reading a catalog of more than 61,000 classic, free e-books and audio books at Project Gutenberg.
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One of these categories is a section called the “Wars Bookshelf.” This section has books about the Revolutionary War, Boer War, English Civil War, Spanish-American War, U.S. Civil War, and both world wars. Selections from this bookshelf range from Marine landings in the Pacific during World War II to stories of Bull Run to audio versions of Patrick Henry’s “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech. The U.S. Civil War and World War I are the biggest sections, with hundreds of titles.
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The Lahti anti-tank rifle looks a little unusual, showing a pair of skis on the front. But then again, it does come from Finland.
According to Modernfirearms.net, the Lahti L-39, also known as the Norsupyssy — or “elephant gun” — fired a 20x138mm round and had a 10-shot clip. While not effective against the most modern tanks, like the Russian T-34, the rifle proved to be useful against bunkers and other material targets. One variant was a full-auto version used as an anti-aircraft gun.
This semi-auto rifle was kept in Finnish military stocks until the 1980s, when many were scrapped. This makes the M107 Barrett used by the United States military look like a mousegun.
A number of these rifles, though, were declared surplus and sold in the United States in the early 1960s. The Gun Control Act of 1968, though, placed these rifles under some very heavy controls — even though none were ever used in crimes.
In this video, the punch this rifle packed is very apparent. The people who set up the test put up 16 quarter-inch steel plates. You can see what that shell does to the plates in this GIF.