See the Coast Guard and Navy own cocaine smugglers in the Pacific - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

See the Coast Guard and Navy own cocaine smugglers in the Pacific

Members of the US Coast Guard, US Navy, US Customs and Border Patrol, as well as the Colombian navy, intercepted a go-fast boat laden with cocaine in the eastern Pacific Ocean in early April 2018.

The various forces fought a fire on the smuggling vessel before off-loading more than 1,000 pounds of cocaine.


A CBP Air and Marine Operations P-3 patrol aircraft spotted the boat, technically called a low-profile go-fast vessel, in the waters of the eastern Pacific on April 7, 2018. Go-fast boats are specially made vessels, typically made of fiberglass, designed to carry large quantities of drugs with a low surface profile, which helps them avoid visual or radar detection.

The crew on the P-3 reported the go-fast boat to the Joint Interagency Task Force-South, which directed the crew of the US Navy coastal patrol ship USS Zephyr to make an intercept.

After spotting the Zephyr, the crew of the go-fast boat began to throw their cargo overboard. They then jumped overboard themselves when their boat caught fire.

US Coast Guard Navy go-fast smuggling boat drug bust fire

A US Coast Guard law-enforcement team launched from the Zephyr caught up with the go-fast boat and rescued four suspected smugglers. Coast Guard and Navy personnel then fought the fire aboard the suspected smuggling vessel, extinguishing it in about 90 minutes, according to a Coast Guard release.

Coast Guard personnel and other US law-enforcement personnel were then able to recover about 1,080 pounds of what is believed to be cocaine. The Colombian navy ship 07 de Agosto arrived during the recovery to assist with documenting the case. The go-fast boat, which was severely damaged, was intentionally sunk.

“There was no doubt in our minds what needed to be done to salvage the evidence needed for a successful prosecution even if it meant laying Zephyr alongside a burning hull, with the intense heat and acrid smoke hindering our 90-minute firefight,” Lt. Cmdr. Grant Greenwell, commanding officer of the Zephyr, said in the release.

‘We’re basically giving all of this illegal activity a free pass’

The waters of the Pacific along South and Central America have become a particularly busy venue for traffickers.

Colombia, the only South American country with both Pacific and Atlantic coastlines, is the world’s largest producer of coca, the base ingredient for cocaine. (Bolivia and Peru are the only other major producers.)

US Coast Guard go-fast smuggling boat drug bust rescue

Traffickers typically launch from secluded areas on the Pacific coast in Colombia, Ecuador, or Peru and head north. Limited government presence and corruption allow traffickers and criminal groups to operate with relative freedom in these areas, particularly in the coastal areas and inland waterways in western Colombia.

In recent years, trafficking routes have moved farther out, sometimes going around the Galapagos Islands, likely to avoid detection in waters closer to shore.

“During at-sea interdictions in international waters, a suspect vessel is initially located and tracked by US and allied, military or law enforcement personnel,” the Coast Guard said in its release. “The interdictions, including the actual boardings, are conducted by Coast Guard members.”

The cargoes that make it through are typically off-loaded somewhere in Central America — Coast Rica in particular has become a busy drug-transit hub— and then they’re moved up the coast via another ship or overland through Central America and Mexico toward the US border.

More than 90% of the cocaine that makes it to the US comes through the Central America/Mexico corridor, though there are signs that traffickers are trying to increase production in Central America itself.

US Coast Guard go-fast boat drug bust fire

The US and international partners have stepped up their operations in the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, including Operation Martillo, a US, European, and Western Hemisphere initiative launched in 2012, and through the US Coast Guard’s Western Hemisphere strategy, which started in 2014.

The US Coast Guard has warned repeatedly in recent years that its resources fall short of what is needed to fulfill its interdiction responsibilities in the US’s southern maritime approaches.

“In 2014, we knew where about 80% to 85% of the activity was taking place, to include when a go-fast [boat] was leaving Colombia or Ecuador or somewhere in Central America with a shipment ultimately destined for the United States,” Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft told Business Insider in December 2017. “But on the best of days we could probably put a ship over next to and a plane above maybe 10% of that 80% to 85%. We’re basically giving all of this illegal activity a free pass.”

Zukunft said the ultimate goal was deter traffickers and the people who sign on to transport drugs and contraband.

“We want these smugglers to look at that same risk calculus and say, ‘You know, you can’t pay me enough to move a shipment of illegal drugs, because I don’t want to get arrested. I don’t want to spend the next 10-plus years of my life in a US prison, where I’m severed from my family in isolation.'”

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

Articles

The F-35 may soon carry one of the US’s most polarizing nuclear weapons

The Air Force designed the F-35A with nuclear capability in mind, and a new report indicates that the Joint Strike Fighter may carry nuclear weapons sooner than expected.


The Air Force originally planned to integrate nuclear weapons in the F-35 between 2020-2022, but Air Force Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus told Defensetech.org that “it would definitely be possible,” to hasten the deployment of B-61 nuclear gravity bombs on the F-35 should the need for it arise.

Also read: How the F-35B can defend ships from cruise missiles

As it stands, the B-61’s “military utility is practically nil,” wrote General James Cartwright, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2012. The B-61s “do not have assigned missions as part of any war plan and remain deployed today only for political reasons within the NATO alliance,” Cartwright continued.

See the Coast Guard and Navy own cocaine smugglers in the Pacific
Lockheed Martin’s F-35A aircraft displays its weapons load-out at Edwards Air Force Base in California. | Lockheed Martin photo by Matt Short

Currently among fighter jets, only the F-15E and F-16C carry the B-61. Neither of these planes can penetrate contested enemy airspace, so they could only drop the gravity bomb on an area unprotected by air defenses.

The F-35, a polarizing defense project in its own right, could change that with its stealth capabilities. However, President-elect Trump has voiced concerns about the F-35 project while simultaneously stressing that the US needs to “expand its nuclear capability.”

Immediately this lead to talk of a new nuclear arms race, much to the horror of nuclear experts and non-proliferation advocates. The fact is that Russia and the US already have more nuclear weapons than necessary to meet their strategic needs.

Additionally, nuclear modernization is due to cost the US hundreds of billions of dollars in the coming decades, and around a trillion dollars in total.

See the Coast Guard and Navy own cocaine smugglers in the Pacific
Image courtesy of Armscontrol.org

But not only do experts find nuclear expansion costly and unnecessary, they also find it dangerous.

The US has 180 B-61 nuclear bombs stationed in five bases throughout Europe. Russian intelligence services monitor deployments of fighter jets across Europe, and the fact that the F-15E and F-16C regularly deploy to these bases could lead to a catastrophic misinterpretation.

Kingston Reif, the director for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy at the Arms Control Association, told Business Insider that the US “should be seeking to strengthen the dividing line between nuclear and conventional weapons, not blur that line.”

F-35s, with their excellent stealth attributes, taking off from European bases that may or may not house the B-61s (it would be extremely difficult for Russia to know) and flying near Russia’s borders could put Moscow on high alert. This could even potentially spook the Kremlin into launching an attack on the US.

See the Coast Guard and Navy own cocaine smugglers in the Pacific
A frontal view of four B-61 nuclear free-fall bombs on a bomb cart at Barksdale Air Force Base. | Department of Defense photo by SSGT Phil Schmitten

Furthermore, the B-61s are low-yield bombs, meaning they don’t pack much of a punch. In the event of an actual nuclear conflict, “the likely hood is that we’re going to use the big bombs, and not the little bombs,”Laicie Heely of the nonpartisan Stimpson Center think tank points out.

So while the F-35 may provide a stealthy, sleek new delivery method for nuclear bombs, they may destabilize already fraught relations between the world’s two greatest nuclear powers — Russia and the US.

“There can be no winners in a nuclear war and that as long as each side has nuclear weapons, strategic stability will remain central to their bilateral relations,” Reif said of US-Russian relations.

MIGHTY TRENDING

‘Sky Soldiers’ celebrate their first female Ranger

“This is it. Number one on my list of worst days at Ranger School,” 1st Lt. Anna Hodge thought as it started to rain again during day eight of Mountain Phase patrols. The blisters on her feet, the chaffing on her legs, and the prickly heat stung with the rain. She stuffed more pieces of MRE gum in her mouth, biting down hard to keep her mind off the pain.

“Your complaint has been duly noted and will be answered within 24 to 48 hours,” she mentally responded to the pain, imitating an answering machine. “Now back to counting steps, 1,344, 1,345…

“Our Mountain Phase experienced record-high rainfall, and I felt bad for my platoon mates who had chafed in some pretty uncomfortable places,” says Hodge. “My legs looked like road rash; the blood and pus was sticking to my uniform. Shivering at night was the norm; yes, it was cold, but even more because of the pain.”


But Hodge had one advantage some of her friends didn’t. She decided to go to Ranger School without feeling pressured; the pain described above was something she had chosen, all simply to become a better intelligence officer.

“I wanted to focus on tactical intelligence,” says Hodge. “It is impossible to know where the enemy will move, nor how to advise the commander if you don’t know Infantry tactics.” Military Intelligence is an Operations Support branch. If soldiers don’t understand what they are supporting, mission success is unlikely.

“I’ve always had a soft spot for the Infantry, and I learned so much about Infantry tactics at Ranger School,” says Hodge. “After graduating, that respect grew even more.”

Hodge wanted to attend Ranger School dating back to 2010 when she first joined ROTC. “I loved patrolling, working as part of a squad and the challenge of pushing myself to perform on minimal food and sleep. I remember cleaning weapons one day and someone joked that I should shave my head and go to Ranger School. I thought it was funny, and secretly I really wanted to go. But it wasn’t open to females at the time.”

That all changed in 2015 when, for the first time, a female graduated Ranger School.

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1st Lt. Anna Hodge proudly displays her Ranger tab on graduation day.

(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Joseph Legros)

The following year Hodge attended the Basic Officer Leadership Course for Military Intelligence. She listened to an instructor who recruited Military Intelligence, or MI, officers for the new 75th Regiment MI Battalion. “The hardest part of Ranger School is deciding to go,” the instructor said.

Hodge remembers thinking, “I’ve always been a religious person and when I heard the instructor, it was like God telling me, ‘you better start preparing because you’re going to go.'”

It wasn’t until she went to 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, “The Rock,” part of the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Italy, that she got her opportunity.

“Slowly I expressed a desire to attend Ranger School and my chain of command believed in me,” explains Hodge. “They encouraged me and other lieutenants to go; they did an excellent job creating a command climate where mistakes and failure are accepted as long as you try. Leaders can have a profound impact on a unit’s culture and I’m so grateful to serve in ‘The Rock.’ The unit is full of great leaders, past and present, serving as examples for the type of leader I strive to be.”

“There are a lot of things that get you through Ranger School, but two of the most important are ‘wanting to attend’ and ‘not quitting,'” says Hodge’s battalion commander, Lt. Col. Jim Keirsey. “1st Lt. Hodge wanted to go and earned her spot on the order of merit list. Once there, she didn’t quit. Now she is a Ranger qualified ‘Rock’ Paratrooper.”

Hodge trained for Ranger School by herself, facing the difficulty of balancing work and training. Many times she wished she could have trained more, but battalion priorities came first. She was motivated to work out twice a day, doing countless ruck marches. Sometimes she carried a sledge hammer, simulating the weight of machine gun.

“I really thought I would struggle with the physical aspect, so I trained hard prior to school,” Hodge explains. “But instead, it was the Infantry stuff that was difficult for me. Coming from a Military Intelligence background, I didn’t know the tactics very well, nor how the instructors wanted me to conduct patrols.”

At Ranger School, a student can repeat a phase for patrols, peer ratings or an observation report; this is referred to as “recycling.” If a candidate fails the same thing again, they will be dropped from the course. Her first time through, Hodge was dropped during patrols.

“I was devastated. I didn’t know why I worked so hard only to fail,” shares Hodge. “But ironically, I’m really glad I failed Ranger School my first time. Dealing with failure is one of the most important lessons you can learn.”

Being recycled is not uncommon. According to Ft. Benning, 61.2 percent of graduating Rangers were recycled at least once in 2017. This means less than 39 percent made it through without having to start any of the phases over again. No surprise here: Ranger School is tough.

“I definitely thought about heading home after I failed,” says Hodge. “To start again, it would have been colder, and mentally I was spent.” Despite those thoughts, she stayed.

“I wasn’t ready to give up just yet,” says Hodge.

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1st Lt. Anna Hodge.

(Photo By Staff Sgt. Alexander C Henninger)

“I was able to sign up for a Master Resiliency Trainer course in between Ranger classes and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. Thank goodness for resiliency because my second Ranger Assessment Phase week was one of the hardest of my life. It was so cold and miserable that I wanted to quit every day, but I told myself to just quit tomorrow. Before long I made it through the week.”

“The same work ethic and ‘never quit’ attitude that got her through Ranger School is what makes 1st Lt. Hodge an asset to the unit,” adds Keirsey.

In Hodge’s case, it was also helpful to have other female Ranger graduates to follow. She became the fifteenth female throughout the Armed Services to graduate Ranger School and the first Ranger qualified female Sky Soldier. However, this also proved to be challenging.

“I never wanted to be the first female graduate,” says Hodge. “I knew those who went first would deal with criticism and scrutiny. I am very grateful for the 71 females who attended Ranger School before me, the pioneers who overcame prejudice as they pursued their goals. They helped positively change opinions about female Rangers.”

Hodge shares, “I remember reading negative comments about other female graduates, wondering if I would be judged, too. Would they question whether I truly earned my Ranger tab?”

But the length of ruck marches has not changed, nor does the rain fall only on male candidates. Everyone carries their own weight.

“At Ranger School, everyone is held to the same standard,” asserts Hodge.

During one of the phases, she was assigned to carry the machine gun or the radio, the two heaviest items, on a regular basis. The frequent assignments to carry heavy equipment ultimately made her grateful.

“It showed me and others that I could carry the heaviest items and keep up,” says Hodge.

“I was an equal member of the squad, working together with my classmates to accomplish the mission. I formed friendships that will last a lifetime. I am especially grateful to the friends I made in my platoons, my unit and from Ranger Battalion. They taught me so much about the Army and the Infantry.”

“My husband was also very supportive the whole time. He even helped shave my hair and showed me how to do it myself,” shares Hodge.

When asked if she has any doubts of the results, Hodge responds, “After persevering through school, I know, without a doubt, I earned my Ranger tab. It took patience and determination. I put in the effort. I met the standards.”

She also offers the following advice to anyone thinking of attending Ranger School: “Appreciate the little things. You better learn to love patrols. Volunteer for the small, simple tasks that no one wants to do and make them your hobby, like emplacing claymores and camouflaging them. I loved that.”

She adds, “Don’t let little things get to you. Try to see the good. Yes, there were annoying bugs like mosquitos and spiders, but there were also fireflies which were super cool. Yes, it rained, and everyone’s skin was chafed. But the rain also cooled us down.”

The first Ranger qualified female Sky Soldier concludes, “Whatever your goal, take it one step at a time and continue in patience.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Former President George H.W. Bush dies at age 94

Former President George H.W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States, died Friday at 94.

Bush, 94, was admitted to Houston Methodist Hospital in April after “contracting an infection that spread to his blood,” according to a statement from Bush family spokesman Jim McGrath.

Bush suffered from a form of Parkinson’s disease and had been hospitalized several times in recent years. The former commander-in-chief was treated for pneumonia and was temporarily placed on a ventilator in 2017.

Bush served as president from 1989 to 1993. Before that, he served as vice president under Ronald Reagan from 1981 to 1989.

Bush’s death follows the passing of his wife, former first lady Barbara Bush, who died on April 17. Barbara, 92, suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and congestive heart failure. The two had been married for 73 years.He is survived by his five children, 17 grandchildren, eight great grandchildren, and two siblings.


Bush, a Massachusetts native, joined the US armed forces on his 18th birthday in 1938 and eventually became the youngest naval pilot at the time. He flew a total of 58 combat missions during World War II, including one where he was shot down by Japanese forces.

From the Ivy League to the oil business, and then public service

After graduating from Yale University and venturing into the oil business, Bush jumped into politics and eventually became a congressman, representing the 7th Congressional District in Texas. He made two unsuccessful runs for Senate, but would later serve in various political capacities — including as the US ambassador the United Nations, Republican National Committee chair, and CIA director.

Bush decided to run for president in 1980; however, failed to secure the Republican Party’s nomination during the primaries. Reagan soon chose Bush as his running mate and vice presidential nominee.He ran for president again with Sen. Dan Quayle of Indiana as his running mate, and won, in 1988.

During his time in office, Bush oversaw major foreign-policy decisions that would have lasting effects on the global stage.

As one of his first major decisions, Bush decided to remove Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega — a former US ally turned international drug lord — from power. Around 23,000 US troops took part part in “Operation Just Cause” and invaded Panama. Noriega eventually surrendered to the US and although the operation was seen as a US victory, it was also viewed as a violation of international law.

As the sitting president during the demise of the Soviet Union, Bush held summits with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and advocated for the reduction of nuclear weapons while cultivating US-Soviet ties. When the Soviet Union finally fell, Bush heralded it as a “victory for democracy and freedom” but held back on implementing a US-centric policy on the confederation of nations that emerged.

On August 2, 1990, Bush faced what was arguably his greatest test. Iraq, led by Saddam Hussein, invaded Kuwait after accusing it of stealing oil and conspiring to influence oil prices. Bush formed a coalition of nations, including the Soviet Union, to denounce Hussein’s actions and liberate Kuwait in “Operation Desert Shield” and eventually “Operation Desert Storm.” Around 425,000 US troops and 118,000 coalition forces were mobilized for weeks of aerial strikes and a 100-hour ground battle.

Despite his achievements beyond the US border, Bush was less successful back home. He fell short in his bid for reelection in 1992, during a time of high unemployment rates and continued deficit spending. Bush pulled in only 168 electoral votes that year, compared to Bill Clinton — then the governor of Arkansas — who collected 370 electoral votes.

Following his presidency, the Bushes relocated to Houston, Texas, where they settled down and became active in the community.

Bush received several accolades after his presidency, including receiving a knighthood at Buckingham Palace, and having the US Navy’s nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), named after him.

In 2017, several women accused Bush of sexual misconduct and telling lewd jokes. Bush’s representatives released a statement at the time, saying that he occasionally “patted women’s rears in what he intended to be a good-natured manner.”

Bush is survived by his sons, former President George W. Bush, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Neil Bush, Marvin Bush, and daughter Dorothy Bush Koch.

“Some see leadership as high drama and the sound of trumpets calling, and sometimes it is that,” Bush said during his inaugural address on January 20, 1989. “But I see history as a book with many pages, and each day we fill a page with acts of hopefulness and meaning.”

Bush continued: “The new breeze blows, a page turns, the story unfolds. And so, today a chapter begins, a small and stately story of unity, diversity, and generosity — shared, and written, together.”

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

Featured

This Green Beret invented a flag that can’t – and won’t – burn

When 10th Group Special Forces soldier Kyle Daniels returned from his last combat deployment, he was frustrated by what he saw. He understood that he’d been fighting for America’s freedom, including the important freedom to protest. But he didn’t like seeing the American flag burned.

So he did something about it.


See the Coast Guard and Navy own cocaine smugglers in the Pacific

Daniels designed and developed a flag that will not burn. Now, after two years of research and hundreds of prototypes, on Sunday, June 14 – Flag Day 2020 – the Firebrand Flag Company will launch its first product: A first-of-its-kind, official, fire-retardant U.S. Flag made in America from the same kevlar and nomex fabric that keeps our service members and first responders safe.

Daniels has big ambitions for his flag company. “I want Firebrand Flags to be the official flag company of the U.S.A.,” he said. “I want every home, business and government building in America to proudly fly one of our flags. And, if, for some reason, one of our enemies got ahold of one of our flags, it wouldn’t be much use as a propaganda tool. They would have to go to extreme lengths to destroy it, much like they do when they are face to face with an American service member. Old Glory can now defend itself.”

See the Coast Guard and Navy own cocaine smugglers in the Pacific

Early on, Daniels shared his vision with his former Green Beret commander, Jason Van Camp. Van Camp immediately invited Daniels to join his Warrior Rising incubator. Warrior Rising helps veteran entrepreneurs find mentors who can help realize their business goals and transition to the private sector. “I’ve known Kyle since the Special Forces Qualification Course. I believe in Kyle. He was a perfect fit for Warrior Rising,” Van Camp explained. “He had passion and zeal for making a flag that would literally dominate the narrative about flag burning but needed to evolve a new set of business skills to realize his vision.”

The mission wasn’t going to be easy. To make a flag that would look, feel and fly like a real flag but that wouldn’t burn, Daniels needed to engineer new materials and design a manufacturing process that previously didn’t exist. There were plenty of roadblocks along the way. The process to make the flag required entirely new cutting machines and the largest purchase of Kevlar fabric outside of the U.S. military. But Daniels applied the resilience he learned in the military to his business. As Daniels put it, “You have to adapt, overcome and do whatever needs to be done to accomplish the mission.”

See the Coast Guard and Navy own cocaine smugglers in the Pacific

At a Warrior Rising event, Kyle met yet another ex-Green Beret, Chase Millsap, the Chief Content Officer at We Are The Mighty. We Are The Mighty is a publisher and content studio focused on the military and veteran communities. Millsap loved the Firebrand mission from the outset. “We tell stories that celebrate service. Kyle’s unburnable flag is an awesome product with an amazing story.” It took Milsap no time to convince his colleagues to jump on board and the two companies have formed a partnership to bring the Firebrand Flag to market. WATM is the proud media partner of Firebrand Flags.

Get your unburnable flag today. The first 150 orders before June 26 save , and get free shipping (a value). All orders placed by June 26 are guaranteed to arrive in time for the 4th of July.

See the Coast Guard and Navy own cocaine smugglers in the Pacific

FIREBRAND FLAG COMPANY – Founded by Green Beret veteran Kyle Daniels, Firebrand Flags is the 1st company to develop a 100% made in America, fire retardant officials U.S. Flag.

WARRIOR RISING – A 501c(3) which empowers U.S. military veterans and their immediate family members by providing them opportunities to create sustainable businesses, perpetuate the hiring of fellow American veterans and earn their future.

WE ARE THE MIGHTY – Launched in 2014, We Are The Mighty (WATM) was created to give military veterans a voice to tell the most authentic, entertaining and inspirational stories about the military and by the military.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Top US general wants more firepower to counter Russia

The top US general in Europe told Congress March 5, 2019, that he needs a lot more firepower to counter the threat from Russia.

“I am not comfortable yet with the deterrent posture that we have in Europe,” Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, head of European Command and NATO’s supreme allied commander Europe, told the Senate Armed Services Committee, Stars and Stripes reported.

“While the US maintains a global military superiority over Russia, evolving Russian capabilities threaten to erode our competitive military advantage,” he explained. He told lawmakers there continue to be shortfalls across all warfighting domains.


He requested more troops and warships, as well as more cyber assets and more intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets to confront Russia, which boldly seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and is rapidly modernizing its armed forces to “erode” the US military’s advantage.

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Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, head of European Command and NATO’s supreme allied commander Europe.

“In light of Russia’s modernizing and increasingly aggressive force posture,” the general explained, “EUCOM recommends augmenting our assigned and rotational forces to enhance our deterrence posture.” He added that he has requested the addition of two more US Navy destroyers to bolster strength of the four ballistic-missile defense capable ships already stationed in Spain.

“I’ve asked for two more destroyers for EUCOM,” he said, according to CNN. “We need greater capacity particularly given the modernization and growth of the … Russian fleets in Europe.” He said that he would like to see carrier and amphibious strike groups rotating through Europe more frequently.

He also encouraged regular naval activities in the Black Sea. “They frankly don’t like us in the Black Sea,” the general said. “It’s international waters and we should sail and fly there.” As is, the US routinely sends destroyers into the waterway, where they are shadowed by Russian vessels.

Russia is in the process of bolstering the strength of its forces on NATO’s doorstep, adding new tank and missile units to its Baltic forces.

Russia argues that its actions are a direct response to NATO’s military build-up. “We are forced to provide an adequate response, carrying out strategic containment events with the plans of stepping up combat capabilities of military formations and units,” Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu recently told Russian state media.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma and the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, argued for greater deterrence capabilities March 5, 2019, according to Stars and Stripes, stating that any “perceived weakness will only provoke further aggression from Putin.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch how Light Armored Recon fight chemical attacks

In the world of combat, enemies of the U.S. don’t typically fight fair. So, as a defensive measure, we need to prepare for every possible situation that could arise — even situations that involve the use of outlawed weaponry.


Fortunately, our armed forces go through detailed training to prepare for an event in which one of the countries we occupy decides to get froggy and releases a chemical attack.

It’s no secret that such chemicals exist and to combat the threat, allied forces have the technology readily available.

Related: Check out this tiny Navy SEAL team survival kit

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Mustard gas victims with bandaged faces await transport for treatment. (Canadian War Museum)

Not all released chemicals are absorbed into the human body via inhalation. For some dangerous substances, any contact with the body can be deadly. So, the military has unique suits and a system called “Mission Oriented Protective Posture” to define the level of protection required by each circumstance.

The MOPP system technically has five different levels. Level 0 means the area appears to zero threat, but troops must still keep those specialized suites handy. This level rises as dangers become greater so that troops know to don additional gear for protection.

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What MOPP looked like back in 1991.

You might ask yourself, what if the troop works as a tanker and they cant put on their MOPP gear fast enough due to a lack of space?

That’s a great question and we’re glad we asked.

Moden day tanks and light armored vehicles are built to protect the troops inside, even in the event that the enemy decides to pass gas. Get it? How funny are we, right?

The cleverly constructed vehicles are fitted to have all the hatches seal airtight when closed. Those light armored reconnaissance vehicles are well constructed that they can maneuver through harsh terrain during attacks like it’s no big deal.

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(Marines / YouTube)

Also Read: 6 of the most common infantry training injuries

Check out the Marines‘ video below to get the complete breakdown of being prepared for any situation — like a chemical gas attack.

 

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why balloons were some of the scariest targets of World War I

For World War I pilots, the most terrifying song that relates to their experience may not be Seven Nation Army but 99 Luftballoons, because going against barrage and observation balloons in the Great War was terrifying.


Barrage balloons over London in World War II.

(Public Domain)

Pilots with the balls and skill to attack these balloons were known as balloon busters, and ones that had shot down more than five of the balloons were known as balloon aces. And yes, shooting down a balloon counted as a “kill,” same as shooting down a piloted enemy plane.

But what made them so hard to shoot down? After all, they were just a bunch of floating bags of air. Pop ’em with a needle and get on with your day, right?

Well, no.

First, military balloons weren’t made of cheap Mylar or latex. Many in World War I were made of tightly woven fabric, though vulcanized rubber and Thiokol rubber were prominent in World War II. All of these materials could take plenty of hits without splitting, meaning bullets that passed through them caused them to leak instead of to pop.

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A row of spherical barrage balloons used for suspending aerial nets

(Australian War Memorial)

So they couldn’t simply be popped, and it often took a lot of rounds to bring one down. But if a fighter did manage to slay the beast, he wasn’t out of danger yet. While American balloons in World War II were sometimes filled with helium, none of the early Great War combatants had access to that gas, and hydrogen was the preferred gas for barrage balloons anyway.

Why? Well, for the same reason it was bad for the Hindenburg. Observation balloons had people in them, people who would’ve loved helium instead of hydrogen over their heads. But barrage balloons were empty, and filling them with hydrogen meant that, when destroyed, the balloons had a tendency to go out in massive fireballs. This was a huge threat to the fighters attacking it.

It also meant that fighters had one advantage though: Incendiary rounds were very effective against the balloons. But in World War I, pretty much only the British had incendiary rounds in planes. Everyone else was slinging cold metal. And incendiary rounds didn’t stay hot forever, generally traveling only 300 to 400 yards while still burning. You did not want to be 300 yards from an exploding balloon and still flying towards it as you would have to be to effectively shoot at it.

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Barrage balloons and their crews in World War II.

(Royal Air Force)

Fine, fine, fine. The balloons were hard to shoot down and, when shot down, might explode in a big fireball and kill the attacking fighter. Fine. Just fly around them, right? Let the Germans have their balloons over their lines, maybe bring in some air defense artillery to shoot at it. But let the fighters avoid them.

Nope. For two reasons. First, those observation balloons were an enduring threat from the moment they went up until the moment they went down. Artillery observers sat in them and reported troops positions and movements to their friendly artillery for hours, allowing German crews to hit English, French, and U.S. positions all day. They had to be killed.

But the barrage balloons couldn’t be ignored either, because they had thick steel cables or else entire nets hanging from them in order to catch enemy fighters attempting to fly under them. And they flew high enough that few World War I fighters or bombers could come over the top and still be effective. By World War II, the balloons were set lower, but only to steer the enemy aircraft up to over 5,000 feet where anti-aircraft artillery was most effective.

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American pilot Frank Luke poses with his 13th confirmed kill.

(Public Domain)

So observation balloons and barrage balloons were lethal, terrifying, and absolutely had to be destroyed, and some of America, England, and France’s top aces proved their mettle by flying at the things, especially in World War I. In fact, some of the top decorated fighter pilots of World War I had few wins against human-piloted planes, but a dozen or more against balloons.

Will Coppens, a Belgian pilot, personally awarded a medal by King Albert I had only shot down two enemy planes in his career, but he had taken down an astounding 35 enemy balloons. The next highest scoring pilot after him was Frenchman Leon Bourjade with 27. So, yeah, Coppens earned that medal from his king.

America’s top balloon buster was Frank Luke, a mouthy pilot who was looked down upon by his peers when he arrived in France. He claimed his first fighter kill in August 1918, but no one else had witnessed the feat, and he was written off as a blowhard. So, after hearing how hard balloons were to take down, he attacked one on September 12 and, after three passes, destroyed it right before it reached the safety of the ground where the observers could clamber out.

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German observation balloons allowed for intelligence gathering and highly accurate artillery fire, and barrage balloons created persistent threats to enemy fighters.

(State Library of New South Wales)

Luke bagged another two balloons two days later. His wingman that day, 1st Lt. Joseph Wehner, formed a team with him that specialized in balloon busting and turned the whole thing into a traveling show, sending invitations to VIPs to witness German balloons blowing up at set times and places. But it was too bold to last, and Wehner was shot down on September 18 while taking down his fifth balloon, giving him balloon ace status in death.

Distraught, Luke went off the deep end, taking more and more risks in flight to the point that his superiors grounded the already famous pilot who, by that point, had 11 victories against balloons and four against fighters, making him America’s ace of aces. On September 29, he stole a plane and dropped a note to the ground that told observers to watch German balloons over the Meuse.

Luke flew into the teeth of the enemy, dodging ground fire and eight enemy fighters as he took down one balloon after the others, destroying all three in the area before he was shot down. He survived the wreck and pulled his pistol, fending off a German patrol and killing multiple members of it until a German round drilled him in the chest.

He was awarded two Distinguished Service Crosses and the Medal of Honor for his heroics in September 1918, going to his grave as America’s best-ever balloon buster with 14 kills against balloons and four against fighters.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. Forces recover bodies from plane crash site in Afghanistan

Helicopter-borne U.S. forces have recovered the remains of the crew killed when a military aircraft went down in a Taliban-controlled area of Afghanistan’s Ghazni Province, according to U.S. and Afghan officials.

The Bombardier E-11A, used for military communications, went down in a snowy part of eastern Afghanistan on January 27.


Ghazni police chief Khaled Wardak said U.S. choppers landed at the site in the late afternoon and were reinforced by Afghan security forces on the ground during the operation. Earlier in the day, Afghan forces trying to reach the wreckage clashed with militants.

“Following the removal of the bodies, our forces have moved back to their bases. We don’t know where the foreigners have taken the bodies,” Wardak said.

Nasir Ahmad Faqiri, the head of the provincial council in Ghazni, confirmed the operation, saying the Americans took at least two bodies from the scene.

A U.S. defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that the remains of individuals from the aircraft had been recovered and said the military was in the process of identifying the remains. The Pentagon declined to comment.

The Pentagon only confirmed the aircraft belonged to U.S. forces, but dismissed Taliban claims it had been shot down. The military did not say how many people were aboard or if there were any casualties.

Earlier on January 28, coalition forces flew sorties over the site of the crashed jet with one aircraft firing flares as a crowd gathered nearby, according to witness reports.

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Wardak said after the plane went down Afghan security forces tried to reach the wreckage late on January 27 when they were ambushed by the Taliban and pushed back.

Ghazni police spokesman Ahmad Khan Sirat confirmed the incident, adding that at least one person was killed in the fighting between Taliban and Afghan forces.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said Afghan forces backed by U.S. military support tried to capture the area around the wreckage.

He said Taliban fighters on the ground counted six bodies at the site of the crash.

Unidentified U.S. officials were quoted as saying the plane was carrying fewer than five people when it crashed.

The crash comes as the Taliban and United States have been in talks on ending the 18-year war in Afghanistan.

The two sides had been negotiating the deal for a year and were on the brink of an announcement in September 2019 when U.S. President Donald Trump abruptly declared the process “dead,” citing Taliban violence.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 areas DARPA needs your help in developing its drone swarms

DARPA is looking for people with innovative ideas to participate in its “swarm sprint” exercises. The project would inform tactics and technologies for large groups of unmanned air and ground robots in certain environments.


The OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) program envisions future, small-unit infantry forces using small, unmanned aircraft systems and/or small, unmanned ground systems in swarms of 250 robots or more to accomplish diverse missions in complex urban environments. By leveraging and combining emerging technologies in swarm autonomy and human-swarm teaming, the program seeks to enable rapid development and deployment of breakthrough capabilities to the field.

Roughly every six months, DARPA plans to solicit proposals from potential sprinters, with each swarm sprint focusing on one of five thrust areas:

  • Swarm tactics
  • Swarm autonomy
  • Human-swarm teaming
  • Virtual environment
  • Physical testbed

Here’s more about the project:

DARPA is awarding Phase 1 contracts to teams led by Raytheon BBN Technologies and the Northrop Grumman Corporation. Each team will serve as a swarm systems integrator tasked with designing, developing, and deploying an open architecture for swarm technologies in physical and virtual environments. Each system would include an extensible, game-based architecture to enable design and integration of swarm tactics, a swarm tactics exchange to foster community interaction, immersive interfaces for collaboration among teams of humans and swarm systems, and a physical testbed to validate developed capabilities.

Also Read: See DARPA quadcopter drones fly an obstacle course without GPS

Participants for the first core sprint are needed now. The focus of this effort is the generation of swarm tactics for a mixed swarm of 50 air and ground robots to isolate an urban objective within an area of two square city blocks over a mission duration of 15 to 30 minutes. Visit DARPA to learn about where to submit your proposal.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

China plans new satellites to spy in South China Sea

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

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


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

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

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The northeastern portion of the South China Sea.

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

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

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

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

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

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

popular

The amazing way this Israeli pilot survived a birdstrike

An Israeli pilot only known as “Lt. H” was flying at a low level near 350 knots in an A-4 Skyhawk one day. He was flying over the desert near the Dead Sea in September 1985. He was flying straight and level when the next thing he knows he is laying on the floor of the valley near where he was previously flying. All he knows is that he has a massive headache and no memory of how he got there.


Eventually, H did remember seeing a small object coming at him at a high speed. As he approached, he instinctively ducked to avoid hitting the object, but to no avail.

“I couldn’t tell what it was,” he told the New York Times. ”As it got closer, instinctively I ducked. That’s all I remember. I woke up on the ground with a parachute around me and my neck broken.”

His command knows exactly what happened – he ran head-on into a migrating flock of birds. One of those birds penetrated the canopy and flew into the cockpit, then hit H in the head, knocking him unconscious. What happened next was nothing short of miraculous.

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This wasn’t an ordinary bird, it was a Honey Buzzard.

The Israelis found H laying in the desert, as H remembers. But they also found feathers and blood on the helmet of their young IDF lieutenant. They sent the evidence to a lab in Amsterdam to get some answers. That’s how they discovered what kind of bird the Skyhawk hit and how it was able to break into the jet’s canopy. It turns out Israel in the 1980s was smack-dab in the center of a migration corridor for storks, pelicans, and predatory birds like the Honey Buzzard.

It turns out the bird crashed through the front windshield and eventually hit the pilot’s ejection seat lever after knocking him out. Lieutenant H’s parachute opened on its own, and that’s how H ended up on the ground with a headache.

The bird, however, probably went down with the Skyhawk.

MIGHTY HISTORY

We just missed horse day, so here’s hero Sgt. Reckless

Apparently, December 13 was National Day of the Horse, thanks to the 108th Congress, so we want to take a second to talk about one of the military’s most heroic horses: Marine Corps Korean War hero, Sgt. Reckless.


Reckless began life as Ah Chim Hai, a racehorse owned by a Korean man, but the man sold the horse in order to buy a prosthetic for his sister who had lost a leg to a landmine. The Marines who bought Reckless initially treated her a little like a pet, giving her portions of their food and bringing her into the barracks when she was cold.

But she was destined for service and began running ammunition into combat and wounded Marines out.

And this is where Private Reckless distinguished herself. Most horses are skittish, and it takes a resilient horse to operate under fire in any circumstances, but Reckless could ferry rounds into combat and wounded Marines out.

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Then-Pvt. Reckless operating under fire in Korea.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

And she could do it unsupervised.

Once she knew where the supply post was and where her Marines were fighting, she could make trips back and forth quickly, efficiently, and without further guidance. Ask any gunnery sergeant in the Corps, and we guarantee they’ve had at least one Marine that couldn’t be trusted like that.

Reckless’s most significant contribution came during the Battle for Outpost Vega in 1953 when her Marines were manning recoilless rifles under heavy enemy fire. Reckless made her back-and-forth trips, even continuing after an enemy round caused two shrapnel wounds, one of which nearly blinded her.

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Marines pose with a statue of Staff Sgt. Reckless during an October 2016 ceremony where the statue was unveiled.

(U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Dylan Overbay)

Despite the enemy fire and potential distractions, Reckless carried 386 rounds of ammunition to the front in a single day. The rounds weighed 24 pounds each, enough to exhaust even a horse.

For her heroics, Reckless was promoted to sergeant, awarded two Purple Hearts, and sent to America a short time later. She went on to give birth to four children and enjoy retirement as a Marine Corps celebrity and staff sergeant.

Camp Pendleton now celebrates her life with a statue erected in her honor. Camp Pendleton even released a graphic for Reckless on National Day of the Horse. It’s available here.

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