The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom

As in so many American conflicts, Coast Guard units and personnel in Operation Iraqi Freedom or OIF, performed several missions; including escort duty, force protection, maritime interdiction operations or MIO, and aids-to-navigation, or ATON, work. From the very outset of Middle East operations, the Coast Guard’s training and experience in these and other maritime activities played a vital role in OIF.


Late in 2002, Coast Guard headquarters alerted various units in the service’s Pacific Area and Atlantic Area about possible deployment to the Middle East. From November 2002 through January 2003, these units began activation, training and planning activities for an expected deployment in early 2003. In January, Pacific Area’s first major units deployed to the Arabian Gulf, including the high-endurance cutter Boutwell and ocean-going buoy tender Walnut. Both of these vessels had to cross the Pacific and Indian oceans to arrive at the Arabian Gulf and begin operations. Their responsibilities would include MIO and Walnut, in conjunction with members of the Coast Guard’s National Strike Force, would lead potential oil spill containment operations.

The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom

Port Security Unit 309’s port security boat underway.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Atlantic Area provided many units of its own, sending the high-endurance cutter Dallas to the Mediterranean to support and escort Military Sealift Command shipping and Coalition battle groups in that theater of operations. Atlantic Area sent four 110-foot patrol boats (WPBs) to Italy together with support personnel and termed their base of operations “Patrol Forces Mediterranean” or PATFORMED, and it sent four WPBs to the Arabian Gulf with a Bahrain-based command called “Patrol Forces Southwest Asia,” PATFORSWA.

The service also activated Port Security Units and law enforcement boarding teams, LEDETs, which had proven successful in the Gulf War in 1990. Atlantic Area sent PSU 309 from Port Clinton, Ohio, to Italy to support PATFORMED while Pacific Area sent PSU 311 from San Pedro, California, and PSU 313 from Tacoma, Washington, to Kuwait to protect the Kuwait Naval Base and the commercial port of Shuaiba, respectively. LEDET personnel initially served aboard the WPBs and then switched to Navy patrol craft to perform MIO operations.

The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom

Coast Guard Cutter Adak, a 110-foot patrol boat, interdicts a local dhow in the Northern Arabian Gulf.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

At 8 p.m. on March 19, Coalition forces launched Operation Iraqi Freedom. When hostilities commenced, all Coast Guard units were manned and ready. On March 20, personnel from PSU 311 and PSU 313 helped secure Iraq’s offshore oil terminals thereby preventing environmental damage and ensuring the flow of oil for a post-war Iraqi government. On March 21, littoral combat operations began and the WPB Adak served picket duty farther north than any other Coalition unit along the Khor Abd Allah Waterway. Adak captured the first Iraqi maritime prisoners of the war whose patrol boat had been destroyed upstream by an AC-130 gunship. On that same day, Adak participated in the capture of two Iraqi tugs and a mine-laying barge that had been modified to plant its deadly cargo in the waters of the Northern Arabian Gulf.

Once initial naval operations ceased, Coast Guard units began securing port facilities and waterways for the shipment of humanitarian aid to Iraq. On March 24, PSU 311 personnel deployed to the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr and, four days later, the WPB Wrangell led the first humanitarian aid shipment to that port facility. In addition to their primary mission of boarding vessels in the Northern Arabian Gulf, Coast Guard LEDETs secured the Iraqi shoreline from caches of weapons and munitions. Buoy tender Walnut, whose original mission included environmental protection from sabotaged oil facilities, surveyed and completely restored aids to navigation for the shipping lane leading to Iraq’s ports.

The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom

Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Bruckenthal, a damage controlman, made the ultimate sacrifice during a boarding operation as member of a Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment team.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

On May 1, President George Bush declared an end to combat operations in Iraq. However, in less than a year the Coast Guard suffered its first and only death associated with OIF. On April 24, 2004, terrorists navigated three small vessels armed with explosives toward Iraq’s oil terminals. During this attack, the Navy patrol craft Firebolt intercepted one of the watercraft and members of LEDET 403 and Navy crew members proceeded toward the vessel in a rigid-hull inflatable boat or RHIB. Terrorists aboard the small vessel detonated its explosive cargo as the RHIB approached, overturning the boat and killing LEDET member Nathan Bruckenthal and two Navy crew members. Serving in his second tour of duty in Iraq, Bruckenthal had already received the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and Combat Action Ribbon. He posthumously received the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart Medal and Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal. He was the first Coast Guardsman killed in combat since the Vietnam War and was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

In OIF, the Coast Guard demonstrated the importance of a naval force experienced in shallow-water operations, MIO, port security and ATON work. The PSUs performed their port security duties efficiently in spite of their units being divided between three separate port facilities and two oil terminals. The WPBs operated for countless hours without maintenance in waters too shallow for Navy assets and served as the Coalition fleet’s workhorses in boarding, escort and force protection duties. The personnel of PATFORMED and PSU 309 demonstrated that Coast Guard units could serve in areas, such as the Mediterranean, lacking any form of Coast Guard infrastructure. PATFORSWA performed its mission effectively even though it was the first support detachment established by the Coast Guard. Fortunately, Walnut never had to employ its oil spill capability, but proved indispensable for MIO operations and ATON work on the Khor Abd Allah Waterway. Cutters Dallas and Boutwell provided much-needed logistical support, force protection and MIO operations. OIF was just one of the many combat operations fought by the Coast Guard since 1790 and its heroes are among the many members of the long blue line.

This article originally appeared on the United States Coast Guard. Follow @USCG on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This American rose to lead an entire army in a foreign war

It’s not everyday you hear about an American rising through the ranks of a foreign army, at least not in the last century. But it was surprisingly recently that one American did in an army in just that way. A U.S. citizen rolled over to Armenia during its Nagorno-Karabakh War with neighboring Azerbaijan. He entered the Armenian army having never fought with an actual army and rose through the ranks to command a force of 4,000 men.


California-born Monte Melkonian’s training regimen looks like the resume of a radical terrorist or Communist. But while he held some leftist views, his experience came fighting only for the lives of Armenians – and when the time came, Armenia itself. If you ask Armenians, who today live in a parliamentary republic, he’s a hero.

The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom

In 1988, the breakaway Azerbaijani oblast (province) of Karabakh voted to join the vote to leave not just the crumbling Soviet Union, but also the new country of Azerbaijan. It declared the creation of a new state apart from the USSR while the autonomous oblast of Karabakh declared itself free of Azerbaijan, joining Armenia instead. After all, it did have a majority Armenian ethnic makeup. In 1992, things really hit the fan, and Armenia made decisive territorial gains. At the center of some of those gains was Monte Melkonian, an Armenian-American who had traveled to Armenia at the end of the USSR’s lifetime.

Armenians, after facing a genocide and forced exile from their homelands, are a proud and patriotic people, and Melkonian was no different. He believed that if Azerbaijan were allowed to force Nagorno-Karabakh back into Azerbaijan, then other parts of Armenia would be taken by the Azeri military forces. This was unacceptable to Melkonian, who joined the fighting in 1991. By early 1992, he was a regional commander and quickly began to turn the tides of the war in favor of Armenia.

The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom

The California native might have had little experience running an army, but he knew how to fight. As a youth, he helped overthrow the Shah of Iran while a student in Tehran. After witnessing Iranian troops firing on student protesters, he moved north where he learned to fight with the Kurdish Peshmerga, still one of the most effective fighting forces in the Middle East to this day. He then traveled to Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War to protect the Armenian Quarter of the Middle Eastern city from right-wing militants.

While in Beirut, he decided to work toward the independence of Armenia and after years of imprisonments and living underground in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, he found himself in Armenia’s disputed territory, leading thousands of men. His training at the hands of the Peshmerga and Palestinians was paying off as he not only pushed the Azerbaijani forces out of Karabakh in less than a year, he captured the region between Nagorno-Karabakh and the Republic of Armenia, unifying the two on the map.

Just two months later, he was dead.

The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom

Monte Melkonyan’s tomb.

The Armenian hero was killed in a firefight after Azerbaijani troops got lost in the dark and stumbled into his camp. He was given full military honors at his funeral and is interred outside the Armenian capital of Yerevan, where he is still revered as a legend and brilliant military strategist. His ability against the enemy combined with his political views and personal charisma means Armenians and historians remember him as a sort of Armenian Che Guevara.

He is still revered in his adopted homeland, and the Armenian Military Academy, as well as a number of villages, streets, and schools were renamed in his honor. Armenia still controls the areas captured by his forces, even if the borders are still disputed.

popular

5 typical military rewards that aren’t actually that great

Everyone wants recognition for their hard work and dedication. In the civilian world, promotions and cash raises are a solid ways to let employees know that the company respects their work production and technical skills.

Holy sh*t we wish the military was structured in that same way.

Although service members do get promoted, that only happens once every few years — if you’re lucky. It’s only a 17 percent chance that an active duty troop will stay in the military for 20 years before retiring. That’s much lower than most people think. Now, we can’t accurately pinpoint why all troops decide to get out before hitting their 20, but we know why most of our veterans friends did: they didn’t felt appreciated.

So how does the military show their brave men and women that they give a sh*t about them? Well, keep reading.


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Yes. It kind of does.

“Mandatory fun” days

If this term sounds confusing to the civilian ear, it sounds just as weird to a newbie boot’s as well. Mandatory fun isn’t just the name of the We Are The Mighty podcast, it’s also the event all service members have to attend when their units throw appreciation parties for troops.

Every active duty member has to show up, be accounted for, and must look like they’re having fun (good commands will also design a fun event, but…that’s rare). Sure there are free hot dogs, cheeseburgers, and soda, but, unfortunately, these events usually take place on a Saturday afternoon. Although you’d much rather be doing anything else, you’re stuck at work because you did your job too well.

Free afternoons

What’s interesting about the military is we have to take part in formations on a regular basis. This is a standard tool the military uses to pass information to everybody in the unit at the same time.

Sometimes, the officer-in-charge will give their command the day off as a way of acknowledging everyone’s handiwork.

Unfortunately, they use the formation tool to relay this news to everyone. So…they call everyone to formation…to let them know they have the afternoon off.

But hey, a free afternoon is a free afternoon.

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Command coins

When most civilians hear the word “coin” they think that involves money. In this case, it really doesn’t. Although it costs money to purchase a command coin, the collector item has zero value anywhere on earth except in a veteran-themed bar. Sure the practice of handing out a command coin is a cool way of praising a troop, but, at the end of the day, it’s just something that collects dust on the owner’s desk or shelf in their office.

How about shelling out some real coin once in a while? That will really show the troops their command cares.

Certificate of appreciation

Nothing feels better than to be recognized for your hard work in front of your peers and be handed a piece of pre-formatted paper praising you. We’re totally kidding! Receiving a letter or certificate of appreciation means close to nothing when other troops next to you get the exact thing — word for word.

The only thing that makes the certificate different, it has your name and rank is on it.

Whoopty freakin’ do!

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Getting a shout out in formation

Remember earlier when we talk about standing in formation? Well, Staff NCOs and the command’s officer also like to give shout-outs to their troops there as well. At least you get some notoriety for your excellent work, but unless it reflects somehow on your bi-annual evaluation — nobody gives a f*ck afterward.

Unless you earn your unit a day or half day off, being told “good job for killing the enemy yesterday” only goes so far if it doesn’t get you anywhere afterward.

Welcome to the suck, boot.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What happened when Libya took on the US Navy in the Mediterranean

In 1986, a pair of aviation movies took America by storm. Both Doug Masters in Iron Eagle and Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in Top Gun took to the skies and dominated America’s enemies (we all know who the better pilot was). But in the five months between those two blockbuster releases, U.S. Navy pilots did some butt-kicking for real in the Mediterranean Sea. The butt-kickee? Libya, who endured several days of naval battles that were originally intended to just be some exercises.

Those exercises were planned in response to constant Libyan claims over the Gulf of Sidra. In 1981, the newly-elected President Ronald Reagan ordered the United States Navy to carry out some “freedom of navigation” exercises in the area. Just days into the exercise, two Libyan Su-22 Fitters attacked a pair of F-14 Tomcats. The Fitters were quickly were shot down, shutting down Libyan aggression for a while.

But similar exercises in March 1986, involving three carriers, their air wings, and over a dozen other vessels, would evolve into an epic brawl that made the 1981 incident look very tame by comparison.


According to the Air Combat Intelligence Group, the Libyans tried to approach the American carriers (USS Coral Sea (CV 43), USS Saratoga (CV 60), and USS America (CV 66)) that were on the scene during the exercises. Each attempt was turned back by American F-14 Tomcats and F/A-18 Hornets.

The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom
Libya started the fighting in the Gulf of Sidra by firing SA-5 Gammon missiles at American fighters.
(Photo by George Chernilevsky)

On March 24, things got serious. Libyan MiG-25 Foxbats once again tried to approach the American carriers. F-14 Tomcats went toe-to-toe with the Russian-built fighters and wound up in a non-lethal dogfight. After the Foxbats were chased away, Libyan commanders ordered SA-5 Gammon batteries to open fire. The F-14s dodged the missiles — with help from an EA-6B Prowler.

Such aggression couldn’t go unanswered. The counter-attack came shortly afterwards. A mix of A-7E Corsair attack planes armed with AGM-88 high-speed, anti-radiation missiles and A-6E Intruder all-weather attack planes armed with a mix of CBU-100 Rockeye cluster bombs and AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles were launched. Within a half-hour, first blood had been drawn.

The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom
Libya’s MiG-25 Foxbats tried to tangle with F-14 Tomcats, but had little luck.
(Photo by Rob Schleiffert)

A pair of A-6 Intruders located and attacked a Libyan Combatante II-class missile boat. The first one fired a Harpoon, damaging the vessel, making it an easy target for Rockeye cluster bombs dropped by the second. Then, A-7s fired off HARMs, destroying a SA-5 site. Two A-6s followed that up by disabling a Nanuchka II-class corvette with a Harpoon missile. That corvette was later towed back to port.

But aircraft weren’t the only ones that got in on the action. The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Yorktown (CG 48) fired two Harpoon missiles that disabled yet another Combatante II. The Libyans continued to fire SA-5 and SA-2 Guideline surface-to-air missiles at the American planes. A-6 Intruders responded to those attacks by sinking a Nanuchka II-class corvette.

The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom
The Navy came out on top. The memory of two Libyan vessels was left on the side of planes — as bragging rights.
(US Navy)

When all was said and done, 35 Libyan personnel were killed during the fighting. The United States Navy, conversely, suffered no losses.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A Navy pilot who saved a fellow aviator from the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ recounts the week that made him a legend

Chuck Sweeney left the Navy as a commander in 1980, after a 22-year pilot career that included 200 combat missions, 4,334 flight hours, and 757 carrier landings.

In one week of that career, Sweeney earned three Distinguished Flying Crosses, awarded for “heroism or extraordinary achievement in aerial flight,” for his actions over Vietnam.


Sweeney, president of the national Distinguished Flying Cross Society, spoke with Insider about the unusual way he got his start as a carrier pilot, his time fighting in Vietnam, and the week he was awarded three DFCs in September 1972.

Despite his awards, “I’m no different than most other people,” Sweeney said in the 2017 documentary “Distinguished Wings over Vietnam.”

“I just happened to be at the right place at the wrong time.”

“I have a lot of friends who said they were interested in flying early on, and they always wanted to be a pilot,” Sweeney told Insider. “I really didn’t. I wasn’t against it. I just never thought about it.”

But after he was drafted in 1958, he decided to join the Navy “and see the world.”

His first assignment took him to Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland as an aeronautical engineer — not exactly one of the exotic destinations Sweeney had in mind.

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Jim Lovell’s formal portrait for the Apollo 13 mission in 1970.

NASA

While at Patuxent River, Sweeney got to know some of the test pilots, who took him up on flights.

One test pilot in particular convinced Sweeney that not only did he want to fly; he wanted to be the best of the best — an aircraft carrier pilot, or “tailhook.”

That test pilot was Apollo 13 astronaut Jim Lovell, portrayed by Tom Hanks in “Apollo 13.”

“I bought it — hook, line, and sinker,” Sweeney said.

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US Navy aircraft carrier USS Hancock (CVA-19) in the Gulf of Tonkin, May 25, 1972.

PH3 Adrian/US Navy

Sweeney first flew the S-2E anti-submarine aircraft, then volunteered to be an attack pilot, flying the A-4 Skyhawk, while he was earning a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.

“They were losing a lot of pilots,” in Vietnam, Sweeney told Insider. “They were being killed or captured.”

After combat missions in Vietnam and Laos, Sweeney trained pilots in Lemoore, California. But his shore duty didn’t last long.

In July 1972, he was sent to the USS Hancock to replace Cmdr. Frank Green, the executive officer of Attack Squadron 212, who was missing in action after his aircraft was shot down.

“The next morning, I was flying my first strike against North Vietnam,” Sweeney told Insider. “Back in those days, things were happening fast.”

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One of Sweeney’s Distinguished Flying Crosses, which now hangs in the I-Bar on Naval Station North Island in San Diego, Calif.

Kevin Dixon, Acting Naval Base Coronado Public Affairs Officer

Sweeney’s first DFC came after a high-stakes rescue in the waters just off North Vietnam.

Lt. William Pear’s aircraft was hit and landed in the treacherous territory, and Sweeney coordinated his rescue from the cockpit of his A-4, even as he himself was under anti-aircraft fire.

“Most of the time, if you landed over North Vietnam, 99 times out of 100, you’d be captured,” Sweeney said. “But we got him back and kept him out of the Hanoi Hilton.”

Pear was the last A-4 pilot to be rescued during the Vietnam War, Sweeney said in an interview for the Distinguished Flying Cross Society Oral History Collection in 2005.

Days later, Sweeney led aircraft from the Hancock in a strike and was awarded his second Distinguished Flying Cross.

“We had 35 aircraft going after a target in North Vietnam, and I was leading the whole strike,” he said.

“I had planned numerous strikes and led them in training, but this was the real thing,” Sweeney said in a 2005 oral interview in the book “On Heroic Wings.”

They successfully completed the strike but met frightening resistance. North Vietnamese MiGs took off and headed toward Sweeney’s strike group, although they eventually stood down, and the group was under heavy anti-aircraft fire.

“For doing the job that I was trained to do I was awarded my second DFC,” Sweeney said in “On Heroic Wings.”

Sweeney’s third DFC came the next day, when he led three other aircraft in an alpha strike on the outskirts of Hanoi.

On a strike that close to the North Vietnamese capital, “You knew the defenses were going to be heavier,” Sweeney said.

Sweeney and other pilots dodged North Vietnamese surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) as they headed to their target, a major railyard.

“The rule was, to avoid being hit, when [the SAM] looked like a flying telephone pole, you made this maneuver around it, kind of away from it,” Sweeney said.

“Lo and behold, this thing” — the SAM— “came up, and as it got closer, I thought ‘Oh, this has Chuck Sweeney’s name on it.'”

Sweeney managed to avoid the missile but got separated from the rest of his group and caught up just as they were preparing to attack their target.

Sweeney’s group hit a loaded train and avoided even more anti-aircraft fire as they headed back to the USS Hancock.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Iran surprises world with completed combat jet

Iran has unveiled a fighter jet which it says is “100-percent” locally made.

Images on state television showed President Hassan Rohani on Aug. 21, 2018, sitting in the cockpit of the new Kowsar plane at the National Defense Industry exhibition.


It is a fourth-generation fighter, with “advanced avionics” and multipurpose radar, the Tasnim news agency said, adding that it was “100-percent indigenously made.”

State television, which showed the plane waiting on a runway for its first public display flight, said that it had already undergone successful testing.

The plane was first publicly announced on Aug. 18, 2018, by Defense Minister Amir Hatami, who gave few details of the project.

The United States has demanded that Tehran curb its defense programs, and is in the process of reimposing crippling sanctions after President Donald Trump withdrew from a landmark nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

Trump called the 2015 agreement, under which Iran pledged to curb its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief, “the worst deal ever.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

One of the first Ironman Triathletes was a Navy SEAL who hydrated with beer

What is now considered the gold standard of endurance competitions started out with an idea from a sailor who was stationed in Hawaii in 1978. That first race had 15 competitors, and among them was John Dunbar, a former Navy SEAL who might have finished first had he had water to hydrate with. Instead, he drank Budweiser. He still finished a strong second.


Spoiler alert: the first winner of the now-legendary race was Naval Reserve Lieutenant Gordon Haller. He was just 34 minutes ahead of Dunbar.

The Ironman Triathlon was the brainchild of Naval Officer John Collins and his wife. While stationed in Hawaii, they and their friends used to talk trash about who was more fit – who was the better swimmer, biker, runner, etc., as some military members are apt to do. Collins decided he would create a competition to make everyone put their money where their mouth is. Knowing about the new triathlons that were gaining popularity in the Mainland United States, the Navy guys decided theirs would be the most fitting test of might and endurance.

On Feb. 18, 1978, 15 people showed up to the shores of Waikiki at 0700 to tackle the first Hawaiian Iron Man Triathlon, looking for the promise Collins wrote out in the first-ever rule book: “Swim 2.4 miles! Run 26¼ miles! Bike 112 miles! Brag the rest of your Life!”

The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom

The first Ironman Triathletes enter the ocean for the swim competition.

(Ironman)

Back then, there were few monitors for the race as military personnel can usually be trusted to maintain their integrity. But times were different. The toughness of an Ironman Race is well-known today. Then, the competition was unlike anything they could have prepared for, so each participant was expected to have a crew with them to ensure their needs were met as the race progressed. Dunbar ran out of water because his team ran out of water, but he hydrated with beer and finished the race. Other participants weren’t exactly using the scientifically-formulated nutrition of today’s races, either.

One runner ate candy to get the energy he needed. Race founder John Collins actually stopped to eat a bowl of chili as the race’s lore tells us. Another runner got his sugar and caffeine fix from drinking cokes…in an Ironman Triathlon. Imagine seeing that on television today.

The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom

The first Ironman Trophy.

(Ironman)

In the end, only 12 of the original participants finished the grueling race (no word on whether the Coke drinker made it across the finish line). Finishers received a small trophy consisting of an iron tube formed into the shape of a stick figure with a hexagonal nut for a head – an Iron Man. The next year was even more raucous, with another 15 racers and 12 finishers, but this time the winner was a bar owner from San Diego. Dunbar again finished second, but this time he did it in a Superman costume. Haller finished fourth.

Sadly, this epic origin story ends with a falling out and a legal battle. As Collins’ idea grew into a worldwide phenomenon, he would end up selling it for millions. Due to the wording of the paperwork signed by the original participants, there is a controversy over the original 15 owning a small part of the Ironman event, an interpretation that had been rejected by the courts. They never got a cut of the money from the event, which is now owned by Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group, who paid 0 million for it in 2015.

The Ironman runs some 260 races in 44 countries, and while they may be an incredible achievement for those who run it, there will never be an Ironman like the ones run by a group of Navy friends in the early years.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Austin is now officially home to the new Army Futures Command

After months of tedious searching, top U.S. Army leaders on July 13, 2018, announced that Austin, Texas, will be the location of its new Futures Command, which will lead the service’s ambitious modernization effort.

Army Secretary Mark Esper, surrounded by other key leaders, said that Army Futures Command will “establish unity of command and unity of effort by consolidating the Army’s entire modernization process under one roof. It will turn ideas into action through experimenting, prototyping, testing.”


Esper told defense reporters at the Pentagon on July 13, 2018, that the Army chose Austin for a variety of reasons.

“Not only did it possess the talent, entrepreneurial spirit and access to key partners we are seeking, but also because it offers the quality of life our people desire and the cost of living they can afford,” he said.

The announcement comes after the Army scoured the country searching for major cities with the right combination of an innovative industrial presence and academia willing to work with the service in creating its force of the future.

The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom

M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank

The effort began three months ago with a list of 30 cities, which was quickly narrowed down to 15. Austin was selected from a short list of five, beating out Boston, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and Raleigh, North Carolina.

The Army announced its plan to build a future force in October 2018. It named six modernization priorities: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, a mobile network, air and missile defense, and soldier lethality. For each priority, special cross-functional teams of experts have been assembled to pursue change for the service.

If all goes as planned, the Army’s new priorities will ultimately lead to the replacement of all of its “Big Five” combat platforms from the Cold War with modern platforms and equipment. These systems include the M1 Abrams tank, Bradley fighting vehicle, Black Hawk helicopter, Apache attack helicopter, and Patriot air defense system.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis wants more data on women in combat arms

With so few women in combat arms right now, the services and Defense Department officials really can’t judge how successful the effort has been, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis told cadets at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia, Sept. 25, 2018.

“It’s a very, very tough issue because it goes from some people’s perspective of what kind of society do we want,” the secretary said. “In the event of trouble, you’re sleeping at night in your family home and you are the dad, mom, whatever. And you hear glass break downstairs. Who grabs a baseball bat and gets between the kids’ door and whoever broke in, and who reaches for the phone to call 911? In other words, it goes to the most almost primitive needs of a society to look out for its most vulnerable.”


At heart, this is the issue DoD faces, Mattis told the cadet who asked him what results he had seen. The question for the department comes down to whether it is a strength or a weakness to have women in the close-quarter infantry fight, Mattis said.

Then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta opened the door by removing the ban on women in combat jobs in 2013. In 2015, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter directed the services to open all military occupational specialties to women. Currently, 356 women are combat arms soldiers, and 17 women have graduated from the Army’s Ranger School. The Marine Corps has 113 enlisted women and 29 officers in previously restricted specialties. Specifically in infantry, the Marine Corps has 26 enlisted Marines and one officer who are women.

The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

(DOD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

The secretary said he cannot make a determination about the situation because “so few women have signed up along these lines.”

“We don’t even have data at this time that I can answer your question,” he added.

Unit culture

Part of what drives the question is the culture of close-combat units, the retired Marine Corps general said. “I was never under any illusions at what level of respect my Marines would have for me if I couldn’t run with the fastest of them and look like it didn’t bother me [or] if I couldn’t do as many pullups as the strongest of them,” Mattis said. “It was the unfairness of the infantry. How did the infantry get its name? Infant soldier. Young soldier. Very young soldier. They’re cocky, they’re rambunctious, they’re necessarily macho, and it’s the most primitive — I would say even evil — environment. You can’t even explain it.”

The close-combat fight is war at its most basic, and Mattis cited an Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. quote when talking to his fellow Civil War veterans: “We have shared the incommunicable experience of war.”

The nation needs to discuss this issue, the secretary said. “The military has got to have officers who look at this with a great deal of objectivity and at the same time remember our natural inclination to have this open to all,” he said. “But we cannot do something that militarily doesn’t make sense.”

The Army chief of staff and Marine Corps commandant are looking at the issue. “This is a policy that I inherited, and so far the cadre is so small we have no data on it,” he said. “We’re hoping to get data soon. There are a few stalwart young ladies who are charging into this, but they are too few. Clearly the jury is out on it, but what we’re trying to do is give it every opportunity to succeed if it can.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This new laser system will fend off heat-seeking missiles

The US Army is testing a laser system designed to confuse and deter infrared-guided missiles aimed at its UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters, according to an Army release.

The new Common Infrared Countermeasures system (CIRCM), developed by Northrop Grumman, is designed to counter short-range heat-seeking missiles fired from man-portable air-defense systems, or MANPADS, which are easy-to-use, highly portable weapons that can be operated by a small crew and are available on the black market, making them attractive to non-state actors who want to target low-flying aircraft like helicopters.

The CIRCM will replace the Advanced Threat Infrared Countermeasures (ATIRCM), which is only deployed on CH-47 Chinooks aircraft because of its size. CIRCM will be a lighter-weight update that Black Hawks, and eventually CH-47 Chinooks and AH-64 Apache gunships, can use, according to The Drive.


Soldiers from the 3rd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment at Fort Hood in Texas deployed to Alabama’s Redstone Arsenal to test the new system, flying eight missions of varying types — including medical evacuation, air assault, and air movement — during both day and night.

The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom

1st Lt. Peter Zeidler, test unit officer-in-charge, conducts an air mission brief during operational testing of the Common Infrared Countermeasures at the Redstone Test Center, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.

(US Army photo by CWO 4 Toby Blackmon)

The missions produced 40 hours of usable data showing how the system would operate in realistic combat environments, according to the Army.

“We designed the test events to cover all the potential environments that aircrews may find themselves in,” Chief Warrant Officer 4 Toby Blackmon, of the US Army Operational Test Command’s Aviation Test Directorate, said in the release.

The CIRCM uses two compact pointer/trackers to follow infrared-guided weapons aimed at an aircraft and then engages one of its two lasers to confuse the weapons and keep them from hitting the target. Its technology is designed to evolve as new infrared weapons systems are designed and threaten US aircraft, according to Northrop Grumman.

“Due to the evolving battlefield threats, the CIRCM comes at a pivotal time for Army aviation in order to improve the survivability of our crews that will be deploying in support of combat operations,” Blackmon said.

The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom

Four UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division take off simultaneously from Cooper Field.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Joe Armas)

The CIRCM complements the Common Missile Warning System (CMWS) already in place in Army helicopters. The CWMS detects missiles using electro-optical sensing, which “sees” the missile and warns pilots of incoming threats using audio and visual signals.

MANPADS have become increasingly adept at evading countermeasures, leading the military to install Directional Infrared Countermeasure (DIRCM) systems, like the CIRCM, on many of its helicopters and some aircraft.

Northrop Grumman also developed a Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasure (LAIRCM) system for use on Apaches, Chinooks, and some Black Hawks but had unexplained issues using the system on the UH-60, according to The Drive.

LAIRCM systems are still in use on VH-60N helicopters, which are designated Marine One when they carry the US president, and work by jamming the attacking missile.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Fighter pilot who flew last WWII combat mission dies

Capt Jerry Yellin, World War II fighter pilot, who flew the last combat mission in August 1945, was laid to rest with full military honors Jan. 15, 2019, at Arlington Cemetery, Virginia.

Yellin enlisted two months after Pearl Harbor on his 18th birthday. After graduating from Luke Air Field, Arizona, as a fighter pilot in August 1943, he spent the remainder of the war flying P-40, P-47 and P-51 combat missions in the Pacific with the 78th Fighter Squadron. He was part of the first land-based fighter mission over Japan on April 7, 1945, and was the lead on the last mission of the war on Aug. 14, 1945.


He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with an oak leaf cluster and the Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters.

The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom

Capt Jerry Yellin, World War II fighter pilot, who flew the last combat mission in August 1945, was laid to rest with full military honors Jan. 15, 2019, at Arlington Cemetery, Va.

(US Air Force photo)

Although his flying career was short, he witnessed more turmoil than any human being should ever have to witness. Yellin was discharged in December 1945 and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, before it was recognized as such.

After thirty years of suffering, his wife introduced him to the topic of transcendental meditation and it turned out to be the key to a better life. Yellin shared his positive experience with transcendental meditation as a motivational speaker and worked tirelessly in his efforts to help other service members with PTSD.

Additionally, he wrote two books on his experiences in the war, and he was profiled in volume 5 of “Veterans in Blue,” showcasing his contribution to the legacy of the Air Force.

Yellin passed away on Dec. 21, 2017, at the age of 93. His wife of 65 years, the former Helene Schulman, was interred with him. A flyover of four A-10 aircraft from the 23rd Wing at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, paid him the final tribute.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Coast Guard struggling to keep up with surge of narco subs

Through September 2018, Colombia’s navy had captured 14 “narco subs” on the country’s Pacific coast — more than triple the four it captured in 2017 and another sign of drug traffickers’ ingenuity.

Colombia is not alone. The US Coast Guard reported in September 2017 that it had seen a “resurgence” of low-profile vessels, the most common kind of “narco sub,” capturing seven of them since June 2017.


“We’re seeing more of these low-profile vessels; 40-plus feet long … it rides on the surface, multiple outboard engines, moves 18, 22 knots … and they can carry large loads of contraband,” Coast Guard commandant Adm. Karl Schultz told Business Insider in October 2018 during an interview aboard the Coast Guard cutter Sitkinak in New York harbor.

“They’re very stealthy in terms of our ability to see them from the air [and] to detect them by radar,” Schultz added.

The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom

US Coast Guardsmen sit on a narco sub in the Pacific Ocean in early September 2016.

(US Coast Guard photo)

‘Era of experimentation’

Low-profile vessels were the earliest kind of narco sub, a category that includes self-propelled semi-submersibles, which use ballast to run below the surface, and true submarines, which are the most rare.

They emerged in the early 1990s, as traffickers who had made a fortune moving drugs into the US — like George Jung and members of Pablo Escobar’s Medellin cartel — encountered more obstacles.

“In the ’80s, the drug traffickers … were using go-fast boats, they were using twin-engine aircraft, and those were very easily detected by radar systems that we had,” particularly in the Caribbean and the southeastern US, said Mike Vigil, former chief of international operations for the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

“So they started to counter those efforts by building submarines or semi-submersibles, because they were much more difficult to detect,” Vigil added. “They were made out of … wood, fiberglass, and then sometimes they had a lead lining that would reduce their infrared signature.”

The early 1990s was “the era of experimentation,” for Colombian narco subs, according to Vigil, who was stationed on the country’s Caribbean coast at the time and recalls encounters with them on the Magdelena River, which stretches nearly 1,000 miles from southwest Colombia to the Caribbean.

“They were not full-fledged submarines. They would float … just slightly underneath the water, but you could still see the tower, and they were not sophisticated at all,” he said. “Their navigational systems were poor; communications systems were poor.”

There are varying figures for how many narco subs have been caught over the years.

The first such vessel seen at sea by US law enforcement was intercepted in 2006, carrying 3 tons of cocaine about 100 miles off Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. The first one encountered in the Caribbean was stopped in summer 2011 — despite efforts to scuttle it, US authorities were able to recover 14,000 pounds of cocaine.

Criminal groups in Colombia continue to churn out homemade narco subs — 100 a year, according to Vigil — building them in the interior and using the country’s extensive river network, where law enforcement is scarce, to get them to sea.

The technology has advanced, and criminal groups, flush with profits from Colombia’s booming cocaine production, have been able deploy more sophisticated vessels for covert runs to Central America and Mexico, where cargos then move overland to the US. The routes have also grown more circuitous, likely to avoid detection at sea.

Better technology “has upped the chess game” between criminals and the military and law enforcement, Vigil said.

The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom

Suspected drug-smuggling routes in the eastern Pacific Ocean in 2016.

(US Southern Command)

‘A drop in the bucket’

The recent increase in low-profile vessels intercepted by authorities indicates traffickers will adjust their tactics.

“There was certainly an uptick where the semi-submersibles were being utilized quite frequently, and then we had a lot of success against them,” Lt. Cmdr. Devon Brennan, head of the Coast Guard’s Maritime Safety and Security Team in New York, said during an interview aboard the Sitkanik.

“The drug-trafficking organizations are very agile and adept organizations, so they try to shift back,” Brennan said. “For one reason or another, they thought [low-profile vessels] might be a better option because of the success we’ve had against the [self-propelled semi-submersibles], so we have seen an increase in them.”

“This thing called the low-profile vessel, it’s evolutionary,” Schultz said. “The adversary will constantly adapt their tactics to try to thwart our successes.” The increase “reflects the adaptability, the malleability” of traffickers, he added.

Schultz and Brennan both emphasized that the Coast Guard is having success capturing narco subs. And Colombian officials have said that intercepting those vessels at sea — along with arresting traffickers on land — lands a serious blow to criminal organizations.

The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom

A abandoned low-profile vessel found by the Guatemalan coast guard on April 22, 2017.

(Guatemalan army / US Southern Command)

Vigil was skeptical of the true impact, saying the DEA estimated at least 30% to 40% of drugs coming to the US were moving on narco subs, but authorities were likely only intercepting 5% of those vessels.

“They may be capturing more but, again, that’s because there’s a hell of a lot more being using to smuggle drugs,” Vigil said. (Coast Guard Vice Commandant Adm. Charles Ray has said the service faces “a capacity challenge” in trying to patrol trafficking routes through the eastern Pacific, an area the size of the continental US.)

Vigil also noted that the costs seemed to favor the traffickers.

“The submarines cost id=”listicle-2611789516″ million or million … depending on the communications systems, the engine, the materials used in them, the navigational systems,” Vigil said. Even though many are likely only used once, he added, “they have absolutely no economic impact on the cartels.”

Each kilogram of cocaine is worth only a few thousand dollars in Colombia. But the multiton cargos narco subs can carry are worth hundreds of millions of dollars once they’re broken up and sold in the US or Europe.

The cost to build a narco sub is “a drop in the bucket compared to the payload that they carry,” Vigil said. “So a million, million is nothing to them.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Airman receives medal for saving family from fiery crash

In January 2018, on the side of U.S. 287, Maj. Justin Warner placed his well-being on the line to save two strangers whose vehicle had just flipped and caught on fire.

Warner was heading toward Dallas when he witnessed an SUV go off the road and flip, coming to a stop on its side.

“I was the first one to see it,” Warner said. “I stopped and started running toward their car, calling 911 as I made my way to them, but then the vehicle’s engine bay caught on fire so my mindset shifted.”

Forgetting about the emergency call and his own safety, Warner immediately took action.


“I saw that there were two people in the vehicle that would need some help getting out since the car was on its side,” he said. “I climbed up on top of the vehicle and basically pulled them through the driver’s side window.”

Warner mentioned that he was worried the fire would spread and cause the vehicle to explode.

“I had the same mindset from the second I saw the fire,” he said. “I knew I had to get them away from the fire.”

Warner carried the driver’s daughter, who had sustained an ankle injury during the crash, while the father was able to walk to safety. Soon after, the vehicle exploded in flames.

The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom

Maj. Justin Warner, 97th Flying Training Squadron IFF instructor, stands next to retired Air Force Lt. Col. Stephen Wolfe and his daughter after being awarded the Airman’s Medal Nov. 27, 2018, at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas.

By this point, other motorists had stopped and called emergency services.

“When the emergency vehicles got there, they pretty much took them away quickly and I didn’t get to talk to them afterward,” Warner said. “All I knew was their first names and I tried looking them up later on to see if they were ok, but I couldn’t find them.”

What Warner didn’t know was that the driver of the vehicle was retired Air Force Lt. Col. Stephen Wolfe.

Wolfe reached out to Sheppard Air Force Base to let them know of Warner’s heroic actions.

Warner was awarded the Air Force’s highest noncombat award, the Airman’s Medal Nov. 27, 2018, in front of his family, friends and coworkers.

Maj. Gen. Craig La Fave, 22nd Air Force commander, presented the medal to Warner. He spoke about Warner’s many achievements.

“He is a distinguished graduate from several programs, so it wasn’t really a surprise in my mind when I saw it was him who saved those lives,” La Fave said. “He didn’t see it happen and say, ‘Hey, there is an Airman’s Medal in it for me if I do this.’ He did it because that’s the type of person he is.”

Warner is a 97th Flying Training Squadron introduction to fighter fundamentals instructor and has more than 400 combat flying hours in the F-15 Eagle.

Wolfe and his family were also in attendance for the medal presentation.

“God put him in place on that particular day,” Wolfe said. “He saved my life and my daughter’s life.”

The Airman’s Medal was established on July 6, 1960, and is awarded to those who distinguish themselves by a heroic act, usually at the voluntary risk of their life but not involving combat.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

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