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 TRENDING

This new American amphib will pack a huge aerial punch

The US Navy on Sept. 23 will christen the USS Tripoli (LHA-7), its latest America-class amphibious assault ship that will pack Osprey helicopters, F-35 fighters, and thousands of Marines for rapid deployment from sea to shore.


Lynne Mabus, the wife of former Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, will break the ceremonial bottle of wine across the bow of the 844-foot warship during a ceremony at Huntington Ingalls Industries in Pascagoula, Mississippi.

Once it hits the fleet around 2018, the Tripoli will join the USS America (LHA-6) on the high seas, with the pair of ships packing unique capabilities among the expected total 11 ships of this class. Besides their power-plant and technology upgrades, the Tripoli and America will not have a well deck for launching small boats filled with Marines to the shore.

Instead, the ships are “optimized for aviation capability” — giving them larger hangar decks to store more aircraft, enhanced aircraft-maintenance facilities, more storage for onboard jet fuel, and more high-tech intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities.

The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom
The future USS Tripoli (LHA 7) is launched at Huntington Ingalls Industries. Tripoli was successfully launched after the dry-dock was flooded to allow it to float off for the first time. Tripoli incorporates an enlarged hangar deck, enhanced maintenance facilities, increased fuel capacity and additional storerooms to provide the fleet with a platform optimized for aviation capabilities. The ship is planned to be christened in 2017 with delivery planned for late 2018. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

“The idea is rapid mobility air assault,” Capt. Michael Baze told US Naval Institute News. “So the thinking with me and my Marines right now is, lighter companies, people that can move quickly via the (MV-22) Osprey and the (CH-53Es).”

The Tripoli will also be the first LHA “fully ready to integrate the entire future air combat element of the Marine Corps,” including the F-35B, capable of short takeoffs and vertical landings.

With its aviation-focused capability to deploy Marines, the Tripoli and America allow more standoff from potential hotspot areas.

“I don’t have to worry about force protection for my ship as much because I don’t have to get two and three miles off the beach to deploy my Marines” on small boats, Baze said. “The truth is, I’m over 100 miles right now — we could deploy the Marines from here.”

This will be the third Navy ship to bear the name Tripoli, which commemorates the 1805 Battle of Derna, in which US Marines defeated the Barbary pirates in Libya. The victory is also memorialized in the “Marines’ Hymn” with the line “from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.”

The Tripoli will be able to hit a speed of about 20 knots, with an approximate displacement of 45,000 tons.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Survivor recalls 48 hours in Moscow during October 1993 crisis

It has been 25 years since the culmination of the so-called Russian constitutional crisis, when the country’s president, Boris Yeltsin, sought to dissolve the parliament and then ordered the military to crush opposition led by the vice president at the time, Aleksandr Rutskoi, and the chairman of parliament, Ruslan Khasbulatov.

I was working in Central Asia when the crisis broke out in September 1993, and heard bits and pieces from Radio Mayak every now and again from the Uzbek village I was working in at the time.

I traveled regularly to Moscow for my job — heading a Central Asian sociology project for the University of Manchester and the Soros International Fund for Cultural Initiative — to hand over material from our Central Asian colleagues, pick up their salaries, and restock my own household supplies for the next period of village life.


By chance, I arrived in the Russian capital on October 1. Friends there explained the rapidly changing situation. (I was more interested in the party that some friends told me was set for the Penta Hotel on Saturday night, October 2.)

I had my first look at the Russian parliament building, known as the White House, on the way to the Penta. It was surrounded by trucks, the Soviet-era tanker trucks that had big letters on the sides showing they carried moloko (milk) or voda (water), or something. There was also barbed wire around the building. Small groups of people were milling about on both sides of the barricade.

The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom

Boris Yeltsin.

Sunday, October 3, was shopping day for me. There were always too many people at the Irish store on the Arbat on the weekend, but there was another Irish store on the Ring Road. There was a smaller selection but I was only looking for basic products, like toilet paper.

‘Some snap drill’

Just before I reached the store, a convoy of Russian military trucks full of soldiers drove by. They were moving rather fast. I didn’t think too much of it. I’d seen military convoys drive through cities before, especially in Moscow. “Some snap drill,” I thought.

I hadn’t been back at my accommodation long when the phone rang. It was an Italian friend, Ferrante. He was doing business in Russia and lived not far from the flat I stayed in when I was in Moscow. We knew each other from parties and had seen each other at the Penta on Saturday night.

Our conversation went something like this:

“Are you watching this?” he asked.

“Watching what? I just got back,” I replied, “What’s going on?”

“There’s shooting at Ostankino,” Ferrante said in reference to the TV tower. “It’s on CNN. Come over.”

Now I knew what the military trucks were doing. I hurried over to Ferrante’s place and sat down to watch.

“Here,” Ferrante said, handing me a shot of vodka.

We both downed the shot and watched, then downed another shot, and watched.

We were also listening to a local radio station, and Ferrante was getting calls from people around Moscow. It was clear Ostankino was not the only place where serious events were unfolding.

Ferrante poured us both another shot. We downed it and Ferrante started speaking.

“You know,” and he paused. It seemed like a long pause, then he said exactly what I was thinking: “I always wished I was here in 1991,” a reference to the events that brought about the collapse of the Soviet Union. “Something big is happening. Let’s go out and see.”

Ferrante called his Russian driver to come over and get us, and we headed to the parliament building just as the sun was setting.

And then it got weird

We had trouble reaching the area. Some streets were blocked off. Once, our car turned a corner and there was a group of around 50 men marching toward us carrying sticks and crowbars. “Go back,” Ferrante yelled, though the driver was already trying.

We parked by the Hotel Ukraina, across the Moscow River from the parliament building. The bridge across the river was barricaded on the side near the parliament building but pedestrians could pass easily enough. We walked around watching apparent supporters of Rutskoi and Khasbulatov turn over those tanker trucks, light fires, and rearrange the barbed wire.

The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom

Aleksandr Rutskoi.

There was lots of drinking everywhere.

The crowd was growing. Men in military uniforms had arrived carrying a Soviet flag, and they were trying to form a column of several hundred of the seemingly hard-drinking supporters of Rutskoi and Khasbulatov. It was clear things were about to get ugly.

We noticed and were already talking, in English, about departing. I lit a cigarette, and a Russian man who had obviously had a few shots of vodka himself approached me and asked for a light. After I lit his cigarette, he stared at us and said, “Well guys, are we going, or are we going to sit here taking a piss?”

“Sit here taking a piss,” I replied immediately. “Sorry, we’re foreigners and this isn’t our fight.”

That was enough for him, and he left.

So did we. Back across the river to the Metro, which, amazingly, was working. It was packed, but we were easily able to make it to Tverskoi Boulevard, where the pro-Yeltsin side was assembling. They were drinking, too, but there were places where the atmosphere was more party than political upheaval. I remember a truck lay overturned and there was a guy on top of it playing the accordion and singing with a voice like iconic balladeer Vladimir Vysotsky. A lot of people were just sitting around on the street, drinking and talking.

I got back to my apartment at about 3:00 a.m. “What would daylight bring?” I wondered.

The phone woke me up on Monday, October 4. It was Ferrante again.

“I just got back from the center. I was on the bridge when the tank fired at parliament,” he said quickly.

A lot to digest

It was a lot for me to digest, first thing out of bed. There was an assault on the parliament building, a lot of shooting, people killed…

As I sat at the table drinking tea, more calls came in from friends. Did I know what happened? Had I heard? What had I heard? They told me what they heard.

Several people called just to see where I was, since they knew I was in Moscow but I had not answered the phone all Sunday night.

I remember best the call from my friend Samuel. “Where were you last night?”

When I told him I had been out roaming around in both camps, he screamed, “Are you totally stupid? People are getting killed out there.”

The call ended with me promising I wouldn’t leave my apartment. And I would have kept that promise if I had not run out of sugar for my tea.

I figured the odds of finding someone selling sugar were probably not so good in such times, but I don’t like tea without sugar, so I headed out and got on the subway, which was still running, and went to the Arbat stop.

There was no traffic on the road. I tried walking to where the Irish store on the Arbat was located, but that side of the street was blocked off. On the other side of the street, there was a long line of people behind metal barriers, so I crossed to see. The crowd stretched all the way down the road in the direction of the Moscow River until the about the last 100 meters from the intersection where the Aeroflot globe was. The other side of the intersection was the road that sloped down to the parliament building.

There were several thousand people behind this barrier, and I made my way toward the intersection, where eventually I could see four armored vehicles parked in the center of the road.

I made it to where Dom Knigi (House of Books) used to be. Across the street was that massive block of stores that included, at the time, the Irish store, the Yupiter furniture and appliance store, the Aeroflot office, and dozens of other businesses. Some of the windows were shot out. On top of the building, in plain sight, were OMON, the elite Interior Ministry troops, in their black uniforms gazing down at the streets. There were a lot of police and OMON troops on the other side of the road, at street level also.

Snipers, tracer rounds

But behind the waist-high metal barricades on my side of the street it was a carnival atmosphere. People were talking about snipers where the intersection was, but no one seemed particularly concerned. At least until a sniper finally did take a shot at the armored vehicles.

One of the armored vehicles turned in the direction of a building on the cross street and unloaded. The tracer rounds could be seen flying toward it and dust was kicked up off the side of the building from the bullets.

The crowd roared like it was a sporting event. “Give it to them!” people yelled.

The shooting stopped, the crowd calmed, and then a thoroughly inebriated, shirtless young man jumped over the metal barrier and danced around with his arms outstretched.

The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom

Burned facade of the Russian White House after the storming.

Two OMON troops jumped over the barrier on the other side of street, ran to the drunken dancer, and beat him with their clubs, each grabbing one of the now-unconscious drunk’s ankles and dragging him over the curb to their side of the street.

Another shot at the armored vehicles, another volley of return fire, and more cheering from the spectators on my side of the street.

About that time, I was thinking this was too bizarre and decided to leave. But just as I was making my way back, a roar went up from the direction I was headed and the ground started rumbling. A column of armored vehicles, including many tanks, was making its way up the road toward the intersection.

People were calling to the soldiers: “Be careful!” and “There are snipers there.”

I took one last look at the intersection. Two of the armored vehicles were peppering a building with bullets.

The Metro train I took was on a line that briefly emerged from underground to cross a bridge, and everyone looked out the window at the White House, whose upper floors were on fire.

I got my sugar, went home, and had tea. I went to Ferrante’s place that evening to drink more vodka. There were many people there, some with spent shell casings they had gathered after the raid on the parliament building. Everyone had a story to tell.

I packed my bags the next day and by October 6 I was safely back in Central Asia.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

This veteran rock anthem is everything you need right now

Patriotic rock band Madison Rising and the Navy SEAL Foundation announced a unique partnership with the release of Madison Rising’s new song, “Men of Steel.” Madison Rising is donating 50% of the proceeds from the song to the Foundation in support of its mission of service to the Naval Special Warfare (NSW) community.

“Men of Steel” is a new rock anthem that pays tribute to all those who serve.

The song is a special collaboration that started when Madison Rising approached the NSF in 2019 about a potential partnership. “I had always wanted to figure out a way to have music support our mission at the Foundation, and Madison Rising was an ideal partner to make that happen,” said Chris Irwin, Director of Partnerships for the NSF in a press release.

As a result, Madison Rising worked with the Navy SEAL Foundation to write a song about teamwork, camaraderie and the service member experience, that directly supports those it honors. “By donating half of all proceeds on this song to the Foundation, Madison Rising is committing itself to not only raising awareness about our mission, but also raising funds to help us execute that mission,” Irwin stated.

Madison Rising’s mission is to honor veterans, first responders, and active-duty military members by making great rock music that reinforces true American values. This collaboration with the Navy SEAL Foundation is the latest initiative in support of that mission. The band is led by Rio Hiett, a retired Master Sergeant who served in the Air Force, “Madison Rising is on a mission to honor our military however possible and we know this song will have an incredible impact on the community,” he said. The band is well known for hard-charging, patriotic performances at venues including NFL games, NASCAR, and other special events.

“I started singing back in high school with producer and friend, Andrew Lane, in Muscle Shoals, Alabama,” Hiett told WATM. “This is where the love of performing and creating was started and as he went on to become a Grammy Award winning part of Atlanta’s and L.A.’s R B movement, I chose the route of military service.

I spent 20 years as an Air Force AMMO troop, having served half on active duty and half in the air guard.” Hiett served in several operations, including Allied Force, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. “I spent nearly 3 years deployed to the AOR and lost that time with my oldest son Dante’,” Hiett said. “I felt he endured the impact of the deployments far more than anyone else in the family. From the moment I became the frontman for Madison Rising, I had always wanted to have my son be a part of something meaningful. He plays the drums and this was an incredible opportunity to have him be a part of a song [Men of Steel], that has the potential to go a long way in the veteran community.”

Hiett continued, “We were able to team up with Chet Roberts of 3Doors Down and record the song down in their studio in Nashville at Rivergate Studios. SEAL Chris Irwin was also a huge part of the track as it was brought forth from his original idea as we collaborated, rearranged/rewrote, then recorded. So at this point in time, I am incredibly proud of this song, the meaning behind the song and how it was created, but mostly that my son is a huge part of something so amazing.”

Men of Steel: Official Video Release

youtu.be

Madison Rising has shared the stage with rock legends Aerosmith, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Toby Keith, Weezer and many others, and they have a large following among veterans and first responders.

About the Navy SEAL Foundation:

The Navy SEAL Foundation’s mission is to provide immediate and ongoing support and assistance to the Naval Special Warfare (NSW) community and its families. The Foundation stands behind these warriors and their families by providing a comprehensive set of programs specifically designed to improve health and welfare, build and enhance resiliency, empower and educate families, and provide critical support during times of illness, injury, or loss. Like the community it serves, the Navy SEAL Foundation is a high-performing organization committed to excellence. It has received eight consecutive 4-Star ratings from Charity Navigator and it is one of less than 70 charities, from among more than 9,000, to have earned a perfect score of 100 for financial health, accountability and transparency, placing it in the top 1% of all rated charities.

For more information, please visit: www.navySEALfoundation.org.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Israeli fighters dominating Russian-made defenses in Syria

Russia deployed some of its best air defenses to Syria to keep US missiles and jets at bay as the US military’s immense air and naval power fought ISIS in close proximity — but the supposedly airtight defenses are routinely defeated by Israel.

In February 2017, a Syrian-manned Russian-made S-200 missile defense system shot down an Israel F-16 returning from a massive raid targeting Iranian forces in Syria.


In response, Israel launched another raid that it claimed took out half of Syria’s air defenses, of which older Russian systems comprised the majority.

In April 2018, Syria got rocked by a missile attack that appeared to ignite a munitions depot hard enough to register as a 2.6 magnitude earthquake and is believed to have killed dozens of Iranians.

The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom

Reported image of a strike on Iranian soldiers in Syria.

(Danny Makki/Twitter)

In May 2018, Israel released video of one of its bombs destroying a Russian air defense system, Russian media offered excuses as to why it failed to stop the incoming missile.

Israel rarely confirms individual airstrikes, and either confirmed or didn’t deny these attacks.

In September 2018, another Israeli raid on Iranian weapons stockpiles in Syria saw a Russian Il-20 surveillance and control plane downed by Russian-made air defenses fired off in error by Syrian air defense units, killing 15.

Russia accused Israel of purposefully flying under the Il-20 to confuse the Syrian air defenses into shooting down a friendly plane and quickly shipped the more advanced S-300 missile defenses to Syrian hands.

Russia thinks highly of its S-300 and other missile defenses, and has publicly mocked the US over its stealth jets, implying it could shoot them down. At the time, Russia said it would shut down satellite navigation in the region and that it expected its new defenses would preclude further Israeli attacks. So far, they were wrong.

Somehow Israel has continued to hit targets in Syria at will with F-16s, non-stealthy fourth-generation fighter-bombers.

The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom

On Jan. 14, 2019, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged that his country’s air force had carried out hundreds of raids in Syria, with a recent one hitting Iranian weapons near Damascus International Airport.

Russia initially deployed air defenses to Syria to keep powerful countries like the US from attacking Syrian President Bashar Assad, and later to protect its own air force fighters stationed there.

The US has long opposed Assad, as he violently shut down peaceful protesters in 2011 and has stood accused of torture, war crimes, and using chemical weapons against civilians during the country’s maddening 7-year-long civil war.

But the US has attacked Syria twice with cruise missiles, and Syria has never proven a single missile intercept.

According to experts, there’s two likely reasons why Syria’s Russian-made air defenses can’t get the job done: 1. Israel is good at beating Syrian air defenses. 2. Syria is bad at beating Israeli jets.

Israel is good at this

“One of the Israeli hallmarks when they do these sort of fairly bold strikes within the coverage of the Syrian air defenses is heavy electronic warfare and jamming,” Justin Bronk, an aerial combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute told Business Insider.

Bronk said that Israel, a close US ally that takes part in major training events in the US, has become adept at knocking over Syrian air defenses.

Israel sees Iranian arms shipments through Syria as an existential threat. Although Israel has relationships to maintain with the US and Russia — both key players in the Syrian quagmire — Netanyahu has said resolutely that Israel will stop at nothing to beat back Iran.

The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom

Israel’s air force.

In more than 100 raids admitted by Netanyahu, Israel has only lost a single aircraft. Bronk attributes this to “many, many tricks developed over decades” for the suppression of enemy air defenses developed by Israel.

Retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke, a former F-35, F-22, and F-18 pilot, told Business Insider that Israel finds “innovative, creative, and aggressive ways to maximize the capability of every weapons systems they’ve ever used.”

Syria is bad at this

Syria has demonstrably failed on many occasions to stop air attacks on its territory. While Russia’s air defenses do give US military planners serious pause, Syria’s have yet to prove themselves.

With US Tomahawk cruise missile strikes in consecutive Aprils in 2017 and 2018, Syria claimed both times to have blocked a significant portion of the attack, but never provided any evidence of an intercept.

Additionally, photos from the second US Tomahawk strike on Syria show Syrian air defenses firing interceptor missiles on ballistic trajectories.

This strongly indicates that the Syrians simply fired blindly into the night sky, unable to detect a thing as US missiles rocked targets across the countryside.

Finally, Syria shooting down a friendly Russian plane evidences a lack of coordination or situational awareness, whether due to old hardware, Israeli electronic warfare, or simply poor execution.

Israel’s most recent attacks in Syria took place smack in the middle of Damascus, Russian and Syrian air defenses make for some of the world’s most challenging airspace.

That Israel can still fight in Syria among top Russian air defenses shows either that their force has its tactics down pat, that Syria can’t field decent air defense regimes, or that Russia has turned a blind eye to Israel pounding on Iranian advances in the region.

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

Articles

This is how Viagra was used to entice warlords in Afghanistan

In a foreign policy world full of different carrots and sticks, the CIA used an interesting incentive to dangle from a pole of enticements: Viagra.


Where money and guns have been the traditional tools of clandestine diplomacy, the New York Times’ CIA sources say the big blue pill was renowned by aging Afghan warlords who have multiple wives to satisfy.

The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom
Staff Sgt. Michael Heimann, center, from Nemesis Troop 4-2 Cavalry Scouts helps inspect weapons as Spc. Alexander Moses clears his rifle at a clearing barrel. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Chad A. Dulac)

Running money to informants is difficult for the Agency. To keep their assets in place (that is to say, to keep them alive and feeding information) money isn’t always the best motivator. According to the New York Times’ CIA source, the informant will run out and buy conspicuous items with his new funds.

It won’t be hard to figure out where he got those funds.

Guns are another troublesome carrot for potential informants. The CIA has to assume that – in the Afghan world of fluid allegiances – any arms given to today’s ally could be used against American troops by tomorrow’s enemy.

The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom
Staff Sgt. Jeremy Nabors (left), a propulsion technician from the 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, clears his weapon. (U.S. Air Force photo)

So a magic blue pill that revitalizes an aging man’s libido while invigorating the same man’s ego is a perfect way to cement an uneasy alliance. The nature of the gift keeps the reward from being too obvious or flashy while at the same time, not being something potentially dangerous to U.S. troops in the country.

Other potential incentives for Afghan assets include medical procedures they can’t get in Afghanistan, such as the bypass surgery given to one warlord, as reported by the Washington Post.

The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom
Soldiers from Alpha Battery 2-12 Field Artillery Security Force and Provincial Reconstruction Team Farah clear their weapons in clearing barrels. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Chad A. Dulac)

While Viagra is relatively well-known in Afghanistan (and reportedly sold in markets in the country), CIA officers operating in remote areas have to earn the trust of tribal leaders and be careful not to offend their religious sensibilities when making the initial pitch.

They also have to be careful not to offend anyone’s ego when explaining just what the pill does.

No word on whether Cialis is planning an expansion into the Afghan marketplace.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force is eliminating EPRs for E-3 and below

The Air Force is tossing out formal performance evaluations for its least experienced airmen.


The service announced January 4 that Enlisted Performance Reports are no longer required for all active-duty airmen until they reach the rank of senior airman or have served for 36 months, regardless of grade. For reservists, EPRs will be required for senior airmen and above. The change is effective immediately.

The move is part of a larger effort by Air Force senior leaders to reduce the administrative burden on airmen and give them more time to focus on the mission, officials said.

The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom
This airman trainee should have read this article before going to boot camp.

“While the Air Force values the contributions of all enlisted personnel, the requirement to document performance in a formal evaluation prior to the grade of senior airman is not necessary,” Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, deputy chief of staff for Manpower, Personnel and Services, said in a statement.

The removal of EPRs before promotion to senior airman will give airmen more time to learn their primary skills and duties before their performance is formally documented, Grosso said.

Under the policy change, commanders still have the option to document substandard performance for airmen first class and below after the 20-month-in-service mark.

The Air Force didn’t say how many evaluation reports the policy change would eliminate. Airmen previously were required to get their first evaluation after at least 20 months in uniform.

Thursday’s announcement brings to fruition a plan that Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright had talked about this fall at the Air Force Association’s annual conference.

Also Read: 7 of the top superpowers every Airman possesses

Wright said at the time that he was working with senior leadership and the Air Force Personnel Center to reduce the burden enlisted performance reports have on schedules, particularly in the maintenance squadrons, according to Air Force Magazine.

The Air Force uses EPRs to evaluate the performance of enlisted personnel both on and off duty, typically on an annual basis. The reports, normally written by the member’s supervisor with input from other unit leaders, are often time-consuming and cumbersome to complete.

Under the change, all active-duty airmen will receive their initial evaluation upon reaching their first March 31 static close-out date after either promotion to senior airman, or after completion of a minimum of 36 months’ time-in-service, regardless of grade, whichever occurs first, officials said.

Enlisted reservists will receive their initial evaluations as a senior airman.

Articles

How going to war brings out the best and worst in people

Sebastian Junger is not a military veteran. He makes that clear, but he sure sounds like one. Maybe it’s because he’s covered conflict zones from Sierra Leone to Nigeria to Afghanistan as a journalist. It’s safe to say he’s seen more conflict than many in the United States military.

If there’s an expert on modern warfare and the long-term effects of those who live it, that person is Sebastian Junger.


He sees war and its effects through the lens of an anthropologist. This not only gives him the perspective to look back on his homecoming—and the homecomings of U.S. troops—to see the problems and abnormalities with how societies deal with their combat veterans, it allows him to put those ideas into words. Some words returning and transitioning veterans may not have ever known to use.

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“We try hard to keep combat at a distance,” he says in the new PBS documentary Going to War. “But when we talk about war, we talk about what it means to be human.”

In Going to War, Junger and fellow author Karl Marlantes (Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War) examine the paradox of fighting in combat: how the brotherhood and sense of purpose contrast with the terror, pain, and grief surrounding the violence and destruction. It starts with the training. Whenever young men (and now women) are placed in a situation where they would be fighting for their lives, the training would diminish perceptions of the individual in favor of the group.

“If you have people acting individualistically in a combat unit, the unit falls apart and gets annihilated,” Junger says. “So you need them to focus on the group. The training, beyond firing a weapon, is an attempt to get people to stop thinking of themselves.

This is not just the U.S. military. This is every military around the world.

The United States is “orders of magnitude” more capable than most. What the U.S. is having trouble dealing with is what comes after its veterans return home and then to civilian life. For returning vets, sometimes the problem is returning to an unearned hero’s welcome.

Only about ten percent of the military will ever see combat. Those who don’t still get the welcome home, but feel guilty for feeling like they never did enough to earn that accolade.

For those who were in combat, the experience of being shot, shot at, and watching others get killed or wounded is a traumatic experience that our increasingly isolated society doesn’t handle well.

The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom

When veterans leave the military, separation becomes a more apt term than we realize. Our wealthy, individualistic modern society rips military veterans from their tribal environment while they’re in the military and puts them back into a cold, unfamiliar and far less communal world.

Junger thinks a fair amount of what we know as PTSD is really the shock of a tribal-oriented veteran being put in an individualized environment.

Going to War did a fantastic job of capturing the experience of fighting in a war and then coming home,” Junger says. “For me one of the most powerful moments wasn’t even on the battlefield.

Junger goes on to describe what, for him, is the most poignant story out of a slew of emotional, true stories of men fighting nearly a century of wars:

“A young man, a Marine describing his final training, a ruck march. They had heavy packs and the guy had an injury so he couldn’t walk very well. Another guy comes along and carries his pack for him, so the second guy is carrying 160 pounds maybe, and says ‘If you’re not gonna make it across the finish in time, then neither will I. We’re gonna do it together or fail together.’ And that is the central ethos to men in combat in the military.”

For more of Sebastian Junger and his thoughts on war and the men and women who fight it, be sure to download or listen to this podcast. If you still can’t get enough Junger (and we totally get understand), check out his amazing books or our previous podcast with him where we talked about his latest book, Tribe.

Going to War airs on PBS on Memorial Day at 9 p.m. Eastern. Check your local listings.

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MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is what it’s like to take an F-16 to the absolute limit

Anything close to the maximum structural speed for a jet is usually just for the glossy brochure—99.9% of the time we don’t come close to reaching it. There was one time, though, that I pushed the F-16 as fast as it could go.

I was stationed in Korea and there was a jet coming out of maintenance; the engine had been swapped out and they needed a pilot to make sure it was airworthy. It was a clean jet—none of the typical missiles, bombs, targeting pod, external fuel tanks were loaded. It was a stripped down hot-rod capable of it’s theoretical maximum speed.

When we fly, we usually go out as a formation to work on tactics; every drop of fuel is used to get ready for combat. This mission, however, called for me to launch as a single-ship and test the engine at multiple altitudes and power settings. The final check called for a max speed run.


The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom

Justin “Hasard” Lee in the cockpit of an F-16 (Sandboxx)

I took off, entered the airspace, and quickly started the profile. Topped off, I could only carry 7,000 pounds of internal fuel; never enough with the monster engine behind me burning up to 50,000 pounds of fuel per hour. I knocked out the various tasks in about 15 minutes and then was ready for the max speed run.

I was at 25,000 feet when I pushed the throttle forward, rotated it past the detent and engaged full afterburner—I would have 5 minutes of useable fuel at this setting. I could feel each of the 5-stages lighting off, pushing me forward. I accelerated to Mach 1—the speed of sound that Chuck Yeager famously broke in his Bell X-1—and started a climb. A few seconds later 35,000 feet went by as I maintained my speed. Soon I was at 45,000 feet and started to shallow my climb to arrive at the 50,000 foot service ceiling. This was as high as I could go, not because the jet couldn’t go higher, but because if the cockpit depressurized, I would black out within seconds.

The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom

(U.S. Air Force photo by MSgt. Don Taggart)

Looking out at 50,000 feet, the sky was now a few shades darker. I could start to see the curvature of the earth. To my right was the entire Korean peninsula—green with a thin layer of haze over it. To my left, a few clouds over the Yellow Sea separating me from mainland China.

As I maintained my altitude, the jet started to accelerate. At 1.4 Mach, with only about 2 minutes of fuel left, I bunted over and started a dive to help with the acceleration. In my heads-up-display 1.5 Mach ticked by, backed up by an old mach indicator slowly spinning in my instrument console.

The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom

Justin “Hasard” Lee (Sandboxx)

At 1.6 Mach, the jet started to shake. I was expecting it—the F-16 has a flight region around that airspeed that causes the wings to flutter. Still, this jet had a lot of hours on the airframe, and if anything were to fail, the breakup would be catastrophic. Similarly, ejecting at that speed would be well outside the design envelop—the air resistance at Mach 1.6 is about 300 times what a car experiences at highway speeds. A few pilots have tried, only to break nearly every bone in their body.

So now, the option was slow down until the vibration stopped, or push though until it smoothed out on the other side. I was running low on fuel, so I elected to increase my dive so I could accelerate faster. Slowly 1.7 Mach ticked by, next 1.8, and then at 1.9, everything smoothed out. I was now traveling 1,500 mph over the Yellow Sea. The cockpit started feeling warm so I took my hand off the throttle and put it about a foot away from the canopy and could feel the heat radiating through my glove, similar to sticking your hand in an oven.

At this point I was entering the thicker air at 35,000 feet which was preventing the Mach from going any higher. I was also nearly out of fuel, so I pulled the throttle out of afterburner and into military-powerthe highest non-afterburner power setting. Despite a significant amount of thrust still coming from the engine, the drag at 1.9 Mach caused the jet to rapidly decelerate, pushing me forward until my shoulder-harness straps locked. It took over 50 miles for the jet to slow down below the mach.

The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom

Justin “Hasard” Lee (Sandboxx)

Taking a jet to 1.9 mach isn’t any sort of record; in fact, some aircraft have gone twice as fast. It is an interesting feeling, though, to be at the limit of what an iconic aircraft like the F-16 can give you. Thousands of incredible engineers, who I never had the chance to meet, designed the plane and you are now realizing the potential of what they built. The heat and vibration, coupled with being outside the ejection envelope, let you know the margin of safety is less than it normally is.

I’ve since moved on to the F-35 which correctly prioritizes stealth, sensor fusion, and networking over top speed, so that’s likely as fast as I’ll ever go. It was a visceral experience that was a throwback to the 50’s and 60’s—where the primary metrics a plane was judged by how high and fast it could go.

Make sure to check out Justin Lee’s podcast, The Professionals Playbook!

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


MIGHTY HISTORY

7 facts about the Gracchi Brothers of Rome

In the late second century BC, the Roman Republic seemed to be flourishing. After over a century of war with its ancient enemy Carthage, Rome now stood as the sole superpower of the western Mediterranean Sea. Under the brilliance of this victory, however, there was a storm coming. As Rome expanded, the Republic became increasingly stratified between rich and poor, and tensions were on the rise. It was in this turbulent time that the Gracchi brothers Tiberius and Gaius entered the political scene. Their reforms would result in both of their deaths, but their actions would change the course of Roman history. Here are seven things to know about the Gracchi brothers.

1. Rome was becoming a powder keg

As Rome had expanded from a small settlement in central Italy to the master of the Mediterranean, there opened a gulf between the upper and lower classes. The old ideal of the citizen-farmer, the self-sufficient man who owned his own land, was increasingly out of reach. Lands once divided into independent family farms were being absorbed into massive private villas owned by aristocrats and worked by slaves. Many Roman citizens were forced into the city, where they were forced to depend on handouts from the state. This left many Romans from all classes discontent.

Buildings in Rome were stunning like this one, but most citizens were poor.

2. Tiberius was tribune of the plebs

The tribune of the plebs was the representative of the plebeians, or Roman masses; he was responsible for checking the power of the Senate, which was dominated by the patricians, the nobility. In the year 133 BC, Tiberius Gracchus was elected tribune on a platform of land reform. He invoked the Lex Licinia Sexta, an ancient set of laws that placed a limit on land ownership, to redistribute excess land from the wealthy to the poor. The problem was, the laws had not been enforced in decades, and enforcing them would be an uphill battle.

3. Tiberius was the first populist

The elder Gracchi was known for violating Rome’s political traditions. It was customary to bring a new bill to the Senate for debate, but Tiberius took his land reform bill directly to the citizen-assemblies to be voted on. When the infuriated Senators stepped in to prevent the bill from passing, Tiberius spent the rest of his time as tribune disrupting other attempts at legislating, in order to hold the Senate hostage.

4. Tiberius’s murder changed Roman politics

The position of tribune was considered sacred, so the Senate could not touch Tiberius until his one-year tenure was over. Tiberius attempted to run for tribune a second time in a row, which was illegal. The Senate responded by storming one of the Gracchi’s rallies, beating Tiberius and many of his supporters to death. This was the first time in centuries that Roman politics had been determined by violence, but it would not be the last.

Ancient forum in Rome
An ancient Roman forum is now a historical site.

5. Gaius was also tribune

Ten years later in 123 BC, the younger Gracchi Gaius was elected tribune on the same platform as his brother. Where Tiberius was more idealistic and placed his trust in the people, Gaius knew that he would need the upper classes on his side. He appealed to the equestrians, the class just below the patricians, to push forward his reforms. He promoted land reform, limiting military conscription to the age of 17 or older, providing grain for the poor citizens and equipment for the poor soldiers (before, Roman conscripts had to pay for their own armor and weapons), and various other public works projects.

6. Gaius couldn’t keep the support of the people

His popularity, however, would not last forever. In the late Republic many Italian peoples were allied with Rome, but were not full Roman citizens. Gaius proposed extending citizenship to these allies, but this was a political miscalculation. The Roman people realized they would have to share the redistributed land with an influx of new citizens, and this they could not abide. Gaius’s days were numbered.

7. Gaius took his own life

Tensions eventually boiled over when a massive pro-Gracchi rally ended in violence. One of Gaius’s opponents was killed, as Gaius’s supporters were illegally carrying weapons within the city of Rome. This prompted the Senators to pass for the first time in history the Senatus consultum ultimum, a law that empowered the Senate to put a citizen to death without a trial. For a Roman man capture and execution was less honorable than suicide, so Gaius fell on his own sword.

The Gracchi brothers were only the start of the crisis in the late Republic. The tensions between upper and lower classes would become more extreme, prompting the rise of newer, more ruthless politicians. The Senate would continue to abuse its power over life and death. For the first time in centuries, Roman law was made secondary to violence. The Republic would eventually descend into civil war, but thanks to Romans like the Gracchi, the dream of Rome would continue to inspire us for centuries.

Articles

Airmen failed fitness tests due to wrong track distances

The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom
Airmen, sprint during the running improvement program at the track Sept. 28, 2012, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. | U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Phelps


The Air Force says dozens of airmen have failed physical training tests in recent years due to inaccurate track distances.

All bases should measure their running tracks by Oct. 31 to prevent false test scores, the service announced on Thursday.

If bases determine the tracks are the wrong length, airmen’s scores will be adjusted accordingly, Air Force spokeswoman Brooke Brzozowske told Military.com.

Nearly 60 airmen at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, and Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts, received inaccurate run scores because of the problem, the service said. The test requires airmen to complete a timed 1.5-mile run or a two-kilometer walk if they are exempt from the run.

Officials at Goodfellow determined the outdoor running course was 85 feet longer than required, which may have caused 18 airmen stationed at the base between 2010 and 2016 to fail the fitness assessment, the announcement said. The track was last measured in 2010.

At Hanscom, the track was found to be 360 feet longer than it should be, likely causing 41 airmen stationed there between 2008 and 2016 to fail. The track was last measured in 2008.

“All airmen who should have passed were notified,” Brzozowske said in an email.

“If still on active duty, their fitness scores were adjusted to the correct passing score. If there were any personnel actions taken resulting from the inaccurate [fitness assessment] failures, airmen should work with their chain of command, Force Support Squadron and legal office, and potentially the Air Force Personnel Center to correct records,” she wrote.

The service’s inspector general also plans to include the PT program “as an Air Force inspection requirement on future wing unit effectiveness inspections,” the announcement said.

In addition, each time a base redesigns or modifies a running track, it must measure it as a precaution, it said.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here are all the standard issue weapons used by US Marines

The US Marine Corps started issuing the Glock 19M pistol to marines, which they call the M007, in May 2017.

“The M007 has a smaller frame and is easier to conceal, making it a natural selection to meet the Marine Corps’ conceal carry weapon requirement,” Gunnery Sgt. Brian Nelson said in a November 2017 Marines Corps Systems Command press release.

And since the Corps continually upgrades and adds new weapons to its arsenal, we reached out to the Marines Corps Systems Command, which is in charge of all acquisitions for the Corps, to find out which standard issue weapons it currently gives to Marines.

Check them out below:


1. Beretta M9 pistol

1. Beretta M9 pistol

The Beretta M9 is a 9mm semi-automatic pistol.

2. Beretta M9A1 pistol

2. Beretta M9A1 pistol

Specifically designed for the Corps, the Beretta M9A1 is an upgrade to the M9.

The M9A1 a little heavier than the M9, and has extra features, such as a sand-resistant magazine and a Picatinny MIL-STD-1913 rail under the barrel for accessories and more.

3. Colt M45A1 close quarters battle pistol

3. Colt M45A1 close quarters battle pistol

The Colt M45A1 is .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol that the Corps started purchasing in 2012.

4. Glock 19M or M007 conceal carry weapon

4. Glock 19M or M007 conceal carry weapon

The Glock 19M, which the Corps named the M007 after James Bond, is a 9mm semi-automatic pistol that will slowly replace the M9.

5. M1014 joint service combat shotgun

5. M1014 joint service combat shotgun

The M1014, or Benelli M4 Super 90, is a 12-Guage shotgun developed by Italian gun maker Benelli.

The Corps began fielding shotguns during World War I to breach and clear trenches, and began fielding the Benelli M4 in 1999.

6. M500A2 shotgun

6. M500A2 shotgun

The Mossberg 500A2 is a 12-Gauge shotgun that usually comes with a five-round capacity tube.

7. M16A4 rifle

7. M16A4 rifle

The M16A4 shoots 5.56×45 mm rounds and is basically an M16A2, but with a removable handle and full-length quad picatinny rail.

8. M4 carbine

8. M4 carbine

The M4 shoots 5.56×45 mm rounds, and is a shortened version of the M16A2.

9. M4A1 carbine

9. M4A1 carbine

The M4A1 is an upgraded M4 with “full auto capability, a consistent trigger pull, and a slightly heavier barrel,” according to Military.com.

10. M249 squad automatic weapon

10. M249 squad automatic weapon

The SAW shoots a 5.56mm round like the M4 and M16, but it’s heavier and has a greater muzzle velocity and firing range.

11. M27 infantry automatic rifle

11. M27 infantry automatic rifle

The M27 shoots 5.56×45 mm rounds, and was adopted by the Corps in 2011. The Corps recently purchased 15,000 of them to slowly replace the M4 and SAW.

12. M38 designated marksman rifle

12. M38 designated marksman rifle

The M38 is a marksman upgrade to the M27 with a Leupold TS-30A2 Mark 4 2.5-8x36mm Mid-Range/Tactical Illuminated Reticle Scope.

13. M240 machine gun

13. M240 machine gun

The M240 fires 7.62s up to 2.31 miles away. There are multiple variants of the M240.

14. M240B machine gun

14. M240B machine gun

The M240B also shoots 7.62s, but is heavier than the M240 or M240C.

Read more about the difference in the variant specs here.

15. M110 semi-automatic sniper system.

15. M110 semi-automatic sniper system.

The M110 shoots a 7.62x51mm round with an effective firing range of more than 2,600 feet.

16. M40A6 sniper rifle

16. M40A6 sniper rifle

The M40A6 shoots a 7.62×51 mm round with an effective firing range of more than 2,625 feet.

17. Mk13 Mod 7 sniper rifle

17. Mk13 Mod 7 sniper rifle

The Corps announced in April that it would replace the M40 with the new Mk13 Mod 7, which shoots a .300 Winchester Magnum round with an effective firing range of more than 1,000 yards.

18. M107 special applications scoped rifle

18. M107 special applications scoped rifle

The M107 Special Applications Scoped Rifle, or M107 long-range sniper rifle, shoots an incredibly large 12.7x99mm round with an equally incredibly large effective firing range of more than 6,500 feet.

In 2011, a marine actually had his M107 break down during a firefight, and he called customer support to fix it.

19. M2 machine gun

19. M2 machine gun

The M2 is a .50 caliber machine gun with an effective firing range of 22,310 feet. The Corps also provides an Up-Gunned Weapons Station that fixes the M2s to vehicles.

20. M2A1 quick change barrel

20. M2A1 quick change barrel

The M2A1 is a .50 caliber machine gun and an upgrade to the M2, featuring reduced muzzle flash and reduced time to change the barrel.

21. M203A2 grenade launcher

21. M203A2 grenade launcher

The M203 shoots 40mm grenades and can be fitted under the M4 and M16, but the US military is currently phasing it out for the M320.

22. M32A1 multiple grenade launcher

22. M32A1 multiple grenade launcher

The M32A1 is six-round 40mm multiple grenade launcher with a maximum range of 2,625 feet with medium velocity grenades.

23. MK19 grenade machine gun

23. MK19 grenade machine gun

With a maximum range of 7,218 feet, the MK19 is a 40mm automatic grenade launcher and can mount on tripods and armored vehicles. The Corps issues two different versions: the Mod 3 and Mod 4.

U.S. Marine Corps photos

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the US military didn’t kill Kim Jong Un in 2017

The United States military watched as Kim Jong-Un smoked cigarettes around the next missile his country was going to test – a test designed specifically just to provoke the United States as Americans celebrated their independence. For over an hour, the top brass of the U.S. military just watched without ever ordering a strike or calling in some kind of attack.


For then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, that must have taken a lot of restraint.

The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom

He was there to observe a rocket test, a test just like many before it. This time it was for a multi-stage intercontinental ballistic missile. The missile itself was in the last stages of development. Meanwhile, American military leaders had ample time to look through their weapons catalogs and choose which weapon would have been perfect to use to wipe two of America’s greatest annoyances off the map – North Korea’s ballistic missile site and the leader who supports its development.

But no attack ever came, according to The Diplomat’s Ankit Panda. The United States watched its dictator enemy pace around a missile for nearly 70 minutes before opting to do nothing.

The Coast Guard combat missions of Operation Iraqi Freedom

Kim Jong Un, the supreme leader of North Korea, smokes a cigarette just feet from the base of an untested, liquid-fueled rocket engine.

The U.S. knows North Korea is going to do something provocative on Independence Day – they always do – but the attack on the missile platform never came as expected. Instead, the next day the United States made a precision strike on some North Korean targets that demonstrated to Kim exactly what they were capable of, and specifically pointing out that the U.S. didn’t attack when it could have. After all, then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wanted to “bring Kim Jong-Un to his senses, not to his knees.”

U.S. officials believed the attack the next day sent Kim a twofold message. The first was that the United States wasn’t interested in regime change. The second was that since the U.S. didn’t want to explicitly kill Kim, he didn’t really need to keep the weapons programs going.

Perhaps the message worked as intended – within a year, Kim would meet with President Trump in Singapore to discuss peace and denuclearization.