This Friday, February 26, Fred Lewis will lead his all-military team to muscle through setbacks due to aging equipment. Lewis and his team of patriots are no strangers to delays, but one team member is particularly hedging his bets on this endeavor. ‘This needs to work out, I don’t want to be another homeless vet,” said Kyle Pletzke. This quote reveals more about the team than before. Pletzke is one of the nation’s homeless veterans who joined Lewis in Discovery’s Gold Rush in pursuit of fame and fortune. Homelessness is an in issue so pervasive that even I, the author, was a homeless veteran at one point in the not-too-distant past.
Time and again Lewis and his crew go through the gauntlet. Reinforcements arrive as the situation grows dire. Mitch Blatshke from Parker’s crew leaves no man left behind and renders aid to the other team’s machines. Will it be enough or too little too late? Mitch races against the clock to accomplish the mission.
In 2019 there were 37,085 homeless veterans registered with the VA’s PIT Count. The goal of the PIT count (point-in-time count) is to show Congress there is a need to end homelessness amongst veterans. From 2018 to 2019 the program reduced the homeless population by 2.1% by providing shelter.
Another resource is the Salvation Army. When I was homeless, the VA and the Salvation Army’s case workers banded together to help me find temporary housing. The irony of the situation was I could work from home, yet I didn’t have one. Long story short, my roommates lost their jobs due to the pandemic and instead of giving me a heads up to find my own place they kept me in the dark until we abruptly had to move.
If it wasn’t for We Are The Mighty and the fans who read my work I probably would have ended up a statistic. This artform is a cathartic release that pulled me through my darkest days. My mother lost her kidneys to Lupus and was fighting for her life. I’m still taking care of my sister. Veterans are proud and we won’t ask for help. However, it is important to call broken arrow when your back is against the wall.
Help is there and it will come.
That’s why this episode resonates so deeply for me. Another veteran is out of ammo and is fixing his bayonet, refusing to accept defeat. Gold Rush paints the perfect example of the camaraderie forged in the fires of combat. The other veterans also share their stories of their past and how they got into gold mining. Gold Rush is one of the few shows that accurately displays the brotherhood of the military.
Gold Rush airs this Friday at 8 PM ET/PT on Discovery, followed by the military Gold Rush special at 10 PM ET/PT on Discovery. Fans can also binge all previous seasons of Gold Rush on Discovery+.
A coronavirus outbreak aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt has the Navy scrambling to test the entire crew. At the current testing pace, it could be stuck in port for almost a month, but the Navy is trying to cut that time down.
Three cases were reported aboard the TR on Tuesday. By Friday morning, more than 30 sailors aboard the carrier had reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus, according to Fox News.
In response to the outbreak, the Navy, as acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly said Tuesday, is testing 100 percent of the crew for the virus. The ship is at port in Guam, and it is unclear exactly when the ship will head to sea again on its deployment.
The ship has the ability to test about 200 people per day, Modly told radio show host Hugh Hewitt Friday. The aircraft carrier has roughly 5,000 people on board including its crew, aviation squadrons and onboard staffs.
“At a pace of 200 a day, that could take 25 days,” the acting secretary said. “Obviously, that’s not acceptable, so we’re driving towards a quicker ability to do that.”
“We’re flying in more test kits from other large deck ships that we have,” he said, adding that the Navy is “also sending certain number of samples off the ship so that we can get responses more quickly.”
The TR is one of two US carriers in the Pacific, the other being the USS Ronald Reagan, which is currently in port at Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan. Fox News reported Friday that at least two cases have been reported aboard the Reagan.
Modly has repeatedly insisted that the TR remains ready to fulfill its mission if it was ordered to do so in an extreme situation, like the US entering a war.
“If there were a reason for her to go into action, she could easily go do that. We would just go,” he said Friday.
Modly told Hewitt that he does not have a date on when the TR will return to its assigned mission. “We’re just working through this as quickly as we possibly can,” he said.
A retired University of Wisconsin administrator was elected national commander of the nation’s largest veterans organization today during The American Legion’s 99th national convention.
Denise H. Rohan, a Vietnam-era veteran of the US Army, is the first woman to be elected to the top position of the 2 million member American Legion.
“Women were allowed to vote for national commander of The American Legion back in 1919, before they could vote for the president of the United States,” Rohan said. “The American Legion has always believed that a veteran is a veteran regardless of gender, race, or religion. If I can offer a different perspective than other Legionnaires, that’s great. But I am excited to build on the great programs, dedicated service and proud legacy of the many Legionnaires who came before me.”
Rohan has served The American Legion since 1984. While commander of Post 333 in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, she established Sons of the American Legion Squadron 333 and chartered Boy Scout Troop 333. She has also served as the department (state) commander of the Wisconsin American Legion.
She was employed with the University of Wisconsin Madison as the assistant bursar of student loans until her retirement in 2012. She managed the University of Wisconsin Madison, University of Wisconsin Green Bay, and University of Wisconsin Colleges’ $120 million loan portfolio made up of approximately 200 different federal, institutional and state programs in compliance with all laws, regulations, and policy.
Rohan was responsible for the efficiency and design of the computerized student loan accounts-receivable system.
Master Sgt. Adam Fagan and Staff Sgt. Benjamin Brudnicki earned the nation’s fourth-highest military honor during a ceremony at the Arizona base.
Both men were awarded for carrying out lifesaving rescues during raids against the Taliban.
While assigned to the 64th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron at Kandahar Airfield, Fagan was attached to a combined force of US and Afghan Special Forces for a raid in Helmand Province on March 24, 2019. As the team approached a Taliban compound in Sangin, they were attacked by small-arms fire from a fortified position as well as an improvised explosive device, according to Air Force Magazine.
Fagan was recognized for his actions under fire in helping to save an Afghan commando who was wounded.
“The heavy small-arms fire, coupled with rocket-propelled grenade blasts and multiple [IED] detonations pinned down the Afghan Special Forces team and hindered access to the critically wounded casualty,” Air Force Magazine reported. “Without hesitation and with complete disregard for his own safety, Sgt. Fagan took immediate control of the dire situation and engaged the fortified enemy position, repeatedly exposing himself to heavy fire.”
Two Bronze Stars with valor sit on a table at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, on Oct. 1, 2020. US Air Force Master Sgt. Adam Fagan and Staff Sgt. Benjamin Brudnicki, 48th Rescue Squadron pararescuemen, were presented Bronze Stars with valor for their actions in Afghanistan. Photo by Senior Airman Jacob T. Stephens.
Fagan engaged enemy forces to allow the rest of his team to reach the Afghan commando, who Fagan then treated before calling for a medical evacuation and moving the commando to the helicopter landing zone under small-arms fire and grenade attacks. He also provided cover for the helicopters to land.
“The culmination of Sgt. Fagan’s exceptionally brave actions and speed of patient delivery led to the destruction of an enemy weapons cache, the elimination of five enemy insurgents, and ultimately saved the life of a coalition partner,” the award citation states.
At the ceremony, Fagan attributed his success to his extensive training in calling in and executing medical evacuations.
“I knew what I was physically able to do, I knew I could treat that guy under fire in the dark,” he said at the ceremony.
Brudnicki was also assigned to the 64th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron at Kandahar when he was attached as a medic to a combined force of US and Afghan Special Forces on May 3, 2019, for a counterinsurgency mission in Helmand.
In a village known to be a Taliban stronghold, the commandos breached a compound and were engaged by enemy fighters.
“[Brudnicki] and his team utilized the Taliban’s own kill holes against them with decisive small-arms fire,” according to Air Force Magazine. “At distances of less than 5 feet, he engaged relentlessly with personal weapons and hand grenades, despite their cover being damaged with a rocket that failed to detonate.”
Pararescuemen and Marine force reconnaissance members board a CV-22 Osprey at a training drop zone in Djibouti to conduct free-fall jump operations as part of joint training. Photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Gregory Brook.
When a civilian was wounded in the fight, Brudnicki braved “effective enemy fire from an adjacent compound” while running through an open courtyard to rescue and stabilize the individual.
When an Afghan commando was severely wounded and pinned down, Brudnicki “rushed to join the fight and engaged the enemy’s fortified position by again crossing the open courtyard and exposing himself to grave danger,” according to the award citation. “He successfully suppressed the enemy, allowing partner force commandos to remove the casualty from the courtyard.”
Brudnicki then set up a collection point for wounded troops and created a plan to transport blood and evacuate people.
“His actions resulted in seven enemies killed in action, including a Taliban commander, and saved the lives of two coalition partners,” the citation states.
“My team leader quickly led the assault as we eliminated the enemy with small arms fire and hand grenades at room distance,” Brudnicki said in an Air Force release. “I treated multiple casualties with advanced medical interventions and helped coordinate exfiltration while my team continued to eliminate the threat.”
Pararescuemen work under the motto “that others may live.”
“It is an honor to be recognized, however, the experience and brotherhood created with my team overseas is the most valuable piece for me,” Brudnicki said. “The Air Force best utilizes its special warfare assets when putting them to work in the joint environment, and I am proud to be a part of that.”
The topic of combat-related trauma is finally being addressed in mainstream medicine across the United States. After seventeen consecutive years in overseas conflicts, trauma is both a reality and a devastation for our troops. As the stigma previously attached to mental health challenges fades, we’re finally coming together collectively to help support the men and women who serve in our military.
Luckily, there are many forms of treatment. Throttle therapy happens to be one of them — and a high octane one at that.
“Throttle therapy” is the term for time spent on a motorized bike with the intent to enjoy feelings of euphoria that may exceed the capabilities of prescription or illegal drugs. According to the nonprofit Veteran Motocross Foundation, or VetMX, “Research has shown that physical experiences which are thrilling and physically demanding can re-center human brain chemistry.”
In other words, sports like Motocross can help alleviate symptoms of post-traumatic stress, especially for veterans.
“It’s not something radical we’ve come up with,” said Dustin Blankenship, an Air Force veteran with a paralyzed left thigh. “There’s proof that riding a motorcycle helps people. It’s almost like you’re in a trance state on a motorcycle. It’s like meditation.”
Blankenship discovered that his injury doesn’t hold him back when he rides.
He’s not the only veteran to experience a transformation when he rides. Then-2nd Lt. Michael Reardon told the Air Force that motocross racing was the ultimate stress reliever and the perfect adrenaline rush — within reason: “[Motocross] is only dangerous if you let it be dangerous. The sport is much safer if you don’t exceed your own limits.”
Brothers Greg Oswald and Eli Tomac, a C-17 pilot and a Supercross champ respectively, know a thing or two about getting in a machine and letting everything else fade away. Check out the video below to hear about how they support each other on the ground, in the air, or on a racetrack:
On the heels of a widely praised 2015 decision to issue the more maneuverable M4 carbine in lieu of the M16A4 to Marines in infantry battalions, the Marine Corps may be on the cusp of another major weapons decision.
The Marine Corps’ experimental battalion, the California-based 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, has been conducting pre-deployment exercises with the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle to evaluate it as the new service rifle for infantry battalions, the commander of 1st Marine Division, Maj. Gen. Daniel O’Donohue told Military.com Thursday.
The battalion is set to deploy aboard the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit this spring. As part of its workup and deployment, it has been charged with testing and evaluating a host of technologies and concepts ranging from teaming operations with unmanned systems and robotics to experiments with differently sized squads.
“When they take the IAR and they’re training out there with all the ranges we do with the M4, they’re going to look at the tactics of it. They’ll look at the firepower, and they’ll do every bit of training, and then they’ll deploy with that weapon, and we’ll take the feedback to the Marine Corps to judge,” O’Donohue said.
Marines in 3/5 used the IAR as their service rifle during the 28-day Integrated Training Exercise held this month at Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center 29 Palms, California. The exercise, also known as ITX, is the largest pre-deployment workup for deploying battalions, and typically one of the last exercises they’ll complete. O’Donohue said the ubiquity of ITX would give evaluators ample data as they contrasted results with the different weapons.
“All you have to do is compare this battalion to the other battalions going through ITX,” he said.
The M4 carbine and the M27 IAR handle very similarly as they share a number of features. However, the M27 has a slightly longer effective range — 550 meters compared to the M4’s 500 — and elements that allow for more accurate targeting. It has a free-floating barrel, which keeps the barrel out of contact with the stock and minimizes the effect of vibration on bullet trajectory. It also has a proprietary gas piston system that makes the weapon more reliable and reduces wear and tear.
And the the IAR can fire in fully automatic mode, while the standard M4 has single shot, semi-automatic and three-round burst options.
Currently, each Marine Corps infantry fire team is equipped with a single IAR, carried by the team’s automatic rifleman.
“I think the fundamental is the accuracy of the weapon, the idea that you’re going to use it for suppressive fires. And at first contact you have the overwhelming superiority of fire from which all the tactics evolve,” O’Donohue said. “So it starts with the fire team and the squad, if you give them a better weapon with better fire superiority, you’ll just put that vicious harmony of violence on the enemy.”
But officials do see some potential drawbacks to equipping every infantry Marine with the weapon.
“One of the things we’re looking at is the rate of fire,” O’Donohue said. “You can burn off too much ammo, potentially, with the IAR. We have a selector, a regulator [showing] how many rounds the Marines shoot. So that’s one area we’re examining with experimentation.”
Another variable is cost.
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Christian Wade, the gunner, or infantry weapons officer, for 2nd Marine Division, told Military.com the M27 costs about $3,000 apiece, without the sight. Because the Marine Corps is still grappling with budget cutbacks, he said he was skeptical that the service could find enough in the budget to equip all battalions with the weapons. He said a smaller rollout might be more feasible.
“To give everyone in a Marine rifle squad [the IAR], that might be worth it,” he said.
O’Donohue said feedback would be collected on an ongoing basis from the Marines in 3/5 as they continued workup exercises and deployed next year. Decisions on whether to field a new service weapon or reorganize the rifle squad would be made by the commandant, Gen. Robert Neller, when he felt he had collected enough information, O’Donohue said.
If the Marine Corps can sort out the logistics of fielding, Wade said he would welcome the change.
“It is the best infantry rifle in the world, hands down,” Wade said of the IAR. “Better than anything Russia has, it’s better than anything we have, it’s better than anything China has. It’s world-class.”
Lt. Col. Megan A. Brogden was handed a flag today that was full of symbolism.
It marked her new position as a battalion commander and all the responsibilities associated with that job.
It marked the pinnacle of her U.S. Army career so far.
And it marked a milestone in the continued diversification of Army special operations.
Brogden, who assumed command of the Group Support Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, is the first woman to assume command of a battalion within any of the Army’s seven Special Forces groups.
“It was a very humbling moment,” she said after the ceremony on Fort Bragg’s Meadows Field. “It’s such a great organization.”
But while happy to take on the challenges and proud of her accomplishments, Brogden is hesitant to mark herself as breaking new ground or smashing through any so-called glass ceilings.
“I don’t necessarily see it as much of a milestone,” she said. “I didn’t go to Ranger school or selection. It’s a lot about timing.”
Officials have called Brogden’s assuming command a historic moment for 3rd Group and the rest of the Special Forces Regiment. But during the change of command, leaders made clear that she was chosen for her expertise and leadership, not because she is a woman.
“She is without a doubt the right choice to assume command of this great unit at this time,” said Col. Bradley D. Moses, the 3rd Special Forces Group commander who passed the battalion colors to Brogden, symbolically starting her time in command.
Moses said Brogden has an unwavering dedication to soldiers, and a long history of supporting and leading special operations soldiers and maintaining the force.
“You’re a great officer, Megan. Smart, humble and full of energy. It’s an honor to serve with you again,” he said. “Lead from the front. Focus on the mission and take care of your soldiers and their families. I look forward to working with you in the days ahead.”
Brogden said the Group Support Battalion has a noteworthy reputation. It’s the largest, most diverse of five battalions within the 3rd Special Forces Group, charged with supporting Special Forces teams deployed to remote and austere environments in Africa and the Middle East.
“They have an awesome reputation,” she said.
And for the next two years, she said, she’ll work to build on that reputation and innovate to better support soldiers and their missions.
In taking command, Brogden said she feels no added pressure due to her gender. She said her selection as battalion commander shows the continuing growth of women within the special operations community.
“I think the doors are already opening, and if females want to be in the Special Forces community, the opportunities are there,” Brogden said.
She noted that women are already assigned within the Group Support Battalion, have served within U.S. Army Special Operations Command as civil affairs and psychological operations soldiers for nearly two decades and have served in cultural support teams with Army Rangers and as part of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
Capt. Christopher Webb, a spokesman for the 3rd Special Forces Group, said the percentage of women serving in special operations is comparable to the active Army. The first female service members served alongside the predecessors of today’s special operations soldiers as early as World War II, he said.
But there’s little doubt that the role of women in special operations is changing. In addition to filling more leadership roles, USASOC continues to integrate women into previously closed military jobs, officials said, stressing that standards have and will remain high for any position.
Brogden took command from Lt. Col. Chris Paone, who had led the Group Support Battalion, also known as the Nomads, for two years.
Moses honored the work the battalion has done under Paone’s command, praising his role in a massive shift that saw the 3rd Group’s mission focus move from Afghanistan to Africa.
Along the way, Paone and the battalion had to adjust from the resource-rich Central Command area of operations to a more austere environment, often hours away from supply lines.
The Group Support Battalion, on any given day, has soldiers deployed to about 12 countries in North and West Africa. It also has soldiers in Afghanistan, working alongside local partners.
The battalion, formed more than a decade ago, has more than 400 soldiers assigned to more than 35 military occupational specialties, and nine officer branches. The soldiers provide communications and electronics support, military intelligence, food service, chemical reconnaissance, supply and services, transportation, maintenance, water purification, medical support, engineering, water purification, parachute rigging, unmanned aerial reconnaissance, contracting support and more.
Paone praised the soldiers and battalion leaders. The special operations community needs leaders to be team-builders, Paone said. And there’s no doubt Brogden is uniquely qualified.
“The battalion can only benefit from your strong sustainment experience,” he said. “Best of luck.”
Brogden is a native of Myrtle Creek, Oregon, and was commissioned as a quartermaster officer from Oregon State University. She has served in Korea, within the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, and at Fort Lewis in Washington.
With the 82nd Airborne, she was executive officer for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan. She also served in other Fort Bragg units including as J4 plans chief at Joint Special Operations Command and, most recently, as secretary of the general staff for the 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command.
According to her Army bio, Brogden served two tours with a Joint Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan and Kuwait.
She said her past experiences have molded her into the leader she is today and will help guide her in the future.
In words of advice to younger female officers, Brogden said they will need to challenge themselves as officers and take the tough jobs that will develop them into leaders.
For Brogden, those jobs have often put her in contact with leaders who have become mentors. On Friday, many of those mentors were by her side. They included retired generals, such as Lt. Gen. Kathy Gainey, Brig. Gen. Ed Donnelly and Maj. Gen. Jim Hodge; and other leaders, including Col. Kathy Graef, Col. Geoff Kent and her most recent former commander, Brig. Gen. Chris Sharpsten.
Brogden’s military awards and decorations include the Bronze Star medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters and numerous other honors. She is also authorized to wear the Combat Action Badge, Parachutist Badge, Rigger Badge, German Parachutist Wings and a Joint Meritorious Unit Achievement Medal.
The US military wants a missile that can carry explosive-packed drones to a target hundreds of miles away, according to a contract solicitation from the Pentagon.
Earlier this month, the DoD announced it was soliciting proposals for this new missile system, which would be fired by the Army’s existing MGM-140 Tactical Missile System or the M-270 Multiple Launch Rocket System. But unlike traditional armaments, the Army wants this missile packed with unmanned quad-copters that will be released, fly to their target, land, and blow themselves up.
“The ultimate goal is to produce a missile deployable, long range [unmanned aerial system] swarm that can deliver small [explosively formed penetrators] to a variety of targets,” the solicitation reads. “This will serve as a smart augmentation to the standard missile warhead.”
The payload seems to be meant for hard targets, which the Army says could potentially mean tanks, large guns, fuel storage barrels, and vehicle roofs. The contract doesn’t mention exactly how many drones should be packed inside a missile.
Still, it could potentially mean hundreds of drones being deployed to a target, if a test of a “drone swarm” made public earlier this month is any guide. During that test, three F/A-18 Super Hornets spit out more than 100 tiny Perdix drones, which then linked up with each other to collectively make decisions and fly in formation.
A dog’s purpose is often for companionship – and they can be loyal friends. But a number of dogs also serve.
Military working dogs have a variety of missions, including bomb detection, security and attack. In a recent photo essay, the Air Force demonstrates how MWDs are trained to take down bad guys. The canine doing this demonstration is Ttoby, a Belgian Malinois.
According to DogTime.com, the Belgian Malinois can reach up to 80 pounds, and can live for up to 14 years. The American Kennel Club website notes that the breed was first recognized in 1959, and that Cairo, a Belgian Malinois, carried out the raid alongside SEAL Team 6 that targeted Osama bin Laden. PetMD.com reports that the dog is very popular among K9 units in law enforcement agencies.
1. It looks like a normal day when Ttoby’s handler tells someone to stop.
2. The guy refuses to comply, so the handler warns the suspected bad guy Ttoby will be turned loose.
3. The bad guy is warned that the dog will be let loose if he doesn’t comply.
4. The bad guy gets his last warning – Ttoby’s ready to chase.
5. Ttoby lunges onto the bad guy.
6. Struggling doesn’t help, as Ttoby has a firm grip.
7. Finally, the bad guy gives up.
8. Ttoby has been told to stand down, but he is ready if that bad guy does something stupid – like try to run or assault the handler.
There have been many closely-fought battles that could have gone either way.
The Battle of Midway was one. The final outcome of Japan losing four carriers and a heavy cruiser compared to the United States losing a carrier and a destroyer looks like a blow out. But that doesn’t reflect the fact that the Japanese fought off five separate attacks before Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers fatally damaged the carriers Akagi, Kaga, and Soryu.
Other battles, though, were clearly blowouts from the beginning. As in, you wonder why the losing side even wanted to pick that fight in the first place. Three of these battles were so one-sided, they were labeled “turkey shoots.” Here’s the rundown.
1944: The Marianas Turkey Shoot
Within four days of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese captured Guam. Two and a half years later, the United States Navy brought the Army and Marines to take it back.
In the Yom Kippur War, the Syrians and Egyptians surprised the Israelis with very good ground-based air defenses. The Israelis overcame that to win, but it was a very close call. When Syria and Israel clashed over Lebanon in 1982, three years removed from the Camp David accords, it was the Syrians’ turn to get handled roughly.
In the nine years since the Yom Kippur War, Israel started adding F-15 and F-16 fighters to their arsenal, but the real game-changer for the two-day battle of June 9-10, 1982 was the E-2 Hawkeye, which was able to warn Israeli planes of over 100 Syrian MiGs.
Final score over those two days: Israel 64 Syrian jets and at least 17 missile launchers, Syria 0.
1991: Desert Storm
While the air campaign was noted for what some sources considered a perfect 38-0 record for the Coalition (recent claims that Scott Speicher was shot down by an Iraqi MiG-25 Foxbat notwithstanding), there was one other incident called a “turkey shoot.”
An active-duty US Marine captain wrote a stinging op-ed for the Marine Corps Gazette, going through all the problems he sees with the Department of Defense and the Marine Corps in addition to recent failures in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The biggest problem, according to Capt. Joshua Waddell, is “self-delusion.”
“Let us first begin with the fundamental underpinnings of this delusion: our measures of performance and effectiveness in recent wars,” he wrote. “It is time that we, as professional military officers, accept the fact that we lost the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
The active-duty infantry officer, who served with and lost Marines under his command with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, in Afghanistan, didn’t come to this conclusion lightly. He said it took several years for him to accept that, with the goal of improving the system.
A case in point, he says, is a comparison of the US military with other adversaries.
The Pentagon’s budget dwarfs the combined defense spending of the next 10 countries. The Army and Marine Corps are arguably the best-trained fighting forces in the world. The Air Force has the most high-tech aircraft and weaponry, while the Navy maintains nearly 20 aircraft carriers — far more than adversaries like Russia and China that have only one each.
These stats should mean the US military is unstoppable, but the budget, talk of being the best in the world, and other claims it makes don’t square with measures of effectiveness, Waddell writes.
“How, then, have we been bested by malnourished and undereducated men with antiquated and improvised weaponry whilst spending trillions of dollars in national treasure and costing the lives of thousands of servicemen and hundreds of thousands of civilians?” he wrote.
“For example, a multibillion-dollar aircraft carrier that can be bested by a few million dollars in the form of a swarming missile barrage or a small unmanned aircraft system (UAS) capable of rendering its flight deck unusable does not retain its dollar value in real terms. Neither does the M1A1 tank, which is defeated by $20 worth of household items and scrap metal rendered into an explosively-formed projectile.
“The Joint Improvised Threat Defeat Organization has a library full of examples like these, and that is without touching the weaponized return on investment in terms of industrial output and capability development currently being employed by our conventional adversaries.”
His article isn’t just a critique; Waddell offers several solutions to get the military out of the “business-as-usual” mindset that looks good in PowerPoint briefs but doesn’t translate to success on the ground.
While military leaders typically complain to Congress that constrained budgets have a “crippling” effect on the military, Waddell says the military should work more efficiently with the money it has. He gives an example of a nation already doing this: Russia.
Moscow’s military budget is about $52 billion, versus Washington’s proposed defense budget of $583 billion. Yet with far less money, Russia has been a consistent thorn in the US’s side in Syria, Ukraine, and now Afghanistan. That’s not to mention Moscow’s success in cyberwarfare.
“This is the same Russian military whom the RAND Corporation has estimated would be unstoppable in an initial conventional conflict in the Baltic states, even against the combined might of the NATO forces stationed there,” Waddell wrote. “Given the generous funding the American people have bequeathed us to provide for the common defense, is it so unreasonable to seek an efficient frontier of that resource’s utility?”
Waddell’s critique includes a call to fix inefficiencies between the Defense Department getting gear to war fighters, as some have to buy things they need because they don’t get there before they deploy. Waddell also calls for an audit of the Marines to see whether there are redundant efforts among contractors.
“There is no reason we should be paying twice for the same work or, as is often the case, paying government personnel for work that they have instead outsourced to more capable contractors for tasks within the government worker’s job description,” he wrote. “I would be willing to bet that a savvy staff officer with access to these position and billet descriptions as well as contracting line items could save the Marine Corps millions of dollars by simply hitting Control+F (find all) on his keyboard, querying key tasks, and counting redundancies.”
It’s unclear how much of an effect this op-ed would have on any changes. The Marine Corps Gazette is read mostly by senior Marine leadership, but whether that translates to taking this captain’s advice in an institution that is resistant to change is an open question.
“I have watched Marines charge headlong into enemy fire and breach enemy defenses with the enemy’s own captured IEDs in order to engage in close combat,” Waddell wrote. “This same fighting spirit from which we draw so much pride must be replicated by our senior leaders in leading comprehensive reform of our Corps’ capabilities and in creating a supporting establishment truly capable of fostering innovation.”
The battle for ISIS’ stronghold in Iraq has kicked off this week.
But if it’s not handled well, the long-term consequences could be severe.
“If handled successfully, Mosul could mark the beginning of the end of the Islamic State; if handled poorly, it could be yet another pause before an inevitable resurgence of terror,” said an online intelligence briefing from The Soufan Group, a strategic security firm.
The Iraqi Security Forces don’t have enough troops to retake and hold Mosul and the surrounding area without help. So other factions — including Kurdish forces and Shia militias (known as Popular Mobilization Units) backed by Iran. If left unchecked, these other factions could use the battle for Mosul to further their own agendas.
Shia militias have been accused of reprisal killings, torture, and kidnappings when they have assisted in liberating other areas from ISIS. And Kurdish forces have been known to displace Sunni Arabs from their homes as they take control of areas they help liberate from ISIS. Turkey is also participating in Mosul operations.
“The military challenges of removing an entrenched foe in an urban warfare environment, while simultaneously protecting as many as one million civilians caught in the cross fire would be daunting in the best of circumstances,” said The Soufan Group intelligence briefing. “But lacking unified combatants and commands, Iraqi military considerations must always include every level of sectarian and ethnic concerns that could turn a military victory into a strategic defeat.”
In short, even if Iraqi forces manage to win the battle against ISIS in Mosul, they’re in danger of losing the war if there isn’t a solid plan in place to govern effectively and inclusively after ISIS leaves.
“Given the sheer size of Mosul — and its experience of savage rule at the hands of the Islamic State—revenge killing will likely be an issue in the days and months ahead,” said The Soufan Group intelligence briefing.
“The level of atrocities and outrages perpetrated against minority communities such as the Yazidi and Christians, as well as to the population at large, rank among the worst war crimes in recent history. A massive effort will be required to begin to heal what is a truly fractured city and society.”
A local Mosul historian who blogs about life in the city under the pseudonym Mosul Eye explained the stakes of the ongoing battle in a statement posted to Twitter on Thursday.
“The people of Mosul cannot trust what will happen during and after the liberation, and our concerns grow bigger every day,” the historian wrote. “The upcoming dangers are no less than ISIL. There are many factions who are trying to divide and to tear down our city, and turning it into parts where each part would be given to an ethnicity group, separating it from the rest.”
He continued: “History tells [us] that Mosul has always built its civilization upon an ethnically and religiously diversified population. It is impossible to imagine Mosul without its rich and diversified heritage, culture, history, and ethnicity.”
Mosul Eye recommended that the city be placed under international trusteeship with joint supervision from the Iraqi government and the US.
“We, the civilized people of Mosul, don’t want to hand our city over, after liberation, to the tribes or to the Kurds, or the Popular Mobilization Units, or any other faction that is out of the Iraqi government,” he wrote on Twitter. “We also believe that the Iraqi government alone is not capable of managing Mosul after liberation.”
The Pentagon has rejected Russian insinuations that U.S. forces were involved in recent drone attacks against Russia’s air base and its naval facility in western Syria.
Spokesman Marine Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway said on Jan. 9 that “any suggestion that U.S. or coalition forces played a role in an attack on a Russian base is without any basis in fact and is utterly irresponsible.”
The comments come after Russia’s Defense Ministry noted in a statement the “strange coincidence” of a U.S. military intelligence plane flying over the Mediterranean near the Hmeimim air base and Tartus naval facility at the moment of the attacks.
“Hardly anyone could have obtained the exact coordinates [for the attacks] based on space-based reconnaissance,” it also said.
The statement came a day after the Defense Ministry said that 13 armed drones were used to attack its facilities in Hmeimim and Tartus overnight on Jan. 5-6.
The ministry said seven of the unmanned aerial vehicles were shot down and the six others were forced to land without inflicting any casualties or damage.
A monitoring group, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the attacks were carried out by an Islamist rebel faction that operates in Latakia Province, where the Hmeimim base is located, according to the Associated Press news agency.
Russia has given President Bashar al-Assad’s government crucial support throughout Syria’s civil war and has long been at odds with U.S. support of certain rebel groups in the Syrian civil war.
The conflict has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven millions from their homes since it began with a crackdown on pro-democracy protests in 2011.
More than 40 Russian military personnel died in Syria since Moscow launched a campaign of air strikes in September 2015, in many cases using Hmeimim as a base.
During a visit to the airbase on Dec. 11, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared victory over “the most combat-capable international terrorist group” — a reference to the extremist group Islamic State (IS) — and announced a partial withdrawal of Russian troops.
‘All Necessary Means’
Western officials say that the Russian campaign, particularly in its earlier stages, focused heavily on targeting rebels seeking Assad’s ouster rather than IS militants.
Asked whether the announcement of a partial withdrawal could have been premature, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Jan. 9 that the Russian forces in Syria have “all the necessary means” to counter any challenge.
Putin said on Dec. 28 that more than 48,000 Russian military personnel had served in the operation in Syria, and that Russia’s presence at Hmeimim and Tartus would be “permanent.”
On Dec. 29, Putin signed a law ratifying an agreement enabling Russia to expand operations at its naval facility in Tartus.