Dispatches of War: Shuras Don't Mean Peace - We Are The Mighty
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Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace

(Photo: Ward Carroll) Capt. Josh Powers (far left) of the 101st Airborne Division gathers the males of the village for a shura in eastern Afghanistan.


COMBAT OUTPOST YOSEF KHEL – The brief was held in the early morning in front of battalion headquarters in the shadow of a Conex box. The mission was to get the governor of Paktika Province from the capital of Sharana to a shura – a traditional Afghan meeting of regional tribal elders with government officials – at the small town of Yahya Khel 25 miles to the south. Because of the threat of small arms fire, rocket propelled grenades, and IEDs along the route, the men of the U.S. Army charged with getting the governor safely to the shura and back elected to use a convoy of four MRAPs.

Also Read: My Attempt To Capture Afghanistan Wound Up Capturing America Instead 

Once off of the forward operating base and at Sharana’s town center the American convoy was joined by a handful of up-armored Humvees from the Afghan National Army and nearly a dozen armed pickup trucks from the Afghan Uniformed Police. The Afghan governor was placed in the second MRAP in the convoy along with the American battalion commander and his interpreter (known simply as “Chewy”).

As the convoy started its push out of Sharana, the battalion commander expressed concern to the governor that the sub-governor of Yahya Khel had heard about the shura from an unauthorized source, which in turn was an indicator of possible hostile activity along the route. The colonel’s concerns were somewhat mitigated by a stronger than usual presence of Afghan National Army troops along the roadway, and the convoy made it through the bottleneck hotspots without incident.

As the lead vehicles made it to the bazaar at Yahya Khel – the largest in the province – The colonel suggested to the governor that he lead the meeting that would take place before the shura, thereby furthering the impression that the governor was fully in charge. The governor agreed.

Once inside the confines of the combat outpost at Yahya Khel, the parties dismounted their vehicles. While the security forces set about bolstering the perimeter, the military and civilian officials made their way to the “pre-brief,” joining a handful of their peers who’d preceded them.

Inside the small room the participants sat on weathered chairs and rugs and pillows against the far wall. Sun-faded posters of Afghanistan and Harmed Karzai dotted the plaster walls. Several attendants dutifully poured milky tea into clear mugs as officials got into place.

The governor took the lead as the American colonel had suggested.

“Can somebody explain the situation to me?” he asked in Pasto. “How many of the enemy do we have?”

The sub-governor answered matter-of-factly: “The government cannot guarantee the security of the people against the Taliban.” With that, the discussion grew heated, with various officials either pointing fingers at other agencies or explaining that they couldn’t do their jobs because of improper resources. The sub-governor complained that the ANA didn’t listen to his needs. The Afghan Uniformed Police chief said one of the ANA generals told him he couldn’t have ammunition because the police force was “not for fighting.”

A U.S. Army company commander, the American military officer most keenly focused on the area around Yahya Khel, added his thoughts during a brief lull in the discussion: “The main problem is a population that is willing to work with the Taliban because many of the Taliban are from the area.” He also pointed to a lack of Afghan-generated intelligence fusion around Yahya Khel, which kept forces from seizing the initiative and proactively preventing attacks on the district center and surrounding areas.

After several displeased officials walked out in the middle of a discussion about cell phone tower security, the governor bemusedly declared the meeting over. The group shuffled out of the pre-brief room and walked down a dirt and gravel alley bordered by high walls and guard towers pockmarked with large-caliber bullet holes and RPG shrapnel. Inside an adjacent building the district elders had gathered for the shura.

With the help of an interpreter (center), First Lieutenant Marcus Smith (right) discusses the needs of the village of Mest with tribal elders. (Photo: Ward Carroll)

The elders (a misnomer of sorts as some of them appeared relatively young) crouched on the dusty concrete floor in front of the governor, who stood behind a modest table at the front of the room.

“I am here to hear your problems,” the governor pronounced. He considered the faces of those before him and asked, “Why are you so sad? You have to be happy. Afghanistan is not like it was 30 years ago. Other countries are spending money in Afghanistan. Don’t send your children to Pakistan or Iran to work. They need to stay here.”

The governor went on to outline his strategy and what he needed from the elders and their charges. He asked them to help the security forces and not work with the Taliban. He urged them to send their children to school. And, like any good politician, he reminded them of the election coming up and told them that they were a very important part of the process.

The governor finished his opening remarks by insisting that the insurgents are not as numerous as their propaganda might have indicated, and further, they were not true Muslims. “Stop an insurgent and ask him to recite one of Muhammad’s speeches,” he said.

The governor was followed by several government officials – the chief of police and the education minister – who shared a common theme: “Tell us your problems and we will work to solve them.”

But when the floor was turned over to the elders, one-by-one those who stood up emphatically said they had asked the government for help but their requests had fallen on deaf ears.

The elders’ airing of grievances was suddenly interrupted by the dull thud of an explosion in the distance followed by another and another, each sounding closer to the city than the last. There were four total. Uniformed personnel (including American forces present) hurried out of the entrance to investigate as the elders exchanged concerned glances. Governor Sameen continued the proceedings, expression underselling the potential threat the explosions might have posed to those in attendance.

The governor ended the shura with a simple sentiment: “Right people always win; wrong people always lose.”

Meanwhile, as the elders and government officials sat for a traditional post-shura lunch, the American military forces were in the tactical operations center busily trying to figure out from which direction the mortars had been fired. The TOC’s laptop computer screens showed images broadcast from high-powered cameras mounted on the roof. The cameras repeatedly moved side to side, scanning the surrounding fields and tree lines but came up empty.

On the roof gunners focused along their designated fields of fire. The American Army company commander explained that one of the enemy’s common tactics was to lob mortars into the fields to the north as a misdirection play followed by small arms fire and RPGs from the wooded grove to the southwest. Overhead a Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet awaited tasking from the radio-laden Air Force tactical air controller standing next to the Army captain.

A half hour passed without any follow-on attacks or any sign of where the original attack had emanated from. Without any coordinates to offer, the controller requested that the Super Hornet perform a “motivational pass.” The carrier-based Navy jet complied, roaring loudly overhead at about 500 feet then pulling dramatically into a climb.

The post-shura lunch concluded, and the security situation was deemed stable enough to allow the convoy to man-up and move out, back-tracking along the route it had taken a few hours earlier. In the command vehicle the colonel asked the governor if he shared his sense that the elders had done a lot of complaining about those trying to help them while letting the Taliban off the hook. The govenor pushed back a bit, pointing out the stat he had put out during his opening remarks that the Taliban were killing one elder a day – 30 a month. In return the governor pronounced the shura a qualified success.

And as the convoy snaked and bumped its way north, the insurgents re-initiated their attack on Yayha Khel, this time more brazen. They pinned down a U.S. Army dismounted patrol on the outskirts of the city with small arms fire while their mortars fell into the bazaar and closer to the observation post. Reports crackled over the radio that the walls to the city had been breached. Units in adjacent areas were put on alert and made ready to assist their comrades. A Marine Corps Cobra attack helicopter answered the call for airborne firepower, but by the time it had arrived American ground forces had pushed the insurgents back into the ether from which they’d emerged.

The enemy message associated with the timing and intensity of the attack was unmistakable: Shuras don’t mean peace.

NOW: Here’s What An Army Medic Does In The Critical Minutes After A Soldier Is Wounded 

OR: 6 Reasons Why The Korengal Valley Was One Of The Most Dangerous Places In Afghanistan 

Articles

The 8 best mobile device military games

Mobile gaming is awesome, and all the rage. Here are 8 great military ones:


1. Modern Combat 5: Blackout

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace
screenshot via Youtube/GoCaliberGaming

Good graphics and an awesome storyline for mobile combine with player vs. player modes to make MC5: Blackout a gem. Be warned though, the game gives an even larger than normal advantage to those players who use in-app purchases to get better equipment.

Available on iOS and Android.

2. Call of Duty: Strike Team

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace
screenshot via Youtube/Wickedshrapnel

Call of Duty: Strike Team allows the player to control a fire team of special operators as they seek out those responsible for a surprise attack on the U.S. in 2020. In both first and third-person mode, it features great graphics and gameplay, but the settings all start to look the same after a few missions.

Available on iOS and Android.

3. Battle Supremacy

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace
screenshot via Youtube/AppSpy

Battle Supremacy focuses on tank warfare from World War II. It’s graphics are great for a mobile game and features player vs. player combat. Players can use cover and concealment and the maps are large enough to allow for some real strategy.

The player can also use planes or rocket-ships in a couple of instances.

Available on: iOS

4. Arma Tactics

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace
screenshot via Youtube/stratjacked

A turn-based strategy game that centers around a four-man Special Forces team, Arma Tactics drops the player into modern combat. The game features a campaign mode as well as randomized levels so there’s always something new to play.

Available on iOS and Android.

5. Sky Gamblers: Cold War

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace
screenshot via Youtube/Infinite Flight

Pitting MiGs against Harriers is always fun. Sky Gamblers: Cold War allows players to control one of 17 different planes in high-speed combat against other players or computer opponents.

Available on: iOS

A World War II version is available on iOS and Android.

6. SAS: Zombie Assault 4

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace
screenshot via Youtube/pistol star

It’s all in the title. Drop in as a single SAS operative or join a squad of four elite soldiers battling the undead. SAS: Zombie Assault 4 is a topdown shooter that keeps it simple, gratuitously violent, and fun.

Available on iOS and Android.

7. Star Wars: Commander

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace
screenshot via Youtube/TheGameHuntah

Build a base and marshall forces in this strategy game set in the Star Wars universe. You can choose which side to fight for and raise armies of storm troopers or Rebel soldiers along with a selection of vehicles and spaceships.

Available on iOS and Android.

8. Frontline Commando

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace
screenshot via Youtube/Pure Gameplay Videos

Frontline Commando is an older game that pits the player as a sole survivor of an attack against the entire army of the dictator who killed his team. This third-person shooter has lots of weapons and power-ups to try and the storyline can keep you entertained for hours. Unfortunately, there’s no multiplayer.

Available on iOS and Android.

Articles

6 of the wildest top secret spy missions of World War II

Spy novels are filled with over-the-top missions and unlikely operations, but some of the wildest spy stories are the real ones.


1. A Polish spy bluffs her way into a Gestapo prison while surrounded by her own wanted posters.

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace
Photo: Wikipedia.com

Christine Granville was known for a bunch of exploits in World War II, but her ballsiest was a rescue mission. She walked into a Gestapo-controlled prison in France and secured the release of three other spies scheduled for execution. At the time, her face was on wanted posters spread across the country.

She convinced the guards that she was a British spy and the niece of a British general and that Allied Forces were bearing down on the city. She suggested that they should release the prisoners in return for future payment and clemency. The Germans bought it and she walked her colleagues out.

2. Operation Mincemeat fooled the Nazis with a corpse.

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace

When the Allies needed to invade Sicily in 1943, they knew the Germans would be rapidly reinforcing it. So, they procured the body of a dead vagrant, dressed him up in a uniform, chained a briefcase of fake invasion plans for Greece to his wrist, and floated him on ocean currents to “neutral” Spain.

As the British expected, the documents were handed over to the Nazis and assumed to be genuine. The Germans prepared for an invasion in the wrong place, saving thousands of Allied lives during the invasion of Sicily.

READ MORE: This top-secret operation was the World War II version of ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’

3. A famed jazz singer smuggled information through sheet music and her underwear.

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace
Photo: Wikipedia

Josephine Baker was a famous singer and dancer born in America. She became a French citizen in 1937 and, when France fell to the Germans, she convinced the Axis she was on their side. Baker spent the next few years spying for the Allies in high-culture parties with senior Axis leaders.

To smuggle intelligence out, she would plan performances in neutral countries and hand over her sheet music, covered in invisible ink, to Allied handlers. When she needed to smuggle out photos, she’d pin them to her underwear.

4. A Navy commando ran weapons, spies, and explosives through Greece and the Balkan Peninsula.

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace

Lt. j.g. Jack Taylor — sometimes called America’s first SEAL because he was the first American commando to infiltrate by sea, air, and land in his career — served in the OSS in the Balkan Peninsula behind enemy lines from Sep. 1943 to March 1944.

During this time, he and his men reconnoitered enemy troop and supply positions, resupplied friendly forces, and conducted night time raids. They were nearly caught in three different incidents but escaped each time. The famed Maj. Gen. William “Wild Bill” Donovan recommended Taylor for a service cross for the mission.

5. Agent Fifi tested new British agents by being hot and charming.

“Agent Fifi” was Marie Chilver, an English-born woman who was raised throughout Europe. She was jailed in an internment camp in 1940 but escaped to England in 1941.

She tried to get sent back to France as a spy, but wasn’t allowed. Instead, she became the beautiful, seductive final exam for British spy trainees. British agents would be approached by Chilvers during their mission and she tried and get secrets out of them. Any who divulged information were dropped from the program.

6. Virginia Hall led a resistance group despite having only one foot.

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Virginia Hall lost her foot prior to World War II, an injury that ended her hopes for a career in the foreign service. So, instead she became a spy.

Her largest contributions to the war probably came when she slipped into France via a British torpedo boat, trained three battalions of French resistance, and led sabotage and intelligence-gathering missions. Her team killed 150 Germans and captured 500 more. They also destroyed four bridges and multiple trains and rail lines.

NOW: The 4 female spies who shaped the American revolution

OR: The 6 most secret units in military history

MIGHTY TRENDING

Syria disaster proves that Putin can’t protect troops in Syria

Russia grappled with a tragedy on Sept. 18, 2018, after Syria, its ally, mistakenly shot down one of its planes flying above the Mediterranean, and it shows how Russian President Vladimir Putin is strangely powerless to protect his own people.

After Russia’s Il-20 spy plane went down, its defense ministry quickly blamed Israel, which had attacked Syria with low-flying jets evading and jamming radar during a prolonged missile strike.

Syria’s missile defenses, unable to get a fix on the Israeli fighters, had instead spotted a large, slower-moving Russian spy plane flying overhead, locked on, and fired, killing 15 Russians with a Russian-made missile.


“With so much congestion in the Syrian air, it’s not surprising at all,” Anna Borshchevskaya, a Russia expert with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told Business Insider. “This is not the first time when Putin looked like he couldn’t protect his people.”

After Russian generals blamed Israel and promised “countermeasures” in response, Putin called it a tragic accident, attributed no blame, and did not promise retaliation.

The skies above Syria remain combative and congested. Russian planes continue their routes. Syrian air-defense officers remain jumpy on the trigger, and there’s no indication this won’t happen again.

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace

Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Paper tiger Putin

Russia entered the Syrian conflict with a roar in September 2015. Russian air power saved Syrian President Bashar Assad from a backsliding civil war that had promised to crush him.

Russian missile defenses protected him, and service members all but ensured the US wouldn’t raise a finger against the Syrian president, no matter how badly he battered his own people.

But three years have passed, and though Assad remains in power, Russians are still dying in Syria, and the country has become isolated and weak. Russia has lost nine fixed-wing aircraft and an untold number of helicopters in Syria. In early 2018 the US devastated a column of Russian mercenaries who approached its position in Syria, killing as many as 300 with superior air power.

Recently, when the US threatened Syria with further punishment for what it says are chemical-weapons attacks, Russia threatened to hit US forces in Syria. The US responded with live-fire exercises, and Russia soon backed down.

After US strikes on Syria in both April 2017 and April 2018, Russia threatened retaliation or cutting communication with the US. And both times, nothing happened.

Putin has time and time again asserted himself as a powerful figure exploiting the void left by the US’s refusal to engage with Syria’s civil war. But time and time again, Putin has failed to protect his own people.

“Putin filled a vacuum in Syria, but he didn’t need to be super powerful to do that,” Borshchevskaya said. “Presence is often relevance, and that’s what happened in Syria.”

While Russia has openly taunted the US to intervene in Syria, Putin has merely correctly estimated the US’s complacence, rather than legitimately scared off a determined foe. Putin masterfully played off a lack of US political will in order to convince many European US allies that the US was scared.

“So many people in the West were so worried of risking a war with Russia over Syria,” Borshchevskaya said. “That was never going to happen. They don’t want to fight a war with us. They know they can’t win it.”

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Russia’s strong and weak at the same time

While Russia projects strength with a raggedy aircraft carrier in Syria and a three-year military campaign that has managed to secure a status quo without definitively beating pockets of unsophisticated rebels, its own people felt the hurt.

Putin’s aggressiveness in dealing with Syria and Ukraine and his links to international instances of Kremlin critics being poisoned have led to sanctions and isolation for Russia, harming its economy.

In August 2018, Putin broke his 2005 promise not to raise the retirement age, reminding many Russians that, because of lower national life expectancies, they could die before seeing a dime of their pensions but had lived to see that money spent in Syria and Ukraine. Mass demonstrations broke out across Russia.

Russia has done well to achieve its limited objective of keeping Assad in power in Syria. But when it comes to protecting Russian lives, the loss of the Il-20 points to a “hugely embarrassing” trend of Putin failing his people, Borshchevskaya said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

F-35 demo team will debut new moves during 2019 air shows

Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson soared above RAF Fairford, England, piloting an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter during the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) in July 2018. It was the first time Olson had given aviation geek enthusiasts and skeptics alike a taste of maneuvers the fifth-generation stealth jet can perform at the world’s largest military air show.

Now, Olson will be showing off those moves and more on tour.


“This show is going to solidify the F-35 in its rightful place, just [as] the absolute, cutting-edge stealth fighter jet [that’s] here and it’s ready and so capable,” said Olson, an instructor pilot and commander of the F-35A Heritage Flight Team.

Military.com recently spoke with Olson, with the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, about the upcoming 2019 demonstration season, in which he will be the solo F-35 performer at 17 shows across the U.S. and Canada.

“It’s just a total, absolute rage fest within 15 minutes,” Olson said.

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace

Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson, F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team pilot and commander, performs a high-speed pass during a demo practice.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexander Cook)


The F-35 Lightning II has been part of the Heritage Flight for three seasons and is gearing up for its fourth starting March 2019, officials said. The Heritage Flight Foundation is a contractor with Air Combat Command and performs across the U.S. and overseas, flying old warbirds such as the P-51 Mustang.

Only four aircraft — the A-10 Thunderbolt II, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-22 Raptorand F-35 — are certified to fly alongside the planes from a bygone era.

But this is the first time the F-35 will have a breakout role in the 30-minute, full-narration air show, with its own 13-minute demo featuring state-of-the-art aerobatics.

“We’re going out there to showcase the jet, [and] we’re doing it fully aerobatic … fully showcasing the maneuvering envelope of the F-35,” Olson said.

That means a minimum of 16 maneuvers, including rolls, loops, high-degree bank turns, and inverting to be fully upside down, among other actions. There will also be two new passes with the older warbirds, including a “fun bottom-up pass where the [audience] can see the bottom of the aircraft as it arcs over the crowd,” he said.

Olson said the show pulls from the strengths and maneuvers of multiple airframes that came before the F-35. For example, the F/A-18 Super Hornet is “very impressive at a slow-speed capability, being able to do things like a square loop” and the F-16 Viper demo “is very fast and agile,” he said. Audiences will be able to see the F-35 do both.

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace

Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson, F-35A Lightning II Demo Team commander and pilot, taxis after a demonstration practice.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid)

The F-35 “will be able to power out of other maneuvers” more swiftly because of its F135 engine, which propels it with more than 40,000 pounds of thrust, Olson said.

He will perform a pedal turn similar to the F-22, in which the F-35 banks and climbs high, eventually simulating a somersault-like move. But Olson will not use thrust vectoring or manipulate the direction of the engine’s to control altitude or velocity.

“This is really just a testament to the design and the flight control logic that’s built into the jet. And all these maneuvers are repeatable under all conditions … no matter what kind of temperature, or elevation, all these maneuvers are safe,” Olson said.

“For the first three seasons, we wanted the public to see the F-35, but it wasn’t fully ready,” Olson said, meaning that not every jet used for demonstrations was configured to the latest Block 3F software. “The F-35 program involved concurrent production and test. … There was a little extra amount of testing still left to do … and software and hardware modifications.”

That restricted pilots to a maximum of 7 G-forces, but now Olson can pull a full 9Gs if he wishes.

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace

Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson, F-35A Lightning II Demo Team commander and pilot, flies inverted during a demonstration practice.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid)

And he has: During the RIAT show in July 2018, Olson climbed to a full 9G configuration because that specific jet was fully capable. But he said he still wasn’t performing the high-banking maneuvers he now can for the upcoming season.

Olson and a small team at Luke have been working on the first-of-its-kind show since December 2018. They traveled to manufacturer Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 simulator facilities in Fort Worth, Texas, to develop the show alongside Billie Flynn, Lockheed’s experimental test pilot.

The demo moves also simulate how the F-35 will perform in combat, Olson said.

“Through our narration, we attempt to succeed in connecting the maneuver at the air show to its real world, tactical application,” he said, adding that he flies the F-35 like he’s in a combat configuration but he won’t be carrying an ordnance load.

Still, “you are seeing the jet and how it would perform in actual combat,” he said.

As additional jets came to Luke for pilot training, it gave the demo team breathing room to practice because they weren’t taking planes away from the primary training mission, Olson said.

The base now has 87 of the jets, with more than 90 percent configured to the Block 3F software.

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace

Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson, F-35A Lightning II Demo Team commander and pilot, practices the F-35 demonstration.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid)

“As far as flying operations go at Luke, [we now have enough] jets to support a demo team,” said Olson, who was previously an F-15E Strike Eagle pilot.

The show routine has been flown more than 40 times. Each time, he and other pilots, maintainers, avionics specialists and others involved in the show watch the tape from the cockpit and another recorded from the ground to see what can be perfected.

“We grade ourselves down to the foot, and down to the knot of airspeed,” Olson said. “When you travel at 1,000 feet per second, that’s a tight tolerance. But that’s the precision in which we designed this thing.”

He added, “No one has seen the F-35s perform this way and I … think it really sets the bar for what a demo [show] can be.”

Olson says he doesn’t see additional F-35 jets being added to the demo, though maneuvers may be tweaked or added in future seasons.

“That work is never finished,” he said. “Connecting the U.S. military, the U.S. Air Force with the American public is the goal. And the F-35 demonstration is the conduit for which we forge that connection.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs lays out what’s next for the US military

Over the past two decades, the strategic landscape has changed dramatically. While the fundamental nature of war has not changed, the pace of change and modern technology, coupled with shifts in the nature of geopolitical competition, have altered the character of war in the 21st century.

Advancements in space, information systems, cyberspace, electronic warfare, and missile technology have accelerated the speed and complexity of war. As a result, decision space has collapsed, and we can assume that any future conflict will involve all domains and cut across multiple geographic regions.


Today’s strategic landscape is also extraordinarily volatile, and the nation faces threats from an array of state and nonstate actors. Revisionist powers such as China and Russia seek to undermine the credibility of our alliances and limit our ability to project power. North Korea’s efforts to develop a nuclear-capable, intercontinental ballistic missile now threaten the homeland and our allies in the Pacific. Iran routinely destabilizes its neighbors and threatens freedom of navigation while modernizing its maritime, missile, space and cyber capabilities. Violent extremist organizations (VEOs), such as the so-called Islamic State (IS) and al Qaeda, remain a transregional threat to the homeland, our allies and our way of life. These realities are why some have called today’s operating environment the most challenging since World War II.

At the same time, the U.S. military’s long-held competitive advantage has eroded. Our decisive victory in Operation Desert Storm was a wake-up call for our enemies; they observed that our operational source of strength is the ability to project power where and when needed to advance U.S. interests and meet alliance commitments. This spurred dramatic tactical, operational and strategic adaptations and accelerated modernization programs to asymmetrically counter our ability to project power. All the while, budget instability and the challenges of a decades-long campaign against violent extremism adversely affected our own modernization and capability development efforts required to preserve – or in some cases restore – our competitive advantage.

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace
A pair of U.S Air Force F-35 Lightning II aircraft with the 419th Fighter Squadron fly alongside a KC-10 Extender crewed by Reserve Citizen Airmen with the 78th Air Refueling Squadron, 514th Air Mobility Wing, as an F-15 Eagle with the 104th Fighter Squadron approaches during a joint training missio
(Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen)

Additionally, the Joint Force lacks sufficient capacity to meet combatant command requirements. Over the past 16 years, we made a conscious choice to limit the size of the force to preserve scarce resources necessary for essential investments in immediate upgrades to critical capabilities. And requirements have not abated, as we assumed they would after major combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan ended. As a result, global demand for forces continues to exceed the inventory.

Finally, as a nation that thinks and acts globally, the United States cannot choose between a force that can address IS and other VEOs and one that can deter and defeat state actors with a full range of capabilities. We require a balanced force that can address the challenges outlined in the recently published National Defense Strategy and has the inherent flexibility to respond to the unexpected.

We must adapt to maintain a competitive advantage

Advances in technology and the changing character of war require that our plans address all-domain, transregional challenges and conflict. In the past, we assumed most crises could be contained to one region. That assumption, in turn, drove regionally focused planning and decision making processes. Today, this assumption no longer holds true. Our planning must adapt to provide a global perspective that views challenges holistically and enables execution of military campaigns with a flexibility and speed that outpaces our adversaries.


We must also be prepared to make decisions at the speed of relevance. While the cost of failure at the outset of conflict has always been high, in past conflicts there were opportunities to absorb costs and recover if something went wrong. Today, that cannot be assumed, and our strategic decision making processes must adapt to keep pace. Senior leaders require routine access to synthesized information and intelligence to ensure their ability to see the fight in real time and seize initiative.

We must manage the force in a manner that allows us to meet day-to-day requirements, while maintaining readiness and the flexibility to respond to major contingencies and the unexpected. To ensure that the Joint Force provides viable options and is in position to execute when called on, our force posture must be optimized to strategic priorities and provide strength, agility and resilience across regions and domains.

To arrest and, in time, reverse the erosion of our competitive advantage, our force development and design processes must deliver a Joint Force capable of competing and winning against any potential adversary. This future force must remain competitive in all domains, deny adversaries’ ability to counter our strengths asymmetrically, and retain the ability to project power at a time and place of our choosing.

Finally, we must further develop leaders capable of thriving at the speed of war – leaders who can adapt to change, drive innovation and thrive in uncertain, chaotic conditions. The nature of war has not changed, and, in a violent clash of wills, it is the human dimension that ultimately determines the success of any campaign.

The “how” of global integration

To address these imperatives, we are adapting our approach to planning, decision-making, force management and force design. These processes are interdependent and mutually reinforcing – intended to drive the changes required to maintain our competitive advantage. Over the past two years, we have made progress in each of these areas, but more work remains.

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace
Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr. works aboard a C-130 aircraft at Bagram Airfield before a visit to Task Forceu2013Southwest at Camp Shorab, Helmand Province, March 22, 2018.
(DoD photo by Dominique A. Pineiro)

The National Defense Strategy establishes clear priorities for the Department of Defense, and the National Military Strategy is nested within to provide a global framework for the Joint Force to operate across regions, domains and functions. We reoriented the Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan to operationalize the strategy and developed global campaign plans to provide a framework for planning an all-domain, transregional approach to the challenges outlined in the National Defense Strategy. These plans are designed to bring coherence to operations of all functional and geographic combatant commands.

The Joint Force is also improving how it frames decisions for the Secretary of Defense in an all-domain, transregional fight. This begins by developing a common intelligence picture and a shared understanding of global force posture, which then serves as a baseline to test operational plans and concepts through realistic and demanding exercises and wargames. By testing our assumptions and concepts, exercises and wargames provide senior leaders with the “reps-and-sets” necessary to build the implicit communication required to facilitate rapid decision-making in times of crisis.

Our force management processes are evolving to support the objectives laid out in the National Defense Strategy. Setting the globe begins by allocating resources against strategic priorities – optimizing the way we posture capabilities globally to support our strategy, provide strategic flexibility and ensure our ability to respond rapidly to the unexpected. Once the globe is set, we are applying the concept of Dynamic Force Employment to provide proactive and scalable options for priority missions while maintaining readiness to respond to contingencies. In a global environment that demands strategic flexibility and freedom of action, these adaptations enable the Joint Force to seize the initiative rather than react when faced with multiple challenges.

To ensure our competitive advantage, we are implementing a process for force design that provides the secretary with integrated solutions to drive the development of a more lethal force. This process begins by assessing our ability to execute the strategy and compares our capabilities and capacities vis-à-vis our adversaries. Assessment findings shape the development of comprehensive materiel and nonmateriel recommendations that inform the secretary’s priorities for investment, concept development, experimentation and innovation. This approach is designed to provide integrated solutions, across the services, which ensure competitive advantage today and tomorrow.

Finally, we are reinvigorating strategic assessments to support all these efforts. Assessments provide the analytic rigor to inform our ability both to meet the current strategy and to develop a future force that maintains our competitive advantage. A cornerstone of this process is the Chairman’s Risk Assessment, which evaluates our current ability to execute the National Military Strategy and provides a global perspective of risk across the Joint Force. And, in 2016, we published the Joint Military Net Assessment for the first time in 20 years – benchmarking the Joint Force against near-peer adversaries today and comparing our trajectory over the next five years. These assessments are essential to provide an analytic baseline for everything we do, from planning to force management and from exercise development to force design.

There is no preordained right to victory on the battlefield, and today the United States faces an extraordinarily complex and dynamic security environment. To keep pace with the changing character of war, we must globally integrate the way we plan, employ the force, and design the force of the future. If we fail to adapt, the Joint Force will lose the ability to compete.

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

Articles

US special operators accidentally show off the gear used against ISIS

President Barack Obama announced that 250 more special forces troops would be sent to Syria to bolster U.S. efforts in the fight against ISIS. Their specific mission is not clear, but in neighboring Iraq, ground forces have provided fire support to Iraqi troops fighting to retake Mosul and have acted as advisors to Iraqi and Kurdish forces.


Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace

Meanwhile, the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command has conducted raids against ISIS in Syria, killing or capturing leaders of the terror group. In recent days, U.S. special operators were captured on video by France’s media outlet France24, as U.S. troops directed A-10 Thunderbolt strikes in support of Syrian Democratic Forces fighting to take the village of Shadadi from ISIS.

Shadadi is a border town that once served as the crossing point for ISIS fighter heading into neighboring Iraq. It was captured recently by Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units and Syrian Democratic Forces. The recapture took less than a week.

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace

The video keep the men’s identities secret, but shows the gear used against ISIS in the battle for the town. The small group of operators are seen carrying Remington’s Modular Sniper Rifle, an M-32 semiautomatic grenade launcher, and equipment that allows for them to call in airstrikes, acording to Twitter’s Abraxas Spa, who describes their feed as an “all-source analyst.”

 

One operator is using the Mk. 4 scope on a tripod while another is marking objects with the LA-16 laser marker. The LA-16 will guide bombs to targets on the ground using the handheld laser.

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace

The operators are also using a ROVER, Remote Operations Video Enhanced Receiver, which allows for troops on the ground to see a video feed of what aircraft overhead see. The Tactical ROVER-p can provide real-time imagery to a tablet.

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace

Articles

Here are the best military photos of the week

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

The 75th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron from Moody Air Force base, Ga., landed nine A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, April 30, 2012. The 75th EFS deployed approximately 250 Airmen and 12 aircraft to Korea as part of a routine theater support package. The A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft is designed to provide close air support for ground troops and can also carry air-to-air missiles.

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Craig Cisek

Train to Survive

Airmen watch as an MH-60 Seahawk takes off during a jungle training course June 15, 2016, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Conducted by the U.S. Army 25th Infantry Division’s Lightning Academy Jungle Operations Training Center from Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, and supported by 736th Security Forces Squadron Commando Warrior cadre, students prepared a simulated patient for medical evacuation. During the course, they also learned survival skills, including land navigation and evasion techniques.

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Smoot

ARMY:

A JMRC observer coach trainer team flies a UH-72A Lakota helicopter during Exercise Swift Response 16 at Hohenfels Training Area, Germany, June 23, 2016. The exercise enhances the readiness of the U.S. Global Response Force to conduct rapid-response, joint-forcible entry and follow-on operations alongside Allied high-readiness forces in Europe.

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace
U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Randy Wren

A U.S. Army UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter Crew Chief, assigned to 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, 7th Infantry Division, scans his sector as the sun sets over Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), Wash., June 21, 2016. Four Black Hawks participated in day and night air assault training with Soldiers from 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team.

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace
U.S. Army photo by Capt. Brian Harris

NAVY:

SOUTH CHINA SEA (July 6, 2016) Sailors assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) wait on station as the Military Sealift Command dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Matthew Perry (T-AKE 9) sends stores during a connected replenishment. Curtis Wilbur is on patrol with Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 5 in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ellen Hilkowski

PACIFIC OCEAN (July 5, 2016) Chief Construction Electrician Daniel Luberto, right, and Construction Mechanic 3rd Class Andersen Gardner, assigned to Underwater Construction Team 2, Construction Dive Detachment Bravo (UCT2 CDDB), remove corroded zinc anodes from an undersea cable at the Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands, Hawaii.

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Charles E. White

MARINE CORPS:

Marines with Maritime Raid Force, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, approach a simulated enemy vessel during a visit, board, search, and seizure mission off the coast of San Diego, Calif., June 28, 2016. Although the MRF is capable of operating in land-based environments, its main role within a MEU is to conduct maritime operations, such as raids on gas and oil platforms, and enemy-controlled vessels.

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Devan K. Gowans

Lance Cpl. Nick J. Padia, a gunner, writes the words “War Pig” on a window of his humvee after reaching one of their objective points at Cultana Training Area, South Australia, Australia, July 1, 2016. The Marines reached their first objectives during Exercise Hamel, a trilateral training exercise with Australian, New Zealand, and U.S. forces to enhance cooperation, trust, and friendship. Padia, from Chandler, Arizona, is with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Marine Rotational Force – Darwin.

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Osvaldo L. Ortega III

COAST GUARD:

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace
U.S. Coast Guard photo

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace
U.S. Coast Guard photo

MIGHTY TRENDING

Indian pilots say it’s easy to see China’s new stealth fighter

China recently made history as the first country besides the US to field stealth aircraft with its J-20 fighter, but reports from its regional rival, India, indicate that it may want to go back to the drawing board.

The Indian Defense Research Wing says its Russian-made Su-30MKI fighter jets can spot the supposedly-stealth J-20s, and has already observed them in flight.


Indian Air Force Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa said the “Su-30 radar is good enough and can pick it (J-20) up from many kilometers away,” according to Indian news website Zee News.

India has been basing its Su-30MKIs in the northern part of the country to counter China’s deployments of J-20s, which struggle to take off in the high altitudes near Tibet, Zee News reported.

The Su-30MKI represents a new and effective Russian jet with an advanced array of radars that Justin Bronk, an air combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute told Business Insider could probably spot the J-20.

“It is entirely possible that the Su-30MKI can pick up track information on J-20 from quite long ranges,” Bronk said. “But what I would expect is that those tracks may be fairly intermittent and dependent on what headings the J-20 is flying on relative to the Sukhoi trying to detect it.”

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace
An Indian Air Force Su-30MKI

Bronk explained that unlike the US’s F-22 and F-35 stealth jets, the J-20 doesn’t have all-aspect stealth. This means that from some angles, the J-20 isn’t stealthy. A senior stealth scientist previously told Business Insider the J-20 is stealthiest from the front end.

If China was flying the J-20s in any direction besides towards India, the Su-30MKI radars could have been spotting the jets from their more vulnerable sides.

“Also, it is possible that the Chinese are flying the J-20 with radar reflectors attached to enlarge and conceal its true radar cross section during peacetime operations — just as the USAF routinely does with the F-22 and F-35,” said Bronk.

For safety and training purposes, stealth aircraft often fly with markers that destroy their stealth during peacetime maneuvers.

If this is the case with the J-20s, then India may be in for an unpleasant surprise next time it tries to track the supposedly stealth jets.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army is getting this new squad vehicle to lighten its load

Infantry soldiers often carry an array of supplies and gear that together can weigh anywhere from 60 to 120 pounds, said Capt. Erika Hanson, the assistant product manager for the Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport.

But the SMET vehicle, which the Army expects to field in just under three years, “is designed to take the load off the soldier,” Hanson said. “Our directed requirement is to carry 1,000 pounds of the soldier load.”

That 1,000 pounds is not just for one soldier, of course, but for an entire Infantry squad — typically about nine soldiers.


Late May 2018, during a “Close Combat Lethality Tech Day” in the courtyard of the Pentagon, Hanson had with her on display the contenders for the Army’s SMET program: four small vehicles, each designed to follow along behind a squad of infantry soldiers and carry most or all their gear for them, so they can move to where they need to be without being exhausted upon arrival.

“I’m not an infantry soldier,” Hanson said. “But I’ve carried a rucksack — and I can tell you I can move a lot faster without out a rucksack on my back. Not having to carry this load will make the soldier more mobile and more lethal in a deployed environment.”

The four contender vehicles on display at the Pentagon were the MRZR-X system from Polaris Industries Inc., Applied Research Associates Inc. and Neya Systems LLC; the Multi-Utility Tactical Transport from General Dynamics Land Systems; the Hunter Wolf from HDT Global; and the RS2-H1 system from Howe and Howe Technologies. Each was loaded down with gear representative of what they would be expected to carry when one of them is actually fielded to the Army.

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace
Vehicles the Army is considering to fill the role of the Squad Multi-Purpose Equipment Transport.
(U.S. Army photos)

“Nine ruck sacks, six boxes of MREs and four water cans,” Hanson said. “This is about the equivalent of what a long-range mission for a light Infantry unit would need to carry.”

Hanson said that for actual testing and evaluation purposes, the simulated combat load also includes fuel cans and ammo cans as well, though these items weren’t included in the display at the Pentagon.

These small vehicles, Hanson said, are expected to follow along with a squad of soldiers as they walk to wherever it is they have been directed to go. The requirement for the vehicles is that they be able to travel up to 60 miles over the course of 72 hours, she said.

Three of the vehicles are “pivot steered,” Hanson said, to make it easier for them to maneuver in off-road environments, so that they can follow soldiers even when there isn’t a trail.

One of the contenders for SMET has a steering wheel, with both a driver’s seat and a passenger seat. So if a soldier wanted to drive that vehicle, he could, Hanson said. Still, the Army requirement is that the SMET be able to operate unmanned, and all four vehicles provide that unmanned capability.

All four contenders include a small, simplistic kind of remote control that a soldier can hand-carry to control the vehicle. One of those remotes was just a light-weight hand grip with a tiny thumb-controlled joystick on top. A soldier on patrol could carry the light-weight controller at his side.

More advanced control options are also available for the SMET as well, Hanson said.

“All can be operated with an operator control unit,” she said. “It’s a tele-operation where you have a screen and you can operate the system non-line-of-site via the cameras on the system.”

When soldiers on patrol want the SMET to follow along with them, they can use the very simple controller that puts a low cognitive load on the Soldier. When they want the SMET to operate in locations where they won’t be able to see it, they can use the more advanced controller with the video screen.

Hanson said the Army envisions soldiers might one day use the SMET to do things besides carry a Soldier’s bags.

“It’s for use in operations where some of the payloads are like re-trans and recon payloads in the future,” she said. “In that situation, it would be better for a soldier at a distance to be able to tele-operate the SMET into position.”

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace
This small joy stick device has been designed to control one of the four vehicles that the Army is considering to fill the role of the Squad Multi-Purpose Equipment Transport.
(U.S. Army photo by C. Todd Lopez)

The “re-trans” mission, she said, would involve putting radio gear onto the SMET and then using a remote control to put the vehicle out at the farthest edge of where radio communications are able to reach. By doing so, she said, the SMET could then be part of extending that communications range farther onto the battlefield.

One of the vehicles even has an option for a soldier to clip one end of a rope to his belt and the other end to the vehicle — and then the vehicle will just follow him wherever he walks. That’s the tethered “follow-me” option, Hanson said.

In addition to carrying gear for soldiers, the SMET is also expected to provide electric power to soldiers on patrol. She said while the vehicle is moving, for instance, it is required to provide 1 kilowatt of power, and when it’s standing still, it must provide 3 kW.

That power, she said, could be piped into the Army’s “Universal Battery Charger,” which can charge a variety of batteries currently used in soldier products. Vendors of the SMET have each been provided with a UBC so they can figure out how best to incorporate the device into their SMET submissions.

Hanson said the Army hopes that the SMET could include, in some cases, up to five UBCs on board to ensure that no soldier in an Infantry squad is ever without mobile power.

Next step

In November 2017, the Army held a “fly-off” at Fort Benning, Georgia, where 10 contenders for the SMET competed with each other. Only the developers of the vehicles were involved in the fly-off.

“From those, we down-selected to these four, based on their performance,” Hanson said.

To make its choice for the down-select, she said the Army looked at things like mobility and durability of the systems.

Now, the Army will do a technology demonstration to down-select to just one vehicle, from the remaining four. To do that, Hanson said, the Army will first provide copies of the competing SMET vehicles to two Army Infantry units, one at Fort Drum, New York, and one at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Additionally, Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, will also get a set of the vehicles.

“Over the course of the tech demo, we’ll be getting feedback from the soldiers and the Marines on what systems best fill the need for the infantryman,” she said.

The technology demonstration, she said, will last just one year. And when it’s complete, feedback from soldiers and Marines will be used to down-select to just one system that will then become an Army program of record.

“I think the best part of the program is the innovative approach the team is taking to field them to soldiers before they select the program of record,” Hanson said. “That way, it’s the soldier feedback that drives the requirement, not the other way around.”

Hanson said she expects the program of record to begin in the first quarter of fiscal year 2020, after which the Army will go into low-rate initial production on the SMET. By the second or third quarter of FY 2021, she said, the first Army unit can expect to have the new vehicle fielded to them.

Hanson said the Army has set a base price of $100,000 for the SMET.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Navy SEAL receives Medal of Honor for 2002 Afghanistan actions

Sitting in the White House reading the citation for the Medal of Honor doesn’t give the real flavor of why retired Navy Master Chief Petty Officer and special warfare operator Britt K. Slabinski is receiving the award.

The nicely air conditioned room with comfortable chairs, impeccable floors, historic artwork and gilt on many surfaces isn’t right, somehow.

The dispassionate words on the award talk of Slabinski’s heroism in assaulting bunkers, rallying his men, and going back into the center of the firefight.


The White House is literally half a world away from a mountain in Afghanistan in 2002, where Slabinski — and America — lost seven good men.

When the master chief talks of the action, you realize he is reliving his time atop Takur Ghar — a 10,000-foot mountain near Ghazni, on March 4, 2002. He is remembering his decisions. He is remembering what he felt. And he is remembering his brothers who were killed.

He speaks in present tense, because in his mind’s eye. It is still happening.

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace
An official portrait of retired Navy Master Chief Petty Officer and special warfare operator Britt K. Slabinski.

‘I Was Just Doing My Job’

He believes he did nothing special. “I was just doing my job that day,” Slabinski said during an interview.

Slabinski — then a senior chief petty officer — and his men were just supposed to set up an overwatch position on the mountain to support the conventional forces in the valley below. “Now the enemy gets a vote,” he said. “We plan, we train, we rehearse and we rehearse some more for every possible contingency, but sometimes the fog and friction of war is just out of your control and a leader has to adapt.”

The team was aboard an Army MH-47 helicopter and as it was landing, well dug-in al-Qaida fighters opened up. “When we land, the ramp goes down,” he said. “I’m standing on the very back of the helicopter … and almost immediately take an RPG rocket to the side of the aircraft. It goes off, fills the aircraft full of smoke and we are getting shot up right away. There’s bullets flying through the aircraft the size of your finger [from] 12.7 machine guns that were up there.”

The pilot was able to take off, but the bird was wounded and experienced what Slabinski called “the worst turbulence you could imagine.”

Those gyrations caused Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts to fall off the ramp. The crew chief grabbed Roberts’ pack, and the weight of the SEAL pulled him off the ramp, too. But the crew chief was tethered into the aircraft and was able to get back in. Roberts fell 10 feet into the meter-deep snow.

“It happens that fast,” Slabinski said as he snapped his fingers.

He told the pilot that he had lost a man, but with the chopper’s hydraulics shot out, there was no way the bird could circle and retrieve him. “[The pilot] was flying a brick,” Slabinski said. “It was basically a controlled crash into the enemy-held valley.”

The master chief assessed the situation. “Now my mission originally was to support the overwatch, then my teammate Neil fell out, and now I have a downed helicopter I have to deal with,” he said.

Calling For Support

The first problem he dealt with was the helicopter, and he called in a second aircraft to take the crew and team to a safe place. Once there, Slabinski was able to focus his attention on Neil.

The information he received was Roberts was alive. “I knew there was a superior enemy force up there and they had heavier weapons than I had,” he said.

The enemy, the cold, the altitude — “Everything that could be stacked against us, was stacked against us going back, and I had the feeling that this was a one-way trip,” he said. “I knew though, that if I go now, there’s a chance I could rescue Neil. I knew if I tried to develop a battle plan more on my terms, it would certainly be better, but I knew Neil didn’t have that time.”

The weight was on Slabinski’s shoulders. “I remember sitting in the helicopter,” he said. “The [rotors are] turning, it’s cold, trying to sort through the tactical piece of it … and this thought keeps coming back to me: If I go now what’s the cost going to be versus the cost if I wait. If you are the leader and you have peoples’ lives that you are responsible for, the decisions don’t come easy.”

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace
Anu00a0MH-47 Chinook helicopter
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Matthew R. Loken)

This was Slabinski’s loneliest moment. He was sitting in the chopper with a headset on and people are talking to him. He was thinking of all the tactical problems and the lives. “And this thought kept coming back to me, and it’s the first line of the Boy Scout Oath … ‘On my honor, I will do my best,'” said Slabinski, who attained the rank of Eagle Scout at his hometown troop in Northampton, Massachusetts “The only thing that is in the back of my mind is, ‘On my honor I will do my best, On my honor I will do my best, On my honor I will do my best.’

“That’s when I said, ‘I’m gonna go do this.'”

The master chief assigned his men jobs, and the pilot of the first aircraft, Army Chief Warrant Officer Al Mack, went up to Slabinski and told him he would be flying them back in the new MH-47, even though he had just survived a harrowing experience with the first helicopter.

There was no other place to land, so the team had to go right back to the place the first bird took the fire. As the chopper took off, it got quiet for Slabinski and he thought of his son, who was 6 years old at the time. “I remember saying, ‘I love you. Sorry for what’s to come. Be great,'” he said. “Then I put it in another room in my brain and went on with my duties.”

Enemy Fire

This Chinook also took fire coming in to the landing area, and as soon as the ramp went down, the team went off the back of the ramp. Two men went to the right, two to the left and the master chief and Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, an Air Force combat controller, went out together.

Slabinski and Chapman were hit by a burst of automatic weapons fire. “The burst hit John and he went down,” Slabinski said. “The bullets from the same burst went through my clothes on each side, and I jumped behind a rock.”

The belt-fed weapon kept firing at them. “I looked for John and he is lying in a very odd position, and I look to my other guys and they are engaged with another dug-in position and the two to my left are engaged there. There are enemy muzzle flashes on three sides.”

There is no cover, and Slabinski tosses two grenades at the bunker, but the position is too well dug in. He looks to his men and sees Chapman still in the same odd position and the others engaging the enemy. His M60 gunner is next to me. “I have a 40mm grenade launcher … and I have six grenades,” he said. “I’m too close to the big bunker because they won’t go off. They have to spin to arm.”

Firefight Continues

He fired at the farther bunkers and silenced those, but the big bunker remains a deadly problem. He has the M60-gunner fire on the bunker and he wants to charge to the bunker to clear it under the cover of that automatic fire. Before he could do that, a grenade flies out of the bunker and explodes right in front of the barrel of the M60, wounding the gunner.

Slabinski again assesses the situation. “The gunner is down. John hasn’t moved and my other two guys are still engaged in contact,” he said. “The plan in my head isn’t working so I have to do something different.”

Dispatches of War: Shuras Don’t Mean Peace
Artist rendition of The Battle of Takur Ghar.
(Painting by Keith Rocco)

He decided to get his small band out of direct fire. As he is doing that another SEAL was hit in the leg from the same machine gun Slabinski was trying to take out. “I sent the wounded over first and I crawled over to John, looking for some sign of life from John and didn’t get anything,” he said.

The place he chose to seek shelter from the fire was just about 30 feet away over the side of the mountain.

Mortar Fire

Slabinski called for support from an AC-130 gunship to hit the bunkers. At the same time as the aircraft was hitting the mountain he noticed shell fragments were landing around the team. Slabinski thinks at first it is the AC-130, but it is from an enemy mortar that is ranging his position.

He moves again to a more protected area and now the U.S. Army Ranger quick reaction force is coming in. The first chopper is hit and crashes on the top of the mountain. Slabinski contacted the second bird and it lands on another spit of land and the Rangers work their way to the SEAL position and attack up the mountain to secure the top.

The master chief can’t move his wounded to the top of the mountain, so he moved to a place he could secure and await medevac, which came that night.

Estimates of the number of al-Qaida fighters on the top of that mountain range between 40 and 100. They had heavy weapons galore with automatic machine guns, mortars, RPGs and recoilless rifles. It was the headquarters for al-Qaida operating against U.S. forces engaged in Operation Anaconda. The SEAL team went in to try to rescue Roberts with six men.

Footage taken by a remotely piloted vehicle and examined later showed that Chapman was not dead. The technical sergeant regained consciousness and engaged the enemy killing two of them — one in hand-to-hand combat. “I was 100 percent convinced that John was dead,” Slabinski said. “I never lost track of John.”

He never would have left the airman on that mountain, he said, if he thought for an instant that Chapman was alive.

For his actions that day, Slabinski received the Navy Cross, the nation’s second-highest award for valor. As part of then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s directive to the services to re-examine all of the valor awards beginning in 2001, the Navy recommended upgrading that award to the Medal of Honor. The master chief — who retired from the Navy in 2014 — received a call from President Donald J. Trump in March telling him of the decision.

The master chief is conflicted about the award. He believes he was just doing his job and still feels the loss of the seven men — Navy, Army and Air Force — he served with that day. “There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about them,” he said. “If I could give up this medal to have them back, I would.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch these five vets get real about dealing with military stereotypes

WATM hosted groups of veterans to answer several questions about their time in the military. The vets kept it real when responding to topics ranging from relationships to recruiters.


In this episode, our group of veterans discusses the various military stereotypes they’ve encountered from civilians over the years.

Editor’s note: If you have ideas for questions that you’d like to see a group of veterans answer, please leave a comment below.

Articles

This is how body armor can save your life

Propper, a relative newcomer to the body armor market, has – thankfully – recorded its first save.


Deputy Michael Hockett, Troup County (GA) Sheriffs Office, was struck by gunfire while in the line of duty back in January. Deputy Hockett responded to a residence to perform a welfare check (reportedly at the request of the resident’s father) and was subsequently engaged with gunfire by that resident. Matthew Edmondson shot at Deputy Hockett, then barricaded himself in the house. He eventually surrendered to SWAT personnel, was treated for a gunshot wound from Deputy Hockett’s return fire, and was formally charged.

Deputy Hockett was treated and released for what were described as “minor injuries.”

 

 

Says Propper,

“We are proud to be part of the reason Deputy Michael Hockett of the Troup County (GA) Sheriff’s Office is alive today. The innovative design of the 4PV concealed armor prevented the projectile from reaching the deputy better than a traditional 2-panel design that leaves the sides vulnerable.”

We were unable to source any additional information about the fight, so can do no more than report what you’ve read and seen here, but we’re glad Deputy Hockett is okay and happy we’re affiliated with a company that helps save lives on the sharp end.