US Air Force special operators evacuate wounded service members during a training exercise with an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter. A U.S. special operations team is currently trapped in Marjah, Afghanistan and one of the Pave Hawks sent to rescue them has crashed. Photo: US Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Scott Taylor
More than a dozen U.S. Army special operations soldiers are trapped in Marjah, Afghanistan, taking cover in a compound surrounded by enemy fire and hostile Taliban fighters after a U.S. special operations solider was killed earlier in the day, senior U.S. defense officials told Fox News late Tuesday.
A U.S. official described the “harrowing” scene to Fox News, saying there were enemy forces surrounding the compound in which the special operations team sought refuge.
“On the map there is one green dot representing friendly forces stuck in the compound, and around it is a sea of red [representing hostile forces],” the official told Fox News.
A U.S. military “quick reaction force” of reinforcements arrived late Tuesday and evacuated the U.S. special operations soldier killed in action, and the two wounded Americans in the compound, according to a U.S. defense official.
The crew of the disabled helicopter also evacuated safely, the official said.
The rest of the U.S. special operations team remain in the compound to secure the damaged HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter in an area surrounded by Taliban fighters.
An AC-130 gunship has been called in for air cover as the U.S. troops now wait out the night.
Earlier in the day, two USAF HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters were sent to rescue the U.S. special operations team. One of the helicopters took fire and waved off the mission and flew back to base.
The other helicopter’s blades struck the wall of the compound while attempting a rescue of the special operations team, according to defense officials who compared the scene to one similar to the helicopter crash inside Usama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan on the mission to kill the Al Qaeda leader in May 2011.
The joint U.S. and Afghan special operations team was sent to Marjah to clear the area of Taliban fighters, who have retaken most of the town since November.
There were nine airstrikes on Tuesday in support of a clearing operation.
Earlier in the day, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook confirmed to reporters that the fighting in Marjah remains ongoing.
“There’s fighting on the ground as we speak,” said Cook.
“Everything’s being done to secure the safety of those Americans and the Afghan forces,” he added.
The Taliban in recent weeks has focused its efforts on retaking parts of Helmand, and the U.S. has countered with U.S. special operations forces working with Afghan troops.
When the American military calls, America’s pastime answers. Here are 14 men who played on the diamond before serving on the battlefield. All of them went above and beyond in either the game or combat, and some distinguished themselves in both.
1. Yogi Berra volunteered to man a rocket boat leading the assault on Normandy.
Yogi Berra made his minor league debut with the Norfolk Tars in 1943, playing 11 games and earning an impressive .396 slugging average. But Berra’s draft card came in that year and he headed into the Navy.
After the war, Yogi Berra went on to play in the major leagues and became one of the most-feared batters in baseball. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.
2. Joe Pinder left the minor leagues and earned the Medal of Honor on Omaha Beach.
Joe Pinder spent most of his baseball time in Class D in the minors, but he rose as high as Class B for a short period. He joined the Army in January 1942 and was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division, where he fought in Africa and Sicily. On D-Day, Technician 5th Grade Pinder was wounded multiple times and lost needed radio equipment during the struggle to reach the beach. He kept going back and forth in the surf, retrieving items despite sustaining more injuries.
“Almost immediately on hitting the waist-deep water, he was hit by shrapnel,” 2nd Lt. Lee Ward W. Stockwell said, according to Baseball’s Greatest Sacrifice. “He was hit several times and the worst wound was to the left side of his face, which was cut off and hanging by a piece of flesh.”
After refusing medical treatment multiple times and finally getting his radio equipment all back together, Pinder was killed by a burst of machine gun fire to the chest. His bravery and perseverance earned him the Medal of Honor.
3. Jack Lummus excelled at baseball, football, and being a Marine Corps hero.
Jack Lummus was a college football and baseball star when he signed a contract with the Army Air Corps in 1941. He then signed a contract with a minor league team and played 26 games with them while awaiting training as a pilot. Unfortunately, Lummus clipped his plane’s wing while taxiing and was discharged.
Lummus then played professional football, playing in nine of the New York Giants’ 11 games in 1941. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Lummus finished the season and volunteered for the Marine Corps. He served as an enlisted military policeman for a few months before enrolling in officer training.
At the battle of Iwo Jima, he was a first lieutenant leading a rifle platoon against three concealed Japanese strongholds. Wounded twice by grenades, Lummus still singlehandedly took out all three positions and earned the Medal of Honor. He stepped on a land mine later that day and sustained mortal wounds.
4. Bob Feller left a six-figure contract to join the Navy after Pearl Harbor.
Hall of Famer Bob Feller won 76 games in three seasons before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The day after the attack, Feller walked away from a $100,000 contract and enlisted in the Navy. He was originally assigned to play baseball for troop entertainment, but enrolled in gunnery school to join the fight in the Pacific. Feller spent 26 months on the USS Alabama, seeing combat at Kwajalein, the Gilbert Islands and the Marshall Islands.
5. Ted Williams left the majors twice to fight America’s wars.
6. Warren Spahn fought in the Battle of the Bulge after his major league debut.
Warren E. Spahn pitched his first major league game in 1942, but joined the Army later that same year. He would fight as an engineer in the Battle of the Bulge, the Bridge at Remagen, and other important battles in the European theater.
Spahn is commonly credited with having earned a Bronze Star at the Bridge of Remagen due to a false, unauthorized biography. The book claimed to be his biography but was mostly fabricated. Spahn sued the writer and publisher for defamation and for violating his privacy, and he won the case in the Supreme Court. Spahn did earn a Purple Heart in the war.
7. Bernard Dolan and a teammate play, fight, and earn posthumous service crosses together.
In France on Oct. 16, 1918, Cpl. Dolan was wounded and took cover. He saw another soldier hit and rushed from his cover to assist, exposing himself to enemy fire and earning him a Distinguished Service Cross. He was hit again during the rescue attempt, leading to his death.
He became a fighter pilot and served in the Pacific in 1944 aboard the USS Enterprise, seeing combat in the Pacific multiple times, most of which was in the Philippines. He earned the Navy Cross and the Distinguished Flying Cross with Gold Star as a Navy lieutenant junior grade. He was shot down over the Philippines on November 14, 1944, but his body was never recovered.
9. Pitcher Stanford Wolfson was executed by the Germans after his tenth bombing mission.
Stanford Wolfson played for multiple teams in the minor leagues as a pitcher and outfielder from 1940 to 1942. On Oct. 15, 1942, he joined the Army Air Force as a bomber pilot, earning a commission as a second lieutenant. From December 1943 to November 1944, he flew nine bombing missions over Nazi Germany. On November 5, 1944, he flew a tenth and final mission and was ordered to bail out by the pilot after the plane took heavy damage from anti-aircraft fire.
In early 1945, he was training B-29 pilots. While piloting one of the B-29’s, Southworth attempted an emergency landing after an engine began smoking. he overshot the runway and crashed into the water near LaGuardia Field, New York.
An infielder and outfielder who distinguished himself in the minor leagues, Keith Bissonnette left baseball to join the Army Air Force. He earned his commission and became a fighter pilot in the 80th Fighter Group, flying missions in P-40 Warhawks and P-47 Thunderbolts between India and China from 1944 to 1945.
Soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Bebas was assigned as a dive-bomber pilot aboard the USS Hornet. Bebas first saw combat on June 6, 1942 in the Battle of Midway. He pushed through extreme anti-aircraft fire to achieve a near-miss that damaged a Japanese ship, earning him a Distinguished Flying Cross. He died during a training mission in 1942.
If you’ve ever watched a video or seen an ad from Black Rifle Coffee Company, you’ve seen the work and style of co-founder Jarred Taylor. “Everything is devoted to creation,” Taylor said, describing his overall philosophy. “So every piece of time, it might seem like I’m having fun, but everything is devoted to creating stuff for the audience base, on my part.”
Taylor grew up in Novato, California, north of San Francisco. His father was in the U.S. Navy, and they lived on a decommissioned U.S. Air Force base, Hamilton Army Airfield. In 1994, he and his family moved to Bangor, Washington.
“I was always fascinated with the military,” Taylor said. “I loved jets specifically.” But his other passion, from an early age, was film. “I would tell people when I was super young, ‘I wanna make movies, I wanna make movies, I wanna make movies.'”
At age 13, Taylor started making short skateboarding films using his parents’ 8mm camera and a VCR. When he was in high school, technology improved and he began using iMovie to edit. He took all the classes he could about digital media.
Taylor completed high school a year early and joined the Air Force in 2002. As the war in Iraq started, he was eager to get in on the action. “I was kicking and screaming during basic training, trying to find any way to get to that,” he said. When he had the chance to become a Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) — the person responsible for coordinating air strikes on the ground for the Army — he passed selection on his first try.
His role as a TACP meshed nicely with his continuing desire to create movies. “I was in this cool job now where we drop bombs right in front of our face. And I was like, ‘Well shit, no one’s ever really recorded this so I’m gonna do that,'” Taylor said. During two deployments to Iraq, he made films that were eventually used to help with military recruiting.
Jarred Taylor while in the U.S. Air Force.
(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company.)
Taylor re-enlisted — with a hefty ,000 bonus — and became an instructor at the TACP schoolhouse. “It was one of the biggest signing bonuses they ever had,” Taylor said. “I got it and spent pretty much all of it on camera gear and editing stuff. I was gonna go full force on this.”
He began moonlighting in marketing and design work for a variety of companies in the tactical industry as early as 2005. “I had only been in the military for two years before I was searching for something more, wanting to come home from work and continue to work,” Taylor said. “I went to my first trade show with a shitty photo album from Walgreens with a bunch of 4×6 pictures. Everything was always a stepping stone.”
At the same time, Taylor began studying social media, especially YouTube and Facebook. “I’m face deep in how do you get traffic, how do you get the maximum number of people to see this stuff?”
(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company.)
That was when he saw a YouTube video made by a former U.S. Army Ranger named Mat Best. “I took one look at him and his videos he was making and said, ‘You’re it, man. You’re gonna be it,'” Taylor recalled. “This is what the tactical industry was looking for, this is what I’ve been looking for as a partner, somebody who’s perfect for in front of the camera while I’m doing all the things behind it.”
While Taylor was still active duty in the Air Force and Best was deploying as a CIA contractor, they formed Article 15 Clothing and began posting video content on Best’s YouTube channel. By the time they teamed up with another veteran-owned apparel company, Ranger Up, to crowdfund and produce the feature film “Range 15,” they had already created a wide-reaching community that was passionate about their work.
“The script was so ridiculous that no agents could understand how this movie got funded,” Taylor said with a laugh. They managed to pull in well-known actors Keith David, William Shatner, and Danny Trejo to participate in the film, which brought Article 15 even more notoriety within the veteran community.
Through the Article 15 Facebook page, Taylor met Evan Hafer, a former CIA contractor and entrepreneur. The first time they spoke, “We ended up staying on the phone pretty much from 11 to 1 o’clock — two hours,” Taylor said. “We just went down this rabbit hole.”
(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company.)
Taylor, Best, and Hafer began collaborating on multiple projects, and when Hafer suggested starting a coffee company, Taylor and Best were very interested. “Mat and I went chips in on Black Rifle with Evan,” Taylor recalled, “and said, ‘Okay, this is the future. This is going to be the big one that we’re always talking about, so let’s roll with it.'”
“I’m our business development guy,” said Taylor, who’s official BRCC title is Executive Vice President, Partnerships. “Evan points at things that he wants in different markets, anything that’s out there in the realm of where coffee drinkers that generally think like us, and then I go out and find the people and the influencers and the partnerships that can benefit us. I get them to jump on the Black Rifle train.”
But things weren’t always that clear cut. Taylor said he, Best, and Hafer started by running the entire operation by themselves — including “standing there with Evan while he’s roasting coffee, grinding it, and putting it in a bag, putting it in a box, putting a label on it, shipping it.”
Taylor credits much of the company’s success to the relationship he has with Hafer and Best. “We’ve spent more time with the three of us than any of us have spent with anybody else in our entire lives,” he said. “And we still are the focal point of all the big ideas for the company. It’s still coming from the three of us, in a room together making fun of each other until we find something that’s the next thing.”
The US Marine Corps continues to grapple with hazing at its storied recruit training center at Parris Island in South Carolina, where the service punished at least eight drill instructors and a number of officers for abusive behavior last year, the Washington Post reported May 15, 2019, citing multiple internal investigations.
The incidents uncovered by the Post involved female drill instructors in the 4th Recruit Training Battalion mistreating female recruits. Battalion drill instructors reportedly humiliated, physically assaulted, and even endangered recruits.
These incidents come despite the Corps’ best efforts to curb these unacceptable and dangerous practices.
In one situation, a drill instructor allegedly made a recruit put “feces soiled underwear” on her head.
The DI acknowledged the incident but stressed that the dirty underwear, which the recruit reportedly left under her bed, did not contain any feces. “I was speaking hypothetically and failed to handle the situation with a clear mind through frustration,” the drill instructor said, according to documents obtained by the Post. “I was not trying to embarrass the recruit and more so wanted her to understand why and how it wasn’t acceptable.
Recruits stand in formation during their initial drill evaluation Feb. 10, 2014, at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Octavia Davis)
That incident, which occurred in May 2018, sparked an investigation, one that came on the heels of another investigation following reports that a drill instructor had “roughed up,” as the Post described it, several recruits, even going so far as to threaten to break one of their necks.
Another reported case involved a drill instructor forcing female recruits to repeatedly suffer the effects of CS tear gas in a chamber. While the facility is normally used to introduce recruits to the effects tear gas, recruits are typically only required to enter the chamber once.
In total, the Post discovered more than 20 incidents of hazing and abuse at Parris Island and the Marine Corps’ West Coast recruit training center in California over the past seven years.
Marine recruits get gassed inside chamber during chemical defense training on Parris Island.
(U.S. Marine Coprs photo by Cpl. Octavia Davis)
By the far the most serious incident involved former Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison after abusing recruits at Parris Island. He was accused of physically assaulting recruits, as well as targeting Muslims like 20-year-old Pakistani-American recruit Raheel Siddiqui, who fell to his death after Felix physically struck the young man in a 2016 altercation.
And abuse goes well beyond the scope of the recently uncovered investigations. In 2012, a recruit had to get skin grafts due to chemical burns suffered after a drill instructor forced him to train in unsafe conditions. The instructor, former Sgt. Jeffrey VanDyke, was sentenced to a year in military prison in 2014 for abusive behavior, cruelty, and mistreating recruits.
The senior officer in charge of Parris Island, Brig. Gen. James Glynn, stressed to the Post, that while problems do occur, there are more than 600 Marines serving as drill instructors and 98 percent of them do their jobs without incident.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
One toddler helped inspire a company that now helps hundreds of military children deal with one of the most stressful times of their lives: seeing their parents leave for deployment.
“It doesn’t have to be sad,” said Bridget Platt, the founder and CEO of Daddy’s Deployed and wife of a Marine Corps aviator. “And that’s what I wanted to do. Create this story where [kids] are the star even if their family is separated at the time.”
Founded in 2012, Platt’s company creates custom-designed children’s books that explain where mom or dad are going, what they’ll be doing, and how they’ll stay in touch through tools like Skype. The first book she ever created was for her own daughter, with pictures of the family literally cut out and glued onto the pages.
But her inspiration came three years before, while working with a two-year-old girl named Claire at the child development center on Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash.
“She was perfectly behaved, would eat every meal, play outside, and she shared. She was potty-trained and would nap everyday,” Platt said. “And then her dad deployed and all of that changed. She started having accidents. She wouldn’t eat. She would literally cry out for him at naptime. And I remember thinking that somebody has to do something to help these kids but I was just too far from it at that point. We were newlyweds. We didn’t have any children so I couldn’t wrap my head around what that concept might be.”
Once she had her own children, and with the help of her brother — a Harvard Business School graduate — she put together a business plan, copyrighted a logo, and brought on a great illustrator to help with creating the book’s artwork.
Now, parents can go on the Daddy’s Deployed website (there’s a Mommy’s version as well) and order their books, after putting in their information such as their name and rank, branch of service, what kind of job they have, and their children’s names. In about three weeks, Platt and her team will send back a personalized book with the family drawn into their own story.
“The whole point of it is that when the kids open page one they see their family in the story,” Platt said. “They see themselves in the story. They see their dog in the story. So that they know that it’s this happy, brightly colored vision of what their life could be or is going to be.”
Beyond the custom books relating to deployments, Platt told We Are The Mighty she has plans to expand her offerings. The company recently launched a book about military moves, and it is currently looking into selling eBooks and other interactive materials, such as audiobooks where the deployed parent can read the story to their loved ones.
“My favorite thing is when people first look at the book that didn’t know about the company beforehand,” she said. “The most common thing that is said to me is, ‘why didn’t I think of this?’ And that shows me that there was a problem and we are answering it. And that is the best thing. My response is always the same: ‘I’m really glad you didn’t.’ But in my mind I’m like, ‘Yes! Thank you for saying that.'”
Marines are known for their versatility in combat — we even flex that fact in our hymn, boasting that “we’ve fought in every clime and place.” One thing’s for sure, no matter where the enemy is, Marines will find a way there to punch ’em in the face — even if that place is a rainy, hot, unforgiving jungle.
But, like a professional sports team, we need a home field in which we can practice. To get our devil dogs ready to fight in the thick of the jungle, we’ve got a few sites where they can get the reps they need. These are the best of ’em:
It also looks like a post-apocalyptic suburb, which is a plus.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nichelle Griffiths)
Andersen South AFB — Guam
Once used by the Air Force, Andersen South is an abandoned housing base that the Marines now train in. Not only is the area filled with an extensive amount of jungle, there’re also plenty of buildings. This means you can combine jungle warfare with urban training in the same location. It’s the best place for force-on-force training, hands down.
The jungle here isn’t that bad, though.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)
Bellows Air Force Station — Oahu, Hawai’i
Another space acquired from the Air Force, the base is mostly used for recreation. The Marines stationed at nearby Marine Corps Base Hawai’i, however, use it as a training site for jungle patrols and land navigation.
Those in the Advanced Infantryman Course go here to enjoy the wrath of their instructors.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Andrew Morris)
Kahuku Training Area — Oahu, Hawai’i
Kahuku Training Area features one of the best examples of jungle environments. This training area is home to a road referred to as “The Devil’s Backbone” because of the rolling hills over which it spans. The jungle here is incredibly thick and it always rains. No, really. This isn’t some “if it ain’t rainin’, we ain’t trainin'” sort of thing — it just always rains.
In addition to a lush jungle environment, Kahuku also includes some urban environments.
This place also has some gnarly hills.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tyler Ngiraswei)
Camp Schwab — Okinawa, Japan
Even though it doesn’t seem very large and the Okinawan people protesting outside the front gate can make you feel a little unwelcome, Camp Schwab has some great training sites. Whether you want to sharpen your offensive tactics in the jungle or just do some good ol’ fashioned land nav, this base has plenty of space for both.
You might even get to go and raid one of their tiny jungle villages.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo Lance Cpl. Jessica Etheridge)
Camp Gonsalves — Okinawa, Japan
Anything you can’t do at any of the other bases, you can definitely do here. This is home of the Jungle Warfare Training Center, so it’s not hard to figure out why Camp Gonsalves tops the list. Here, in addition to the jungle survival training, you can practice rappelling down a cliffside and learn what it really means to fight in a jungle.
If you’re lucky, you’ll also take part in mock raids on small, nearby villages, which is a fun, immersive experience. Also, because this place is used primarily for training purposes, it’s guaranteed to rain throughout your visit.
In Afghanistan’s turbulent Helmand province, US Marines are rekindling old relationships and identifying weaknesses in the Afghan forces that the Trump administration hopes to address with a new strategy and the targeted infusion of several thousand American forces.
Returning to Afghanistan’s south after five years, Marine Brig. Gen. Roger Turner already knows where he could use some additional US troops. And while he agrees that the fight against the Taliban in Helmand is at a difficult stalemate, he said he is seeing improvements in the local forces as his Marines settle into their roles advising the Afghan National Army’s 215th Corps.
Turner’s report on the fight in Helmand will be part of a broader assessment that Gen. Joseph Dunford will collect this week from his senior military commanders in Afghanistan.
Dunford landed in Kabul Monday with a mission to pull together the final elements of a military strategy that will include sending nearly 4,000 more U.S. troops into the country. He will be meeting with Afghan officials as well as US and coalition military leaders and troops.
The expected deployment of more Americans will be specifically molded to bolster the Afghan forces in critical areas so they can eventually take greater control over the security of their own nation.
The Taliban have slowly resurged, following the decision to end the combat role of US and international forces at the end of 2014. The NATO coalition switched to a support and advisory role, while the US has also focused on counter-terrorism missions.
Recognizing the continued Taliban threat and the growing Islamic State presence in the county, the Obama administration slowed its plan to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the end of last year. There are now about 8,400 there.
But commanders have complained that the sharp drawdown hurt their ability to adequately train and advise the Afghans while also increasing the counter-terror fight. As a result, the Trump administration is completing a new military, diplomatic, and economic strategy for the war, and is poised to send the additional US troops, likely bolstered by some added international forces.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will be in Brussels later this week and is expected to talk with allies about their ongoing support for the war.
While Turner said he has already seen improvements in the Afghan’s 215th Corps, he said adding more advisers would allow him to pinpoint problems at the lower command levels, including more brigades.
“The level and number of advisers you have really gives you the ability to view the chain on all the functional areas. The more areas you can see — you can have a greater impact on the overall capability of the force,” he told the Associated Press in an interview from Helmand Province. “If we had more capacity in the force we would be able to address more problems, faster.”
He said that although the Afghan forces have improved their ability to fight, they still need help at some of the key underpinnings of a combat force, such as getting spare parts to troops with broken equipment.
The seemingly simple task of efficiently ordering and receiving parts — something American forces do routinely — requires a working supply chain from the warehouse to the unit on the battlefield.
And Turner said that’s an issue that could be improved with additional advisers.
Other improvements, he said, include increasing the size of Afghanistan’s special operations forces and building the capacity and capabilities of its nascent air force.
The Afghan ground forces in Helmand, he said, have been able to launch offensive operations against the Taliban, including a recent battle in Marjah.
“I don’t think last year they could have taken the fight to Marjah like they just did,” he said. “They’re in a much better position that they were a year ago.”
But they are facing a resilient Taliban, whose fighters are newly financed, now that the poppy harvest is over.
“Once they draw their finances, they start operations,” said Turner. “What we’ve seen so far since the end of May, when they made that transition, is a steady grind of activity across a number of places in the province.”
What has helped a lot, Turner said, is his Marines’ ability to renew old relationships with Afghan tribal elders, provincial ministers, and military commanders they worked with six or seven years ago.
Battalion officers they knew then are now commanders, and many government leaders are still in place.
“We obviously have a long commitment here in Helmand. It’s been good for the Marines to come back here,” he said. “This is a really meaningful mission. I think people realize that we don’t want to get into a situation where the kinds of pre-9/11 conditions exist again.”
Editor’s Note: This story was first published on TheConversation.com in May 2018. It does not discuss the most recent development in the region, but is still a great guide to the state of tensions between the two countries.
After Donald Trump announced that the US would unilaterally pull back from the historic 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, Iranian forces in Syria fired rockets into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights for the first time. The Israelis retaliated by targeting Iranian forces and positions in Syria. That attack, which killed 23 people, was the biggest Israeli assault on Iranian positions in Syria since the civil war there started in 2011.
For a moment, it looked like two of the Middle East’s major political and military players to the verge of a full-scale military conflict. An Israeli-Iranian war could throw the Middle East into one of its most destructive clashes in modern history, one that could polarise the world’s powers, dragging in the US, a reliable ally of Israel, and Russia, Syria’s strongest ally and hence Iran’s strategic ally. And yet, neither has so far chosen to escalate further. Why?
For its part, Iran knows that its capacity to strike back is limited. But more than that, the two countries’ history and military development makes an explosive conflict unlikely.
While Israel has openly clashed with its Arab neighbors before — notably Egypt, Jordan, and Syria — it has never engaged in a direct military showdown with Iran. In fact, it’s easy to forget now that before Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran and Israel enjoyed a close relationship. They were the US’s two main Middle Eastern allies, and Iranian oil was delivered to Israel during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Things only changed when the Iranian Shah was ousted in 1979; after that, the revolution’s spiritual leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, proclaimed Israel a “foe of Islam” and cut off all ties with it.
Spiritual leader Ayatollah Khomeini.
But then came the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-88. This grueling conflict had a huge impact on Iran’s military doctrine, and the experience of it underpins the country’s geopolitical and national security concerns to this day. The reality of war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq compelled the Iranian government to prioritiZe a more defensive foreign policy; where it participates in other conflicts, it usually prefers to do so via proxies rather than by direct military action.
As a result, to the extent Israel considers Iran a major existential threat today, it’s particularly worried about Iranian involvement in other Middle Eastern conflicts. It has more than once fought Iran’s ally Hezbollah in Lebanon, most recently in 2006. And while the protracted conflict in Yemen, for example, is in many ways a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Iranian-backed forces could use Yemeni territory to strike Israeli targets.
But even if a conflict erupted on one of these fronts, there’d be another calculation to factor in: the two countries’ very different military assets.
The bulk of Iran’s arms stockpile is domestically developed and manufactured, its own-brand rockets and missiles tested in the field mostly by Hezbollah. But in recent years, Iran has also been procuring weapons and technical expertise from nations antagonistic toward the West: China, Russia, and possibly (in nuclear form) North Korea.
Israel’s main strength is its exceptional military power. Its weapons systems include the Iron Dome and David’s Sling missile defence shields, extremely precise defence tools that can pulverise perhaps more than 90% of hostile missiles in mid-air.
Israel also commands air power unrivalled in the Middle East; it recently took possession of the US-manufactured F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which it is augmenting with its own technology. On top of all this, in 2016, the US agreed to increase its military aid to Israel to US.8 billion a year until 2028.
IAF F-35I Adir on its first flight with the Israeli Air Force, 2016.
And yet, Israel too is less than confident about the consequences of an conflict with Iran. However formidable its strategic and technological edge, it’s still unable to fully mend political and diplomatic fences with many of its Arab neighbours. It lives in hostile surroundings, constantly vulnerable to attack on almost all fronts. A major war with another heavily armed power is the last thing it needs.
At arm’s length
One advantage Iran does have is its array of proxies and non-state allies, which allow it to project hard power far closer to Israel than it would want to send regular forces. It has a valuable ally in Hamas, which controls Gaza; in Lebanon, Hezbollah could be prepared to assist if necessary. It could also exploit Sunni/Shia splits across the Middle East to secure the support of Shia volunteer armies. And since Saddam Hussein’s fall, Iran has been hugely influential in Iraq, which is struggling to establish a political order that can accommodate Shia, Kurds, and Sunnis.
Yet even with all this influence at its disposal, Iran would clearly prefer not to end up escalating a military conflict with Israel. Aside from the military implications, to do so would squander what moral and diplomatic support it’s gathered since the US’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal.
So for now, both sides are being cautious. Israel’s recent airstrikes targeted raid on military installations, not individuals — an acknowledgement that a heavy casualties might put Iran under pressure to retaliate. Meanwhile, Iran’s domestic debate on whether and how to respond is still rumbling, with progressives insisting the nuclear deal must be safeguarded while their hawkish countrymen would prefer a more confrontational stance. The government has yet to decide which road to take.
But whatever happens in the immediate future, Israel and Iran remain bitter foes, both heavily armed and tied up in a mess of geopolitical interests. Were a war to break out between them, they would gravely damage each other, but neither is likely to rise as the ultimate victor. That both seem to be fully aware of this reality is perhaps the most important thing standing on the way of what could be a true catastrophe.
Around midnight on Jan. 30, 1968, Vietcong and North Vietnamese Army troops began a massive surprise attack on U.S., South Vietnamese, and allied forces across South Vietnam.
The Tet Offensive, as it came to be known, was actually a three-phase campaign, lasting from Jan. 30 – March 28, May 5 – June 15, and Aug. 17 – Sept. 23.
“The event really defined the course of the rest of the [Vietnam] war and how it ended, which was a pretty inglorious ending,” said former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.
Hagel, who was with the 47th Infantry Regiment in Vietnam during Tet, spoke at the “Vietnam: The Tet Offensive” panel discussion, Jan. 25, at the National Archives.
Then a 21-year-old private first class, Hagel, just two months in country, said his mechanized infantry unit sustained heavy casualties in the vicinity of Long Binh.
The attack was a complete surprise, he said. What happened in Long Binh was typical of what was happening across the country.
The U.S. had completely underestimated the strength of the North Vietnamese Army and Vietcong guerrilla forces from South Vietnam, he said. It came as a shock to the American public and turned public opinion against the war.
One of the myths of Tet, he said, is that it was a big enemy military victory, he added. It wasn’t. “Our military actually did very well considering.”
Erik B. Villard, a historian with the U.S. Army Center of Military History, said there were other myths about Tet, some of which he wrote about in his Center for Military History book, “Combat Operations: Staying the Course, October 1967 to September 1968.”
One myth, he said, was that the North Vietnamese orchestrated a number of major battles prior to Tet in the autumn of 1967 to draw U.S. forces away from the cities so they would be in a better position to succeed in capturing the urban areas.
The real story is more interesting, he said. The 1967 battles were local and regional campaigns, planned over the spring and summer of that year.
The idea for the Tet Offensive did not even occur to the enemy at the time, as their strategic planning process tended to be short-term and, at times, very chaotic, he said.
Also, why would they want to launch a major battle in November 1967, just months before Tet when full strength would be needed? There wouldn’t be adequate recovery time, he said, noting that the National Archives provided some key documents he used in his research.
A second myth, Villard said, was that Gen. William Westmoreland, the commander of American forces in Vietnam, “was wedded to this notion of victory through attrition; that the way to succeed was to kill enough of the enemy that you crossed this imaginary threshold and you could just kind of grind your way toward success.
“Westmoreland deserves far more credit than he’s gotten in my view,” he added.
He was a shrewd person who understood the value of pacification and cutting enemy supply lines, as he was doing in secret operations to cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail, Villard noted.
A third myth, he said, is that U.S. military policy changed when Westmoreland was replaced by Gen. Creighton Williams Abrams Jr. in June 1968, in the middle of the Tet Offensive.
Abrams and Westmoreland saw mostly eye-to-eye on strategy, he said. The mission continued to be defending bases and lines of communication, as well as air interdiction operations and supporting pacification.
Pacification was a term used at the time to denote counterinsurgency operations, which included advise and assist missions and winning over the loyalty of the local population.
Policy didn’t actually change until after mid-1969 when Vietnamization took hold, he said. Vietnamization consisted of drawing down U.S. forces and transferring responsibility to the South Vietnamese forces.
The buildup of forces into 1968 and the draw down a year later had already been planned on Westmoreland’s watch, he said.
Merle L. Pribbenow II, an author specializing in the Vietnam War, with five years of service in Vietnam during the war as a CIA operative, said that a widespread myth was that the Tet Offensive was a well planned and executed enemy attack.
That’s completely false, he said, referencing documents and interviews of NVA and VC commanders after the war.
Many of those generals became bitter with the way they and their units were treated by their own military and political leaders and the high numbers of casualties that resulted, he said.
“We focus on how we felt Army commanders screwed up and were unprepared. [The North Vietnamese] were saying the exact same things again and again,” he said.
After the war, the Vietnamese did tactical reviews and battle studies, just as the U.S. Army did, to learn lessons and assess strengths and weaknesses, he noted.
The takeaway from that assessment, he said, was that the communists acknowledged that a lot of the poor decision-making during Tet resulted from underestimating U.S. military response, as well as the loyalty of the South Vietnamese people.
Like the Americans, the communists also inflated their own body counts, minimized their failures, and exaggerated their accomplishments, he said.
The biggest problem, he added, was that shortcomings were not reported up the chain of command and authorities refused to listen to subordinates.
As a result of the assessment, he said the military leadership of Vietnam decided on a new approach. From then on, leaders were instructed to encourage subordinates to tell the truth, even if it wasn’t something they wanted to hear or went against their own thinking.
Gregory Daddis, an associate professor of history and director of Chapman University’s Master of Arts program in War and Society, said another myth was that the U.S. media was to blame for the lack of political will after the Tet Offensive.
There’s a tendency, he said, to find someone to blame when a bad outcome occurs.
Looking back 50 years ago to the Tet Offensive gives everyone an opportunity to gain a better perspective on everything that took place, he said.
An important takeaway from Tet, he said, is that sometimes military action might not be the best tool in all situations to achieve the desired political effect.
Hagel added that “in the end, war is determined not by military might but by the support of the people. We found ourselves on the wrong side of that.”
He concluded: “The sacrifices made by over 56,000 Americans who lost their lives and hundreds of thousands of individuals who were wounded, and all who served, were never really given much recognition for an assignment they didn’t choose. But they served and they served honorably, and did what their country asked them to do. And I think that’s a part of this story that needs to be told more often.”
The Department of the Navy revealed in its latest budget request that it wants to reduce the overall active-duty end strength of the Marine Corps by 2,300 Marines.
The fiscal year 2021 budget request “funds an active duty end strength of 184,100” for the Marine Corps, the Department of the Navy said in an overview of its planned budget for the coming fiscal year released Monday.
The department said that the current plan for the “reduction of active duty Marine Corps end strength is part of larger reform initiatives aimed at internally generating resources through divestitures, policy reforms, and business process improvements to reinvest in modernization and increasing lethality.”
The reduction is expected to apply to less critical aspects of the Corps, such as those that “do not have a defined requirement in the National Defense Strategy.”
In the FY 2020 budget request, the Navy projected a steady increase in the active-duty end strength of the Marine Corps, but that no longer appears to be the case.
Last summer, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. David Berger, now the commandant of the Marine Corps, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that a smaller Corps might be necessary should resources be constrained.
“Among the most significant challenges I will face as the Commandant if confirmed will be to sustain readiness at high levels for our operating forces while concurrently modernizing the force under constrained resource limits,” he said, USNI News reported.
“We will need to conduct a deliberate redesign of the force to meet the needs of the future operating environment,” Berger told lawmakers.
“We will also need to divest of our legacy equipment and legacy programs and also consider potential end strength reductions in order to invest in equipment modernization and necessary training upgrades,” he added.
The Department of the Navy reduced its overall budget by billion compared to last year’s budget.
Overall, the US military will increase in size by roughly 5,600 troops, the Department of Defense budget request revealed, according to Military Times.
The Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory is looking for a few good innovations to shape the future force.
The Quantico, Virginia-based lab will kick off the first “CMCWarfighting Challenge” this month, said Col. John Armellino, the warfightinglab’s operations officer. Marines can starting submitting ideas through the new “CMC Innovation Portal” once it officially goes online Sept. 15. A different challenge will be offered every other month.
Gen. Robert Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps, has encouraged Marines — from general officers to privates — to get creative and identify new ways to bolster the service’s storied combat force. Neller wants, as he often says, “disruptive thinkers.”
Officials seek ideas that are “forward looking, futuristic and cutting edge,” Armellino said. “What we are trying to do is to address our current challenges to ensure the Marine Corps is organized, trained and equipped to meet the demands of the future environment,” he added.
Submissions can be made via the web portal, which had a “soft” opening on Sept. 1. While the first challenge is aimed at getting Marines’ input, Armellino said, the Marine Corps also wants to hear from people in academia and industry. And anyone who submits an idea will be kept in the loop, he said, and “remains part of the process.”
First up: Ideas and ways to make autonomous, robotic systems that can better support Marine air-ground task force operations. The September challenge is targeted at finding solutions to what “Marines do today that seem considerably dull or dirty or dangerous,” Armellino said.
So the lab has pitched this challenge: “Identify missions or tasks assigned to your unit that currently requires a Marine (or Marines) to accomplish, that could, and should, be replaced by robotic, autonomous, or unmanned systems. Missions or tasks that are prime candidates for autonomous solutions are typically dull, dirty or dangerous in nature.”
Dull: Filling sandbags
Dirty: Going into a potential CBRNE environment to sense for chemicals
Dangerous: Sweeping for mines/IEDs
For November, the Marine Corps wants ideas from developers for apps “that enhance quality of life, physical fitness and warfighting in general,” Armellino said.
The innovation challenges are part of the service’s broader and ongoing effort to help develop the future force.The CMCWarfighting Challenge, he said, will provide “a focused, analytical framework.”
And it wants answers and solutions a lot faster.
So the Marine Corps also is establishing a Rapid Capabilities Office. The office will manage the crowd-sourcing portal and other pathways for innovation and will be “empowered to accelerate turnkey solutions or further incubate ideas” that could be demonstrated, tested and experimented, Armellino said. It also will play a part in the Future Force Implementation Plan.
The RCO, he said, will be a bridge between the Marine Corps’ combat development and systems commands — think, concepts and ideas and the equipment and systems that bring those to life. And it “could accelerate technology for development or rapidly get” what’s available to the operating force much faster, he said.
Innovation is a hot phrase of late, perhaps driven by the resetting of the force mired in two major wars over nearly a generation and facing a much more-advanced, high-tech and hybrid threat environment. Agencies like DARPA have reached out to outsiders for ideas, say, to counter threats to drones.
And the Marine Corps isn’t alone in tapping crowd-sourcing to broaden its stable of thinkers and developers. The Navy created Task Force Innovation in January 2015, along with a web portal for virtual collaboration called The Hatch, spurred by Navy Sec. Ray Mabus‘ Innovation Vision for the department.
The Army in 2013 started soliciting ideas for its “Rapid Equipping Force” program through a website that remains in place today. Soldiers can submit ideas or solutions online. The Army is taken a greater collaborative approachwith workshops and meetings to pull ideas from soldiers and others whose innovations, expertise and skills just might help develop better gear, vehicles and equipment. Its third annual Innovation Summit was held Aug. 16-17.
“Innovation needs to be a culture, not a niche corner or a specific time,”Army Training and Doctrine Command chief Gen. David Perkins told the audience at the two-day meeting in Virginia. Soldiers “are natural innovators. We just need to make sure we don’t stifle them.”
In late August, Army Secretary Eric Fanning announced the creation of a Rapid Capabilities Office to find and field technology and equipment more quickly. “We’re serious about keeping our edge, so we need to make changes in how we get soldiers the technology they need,” Fanning said, in an Army news story. “The Army Rapid Capabilities Office is a major step forward, allowing us to prioritize cross-domain, integrated capabilities in order to confront emerging threats and advance America’s military dominance.”
What tangible, concrete innovations come of these efforts remain to be seen.
The CMC Warfighting Challenge is like a next-gen take on “Marine Mail” from the mid-1990s, when the top general, Gen. Chuck Krulak, sought out creative and innovative ideas from Marines. Krulak also established the warfighting lab during his tenure as commandant. In 2007, in the midst of two major conflicts, then-commandant Gen. James Conway revived Marine Mail, but it’s not clear what specifically came of that effort.
Marine Mail, said Armellino, was “a great idea” that also was “unsustainable.” If it’s set up as a “virtual suggestion box,” he said, “you run the risk of being potentially overwhelmed.”
Will the new CMC Warfighting Challenge work?
The Warfighting Lab worked through the web portal bugs during a beta test in July to collect thoughts about wearable technologies. That drew 260 ideas, Armellino said. It likely will fall to the lab’s RCO to cull through those suggestions.
It wasn’t so long ago that the British and Russians exchanged trash talk over carriers. That all started when the then-Defense Secretary, Michael Fallon, called the Admiral Kuznetsov “dilapidated.” The Russians responded by calling the first of the Royal Navy’s new carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth, “a large, convenient target” and warned the Brits to keep their distance.
HMS Queen Elizabeth has a problem of her own, though. No planes. In fact, she may have to operate F-35Bs from the United States Marine Corps, which will require some adjustments. Any fight here would be tough to call, but give the Brits the edge. Once the F-35s clear out the Kuznetsov’s air wing (largely because they are far more advanced than MiG-29s and Su-33s), the Kuznetsov will only have 12 SS-N-19 Shipwreck missiles to use. No problem for the Queen Elizabeth’s escorts.
But how well would the Kuznetsov fare against an American carrier? If anything, it’s even more of a slaughter. According to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World, the Kuznetsov can carry 18 Su-33 Flankers or MiG-29K Fulcrums, four Su-25 Frogfoot trainers, 15 Ka-27 Helix ASW helicopters, and two Ka-31 Helix airborne early warning choppers.
By comparison, it should be noted that a typical American carrier air wing has four strike-fighter squadrons of F/A-18E/F Super Hornets or F/A-18C Hornets, each with a dozen multi-role fighters. So, the Russians are fighting at the wrong end of eight-to-three odds. The American carrier’s air wing, by the way, does offer electronic-warfare assets as well.
Once the Kuznetsov’s fighters are gone, the American carrier can then either launch an alpha strike to sink the Kuznetsov, or support an attack by B-1B Lancers carrying LRASMs. Either way, the Kuznetsov is going down. Heck, even an old Midway-class carrier could take the Kuznetsov.
The family of a decorated special operations Marine killed in Afghanistan in 2011 received his Silver Star after the U.S. Army took the unusual step of upgrading one of his prior medals.
Staff Sgt. Nicholas Sprovtsoff, 28, an explosive ordnance disposal technician with MARSOC’s 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion earned the Bronze Star with combat valor device in 2011 for working heroically to disarm a bomb in Afghanistan before an explosion left him fatally wounded.
But a prior deployment to Afghanistan with an Army unit in 2007, Sprovtsoff had already distinguished himself as a hero. While serving as a sergeant with Marine Corps Embedded Training Team 5-1, attached to the Army’s 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, Sprovtsoff had conducted himself with distinction during a 48-hour firefight.
According to a medal citation obtained by Military.com, he fought with “disregard for his own safety and in spite of wounds sustained in combat,” coordinating his unit’s defense during the long fight.
The medal was approved and awarded as a Bronze Star, but upgraded to a Silver Star last year, said Capt. Barry Morris, a spokesman for MARSOC. The news was first reported by Marine Corps Times Friday.
“[Sprovstoff’s] command at the time nominated him for a Bronze star with “V,” Morris explained. “As it went up the chain, his actions were so heroic, the Army upgraded him to a Silver Star; but at the end of the day, when someone hit the approve button, it was approved as a Bronze Star, rather than a Silver Star.”
Morris said the Army ultimately caught the error and coordinated with the Marine Corps to upgrade the award.
Calls from Military.com to the Army’s awards branch, which oversaw the medal upgrade, were not returned Friday.
The commander of MARSOC, Maj. Gen. Joseph Osterman, presented Sprovstoff’s widow, Tasha, with the award in a ceremony in Colorado Springs, Colorado, according to Marine Corps Times.
“[Sprovtsoff’s] courage, dedication and sacrifice inspire us on a daily basis to help others, to cherish our freedom, and to try to make a positive difference in the world,” Osterman said in a statement. “Also, the individual sacrifices [his] family have made is extremely important for MARSOC to recognize. We will always be inspired by the actions of our fellow Raiders and we will strive to operate at a level that honors them and their family.”
Sprovtsoff was killed Sept. 28, 2011 in Helmand province, Afghanistan and buried in Arlington Cemetery Oct. 6 of the same year.
According to his Bronze Star citation from that deployment, Sprovtsoff had fearlessly and safely led a team of Marines through a region filled with improvised explosive devices following an enemy ambush. His work during the deployment had led to the elimination of 40 IEDs.
Sprovstoff and his wife Tasha are featured in Oliver North’s 2013 book “American Heroes on the Homefront.”
While Sprovtsoff’s award upgrade appears to be an outlier due to an administrative error, there could be more upgrades coming for American troops who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.The Pentagon announced in January that it would review all Silver Stars and service crosses awarded after Sept. 11, 2001 — some 1,100 awards — to determine whether a higher upgrade is warranted. The military services have until Sept. 30, 2017, to turn their recommendations in to the secretary of defense.