MIGHTY TRENDING

F-22s scared off 587 enemy aircraft in ‘combat surge’ over Syria

US F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets just completed their first “combat surge” in operations over Syria, and in doing so it backed down almost 600 enemy aircraft in the crowded skies there that see Syria, Iranian, and Russian combat aircraft on a regular basis, the Pentagon said.

F-22s, which combine both stealth and top-of-the-line dogfighting abilities, functioned as both fighter jets and bombers while defending US forces and assisting offensive missions against heavily armed foes.

F-22 pilots from the 94th Fighter Wing completed 590 individual flights totaling 4,600 flight hours with 4,250 pounds of ordnance dropped in their deployment to the region in the “first-ever F-22 Raptor combat surge,” the Pentagon said.


The Pentagon said the F-22 “deterred” 587 enemy aircraft in the process, suggesting the jet commands some respect against older Russian-made models often in operation by Russian and Syrian forces. This surge saw F-22 operations maximized over a three-day period.

Unlike any other battle space today, US forces on the ground in Syria have come under threat from enemy airpower.

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter aircraft.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal)

F-22s on this deployment escorted US Navy F/A-18s as part of their mission. In June 2017, Lt. Cmdr. Mike “MOB” Tremel, an Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet pilot scored the US’s first air-to-air kill in years after downing a Syrian Su-22 that threatened US forces in the country.

The stealth fighter pilots defended US forces against enemy bomber aircraft and also backed up US, UK, and French forces when they struck Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime in the country’s west in response to chemical weapons attacks.

The F-22s flew “deep into Syrian territory, facing both enemy fighters and surface-to-air missile systems,” the Pentagon said.

While no US or allied aircraft went down, photos from the most recent US attack on Syria’s government show the country’s air defenses firing blindly into the night sky as the F-22s worked overhead.

The F-22 has encountered enemy fighter jets above Syria before, but the Pentagon has only reported relatively safe interactions and intercepts.

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

Articles

That time Marines in a firefight called customer service for help with an M-107

When you need help, there’s nothing embarrassing about asking for it. Especially when the pressure is on to get it right as soon as possible.


Rifles are no different. And if you have to call an arms manufacturer for a problem there, it’s probably a big deal.

Related video:

That’s why Barrett Firearms Manufacturing provides service for its products long after they enter military service. Most notably, the beloved Barrett M-107 .50-caliber rifle.

Don Cook is a Marine Corps veteran who has been working at Barrett for 17 years. In an interview with National Geographic, he recalled the time he received an interesting call on the customer service line — a call from troops in an active firefight.

“It’s probably one of the biggest highlights in my life to be able to help a Marine unit in a firefight,” Cook told NatGeo.

He picked up the phone and heard what was happening in the background. Without being able to see the weapon, he was able to diagnose the problem.

The Marines bent the ears of the weapon’s lower receiver up during the previous night’s maintenance. When they saw action the next day, the rifle wouldn’t fire every time they pulled the trigger.

Cook told them they needed to bend the ears back down. Given the lack of tools and time, he suggested the Marines use the bottom of the carrier as leverage to bend the ears back and get the weapon firing again.

Within 30 seconds, the Marines had their rifle back in action. They thanked Cook for his help and got back in the fight.

To see Cook retell the story in this NatGeo piece on snipers, skip ahead to 9:12.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

F-35s wrecked their competition in mock battles

The US Air Force put the F-35 up against “the most advanced weapons systems out there” during the recent Red Flag air combat exercise, and the fight-generation stealth fighters apparently dominated — so much so that even the rookie pilots were crushing it.

Pilots from the 388th Fighter Wing’s 4th Fighter Squadron took to the skies in upgraded F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, integrating into a “Blue Force” consisting of fifth and fourth-generation fighters for a “counter air” mission against a “Red Force” made up of “equally capable” fighters.


During the intense fight, aggressor aircraft blinded many of the “blue” fourth-generation aircraft using electronic attack capabilities, such as those advanced adversaries might employ in battle.

“Even in this extremely challenging environment, the F-35 didn’t have many difficulties doing its job,” Col. Joshua Wood, 388th Operations Group commander, explained in a US Air Force statement summarizing the exercise results.

An F-35A Lightning II takes off at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Feb. 1, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Novice F-35 pilots were able to step in and save more experienced friendly fourth-generation fighter pilots while racking up kills against simulated near-peer threats.

“My wingman was a brand new F-35A pilot, seven or eight flights out of training,” Wood said, recounting his experiences. “He gets on the radio and tells an experienced 3,000-hour pilot in a very capable fourth-generation aircraft. ‘Hey bud, you need to turn around. You’re about to die. There’s a threat off your nose.'”

That young pilot took out the enemy aircraft and then went on to pick up three more “kills” during the mission, which lasted for an hour. “I’ve never seen anything like it before,” Wood added.

The latest iteration of Red Flag — a multinational exercise aimed at training pilots to defeat enemy aircraft, integrated air-defense systems, and electronic and information warfare tactics — was said to be “exponentially more challenging” than past drills, as they were specifically intended to simulate real combat against a more serious threat like Russia or China. The pilots waged simulated war in contested environments characterized by electronic attack, communications jamming, and GPS denial.

Capt. Brad Matherne conducts preflight checks inside an F-35A Lightning II before a training mission at Nellis Air Force Base.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brett Clashman)

“Those situations highlight the fifth-generation capabilities of the F-35. We’re still able to operate and be successful,” Lt. Col. Yosef Morris, the 4th Fighter Squadron commander, said in a US Air Force statement.

The F-35A participated in Red Flag, the service’s top air combat exercise, for the first time two years ago. At that time, the powerful stealth aircraft was only at its initial operating capability, yet it still destroyed the opposition with a 20:1 kill ratio.

This year, pilots were flying F-35s with upgrades offering improved combat capabilities and maneuverability, making the aircraft more lethal in air combat. The Block 3F software upgrades brought the aircraft up to full warfighting capability.

The F-35A is “exceeding our expectations when it comes to not only being able to survive, but to prosecute targets,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein said Feb. 26, 2019, according to Air Force Times.

The F-35A, an embattled aircraft still overcoming development challenges, is expected to eventually replace the aging fleet of F-16 Fighting Falcons and A-10 Thunderbolt II ground attack aircraft.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

How troops could get to keep destroyed gear as a memento

That shrapnel-scarred flak jacket or battle-blasted Kevlar might not have much use to the military by the time they’re turned in to an equipment issue facility for reset following a deployment.

But for the service member who wore them and lived to tell the tale, the items’ value just might be immeasurable.

A small provision in the fiscal 2019 defense budget bill aims to make it easier for the military to donate protective gear deemed no longer fit for military use to the service members who wore it during combat and other military operations.


The provision, first reported by Army Times, would grant formal permission to the military to do something that has from time to time been done informally — presenting old gear to the troops it protected as a keepsake — and tacitly acknowledges that the equipment these troops wear tells a story of its own.

“The Secretary of a military department may award to a member of the armed forces… and to any veteran formerly under the jurisdiction of the Secretary, demilitarized personal protective equipment (PPE) of the member or veteran that was damaged in combat or otherwise during the deployment of the member or veteran,” the provision reads. “The award of equipment under this section shall be without cost to the member or veteran concerned.”

Lance Cpl. Bradley A. Snipes stands with the helmet that saved his life. During a mission with his platoon, Snipes was shot in the head by an enemy sniper. The only thing that saved his life was the Kevlar helmet he wore.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jerad W. Alexander)

The stories of troops whose lives have been saved because their Kevlar helmets stopped an enemy bullet have become a genre of their own in reports from the battlefield. Photos showing Marines and soldiers mugging with shredded helmets highlight the importance of the stories these protective items tell.

One Marine Corps news release from 2005 recounts how Lance Cpl. Bradley Snipes, an anti-tank assaultman with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, was hit squarely in the head by a sniper round during a deployment to Iraq. He came away uninjured, thanks to his Kevlar.

“I was really surprised. It’s supposed to be able to stop a 7.62mm round at long distances. Well, it did,” he told a Marine combat correspondent at the time. “The gear works, don’t doubt it. This is proof.”

The story added that Snipes wanted to petition to keep his helmet as a memento. It’s not clear from the story or follow-on reports if he was given the chance to do so.

“I want to put it in a case with a plaque that says, ‘The little bullet that couldn’t,'” he said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea is not happy about South Korean F-35s

If Kim Jong Un wanted to keep F-35s from being able to roam around his country with absolute freedom, he should have been investing in radar technology or fifth-generation fighters instead of nuclear weapons. Now, his erstwhile enemy to the South is getting some of the latest and greatest tech outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.


“We, on our part, have no other choice but to develop and test the special armaments to completely destroy the lethal weapons reinforced in South Korea, ” said KCNA, North Korea’s state media outlet.

KCNA says a lot of things, though. Very enthusiastically.

South Korea received its first two F-35 Joint Strike Fighters in March 2019 and will have another 38 delivered by 2021. North Korea’s air force consists of very old Soviet-built MiGs and is largely unchanged from the air force his grandfather used. It’s so bad even the North Koreans acknowledge their fleet leaves something to be desired. Now, with South Korea’s acquisition of the world’s most advanced fighter, the North may actually have to make some much-needed upgrades.

“There is no room for doubt that the delivery of ‘F-35A’, which is also called an ‘invisible lethal weapon’, is aimed at securing military supremacy over the neighboring countries in the region and especially opening a ‘gate’ to invading the North in time of emergency on the Korean peninsula,” North Korea said in a statement via KCNA.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during their summit at the truce village of Panmunjom.

While Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump are having a very public bromance, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in is largely left out of the media spotlight. When Trump arrived to meet with Kim at the Korean Demilitarized Zone, Moon was on the sidelines while Trump went for a walk in North Korea.

Rapprochement with the United States doesn’t extend to the South in every instance, however. The delivery of the vaunted F-35 prompted the North to issue these stunning rebukes of South Korean defense policy, calling the South “impudent and pitiful.”

“The South Korean authorities had better come to their senses before it is too late, shattering the preposterous illusions that an opportunity would come for improved inter-Korean relations if they follow in the footsteps of the United States,” said North Korea in an official statement.

Articles

The drones hunting ISIS have grown more lethal

The Air Force Special Operations Command runs 37 Reaper drones that have just been upgraded with better sensors, upgraded weapons software, and extra fuel tanks so they can kill more targets and watch more objectives on missions against ISIS and other enemies.


An MQ-9 Reaper prepares to land after a mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

Identifying ISIS targets often requires a long information-collection period, and killing them takes a rapid engagement once the kill order is given. The upgraded drones are better at both stages of the hunt.

The sensor ball from the original MQ-9 Reapers was replaced with a high-definition camera. The software that controls the camera was also upgraded to enable automatic detection of threats and the ability to track 12 moving targets at once. Better communications gear was installed to allow ground controllers and others to see the higher quality video coming from the drones.

Reapers can carry up to 14 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. The upgraded version carries the same munitions but can now fire them in a “super ripple,” firing a missile every 0.32 seconds. The external fuel tanks give the Reaper pilots more time to identify targets, track them, and plan the engagement before firing.

An MQ-9 Reaper on the flightline. Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. John Bainter

All this comes at a cost to weight. To increase thrust and improve takeoff performance, a system to inject alcohol and water into the engine was added and a four-bladed propeller was incorporated. The landing gear was also improved.

American drones have already had a lot of success in the fight against ISIS. Jihadi John, the British-born militant who conducted many of the Islamic State’s early, high-profile executions, was killed by two Hellfire missiles fired from a drone.

A drone strike in Jul. 2015 killed 31 insurgents including Hafiz Saeed, the man thought to have led ISIS in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The drones were upgraded under a $34 million Medium Altitude Long Endurance Tactical (MALET) Lead-Off Hitter (LOH) contract.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korean letter threatens missile tests and derails peace talks

North Korea warned the US in a recent letter that talks are “again at stake and may fall apart,” adding that it may resume “nuclear and missile activities” if its demands are not met.

President Donald Trump unexpectedly canceled what was expected to be Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s fourth trip to Pyongyang due to insufficient progress on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The decision was preceded by a “belligerent” letter that criticized his administration for failing “to meet (North Korean) expectations in terms of taking a step forward to sign a peace treaty,” CNN reported Aug. 28, 2018, citing people familiar with the matter.


The receipt of the letter, which was sent by the former head of North Korea’s spy agency, Kim Yong Chol, occurred just hours after Pompeo’s trip was first announced in August 2018, The Washington Post reported Aug. 27, 2018. “The exact contents of the message are unclear, but it was sufficiently belligerent that Trump and Pompeo decided to call off Pompeo’s journey,” The Post’s Josh Rogin reported.

Pompeo’s last trip to North Korea ended with a message from the foreign ministry characterizing meetings with the US as “regrettable.” Those negotiations came amid troubling reports from multiple outlets indicating that North Korea had yet to suspend its weapons programs in keeping with its commitment to denuclearize.

In recent months, media reports have indicated that North Korea is making infrastructure improvements at nuclear reactors, research facilities, and missile development sites and increasing the production of fuel for nuclear weapons. The North has also reportedly halted the dismantlement of a key facility Kim promised to destroy as a concession to Trump in Singapore.

Over the past few weeks, North Korean media has railed against US attitudes and actions, especially the sanctions that continue to hobble North Korea’s limited economy.

Speaking to the press at the Pentagon Aug. 28, 2018, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis refused to suggest that North Korea is acting in bad faith, but he left the door open to the possibility of restarting war games should North Korea’s behavior warrant such a step.

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis.

“As you know, we took the step to suspend several of the largest exercises as a good faith measure. We have no plans at this time to suspend any more exercises,” he said at the briefing. Emphasizing that his team will work closely with the secretary of state, he explained that “at this time, there has been no discussion of further suspensions.”

Mattis added that there are smaller exercises ongoing on the peninsula at all times. “The reason you’ve not heard much about them is [so] North Korea could not in any way misinterpret those as somehow breaking faith with the negotiation,” he told the media.

Pentagon officials told Business Insider that there are numerous exercises happening all the time as South Koreans and US personnel train together to enhance their interoperability.

During the briefing, the secretary and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said they would let diplomacy lead, stressing that they did not want their comments to influence negotiations. “We stay in a supporting role,” Mattis noted.

Mattis said this would be a “long and challenging effort.”

The recent moves and comments from both sides indicate that there is growing frustration between Pyongyang and Washington. For the time being, it appears that North Korea is resistant to denuclearization and the US is hesitant to sign a peace treaty ending the Korean War without those disarmament steps.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

Avengers actors were lied to about this key ‘Endgame’ scene

Avengers: Endgame stars are sharing never-before-seen footage from the filming of Tony Stark’s funeral scene. As revealed by Twitter posts from Mark Ruffalo and Chris Evans, none of the actors (including Tom Holland and Chris Hemsworth) knew exactly what was in store for them that day.

In Ruffalo’s Twitter post, he shared that the actors were told they’d be shooting a wedding scene. “We’re filming a wedding scene, they said. #TBT,” he wrote, along with several photos of his castmates on set by the lakefront. In the video, Ruffalo pans to his fellow actors, some of whom are also recording their own videos, while Chris Hemsworth jokingly warns, “Guys, no phones allowed. No cameras.”


Due to the top-secret nature of the film, actors were only given partial scripts of certain key scenes. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo have even said that only Chris Evans and Robert Downey, Jr. were given the script in its entirety.

Avengers: Endgame is the 22nd film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is still killing it at the box office, raking in over .7 billion dollars so far. As its success plays out, Endgame filmmakers continue to reveal behind-the-scenes factoids, like that Tony Stark almost traveled back to the most poorly rated Avengers film, Thor: Dark World. Writers also recently set the record straight regarding that crazy moment when Captain America proved worthy enough to lift Thor’s hammer.

Remember the days of old when fandoms couldn’t immediately get juicy, behind-the-scenes answers from social media? Hard to even imagine.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Country music legend and military supporter, Charlie Daniels, passes away at 83

On the morning of July 6, 2020, Country Music Hall of Famer and Grand Ole Opry member Charlie Daniels died at the age of 83 after suffering a hemorrhagic stroke. Aside from his own band, Daniels played with other music legends like Lynyrd Skynyrd and Bob Dylan.


Daniels was a highly-skilled fiddle player.

Daniels was born on October 28, 1936, in Wilmington, North Carolina. His musical upbringing consisted of Pentecostal gospel and local bluegrass, rhythm blues and country music. By the time he graduated high school in 1955, Daniels had become adept at playing the guitar, fiddle, banjo and mandolin. After high school, Daniels moved to Nashville to pursue his music career.

Most famous for his fiddle-sawing, number-one country hit, The Devil Went Down to Georgia, Daniels also co-wrote It Hurts Me with friend and producer Bob Johnston, which was later recorded by Elvis Presley. It took Daniels a little more time to get his own big break.

Daniels’ first hit, Uneasy Rider, was off of his third album, Honey in the Rock, and peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard Top 100. During this time, he continued to play fiddle for other acts like Marshall Tucker Band and Barefoot Jerry.

In 1979, Daniels won the Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Performance for The Devil Went Down to Georgia, which reached No. 3 on the Billboard Top 100 in September of that year. The song became Daniels’ most iconic and continues to be played regularly on classic rock and country music radio stations across the country.

Though Daniels never served in the military, he was a strong supporter of the men and women of the armed forces, having played multiple USO Tours for troops overseas. Charlie Daniels Band even released an album called Live from Iraq in 2007. The album was recorded during the band’s 2006 USO tour of Iraq. Daniels was also a supporter of numerous charities, including The Journey Home Project, which aims to help returning veterans adjust to civilian life. “Only two things protect America,” Daniels often said. “The grace of almighty God and the United States Military.”

Daniels’ hit, The Devil Went Down to Georgia, has also become a popular song for fiddle players to cover and demonstrate their skills. One such player named Paddy was covering the song at his bar, Paddy’s Irish Public House, in Fayetteville, North Carolina in early 2007. The establishment was frequented by a Fort Bragg soldier who was there that evening.

It was a slow night and the soldier took no notice of the older man sitting next to him at the bar. As Paddy sawed away and recounted the tale of the battle between the young fiddle player and the Devil, the old man began to chuckle. “This is my song,” he said.

“Yeah, I love this song too.” The soldier responded.

“No, this is MY song!” The old man said with a grin.

“Holy crap! You’re Charlie Daniels!” The soldier was amazed at the country music legend’s presence in the bar. “Hey Paddy!” The soldier called out. “How ’bout letting Charlie here play?”

Similarly amazed at Daniels’ presence in his bar, Paddy gladly gave up his fiddle for the legend to play. That night, Daniels gave a hard-played and passionate performance for a small, but incredibly appreciative audience. In fact, Daniels played so hard at Paddy’s that he broke two of the man’s bows sawing away at the fiddle. It was intimate performances like this that Daniels enjoyed the most. His patriotism and passion for music will be greatly missed.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The US Army is practicing a new way to get to a fight in Europe

Soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division’s 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team started arriving in Europe this week for a nine-month rotation as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

The 2nd ABCT’s rotation is the fifth one by an armored brigade in support of Atlantic Resolve, which started in 2014 to show US commitment to Europe’s defense after Russia’s interference in Ukraine.

But the unit is the first “in recent memory” to use the port of Vlissingen in the Netherlands, where soldiers, Army civilians, and local workers started unloading the first of three shipments of equipment early on Oct. 11, 2019.


A 2nd ABCT soldier directs an M1A2 Abrams tank as vehicles are offloaded at the Port of Vlissingen, Netherlands, Oct. 11, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

Armored units deployed for Atlantic Resolve rotations are typically stationed in Germany or elsewhere in Eastern Europe and have in the past arrived at ports closer to their bases.

But the 2nd ABCT’s arrival at Vlissingen — like that of the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team at the nearby port of Antwerp last spring — is part of an Army effort to practice navigating Europe’s bureaucratic and geographic terrain.

NATO has been trying to operate out of more ports in Europe since around 2015, according to Ben Hodges, who led the US Army in Europe between 2014 and 2017.

There was a need to “to reestablish capabilities in all these ports” and “to demonstrate that we could come [into Europe] at a variety of different places,” Hodges, who is a retired lieutenant general, told Business Insider in 2018.

Vlissingen is the “first main juncture point” for the 2nd ABCT’s current deployment, and its troops and gear will arrive at ports in Poland, Latvia, Belgium, Greece, and Romania throughout October, the Army said in a release.

First Lt. Quanzel Caston, a unit movement officer with the 2nd ABCT, examines M1A2 Abrams tanks at the Port of Vlissingen, Netherlands, Oct. 11, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

In total, the unit will deploy about 3,500 soldiers, 85 tanks, 120 Bradley fighting vehicles, 15 Paladin self-propelled howitzers, 500 tracked vehicles, 1,200 wheeled vehicles and pieces of equipment, and 300 trailers.

Massing forces across the Atlantic Resolve area of operation “displays the US Army’s readiness, cross-border military mobility and speed of assembly,” the release said.

The Army’s 598th Transportation Brigade will move the 2nd ABCT’s gear a variety of ways, including by “low-barge, rail-head, line-haul and convoy operations.”

It’s the first time the Army has used a low-barge inland cargo ship to transport tracked armored vehicles across Europe for Atlantic Resolve.

“The significance of using the low-barge is it enhances readiness in the European region by introducing another method of movement to the Atlantic Resolve mission,” said Cpl. Dustin Jobe, noncommissioned officer in charge of lifting provisions for the 647th Expeditionary Terminal Operations Element.

Sgt. Julian Blodgett, a senior mechanic with the 2nd ABCT directs an M1A2 Abrams tank for loading on a low-barge cargo ship at the Port of Vlissingen, Netherlands, Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

‘Better than it was’

The US Army in Europe shrank after the Cold War. Since Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014, however, the Army has beefed up its presence with exercises along NATO’s eastern flank and back-to-back rotations of armored units.

But returning to Europe in force has highlighted NATO’s problems getting around the continent, where customs rules and regulations, insufficient infrastructure, and shortages of transports for heavy vehicles inhibit movement.

These obstacles would present issues for any peacetime mobilization effort and led NATO to conclude in a 2017 internal report that its ability to rapidly deploy around Europe had “atrophied since the end of the Cold War.”

A local contractor attaches lift chains to an M1A2 Abrams tank for lowering into a low-barge ship at the Port of Vlissingen, Netherlands, Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

European countries, working through the European Union and NATO, have sought to reduce or eliminate the hurdles.

A new NATO command based in Germany now oversees the movement of alliance forces in Europe, and the EU has set up Permanent Structured Cooperation, or PESCO, to address security issues by “integrating and strengthening defence cooperation within the EU framework.”

The logistical skills of the US and its NATO allies will face their biggest test yet next year, during Defender 2020 in Europe — the US Army’s largest exercise in Europe in 25 years. It will range across 10 countries and involve 37,000 troops from at least 18 countries.

The point of Defender 2020 “is to practice the reinforcement of US forces in Europe for the purposes of collective defense of the alliance,” Lt. Gen. Christopher Cavoli, the head of US Army Europe, said on Monday during a panel hosted by Defense One at the Association of the US Army’s annual conference in Washington, DC.

A 2nd ABCT M1A2 Abram tank is raised over the pier at Vlissingen to be lowered onto a low-barge ship for transportation to another location in Europe, Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

“That’s something that requires practice, because you’re moving large forces great distances through complicated infrastructure and across a variety of different national lines,” Cavoli added.

“We call this strategic readiness, the ability to strategically deploy and to project a force,” he said. “It’s a significant concatenation of small things that have to go right in order to do this well.”

Asked about Europe’s railways, which vary in rail size and have differing regulations, Cavoli said there were procedural and infrastructural issues that had to be addressed.

“Procedurally, we’ve made a great deal of progress across the alliance. Some countries, they’ve relaxed some of their restrictions, shortening the notification times required,” Cavoli said. “We, as an alliance, have gotten much more practice scheduling and moving and loading rail, and we’re able to move very, very quickly across great distances.”

US Army Reserve Cpl. Dustin Jobe watches a 2nd ABCT M1A2 Abram tank as it’s raised over the pier to be lowered onto a low-barge ship for transport elsewhere in Europe, at Vlissingen, Netherlands Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)

But infrastructural problems remain, Cavoli said, pointing specifically to a difference in rail gauge between Poland and Lithuania. But Lithuania plans to buy dual-gauge rail cars for heavy equipment, Cavoli added.

“In addition to that, across the alliance, there’ve been some challenges with bridge classification, with the strength of rail heads … can it take a tank driving off a train there?” Cavoli said. “The EU has really stepped in using prioritized … shopping lists, prioritized by NATO, and it has been investing throughout the alliance in mobility infrastructure.”

Cavoli said recent exercises had exposed challenges to mobility but had also prompted NATO members “to get after those challenges. So I think we’re in a fairly good place right now.”

Asked to assign the alliance a letter grade for mobility, Cavoli demurred, saying only that it’s “better than it was previously.”

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

Articles

Recruit training at Parris Island vs San Diego, according to Marines

It’s a well-known fact that Marine recruits east of the Mississippi go to the flat lands of Parris Island for basic training while those from the west head to sunny San Diego.


What many don’t know is there is a huge rivalry between “Island” and “Hollywood” Marines, and it all boils down to who had it tougher. Although the competitive nature between the two is all in good fun, Marines are known for fighting both big and small battles.

Since the curriculum at both of the training camps is the same, there are a few differences that separate the two.

“I think the sand fleas give you that discipline because you’re standing in formation and you got them biting on the back of your neck,” Capt. Robert Brooks states during an interview, fueling the rivalry in support of Parris Island.

Capt. Joseph Reney, however, jokes in favor of California:

“San Diego has hills and hiking is hard. I would say San Diego makes tougher Marines.”

Regardless of the training location, both boot camps produce the same product — a patriotic Marine.

Check out this Marine Corps Recruiting video to hear from Corps’ finest on who they think makes tougher Marines.

YouTube, Marine Corps Recruiting

MIGHTY SPORTS

Why Bill Belichick doesn’t wear NFL ‘Salute to Service’ gear

It’s safe to say that no one would describe the NFL’s third most-winningest coach as a fashion maven. During most Patriots games, head coach Bill Belichick can be seen on the sidelines, wearing some version of a Patriots sweatshirt. Over the course of the man’s 18-year career as the Patriots’ HMFIC, he’s committed more fashion penalties than anyone ever seen on television.

The one thing you don’t see him in is the NFL’s annual November Salute to Service swag. The reason is simple, and if you know anything about the Pats’ head coach, it’s undeniably Belichick.


After five Super Bowl wins and an NFL-leading .628 winning percentage, it’s all come down to this: Why doesn’t Bill Belichick ever wear the NFL’s Salute to Service sweatshirts? This season, he actually answered the question for reporters. The first Sunday in November 2018 passed, and while every sideline in the country was adorned with olive green hoodies, one person was conspicuously still in his trademark, regular Patriots gear.

Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy sports the NFL’s 2018 “Salute to Service” hoodie vs. the Patriots on Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018.

“Honestly, I don’t think what sweatshirt I wear is that important,” he told reporters during a Monday press conference. “What’s important to me is what your actions are, what you do, so I try to make those count.”

Belichick’s father was Steve Belichick, a World War II veteran and longtime coaching staff member at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis. Having spent much of his life in and around Naval officers and midshipmen, it’s probably safe to say the younger Belichick developed an appreciation for the U.S. Armed Forces.

As a matter of fact, it was his time spent at the Naval Academy as a youth that developed his proven approach to football.

“Depending on the weather and so forth, I just wear the same thing for every game,” Belichick told reporters on Nov. 5, 2018.

In an interview with Nantucket Magazine, the coach described how the football program at Annapolis led to his direction of the New England Patriots.

“When I look back on it, one of the things I learned at Annapolis, when I grew up around the Navy football teams in the early sixties — Joe Bellino, Roger Staubach, Coach Wayne Hardin, and some of the great teams they had — I didn’t know any differently. I just assumed that’s what football was. Guys were very disciplined. They worked very hard. They did extra things. They were always on time, alert, ready to go, team-oriented, unselfish. I thought that’s the way it all was. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but I can see how that molded me.”

Beli-chic.

The Patriots’ coach is also well-known for his references to military history when discussing football strategy and on-field, in-game tactics with players and subordinate coaches. Military history and discipline is instilled in everyone in the Patriots organization, starting with the man at the top. Everyone has to go learn their military history, sources in the organization told the Wall Street Journal.

Bill Belichick isn’t about making empty gestures to the military, he and the New England Patriots live the idea behind ‘Salute to Service’ every day. So, when Bill Belichick’s cut-sleeves Patriots hoodie isn’t green during November, cut the guy some slack.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This dominating F-16 pilot ruled the skies over Desert Storm

Operation Desert Storm was a milestone — the first major conflict America fought in the 20th century without producing a fighter ace. The top-scoring pilots during the conflict were Thomas Dietz and Bob Hehemann, Air Force F-15C Eagle pilots with three kills each, according to a list maintained by Robin Lee. There was, however, one very highly-decorated pilot forged during this conflict.


William F. Andrews was a captain in the United States Air Force during Operation Desert Storm. Flying the General Dynamics F-16C Fighting Falcon, Andrews would prove to be a true badass fighter pilot, earning numerous medals for valor. One of those awards happens to be one of just two Air Force Crosses awarded during Desert Storm.

Colonel William F. Andrews. (USAF photo)

On Jan. 23, 1991, Andrews led a strike against a Scud assembly plant in Fallujah. Despite heavy enemy ground fire, which included at least six surface-to-air missiles, the strike inflicted heavy damage on the target, making it harder for Saddam Hussein’s regime to fire Scuds at Israel and Saudi Arabia. For his actions, Andrews received the Distinguished Flying Cross with a Combat Distinguishing Device.

One month later, on Feb. 24, Andrews was leading a flight of F-16s on a mission when they were diverted to aid some Green Berets deep behind enemy lines. Operational Detachment Alpha 525’s hide site had been discovered by local children. Silencing the kids was not an option, so, the commander of that detachment, Chief Warrant Officer Richard Balwanz, made the call to evacuate.

Almost immediately after making the call, Balwanz’s team found itself in a firefight. Thankfully, air support was just moments away. Andrews pressed his attack, dropping bombs as enemy forces came within 200 yards of Balwanz and his men. He received his second award of the Distinguished Flying Cross for saving eight Green Berets.

Operational Detachment Alpha – 525, led by Chief Warrant Officer Richard Balwanz. Andrews received his second Distinguished Flying Cross for providing close-air support that enabled the unit’s safe return. (US Army photo)

Three days after that, Andrews was hit while attacking enemy armor. He ejected from his stricken F-16 and broke a leg upon landing. Despite being under fire and out in the open, Andrews provided warnings that saved his wingman and an A-10 pilot from being hit by enemy surface-to-air missiles. He was quickly captured by Saddam’s thugs, but would still attempt an escape despite his broken leg. He received the Air Force Cross for his actions.

After Desert Storm, Andrews continued to serve for another 19 years, seeing combat action in the early days of Operation Enduring Freedom. Unfortunately, Andrew was soon faced with a different kind of battle. He died of brain cancer on June 8, 2015, but his valorous acts will always be remembered.