If you really think about it, troops and veterans have been trained for all the stresses of Black Friday.
You’ve been trained in making a plan, navigating difficult driving conditions, effective crowd control, and hand-to-hand combat when comes time to secure that one toy your little niece really wanted, and how to properly exfil the f*ck out of that mall before the rent-a-cops show up on Segways.
However, if you’re smart enough to avoid all of that BS and do your shopping online, then you’ve earned these memes.
You’ll meet people, both on social media and in real life, who argue that a solution to a widespread lack of discipline is to start drafting citizens right out of high school to serve in the military in some capacity. Whether you think there really is a discipline problem today or not, the truth remains the same — a draft outside of a wartime is unnecessary and extremely toxic.
The thing people don’t realize is that the United States military thrives on the fact that its members are volunteers. The reason our military is so efficient is because the people who join want to be there. While that may not remain the case for every service member for the entire duration of their contracts, you’ll still find most of them serving with honor until the job’s done.
Here’s why having a draft would ruin that.
Each of these recruits may run the Department of Defense around ,000.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Carlin Warren)
The cost of training a single service member is pretty high already. Spending tons of money training people who don’t want to be there only to have most of them leave the service as soon as humanly possible is just not worth it. We already have plenty of people who join voluntarily and, in boot camp or somewhere else along the line, decide they made a wrong choice. Suddenly, the tons of money spent training them goes down the drain.
It’s all the people who make it through training and complete their service honorably that justify these losses.
It’s basically indentured servitude
People who serve today feel like they’re overworked and underpaid. When the government is faced with absorbing tons of money lost due to wasted training expenses, where do you think the cuts will start?
If you felt a sharp pain in your wallet just now, then you already know.
There are people relying on others to do their jobs so they might stay alive.
A problem with forcing people to do a job is that they won’t care about doing it well. When those aloof people play key roles in the infantry, failing to do the job well might be fatal. These people may not care about holding security or staying awake on watch, which can needlessly endanger the lives of all the people who want to do their job the right way.
You’ll have a lot more sh*t bags
There are tons of people who “slip through the cracks” in the military already. They have no business being in the service, but somehow manage to avoid discharge. Forcing people, against their will, to serve is going to increase those numbers.
The volunteers are what make the military great. Let’s not mess that up with dumb ideas.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Matt Britton)
An all-volunteer force is much better
As stated before, our military is as good as it is because the people who serve chose to be there. They want to do a good job. Furthermore, it’s a good feeling to know that you’re doing the hard work that not everyone is cut out for. By enacting a draft, we would lose the very thing that makes the military great: pride.
The Pentagon has rejected Russian insinuations that U.S. forces were involved in recent drone attacks against Russia’s air base and its naval facility in western Syria.
Spokesman Marine Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway said on Jan. 9 that “any suggestion that U.S. or coalition forces played a role in an attack on a Russian base is without any basis in fact and is utterly irresponsible.”
The comments come after Russia’s Defense Ministry noted in a statement the “strange coincidence” of a U.S. military intelligence plane flying over the Mediterranean near the Hmeimim air base and Tartus naval facility at the moment of the attacks.
“Hardly anyone could have obtained the exact coordinates [for the attacks] based on space-based reconnaissance,” it also said.
The statement came a day after the Defense Ministry said that 13 armed drones were used to attack its facilities in Hmeimim and Tartus overnight on Jan. 5-6.
The ministry said seven of the unmanned aerial vehicles were shot down and the six others were forced to land without inflicting any casualties or damage.
A monitoring group, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the attacks were carried out by an Islamist rebel faction that operates in Latakia Province, where the Hmeimim base is located, according to the Associated Press news agency.
Russia has given President Bashar al-Assad’s government crucial support throughout Syria’s civil war and has long been at odds with U.S. support of certain rebel groups in the Syrian civil war.
The conflict has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven millions from their homes since it began with a crackdown on pro-democracy protests in 2011.
More than 40 Russian military personnel died in Syria since Moscow launched a campaign of air strikes in September 2015, in many cases using Hmeimim as a base.
During a visit to the airbase on Dec. 11, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared victory over “the most combat-capable international terrorist group” — a reference to the extremist group Islamic State (IS) — and announced a partial withdrawal of Russian troops.
‘All Necessary Means’
Western officials say that the Russian campaign, particularly in its earlier stages, focused heavily on targeting rebels seeking Assad’s ouster rather than IS militants.
Asked whether the announcement of a partial withdrawal could have been premature, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Jan. 9 that the Russian forces in Syria have “all the necessary means” to counter any challenge.
Putin said on Dec. 28 that more than 48,000 Russian military personnel had served in the operation in Syria, and that Russia’s presence at Hmeimim and Tartus would be “permanent.”
On Dec. 29, Putin signed a law ratifying an agreement enabling Russia to expand operations at its naval facility in Tartus.
D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge, and Operation Market Garden; no matter the campaign and no matter the battle, our nation’s bravest men fearlessly surged forward to defeat the German threat in World War II.
Although each infantryman was responsible for various duties throughout the war, they were all issued similar gear.
The basic issue wasn’t anything like what troops receive today, but they made it work. Here’s what they carried to victory:
This was also typically attached to the cartridge belt for quick access. Troops never knew when the call to “fix bayonets” was coming, so they had to be ready, sharp, and easily reached.
This pouch includes a canteen, canteen cup, and mess kit — all made of aluminum. It wasn’t uncommon for a forward-deployed troop to eat and drink all of his rations from this container, as many meals served on the front lines came from a large, communal pot.
Also known as an entrenching tool or shovel, the E-tool was used for digging fighting holes and for driving stabler stakes into the ground. This tool was famously worn on troops’ backs and doubled as a fighting stick when sh*t hit the fan.
The average WW2-era helmet was comprised of a plastic liner and a steel shell. The liner helped the helmet fit on a troop’s head properly and, of course, the steel shell offered the troop some protection from incoming shrapnel.
This pack contained a half of a tent, tent pins, and a blanket. Many troops decided not to haul this practical pack around and simply brought a raincoat instead.
Check out the video below to watch a complete breakdown of what these heroes carried into battle.
The word hero is defined as someone who is admired for their courage and noble qualities. Patrick “Paddy” Brown was all of that and more. He was murdered on September 11, 2001.
Paddy grew up in Queens, New York, raised by a father who was an FBI agent and former minor league baseball player, and a mother that taught music. As a kid, he’d loved the firehouse and felt at home there. Paddy joined the Boy Scout Explorer Post which specialized in fire service when he was a teenager. As he got older, Paddy joined the New York Fire Patrol and was assigned to Fire Patrol 1. He was well on his way to becoming a full-fledged firefighter.
But war came calling.
At 17 years old, Paddy enlisted in the Marine Corps with his father’s permission. Feeling the need to be a part of something bigger than himself led him to putting his firefighting dreams on hold. After arguing his way out of a clerk position, he was moved to the 3rd Engineers Battalion and immediately deployed to Vietnam.
It was there that he would crawl through the tunnels constructed by the Vietcong, being one of the first to search and clear them. Paddy completed and survived two full tours of Vietnam, making it home at the rank of Sergeant. For his time in service he was awarded the Combat Action Ribbon and Vietnam Service Medal.
Paddy came home to a country divided over the war and found himself lost. Paddy turned to alcohol to push down his demons, unable to find hope or good in his surroundings. He confided in fellow firefighter Tim Brown that he recognized he was traveling down a dangerous path and needed to course-correct. Paddy replaced alcohol with boxing and eventually became an AA sponsor. Soon, Paddy was back at the New York Fire Patrol with the goal of becoming an FDNY firefighter.
On January 28, 1977, Paddy graduated and was assigned to Ladder 26 in Harlem, officially a part of the FDNY. It wasn’t long before he began making a name for himself with frequent rescues. By 1982, he was being recruited to Rescue 1 and 2 – units filled with the best of the best in the FDNY. By the time he hit 10 years as a firefighter, his personal awards and recognitions for heroism were astounding. Paddy achieved the rank of Lieutenant on August 8, 1987.
All of this was done quietly. Tim shared that when Paddy would wear his dress uniform, he would often leave off some of his medals to avoid making people feel inadequate, because he had so many. Despite not wanting attention, a daring rope rescue in 1991 would make him known everywhere. By 1993, he was promoted to Captain and on October 21, 2000 he was assigned as Captain of Ladder 3.
September 11, 2001 changed everything.
Paddy was on duty when he witnessed the first plane hit the World Trade Center. He quickly called the dispatcher to tell them what he saw and Ladder 3 was immediately tasked with responding. When he made it to the North Tower, he ran into Tim in the lobby and gave him a hug. Tim shared that there was something in his eyes and voice as he headed up the stairwell.
Paddy knew he’d never make it out.
As the South Tower collapsed, the North Tower swayed. Ladder 6 was told to evacuate, as was Ladder 3, which Paddy was leading. His last known words are as follows: “This is the officer of Ladder Co. 3. I refuse the order! I am on the 44th floor and we have too many burned people with me. I am not leaving them!”
Not long after that radio call, the North Tower collapsed. Tim had just narrowly survived the collapse of the South Tower himself when he watched the North Tower fall.
In that moment, Tim shared, he knew all of his friends were dead.
Paddy and Michael.
Paddy’s brother Michael, who was a doctor and former FDNY firefighter, spent weeks searching for him in the rubble and ash. On November 10, 2001, a day that should have been spent celebrating both the Marine Corps’ and Paddy’s birthdays, a memorial service was held for Paddy, instead. The lines stretched around the block, with people coming to mourn the loss of a hero. Paddy’s family was overwhelmed with incredible stories about their hero that they had never known before.
They wouldn’t find Paddy’s body until December 14, 2001.
In 2010, Michael wrote the book What Brothers Do, about both his search for Paddy and his journey to discovering who Paddy really was. The book is being relaunched and has a new urgency to its message of what makes a true hero. Michael was diagnosed with cancer, caused by searching in the ruins of the towers. His hope is that the story of Paddy and all of those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, will never be in vain.
For every purchase of What Brothers Do, a portion will be donated to the Tunnel To Towers Foundation. Click here to grab your copy today.
In 1991, the United States and its coalition allies scored a decisive victory over Iraq, pushing the invading army out of Kuwait after a 40-day air war and 100-hour ground assault. The coalition was almost universally recognized, only Jordan, Algeria, Sudan, Yemen, and Tunisia opposed to action. Also in support was Iran, enemy to both Iraq and the United States. But deep within the most fanatical ranks of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, a plot was hatched to hit U.S. troops.
During the buildup to Desert Storm in the waning days of 1990, the United States was sending thousands of troops, vehicles, ships, and aircraft into the region. They were building a force that could rival Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Army, prevent it from moving further than Kuwait (namely, from invading neighboring Saudi Arabia), and have enough troops to push it out of Kuwait.
What a tempting target such a buildup would be to any foe. That’s exactly what a faction of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards thought. The United States wouldn’t even expect an attack from Iran. It would have been easy.
But not “Re-Enlisting on the Backs of Your Fallen Enemy” Easy.
The whole purpose of the Revolutionary Guards is to deter foreign threats to the Islamic Republic, whether those threats come from outside Iran or are fomented within its borders. They are a sort of internal security service mixed with a paramilitary organization that can operate both in and outside their home country. They are the Islamic Republic’s most fervent defenders, believers in Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s vision of a nation founded on the principles of Shia Islam.
In practice, their ideological zeal has given IRGC units the green light to do whatever it takes to keep Iran and its Islamic government safe from those who would dismantle it. This includes violence, terrorism, and even all-out war alongside Iranian allies. It was the IRGC that helped Iran fight technologically superior Iraq to a draw in the Iran-Iraq War. That war also led to the emergence of the IRGC as a major military and political force in Iran. So, when the United States launched Desert Shield, the IRGC took notice.
It was kinda hard to miss.
As the tens of thousands of U.S.-led coalition troops massed in Saudi Arabia, units of a rebellious faction of the Revolutionary Guards, led by the Ayatollah Khomeini’s son, Ahmad, attempted to launch missile attacks from Iran on the troops deploying to Saudi Arabia. The goal, according to a 2008 paper by IRGC expert Ali Alfoneh in Middle East Quarterly, was to start a war between the United States and Iran on the eve of Desert Storm.
Loyalist Guardsmen and regular Iranian Army units under the command of then-IRGC Chief Mohsen Rezai got wind of the plan. It was to be launched from Khorramshahr, an Iranian city on the Iraqi border near Kuwait. Khorramshahr was the site of a particularly bloody battle of the Iran-Iraq War, a fight hard won by Iranian forces. It was also the site of an IRGC-controlled missile battery – which was quickly captured by the loyalist Iranian regime forces.
“Khorramshahr” is also the name of one of Iran’s newest long-range ballistic missiles.
Ayatollah Khomeini died in 1989, but his legacy protected his mutinous son. Ahmad Khomeini, considered his father’s right hand man, was relieved of his Revolutionary Guards command and was sent to live in isolation until his death in 1995. The 49-year-old cleric died of a mysterious heart disease while still living an isolated life.
The United States went on to victory over Iran’s former adversary, humiliating Saddam Hussein and forcing the Iraqi regime to accept harsh economic sanctions and military limitations until the U.S. came back to topple it in 2003. Iran’s patience paid off with the recent instability in Iraq allowing the Islamic Republic to project power across the Middle East.
Two platoons were ordered to engage the enemy at once; the first stormed toward the Japanese at full force as the second gave “support-by-fire” position in the rear.
As Nett and the first platoon advanced, they slid Bangalore charges through the enemies’ barb wired defense system, clearing their path. The flamethrowers operators then crawled through the detonated gaps and incinerated the enemy forces, allowing allied troops to create a stable foothold for themselves.
Nett’s objective was to clear a sizeable fortified enemy building just up ahead. He called to the forward observer to light the area up with 105mm shells to break the structure’s exterior security.
Just as the shells struck the building, Nett took a surprising neck wound — his jugular vein had been nicked.
Ignoring the pulsating wound, Nett crawled from squad-to-squad while engaging enemy that appeared nearby. Nett decided that it was time for him and his men to fix their bayonets.
With adrenaline pumping through their veins, Nett and his fellow soldiers carefully dashed toward their objective. Nett moved his machine gun teams to their new fighting positions while dangerously engaging the enemy in close quarter combat along the way. At that time, he took another enemy round, this time to his chest — collapsing a lung.
As most of you are aware, in the last several months the US Navy has suffered two collisions at sea. On 17 June the USS Fitzgerald lost 7 Sailors and on 21 August, the USS McCain lost 10 Sailors. The Surface Warfare community has not experienced such a loss in nearly 30 years since the explosion on the USS Iowa that killed 47 sailors.
After the collisions, I have quietly tried to make sense of what happened. I have just recently returned to the Surface Warfare community after spending the majority of my career working in the world of Naval Special Warfare. At this point, I am an outsider looking in and trying to learn about my new environment, and to make sure I am pulling more than my weight of the work load.
While trying to understand what happened, I have made the mistake of reading comments posted on Social Media of what people think happened. Comments from people from all walks of life and most who seem to have never served a day in their life in the Navy or on a Warship. One comment has particularly bothered me. After the Navy announced the firing of several Admirals, including a Command Master Chief, one podcaster stated the collisions happened because the “Navy has gone soft.”
I want to assure anyone reading this: The United States Navy has never been stronger than it is today.
I know it’s hard for most of us to remember a time that the US has not been engaged in war. We have been in Afghanistan for 16 years and Iraq for 13 years. No one knows that better than pre 9/11 service members, especially given there are very few of us still on Active Duty. But before Operation Enduring and Operation Iraqi Freedom, during the time that most Army units were running training evolutions, the Navy was steadily deploying around the world to carry the Big Stick. Before Bosnia, before the Gulf War, before Panama, before Vietnam, before the Korean War….The Navy has quietly and steadily deployed during War Time and during Peace time since its inception 241 years ago.
No one does it better than we do.
As I have stepped back into the Surface Navy, I have done so with very little experience and official Surface Warfare qualifications. So I have started at the bottom of the training pipeline with 18 and 19 year old Seaman and brand new Junior Officers.
Classes are typically taught by senior 1st Class Petty Officers and Chiefs, and some are taught by trusted 2nd Class Petty Officers. Most of the training has been done “in house” and the instructors still have a day job. Some of the Instructors are Gunners Mates and are responsible for any and all aspects of ammunition on board the ship, whether its 9mm rounds, 5 inch rounds, or highly precise, multimillion dollar missiles.
In addition to teaching, managing their daily tasks and subordinates, most of the instructors are also balancing Duty. Duty is not their day job. It’s the 24 hours a day, 7 days a week job of ensuring proper security is being maintained on the ship and making sure the ship is ready to start to get underway if needed. Duty is broken down into sections and each Sailor essentially works for 24 hours a day once or twice a week. A sailor may work a normal work day and then stand watch in the middle of the night, and is expected to work a full day the next work day, only running on a few hours of sleep and lots of caffeine.
The overwhelming amount of hours spent working on the ship each week is more than anything I have seen during my time in NSW. Like most jobs in the military, it’s a thankless job that most Sailors never truly see the results of their labors. And to my astonishment over the last few months, the Sailors don’t complain about the work on the ship. They complain about the food. They complain when the coffee grounds run low. The Junior Enlisted complain about the Junior Officers. The Junior Officers quietly complain about the Senior Officers, And the Chiefs complain about everyone.
But when the bells ring, everyone is beside each other backing up the other one so the ship can get the attention it needs. They are a family. And like any family, there are of course some dysfunctional members, but as a whole, it’s an amazing thing watching these crews breathing life into Warships.
I can’t speak to high level policy decisions that happen in the beltway, or even administrative orders from Millington, but I can speak to the level of dedication at the lower levels. Sailors are hardworking. They are unruly at times, but will back each other up when its time. They are professional, and know their jobs because that’s what Sailors do. They work long hours, more than most will ever know, and they do it when Wars end and people forget ships are still required at Sea. At times, they work in terrible conditions covered in grease and smelling of Jet fuel and only a few hours of sleep, and often for weeks or months with no days off.
They are the hardest Sailors in the world.
While recent events are heartbreaking, I want to assure everyone that the United States Navy is still the strongest Naval force this earth has ever seen. Horrendous mistakes were made on the USS Fitzgerald and the USS McCain, but these ships were good ships and had good crews. These were also extremely hard worked ships ported in foreign piers.
And as of right now, the Navy has acknowledged that training in specific areas fell short. With that in mind, remember the Navy has kept ships out to Sea for 241 years. Even as you read this, there are 10’s of thousands of Sailors somewhere in the world, fiercely carrying the Navy’s Honor wherever they go. The Navy will correct the course and continue to provide diplomacy wherever is needed.
White House national security adviser John Bolton says that he has discussed Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Bolton, who met with Putin in Moscow on June 27, 2018, told CBS’s Face The Nation that “President Putin was pretty clear with me about it and my response was we’re going to have to agree to disagree on Ukraine.”
Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump are scheduled to hold their first one-on-one summit in Helsinki on July 16, 2018.
On June 29, 2018, Trump declined to rule out recognizing Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.
Asked by reporters on Air Force One whether reports about him dropping Washington’s longstanding opposition to the annexation were true, Trump said, “We’re going to have to see.”
Editor’s Note: This is part two of George Hand’s story about his Special Forces team operating in Alaska. Read part one here.
I admit I got some pretty decent shuteye in that Patrol Base (PB). I ate cold food because I just don’t care, plus heating food is such a hassle in the field. I did heat up a canteen cup of coffee, and of course we had plenty of water thanks to the run to the babbling brook.
I took my shift on security which was sitting in a Listening Post/Observation Post (LPOP) a few hundred meters to the rear of our PB for a few hours being quiet, listening, and — you guessed it — observing. It was the usually tearful boredom save for the herd of Caribou that went meandering some 700 meters out. I had binos hanging around my neck tucked just inside my jacket which made for a closer pleasing eyeful of the herd.
When I was relived, I headed back to the PB and helped build the explosive cutting charges to take down the RF tower. We didn’t want to build those forward in the hide sight because it’s bad policy to plan on doing any work in a hide site other than shutting-up, being still, and freezing.
To cut the cylindrical steel at the base of the tower we built Diamond charges — shaped like an elongated diamond and duel-primed on both ends of the short axis with blasting caps:
(Diamond High-Explosive Steel Cutting Charge [photo courtesy of the author])
C-4, in simple block form, made up the two other charges that were to cut the support cables. Our plan was to tie all three charges in together so they would detonate as near simultaneous as possible. I caught a slight whiff of burning time fuse. Another team was calculating the burn time of the fuse. They cut a length of fuse, burned it, and timed the burn so they would know how long of time fuse they needed to give us three minutes to get away from the tower once the fuse was ignited.
Gosh, a breeze picked up and as God is my witness I saw a piece of paper blow by that looked like a page out of cryptography One-Time Pad (OTP)… and it was! I lunged to grab it. Our Commo Sergeant must have been in the process of encrypting his next message transmission to our Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Anchorage.
I moved to his location and sure enough he was shacking up a message:
“Hey, dick… think you’ll need this?”
“Wha… woah — where did you get that??”
“Oh… it just kinda came blowing by.”
“Bullshit! Gimme that!!”
He snatched it up, struck up a lighter under it, and burned it — a thing he was supposed to do before he ever laid it down.
“Here, sign this, dick!”
He passed his his burn log for my signature as a witness to the burning of the crypto page. He was the best commo man I ever knew, just had some housekeeping issues. He set to constructing his quarter-wave doublet antenna; in those days we used the High-Frequency bandwidth (3-30 MHz) and bounced our radio signal off of the ionosphere. He needed to cut his antenna length to match the frequency he was going to transmit on.
(An example of a crypto One-Time Pad [OTP] page [photo from the author])
I find it interesting that the Army has not used the HF band for such a long time, depending on satellites and Internet for most of its communication. Now days, satellites are being targeted for disruption, and the military is actually going back to the dependable HF band for backup communications. It was used during the Russian mercenary Wagner Group attack on U.S. troops in Syria; that battle ended in some 250 dead Russians.
Departing our patrol base, we slipped along tundra quietly to our hide sight. When we got close, we could occasionally spy the RF tower target through openings in the bush. Team Daddy halted us and laid us down while he moved forward with an Engineer Sergeant to have a reconnaissance of the terminal hide area.
He was gone long enough for us to get to freezing again. He lead us into the area where we laid down and established our hides: we stretched camouflage nets out low to the ground. We spread foliage on the top and sides were also covered up. Once inside, there was only enough room for two men to lay prone.
To our front was an open field of some 100 meters by 75 meters. We were just back off of the edge of the field where the men on watch could see the tower and the support corollary building. It was concrete with a pickup truck parked near the door — someone, likely a technician or maintenance person, was in there.
It was time to be cold for the next 24 hours. I went out with our commo man to help him construct an antenna and make his commo shot. He couldn’t do it from our hide site; we had to push back to the rear a thousand meters and sneak that transmission back to the FOB. It was great to be up out of the hide and moving around.
Twenty-four hours later we tore down our hides and packed up our rucks. Leaving the rucks behind, we took six pipe-hitters — half of our Green Beret detachment — and crept through the field ahead toward the tower. The other six pipe-hitters surrounded the target tactically establishing security for the demolitions teams. One of the security teams was blocking the access road incase the pickup returned, upon which they were to pull him out of the vehicle and detain him until the target was destroyed.
Our diamond charge went on smoothly and I paid out lengths of explosive det cord to the cable teams. All went together without a blunder. We collapsed back to our hide site leaving one man to tie in and fire the charges. Security remained in place. Team Daddy was glancing at his watch often, then finally lifted his hand-held radio:
“Bergie, this is Tango Lima, over…”
“Tango Lima, this is Bergie, ready to fire, over…”
“Bergie, stand by to fire in fife, fo-war, tree, two, one — fire!”
Even from our distance we heard the faint *pop* of the two M-60 fuse igniters fire. After about a nervous minute we witnessed brother Bergie, the trigger man, approaching quietly. He had stayed a little while to make sure he had a good fuse burn. I admired his dedication in that instance. He went to his ruck and laid to wait with the rest of us.
Team Daddy in typical fashion was observing his watch and called over his hand-held to the security teams:
“Standby for detonation in fife, fo-war, tree, two, one…”
And there came an ear-splitting *CCCRRRRAAAACCCCCKKKKK* of high-order C-4 expanding at 24,000 feet per second followed seconds later by a ground-shaking cacophony of steel slamming onto the ground with sheiks and groans of twisting steel.
“Security, collapse to hide site,” Team Daddy called out, followed seconds later by the panting pipe-hitters from the security perimeter. We threw on our rucks and stepped out smartly some 90 degrees from our original target approach azimuth.
(Destroyed tower [photo courtesy of the author])
Approximately 20-minutes into the walk, our Senior Medic pulled Team Daddy aside for some bad news; he had left his hand-held radio back at the hide — major blunder. How could we possibly return to the target so soon after destruction? We simply had to, that was is just the way it was.
Team Daddy had the men form a PB while he, the medic, and I went back for the radio. The sun had been steadily dropping lower to the horizon. Dark would be to our advantage as we swung around to make our approach to the hide site from the bush rather than the open field.
Doc found his radio immediately once we got there. There were a number of first responder vehicles scattered around the ruined target site with men milling around. We scampered like rabbits back in the direction of the patrol base. With Team Daddy up front and me walking in back, Doc from the middle kept turning around looking with awe on his face.
“What’s the deal, Doc?” I finally had to ask him.
“It’s going back up! The sun is… it’s going back up! It dropped low but it never went below the horizon and I swear to you its going back up now!!”
“Well, yee-haw, Daktari… so you saw it too, yeah? You saw the sun not set — was that cool or what??”
(“It dropped low but it never went below the horizon and I swear to you its going back up now!!”
Disrupting terrorist networks is inherently difficult, and success is difficult to measure. Clandestine by nature, these groups generally hide their internal functions, institutions, and various chains of command. While a potentially vast cadre of fighters, sympathizers, and suppliers wait in the wings, the outside world only glimpses a few leaders, who often serve as figureheads for their organizations.
With little else to go on, states often make targeting these leaders a key priority. From the Shining Path in Peru to ISIL in Syria and Iraq, security forces carry out operations to capture or kill mid- and upper-level leaders in the hopes that their absence will be the knockout blow necessary to defeat a terrorist organization. Recent attention has turned to ISIL leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, who is rumored to be still alive. Intelligence gathering and planning is likely underway in multiple countries to capture or kill the man who continues to lead one of the world’s deadliest terror groups. But is leadership decapitation, as this strategy is known, effective?
Leadership decapitation rests on a simple principle: taking out a key player in a terrorist group in the hope that his or her absence destroys morale and slows the group’s operational tempo. Such strategies can target both leaders – who may hold symbolic and strategic importance – and tactical experts who might be hard to replace, like bomb makers. The policy has played an important role in U.S. counterterrorism policy since 9/11, recently receiving praise from Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
While the logic is clear, the strategy’s results are mixed and depend on the terrorist group’s internal dynamics. Smaller, younger groups – variously defined – are more susceptible to the effects of leadership decapitation, as are groups without an established bureaucracy. Group type is thought to play a role as well, with religiously-oriented groups being better able to withstand the loss of a leader. Most vulnerable are groups that lean heavily on a single, charismatic leader who plays a central role in the organization.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
Leadership decapitation has ended some groups. The capture of Abimael Guzman and 14 other leaders of the Shining Path in 1992 quickly reduced the group to a shadow of its former self. The group struggled to recover after the capture of Guzman, who exercised near-total control. After the assassination of Fathi Shaqaqi in 1995, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) struggled to find a capable successor and only recovered years later.
However, not all groups fall into these categories. With its deep roots in a conflict that extends back decades, raids and airstrikes have killed a number of Al-Shabaab leaders, yet it continues to carry out deadlyattacks, including an October 2017 truck bombing that killed more than 500 Somalis. Al-Qaeda has suffered the loss of a number of key leaders, including founder Osama Bin Laden and leaders of its Yemeni and Syrian branches. Despite these losses from 2011 to 2015, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) managed to hang on and even expand its operations in Yemen until coordinated US-UAE operations in 2016 forced the group to engage in direct combat, which reduced – but did not eliminate – the threat posed by the group in Yemen.
Perhaps no group is more emblematic of resilience in the face of leadership decapitation than ISIL itself. Airstrikes, battles, and military operations have killed many of the group’s leaders within Syria and Iraq and its numerous regional affiliates. Despite this, the group has proven capable of finding replacements. When ISIL’s chief strategist and number two, Mohammed al-Adnani, was killed in late August 2016, the group announced his replacement about two months later. ISIL continues to maintain the ability to launch deadly attacks via its worldwide cells and those inspired by its calls to violence, from Afghanistan to Indonesia to Egypt.
As evidenced above, ISIL does not fit the profile of terrorist groups vulnerable to the effects of leadership decapitation. Its well-known penchant for bureaucracy has allowed slain leaders to be quickly replaced. While the loss of ISIL leaders has likely impacted the organization, it arguably has been affected to a greater degree by the overwhelming firepower directed at the organization from every level, not just its leaders. US strikes have pounded the group’s military positions, financial stores, and its fighters at every level, not just its leader. The redundancy within ISIL’s organization and the lack of a single, charismatic leader mean that finding competent replacements is not a life or death decision for the terror group.
Lt. Col. Rod Coffey and the insurgent flag his unit captured in Diyala Province, Iraq, in 2008. The same banner would eventually be used by the Islamic State.
(U.S. Army photo)
The most frightening aspect of ISIL’s lethality comes from the cells and sympathizers strewn across the world. Central leadership can plan and order these attacks, but cells with organic roots in localized conflicts can also plan and influence their own operations. While ISIL has been reduced to a sliver of its former territory in Iraq and Syria, the threat posed by its worldwide affiliates is unlikely to disappear with Baghdadi.
To be fair, the choice to pursue terrorist leaders is not a purely strategic calculation. Arguments about the effects of leadership on terrorists’ operational capacity mean little to those who have lost loved ones or live in fear because of terrorist attacks. And when dealing with groups that have almost no public presence, targeting leaders is often one of the only options available. It would be unwise to dismiss these other considerations for pursuing a decapitation strike out of hand, just as it would be unwise to assume that killing Baghdadi or any other leader is necessarily a knockout blow.
There is little doubt that ISIL, while still dangerous, is a weakened organization. Recent success in pushing back the group – a refreshing change from 2014 and 2015, when it appeared ready to roll over much of Syria and Iraq – is owed to several factors. A growing international recognition of the threat posed by ISIL, a crackdown on those traveling to and from Syria and Iraq, and overwhelming firepower directed against the group in Syria, Egypt, Iraq and elsewhere have all played a role in reducing the threat. However, there is little reason to believe that what threat remains of ISIL would disappear with Baghdadi, especially in light of the group’s demonstrated resilience and commitment to terror.
At some point while growing up, every kid is issued a stern warning from their parents to not touch the hot stove when it’s on. Most kids take that advice at face value and never risk it. But then there are the other kids; the ones who repeatedly try to poke at the red hot coils. Eventually, there comes a time where the curious kids get burnt.
This is basically what happened to the ill-fated and infamous Donner Party in 1847. History often paints the pioneers as unfortunate travelers, but it also often glosses over the fact that they were issued repeated warnings by the United States Army, who told them to stay away.
Spoiler alert: They didn’t stay away and it didn’t end well for thirty-nine of them — and if they were petty enough, the Army could’ve issued the survivors a “so, what did we learn?“
This information in important to the rest of the story.
(“Battle of Churubusco,” John Cameron, lithograph, 1846)
Manifest Destiny was in full force during the 1840s and countless pioneers moved out west in search of greener pastures. When Mexico saw the influx of new settlers coming into and setting up shop in disputed territory, their army attacked American troops in March, 1846, along the Rio Grande River, beginning the Mexican-American War.
The Army knew full well that the coming battles could stretch across the West and into places where settlers were building new lives. So, they issued a warning to pioneers, advising them to either wait for the war before venturing into the southwest or to proceed with extreme caution. After all, the soldiers had a war to fight; they couldn’t dote on individual settlers.
Just take a wild guess who they listened to: the grizzled Ranger or the sketchy salesman?
(“Advice on the Prairie,” William Ranney, painting, 1857)
That warning didn’t stop George Donner and James Reed from saddling up the wagons to make their way along the Oregon Trail and find new homes in California. The path was well-traveled and would take them through Wyoming, Idaho, and, eventually, down the California Trail near Ft. Hall, Idaho. This was the prescribed route made by the Army for all travelers. The route was generally pleasant, had several Army posts along the way, was seldom ambushed by Natives, and took about four to six months to traverse.
But they caught wind of a faster route that saved time by cutting through Utah. This information came from a writer/salesman, Lansford Hastings, who’d never actually been on his so-called Hastings Cutoff. This new route cut about 300 miles from the trip. Accounting for an average speed of about 12 miles per day, that would theoretically save them about a month of travel. It was important to make it to California before the winter, because as the Army told them, the winter would be deadly.
On their travels, the party randomly met James Clyman, an old Army Ranger turned mountain man. He strongly advised against this alternate route. Clyman had traveled all across the United States and her territories — he even wrote about Hugh Glass (you know, the guy from The Revenant) because he was there with him. There wasn’t a human being alive more suited to give counsel about these lands. He was very serious about them turning around and taking the established route.
Let this be a lesson for you. If a bunch of people with years of experience tell you something… maybe listen.
(“Encampment,” Daniel A. Jenks, watercolors, 1858)
You know this story doesn’t have a happy ending, so you know which advice they followed. The shortcut, turns out, was absolutely horrible and added months to their journey. Instead of making it to the Pacific Ocean by early September, they found themselves in Truckee Meadows (near present-day Reno, Nevada) by late October.
One of the party’s scouts, William Bryant, had taken the regular route ahead and made it safely to the Army’s Fort Sutter. He heard about their new route and the soldiers sent a dire warning. The warning implored them stay in Reno for the winter and to not even think about crossing the Sierra Nevada in this weather.
Truckee Meadows was beautiful. It had bountiful food, sturdy trees, flowing water in the winter. In a word, it was perfect! They could have as easily made their new lives there. They could’ve been happy. But wintering in Reno would have made too much sense, so they decided to try and push through the terrible wintry mountains — in spite of all of the warnings.
Now, it’s hard to say if they actually had to resort to cannibalism or not — some survivors suggested they did, others said they didn’t, and historical evidence is inconclusive — but it was still the definition of a sh*tshow. It took the Army months to find them (since they were kind of busy with the aforementioned war) but at least forty-eight people made it out.
The Northrop Grumman E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, better known as JSTARS, is a unique United States Air Force aircraft. What the E-3 Sentry does for aerial combat, the JSTARS does for ground warfare, providing all-weather surveillance and critical intelligence to troops in the fight. But the Air Force has now scrapped a planned replacement for the E-8 — what’s up with that?
Last year, the Air Force was seeking to replace the E-8 because the airframes that were equipped with the AN/APY-7 radar — the heart of the system, essentially — were second-hand Boeing 707 airliners. At the 2017 AirSpaceCyber, Lockheed’s proposed JSTARS replacement was part of a demonstration for a new mission planning system known as multi-domain command and control or, simply, MDC2. Unfortunately, as the Air Force’s needs have developed, something as large and centralized as the current JSTARS, and its slated replacement, is seen as archaic.
Now, the plan to replace the E-8s, which are slated to retire in the mid-2020s, has found its way back to square one — well, almost. Northrop Grumman’s new Ground Moving Target Indicator radar. Its modular architecture, like that of the AN/SPY-6 Air and Missile Defense Radar, should allow the company to use the technology on other offerings, ensuring that not all of its research and development go to waste.
The Air Force also is planning to upgrade seven of its E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft with new communications gear instead of retiring them. Some MQ-9 Reaper and RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles could also receive a new radar as well. At the same time, three E-8s that have become hangar queens will be retired.