Three pilots from the 328th Air Refueling Squadron at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, N.Y., flew over Western New York to honor frontline workers during the Covid-19 crisis, May 12, 2020. (U.S. Air Force/A1C Kelsey Martinez)
Nearly 200 pilots have chosen to stay in the U.S. Air Force as major airlines operate in a limited capacity during the COVID-19 outbreak, sharply reducing the number of commercial flights around the world.
While the service is still gathering data, “171 pilots have been approved to stay past their original retirement or separation dates” since March, Air Force spokeswoman Maj. Malinda Singleton said in an email Thursday. She did not provide a breakdown of the types of pilots — fighter, bomber, airlift, etc. — who have extended their duty.
The service is also preparing for the possibility that furloughed airline pilots will submit requests to return to active duty in the Air Force come Oct. 1, the spokeswoman said. Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act, passed in late March, airline jobs have been safe as companies are prohibited from cutting their workforces until that date. However, experts foresee a dramatic reduction in airline jobs when the restriction is lifted.
“At this time, it is too early to tell what those impacts may be as the CARES Act prohibited layoffs and furloughs in the airlines until Oct. 1,” Singleton said. “We are keeping a close watch on the situation; recognizing the challenges the airline industry is facing, we are providing options for rated officers to remain on active duty who otherwise had plans to depart.”
Airline hiring efforts had been the biggest factor driving problems in pilot retention and production in the services, officials said in recent years. Commercial airlines became the military’s main competitor during a nationwide pilot shortage.
“We tend to see those [service members who] may be getting out, or those [who] have recently gotten out, want to return to service inside of our Air Force,” Gen. Brad Webb told reporters during a phone call from the Pentagon. “I expect that we will see some of that to a degree, which will help mitigate [the pilot shortage].”
North Korea publicly unveiled a special operations unit for the first time during a military parade marking the Day of the Sun, the anniversary of the birth of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, reports Yonhap News Agency.
The soldiers were armed with grenade launchers and presented with night-vision goggles on their helmets.
“Once Supreme Commander Kim Jong-un issues the order, they will charge with resolve to thrust a sword through the enemy’s heart like lighting,” a North Korean broadcaster said.
The North Korean special operations forces marched across Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang behind the Navy, Air Force, and other strategic forces. The new unit is believed to be led by North Korean Col. Gen. Kim Yong-bok.
North Korea’s special operations forces could be used to counter allied pre-emptive strike plans. Special operations troops recently drilled in preparation for a possible strike on an enemy missile base, the Korean Central News Agency reported. The force also practiced combating enemy commandos.
U.S. and South Korean reports have suggested that allied war plans include the possibility of “decapitation strikes” designed to eliminate the North Korean leadership. South Korea reported that this year’s Key Resolve and Foal Eagle drills included exercises focused on “incapacitating North Korean leadership.”
“The KPA will deal deadly blows without prior warning any time as long as the operation means and troops of the U.S. and South Korean puppet forces involved in the ‘special operation’ and ‘preemptive attack’ targeting the [Democratic Republic of Korea] remain deployed in and around South Korea,” the North Korean military warned in late March.
The North also unveiled several new missiles, intercontinental ballistic missile models, during the parade.
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The motorcycle club whose members were at the vanguard of Russia’s occupation of Crimea, nicknamed “Putin’s Angels” by the media, is on the road again.
Members of the Night Wolves were due in the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Serb-majority entity Republika Srpska, Banja Luka, on March 21, 2018, and were expected to hold a press conference in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, around a week later.
They have planned or taken provocative rides before — including a Victory Day trip to Berlin and a candle lighting at Katyn, where Josef Stalin is said to have ordered the execution of tens of thousands of Polish officers during World War II — and are targeted by U.S. and Canadian sanctions for their thuggish support of non-uniformed Russian forces during the takeover of Crimea in 2014.
The group’s agenda during its tour of what it calls the “Russian Balkans” remains unclear, and it is hard to know whether it somehow reflects Kremlin geopolitical goals or is just a solid effort at trolling.
Atlantic Council senior fellow Dimitar Bechev recently argued that while Russia is increasingly active in the Western Balkans, its influence is not as great as generally believed.
Promoting his new book, Rival Power: Russia In Southeast Europe, at the London School of Economics, Bechev expressed concern that Western media was obsessed with the idea of Russia as a “partner-turned-enemy” in the Balkans and the Middle East.
“In reality, if Russia was increasingly present in the Balkan region, it was not always because it was imposing itself but because local powers and elites were engaging Russia to serve their own domestic agendas,” Bechev said.
The Slavic culture and the Orthodox faith of many of the region’s inhabitants have also meant that the “narrative structure [already] tends to favor Russia” in the Balkans and makes it fertile ground for the possible exercise of Russian “soft power.”
But Jasmin Mujanovic, author of the book Hunger Fury: The Crisis Of Democracy In The Balkans, is less certain that Russia’s influence in the region has been overstated.
“Russia’s influence in Bosnia and the Balkans is obviously not as significant as it is in its immediate ‘near abroad.’ But that does not mean Moscow does not have concrete strategic aims in the region, aims which, from the perspective of the political and democratic integrity of local polities, are incredibly destructive.”
According to Mujanovic, the combination of clear Russian objectives in the region and the desperation of some local politicians to cling to power (such as Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik) makes for an explosive mix.
“[O]ne does not militarize their police, or hire paramilitaries, or purchase missiles if they are not prepared to use them,” said Mujanovic. He suggested that some individuals were prepared to use violence to sabotage the Bosnian elections in 2018 and “counting on support from Russia and assorted Russian proxies to do it.” He did not provide specific evidence of any such plans.
“Russia’s objective is simple: Keep Bosnia out of NATO and the EU,” Mujanovic added. “Moscow wants to ensure that the country remains an ethnically fragmented basketcase in the heart of the Balkans.”
Into this volatile context ride the Night Wolves.
On their Facebook page, the Russian bikers said their nine-day tour through Bosnia and Serbia would cover 2,000 kilometers after leaving Belgrade on March 19, 2018. Two of the Night Wolves have been denied entry to Bosnia on security grounds, including the group’s leader, Aleksandr Zaldostanov, aka “The Surgeon.”
Following their role in the Ukrainian conflict, the Night Wolves were blacklisted by the U.S. Treasury in 2014 and a year later prevented from riding through Poland on their way to Berlin to mark the 70th anniversary of the Allies’ victory over Nazi Germany.
Yet these concerns apparently are not shared by authorities in Serbia and in Republika Srpska, in Bosnia.
“The different perceptions of the [Night Wolves’] tour are a reflection of the Balkan political landscape, including differences in relations with Russia,” Belgrade-based analyst Bosko Jaksic told RFE/RL’s Balkan Service.
“Republika Srpska in particular is a bastion of pro-Russian sentiment and currently the main focus of Russian activity in the Western Balkans,” Jaksic added. “In Serbia, meanwhile, there are numerous organizations, groups, associations, and even political parties that do not hide their admiration for Russia. [This tour] among other things should serve as a warning that Russia is ramping up its influence, relying both on existing local support and using every available means and avenue to project its soft power.”
Jaksic said he believes the Balkans became a key part of Moscow’s strategic agenda following the onset of the Ukrainian crisis and is now a target for its soft-power arsenal.
“These so-called ‘Putin’s Angels’ are undoubtedly a part of a very political agenda,” Jaksic said.
It appears that in Republika Srpska, where only around half of the population has access to the Internet, trolls must deliver their message in person.
“The leader of the Night Wolves…uses his motorbike like a scalpel to make an incision and separate parts of the Balkans from the West, bringing them closer to Russia. He does so while preaching pan-Slavism and Christian Orthodoxy, two favorite themes of Russian propaganda,” Jaksic said.
While the West equivocates over the Balkans, Mujanovic complained, “Moscow and Banja Luka will not squander an easy opportunity to ‘create new facts’ on the ground,” adding that even a small dose of violence could be fatal to “a polity already as fragmented as Bosnia.”
“This,” Mujanovic said, “is the most significant threat to the Dayton peace [accords] since 1996.”
Theresa May asked Britain’s defence secretary to justify the UK’s role as a “tier one” military power, causing dismay in the Ministry of Defence. Underlying the statement is a realisation that the UK can no longer economically compete with top powers, defence experts told Business Insider.
“It’s a reflection of our economic status — times are tough,” said Tim Ripley, a defence analyst, adding: “It’s all about money… if you don’t have money you can’t spend it.”
The Prime Minister questioned defence secretary Gavin Williamson on whether money for the military should be reallocated to areas like cyber, and if Britain needed to maintain a Navy, Army, Air Force and nuclear deterrent all at once.
Ripley called it a retreat from “grand ambitions.”
“No matter how we dress it up, this new fangled cyber stuff is just an excuse for running away from funding hard power,” Ripley said. “If you don’t pony up the money and the hard power you don’t get a seat at the top table. No matter how flash your cyber warfare is, people take notice of ships, tanks and planes.”
There is a strong correlation between military power and economic status. The major powers including the US, China and Russia all demonstrate their strength through military posturing, and countries that don’t have enough resources for defence often pool with others.
Dr Jan Honig, a senior lecturer in war studies at King’s College London, said that shared defence can be disrupted in times of nationalism, and called it “highly ironic” that Brexit could mean the UK can longer fund its military.
“You can’t really do it by yourself even if you spent a lot more on defence which is not going to happen in this country with this measly economic growth and the uncertainty about international trade details,” he said.
The Prime Minister’s comments, which were first reported by the Financial Times, come in the context of her recent pledge of a fresh £20 billion for the National Health Service (NHS) and debate about where the money will come from.
“You do want to ensure that government policy has support from the people, so to say we’re going to pour a lot of money into defense just in case something happens … is a far more difficult thing to sell than funding the NHS and social care, welfare that is an immediate issue,” said Honig, adding that populations are also more switched on to the horrors of war.
But Julian Lewis, Chair of the UK’s defence committee told Business Insider that he’s now concerned about whether May will be able to properly fund the military after the NHS pledge.
“I am not won over … by this jargon of calling it a ‘tier one’ military power… What I’m much more concerned about is whether Theresa May will be able to give defence the money it needs,” he said, citing a “whole” of over £4.2 billion in the defence budget.
May’s comments will not lead to definitive action to pair down the military, but are a clear sign of the direction of travel said Ripley.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
There is one acronym no commander wants to hear. The very hint of this process-who-must-not-be-named drives generals, congressmen, and entire communities to the edge of panic: BRAC.
The Base Realignment and Closure process started in 1988 as a way to streamline the post-Cold War U.S. military for more efficient and cost-effective defense planning. The commission recommends moving certain military functions to other installations to clear the way to completely closing military bases worldwide. Chanute Air Force Base, Illinois was among the first to go in 1993.
Opened in Rantoul, Illinois in 1917 to train pilots flying in World War I, Chanute would become a major training center for pilots and support personnel for 75 years. Today, some of the buildings are repurposed and privately owned but many are left empty and deteriorating, untouched for decades.
Enter Walter Arnold, an North Carolina-based, self-taught fine art photographer and his project “The Art of Abandonment.” In this series, he strives to create nontraditional images and scenes in forgotten, historic places many people will never see.
“These abandoned buildings and locations speak volumes when you enter them, even in their abandoned and decaying state,” Arnold told WATM. “Every room you look into tells a story and every artifact from a bygone era holds years of meaning and lost purpose.”
While he usually gets permission to access abandoned sites, he did not get such permission to get into Chanute. With the help of his brother, he found his way onto the base, braving a rapidly decaying infrastructure, asbestos and rumors of Agent Orange contamination.
“Of all the locations that I have showcases online, Chanute has had the most response,” Arnold said. “So many people passed through those hallways and classrooms and so many have connections and memories with this location.”
“It’s my job to create evocative scenes that tell stories and stir emotions and I think these images from Chanute really do just that. There’s a melancholy aspect to my work and a lot of times the same people who see the sadness and shame in letting a building get to this state also see the beauty of what remains and the stories they still hold.”
All photos are used with permission from Walter Arnold. To see more of Chanute AFB or the Art of Abandonment, visit Arnold’s site, The Digital Mirage.
A California patrolman’s radar apparently flipped out on an empty stretch of highway in March 2019, which was odd because there wasn’t another car in sight, but then an F-16 Fighting Falcon came flying low and fast past his location.
A video taken by Officer Chris Bol and shared by California Highway Patrol station in the California desert suburb of Bishop shows the F-16 making a pass — not the first, as the officer filming has his camera ready to catch the fighter flying by his Ford Explorer.
The video, first reported by Popular Mechanics, was captioned: “When the radar in your patrol car is going crazy but you don’t see any cars on the road, look up!”
When the radar in your patrol car is going crazy but you …
An F-16 can fly at speeds greater than Mach 2, more than two times the speed of sound. That means the fighter jet can hit in excess of 1,500 mph. The fighter in the video, however, was not going that fast.
These low-altitude flybys occur regularly in the area where the video was taken and are often picked up on radar. One California Highway Patrol officer at the Bishop station told Business Insider his radar once read out at more than 300 mph.
As for the video posted on March 9, 2019, Bol’s radar was going in and out, but it read 250 mph at one point. Several F-16s flew past his spot repeatedly while he was out there.
Popular Mechanics said that while the video was taken in Bishop, the aircraft in the video may have originated from the Arizona National Guard or Utah’s Hill Air Force Base, although it is hard to know for sure because there are a number of air bases nearby that use the area for training.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Pentagon announced Wednesday that they need hackers to attack the Pentagon’s digital systems in order to identify weak points and train how to respond, according to Reuters.
“I am confident that this innovative initiative will strengthen our digital defenses and ultimately enhance our national security,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said.
Hackers who participate may even be awarded monetary prizes, but there are a few rules. Hackers must be U.S. citizens, they must be vetted experts in computer hacking, and they must register their intent to test the systems.
Also, the Pentagon has identified certain public-facing computer systems to be tested. Hackers who attempt to access any other systems, presumably all the sensitive ones that control classified data or nuclear weapons, would still be subject to criminal charges.
“The goal is not to comprise any aspect of our critical systems, but to still challenge our cybersecurity in a new and innovative way,” a defense official told Reuters.
Inviting hackers to attack a network has been done before in the commercial sector, but this is a first for the Pentagon. Typically, the Pentagon tests its systems by establishing “red teams” composed of Department of Defense employees who attack the system rather than recruiting hordes of outsiders.
The Islamic State group said its fighters have captured Osama bin Laden’s infamous Tora Bora mountain hideout in eastern Afghanistan but the Taliban on June 15th dismissed the claim, saying they were still in control of the cave complex that once housed the former al-Qaeda leader.
Earlier, ISIS released an audio recording, saying its signature black flag was flying over the hulking mountain range. The message was broadcast on the militants’ Radio Khilafat station in the Pashto language on late June 14th.
It also said IS has taken over several districts and urged villagers who fled the fighting to return to their homes and stay indoors.
A Taliban spokesman denied IS was in control, claiming instead that the Taliban had pushed IS back from some territory the rival militants had taken in the area.
The Tora Bora mountains hide a warren of caves in which al-Qaeda militants led by bin Laden hid from US coalition forces in 2001, after the Taliban fled Kabul and before he fled to neighboring Pakistan.
According to testimony from al-Qaeda captives in the US prison at Guantamo Bay, Cuba, bin Laden fled from Tora Bora first to Afghanistan’s northeastern Kunar province, before crossing the border into Pakistan. He was killed in a 2011 raid by US Navy SEALs on his hideout in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad.
Pakistan complained the raid violated its sovereignty while bin Laden’s presence — barely a few miles from the Pakistani equivalent of America’s West Point military academy — reinforced allegations by those who accused Pakistan of harboring the Talibanand al-Qaeda militants. Pakistan denies such charges, pointing to senior al-Qaeda operatives it has turned over to the United States.
Meanwhile, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that Taliban fighters pushed back the Islamic State group from areas of Tora Bora that IS had earlier captured.
Mujahid claimed that more than 30 IS fighters were killed in battle. He also added that a US airstrike on Taliban positions on June 14th had killed 11 of its fighters and benefited the Islamic State group.
The remoteness of the area makes it impossible to independently verify the contradictory claims.
Afghan officials earlier said that fighting between IS and the Taliban, who had controlled Tora Bora, began on the 13th of June, but couldn’t confirm its capture.
Afghan Defense Ministry’s spokesman Daulat Waziri would not say whether IS was in complete control of Tora Bora. But he said Afghan forces engaged IS militants in the Chapahar district of eastern Nagarhar province, killing five and pushing them out of the area.
The province, which borders Pakistan, is the main foothold of the Islamic State group in Afghanistan. An affiliate of the IS, which is fighting in Syria and Iraq, emerged over the past two years and seized territory, mainly in Nangarhar.
The Afghan forces’ offensive will continue toward Tora Bora, Waziri said, adding that if the Afghans “need air support from NATO, they are ready to help us.”
While the United States estimates there are about 800 IS fighters in Afghanistan, mostly restricted to Nangarhar, other estimates say their ranks also include thousands of battle-hardened Uzbek militants.
Last week, Russia announced it was reinforcing two of its bases in Central Asia, in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, with its newest weapons because of fears of a “spill-over of terrorist activities from Afghanistan” by the Afghan IS affiliate.
“The [IS] group’s strategy to establish an Islamic caliphate poses a threat not only to Afghanistan but also to the neighboring countries,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said.
The first time I witnessed a ‘missing man formation’ was at the funeral of my grandfather, who flew the B-25 Mitchell during World War II. After his service in the Army Air Corps, he became a commercial pilot for TWA and then ventured into private flight. He died in an airplane crash at the age of 74 and my family gathered with his aviation community at Santa Paula Airport for his memorial.
At the ceremony, we looked to the sky as a group of planes from the Condor Squadron flew overhead. One of the planes banked away, leaving an empty space in the formation.
The symbolism was not lost on me.
Four F-15E Strike Eagles assigned to the 4th Fighter Wing conduct a missing man formation flyover during the POW/MIA ceremony at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, Sept. 19, 2014.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aaron Jenne)
It’s a powerful visual, and a traditional salute to military aviators.
The “missing man formation” has evolved throughout history, but today, there are two main variations.
The first is the one held at my grandfather’s memorial: a group of planes roars low overhead, then one pulls up spectacularly from the rest, leaving his or her space in the formation empty to represent the fallen pilot.
The “missing man formation” has always held a special place in my heart, perhaps because flight, for me, feels synonymous with freedom. The notion that a pilot might slip “the surly bonds of earth” for the final time is one that brings me comfort, and therefore saying goodbye to those who love the “vastness of the sky” in this way is a bittersweet moment.
Watch the video below to see a “missing man formation” in action:
A U.S. judge has denied a request by a Russian woman accused of working as a foreign agent who sought to be released on bail pending her next hearing.
Prosecutors have charged that Maria Butina had worked for years to cultivate relationships with U.S. political organizations and conservative activists.
They have charged that her work was directed by a former Russian lawmaker who allegedly has ties to Russian organized crime and who was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in early 2018.
Butina’s defense lawyers sought to persuade a Washington judge to release Butina to house arrest pending her November 2018 hearing.
But Judge Tanya Chutkan rejected that request, agreeing with prosecutors who said Butina might flee the country.
Maria Butina’s mugshot after being booked into the Alexandria detention center.
Federal prosecutors said in court filings that they had mistakenly accused Butina of trading sex for access. They said they misinterpreted one of Butina’s text-message exchanges but said there was other evidence supporting keeping her in custody.
Butina, 29, has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which include conspiracy and acting as an unregistered foreign agent.
In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Blake, Tim, and O.V. talk with stand-up comedian and Marine veteran Mitch Burrow about a Communist Army cadet and a cannibal dictator, and they make a smooth segue into Ken Burns’ Vietnam documentary.
General Idi Amin dethroned the government of Milton Obote and declared himself president of Uganda. During his eight years of ruthless leadership, it’s estimated he massacred approximately 300,000 civilians.
Then it’s rumored the Ugandan president was a closet cannibal and liked munch on human remains.
Mitch is a Marine Corps veteran that served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. He then started a career in manufacturing before realizing that it sucked. Now, Mitch has found his true calling in acting silly on a stage in front of strangers on a nightly basis.
To follow Mitch or check out one of his shows visit his website: Mitchburrow.com.
Automatic weaponry has been a major asset to the United States Military for a long time now. There’s been a lot of innovation since James Puckle patented his famous gun in 1718 — arguably the world’s first “machine gun.” It should come as no surprise that much of this innovation was spurned on by centuries of warfare.
In the form of machine guns, submachine guns, and automatic rifles, the United States has used a slew of automatic weaponry on battlefields across the globe since World War I. Many of these weapons hold a special place in the hearts and minds of the service members who employed them. These are the favorites:
You’ll get 22 magazines for this bad boy. Have fun.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle
This is the youngest item on the list, but it’s certainly worth the mention — the M27 IAR began its service in the Marine Corps in 2010 after years of testing. A personal favorite of Marines all across the Corps (especially the one writing this article), this bad boy fires a 5.56x45mm NATO round and is magazine-fed (which is considered a major disadvantage to the automatic riflemen who employ it). It offers the option of semi-automatic fire for when fully automatic is not ideal.
Though there is plenty of debate surrounding the replacement of the M249, the M27’s magazine-fed, closed-bolt system is what makes it ideal for use within a fire team. It requires only the person carrying it to operate it. The downside is that the operator will have to carry a ton of extra magazines.
Use caution when talking sh*t about this weapon…
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by LCPL Casey N. Thurston)
M249 Squad Automatic Weapon
The M249 SAW was brought into service in 1984 and is still in use. The M249 was used by automatic riflemen in the Marine Corps and fires a 5.56x45mm NATO round. However, its weight and the fact that it takes two people to operate made it less than ideal within fire teams. Marines will still preach about the glory of the SAW and somehow recall its mechanical shortcomings with fondness.
Watch what you say about the M60 around Vietnam veterans, too…
If you talk to Vietnam veterans about the weapons they used, the M60 will undoubtedly come up in conversation as one of their favorites. It first entered into service in 1957. “The Pig,” as its known, fires a 7.62x51mm NATO round and was used as the Squad Automatic Weapon for plenty of infantry units until the introduction of the M249 SAW.
The M60 still finds use in the United States Military among Navy SEALS, Army helicopter door gunners, and on Coast Guard ships, but it’s slowly being phased out.
The Thompson had plenty of nicknames, including the “Chicago Typewriter.”
Thompson submachine gun
The “Tommy Gun” was used by law enforcement officers and criminals long before the military adopted it at the brink of the second World War. The Thompson saw service from 1938 to 1971 in the European and Pacific theaters of World War II, the Korean War, and during the Vietnam War.
The term “submachine gun” was coined prior to the development of automatic rifles to describe weapons capable of fully automatic fire that chamber pistol rounds. The Thompson, for example, fires a .45 Automatic Colt Pistol (ACP) round.
The BAR is favored by military buffs and firearm collectors alike.
(Hickock45 / YouTube)
Browning Automatic Rifle
The BAR was brought into service in 1918 and was used all the way up to the 1970s in a number of capacities. Most notably, this weapon was one of the main reasons the Marine Corps developed 13-man squads, which consisted of three fire teams with an automatic rifleman carrying a BAR in each. This structure is still used in the Marine Corps today.
Service members affectionately refer to the M2 as the “Ma Deuce.”
(U.S. Navy Photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Michael Sandberg)
M2 Browning machine gun
At the top of the list is another design from John Browning. Everyone’s favorite, the M2 Browning machine gun entered service in 1933 and fires the large .50 caliber Browning Machine Gun (BMG) round. Given its reliability and impressive versatility, this machine gun embodies the expression, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
This gun was introduced over 80 years ago and is still in service within the military with no signs of replacement.
It’s all about discipline, according to the Navy SEAL and admiral who led one group of special operators when they captured Saddam Hussein and all of special operations when they killed Osama bin Laden. He wrote the book on special operations, had a successful 37-year career in the military, but says the key to saving the world is making your bed.
U.S. Navy Adm. William H. McRaven, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, visits U.S. troops on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, 2013, at Camp McCloskey, Logar province, Afghanistan.
Navy Adm. William McRaven is best known for overseeing Operation Neptune Spear — the raid to kill bin Laden — while he was the commander of Joint Special Operations Command. It was a critical and hotly debated operation, with planners arguing about insertion methods, what aircraft to use, and other details.
In the end, McRaven ordered two specially-equipped Black Hawks as part of the insertion and extraction, and the mission was a roaring success. While it angered an American ally, it also resulted in the death of bin Laden and the seizure of massive amounts of important intelligence.
A German soldier stands guard outside Fort Eben Emael in Belgium in May 1940. The Germans captured the fort with only 87 paratroopers because the special operators seized the initiative in the first moments of the battle.
The book/thesis goes through a detailed examination of eight historic special operations from Germany attacking the Belgians at Fort Eben Emael in 1940 to a 1976 Israeli Raid into Uganda in 1976. McRaven’s assessment of special operations focuses on how successful ones have created and maintained “Relative Superiority,” where operators are able to overcome numerical and defensive shortcomings thanks to creating their own conditions for the fight.
The HMS Campbeltown sits against the drydock in St. Nazaire, France, in the minutes before it blew up and destroyed the docks for the rest of the war. British commandos sacrificed themselves by the hundreds to make the mission successful and cripple Germany in World War II.
This is mainly about creating an imbalance of power and requires initiative. When he explains the concept in his writing, he identifies the moment that a few dozen German paratroopers were able to use shaped charges to knock out the most important defenses on Eben Emael. In the British St. Nazaire Raid, relative superiority was achieved when the commandos were able to get the explosives-laden HMS Campbeltown from the river entrance to the German-held drydocks.
To be clear, achieving relative superiority doesn’t guarantee success, but McRaven maintains that it is necessary for success, and special operations planning should identify what will cause the attackers to achieve relative superiority and how they can protect it during the operation.
On missions like the capture of Saddam Hussein, this special operations relative superiority is unnecessary, because he was hiding in a hole. The more traditional relative superiority of outnumbering and outgunning your enemy provided the edge there. But when it came to the bin Laden raid, where dozens of SEALs and other operators would insert via helicopters while hiding from air defenses, things were different.
Admiral McRaven addresses the University of Texas at Austin Class of 2014
For that, Operation Neptune Spear needed to attain relative superiority by inserting without triggering Pakistani defenses. Once in control of the perimeter, the SEALs would have relative superiority, easily overcoming the terrorist defenders and bin Laden himself.
The ultimately successful mission capped a highly successful career for McRaven that, ironically, had begun with him being fired from his first SEAL unit. His first leadership position had been leading a squad in SEAL Team 6, but he had clashed with the team commander and was fired. He proceeded to command a platoon in SEAL Team 4 and then all of SEAL Team 3 as he climbed the ranks.
Just months before his official retirement, McRaven gave a commencement speech at The University of Texas at Austin for the graduating class of 2014 where he emphasized the importance of making your bed every morning. That section of his speech focused on how achieving one task at the start of the day allowed a person to build momentum and tackle their other tasks.
But it also tied into his belief that Saddam Hussein had doomed himself and that other rogue leaders, like bin Laden, were doomed. McRaven published Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life … And Maybe the World in 2017. In the book, he discusses going most days to question Hussein when he was a prisoner and seeing the former dictator’s unmade bed.
Not making your bed shows a lack of discipline, and McRaven is all about discipline. He got himself fired from SEAL Team 6 because he pushed for more rigorous discipline, he cites the importance of discipline in two of the case studies in The Theory of Special Operations, and he has discussed the importance of discipline in speeches, addresses, and operations across his career.
So be disciplined, make your bed, and you’ll never find the scary SEAL under it. You might even get to question the next Hussein and help kill the next bin Laden.