7 must-read books about the Global War on Terror - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

7 must-read books about the Global War on Terror

Wars are as culturally defining for a nation as its pop culture and politics. Each generation of war veterans breeds a new generation of writers who are willing to expose their scars and bleed them onto the page. The act itself violates a warrior-culture taboo: breaking the quiet professionalism ethos.

The Global War on Terrorism began when the twin towers fell on Sept. 11, 2001, and it continues to this day. It has been operating in the background of American life for the past two decades. Over 2.77 million men and women have deployed in direct support of it, creating a new generation of veterans and war correspondents who have seen fit to share their experience and knowledge through literature. What follows are seven of the most defining books of the Global War on Terror.


Maximilian Uriarte is the creator of the popular comic “Terminal Lance” and the author/illustrator of the graphic novel “The White Donkey.”

1. “The White Donkey” by Maximilian Uriarte

A beautifully illustrated and written graphic novel by the creator of the “Terminal Lance” comic strip, “The White Donkey” follows the story of Lance Corporal Abraham “Abe” Belatzeko, who joins the U.S. Marine Corps in the later stages of the Iraq War. In search of something he can’t explain, he trudges through the mundanity and physical discomfort of being a boot infantryman. Abe yearns for the opportunity to prove himself as a man and find enlightenment through spilling the blood of the enemy. But then the irreversible horrors of combat show him that war ain’t as glamorous as it’s portrayed in the movies.

When Abe returns home, the demons that were spurred from his experiences and regrets on that deployment cause him to disassociate from his fellow Marines, friends, and family. Uriate’s attention to detail in his realistic imagery is striking. He captures the essence of mid-2000s military and civilian life: The flip phones. The protests. The general population’s misunderstanding of the Iraq war. Through the story of this single Marine, “The White Donkey” takes us back to a war that has almost been forgotten.

Sebastian Junger is an American journalist, author, and filmmaker. In addition to writing “War,” he is noted for his book “The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea,” which became a bestseller and for his documentary films “Restrepo” and “Korengal,” which won awards.

2. “War” by Sebastian Junger

What’s it like at the edge of the world? “War” follows the paratroopers from the U.S. Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade as they establish a forward operating base in the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan. The valley is a route used by the Taliban to smuggle in fresh troops and supplies for their Jihad against the Americans. The area has been left alone in the past because it was too remote to conquer, too poor to intimidate, and too autonomous to buy off.

Private First Class Juan Restrepo is amongst the first casualties of the platoon on this deployment. His death leaves such a rift that they name their FOB after him. Aside from the occasional resupply helicopters and their sister platoon in the valley, the men are completely cut off from the rest of the world, deep in hostile territory. Facing the ever-present threat of being overrun by a determined and skillful enemy, they eagerly await their next firefight, as the boredom and repetition of war sets in.

Evan Wright is an American writer known for his extensive reporting on subcultures for Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair. He is best known for his book on the Iraq War, “Generation Kill.”

3. “Generation Kill” by Evan Wright

In March 2003, on the dawn of the invasion of Iraq, Evan Wright (a reporter from Rolling Stone magazine) joined the Marines of 1st Reconnaissance Battalion. Taking a passenger seat in the lead Humvee full of colorful Marines, Wright followed them on a road trip to war. What makes this book so captivating is not the war itself, but rather how Wright was able to capture the personalities of the Marines he was with.

The dialogue between Sergeant Colbert and Corporal Person are masterful examples of how humor is amplified by and transcends the chaos of war. The mean-street-influenced philosophy of Sergeant Espera offers surprising insight into human nature and how the white overloads really control the people. Trombley’s cavalier eagerness to get his first kill is strangely relatable.

Wright also captures many of the shortcomings of the chain of command, from overly strict enforcement of the grooming standards to its recklessness in abandoning a supply truck carrying the colors that their battalion had taken into combat since Vietnam. In a vivid scene, the company commander, known as “Encino Man,” attempts to call in artillery fire that is danger close to his men, only to be stopped by his subordinates because it may get them killed. The internal strife and politics alongside the basic discomfort of life in a combat zone wears thin on the morale of the unit.

Sergeant First Class Nicholas Moore served in the United States Army for 14 years and went on 13 deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. His military awards include the Purple Heart, two Bronze Stars, and the Army Commendation Medal with “V” device.

4. “Run to the Sound of the Guns: The True Story of an American Ranger at War in Afghanistan and Iraq” by Nicholas Moore

The true, firsthand account of Sergeant First Class Nicholas Moore, who has spent more than a decade preparing for and going to war with the U.S. Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment. When 9/11 occurred, Moore was a young private going through Ranger School. He was not scared of going to war — he was afraid of missing out on the action. Everyone thought that the war in Afghanistan would end quickly, similar to the more recent conflicts in Grenada, Panama, and Somalia. Little did he know that he’d be taking part in some of the war’s most famous events, such as rescuing Jessica Lynch and Operation Red Wings, the latter involving the search for a U.S. Navy SEAL element that had been pinned down.

The foul-mouthed nature of Rangers is softened considerably in Moore’s account, which is due to the fact that Moore is a family man who wanted to set a positive example for his children. However, he has no qualms with friendly criticism of his fellow special operations units. In these pages, you’ll catch a glimpse of the intense operation tempo of the 75th Ranger Regiment. Moore’s personal and professional development from lower-enlisted to senior noncommissioned officer is in direct parallel to the changes the GWOT and Ranger Regiment underwent.

Fred Kaplan is an American author and journalist. His weekly “War Stories” column for Slate magazine covers international relations and U.S. foreign policy.

(Author photo by Carol Dronsfield)

5. “The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War” by Fred Kaplan

The post-Vietnam War American military had adopted a “never again” philosophy toward fighting an indigenous guerilla force. The hard lessons it acquired in Vietnam through bloodshed were tossed aside as it returned to the Cold War-era of mass manpower military in a superpower conflict like World War II. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the destruction of Saddam Hussein’s vast tank columns during the first Gulf War left the U.S. the only super left on the planet. When the invasion of Iraq in 2003 ousted Hussein from power, a power vacuum occurred as the civil service administration run by the Ba’ath Party also collapsed.

General David Petraus, commander of the 101st Airborne Division during the invasion, found that he was fighting off an insurgency in Mosul, which was unthinkable to the top military commanders at the Pentagon. Petraus’ academic studies and military career had prepared him for such a mission. While his fellow field commanders were doing what the military does best — destroying the bad guys and asking questions later — Petraus knew that was counterproductive in terms of winning over the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. To defeat an insurgency, the U.S. military needed officers who were well-versed in politics, diplomacy, economics, and military strategy.

There was a loose network of officers in the military who sought to fundamentally change the way America conducted its war. They argued that the small wars the U.S. had been reluctant to engage in would be the wars of the 21st century, and that there was a need for a deep and comprehensive counterinsurgency plan in order to win them. The military would be its own worst enemy during this period because of the bureaucratic pushback that change and reform entails. It required a paradigm shift in the role of the military in these conflicts.

Marty Skovlund Jr. is the senior editor of Coffee or Die Magazine. He is a journalist, author, and filmmaker, as well as a U.S. Army 1/75 Ranger veteran.

6. “Violence of Action” by Marty Skovlund Jr., Lt. Col. Charles Faint, and Leo Jenkins

The 75th Ranger Regiment really came into its own during the GWOT. Marty Skovlund Jr., a former batt boy himself, gives an ambitious and in-depth overview of the regiment’s transformation from 2001 to 2011. Skovlund captures details such as the evolution of the combat gear worn to the change in operating procedures and mission scope. “Violence of Action” adds a personal touch with essays written by Ranger veterans and a Gold Star mother.

What stands out is how different every individual Ranger’s experience is in their battalion, yet each seem to have an overwhelming eagerness to complete the mission. Many small stories that would otherwise be lost in time are captured in this collection. Readers will get a sense of Ranger humor and crassness as these elite warriors seek to make the best of otherwise heart-wrenching and painful situations.

Still, a strong sense of duty and pride radiates through the pages as each man recounts their experiences in the toughest infantry unit in the world. No other book on the 75th Ranger Regiment does as much for the average reader in terms of understanding this secretive and oft-misunderstood unit.

David Burnett is a U.S. Army veteran from Colorado. “Making a Night Stalker” is his first book.

7. “Making a Night Stalker” by David Burnett

In the special operations world, all the glory goes to the ground pounders — Rangers, SEALS, Special Forces, and the special missions units. Yet the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), known as the Night Stalkers, is to aviation what Rangers are to infantry: an elite unit comprised of the best aviators in the Army.

Specialist David Burnett started his military career as a CH-47 Chinook mechanic, but found the assignment unfulfilling. While he did maintain the helicopters in his unit, he didn’t feel like he was personally doing anything to fight the war. That changed when he saw a group of crew chiefs preparing their helicopters for a mission. Impressed by their professionalism and that they didn’t miss out on the fun of riding on the birds, he applied for selection for the 160th SOAR while deployed in Afghanistan. A good omen appeared to him that day when he saw, for the first time in his life, a Night Stalker’s signature black Chinook on the airfield.

A five-week smoke fest known as Green Platoon is the selection process that each candidate must endure to test their mental fortitude and commitment. Burnette graduated, earned the maroon beret, and was assigned to Alpha Company, which is a Chinook Flight Company.

When he reported to the 160th, his new platoon sergeant handed him a stack of manuals and a list of schools, including Dunker School and SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) School, that he had to complete before he would be allowed to fly. Getting used to the high operational tempo of his unit, Brunette learned that remaining a Night Stalker during the GWOT was harder than becoming one.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

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More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan

With the Pentagon poised to announce details of a troop increase for the US mission in Afghanistan, the pending decision raises questions about the effect additional boots on the ground will have on the 16-year conflict.


Defense Secretary James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford made the rounds July 19 on Capitol Hill, reportedly briefing lawmakers on the White House’s strategy for Afghanistan and on the ongoing coalition campaign to defeat Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The Pentagon repeatedly has said its Afghanistan war plan would be on President Trump’s desk by mid-July.

For several weeks, defense officials led by Mr. Mattis have been assessing the progress of the Afghanistan war, determining what level of support — including a 3,000- to 5,000-troop increase — will be required to stabilize the country’s security forces.

DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith

Government-led analysis and reviews by private sector analysts say upwards of 60 percent of Afghanistan is heavily influenced by or under the direct sway of the Taliban. Afghan troops, advised by US and NATO forces, have suffered heavy casualties to maintain control over the 40 percent of the country ruled by the central government in Kabul.

The war in Afghanistan received little attention on the campaign trail last year, with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump focusing on the US-led coalition to defeat the terrorist group known as ISIS or ISIL. But Washington refocused on Southwest Asia amid Taliban gains this spring and the increased Islamic State presence in the eastern half of Afghanistan.

“We are not winning in Afghanistan,” Mr. Mattis told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee last month.

His comments echoed those of US Central Command chief Gen. Joseph Votel and Gen. John Nicholson, the top American commander in the country.

Currently 8,400 US troops are in Afghanistan, training and advising local security forces. Should the top-end troop increase proposal go into effect, it would raise the number of US forces in the country to more than 10,000.

DoD photo by Sgt. Edward Siguenza

On top of the increases sought by the Pentagon, NATO leaders have agreed to send surge forces into the war-torn country. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced the decision during an alliance ministerial earlier this year.

Inside the Pentagon, hopes were high that President Trump’s emphasis on military might to achieve US national security objectives coupled with a hands-off management style would give the department the resources and leeway it needed to bring the Afghan war to an end. Those hopes were bolstered when the administration announced decisions on troop numbers would be the exclusive domain of Mr. Mattis and his staff.

But recent reports claiming that National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster instituted a soft cap of 3,900 soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines that could be sent to Afghanistan has put a damper on such assumptions.

The Trump White House’s management of the Pentagon “is not the free hand that has been advertised,” said Bill Roggio, managing editor of the Long War Journal and an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

DoD photo by EJ Hersom

Furthermore, any close study of Mr. Trump’s rhetoric during the campaign would have proven things would be business as usual at the Pentagon. “The [war] policies are fundamentally the same at this point in time just with the reins loosened,” Mr. Roggio said.

The proposed 3,900-man troop cap is less an example of the war micromanagement of the Obama administration and more a way to get some breathing room as the Trump administration pulls together a long-term Afghan strategy, he added.

“It is a stopgap until we can come up with a complete strategy. It is not a permanent cap,” said Mr. Roggio.

Congressional hawks, led by Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, have taken Mr. Trump’s national security team to task over its lack of an Afghanistan war plan.

Arizona Senator John McCain. DoD photo by Chief Petty Officer James Foehl

Last month Mr. McCain told Mr. Mattis and Gen. Dunford that he hopes they can “understand the dilemma you are presenting to us” each day the Trump administration holds off on issuing a new strategy for America’s longest war.

But for all the rhetoric, the US does have an Afghanistan strategy in place — the one drafted by the Obama White House.

Mr. Roggio said he understands the frustration at the Defense Department and on Capitol Hill regarding the White House’s slow pace on the Afghanistan plan.

“But there is a strategy in place right now, and until there is a new one, you follow that,” he said, referring to the Obama plan.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US wants to ‘push back’ on China’s new stealth fighter

China is working hard to bring new stealth fighters and bombers online, and the US is preparing to push back with its F-35 stealth fighter, a US general commanding US air assets in the Pacific region told Bloomberg.

The Chinese military, according to US intelligence, is developing new medium- and long-range stealth bombers to provide penetrating strike capabilities. China’s new J-20 stealth fighter could be operational this year, and the country is also considering turning its J-31 stealth fighter into a stealthy carrier-based aircraft for the Chinese navy’s future carriers.

China’s air force is the largest in the region and the third largest in the world with 2,500 aircraft and 1,700 fighters, bombers, and attack aircraft. China is one of only three nations to develop a fifth-generation fighter, and if it successfully fields a nuclear-capable stealth bomber, it will be one of only three countries with a complete nuclear triad.


Gen. Charles Brown told Bloomberg this week that rising F-35 deployments will be needed to counter these developments. Talking about his observations of the way the Chinese operate, the commander of US Pacific Air Forces said, “They’ll continue to push the envelope to figure out does anybody say or do anything.”

“If you don’t push back it’ll keep coming,” he added, noting that the J-20 represents a “greater threat” in the Pacific.

The amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) transits the waters of the South China Sea.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker)

Brown recently told Japanese reporters he expects the US and its allies in the Pacific to have as many as 200 F-35s operating in the region by 2025.

A US Marine Corps F-35B squadron deployed to Japan at the start of 2017, and later that same year, a dozen US Air Force F-35As deployed to the Pacific for a six-month rotation.

The US military has also been experimenting with the “Lighting Carrier” concept, turning flattop Navy amphibious assault ships into light aircraft carriers outfitted with stealth fighter jets, and the US Navy is moving closer to fielding aircraft carriers armed with F-35Cs.

US allies Japan, South Korea, and Australia are all part of the F-35 program.

Chinese analysts, according to Chinese media, have argued the Chinese J-20 fighter will have “overwhelming superiority” over the F-35, giving it the ability to take on the so-called “US F-35 friends circle.”

While China’s new fighter has some advantages, range in particular, it is generally considered to be less capable than its fifth-generation counterparts in the US military.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Marines stole the spotlight from the National Guard in the LA Riots

When the Los Angeles Police Department responded to this particular domestic dispute during the 1992 LA riots, they likely didn’t need the backing of the United States Marine Corps – but they had it anyway. Upon approaching the house, one officer was hit by a shotgun blast of birdshot. He called back to the Marines to cover him. Unfortunately, what “cover” meant to the Marines and to the LAPD were two different things.


The officer just wanted the threat of M-16s pointed at the house to keep the shooter from shooting again. The Marines thought the 200 rounds they fired into the house would be enough. They were probably both right. But that’s not how the U.S. Army National Guard would have done it.

Before the Marines were called in, thousands of Guardsmen took to the streets of LA during the 1992 riots.

In the early 1990s, the streets of LA were a dangerous place. Even the LAPD officers who regularly walked their beats admitted to losing the streets to the tens of thousands of gang members who controlled much of the city’s south side. Los Angeles was soon a powder keg of racially and socially fueled frustration that exploded on April 29, 1992. Four LAPD officers were acquitted of using excessive force against Rodney King, a black motorist who was beaten by the officers after evading them on a California freeway.

Their acquittal sparked the 1992 LA Riots, a huge civil disturbance that covered 32-square-miles, from the Hollywood Hills to Long Beach. Eventually, the governor of California would call in more than 10,000 California National Guard troops and 2,000 active troops to quell the riots. That wasn’t enough. Then-Gov. Pete Wilson, a Marine Corps veteran, knew what he needed and asked President Bush to send in the Marines.

I bet they made record time driving from San Diego to LA on the I-5 Freeway. And they didn’t even have carpool lanes back then.

Within 36 hours, state and local agencies, along with thousands of California National Guardsmen had largely restored order. That’s when they were suddenly federalized and augmented with more active duty troops and the United States Marines from nearby Camp Pendleton. According to U.S. Army Maj. Gen. James Delk, this caused the morale among the soldiers of the California Guard to plummet, after all their work in restoring Los Angeles. Suddenly being told the Marines were coming in to finish the job didn’t look so good.

Local civilians, on the other hand, knew exactly who to thank. According to Gen. Delk, locals cheered at the appearance of the California National Guard in their neighborhoods. Shopkeepers and restaurants refused to take money from the Guardsmen often even delivering food and drinks to the staging areas.

So in the immediate aftermath of the rioting and violence, the media latched on to the idea that calling in the Marines was the solution to restoring law and order, despite the fact that the job was mostly done by the time the Marines arrived. The Guardsmen, for their part, continued to do their jobs despite the lack of national appreciation. By the time the Guard withdrew, the streets were much safer than they were before the riots began. The crime rate dropped by 70 percent and local citizens did not want the troops to leave. In fact, it was more than a month before the last National Guard soldier left Los Angeles.

The good news is that the federalization of the joint task force worked exactly as it was supposed to and no one wearing a uniform of the U.S. military was killed or seriously injured. Most importantly, no U.S. troops killed or wounded any innocent civilians.

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7 important rules for the troops who support special operators

While I still have a few years left, I am on the tail end of my military career. I have been fortunate enough to spend most of my time in uniform supporting Special Operations Forces. I have done a wide range of work. I’ve done everything from working out of safe houses to sitting behind a desk doing policy work to ensure the guys down range were covered. Because nothing happens without paperwork.


During my time I have learned a lot about the community and what it takes to do well in it. Over the years, I have made mistakes and I have reached milestones, and both situations taught me valuable lessons along the way. If I had to pass on knowledge to a new support personnel, these are the things I would tell my potential future replacements:

1)  Know your place, and be proud of it.

USMC photo by Sgt. Brian Kester

When you very first get to the community, don’t overestimate your worth. I have seen more than a few well-qualified support personnel get fired from SF commands because they forgot they weren’t Operators. If an SF command has taken the time to screen you, hire you, and then provide you additional training based on your MOS/Rate it’s because they needed your specific skillset, and they considered you ahead of your peers. Be proud of that, because it means the SOF community needed your skillset in order for them to accomplish the mission.

And don’t treat your conventional counterparts like sh–. You may very well need them one day. In fact, you probably will.

2)  The Q Course doesn’t produce seasoned SF Operators.

I realize that statement should be fairly obvious, but coming into the community, I didn’t quite grasp that. I assumed all Operators were seasoned Veterans and were professional at everything they did. I also assumed that all the support personnel were seasoned as well.   It took me years to fully understand that an Operator has to grow into that seasoned and professional warrior.

Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Bertha A. Flores

At some point you will inevitably hear something like, “What do you know, you’re not an Operator!” You need to remember several things when you run into this. First, check yourself, and make sure you didn’t just put your foot in your mouth. If you didn’t, and you are confident about what you are talking about, don’t back down (remember, you were hired for your specific skillset).

The next thing is you need to remember is to not take it personally. And finally, you need to consider if this is an Operator who has been around and understands the role of the support folks, or if this is a new Operator that still learning what role you play in helping accomplish their mission.

This may have been my hardest lesson at the early stages of my career.       

3)  Find someone senior and make them your mentor.

There is always that one support person. The one that has been in the command forever, and almost seems bitter about it, yet the leadership always comes to them for advice. The Operators don’t give them a hard time when they need something from them, because they’ve proven their worth time and time again.

DoD photo by Steven Stover

More than likely, they’ve been there since they were a junior NCO, and is now a senior NCO complete with the crusty attitude. Get on their good side and make them your mentor (whether they know it or not). There is a reason they has been there forever and a reason they have survived. Find out what it took, and imitate their work ethics. But maybe not the attitude, not yet anyway. Get some years in first and earn your “crustiness.”

4)  Always put the mission first.

Like any of us in uniform, we all want to advance. We want more responsibility and we want to take on leadership roles. At some point, you will face a decision where you have to make a choice between the mission and something administrative pertaining to your career, or someone else’s.

One of my favorite mentors gave me this piece of advice: “Always put the mission first and everything else will fall into place”. What he essentially meant was that if I was doing what I was supposed to do, the senior leadership would recognize it and take care of me when the time came.

5)  Bad news doesn’t get better with time.

This applies to all communities but I think this really hits home in the SOF community. If you mess up, don’t try to hide it, fix it on the sly, and hope no one notices. Own your mistake, tell the people you need to tell. It’s okay to make mistakes. Learn from it and move on with it.

US Navy Admiral William McRaven. USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Christopher Williams

As Admiral McRaven moved through the SOF commands, one of the things he used to put out to the mid-level leadership was for them to allow their people to make mistakes. He said he didn’t want his people to be too afraid to take chances for fear of being punished if they failed. If you find something innovative, don’t be afraid to try new things. Just make sure you have a good plan and that you communicate with your teammates.

6)  Your rank doesn’t make your idea better.

One of my favorite things about the SOF community is that good ideas usually don’t wear rank. Listen to your people! If your junior folks have an idea, it may be worth listening to. It may not, but take the time to listen. That one time you do it and it works, you may make a huge impact on your troops’ morale.

And finally:

7)  Always be in good shape.

USAF photo by Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald

You ever see that one fat support person that all the Operators asked for advice from? No? That’s because it never happened. Your primary concern should be your job and how well you do it, and your secondary concern should be your physical shape. No Operator wants to hear from a fat, out-of-breath body.

If you can’t take care of yourself, how can they have any faith you will take care of them as they head out the door? I’m not saying you need to be a triathlete or even keep up with the Operators at the gym, but I am saying that the Operators need to feel comfortable that you can keep up if or when they take you out of the wire.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why Revolutionary War musicians wore different colored uniforms

We’ve all seen the famous painting, Spirit of ’76. In it, a young Revolutionary War drummer boy is marching alongside two other musicians. The boy is in his Continental Army uniform, looking up to an older drummer who is not in uniform. Another uniformed musician is wounded, but marching and playing the fife.

That is what a ‘game face’ looks like.
(Painting by Archibald Willard)

Today, Civil War veteran Archibald Willard’s 1875 painting still evokes patriotism in many Americans. It was, after all, painted on the eve of the United States’ centennial. Willard was the grandson of one of the Green Mountain Boys who, led by legendary patriot Ethan Allen, invaded Canada and captured Fort Ticonderoga during the Revolution. But there are a few errors in the painting: The scene it depicts never happened, the flag in the background wasn’t approved by Congress until much later, and the musicians are not wearing the right uniforms.

None of that really matters, it’s still a painting that resonates with Americans 100 years later. However, questions remain. What did the musicians wear in the Revolution? And why was it a different uniform from their fellow colonials?

It turns out it was both a tactical decision and an economic one.


In those days, musicians in an army existed to expedite communications on the battlefield. Music was loud enough to be heard over the din of combat and varied enough so that American troops would be able to respond to orders given from battlefield commanders without confusing them for other orders. They could even tell the enemy that the rival commanders wanted a parley. Incredibly (and accurately depicted in the painting), these communications were done by old men and boys who were either too old or too young to fight.

Related: This drummer boy was 12 years old when he became a Civil War hero

(Copyright 2010 by Randy Steele)

Boys that were younger than age 16 and men older than age 50 were enlisted as musicians. At the time, the average life expectancy for an American colonist was around 36 years, so a man older than 50 was both honored for his longevity and hard to find. Finding them on a dirty, smokey battlefield was just as difficult, so the uniforms they wore needed to be slightly more visible. There was also an economic component involved with the decision.

The regular Continental soldier wore a blue coat with red cuffs. Musicians, on the other hand, wore a red coat with blue cuffs. The red made them stand out on a battlefield where visibility was limited. It also made them stand out to the enemy, so if they were discovered, it was immediately clear that the small figure ahead was a musician — unarmed and not a threat (drummers were considered noncombatants). As an added bonus, the inverted uniforms were made from leftover materials in creating soldiers’ garb.

By the time Ohioan Archibald Willard was serving in the Civil War, musicians were wearing the same uniforms as their armed, regular battle buddies. Their purpose on the battlefields and in camp were the same — and Civil War armies still, by and large, used young boys (some as young as age 9) as drummers and buglers, but many also included full bands, with as many as 68 members in some units.

Now Read: Civil War musicians served as battlefield medics

As battlefield communication methods improved, drums soon gave way to the bugle and, eventually, musicians disappeared from the battlefield altogether. Their role has since been replaced by radio and satellite communications, but for the time that musicians served in their battlefield communications role, the boys and men that filled those ranks were some of the bravest who ever marched with an army.

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US aircraft carrier visits Israel for the first time in nearly two decades

It leads the United States’ war against ISIS and with 75 aircraft on its deck has the ability to carry out numerous combat sorties a day. On July 3, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the USS George H. W. Bush docked opposite the Haifa Port and became the first sitting head of state to visit America’s largest and most lethal floating war machine.


The docking of the ship on July 1 marked the first time an aircraft carrier visited Israel in 17 years.

“The visit of the USS George H.W. Bush speaks to the enduring commitment to our shared interests and a commitment to fight against our common enemies,” Commanding Officer Capt. Will Pennington told reporters during a visit to the ship. According to a statement by the US European Command, the ship’s visit is meant “to enhance US-Israel relations as the two nations reaffirm their continued commitment to the collective security of the European and Middle East Regions.”

USS George H.W. Bush. Photo courtesy of the US Navy

According to Pennington, the crew is constantly engaged in cooperation with Israel, including sharing intelligence.

“There is a tremendous network of shared intelligence. As you are aware the airspace in the region is very, very, busy with lots of different actors so the need to deconflict that and make sure that everyone understands their missions is very important,” he said.

Visiting the ship with US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Netanyahu recalled his visit to another aircraft carrier 20 years ago.

“So much has changed since the first time I visited… our ties have gotten stronger and deeper,” he said. “It is a floating island of America. It is a symbol of freedom and strength and victory.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The USS George H.W. Bush was in the region to participate in the fight against ISIS, carrying out its last operational mission on June 30. With 20-25 sorties per day, aircraft aboard the ship have carried out 1,600 sorties over both Syria and Iraq, striking targets in Mosul and in the vicinity of Raqqa on missions that can last seven to nine hours.

The targets which are directed by the coalition ground commander, are sometimes known prior to take-off and pilots have sometimes also received targets while in the air.

According to Carrier Air Wing 8 Captain James A. McCall, one of the real-time targets was the Syrian jet that was downed on June 18 in southern Raqqa province by one of the jets stationed on the aircraft carrier.

“The jet came within visual distance” McCall said, stating that US jets “warned the Syrian aircraft that they were approaching coalition friendlies. They (the Syrian regime jet) ignored the warning and even dropped bombs on the friendlies,” he said referring to the Syrian Democratic Force who are supported by the coalition.

An F/A-18F Super Hornet takes off from an aircraft carrier. Photo courtesy of US Navy

Towards the end of its seven-month deployment, the USS George H.W. Bush arrived in Haifa after a 40 day voyage from Dubai.

While the ship will not be taking part in any joint exercises with the Israeli Navy, Israel provided security as it pulled into the Haifa Bay allowing the ship’s strike group to continue to other missions and port calls.

“We are very tightly linked with our colleagues and partners and allies from the IDF and have been for very many years,” Pennington said.

Speaking at a ceremony aboard the carrier, Admiral Michelle J. Howard, commander of the US Naval Forces Europe-Africa, stated that the visit marks “a special moment” between Israel and the United States which “has had long standing military to military engagements with Israel.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on board the USS George H. W. Bush. Photo from DoD

“In this visit to Israel, the ship’s might is a metaphor for the strength of the bonds between our countries. I’d like to thank the Israeli people for hosting us and for taking care of our Sailors,” she added.

Intelligence Minister Israel Katz, who visited the ship on Sunday stated that it was “a timely show of American power projection and deterrence capability.”

“Its support for the countries fighting Islamic extremism and terror and Iran is very important, especially now when Iran is working to create facts on the ground in Syria, including a port on the Mediterranean, and Hezbollah continues to build its arsenal with more advanced and precise missiles.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

DARPA can now tell if you’ve ever been exposed to WMDs

Picture an intelligence officer in the field. She is trying to piece together a suspected threat and has access to someone who may have a role in carrying it out. There may be traces of biological or chemical agents on his clothing or hair. She can look for them, but they’re transient, and often present in such low concentrations that she’ll need to send samples to a laboratory. Or she can check his epigenetic markers, read a history of any time he’s been exposed to threat agents, and start piecing together a chain of evidence right there in the field, in real time.


DARPA’s new Epigenetic CHaracterization and Observation (ECHO) program aims to build a field-deployable platform technology that quickly reads someone’s epigenome and identifies signatures that indicate whether that person has ever — in his or her lifetime — been exposed to materials that could be associated with weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Also read: 6 reasons the Air Force wants to get its hands on Russian DNA

The epigenome is biology’s record keeper. Though DNA does not change over a single lifetime, a person’s environment may leave marks on the DNA that modify how that individual’s genes are expressed. This is one way that people can adapt and survive in changing conditions, and the epigenome is the combination of all of these modifications. Though modifications can register within seconds to minutes, they imprint the epigenome for decades, leaving a time-stamped biography of an individual’s exposures that is difficult to deliberately alter.

Whereas current forensic and diagnostic screening technologies only detect the immediate presence of contaminants, the envisioned ECHO technology would read someone’s epigenome from a biological sample, such as a finger prick or nasal swab, to reveal possible exposure to WMD or WMD precursors, even when other physical evidence has been erased.

“The human body registers exposures and logs them in the epigenome,” explained Eric Van Gieson, the ECHO program manager. “We are just beginning to understand this rich biographical record that we carry around with us. We hope that with the capabilities developed within ECHO, someone in the field will immediately know if a suspected adversary has handled or been exposed to threat agents. The same technology could also serve as a diagnostic tool for our own troops, to diagnose infectious disease or reveal exposure to threat agents, so that medical countermeasures can be applied in time to make a difference.”

Related: DARPA wants to use ocean life to monitor strategic areas

Researchers on the four-year ECHO program will have two primary challenges: to identify and discriminate epigenetic signatures created by exposure to threat agents; and to create technology that performs highly specific forensic and diagnostic analyses to reveal the exact type and time of exposure. To develop this capability, researchers will have to assemble a foundational training dataset of pre- and post-exposure epigenetic readouts in biological samples. They will also have to create a device capable of performing multiple molecular analyses and onboard bioinformatics in 30 minutes or less, compared to an average of two days using current lab-centered processes. By the end of the effort, DARPA’s goal is to deliver ECHO capability in a man-portable device that can be used by an operator with minimal training.

“ECHO technology could open up new sources of forensic evidence and make battlefield collection of evidence safer, more efficient, and more accurate,” said Van Gieson. “Additionally, by making it possible to deploy an analytical capability to vastly more locations, we would enhance our ability to conduct global, near-real-time surveillance of emerging threats.”

ECHO is focused specifically on diminishing the threat posed by WMD and improving diagnostics for troops who may have been exposed to threat agents. The ability to partially reconstruct an individual’s history through analysis of the epigenome, however, could have application well beyond national security and thus raise privacy concerns. Accordingly, DARPA intends to proactively engage with several independent ethical and legal experts to help inform the Agency’s research plans, think through potential issues, and foster broader dialogue in the scientific community on social implications.

DARPA will host a Proposers Day on Feb. 23, 2018, in Arlington, Virginia, to explain the ECHO program to potential proposers and answer questions. Details and registration are available at: https://www.fbo.gov/spg/ODA/DARPA/CMO/DARPA-SN-18-23/listing.html.

Intel

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan

The battle against explosives and stemming civilian casualties in Afghanistan remains a top priority for U.S. forces there.


“For more than 40 years, Afghanistan has been bombed, shelled and mined,” according to the Alun Hill video below. “Old Soviet mines and shells still litter the countryside.”

Insurgents use these dangerous relics, innocuous household items and other explosive materials smuggled in from Pakistan to make improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which they use against American forces. Explosives that are undetonated can remain dormant for years before being uncovered by unsuspecting civilians. Most of the casualties now in Afghanistan come from these items, said Conventional Weapons Destruction (CWD) Manager Hukum Khan Rasooly.

Watch how these dangerous weapons are made and destroyed:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bo7XsFwOaCY

Articles

This is the Russian infantry weapon that has the US military so worried

Soviet military weapons have an odd tendency to stay both dangerous and relevant decades after they’re issued. They might lack the creature comforts and modularity of modern firearm designs, but whether a bullet finds its mark from a World War I Mosin Nagant rifle, or a next generation Russian bullpup SVD sniper rifle, the result is the same.


The largest example of this, is the infamous AKM/AK-47. Every tin-pot dictatorship or ex-Soviet satellite nation has churned out terrifying numbers of these reliable automatic rifles. While the AKM is a deadly adversary at close and medium range, it is handily outclassed (both in accuracy, and effective range) by modern Western-made military rifles like the M4A3 and M16A4.

That said, there is one Soviet firearm that continues to confound and frustrate American military forces in the Middle East: the PKM.

The internal workings of the PKM aren’t dissimilar to those of the AK, and because of this, the PKM is remarkably reliable and resilient to negligent treatment. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

The PKM or Modernizirovanniy Pulemyot Kalashnikova (PK Machinegun Modernized) is a belt-fed, open-bolt, long-stroke light machine gun chambered in the hard-hitting 7.62x54R cartridge — the same round used by Russian infantry in World War I, Vietcong snipers in Indochina, and modern Russian Federation snipers wielding the infamous Dragunov.

The internal workings of the PKM aren’t dissimilar to those of the AK, and because of this, the PKM is remarkably reliable and resilient to negligent treatment.  This robust construction combined with its powerful cartridge, make for an extraordinarily dangerous weapon against Western militaries — especially since the PKM has an effective range of 1,000-1,500 meters, putting it on par or surpassing most DMR rifles, and light machine guns in service.

Personally, after firing less than 100 rounds through a stateside PKM at an ordnance-testing facility in Nevada, I was able to successfully engage human-sized steel targets with iron sights at 600 yards with frightening regularity. This was with 60-year-old ammunition out of a PKM built in the 1970s with more than a half-million rounds fired through it.

The threat posed by this LMG to American and NATO forces is not lost on military thinkers or modern weapon-makers. In fact, the PKM is the impetus behind the latest evolution of the medium machine gun – the lightweight, medium machine gun, or LWMMG.

Marines with Company A, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry-West (SOI-West), fire the M2A1 .50 caliber heavy machine gun as part of their basic infantry training Sept. 20, 2016, at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. (Offical Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Joseph A. Prado/released)

Historically, machine guns are grouped into three categories: light, medium and heavy (and occasionally general purpose). The last two, medium and heavy, are crew-served weapons, normally fired from either a tripod or vehicle mount. These are generally not considered man-portable, but are designed to provide constant fire on an area.

The light machine gun, or LMG generally fires a smaller caliber round than the medium or heavy machine gun, and is designed to be used and transported by a single soldier. These weapons are fired from a bipod, but are light enough to be quickly repositioned in the field.

The 5.56mm caliber M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) is a prime example of a light machine gun, while the .50 BMG M2 is a perfect example of a heavy machine gun. The M2 is tremendously more effective at all ranges than the M249, but its tremendous weight and size make it a poor choice for urban environments.  The M240B almost splits the difference, but its 7.62 cartridge is still out-ranged by the Soviet PKM.

The General Dynamics Lightweight Medium Machine Gun chambered in .338 Norma Magnum has the reach and lethality of a .50 cal M2. (Photo from General Dynamics video screen grab)

Thus the idea behind the LWMMG, is to combine the lightweight, portable nature of the the LMG with the extended range, and increased ballistic effectiveness of the MMG.

The engineers at General Dynamics are attempting this by incorporating a new “Short Recoil Impulse Averaging” method of operation coupled with a new modified .338 cartridge. At first glance, this seems like the scribblings of someone with no practical experience behind any of these weapon systems. On paper, a man-portable machine gun with the effective range of a .50 BMG, that weighed at little as the M240B with no more recoil than the 240, seems impossible.

If the footage of the new LWMMG released by General Dynamics is any indication, the new machine gun is more than just a concept. What remains to be seen, is whether or not the Pentagon puts enough importance on infantry combat and their equipment, to justify spending millions on upgrading it.

If nothing else, the likelihood of the General Dynamics LWMMG finding its way into the hands of US Special Forces is all but guaranteed. And while the increased effective range of the new cartridge is very impressive, the .338 round lacks the ballistic effectiveness of the .50 BMG. After all, it isn’t intended to double as an anti-material round, nor does it have the anti-vehicle lineage of the .50 BMG cartridge.

That said, the .338 is designed with an ideal ballistic coefficient in mind — meaning the projectile itself sails through the air with minimal resistance. In effect, this means the rounds travel closer to where the soldier aims them.

In the traditional role of an MMG or HMG, this is sometimes seen as detrimental, as the weapon is supposed to be used to provide a field of fire to an area. If the rounds are too precise, the area might be under less wide-spread fire, and potentially leave some enemy combatants unsuppressed.

However, in this case, precision is key. Since the impetus behind the design is to counter insurgent PKM/PKP light machine guns. Conceptually, this should allow our soldiers to out-range insurgent elements, as well as provide more accurate counter-fire.

As for results, we’ll have to wait and see if the idea gains more traction – and if it does, wait a few months or years for an official reports of its combat effectiveness to surface.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Bowe Bergdahl just apologized to those hurt searching for him

In testimony at a sentencing hearing, US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl has apologized to the troops who got hurt searching for him after he deserted his post in Afghanistan in 2009.


“I made a horrible mistake,” Bergdahl, 31, said on Oct. 30 in his most extensive comments to date in the North Carolina military court proceedings where he pleaded guilty earlier this month to desertion charges. “Saying I’m sorry is not enough.”

Bergdahl suffered a blow earlier in the day when the presiding military judge said President Donald Trump had not damaged his chances of getting a fair sentence [when he repeatedly called Bergdahl] a “traitor” who should be executed while campaigning last year.

US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Judge Jeffery Nance, an Army colonel, said Trump’s “condemning and damning” statements will not influence him in determining Bergdahl’s sentence.

Related: This is why Bowe Bergdahl says he pleaded guilty

“I am completely unaffected by any comments President Trump has made,” he said, noting that he plans to retire next year and is not seeking any promotion that potentially could be blocked by the White House.

The judge said he would consider the president’s comments as a mitigating factor, however, raising the possibility of a lighter punishment for Bergdahl.

A clip from a video released during Bergdahl’s captivity.

Bergdahl faces a maximum sentence of life in prison after pleading guilty on Oct. 16 to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.

The Idaho native was captured by the Taliban after walking off his combat outpost in Paktika Province in June 2009 and spent the next five years in captivity before he was released in a controversial prisoner exchange with the militant group.

Articles

This Army veteran running for Senate assembles an AR-15 blindfolded in a new ad

Army veteran Jason Kander is running for the US Senate to unseat Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), and he just dropped an incredibly effective ad pushing back on criticism of his gun rights positions.


He assembles an AR-15 blindfolded while simultaneously talking about his time serving as an intelligence officer in Afghanistan. “I approve this message, because I would like to see Sen. Blunt do this,” he says, holding up the finished rifle, in what is the political equivalent of a mic drop.

Last week, the National Rifle Association released an ad that criticized “liberal Jason Kander” for a 2009 vote against the defensive use of guns. The spot criticized the Democrat as being weak on Second Amendment rights.

Missourians for Kander | YouTube

In response, Kander is seen blindfolded in a new ad released Wednesday, pushing back on that view.

“Sen. Blunt has been attacking me on guns. In Afghanistan, I volunteered to be an extra gun in a convoy of unarmored SUVs,” Kander says. “And in the state legislature, I supported Second Amendment rights. I also believe in background checks so that terrorists can’t get their hands on one of these.”

Brandon Friedman, a former Army officer and CEO of public relations firm McPherson Square Group, told Business Insider the spot was “a masterpiece.”

Still, Kander has an uphill battle in the race. His opponent Roy Blunt scored the endorsement of the influential NRA in April, and he currently leads the challenger by three points, according to the RealClearPolitics average of Missouri’s US senate race.

Watch the ad below:

MIGHTY TRENDING

Coalition says US has begun withdrawal from Syria

A U.S. military spokesman says the U.S.-led military coalition in Syria has begun the process of withdrawing troops from the country.

The spokesman, Colonel Sean Ryan, said in a Jan. 11, 2019 statement that “the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria” had begun, however he did not reveal specific details.


“Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troops movements,” Ryan said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the U.S.-led coalition had started scaling down its presence at the Rmeilan airfield in Syria’s northeastern province of Hasakeh.

Marines fire an 81mm mortar during training in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in Hajin, Syria, Aug. 4, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook)

It said the U.S. troops began to withdraw from the military base on Jan. 10, 2019, describing the development as “the first such pullout of American forces” since President Donald Trump announced on Dec. 19, 2018, that he intended to withdraw all of an estimated 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria.

Trump’s announcement, which came after a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, stunned U.S. allies and has been criticized within his own administration.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.