Here's what the Pentagon thinks about those bases China keeps building around the globe - We Are The Mighty
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Here’s what the Pentagon thinks about those bases China keeps building around the globe

China’s construction of a military outpost in Djibouti is just the first of what will likely be an ongoing expansion in friendly foreign ports around the world to support distant deployments, a new Pentagon report concludes, predicting that Pakistan may be another potential location.

The annual assessment of China’s military might also notes that while China has not seized much new land to create more man-made islands, it has substantially built up the reefs with extended runways and other military facilities. It has also increased patrols and law enforcement to protect them.


The Djibouti base construction is near Camp Lemonnier, the U.S. base in the Horn of Africa nation. But American military leaders have said they don’t see it as a threat that will interfere with U.S. operations there.

“China most likely will seek to establish additional military bases in countries with which it has a longstanding friendly relationship and similar strategic interests, such as Pakistan, and in which there is a precedent for hosting foreign militaries,” the Pentagon report said. “This initiative, along with regular naval vessel visits to foreign ports, both reflects and amplifies China’s growing influence, extending the reach of its armed forces.”

Here’s what the Pentagon thinks about those bases China keeps building around the globe
A Chinese destroyer pulls into Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in 2006. (Photo by: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ben A. Gonzales)

The military expansion ties into a broader Chinese initiative to build a “new Silk Road” of ports, railways and roads to expand trade across an arc of countries through Asia, Africa and Europe. Countries including Pakistan and Afghanistan welcome it as a path out of poverty.

But India and others would be unhappy with additional Chinese development in Pakistan, particularly anything linked to the military.

China has cited anti-piracy patrolling as one of the reasons for developing what it calls a naval logistics center in Djibouti. Construction began in February 2016. Beijing has said the facility will help the army and navy participate in United Nations peacekeeping operations and provide humanitarian assistance.

But the expanded presence around the world would align with China’s growing economic interests and would help it project military power further from its borders.

The report cautioned, however, that China’s efforts to build more bases “may be constrained by the willingness of countries to support” the presence of China’s People’s Liberation Army in one of their ports.

Here’s what the Pentagon thinks about those bases China keeps building around the globe

Unlike previous reports, the new assessment doesn’t document a lot of new island creation by China in the East and China Seas. Last year’s report said China had reclaimed 3,200 acres of land in the southeastern South China Sea.

Instead, the new report focuses on the military build-up on the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

It said that as of late last year, China was building 24 fighter-sized hangars, fixed-weapons positions, barracks, administration buildings, and communication facilities on each of the three largest outposts — Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief Reefs. Each has runways that are at least 8,800 feet long.

Once complete, the report said China will be able to house up to three regiments of fighters in the Spratly Islands.

China has also built up infrastructure on the four smaller outposts, including land-based guns and communications facilities.

The report added that, “China has used coercive tactics, such as the use of law enforcement vessels and its maritime militia, to enforce maritime claims and advance its interests in ways that are calculated to fall below the threshold of provoking conflict.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy named its newest destroyer after a heroic Marine

Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer named the next Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer in honor of Marine Corps Vietnam veteran and Navy Cross recipient, Lance Cpl. Patrick Gallagher.


Also read: That time an admiral used his own Navy Cross to decorate a hero

In 1966, Gallagher, who immigrated from Ballyhaunis, Ireland in 1962, joined the Marine Corps where he served in H-Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division during Operation Hastings in the Republic of Vietnam.

“Lance Corporal Gallagher is an American hero. His exemplary service in defense of our nation and his strength and sacrifice leaves an example for all servicemen and women to emulate,” said Spencer. “His legacy will live on in the future USS Gallagher and his heroic actions will continue to inspire future Sailors and Marines.”

Gallagher was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions on July 18, 1966, when he selflessly threw his body on an incoming grenade, shielding his fellow Marines. He quickly pitched the grenade to a nearby river where it safely exploded out of harm’s way, without injury to himself or others. Gallagher was killed in action one year later in DaLoc near De Nang on March 30, 1967. He is one of only 30 known Irish citizens to have died in the Vietnam conflict.

Here’s what the Pentagon thinks about those bases China keeps building around the globe
Graphic illustration of the future Arleigh-Burke class guided missile destroyer USS Gallagher (LCS 127). (U.S. Navy illustration by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Raymond Diaz)

Arleigh-Burke class destroyers conduct a variety of operations from peacetime presence and crisis response to sea control and power projection. The future USS Gallagher (DDG 127) will be capable of fighting air, surface, and subsurface battles simultaneously, and will contain a combination of offensive and defensive weapon systems designed to support maritime warfare, including integrated air and missile defense and vertical launch capabilities.

Related: Why the American military created the Silver Star, Navy Cross, and other medals for valor

The ship will be constructed at Bath Iron Works, a division of General Dynamics in Maine. The ship will be 509 feet long, have a beam length of 59 feet, and be capable of operating at speeds in excess of 30 knots.

MIGHTY TRENDING

DoD releases new biodefense strategy for man-made, natural threats

The new National Biodefense Strategy is a living document designed to counter man-made and natural biological threats, National Security Advisor John Bolton said during a September 2018 White House briefing.

“This is critical, we think, for our defense purposes looking at the range of weapons of mass destruction the United States our friends and allies face,” he said.

While nuclear weapons are an existential threat to the United States, chemical and biological weapons also pose dangers to Americans. Bolton noted that biological weapons often are called “poor man’s nukes” and said the biodefense strategy aims at countering that threat.


Steering Committee

“What we’ve done is establish a Cabinet-level biodefense steering committee to be chaired by the Department of Health and Human Services,” he said. “This is the approach best suited for carrying out the strategy operationally.” HHS Secretary Alex Azar will chair the committee.

Participating agencies include the departments of Defense, Agriculture and Homeland Security, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency and others.

Bolton stressed that this is just one part of the nation’s biodefense strategy and does not encompass what the U.S. offensive response would be to a biological attack. He also said the strategy will evolve as needed. As new techniques or new medical treatments or new threats emerge, he added, the strategy will change.

Here’s what the Pentagon thinks about those bases China keeps building around the globe

A nurse takes a patient’s pulse in the influenza ward at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., near the end of the Spanish Flu epidemic, Nov. 1, 1918. Fresh air was believed to help prevent the spread of the disease, which killed 50 million to 100 million people worldwide. Pandemic flus such as this are rare, occurring just three times in the 20th century, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

(Library of Congress photo)

Azar, who also spoke at the briefing, noted that the strategy has to cover a range of threats, from nation-states to individuals. He noted that the anthrax attack of 2001 was launched by an individual, while the Spanish Flu outbreak in 1918 that infected a quarter of all Americans and killed almost 700,000 was natural.

The threats are real and growing, Azar said. The world is growing more urbanized and interconnected, which speeds the spread of infectious threats. He noted the early summer 2018 Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “Such is the ease of travel between countries now that just in the DRC, more than 100,000 people are being screened at border crossings every day,” he said. “We also face accidental and man-made threats. Today’s rapid technological advances have great potential to improve public health and human health, but they also create the opportunity for new kinds of threats and for more and more actors to make use of biological weapons.”

The strategy looks to promote research into combating pandemics and coordinating response to attacks or outbreaks. It looks to work with allies, the United Nations’ World Health Organization, the Red Cross and others.

Featured image: National Security Advisor John Bolton.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

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America’s most patriotic pin-ups are back for 2017

Once again this year a host of beautiful women dressed in 1940s “pin-up” outfits adorn a retro-style calendar to help raise money for America’s wounded warriors. The effort was born of the inspiration these images delivered to the “Greatest Generation” fighting in the battlefields and in the air during World War II in hopes they’d do the same for the post-9/11 military.


Founder Gina Elise began Pin-Ups for Vets 11 years ago at the height of the Iraq War. She saw the horrifying wounds U.S. troops sustained while fighting the Global War On Terrorism and she felt compelled to do something for hospitalized veterans.

Here’s what the Pentagon thinks about those bases China keeps building around the globe
Gina Elise on the cover of Pin-Ups for Vets’ 2017 Calendar (photo by Mike Davello)

And she has.

Elise and her pin-ups raised more than $50,000 for medical and rehabilitation equipment at VA hospitals all over the country since she started her nonprofit.

This year, she’s back with a new calendar full of veterans in their full pin-up glory. Her retinue includes veterans from every branch of the military as well as male vets in similar classic styles.

Here’s what the Pentagon thinks about those bases China keeps building around the globe
Army veteran Carmen with WATM’s own Marine Corps veteran Weston Scott (photo by Mike Davello)

“We shot with a DC-3, at a fire museum, at a train museum. We like to have really unique backgrounds,” Elise says. “The calendar is going to be hanging for a month. It’s going to be hanging in hospital rooms and in barracks with our deployed troops, so I want it to be very colorful and happy; something that can bring some joy when someone looks at it.”

The calendar brings more than just a visual pick-me-up as the money raised from sales also helps fund visits by the pin-up models to hospitalized veterans. And the pin-ups who do the hospital visits are often veterans themselves.

Here’s what the Pentagon thinks about those bases China keeps building around the globe
Army veteran Kaleah Jones (photo by Mike Davello)

“We have 24 veterans featured in our 2017 edition,” says Elise. “Their total combined service is 162 years.”

Elise and other Pin-Ups for Vets have visited about 10,000 veterans at VA and military hospitals so far, with more on the schedule.

Here’s what the Pentagon thinks about those bases China keeps building around the globe
Deployed troops sporting Pin-Ups for Vets t-shirts.

A Marine Corps veteran who deployed twice to Iraq, pin-up Vana Bell appreciates Elise’s vision and is enthusiastic about the organization’s cause.

“I’m comfortable in sweats, I rarely wear makeup, I wear glasses, and my hair is usually in a ponytail,” Bell says. “To see those professional shots leaves me kind of awestruck. Who’s that girl they managed to uncover?”

Here’s what the Pentagon thinks about those bases China keeps building around the globe
The veterans of Pin-Ups for Vets. Vana Bell is pictured Top Row, Left (photo by Mike Davello)

The annual calendar even features some veteran celebrities as well. Mark Valley and Maximilian Uriarte of “Terminal Lance” fame appeared in previous editions. And this year YouTube star, beauty expert, and Army veteran Dulce Candy is Miss August 2017.

Here’s what the Pentagon thinks about those bases China keeps building around the globe
Dulce Candy in the 2017 Calendar (photo by Mike Davello)

“She’s really this incredible Army veteran that’s doing some pretty big time things, so we’re very lucky to have her,” Elise says. “She was a generator mechanic when she was in the Army. She deployed, came back, and became a superstar beauty blogger.”

Veterans interested in being part of Pin-Ups for Vets should start with the organization’s website. Any veterans interested in being part of the 2018 calendar should follow Pin-Ups for Vets on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and keep an eye out for the casting call.

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How the election of 1876 was settled with a compromise

After the end of the Civil War, the U.S. was in a state of divide. Tensions lingered between the North and South, yet all remained under jurisdiction of a single force: the federal government. As Ulysses S. Grant chose not to run for a third term, officials began scrambling for presidential candidates to fill his shoes. The result became Rutherford B. Hayes (Republican) vs. Samuel J. Tilden (Democrat) in a “corrupt bargain” and controversial election.

Essentially, a true winner of the presidency could not be decided and it was left to a truce in order to determine the next Commander in Chief.

Here’s why:

Three states in the South had an inaccurate vote count. (And possibly some Northern states, due to ongoing debates.) They sent in two totals, with either candidate winning the electoral votes. As either party couldn’t win without the votes being allocated, a special electoral commission was created by President Grant to settle the dispute. Eventually, the votes went to Rutherford B. Hayes, securing his spot as president. Of course, this upset his competition and earned him the nickname RutherFraud. The deal awarded Hayes the win by a single vote — 185 over 184, while Democratic candidate, Tilden, won the popular vote. 

Here’s what the Pentagon thinks about those bases China keeps building around the globe
Rutherford B. Hayes (October 4, 1822—January 17, 1893), 19th President of the United States and 29th and 32nd Governor of Ohio. Public Domain.

Compromise of 1877

Known as a controversial, underground deal, the Compromise of 1877 was never listed on paper. Instead, it was an informal arrangement made between Congressmen. The deal listed that Hayes would earn the presidential votes, or rather, the Democrats would not dispute this fact, so long as he would end Reconstruction. (Among other things.) That meant removing federal troops from the remaining states they inhabited: Louisiana, Florida and South Carolina, despite their presence being important in the survival of Republican programs, and the safety of African Americans. 

Essentially, it was an agreement for federal troops to stop interfering in Southern politics. This soon became a race issue, with violence taking place against blacks, and eventually, a series of laws to prevent them from voting through disenfranchisement. Through the deal, Southern states were to protect African Americans against violence, which largely went overlooked. 

Here’s what the Pentagon thinks about those bases China keeps building around the globe
Correspondence with Samuel J. Tilden. Public Domain

Additional terms of the deal

In exchange for the following, Democrats would peacefully hand the presidency over to Rutherford B. Hayes. 

At least one Southern Democrat would be named to Hayes’ Cabinet; he made good on this deal when he appointed David M. Key, from Tennessee, as Postmaster General. 

A transcontinental railroad was to be built with the Texas and Pacific Railroad Company, and was to be located within the South. However, the company went bankrupt the following year, as a bad hurricane season flooded their efforts in Louisiana. 

In order to restore the economy, legislation would be put into place to industrialize the South. However, no real legislation was put into place. 

Southern citizens had “the right to deal with black people without northern interference.” Despite reassurances that African Americans would be treated with respect, this widely led to violence and laws that revoked or blocked rights like voting and land ownership. 

Not all politicians (or followers) got the memo and several Democrats were upset about the deal. However, sitting President Grant thwarted any signs of uprising. 

To this day, the Compromise of 1877 is known as one of the most controversial elections in the U.S. The deal also effectively eliminated a Congressional filibuster and allowing the federal government to move forward with regular proceedings. 

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Air Force says F-35A ready and waiting to be unleashed on ISIS

A U.S. Air Force Operational F-35A may soon attack ISIS over Iraq and Syria, fly to the Baltics as a deterrent against Russian aggression or deploy to the Pacific theater as part of a key force posture build-up, service leaders said.


“We have a global force management process. The F-35 move into the Middle East is scheduled further down the road. If a combatant commander needed it sooner they would ask for it,” Gen. Herbert J. “Hawk” Carlisle, Commander of Air Combat Command, told reporters last year.

Related: Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

While actual combat deployment could be imminent orseveral years away, declaring the new stealth multi-role fighter operational means Combatant Commanders around the globe do now have the ability to request the F-35A when mission demands require its abilities, he explained.

Here’s what the Pentagon thinks about those bases China keeps building around the globe
The F-35 doesn’t sleep. It waits. | U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer

This means that the operational aircraft is now ready for combat and could soon be called upon to meet mission requirements in the ongoing air campaign against ISIS. Although the US-led coalition already enjoys air superiority over Iraq and Syria, the F-35 could be useful firing laser-guided air-to-ground weapons or drop GPS-guided bombs on identified ISIS targets.

This would involve the additional combat deployment of Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMs. Precision and laser-guided air-to-ground weapons such as the Paveway II, a dumb munition converted into a precision-guided missile which made up more than one-half of the air-ground precision weapons fired during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The weapon has already been sucessfully test fired from an F-35.

Here’s what the Pentagon thinks about those bases China keeps building around the globe

Alongside the Middle East and Europe, Carlisle also addressed the prospect of moving F-35s to the Pacific Theater, explaining that groups of F-35s could go to the region as part of what the Air Force calls “Theater Security Packages.”

“These small deployments of about four ships are dispatched rapidly to global hotspots when needed. It’s kind of like providing the Combat Air Forces on tap. It’s possible that the F-35A’s first combat deployment will be in one of these TSPs,” Benjamin Newell, spokesman for Air Combat Command, told Scout Warrior.

Also read: This is how the F-35 is being tested against Russian and Chinese air defenses

Carlisle explained the potential deployment of F-35s to Europe and other strategic locations in terms of a prior move to deploy the F-22 to Europe as a deterrent against Russian aggression.

“When you send F-22s to the European theater last fall, it was great messaging that goes along with that.

Sending an F-35 would reassure friends and allies. It is a deterrent to potential adversaries. I don’t think it is provocative at all,” Carlisle said.

He went on to describe the stealth F-22 Raptor as the best air-to-air platform in the world and the F-35 as the best air-to-ground fighter in the world.

Here’s what the Pentagon thinks about those bases China keeps building around the globe
F-35s and F-22s. Dream team? | US Air Force photo

In addition to functioning as a deterrent in key global locations, the F-35 could readily be called upon to perform the widest possible range of missions, Carlisle added.

“When you have airplanes you have pre-planned strike missions, interdiction offensive counter air, defensive counter air and air superiority. Many of these are missions I could use it for. It would depend upon the threat environment,” he said.

For instance, should the F-35 attack ISIS, it would be in a position to use both high-altitude precision-guided air-dropped bombs and also use its 25mm gun and other weapons to perform close-air support missions.

The Air Force is now preparing to increase its number of operational F-35s in order to better refine tactics, techniques and procedures, or TTPs.

“The F-35A is fully combat capable now, and can perform missions as requested by combatant commanders. Our next hurdles are to ramp up the forces to provide an adequate number of aircraft to create a working fleet, on which we build TTPs, test new weapons and most importantly, train adequate numbers of Airmen who are the experts in their assigned platform,” Newell explained.

In order to make this happen, the service would need 2 full fighter wings consisting of 144 aircraft and 6 squadrons.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What could 5,000 troops do in the Venezuela crisis?

Venezuela has descended into a political crisis after years of economic turmoil and a note from National security Adviser John Bolton has floated the idea of sending 5,000 U.S. troops there to help end the political standoff by backing one of the claimants to the presidency, Juan Guaidó. So, what’s exactly going on? And what could 5,000 troops actually accomplish?


Here’s what the Pentagon thinks about those bases China keeps building around the globe

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, seen here while not allegedly killing his political opponents.

(Agência Brasil, CC BY 3.0)

Recent history

Let’s start with the recent history of the country. If you vaguely remember a lot of protests on your TV as well as a lot of social media commentary around whether or not socialism was bad, chances are you’re remembering Venezuela.

Basically, Venezuela was a U.S.-aligned democracy for much of the Cold War, but a movement towards socialism was championed by populist Hugo Chavez (you’ve likely heard of him) who was elected president in 1998 and took office in February 1999. Chavez’s populist priorities immediately ran into trouble as low oil prices and other economic problems made his socialist overhaul of the country unaffordable.

Chavez cemented his hold by training up a paramilitary loyal to him, issuing decrees, and spreading propaganda, all of which eventually triggered protests and uprisings against him. Chavez survived a coup attempt in 2002. Allegations that the U.S. assisted in the coup persist to this day, even though Chavez, senior coup leaders, and the U.S. have all either denied it or said it was unlikely.

After the coup, rising oil prices allowed Chavez to finally follow through on many of his campaign promises and buy loyalty.

So, the Chavez era was rocky, to say the least, but it became worse when he died in 2013 and Nicolás Maduro took over.

Here’s what the Pentagon thinks about those bases China keeps building around the globe

Nicolás Maduro. The usage rights for this photograph require that it not be used in a way that would disparage the coat of arms or flag, so we can’t comment on how humorous it would or would not be for a chubby man, famous for eating on public TV while his country starved, dressed up in the Venezuelan colors and posed in front of a lean Simón Bolívar.

(Government of Venezuela)

Maduro lacks the charisma and the political history that Chavez enjoyed, and he ran right into the same fallen oil price problems that had plagued Chavez. His attempts to hold onto power amid growing unrest and economic scarcity failed, and uprisings, extreme scarcity, and starvation have plagued the country in recent years.

And all of that has led up to the 2018 elections which resulted in Maduro carrying all 23 states and about 68 percent of the vote; but there were tons of irregularities in the election, and less than a third of the population trusted the government to hold a free and fair election.

After the elections, continuing protests led to National Assembly Speaker Juan Guaidó declaring himself acting president. America reportedly voiced support for the move secretly ahead of time, but the U.S. definitely voiced public support after the fact, with Vice President Mike Pence recording a video addressing the Venezuelan people.

Here’s what the Pentagon thinks about those bases China keeps building around the globe

March for peace in 2015. Peace has struggled a bit in the years since.

(Carlos Díaz, CC BY 2.0)

So, yeah, people have different ideas of who the proper president of Venezuela is, but the U.S. is officially backing Guaidó as interim president, and National Security Adviser Bolton showed off a legal pad with a note about sending 5,000 troops to the country, ostensibly to back up Guaidó.

We won’t get into the politics of the discussion, but what could 5,000 troops do successfully in the country when the actual military has 515,000 personnel, counting the national guard and militia? After all, America sent 26,000 troops to Panama to oust Noriega, and Panama had around 15,000 troops at the time. Fewer than 4,000 were actual soldiers.

A RAND report from 1996 pointed out that the U.S. enjoyed massive advantages in Panama, from public support to ample training to little real resistance, and that soldiers and leaders in future contingency operations should not expect such an easy path. So, what will 5,000 troops be able to accomplish in Venezuela?

Here’s what the Pentagon thinks about those bases China keeps building around the globe

U.S. Marines are less welcome on some doorsteps than missionaries. Our guess is that Maduro would rather see the missionaries.

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Danielle A. Baker)

The quick answer is: not much. 5,000 troops would be more a show of support than an actual military deterrent. At most, the troops could secure a few buildings or key locations. But, given the political fracturing in the country, that actually might be enough to tip the scales in Guaidó’s favor, hopefully without triggering a major conflict.

First, Maduro’s control of the military appears to be quite fragmented. There are still supporters of democracy and capitalism in the country as well as a larger base of support for true socialism instead of the crony socialism under Maduro, who has eaten pies on TV while his people starved. The Venezuelan military seems to have a quiet minority that would support a change in leadership even though most high-level military leaders are in place due to appointments made by Maduro.

So, 5,000 U.S. troops combined with the hollow support in the ranks for Maduro might give Maduro supporters pause before they use force to put down Guaidó’s bid.

Here’s what the Pentagon thinks about those bases China keeps building around the globe

You really don’t want these guys to show up in the plains near your capital city.

(U.S. Army Lt. Col. John Hall)

Next, there is currently an unofficial supreme court in exile known as the Supreme Tribunal of Justice for Venezuela in exile. It has 33 jurists who hold court every 15 days via Skype. It has sentenced Maduro to 18 years in prison, referred Venezuelan leaders to the Hague, and even supported Guaidó before he announced. And the Lima Group, a consortium of 12 Latin American countries plus Canada, supports the court.

If the U.S. followed up its recognition of Guaidó by recognizing the tribunal, it could bolster support for Guaidó and give legitimacy for the court. And 5,000 troops are more than enough to protect the court if it returned to Venezuela.

(A quick note about the court, though: The court may be one reason why the military hasn’t moved against Maduro already. Some of those leaders referred to the Hague are military leaders, and plenty of leaders and soldiers could face charges if Guaidó takes the presidency and doesn’t grant amnesty.)

Finally, the presence of 5,000 U.S. troops, regardless of their deployment and stated mission, always ups the ante. Attacking the 5,000 risks American retaliation from warships and submarines that could be lurking off coast or quickly deployed nearby. Fun fact: the U.S. Navy could hit wide swaths of Panama from the Atlantic or the Pacific, provided the ships firing from Pacific side have the permission of Panama and/or Colombia.

And the U.S. Air Force could quickly muster planes for strikes out of Puerto Rico if necessary. The U.S. has an Air National Guard base only 560 miles from Caracas, meaning F-22s could hit the capital as long as they could top off on gas from a tanker flying over the Caribbean Sea.

But, the best thing could be 5,000 troops as a sort of threatening token never deployed. Bolton can exert pressure on Maduro and his government just by showing up at a press conference with two lines of ink on a legal pad. If that gives National Assembly supporters enough ammo to push Maduro from power without more violence, great.

But it does raise the specter that the threat of a U.S. troop deployment will make an actual deployment more necessary.

MIGHTY TRENDING

It’s now easier for Marines with out-of-regs tattoos to get back in the Corps

A new tweak to Marine Corps policy will reduce paperwork for re-enlisting Marines in the Individual Ready Reserve who have tattoos that fall outside regulations.

The change was shared late March 2018 with career planners and recruiters who work with prior-service Marines, said Yvonne Carlock, a spokeswoman for Marine Corps Manpower and Reserve Affairs. It came via a total force retention system, or TFRS, message, used to share policy updates pertaining to recruiting and retention.


While rules governing when exceptions can be made to tattoo standards aren’t changing, the way cases involving tattoos that fall outside guidelines are processed is.

Previously, a Marine in the Individual Ready Reserve looking to go back on active duty would have to complete a tattoo screening request, endorsed by Marine Corps Headquarters, for any undocumented tattoos that don’t comply with policy.

Now, he or she can simply submit a Page 11 administrative counseling form related to the tattoos. Any tattoos that have not been documented during prior service, have not been grandfathered in according to regulations, and fall outside current guidelines require a Page 11 form. This would be created, Carlock said, when a Marine in the Individual Ready Reserve visited a recruiter to begin the process for return to active duty.

“They said, ‘Let’s reduce that back-and-forth. Just send me the Page 11,'” Carlock said. “That was what this message was. Let’s streamline it.”

Here’s what the Pentagon thinks about those bases China keeps building around the globe
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Phyllis Keith)

The change is not, however, the more-lenient tattoo policy that some hoped for.

After receiving the TFRS message, one recruiter made a public post on Facebook announcing newly relaxed policy standards.

“There is no telling how long this is good for but at this moment we can bring “out of regs” Marines to the reserves … this may be the chance to update your training records (promotion) get on some Tricare, make some money, and earn some points towards retirement!!” the recruiter wrote.

That post has since been removed; Carlock said it was erroneous.

“There was no change to tattoo policy. There was a change to the process,” she said.

Here’s what the Pentagon thinks about those bases China keeps building around the globe
U.S. Marine Corps tattoo regulations as of June 2, 2016.
(USMC)

In a December 2017, interview, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told Military.com he had no plans to relax the current policy. Marines are still not allowed to get full sleeve tattoos, and there are size limits on tattoos that wrap an arm or leg. Tattoos on the neck, face and hands are also all out.

The most recent tattoo policy change was made in 2016, under Neller. It eased up on some regulations, allowing Marines to get “wedding ring” finger tattoos, and clarified other guidelines. It also gave Marines 120 days to get noncompliant tattoos documented in their personnel file.

Since then, Carlock said, no active-duty Marines have been forced out of service as a result of their tattoos.

“If the recruiters came to me and said, ‘We can’t make mission with this [tattoo] policy,’ I would have to go back and look,” Neller said.

But, he added, that hasn’t happened so far.

“This is not an episode of [History Channel show] Vikings, where we’re tattooing our face,” Neller said in the December 2017, interview. “We’re not a biker gang, we’re not a rock-and-roll band. We’re not [Maroon 5 lead singer] Adam Levine.”

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The nice old man in the popular military meme is actually operator AF

If you follow us on Facebook or popular military pages like Terminal Lance, Duffel Blog, and others, chances are you’ve come across the meme of Sgt. Maj. Mike Vining.


You know, the soldier in his Army dress uniform with the smug, nice looking grandfather face wearing a huge fruit salad on his chest and massive spectacles.

Here’s what the Pentagon thinks about those bases China keeps building around the globe
Sergeant Maj. Mike Vining as a popular military meme

Yes, that one. After noticing the comments under one of our articles shared on Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Said mentioning his badassery, we looked Vining up.

Turns out, he’s operator as f-ck! While some may say, “duh, just look at his ribbons,” it’s easy to be dismissive with that Mr. Rodgers look — it just doesn’t fit.

Related: A rare glimpse of life as a Delta Force operator

Vining’s full list of military accolades, including his DD-214, career timeline, and pictures of him serving, are included in his Together We Served profile.

Most noticeably, Vining was a 1st SFOD-D — Delta Force — operator during his three decade Army career. Under the “Reflections on SGM Vining’s US Army Service” section he comments about his decision to join Delta Force:

In 1978, I decided I wanted something more challenging, so I volunteered to join a new unit that was forming up at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. They wanted people with an EOD background. The unit was 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta (Airborne). I spent the next 21 years in Delta and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), except for a year in a EOD unit in Alaska. In 1988, I transferred from EOD to Infantry. I figured I stood a better chance making Sergeant Major in Infantry, which worked out for me.

Like most who served, he also had unforgettable buddies. When asked to recount a particular incident from his service that may or may not have been funny at the time — but still makes him laugh — he said:

It would be SFC Donald L. “Don” Briere. At times he reminded me of the cartoon character Wiley Coyote. We were in New Zealand in 1980 on a joint-country special operations exercise. We were on a recon mission to scout out a target site. It was just Don and I on the recon team. We had a tall steep muddy embankment that we needed to negotiate. I looked at it and thought, no way. Don thought we could do it. As he moved across it, you could see his hands and feet sliding down. He clawed up and slid down some more. Finally he slid all the way down the slope into the water. I was rolling with laughter and said, “You want me to follow you?” I found another way around the obstacle.

Vining continues to be involved with the military and veteran community, he’s a member of several organizations, including the VFW, National EOD Association, and others, according to his profile.

After exploring his incredible career, Vining is someone we’d definitely love to have a drink with.

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New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans

Recent investigations show that the Department of Defense has issued thousands of other-than-honorable discharges to veterans with mental health and behavioral health diagnoses.


U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal and seven other senators introduced legislation to change that.

On April 3, Murphy, veterans, and advocates for veterans held a press conference in Connecticut and called upon Congress to take action.

“I can’t stand the idea of a veteran risking her or his life for this country, suffering the wounds of battle, and then being kicked to the curb as a result of those wounds,” Murphy said. “But that is exactly what has happened to tens of thousands of men and women who have fought and bled for our country.”

“This is common sense,” Murphy added. “We are breaking our promise to those who served.”

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In 2014, 6 of the 20 veterans per day committing suicide were users of VA services.

Murphy said there is also a stigma that comes with an other-than-honorable discharge that is a heavy burden for veterans to live with. “A lot of these so-called offenses are very minor,” Murphy said.

The legislation Murphy helped introduce would require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide mental health and behavioral health services to diagnosed former combat veterans who have been other-than-honorably discharged. The bill would also ensure that veterans receive a decision in a timely manner and requires the VA to justify to Congress any denial of benefits that they issue to a veteran.

Up until recently, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Murphy said, denied it had the legal authority to provide any care to former combat veterans who received OTH or Bad Paper discharges.

The VA has reversed course on the matter, Murphy said, adding that now it’s time for Congress to act to ensure mental health and behavioral health services are provided to these veterans.

Since January 2009, the Army has “separated” at least 22,000 soldiers for misconduct after they came back from Iraq and Afghanistan, said Murphy.

“These soldiers who fought for our country suffered serious mental health problems or traumatic brain injury as a cost of their service. And we turned our back on them,” Murphy said, adding that they also return home from combat with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

But instead of being directed to the care and treatment they need, they’re being given other-than-honorable discharges or so-called “bad paper discharges,” disqualifying them from VA care, especially the mental and behavioral health services many of them desperately need, said the senator.

Murphy’s strong support for the bill was echoed by Blumenthal, who is a sponsor but was not at Monday’s press conference.

“This bill will make crystal clear that all combat veterans should have access to the full array of mental and behavioral health care they need and deserve,” Blumenthal said. “We cannot wait for a crisis to provide essential mental health to veterans suffering from the terrible invisible wounds of war.”

He said 20 veterans per day are lost to suicide.

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Chiefs and chief selects do pushups for the 22Kill Challenge aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). 22Kill is a veterans’ advocacy group that brings awareness to the daily veterans’ suicide rate. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Tristan Lotz/Released)

One of those in attendance at the press conference Monday was Conley Monk, a Vietnam veteran from New Haven who developed PTSD as a result of his military service.

In 2014, Monk and four other plaintiffs brought a class action lawsuit because they were issued OTH discharges. They won the suit, which was brought on their behalf by the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School and the Pentagon agreed to upgrade their discharges to honorable.

Another veteran to speak Monday was was Tom Burke, president of the Yale Student Veterans Council and a U.S. Marine corps veteran.

In 2009, Burke was a Marine infantryman in Afghanistan.

It was when he was in the Helmand Province that he witnessed deaths of many young children who were killed by an unexploded rocket-propelled grenade. One of Burke’s responsibilities was to cart away the dismembered bodies.

“I began smoking hash,” Burke said, adding that in a matter of weeks he was charged for misconduct for his drug use and was told he would be kicked out of the Marines.

Burke said he “tried to commit suicide a few times.”

He said he was later locked in a psychiatric hospital and subsequently given an OTH discharge later in 2009.

In 2014, Burke said he applied for an honorable discharge, but was denied.

Burke tells his story often, these days, not to elicit empathy for his own case, but to try and draw attention to the bigger issue of the thousands like him who are being denied benefits.

“Veterans are dying,” Burke said. “These aren’t men and women who are trying to take advantage of the system.”

Margaret Middleton, executive director of the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center, said veterans need relief.

Under the current system, a veteran trying to get an honorable discharge often “requires the expertise and cost of an attorney and lengthy research,” something that veterans returning from combat shouldn’t be forced to endure, she said.

Murphy concluded: “Our veterans made a commitment to our country when they signed up. I introduced this legislation to make sure that the VA keeps its commitment to help veterans with mental and behavioral health issues. I won’t stop fighting until they get the care and benefits they deserve.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Omaha veteran honored by France for WWII service

A World War II veteran who served with the U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division in multiple campaigns, including Normandy where he landed on Omaha Beach with the second wave of troops on D-Day, was awarded the French Legion of Honor.

Edward H. “Ed” Morrissette, age 96, was presented the award by France’s Consul General from Chicago, Guillaume Lacroix, during a special ceremony Oct. 30, 2019, at the Omaha Army Reserve Center, surrounded by dozens of family, fellow veterans and distinguished guests.


“It means a lot to be here in Omaha, Nebraska, with you 75 years after you landed on Omaha Beach,” Lacroix said. “Our gratitude, sir, is forever because you changed the destiny of France and the destiny of Europe forever.”

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Hon. Guillaume Lacroix, Consul General of France in Chicago, shakes the hand of WWII veteran Edward Morrissette after presenting him the French Legion of Honor medal Oct. 30, 2019, at the Omaha Army Reserve Center.

(Photo by Maj. Scott Ingalsbe)

The medal pinned on his jacket, Morrissette walked slowly to the lectern, thanked everyone, and said he accepted the award for others who served and many who never returned home.

“I don’t know that I particularly deserved it, but I know that the men and women of the First Division that landed in Europe deserve it, especially those that are not back with us now,” Morrissette said. “I had some friends that didn’t make it off of that shore, and I miss them terribly. But I want to say one thing: I’m glad that we helped France… got them out from under the heels of Nazi boots.”

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WWII veteran Edward Morrissette shares thoughts with the audience after receiving the French Legion of Honor in a special ceremony Oct. 30, 2019, at the Omaha Army Reserve Center.

(Photo by Maj. Scott Ingalsbe)

On June 6, 1944, Morrissette was a squad leader in charge of machine gun crews with the 16th Infantry Regiment headquarters. It was his third beach landing, having already landed and fought in North Africa and Sicily.

Speaking with reporters after the award ceremony, he shared a story of what happened as he and his men jumped out of the landing craft just short of French soil.

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A photo of Edward Morrissette is displayed at a ceremony in which he was presented the French Legion of Honor Oct. 30, 2019, at the Omaha Army Reserve Center.

(US Army photo)

“It was difficult for our boat to get into shore, and when it did we jumped out into water up to our chest,” Morrissette said. He and another soldier were carrying a roll of telephone wire above their heads, in addition to their rifles, and as they realized the roll of wire was drawing the aim of enemy gunners they decided to jettison the extra load.

“If they need to communicate, I guess they’ll just have to holler,” Morrissette said, holding his arms above his head and reenacting the struggle to get ashore.

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WWII veteran Edward Morrissette tells a story of jumping out of landing craft into chest deep water off Omaha Beach while carrying a rifle and a roll of telephone wire above his head, speaking to reporters Oct. 30, 2019, at the Omaha Army Reserve Center.

(Photo by Maj. Scott Ingalsbe)

On the beach he found cover behind a concrete block, and eventually crawled the rest of the way to higher ground.

By the time Germany surrendered in May 1945, Morrissette and the Big Red One fought their way through Northern France, the Ardennes, and were headed to Prague.

“This country should be proud of our soldiers,” he said. “They are remarkable people, and they can do remarkable things.”

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Nebraska Army National Guard Soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division’s Main Command Post – Operational Detachment gather for a photo with Big Red One WWII veteran Edward Morrissette after he received the French Legion of Honor in a special ceremony Oct. 30, 2019, at the Omaha Army Reserve Center.

(US Army photo)

Morrissette was nominated for France’s Legion of Honor by his family. Although the number of medals awarded each year is limited, most American veterans of World War I and II can be inducted. Past American recipients include Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, Gen. Douglas MacArthur and Adm. Michael Mullen.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

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A Navy carrier just broke the record for dropping bombs on ISIS

The USS Harry S. Truman is celebrating the work of its crew after setting the record for ordnance dropped on ISIS. The Truman launched over 1,118 ordinance pieces against terrorist targets over the past five months, surpassing the 1,085 dropped by the USS Theodore Roosevelt‘s pilots in 2015.


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The USS Harry S. Truman launches a jet during training operations. Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class K.H. Anderson/USN

The Truman’s Carrier Air Wing 7  flew 1,407 combat sorties and dropped over 580 tons of ordnance on the Islamic State.

“Since our arrival in the Arabian Gulf, the Truman Strike Group has been conducting operations around the clock,” Capt. Ryan B. Scholl, Truman’s commanding officer, told a Navy journalist. “This deployment is busier than any other I’ve seen. Every Sailor is doing great work individually and executing as a combat team to reach this milestone. It is due to this dedication as a combined force that Truman is making a significant difference fighting for our country.”

The bombing missions by the Navy and Air Force, in addition to raids by the Army’s Delta Force and artillery strikes by the U.S. Marine Corps, have weakened ISIS and helped allied ground forces push them back. The strikes have been moving so quickly that the Pentagon has warned of shortages of bombs.

Meanwhile, the Navy has also hit ISIS targets with cruise missiles when necessary.

All these blows have left ISIS weak, but it has failed to dislodge them entirely. While the predictions continue that ISIS will soon collapse, the fact that the organization is largely self-funded by taxing economic activity and collecting money from black market trade has made it hard to starve the group out. Recent airstrikes targeting ISIS cash and financial leaders — as well as the capturing and killing of ISIS accountants — have hurt the group’s ability to pay its fighters.

And strikes alone can not wipe out the terrorist organization. A January piece from the Council on Foreign Relations pointed out that ISIS had about 30,000 fighters when airstrikes began and had lost 20,000 fighters to strikes by Jan. 2016. Still, their total number of fighters hovered somewhere around 30,000 due to the presence of new recruits.

The recent financial troubles of the so-called caliphate have finally triggered a downtick in fighter numbers, but it’s likely that Navy air wings will be busy dropping bombs on the terrorists for a long time to come.

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.


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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