Cpl. of Horse Craig Harrison set the world record for a sniper kill twice in November of 2009 while serving in Afghanistan. Near the end of a three-hour firefight between British forces and Taliban insurgents he spotted the machine gun team that was pouring lead onto his buddies. But his distance estimate put the two fighters 900 meters outside of the effective range of his rifle.
But he didn’t give up. He figured he would have to fire 6 feet high, and 20 inches to the left of his target to account for the drop of the bullet, the estimated wind, and the spin of the earth. Even with his weapon balanced on the firm compound wall, it was a seemingly impossible task.
Harrison took the shot. He waited six seconds for the round to hit the target. It missed. He saw the enemy react, trying to figure out where the shot came from. He fired again. This time the bullet found its mark. The gunner slumped over his weapon, dead. Harrison lined up on the other insurgent and squeezed the trigger.
Again, he watched for six seconds only to see the third shot miss and again he steadied himself and took aim. The fourth shot downed the second enemy fighter.
An Apache later used its lasers to measure the distance between the two spots and calculated it at 2,475 meters, just over 1.5 miles. The two longest sniper kills in recorded history belonged to Harrison.
Harrison later revealed his unique training regimen: “Each night I got my DVD player, put it at the end of the corridor and watched a film while lying in a firing position behind my rifle,” he told The Daily Mail. “Once I had mastered the stillness, I started balancing a ten pence piece on the end of the barrel, just to really hold myself to account.”
U.S. Army Pfc. Michael J. Perkins silenced seven enemy machine guns and captured 25 German troops when he rushed a pillbox with just a small bomb and a trench knife in 1918.
Company D of the 101st Infantry was assaulting German lines in Belieu Bois, France when they came under fire from a pillbox. Fire from seven automatic weapons rained down on them. The American infantrymen maneuvered on the Germans to try and silence the guns.
Unfortunately, the enemy had expected the American move and began tossing grenades out the door to the fortification, preventing anyone getting too close.
Perkins waited by the door until the Germans attempted to throw out another grenade. As soon as the door cracked, he threw his bomb inside. The explosion opened the door permanently, and Perkins rushed inside with his knife.
The enemy inside were likely dazed by the bomb, but Perkins was still heavily outnumbered. He used the trench knife to kill and wound the first few Germans before accepting the surrender of the 25 survivors.
Right now I’m faced with a harsh truth that, day-by-day, hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute is becoming ever more clear: Family time is bullshit. Honestly, this is a line of thinking among experts — usually one put in less crude, more nuanced terms — that I’ve been following for a while. But, as it has done with so many things, COVID-19 has made spending time with family come to a head for me, and I can only assume it’s the same for millions of other parents locked at home struggling together.
The problems for any two-parent household are there in plain sight. Simply put, some of the more important lessons that a child learns from parents suffer when both parents are present. These include:
The truth is, when your partner is there, it’s harder to discipline effectively, show love in a way that is meaningful, bond in a way that is believable, and play in a way that doesn’t lead to battles. The quarantine has shone a great bright spotlight on the fact that good child-rearing rests on one-on-one time. There are plenty of experts who are on board with the notion.
“You are often modifying your approach to discipline and behavior to integrate with your partner,” says Dr. Kyle D. Pruett, author of Partnership Parenting and a professor of child psychiatry at Yale University. “You might also defer to your partner on topics that your child might be more responsive to you, not them.”
I’ve been experiencing this first-hand throughout the pandemic. Take the other day when, like most days, my family — my wife and I, a 2-year-old, and 8-year-old — was hard at work on a puzzle. My wife and I coordinated the piecing together (“let’s look for the duck butt”), and tried to make sure everyone had a task and was happy. At first, they were. The 2-year-old was naming animals, the 8-year-old was crushing the borders. We were pulling off some seemingly successful family time.
But then, the 8-year-old started helping the 2-year-old and it was heart-warming, except that she was doing all the work for him and he was starting to get restless. My wife and I tried to gently pull her away. He needs to learn on his own. You need to lead by example. “I’m helping him!” she cried, and then she actually cried. We unsuccessfully tried to console her while also explaining what it meant to play with a 2-year-old. For her sake, we gave her the illusion of freedom and then yanked it back. For our sake, we prevented a toddler meltdown that was coming. To be fair, the situation was untenable from the start.
The problem here is the fact that there are two parents. As Pruett would point out, we’re “on a different trajectory” than our kids. “It’s a diad instead of a triangle — you need to play tennis with one instead of two.” Parenting is tough. Being a great partner is tough. Being a great partner and parent at the same time requires deft maneuvering that borders on impossible and quite frankly seems unnecessary. There’s an easy solution to all this: Hang out with your kid, on your own. They’ll love the attention, you’ll take the teeth out of the power dynamics between parent and child, and you’ll get through to them more easily.
When I am there in the very same situation just a few days later, sans mom, this plays out. My daughter puts together the piece for the toddler. “Let him do it on his own,” I say to her. “Dad, I did! But then he was, like, ‘I can’t do it,’ so I showed him how to do it.'”
No tears. No yelling. Just a rational, and rather articulate explanation of the situation. My 8-year-old was not threatened by a power dynamic — one parent’s world, in this household, is negotiable — and thus offered insight. I took it. Puzzle time was a blast.
There is a commonly-cited sociological principle of coalitions that helps shed light on what’s going on here. The textbook, Learning Group Leadership, a group dynamics book written for counselors, explains the idea of a coalition in a family as a set of groups that, to me, sound more like an explanation of tribal warfare than a happy family dynamic:
“In a family, this phenomenon might be readily observed as a father-mother subsystem; another between two of the three siblings; and another composed of the mother, her mother, and the third child. In a group, you might see this when there is a popular and powerful group—a couple members who have become close compared with those who are shy and not too confident. You can therefore appreciate that these coalitions are organized around mutual needs, loyalties, and control of power. When these subsystems are dysfunctional and destructive, such as when a parent is aligned with a child against his spouse or a child is in coalition with a grandparent against her parents, the counselor’s job is to initiate realignments in the structure and power, creating a new set of subsystems that are more functional.“
Perhaps a family dynamic really is a little like tribal warfare, or warring nations, or, better yet, a game of Risk in which every family member wants to get the most out of the family time. There are front channel diplomatic connections between father and son, daughter and mother, sister and brother. These are what we see on the board, the dynamics that play out in open air.
Then there are the backchannel dealings: Mom and dad are trying to take power away from the younger players; the youngest trying to wrest mom away from the family (with some tears and a need to be consoled, perhaps); the older kid trying to get the younger one in trouble to expose the unfairness of all the attention. The joy of Risk lies in the behind-the-scenes strategies and public lies. These are the kinds of things that can tear a family dynamics apart — that make family time so stressful.
Importantly, such power structures also take away deep connections formed during one-on-one time. When my daughter reveals her affinity to Lyra in The Golden Compass to me; when my son, rolls laughing on the floor at the block tower we just knocked down; when my wife and I sit reading on the couch, her legs on me or our shoulders touching, exchanging ideas between the silences, these deep moments, when they come, come naturally, and alone. They rarely happen during family time.
Individual bonds in families are essential, but they also don’t necessarily come naturally. “You have to organize yourself to have time alone with the child,” says Pruett. “It should be part of what you believe in fostering. You each related to your child differently, but the unique moments are something parents need to plan for.” It takes work to get this dynamic going. But the result is quiet one-on-one moments that cut through the chaos of a family in quarantine. Right now that sound pretty damn good.
How to Better Bond With Your Kid, One-On-One
Getting solo time with your child is half the battle (in time of quarantine, maybe more like two-thirds of the battle). Here’s how to find the time — and make the most of it.
Schedule Everything Put it on a calendar or have a set time every week — or day — where you get face time with one kid. This is the hardest part — whether due to quarantine or just busy schedules. But it’s the essential work that is necessary to make the habit stick.
Make It Enjoyable “Give the child a moment where they are not sat on by the have tos but have a get to,” says Pruett. This doesn’t mean that you need to plan something exotic all the time. You just need to take the child’s interests into consideration. This could mean a walk, sitting on the porch with lemonade, or taking out the recycling together (if this isn’t an embattled chore). Keep it as simple as you can.
Tailor the Time to the Kid “If you give a first grader the afternoon to do whatever they want, less structure isn’t going to be that much fun,” says Dr. Robert Zeitlin, author of Laugh More, Yell Less. “You’re going to have to explain why you can’t do things that are expensive. As much structure as is necessary for choice and being able to do the time. For older kids, as little structure as necessary so they can figure time management and the realities of what’s financially possible to do?”
This Isn’t Time For Lessons One-on-one time is for support and listening — not being critical of anything in the kid’s life (including not paying ball in this alone time). This time belongs to you and the kid. Own it. This is the work you put in for later years — read, a healthy relationship with your teen.
Follow the 5-to-1 Listening Rule For every five minutes of talking, you should devote as many minutes to listen. It’s that simple — and also that tough. “For kids that don’t talk much, you just be patient and don’t bug them,” says Pruett.
Go Deep Once you’ve established the bond, know that one-on-one time is the time to give them a sense of who you are. What worries you? What do you believe? What are your failures? What are your successes? Why were you angry at the checkout? Why do you love country music? “These are all great questions and the answers are very important for how children will function,” says Pruett. “These are how you solve the problems of life and they need to see what you’re up to. If not, to whom do they turn?”
When troops deploy overseas to places like Iraq and Afghanistan, they usually get a pay increase thanks to combat and hazardous pay bonuses. And given that they are working longer days and away from most of the comforts of home, they usually save a bunch of money in that time.
Usually returning with a large balance in their bank account, they are what some would call “post-deployment rich.”
But that wealth usually doesn’t last forever. Some troops save their money for the future, while others making big purchases soon after they are home. These are the six things they are usually buying.
1. A new car or motorcycle
The barracks parking lot is guaranteed to be filled with new cars and bikes shortly after a unit returns from deployment. The vehicular staple of the returning Marine, soldier, sailor, or airman usually spans the gamut of Ford Mustang to Jeep Wrangler.
That’s it. The barracks parking lot is just filled with Mustangs and Wranglers. That and a ton of crotch rockets.
2. Post-deployment booze
I’m not going to lie. When I came back after a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan, I drank a lot. Think—drinking at a minimum a six-pack of beer every night for months—a lot. Was it healthy? No. A good idea? No. Helpful during morning PT? Oh, good lord no.
But hey, I hadn’t drank in a long time and I had to make up for lost time. At least that made sense in my then-21-year-old brain. My story is not unique, however. While the military tries to crack down on binge-drinking, for many troops, it’s still a big part of the lifestyle.
3. Epic parties in Vegas (or some other awesome place)
When you are post-deployment rich, it’s no problem picking up the tab at the bar. “Oh yeah! I got this,” the young private says. “Drinks are on me!” Come back to this same young private about two months later and he probably won’t be saying this one again.
That’s definitely true of throwing big parties. While they initially start out in the barracks and involve kegs, beer pong, and midget-tossing (no? that’s not allowed Sergeant Major?), the parties eventually head off base to a better location. Sometimes this means the strip club, but let it be known: Las Vegas is always the best option.
Just don’t buy the next item while you are drinking.
4. Engagement rings
Spending seven to 12 months (or more) overseas can get some service members thinking about elevating their relationships to the next level of marriage. For some, that means saving up their deployment cash to buy an expensive engagement ring for their honey. Hopefully it all works out, because if it doesn’t, the post-deployment splurge may be spent on…
5. Divorce lawyers are, unfortunately, another common deployment side effect
Most service members have heard a horror story or two about a fellow soldier returning home with no greeting at the airport, a completely empty refrigerator (even sans ice cubes), and an empty bank account. The sad homecoming for some troops means one thing: Divorce.
There’s a good reason why tattoo parlors are strategically located near military bases. Troops love ink (including this writer). Whether it’s a simple U.S. Army or USMC on your arm to show pride in your service, or a listing of fallen friends, tattoos are a big part of the military culture.
Just make sure you get it spell-checked.
What did you buy right after deployment? Let us know in the comments.
The head of America’s Africa Command, Marine General Thomas Waldhauser, has expressed concern over China’s growing military presence in Djibouti.
He said that China’s claim that it was building logistical facilities in Djibouti was not correct because Beijing was actually creating a full-fledged military base that would sit alongside U.S. and French bases in the strategic Indian Ocean country.
It would be the first time that NATO allies — France and the U.S. — would have to contend with a military base under the command of a competing nation in the same location.
“We’ve never had a base of, let’s just say a peer competitor, as close as this one happens to be,” Waldhauser said. “So there’s a lot of learning going on, a lot of growing going on.”
“Yes, there are some very significant operational security concerns, and I think that our base there is significant to us because it’s not only AFRICOM that utilizes [it],” he told Breaking Defense.
In January 2016, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei told journalists in Beijing that the facilities were to back up China’s escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and would not lead to a military base.
He explained: “Vessels have been sent by China to the Gulf of Aden and the waters off the Somali coast for escort missions in recent years. In fulfilling escort missions, we encountered real difficulties in replenishing soldiers and resupplying fuel and food, and found it really necessary to have nearby and efficient logistical support. China and Djibouti consulted with each other and reached consensus on building logistical facilities in Djibouti, which will enable the Chinese troops to better fulfill escort missions and make new contributions to regional peace and stability.”
“The nature of relevant facilities is clear, which is to provide logistical support to Chinese fleets performing escort duties in the Gulf of Aden and the waters off the Somali coast,” the Spokesman said,
But Gen. Waldhauser told journalists in Washington at the end of March, “You would have to characterize it as a military base. It’s s first for them. They’ve never had an overseas base.”
Speaking to the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee early in March, Gen. Waldhauser said, “Just as the U.S. pursues strategic interests in Africa, international competitors, including China and Russia, are doing the same. Whether with trade, natural resource exploitation, or weapons sales, we continue to see international competitors engage with African partners in a manner contrary to the international norms of transparency and good governance.”
“These competitors weaken our African partners’ ability to govern and will ultimately hinder Africa’s long-term stability and economic growth, and they will also undermine and diminish U.S. influence — a message we must continue to share with our partners,” Gen. Waldhauser added.
President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti has been steering a new course as he strengthens relations with China at the apparent expense of long-time allies, France and the U.S..
The U.S. now has Special Forces members in Djibouti under its Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) to counter the increased activities of al-Shabaab in East Africa.
The French and American military dominance in Djibouti was whittled down in February 2014 when China’s Defense Minister, General Chang Wanquan, signed a security and defense strategic partnership agreement with Djibouti’s Minister of Defense, Hassan Darar Houffaneh.
Under the agreement the country offered military facilities such as the use of Djibouti’s port by the Chinese navy.
Mr. Houffaneh said that in exchange Djibouti had asked for military co-operation to be expanded in order that the operational capacities of the country’s armed forces could be built “in order to safeguard security in the country and help consolidate peace and security in the sub-region”.
But an analyst in Nairobi, speaking to the Ghana News Agency in 2014, wondered how this arrangement would work, given that the U.S. and France more or less had entrenched security roles in Djibouti.
“The American and the French governments have interests in Djibouti that are completely different from China’s,” he said. “This could lead to contestations between France and the U.S., on the one hand, and China, on the other, which could compromise the security of East Africa. Djibouti is a crucial member of the East African Standby Force, which will dovetail with the African Union’s African Standby Force, and as such President Guelleh should ensure that his country remains steadfast to the ASF’s mission of maintaining peace and security in the region.”
Under President Barack Obama, the U.S. had skirted round the issue of a Chinese military base in Djibouti, but now under Donald Trump and his hard-line stance on Beijing’s global influence, the issue of the Djibouti base has taken center stage.
It’s a signal that the effort to kill the A-10 is dead, instead of the A-10 itself – which is what usually happens to anything trying to kill the A-10 Warthog. After trying to bury the plane for nearly a decade, the Air Force has not only finished refitting some of its old A-10 Thunderbolt II airframes, the branch has decided to expand the effort to more planes. The re-wing projects will cover 27 more of the Warthogs through 2030.
So the Marines can expect excellent close-air support for the foreseeable future.
“Hey Taliban, what rhymes with hurt? BRRRRRT.”
The news comes after the Air Force finished re-winging 173 A-10s in August 2019 when the Air Force awarded a 0 million contract to Boeing to expand the re-winging effort to include more planes. Even as the battle over the future of the airframe raged on in the Air Force, at the Pentagon, and in Congress, the A-10s were undergoing their re-winging process, one that first began in 2011. Ever since, the Air Force has tried to save money by using the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter for close-air-support missions or even giving that role to older, less powerful planes like the Embraer Super Tucano.
Despite its heavy use in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the fact that the airframe is beloved by warfighters on the ground, the Air Force effort to retire the plane stems from the perception that close-air-support missions can be done better and with less risk to the plane and pilot by higher-flying, more advanced aircraft like the F-35.
Talk BRRRRRT-y to me.
The A-10 was first developed in the 1970s, at the height of the Cold War, to bust tanks and provide the kind of cover artillery might otherwise give, but with a faster, more mobile, and efficient delivery. A slow flyer, the A-10 is a kind of flying tank. But it’s more than an aircraft built around a gun (the GAU-8 Avenger fires so powerfully, it actually slows the A-10 down) the Thunderbolt II features armor, redundant systems, and a unique engine placement that makes it a difficult threat against most conventional anti-air defenses.
The Air Force’s main reason for getting rid of it was that the Thunderbolt II isn’t suitable for modern battlespaces and that most of its missions could be done by the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The new re-winging effort is a signal that fight is likely to be over and that the Air Force’s close-air support mission is a much bigger deal than previously expected.
While some may question why the A-10 is getting an extended life when the F-35 can supposedly fill that role, the guys on the ground will tell you it’s all about the BRRRRRT – they live and die by it, sometimes literally.
The era of the 1980s through the mid-1990s was a great time to be a member of the U.S Army’s 7th Special Forces Group, 7th SFG(A). The unit had barely escaped the ax during the post-Vietnam drawdown. It had also survived the malaise of the Carter years, when Special Operations, and specifically Special Forces, was a four-letter word. (Being an SF officer in those days was the kiss of death for an officer’s career.)
Yet, during that time, a danger was looming: Latin America was close to being lost to communism.
Latin America was a hot spot. Marxists had taken over in Nicaragua. They were looking, like the Cubans, to export their vision of communism to the rest of the hemisphere. El Salvador and Guatemala were embroiled in bloody civil wars, Honduras was going through a “latent and incipient” insurgency, which no one but the Group believed existed. Active civil wars were ongoing with insurgents in Colombia (FARC), Peru (Shining Path/Sendero Luminoso), and to a lesser extent in Bolivia. Compounding the problem, all three countries had issues with narco-terrorists that further destabilized the governments. Other countries, such as Argentina and Paraguay, seemed to have military coups far too frequently.
But all of that began to change in 1981 when Ronald Reagan was elected President. Reagan was not going to stand for that. Hence, there were plenty of places for the Green Berets of 7th SFG to practice their training, or as my first team sergeant said, “Do Green Beret shit.”
El Salvador was the first area where the President drew a line in the sand. The Salvadorian government was weak and ineffective. The military was backward, characterized by little professionalism, and was committing numerous human rights abuses. In 1980, the country was on the brink of falling. The Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), an umbrella organization formed in 1980 out of five separate Marxist-Leninist groups, had the government on the precipice.
In 1981, the Salvadorian Army numbered around 11,000. It was a poorly led, poorly equipped, and badly trained army. It was basically a static, defensive force. The FMLN was close to winning the war: Its forces operated freely in much of the country and owned the night.
Slow Beginnings and Limits on Troop Support
The U.S.’s first priority was to give the Salvadorian army updated vehicles and equipment; then improve the forces’ quality through training and better tactics. By 1990, the size of the Salvadorian military had quadrupled to more than 45,000. By the mid-1980s, the training of the troops had progressed to where the army was capable of conducting offensive operations. It, therefore, moved into previously FMLN-held areas and maintained a firm hold on the population centers. While doing so, it whittled the FMLN down to size, from a high of about 13,000 in 1980 to about 7,000 in 1990.
The FMLN resorted to kidnappings and assassinations. Town mayors were a frequent target: in 1989 alone 214 of 262 were threatened with assassinations. Twelve were assassinated and 90 resigned.
The FMLN launched a desperate country-wide offensive in November 1989 in a final attempt to take over by encouraging the citizens to rise up. It failed and lost over 2,000 guerrillas.
Beginning in 1983, following the recommendations of Green Beret trainers, the Salvadorian armed forces adopted better COIN tactics to deny the FMLN from gaining popular support. For example, the Salvadorians started attacking the insurgents’ sanctuaries, movement routes, and supplies. They started to deploy smaller, air-mobile units. And they used small units to patrol more frequently at night when most guerrilla activities occurred. But we have jumped ahead…
When it came to the trainers, the U.S. was in a vastly different place politically than it is today. We had just pulled out of Vietnam. Thus, the U.S. was not going to tolerate another long-drawn-out conflict with massive amounts of troops involved. Beginning in 1981, the first U.S. trainers in El Salvador were an A-Team of 12 Green Berets. They were “permitted” to only carry sidearms for protection.
Congress decided to cap the number of trainers at just 55. Two Americans would be assigned to each Salvadorian brigade. There were very strict rules for the training advisors. A-Teams and other conventional troops would be brought in for just the ridiculously short time span of two weeks. During that time, they had to conduct whatever training could be accomplished before they would be forced to leave.
But the SF community found ways around the Congressional limitations. It started bringing Salvadorian battalions to the United States to be trained by members of the 7th SFG. The first one to be brought to the U.S. was the Atlacatl Battalion. It was brought to Ft. Bragg, NC. The Atlacatl Battalion was a quick reaction, counter-insurgency unit. More battalions were later brought to the U.S.
But a better alternative awaited just over the border with El Salvador’s traditional enemy, Honduras.
The U.S. set up a Regional Training Center in Trujillo, Honduras. Salvadorian units could rotate through there for training. Later the training Honduran troops were trained as well.
The cost was high for a “peacetime” effort. During the war in El Salvador, 22 U.S. troops died defending the country. One SF advisor, Greg Fronius, is the subject of an earlier article.
In another engagement, a “not in combat” SF A-Team, ODA-7 from 3/7th SFG, defended a Salvadorian barracks. The battle was the subject of an excellent piece by Dr. Charles H. Briscoe.
Congress and the Pentagon, in an effort to snow the American public from what exactly the advisors in El Salvador were dealing with, refused to admit that the troops were in a combat situation, even though, combat pay had been authorized in 1981. Thus, Fronius was denied a combat decoration. He was instead given a Meritorious Service Medal (MSM) which is a peacetime award.
Human Rights Record
The Salvadorian Army had a terrible human rights record dating back to 1980. One of the things that the trainers accomplished was to incorporate human rights training in all levels of the military.
This also meant that at times, at peril to the advisors themselves, they’d report abuses by the military to the MILGP in San Salvador. Greg Walker, who was one of the 55 advisors on the ground there detailed one such incident.
“I was the Special Forces advisor who reported being shown a guerrilla’s skull (at the unit’s base in El Salvador) that had been turned into a desk lamp. My report was delivered to the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador at the time through the proper chain of command.
The vast majority of SF advisors serving in El Salvador did likewise as this was part of the mission statement. For example, there was a senior Special Forces advisor at El Mozote the day/night of the massacre (and only one). He attempted multiple times to dissuade Colonel Domingo Monterosa to spare the victims. When Monterosa ignored him, the advisor departed by foot and made his way, alone, back to San Salvador. There he made a full report to embassy officials of what the unit and Monterosa were doing in El Mozote.”
The subject was a very touchy one. Yet the Green Berets made their reputation known even amongst the FMLN. In Walker’s book, titled “At the Hurricane’s Eye” he recounts when the FMLN asked for the U.S. SF to remain during the initial peace process to ensure that everyone was protected.
“At the conclusion of the war as brokered under a UN peace agreement, it was the guerrillas of the FMLN that requested US “Green Berets” remain with Salvadorian military units during the early stages of the accord. This because the guerrillas had learned of our commitment to human rights, and the sometimes dangerous reporting we made to the US embassy regarding thugs like Monterosa.”
Walker was one of several SF soldiers who led the fight for the men who did their time in El Salvador to finally be recognized for what were essentially combat tours. Everyone who rotated through there is now eligible for an Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal while many are authorized CIBs and combat awards. The men of ODA-7 were finally recognized 14 years later. They were awarded CIBs, four Bronze Stars with “V” device, and an ARCOM with “V” device.
The 7th SFG’s record in El Salvador was one of great success. El Salvador was on the brink of falling. And through the combined military and political efforts of many Americans, it was saved. This one was an example of how a small group of dedicated SF soldiers can turn the tide in a brutal civil war.
Marine Corps veteran and beloved character actor R. Lee Ermey was missing from the “In Memoriam” segment of the 2019 Academy Awards telecast.
Ermey, who passed away in April 2018, is best remembered for his role as Gunny Hartman in Stanley Kubrick’s classic movie “Full Metal Jacket,” a legendary performance that should have made him a lock to be included in the video segment.
Ermey also played memorable roles in “Se7en,” “Mississippi Burning,” “The X-Files,” “Toy Story 2” and that 2003 remake of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” He also hosted the TV shows “Mail Call” and “Lock ‘N Load With R. Lee Ermey.”
Other Hollywood legends left out of the tribute include Verne Troyer (Mini-me in the “Austin Powers” movies); the incredible Dick Miller (best known for playing a WWII vet in the “Gremlins” movies); Danny Leiner (director of the classics “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle” and “Dude, Where’s My Car?”); Carol Channing (Oscar-nominated for her role in “Thoroughly Modern Millie”); Sondra Locke (Oscar-nominated for her role in “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter”); and the director Stanley Donen (“Charade,” “Singin’ in the Rain” and the unfortunate 80s sex comedy “Blame It on Rio.”).
We can all take a moment to remember Ermey with the “Left from Right” clip from “Full Metal Jacket.” RIP, Gunny.
A photograph on display at a Russian military academy is adding to the growing evidence identifying a Russian military intelligence officer who was allegedly involved in the poisoning of a former double agent in England.
The photo, highlighted in an Oct. 2, 2018 report published jointly by RFE/RL’s Russian Service and the open-source investigative website Bellingcat, builds on other recent reports that have used data from passport registries, online photographs, and military records to focus on a Russian man identified by British authorities as Ruslan Boshirov.
British authorities say that Boshirov and another man identified as Aleksandr Petrov were behind the March 2018 poisoning of Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in the English town of Salisbury.
The Skripals survived the poisoning, which used a Soviet-made military nerve agent known as Novichok.
Days after being publicly identified, the two Russians went on state-controlled TV channel RT and claimed they were merely tourists.
The Kremlin has strenuously denied any involvement in the poisoning, which prompted London, Washington, and other Western allies to expel dozens of Russian diplomats.
A CCTV image issued by London’s Metropolitan police showing Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov at Salisbury train station.
Later research pinpointed Boshirov’s alleged true identity as Anatoly Chepiga, who graduated from the Far Eastern Military Academy and received a medal — the Hero of the Russia Federation — in 2014, and holds the rank of colonel in the GRU.
Several people from Chepiga’s hometown also corroborated his identity to Russian and Western media, and confirmed he had been awarded a medal.
Using social-media postings, RFE/RL’s Russian Service, along with Bellingcat, discovered a wall of photos at the military academy honoring famous graduates.
One of the photos, posted between July 2014 and March 2016, is identified as Chepiga. The photo shows a man resembling the man identified as Boshirov on the RT interview.
Bellingcat also obtained a higher-resolution version of the Chepiga photograph on the wall, showing a close resemblance to the man who was interviewed on RT.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has asserted that the allegations about Chepiga and the other man are part of an “information campaign” aimed at Russia.
In June 2018, two other British citizens were also exposed to the nerve agent, apparently by accident; one of them, Dawn Sturgess, died.
As the owner selling an excavated underground Minuteman II missile site in Missouri on eBay, California investor Russ Nielsen reads the pulse of America’s darkest fears.
The number of people visiting the historic property’s eBay information page spikes like an EKG in a heart attack.
Ordinarily, the curious property located near Holden, MO, may get some 70 online views a day, Nielsen said by phone this week from California.
When Donald Trump won the presidency last November? Boom. The site was getting 140 to 150 hits a day.
And now, as North Korea’s volatile leader Kim Jong Un defiantly sends ballistic missiles over Japan, survivalists and the frightened are back at some 150 views a day.
“It’s definitely a ‘prepper’ kind of thing,” Nielsen said, referring to the slang term for people who want to be prepared in the event of widespread calamity and disorder.
Bomb shelter companies across the nation are reporting a boost in sales.
The selling price for Nielsen’s unique property, though, is steep for most people, he said. It’s going for $325,000. He’s had five potential buyers who were serious since he put it up for sale in the fall of 2015, he said. A couple of them are still trying to raise the financing.
What Nielsen recovered — at great cost and effort over a span of two years — is the “Mike-1” Minuteman II missile launch facility that housed the missileers who controlled the triggers to 10 of the 150 intercontinental missile sites scattered across central Missouri under the command of Whiteman Air Force Base.
Most of the Minuteman II sites — including all of the Missouri sites — were decommissioned some 20 years ago. Their shafts were buried under a mix of concrete, mud, and rock that was meant to deter any thoughts of reactivating them.
The project, including the maddening bureaucracy in getting his quixotic venture approved, turned into such a laborious boondoggle that Nielsen admits he wouldn’t have done it knowing what he knows now.
But, having endured it, he has relished the many inquiries he has received from veterans who served underground those many decades ago — “Ratmen,” they called themselves. The history of America’s Cold War has been fascinating.
The Minuteman II missiles represented the height of America’s Cold War arsenal, with about 1,000 of them forever ready to launch.
Some 450 sites with Minuteman III missiles remain ready in Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming.
Not surprisingly, some of Nielsen’s most interested potential buyers have had an eye on the site’s unique history as well as its accommodations in the event of a national disaster.
One potential buyer has been trying to gather financing for an historical movie project, he said. Another has interest in turning it into a residential training facility for martial and military arts.
Not surprising for a property whose curb appeal requires a bit of imagination.
As Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 3, controversy erupted when he mentioned the service’s plans to retire the A-10 Thunderbolt II, affectionately known to troops as the “Warthog” and largely regarded as the most effective close air support aircraft in the inventory today.
For years, the USAF fought with congressional leaders about the fate of the Warthog. Congress laid down the law in the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, requiring that the Air Force find a viable replacement for the airframe’s close-air support role before they would be allowed to retire it.
Originally, the Air Force tried to wedge the F-35 program into the CAS requirement, but Congress flat-out rejected it as an option. Thus, the A-10 was given a stay of execution until a congressionally-mandated, independent study determined the Air Force has such a suitable replacement.
In his recent testimony, Gen. Welsh told the Senate the USAF will use the F-16 Fighting Falcon and the F-15E Strike Eagle to fly close air support missions; however, those options didn’t work for the SASC, especially not the chairman, Senator John McCain, a former Navy attack pilot who was shot down over North Vietnam and spent six years as a POW in Hanoi.
“You have nothing to replace [the A-10] with, General,” McCain shot back. “Otherwise you would be using F-15s and the F-16s of which you have plenty of, but you’re using the A-10 because it’s the most effective weapons system. This is really, unfortunately disingenuous.”
As well as being the most tailored for the CAS mission, the A-10 also has the lowest cost per flight hour at $19,051 compared to the F-35 at $67,550, the F-16 at $22,470, and the F-15E at $41,921.
When Welsh tried to press the issue, McCain called his testimony “embarrassing.”
“Every Air Force pilot that I know will tell you that the most effective close air support system is the A-10,” McCain said.
President Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of the Navy, John Lehman, had a dream in the early 1980s: A 600-ship fleet. And while growing that fleet, Lehman wanted to bring back some of the elegance and esprit that had been lost during the Vietnam War era. And in his mind, nothing said “elegance” like the Iowa class battleships that were originally built to fight World War II.
The USS Iowa (BB 61) was originally commissioned in 1943 and decommissioned in 1958 following service in World War II and the Korean War. After sitting in mothballs pierside at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard as part of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet for 26 years, Iowa was overhauled, modernized, and recommissioned. But in order to meet SECNAV’s expectation, many necessary repairs were either skipped or rushed, and as a result Iowa failed the first major inspection in 1984. The inspecting officer recommended that the battleship be taken out of service immediately, but Secretary Lehman personally rejected that input and instead ordered the Atlantic Fleet leadership to fix the problems and get Iowa sailing as soon as possible.
In late May of 1988, the Iowa’s brand-new commander officer, Capt. Fred Moosally canceled a $1 million repair to the gun turrets, deciding to use the funds to upgrade the ship’s power plant instead. According to an article written a few years later by Greg Vistica of the San Diego Union-Tribune, between September 1988 and January 1989, sailors aboard Iowa reportedly conducted little training with her main guns, in part because of ongoing, serious maintenance issues with the main gun turrets. According to Ensign Dan Meyer, the officer in charge of the ship’s Turret One, morale and operational readiness among the gun-turret crews suffered greatly.
On April 19, 1989 the Iowa was scheduled to conduct a live-fire exercise in the waters off of Puerto Rico. The Second Fleet commander, Vice Admiral Jerome Johnson, was aboard, and Captain Moosally was eager to impress. The night before, fire-control officer, Lieutenant Leo Walsh, conducted a briefing to discuss the next day’s main battery exercise. Moosally, Morse, Kissinger, and Costigan did not attend the briefing. During the briefing, Skelley announced that Turret Two would participate in an experiment of his design in which D-846 powder would be used to fire 2700 lb (1224.7 kg) shells.
The powder lots of D-846 were among the oldest on board Iowa, dating back to 1943–1945, and were designed to fire 1900-pound shells. In fact, printed on each D-846 powder canister were the words, “WARNING: Do Not Use with 2,700-pound projectiles.”D-846 powder burned faster than normal powder, which meant that it exerted greater pressure on the shell when fired. Skelley explained that the experiment’s purpose was to improve the accuracy of the guns.
Skelley’s plan was for Turret Two to fire ten 2,700-pound practice (no explosives) projectiles, two from the left gun and four rounds each from the center and right guns. Each shot was to use five bags of D-846, instead of the six bags normally used, and to fire at the empty ocean 17 nautical miles away.
Ziegler was especially concerned about his center gun crew. The rammerman, Robert W. Backherms, was inexperienced, as were the powder car operator, Gary J. Fisk, the primerman, Reginald L. Johnson Jr., and the gun captain, Richard Errick Lawrence. To help supervise Lawrence, Ziegler assigned Second Class Gunner’s Mate Clayton Hartwig, the former center gun captain, who had been excused from gun turret duty because of a pending reassignment to a new duty station in London, to the center gun’s crew for the firing exercise. Because of the late hour, Ziegler did not inform Hartwig of his assignment until the morning of 19 April, shortly before the firing exercise was scheduled to begin.
At 08:31 on 19 April, the main turret crewmembers were ordered to their stations in Turrets One, Two, and Three. Thirty minutes later the turrets reported that they were manned, swiveled to starboard in firing position, and ready to begin the drill. Vice Admiral Johnson and his staff entered the bridge to watch the firing exercise. Iowa was 260 nautical miles northeast of Puerto Rico, steaming at 15 knots.
Turret One fired first, beginning at 09:33. Turret One’s left gun misfired and its crew was unable to get the gun to discharge. Moosally ordered Turret Two to load and fire a three-gun salvo. According to standard procedure, the misfire in Turret One should have been resolved first before proceeding further with the exercise.
Forty-four seconds after Moosally’s order, Lieutenant Buch reported that Turret Two’s right gun was loaded and ready to fire. Seventeen seconds later, he reported that the left gun was ready. A few seconds later, Errick Lawrence, in Turret Two’s center gun room, reported to Ziegler over the turret’s phone circuit that, “We have a problem here. We are not ready yet. We have a problem here.”
Ziegler responded by announcing over the turret’s phone circuit, “Left gun loaded, good job. Center gun is having a little trouble. We’ll straighten that out.”
Mortensen, monitoring Turret Two’s phone circuit from his position in Turret One, heard Buch confirm that the left and right guns were loaded. Lawrence then called out, “I’m not ready yet! I’m not ready yet!”
Next, Ernie Hanyecz, Turret Two’s leading petty officer suddenly called out, “Mort! Mort! Mort!”Ziegler shouted, “Oh, my God! The powder is smoldering!” About this same time, Hanyecz yelled over the phone circuit, “Oh, my God! There’s a flash!”
At 09:53, Turret Two’s center gun exploded. A fireball blew out from the center gun’s open breech. The explosion caved in the door between the center gun room and the turret officer’s booth and buckled the bulkheads separating the center gun room from the left and right gun rooms. The fireball spread through all three gun rooms and through much of the lower levels of the turret.
The resulting fire released toxic gases that filled the turret. Shortly after the initial explosion, the heat and fire ignited 2,000 pounds of powder bags in the powder-handling area of the turret. Nine minutes later, another explosion, most likely caused by a buildup of carbon monoxide gas, occurred.
When it was all over 47 members of Iowa’s crew were dead.
Several hours after the explosion, Admiral Carlisle Trost, the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), issued a moratorium on the firing of all 16-inch guns.Vice Admiral Joseph S. Donnell, commander of Surface Forces Atlantic, appointed Commodore Richard Milligan to conduct an informal one-officer investigation into the explosion. An informal investigation meant that testimony was not required to be taken under oath, witnesses were not advised of their rights, defense attorneys were not present, and no one, including the deceased, could be charged with a crime no matter what the evidence revealed.
Milligan boarded Iowa on 20 April and toured Turret Two. He did not attempt to stop the ongoing cleanup of the turret. Accompanying Milligan to assist him in the investigation was his personal staff, including his chief of staff, Captain Edward F. Messina. Milligan and his staff began their investigation by interviewing members of Iowa‘s crew.
During Meyer’s interview by Milligan and his staff, Meyer described Skelley’s gunnery experiments. Meyer stated that Moosally and Kissinger had allowed Skelley to conduct his experiments without interference or supervision. At this point, according to Meyer, Messina interrupted, told the stenographer to stop typing, and took Meyer out into the passageway and told him, “You little shit, you can’t say that! The admiral doesn’t want to hear another word about experiments!”
The investigation went downhill from there, shifting from any attempt to find command-wide leadership issues or maintenance malpractice to blaming the entire mishap on Second Class Gunner’s Mate Clayton Hartwig. Navy investigators extrapolated the fact that Hartwig had taken an insurance policy out with a shipmate, Kendall Truitt, as the beneficiary into a homosexual relationship gone wrong between the two men that caused Hartwig to commit suicide by sparking the turret explosion with an incendiary device.
The Naval Investigative Service (NIS, now known as Naval Criminal Investigative Service, or NCIS) agents were ham-fisted and ruthless in their pursuit of what they already believed to be true or the direction in which they’d been ordered — tacitly or otherwise — to focus. NIS agents interviewed Truitt and repeatedly pressed him to admit to a sexual relationship with Hartwig. Other agents interviewed Truitt’s wife Carole, also pressing her about the sexual orientation of Hartwig and Truitt, asking questions about how often she and her husband had sex, what sorts of sexual acts they engaged in, and whether she had ever had sex with any of Truitt’s crewmates.
At the same time the Navy’s public affairs command at the Pentagon leaked NIS findings to a host of media outlets, and reports started appearing in newspapers and on TV that said that Hartwig had intentionally caused the explosion after his relationship with Truitt had gone sour.
On July 15, 1989 the officer in charge of the investigation submitted his completed report on the explosion to his chain of command. The 60-page report found that the explosion was a deliberate act “most probably” committed by Hartwig using an electronic timer. The report concluded that the powder bags had been over-rammed into the center gun under Hartwig’s direction in order to trigger the explosive timer that he had placed between two of the powder bags.
When the official report hit the streets there was a great public outcry by the families of the victims, and many of them began feeding members of the media with insider information that, in turn, led to a host of reports that pointed out the myriad ways the Navy’s investigation was deeply flawed. Those reports led to an investigation by the House Armed Services Committee.
In early March 1990, the HASC released its report, titled USS Iowa Tragedy: An Investigative Failure. The report criticized the Navy for failing to investigate every natural possible cause before concluding that the explosion was an intentional act. The report also criticized the Navy for allowing the turret and projectile to become contaminated; for permitting evidence to be thrown overboard; and for endorsing the investigator’s report prior to completing the technical investigation. The NIS’s actions in the investigation were described as “flawed” and the NIS agents assigned to the case were criticized for unprofessional interviewing techniques and for leaking sensitive documents and inaccurate information. Finally, the report concluded that officer put in charge of the investigation was unfit to oversee it.
A subsequent investigation conducted by a group of engineers and scientists concluded that the explosion had been caused by the over-ram of powder into the breech after they were able to replicate the condition several times under test conditions. In spite of this, the second Navy investigation doubled down on the original finding that the explosion had been intentionally set by Hartwig.
Finally, on 17 October 1991, 17 months after the Navy reopened the investigation, Adm. Frank Kelso, the Chief of Naval Operations, conducted a press conference at the Pentagon to announce the results of the Navy’s reinvestigation. Kelso noted that the Navy had spent a total of $25 million on the investigation. He stated that the Navy had uncovered no evidence to suggest that the gun had been operated improperly, nor had it established a plausible accidental cause for the explosion.
Kelso stated, “The initial investigation was an honest attempt to weigh impartially all the evidence as it existed at the time. And indeed, despite the Sandia theory and almost two years of subsequent testing, a substantial body of scientific and expert evidence continue to support the initial investigation finding that no plausible accidental cause can be established.” Kelso added that the Navy had also found no evidence that the explosion was caused intentionally. He further announced that he had directed the Navy to never again use an informal board composed of a single officer to investigate such an incident.
Kelso concluded by offering “sincere regrets” to the family of Clayton Hartwig and apologies to the families of those who died, “that such a long period has passed, and despite all efforts no certain answer regarding the cause of this terrible tragedy can be found.
Iowa decommissioned in Norfolk on October 26, 1990. In May of 2012, the battleship was towed to the Port of Los Angeles and is now a floating museum.
From August 1990 to February 1991, the Iowa-class battleships Wisconsin and Missouri were deployed to the Persian Gulf. The two battleships fired 1,182 16-inch shells in support of Desert Storm combat operations without mishap.
A Royal Marine has created a viral video highlighting what to do in the event you’re stranded without a flotation device. After jumping into a pool, TikTok user @dutchintheusa fashions a flotation device out of his pants to slip around his neck and stay afloat. Over 10 million people have viewed the TikTok video, with comments offering gratitude for the potentially lifesaving video.
User @Dutchintheusa is a Royal Marine, an elite amphibious force of the Royal Navy, held at very high readiness for worldwide rapid response and threat neutralization. According to their website, the role of the Royal Marines is to serve “as the UK’s Commando Force and the Royal Navy’s own amphibious troops. They are an elite fighting force, optimised for worldwide rapid response and are able to deal with a wide spectrum of threats and security challenges. Fully integrated with the Royal Navy’s amphibious ships, they can be deployed globally without host nation support and projected from the sea to conduct operations on land. A key component of the Royal Navy’s maritime security function, they provide a unique capability and are experts in ship-to-ship operations.”
Royal Marines have carried out commando training missions alongside US Navy forces across Scotland during the early phases of a deployment that will take them around northern Europe.
Members of the US Naval Special Warfare Task Unit-Europe joined Arbroath-based 45 Commando on rigorous urban close-quarter combat training missions in Garelochhead, live firing drills and vertical assaults near Loch Lomond.
45 Commando form a central part of the Littoral Response Group (North) deployment, which will take commando forces and Royal Navy ships – HMS Albion, RFA Mounts Bay and HMS Lancaster – around northern Europe and into the heart of the Baltic this spring.
To prepare for those operations, more than 300 commandos headed on two separate preparatory ‘battle camps’, which saw them carry out a variety of essential commando training exercises alongside US allies to keep them razor sharp for what’s to come.
Marine Nathan Bell, X-Ray Company, said: “I enjoyed having the chance to practice close-quarters battle, it’s interesting, but it’s also really important.
“It’s mentally quite tough as well though, because in real life, the scenario you are faced with will be unique; therefore, you need to be so well drilled that you can rely on your initiative in the heat of the moment.
“Commando basic training sets the foundations of teamwork and discipline which allows us to be successful.”
TikTok user @dutchintheusa has 3.5M TikTok followers and posts a variety of safety and escape videos, which can be found here.