North Korea’s awful record of human rights violations may place it as the worst regime in the world in how it treats its people, but first-hand tales of the abuses rarely slip the secretive country’s borders.
In the video, women defectors who formerly served in North Korea’s military sit down with a South Korean host in a military-themed restaurant famous for its chicken. The cultural divide between the two Korean women becomes palpable when the North Korean points to mock ammunition decorating the restaurant, and the South Korean says she recognizes them from comics.
“Aww, you’re so adorable,” the North Korean replied.
(Digitalsoju TV | YouTube)The defector explained that all North Korean women must serve in the military for six years, and all men must serve for 11. During that time, she said she was fed three spoonfuls of rice at mealtimes.
Unsurprisingly, malnutrition is widespread across all sectors of North Korea. And despite North Korea being a communist country, the defector still said that even within the military, people badly want money and withhold or steal each other’s state-issued goods, like military uniforms.
The defector said that in North Korea, women are taught that they’re not as smart, important, or as strong as men.
A second defector said that the officers in charge of uniform and ration distribution would often leverage their position to coerce sex from female soldiers. “Higher-ranked officers sleeping around is quite common,” said the second woman.
But the first defector had a much more personal story.
“I was in the early stages of malnutrition… I weighed just around 81 pounds and was about 5’2,” said the defector. Her Body Mass Index, though not a perfect indicator of health, works out to about 15, where a healthy body is considered to have a BMI of about 19-25.
“The major general was this man who was around 45 years old and I was only 18 years old at the time,” she said. “But he tried to force himself on me.”
“So one day he tells everyone else to leave except for me. Then he abruptly tells me to take off all my clothes,” she said. The officer told her he was inspecting her for malnutrition, possibly to send her off to a hospital where undernourished soldiers are treated.
“So since I didn’t have much of a choice, I thought, well, it’s the Major General. Surely there’s a good reason for this. I never could have imagined he’d try something,” she said. But the Major General asks her to remove her underwear and “then out of nowhere, he comes at me,” she said.
The Major General then proceeded to beat her while she loudly screamed, so he covered her mouth. She said he hit her so hard in the left ear, that blood came out of her right ear. She said the beating was so severe her teeth were loose afterwards.
“How do you think this is going to make me look?” the Major General asked her after the beating. He then instructs her to get dressed and tell no one what happened or he would “make [her] life a living hell.”
“There wasn’t really anyone I could tell or report this too,” she said. “Many other women have gone through something similar.
“I don’t know whether he’s dead or alive, but if Korea ever gets reunified, I’m going to find him and even if I can’t make him feel ten times the pain I felt, I want to at least smack him on the right side of his face the same way he did to me,” she said.
Days after President Vladimir Putin threatened the US, a Russian state TV channel pinpointed places in the US that Russia would target in a nuclear war with its new Zircon missile, said to travel at up to nine times the speed of sound, according to Reuters.
The targets listed in Russia-1’s broadcast on Feb. 24, 2019, were the Pentagon, Camp David, Jim Creek Naval Radio Station in Washington, Fort Ritchie in Maryland, and McClellan Air Force Base in California, according to Reuters and the Russian media outlet Sputnik. The latter two have been closed for about two decades, making them odd choices, Sputnik said.
Russia-1 claimed that the Zircon missile Russia is developing could strike critical US targets less than five minutes after launch, Reuters reported. Fired from a submarine, a hypersonic weapon can cover great distance very quickly; however, Russia’s claims concerning its new weapon are impossible to verify.
Tensions have been flaring between the US and Russia since the two countries in early 2019 walked away from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a Cold War-era nuclear arms agreement that NATO and the US have accused Russia of violating. Observers have said the collapse of this bilateral pact risks escalating an arms race between the two nuclear powers.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and United States President Donald Trump.
Russia is particularly concerned about the possibility that the US will position new missiles in Europe. Washington has said it has no plans to do so, but its backing out of the treaty frees it to develop and eventually deploy these weapons to Europe if it deems such actions necessary.
Putin had claimed Russia would respond to any US move to deploy missiles closer to Europe by sending its missiles closer to the US, a threat that the US State Department dismissed as propaganda.
In his state-of-the-nation address on Feb. 20, 2019, Putin threatened to target countries housing the missiles and US decision-making centers with new weapons if the US were to take that step.
It was during that speech that the president unveiled the Zircon missile, a hypersonic weapon he said could fly at nine times the speed of sound and strike targets 620 miles away.
Putin also said Russia was ready for a “Cuban missile-style crisis” if the US wants one, adding that Russia could arm its submarines with hypersonic weapons and let them lurk off the US’s coast, Reuters reported.
The Philippines is known for many reasons in the West. To many, the island nation is the land of white beaches, lumpia, and vicious knife-fighting skills.
My guess is that last item was a surprise.
The pen was mightier than the knife in the 2002 film “The Bourne Identity” because Bourne is trained in Kali, the homegrown Filipino Martial Art that specializes in bladed weapons.
The method is so effective at neutralizing an armed (or hell, an unarmed) opponent, that the U.S. Army adopted it into its modern combatives program.
Army Ranger Matt Larsen – now known as the “Father of Modern Combatives” – studied indigenous martial arts around the world as he developed the new fighting style. The modern system is based on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, but Larsen chose to integrate Kali into the Army’s fighting style.
Kali (or Arnis, or Eskrima) is the national sport and martial art in the Philippines. And it’s not limited to bladed weapons. The art includes sticks, clubs, bare hands, bottles, and pretty much anything else a hand could wield.
Like the Israeli Krav Maga martial art, Kali is designed to be a practical fighting technique. Where the Krav Maga user will find anything within arm’s reach to help win the fight, the Kali fighter emphasizes a weapons-first approach, but will ultimately use any method to win the fight.
Another strength of FMA is that it’s a complementary fighting style. Experts say that Kali doesn’t conflict with learning another style, but actually strengthens one’s ability to fight in that style. In fact, Bruce Lee integrated it into his Jeet Kune Do philosophy because a friend and student of his was Dan Inosanto, a Kali fighter.
The FMA weapon fighting style is also used by the Russian Spetsnaz, or special forces. Their chief fighting instructor is the FMA master, Daniel “Mumbakki” Foronda. The Russians have reportedly used the style in hand-to-hand combat in places like Afghanistan and Georgia.
“Special operations and police forces worldwide are looking for Kali instruction,” said Jared Wihongi, a bladed weapons expert for Browning, in an interview with with Funker Tactical. “They see the realism in the art, and that it’s very combat-effective – not just the use of knives but defenses against edged weapons.”
More than nine years after the Battle of Kamdesh claimed eight lives and left 27 injured, a soldier killed there received a posthumous medal upgrade Dec. 15, 2018, to the nation’s second highest honor, the Distinguished Service Cross.
Army Staff Sgt. Justin Gallegos, 27, had been posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his actions at Combat Outpost Keating, the location of the assault by Taliban insurgents that led to one of the bloodiest battles of the war in Afghanistan.”
The Distinguished Service Cross was presented here to Gallegos’ son, MacAidan Justin Gallegos,14, who lives in the area with his stepfather and mother, Amanda Marr. Marr and Gallegos were divorced at the time of his death.
“A couple weeks ago, when I heard the news that Justin’s Distinguished Service Cross had finally been approved, I knew that one of the great discrepancies in the long narrative of the battle of Combat Outpost Keating had finally been corrected,” Maj. Stoney Portis said during the ceremony. Portis was Gallegos’ commander at the time of the battle.
Distinguished visitors bow their heads during the invocation at Staff Sgt. Justin T. Gallegos’s Distinguished Service Cross ceremony at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska Dec. 15, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Crystal A. Jenkins)
Called “a day for heroes” because of the number of heroic acts during the Oct. 3, 2009, battle, COP Keating was all but overrun when, just before dawn, Taliban fighters assaulted the outpost with machine-gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire.
With what the citation calls “extraordinary heroism,” Gallegos, a team leader for Troop B, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, maneuvered “under heavy sniper and rocket-propelled grenade fire to reinforce a [High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle] battle position that was critical to the Outpost’s defense,” the citation states.
“While under heavy fire for nearly an hour, Staff Sergeant Gallegos continued to suppress the oncoming enemy with the crew-served weapon. Once the weapon’s ammunition was exhausted, he engaged the enemy with his M4 carbine to allow fellow soldiers in a nearby truck to evacuate from their position,” it states.
As they attempted to join the unit defending the outpost, Gallegos retrieved and moved a wounded soldier to safety while under fire, then exposed himself again to ongoing machine-gun fire while trying to provide suppression and cover so the rest of his team could move to his position.
“During this final act, Staff Sergeant Gallegos paid the ultimate sacrifice,” the citation states. “Staff Sergeant Gallegos’ actions enabled a section of soldiers to regroup and provide necessary security to stave off enemy forces from the west side of the camp. His actions played a critical role in the defense of Combat Outpost Keating, and Troop B’s subsequent counterattack against a numerically superior Taliban force.”
Soldiers assigned to U.S. Army Alaska listen during Staff Sgt. Justin T. Gallegos’s Distinguished Service Cross ceremony at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska Dec. 15, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Crystal A. Jenkins)
Medals of Honor have been awarded to two soldiers who fought at Keating, while 37 have received Army Commendation Medals with combat “V” device for valor, 18 were awarded Bronze Star Medals with “V” device, and nine received Silver Star Medals.
Upgrading Gallegos’ medal was not a quick or easy process, requiring a literal act of Congress. The order for the upgrade was included in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. Dec. 15, 2018’s ceremony marked the end of that journey, Marr said, shining a spotlight on Gallegos’ heroic actions.
“We never really know what we’re going to do in any situation that’s like that, but I would’ve known that Justin would’ve been that person,” Marr said. “When I was notified, even, of his death, I knew that it had to be something extraordinary … there was not another explanation. Justin didn’t die — he just fought hard. So I just knew.”
Medal of Honor recipients Staff Sgt. Ty Carter and Staff Sgt. Clint Romesha were in attendance at the medal ceremony, as was Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who presented a flag to MacAidan Gallegos and a handful of veterans of the unit.
Gallegos’ other medals and commendations include the Silver Star; Bronze Star; three Purple Hearts; two Army Commendation Medals; two Army Achievement Medals; the Army Good Conduct Medal; the National Defense Service Medal; the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star; the Iraq Campaign Medal with Campaign Star; the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal; the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; the Army Service Ribbon; two Overseas Service Ribbons; the NATO Medal; and the Combat Action Badge.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The world is on high alert as COVID-19, more commonly known as Coronavirus, was declared a global pandemic today by the World Health Organization. WHO and other medical experts are imploring people to wash their hands, wipe down surfaces and not to touch your face. As more and more people take precautions seriously, more and more shelves are being emptied of things like toilet paper, paper towels and one of the most necessary items for on-the-go hygiene: hand sanitizer.
Empty shelves? Make your own. And the best part? It only takes two ingredients.
No hand sanitizer? No problem. Here’s how to make your own. #coronavirus #preparednesspic.twitter.com/EtKW06PAZM
We promise it’s that easy, but here’s a video so you can see for yourself. This mother-daughter duo also has some great tips on how to make your homemade hygenic concoction smell a little less like you’re a walking disinfectant. Although in these times, that’s definitely not a bad thing.
Coalition air power had a busy Veterans’ Day Weekend while attacking the Islamic State of Iraqi and Syria, also known as ISIS.
Across Iraq and Syria, 84 airstrikes were carried out against the terrorist group, 27 of which were around the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, which Iraqi forces have been trying to liberate from ISIS since October.
The attacks took place as Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited the region. Iraqi forces are moving towards the city, in an offensive expected to take months, according to a DOD News article.
“In my judgment, what Mosul does is reduce ISIL inside of Iraq back to an insurgency with terrorist actions and get them to a level where Iraqi security forces with a minimum level of outside support will be able to manage the violence inside Iraq,” Dunford said. “It denies ISIL freedom of movement and sanctuary inside Iraq.”
The terrorist group was in retreat as their eastern defenses around Mosul collapsed, and the Iraqi Army claimed to have secured the Intisar district of the city, and was moving into the neighborhood of Salaam.
As Coalition forces move in, there have been reports of increasing atrocities carried out by ISIS. According to VOA news, one video released by the terrorist group showed four children — none older than 14 — being forced to execute alleged spies. ISIS had developed “hand grenade” drones and was using them around Mosul.
In other news about the fight against ISIS, the BBC reported that ISIS carried out a half-dozen bombings around Baghdad, and a tweet from CombatAir reported that a Russian MiG-29K Fulcrum operating from the Admiral Kuznetsov was lost.
According to a Nov. 11 release, 24 air strikes were carried out by coalition forces, seven of which took place near Mosul. The Mosul-area strikes destroyed or damaged seven mortar systems, an artillery system, three vehicles, and two weapon caches. Other targets hit that day included a command and control node, oil production facilities, three supply routes, fighting positions, heavy machine guns, a storage container, and a bulldozer.
A Department of Defense release on Nov. 12 reported that five out of 23 strikes that day took place near Mosul. Those five strikes hit a fighting position; five mortar systems; two tunnel entrances; two heavy machines guns; four vehicles; a vehicle bomb; and a weapons cache. The other 18 strikes blasted a number of other targets, including a headquarters building; six oil wellheads; five fighting positions; and six ISIS “tactical units.
One thing that has happened a number of times this year are close encounters. Or, to put it bluntly, times where the U.S. military got buzzed. Three countries were major offenders: Russia, China, and Iran. Here’s a breakdown of the incidents by country.
There were at least four major incidents where Russia buzzed American forces. On Feb. 10, an Ilyushin Il-38 “May” maritime patrol aircraft and three Sukhoi Su-24 Fencers carried out multiple passes on the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78). In May, a Su-27 Flanker came within 20 feet of a P-8 Poseidon. The following month, an Air Force RC-135 was buzzed by another Flanker. In November, another P-8 Poseidon had a Russian fighter come within 50 feet.
The Chinese have been major offenders in unsafe encounters. In 2001, one of their fighter pilots collided with a Lockheed EP-3E Aries II electronic surveillance plane. The crew of the EP-3E made it, but the Chinese pilot was killed. In May, there were two incidents, starting with a Su-30 doing a Top Gun stunt. About a week after that, two Chengdu J-10 “Firebird” fighters buzzed a P-3. In July, there was a near-collision between a J-10 and an EP-3E.
The Iranians have had their history of unsafe interactions and picking fights. These are not just limited to aerial incidents, either. In January and April, the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72) was harassed by Iranian “fast attack craft” in the Straits of Hormuz. A third incident involving the Mahan took place in May.
In June, an Iranian vessel aimed a laser at a Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion. July saw the Cyclone-class patrol craft USS Thunderbolt (PC 12) forced to fire warning shots at Iranian speedboats. August saw two incidents where Iranian drones buzzed a carrier. The first incident, on August 8, nearly caused a mid-air collision with a F/A-18E Super Hornet. An Aug. 15 incident saw a close pass on the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68).
Hopefully, 2018 will not see more of these passes, but these three countries do seem to make it a habit.
The past few weeks have been rough for the Russian military, as a string of serious accidents have led to dozens of deaths and injuries.
Accidents are certainly not uncommon for the Russian military, which lost its only aircraft carrier last fall when a heavy crane punched a hole in it as the only dry dock suitable for carrying out repairs and maintenance on a ship that size sank due to a power failure, but the last few weeks have certainly been a challenge.
Over the past month and a half, the Russian military has seen a fire claim the lives of sailors aboard a secret nuclear submarine, an explosion at a ammunition depot, and, as of Aug. 8, 2019, an explosion during the testing of a rocket engine at a military test facility.
A deadly fire aboard a top-secret submarine in early July 2019.
Russia’s latest string of bad luck began with a fire aboard a secret deep-diving nuclear-powered submarine and resulted in 14 deaths.
Russian media reports that the submarine was the Losharik, a vessel designed for “intelligence gathering and, probably, the destruction of or tapping into of undersea communications cables,” A.D. Baker, a former naval intelligence officer, previously told INSIDER.
A suspected fire that ultimately triggered an explosion in the battery compartment killed 14 Russian sailors, a number of which were higher-ranking and distinguished officers. While the incident remains classified at the highest levels, a Russian Navy official said the crew’s actions had stopped a “planetary catastrophe,” a possible reference to an accident with the sub’s nuclear reactor.
A huge explosion at an ammo depot at a military base on Aug. 5, 2019.
On Aug. 5, 2019, an ammo depot at a Russian military base in Siberia said to house around 40,000 artillery shells and other weapons suddenly exploded, igniting fires that killed one and injured over a dozen other people.
The explosion created a massive fireball, and led local authorities to evacuate thousands of people from surrounding communities within 20 kilometers of the blast.
Russia has experienced ammunition depot explosions before. For example, an ammunition storage site in Chapaevsk that housed around 13 million shells exploded in 2013, injuring around 30 people.
A deadly explosion of a missile engine at a military test site on Aug. 8, 2019.
On Aug. 8, 2019, a missile engine exploded at a Russian naval base, leaving two dead and eight others injured. Among the dead and wounded were military and civilian personnel.
(Russian Ministry of Defence)
The engine, according to Russian state media, exploded while specialists at the base in the rural village of Nyonoksa, a town in northern Russia, were testing the rocket engine’s “liquid propulsion system.”
The Nyonoksa range is a critical test site for Russian missile systems, everything from intercontinental ballistic missiles to cruise missiles. Thursday’s explosion, the state-run TASS News Agency reported, triggered a spike in radiation in a nearby city.
Authorities insist everything is under control.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Marine Corps wants to overhaul its force to prepare to be more dispersed and more flexible to deter and, if need be, take on China’s growing military in the Pacific.
“China has moved out to sea, and they have long-range weapons and a lot of them,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger said on February 11 at an Amphibious Warship Industrial Base Coalition event on Capitol Hill.
“Those two things have changed the game,” Berger added. “Take those away, in other words, we could keep operating with dominance everywhere we wanted to, as we have. We cannot do that. We can’t get stuck in old things. We are being challenged everywhere.”
Since taking over last summer, Berger has called for a shift from a force suited for fighting insurgencies to one that can square off with China across the Pacific.
What Berger has outlined is a lighter, more mobile force that can operate in small units on Pacific islands. But the amphibious force that will support those units is not where it needs to be, Berger said last week.
That may mean the Corps needs new ships in the future, but he said it also needed to make better use of its current assets, which is where the “Lightning carrier” — an amphibious assault ship decked out with 16 to 20 F-35B stealth fighters — comes in.
“I’m in favor of things like the Lightning-carrier concept because I believe we need to tactically and operationally be … unpredictable,” Berger said. “We’ve been sending out every [Amphibious Ready Group] and [Marine Expeditionary Unit] looking mirror-image for 20 years. We need to change that.”
“You would like to see one of those big decks one time go out with two squadrons of F-35s and next time fully loaded with MV-22s and another MEU with a 50-50 combo. Now that’s how you become unpredictable. How do you defend against that?” Berger added.
The Lightning carrier’s nontraditional configuration is “a force multiplier,” the Corps said in its 2017 aviation plan.
In his commandant’s planning guidance issued in July, Berger said the Corps would “consider employment models of the Amphibious Ready Group (ARG)/MEU other than the traditional three-ship model” and that he saw “potential in the ‘Lightning Carrier’ concept” based on Wasp-class landing-helicopter-dock ships and the newer America-class amphibious assault ships.
The USS Wasp exercised in the South China Sea in spring with 10 F-35Bs aboard, more than it would normally carry.
In October, the USS America sailed into the eastern Pacific with 13 F-35Bs embarked — a first for the America that “signaled the birth of the most lethal, aviation-capable amphibious assault ship to date,” the Corps said.
The Lightning-carrier configuration gives the Marine Air-Ground Task Force aviation element “more of a strike mindset with 12 or more jets that give the fleet or MAGTF commander the ability to better influence the enemy at range,” Lt. Col. John Dirk, a Marine attack-squadron commander aboard the America, said at the time.
Even with the Lightning carrier, more needs to be done, Berger said on Capitol Hill.
“I think our … amphibious fleet has great capability. It is not enough for 2030. It’s not enough for 2025,” he said.
“We need the big decks, absolutely. We need the LPD-17. That is the mothership, the quarterback in the middle,” Berger said, referring to the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock, the “functional replacement” for more than 41 other amphibious ships. Eleven are in active service, and the Navy plans to buy one in 2021.
“We need a light amphibious force ship, a lot of them, that we don’t have today,” Berger added.
When asked by Military.com, Berger declined to say how many Marines and aircraft those light amphibious ships could carry or whether they would be in the Navy’s new force-structure assessment, which is still being finalized. The Corps is also conducting its own force redesign, which Berger said would be released within the next month.
Berger also said he thought there was a role for the littoral combat ship, four of which the Navy plans to decommission in 2021, and the Navy’s future frigate.
“We cannot put anything on the side right now, not with your adversary building to north of 400” ships, he said, referring to Chinese naval expansion.
“The ships that we have, we need to increase the survivability of them, increase the command-and-control capability of them, arm them where we need to,” Berger added.
Berger and Rep. Mike Gallagher, who also spoke at the Capitol Hill event, both emphasized deterrence in the Indo-Pacific region, and both said that would depend on forces that are stationed forward and dispersed.
The Pentagon is “struggling to figure out how do we do deterrence by denial in Indo-Pacom. How do we deny potential adversaries their objectives in the first place, rather than rolling them back after the fact? That hinges on having forward forces,” said Gallagher, a former Marine officer and a member of the House Armed Services Committee’s seapower subcommittee.
The challenge is “to develop an entirely new logistics footprint, which includes new ships to support, resupply, and maneuver Marines around the first island chain, littorals, and in a high-threat environment, where speed and mobility serves as the primary defense,” Gallagher said.
That may require new classes of ships, added Gallagher, who told industry representatives in the room that “new classes of ships do not have to mean less work, and in the case of the future amphibious fleet — because I believe we need more potentially smaller amphibious vessels — it might actually mean more work.”
In his remarks, Berger called deterrence “the underpinning of our strategy.”
“I believe that because whatever the cost of deterrence is,” Berger said, “is going to be lower than the cost of a fight, in terms of ships and planes and bodies. So we need to pay the price for deterrence. I’m 100% there.”
The US military shot an incoming missile out of the sky in a successful intercept test Aug. 30.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones launched an SM-6 interceptor to bring down a medium-range ballistic missile off the coast of Hawaii, according to the Missile Defense Agency.
The missile was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. Using the on-board AN/SPY-1 radar, the destroyer detected and tracked the missile.
“We are working closely with the fleet to develop this important new capability, and this was a key milestone in giving our Aegis BMD ships an enhanced capability to defeat ballistic missiles in their terminal phase,” MDA Director Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves said in a statement. “We will continue developing ballistic missile defense technologies to stay ahead of the threat as it evolves.”
The Aug. 30 test marked the second time an SM-6 interceptor has been used to intercept an MRBM. The military has conducted three tests in total, but during a test in June, the interceptor failed as a result of human error. A sailor on the USS John Paul Jones triggered a self-destruct sequence by mistake.
The US military’s latest intercept test comes just two days after North Korea launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan in an unusually-provocative missile test. The North warned that it will continue firing missiles into the Pacific Ocean, adding that the recent test was a “prelude” to possible strikes on or around Guam.
The US has lost a few Aegis destroyers in recent months, hindering missile defense in a volatile region. Both the USS Fitzgerald and USS John McCain were damaged severely after collisions with merchant vessels in June and August. The two accidents killed seventeen American sailors. The US military still has numerous missile defense assets — from Patriot interceptors to Terminal High Altitude Area Defense systems — in the area though.
For years and years, Special Operations Forces (SOF) has been the military equivalent of the easy button. And why not? Why commit a large force such as a Brigade in the 82nd with 5,000 soldiers, when you can commit SOF with a much smaller force? And this has been happening for years.
If history is any indicator, Special Operations Forces will be downsized and, more than likely, more troops will be brought home by the Biden Administration. Biden is less likely to pull the trigger on a bomb than Trump was, and will most probably have a more diplomatic approach when it comes to foreign policy.
Well, what about Iran and China? Yes, we always will have countries to worry about, but I don’t see giant troop movements to invade another country and I don’t believe we will anytime soon. I’m not sold on the right’s belief that we are on the cusp of WWIII.
In March 2008, Obama declared of Iraq, “When I am commander in chief, I will set a new goal on day one: I will end this war.”
In many ways, Obama kept his word. He ended Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom — the combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively, that Bush had passed down to him — and drastically reduced U.S. troop levels from their peaks in both countries. In the midst of the Arab Spring, the president led a limited military campaign against Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi with the support of the United Nations and a multinational coalition.
The Special Operations Budget
In 2000, our defense budget was a mere $300 billion. Today it’s more than doubled to over $700 billion. I foresee the Biden Administration cutting this by at least 10 percent by the end of his first term.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are over. Let’s think about supply and demand. We aren’t graduating as many Green Berets as we used to. Between 2012 and 2014, Special Forces was graduating between six and eight classes per year. That was a healthy number with 600 to 800 Green Berets heading to the Groups. Teams easily had 10 or more operators on them during this time. Nowadays, with only four starts per fiscal year, Special Forces is looking at half of those graduating numbers.
This includes training budgets as well. “Do more with less” has become a popular mantra. Let’s be honest, do special operators have to go to some exotic location to train when they can do it at home? Teams will argue that off-site training is the best (and I agree), but Special Forces soldiers can shoot, move, and communicate at their home base.
Putting a team in the middle of Africa, alone, with little to no support does help build relationships between the team. You get to know each other on a much deeper level. In Africa, my team lived in two tents. I mean, we knew who had sleep apnea for goodness sake. Being that far from anyone also instills a deep connection but you fully rely on each other to do the job, because you are all that you have. But there is a difference between need-to-have and nice-to-have.
Let’s get back to the basics, boys.
Changes to the Special Forces Companies
Special Forces Companies have six teams. That 6th team in the company might go away. If recruiting numbers continue to drop, Groups will be forced to either reduce the size or the number of teams. Some readers may remember when the 6th team was a ghost team, meaning nobody actually worked there.
The Geographic Combatant Command (GCC). There are currently 11 unified combatant commands that ultimately cover the entire globe. Each is established as the highest echelon of military commands to provide effective command and control of all U.S. military forces, regardless of branch of service, during peace or wartime.
The geographic commands have essentially two tasks: war planning and fighting, and military engagement programs. Both tasks are and will always be the Department of Defense and the military’s fundamental responsibilities.
These guys meet every two years and basically hash out the requirements and who can fill them.
If you were to ask the AFRICOM Commander General Stephen J. Townsend, he might say that we are not at war, the Africans are, and that the American population doesn’t have a taste for losing its soldiers in Africa. So the Army created the Security Forces Assistance Brigade (SFAB).
The SFAB concept is intended to relieve the Brigade Combat Teams of the combat advisory mission and enable them to focus on their primary combat mission.
There is definitely a fight in Africa, but we are generally there to advise and assist. Not the answer the Special Forces guy wants to hear. The young, eager captain will basically be trying to figure out how to get on target and get his gun on. Sorry, sir, probably not going to happen.
This would also include Special Forces missions.
SF is a tired force. However, this is currently improving with the mandated dwell times: one day gone away from home, two days at home. I do think that this needs some tweaking; however, generally speaking, after over a year of this being implemented, Group is figuring it out.
For this piece, I won’t go into how the State Department and the geopolitical landscape affects the military, but it’s worth mentioning. Most Ambassadors are State Department careerists. They don’t need some new Captain coming in every six months thinking he’s going to change the world and go kill a bunch of people, making his job tougher.
So Special Forces has fewer people going to selection and fewer people graduating. Our requirements overseas should be slowing down or are being forced to slow down by the mandatory dwell. Teams are either undermanned or borrowing from other teams to fill requirements.
Therefore, for now, a smaller SF force is a good thing. Everything comes in rotations, and I certainly believe within 10 more years, we will be in another conflict, and our numbers will go back up to meet the demand.
But for now, Special Operations cannot be the easy button it once was.
Police officer Corporal Allan Ervin arrived at a burning home at 8:30 am on a Friday in July. He works for the Columbia Police Department in Tennessee and was wearing a body camera when he arrived at the scene at the Riverside neighborhood home.
Loud screams shatter a calm morning
When a woman heard someone screaming in her quiet Tennessee neighborhood one morning, she immediately called the police. When she rushed over to the origin of the sound, she could see a house was on fire. Two parents had escaped the blazing house before the explosions began, but their disabled daughter remained inside. When the neighbor arrived, she could see April Chumley, age 37, lying close to the front door.
Because Chumley is non-communicative and cannot walk, she had no way of getting out on her own. Both the woman’s father and the neighbor tried to get her out of the house, but to no avail. That’s when Ervin arrived and rushed out of his patrol vehicle. Ervin yelled that everyone should get away from the burning house as he ran inside to save Chumley.
An ambulance rushed her to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where doctors treated her for smoke inhalation and burns. Both parents were also taken to the hospital but were released shortly thereafter. Ervin miraculously sustained no injuries in rescuing Chumley.
Ervin’s body-cam footage shows him running into the home, engulfed in flames from explosions.
The police department decided not to release the rest of the video, including the rescue itself where Ervin carried the victim out of the house, due to its graphic nature.
Police officers think of others first
“As a police officer, the first thing you think of is the preservation of life, and fortunately, we were able to do that,” Ervin said in his statement to the Columbia Daily Herald. It was his quick response as a first responder that saved Chumley’s life. “We know the risks we take when we go out there,” he said. “You just have to react and use your best judgment.”
Bursting oxygen tanks inside the home caused the explosions and rapid spread of the fire.
It’s thanks to the mentality of first responders like Ervin that people walk away from deadly situations alive. First responders wake up every single day to help their communities. They realize lives depend on them and dedicate themselves to the communities in which they serve.
The job requires first responders to be both adaptable and flexible. Quick reaction times and the ability to adapt to any situation are necessities of the job. It takes an eagerness to learn and stay up-to-date on new skills and technology to perform this vital role.
Everything a first responder learns, they take with them on the job, allowing them to save lives at a moment’s notice no matter which uniform they’re wearing.
Being a first responder requires an incredible amount of self-sacrifice. They work non-traditional hours and give up time with their families for the sake of their communities.
Similar to the men and women who serve in the military, first responders face intense and dangerous situations all the time. This often creates a special type of bond among the first responder community.
Just before America’s official involvement in World War II, Fido was born. It took a while for Fido to be ready to serve, though. Only 4,000 were fielded – down from a planned 10,000 — largely because Fido was so effective.
For Fido, though, the mission was a one-way trip.
Now, you dog lovers out there, don’t go flying off the handle. Fido wasn’t some poor canine conscripted for use in war to be blown to bits while killing the enemy. No, this “Fido” — as the sailors who used it against enemy subs took to calling it — was purely machine. A torpedo, to be exact.
Okay, technically Fido’s designation was as the Mk 24 Mine, but this torpedo was unique in that it could sniff out enemy submarines.
According to UBoat.net, Fido’s “nose” consisted of four hydrophones placed at equidistant points around the body of the Mk 13 aerial torpedo. These gave the torpedo steering directions as they detected the skulking submarine and guided the torpedo to a direct impact on the hull. That’s when a 100-pound high-explosive warhead would do its job. The result should be a sunken enemy submarine.
Fido could go at a speed of 12 knots and its batteries would last for 15 minutes. It could be dropped from up to 300 feet high by planes going as fast as 120 knots. Submarines could increase their speed to try to outrun it, but their batteries would run out very quickly, forcing them to the surface, where they’d be sitting ducks to American guns. If they didn’t go fast, the torpedo would catch them.
Fido was used on anything from a TBF Avenger to the PBY Catalina. It took a little less than a year and a half for Fido to make it from the drawing board to its first enemy kill. Fido claimed 33 Axis submarines in the Atlantic (32 German, one Japanese), and four more in the Pacific (all Japanese).
Fido was, in one sense, the progenitor of today’s advanced air-dropped anti-submarine torpedoes, the Mk 46, the Mk 50 Barracuda, and the Mk 54 MAKO. Such is the legacy of a torpedo that sniffed out Axis subs.