How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea - We Are The Mighty
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How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea

The Coast Guard cutter James pulled into Port Everglades on November 15 laden with 38,000 pounds of cocaine hauled in by it and other Coast Guard ships during months of patrols in the eastern Pacific Ocean.

The crew of the James and the helicopter deployed with them were in formation behind the bales, some of which were topped with testaments to the precision of Coast Guard marksmen.

Coast Guard crews and the ships and aircraft they use have a variety of roles, but they are just one component in the fight against drug smuggling on the high seas that is reaching new heights.


The 458,000 pounds of cocaine seized in the most recent fiscal year, which ended September 30, was intercepted through a complex interdiction process that sometimes begins before the drugs even set sail, draws on governments and security forces from throughout the region, and requires crews to be as good at reacting as they are at planning.

“At-sea interdiction … is truly a team sport,” Coast Guard commandant Adm. Karl Schultz said aboard the James.

Colombia is the world’s largest producer of coca, the base ingredient in cocaine. While it’s the only South American country with Atlantic and Pacific coasts, more than 80% of the finished product destined for the US goes through the eastern Pacific — an area the size of the US mainland.

Finding suspicious vessels in an area that size can be a challenge for the Coast Guard, even with the capabilities of the other US agencies and neighboring countries with which it partners.

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea

A crew from US Coast Guard cutter Dependable intercepts a drug-smuggling boat in the eastern Pacific Ocean, April 8,, 2017.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Time, speed, and distance

Intelligence-gathering can point to when and where shipments will depart, but in the absence of that the search for seaborne smugglers often starts in at sea, where what a vessel looks like and how people aboard it behave are sometimes the first signs of nefarious activity.”

If you have like one of these open-construction boats, known as a panga, that usually has multiple outboard engines,” Capt. Jeffrey Randall, commander of the James, told Business Insider in an interview aboard the cutter.

“Most of the legitimate traffic has one engine,” Randall said. “Some of the ones that are actually trying to move the cocaine will have multiple engines so they can go faster and evade detection.”

Fuel barrels can be a tipoff. “Ones that have multiple fuel barrels, you know they are preparing for a longer transit, so that may be an indicator,” Randall said. “You may also in some cases see the bales of contraband on deck.”

In other instances, the crew of vessel not waving or otherwise acknowledging the Coast Guard’s presence — particularly when that presence is a helicopter overhead — may also warrant closer attention.

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea

A boarding team aboard the Coast Guard cutter Stratton removes bales of contraband that later tested positive for cocaine from a go-fast vessel in international waters in the drug-transit zone of the eastern Pacific Ocean, February 23, 2017.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Mark Barney)

Personnel from the Joint Interagency Task Force South, a US-based multiagency body that liaises with authorities through the region, also run aerial patrols over the Caribbean and Pacific Ocean.

“They’ll fly some overhead surveillance, and one of those aircraft may sight one of these vessels,” Randall said of the JIATF-South. “Then they’ll vector us in to those targets, and then that’s when we launch the boats, launch the helicopter, and coordinate an interdiction.”

But where and when — and even whether — those interdictions take place depends on a number of factors.

“It basically boils down to time, speed, and distance, and where you want to effect that interdiction,” Randall said.

“There’s a time aspect. There’s a boat-capability aspect. There’s a what-is-your-adversary-going-to-do aspect,” Randall said.

No two interdictions are the same, he added. It’s “situation-dependent on all those things.”

“We talk with our pilots. We talk with our boat operators and say, ‘OK, this is what we think is going to be the best process to effect this interdiction,'” he said. “Then we put all those pieces together, make some decisions, launch, and then try and go effect the interdiction.”

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea

Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf during a counterdrug patrol in the eastern Pacific Ocean, March 10, 2018.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi)

‘We do a lot of training’

Coast Guard crew members tasked with those interdictions are typically waiting on-call aboard their ship.

“We kind of rotate with three teams, and we rotate when you’re on ready status,” said Lt. j.g. Simon Juul-Hindsgaul, a boarding officer on the James, in an interview aboard the ship. “You’re decked out … you hear the pipe, and you’re ready to go.”

Poor conditions can cause delays, as can logistical factors.

“The boats have a certain range, and you want to maximize how quickly you can get to the asset. That’s based on sea state and some other things,” Randall said. “You want to maximize how much time your helicopter has on scene, so that’s going to play into … that time, speed, and distance.”

Poor conditions can cause delays, as can logistical factors.

“The boats have a certain range, and you want to maximize how quickly you can get to the asset. That’s based on sea state and some other things,” Randall said. “You want to maximize how much time your helicopter has on scene, so that’s going to play into … that time, speed, and distance.”

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea

Crew members from the US Coast Guard cutter Spencer interdict a self-propelled semi-submersible vessel during a counter-narcotics patrol, November 11, 2017.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Timothy Midas)

There are different approach tactics for different kinds of vessels, Juul-Hindsgaul said, declining to elaborate on them. And different kinds of missions come with different kinds of concerns, he added.

“When it’s a pursuit mission — so it’s not a vessel that is potentially flagged or that we would have to just do some alongside questioning — then you’re thinking are they going to be compliant? How am I going to approach the vessel? What’s the safest angle of approach?”

In the small boat, where Juul-Hindsgaul is always stationed, communications are a constant concern.

“Comms with the helicopter, because they’re generally overhead and they can vector us in, that’s key,” he said. “The farther out we operate, the more unreliable the communications become, so then you start working secondary comms and that sort of thing.”

Approaching a suspect vessel can get hairy. In April, Coast Guard and Navy crews came upon a go-fast boat in the eastern Pacific. Spotting the US ship, the go-fast boat’s crew began throwing their cargo overboard.

Then their engine caught fire, and Coast Guardsmen and Navy sailors had to battle flames before seizing a half-ton of cocaine.

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Harriet Lane approaches a suspected smuggling vessel while a helicopter crew from the Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron monitors from the air, February 25, 2018.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Some at-sea interdictions, which can take 12 hours or more, come up with nothing, either because the suspect vessel carried no contraband or because it offloaded it before being intercepted.

Whatever the situation, Coast Guardsman tasked with boarding have to prepare for a variety of potential threats. In one case, a fishing vessel intercepted by the James during its most recent cruise had more than 30 people aboard, Juul-Hindsgual said.”

Just the sheer number of individuals that I don’t know what they have on them before I get on board,” he said, “there’s always that.”

“We’re always checking to make sure that they don’t have any weapons that could potentially harm us,” he added. “Then with the other vessels … they could potentially ram us or something, so we’re always aware of that.”

Boarding a suspected smuggling vessel brings a new set of challenges, with a procedure to match.

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea

Coast Guard cutter Valiant crew members transport seized contraband from one of the eight vessels interdicted during their eight-week patrol in the eastern Pacific in early 2016.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

“So we get on board, one of our initial procedures, which you learn out of school, is just your initial safety sweep. You always do that, make sure that the vessel’s safe to be on board,” Juul-Hindsgaul said.

Training includes a basic boarding course for officers as well as a specialized counter-narcotics course. Crews keep training while at sea. “We do a lot of training,” Juul-Hindsgaul said.

Some smuggling vessels, especially self-propelled semi-submersibles, which carry multiton loads of drugs just below the surface and cost id=”listicle-2621744055″ million to million apiece, are equipped with “kill switches.”

“We find that all the time, that they have scuttling valves or something,” Juul-Hindsgual said.

Sometimes smugglers just throw contraband overboard. Recovering floating bales of drugs is no easy task either.

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea

Crewmembers of the Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk (WMEC 913) and Tactical Law Enforcement Team South on top of a self-propelled semi-submersible they stopped July 3, 2018.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Boarding a smuggling vessel means eventually getting off of it — a task complicated by drugs and detainees that need to be brought back.

“It matters whether or not the vessel has nationality [and] if it makes a claim of nationality,” Randall said of dealing with a seized vessel. “If it makes a claim of nationality, then we may have to use one of our … bilateral agreements … to do some exchange of information to verify the registry of the vessel or verify the nationality of the people” on it.

That inquiry and the response to it often has to go through layers of bureaucracy. It may take hours to get an answer, but that answer affects what comes next, Randall said.

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea

A boarding team member from Coast Guard cutter Stratton grabs a bale of cocaine that suspected smugglers jettisoned from their vessel in a failed attempt to flee Coast Guard pursuit in the eastern Pacific Ocean, September 8, 2017.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jon-Paul Rios)

“For the safety of the people we usually bring them on board, because some of these semi-submersible or these low profile vessels are not the safest vessels to be on,” he added. “So we’ll remove them and put them on our boats, which [are] a safer platform, until those disposition processes work out.”

“That’s generally an all-hands effort,” Juul-Hindsgaul said of removing people and contraband.

Read more: The Coast Guard is catching more drug-running subs, but most ‘very stealthy’ narco subs are probably going undetected

“I’m out there on the boarding team and we … do the full law-enforcement boarding,” he added, “and then we’ll set a different scenario where we set a stage on board, where everyone preps and gets ready and then we’ll just transport all that back to the vessel.”

Coast Guardsmen handling any suspected drugs are outfitted with protective gear.

“You don’t want to get any of it on you or ingest any of it,” Randall said. “It’s really highly potent.”

“People train to go through and … check medical and all that sort of stuff for” detainees, Juul-Hindsgual said. “Then we gear up and then transport the contraband to a secure hold” aboard the Coast Guard ship.

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea

Coast Guard cutter Stratton boarding-team members detain four suspected smugglers after intercepting their vessel with 17 bales of cocaine on board in the eastern Pacific Ocean, September 8, 2017.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jon-Paul Rios)

“We give [detainees] a medical check. We get them showered. We give them a uniform and then start providing three meals a day and all that kind of stuff,” Randall said. “They take good care of them until we get them back to the US judicial system.”

Detainees, some of whom arrive poorly clothed or in ill health, remain at sea with the ship, disembarking to another vessel if the cutter makes a port call in another country, as the Coast Guard must hold them in international waters.

“Once we get, basically, to a position where we’re allowed to enforce US law or a country waives jurisdiction … and we get an positive drug test, we will embark the people as detainees and then embark the contraband and then hold them until we can bring them back for US prosecution,” Randall said.

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea

A Coast Guard cutter Bernard C. Webber crew member carries a bale of cocaine during a drug offload at Coast Guard Base Miami Beach, October 16, 2018.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Murray)

‘Peddlers of poison’

Taking care of the drugs is fairly straight-forward process. Seizures from several ships are collected aboard one ship for an offload, usually in South Florida or Southern California.

From there, the drugs are usually turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration, which takes samples and discards the rest. Each year, the DEA’s Cocaine Signature Program conducts tests on about 2,500 cocaine samples.

The DEA says its tests can determine the origin of cocaine down to the sub-regional level with 96% confidence, and it consistently finds that Colombian cocaine dominates the US market.

The DEA has “ways to … analyze that [cocaine] and then the bulk of it gets destroyed,” said Schultz, the Coast Guard commandant. “They will use it to enable prosecutions to better inform the intelligence picture on this threat that exists out there.”

Things are more complicated for the human cargo that Coast Guard ships bring back.While the Coast Guard is a law-enforcement agency, the expansion of the drug war and of its authority to detain suspected smugglers in international waters has increased the numbers of detainees.

That increase has raised concern about legal procedure and due process.

In 2017, a former Coast Guard lawyer described the cutters holding detainees at sea as “floating Guantanamos.” Another Coast Guard officer called them “boat prisons.”

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea

Petty Officer 1st Class Radoslaw Florczak, left, a health services technician aboard Coast Guard cutter Active, medically screens a detained suspected narcotics smuggler during a patrol in the eastern Pacific Ocean, May 15, 2018.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael De Nyse)

Schultz’s predecessor, Paul Zukunft, who retired as an admiral in 2018, bristled at that description when asked about it during a December 2017 interview, saying he thought it was “an unfair stab at the Coast Guard.”

Taking care of detainees while aboard and offloading them to the proper authorities were “a challenge of logistics,” he said.

The Coast Guard and US officials have said intelligence gleaned from detainees is vital to bring down trafficking networks, though some are skeptical the smugglers being caught — often low-level members of criminal groups or fishermen who sign up for the lucrative pay a successful smuggling run can bring — can offer more than fragments of information.

“Make no mistake, these are peddlers of poison,” Zukunft said in December 2017. “So I think there’s been a mischaracterization of who these people are. They have choices. They’ve elected to engage in criminal activity. That is a direct threat to the livelihood here in the United States.”

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

Humor

The 13 funniest memes for the week of Nov. 17

Justice League comes out this weekend but you don’t care because you’ve been waiting for your Real-Life Justice League enlistment to end for the last four years.


These memes are for those sick of saving the world.

1. With all the sex scandals happening, its good that we can still count on something. (via Decelerate Your Life)

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea
Oh baby yes.

2. Try putting a dominoes pizza hotkey on an AR-15 though.

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea

Somewhat related: 6 reasons why Marines hate on the Air Force 

3. Tonight: The story of literally every day in the military. (via Team Non-Rec)

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea
Update: You’re not going home anytime soon.

4. Guess how I know it’s not Fort Bragg. (via US Army WTF Moments)

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea
A paratrooper would have done a parachute landing fall out the window.

5. There isn’t enough Motrin in the world to fix that foundation.

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea
Also, it smells weird and no one wants to go there.

6. Because what we call a “deployment” is relative.

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea
Bums.

Now: This is why Fallujah is one of the Marine Corps’ most legendary battles

7. “Follow me on my adventure through this office.”

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea
Now back to the quiet safe room.

8. Call me when woobies become fashionable wear.

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea
Urban Outfitters will never sell this color.

9. Welcome to BX barber shop.

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea
Or the MPF. Definitely the MPF.

The guy who wrote this is cool: That time an entire battle stopped to watch two soldiers in a fistfight

10. Anything with snowflake, cuck, safe place, trigger warning.  (via Decelerate Your Life)

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea

11. Congress is about to pass a new defense bill.

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea
Those babies are illegal under the Geneva Convention.

12. This one’s for the good cops out there.

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea

13. Why the Coast Guard’s job is harder than you think.

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea

This post is so Fresh it moved to Bel-Air: Watch Gordon Ramsey live a day in the life of a Royal Marine

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The United States used combat hovercraft to kick butt in Vietnam

When people think hovercraft, the Landing Craft Air Cushion (also known as the LCAC) comes to mind. Understandably so — that hovercraft has been a vital piece of gear for the Navy and Marine Corps when it comes to projecting power ashore. But these are not the first hovercraft to be used in service. In fact, hovercraft saw action with both the Navy and Army during the Vietnam War.


In 1966, the Navy acquired four Patrol Air Cushion Vehicles, or PACVs (pronounced “Pack-Vees”), for test purposes and deployed them to Vietnam. The hovercraft quickly proved very potent, delivering a lot of firepower and speed and reaching areas inaccessible to traditional tracked or wheeled vehicles.

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea

Patrol Air Cushion Vehicles packed a lot of firepower and were fast — but they never got past an operational test.

(US Navy)

A PACV was equipped with a turret that held one or two M2 .50-caliber machine guns mounted on top of the cabin, which held a crew of four. There were also two M60 general-purpose machine guns, one mounted to port and the other to starboard. Additionally, there were two remote-controlled emplacements for either M60s or Mk 19 automatic grenade launchers.

The hovercraft could reach a top speed of 35 knots and had a maximum range of 165 nautical miles. But as maintenance and training proved problematic, especially given the trans-Pacific supply lines, the Navy decided to pull the plug. The Army, however, remained interested. The hovercraft operated primarily from a land base, but could also be deployed from amphibious ships (like today’s LCACs).

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea

PACVs worked with the Navy’s Light Attack Helicopter Squadron Three (HAL-3), providing a fast response to enemy activity.

(US Navy)

The Army acquired three Air-Cushion Vehicles, which operated within the 9th Infantry Division. Two were configured for attack missions and both were destroyed in 1970. The other, which was tooled as a transport, was shipped back to the United States.

Learn more about these early hovercraft that did some damage in Vietnam in the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCiTyP-3Klk

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY HISTORY

A sixth grade history project exonerated the captain of the USS Indianapolis

In 1945, the USS Indianapolis completed its top secret mission of delivering atomic bomb components to Tinian Island in the Pacific Theater of World War II. The heavy cruiser was sunk on its way to join a task force near Okinawa. Of the ship’s 1195 crewmembers, only 316 survived the sinking and the subsequent time adrift at sea in the middle of nowhere. Among the survivors was the captain of the Indianapolis, Charles B. McVay III.


McVay would be charged with negligence in the loss of the ship. Even though he was restored to active duty after his court-martial and retired a rear admiral, the guilt of the loss haunted him for the rest of his life. He committed suicide with his Navy revolver on his own front lawn with a toy sailor in his hand.

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea

Even he doubted his own innocence.

McVay did everything he could in the wake of the torpedoing of the Indianapolis. He sounded the alarm, giving the order to abandon ship and was one of the last men off. Many of the survivors of the sinking publicly stated he was not to blame for its loss. But this wasn’t enough for the family members of the ship’s crew, who hounded McVay year after year, blaming him for the loss of their sons.

The Navy was partly to blame. They didn’t warn Indianapolis that the submarine I-58 was operating along the area of the ship’s course to Okinawa. They also didn’t warn the ship to zigzag in its pattern to evade enemy submarines. When the Indianapolis radioed a distress signal, it was picked up by three Navy stations, who ignored the call because one was drunk, the other had a commander who didn’t want to be disturbed, and the last thought it was a trap.

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea

One of the survivors of the Indianapolis during his rescue.

Three and a half days later, the survivors were rescued from the open water, suffering from salt water poisoning, exposure, hypothermia, and the largest case of shark attacks ever recorded. It was truly a horrifying scene. The horror is what led to McVay’s court martial, one of very few commanders to face such a trial concerning the loss of a ship. Even though the Japanese commander of I-58, the man who actually destroyed the Indianapolis, told the U.S. Navy that standard Navy evasion techniques would not have worked – Indianapolis was doomed from the get-go. Even that didn’t satisfy McVay’s critics.

It wasn’t until sixth-grader Hunter Scott began a history project in school about the sinking of the Indianapolis. He poured through official Navy documents until he found the evidence he needed to conclusively prove that McVay wasn’t responsible for the loss of his ship. His project caught the attention of then-Congressman Joe Scarborough and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich who helped pass a Congressional resolution exonerating McVay. It was signed by President Bill Clinton in 2000.

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea

Lieutenant Hunter Scott with a survivor of the Indianapolis.

Hunter Scott, the onetime sixth-grader and eternal friend to the crew of the Indianapolis, is now a naval aviator. He attended the University of North Carolina on a Navy ROTC scholarship and joined active duty in 2007. He even spoke at the dedication of the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This ‘Duster’ cleaned up in the air and on the ground

World War II proved that tanks were very vulnerable to air attack. To deal with that threat, the United States and Soviet Union both developed some anti-aircraft guns that could keep up with and protect that valuable armor.

The Russians have invested heavily in tactical anti-air in recent years, developing systems that can, theoretically, shoot down an entire squadron of planes. Today, the best American self-propelled anti-aircraft gun is the M163 Vulcan Air Defense System. But before the Vulcan, there was the Duster.


The “Duster” was the popular nickname for the M42 self-propelled anti-aircraft gun. This vehicle took a tried-and-true weapon system, the twin 40mm Bofors gun that was responsible for eliminating many enemy planes in World War II, and mated it with the chassis of the M41 Walker Bulldog light tank. The result was a vehicle that would stick around for nearly two decades after its successor, the M163, entered service.

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea

The M42 was intended to shoot down planes, but like the M45 “Meat Chopper,” it was also lethal against ground targets.

(USMC)

The 40mm Bofors gun was the heart of the system. The M42 packed 336 rounds of 40mm ammo for the twin guns, which could fire 120 rounds a minute, giving the vehicle a bit less than 90 seconds of sustained firing time. The powerful 40mm guns had an effective range of 11,000 yards, or six-and-a-quarter miles.

The M42, like the M45 “Meat Chopper,” proved to be very potent in the air-to-air role but made an even bigger impact on the ground. It seems that, like aircraft, lightly-armored trucks and troops in the open don’t fare too well after meeting up with the 40mm.

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea

Even with the introduction of the M163, the M42 hung around through most of the 1980s.

(Photo by Chitrapa)

As surface-to-air missiles were fielded, the Duster stuck around as a supplement to systems like the MIM-23 HAWK. The introduction of the M163 saw the Duster more often fielded with reserve units, where it hung on until 1988.

Despite not seeing use with American armed forces, the system is still in use with a number of countries around the world.

Learn more in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SJW7vTEPR8

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Army-Navy Game saw the first use of Instant Replay

In the fourth quarter of the 1963 Army-Navy game, Army’s “Rollie” Stichweh faked a handoff and ran in the endzone for Army’s final touchdown against Navy for that contest. The touchdown didn’t change the outcome of a 21-15 loss for Army. What was special about it was the broadcast for the viewers at home.

CBS play-by-play commentator Lindsey Nelson had to tell people watching that Army didn’t score twice – they were watching the future of sports television.


In the days before the Super Bowl was the game that brought America together for TV Sports’ biggest day, the game that brought everyone to their televisions was the Army-Navy Game. In December 1963, the Army-Navy Game was airing just days after the assassination of President Kennedy shocked Americans to the core. And CBS Director Tony Verna brought a 1,300-pound behemoth of a machine to use for his broadcast.

Millions were watching, and this monster was either going to make or break the young director’s career. Nelson was worried that the new technology might confuse people. So was Verna.

“There was the uncertainty about this game,” says Jack Ford, a correspondent for CBS News. “How is it gonna be played? How are fans going to react to this?”

In those days, replay technology still took up to 15 minutes to get ready, far too long to rehash an individual football play. Verna’s machine would be able to do it in 15 seconds when and if it worked. What happened during the game play was not as Verna had hoped. The machine mostly saw static, and when it did replay plays, there was a double exposure from what the crew had taped over, which was an old episode of I Love Lucy. As a result, Lucille Ball’s face could be seen on the field during the replays.

But when it came down to it, Verna’s machine did work, just in time to catch Army’s last touchdown of the game. It was the only time fans saw the instant replay during that game, but it was revolutionary. One of the Dallas Cowboys’ big executives, Tex Schramm, called Verna to congratulate him.

“He told me the significance of it, that I hadn’t confused anybody, which Lindsay and I were worried about, certainly me,” Verna told NPR later in life. “And he said, ‘You didn’t confuse anybody. It has great possibilities.’ “

Featured

This Green Beret invented a flag that can’t – and won’t – burn

When 10th Group Special Forces soldier Kyle Daniels returned from his last combat deployment, he was frustrated by what he saw. He understood that he’d been fighting for America’s freedom, including the important freedom to protest. But he didn’t like seeing the American flag burned.

So he did something about it.


How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea

Daniels designed and developed a flag that will not burn. Now, after two years of research and hundreds of prototypes, on Sunday, June 14 – Flag Day 2020 – the Firebrand Flag Company will launch its first product: A first-of-its-kind, official, fire-retardant U.S. Flag made in America from the same kevlar and nomex fabric that keeps our service members and first responders safe.

Daniels has big ambitions for his flag company. “I want Firebrand Flags to be the official flag company of the U.S.A.,” he said. “I want every home, business and government building in America to proudly fly one of our flags. And, if, for some reason, one of our enemies got ahold of one of our flags, it wouldn’t be much use as a propaganda tool. They would have to go to extreme lengths to destroy it, much like they do when they are face to face with an American service member. Old Glory can now defend itself.”

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea

Early on, Daniels shared his vision with his former Green Beret commander, Jason Van Camp. Van Camp immediately invited Daniels to join his Warrior Rising incubator. Warrior Rising helps veteran entrepreneurs find mentors who can help realize their business goals and transition to the private sector. “I’ve known Kyle since the Special Forces Qualification Course. I believe in Kyle. He was a perfect fit for Warrior Rising,” Van Camp explained. “He had passion and zeal for making a flag that would literally dominate the narrative about flag burning but needed to evolve a new set of business skills to realize his vision.”

The mission wasn’t going to be easy. To make a flag that would look, feel and fly like a real flag but that wouldn’t burn, Daniels needed to engineer new materials and design a manufacturing process that previously didn’t exist. There were plenty of roadblocks along the way. The process to make the flag required entirely new cutting machines and the largest purchase of Kevlar fabric outside of the U.S. military. But Daniels applied the resilience he learned in the military to his business. As Daniels put it, “You have to adapt, overcome and do whatever needs to be done to accomplish the mission.”

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea

At a Warrior Rising event, Kyle met yet another ex-Green Beret, Chase Millsap, the Chief Content Officer at We Are The Mighty. We Are The Mighty is a publisher and content studio focused on the military and veteran communities. Millsap loved the Firebrand mission from the outset. “We tell stories that celebrate service. Kyle’s unburnable flag is an awesome product with an amazing story.” It took Milsap no time to convince his colleagues to jump on board and the two companies have formed a partnership to bring the Firebrand Flag to market. WATM is the proud media partner of Firebrand Flags.

Get your unburnable flag today. The first 150 orders before June 26 save , and get free shipping (a value). All orders placed by June 26 are guaranteed to arrive in time for the 4th of July.

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea

FIREBRAND FLAG COMPANY – Founded by Green Beret veteran Kyle Daniels, Firebrand Flags is the 1st company to develop a 100% made in America, fire retardant officials U.S. Flag.

WARRIOR RISING – A 501c(3) which empowers U.S. military veterans and their immediate family members by providing them opportunities to create sustainable businesses, perpetuate the hiring of fellow American veterans and earn their future.

WE ARE THE MIGHTY – Launched in 2014, We Are The Mighty (WATM) was created to give military veterans a voice to tell the most authentic, entertaining and inspirational stories about the military and by the military.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of April 20

The stimulus checks have started to appear in everyone’s bank accounts and we’re sure they’re on the way if they’re going through mail. On one hand, it’s fantastic news for the folks that have been hit hard financially by the coronavirus. Hell, we all kind of need it after paying rent last week.

But there’s a little voice in the back of my head telling me that not everyone’s going to spend it on rent, utilities, essential groceries or whathaveyou, and wonder where it all went. Maybe it’s because I saw way too many young troops look at their clothing allowance as beer money…

Don’t worry if you’re like 99% of lower enlisted seeing a comma in their bank account. At least these memes won’t cost you a cent!


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(Meme via SFC Majestic)

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lh5.googleusercontent.com

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(Meme via US Army WTF Moments Memes)

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(Meme via Call for Fire)

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(Comic by Claw of Knowledge)

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(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)

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(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)

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(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

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(Meme via ASMDSS)

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(Meme via Private News Network)

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(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

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(Meme via fuSNCO)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Marine Corps tested a skateboard unit in the 1990s

Before the days of the Iraq War made training to fight in urban centers a necessity, the Marine Corps was being proactive with the idea that the U.S. Military might have to capture some cities during a war. Urban combat exercises became a focal point after the Battle of Mogadishu, culminating in the large-scale Urban Warrior exercises in 1999.

One of the innovations tested in Urban Warrior was the development of the combat skateboard.


Urban Warrior was a test by the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory to test the effectiveness of Marines fighting in large urban areas, which the Corps predicted would materialize on the world’s coastlines. The urban area was more than just another terrain for fighting. It came with its own set of obstacles to overcome including lack of shelter, lack of resources and the ease of booby-trapping rooms, trash, and even entire buildings.

The idea was that conventional U.S. Military power would be limited in an urban environment with a large civilian population and the potential for collateral damage. American tanks, munitions, and other go-tos of the arsenal of democracy would be useless in such an environment. On top of that, disaster relief and humanitarian assistance would have to accompany the fighting to prevent the devolution of the city into another Stalingrad.

Since the Corps knew what wouldn’t work, Urban Warrior was a chance to see what would work.

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea

Like these spiffy “new” Urban BDUs.

On top of weapons, strategies, and uniforms, the Marines who landed and took over parts of Chicago, San Francisco, and Oakland in 1999 also tested a number of tactical ideas at their makeshift proving grounds, including the combat skateboard.

The Marines used store-bought, off-the-shelf, skateboards during Urban Warrior to detect tripwires in buildings and draw sniper fire, among other uses. What the Marines really took away from its experimentation with combat skateboards is that standard knee and elbow pads were useless for American troops fighting in urban centers and specialized ones would have to be obtained.

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea

Lance Cpl. Chad Codwell, from Baltimore, Maryland, with Charlie Company 1st Battalion 5th Marines, carries an experimental urban combat skateboard which is being used for manuevering inside buildings in order to detect tripwires and sniper fire. This mission is in direct support of Urban Warrior ’99.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher Vallee)

Also tested by Marines in urban combat exercises were paragliders and bulldozers, which Marines dubbed “the bulldozer from hell.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Best battle proven tricks to win a ‘sniper duel’

Snipers face countless threats on the battlefield. Ambush. Exposure. Separation from friendly forces. But, one of the most dangerous is being hunted by another deadly sharpshooter.

“It becomes a game of cat and mouse,” US Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Rance, the sniper instructor team sergeant at the sniper school at Fort Benning, said in a recent interview with Business Insider. “You have to be very cautious.”


Sniper duels like those seen in “Enemy at the Gates” and that well-known scene from “Saving Private Ryan” are rare, but they do happen. During the Vietnam War, Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock battled several enemy snipers, reportedly putting a shot clean through the rifle scope and eye of a North Vietnamese Army sniper.

We asked a handful of top US Army snipers, marksman with years of experience and multiple combat deployments, how they hunt enemy sharpshooters. Here’s what they had to say.

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea

Spc. Dane Pope-Keegan, a Scottsdale, Arizona native and sniper assigned to 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, performs reconnaissance and collects information during air assault training on July 10, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Andrew McNeil / 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

US snipers have been fighting insurgents in the Middle East for nearly two decades. These enemies, while dangerous, are often considered lower level threats because they lack the training that US forces have.

“Some of our lower threat level [enemies], just because they are carrying a long gun, they may not have the actual experience of a sniper,” Rance told BI. The far greater threats are from professionally trained shooters from advanced militaries like those of China, Russia, and possibly even Iran.

“As you get into the near-peer threats, adversaries that have the proper tools and training, it’s a greater challenge for us to go get them because often they are professional school-trained snipers,” he said. They know the tricks of the trade, and that makes them much more deadly.

When there is a suspected sniper holed up nearby, there are a few different options.

“The best answer might be to go around,” Army Capt. Greg Elgort, the company commander at Fort Benning, told BI. “But, if your mission requires you to go through, you have a lot of different offensive options that are available.” They don’t necessarily have to hunt the enemy down one-on-one.

Snipers regularly support larger military force elements, scouting out enemy positions and relaying critical information to other components of that larger force, which can strike with mortars, artillery or infantry assault to “root out and destroy” the enemy. The snipers can then assess damage caused by the strikes from a safe distance.

But, sometimes eliminating the threat falls squarely on the shoulders of the sniper.

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea

A U.S. Army sniper and infantryman with the U.S. Army Sniper School poses during a video shoot at Fort Benning, Georgia, Dec. 13, 2018.

(U.S. Army Reserve photo by Capt. David Gasperson)

The hunt is a tedious and dangerous game, as Rance said. US troops must pinpoint the emplaced sniper and range them without exposing themselves to fire.

“It’s going to take patience,” First Sgt. Kevin Sipes, a veteran sniper with more than a decade of experience, explained to BI recently. “You are waiting to see who is going to make a mistake first. Basically, it is going to take a mistake for you to win that fight, or vice versa, you making a mistake and losing that fight.”

Snipers are masters at concealing themselves from the watchful eyes of the enemy, but disappearing is no easy task. There’s a million different things that go into hiding from the enemy, and a simple mistake could be fatal.

According to the story of Hathcock, the renowned Vietnam War sniper, it was reportedly the glare of the enemy’s scope that gave away his position. “As a sniper, you are looking for anomalies, anything that sticks out, going against the pattern,” Rance explained.

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea

U.S. Army Spc. Artemio Veneracion, a native of North Hills, Calif., a sniper with Eagle Troop, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, stationed out of Vilseck, Germany, looks through the scope of an M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System (SASS), during a combined squad training exercise with the Finnish Soldiers of the Armoured Reconnaissance Platoon at the Tapa Training Area, Estonia, June 15, 2016.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steven M. Colvin)

These fights could easily be long and drawn out.

“In a real scenario, you could be in a situation for two, three weeks, a month maybe, determining a pattern, waiting for a mistake to be made,” Sipes said. Eliminating a threat could involve taking the shot yourself or using your eyes to guide other assets as they force the enemy “into a position to effectively neutralize them.” Either way, it takes time.

And, the waiting is tough.

“Staying in a position for an extended period of time, obviously it’s difficult,” Sipes told BI. “Patience is key. It’s terrible when you’re in that situation because it’s incredibly boring and you’re not moving. I’ve come out of situations with sores on my stomach and elbows and knees from laying there for so long.”

“It’s a cool story later,” he added.

No matter how tough it gets, a sniper must maintain focus, keeping his concentration. A sniper really only gets one shot, maybe two best case scenario.

“If they were to miss,” Rance explained, “they only have a few seconds to do that second shot correction before that target, seeks cover and disappears.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s how a Russian Sparrow conducts a Honey Pot spy mission

The world of espionage is a high-stakes chess game of clandestine operations where the end justifies the means. The idea of professional temptresses infiltrating our government and financial institutions has been romanticized as a relic of another age, yet the threat has increased in spite of the defeat of the Soviet Union. The Russians have never been able to live down the embarrassing capitulation of Mikhail Gorbachev and tirelessly seek to restore their empire to its former glory.

Beautiful, educated women are recruited and groomed to target our policymakers, financial institutions, and even embassy guards to further a nefarious agenda. A threat to our infrastructure is a threat to every troop currently forward deployed. The remnants of the USSR are gathering once again, focused on the destruction of everything American. This is how the enemies of the west deploy their operatives to conduct Honey Pot operations against us and our allies alike.


How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea

(Ronald Kessler)

Cold War Sparrows

Honey pot spies are trained to be masters of opportunity and stealth by their direct chain of command or sent to spy schools. Other spies trained in sabotage are selected from within the intelligence agency itself, sparrows operate in a fashion similar to contractors: the less they know, the better. They will have few points of contact and will be groomed to identify targets on their own. The timeline between contact can span anywhere between days to years, unaware of other ongoing operations. As they become closer to the hearts of their target and infiltrate their inner circle, they carry on their day to day activities as sleeper cells. Agents will be given free rein to operate autonomously until they are contacted by their handlers.

Ronald Kessler, the author of Moscow Station, explains in his book in detail how the Russians were able to effectively infiltrate the U.S. Embassy in Moscow in 1989. He states that the Russians would lure lonely service members with Honey Pots to get them to collude with their Russian girlfriends, allowing the embassy to be bugged to the point where the building was deemed inoperable and had to be torn down and rebuilt from scratch.

He received criticism from the public that it was inconceivable that troops could be seduced into treason. He strongly advised that troops should be trained further in OPSEC and recommended that embassy duty should be reserved for married service members to prevent such tactics in the future.

Sleeper-cell supergrass gets 25 years for exposing Chapman & Co.

www.youtube.com

Modern Sparrows

Espionage is as old as warfare itself, and the Russians have perfected weaponized seduction as a Hail Mary in a tactic now known as the Honey Pot. Potential candidates are identified by their intellect, beauty, heritage, mastery of language, and cultural knowledge of foreign powers. They will be investigated thoroughly before they are selected to be the eyes and ears of the Kremlin. Once employed by the government they will use their assets and skills to seduce their targets.

College students are the most preferable due to their youth, and their studies offer insight into their ideology and aspirations for the future. A candidate following a career path that provides plausible deniability is a chief alibi in the event an agent is compromised and must be burned by the commanding intelligence agency. The agent is expected to fall gracefully on her sword, and the Russians will investigate everyone who fits this profile inside their borders or abroad.

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea

“an expert at using her femininity to get information.” – Dennis Hirdt

Maxim

The most famous example in recent history is Anna Chapman, a confirmed Russian Spy. Her blood ties to the former KGB via her father, Vasily Kushchenko, made her a prime, pedigree candidate. She was a college student at the time of her recruitment studying economics at Moscow University and was deployed went on vacation to London and married an Englishman named Alex Chapman. Her marriage granted her dual citizenship that allowed her to work for Barclay’s Bank during her marriage. She traveled between Russia and England, informing the powers-that-be of our ally’s economic strategies.

After her divorce, she moved to New York City and started a realty company called PropertyFinder Ltd. that served as her cover while developing ties into the upper echelons of policymakers. She was arrested in June 2010 in the United States by the FBI after attempting to forward a false U.S. Passport through her network to the Kremlin. This action, combined with the information of a U.S. double agent, resulted in her capture and nine others. The following month she was one of the spies exchanged in a deal between the U.S. and Russia.

She was rewarded with a medal from the Russian government, the October cover of the Russian edition of Maxim, became an adviser to FundServiceBank, and was gifted her own television show called Mysteries of the World with Anna Chapman.

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea

War never changes.

1985 Associated Press

How to deal with this threat

Other than the fact that it is unlikely that you will become the target of a Sparrow, one must always exercise caution when handling sensitive information. OPSEC, especially in the bedroom, must be kept under vault like circumstances. Your captivating partner in the throes of passion may be after more than your BAH and Tri-Care.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The ultimate list of military song playlists

For many people, music is a form of therapy. A song can help you get through tough times, great times, or just get you through the day. So we’ve put together the ultimate list of music playlists that are perfect for those in the military. Whether you’re child just left for basic training, your spouse deployed, or you’re just looking for some great patriotic music – here are some of the perfect military song playlists.


In Honor of Our Fallen Protectors – Memorial Day Tribute

Memorial Day is often times misinterpreted as a celebratory holiday, but for many it’s a very solemn day filled with heavy hearts. While Memorial Day marks the unofficial to summer and a season of fun, this is a great military song playlist to remind us all the importance of Memorial Day and those that made the ultimate sacrifice.

Country Music 101: The Military

If you love country music and you love the USA, then both of these playlists are for you. Both playlists feature a mix of oldies and new songs that are sure to bring out the red, white, and blue in you.

4th of July Party

Summer is practically here which means outdoor bbqs, late night bonfires, and enjoying the outdoors. This playlist is perfect for a laid back relaxed day in the sun with a mix all of different genres from pop, country, alternative, and rock.

Tacticool

Looking for the perfect playlist to hit the gym with? Whether you’re preparing for military basic training or looking to keep up your physical fitness this playlist is sure to get you in the mindset for ultimate strength building. This playlist features rock and alternative music.

Letters From Home

Writing letters to someone at basic training? This military song playlist will give you all the feels as you write letters to your recruit.

Basic Training Graduation

Graduation ceremonies might be canceled, but that doesn’t mean you have to pass on celebrating your new service member’s accomplishment. This playlist is the perfect mix of songs to get you in the celebration mood.

Looking for more playlists? Spotify is a great place to browse.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

Articles

China is freaking out at the White House over a $1.4B arms sale to Taiwan

China protested Friday the Trump administration’s $1.4 billion arms sale to Taiwan as a violation of its sovereignty and demanded that the deal be cancelled.


Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Lu Kang said the sale ran counter to China’s vital security interests and would be a gross violation of the stated commitment by the U.S. to a “one China” policy.

“We stress that nobody could sway our determination to uphold our territorial integrity and sovereignty,” Lu said at a regular daily briefing. “We oppose any external interference in our internal affairs.”

Lu’s remarks were aimed at the $1.42 billion sale of arms to Taiwan announced Thursday by the U.S. State Department.

The package reportedly included technical support for early warning radar, anti-radiation missiles, torpedoes and components for SM-2 (Standard Missile-2) missiles, one of the U.S. Navy’s primary anti-air weapons. The sales also included AGM-154 Joint Standoff air-to-surface missiles.

How the Coast Guard intercepts cocaine at sea
USS Hopper (DDG 70) fires a RIM-161 SM-3 missile in 2009. (US Navy photo)

In announcing the deal, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said that the sale did not violate the Taiwan Relations Act that governs U.S. contacts with the island off China’s coast formerly known as Formosa.

“It shows, we believe, our support for Taiwan’s ability to maintain a sufficient self-defense policy,” Nauert said, adding that “There’s no change, I should point out, to our ‘one-China policy.'”

The last U.S. arms sale to Taiwan, approved during the Obama administration in December 2015, was worth $1.8 billion and included two de-commissioned U.S. Navy frigates, minesweepers, Stinger missiles, and anti-armor and anti-tank missiles.

The State Department and the Pentagon had approved another $1 billion arms sale in December of 2016 similar to the one signed Thursday, but President Barack Obama held off on final approval to allow the incoming Trump administration make the decision.

China considers Taiwan to be part of its territory and has long opposed any arms sales to the self-governing island. China has a policy of eventual reunification, and has not ruled out force to achieve it.

The arms sale announcement came at an awkward time for Chinese President Xi Jinping, who was visiting Hong Kong to mark the 20th anniversary of the end of British rule.

Taiwan was also rattled by the presence in nearby waters of Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning, the only carrier in China’s growing fleet.

China announced Monday that the Liaoning, accompanied by two destroyers and a frigate, had left its homeport in Qingdao to join the Hong Kong events on a course that would take it through the Taiwan Straits.

U.S. relations with China — and the severing of formal diplomatic ties to Taiwan — were the outgrowth of President Richard Nixon’s “opening to China” in the 1970s. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter established formal relations with China.

Also in 1979, the U.S. Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act guaranteeing U.S. support for Taiwan and aid in its self-defense. The unofficial U.S. presence in Taiwan is maintained via the American Institute in Taiwan, a private corporation which carries out informal diplomatic activities.