A Marine artillery battalion assisting Syrian Democratic Forces against ISIS in Raqqa, Syria, with 24-hour support fired with an intensity not seen more than 40 years — and burned out two howitzers in the process.
“They fired more rounds in five months in Raqqa, Syria, than any other Marine artillery battalion, or any Marine or Army battalion, since the Vietnam war,” Army Sgt. Major. John Wayne Troxell, senior enlisted adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Marine Corps Times.
“In five months, they fired 35,000 artillery rounds on ISIS targets, killing ISIS fighters by the dozens,” Troxell said.
An artillery battalion, which consists of up to 18 guns, from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit arrived in northern Syria to support the SDF in March 2017. That unit, firing 155 mm M777 howitzers, was replaced in April by another contingent of Marines.
That unit topped the roughly 34,000 rounds fired in support of the invasion of Iraq, and it fired a little over half of the more than 60,000 rounds fired by the over 730 howitzers the Army and Marines used to support Operation Desert Storm, according to historical records seen by Marine Corps Times.
Troxell told reporters that howitzers fired so many consecutive rounds in support of operations against Raqqa the barrels of two of them burned out, making them unsafe to use.
The M-777 Howitzer is 7,500 pounds and highly maneuverable. Its sustained rate of fire is two rounds a minute, but it can fire four rounds a minute for up to two minutes, according to its manufacturer, BAE Systems.
A former Army artillery officer told Military Times that the number of rounds it takes to burn out a howitzer depends on the range to target and the level of charge, the latter of which can vary based on the weight of the shell.
“I’ve never heard of it ― normally your gun goes back to depot for full reset well before that happens,” the former Army artillery officer said. “That’s a sh*tload of rounds, though.”
“Because of all these rounds they were firing, we had to continue to recycle new artillery pieces in there because they were firing so much ammunition,” Troxell told Marine Corps Times.
The M-777’s maximum range is 18.6 miles. Video emerged in summer 2017 showing Marines firing 155 mm artillery shells with XM1156 Precision Guidance Kits, according to The Washington Post.
That kit turns the shell into a semi-precision-guided munition that, on average, will hit within 100 feet of the target when fired from the M-777’s maximum range. The XM1156 has only appeared in combat a few times.
The U.S. military is currently working on two systems to increase the accuracy of artillery — the handheld Joint Effects Targeting System, which an Army official said could turn a howitzer “into a giant sniper rifle,” and Precision Guidance Kit Munitions that could be used with 155 mm rounds like those fired on Raqqa.
The Marines supporting the SDF in Raqqa withdrew shortly after the city was recaptured. Syria declared victory over ISIS in the final weeks of the year. U.S. troops supporting the fight against ISIS in Iraq have also started to draw down in the wake of Baghdad’s declaration of victory over the terrorist group at the end of 2017.
While ISIS has lost nearly all of its territory in Iraq and Syria, some of its fighters have hung on in remote pockets along the Euphrates River and in the surrounding desert in Syria.
USS Louisiana (SSBN 743) is going to be spending some time in the yards after a collision with USNS Eagleview (T AGSE 3) off the coast of Washington state. The two ships returned to their respective bases under their own power.
According to a report by the USNI blog, the Navy is assessing the damage to the Louisiana at her home port of Naval Base Bangor-Kitsap, while the Eagleview is being assessed at Port Angeles, also in Washington state. No injuries were reported in the collision, which took place on the evening of 18 August.
USS Louisiana is the last of 18 Ohio-class submarines, having been commissioned in 1997. She displaces 18,450 tons when submerged. She carries 24 UGM-133A Trident II missiles, capable of delivering up to 14 W88 warheads with a 475-kiloton yield. The Trident II has a range of about 7,500 miles. The submarine also has four torpedo tubes capable of firing Mk 48 torpedoes.
The Eagleview is one of a class of four offshore support vessels purchased by the Military Sealift Command in 2015 from Hornbeck Offshore Services. Eagleview weighs about 2400 tons, is almost 250 feet long, and 52 feet six inches wide.
The Louisiana’s incident is not the first time this has happened. In 2013, USS Jacksonville (SSN 699) lost a periscope in a collision with an unidentified vessel. USS Montpelier (SSN 765) collided with USS San Jacinto (CG 56) in 2012, wrecking the cruiser’s sonar dome. USS Hartford (SSN 768) and USS New Orleans (LPD 18) had a fender-bender in the Strait of Hormuz in 2009. Senior officers on the submarines received varying punishments, most involving relief from command and letters of reprimand.
Paratroopers assigned to Company A, 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment prepare to conduct security checks near the Pakistan border at Combat Outpost Dand Patan in Afghanistan’s Paktya province in 2012. | U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Epperson
President Obama once again altered his withdrawal plan for Afghanistan on Thursday, announcing that 8,400 U.S. troops would remain in the country next year rather than the 5,500 he initially authorized.
The announcement by Obama at the White House, with Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford flanking him, left decisions on future U.S. commitments to Afghanistan to the next president and essentially scuttled Obama’s dream of leaving office after ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The decision I’m making today ensures that my successor has a solid foundation for progress in Afghanistan, as well as the flexibility to address the threat of terrorism as it evolves,” Obama said. “I firmly believe the decision I’m announcing is the right thing to do.”
Currently, there are about 9,800 U.S. troops authorized for Afghanistan. Obama had earlier agreed to alter his plan to begin reducing that number to 5,500 by January 2017 by keeping the 9,800 in Afghanistan through the rest of this year, as recommended by his generals.
In a statement, Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee who just returned from a fact-finding trip to Afghanistan, said “the decision to retain 8,400 U.S. troops in Afghanistan into next year is certainly preferable to cutting those forces by nearly half. That said, when the president himself describes the security situation in Afghanistan as ‘precarious,’ it is difficult to discern any strategic rationale for withdrawing 1,400 U.S. troops by the end of the year.”
The United States should withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan and stop listening to “stooges” in Kabul, the Taliban warned in an open letter to US President Donald Trump on Tuesday.
The Trump administration is working to finalize a regional strategy that could include nearly 4,000 additional US troops, part of a NATO-led coalition, that have been requested by commanders in the country.
That plan has faced skepticism in the White House, where Trump and several top aides have criticized years of American military intervention and foreign aid.
“Previous experiences have shown that sending more troops to Afghanistan will not result in anything other than further destruction of American military and economical might,” the Taliban said in the English-language letter released to media and addressed to Trump.
The Taliban, seeking to restore Islamic rule, have been waging an increasingly violent insurgency against the Western-backed Afghan government since losing power in a US-led military operation in 2001.
In the lengthy statement, the Taliban criticized the Afghan government as “stooges,” “lying corrupt leaders” and “repulsive sellouts” who are providing Washington with overly optimistic “rosy pictures” of the situation in Afghanistan.
“The war situation in Afghanistan is far worse than you realize!” the statement said, while arguing that the only thing preventing the insurgents from seizing major cities was a fear of causing civilian casualties.
The statement also took aim at generals, who the Taliban said “are concealing the real statistics of your dead and crippled” soldiers.
“We have noticed that you have understood the errors of your predecessors and have resolved to thoroughly rethink your new strategy in Afghanistan,” the letter said. “A number of warmongering congressmen and generals in Afghanistan are pressing you to protract the war in Afghanistan because they seek to preserve their military privileges.”
The senior US commander in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, has requested several thousand additional troops to act as advisers to the struggling Afghan security forces.
Powerful voices in the US government, including Republican Senator John McCain, have also called for an “enduring” US military presence in Afghanistan.
The Taliban letter concludes by saying the conflict could be resolved by the withdrawal of foreign troops.
“Everyone now understands that the main driver of war in Afghanistan is foreign occupation,” the Taliban said.
“The Afghans have no ill-intention towards the Americans or any other nation around the world but if anyone violates their sanctums then they are mighty proficient at beating and defeating the transgressors.”
While serving as Miss Rocky Gap, Emma Lutton, of New Windsor, Maryland, had to combine her philanthropic efforts and pageant-winner responsibilities with another entirely separate set of duties as a lieutenant junior grade in the United States Coast Guard.
Lutton won the Miss Rocky Gap title in March, and the last several months of her title reign have overlapped with her final deployment with the Coast Guard in the Caribbean. Now that she’s back in the States, Lutton is looking to expand her role in the Miss America Pageant system as she competes against other local title holders for the role of Miss Maryland this week.
Unlike many others who began their pageantry careers earlier, Lutton said the Miss Rocky Gap competition was only her second ever attempt at winning a crown. She said she was inspired after seeing the work her younger sister was doing as a title holder.
“I had this misconception that pageants were just about looking pretty and being dumb,” Lutton said. “Then I realized how big of a difference I could make with charities and community service.”
Under the recommendation of current Miss Maryland Hannah Brewer, a Hampstead resident, Lutton decided to compete in the Miss Rocky Gap contest — the very same contest that started Brewer on her path to the Miss Maryland title.
Lutton said she was attracted to the Miss America pageants due to their emphasis on scholarships, which she is currently eyeing to help pay for graduate school. Lutton graduated with a degree in electrical engineering from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 2015 and is currently interested in studying to become a patent lawyer.
Though her father and older brother both served in the Navy, Lutton said she wasn’t initially interested in the military.
“I thought, ‘You guys are cool, but I’m going to do my own cool thing,'” Lutton said. “My senior year, I realized I really wanted to be an engineer, but I love people and I love making a difference while not just sitting in a cubical.”
After visiting the Coast Guard Academy, Lutton said she knew it was the place for her. She said one of the main draws of the Coast Guard over the other military branches is the high percentage of women in the service and the lack of barriers for females.
“I didn’t want to work really hard and find out that a certain path is closed off to me just because I’m a girl,” she said.
For her platform, Lutton chose to support the Forgotten Soldiers Outreach, providing care packages to service members overseas. She said she’s also passionate about supporting military family members, who don’t always have the support they need.”
“There’s not enough out there for families who are picking up and moving when we go,” Lutton said. “The most popular jobs for military spouses are nursing and teaching, and it’s extraordinarily difficult to get re-certified every time they move.”
Emma’s mother, Patty, said she is appreciative of her daughter’s service in and out of the military.
“When she decided to go into the Coast Guard, we were a little apprehensive to have two out of our three kids in the military,” she said, “but we’re incredibly proud of her.”
Lutton has been competing in the Miss Maryland pageant throughout the week, with preliminary interviews, swimsuit, talent, and evening gown competitions taking place. On June 24th, the field will be narrowed down to the top 10, one of whom will be crowned Miss Maryland by the end of the night.
Lutton said she’s excited just to make it this far, and is thrilled that both the pageantry and her service can complement each other.
“I think the two things really help support each other,” Lutton said. “Being in the Coast Guard helps make me a stronger woman that little girls can look up to, and being in the pageant can help the visibility of the Coast Guard which is a smaller service.”
When he made his next major train journey, The Times cited Cheng Xiaohe, a North Korea expert at Beijing’s Renmin University, on that point.
Cheng said: “He does not want to show the world his heavy reliance on China by waving his hand in front of China’s national flag on a Chinese plane as he did at the Singapore airport.”
“Traveling by train is a forced choice.”
(Photo by Michel Temer)
A hero’s welcome for Xi
Xi’s trip to North Korea is the first from a Chinese leader in 14 years, and he was received like a hero.
According to Xinhua, North Korea held a “grand welcome ceremony” for Xi at the airport, which included a 21-gun salute, the playing of both countries’ national anthems, and an army march-past.
Nearly 10,000 people lined up at the airport, waving flowers, and chanting slogans to welcome the Chinese delegation, Xinhua said.
Xi then departed the airport in a huge motorcade, which included 21 motorcycles. Upon arriving to downtown Pyongyang, the Chinese leader then rode an open-top car alongside Kim to a central square.
BBC Monitoring has published photos of Xi’s welcome:
The state visit comes as both countries’ relationships with the US turn increasingly sour.
Beijing and Washington are locked in a protracted trade war, which has seen both sides impose hundreds of billions of dollars on each other’s exports, and the Trump administration is trying to limit the influence of Chinese tech around the world.
North Korea’s relationship with the US has also soured since Kim and Trump’s February summit in Vietnam ended without an agreement.
Pyongyang conducted new missile tests last month, which the US national-security adviser, John Bolton, claimed violated UN Security Council resolutions.
On June 19, 2019, both countries’ state media published an essay, written by Xi himself, that lauded the two countries’ friendship and praised North Korea for moving in the “right direction” by trying to resolve political issues on the Korean Peninsula.
Kim and Xi during one of Kim’s four visits to China. Xi’s state visit to North Korea is the first by a Chinese leader in 14 years.
Xi wrote, according to Xinhua: “I will pay a state visit to the DPRK with good wishes of carrying forward our friendship and writing a new chapter of our relations.”
DPRK stands for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the formal name for North Korea.
Kim has been trying to alleviate international sanctions imposed on his regime, but they have remained in place. China has remained committed to those sanctions despite being North Korea’s largest trading partner.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
When Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was released in March of 2016, the thought of two colossal superheroes clashing on the big screen brought out huge box office numbers for its opening weekend. But despite the initial hype, the pedestrian offering saw a huge drop-off in enthusiasm the following week, as poor word-of-mouth reviews plagued it: the final product, as usual, not living up to expectations
Batman versus Superman, on its face, seems such an intriguing construct though. We are unabashedly drawn to comparisons like Willie v The Mick, the US Government v John Gotti, et al, and iPhone v Android.
But what if we were to compare two REAL superhero castings? Let’s say, the US Army’s Rangers and the US Navy’s SEALS. And just for sh*ts and giggles, what if we compared their individual crucibles — their selection processes — and attempted to discern which was the harbinger for guaranteed future toughness or success? Let’s attempt to glean which selection program applied the most pain to its candidates. Is graduating from Ranger School a more daunting task than making it through the Navy’s difficult Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training? And is earning a Ranger tab easier or more difficult than being awarded a SEAL Trident?
And, which course actually results in more drop on requests–a fancy term for quitting? And how can we compare completion rates?
The comparative analysis is difficult. To my knowledge, I haven’t heard of any former Rangers or SEALS transferring service branches and then embarking on the pursuit of their new branch’s most elite distinction. Maybe there does exist the unique American stud — or committed glutton for punishment — who chose this path of dual misery, and accomplishment. But I haven’t come across any stories chronicling some. With this in mind, I am going to share my reflections on some unique experiences I was privileged to have been afforded during my thirty-three years of government service.
That professional service began when I graduated from West Point in 1987 and was branched as an officer into the Infantry. During the course of my four-year military career, I attended Army Ranger school and graduated with class 4-88. I turned 23 while incarcerated in the mountain phase, endlessly trekking up and down the formidable peaks of the Tennessee Valley Divide. While I wasn’t the class Honor Graduate, I did fairly well throughout the demanding course of instruction and was lucky enough to graduate with my tab, on time, and without being recycled to repeat a phase.
I served during the Cold War Era and the American military buildup precipitated by President Reagan’s stare-down of the Soviets. The 10th Mountain Division had just been reconstituted in 1985, following its long dormancy beginning when WWII ended. Officers and non-coms were selected for the unit’s rebirth only if they possessed the coveted tab. Division brass was intent on modeling the 10th after the Ranger battalions. My assignment to the 10th was contingent on my graduation from Ranger School. Failure to graduate meant a reassignment to the 197th Infantry Brigade (Mechanized), and the embarrassing stigmatization that would assuredly follow that failure.
From those fledgling days of (re)existence, the 10th Mountain Division has now distinguished itself as a solid and repeatedly deployed war-fighting machine in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. But it’s mid-1980’s formation with Ranger leadership was critical to its early success and reestablished prestige as a unit. So, in mid-March of 1988, I arrived at 2-14 Infantry battalion headquarters in my starched BDU’s with freshly attached Ranger tab.
The tab carries with it a certain distinction. And that respect for its woven black and gold threads stems from the hardship endured to earn it — the US military being one of the last bastions of meritocracy in this new 21st century era of everyone-gets-a-trophy.
Historically, the failure rate at the US Army Ranger School fluctuates between 50% – 65%. A portion of those failures, DORs, are self-inflicted. There doesn’t appear to be available statistical data that highlights just how many of those failures are related to DORs.
So, after ETSing from the Army on February 1, 1991, I packed up my quarters at Ft. Drum, NY, loaded my then-wife, newborn son, and two rescue dogs into my ’88 Chevy Blazer, and headed south to the FBI Academy at Quantico, VA, where I began the 20-week course to become an FBI Special Agent. In June of same year, I posted to the FBI’s New York City Office’s Brooklyn-Queens Metropolitan Resident Agency, and began a proud 25-year career as a Fed.
Along the way, I was selected for the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team, where I served as a counter-terrorist operator on Echo Assault Team from 1997 – 2001.
And in the Fall of 1998, while serving as one of Echo Team’s divers, and recently returned from deployments to Africa (US Embassy bombings) and North Carolina’s Nantahala Forest (search for ’96 Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph), I was suddenly tapped to deploy to Coronado, California, with three of my fellow HRT diver teammates, for a once in a lifetime experience.
I was an “old man,” all of 33 years. And though I was in peak physical condition, having spent almost a year and a half lifting, and running, and training at a HIGH level … I was in for a rude awakening.
It was September of 1998, and Dave, Jeff, Matty, and I checked into the Naval Special Warfare Center at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado and were officially informed we’d be joining BUD/S class 220. We had just offloaded our rental cars and strode across the sand dunes separating the BUD/S compound from the Pacific Ocean. Worst thing we could have done was to time our arrival with the conduct of Hell Week for BUD/S class 221. Long before casual observers had been treated to Discovery Channel documentaries on the course of instruction to become a SEAL, the four of us took in the spectacle.
Exhausted youngsters — many between 18 – 20 years old — slogging along at the water’s edge, ferrying inflatable RHIBs, lifting massive logs over their heads, performing a staggering amount of “corrective actions” — flutter kicks, crunches, push-ups, and bear crawls. All accompanied by the monotonous, annoying, and ever-present Instructor “motivationals” echoed through a hand-held loud-hailer.
After we’d ingested all the observed pain and misery we could and signed in at NWSC, my HRT colleagues and I made our way over to the Second Phase HQ, a low-profile, nondescript group of single-story military buildings, and introduced ourselves to the cadre.
“All good,” the congenial class proctor stated. Get over to the BOQ on Mainside. Drop your gear off, change into UDT shorts and your yellow HRT PT shirts, and we’ll meet you at the pool for your qualifying PT test — 500 meter swim, push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and mile and a half run in Bates brand combat boots. We even rolled our wool socks down over our boots exactly the way the SEALs did.
When in Rome…
And so it began. After easily completing the fit test required of all BUD/S aspirants, we joined class 220 as they began the initial stages of Phase Two. The classroom portions on Dive Physics weren’t too daunting — the four of us had the benefit of college degrees — but the daily regimen of early morning PT was an eye-opener. Yes, the four of us were quite fit. But we were also in our thirties, and didn’t take part in the same skill-specific training one receives in the BUD/S preparatory course the Navy offered its young sailors interested in becoming frogmen. And we didn’t have the benefit of true youth. If we were professional athletes, we’d be desperately trying to find an organization to sign us, so we could come off the bench, with a head coach “managing our minutes.”
We also didn’t have the benefit of having taken part in the first phase of BUD/S; that unforgiving crucible that weeds out the weak and strengthens the committed. The relationship between the USN and HRT was a long and durable one. Many of the early generation FBI-HRT operators had been SEALs (as well as former Rangers, Green Berets, and Marines). Compared to the military’s special operations units, HRT was an infant, having come on line in 1983, as a civilian counter-terrorist option for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. The ’72 debacle in Munich was a not-so-distant memory. And US law precluded the military from acting as law enforcement inside the United States.
So, here’s the thing: While I was certainly younger and my body more resilient as a 23-year-old when I completed Ranger School, ten years later, when I attended the Dive Phase of BUD/S — open circuit (SCUBA) and closed circuit (LAR-V rebreather) — with my HRT colleagues, I was certainly more experienced, savvy, and skillful at my craft. But that didn’t aid in the recovery time my body desperately needed between evolutions at BUD/S. Every night, the four of us limped back to our BOQ and attempted to “heal” before the fun began again the next morning, bright and early.
On the ground (or in the sand), we were the BUD/S students equals. We four were strong runners and could complete the grinders of push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, flutter kicks, and crunches as well as any of the kids in 220. On the beach, during timed four mile runs, we were more than their equals, often having to hold back so as not to bring the SEAL Instructors’ wrath down upon our classmates, as in:
“Hey, you pathetic pieces of human filth and fecal matter, why are you letting these old-ass FBI-HRT guys beat you on a timed run? You’ll all be ‘paying the man’ if you allow this to happen again!”
Yes, the typical SEAL Instructor was wicked smart and imbued with a great sense of wit and timing.
We reined in our run times, not wanting to cause any more pain to the young men who so graciously accepted us into their fraternity — despite the fact we hadn’t shared the excruciating pain of First Phase and Hell Week with them.
One of the most special gifts I’ve ever received in the course of my life was to be afforded a Hell Week t-shirt from BUD/S class 220. This class-specific attire made us feel a part — if only for a moment — of their exclusive club. It was truly an honor and I cherish the now tattered shirt emblazoned with the class motto that borrowed from William Ernest Henley’s short and powerful Victorian poem Invictus:
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
During the course of our “internment” at BUD/S, we also participated in the required weekly SEAL Obstacle Course completion. It was an ass-kicker. And again, as I reminisced about my days at Ranger School and tangling with the infamous Darby Queen Obstacle Course, I have to give this round to the SEALs, as well. In the summer of 1998, we HRT guys were fit, relatively young, nimble, agile, and strong. We had all the necessary tools required to excel at the SEAL Obstacle Course. But it was still a daunting task to make the required times. We did so, narrowly, and aided by the Instructor allowance for us to use a rope traversing technique that wasn’t available to the BUD/S students in Second Phase. [Full disclosure: we were also permitted to discreetly utilize calculators for the long division and multiplication required in the classroom on the dive physics exams]
Well, as proficient as we HRT guys found ourselves in PT, on the sand dunes and while partaking in the dreaded “soft sand runs,” we quickly ascertained that the water, however, was a different story altogether. Here’s where those same young kids flat-out kicked our assess. On the weekly open-water two-mile swims, Dave, Jeff, Matty, and I were “competent.” We were all notably strong swimmers who had been hand selected by HRT Dive Team cadre to “represent” at BUD/S.
While we consistently barely made the required times, we were often the last, or next to last teams to come in.
But we were in no condition to compete with the damn dolphins that BUD/S students typically morphed into by Second Phase. The water became our Waterloo of sorts.
But it was pool competition, or pool comp in SEAL shorthand, that really cemented for me what the BUD/S experience was about, and just why SEALs are a cut above all others in the Special Operations community.
And, yes, we four HRT guys participated in pool comp.
And, again, it was another eye-opener.
SEAL Instructors had their own comically dreadful names for the knots they would tie in your hoses underwater. As a BUD/S student, your job was to diligently cycle through a sequence of trouble-shooting procedures to untangle the mess of knotted hoses and restore your air supply…while on a breath-hold. And you had to do so without exhibiting any signs of panic. We were treated to the Matlock and the Babilock — two impossibly difficult and deviously conceived knots named after two particular SEALs on the cadre. Failure to extricate your gear from the wicked devices of the seasoned knot-tying instructors OR failure to work through the prescribed sequence for trouble-shooting your crippled gear led to a failure. Two failures in the same event and you earned a rollback — just like the nefarious recycle at Ranger School — to the next class, if you were lucky not to be dropped from the course.
There’s a reason that, as Rob O’Neill, former SEAL Team Six counter-terror operator — the man who killed Bin Laden — stated to Howard Stern recently, on his eponymous Sirius radio program, that some 85% of BUD/S attendees don’t graduate.
BUD/S is tough — even the teensy-weensy taste of it that I experienced. It’s REALLY tough. And it sucks.
Ranger School was “uncomfortable” and difficult for all the reasons that include sleep deprivation, starvation, and relentless physical overexertion. It was a grind. And reports from recent graduates confirm it’s STILL a grind.
At BUD/S, however, they fed you lots of chow, and in Second Phase, getting eight solid hours of sleep was never an issue. But just as in Ranger School, you had to perform, to make sound decisions, to accomplish critical military tasks and objectives when your body was futilely attempting to heal, and always with the overzealous instructors omnipresent in your ear…
…but you did it at depth.
Whether at the bottom of the 15-foot pool, on the Coronado Bay side, or in the unforgiving waters of the Pacific Ocean, performing at depth takes special operations training to another level entirely. We were forced to conduct doff and don procedures, and buddy-breathing exercises — you know, like sharing the same oxygen supply at depth and while performing tasks like an equipment exchange. There were insanely long breath-holds, while enduring the Instructor-assaults associated with the dreaded pool comp. Then there was the archaic (by design) and cumbersome Jacques Cousteau era twin 80’s tanks and leaky two-hose regulators which made for a purposeful panic-induced set of pass/fail evolutions. Yes, I believe the experiences to be the closest thing to waterboarding — sanctioned “almost-drowning” — that there is. And it’s legal!
Learning to dive with the Dräger (or Draeger) closed circuit rebreather gear — the LAR-V — was the purpose behind sending HRT divers to BUD/S. So, no, in a civilian law enforcement capacity, there’s no need to learn the craft of placing limpet mines on enemy ship hulls. However, learning the advanced system of transit-diving that allows an operator to approach a target underwater, bereft of telltale bubbles is a key skillset for HRT to have at its disposal. That was the purpose behind the relationship we had with the Navy and is how we ended up enrolled in the Second Phase of BUD/S.
The advanced dive skills we learned were necessary. The voluntary participation in PT and mild hazing — being dropped for push-ups or forced to become “wet and sandy” — the “sugar cookie” punishment — was part of earning our stripes and being accepted as outsiders within the close-knit SEAL and BUD/S community.
Make no mistake about it — we weren’t to become SEALs and weren’t subjected to a fraction of what the Navy candidates endured, but we certainly gained a modicum of appreciation for the process.
And again, as difficult as Ranger School was to complete, the 8 weeks I spent at BUD/S proved that there’s a clear distinction between difficult and difficult-at-depth.
Apologies, fellow Rangers, but this round goes to the Navy’s SEALs. I’ve been up close and personal with both Selection processes. 81 torturous days at Ranger School did not compare to the tiny portion of the year of misery available to BUD/S candidates that I experienced.
Rangers, can I get a Hooah!
And SEALs, while we’re at it, how about a Hooyah!
And let’s forever remember that we’re ALL part of the same team!
God bless the United States of America and God bless and protect our brave Special Operators who continue to confidently stride into places full of wrath and tears, and do so bravely, selflessly and willingly.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is in Afghanistan on an unannounced visit to take stock of the war and the prospects of drawing some elements of the Taliban into peace talks with the Afghan government.
The March 13, 2018, visit, which was not announced in advance due to security concerns, comes as the United States is putting new resources into the more than 16-year-old war.
Before landing in the Afghan capital, Mattis told reporters that the United States was picking up signs of interest from groups of Taliban fighters in exploring the possibility of talks to end the violence, adding that the signs date back several months.
“There is interest that we’ve picked up from the Taliban side,” Mattis said. “We’ve had some groups of Taliban — small groups — who have either started to come over or expressed an interest in talking.”
As part of its new regional strategy announced in August 2017, Washington has stepped up assistance to the Afghan military in a bid to break the stalemate and force the militants to the negotiating table.
During a meeting with Mattis, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said the new strategy allowed Kabul to extend its peace offer to the Taliban without doing so from a position of weakness.
“It has been a game changer because it has forced every actor to re-examine their assumptions,” Ghani said.
Ghani offers incentives
On Feb. 28, 2018, Ghani offered to allow the Taliban to establish itself as a political party and said he would work to remove sanctions on the militant group, among other incentives, if it joined the government in peace negotiations.
In return, the militants would have to recognize the Kabul government and respect the rule of law.
But the Taliban has so far ruled out direct talks with the Western-backed government, which they say is illegitimate.
The group has insisted it would only negotiate with the United States, which it calls a “foreign occupying force.” The Taliban also says that NATO forces must withdraw before negotiations can begin.
Asked whether the United States would be willing to directly talk with the Taliban, Mattis reiterated the U.S. position that the talks should be led by Kabul.
“We want the Afghans to lead and provide the substance to the reconciliation effort,” he said.
The Afghan government and the Taliban held peace talks in 2015, but they broke down almost immediately.
As part of its new strategy for Afghanistan, the United States has boosted the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan by at least 3,500, to a total of more than 14,000, and stepped up air strikes in the country.
Mattis told reporters that the goal is to convince the Taliban militants that they cannot win, which would hopefully push them toward reconciliation.
“We do look toward a victory in Afghanistan,” he said. “Not a military victory — the victory will be a political reconciliation.”
Taliban fighters control large parts of the country, and thousands of Afghan soldiers and civilians are being killed every year.
In a report published late on March 12, 2018, the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that more than 30,000 people have been displaced since the beginning of the year due to continued conflict in Afghanistan.
After placing fifth at the Rogue Invitational in Columbus, Ohio, an armor officer and member of the Army Warrior Fitness Team has stamped his ticket to the CrossFit Games starting Thursday in Madison, Wisconsin.
During the four-day competition, Capt. Chandler Smith said he looks forward to sharing his Army story at one of the largest fitness contests in the world.
“My goals at the CrossFit Games are reflective of my Army career goals as a whole,” Smith said. “My efforts there could potentially [bring in] a Soldier that will help educate my [future] son or daughter when they decide to join the Army.
Capt. Chandler Smith stamped his ticket to the CrossFit Games Aug. 1-4, 2019, in Madison, Wisc., after placing fifth at the Rogue Invitational in Columbus, Ohio. Smith, an armor officer and member of the Army Warrior Fitness Team looks forward to sharing his Army story at one of the largest fitness contests in the world.
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army Recruiting Command)
“I want to do something at the games that [helps] the Army, and the world, become a better place,” he added. “If someone sees my positivity and chooses to reflect that in their daily life — that is a win.”
Smith was born in Gainesville, Florida. His father, Cedric, was a former NFL fullback and currently works as a strength and conditioning coach in the league. As an aspiring young athlete, Smith had ample opportunity to interact with many players and coaches, which taught him to remain humble, he said.
During high school, Smith decided to get into wrestling. His coach, Nage Damas, was a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, and a three-year letter winner on its wrestling team. Through their interaction, Smith decided to enroll in the academy.
“I am the person who is big on discipline,” Smith said. “West Point presented the hardest road … and presented the biggest challenge in comparison to the other academies.”
At the time the Army was highly involved in Iraq and Afghanistan. Smith believed the Army provided the best opportunity for applied leadership.
“Those were conflicts I saw myself in. As an aspiring leader, you want to place yourself at points of friction,” he said.
As both a cadet and wrestler, Smith worked hard to exceed West Point’s academic, physical and military performance standards, he said. He strived to be a positive example for all of his teammates and peers.
“I have been given some gifts in the physical realm,” Smith said. “It is something that the Army has helped me foster by putting me around similarly-minded [people].
“I’m big on putting a focused effort toward whatever it is that I am in charge of doing,” he added. “Anything less than my best would be to sacrifice my gift — that’s how I see it.”
The Army goes to great lengths to support competitive athletes. Here, Capt. Brian Harris completes the half Murph on the Assault AirRunner during the U.S. Army Warrior Fitness Team Tryouts.
(U.S. Army image by Lara Poirrier)
A NEW PATH
Smith’s respect for CrossFit started long before his time at West Point, he said.
“I wanted to do all the cool guy stuff that you see on TV. [CrossFit] helped me out with wrestling during high school and college,” he said.
After Smith graduated in 2015, CrossFit presented the most natural transition to help “stoke that competitive fire,” he added. In between his duties as a new lieutenant, Smith would spend hours in the gym. He was determined to make the CrossFit Games by 2020.
However, Smith’s fitness career almost derailed in February 2016. During an Army exercise, Smith sustained an injury, which broke his left ring finger in two places and sliced off the tip.
The injury happened a day before the CrossFit Open, the first qualifying stage for the CrossFit Games. The year prior, Smith placed 174th overall out of 273,000 total participants, according to CrossFit officials.
Smith took some time to recover and had to learn to operate with his new hand. He took a step back and started to reevaluate his ability to compete.
I didn’t realize that grip strength is a weakness of mine until I had something that affected my ability to grip. I began to specialize in the type of fitness my musculature can naturally support,” he said. “It ended up being a case of traumatic growth as this setback led to greater results.”
Through it all, Smith continued to move up in the ranks. He placed 128th overall in 2018 in the CrossFit standings. Coming into this year’s CrossFit Games, he is ranked 40th overall, according to program officials.
“I’ve gotten a chance to work out with [Smith],” said Master Sgt. Glenn Grabs, the first sergeant of the Army Recruiting Command’s outreach and recruiting company. “He speeds up as the workout gets longer, which makes him such a great competitor. Even though he’s maybe suffering inside, he’s just so positive and never backs down.”
As an overall athlete, Smith is relentless and the true embodiment of the warrior spirit, Grabs added.
“Captain Chandler Smith is not only a great Soldier, but he is a great person,” he said. “When I see him interact with people at competitions or in public, he goes the extra step to connect with people. That’s just who he is as a person and what makes him so remarkable.”
Army Strong: Capt. Kasandra “Kaci” Clark completing the half Murch on the Assault AirRunner during the U.S. Army Warrior Fitness Team Tryouts.
(U.S. Army image by Lara Poirrier)
As a Soldier, Smith looks forward to more milestones he hopes to accomplish in his career. He was recently selected to lead an infantry platoon as an armor officer, which ended up being one of his crowning achievements thus far, he said.
“That’s not something that happens too often. We went over to Bulgaria for nine months as part of the Operation Atlantic Resolve,” he said. “Knowing that my command trusted me enough to take on a role that I wasn’t necessarily trained for — it empowered me a lot.”
For the most part, Smith has not experienced a lot of difficulties while balancing his fitness goals and Army career, he said. However, anything that falls outside those two priorities is sometimes pushed aside.
“I think I am overly focused on doing my nine to five at work. I also take my fitness hobby very seriously. It doesn’t leave much time for anything else,” he said. “I haven’t done too much vacationing or maybe spent as much time with my family as I would have liked to.”
These sacrifices were necessary to keep him relevant in the Army and fitness community, he said.
“[Making the CrossFit Games] is a goal that I’ve had in mind since 2012, and I’ve been in the Army the whole time,” he said. “So figuring out a way to do this all while balancing my Army requirements was going to be a challenge, but I wouldn’t have it in any other way.
“I’m super happy that it has paid off with a trip to the games this year.”
The U.S. Marine Corps is getting its first female rifleman and machine gunner later this year, service officials confirmed this week.
The two female enlisted Marines who have made lateral move requests to infantry jobs have been approved, Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Philip Kulczewski told Military.com. The news was first reported by Marine Corps Times.
The Marine who applied to be an 0311 rifleman was a lance corporal, an official confirmed. The rank of the Marine approved to be an 0331 machine gunner is not clear. Kulczewski said the Corps is now in the process of meeting staffing requirements at the units that will receive the Marines.
In keeping with a Defense Department mandate and the Corps’ own plan for integrating female troops into ground combat jobs, any infantry battalion with female members must also have a leadership cadre of at least two female officers or noncommissioned officers who have been at the unit for at least 90 days. Kulczewski said it’s likely the Marines will not join their new units until December of this year.
While the units that will get the first female grunts have been identified by the Marine Corps, Kulczewski said, they have not yet been publicly announced.
The Marines who applied for infantry jobs are part of a small group of 233 women who were granted infantry military occupational specialties earlier this year after passing the Corps’ enlisted infantry training at Camp Geiger, North Carolina, in order to participate in the service’s research on integrating women into the previously closed units. While all the women are eligible to apply for infantry jobs, only the two enlisted Marines have done so to date.
Kulczewski said a more senior female infantry captain had also applied for a lateral move to a newly opened unit, but the request was denied based on the staffing needs of the Marine Corps.
After the two Marines reach their new units, the service will continue to research their progress. Kulczewski said the Marine Corps had created a 25-year longitudinal study to “assess all aspects and possible impacts throughout implementation.”
The Corps’ implementation plan requires that the commandant be informed directly of certain developments as women enter all-male infantry units, including indications of decreased combat readiness or effectiveness; increased risk to Marines including incidents of sexual assault or hazing; indications of a lack of career viability for female Marines; indications of command climates or culture that is unreceptive to female Marines, and indications that morale or cohesion is being degraded in integrated units.
Officials are also rolling out new training beginning this month aimed at ensuring all Marines understand the changes taking place. Mobile training teams will spend the next two months visiting bases and offering two-day seminars to majors and lieutenant colonels that include principles of institutional change, discussions of “unconscious bias” and specifics of the Corps’ integration plan. These officers are then expected to communicate this information to their units.
“The Corps applauds the time and efforts of those Marines who volunteered. Request like these help the Marine Corps to continue the implementation of gender integration throughout all military occupational specialties,” Kulczewski said. “The continued success of the Marine Corps as our nation’s preeminent expeditionary force in readiness is based on a simple tenet: placing the best trained and most fully qualified Marine, our most valuable weapon, where they make the strongest contribution to the team.”
Russia hinted on Jan. 11 that Ukraine manufactured the explosives used in an attempted drone attack on its military bases in Syria, following claims linking Turkey and the U.S. to the attack.
“Preliminary research has shown that PETN was used as a base for an explosive substance used in that ammo, which is more powerful than hexogen. The specified explosive is produced in a number of countries, including at Ukraine’s Shostka Chemical Reagents Plant,” Major General Alexander Novikov said in a Russian Ministry of Defense release.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense denied the allegations, according to Hromadske, a Ukrainian media outlet.
“This is nothing more than a regular informational attack,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Victoria Kushnir said. “We reject these allegations.”
Russia’s Hmeymim Air Base and Tartus Naval Facility in Syria were attacked overnight with a swarm of 13 drones on Jan. 5 and 6, but were seemingly successfully repelled.
Moscow has since released a number of pictures of the drones, which were fixed-wing UAVs made of wood and tape and powered by small internal combustion engines seen on lawn mowers.
Russia has continuously claimed the drones came from a local force that was backed by an outside power. But experts told Business Insider that the drones could have been constructed and operated without any outside help.
“I could literally turn 10 drones on right now in a field by myself and tell them to fly to a specific coordinate,” Brett Velicovich, a leading expert in drones and author of “Drone Warrior,” told Business Insider in an email.
“Basic swarming with drones now is so easy that any kid with an internet connection can figure out how to do it,” Velicovich said.
Russia plays the blame game
Moscow had previously hinted that the US helped target the drones, claiming that a P-8 Poseidon spy plane had “coincidentally” flown over the Russian bases around the time of the attack.
“Any suggestion the US, the Coalition or our partnered forces played a role in an attack on a Russian base is without any basis in fact and utterly irresponsible,” Defense Department spokesman Eric Pahon previously told Business Insider in an email, adding over the phone that the insinuation is “absolute bonkers.”
Moscow on Jan. 1o said that the drone attack originated from the village of Muazzara, which is located in the Idlib province of Syria.
“The recent drone attack on Russian bases in Syria was launched from an area near Idlib, which is controlled by Turkish-backed rebel forces,” RT reported, adding that Moscow complained to Turkey about the incident.
However, Russian President Putin said on Jan. 11 that he had spoken to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and that he was confident that Turkey had nothing to with it, according to the Associated Press.
“There were provocateurs, but they weren’t the Turks,” Putin said. “We know who they were and how much they paid for that provocation.”
“We often overestimate how much governments in capitals have control over the rebel groups they sponsor,” Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior research scientist at CNA, previously told Business Insider.
While Moscow appears to have now excluded Ankara from its list of perpetrators, it continues to insinuate that the rebels that launched the drones had outside help.
The Russian MoD Defense Ministry spelled it out on Thursday, arguing that the complexity of the drones — which they said required “calculations and flight tests” — prove that whoever launched them were backed by an outside power.
“First of all, it is impossible to develop such drones in an improvised manner. They were developed and operated by experts with special skills acquired in countries that produce and apply systems with UAVs,” according to the MoD. “The fact that terrorists have received assembly technology and programming technology is the evidence that this threat stretches far beyond the Syrian borders.”
Experts agree: Russia is wrong
Business Insider spoke with multiple experts who all said that the drones could have been constructed and operated from a distance of more than 30 miles by rebels without any outside help.
Gorenburg, the CNA research scientist, said Russia was likely “embarrassed” by the attack and the MoD may have needed to attribute the drone strike to “a major power.”
Caitlin Lee, a political scientist at the RAND Corp., told Business Insider that GPS or a camera would be needed to operate a drone at such a distance.
“It’s not out of the realm of possibility for a non-state actor to put GPS software on a drone,” Lee said.
The Russian Defense Ministry even admitted that one of the drones had a camera on it.
Velicovich, the author of “Drone War,” said the drones could have come from ISIS, which has been increasingly active in Syria’s Idlib province.
“Wouldn’t surprise me if this was ISIS’s drone unit, which has been active for a few years now and played with similar technology under their Al Bara Bin Malik brigade,” he said.
Aaron Stein, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, told Business Insider the same thing.
“All of the technology — the styrofoam, wood, lawn mower engines — can probably be bought in Idlib for a couple hundred dollars,” Stein said.
“It’s really embarrassing to have a bunch of junk fly through your air defenses and wreak havoc,” he said.
Memorial Day is a time to remember the lives lost to preserve American freedom. It’s a solemn holiday most often spent by sharing a day off with loved ones, usually around a grill with a cold one in your hand. But as you enjoy a burger and a beer and share laughs with friends and family, take a minute to remember everyone who can’t be with their loved ones.
It’s really astonishing just how many people celebrate Memorial Day in America by having a cookout, watching a parade, and enjoying a frosty beverage. In fact, a staggering sixty percent of American households will spend one day during the Memorial-Day weekend at a barbecue — second only to Independence Day. Memorial Day is the second biggest period for beer sales in America and $1.5 billion will be spent on meat and seafood.
Even more astonishing is the number of volunteers that go out to cemeteries to plant the Stars and Stripes on the graves of fallen troops and veterans. While 1.5 million people watch more than a thousand active duty service members in the National Memorial Day Parade and 900,000 people gather for the Rolling Thunder Memorial Day motorcycle rally in our nation’s capital, over 260,000 graves at Arlington National Cemetery will be adorned with flags by volunteers.
More than 45 million men and women have served the United States in a time of war (you know, doing that thing we all got our National Defense Service Medal for) and more than 1.35 million American men and women have died fighting in armed conflicts around the globe. So, with all these numbers in your head, remember that the most important of all is “three.” At 3:00 p.m. on Memorial Day, Americans everywhere will put down the burger, turn off the TV, and take a moment in silence.
The National Moment of Remembrance is where we forget our personal and political differences for and come together as a nation to remember those who lost their lives fighting for our rights, freedoms, and privileges as Americans — so we can enjoy that burger, watch that TV, and ride our motorcycles.
So, take a moment. 3pm, Memorial Day. Be there.
Here are a few more interesting numbers surrounding Memorial Day.
Every child can tell you the name of their school’s crossing guard. At Christ the King Catholic School in Kansas City, KS, 88-year-old Robert James Nill, better known and loved as “Mr. Bob,” was one of the best.
Tuesday, Mr. Bob made the ultimate sacrifice for two of his students when a speeding car careened through the school’s crosswalk. The Washington Post reported that a few minutes before school started at 8 a.m., two boys in grades third and fifth stepped off the curb in front of the school. It was about five minutes before 8 a.m., five minutes until the first bell rang and Nill’s job ushering kids through the crosswalk would be over for the morning. Two young boys, in third and fifth grade, stepped off the curb. Nill motioned for them to step back, said school principal Cathy Fithian. He saw a black sedan speeding toward them and likely sensed it wasn’t stopping or slowing, despite Nill’s handheld stop sign and the school zone’s flashing lights. The two boys came running into Fithian’s office in tears, screaming for Mr. Bob. The principal consoled them and then went outside to find an awful scene as first responders swarmed the intersection, she told The Washington Post on Tuesday night.
“Mr. Bob,” Robert James Nill was the beloved crossing guard at a Kansas City, Kansas school.
Nill was struck by the vehicle and ultimately succumbed to his injuries.
Reports say the driver was likely speeding but did not flee the scene. The driver was taken to a nearby hospital and treated for injuries.
Nill served in the United States Coast Guard and following his service, went on to a career in banking. After retirement, he wanted something to look forward to every morning, to get him out of bed. His family told FOX 4 Kansas City that he felt young at heart and didn’t want to spend his golden years sitting around. “This was something I think he felt like he could help children and help himself feel good about what he was doing,” said Randy Nill, Bob’s nephew.
Being a crossing guard brought him that joy and sense of purpose. By the outpouring of support on social media, it is apparent that his joy and love of life were contagious.
“Bob was such a fixture at my children’s school,” Connie Lynn Worrell commented on Facebook. “We would wave at him every day and in the morning I always made sure to wave at him after dropping off the boys. This is truly heartbreaking. He will be sorely missed.”