International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert

Snipers from Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and Spain attended the International Special Training Centre’s Desert Sniper Course in July 2018 at the Chinchilla Training Area here.

ISTC is a multinational education and training facility for tactical-level, advanced and specialized training of multinational special operations forces and similar units, employing the skills of multinational instructors and subject matter experts.


The Desert Sniper Course is designed to teach experienced sniper teams skills for operating in desert environments.

“The students that come to this course all have prior experience,” said a U.S. Army sniper instructor assigned to ISTC. “We help them build upon what they already know in order to operate in a desert environment. During the course we teach them concealment techniques and stalking in desert terrain. This culminates with students conducting missions where they put their newly learned skills to the test.”

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert

A sniper team from the Netherlands collects ballistic data during a nighttime range session during the International Special Training Centre Desert Sniper Course at Chinchilla Training Area, Spain, July 9, 2018.

(Army photo by 1st Lt. Benjamin Haulenbeek)

Because of the nature of their work, the snipers’ names are not used in this article.

Snipers operating in dry or barren environments must take extra measures to alleviate the effects of heat that can increase the challenges when constructing concealed positions, known as hide sites.

Unique camouflage requirements

“The biggest challenges snipers will encounter during most desert operations are the unique camouflage requirements, the heat and exposure to the harsh environment, and having to engage targets at extreme distances,” the U.S. instructor said.

The first week of the course gave students the opportunity to acclimate to the environment.

“We ease into operations by conducting ranges where they collect data for their rifles and learn about environmental considerations such as heat mirage and strong winds that affect their ability to make long shots,” the instructor said. “From there, they practice building hide sites and stalking to refine the skills they’ll need when conducting missions during week two.”

ISTC’s ability to conduct and train across various countries in Europe provides NATO and partner nations the opportunity to participate in cost effective training close to home.

“Spain is the perfect place to conduct this type of training,” a Spanish sniper instructor. “We have the right kind of climate and terrain to replicate the conditions that a sniper team will encounter when deployed in a desert. We also have the space needed to conduct ranges for long-distance shooting, something that is not easy to find in Europe.”

With snipers from multiple countries, the opportunity to share knowledge helped all those who attended.

“One of the greatest benefits is that our courses bring together knowledge and resources from so many places,” the ISTC operations and plans officer said. “By combining efforts and sharing knowledge, the nations that participate in course like Desert Sniper are able to reinforce alliances and strengthen their capability to work together.”

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

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China and the US could end up in a war – here’s what would happen

It’s unlikely that the U.S.-China trade dispute is going to escalate to a full-scale war any time soon — but it’s not impossible. Neither side is inclined to go to war with the other, but a war of that scale is what both plan to fight. All it would take is one bungled crisis, one itchy trigger finger, one malfunctioning automated defense system and the entire region could become a war zone.


China’s military upgrades, especially in the areas of anti-access and area-denial weapons, would make any war between the two countries “intense, destructive, and protracted,” according to the RAND corporation, America’s premiere policy and decision-making thinktank. The non-profit, non-partisan organization has been doing this kind of research since 1948.

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert
A Chinese People’s Liberation Army senior officer with the Beijing Military Region, left, looks through the optic of an M4 carbine while speaking with U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Travis W. Hawthorne about marksmanship.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)

David C. Gompert is the lead author of a recent study on the chances and effects of such a war. He’s an adjunct senior fellow at RAND. Gompert doesn’t predict a coming war, but acknowledges the possibilities.

“Tensions exist between the United States and China on a number of issues,” Gompert said. “And a crisis could occur and involve incidents or miscalculations that lead to hostilities. For example, China could try to intimidate its neighbors below the threshold of U.S. intervention and misjudge where that threshold is, or underestimate U.S. willingness to back Japan militarily in a crisis over disputed territory in the East China Sea.”

If the situation did escalate, both sides would suffer incredible losses in manpower and materiel. Chinese losses would be much more severe compared to the Americans, but as Chinese military capabilities improve, U.S. loss projections get much, much higher. As the war goes on, Chinese A2AD will make American dominance much more difficult to achieve. But the Chinese will suffer from a lack of resources and a protracted conflict will make affect China’s ability to suppress internal divisions.

Economically, China would suffer tremendously, while damaging the U.S. economy and anyone else dependent on China for trade. The study recommends ensuring China is aware of the level of destruction it faces in a fight with American forces — whether or not it loses a military conflict. Also, it is critical for the United States to improve interoperability with regional allies to both present a strong counterforce in the face of Chinese aggression — but it is highly unlikely that a partner like Japan would join the fighting. The international community would be divided in its support, but this would have little to no effect on the fighting.

RAND also recommends increasing military communications with China in order to avert a misunderstanding should any kind of military accident occur. The U.S. also needs to be more understanding should such an accident occur against its forces. If hostilities did break out, the U.S.’ most survivable platforms (like submarines) and anti-missile systems should be at the fore of the fight.

Finally, disrupting Chinese supply lines and technology from the sea and replacing products the American economy needs from China are critical to minimizing the damage suffered from a war.

“History suggests that wars that are very destructive to both combatants have a way of persisting as long as neither side faces complete defeat,” Gompert said. “A Sino-U.S. war would be so harmful that both sides should place a very high priority on avoiding one.”

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These are the most laughably bad recruitment ads for each branch

A lot of time and effort is put into every single advertisement that the U.S. military uses to leave a good, lasting impression on the minds of potential recruits. The best ads evoke emotion, tell the viewer what they stand to gain from service, and inform them that they’ll be a welcome addition to the team.

The following ads exhibit none of those qualities.

Remember, someone in the recruiting command for each branch decided that these videos were the best way to bring those numbers up. And don’t worry, we’re not leaving anybody out — every branch managed to push out a laughably bad commercial.


U.S. Air Force — “We’ve been waiting for you”

Hey, kid! You ever just sit and stare at an incoming tornado like an idiot when someone’s yelling at you to find shelter? Well, then you’re perfect astronaut material!

I’m not saying that every advertisement needs to be upbeat and cheery (you’ll see that those fill out the rest of this list), but this commercial is basically nightmare fuel set to a depressing piano score. Also, it’s cool and all to be fascinated by extreme weather, but if you’re the type of person that walks toward the huge freakin’ tornado in your backyard… you probably won’t score high enough on the ASVAB to get into the Air Force — let alone space command.

U.S. Army — “Sucked in”

It’s been beaten to death already — we all know how terrible of a campaign “An Army of One” was. That slogan completely dispels the notion that you’re becoming a part of something bigger than yourself and promotes Blue Falconry. This ad actually predates that monstrosity.

This ad is what you’d get if someone was sucked into the TV Poltergeist-style, but instead of being pulled into some ghostly dimension, they were instead transferred to the realm of sh*tty detail. Someone thought that layering on an upbeat song was all it’d take to make us how objectively creepy it is — they were wrong.

U.S. Navy — “It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure”

When you release a commercial, you typically want to make it abundantly clear what you’re actually pushing. In this video, a bunch of sailors get their port of call in Hong Kong and enjoy themselves, doing all the fun shore-leave stuff that any ol’ tourist would do — which is a far cry from actual service.

It also doesn’t help that this ad was mocked viciously on Saturday Night Live back in 1979, where they showed sailors on a working party to the tagline of, “It’s not just a job, it’s .78 a week!”

U.S. Marine Corps — “Chess”

Oh man, speaking of misleading advertising… At least the Navy’s laughably bad ad featured some sailors. It takes a full 54 seconds of watching this commercial before you realize that it’s trying to sell you on the Marine Corps.

It’s like someone who didn’t even understand the rules of chess decided that it deserved a dark, gritty reboot. First of all, that’s not how the knight piece moves at all. It starts out fine when he moves across the board to take out the lightsaber wielding bishop but, after that, he just does what he pleases.

To be fair, that’s how most Marines would react given a chess board…

U.S. Coast Guard — “Be part of the action”

Did you know that the Coast Guard actually runs commercials every now and then? And I’ll be honest, this commercial is actually the best of the worst on this list. It takes a fair and balanced understanding of what the Coast Guard does and gives it a Miami Vice tone.

The reason that this one stands out as being the worst of the Coast Guard ads is that it finishes with the dumbest criminals in history being stopped by the dorkiest dudes to ever sign up. On the bright side, having Academy Award winning actor Louis Gossett Jr. put on a Coastie Cap at the end earns them at least a couple cool points.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is the largest gathering of senior non-commissioned officers in the US

More than 440 senior enlisted leaders, representing all services — active, reserve, and retired — descended on Houston, Texas, June 20-22, 2019, from all parts of the United States to attend the Great Sergeants Major Reunion, the largest gathering of senior non-commissioned officers in America.

Out of U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy (USASMA) classes 1 through 10, there was only one Sergeant Major in attendance. Gene McKinney, who served as the 10th Sergeant Major of the Army, was among the many sergeants major to participate in this year’s event. Sadly, 16 sergeants major have passed since the last gathering in 2017.


The Department of Veterans Affairs was well represented, with two Veterans Experience office employees–both retired command sergeants major (representing classes 53 and 55)–on site to share MISSION Act and suicide prevention and awareness information, and hand out the VA Welcome Kit.

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert

CSM (Ret) Eric Montgomery speaks with SMA (Ret) Gene C. McKinney at the event in Houston.

As the conference room filled, VA staff were there to welcome attendees and hear their concerns and feedback about VA. One attendee, Larry Williams, said “the White House hotline is the best resource in place.” Others similarly expressed wishing they had this information before leaving service, and that VA’s presence at the reunion convinced several to enroll in VA. Even those still serving, or soon to be retiring as sergeants major, reported a desire to share the VA Welcome Kit information with their soldiers.

It was an invaluable opportunity to attend, to share what’s happening inside VA, knowing that these senior enlisted leaders will be VA advocates to their soldiers all over the country.

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert

Retired SGMs from USASMA class 55 at the GSM Reunion 2019.

Command Sergeant Major (retired) Ivanhoe Love Jr., who also served three terms as the mayor of Liberal, Kansas, was the keynote speaker. His spoke about living healthy lives, the importance of annual checkups and the power of positive thinking. He also stressed the importance of having personal relationships, staying connected and informed, and how these factors impact life longevity.

Although he was not in attendance due to health reasons, fellow Sergeant Major (Ret) Ernest Colden, a World War II, Korea, and Vietnam Veteran from South Carolina who turned 95 on June 23, 2019, was recognized.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

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F-35s, F-22s will soon have artificial intelligence to control drone wingmen

F-35s, F-22s and other fighter jets will soon use improved “artificial intelligence” to control nearby drone “wingmen” able to carry weapons, test enemy air defenses or perform intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance missions in high risk areas, senior Air Force officials said.


Citing ongoing progress with computer algorithms and some degree of AI (artificial intelligence) already engineered into the F-35, Air Force Chief Scientist Gregory Zacharias said that technology was progressing quickly at the Air Force Research Lab – to the point where much higher degrees of autonomy and manned-unmanned teaming is expected to emerge in the near future.

Related: The F-35 may soon carry one of the US’s most polarizing nuclear weapons

“This involves an attempt to have another platform fly alongside a human, perhaps serving as a weapons truck carrying a bunch of missiles,” Zacharias said in an interview with Scout Warrior.

An F-35 computer system, Autonomic Logistics Information System, involves early applications of artificial intelligence wherein computers make assessments, go through checklists, organize information and make some decisions by themselves – without needing human intervention.

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert
F-35s and F-22s fly in formation. | US Air Force photo

“We are working on making platforms more autonomous with multi-int fusion systems and data from across different intel streams,” Zacharias explained.

The computer, called ALIS, makes the aircraft’s logistics tail more automated and is able to radio back information about engine health or other avionics.

A single, secure information environment provides users with up-to-date information on any of these areas using web-enabled applications on a distributed network, a statement from ALIS- builder Lockheed Martin says.

ALIS serves as the information infrastructure for the F-35, transmitting aircraft health and maintenance action information to the appropriate users on a globally-distributed network to technicians worldwide, the statement continues.

However, despite the promise of advancing computer technology and increasingly levels of autonomy, Zacharias emphasized that dynamic human cognition is, in many respects, far more capable than computers.

Computers can more quickly complete checklists and various procedures, whereas human perception abilities can more quickly process changing information in many respects.

“A computer might have to go through a big long checklist, whereas a pilot might immediately know that the engines are out without going through a checklist. He is able to make a quicker decision about where to land,” Zacharias said.

The F-35s so-called “sensor fusion” uses computer algorithms to acquire, distill, organize and present otherwise disparate pieces of intelligence into a single picture for the pilot. The technology, Zacharias said, also exhibit some early implementations of artificial intelligence.

Systems such as a 360-degree sensor suite, called the Distributed Aperture System, is linked with targeting technologies, such as the aircraft’s Electro-Optical Targeting System.

F-35 to Control Drones

As a result, F-35 pilots will be able to control a small group of drones flying nearby from the aircraft cockpit in the air, performing sensing, reconnaissance and targeting functions.

At the moment, the flight path, sensor payload and weapons disposal of airborne drones such as Air Force Predators and Reapers are coordinated from ground control stations.

“The more autonomy and intelligence you can put on these vehicles, the more useful they will become,” Zacharias said.

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert
The F-35 can connect to most any friendly force on the battlefield, feeding information from its sensors to freindlies and grabbing information from other planes and sensors. | Lockheed Martin image

This development could greatly enhance mission scope, flexibility and effectiveness by enabling a fighter jet to conduct a mission with more weapons, sensors, targeting technology and cargo, Zacharias explained.

For instance, real-time video feeds from the electro-optical/infrared sensors on board an Air Force Predator, Reaper or Global Hawk drone could go directly into an F-35 cockpit, without needing to go to a ground control station. This could speed up targeting and tactical input from drones on reconnaissance missions in the vicinity of where a fighter pilot might want to attack. In fast-moving combat circumstances involving both air-to-air and air-to-ground threats, increased speed could make a large difference.

“It’s almost inevitable people will be saying – I want more missiles on board to get through defenses or I need some EW (electronic warfare) countermeasures because I don’t have the payload to carry a super big pod,” he explained. “A high powered microwave may have some potential that will require a dedicated platform. The negative side is you have to watch out that you don’t overload the pilot,” Zacharias added.

In addition, drones could be programmed to fly into heavily defended or high-risk areas ahead of manned-fighter jets in order to assess enemy air defenses and reduce risk to pilots.

“Decision aides will be in cockpit or on the ground and more platform oriented autonomous systems. A wing-man, for instance, might be carrying extra weapons, conduct ISR tasks or help to defend an area,”  he said.

Advances in computer power, processing speed and areas referred to as “artificial intelligence” are rapidly changing the scope of what platforms are able to perform without needing human intervention. This is mostly developing in the form of what Zacharias referred to as “decision aide support,” meaning machines will be able to better interpret, organize, analyze and communicate information to a much greater extent – without have humans manage each individual task.

“A person comes in and does command and control while having a drone execute functions. The resource allocation will be done by humans,” Zacharias said.

Another advantage of these technological advances is that one human may have an ability to control multiple drones and perform a command and control function – while drones execute various tasks such as sensor functions, targeting, weapons transport or electronic warfare activities.

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert
Aircrews perform a preflight check on an MQ-9 Reaper before it takes of for a mission in Afghanistan, Sept. 31. The Reaper is larger and more heavily-armed than the MQ-1 Predator and in addition to its traditional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, is designed to attack time-sensitive targets with persistence and precision, and destroy or disable those targets.

At the moment, multiple humans are often needed to control a single drone, and new algorithms increasing autonomy for drones could greatly change this ratio.  Zacharias explained a potential future scenario wherein one human is able to control 10 – or even 100 – drones.

Algorithms could progress to the point where a drone, such as a Predator or a Reaper, might be able to follow a fighter aircraft by itself – without needing its flight path navigated from human direction from the ground.

Unlike ground robotics wherein autonomy algorithms have to contend with an ability to move quickly in relation to unanticipated developments and other moving objects, simple autonomous flight guidance from the air is much more manageable to accomplish.

Since there are often fewer obstacles in the air compared with the ground, drones above the ground can be programmed more easily to fly toward certain pre-determined locations, often called a “way-points.”

Also read: How China’s stealthy new J-20 fighter jet compares to the US’s F-22 and F-35

At the same time, unanticipated movements, objects or combat circumstances can easily occur in the skies as well, Zacharias said.

“The hardest thing is ground robotics. I think that is really tough. I think the air basically is today effectively a solved problem. The question is what happens when you have to react more to your environment and a threat is coming after you,” he said.

As a result, scientists are now working on advancing autonomy to the point where a drone can, for example, be programmed to spoof a radar system, see where threats are and more quickly identify targets independently.

“We will get beyond simple guidance and control and will get into tactics and execution,” Zacharias added.

Wargames, exercises and simulations are one of the ways the Air Force is working to advance autonomous technologies.

“Right now we are using lots of bandwidth to send our real-time video. One of the things that we have is a smarter on-board processor. These systems can learn over time and be a force multiplier. There’s plenty of opportunity to go beyond the code base of an original designer and work on a greater ability to sense your environment or sense what your teammate might be telling you as a human,” he said.

For example, with advances in computer technology, autonomy and artificial intelligence, drones will be able to stay above a certain area and identify particular identified relevant objects or targets at certain times, without needing a human operator, Zacharias added.

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert
Lt. Col. Christine Mau, 33rd Operations Group puts on her helmet before taking her first flight in the F-35A at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marleah Robertson)

This is particularly relevant because the exorbitant amount of ISR video feeds collected needs organizing algorithms and technology to help process and sift through the vast volumes of gathered footage – in order to pinpoint and communicate what is tactically relevant.

“With image processing and pattern recognition, you could just send a signal instead of using up all this bandwidth saying ‘hey I just saw something 30-seconds ago you might want to look at the video feed I am sending right now,'” he explained.

The Army has advanced manned-unmanned teaming technology in its helicopter fleet –successfully engineering Apache and Kiowa air crews to control UAS flight paths and sensor payloads from the air in the cockpit. Army officials say this technology has yielded successful combat results in Afghanistan.

Senior Air Force leaders have said that the services’ new next-generation bomber program, Long Range Strike Bomber or LRS-B, will be engineered to fly manned and unmanned missions.

Also, in September of 2013, the Air Force and Boeing flew an unmanned F-16 Falcon at supersonic speeds for the first time at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. The unmanned fighter was able to launch, maneuver and return to base without a pilot.

At the same time, despite the speed at which unmanned technology is progressing, many scientist and weapons’ developers are of the view that human pilots will still be needed – given the speed at which the human brain can quickly respond to unanticipated developments.

There is often a two-second long lag time before a UAS in the air can respond to or implement directions from a remote pilot in a ground station, a circumstance which underscores the need for manned pilots when it comes to fighter jets, Air Force officials said.

Therefore, while cargo planes or bombers with less of a need to maneuver in the skies might be more easily able to embrace autonomous flight – fighter jets will still greatly benefit from human piloting, Air Force scientists have said.

While computer processing speed and algorithms continue to evolve at an alarming pace, it still remains difficult to engineer a machine able to instantly respond to other moving objects or emerging circumstances, Air Force scientists have argued.

However, sensor technology is progressing quickly to the point where fighter pilots will increasingly be able to identify threats at much greater distances, therefore remove the need to dogfight. As a result, there may be room for an unmanned fighter jet in the not-too-distant future, given the pace of improving autonomous technology.

MIGHTY MOVIES

What ‘Game of Thrones’ – and Nagasaki – taught us about war

Warning: Contains spoilers from the series finale of Game of Thrones

In the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones, Daenerys Targaryen unleashed her weapon of mass destruction dragon on the army of her enemy — as well as thousands of civilians in King’s Landing. She deliberately and extensively burned thousands of innocent women, children, and elderly civilians alive.

In the series finale, she justified her actions by saying that Cersei Lannister had intended to use those innocent lives as a shield. Instead, Daenerys Stormborn turned that shield to ash.

And then…all was well in the realm?


International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert

A few people closest to Daenerys decided not that she must be held accountable for her actions, but that she must actually be put down for them — so Jon Snow murdered her. We could spend a lot of time discussing the merits to bringing a war criminal to trial, but let’s just accept that Jon felt the only way he could truly end Dany’s war was to literally stab her in the heart after telling her he’d be loyal and kissing her and how could you do that to Khaleesi Jon she needed a therapist.

And then…it really was done.

Everyone left standing was so weary of bloodshed that they calmly gathered together, laid down their arms, and invented a new form of government.

Which, honestly, is the only way men actually end their wars (maybe not the new government part — although…sometimes that works too — and actually while we’re here can we re-examine Plato’s philosopher king theory it could be cool maybe?).

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert

“Democracy is nothing more than mob rule.”

In war, we butcher the enemy until someone can’t take it anymore. It is unimaginable to comprehend the casualties from conflicts like the World Wars (in World War I alone, the estimate is around 40 million civilian and military personnel injured or killed — 40 million). In World War II, the estimate is double.

Millions and millions (and millions) of people were dying horrific deaths and yet the fighting continued.

The United States dropped an atomic bomb on a city of innocents and yet the fighting continued.

It wasn’t until the U.S. dropped a second bomb that Japan finally surrendered.

Also read: Was this ‘Game of Thrones’ episode a metaphor for the Iraq War?

Eventually, men do lose their taste for war, which is the only way it can truly end. Unfortunately, humanity’s collective threshold for egregious harm, torture, and suffering is so high that it takes something like two atomic bombs — or a metaphorical dragon — to put an end to it all.

Which could explain why, after 17+ years, the United States is still fiddle f***ing around in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s a mercy that no one is going nuclear in those AORs, but unfortunately, our own wheel keeps turning, delivering death by a thousand cuts.

Anyway, congratulations to Bran Stark.

Articles

ISIS is running for the hills — literally — as its Afghan leader is killed in strike

The leading candidate to take the helm of the Islamic State’s affiliate in Afghanistan was killed in a US air-strike on August 10, US forces Afghanistan announced August 13.


Abdul Rahman and three other senior ISIS militants were killed in the strike marking the latest in a series of decapitation strikes by the US on the terrorist group in Afghanistan. The location of the strike reveals that ISIS “appears to be relocating some of its senior leadership from the eastern province of Nangarhar to the rugged, mountainous northeastern province of Kunar,” Long War Journal fellow Bill Roggio noted August 14.

ISIS’s previous leader in Afghanistan, Abu Sayed, was killed in Kunar in a July 11 drone strike. Sayed was only at the helm of the terrorist group for 6 weeks before being killed and was the third head of the group in Afghanistan killed by the US.

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

ISIS in Afghanistan has morphed from a nascent band of militants in 2015 to a full-fledged threat in the eastern province of Nangarhar. The group controls a relatively small amount of territory but has used it to launch multiple complex attacks on the capital city of Kabul, killing hundreds with its brutal tactics.

“It’s not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of ISIS. We have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be focused on that problem,” Pentagon Chief Spokesman Dana White declared in a recent interview with Voice of America.

Roggio concurred with White’s assessment saying ISIS  “has far fewer resources and personnel, and a smaller base a of support than the Taliban and its allies – has weathered a concerted US and Afghan military offensive in Nangarhar and the persistent targeting of its leaders for nearly two years.”

Articles

Here’s what happened when this Marine refused to go to war

Stephen Funk grew up with a lot of speaking problems. For a long time, he was actually mute. He would be able to speak again one day, however, in a voice that would stand out because it belonged to a United States Marine.


International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert
Funk in the Marines (wikimedia commons)

Funk enlisted in the Marines at age 19, right after high school and the attacks of 9-11, to go to Afghanistan. His father served, so did his grandfather. In boot camp, he qualified as an expert rifleman, but something about it bothered him. When his instructor told him he wouldn’t shoot as well in combat, Funk told the instructor he was right, because he thought killing was wrong.

“Throughout the training,  all the conditioning is trying to make you think its okay to kill and go to war,” Funk says.  “But the whole time it felt wrong to me. At the end of it, I ended up not wanting to go anywhere to fight at all. I didn’t want to be a part of it.” Funk would soon gain international notoriety for becoming the first U.S. troop to refuse to fight in the Iraq War.

“I didn’t really expect it to be a big deal,” he recalls. “I could have easily gotten out under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I am gay and they could have discharged me without the hassle. But I had this moral awakening about my service. I didn’t feel that it was right to get out under DADT, which I didn’t believe in either.”

He applied for conscientious objector status. There were many other conscientious objectors Funk knew of, but none served time in jail. Funk was sentenced to six months confinement (he served five), a demotion to E-1, forfeiture of pay, a fine, and a bad conduct discharge. The crime: Unauthorized Absence.

“Unauthorized Absence is really common,” Funk explains. “Anytime you’re not where you’re supposed to be, that’s unauthorized absence. As a reservist, if you miss a weekend, that’s unauthorized absence, but they’re not going to put you in the brig for that. They might make you come in on an off-weekend to make up for it, but they’re not gonna send you to jail.”

Funk felt the level of punishment didn’t fit the crime. He felt the Corps was making an example of him. The 27 other conscientious objectors with Funk who applied (16 were granted CO status). The Marines’ stance was the other objectors avoided prosecution because they reported for duty on time.

More than a decade later, Funk remembers being surprised about the public response to his story.

“I figured it would be a more local story in the U.S.,” Funk says. “I remember thinking how weird it felt on both sides. I was mischaracterized by both sides. I was vilified by people on one side, which I thought was unfair. By other side I was lionized, and all of a sudden I had to represent all the antiwar veterans and that didn’t seem right either. I felt it was covered a lot more fairly in international media, especially in the UK and Japan. But the coverage led to me being punished more than I might have been. If I had left under DADT there would have been no repercussions, but I felt the punishment was harsher since I had a more public stance.”

People still remember Stephen Funk. Every once in a while, someone looks him up and reaches out. After 13 years, many wonder if he would do it all over again.

“If placed in the same position, I probably wouldn’t join in the first place,” Funk says. “But I had a lot of great experiences afterward and I did get to meet a lot of veterans with all sorts of different backgrounds who I never would have had the chance to meet.”

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert
Stephen Funk today

Funk just graduated from Stanford with a degree in International Relations. He spent much of his school years founding and working with Veteran Artists, helping veterans through creative arts.

“I don’t want to distance myself from everything veteran related,” he says. “because this was still a big part of my life. So I helped veterans express themselves through art, no matter what their views were.”

 

NOW: 4 Badass conscientious objectors

OR: 11 Ways people dodged the Vietnam draft

MIGHTY TRENDING

These veterans spent two months running an American flag across the country

Team Red, White and Blue’s Old Glory Relay involved 59 teams of runners moving an American flag across the country in a 3,450 mile journey that started in San Francisco on September 11 and ended in Washington D.C on November 8.


Team Red, White and Blue is a nonprofit organization based in Tampa, Florida with a mission to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity. The Old Glory Relay is a one of Team RWB’s signature fundraising events, and it does much to support the mission.

This year’s Old Glory Relay was made up of 1,170 athletes and raised $436,000. The route passed through 13 states, and during the relay runners faced all kinds of terrain and weather conditions.

“This event could not have taken place without the Eagle Fire of our participants and fundraisers, the dedication of our Team RWB staff on the course, the engagement of numerous volunteers across the country…and the unwavering support of our sponsors,” said Dan Brostek, Team RWB’s marketing and communications director. “A heartfelt thanks to our presenting sponsor, Microsoft. A special thanks as well to the Schultz Family Foundation, NoGii, Zignal LabsRDB Running and the Bob Woodruff Foundation for making this experience a memory to last a lifetime.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s what happens when the Marines take your beach

Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit practiced their ability to conduct mechanized raids on July 1 against an island in Queensland, Australia, showing off American muscle while also ensuring the Marines are ready to take territory and inflict casualties on enemies in the Pacific. Not that there is any chance of conflict in that region.


International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Marines position their vehicles in the well deck, a portion of the ship that can be flooded with water to allow ships and swimming vehicles to transit between the open ocean and the ship.

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Marines double check their gear and prepare to move out from the well deck. Careful checks of the vehicles are necessary before the well is flooded, as an armored vehicle without all of the necessary plugs and protections in place can quickly sink in the open water, creating a lethal threat for the Marines inside.

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Amphibious operations have a lot of risks like that. Simple physics force the armored vehicles to move slowly between the ship and shore, leaving them vulnerable to enemy fire. And many of them can’t fire their best weapons while floating because it might cause the vehicle to flounder.

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

But the risks can be worth the reward, like in the Pacific Campaign of World War II. Sometimes the only logical way to get a battalion or larger force onto an enemy-held island is to deliver it over the water.

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

The Marines prepare constantly for that eventuality, buying gear and training on its use so they can land on the sand under fire, quickly build combat power with armor, artillery, and infantry, and then move from the beachhead inland.

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

The success of these operations depends largely on the initiative of individual Marines and small teams. Enemy defenses can quickly break up formations moving through the surf, and so junior leaders have to be ready to keep the momentum going if they lose contact with the company, battalion, or higher headquarters.

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Many of the Marine Corp’s current vehicles are slow and cumbersome in the water, but can move much faster once their treads reach dry ground. For instance, the Assault Amphibious Vehicle can move a little over 8 mph in favorable waters, but can hit up to 20 mph off-road and 45 mph on a surfaced road.

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

The Marines have multiple versions of the AAV including the recovery vehicle shown above. AAVs can carry 40mm automatic grenade launchers and .50-cal. heavy machine guns, but the primary combat capability comes from the 21 Marine infantrymen who can deploy from the back.

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Those infantrymen can still benefit from the AAVs after they deploy, though, since the large weapons and armor of the AAV allows it to break up enemy strongpoints more easily or safely than dismounted Marines.

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

The Marines on the ground, in addition to fighting enemy forces, will collect intelligence. Some of that will be done with hand-held cameras like that in the photo, but drones may also be flown, and Marines forward may draw maps or illustrations of enemy defense or write reports of what they’re seeing. This allows higher-level commanders and artillery and aviation leaders to target defenses and troop concentrations.

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

The destruction of enemy fortifications allows the Marines to break out from the beachhead. If they don’t get off the beaches, it makes it easier for a counterattacking enemy force to push the Marines back into the sea. A breakout helps prevent that by keeping the enemy on their back foot.

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Keep scrolling to see more photos from the simulated raid in Australia.

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the US Army has some of the best divers in the world

Believe it or not, America’s primary land combatant force has some of the best combat divers in the world. It may seem odd that the Army, tasked with “providing prompt, sustained, land dominance, across the full range of military operations and the spectrum of conflict” would have world-class divers. But the Army’s swimmers are kept plenty busy.


Mission of Army Divers

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The Army has two major classifications of divers: engineering and special operations. The engineering dive detachments make up the bulk of Army dive formations. Their primary mission is to conduct underwater engineering and disaster response.

Basically, these soldiers are responsible for making bridges safe, ensuring ports and harbors are stable and clear of dangerous debris, and clearing waterways like rivers. But they can also be sent to disaster response areas where they could conduct all of the above missions as well as search and rescue to save people in distress. They also provide emergency treatment for civilian divers suffering from decompression treatment.

That may not sound all that grueling. After all, welders don’t have to be super buff, why would an underwater welder have to be some elite soldier?

Well, divers are doing construction tasks like welding, cutting, bolting, and more, but they’re doing it while water presses against their bodies, they’re carrying 30 pounds or more of tanks and compressed air, and they may have to constantly paddle to stay in position for their work.

And that’s ignoring the mental fortitude needed to conduct dangerous operations underwater as cloudy water obscures vision, rushing water pushes against you, and the shadows of animals like gators or sharks pass over your body.

It’s because of all that strain that Army divers have a reputation for being jacked (not that the other services’ divers are any less fit, we’re just talking about the soldiers right now).

Army dives are typically made with teams of at least four or five divers, depending on the equipment being used. But dive detachments have 25 personnel, allowing them to support operations at three locations at once if so ordered. Each of the three dive squads in a detachment has six people at full manning, and there are seven more people assigned to the headquarters.

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert

Pfc. Stephen Olinger checks his oxygen levels prior to an exercise during Army Engineer Diver Phase II training at the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center in Panama City, Fla., Nov. 28, 2018.

(U.S. Army Joe Lacdan)

A single squad can be deployed within 48 hours of a mission notice, or the entire detachment can move out within seven days if they receive logistics and security support from a larger unit. These short-notice missions can often be assessing damage to key infrastructure after a hurricane or earthquake or search and recovery after a disaster. But the detachment can be tasked with anti-terrorism swims, underwater demolition and construction, or salvage as well.

As we hinted above, though, the Army has Special Forces divers as well. But these divers have a more limited set of missions. They primarily are tasked with conducting reconnaissance on target areas or entering or exiting an area of operations via the water. They can conduct some demolition raids and security missions as well.

Their list of missions includes mobility and counter-mobility, physical security, and more. Each Special Forces battalion has three combat diving teams.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Vets answer EVEN MOAR dumb military questions

We’re baaaaaaack.

There are so many dumb questions, but don’t worry, we’re here for you with the answers. We Are The Mighty regulars are joined by special guests U.S. Navy SEAL Remi Adeleke and Green Beret Terry Schappert in the third installment of this riveting series.

RIVETING.


Do soldiers fall in love while in war zones? | Dumb Military Questions 103

www.youtube.com

Do soldiers fall in love while in war zones?

“Have you ever seen someone cry at the U.S. Army basic training?”

The video opens strong with the cold human truth: oh yes — everyone cries at the U.S. Army basic training (phrasing kept intact here because it’s hilarious; can we make adding ‘the’ to basic training a universal thing?).

Next up:

“Why are the U.S. Navy’s and the U.S. Army’s special forces considered elite even though their training period before joining is only a few months long compared to civilian skills like guitar that take years to learn?”

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert

Schappert ain’t got time for that.

Dear twenty-something rich kid sitting in your mom’s basement playing ‘Wonderwall’ again on your six-string: we don’t know how to convey to you that pushing yourself beyond your physical limitations consistently for months on end while sleep deprived in order to learn tactics and skills that will keep you and your friends alive in the face of lethal force is harder than finally nailing your first F chord on the guitar. But please trust us: it is.

“Could a Green Beret break out of a supermax prison?”

Lucky for us, we had not one but two Green Berets on hand to answer this question.

“Why don’t we make our soldiers look scary or creepy? Wouldn’t that be good psychological warfare?”

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert

Trust me. Our soldiers are creepy. Just look through the We Are The Mighty comments sometime.

Watch the video above to see the full line-up of questions and their answers!

Then make sure you check out more videos right here:

Vets answer dumb military questions – part one

Vets answer dumb military questions – part two

How to get posted at Area 51 other dumb military questions answered

What happens if you refuse to shower other dumb questions

What do snipers think when they miss other dumb military questions

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Coast Guard caught a sea turtle with $53 million in cocaine

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Thetis was just doing their thing in November, 2017, hunting smugglers and mapping America’s puddles (or whatever it is they do), when they came across the ultimate smuggler: an ancient sea monster with $53 million of drugs in tow.


International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert

USCGC Thetis transits past the USCGC Tampa Bay in Key West.

(U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Lisa Ferdinando)

The Coast Guard first spotted the drugs with an Over The Horizon small boat, identifying it as a debris patch with contraband likely in it. When the pursuit mission commander arrived at the debris field, he identified both the cocaine and a sea turtle caught in the middle of it.

Despite catching the sea turtle swimming with bales of contraband on it, the commander kept an open mind about whether or not the sea turtle was involved in the underlying crime.

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert

A crewman from the USCGC Thetis prepares to cut a sea turtle free of bales of cocaine.

(Coast Guard

The Coast Guardsmen identified chaffing on the sea turtle and went to render aid. Speaking of which, seriously guys —do not leave trash lines in the ocean. Slowly dying of infection from chaffing or starvation because you can’t hunt is a horrible way to go.

The Coast Guardsmen cut the turtle free and allowed it to swim away without further investigation, instead concentrating on recovering what turned out to be 1,800 pounds of cocaine valued at million. They also recovered the 75 feet of lines and cords which would’ve been a persistent threat to sea turtles and other wildlife.

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert

For some reason, these are the best photos the Coast Guard released of the sea turtle rescue. Not sure if all Coast Guardsmen are limited to smart phones from 2008 or what, but we would include better photos if we had them.

(U.S. Coast Guard)

The encounter was part of Operation Martillo, and USCGC Thetis was on a 68-day patrol where the Coast Guard and its partners ultimately captured 5 million worth of drugs, mostly cocaine and marijuana.

While the Coast Guard is often mocked as being not real military or being “puddle pirates” (see the intro paragraph), the service does amazing work in the Pacific, capturing massive amounts of drugs otherwise destined for illegal U.S. markets. For the past few years, they’ve captured three times as many drugs at sea as the rest of law enforcement has captured within the U.S. and at all land borders.

International snipers train on advanced skills in Spanish desert

USCGC Thetis arrives in Naval Station Guantanamo Bay in 2010.

(U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Bill Mesta)

And the Coast Guard has done this while being dramatically under-resourced for such a large mission. They can often only put three cutters onto the mission at a time, and are only able to interdict 20 to 25 percent of the seaborne drugs headed into the country.

As one Coast Guard officer put it to Men’s Journal, “imagine a police force trying to cover the entire U.S. with three cars. That’s the tactical problem we’re trying to solve.”

The U.S. isn’t the only country involved in the efforts. Operation Martillo has been going on since 2012 and has member countries from South America and Europe, and Canadian forces were part of the sea turtle rescue. SOUTHCOM says the operation has scooped up over 693 metric tons of cocaine, nearly 600 sea vessels and aircraft, and nearly 2,000 smugglers since it was launched in early 2012. It’s also nabbed million in bulk cash.

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