U.S. Marines, attached to special operations forces in Syria, often found themselves in direct-fire gunfights with Islamic State fighters early 2018, according to the commander of the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response for Central Command.
The unit, designed with capability to launch combat forces within six hours anywhere in the CENTCOM theater, sent two rifle companies to support Special Operations Command units operating in Northern Syria between January and April 2018, Marine Col. Christopher Gideons, commander of the task force, said June 8, 2018, at the Potomac Institute.
“When Marines deploy, they want to get involved,” he said. “When there is a gunfight out there … they want to find that opportunity to feel like they are making a meaningful contribution. We did exactly that.”
Gideons initially deployed a platoon-size element that linked up with ArmySpecial Forces Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) teams.
“They were integrated with [special operations forces], absolutely integrated. We were providing Marine infantry, we were providing indirect fires, and we were providing anti-tank fires,” he said.
The SOF elements would push forward, advising Syrian Democratic Forces, “the ones that were primarily engaged in the direct firefights with ISIS,” Gideons said.
“You would have Marines integrated with those ODAs … providing fires down at that lower tactical level,” he said.
During its 243-day deployment, the unit had to conduct several “rapid planning processes” to deploy forces on short notice, he added.
Over time, more support was needed in Syria, so Gideons deployed more Marines to grow the platoon-size element to “two infantry [companies minus]” that were located in two separate locations in Northern Syria.
“We anticipated that that requirement would grow with a need for Marine Corps capabilities, and it did,” he said.
Soon the fighting intensified.
“On a number of different occasions, there would be various engagements, some direct, some indirect,” Gideons said. “As the SDF would close in sometimes, they would outstretch particularly what our mortar fires could provide.
“We would displace out of our small [forward operating bases] we were operating out of, move closer in behind the SDF and then provide fires — a lot of times mortar fire … and of course as you were getting into an engagement, there is the potential for stuff to come back at you,” he said.
Marines operated in both mounted and dismounted roles. F/A-18s coming out of Bahrain provided close-air support when needed, Gideons said.
Despite the action Marines saw, there were no casualties.
“I am very happy and proud to say that we brought everybody home,” Gideons said.
He described the deployment as “dynamic.”
“What was unique on our watch is over our 243 days in theater … from our perspective, we were more distributed than any other SPMAGTF up until that point,” he said. “We had Marines operating in 10 different countries and 24 separate locations. I had Marines from Egypt to Afghanistan.
“I didn’t own missions in Iraq or Syria, but I had capabilities that could augment and support that mission’s successful accomplishment.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
How did you get such an immense craft off the ground? Very carefully.
The B-36 had six Pratt and Whitney R-4360 engines in a pusher configuration and four General Electric J47 jet engines. These were able to lift a fully-loaded B-36 off the ground and propel it to a top speed of 435 miles per hour.
Depending on the model, the B-36 had up to 16 20mm cannon in twin turrets. The B-36 entered service in 1948 – and it gave SAC 11 years of superb service, being replaced by the B-52. Five planes survive, all of which are on display.
Below, this clip from the 1955 movie “Strategic Air Command” shows how this plane took flight. Jimmy Stewart plays a major league baseball player called back into Air Force service (Stewart was famously a bomber pilot who saw action in World War II and the Vietnam War).
Also recognizable in this clip is the flight engineer, played by Harry Morgan, famous for playing Sherman Potter on “MASH” and as Detective Rich Gannon in the 1960s edition of “Dragnet.”
Our military is faced with a conflicting dichotomy. On one hand, we tout that we are the most technologically advanced military force on the planet. On the other, the Pentagon states that we need to upgrade our defenses to keep up with the looming threats. Depending on which briefing you attend, you may hear that the Department of Defense (DoD) is operating under a very tight budget; meanwhile, the news media points out the United States spends more on defense than any other nation in the world.
So what gives? What is really happening?
To fully grasp the intricacies of the U.S. military’s budget and expenditures, we must take a holistic look at the budgetary process.
Who’s Really in Charge of the Military?
Each year, the service components draft their needs and submit them in a prioritized list to the Secretary of Defense. These lists are consolidated and given over to the president. The president, not being a military man, relies on the suggestions and vision of the service chiefs. In January of every year, the president submits his budget proposal (for the next year) to Congress.
The House and Senate each have their own Armed Services Committee, who eventually reconcile the two agendas; they determine what the military is authorized (how much they’re allowed to have) and what the military is appropriated (what they’re allowed to purchase that year). Once reconciled, Congress votes on the National Defense Authorization Act late in the calendar year. The NDAA then becomes law; the military must purchase those designated items.
This begs the question: who determines what the U.S. military will be comprised of? Sadly, it appears that the commander-in-chief merely makes recommendations; it is the Congress who has the final say.
Unfortunately, two flaws can be spotted in this system. First, it may be possible that a member of Congress may skew military appropriations in order to curry favor with their constituents. For example, Senator Susan Collins from Maine successfully petitioned to build the third Zumwalt-class destroyer to keep her state’s Bath Iron Works shipyard in business; at the time, it was a ship the Navy did not want. Second, once the appropriations are issued, it becomes a monumental fight to change them. What if a service realized that they need to change what they are purchasing because of a new threat? It would face the huge task of convincing Congress of the need to change the purchasing strategy mid-stream. It may prove more difficult than the effort itself.
There’s a consensus among military analysts that posits the technological advantages of our adversaries. They assert that Russia and China have already surpassed the United States in terms of technological abilities. In these analyses, they credit foreign missiles with absolute reliability and perfect accuracy while discrediting our own.
This trend has spurned the admirals and generals into action; there is a palpable emphasis in developing futuristic weapons to not only meet the challenge, but to far exceed it. At this point, I will concede that there is value in developing weaponry for the future. However, I will dispute the overwhelming emphasis currently placed upon it. If one is focused on a futuristic battle, you may not be prepared for the near-term skirmish.
The DoD budget for Fiscal Year 2021 stands at 8 billion in total. Of that, 4.3 billion is being spent on Research, Development, Testing, Evaluation (RDTE); this is the highest value in our country’s history. This money will be spent on the development of weapons that do not yet exist. Items such as laser rayguns, howitzers with global reach, and deflector shields sound good in theory, but the technology isn’t mature enough to make them a reality.
Each service component has a number of pet-projects that are purely hypothetical at this point: the Air Force’s B-21 stealth bomber concept boasts unmatched abilities, when it hasn’t even flown yet; the Navy’s electromagnetically driven catapults and elevators still haven’t proven their worth; the Army’s search for a robot that can autonomously carry an infantryman’s load hasn’t reached fruition; and all of the services are constructing massive databases to help each keep track of maintenance and availability at extreme cost.
I do not believe these programs should be canceled, but they should not be the national priority. These programs should be relegated to the “back burner” until technology can catch up to the promised capabilities.
Right now, the U.S. military is, by far, the strongest force on the planet. Let’s review recent history.
In 1991, the U.S. military dismantled the Iraqi army in 96 hours. Later, in 2003, the US military crushed the Iraqi army in less than weeks, while using only two divisions as the spearhead. In Afghanistan, the U.S. military forced the Taliban government to fall within three months. Since that time, the United States has held control of Afghanistan longer than the Russians or Alexander the Great ever did.
Think about that.
Those are astounding time frames. But like any sports team, all the competitors would like to defeat the champion and claim the title. So, the United States must be vigilant to keep the hyenas at a distance. Because of that, I propose that Washington maintain its current force as its primary effort, while slowlydeveloping its future capability as a secondary effort.
For a moment, let’s set aside the on-going technological revolution. The major weapons systems in the U.S. arsenal are sound, combat-proven, and worthy of keeping. Sure, they will require upgrades to keep pace with technological developments, but they are largely superior to most nations’ weapons. Our weapons systems cannot be allowed to fester or grow obsolete while we chase new futuristic weapons that are years from production. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once said, “You go to war with the army you have, not the one you might want or wish to have at a later time.”
The reality is that new weapons are prohibitively expensive and take too much time to build; because of the costly price tags of the new weapons, the Pentagon invariably ends up buying fewer new weapons and ends up lagging behind our adversaries in terms of the sheer total number of systems; during these extensive construction times, we must maintain our current force structure by funding the “in-place” weapons systems.
Political doves often create conspiracy-laden theories that accuse the most outlandish plots. One of them touts that the average citizen does not truly comprehend how much the weapons manufacturing industries fuel the U.S. economy overall. True, the military-industrial complex affects many jobs in many states, but the funding of programs just to create “jobs” eventually hurts the military. It is sometimes necessary to cancel a project and shift its money to another more worthwhile project. This may hurt some Congress-members, and it may mean shifting funding to another defense company, but in the end, the United States will benefit from the security gained from a good piece of military hardware.
To unravel the convoluted budgetary process and streamline defense acquisition, the president should request a special meeting with both Congressional Armed Services Committees to appeal for one-time special monetary powers to shift defense spending toward ‘at risk’ military capabilities. Funds would have to be shifted on an emergency basis, with the aim of purchasing the best items now rather than perfect items far in the future. The president should propose:
1) The RDTE value should be reduced by 10 percent for one year. Research could still continue with the remaining .9 billion, although some delays could be expected. The .4 billion could be used elsewhere.
2a) Purchase another eight F-15EX fighters for id=”listicle-2645629724″.2 billion, as the Air Force did last year. This would serve to augment the F-15 fleet during the slow expansion of the F-35 acquisition.
2b) Along a similar vein, initiate the purchase of sixteen F-16V Block 72 fighters for id=”listicle-2645629724″.3 billion. Just the addition of the AN/APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) will be a great improvement of the Viper’s potential, given that the F-16 will still be flying beyond 2030.
3) Purchase another Virginia-class Block V submarine with the additional Virginia Payload Module for .75 billion. This would help in the Navy in two ways: the VPM capability will assist with the aging SSGN line of ships, which will retire soon; it will bring up the submarine production schedule, which had slowed over the last two years. This will alleviate concern of the shrinking attack submarine numbers. Further, insist that all future acquisition of Virginia-class attack submarines be equipped with the VPM missiles to ameliorate the retirement of SSGNs.
4) Disburse id=”listicle-2645629724″ billion to change the structure/composition of the Littoral Combat Ship. To date, twenty LCS ships have been laid down. These ships are misfits within the Navy, not truly fulfilling any particular mission. The president should insist that the remaining ships in the class (fifteen hulls) be re-configured as mini-arsenal ships. Using the current hull design, the super-structure would have permanently installed VLS systems to house the Naval Strike Missile, the Harpoon Block 1C anti-ship missile, the Standard Missile 2 missiles or the Standard Missile 6; all of these guided by the SPY-1F Aegis radar; however, this would most likely eliminate the helicopter landing pad in the stern of the ship. In short, the last fifteen LCS ships would be turned into offensive weapons systems and serve as an interim frigate until a new ship design is introduced.
5) Implement a significant change to an Army major acquisition program. Currently, three Services use a variant of the V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft. The Army, however, insists on building its tilt-rotor from scratch. This is costly and time-consuming. The commander-in-chief should bring the Army into the DoD fold by demanding the purchase of the latest CV-22 version to replace the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft program. This would save billions in developmental research. As an incentive, the commander-in-chief would offer id=”listicle-2645629724″ billion to this effort. The Army would benefit from the improvements made by the other Services, while taking advantage of an active production line.
6) Purchase another Arleigh Burke-class Flight III destroyer, specifically designed to fulfill the air defense role, for billion. The Arleigh Burke is the workhorse for the Navy, and should continue for the foreseeable future. The Flight III design serves as the stopgap until the Navy can fill the role that aging cruisers are struggling with.
7) Lastly, the Army must complete upgrading its ground combat vehicles. Usually, this is a multi-year project. But in the light of increased adversaries, it should be completed sooner. 0 million is needed for sixty upgraded Stryker double V-hull combat vehicles with heavier weapon systems; 0 million would convert 168 Bradley vehicles to the new M-2A4 configuration; 0 million would purchase twenty-nine new M-1A2C Abrams tanks (about a battalion’s worth); all part of on-going programs.
The transfer of developmental funding to active, “ready” programs would require Congressional buy-in. But time can also be an enemy; thus, to keep our strategic advantage, it is worth the venture to shift our defense dollars to more meaningful projects. By shifting billion dollars, the president could ease the burden upon the Navy to restore its ship-building schedule; it would help the Air Force keep its fourth-generation fighters ahead of contemporaries; and bring the Army forward in its long-term upgrading process. This shift may slow the development of futuristic weapons, or it may invigorate the program managers to operate more judiciously.
A shift of billion dollars is a small number to Congress. But it is a valuable number in terms of maintaining our decisive edge over our enemies.
The U.S. Army began fielding M17 and M18 Modular Handgun Systems to the Military Police School at Fort Leonard Wood in December 2018 to replace the force’s aging Beretta M9, a weapon that has been in use since the mid-1980s and is quickly reaching its serviceability limits.
Sporting an integrated rail system, a polymer grip module and self-illuminating sights, the modernized 9 mm pistol produced by Sig Sauer couldn’t have come at a better time, according to Mark Farley, USAMPS deputy commandant.
“The (Beretta M9s) we currently have are breaking more often, which causes readiness issues,” Farley said. He explained that the school’s M9s have fired on average about 20,000 to 30,000 rounds when a typical handgun will last through only about 10,000 before they start to have significant issues.
Gary Homer, USAMPS instructor, added, “With these 17 and 18s, you won’t get degradation of the barrel until after 25,000 rounds. The new MHS has an exponentially longer lifespan or life expectancy.”
Sig Sauer M18 Modular Handgun Systems
Homer said every MHS is test fired before leaving the factory with 13 rounds — three to break in the weapon and 10 to test accuracy. He said each one must hit 10 out of 10 at 25 meters in a smaller than 3-inch group attesting to the gun’s accuracy level.
Both Farley and Homer agree one of the biggest selling points of the new MHS is the modular grips, which come in small, medium and large that allow for the pistol to be modified to the individual shooter.
“The Military Police Corps, is about 16 percent female soldiers, so this is a big deal when you’re talking about soldier lethality and accuracy,” Farley said. “For all soldiers to be able to hold that weapon with a proper grip and use the right fundamentals of firing — it’s very important in order for them to be able to engage the target and thereafter. One size does not fit all.”
In addition to being able to add lights to the guns with the rail system, John Scarbrough, USAMPS instructor/writer, said another thing he likes about the modernized weapons is the consistent trigger. He said this will help the MP students coming through the school’s many courses.
“There is a more consistent trigger so you don’t have to get used to 12 and then a 4 1/2 or 5 1/2 pound trigger,” Scarbrough said. “Your first shot is the same as your 17th shot.”
He said the trigger pull in conjunction with the modular grips will improve overall accuracy.
“We have had students before who had to use two fingers to pull the trigger due to strength because of their hand position, or they’re holding the gun in an awkward position so it’s not managing recoil,” Scarbrough said. “Those are the two biggest things that I think will help out whomever is shooting them.”
Farley agreed and said it’s not just the equipment that’s being modernized. He said USAMPS recently changed their qualification tables as well.
“It came at the right time where we were trying to make training a little more stringent and harder. This gun won’t make it easier, but it will ease some of the transition on this new qualification table that is just now being exposed to soldiers in the field,” Farley said. “It wasn’t coordinated but it worked out well.”
Farley said they are excited about the new gun, adding that it’s long overdue. “The sooner we can get it fully fielded to the operational units and the full training base then operational readiness will be enhanced.”
So far the school has only received a few hundred of these systems, but is expecting to receive approximately 1,400.
China’s insatiable hunger to become the apex superpower of the world, and the manner in which they do it is a threat to our way of life. For decades corporations have intentionally failed to raise the alarm to our government about the theft of intellectual property fearing an immediate cease of business with the Chinese. Corporations have silenced themselves against communist China fearing retribution and sold out the American people in the process.
Emboldened by appeasement, the regime now deliberately targets our national security apparatus to destroy us using our own technology.
Trade, our mutually beneficial common ground that our two ideologies stood on, has become the very source of tension between us. This is nothing new, China has always been an enemy of the west, quietly stealing our national treasures and sabotaging our infrastructure. There is no underhanded tactic that the People’s Republic of China won’t lower themselves to as long as it means victory for the dishonorable state. These are the 3 times China has hacked the U.S.
“For too long, the Chinese government has blatantly sought to use cyber espionage to obtain economic advantage for its state-owned industries,” said former FBI Director James B. Comey.
First time criminal charges are filed against known state actors for hacking
On May 19, 2014, The Western District of Pennsylvania (WDPA) indicted five Chinese state-sponsored hackers for targeting six American entities in the U.S. nuclear power, metals, and solar products industries. The attacks were a coordinated assault to steal state secrets that would directly benefit State-Owned Enterprises in China. The stolen data would reveal our strategies and vulnerabilities to the enemy.
The victims of these attacks on our soil were: Westinghouse Electric Co., U.S. subsidiaries of SolarWorld AG, United States Steel Corp., Allegheny Technologies Inc., the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union (USW) and Alcoa Inc.
The hackers performed a wide variety of criminal acts that include:
1 count of Conspiring to commit computer fraud and abuse.
9 counts of Accessing (or attempting to access) a protected computer without authorization to obtain information for the purpose of commercial advantage and private financial gain.
23 counts of Transmitting a program, information, code, or command with the intent to cause damage to protected computers.
29 counts of Aggravated identity theft.
30 counts of Economic espionage.
31 counts of Trade secret theft.
Another hacker related to this case wanted by the FBI
Chinese military hacked into the computer networks of major U.S. defense contractors
On July 13,2016, Su Bin, a citizen of the People’s Republic of China that was sentenced to 4 years with a ,000 fine by United States District Judge Christina A. Snyder.
Su was communicating with the Chinese military and informing them of targets and their vulnerabilities, which files to steal and how it would benefit their government. Su stole military and export-controlled data and sent the stolen data to China.
He targeted the aviation and aerospace fields in order to steal military technical data. This is particularly problematic for our armed forces because he stole data relating to the C-17 transport aircraft and fighter jets produced for the U.S. military. Su was arrested in Canada in July 2014 and extradited to the United States in February 2016.
He admitted that as part of the conspiracy, he sent e-mails to his co-conspirators with guidance regarding what persons, companies, and technologies to target during their computer intrusions. One of Su’s co-conspirators gained access to information located on computers of U.S. companies, and he emailed Su directory file listings and folders showing the data that the co-conspirator had been able to access. Su then directed his co-conspirator as to which files and folders his co-conspirator should steal.
After that, Su would contact the Second Department, General Staff Headquarters, Chinese People’s Liberation Army with translated documents and communicated their value. At this point, his intent was to sell the information for financial gain.
These are the faces of those who prey on the innocent
Department of Justice
Government backed Chinese hackers steal the identities of 78 million Americans
On May 9, 2019, an indictment was issued for several Chinese nationals who engaged in an extremely sophisticated hacking group operating from China. The illicit band of thieves targeted businesses in the United States, including a computer intrusion and data breach of Anthem Inc., a health insurance provider.
This is the most recent attack by the Chinese government against the United States. The Chinese are relentless in their disregard for the law and have shown no indication of slowing down.
“The allegations in the indictment unsealed today outline the activities of a brazen China-based computer hacking group that committed one of the worst data breaches in history.These defendants allegedly attacked U.S. businesses operating in four distinct industry sectors, and violated the privacy of over 78 million people by stealing their PII (Personal Identifiable Information).” – Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski.
The hackers used a technique called “spearfishing” where they attached links to e-mails sent to potential victims. When the links are clicked they download a type of file known as a backdoor which they can use to infiltrate the computer. Once they successfully tapped into vulnerable computers they watched the network identifying potential targets. They waited for months before striking.
…they collected the relevant files and other information from the compromised computers using software tools. The defendants then allegedly stole the data of interest by placing it into encrypted archive files and then sending it through multiple computers to destinations in China. The indictment alleges that on multiple occasions in January 2015, the defendants accessed the computer network of Anthem, accessed Anthem’s enterprise data warehouse, and transferred encrypted archive files containing PII from Anthem’s enterprise data warehouse from the United States to China. – Department of Justice
That same PII can be used to take out credit cards or loans in the name of the victims. This kind of identity theft is the most destructive, malicious, and the hardest to recover from. Attacks on innocent civilians such as this proves that the People’s Republic of China has nothing but contempt for Americans. If the Chinese continue to show apathetic targeting of our civilians during peacetime, what are they capable of doing to civilians in wartime?
With the push for a 350-ship Navy as a centerpiece of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, many wonder how the U.S. can expand its surface fleet quickly and without breaking the bank.
The Coast Guard may have an answer — or at least a starting point for the answer — with its Bertholf Class National Security Cutters. A Dec. 30, 2016, release from Huntington Ingalls noted that a ninth cutter of what was originally planned as an eight-ship class had been ordered.
However, at the SeaAirSpace 2017 Expo, Huntington Ingalls displayed a model of the FF4923, also known as the Patrol Frigate. Using the same basic hull and propulsion plant as the Bertholf-class cutters, the FF4923 adds a lot more teeth to the design.
According to the “16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World,” a Bertholf Class cutter carries a Mk 110 57mm main gun, a single Phalanx Close-In Weapons System, and some .50-caliber machine guns. Not bad for a patrol ship — and roughly comparable to the armament suite on a littoral combat ship.
The FF4923, though, offers a 76mm gun, a 16-cell Mk 41 Vertical Launch System, two triple Mk 32 torpedo tubes, a launcher for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile, two Mk 141 quad mounts for the RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile, and a half-dozen machine guns. In this ship, the Mk 41 VLS would only use RIM-66 SM-2 missiles, RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, and RUM-139 Vertical-Launch ASROCs.
The 76mm gun, incidentally, offers the option of using guided rounds like the OTO Melara’s Vulcano for surface targets and the DART round against aircraft and missiles.
This is not the only offering that Huntington Ingalls has made. According to an April 2012 report from DefenseMediaNetwork.com, in the past, HII offered the FF4921, which used a Mk 56 Vertical-Launch System for the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile that is best known for its use on Canada’s Halifax-class frigates, and the PF4501, a minimal-change version of the Bertholf.
Even if the United States Navy doesn’t order some of these Bertholfs with teeth, export orders could find American workers very busy – even after the larger-than-planned Bertholf Class order for the Coast Guard is fulfilled.
The popularity of podcasts is soaring exponentially. It is a radio renaissance. With over 500,000 podcasts on just the Apple store alone, it’s obvious that with rising popularity comes oversaturation. But have no fear—We Are The Mighty is here—to help clear the mist and show you the best podcasts for anyone with a military background. Whether you’re a veteran with a long morning commute, an on-base active serviceman with duty that could use some spicing up, or simply a prospective enlistee, at least one of these podcasts will be just right for you.
This podcast flat out kicks ass. The host, Jack Murphy (Army Ranger/Green Beret) talk with experts across every aspect of military life. He’s straight, to the point, no bulls**t. The podcast focuses on ways of cultivating mental and physical toughness with respect to special operations. With over 400 episodes already out, there is plenty to dive in and catch up on. This is the premier military podcast.
War College explores weapons, tech, and various military stories related to the instruments of war that soldiers need to be familiar with. One week they’ll talk about Navy pilots experiencing UFOs, and the next they’ll break down the Air Forces’ new “Frozen Chicken Gun.” Highly informative.
The Joe Rogan Experience
The Joe Rogan Podcast has become a cultural phenomenon. The premise for one of the most popular podcasts of all-time is simple: Joe Rogan sits across from a guest and has an intelligent back and forth conversation for about 3 hours. His guests range massively in scope: Elon Musk, UFC fighters, fellow comedians, scientists, psychologists, authors, and more. Joe Rogan’s centrist sweep highly appeals to people in the military sphere, and the topics covered on here would be interesting to anybody. It’s not just an internet meme, it’s a great listen.
American Military History Podcast
For all the military history buffs out there—look no further. This podcast goes deeper than the surface facts we usually associate with historical events. I found myself surprised to learn contextual facts about historical battles I thought I knew. The key aspect of this podcast that sets it apart from other military history podcasts is the context. It gives perspective and crafts interesting narratives out of that context.
Mind of the Warrior
In this podcast, Dr. Mike Simpson (former Special Forces Operator and highly regarded expert on both combat trauma and combat sports medicine), delves into the psychology of what it takes to be a modern day “warrior.” He talks with top-ranking policemen, to combat veterans, to MMA experts, and many more—all in pursuit of talking about combat and the common threads that loom warriors to the same fabric.
This Past Weekend with Theo Von
Every military service member needs some laughter in their life, too. Theo Von and his hilarious podcast “This Past Weekend” have just the right flavor for a military background listener. In case you don’t know, Theo Von is a rising comedic voice and one of the absolute funniest dudes in the country. His Louisiana drawl contrasts his bizarre shoehorning of the English language and, when combined with some downright brilliant joke writing, becomes a really easy recipe for some deep belly laughs on your commute. The only downside is you can’t see his glorious mullet through your headphones.
War on the Rocks
Ryan Evans swills some drinks and talks policy, life, and security on this well-produced podcast. The issues span from diplomacy to economic to domestic. Ryan has a really contagious charisma which makes for a lot of vehement nodding in agreement while listening. A must listen for anyone interested in geopolitics.
Bill Burr’s Monday Morning Podcast
And finally, we have the legendary Bill Burr, in one of the longest-running comedic podcasts out there. If you have served in the military, and you haven’t heard of Bill Burr, just listen to a single episode. All of your internal frustrations will be hilariously articulated right before your eyes as Bill Burr rants to himself (and a 1,000,000+ listeners) about issues small and large. His clear cut, no-nonsense approach is really sobering and refreshing. His east-coast Boston accent layers his precisely supported rants with an authentic edginess. Feels kinda like an audio shot of whisky on your way to work.
Russian authorities say they have finished building a barrier dividing the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow forcibly seized in 2014, from mainland Ukraine.
The Border Directorate of the Federal Security Service (FSB) branch in Crimea said on Dec. 28, 2018, that construction of the “engineering and technical complexes” — as it calls the barrier — was complete.
In a statement reported by Russian news agencies, the Border Directorate said the 60-kilometer-long barrier was equipped with sensors and CCTV cameras.
The purpose of the barrier, begun in 2015, is “to prevent sabotage activities” and “attempts by criminal groups to smuggle weapons, ammunition, tobacco, alcohol, gasoline, drugs” and other items, it said.
Russia moved swiftly to seize control over Crimea after Moscow-friendly Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was pushed from power in Kyiv by the pro-European Maidan protest movement in February 2014.
President Vladimir Putin’s government sent troops without insignia to the peninsula, seized key buildings, took control of the regional legislature, and staged a referendum denounced as illegitimate by at least 100 countries at the UN.
Russia also fomented unrest and backed opponents of Kyiv in eastern Ukraine, where more than 10,300 people have been killed in the ensuing conflict since April 2014.
Since the takeover of Crimea, Russia has beefed up its military presence on the peninsula, already home to the main base of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.
Moscow moved more than a dozen fighter jets to Crimea.
Moscow denies interfering in Ukraine’s affairs, but the International Criminal Court ruled in November 2016 that the fighting in eastern Ukraine is “an international armed conflict between Ukraine and the Russian Federation.”
Army Private John R. McKinney was resting after a shift on guard duty in the Luzon area of the Philippines in May 1945 when his position was attacked by some 100 Japanese soldiers at a full run. McKinney, who was part of his unit’s perimeter defense, was cut in the ear with an enemy saber as he rested in his tent that night.
As the other men in McKinney’s machine gun squad worked to get the weapon ready, McKinney grabbed his service rifle and beat his attacker with it. He then shot another enemy soldier who tried to interrupt that beating.
Unfortunately, one of the machine gunners was injured in the attack and the other tried to carry him to safety. Private McKinney was now alone – and ten Japanese infantrymen were turning the machine gun around. McKinney jumped into the gun’s position and shot seven of those ten enemy troops at point blank range. He then clubbed the three others with the butt of his rifle.
Unfortunately for him, when McKinney took control of the machine gun, he found the weapon was inoperative. And there were more Japanese troops coming – a lot more. They were lobbing grenades and mortar shells onto his position. So, he did what any combat-hardened Army private would do: he switched positions.
His new position had ammo in it. Lots of ammo.
For 36 minutes, McKinney reloaded his service rifle and repeatedly picked up others as waves of oncoming Japanese troops attempted to swarm and overrun him. He fired almost nonstop into the charge. When he couldn’t fire anymore, he flipped his rifle around and began to club them to death or engage in brutal hand-to-hand combat.
When all was said and done, 40 Japanese soldiers of the 100 who attacked McKinney lay dead, including the two mortarmen… who were 45 yards away. He protected the fellow members of his company as they slept, killing one enemy soldier every 56 seconds for the duration of the attack.
Not only did he repel the Japanese assault, but he was still alive and in complete control of the area. John R. McKinney died in 1997, at the ripe old age of 76.
For Dr. Stephen Gau, an emergency medicine physician at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Loma Linda Healthcare System, a recent encounter with a veteran confirmed a key benefit of his choice of a VA career: the ability to spend more time with patients.
Despite recently documented progress in reducing wait times since the Phoenix controversy erupted in 2014, Dr. Gau said his patients often voice concerns about VA care. One of Dr. Gau’s patients, frustrated and frightened after a diagnosis of metastatic cancer, even asked, “Is this going to be another Phoenix?”
Dr. Gau said VA Loma Linda’s relatively low doctor-patient ratio allowed him the time to thoroughly review the veteran’s medical record. He confirmed that follow-up appointments were scheduled and specialty care was coordinated. Dr. Gau discussed the cancer care process and answered the veteran’s many questions.
It was sea change compared with Dr. Gau’s experience in the private sector, and an eye-opener for the patient. “I don’t know if I would have had that kind of time in the community (hospital) — to really talk to a patient and really explain what was going on and relieve his fear,” he said.
Wait times are down, study shows
This anecdote shines a light on how VA’s effort to reduce patient wait times in primary care and other specialty care services — in part through increased access to care — can manifest at the patient level.
Broader data from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) confirm that service improvements are happening VA-wide. The study, released Jan. 18, 2019, found that, in 2017, VA physicians, including primary care doctors and cardiologists, saw patients 12 days sooner than their private-sector counterparts.
VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said the study results confirm that systematic changes are working. “Since 2014, VA has made a concerted, transparent effort to improve access to care,” he said in a statement.
The study, “Comparison of Wait Times for New Patients Between the Private Sector and United States Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers,” looked at VA and private-sector hospital wait-time data across 15 major metropolitan areas. In 2017, average wait times were significantly shorter for VA compared with private hospitals, in primary care, cardiology and dermatology. (Orthopedic wait times were longer for VA in both 2014 and 2017, although they were down during the study period.)
VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.
The study affirmed additional progress in cutting wait times since 2014 cited by Wilkie in December 2018 testimony before a joint session of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs’ committees.
“The average time it took to complete an urgent referral to a VA specialist has decreased from 19.3 days in FY 2014 to 3.2 days in FY 2017 and less than 2 days in FY 2018,” Wilkie testified.
Choose VA to prioritize patient care
Wilkie also credited VA’s workforce for improving services across the board and committed to using the tools of the VA MISSION Act to recruit and retain talented healthcare providers, including additional hiring resources and incentives.
Dr. Gau, who moved to VA from a private sector hospital, said it was the veteran-centric mission and the sizable benefits that ultimately lured him to government service. More time with patients has been an added benefit.
It’s a career choice he doesn’t regret. “I tell you what, it’s been a really positive experience for me,” he said.
Choose VA today
Physicians like Dr. Gau find that choosing a VA career means being able to deliver the highest quality healthcare in a time frame that works for veterans and providers. See if a VA career as a physician is the right choice for you, too.
The video game community is filled with the same amount of douchebags as regular society. The majority of gamers hop online, as they have for years, to enjoy spending some time playing their favorite title — then, some as*hole comes in and ruins it all in a blink of an eye.
It’s an inevitability. There’s always that one dick who ruins the fun for everyone else just because they can. In gaming, they’re generally referred to as “trolls,” but in the military, we call them “Blue Falcons” — or buddy f*ckers. Even the most kindhearted, polite person might unleash their inner as*hole when they’re safely behind the anonymity of their video game avatar.
At the end of the day, when these online Blue Falcons do their dirty work, no one really gets hurt — it’s still just a game and players usually just respawn somewhere else (or log off for a while). That being said, the level of time, effort, and dedication these guys put into f*cking with some random players is beyond astounding.
(South Park Studios)
But seriously though, if you’re interested getting your kids to stop playing video games – there’s definitely a market for that.
(Bluehole Studios Inc.)
We’re not referring to the guys who pick up a rifle and camp in one spot for (seemingly) hours just to score a kill (we’ll get to that in a minute). Instead, we’re talking about the people who go out of their way in the “real life world” to hunt down someone’s virtual character — just to kill them or harass them.
This type of Blue Falcon became much more popular with the rise of game streaming. Now, some people take it as a point of pride to track down whatever high-profile streamer is on air and kill them — even if it’s against the rules. But your average stream sniper doesn’t even come close to that one time a father hired virtual assassins to hunt and kill his son’s characters in hopes that it’d make him give up video games.
I just blame it on a terrible grenade throw.
Online games assume that once you’re randomly placed onto either the blue or red team, you’ll be loyal to the other players out of a mutual desire to win. Not all games have friendly-fire turned off, so it’s important to watch your aim.
It sucks when someone on your team accidentally shoots you — but it’s infuriating when they do it on purpose… and it’s in the spawn zone. Now, the other players on your team have to either kill that douche or let them continue trolling. Either way, the other team won’t mind.
And yet camping is a legitimate strategy in real life.
Games often provide a wide-open world for players to enjoy themselves in. In fact, some games are so massive that they’re comparable to actual states in America. They’ve got all that room to play in and yet some assholes still feel the desire to hole up somewhere — to set up camp and sit with a shotgun, just waiting for you to round the corner.
“Camping,” as it’s called, is most egregious when you’re the last player alive on your team. Not only does the enemy need to search every single corner, but your teammates are often stuck waiting for a chance to respawn, too. Some game developers will put in a system that punishes “camping” after a while, but that won’t stop the dedicated.
After a certain point in EVE, if you want to get insanely rich, you need to get nefarious.
Remember when the internet was first introduced and everyone was extremely wary of online creeps and scammers? Well, apparently, all of that is thrown out the window when it comes to video games.
“Scammers” in online games take many forms, from people trying to sell you junk for gold to those who run extremely complex banking schemes in games like EVE Online. That’s right — in CCP Games’ space-based MMO, players would loan out virtual money to other players, manage a massive system where players have, essentially, created an investment bank, and then make off with trillions of Isk, the in-game currency.
To make matters worse, Lord Kazzak would heal himself with each player he killed…
Players who bring disaster into low-level areas
In most online games, threats are appropriate to their area. If you want to fight a dangerous baddie, you’ll have to do it over there, near those other dangerous baddies. Some clever players, however, have figured out how to drag extremely tough bosses or (or virtual plagues) into major player hubs.
In the early days of World of Warcraft, players could bring a massive demon, Lord Kazzak, directly into Stormwind City, where he would proceed to evaporate players with barely any effort.
On rare occasions, players band together and decide to not fight each other — usually for a good reason. Then, one person comes in and breaks the armistice when they see a good chance to kill everyone. The most famous example of this was in World of Warcraft. When a well-respected player passed away in real life, players gathered for a virtual funeral. Then, players of the opposing faction learned that they were holding it in a neutral area and without weapons and, well… you guessed it.
But this doesn’t just happen in MMOs. Recently, a Fortnite player named Elemental_Ray took advantage of an in-game event to rack up a massive kill count. Players gathered on an easily-destroyed ramp to get a good view of an in-game rocket launch. When this Blue Falcon destroyed the bottom of the ramp, it all came crashing down — firmly placing Elemental_Ray at the top of Fortnite‘s all-time leaderboard for number of kills in single match: 48.
As Christmas approaches and we finish up our holiday shopping, it’s difficult to keep track of all the incredible stories that pop up. Fortunately, WATM is here to do all your heavy lifting, bringing you the big stories you may have missed during the week of December 22.
3. These Ukrainian schoolchildren don’t fear the sounds of war after living through it for more than three years.
The war in eastern Ukraine that has claimed more than 10,000 lives and wounded thousands of others will turn four years old this upcoming April. Small-arms fire and artillery shelling have, unfortunately, become white noise for inhabitants of the cities along the front lines, Avdiivka and Marinka.
The constant bombardment has caused many locals in the area to become desensitized to their own well-being.
“[The] children don’t care about their safety anymore,” a school principal states.
The school’s windows are boarded up with sandbags, and the frequent bombings have become a part of their everyday lives.
2. Putin says ex-Soviet countries threatened by militants.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said that former Soviet countries were being threatened by militants using the Middle East and Central Asia as a springboard for expansion.
The US Navy is getting creative with the weapons payloads of the Virginia-class submarines, one of the deadliest and most technologically advanced subs in the world.
The Virginia Payload Module (VPM), a weapons system intended to give the late-block Virginia-class attack submarines (SSNs) a bit more punch, was initially viewed solely in the context of giving these submarines the kind of firepower seen on the aging Ohio-class guided-missile submarines (SSGNs).
“We were only really allowed to talk about it as a replacement for SSGN strike,” Program Executive Office for Submarines Executive Director George Drakeley said at November 2018’s Naval Submarine League symposium, USNI News reported Nov. 15, 2018. “The handcuffs are off now, and lately we’ve been talking about other capabilities,” he said at the event.
The US Navy awarded BAE Systems a contract in 2018 to develop new payload tubes — the new VPMs — for two Block V Virginia-class submarines, Defense News reported in June 2018. One of the four VPM tubes reportedly has the ability to carry and launch up to seven Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles (TLAMs). This technology can triple the sub’s payload capacity, significantly boosting its firepower.
Rendering of Virginia-class attack submarine.
(US Department of Defense graphic by Ron Stern)
There are also opportunities to innovate and apply this technology to new missions, a necessity as the US refocuses its efforts on preparation for high-end conflict with rival powers. “We’re in a great power competition now, and so we need to be focusing on other potential capabilities,” Drakeley told those in attendance.
Both Russia and China are increasingly advancing their undersea warfighting capabilities. “In the undersea domain, the margins to victory are razor thin,” Adm. James G. Foggo III, the commander of US Naval Forces Europe-Africa, told Pentagon reporters in October 2018.
A new report evaluating the National Defense Strategy, which also highlights the threat posed by great power competition, recommended the US bolster its submarine force. But numbers are not everything, as capability is also key.
“We have to get past the days of just ADCAP (advanced capability Mk 48 heavyweight torpedo) and TLAM (Tomahawk land-attack missile) as being our two principle weapons,” Rear Adm. John Tammen, the director of undersea warfare on the staff of the chief of naval operations, explained to attendees.
Tammen told USNI News that the surface warfare community is looking into a next-generation land-attack weapon, and the undersea warfare directorate would then look at ways to adapt it to the VPM, giving the Virginia-class subs an alternative to the Tomahawks.
At the same time, the Navy is also interested in VPM-launched unmanned undersea vehicles, but the pairing process has proven something of a challenge.
This new technology, as long with new torpedo systems, could potentially be seen on the Block VI and VII Virginia-class SSNs.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.