Israel just launched its biggest war game in 20 years along Lebanese border - We Are The Mighty
Articles

Israel just launched its biggest war game in 20 years along Lebanese border

Amid rising tensions on Israel’s northern border, the IDF is launching its largest drill in close to 20 years, with tens of thousands of soldiers from all branches of the army, simulating a war with Hezbollah.


The drill, dubbed “Or Hadagan” (Hebrew for “the Light of the Grain”), will start on Sept. 5 and end on Sept. 14, The Times of Israel reported. Named after Meir Dagan, the former head of the Mossad, the exercise will see thousands of soldiers and reservists and all the different branches of the IDF – air force, navy, ground forces, intelligence, cyber – drilling the ability of all branches to coordinate their operations during wartime.

According to military assessments, the northern border remains the most explosive, and both sides have warned that the next conflict would be devastating for the other.

Israel just launched its biggest war game in 20 years along Lebanese border
IDF Officers practice urban warfare. Photo from IDF.

While the primary threat posed by Hezbollah remains its missile arsenal, the IDF believes that the next war will see the group trying to bring the fight into Israel by infiltrating Israeli communities to inflict significant civilian and military casualties.

The ten-day drill will focus on countering Hezbollah’s increased capabilities, and also include simulations of evacuating communities close to the border with Lebanon, The Jerusalem Post reports.

Israel last held an exercise of such magnitude in 1998, a drill that simulated a war with Syria and was led by Meir Dagan.

“The purpose of the drill is to test the fitness of the Northern Command and the relevant battalions during an emergency,” a senior IDF officer told Haaretz. In the drill scenario, the cabinet tells the armed forces to vanquish Hezbollah – “as I understand it, the state in which Hezbollah either has no ability or desire to attack anymore,” said the officer.

Articles

Here’s why flamethrowers were so deadly on the battlefield for both sides

Used as the ultimate weapon to clear out enemy trenches, the flamethrower made its first major war debut during the early days of WWI, unleashing terror upon British and French forces.


The flamethrower dates back to the 5th century B.C. when elongated tubes were filled with burning coal or sulfur to create a “blowgun” that could be propelled by a warrior’s breath.

Considered one of the most devastating weapons on the battlefield, the modern day flamethrower was often considered just as dangerous for the trooper wielding it as it was for the enemy it faced.

Related: The 7 deadliest weapons of the Crusades

Israel just launched its biggest war game in 20 years along Lebanese border
This Marine sprays his deadly flamethrower at an enemy building. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

At first, the German army tested two types of flamethrowers — a Flammenwerfer (a large version) and the Kleinflammenwerfer (designed for portable use). Using pressurized air or nitrogen, the thrower managed to launch the stream of fire as far as 18 meters (the larger version shot twice as far).

The weapon consisted mainly of two triggers, one to shoot the fuel as the other ignited the propellant.

As American forces adopted the weapon, its popularity grew during the island hopping campaigns of WWII since the Japanese commonly use bunkers or “pillboxes” as defensive positions.

Although the flamethrower was a highly effective killing tool, the operator was at a total disadvantage as the supply tank only allowed the weapon to spread its deadly incendiary for about 10 seconds before running out of fuel — leaving the operator somewhat defenseless.

According to retired Marine Willie Woody, the average life expectancy of a flamethrower trooper on the battlefield was five minutes. Since the fuel tanks weren’t constructed of bulletproof materials, the tanks just made bigger targets.

If struck by a hot round in the right spot, the result could be a massive explosion.

Also Read: The British and Germans built these deadly hollowed-out trees in WWI

Check out the Lightning War 1941‘s video below to see the flamethrowers effectiveness during battle.

(Lightning War 1941, YouTube)
MIGHTY TACTICAL

‘Even the brave cry here’: Marines put their gas masks to the test

A sign hanging above the doors to the gas chamber reads, “Even the brave cry here.” A dozen at a time, Marines are ushered into a small, dark, brick room. A thick haze of o-Chlorobenzylidene Malononitrile, more commonly known as CS gas, fills the air.

Marines with Deployment Processing Command, Reserve Support Unit-East (DPC/RSU) and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, conducted gas chamber training Nov. 8, 2019, on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

“During qualification, which can take about four to five hours, Marines are taught nuclear biological and chemical (NBC) threats, reactions to NBC attacks, how to take care of and use a gas mask, how to don Mission-Oriented Protective Posture gear, the process for decontamination, and other facts relating to NBC warfare,” said Cpl. Skyanne Gilmore, Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) specialist with the 26th MEU.


Israel just launched its biggest war game in 20 years along Lebanese border

Cpl. Samual Parsons and Cpl. Isais Martinez Garza, Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) specialists, suit to Marines for gas chamber training at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Nov. 8, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Dominique Osthoff)

“The gas chamber training teaches Marines how to employ gas masks in toxic environments, and to instill confidence with their gear during CBRN training. Training in the gas chamber is essential because a service member can never know when they could be attacked,” Gilmore said.

According to Gunnery Sgt. James Kibler, Alpha Company operations chief with DPC/RSU, the unit conducts gas chamber training once a month due to the rotation of service members preparing for deployment.

The 26th MEU was training to complete Marine Corps Bulletin 1500, a biennial requirement for active-duty Marines.

Israel just launched its biggest war game in 20 years along Lebanese border

A US Marine clears his gas mask during gas chamber training at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Nov. 8, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dominique Osthoff)

Israel just launched its biggest war game in 20 years along Lebanese border

A US Marine performs a canister swap on another Marine during gas chamber training at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Nov. 8, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dominique Osthoff)

During the training, CBRN Marines monitor individuals who may be struggling in the gas chamber.

“We calmly talk to them, and we take them step by step of what to do,” Gilmore said. “If they’re freaking out, we have them look at us and breathe. If we have to, we pull them out of the gas chamber and let them take their mask off and get a few more breathes before we send them back in there so they can calm down and realize they’re breathing normally.”

Israel just launched its biggest war game in 20 years along Lebanese border

A US Marine breaks the gas mask seal as instructed during gas chamber training at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Nov. 8, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dominique Osthoff)

Having confidence in one’s gear and checking it over twice before going inside helps individuals from losing their composure in the gas chamber.

“Check the seal on your mask and the filters before going inside,” said Gilmore. “When you feel like freaking out, take a breath and realize that you’re not breathing in any CS gas. You should have confidence in yourself and your gear.”

Israel just launched its biggest war game in 20 years along Lebanese border

US Marines perform a canister swap during gas chamber training at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Nov. 8, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dominique Osthoff)

Due to the rise in chemical attacks, proper training in the gas chamber could save a service member’s life.

“Throughout Iraq, there have been pockets of mustard gas and a couple other CBRN-type gases that have been found, especially within underground systems,” Kibler said.

“I know that when I was there in 2008, a platoon got hit with mustard gas when they opened up a Conex box. The entire platoon was able to don their masks. Gas attacks are out there; it might not be bombs, but it’s out there somewhere.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the general demanding answers for the families of the soldiers who died in Niger

The Defense Department owes the families of the soldiers lost in Niger and the American people an explanation of what the soldiers were doing in Niger and why it was important, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said October 23rd.


Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford said the four Special Forces soldiers who were killed and the two who were wounded in the Oct. 4 action, were conducting an important train, advise, and assist mission with Nigerien forces.

Israel just launched its biggest war game in 20 years along Lebanese border
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks with reporters about recent military operations in Niger Oct. 23, 2017, at the Pentagon. DoD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley

Building Capacity of Local Forces

“Our soldiers are operating in Niger to build the capacity of local forces to defeat violent extremism in West Africa,” the general said at a Pentagon news conference. “Their presence is part of a global strategy.”

The soldiers were on patrol with forces from Niger, he said, when a group linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria attacked. “As we’ve seen many times, groups like ISIS and al-Qaida pose a threat to the United States, the American people and our allies,” Dunford said. “They’re a global threat enabled by the flow of foreign fighters, resources and their narrative.”

Related: This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators

The four soldiers — Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Sgt. La David Johnson, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright — were training local forces to conduct security in their own country. The four Americans were part of a multinational response to the threat these violent extremists pose.

Fighting ISIS

ISIS seeks to survive in the dark corners of the world where local inhabitants lack the power and expertise to control the violent group, Dunford said. ISIS operates where it can exploit weaknesses in local government and local security forces, he added. Libya, Somalia, West Africa, certain places in Central and Southeast Asia are places where ISIS and like groups choose to operate.

“If you think of those enablers as connective tissue between groups across the globe, our strategy is to cut that tissue, while enabling local security forces to deal with the challenges within their countries and region,” Dunford said.

The United States is working with nations around the world to improve their military capabilities and capacities, Dunford said. U.S. troops, he added, have been working with forces from Niger for 20 years, the general said, training more than 35,000 soldiers from the region to confront the threats of ISIS, al-Qaida and Boko Haram.

“Today, approximately 800 [U.S.] service members in Niger work as part of an international effort, led by 4,000 French troops, to defeat terrorists in West Africa,” Dunford said.

Dunford related what is known about the Oct. 4 operation in Niger.

“On the 3rd of October, 12 members of the U.S. Special Operations Task Force accompanied 30 Nigerien forces on a civil-military reconnaissance mission from the capital city of Niamey to an area near the village of Tongo Tongo,” he said. The village is located a little over 50 miles north of Niamey, and officials expected the chances of meeting an enemy were slight.

Also read: Nigerian Air Force takes out Boko Haram leaders

The next day, Dunford said, the forces began moving back, when they were attacked by approximately 50 enemy using small-arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades and technical vehicles.

“Approximately one hour after taking fire, the team requested support,” he said. “And within minutes the remotely piloted aircraft arrived overhead. Within an hour, French Mirage jets arrived on station.”

Still later, French attack helicopters arrived on station, and a Niger quick-reaction force arrived.

Firefight

During the firefight, two U.S. soldiers were wounded and evacuated by French aircraft to Niamey, and that was consistent with the casualty evacuation plan that was in place for this particular operation, Dunford said.

Three U.S. soldiers who were killed were evacuated the evening of Oct. 4, Dunford said.

“At that time, Sergeant La David Johnson was still missing,” the general said.

“On the evening of Oct. 6, Sergeant Johnson’s body was found and subsequently evacuated,” he said. “From the time the firefight was initiated until Sergeant Johnson’s body was recovered, French, Nigerien or U.S. forces remained in that area.”

Questions to be Answered

The combat was tough and confused, the chairman said. There are more questions that need to be answered, he added, and that is why U.S. Africa Command appointed a general officer to investigate.

The questions that need answers, he said, include: Did the mission of U.S. forces change during the operation? Did U.S. forces have adequate intelligence, equipment and training? Was there a premission assessment of the threat in the area accurate? And, How did U.S. forces become separated during the engagement, specifically Sergeant Johnson?

And, why didn’t they take time to find and recover Sergeant Johnson? Dunford said.

“We owe the families of the fallen more information, and that’s what the investigation is designed to identify,” he said.

The general said the campaign against violent extremists is making progress, but much more needs to be done.

Inflection Point

“Even with the fall of Mosul and Raqqa, we’re at an inflection point in the global campaign, not an end point,” he said.

The general said he’s hosting the chiefs of defense and representatives from 75 different countries will meet to improve the effectiveness of the military network to defeat terrorism.

“In our discussions over the next day or two, we’ll focus on improving information sharing between nations to detect and defeat attacks before they occur, and to improve the support we provide to nations confronted with violent extremism,” he said. “And that’s exactly what our forces in Niger were doing.”

Articles

This mistress tried to get a future president to back Germany in World War I

President Warren G. Harding served for just over two years as president before dying in office. Before that, his administration was known more for back-door cronyism than sound public policy.


Israel just launched its biggest war game in 20 years along Lebanese border
President Warren G. Harding. (Photo: Public Domain)

But Harding had a secret that wouldn’t come out until well after his death. He had a long-time mistress who was a deep and vocal supporter of Germany during the buildup to World War I, and she lobbied hard for her lover to gain similar sympathies.

Carrie Fulton Phillips was the wife of a store owner in Ohio. Phillips and Harding began their affair in 1905 when Harding was the lieutenant governor of Ohio. Harding spent the next 15 years sleeping with Phillips when possible and campaigning for various Republican offices when she wasn’t.

This included Harding’s time as a senator and his run-up to the presidency. During this period, Phillips wrote at length to Harding about the glories of Imperial Germany and her sympathies with the German people. Harding famously replied on official Senate stationery with descriptions of his penis.

Ironically, his nickname for his penis was “Jerry,” the nickname American troops gave to German soldiers.

Phillips’ support of Germany only became more open when Harding took office as a senator. Eventually, this led to surveillance by the Bureau of Investigation, now the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and rumors that she was a spy.

Israel just launched its biggest war game in 20 years along Lebanese border
Carrie Fulton Phillips still wanted Americans charging on this hill, she just wanted them to charge the other direction. (Photo: Public Domain)

While the idea of Phillips convincing a rising senator and future president to support Germany in World War I makes for an interesting alternate history where Germany wins World War I or the two countries get the team back together for World War II, the reality was that Harding was never very pro-German.

A post on the National Archives and Records Administration blog says “Harding praised Phillips’s ‘perfect thighs’ and ‘beautiful form’ but found her pro-German sympathies less attractive.”

Phillips interrupted a session of lovemaking in April 1917, the same month America entered the war against Germany, to lobby on behalf of Germany and threaten Harding with exposure. The senator was angered by her arguments and later wrote of his shock at her actions.

Israel just launched its biggest war game in 20 years along Lebanese border
President Warren G. Harding was surprised that he had to stop having sex. These U.S. soldiers on their way to the front in 1918 were probably more annoyed that their next president had a pro-Germany girlfriend. (Photo: Public Domain)

All of her lobbying largely failed. While America could have gone either way or stayed neutral early in World War I, the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 by a German sub had tipped the U.S. strongly against the Central Powers.

Harding voted in support of the America’s entrance into World War I in 1917 and most laws that paid for it. When he opposed a bill in 1918 that would have expanded the president’s powers, he had to deal with rumors that Phillips was changing his vote.

For what it’s worth, Phillips probably wasn’t a spy for Germany, just a fan of the country. Historians who looked into German records could find no evidence of a spy sleeping with a senator, something German spymasters in America would have reported as a major achievement.

And Phillips’ and Harding’s relationship ran cold before he took presidential office. While Harding was campaigning for the presidency, Phillips threatened him with exposure if he didn’t send her a large sum of money. Harding eventually agreed to $5,000 per month for as long as he was in public office. This amounts to $62,572.75 per month when adjusted for inflation.

Harding died of a heart attack in Aug. 1923, just over two years after taking office.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Milspo Mask Makers: Making a difference, one mask at a time

In the United States, hospitals are facing shortages of medical grade masks, and have taken to social media to ask seamstresses nationwide if they can sew masks for them.

When Sarah Mainwaring, a military spouse and community advocate at Robins AFB heard about the plight of local hospitals, she devised a plan to fulfill the needs of both the military community and healthcare workers due to the (very) limited availability of medical masks. She enlisted the help of her neighbors and fellow military spouses, and they began gathering materials to begin sewing masks. They decided to take their movement public by involving the military community, and thus, Milspo Mask Makers was born.


Israel just launched its biggest war game in 20 years along Lebanese border

www.militaryspouse.com

Milspo Mask Makers is a growing community movement of active duty, guard, reservists, and military spouses that are dedicated to filling the needs of healthcare workers, the surrounding community, and the immunocompromised by sewing masks to help them protect themselves against COVID-19. These masks can be used by healthcare workers in the event of a shortage, or to prolong the life of their medical mask to be able to use it longer.

Through their efforts, the ladies at Milspo Mask Makers were able to come together and sew over 100 masks in their first 24 hours. They have since been joined by other spouses in their local community, and have distributed over 200 masks to date. Sarah has challenged the military community to sew 10,000 masks worldwide and distribute them to those in need. If you or someone you know is making masks, let Milspo Mask Maker know! Use the hashtag #MilspoMaskMaker when you post photos to social media.

Also, be sure to like their page on Facebook to keep up-to-date with their efforts, view tutorials on making masks, and to find out other ways you can contribute to the cause!

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

Articles

North Korea says new missile can carry heavy nuke

North Korea has boasted of a successful weekend launch of a new type of “medium long-range” ballistic rocket that can carry a heavy nuclear warhead.


Outsiders also see a significant technological jump, with Sunday’s test-fire apparently flying higher and for a longer time period than any other such previous missile.

Amid condemnation in Seoul, Tokyo and Washington, a jubilant leader Kim Jong Un promised more nuclear and missile tests and warned that North Korean weapons could strike the U.S. mainland and Pacific holdings.

North Korean propaganda must be considered with wariness, but Monday’s claim, if confirmed, would mark another big advance toward the North’s goal of fielding a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time a famous general was arrested as enemy royalty

During the final push of World War I, U.S. and French troops were racing to liberate the French city of Sedan, and the U.S. commanders allowed some units to maneuver around each other in the closing moments to hit German lines. In the chaos, U.S. troops with the 1st Division arrested what they thought was a German officer, maybe even the Crown Prince of Germany, who actually turned out to be a famous general and hero.


Israel just launched its biggest war game in 20 years along Lebanese border
Rainbow Division Soldiers Help End WWI during Meuse-Argonne Offensive

(N.Y. State Military History Museum)

For this story, it’s important to remember that World War I ended without Allied troops reaching German soil (something that Gen. John Pershing and Marshal of France Ferdinand Foch protested as they believed it would lay the seeds for another war). So, the final clashes took place on French soil, and there was a surge in fighting in the last days as Allied powers attempted to put as much pain on Germany as possible.

On November 6, this push reached the city of Sedan, and the 84th Infantry Brigade managed to push into the suburb of Wadlaincourt. The 84th had been battered by intense frontline fighting in the previous weeks, but its intrepid commander had fought from the front the whole time.

Brig. Gen. Douglas MacArthur had already been nominated for his fifth and sixth Silver Stars, both of which he would later receive. He had suffered injuries in a poison gas attack, survived artillery bombardments and machine gun attacks, and led his men to victory in key terrain.

Israel just launched its biggest war game in 20 years along Lebanese border

Then-Brig. Gen. Douglas MacArthur in World War I.

(N.Y. State Military History Museum)

On November 6, he was in Wadlaincourt with his men, taking the fight to Germany even though few brigade commanders would’ve risked being that close to the guns.

And the 1st Infantry Division didn’t know he was there. So when 1st Infantry soldiers saw MacArthur, clad in his grey cape and cap, they thought it was a German officer they were looking at. As Raymond S. Tompkins wrote in 1919 in The Story of the Rainbow Division:

All [the platoon leaders] saw in the gathering dusk was an important looking officer walking around, attired in what looked like a gray cape and a visored cap with a soft crown, not unlike those the Crown Prince wore in his pictures.

Yeah, coincidentally, MacArthur’s common outfit on the front just happened to be similar to the Crown Prince of Germany’s. While none of his own men would mistake the general for anyone else, he was not yet famous enough to be recognized by average members of other units.

And, the German Crown Prince had, in fact, led troops in combat in 1918 on Germany’s Western Front. So it is, perhaps, not so surprising that the mistake could happen on a fast-moving and chaotic front.

Israel just launched its biggest war game in 20 years along Lebanese border

The Crown Prince of Germany Rupprecht did lead German troops in the field against his nation’s enemies.

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

And so the patrol arrested him, and MacArthur protested his innocence and identity, but the platoon leader wasn’t going to take the word of a probable German officer over his own eyes, so he vowed to take the man to a unit headquarters for identification.

Obviously, the 84th Infantry Brigade headquarters was nearby, since MacArthur was typically found close to his place of duty. So the 1st Infantry Division patrol took him there, to his own headquarters, for identification. Perhaps in a failure of imagination, his headquarters immediately identified him. They really missed a chance at a great prank, there.

It turned out well for them, though. The Armistice negotiations would begin days later on November 8, 1918, and was signed in the wee hours of November 11. MacArthur was made the division commander of the 42nd Infantry Division. He and his men were welcomed back to the U.S. as heroes, and it doesn’t appear that MacArthur held any personal grudges against the 1st Infantry for his short detainment.

Articles

This Black Cat was bad luck for the Japanese navy

The fighting in the South Pacific during World War II was vicious. One of the big reasons was how evenly-matched the two sides were. One plane called the Black Cat, though, helped the Allies gain a big advantage – and was an omen of ill fortune for the Japanese navy.


According to the Pacific War Encyclopedia, that plane was a modified version of the Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina. This flying boat was a well-proven maritime patrol aircraft – sighting the German battleship Bismarck in time for the British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal to launch the strikes that crippled the Nazi vessel in May, 1941.

The PBY had also detected the Japanese fleets at the Battle of Midway.

Israel just launched its biggest war game in 20 years along Lebanese border
PBY-5A Catalina flying over the Aleutian Islands during World War II. (US Navy photo)

The Catalina had one very big asset: long range. It could fly over 3,000 miles, and was also capable of carrying two torpedoes or up to 4,000 pounds of bombs. The PBY drew first blood at Midway, putting a torpedo in the side of the tanker Akebono Maru. But the long legs came with a price in performance. The PBYs had a top speed of just under 200 mph – making them easy prey if a Japanese A6M Zero saw them.

The planes also were lightly armed, with three .30-caliber machine guns and two .50-caliber machine guns. In “Incredible Victory,” Walter Lord related about how two PBYs were shot up in the space of an hour during the run-up to the Battle of Midway by a Japanese patrol plane. One “sea story” related by Morison had it that one PBY once radioed, “Sighted enemy carrier. Please notify next of kin.”

Israel just launched its biggest war game in 20 years along Lebanese border
Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina on a patrol during World War II. (US Navy photo)

Planner found, however, that flying PBY missions at night helped keep them alive. During the the Guadalcanal campaign, the first PBY-5As equipped with radar arrived and the first full squadron of “Black Cats” intended for night operations arrived later that year. According to Samuel Eliot Morison’s “The Struggle For Guadalcanal,” the “Black Cats” were a game-changer.

These Black Cats did a little bit of everything. They could carry bombs – often set for a delay so as to create a “mining” effect. In essence, it would be using the shockwave of the bomb to cause flooding and to damage equipment on the enemy vessel. They also attacked airfields, carried torpedoes, spotted naval gunfire during night-time bombardment raids, and of course, searched for enemy ships.

Israel just launched its biggest war game in 20 years along Lebanese border

Morison wrote about how the crews of the “Black Cats” would have a tradition of gradually filling out the drawing of a cat. The second mission would add eyes, then following missions would add whiskers and other features.

Japan would try to catch the Black Cats – knowing that they not only packed a punch, but could bring in other Allied planes. Often, the planes, painted black, would fly at extremely low level, thwarting the Zeros sent to find them.

Israel just launched its biggest war game in 20 years along Lebanese border
A PBY Catalina in service with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

After World War II, many Catalinas were retired, but some served on. The last military unit to operate them was Brazil’s 1st Air Transport Squadron until they were retired in 1982, according to the website of the Brazilian Air Force Aerospace Museum.

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.

Israel just launched its biggest war game in 20 years along Lebanese border

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.

Israel just launched its biggest war game in 20 years along Lebanese border

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.

Articles

‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history

In the 1960s, when a single military incident had the potential to spark a nuclear war, the US government needed a surveillance plane that absolutely could not be detected, intercepted, or shot down.


The answer was the SR-71.

The Lockheed Martin SR-71, or the “Blackbird” as it is commonly known, flew at the upper 1% of earth’s atmosphere at altitudes of 80,000 feet and speeds of over 2,000 mph — much faster and higher than any plane before it.

Israel just launched its biggest war game in 20 years along Lebanese border
Photo: YouTube screengrab

And every inch of the aircraft was meticulously designed to baffle radar detection.

The SR-71 was a marvel of engineering that flew in the US Air Force for more than 30 years. The plane holds records for speed and distance that stand to this day. It was so fast that the plane’s common protocol for avoiding missiles was to simply outrun them.

Former US Air Force Major Brian Shul describes his career as a pilot of iconic Blackbird in his book “Sled Driver.” He describes one incident in particular that he would never forget — something that reveals just how intense and difficult piloting the SR-71 could be.

As a Blackbird pilot, Shul is often asked about the plane’s top speed.

“Each SR-71 pilot had his own individual ‘high’ speed that he saw at some point on some mission,” Shul explains in the book.

Because the planes are so precisely engineered, and so costly, no pilot ever wanted to push the Blackbird to its absolute operating limits of temperature and speed. But you could fall short of those limits and still be going astonishingly fast: “It was common to see 35 miles a minute,” says Shul.

Israel just launched its biggest war game in 20 years along Lebanese border

As far as his personal high speed goes, Shul says, “I saw mine over Libya when Ghaddafi fired two missiles my way, and max power was in order. Let’s just say that the plane truly loved speed and effortlessly took us to Mach numbers we hadn’t previously seen.”

Tales of the Blackbird’s speed and achievements in espionage are unsurpassed, but Shul’s most amazing anecdote in “Sled Driver” is the story of his slowest-ever run, which started off as a simple flyby to show off for friendly troops. It ended up the stuff of military legend.

While returning from a mission over Europe, Shul received a call from his home base in Mildenhall, England, requesting that he do a flyby of a small RAF base. An air cadet commander in that base was himself a former Blackbird pilot. Knowing what a spectacular sight the plane could be, he thought that a low-altitude flyby might give his troops a morale boost.

The Blackbird made its way to the RAF base, ripping through the skies over Denmark in just three minutes, and slowing down only to refuel midair.

Using the sophisticated navigation equipment aboard the Blackbird, Shul’s navigator, Walter, led him toward the airfield. He slowed the lightning-fast ship to sub sonic speeds and began to search for the airfield, which like many World War II-era British airbases had only one tower and very little identifiable infrastructure around it.

Israel just launched its biggest war game in 20 years along Lebanese border

As the two got close, they were having trouble finding the small airfield. Shul describes the moments leading up to the flyby: “We got a little lower, and I pulled the throttles back from 325 knots we were at. With the gear up, anything under 275 was just uncomfortable. Walt (the navigator) said we were practically over the field — yet there was nothing in my windscreen.”

As the airfield cadets assembled outside in anticipation of catching a glimpse of the Blackbird, Shul and his navigator eased off the accelerator and began circling the forest looking for any sign of the base.

During the search, the Blackbird’s speed had fallen well below advisable or even safe levels.

“At this point we weren’t really flying, but were falling in a slight bank,” recalls Shul.

With the engines silent on the low-flying Blackbird, the cadets on the ground couldn’t see or hear anything. There was simply no way they could have expected what would happen next: “As I noticed the airspeed indicator slide below 160 knots, my heart stopped and my adrenalin-filled left hand pushed two throttles full forward.”

Shul describes what happened next as a “thunderous roar of flame … a joyous feeling.”

Israel just launched its biggest war game in 20 years along Lebanese border

The cadets must have seen “107 feet of fire-breathing titanium in their face as the plane leveled and accelerated, in full burner, on the tower side of the infield, closer than expected, maintaining what could only be described as some sort of ultimate knife-edge pass.”

Shul and his navigator returned to base in silence. They were both shocked by the momentary lapse in speed that nearly saw their Blackbird plummeting towards the hard ground. They had come close to a full-on catastrophe — much too close for comfort.

The pair felt sure that their commander would have had a panic attack, and would be furiously waiting at base to ream the pilots and take their wings.

Instead, they were greeted by a smiling commander who told them that the RAF had reported “the greatest SR-71 fly-past he had ever seen.”

The spectators had taken their near-fatal mistake as an especially brave and well-executed stunt carried out by erudite professionals. The commander heard about the “breathtaking” flyby, and heartily shook both Shul and Walter’s hands.

Apparently, some of the cadets watching had their hats blown off from the extremely close passage of the Blackbird in full thrust. The cadets were shocked, but only the two pilots knew just how close a call the flyby had been.

As the pilots retired to the equipment room, they still looked at each other in a dazed silence. Finally, they broached the subject of the perilously low speeds.

Israel just launched its biggest war game in 20 years along Lebanese border

“One hundred fifty-six knots (180 mph). What did you see?” The co-pilot Walter asked Shul, “One hundred fifty-two (175 mph),” he responded. These speeds are fast for a car, but in an aircraft designed to travel in excess of 2,000 mph, they are disturbingly slow and unsafe.

A year later, as Shul and Walter ate in a mess hall, he overheard some officers talking about the incident, which by then had become exaggerated to the point where cadets were being knocked over and having their eyebrows singed from the Blackbird’s raging thrusters.

When the younger officers noticed the patches on Shul’s uniform, indicating that he flew the SR-71, they asked him to verify that the flyby had occurred. Shul replied, “It was probably just a routine low approach; they’re pretty impressive in that plane.”

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

Articles

China’s new carrier will be an updated version of its first one

The Chinese government has finally let out a few details about its new aircraft carrier, currently under construction in the port city of Dalian. According to China Central Television News, the carrier will be conventionally-powered, which is a sharp reversal on Chinese ambitions for a nuclear-powered vessel, and will primarily host Shenyang J-15 “Flying Shark” multirole strike fighters. The lack of a nuclear powerplant inhibit’s the carrier’s range, though the potential to eventually refit the carrier with such power generation facilities does exist.


The J-15, based on the Russian Sukhoi Su-33, was (hilariously) criticized in previous years in the Chinese media for its inability to meet the standards set by Western and Russian aircraft of comparable roles and functionality. Additionally, the carrier will use the STOBAR (Short Take Off But Arrested Recovery) configuration to launch and recover fixed wing aircraft. Going into the future, electromagnetic catapults could possibly be added to the angled-deck. Unknown “upgrades” were also spoken of in the press conference held by the Chinese government. This will be China’s first domestically-produced carrier.

Watch:

More from Tactical Air Network:

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Army bars soldiers from using TikTok on government phones

The US Army has barred its soldiers from using TikTok following mounting fears from US lawmakers that the Chinese tech company could pose a national security threat.

Military.com was the first to report the new policy decision, which is a reversal of the Army’s earlier stance on the popular short-form video app.


A spokeswoman told Military.com that the US Army had come to consider TikTok a “cyberthreat” and that “we do not allow it on government phones.” The US Navy took a similar decision to bar the app from government phones last month.

Israel just launched its biggest war game in 20 years along Lebanese border

(U.S. Navy Photo by Gary Nichols)

TikTok is owned by the Chinese tech company ByteDance, and its links to Beijing have prompted intense scrutiny from US politicians as the app’s popularity has skyrocketed. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York successfully requested an Army investigation into the app’s handling of user data in November, and numerous reports have emerged of the platform censoring content it thinks could anger the Chinese government.

TikTok has strenuously denied any allegations of Chinese state influence, and in its first transparency report claimed that China had made zero censorship requests in the first half of 2019.

Numerous reports have surfaced that the company is exploring strategies for distancing itself from its Chinese roots, including a US rebrand, building a headquarters outside China, and selling off a majority stake in its business.

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

Do Not Sell My Personal Information