An expert sniper can sneak up on an enemy naked as the day he was born. It’s not particularly advised, but one top sharpshooter did exactly that just to prove a point, Marine snipers told Insider.
“Ghillie suits make people feel like they are invisible,” a Marine Corps scout sniper instructor at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia explained of the full-body uniforms that snipers are trained to adorn with grass and other materials to blend into their environment.
“The vegetation and the camouflage, that’s only one part of it,” the instructor added. “It’s more route selection and movement. It’s about what you are putting between you and the target.”
One top sniper proved that to be true by completing stalking training — an exercise where snipers are asked to sneak into position and fire on a target without getting caught by observers using high-powered optics — in nothing but his boots, two Marines told Insider.
A Marine undergoing the 2nd Marine Division Combat Skills Center’s Pre-Scout Sniper Course prepares to move during a stalking exercise at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Paul S. Martinez)
“He was one of our instructors, and he wanted to show up his fellow HOGs on the glass,” a schoolhouse instructor said, referring to the observers (nicknamed “Hunters of Gunmen” or HOGs) searching for the PIGs (Professionally Instructed Gunmen) in the field with monocular or binocular devices.
“I’m going to do this naked, and you’re not going to catch me,” the legendary sniper supposedly said. “I’m going to go out there and burn you guys down naked except for boots on.”
And, he did, Insider learned from the Marines.
No clothes. No ghillie suit. No vegetation. The sniper went into the field with nothing but a painted face and a pair of boots. Insider recently observed a stalking exercise at Quantico, where snipers in training worked their way down a lane filled with snakes, various bugs, and quite a few thorns. It was not an environment for someone to crawl around in nude. It’s unclear what type of stalking lane the naked Marine was on.
The sniper is said to have used screens, natural features on the stalking lane that shield the sniper from view, to avoid the watchful eyes of his training enemy.
He was also very careful and deliberate with his movements.
A Marine scout sniper candidate with Scout Sniper Platoon, Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment looks through the scope of his rifle during a stalking exercise.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Austin Long)
“That’s the art of invisibility,” an instructor told Insider. “It’s all about movement. Some animals are phenomenal at it.” Lions, for example, will crawl low and burn through the grass until they get in range of their target.
That’s a hard skill to learn though. “When you are crawling on the ground, it’s hard to understand where you are at. It’s like being an ant,” a second instructor explained. “It’s the weirdest thing in the world when you get that low to the earth and you start crawling. It makes people uncomfortable.”
When Insider visited the base last month, we watched a group of trainees go through stalking training for the first time. Several of them were spotted in the lane because they raised their heads to see their target more clearly.
“They love to raise up. They love to look up,” an instructor explained. “It’s such a natural human instinct, to think that to see something you need 180 degrees.”
“Human beings are so uncomfortable when they can’t see what is going on around them,” another instructor told Insider. “You have to fight that uncomfortable feeling. You have to force yourself to act unnaturally to be an effective stalker.”
The naked Marine, whose fully clothed picture hangs in the scout sniper schoolhouse at Quantico, seems to have a great grasp of that concept.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The last words of a heroic Iraqi interpreter who sacrificed himself to save American soldiers from a suicide bomber were: “Take care of my son. Take care of my wife.” US Special Forces troops are now fighting to honor that dying request.
When a suicide bomber detonated his vest during a vehicle inspection near the Syrian border in September 2007, Barakat Ali Bashar put himself between the bomber and then-Staff Sgt. Jay McBride. Bashar, a new father of only a week, was critically wounded in the attack, and he died at a military hospital in Mosul.
Bashar “had dozens of ball bearings in his body causing injuries that nobody could have survived,” McBride, a former medic, told Stars and Stripes, adding, “I owe him my life.”
Bashar, described as “kind of young and a little more western than your typical Iraqi,” served as an interpreter for US Special Forces fighting Al Qaeda in northern Iraq. After his death, his family received some financial compensation from the US government, but they remained in Iraq, a country later overrun by the Islamic State.
The family, already a target because of their Yazidi heritage, was also in danger because of Bashar’s work with the US military. They fled their home near Mount Sinjar, leaving behind their personal possessions and all evidence Bashar had served with the US Army, and headed to a refugee camp in Kurdistan, where they still live today. Bashar’s family emailed Stars and Stripes and revealed that they live in constant fear.
One of the problems encountered during the visa application process was the lack of proof that Bashar had served with the US military. The family has since obtained written proof that Bashar “was declared dead in a U.S. Army hospital and he was an interpreter who served with [U.S. forces].” They are awaiting a follow-up interview with the State Department.
McBride and other US veterans have been writing letters and petitions in support of the family’s special visa application since 2015. “Is this how you treat a family of someone who worked five years with the U.S. Army; someone who was loyal to the U.S. and Iraq; someone who gave his life serving with U.S. Army soldiers and trying to protect them?” McBride told Stars and Stripes, adding that he would happily put the family up at his house if that was an option.
Bashar “never faltered in his commitment to help American forces, even after his family was threatened and their names were placed on a list that was circulated around the region describing him as a traitor for supporting American forces,” Sgt. 1st Class Michael Swett, another Special Forces soldier, wrote in support of the family. “He believed in the American dream even more than we did. Unfortunately, [Bashar] never realized his opportunity to see the country that he sacrificed so much for.”
“We, the people of the United States of America, put this family at risk and I feel it is our duty as a civilized nation to [ensure] their safety,” Army Master Sgt. Todd West wrote in a separate letter.
Featured image: U.S. Army Pfc. Jacob Paxson and Pfc. Antonio Espiricueta, both from Company B (“Death Dealers”), 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, attached to Task Force 1st Battalion, 35th Armored Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, provide security from a street corner during a foot patrol in Tameem, Ramadi, Iraq.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Army Spc. Gabriel D. Conde’s short life spanned the history of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001, from the euphoria over the fleeting early successes to the current doubts about the new strategy to break what U.S. commanders routinely call a “stalemate.”
When Conde was six years old, then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said the Taliban had been defeated and the Afghan people were now free “to create a better future.”
He was seven years old when then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, “We’re at a point where we clearly have moved from major combat activity to a period of stability and stabilization and reconstruction activities.”
When Conde was 12, then-President George W. Bush was at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan to declare that “the Taliban is gone from power and it’s not coming back.”
In 2009, when Conde was 13, then-President Barack Obama said he would “make the fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban the top priority that it should be. This is a war that we have to win.”
He sent 30,000 more U.S. troops into Afghanistan, with a timeline for their withdrawal.
Obama wanted the withdrawal to be complete by the time he left office, but he left behind about 8,500 U.S. troops to deal with a resurgent Taliban and a new enemy — an offshoot of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria called Islamic State-Khorasan Province, or IS-K.
August 2017, when Conde was 21, President Donald Trump announced a new strategy for Afghanistan that discarded “nation building” in favor of a plan to drive the Taliban into peace talks and a negotiated settlement.
Trump acknowledged that his initial impulse was to pull U.S. troops out completely, but he agreed to boost troop levels from 8,500 to about 14,000.
The presence of U.S. troops would now be conditions-based and not subject to artificial timelines. “We’re going to finish what we have to finish. What nobody else has been able to finish, we’re going to be able to do it,” Trump said.
Late April, 2018, the Taliban announced the start of its 16th annual spring offensive.
On May 1, 2018, when Conde was 22, he was killed by small-arms fire in the Tagab District of Kapisa province northeast of Kabul. A second U.S. soldier was wounded.
Conde, of Loveland, Colorado, served with the 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), of 25th Infantry Division, based at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska. His unit was expected to return to Alaska at the end of May 2018.
Also on May 1, 2018, the Trump administration took official note of the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan by granting political asylum to former Capt. Niloofar Rahmani, the first female fixed-wing pilot in the Afghan Air Force, who had been training in the U.S.
Through her lawyer, she had successfully argued to immigration authorities that the chaos in Afghanistan, and death threats against her and her family, made it impossible for her to return.
On the same day that Rahmani won asylum and Conde was killed, the latest in a wave of suicide bombings and terror attacks devastated the Shash Darak district of central Kabul in what Afghans call the “Green Zone.”
Two suicide bombers had slipped past the estimated 14 checkpoints surrounding the district, Afghanistan’s TOLOnews reported.
The first set off a blast and the second, reportedly disguised as a cameraman, joined a pack of reporters and photographers rushing to the scene and triggered a second explosion.
At least 30 people, including nine journalists, were killed. A 10th journalist was killed on the same day in an incident in Khost province. (Short biographies of the 10 journalists can be seen here.)
Mattis put on spot over attacks
In response to May 1, 2018’s events, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Army Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, echoed what other commanders and Pentagon officials have said so many times before during America’s longest war.
They mourned the loss of a valorous soldier and the victims of the bombings. They said the strategy of increased airpower and the buildup of Afghan special forces is showing progress. They pledged to stay the course.
At a session with Pentagon reporters May 1, 2018, Mattis said the Taliban are “on their back foot.”
The recent terror attacks show that they are desperate, he said.
“We anticipated they would do their best” to disrupt upcoming elections with a wave of bombings aimed at discouraging the Afghan people from voting, Mattis said.
“The Taliban realize the danger of the people being allowed to vote,” he added. “Their goal is to destabilize the elected government. This is the normal stuff by people who can’t win at the ballot box. They turn to bombs.”
At a welcoming ceremony on May 2, 2018, for the visiting Macedonian defense minister, Mattis was challenged on how he could point to progress amid the wave of bombings and a recent series of watchdog reports on widespread and continuing corruption in Afghanistan.
“The message from this building has consistently been that the situation is turning around, that things are improving there,” Mattis was told. “How do you reconcile this difference?”
“First, I don’t know that that’s been the message from this building. I would not subscribe to that,” Mattis said. “We said last August NATO is going to hold the line. We knew there would be tough fighting going forward.
“The murder of journalists and other innocent people is a great testimony to what it is we stand for and more importantly what we stand against,” he added.
“The Afghan military is being made more capable. You’ll notice that more of the forces are special forces, advised and assisted, accompanied by NATO mentors. And these are the most effective forces,” Mattis said.
“We anticipated and are doing our best and have been successful at blocking many of these attacks on innocent people but, unfortunately, once in a while they get through because any terrorist organization that realizes it can’t win by ballots and turns to bombs — this is simply what they do. They murder innocent people,” he said.
For the long run, “We’ll stand by the Afghan people, we’ll stand by the Afghan government and the NATO mission will continue as we drive them to a political settlement,” Mattis said.
Nicholson’s two-year plan to end the ‘Forever War’
“Actions like this only strengthen our steadfast commitment to the people of Afghanistan,” Nicholson, who doubles as commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, said after the bombings May 1, 2018, and the death of Conde.
“We offer our sincere condolences to the families of those killed and wounded, and we stand with our Afghan partners in defeating those who would threaten the people of this country, whose cries for peace are being ignored,” he said.
Like many of his troops, the 60-year-old Nicholson, a West Point graduate, has served multiple tours in Afghanistan. When he was confirmed by the Senate in March 2016 to succeed Army Gen. John Campbell as commander, he would go back to Afghanistan for the sixth time.
Since 9/11, “the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan has largely defined my service” in 36 years in uniform, he told the Senate.
Nicholson is the son of Army Brig. Gen. John W. Nicholson, also a West Point graduate, and is distantly related the legendary British Brig. Gen. John Nicholson (1821-1857), who fought in the First Anglo-Afghan War.
Early on in his command, Nicholson was at the forefront on the military advisers who convinced Obama to approve the expansion of the air campaign against the Taliban and IS-K. In February 2017, he began arguing for more troops to partner with the Afghan National Defense Security Forces.
Mattis later signed off on what was essentially Nicholson’s plan. And Trump, in coordination with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, authorized it in an address to the nation in August 2017.
(DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)
In a video conference from Kabul to the Pentagon in November 2017, Nicholson said it would take about two years to bring 80 percent of Afghanistan under government control and drive the Taliban into peace talks.
“Why 80 percent? Because we think that gives them [the Afghans] a critical mass where they control 80. The Taliban are driven to less than 10 percent of the population; maybe the rest is contested,” Nicholson said.
“And this, we believe, is the critical mass necessary to drive the enemy to irrelevance, meaning they’re living in these remote, outlying areas, or they reconcile — or they die, of course, is the third choice,” he said.
Nicholson’s remarks contrasted with a simultaneous report from the Pentagon’s Inspector General’s office.
In his foreword to the IG’s quarterly report, Acting IG Glenn Fine said, “During the quarter, Taliban insurgents continued to attack Afghan forces and fight for control of districts, and ISIS-K terrorists launched high-profile attacks across the country.”
Fine added, “Internal political tensions increased in Afghanistan, and corruption remained a key challenge to governance despite positive steps by Afghanistan’s Anti-Corruption Justice Center.”
Fine also said that maintaining the accuracy of future IG reports made available to the public is becoming more difficult, since key statistical measures are now being classified.
“When producing this report, we were notified that information that was previously publicly released regarding attrition, casualties, readiness, and personnel strength of Afghan forces that we had included in prior Lead IG reports was now classified,” Fine said. “In addition, we were advised that ratings of Afghan government capabilities were now classified.”
The strategy — what strategy?
In announcing the strategy for Afghanistan in August 2017, Trump made clear that he was doing so with grave misgivings.
“Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan. But nobody knows if or when that will ever happen,” he said.
The skeptics are many. “Why would anybody call this a strategy? We declared we wanted to win, but we didn’t change anything fundamentally that we’re doing,” retired Army Lt. Col. Jason Dempsey, who served two tours in Afghanistan, told Military.com.
The focus now, as it has been for years, is on building up the Afghan military into a more effective force capable of holding and administering territory retaken from the Taliban, he said, “but that army assumes the existence of a functioning government.”
“We are creating a military that assumes the existence of a state that does not exist,” said Dempsey, an adjunct senior fellow of the Military, Veterans and Society Program at the Center for a New American Security.
“What it boils down to is that we can’t decide what we want,” Dempsey said. “The only consensus we have on Afghanistan is that we don’t want to lose.”
In her analysis of the Trump administration’s strategy, Brookings Institution scholar Vanda Felbab-Brown wrote that the president basically had three options — “full military withdrawal, limited counterterrorism engagement, and staying in the country with slightly increased military deployments and intense political engagement.”
“The option the Trump administration chose — staying in Afghanistan with a somewhat enlarged military capacity — is the least bad option,” Felbab-Brown said.
“Thus, the Trump administration’s announced approach to Afghanistan is not a strategy for victory,” she said.
“Staying on militarily buys the United States hope that eventually the Taliban may make enough mistakes to seriously undermine its power,” she said. “However, that is unlikely unless Washington starts explicitly insisting on better governance and political processes in the Afghan government.”
Watchdog reports contrast with claims of progress
The goal of better governance is dependent on an Afghan military as the enabler, but the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said May 2, 2018, that the number of Afghan soldiers and police has declined sharply in the past year.
In a report, SIGAR said that the combined strength of the military and police dropped nearly 11 percent over the past year, from about 331,700 in January 2017 to about 296,400 this January, well below the total authorized strength of 334,000.
“Building up the Afghan forces is a top priority for the U.S. and our international allies, so it is worrisome to see Afghan force strength decreasing,” John Sopko, the head of SIGAR, told reporters.
At the end of January 2018, insurgents controlled or had influence over 14 percent of the Afghanistan’s 407 districts, SIGAR said, while the Afghan government controlled or influenced 56 percent. The remaining districts were contested, SIGAR said.
The report also noted the significant increase in the air campaign: “The total of 1,186 munitions dropped in the first quarter of 2018 is the highest number recorded for this period since reporting began in 2013, and is over two and a half times the amount dropped in the first quarter of 2017.”
In addition, the report indicated that Nicholson’s plan to bomb drug production centers and have the Afghan military interdict shipments in an effort to cut off Taliban funding was having little effect.
“From 2008 through March 20, 2018, over 3,520 interdiction operations resulted in the seizure of 463,342 kilograms of opium. But the sum of these seizures over nearly a decade would account for less than 0.05% of the opium produced in Afghanistan in 2017 alone,” SIGAR said.
Since 9/11, the U.S. has invested more than $850 billion in the war and efforts to bolster the Afghan government, but a recent drumbeat of reports from SIGAR and the Pentagon Inspector General’s office have highlighted widespread and continuing corruption.
At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in April 2018, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, called on Army Secretary Mark Esper to justify a $50 million contract that SIGAR charged was used to buy luxury cars such as Alfa Romeos and Bentleys for Afghan officials and pay for $400,000 salaries for no-show jobs.
“Please tell me that a senator 20 years from now is not going to be sitting here and going, ‘How in the world are taxpayers paying for Alfa Romeos and Bentleys?’ ” McCaskill said.
‘We’ve kind of been going about it wrong’
As of March 2018, there were roughly 14,000 U.S. military personnel serving in Afghanistan as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, according to U.S. officials.
Of the 14,000, about 7,800 of these troops were assigned to NATO’s Resolute Support mission to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces.
The 7,800 number reflects an increase of 400 personnel from the deployment of the Army’s first Security Force Assistance Brigade, or SFAB, to Afghanistan.
In February 2018, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats issued a report on what those troops can be expected to accomplish this year that was at odds with the upbeat assessments of Mattis and Nicholson.
“The overall situation in Afghanistan probably will deteriorate modestly this year in the face of persistent political instability, sustained attacks by the Taliban-led insurgency” and the “unsteady” performance of the Afghan military performance, the DNI’s report said.
Afghan troops “probably will maintain control of most major population centers with coalition force support, but the intensity and geographic scope of Taliban activities will put those centers under continued strain,” the report said.
Mattis and Nicholson have singled out the SFAB as a key component in reforming and refining the operations of the Afghan security forces.
The SFAB concept takes specially selected non-commissioned and commissioned officers, preferably with experience in Afghanistan, and assigns them the train, advise and assist role in place of conventional Brigade Combat Team units.
Before the deployment, Army 1st Sgt. Shaun Morgan, a company senior enlisted leader with the SFAB, told Stars & Stripes that there were no illusions about the difficulty of the job ahead.
“So, we’ve been kind of going about it wrong for a while, I think,” Morgan said. “Maybe this is an opportunity to get on the right foot toward getting it right.”
Previously in Afghanistan, “we couldn’t get it through our heads that we weren’t the fighters,” Morgan told Stripes in a reference to the role of U.S. troops as partners and advisers to the Afghans who were to take the lead in combat.
“I think the bosses decided maybe this is the right shot, and it just makes sense to me,” Morgan said.
The Afghans also were under no illusions on the continuing threats posed by the Taliban and other insurgents, and the risks they take to go about their daily lives.
Shah Marai Faizi, the chief photographer for Agence France-Presse in the Kabul bureau, was among the nine journalists killed in May 1, 2018’s suicide bombings in Kabul. He was the father of six, including a newborn daughter.
In 2017, Shah Marai wrote an essay titled “When Hope Is Gone” that was read in part on the Democracy Now cable program.
“Life seems to be even more difficult than under the Taliban because of the insecurity,” he wrote. “I don’t dare to take my children for a walk. I have five, and they spend their time cooped up inside the house. I have never felt life to have so little prospects, and I don’t see a way out.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
The US is finally ready to take its most expensive fighter jets into battle, as the F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters sailing aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Essex may soon be called to conduct strikes against insurgent forces in Afghanistan, CNNreported Sept. 25, 2018.
The USS Essexarrived in the Middle East early September 2018. Having already sailed through the Gulf of Aden into the North Arabian Sea, the ship should move into the Persian Gulf in the very near future, a defense official told CNN. The stealth fighters on board have reportedly been conducting intelligence and reconnaissance operations in Somalia, but they have yet to engage an enemy in combat.
While the US Air Force was the first service to declare its version of the F-35 combat ready, it appears the Marine Corps may be the first to take the plane into combat. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni became the first overseas base to operate the F-35 in 2017.
The F-35B is designed for short takeoffs and vertical landings, giving it the ability to take off from the USS Essex, a ship much smaller than a modern US aircraft carrier. The incorporation of the F-35B, an powerful aircraft built to support the Marine Corps, into the USS Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) “is a very significant enabler for me and for my team,” Capt. Gerald Olin, Amphibious Squadron 1 commander and Essex ARG/Marine Expeditionary Unit commodore, told USNI News in early September 2018.
F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, attached to the “Avengers” of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211, sit on the flight deck of Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matthew Freeman)
“It increases battlespace awareness with data fusion and the ability to share information with the ships and the ships’ combat control system. So it’s really an extension of our sensors, and it also brings to the table a greater increased lethality than what we had with previous generation aircraft,” he added, calling it a “game changer.”
The first reported F-35 combat mission was carried out by Israel in May 2018, when Israeli Air Force (IAF) F-35A fighters participated in strikes on unspecified targets.
“We are flying the F-35 all over the Middle East. It had become part of our operational capabilities. We are the first to attack using the F-35 in the Middle East and have already attacked twice on different fronts,” IAF chief Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin said at the time, The Jerusalem Post reported.
Over the years, the F-35 has faced significant criticism, largely due to high costs.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The sunny side of planet Earth had all of its GPS communications temporarily knocked out Sept. 6 after the sun emitted two massive solar flares, showering the planet with radiation storms.
Both events were X-Class solar flares, the most severe classification, and one of them was the most powerful since 2005, Engadget reported. When solar flares like these are directed at Earth, the resulting radiation storm can easily impede radio and GPS communications. These resulted in heavy communications interference for a full hour Sept. 6.
The second storm was an X9.3, the strongest since 2005 and severe enough to cause the sun to spew out plasma from its surface in a coronal mass ejection. Radio emissions collected by the US Space Weather Prediction Center indicate that the storm caused a “wide area of blackouts” on the sunlit side of Earth, according to Space.com.
When you hear the term, “armored car,” the first thing that comes to mind might be those Brinks trucks that haul a lot of cash. But the term also refers to military vehicles, many of which notably served in World War II. After that war, they fell out of popularity in favor of tracked vehicles due to their offroad mobility.
Russia, however, stuck with wheeled vehicles. The BTR-60/70/80/90 armored personnel carriers run on eight wheels each. But one of the most versatile vehicles they have in their arsenal is the BRDM-2 armored car.
The BRDM-2 entered service in 1966 and was widely exported. While it may look like a normal four-by-four vehicle, it actually has additional wheels on its belly to aid with offroad mobility. The BRDM-2 is equipped with some night-vision systems and it has a turret that houses a KPV 14.5mm heavy machine gun.
A lot of BRDM-2s saw action in the various Arab-Israeli wars, including the Six-Day War, the Yom Kippur War, and the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. The Israelis managed to capture a number of these vehicles. While some were donated to museums, the Israelis mounted BGM-71 TOW missiles on others for use in combat.
The Soviets built over 7,000 BRDM-2s, and not all of them were used in a reconnaissance role. Others were armed with anti-tank missiles, like the AT-3 Sagger or AT-5 Spandrel, and used to defend against enemy armor. Others were equipped with the SA-9 Gaskin.
American troops faced off against the BRDM-2 in Grenada, where a few were captured and sent back. American troops had a great deal of success against this vehicle during Desert Storm and even more success during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. As many as 40 countries have operated this vehicle, which is now being slowly retired around the world.
John Browning got it right when he designed the .50 caliber machine gun in 1918. Nicknamed “Ma Deuce,” the .50 cal is considered the mother of all machine guns. Nearly nine decades after its introduction, the weapon is still getting positive reviews.
“It’s just a sexy weapon,” said SPC Sterling Jones in the video clip below from Sebastian Junger’s 2010 war documentary, “Restrepo.” “It’s the ultimate machine gun. That thing fires at an incredible rate, it’s not hard to maintain, it’s pretty simple, and it’s pretty reliable. Guys run and wrestle for the .50 cause it’s just the most fun to shoot.”
Add its effectiveness and reliability, and it doesn’t look like this weapon is going out of style anytime soon. The Ma Deuce is just too good.
Four years ago, a US military helicopter crashed in the UK, killing all four crew members. The cause: a flock of geese.
Birds and wildlife pose a deadly threat to American military aircraft and their crew. Between 1985 and 2016, bird strikes killed 36 American airmen, destroyed 27 US Air Force aircraft and cost the service almost a billion dollars, according to the 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs Office at Ellsworth Air Force Base.
Defensive technology has improved, reducing the number of incidents, but destructive accidents continue to occur. Between 2011 and 2017, the USAF experienced 418 wildlife-related mishaps, resulting in $182 million in damages, according to Military Times.
Canadian Geese alone cost the USAF almost 0 million between fiscal year 1995 and fiscal year 2016.
To counter the threat posed by birds, Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota installed an automated bird deterrent system — special cannons designed to keep the animals away.
The 0,000 bird abatement system consists of a rotating cannon and a propane tank. The cannon produces a loud sound similar to a shotgun blast to scare the birds away. Some units, the Associated Press reports, are equipped with speakers able to blare the distress calls of several different bird species.
“Birds are a huge problem for our aircraft operations,” James McCurdy, a 28th Bomb Wing flight safety officer, explained to the AP. “In the middle of our migration season (October, November, April and May), it’s not abnormal for us to hit and kill a bird at least once a week. They cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.”
The bird cannons only require around ,000 a year to maintain, which could mean significant savings for the base.
Bird strikes are problems the world over. This photo shows an Israeli Air Force UH-60 Blackhawk after a bird strike.
Some of the other tools, outside of manpower, that have been used to keep birds away from US aircraft in the past include the Avian Hazard Advisory System (AHAS), a weather radar that can keep track of flocks of birds, and a bird detection radar for monitoring individual birds.
Not every Air Force base is equipped with these defense systems though. At Ellsworth, which is home to one of the two Air Force B-1 Lancer bomber wings, the previous approach to dealing with wildlife was to send someone out with a shotgun.
Ellsworth now has 24 bird cannons installed along the runway to protect the bombers, each of which reportedly costs around 0 million.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Soldiers of the 773rd Civil Support Team took their survey robot to Sembach Middle School in Germany to help the Girl Scouts earn their robotics patch.
Sembach Juniors Troop 991 hosted the Army Reserve soldiers for the afternoon. The three-person team demonstrated the capabilities and the functions of the Talon IV robot, nicknamed “Veronica” by the survey team.
“I think they enjoyed everything about the robot, seeing it move, being able to touch it,” said Staff Sgt. Patrick McNeely, survey team member with the 773rd CST. “I think they were just thoroughly excited about the whole idea of seeing a robot.”
The 18 fourth- and fifth-graders not only got to see the robot in action, climbing stairs and opening a door, but also were able to ask the soldiers questions about how the robot worked.
Sgt. 1st Class Yuolanda Carey, the survey team chief, and Spc. Jonathan Boyden answered the questions and showed the girls all the things Veronica can do.
“Today we experienced a mechanical robot,” said Gabrielle Shields, a fifth grader at Sembach Middle School and member of the troop. “It can detect smoke bombs and it can smell and sense stuff … and it goes on missions and it can go under water and it can move up and down stairs.”
The robot can do amazing things, said Madison Perkins, another fifth-grader.
“I loved that it could climb stairs and that it has a laser and it had some cool lights on it,” she said.
The 773rd CST soldiers stayed for the rest of the Monday afternoon meeting and helped the juniors to plan and build their robots.
Here are a few photos from the day:
Sembach Girl Scouts Juniors Troop 991 examine the 773rd Civil Support Team’s Talon IV surveying robot Monday, Dec. 4, 2017 at Sembach Middle School. The Juniors were earning the robotics patch, and the 773rd CST brought the robot for the meeting.
Spc. Jonathan Boyden, 773rd Civil Support Team, shows Sembach Girl Scouts Juniors Troop 991 how the Talon IV surveying robot can open a door Monday, Dec. 4, 2017 at Sembach Middle School.
Spc. Jonathan Boyden, 773rd Civil Support Team, demonstrates the Talon IV surveying robot to the Sembach Girl Scouts Juniors Troop 991 Monday, Dec. 4, 2017 at Sembach Middle School.
Sembach Girl Scouts Juniors Troop 991 react to the 773rd Civil Support Team’s Talon IV surveying robot Monday, Dec. 4, 2017 at Sembach Middle School.
Sgt. 1st Class Yuolanda Carey, 773rd Civil Support Team survey team chief, talks to Sembach Girl Scouts Juniors Troop 991 as her team prepares to demonstrate the Talon IV surveying robot Monday, Dec. 4, 2017 at Sembach Middle School.
Sembach Girl Scouts Juniors Troop 991 pose with Soldiers from the 773rd Civil Support Team Monday, Dec. 4, 2017 at Sembach Middle School.
Photograph: McCain waiting for the rest of the group to leave the bus at airport after being released as POW
Record Group 428
General Records of the Department of the Navy, 1947-2004
Citation: 428-GX Box 262 N 11556665
American politics is a touchy subject, but voters from any party can easily observe how many veterans go into politics. Currently, the House of Representatives includes 76 military veterans; roughly a fifth of all members. Historically, veterans used to be even more active in Congress. So why are so many politicians vets, and what do they bring to the table that other candidates don’t?
The timing for vets to run for political office is perfect.
America loves our patriots, but it goes beyond that. The age at which people typically leave the military and pursue other careers lines up perfectly with the age requirements for elected officials. Some people know they’re going to pursue politics from the start. They start working in the field right out of college so that running for office becomes a natural career progression.
If you’re hoping to get into politics from a completely different field, however, it’s not that easy. Unless, that is, you’re a vet. Most Americans would be hard-pressed to make a major career change in their 30s. There are no guarantees in politics. You can work on a campaign for months and walk away without a job. It’s a big risk; too big for average Americans to justify.
Members of the military, on the other hand, often change careers in their 30s and 40s. Unlike the rest of the population, they’re free to explore new opportunities with fewer concerns about job security.
Why do so many vets move into politics in the first place?
The reasons for vets to become politicians are, for the most part, pretty self-explanatory. If you joined the military because you wanted to serve your country, getting elected to office provides another way for you to contribute.
While veterans can always volunteer instead, many are driven to serve their country in a more concrete way. By getting involved in government, they have the opportunity to make a difference for future members of the US Armed Forces, as well as the civilians they swore to protect.
Do veterans actually make better politicians?
Military experience isn’t an automatic qualifier for political office. Whether or not a veteran will make an exceptional politician depends on their motives. If they’re changing careers because they’re driven to serve- because they have strong views and strong values that they hope to share with their countrymen, that’s a good sign that they have political leadership potential.
If a candidate is just running for office to follow in their family’s footsteps, being a veteran won’t magically make them a worthy candidate. In that same vein, their military experience is only valuable if their motives for enlisting were pure. Enlisting just to advance their future political career is a shady move that undermines the values of the veterans who run for the right reasons.
That said, for veterans who are in it for the right reasons, their military experience can be a tremendous asset. The values of respect, discipline sacrifice, and dedication to a greater purpose can all make a person a better politician. Whether or not they put their military values to work in their policies is entirely up to them.
The Marine Corps has, in recent months, started to shift its focus away from operations in the Middle East and begun to emphasize preparing to operate in extreme cold— like that found in northern Europe and northeast Asia.
US forces “haven’t been in the cold-weather business for a while,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said in January 2018. “Some of the risks and threats there, there is a possibility we are going to be there.”
That reorientation has placed new demands on Marines operating at northern latitudes in Europe and North America — and put new strains on their equipment.
The Corps has issued requests for information on a new cap and gloves for intense cold, and it plans to spend nearly $13 million on 2,648 sets of NATO’s ski system for scout snipers, reconnaissance Marines, and some infantrymen.
But the transition to new climates hasn’t gone totally smoothly. Marines in northern Norway in 2016 and early 2017 reported a number of problems with their gear. Zippers stuck; seams ripped; backpack frames snapped; and boots repeatedly pulled loose from skis or tore on the metal bindings.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Brianna Gaudi)
Now the service is increasingly drawing on new technology to keep Marines equipped in harsh environments.
Marines at the Mountain Warfare Training Center, working with the Marine Corps System Command team focused on additive manufacturing, which is also known as 3D printing, have come up with a method for same-day printing of new snowshoe clips, which keep boots locked into show shoes.
“If a Marine is attacking a position in the snow while in combat, and the clip on their boot breaks, it makes it difficult for the Marine to run forward with a rifle uphill to complete the mission,” Capt. Matthew Friedell, AM project officer in MCSC’s Systems Engineering and Acquisition Logistics, said in a release. “If he or she has a 3D-printed clip in their pocket, they can quickly replace it and continue charging ahead.”
Th teams designed and printed the new clip, made of resin, within three business days of the request, and each clip costs just $0.05, the Marine Corps said in the release. The team has also 3D-printed an insulated cover for radio batteries that would otherwise quickly be depleted in cold weather.
“The capability that a 3D printer brings to us on scene saves the Marine Corps time and money by providing same-day replacements if needed,” said Capt. Jonathan Swafford, AM officer at MWTC. “It makes us faster than our peer adversaries because we can design whatever we need right when we need it, instead of ordering a replacement part and waiting for it to ship.”
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Damion Hatch Jr.)
The Marines aren’t the only ones working on 3D printing. The Navy is using it to make submersibles, and Air Mobility Command chief Gen. Carlton Everhart said in mid-2017 that the Air Force was looking at 3D printing to produce replacement parts.
But the Marine Corps has expressed particular interest in the technology.
A September 2016 message gave Marine unit commands broad permission to use 3D printing to build parts for their equipment. The force now relies on it to make products that are too small for the conventional supply chain, like specialized tools, radio components, or items that would otherwise require larger, much more expensive repairs to replace.
In June 2017, Marine Lt. Col. Howard Marotto, the Corps’ lead for additive manufacturing and 3D printing, told Military.com that Marines were the first to deploy the machines to combat zones with conventional forces.
Marotto said several of the desktop-computer-size machines had been deployed with the Marine Corps crisis-response task force in the Middle East.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Kaitlin Kelly)
The Corps is developing the X-FAB, a self-contained, transportable 3D-printing facility contained within a 20-foot-by-20-foot box, meant to support maintenance, supply, logistics, and engineer units in the field. The service also said it wants to 3D-print mini drones for use by infantry units.
Marine officials have attributed much of the Corps’ progress with 3D printing to its younger personnel, many of whom have taken initiative and found ways to incorporate the new technology.
“My eyes are watering with what our young people can do right now,” Marine Corps Assistant Commandant Gen. Glenn Walters said at a conference in March 2018, adding that 69 of the devices had been deployed across the force. “I have an engineering background, but I’m telling you, some of these 21- and 22-year-olds are well ahead of me.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
As French citizens deal with the emotions that surround the Paris attacks that killed 129 people and left many more wounded, the French military has come out swinging against ISIS. Land-based aircraft already deployed on anti-ISIS missions struck targets Sunday night across Raqqa, ISIS’s de facto capital. Ten jets dropped 20 bombs, striking a command center, a recruitment center, a munitions depot, and a training camp, according to the BBC.
But France’s 10 planes in the region can only do so much. Resultantly, France was already sending an aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, to the region. It can host 40 aircraft and is expected to have 20 strike aircraft onboard when it arrives in the Gulf.
During a Feb. to Apr. 2015 deployment against ISIS in Iraq, the de Gaulle launched 10-15 combat sorties per day for months.
The carrier’s most advanced aircraft are its Dassault Rafales, multirole fighter aircraft that can fire a variety of precision bombs and rocket-boosted munitions at targets. They also carry 30mm cannons with 2,500 rounds for gun runs against enemy personnel and light vehicles.
In addition to its Rafales, the de Gaulle is bringing Super Etendard strike fighters. The Super Etendard brings two 30mm cannons, more GPS guided bombs, and laser-guided missiles to the fight.
Charles de Gaulle also carries a number of support planes to enable the strike aircraft.
U.S. and French intelligence sharing and military cooperation will be important as France steps up its campaign in Syria. The U.S. provided some of the intelligence that enabled Sunday’s strikes in Raqqa, and that partnership will surely lead to more French strike missions in the coming months. Luckily, the Charles de Gaulle already knows how to work with the U.S.
The French Navy in general and the Charles de Gaulle in particular have experience working with the U.S. The Charles de Gaulle supported America’s invasion of Afghanistan, was a hub for the strikes in Libya that ousted Muammer Qaddafi, and previously struck ISIS targets in Iraq.
Every job has its unexpected perks. Even being a Marine Corps aviator in World War II had some unexpected benefits. This is because Marines make do, as the saying goes, and are used to making the most out of whatever Uncle Sam provides them to get the mission done. They will even make miracles happen when it’s not part of the mission.
That’s just what Marines do, even when it comes to ice cream.
Everyone loves ice cream and I state that firm belief as someone who has been lactose intolerant his entire life. Marines these days give the Air Force a lot of smack for (almost) always having sweet treats present wherever there’s an Air Force dining facility. But let’s be real, after a few days, weeks, or however long being deprived of even the simplest luxury, a bit of ice cream goes a long way. Marine aviators in the Pacific Theater thought so, too.
The United States captured the island of Peleliu from Imperial Japan after more than two months of hard fighting toward the end of 1944. Marines on Peleliu were within striking distance of the enemy, but since there was no real threat at the time, they were not on combat patrols or supporting operations elsewhere in the theater. The Marines were getting bored and if you’ve ever made it past basic training in any branch of the military, you know there are few things more inventive or more dangerous than bored Marines.
One squadron commander, J. Hunter Reinburg, figured he could probably raise morale among his men if he could fix one of his F4U Corsair fighter-bombers to become a high-altitude ice cream maker. It wouldn’t be that hard. His crews cut the ends off a drop tank, created a side access panel, and strung a .50-caliber ammo can in the panel. He instructed the mess sergeant to fill the ammo can with canned milk and cocoa powder. All he had to do was get it cold enough to freeze – no problem for a high-altitude fighter.
There was something to Reinburg’s thinking. Ice cream has long been a staple of American morale. During the years of Prohibition, ice cream and soda jerks replaced bar nuts and bartenders for many Americans. Ice creams were marketed toward helping people cope with suffering during the Great Depression. When World War II broke out, other countries banned ice cream to enforce sugar rations — but not the United States. Americans loved the sweet treat so much the U.S. military even planned to build a floating ice cream factory and tow it into the Pacific Theater.
For Marines stranded on a hot island with no fresh food and no refrigeration, high-altitude ice cream was a great idea.
Army Air Corps bombers had been making the sweet treat in the same way for years, flying at frigid high altitudes while the hum and vibrations from the engine churned the milk and sugar into frozen ice cream. For the Marines, the first run was a disaster. Reinburg circled the island at 33,000 feet for 35 minutes. When he landed, the mixture was still liquid. But Marines don’t give up so easily.
The second run saw ammo cans bolted onto the underside of wings to keep the ice cream base far from the hot engines. The mixture froze, but didn’t have the creamy texture the men wanted so badly. The third run was the most inventive of all. This time Marines rigged the ammo cans themselves with propellers which turned a screw inside the ammo cans, churning the ice cream as it froze.
This time the ice cream was perfect. The only hitch was they forgot to let the Operations Officer, a Colonel, have a ration of ice cream.