Austin Tice is a former Eagle Scout, a former Marine Corps officer, and an award-winning journalist held in captivity in Syria. The Georgetown law student was on assignment there in 2012, covering individual stories set amid the background of the Syrian Civil War. Just five weeks after he arrived in the country, unidentified armed men released a 43-second video of Tice blindfolded and held hostage.
No one has claimed responsibility for his capture, unusual for such a propaganda war. After the first five years, his family was still trying to piece together what happened that led to Tice’s capture. Now, the reward for information leading to Tice’s whereabouts is more than $1 million.
No other information, photos, or video related to Tice has been released since.
Tice’s family is on a mission to get the Syrian government of Bashar al-Asad and the government of the United States to cooperate, using every available resource to locate Austin Tice and bring him home. They say the United States believes Tice is alive. He was last seen getting into a car in a Damascus suburb but was detained at a checkpoint shortly after.
When President Trump took office in 2017, the new State Department set up a back-channel with the Syrian government to secure Tice’s release. Unfortunately, that’s when the U.S. involvement in Syria began to thicken, The administration was forced to launch Tomahawk missiles at Syrian military sites, and the talks stalled.
As of December 2018, Tice’s parents divulged that they had received information that Tice is still alive and had survived his captivity. They believe he is being held by the Syrian government or one of its allies and the U.S. State Department has called on Russia to exert its influence is obtaining Tice’s release.
The Syrians insist they don’t know where Tice is being held, but the Tice family maintains that the best chance for the man’s release would come from direct talks between the United States government and that of the Syrian Arab Republic.
Troops always like feeling appreciated. A simple “good job” at the right time can go a long way in improving the morale of a unit. You can even take it a step further by expressing your gratitude to troops in many different ways: by releasing them early, taking them out for chow, going a little easier on them throughout the work week — you name it.
Then, there’s the Certificate of Appreciation. Given its name, it may seem like a good thing, but if you’re the type of leader that puts a troop in for one of these after they’ve worked their ass off for an extended period of time, well, you might as well just tell them they’re garbage.
Keep in mind, the Certificate of Appreciation is different from a Certificate of Achievement. They look exactly alike, have the same acronym, and they’re often treated the same way at ceremonies — but the one for achievement is actually worth something: Five promotion points each, to be exact, for a maximum of 20 points. It’s not huge, but it’s something.
2nd Lts. handing them out is fine, because it’s the best they can do and they’re at least trying to do something nice. Company commanders and above who can argue for higher have no excuse.
The other key difference between these two certificates is the approving authority involved. A Certificate of Achievement has to go through the battalion commander for approval. The Certificate of Appreciation, on the other hand, can be signed by literally anyone in the unit because all it tells a troop is that someone appreciates them. Despite that, if you look at who most often hands them out, it’s Lieutenant Colonels in battalion commander positions.
If that troop royally f*cked up, fine. But there’s nothing more discouraging than seeing everyone else get something better while you’re stuck with a CoA.
Don’t get this twisted — not every action warrants official recognition. If a troop did something great or put forth a little extra effort, but it’s still well within the scope of their normal duties — like if a commo soldier brought the NIPR net back up at a critical moment — then it’s the right amount of reward. You can even make it a huge thing and officially let the unit know that you appreciate the hard work that a certain soldier put forth at the right moment.
This becomes a problem when the act was actually deserving of an award — like what happens to the many troops who “earn” one as an end-of-tour award. Troops who put heart into what they do get burnt out because they’ve earned far better than what they’re being given. Certificates of Appreciations like that are what sour it for the entire military. If you’re going to go through that extra effort to congratulate them, then make it actually matter.
It’s also costs the same amount of money on behalf of the unit, since the troops have to go out and buy the damn medal themselves after the ceremony.
If you actually want to show a troop they’re appreciated, let them know. Hell, you can even keep the exact same format— bring the troop in front of the formation and personally thank them for what they did. Just replace the “military’s version of a high five” with an actual high five.
But when that exact same level of effort on the leadership’s part that could be put toward something that actually matters? Please don’t insult your troops like that. Hell, an Army Achievement Medal is also approved at a battalion commander-level and that could actually make a difference on a troop’s morale by appearing on their uniform — if they’ve done something worthy of it.
The author served as a Navy Corpsman with Marines in Sangin, Afghanistan.
The primary mission of a U.S. Marine infantry rifle squad is to locate, close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver or to repel the enemy’s assault by fire and close combat. This mission statement is branded into each infantryman’s brain and consistently put to practical use when the grunts are deployed to the front lines.
In the event a Marine infantry squad takes enemy contact, the squad leader will order the machine-gunners to relocate themselves to an area to return fire and win the battle for weapon superiority. The squad leader will also inform his fire team leaders of the situation and they’ll deploy their two riflemen and SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon) gunner to a strategic area — getting them into the fight.
Once they have a fix on the enemies’ position, they’ll call the mortar platoon to “bring the rain.”
At literally the flip of a switch, troops go from having a cold weapon system to knocking a fully automatic weapon, bringing death to the bad guys at the pull of a trigger.
This sounds super cool, right? Well, it kind of is when you’ve experienced the situation first hand. We understand that having a fully automatic machine gun gives troops a commanding advantage, but when you look at how ground pounders are trained to fire the weapon system, the rate of fire nearly mirrors that of an M4’s after a few bursts.
They can get trigger happy
For the most part, grunts love to take contact from the enemy when they are locked and loaded. When you’ve trained for months to take the fight to the enemy, nothing feels better than getting to fire your weapon at the bad guys. However, it’s not uncommon for machine-gunners to squeeze their triggers and fire off more than the recommended four to six rounds.
We’d also like to add that the feeling of sending accurate rounds down range is fun as f*ck! Unfortunately, infantrymen often lose their bearing and keep the trigger compressed and end up wasting ammo.
Negligent discharges can be worse
Most times, a negligent discharge means you accidentally fired one round from your rifle or pistol. For a troop carrying a fully automatic weapon, the negligent discharge can be much more violent and dangerous. Instead of firing off one round accidentally, you can fire two or three.
We understand that the M16 has both semi-automatic (one round at a time) and burst (three shots at a time) firing capabilities. But it’s more unlikely you’ll ND on the burst setting than the semi-automatic one.
Remember when we said troops can get trigger happy? Hopefully, you do, because we just mentioned it a few minutes ago. When grunts do get trigger happy, their weapons systems can overheat. To combat the overheating, troops must change out their barrel in order to stay in the fight.
Which takes precious firefight time that you won’t get back.
It can lower accuracy
Machine guns are very, very powerful weapons. They can kill the enemy positioned beyond the maximum effective range of an M4 and M16. Sounds awesome, right? Well, it is.
Unfortunately, since they are very powerful, when the mobile operator fires the weapon, the recoil will bring the rifle’s barrel up and off target. This mainly happens when the ground pounder gets trigger happy. In a firefight, mistakes need to be kept to a minimum or people can die.
For the ten days immediately after you graduate Marine Corps boot camp, you’ll feel like the world’s biggest badass. That brief high comes to a crashing halt when you report to the School of Infantry. If you’re a poor crayon-eater who signed an infantry contract, you go to the Infantry Training Battalion. You’ll arrive thinking that becoming a Marine means you’ve been given superhuman abilities only to very quickly find your all-too-human limits.
There, you’ll be deprived of sleep (yet again) and you won’t be fed on a regular schedule. It’s not a fun experience, but you’ll come out the other side a better warrior, a lethal Marine. Still, that doesn’t mean we should ignore all the following reasons why the Infantry Training Battalion is terrible.
In retrospect, boot camp isn’t so bad…
(U.S. Marine Corps)
You thought boot camp was as bad as it gets…
…and you were wrong. So, so wrong. Your Drill Instructors built you up to think that earning the title of Marine was the toughest task on Earth. You used that promise to reason with yourself — nothing else will ever be this bad, right? Then you get to the School of Infantry and realize that boot camp was only the worst time of your life up until that point.
Spoiler alert: You’re not as tough as you think you are.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
You’ll show up cocky
There’s a level of pride that comes with becoming a Marine. Fresh out of boot camp, many of us take that pride a step too far and become just plain cocky. When you get to SOI, you learn the hard way the pride comes before the fall. You’re quickly put in place and realize you’re just a small detail in a much bigger picture. You are far from the toughest guy around.
You actually get some time off
West Coasters know what we’re talking about — you get your weekends, if you’re lucky enough to be spared the wrath of your Combat Instructors, that is. This sounds like a good thing, but it makes Sunday mornings unbearable. Dread sets in as you anticipate the return of the week… and your Combat Instructors.
You’re sleep deprived the entire time
In boot camp, Drill Instructors are required to allow you eight hours of sleep per night — with the exception of the Crucible. Maybe that’s a rule for Combat Instructors, too, but, if you’re a grunt, it sure as hell doesn’t seem like it is. You’ll find yourself standing in front of your wall locker at 2 a.m. wondering what the f*** you’re doing.
Combat instructors are just… scary.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
The Combat Instructors are scarier
Drill Instructors are scary at first, but you get used to them. Your Combat Instructors are plain terrifying and they never stop being that way, not even after you graduate.
You get used to them after a while.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
You eat MREs all day
Nobody likes MREs — nobody. This sucks, but it’s best to consider it training in its own right because, as a grunt, you’re going to eat a lot of them.
Still, that doesn’t make them taste any less like cardboard dog sh*t.
The Confederate Army had better things to do than decide how it would award medals to its fighting men. In that era, Americans weren’t really into medals and ribbons, as it was considered a very European military tradition. The Civil War changed all that. The brutality of the war, combined with the feats of heroics performed by those who fought it inspired the need for such awards.
That being said, the Confederacy had its heroes as well, but aside from a Confederate Congressional “Roll of Honor,” nothing much was ever done in terms of awards and decorations – until the Second Battle of Sabine Pass.
Sabine Pass is a small outlet from Lake Sabine that pours into the Gulf of Mexico, bordering both Texas and Louisiana. During the Civil War, it was a lightly defended Western outpost, far from the central fighting of the war. As a result, the shoddy earthwork fortifications at the pass had mostly old smoothbore cannon to defend it, eight guns in total. But then the French installed a pro-French Emperor in Mexico, opening the possibility for Confederate supplies to reach Mexico by rail, then onto Europe under French-flagged ships, completely circumventing the Union blockade and providing the South with crucial money, arms, and supplies.
The Union sent 5,000 troops, 18 transports, and four armed gunboats to capture the pass and cut the South off from French Mexico. Defending the fort were the Jeff Davis Guards, named for the Confederate President, 47 Irish immigrants from bigger cities in Texas, and well-trained and drilled artillerymen. This was the largest amphibious assault ever taken by the United States until this point so you’d think the Union would have come prepared. You’d be wrong. So wrong.
Only the lightest of the Union ships could enter the river, due to the shallow nature of the entryway. Four steamers and 150 Union sharpshooters were to cross the sandbars then take out the fort and its guns so the rest of the Union force could take the town and then move on to Houston. That never happened. Instead, accurate cannon fire from the fort hit one of the steamers in her boiler, disabling another and grounding the USS Arizona. The two ships surrendered, and the rest of the invasion force ended up running back to New Orleans.
In all, the battle last 45 minutes. The Davis Guards fired 137 rounds from their eight guns, dwarfing the Union’s rate of fire and ensuring those guns couldn’t be used for weeks after the battle. The handful of Confederates then went to capture the Union troops on the disabled ships, taking 315 Union troops prisoner. The Union forces suffered a further 19 killed and nine wounded at the cost of zero casualties to the Confederates. It was the most lopsided victory of the war.
Richard Dowling, commander of the Davis Guards, wearing his medal.
Grateful Texans decided to reward the men for not only staying at their posts in the face of overwhelming odds, but for actually winning. They cast medals from Mexican silver coins, engraving “DG” on one side with a Malta Cross and the date of the battle on the other. It was hung on the uniform by a green ribbon, representing the Irish heritage of the fort’s defenders. In all, 47 were awarded to the men, with two more awarded to their officers, and one struck just for their namesake, Jefferson Davis. Davis ensured the Confederate Congress authorized the medal for wear, the only medal so authorized.
The President had his on him when he was captured after the war’s end.
In June 1919, the bulk of the German High Seas Fleet was sitting at anchor at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands. The cruiser Emden sent out the message, “Paragraph 11; confirm.” Then, all 74 of the warships in the natural harbor attempted to scuttle themselves en masse, and 52 successfully destroyed themselves before British sailors were able to beach them or stop their sinking.
21st June 1919: The German fleet is scuttled at Scapa Flow
It’s important to remember for this story that wars have two ending points. There’s the armistice that stops the actual fighting, and then a lengthy peace process will usually result in a full treaty ending the war. After the armistice ended World War I fighting on Nov. 11, 1918, a large portion of the German navy was interned for the treaty process.
The navy had been largely sidelined during the war thanks to a British blockade, so it was largely intact that November. And the Allied powers, in order to ensure that Germany went through with the peace process, demanded that the nation’s most powerful and modern fleet be sequestered at a neutral port.
But, no nearby neutral port agreed to accept the ships, and so 70 of Germany’s best vessels were sent to the British harbor at Scapa Flow, a natural harbor that housed one of the British fleets. Four other German ships would later meet them there.
Three German ships, the Emden, Frankfurt, and Bremse, enter Scapa Flow on November 24, 1918.
When the German ships were officially handed over on November 21, literally hundreds of ships and thousands of people were present to watch the event. Over 190 Allied ships escorted the first batch of 70 German ships to surrender, making that day the largest concentration of naval power in the history of mankind, even if 70 of the ships had breech blocks in their guns to prevent a sudden return to hostilities.
But the fleet languished there for months. Morale on the German ships was bad during the war and worse while they were confined to ships on short rations in British territory. And the German commander had an order from his superiors to prevent the seizure of the ships by any means necessary.
The German navy seems to have believed that the ships would eventually be returned, Britain wanted to see them scrapped, and the rest of the Allies wanted to divvy them up. But as the negotiations in France made it clear that Germany would not get the ships back, German Adm. Ludwig von Reuter planned for how to destroy his own fleet.
A German destroyer largely flooded at Scapa Flow in 1919.
He didn’t know that the deadline had been extended to June 23, but this actually worked out well for him. The British commander had plans to seize the German ships on June 23 if the German diplomats still hadn’t signed the treaty by then.
And so the ships suddenly began to sink. The German sailors raised their German navy flags from their masts for the first time since they had arrived in the harbor. British sailors in the harbor quickly alerted their own fleet as to what was happening, and the fleet rushed back to save what it could.
A good half of the German fleet had already disappeared, the water was one mass of wreckage of every description, boats, carley floats, chairs, tables and human beings, and the ‘Bayern’ the largest German battleship, her bow reared vertically out of the water was in the act of crashing finally bottomwards, which she did a few seconds later, in a cloud of smoke bursting her boilers as she went.
The German admiral proceeded to the British flagship and declared that he had “come to surrender my men and myself. I have nudding else.”
British sailors were quickly dispatched to the sinking ships to re-close the valves and pump water out. Some British sailors nearly drowned in this endeavor, but they saved 22 of the ships as 52 settled into the mud at the bottom.
A salvage crew works on the largely underwater German battleship Baden after the Scuttling at Scapa Flow. The partially submerged ship at the left is the cruiser Frankfurt.
The British sailors were under orders to only kill those Germans who refused to close valves when ordered or who resisted British actions to save the vessels. Nine German sailors were killed, but there is some controversy over whether all these sailors had resisted or not.
Still, it was the single largest loss of naval power in one day in human history, even though it was a calm day and no battle had actually taken place.
The Russian military has made a new claim about the downing of a passenger jet over the war zone in eastern Ukraine in 2014, asserting that the missile that brought Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 down was sent to Soviet Ukraine after it was made in 1986 and never returned to Russia.
Defense Ministry officials made the claim at a news conference in Moscow on Sept. 17, 2018, in an apparent attempt to discredit the findings of an international investigation that determined the system that fired the missile was brought into Ukraine from Russia before the Boeing 777 was shot down on July 17, 2014, and smuggled back into Russia afterward.
Kyiv swiftly disputed the Russian assertion, which a senior Ukrainian official called an “awkward fake,” while the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT) said that it was still waiting for Russia to send documents it requested long ago and that Russia had made “factually inaccurate” claims in the past.
In a statement to RFE/RL, the Dutch government said it had “taken notice of the publications in relation to the press conference by the Russian Ministry of Defense.”
“The Netherlands has the utmost confidence in the findings and conclusions of the JIT,” the statement added. “The JIT investigation has broad support by the international community. The government is committed to full cooperation with the criminal investigation by all countries concerned as reflected in [UN Security Council] Resolution 2166.”
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Russian Service in an interview, the founder of cybersleuthing outfit Bellingcat accused Russia of “lying about the content” of videos it used as evidence, and said there was “absolutely no way to know” whether the records it cited are genuine.
All 298 passengers and crew were killed when the jet, which was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, crashed in an area held by Russia-backed separatists in the Donetsk region.
The tragedy caused an international outcry and deepened tensions between Moscow and the West following Russia’s seizure of Crimea and support for the militants in their fight against Kyiv’s forces after pro-European protests pushed Moscow-friendly Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych from power.
The JIT also found that the Buk missile came from Russia’s 53rd Antiaircraft Missile Brigade and was fired from territory held by the Russia-backed separatists.
Many of the JIT’s findings have been corroborated or supported by evidence gathered by journalists and independent investigators, such as the British-based Bellingcat.
The Russian Defense Ministry officials claimed that some of the evidence used by the JIT, including videos investigators used to track the path of the missile from Russia to Ukraine and back, was falsified. They cited alleged evidence whose authenticity and accuracy could not immediately be independently assessed.
Citing what they said were newly declassified documents, the Defense Ministry officials asserted that the missile was manufactured in Dolgoprudny, outside Moscow, in 1986 — five years before the Soviet Union fell apart — and was sent by railway to a missile brigade in the Ternopil region of western Ukraine in December of that year.
“The missile belongs to the Ukrainian armed forces and never returned to Russian territory,” said Lieutenant General Nikolai Parshin, chief of the Defense Ministry’s missile and artillery department.
In Ukraine, National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksandr Turchynov said Russia’s “statement alleging that the missile that downed MH17 had a Ukrainian footprint was yet another awkward fake [issued] by the Kremlin in order to conceal its crime, which has been proven by both the official investigation and by independent expert groups.”
Earlier, Bellingcat’s Eliot Higgins cast doubt on the allegation that video footage was doctored by investigators, writing on Twitter that the Russian Defense Ministry “should probably know we have the original version of the video they’re talking about at the moment.”
“And we’ve never published it. And the JIT has it,” Higgins added in successive tweets.
In a statement on Sept. 17, 2018, the JIT said it would “meticulously study the materials presented as soon as the Russian Federation makes the relevant documents available to the JIT as requested in May 2018″ and required under a UN Security Council resolution.”
The JIT said that it asked Russia to provide “all relevant information” about the incident back in 2014, and in May 2018 “specifically requested information concerning numbers found on several recovered missile parts.”
The investigative body said that it had “always carefully analyzed” information provided by Russia, and in doing so “has found that information from the Russian Ministry of Defense previously presented to the public and provided to the JIT was factually inaccurate on several points.”
Bellingcat’s Higgins echoed that statement, telling RFE/RL’s Russian Service that “the Russian Ministry of Defense has a long and well-established track record of lying and faking evidence.”
“So, really, there is absolutely no way to know that this information is genuine,” Higgins said. He also disputed the claim that videos were doctored, accusing the Defense Ministry of making “purposely misleading” statements about video evidence and “just lying about the content.”
The new Russian assertions follow several other attempts by Russia to lay blame for the downing of MH-17 on Ukraine, including initial suggestions — now discredited — that the jet was shot down by a Ukrainian warplane.
The 298 victims of the crash are among more than 10,300 people killed since April 2014 in the war in eastern Ukraine, where fighting persists and the Moscow-backed militants continue to hold parts of the Donestk and Luhansk provinces despite internationally-backed cease-fire and political-settlement deals known as the Minsk Accords.
A recent Islamic State video calls upon would-be jihadis to join the terrorist group in the Philippines rather than the core caliphate in Syria, an NBC News analysis reveals.
The video specifically instructs any would-be travelers in the Asia-Pacific region to go to the Philippines instead of trying to travel to the core caliphate in Iraq and Syria.
“Come forth to the land of jihad. Perform hijrah. Come forth to … Marawi,” a militant instructs in the video.
ISIS fighters remain besieged in the Filipino city of Marawi, where it has mounted a months-long surprisingly robust insurgency. The battle for Marawai has displaced hundreds of thousands of residents and began during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The terrorist group frequently uses the holy month as an excuse to mount some of its deadliest operations. Dozens of Filipino soldiers have been killed in the ensuing siege.
The group’s loss of territory has caused a concerted change in the terrorist organization’s propaganda efforts, which now tell fighters to either carry out attacks in their home countries or travel to one of the group’s affiliate chapters.
ISIS also has active affiliates in Afghanistan, Egypt, and Libya, each of which command the loyalty of hundreds, if not thousands, of fighters. Many of its affiliates have been linked to high-profile attacks in their host countries and even plots against the West.
The Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, Airborne, (SOAR-A), has earned the nickname “The Night Stalkers.”
Operating under the cover of night or the shadows of dawn, these elite pilots are responsible for getting special operators into and out of some of their most secret and dangerous operations.
Night Stalker pilots go through rigorous training to become mission-ready to fly in the most challenging conditions, including bad weather and enemy fire, all while relying on infrared and night-vision equipment to navigate through the darkness.
While many of the 160th SOAR’s operations are secret, it’s widely understood that they were involved in the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
A US Army MH-60M Blackhawk from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), June 19, 2019.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
The Night Stalkers fly a few different helicopters, including the MH-60 Black Hawk.
The 160th has over 3,200 personnel and 192 aircraft.
The Night Stalkers operate different versions of the Black Hawk, outfitted for dangerous and covert operations. In fact, all the aircraft the 160th uses are “highly modified and designed to meet the unit’s unique mission requirements,” according to the Army.
All the MH-60s the Night Stalkers use have in-air refueling capability, extending the aircraft’s ability to operate over long distances.
The Night Stalkers’s MH-60 Direct Action Penetrator (DAP) is a Black Hawk specially outfitted with an M230 30 mm automatic cannon. When the aircraft is modified to the DAP, it can move only small numbers of troops, according to US Special Operations Command (SOCOM).
A Navy aviation boatswain’s mate guides an Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment during deck landing qualifications aboard amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu, April 28, 2014.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dustin Knight)
The Night Stalkers also fly the MH-47 Chinook.
The 160th operates two variants of the MH-47 Chinook, a special-operations variant of the Army’s CH-47 Chinook.
The MH-47E is a heavy assault helicopter with aerial refueling capability, as well as advanced integrated avionics, an external rescue hoist, and two L714 turbine engines with Full Authority Digital Electronic Control that enables the MH-47E to operate in high-altitude or very hot environments, according to SOCOM.
The Night Stalkers fly the MH-47G Chinook as well, which has a multi-mode radar to help pilots navigate challenging conditions, as well as two M-134 “minigun” machine guns and one M-60D machine gun for defensive fire.
The MH-47 is used for a variety of operations, including infiltration and exfiltration of troops, assault operations, resupply, parachuting, and combat search and rescue.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Dave Currier, left, an MH-60M Black Hawk pilot, and Spc. Joseph Turnage, a UH-60 Black Hawk crew chief, with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) in Yuma, Arizona, Sept. 23, 2017.
(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brennon A. Taylor)
The 160th was born out of tragedy.
The Night Stalkers were formed after the botched attempt to rescue hostages from the US embassy in Tehran in 1979, known as Operation Eagle Claw.
During that operation, eight US service members were killed, and the need for a specialized group of aviators became apparent.
The 160th was formed in 1981, composed of soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, and was officially designated the 160th Special Operations Aviation Group (Airborne) in 1986.
What we know as the modern 160th was officially activated in 1990.
The Night Stalkers have been active in every military operation since Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada in 1983. The unit lost pilot Michael Durant during the Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia in 1993.
Two MH-47G Chinooks from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment prepare for aerial refueling over California, Jan. 19, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Snider)
The tempo of operations increased significantly after the terror attacks on September 11, 2001.
“At the height of Iraq, those guys were doing two to three missions a night,” a 10-year veteran of the unit with multiple tours to Afghanistan and Iraq told Insider.
“Once the mission has been accomplished, the only reward is another mission,” he said.
Once Night Stalkers are finished with a mission, “they’re not going to Disney World. They’re going back to wherever they came from. They’re going to train again.”
Night Stalker training simulates the challenging environments they’re going into, as well.
US soldiers, assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), practice loading and unloading on a 160th SOAR MH-47 Chinook during sniper training at Ft. Carson, Colorado, June 22, 2017.
(US Army photo by Sgt. Connor Mendez)
Women in the 160th see combat too.
“It’s just not all guys. At least the 160th has female pilots. They’re rowing the boat. They’re in the battle,” the Night Stalker veteran told Insider.
A 10th Special Forces Group soldier and his military working dog jump off a CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 160th SOAR during water training over the Gulf of Mexico, March 1, 2011.
The 160th’s motto — “Night Stalker’s Don’t Quit!” is attributed to Capt. Keith Lucas, the first Night Stalker killed in action.
“The purpose of that organization is to serve the most elite special forces in the United States,” a veteran of the unit told Insider.
“That unit’s gonna be on time, and it’s gonna fly like hell to serve the ground forces,” he said.
The Night Stalkers have a reputation of being on time within 30 seconds of every operation and say they’d rather die than quit.
The Night Stalkers’ motto — often shortened to “NSDQ!” — is vitally important to the team.
“It binds people that have been serving in that organization till now,” the veteran said. Lucas was killed in 1983, during Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada.
The MH-6 Little Bird is a helicopter unique to special operations that was developed in close collaboration with special operators and combat developers.
MH-6 and AH-6 Little Birds are also part of the 160th’s fleet.
These aircraft are small and maneuverable — perfect for use in urban combat zones where pilots must fly low to the ground among buildings and city streets.
The MH-6M and AH-6M are both variants of the McDonnell Douglas 530 commercial helicopter.
The MH-6M is the utility version that can also be used for reconnaissance missions. The AH-6M is the attack version and is equipped with Foward Looking Infrared, or FLIR, which shows crewmembers an infrared video of the terrain and airspace.
A decommissioned B-52H Stratofortress heavy, long-range bomber nicknamed “Wise Guy” was brought back from the Air Force’s “boneyard” and delivered to an operational unit, the Air Force announced May 14, 2019.
Col. Robert Burgess, the commander of the 307th Operations Group, 307th Bomb Wing, flew the aircraft back to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana on May 14, 2019, The War Zone reported.
The U.S. Coast Guard has served in every American war since the Revolution, but there was a major shift between World War II and Korea, thanks in part to the critical peacetime role the Coast Guard had assumed in 1946: training and preparing the South Korean Navy and Coast Guard before the war.
Commander William Achurch discusses the value of training aids with a Korean naval officer and another U.S. adviser.
(U.S. Coast Guard)
See, in Korea, the Coast Guard ceased to fight as a subordinate of the Navy and started to fight as its own branch, even during war.
Even where Coast Guard officers were holding senior ranks over other Coast Guardsmen, the senior officers were still folded in with their Navy brethren. So, you could be an enlisted Coast Guardsman who was receiving orders from Coast Guard officers and Coast Guard admirals, but that admiral still fell under the fleet admirals and you were all tasked to the Navy Department.
The destruction at the South Korean capital of Seoul was extensive. The last Coast Guard officers left the city as it fell to the North Korean communists.
So, in 1950, the Communist forces in North Korea invaded South Korea. The initial invasion was wildly successful, and democratic forces were forced to consolidate and withdraw, giving up most of the country before finally holding a tiny toehold on the southern coast.
By 1950, the active duty Coast Guard had been withdrawn from Korea and a few retired officers remained, drawing paychecks from the Army. After the invasion, even these men were withdrawn. One escaped Seoul as the city was destroyed, barely passing one of the key bridges before it blew up.
A Coast Guard Martin PBM-5G commonly used in search and rescue operations.
(U.S. Coast Guard Bill Larkins)
So, as the war drug on, the Coast Guard was forced to build its own infrastructure to perform its new wartime duties. Two of the most important tasks were to provide weather observations and to conduct search and rescue missions. Both of these tasks required extensive deployment across the Pacific Ocean.
Weather operations rely on observations from a wide area, especially before the advent of satellites. And while search and rescue is typically restricted to a limited area, the Navy and Army needed search and rescue capabilities across their logistics routes from the American west coast to Korea.
So, the Coast Guard was forced to establish stations on islands across the Pacific, placing as many cutters along the routes as they could to act as radio relays and to augment search and rescue stations.
A Navy P2V-5 maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare plane like the one that was downed while spying on China in January 1953.
The Coast Guard crew managed to land in the seas and pull the seven Navy survivors aboard, but they still needed to get back out of the sea. The Coast Guardsmen placed jet-assisted take-off devices onto the plane and the pilot attempted to get airborne.
Unfortunately, the rough waves doomed the takeoff attempt, and the plane broke up as it slammed into an oncoming wave.
Five Coast Guardsmen were lost before the remaining survivors of the dual wrecks were rescued. All five were posthumously awarded the Gold Lifesaving Medal.
Of course, the Coast Guard also had duties back home, guarding ports and conducting investigations to ensure that the people working at docks were loyal to the country to prevent sabotage.
The lifesaving service’s Korea performance would help lead to their role supporting Air Force combat search and rescue in Vietnam. But all of this was a massive departure from World War II where they saw extensive combat but worked almost solely as an entity folded into the U.S. Navy.
We talk with the Marine and Creator of the MightyFIT Workout plan about Promotions, Happiness and Freedom Hair.
Most Marines can remember their best PFT score. A solid performance can earn you bragging rights, a line on the promotion list or maybe even signifies a personal goal (yeah, I still remember my first twenty straight pull ups, twenty years later). Yet, there is something much deeper in the those numbers…happiness.
You can argue with me all you want, yes Marines can be happy, but that doesn’t mean their life is going to be easy. At some point, Marines are guaranteed to be covered in mud, zombie tired and cleaning a piece of gear for the ten thousandth time. Despite what life may throw their way, either in training or war, Marines are still the most happy when they are fit and ready for a fight. And that means tough training, physical fitness, and confidence.
After my first deployment to Iraq, I was back at 29 Palms getting ready for a second, possibly more dangerous deployment. We trained every day and most weekends in a hot, nasty desert. That spring, I ran the fastest PFT of my life and I’ve never felt happier (17:54…just saying…). Despite the stress of the world around me, being in that kind of shape was one of the happiest points in my life. I was a trained, fit Marine and that feeling has stuck with me to this day.
Now, if you’re reading this, then you at least have some interest in the military and you don’t have to be a Marine to understand that feeling fit and healthy is a good thing. That being said, even those of us who a maxed out a PFT at some point still have trouble finding a workout plan to meet the chaotic, unexpected and sometimes even lonely challenges that come after we take off the uniform.
Ladies and gents, let me introduce to Marine Michael Gregory, the creator of the MightyFIT workout plan and owner of Composure Fitness, whose sales pitch is “wanna make gains and look great naked?”
Michael doesn’t need to sell himself, he resume does it for him. An economist by training who first put his analysis skills to work as a Marine intelligence officer, Michael is one of those guys who could fit right in on wall street but he’s also tough. Like really tough. One of his first assignments in the Marines was with the MACE, Martial Arts Center of Excellence, think Spartan training in modern times. So what does a badass Marine martial arts instructor with a ten pound brain decide to do after he leaves the Marine Corps?
He moves to Bali and begins his next chapter helping Marines and others find their peak physical performance and dare I say it…happiness.
So when it came time to develop a workout plan for We Are The Mighty, we asked Michael to do what he does best and the eight week plan is pretty amazing. I recently had the chance to catch up with Michael and his thoughts on fitness and happiness didn’t disappoint.
(Michael Gregory being promoted on Iwo Jima.)
Michael, it’s great to chat with you. Before we dive in, tell me, what’s the craziest thing that you did in the Marine Corps?
MG: I was promoted on Iwo Jima.
MG: Yeah it was cool. And not planned. My commander was like, “Hey there’s a C- 130 going to Iwo. Get on it, find whoever is the senior officer and have them promote you.”
Ok, that pretty badass, what drove you to the Marine Corps?
MG: Yeah. so I joined out of high school. I knew I wanted to be in the military. It was the height of the wars and everyone was going to the Middle East to fight. I didn’t even know Asia was a thing, but they sent me to Japan. I got to work with almost every Allied country in Asia and it was it was good for me because I was always the kind of Marine that was on my own little plan. I always had long hair.
Dude, your hair is pretty crazy now.
MG: It’s my freedom hair.
Freedom Hair. I love that.
MG: I haven’t had it cut since I got out. That’s my freedom.
What set you on the fitness path to where you are right now?
MG: [Fitness] was always something that I cared about. I studied economics in college and I had to work out to keep my sanity. But when I got in the Marine Corps I was lucky enough in one of the “in-between times” between schools. I got sent to the Martial Arts Instructor Course in Quantico.
The MACE is no joke. What was it like as a brand new a Second Lieutenant?
MG: It was actually like it was cool because it was my first experience working with enlisted Marines. But in the schoolhouse we’re all getting trained to be instructors. We were equals there. So we all got along and I learned a lot and I actually took a lot of that with me when I was with my unit and my first Marines. It was eye opening. And that was some of the best organized training I got.
So where did you get the fitness knowledge to build a plan like the MightyFIT?
MG: In Japan, I had a pretty good fitness routine going on. I was kind of training myself. And studying. I would print out fitness stuff and bring it into the vault because nobody would talk to me there. I read a lot about nutrition, the body and exercise programs.
And when did Bali come into the picture?
MG: After the Marines, I decided to take a break you know and figure out what I want to do with my life. My wife convinced me to move to Bali for six months to just decompress a little bit and figure out a plan. And you know, we’ve been there for two and a half years.
(Because when you’re a fitness guru in Bali, front flips in the rain are just a part of life.)
So you started training Athletes and even other Marines?
MG: It took some time and it was all based on the results. I have a guy that I work with who is a Captain. He was afraid that he couldn’t make gains and still perform on the PFT. We developed a plan for him. Now, he’s squatting and lifting more than he ever had in his life and he’s at a lower body fat percentage while still running a 295 PFT. It’s my clients that have helped me grow. The word of your former clients is the most important thing that I have as a fitness professional.
How is fitness like firing a weapon?
MG. You know when you go to a civilian firing range and see somebody with the nicest weapons but still doesn’t know what there doing. They lack a foundation. They haven’t mastered the basics of marksmanship and they wonder why they can’t hit the target.
I do. It’s scary.
MG: You can see the same exact thing walking into any gym and see people with great physiques but no foundation. Your body is your weapon. Just like a rifle, you need to zero it in with the basics to become efficient and effective for other activities. The fundamentals cross over into all different workouts. You can go on to do Crossfit, run Marathons or whatever you’d like. That’s what the Mighty FIT plan is designed to do. It uses eight weeks to build a fitness foundation. It’s your zero.
Ok, how does this plan work for a guy like me with knees that are beat up and a back reading from a decade of body armor? Won’t I just hurt myself?
MG: The plan is designed so that really anyone can do it. You obviously need to listen to your body but none of these movements are inherently dangerous. I’m not asking anyone to do anything outside of a normal physical range of motion or at an explosive speed. In fact, a lot of people hurt themselves during explosive exercises. They think they’re athletic but lack a solid foundation. And what this plan does is prepare people for anything without being potentially dangerous by using a safe rate of perceived exertion.
A safe rate of what?
MG: Haha, the rate of perceived exertion. It’s simple. 80% effort is the goal and the weight is irrelevant. That’s the base element of the Mighty FIT plan. I’m not dictating weights for anyone right now. I tell people the exercise and the number of sets and reps. And you stick to your own weight. So if you feel like shit one day at 80% and it’s 30Lbs less than it was last week. That’s OK. Just do what your body perceives as 80% exertion even if that means that you’re starting off point is just standing up out of a chair, then just do that. There’s really no barrier to entry as long as you’re willing to adjust and don’t feel like you need to be perfect. Just be happy.
But I want to clarify, is happiness the overall goal here or is it something different?
MG: Happiness is the overall goal in so far as this plan will allow you to do whatever you want to make you happy.
That’s a Bali- Eat, Pray, Love answer.
MG: [He Laughs]. If you want to work out like a maniac then these eight weeks will prepare your body to work out like a maniac. If you just want to play with your kids, this will allow you to pick up your two year old son without feeling like you’re going to split your back.
(Michael Gregory training in Bali.)
So as I was reading the plan I know that there’s going to be soreness. Can you kind of quickly walk me through what DOMS is?
MG: Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. Which is just a fancy way of saying, you’re going to feel the workout the next day. It’s just what happens when people reach a threshold of physical output that they’re not used to. When we work out, we’re literally tearing our muscles apart so that they can be rebuilt into stronger muscle fibers. The body must then recover from the inflammation so all the good blood cells rush to that part of the body which is where the soreness comes from.
Is there anything I can do to prevent the soreness?
MG: The research shows that if you stick to the 80% threshold that I already talked about there shouldn’t be any issues. You should be able to get up and walk around the day afterwards. Usually when people push past that 80% threshold that’s when you get someone walking around like a zombie for a couple days.
If you feel like one of the sessions is particularly hard especially on the legs, then just hop on a stationary bike for 15 and 20 minutes at the end of the workout. An ice bath is another great alternative. But if you’re going to go for the ice bath, wait one or two hours after the workout because what it does is it kills inflammation altogether and inflammation is actually good when we’re trying to build up some muscle so if you kill it right away it has a tendency to stall the gains.
Before we transition off the plan, is there anything else you think people need to know?
MG: Well you know, just take week one as what it is… week one. Do the whole eight weeks before you cast judgment on whether or not you liked it or if it was effective or not.
What do you think is your biggest enemy to happiness? And do you even think like that?
MG: Yeah, I do. I’m obviously living in Bali. So, I have been doing more meditation and self reflection than I ever thought was possible. And honestly my own worst enemy is myself. And I think that’s true for a lot of people. I easily talk myself out of things that I make a commitment towards or that I know are good for me. So finding consistency with myself is one of the hardest challenges and it was something I didn’t realize in the Marine Corps because you kind of don’t have that option in the military. There are constantly other people that you’re responsible for or that are holding you accountable.
And now you’ve built your business, Composure Fitness obviously you’ve got the launch of the Mighty FIT Plan. What does the rest of 2019 look like for you?
MG: Growth. You can only work with so many people at one time. I’m excited about getting my voice out there with good fitness advice and building something more sustainable that reaches more people at once.
I’m excited about starting the 8 week Mighty FIT Plan.
MG: Have fun with it and Semper Fi.
Oh, I will brother. Semper Fi.
Check out Michael Gregory’s blog @ComposureFitness and download the Mighty FIT plan HERE.
After another week of keeping the barracks secure from enemy attack, Pokemon, and —most importantly—the staff duty NCO, you deserve some funny military memes. Here are 13 of the best that we could find:
1. Wait, you can get out of PT just because you’re already dead?