The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways

The US Marine Corps says it needs ground-launched missiles that can seek out and eliminate enemy ships sailing in contested waterways.


“Part of the homework that the Navy and Marine Corps have done over the past six months is how we think we’re going to need to operate in the future as an integrated naval force,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways

“That means the Marine Corps assumes a role which we have not had in the past 20 years, which is how do we contribute to sea control and sea denial,” he added.

The Marines have practiced striking stationary ships from land and sea with missiles launched from High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, but now the service wants to take it a step further and hit ships on the move.

Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday, Lt. Gen. Eric Smith, commander of Marine Corps Combat Development Command and deputy commandant for Combat Development and Integration, said the Corps wants a system with an active seeker that can chase down a moving ship, something it doesn’t currently have.

“We have to have a system that can go after that,” Smith told lawmakers. “That is what matters in a contested environment in the South China Sea or in the [Indo-Pacific Command] area.”

Changing the calculus of an adversary

The Marines are currently looking at the Naval Strike Missile (NSM), which has a range of roughly 750 nautical miles, as a Ground-Based Anti-Ship Missile (GBASM) solution.

Smith said the service will test fire the system in June.

The NSM is “capable of sea-skimming, high-g maneuverability, and the ability to engage targets from the side, rather than top-down,” according to written testimony submitted to the HASC.

The missile is already deployed aboard Navy littoral combat ships, one of which deployed to the Pacific with the missile last year.

The NSM would be fired from a mobile launch platform based on an unmanned Joint Light Tactical Vehicle called the Remotely Operated Ground Unit for Expeditionary Fires, or ROGUE-Fires, vehicle. The missile and the vehicle together are the Navy Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System (NMESIS), the testimony says.

The GBASM and ROGUE-Fires vehicle are “rapid prototyping and development initiatives” for the Corps, according to documents submitted as part of the service’s 2021 budget proposal.

Both have proven successful in war games and simulations, Berger said Thursday.

“Game-changer is probably an over-the-top characterization, but it definitely changes the calculus of an adversary,” Berger said.

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US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey conducts a Tomahawk missile flight test in the western Pacific, August 17, 2018.

US Navy/MCS 2nd Class Devin M. Langer

Range beyond restrictions

The fiscal year 2021 budget proposal included a request for 48 Tomahawk missiles, likely the maritime variant, which appears to be first for the Corps.

“What we need is long-range precision fires for a small unit, a series of units that can, from ship or from shore, hold an adversary’s naval force at risk. That missile is going to help us do that,” Berger told the SASC.

The Navy is pursuing a number of long-range anti-ship missiles, among them the Maritime Strike Tomahawk, a maritime variant of the land-attack cruise missile with an active seeker to track moving ships.

Berger said the Tomahawk “could be the answer or could be the first step toward a longer-term answer five, six, seven years from now.”

With the collapse last year of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty — which banned ground-launched missiles with ranges between 500 km and 5,000 km (310 miles and 3,100 miles) — after the US withdrew in response to alleged Russian violations, the Marine Corps has more freedom when it comes to ground-launched missiles.

Asked if the request for Tomahawks was a result of the US withdrawal from the INF Treaty, Berger said he “would assume so” but “hadn’t linked the two together.”

“We just knew we need a long-range precision fires beyond the range that we were restricted to before,” he added.

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

Articles

6 myths civilians believe about Marines

Since Nov. 10th, 1775, the Marine Corps’ rich history of kicking ass and taking names has charmed Americans and earned their respect all across the United States. Because of that, civilians see Marines in a different perspective than the Navy, Air Force, or even Army.


Since every branch of the military has a particular image that the general population associates them with, we asked several civilians, “What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about the Marines?”

Related: 5 military myths that Hollywood has taught us to believe are true

Here’s what they said:

1. They have to be super patriotic to join

Most of them are, but others just couldn’t see themselves serving in another branch.

Now I’m joining the Corps! (Images via Giphy)

2. All Marines have to go war and fight

Not true. The Marines Corps is made of several different elements other than the infantry, like aircraft maintenance, logistics, and duties that cause your Marine to sit in an office and analyze intel all day — so breathe easy, momma bear.

Dammit, Carl! (Images via Giphy)

3. They’re all excellent shots with a rifle

Most are, but a low number of recruits score just high enough to earn the “rifle marksman” medal, a.k.a. the “pizza box.” All Marines must rifle qual before they can graduate from basic training, but it takes extra training and skill to earn higher levels of marksmanship.

Ask a Marine to explain this joke. (Images via Giphy)

4. They’re buff and strong

Most are pretty jacked, but many are just normal size — they make it up by having tons of heart.

Oh, Master Sergeant! (Images via Giphy)

5. They are mean and scary as hell

Marines can get pretty intense, but that just shows their passion. While a Marine can get super scary (especially when they gain rank or come in contact with people they just don’t like), some get by with just a quiet intensity.

But most of the time they’re fun loving. (Images via Giphy)

6. They’re brainwashed in boot camp

Negative, Ghost Rider.

They are just influenced to love their country and branch of service at an exceptionally high level through various mental and physical activities.

They have to be, to carry out the missions they’re are asked to do.

Sometimes this involves screaming while brushing their teeth — which may happen. (Images via Giphy)Can you think of any others? Comment below.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Private doctors are now a longer wait than for VA care

The Veterans Choice Program for private health care is in such bad shape that the bill backed by President Donald Trump to fix it will be difficult to implement even if done right, according to the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office.

The Choice program was aimed at reducing wait times through increased access to private health care, but the GAO’s performance audit conducted from April 2016 through May 2018 found that, in many cases, veterans would have been better off making appointments at VA facilities.


“Timeliness of appointments is an essential component of quality health care,” the report released June 4, 2018, said, but poor management and bookkeeping under the Choice program can result in veterans waiting up to 70 days to see a private doctor.

In 2016, the average wait for a private appointment was 51 days, the GAO said, although the VA eligibility rules made private care an option when the veteran had to wait 30 days to see a VA doctor.

“Delays in care have been shown to negatively affect patients’ morbidity, mortality, and quality of life,” the report said, and the “VA lacks assurance that veterans are receiving care from community providers in a timely manner.”

At a White House ceremony June 6, 2018, Trump is expected to sign the VA Mission Act, which provides $4.2 billion to overhaul and expand the Choice program for private care while consolidating its seven existing care options into one.

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways
President Donald Trump
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

The GAO report warned that staff shortages, bureaucratic roadblocks and poor communication between the VA and private doctors under the existing Choice program make a quick fix unlikely.

“To the extent that these factors persist under the consolidated community care program that VA plans to establish, they will continue to adversely affect veterans’ access to care,” the GAO said.

Citing the problems with Choice detailed in the report, the GAO said, “Ignoring these lessons learned and the challenges that have arisen under the Choice Program as [VA officials] design the future consolidated program would only increase VA’s risk for not being able to ensure that all veterans will receive timely access to care in the community.”

VA pledges action to correct problems

The blizzard of acronyms used by the GAO in its report, and by the VA in its response, illustrates the difficulty the individual veteran has in navigating the system.

The GAO called for better coordination among the VA’s Veterans Health Administration (VHA), the VA medical centers (VACMs), the VHA’s Office of Community Care (OCC), third-party administrators (TPAs), the Computerized Patient Record Systems (CPRS), the Community Care Network (CCN) and private doctors themselves, who often complain of late payments.

In its response to the GAO report, the VA concurred with four of the five recommendations for improving the transition from the Choice program to the VA Mission Act but disagreed with the GAO on urgent care.

The GAO found that “VAMCs and TPAs do not always categorize Choice Program referrals and authorizations in accordance with the contractual definition for urgent care.”

The GAO said that a referral to private care is to be marked “urgent” when a VHA doctor determined that it was essential and “if delayed would likely result in unacceptable morbidity or pain.” However, the GAO found that some referrals originally marked as routine were changed to urgent to speed up the slow appointment process.

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways

Even that conclusion was difficult to reach because of the VA’s lack of reliable records and data, the GAO said. “Without complete, reliable data, VHA cannot determine whether the Choice Program has helped to achieve the goal of alleviating veterans’ wait times for care,” the GAO said.

In its response to the report, the VA said that the GAO’s recommendation on urgent care “is no longer needed because VHA has resolved the issue with the new CCN (Community Care Network) contract.”

Under the new contract, VHA staff will have responsibility for scheduling community care appointments with providers, as opposed to the old system in which administrators routed referrals to the TPAs (third-party administrators), the VA said.

In the transition from Choice to the VA Mission Act, the VA will also set up a new referral and authorizations system that will be called “Health Share Referral Manager (HSRM).”

The VA said that HSRM will “measure the time it takes to review and accept consults, prepare referrals and schedule veterans community appointments.”

The VA in flux

The VA Mission Act has been estimated to cost as much as $55 billion over five years. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, has said that funding sources have yet to be identified, but he was confident they would be found.

When Trump signs the bill June 6, 2018, as one of the major achievements of his administration, he will not have a VA secretary looking over his shoulder.

Robert Wilkie, who had been the Pentagon’s undersecretary for personnel and readiness, was named acting secretary after Trump ousted former VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin in March 2018.

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways
Robert Wilkie, acting United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
(United States Department of Veterans Affairs photo)

However, Wilkie stepped down as acting secretary to get around a law that made it questionable whether an acting secretary could succeed to the permanent post.

Trump has said that he intends to nominate Wilkie to the permanent job, but the Senate has yet to set a date for his confirmation hearing. In the meantime, Peter O’Rourke, who had been the VA chief of staff, has become acting secretary temporarily.

Its major proponents have acknowledged that the VA Mission Act and the overhaul of Choice will be difficult to implement.

At a panel discussion last month sponsored by the Concerned Veterans for America, which lobbied hard for the expansion of private care, Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tennessee, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said that putting the VA Mission Act into effect will sorely test the VA.

“Let me tell you, it is a painful thing to do,” Roe said. “This is a massive undertaking. It could be very disruptive to the VA. It’s humongous.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How the Marines turn every recruit into a rifleman

Now is not the time to be nervous. What if I don’t qualify? I’ll never see corporal. Okay, okay, okay… remember what you were taught. 300-yard line equals the tip of the post, or is it tip of the chevron? What if none of my shots hit the…

“Shooters you may commence firing when your TAAARRGETS appear.”

These thoughts can be all too familiar for some Marines during their annual rifle requalification. Marines can experience a lot of pressure when qualifying on the range, because every Marine’s primary job is to be a rifleman, regardless of their occupational field. As such, it is important that every Marine has the confidence to fire under the most adverse of conditions. If a Marine is not confident in their shooting abilities, then qualifying can be difficult without proper instruction from a subject matter expert.


U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Austin Meise, small arms repairer/technician, Headquarters and Support Battalion (HS Bn), Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, mentioned that his first time shooting was when he was in recruit training. He asked a lot of questions and used a rifle data book that was given to all of the recruits by their primary marksmanship instructors.

MCB Camp Pendleton’s Marksmanship Training Unit is dedicated to furthering the building blocks learned in recruit training, and further the training continuum approach to maintain proficient combat marksmen. During grass week, Marines practice without live firing, the four marksmanship shooting positions: sitting, kneeling, standing, and prone.

“If you properly apply the fundamentals, you will shoot black all the time,” said Meise, in regard to targets commonly fired upon at ranges. “Before the Marine Corps, I never shot a weapon, but with the guidance I received from the instructors, I now consistently fire expert on the range.”

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways

Lance Cpl. Eric Janasiak, a rifleman with Lima Company, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit.

(US Marine Corps photo)

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Garald John, combat marksmanship trainer, HS Bn, MCB Camp Pendleton, explains that the worst thing for CMTs, PMIs and combat marksmanship coaches is having one of their Marine’s fail on the range for annual training.

“One of the most commonly asked questions is, ‘how do I get a more stability in the standing position?'” said John. “The guidance I give them is: to rest their forward tricep on their chest as much as possible to get more stability, but mainly I express to just take their time to apply the fundamentals.”

With the CMT by their sides, Marines also practice the maneuvers needed to accomplish a proper ammunition speed reload as well as opportunities to use the computer based, indoor simulated marksmanship trainers to run-through drills they will perform during their firing week.

“For the Marines that come to our MTU, I would say one-on-one coaching time is what helps most,” explained John. “The first time we run everyone through the ISMT, and we assess that they are struggling, we’ll ask if they’d like to stay back for extra practice giving that Marine the chance for further one-on-one training. We give them recommendations on how to be more stable or improve breathing techniques. Whatever we see they need help in the most, we try to assist as much as possible.”

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways

Cpl. Berkeley Lewis, a rifleman with 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, fires his M4 carbine during training at the SR-7 range at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jeff Drew)

Once the live firing commences, Marines are accompanied by their CMCs. While a Marine’s effort is individual, CMCs are there to provide guidance, and answer questions.

“During firing week, people tend to let their ego get in the way,” said Meise. “When Marines see a bad shot, expecting more or better results, they begin to worry. Worrying causes them to forget the fundamentals! They’re focusing on the shot, but not the form.”

John said that during grass week, the coaches and the CMTs always get Marines to a point where the instructors and coaches are confident enough to say every Marine has the potential to qualify for annual rifle training.

“When I see Marines achieve more than what they thought they could, it really makes me look forward to what I may see in the future of my Marine Corps,” said John. “I know it is because coaches try to uplift the shooters and the shooters try to uplift each other increasing everyone’s confidence and overall mindset.”

Deep breath. Fundamentals: stable shooting position, slow steady squeeze, natural respiratory pause, expect the recoil…

“Shooters you may commence firing when your TAAARRGETS appear”

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The US Navy’s last F/A-18C Hornet just took its final flight

The last Navy F/A-18C Hornet, aircraft number 300, made its official final active-duty flight at Naval Air Station Oceana on Oct. 2, 2019.

Assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 at Cecil Field, Florida, aircraft number 300 completed its first Navy acceptance check flight Oct. 14, 1988. Lt. Andrew Jalali, who piloted the Hornet for its final active-duty flight at Naval Air Station Oceana, was also born in 1988.

“Today marked the final United States Navy F/A-18C Operational Hornet flight,” said the Commodore, Command Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic, Capt. Brian Becker.


The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways

Navy Lt. Andrew Jalali prepares for the official final active-duty flight of the last Navy F/A-18C Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 at Naval Air Station Oceana, Oct. 2, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Nikita Custer)

The aircraft has remained with the Gladiators for its entire 31-years of service. The aircraft took off from NAS Oceana accompanied by three F/A-18F Super Hornets for a one-and-a-half hour flight and return to Oceana where it will be officially stricken from the inventory, stripped of all its usable parts and be scrapped.

Becker said the F/A-18C aircraft has served admirably for over 30 years and highlighted its history in naval aviation.

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways

Navy Lt. Andrew Jalali prepares for the official final active-duty flight of the last Navy F/A-18C Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 at Naval Air Station Oceana, Oct. 2, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Nikita Custer)

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways

Navy Lt. Andrew Jalali prepares for the official final active-duty flight of the last Navy F/A-18C Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 at Naval Air Station Oceana, Oct. 2, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Nikita Custer)

During the last year, VFA-106 has transferred over 50 F/A-18 Hornets to various Navy Reserve and US Marine aviation commands, as well as being placed in preservation for future use if needed.

Both the F/A-18A and F/A-18C Hornet variants have been replaced by the updated F/A-18E/F Super Hornets. VFA-106 is the Navy’s East Coast Fleet Replacement Squadron, which trains naval aviators to fly the F/A-18 Super Hornets.

This article originally appeared on United States Navy. Follow @USNAVY on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what a military parade could cost the US

President Donald Trump’s budget director Mick Mulvaney told Congress on Feb. 14, 2018 that proposed plans for a military parade would cost from $10 million to $30 million.


“I’ve seen various different cost estimates,” Mulvaney said, during a hearing in front of the House Budget Committee. “Between $10 million and $30 million depending on the size of the parade, the scope of it, the length, those types of things.”

“Obviously, an hour parade is different than a five-hour parade in terms of cost,” he said.

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways
President Donald Trump, parade enthusiast.

Mulvaney was responding to a question from California Representative Barbara Lee, who asked how much the planned parade would cost and where the money would come from. Mulvaney said that the money for a parade would have to be appropriated and that it is not accounted for in the FY19 budget.

Also read: The SEAL who shot bin Laden rained on Trump’s military parade

The Trump administration has said a military parade would help show appreciation and support for those serving in the military. Though the idea is still in its early stages of planning, it has been heavily criticized, with much of the pushback focusing on cost.

America’s last military parade in Washington DC was in 1991, and celebrated the victory over Saddam Hussein’s forces and the liberation of Kuwait. That parade cost around $12 million, less than half of which was paid by the government and the rest coming from private donations.

Mulvaney also admitted that if he were still a Congressman, he would not vote for the budget he proposed.

Related: How a US military parade will compare to China’s or Russia’s

Edward King, president and founder of the conservative think tank Defense Priorities, told CNBC shortly after the announcement for a parade that “given budget realities, the opportunity cost of a parade is too high to justify,”

“Math still applies to superpowers, so our $20 trillion of debt poses a serious threat to our national security.”

Articles

France’s nuclear arsenal is a lot bigger than you might think

You’ve heard the jokes about the French. Their surplus rifles have never been fired, just dropped once. Raise your right hand if you like the French, raise both hands if you are French.


But there is one thing that isn’t a joke: France’s “force de frappe.” No, this isn’t some fancy drink that McDonald’s or Starbuck’s is serving. The force de frappe – translated at strike force – is France’s nuclear deterrence force.

The French nuclear force is often ignored, though it did play a starring role in Larry Bond’s 1994 novel Cauldron, where an attempted nuclear strike on American carriers resulted in the U.S. taking it out.

France’s nuclear deterrence is a substantial force, though.

According to a 2013 CNN report, France has about 300 nukes. According to the Nuclear Weapons Archive, these are presently divided between M51 and M45 submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and ASMP missiles launched from Super Etendard naval attack planes, Mirage 2000N bombers, and Rafale multi-role fighters.

When launching a nuke, the French have options.

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways
M51 submarine-launched ballistic missile used on French ballistic missile submarines. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

The M51 ballistic missile is carried by the Le Triomphant-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines. According to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World, three of these submarines carry 16 M45 ballistic missiles, which have a range of just over 3,100 miles and deliver six 150 kiloton warheads.

The fourth carries 16 M51 ballistic missiles with six 150-kiloton warheads and a range of almost 5,600 miles. The first three subs will be re-fitted to carry the M51.

The ASMP is a serious nuke, with a 300-kiloton warhead that is about 20 times as powerful as the one dropped on Hiroshima. It has a range of 186 miles and a top speed of Mach 3, according to Combat Fleets of the World.

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways
The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65), the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, steams alongside the French aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle (R 91). One of these carriers could launch aircraft equipped with a long-range nuclear-tipped missile – and it isn’t the Big E. (US Navy photo)

Furthermore, the fact that it can be used on Super Etendard and Rafale fighters means that the French nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle now serves as a potential strategic nuclear strike weapon.

While Globalsecurity.org notes that F/A-18s from American aircraft carriers can carry nuclear gravity bombs like the B61, the retirement of the AGM-69 Short-Range Attack Missile in 1990 and the cancellation of the AGM-131 SRAM II mean that the United States lacks a similar standoff nuclear strike capability from its carriers.

In other words, France’s carrier can do something that the carriers of the United States Navy can’t.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 foreign special operations units the US relies on

The U.S. has some of the best special operations units in the world, but they can’t do everything on their own. The American military relies on allied special operators from places like Britain, Iraq, and Israel to collect intelligence and kill enemy insurgents and soldiers. Here are 6 of those special operations commands.

A quick note on the photos: Many allied militaries are even more loathe to show the faces of their special operators than the U.S. The photos we’ve used here are, according to the photographers, of the discussed special operations forces, but we cannot independently verify that the individuals photographed are actually members of the respective clandestine force.


The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways
A British Special Forces member from the 22nd Special Air Service at Hereford, England, uses binoculars to locate a target down range.
(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Rick Bloom)

1. SAS and SBS

These could obviously be two separate entries, but we’re combining them here because they’re both British units that often operate side-by-side with U.S. forces, just with different missions and pedigrees. The Special Air Service pulls from the British Army and focuses on counter-terrorism and reconnaissance. The Special Boat Service does maritime counter-terrorism and amphibious warfare (but will absolutely stack bodies on land, too).

Both forces have deployed with U.S. operators around the world, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan where they were part of secretive task forces that hunted top Taliban members, ISIS, and Iraqi insurgents.

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways
The Sayeret Matkal does all sorts of hush-hush missions for Israel, everything from intelligence gathering to direct action to hostage rescue.
(Israel Defense Forces)

2. Sayeret Matkal

Israel’s Sayeret Matkal has generated rumors and conjecture for decades, and it’s easy to see why when you look at their few public successes. They rescued 103 Jewish hostages under gunpoint in Uganda after a plane hijacking. They hunted down the killers who attacked Israel’s 1972 Munich Olympic team, killing 11 coaches and athletes. The commandos in the unit are skilled in deception, direct action, and intelligence gathering.

The U.S. is closely allied with Israel and Sayeret Matkal is extremely good at gathering intelligence, which is often shared with the U.S. One of their most public recent successes came when they led a daring mission to install listening devices in ISIS buildings, learning of a plan to hide bombs in the battery wells of laptops.

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways
French Army special operations troops conduct a simulated hostage rescue during a 2018 demonstration.
(Domenjod, CC BY-SA 4.0)

3. French Special Operations Command

French special operations units are even more close-mouthed than the overall specops community, but they have an army unit dedicated to intelligence gathering and anti-terrorism, a navy unit filled with assault forces and underwater demolitions experts, and an air force unit specializing in calling in air strikes and rescuing isolated personnel behind enemy lines.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis has said that France deployed its special operators to Syria in April where they helped defeat ISIS.

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways
A German Special Forces soldier lines his sites on a target 500 meters away, and awaits direction from an International Special Training Centre instructor to engage the target in 2006.
(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Gina Vaile-Nelson)

4. Kommando Spezialkräfte

Germany’s Kommando Spezialkrafte is a unit of elite commandos split into four companies with five platoons each, and each platoon specializes in a specific mission types, from airborne operations to sniper to polar. A support company provides medical, maintenance, and logistics support.

The commandos have reportedly deployed to Syria in recent years to fight ISIS. And while Germany is fairly tight-lipped about the unit, they have confirmed that the unit was deployed to Iraq for a few years in the early 2000s. On these missions, they help U.S.-led coalitions achieve success.

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways
Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) operators demonstrate forward repelling during the 2nd School graduation in Baghdad, Iraq, Oct. 1, 2018. The ceremony included a ribbon cutting for the repelling tower, which will be used by future 2nd school classes.
(U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

5. Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service

The Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service was created by the U.S. and, oddly, does not fall within the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, making this one of the few special operations units that isn’t part of the traditional military. It has three special operations forces brigades and, in recent years, has largely focused on eliminating ISIS-controlled territory and the surviving forces.

The operators have also fought against other groups like Al Qaeda-Iraq. The unit was originally formed in 2003, meaning it has only existed while Iraq was at war with insurgents, so the force has operated almost exclusively within Iraq’s borders. It earned high marks in 2014 when its troops maintained good order and fought effectively against ISIS while many of the security forces were falling apart.

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways
An Afghan National Army Special Operations Commando instructor assesses Commando recruits in training as they perform security duties during a training exercise in Camp Commando, Kabul, Afghanistan, May 6, 2018.
(U.S. Army Master Sgt. Felix Figueroa)

6. Afghan National Army Commando Corps

Afghanistan’s National Army Commando Corps is one of the great bright spots in its growing military. While it’s had growing pains and the Taliban has infiltrated it at some times, it has a reputation for professionalism and skill and has led the way on top-level operations. It’s even capable of the rapid nighttime raids that U.S. forces became famous for when they were in the lead in that country.

The Afghan president ordered the size of the unit be doubled between 2018 and 2020 because the soldiers, all expert marksmen and commandos, have a reputation for getting results. Afghanistan also has the Ktah Khas, a counter-terrorism unit known for daring raids like their 2016 rescue of 59 prisoners in a Taliban hideout.

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 questions with Darryl Ponicsan: Navy vet and author extraordinaire

From small town Pennsylvania to teaching at the U.S. Navy, then to social work and back to teaching, Darryl Ponicsan has lived an inspiring and interesting life. After his second stint of teaching, he struck gold with his first novel “The Last Detail.” From there the sky was the limit where he is most known for his novels that have been adapted to screenplays which include “The Last Detail,” “Cinderella Liberty” and “Last Flag Flying.” Screenplays include “Taps,” “Vision Quest,” Nuts,” The Boost,” “School Ties” and “Random Hearts.” He also wrote the voice-over for “Blade Runner.” We sat down with him to hear about his life and his service to our country.


1. Tell me about your family and your life growing up?

My parents ran a mom ‘n pop auto parts store in Shenandoah, Pa., a coal mining town that was booming then. Now you can buy a three-story house there for the price of a used Chevy. I worked in the store as a kid and hated almost every minute of it. The town itself, however, was rich soil for drama and comedy. I’m surprised I’m the only writer ever to come out of the place. At the age of nine we moved into the first and only home my parents ever bought, six miles over the hill in Ringtown, a farming community. I had a happy childhood there, graduating from the local high school, now gone, in a class of 22 students. I think I ranked #18.

2. What is the most distinct memory of your mother and your father?

My father and I used to take our own trash to the dump once a week and dump it into a deep pit. One day there were two bums there. I was around 13. One held the end of a rope, and at the other end was his partner with a big bag, scavenging for anything of value. The one on top asked if they could go through our garbage before we dumped it. My father said sure, and we stepped aside. I said something belittling about what they were doing. My father told me, “It’s an honest living.” A great lesson in life. Years later, I was going through a nasty divorce. My mother told me it took years to build my character, don’t let this take it apart. Those two moments are linked in my memory, because in truth I did not have a close relationship with either of them.

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways

Darryl during his days as a teacher.

3. What challenges did you face at school and in the community?

As I said, I was in a class of 22. There were no cliques. In Shenandoah I was a latchkey kid at a very early age, unheard of today, but the neighbors looked after us as we played in the streets. Likewise in Ringtown where my parents knew all my teachers on a first name basis. I got into a little trouble fighting, which seemed to be our favorite pastime, but we fought with fists only and afterwards were usually ok with each other.

4. What values were stressed at home?

My parents were laissez-faire. They seldom knew where I might be. Frugality, toughness—both emotionally and physically—a work ethic, and honesty were values instilled in us, more by example than preaching.

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways

Darryl at his first duty station

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways

Camp Perry in Ohio and with his friends after bootcamp (top right).

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways

Darryl at Guantanamo Bay Cuba in 1964 (far left).

5. What influenced your career choices post college and why did you join the Navy?

Honestly, I never thought of a career, not even when it seemed I was living one. I became a teacher by default, and when I was offered tenure, I resigned to join the Navy, at age 24, because I wanted to be a writer, not a teacher. In those days everyone was expected to serve a hitch. My brother went to the Air Force at age 18. I chose the Navy because no one had yet written a Navy novel from an enlisted man’s point of view, at least not that I knew about. I’d studied creative writing at Muhlenberg, Cornell, and CalState LA, but my true education as a writer started as a child in a coal town and matured during my time in the Navy.

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways

James Caan and Marsha Mason in “Cinderella Liberty.” From IMDB.com.

6. What lessons did you take away from your service and what are some of your favorite moments from the Navy?

The Navy is the only branch that draws its cops from the rank and file on a temporary basis, as a work detail. This is both a good and bad idea for exactly the same reason: the Shore Patrol does not put aside his humanity when he puts on the arm band. (Navy brigs, however, are run by Marines.)

I spent most of my enlistment at sea, and I have many memories of the sea itself. I remember seeing my first flying fish. I remember the Atlantic as still as a pond and so wild that I had to lie on a table and hook my elbows and heels over the edges. My very first night at sea I was intensely seasick, throwing up over port and starboard while standing my first mid watch. And of course, there were the liberty ports. We would rotate nine months in the Mediterranean, a month or so in Norfolk, and then four or five months in the Caribbean, my ship was the first American warship to tie up at St. Mark’s Square in maybe ever. We would walk off the ladder right onto St. Mark’s Sq. We were in Venice for a week. I was on the USS MONROVIA (APA-31), the flagship for Comphibron 8, an amphibious squadron. Occasionally we would move to the USS OKINAWA, a helicopter carrier, which was a luxury compared to the Monrovia. I also spent about two months in transit on the USS INTREPID, which is now a museum in Manhattan.

An indelible memory, resulting in my novel and movie “Cinderella Liberty,” was a week-long stay at the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Va. I went there for a surgery. It turned out I didn’t need the surgery, but it took a week to process me out of the hospital. I had liberty every night until 2400.

Another weird one: my first TDY after boot camp, before getting a ship, was at an Army depot in Ohio. Long story. I was there for a whole summer.

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways

Faculty picture for the school yearbook.

7. What did you enjoy most about being an English teacher and a social worker?

Both had annoying bureaucracies which hampered some good work, and the pay in both is shamefully low, but the rewards of seeing children progress or in helping people in true need cannot be measured. A lot of my former students are now Facebook friends. They’re all retired and I’m still working.

8. What inspired you to write “The Last Detail,” “Cinderella Liberty” and the “Last Flag Flying,”?

“The Last Detail” was an incredible stroke of luck. It was handed to me almost whole while I was in transit aboard the USS INTREPID after leaving the hospital. I was working with a crusty old P.O.1 in a tiny office. The Career Guidance Office. We played chess all day and swapped sea stories. He told me about having to escort a young sailor from Corpus Christi to the brig in Portsmouth, NH. The kid was unjustly sentenced to a long sentence for a small offense. I knew immediately I had struck gold. It took five or six years to evolve from a short story to a novel.

“Cinderella Liberty” was based on my Naval Hospital experience. That one took about four months to write.

“Last Flag Flying” was the result of endless prodding by a friend to revisit the characters in “The Last Detail” and essentially duplicate their train trip. I resisted for obvious reasons, but I was so obsessed with Bush pushing us into an endless and unnecessary war I felt it might be the best way to get it all off my chest.

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways

Otis Wilson, Randy Quaid, Jack Nicholson and Don McGovern in “The Last Detail.” From IMDB.com

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways

Steve Carrell, Laurence Fishburne, Darryl, Bryan Cranston and Rick Linklater on “Last Flag Flying.”

9. What was it like working with Jack Nicholson, Hal Ashby, Robert Towne, Harrison Ford, Martin Ritt, Barbara Streisand, Richard Dreyfus, Harold Becker, James Woods, Mark Rydell, Sydney Pollack, Sherry Lansing and Stanley Jaffe, Richard Linklater, Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne and Steve Carrell?

I never worked with any of the principals involved in “The Last Detail.” I worked alone on Towne’s first draft for two weeks, the first time I ever saw a screenplay. Of the others, I worked most intensely with Barbra, Harold Becker, Mark Rydell, and Rick Linklater.

Mark Rydell did “Cinderella Liberty.” I worked closely with him on the script, my first, which took over twice as long as it took to write the novel. A WGA strike forced us to call it done. Mark was a charming, clever director, but I think I absorbed some bad stuff from him. He was an operator and I know at times I emulated him. A mistake. I’m not an operator, and I should have known that from the beginning. Not that his heart wasn’t in the right place.

I did several scripts with Harold Becker, who I liked personally, but I never fully trusted him. I saw him throw others under the bus and I’m pretty sure he did likewise with me.

Sherry Lansing was often derided as a cheerleader, but she was the best of cheerleaders, always encouraging, out in front. She was great to work with on “School Ties.” She was one of the first women to break out big in the business. I like her a lot. I worked with her and Jaffe on “Taps” and “School Ties,” which Jaffe left to head up Paramount. Stanley and I had a love-hate relationship. While at Paramount he hired me to do a major rewrite for a green-lit picture with a major star. I knew he had bragged about getting me cheap for “Taps,” so he made up for it with this job. It was outlandish. I can’t mention the project because at the last moment the star decided he couldn’t work with the director, and the whole thing crashed and burned.

Sydney Pollock was a good friend and a guide to me in the industry. He helped me through the political and filmmaking process in Hollywood. Sydney said that I was not “part of all this,” meaning the ethos and byzantine angles of Hollywood, and he took on the role of guide. I never did learn the ins and outs of the business, and whenever I pretended to I came off as a jerk.

My best experience, which turned out to be my least successful movie, was with Rick Linklater. All indications are that the movie will be rediscovered as time moves on. That happened with “Vision Quest,” a failed picture that keeps finding new audiences that are deeply moved by it. Rick never speaks above a whisper. He seems always on an even keel. Whatever he does comes from the heart.

Barbra was a singular experience. She’s taken a bad rap in the past. Even though I didn’t even like her, until I met her. I was so nervous about our first meeting. At the time, Sidney Pollack told me I would love her, and I did, even though I have a hard time being around perfectionists, who I believe get in their own way. Alvin Sargent, a good friend, worked with me as a collaborator on “Nuts.” Mark Rydell was originally the director. At one point she asked Rydell to step aside and let her work alone with the two of us. He wasn’t happy about it, but Barbra gets what she wants. We practically lived at her house in Beverly Hills for a week. It was agony, it was a joy. Rydell was replaced by Martin Ritt, one of the great old lefty directors.

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways

Tom Cruise, Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn in Taps. From IMDB.com

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways

Harrison Ford and Ridley Scott on “Blade Runner.” From IMDB.com

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways

Richard Dreyfus and Barbra Streisand in “Nuts.” From IMDB.com

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways

Linda Fiorentino and Matthew Modine in “Vision Quest.” From IMDB.com

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways

Ben Affleck, Brendan Fraser, Matt Damon and Zeljko Ivanek in “School Ties.” From IMDB.com

10. What are you most proud of, your life and career?

Whatever I may be proud of came with a good deal of luck. I’m proud and lucky that my children are not addicts, and I’m proud I never wrote anything I’m ashamed of.

I’m also proud and lucky to have received an Image Award from the NAACP as Screenwriter of the Year. (1973) I may be the only Caucasian to receive that.

Several years ago, I was living in Sonoma and found I could not work because of the raucous noise of leaf blowers. I went to the city council and took my allotted three minutes to urge them to ban blowers. I went to every meeting over the next year, taking my three minutes. I did my homework and concluded that blowers were the most destructive handheld tool ever invented. I bombarded them with data they could not ignore. They finally voted to ban them, but the mayor caved to commercial pressure and changed his vote. He lost the next election because of that. The issue finally went to a ballot measure and the ban was passed by 16 votes.

I did the same thing in Palm Springs, but this time it was a slam dunk. I’m proud to have had a role in banning leaf blowers in two different cities.

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways

Darryl worked a season with the George Matthews Great London 3-Ring Circus and wrote a book about it, “The Ringmaster.” He became Randy the Clown.

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways

Darryl with Stephen Colbert at an event for “Last Flag Flying.”

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways

Darryl’s NAACP Image Award for Screenwriter of the Year for 1973.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act

Most of us think of highly-trained spies and espionage units as the best of the best, Cold War ninjas who would never dream of getting caught lest they be disavowed by Washington, Moscow, London, or wherever they come from.

If 1980s-era film and television has taught us anything, it’s that the Russian spy agencies are among the best of the best. If that was true, something is severely lacking lately, because one of their spy units keeps getting caught doing some high-profile greasy stuff.


Russia’s GRU unit 29155 was recently outed as the unit behind the alleged payment of bounties to the Taliban for killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan. But that’s not the only high-visibility mission that was uncovered in recent days. 29155 was also allegedly behind the effort to hack Hillary Clinton’s State Department emails during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the assassination of former KGB spy Sergei Skripal in England, and an attempted coup in Montenegro.

The unit is part of the Russian military intelligence apparatus, responsible for intelligence gathering and operations outside of the Russian Federation. The GRU (as it’s known outside of Russia and the former Soviet Union) was not as widely known or regarded as the Soviet KGB or the KGB’s antecedents, the Russian SVR and FSB, but today it is the go-to agency for military-related operations.

Why? Because it deploys six times as many foriegn operatives as the FSB or SVR. The GRU is Russia’s largest foreign security service. But unlike the KGB, the GRU has been largely unchanged since its Soviet heyday.

The GRU is the unit that takes on the most important military operations, like say, partnering with the Taliban or killing off former Soviet spies. But Foreign Policy says their work has been pretty sloppy in the past few years.

In the case of bounties on American troops in Afghanistan, U.S. intelligence services were actually able to track bank transfers between the Taliban and GRU accounts overseas. As for the other plots, it didn’t even require intelligence services. Media outlets inside and outside of Russia have been able to track members of 29155 because they kept reusing aliases with questionable cover stories to travel throughout the world.

Using these bits of information, the movement of GRU assets was relatively easy to track for the media, who published their findings. It was so easy, the information was confirmed by multiple countries’ intelligence agencies. The members of 29155 were mapped and tracked all over Europe.

Two of the 29155’s agents, Alexander Petrov (really Alexander Mishkin) and Ruslan Boshirov (real name Anatoliy Chepiga), were caught red-handed by Scotland Yard on closed-circuit tv cameras in the 2018 assassination plot of Sergei Skripal.

In that plot, the use of a Soviet nerve agent, along with the GRU operatives, led investigators not only to 29155, but to Chepiga entire graduating class of the GRU academy. From there, they uncovered plots to poison an arms dealer, interfering in elections in Spain, and even a coup in NATO member Montenegro.

Western intelligence saw the effort as a “Rosettta Stone” in reading Russian intelligence movements abroad.

Whoops.

MIGHTY GAMING

Head of Air Force’s Air Combat Command dogfights his son on Twitch

The commander of Air Combat Command and his son fought each other live on a Twitch stream in a combat flight action video game on June 29, 2019.

Gen. Mike Holmes pitted his skill with the F-15 against 1st Lt. Wade Holmes and his F-16 in this exhibition match designed to highlight the Air Force’s pilot community and to answer questions from viewers about military service.

While there was a fair share of air-to-air kills and crashes into the ground for both men, the younger Holmes was the clear winner of the video game version of life in the cockpit.


“This type of alternative interview format is a really great way to engage with our audience,” said Michelle Clougher, chief of the ACC Public Affairs command information division. “We’re always looking for a different way to tell the Air Force story, and these two rock-star pilots have a lot they can share.

“Ten years ago, we never would have thought to have our top fighter pilot play a video game while broadcasting it live to the whole world,” she continued. “But as our technologies evolve, so do we. We must communicate in a way that is meaningful and connects with people.”

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways

US Air Force Gen. Mike Holmes and 1st Lt. Wade Holmes, his son, play a combat flight action video game, at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, June 29, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Emerald Ralston)

Twitch is a live-streaming video service platform introduced in 2011. The service has grown to share video content with more than 15 million daily active users.

During the stream, the Holmeses discussed the Air Force’s current pilot shortage, and explained the importance of air battle managers and the communications from the E-3 AWACS. They also expressed their gratitude for all the service’s crew chiefs and answered various questions about their aircraft, while sharing stories from their careers.

The pilots gave advice for joining the Air Force and compared real flight versus this arcade simulation. And while the general has more than 4,000 hours in a real aircraft — many of those are combat hours — the lieutenant had the edge with this matchup.

One Twitch user even asked the lieutenant to take it easy on his “old man” toward the end of one match.

“I appreciate that,” General Holmes said with a laugh. “I’m going to feign an injury here in a moment.”

“Air Combat Command does not teach me to take pity on my adversary,” replied Lieutenant Holmes as he secured the win.

The stream lasted for approximately one hour, and it can be viewed below:

“Thanks for tuning in,” General Holmes said to wrap up the event. “We enjoyed having a chance to talk to you for a little bit. As the Air Force, we’re trying to reach out to people that could find a home in the Air Force. We hope you’ll consider finding a way to serve your country in some way.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Taliban officials deny report that top leader died from coronavirus

Taliban officials have denied a report that its leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, died after contracting the coronavirus.

Foreign Policy magazine, citing unnamed Taliban officials, reported on June 1 that Mullah Akhundzada contracted COVID-19 and possibly died while receiving treatment abroad.

Foreign Policy quoted Mawlawi Mohammad Ali Jan Ahmad, a senior Taliban military official, as saying that Mullah Akhundzada was “sick” after contracting the virus but was “recovering.”


But three other Taliban figures in the Pakistani city of Quetta, where the Taliban leadership is believed to be based, told Foreign Policy on condition of anonymity that they believed Akhunzada had died of the illness.

Foreign Policy said the coronavirus has stricken a number of senior Taliban leaders in Quetta and in Qatar, where the militant group has a political office.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid on June 2 denied that Mullah Akhundzada or any other senior leaders had contracted the disease or died.

In a tweet, Mujahid accused Foreign Policy of spreading “propaganda” and said Mullah Akhundzada was well and “busy with his daily activities.”

Sayed Mohammad Akbar Agha, a former Taliban military commander who lives in the Afghan capital, Kabul, told RFE/RL that the report of Mullah Akhundzada’s death was “untrue.”

But a Taliban official in Quetta told RFE/RL that he could neither confirm nor deny the leader’s death.

Mullah Akhundzada took over leadership of the Taliban after his predecessor, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansur, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan in May 2016.

The reclusive leader is a former Taliban chief justice and heads the militant group’s religious council.

An Islamic scholar, he is said to have strong religious credentials, and has been responsible for issuing fatwas, or Islamic decrees, to justify military and terrorist operations.

Taliban officials told Foreign Policy that Mullah Akhundzada had not been seen for the past three months and had not made any voice recordings.

Some Taliban sources in Quetta told Foreign Policy that Mullah Akhunzada went to Russia for treatment.

Foreign Policy reported that many of the Taliban’s senior leaders in Quetta had caught COVID-19, including Mullah Akhunzada’s deputy, Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani network.

The network, a Taliban faction, is believed to have been behind some of the deadliest attacks on Afghan and international forces and civilians in Afghanistan.

With the top two leaders out of action, Foreign Policy reported that the Taliban was now being run by Mullah Mohammad Yuqub, the eldest son of the Taliban’s founder and spiritual leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar.

Mullah Omar’s death was revealed in 2015, more than two years after he had died in Pakistan.

Mullah Yuqub is a graduate of a seminary in the Pakistani port city of Karachi.

Believed to be in his early 30s, he is said to have the backing of a considerable number of field commanders and the Taliban’s rank-and-file.

Experts say that Mullah Yuqub supports the U.S.-Taliban agreement signed in February that is aimed at negotiating an end to the 18-year Taliban insurgency.

It is unclear how a possible change in the Taliban leadership would affect that deal, which calls for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which is committed to negotiating a permanent cease-fire and a power-sharing arrangement with the Kabul government.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Why I started my own GORUCK club

I have a secret to confess: I started a GORUCK club for selfish reasons.

There’s a perfectly good GORUCK club at GRHQ, only 4 miles from my home, and yet earlier this year I founded the GORUCK Mother Ruckers to serve my needs. And by needs I mean not getting into a car with my children unless I have to while maximizing time spent moving outdoors, with the option to bring my wards.


The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways

As luck would have it, turns out that my needs are also the needs of others in my community. And by community I mean local moms in my neighborhood.

This is where we meet up, on a street corner that’s a stone’s throw from everyone’s homes. Easy, convenient, just ruck up and step out your front door.

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways

Another thing that’s really great about our GORUCK club – and all GORUCK clubs for that matter – is that you only need a party of 2. Sure, it’s better with more folks and we take the more the merrier approach when it comes to people. We call it GORUCK Mother Ruckers not to be exclusive but because our GORUCK club is run by moms. It’s also cool to bring your kids, pets, and significant others (in no particular order) or just yourself if you happen to have lucked into some free alone time. Nothing reminds you how grateful you are to have a few moments of peace from your children than being next to another parent’s screaming kid.

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways

Before kids, we used to workout more, sleep in more, and do less with that free time we never fully appreciated. Time is our most valuable resource, then and even more so now. We don’t have time to waste by stress-driving to make that gym or pilates class whenever the stars align for all kids to be healthy or cooperative. Somewhere floating in cyberspace is a graveyard of forgotten or unredeemed exercise classes that moms like me have decided just aren’t worth the hassle.

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways

And yet we know deep down that we as moms and as humans need to prioritize our physical and mental health. My friend Amy said it best the other day, that “women tend to have a lot of pulls and tugs on their time.” In her career as a cardiologist, she sees that “the health of women, in terms of the time to go do physical activity and exercise, gets deprioritized to the very end of the list, after checking off everything else we need to do for everyone else. There is also a social isolation, that you end up being so busy caring for folks around you and having your nose to the grindstone, that the idea that you’re gonna just kinda go hammer it out in the gym or on an exercise machine at home, sometimes just can be lonely.”

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways

This is the not so lonely hearts club. After some sniffing and snack stealing attempts, we ruck south on our weekly pilgrimage in search of smoothies, fresh air, and cute pups of course.

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways

There once was a time when I ran a lot, in high school and in college and even for years after that, my favorite runs were with others or on my own to keep the cardio streak going. I still love running but dislike how fast my base erodes from an inconsistent life schedule. I also have a harder time finding someone to run with me when those unpredictable moments of freedom pop up. For some reason, probably having to do with that erodible base, when I ask my friends to go on a run with me, I don’t get a great response.

When I say, let’s go for a ruck and you can bring whoever you want and you pick the weight, I get more yesses. With rucking, the barrier for entry is lower and more accessible on many levels. On the level of not requiring a babysitter and also on being a scalable workout. We might move at kid pace but there are plenty of extra coupon carry opportunities along the way.

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways

And so we ruck on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. Or just to the last street for a missing shoe.

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways

At last we reach the halfway point and it’s time to refuel the restless natives. These are before smoothie faces.

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways
The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways

And these are post smoothie smiles.

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways
The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways

Sometimes the term selfish gets a bad rap, especially if by being selfish you really are trying to set yourself up for success to take care of others who need you, day after day, to be your best or close to it. It’s pretty empowering to prioritize yourself to the top of the list and then watch your fellow moms do the same: we can do it, better together, as neighbors and friends and parents and people.

The Marines want a missile to chase down moving ships in the South China Sea and other contested waterways

So what’s stopping you from joining a GORUCK club or starting your own?

This article originally appeared on GORUCK. Follow @GORUCK on Instagram.

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