Mattis: 'I go by Jim,' not 'Mad Dog' - We Are The Mighty
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Mattis: ‘I go by Jim,’ not ‘Mad Dog’

“I go by Jim,” new Defense Secretary James Mattis said Thursday in good-naturedly shrugging off the “Mad Dog” moniker President Donald Trump delights in using to refer to him.


Related: 7 photos of Mattis’s first day as SecDef

“It’s you guys that came up with Mad Dog,” the retired Marine general told reporters. “My own troops were laughing about it, saying, ‘We know your call sign is Chaos, where did this come from?’ It must have been a slow news day; some newsperson made it up.”

Mattis: ‘I go by Jim,’ not ‘Mad Dog’
The 26th Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, is greeted on his first full day in the position by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., in Arlington, VA, Jan. 21, 2017. DoD photo by D. Myles Cullen (released)

“I go by Jim. I was born Jim. I am from the West. Jim is fine, OK? How’s that? And that’s on the record,” Mattis said, according to the Washington Examiner.

Mattis went off the record as he made a surprise appearance Thursday at the usual “gaggle” for Pentagon reporters run by Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, the Pentagon spokesman, on the day’s events, but he came back on the record to deal with the “Mad Dog” nickname.

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Turkish special forces opened a ‘sniper cafe’ on the front line against ISIS

An old Turkish proverb notes that “coffee should be black as hell, strong as death, and sweet as love.” One possible interpretation for this is that you should enjoy your coffee under any circumstance.


Even fighting the Islamic State.

Turkish special forces troops are said to be taking this to the extreme, opening a sort of coffee house on a rooftop overlooking the Syrian city of Al-Bab. The Turks sent their special operators into the area in December, and now the city is said to be surrounded by Turkish forces.

Mattis: ‘I go by Jim,’ not ‘Mad Dog’
The livemap of the Syrian War near Al-Bab as of Feb. 15, 2017. The red represents the Free Syrian Army, ISIS is the black area, and Turkish-controlled territory is in dark green.

Reddit user “bopollo” posted a few photos of Turkish troops near a sniper overwatch position. While there’s no concrete evidence the photo was taken in Al-Bab, the writing is on the wall.

Mattis: ‘I go by Jim,’ not ‘Mad Dog’
Literally.

Bopollo is a frequent commenter and contributor on operations and developments of the Syrian Civil War. The photo above shows directions to both Al-Bab and Kabbasin, both towns in Syria still held by ISIS.

The road between the two cities is also held by the terror organization. It’s fairly common for troops to write graffiti on the walls of buildings they captured and held. It turns out Turkish special operators are no different.

Related: This collection of graffiti tells the real story of what modern war is like

While it’s entirely unlikely that special forces troops opened an actual functioning business, the building is more likely just an area secured by the Su Altı Taarruz, Turkey’s Navy SEALs (you can see the flag with the SAT logo on it above).

Mattis: ‘I go by Jim,’ not ‘Mad Dog’

But because Turkish people are funny and there are at least 106 Starbucks locations in Istanbul, it’s likely some troops are living it up as best they can on the front lines against ISIS.

The U.S. Army won war after war fueled by coffee – turns out Turkey does too. They just don’t have a Green Beans…yet.

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This failed assassin was North Korean special forces’ ‘Lone Survivor’

The year was 1968, one of the most tumultuous years in American military history. The North Vietnamese launched the Tet Offensive and North Korea captured the American spy ship Pueblo outside its territorial waters. Riding high on his “victory” over the United States, Kim Il Sung and the North Korean military mounted its most daring provocation to date.


Mattis: ‘I go by Jim,’ not ‘Mad Dog’
Kim Il-Sung was a pretty big a-hole.

Read Now: I went to North Korea and saw the captured ship USS Liberty

They were going to assassinate South Korea’s president at his home.

The North Koreans trained an elite group of 31 special operations commandos to infiltrate the South across the demilitarized zone. They were led by Kim Shin-jo, a proud revolutionary who was ready to liberate the south from the heel of American occupation.

“We thought the president there was a stooge, an American collaborator,” Kim told the LA Times in a 2010 interview. “I hated him.”

Mattis: ‘I go by Jim,’ not ‘Mad Dog’
Kim shin-jo, after his capture. (Wikimedia Commons)

He formed the 124th Special Forces unit. Their goal was to make it to the Blue House, South Korea’s version of the White House, where President Park Chung-hee lived and worked. They were then to take photos to prove he was dead.

They broke into teams of six, dressed as South Korean troops, and crossed the border through barbed wire, observation posts, and minefields. They traversed the steep mountains and deep valleys only to immediately run into South Koreans near the DMZ.

Instead of killing their Southern cousins, Kim and the elite unit warned them not to give away their presence and sent the Southerners on their way. Of course, the South Koreans immediately told the authorities. The South Korean military launched a massive search for the commandos.

Within 200 yards of their objective, one South Korean soldier halted them to check their IDs. The North Koreans unloaded on the unprepared South Koreans — like an ISIS offensive 200 yards from the White House.

Mattis: ‘I go by Jim,’ not ‘Mad Dog’
So maybe 100% ID check isn’t as annoying as we thought.

They killed 35 and wounded another 64 people. Kim Shin-jo took cover near the woods, and never even fired his weapon. He wasn’t interested in killing civilians — he wanted Park Chung-hee.

He never got the chance.

All but two of the 124th Special Forces were killed. One of them managed to evade capture, eventually returning home across the border. Kim was captured. He was shown on television in handcuffs for all of South Korea to see.

Mattis: ‘I go by Jim,’ not ‘Mad Dog’

Kim was interrogated for months and eventually broke down, seeing the South Korean military’s compassion through a high-ranking officer, who convinced him the fight was between them and the North Korean regime, not the North Korean people.

Since he had not fired his weapon, Kim was forgiven for the actions of his comrades.

Eventually, Kim gave his services (and information) to the military, became a citizen, and married a South Korean. For this, the North Korean regime executed his immediate family, and — as is customary in the North — sent three generations of relatives to its Siberian prison camps.

Kim Shin-jo was reborn in many ways: he renounced his Communist upbringing and became a born-again Presbyterian minister. He leads a church of 70,000 outside of Seoul, one of the largest congregations in the world, right under the shadow of North Korean artillery.
Articles

The Pentagon wants a half-billion more dollars for the F-35

Defense officials at the Pentagon say they need up to $500 million more to finish the development phase for the F-35, the troubled fifth-generation fighter that’s already gone 50% over its original budget.


The F-35 program office requested the money last month to the Defense Acquisition Board, according to Bloomberg, which first reported the news Wednesday. The call for additional funds is pretty familiar at this point, since the program — known as the Joint Strike Fighter since it will be used by the Navy, Marines, and Air Force — has been plagued by lengthy delays and enormous cost overruns.

Also read: How China’s stealthy new J-20 fighter jet compares to the US’s F-22 and F-35

Its overall lifetime budget has ballooned to more than $1.5 trillion, making it the most expensive weapons system ever built by the US.

Mattis: ‘I go by Jim,’ not ‘Mad Dog’
Courtesy of Lockheed Martin

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has in the past called those cost overruns a “disgrace.”

“It has been both a scandal and a tragedy with respect to cost, schedule, and performance,” he said in April.

Rising costs haven’t been the only problem of note for the F-35. The jet has had plenty of incidents while being built, such as electrical problems, major issues with its software, and problems related to its advanced helmet system.

Just four months ago, the Pentagon’s chief weapons tester wrote in a memo the F-35 program was “not on a path toward success but instead on a path toward failing to deliver.”

Still, the Air Force and Marines have both declared the fighter “combat ready” and have begun integrating it into their squadrons. The military has only taken delivery of about 180 of the aircraft from Lockheed Martin so far, though it plans to buy more than 2,400.

The fighter, which features stealth and advanced electronic attack and communications systems, is a project with roots going back to the late 1990s. Lockheed won the contract for the fighter in 2001.

“Strong national security is an expensive endeavor but the existing concerns with the F-35 make calls for even more money harder to green light,” said Joe Kaspar, chief of staff for Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

“And the Pentagon never seems to be able to help its case on the F-35. Technical superiority is not cheap, but whether or not costs can be driven down is something Congress must look at it before throwing more money in the Pentagon’s direction.”

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The F-35 may have big problems fighting at long range

Mattis: ‘I go by Jim,’ not ‘Mad Dog’
Photo: Lance Cpl. Remington Hall/USMC


The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) was supposed to fill multiple roles for the Air Force, Navy, Marines, and US foreign partners.

The jet — the most expensive US weapons project of all time — was designed to have aerial combat, close-air support, and long-range-strike capabilities.

But that’s not how the plane’s turned out so far. A string of damning reports have seriously called the $1.5 trillion plane into question, specifically it’s “dogfighting” ability when matched against less sophisticated aircraft. And now, one expert has made a convincing case that the fighter’s long-range capabilities don’t measure up to expectations either.

In a report for War Is Boring, military analyst Joseph Trevithick writes that in a long-distance engagement, the F-35 would have to rely on stealth to avoid enemy-radar detection while maneuvering close enough to engage enemy air and ground targets.

In an ideal situation, the F-35 would eliminate its targets before detection and leave. But as Trevithick notes, Russian and Chinese fifth-generation fighters have been outfitted with infrared sensors that can pinpoint a plane’s heat signature over fairly vast distances. The F-35 has a single, large rounded engine nozzle that leaves a larger heat signature than the flat nozzles of other stealth aircraft, such as the F-22 or the B-2.

This infrared signature could tip off enemy fighters to the F-35’s location, negating any benefit it may have from its stealth design.

Stealth may offer diminishing returns anyway. The technology isn’t foolproof, and radar technology is improving around the world.

“You can only go so fast, and you know that stealth may be overrated,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert said during a speech in February. “Let’s face it, if something moves fast through the air, disrupts molecules and puts out heat — I don’t care how cool the engine can be, it’s going to be detectable. You get my point.”

The F-35 may be more detectable at distance than the plane’s advocates claim, meaning the plane might have questionable utility during long-range aerial combat and attack runs. On top of that, the F-35 could find itself outgunned in a potential missile engagement with rival Russian or Chinese fighters.

Mattis: ‘I go by Jim,’ not ‘Mad Dog’
Photo: Lockheed Martin

The F-35 is supposed to be outfitted with AIM-120 Slammer missiles, which have a comparable range to Russian and Chinese air-to-air missiles.

However, as Trevithick notes, the F-35 may actually turn out to be slower than its Russian and Chinese rivals. It’s lagging speed means that it cannot launch the missiles with as much force as enemy jets. Moving at supercruising speed, a sustained speed exceeding the sound barrier, an enemy aircraft could “potentially fling its missiles farther than a missile’s advertised range.”

The difference in missile range might not actually be that important. If the F-35’s stealth capabilities are as good as advertised, or if enemy aircraft don’t have the weight load or sophistication to carry longer-range missiles, the plane will be able to maintain its expected supremacy over other fifth-generation models. Additionally, in a war gameconducted by the Royal Aeronautical Society, the F-35 beat the advanced Russian Su-35s in a long-range aerial engagement.

Mattis: ‘I go by Jim,’ not ‘Mad Dog’

But in that simulation, the F-35 wasn’t armed with the AIM-120 but with the Meteor Beyond-Visual-Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM). No concrete figures have been released on the BVRAAM’s range, but it is thought to be greater than that of the AIM-120 and any current air-to-air missile in either the Chinese or Russian arsenal.

Unfortunately, as a different War is Boring article notes, any integration of the BVRAAM with the F-35 is years off. The F-35 will not be able to use the BVRAAM until Lockheed releases its next software update for the F-35, which is still in early development. Until that time, the F-35 may find itself in a challenging position relative to Russia and China’s own upcoming fifth-generation fighters.

The F-35 has questionable abilities at shorter range, too. A leaked report from an F-35 test pilot obtained by War is Boring noted that the aircraft was incapable of outmaneuvering and besting an F-16 in a simulated dogfight. The F-16 first entered service in 1978 and is one of the planes that the F-35 is being built to replace.

In response, Lockheed Martin wrote in a July 1 press release that “the F-35’s technology is designed to engage, shoot and kill its enemy from long distances.”

More from Business Insider:

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

Articles

Here’s how Kurdish women humiliate ISIS fighters before sending them to hell

 


It’s been well-documented how ISIS abuses the female citizens of the towns and villages they have captured in recent years. Local women are routinely physically abused and raped by ISIS fighters, even sold into sexual slavery to be used by jihadists in perverted and sadistic ways.

But, as this video shows, payback is a bitch:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vq_kBYXI9g

(h/t 100percentfedup.com)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Israel is going to war with Hamas again

Israel is locked into an insane repetitive cycle with the Palestinian government in the Gaza Strip. The Hamas-led government allows missiles to be fired from somewhere in Gaza in an attempt to hit something in Israel. It doesn’t matter if the missiles hit anything, Israel doesn’t play around. They hit back – hard.


Hamas has done it again. Just in time for the latest Israeli election, one that will see if embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can survive the latest corruption allegation levied against him. A long-range rocket fired from Gaza hit a neighborhood north of Tel Aviv. The attack wounded seven Israelis and forced Netanyahu to cut his visit to the United States short.

A factory burns in Sderot, Israel in 2014 during the last Hamas-Israeli War.

The timing is not random. Netanyahu was in the United States visiting President Donald Trump, a celebration of his recognition of the disputed Golan Heights as Israeli territory. In the hours following the rocket attack, Israeli warplanes already struck targets in Gaza, hitting military posts run by Hamas in the middle of the night. Israeli civilians are preparing for the worst in retaliation as bomb shelters open across the country.

Hamas-fired rockets can cause severe damage to whatever they hit, and the random targeting of civilians can be terrifying to the populace. As of Mar. 26, Hamas had fired some 30 or more rockets into Israel. Israel’s Iron Dome defense network intercepted a few of them, but most fell harmlessly in open fields.

Mattis: ‘I go by Jim,’ not ‘Mad Dog’

A factory in Sderot, Israel burns after taking a direct hit from a Hamas-fired rocket from Gaza in 2014.

Egyptian authorities have tried to broker an immediate ceasefire between Israel and the various factions inside Gaza, but the Israel Defense Forces have already struck back. Aside from a few military posts, IDF planes and artillery have hit the offices of Hamas politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’ public security offices, and Hamas training and military outposts in the largest and most expansive military response since the Israeli army entered Gaza in 2014.

MIGHTY TRENDING

FBI Chief vows to keep working to discover ex-agent’s fate in Iran

FBI Director Chris Wray says the top U.S. law enforcement agency will never give up on “finding out what happened” to former agent Robert Levinson, who the U.S. government believes died while in Iranian custody.

In an e-mail to FBI staff seen by the Associated Press on March 26, Wray said he had met with the family of Robert Levinson and “we explained that the most credible evidence we have collected over the past 13 years points to the likelihood that Bob died in captivity.”


Mattis: ‘I go by Jim,’ not ‘Mad Dog’

“It pained me to deliver that news, but I believe that we owed Bob’s family a thorough and candid presentation of the information that we’ve collected,” Wray wrote.

Wray did not provide details on the “credible evidence” he said the family had received.

“We’re going to keep working doggedly to determine the circumstances surrounding Bob’s abduction and his time in captivity, to find the answers we all want and that the Levinsons deserve,” Wray said.

Levinson, who was born in March 1948, disappeared when he traveled to the Iranian resort island of Kish in March 2007. He was working for the CIA as a contractor at the time.

The United States has repeatedly called on Iran to help locate Levinson and bring him home, but Iranian officials said they had no information about his fate.

However, when he disappeared, an Iranian government-linked media outlet broadcast a story saying he was “in the hands of Iranian security forces.”

Tehran on March 26 said in a statement that Levinson left Iran “long ago” and that Iranian authorities don’t know where he is, rejecting the claim that he died in Iranian custody.

“Based on credible evidence, [Levinson] left Iran years ago for an unknown destination,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mosavi said in the statement.

He added that officials had done everything possible to find out what happened after Levinson left Iran but had found “no evidence of him being alive.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

8 signs you might be a drill sergeant

Have you ever woken up to the same hellish nightmare of three-phase cycles repeatedly until you no longer know what day it is? Have you felt the uncontrollable urge to wield the greatest noncombative, yet lethal weapon known to mankind in every conversation? Does your forehead bear the markings of greatness from a wide-brimmed hat of woolen death?


There are signs. These are the signs you may just be or have been a drill sergeant.

Mattis: ‘I go by Jim,’ not ‘Mad Dog’
Photo Gallery: Marine recruits survive first night on Parris Island

media.defense.gov

You are basically a vampire

It’s 4 a.m. on a good day and long before the crack of dawn. You’re there, in the dark, ready to delicately wake the trainees from their slumber. Likely, with an airhorn. Fast forward to sundown, and you’re three energy drinks in, waiting to put 200 almost soldiers, Marines, sailors, Coast Guardsmen or airmen to bed. Up before the dawn, home under the moonlight. You’re basically a vampire.

Caffeine is your new blood type 

The regulation states 6-8 hours per night, but cycle 2 has shown you humans can live (sort of) off much less. How do you function? Caffeine, copious and copious amounts of caffeine. Has anyone ever seen a drill instructor without a coffee or energy drink in hand? I think not. Pushing 18-20-hour days, seven days a week for two miserably long years requires such.

Mattis: ‘I go by Jim,’ not ‘Mad Dog’

Your stare is so terrifying, it produces cries on demand

Perhaps nothing is as terrifying as a silent drill sergeant. Am I in trouble? Was that good? Is this horribly, horribly wrong? They have no idea, and that’s the entire point. What’s even worse? Dark glasses and silence. The memory will (hopefully) haunt their dreams.

Multiple personalities are part of the gig 

It takes far less than sixty seconds to royally piss off a drill instructor. Fear then rage, then empathy and more fear are all emotions drills can flip between without pause. It’s the terrifyingly good performance you must put on daily to keep the illusion that you still actually care. The daily goal is keeping the entire company on their toes.

You speak in catchphrases 

Yes-no, criss-cross pizza sauce, it’s not rocket surgery. Did you get that? You live the same three-phase cycle for two years, with hundreds of faces making almost the same mistakes as the last cycle. You’ve got to keep it interesting somehow. The more ridiculous you are, the better your impersonation will be when the trainees imitate you at the end of the cycle.

Mattis: ‘I go by Jim,’ not ‘Mad Dog’

api.army.mil

You are the knife hand, and the knife hand is you

The knife hand is strong with you. Its power is the multi-tool you never knew you were missing. It commands attention, corrects stupidity, instills fear, shows direction, and slices the air with precision. Its powers are so great, you no longer need to speak to converse clearly with trainees as to what they better hurry up and do.

You produce legendary nicknames

You’re reading off the roster and have no idea or could honestly care less about how to pronounce the next name. Instead, you improvise, gifting the lucky trainee with whatever condiment, thought or mistake they’re likely to make. Mistakes are often the go-to for renaming trainees to more accurately reflect the personality they are growing into. No shower shoes? Flip-flop is your new name, enjoy it buttercup.

Mattis: ‘I go by Jim,’ not ‘Mad Dog’

You are perpetually pissed

Maybe it’s the lack of sleep, the sheer stupidity you witness day in and day out, or the fact that your last unit just deployed without you. Or maybe it’s all of it. Either way, you’re salty. Without the salt, you’d be normal, and normal is not part of the personality description behind drill instructors. The hatred boiling inside keeps you warm at night.

Life on the trail is the hellish nightmare you love to hate. It’s an experience engrained in who you’ve become. Every service member remembers their drill sergeants, both with a fondness and fear that they’ll never forget.

Articles

The 13 Funniest Military Memes Of The Week

It’s Friday, so that’s good. But it’s three weeks since the military’s last pay day and we all know you’re staying in the barracks this weekend. While you’re crunching on your fast food and waiting for your video games to load, check out these 13 military memes.


Real guns are super heavy.

Mattis: ‘I go by Jim,’ not ‘Mad Dog’
The assistant gunner has to carry 300 extra rounds, nearly a pound of weight.

It’s guaranteed that this was a profile pic.

Mattis: ‘I go by Jim,’ not ‘Mad Dog’

Maybe if we just taxi it near the maintenance chief really slowly, he’ll tell us if it’s okay.

Mattis: ‘I go by Jim,’ not ‘Mad Dog’
That’s why pilots just fly the d*mn thing.

 Don’t use flashbangs near the uninitiated.

Mattis: ‘I go by Jim,’ not ‘Mad Dog’

Coast Guard couldn’t make it. They were super busy helping the TSA foil terrorists.

Mattis: ‘I go by Jim,’ not ‘Mad Dog’
The soldier can brag about that pushup if he wants, but it won’t count with his feet that far apart.

Just salute, better to be laughed at than shark attacked.

Mattis: ‘I go by Jim,’ not ‘Mad Dog’
But really, why does an anchor outrank a crow? Navy Ranks are weird.

But hey, at least they don’t have to wear PT Belts.

Mattis: ‘I go by Jim,’ not ‘Mad Dog’
Both groups also get into adorable shenanigans while everyone is working.

 Be afraid, be very afraid.

Mattis: ‘I go by Jim,’ not ‘Mad Dog’
It’s all fun until she takes away your breath with a Ka-Bar through the ribs.

That’s why they have planes.

Mattis: ‘I go by Jim,’ not ‘Mad Dog’
You don’t need to run when you can project force from those comfy chairs.

Notice the National Guard sticker on the cabinet?

Mattis: ‘I go by Jim,’ not ‘Mad Dog’
You’re going in well after the Marines. Judging by that recruiter’s lack of a deployment patch, you might never go.

Whatever, the Marine is the only one working right now.

Mattis: ‘I go by Jim,’ not ‘Mad Dog’
He’s collecting intelligence. VERY detailed intelligence.

The sweet, sweet purr of the warthog

Mattis: ‘I go by Jim,’ not ‘Mad Dog’
BRRRR is just how they clear phlegm from their throat and enemy fighters from the ground.

You start off motivated …

Mattis: ‘I go by Jim,’ not ‘Mad Dog’
Just wait until you leave the retention office and realize you re-upped.

NOW: The Nazis had insane ‘superweapon’ ideas that were way ahead of their time

OR: Check out 13 more funniest memes of the week

MIGHTY TRENDING

Netanyahu says he’s warned Europe of Iran’s danger

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calling Iran the “most potent force of militant Islam,” says he has warned Europe of possible Iranian attacks on its soil.

Speaking to reporters on Nov. 1, 2018, after talks with his Bulgarian counterpart in Sofia, Netanyahu said radical Islam is a threat to the world and that Israel has recently revealed a number of Iranian plots to carry out attacks on European soil.

Netanyahu did not provide details, but cases involving alleged Iranian plots to attack Iranian opposition groups or figures in both France and Denmark have emerged in recent months.


The Israeli premier’s warnings about Iranian plots in Europe have been part of his campaign to pressure European nations to take a tougher stance toward Tehran.

Israel was one of the only countries to side with the United States in its decision to pull out of Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and reimpose sanctions.

Mattis: ‘I go by Jim,’ not ‘Mad Dog’

The ministers of foreign affairs of France, Germany, the European Union, Iran, the United Kingdom, and the United States as well as Chinese and Russian diplomats announcing the framework for a Comprehensive agreement on the Iranian nuclear program, April 2, 2015.

European countries refused to follow suit, and European powers Germany, France, and Britain have been working with Iran to keep the nuclear agreement in place and circumvent U.S. sanctions.

Ahead of his trip to Bulgaria, Netanyahu said his goal is to “change the hostile and hypocritical approach of the European Union” on matters like Iran and the Palestinian question.

Netanyahu is meeting on Nov. 2, 2018, in Bulgaria’s Black Sea city of Varna with European leaders he views as more “friendly” in the Craiova Forum, which includes the prime ministers of Bulgaria, Greece, and Romania, as well as the president of Serbia.

“This is not just a meeting of friends,” Netanyahu said. “It is also a bloc of countries with whom I want to promote my policy, to change the hypocritical and hostile attitude of the EU.”

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

Articles

This Marine saved his squad from insurgents after he took shrapnel to the leg

A Marine who fought off an Afghan insurgent assault despite painful shrapnel wounds to the leg said his bravery under fire was all in a day’s work.


Staff Sgt. Robert Van Hook, a critical skills operator attached to 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, received the Silver Star on Jan. 15 during a ceremony at the headquarters of Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, or Marsoc, near Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, for heroism in battle during a 2013 deployment to Herat province, Afghanistan.

In an interview days after receiving the military’s third-highest award for bravery, Van Hook recalled the events of that day of action.

Van Hook, a 27-year-old native of Nokesville, Virginia, had been serving as the element leader for Marine Special Operations Team 8224, Special Operations Task Force West. A former reconnaissance Marine, Van Hook had been to Iraq once and was on his third deployment to Afghanistan.

His team had begun its operation late at night Aug. 14. They planned to clear a village of insurgents in preparation for a visit by local Afghan National Army, or ANA, leaders to the region the following day. As they moved into the region around 2 or 3 a.m., Van Hook said, the team spotted two who appeared to be “walking with intent” and exhibiting other suspicious behaviors.

On Van Hook’s order, the Marine team took cover and maneuvered closer to observe the men, eventually watching them link up with eight others at the back of a building. All were armed with AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and other weapons he said, and as they communicated in Pashto over their radios, Van Hook could make out words like “bomb.”

Taking advantage of the element of surprise, he “executed a hasty ambush” on the men, according to his medal citation, killing four and wounding two more. Then he and his team cleared the building from which the insurgents were operating, using their own guns and hand grenades. One more insurgent was taken hostage inside, and two more were detained.

Despite the intensity of this ambush under cover of darkness, Van Hook said he was able to keep a cool head as he aggressively charged into an enemy position.

“We train like we fight here,” Van Hook said. “Our training is as realistic as we can possibly get it. It’s almost second nature at this point.”

Daybreak found Van Hook and his team in a building providing over-watch defense for a sister Marine Special Operations Team as they brought in ANA officials for a key leader engagement with elders from the region.

“The area was highly destabilized. We wanted to get high-ranking leaders with the Afghan army to show their presence,” Van Hook explained. “We knew the area had a lot of insurgents in it and they had freedom of movement.”

The engagement went as planned, with little more than sporadic “pop shots” at the Marines while the leaders were present. But as the ANA detachment pulled away, all that changed.

“You could almost see their tail lights crossing the horizon when the attack started to kick off,” Van Hook said.

A sniper on the ground started targeting the two Marine teams. As Van Hook’s team began returning fire with recoilless rifles and machine guns, the insurgents directed the bulk of their fire at them. As the onslaught became overwhelming, Van Hook ordered a Marine who had been manning an MK-19 grenade launcher on the roof to take cover.

“If your head was just over the wall, you were getting shot in the Kevlar,” he said.

Later, though, when Van Hook got word from the other Marine element that it was being targeted on three sides, he grabbed another Marine and charged back out to take control of the MK-19 once more.

As he fired the big gun, Van Hook successfully drew the brunt of the enemy attack onto his position, taking the pressure off the other element and allowing them to regain their advantage. He fired on the insurgents until one of them shot an RPG into the rooftop position, knocking Van Hook and the other Marine unconscious and wounding them with shrapnel.

When Van Hook regained consciousness, he saw that the MK-19 had rolled over his leg, which had been pierced by shrapnel and had blood pooling under it. The other Marine had been apparently wounded in the back, and Van Hook moved to put pressure on the wound, and push the Marine to cover, despite the pain in his own leg.

Then, he manned the gun once more and continued to fire on the enemy fighters. When he looked down and saw that the pool of blood under his leg had grown larger, he applied a tourniquet to the leg and kept on fighting.

Finally, one of MARSOC’s special amphibious reconnaissance corpsmen convinced Van Hook to leave the roof for a medical examination. At this point, the Marine was in intense pain and couldn’t feel anything below the ankle of his wounded leg due to a nerve injury.

But, Van Hook said, “I could still think, and I realized there were gaps in my security, so I wanted to support as much as possible.”

With two Marines wounded and an ANA soldier who was fighting with them in bad shape from being shot in the face, the decision was made to organize a casualty evacuation. Instead of laying back and resting, Van Hook teamed up with another Marine who had a recoilless rifle, identifying insurgent targets so he could shoot at them.

Then, with the medical evacuation, or medevac, chopper approaching, he began calling in “danger close” suppressive 120mm mortar fire around the landing zone to allow the bird to land safely. Once on board, Van Hook said he felt not relief, but frustration.

“The last thing a Marine wants to do is leave other Marines behind and I was pretty irritated at that point,” he said.

But the day wasn’t over; while aboard the aircraft, the Afghan soldier collapsed, and Van Hook and the other Marine provided triage care, taking advantage of their extensive medical training.

Looking back on the day, Van Hook was unassuming about his accomplishments.

“This is the job we signed up for,” he said. “Everybody understands the positions you’re going to be put in once you become a [Marine] Raider. Once I found out that the award went through, it was the biggest dose of humble pie I’ve ever experienced.”

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This insane cavalry charge inspired Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”

“Forward, the Light Brigade! ‘Charge for the guns!’ he said: Into the valley of Death. Rode the six hundred.”

This was part of Lord Alfred Tennyson’s poem about how much of a cluster f*** the Battle of Balaclava truly ended up being. It is also the subject of Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper.”


The song directly states, “And as I lay forgotten and alone. Without a tear I draw my parting groan,” as a tribute to unnamed troops who were killed that day. In the many years that have since passed, letters have been discovered of first hand testimony of the ill-fated battle.

From 1853-1856, French, British, and Ottoman forces fought against the Russian Empire in the Crimean War. Conflict began after the Russians occupied Ottoman territory in modern day Romania. Within this war, the most infamous battle was at Balaclava where “The Charge of the Light Brigade” took place.

Mattis: ‘I go by Jim,’ not ‘Mad Dog’
(Photo via Wikimedia)

Under the command of Maj. General James Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan, the light cavalry brigade consisted of roughly 670 men. Lord Raglan, the Commander of the British forces, intended to prevent Russian troops from maintaining their guns on Ottoman positions.

 

Related: The story of ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ makes your officers look pretty smart

There are many historical discrepancies on who ordered the actual charge, but the fact remains: the cavalrymen charged directly into enemy cannons, killing roughly a sixth of brigade and another sixth wounded, totaling 271 casualties.

It was later discovered that the Russians numbered 5,240 strong.

Mattis: ‘I go by Jim,’ not ‘Mad Dog’
Officer of the 17th Lancers (Painting via Cranston Fine Arts)

An unknown officer of the 17th Lancers wrote in a recently discovered letter, “We all knew the thing was desperate before we started, and it was even worse than we thought. However there was no hesitation, down our fellows went at a gallop — through a fire in front and on both flanks, which emptied our saddles and knocked over our horses by scores. I do not think that one man flinched in the whole Brigade — though every one allows that so hot a fire was hardly ever seen.”

The loyalty of the British cavalry became well respected. The London Gazette wrote of the charge weeks after. While the commanders became despised, the troops were revered for their courage in the face of certain death.

Private Pearson of the 4th Light Dragoons wrote to his parents, “I shall never forget the 25th of October — shells, bullets, cannonballs, and swords kept flying around us. Dear Mother, every time I think of my poor comrades it makes my blood run cold, to think how we had to gallop over the poor wounded fellows lying on the field of battle, with anxious looks for assistance — what a sickening scene!”

Mattis: ‘I go by Jim,’ not ‘Mad Dog’
(Photo by Roger Fenton via Wikimedia)

Roger Fenton is regarded as one of the first war photographers and was present at the charge. Fenton refused to photograph dead or wounded as to not upset Victorian Era sensibilities, but he did capture troops and many moments after.

This photo that J. Paul Getty Museum called “one of the most well-known images of war” shows the aftermath of cannonballs that littered the landscape. The photograph titled “Valley of the Shadow of Death” has been on exhibition with the over 300 other images of the Crimean War

Mattis: ‘I go by Jim,’ not ‘Mad Dog’
(Photo by Roger Fenton via Library of Congress)

Today, the Light Brigade is remembered in the song “The Trooper.” Bruce Dickinson frequently on tour wears the British “red coat” smock as he waves a war-torn Union Jack. There has never been a more appropriate time to form a wall of death in the mosh pit.

Mattis: ‘I go by Jim,’ not ‘Mad Dog’
(Photo via Wikimedia)

Check out Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper” here, in all its glory: