She is the leader of the pack, so to speak, of the Class of 2021 at the US Military Academy at West Point, and the first black woman to hold the position.
That Cadet Askew shattered West Point’s glass ceiling is no small measure — no small measure in the armed forces, for sure, and no small measure of 21st century America.
The military, like the world of business, has long been considered a man’s world.
And the telltale signs of war, peace and tribalism reflect where we’ve been, where we are and where we’re headed. Cadet Askew and her teammates are leading America across a new threshold.
For one, West Point is the oldest of our military academies. It was founded after President Thomas Jefferson, who had not served in the military but became commander in chief when he was sworn into office, signed the Military Peace Establishment Act in 1802. The act specified that the academy be established along the Hudson River in New York.
One of the largest footprints Cadet Askew is stepping into belongs to Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, West Point’s first black cadet captain and now commander of US Forces Korea.
“We are role models to a lot of young people, not just African-Americans and soldiers,” the now 58-year-old Gen. Brooks once said.
Indeed, America’s current state of affairs proves that America’s future leaders will have much with which to contend. Geneneral Brooks, who, like Cadet Askew, attended high school in Fairfax County, Virginia, is staring down the barrel of the North Korea nuclear threat.
On the home front, civil unrest and tensions among various cultural factions make the rounds of daily news and undistilled social media every day.
Remember Shoshana Johnson and Jessica Lynch, the two soldiers who were captured in Iraq in 2003 during the “global war on terror”? The Marines rescued both, and both wrote successful biographies.
They, too, became role models even though their capture spawned anew the debate over whether women should even serve in combat areas.
Cadet Askew, 20, had barely entered grade school at the time.
Cadet Askew not only is making history, she is studying it as well. In fact, her major is international history, an ever-changing subject in this ever-changing world of ours.
She also loves volleyball and is on the West Point crew team — understanding, as too many of America’s political leaders and wannabe political leaders do not, that team sports give you a different perspective on leadership.
The media gave anyone interested a glimpse of Cadet Simone Askew in her new role as first captain of cadets at West Point, leading the Long Grey Line of cadets on a 12-mile basic training trek — smiling all the way.
Cadet Askew already sounds like she’s preparing the Army Class of 2021 for the history books.
“It’s humbling,” she said, “but also exciting as I step into this new opportunity to lead the corps to greatness with my teammates with me.”
After serving in Iraq, Army veteran Casey Tylek created a Tumblr blog that helps veterans during the transition to civilian life.
Tylek said he was inspired to begin the page, called justWarthings, after feeling disconnected from his peers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst because of his military experience.
“At the beginning of every semester it was always the same thing,” Tylek told We Are The Mighty. “Kids would ask if I was in ROTC or was a veteran, and [about] what I did and where I was. Without fail, a student who [had] just met me would ask with wide eyes and a big smile if I killed anyone. I didn’t know how to respond.”
In his view, most students — having seen popular movies and video games like “Black Hawk Down” and “Call of Duty” — expected to hear a yes from Tylek, who served in Baghdad with the 101st Airborne Division in 2009.
“They view our soldiers [as] robotic killing machines who are untouchable in combat,” Tylek said. “And they want that to be you so they can ask all the gory details and raise you to hero status in their minds.”
justWarthings is modeled after the viral internet page justgirlythings, another Tumblr blog that uses stock photos and overlayed text to communicate themes that are supposedly universal to teenage girls. After his own experience in combat, Tylek realized how unrealistic civilian views of warfare can be, and he decided his blog could provide a wake-up call.
“I hope people see what war really is — a massive waste of life and resources — a messy, scary, horrific thing,” Tylek said. “And yet, I hope they see a little about why we do it, the bond that we have with our fellow soldiers is a lot of times closer than the bond that we have with our own families.”
Tylek also told WATM that he created the blog in memory of his best friend, Spc. Joe Kenny, who died while serving in Mosul.
Check out more of the powerful collection of images from justWarthings:
Politicians hold important positions of power, but their job looks boring as hell. Politicians and political writers like to spice up their stories by using military language like “ambush” while describing a heated discussion at the country club, or “the nuclear option” to explain a change in procedural rules in Congress.
The language definitely spices up the stories, but it sounds ridiculous to people who have actually been ambushed or had to contemplate a true nuclear option. Here are 13 terms that make politicians sound melodramatic.
An ambush is a surprise attack launched from a concealed position against an unsuspecting enemy. Some politicians have been ambushed like Julias Caesar or Charles Sumner. But this term gets used to describe things like Republicans proposing a law the Democrats don’t like. That’s not an ambush. It’s just the legislative process.
2. Bite the bullet
Associated with battlefield medicine before anesthetic, to “bite the bullet” is to face down adversity without showing fear or pain. The term is thought to come from battlefield wounded biting bullets to make it through surgery while fully awake. Obviously, politicians on a committee finally doing their jobs shouldn’t be equated with soldiers enduring traumatic medical treatment without anesthesia.
3. Boots on the ground
Boots on the ground has a relatively short history that the BBC investigated. Surprise, it’s a military term. It is used by politicians and most senior military to refer to troops specifically deployed in a ground combat role. “Boots on the ground” numbers don’t generally count Marines guarding embassies or Special Forces advising foreign governments.
What’s surprising is that, though the term is used so narrowly when referring to military operations, it’s used so broadly when referring to political volunteers. Any group of college students knocking on doors or putting up pamphlets can be called “boots-on-the-ground,” even if the volunteers are all wearing tennis shoes and flip-flops.
Not every “D-Day” for the military is the Normandy landings of 1944, but D-Day is still a big deal. It’s the day an operation will kick off, when after months of planning some troops will assault an enemy village or begin a bombing campaign of hostile military bases. In politics, the terms is used to describe election day. This is weird to vets for two reasons. First, D-Day is the first day of an operation, while election day is the final day of an election campaign. But worse, D-Day is when friendly and enemy troops will meet in combat, killing each other. For politicians, it’s when they get a new job or find out they better update their resume.
5. Front lines
The forward most units of a military force, pressed as close to the enemy’s army as the commander will allow, form the frontline. This is typically a physically dangerous place to be, since that means they’re generally within enemy rifle and artillery range. Contrast that with politicians “on the front lines,” who may sit next to their “enemy” and exchange nothing more lethal than passive-aggressive banter.
6. In the crosshairs
Obvious to anyone who has used a rifle scope or watched a sniper movie, someone who is in the crosshairs is in peril of being shot very soon. Political parties who are sparring in the media do not typically find their leaders, “in the enemy’s crosshairs,” as Sarah Palin wrote in a Facebook post according to the Associated Press. Political parties generally fight through press releases and tweets, significantly less dangerous than using rifles.
7. In the trenches
Politicians love to describe themselves as veterans who have spent years in the trenches. Trenches aren’t used much in modern warfare, mostly because of just how horrible trenches are even for a winning army. Trenches fill with water, bugs, and rats. They’re claustrophobic and are easily targeted by enemy artillery and bombers, so they’re a dangerous defense to stay in. Politicians spend very little time in these. When politicians say they were “in the trenches,” they’re generally referring to fundraisers at local restaurants. Oh, the horror.
8. Line of fire
The Guardian once published an article titled “General in the line of fire,” which sounds bloody and dangerous, but is actually about a bunch of attorney generals experiencing harsh criticism, not incoming rounds. The line of fire is the area where all the bullets are flying as enemies try to kill someone. Political lines of fire are just where reporters are asking a lot of hard questions.
9. Nuclear option
Putin has a nuclear option. The U.S. Senate has some control over a nuclear option. However, when Congress changed the rules for a fillibuster, that wasn’t the nuclear option. That was a change in procedural bylaws. It’s easy to tell the difference. One destroys entire cities in moments. The other makes it harder to block a presidential nominee for office.
A scorched-earth political campaign is when a politician is willing to break alliances to win. True scorched earth though, comes when an army breaches the enemy border and starts destroying everything in their path. Atlanta suffered real scorched earth when Maj. Gen. William Sherman burnt the city nearly to the ground while destroying railroads on his way to Savannah.
11. Shock and awe
Like “blitzkrieg” and “all-out war” before it, “shock and awe” is now a popular phrase for describing a political struggle where one side has engaged every asset at their disposal. However, when political fights actually reach the level of blitzkriegs or Operation Shock and Awe, that’s called a civil war. When a politician is spending a bunch of money or smearing an opponent, that’s called campaigning. Completely different things.
12. Take no prisoners
Combat soldiers frequently have to decide whether to try and take prisoners or kill anyone who doesn’t immediately surrender. Politicians, however, should never be in a situation where they decide to take no prisoners. They have an office job. They should only be deciding whether to take a phone call, or whether to take a dump.
13. The War Room/The Situation Room
James Carville and George Stephanopoulos ran President Bill Clinton’s “War Room” for the 1992 elections while Wolf Blitzer anchors the news for CNN from The Situation Room, which CNN describes as “The command center for breaking news.” First, while Clinton’s 1992 run was tumultuous, nothing going into the War Room was on par with combat operations. Second, Wolf Blitzer is not the commander of anything. He’s a photogenic TV personality. Carville was in a political strategy room. Blitzer works in a newsroom.
It’s been more than two decades since the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina ended, but Plamenko Priganica knows the enemy still lurks in the Majevica hills near his home in Tuzla.
Priganica is one of the thousands to have become a victim of land mines planted during the 1992-95 conflict that tore the country — and the former Yugoslavia — apart at its ethnic seams.
“The killer is still waiting 25 years after the war,” the 57-year-old, who lost his left leg below the knee, told RFE/RL from his home.
The Bosnian government’s Mine Action Strategy for 2009-19 was supposed to put an end to the fears of Priganica and the half a million other Bosnians who live in or around areas where leftover mines remain. Instead, the fields and forests where many still scavenge for wild strawberries and mushrooms are still littered with explosives.
The 2019 target set out in the strategy for clearing all remaining ordnance will be missed by several years, according to the Bosnia-Herzegovina Mine Action Center (BHMAC), amid a funding shortfall and political inaction.
By 2013, the center estimates that less than half of the funding needed for projects was realized, a percentage that has fallen since then. While part of the problem, BHMAC says, is a decrease in donor funding, the greater issue is with government contributions to the program.
“In looking at the 2009-19 strategy, we are lagging behind by about four years. There is a new strategy and under this strategy Bosnia and Herzegovina will be clean from mines by 2025,” says Miodrag Gajic, an information officer at the center.
BHMAC estimates that while around 2,900 square kilometers of land have been cleared of explosive materials, just over 1,000 square kilometers of Bosnia — or about 2.2 percent of the country — is still polluted by mines. Nearly 600 people have been killed by mines or unexploded bombs since the war ended and more than 1,100 others have been injured, according to the center.
The highest-risk zones are often forests where the front lines that separated warring factions once ran. These include municipalities such as Velika Kladusa, Orasje, and Doboj.
In March, a farmer in Tulic, near the city of Tuzla, was dragging firewood from a forest when his tractor hit a mine. The blast killed the driver.
Nizam Cancar, a deminer who lost his leg to an explosive device in 1994 during the war, says it’s easy for such accidents to happen.
Years of harsh weather conditions have muddled what few maps authorities have of mined areas. Devices, he says, can shift under such conditions, making a dangerous situation even more treacherous.
“It’s very difficult to find them. If you put them in a particular place 20 years ago, they are no longer there. It could move a meter or two in any direction,” he says.
The problem of land mines in Bosnia once attracted international attention.
This past summer marked the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s visit to Bosnia as part of her crusade against land mines. In her last overseas trip before she died in a Paris car crash in 1997, Diana met with victims in the small village of Dobrnja, near Tuzla.
One of those Diana met was Mirzeta Gabeljic.
In 1997, Gabeljic was a 15-year-old schoolgirl returning home when she stepped on a land mine. The blast took her right leg below the knee.
Like many victims, she has struggled since her accident, given the limited resources available from the state for amputees, although now she is looking to start the country’s first sitting volleyball club for women.
According to Priganica, the provision of orthopedic supplies have not improved in the 25 years since the war.
“They can be purchased abroad, but they are very expensive,” he says.
Adding to the problem is that the large number of humanitarian organizations that worked here after the war have left, he claims, “because the focus of their interest has moved somewhere else.”
Bosnia emerged from the breakup of the former Yugoslavia as Europe’s poorest country, with gross domestic product per capita at 28 percent of the European average. Unemployment is high and corruption rampant, stunting the development of social services for large swaths of the country.
Considering the tough economic times Bosnia currently faces, BHMAC’s Gajic hopes that help from other countries will once again increase.
“Within our new strategy, we plan to have a donor conference in mid-November. This is a date where I hope we will have more bountiful donor funds,” he says.
Time is also of the essence for a task that is painstakingly slow.
Deminers try to work eight-hour shifts, but the task is so intense and angst-ridden that they must take breaks every 30 minutes to remain focused.
Squatting and searching the ground while wearing protective suits that can weigh up to 25 kilograms, deminers probe about 2,500 times just to check just 1 square meter of ground. On a good day, they will cover 50 square meters, according to Nail Hujic, a technical director at INTERSOS, a nonprofit humanitarian aid organization.
The deminers, he says, must constantly assess the type of munition they may have to deal with, how it is placed in the ground, and even the possibility of deliberate traps laid by whoever planted the land mine.
“The result of all this, as well as of inadequate equipment and mental and physical fatigue among deminers, is frequent accidents,” Hujic says. “Unfortunately, we have to say that accidents are common in this line of work. They usually leave deminers severely physically disabled, although fatalities are less frequent.”
Even if foreign donors pony up the funds needed to jump-start the clearing program, the money will come too late for Asim Kudra, who lost his uncle to a land mine when he returned home after the war to Zlatiste, near Sarajevo.
Kudra says the area was demined, but residents still live in fear.
“You cannot say that it is safe for certain, because it isn’t,” he says.
Feature image screen captured from included YouTube video
In recent years, the United States has begun to shift its military focus away from counter-terror operations and back toward the possibility of a large-scale conflict with near-peer opponents like China. Unfortunately, nearly two straight decades of the Global War on Terror has left the American defense apparatus on the wrong footing for such a war. In some important respects, America now finds itself playing catch up; working to close capability gaps that have presented themselves in Europe and the Pacific.
While America retains the largest military on the planet, it also has further reaching obligations than any other force on the planet as well. In every corner of the globe, America’s military serves in a variety of capacities, from providing a stabilizing presence, to training foreign militaries to defend themselves, to enforcing international norms on the high seas. As we’ve discussed in some depth before, America’s Navy may be huge for this era of relative global stability, but it would find itself significantly outnumbered in a Sino-American war in the Pacific. That issue becomes even more clear when you consider that the U.S. Navy couldn’t deploy the entirety of its fleet to any one waterway without leaving a number of other important interests un-guarded.
When you combine China’s rapidly growing Navy with its well-armed Coast Guard and its maritime militia, you get a positively massive 770-ship Chinese presence in the Pacific. For context, the massive U.S. Navy currently boasts only around 293 ships–and while President Trump has pushed for growth to reach a 355-ship Navy, no real plans to get there have yet to materialize. That means the U.S. Navy would be left to face China’s massive sea fairing presence while outnumbered at least two to one.
When the most powerful military in the world isn’t enough
Having a massive fleet alone isn’t enough to win a 21st century conflict on the high seas–It’s equally important that you have the right kinds of ships to leverage for specific roles.
Over the years, advancing technology has enabled the United States to move away from the massive fleets of ships and aircraft it maintained during the Second World War, and toward a lower number of assets that are capable of filling multiple roles. Ships like the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers, just like multi-role aircraft like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, are properly outfitted to serve in a number of capacities. This mindset has allowed the United States to expand its capabilities while reducing its personnel requirements and the overhead costs of maintaining far more assets with far more specialized roles.
But there are downsides to America’s love affair with “multi-role” platforms: They dramatically increase the cost of research and acquisition, and that increased cost forces purchases in fewer numbers. It also forces military assets into positions that don’t fully leverage their broad capabilities.
Three Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, the USS McCampbell (DDG 85), USS Lassen (DDG 82) and USS Shoup (DDG 86) steam in formation during a photo exercise. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Photographer’s Mate Todd P. Cichonowicz)
For some useful context into how more advanced technology has enabled the U.S. to increase capability while decreasing volume, consider that America’s military apparatus wielded a whopping 6,768 ships and an astonishing 300,000 combat airplanes at its peak during World War II. As America poured money into better military technology throughout the Cold War, it transitioned to an era of valuing technology and capability over volume, and today the U.S. Navy boasts just 293 ships, and America maintains a comparatively paltry 13,000 military aircraft.
With so many fewer platforms to utilize, these multi-role ships and airplanes are left doing a wide variety of work that has to be prioritized. Despite being capable of filling multiple roles, these platforms can often only fill one role at a time — making them more effective for strategic posturing, but less effective in a combat situation. Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers are incredibly powerful ships, equipped with a variety of guns, missiles, and torpedoes, but are often relegated to simplistic missile defense operations because of their role within the Aegis missile defense apparatus. These destroyers serve as a shining example of how a ship with a number of uses may get stuck in a single defensive role during large scale conflict.
As former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson put it, BMD (ballistic missile defense) ships are restricted to very confined operating areas that he refers to as “little boxes.”
A cargo ship packed with missiles? Really?
If the United States were to find itself on a collision course with China, one of the nation’s first priorities would be finding ways to rapidly expand both America’s military presence and strategic capabilities in the Pacific. China owns a positively massive ballistic missile stockpile (including hypersonic anti-ship missiles), which would mean missile defense would be considered a significant priority for America’s Aegis destroyers. Unfortunately, that would limit the ability for America’s destroyers to operate in a more offensive capacity, as they steamed in circles around their area of responsibility, waiting to intercept any missiles lobbed their way.
Left to right, the guided missile cruiser USS Vicksburg (CG 69), and the guided missile destroyers USS Roosevelt (DDG 80), USS Carney (DDG 64) and USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) launch a coordinated volley of missiles during a Vandel Exercise (VANDALEX). (US Navy photo)
This would be a significant waste of destroyers, which would in turn limit the capability of other battle groups that couldn’t rely on the offensive power of these warships. In a real way, America would simply need more vertical launch missile tubes (commonly referred to as VLS cells, or Vertical Launch System cells) in the Pacific to bolster both offensive and defensive operations — and it would be essential to get them as quickly and as cheaply as possible.
That’s where the idea for missile barges, or missile ships, comes into play. In a 2019 article in the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings, five experts, including a retired Navy captain and a retired Marine Corps colonel, offered their suggestion for rapidly procuring and equipping commercial cargo ships for combat operations.
“The Navy should acquire and arm merchant ships, outfitting them with modular weapons and systems to take advantage of improving technology and shipping market conditions while providing capability more rapidly and less expensively than traditional acquisition efforts.” -Captain R. Robinson Harris, U.S. Navy (Ret.); Andrew Kerr; Kenneth Adams; Christopher Abt; Michael Venn; and Colonel T. X. Hammes, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.)
The premise behind missile barges has been around for some time; after all, at its most simplistic levels, this idea boils down to “just stick a bunch of missiles on a ship you have laying around,” but what differentiates this modern missile barge concept from past iterations is the technology of our day. America has long possessed “containerized” missile platforms that would sit comfortably on the deck of large cargo ships. Further, with data-fusing supercomputers like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, America has also already demonstrated the capability of engaging targets with surface-based weapons via targeting data relayed by nearby aircraft.
Put simply, we already have modular weapon systems that would work when operated off the decks of cargo ships, and we’ve already proven that weapons of that sort can be leveraged to engage targets identified by aircraft… That means this concept would require very little in the way of infrastructure building or development–which equates to both cost and time savings.
Procuring the hulls
The first step to building a fleet of missile barges would be procuring the hulls of commercial cargo ships, which would likely be a fairly easy endeavor if a war in the Pacific were to occur. It’s estimated that as much as 1/3 of all global commerce sails across the South China Sea on an annual basis, and a conflict between the United States and China would curtail a majority of these trips–due to both the drop in trade between these two economic power houses and the perceived danger of sending commercial ships through what would effectively be the site of the greatest naval conflict in all of recorded history. As a result, purchasing these vessels would likely come at a significantly reduced cost.
Purchasing a new commercial double hulled cargo ship would normally run the United States between and million dollars, but cargo ships that are already in use can be procured on websites like NautiSNP for pennies on the dollar, with some vessels currently on the market for just over id=”listicle-2647023060″ million.
Again, a significant drop in trade through the Pacific would likely result in even greater cost savings as firms liquidate their assets in the region to recoup some of their losses.
Modifying commercial ships into missile barges
Once the U.S. Navy had procured the ships themselves, it could begin the relatively significant task of refitting them for service as missile barges. This can be accomplished in one of two ways.
The Navy could utilize containerized missile and drone assets stacked on the ship, which would make it more difficult to discern from traditional cargo vessels while dramatically reducing the actual work required to convert each ship. While the vessels would have to be marked as U.S. Navy ships and flagged as such, the similar profile to commercial ships would force the Chinese Navy to positively identify each vessel before engaging, as many weapons systems rely on inverse synthetic-aperture radar that assesses targets through little more than low-resolution profiling.
That front-end investment could be further curbed by relying on external assets like nearby Aegis destroyers for command and control, relying on the warship’s radar, targeting, and command apparatus for what is effectively little more than an arsenal ship or “floating magazine.” In this regard, missile barges would effectively serve as a supplement to a destroyer’s existing weapons loadout.
Conversely, these vessels could be modified to carry traditional VLS tubes just like those employed by America’s guided missile destroyers today. A container ship could be modified to carry a slew of vertical launch tubes carrying Tomahawk missiles in as little as three to six months. The costs would be higher, but the trade off benefit would be utilizing the same basic systems found on other Navy ships, reducing the required training and logistical concerns associated with standing up a different weapon system.
Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Charles Coleman inspects missile cell hatches on one of two Vertical Launching Systems (VLS) aboard the guided missile cruiser USS Hue City (CG 66). The VLS is capable of launching numerous missiles including the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile and SM-2 Standard Missile. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Charles E. Hill)
As the proposal in Proceedings suggests, it would be important for the Navy to carefully consider how many missile barges they intended to build, and how many missiles they intend to keep on each.
While it’s possible to place more than a hundred VLS tubes and associated missiles on one of these vessels, that would represent both a massive expense and a massive target for the Chinese military. Instead, the proposal suggests converting 10 to 15 cargo ships into missile barges, each carrying between 30 and 50 Tomahawk missiles. That would limit the potential losses if such a vessel were lost, while giving it enough firepower to benefit the Navy’s overarching strategy.
(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Jimmy C. Pan)
The hybrid-crew model
Of course, another shortfall we have yet to discuss in a Pacific conflict could very well be trained Sailors. As the U.S. Navy rapidly procured and modified ships into missile barges, it would also have to rapidly staff these vessels — which likely wouldn’t be feasible leveraging a traditional Navy recruiting pipeline. Instead, the hybrid crew model proposed by Navy Captain Chris Rawley seems most logical.
Each missile barge would have a crew comprised of both U.S. Navy officers and civilian sailors that have experience operating these commercial vessels. By recruiting from the private sector, the U.S. Navy could rapidly field these ships with crews that are already trained and proficient at the tasks they’d be assigned, while placing Naval officers in command of the vessel and in other essential combat roles.
By using a military command element, operating missile barges in war with a crew made up in part of civilians would still be legal under international law. Indeed, this model is already in use aboard some specific Naval vessels, like the recently decommissioned USS Ponce amphibious transport dock.
These missile barges could be crewed with as few as 30 people, split between U.S. Navy and civilian personnel. Because the missile payloads would not come close to these ship’s total capacity, they could also utilize buoyant cargo sealed in the hull to help make these ships more survivable in the event of an attack.
It’s possible that these ships could be crewed by even fewer people in the near future, as the Navy has already earmarked 0 million in the 2020 budget for the development of two large unmanned surface ships. The Navy’s Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vessel dubbed “Sea Hunter” has already successfully traversed the open ocean between San Diego and Hawaii all on its own, demonstrating the capability for unmanned Navy ships to come.
Are missile barges actually realistic?
Although the U.S. Navy is in the early stages of what may come to be a transformative era, it seems unlikely that the United States would shift away from its current love affair with high-cost, multi-role platforms any time soon. The new USS Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers serve as a good example of how the U.S. military prefers new, shiny, and expensive hardware over old, rusty, and more cost efficient options. While some within the Defense Department are questioning the future of America’s supercarriers, the alternative posited is usually something akin to smaller, but still rather large and expensive Lightning Carriers built for short-take off, vertical landing F-35Bs.
However, it’s important to note that the Navy of today is a product of the past fifty years of foreign policy posturing, but that may not be the right Navy to see us through a return to large scale conflict. Today, war with China remains a distant threat, but as that threat looms closer, we may see a transition in the Navy’s mindset similar to that of the Air Force’s recent push for “attritable” aircraft to bolster our small volume of high-capability assets.
Attritable, a word seemingly designed to give copy editors stress wrinkles, is the term used by the U.S. Air Force to describe platforms that are cheap enough to be used aggressively, with some degree of losses considered acceptable. This has led the Air Force to investing in drones like the Kratos Valkyrie, which is a low-observable drone capable of carrying two small-diameter bombs for ground strikes while costing only a few million dollars a piece.
Kratos Valkyrie (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Hoskins)
While it would cost more than a few million dollars to field each missile barge, the price may still be discounted enough to be considered attritable when compared to billion behemoths like the Ford. As unmanned ships become more common, and as a result, more affordable, it may become even more cost effective to leverage existing commercial hulls as a means of offsetting China’s huge numbers advantage in the Pacific.
Does it seem likely that the U.S. Navy would start strapping missiles to old container ships any time soon? The answer is a resounding no, but if America and China continue on this collision course, America’s defense apparatus may find itself being forced to make some hard decisions about just how much capability it can squeeze out of America’s already massive defense budget. If that day comes, missile barges may represent one of the most cost effective force multipliers America could leverage.
The suspected mastermind of the Paris attacks that killed 129 people was killed in a massive police raid north of Paris Wednesday.
The raid was conducted by over 100 police officers and soldiers who rushed into an apartment building in Saint-Denis and attacked the apartment at 4:16 a.m., according to the Washington Post. The reinforced door stayed close, triggering a seven-hour siege.
“Allah blinded their vision and I was able to leave… despite being chased after by so many intelligence agencies,” he told Dabiq, an ISIS magazine.
“All this proves that a Muslim should not fear the bloated image of the crusader intelligence,” he added. “My name and picture were all over the news yet I was able to stay in their homeland, plan operations against them, and leave safely when doing so became necessary.”
Apparently, Abaaoud’s luck ran out. Abaaoud’s cousin also died in the raid when she detonated a suicide device, according to Fox News.
The raid came after French police received a tip from a waiter. The raid was part of a larger effort to prevent a potential follow-up attack aimed at Paris’s financial district, French officials told The Washington Post.
One police dog was killed in the raid, a 7-year-old named Diesel.
France’s military and police forces were already fighting the international terror organization before Friday’s Paris attacks, but have launched an increased number of police raids and military airstrikes since they suffered the worst attack on their territory since World War II.
A Royal Air Force Reaper MQ9A remote piloted aircraft interrupted a planned public execution that Islamic State of Iraq and Syria attempted to carry out earlier this month, giving the would-be victims of the terrorist group a chance to escape.
According to a May 19, 2017 British Ministry of Defence release, the Reaper was over the Syrian village of Abu Kamal on May 9 when it noticed ISIS fighters gathering civilians in the village. When the crew saw that the ISIS fighters were removing two prisoners from a van, they chose to act.
Unable to directly target the would-be executioners due to the British rules of engagement that require the minimization of civilian casualties, the Reaper crew instead fired a single AGM-114 Hellfire missile at the roof of a building where two other ISIS terrorists were acting as sentries. The missile killed one of the tangos outright, and sent both the crowd of civilians and ISIS scrambling for cover.
The ultimate fate of the would-be victims is not known.
AmericanMilitaryNews.com reports that such executions are becoming more common as ISIS loses ground to Iraqi and Kurdish forces. ISIS was known for a series of beheading videos released since 2014, including one earlier this month of an alleged spy for Russia. A British subject, Mohammed Emwazi, also known as “Jihadi John” was one of the more notorious executioners until he was killed by a strike carried out by American and British UAVs.
According to the RAF’s web site, the British Reaper MQ9A, which is assigned to XIII Squadron, 39 Squadron, and 54 Squadron, is usually armed with four AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and two GBU-12 laser-guided bombs. The MQ-9 is also used by the United States Air Force, the Italian Air Force, Royal Netherlands Air Force, French Air Force, and United States Customs and Border Protection.
There’s always a certain tension when two servicemen meet for the first time. The nature of the tension often varies based on branch, job, and life experience. One might reasonably expect a grunt, for instance, to size up another grunt, the tension of two warriors vying for dominance. When fellow Havok Journal denizen and POG Paul and I met up to discuss life, the universe, and the peculiarities of Fort Bragg, the tension was less caveman and more tired old men trying not to pick up hepatitis at any of Fayetteville’s fine dining establishments.
As tends to happen when two writers meet, the conversation meandered around, covering everything from sports (if you think men are less emotional than women, wait til football season) to observations on military culture. Paul had one observation in particular that, try as I might, I was utterly unable to refute.
When you get down to it, there’s not a whole lot of difference between the apocryphal hipster and the GWOT vet.
Think about it for a moment. Beards- check. Tattoos- check. Insular culture that seems strange and unwelcoming to the outsider- check. Highly specific and objectively strange tastes in fashion (clothing, haircuts, etc)- check.
The only real differences are the typical veteran’s penchant for guns and hyper masculine attitude. Both communities eat some weird-ass food. Which is more strange, Mongolian Tex-Mex fusion, or dumping a bunch of MRE entrees in a pot and drowning it in Texas Pete? Both communities tend to enjoy things ironically. You can’t tell me you haven’t seen a bunch of dudes blasting Katy Perry in the motor pool, dancing, and lip-syncing their little hearts out.
I had the dubious privilege of being dragged through the Williamsburg community in Brooklyn a few months back, and I have to say, I was reminded of nothing so much as a trip to the PX on Bragg. Swap out T-shirts proclaiming one’s status as a sheepdog for highwater jeans and up the average muscle mass by about 30% and you’d hardly be able to tell the difference.
And as much as the veteran community likes to rag on hipsters for being whiny and entitled, we’re just as bad, when you get right down to it. Attack any one of our sacred cows and we come out in force, screaming and hollering and slinging mud at anyone who dares disrespect us.
And yet, despite our vast collection of similarities, the veteran community and hipster community more or less hate each other. To the hipster, the average veteran is an uncultured killer who is just a swastika away from being a Nazi. To the veteran, the average hipster is an emasculated crybaby who’s just a stubbed toe away from dissolving into tears and blaming Trump for hard surfaces.
Where does all this hate come from?
There’s a phenomenon known as the narcissism of small differences. The term was first coined by Sigmund Freud in 1917 to describe the reason why similar communities so often find themselves at each other’s throats. We’ll gloss over the psychobabble and get down to the meat of the matter: In order to preserve a sense of uniqueness, communities often become hypersensitive to the little things that separate them from other groups. By exaggerating the differences and attacking them, individuals and groups can maintain their sense of identity in the face of overwhelming similarities.
This phenomenon has been witnessed time and time again over the centuries. Ever wonder why two tribes who live a short distance away from each other and have broadly similar cultures and beliefs have so often tried to kill each other? That’s why. They get all hung up on the little things, and the next thing you know, Catholics and Protestants spend a couple centuries tearing Europe apart in war after war.
In this case, hipsters and veterans have been locked in a culture war for the last decade. Only, the veterans have won. Hipsters don’t really exist anymore, outside of a few enclaves like Williamsburg, or in the fevered ranting of veteran Internet personalities. Veteran culture has swelled and expanded, united by a common experience provided by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and empowered by the World Wide Web.
We have all but supplanted hipsters in modern society, and in the process, we’ve become the new hipsters. We have stared into the abyss, and the abyss gave us a sense of entitlement and way, way too much beard.
When spending more time at home, especially with kids in tow, outside time can be essential to getting through the day. But when rain strikes — or the cold makes its way back into our supposed spring — weather throws an entire wrench into the mix. That means finding new and creative ways to stay busy all day long. From playing indoor games, to streaming movies from resources offering up free material during the pandemic, you can use these tips for a household that’s happily entertained.
The best part about cooking is that once you’re done, you get to eat! Keep your kids — or just yourself — busy with cooking, baking or all of the above. Get creative with whatever ingredients are in the house (it’s weird times when it comes to groceries these days!), or opt for family faves that everyone will love, like desserts, dinner and more. This is no DFac experience, of course, so pull out all the stops and truly enjoy your time.
Grab an apron and put on a favorite song and spend a few hours in the kitchen to pass this rainy, dreary day!
Make a fort
Set up a tent inside the home, or even in the garage. Suddenly every activity is fun and overt, simply because you’re playing with toys in a tent! Parents looking to make real soldiers out of their kids can even encourage an outdoor tent to teach survivalist skills that can be used later in life. However, there’s a fine line between fun and ridiculous tasks, walk it lightly.
Either way, marshmallows are encouraged.
Make a tornado in a jar. Explore with sensory bins. Drop food coloring into different liquids, mix colors to make new colors, and more. Put your best Pinterest searching skills to work and find fun science experiments that can keep kids of all ages busy throughout the day.
Or, for the adults among us, see what cleaning supplies you can make from items in your house.
Stream free resources
Now more than ever you can find tons of free content online. Get your use out of your Internet subscription and take advantage of unique content you can’t normally watch!
Frozen’s Josh Gad is reading bedtime stories
Trolls is Free for Download
The Metropolitan Opera is streaming past performances
Classic sporting events and documentaries can be streamed
Pick your poison! There’s so much free stuff to choose from right now, you can truly take in some new scenes, without ever leaving the comfort of your cozy living room.
Look at old photos
Who doesn’t like looking at days of the past? Pictures are a fun reminder of who and where you used to be. Previous duty stations, old friends and younger days abound. With kids, you can tell stories about each picture for a fun way to teach them about their past and yours, too.
Over the weekend, real-estate mogul and GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump said he did not like “losers,” like US Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), in reference to McCain’s 2008 presidential election loss to President Barack Obama.
“I never liked him after that, because I don’t like losers,” Trump said.
He then dug into McCain’s military career. Trump said the US Navy veteran imprisoned for nearly six years in Vietnam was not a “war hero.” He quickly caveated that statement.
“He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured,” Trump said.
Amid the backlash, Trump has accused the media of taking his remarks about McCain’s military record out of context in an interview with NBC’s “Today” show.
McCain has talked and written extensively about his service and his experience as a prisoner of war.
On October 26, 1967, then-US Navy Lieutenant Commander John McCain’s A-4 Skyhawk was shot down over Vietnam.
“I reacted automatically the moment I took the hit and saw my wing was gone. I radioed, ‘I’m hit,’ reached up, and pulled the ejection seat handle. I struck part of the airplane, breaking my left arm, my right arm in three places, and my right knee, and I was briefly knocked unconscious by the force of the ejection.”
Writing in 2000 memoir “Faith Of My Fathers,” this is how McCain describes the moment he became a prisoner of war for nearly six years. He continues:
“I landed in the middle of the lake (Truc Bach Lake), in the middle of the city, in the middle of the day. An escape attempt would have been challenging.”
Wearing approximately 50 pounds of gear and not being able to use either of his broken arms to deploy his life vest, McCain sank to the bottom of the shallow lake. He managed to inflate his life vest by pulling the plastic toggle with his teeth and shot to the surface. Floating in the lake, McCain fell in and out of consciousness until a group of Vietnamese villagers pulled him out of the water.
McCain being pulled from Trúc Bạch Lake in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
“Several hundred Vietnamese gathered around me, shouting wildly, stripping my clothes off, spitting on me, kicking and striking me repeatedly. When they had finished removing my gear and clothes, I felt a sharp pain in my right knee. I looked down and saw that my right foot was resting next to my left knee, at a 90-degree angle … Someone smashed a rifle butt into my shoulder, breaking it. Someone else stuck a bayonet in my ankle and groin.”
Before the angry mob could do more harm, Vietnamese soldiers arrived and transported McCain to Hoa Lo, a French-built prison.
“As the massive steel doors loudly clanked shut behind me, I felt a deeper dread than I have ever felt since … for the next few days I drifted in and out of consciousness. When awake, I was periodically taken to another room for interrogation. “
McCain was accused of being a war criminal and tortured until he shared classified military information in exchange for medical attention. As he refused to reveal more than his name, rank, and date of birth, his condition steadily worsened.
“For four days I was taken back and forth to different rooms. Unable to use my arms, I was fed twice a day by a guard. I vomited after the meals, unable to hold down anything but a little tea. I remember being desperately thirsty all the time, but I could drink only when the guard was present for my twice-daily feedings.”
McCain, who was forced to lay in a puddle of his own vomit and other bodily wastes, became feverish and lost consciousness frequently and for longer periods of time.
One day the camp officer, who the PO Ws called Bug and who McCain referred to as “a mean son of b—-,” entered his filthy cell to examine his injuries.
“Are you going to take me to the hospital? I asked.
“No,” he replied. “It’s too late.”
“Take me to the hospital and I’ll get well.”
“It’s too late,” he repeated.
Hopeless, McCain assumed we would die and began mentally prepping himself of his approaching death; but a few hours later, Bug rushed into his cell and shouted: “Your father is a big admiral. Now we take you to the hospital.”
“A couple of days later I found myself lying in a filthy room about twenty by twenty feet, lousy with mosquitoes and rats. Every time it rained, an inch of mud and water would pool on the floor … I received no treatment for my injuries. No one even bothered to wash the grime off me.”
Meanwhile, McCain’s interrogators continued to pressure him for more information and threatened to terminate his medical treatment if he did not cooperate.
“I gave them the names of the Green Bay Packers’ offensive line, and said they were members of my squadron. When asked to identify future targets, I simply recited the names of a number of North Vietnamese cities that had already been bombed.”
Since McCain could not feed himself, a young boy was assigned to feeding him. The boy forced three spoonfuls of food down McCain’s throat twice a day. There were usually leftovers, which the boy helped himself to in front of McCain.
Two months into his captivity, McCain underwent an operation on his leg.
“The Vietnamese filmed the operation, I haven’t a clue why. Regrettably, the operation wasn’t much of a success. The doctors severed all the ligaments on one side of my knee, which has never fully recovered.”
Shortly after his surgery, McCain was moved into a cell with two other American Air Force POWs. They took care of each other and McCain notes that his condition improved.
The darkest moments of his capture occur when guards place him in solitary.
“It’s an awful thing, solitary. It crushes your spirit and weakens your resistance more effectively than any other form of mistreatment.”
A year later, several guards brought a resistant McCain to the camp commander in order to formally charge him of his war crimes.
“Knowing that I was in serious trouble and that nothing I did or said would make matters any worse, I replied: ‘F— you.'”
McCain was beat up, tied up for a night, and then dragged to an empty room for 4 days.
“At two-to-three intervals, the guards returned to administer beatings … still I felt they were being careful not to kill or permanently injure me.”
The worst beating came on the third night.
“I lay in my own blood and waste, so tired and hurt that I could not move…he slammed his fist into my face and knocked me across the room towards the waste bucket. I fell on the bucket, hitting it with my left arm, and breaking it again. They left me lying on the floor, moaning from the stabbing pain in my refractured arm.”
It was after this night, that McCain tried to commit suicide twice. He was stopped by the guards and received more beatings. Shortly after, he confessed to whatever war crimes he was accused of and was left alone in his cell for 2 weeks.
“They were the worst two weeks of my life … I was ashamed … I shook, as if my disgrace were a fever.”
This was 2 years into McCain’s almost 6 year imprisonment. He was released as a POW in March of 1973.
“Nobody can soldier without coffee.” This is a statement written in the New York Times outlining just how important Joe was during the Civil War. Aside from being a source of delicious comfort and a daily norm in today’s time – 50% of all Americans indulge in coffee – it was far more than that in times of the Civil War.
It was a truth that came to light in 1832, when President Andrew Jackson dictated coffee and sugar be available as daily rations to soldiers. (Taking the place of their daily whiskey ration permanently in 1837.) Coffee was easy to transport, it didn’t spoil, and it came with many benefits. Coffee kept soldiers warm, it recharged their batteries, and it was a source of happiness in otherwise terrible conditions. The use of coffee was so common it was made with whatever supplies were nearby. That includes puddle water filled with mud that horses wouldn’t even eat.
With so much coffee consumption, however, soldiers quickly ran out of the beans themselves. Food supplies were rationed to begin with, and their over-consumption lead to java being in high demand.
How Civil War soldiers made their own coffee
First, soldiers wrote that they tried rationing their coffee supplies by mixing it with other things. In Little Rock, AK in 1861, one soldier mentioned mixing his brew with cornmeal. The concoction took half the coffee and cost 12.5 cents for the pot.
However, before long, especially in the South, coffee was not in short supply, but nonexistent. President Abraham Lincoln put a blockade on the Southern seaports, and no new coffee was brought in.
Instead, soldiers began using different items to roast, grind, and mix as a hot beverage. Some of their coffee alternatives included:
· Malted barley
· Chicory root
· Corn Meal
· Dandelion root
· Boiled-down molasses
· Okra seed
· Persimmon seed
· Potato peel
· Sassafras pits
· Sugar cane seeds
· Sweet potato
· Wheat berries
· Wheat bran
Usually the concoction at hand was determined by what was available at the time. Confederate soldiers called their homemade brews, “Lincoln Coffee,” citing the president who cut off their supply to the real stuff.
There’s even a report of using old cigars … yuck!
“—To Make Coffee.—Take tan bark, three parts; three old cigar stumps and a quart of water, mix well, and boil fifteen minutes in a dirty coffee pot, and the best judges cannot tell it from the finest Mocha.”
Most other recipes involved chopping or breaking up the items, roasting them, then adding hot water and boiling to allow a through steeping.
But it wasn’t just soldiers who were making due with their own homemade java blends, it was Southern families. As they too could not receive new supplies, women and others at home soon ran out of coffee and sunk to the same experimental recipes. While many soldiers reported that their recipes were good, most women wrote letters and in their diaries that the beverages were less than desirable.
A visiting British officer, wrote in 1863, “The loss of coffee afflicts the Confederates even more than the loss of spirits. They exercise their ingenuity in devising substitutes, which are not generally very successful.”
Civilians and members of other military branches might have been surprised to see Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, drinking from a fountain during World War I commemoration ceremonies in France. Well, it wasn’t just a case of Marines being Marines at any rank — that fountain is a part one of the Corps’ most time-honored traditions.
Veterans Day 2018 was the centennial anniversary of the end of World War I. The day before it was the Marine Corps’ 243rd birthday, that’s when Dunford and retired-Marine-turned-White House Chief of Staff John Kelly walked the grounds of the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, where nearly 3,000 U.S. troops are buried – many of those interred there are Marines killed at the WWI Battle of Belleau Wood.
You might have heard of it — the Germans sure did.
Marine Corps lore says the brutal fighting against the Germans at Belleau Wood is where the Marines earned the nickname “Devil Dogs” from the German enemy, who sent wave after wave of infantry attacks into the dense wood in an attempt to take it from the U.S. Marines, to no avail, of course.
German high command, flush with a full 50 fresh divisions from the east after the capitulation of the Soviet Union, planned to overwhelm the Entente powers on the Western Front. They wanted to end the war before the United States could bring the full power of its men and materiel to bear. By May, 1918, it was too late. The Germans were facing American units in combat already. By June, 1918, five German infantry divisions faced off against the U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Brigade and the Marines’ 4th Marine Brigade.
The Marines stopped the German advance and forced them back into the Woods. To follow them meant facing thousands of entrenched and hidden veteran German troops. The battle lasted a full month and was defined by bloody slaughter, using everything from poison gas to hand-to-hand combat and featured some of the Corps most legendary names, like Capt. Lloyd Williams, Gunnery Sgt. Dan Daley, and future Commandant of the Marine Corps, John Lejeune.
Lance Cpl. Seth H. Capps, a member of the United States Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon, drinks out of Devil Dog Fountain following the 93rd anniversary of the Battle of Belleau Wood May 30, 2010.
(Photo By Cpl. Bobby J. Yarbrough)
As one might imagine, winning a battle that couldn’t be won against all odds is going to be remembered as one of the most heroic feats in Marine Corps history. France later renamed the forest Bois de la Brigade de Marine and, according to lore, the name the Germans gave the Marines – Teufel Hunden or “Devil Dogs” – is how bulldogs became the Corps mascot.
For Marines, a visit to the battlefield and the cemetery is a pilgrimage, a rite of passage. This trip includes a visit to the nearby village of Belleau and its bulldog fountain, continuously spitting water from its mouth. Marines like Dunford and Gen. Robert Neller all the way down to the lowest Lance Corporal will drink from the fountain to remember the Battle of Belleau Wood and the Marines who never left.
Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Robert B. Neller, gets water from the Devil Dog fountain after the American Memorial Day ceremony at the Aisne-Marne American Memorial Cemetery, Belleau Wood, France, May 29, 2016. Each Memorial Day weekend, U.S. Marines, French service members, family members, and locals gather to honor the memory of the Marines killed during the battle of Belleau Wood.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo illustration by Staff Sgt. Gabriela Garcia)