The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

Footage of a Coast Guard drug interdiction where one Coast Guardsman jumps onto a narco-submarine and forces the hatch open has gone viral. And for good reason. It was possibly the most insane thing I’ve seen all week, but it’s actually not a shock to me. The Coast Guard does insane stuff like this all the time, but it’s never really talked about as much.

I get it, we all mock the Coasties. It’s the price you pay for being the little brother. But when you consider this, their elite snipers, and their track record for going toe-to-toe with narco-terrorists while the rest of us are stuck at NTC or 29 Palms… I think it’s time to admit that some Coasties may be more grunt than a good portion of the Armed Forces.


Just don’t be surprised when that sub-busting Coastie with balls of f*cking titanium calls you a POG at the American Legion. These memes go out to you, dude. Keep giving the Coast Guard an awesome name.

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

In case you missed the video, here’s an accurate representation of it…

Okay. Here’s the actual link.

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

(Meme via PT Belt Nation)

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

(Meme via Call For Fire)

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

(Meme via Not CID)

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

(Meme via Weapons of Meme Destruction)

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

(Meme via ASMDSS)

MIGHTY CULTURE

The “Shark Attack” was part of an outdated and costly training doctrine

Earlier this month, Fort Benning’s United States Army Infantry School (USAIS) announced its plan to retire the “shark attack”, an approach unleashed on fresh recruits during their first moments at basic combat training. Headlines and critics would have you believe that the Army’s decision to eliminate this tactic from the basic training experience represents a move to make the training ‘nicer,’ ‘easier’ or ‘softer’ on recruits. But the truth is that the “shark attack” is outdated, ineffective and likely does more harm than good in the long run; Its retirement is long overdue.

The “shark attack” is a purposeful stress-inducing attack on a single recruit that is carried out by several drill sergeants. It is typically marked by intense yelling, the issuing of contradicting commands and verbal denigration and is designed to assess the trainee’s ability to handle stress. According to Command Sergeant Major Robert K. Fortenberry, Command Sergeant Major for USAIS, the “shark attack” was designed to create a “chaotic environment that centered around applying physical exertion under stress.”


The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

Sgts. 1st Class Alec Donahoe and Todd Owen, drill sergeants with the Mississippi National Guard Recruiting and Retention Battalion, motivate a warrior in the Recruit Sustainment Program during a “shark attack” Oct. 7, 2017, in Senatobia. (U.S. National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Tynes)

In a video articulating the new USAIS approach, CSM Fortenberry explains that this weeding-out technique is outmoded due in large part to the fact that we have an all-volunteer force. In other words, volunteer recruits likely already have attributes favorable for military service and don’t need to be thinned by the extreme technique which was used to “establish dominance and authority using intimidation and fear to weed out the weak of heart.”

In truth, Army basic training techniques haven’t evolved much since the 1970s and in some cases since the early 20th century. The majority of the core training techniques are designed to reinforce blind obedience and reactiveness to commands. While making sure soldiers are able to follow orders is critical, modern warfare requires soldiers who are adept at, say, reading the mood of a marketplace in a foreign city versus going “over the top” or charging machine gun emplacements.

The Army Vision for 2028, which was announced in June of this year and is co-authored by Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, then Secretary of the Army, outlines a stark evolution of the U.S. Army’s battle stance. In addition to increasing the Army to 500,000 soldiers, the memo outlines the increased use of “autonomous systems, artificial intelligence and robotics” on a battle stage of “high-intensity conflict, with emphasis on operating in dense urban terrain, electronically degraded environments, and under constant surveillance.”

Getting rid of the “shark attack” is, in fact, just one way the Army is modernizing its approach to preparing a modern fighting force. The retooling of infantry One Station Unit Training, or OSUT, also serves as the introduction of a new program dubbed ‘The First 100 Yards.’ According to CSM Fortenberry, the program builds a “critical foundation” by “professionally introducing the soldiers to the spirit of our great branch” and introducing drill sergeants as “leaders willing to share in the hardship.” The goal of The First 100 Yards is to “develop teamwork, identify informal leadership, establish trust, and build esprit de corps,” explained Fortenberry.

But removing the “shark attack” isn’t just about modernizing training, but removing the vestiges of the hand-me-down era of training that was preoccupied with spitting out bonafide soldiers as quickly as possible. Late last year, USAIS announced its plans to extend OSUT from 14 to 22 weeks. The extension is intended to give recruits more exposure to weapons systems and small-unit and individual skills in a less pressurized, hurried training environment.

But the OSUT extension is also a nod to how the military has had to evolve to accommodate the level of preparedness of incoming would-be soldiers. In a press release around the announcement of the new 22-week OSUT program, Colonel Dave Voorhies, 198th Infantry Brigade commander said the extension is geared toward establishing “firmer training fundamentals: marksmanship, physical training, land navigation, the ability to medicate, combat lifesaver skills, combat water survival, Soldier discipline, and more.” The extended OSUT allows for more time for soldiers to get up to Army standards while adequately preparing them for a faced-paced, technologically advanced battlefield.

Attrition among recruits is a perennial problem for initial training facilities like USAIS. According to recent reports, attrition rates across the Army training centers fall somewhere around 12-15%, a number that comes at a huge price tag. A study of Army retention published in 2020 by the Rand Corporation, suggests that the total sunk cost for a single enlistment — including outlays for training, wages, and other benefits given to recruits — is roughly ,000. This equates to a loss of roughly 0 million dollars annually.

According to a January report from Stars and Stripes, attrition rates of extended OSUT courses have fallen to below 6%, and on average, posted higher fitness scores than those from the 14-week course.

Training centers like USAIS also have to contend with new reports that link post-traumatic stress and anxiety to the heavy-handed methods often used in basic training, especially tactics like the “shark attack.” And while the induction of stress and anxiety into training scenarios has always been seen as a crucial element to preparedness, methods like the “shark attack” may not have that effect, especially on a green volunteer looking to serve their country. In fact, it “betrays the innate trust between teammates,” said CSM Fortenberry. “And worse — betrays the crucial bond of trust with our leaders.”

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Sgt 1st Class. Aleman assigned to Foxtrot 1st Battalion 34th Infantry Regiment participates in the “Shark Attack” or fear stage of the discipline process, as trainees arrive to the First day of Basic Combat Training on 12 June 2017 at Fort Jackson, SC. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Darius Davis/Released).

That breakdown of trust may prove to stick with soldiers long after they have left the training world. According to the American Institute of Stress, basic training environments which teach soldiers ’emotional numbing’ may in fact be unknowingly laying the foundation for PTSD. “Emotional numbing,” it states, “allows for the person to put aside feelings and do whatever it takes to survive or help others survive.” While this is, at face value, a positive trait for a soldier to have on the battlefield, it’s often that it remains as the mode of dealing with any stressors.

“Later such numbing may include a sense of not really being a person, feelings of not fitting in, that no one can understand, feeling or being told that one has no emotions, and not being able to feel emotions in situations calling for intimacy, tenderness, sexuality or grief. Efforts to avoid thoughts or feelings associated with the trauma may include isolating, substance abuse (drugs, alcohol, food, cigarettes), and other compulsive behaviors,” the report states.

Essentially, the “shark attack” may be a cornerstone of a training approach that has been pre-conditioning soldiers to manage their military-related stress through ‘mental numbing.’ This ‘mental numbing’ may then lead soldiers to suppress subsequent feelings of stress that arise from combat scenarios which could exacerbate the effects of COS — Combat Operational Stress — and lead to permanent patterns of PTSD. In short, there is no basic ‘un-training.’

Interestingly, the rate of PTSD among veterans since Vietnam has been fairly consistent. According to information from the Veterans Administration, roughly 15% of Vietnam veterans were diagnosed with PTSD resulting from combat service. That number was slightly lower in the Gulf War at 12%. For OIF and OEF, the amount of service-connected PTSD ranges from 11-20% year to year. There are a multitude of factors that contribute to PTSD. Further, the three aforementioned wars were markedly different in just about every aspect. That said, they all shared a common trait: the basic training doctrine.

Without further study into the relationship of the “shark attack” style training in basic training units and its long term effects on PTSD, it’s impossible to know if the two are connected. What is certain, however, is that the new approach ushered in by USAIS is a positive one, if only because it does away with the outdated training modules of a long-extinct type of warfare and refocuses on the needs of today’s soldiers to fight today’s battles.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.


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The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 16 edition)

Standby for news on our mark: three, two, one . . . news!


Now: Watch civilians mangle the official title of the Afghanistan War

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This is why the US Navy doesn’t use battleships anymore

Long gone are the days where the United States Navy roamed the seas with heavily-armed battleships as its primary capital ships. Not everyone who talks naval warfare entirely agrees with mothballing the biggest guns of the American Navy, but there’s a reason the old battleships are gone – and a reason they’re never coming back.


The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th
“Come at me, bro.” (U.S. Navy)

 

There was a time when ship-to-ship fighting was the way of war on the world’s oceans. It made sense to create the biggest, baddest ship technology would allow, then arm it with as many weapons as it took to tear the enemy to shreds. If there was any way you could also prevent yourself from getting torn to shreds with some heavy armor, that was great too. Imagine how great it felt to watch British cannonballs bounce off the sides of the USS Constitution as you watched your shipmates take down part of the “world’s most powerful navy.”

As time wore on, the technology only got better. By the Civil War, “Ironsides” was more than a nickname. It was a must-have feature on American ships, made famous by the confrontation of the USS Monitor’s and the CSS Virginia’s epic shootout at Hampton Roads. By the 20th Century, naval powers were churning out ships with speed, firepower, and armor in a race to be able to sink the other side’s seafaring battleships.

Once the two sides saw each other, it was on.

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th
Kinda like that.

 

In modern naval warfare, however, two sides don’t need to see each other. As a matter of fact, one side is better off being able to strike the other without warning – and without one side being able to return fire. These days, satellite technology, radars, and other long-range sensor technologies mean an attacker can see its target without ever needing to go looking for them. More importantly, a battleship (or battleship fleet) can be hit and destroyed without ever seeing where the shots were fired.

And while the battleship would be searching to take down its seaborne opponent, land-based ballistic missiles and anti-ship missiles fired from aircraft would be on its way to put 2,500-plus battleship sailors at the bottom of the ocean.

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th
That last hit made Tommy remember his shipmates on the Lexington and the night took a dark turn.

 

What battleships are still effective for is supporting ground forces with its guns, using them as support artillery for landing Marines. This is the main reason pro-battleship advocates argue for recommissioning the Iowa-class battleships currently being used as museums. But even the Iowa-class still uses a lot of sailors to fire so-called “dumb” weapons at a potentially civilian-filled environment, while a more precision close air support strike would be more effective and lower the risk of civilian casualties.

Not to mention lowering the risk of a counterattack killing the 2,500 sailors that might be manning the guns.

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‘Noose around the neck of ISIS’ as carrier airstrikes move south

ABOARD THE USS GEORGE H.W. BUSH, Persian Gulf — The hiss and scream of F/A-18 Super Hornets launching from the flight deck is business as usual on this city at sea, where sorties on Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria have been launched a dozen or more times a day since early February.


When aircraft loaded with AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles and 1,000-pound bombs aren’t being catapulted into flight, training and qualification flights commence.

Constant through the action is a sort of deck ballet of positioning, as the 74 aircraft based on the ship are guided onto elevators for maintenance and storage, or moved to make room for the daily C-2 Greyhound delivery of people and Amazon packages.

The routine of life aboard the carrier is perhaps the most conventional element of the unconventional war against ISIS.

American troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria, mostly special operations and advisory elements, operate in relative secrecy, with few opportunities for journalists to observe them up close.

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matt Brown

On the carrier, by contrast, public affairs officers host three or four media visits per month, boarding them in comparatively luxurious “distinguished visitor” berthing, complete with monogrammed bathrobes, and offering them interviews with pilots and unit commanding officers.

Aboard the carrier, multiple sailors said they are on their second deployment in support of Operation Inherent Resolve — the coalition anti-ISIS fight — and compared the consistency of operations today favorably to the frenetic nature of the campaign when it first began in 2014.

With OIR about to enter its third year next month, the commander of the Bush carrier strike group said he is seeing progress in the fight.

Related: Iran tests advanced torpedo in Strait of Hormuz

While many strikes continue to target enemy positions in Raqqa, Syria, and Mosul, Iraq, where assaults on ISIS’s urban strongholds continue, the carrier’s fighter pilots are seeing more missions to the south, along the Euphrates River Valley. The strikes follow the path of retreating ISIS leaders, Rear Adm. Ken Whitesell said.

“Their vision of a geographic caliphate is coming to an end,” Whitesell told Military.com. “As they move and that unblinking eye stays on top of them, they will be targeted as they move down the valley.”

The number of fighter sorties launched from the carrier daily ranges from 12 to more than 20, plus several EA-18G Growler electronic warfare sorties, said Capt. Will Pennington, commanding officer of the Bush.

Pilots fly punishing eight-hour missions one to three times a week, in addition to daily training and currency flights. But the mission tempo has stayed largely steady since the carrier deployed, and the air wing has yet to be pushed to its limits, he said.

“We’re not surging to make this happen; this is a comfortable pace. We could up it and still get comfortable,” Pennington said.

The fight is proceeding carefully and deliberately from the air in large part because of the complexity of the urban ground battle. In Iraq, where a little more than half of the air wing’s sorties are tasked, the strike mission was simpler before coalition forces arrived in Mosul, he said.

“There were more targets and less complicated aerials,” Pennington said. “Now that the effort is moving forward and being successful … that operation, both from the ground and the air, needs to be carried out with much more prudence, given civilian entanglement.”

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Neo Greene III

In both Mosul and Raqqa, the ground fights have been slow-moving. Coalition troops began their first assault on Mosul in October, and began a campaign to retake Raqqa the following month. Whitesell pointed optimistically to the words of Iraqi Army Chief of Staff Othman Al-Ghanmi, who predicted earlier this month that the fall of ISIS in Mosul would be complete in just three weeks.

It’s not the first time a top official has predicted victory close at hand. But the changing nature of strike targets also gives Whitesell reason to believe the end is near.

In addition to targets including enemy personnel, vehicles and improvised explosive devices, Whitesell said pilots are being tasked with destroying a key source of the militant group’s economic survival: oil wells.

While previously aircraft would target vehicles used to transport the oil, most of those are gone, thanks to the air mission, he said. “Now we get it before it comes out of the ground.”

Whitesell contrasts today’s operational picture to that of 2014, when the Bush became the first aircraft carrier to launch airstrikes on ISIS.

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Gaines

“ISIS had made the push out of Syria and Raqqa, way down, so they had incredible geography. So this carrier was the first striking on the Iraqi assets to stop ISIS at the gates of Baghdad and start moving them back,” he said. “Fast-forward three years to where we are. We’ve got, essentially, a noose tied around the neck of ISIS.”

On a given day, a pilot might be tasked with engaging a specific target over Iraq or Syria, or with flying to a region and remaining “on call,” to be assigned a future target, sometimes with scant notice, by a controller on the ground.

Also read: Here’s how the F-16 Falcon could replace the F-15 Eagle

While pilots’ assignments can change at any time during the mission, they generally know the day’s mission set by the time they’re walking to their aircraft on the flight deck, said Lt. Cmdr. “Butters” Welles, a pilot with Strike Fighter Squadron 37, the “Ragin’ Bulls.” The squadron flies the F/A-18C Hornet.

Multiple pilots who spoke with Military.com asked that their full first and last names not be used, a subtle acknowledgment of online threats ISIS militants have made on various occasions against U.S. troops and their families.

Welles, who is on his fourth combat deployment, said he still feels the power of the moment when dropping ordnance on a ground target.

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th
U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean M. Castellano

It’s a sense similar to other high-stress moments, whether it’s landing on the ship at night or doing something that requires intense attention,” he said. “There’s a sense of time compression, where everything sort of slows down, but you feel like it’s still moving very quickly … it’s definitely a very intense moment.”

At that point, a pilot’s day is far from done. Still ahead are a series of tanker refueling operations, a flight back to the ship, and hours of debriefs. The workday of a pilot with a strike mission can easily stretch to 12 hours or more, the work continuing long after exiting the cockpit.

But after a day in the fight, they return to the ship, where four meals are served daily, gyms and movie channels are available for free time, and routine keeps chaos at bay.

And pilots are well aware of the contrast between the reality of the island-like carrier and that of coalition troops in the gritty, drawn-out ground battles.

“It’s a very different perspective and involvement for us to be up and somewhat detached from what’s going on down on the ground,” Welles said. “So I would say it’s a sense of pride, knowing that we contributed in some way to a very difficult effort on the ground. Because once we’re complete, and we either leave to airborne refuel, or need to go home, then the people we’re talking with are still there in the fight.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

Over the last few years, the Air Force has been taking proactive approaches to prepare for a proverbial “sucker punch” via cyber-attack. In preparation for this assault, and to mitigate vulnerability, cyber resiliency is being ingrained into Air Force culture.

By military definition, cyber resiliency is the ability of a system to complete its objective regardless of the cyber conditions, in other words, how well it can take a cyber-punch and keep fighting.


Blue: Cyber in the Contested Domain

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To help lead these efforts, the Air Force, through Air Force Materiel Command’s Life Cycle Management Center, stood up the Cyber Resiliency Office for Weapons Systems, or CROWS, in response to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016. The NDA instructed the military to analyze the cyber vulnerabilities of major weapons systems and report findings back to Congress. In 2018, the program was fully funded by Congress to begin its mission.

“It’s all about two things, making sure our warfighters are protected and making sure they are able to do their jobs,” said Joseph Bradley, director of CROWS.

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

Joseph Bradley is the director of the Cyber Resiliency Office for Weapons Systems (CROWS) which ensures cybersecurity is integrated into the development of all new programs from the start, then maintains and validates the cyber resiliency of the system throughout its life cycle. (U.S. Air Force)

Initially CROWS was created to look at liabilities in legacy weapon systems, but now it is taking aim at ensuring cybersecurity is integrated into the development of all new programs from the start, rather than as an afterthought. Then CROWS maintains and validates the cyber resiliency of the system throughout its life cycle.

Cyber resiliency needs change constantly and impact all Air Force missions — new threats emerge regularly and require new approaches to improve mission assurance.

As an F-35 Lightning II pilot, Maj. Justin Lee flies one of the most advanced aircraft on the planet with systems that will be upgraded and enhanced well into the future.

“We’re passing off a tremendous amount of data and, just like your computer, you want that data to be correct,” Lee said. “If you go into an adversarial environment against a frontline threat, then they’re going to be trying to do their best to interfere with it.”

It’s not just his weapons system that is vulnerable; the data these systems take in and put out is just as vulnerable and critical to mission success.

“If a hacker is able to get into the GPS time and get it off sync just by a few nanoseconds, then it can cause the bomb to land in a place that we don’t want,” Lee said.

One key mission in the evolution of CROWS was to find ways to implement cyber resiliency in the acquisition process. This now includes embedding cyber professionals within a program’s executive offices. Also, an acquisitions guidebook was created to standardize cyber-related language for contract evaluations, reducing the burden on any future programs while also allowing better communication with industry partners.

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

An Air Force pararescueman, assigned to the 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, communicates with an Army Task Force Brawler CH-47F Chinook during a training exercise at an undisclosed location in the mountains of Afghanistan, March 14, 2018. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // TECH. SGT. GREGORY BROOK)

CROWS allow cyber experts to join forces with the command responsible for the maintenance and development of a weapons system. Through testing and analysis, CROWS will then offer recommendations to make the system less vulnerable and ultimately safer.

Combat and training missions, weapons delivery and air drops are all put together using computer-based air-space mission planning systems. When the Air Force’s Life Cycle Management Center wanted to overhaul their software to assist ground operations for aircraft, they called on the CROWS for help.

“As the challenges were identified we put together an engineering plan for how we would start to resolve or mitigate some of those cyber security vulnerabilities. The CROWS walked us through that analysis,” said Col. Jason Avram, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Airspace Mission Planning Division chief.

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

Tech. Sgt. Michael Vandenbosch, 22nd Space Operations Squadron defensive counter-space operator, uses software to identify interference to a specific satellite at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, Dec. 16, 2019. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // AIRMAN 1ST CLASS JONATHAN WHITELY)

“As that engineering plan came together, which looks specifically at how we’re going to deal with data integrity issues not only the data that we’re ingesting, but also how we’re processing that data through our software and then how we’re transferring that data to any platforms.”

According to Avram, CROWS funded the effort to develop an engineering plan on how to mitigate vulnerabilities over time.

Having cyber resiliency personnel inserted into a weapons system’s development and life-cycle management allows them to be at the tactical edge; fully understanding the system so they can detect if the obscured hand of an adversary is at play.

“They’re (CROWS) the cop on the beat that sort of knows what their neighborhood is supposed to look like. They’re the first ones that can see that window over there isn’t supposed to be open, let’s go investigate,” said Maj. Gen. Patrick Higby, director of DevOps and lethality. “So, they go in (figuratively) with the flashlight, they investigate and ‘holy cow’ there’s somebody in there, where do you go with that?”

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

Initially created to look at legacy weapon systems, the Air Force CROWS office will be taking aim at ensuring cybersecurity concerns are taken into account from the start of new programs. (AIR NATIONAL GUARD PHOTO // KELLYANN NOVAK)

Higby asked, how does that cop who is on the beat, how do they get the right experts, engineers and PhDs involved who may have built or designed that system to facilitate an agile response to the threat?

He explained the responses to a threat could mean a number of repercussions to the Air Force. There could be a need to ground the asset and not fly the next sortie because the risk is too great. It may be a decision to still fly with the vulnerability in place because there may be other work arounds.

It all goes back to the resiliency; can the weapon system maintain a mission effective capability under adversary offensive cyber operations. The fix may be the deployment of code to quickly patch and shut the window and get the adversary out of the system. But in all responses, you need the expert that built that system originally to be in that discussion alongside the CROWS.

“We really want the CROWS to be that interface to the real expert of a given weapon system, whether it’s an aircraft, a missile, a helicopter or whatever,to understand, if you’re going to tweak this, it may have these other consequences to it. And then make that risk decision,” Higby said. “Grounding the asset is not always an option, we have to launch because we have other actors that are dependent on us striking a target.”

In short, the Air Force has to be ready and able to take a punch.

“That’s the idea behind resiliency; you are going to fight to get the mission done no matter what happens,” Higby said.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

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8 epic reflections on the career of the internet’s most badass military meme

The year was 1968 when Mike Vining was a senior in high school. According to his answers on his TogetherWeServed Page, Vining heard about the Tet Offensive and wanted to join the military with the expressed purpose of going to Vietnam.


His service afforded him the opportunity to do two things he likes to do, “work with explosives and climb mountains.” He probably never dreamed he would become Sgt. Maj. Mike Vining: the epitome of the modern American soldier…

1. He’s also the internet’s most casually badass meme.

 

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

 

Now Read: The nice old man in the popular military meme is actually operator AF

Maybe it’s the kind eyes. Or the nice smile. Maybe it’s his age the large glasses of a bygone era that make him a grandpa-like figure. But the rank on his sleeve, fruit salad on his chest, the EOD and CIB pinned on his jacket, and Army Special Operations Command shoulder patch give all that away.

There’s much more to the story, and now we all know it.

2. He wasn’t just Delta, he was a founding member.

Then-Sgt. 1st Class Mike Vining joined the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment (Delta) at Fort Bragg in 1978. His first commander was Col. Charlie Beckwith, who started putting together Delta Force the previous year.

 

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

According to Vining, an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Specialist who was looking for something “more challenging,” he joined because Delta was looking for people with an EOD background. He spent almost 21 years in Special Forces.

3. His military résumé reads like a history book.

He spent two years in Vietnam as an EOD specialist with the 99th Ordnance Detachment, much of that time spent in combat.

Vining was also in Operation Eagle Claw, the failed attempt to rescue hostages held in Iran. He was aboard EC-130E Bladder Bird #4 when one of the RH-53D helicopters crashed into it.

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

 

Also Read: This deadly failure in the Iranian desert lives in hostage rescue mission infamy

He was also in the invasion of Grenada, Operation Desert Storm, and Operation Uphold/Restore Democracy in Haiti.

4. It took 15 years to earn his Combat Infantryman Badge.

Though Vining saw plenty of combat in Cambodia and Vietnam, as an EOD Specialist, he wasn’t eligible for a CIB. Delta never got a chance to engage the Iranians at Desert One. So, despite Delta Force’s rigorous training and autonomy, his first combat action came in 1983 during the Richmond Hill Prison assault during Urgent Fury’s invasion of Grenada.

 

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th
U.S. Special Operations Forces in Grenada, 1983. (Defense Media Network)

5. He became infantry twenty years into his service.

“In 1988, I transferred from EOD to Infantry. I figured I stood a better chance making Sergeant Major in Infantry, which worked out for me.”

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th
Vining and Delta providing close protection to Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf during Desert Storm. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Dean Wagner)

6. His most significant action came just two years into his career.

His tour in Vietnam with the 99th Ordnance Detachment was one of the stand out moments of his time in the Army.

“[It] was the destruction of a cache found in Cambodia called ‘Rock Island East.’ The cache yielded 327 tons of ammunition and supplies, including 932 individual weapons, 85 crew-served weapons, 7,079,694 small arms and machine gun rounds. The cache contained 999 rounds of 85mm artillery shells which are used for the D-44 howitzer as well as the T-34 tank. I was part of a seven-man EOD team that destroyed the cache on 16 May 1970.”

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

7. Vining is still active in the veteran community.

Now fully retired, he travels with his wife much of the time. He writes about military and naval history, polar expeditions, and mountaineering postal history. He and his wife have a very active outdoor life of hiking, backpacking, rock and mountain climbing, biking, and skiing.

He is also a life member of the VFW, and a member of the National EOD Association and Vietnam EOD Veterans Chapter. He is also the historian for the National Army EOD Memorial at Eglin Air Force Base.

8. He would do it all over again. And recommends you do, too.

Vining calls his experience “rewarding” and recommends the military as a career to those who recently joined the Army.

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

 

“Military service has given me the opportunity to do all the things I like to do: Work with explosives and climb mountains. I have gotten a chance to work with some of the finest people in the military.”

Mike Vining’s awards and decorations are too numerous to list here. Check them out and read about his experiences in his own words on his public TogetherWeServed profile.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The history of the modern military salute

The most popular origin story of the modern military salute dates back to the Roman Republic in 509 BCE. It’s a very compelling theory, but is it true? Let’s break it down.

It is said that during antiquity — sorry, the olden days — assassinations were common, so citizens and subordinates were required to approach officials with their fighting hand, the right hand, raised to demonstrate that it was not carrying a weapon. Others say that the Romans would slap their chest and raise their arm in tribute to demonstrate allegiance.


 

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

Looks legit.

Not that this rules out the theories — they do make sense. Still, it wasn’t until the 1600s that English military records mention the salute, calling it a formal act that “was to be by removal of headdress.” In 1745, the procedure was amended to simply have troops “clap their hands to their hats and bow as they pass by.”

Also read: 13 awful hand salutes that don’t even come close

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

This is how all British salutes look to me.

The British Army and, later, the Royal Air Force, would develop a salute with the palm facing outwards, but the Royal Navy began to turn their palm downwards, allegedly because the men working on ships had dirty palms and it was considered disrespectful to display them. One popular tale cites Queen Victoria as the one behind the downward-facing-palm, after she was saluted with a grimy hand.

When the United States declared its independence from the throne, we brought military customs across the Atlantic, and by the time of the Revolutionary War, the salute became the most expedient form of protocol. The USO reported that, according to the Armed Forces History Museum, today’s standard salute was in place by 1820.

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

That’s actually pretty solid, Angel.

Though there are a few variations between branches, overall, the United States military still maintains this salute today: right arm parallel with the floor, straight wrist and hand, middle finger touching the brim of the hat or the corner of the eyebrow, and palm facing downward or even inward.

The salute should be a smooth motion up and down the gigline, with the individual of lower rank raising their salute first and lowering it last. Oh, and remember, “any flourish in the salute is improper.

Of course, cool guys have their fun.

More reading: 6 of the worst times to salute officers

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

Superheroes can ignore giglines.

In addition to superior commissioned and warrant officers, the following individuals are always entitled to a military salute: The President of the United States, officers of allied foreign countries (good luck learning their rank system), and Medal of Honor recipients — I actually didn’t know that one.

In America, the military salute is protected by the First Amendment. Anyone can salute anyone, really. You can salute a veteran when they’re in civilian attire… it’s just not mandatory or even customary. And it can actually be a little awkward if they’re not expecting it.

But in other countries, there are legal ramifications behind certain salutes. In Germany, for example, the straight-arm “Heil Hitler” salute is illegal and punishable by up to three years in jail. It’s not uncommon for tourists to be detained for performing the salute for photos, and one man was sentenced to jail for teaching his dog Adolf to give the Hitlergruss on command. …Yeah.

Today, the salute is a gesture of mutual respect, given and reciprocated, and whether the origin stories are true, the salute nonetheless remains a symbol of honor — and reassurance that you’re not holding a weapon.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Marines compete to find the Corps’ most lethal tank crew

The hot California sun beamed, drawing beads of sweat, but the US Marines, Vietnam veterans and members of the local community were heedless. Hands holding phones, binoculars and video cameras hovered as they anxiously waited for another ground shaking explosion.

A murmur erupted from the sweat-slicked crowd perched on top of the Range 409A observation point as 4th Tank Battalion’s M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank fired another dead-center hit during TIGERCOMP Aug. 29, 2019, aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.

According to Lt. Col. Matthew Zummo, the commanding officer of 1st Tank Battalion, TIGERCOMP has been the Marine Corps tank gunnery competition since 1996. The three Marine Tank Battalions compete to determine the Corps’ most lethal tank crew. Following a six-year break from 2003-2009, the competition was reignited in 2010.


“First Tanks is hosting this year’s competition,” said Zummo. “We selected Range 409A as the venue to enable a better spectator experience compared to the usual Range 500 at 29 Palms. The winning crew will have the opportunity to compete in the Sullivan Cup, which is the Army’s total force tank gunnery competition.”

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

US Marines selected to compete in TIGERCOMP meet the local and military community on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

US Marine veteran Michael Jiron watches the M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank fire during the Tank Gunnery Competition, TIGERCOMP at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

A medium tactical vehicle replacement at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

US Marine Corps videographer Pfc. Jacob Yost records an M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank fire during the Tank Gunnery Competition, TIGERCOMP at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

An M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank fires during the Tank Gunnery Competition, TIGERCOMP at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

An M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank fires during the Tank Gunnery Competition, TIGERCOMP, at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

An M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank fires during the Tank Gunnery Competition, TIGERCOMP at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

An M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank fires during the Tank Gunnery Competition, TIGERCOMP at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tanks fire during the Tank Gunnery Competition, TIGERCOMP at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

US Marine 1st Lt. Daniel Lyrla, operations officer in charge of planning TIGERCOMP, talks to the local and military communities during the TIGERCOMP awards ceremony at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

US Marines with 4th Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve celebrate during the TIGERCOMP awards ceremony on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Aug. 29, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tayler P. Schwamb)

In the end, 4th Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, collected the enormous TIGERCOMP trophy, the pride and joy of the tank community.

Stay tuned to watch the Marines compete against the soldiers in the Sullivan Cup, the Army’s precision gunnery competition. The next competition that will rigorously test US soldiers, US Marines and international partners is set for 2020 at Fort Benning, Georgia.

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

popular

That time Marines in a firefight called customer service for help with an M-107

When you need help, there’s nothing embarrassing about asking for it. Especially when the pressure is on to get it right as soon as possible.


Rifles are no different. And if you have to call an arms manufacturer for a problem there, it’s probably a big deal.

That’s why Barrett Firearms Manufacturing provides service for its products long after they enter military service. Most notably, the beloved Barrett M-107 .50-caliber rifle.

Don Cook is a Marine Corps veteran who has been working at Barrett for 17 years. In an interview with National Geographic, he recalled the time he received an interesting call on the customer service line — a call from troops in an active firefight.

“It’s probably one of the biggest highlights in my life to be able to help a Marine unit in a firefight,” Cook told NatGeo.

He picked up the phone and heard what was happening in the background. Without being able to see the weapon, he was able to diagnose the problem.

The Marines bent the ears of the weapon’s lower receiver up during the previous night’s maintenance. When they saw action the next day, the rifle wouldn’t fire every time they pulled the trigger.

Cook told them they needed to bend the ears back down. Given the lack of tools and time, he suggested the Marines use the bottom of the carrier as leverage to bend the ears back and get the weapon firing again.

Within 30 seconds, the Marines had their rifle back in action. They thanked Cook for his help and got back in the fight.

Humor

5 military myths that Hollywood has taught us to believe

We love movies! That’s why producers spend millions of dollars making them. Sometimes the films we watch are so compelling, audience members believe every moment that is spoon fed to them is the truth.


We’re all guilty of falling for it. Many movie goers get sold on the narrative as the story unfolds across the big screen — even to the point where the performances feel true to life — and the delicate line between truth and fiction becomes too thin.

Related: 7 life lessons we learned from watching ‘Full Metal Jacket’

So check out these military myths that Hollywood puts in their movies and want us to think actually happen — but don’t fall for it.

1. Vietnam veterans are crazy

Movies and TV shows love to feature characters that had tough military careers and reverted to drinking to suppress the memories. This does happen in real life from time-to-time, but not to everyone.

Most who served during that era use their military experience to propel themselves and inspire others.

2. You throw your clean cover after a military graduation

It’s a lot of work to not only find the cover you just flung into the air but clean the grass stains off too.

Does anyone have a tide pen? (Paramount)

3. Cinematic deaths

They just don’t exist — but we tip our hats to filmmaker Oliver Stone (an Army veteran) for capturing this epic movie moment in 1986s Platoon.

How many rounds do you think he took? (Orion Pictures)

4. That one guy who can save the day

In the military, you train as a team and you fight as one, as well.

The debate isn’t if one single person can save another’s ass during battle — that frequently happens.

What we call bullsh*t on is when that single motivator springs into action and becomes the final denominator and leads them to victory as the rest of his team remains pinned down and losing the fight.

They have the need for speed (Paramount)

5. No one gets concussions…ever

We’ve seen countless movies where people get blown up by various sources of explosive ordnance and seem to recover right away (just watch any 80s movie). Since we want to believe the good guys are as tough as nails, they will just brush off the injury and carry on.

It rarely happens like that.

In fact, the traumatic brain injury has been called the signature wound of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mgf3xEOYCts
Hearing a phone or bells ringing is one of the first signs of concussion (Sony)

Can you think of any others? Comment below.

Articles

Don’t underestimate the United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates is better known for its skyscrapers and pampered luxuries, but its small size belies a quiet expansion of its battle-hardened military into Africa and elsewhere in the Middle East.


The seven-state federation ranks as one of Washington’s most prominent Arab allies in the fight against the Islamic State group, hosting some 5,000 American military personnel, fighter jets, and drones.

But the practice gunfire echoing through the deserts near bases outside of Dubai and recent military demonstrations in the capital of Abu Dhabi show a country increasingly willing to flex its own muscle amid its suspicions about Iran.

Already, the UAE has landed expeditionary forces in Afghanistan and Yemen. Its new overseas bases on the African continent show this country, which U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis calls ” Little Sparta,” has even larger ambitions.

From Protectorate to Protector

The UAE, a federation of seven sheikhdoms, only became a country in 1971. It had been a British protectorate for decades and several of the emirates had their own security forces. The forces merged together into a national military force that took part in the 1991 U.S.-led Gulf War that expelled Iraqi forces occupying Kuwait.

The UAE sent troops to Kosovo as part of the NATO-led peacekeeping mission there starting in 1999, giving its forces valuable experience working alongside Western allies in the field. Following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, it deployed special forces troops in Afghanistan to support the U.S.-led war against the Taliban.

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Robert Catalanotti shakes hands with United Arab Emirates (UAE) Maj. Gen. Khalifa Al-Khial at the Armed Forces Officers Club in Abu Dhabi, UAE. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Fenton Reese/Released)

Emirati personnel there combined aid with Arab hospitality, working on infrastructure projects in villages and meeting with local elders.

Today, the UAE hosts Western forces at its military bases, including American and French troops. Jebel Ali port in Dubai serves as the biggest port of call for the American Navy outside of the United States.

Bulging Ranks

The UAE decided in recent years to grow its military, in part over concerns about Iran’s resurgence in the region following the nuclear deal with world powers and the Islamic Republic’s involvement in the wars in Syria and Yemen.

In 2011, the UAE acknowledged working with private military contractors, including a firm reportedly tied to Blackwater founder Erik Prince, to build up its military. The Associated Press also reported that Prince was involved in a multimillion-dollar program to train troops to fight pirates in Somalia, a program by several Arab countries, including the UAE.

Also read: The US Navy strikes back after dodging rebel missiles off of Yemen

“As you would expect of a proactive member of the international community, all engagements of commercial entities by the UAE Armed Forces are compliant with international law and relevant conventions,” Gen. Juma Ali Khalaf al-Hamiri, a senior Emirati military official, said in a statement on the state-run WAM news agency.

Media in Colombia have also reported that Colombian nationals working as mercenaries serve in the UAE’s military.

In 2014, the UAE introduced mandatory military service for all Emirati males between the ages of 18 to 30. The training is optional for Emirati women.

“Our message to the world is a message of peace; the stronger we are, the stronger our message,” Dubai ruler and UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum wrote at the time on Twitter.

War in Yemen

In Yemen, UAE troops are fighting alongside Saudi-led forces against Shiite rebels who hold the impoverished Arab country’s capital, Sanaa.

Areas where the UAE forces are deployed include Mukalla, the provincial capital of Hadramawt, and the port city of Aden, where the internationally recognized government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi is stationed.

Additionally, the UAE appears to be building an airstrip on Perim or Mayun Island, a volcanic island in Yemeni territory that sits in a waterway between Eritrea and Djibouti in the strategic Bab al- Mandeb Strait, according to IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly.

That strait, some 16-kilometers (10-miles) wide at its narrowest point, links the Red Sea and the Suez Canal with the Gulf of Aden and ultimately the Indian Ocean. Dozens of commercial ships transit the route every day.

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th

Already, the waters have seen Emirati and Saudi ships targeted by suspected fire from Yemen’s Shiite rebels known as Houthis. In October, U.S. Navy vessels came under fire as well, sparking American forces to fire missiles in Yemen in its first attack targeting the Houthis in the years-long war there.

“More incidents at sea, especially involving civilian shipping, could further internationalize the conflict and spur other actors to intervene,” the Washington Institute for Near-East Policy warned in March.

UAE forces and aid organizations have also set foot on Yemen’s Socotra Island, which sits near the mouth of the Gulf of Aden, after a deadly cyclone struck it. It too represents a crucial chokepoint and has seen recent attacks from Somali pirates.

The UAE has suffered the most wartime casualties in its history in Yemen. The deadliest day came in a September 2015 missile strike on a base that killed over 50 Emiratitroops, as well as at least 10 soldiers from Saudi Arabia and five from Bahrain.

Meanwhile, Emirati forces were involved in a Jan. 29 Yemen raid ordered by U.S. President Donald Trump that killed a U.S. Navy SEAL and 30 others, including women, children and an estimated 14 militants.

Expanding to Africa

Outside of Yemen, the UAE has been building up a military presence in Eritrea at its port in Assab, according to Stratfor, a U.S.-based private intelligence firm. Satellite images show new construction at a once-abandoned airfield the firm links to the Emiratis, as well as development at the port and the deployment of tanks and aircraft, including fighter jets, helicopters and drones.

“The scale of the undertaking suggests that the UAE military is in Eritrea for more than just a short-term logistical mission supporting operations across the Red Sea,”Stratfor said in December.

Related: Pirates are back to terrorizing shipping off the Somali coast

UAE officials did not respond to repeated requests for comment on its military operations or overseas expansion.

South of Eritrea, in Somalia’s breakaway northern territory of Somaliland, authorities agreed in February to allow the UAE open a naval base in the port town of Berbera. Previously, the UAE international ports operator DP World struck a deal to manage Somaliland’s largest port nearby.

Further afield, the UAE also has been suspected of conducting airstrikes in Libya and operating at a small air base in the North African country’s east, near the Egyptian border.

Meanwhile, Somalia remains a particular focus for the UAE. The Emiratis sent forces to the Horn of Africa country to take part in a United Nations peacekeeping mission in the 1990s, while their elite counterterrorism unit in 2011 rescued a UAE-flagged ship from Somali pirates. The unit has also has been targeted in recent attacks carried out by al-Qaida-linked militants from al- Shabab.

A UAE military expansion into Somalia is also possible, as Trump recently approved an expanded military, including more aggressive airstrikes against al-Shabab in the African nation. The UAE recently began a major campaign seek donations for humanitarian aid there.

Associated Press writers Adam Schreck in Dubai and Maggie Michael in Cairo contributed to this report.

MIGHTY TRENDING

With ISIS on the run, Iraqi guns turn toward each other

Nothing united Iraq’s Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds like the mortal threat posed by the Islamic State. But with the terrorist group now in full retreat on the battlefield, it didn’t take long for Iraq’s old sectarian animosities to resurface — presenting a major new headache for the Pentagon and the Trump administration.


With Islamic State now driven out of its major bastions in Iraq and Syria and on the verge of being wiped out as a military force in the Middle East, those deep-seated cleavages within the region are re-emerging in fresh rounds of political and sectarian infighting.

Washington’s remarkable feat of uniting lifelong enemies in the region into a military coalition formidable enough to defeat Islamic State in Iraq and Syria appears to be coming apart at the seams. Since September’s referendum by Iraqi Kurds — a vote aimed at charting a path toward an independent Kurdish state — US-backed forces in the fight against Islamic State have quickly turned their guns on one another.

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th
A Kurdish peshmerga soldier takes the lead during urban combat maneuvering training held near Irbil, Iraq, Oct. 29, 2015. Army photo by Spc. Tristan Bolden.

Iraqi government forces, backed by Shiite militias trained and equipped by elite troops from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, rapidly and violently recaptured critical territories in northern Iraq’s Kirkuk and Sinjar governorates this month.

Kurdish peshmerga, who claimed the contested territories after driving out Islamic State fighters in 2014, were quickly outgunned by Baghdad’s troops and the Iranian militias known as Popular Mobilization Units — which only months before had fought alongside the peshmerga in the battle for Islamic State’s Iraqi stronghold of Mosul.

Meanwhile, defense officials in the White House and the Pentagon continue to tout the cohesiveness of the anti-Islamic State coalition, brushing off concerns that the politically, ethnically, and religiously diverse factions will undermine efforts to build a united Iraq.

That rosy assessment, said one former US ambassador to the region, puts the coalition’s entire victory at risk.

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson participates in the Saudi Arabia-Iraq Coordination Committee Meeting, along with Saudi King Salman and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, at the Saudi Royal Court in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on October 22, 2017. Photo from US State Department.

“The ISIS fight is over, and the new fight for the region is unwinding now,” former US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey said. With the fall of Mosul in July and the collapse of Islamic State’s self-styled capital of Raqqa this month in Syria, regional players are reverting to their sectarian loyalties in an attempt to secure their holds on power, he said.

“Nobody in Irbil is thinking of the ISIS threat [anymore]. No one in Baghdad is thinking about it,” said Mr. Jeffrey, now a distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “The US government has not gotten its head around that yet.”

Related: This is SecState’s plan to welcome Taliban into Afghan government

But remarks by Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson seem to indicate that mentality is shifting, at least among the US diplomatic corps. In his harshest rebuke yet of Iranian military influence in the coalition, Mr. Tillerson demanded that Tehran pull back its paramilitary forces from Iraq. “Certainly, Iranian militias that are in Iraq, now that the fight against Daesh and ISIS is coming to a close, those militias need to go home,” he said alongside Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir during a joint press conference in Doha.

“Any foreign fighters in Iraq need to go home and allow the Iraqi people to rebuild their lives with the help of their neighbors,” the top US diplomat said. Pentagon officials reiterated their faith in all members of the coalition days earlier, telling reporters that the US-led coalition remains as robust as it was since the early days of the war.

“The coalition is very strong. And again … I think the relationship is very strong,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White told reporters at the Defense Department on Oct. 20.

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left) and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Photo from US State Department.

Referendum fallout

While underlying ethnic and sectarian tensions were a constant threat to unravel the US-backed coalition, Irbil’s decision to press ahead with its independence referendum vote was the trigger that brought tensions to the fore, Mr. Jeffrey said.

“I do not know what they were doing, but they missed this one,” he said regarding Irbil’s inability or unwillingness to anticipate the regional fallout from the referendum vote, which Iraq, Iran, Turkey and the United States all opposed.

The decision unleashed a new round of violence in northern Iraq over the past several weeks. The result was the Kurdistan Regional Government’s secession of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and handing over Sinjar to the Iranian-backed militias federalized by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi during the height of the war against Islamic State.

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th
Kurdish pershmerga soldiers securing an oil field in Kirkuk, Iraq. Photo from Voice Of America.

The referendum vote stirred decades-old conflicts suppressed during the Islamic State fight, a former top Iraqi diplomat said. The referendum vote in Iraqi Kurdistan and ensuing aftermath “is a clear example where the political leadership have not been able to resolve some of the core challenges they have been facing since 2003,” former Iraqi Ambassador to the US Lukman Faily said Oct. 23.

“Even if the government can find some solutions to these new crises, the underlying challenges in relation to political and social harmony requires much more soul searching by all stakeholders who instigated a needless referendum in which [Iraq] will feel its consequences for some time to come,” he said in a statement.

Outside players

Besides fueling internal strife, the referendum created openings for world powers aside from the US to expand their influence in the country. Baghdad’s reliance on the Shiite militias armed by the IRGC, which the Trump administration placed on the official list of recognized terrorist groups this month, has further cemented Tehran’s sphere of influence in the country.

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Photo from CounterExtremism.com

“The US has been sidelined in this crisis, [and] that is a dangerous precedent,” Jennifer Cafarella, the senior intelligence planner at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War, told The Washington Times shortly after the recapture of Kirkuk by Iraqi forces.

“Mr. al-Abadi does get to claim this as a win,” Ms. Cafarella said, but she noted the armed support from Iran undermines the legitimacy of that victory in Kirkuk. “This was not a unilateral operation by Iran” in Kirkuk, but the thinly veiled presence of military advisers from Iran only shows Tehran’s reach into Iraq, she added at the time.

Tehran is not the only US adversary wading into the growing problem of Iraqi Kurdistan. On Oct. 23, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow would maintain economic and diplomatic ties with the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, but urged Irbil to continue dialogue with Baghdad.

Also Read: Iran commands a secret 25,000-man ‘foreign legion’ in Syria

“We understand the hopes of the Kurdish people as it concerns their striving to strengthen their identity, their self-awareness,” Mr. Lavrov told reporters during a joint briefing with Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari.

“However, we believe it is correct to realize those desires, those hopes exclusively via the Iraqi government and taking fully into account the significance the Kurdish question has on a regional scale, and taking into account the need to avoid additional sources of instability in the region,” he added, according to Reuters.

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 12th
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

However, analysts say Russia’s overtures and seeming support for Kurdistan’s referendum effort is Moscow’s attempt to fill the vacuum of support left behind by Washington. Moscow is reportedly attempting a similar effort to persuade US-backed forces in Syria to abandon their American patrons and side with Russia.

Turning support of American proxy fighters in Syria to Russia has always been part of Moscow’s regional strategy for the country, said Christopher Kozak, a research analyst specializing in Syria at the Institute for the Study of War.

“Russia’s role is to co-opt our US-[backed] forces on the ground” once Islamic State is defeated in Syria, Mr. Kozak said in a September interview. “They see the best option is to have some kind of regime rapprochement [with the SDF] and remove the US. That would be the best position from the Russian perspective.”

While it remains unclear what Moscow’s strategy for Iraqi Kurdistan may be, a robust Russian presence in northern Iraq coupled with its already formidable military presence in Syria, would give Moscow the opportunity to press its interests deeper into the Middle East as the US military posture in post-Islamic State Iraq begins to wane.

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