More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan - We Are The Mighty
Articles

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan

With the Pentagon poised to announce details of a troop increase for the US mission in Afghanistan, the pending decision raises questions about the effect additional boots on the ground will have on the 16-year conflict.


Defense Secretary James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford made the rounds July 19 on Capitol Hill, reportedly briefing lawmakers on the White House’s strategy for Afghanistan and on the ongoing coalition campaign to defeat Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The Pentagon repeatedly has said its Afghanistan war plan would be on President Trump’s desk by mid-July.

For several weeks, defense officials led by Mr. Mattis have been assessing the progress of the Afghanistan war, determining what level of support — including a 3,000- to 5,000-troop increase — will be required to stabilize the country’s security forces.

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan
DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith

Government-led analysis and reviews by private sector analysts say upwards of 60 percent of Afghanistan is heavily influenced by or under the direct sway of the Taliban. Afghan troops, advised by US and NATO forces, have suffered heavy casualties to maintain control over the 40 percent of the country ruled by the central government in Kabul.

The war in Afghanistan received little attention on the campaign trail last year, with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump focusing on the US-led coalition to defeat the terrorist group known as ISIS or ISIL. But Washington refocused on Southwest Asia amid Taliban gains this spring and the increased Islamic State presence in the eastern half of Afghanistan.

“We are not winning in Afghanistan,” Mr. Mattis told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee last month.

His comments echoed those of US Central Command chief Gen. Joseph Votel and Gen. John Nicholson, the top American commander in the country.

Currently 8,400 US troops are in Afghanistan, training and advising local security forces. Should the top-end troop increase proposal go into effect, it would raise the number of US forces in the country to more than 10,000.

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan
DoD photo by Sgt. Edward Siguenza

On top of the increases sought by the Pentagon, NATO leaders have agreed to send surge forces into the war-torn country. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced the decision during an alliance ministerial earlier this year.

Inside the Pentagon, hopes were high that President Trump’s emphasis on military might to achieve US national security objectives coupled with a hands-off management style would give the department the resources and leeway it needed to bring the Afghan war to an end. Those hopes were bolstered when the administration announced decisions on troop numbers would be the exclusive domain of Mr. Mattis and his staff.

But recent reports claiming that National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster instituted a soft cap of 3,900 soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines that could be sent to Afghanistan has put a damper on such assumptions.

The Trump White House’s management of the Pentagon “is not the free hand that has been advertised,” said Bill Roggio, managing editor of the Long War Journal and an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan
DoD photo by EJ Hersom

Furthermore, any close study of Mr. Trump’s rhetoric during the campaign would have proven things would be business as usual at the Pentagon. “The [war] policies are fundamentally the same at this point in time just with the reins loosened,” Mr. Roggio said.

The proposed 3,900-man troop cap is less an example of the war micromanagement of the Obama administration and more a way to get some breathing room as the Trump administration pulls together a long-term Afghan strategy, he added.

“It is a stopgap until we can come up with a complete strategy. It is not a permanent cap,” said Mr. Roggio.

Congressional hawks, led by Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, have taken Mr. Trump’s national security team to task over its lack of an Afghanistan war plan.

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan
Arizona Senator John McCain. DoD photo by Chief Petty Officer James Foehl

Last month Mr. McCain told Mr. Mattis and Gen. Dunford that he hopes they can “understand the dilemma you are presenting to us” each day the Trump administration holds off on issuing a new strategy for America’s longest war.

But for all the rhetoric, the US does have an Afghanistan strategy in place — the one drafted by the Obama White House.

Mr. Roggio said he understands the frustration at the Defense Department and on Capitol Hill regarding the White House’s slow pace on the Afghanistan plan.

“But there is a strategy in place right now, and until there is a new one, you follow that,” he said, referring to the Obama plan.

Articles

This top-secret operation was the World War II version of ‘Weekend At Bernie’s’

In ‘Weekend At Bernie’s,’ a corpse becomes the life of the party. But, in World War II, a corpse saved the lives of thousands of American and Allied soldiers.


On April 30, 1943, the British submarine HMS Seraph surfaced a mile from the southwest coast of Spain. A canister was brought on deck and the officers of the sub opened it. Inside was the body of an alcoholic, homeless man who had died from ingesting rat poison, now dressed in the clothes of a British Royal Marine major.

The sailors put a life jacket on the corpse, strapped a brief case to its belt, read Psalm 39 over it, and then pushed the body into the ocean.

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan
Photo: British Royal Navy Lt. L. Pelman

This was the fruition of Operation Mincemeat, one of the most important actions to the success of Operation Husky, the Allied invasion of Sicily and the beginning of the end for Hitler’s Fortress Europe.

‘The underbelly of the Axis’

After the success of Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of German North Africa, was assured, Allied planners were fully focused on how to break into fortress Europe. It was widely agreed that the first attack should be into Italy, attempting to knock it out of the war, thus weakening the Axis Powers. The problem was, though Italy was described by Winston Churchill as, “the underbelly of the Axis,” it was heavily fortified.

Allied planners knew Sicily, the island off the “toe” of Italy’s “boot,” was the logical place to attack in order to take the fight to the Axis. Unfortunately, logical places to attack are generally well-defended. Since Hitler was known to be afraid of an attack through Greece and the Balkans, the Allies decided to play up the possibility of an invasion there while claiming they would bypass Sicily entirely.

Operation Barclay, a deception operation, was launched to sell this lie to the Third Reich. One of the key elements of Barclay was Operation Mincemeat, possibly history’s most daring Haversack Ruse.

The Haversack Ruse and the Trout Memo

The Haversack Ruse was invented in World War I when the British Army needed to deceive the Ottoman Military. Though there are conflicting accounts on who planned and who executed the ruse, someone rode a horse into contested territory, waited until they were shot at by the Ottomans, slumped over in their horse like they’d been hit and rode as quickly as possible back to British lines.

During the escape, the rider “accidentally” dropped a haversack with fake battle plans in it. The British faked a search for the documents. The Ottomans recovered them, assumed they were real, and redeployed their forces. This lead to the Ottoman defeat at the Battle of Beersheba.

Early in World War II, Naval Intelligence released a document called the “Trout Memo.” Though it was credited to the British Director of Naval Intelligence, it is thought to have actually been the work of his assistant, Sir Ian Fleming. Fleming would go on to write the Bond novels which were partially based on actual operations in the war.

The memo, released in 1939, listed 51 ways to deceive enemy intelligence. Number 28 was a plan for an updated Haversack Ruse. Intelligence operatives would fake an airplane crash in such a way that the body would wash up on the shore where the enemy would find it. Hidden on its person would be documents that the enemy would find credible. This idea would form the core of Operation Mincemeat.

Planning Operation Mincemeat

Planning for Operation Mincemeat was conducted by British Navy Lt. Cmdr. Ewen Montagu and Flight Lieutenant Charles Cholmondeley.

They knew that Spain, though neutral, regularly allowed Nazi military officials access to Allied documents that fell into their hands.

Ocean currents were studied and a timeline was established. The goal was a set up where a body, recently deceased, could be floated to the coast where it would be appear to have arrived after a plane crash. To make it work, they needed a false identity and a real body.

A coroner and former colleague of Montagu’s, Bentley Purchase, was contacted to quietly look for suitable bodies. On January 28, 1943, a homeless Welsh man, Glyndwr Michael, died of phosphorous poisoning and was sent to Purchase. Purchase contacted Montagu and Cholmondeley who agreed the body was fit for the task. Michael was placed in cold storage, giving the British 3 months to perfect the fake documents and execute the mission before the body would be too decayed to use.

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan
Photo: UK National Archives

Montagu and Cholmendeley worked together to create a false identity for their corpse. Their final creation was Maj. William Martin, a Royal Marine. Martin was recently engaged to a woman named Pam. A photo of a Military Intelligence Section 5, MI5, staffer, was included in Martin’s effects.

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan
Photo: Ewen Montagu Team, Wikimedia Commons

The conspirators thought it would be suspicious if a major was shabbily dressed. So, Martin was given a pair of nice underwear, taken from the possessions of a recently deceased official at New College, Oxford. A series of documents were forged and placed on Martin including sale receipts, a collection letter from a bank, and the photo of “Pam,” in order to sell the “Martin” identity.

In addition, military documents were put into an official briefcase that would later be chained to the deceased man’s belt. These documents were specially crafted to make it sound like Operation Husky was the invasion of Greece instead of Sicily. They also referenced a fictional operation, Operation Brimstone, as the invasion of Sardinia while implying that the Allies would feint to Sicily. This would convince the Germans that the real invasion of Sicily, when it began, was just a smokescreen for the fictional invasions in Sardinia and Greece.

Conducting the operation

With the body, the documents, and the story in place, it was time to execute the mission.

The body was placed in a steel canister filled with dry ice and driven to the HMS Seraph by a legally-blind racecar driver. The Seraph‘s crew was told that the capsule contained meteorological equipment. Only the officers knew the real mission.

When they arrived at their destination, the officers secured the documents and a lifejacket to the body, performed their own small ceremony, and pushed the body into the ocean. The HMS Seraph sailed away from Spain into the early morning Atlantic.

The body was quickly recovered by the Spanish who turned it over to the British Vice-Consul in the country. “Maj. Martin” was buried with full military honors on May 2. The British, keeping up the ruse, began a hasty search for the missing documents.

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan
Photo: Enrique Conde, Creative Commons

Effects

The Spanish recovered the documents and gave the Germans an hour to copy them. Once the Germans had copies, they sent the information to Berlin where it was trusted as genuine. The originals were returned to the British government.

As a result of the German High Command believing the documents, entire divisions of tanks were moved to defend Greece. Minesweepers were moved from Sicily to Greece where they laid mines off the coast. Rommel himself was sent to Greece to lead the defense.

That summer, on July 9, the true Operation Husky was kicked off and Sicily was invaded. The Germans, still believing Sicily was a feint, declined to reinforce the island. It wasn’t until July 12 that German paratroopers arrived to try and slow the Allied advance, but by then it was too late. Fighting on the island continued until August 17 when the last German unit pulled out. Sicily was captured with a fraction of the Allied casualties expected, though 5,837 were killed or missing, 15,683 were wounded, and 3,330 captured. Germany was thought to have taken about 20,000 casualties while Italy lost over 130,000 men, mostly captured during the Allied advance. Operation Husky led to the downfall of Mussolini and the surrender of Italy.

And much of its success was due to the British corpse, Glyndwr Michael, who served as Maj. William Martin.

The bulk of information known about Operation Mincemeat came from Montagu when he published his book, “The Man Who Never Was” in 1954. New information, including intentional errors in Montagu’s book, came from the research of Ben Macintyre. Macintyre was granted access to Montagu’s papers and published his own excellent book, “Operation Mincemeat,” in 2011.

MORE: The 4 biggest myths US Marines keep telling themselves

AND: This was the secret war off the US coast during World War II

Articles

ISIS is facing one of its most serious setbacks yet

ISIS is currently facing one of its greatest military challenges since the group proclaimed a caliphate following the seizure of Mosul and much of western Iraq and eastern Syria last summer.


According to an intelligence brief from The Soufan Group, ISIS is experiencing losses around its “capital” of Raqqa, representing both an operational and symbolic setback for the group.

Although ISIS has continued to expand and hold onto territory in Iraq, the militants have come under increasing pressure in Syria.

ISIS has lost territory in a number of key battles. Most notably, Kurdish YPG forces have dealt ISIS defeats at the towns of Tal Abyad and Ayn Issa.

ISIS once hoped to cut off major Syrian Kurdish regions from one another by holding these towns near the Turkish border. Now, the Kurds have foreclosed on that strategy, beating back the jihadists’ momentum and even moving into some of ISIS’s most important territory.

“With the most recent YPG moves against the town of Ayn Issa, the Islamic State is facing perhaps its most serious symbolic and meaningful threat since it declared itself a caliphate almost one year ago,” The Soufan Group notes. “Its capital, Raqqa, the center of the group’s authority and image, is under threat.”

By seizing and securing Ayn Issa, the YPG, in conjunction with US-led coalition airstrikes, have embedded themselves only 31 miles away from ISIS’ de facto capital. The YPG also seized the Syrian military base Liwa-93 from ISIS in the surrounding region. The rapid advance of the Kurdish forces, which ISIS nearly overwhelmed during a crucial battle in the border city of Kobane last summer, has dealt a blow to the militant group, which promoted itself through a doctrine of “remaining and expanding” on multiple simultaneous battlefronts.

Following the YPG’s gains, ISIS forces began digging trenches around Raqqa in an attempt to fortify their capital, Reuters reports. ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani also addressed the losses in a Ramadan audio broadcast stating that “God never gave the mujahideen a promise of victory every time.”

Although the Kurds do not have immediate plans to attack ISIS in Raqqa, the seizure of territory around the city could deal a significant blow to the militant organization. Tal Abyad, located by the Turkish border, functioned as a key smuggling point through which fighters and supplies could reach the jihadists.

With its opponents taking control of the territory north of Raqqa, ISIS could experience significant logistical disruptions — and face the crisis of enemy forces advancing closer to the heart of the group’s power.

Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, Edgar Vasquez, a spokesperson for the US State Department’s Near Eastern Affairs Bureau, said that “should anti-ISIL forces continue to hold the city, there is the potential for a significant disruption of ISIL’s flow of foreign fighters, illicit goods, and other illegal activity from Turkey into northern Syria and Iraq.”

More from Business Insider:

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Soldiers see real-time drone feeds from new handheld devices

The Army and Textron Systems are developing a lightweight, portable One System Remote Video Terminal (OSRVT) that allows dismounted soldiers to view, in real-time, nearby drone video feeds using a modified frequency.


OSRVTs have been in combat with the Army since 2007. They are integrated into vehicle platforms, such as Stryker vehicles, allowing infantry to view feeds and control sensor payloads from nearby drones while on the move.

Related: The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines

The laptop-like drone controllers are configured with an adapter kit so that they can operate from almost every Army vehicle. In fact, OSRVT software is hosted in the Army’s emerging Humvee replacement, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle. Fielding of OSRVTs is currently 69 percent complete, Army officials said. This new technology allows soldiers, such as dismounted infantry not in vehicles, to view combat-relevant drone feeds while on foot.

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan
Spc. Lavoyd Anderson from the 64th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, prepares to launch his Raven unmanned aerial vehicle.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)

Current OSRVTs include a transceiver, antenna, and ruggedized tablet computer that enables an unmanned aircraft, Army Program Managers for OSRVT, UAS Common Systems Integration Office, have told Warrior.

Certain small, handheld Army drones, such as a Puma or Wasp, can be operated by dismounted soldiers. However, while quite useful in combat circumstances, they have a more limited range, endurance, and sensing ability compared to larger, medium-altitude drones, such as an Army Gray Eagle.

More: The Army wants to make drones using a 3-D printer

Other planned upgrades to the OSRVT configuration include a modified Ku-band Directional Antenna (KuDA) for mobile vehicle operations that will be ready this year and bi-directional technology by 2020. The Army plans to have additional communications security for the OSRVT in place by 2020 as well, Army developers said.

The OSRVT system supports level of interoperability three (LOI3) via a KuDA; LOI3 allows the OSRVT user to control the sensor payload (except weapons) when allowed by the primary operator.

Army OSRVTs have been fielded to active duty forces, reserves, and National Guard units.

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan
U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers of the 3rd Special Forces Group. (Department of Defense)

Upgrades to the OSRVT supports and improves the Army’s current combat-zone progress with “manned-unmanned teaming.” This technology, already deployed in combat in Afghanistan, allows Kiowa and Apache attack helicopter crews to view video feeds from nearby drones and control the sensor payload from the air.

The new technology is slated to be ready by 2020, Army developers said.

Special Operations radio enables soldiers to view drone feeds

Harris Corp. is working with Special Operations Command to develop a new handheld, two-channel radio with an ISR receiver to enable drone video convergence, company officials said.

The radio, called RF-335, is designed to utilize wideband waveforms and a datalink to support full-motion video from nearby drones.

Read more: Move over Amazon, the Army also wants to deliver supplies with drones

“In the past, someone on the ground would have a traditional comms radio and use an ISR receiver. This converges those capabilities into one platform by pulling down video from the air, cross-banding the video into a two-channel radio,” Dennis Moran, senior vice president at Harris, said last year.

The radio functions like existing software programmable radios, using high-bandwidth waveforms to network voice, video and data across the force in real time. Setting up an ad hoc terrestrial network, the radios are designed to function as a battlefield network in austere environments where there is no satellite connectivity or fixed infrastructure.

Harris is also building upon this radio technology with an RF-345 two-channel, vehicle or soldier-mounted manpack radio.

“We add filtering so we can operate those radios close together without interference,” Moran said.

Articles

Here’s how the F-35 slaughtered the competition in its latest test

Early results came in from the US Air Force’s realistic, challenging Red Flag air combat exercise — and it looks like the F-35 slaughtered the competition.


Aviation Week reports that the Joint Strike Fighter killed 15 aggressors for each F-35 downed. The F-35 achieved this remarkable ratio in a drastically increased threat environment that included radar jamming, increased air threats, and surface-to-air missile batteries.

“In the past, the non-kinetic effects were not fully integrated into the kinetic fight,” Col. Robert Cole, the Air Force Cyber Forward director, said in a statement.

But now, F-35s take on cyberthreats and electronic warfare in addition to enemy surveillance and conventional, or kinetic, threats.

“This integration in an exercise environment allows our planners and warfighters to understand how to best integrate these, learn their capabilities and limitations, and become ready to use [these combined resources for maximum] effect against our adversaries,” Cole said.

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan
US Air Force by Staff Sgt. Darlene Seltmann

But the F-35s didn’t just shoot down the enemy — they used their sensor-fusion and datalink abilities to talk to other planes and help them sniff out threats they wouldn’t have seen on their own.

“Before, where we would have one advanced threat and we would put everything we had — F-16s, F-15s, F-18s, missiles, we would shoot everything we had at that one threat just to take it out — now we are seeing three or four of those threats at a time,” Lt. Col. George Watkins, 34th Fighter Squadron commander, told Aviation Week.

“Just between [the F-35] and the [F-22] Raptor we are able to geolocate them, precision-target them, and then we are able to bring the fourth-generation assets in behind us after those threats are neutralized. It’s a whole different world out there for us now.”

The ability for fifth-generation US aircraft to detect threats and send that information to legacy planes meets an urgent need for the US military.

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan
Even after the F-35 runs out of missiles, it can still pass valuable targeting data to legacy planes laden with bombs and missiles. | US Air Force by Jim Hazeltine

As adversarial nations like China and Russia constantly improve their counter-stealth abilities and air defenses, numbers increasingly matter.

The F-35 has repeatedly hit cost and schedule overruns during its production and is now years behind schedule. But the latest performance at Red Flag proves that even a handful of F-35s can improve an entire squadron’s performance.

The current Red Flag exercise will conclude on February 10.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy issues warning to China on Instagram: ‘You don’t want to play laser tag with us’

The U.S. Navy issued a warning to China’s Navy over Instagram this week, telling China that it doesn’t want to “play laser tag” with the U.S. Navy with their destroyer-based laser weapons.


Last month, a Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Navy destroyer pointed a military grade laser weapon at a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon, which is an aircraft designed specifically for various types of sea-based warfare, including anti-submarine operations. According to Defense Department reports, the P-8A was flying approximately 380 miles west of Guam when it encountered a Chinese destroyer believed to have been the Hohhot, among the latest and most advanced destroyers in China’s fleet.

The destroyer reportedly shined a laser weapon at the P-8A, though the laser caused no injuries or immediately recognizable damage. The aircraft is being inspected further for issues. Despite the low level of threat the laser posed, the U.S. Navy has been taking this attack quite seriously, recognizing it as a test, both of their weapon’s efficacy and of the American response.

While the Navy’s warning on Instagram seems almost playful, the U.S. Navy isn’t messing around when it comes to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, nor are they kidding about their laser weapons. The U.S. currently has a number of laser weapons under development, and just recently deployed one aboard the USS Dewey aimed at “dazzling” or blinding and confusing drones.

This isn’t the first time the U.S. has had reports of being engaged with Chinese lasers, nor is it the first time these two naval powers have found themselves in a staring contest over China’s claims of sovereignty throughout the region. The United States and the international community recognize China’s claimed ownership of the South China Sea as illegal, but China’s Navy has been rapidly expanding to enforce their claims in recent years.

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan

China’s claims over the South China Sea are shown in red.

(WikiMedia Commons)

With neither China nor the U.S. backing down in the Pacific, and laser weapons becoming more commonplace by the day, it seems entirely likely that this won’t be the last round of laser tag between our two navies.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why Ross Perot was a veteran to be admired

Nowadays, people may not remember much about H. Ross Perot outside of his boisterous personality, his third-party Presidential run, or maybe even just comedian Dana Carvey’s spot-on impression of the Texas billionaire. Perot was a naval officer and eight-year veteran whose work ethic and subsequent success is the very ideal vets strive to achieve. He not only helped himself, he helped others achieve their potential.

The onetime Eagle Scout even demonstrated his love for country after leaving the military, by remembering POWs, supporting American troops by opposing a war, and taking care of the Americans who worked for him. His Presidential run was just the most visible part of the former Midshipman’s life.


As far as Dana Carvey’s impression goes, Perot loved it.

“The number one rule in leadership is to always be accountable for what you do,” Perot famously said in the middle of the 1992 Presidential Debate. “When you make a mistake, step up to the plate and say you made a mistake. That’s leadership, folks.”

Perot knew a thing or two about leadership. He joined the Navy via the Naval Academy at Annapolis, becoming the class President for the Academy’s 1953 class. It was there he helped establish the Academy’s honor concept, a code of conduct that forbids Midshipmen from lying, cheating, or stealing. He graduated from the USNA a distinguished graduate, forever changing the experiences of Midshipmen at the Academy.

“I had never seen the ocean, and I had never seen a ship — but I knew that I wanted to go to the Naval Academy,” he reportedly said of his appointment to Annapolis.

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan

But his determination didn’t end with his service. Like most of us, Perot transitioned into civilian life and found the standards much lower than he was used to. In his first post-military job as a salesman for IBM, he filled his entire annual quota in two weeks. He would eventually go on to found his own information technology company, Electronic Data Systems, the one that would make him a billionaire. Within a week of going public, he increased the EDS stock price tenfold. It was the fastest fortune ever made by any Texan.

When called upon to serve his country as a civilian, he did so, traveling to Laos in 1969 to investigate the conditions of American POWs held by the North. Perot was apparently appalled, as he tried to organize a relief airlift that rubbed the Cold War superpowers the wrong way. He also took care of his people, as many veterans instinctively do, even when he was at the top. When two of his employees were taken captive by Iranians in 1979, he organized and paid for the rescue operation that freed the two hostages.

It was with this life of service, hard work, and success that Perot was able to take the fight to two entrenched parties represented by longtime politicians, and change the American political scene forever. For all the jokes made about his demeanor, Perot earned nearly 20 percent of the popular vote, a return that forced President Bill Clinton to reconsider his economic policies and end his term with a budget surplus – a practically unthinkable feat in today’s politics.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Female Marine combat photographer paves the way

Erin Kirk-Cuomo dreamed of being a combat photographer. She interviewed with multiple companies and publications within the civilian world, but none of them were willing to hire a female photographer for that position.


So, she decided to join the military.

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan

She chose to go into the United States Marine Corps. When she opened the doors to the Armed Forces recruitment office in 2004, she was ready to raise her right hand and do just that. But Kirk-Cuomo was told she couldn’t be a combat photographer, because she was female.

At that point, females were not allowed to serve in combat positions. But Kirk-Cuomo knew that the job she wanted wasn’t considered an active combat position, even though she’d be in the thick of things. She knew the recruiter was wrong and told him so. Kirk-Cuomo then demanded that he call a supervisor, which he begrudgingly did. That recruiter later came back and apologized for telling her she couldn’t be a combat photographer. He then asked if she could pass a physical fitness test.

The Marine Corps has the longest boot camp out of all of the armed forces and arguably the toughest to graduate from. In 2004 when she wanted to join, only 6% of enlisted Marines were female. Kirk-Cuomo did part of the physical fitness test right then and there in front of that recruiter.

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan

She shipped out to boot camp on Parris Island two weeks later.

Kirk-Cuomo made it through the still gender-segregated 13 weeks to become a Marine. She vividly remembers that if the female or male platoons came anywhere near each other, the drill instructors would make the males do an about face, away from the females. She recalls a time that the drill instructor yelled at the male recruits, “Don’t you look at those dirty females!”

This wouldn’t be the last time she’d hear those words.

Despite the hardships, she graduated boot camp as a high shooter. Kirk-Cuomo had the highest rifle score, beating out all of the other platoons that graduated boot camp with her. She left for combat training following boot camp and then went on to school to learn how to be a combat photographer. She left as the number one distinguished honor graduate.

Kirk-Cuomo was now a part of combat camera, or COMCAM. “There really weren’t a whole lot of us [females] at the time. Most of the women that were in COMCAM were lithographers or graphics people,” she said.

Kirk-Cuomo reported to her new duty station shortly thereafter – Camp Pendleton, located in San Diego, Calif. A couple of years later, she began deploying. From 2006-2008 she was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, where she was the only female in her unit. She was also the only combat photographer for the Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF).

Kirk-Cuomo shared that being in the field was a dream come true. She credited a male warrant officer for going against the norm. In a time where leadership was hesitant to send female combat photographers anywhere dangerous, he sent her everywhere she wanted to go. It’s because of his inclusiveness and belief in her abilities that she was able to go right into the thick of things just like her male counterparts. He never saw her as “just” a woman; he saw her as a competent Marine.

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan

When asked if serving as a combat photographer was everything she’d hoped for, Kirk-Cuomo smiled sadly. “I wasn’t prepared to stand up for myself as much as I should have,” she said. She recalled her experiences of continuous harassment and even a sexual assault. She feels strongly that the Marine Corp created a toxic environment by first segregating the sexes in boot camp and creating an environment that made females feel as though they were “less than.”

The Marine Corps just graduated its first co-ed company in March of 2019. If Congress has anything to say about, it will be mandatory due to the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which has a provision requiring them to integrate both boot camp locations. The west coast location has never trained female recruits.

“I am horrified that I didn’t stand up for myself just to fit in and get by. We older female Marines really do carry a sense of guilt with that. How much worse did we make it for the generations that came after us because we didn’t stand up and say something?” she asked.

Kirk-Cuomo gives credit for being able to openly share her experiences with the new generation of female Marines that have refused to accept that behavior. “I am just in awe of them – seeing what they’ve done and what they continue to do,” said Kirk-Cuomo. She feels confident in the new wave of female Marines making positive changes.

When she left her last deployment, she became a photographer at Marine Corps Headquarters, assigned to the Commandant. She left the Marines in 2010 and went on to become a photographer for the Secretary of Defense.

After President Obama was elected, she remembers there being a level of high tension among male Marines and heavy discussion about whether Obama would repeal the rule that prohibited females from serving in combat positions. He did.

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan

Kirk-Cuomo was able to photograph the moment the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff signed the repeal. “I remember standing in the briefing room, photographing this momentous thing,” she shared. “I was taking these pictures and just sobbing behind the camera.”

These days Kirk-Cuomo is an active advocate for female Marines and one of their loudest cheerleaders and supporters. When asked if she regrets joining, she didn’t hesitate to say no. But when asked if she would advise females to pick the Marine Corps over other branches of service to enlist in – she immediately said not yet, they still have a lot of work to do.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is President Trump’s military wishlist for 2019

President Donald Trump’s fiscal budget request for 2019 includes $686 billion for defense spending.


While Trump has pushed for a larger military since he was campaigning for president, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has said more recently that the “real growth” in the military buildup begins with the now-unveiled fiscal 2019 budget.

With this behemoth amount, the military is setting up contracts that will help the US fight the next war against near peer threats. This includes vehicles, aircraft, ships, and hundreds of thousands of munitions, much of which was used up in the fight against ISIS.

Here are a couple purchases that stand out:

77 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan
An F-35A performs a test flight on March 28, 2013. (Lockheed Martin)

The military seems set on rolling out the new fifth-generation stealth jet. The fighter has recently gotten some good news for future international sales, as tensions in Asia and the Middle East rise.

The purchase of 77 F-35s is expected to cost $10.7 billion.

B-21 Raider Long Range Strike Bomber

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan
The B-21 Raider. (USAF artist’s impression)

The B-21 Raider is a long range stealth bomber that is intended to replace the B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit. Details of the B-21 are scarce, as even Congress doesn’t know much about it.

$2.3 billion will be spent on further development of the aircraft, which is expected to be an important part of the future nuclear triad.

15 KC-46 tankers

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan
A KC-46 Pegasus refuels an A-10 Thunderbolt II with 1,500 pounds of fuel July 15, 2016. (US Air Force)

Aerial refueling plays a massive role in operations against ISIS and the Taliban. The KC-46 Pegasus can carry 212,299 pounds of fuel, and has a maximum transfer load of 207,672 pounds. It is intended to replace the KC-135 Stratotanker.

The price tag for 15 new tankers is $3 billion.

More reading: Everything you need to know about Trump’s 2019 budget

29 MQ-9 Reapers

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan
A MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle prepares to land after a mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

The MQ-1 Predator will be retired as soon as March and the Air Force is expected to purchase more MQ-9 Reapers.

The Reapers can fly longer and faster, and carry everything from Hellfire missiles to Joint Direct Attack Munitions.

25 AH-1Z Vipers

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan
A Bell AH-1Z Viper takes off at a Forward Arming and Refueling Point at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., Feb. 4, 2018, as a part of Integrated Training Exercise 2-18. (US Marine Corps/Pfc. William Chockey)

The AH-1Z Viper is a replacement/modernization of the Marine Corps’ AH-1 Cobra.

The Corps plans to buy two more Vipers this year than last year, and wants to have 342 in total.

60 AH-64E Apaches

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan
Two AH-64E Apache helicopters prepare to land at Orchard Combat Training Center, Idaho, Sept.29, 2016. (US Department of Defense)

Known as the Guardian, the AH-64E is another improved version of the AH-64 Apache. Additional new avionics and technology allow the gunship to fly faster, operate easier, and even control UAVs.

The AH-64Es are part of a $4.9 billion request from the Army for its aircraft.

Related: The military and its paychecks get a boost in the new budget

6 VH-92 Presidential Helicopters

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan
An artist’s rendering of the VH-92 that will serve as the new Marine One. (Photo Lockheed Martin)

Sikorsky’s S-92 has been selected to replace the Sikorsky VH-3D Sea King as the president’s official helicopter. Initial fielding is planned for 2020, and the helicopters will have the iconic white and green paint scheme that is unique to presidential helicopters.

The price for the six new helicopters is expected to be $900 million.

5,113 Joint Light Tactical Vehicles

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan
Five variants of Joint Light Tactical Vehicles made by Oshkosh. (Oshkosh Defense)

The Department of Defense wants to fully replace the Humvee, which has been the workhorse of the US military since the mid-1980s. DoD has selected Oshkosh’s L-ATV line as the primary vehicle for its Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program.

The Pentagon has allocated $2 billion for the purchases.

Two Virginia Class submarines

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan

The Virginia-class submarine is currently the Navy’s newest type of submarine. It is a nuclear-powered attack sub, and has the latest stealth technology. Virginia-class submarines are replacing older Los Angeles-class submarines, and are expected to be in service up to 2070.

The cost of two new subs will be $7.4 billion.

Also read: Mattis had a simple request for the new defense budget

Three DDG-51 Arleigh Burke Class Destroyers

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan
USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) maneuvers alongside the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) for a fueling-at-sea (FAS), June 14, 2017. (Naval Surface Warriors/Flickr)

Arleigh Burke Class Destroyers are the backbone of the current Navy fleet. The Navy currently has 64 of the destroyers in service, and want to add three more. The plans to buy more Arleigh Burke Class Destroyers may be an admission that the plans for the Zumwalt-class are not going well.

The three new ships will cost $6 billion.

43,594 Joint Direct Attack Munitions

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan
2000 lbs GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) are transported to the flight deck of USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75). (US Navy)

JDAMs are unguided “dumb” bombs that have gotten equipment that turn them into “smart” bombs, meaning they can be guided to their targets. The war against ISIS has caused a bomb shortage, so it should come as no surprise that the military is ordering so many new ones.

The cost for the 40,000+ bombs will be $1.2 billion.

4,338 Hellfire missiles

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan
U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to Task Force Griffin, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, 7th Infantry Division load an AGM-114 Hellfire missile on an AH-64E Apache helicopter in Kunduz, Afghanistan, May 31, 2017. (US Army)

Hellfire missiles have proven to be absolutely essential for precision strikes against terrorists from Iraq and Afghanistan, to Syria and Somalia. They are anti-tank missiles that can be loaded on helicopter gunships like the AH-64 Apache, or drones like the MQ-9 Reaper.

148,287 155mm artillery rounds

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan
Illuminating projectiles, each weighing close to 100 pounds, are staged by Pfc. Juan Valenzuela and others from the California Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 144th Field Artillery Regiment July 21 at National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California, July 21, 2017. (Army National Guard)

Despite the fact that precision guided strikes have become the dominant method of destroying enemy targets, good old fashioned artillery is still a vital part. In fact, Marines in Syria recently set a new record for artillery barrages that have been intact since the Vietnam War.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the only Medal of Honor action ever caught on video

The video is a grainy, far-off view of the battlefield of Takur Ghar, Afghanistan. It came from the ISR feed of a nearby Predator drone monitoring the 2002 operation designed to surround and destroy a large al-Qaeda force in the mountains of Eastern Afghanistan, called Anaconda. At Takur Ghar, things did not go well for the combined Coalition force of seven Navy SEALs, 20 Army Rangers, and three Air Force Airmen. In what is best described as a pyrrhic win, the battle cost the lives of three Rangers, a SEAL, a pararescueman, a special forces aviator, and a combat controller, Tech. Sgt. John Chapman.

It was after a special ops team was inserted via Chinook that Chapman’s heroism was captured by the drone.


During the initial insertion into the area, one of the Chinooks was hit by a massive barrage of enemy machine gun and RPG fire, forcing it to leave the area immediately. During its expedite escape, Navy SEAL PO1 Neil Roberts fell out of the open hatch of the helicopter, falling 10 feet into the snow below. Razor 04 (one of the Chinook helicopters) returned to the peak with its team of special operators to rescue Roberts. It too was forced away from the area, but not before the operators could get off the helicopter.

In the video above, you can see one of the disembarking troops split off from the main group. That’s Tech. Sgt. Chapman running straight into al-Qaeda machine gun positions in the dark. The operators have split up into two-man bounding teams, and Chapman is wounded while advancing on one of the enemy positions to protect their movement. Chapman is stopped only temporarily and starts fighting again almost immediately.

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan

By this time, the operators have called for a quick reaction force from the 75th Ranger Regiment at Bagram Air Base, and two of the SEALs are also wounded. The teams call for extraction and another Chinook, Razor 01, is inbound before getting lit up again by enemy RPG fire. Chapman attempts to protect the helicopter and his fellow operators but is killed in action. But the story doesn’t end there. The operator force and the two QRF teams of Rangers had their own ordeal in getting to the battlefield (which is another story in itself). All told, the battle lasted until the Americans were extracted at 2000 that evening, some 18 hours after their first contact with the enemy.

Chapman was awarded the Air Force Cross in 2003 for the action depicted in the video, which was upgraded to the Medal of Honor in 2018. Whether Chapman was still alive when the SEALs departed the area has come under dispute due to evidence found by investigators during the Medal of Honor investigation. The airman’s mother believes everything on the ridge that night went as Chapman would have wanted – his teammates escaping the line of fire to fight another day, even if it cost him his own life.

Articles

This is how special operators respond so quickly when sh-t hits the fan

Special operators are often America’s 911 call, flying to the scene of emergencies and safeguarding American interests while outnumbered and sometimes outgunned. Years of training and military exercises hone them into deadly weapons.


But it takes a lot of logistics to get the premier warfighters from their home bases or staging areas and into the fight, ready to kill or be killed on America’s behalf. Here’s a glimpse of the process:

1. Step one of deploying special operators is preparing gear and recalling personnel.

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Sean Carnes)

2. Operators and support personnel rush vehicles and other gear to loading areas. The exact makeup depends on the planned mission.

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan
This photo is from an exercise. Rumor is there are less smiles and jokes for actual combat missions. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Erin Piazza)

3. The vehicles are secured for transport. Often, this means the gear is going into planes. Gear that will roll off is secured to the plane itself while gear that will be airdropped is typically secured to a pallet.

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Erin Piazza)

4. Operators sometimes take part in securing their gear since it guarantees that it will come out as expected on the objective.

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Erin Piazza)

5. Once the gear is ready to go, the personnel have to get strapped in. While these guys are strapping on parachutes, some missions require they run off the ramp on the ground instead.

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael Battles)

6. Attention to detail is critical since any mistake on the objective can cost lives.

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael Battles)

7. While MC-130Js are one of the more famous planes for special operators, there are plenty of other aircraft that will do the job, such as this MC-12.

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew B. Fredericks)

8. Or Black Hawks… Black Hawks are good.

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jasmonet Jackson)

9. Of course, operators on the ground like to have fire support, and they can’t be guaranteed artillery on the ground. So they’ll often fly in with extra firepower as well.

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jordan Castelan)

10. The AC-130s can bring everything from 20mm miniguns to 105mm howitzers. The typical modern armament is 25-105mm cannons. Jets and helicopters can bring the boom when necessary.

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jordan Castelan)

11. And then the operators get to work, grabbing bad guys, ending threats, and chewing bubble gum.

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jasmonet Jackson)

Articles

Congress wants to know if the US could win a nuclear war against China, Russia

U.S. intelligence agencies are evaluating the respective Russian and Chinese capabilities to survive a nuclear war, as well as those of the United States.


Congress has directed the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and U.S. Strategic Command, through the National Defense Authorization Act of the Fiscal Year 2017, to report on Russian and Chinese “leadership survivability, command and control, and continuity of government programs and activities” in the event of a nuclear strike.

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan
A Russian Topol M mobile nuclear missile. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The directive was pushed forward by Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio).

The U.S. “must understand how China and Russia intend to fight a war and how their leadership will command and control a potential conflict. This knowledge is pivotal to our ability to deter the threat,” Turner told Bloomberg.

Russia and China “have invested considerable effort and resources into understanding how we fight, including how to interfere with our leadership’s communication capabilities,” he added.

“We must not ignore gaps in our understanding of key adversary capabilities,” he concluded.

The intelligence review is required to identify “which facilities various senior political and military leaders of each respective country are expected to operate out of during crisis and wartime,” “location and description of above-ground and underground facilities important to the political and military leadership survivability,” and “key officials and organizations of each respective country involved in managing and operating such facilities, programs, and activities.”

“Our experts are drafting an appropriate response,” Navy Captain Brook DeWalt, a spokesman for U.S. Strategic Command, told Bloomberg.

“We need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces, especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defense systems,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said in December. He said that Russian forces should be able to “neutralize any military threat.”

China should “build more strategic nuclear arms and accelerate the deployment of the DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile,” China’s nationalist Global Times said in December.

Last week, Chinese reports indicated that China had deployed its nuclear-capable DF-41s in response to President Donald Trump’s “provocative remarks.”

The request predates Trump’s election; however, it appears consistent with his intentions for enhancing the power of the U.S. military.

“The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,” Trump tweeted in late December.

Trump instructed Secretary of Defense General James Mattis to “initiate a new Nuclear Posture Review to ensure that the United States nuclear deterrent is modern, robust, flexible, resilient, ready, and appropriately tailored to deter 21st-century threats and reassure our allies” Friday.

At the same time, Trump hopes that he can reshape relations with both China and Russia.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Local recipes: Learn to cook new foods based on your current duty station

What’s for dinner? No really, we are all tired of cooking the same things, so can we have some new ideas? Quarantine has the vast majority of folks cooking more than normal. And naturally, we want to switch it up a little.

Don’t get bored from cooking the same dishes over and over again. Instead, use your current duty station to help provide some inspiration.


Start by looking at where you’re stationed and what local fare they have to offer. Then consider what dishes you can find around town and how you could be making them at home. Simple? Sure. But it’s also an easy way to switch up your current menu.

Go straight to restaurant menus, or Google based on town or local ingredients for even more variety.

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan

What base is home-for-now?

Southern states have soul food and countrified home cooking. There’s pimento cheese (YUM), chicken salad galore, and about as much banana pudding as you can stand.

In the Midwest there’s BBQ, deep-dished pizzas, so many casseroles, Cincinnati-style chili and bierocks.

Overseas you’ll find European dishes, Hawaiian fare, sushi and noodle dishes — but in their true forms, not Americanized versions.

And that’s only the beginning.

More US boots on the ground in Afghanistan

Fresh ingredients for the trying

Finally, you can find new ingredients to inspire your cooking by checking out local markets. Now is a great time to support small businesses, but they’re also hot spots for items you don’t normally use. Ask a worker for recommendations (from a distance) for some insider experience while you’re at it. Or, when planning your garden, add in some unique locally based plants.

As a military family, one of the biggest perks is the chance to move around and experience new cultures. Just because you’re stuck at home doesn’t mean you can’t still use your location to try new things. Consider cooking outside of your comfort zone — while drawing inspiration from the locals — for tasty new dishes that the whole family can enjoy.