A Sailor assigned to Cryptologic Warfare Activity 66 (CWA 66), based at Ft. George G. Meade, Md., was killed while deployed in Manbij, Syria, Jan. 16, 2019.
Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Shannon M. Kent, 35, was killed while supporting Combined Joint Task Force — Operation Inherent Resolve.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family, friends, and teammates of Chief Petty Officer Kent during this extremely difficult time. She was a rockstar, an outstanding Chief Petty Officer, and leader to many in the Navy Information Warfare Community,” said Cmdr. Joseph Harrison, Commanding Officer, CWA-66.
Personal photo provided by the family of Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Shannon M. Kent.
Kent, who hailed from upstate New York, enlisted in the Navy Dec. 11, 2003, and graduated from boot camp at Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes, Ill., in February 2004. Her other military assignments included Navy Information Operations Command, Fort Gordon, Ga.; Navy Special Warfare Support Activity 2, Norfolk, Va.; Personnel Resource Development Office, Washington, D.C.; Navy Information Operations Command, Fort Meade, Md.; and Cryptologic Warfare Group 6, Fort Meade, Md. Kent reported to CWA 66 after the command was established on Aug. 10, 2018.
“Chief Kent’s drive, determination and tenacity were infectious. Although she has left us way too soon, she will not be forgotten, and her legacy will live on with us,” said CWA 66 Command Senior Enlisted Leader, Senior Chief Cryptologic Technician (Collections) Denise Vola.
Kent’s awards and decorations include the Joint Service Commendation Medal (2), Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Rifle Marksmanship Ribbon, and Pistol Marksmanship Ribbon.
No war in recent memory can compare to the meat grinder of World War I. Europe still bears the scars of the war, even almost a century later. The gruesome and terrifying type of warfare typical of the Great War had a lasting impact on those who witnessed and experienced it. It also created such carnage on the land where it was fought that some of those areas are still uninhabitable to this day.
The uninhabitable areas are known as the Zone Rouge (French for “Red Zone”). They remain pock-marked and scarred by the intense fighting at places like Verdun and the Somme, the two bloodiest battles of the conflict.
During the Battle of Verdun, which lasted over 300 days in 1916, more than 60 million artillery shells were fired by both sides – many containing poisonous gases. These massive bombardments and the brutal fighting inflicted horrifying casualties, over 600,000 at Verdun and over 1 million at the Somme. But the most dangerous remnants of these battles are the unexploded ordnance littering the battlefield.
Immediately after the war, the French government quarantined much of the land subjected to the worst of the battles. Those areas that were completely devastated and destroyed, unsafe to farm, and impossible for human habitation became the Zone Rouge. The people of this area were forced to relocate elsewhere while entire villages were wiped off the map.
Nine villages deemed unfit to be rebuilt are known today as the “villages that died for France.” Inside the Zone Rouge signs marking the locations of streets and important buildings are the only reminders those villages ever existed.
Areas not completely devastated but heavily impacted by the war fell into other zones, Yellow and Blue. In these areas, people were allowed to return and rebuild their lives. This does not mean that the areas are completely safe, however. Every year, all along the old Western Front in France and Belgium, the population endures the “Iron Harvest” – the yearly collection of hundreds of tons of unexploded ordnance and other war materiel still buried in the ground.
Occasionally, the Iron Harvest claims casualties of its own, usually in the form of a dazed farmer and a destroyed tractor. Not all are so lucky to escape unscathed and so the French and Belgian governments still pay reparations to the “mutilée dans la guerre“– the victims of the war nearly 100 years after it ended.
To deal with the massive cleanup and unexploded ordnance issues, the French government created the Département du Déminage (Department of Demining) after World War II. To date, 630 minesweepers died while demining the zones.
An estimated 720 million shells were fired during the Great War, with approximately 12 million failing to detonate. At places like Verdun, the artillery barrages were so overwhelming, 150 shells hit every square meter of the battlefield. Concentrated barrages and driving rains turned the battlefield into a quagmire that swallowed soldiers and shells alike.
Further complicating the cleanup is the soil contamination caused by the remains of humans and animals. The grounds are also saturated with lead, mercury, and zinc from millions of rounds of ammunition from small arms and artillery fired in combat. In some places, the soil contains such high levels of arsenic that nothing can grow there, leaving haunting, desolate spaces.
Though the Zone Rouge started at some 460 square miles in size, cleanup efforts reduced it to around 65 square miles. With such massive amounts of explosives left in the ground, the French government estimates the current rate of removal will clear the battlefields between 300 and 900 years from now.
The act of conducting a ceremonial flyover is nothing new for naval aviators, but the flyover that occurred Dec. 6, 2018, is one that has never occurred before in our Navy’s history.
At approximately 4:15 p.m. (CST), aviators from various squadrons assigned to Commander, Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic (CSFWL) and Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic (CNAL) flew an unprecedented 21 jet flyover at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library to honor the former naval aviator and president at his interment in College Station, Texas.
Following six days of national mourning, the ceremony served as the third and final stage of a state funeral for President Bush who was laid to rest alongside his wife of 72-years, former First Lady Barbara Bush and their late daughter, Robin.
Planning of a state funeral typically begins around the time of a president’s inauguration; however, the execution of that plan may not happen for decades and often with little notice of a president’s passing.
Navy Conducts Unprecedented Flyover for President George H.W. Bush
The plan for President Bush’s funeral service called for a 21 jet flyover, which was the responsibility of the operations team at CNAL led by Capt. Peter Hagge.
“Before I even checked in to [CNAL] a year and a half ago, this plan was in place.” Hagge said.Following the former first lady’s passing April 17, 2018, Hagge and the CNAL team coordinated efforts with CSFWL to start making preparation for the president’s death. On Nov. 30, 2018, both teams snapped in to action to execute that plan.
“We coordinated with Joint Reserve Base (JRB) Fort Worth and reached out to the commanding officer, executive officer and operations officer to make sure we had ramp space and hangar maintenance facilities,” said Hagge. “Cutting orders for the aircrew and all 50 maintainers and the other administrative details was the easy part. The tactical level detail was a lot more complex.”
All told, 30 jets made the trip to JRB Fort Worth in addition to the ground team on station at the presidential library in College Station. The extra nine jets served as backups to ensure mission success.
“It was reactionary to make sure we had the requisite number of aircraft with spares to make sure we could fill [the request] with 21 aircraft,” Hagge said.
The extra nine jets comprised of five airborne spares with four more spares on ground ready to support.
Cmdr. Justin Rubino, assigned to CNAL, served as the forward air controller on the ground. He remained in radio contact with the aircraft to match the flyover’s timing with the funeral events on the ground.
Naval aviators from various commands under Commander, Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic and Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic, operating out of Naval Air Station Oceana, fly a 21-jet missing man formation over the George Bush Library and Museum at the interment ceremony for the late President George H.W. Bush.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Christopher Lindahl)
“I like the responsibility and feel like I had the most direct role in ensuring success — other than the aircraft of course,” Rubino said. “I like being the ‘point person,’ communicating what’s happening on the ground, relaying that information and directing when the flyover occurs.”
Rubino coordinates all of CNAL’s flyovers, but believes this one is special.
“It’s special because not only was he the 41st president, but he was also a naval aviator,” he said. “He flew off aircraft carriers just like we do today and that’s a bond all of us share. He’s one of us. Sure he was the president of the United States, yes, but he was also a naval aviator.”
Coordinating a nationally televised 21 jet flyover for a state funeral is no small task, but Hagge remains humble, giving much of the credit to the Joint Task Force National Capitol Region, which was responsible for the overall planning.
“As far as the complexity goes, for us, we are a really small portion of an incredibly complex machine.”
The “small portion” included executing the Navy’s first 21-jet formation that originated from an Air Force formation already in existence.
“We pretty much took the Air Force plan and put a little Navy spin on it,” Rubino said.
That “spin” included changing the distance between the aircraft and altering the formation to a diamond shape for the first four jets. The last formation utilized the standard “fingertip formation” in order to do the missing-man pull.
Hagge and his team were honored to support.
“A funeral is a family’s darkest hour and a flyover, an opportunity where we can support them in a time of mourning, means the world to them,” said Hagge. “But this one, I think, means the world to our nation.”
Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson had strong words for the National Guard and the Pentagon after allegations emerged that the DoD is forcing California Guard troops to reimburse the government for enlistment bonuses it paid in error.
“It is beyond the bounds of decency to go after our veterans and their families a decade later,” he said in a statement obtained by We Are the Mighty. “These are rounding errors to the Pentagon, but these demands for repayment are ruining lives and causing severe hardships for service members whose sacrifices for the nation can frankly never be adequately be repaid.”
Johnson was referring to a Los Angeles Times story that alleges the National Guard is forcing nearly 10,000 guardsmen from California to repay reenlistment bonuses they were awarded 10 years ago.
According to the paper, more than 14,000 California Guardsmen were awarded the reenlistment bonuses as a result of the Army’s incentive program to retain soldiers during the height of the Iraq war.
The U.S. government investigated the California Guard reenlistment bonuses and found a majority of the requests had been approved despite the soldiers’ not qualifying for the bonus. There has been no suggestion that any of the Guardsmen who received the reenlistment bonuses were aware that they did not qualify for them.
The Los Angeles Times reports that Army Master Sgt. Toni Jaffe was the California Guard’s incentive manager at the time, and that after the Pentagon discovered the overpayments 6 years ago, Jaffe pleaded guilty to fraud. She was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison. Three other officers associated with the fraud also pled guilty, receiving probation after being forced to pay restitution.
Major Gen. Matthew Beevers, the deputy commander of the California Guard, accused the nearly 10,000 soldiers of owing a debt to the Army.
In his statement to The Los Angeles Times, Beevers claimed that the soldiers were at fault and that the Guard couldn’t forgive them. “We just can’t do it. We’d be breaking the law,” he said, not addressing whether the Guard was breaking the law by reneging on the contracts.
Several of the Guardsmen went on to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan, many of whom sustained injuries as a result.
Military Times reports that the Pentagon is searching for ways to overcome the issue. “This has the attention of our leadership, and we are looking at this to see what we can do to assist,” Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said Monday.
A host of lawmakers have stepped forward to condemn the Pentagon for harassing the Guardsmen who received the reenlistment bonuses, calling for congressional investigations into the matter. Though as of publication, no presidential candidate other than Johnson had addressed it.
Calling on President Obama and Congress to act immediately on the impacted Guardsmen, Johnson said, “The Pentagon needs a good dose of common sense far more than it needs these dollars, and making our service members pay for the government’s incompetence is beyond the pale.”
DARPA’s AlphaDogfight trials have officially come to a close with Heron Systems’ incredible artificial intelligence pilot system defeating not only its industry competitors, but going on to secure 5 straight victories against a highly trained U.S. Air Force F-16 pilot, without the human pilot scoring a single hit.
Eight teams were selected to create artificial intelligence (AI) “agents” that would be capable of simulating a real dogfight between fighters, referred to as within-visual-range air combat maneuvering, more formally. The first two rounds of this competition saw these virtual pilots engage with one another in simulated combat environments in November and again in January. This third round of AI dogfighting included similar competitions, with the four finalist firms squaring off in a round robin. The event then culminated with the hands-down victor, Heron Systems, taking on a real human fighter pilot in another simulated fight.
And Heron really brought the heat, with its artificial intelligence system ultimately securing the AI championship by defeating Lockheed Martin’s AI system.
Heron consistently proved to have the most accurate targeting apparatus of any AI agent, as it engaged opponents with laser-accurate gun strikes often in the first merge of the fight.
“It’s got to keep that opponent in that one degree cone to win the game,” Ben Bell, Heron’s Senior Machine Learning Engineer, told Sandboxx News.
“You saw that a lot with Lockheed, we’re both nose on, we’re both creating damage, but when their nose is off by that one degree, that’s where we were able to win a lot of these engagements.”
That superior aiming capability was on particular display when squaring off against the U.S. Air Force F-16 pilot representing humanity in this battle for what some consider to be the future of aviation. While the pilot’s name was not released due to OPSEC concerns, DARPA did provide his callsign: Banger. They also explained that Banger was not just a working fighter pilot, he’s a graduate of the Air Force’s Weapons Instructor Course, which could loosely be described as the Air Force’s “Top Gun” school, for the movie buffs out there. The real Top Gun, of course, is a Navy school called the United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program.
Heron’s AI system racked up the first four wins against Banger in quick succession, leveraging its incredibly precise aiming to whittle Banger’s aircraft “life” down in a series of looping merges. In the fifth and final bout, Banger changed approaches, sweeping his aircraft out away from Heron’s F-16 and creating separation with high-G turns.
However, the new tactics only seemed to delay the inevitable, with Heron managing to kill Banger’s F-16 once again, without the human pilot managing to get a single shot on target.
Heron’s AI pilot was widely described as “aggressive” by DARPA staff and the Air Force pilots on hand throughout the competition. Under control of Heron’s AI, the virtual F-16 would practically play chicken with its opposition — something the human pilots were quick to point out would be a violation of training regulations in a real simulated dogfight. Of course, in an actual dogfight, there are no such limitations… but Heron’s aggression may still have been turned up just a bit too high to serve as a reasonable wingman.
“It’s important to realize that a BFM (Basic Fighter Maneuvers) engagement can occur in any direction and any altitude. We’ll often begin with a basic starting parameter to develop a site picture to reference, but a real engagement doesn’t have those cuffs,” Major Justin “Hasard” Lee, an F-35 Pilot instructor and former F-16 pilot, tells Sandboxx News. “The enemy always has a vote, meaning they always reserve the right to do something you’re not expecting. When that occurs you have to find a creative solution to counter the unexpected problem. “
F-16 Fighting Falcon (DoD Image)
According to Bell, their AI agent placed an equal emphasis on damaging the opponent and minimizing its own risk.
“If the agent sees a 51% chance of scoring a kill as it heads into a neutral merge, it’s going to take it,” Bell explained.
Of course, aside from some really exciting video game playing, this entire exercise had official purposes too. DARPA is not only seeking to improve drone aircraft systems, they’re also looking to increase the level of trust between human pilots and AI systems. In the future, these same sorts of artificial pilots will likely be flying alongside humans, and other similar systems will fly along with them in the cockpit of their own aircraft.
By outsourcing some tasks to a highly capable AI, pilots can focus more of their bandwidth on situational awareness and the task at hand. We’ve already seen this approach lead to data fusion capabilities in advanced platforms like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which automates simple tasks and provides the data to the pilot by way of helmet mounted and heads up displays.
Bell explained that the current AI agent used to secure this victory could be adjusted to prioritize its own safety to a higher degree, which might make pilots a bit more comfortable with its approach to combat. He also pointed out, however, that just because something’s scary to human pilots, doesn’t mean it isn’t effective.
A U.S. Navy Grumman F-14A Tomcat of Fighter Squadron 213 (VF-213) “Black Lions” flown by CDR Greg “Mullet” Gerard and LTJG Don “Coach” Husten engages a General Dynamics F-16N Viper aggressor aircraft flown by Lieutenant Commander George “Elwood” Dom during training at the Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) at Naval Air Station (NAS) Miramar, California. (US Navy Photo)
“Trust comes from being able to execute a mission with a high degree of success. There’s some point where you have to say you know that it works and in all the ways we tested it, it was superior to its opponent.”
He went on to clarify, however, that there will certainly be “some give and take” between their engineers and real pilots moving forward.
When asked about Heron’s ace in the hole, its incredibly accurate targeting system, Bell made sure to point out that the way in which this competition was executed was to the human pilot’s disadvantage. Banger was flying in a simulated environment using a VR headset, which doesn’t equate that well to a real fight in the real sky, and gives their computer pilot instant awareness of its surroundings.
However, that VR environment may have also worked in Banger’s favor, as his final bout against Heron’s AI saw him executing a number of 9G maneuvers that would have taken a significant toll on a human pilot. Heron’s system, on the other hand, would not be physically affected by executing these maneuvers in a real aircraft.
“Dogfighting, or Basic Fighter Maneuvers as we call it, is an incredibly complex and dynamic environment. The most difficult part is perceiving what the adversary is doing,” Lee explains. “You’re looking for minute changes in their lift-vector which foreshadows their next move. That’s why it’s important to have good vision (which can be corrected with glasses or surgery).”
While going undefeated against a highly trained human pilot is a great feather for Heron System’s cap, this doesn’t mean the end of human fighter pilots is near. DARPA’s goal isn’t to replace humans in the skies, but rather to supplement them with capable drone assets and an auto-pilot system that could conceivably make human pilots far more capable, by freeing up their mental bandwidth in a fight.
Our military does an incredible job of protecting our global interests, but they don’t do it alone. They’ve got a bunch of very good doggies that help them out.
Case in point: President Donald Trump announced in October 2019 that a military dog named Conan played a role in the raid against ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in northwest Syria, but he’s far from the first dog to help out the military.
Dogs have been working as bomb sniffers, message carriers, and guards for US military branches since at least World War I, when a stray Boston bull terrier wandered on to an Army training field and went on to become a unit’s mascot as they traveled to Europe.
In the decades following, trained dogs traveled across the world as they worked with the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force. And their natural skills and instincts are honed in training, making these dogs become the perfect working companions for the troops.
Some of the dogs even became military heroes, sniffing out the enemy, and attacking when needed.
Here are some of the good dogs who have helped the US military over the years.
1. Stubby, a Boston bull terrier, is the most famous US military mascot from World War I.
Before Stubby became the famed dog he is today, he was just a stray pooch who wandered his way on to an Army training center in New Haven, Connecticut.
While on the training grounds in 1917, Private First Class Robert Conroy took him in and Stubby ended up on the front lines of World War I as the mascot for the 102nd Infantry, 26th Yankee Division of the United States Army.
According to The Purple Heart Foundation, Stubby took part in 17 battles, detected traces of gas to warn soldiers, located wounded men on battlefields, and learned drills and bugle calls, and how to decipher English from German.
Following his efforts, Stubby participated in parades, met three presidents, and received dozens of awards, including a Purple Heart.
Rags with Sergeant George E. Hickman, 16th Infantry, 26th Division.
(US Army Signal Corps)
2. Rags was a message carrier for troops in Europe during World War I.
Rags, a stray terrier in Paris during World War I, became a war hero after befriending US Army Private James Donovan in 1918, according to K9 History.
The dog soon became a carrier for Donovan’s unit, carrying messages from the 26th Infantry Regiment to the supporting 7th Field Artillery Brigade.
Rags lost an eye and Donovan was injured by poisonous gas during the Meuse-Argonne Campaign, a major battle in France in 1918. Donovan later died of his injuries.
Rags, meanwhile, lived out his life in Maryland, and died in 1936.
3. Chips is the most famous dog of World War II — and he once single-handedly attacked a hidden German gun nest.
After the US entered World War II, thousands of people donated their dogs to be trained for guard and patrol duty, and Chips was one of them.
The German shepherd-collie-husky mix took part in Allied campaigns in North Africa, Italy, France, and elsewhere in Europe, and was able to take down a hidden German gun nest during the 1943 invasion of Sicily, according to Inside Edition.
He later went on to guard a conference between British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and US President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Lee’s family ended up adopting Lex when he took an early retirement.
“We knew that’s what Dustin would have wanted out of this,” Jerome Lee, the slain Marine’s father, told the Associated Press at the time. “He knew that we would take care of Lex and love him, just like our own.”
Lex died in 2012.
A United States Air Force Belgian Malinois.
6. Cairo, a Belgian Malinois, was part of the SEAL team that took down al-Qaida’s longtime leader, Osama bin Laden in 2011.
Cairo was part of the SEAL Team 6 that helped take down al-Qaida’s longtime leader, Osama bin Laden, in a 2011 raid in Pakistan.
Though there are no available photos of Cairo, his story should be known.
Her handler, Cpl. Juan Rodriguez, ran past a known IED to apply a tourniquet and carry her back to safety.
Lucca then retired to California to live with Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Willingham.
“She is the only reason I made it home to my family and I am fortunate to have served with her,” Willingham said at the time. “In addition to her incredible detection capabilities, Lucca was instrumental in increasing morale for the troops we supported.”
She received a Dickin Medal in London in 2016, the highest valor award for animals in the UK.
Wonderful dog, Conan.
(White House photo)
8. Conan was injured while taking down Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State terrorist group.
A Belgian Malinois named Conan helped take down Islamic State terrorist group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in October 2019.
President Donald Trump published a photo of the Conan on Twitter, after announcing he had “declassified a picture of the wonderful dog” after the Pentagon had declined to reveal any information about the dog.
George Hand is a retired Master Sergeant from the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, and the Seventh Special Forces Groups (Airborne). The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own.
Military units are strong on tradition, well, formal tradition anyway. Then… then there are those un-recorded traditions, born and raised and assimilated into every unit’s corporate culture. In my own squadron of Delta, there was the both cherished and despised tradition of birthday hazing.
Everyone suffered from it because, well… everyone has a birthday, and if you tried to keep your date secret, a new birthdate was promptly assigned to you, and you were to be hazed with additional spirit for your insolence. Above all, you were expected to fight, to fight hard against the birthday-boy onslaught.
I fancied myself as one who despised the ritual. Over the years, I looked on in abject horror as men were blindfolded, bound, hung upside down, and dunked repeatedly into the swimming pool hanging by a rope tied to their legs. As you can imagine, I suffered minor nightmares as my birthday approached.
And that day came.
Pictured: definitely not me. The rest of my unit? Oh yes.
I entered my team room to the Cheshire grins of my brothers. Someone was singing Happy Birthday with a chuckle. I readied myself and, embracing the strategy I had devised, I spoke:
“I’ve decided, gentlemen, that I would not be participating in this ‘birthday bash’ Tom-foolery. I’m protesting this with passive resistance; I won’t fight you.”
The Reverend Chill-D got his name when he suddenly, unexpectedly and inexplicable, found Jesus once… for about a week. The Reverend was the pinnacle instigator and executer of the most heinous of hazing events. He loved it; it was in his life’s blood; he could taste it; he was born again into a world where hazing held the only key.
“You’re gonna do what… you’re not gonna do what, Geo??” he questioned with our noses damned-near touching tips.
“I… I… I’m not going to fight you guys, Chill-D.” I stammered.
“Well, well, well…” the Reverend continued, “Boys, looks like we got ourselves a coward! And we all know what we do with cowards!” Suddenly, a great pounce erupted in the room. There was much suffering and gnashing of teeth; sinew and tendon stretched dangerously close to its tinsel edge. Bone creaked and popped and nearly broke… but held fast.
When I came to, I couldn’t move. I was bound, somehow, on every inch of my body and lying supine on the floor. I was gagged with what I recognized by taste as duct tape, a thing all military folk know as “hundred-mile-an-hour tape, roll, green in color, one each.” I divined that my body too was bound in such fashion. From behind, I was lifted vertical at my head by an unseen force. I could understand now that I was duct taped to a moving dolly.
I don’t think this scene was ever meant to be relatable…
“Time to go to the pool, Great Houdini… we’re throwing you in the pool taped to this dolly. Better start thinking how you’re gonna free yourself!” and I truly did start to ponder that conundrum, as I knew my men not to be simple braggarts. How long could I hold my breath? What tools might I be carrying in my flight suit?
A man shot into the room with a canteen cup and sheet of paper. With the shriek of more stripping of tape, the canteen cup was taped fast to my right hand, and the paper was slapped to my chest.
“We’re taking him right now to the finance window and standing him next to it!” reported the villain.
I was rolled to the finance window and stood. There, in line at the window, was a group of eight women from the Unit waiting to collect travel funds. As the boys left me, there was much staring and blinking between me and the women. I rolled my eyes vigorously to the extent that I became nauseous.
“Please help…” one of the women began to read the sign on my chest, “…I must raise .56 to buy each of my friends a soda. If I fail to raise this money by 1300hrs, they will kill me.”
And the kind ladies each chipped in their change from their travel funds until I had some .00 and even a roll of Starburst candies. Yet I stood. I stood until some valiant men from our Signal Squadron came and sliced me loose.
As I stepped back to my squadron bay pushing the dolly, I realized there would be more scunion to bear from the boys. I paused… and as the pool door was just to my side, I stepped in and plunged myself into the watery goodness.
Not the kind of cannonballs the military normally advertises.
I then sloshed my way through the squadron lounge where my brothers languished before the TV, being it still the lunch hour.
“What the hell happened to you?” queried the Reverend.
“Some pipe-hitters from C-Squadron cut me loose… but then they throttled me and threw me in the pool!” I sulked as I headed for my team room. En route, I passed a bubba from our A-Assault team standing in the open doorway smiling at me.
“How that that new passive resistance policy of yours working out for ya, Geo?”
It’s one of the most cinematic forms of storytelling in war or action movies. Morale is down and all of the dejected troops look up to their great leader, the protagonist of the film, to deliver some sage words of wisdom and inspire them onto the pathway to glory.
We, the audience, know that the protagonist is more than likely going to win the battle and we can assume that, in real life, there’s no speech powerful enough to miraculously change troops’ minds about wanting to, you know, not die. That being said, whenever we see our sublime hero stand in front of their troops and deliver one hell of a speech, it gets our blood pumping.
And don’t just take our word for it — the films that feature the top four speeches on this list also swept the Oscars when they were released. Critics and moviegoers both love a powerful, pre-battle speech.
Ragnar Lothbrok — ‘Vikings’
There’s a disconnect between Hollywood and actual warfare. Normally, before a gigantic battle or fight, a leader won’t stand in front of their warfighters and give a rousing speech. The fight is just moments away — there’s no time to wax eloquent. In History’s Vikings, they get it right.
This is typically how pre-battle speeches typically go down in real life: “Don’t do anything stupid. Let’s kill the enemy. Here’s a a few tactics we should follow.”
In the brief speech below, delivered during the first episode of the series, we get a good look at how these speeches probably looked during the viking golden age.
Agent Maya — ‘Zero Dark Thirty’
This one also falls under the “how it actually happens” category. The fact is, the closest that pre-battle speeches usually get to the front lines is on base, miles away. The speech outlines mission objectives and is (typically) subject to questions/snarky comments from the people going into the fight.
There is honestly no better example in film history of this actually being done right than in Zero Dark Thirty, moments before SEAL Team Six flies out to finally get Osama Bin Laden. The speech is even complete with a “he’s there… and you’re going to kill him for me.”
President Whitmore — ‘Independence Day’
The world is under attack by hostile aliens and it’s up to the what remains of the military to stop them. Realistically, there’s no chance at survival, but just the right people are listening in to this speech, gaining the strength to fight on.
Not only does the speech unite everyone that’s about to go fight the aliens, but it also calls for human to unite and stand together. And you know, it also includes one of the best title drops in cinematic history.
General Maximus — ‘Gladiator’
Character introductions are one of the hardest parts of a script to write. The audience needs to know, in an instant, who a character was before the movie started, what we need to know about them now, and why they deserve to be the main character. There is perhaps no greater introduction than the one for Roman General Maximus, shown at the height of his power
After making sure that everything is going according to plan, Maximus has a little time to joke with his troops and tells them that he will be going back to his farm. It takes Maximus all of twenty seconds to put instill his men with pride and confidence as the enemy rides ever nearer.
General George S. Patton — ‘Patton’
This speech is far deeper than most people realize today. Yeah, it’s technically being given to the Third Army right before battle, but the film, instead, depicts it as being delivered in a theater.
That’s because the speech isn’t being directed at the troops. It’s directed at the audience, 1970s movie-going America. It’s brilliantly re-purposed and given a new meaning by being presented in a way that highlighted much of the uncertainty and debate surrounding the then-ongoing Vietnam War.
Aragorn — ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’
Everything in the Lord of the Rings leads up to one moment. A gathering all of the living warriors across Middle-Earth is charged with taking down the unstoppable scourge of Sauron’s forces. While the audience knows that Frodo and Sam are alright, Aragorn and his men believe them to be dead. They believe that Frodo has been killed, the ring was not destroyed, and it is instead in the hands of the enemy.
In their eyes, there was no way to win. They were all gathered just to die in front of the Black Gates. But not this day. They may all die, but they’ll make a valorous attempt to survive, spurned on by Aragorn’s courage.
William Wallace — ‘Braveheart’
William Wallace had finally banded the clans of Scotland together to finally make their stand against the English, but when they see the massive army they’re going against, they lose the will to fight. They come to the sudden realization that this “mythical” William Wallace that was supposed to lead them in battle is a mere man and, just as quickly, everyone wants to go home.
This is the perfect example of how the pre-war speech is supposed to go down. It’s up to William Wallace to remind everyone that there is no going back. There is no alternative to fighting, even if it means many of them will die. But if they die, they’ll go knowing they were slain for freedom.
The leaders of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence battle group in Poland honored Polish firefighters on Monday for their response when a US Army Stryker armored vehicle caught fire at the end of January.
The Stryker burst into flames on the side of a road outside the village of Gorzekaly, in northeast Poland near the Lithuanian border, on January 28. Its crew was able to pull over but unable to put out the fire and instead called local emergency responders.
Firefighters from the nearby town Pisz arrived and extinguished the fire quickly enough to prevent the vehicle’s total loss, according to an Army release, which said there were no injuries and damage was limited to the engine compartment.
US Army Lt. Col. Andrew Gallo, commander of NATO Battle Group Poland, and Command Sgt. Maj. Marcus Brister, the group’s senior enlisted adviser, presented certificates of appreciation to the firefighters on February 10.
“We sincerely appreciate the fire chief’s professionalism and dedication to duty,” Gallo said. “We are excited to continue to build relationships like this one with the local community during our deployment to Poland.”
“On public roads, we have never had to deal with vehicle fires, of course some kind of accidents but never fires,” said Lt. Col. Pawel Pienkosz of the fire brigade. “We were just doing our jobs; we will do it for you every time.”
The NATO battle group replaced the Stryker with a new one from Vilseck, Germany, where the 2nd Calvary Regiment, to which the Stryker was assigned, is headquartered.
NATO set up the enhanced forward presence battle groups after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea to show the “strength of the transatlantic bond” and provide training opportunities.
The Stryker fire isn’t the 2nd Calvary Regiment’s first incident during a NATO operation. During a June 2018 exercise, four of the regiment’s Strykers collided during a road march in Lithuania, injuring 15 US soldiers.
The military is a close-knit family, built upon multiple generations of camaraderie and inside jokes. Whenever a new person is introduced into that family, they have decades of knowledge to catch up on.
Troops will always rib the new guy — it’s their way of welcoming a new brother and sister.
Of course, just because it’s time to share a life lesson or two doesn’t mean troops will pass up the opportunity to have some fun at someone else’s expense. The following techniques apply to anyone new to a unit — not just the boots.
For maximum effect, mess with the butterbars.
“Hurrying up and waiting” is the most valuable skill in the military
(Meme via /r/military)
Teach them the unit’s pace
The moment you meet a new guy is the perfect time to show them how things are done — first impressions and whatnot. Chances are, they’ve still got a lot of in-processing that needs to get done and they’ll need a sponsor.
Now’s your chance. You can make this go one of two ways: Move things along at a blistering pace and watch as the new guy tries to keep up or grind things down to a screeching, maddening halt. Choose whichever way more accurately describes your unit.
Everyone will find it funny. Totally.
(Meme via The Salty Soldier)
Introduce them to their new unit
Your unit has been strengthened by years of bonding. Any dumb fights or petty squabbles have been lost to time. The new guy, however, is fresh meat. You get to relive all of those old jokes without letting them know you’re joking.
For example, let the new guy know that the dude in supply isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed — so they’ll talk extremely slowly to them. Or inform them that the hard-ass First Sergeant really enjoys hugs if you go for one. The sky’s the limit.
Great way to get them up to speed on how PT is done in the unit as well.
(Meme via /r/military)
Introduce them to the unit after hours
Troops wear their hardcore alcoholism on their sleeve. If the new kid just graduated high school, the most they have to brag about is, likely, that one party where someone’s dad gave them a beer. What better way to give them a more interesting story than subjecting them to possible liver failure?
This is the point where I should throw out there that, legally speaking, consumption of alcohol under the age of 21 is against the law, UCMJ action could be taken, and the MPs will bring the hammer down on those who provide alcohol.
But, you know… Not all military traditions are technically “legal.”
If they’re a lieutenant, everyone will just believe your story that they just “wandered” around post.
(Meme via /r/military)
Show them the local landscape
You’d be amazed at how quickly someone learns geographical landmarks when they’re lost. Even more so if they’re on foot. It’s like an impromptu land-nav lesson. Show them the company area and then swing by the Exchange for lunch. Then, out of the blue, you’ll just happen to get an important call the moment they’re out of sight.
It’s a win-win scenario. They learn the area like the back of their hand and you get a break from babysitting.
Either way, the FNG probably won’t get that you’re messing with them, so have at it.
(Meme via Army as F*ck)
There is no time-honored tradition tradition quite sending the new guy to retrieve one of the many items in the endless treasure trove of “completely real” things. Recruiters and older vets may try and take away the fun by letting the younger kids know that “blinker fluid” isn’t real, but there are plenty more in the cache.
Get creative and reach for the obscure. Ask the radio guys for a “can of squelch” or the not-blatantly-obvious ID-10-T form. It may sound cruel at first, but on the “search,” they’ll be run around the company area, getting familiar with who does what and where things are kept.
President Donald Trump toured the US’s last tank facility on March 20, 2019, in a move to highlight the impact of his soaring defense spending in a politically crucial state.
The Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in Lima, Ohio, has been building Army tanks and armored vehicles since World War II. It nearly shuttered in 2012 under the drastic “sequestration” cuts, but it now produces about 11 tanks a month and employs a growing workforce of 580.
The plant’s assembly line is roaring back under Trump’s defense spending hikes, including $718 billion proposed for fiscal year starting in October 2019.
“In terms of economic security, the Trump defense budget is helping to create good manufacturing jobs at good wages, including in communities like Lima that have fallen behind economically,” Peter Navarro, White House director of trade and manufacturing policy, wrote in a New York Times op-ed. “The revitalized Lima plant will directly employ a little more than 1,000 employees.”
Main entrance to Joint Systems Manufacturing Center. An M1A1 Abrams sits on a display platform to the left of the entrance gates.
Here’s a history of the sprawling tank plant, a still-operating legacy of World War II America’s so-called arsenal of democracy.
World War II
The facility opened in 1942 and soon began to build and test vehicles to be sent to the Pacific and European theaters. It built M-5 Light Tanks and T-26 Pershing tanks, according to the website Global Security. By the end of the war it had processed 100,000 combat vehicles.
The facility is owned by the US Army and operated by a contractor.
An expansion began after the Korean War broke out in 1950. The Army built new structures, including two massive warehouses that each had 115,000 square feet of storage, according to an official history of the site.
Construction fell off sharply after the war and didn’t pick up much during the Vietnam War.
The Army introduced the M-1 Abrams in 1980 and called it a “supertank” that would be faster, better armored, and have more firepower than is predecessors.
The early M-1 Abrams tanks weighed 60 tons, carried a 105 mm cannon, and could speed across fields at 30 mph. The armor used a “new super alloy, composite-material” to protect against rockets and artillery, according to the history.
105-mm M1 Abrams tank of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment at Grafenwöhr Training Area in Germany, 1986.
Chrysler Defense began production of the M-1 tanks at Lima in 1979.
In 1980, the first M-1 Abrams rolled out of Lima. It was named “Thunderbolt,” in homage to the name Gen. Creighton Abrams gave to his tanks in World War II, according to Global Security.
General Dynamics Land Systems bought Chrysler Defense in 1982. The plant became the sole US tank factory in when the Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant closed in 1996.
The deep sequestration budget cuts nearly shuttered the plant in 2012, and tank production languished under the Obama administration, which oversaw counter-insurgency wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where a large force of tanks wasn’t needed.
In 2017, the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center was producing about one upgraded M-1 tank a month; a year later it was producing about 11, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Two factors have seen the Lima’s tank plant roar back to life: Trump’s massive defense-spending hikes and the US’s assessment that rivalries with China and Russia are now the country’s foremost threat.
Deterring a major power like them may rely on the US Army fielding the upgraded, 80-ton Abrams tanks now rolling off Lima’s assembly lines.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
As a wise man once said, “They say that the best weapon is the one that you never have to fire. I respectfully disagree! I prefer the weapon you only have to fire once.”
Adhering closely to this mantra, the M65 was indeed only fired once and then simply used as a deterrent in the early days of the Cold War. Why was this weapon so special? Well, it helps that it fired 280mm nuclear tipped artillery with blast power approximately that of Little Boy dropped on Hiroshima.
Designed by engineer Robert M. Schwartz in 1949, the shells, in addition to being larger than anything the US military had ever produced before, had to have a case some 4000 times stronger than that of the aforementioned bomb dropped on Hiroshima in order for the nuke to survive the extreme forces it would be subjected to when the weapon was fired. While you might think designing such an round would be insanely difficult, if not wholly impossible, Schwartz reportedly had a working rough design ready in just 15 days. The resulting W9 was essentially an 850 pound, 11 by 55 inch shell with a gun type nuclear tip capable of producing a 15 kiloton blast.
Photograph of a mock-up of the Little Boy nuclear weapon dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in August 1945.
Of course, there was also the problem of the U.S. not then having a cannon capable of firing these W9 shells. Schwartz solved this too, drawing inspiration for the ultimate design of the M65 from German WW2-era railway cannons like the Krupp K5. He also designed the M65 such that it could be transported via roads, hugely increasing the weapon’s utility over railway cannons.
That said, to say the M65 was cumbersome is a massive understatement. Weighing around 83 tons tons, it was rather difficult to move, requiring two trucks packing 375 horsepower engines, one truck on each end of the cannon, with the drivers needing to be in constant communication as they drove. The top speed on this setup was a breakneck 35 mph, if the road was straight and reasonably flat.
Its mobility was also limited by the length of the vehicle- about 80 feet- with one soldier, Jim Michalko, recalling that after getting the cannon stuck in a narrow street during transport in Germany, they ended up having to destroy several buildings in order to make necessary turns.
Despite these issues, a well-trained crew of around 5 people could have the cannon ready to fire in around 15 minutes, with the weapon capable of hitting any target within roughly 20 miles with pinpoint accuracy. It likewise only took around 15 minutes to get the cannon back on the road, ready to nuke another target.
As alluded to earlier, the M65 is known to have only been fired once, as part of Operation Upshot–Knothole, a series of nuclear weapons tests conducted at the Nevada National Security Site in 1953.
In the one and only time a nuclear bomb has been shot from a cannon, during the Grable test at Frenchman Flat, the nuke flew 10 kilometres (roughly 7 miles) through the air, where it exploded about 500 feet above the ground.
The resulting explosion incinerated everything within about a mile of desert, excepting of course a lead lined fridge that was thrown free, and released a shockwave of searing hot air that tore apart lightly armoured vehicles positioned at set distances from the target area- all while several thousand soldiers, hundreds of military officials, several members of congress and then Secretary of Defence, Charles Wilson, looked on in awe from a mere 10 miles away.
Footage of this test was quickly circulated by the military as a show of force to the Soviets, and twenty M65 cannons were ordered to be created, all of which were shipped to Europe and South Korea where they spent around a decade being moved to various classified locations.
However, with the combined advent of tactical nuclear missiles and smaller nuclear shells that could fit in more widely used 155mm and 203mm cannons, the M65, which debuted with a bang in 1953, quietly went the way of Dodo by 1963.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, announced on May 5, 2019, that the US would send the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier and its associated strike group to the waters near Iran to “send a message” and respond to vague threats.
But the US will be sending the powerful carrier to a job it’s arguably ill-suited for, putting thousands of sailors at a major military disadvantage. And if a conflict were to arise, the sinking of a US aircraft carrier would be in Iran’s sights.
Though the carrier’s deployment to Iran’s nearby waters may have been planned long ago, Bolton has been clear that the ship’s return to the region marks a response to “a number of troubling and escalatory incident and warnings” from Iran.
While Bolton did not get into specifics, a report from Axios said Israel passed the US “information on an alleged Iranian plot to attack” US forces or interests in the region.
The Wall Street Journal cited US officials as saying new intelligence “showed that Iran drew up plans to target U.S. forces in Iraq and possibly Syria, to orchestrate attacks in the Bab el-Mandeb strait near Yemen through proxies and in the Persian Gulf with its own armed drones.”
US aircraft carrier strike groups represent the highest order of naval power ever put to sea, but they’re not the right tool for every job.
Caitlin Talmadge, an associate professor of security studies, said on Twitter that US carriers are “designed for operations on the open ocean.”
As a floating air base with guided-missile destroyers and cruisers sailing nearby for anti-missile defenses from land and sea, the carriers are best off when moving around far from the range of missiles fired from ashore.
The narrow, “confined waters of the Persian Gulf make carriers tremendously more vulnerable to asymmetric air, land, and naval threats,” wrote Talmadge.
Iran’s home field advantage could sink a tanker
In the shallow, brown waters of the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow pass through which about a fifth of the world’s oil passes through, Iran’s outdated submarines and missiles see a vastly uneven playing ground leveled out.
“Ideally, a Nimitz class carrier would operate within comfortable range of its targets (based on the range of its air wing) but at sufficient stand-off distance to minimize the risk of enemy threats,” Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst at Stratfor, a geopolitical consulting firm, told Business Insider. “This varies based on operating environment, but is usually between 300 to 400 nautical miles.”
Aircraft carriers do send a message, and have been relied on for such by presidents for decades, but according to Talmadge, it’s kind of empty in this situation.
The USS Abraham Lincoln makes a sharp turn at sea.
In the Gulf wars, or against militants like ISIS, aircraft carriers made plenty of sense.
“Iraq has tiny coast, couldn’t contest US carrier presence, so unusual situation,” continued Talmadge, who pointed out that Iran was a different kind of beast.
But “Iran’s geography military capabilities, particularly presence of significant assets near Strait of Hormuz, make sailing carrier through Gulf a lot riskier, and w/ less benefit given US ability to deploy carriers in Arabian Sea Indian Ocean instead,” she said.
In fact, the Persian Gulf, Iran’s home waters, plays directly into their hands. One of Iran’s favorite and best documented ways to harass the US Navy is to use fast attack boats in a swarming attack.
Swarm boat attacks, would “not be much of a danger in the open sea,” where the carrier had room to maneuver, but could be a problem in the choked gulf.
“Iran has various systems that can be a threat within the Persian Gulf, including anti-ship cruise missiles, fast attack craft and swarm boats, mini-submarines, and even asymmetric tactics like UAV swarms that seek to harass rather than disable the carrier,” Lamrani continued.
Iran’s Ghadir submarine behind a US carrier strike group in a propaganda video.
(Iranian TV via MEMRI)
Aircraft carriers lack onboard defenses against torpedoes, something that an old Iranian submarine could manage. In the noisy brown waters of the Persian Gulf, the US Navy may also struggle to track such small boats.
Furthermore, Iranian media has fantasized for years about sinking an aircraft carrier. In the country’s state-controlled media, the massive ships are often seen as targets ripe for sinking.
With US-Iranian relations hitting a startling new low, the Trump administration’s decision to send an aircraft carrier to Tehran’s home waters seems a risky choice with little apparent payoff.
Accompanying the carrier deployment announced by Bolton was an increase in bombers in the region. As Business Insider reported before, Iran is highly unlikely to attack even small, exposed groups of US troops in the region because the response from nearby US airbases would all but obliterate the country.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.