A new video that called US forces “perverted animals,” and portrayed them under attack was uploaded on a YouTube account run by North Korean propagandists.
In the video published on Saturday, still photos of an aircraft carrier, reportedly the USS Carl Vinson, and a B-1B bomber can be seen in simulated flames, a patriotic speech was recorded over the footage, under North Korea’s characteristically stern tone.
Additionally, photos of US and South Korean forces were displayed, presumably in their annual joint military exercises that take place this time of year.
The narrator in the video declared that “a knife will be stabbed into the throat of the carrier,” and that “the bomber will fall from the sky after getting hit by a hail of fire,” Japan Times reported.
The still photos used in the video resemble photo packages produced by professional news organizations, such as Reuters. Further, there also seems to be an image that bears some semblance to real-time strategy video games.
The same propaganda network was scrutinized in 2013 for a video that placed virtual crosshairs over the US Capitol building and portrayed simulated attacks on New York and Washington.
The video was uploaded shortly after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson traveled to South Korea for the first time as the US’s top diplomat, and saying that “the threat of North Korea is imminent.” Much to North Korea’s chagrin, annual military exercises involving 17,000 US troops and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system are also being conducted in South Korea.
Though the video’s rhetoric may sound inciteful, North Korea has a storied history of using inflammatory verbiage in their broadcasts, often targeting their southern counterpart and the US.
At the outbreak of the Korean War, Hector Cafferata, Jr. was a semi-professional football player serving in the United States Marine Corps Reserve. He received just two weeks of additional training before being shipped overseas.
Assigned to Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines just days before landing at Inchon, he, along with the rest of the 1st Marine Division, battled his way into North Korea. By November 1950, Cafferata and the Marines were preparing for an offensive in the vicinity of the Chosin Reservoir.
As the Battle of Chosin Reservoir began, the Marines of Fox Company were defending the Toktong pass. On the night of Nov. 28, the Chinese attacked to dislodge them.
What happened next is a legendary story in the Marine Corps — and Cafferata had a large role to play in that.
Due to an intelligence failure, the Marines were unaware that the entire Chinese 9th Army was advancing on their position. That night they crawled into their sleeping bags with minimal security on watch.
At around 0130, the Marines of Fox Company were awoken to a terrible surprise as all hell broke loose around their position. An entire Chinese division, the 59th, were attacking into the Toktong pass to cut off the 1st Marine Division.
The only things standing in their way were Cafferata and the rest of Fox Company.
He was joined by another Marine, Kenneth Benson, who was temporarily blinded after a grenade explosion had ripped his glasses right off his face. Together they made their way to a small depression and set up to make their stand against the Chinese onslaught.
As the Chinese pressed forward, Cafferata, a crack shot with his M-1 Garand, would empty his clip into the advancing infantry — eight shots, eight communists down.
He would then hand the weapon to Benson to reload while he threw grenades. When the Chinese attacked with their own grenades, he threw them back.
At one point he picked up his entrenching tool and batted the enemy’s grenades right back at them. According to a 2001 interview, Cafferata said he “must have whacked a dozen grenades that night.”
As the Chinese continued to advance, threatening to breakthrough his thinly held portion of the line, he gave them everything he had. He fired his weapon so much he had to pack snow on it to cool it off.
Eventually, Cafferata’s luck began to run out. As he hurled back yet another Chinese grenade, it went off just after leaving his hand. The explosion severed part of his finger and severely damaged his right hand and arm.
Though he was injured, Cafferata’s quick reaction saved several of his comrades.
Despite his wounds, he fought on. The Chinese couldn’t get past him.
Finally, just after daybreak, Cafferata was wounded by a sniper’s bullet and evacuated from the line. When the medics brought him to the aid station, they realized he was suffering from frostbite after fighting in subzero temperatures in his socks all night.
Despite Cafferata being out of action, the rest of Fox Company and the Marines at Chosin Reservoir still had quite a fight on their hands.
According to the Medal of Honor citation for Capt. William Barber, Fox Company’s commander, his 220 Marines held out “5 days and 6 nights against repeated onslaughts by fanatical aggressors.”
And of those 220 Marines, only 82 “were able to walk away from the position so valiantly defended against insuperable odds.” They carried their wounded out with them, including Cafferata and Barber who were both wounded on the first day of fighting.
Cafferata’s wounds earned him 18 months of recovery in various hospitals. His actions earned him the Medal of Honor.
The day after Cafferata’s amazing stand, the Marines “counted approximately one hundred Chinese dead around the ditch where he fought that night,” but according to one source, they “decided not to put that figure in their report because they thought no one would believe it.”
Cafferata was officially credited with fifteen enemy kills.
Cafferata, always humble, would later state, “I did my duty. I protected my fellow Marines. They protected me. And I’m prouder of that than the fact that the government decided to give me the Medal of Honor.”
Hector Cafferata, Jr. passed away on April 12, 2016 at the age of 86.
At the end of August, 2017, India and China backed away from a 73-day standoff on the Doklam Plateau, high in the eastern Himalayas.
In the year since, both sides have sought to mend ties, especially after a summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping in the eastern Chinese city of Wuhan in April, 2018.
The two countries are engaged in a kind of “recalibration” of their relationship, even though deeper-rooted issues that divide them persist, according to Faisel Pervaiz, a South Asia analyst at geopolitical-intelligence firm Stratfor.
The appointment of Vijay Gokhale, who was ambassador to China during the Doklam crisis and helped resolve the dispute, to foreign secretary was “an indication that India wants to take … a less confrontational posture,” Pervaiz said.
China, too, has come to believe it needs “a bit more calm” with its neighbors, including India, in part because of contentious relations with the US, Pervaiz added, though he stressed that Beijing’s change in thinking was likely temporary. China has also made overtures to India about a potential partnership in trade disputes with the US.
In October 2018, New Delhi and Beijing launched a joint program to train Afghan diplomats, and China’s ambassador to the country predicted more cooperation there in the future. In late October 2018, they are to sign a long-discussed internal-security agreement expected to cover cooperation on intelligence sharing, disaster mitigation, and other issues.
Despite the apparent rapprochement, the two countries are keeping a close eye on each other.
While India has largely pulled back from positions it took during the Doklam standoff, imagery reviewed by Stratfor in January 2018 showed that in late 2017 and early 2018, Delhi increased its deployments of combat aircraft to bases near the disputed area.
Those images showed even more activity around Chinese bases in Tibet, north of the disputed area, including airfield upgrades and a large aircraft presence. (China puts more assets at those bases because it does not have bases closer to the border area.)
In October 2018, officials told Hindustan Times that Delhi was concerned about construction at the Chinese air base in Lhasa, which included bomb-proof bunkers for aircraft and expanded surface-to-air missile batteries.
“You need blast- or bomb-proof hangars for fighters only if there is a possibility of hostilities,” one official said.
Any activity with military hardware or other assets that could have military applications around the eastern end of India and China’s shared border was likely to attract scrutiny, Pervaiz said.”
If you are India or China and you are seeing any sort of moves that either military is making, you view that almost through the lens of paranoia — that if you’re making that move, how can that be used against us in a potential conflict?” he told Business Insider.
The Doklam Plateau
The Doklam Plateau sits at the southern edge of the Himalayan mountain range, where the elevation is on average close to 15,000 feet. High altitudes and rough terrain put considerable limitations on military operations.
While the higher elevation gives China an advantage in surveillance and physiological acclimatization, lower air density hinders jet aircraft engines and limits the weaponry and fuel that aircraft can carry. China’s air force is larger than India’s, but it only has five air bases in Tibet — though upgrades at the Lhasa base described by Hindustan Times include special helicopter bases that allow them to take off and land with full payloads.
India’s air power in the region would offer it some advantages. Indian air bases, including those that received more aircraft in 2018, are closer to the area in question than China’s bases. India counts 20 air bases within range of the Line of Actual Control, which separates Indian- and Chinese-claimed territory.
India has also also practiced with transport planes at forward landing areas in the region.
But China’s air defenses are more effective and reliable than India’s. And China has more artillery that can fire farther and is more mobile.
Thin air at higher elevations hinders traditional rocket propulsion, but Chinese officials claimed in August 2018 they were progressing on a type of electromagnetic propulsion that would give rocket artillery longer range and more accuracy.
Both countries can be expected to use land-attack cruise missiles — the Indian Su-30MKI jets deployed to the area are capable of firing India’s Brahmos missile. But China has a larger inventory of them, and the paucity of Chinese targets in the area north of the border would likely mean Beijing would have the edge.
Much of the fighting in a conflict around Doklam would likely be done on the ground, even though the terrain would limit quick strikes and mass movement of troops.
Indian fought its last war, with Pakistan, in 1999 and has been involved in sporatic clashes with Pakistan, as well as counterterror and counter-insurgency operations for years. (Delhi was developing a special Mountain Strike Corps for the northern border, but it was shelved in summer 2018.)
An Indian Air Force Su-30 MKI
China fought its last war in 1979 — a three-week incursion into Vietnam that ended with China’s withdrawal, though both sides claimed victory. Xi has ordered China’s military to increase readiness and launched reforms to the force.
Along the Line of Actual Control, however, China may gain an edge through superior command, control, and communications and through its unified command structure in the region, whereas India divides the region among three combatant commands.
India is aware that it would likely lose a military confrontation with China, Pervaiz said, as it did in 1962. (Mao later said China invaded essentially to teach India a lesson.)
A conflict now is not in the interest of either country, he added, but “they both are going to continue to sharpen their capabilities in the event that there ever is a conflict [in order] to be able to fight and execute on that conflict, no doubt about it.”
Since the end of the Doklam standoff, China has kept the assets it deployed there — tents, bunkers, and vehicles, Pervaiz said — in place, even as Indian forces withdrew.
Questioned about that change in parliament in 2018, the Indian Defense Ministry tacitly admitted “China has actually altered those facts on the ground” and India had to accept the change, Pervaiz said.
India too has pursued a longer-term shift in its strategy toward the disputed border.
Delhi tried to minimize the number of roads in the border area after the 1962 war in order to deprive future enemies of transportation routes.
Indian Army Soldiers of the Madras Regiment (left) and Chinese People’s Liberation Army during the Moscow Victory Day Parade (right)
Since the 1990s, however, India has switched to what Pervaiz called “an offensive-defense posture, meaning that we’re not just going to deny the Chinese access to roads in our region. We’re actually going to start building more roads and infrastructure so that our military can be better positioned.”
Amid the recalibration, the broader strategic issues driving tensions between India and China — the border dispute or China’s partnership with India’s rival, Pakistan — have not dissipated, suggesting the current period is one in which both sides are trying to manage their disputes, which Pervaiz analogized to treating a chronic illness.
“It may be that the physician says that you’re not going to get rid of this,” he said. “This is something you’re going to have to live with for the rest of your life, but we can manage it … and then the symptoms can stay under control.”
Even though neither side sees conflict as in their interest, deep-seated disputes that persist raise the chances one may occur.
“In the long run, because the strategic drivers are still there, and they’re building up their assets, the roads, the bunkers,” Pervaiz said, “that that does mean in the future, there’s actually a heightened probability there’s going to be some sort of confrontation, even if it’s a small one.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. March Tighe, 60th Maintenance Squadron gives a briefing to Dr. Richard Joseph, Chief Scientist of the United States Air Force, Washington, D.C., during his visit to Travis Air Force Base, Calif., July 12, 2018. Joseph toured David Grant USAF Medical Center, Phoenix Spark lab and visited with Airmen. Joseph serves as the chief scientific adviser to the Chief of Staff and Secretary of the AF, and provides assessments on a wide range of scientific and technical issues affecting the AF mission. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // LOUIS BRISCESE)
Senior U.S. Air Force leaders are embracing and promoting the concept that if their Airmen are not failing, then they are, more than likely, not moving forward.
They believe pushing the envelope is necessary to keep the U.S. Air Force dominant and the occasional failure should be viewed by supervisors not as a negative, but as part of a greater positive.
In this series, we hear senior Air Force leaders give examples of how taking calculated risks and failing throughout their careers taught them valuable lessons, propelled them to future success and made them better leaders.
Dr. Richard J. Joseph, Air Force chief scientist, believes failure is a necessary component and result of the scientific method. The failures of ideas and theories, when tested through experimentation and prototyping, inform, and are often the root of, future successes.
However, he also believes that project failures are often rooted in past successes of large technological bureaucracies. Large organizations with far-reaching strategic plans often stifle the creativity, experimentation and risk acceptance necessary to achieve game-changing technological advances.
Dr. Richard J. Joseph, Chief Scientist of the U.S. Air Force, looks through virtual reality goggles at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Nov. 29, 2018. The harness training was a requirement before flying on a B-52 Stratofortress with the 20th Bomb Squadron. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // SENIOR AIRMAN PHILIP BRYANT)
Joseph serves as the chief scientific adviser to the chief of staff and secretary of the Air Force, and provides assessments on a wide range of scientific and technical issues affecting the Air Force mission. He has more than 40 years of experience as a physicist, directed energy researcher, senior program manager, national security advisor and executive.
DR. WILL ROPER, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF THE AIR FORCE FOR ACQUISITION, TECHNOLOGY AND LOGISTICS
As the Air Force’s Service Acquisition Executive, Dr. Will Roper oversees Air Force research, development and acquisition activities with a combined annual budget in excess of billion for more than 465 acquisition programs.
He promotes the concept of “Fail Fast, Fail Forward” as a foundational culture shift necessary to keep the U.S. Air Force dominant.
This philosophy is manifested in his promotion of rapid prototyping and funding innovative ideas through Air Force Pitch Day and AFWERX’s Spark Tank.
Roper believes that by spending money to develop fledgling technologies and ideas quickly, and then prototyping them rapidly, flaws are found much earlier in the development process.
Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, speaks to a crowd of small businesses, venture capitalists, and Airmen during the Inaugural Air Force Pitch Day in Manhattan, New York, March 7, 2019. Air Force Pitch Day is designed as a fast-track program to put companies on one-page contracts and same-day awards with the swipe of a government credit card. The Air Force is partnering with small businesses to help further national security in air, space and cyberspace. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // TECH SGT. ANTHONY NELSON JR.)
This method avoids committing to the huge cost of the much longer traditional system and weapons development and acquisition where flaws are only found years and hundreds of millions of dollars later. Then the Air Force is stuck with that flawed system for decades.
However, in order for “Fail Fast, Fail Forward” to work, Roper believes the Air Force must adjust its attitude towards risk.
He points out that his own success actually points to a persistent flaw in the Air Force’s tolerance for risk – people are only rewarded for taking a risk that pays off. Roper insists that to foster an innovative culture, people must be rewarded for taking a good risk in the first place.
“Why are the people who succeed the only people we cite when we talk about risk taking as a virtue?” Roper said. “I’m trying to be very mindful with Air Force program managers and people taking risk that they get their evaluation and validation for me at the point that they take the risk.”
Mix one U.S. Marine with alcohol and throw in the possibility of a huge foam party and you get an alcohol-related incident on Kadena Air Base.
That’s according to Navy Times, which reported on Tuesday that Air Force officials were investigating how a drunk Marine entered an aircraft hangar on Kadena on May 23 and turned on the fire suppression system at around 1:45 a.m., releasing flame retardant foam close to at least one aircraft.
“The details of the incident are currently under investigation,” 2nd Lt. Erik Anthony told Stars and Stripes in an email. “Kadena’s capabilities and readiness have not suffered.”
The unnamed Marine was arrested shortly after the incident, but details on the Marine’s level of intoxication, his or her unit, or who made the arrest, were not released.
With threats of a mustard gas attack on U.S. troops re-emerging in ISIS-infested Iraq, a leading clothing technology company has developed an ingenious way to protect troops from the horrors of chem-bio warfare.
Known more for its waterproof and breathable coating for rainwear and other outdoor equipment, W.L. Gore — the folks who make Gore-Tex — has developed a next-to-skin clothing system that protects against both chemical and biological warfare agents with just a thin layer of its so-called “Chempak” material.
So, say goodbye to that hot, bulky, carbon-impregnated MOPP suit.
“The big thing you think about with chem-bio suits is the thermal burden,” said Gore’s Mike Merrick. “You want to make sure you’re keeping that user as effective as possible which means you have to relieve heat stress and reduce that mobility restriction. That’s how we’ve designed this garment — to address that mobility restriction and range of motion and thermal burden.”
The new Chemical/Biological Protective Clothing System developed by Gore is light, stretchy and thin, so it allows the operator unrestricted movement when things go kinetic. Gore also claims it 20 percent cooler than the current chem-bio suit.
The best part is most observers would have no idea a soldier is wearing it, so for public events where security is worried about a potential terrorist attacks, the crowd won’t freak out seeing troops or police wearing bulky chem-bio space suits.
“The benefits of this is it’s very concealable you could be wearing it under your clothes right now and I’d have no idea,” Merrick said during an interview at the annual Association of the U.S. Army conference in Washington.
“Think of something like the Olympics where you don’t want to alert a stadium full of people that their could be a threat — you don’t want to walk around there in a big chem-bio suit,” he added. “But in the event something happens, you have a backpack, you pull a mask on you put gloves on and you’re good to go.”
Another advantage of the Chempak material, Merrick says, is that it protects against both vapor-based chemical warfare agents as well as liquid-based biological weapons which the current MOPP suit does a poor job repelling.
Gore has also developed a more robust system that includes a one-piece Union-Suit-like undergarment and a thin coverall. The advantage with this option is that it can be doffed and donned over a trooper’s uniform and can be configured for different missions depending on the environment. The inner protective layer can be worn under a coverall that matches the camo pattern of the service or agency, for example, rather than forcing units to buy entire suits in one color or pattern.
“The benefit is that it’s got this removable outer shell. So that’s good for tailorability to the unit,” Merrick said. “If they want to change that outer garment for a jungle uniform or you’re Coast Guard and you’re doing a drug interdiction mission — its’ one chem-bio suit with two different outer garment coveralls, so the logistics burden is reduced and you don’t have to carry two different chem-bio suits.”
American special operations units are already wearing the two-piece chem-bio undergarment on some missions, but Gore is gunning for the Pentagon’s replacement for the dreaded MOPP suit.
Creative geniuses behind digital humans and human-like characters in Hollywood blockbusters Avatar, Blade Runner 2049, Maleficent, Furious 7, The Jungle Book, Ready Player One, and others have U.S. Army-funded technology to thank for visual effects.
That technology was developed at the U.S. Army Institute for Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California. The ICT is funded by the RDECOM Research Laboratory, the Army’s corporate research laboratory (ARL).
Developers of that technology were recently announced winners of one of nine scientific and technical achievements by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
A Technical Achievement Award will be presented at the Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills on Feb. 9, 2019, to Paul Debevec, Tim Hawkins, and Wan-Chun Ma for the invention of the Polarized Spherical Gradient Illumination facial appearance capture method, and to Xueming Yu for the design and engineering of the Light Stage X capture system during the Academy’s annual Scientific and Technical Awards Presentation.
Creative geniuses behind digital humans and human-like characters in Hollywood blockbusters have U.S. Army-funded technology to thank for visual effects. Pictured here, engineers work on the Light Stage X capture system’s recording process.
(U.S. Army Institute for Creative Technologies)
The Scientific and Technical Academy Awards demonstrate a proven record of contributing significant value to the process of making motion pictures.
The Academy Certificate reads: “Polarized Spherical Gradient Illumination was a breakthrough in facial capture technology allowing shape and reflectance capture of an actor’s face with sub-millimeter detail, enabling the faithful recreation of hero character faces. The Light Stage X structure was the foundation for all subsequent innovation and has been the keystone of the method’s evolution into a production system.”
The new high-resolution facial scanning process uses a custom sphere of computer-controllable LED light sources to illuminate an actor’s face with special polarized gradient lighting patterns which allow digital cameras to digitize every detail of every facial expression at a resolution down to a tenth of a millimeter.
A Soldier demonstrates the Light Stage X capture system technology.
(U.S. Army Institute for Creative Technologies)
The technology has been used by the visual effects industry to help create digital human and human-like characters in a number of movies and has scanned over one hundred actors including Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie, Zoe Saldana, Hugh Jackman, Brad Pitt, and Dwayne Johnson at University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies.
Additionally, the Light Stage technology assists the military in facilitating recordings for its Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program through a system called the Digital Survivor of Sexual Assault (DS2A). DS2A leverages research technologies previous created for the Department of Defense under the direction of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and allows for Soldiers to interact with a digital guest speaker and hear their stories. As part of the ongoing SHARP training, this technology enables new SHARP personnel, as well as selected Army leaders, to participate in conversations on SHARP topics through the lens of a survivor’s firsthand account. It is the first system of its kind to be used in an Army classroom.
All four awardees were members of USC ICT’s Graphics Laboratory during the development of the technology from 2006 through 2016.
Paul Debevec is one of the designers and engineers of the Light Stage X capture system.
(U.S. Army Institute for Creative Technologies)
Paul Debevec continues as an Adjunct Research Professor at USC Viterbi and at the USC ICT Vision Graphics Lab. Wan-Chun “Alex” Ma was Paul Debevec’s first Ph.D student at USC ICT and Xueming Yu joined the USC ICT Graphics Lab in 2008 as a USC Viterbi Master’s student. Tim Hawkins now runs a commercial light stage scanning service in Burbank for OTOY, who licensed the light stage technology through USC Stevens in 2008.
This is the second Academy Sci-Tech award being given to the Light Stage technology developed at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies. The first, given nine years ago, was for the earliest light stage capture devices and the “image-based facial rendering system developed for character relighting in motion pictures” and was awarded to Paul Debevec, Tim Hawkins, John Monos, and Mark Sagar.
Established in 1999, the Army’s ICT is a DOD-sponsored University Affiliated Research Center working in collaboration with the Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) Research Laboratory’s UARCs are aligned with prestigious institutions conducting research at the forefront of science and innovation.
The RDECOM Research Laboratory is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to ensure decisive overmatch for unified land operations to empower the Army, the joint warfighter and our nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.
(Writer’s note: This article contains descriptions of real-world violence and there is a video embedded that shows attack helicopters firing on insurgents on the burning outpost. Obviously, viewer/reader discretion is advised.)
View of the 120mm mortar at COP Kahler days before the Battle of Wanat.
(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jesse Queck)
The attack on the U.S. forces near Wanat in Afghanistan centered on Kahler, a combat outpost in the area. COP Kahler was a strong position, but it faced a number of defensive weaknesses. First, it wasn’t the high ground in the valley. That’s a compromise military leaders sometimes have to make, but you really don’t want to have to defend a position where an enemy can fire on it from above.
Another problem was that civilian buildings came close to the outpost. This included a mosque that the attackers would misuse as a fortress to get an advantageous position against the defenders.
Finally, and probably most importantly, COP Kahler was not yet done. Engineers had been working for weeks to prepare for construction, but the actual building only began on July 9, four days before the attack would come. And a number of important defensive measures wouldn’t be complete for weeks or potentially months.
Some of the defensive positions on July 13 were still just concertina wire and guns, though some positions were protected by boulders, HESCOs, or hasty earthworks. The task force had planned for the possibility that an attack would come early, while the outpost was still vulnerable. But the intelligence estimates did not anticipate an attack by hundreds, and the assets at the base didn’t either.
But Chosen Company of the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment was holding and building Kahler, and they had prepared well for an attack with what they had.
The defenders’ TOW missile launcher was mounted on a HMMWV that could be driven around the site, but a platform was quickly built to give it better fields of view and fire. And there were two mortars, a 120mm and a 60mm, to provide additional muscle.
And the Americans had built observation posts in the territory around the outpost. These would allow American forces to inflict casualties from higher ground, but it would also deny the enemy a chance to occupy those three positions, meaning that was three fewer positions the insurgents could attack from.
And the engineers were busy from July 9 to 13, filling as many HESCOs and digging out as many fighting positions as they could. They were able to provide significant protection to the 120mm and many fighting positions before the attacks came. The 60mm mortar had a pit and a few sandbags, providing some protection. (Some of the defenses and fighting can be seen in this video.)
There were signs in the buildup to the attack that it was coming. Men in the nearby bazaar were seen watching the Americans and seemingly doing pace counts to figure out distances. The number of children in the village slowly dropped, and Afghan contractors refused to bid on some services for the base.
So when Capt. Matthew Myer saw five shepherds traveling together near the base he immediately prepared for a complex attack, using his TOW and mortars to hit the men shifting around the base. Five shepherds will rarely travel together because that many shepherds signals that there are either too many shepherds or too many goats in one area for normal grazing.
But before Myer could give the order to attack, two bursts of machine gun fire signaled the enemy forces, and then a rain of rockets came onto the U.S. warriors. The Battle of Wanat was on, and the enemy had seized the initiative.
A Army graphic shows the defenses at COP Kahler during the Battle of Wanat. Notice OP Topside which is physically separated from the rest of the defenses. The hotel and mosque were key buildings controlled by insurgents during the battle.
(U.S. Army Combat Studies Institute)
That first volley came in the first hours of July 13, and it contained a very large amount of RPGs. While the Army history of the battle gives no official number to the rockets that hit the base, quotes from the men who fought in the battle described an absolute rain of rockets that left dozens and dozens of tail fins on the ground around the Americans. A radiotelephone operator later said that the “RPG fire was like machine gun fire.”
The insurgent forces had sneaked up close to the outpost and unleashed hell, and the volume of fire indicated that there had either been a major buildup of rockets at these positions or else runners were keeping the shooters well supplied. This rain of explosions took the TOW launcher out of the fight and suppressed a mortar and some machine guns and grenade launchers.
Myers and his men were suddenly struggling to achieve fire superiority. The mortar crew got at least four high-explosive rounds off despite the incoming fire, but were driven back from the weapon by the RPGs and machine gun fire. Rounds were flying in from buildings and trees near the outpost, and the fire was concentrated on the mortarmen.
But they weren’t the only ones in trouble. Another main objective of the enemy force was cutting one of the observation posts, OP Topside, off from the main force. While the OPs provided protection to the COP, they would also be vulnerable to enemy attack until the engineers were done clearing vegetation from the fields of fire.
A mortar crewman was injured by an RPG, and then another was hurt while dragging the first casualty to safety at the command post. The TOW launcher and HMMWV exploded, and it injured an Afghan soldier, knocked out some American communications equipment, and dropped two unexploded but unstable missiles back onto the defenders.
The artillery assets supporting the outpost sent death back at the attackers whenever they could, but they were firing 155mm howitzers at high angle. Danger close starts at just over 700 yards, and anything closer than 600 yards in rough terrain is simply too risky to fire. The automatic grenade launchers on the base had a similar problem.
Defenders at Kahler the day before the Battle of Wanat.
(U.S. Army soldiers)
The weapons that were available were fired at such a high rate that many of them began to overheat, and then the only .50-cal went down after an enemy round struck it in the feed tray cover.
But the worst of the fighting for the Americans took place at OP Topside. Only nine Americans were there at the start of the fighting, and the insurgent activity made reinforcing them a dangerous and tricky task, though the paratroopers would do so successfully multiple times.
The OP had its own artillery observer, but he was wounded in that first RPG volley. A paratrooper at Topside was killed in that same volley, and another died just moments later while attempting to throw a grenade. Another was wounded so badly that he could not fight.
The six men able to fight, including the forward observer, were forced to work through their own injuries and beat back the attack. Fortunately, the observer had sent a list of pre-planned targets back to the gun lines days before, and so artillery was able to send some assistance despite the fact that the observer could not conduct the calls for fire.
The defenders attempted to get the upper hand, but their own crew-served weapons went down from overheating or ammo shortages, and then one gunner was killed while firing his M4.
Finally, reinforcements from the main COP moved out. But the three-man team lost one soldier en route to a wound in the arm. Soon after they arrived, the enemy made it through the wire.
The attack was repulsed, but the two reinforcements were killed, and so was another soldier. A short time later, a sergeant moved forward to suppress fighters in a nearby building and was killed. Only one soldier was left in fighting shape with another three seriously wounded.
The defender managed to take out an enemy position with a light anti-tank weapon, giving most of the survivors just enough time to fall back to another position. But in their haste, they missed that the forward observer was severely wounded but still alive.
This artilleryman grabbed a grenade launcher and fired every round he had and threw every hand grenade he could reach. Just before he was forced to make a last stand at the OP, four men from the COP reinforced him, and Topside remained in American hands.
But a new attack, once again led by RPGs, strained this control. Every paratrooper on the OP was wounded, and one would die soon after. A platoon sergeant gathered a new force of seven paratroopers and two Marines and once again reinforced the OP, arriving shortly before the Apache attack helicopters.
Gun runs by the helicopters with their 30mm cannons finally drove the attackers back and allowed this larger force to protect the OP. Another platoon from Chosen Company arrived to help out their brothers-in-arms. This force brought multiple machine guns and two automatic grenade launchers with them on HMMWVs as well as multiple anti-tank rocket launchers.
The quick reaction force assaulted into the bazaar, driving the enemy from nearby buildings while suppressing other positions with the trucks. QRF fighters threw out smoke to mark insurgent positions and the Apaches eliminated them. Slowly, the volley of RPG fire lessened and, four hours after the attack began, the terrorist forces finally began to retreat.
Medical evacuation crews landed under fire to get the wounded out, in at least one case evacuating a casualty while an Apache made a gun run just 30 yards away. This limited American losses to the nine paratroopers already killed. A massive surge in U.S. and Afghan forces occurred July 13 with Afghan commandos coming in to clear the nearby village house-to-house and gain intelligence.
The biggest surprise for the Afghan commandos came when they searched the Afghan National Police station near the compound. A massive cache of weapons was there with most of them having been recently fired. But the evidence was that they had fired in support of the insurgents, not against them. The police chief and others were arrested.
Over the following days, American air assets pummeled insurgent positions, and future Chief of Staff of the Army Mark Milley set up operations in Wanat. An estimated 20-50 enemy fighters were killed in the fighting.
Despite the hard-won tactical success, senior leaders decided that holding Wanat was simply too costly and drained resources from more fruitful fights elsewhere. Chosen Company was pulled out.
The US military shot an incoming missile out of the sky in a successful intercept test Aug. 30.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones launched an SM-6 interceptor to bring down a medium-range ballistic missile off the coast of Hawaii, according to the Missile Defense Agency.
The missile was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. Using the on-board AN/SPY-1 radar, the destroyer detected and tracked the missile.
“We are working closely with the fleet to develop this important new capability, and this was a key milestone in giving our Aegis BMD ships an enhanced capability to defeat ballistic missiles in their terminal phase,” MDA Director Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves said in a statement. “We will continue developing ballistic missile defense technologies to stay ahead of the threat as it evolves.”
The Aug. 30 test marked the second time an SM-6 interceptor has been used to intercept an MRBM. The military has conducted three tests in total, but during a test in June, the interceptor failed as a result of human error. A sailor on the USS John Paul Jones triggered a self-destruct sequence by mistake.
The US military’s latest intercept test comes just two days after North Korea launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan in an unusually-provocative missile test. The North warned that it will continue firing missiles into the Pacific Ocean, adding that the recent test was a “prelude” to possible strikes on or around Guam.
The US has lost a few Aegis destroyers in recent months, hindering missile defense in a volatile region. Both the USS Fitzgerald and USS John McCain were damaged severely after collisions with merchant vessels in June and August. The two accidents killed seventeen American sailors. The US military still has numerous missile defense assets — from Patriot interceptors to Terminal High Altitude Area Defense systems — in the area though.
The US Navy on Sept. 23 will christen the USS Tripoli (LHA-7), its latest America-class amphibious assault ship that will pack Osprey helicopters, F-35 fighters, and thousands of Marines for rapid deployment from sea to shore.
Lynne Mabus, the wife of former Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, will break the ceremonial bottle of wine across the bow of the 844-foot warship during a ceremony at Huntington Ingalls Industries in Pascagoula, Mississippi.
Once it hits the fleet around 2018, the Tripoli will join the USS America (LHA-6) on the high seas, with the pair of ships packing unique capabilities among the expected total 11 ships of this class. Besides their power-plant and technology upgrades, the Tripoli and America will not have a well deck for launching small boats filled with Marines to the shore.
Instead, the ships are “optimized for aviation capability” — giving them larger hangar decks to store more aircraft, enhanced aircraft-maintenance facilities, more storage for onboard jet fuel, and more high-tech intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities.
“The idea is rapid mobility air assault,” Capt. Michael Baze told US Naval Institute News. “So the thinking with me and my Marines right now is, lighter companies, people that can move quickly via the (MV-22) Osprey and the (CH-53Es).”
The Tripoli will also be the first LHA “fully ready to integrate the entire future air combat element of the Marine Corps,” including the F-35B, capable of short takeoffs and vertical landings.
With its aviation-focused capability to deploy Marines, the Tripoli and America allow more standoff from potential hotspot areas.
“I don’t have to worry about force protection for my ship as much because I don’t have to get two and three miles off the beach to deploy my Marines” on small boats, Baze said. “The truth is, I’m over 100 miles right now — we could deploy the Marines from here.”
This will be the third Navy ship to bear the name Tripoli, which commemorates the 1805 Battle of Derna, in which US Marines defeated the Barbary pirates in Libya. The victory is also memorialized in the “Marines’ Hymn” with the line “from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.”
The Tripoli will be able to hit a speed of about 20 knots, with an approximate displacement of 45,000 tons.
Plastic surgeons at William Beaumont Army Medical Center successfully transplanted a new ear on a Soldier who lost her left ear due to a single-vehicle accident.
The total ear reconstruction, the first of its kind in the Army, involved harvesting cartilage from the Soldier’s ribs to carve a new ear out of the cartilage, which was then placed under the skin of the forearm to allow the ear to grow.
“The whole goal is by the time she’s done with all this, it looks good, it’s sensate, and in five years if somebody doesn’t know her they won’t notice,” said Lt. Col. Owen Johnson III, chief, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, WBAMC. “As a young active-duty Soldier, they deserve the best reconstruction they can get.”
The revolutionary surgery has been over a year in the making for Clarksdale, Mississippi native, Pvt. Shamika Burrage, a supply clerk with 1st Battalion, 35th Armored Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division.
In 2016, while returning to Fort Bliss, Texas, after visiting family in Mississippi, a tire blowout changed Burrage’s life in an instant.
“I was coming back from leave and we were around Odessa, Texas,” said Burrage, who was traveling with her cousin. “We were driving and my front tire blew, which sent the car off road and I hit the brake. I remember looking at my cousin who was in the passenger seat, I looked back at the road as I hit the brakes. I just remember the first flip and that was it.”
The vehicle skidded for 700 feet before flipping several times and ejecting the Soldier. Burrage’s cousin, who was eight months pregnant at the time, managed to only suffer minor injuries while Burrage herself suffered head injuries, compression fractures in the spine, road rash and the total loss of her left ear.
“I was on the ground, I just looked up and (her cousin) was right there. Then I remember people walking up to us, asking if we were okay and then I blacked out,” said Burrage, whose next memory was waking up in a hospital.
She was later told by doctors that if she would not have received medical attention for 30 more minutes, she would have bled to death. After several months of rehabilitation, Burrage began to seek counseling due to emotions caused by the accident and its effects on her appearance.
“I didn’t feel comfortable with the way I looked so the provider referred me to plastic surgery,” said Burrage.
“She was 19 and healthy and had her whole life ahead of her,” said Johnson. “Why should she have to deal with having an artificial ear for the rest of her life?”
When explained her options for reconstruction, Burrage was shocked and initially resistant to go through with the total ear reconstruction.
“I didn’t want to do (the reconstruction) but gave it some thought and came to the conclusion that it could be a good thing. I was going to go with the prosthetic, to avoid more scarring but I wanted a real ear,” said Burrage, who is now 21. “I was just scared at first but wanted to see what he could do.”
In order to avoid any more visible scarring, Johnson selected prelaminated forearm free flap, which involved placing the autologous cartilage into the patient’s forearm to allow for neovascularization, or the formation of new blood vessels. This technique will allow Burrage to have feeling in her ear once the rehabilitation process is complete.
“(The ear) will have fresh arteries fresh veins and even a fresh nerve so she’ll be able to feel it,” said Johnson.
In addition to the transplant, epidermis from the forearm, while attached to the ear, will cover up scar tissue in the area immediately around Burrage’s left jawline.
“I didn’t lose any hearing and (Johnson) opened the canal back up,” said Burrage, whose left ear canal had closed up due to the severity of the trauma.
“The whole field of plastic surgery has its roots in battlefield trauma,” said Johnson. “Every major advance in plastic surgery has happened with war. This was trauma related.”
With only two more surgeries left, Burrage states she is feeling more optimistic and excited to finish the reconstruction.
“It’s been a long process for everything, but I’m back,” said Burrage.
The once-proposed, hotly-debated November 10th parade in Washington D.C. has been put on the back-burner in the face of climbing costs. When it was first published that the price of the event was jumping from $10 million to $92 million, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said, in response to the erroneously-suggested figure, “whoever told you that is probably smoking something.” Regardless of where the costs actually stand, it’s been officially postponed until 2019.
Unfortunately, by pushing the whole thing back a year, the event will lose much of its luster. This Veterans Day, which falls on November 11th, 2018, is the centennial of the signing of the armistice that ended the First World War.
So, what do we do now on such a tremendous anniversary? There have been many suggestions made by many sources, but two stand out against the noise: The American Legion’s request to focus on veteran support and attending the Centenary Armistice Forum in Paris.
I’m fairly confident that there would be little argument for a military parade when the War on Terrorism concludes.
(Photo by David Valdez)
To be frank, America has seldom felt the need to rattle its saber and show how powerful of a force it is — it just is. This fact has been proven when it matters time and time again. But putting on a parade doesn’t have to be a show of force. In fact, countless Veterans Day parades are held across the country at which Americans can show their support of the United States Armed Forces.
American troops are, at present, in armed conflict and, typically, military parades in Washington D.C. are reserved for the ending of wars, such as the celebration of the end of the Gulf War in 1991. Any military parade this November should focus on what the day is really about: Supporting America’s returning veterans and memorializing the end of World War I.
You know, like getting federal acknowledgement of the hazards of burn pits or the alarming number of veterans who commit suicide on a daily basis. A simple “we hear you” will get the ball rolling on helping those affected.
(U.S. Army photo by the 28th Public Affairs Detachment)
Meanwhile, it’s no secret that the Department of Veterans Affairs hasn’t been, let’s say, “well equipped” to handle the many issues within the military community. National Commander of the American Legion, Denise H. Rohan, issued the following statement through the American Legion’s website:
“The American Legion appreciates that our president wants to show in a dramatic fashion our nation’s support for our troops. However, until such time as we can celebrate victory in the War on Terrorism and bring our military home, we think the parade money would be better spent fully funding the Department of Veterans Affairs and giving our troops and their families the best care possible.”
Securing funding for Veterans Affairs is always going to be a uphill battle, but any event held in the United States could be used to champion relevant issues and bring to light the very serious struggles that many veterans face.
Besides, Paris will be hosting their own Armistice Day parade. If America were to join in theirs — it’d send a strong message to both our allies and our enemies. We save money and it shows the world that they’ll have to face off against more than our fantastic military alone.
(DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique Pineiro)
On the other side of the coin, French President Emmanuel Macron will be hosting an international forum in Paris on November 11th to advance the promise of “never again” for the war that was supposed to end all wars. He has invited more than 80 countries to attend the event, including the United States.
Macron has invited world leaders to join together to work towards international cooperation. He compared present-day divisions and fears to the roots that caused World War II. On August 17th, in a tweet, President Trump said that he’ll be there.
Being in the military requires you to quickly adapt to a very strict code of conduct. The military lifestyle prevents laziness and forces you to maintain a consistent, proper appearance. When troops leave the service, however, their good habits tend to fly out the window.
Now, that’s not to say that all veterans will lose every good habit they’ve picked up while serving. But there are a few routines that’ll instantly be broken simply because there aren’t any repercussions for dropping them.
Of course, this doesn’t apply to everyone. Maybe you’re that Major Payne type of veteran. If so, good job. Meanwhile, my happy ass is staying in bed until the sun rises.
We’re also probably not going to make our beds with hospital corners any more, either.
(Photo by Cpl. Octavia Davis)
Waking up early is an annoying, but useful, habit
The very first morning after receiving their DD-214, nearly every veteran laugh as they hit the snooze button on an alarm they forgot to turn off. For the first time in a long time, a troop can sleep in until the sun rises on a weekday — and you can be damn sure that they will.
When they start attending college or get a new job, veterans no longer see the point in waking up at 0430 just to stand in the cold and run at 0530. If class starts at 0900, they won’t be out of bed until at least 0815 (after hitting snooze a few times).
Finding time after work to go to the gym is, ironically, too much effort.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Dave Flores)
This kind of goes hand-in-hand with waking up early. The morning is the perfect time to go for a run — but most veterans are going to be catching up on the sleep they didn’t get while in service. Plus, the reason many so many troops can stay up all night drinking and not feel the pain come time for morning PT is that their bodies are constantly working. It’s a good habit to have.
The moment life slows down and you’re not running every day, you’ll start to feel those knees get sore. Which just adds on to the growing pile of excuses to not work out.
Don’t you miss all that effort we used to put into shaving every single day? Yeah, me neither.
(Photo by Senior Airman Erin Piazza)
Shaving every day, haircuts every week…one of the most annoying good habits
If troops show up to morning formation with even the slightest bit of fuzz on their face or hair touching their ears, they will feel the wrath of the NCOs.
When you get out, you’ll almost be expected to grow an operator beard and let your hair grow. Others skip shaving their chin and instead shave their head bald to achieve that that Kratos-in-the-new-God-of-War look.
“Hurry up and wait” becomes “slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.”
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson)
15 minutes prior
If you’re on time, you’re late. If you’re 14 minutes early, you’re still late. If you’re 25 minutes early, you’ll be asked why you weren’t there 5 minutes ago. It’s actually astonishing how much troops get done while still managing to arrive 30 minutes early to everything.
Vets will still keep up a “15 minute prior” rule for major events, but don’t expect them to be everywhere early anymore. This habit is one we don’t really miss.
Civilians also don’t get that when you knifehand them, you’re telling them off. They think you’re just emoting with your hands.
(Photo by Sgt. Bryan Nygaard)
Suppressing opinions is a hard habit to break
Not too many troops share their true opinions on things while serving. It’s usually just a copy-and-paste answer of, “I like it” or “I don’t like it.” This is partly because the military is constantly moving and no one really cares about your opinion on certain things.
The moment a veteran gets into a conversation and civilians think they’re an expect on a given subject, they’ll shout their opinion from the mountaintops. This is so prevalent that you’ll hear, “as a veteran, I think…” in even the most mundane conversations, like the merits of the newest Star Wars film.
Except with our weapons. Veterans will never half-ass cleaning weapons.
(Photo by Airman Eugene Oliver)
Putting in extra effort
Perfection is key in the military. From day one, troops are told to take pride in every action they perform. In many cases, this tendency bleeds into the civilian world because veterans still have that eye for minor details.
However, that intense attention to detail starts to fade over time, especially for minor tasks. They could try their hardest and they could spend time mastering something, but that 110% turns into a “meh, good enough” after a while.
In the military, everyone looks out for one another. In the civilian world, it’s just too funny to watch others fall on their face.
(Photo by Alan R. Quevy)
Sympathy toward coworkers
A platoon really is as close as a family. If one person is in pain, everyone is in pain until we all make it better. No matter what the problem is, your squadmate is right there as a shoulder to lean on.
Civilians who never served, on the other hand, have a much lower tolerance for bad days. If one of your comrades got their heart broken because Jodie came into the picture, fellow troops will be the first to grab shovels for them. If one of your civilian coworkers breaks down because someone brought non-vegan coffee creamer into the office, vets will simply laugh at their weakness.