Russian President Vladimir Putin recently oversaw the launch of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles and apparently pulled the trigger on four of them himself, the Associated Press reports.
The large-scale military drill exercised Russia’s land, air, and sea-based nuclear capability with test launches from submarines, supersonic bombers, and a launch pad.
“The goal of the launch was to test advanced ballistic missile warheads,” a Russian defense ministry spokesman said. And the missiles, as well as the warheads, were very advanced.
Not only does the land-based missile boast a range of over 6,000 miles, enough to hit anywhere in the US with hundreds of kilotons of explosive force, but it has been tailor-made to evade US missile defenses.
Russian media reports that the Yars ICBM tested by Russia flies in a jagged pattern to evade missile defenses. Once the missile breaks up, it carries multiple reentry vehicles and countermeasures to confuse and overwhelm missile defenses.
For the first time in over a decade, the US Air Force is publicly acknowledging it runs an air war out of Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates.
The US embassy in country recently worked with Emirati counterparts to make the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing — an Air Combat Command-run unit at the base — known, officials told Military.com.
Military.com first spoke with members of the 380th on a trip to the Middle East earlier this summer on condition the name and location of the base not be disclosed, and that full names of personnel not be used due to safety concerns amid ongoing air operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.
While the 380th was established at the base on Jan. 25, 2002, the US military has had a presence on the base for approximately 25 years. The base is home to a variety of combat operations.
In addition to housing one of the largest fuel farms in the world, the wing houses such aircraft as the KC-10 tanker; the RQ-4 Global Hawk high-altitude drone; the E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System, or AWACS, aircraft; the U-2 Dragon Lady spy plane; and the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jet.
Together, these aircraft carry out missions such as air refueling, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, command and control, ground attack, air support, and others.
The 380th also runs its own intel analysis and air battle-management command and control center known as “The Kingpin.”
Like moving chess pieces, “Kingpin has the [air tasking order] — they’re talking to people on the ground, they’re making sure these airplanes are provisionally controlled, getting them back and forth to tankers … they’re talking to the [Combined Air Operations Center at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar], they minimize the fog and friction for the entire [area of responsibility]” in US Central Command, according to Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles Corcoran, commander of the 380th AEW and an F-22 pilot.
Meanwhile, the general was candid about what the US mission could be after ISIS is defeated in Iraq and Syria.
Corcoran said, “We’re fighting an enemy — ISIS — in another country — Syria — where there’s also an insurgency going on, but we’re not really invited to be” a part of that, he said. “But we can’t leave it to the Syrians to get rid of ISIS, because that wasn’t working, right? So it’s really an odd place to be.”
He added, “We know … we’re going to defeat ISIS. Their days are numbered. What next?”
Russia is planning to supply its troops with small-scale drones that can drop bombs, Russian news site Izvestia reported July 2019. The quadcopters outfitted with explosives are modeled after similar commercial drones rigged with explosive devices used by ISIS fighters in Syria.
“This is a very tactical [unmanned aerial vehicle], we’re talking about small UAV with a close range,” Samuel Bendett, a researcher at the CNA Corporation and a member of CNA’s Center for Autonomy and AI, and a fellow in Russia studies at the American Foreign Policy Council, told INSIDER.
“Downrange, they will probably be able to strap a couple of grenades or bombs” to the UAVs, Bendett said.
While the UAVs aren’t yet outfitted with weapons, Izvestia cited sources in the Ministry of Defense saying the upgrade is imminent, and Bendett told INSIDER via email “given the relative simplicity in turning them into strike drones so they can drop grenades or mortar rounds, I would say that can happen relatively quickly.”
U.S. Air Force Academy cadets in the Unmanned Aerial System Operations Program familiarize themselves with quad-copter flight controls at the Cadet Field House, U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo., March 4, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Joshua Armstrong)
The US has pioneered drones in military operations, and many of them are larger than piloted planes and carry a suite of surveillance sensors and missiles. The armed MQ-9 Reaper has a 66-foot-long wingspan that’s twice that of an F-16 fighter. In contrast, the kind of small drones favored by remote-control hobbyists weren’t thought of as a weapon until their use by ISIS combatants.
“Suddenly ISIS does a 180 and turns these very simple, unsophisticated devices into very deadly ones,” he said. “So there was that realization that anything and everything could be turned into a weapon and therefore the Russian military should look at the successful adoption of the systems that have proven successful.”
ISIS fighters used drones to terrifying effect against the US-led coalition, the attacks did not result in a “large number of deaths,” according to a report by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center.
Russian law enforcement agencies already use small drones, Bendett said. What’s new is Russia’s decision to weaponize them — and the Ministry of Defense announcement of the decision.
It’s unclear how large the drones will be, or how many Russia will utilize, although Bendett said they could number in the thousands.
A Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle launches from the amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joseph M. Buliavac)
“I don’t believe that very small weaponized drones pose a particularly dangerous threat simply because a drone that weighs 33 grams simply can’t carry much of a payload,” Jeff Ellis, a partner at Clyde Co. in New York, told INSIDER via email.
“That being said, slightly larger drones can be used to target individuals or small groups and remain very difficult to detect and interdict,” he said.
The drones will need to be able to support secure communication and small-scale sensors before they are useful to the Russian military, Bendett said.
But anything that the military uses, Bendett noted, would eventually trickle down to Russia’s state security apparatus, including the FSB, but only for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance efforts “for now.”
While the adoption of terrorist tactic by a state might seem ethically dubious, Bendett said that Russia has adopted other technologies used by extremist groups, like technicals — a pick-up truck that has a mounted machine guns.
Furthermore, Bendett said it’s important to note that the Russian military is thinking tactically. “For Russians it’s a very matter of fact thing right now,” he told INSIDER. “They’re seeing what works best, and if it doesn’t work, they’ll discard it.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Several prominent leaders in the national defense community are calling upon the Pentagon to re-start production of the high-speed F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jet which began air attacks against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria.
Citing Russian and Chinese stealthy fighter jet advances, Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., and former Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne wrote an OPED in the Wall Street Journal describing the current fleet of F-22s as massively insufficient to address today’s fast-changing global threat environment.
The F-22’s recent performance in combat missions for Operation Inherent Resolve over Iraq and Syria have led observers and analysts to emphasize the importance of the fighter.
The OPED argues that the Pentagon needs to resurrect production of the Lockheed-Boeing-built Raptor or replace it with a new aircraft with comparable capabilities; Forbes is the current Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee and Wynne served as Secretary of the Air Force from 2005 until 2008.
“Raptor incorporated cutting-edge technologies that had never been combined in a single aircraft: composite materials, computer avionics, thrust-vectoring engine nozzles, and radar countermeasures. It became the first “fifth generation” fighter, a high-speed, super-maneuverable stealth aircraft that still outclasses everything else in air-to-air combat,” the OPED writes.
The Air Force had originally planned to build more than 700 F-22s, however ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan inspired new, more immediate thinking regarding the global threat calculus – leading the Pentagon to ultimately truncate the fleet sized down to only 187 jets, the OPED says.
The move was part of a Pentagon culture fostered by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates wherein developers were suffering from what he called “next-war-it is” and not sufficiently focused upon the pressing needs on ongoing ground wars.
“By the time the Raptor started rolling off the production line in 2002, the high-tech threats it had been designed to defeat had faded from view. Instead of Russian MiGs, Pentagon leaders were worried about improvised explosive devices,” the essay writes.
Writing that the U.S. Air Force’s fleet is the smallest and the oldest it has ever been, Forbes and Wynne point out that Russia and China have been developing, fielding new fighters and, in some cases, and exporting sophisticated air defenses to countries like Iran.
“Russia rolled out its first fifth-generation stealth fighter, the PAK-FA, in 2010. China followed in 2011, flight-testing the J-20, an F-22 look-alike, while Secretary Gates was visiting Beijing. Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force’s chief of staff, warned last year that future Russian and Chinese jets “will be better than anything we have today,” Forbes and Wynne write.
In addition, the House Armed Services Committee recently added language to a draft version of the proposed defense authorization bill requiring the Air Force to study the issue of restarting F-22 production.
Air Force officials have explained that, as much as the service may want more F-22s in the fleet, the money to build them again would most likely need to come from elsewhere in the budget.
As evidence of the current Air Force position on the issue, the service’s Military Deputy for Acquisition Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, recently told Congress that restarting F-22 production would require billions of dollars.
Bunch cited a recent Rand study on the issue, explaining that the service was no longer analyzing the possibility due to budget realities.
“We viewed it, in the light of the balancing act we’re already doing between readiness and modernization, as something that would be cost prohibitive and we would have to take something else out that we value right now to try to meet the requirements to be able to do that. And so we have not put any further analysis into that,” Bunch said.
On this topic, however, the Forbes-Wynne letter cites the Rand study’s finding that it would cost over $500 million (in 2008 dollars) to restart production on the F-22.
“If the Air Force ordered 75 additional jets, Rand estimated they would cost $179 million each,” the letter states.
If lawmakers were somehow able to increase the budget or secure the requisite funding for additional F-22s, it certainly does not seem inconceivable that Air Force and Pentagon developers would be quite enthusiastic.
F-22 Raptors sit on the flight line at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. | U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo
Inside the F-22’s Mission in Iraq
Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter jets delivered some of the first strikes in the U.S.-led attacks on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, when aerial bombing began in 2014, service officials told Scout Warrior.
After delivering some of the first strikes in the U.S. Coalition-led military action against ISIS, the F-22 began to shift its focus from an air-dominance mission to one more focused on supporting attacks on the ground.
“An F-22 squadron led the first strike in OIR (Operation Inherent Resolve). The aircraft made historic contributions in the air-to-ground regime,” Col. Larry Broadwell, the Commander of the 1st Operations Group at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Even though ISIS does not have sophisticated air defenses or fighter jets of their own to challenge the F-22, there are still impactful ways in which the F-22 continues to greatly help the ongoing attacks, Broadwell said.
“There are no issues with the air superiority mission. That is the first thing they focus on. After that, they can transition to what they have been doing over the last several months and that has been figuring out innovative ways to contribute in the air-to-ground regime to support the coalition,” Broadwell said.
As a fifth-generation stealth fighter, the F-22 is specifically engineered for air supremacy and air dominance missions, meaning its radar-evading technology is designed to elude and destroy enemy air defenses. The aircraft is also configured to function as the world’s premier air-to-air fighter able to “dogfight” and readily destroy enemy aircraft.
“Air superiority, using stealth characteristics is our primary role. The air dominance mission is what we will always do first. Once we are comfortable operating in that battlespace, our airmen are going to find ways to contribute,” Broadwell explained.
F-22 as “Aerial Quarterback”
The F-22’s command and control sensors and avionics help other coalition aircraft identify and destroy targets. While some of the aircraft’s technologies are not “publically discussable,” Broadwell did say that the F-22’s active and passive sensors allow it to function as an “aerial quarterback” allowing the mission to unfold.
“Because of its sensors, the F-22 is uniquely able to improve the battlefield awareness – not just for airborne F-22s but the other platforms that are airborne as well,” he said. The Raptor has an F-22-specific data link to share information with other F-22s and also has the ability to use a known data link called LINK 16 which enables it to communicate with other aircraft in the coalition, Broadwell explained.
For example, drawing upon information from a ground-based command and control center or nearby surveillance plane – such as a Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System – the F-22 can receive information or target coordinates from nearby drones, Broadwell explained.
Newer F-22s have a technology called Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR, which uses electromagnetic signals or “pings” to deliver a picture or rendering of the terrain below, allow for better target identification.
The SAR technology sends a ping to the ground and then analyzes the return signal to calculate the contours, distance and characteristics of the ground below.
“The addition of SAP mapping has certainly enhanced our air-to-ground capability. Previously, we would have to take off with pre-determined target coordinates. Now, we have an ability to more dynamically use the SAR to pinpoint a target while airborne,” Broadwell added.
Overall, the Air Force operates somewhere between 80 and 100 F-22s.
“The F-35 is needed because it is to global precision attack what the F-22 is to air superiority,” he added. “These two aircrafts were built to work together in concert. It is unfortunate that we have so few F-22s. We are going to ask the F-35 to contribute to the air superiority mission,” he said.
The F-22 is known for a range of technologies including an ability called “super cruise” which enables the fighter to reach speeds of Mach 1.5 without needing to turn on its after burners.
“The F-22 engines produce more thrust than any current fighter engine. The combination of sleek aerodynamic design and increased thrust allows the F-22 to cruise at supersonic airspeeds. Super Cruise greatly expands the F-22’s operating envelope in both speed and range over current fighters, which must use fuel-consuming afterburner to operate at supersonic speeds,” Broadwell explained.
The fighter jet fires a 20mm cannon and has the ability to carry and fire all the air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons including precision-guided ground bombs, such Joint Direct Attack Munitions called the GBU 32 and GBU 39, Broadwell explained. In the air-to-air configuration the Raptor carries six AIM-120 AMRAAMs and two AIM-9 Sidewinders, he added.
“The F-22 possesses a sophisticated sensor suite allowing the pilot to track, identify, shoot and kill air-to-air threats before being detected. Significant advances in cockpit design and sensor fusion improve the pilot’s situational awareness,” he said.
It also uses what’s called a radar-warning receiver – a technology which uses an updateable data base called “mission data files” to recognize a wide-range of enemy fighters, Broadwell said.
Made by Lockheed Martin and Boeing, the F-22 uses two Pratt Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines with afterburners and two-dimensional thrust vectoring nozzles, an Air Force statement said. It is 16-feet tall, 62-feet long and weighs 43,340 pounds. Its maximum take-off weight is 83,500.
The aircraft was first introduced in December of 2005, and each plane costs $143 million, Air Force statements say.
“Its greatest asset is the ability to target attack and kill an enemy without the enemy ever being aware they are there,” Broadwell added.
If the idea of spending 12 weeks in boot camp is what keeps people from joining the Marine Corps, they should be thankful that it’s only that long. It could always be worse — like in the French Foreign Legion’s four month basic training.
The first four weeks are an introduction to military life. They train at the 4th Foreign Infantry Regiment near Castelnaudary, a country town in Southern France. They also call it “The Farm.”
At the end of this, recruits receive the iconic white Kepi hat that is synonymous with the Foreign Legion in a special ceremony. But basic is far from over. From there, they move on to field training for three weeks, both in and out of the barracks. New Legionnaires spend a week in mountain training as well, high in the French Pyrenees.
Next, the newly-minted Legionnaires will finish a final 75 mile march that must be completed within three days. From there, they take basic educational courses and learn to drive military vehicles. On top of the rigorous training schedule, the non-French speakers will also have to learn basic French every day during training.
As far as the physical demand, the Legion’s rigorous training schedule can take its toll on a recruit. One Quora user, Kjell Saari, who joined the Legion in 1993, said he lost 22 pounds at the Farm, even though he had just been in Afghanistan fighting the Soviets — and he wasn’t eating much there.
“I was at the farm during the late fall/ early winter you realize that hell did freeze over and you died and ended up in hell. I like everyone else got sick as hell well guess what too damn bad, get up and become what you signed up for,” he wrote.
Mentally it can be just as rigorous. Due to the international nature of the group, few of the recruits can communicate at first — and forget about communicating with the instructors. But a “slap in the head makes you remember 100% of the time.” Former Legionnaires say it is important to not give up on yourself and to remember why you came to the Legion in the first place.
The Legion does not get hung up on the things people argue about in the U.S. military. Their tattoo policy actually welcomes tattoos. The only forbidden tattoos are Nazi and other racist art, as well as anything “stupid on your face.”
They don’t care if you’re gay or straight, trans, or married. They don’t care about your race, education, or religion. They don’t even care if you speak French. Once you’re in and past basic training, you can expect that food, clothing, and shelter will be provided, along with a salary on par with American soldiers and 45 days of leave per year.
From there, Legionnaires are shipped off to join the 8,000-plus others deployed throughout France, Africa, Afghanistan, and the Balkans to finish their five-year contract.
The FFL has its own culture — not French culture, Legion culture, as Saari puts it.
“Being in the legion was like being bipolar for 5 years,” Saari says. “Wild highs and bottom of the sea lows. Oh you better like to drink and you better be man enough to get your ass up the next morning and do what’s expected of you no matter how hung over or still drunk you are.”
An Army Ranger veteran who plays Santa was called for an emergency visit to a dying child in Tennessee, arriving just in time to present the boy with a present and hold him as he passed away.
Eric Schmitt-Matzen is a 60-year-old engineer and the president of Packing Seals Engineering, according to Fox News. He carefully cultivates Saint Nicholas’s appearance and performs at approximately 80 events throughout each year.
A nurse contacted him from a hospital near his home in Tennessee to ask that he rush over and comfort a dying child. According to the BBC, he was given a PAW Patrol toy by the child’s mother.
“She’d bought a toy from [the TV show] ‘PAW Patrol’ and wanted me to give it to him,” he told the Knoxville News Sentinel. “I sized up the situation and told everyone, ‘If you think you’re going to lose it, please leave the room. If I see you crying, I’ll break down and can’t do my job.’ ”
Schmitt-Matzen told the sick boy that he was Santa’s “Number One Elf” and that no matter where the boy went next, that title would get him in. Schmitt-Matzen gave the boy the gift and the child asked, “Santa, can you help me?”
“I wrapped my arms around him,” Schmitt-Matzen said, according to the Independent. “Before I could say anything, he died right there. I let him stay, just kept hugging and holding on to him.”
The Ranger veteran left the hospital in tears that any soldier could easily understand. Rangers Lead The Way.
Brig. Gen. Diana Holland has been named the first female commandant of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.
Holland is serving as the deputy commanding general (support), 10th Mountain Division (Light) on Fort Drum, New York. She will replace Maj. Gen. John C. Thomson III, who relinquished command of the Corps of Cadets during a ceremony at West Point Monday. He has been named commanding general, 1st Cavalry Division on Fort Hood, Texas.
Acting Army Secretary Eric Fanning praised the selection of Holland. “Diana’s operational and command experiences will bring a new and diverse perspective to West Point’s leadership team,” Fanning said. “She is absolutely the right person for this critical position.”
Holland will assume command as the 76th commandant of cadets during a ceremony scheduled at West Point, Jan. 5.
“I am very honored to be named the next commandant of the U.S. Corps of Cadets,” Holland said. “It’s a privilege to be part of the team that trains and develops leaders of character for our Army. I look forward to continuing the legacy set by Maj. Gen. Thomson and all previous commandants.”
Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen, superintendent at West Point, said Holland will be a valuable addition to the team.
“Diana Holland is a superb leader who has a phenomenal reputation throughout the Army,” Caslen said. “She is immensely qualified for the job and we look forward to her joining the West Point team as commandant.”
Holland graduated from West Point and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers in 1990.
Her military service began in Germany, where she served as a vertical construction platoon leader in the 79th Engineer Combat Battalion (Heavy), and as a company executive officer and battalion assistant operations officer in the 94th Engineer Combat Battalion (Heavy).
Following company command with the 30th Engineer Battalion (Topographic) on Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Holland earned a Master of Arts degree at Duke University en route to a teaching assignment at West Point. She then attended the Army Command and General Staff College and the School of Advanced Military Studies, known as SAMS, where she earned a Master of Military Arts and Sciences degree.
She was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division in July 2004, and deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom, serving as a division plans officer and then as the operations officer in the 92nd Engineer Combat Battalion (Heavy).
Upon return from Iraq, she served as a plans officer in the Operations Directorate, U.S. Central Command on MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida.
Holland commanded the 92nd Engineer Battalion (Black Diamonds) from July 2008 to June 2011. She deployed with Task Force Diamond to eastern Afghanistan from May 2010 to April 2011. After relinquishing command, she was a U.S. Army War College Fellow at Georgetown University.
In 2012, Holland assumed command of the 130th Engineer Brigade at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. The following year, she deployed with the brigade headquarters to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, where the unit served as the theater engineer brigade, Joint Task Force Sapper. The brigade redeployed to Schofield Barracks in June 2014 and Holland relinquished command in July.
During the first half of this year, Holland served as executive officer to the director of the Army staff at the Pentagon. In July, she was appointed as the deputy commanding general for support, 10th Mountain Division (Light) on Fort Drum. She was the first female deputy commanding general of a light infantry division.
U.S. troops put “boots on the ground” in Iraq in mid-March, part of the plan to combat the threat of ISIS militants in the country. The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina is there with Task Force Spartan to assist the Iraqi government’s effort against ISIS. These new photos from DoD show them in action.
Once in country, the Marines established Fire Base Bell in the early hours of March 17. The base was a Pentagon secret until March 21 when Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin was killed in an ISIS rocket attack.
The base features four 155mm M777A2 Howitzer cannons, and is a few hundred yards from a larger Iraqi base near Makhmour where U.S. military advisers train Iraqi troops. The Howitzers were up and running, attacking ISIS positions by the next day.
Fire Base Bell is supporting the Iraqi offensive to recapture Mosul, some 60 miles away from Makhmour. The Howitzers have a 22-mile range, which means they can’t hit Mosul, but they can hit ISIS positions along the way
Native American Vietnam veteran Robert Primeaux shared his journey from a Lakota reservation to the Army and even to Hollywood.
As a young man, Primeaux was eager to get off the reservation and see the world. To leave, he decided to join the Army. He trained in Fort Lewis and Fort Knox before joining the 101st Airborne Division and sent off to Vietnam.
In 1972, Primeaux returned to the United States. His younger brother had been killed in a car accident, leaving Primeaux as the sole male survivor of his family.
However, he did not stay in the Army long. A car accident of his own put him in a coma for three weeks. After he recovered, he was discharged.
Primeaux then lived on his grandmother’s ranch while he recovered from his injuries. To help with his recovery, he began to self-rehab by working with the horses on the ranch. His love for horses gave him the opportunity to go to school through a rodeo scholarship from the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA).
Between school and living on his family ranch, Primeaux met Michael Apted on the set of Thunderheart in South Dakota. Through this meeting, he landed a stunt role on Thunderheart and become eligible for access to the Union of the Screen Actors Guild.
Later, Primeaux moved to LA to begin his film career where he landed roles in Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and a more prominent role in Rough Riders. This role as Indian Bob was special to Primeaux because the director John Milius specifically created it with him in mind.
Recently, Primeaux has worked as an advocate for fallen service-members.
Throughout his life, through thick and thin, Primeaux credited the Four Cardinal Lakota Virtues for helping him recover from the Vietnam War and his car accident. He listed the Lakota Virtues as:
Bravery. “Individual valor meant more than group bravery, and the warrior who most fearlessly risked his life earned the admiration of all the people and received the most cherished honors.”
Generosity. “If you have more than one of anything, you should give it away to help those persons.”
Fortitude. “All had to be borne without visible signs of distress.
Wisdom. “A man who displays wisdom, displays superior judgment in matters of war, the hunt, of human and group relationships, of band and Tribal policy, and of harmonious interaction with the natural and spiritual world.”
From childhood, Lakota Warriors were taught these four virtues. Primeaux stated that warriors who were taught the true meaning of these virtues learn to treat their Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte may need to organize an intervention with his family, since some of his cousins are Islamic militants hellbent on toppling his government.
Duterte claimed in an interview last week that some in his own family had joined militant groups that had been fighting in the Philippines for decades, including the so-called Islamic State, which has partnered with local insurgencies who wish to become affiliates.
“To be frank, I have cousins on the other side, with MI and MN,” Duterte told the Philippines news site Rappler, using shortened acronyms for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, also known as MILF, and the Moro National Liberation Front. “Some, I heard, are with ISIS.”
Though Duterte is known for his bloody war against drug dealers, the insurgency in the southern Philippines has been growing in recent years, and ISIS has made significant progress in the region. Both the militant groups Abu Sayyaf and Maute have reportedly pledged allegiance to the terror group.
A bomb blast at a night market in Davao City killed at least 14 people and injured more than 60 in September, and on Christmas Eve, 13 people were injured in a bombing outside a church in Midsayap, Rappler reported. Just this morning, Reuters reported that insurgents attacked a prison in the south and freed more than 150 inmates. Initial information pointed to the MILF group’s involvement.
When asked what he would say to his cousins who may have joined ISIS if he were in the same room, Duterte told Rappler: “Let’s be understanding to each other. You are you and I am I, and I said, if we meet in one corner, so be it.”
“This is it. Number one on my list of worst days at Ranger School,” 1st Lt. Anna Hodge thought as it started to rain again during day eight of Mountain Phase patrols. The blisters on her feet, the chaffing on her legs, and the prickly heat stung with the rain. She stuffed more pieces of MRE gum in her mouth, biting down hard to keep her mind off the pain.
“Your complaint has been duly noted and will be answered within 24 to 48 hours,” she mentally responded to the pain, imitating an answering machine. “Now back to counting steps, 1,344, 1,345…
“Our Mountain Phase experienced record-high rainfall, and I felt bad for my platoon mates who had chafed in some pretty uncomfortable places,” says Hodge. “My legs looked like road rash; the blood and pus was sticking to my uniform. Shivering at night was the norm; yes, it was cold, but even more because of the pain.”
But Hodge had one advantage some of her friends didn’t. She decided to go to Ranger School without feeling pressured; the pain described above was something she had chosen, all simply to become a better intelligence officer.
“I wanted to focus on tactical intelligence,” says Hodge. “It is impossible to know where the enemy will move, nor how to advise the commander if you don’t know Infantry tactics.” Military Intelligence is an Operations Support branch. If soldiers don’t understand what they are supporting, mission success is unlikely.
“I’ve always had a soft spot for the Infantry, and I learned so much about Infantry tactics at Ranger School,” says Hodge. “After graduating, that respect grew even more.”
Hodge wanted to attend Ranger School dating back to 2010 when she first joined ROTC. “I loved patrolling, working as part of a squad and the challenge of pushing myself to perform on minimal food and sleep. I remember cleaning weapons one day and someone joked that I should shave my head and go to Ranger School. I thought it was funny, and secretly I really wanted to go. But it wasn’t open to females at the time.”
That all changed in 2015 when, for the first time, a female graduated Ranger School.
1st Lt. Anna Hodge proudly displays her Ranger tab on graduation day.
(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Joseph Legros)
The following year Hodge attended the Basic Officer Leadership Course for Military Intelligence. She listened to an instructor who recruited Military Intelligence, or MI, officers for the new 75th Regiment MI Battalion. “The hardest part of Ranger School is deciding to go,” the instructor said.
Hodge remembers thinking, “I’ve always been a religious person and when I heard the instructor, it was like God telling me, ‘you better start preparing because you’re going to go.'”
It wasn’t until she went to 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, “The Rock,” part of the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Italy, that she got her opportunity.
“Slowly I expressed a desire to attend Ranger School and my chain of command believed in me,” explains Hodge. “They encouraged me and other lieutenants to go; they did an excellent job creating a command climate where mistakes and failure are accepted as long as you try. Leaders can have a profound impact on a unit’s culture and I’m so grateful to serve in ‘The Rock.’ The unit is full of great leaders, past and present, serving as examples for the type of leader I strive to be.”
“There are a lot of things that get you through Ranger School, but two of the most important are ‘wanting to attend’ and ‘not quitting,'” says Hodge’s battalion commander, Lt. Col. Jim Keirsey. “1st Lt. Hodge wanted to go and earned her spot on the order of merit list. Once there, she didn’t quit. Now she is a Ranger qualified ‘Rock’ Paratrooper.”
Hodge trained for Ranger School by herself, facing the difficulty of balancing work and training. Many times she wished she could have trained more, but battalion priorities came first. She was motivated to work out twice a day, doing countless ruck marches. Sometimes she carried a sledge hammer, simulating the weight of machine gun.
“I really thought I would struggle with the physical aspect, so I trained hard prior to school,” Hodge explains. “But instead, it was the Infantry stuff that was difficult for me. Coming from a Military Intelligence background, I didn’t know the tactics very well, nor how the instructors wanted me to conduct patrols.”
At Ranger School, a student can repeat a phase for patrols, peer ratings or an observation report; this is referred to as “recycling.” If a candidate fails the same thing again, they will be dropped from the course. Her first time through, Hodge was dropped during patrols.
“I was devastated. I didn’t know why I worked so hard only to fail,” shares Hodge. “But ironically, I’m really glad I failed Ranger School my first time. Dealing with failure is one of the most important lessons you can learn.”
Being recycled is not uncommon. According to Ft. Benning, 61.2 percent of graduating Rangers were recycled at least once in 2017. This means less than 39 percent made it through without having to start any of the phases over again. No surprise here: Ranger School is tough.
“I definitely thought about heading home after I failed,” says Hodge. “To start again, it would have been colder, and mentally I was spent.” Despite those thoughts, she stayed.
“I wasn’t ready to give up just yet,” says Hodge.
1st Lt. Anna Hodge.
(Photo By Staff Sgt. Alexander C Henninger)
“I was able to sign up for a Master Resiliency Trainer course in between Ranger classes and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. Thank goodness for resiliency because my second Ranger Assessment Phase week was one of the hardest of my life. It was so cold and miserable that I wanted to quit every day, but I told myself to just quit tomorrow. Before long I made it through the week.”
“The same work ethic and ‘never quit’ attitude that got her through Ranger School is what makes 1st Lt. Hodge an asset to the unit,” adds Keirsey.
In Hodge’s case, it was also helpful to have other female Ranger graduates to follow. She became the fifteenth female throughout the Armed Services to graduate Ranger School and the first Ranger qualified female Sky Soldier. However, this also proved to be challenging.
“I never wanted to be the first female graduate,” says Hodge. “I knew those who went first would deal with criticism and scrutiny. I am very grateful for the 71 females who attended Ranger School before me, the pioneers who overcame prejudice as they pursued their goals. They helped positively change opinions about female Rangers.”
Hodge shares, “I remember reading negative comments about other female graduates, wondering if I would be judged, too. Would they question whether I truly earned my Ranger tab?”
But the length of ruck marches has not changed, nor does the rain fall only on male candidates. Everyone carries their own weight.
“At Ranger School, everyone is held to the same standard,” asserts Hodge.
During one of the phases, she was assigned to carry the machine gun or the radio, the two heaviest items, on a regular basis. The frequent assignments to carry heavy equipment ultimately made her grateful.
“It showed me and others that I could carry the heaviest items and keep up,” says Hodge.
“I was an equal member of the squad, working together with my classmates to accomplish the mission. I formed friendships that will last a lifetime. I am especially grateful to the friends I made in my platoons, my unit and from Ranger Battalion. They taught me so much about the Army and the Infantry.”
“My husband was also very supportive the whole time. He even helped shave my hair and showed me how to do it myself,” shares Hodge.
When asked if she has any doubts of the results, Hodge responds, “After persevering through school, I know, without a doubt, I earned my Ranger tab. It took patience and determination. I put in the effort. I met the standards.”
She also offers the following advice to anyone thinking of attending Ranger School: “Appreciate the little things. You better learn to love patrols. Volunteer for the small, simple tasks that no one wants to do and make them your hobby, like emplacing claymores and camouflaging them. I loved that.”
She adds, “Don’t let little things get to you. Try to see the good. Yes, there were annoying bugs like mosquitos and spiders, but there were also fireflies which were super cool. Yes, it rained, and everyone’s skin was chafed. But the rain also cooled us down.”
The first Ranger qualified female Sky Soldier concludes, “Whatever your goal, take it one step at a time and continue in patience.”