U.S. President Donald Trump on April 6 ordered the Navy to fire 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles into the airfield in west Syria from where it’s believed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime launched a deadly chemical attack on April 4 that killed and injured hundreds of men, women, and children.
Russia on April 7 condemned the U.S. bombing and said it was abandoning an agreement designed to minimize the risk of in-flight incidents, such as collisions, between Russian and U.S. aircraft flying in Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin called the strikes a violation of international law.
Russia said the U.S. bombing was carried out to distract from a March airstrike by the U.S.-led international coalition in Mosul, Iraq, where about 150 civilians died.
“The Syrian army has no chemical weapons,” Russia’s presidential press service said in a statement. “Vladimir Putin regards the U.S. strikes on Syria as an attempt to draw public attention away from the numerous civilian casualties in Iraq.”
Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Bolivia called for an immediate meeting of the United Nations Security Council.
“The U.S. opted for a show of force, for military action against a country fighting international terrorism without taking the trouble to get the facts straight,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “It is not the first time that the U.S. chooses an irresponsible approach that aggravates problems the world is facing, and threatens international security. The very presence of military personnel from the U.S. and other countries in Syria without consent from the Syrian government or a U.N. Security Council mandate is an egregious and obvious violation of international law that cannot be justified.”
Syria’s military called the U.S. bombing an “aggression” that undermined the government’s efforts to combat terrorism, which made the U.S. government a “partner” of internationally recognized terrorist organizations, such as al-Qaida and the Islamic State. The Syrian regime said there would be consequences for “those who would take such a tragic and unfounded action.”
The United States launched the Tomahawk cruise missiles — with around 60,000 pounds of explosives — within 60 seconds, targeting the al-Shayrat airfield near the city of Homs. The sea-launched missiles — which fly close to the ground to avoid radar detection — targeted planes, fuel, and other support infrastructure at the Syrian base.
Two U.S. Navy destroyers — the USS Ross and USS Porter — launched the missiles from the eastern Mediterranean Sea at about 8:40 p.m. EST, or 4:40 a.m. April 6 in Syria, the Pentagon said.
The missile strikes are the first known direct U.S. assault on the Syrian government since the country’s civil war began in 2011.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said the Assad regime or Russia carried out its first airstrikes on April 7 in Khan Sheikhoun in the Idlib province — where the alleged chemical attack occurred — after the U.S. bombing that “destroyed” the regime airfield.
Authorities are assessing the chemical attack from April 4 in Syria’s Idlib province, which officials estimate killed more than 70 people and injured another 400. The strike further solidified the United States’ fierce opposition to leaving Assad in power — a leader Obama’s government repeatedly tried to remove through various means.
Syria’s civil war has resulted in the deaths of more than a half-million people. It has been a major source of tension between Washington, D.C., Damascus, and the Russian government, which remains a staunch ally of Assad’s and has provided his regime with military support.
Assad’s regime has previously been accused of carrying out chemical attacks — a claim denied by Assad and Russia.
Russia, Assad’s biggest ally, has provided military air support for Syria’s fight against Islamic State terrorists and rebels for more than a year. A U.S.-led coalition supporting the rebels has led the charge to oust Assad and has brokered multiple unsuccessful cease-fire agreements for that purpose. U.S. military troops, however, have been scarce inside Syria’s borders — as Pentagon strategists have instead chosen to maintain strictly a training and advisory role for the rebel alliance.
Russia said the United States used the allegations of the chemical attack as an excuse to bomb the Syrian regime.
“It is obvious that the cruise missile attack was prepared in advance. Any expert understands that Washington’s decision on air strikes predates the Idlib events, which simply served as a pretext for a show of force,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said. “There is no doubt that the military action by the U.S. is an attempt to divert attention from the situation in Mosul, where the campaign carried out among others by U.S.-led coalition has resulted in hundreds of civilian casualties and an escalating humanitarian disaster.”
Allen Cone and Doug G. Ware contributed to this report.
There are bad guard details, horrible guard details, and then guard details where you and the bulk of your regiment are ordered to guard caves filled with bat shit.
Gunpowder is made up mostly of saltpeter, a chemical powder generally mined from deposits on cave walls or extracted from urine and bat guano. When the South found itself under naval blockade early in the war, it had to find a way to make many of its necessities.
Modern ammunition uses cleaner-burning propellants, but the nitrates in guano are still valuable for fertilizers. The descendants of the bats that provided the guano are now famous in Austin. Spectators line up on bridges to watch the bats depart for their nightly feeding.
The military exists by its own rules, both the stated ones like the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and the cultural ones like “First sergeants have to use knife hands and the word ‘behoove’ as often as possible.” Some of these rules are frustrating, bone-grinding distractions. But some of them create openings for a little fun:
“We gotta run, man. Otherwise, these artillery simulators may start to bracket us.”
(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. David Overson)
Reacting to outgoing fire in front of the new guy
For those who didn’t spend much time on forward operating bases or similar, there are two kinds of artillery, mortar, rocket, etc. fire. There is incoming fire, where the enemy is trying to kill you, or outgoing, where your guns are trying to kill the enemy.
After just a few days of casual listening, an attentive person can get a feeling for what outgoing sounds like, and they know not to jump or dive when the boom is just the guns firing. But, savvy customers can then scare the new guys by reacting like an attack is in progress whenever a boom goes off.
Hear a boom? Dive to the ground, into a bunker, or behind a barrier. (Bonus points if you can get your hands on artillery simulators and make your own incoming artillery fire.)
Do not drop classified poops into this toilet. This is not a classified medium.
Put classification stickers on someone’s device
The military has to label data storage and processing systems with stickers that say what level of classification it is. These stickers should only be placed appropriately on government equipment (usually electronics like computers and printers). But, with the right communications security guy to work with, you can stick those adhesive squares on anything, like, say, a buddy’s phone.
Then, the communications security guy can show up before the sticker is taken off and take possession of the phone, ordering that it must go through the full process of being turned from government property to civilian possession. But uh, a little warning here: don’t use the red stickers, and don’t do this near comms guys who aren’t in on the joke. Otherwise, that phone really might become government property.
Light assault right before a drill sergeant or officer enters
When certain noncommissioned officers or officers enter a room, personnel inside are required to call the room to “attention” or “at ease.” (This is usually the commander or the senior NCO of a unit, but is also often done in training units with cadre.)
So, if you really want to mess with a buddy and see one of those peeps coming, hurt ’em just a little right before the superior person enters. In my training time, this was often a “ball tap,” but be sure your buddy is cool with games like that before you flick their crotch. Otherwise, a quick kidney jab or Charlie horse will do the trick without generating a SHARP complaint.
“You don’t understand, man, the petty officer is going to look INSIDE your faucet.”
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kelly M. Agee)
Making up imminent inspections (and hiding stuff they need)
Speaking of inspections, at the barracks level you can also just make up inspections and then hide things that they’ll need. If you get new leadership, this gets especially fun. The platoon sergeant may hold off on inspections to bond with the team, but you can definitely convince some of the Joes that he’s coming to the barracks. In an hour. And everything should be perfect.
And, whoops, looks like the floor wax has gone missing. Sure Joe can figure out something in an hour. Maybe use the lube from your jerk stash.
Sealing off the shack they sleep in
Speaking of jerk stashes, there’s a tactic on deployment to help troops sleep and, ya know, do other things, by hanging sheets, blankets, or towels from their bunks for a little privacy and some shade if the lights in the barracks are kept on.
But with a couple of strips of tape, that Jack Shack can become a very confusing prison. Wait for them to pass out, preferably after a few cans of O’Doul’s and bottles of water. Then, quietly and carefully, stretch tape along the spots where sheets and towels meet, turning them into seams instead of openings. Then videotape them trying to get out.
Imagine that it’s your job to inventory all this property. Now imagine that some jerk has scrambled the placement of each item so you don’t know where any individual item is. But now imagine you’re the jerk. You could be that jerk!
(U.S. Army Sgt. Jason Stewart)
Swapping identical gear before property inventories
Every month, some officer gets tasked with inventorying property. At a minimum, they’re walking through the headquarters trying to ensure that 10 percent or more of the unit’s property is there, serial number and all.
And that’s what gives the prankster an opening for chaos. It’s not enough for the officer to see that the operations shop has eight monitors. The operations shop has to prove that it has eight specific monitors, by serial number. So, if you’re comfortable throwing a wrench in the works, start shifting monitors around.
Shifting within an office will confuse the people in that shop and get some chuckles, but shifting otherwise identical gear between shops is where it gets fun. As the officer and members of the shop run around confused, finding none of the serial numbers where they’re supposed to be, you can use the time to reflect on how service in the military is often a Kafka-esque nightmare.
Hide lost ID cards or weapons
This one’s pretty common. ID cards and personal weapons are supposed to never leave a soldier’s possession unless they’re being handed over for a specific reason like giving up the ID card for a urinalysis or turning in a weapon to the armorer.
So, when you find one that was left behind, there are a few options of what to do next. You could turn everything in to a responsible adult. Or, you could hide the weapons and freeze the ID card in a block of ice. You can also wrap the contraband in concertina wire, create a treasure hunt that ends with the location of the ID or weapon, or even “pass it up the chain.”
Passing it up the chain is where everyone gives the card or weapon to someone who outranks them, even slightly outranking like someone who made sergeant the month before the previous holder. Then, when the sergeant goes looking for the missing item, every person makes them do 10-50 pushups before saying, “I gave it to so-and-so.” Done right, this can guarantee the soldier will never lose the item again and will definitely pass their next PT test.
The Pentagon is said to be exploring dates for such a parade. But if it does happen, Trump wouldn’t be the first U.S. president, or even the first modern one, to hold a military parade in Washington, DC.
There’s a long history of military parades in the U.S., but its recent history is anchored in the Cold War when the U.S. showed off nuclear missiles long before North Korea’s Kim dynasty even had the capability.
Recent history of U.S. military parades — and their nukes
In 1953 and 1957, Dwight Eisenhower’s inaugurations included nuclear-capable missiles rolling down Pennsylvania Avenue.
Both Kennedy and Eisenhower presided over some of the tensest days of the Cold War-era nuclear-arms race with the Soviet Union.
In Kennedy’s case, a frightened U.S. had just watched the Soviets’ Sputnik satellite, mankind’s first, passing through the skies. American schoolchildren were drilled on how to hide under desks in the event of a nuclear attack. After all, if the Soviets could put a satellite in space and fly it around the world, they could also put up the bomb.
On the other end of the Cold War, when the U.S. emerged victorious from the Gulf War, President George H.W. Bush brought back the military for another parade.
The U.S. victory had been decisive, with Saddam Hussein’s army, the world’s third-largest at the time, decimated by superior U.S. military power. Though 20,000 to 30,000 U.S. casualties were forecast in the conflict, where chemical weapons had killed scores of civilians, fewer than 300 U.S. troops died.
The U.S. brought its troops home for a parade in June 1991, when Bush’s approval rating was soaring.
Later that year, the Kremlin lowered the Communist hammer-and-sickle flag for the last time. The Soviet Union imploded, and the Cold War ended.
The Cold War is back on, parades and all
Since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. has withdrawn troops from Europe and taken measures to reduce its military footprint and nuclear stockpiles. The Obama administration increasingly treated Russia like a partner and less like a competitor.
But late in Obama’s presidency, the tide started to turn. Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014 to a muted U.S. and NATO response.
China, over the same period, embarked on a massive, ambitious campaign to rebuild its military and dominate the South China Sea, a shipping lane where annual commerce worth trillions of dollars passes through, and where China has ignored international law in building artificial islands in contested territory.
The return to Cold War footing for Eastern powers isn’t Trump’s doing and didn’t happen on his watch, but the U.S.’s embrace of a new Cold War definitely is.
Trump takes aim at China and Russia, looking to fight fire with fire
The Trump administration recently released a series of documents outlining the U.S.’s foreign policy and military bearings. In the National Defense Strategy, the National Security Strategy, and the Nuclear Posture Review, the Trump administration has consistently named its biggest challenges as taming the rises of Russia and China.
After claiming last year that the F-35 would assume the close air support role once the A-10 was retired, U.S. Air Force officials this week showed signs that they are rethinking that strategy.
“My requirements guys are in the process of building a draft-requirements document for a follow-on CAS airplane,” Lt. Gen. Mike Holmes, the deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements, said at an Air Force Association breakfast attended by Phillip Swarts of Air Force Times. “It’s interesting work that at some point we’ll be able to talk [about] with you a little bit more.
“I have seen a draft of it, it’s out for coordination. It’ll go to the chief sometime this spring, and then we’ll fold that into the larger study we’re doing on the future of the combat air forces.”
Aviation experts, aficionados, lawmakers, ground troops, and even Air Force pilots pushed back hard against the notion that the F-35 would be as effective as the A-10 has been and continues to be in the close air support role. Critics complained that Air Force leaders were sacrificing warfighting capability in their desire to field the Joint Strike Fighter — an airplane that is a tech marvel on paper but that has experienced many setbacks during the test phase that have made it wildly over budget and massively behind schedule. Now Air Force officials appear to be bowing to the pressure.
“The question is, exactly where is the sweet spot … between what’s available now and what would the optimum CAS replacement be,” he said. “We’re working along that continuum to see exactly where the requirement is that you can afford in the numbers we need to be able to do the mission.”
Holmes mentioned that perhaps the future trainer — known as T-X — could be morphed into a CAS platform but warned that it would be premature to add that requirement at this time.
“We’re really careful with the T-X requirement because if we add requirements to T-X now, then it could become unaffordable and we can’t replace the trainer role that we need it to replace,” Holmes said. “There is an option down the road that you might take the airframe that’s designed for T-X and use it for some other use, we have some money in our budget that will let us do the studies to do that.”
But the most definitive admission of the folly of trying to force the F-35 into the CAS role came from Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein last month. “I would never look at you and tell you, ‘Hey, the replacement, one-for-one, for the A-10 is the F-35,'” Goldfein said.
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
A crew from Coast Guard Station Mayport trains aboard a 29-foot Response Boat-Small near Ponte Vedra Beach in North Florida.
Since 1941, U.S. Coast Guard Air Station San Francisco has guarded more than 300 miles of Pacific coastline.
Sgt. Derek Patrick, a military working dog trainer from Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, demonstrates the capabilities of his military working dog at the fields behind the University of Phoenix Stadium at Glendale, Arizona, Sept. 11, 2015.
Marines floated an Assault Amphibious Vehicle and Landing Craft Air Cushion to Reserve Craft Beach aboard Naval Base Guam. The Marines are currently on a six-month deployment aboard the USS Germantown.
A Japan Ground Self-Defense Force soldier and Lance Cpl. Justin Peterson, an infantry riflemen with 2nd Marines, grapple during Exercise Forest Light 16-1 at Camp Aibano, Japan, Sept. 10, 2015.
Marines train Malaysian Armed Forces on the M32 grenade launcher during a Non-lethal Weapons Executive Seminar, Sept. 12, 2015.
Marines with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force—Crisis Response—Central Command, conduct fast rope training from an MV-22 Osprey while deployed to Southwest Asia, Sept. 16, 2015.
ATLANTIC OCEAN (Sept. 13, 2015) Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Gravely (DDG 107) refuel an MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter during night flight operations. Gravely is underway participating in a composite training unit exercise with the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group.
ATLANTIC OCEAN (Sept. 15, 2015) An F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the Jolly Rogers of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 103, launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75).
The Army made sure to send its compliments to the Air Force this week. Happy Birthday, U.S. Air Force!
Artillerymen, assigned to the New Hampshire National Guard, with various Soldiers assigned to III Corps and Fort Hood conduct a sling load operation during Operation Granite Viper at Udairi Range, Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Sept. 9, 2015.
A Soldier, assigned to 7th Infantry Division, practices an Australian style rappel during Operation Yudh Abhyas at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., Sept. 14, 2015. Yudh Abhyas is an annual, bilateral U.S. Army Pacific-sponsored Theater Security Cooperation Program.
A Soldier, assigned to 52nd Air Defense Artillery, Eighth Army-Korea, tends to a casualty during Expert Field Medical Badge training on Warrior Base, South Korea.
The sun rises prior to the departure of deploying Airmen Sept. 8, 2015, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas. The Airmen departed in support of contingency operations in the Horn of Africa.
Airmen from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, perform a flag detail during Armed Forces Night at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, Sept. 8, 2015. The pregame ceremonies included a recognition of veterans, wounded warriors, military families, as well as a tribute to fallen service members.
A Royal Marine has created a viral video highlighting what to do in the event you’re stranded without a flotation device. After jumping into a pool, TikTok user @dutchintheusa fashions a flotation device out of his pants to slip around his neck and stay afloat. Over 10 million people have viewed the TikTok video, with comments offering gratitude for the potentially lifesaving video.
User @Dutchintheusa is a Royal Marine, an elite amphibious force of the Royal Navy, held at very high readiness for worldwide rapid response and threat neutralization. According to their website, the role of the Royal Marines is to serve “as the UK’s Commando Force and the Royal Navy’s own amphibious troops. They are an elite fighting force, optimised for worldwide rapid response and are able to deal with a wide spectrum of threats and security challenges. Fully integrated with the Royal Navy’s amphibious ships, they can be deployed globally without host nation support and projected from the sea to conduct operations on land. A key component of the Royal Navy’s maritime security function, they provide a unique capability and are experts in ship-to-ship operations.”
Royal Marines have carried out commando training missions alongside US Navy forces across Scotland during the early phases of a deployment that will take them around northern Europe.
Members of the US Naval Special Warfare Task Unit-Europe joined Arbroath-based 45 Commando on rigorous urban close-quarter combat training missions in Garelochhead, live firing drills and vertical assaults near Loch Lomond.
45 Commando form a central part of the Littoral Response Group (North) deployment, which will take commando forces and Royal Navy ships – HMS Albion, RFA Mounts Bay and HMS Lancaster – around northern Europe and into the heart of the Baltic this spring.
To prepare for those operations, more than 300 commandos headed on two separate preparatory ‘battle camps’, which saw them carry out a variety of essential commando training exercises alongside US allies to keep them razor sharp for what’s to come.
Marine Nathan Bell, X-Ray Company, said: “I enjoyed having the chance to practice close-quarters battle, it’s interesting, but it’s also really important.
“It’s mentally quite tough as well though, because in real life, the scenario you are faced with will be unique; therefore, you need to be so well drilled that you can rely on your initiative in the heat of the moment.
“Commando basic training sets the foundations of teamwork and discipline which allows us to be successful.”
TikTok user @dutchintheusa has 3.5M TikTok followers and posts a variety of safety and escape videos, which can be found here.
President Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of the Navy, John Lehman, had a dream in the early 1980s: A 600-ship fleet. And while growing that fleet, Lehman wanted to bring back some of the elegance and esprit that had been lost during the Vietnam War era. And in his mind, nothing said “elegance” like the Iowa class battleships that were originally built to fight World War II.
The USS Iowa (BB 61) was originally commissioned in 1943 and decommissioned in 1958 following service in World War II and the Korean War. After sitting in mothballs pierside at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard as part of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet for 26 years, Iowa was overhauled, modernized, and recommissioned. But in order to meet SECNAV’s expectation, many necessary repairs were either skipped or rushed, and as a result Iowa failed the first major inspection in 1984. The inspecting officer recommended that the battleship be taken out of service immediately, but Secretary Lehman personally rejected that input and instead ordered the Atlantic Fleet leadership to fix the problems and get Iowa sailing as soon as possible.
In late May of 1988, the Iowa’s brand-new commander officer, Capt. Fred Moosally canceled a $1 million repair to the gun turrets, deciding to use the funds to upgrade the ship’s power plant instead. According to an article written a few years later by Greg Vistica of the San Diego Union-Tribune, between September 1988 and January 1989, sailors aboard Iowa reportedly conducted little training with her main guns, in part because of ongoing, serious maintenance issues with the main gun turrets. According to Ensign Dan Meyer, the officer in charge of the ship’s Turret One, morale and operational readiness among the gun-turret crews suffered greatly.
On April 19, 1989 the Iowa was scheduled to conduct a live-fire exercise in the waters off of Puerto Rico. The Second Fleet commander, Vice Admiral Jerome Johnson, was aboard, and Captain Moosally was eager to impress. The night before, fire-control officer, Lieutenant Leo Walsh, conducted a briefing to discuss the next day’s main battery exercise. Moosally, Morse, Kissinger, and Costigan did not attend the briefing. During the briefing, Skelley announced that Turret Two would participate in an experiment of his design in which D-846 powder would be used to fire 2700 lb (1224.7 kg) shells.
The powder lots of D-846 were among the oldest on board Iowa, dating back to 1943–1945, and were designed to fire 1900-pound shells. In fact, printed on each D-846 powder canister were the words, “WARNING: Do Not Use with 2,700-pound projectiles.”D-846 powder burned faster than normal powder, which meant that it exerted greater pressure on the shell when fired. Skelley explained that the experiment’s purpose was to improve the accuracy of the guns.
Skelley’s plan was for Turret Two to fire ten 2,700-pound practice (no explosives) projectiles, two from the left gun and four rounds each from the center and right guns. Each shot was to use five bags of D-846, instead of the six bags normally used, and to fire at the empty ocean 17 nautical miles away.
Ziegler was especially concerned about his center gun crew. The rammerman, Robert W. Backherms, was inexperienced, as were the powder car operator, Gary J. Fisk, the primerman, Reginald L. Johnson Jr., and the gun captain, Richard Errick Lawrence. To help supervise Lawrence, Ziegler assigned Second Class Gunner’s Mate Clayton Hartwig, the former center gun captain, who had been excused from gun turret duty because of a pending reassignment to a new duty station in London, to the center gun’s crew for the firing exercise. Because of the late hour, Ziegler did not inform Hartwig of his assignment until the morning of 19 April, shortly before the firing exercise was scheduled to begin.
At 08:31 on 19 April, the main turret crewmembers were ordered to their stations in Turrets One, Two, and Three. Thirty minutes later the turrets reported that they were manned, swiveled to starboard in firing position, and ready to begin the drill. Vice Admiral Johnson and his staff entered the bridge to watch the firing exercise. Iowa was 260 nautical miles northeast of Puerto Rico, steaming at 15 knots.
Turret One fired first, beginning at 09:33. Turret One’s left gun misfired and its crew was unable to get the gun to discharge. Moosally ordered Turret Two to load and fire a three-gun salvo. According to standard procedure, the misfire in Turret One should have been resolved first before proceeding further with the exercise.
Forty-four seconds after Moosally’s order, Lieutenant Buch reported that Turret Two’s right gun was loaded and ready to fire. Seventeen seconds later, he reported that the left gun was ready. A few seconds later, Errick Lawrence, in Turret Two’s center gun room, reported to Ziegler over the turret’s phone circuit that, “We have a problem here. We are not ready yet. We have a problem here.”
Ziegler responded by announcing over the turret’s phone circuit, “Left gun loaded, good job. Center gun is having a little trouble. We’ll straighten that out.”
Mortensen, monitoring Turret Two’s phone circuit from his position in Turret One, heard Buch confirm that the left and right guns were loaded. Lawrence then called out, “I’m not ready yet! I’m not ready yet!”
Next, Ernie Hanyecz, Turret Two’s leading petty officer suddenly called out, “Mort! Mort! Mort!”Ziegler shouted, “Oh, my God! The powder is smoldering!” About this same time, Hanyecz yelled over the phone circuit, “Oh, my God! There’s a flash!”
At 09:53, Turret Two’s center gun exploded. A fireball blew out from the center gun’s open breech. The explosion caved in the door between the center gun room and the turret officer’s booth and buckled the bulkheads separating the center gun room from the left and right gun rooms. The fireball spread through all three gun rooms and through much of the lower levels of the turret.
The resulting fire released toxic gases that filled the turret. Shortly after the initial explosion, the heat and fire ignited 2,000 pounds of powder bags in the powder-handling area of the turret. Nine minutes later, another explosion, most likely caused by a buildup of carbon monoxide gas, occurred.
When it was all over 47 members of Iowa’s crew were dead.
Several hours after the explosion, Admiral Carlisle Trost, the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), issued a moratorium on the firing of all 16-inch guns.Vice Admiral Joseph S. Donnell, commander of Surface Forces Atlantic, appointed Commodore Richard Milligan to conduct an informal one-officer investigation into the explosion. An informal investigation meant that testimony was not required to be taken under oath, witnesses were not advised of their rights, defense attorneys were not present, and no one, including the deceased, could be charged with a crime no matter what the evidence revealed.
Milligan boarded Iowa on 20 April and toured Turret Two. He did not attempt to stop the ongoing cleanup of the turret. Accompanying Milligan to assist him in the investigation was his personal staff, including his chief of staff, Captain Edward F. Messina. Milligan and his staff began their investigation by interviewing members of Iowa‘s crew.
During Meyer’s interview by Milligan and his staff, Meyer described Skelley’s gunnery experiments. Meyer stated that Moosally and Kissinger had allowed Skelley to conduct his experiments without interference or supervision. At this point, according to Meyer, Messina interrupted, told the stenographer to stop typing, and took Meyer out into the passageway and told him, “You little shit, you can’t say that! The admiral doesn’t want to hear another word about experiments!”
The investigation went downhill from there, shifting from any attempt to find command-wide leadership issues or maintenance malpractice to blaming the entire mishap on Second Class Gunner’s Mate Clayton Hartwig. Navy investigators extrapolated the fact that Hartwig had taken an insurance policy out with a shipmate, Kendall Truitt, as the beneficiary into a homosexual relationship gone wrong between the two men that caused Hartwig to commit suicide by sparking the turret explosion with an incendiary device.
The Naval Investigative Service (NIS, now known as Naval Criminal Investigative Service, or NCIS) agents were ham-fisted and ruthless in their pursuit of what they already believed to be true or the direction in which they’d been ordered — tacitly or otherwise — to focus. NIS agents interviewed Truitt and repeatedly pressed him to admit to a sexual relationship with Hartwig. Other agents interviewed Truitt’s wife Carole, also pressing her about the sexual orientation of Hartwig and Truitt, asking questions about how often she and her husband had sex, what sorts of sexual acts they engaged in, and whether she had ever had sex with any of Truitt’s crewmates.
At the same time the Navy’s public affairs command at the Pentagon leaked NIS findings to a host of media outlets, and reports started appearing in newspapers and on TV that said that Hartwig had intentionally caused the explosion after his relationship with Truitt had gone sour.
On July 15, 1989 the officer in charge of the investigation submitted his completed report on the explosion to his chain of command. The 60-page report found that the explosion was a deliberate act “most probably” committed by Hartwig using an electronic timer. The report concluded that the powder bags had been over-rammed into the center gun under Hartwig’s direction in order to trigger the explosive timer that he had placed between two of the powder bags.
When the official report hit the streets there was a great public outcry by the families of the victims, and many of them began feeding members of the media with insider information that, in turn, led to a host of reports that pointed out the myriad ways the Navy’s investigation was deeply flawed. Those reports led to an investigation by the House Armed Services Committee.
In early March 1990, the HASC released its report, titled USS Iowa Tragedy: An Investigative Failure. The report criticized the Navy for failing to investigate every natural possible cause before concluding that the explosion was an intentional act. The report also criticized the Navy for allowing the turret and projectile to become contaminated; for permitting evidence to be thrown overboard; and for endorsing the investigator’s report prior to completing the technical investigation. The NIS’s actions in the investigation were described as “flawed” and the NIS agents assigned to the case were criticized for unprofessional interviewing techniques and for leaking sensitive documents and inaccurate information. Finally, the report concluded that officer put in charge of the investigation was unfit to oversee it.
A subsequent investigation conducted by a group of engineers and scientists concluded that the explosion had been caused by the over-ram of powder into the breech after they were able to replicate the condition several times under test conditions. In spite of this, the second Navy investigation doubled down on the original finding that the explosion had been intentionally set by Hartwig.
Finally, on 17 October 1991, 17 months after the Navy reopened the investigation, Adm. Frank Kelso, the Chief of Naval Operations, conducted a press conference at the Pentagon to announce the results of the Navy’s reinvestigation. Kelso noted that the Navy had spent a total of $25 million on the investigation. He stated that the Navy had uncovered no evidence to suggest that the gun had been operated improperly, nor had it established a plausible accidental cause for the explosion.
Kelso stated, “The initial investigation was an honest attempt to weigh impartially all the evidence as it existed at the time. And indeed, despite the Sandia theory and almost two years of subsequent testing, a substantial body of scientific and expert evidence continue to support the initial investigation finding that no plausible accidental cause can be established.” Kelso added that the Navy had also found no evidence that the explosion was caused intentionally. He further announced that he had directed the Navy to never again use an informal board composed of a single officer to investigate such an incident.
Kelso concluded by offering “sincere regrets” to the family of Clayton Hartwig and apologies to the families of those who died, “that such a long period has passed, and despite all efforts no certain answer regarding the cause of this terrible tragedy can be found.
Iowa decommissioned in Norfolk on October 26, 1990. In May of 2012, the battleship was towed to the Port of Los Angeles and is now a floating museum.
From August 1990 to February 1991, the Iowa-class battleships Wisconsin and Missouri were deployed to the Persian Gulf. The two battleships fired 1,182 16-inch shells in support of Desert Storm combat operations without mishap.
Current servicemembers and veterans are some of the most remarkable individuals representing the best of our country.
The beauty of the people who serve in the military is that they hail from all across the nation, have diverse backgrounds and interesting stories about their time in service. Many of these individuals are not just warriors, but they are also storytellers.
For many military members, writing is a powerful tool. This generation’s men and women in uniform have a lot to share and writing about their service gives them the ability to discuss many subjects, display their knowledge and express ideas on current military affairs and strategies that can spark a dialogue.
Writing allows a space for people to illustrate unique perspectives and opinions on topics such as leadership, military books and history, movies and of course personal “war stories.”
Whether you are a young service member who just enlisted or a retired veteran, here are seven websites or blogs that you should definitely bookmark and follow on social media.
1. Angry Staff Officer
Writing under the persona “Angry Staff Officer,” the site’s author focuses on several topics in his blog. From historical events and foreign policy to personal experiences and an examination of current Army doctrine, Angry Staff Officer’s writing is both fun and snarky — but ultimately insightful. Along with running his own site, Angry Staff Officer serves as a contributor to several other outlets, sharing his unique view on several themes. Visit his site and you’ll get a good look at what he’s all about, but his sense of humor really shines on Twitter, so make sure to follow him @pptsapper.
2. Bourbon and Battles
If you are looking for a site that offers lessons on life, current military affairs, history and of course reviews on great bourbon, then Bourbon and Battles is for you. Hosted by U.S. Army officer Johnathon Parker, Bourbon and Battles offers readers firsthand advice on writing, his life as a graduate student, military leadership, and offers new writers a platform to have their work featured. This site is perfect for new military writers to build their prosaic chops. You can also follow Bourbon Battles on Twitter @BourbonBattles and on Facebook.
3. From the Green Notebook
The ubiquitous military green notebook has become the stuff of legend. For Army Maj. Joe Byerly, it is also a source of inspiration for his personal blog called From the Green Notebook. The site serves as a means for the combat arms officer to share his perspective about his time in service and as a way to help develop young military leaders in the digital age. The author dives into a variety of topics such as history, military leadership, and professional development that gives military personnel sound advice on how to to make it in the service. You can also follow him on Twitter @jbyerly81.
4. The Military Leader
Hosted by an Army Infantry officer, The Military Leader is a website that offers resources for both military and civilians to guide their development as leaders and help grow their organizations. From simple articles about helpful tips to help start conversations with subordinates to complex topics such as toxic leadership, the page offers great insight for people of all levels. Be sure to also follow the Military Leader on Twitter @mil_LEADER and on Facebook.
5. Military Writers Guild
A collective of writers lend their years of experience and expertise as a means to share ideas and start a dialogue. The purpose of the Military Writers Guild is to “advocate, collaborate and promote” the current crop of military thinkers. The site features writing and podcasts from brilliant military minds. The individuals who are a part of the Military Writers Guild are so smart, in high school they probably sat at the nerd table in the cafeteria. All kidding aside, this is a fantastic group of people writing about the national security space. You can also follow them on Twitter @MilWritersGuild.
6. War on the Rocks
War on the Rocks is medium for in-depth analysis, commentary, and content on geo-politics and national security. The page features articles and podcasts from a number of collaborators with years of expertise in warfare. If you want to put your thinking cap on and see where U.S. military strategy and organization should go in the next 10 or 20 years, sit back and get smarter.
7. Your Stories, Your Wall
Serving as the official blog if the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, this site features personal stories of those who served in the Vietnam conflict. The blog has great aspects of storytelling and compelling imagery that really conveys the hardships of the men and women who served as well as the family members who were affected by the death of a loved one in that war. Many of these stories on the blog are also centered on the Vietnam memorial itself. This site reminds all of us about the sacrifices of our Vietnam era servicememebrs. Check it out here: https://vvmf.wordpress.com/
Russia recently announced that it would begin drawing down its deployment to Syria. One of the first major assets to depart will be its lone aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, according to a report by Agence France Press.
The Russian government produced a slick tribute video that harkens back to the 1950s Soviet Union, where the same M-4 Bison bombers were flown past the reviewing stands of the 1955 Aviation Day parade several times to make it look like the Soviets had tons of planes.
The new Kuznetsov video showed crewmen standing watch – some on the carrier’s flight deck with an assault rifle, as well as Su-33 Flankers taking off from the ship.
The Admiral Kuznetsov in drydock — a place it should never leave.
That said, there is a whole lot of stuff this video has left out. Regular readers of this site are familiar with the Kuznetsov Follies, coverage of the many… shortcomings, this carrier displayed on the deployment.
The highlight of these follies — well, let just say the term lowlight might be more accurate — would be the splash landings Russian Navy fighters made. In November, a MiG-29K made a splash landing shortly after takeoff. The next month, a Su-33 Flanker made its own splash landing. The Flanker wasn’t to blame – an arresting cable on the craptastic carrier snapped.
The carrier has been known to have breakdowns, too, and as a result, deploys with tugboats. Other problems include a central heating system that doesn’t heat, a busted ventilation system, broken latrines, and a lot of mold and mildew.
So, with all that in mind, here is the Russian video:
Sharon Weinberger, a journalist and military contracting expert, says that the group, which called itself the Synergy Strike Force, had an unique payment system for the bar where they gathered. A sign on the door said, “If you supply data, you will get beer,” Weinberger writes in her book, an excerpt of which was published Wednesday in Foreign Policy.
“Patrons could contribute any sort of data — maps, PowerPoint slides, videos, or photographs” in exchange for beer, Weinberger said. Synergy Strike Force mostly wanted to help Afghanistan by gathering data on the country, much like how Amazon tracks customer purchases. The group distributed technology, created small internet hotspots for communities, and even used crowdsourcing to help identify and locate election fraud.
The methods eventually attracted the attention of the DARPA, the Pentagon agency responsible for developing cutting-edge technologies, e.g. the internet, and more recently, smart drones.
DARPA hadn’t been actively engaged in combat theater since the Vietnam war, and was ready to be useful. The agency launched a massive data-mining project in Afghanistan in 2009 to gather intelligence for the military and hired several contractor companies to assist.
What sort of data was DARPA interested in? One area of data collection in which the agency was most interested involved “costs of transportation and exotic vegetables, to make predictions about insurgencies in Afghanistan.” The military wanted to find out if they could predict what town the Taliban would target next, based solely on the price of potatoes.
DARPA already had contractors collecting data in Afghanistan, but the Synergy Strike Force had special appeal. One of DARPA’s subcontractors, More Eyes, connected with the loose association of artists and “do-gooders” to help the Pentagon’s efforts.
The Synergy Strike Force’s beer-for-data program was never officially part of DARPA, but the group “happily offered the one-terabyte hard drive to the Pentagon.”
The odd pairing of DARPA contractor More Eyes and humanitarian technology activists paid off. The group gave do-it-yourself internet devices to local Afghans and even delivered a laptop to a provincial governor. “Was the More Eyes program successful?” one scientist, defending the program, asked rhetorically. “Well, let’s see. I just put a foreign electronic sensor into the governor’s bedroom.”
The problem was, not a lot of the country had internet, and data collection was difficult. The contract with More Eyes wasn’t renewed in 2011, and by 2013, DARPA withdrew from the country. “Afghans lived and fought much as they had for more than 1,000 years,” Weinberg explained.
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The Marine Corps makes history today as three enlisted female Marines with infantry jobs join an infantry battalion that was closed to them at this time last year.
The milestone comes more than four years after the Corps began to study the effects of opening infantry units to women and just over a year after Defense Secretary Ashton Carter issued a mandate in December 2015 requiring all services to open previously closed jobs to women.
The three Marines are all bound for 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, 2nd Marine Division spokesman 1st Lt. John McCombs told Military.com. While McCombs would not identify the women or reveal their ranks, citing privacy concerns as they acclimate to the fleet, he said they have the military occupational specialties [MOS] of rifleman, mortarman and machine gunner.
Marine Corps Times, which first wrote about the arrival of the Marines, reported that all three graduated from the School of Infantry at Camp Lejeune as part of the Corps’ multi-year effort to study the gender integration of the ground combat ranks.
U.S. Marines from Delta Company, Infantry Training Battalion (ITB), School of Infantry-East (SOI-E) take a break after completing their 10k hike before navigating their way through the obstacle course aboard, Camp Geiger, N.C., Oct. 04, 2013. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Paul S. Mancuso, Combat Camera
During this test period, some 240 female Marines graduated from Lejeune’s Infantry Training Battalion course. While at the time this accomplishment did not make them eligible to hold an infantry MOS or serve in an infantry unit, the Marine Corps announced last January that these infantry graduates were now eligible to request a lateral move to serve in a grunt unit.
In keeping with the Corps’ plan to help female infantrymen adapt to the new environment, 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, has incorporated a small “leadership cadre” of more senior female Marines in support specialties, placed within the unit ahead of time, McCombs said.
“That leadership consists of a logistics officer, motor transportation officer, and a wire chief,” he said. “They will have been in place for at least 90 days prior to the first female infantry Marines arriving to the unit. This process ensures the Marine Corps will adhere to its standards and will continue its emphasis on combat readiness.”
McCombs said he could not speak to why that battalion had been chosen to receive the first female infantry transfers, and did not immediately know when the unit is next slated to deploy.
The Corps reaches the milestone of adding female infantrymen to its ranks despite previous misgivings at the most senior levels. In September 2015, the service released the summary results of a study showing that in a year-long test of gender-integrated infantry units, teams with both male and female Marines had shot less accurately and performed more slowly than all-male teams.
Ultimately, then-commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford, now the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, requested to exempt women from certain infantry units, a request that was denied by Carter. The nominee for secretary of defense, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, has also voiced concerns about whether women are suited to the “intimate killing” of close ground combat.
Asked about women serving in infantry units at a Washington, D.C., event in December, Commandant Gen. Robert Neller noted that women have been serving in combat while deployed for years, and said the Marine Corps is implementing its current guidance.
Neller declined to speculate about whether the question of women in ground combat roles would resurface during the administration of President-elect Donald Trump, but said service leadership would address the issue if called upon.
“If we’re asked what our best military advice is, we’ll make that known at that time,” he said.
With a baby on the way, Spc. Donald Ulloa and his wife were up all night preparing for the arrival of a new child. With no such luck on this particular day, he went about his normal routine.
Ulloa, a soldier with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, was at a gas station with his Family in the car when he witnessed a vehicle accident. He looked toward the road and saw a car hit a motorcyclist before the motorcyclist flew through the air.
His soldier skills kicked in and he didn’t hesitate, he ran toward the accident and immediately began to assess the situation. He quickly realized the bike on the motorcyclist’s leg needed to be moved, so he threw the bike off the man before looking around to delegate tasks. One person called 911 and another woman was able to translate from Spanish to English for Ulloa, while he began applying his combat lifesaver course techniques until emergency services arrived.
“That’s just the type of soldier he is,” said Sgt. 1st Class Billy Thornton, human resources NCO, HHC, 1st Bn., 38th Inf. Reg., 1st SBCT. “To be the first one on scene was great — whether here or overseas — he would do the same. I was surprised by the event, but not by Ulloa’s actions. I had immediate praise for him.”
When it comes to chaotic events, Thornton said he knows Ulloa is always ready. The office staff is constantly training to be prepared for any situation, and Ulloa is always looking for ways to improve.
Spc. Donald Ulloa, a soldier with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, helps Soldiers on the range.
The military taught Ulloa to remain calm in hectic situations. Whether on a range, at a shoot house or downrange, Ulloa said the first thing he realized was that he needed to be calm. But looking back, he believes he did what anyone else would have done.
“I don’t think that I could have done anything differently … as infantrymen we are taught to run toward it and provide help,” he said.
Not wanting to see any child grow up without a parent, Ulloa said it doesn’t matter who it is. He would have done the same for anyone, because he believes “it’s everyday soldier training; its selfless service, sacrifice, integrity … day one or 20 years later it’s all the same core values that are instilled in you.”
Ulloa’s quick actions that day demonstrated only a fraction of the soldier he is.
“I’ve only known Ulloa since May of this year,” Thornton said. “We showed up at Fort Carson at the same time. He does everything he is asked and in a timely manner, and he is respectful to superiors and peers. He is a model soldier.”
He recently was named “4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson Soldier of the Week” for his accomplishments within the unit. The company started a program that prepares the brigade for deployments, called “Raider Onboard.” The unit ensures soldiers are deployable with the three-week program by ensuring their paperwork and annual online classes are completed. The second week focuses on buddy aid and the combat lifesavers course, and week three hones in on driver training and issuing military licenses.
Since June 2018, Ulloa has processed nearly 900 soldiers through the program, making the unit, battalion, and brigade more readily deployable.
Soldiers with Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 3rd Battalion, 157th Field Artillery, congratulate one another on the M4 iron sights zero range at Fort Carson, Colorado Springs, Colo., Feb. 10, 2009.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Liesl Marelli, Colorado National Guard)
“Because of the manning, it became difficult,” Thornton said, before asking Ulloa to help as an assistant instructor. “Ulloa just took over … that when I came in; my commander and sergeant major said they wanted a volunteer program.”
Before moving to Fort Carson, Ulloa completed hundreds of volunteer hours, without recognition, at his last duty station.
So it was right up his alley when he was asked to pitch in with the unit’s designated driver program.
Ulloa earned his volunteer service medal by doing various things with the unit. He also volunteered for cleanup through the city of Colorado Springs, including gathering about 50 people to help clean up the area.
“It was a massive undertaking,” Thornton said.
He volunteered to raise money through a silent auction for a children’s hospital. This along with many other volunteer events is what pushed him over his hours for his first Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal.
“It was my pleasure to write up his award. Ulloa is about to receive his second volunteer service medal,” Thornton said.
It takes many soldiers years to get the award, but he is not surprised Ulloa is about to earn his second. Thornton said he can always count on Ulloa in areas where volunteers are needed.
“Ulloa’s work ethic and values supersede his rank,” he said.
Thornton said that regardless of the task, he is confident when Ulloa fills in for him, he “takes it and runs with it.”
Thornton said he has worked with a lot of good soldiers and despite the recent attention on Ulloa, he is humble about it.
Ulloa said he wasn’t looking for recognition but instead wanted the unit to be highlighted for the designated driver program.
Because of the program that Ulloa helped set up, other soldiers have come forward to volunteer as part of the program and some have chosen to quit drinking because of this program, he said. And to date the 1st Bn., 38th Inf. Reg., 1st SBCT, does not have any DUIs.
Due to an accident while serving, Ulloa is set to get out of the Army soon.
“I wish Ulloa the best of luck,” Thornton said. “I hope he continues to support his community and I am quite sure he will.”