Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training - We Are The Mighty
Articles

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

Learning to snowshoe, ski and stay warm in the cold might sound like a fun hobby.


But for Soldiers at the Cold Weather Leaders Course at the Northern Warfare Training Center here, learning these things can mean the difference between a failed or successful mission and it could also be the difference between life and death.

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training
Students pull the ahkio during a night movement during the bivouac portion of the Cold Weather Leaders Course, Feb. 9-14, 2017. The CWLC is taught at the Northern Warfare Training Center at Black Rapids, Alaska. The entire course ran Feb. 2-16, 2017. (Photo Credit: David Vergun)

Staff Sgt. Jonathan Tanner, an instructor at the NWTC, was deployed twice to Afghanistan, once from 2007 to 2009 and another time from 2014 to 2015.

During one of those tours, he said, he recalls being over 9,000 feet in the mountainous terrain of the eastern part of the country during a heavy snowfall, with snow drifts up to 12 feet tall.

“The snow stopped us dead in our tracks,” he said. “We were trying to remove snow from equipment with our e-tools.”

During a Black Hawk resupply mission, the helicopter had no place to land so it hovered above the snow while the crew chief jumped out, post-holing himself in the snow shoulder high. Post-holing is a term for sinking into the snow waist or chest high when not wearing skis or snowshoes. The crew chief had to grab the struts of the helicopter to be pulled out, Tanner recalled.

No one had skis or snowshoes and “we couldn’t do our jobs.”

Tanner and the other instructors at NWTC say they are professionally and personally invested in ensuring those kinds of situations never happen to Soldiers again.

Sgt. Sarah Valentine, a medic and an instructor, said most Soldiers that come to the school don’t know how to snowshoe, ski or survive in the cold. Instruction begins with baby steps.

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training
Students cross-country ski during the bivouac portion of the Cold Weather Leaders Course, Feb. 9-14, 2017. The CWLC is taught at the Northern Warfare Training Center at Black Rapids, Alaska. The entire course ran Feb. 2-16, 2017. (Photo Credit: David Vergun)

First, they learn how to wear their cold weather clothing, she said. Then they learn to walk with snowshoes. A little later they learn to walk on snowshoes carrying a rucksack, and finally, they learn to tow an ahkio, or sled, carrying 200 pounds of tents, heaters, fuel, food and other items.

Next, they advance to skis, learning how to walk uphill, how to turn and stop going downhill, and then how to carry a rifle and rucksack going cross-country.

Staff Sgt. Jason Huffman, a student, said that besides enduring the cold, pulling the ahkio was the most challenging aspect of the school.

For that portion of the training, four of about 10 Soldiers are harnessed to the sled like sled dogs. Huffman said going on level terrain is easy, but most of the terrain near the school isn’t level and it is challenging to pull the ahkio uphill, especially from a dead stop.

Going downhill, the challenge is holding the ahkio back so it doesn’t get away, he said. When the students get tired, they are replaced by other students in the squad, who in turn rotate back out once they’re tired.

Spc. Tamyva Graffree, a student from Newton, Mississippi, said pulling the ahkio uphill was the most challenging part of the course. Of going downhill, she said it would have been nice to pile on and ride it down.

Staff Sgt. Manuel Beza, an instructor and medic here, said the students are not allowed to ride the ahkio downhill. “It will definitely go fast. But if they did that, it would be a bad day. The ahkio has no brakes and no way to steer.”

Beza said he sympathizes with the students’ pain. While the ahkio can be handled almost effortlessly over level terrain, going even 500 feet uphill can tire Soldiers out.

But when roads are nonexistent and vehicles break down from the cold, ahkios give the Soldiers the option to move out with their gear, he said.

Once students demonstrate competence on snowshoes, they are given a set of “White Rocket” skis, which can be used in both downhill as well as cross-country skiing.

The difference between a dedicated downhill or Nordic ski and the White Rocket ski is that the heel in the White Rocket isn’t locked into the ski binding so the foot can move similar to walking, said Sgt. Derrick Bruner, an instructor.

A Soldier can learn to use snowshoes in two hours, but about 40 hours is allotted for ski training at the school.

Because training time is limited, Soldiers learn just the basics, Bruner said. For instance, they learn to stop and turn going downhill using a wedge movement instead of a more advanced technique like turning or stopping with skis parallel.

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training
Students cross-country ski during the bivouac portion of the Cold Weather Leaders Course, Feb. 9-14, 2017. The CWLC is taught at the Northern Warfare Training Center at Black Rapids, Alaska. The entire course ran Feb. 2-16, 2017. (Photo Credit: David Vergun)

A wedge consists of bringing the toes of the skis together and the heels of the skis out and carving into the snow on the inner edges of the skis by rotating the ankles inboard.

Skipping the fancy art of parallel skiing cuts down on injuries as well, he said, because there’s less chance of them crossing.

Going uphill involves side-stepping or walking up in herringbone fashion, which is the opposite of the wedge, with toes of the skis outboard, heels in.

To assist with uphill climbing, Soldiers apply special wax to the bottom of their skis.

Sgt. Dustin Danielson, a student, explained that the wax goes on just the middle third of the ski where the person’s weight is. He made hatch marks with the wax on his skis and then took a piece of cork to spread it evenly all around.

After skiing just a few kilometers, the wax tends to come off and more has to be applied, he said.

Sgt. Jessica Bartolotta, a student, said they were not given wax on the first day. On the second day of training, students were allowed to wax their skis. The point, she said, was to illustrate just how important the wax is in providing friction to grip the snow going uphill. She said the wax had no noticeable effect on slowing the skis going downhill.

Another thing the instructor did early on during the first day of ski training was to observe how well the Soldiers were skiing and to break them up into three groups of skill levels so the slow learners wouldn’t hold back the more natural skiers, she said.

Bartolotta said skiing was her favorite part of the course and she plans to take it up as a hobby.

Sgt. Chris Miller, a student from Little Rock, Arkansas, said this was his first time skiing and he fell a lot. “I’m a big guy and it’s hard to keep my balance.”

Miller measured his progress by the number of falls. The first day he said he fell 12 times and just once after three days. He said he’s still trying to perfect the art of stopping using the wedge.

Sgt. Shamere Randolph, another student, said he fell a bunch of times as well, but prefers skis to snowshoes because it’s much faster to get from point A to point B.

Sgt. Bruno Freitas, a student, said that his skis were difficult to use on the last day of training when the temperature rose and the snow turned to slush. In below freezing conditions, the skis work much better than they do in slush, he said.

About four years ago, the Army decided to do away with ski training at the NWTC, said Steven Decker, a training specialist. He said he’s not sure why the decision was made, but said he’s glad that skiing was reintroduced this year.

Canadians and Japanese go everywhere on skis, he said. They find it very relevant to mobility. In fact, “when the Japanese attend the course here, they can ski circles around us.”

The downside to skiing, he said, is that it takes a while to learn. For an entire platoon or company to move out on skis, it might take an entire winter and a lot of training time dedicated to making that happen.

But he and the other instructors all agreed that learning to ski is worth the time and effort.

Sgt. Derrick Bruner, an instructor, said snowshoes are “loud, slow and clunky” to use compared to skis and that skis provide better floatation over the snow. “Skis are a million times better once you get the technique down.”

Staff Sgt. Jack Stacy, an instructor, said when he first arrived at NWTC, he went out into the terrain in a vehicle that broke down. He didn’t have skis or snowshoes with him and ended up having to walk back to headquarters, “post-holing” it back all the way.

“It was the most miserable time I’ve ever had here,” Stacy said. “I’ve always made sure my skis or snowshoes are handy ever since.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The best Army-Navy trash talk, in tweets

On Saturday, December 12, the 121st Army-Navy football game will be played. The pandemic has thrown a monkey wrench in all of our lives and it’s no different for this rivalry. This will be the first time since 1943 that the game is held at West Point. While the football may not be the best, the trash talk of the week is top-notch. Soldiers, sailors and Marines united for their country and divided for one football game. Check out these top Army-Navy game tweets. We don’t know who will win on the field but there appears to be a winner in pregame shenanigans.

1. Duffel Bag Drag

Have to give it to Navy, the uniform is like a duffel bag with a number.

2. Nice Decor

They could pass for either bathroom decor or counter tops.

3. Top Tier?

I believe the Navy folks would say the same thing about Army.

4. You Had One Job

An epic failure that will never be forgotten.

5. Ouch

The long-term health effects are real.

6. A Higher Power

I wonder if the church was on a Navy base.

7. DVR

That seems appropriate in 2020 with Navy’s losing record.

8. Coloring

Looks like a tough final exam.  

9. Butt

I see how it can get mixed up.

10. Power Move

A big time play to get two carriers lined up for this photo.

11. Marines

This must pain them dearly.

12. Big Baby

At least baby elephants are cute.

13. Look Closely 

Have to give a round of applause on getting to the Superintendent’s house.

14. Snoopy

I’m hopeful for a high scoring game with a lot of touchdowns.

15. Tropic Lightning

It’s a taro leaf for the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii.

16. Top Gun

I heard a rumor that Pete Mitchell will be promoted in the new Top Gun movie.

17. Who Cares?

Something a lot of non-veterans don’t understand.  

18. What Game?

Whether you are diehard Go Navy, Beat Army or forever Go Army, Beat Navy, it’s going to be a great weekend.

Articles

US special ops are trying to figure out how to counter Russia’s new way of warfare

US special operations is researching how to counteract a new breed of warfare that Russia, China and Iran have been using quite successfully in recent years, Defense News reported 


Known as gray-zone conflict or hybrid warfare, it encompasses “activities conducted to enable a resistance movement or insurgency to coerce, disrupt, or overthrow a government or occupying power by operating through or with an underground, auxiliary, or guerrilla force in a denied area,” according to the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act.

In response, US special ops is looking to develop “predictive analytic technologies that will help us identify when countries are utilizing unconventional warfare techniques at levels essentially below our normal observation thresholds,” Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Theresa Whelan told Congress on May 2.

Related: Special ops may try to develop ‘super soldiers’ with performance-enhancing drugs

That’s because in hybrid warfare, aggressors will try to mask who they really are, such as Russia’s use of “little green men” in Crimea and in eastern Ukraine where its own special operations forces helped support an insurgency.

“Without a credible smoking gun, NATO will find it difficult to agree on an intervention,” according to NATO REVIEW Magazine.

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training
The Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation

The Pentagon study will help the US identify early evidence of unconventional warfare, Whelan said.

Many people in countries along Russia’s border, especially in the eastern part of those countries, have close cultural ties, like language and history, to Russia. Therefore public opinion about identity and Russia in these regions is oftentimes sharply divided.

No one yet knows how the US will actually try to counteract such warfare, but “technology will play a significant role,” Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, told Business Insider, specifically mentioning artificial intelligence, robotics and drones.

The presence and use of special ops will also increase, as they already have in places like Iraq and Syria. “More special ops died last year than conventional forces,” Lemmon said. “I think that points to the future of warfare.”

This new kind of warfare also brings up questions about the rules of engagement, and how the US can counteract it without triggering a full-scale conventional war.

“I genuinely think no one can answer that,” Lemmon said. “It is taking the idea of warfare into a totally different realm.”

While the results of the study are two years late, the Pentagon expects to have an “answer with our thoughts” before the end of June, Whalen told Congress.

Articles

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training
Silver Star | Public Domain


An airman who braved enemy fire to save fellow troops during a river evacuation in Afghanistan in 2009 will receive a Silver Star for his bravery, a general said.

Airman First Class Benjamin Hutchins, a tactical air control party airman supporting the 82nd Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, was approved for the military’s third-highest valor award in April and will receive the honor during a ceremony Nov. 4 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, an official said.

Also read: Possible Medal of Honor upgrade would be the first based on drone imagery

His heroic actions during a three-day period through Nov. 6, 2009, were recounted during a speech by Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, the head of Air Combat Command, on Tuesday at the Air Force Association’s annual Air, Space Cyber Conference near Washington, D.C.

“This is an example of our airmen,” Carlisle said.

Hutchins and a team of soldiers were on the west bank of the Bala Murghab River looking for a supply airdrop, Carlisle said. One of the canisters fell off target into the swift-moving river, and two soldiers swam out to retrieve it.

But Taliban militants on the east side of the river were watching.

The soldiers were swept out by a “strong current they weren’t anticipating,” Carlisle said. “Airman Hutchins jumps into the river after [them] … but the Taliban start[ed] shooting at the last man in the water.”

Hutchins, swimming around the frigid waters for roughly an hour, evaded Taliban fire by skimming the surface “with [only] his nose and mouth” while diving back down to find the troops.

Additional soldiers with the 82nd Airborne soon came to the aid of all three men. But the Taliban began another firefight — with machine guns, sniper fire and rocket-propelled grenades — on the east bank the following day.

“They come out, and start running across an open field and take on the Taliban. They take out the rocket propeller, the machine gun. There’s still dealing with the snipers, but Hutchins, being a TACP, gets on the radio … calls in a [strike] from an MQ-1 Predator in a danger-close situation, but … it takes out the Taliban,” Carlisle said.

The award’s narrative, written by the airman’s former supervisor, Master Sgt. Donald Gansberger, describes the action in even more detail.

“Airman Hutchins moved under heavy and accurate rocket propelled grenade, machine gun and sniper fire across an open field with little to no cover or concealment,” it states. “While continuing to move forward, he managed to direct the sensors of overhead close air support while simultaneously providing accurate supporting fire with his M-4 rifle.”

“He killed one enemy armed with a rocket propelled grenade launcher, at close range, before the enemy could fire and wounded an additional enemy fighter all while providing targeting and controlling information to an overhead unmanned aerial vehicle that destroyed a second enemy fighting position with a Hellfire missile,” the document states.

“Airman Hutchins’ quick, decisive actions, tactical presence and calm demeanor enabled friendly forces to eventually overwhelm the enemy stronghold,” it states. “His actions forced the enemy fighters to break contact and relinquish critical ground to friendly forces which enabled the safety of the recovery efforts for the two missing Soldiers.”

In an ironic twist, Carlisle said, “they did eventually get their container back.”

The Air Force previously said Hutchins had been submitted for the Bronze Star Medal with Valor. However, the service later clarified Hutchins had instead been submitted for two Bronze Star medals for his actions, which instead were combined into one Silver Star award.

Hutchins medically retired from the Air Force in 2014 with injuries sustained as a result of enemy attack during a separate deployment in 2012, Air Combat Command told Military.com.

The Defense Department is reviewing more than 1,100 post-9/11 valor citations to determine if they warrant a higher award such as the Medal of Honor, officials announced in January.

In 2014, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a review of all decorations and awards programs “to ensure that after 13 years of combat the awards system appropriately recognizes the service, sacrifices and action of our service members,” officials told USA Today at the time.

The latest review is due to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter by Sept. 30, 2017.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Turkish offensive against Kurds moves forward as US prepares to pull troops

An effort to withdraw the 1,000 remaining US troops in northern Syria is underway, after new intelligence shows US forces in the crosshairs of a Turkish offensive against the Kurdish-backed Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) and a possible planned counter-attack.

Speaking on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” on Oct. 13, 2019, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said President Donald Trump directed the national security team to begin a “deliberate withdrawal” of US forces from northern Syria.


“In the last 24 hours we learned that [Turkish forces] likely intend to expand their attack further south than originally planned and to the west,” Esper said.

“We also have learned in the last 24 hours […] the Kurdish forces, the SDF, are looking to cut a deal if you will with the Syrians and the Russians to counter-attack against the Turks in the north. And so we find ourselves is we have American forces likely caught between two opposing advancing armies and it’s a very untenable situation.”

Esper specified that the withdrawal, which he said will done “as safely and quickly as possible,” is of troops from northern Syria, which is where he says most of US forces in the country already are.

US forces had been repositioning in northern Syria over the course of the week prior, as Trump announced that several dozen troops would shift away from the Kurdish forces – a move criticized as opening the door for Turkey to attack the Kurds, who have been US allies in the fight againt ISIS.

Trump has denied that the US is enabling the Turkish offensive, calling it a “bad idea.” However, the move to reposition troops stemmed from a call between Trump and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Since then, Turkish forces have entered Kurdish territory in Syria and overtaken a key border town. Artillery fire nearly hit a small group of US forces stationed in a Kurdish-controlled town on Oct. 11, 2019, too. ISIS members imprisoned in Syria have indicated a plan for jailbreaks amid the conflict, and a video emerged Oct. 19, 2019, that appears to show some ISIS members escaping in the aftermath of a Turkish attack.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Read more:

Articles

Army Sergeant wins gold at Rio Paralympics

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training
U.S. Army photo by Tim Hipps


U.S. Army Sgt. Elizabeth Marks won the gold medal and set a new world record in the women’s SB7 100-meter breaststroke Saturday night at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

“I had no idea [I was winning],” exclaimed Marks. “I can’t see when I am swimming. About 25 meters in, I have no idea where anybody else is. As long as I feel pressure on my hands, I know it is going well. I was just hoping for the best and putting everything I had into it.”

Marks served as a combat medic in Iraq and suffered serious injuries to her hip while deployed in 2010. Determined to stay in the Army and be declared fit for duty, she turned to swimming during her rehab in San Antonio.

She showed so much promise that she was accepted into the Army’s World Class Athlete Program in 2012, which allowed her to be declared fit for duty.

Marks fell into a coma in September 2014 after flying to London to compete in the Invictus Games. Doctors at Papworth Hospital put her on an external lung machine, saving her life.

She shocked everyone by returning to the pool less than a month after coming out of the coma and won gold at the World Military Swimming and Para-Swimming Open in February 2015 by defeating a field composed almost entirely of men.

Earlier this year, Marks won gold at the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando. She asked Prince Harry, founder of the organization that puts on the games, to personally award her the medal. After he presented it to her, she returned it to him and asked that he give it to the staff at Papworth Hospital.

In July, Marks was given the Pat Tillman Award, which honors an individual with a strong connection to sports who has served others in a way that echoes the legacy of former NFL player and U.S. Army Ranger Tillman.

Marks will also compete in the S8 100m backstroke on Sept. 13 and the SM8 200m individual medley on Sept. 17.

Watch our interview with Elizabeth Marks at the 2016 Pat Tillman Award ceremony:

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis outlines the threats to the US and our strategy

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis shared the thinking behind the new National Defense Strategy during a discussion at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington on Oct. 30, 2018.

The strategy, released in January 2018, sees Russia and China as the greatest threats with Iran and North Korea as regional threats. Violent extremism rounds out the threat matrix.

The strategy is based on a return to great power competition among the United States, Russia and China.


Power, urgency, will

Mattis told Stephen Hadley, the moderator of the event and former national security advisor to President George W. Bush, that in setting up the strategy, officials looked at threats from three different angles: Power, urgency and will.

“In terms of raw power right now, I look at Russia and the nuclear arsenal they have,” he said. “I look at their activities over the last 10 years from Georgia and Crimea to the Donetsk Basin to Syria and I can go on and on and on. In terms of just power, I think it is Russia that we have to look at and address.”

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis speaks at the United States Institute of Peace, in a discussion moderated by the chair of the institute’s board of directors, Stephen J. Hadley, Washington, D.C., Oct. 30, 2018.

(DOD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

There are two threats that are most urgent right now: North Korea and the continuing fight against violent extremism. North Korea’s nuclear and missile program — in clear violation of United Nations sanctions — remains a problem, and the current fight against violent extremists from the Islamic State to al-Qaida to Boko Haram to other transnational terror groups must be fought.

“In terms of will, clearly it is China,” he said.

China is different than Russia. “Russia wants security around its periphery by causing insecurity among other nations,” he said. “They want a veto authority over the economic, the diplomatic and the security decisions of the nations around them.

“China seems to want some sort of tribute states around them,” he continued. “We are looking for how do we work with China. I think 15 years from now we will be remembered most for how … we set the conditions for a positive relationship with China.”

Cooperation

The United States is looking for ways to cooperate with China and that has been beneficial to both countries, Mattis said. He pointed to China’s vote against the North Korean nuclear program in the United Nations Security Council as an example. The United States will also confront China when it must as he pointed to the United States continuing freedom of navigation operations in international waters and airspace.

“I have met with my counterpart in Beijing and in Singapore 10 days ago, and he will be here 10 days from now to continue that dialogue as we sort it out,” Mattis said.

Also part of the strategy are U.S. strengths, and foremost among them is the country’s network of alliances and friends around the world. This network requires constant tending, the secretary said. He noted that just in the last month he has attended NATO meetings, consulted with Central and South American allies and journeyed to Manama, Bahrain, to meet with Middle Eastern allies and friends.

All of these were part and parcel of forming the National Defense Strategy.

South Asia Strategy

The secretary also spoke about the South Asia Strategy announced in August 2017 and how that is proceeding. Officials continue to follow the strategy and it is making progress, but it is slow. It entails far more than just the military and far more than just the United States, he said.

The strategy is a regional approach to the problem. It also reinforced the commitment to the area and realigned those reinforcements with Afghan forces. This was needed because the Afghans had an Army that wasn’t ready to have the training wheels taken off the bike, Mattis said. “Only the Afghan special forces had mentors from NATO nations with them,” he said. “And every time they went against the enemy, the Taliban, they won.

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis speaks at the United States Institute of Peace, in a discussion moderated by the chair of the institute’s board of directors, Stephen J. Hadley, Washington, D.C., Oct. 30, 2018.

(DOD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

But the rest of the Afghan forces were spread out around the country with no mentorship and no air support. The strategy changed that. The air support is crucial in giving Afghan forces the high ground in the mountainous country, “and that changes the tactical situation,” the secretary said.

Afghan forces are carrying the burden. They took more than 1,000 dead and wounded in August and September 2018, the secretary said, and they stayed in the field fighting. “And the Taliban has been prevented from doing what they said they were going to do, which was to take and hold district and provincial centers, also disrupt an election that they were unable to disrupt,” he said.

But the most important aspect of the strategy is reconciliation. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad agreed to serve as a special envoy in Afghanistan specifically aimed at reconciliation between the Taliban and the government in Kabul. “He is hard at work on this, on an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation effort,” Mattis said. “So this is the approach we’re trying to sustain right now. It is working from our perspective, but what is heartbreakingly difficult to accept is the progress and violence can be going on at the same time.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

Articles

This Warthog pilot will receive the Silver Star 14 years after saving troops in battle

During the opening days of Operation Iraqi Freedom, elements of the 3rd Infantry Division had come under fire from Iraqi forces, including T-72 tanks. That’s when the boots on the ground called for air support.


According to a report by the Air Force Times, two A-10s, one of them flown by Gregory Thornton, responded to the call. During the next 33 minutes, they made a number of close passes.

Thornton came within 1,000 yards of the enemy, using his A-10’s GAU-8 cannon in some cases. Ultimately, he and the other pilot would be credited with killing three T-72s, six other armored vehicles, and a number of other targets.

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training
A-10 fires its GAU-8 during an exercise at Fort Polk. | US Air Force photo

Fourteen years after that battle, Thornton, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, will receive the Silver Star in a ceremony in July that will be presided over by Gen. Mike Holmes, the commander of Air Combat Command. The ceremony will take place at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

“This courageous and aggressive attack, while under withering fire and in poor weather, along with Capt. Thornton’s superior flying skills and true attack pilot grit, allowed Task Force 2-69 Armor to cross the Tigris River with minimal combat losses and successfully accomplish their objective of linking up with coalition forces completing the 360-degree encirclement of Baghdad,” the citation that outlined the award reads.

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training
The A-10 shows off its non-BRRRRRT related talents. | US Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Bob Sommer

Thornton had been assigned to the 75th Fighter Squadron at Pope Field, near Fort Bragg, prior to his retirement. At the time of the incident, Thornton was a captain in the Air Force.

The Air Force is reportedly considering replacements for the A-10. Aircraft involved in what is being called the OA-X program are going to start testing this summer. Meanwhile, efforts are underway to get new wings to prevent the premature retirement of some A-10s.

Articles

Obama says climate change is a bigger threat than ISIS

The White House released Sept. 21 a new presidential memorandum that orders federal agencies — including the Pentagon and CIA — to devote its defense and intelligence resources to fighting the impact of global warming.


The Obama administration order comes on the heels of a recent report from an environmental group that climate change is a significant and growing threat to national security.

“Climate change and associated impacts on U.S. military and other national security-related missions and operations could adversely affect readiness, negatively affect military facilities and training, increase demands for Federal support to non-federal civil authorities, and increase response requirements to support international stability and humanitarian assistance needs,” Obama wrote. “The United States must take a comprehensive approach to identifying and acting on climate change-related impacts on national security interests, including by maintaining its international leadership on climate issues.”

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training
Mitchell Zuckoff, an author embedded with the Joint Recovery Mission – Greenland, signals to helicopter pilot Tom Andreassen, of Air Greenland, where to land near the nunatak on a glacier near Koge Bay, Greenland, Aug. 16, 2013. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jetta H. Disco.)

So what could the order mean for American troops and intelligence operators?

The military has faced several years of budget cuts, and several major programs, like the littoral combat ship, the Zumwalt-class destroyers, and the Gerald R. Ford-class carriers, are having some real problems. The F-35 Lightning II is also having its teething problems (albeit those are resolving themselves).

A briefing document issued alongside the memorandum added that climate change is more of a threat to American security than cyber attacks or terrorism.

“For all the challenges and threats we face as a nation — from terrorist groups like ISIL and al Qaeda to increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks, from diseases like Ebola and Zika to Russian aggression in Ukraine — no threat is more terrifying in its global reach or more potentially destructive and destabilizing than climate change,” the memorandum said.

Despite painting the grim picture, the briefing, conducted by National Security Advisor Susan Rice and Senior Advisor Brian Deese ended on a hopeful note.

“Just as we work to defeat any adversary before they have the ability to attack, we must similarly prepare for and mitigate the impacts of climate change,” the briefing document says.

The move has drawn criticism from some. Elaine Donnelly, President of the Center for Military Readiness, said that the briefing document “reflects delusional group-think substituting for sound policy in the White House and Pentagon.”

“Preparations for bad weather and extreme events such as hurricanes are always prudent, but normal and even abnormal seasonal changes cannot be compared to deliberate attacks from armed human adversaries,” she said. “Furthermore, there is no way that our government or other governments can ‘mitigate’ dangerous weather, or even normal weather. It is unsettling to see high-level officials in the White House buying into narratives such as this.”

Alternate energy projects have been a priority in the Department of the Navy since President Obama took office in 2009. A Washington Free Beacon report last month noted that three of the major projects pushed by Navy Sec. Ray Mabus had not been cost-effective.

Donnelly also expressed concern that “the two documents appear to authorize a power grab on the part of unelected officials who would use ‘national security’ as an excuse to act upon unsupported theories of climate change.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Puerto Rico National Guard faces a perfect storm

A deadly pandemic, a Category 5 hurricane and two earthquakes. While this sounds like cataclysms from the Old Testament — it’s not. Puerto Rico has been dealing with a range of natural disasters for the past three years.

In the center of them all is the Puerto Rico National Guard, stepping up to the challenges each provides.


“It’s certainly showing that the Puerto Rico National Guard is a flexible and adaptable force,” Maj. Gen. José Reyes, adjutant general, said.

COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the lives of just about every American. The mantra of elected officials has been, “Flatten the curve,” meaning stop the spread of the virus. PRNG is doing its part to accomplish that by conducting medical evaluations of everyone entering Puerto Rico.

Earlier this year, PRNG and other federal and state agencies started screening incoming passengers at the international airport in San Juan by installing 11 infrared cameras that measure a person’s body temperature.

If a passenger has a temperature of 100.3° or over, they are immediately taken to a triage area and tested for COVID-19.

This is a 24/7 operation with about 260 PRNG members participating — roughly 60 are assigned to each six-hour shift.

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

Laiza Rivera, a medical student at Central Caribbean University, took the oath of office to become a 2nd Lt. in the Puerto Rico National Guard on April 2. Here she signs her enlistment contract as Gen. José Reyes looks on. Photo by First Sgt. Luis E. Orengo.

In addition to military personnel, 150 students from Puerto Rico’s four medical schools have volunteered for this mission as well.

This actually worked as an unintentional recruitment campaign when four of them decided to join the PRNG. One of them is 2nd Lt. Laiza Rivera.

The 27–year-old says she was going stir-crazy being home all day because of the lockdown so she decided to volunteer at the airport. Rivera, whose major is ophthalmology, was already in the process of joining but inspired the other three student-volunteers to join as well.

PRNG has similar operations at other ports of entry.

Annual training

PRNG’s ability to adapt is illustrated in its revised plan for annual training. Ordinarily, large groups of personnel would attend exercises at the national training center in California, as well as another location in Louisiana. Not this year. In an effort to practice social distancing, those exercises will be modified to be conducted in smaller groups at Camp Santiago in Puerto Rico.

Additionally, classes that would normally be held in a conference room have switched to video conferencing.

Hurricane Maria

In 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico.

Under Reyes’ command, the island’s combined military forces provided its residents with just about everything they needed.

They provided MPs to the local police departments to maintain law and order; engineers cleared hundreds of miles of debris from roadways; and they conducted search and rescue operations in flooded communities and evacuated stranded citizens. The Army aviation unit conducted countless flights to and from the center of the island (its most rural and isolated area) to deliver food, water and emergency supplies.

Puerto Rico still hasn’t fully recovered from the hurricane and the 56 year-old general predicts that won’t happen for another 10 to 12 years.

Two earthquakes  

If the hurricane wasn’t bad enough, Puerto Rico was shaken by two major earthquakes in January. There were 10,000 people who either partially or completely lost their homes.

Reyes, who was born and raised in Puerto Rico, presented a plan to Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced to relocate these refugees. PRNG then established five major camps, each with a capacity of about 1,700. In partnership with FEMA and other agencies, they relocated over 10,000 people in 56 days.

Hurricane season 

While no one can predict when an earthquake will occur, there is an established hurricane season for the Caribbean and it’s happening now.

Under Homeland Security Presidential Directives Nos. 8 and 9, states and territories are required to conduct preparatory training in response to the threats that pose the greatest risk to national security, including natural disasters.

PRNG is on it conducting emergency management exercises for hurricanes, earthquakes, pandemics and even tsunamis with all 78 municipalities on the island. Until last year, exercises were only for Category 5 hurricanes. The new exercises anticipate all these disasters happening concurrently.

Puerto Rico has had a lot thrown at it over the past three years and, in theory, it all could happen again. PRNG will be ready if it does.

Additionally, Reyes knows Guard units from other states, as well as additional DOD personnel, has Puerto Rico’s back and will be there to support him.

Reyes came out of retirement to take on this command and he’s glad he did.

“It’s a tremendous honor to command the Puerto Rico National Guard, eight-five hundred strong, fully committed men and women with an unbreakable sense of service towards the people of Puerto Rico and our nation,” he said. “I’m very proud of each one of them.”

This article originally appeared on Reserve + National Guard Magazine. Follow @ReserveGuardMag on Twitter.

Articles

US special operators are quietly avenging the attacks in Paris and Brussels

ISIS spends a lot of time celebrating their attacks on foreign soil, making them seem like overwhelming victories in their global campaign of fear. Meanwhile U.S. special operations forces in Iraq and Syria have killed 40 ISIS fighters responsible for those attacks.


Officials from the Department of Defense told Kim Dozier of The Daily Beast that U.S. special forces have killed those “external operations leaders, planners, and facilitators” who were part of those attacks outside the CENTCOM area of responsibility.

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

The use of special forces in kill or capture raids (though the capture part tends to happen much less frequently) is a major part of the U.S. counterterrorism plan against ISIS. Those 40 are less than half of the high-value targets that coalition forces have taken out. The U.S. mission also includes curtailing the terror group’s ability to recruit abroad and inhibit their ability to carry out Paris-style attacks. President Obama has ordered 250 more special operators to Iraq to support these operations.

According to Dozier’s report, the effort is seeing results. Those same defense officials estimated that ISIS’ overall fighting force is down to 19,000 – 25,000 fighters, from 33,000 in 2015. Moreover, the influx of new recruits coming into the region is down 90 percent from last year.

Dozier also reports that the Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper warned this week that ISIS cells are already in place throughout Europe. ISIS’ external operations have killed 1,000 people across 21 countries since 2015. But the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) is using a mixture of special operators from many, varied disciplines. Their units include Navy SEALs, Delta Force, and Green Berets integrated in all aspects of the JSOC mission. This ensures the highest performers are on kill-capture raids, and have experience in hostage rescue and working with local opposition forces.

This may be a product of battlefield lessons learned. These days, the CENTCOM AOR is run by Gen. Joseph Votel, who once commanded both U.S. Special Operations Command and JSOC. Lt. Gen. Austin S. Miller, the current JSOC commander, ran special operations in Afghanistan, where he used the mixed special forces tactics with great success.

MIGHTY HISTORY

11 photos of the awesome Super Cobra after 50 years

The venerable Sea Cobra first flew in 1969. Now, 50 years later, it’s descendant the Super Cobra is still a mainstay of Marine offense and defense, using missiles to destroy enemy strong points and firing its cannon to break up maneuver forces trying to hit American lines. Here are 11 photos from the Super Cobras of today and history.


Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

(U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Jason Grogan)

AH-1W Super Cobra sends 2.75-inch rockets into an enemy mortar position during a close air support mission at Wadi-us-Salaam cemetery, near Najaf, Iraq, in Aug. 2004.

The Sea and Super Cobra variants of the AH-1 have decades of service. But their predecessor, the AH-1 Cobra, dates back even further to Vietnam. It was originally pitched to the Army as the UH-1G, basically a “tweaked” utility helicopter.

While anyone with eyes could easily see the design was something new, Bell had just lost an attack helicopter competition to Lockheed, and a brand new attack helicopter would’ve required another competition, delaying the weapon’s debut and potentially setting up the craft for a loss to another manufacturer. So Bell played fast and loose with the rules and the Army played along.

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Reece Lodder)

An AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter and UH-1Y Huey helicopter fly off the coast of the island of Oahu, toward Marine Corps Base Hawaii during maintenance and readiness flights, June 13, 2013.

But the Army eventually admitted the UH-1G Huey Cobra was an all-new craft, and it was re-designated the AH-1. According to an Air Space history, “Cobras would launch with twice as much ammunition as Huey gunships, would get to the target in half the time, and could linger there three times longer.” Troops loved it.

The Marines in Vietnam loved the helicopter as much as soldiers did, but when the Corps went shopping, they wanted a bird with two engines so that an engine failure between ship and shore wouldn’t doom the crew.

And so the AH-1J Sea Cobra was born, first flying in 1969 and making its combat debut in 1975, barely making it into the Vietnam War. Over the following years, the Marines upgraded the guns, missiles, and rockets and proceeded to the AH-1W Super Cobra designation in 1986.

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Patrick Dionne)

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Patrick Henry braces Airmen Andrew Jerauld as he signals to an AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter as it lands on the flight deck of the amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay.

But the era of the Super Cobra is coming to an end. With the debut of the AH-1Z, the Marine Corps moved to the “Viper” designation, and the Vipers have already proven themselves in combat. So the last Super Cobras in the American inventory, the AH-1Ws, are slated to be pulled from active units in 2020 and sold or gifted to overseas allies.

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Matthew Casbarro)

A Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter supports a beach assault during Rim of the Pacific 2016, a maritime exercise in Hawaii, July 30, 2016.

The Super Cobras are all-weather and have carried a slew of weapons like the XM197 20mm Gatling cannon, Hydra 70 rockets, 5-inch Zuni rockets, TOW missiles, Hellfire missiles, Sidewinder missiles, and AGM-122 SideArm anti-radiation missile.

Typically, it carries the 20mm cannon as well as pods for 2.75-inch Hydra rockets and Hellfire missiles, but it can still carry and employ those other missiles and rockets easily when necessary, giving commanders a flexible, fast platform that can kill everything from enemy radar sites to helicopters to ground troops and vehicles.

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Gabriela Garcia)

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Philip A. Gilbert supervises the preflight ground maintenance of an AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter on Camp Bastion in Helmand province, Afghanistan, June 24, 2013.

Updates to the AH-1W granted it the ability to see in night vision and infrared, helping pilots to more quickly acquire and destroy targets at night or in bad weather. During Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield, 48 AH-1Ws destroyed 97 tanks, 104 armored personnel carriers and other vehicles, 16 bunkers, and two anti-aircraft artillery sites with zero losses.

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Mackenzie Gibson)

A UH-1Y Venom and an AH-1W Super Cobra shoot 2.75 inch rockets through the night sky and meet their targets during close air support training operations at a range near Fort Drum, N.Y., March 16, 2017.

Typically, the AH-1Ws, and now the AH-1Z Vipers, are deployed alongside UH-1s in Marine light attack helicopter squadrons. These units specialize in close air support, reconnaissance, and even air interdiction. The Super Cobras’ Sidewinder missiles are crucial for that last mission, allowing the Marine pilots to take out enemy jets and helicopters.

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Samuel A. Nasso)

A U.S. Marine Corps Bell UH-1Y Huey helicopter and a Bell AH-1W Super Cobra take off on one of the first flights for the new Huey from Bastion Airfield, Helmand Province, Afghanistan in 2009.

While the Super Cobras are faster and have more weapons, the Hueys can carry multiple gunners which can spray fire in all directions. And the UH-1Y Hueys can also carry and deploy up to 10 Marines each, allowing the helicopters to drop an entire squad on the ground and then protect it as it goes to work.

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Kevin Jones)

An AH-1W Super Cobra Helicopter takes part in a live fire exercise at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, May 15, 2013.

The aircraft can fly up to 18,700 feet above sea level, allowing it to clear many mountain ranges while serving on the frontlines. But commanders have to be careful sending the helicopter into the thin air that high as its crews aren’t typically equipped with the robust oxygen equipment of bombers or jet fighters. So the Super Cobras try to stay at 10,000 feet or below.

Check out more photos of the Super Cobra:

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Ashley McLaughlin)

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Russell Midori)

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

(U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Dean B. Verschoor)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s the Coast Guard’s new class of cutters

One thing is glaringly obvious about the Coast Guard’s medium endurance cutters: they are old. Real old. According to the Sixteenth Edition of the Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World, 15 of the Coast Guard’s 28 medium endurance cutters are over 45 years old, and only three of them were commissioned after music superstar Taylor Swift was born. You could say they are due to be replaced.


Fortunately, the Coast Guard has been working on a replacement. They call it the Heritage-class Offshore Patrol Cutter, and according to a handout WATM obtained at the 2018 SeaAirSpace expo in National Harbor, Maryland, it will be replacing all 28 of the medium-endurance cutters currently in service.

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

A Reliance-class medium endurance cutter. Most of these ships are over 50 years old.

(USCG photo)

These cutters, the first of which will be named USCGC Argus, will pack a 57mm gun (like the National Security Cutter and Littoral Combat Ship), as well as be able to operate a helicopter. Globalsecurity.org notes that the cutters will displace 3,200 tons and will have a top speed of at least 22 knots.

The Coast Guard currently operates 14 Reliance-class cutters, from a class of 17 built in the 1960s. Three of the vessels were decommissioned and transferred to allied navies. These vessels displace about 879 tons and have a top speed of 18 knots. Their primary armament is a 25mm Bushmaster chain gun, like that used on the M2 Bradley.

Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

A Famous-class medium endurance cutter. These vessels can be equipped with Harpoon anti-ship missiles and a Phalanx close-in weapon system.

(USCG photo)

The other major medium endurance cutter is the Famous-class cutter. This cutter comes in at 1,200 tons, and has a 76mm OTO Melara gun as its primary armament. It has a top speed of just under 20 knots, and is also capable of carrying two quad Mk 141 launchers for Harpoon anti-ship missiles and a Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System (CIWS).

Finally, there is the Alex Haley, an Edenton-class salvage tug acquired by the Coast Guard after the United States Navy retired the three-ship class. Two sisters were transferred to South Korea. It does remain to be seen how 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters can replace 28 older hulls, though.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information