Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Chris Shirron remembers he was several hours into a long convoy across the German autobahn when a military police officer leading the convoy pulled to the side of the road.


“What’s going on,” Shirron asked the soldier. “Why are we stopping?”

The soldier didn’t say much except that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.

“I was confused,” said Shirron, who was a sergeant at the time. “I asked, ‘What do you mean?’ I thought there must be a mistake.”

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
Plumes of smoke billow from the World Trade Center during the September 11 attacks. Photo from Flickr user Michael Foran.

The terrorist attacks that day — Sept. 11, 2001 — would change the course of Shirron’s career, and that of countless other troops, and have lasting implications for Fort Bragg and the military.

Almost immediately, Fort Bragg tightened security to its highest level. Training, typically a year-round affair, stopped. Instead, soldiers and airmen were readied to respond to the attacks.

The first soldiers would leave Fort Bragg in the weeks following the attacks. Since then, they have been continuously deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq as part of the Global War on Terror.

Shirron, stationed in Germany in 2001 with the 1st Infantry Division, said he didn’t fully learn what was happening until several hours after the attacks.

First, his convoy was turned around and ordered to report to the closest US military installation. When they arrived at Wurzburg, then the home of the 1st Infantry Division, they were greeted by soldiers in full body armor with loaded weapons.

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
Fort Bragg, North Carolina, USA. Enlisted personnel barracks for the 1st Brigade. Photo by Jonas N. Jordan, US Army Corps of Engineers

The entire installation was on lockdown. Shirron and others were given space in an empty mailroom to rest and wait for orders.

Across the hall, he found about 40 soldiers gathered around a television, watching the news of the attacks in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania

“Everything changed,” he said. “The Army gained a much greater purpose. And service became about something much greater than yourself.”

Shirron joined the Army in 1997, starting out in the Arkansas National Guard. He was a student at the University of Central Arkansas, still trying to figure out what he wanted to do with his life.

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
US Army Photo by Cherie A. Thurlby

In the Army, he found the purpose he was lacking. And less than a year later, he transferred to active duty as a fires support specialist.

“I liked what it taught me, not only about myself but about what the Army was,” Shirron said of his decision.

He served at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, before transferring to Germany.

In those years before the attacks, Shirron said, Army life was very different from what it was today.

“The worst part was that every six months or year, you were going to be gone for about 30 days for training,” he said. “That’s what everyone dreaded.”

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
Members of a Special Operations Surgical Team train with Green Berets. (USAF photo)

Training was less urgent and more monotonous, he said. Soldiers prepared for “Russian hordes” and other threats that didn’t seem real.

But after the attacks, training changed.

It was more focused and efficient. There was an urgency, a realism that had lacked before.

“The tempo picked up,” Shirron said. “We were grasping a new type of warfighting. Leaders understood the gravity of the situation and our methods were changing.”

Those who once dreaded month-long exercises now recognized that deployments would become part of life. They would serve for a year or more in countries they knew little about prior to the attacks.

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tom Sperduto.

Shirron said that prospect didn’t scare many out of the force. Instead, it created new resolve.

“Now, training was real,” he said. “Now, deployments were eminent.”

Shirron was approaching the end of a three-year enlistment when 9/11 happened. He soon would re-enlist for a six-year tour.

He said he wanted to serve his country when he joined, fueled by patriotism and a sense of duty. Things were different for those who joined in the days and weeks after the attack.

“The soldiers that came in after 9/11 — they knew immediately that they were going to fight,” Shirron said. “They joined because of 9/11. They wanted to do their part.”

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
U.S. Army National Guard photo by Pfc. Andrew Valenza

Others in the military today were too young to join in the wake of 9/11.

First Lt. Andrew Scholl, a member of the brigade staff for the 82nd Airborne Division Sustainment Brigade, was in fourth grade in Proctorville, Ohio, when the first plane hit the World Trade Center.

“I can remember there were some teachers being taken out of class and talked to in private,” Scholl said. “Next thing I knew, they came in and told us our parents would be picking us up.”

Scholl’s father arrived in full uniform. He was a lieutenant colonel serving as a professor of military science at Marshall University, and he did his best to explain to his son what had happened.

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
U.S. Army photo by Stephen Standifird

“It’s hard to wrap your head around that as a fourth-grader,” Scholl said.

Soon, his father was off to meetings at the Pentagon. Two deployments would follow — one for a year and another for six months.

Scholl said he never had thought much about serving in the military.

“Teachers would ask, ‘What do you want to do when you grow up?’ I never really had an answer before,” he said. “But after that day, it was ‘I want to be in the Army.’ Ever since that day, it’s all I wanted to do.”

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
Lt. Col. Dave Hodne, the commander of 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., pins an Army Commendation Medal on one of the battalion’s Soldiers. Photo from Sgt. Christopher M. Gaylord, 5th Mobile Public Affiars Detachment.

Scholl said most young soldiers today don’t remember the attacks. They don’t remember a peacetime military. And that makes their service all the more impressive.

“They were born in 1997 and were growing up,” he said. “We’re still at war. There’s no clear end in sight.”

“If anything, I think that shows what kind of people are joining today,” Scholl added. “It speaks volumes for their character.”

Shirron has deployed three times since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He served 15 months and 14 months in Iraq, and 11 months in Afghanistan.

In 2008, he attended the Army’s Warrant Officer Candidate School. He’s now assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division as a lethal targeting officer.

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
U.S. Soldiers conduct a patrol with Afghan National Army soldiers to check on conditions in a village in the Wardak province of Afghanistan Feb. 17, 2010. DoD photo by Sgt. Russell Gilchrest, U.S. Army

He said the Army has changed much over the last 16 years, but that focus is still there.

“We’ve been fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan for so long,” Shirron said. “But the burden on the individual soldier is only increasing.”

Today, the military juggles old and new threats, he said. There’s increased uncertainty in the Pacific, where North Korea continues to rattle sabers. And there’s budget uncertainty hanging over much of the force.

Shirron said he often looks back at how the Army and his own career was affected by Sept. 11.

“If 9/11 hadn’t have happened, I can’t say I would be here,” he said. “The world changed that day. I’m here now because of what happened that day. And definitely the military changed that day.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran says it is negotiating 25-year bilateral deal with China

Iran has been negotiating a 25-year accord with China “with confidence and conviction,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told parliament on July 5, saying its terms will be announced once the deal is struck.

Zarif insisted there was nothing secret about the prospective deal, which he said was raised publicly in January 2016 when President Xi Jinping visited Tehran. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also has publicly supported a strategic bilateral partnership with China.


China is Iran’s top trading partner and a key market for Iranian crude oil exports, which have been severely curtailed by U.S. sanctions.

Zarif made the comments in his first address to parliament since a new session began in late May after elections that were dominated by hard-liners.

During the session, Zarif was heckled by lawmakers largely over his key role in negotiating a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which the U.S. unilaterally abandoned in 2018 before reimposing sanctions.

U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the deal saying it was not decisive enough in ensuring Iran would never be able to develop a nuclear weapon.

Trump wants Tehran to negotiate a new accord that would place indefinite curbs on its nuclear program and restrict Tehran’s ballistic missile program.

Iran has gradually rolled back its commitments under the accord since the United States withdrew.

The 2015 deal provided the Islamic republic relief from international sanctions in return for limits on its nuclear program, but Iranian hard-liners staunchly opposed the multilateral agreement, arguing the United States could never be trusted.

Hard-liners in the Iranian parliament also said on July 5 they were seeking to summon Zarif and President Hassan Rohani to respond to accusations of “betraying the people.” Several deputies called Rohani a liar as they heckled him continuously.

Lawmaker Mohammed-Taghi Nagh-Ali said during the session that Rohani and Zarif have betrayed the people and “must therefore be held responsible,” according to the semiofficial ILNA news agency.

Rohani’s policies have led to the country’s current economic crisis, and his arguments are “no longer acceptable,” Nagh-Ali said.

Some 200 members of parliament have tabled a motion to question Rohani.

Since winning their seats in February, hard-liners in Iran have been putting greater pressure on Rohani, accusing him of making too many concessions to Western nations and getting little in return.

Rohani argues that U.S. sanctions and the global coronavirus pandemic are behind the economic crisis.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

New JFK carrier 50% complete with massive chunk added

The midway point on construction of the Navy’s next aircraft carrier, the John F. Kennedy, CVN 79, was reached at the end of August 2018, when the latest superlift was dropped into place, shipbuilder Huntington Ignalls said in a release.

The modular-construction approach the shipbuilder is using involves joining smaller sections into larger chunks, called superlifts, which are outfitted with wiring, piping, ventilation, and other components, before being hoisted into place on the Kennedy.


The latest superlift makes up the aft section of the ship between the hangar bay and the flight deck. It is one of the heaviest that will be used, composed of 19 smaller sections and weighed 997 standard tons — roughly as much as 25 semi trucks. It is 80 feet long, about 110 feet wide, and four decks in height.

Below, you can see Huntington’s Newport News Shipbuilding division haul the massive superlift into place with the shipyard’s 1,157-ton gantry crane.

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Workers installed an array of equipment, including pumps, pipes, lighting, and ventilation, into the latest superlift before it was lifted onto the ship.

The modular approach has allowed the shipbuilder to reach this point in construction 14 months earlier than it was reached on the USS Gerald R. Ford, the Navy’s first-in-class Ford-class carrier, the company said.

“Performing higher levels of pre-outfitting represents a significant improvement in aircraft carrier construction, allowing us to build larger structures than ever before and providing greater cost savings,” Lucas Hicks, the company’s vice president for the Kennedy program, said in the release.

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything

A superlift is dropped into place on the aft section of the Navy’s next aircraft carrier, the John F. Kennedy, August 2018.

(Huntington Ignalls)

Huntington Ignalls started construction on the Kennedy in February 2011 with the “first cut of steel” ceremony. The ship’s keel was laid in August 2015, and the carrier hit the 50%-constructed mark in June 2017.

The shipbuilder said in early 2018 that the Kennedy reached 70% and 75% structural completion, which “has to do with superlifts and the number of structures erected to build the ship,” Duane Bourne, media-relations manager for Huntington Ignalls, said in an email.

With the nearly 1,000-ton superlift added at the end of August 2018, work on the Kennedy — structural or otherwise — is now halfway done.

The ship is now scheduled to move from dry dock to an outfitting berth by the last quarter of 2019, which would be three months ahead of schedule. Hicks said in April 2018 that the Kennedy was to be christened and launched in November 2019 and delivered to the Navy in June 2022.

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything

USS Gerald R. Ford underway on its own power for the first time in Newport News, Virginia, April 8, 2017.

(US Department of Defense photo)

The Kennedy includes many of the new features installed on the Ford, like the Electromagnetic Launch System and Advanced Arresting Gear, both of which assist with launching and recovering aircraft. (One notable feature not included on the Ford: urinals.)

The Ford was delivered to the Navy in June 2017 — two years later than planned — and commissioned that year. The ship came at a cost of about .9 billion, which was 23% more than estimated. The Ford has faced a number of issues and is still undergoing post-commissioning work before it can be ready for a combat deployment.

The Navy and Huntington Ignalls have said lessons from the construction of the Ford will be applied to future carriers — though the Government Accountability Office said in summer 2017 that the .4 billion budget for the Kennedy was unreliable and didn’t take into account what happened during the Ford’s construction. The Pentagon partially agreed with that assessment.

The Kennedy is the second of four Ford-class carriers the Navy plans to buy. Work has already started on the next Ford-class carrier, the Enterprise, with the “first cut of steel” ceremony taking place in August 2017.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia just warned the US to stop flying near its borders

The Russian Defense Ministry warned the US military on Feb. 1, 2018 to either stop flying near its borders or to “agree on their rules,” according to state-owned media TASS.


“If the realization of this fact by American pilots causes depression and phobias, we recommend that the American side either exclude flying near Russian borders in the future or return to the negotiations table and agree on a set of rules for such flights,” the Russian Defense Ministry also said, according to RT.

US Naval Forces Europe-Africa accused Russia on Jan. 29, 2018 of an unsafe intercept over the Black Sea near Crimea, saying that an Su-27 flew within five feet of a US Navy EP-3 Aries signals reconnaissance aircraft. Video appeared to show the Russian fighter jet noticeably close to the US plane.

Also read: The US just turned up the heat on Russian warplanes in Syria

“This interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the Su-27 closing to within five feet and crossing directly through the EP-3’s flight path, causing the EP-3 to fly through the Su-27’s jet wash. The duration of the intercept lasted two hours and 40 minutes,” the US Navy said.

The Russian Defense Ministry said that the incident earlier in the week was “absolutely legal and perfectly safe for the American surveillance plane.”

The US has released several videos of the intercept, showing the Su-27 buzzing and hovering near the US spy plane.

 

Russia said that the incident was an escort — not an intercept.

The Russian Defense Ministry and Russian Embassy in Washington, DC did not respond to Business Insider’s emails asking why such maneuvers were necessary for an escort, and what “agree to their rules” meant.

Related: Russia has an anti-tank missile that could devastate NATO tanks

Moscow also called out the US commander of the 67th Task Force of the 6th Fleet, saying, “We would like to address the commander of the 67th Task Force of the 6th Fleet Bill Ellis with a reminder Crimea is an integral part of Russia,” Tass reported.

The Russian Defense Ministry also claimed that NATO planes have maneuvered in similar ways in the past, but they “cause absolutely no effects on Russian crews.”

US Naval Forces Europe-Africa did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

Articles

A Green Beret reported killed during the Vietnam War may have been found alive 44 years later

U.S. Army Master Sergeant John Hartley Robertson, a Green Beret, was in a helicopter shot down over Laos in 1968. His body was never found and was presumed dead. His name is on the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. and the Army officially lists him as Killed In Action.


Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
John Hartley Robertson in Vietnam, 1968.

In 2013, a fellow vet named Tom Faunce claimed to have traced the men killed in the crash to those taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese Army around the same time. The men were taken prisoner and tortured, but Faunce claims the men all survived. The claims sparked renewed interest in finding and repatriating possible POWs remaining in Vietnam for so long after the war.

In a documentary film called Unclaimed, Faunce teamed up with Emmy-winning director Michael Jorgenson to find a man they thought to be Robertson, then 76-years old, 44 years after the crash. The missing Green Beret was supposedly living in a village of south-central Vietnam. The man had no memory of being Robertson, had no memory of his children, his own birthday, or even the English language.

https://vimeo.com/90875597

Master Sgt. Robertson’s family believed he could have survived the event and even claimed to have supporting documentation that he had been held in an NVA prison. Jorgenson maintained the U.S. government has had proof of Robertson’s survival since 1982, but did not do anything with the information.

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything

Still, the filmmaker was skeptical and went to Vietnam with Faunce believing they would uncover a hoax. The man who would be Robertson, now calling himself Dan Tan Ngoc, said he was held, beaten, and tortured but eventually released into t he care of a local nurse, whom he married and with whom he later had children.

The Army fingerprinted Dan Tan Ngoc at a U.S. Embassy, but said it was not enough to prove Dan Tan Ngoc was indeed John Hartley Robertson. The film shows a reunion of the man who would be Robertson meeting a fellow vet he trained and Robertson’s own sister, Jean, who said “There’s no question. I was certain it was him in the video, but when I held his head in my hands and looked in his eyes, there was no question that was my brother.”

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
Jean Robertson in the film Unclaimed

Except, he may not be.

In 2014, DNA testing proved Dan Tan Ngoc could not be John Hartley Robertson. Robertson’s niece, Cyndi Hanna, called the result “very disappointing.” Yet, the Robertson family still believes Ngoc is their missing loved one. Gail Metcalf, daughter of Robertson’s sister, Jean bases this on a oxygen isotope analysis performed on the man’s tooth. The family set up a Go Fund Me page to help raise money for DNA testing and Master Sgt. Robertson’s repatriation. Salt Lake City’s IsoForensics Inc., performed the test for the filmmakers and came to the conclusion  it is “very likely” Ngoc grew up in U.S., a result the family takes to heart.

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
Robertson (far left) in 1968, the year he went missing in Vietnam

“We only want to do right by my Uncle John,” Metcalf told Stars and Stripes. “If that means exploring the possibility that the U.S. government has made a mistake or that the man claiming to be my uncle is actually another lost American and doesn’t know who he is, we intend to seek the truth on our own terms.”

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
Ngoc/Robertson in the film Unclaimed

 

MIGHTY MOVIES

Why grenades in movies look nothing like real life

Yeah, yeah, yeah… We know grenades in movies aren’t like the real thing. But that could make you wonder, “Why?”

Real grenades are puffs of smoke with a bit of high-moving metal. Why not give troops mobile fireballs that instill fear and awe in the hearts of all that see them? Why not arm our troops with something akin to Super Mario’s fire flower?


First, we should take a look at what, exactly is going on with a real grenade versus a movie grenade.

The grenades you’re probably thinking of when you hear the term “grenade” are likely fragmentation grenades, consisting of strong explosives wrapped up in a metal casing. When the explosives go off, either the case or a special wrapping is torn into lots of small bits of metal or ceramic. Those bits fly outwards at high speed, and the people they hit die.

The U.S. military uses the M67 Fragmentation Hand Grenade. 6.5 ounces of high explosive destroys a 2.5-inch diameter steel casing and sends the bits of steel out up to 230 meters. Deaths are commonly caused up to 5 meters away from the grenade.

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything

U.S. Army soldiers throw live grenades during training in Alaska.

(U.S. Army)

That’s because grenades are made to maximize the efficiency of their components. See, explosive power is determined by a number of factors. Time, pressure, and temperature all play a role. Maximum boom comes from maximizing the temperature and pressure increase in as little time as possible.

That’s actually a big part of why M67s have a steel casing. The user pulls the pin and throws the grenade, starting the chemical timer. When the explosion initiates, it’s contained for a fraction of a second inside that steel casing. The strength of the steel allows more of the explosive to burn — and for the temperature and pressure to rise further — before it bursts through the steel.

As the pressure breaks out, it picks up all the little bits of steel from the casing that was containing it, and it carries those pieces into the flesh and bones of its enemies.

Movie grenades, meanwhile, are either created digitally from scratch, cobbled together digitally from a few different fires and explosions, or created in the physical world with pyrotechnics. If engineers wanted to create movie-like grenades, they would need to do it the third way, obviously, with real materials.

The explosion is easy enough. The 6.5 ounces in a typical M67 would work just fine. Enough for a little boom, not so much that it would kill the thrower.

But to get that movie-like fire, you need a new material. To get fire, you need unburnt explosives or fuel to be carried on the pressure wave, mixing with the air, picking up the heat from the initial explosion, and then burning in flight.

And that’s where the problems lie for weapon designers. If they wanted to give infantrymen the chance to spit fire like a dragon, they would need to wrap something like the M67 in a new fuel that would burn after the initial explosion.

Makers of movie magic use liquid fuels, like gasoline, diesel, or oil, to get their effects (depending on what colors and amount of smoke they want). Alcohols, flammable gels, etc. all work great as well, but it takes quite a bit of fuel to get a relatively small fireball. The M1 flamethrower used half a gallon of fuel per second.

But liquid fuels are unwieldy, and even a quart of gasoline per grenade would add some serious weight to a soldier’s load.

So, yeah, there’s little chance of getting that sweet movie fireball onto a MOLLE vest. But there is another way. Instead of using liquids, you could use solid fuels, especially reactive metals and similar elements, such as aluminum, magnesium, or sodium.

The military went with phosphorous for incendiary weapons. It burns extremely hot and can melt its way through most metals. Still, the AN-M14 TH3 Incendiary Hand Grenade doesn’t exactly create a fireball and doesn’t even have a blast. Along with thermite, thermate, and similar munitions, it burns relatively slowly.

But if you combine the two grenades, the blast power of something like the M67 and the burning metals of something like the AN-M14 TH3, and you can create actual fireballs. That’s how thermobaric weapons work.

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything

U.S. Marines train with the SMAW, a weapon that can fire thermobaric warheads.

(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Brian J. Slaght)

In thermobaric weapons, an initial blast distributes a cloud of small pieces of highly reactive metal or fuel. Then, a moment later, a secondary charge ignites the cloud. The fire races out from the center, consuming the oxygen from the air and the fuel mixed in with it, creating a huge fireball.

If the weapon was sent into a cave, a building, or some other enclosed space, this turns the secondary fire into a large explosion of its own. In other words, shoot these things into a room on the first floor of a building, and that room itself becomes a bomb, leveling the larger building.

But throwing one of these things would be risky. Remember, creating the big fireball can turn an entire enclosed space into a massive bomb. And if you throw one in the open, you run the risk of the still-burning fuel landing on your skin. If that’s something like phosphorous, magnesium, or aluminum, that metal has to be carved out of your flesh with a knife. It doesn’t stop burning.

So, troops should leave the flashy grenades to the movies. It’s better to get the quick, lethal pop of a fragmentation grenade than to carry the additional weight for a liquid-fueled fireball or a world-ending thermobaric weapon. Movie grenades aren’t impossible, but they aren’t worth the trouble.

Featured

Quarantine can’t stop this 97-year-old WWII pilot from dancing to Justin Timberlake outside in socks

A video has gone viral of 97-year-old World War II veteran Chuck Franzke stepping outside on his front porch to do a little quarantine dance to none other than Justin Timberlake’s Can’t Stop the Feeling.


Franzke, more affectionately known as “Dancing Chuck,” has been dancing for years. In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal in 2017, he said, “Some music starts playing and I just start bouncing around. When the music stops, I go back and sit down. I’m just an average guy. I figure I’ve got a soft floor to land on and I just go where I go.”

His video has inspired countless people to get out and move and praise for him poured in from across the world. But no tribute was more touching than the words from the one and only, Justin Timberlake.

Timberlake shared that he actually got really choked up watching it. “I’ve had so many different friends of mine that texted me about Chuck, and so Chuck.. he’s a certified badass already because of his vet status, but 97? I hope I’m like that when I’m 57.”

Justin Timberlake is Blown Away by Viral Dances to His Songs

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Justin Timberlake is Blown Away by Viral Dances to His Songs

Timberlake reacts to Doja Cat and WWII Veteran Chuck Franzk sharing videos dancing to his music.

Franzke was a Navy pilot in World War II and married his high school sweetheart. The couple was recently interviewed by WTVR about celebrating their 80th anniversary together. In that interview, wife Beverly said, “I would marry him all over again.”

“Well I would ask you,” Chuck replied.

“She’s a good girl and a good woman,” Chuck said.

Franzke served as a U.S. Navy pilot from 1943-1945, flying Avenger torpedo bombers off of the USS Saginaw Bay in the Pacific Theater.

Keep dancing, Chuck. What a bright spot in quarantine!

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marines prepare to wage big-city battles

Hundreds of Marines will join their British counterparts at a massive urban training center this summer that will test the leathernecks’ ability to fight a tech-savvy enemy in a crowded city filled with innocent civilians.

The North Carolina-based Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, will test drones, robots and other high-tech equipment at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center near Butlerville, Indiana, in August 2019.

They’ll spend weeks weaving through underground tunnels and simulating fires in a mock packed downtown city center. They’ll also face off against their peers, who will be equipped with off-the-shelf drones and other gadgets the enemy is now easily able to bring to the fight.


It’s the start of a four-year effort, known as Project Metropolis, that leaders say will transform the way Marines train for urban battles. The effort is being led by the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, based in Quantico, Virginia. It comes after service leaders identified a troubling problem following nearly two decades of war in the Middle East: adversaries have been studying their tactics and weaknesses, and now they know how to exploit them.

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything

Sgt. Dalyss Reed, a rifleman with Kilo Company, Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, maneuvers through a breach hole while conducting an urban platoon assault.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Dalton S. Swanbeck)

With tensions heating up with Iran, China and Russia, it’s likely Marines could face a far more sophisticated enemy than the insurgent groups they fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Just this week, Iran shot down a massive U.S. Navy drone capable of flying at high altitudes that collects loads of surveillance data. President Donald Trump said he called off retaliatory strikes just minutes before the operations were slated to kick off.

Less than two weeks prior, a Russian destroyer nearly collided with a U.S. Navy warship in the Philippine Sea. These are just some of the examples of close calls that could have left Marines and other U.S. troops facing off against near-peer militaries equipped with high-tech equipment in highly populated areas.

At the same time, the Marine Corps’ Operating Concept, a document published in 2016, found the service isn’t manned, trained or equipped to fight in urban centers, Maj. Edward Leslie, lead planner for Dense Urban Operations at the Warfighting Lab, told Military.com.

“The enemy has changed,” Leslie said. “… They obviously have more access to drones. I think the enemy’s sensing capabilities have increased, they have the ability to see in the night just as well as we can, and they have capabilities that can exploit our technology or disrupt our technology.”

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything

(U.S. Marine Corps Photo)

The Marine Corps isn’t alone in grappling with these new challenges. The Army is spending half a billion dollars to train soldiers to fight underground, and has begun sending small-units to its massive training center in California where leaders are challenged with more complex warfighting scenarios.

The Army also found that young sergeants in most infantry and close combat units don’t know how to maneuver their squads or do basic land navigation, Military.com reported this spring.

Those are skills Marines must continue to hone, Leslie said, since so many advantages they’re used to having on the battlefield are leveling off. It’s not just room-clearing Marines need to be good at, he said, but overall urban operations — things like figuring out ways to penetrate a building without destroying it since it’s right next to a school or hospital.

“I think that’s the value we’re going to get [with Project Metropolis],” he said.

A next-gen fight

The training center Marines and British Royal Marines will use this summer is a sprawling 1,000-acre site that houses dozens of buildings, some with up to seven stories and basements. The complex also has more than a mile’s worth of underground tunnels and active farmland.

The urban center has been used not just to train troops, but to help government leaders prepare for pandemic responses or natural disasters as well.

Kilo Company will complete four phases during the month they spend there, Brig. Gen. Christian Wortman, who recently served as the Warfighting Lab’s commanding general, told reporters May 2019. It will culminate with a five-day force-on-force simulated battle in which the Kilo Company Marines, equipped with new high-tech gear, face off against a like-minded enemy force with its own sophisticated equipment.

The concept was introduced by Commandant Gen. Robert Neller last summer to help Marines better prepare to fight a near-peer enemy. The British Royal Marines participating in the exercise will either join Kilo Company’s efforts against the aggressor, or act as another force operating in the same region, Leslie said.

Project Metropolis will build on years of experimentation the Marine Corps has conducted as part of its Sea Dragon 2025 concept. Leslie said the grunts picking up the next leg of experimentation in Indiana will be further challenged to use some of the new technology Marines have been testing in a more complex urban setting, similar to what they’re likely to face in a future warzone.

Marines have been experimenting with different infantry squad sizes to incorporate drone operators. Now, Leslie said, they’ll look at how to organize teams operating a new tactical self-driving vehicle called the Expeditionary Monitor Autonomous Vehicle, which will carry a .50-caliber machine gun.

“That’s going to be a major thing,” he said. “We’re looking to see, what’s the table of organization look like to work with that, and is it any different if it’s an urban vehicle?”

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything

Marines practice Military Operations on Urban Terrain at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Nov. 23, 2012. The Scout Sniper Platoon, Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 3/5, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit is deployed as part of the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group as a U.S. Central Command theater reserve force, providing support for maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Timothy R. Childers)

Rifle squads will continue experimenting with unmanned aerial systems, Leslie added, to spot enemy positions without sending someone into a danger zone. They’ll use ground robots that have the ability to map the insides of buildings, and will test Marines’ decision-making when they’re overwhelmed with information.

“Really want we want to see is how the tech integrates and also how it operates in a dense urban environment,” he said.

Kilo Company will also work with nonlethal systems, Wortman said, which they can turn to if they’re in an area where there could be civilian casualties. They’ll have access to kamikaze drones and “more sophisticated tools for delivering lethal fires,” he added.

It’s vital that they see that Marines are able to put these new tools to use quickly and easily, Wortman said, as they don’t want them to be fumbling with new systems in the middle of combat situations.

Building on the past

Marines aren’t new to urban fights.

Leathernecks saw some of the bloodiest urban battles since Vietnam’s Battle of Hue City in Fallujah, Iraq. About 12,000 U.S. troops fought in the second leg of the 2004 battle to turn that city back over to the Iraqi government. In the fierce battle, which involved going house-to-house in search of insurgents, 82 U.S. troops were killed and about another 600 hurt.

The Marines learned during those battles, Leslie said. But a lot has changed in the last 15 years, he added. With adversaries having access to cheap surveillance drones, night vision and other technology, military leaders making life-and-death decisions on the battlefield must adjust.

The goal, Wortman said, is to keep Marines armed with and proficient in to keep their edge on the battlefield.

Every city has a different character, too, Leslie added, so what Marines saw in Fallujah is not going to be the same as what they can expect in a new fight.

There has also been a great deal of turnover in the Marine Corps since combat operations slowed in Iraq and Afghanistan, Leslie said. Today’s generation of Marines is also incredibly tech-savvy, Wortman said, and they’re likely to find ways to use some of the new gear they’re handing to them during this experiment and come up with innovative new ways to employ it.

“We have the expectation that these sailors and Marines are going to teach us about the possibilities with this technology because they’ll apply it in creative … ways the tech developers didn’t fully anticipate.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

An unexploded WWII-era bomb shut down London’s airport

The Royal Navy has dragged an unexploded World War II bomb down the River Thames overnight and plans to detonate it at sea on Feb. 14, 2018.


The bomb — a 500-kilogram tapered-end shell, measuring about 1.5 meters, or 4.9 feet, long — was discovered buried in dense silt near the runway of London City Airport on Sunday morning, Feb. 11th.

The airport closed Feb. 11 and through Feb. 12 so the London police and a Royal Navy bomb-disposal team could remove the device. Hundreds of flights were canceled, disrupting some 16,000 people’s travel plans.

The bomb-disposal team removed the bomb with a lifting bag and dragged it down the Thames overnight to Shoeburyness, a coastal town 60 kilometers east of the bomb’s original location, a Royal Navy spokeswoman told Business Insider.

Also Read: Britain’s ‘finest hour’ started 75 years ago

The unexploded ordnance is now at a military range in the sea off Shoeburyness, Essex. The Navy plans to attach high-grade military detonators to blow it up.

The bomb-disposal team originally wanted to detonate the bomb on Feb. 13. It has since postponed the operation because of poor weather conditions, the Royal Navy said.

Cmdr. Del McKnight of the Royal Navy’s fleet diving squadron said in a statement on Feb. 13:

The bomb presents no risk to the public in its current location, so we will leave it where it currently sits until tomorrow.

The area where the airport stands used to be an industrial center, and it came under heavy bombardment from German planes during the war. Unexploded bombs still occasionally turn up during construction work.

London City Airport operates flights to and from the U.K. and Europe as well as New York. More than 4.5 million people used the airport last year.

Articles

Well, on second thought, maybe you can’t have all the troops you want Sec. Mattis

Secretary of Defense James Mattis can only raise troop numbers in Afghanistan by approximately 3,900 before having to further consult the the White House, a memo obtained July 6 by The Wall Street Journal revealed.


The memo casts further light on President Donald Trump’s June 2017 decision to allow Mattis to set troop levels in Afghanistan. The decision follows months of deliberations by the White House on the Trump administration’s path forward in Afghanistan.

Mattis is reportedly mulling sending his maximum allotted number of 4,000 more troops, but has publicly insisted that any troop increases will be paired with a broader political strategy to force reconciliation with the Taliban movement, saying “we’re not looking at a purely military strategy.” Reconciliation would entail the Taliban dropping their armed insurrection against the Afghan government and joining the political process.

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis meets with Iraqi Minister of Defense Arfan al-Hayali. DoD photo by USAF Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley.

“We’re talking now about putting what we call NATO air support, down at the brigade level, so when they are in contact, the high ground is now going to be owned by the Afghans. It’s a fundamental change to how we bring our … real superiority in terms of air support to help them. In other words, we’re not talking about putting our troops on the front line,” Mattis explained in mid-June regarding forthcoming changes to the Afghan review.

Both CENTCOM commander Gen. Joseph Votel and US Forces Afghanistan commander Gen. John Nicholson have said that they need a few thousand more troops to more effectively train, advise, and assist the Afghan forces. Nicholson indicated before Congress that more troops would allow him to deploy troops closer to the front lines, and embed advisors at lower levels of the chain of command within the Afghan forces.

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
US Forces Afghanistan commander Gen. John Nicholson. Photo from DoD.

Mattis is expected to bring his final proposal for the way forward in Afghanistan in mid-July. In the meantime, the US effort in Afghanistan is not going well. The Afghan National Security Forces are beset by corruption and suffering devastating losses, and it is unclear what additional advisors can realistically do to turn the army into an autonomous fighting force.

The US Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction noted in late April that the security force’s casualties continue to be “shockingly high.” The report highlighted that 807 Afghan troops were killed in just the first six weeks of 2017, and that nearly 35 percent of the force chooses not to re-enlist each year.

MIGHTY TRENDING

8 ridiculous lines we fully expect to see in this year’s Valentine’s Safety Brief

In company footprints all over the world, America’s finest are about to endure the Valentine’s Day safety brief—COVID-19 edition. We can only imagine what potential threats are being discussed at Battalion and what the subsequential government issued safety standards will be. Here to give you a rise (wink) is our projected list of what to expect.   

  1. No, your go-to dancer does not count as “shelter in place” partners. 
    It has come to our attention that many of you have taken up the recommendation of the Dutch and found a COVID “partner” for sexual activity. Despite your belief of being her “only one” we have intel that suggests otherwise.  
  1. No, we will not tell your wife you are in “special quarantine” this weekend.
    Despite your best efforts, we will not cover for any of you claiming quarantine this weekend as a “hall pass.” To the three of you who already tried, please see medical for a rapid COVID test, results of which will be mailed directly to your spouses. Happy Valentine’s Day.
  2. No, we will not clarify what does/does not count as a mask or “face covering” this weekend. 
    For the love of God, please quit sending reference pictures asking if “this” counts. We do not want to know. 
  1. Previous contact tracing has led us to temporarily blacklist a local dancer by the name of (bleep). 
    Sergeants Davis, Fong and Private Richard please report to medical following this briefing for a “completely unrelated” and “routine “medical test. 
  1. Yes, group gatherings are still against regulations this weekend. 
    Again, we will not clarify the meaning of this. 
  1. Your chem gear is to be used for military-related chem incidents…only. 
    We do not want to know why several of you have made loss claims lately. 
  1. The Commander’s earlier email about remaining six feet apart was not to be interpreted as a challenge. 
    The proximity suggested in today’s email was in no way a reference or challenge for intimate affairs, please do not reference the email in relation to your chosen activity’s proximity. 
  1. Claiming you didn’t know it was him/her because of masks will still be considered fraternization.
    We’re looking at you Drill Sergeants!
military couple on valentine's day
Stay safe, kids.

After reading the Valentine’s Day safety briefs that most people will ignore, make another good choice and shop for Valentine’s day gifts created by veteran entrepreneurs.

Articles

Pentagon to send nearly 4,000 more troops to America’s longest war in Afghanistan

The Pentagon is preparing to send nearly 4,000 troops to Afghanistan to fight in America’s longest war in an effort to turn the tide against the Taliban.


A Trump administration official told the Associated Press that Secretary of Defense James Mattis is likely to make the troop deployment announcement in mid-June.

This expected decision follows on the heels of President Donald Trump’s move to grant Mattis the authority to set troops levels in Afghanistan.

“We are not winning in Afghanistan right now,” Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee on June 13. “And we will correct this as soon as possible.”

A resurgent Taliban coupled with Islamic State militants have challenged U.S. forces in the region and are taking back territory formerly under control of U.S. and Afghan troops. As of February, the Afghan government controls 59 percent of all districts in the country, which is down 11 percentage points from the same time period in 2016.

Four months ago, Army Gen. John Nicholson, who commands U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan, said he needed several thousand more troops.

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. (DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

Most of the new troops heading to Afghanistan will play the role of training and advising Afghan troops. A small minority will directly participate in counter-terrorism operations against Taliban and ISIS fighters.

Afghanistan is America’s longest war, beginning in 2001. More than 2,300 Americans have been killed so far and 17,000 more wounded.

As such, Mattis is looking to end the war as soon as possible.

“We’re not looking at a purely military strategy,” Mattis told a House Appropriations panel June 15. “All wars come to an end. Our job is to end it as quickly as possible without losing the very mission that we’ve recognized, through several administrations, that was worth putting those young Americans on the line for.”

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

Pentagon To Send Nearly 4,000 More Troops To America’s Longest War In Afghanistan

MIGHTY TRENDING

Veterans will get access to the most advanced clinical trials in cancer research

Veterans with cancer who receive treatment from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will now have easier access to clinical trials of novel cancer treatments, thanks to an agreement between VA and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health.


The NCI and VA Interagency Group to Accelerate Trials Enrollment, or NAVIGATE, which is launching at 12 VA facilities across the country, will enhance the ability of veterans to participate in trials carried out through NCI’s National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN) and the NCI Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP). As part of the agreement, NCI will provide infrastructure funding support needed for the VA facilities to participate in NCI-sponsored trials, enhancing the ability of veterans with cancer to receive promising treatments locally. In turn, VA will manage organizational and operational activities within its national healthcare system to establish a network to focus on NCI trial goals.

“NAVIGATE is an opportunity for VA and NCI to partner at the national level to make clinical trials more accessible to veterans,” said James H. Doroshow, M.D., deputy director for Clinical and Translational Research, NCI. “This agreement will not only provide veterans greater access to NCI clinical trials, it will enhance accrual to NCTN and NCORP trials, resulting in more timely completion of these studies. This interagency collaboration will also work to help veterans overcome barriers they’ve faced trying to access clinical trials as part of their cancer care.”

Some of the first soldiers to fight after 9/11 remember how the attacks changed everything

VA has a robust clinical research program that includes clinical trials in cancer and other diseases at approximately 100 sites nationwide. However, VA facilities often face challenges initiating and completing externally funded trials because of the need for partners to navigate the system. This program aims to overcome these challenges with dedicated staffing and a sustainable infrastructure, and to address existing barriers to trial enrollment that veterans, including minority patients, often experience. In addition, NAVIGATE will increase the participation of VA investigators in clinical cancer research, and provide opportunities for these researchers to identify studies that may be of particular importance to veterans with cancer.

After an application process, the 12 VA sites picked to participate in NAVIGATE are: Atlanta VA Health Care System; James J. Peters VA Medical Center in New York City; Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston, South Carolina; VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System in Denver; Durham VA Medical Center in North Carolina; Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital in Hines, Illinois; Tibor Rubin VA Medical Center in Long Beach, California; Minneapolis VA Health Care System; VA Palo Alto Health Care System in California; Portland VA Medical Center in Portland, Oregon; Audie L. Murphy VA Hospital/South Texas Veterans Health Care System in San Antonio; and VA Connecticut Healthcare System in West Haven.

The program will be jointly managed by VA and NCI for up to three years. It is expected that, during this time, the participating VA sites will establish long-term capabilities to continue participation in NCI trials after this program ends. The NAVIGATE program sites will also establish best practices and share insights to help VA sites nationwide to initiate new studies and enroll more veterans in cancer clinical trials.

“By increasing enrollment in cancer clinical trials, VA and veterans will be contributing to important oncology research,” said VA Chief Research and Development Officer Rachel Ramoni, D.M.D., Sc.D. “This will not only help our veterans, but also advance cancer care for all Americans, and people around the world.”

VA’s involvement in NAVIGATE is being managed through the Cooperative Studies Program, part of VA’s Office of Research and Development. NAVIGATE is overseen by an Executive Committee comprised of VA and NCI leadership responsible for ensuring effective coordination on key activities between the agencies and that program milestones are achieved.

About the National Cancer Institute (NCI): NCI leads the National Cancer Program and NIH’s efforts to dramatically reduce the prevalence of cancer and improve the lives of cancer patients and their families, through research into prevention and cancer biology, the development of new interventions, and the training and mentoring of new researchers. For more information about cancer, please visit the NCI website at cancer.gov or call NCI’s Contact Center (formerly known as the Cancer Information Service) at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

This article originally appeared on the National Institutes of Health. Follow @NIH on Twitter.

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