A former medic with the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) that heroically fought his way up a mountain to render aid to his Special Forces teammates and their Afghan commando counterparts will receive the Medal of Honor.
The White House announced Sept. 21, 2018, that former Staff Sgt. Ronald J. Shurer II went above and beyond the call of duty April 6, 2008, while assigned to Special Operations Task Force – 33 in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. He will receive the highest military award for valor at a White House ceremony, Oct. 1, 2018.
In April 2008, Shurer was assigned to support Special Forces operators working to take out high-value targets of the Hezeb Islami al Gulbadin in Shok Valley.
As the team navigated through the valley, a firefight quickly erupted, and a series of insurgent sniper fire, rocket-propelled grenades, and small arms and machine gun fire forced the unit into a defensive fighting position.
Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer II graphic.
Around that time, Shurer received word that their forward assault element was also pinned down at another location, and the forward team had sustained multiple casualties.
With disregard for his safety, Shurer moved quickly through a hail of bullets toward the base of the mountain to reach the pinned-down forward element. While on the move, Shurer stopped to treat a wounded teammate’s neck injury caused by shrapnel from a recent RPG blast.
Staff Sgt. Ronald J. Shurer II.
After providing aid, Shurer spent the next hour fighting across several hundred meters and killing multiple insurgents. Eventually, Shurer arrived to support the pinned down element and immediately rendered aid to four critically wounded U.S. units and 10 injured commandos until teammates arrived.
Soon after their arrival, Shurer and his team sergeant were shot at the same time. The medic ran 15 meters through a barrage of gunfire to help his sergeant. Despite a bullet hitting his helmet and a gunshot wound to his arm, Shurer pulled his teammate to cover and rendered care.
Medal of Honor.
(US Army photo.)
Moments later, Shurer moved back through heavy gunfire to help sustain another teammate that suffered a traumatic amputation to his right leg.
For the next several hours, Shurer helped keep the large insurgent force at bay while simultaneously providing care to his wounded teammates. Shurer’s actions helped save the lives of all wounded casualties under his care.
Shurer also helped evacuate three critically wounded, non-ambulatory, teammates down a near-vertical 60-foot cliff, all while avoiding rounds of enemy gunfire and falling debris caused by numerous air strikes.
Further, Shurer found a run of nylon webbing and used it to lower casualties while he physically shielded them from falling debris.
Shurer’s Medal of Honor was upgraded from a Silver Star upon review.
The 24-year-old North Korean defector who successfully made it across the North Korean border and into South Korea under a hail of gunfire was reportedly involved in a crime “that led to a death,” according to South Korean intelligence officials cited in Donga Ilbo, a South Korean newspaper, on Jan. 23.
Chung-sung Oh reportedly confessed to the alleged crime, according to intelligence officials who are investigating his background as part of the standard procedure involving North Korean defectors. The National Intelligence Service, the primary intelligence agency in the country, was said to be looking into all circumstances of the alleged death, including whether it was a murder or an accidental death.
A reporter from Chosun Ilbo, another South Korean news organization, also said he received a similar unconfirmed report in December, in which Oh is believed to have been involved in a vehicle accident involving another person and may have defected in fear of being punished.
Oh, who has been recovering after sustaining multiple gunshot wounds, is said to have a carefree personality, according to government sources. But those sources noted that his testimony seemed to change depending on his mood. The investigation is expected to extend beyond February.
If reports of Oh’s statement proves to be true, it could complicate the proceedings and exclude him from benefits for North Korean defectors, according to the South Korean newspaper. But because the government does not have an extradition treaty with North Korea, Oh does not appear to be at risk of being sent back to the North.
Meanwhile, South Korean intelligence officials have publicly denied Oh’s testimony and said those involved with the matter had “never made a statement of that kind.”
The Ministry of Unification, the government body responsible for inter-Korean relations, said that it could not confirm the account because the investigation was still ongoing.
News surrounding Oh has become a hot-button subject in Korea after footage of his dramatic escape in November was captured in stunning detail. Following Oh’s rescue, those involved in the recovery, including his physician, have been the center of media attention in the country.
David Audet, chief of the Mission Equipment and Systems Branch in the Soldier Performance Optimization Directorate, at the Research, Development and Engineering Command’s Soldier Center, is gearing up his team for the next User Touch Point activities to explore exoskeleton options in late January 2019.
“As we explore the more mature exoskeleton options available to us and engage users, the more we learn about where the possible value of these systems is to Army operations,” said Audet.
“Before the Army can consider investing in any development above what industry has done on their own, we need to make sure that users are on board with human augmentation concepts and that the systems are worth investing in. The Army is not ready yet to commit. NSRDEC [RDECOM Soldier Center] has a lead role in working with PEO-Soldier and the Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning, to determine whether or not a longer-term investment in fielding new technologies is justifiable. But this is what we do best. We find the options and create the partnerships to help us figure it out.”
Soldiers from Army’s 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York, were able to get hands on and try two of the current human augmentation technologies (pictured here) being pursued by the RDECOM Soldier Center. The soldier on the left is wearing the ONYX and the soldier on the right is wearing the ExoBoot.
(RDECOM Soldier Center)
Recent media has brought a lot of attention to the Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Controls, or LMMFC, ONYX, a Popular Science award recipient for 2018.
As innovative as it is, and with all the attention on the Soldier Center’s .9 million Other Transaction Agreement (OTA) award, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and lose perspective of the overall work the Soldier Center is actually doing.
Out of the 48-month phased effort, roughly 0K has been put on the LMMFC OTA — currently focused on having enough systems to take to the field for operational evaluation. Although performing, the technology has yet to prove itself in a full operational exercise before moving forward. And while LMMFC is highly confident in their product and continues to invest their funding on further developing the system for commercial use, the Soldier Center is also looking at other technologies.
Located in Maynard, Massachusetts, Dephy, Inc.’s ExoBoot is another entrant in the program. The Dephy ExoBoot is an autonomous foot ankle exoskeleton that was inspired by research done at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under collaboration with the Army. It is currently under consideration for evaluation during the third and fourth quarter of 2019. Brigadier General David M. Hodne has worn the ExoBoot during Soldier Center program updates and is quite intrigued by the capability. User feedback will determine if both systems move forward and under which considerations.
“Under ideal conditions, we would favor a full development effort,” said Audet. “However, given the push for rapid transition and innovation, we can save the Army a lot of time and money by identifying and vetting mature technologies, consistent with the vision of the Army Futures Command, or AFC.
(David Kamm, RDECOM Soldier Center)
“In order to achieve the goal of vetting and providing recommendations, NSRDEC [the Soldier Center] and PEO-Soldier are strong partners, teamed up to work with third party independent engineering firms such as Boston Engineering out of Waltham, Massachusetts. The engineering analysis of systems will provide an unbiased system-level analysis of any of the technologies under consideration, following rigorous analysis of the capabilities as they exist, the operational parameters provided by users and assessment of how humans will use and interact with the systems.”
“We are confident products will succeed or — at a minimum — fill a gap we have not been able to address by any other materiel or training means,” said Audet.
“We will be prepared to transition, but we know there is a road ahead before we get there. We aren’t committing to anything more than to bring the systems to a demonstration and educate the community at large on what these preliminary technologies can offer. In the meantime, we add a layer of third party independent analysis as a reassurance policy that we are mitigating bias and staying laser focused on user needs and meeting the demands of the future warfighting landscape.”
The Russian military announced on Jan. 10 that Turkish-backed rebels attacked its Hmeimim air base and Tartus naval facility in Syria over the weekend with 13 drones.
“The recent drone attack on Russian bases in Syria was launched from an area near Idlib, which is controlled by Turkish-backed rebel forces,” according to RT, adding that Moscow complained to Turkey about the incident. The drone attack reportedly took place overnight from Jan. 5 to Jan. 6.
The Russian military said that the attack originated from the village of Muazzara, which is located in the Idlib region of Syria.
Russian and Syrian bombing runs have increased in Idlib in the last week, resulting in the deaths of many civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory For Human Rights. ISIS has also recently retaken portions of Idlib, despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s declaration of victory in Syria late last year.
It is curious that Russia would blame Turkey, given that the two countries have improved relations over the last year.
“We often overestimate how much governments in capitals have control over the rebel groups they sponsor,” Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior research scientist at CNA, told Business Insider.
“Given Turkey’s deteriorating relationship with the U.S., it [would be odd] for Turkey to lash out at Russia,” Gorenburg said.
Russia shifts the blame from U.S. to Turkey
The development comes one day after the Russian Ministry of Defense implied that the U.S. had helped coordinate the drone attacks on Hmeimim air base and Tartus naval facility.
The MoD also said that a U.S. spy plane flew over Syria around the time of the attack, which helped the rebels target the drones.
“Any suggestion the U.S., the Coalition or our partnered forces played a role in an attack on a Russian base is without any basis in fact and utterly irresponsible,” Defense Department spokesman Eric Pahon told Business Insider in an email, adding over the phone that the insinuation is “absolute bonkers.”
“This was not a super sophisticated attack,” Gorenburg said, adding that the rebels could have easily launched and targeted the bases themselves.
Russia has released pictures of the drones, which were made of wood, taped together, and equipped with low-tech bombs.
“My hunch is that [Russia] was embarrassed by the attack,” Gorenburg said, and that the MoD needed to attribute such an attack to “a major power.”
The founder of the Haqqani network, one of Afghanistan’s most dangerous and feared militant groups, has died after a long illness, the network’s ally, the Afghan Taliban, has announced.
Jalaluddin Haqqani, whose son Sirajuddin Haqqani now heads the brutal group and is also the Taliban’s deputy leader, died “after a long battle with illness,” the Taliban said in a statement in English on Twitter early on Sept. 4, 2018.
The Taliban claimed that Jalaluddin “was from among the great distinguished Jihadi personalities of this era.”
The United States, after allying with Haqqani to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s, by 2012 had designated his organization a terrorist group.
The elder Haqqani was paralyzed for the past 10 years, AP reported. Because he had not been heard from in several years, reports of his death were widespread in 2015.
Haqqani was once a minister in the Taliban government that ruled Afghanistan before the U.S. invasion in 2002 that followed the September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Prior to the U.S. invasion, Haqqani fostered close ties with Arab extremists, including the now-deceased Al-Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden, who set up militant camps in Afghanistan before being run out of the country into hiding in Pakistan by U.S.-led NATO forces.
Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.
The Haqqani network has been blamed for spectacular attacks in Afghanistan in recent years.
It was blamed for the truck bombing in the heart of Kabul in May 2017 that killed around 150 people, though the group denied its involvement.
The network has also been accused of assassinating top Afghan officials and holding kidnapped Westerners for ransom.
Watches can be incredibly personal—after all, they’re worn every day throughout many of life’s ups and downs. Why shouldn’t you have one that serves as a reminder of all the hard work you’ve done and the things you’ve accomplished? For veterans and first responders, NFW watch company allows them to do just that.
NFW was started by George Fox, who left a 10-year career at Timex to focus on making watches in his vision, without compromising quality or price point. He accomplishes this goal by spending money on what really matters — the watches — instead of high-priced marketing. For 13 years, his company has been growing steadily with a supportive fan base, especially among the military. He also believed that he could do good with his craft, which has been realized through NFW’s partnerships with charities that support veterans and first responders.
The first partnership started in 2011, when George was approached by a Special Forces Unit to create a special watch for them, with their insignia engraved on the face. He met with unit representatives in Fort Bragg, N.C., and broached the idea of allowing the public to buy the watches as a way to show support and raise funds for the Special Forces Association. This idea was enthusiastically received and the watch was a success.
This first collaboration between military and small business was the start of a series of charity watches that celebrate Operation Enduring Warrior, the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation, Honor Flight, and first responders. Fifty dollars from each sale goes to the charities and nonprofits that support veterans. These watches do more than just advertise the organization. They also serve as a constant reminder to the wearer of the qualities that are endemic to the men and women who served and continue to serve under that symbol. Taya Kyle, Chris Kyle’s widow, said, “It’s great that the watches raise money for CKFF. But the best thing these watches do is every time someone wears one, sees one, or comments on one, it helps keep Chris’ spirit alive.”
To showcase these watches, NFW relies on the men and women who served in the honored units and wear their timepieces with pride. By not using the traditional watch marketing techniques, such as hiring celebrity endorsers, they are able to keep the watch costs down, allowing more people to wear this reminder of their service every day.
Recently, NFW was chosen to make watches for Medal of Honor recipients, further cementing the company’s relationship with our service men and women, and exemplifying the integrity that George Fox based his company on. He believes that his work with veterans had been more than repaid tenfold, as he has learned from their grit, ingenuity, and spirit. He also feels that it has helped him become a stronger father to his children, allowing him to model strength and integrity. In his spare time, George volunteers with the organizations, such as helping World War II veterans on Honor Flights and running with Operation Enduring Warrior in Spartan Races.
Just before the end of January 2018, Russia announced that its Pantsir-S1 mobile surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery weapons system would be equipped with a new type of missile to help it defend against smaller, low-flying targets.
Called the “gvozd” (the Russian word for “nail”), the missile is a small armament designed to take out small targets like drones. The Pantsir will reportedly be able to carry 4 gvozds in one canister, which means a fully armed system can have up to 48 missiles.
The issue of how to combat small and cheap drones that can carry small payloads or carry out kamikaze-style attacks continues to vex global militaries. The terrorist group ISIS has found them to be particularly useful, and in January 2017 saw a swarm of drones attack a Russian air base in Syria, reportedly damaging seven jets.
The Pantsir, known to NATO as the SA-22 Greyhound, entered service in the Russian Military in 2012. Its primary role is that of point-defense, meaning it can defend from low-flying aerial targets within a certain area.
It is armed with two 2A38M 30 mm autocannons that have a maximum fire rate of 5,000 rounds per minute, and twelve AA missiles in twelve launch canisters. The system’s weapons have an effective range of 10 to 20 kilometers.
Conversely, Russia’s S-400 missile system is intended to deal with long-range targets. The system can be armed with four different missiles, the longest of which has a claimed range of 400 kilometers, while the most common missile has a range of 250 kilometers.
The two systems working in tandem provide a “layered defense,” with the S-400 providing long-ranged protection against bombers, fighter jets, and ballistic missiles, and the Pantsir providing medium-ranged protection against cruise missiles, low-flying strike aircraft, and drones.
This explains why the systems have been deployed together in Syria, which Russian President Vladimir Putin has said “guaranteed the superiority of our Aerospace Forces in Syrian air space.”
The Pantsir has also reportedly been seen in Ukraine’s Donbas region, no doubt helping separatists defend against attacks from the Ukrainian Air Force.
Russian air defense strategy
“It certainly makes the system more robust,” Jeffrey Edmonds, a research scientist and expert on the Russian military and foreign policy at the Center for Naval Analyses told Business Insider. “A layered defense is always better than a single defense layer.”
Compared to Russia, the US does not have a point-defense system. Its air defense strategy relies primarily on the Patriot Missile System, the Avenger Air Defense System, and shoulder launched FIM-92 Stingers.
Edmonds says that the reason the Russians have been able to achieve these gains in aerial defense over the West is because the US has not had to face an adversary with advanced air capabilities, and because Russia’s air defense strategy is made specifically to counter America’s aerial superiority.
“For the Russians, in any conflict with the United States, the primary concern is going to be a massive aerospace attack,” Edmonds said.
Operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yugoslavia, and elsewhere have shown that the Americans prefer to use what the Russians refer to as non-contact or new-model warfare — the use of effective airpower to destroy a large amount of targets and winning wars without invading a country.
“Their layered defenses are designed around that threat,” Edmonds said.
Edmonds pointed out that aircraft take a more active and aggressive role in American and NATO strategy than Russian strategy.
“The way we fight, our aircraft are out front. They prep the battlespace for follow-on units,” he said. “It’s almost the opposite for the Russians. Fighter aircraft will be fighting kind of behind the line, not venturing far out front.”
Edmonds also noted that defense against an aerospace happens “across domains.”
“That’s counter-space, that’s GPS jamming, that’s missiles, dispersion, camouflage — there’s a whole host of things that they practice, and capabilities they developed to counter a massive aerospace attack,” Edmonds said.
Jenny Byers, a first time mom living in San Diego at the time, laid on the hospital bed with tears streaming down her face as her son, Declan, was placed on her chest.
In what was such a joyous moment in her life, Byers wished just one thing — that her husband could be there to witness the occasion. She turned over her shoulder as a nurse nearby held up a computer with a live FaceTime call with PJ Byers, meeting his son for the first time.
Courtesy of Jenny Byers
“That’s your daddy,” she said to her newborn son experiencing skin-to-skin beneath a blanket.
PJ Byers redeployed when Declan was five months old and they met for the first time face-to-face in an emotional airport family reunion.
“At first I was scared our family was being robbed of one of the most special moments of our lives,” Jenny Byers told We Are The Mighty. “But I was wrong. That moment was still just as special, but in a way I wasn’t expecting. Thanks to modern day technology, we got to meet our son together.”
The Byers family’s story is not an outlier. Being married to someone in the military often means facing many of life’s challenges without your significant other and pregnancy is no exception.
“When my son was born we were at Fort Campbell, and my daughter was four,” said Sophie Pappas, a journalist and Army spouse. “I ended up driving myself to the hospital while my mom from Indiana stayed with my daughter. The midwife was super amazing during my second birth. She held one of my legs up with one of her hands and with her other hand she held my iPhone so my husband could FaceTime and see everything! I will always be grateful he was able to at least watch over FaceTime.”
Pappas credits the love and adrenaline running through her body for being able to deliver her baby boy without focusing on the absence of her husband.
Courtesy of Sophie Pappas
“When I was pushing, I remember laying in the hospital room at 8-centimeters dilated, totally alone,” she shared. “My water broke and I started to push right then and there with not even a nurse around. I didn’t know how to call anyone in, so I just started doing it alone. Looking back, that was one of the most amazing moments of my life. The strength that your body has to just do what it needs to do is incredible.”
While military spouses facing pregnancy alone and delivery without their spouse is not new, this is an unprecedented situation for many pregnant civilians as the coronavirus outbreak continues.
Heading to appointments without spousal support or delivering a new baby in a plan that looks different than it did six months ago is a scary realization that is top-of-mind for many moms-to-be.
Here is what military spouses who were pregnant and/or delivered alone want to share with expectant moms:
“I wish I trusted in myself a little more that I was capable and strong enough to do it alone and that it wouldn’t be forever. I also talked to my OB/GYN who knew about my experience and would let me videotape parts of the appointment such as ultrasounds. She was also really good about giving me lots of US pictures that I could send to my husband.” – Maureen Hannan Tufte
“I would tell them to be sure and ask for help when they need it. I was pretty stubborn about trying to do it all on my own, but when I did have help, I would realize how much I really needed it. Maybe find pregnancy groups (fitness or otherwise) to get involved in. Maybe they’ll find a kindred spirit who is going through the same thing? I would tell them that they can get through this.” – Julie Estrella
“I think the biggest thing with any pregnancy is that whether a national pandemic or a deployment or any event gets in the way, you’re going to have this ‘idea’ of exactly how you want things to go or you think things will go. I can 10000% guarantee that no pregnancy has ever turned out exactly like the mom and dad to be imagined, it’s just life. The sooner you adjust to the idea that things may change or unexpected events may occur, the better your anxiety and nerves will be and the less it will sting when that inevitable curveball comes your way.” – Kati Simmons
“It’s scary to be pregnant by yourself, especially during a first pregnancy. But the baby will keep growing no matter whether or not your partner is available. All you can do is take care of yourself and try not to stress out. Then be sure to Reach out to friends, call family, do what you can to find support because there are definitely people who are willing to help.” – Julie Yaste
“What brought me comfort before giving birth without my husband was hearing about other women who had labored alone before me. Knowing I wasn’t the only one to ever face this situation gave me every affirmation I needed, to know I was going to be okay.” – Jenny Byers
“I would tell someone to not get hung up on who won’t be there, think about who will. You and your baby! Embrace these moments to bond and build a connection. Dwelling on the sadness of your spouse not being there takes away from the joy.” – Kelsey Bucci
“We are capable and able to do hard things. It will be ok. Not having your spouse around for the birth is really hard. But, it will be ok. Lots of pictures and FaceTime. We are lucky to live in a land of technology.” – Alana Steppe
“Know it’s only temporary and the feeling of seeing your husband or spouse with your baby will be the most amazing feeling and make it all worth it.” – Emily Stewart
Courtesy of Kelly Callahan
“You are stronger than you know, and while the situation may not look anything like what you pictured, it is amazing what our mind and body will do (and do well) when we are faced with the challenge of bringing a new life into the world. What I realize now that we are on the other side of it, is that this situation is a small piece of our story and it’s a beautiful one. Lucy is in kindergarten now and I’ve heard her share with classmates and teachers more than once that her daddy could not be there when she was born, so she got to meet him on the computer, because he was fighting bad guys in other places. It all adds to who we are and how we are shaped. I would also add that the nurses and doctor who helped me deliver stepped up in ways I never could have imagined. They made sure the technology was just right so that my husband was included and included him in the conversations. They supported me like we had known each other for years and cried with me when she was born. The medical community is amazing and will not let anyone feel alone.” – Kelly Callahan
A spouse who wished to remain anonymous gave sage advice for expectant moms from the perspective of both a mom of six and labor and delivery nurse of ten years:
“I can confidently tell you that now, more than ever, your nurses are ready to be your doula, photographer and friend,” she shared. “You will not be left alone. You will have our entire team here to celebrate with you on your special day.”
Recently, I had the honor of sitting with five Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) from VA Sierra Nevada Health Care System in a quiet private airport in Reno, Nevada. We were waiting for their jet, courtesy of the U.S. Air Force, to arrive and whisk these heroes away to New Jersey. They were on their way to provide relief to the weary practitioners fighting the pandemic.
These LPNs volunteered to go to New Jersey to assist medical staff in nursing homes, where staff has been stretched to the breaking point caring for their high-risk senior population.
As I sat with them, I realized that I had an honest admiration not only for these five individuals, but also for my entire VA health care team.
Not one of them expressed regret with their decision to volunteer. Each would be working nonstop, 12-hour shifts (maybe longer) with complete strangers, caring for senior citizens on the East Coast. They spoke with compassion and used phrases like, “This is what I was born to do.”
Nurses on their way to help in New Jersey.
We need nurses now more than ever
One even stated she has no family here in Nevada and if requested to extend her short tour in New Jersey, she gladly would. She said she hoped she would inspire someone to consider a career in health care. “We need more nurses,” she said, “now more than ever.”
The small Air Force C-21 jet arrived and three young crew members stepped down onto the tarmac. Through the waiting lounge window, the six of us made comments about the crew’s appearance in their military issued olive green flight suits.
We started making Top Gun references. “That one looks like Maverick,” said one. “If there’s a Goose, we are screwed!” said another. We all burst into laughter, which increased even more as the three young service members entered the airport with looks of bewilderment at our good humor. Their faces quickly transformed into comforting smiles. They understood that this moment was necessary.
“God speed and safe travels”
The pilot assured everyone that once the plane is fueled, loaded, and pre-flight checks done, they would be on their way. The flight crew graciously humored me with pictures of them with our nurses and the plane.
I assisted with loading the LPN’s bags onto the jet and bid everyone a safe journey. I remained in the small airport to watch through the window until the wheels were off the ground.
“God speed and safe travels,” I said aloud. I heard an “Amen” from behind me and turned to see a baggage handler had come to watch as well.
To the nurse who claimed to have no family here in Nevada, I beg to differ. You have VA. Together we are strong, and together we are a family.
QUANTICO, Va. — The Marine Corps has released a bold new operational document that projects a future fight against a high-end adversary that could nullify many of the advantages U.S. forces have enjoyed for decades, and proscribes an extensive series of actions the Marines must take to prepare for that conflict.
The Marine Corps Operating Concept is subtitled “How an Expeditionary Force Operates in the 21st Century,” and strongly reaffirms the Corps’ traditional ties with the Navy.
It also revitalizes the post-Vietnam concept of “maneuver warfare,” but modernizes it by adding cyber and information operations to the use of rapid movement around enemy strong points and employment of kinetic force to confound the adversary’s command and control.
U.S. Marines with Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team Europe laugh during down-time, after completing an M240B machine gun range as part of Exercise Platinum Lynx at Babadag Training Area, Romania, Sept. 27, 2016. Multiple nations from across Eastern Europe, and the U.S., participated in the exercise designed to enhance warfighting capabilities and build relationships from an international level, all the way down to a platoon level. (Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)
Marine Corps Commandant Robert Neller ordered the new strategic look, which was released Sept. 28 at the 2016 Modern Day Marine Expo here, and said its primary goal was to assure that any future Marine “doesn’t have a fair fight,” but is dominant.
The MOC is a replacement for the Expeditionary Force 21 operational guide released in 2014 under then-Commandant Gen. James Amos. But the officers at the forward-looking Ellis Group who crafted it and those who will have to implement it said it goes far beyond EF21.
It envisions a Marine Corps that is able to operate in what Neller called the “six domains,” of land, sea, air, space, cyberspace and information, is prepared to help the Navy retain sea control and the ability to project power in contested littoral regions and makes extensive use of unmanned systems.
“My goal by next year is, every deployed infantry squad will have a quad copter” unmanned aircraft, Neller told a packed audience at the Modern Day Marine exposition.
Neller assured the assembled Marines that the new document does not mean they are “fixing something” or the Corps is “broken.”
But, he reminded them, since 2001 “we have been fighting an insurgency.” Although those insurgents were brave and tenacious, they did not have electronic warfare capabilities, or an air force or armor. And “they didn’t have the ability to take down our networks, to deny our comms” and they “didn’t have a sophisticated information operations plan to deceive not only us, but our citizens.”
“What we’re trying to do with the MOC,” Neller said, is to look at their organization, training and warfighting doctrine and make the changes so “if we’re going to fight somebody that has this capabilities set” the individual Marine has what is needed “to make sure it’s not a fair fight.”
The MOC contains a lengthy list of future capabilities the Corps is expected to require for that future high-end fight. It includes the ability to fight in “complex terrain,” which includes congested urban settings; can match the global technology proliferation; can use information as a weapon and can win the “battle of signatures,” which means controlling its own electronic emissions to avoid being detected and finding and countering the enemy’s.
The MOC supports a point Neller has stressed, that future Marines be prepared to operate without sophisticated long-range communications, intelligence support and navigation aids because a high-tech enemy could disrupt them.
That could complicate some of the missions the MOC, including distributed operations by small units, or using landing forces to seize and hold “expeditionary advanced bases” on an enemy’s coast line to disrupt the sensors and weapons that could deny naval forces access.
The document also emphasizes the need to integrate Marine capabilities and operations with the Navy, Special Operations Command and the joint force.
And it sets out a list of “critical tasks” required to prepare the Corps for the future.
Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, the deputy commandant for combat development and integration, said his command, the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, the training and education and acquisition commands all will have major challenges in executing the MOC’s vision.
Neller urged the Marines in the audience to read the MOC and provide feedback and criticism. He acknowledged that the document may not have all the right answers and he expects they will have to make changes to it.
But, he said: “What we won’t do is stay the same. The world is changing too fast.”
U.S. officials expressed sorrow over the shoot-down of a Russian military surveillance plane off the Syrian coast and said it would not affect the U.S. campaign against Islamic State (IS) fighters.
The comments on Sept. 18, 2018, came as Russian officials said that Syrian antiaircraft forces brought down the Il-20 plane inadvertently, but also blamed Israel for conducting a fighter jet raid on Syrian forces at around the same time.
U.S. officials said U.S. forces were not involved in the incident.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement expressing sorrow for the shoot-down, which killed 15 Russian servicemen. He also criticized Iran, which has reportedly shipped sophisticated weaponry to the Hizballah fighters in Lebanon.
Israel has struck targets in both Lebanon and Syria, seeking to thwart Hizballah’s ambitions.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, meanwhile, told reporters that the shoot-down complicates relations between Syria and Russia but would have “no effect whatever” on the U.S. campaign to defeat the extremist group IS in Syria.
Mattis also said the incident was a reminder of why the United States supports the United Nations’ effort to end the seven-year civil war.
President Donald Trump also expressed concern about the downed Russian plane, calling it a “very sad thing” and “not a good situation.”
Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Israel against conducting air raids on Syria.
And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Putin to express sorrow over the plane’s loss but insisted that Syria bore responsibility.
A sandy white beach. Swaying palm trees. Cocktails made from coconut juice.
As frigid air and snowstorms whip across most of the U.S., service members may dream of trading their current duty station for an exotic Pacific paradise.
But they might want to think again, according to Bob Cunningham, a former Air Force radar operator whose first duty station was a tiny, oblong blister of land in the South China Sea. He knows it as North Danger Island.
For six months in 1956, Cunningham lived on a remote knob approximately 2,000 feet long and 850 feet wide in the Spratly Islands group located midway between the Philippine Islands and Vietnam. His home was a canvas tent and he manned radio and radar equipment for a secret Air Force project mapping the earth.
The mission was an aerial electronic geodetic survey. Specially equipped aircraft flew grid patterns and triangulated electromagnetic pulses sent between temporary ground stations hundreds of miles apart. The data, computed into highly accurate coordinates, would eventually provide targeting information for intercontinental ballistic missile development.
It was a ‘million dollar experience’ that he wouldn’t give two cents to repeat, Cunningham jokes today.
Not that it wasn’t an adventure, he admits.
Cunningham’s four-man team and all its equipment was helicoptered to the island from the deck of a Landing Ship, Tank (LST), along with the drinking water, fuel and rations the men would need to survive. Resupply occurred every 4-6 weeks by helicopter, supplemented by occasional parachute drops. A radio relay team of six Airmen had already established itself on the island and shared the same copse of trees.
“I was 22 years old. I was the kid on the island so it was a real experience,” Cunningham remembers. “I didn’t have a lot of sophistication psychologically, and that was a real psychological test for human beings, to be going like that.”
He was an Airman 2nd Class, a two-striper, with just over a year of service in the Air Force and some college education. His sergeants had seen combat during World War II and were wise to what the isolated team would endure. Their ingenuity, humor and direct leadership kept young Cunningham and the others on the island from mentally cracking.
To keep a low profile, the Airmen were ordered to stow their uniforms and wear civilian shorts and sneakers, sandals and cowboy hats instead.
The men also kept their pistols and M-1 Garand rifles ready, knowing that pirates and other possible threats roamed the waters surrounding them.
“The Chinese nationalists came by with a gun boat. A big, long vessel. Military. Chinese Navy,” Cunningham said. “And they had this big three-inch cannon on the front on a turret, and they swung that baby in toward our island, and they had some machine gun turrets, and pretty soon we saw boats come over the edge and some officers got on that and they came in to see who we were and what we were doing.”
The Airmen placed palm fronds along the beach to spell out U-S-A-F. The gunboat crew was satisfied and the standoff ended.
On another occasion, Okinawan fishermen came ashore to trade their fish for drinking water.
“They saw our 50-foot antenna that we put up for our radar set, our pulse radio, and so they were curious,” Cunningham said. “They came onboard and they were quite friendly.”
But visitors were the exception. Day after day, interaction was limited to within the tiny community of Airmen.
A feud between two staff sergeants took a bad turn when one threatened to kill the other.
Cunningham’s technical sergeant knew he had to step in and confront the enraged man. But first he warned Cunningham and the other radar operator that the situation could explode and that they might have to use their weapons.
“He said, ‘I’m calling him in here, I’m going to present this to him, our concern,'” Cunningham recalled. “‘If he gets up and breaks like I’ve seen a guy do it, he’ll run right over to the ground power tent where those guys live and he’ll just start shooting people.'”
Fortunately, there was no violence and the conflict was resolved.
“We had to stay up around the clock for a day or so to see what would happen in case we had to call for an SA-16 (amphibious flying boat) to come out with Air Police and come in and capture this guy, and we’re going to have to tie him up to a palm tree or something,” Cunningham said. “We didn’t know what was going to go on.”
The veteran sergeants kept up morale in other ways.
They improved the camp with funny signs, hand-made furniture and a wind-driven water pump. They cooked sea turtles for the men. And they improvised a way to make alcohol from coconut juice and cake mix.
Cunningham remembers the technical sergeant busy at his distillery ‘making moonshine.’ When the sergeant was asked why he was wearing his pistol, he replied that revenuers might come through and he couldn’t be interrupted.
That sense of humor was “what you really needed on a place like that to keep from cracking up,” Cunningham said.
For recreation, Cunningham would walk around the island and photograph the thousands of birds it attracted. He also tried diving off the reef once and became terrified by the absolute darkness.
“I opened up my eyes and it scared the bejeepers out of me,” he said. “It was total black. I couldn’t see anything. I got so danged scared, I came up and I got off and I got back to that reef and I never went back again.”
In the final month, he and the sergeant were the only humans left on the island. Two members of his team were evacuated. The radio relay team was relocated, taking their noisy generator with them. For the two men remaining, the silence at night was now ‘spooky’ – a lone coconut dropping from a tree was enough to send them scrambling for their weapons.
Cunningham’s experience on the reef forever changed how he relates to other people.
“I have an expression,” he said. “‘This guy sounds like a North Danger kind of guy,’ meaning somebody compatible, smart, you can get along with him, he’s got a good temper. Or this guy, I would not want to be with him on North Danger.”
US Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of US forces in the Middle East, said on Wednesday that he believes Iran was behind missile strikes on US Navy ships fired from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen.
“I do think that Iran is playing a role in some of this. They have a relationship with the Houthis, so I do suspect there is a role in that,” said Votel at the Center for American Progress, The Hill’s Kristina Wong reports.
Iran does have a history of harassing US ships in the Persian Gulf. In January, Iran even went to the extreme length of taking US sailors captive after their ships broke down in Iranian national waters.
While experts have indicated to Business Insider that Iran likely supplied the Houthis with the missiles used in three separate attacks on US Navy ships, Votel’s comments mark perhaps the first time a US official has laid the blame on Iran.
After the US struck the radar sites used by the Houthis, an armed uprising battling the internationally recognized government of Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour al-Hadi,Iranian vessels rushed to the waters off of Yemen under the premise of protecting “trade vessels from piracy.”
If Iran does prove to be behind the missiles attacks, it’s possible that the US’s limited and defensive strikes have not addressed the larger problem.