US Army tankers are playing video games online to train for tank warfare during the coronavirus pandemic - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

US Army tankers are playing video games online to train for tank warfare during the coronavirus pandemic

Dozens of US Army tankers have been playing tank warfare video games online to train for combat during the pandemic, the Army said this week.

Tankers with D Troop, 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division are using the online game “War Thunder” to train, according to an Army news story first reported on by Task & Purpose.


Several different games were considered, but “War Thunder,” a free cross-platform online game that simulates combat, won out.

The 3rd ABCT, which recently returned from South Korea, does not actually have any tanks to train in right now because they are waiting to get upgraded M1A2 Abrams tanks, but even if they had them, the coronavirus would likely keep the four-man crews from piling into them.

3rd ABCT spokesman Capt. Scott Kuhn, who wrote the Army news story, told Insider that the tank crews have training simulators like the Close Combat Tactical Trainer (CCTT) and Advanced Gunnery Training Systems (AGTS), but, like a real tank, these simulators require soldiers to be in close proximity to one another.

Social distancing demands in response to the continued spread of the coronavirus required leaders to take a look at alternative training options.

Seeing that all their soldiers had a PlayStation, an Xbox, or a PC that “War Thunder” could be downloaded on, troop leaders decided that was the best option in these unusual times.

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An online video game that 1st Cavalry Division soldiers are using to help maintain readiness while protecting the force from the coronavirus.

US Army/Capt. Scott Kuhn

“We are able use the game as a teaching tool for each crew member,” Staff Sgt. Tommy Huynh, a 3rd platoon section leader, explained in the Army release.

“For example, drivers can train on maneuver formations and change formation drills. Of course online games have their limitations, but for young soldiers it helps them to just understand the basics of their job,” he said.

One of the big limitations is that “War Thunder” only allows players to virtually operate tanks and other weapon systems from World War II and the Cold War, meaning that the game is not a perfect training platform for modern tanks.

While there are certain limitations, there are also some advantages, the main one being a new perspective.

“Being exposed to other viewpoints through the game is extremely helpful,” Sgt. David Ose, a 1st Platoon section leader, said in the Army news story.

“If you are a driver and you’re inside a tank for real, you don’t get to see what it looks like from above. You don’t always understand that bigger picture because you’re just focused on the role of driving the tank,” Kuhn told Insider.

“This kind of broadens that. It provides a training opportunity to teach younger soldiers how what they do impacts the bigger picture for the platoon or the company,” he explained.

The training, while somewhat unconventional, remains structured. Sessions tend to include a briefing from the section or platoon leader. There are also required training manual readings.

Game play is treated like the real thing, as leaders issue commands and soldiers use proper call-for-fire procedures. And after the soldiers complete an online training session, there is an after action review to talk about how the soldiers can do better in the next exercise.

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

Lists

4 things you immediately learn after treating a Taliban fighter

Corpsman and combat medics often get tasked with being quasi-detectives before, during, and after coming in contact with the enemy. Due to the Geneva Convention and a special oath we take, we’re bound to treat every patient that comes our way — regardless of what side they’re on.


After every mission or patrol, the infantry squad gathers to conduct a debriefing of the events that transpired. It’s in this moment that thoughts and ideas are discussed before squad breaks for some decompression time.

If the corpsman and combat medic took care of an enemy patient and discovered new information, everyone needs to know — the info could save lives down the line.

Related: This is what it was like fighting alongside Afghan troops

So, what kinds of things do we look for outside of the obvious when we treat the bad guys?

4. The importance of elbows.

Ask any seasoned sniper, “how are your elbows?” He’ll probably tell you that they’re bruised as hell. Many snipers lose superficial sensation in the bony joint after spending hours in the prone position, lining up that perfect shot.

When a Taliban fighter has sore or bruised elbows, chances are they took a few shots at allied forces in the past. The squad doc can usually check during a standard exam.

US Army tankers are playing video games online to train for tank warfare during the coronavirus pandemic
Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle notices his Iraq host with bruised elbows, making him a potential sniper. (Screenshot from American Sniper, property of Warner Brothers)

3. Scars are telling.

The Taliban are well known for seeking American treatment for minor issues, but typically to go to their own so-called “doctors” when they get shot. Medical staff commonly search for other injuries while conducting their exam. Scarring due to significant injury is immediately red flagged.

Although the bad guy will likely make up a sh*t excuse for the healed-over wound via the interpreter, moving forward, he’s a guy you probably shouldn’t trust.

Also Read: 11 memes that are way too real for every Corpsman

2. Always consider time frame.

Often, the Taliban shows up at the American front gates, pleading for medical attention while claiming to have been innocently shot. This claim usually earns them entry into the allied base under close guard. Next, the potential bad guy gives a statement and a time frame of when he was injured.

This information will be routed up to the intel office to be thoroughly verified. Oftentimes, the state of the wound doesn’t match up with the time frame given. As a “doc,” always recall the typical stages of healing and determine how old the really wound is, regardless of statement.

1. There’s a little hope with every patient you encounter.

Although you’re on opposing sides, there’s some good in every patient you come across. From the youngest to the oldest, your professionalism and kindness could stop a future attack down the line. Winning the “hearts and minds” isn’t complete bullsh*t, but it’s close.

US Army tankers are playing video games online to train for tank warfare during the coronavirus pandemic
Doc Silva handshakes the hand of a few Afghan children while on patrol. (Image from Wikipedia Commons)

MIGHTY MOVIES

Iron Man’s ‘Endgame’ death could have looked a lot more grisly

If you were taken aback by Tony Stark’s face during his final moments in “Avengers: Endgame,” it could have looked a lot more grisly.

“We gave the filmmakers a full range [of looks] to choose from and one of those was where the energy from the stones had acted right up into his face and popped one of his eyeballs out and it was hanging out on his cheek,” Weta digital VFX supervisor Matt Aitken told Insider of one of the most gruesome designs they did for Iron Man’s death.

“They didn’t go for that one,” Aitken chuckled.


The “Endgame” visual effects team, consisting of Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), Marvel, and Weta Digital, put together a full range of looks for Marvel Studios and directors Anthony and Joe Russo to look over.

The team needed to strike the perfect balance between a look that was believable enough that Tony could die, but that wasn’t too scary for kids and families to watch together.

US Army tankers are playing video games online to train for tank warfare during the coronavirus pandemic

This was one of many designs made for Tony’s death scene.

(Marvel Studios)

“With any development item, you want to be able to give the filmmakers a full gamut, from sort of a light touch all the way to horror, and this will never be in it,” said Marvel VFX producer Jen Underdahl. “But by doing that exercise and by letting them see sort of every stage, they can kind of pinpoint and circle the drain on where they think the look is going to settle.”

“We did go several rounds on that guy from grisly to not so grisly to more light of a touch, back to OK this is the spot where we think the audience is not going to get too freaked out, but also really understand that Tony has reached the point of no return,” Underdahl added.

The film helped lay out viewer’s expectations for Tony’s impending death by physically showing the damage the stones did to two other larger, powerful characters. The idea was that, hopefully, by the time Tony snapped and used the gauntlet viewers would be able to see the consequences of him wielding the stones.

“We had seeded in the film this notion of Thanos having damage. There are consequences to him snapping and pursuing this ideology. You see the damage in his face and what that did to him, and he’s built for this,” said Underdahl. “Then [you] see the consequences to Smart Hulk, who was made of gamma radiation and the damage that it did there.”

US Army tankers are playing video games online to train for tank warfare during the coronavirus pandemic

If this is what the stones did to Hulk, then you had to know it wasn’t going to go well for Tony.

(Marvel Studios, composite by Kirsten Acuna)

“You knew somewhere in the math that Tony himself, even though he’s got this suit and it’s going to fight for him, ultimately what’s going to result would be something he couldn’t recover from,” she added.

Atkins, Underdahl, and Marvel visual effects supervisor Swen Gillberg said they pushed the design past where they wanted to go so that they ultimately fell somewhere right in the middle of two extremes.

Another one of those extreme looks involved a nod to one of Batman’s most famous villains.

“We did do a Two-Face version where you got inside and you saw the sinews and you saw them in the teeth and that,” said Underdahl of another one of the more grisly Tony Stark designs.

In “The Dark Knight,” the Batman villain, Harvey Dent, is severely burned after half of his face is lit on fire.

US Army tankers are playing video games online to train for tank warfare during the coronavirus pandemic

For reference, here’s how Dent/Two-Face looks. I think it’s safe to say no one would have wanted to see this version of Tony.

(Warner Bros.)

“It takes you away from this really powerful moment,” said Underdahl of why that wouldn’t have been the right move for that moment. “You don’t want to be focusing on that or grossed out.”

“When he’s collapsing against the tree stump, you’ve got to know that he’s in a really bad predicament, that he has made this terrible sacrifice,” Atkins added. “But then you also didn’t want it to distract from his performance. And it’s a really subtle performance that he has in those intimate moments with Spidey and then with Pepper. So yeah we definitely worked quite hard on achieving that one, but we got there.”

“Avengers: Endgame” is one of 10 films on the shortlist for the visual effects category at the 92nd Academy Awards. The five final Oscar nominees will be announced Monday morning.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

Read more:

MIGHTY CULTURE

Former NASA scientist explains why there is no dark side of the moon

Contrary to what you may have heard, there is no mysterious dark side of the moon.

Yes, there is a side of the moon that we never see from Earth, but it’s not dark all the time.

James O’Donoghue, a former NASA scientist who now works at the Japanese space agency (JAXA), made a new animation to explain how that works.

“Remember not to say ‘dark side of the moon’ when referring to the ‘far side of the moon,'” O’Donoghue said on Twitter. “This graphic shows the dark side is always in motion.”


The video shows how sunlight falls across the moon as it orbits Earth. In one orbit of about 29.5 days, all sides of the moon are bathed in sunlight at some point.

Sun-Earth-Moon interaction: NORTHERN hemisphere view

www.youtube.com

We always see the same side of the moon from Earth

The moon is tidally locked with Earth, which means that we are always looking at the same side of it. The other side — the far side — isn’t visible to us, but it’s not in permanent darkness.

The video shows our view from Earth as the moon passes through its month-by-month phases, from full moon to new moon. At the bottom right corner, the animation also tracks the boundary of sunlight falling across the moon as it rotates.

So, half of the moon is in darkness at any given time. It’s just that the darkness is always moving. There is no permanently dark side.

“You can still say dark side of the moon, it’s still a real thing,” O’Donoghue said on Twitter. “A better phrase and one we use in astronomy is the Night Side: It’s unambiguous and informative of the situation being discussed.”

Here’s what it looks like from Earth’s southern hemisphere:

Sun-Earth-Moon interaction: SOUTHERN hemisphere view

www.youtube.com

In the last year, O’Donoghue has created a slew of scientific animations like this. His first were for a NASA news release about Saturn’s vanishing rings. After that, he moved on to animating other difficult-to-grasp space concepts, like the torturously slow speed of light.

“My animations were made to show as instantly as possible the whole context of what I’m trying to convey,” O’Donoghue previously told Business Insider, referring to those earlier videos. “When I revised for my exams, I used to draw complex concepts out by hand just to truly understand, so that’s what I’m doing here.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch this video from a C-130 fighting California forest fires

The California National Guard posted a video on Facebook on July 28, 2018, from the cockpit of a C-130 as the aircraft dropped flame retardant on the Carr Fire raging in California .

The video gives a first-person perspective from the C-130 cockpit as the plane slowly approaches part of the blaze concentrated on a hilltop, eventually sweeping around the side before you can hear the retardant being released.


The Carr Fire broke out on July 23, 2018, near a small California community called Shasta. By July 26, 2018, the blaze had grown to 28,000 acres. By July 30, 2018, it had grown to over 95,000 acres, and is currently only 17% contained.

Six civilians, including two firefighters, have thus far have been killed, and according to CNN, seven more civilians are missing.

More than 3,000 firefighters have been dispatched to the scene, and about 39,000 people have been evacuated from their homes.


www.facebook.com

Watch the video from the C-130 below:

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Drones & detonations: How Sri Lanka is responding to the attacks

Sri Lanka has banned drones and is detonating suspicious items around its capital city in the aftermath of a series of deadly bombings on Easter Sunday that killed at least 359 people.

In a statement, Sri Lanka’s civil aviation authority said it was banning drones and unmanned aircraft because of the “existing security situation in the country,” The Associated Press reported.The ban will remain in place until further notice, Sri Lankan authorities said.

Investigators were searching for other possible explosive devices and stopping to search people and vehicles in Colombo on April 25, 2019, AP reported, four days after blasts ripped through hotels and churches across Sri Lanka.


Few people were outside in parts of the city while authorities searched locations near where the bombs went off, according to the AP. Sri Lanka has also imposed a curfew, from 10 p.m. until 4 a.m. local time.

Sri Lanka Bombings: What the Scale of the Attacks Tells Us | NYT News

www.youtube.com

Drones carrying explosives have previously been used by militant groups such as ISIS, which has claimed responsibility for the Sri Lankan attacks.

But ISIS’ links to the attacks have not been proven, and authorities have blamed National Towheed Jamaat, a local extremist group that has not taken public responsibility. A high-level intelligence official told CNN that the group was planning another round of attacks in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan authorities said they believe an international network of extremists could have helped the group carry out the attacks.

Almost 60 people have been detained in relation to the bombings, while two brothers who are believed to have been involved in the bombings, Imsath Ahmed Ibrahim and Ilham Ahmed Ibrahim, were members of one of the city’s wealthiest families.

Sri Lanka’s deputy defence minister said on April 24, 2019, that the country believes one of the bombers studied in the UK and Australia.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s how to watch SpaceX try its ‘most difficult launch ever’

Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of SpaceX, said his rocket company’s toughest mission yet has arrived — and you can watch it live online.

Sometime between 11:30 p.m. ET on June 24, 2019, and 2:30 a.m. ET on June 25, 2019, a Falcon Heavy rocket will try to lift off from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Tonight’s launch attempt marks SpaceX’s third-ever with Falcon Heavy. The rocket design debuted in February 2018, has three reusable boosters, and is considered the planet’s most powerful launch system in use today.

“This will be our most difficult launch ever,” Musk tweeted on June 19, 2019.


What makes this mission, called Space Test Program-2 (STP-2), so challenging is what’s stacked inside the rocket’s nose cone: 24 government and commercial satellites that together weigh about 8,150 pounds (3,700 kilograms). When fully fueled, a Falcon Heavy rocket weighs about 1,566 tons (1,420 metric tons), or more than 300 adult elephants’ worth of mass.

US Army tankers are playing video games online to train for tank warfare during the coronavirus pandemic

An 8,150-pound (3,700-kilogram) stack of 24 government and commercial satellites inside the nose cone of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket in June 2019.

(Official Space Missile Systems Center/DoD via Twitter)

After getting its behemoth rocket off the pad at Launch Complex 39-A, SpaceX has to deploy the two dozen spacecraft into multiple orbits around Earth over several hours. To do this, it must shut down and reignite the engine of an upper-stage rocket four times, according to the company.

One satellite holds NASA’s Deep Space Atomic Clock, which may change the way robots and astronauts navigate space. Another spacecraft is the Planetary Society’s LightSail, an experiment that could change how vehicles propel themselves to a destination. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is also launching six small weather satellites built in partnership with Taiwan.

There’s even a spacecraft holding the ashes of 152 people, and it will orbit Earth for about 25 years before careening back as an artificial meteor.

But SpaceX will also be attempting to land all three of the rocket’s 16-story boosters back on Earth for reuse in future launches. The two attached to the side of the Falcon Heavy rocket are set to touch down on land a few minutes after liftoff.

Meanwhile, the central or core booster — which will fire longer and disconnect from the upper-stage rocket later in the flight — will try to land on a drone ship sitting about 770 miles (1,240 kilometers) off the coast of Florida in the Atlantic Ocean.

Watch SpaceX’s launch attempt live on Monday night

SpaceX is streaming the STP-2 mission live on YouTube, and the company said its broadcast would begin about 20 minutes before liftoff (about 11:10 p.m. ET).

There’s a 20% chance that SpaceX will delay its launch because of thunderstorms, according to a forecast issued by the US Air Force on Monday morning. If the launch is pushed to its backup window 24 hours later, there’s a 30% chance of delay.

If you want to follow the launch and deployment events, we’ve included a detailed timeline below the YouTube embed.

STP-2 Mission

www.youtube.com

Launch events and timing relative to the moment Falcon Heavy lifts off the pad are outlined below and come from SpaceX’s press kit for the STP-2 mission.

-53:00— SpaceX launch director verifies go for propellant load
-50:00— First-stage RP-1 (rocket grade kerosene) loading begins
-45:00— First-stage LOX (liquid oxygen) loading begins
-35:00— Second-stage RP-1 (rocket grade kerosene) loading begins
-18:30— Second-stage LOX loading begins
-07:00— Falcon Heavy begins prelaunch engine chill
-01:30— Flight computer commanded to begin final prelaunch checks
-01:00— Propellant tanks pressurize for flight
-00:45— SpaceX launch director verifies go for launch
-00:02— Engine controller commands engine-ignition sequence to start
-00:00— Falcon Heavy liftoff

Once the rocket lifts off, Falcon Heavy hardware and its payload will go through a series of crucial maneuvers. The side boosters and core booster will try to separate and land. Following that, the rocket’s upper or second stage will propel into orbit, then attempt to deploy its 24 satellites from a device called the Integrated Payload Stack over several hours.

The timing and events below are also relative to liftoff, in hours, minutes, and seconds.

00:00:42— Max Q (moment of peak mechanical stress on the rocket)
00:02:27— Booster engine cutoff (BECO)
00:02:31— Side boosters separate from center core
00:02:49— Side boosters begin boost-back burn
00:03:27— Center core engine shutdown/main engine cutoff (MECO)
00:03:31— Center core and 2nd stage separate
00:03:38— 2nd stage engine starts (SES-1)
00:04:03— Fairing deployment
00:07:13— Side boosters begin entry burn
00:08:41— Side booster landings
00:08:38— 2nd stage engine cutoff (SECO-1)
00:08:53— Center core begins entry burn
00:11:21— Center core landing
00:12:55— Spacecraft deployments begin
01:12:39— Second-stage engine restart (SES-2)
01:13:00— Second-stage engine cutoff (SECO-2)
02:07:35— Second-stage engine restart (SES-3)
02:08:04— Second-stage engine cutoff (SECO-3)
03:27:27— Second-stage engine restart (SES-4)
03:28:03— Second-stage engine cutoff (SECO-4)
03:34:09— Final spacecraft deployment

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

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

This toddler’s White House briefing on COVID-19 is the best thing you’ll see today

With an abundance of data points on COVID-19 — the news, your friend from high school who has turned into a respiratory and infectious disease expert on social media despite never going to med school, your family, your neighbors, that group text — it’s difficult to discern what is relevant and what is truthful.

Finally, here’s one source that absolutely nails it. Three-year-old toddler “Dr. Big Sister” Hannah Curtis delivers a spot on briefing from her very own White House.



MIGHTY TRENDING

25 killed in Afghan helicopter crash

An Afghan National Army helicopter carrying senior officials has crashed in bad weather in the western province of Farah, killing all 25 on board, a local official says.

Naser Mehri, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said the helicopter crashed shortly after taking off from the mountainous Anar Dara district in the morning of Oct. 31, 2018, heading toward the nearby province of Herat.

He said the copter crashed in bad weather. A Taliban spokesman said the militants shot it down.


Mehri said the passengers included the deputy corps commander of Afghanistan’s western zone and the head of the Farah provincial council.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yusuf Ahmadi claimed the militants had downed the helicopter but failed to provide evidence. Defense Ministry spokesman Ghafor Ahmad Jawed rejected the Taliban claim of responsibility as “totally wrong.”

Meanwhile, a suicide bomber struck outside Afghanistan’s largest prison on the eastern edge of Kabul, killing at least seven people, including prison workers and security personnel, officials said.

US Army tankers are playing video games online to train for tank warfare during the coronavirus pandemic

Afghan Col. Mahmoud Shah oversees the transfer of more than 30 detainees from Parwan Detention Facility to the Afghan National Detention Facility in October 2008.

Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said that the attacker targeted a bus carrying prison workers early on Oct. 31, 2018. The sprawling Pul-e Charkhi prison houses hundreds of inmates, including scores of Taliban militants.

According to Abadullah Karimi, a prison official, the attack occurred near the prison gate where a number of visitors were waiting to pass a rigorous security check before entering.

Another five were wounded in the blast, the officials said.

There has been no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 simple reasons the Union won the Civil War

If zeal could be weaponized in wartime, the Confederacy might have had a chance. Not everyone in the South was very confident about the Confederacy’s chances of winning the Civil War. As Rhett Butler pointed out in Gone With The Wind, there were just some things the South lacked that the North had in massive amounts — and it just so happened that all those things were the things you need to fight a war.

Cotton, slaves, and arrogance just wasn’t going to be enough to overcome everything else the Confederates lacked. Rhett Butler wasn’t far off in listing factories, coal mines, and shipyards as essential materials.


The fictional Rhett Butler only echoed statements made by prominent, prescient (and real) Southerners at the time, like Sam Houston.

“If you go to war with the United States, you will never conquer her, as she has the money and the men. If she does not whip you by guns, powder, and steel, she will starve you to death. It will take the flower of the country —the young men.”

The Confederacy never had a chance. The Civil War was just the death throes of an outmoded way of life that was incompatible with American ideals and the nail in its coffin was manufactured by Northern factories and foundries.

US Army tankers are playing video games online to train for tank warfare during the coronavirus pandemic

Manufacturing capacity

When it comes to actually fighting, there are some essentials that an army needs to be backed by — chief among them is the weapons of war. Southern historian Shelby Foote noted that the Industrial Revolution in the United States was in full swing at the time of the Civil War and much of that growing industrial strength was firmly in the North. Meanwhile, the South at the war’s onset was still chiefly an agrarian society which relied on material imported from outside the 11 would-be Confederate states.

It’s not that the Southern economy was poorly planned overall, it was just poorly planned for fighting a war.

US Army tankers are playing video games online to train for tank warfare during the coronavirus pandemic

Cotton awaiting transport in Arkansas.

Economics

Very closely related to industrial output is what the South could trade for those necessary war goods. When all is well, the South’s cotton-based economy was booming due to worldwide demand for the crop. The trouble was that the population density in the South was so low that much of the wealth of the United States (and the banks that go along with that money) were overwhelmingly located in the North.

When it came time to raise the money needed to fight a war, it was especially difficult for the South. Levying taxes on a small population didn’t raise the money necessary to fund the Confederate Army and, for other countries, investing in a country that may not exist in time for that investment to yield a return is a risky venture. And tariffs on imported goods only work if those goods make it to market, which brings us to…

US Army tankers are playing video games online to train for tank warfare during the coronavirus pandemic

Civil War sailors were some of the saltiest.

Naval strength

Although the Confederacy saw some success at sea, the Confederate Navy was largely outgunned by the Union Navy. One of the first things the Union did was implement a naval blockade of Southern ports to keep supplies from getting to the Confederate Army while keeping that valuable Southern cotton from making it to foreign ports. The South’s import-export capacity fell by as much as 80 percent during the war.

US Army tankers are playing video games online to train for tank warfare during the coronavirus pandemic

Ground transport

Earlier I noted the Southern economy was poorly planned for fighting any war. That situation becomes more and more dire when fighting the war on the South’s home turf. The North’s industrialization required means of transport for manufactured goods and that meant a heavy investment in the fastest means of overland commercial transport available at the time: railroads.

Northern states created significant rail networks to connect manufacturing centers in major cities while the South’s cotton-based economy mainly relied on connecting plantations to major ports for export elsewhere. Railroad development was minimal in the South and large shipments were primarily made from inland areas by river to ports like New Orleans and Charleston – rivers that would get patrolled by the Union Navy.

US Army tankers are playing video games online to train for tank warfare during the coronavirus pandemic

The port of Charleston in 1860.

Population

People who live in a country are good for more than just paying taxes to fund a functional government and its armies, they also fuel the strength, reach, and capabilities of those armies. In the early battles of the Civil War, the South inflicted a lot more casualties on the North while keeping their numbers relatively low. But the North could handle those kinds of losses, they had more people to replace the multiple thousands killed on the battlefield.

For the South, time was not on their side. At the beginning of the war, the Union outnumbered the Confederates 2-to-1 and no matter how zealous Southerners were to defend the Confederacy, there simply wasn’t enough of them to be able to handle the kinds of losses the Union Army began to dish out by 1863. At Gettysburg, for example, Robert E. Lee’s army numbered as many as 75,000 men – but Lee lost a third of those men in the fighting. Those were hardened combat troops, not easily replaced.

US Army tankers are playing video games online to train for tank warfare during the coronavirus pandemic

Jefferson Davis was widely criticized by his own government, being called more of an Adams than a Washington.

Politics

Replacing troops was a contentious issue in the Confederate government. The Confederacy was staunchly a decentralized republic, dedicated to the supremacy of the states over the central government in Richmond. Political infighting hamstrung the Confederate war effort at times, most notably in the area of conscription. The Confederate draft was as unpopular in the South as it was in the North, but Southern governors called conscription the “essence of military despotism.”

In the end, the Confederate central government had to contend with the power of its own states along with the invading Union Army. In 1863, Texas’ governor wouldn’t even send Texan troops east for fears that they would be needed to fight Indians or Union troops invading his home state.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Green Beret to receive Medal of Honor for actions in Battle of Shok Valley

More than a decade ago, Army Master Sgt. Matthew Williams earned the Silver Star Medal for saving several of his Special Forces comrades during an hours-long mountainside firefight in Afghanistan.

This week, the Green Beret will see that decoration upgraded to the highest level — the Medal of Honor.

Williams was born Oct. 3, 1981, and spent most of his childhood in the small town of Boerne, Texas. He initially wanted to be a detective or work for the FBI when he grew up, so he got his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas.


But after 9/11, Williams started rethinking how he could serve his country. He did some research into Special Forces programs and, in September 2005, joined the Army. Two years later, he became a weapons sergeant — someone who knows U.S. and foreign weaponry well and often goes behind enemy lines to help friendly forces train and recruit.

On April 6, 2008, then-Sgt. Williams was on his first deployment with several other Special Forces operators for Operation Commando Wrath, a mission to capture or kill high-value targets in Afghanistan’s Shok Valley.

His team and about 100 Afghan commandos were dropped into the mountainous area by helicopter. As the leading edge of the group began moving up a jagged mountainside, insurgents started attacking from above.

“It was kind of quiet, then all of a sudden everything exploded all at once,” Williams later explained in an interview. “[The insurgents] had some pretty good shooters, and a lot of people up there waiting for us.”

US Army tankers are playing video games online to train for tank warfare during the coronavirus pandemic

A map pinpoints the Operation Commando Wrath insertion point in Shok Valley, April 6, 2008.

(Army graphic)

The part of the group under attack, which included the ground commander, was trapped. Meanwhile, Williams and the rest of the team had trailed behind at the bottom of the mountain, and they were forced to take cover while trying to fight back.

When Williams got word that some in the group ahead of him were injured and close to being overrun, he gathered several of the commandos.

He led them across a 100-meter valley of ice-covered boulders and through a fast-moving, waist-deep river on a rescue mission up the mountain. When they got to the forward group, the Afghan forces kept the insurgents at bay while the Americans figured out their next move.

“I went about halfway down, called a couple more of our guys and asked them to bring more commandos up so we could basically make a chain to pass these casualties down, because they were going to be on litters (stretchers),” Williams said.

US Army tankers are playing video games online to train for tank warfare during the coronavirus pandemic

Army Sgt. Matthew Williams and other team members assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group pose for a photograph as they to be picked up by a helicopter in eastern Afghanistan in late spring 2007.

(Photo by Army Master Sgt. Matthew Williams)

As they were setting up, another soldier was hit by sniper fire. Williams braved the enemy onslaught to give him first aid, get him on his feet, and help him climb down the mountain.

Williams then fought his way back up to the top to bring the rest of the endangered men down.

“I knew we couldn’t go up the same way we’d gone other times because it had been getting pretty heavy fire,” Williams said. “There was a cliff face that went around to a little outcropping. I saw that if we could scale that, we could get onto this outcropping, and we’d be able to come up from behind where those other guys were.”

It was a near-vertical, 60-foot mountain.

When Williams and others made it back to the top, he killed several insurgents and helped get communications back up and running. Then, still under fire, he went back to moving the wounded men down the mountainside to a little house they were using as their casualty collection point.

US Army tankers are playing video games online to train for tank warfare during the coronavirus pandemic

Army Sgt. Matthew Williams, assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group, conducts long-range weapons training at Camp Morehead, Afghanistan, during the fall of 2009.

(Army Master Sgt. Matthew Williams)

But they still weren’t safe; insurgents were threatening that position, too. So, over the next several hours, Williams led the Afghan commandos on another counterattack against more than 200 insurgents, keeping the enemy at bay until helicopters were able to fly in and evacuate the wounded.

“They were taking fire the whole entire time,” Williams said of the helicopter crews. “They were awesome pilots. They saved the day, really.”

Williams helped load the wounded men into the helicopters, then continued to direct fire to quell the enemy attack. That gave the rescue patrol time to move out without any further casualties.

The whole ordeal lasted more than six hours. Thankfully, no American service members were killed.

“That day was one of the worst predicaments of my life,” Williams said. “But the experience from that has helped me through my whole entire career — remain level-headed and focus on what needs to happen as opposed to what is happening.”

US Army tankers are playing video games online to train for tank warfare during the coronavirus pandemic

Army Sgt. Matthew Williams poses for a photo with his operational detachment’s interpreter in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, in the spring of 2007.

(Army Master Sgt. Matthew Williams)

Earning accolades

Several months later, for his amazing leadership under fire, Williams and nine of the men with him during that mission each received Silver Stars. Now, his decoration is being upgraded to the Medal of Honor. He’ll receive the award Oct. 30, 2019, in a ceremony at the White House.

“I think it’s an honor for me to receive this on behalf of the Special Forces regiment, hopefully representing them in a positive manner and helping get the story out about what it is that we’re actually doing and what Green Berets are capable of, ” Williams said.

Williams is the second member of his detachment to receive the nation’s highest honor for this operation. Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer II received it a year ago.

US Army tankers are playing video games online to train for tank warfare during the coronavirus pandemic

Army Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Williams poses with his wife, Kate, just before they attend a friend’s wedding in October 2013.

(Army Master Sgt. Matthew Williams)

After his 2008 deployment, Williams went home and met his wife, Kate. They had a son. Williams has deployed five times since then and has done several extended training rotations in the field.

The family lives at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where Williams continues his role in the Special Forces. He said he’s hoping to keep that up, even with the notoriety that comes with being a Medal of Honor recipient.

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

Articles

US releases photos of ‘unsafe’ Russian jet intercept

The  European Command has released dramatic photos of a Ran jet coming within a few feet of a  reconnaissance jet over the Baltic Sea in a maneuver that has been criticized as fe.


US Army tankers are playing video games online to train for tank warfare during the coronavirus pandemic
A U.S. RC-135U flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea was intercepted by a Russian SU-27 Flanker June 19, 2017. Due to the high rate of closure speed and poor control of the aircraft during the intercept, this interaction was determined to be unsafe. (Photo: U.S. EUCOM)

The photographs released Friday show the Ran SU-27 coming so close to the wing of the  RC-135U that the Ran pilot can be seen in the cockpit in some images.

Intercepts are common and are usually considered routine, but EUCOM said in this case on June 19 “due to the high rate of closure speed and poor control of the aircraft during the intercept, this interaction was determined to be fe.”

US Army tankers are playing video games online to train for tank warfare during the coronavirus pandemic
(Photo: U.S. EUCOM)

Two days laterSweden summoned Ra’s ambassador after another SU-27 jet flew close to a Swedish Gulfstream reconnaissance plane over the Baltic.

Additional photos from the intercept are below:

US Army tankers are playing video games online to train for tank warfare during the coronavirus pandemic
(Photo: U.S. EUCOM)

US Army tankers are playing video games online to train for tank warfare during the coronavirus pandemic
(Photo: U.S. EUCOM)

US Army tankers are playing video games online to train for tank warfare during the coronavirus pandemic
(Photo: U.S. EUCOM)

US Army tankers are playing video games online to train for tank warfare during the coronavirus pandemic
(Photo: U.S. EUCOM)

Articles

The drones hunting ISIS have grown more lethal

The Air Force Special Operations Command runs 37 Reaper drones that have just been upgraded with better sensors, upgraded weapons software, and extra fuel tanks so they can kill more targets and watch more objectives on missions against ISIS and other enemies.


US Army tankers are playing video games online to train for tank warfare during the coronavirus pandemic
An MQ-9 Reaper prepares to land after a mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

Identifying ISIS targets often requires a long information-collection period, and killing them takes a rapid engagement once the kill order is given. The upgraded drones are better at both stages of the hunt.

The sensor ball from the original MQ-9 Reapers was replaced with a high-definition camera. The software that controls the camera was also upgraded to enable automatic detection of threats and the ability to track 12 moving targets at once. Better communications gear was installed to allow ground controllers and others to see the higher quality video coming from the drones.

Reapers can carry up to 14 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. The upgraded version carries the same munitions but can now fire them in a “super ripple,” firing a missile every 0.32 seconds. The external fuel tanks give the Reaper pilots more time to identify targets, track them, and plan the engagement before firing.

US Army tankers are playing video games online to train for tank warfare during the coronavirus pandemic
An MQ-9 Reaper on the flightline. Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. John Bainter

All this comes at a cost to weight. To increase thrust and improve takeoff performance, a system to inject alcohol and water into the engine was added and a four-bladed propeller was incorporated. The landing gear was also improved.

American drones have already had a lot of success in the fight against ISIS. Jihadi John, the British-born militant who conducted many of the Islamic State’s early, high-profile executions, was killed by two Hellfire missiles fired from a drone.

A drone strike in Jul. 2015 killed 31 insurgents including Hafiz Saeed, the man thought to have led ISIS in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The drones were upgraded under a $34 million Medium Altitude Long Endurance Tactical (MALET) Lead-Off Hitter (LOH) contract.