The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition) - We Are The Mighty
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The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)

Here you go. Read this and then tell your CO, “I’m informed, sir.” He’ll appreciate that.


Now: 24 historic photos made even more amazing with color 

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This missile could make the Army’s grenade launcher more deadly

Everyone who’s fired one knows that the M320 grenade launcher isn’t the most accurate weapon in the infantry arsenal.


Propelled with a standard charge, the 40mm grenade follows a ballistic arc that forces a trooper to lob the projectile onto its target rather than shoot it straight in.

But new technology has allowed some weapons makers to miniaturize the same guidance systems housed in air-dropped missiles into ones that can be easily carried by ground troops.

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)
The Pike™ munition measures 40 mm in diameter, only a half-inch larger than the 25 mm rounds fired by some military machine guns. (Photo from Raytheon)

That’s resulted in a missile small enough to be fired from an M320 or FN Mk-13 grenade launcher but with near pinpoint accuracy up to two miles away.

Built by defense manufacturer Raytheon, the Pike missile is only 16 inches long and weighs less than two pounds. The missile is guided to its target by following a laser pointed by a second shooter.

“Pike uses a digital, semi-active laser seeker to engage both fixed and slow-moving, mid-range targets,” said J. R. Smith, Raytheon’s Advanced Land Warfare Systems director. “This new guided munition can provide the warfighter with precision, extended-range capability never before seen in a hand-held weapon on the battlefield.”

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)
The Pike munition is the world’s only hand-launched precision-guided weapon. (Photo from Raytheon)

The missile ejects 10 feet from the shooter before the rocket motor ignites and is smokeless in order to reduce the missile’s signature and keep the shooters concealed.

The system was successfully tested in 2015 and weapons experts in the Army and special operations units are looking hard at using the system in combat, documents show.

Raytheon says future developments include giving Pike the ability to network with other missiles so more than one can ride the same laser, and company officials say the missile is being adapted for UAVs and small boats.

“Pike will become smarter and smarter as we continue to develop its capabilities,” said Smith. “In the current configuration, the warfighter will enter programmable laser codes prior to loading Pike into its launcher. Spiral development calls for multiple-round simultaneous programming and targeting with data link capabilities.”

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The Air Force wants to fly the B-2 Bomber into the 2050s

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joel Pfiester.


Air Force pilots of the 1980s-era stealthy B-2 Spirit bomber plan to arm the B-2 with new weapons and upgrade the aircraft to fly the aircraft on attack missions against enemy air defenses well into the 2050s, service officials said.

In coming years, the B-2 will be armed with with next generation digital nuclear weapons such as the B-61 Mod 12 with a tail kit and an Long Range Stand-Off weapon or, LRSO, an air-launched, guided nuclear cruise missile, service officials said.

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nick Wilson

The B-61 Mod 12 is an ongoing modernization program which seeks to integrate the B-61 Mods 3, 4, 7 and 10 into a single variant with a guided tail kit. The B-61 Mod 12 is being engineered to rely on an inertial measurement unit for navigation.

In addition to the LRSO, B83 and B-61 Mod 12, the B-2 will also carry the B-61 Mod 11, a nuclear weapon designed with penetration capabilities, Air Force officials said.

The LRSO will replace the Air Launched Cruise Missile, or ALCM, which right now is only carried by the B-52 bomber, officials said.

Alongside its nuclear arsenal, the B-2 will carry a wide range of conventional weapons to include precision-guided 2,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMs, 5,000-pound JDAMs, Joint Standoff Weapons, Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles and GBU 28 5,000-pound bunker buster weapons, among others.

The platform is also preparing to integrate a long-range conventional air-to-ground standoff weapon called the JASSM-ER, for Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, Extended Range.

The B-2 can also carry a 30,000-pound conventional bomb known as the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, Maj. Kent Mickelson, director of operations for 394th combat training squadron, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

“This is a GBU-28 (bunker-buster weapon) on steroids. It will go in and take out deeply buried targets,” he said.

“It is a dream to fly. It is so smooth,” Mickelson added.

In a special interview designed to offer a rare look into the technologies and elements of the B-2, Mickelson explained that the platform has held up and remained very effective – given that it was designed and built during the 80s.

Alongside his current role, Mickelson is also a B-2 pilot with experience flying missions and planning stealth bomber attacks, such as the bombing missions over Libya in 2011.

“It is a testament to the engineering team that here we are in 2016 and the B-2 is still able to do its job just as well today as it did in the 80s. While we look forward to modernization, nobody should come away with the thought that the B-2 isn’t ready to deal with the threats that are out there today,” he said.  “It is really an awesome bombing platform and it is just a marvel of technology.”

The B-2 is engineered with avionics, radar and communications technologies designed to identify and destroy enemy targets from high altitudes above hostile territory.

“It is a digital airplane. We are presented with what is commonly referred to as glass cockpit,” Mickelson said.

The glass cockpit includes various digital displays, including one showing Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) information which paints a rendering or picture of the ground below.

“SAR provides the pilots with a realistic display of the ground that they are able to use for targeting,” Mickelson said.

The B-2 has a two-man crew with only two ejection seats. Also, the crew is trained to deal with the rigors of a 40-hour mission.

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)
The cockpit of the B-2 Spirit | US Air Force photo

“The B-2 represents a huge leap in technology from our legacy platforms such as the B-52 and the B-1 bomber. This involved taking the best of what is available and giving it to the aircrew,” Mickelson said.

The Air Force currently operates 20 B-2 bombers, with the majority of them based at Whiteman AFB in Missouri. The B-2 can reach altitudes of 50,000 feet and carry 40,000 pounds of payload, including both conventional and nuclear weapons.

The aircraft, which entered service in the 1980s, has flown missions over Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan. In fact, given its ability to fly as many as 6,000 nautical miles without need to refuel, the B-2 flew from Missouri all the way to an island off the coast of India called Diego Garcia – before launching bombing missions over Afghanistan.

“Taking off from Whiteman and landing at Diego Garcia was one of the longest combat sorties the B-2 has ever taken. The bomber was very successful in Afghanistan and very successful in the early parts of the wars in Iraq and Libya,” Michelson added.

The B-2 crew uses what’s called a “long-duration kit,” which includes items such as a cot for sleeping and other essentials deemed necessary for a long flight, Mickelson explained.

B-2 Mission

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)
HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — A B-2 Spirit drops 32 inert Joint Direct Attack Munitions Aug. 27 at the Utah Testing and Training Range here.

As a stealth bomber engineered during the height of the Cold War, the B-2 was designed to elude Soviet air defenses and strike enemy targets – without an enemy ever knowing the aircraft was even there. This stealthy technological ability is referred to by industry experts as being able to evade air defenses using both high-frequency “engagement” radar, which can target planes, and lower frequency “surveillance” radar which can let enemies know an aircraft is in the vicinity.

The B-2 is described as a platform which can operate undetected over enemy territory and, in effect, “knock down the door” by destroying enemy radar and air defenses so that other aircraft can fly through a radar “corridor” and attack.

However, enemy air defenses are increasingly becoming technologically advanced and more sophisticated; some emerging systems are even able to detect some stealth aircraft using systems which are better networked, using faster computer processors and able to better detect aircraft at longer distances on a greater number of frequencies.

The Air Force plans to operate the B-2 alongside its new, now-in-development bomber called the Long Range Strike – Bomber, or LRS-B. well into the 2050s.

B-2 Modernization Upgrades – Taking the Stealth Bomber Into the 2050s

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kenny Holston

As a result, the B-2 fleet is undergoing a series of modernization upgrades in order to ensure the aircraft can remain at its ultimate effective capability for the next several decades, Mickelson said.

One of the key upgrades is called the Defensive Management System, a technology which helps inform the B-2 crew about the location of enemy air defenses. Therefore, if there are emerging air defenses equipped with the technology sufficient to detect the B-2, the aircraft will have occasion to maneuver in such a way as to stay outside of their range.

The Defensive Management System is slated to be operational by the mid-2020s, Mickelson added.

“The whole key is to give us better situational awareness so we are able to make sound decisions in the cockpit about where we need to put the aircraft,” he added.

The B-2 is also moving to an extremely high frequency satellite in order to better facilitate communications with command and control. For instance, the communications upgrade could make it possible for the aircraft crew to receive bombing instructions from the President in the unlikely event of a nuclear detonation.

“This program will help with nuclear and conventional communications. It will provide a very big increase in the bandwidth available for the B-2, which means an increased speed of data flow. We are excited about this upgrade,” Mickelson explained.

The stealth aircraft uses a commonly deployed data link called LINK-16 and both UHF and VHF data links, as well. Michelson explained that the B-2 is capable of communicating with ground control stations, command and control headquarters and is also able to receive information from other manned and unmanned assets such as drones.

Information from nearby drones, however, would at the moment most likely need to first transmit through a ground control station. That being said, emerging technology may soon allow platforms like the B-2 to receive real-time video feeds from nearby drones in the air.

The B-2 is also being engineered with a new flight management control processor designed to expand and modernize the on-board computers and enable the addition of new software.

This involves the re-hosting of the flight management control processors, the brains of the airplane, onto much more capable integrated processing units. This results in the laying-in of some new fiber optic cable as opposed to the mix bus cable being used right now – because the B-2’s computers from the 80s are getting maxed out and overloaded with data, Air Force officials told Scout Warrior.

The new processor increases the performance of the avionics and on-board computer systems by about 1,000-times, he added. The overall flight management control processor effort, slated to field by 2015 and 2016, is expected to cost $542 million.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why experts think Kim Jong Un never actually attended an elite military academy

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un is not only the leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he is the Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), the fourth-largest military in the world.

North Korea’s military is part of its foundation; Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Un’s grandfather and the founder of the so-called “Hermit Kingdom,” used his own military service — as a guerilla fighting against the Japanese occupation of Korea — to burnish his cult of personality, according to Washington Post reporter Anna Fifield’s book, “The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un.”

Military service is baked into the North Korean constitution; “National defense is the supreme duty and honor of citizens,” it says, and military service is generally compulsory. Kim has never served in the North Korean military but reportedly graduated near the top of his class at a prestigious military academy, a claim that experts and a former North Korean military member found highly suspect.


North Korea spends approximately 25% of its GDP on its military, including its nuclear program, spending .5 billion each year on its forces between 2004 and 2014. It boasts 1.1 million troops, about 5% of its population, according to CFR.

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)
(KCNA)

According to North Korean propaganda, the 35-year-old Kim Jong Un prepared to lead this massive force by attending Kim Il Sung Military University in Pyongyang; experts said it was more likely that he had received some instruction from military trainers associated with this university.

Some propaganda accounts cited by Fifield say Kim, who reportedly started at the academy when he was 18, was such a natural at military strategy that he was soon training his instructors.

Kim’s ‘elite’ alma mater

Kim Il Sung Military University is a “military institution for educating elite military officers,” according to Bruce W. Bennett, senior defense analyst at The RAND Corporation. It was established in 1952, according to North Korea Leadership Watch, and is one of several military training schools.

“The students of this university are middle level officers such as majors and lieutenant colonels,” Bennett said, equating the university to institutions like the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.

“It is the university that is a gateway to becoming a senior officer in the Korean People’s Army (KPA). Most of North Korean military generals studied in this university when they were mid-career,” Bennett told INSIDER via email.

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)

An image of Pyongyang, with Kim Il Sung Military University outlined.

(North Korea Leadership Watch/Google Images)

Fifield’s book, and official North Korean propaganda, report that Kim studied here alongside his older brother, Kim Jong Chol.

“It was their mother’s idea to send them to the military academy, a way to bolster her sons’ claim to succession,” Fifield writes. Kim Jong Un and Kim Jong Chol are the children of Kim Jong Il and Ko Yong Hui, to whom he was not officially married. Kim Jong Il installed Ko Yong Hui and her sons in a home in his compound, ensuring they were well cared for.

Kim Jong Un reportedly entered the university in 2002, after his early education in Switzerland, and began studying “juche-oriented military leadership,” Fifield writes, referring to the North Korean concept of juche, or self-reliance. Juche is essential to the North Korean identity, although the country was economically dependent on the Soviet Union until its collapse. China is now its most important economic relationship.

“I would expect that most of the training at Kim Il Sung Military University would be on military operations, military history, and political indoctrination,” Bennett told INSIDER via email.

“But a big part of the curriculum is likely also competition between the personnel to see how they deal with each other physically and mentally, which leads to forming bonds of friendship critical as officers are promoted.”

‘A natural at military strategy’

While Kim Jong Un never served in the KPA, North Korea Leadership Watch (NKLW) contends that it’s likely some students are able to enter Kim Il Sung Military University without any prior service, straight out of high school.

NKLW describes Kim Il Sung Military University as modeled on Soviet military academies; while there might be classes on North Korean military history, the structure and academics of Kim Il Sung Military University find their closest analogs in the Soviet system.

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Command of the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) in an unknown location in North Korea in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency.

(KCNA)

According to North Korean official state media, Fifield writes, Kim Jong Un was “such a natural at military strategy that he was instructing the instructors rather than learning from them.”

He graduated on Dec. 24, 2006, Fifield writes, “with honors,” after writing a final dissertation on “A Simulation for the Improvement of Accuracy in the Operational Map by the Global Positioning System (GPS).”

But a former member of the North Korean military who now lives in the US and is familiar with the Kim family said it was unlikely that Kim Jong Un actually attended Kim Il Sung Military University, at least not in the traditional sense.

“According to North Korean propaganda, Kim Jong Un attended Kim Il Sung Military University, but I couldn’t find any of his classmates or Army mates. If he really attended that university, somebody should know that he attended,” the former military member said.

“If Kim Jong Un actually attended that college, he has pictures, he has a record, and he has friends. But [none] of the North Korean elite could find his picture and his friends. I think it’s a kind of propaganda,” the former military member said, noting that the North Korean propaganda department would have exploited any evidence of Kim Jong Un having attended the university to build up his cult of personality.

Rather than actually physically attending classes, there were “probably private instructors visiting his house to give him a lecture,” the former military member said.

“Kim Il Sung Military University is a more closed university, the students are military officers, not civilians, so they can keep the secret that Kim Jong Un didn’t actually attend.”

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)

(KCNA)

Kim would have been unique in attending the military school named for his grandfather; “I don’t think most of the Kim family become military officers — they avoid becoming military officers,” the former military member said.

“They have a good life […] they don’t need to go [in] the military to risk their lives.”

In order to qualify for a school like Kim Il Sung Military University, potential recruits must have, “superior service records, excellent physical condition and trusted political reliability” and have “a flawless family background, be popular among fellow soldiers, and receive the approval of their commanding and political officers,” according to Joseph Bermudez’s book “Shield of the Great Leader: The Armed Forces of North Korea.”

NKLW contends that Kim probably had private tutoring for at least a few years, and that he was likely a very good student, exhausting teachers with his questions. The academics on military operations are thought to be rigorous, even if it’s unlikely Kim also participated in the physical and professional competitions that other students must face.

In whatever capacity he studied with the university’s instructors, it influenced his relationship with the North Korean military today, in particular the aggressive missile testing North Korea undertook under the third Kim leader.

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

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The 13 Funniest military memes for the week of Jan. 20

So, I found these military memes. You guys want to look at ’em? Cool. That’s cool.


1. The First sergeant enjoys it when you’re sad. It makes him nostalgic for when he had emotions (via U.S Army W.T.F! moments).

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)

2. The Brits are showing some solid leadership (via Pop smoke).

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)
Pretty sure I’d crash into that guy on the road just because I would be so confused by the traffic cone driving a truck.

ALSO SEE: Someone wrote a list of 65 ways civilians can simulate military life and it’s hilarious

3. Time for those college-level sweepers (via Decelerate Your Life).

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)
Bad news, guy. Sweepers never go away.

4. Maybe keep track of your bullet points throughout the year (via Air Force Nation).

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)
Hope someone is willing to grab you a to-go plate from the chow hall.

5. Immediately just became more interested in C.I.D. (via Lost in the Sauce).

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)
Will pay internet points for pictures of this poster on military bases.

6. You don’t want people to think you have low morale, right?

(via Maintainer Humor)

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)
What could be better than paying money for a shirt you don’t want so that you can wear it on runs you don’t want to wake up for?

7. Why does Abraham Lincoln suddenly look like Nicholas Cage when he’s incredulous?

(via The Salty Soldier)

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)
Seriously, y’all. It’s one, crappy weekend a month. And in exchange, you get to feel super superior to all the civilians you live with.

8. This would make fleet week way more interesting (via Sh-t my LPO says).

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)
We’re going to need a Rockin’ Red Fleet and a Bad-ss Blue Fleet as well.

9. I wish this meme showed the rest of the board. Some of us have some vouchers to sign and could use the help (via U.S Army W.T.F! moments).

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)

10. You get to see the tropical foreign lands on your phone during CQ (via The Salty Soldier).

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)
It’s the Navy that gets to visit the tropical lands.

11. Come on, it won’t be so bad. At least all your friends will be there (via Decelerate Your Life).

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)
Yup. All your friends and you. Sleeping in Rack City. Right on top of one another.

12. It’s really the person behind you that you have to worry about (via The Salty Soldier).

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)
That’s the guy who could take you out. It’s even worse if he has a bayonet fixed when it happens.

13. When you would pay to get a photo like this, but wouldn’t march one mile with it for a 4-day pass:

(via Military Memes)

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)

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This WWII bombing mission resulted in 5 Medals of Honor

It was one of the most dangerous and daring raids of World War II, and it resulted in the most medals of honor bestowed on America’s airmen from any battle in any war.


In the summer of 1943, the U.S. Army Air Force launched the audacious Operation Tidal Wave, an effort to destroy the largest supply of oil production for the German war machine in Ploesti, Romania.

The Ploesti oil fields produced a third of all Axis oil in Europe, so it was a prime target for an Allied attack. But unbeknownst to the Allies, it was also one of its most heavily defended cities in Europe — second only to Berlin.

Flying from Benghazi, Libya, a force of five bomb groups – the 98th and 376th from the Ninth Air Force and the 44th, 93rd, and 389th from the Eighth Air Force – (totaling 177 B-24 Liberator bombers) conducted the raid. The most effective way to strike the targets was to come in at tree-top level and use bombs with delayed fuses to allow planes to clear the area before detonation.

The force would have a series of troubling events before they even reached Ploesti.

In the early morning hours of August 1, 1943, just after the bombers began their mission, an overloaded bomber crashed on take-off and later the lead plane winged over and crashed into the sea.

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)
A B-24 Liberator taking off in Benghazi, bound for the oil fields at Ploesti. (U.S. Air Force photo)

As the raid approached its target,  the 98th Bomb Group fell behind, separating the planes into two groups. Then a navigational error sent the lead group away from Ploesti and toward Bucharest. Realizing their mistake, the 93rd, led by Lt. Col. Addison Baker, turned north toward the refineries. Seeing this, the 376th, led by Col. Keith Compton and mission commander Brig. Gen. Uzal Ent, also turned toward the target but turned away to look for a better entry point when they hit the anti-aircraft defenses.

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)
B-24 Liberators over Ploesti on Aug. 1, 1943. (U.S. Army photo)

The overwhelming ground fire soon overwhelmed many of the planes during the attack, and the pilots did everything they could to maintain course and strike their target.

In a final act of heroism, the pilots of a shot up plane tried to gain enough altitude for the crew to bail out but were too late – the plane crashed into the target, killing all on board.

Pilots Lt. Col. Baker and Maj. Jerstad were both awarded the Medal of Honor.

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)
U.S. B-24 Liberators over their target, Ploesti, Romania in August, 1943 (U.S. Army photo)

The 376th, unable to find a suitable line to the main refineries, was ordered to bomb targets of opportunity before coming home. One six-plane element breached the defenses and hit its target but was ineffective.

Just as the remnants of the 93rd and 376th were leaving the target, the straggling 98th and 44th, which followed the correct course, arrived with the fifth group, swerving north to hit a separate compound.

Due to the confusion, the first groups over the target hit anything they could. This meant the next two groups approached with their primary targets already in flames. To make matters worse, not all of the planes evacuated the target area, so pilots already dodging smoke and ground fire had to watch out for other bombers too.

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)
U.S. Army Air Forces hit the Axis oil fields in Ploesti, Romania, on Aug. 1, 1943 (U.S. Air Force photo)

Despite the hellacious conditions, Col. John Kane’s 98th Bomb Group and Col. Leon Johnson’s 44th Bomb Group flew on and attacked their targets with precision. For their bravery and leadership, both men were awarded the Medal of Honor.

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)
Consolidated B-24s on the Ploesti oil refinery bombing mission. (U.S. Air Force photo)

While the 98th and 44th fought their way through Ploesti, the 389th attacked the Campina facility to the north. Though more lightly defended than the main facility, the bombers still encountered heavy resistance.

Lieutenant Lloyd Herbert Hughes’ plane was hit numerous times in its fuel tanks and streamed fuel as it entered the target area. Motivated by duty and mission, he flew his plane into the inferno to hit his target. His own plane caught fire. Hughes attempted a crash landing but he and five other crew died. The enemy captured the rest. Lt. Hughes received the Medal of Honor for his devotion to duty.

The top turret gunner, Sgt. Zerrill Steen, continued to fire on enemy positions until his ammunition was exhausted. Steen was part of an air crew under Lt. Robert Horton. Horton’s plane was heavily damaged and went down, killing nine of the 10 crew. Sergeant Steen was captured and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross while in captivity.

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)
A B-24 Turret Gunner, wearing altitude mask, flak vest, and jacket. (U.S. army photo)

Of the 177 planes that took off from Benghazi, only 89 returned. While the enemy destroyed 54 planes, others crash landed at bases throughout the area. Over 300 men died, over 100 captured, and 78 were interred in Turkey.

Of the 89 returning planes, over a third were unfit to fly afterward. Five pilots received the Medal of Honor, three of them posthumously.

The high cost of the mission did not bring about great success. While the refinery at Campina was put out of action for the remainder of the war, the losses in oil production were repaired within weeks.

Due to the losses suffered by the attackers, August 1st came to be known as ‘Black Sunday.’

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This state just made it a crime to lie about military service

Pennsylvania State Rep. Rick Saccone’s bill that would make it a misdemeanor for someone to benefit from lying about military service or receiving decorations or medals unanimously passed the state Senate on June 20th and now heads to Gov. Tom Wolfs desk to be signed into law.


House Bill 168, introduced by Saccone, R-Elizabeth Township, in January, bans anyone from economically benefiting from lying about their service or decorations. Violators could be charged with a third-degree misdemeanor for doing so.

“Our men and women of the armed forces and their families deserve the utmost respect and praise, and criminals who disguise themselves as illegitimate veterans demean our true American heroes,” Saccone said.

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)
Rep. Rick Saccone (left). Photo from Peter Township Community TV via Vimeo.

Some people have actually tried to make money by falsely claiming veteran status, said Saccone, an Air Force veteran and a 2018 US Senate candidate. They will now be brought to account.

Saccone said lying about military service or medals to make money is truly an insult and discredit to the men and women who have selflessly sacrifices their lives on the battlefield.

Saccone introduced the same legislation in May 2016, calling it the Stolen Valor Act. It unanimously passed the state House in June 2016, but did not advance out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)
Pennsylvania capitol building. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

When the new legislative session started in January, Saccone re-introduced his bill and it passed the House 190-0 in April.

In 2013, Congress passed the federal Stolen Valor Act, which addressed those who might lie about having military decorations and medals, such as the Congressional Medal of Honor or Purple Heart, in order to obtain benefits.

Those convicted of violating the federal law can face fines and up to a year in jail.

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Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)


After a three-year absence, I returned to the big city a cliché, another down-and-out veteran with no job and nowhere to live. A local nonprofit helped me find a studio apartment, but a job proved more elusive.

I designed my résumé using whatever software was on my Mac. Thanks to the post-9/11 GI Bill, I was able to attend college after the military, so in the education section I proudly listed my bachelor’s degree and the fact that I’m currently enrolled in grad school, pursuing an MFA in creative writing. For work experience, I listed my military highlights: “Responsible for the accountability and maintenance of all assigned equipment,” Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, and Army Commendation Medal. I even mentioned that I was honorably discharged. I left off the small detail about how the Department of Veterans Affairs has clinically diagnosed me with PTSD. Who cares?

With my résumé complete, I went on Craigslist and scrolled through the admin/office jobs, applying to every single one. Moments later, my phone rang. A lady said she liked my résumé and that her tech company was looking to hire a veteran for an open position, which she described as 30 hours per week of light office duties. The job title was “culture coordinator,” and they needed to hire someone ASAP because the incumbent was taking time off to go to art school.

Related: Watch Colby Buzzell’s most intense gunfight in this short animated video

When she asked if I knew what a culture coordinator was, I told her no. She explained it was someone in charge of getting snacks for everyone, keeping the game room and lounge up to par, and scheduling company happy hours and other “super-fun team activities.”

I bullshitted her about how I had plenty of experience with all of this in the military. In the army, I said, they had us do group activities such as close-quarters hand-to-hand combat training whereby we beat the shit out of each other; road marches that felt like prep for the Bataan Death March; and six-mile unit-formation runs at six o’clock in the fucking morning that we did while singing cadences. All of this, theoretically, helped build esprit de corps. This office job would be easy.

My friend Janie has worked in tech for years. She knew exactly what a culture coordinator was and laughed when I told her I was interested. They had several such coordinators where she worked, although they called them “vibe coordinators” or the “vibe team.” Most tech companies are fighting talent wars, with many employees staying only a year, if that, before defecting to another company. So, to save money on recruiting costs — and to minimize damage to morale — these companies staff vibe coordinators to make sure employees are happy and never want to leave.

One of Janie’s good friends is a vibe coordinator. She told me all about how there’s this one vegan girl in her office who constantly sends mean emails complaining about the lunches, snacks, treats, etc. — how they’re not providing enough vegan options for after-work snack time and how there was cheese in the salad at lunch.

“I was reminded of my kids’ daycare center while walking past bean bags, ping-pong tables, a bike shop, PlayStations, and even a drum set with guitars casually placed around it.”

I got a flashback from basic training. One time, while MREs (meals ready to eat) were being handed out, a private raised his hand and said, “Excuse me, drill sergeant? I can’t eat this. I’m a vegetarian.” And before this private asked whether he could switch to a vegetarian MRE, which do exist, the drill sergeant answered, “Well, I guess you don’t eat, then.”

God, I miss the military.

Janie told me about another time when someone emailed the vibe team to complain about being sunburned through the window in their office (which I’m not sure is even possible). Another time, some remote employees in North Carolina filed a request to “set up a webcam so we can all experience the company party.”

I tried to imagine how I would handle this.

To the vegan girl, I’d say, “Fine. You don’t like it; you don’t eat it. Problem solved.” The guy getting sunburned? Fuck him. I’d throw him a bottle of sunblock. The person wanting a webcam to view the office party? Yeah, sure, log onto www.gofuckyourself.com. The password is getthefuckouttahere.

I’d be perfect for this job.

Janie invited me to her office so I could meet their vibe team and ask whatever questions I had. It was a cavernous space with a contemporary open-floor plan. I was reminded of my kids’ daycare center while walking past bean bags, ping-pong tables, a bike shop, PlayStations, and even a drum set with guitars casually placed around it. We passed by several employees, many of whom appeared to be cleaned-up versions of bike messengers, while others resembled adult incarnations of those shy geeks you went to high school with, kids who were in the band, the academic decathlon, or the model UN (which Janie had been in). When I stumbled across a room containing nothing more than a hammock, Janie said it was one of many break rooms where she sometimes slept off a hangover.

In the office’s open kitchen, I met three members of the vibe team. All were female; all wore leggings; all were cute and around my age; and all were frantically chopping fruits and vegetables, laying out a dessert tray, and arranging plates of finger foods loaded with various local cheeses, charcuterie, and gourmet crackers. This was happening in front of a fridge fully stocked with an insane assortment of craft beer, bottles of which a couple of techies were casually drinking mid-afternoon. One member of the team told me all about how she coordinated weekly yoga classes and periodically brought in cooking teachers because people there loved anything and everything “foodie.” I took notes in my journal. My idea of fine dining is a super burrito at El Farolito.

Janie advised me not to dress like a square at my own interview, because this would give the company the wrong impression. Dress “casual,” she said. I didn’t have time to drop 100 pounds or grow a beard, and I thought wearing fake glasses was pushing it, so I wore new Vans, Levis, and a long-sleeve, collared shirt from Ben Sherman.

I arrived punctually on the day of my interview. A receptionist didn’t greet me — an iPad did. It was cemented by the front door, and after a couple of minutes violently pressing the buttons, I gave up and banged on the door. Nobody answered. I made a phone call. Minutes later, a woman ushered me into a conference room and told me to wait. On the whiteboard was a bunch of stuff that looked like hieroglyphics. Through the window I could see people at their desks in the open-floor plan, one guy sporting a tank top and surf shorts. A few minutes later, the woman returned with the office’s current culture coordinator (who had stylish hair and a fun-looking dress). After telling me about the position and how everyone got along and loved to do group activities together, the woman asked if I’d be comfortable coordinating a game of hopscotch.

Let me pause for a biographical note: I was a 240 gunner in the army. I loved to go out on combat missions wearing gratuitous amounts of 7.62 ammunition. My job in Iraq, which I was trained to do, was pull the trigger when necessary. I worked with a gun team. I had an assistant gunner assigned to me who carried binoculars and whose job was to point out targets. I had an ammo bearer who carried a tripod and extra boxes of ammunition.

I couldn’t remember the last time I played hopscotch; in fact, I couldn’t remember how to play hopscotch, but of course I told her I had no problem Googling how that particular game worked. I could lead a damn good game of hopscotch if that’s what was needed to boost morale. A mantra pounded into my skull in the army was, “You don’t have to like it. You just have to do it.”

After this I was asked a series of questions about why I was perfect for the job. Again, with a smile — which physically hurt my face, because I hardly ever smile — I told them I loved people, I loved working with people, and I loved interacting with people. Making sure other people are happy makes me happy, I said. It makes life fulfilling.

I had come prepared with a list of fun group activities, such as boxing lessons at the gym I go to on Polk Street and happy-hour events at the 21 Club. I offered to bring in my old battalion commander to give motivational speeches, and I even offered to set up a company Twitter account where I’d Tweet stuff throughout the day like, “Hey guys! Come and get it! There’s some kick-ass dim sum in the break room popping off right now!” Or “Stick around after work today because we’ve got some Girl Scouts coming in with bomb-ass cookies to peddle!” A Twitter feed would show other tech companies just how much fun we were having.

I never got around to sharing these ideas, because the woman abruptly ended the interview and said their CEO was on vacation. We’ll call to schedule a follow-up, she told me.

I left the interview in defeat, sure I’d never hear from her again, but a couple of days later she called to schedule a follow-up. They said they liked me and that they liked my answers; I couldn’t believe it.

This time, I met with the CEO. He was about my age and dressed as if he was wearing laundry left on the floor the night before. He started the interview by thanking me for my service and said he was looking to give thanks by hiring a veteran. I knew this was bullshit — he was just looking for a tax break — but I nodded and smiled.

I expressed to this guy how there was nothing in life I wanted more than this job. Which was true. This job would have been one of the best things that happened to me. I remember when I told my mental health physician at the VA how I sometimes stayed in my room alone for days staring blankly at the wall, thinking, “What’s the point?” She advised me to get out and talk to other people, say hi to the cashier at the grocery store, ask how their day was going. Or, if nothing else, I should force myself to hang out in coffee shops and participate in group activities that didn’t include dive bars and alcohol. This job would be perfect for me because I’d be forced to socialize with people all fucking day. I had to have it.

A couple of days after this interview, I received an email from HR that read, “Thank you, but we’ve decided to go in a different direction with this position.” I understood, but for a while I always wondered, what if?

Now that I work a job where an app on my phone tells me to pick up people and drive them from point A to point B, I no longer think about that job. During my drives, I’ve realized a couple of things about the city. One is that we’re all vibe coordinators. You either work in tech, talk about tech, cater to tech, or, like me, you drive tech around town. It’s about keeping the vibe right. After all, if they’re happy, you’re happy.

Right?

Colby Buzzell an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran and the author of the books, My War: Killing Time in Iraq, Lost in America: A Dead-End Journey, and Thank You For Being Expendable Other Experiences (forthcoming from Byliner).  Check him out at http://www.colbybuzzell.com.

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How bad weather mixed with bad planning resulted in the Civil War’s ‘Mud March’

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)


The Mud March, an offensive launched into Virginia by the Union army on Jan. 20, 1863, was the perfect storm of bad luck, poor logistical planning and atrocious weather.

It was a huge operation aimed at striking a mortal blow to the Confederacy that ended up collapsing under its own sodden weight in the mud, with practically no combat to speak of.

Following the disastrous Union defeat at Fredericksburg, Virginia on Dec. 13, 1862, morale among Union soldiers and the public was hitting a new low.

The Union Army of the Potomac, under the command of the newly appointed Gen. Ambrose Burnside, had hoped to quickly cross the Rappahannock river at Fredericksburg and race to Richmond, the Confederate capital. The Army of Northern Virginia under Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was waiting for them.

The Union suffered nearly 13,000 casualties, mostly in doomed frontal assaults against dug-in rebel troops on Marye’s Heights, who had ideal shelter behind an existing stone wall. The Confederacy had taken less than half as many losses, and the Union army was sent reeling back.

Burnside was desperate to retrieve his reputation, which the slaughter at Fredericksburg had left in tatters. He proposed a bold new offensive against Lee’s left flank, drawing the enemy into the open from their defences where they could be destroyed. January had been mild and dry so far, and the need for a quick victory to make up for Fredericksburg was paramount.

But when the army departed on Jan. 20, a drizzling rain gradually became a total downpour that lasted for days. Pontoon bridges to be laid over the Rappahannock river were delayed by logistical problems and huge traffic jams developed. Two entire corps were misdirected through the same crossroads becoming completely ensnarled.

Artillery and wagons became hopelessly mired in the muddy roads. Hundreds of draft animals dropped dead of exhaustion trying to pull their loads. Some units could move less than two miles a day.

Faced with miserable soldiers shivering in the mud, Burnside decided to lift their spirits by ordering a ration of whiskey issued to the army. But the liquor was distributed a little too freely,and many units started to descend into drunken squalor. A brawl broke out between two regiments with a history of rivalry, leading a third regiment to intervene in an effort to break it up.

The resulting chaos may have been one of the largest fistfights in American history.

All surprise had been lost. Lee and his army were dug in on the other side of the Rappahannock. Confederate scouts and pickets observing the Union army jeered and shouted insults, waving signs emblazoned with “Burnside’s Army Stuck in the Mud” and “This Way to Richmond” with arrows pointing in the opposite direction.

The ill-fated offensive was called off. It was such a fiasco that Burnside was relieved as commander of the army on Jan. 25 and replaced the next day by Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker.

Burnside had never wanted the job of replacing general George B. McClellan, his predecessor, believing himself unfit for an army level command. He took it only after being informed that the command would go to Hooker, whom he greatly disliked and distrusted.

Following the disasters of Fredericksburg and the Mud March, Hooker ended up with the command anyway. Hooker went on to face calamity at the battle of Chancellorsville, where his army was routed by Lee despite outnumbering him by over 2-to-1.

The Union Army had faced a string of defeats in the Eastern Theatre, from the first Bull Run to the abattoir at Fredericksburg. But the Mud March shows how bad weather and bad planning can stop even a powerful army in its tracks as effectively as rifles and artillery.

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Today in military history: Italy declares war on Britain and France

On June 10, 1940, Italian Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini brought Italy into World War II aligning with Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany.

Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini founded and led the National Fascist Party, a one-party dictatorship that ruled his totalitarian state with secret police and foreign conquests. 

Hitler wanted Mussolini to mobilize as early as 1939 but Italy wasn’t entirely ready for a full-on European war – they didn’t have the materials and the Allies were considering conceding recent Italian conquests in Africa in exchange for Italy’s neutrality.

But by 1940, hopes for Italy’s neutrality were shattered. Il Duce decided to carve up Europe with Hitler. Mussolini held off a declaration of war for as long as possible, but after the German’s Wehrmacht’s swift advance into France, Italy had to commit or quit. 

Four days later, Nazi stormtroopers marched through Paris. And after a total of six weeks of fighting, all of the Netherlands, Belgium, and France fell to the German war machine.

Italy’s campaign was cut short after defeats in East and North Africa, and Mussolini was ousted and arrested in 1943 after an Allied invasion of Sicily began in July of that year. The Allied success led to the collapse of the Fascist regime. On Sept. 8, 1943, Italy signed the Armistice of Cassibile, ending its war with the Allies, though the country would remain a battlefield for the rest of the war.

On Sept. 12, 1943, German paratroopers and Waffen-SS commandos rescued Mussolini from captivity during the Gran Sasso raid. Hitler placed the former dictator in charge of a puppet regime in northern Italy, causing a civil war. In April 1945, as the Axis Powers faced defeat, Mussolini attempted to flee to Switzerland but was captured by Italian communist partisans and executed by firing squad on April 28, 1945. 

His body was hung upside down in the town of Milan.

Featured Image: Italian battleships in the Mediterranean Sea during World War II.

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These glasses can turn any location into a simulated battlefield

Marines training on the use of indirect fires and air support can now practice their engagements nearly anywhere thanks to Augmented Immersive Team Training, an augmented reality tool that projects a digital battlefield onto any terrain.


The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)
Four viewpoints of exercise participants during an AITT test. In this GIF, Marines engage simulated enemy tanks near an objective. GIF: YouTube/usnavyresearch

Developed by the Office of Naval Research, the system allows Marines to wear a pair of goggles that takes video of the surrounding area and combines it with computer simulations of units. Then, the Marines can engage those targets with certain weapons systems or airstrikes to destroy the target.

Participants can also view the battlefield through special binoculars and laser designators.

All Marines going through the training are synced up to the same simulation, so they see the same targets in the same spots and can watch as another Marine targets and destroys an enemy force.

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)
This is the view a participant sees when a truck is destroyed during an augmented reality training mission. GIF: YouTube/usnavyresearch

Instructors use a computer to add or remove enemy vehicles and troops in the simulation, allowing them to tailor the training to a unit’s needs and current ability levels.

The system was successfully tested in 2015 on a golf course after a series of upgrades and other tests. The goal is to allow Marines to practice engaging each other in force-on-force exercises without the cost or risk associated with training using live munitions and vehicles.

Trainers and students could also more efficiently conduct training since a botched engagement can be quickly reset and the difficulty could be changed on the fly by the instructor. And, the service would no longer need tailored ranges or simulation centers to train. Marines could take the kits with them to any open area.

See the system in action in the video below:

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7 craziest commando missions of World War II

World War II was an exciting time for special operations and commandos. The advent of airborne operations gave them a whole new angle of approach, and the sheer scale of the war guaranteed that they’d have plenty of chances to use their skills.


But even accounting for those things, operators on both sides of the war distinguished themselves with daring missions.

Here are eight of the craziest:

1. A costly canoe raid against German ships

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)
(Photo: Royal Marines Museum)

The “Cockleshell Heroes” were a group of British Royal Marines assigned the task of launching from a submarine and canoeing miles up the River Gironde to place limpet mines against the hull of German ships. The mission hit problems almost immediately as canoes were lost to tide and river obstacles.

Only two of the original five made it to the Bordeaux-Bassens docks. The four men who crewed the canoes placed mines on a few ships, which damaged some commercial vessels. While the material damage was limited, it boosted British morale and forced the Germans to devote more resources to defense in a way similar to the U.S. Army Air Force’s Doolittle Raid.

2. The failed attempt to kill Erwin Rommel

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)
(Photo: German Federal Archives)

Operation Flipper had the lofty goal of crippling an Italian headquarters and intelligence office as well as killing Field Marshall Erwin Rommel. The mission was beset by bad weather and the assault force that hit the German officer’s headquarters was smaller than planned.

Still, the British commandos broke into the headquarters building only to learn that Rommel had been delayed in Rome by his own weather problems. Only two raiders survived, but even Rommel admitted that it was a “brilliant operation.” He had the senior officer, British Lt. Col. Geoffrey Keyes, killed and buried with full honors and photos sent to the family.

3. Norwegian resistance destroys Germany’s nuclear stockpile, twice

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)
(Photo: Public Domain)

A first attempt on the Norsk Hydro Plant, where radioactive heavy water was processed and stored, failed but the survivors and their reinforcements hit the plant on Feb. 28, 1943, despite suffering from starvation and exhaustion. They were able to blow the storage facilities, setting German nuclear research back by at least months.

Months later, a new stockpile of German heavy water was being transported on a ferry when the Norwegian Resistance attacked once again, sinking the ferry and ending Germany’s last best chance at a nuclear reactor or bomb. One man, Knut Haukelid, participated in both raids.

4. German paratroopers take the world’s strongest fort

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)
Fort Eben-Emael was arguably the world’s strongest fortress in May 1940, but it fell to 85 German paratroopers with the right plan. (Photo: Bundesarchiv)

In 1940, the Belgian Fort Eben-Emael was arguably the world’s strongest fort. Constructed from 1932-1935, it was heavily armed and guarded by upwards of 800 soldiers. But Germany had to destroy or negate it to get the blitzkrieg into Belgium.

They did it in a single morning with 85 paratroopers. The men landed on the fort in gliders and quickly took hold of large sections of it, destroying or capturing the guns aimed at the countryside. When the rest of the German army arrived, the remaining defenders surrendered.

5. Benito Mussolini is rescued from a mountaintop retreat by German paratroopers

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)
(Photo: Bundesarchiv)

In July 1943, Italian defeats turned the country against Benito Mussolini and he was exiled to a series of locations. A German commander was able to track the dictator to Gran Sasso, a mountaintop ski resort accessible only by cable car or glider. At 6,300 feet, it was too high even for an airborne assault.

German Capt. Otto Skorzeny led the glider assault. The paratroopers brought along an Italian general in the hopes that he would prevent a shootout. It worked. The Italian guards decided not to fight when the gliders crashed into the mountains and the paratroopers stormed out. Skorzeny and Mussolini departed on a small, high-altitude plane.

6. British commandos steal a German radar station

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)
(Photo: Royal Air Force Squadron Leader A.E. Hill)

The insane plan for Operation Biting called for five groups of British paras to land in German-occupied France, capture a German radar station, and then make off with key pieces of the technology. The men landed under cover of darkness and quickly captured the building. They even managed to grab two technicians with intimate knowledge of the advanced German radar.

Paratroopers who missed their drop zone arrived late to destroy a German pillbox, a situation that almost ended with the withdrawing commandos being killed. Luckily, the men arrived in time to destroy the pillbox as it swept fire on the other commandos. The British escaped with their prize.

7. The British turn an entire ship into a bomb

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)
The HMS Campbeltown sits on the lip of the Normandie dock after crashing into it. (Photo: German army archives)

Dubbed the “Greatest Raid of Them All,” the St. Nazaire Raid targeted the only German-held dry dock for heavy ships on the Atlantic that was accessible without passing German defenses. But the dry dock was heavily armed and far upriver.

The British sent a small flotilla of vessels led by the converted HMS Campbeltown. Sixteen were small motorboats, twelve of which were destroyed without reaching shore. But the Campbeltown managed to ram the gates of the dry dock. The Germans captured 215 of the 600 attackers and killed 169 more, but explosives hidden in the Campbeltown exploded the next morning, crippling the facilities.

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This is why North Korea is threatening to attack Guam

The North Korean army’s announcement that it is examining operational plans for attacking Guam after rising tensions with President Donald Trump has brought more global attention to the tiny U.S. territory in the Pacific than it has had in decades. Here is a rundown on the island and it strategic importance.


Geographic Basics

The strip of land in the western Pacific Ocean is roughly the size of Chicago, and just 4 miles (6 km) wide at its narrowest point. It is about 2,200 miles (3,500 km) southeast of North Korea, much closer than it is to any of the United States. Hawaii is about 4,000 miles (6,500 km) to the west. Its proximity to China, Japan, the Philippines, and the Korean Peninsula has long made the island an essential possession of the U.S. military.

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Gov. Eddie Baza Calvo (left) of Guam discusses range distance with Maj. Gen. Raymond Fox (right). (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Scott Schmidt)

U.S. Relationship

Guam was claimed by Spain in 1565 and became a U.S. territory in 1898 during the Spanish-American War. Japan seized it for about 2½ years during World War II. In 1950, an act of Congress made it an unincorporated organized territory of the United States. It has limited self-government, with a popularly elected governor, small legislature, and non-voting delegate in the U.S. House of Representatives. Residents do not pay U.S. income taxes or vote in the general election for U.S. president. Its natives are U.S. citizens by birth.

Military History

The U.S. keeps a Naval base and Coast Guard station in the south, and an Air Force base in the north that saw heavy use during the Vietnam War. While already taking up 30 percent of the island, the American military has been seeking to increase its presence by relocating to Guam thousands of Marines who are currently based in Okinawa, Japan. Protecting the island is the U.S. Army’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, which is used to shoot down ballistic missiles.

Last month, the U.S. twice flew a pair of supersonic bombers that took off from Guam over the Korean Peninsula in a show of force after two North Korean tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles. While there has been some resistance and displeasure from the people of Guam over the U.S. military’s presence, it is also essential to the island’s economy, second only to tourism in importance.

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 15 edition)
The first of two Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptors is launched during a successful intercept test. DoD photo courtesy of Missile Defense Agency.

People and Government

The island was first populated about 4,000 years ago by the ancestors of the Chamorros, still the island’s largest ethnic group. Now, about 160,000 people live on Guam. Its capital city is Hagatna and its largest city is Dededo. Its chief languages are English and Chamorro. It has seen various popular movements pushing for greater self-government or even U.S. statehood, most notably a significant but failed effort in the 1980s to make it a commonwealth on par with Puerto Rico.

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