No other aircraft or air defense system in the world can touch it.
Stealthy, fast, incomparably lethal, the F-22 Raptor is without a doubt the deadliest and most advanced fighter jet ever built. And the Air Force, after a lengthy congressional-backed review, will not be getting any new Raptors to supplement its undersized fleet.
The Raptor, built by Lockheed Martin, was originally created as a follow-on to the F-15 Eagle, the previous mainstay of the Air Force’s fighter fleet. Taking in the strengths of the Eagle and improving vastly with new capabilities such as thrust vectoring for supermaneuverability built into a platform optimized for stealth, the Raptor was everything fighter pilots hoped for and dreamed of.
It would be able to fly the air superiority mission like no other, while also being able to carry out air-to-ground strikes with ease.
Initially, the Air Force planned on buying over 750 units to replace its massive Eagle fleet. Over time, that number was drawn down significantly, thanks to evolving missions and changing threat scenarios. By 2009, Congress voted to cap the Raptor’s overall production run at 187, severely below the minimum figure of 381 units the Air Force projected it would need to fulfill the air superiority mission.
According to Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, the sheer costs alone makes restarting the Raptor production line, defunct since 2012, completely unfeasible. Revamping manufacturing spaces in addition to rebuilding and redesigning jigs and the tooling necessary to build further Raptors would cost anywhere between $7 to $10 billion, and that’s only the tally on the infrastructure required. Estimates on each Raptor’s flyaway price rang up a whopping $200 million per unit cost, a $60 million jump over the aircraft’s unit cost when its production run ended. The study on bringing the F-22 line back to life was ordered by Congress in April 2016.
Though not wholly unexpected, the recommendation to not pursue a restart of the Raptor line will reduce the Air Force’s options in retaining dominance in its air superiority mission. Earlier this year, the service let on that the F-15C/D Eagle will more than likely face an early demise by the mid-2020s, thanks to an expensive fuselage refurbishment deemed impractical by its brass.
Eagles have long served the Air Force as its dedicated air supremacy fighter, excelling in the mission in the 1990s where it first tasted combat in the Persian Gulf, and later in the Balkans. The Eagle fleet was originally to be overhauled and kept in service until the early 2040s, when it would be replaced by a new 6th generation fighter.
Instead, the Air Force will move on with its plan to refurbish and extend the lives of its F-16 Fighting Falcons, multirole fighters which can also fly the air superiority mission with a considerable degree of success. Critics, however, argue that the F-16 is unequal to the aircraft it seeks to supplant. Smaller, shorter-range, and limited in terms of the amount of munitions it is able to carry, the Fighting Falcon has still served the Air Force and Air National Guard faithfully since the late 1970s and beyond.
A possible byproduct of this news could be the Air Force’s push to develop its 6th generation fighter on an accelerated timeline, bringing it into service earlier than expected. This would minimize the reliance the service would have to place on its aging F-16s, while bringing online a fighter built to work in tandem with incoming next-generation assets like the F-35 Lightning II. This would also potentially reduce the burden placed on the F-22 to shoulder more of the Eagle’s prior workload once it is retired, keeping the small Raptor fleet viable and in service longer.
Area 51 is highly classified, mysterious Air Force base in Nevada. It’s been at the center of numerous conspiracy theories pertaining to aliens and UFOs.
Over 1 million people have responded to a Facebook event to “storm” the site. The event is supposed to take place on Sep. 20, 2019, with the end goal of getting the group to “see them aliens.”
The event is likely a joke, but it’s also led to memes. From spy planes to tourist attractions, here’s how the military base became associated with the theories.
Area 51 is an active Air Force base in Nevada.
Very little is known about the highly classified, remote base, making it the perfect object of fascination and conspiracy.
The extraterrestrial highway cuts through the desert near Area 51 but not into it. It is a tourist attraction.
It’s unclear why the base is even called Area 51.
According to the CIA, Area 51 is its map designation. But it begs the question — are there other “areas?”
As National Geographic notes, there are many other names for the base. One of those names, is Groom Lake, a reference to the dry lake near the base, while another is the sarcastic moniker Paradise Ranch. Its official site name is Watertown, but it’s sometimes referred to as Dreamland, after the Edgar Allen Poe poem of the same name.
The base is not open to the public, but there are plenty of nearby tourist attractions that capitalize on its history.
The active base has high security 24 hours a day. This means if a person — or, say, 1 million — wanted to storm the base in an attempt to see aliens, it would be incredibly dangerous.
But, as Travel Nevada notes, there are several attractions around the state that have glommed on to the alien-theme, playing up the secrecy of the base, including the Extraterrestrial Highway. Stops along the highway include Hiko, Nevada, where you can visit the Alien Research Center and purchase ET Fresh Jerky, and Rachel, Nevada, which is considered the “UFO Capital of the World.”
Area 51, from up above.
Until 2018, you couldn’t view satellite images of Area 51. Now you can.
The base is located relatively far off from any public roads. According to a 2017 Business Insider video, some Area 51 employees have to fly to work on personal planes out of the Las Vegas airport.
A 1966 Central Intelligence Agency diagram of Area 51, found in an untitled, declassified paper.
The government won’t say what exactly goes on at the site.
It’s unclear what the base is used for these days. The secrecy has led to a great deal of public speculation and, in turn, conspiracy theories — especially those relating to aliens and space.
The U-2 can fly higher than 60,000 feet.
We do know that it was used for military training during World War II.
The remote location was later used by the US government to test high-flying U-2 planes during the 1950s.
The base was used to build prototypes and run test flights for the vessels, which could reach higher altitudes than standard crafts of the time, as declassified documents would later reveal.
After the U-2 was implemented, the Air Force continued to use the base to test other aircraft, like the OXCART and F-117 Nighthawk.
But, at the time, the American public had no idea.
The US government didn’t confirm that Area 51 was an Air Force base until 2013.
After the National Security Archive at George Washington University filed a Freedom of Information Act in 2005 about the U-2 spy plane program, the CIA was forced to declassify documents related to Area 51 in 2013.
The area is also linked to conspiracy theories — mostly pertaining to aliens, space, and UFOs.
Although the supernatural theories have been debunked, the base is still associated with aliens and UFOs. Some of the excitement around the area have to do with the aircraft flying in, out, and around the base.
As a 2017 Business Insider video notes, there was an increase of supposed UFO sightings in the area in the 1950s — around the same time the U-2 planes were being tested. The secrecy of the program prohibited Air Force officials from publicly refuting the UFO claims at the time.
Jeffrey T. Richelson, the man who filed the FOIA that confirmed the existence of the base, explained this theory.
“There certainly was — as you would expect — no discussion of little green men here,” Richelson told The New York Times in 2013. “This is a history of the U-2. The only overlap is the discussion of the U-2 flights and UFO sightings, the fact that you had these high-flying aircraft in the air being the cause of some of the sightings.”
And then there are the rumors started in the 1980s by a man named Robert Lazar, who claimed to have worked near the base.
In an interview with reporter George Knapp from the time, he described working on propulsion systems for “nine flying saucers of extraterrestrial origin,” according to archival footage reviewed by Vice.
Lazar is also the subject of a documentary called “Bob Lazar: Area 51 and Flying Saucers,” which was released in December 2018. In the documentary, he goes into further details about his claims about what he alleges happened while he worked at Area 51 and what life has been like for him since.
Lazar’s claims may have cemented the base’s association with aliens and inspired others to come forward with stories and theories of their own.
In the music video for the “Old Town Road” remix, Young Thug, Billy Rae Cyrus, Lil Nas X, and Mason Ramsey storm Area 51.
It’s likely a joke. The event comes from a Facebook group called “Shitposting cause im in shambles.” It’s even spawned its own meme cycle, complete with an “Old Town Road” music video, because why not?
But not everyone is so amused.
Namely, the Air Force.
“[Area 51] is an open training range for the US Air Force, and we would discourage anyone from trying to come into the area where we train American armed forces,” Air Force spokeswoman Laura McAndrews told the Washington Post. “The US Air Force always stands ready to protect America and its assets.”
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
The Air Force plans to upgrade a combat controller’s Bronze Star Medal to a Silver Star for exemplary action while engaged in combat in Afghanistan in 2006.
Chief Master Sgt. Michael R. West, assigned to the 720th Operational Support Squadron, will receive the Silver Star, the military’s third-highest valor award, during a ceremony at Hurlburt Field, Florida, on Dec. 15, Air Force Special Operations Command said in a release.
West was originally awarded the Bronze Star in 2007.
“West will be honored for his role in securing the safety of 51 Special Forces Soldiers and 33 coalition partners during a five-day offensive operation in support of Operation Medusa,” the release said.
“Over the period of five days and two climactic battles, West delivered more than 24,000 pounds of precision ordnance credited with more than 500 enemy killed in action,” AFSOC said.
His upgrade comes as a result of a comprehensive Defense Department-wide review of awards from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even though the Air Force announced eight valor upgrades in totality this year, new evidence shed light on West’s case, 24th Special Operations Wing spokeswoman 1st Lt. Jaclyn Pienkowski told Military.com.
“With time, additional statements were provided that more completely captured Chief West’s actions during Operation Medusa,” Pienkowski said. “Once the package was complete, the Air Force considered totality of his actions and deemed the appropriate award to be a Silver Star Medal.”
“During this process, the Air Force was committed to properly recognizing our service members for their service, actions and sacrifices, and that those valorous service members were recognized at the appropriate level. It was important to ensure the award package was complete when it was reviewed,” she said.
West, a master sergeant at the time, was involved in two dynamic battles over five days within the Panjwai Village, according to his official award citation.
West was a Joint Terminal Attack Controller supporting Special Forces teams tasked “to conduct offensive operations in support of Operation Medusa,” a Canadian-led mission during the second battle of Panjwaii in the Zhari and Panjwaii districts of Kandahar Province against Taliban fighters, the citation said.
While exposed to direct enemy fire, West’s “mastery of air to ground operations” allowed for the NATO teams to employ a strategic advantage “with over 88 fixed and rotary wing attack; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms; and medical evacuation assets in the area,” the citation said.
That included bombers, fighters, and MQ-1 Predator drones “to eliminate the enemy threat and allow the coalition forces to safely seize their target location,” according to West’s “Portraits in Courage” story. He was featured in the program in 2007.
His actions “on numerous occasions either prevented friendly forces from being overrun, or directly enabled friendly forces to break contact and regroup while minimizing casualties,” the citation said.
Twelve Canadian soldiers lost their lives over the course of the battle, with dozens more wounded, according to figures from Veterans Affairs Canada; A British reconnaissance plane also crashed in Panjwai during the offensive, killing all 14 on board.
At the time it had been “the most significant land battle ever undertaken by NATO,” according to Canada’s CBC News.
Canada regards Operation Medusa as one of its most successful operations. Earlier this year, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan exaggerated he was the grand “architect” of the operation, but later retracted his comments. Sajjan served in Afghanistan at the time as a liaison between Canadian commanders and local Afghan leaders, according to the Global News.
Whether or not West’s valor elevation may be the last medals upgrade for this year remains unclear.
When Chad Hennings won the top award for College Football’s best inside lineman in 1987, it significantly raised his stock for the NFL draft. He would need it. Despite being the best in the game in his day, he still wasn’t drafted until the 11th round. The reason is that Hennings played football at the Air Force Academy, and would have to serve four years in the military before he could pursue his NFL dreams.
He wouldn’t have to do that today. Defense Secretary Mark Esper just signed a new memo, laying out the guidelines newly-graduated academy athletes need to pursue professional sports careers instead of entering the military.
Hennings spent four years as a pilot and would actually get his last four years waived by the Air Force. By the time he got to the Dallas Cowboys, he was already 27 years old – almost elderly by NFL standards. Luckily for Hennings, he really was one of the best linemen ever to play the game. After his first start in 1992, he went on to win three Super Bowls and snag 27.5 sacks before retiring after the 2000 season. But other athletes weren’t so lucky.
The issue of letting service members who can play at a professional level attempt that dream has been hotly debated by both pro sports fans and policymakers in Washington. The NCAA is big business now, and the NFL is even bigger, generating 5 million and .1 billion in annual revenues, respectively. The pressure to maintain popular talent is definitely on, but the service academies mean more than just big bucks for big-time athletes. They’re supposed to, anyway. There are many who are against the idea.
One in particular.
Before the Obama Administration, academy athletes were required to fulfill their service obligations. The Obama Administration allowed academy athletes to defer their service if they were good enough to be drafted by the NFL. Shortly after Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds was allowed to be drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 2016, the Pentagon rescinded that policy. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis believed the academies “exist to develop future officers,” and those trained officers should fulfill the expectations of their education.
President Trump stepped in in June 2019, saying there was such a short window of talent between their college career and potential professional sports careers, that academy athletes should be allowed to try and take advantage. On Nov. 15, 2019, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper signed a memo that dictates what the athletes must do to try and take advantage – which includes getting permission from the SECDEF and either serving their commitment or paying the government back for their education.
These days, academy grads usually owe the military five years of service after graduation. Under the new athletics policy, once permission is obtained from the Secretary of Defense, the athlete must agree to return to the military and serve those five years. The waiver is then reviewed by the DoD every year while the athlete is in his pro sports position. If they can’t pass the medical standards when they get to the military, they’ll serve five years in a civilian job. If they don’t do either of those, they’ll be charged for their education.
It’s not impossible for service academy grads to serve first and then join the NFL. In addition to the Cowboys’ Chad Hennings, Navy’s Roger Staubach, Mike Wahle, and Phil McConkey as well Army’s Glenn Davis and Alejandro Villanueva all had successful NFL careers after serving their obligations.
It’s no secret the military is committed to drones, and manufacturers from around the world are coming up with crazy designs to capture defense dollars. To wit, at this year’s Atlanta Unmanned Systems conference, drones that resembled everything from miniature death stars to flying saucers were showcased. Check out this video to see some of them in action:
In 1943, Mabel Rawlinson, a Women Airforce Service Pilot, died in an aircraft crash. The government would not pay for her remains to be sent back to her family, nor allow her to have a flag draped over her casket.
Her fellow WASPs passed around a hat, pitching in to have her casket shipped back to her family – flag-draped in defiance, and escorted home by her service sisters.
She was one of 38 WASPs to die in service to her country.
More than 70 years later, as the last of “the greatest generation” dwindles and the WASPs’ male counterparts are laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery with befitting honors, a WASP is at last also being honored for her service. During a military funeral service Sept. 7, Elaine Danforth Harmon’s ashes were interred at Arlington National Cemetery.
Along with Rawlinson, Harmon was one of 1,074 women to serve as a pilot during World War II, fulfilling what the Air Force Historical Research Agency called a “dire need” to train male pilots and ferry aircraft overseas.
She is the first WASP to be buried in Arlington since the passing of HR-4336, a bill introduced by Arizona Representative Martha McSally to ensure WASPs eligibility for interment at Arlington National Cemetery. When Harmon passed away April 21, 2015, her family applied for her interment at Arlington per her final wishes. The request was denied based on a legal decision that “active-duty designees,” such as the WASPs, did not meet eligibility requirements for the cemetery, which is quickly running out of burial space.
Since then, her ashes had remained in the black box provided by the funeral home, sitting amidst folded sweaters, old photos and hanging clothes in her granddaughter’s closet.
“Gammy doesn’t belong on a shelf,” said Tiffany Miller, Harmon’s granddaughter.
Since her death, her family fought to secure a place for the WASPs in Arlington, aided by members of the self-proclaimed “Chick Fighter Pilot Association,” female pilots who owe their success to the trailblazing efforts of the WASPs.
After the passing of the bill, several of the female aviators proudly flew the burial flag during their missions. They documented the flag’s travels in a journal read during the memorial service.
The flag “went on a journey worthy of a WASP,” according to Lt. Col. Caroline Jensen, an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot who aided the family’s campaign.
“Because of the legacy of the WASPs and the service of women like Elaine, I stand before you,” she said. “I’m a reservist on active duty, 22 years in the Air Force, 3,500 hours flying fighters, 1,700 in an F-16, 200 in combat, three years as a right-wing pilot for the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and eight of those while being a mom. So we owe a lot to Elaine and the women like her.”
Jensen was joined by McSally and retired Maj. Heather Penney, each of whom credited their success as female pilots to the WASPs. They gave their remarks alongside beaming photos of Elaine – decked out in her flight suit at the ages of 22 and 85, demonstrating her continued love of flying.
“You could tell that the time they were WASPs was one of the best times of their lives and they were very proud to have served their country,” Elaine’s daughter, Terry Harmon said.
Retired Gen. Henry “Hap” Arnold once spoke to a class of graduating WASP and said that initially he hadn’t been sure “whether a slip of a girl could fight the controls of a B-17 in heavy weather. Now in 1944, it is on record that women can fly as well as men.”
“It was a man’s world, but we did something really great that was needed for the war effort,” Elaine had said during an interview for Library of Congress historical archives.
Elaine wanted people to remember that effort, and in her handwritten will, beseeched her family to place her ashes in Arlington National Cemetery.
“To her, Arlington is more than a cemetery, it’s a memorial for all the people that have served their country,” said her granddaughter, Erin Miller.
Seventy-two years after her fellow WASP died in service of country and was denied military honors, Elaine Harmon died among her family. More than a year later, her children and grandchildren, her fellow WASPs and her service daughters escorted her home.
“For generations to come, when they come to these hallowed grounds that honor our heroes and educate people about their service and sacrifice … these women will be in that history book on their own merit, on their own right,” McSally said.
Another trailblazer was laid to rest among her brothers and sisters-in-arms. Her urn was placed in a niche of the columbarium wall between her fellow veterans, she left her final mark on the white marble: “Elaine Danforth Harmon, WASP.”
Army Air Forces Lt. Col. Louis E. Curdes got a piece of every original signatory to the Axis Pact: Germany, Italy, and Japan. If that wasn’t outstanding enough, it’s how he got an American flag kill mark on his fuselage that earned him a place in military history — and maybe even the Distinguished Service Cross.
It’s not a mistake. The young, 20-something pilot earned every single one of his kill marks. He joined the Army Air Corps in 1942 at the age of 22 to fly planes against the Nazis. By 1943, he was a hotshot lieutenant scoring three kills against Nazi Messerschmidt Bf-109s, the workhorse of the German Luftwaffe, in his P-38 Lighting. That was ten days into his first assignment. Within the next month, he notched up two more kills, earning fighter “ace” status.
In August of that year, he ran into an Italian Macchi C.202 and shot that one down. Unfortunately, that was his last combat kill over Europe. He was shot down by Nazi pilots over Italy and captured by the Italians, resigning himself to spending the rest of the war in a POW camp.
But that didn’t happen. Italy capitulated a few days into Curdes’ internment.
Curdes was then sent to the Philippines and put behind the stick of the new P-51 Mustang fighter, going up against talented Japanese pilots. He was quickly able to shoot down a Japanese recon plane near the island of Formosa. His hat trick was complete, but that’s not where the story ends.
He and his plane, “Bad Angel,” were fighting over Japanese-held Bataan when his wingman was shot down over the Pacific. Soon after, he saw a C-47 transport plane, wheels-down, headed to land on the Japanese island. When he was unable to make radio contact, he tried to physically wave the transport off, but came up empty. So, rather than allow the American plane and its crew to be held prisoner by the Japanese, he used the option left: He shot them down over the ocean.
Curdes skillfully took out one engine and then the other without blowing the entire cargo plane to bits. He was able to bring the C-47 down just yards from his downed wingman. Curdes returned to the site the next morning as an escort to an American “flying boat.” The pilot, crew, and its human cargo were completely intact.
Among the passengers he shot down was a nurse Curdes dated just the night before, a girl named Valorie — whom he later married. The story was rewritten by Air Force Col. Ken Tollefson in his book US Army Air Force Pilot Shoots Down Wife.
When Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was released in March of 2016, the thought of two colossal superheroes clashing on the big screen brought out huge box office numbers for its opening weekend. But despite the initial hype, the pedestrian offering saw a huge drop-off in enthusiasm the following week, as poor word-of-mouth reviews plagued it: the final product, as usual, not living up to expectations
Batman versus Superman, on its face, seems such an intriguing construct though. We are unabashedly drawn to comparisons like Willie v The Mick, the US Government v John Gotti, et al, and iPhone v Android.
But what if we were to compare two REAL superhero castings? Let’s say, the US Army’s Rangers and the US Navy’s SEALS. And just for sh*ts and giggles, what if we compared their individual crucibles — their selection processes — and attempted to discern which was the harbinger for guaranteed future toughness or success? Let’s attempt to glean which selection program applied the most pain to its candidates. Is graduating from Ranger School a more daunting task than making it through the Navy’s difficult Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training? And is earning a Ranger tab easier or more difficult than being awarded a SEAL Trident?
And, which course actually results in more drop on requests–a fancy term for quitting? And how can we compare completion rates?
The comparative analysis is difficult. To my knowledge, I haven’t heard of any former Rangers or SEALS transferring service branches and then embarking on the pursuit of their new branch’s most elite distinction. Maybe there does exist the unique American stud — or committed glutton for punishment — who chose this path of dual misery, and accomplishment. But I haven’t come across any stories chronicling some. With this in mind, I am going to share my reflections on some unique experiences I was privileged to have been afforded during my thirty-three years of government service.
That professional service began when I graduated from West Point in 1987 and was branched as an officer into the Infantry. During the course of my four-year military career, I attended Army Ranger school and graduated with class 4-88. I turned 23 while incarcerated in the mountain phase, endlessly trekking up and down the formidable peaks of the Tennessee Valley Divide. While I wasn’t the class Honor Graduate, I did fairly well throughout the demanding course of instruction and was lucky enough to graduate with my tab, on time, and without being recycled to repeat a phase.
I served during the Cold War Era and the American military buildup precipitated by President Reagan’s stare-down of the Soviets. The 10th Mountain Division had just been reconstituted in 1985, following its long dormancy beginning when WWII ended. Officers and non-coms were selected for the unit’s rebirth only if they possessed the coveted tab. Division brass was intent on modeling the 10th after the Ranger battalions. My assignment to the 10th was contingent on my graduation from Ranger School. Failure to graduate meant a reassignment to the 197th Infantry Brigade (Mechanized), and the embarrassing stigmatization that would assuredly follow that failure.
From those fledgling days of (re)existence, the 10th Mountain Division has now distinguished itself as a solid and repeatedly deployed war-fighting machine in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. But it’s mid-1980’s formation with Ranger leadership was critical to its early success and reestablished prestige as a unit. So, in mid-March of 1988, I arrived at 2-14 Infantry battalion headquarters in my starched BDU’s with freshly attached Ranger tab.
The tab carries with it a certain distinction. And that respect for its woven black and gold threads stems from the hardship endured to earn it — the US military being one of the last bastions of meritocracy in this new 21st century era of everyone-gets-a-trophy.
Historically, the failure rate at the US Army Ranger School fluctuates between 50% – 65%. A portion of those failures, DORs, are self-inflicted. There doesn’t appear to be available statistical data that highlights just how many of those failures are related to DORs.
So, after ETSing from the Army on February 1, 1991, I packed up my quarters at Ft. Drum, NY, loaded my then-wife, newborn son, and two rescue dogs into my ’88 Chevy Blazer, and headed south to the FBI Academy at Quantico, VA, where I began the 20-week course to become an FBI Special Agent. In June of same year, I posted to the FBI’s New York City Office’s Brooklyn-Queens Metropolitan Resident Agency, and began a proud 25-year career as a Fed.
Along the way, I was selected for the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team, where I served as a counter-terrorist operator on Echo Assault Team from 1997 – 2001.
And in the Fall of 1998, while serving as one of Echo Team’s divers, and recently returned from deployments to Africa (US Embassy bombings) and North Carolina’s Nantahala Forest (search for ’96 Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph), I was suddenly tapped to deploy to Coronado, California, with three of my fellow HRT diver teammates, for a once in a lifetime experience.
I was an “old man,” all of 33 years. And though I was in peak physical condition, having spent almost a year and a half lifting, and running, and training at a HIGH level … I was in for a rude awakening.
It was September of 1998, and Dave, Jeff, Matty, and I checked into the Naval Special Warfare Center at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado and were officially informed we’d be joining BUD/S class 220. We had just offloaded our rental cars and strode across the sand dunes separating the BUD/S compound from the Pacific Ocean. Worst thing we could have done was to time our arrival with the conduct of Hell Week for BUD/S class 221. Long before casual observers had been treated to Discovery Channel documentaries on the course of instruction to become a SEAL, the four of us took in the spectacle.
Exhausted youngsters — many between 18 – 20 years old — slogging along at the water’s edge, ferrying inflatable RHIBs, lifting massive logs over their heads, performing a staggering amount of “corrective actions” — flutter kicks, crunches, push-ups, and bear crawls. All accompanied by the monotonous, annoying, and ever-present Instructor “motivationals” echoed through a hand-held loud-hailer.
After we’d ingested all the observed pain and misery we could and signed in at NWSC, my HRT colleagues and I made our way over to the Second Phase HQ, a low-profile, nondescript group of single-story military buildings, and introduced ourselves to the cadre.
“All good,” the congenial class proctor stated. Get over to the BOQ on Mainside. Drop your gear off, change into UDT shorts and your yellow HRT PT shirts, and we’ll meet you at the pool for your qualifying PT test — 500 meter swim, push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and mile and a half run in Bates brand combat boots. We even rolled our wool socks down over our boots exactly the way the SEALs did.
When in Rome…
And so it began. After easily completing the fit test required of all BUD/S aspirants, we joined class 220 as they began the initial stages of Phase Two. The classroom portions on Dive Physics weren’t too daunting — the four of us had the benefit of college degrees — but the daily regimen of early morning PT was an eye-opener. Yes, the four of us were quite fit. But we were also in our thirties, and didn’t take part in the same skill-specific training one receives in the BUD/S preparatory course the Navy offered its young sailors interested in becoming frogmen. And we didn’t have the benefit of true youth. If we were professional athletes, we’d be desperately trying to find an organization to sign us, so we could come off the bench, with a head coach “managing our minutes.”
We also didn’t have the benefit of having taken part in the first phase of BUD/S; that unforgiving crucible that weeds out the weak and strengthens the committed. The relationship between the USN and HRT was a long and durable one. Many of the early generation FBI-HRT operators had been SEALs (as well as former Rangers, Green Berets, and Marines). Compared to the military’s special operations units, HRT was an infant, having come on line in 1983, as a civilian counter-terrorist option for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. The ’72 debacle in Munich was a not-so-distant memory. And US law precluded the military from acting as law enforcement inside the United States.
So, here’s the thing: While I was certainly younger and my body more resilient as a 23-year-old when I completed Ranger School, ten years later, when I attended the Dive Phase of BUD/S — open circuit (SCUBA) and closed circuit (LAR-V rebreather) — with my HRT colleagues, I was certainly more experienced, savvy, and skillful at my craft. But that didn’t aid in the recovery time my body desperately needed between evolutions at BUD/S. Every night, the four of us limped back to our BOQ and attempted to “heal” before the fun began again the next morning, bright and early.
On the ground (or in the sand), we were the BUD/S students equals. We four were strong runners and could complete the grinders of push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, flutter kicks, and crunches as well as any of the kids in 220. On the beach, during timed four mile runs, we were more than their equals, often having to hold back so as not to bring the SEAL Instructors’ wrath down upon our classmates, as in:
“Hey, you pathetic pieces of human filth and fecal matter, why are you letting these old-ass FBI-HRT guys beat you on a timed run? You’ll all be ‘paying the man’ if you allow this to happen again!”
Yes, the typical SEAL Instructor was wicked smart and imbued with a great sense of wit and timing.
We reined in our run times, not wanting to cause any more pain to the young men who so graciously accepted us into their fraternity — despite the fact we hadn’t shared the excruciating pain of First Phase and Hell Week with them.
One of the most special gifts I’ve ever received in the course of my life was to be afforded a Hell Week t-shirt from BUD/S class 220. This class-specific attire made us feel a part — if only for a moment — of their exclusive club. It was truly an honor and I cherish the now tattered shirt emblazoned with the class motto that borrowed from William Ernest Henley’s short and powerful Victorian poem Invictus:
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
During the course of our “internment” at BUD/S, we also participated in the required weekly SEAL Obstacle Course completion. It was an ass-kicker. And again, as I reminisced about my days at Ranger School and tangling with the infamous Darby Queen Obstacle Course, I have to give this round to the SEALs, as well. In the summer of 1998, we HRT guys were fit, relatively young, nimble, agile, and strong. We had all the necessary tools required to excel at the SEAL Obstacle Course. But it was still a daunting task to make the required times. We did so, narrowly, and aided by the Instructor allowance for us to use a rope traversing technique that wasn’t available to the BUD/S students in Second Phase. [Full disclosure: we were also permitted to discreetly utilize calculators for the long division and multiplication required in the classroom on the dive physics exams]
Well, as proficient as we HRT guys found ourselves in PT, on the sand dunes and while partaking in the dreaded “soft sand runs,” we quickly ascertained that the water, however, was a different story altogether. Here’s where those same young kids flat-out kicked our assess. On the weekly open-water two-mile swims, Dave, Jeff, Matty, and I were “competent.” We were all notably strong swimmers who had been hand selected by HRT Dive Team cadre to “represent” at BUD/S.
While we consistently barely made the required times, we were often the last, or next to last teams to come in.
But we were in no condition to compete with the damn dolphins that BUD/S students typically morphed into by Second Phase. The water became our Waterloo of sorts.
But it was pool competition, or pool comp in SEAL shorthand, that really cemented for me what the BUD/S experience was about, and just why SEALs are a cut above all others in the Special Operations community.
And, yes, we four HRT guys participated in pool comp.
And, again, it was another eye-opener.
SEAL Instructors had their own comically dreadful names for the knots they would tie in your hoses underwater. As a BUD/S student, your job was to diligently cycle through a sequence of trouble-shooting procedures to untangle the mess of knotted hoses and restore your air supply…while on a breath-hold. And you had to do so without exhibiting any signs of panic. We were treated to the Matlock and the Babilock — two impossibly difficult and deviously conceived knots named after two particular SEALs on the cadre. Failure to extricate your gear from the wicked devices of the seasoned knot-tying instructors OR failure to work through the prescribed sequence for trouble-shooting your crippled gear led to a failure. Two failures in the same event and you earned a rollback — just like the nefarious recycle at Ranger School — to the next class, if you were lucky not to be dropped from the course.
There’s a reason that, as Rob O’Neill, former SEAL Team Six counter-terror operator — the man who killed Bin Laden — stated to Howard Stern recently, on his eponymous Sirius radio program, that some 85% of BUD/S attendees don’t graduate.
BUD/S is tough — even the teensy-weensy taste of it that I experienced. It’s REALLY tough. And it sucks.
Ranger School was “uncomfortable” and difficult for all the reasons that include sleep deprivation, starvation, and relentless physical overexertion. It was a grind. And reports from recent graduates confirm it’s STILL a grind.
At BUD/S, however, they fed you lots of chow, and in Second Phase, getting eight solid hours of sleep was never an issue. But just as in Ranger School, you had to perform, to make sound decisions, to accomplish critical military tasks and objectives when your body was futilely attempting to heal, and always with the overzealous instructors omnipresent in your ear…
…but you did it at depth.
Whether at the bottom of the 15-foot pool, on the Coronado Bay side, or in the unforgiving waters of the Pacific Ocean, performing at depth takes special operations training to another level entirely. We were forced to conduct doff and don procedures, and buddy-breathing exercises — you know, like sharing the same oxygen supply at depth and while performing tasks like an equipment exchange. There were insanely long breath-holds, while enduring the Instructor-assaults associated with the dreaded pool comp. Then there was the archaic (by design) and cumbersome Jacques Cousteau era twin 80’s tanks and leaky two-hose regulators which made for a purposeful panic-induced set of pass/fail evolutions. Yes, I believe the experiences to be the closest thing to waterboarding — sanctioned “almost-drowning” — that there is. And it’s legal!
Learning to dive with the Dräger (or Draeger) closed circuit rebreather gear — the LAR-V — was the purpose behind sending HRT divers to BUD/S. So, no, in a civilian law enforcement capacity, there’s no need to learn the craft of placing limpet mines on enemy ship hulls. However, learning the advanced system of transit-diving that allows an operator to approach a target underwater, bereft of telltale bubbles is a key skillset for HRT to have at its disposal. That was the purpose behind the relationship we had with the Navy and is how we ended up enrolled in the Second Phase of BUD/S.
The advanced dive skills we learned were necessary. The voluntary participation in PT and mild hazing — being dropped for push-ups or forced to become “wet and sandy” — the “sugar cookie” punishment — was part of earning our stripes and being accepted as outsiders within the close-knit SEAL and BUD/S community.
Make no mistake about it — we weren’t to become SEALs and weren’t subjected to a fraction of what the Navy candidates endured, but we certainly gained a modicum of appreciation for the process.
And again, as difficult as Ranger School was to complete, the 8 weeks I spent at BUD/S proved that there’s a clear distinction between difficult and difficult-at-depth.
Apologies, fellow Rangers, but this round goes to the Navy’s SEALs. I’ve been up close and personal with both Selection processes. 81 torturous days at Ranger School did not compare to the tiny portion of the year of misery available to BUD/S candidates that I experienced.
Rangers, can I get a Hooah!
And SEALs, while we’re at it, how about a Hooyah!
And let’s forever remember that we’re ALL part of the same team!
God bless the United States of America and God bless and protect our brave Special Operators who continue to confidently stride into places full of wrath and tears, and do so bravely, selflessly and willingly.
Iran and Israel engaged in a war of words two days after an exchange of missile fire in Syria, with a prominent Iranian cleric threatening to “raze” two Israeli cities if it “acts foolishly” and attacks Iranian forces in Syria again.
Israel’s defense minister issued his own warning, saying Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will face only “damage and problems” unless he kicks the Iranian military presence out of his country.
Israeli minister Avigdor Lieberman said Assad should especially beware of Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Quds Force, a branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps that oversees operations outside Iran’s borders.
“I have a message for Assad: Get rid of the Iranians, get rid of Qassem Soleimani and the Quds Force. They are not helping you, they are only harming,” Lieberman said.
“Their presence will only cause problems and damage. Get rid of the Iranians and we can, perhaps, change our mode of life here,” he said.
On May 10, 2018, Israel accused Iran of firing rockets from Syria into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, the first time that Iran is believed to have attacked Israel with rockets.
Israel struck back with its heaviest air strikes in Syria since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, saying it had attacked nearly all of Iran’s military infrastructure in the country. A war monitor said the missile exchange left 23 fighters dead.
Israel has warned it will not allow Iran to establish a military presence close to its borders in Syria, where Iranian military advisers, troops, and allied Shi’ite militia have since 2011 played a key role backing Assad in his civil war against Sunni rebels.
Iran on May 10, 2018, called Israel’s accusations, which were supported and corroborated by the United States and Western allies, “fabricated and baseless excuses” to stage attacks in Syria.
A senior Iranian cleric, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, warned that the Jewish state could face destruction if it continues to challenge Iran.
“We will expand our missile capabilities despite Western pressure…to let Israel know that if it acts foolishly, we will raze Tel Aviv and Haifa to the ground,” he said in remarks during Friday Prayers that were carried on Iranian state television.
A prominent Iranian ally in Lebanon joined the verbal volley on May 10, 2018, warning that both Israel and the United States will face retaliation for repeated Israeli air strikes in Syria that monitors say have killed dozens of Syrian, Iranian, and Hizballah fighters in recent weeks.
Lebanese parliament speaker Nabih Berri, who is allied with Hizballah, told the Associated Press in an interview that some 1,000 U.S. troops that are stationed in northern and eastern Syria to fight the Islamic State extremist group may be in danger.
“There are American interests in Syria and if there is a larger war, I don’t think even the American president can bear the consequences,” Berri said.
The White House on May 10, 2018, repeated its demand that Iran stop its “reckless actions” against U.S. allies Israel and Saudi Arabia.
After a telephone call between U.S. President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May, “both leaders condemned the Iranian regime’s provocative rocket attacks from Syria against Israeli citizens,” the White House said.
“It is time for responsible nations to bring pressure on Iran to change this dangerous behavior,” said White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders.
The National Guard, a unique part of the American military, traces its origins to the birth of the first organized colonial militia regiments on December 13, 1636.
The Guard, which includes some of the oldest units in the US military, is a reserve component that can be called up on a moment’s notice to respond to domestic emergencies or participate in overseas combat missions.
These 11 stunning photos from the past year show the Guard in action — dealing with fires, hurricanes, volcanoes, and more.
(N.Y. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Andrew Valenza)
A Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS), a C-130 Hercules plane modified for fire-fighting efforts, releases fire retardant over Shasta County, California, during the Carr Fire in early August 2018.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brittany Johnson)
(Florida National Guard photo by David Sterphone)
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht)
(North Carolina National Guard)
(Florida National Guard)
(Oregon Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Zachary Holden, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs)
(Photo Composite by SSG Brendan Stephens, NC National Guard Public Affairs)
(Photo courtesy of the State of Hawaii, Dept. of Defense)
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur)
11. An Idaho Army National Guard sniper, from the 116th Calvary Brigade Combat Team, practices his skills during the platoon’s two-week annual training at the Orchard Combat Training Center on June 8, 2018.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Sircaria Coleman deserted her post as a U.S. Army company commander more than five years ago, but her run from the law ended when she walked onto a cruise ship dock in New Orleans this week, authorities said.
Coleman was arrested on the morning of Jan. 29 when the Carnival Triumph set sail on a five-day Caribbean cruise. While documents don’t specify whether the Shreveport native was going on the trip, cruise passengers with outstanding arrest warrants are occasionally captured when they check in for boarding.
According to authorities, Coleman posted bond on Aug. 15, 2012, following an arrest somewhere in Louisiana on unspecified allegations. She never returned to her post in Fort Carson, Colorado, and the Army issued a warrant to arrest Coleman on a charge of military desertion several months later.
The sniper is a lethal combination of patience, discipline, and accuracy. They wait, still and silent, for the perfect moment to strike from afar, eliminating key targets and providing invaluable information to troops on the ground.
While a few snipers in history have had their names enshrined in fame (or infamy, depending on which side of their scope your allegiances lay), the marksman that holds the record for longest-distance confirmed kill is one you’ve never heard of.
In 2017, a sniper with Canada’s Joint Task Force 2 (their equivalent of the U.S. Navy’s SEAL Team 6) shattered the distance record once held by British sniper Craig Harrison. The Canadian deadeye, whose name has been withheld for security purposes, managed to down an IS militant from a staggering 3,540 meters away. For those metrically challenged among us, that’s 11,614 feet — or nearly 2.2 miles — or over 32 football fields, end-to-end, including end zones. The target was so far away that the bullet traveled for a full 10 seconds (at 792mph) before reaching its target.
Yes, we counted.
As if this incredible feat of marksmanship wasn’t impressive enough, according to MilitaryTimes, this kill helped prevent an ongoing ISIS assault on Iraqi Security Forces. This shot exemplifies the importance of the sniper — instead of using bombs or other weaponry that may result in collateral losses, the Canadian weapons specialist was able to lodge a single bullet into just the right spot to stop an assault in its tracks.
So, how’d he do it? Let’s take a look at a few key elements involved.
First, the equipment. It’s reported that the sharpshooter was using a McMillan TAC-50, a long-range anti-materiel and anti-personnel sniper rifle. According to the manufacturer, this rifle has an effective range of 1,800 meters — just over half the distance of the kill. According to reports, the rifle was loaded with 750-grain Hornady rounds, which must be incredibly efficient rounds to keep from wobbling off course at such an immense distance.
Canadian Forces MacMillan Tac-50
More impressive than the equipment, however, is the technique demonstrated by both shooter and spotter. In order to make an accurate shot over that gigantic stretch of land, they had to keep in mind several key factors, including how much the bullet might “drop” over its trip, how much wind might push it off course, and even the speed of the earth’s rotation at the given latitude. To further complicate things, you need to think about atmospheric conditions at the time of shoot — barometric pressure, humidity, and temperature can all affect the bullet’s course. Even the tiniest change can have drastic effects over such a great distance.
At the end of the day, this amazing feat was the junction between incredible mathematics, impeccable coordination between spotter and shooter, and a steady, well-trained hand. We’d like to render a crisp hand salute to you Canadian BAMFs (but not while outside the wire, because you never know who’s watching).
For more marksmanship action, be sure to watch Sniper: Assassin’s End, the eighth installment in the epic Sniper series, available now on Blu-Ray and digital formats!
Sniper: Assassin’s End OFFICIAL TRAILER – Available on Blu-ray & Digital 6/16
Perhaps the most famous Little John in history was Robin Hood’s sidekick. You know, the guy responsible for driving the Sheriff of Nottingham and Prince John crazy. But the United States Army had a “Little John” of their own that was designed to give airborne units, like the 82nd and the 101st, one heck of a punch.
During the 1950s, the Army had used the Pentomic structure for a number of its infantry divisions — a structure designed to fight in nuclear war. A problem remained within light units, however: They needed nuclear firepower to hold off hordes of Soviet tanks, but the nukes of the time were bulky things.
Soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division load a MGR-3 “Little John” rocket on to a CH-47 Chinook. (U.S. Army photo)
By 1959, though, the answer had emerged: the M51, which the Army called “Little John.” It wasn’t based on the Robin Hood legend, though. The name was chosen since the Army had a self-propelled nuclear rocket launcher called the Honest John, and the Little John, as you might guess, was a smaller rocket system.
The Little John was eventually re-designated MGR-3. It had a range of about 11 miles and was unguided. Well, when a missile is packing a W45 thermonuclear warhead with a yield of 10 kilotons (a kiloton is equal to the explosive force of 1,000 tons of TNT) and has a speed of Mach 1.5, you don’t really need guidance to take out a target.
The MGR-3 stuck around for about a decade, but in 1969, they were quickly retired. The rockets had successfully held the line, but when an even smaller, lighter tactical nuclear weapon was developed — one that could fit inside the shell fired by a typical 155mm howitzer — Little John became redundant. That replacement was the W48 warhead.
See how the Army described the Little John as it entered service in the video below: