The Army is deactivating its last long-range surveillance companies (again) - We Are The Mighty
Articles

The Army is deactivating its last long-range surveillance companies (again)

The Army is officially closing down the last of its long-range surveillance companies with the three active duty units slated for closures in January and the four National Guard companies shutting down in 2018.


The Army is deactivating its last long-range surveillance companies (again)
Soldiers with Delta Company, 52nd Infantry Regiment (Long Range Surveillance) conduct their unit’s deactivation ceremony Jan. 10, 2017 inside the III Corp building at Fort Hood, Texas. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Jory Mathis)

The move comes amid changing Army priorities and a series of computer simulations that decided the units were high-risk, low-reward.

This is the second time the Army has deactivated all of its company-sized, long-range reconnaissance units. It previously removed LRRP companies in 1974 before bringing them back as LRS units in 1981.

According to a Stars and Stripes article, the current deactivations came after Total Army Analysis computer models said that LRS units weren’t in high demand by command teams.

The Army is deactivating its last long-range surveillance companies (again)
Indiana Army National Guard 1st Sgt. Joseph Barr rolls up the colors of Company C, 2nd Squadron, 152nd Cavalry Regiment during the unit’s designation ceremony to Company D, 151st Infantry Regiment, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Jeff Lowry)

But not everyone is happy with the Army’s decision.

Retired Army Special Forces Brig. Gen. John Scales protested an earlier LRS drawdown when he found that computer models claiming that LRS units were at high risk in combat were improperly written. The model unrealistically assumed that any infantry unit that spotted the enemy would engage that enemy force, pitting six-man LRS teams against entire enemy formations.

The Army is deactivating its last long-range surveillance companies (again)
David Blow front, left, and another U.S. Soldier were members of a long-range reconnaissance team that conducted cross-border operations in Cambodia and Vietnam in 1971. Blow, a Special Forces soldier, served in Vietnam until the end of U.S. involvement in 1973. (Courtesy photo: U.S. Army)

While the new assessments use different coding that Scales was not privy to, he has voiced concerns that getting rid of LRS units isn’t the best idea.

Scales told the Stars and Stripes about the current LRS drawdowns that, “I worry based on my experience with the model that [long-range surveillance units are] getting shortchanged, and the Army is getting shortchanged.”

This isn’t the first time that the Army has tackled this question, and an earlier batch of LRS deactivations that also resulted from a Total Army Analysis were done against the protest of ground commanders.

From then-Maj. Mark R. Meadows’ 2000 master’s thesis titled “Long-Range Surveillance Unit Force Structure in Force XXI“:

The decision to deactivate these intelligence collection units was not based on a change of doctrine or a change in the mission requirements for LRS. The decisions were not made by one of the two proponents of LRS in order to protect another unit or asset. Quite the contrary, both proponents recognize the importance of HUMINT on the battlefield and support LRS employment and training. As discussed in chapter two, the decision to deactivate all heavy division LRSDs and two of four LRSCs was made over the objection of both proponents and units, by the office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations as a result of the Total Army Analysis (TAA) process. Consequently, under the current force structure, there are not adequate numbers of LRS units to effectively execute the potential future missions the Army will face.

The Army is deactivating its last long-range surveillance companies (again)
Internationally, long-range reconnaissance is still in high demand. German army Upper Cpl. Andre Schadler, a native of Aulendorf, assigned to Recon Platoon, Jager Battalion 292, scans the battlefield for threats with a thermal sight during the first day of training at the Great Lithuanian Hetman Jonusas Radvila Training Regiment, in Rukla, Lithuania, June 10, 2015. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. James Avery, 16th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

While satellites and drones can cheaply provide detailed imagery in an open desert, they struggle to watch the movements of enemy forces through heavily forested and urban areas like those troops would face in a war with China or Russia where enemy units could be dispersed under cover and camouflage.

This is something that Eastern Europe armies know well, leading them to invest in the types of reconnaissance units that the U.S. Army is backing away from.

For instance, in November Lithuania hosted the U.S. Army’s Reconnaissance and Surveillance Leadership Course for the first time in the course’s history.

The European Union is investing more heavily in ISTAR — Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance — units.

The Army is deactivating its last long-range surveillance companies (again)
A Romanian IAR 330 Puma helicopter employs perimeter defense while it extracts a joint team of forces from both the 1st Squadron, 131st Cavalry, Alabama Army National Guard, and the 528th Light Reconnaissance Battalion, Romanian Land Force, as they complete a long range surveillance training mission for Operation Red Dragon on June 18, 2015, near Babadag Training Area, Romania. (Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Shanley)

Indeed, the Swedish Army maintains a force of only 6,000 available soldiers but keeps one ISTAR battalion available.

This wouldn’t be the first time the Army got rid of its dedicated long-range reconnaissance companies. In 1974, it deactivated the last of the old Long-Range Reconnaissance Patrol companies. Just four years later, the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans, Lt. Gen. Edward C. Meyer, ordered a classified study to ascertain, among other things, who could conduct the LRRP mission moving forward.

The Army is deactivating its last long-range surveillance companies (again)
A paratrooper with Delta Company, 52nd Infantry Regiment (Long Range Surveillance), looks out of a window of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter before exiting at Rapido Drop Zone Sept. 1, 2016 at Fort Hood, Texas. This was the last jump before the unit’s deactivation ceremony, which occurred Jan. 10, 2017. (Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Tomora Clark)

By 1979, the Army was writing doctrine for the new “Long-Range Surveillance Units” which were nearly identical to the extinct LRRP companies. But some division commanders saw the need for human eyes on the battlefield as too vital to wait for Department of the Army.

The 9th and 3rd infantry divisions and the 82nd Airborne Division all stood up LRRP units to provide critical intelligence to battlefield commanders. The 82nd divisional LRRP platoon was deployed to Operation Urgent Fury.

Operational commanders may find that they have to again construct their own long-range surveillance units if they still want the capability. The last of the LRS companies are scheduled to deactivate in August 2018.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the West Point graduation on D-Day

On June 6, 1944, hundreds of Army leaders waited tensely for a moment that they’d been preparing for four long years: their graduation ceremony. During that ceremony, an Army general took the podium and confirmed to them that another long-awaited moment had come that same morning: the Allied invasion of Fortress Europe.


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The cadets, crammed into lines of chairs inside a large building, included Cadet John Eisenhower, the son of D-Day commander, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. When Eisenhower is called to the stage to receive his diploma in the video above, the crowd erupts into a burst of applause.

West Point graduates, typically commissioned into the Army on the same day they graduate, in 1944 knew that they would be involved in the final long, slow push to Berlin. Indeed, Eisenhower would go on to serve in Europe in World War II and fight in Korea before going into the Army Reserve and eventually retiring.

The crowd at the graduation was likely not surprised by the news. American radio stations first caught wind of the invasion hours earlier when German stations announced that it had begun. As the morning wore on, Allied commanders confirmed the reports and then allowed the BBC, stationed on a ship bombarding the French shore, to begin broadcasting.

By the time the sun rose over West Point, the news was well-known. But, the three-star confirming the invasion was probably still a welcome confirmation for many. After all, there were false reports of an invasion only three days earlier when a BBC teletype operator accidentally hit the wrong key.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How to counter a punch like a Marine

While the Marine Corps has developed a well-earned reputation as a fierce opponent on the battlefield, that reputation wasn’t cultivated by only recruiting tenacious warfighters. Like every branch, the Marine Corps’s new recruits represent a cross-section of the American people, with men and women of varying ages and widely diverse backgrounds funneled into a training process that can be so grueling and difficult, some have referred to it as a “meat grinder.” For the rest of us, this training process is called the “accession pipeline,” – where kids from the block enter, and occupationally proficient professional warfighters emerge.

All Marines earn a tan belt in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program before completing recruit training, and while that’s akin to earning a white belt in most martial arts disciplines, the Marine Corps is one place where your ability to actually use your martial arts training in a fight is considered the priority.


The Army is deactivating its last long-range surveillance companies (again)
This isn’t really how most self-defense classes at the mall tend to play out. (USMC Photo by LCpl Ismael Ortega)

 

Martial arts in the Marine Corps is not a means to develop one’s self-esteem, a fun way to get active, or even about learning self-defense in bar fights. The Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) is, in many ways, an abbreviated introduction to the most brutal parts of warfare: where death is the most likely outcome, and the struggle is merely to decide which of you it comes for. While the techniques taught in the earliest belts (tan and grey) may seem simplistic, the intent is to provide all Marines with the basic building blocks required to bring others to a violent end, and of course, to try to prevent others from doing the same to you.

And if you want to win a fight, one of the first things you need to learn how to do is stop your opponent from force feeding you his fists. Hands have a nasty habit of moving faster than heads, so the boxing method of bobbing and weaving away from incoming strikes isn’t a feasible introduction to defense. Instead, the Marine Corps leans on the same approach to a rear hand strike as it would an ambush: once you see it coming, you attack into it.

The rear hand punch tends to be the most devastating of upper body strikes, and it can manifest in a number of ways. The same fundamental mechanics of using your legs and torso to swing your rear fist like a hammer at your opponent can make a right cross powerful enough to send you reeling, or give a hook the weight it needs to break a jaw. So when you see it coming, the appropriate response is to step into it at a 45-degree angle, closing the distance between your opponent and yourself, muting some of its delivery and re-orienting the point of impact on both your body and the arm of your opponent.

 

As you step into your opponent’s extending arm, your hands should already be raised to protect yourself. Make contact with the inside of your opponent’s swinging arm with the meaty portion of your left forearm while keeping your right hand up to protect your head. Once your left arm has made contact with your opponent’s right, his punch has been defused, but worse for him, his rear hand is now extended out to your side, leaving his head and torso open and undefended on that side.

At that point you can quickly wrap your left arm around your opponent’s extended arm at the elbow joint, creating a standing armbar you can use for leverage to deliver hammer strikes to your opponent’s face and head. You can also transition toward further joint manipulations, or you may maintain control of the arm and sweep your right heel as you drive your opponent to the ground, landing him face down while you maintain an armbar or basic wrist lock. For any but the most motivated of opponents, just about each of these results could feasibly be the end of the fight.

The Army is deactivating its last long-range surveillance companies (again)
Maintain positive control of your opponent’s wrist as you follow him to the ground to ensure he can’t scramble away. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. John Robbart III)

 

The important elements of this technique to master are simple, but fast-moving. Look for your opponent to telegraph a rear hand or round punch with their dominant hand. As they begin to throw it, step forward and into that punch, meeting your opponent’s arm with your own (if they throw a punch on your left, your left arm makes contact, on the right, your right arm does). The force of that impact alone should be enough to knock them a bit off balance, and all there is left to do is follow up with at least three techniques meant to harm or subdue the attacker.

And of course, if you’re in a multiple opponent situation, it’s imperative that you maintain situational awareness and create separation from your attacker as quickly as possible to prepare for the next attack. But if it’s just you and him… feel free to wrench on that arm a bit as you wait for law enforcement to arrive–ya know, just to make sure it doesn’t do him any good in lock up.

Articles

This combat controller kept taking it to the enemy after he was shot in the chest

Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Gutierrez had accompanied top special operators in some of the most dangerous missions of the War on Terror, including the Battle of Shok Valley. He was a combat controller assigned to Army Special Forces, calling in attack runs from aircraft supporting the Green Berets.


In 2009 he was tested like never before when, during a raid to capture a high-level Taliban leader, Gutierrez was shot in the chest. The round passed through his lung, collapsing it and ripping a chunk out of his back.

Gutierrez had seen this kind of wound before and estimated he had three minutes left to live.

“I thought about [my job], what I would do before I bled out,” Gutierrez told Fox News while discussing the raid. “That I would change the world in those three minutes, I’d do everything I could to get my guys out safely before I died.”

He stayed on the radio, calling in strikes from aircraft to help the team escape alive. At one point, enemy fighters were lined up on a wall only 30 feet from him. Gutierrez called in three A-10 danger close gun runs against the fighters. The rounds struck so close to Gutierrez that his ear drums burst from the explosions. After the first of the three runs, he allowed an Army medic to insert a needle into his lung, relieving some of the pressure that was forcing his lungs closed. It was the only time he came off the radio despite his injuries.

In fact, through all the chaos of the fight, Gutierrez remained so calm and clear on the radio that the pilots supporting the operation didn’t realize he was injured until he was removed from the battlefield.

“He said he would be off of the mic for a few to handle his gunshot wounds,” Air Force Capt. Ethan Sabin told Business Insider. “Until that point he was calm, cool and collected.

Gutierrez was medically evacuated from the battle after nearly four hours of fighting and losing over half of his blood. No American lives were lost in the raid, a success credited largely to Gutierrez’s extraordinary actions. He recovered from his wounds and was awarded the Air Force Cross, second only to the Medal of Honor for valor awards.

Watch the ceremony below

Articles

This Iraq vet kayaker will make you rethink PTSD


Army veteran Russell Davies knows all about taking the big plunge back into civilian life after military service. As a member of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, he served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and became a recipient of the Purple Heart.

Now a professional whitewater kayaker, Davies has made a name for himself both in competition and as a dominator of the biggest, burliest whitewater on the planet.

The Army is deactivating its last long-range surveillance companies (again)
“Yeah, sometimes Class V just isn’t enough.” “Totally.” (Go90 Oscar Mike screenshot)

“Oscar Mike” host Ryan Curtis caught up with Davies in Horseshoe Bend, Idaho, to see what a day on the water is all about, but what he found there goes a whole lot deeper.

As a civilian, Davies has given himself a new mission: to help returning veterans address the challenges of PTSD and depression through participation in extreme sports. His organization aims to connect vets to the kind of positive, purpose-driven adrenaline rush that he found through kayaking.

But, lest you fear the day was all mutual support and quiet healing, our host — true to form — came through with an 11th hour challenge that once again pushed him to the brink of washing out.

Watch as Davies shows Curtis why real men wear (spray) skirts and the only water worth knowing is white in the video embedded at the top.

Watch more Oscar Mike:

Watch this Vietnam War vet school a young soldier in stunt driving

This is why you don’t challenge an ex-sniper to a duel

This Army vet is crazy motivated

This is what happens when you put a sailor in a stock car

Articles

This is how Marines helped Afghans reclaim land from the Taliban

A key district in Afghanistan’s Helmand province that was taken by insurgents last year is now back under Afghan army control, US Marines deployed to Helmand announced July 17.


Nawa district, just west of Helmand’s capital city and regional police headquarters, Lashkar Gah, was overrun by the Taliban in August 2016, according to multiple media reports. The loss dealt a blow to hard-pressed Afghan National Army forces and raised questions about whether they would be able to maintain control of any part of Helmand.

With Nawa in enemy hands, civilian aircraft were unable to land at Bost, the airfield outside of Lashkar Gah, and the security of the city, a civilian population center, was in greater jeopardy.

But during a two-day operation that included airstrikes from US F-16 Fighting Falcons and AH-64 Apache helicopters, Afghan troops successfully wrested control of the district from the occupiers, reclaiming the district center earlier July 17, according to the release.

“The goal of this operation was to clear the Nawa district from the enemies, from the Taliban,” Col. Zahirgul Moqbal, commanding officer of the Afghan Border Police, said in a statement. “[Overall, our goal was] to retake the district from the Taliban.”

The Army is deactivating its last long-range surveillance companies (again)
USAF photo by Senior Master Sgt. Gary J. Rihn

The Afghan army’s assault on Nawa, called Operation Maiwand Four, also involved surveillance from ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicles owned by the ANA and other coalition unmanned systems, according to the release.

The F-16s and Apaches “set conditions, conducted air strikes, and covered the flanks of the maneuver elements to decrease the amount of friction felt by the ground forces and allowed freedom of maneuver,” the release stated.

The offensive involved multiple air strikes and bravery from the troops on the ground, who disabled more than 100 improvised explosive devices and maneuvered under fire to retake the Nawa district center, officials said.

In April, about 300 Marines from 2nd Marine Division out of Camp Lejeune in North Carolina deployed to Helmand province as an advisory element known as Task Force Southwest to assist local Afghan National Army units in their fight to hold the region.

Col. Matthew Reid, deputy commander of the task force, said in a statement that Operation Maiwand Four highlighted leadership and determination from Afghan troops.

The Army is deactivating its last long-range surveillance companies (again)
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

“So far during this operation we have seen some significant gains in leadership and maneuver from the Ministry of Interior forces, particularly the Afghan Border and National Police,” Reid said. “The vast majority of the ABP officers are from Helmand, many from Nawa, and they are aggressively fighting to clear insurgents from Nawa district.”

But the greatest difficulties may still be ahead for the Afghan forces.

In a New York Times report published July 14, Afghan Army Corps Operations Chief Lt. Col. Abdul Latif raised concerns about whether Afghan National Security Forces would be able to keep control of Nawa if they retook it.

“It is easy for us to take Nawa, but difficult to hold,” Latif said in the story.

The biggest challenge, he noted, was the scarcity of manpower. He estimated district security would require 300 police, but said that kind of manpower was not available. The report also noted that most forces in Helmand are not local to the area, but come in from the north and east.

According to the news release, Afghan National Security Forces plan to maintain control by setting up security checkpoints throughout Nawa’s district center and on the road to Lashkar Gah.

“It was a very successful operation in Helmand,” Moqbal said of Maiwand Four in a statement. “Defeating the enemy in Nawa means defeating the enemy in Helmand.”

Articles

These kamikaze drones pack an explosive surprise

The U.S. military has truly gone bonkers for unmanned aerial systems, with a vast inventory of surveillance drones alongside a few that are big enough to carry missiles for precision strikes.


But imagine if a UAS could observe a target for units on the ground, providing intel on a key terrorist leader or bomb making factory and be the bomb that takes them out.

That’s the kind of capability special operations units like the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command are looking for, and a few companies displaying their wares at the 2016 Modern Day Marine Expo and this year’s Association of the U.S. Army conference are offering the technology to fit that mission.

The Army is deactivating its last long-range surveillance companies (again)
Developed by an Israeli defense company, the Hero-30 can fly over 3 miles to its target and orbit for more than 30 minutes before homing in for the kill. (Photo by We Are The Mighty)

Developed by Israeli defense firm UVision, the Hero-30 is a beyond line of sight unmanned aerial vehicle that packs into an 11 pound launch canister that can be carried onto battle on a trooper’s back. The drone is about 4 feet long and is launched by a pneumatic shot of air. Once airborne, a soldier flies the vehicle using a handheld control unit which allows him to orbit his target for up to 30 minutes.

Once the bad guy is in sight, the operator just flies the drone straight into its target for the kill. The Hero-30 warhead can be configured for point detonation or air burst while still in flight.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JChwrALofLQ
 

“It is lightweight for a special ops team or an infantry squad to be able to provide them with a precision munition they can fly themselves,” said Clinton Anderson with Mistral Inc., which represents UVision in the U.S. “You can designate how you want it to attack and how you want the fuse to operate and you launch it in attack mode and it comes in right on the target and blows up.”

UVision also has a new version dubbed the Hero-40 that’s a bit longer with greater range and explosive payload and is intended for vehicle-borne operations and missions.

One of the oldest companies in the small UAV business Aerovironment has a more scaled-down answer to the kamikaze drone requirement with its Switchblade miniature lethal aerial system.

The Army is deactivating its last long-range surveillance companies (again)
The Aerovironment Switchblade lethal drone munition can be carried in a backpack and launched at a moment’s notice by troops in contact. (Photo by We Are The Mighty)

Coming in at just under 5 pounds with its diminutive launcher, the Switchblade has a 10 km range and can loiter over a target for about 10 minutes. It’s so small the Switchblade can fit inside a typical tactical pack and delivers a lethal blast on target using a small, handheld ground control system.

“This miniature, remotely-piloted or autonomous platform can either glide or propel itself via quiet electric propulsion, providing real-time GPS coordinates and video for information gathering, targeting, or feature/object recognition,” the company says. “The vehicle’s small size and quiet motor make it difficult to detect, recognize and track even at very close range.”

Company officials say the U.S. Army is buying the Switchblade for testing with its infantry troops and special operations soldiers.

MIGHTY CULTURE

New restaurant options are coming to Army and Air Force Bases

Panda Express and Muscle Maker Grill are among the new restaurants coming to Air Force and Army bases in 2019, officials with the Army and Air Force Exchange (AAFES) told Military.com.

AAFES manages restaurant contracts on Army and Air Force bases, including deals with familiar brands such as Subway and Starbucks. Other restaurants, like P.F. Chang’s, currently at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and coming soon to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, are contracted by base morale and welfare officials.


On-base food fans will get a break from Burger King and Taco Bell, as officials open a variety of new options and expand others.

Chinese fast-food restaurant Panda Express will open this year at Fort Meade, Maryland; Fort Benning and Fort Stewart, Georgia; and Travis Air Force Base, California, AAFES officials said.

The Army is deactivating its last long-range surveillance companies (again)

Panda Express.

(Flickr photo by Rick Obst)

Healthy menu-focused Muscle Maker Grill will open additional locations at Benning; Joint Base Andrews, Maryland; and, according to the company’s website, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Qdoba, which opened on several bases last year, including Fort Knox, Kentucky; Fort Lee, Virginia; and Fort Stewart, Georgia, will add more military locations.

While a Change.org petition to bring Chick-fil-A to bases continues to circulate and had collected nearly 88,000 signatures as of this writing, AAFES officials declined to comment on whether the restaurant will make an on-base appearance.

AAFES officials said they also will be bringing in a few less well known restaurant chains.

Chopz, a fast-food outlet that offers healthy options focused on salads, subs, burritos and wraps, will open at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, they said. And Slim Chickens, a fast-food chain primarily located in Texas and Oklahoma, will open locations at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and Fort Hood, Texas, later in 2019, they added.

Troops, military families and veterans can stay on top of military discounts, from travel accommodations to auto and entertainment deals. Sign up for a free Military.com membership to get full access to all discounts.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

It’s high time veterans have access to weed

The Department of Veterans Affairs has been credited with major medical advancements since its research office was created in 1925 — the cardiac pacemaker, shingles vaccine and the first successful liver transplant topping its list of accomplishments.


Now, a group of lawmakers wants VA researchers to turn their attention to marijuana.

Lawmakers on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs — led by the highest-ranking enlisted soldier to ever serve in Congress — are calling on the VA to initiate research into the efficacy of medical cannabis. In a letter Thursday to VA Secretary David Shulkin, the lawmakers cited the country’s opioid crisis and the growing demand from veterans and major veterans service organizations that want cannabis available as a treatment option for chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.

VA research into medical marijuana, the lawmakers wrote, is “integral to the advancement of health care for veterans and the nation.”

The Army is deactivating its last long-range surveillance companies (again)
Dank. (Image via flickr)

“There’s the possibility research can help inform not just veterans’ care, but everyone’s care,” said Griffin Anderson, press secretary for Democrats on the committee.

Also read: This is what the new VA chief thinks about using medical marijuana to treat PTSD

Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., is the ranking Democrat on the committee and a retired command sergeant major with the Minnesota Army National Guard. He’s one of nine Democrats and an Independent who signed the letter Thursday. The others are: Reps. Mark Takano, D-Calif.; Julia Brownley, D-Calif.; Ann Kuster, D-N.H.; Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas; Kathleen Rice, D-NY; J. Luis Correa, D-Calif.; Kilili Sablan, I-Northern Mariana Islands; Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., and Scott Peters, D-Calif.

The letter marks the first instance that the leadership of veterans’ affairs committee in the House or Senate has urged a VA secretary to conduct research on medical marijuana, Anderson said. Only recently, medical marijuana was thought of as a “fringe issue” by staff of committee Democrats.

The timing of the letter was based on Shulkin’s comments regarding medical marijuana in May, followed by months of advocacy from groups such as the American Legion. During a “State of the VA” address at the White House, Shulkin — who is also a practicing physician — acknowledged there was some evidence marijuana could be effective as a medical treatment and said he was open to learning more about it.

The Army is deactivating its last long-range surveillance companies (again)
Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin (left) meets with doctors. Photo from Health.mil

“The secretary expressed interest to look into this. I think he was speaking from a personal standpoint, but it was on a public stage,” said Megan Bland, a staff member for committee Democrats. “When you look at that, and take the veterans’ suicide rates, the opioid crisis and the complexity of post-traumatic stress disorder, it just makes so much sense that if there’s a solution, we should explore it.”

Since May, the American Legion has strongly advocated for more research into medical marijuana. At its national convention in August, the organization adopted a resolution urging the VA to allow doctors to discuss and recommend medical marijuana in states where it’s legal. That’s in addition to a resolution that the group passed the previous year asking for marijuana to be removed from the list of Schedule I drugs, which include with heroin, LSD, ecstasy and others designated as having no medical use.

The Legion has been supportive of research in Phoenix, Ariz., that is the first federally approved study of marijuana’s effects on veterans with PTSD.

Louis Celli, a leader within the Legion, said the organization is trying to prove to lawmakers that medical marijuana is a politically safe topic.

Celli described the letter that lawmakers sent Thursday as “the beginning of the snowball.” He noted it carried weight being led by Walz, whom Celli called a “major player in the veteran community.”

The Army is deactivating its last long-range surveillance companies (again)
The medicine we can all agree on. (Image via YouTube)

“The U.S. government has to address this issue… they can’t turn a blind eye and pretend it’s not coming to critical mass,” Celli said. “If veteran research could lead the way for a national, medical shift in the efficacy of cannabis and start that dialogue, that’s good for America.”

Staff for Democrats on the House committee found no regulatory barriers that would prevent the VA from immediately researching medical marijuana. Bland said the VA already possesses a Schedule I license, which is required by the Drug Enforcement Administration to study marijuana.

Lawmakers asked Shulkin to respond to their letter by Nov. 14, with either a commitment to develop research into medical marijuana or a detailed reason for why the VA can’t.

“Everything we looked at suggests the VA can pursue this tomorrow,” Bland said. “And if they can’t, we want them to tell us why they can’t, with the idea that hopefully we’d be able to help them overcome those barriers in the next year.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Popeye the Sailor was based on a real person – and this is what he looked like

Cartoonist E.C. Segar created Popeye the Sailor in 1919 after taking a correspondence course on drawing from a guy in Cleveland. Segar’s hometown of Chester, Ill. was chock full of characters that Segar easily adapted to print. Dora Paskel, the owner of a local general store, was unusually tall and thin, wearing her hair in a loose bun at the nape of her neck. J. William Schuchert was the local theater owner who had a voracious appetite for hamburgers.

And Frank Fiegel was a one-eyed, pipe-smoking brawler who never turned down a fight.


The Army is deactivating its last long-range surveillance companies (again)

Frank Fiegel died in 1947 and was originally buried in an unmarked grave. Popeye fans rectified this in 1996.

Fiegel was more likely to down a few bourbons instead of a can of spinach to get his super fighting prowess, but the rest of his caricature fit the Sailor Man to a T. He had the same jutting chin, built frame, and trademark pipe as his cartoon counterpart. But kids were rather scared of Olive Oyl’s real-world inspiration, as she was more apt to stay inside her store. Wimpy’s rotund figure was based on Popeye creator E.C. Segar’s old boss at the local theater. When Segar wasn’t lighting lamps, he was sent out to pick up burgers for the owner.

Popeye’s real-life inspiration is sometimes attributed to a photo of an old sailor who really does resemble Popeye the Sailor Man, but this is just internet folklore.

The Army is deactivating its last long-range surveillance companies (again)

(Imperial War Museum)

The sailor in the above photo is really a sailor, but he’s a British sailor. His name is lost to history, but the Imperial War Museum lists him as “A Leading Stoker nicknamed ‘Popeye,'” with 21 years in service and fighting aboard the HMS Rodney in 1940. Fiegel would have been at least 70 years old when this photo of the battleship sailor was taken.

Frank “Rocky” Fiegel was actually a bartender and not any kind of sailor, but he did love the kids around Chester, and they used to love to play pranks on the old barfly. Fiegel would impress them with his feats of strength as well as his telltale corncob pipe – something young Segar would never forget. “Popeye” was an homage to an unforgettable man who lived to know his image was soon in 500 newspapers nationwide, the symbol of sticking up for the little guy.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These universal peace symbols are the definition of irony

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines irony as the following: incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result. It’s like being run over by an ambulance that’s on its way to save you — instead of saving you (the expectation), it’s turned you into roadkill (the ironic twist).

Now, these are not to be confused with just bad moments — if you want examples of those, take pretty much any example listed in Alanis Morissette’s song, Ironic (then again, writing a song entitled Ironic and failing to cite a single example of real irony is kinda ironic…).

Another hilarious example of situational irony stems from the fact nearly every well-known “peace” symbol has a military origin. Sure, they may have been co-opted throughout the years to take on entirely different meanings, but if you go by the original definition of each symbol, you’re effectively intimating the opposite of your intent.


Pretty much every symbol for peace, shy of the Roerich Pact’s Three Jewels, has roots in military culture — in fact, many of them have been used as signals of martial might. You may be familiar with a few of these:

The “V” sign

The simple hand gesture, synonymous with counter-culture hippies, Richard Nixon, and teenage girls, actually has concrete beginnings that can be traced to one man at one moment: Winston Churchill threw up his index and middle fingers to signal a ‘V,’ for “victory,” after the Allies triumphed over the Axis Powers.

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I like to think that he knew full well that he was giving everyone the forks, but wanted to see how long it took anyone to say something.

But before that, Belgian Minister of Justice, Victor de Lavaleye, began spreading the use of the finger ‘V’ across Europe. In 1941, he was using it as a quiet protest to say that “victory is coming” or “freedom is coming” in the Netherlands (“freedom” in Dutch is “vrijheid,” which also starts with a “v”). Churchill, upon co-opting the symbol, eventually turned his palm outward to avoid sending the British gesture for “up yours.”

In either case, the symbol that is now known for peace started as a way to signal impending or fresh military victory, depending on your cited origin.

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You can go ahead and pick whatever color you like — it all sends the same message.

White poppies

After WWI, wearing a red poppy on one’s lapel was a sign of respect for fallen troops. It was a direct homage to Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae’s famous poem, In Flanders Fields. In 1933, the Peace Pledge Union shifted the tradition, imploring people to wear white poppies instead of the red ones to honor the casualties of war without extolling it.

If you really want to be specific, however, the poem never really identifies which color poppy grew at Flanders Field, just that there were poppies. So, if you’re wearing poppies of any color, you’re referencing one of history’s most famous wartime poems. The only reason he chose the red version of the poppy is because it’s eye-catching.

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The “peace symbol” 

The most famous symbol to come out of the 1960s is actually a clever use of military speak to directly get the military’s attention for a specific issue: nuclear disarmament. Just after the UK had developed their H-Bomb and tested it near Christmas Island, the Direct Action Committee called for a pause on the manufacturing of nuclear weapons. The Committee agreed that outright pacifism wasn’t the solution — but they also agreed that nuclear weapons weren’t the answer to the Cold War, either.

The DAC needed a symbol to rally behind, so designer and DAC board member Gerald Holtom created one, incorporating the flag semaphores for ‘N’ and ‘D’ in the design, for “nuclear disarmament.”

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Funnily enough, Joker is using the symbol in its proper context. His pin says that wars shouldn’t be fought by nuclear means, but through conventional warfare.

(Warner Bros.)

They never trademarked the design, so it was free to use among members of the counter-culture and anti-Vietnam War protesters ran with it.

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The olive branch

The most misunderstood signal of peace is the olive branch. The first example of olive branches being used as a symbol dates back to the stories of ancient Greece when Athena was trying to win the patronage of Athens over Poseidon. Legend has it, she threw her spear into the ground and it blossomed into the first olive tree. The new tree was, essentially, a giant “f*ck you” to Poseidon because her olives were more useful than his salt water.

Athenians later gave olive branches out as a symbol of Athena to mighty warriors and Olympians. The olives and their branches represented prosperity after long-fought wars.

During the time of the Romans, Mars, the God of War, was often depicted holding an olive branch. To the Romans, “extending the olive branch” meant to be from a god or ruler and given to their subject. It was something more along the lines of “we fought, now enjoy this peace and prosperity.”

The Romans knew best that si vis pacem, para bellum, or “if you want peace, prepare for war.”

Articles

North Korea warns that its new ICBM will send shivers down America’s spine

Pyongyang tripled down on Kim Jong-un’s New Year’s claim that North Korea is close to testing an intercontinental ballistic missile Wednesday.


“We have reached the final stage of preparations to test-launch an intercontinental ballistic missile,” Kim said in his New Year’s address, adding that, “Research and development of cutting edge arms equipment is actively progressing.”

“The ICBM will be launched anytime and anywhere,” the Korean Central News Agency said Sunday, quoting a North Korean foreign ministry spokesperson.

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The launch of satellite-carrying Unha rockets is watched closely, since it’s the same delivery system as North Korea’s Taepodong-2 ballistic missile, which was tested successfully in December 2012 and January 2016. (Photo: Reuters/KNCA)

“Just because the U.S. is located more than ten thousand kilometers away does not make the country safe,” the Rodong Sinmun, the primary publication of the ruling Worker’s Party, asserted Wednesday.

“Soon our ICBM will send the shiver down its spine,” the paper warned. “There is nothing we are afraid of. In the future, phenomenal incidents to strengthen our national defense power will take place multiple times and repeatedly.”

“We have miniaturized, lightened and diversified our nuclear weapons, and they can be loaded on various delivery systems to be launched anytime and anywhere,” the Rodong Sinmun boasted.

In response to any such theoretical action, the U.S. promises shoot down a North Korean ballistic missile “if it were coming towards our territory or the territory of our friends and allies,” Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said Sunday.

“If the missile is threatening, it will be intercepted. If it’s not threatening, we won’t necessarily do so,” Carter explained Tuesday.

The effectiveness of America’s missile interception capabilities is debatable.

The U.S. has a “limited capability to defend the U.S. homeland from small numbers of simple” North Korean nuclear-tipped ICBMs, the Pentagon’s weapons testing office warned in its annual report, according to Bloomberg.

“I am very confident in the systems and procedures” the U.S. Northern Command “will employ to intercept a North Korean ICBM were they to shoot it toward our territory,” Vice Admiral James Syring, director of the Missile Defense Agency, told reporters.

Pyongyang “has set the goal of developing miniaturized nuclear weapons that can fit atop a missile capable of reaching the U.S. by the end of 2017,” former North Korean diplomat Thae Yong-ho told Yonhap News Agency Sunday.

“North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S. It won’t happen!” President-elect Donald Trump tweeted a day after Kim made North Korea’s ICBM ambitions clear.

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MIGHTY HISTORY

A WW1 explosion in Belgium was so big that it was heard in London

On the morning of June 7, 1917, after a dry quip to journalists about how he didn’t know whether he and his men’s actions “shall change history tomorrow,” but would “certainly alter the geography,” a British major general ordered a series of mines set off, detonating an almost 1 million pounds of explosives, killing about 1,000 German soldiers, and causing leaders in London —about 130 miles away — to hear the explosion.


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A howitzer crew provides fire support during the infantry assault at the Battle of Messines Ridge.

(National Library of Scotland)

It all started soon after World War I descended from a fast-paced maneuver war into the trench-warfare stalemate that would define the conflict. Allied troops facing Germans in Belgium were, like their brethren in the trenches southward across France, quickly demoralized as the war ground on, thousands died, and almost no significant changes were made to the balance of the war.

People were dying by the thousands to seemingly no effect. So, some British officers came up with a plan to shift the line in Belgium by putting in years of work that would guarantee an eventual victory far in the future.

The plan was changed, overhauled, and refined plenty of times in those two years, but the basic underpinnings stayed the same. Near the village of Messines in Belgium, British tunnelers got to work digging towards and then under the German lines along the ridge that dominated the area. This digging operation would continue for two years.

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Sappers dig a communication trench near Messines Ridge after the explosion that essentially handed the area to the British. Engineers had worked for nearly two years to dig the original tunnels that made the explosion possible.

(Imperial War Museums)

Shafts were dug across the front, and some were dug as deep as 100 feet and then filled with strong explosives. On top of these subterranean towers of explosives, each major stockpile had a mine that would act as the initiation device.

On June 6, 1917, the night before detonation, British Maj. Gen. Charles Harington brought some journalists together and made his quip,

“Gentlemen, I do not know whether we shall change history tomorrow. But we shall certainly alter the geography.”

Around dawn the following morning, the order was given to set off the mines. This was done by individual soldiers with different devices, resulting in 19 separate explosions that came right on the heels of each other. In France, it was reported by some as an earthquake. In London, some reported hearing an unexplained boom whose source would only later be revealed.

For German soldiers and officers, this was obviously a nightmare. For those directly over the explosion, the nightmare was over instantly. The Earth erupted around them like a volcano. The earth shook and shot into the sky. Men were wrecked by the blast and then survivors were buried alive in the debris. Approximately 1 millions pounds of explosives were used in the blast.

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Soldiers share a smoke on June 10 during the Battle of Messines. The Battle of Messines Ridge had kicked off the British advance and given them a huge advantage when engineers successfully set off nearly 1 million pounds of explosives beneath a key ridge.

(Imperial War Museums)

But the slight breaks between explosions meant that, for minutes afterwards, German troops and officers were terrified that more explosions were coming, that they would be killed or buried in a sudden tower of fire and dirt.

Meanwhile, British troops had been staged to take advantage of the sudden opening in the lines. Many were knocked down by the initial blast despite staging hundreds of yards away. But they stood up and attacked the German lines. What had been a ridge was now a series of major craters, and the British were determined to take them.

The British had known that a large explosion was coming, though many individual soldiers didn’t know the exact details, and so they were able to rally much faster than the Germans. The British infantry assault, preceded by a creeping artillery barrage, successfully captured 7,000 survivors in addition to the 10,000 that the explosions had killed.

And the British were left holding what was left of the ridge. The Germans retreated and this allowed Britain to launch more attacks into Ypres. The Battle of Messines Ridge had been a great success, though the Ypres Offensive it enabled was less so. The idea for the larger offensive had been to capture the German U-Boat pens on the Belgian coast, but the openings at Messines Ridge didn’t eliminate the German defenses further on.

The Ypres Offensive was launched on July 31, just weeks after the explosions at Messines, but Germans fiercely contested the assaults and launched counterattacks of their own. The offensive was, ostensibly, an Allied victory. The Allies took Ypres and a lot of other territory, but suffered 275,000 casualties to Germany’s 220,000.

And, just a year later, a massive German troop buildup forced Britain to abandon the territory for more defensible territory to the west.

That’s why most of the world has forgotten the detonation at Messines Ridge. It was one of the largest man-made explosions in history at the time and it allowed the British to pull a victory, seemingly out of thin air. But its strategic impact didn’t last.

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