The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats

American planners looking at contending with North Korea, ISIS remnants and copycats, and fighting in megacities against near-peer enemies have identified a shortfall of current U.S. training and focus: our enemies are turning to tunnels more and more, but modern U.S. forces have no idea how to best fight there.


The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats

An Army infantryman is lowered into Vietnamese tunnels during a search-and-destroy mission in Vietnam, 1967.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Howard C. Breedlove)

This has triggered a look at new technology and old tactics that could make the difference in fighting underground. The Defense Intelligence Agency has even floated the idea of a new warfighting domain: subterranean.

First, to define the problem. Insurgent and terrorist cells — notably ISIS, but also many others — have turned to tunneling to hide their activities from the militaries sent to stop them. Some of this is to allow fighters and supplies to flow across the battlefield undetected and unchallenged, but some of it is to hide intelligence and weapons or to force security forces to move through dangerous tunnels during last-ditch fighting.

Meanwhile, North Korea has been tunneling for decades just like communist forces did in Vietnam. Their military assets, including ballistic missiles and warheads, have been stored and moved through tunnels for years, making it harder to ensure an aerial first strike gets them all in one go. Iran has entire missile factories underground.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats

An Iranian missile is fired during testing. Iran has built three underground missile factories. In a potential war with the country, expect that someone will have to secure all the subterranean sites.

(Tasnim News Agency)

Modern infrastructure is increasingly built underground, from cable networks and natural gas systems to, increasingly, power lines. This leaves both America and its enemies vulnerable to disruptions of modern water supplies, information sharing, and power supply of multiple types due to underground attacks.

But Americans haven’t fought underground on a large scale since Vietnam, and even the exploits of the heroic tunnel rats pale in comparison to what would be required to take and hold underground territory, especially under the cities and megacities that the bulk of human population will live in within a few decades.

So, the military has turned to DARPA and to long-term planners to figure out how American warfighters will maintain an advantage.

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DARPA announced a new grand challenge last year called the DARPA Subterranean Challenge. The agency opened two research tracks: one for teams that wanted to compete in a physical challenge and one for those who would compete in a virtual challenge.

No matter the course selected, teams have to develop systems that will give American forces and first responders an advantage in human-made tunnel systems, the urban underground (think subways), and natural cave networks. The final event won’t happen until 2021, but the winner of the physical challenge will get million while the virtual track winner will get 0,000.

Meanwhile, the Army has invested 2 million in training soldiers to fight in subterranean networks with a focus on the sewers and other networks constructed either under large cities or as standalone bases. A 2017 assessment estimated that there are 10,000 military facilities constructed partially or entirely underground. Almost 5,000 of them are in North Korea.

“We did recognize, in a megacity that has underground facilities — sewers and subways and some of the things we would encounter … we have to look at ourselves and say ‘okay, how does our current set of equipment and our tactics stack up?'” Col. Townley Hedrick, commandant of the Infantry School at the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia, told Military.com in an interview. “What are the aspects of megacities that we have paid the least attention to lately, and every megacity has got sewers and subways and stuff that you can encounter.”
The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Daron Bush roleplays a simulated casualty at Camp Gonsalves, Okinawa, Japan, Feb. 16, 2018. Imagine having to get injured Marines through miles of caves to medevac within the golden hour.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jamin M. Powell)

The military has been asking for new tunnel hardware for years. A 2016 wishlist from the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office asked for technology that would detect and possibly intrude into tunnels. In 2017, the Army got a new piece of equipment that allows them to map underground tunnels to an unknown extent from the surface.

Still, there’s a lot to be done. Troops will need less cumbersome armor or will be forced to fight bare in cramped quarters. Batteries will need to be light and compact, but even then it will be impossible to carry enough power to use many of the modern gadgets soldiers are used to. Many current technologies, like most radios and GPS, are useless with a few feet of rock disrupting signals, so special guidance and comms are essential.

Even with new gadgets and tactics, subterranean fighting will be horrible. Cramped quarters limit maneuverability, favoring a defender that can set up an ambush against an attacker who doesn’t have room to maneuver. Front-line medics will take on increased responsibility as it will be essentially impossible to evacuate patients from complex cave systems within the golden hour.

So, expect a call for modern tunnel rats within the next few years. But, good news for the infantrymen who will inevitably get this job: You’ll be equipped with a lot more than just a pistol and flashlight, and you might even have enough room to walk upright.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why North Korea might build a US burger franchise

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is not planning on giving up his nuclear weapons any time soon but is open to the idea of opening a Western hamburger franchise, according to US officials familiar with a CIA intelligence report.

“Everybody knows they are not going to denuclearize,” one intelligence official told NBC News.


Recently, a special adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae-in floated examples of Kim wanting to modernize his economy through international investment, such as a McDonald’s and a Trump Tower. The report said the north could open a burger joint as a show of goodwill to Trump.

“They want to be a normal country, a normal state to be recognized by the United States,” Professor Moon Chung-in said during a CNN International interview.

“They want American investment coming to North Korea,” he said. “They welcome American sponsors and multilateral consortiums coming into North Korea.”

The CIA analysis, which was circulated in early May 2018, comes amid President Donald Trump’s upcoming summit with Kim in Singapore on June 12, 2018. The meeting, if it happens, would mark the first time a sitting US president meets with a North Korean leader.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F9%2F8682%2F30124698995_d8241104ec_b.jpg&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fc1.staticflickr.com&s=73&h=4e61b84fede18ca2d2bcdc26e8a51b7464a3094a7fbaaf384e78528bed5c4a52&size=980x&c=2349758428 image-library=”0″ pin_description=”” caption=”President Donald Trump” photo_credit_src=”https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8682/30124698995_d8241104ec_b.jpg” crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F9%252F8682%252F30124698995_d8241104ec_b.jpg%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fc1.staticflickr.com%26s%3D73%26h%3D4e61b84fede18ca2d2bcdc26e8a51b7464a3094a7fbaaf384e78528bed5c4a52%26size%3D980x%26c%3D2349758428%22%7D” expand=1 photo_credit=”(Photo by Gage Skidmore)”]

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

A growing consensus of foreign-policy experts have echoed the CIA’s assessment that Pyongyang is not planning on relinquishing its nuclear arms — a talking point the White House has stressed to North Korea as a precondition to easing its “maximum pressure” campaign.

Despite doubts of a denuclearized North Korea, Trump expressed optimism during the ongoing negotiations ahead of the summit.

“We have put a great team together for our talks with North Korea,” Trump said in a tweet. “Meetings are currently taking place concerning Summit, and more.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of December 13th

Awh yeah! It’s Army-Navy Game time, folks! You’d think troops would hate the game, but we f*cking love it! Any other day of the year and you’d be hard-pressed to find a single troop who’d actively give a damn about a bunch of academy soon-to-be butter bars who finally show up for some sports PT. But nope! It’s about branch pride this weekend!

Even the Marines full-heartedly accept they’re apart of the Navy for one afternoon. That entirely depends on if they win, of course. Vegas odds put the Midshipmen at a slightly better chance of winning after the Army went on that five-game losing streak, but they’ve come back from worse odds.

If Navy does win, they get the Commander-in-Chief Trophy back at Annapolis. If Army wins, they retain the trophy because the wins are spread out like it’s a “Rock, Paper, Scissors” style match-up since Army already lost to Air Force… Wait a second…


That was almost six weeks ago? Huh. Even when the Army is having a sh*tty year, we all kind of forget about the Air Force Academy… Anyways, here are some memes.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments Memes)

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats

(Meme via On The Minute Memes)

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats

(Meme via Call for Fire)

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats

(Meme via Not CID)

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

For everyone crying out “but what about your pro-mask seals?” I’d like to politely ask you when was the last time you saw anyone actually carry a pro-mask with them out on patrol in an accessible position and not in the bottom of a ruck (or in the vehicle) for any reason other than the TOCroach LT randomly tagging along. 

Exactly.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats

(Meme via Private News Network)

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats

(Meme via @CollegeGameDay Twitter)

Go Army, Beat Navy!

It’s technically a photo from last year but since it’s still relevant and I’ve held onto it since then, so it makes it in. Bite me.

Articles

Navy SEALs are cracking down on drug use

The Navy’s elite SEAL teams have taken on a lot of America’s enemies, and have proceeded to kick ass and take names. Now, though, they are facing a potential challenge from within — a streak of drug use.


According to a report by CBSNews.com, five SEALs were kicked out for drug use in a three-month period late last year, prompting a safety stand-down.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats
Navy SEALs retreat after a training exercise. (U.S. Navy photo)

“I feel like I’m watching our foundation, our culture, erode in front of our eyes,” Capt. Jamie Sands, Commodore of Naval Special Warfare Group 2, said in a video of a meeting carried out during the December 2016 stand-down.

“I feel betrayed,” Sands added. “How do you do that to us? How do you decide that it’s OK for you to do drugs?”

One of three SEALs who went to CBS News outlined some of the drugs allegedly being used.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats
Navy SEALs train. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

“People that we know of, that we hear about have tested positive for cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana, ecstasy,” the SEAL said in an interview. CBS disguised the SEAL’s voice and concealed his identity.

Leadership in Naval Special Warfare Group 2 viewed the drug use situation as “staggering,” according to the CBS News report. One of the SEALs who went to CBS said that “it has gotten to a point where he had to deal with it.”

“I hope he’s somebody that we can rally behind and hold people accountable, but I’m not sure at this point,” the SEAL added.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats

One thing Sands has done has been to carry out drug testing even when away from their home bases, something not always done in the past.

“We’re going to test on the road,” Sands told the SEALs in a video released to CBS News. “We’re going to test on deployment. If you do drugs, if you decide to be that selfish individual, which I don’t think anyone’s going to do after today — I believe that — then you will be caught.”

During the stand-down, drug testing was done, and one SEAL who had earlier tested positive for cocaine ended up testing positive again, this time for prescription drugs. That SEAL is being kicked out.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The body of the first female veteran of the Revolutionary War is now missing

Remains believed to be of a Revolutionary War hero buried at West Point don’t belong to a woman known as “Captain Molly” after all, but to an unknown man.


The U.S. Military Academy said Dec. 5 the discovery stems from a study of skeletal remains conducted after Margaret Corbin’s grave was accidentally disturbed last year by excavators building a retaining wall by her monument in the West Point Cemetery. Tests by a forensic anthropologist revealed the remains were likely those of a middle-aged man who lived between the Colonial period and 19th century.

Corbin was known for bravely stepping in to fire a cannon in 1776 during a battle in New York City after her husband was killed. She was severely wounded during the Battle of Fort Washington, but lived another 24 years. She became the nation’s first woman to receive a pension for military service.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats

The location of Corbin’s remains is a mystery. Ground-penetrating radar around the gravesite failed to turn up any signs.

The Daughters of the American Revolution received approval in 1926 to move Corbin’s remains from nearby Highland Falls to the hallowed ground of West Point’s cemetery. The leafy lot near the Hudson River is the resting place for thousands, including Gulf War commander Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, U.S. commander in Vietnam Gen. William Westmoreland, and Lt. Col. George Custer.

The DAR used records and local accounts from the community to locate the remains believed to be Corbin, according to the Army.

“The remains were verified back in 1926. And you have to consider the gap between 1926 and today. Technology has changed tremendously,” said Col.Madalyn Gainey, spokeswoman for Army National Military Cemeteries.

Read More: Meet the badass Revolutionary War heroine who mowed down Redcoats with a cannon

The remains of the unknown man were reinterred at West Point’s cemetery. A re-dedication ceremony for the Corbin monument at the cemetery is scheduled for May.

“Nearly 250 years after the Battle of Fort Washington, her bravery and legacy to American history as one of the first women to serve in combat in the defense of our nation continues to transcend and inspire women in military service today,” said ANMC Executive Director Karen Durham-Aguilera.

Military Life

7 of the worst phrases to hear from your leadership

There’re certain things that come down the chain of command that hurt your very soul when you, the lowest “link,” hear about them. Of course, “deployment extended” and “Dear John” have firmly secured their place on the podium of most-hated phrases, but these ones burn the ears, regardless of circumstance.


Nothing good ever comes from these 7 phrases.

7. “Make it happen.”

Every now and then, an impossible task becomes an imperative in someone’s eyes. This leads to the phrase that shuts down all conversation.

Doesn’t matter. You’ll have to beg, borrow, or steal whatever you need to, well, “make it happen.”

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats

6. “We’re expecting little-to-no resistance.”

While you’re deployed, this one sentence seems to jinx everything.

The platoon could just be out doing ‘atmosphericals’ (basically, you roll around an area of operations and just poke around to see if anyone wants to come play) for months and nothing will happen. The moment your platoon leader says this phrase, every enemy decides to make an appearance.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats

5. “Why didn’t you square away your battle buddy?”

This is always uttered when your squadmate does something stupid, unsafe, criminal, or a combination of the three.

And yet, blame gets shifted from the one who’s actually at fault or the NCO in charge on to the battle buddy who was probably in their barracks playing video games.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats
Because yeah, military regulations are what troops talk about in the ‘Bs’ (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian Morales)

4. “It’s time to embrace the suck.”

Things are about to get real and the sh*t is about to hit the fan.

Oddly enough, and not to pass judgment or anything, but the staff officer who jokes about the imminent sh*tstorm usually seems to make it out squeaky clean.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats
Don’t worry though. That staff officer will at least hand out water at the end of the ruck march! (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Anthony Zendejas IV)

3. “This shouldn’t take that long.”

This has two different meanings depending on when it’s said.

If it’s used when you’re told to go empty a shipping container (connex), that means they don’t understand shipping containers. If it’s while you’re sweating your ass off while emptying that Connex and they come out of nowhere to say it, they’re as**oles.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats

2. “Weapons draw at zero too-f*cking early hundred.”

This always comes down the moment before the range, field op, or something similar.

Sure, weapons draw may be at 0400, but the armorer won’t show until 0635, you won’t get to the Motor Pool until 0830, and, just to put a bit more salt on that wound, the command team already planned on SPing out at 1030. All the while, you probably didn’t roll into bed around midnight and didn’t get a lick of sleep.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats

1. Anything involving “100% accountability” when off-duty.

This means that something terrible happened or that someone did something terribly stupid.

It comes in all shapes and sizes — “Ladi dadi, everybody” and “All-hands on deck.” This always sucks because your leadership probably aren’t heartless machines. They enjoy weekends and time off, too.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats
Even your First Sergeant wants to spend the weekend NOT at their desk yelling at idiots. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Dana Beesley)

Articles

This legend of Fort Bragg served with more than 20 different commanders

The walls of Travis Bell’s modest barbershop on Fort Bragg are lined with history.


Photos of Army heroes are here, men such as the late Col. Arthur D. “Bull” Simons, a Special Forces legend best known for leading the Son Tay raid during an attempted rescue of American prisoners of war during the Vietnam War. Former Army leaders have found their way on the walls, too, including Gens. Hugh Shelton, Ray Odierno, Lloyd Austin, and Stanley McChrystal.

Some are official photos. Others were taken from Bell’s barber chair in the center of his shop. In a few, it’s Bell in the chair and a general behind him, playfully holding a pair of clippers.

Nearly every photograph includes a handwritten note to Bell, who has been a fixture on Fort Bragg for more than half the Army post’s almost 100-year history.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats
Travis Bell at work. DoD Photo by Spc. Paul A. Holston.

“Thanks for your dedication and friendship,” wrote Lt. Gen. Mike Ferriter, who served as a deputy commanding general of the 18th Airborne Corps from 2007 to 2009.

“Thank you for your friendship, support, and dedicated service to America,” wrote Lt. Gen. John R. Vines, who commanded the 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg from 2005 to 2007.

“To Travis with deep respect,” wrote McChrystal, who served as chief of staff of the corps and later commanded Joint Special Operations Command and the US war in Afghanistan before his retirement in 2010.

After 50 years of standing behind his barber chair, Fort Bragg leaders pulled Bell out into the open July 7 to honor him for his decades of service.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats
U.S. Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal. Photo from DoD.

Maj. Gen. Paul J. LaCamera, deputy commanding general of the 18th Airborne Corps and the acting senior commander of Fort Bragg, said Bell has had a lasting impact on Fort Bragg and its leaders that stretches well beyond making them look good.

“He’s shaped a lot of leaders in the Corps,” the general said. “He has probably counseled every Corps commander since 1967.”

Bell, 77, has long served as a sounding board for soldiers across the 18th Airborne Corps, LaCamera said. And he has more time in the headquarters than anyone in history.

As a token of appreciation, the general presented Bell with a book full of handwritten letters from past Army leaders.

“The impact he’s had…” LaCamera said. “Who he has touched… It’s unbelievable. We’ve got a man who has had a tremendous impact.”

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats
General Maj. Gen. Paul LaCamera (right). Photo from DoD.

Bell opened his shop on Fort Bragg during the week of July 4, 1967. The then-27-year-old had worked on post for several months by that time — first at the old E-4 club, which would eventually become the Noncommissioned Officers Club, and then briefly at the 1st Corps Support Command headquarters.

Bell recalls accepting the job at the 18th Airborne Corps reluctantly.

In 1966, he turned down a similar job on Fort Bragg when he learned that the Corps headquarters was “where all that high brass” was stationed.

Instead, Bell kept working as a night foreman at a poultry plant in Robeson County. He cut hair on the side for a quarter or $.35 a cut.

When another job at Fort Bragg opened — this time with lower-ranking troops as the customers — Bell jumped at the opportunity.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats
Fort Bragg, North Carolina, USA. Enlisted personnel barracks for the 1st Brigade. Photo by Jonas N. Jordan, US Army Corps of Engineers

“I was one of them,” he said of the privates and privates first class who were among his first customers on post. “I was right at home.”

It would take Bell weeks to feel comfortable cutting the hair of soldiers at higher ranks.

When a lieutenant sat in his chair for the first time, Bell said he froze.

“I got so nervous I couldn’t hardly finish,” he said.

When Bell was offered the job at the 18th Airborne Corps headquarters a second time, he said he felt he had little choice but to accept it.

“It was go there or go home,” he said.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats
USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Preston Cherry

Bell grew up on a Robeson County farm, one of nine boys who worked the fields alongside their father. Later, he would be a painter, carpenter, plumber and mechanic, and do other odd jobs along the way.

He said he viewed cutting hair as his way out of those jobs, learning from an older brother and practicing on his siblings.

But settling into his shop at the 18th Airborne Corps, Bell would have had no idea he would still be there 50 years later.

“I thought I wouldn’t even last the first day,” he said. “But I made it through that. Then I made it through another one. And another one.”

Bell estimates that he has cut more than a million heads of hair at Fort Bragg, although he said business is a lot slower these days, with much of the 18th Airborne Corps deployed to lead the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats
DoD Photo by Cpl. Angelica Annastas

“My customers are over in the war,” he said.

Originally, Bell charged 90 cents per cut. Today, the cost ranges from $8.55 to $10.75.

Bell has cut the hair of 23 Fort Bragg commanders, starting with Lt. Gen. Robert H. York in 1967.

The general walked into Bell’s shop, shook his hand and introduced himself, Bell said.

“I was so nervous, to this day I haven’t told him my name,” he said.

Those nerves would eventually go away. And Bell would become a trusted counselor to Fort Bragg’s leaders.

Gen. Daniel B. Allyn, who retired on Fort Bragg last week after a career that culminated as vice chief of staff for the Army, said he sought out Bell to cut his hair one last time before he stepped away from the military.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats
Gen. Daniel B. Allyn. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill.

Allyn thanked Bell alongside current and former Army leaders.

“Travis has been cutting the hair of airborne troopers for over 50 years,” Allyn said. “He lowered my locks one final time this week. Thank you for not only keeping us looking as good as possible but thanks for your constant reminder of the impact of faith in our lives.”

When not cutting hair, Bell is often seen reading from a Bible he keeps in his shop.

He said he still makes the drive from Lumberton to Fort Bragg each day.

The July 7 celebration was just one way the Fort Bragg community said thanks to Bell. It was also his first day back in a newly remodeled barber shop.

And on July 6, he rode in an airplane for the first time in his life, flying with the US Army Parachute Team, the Golden Knights.

Bell still hasn’t been on a plane when it landed, though. The 77-year-old touched the ground while strapped to a member of the parachute team.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats
A member of the US Army Parachute Team, the Golden Knights. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade

“I’m airborne now,” he said July 7, proudly recalling the experience of the day before.

Bell said Fort Bragg is home now.

“They take care of me good around here,” he said. “It’s been a real pleasure.”

And after 50 years, the barber has no plans to slow down.

“I’m enjoying it right now,” he said. “I don’t know when I’m going to retire.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

This deadly resistance fighter was the Wonder Woman of WWII

One of the leaders of the attack was an Australian woman that Resistance Capt. Henri Tardivat called “the most feminine woman I know.” Her name was Nancy Wake. But as she and her men approached the factory that night, there was a problem. A sentry spotted them. Wake sprang at him just as he was about to shout a warning, clamped a forearm beneath his jaw, and snapped his head back.


The man’s body slipped quietly to the ground.

“She is the most feminine woman I know,” Tardivat added, “but when the fighting starts, “then she is like five men.”

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats
Wake had a bounty of 5 million Francs on her head.

From April 1944 until the liberation of Paris the following August, Wake served as a top British agent in German-occupied France. She personally led attacks on German installations, including the local Gestapo headquarters in Montluçon, sabotaged bridges and trains, and once during a German attack took command of a section whose leader had been killed and directed suppressive fire as the group withdrew.

Her courage was never questioned, and “her brain worked with the speed and smoothness of skates on ice,” as Australian Russell Braddon wrote about her.

Born in New Zealand and raised in Australia, when the war broke out in 1939, Wake found herself in Marseille married to French industrialist Henri Fiocca, a wealthy, fashionable, and one account says “frivolous” Society woman. But the frivolity ended when she met and befriended captured British officers kept prisoner in the city and eventually began helping them escape to Spain. She also began working as a courier for the Resistance.

The Gestapo, aware of her presence but not her identity, dubbed her the “White Mouse” for her ability to slip away and avoid detection.

In 1943, her luck ran out.

[She was arrested in a street sweep in Toulouse, interrogated, and beaten but not identified, and the Resistance was able to free her after four days. She escaped France, leaving Henri behind, first by leaping from the windows of a train, then hiding among bags of coal in the back of a truck, and finally in a forty-seven-hour trek through the mountains.

She made it to England where she volunteered for the Special Operations Executive. In April 1944, after training, she parachuted back into occupied France to serve with the Resistance fighters in the Auverge region of southcentral France, where a force of almost 8,000 men headed by Tardivat was hiding in the forests and raiding German facilities. On her person were a million francs for the Resistance groups and plans for their part in the upcoming D-Day invasion.

For the jump, she wore silk stockings beneath her coveralls.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats
Wake before the Second World War.

Wake lived and worked with the Resistance group for the next seventeen months, overseeing all British parachute drops, channeling Allied funds to the Resistance, and battling the 22,000 German fighting men in the area. She also served a command function with the Resistance and took part in raids, at one point just escaping death when the car she was riding in was strafed by a German fighter. At another, she travelled 500 km, through mountainous terrain and German-held territory, to report a destroyed radio and code books.

“When I got off that damned bike… I couldn’t stand up. I couldn’t sit down, I couldn’t walk. When I’m asked what I’m most proud of doing during the war, I say: ‘The bike ride’,” she later said.

When France was finally liberated, Wake learned her husband Henri had been captured, tortured, and killed by the Gestapo and that his (and her) wealth was gone. In the years after the war, she held several British intelligence positions, got remarried, and lived to age 98. She died in 2011 requesting that her ashes be spread over the mountains where she had fought.

“That will be good enough for me,” she said.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats
Nancy Wake survived the war and lived until 2011.

Among the decorations Wake received for were the George Medal, 1939–45 Star, France and Germany Star, Defense Medal, British War Medal 1939–45, French Chevalier of the Legion of Honour, French Croix de Guerre with Star and two Palms, the US Medal for Freedom with Palm, and the French Medaille de la Resistance.

She was very likely the most decorated woman of the war.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US in a hurry to question special operations in Africa

The deaths of four U.S. Special Forces soldiers in Niger last month have raised questions about America’s role in the fight against violent extremism in a sparsely populated region of Africa.


Before the October attack, in which at least four Nigerien soldiers were also killed, some members of Congress said they were aware of U.S. operations in Niger, but others — including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) — said they did not know U.S. troops were on the ground in Niger.

U.S. involvement includes more than 800 troops, according to Pentagon officials. There are also two drone bases in the country.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks with reporters about recent military operations in Niger Oct. 23, 2017, at the Pentagon. (DoD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

Niger and Burkina Faso want the U.S. to do more to support local governments in their fight against extremism, mainly by funding a new regional task force. The first-year operating budget for the five-nation force has been projected at $500 million. The United States is considering making a contribution of $60 million.

A decade of involvement

The heightened U.S. presence in the Sahel dates back to at least 2007, when the Pentagon established the United States Africa Command, AFRICOM. The command, based in Stuttgart, Germany, works with regional partners in Africa to strengthen security and stability. Since at least 2013, U.S. forces have conducted missions to train, advise, and assist in Niger, collaborating with local authorities to clamp down on armed extremists.

Niger has been a particularly important strategic partner in the region. During the Obama administration, the U.S. built drone bases in the capital, Niamey, and in the northern city of Agadez.

“Because the government of Niger has been a strong ally to the counterterrorism efforts, it’s been natural for the United States to station its counterterrorism forces in that country,” said Lisa Mueller, an assistant professor of political science at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota.

But the Green Berets’ deaths have brought new scrutiny to U.S. partnerships in the Sahel, and it is unclear how — or if — the Trump administration might shift its policy in the region.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats
A US Army Special Forces weapons sergeant observes as a Nigerien soldier bounds forward while practicing buddy team movement drills during Exercise Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, March 11, 2017. (Army photo by Spc. Zayid Ballesteros.)

Some activists and U.S. lawmakers are concerned that some regional partners have authoritarian governments. Even Niger, said Brandon Kendhammer, an associate professor and director of the International Development Studies Program at Ohio University, is “problematically democratic.”

Still, Kendhammer characterized U.S. involvement as a net positive. “It’s pretty clear that these investments do make a real difference in the ability of the region to provide its own security,” he said.

Seeking input has been key to that success, according to Kendhammer. Despite perceptions among some observers that AFRICOM works unilaterally, the command has a track record of seeking local expertise and wide-ranging perspectives, Kendhammer said.

Green Beret deaths

Pentagon officials expect to complete their investigation into the Niger attack in January.

Based on what is now known, the U.S. soldiers killed last month were involved in exactly the kind of work that troops stationed in the Sahel undertake, Kendhammer said.

Related: This is the general demanding answers for the families of the soldiers who died in Niger

A big part of that role involves training local forces via workshops and fieldwork. Training can cover everything from basic operations to advanced tactics, including rapid response to terrorist attacks. To maximize their impact, the U.S. follows a “train the trainer” model, Kendhammer said, working with elite local forces who, in turn, share knowledge and skills.

No one has claimed responsibility for the October attack, but the Pentagon suspects possible involvement by militants affiliated with the Islamic State group, one of several extremist organizations operating in the Sahel.

That presence typically involves local militants who pledge allegiance to an international organization like IS or al-Qaida. Such an affiliation might signal tenuous ties — occasional mention in an IS publication, for example — or ongoing communication with the broader network.

Either way, affiliating with an established terrorist organization can be more pragmatic than ideological. According to Kendhammer, the particular group alleged to be behind the Niger attack was previously affiliated with al-Qaeda and switched in 2015 or 2016 to find a better strategic partner.

The tactics employed by local militants hinge on undermining U.S. efforts. As VOA previously reported, it is likely that villagers in Tongo Tongo, where last month’s attack occurred, helped lure U.S. and Nigerien forces into a trap. The villagers’ willingness to assist militant groups reflects concerted efforts within those factions to build trust with local populations while fomenting contempt for America.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats
Tongo Tongo in Niger. (image Google Maps)

Daily Beast contributor Philip Obaji Jr. reported this month that residents of Tongo Tongo blamed the U.S. for a 2016 grenade attack that killed six children. No evidence has linked the U.S. to the incident, but local militant groups have pushed the narrative of an American-led slaughter to “win the hearts and minds of the local population,” Obaji wrote.

Also Read: Pentagon identifies 3 Bragg soldiers killed in Niger ambush — 4th found dead

Financial constraints

Governments in the Sahel say they need far more funding to carry out critical missions tied to two task forces: the newly-formed G5 counter-terrorism force and the Multinational Joint Task Force, a longstanding effort based in Chad that has been revitalized to fight Boko Haram.

Burkina Faso’s minister of foreign affairs, Alpha Barry, told VOA’s French to Africa service this month that the G5 force needs more help from the U.S., whose recent pledge will assist regional militaries but not the G5, according to Barry.

Despite its bases and troop deployments, U.S. investment in the Sahel, particularly in Mali and Niger, has so far been eclipsed, both financially and militarily, by the EU and France, Mueller said.

Local solutions

Concerns about lack of funding and efforts to demonize the U.S. may have a common solution: more local initiatives and buy-in. But bringing those solutions to fruition is easier said than done.

“In U.S. government discourse about West Africa, [we tend] to talk about the need for everything to be regionally oriented and for everything to be an African solution to an African problem. And those are good ideas in principle, but they don’t always translate directly into obvious policy,” Kendhammer said. “Not every regional initiative is going to be the right regional initiative. Not every local solution is going to be the local solution that’s actually going to solve the problem because countries have different interests.”

Read More: This timeline shows how the Niger operation went down

In the end, countries’ interests will dictate how well a solution works. In the Sahel, that’s complicated by a diverse host of local players, each with its own economic and security concerns.

For Niger, fighting extremism is less about combating a homegrown threat and more about securing its borders. “It might be tempting to look at Niger – a country that is approximately 99 percent Muslim in its population – and assume that Nigeriens are radicalizing. And as far as I can tell, that’s just not the case,” Mueller said.

Instead, threats have spilled into the country from all sides, putting Niger in the crosshairs.

MIGHTY MOVIES

The Super Bowl is getting the most awesome Air Force flyover ever

Fans tuning in to watch Super Bowl LII, where the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles will face off to determine who is the best in the NFL, will also see a bit of history during the pre-game ceremonies. For the first time, the Air Force Heritage Flight, including a North American P-51 Mustang, will conduct the traditional flyover.


The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats
A North American P-51 takes off from Iwo Jima, in the Bonin Islands. From this hard-won base our fighters escorted the B-29’s on bombing missions to Japan, and also attacked the Empire on their own. (USAF photo)

According to an Air Force release, the P-51 will be joined by two Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt close-air support planes and a Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon. This is not unusual for the Heritage Flight, which routinely flies older aircraft alongside those currently serving.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats
Two A-10 Thunderbolts will also take part in the flyover. (USAF photo)

The Super Bowl flight is a first for the Air Force’s Heritage Flight, which honors the sacrifices made by those who have served, assists in recruiting and retention efforts, and displays the evolution of air power over the years. The P-51 will be flown by Steve Hinton (not to be confused with his son, Steven Hinton, who set a new speed record in a modified P-51 last year). The flyover will be broadcast live on NBC from multiple cameras, including one mounted on the P-51.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats
A F-16 will also participate in the Super Bowl LII flyover. (USAF photo)

The P-51 Mustang entered service with the Air Force in 1942. It had a top speed of 437 miles per hour and a maximum range of 851 miles. It was armed with six M2 .50-caliber machine guns and could also carry bombs. After dominating the skies in World War II, the P-51 served as a ground-attack plane in the Korean War. It also saw action in the Soccer War of 1969. A version of the P-51 almost entered service with the Air Force in the 1980s as a close-air support/counter-insurgency aircraft, called the Enforcer.

We can’t wait to see this historic plane take to the skies once more!

Editorial Note: This article previously stated that Steve Hinton set a speed record in a modified P-51, but it has been corrected to reflect that it was his son, Steven Hinton, who set the record. 

MIGHTY TRENDING

The SEAL who shot bin Laden rained on Trump’s military parade

Robert O’Neill, the former U.S. Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden in a 2011 raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, has weighed in on President Donald Trump’s idea to have a military parade — and he’s not happy.


“A military parade is third world bulls—,” O’Neill tweeted. “We prepare. We deter. We fight. Stop this conversation.”

Trump has instructed the Pentagon to draw up plans for a parade, but the content, location, and timing of such an event have not been announced.

O’Neill joins a chorus of U.S. military veterans expressing opposition to the idea of a parade, and of U.S. pundits who have pointed to Trump’s desire for a parade in likening him to a dictator.

Also read: How a US military parade will compare to China’s or Russia’s

In later tweets, O’Neill acknowledged that the U.S. has previously held military parades. And in a reply to another Twitter user, he asserted that Russia and France — which regularly hold them — were third-world countries because unlike the U.S., they couldn’t take over the world.

Historically, “Third World” refers to countries that aligned with neither the West nor the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The term has since taken on a broader meaning to describe economically developing nations.

The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats
Blue countries are First World, or aligned with the U.S. and NATO. Red countries are Second World, or Soviet Union-aligned. Green countries are Third World, aligned with neither. (Vorziblix via Wikimedia Commons)

In another tweet, O’Neill made clear his idea of a military parade befitting the U.S.: the so-called Thunder Run, the U.S. military’s 2003 attack on Baghdad that quickly took the city.

Further reading: These are the responses to Trump’s DC military parade

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

This vet rocked BaseFEST in front of thousands of his Marine brothers

On September 22nd, thousands of fans poured into Lance Corporal Torrey Gray Field at Twentynine Palms, California for the final stop on USAA’s months-long BaseFEST tour. The all-day festivals brought together the military community at the country’s largest bases and offered free food, fun, and some great, live music — featuring larger-than-life bands, like The Offspring.

But veterans got in on the entertaining, too. Marines, troops, and their families were warmed up by Twentynine Palms’ own Matt Monaco, better known by his stage name, Modest Monaco.


The military may need more of the historic tunnel rats

Not a bad side-hustle if I do say so myself.

(USAA)

Monaco comes from a Marine family. His grandfather served for over 33 years in the Marine Corps and fought in three separate wars.

“Honor, courage, and commitment. That is who he was. Seeing that in him inspired me to want to be like him,” says Monaco.

And, in 1997, he did just that. “I’ve only seen my grandpa cry twice in his life. Once was at his 50th wedding anniversary and once was at my graduation for the Marines.”

As a Marine, he spent his days serving our country — his nights, however, were reserved for working on drift cars at his own shop. This side gig opened the door for him to become a DJ. Once he put it out there that he wanted to learn to produce electronic music, DJs would bring their cars to him and he’d pick their brains. Two years and a complete album later, he’s on stage at BaseFEST.

Modest Monaco is no stranger to Twentynine Palms. It was, after all, where he trained. But instead of embracing the suck, as Marines tend to do, he instead kicked ass on stage.

The night also featured Nombe, Carlton Zeus, Haha Tonka, and The Offspring. Sadly, the Southern California festival concluded this year’s BaseFEST tour. But if you missed it this year, don’t sweat it — BaseFEST was a resounding success, so fans can probably expect bigger and better things to come next summer!

To hear former Marine Corps Sergeant Matt Monaco, aka Modest Monaco, share his experiences in his own words, check out the video below.