The US military's special ops has slowly returned to its roots - We Are The Mighty
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The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots

The US military’s special operations forces (SOF) are increasingly returning to their roots of advising foreign militaries to fight for them — and it seems to be paying dividends in Iraq and Syria.


The campaign against ISIS is being fought less by US troops on the front lines, but instead is being conducted ” by, with, and through” local forces, Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of CENTCOM, told Congress.

There have been three big changes in how SOF has been used against ISIS, and if successful, these new tactics might be used in future conflicts, Linda Robinson, a senior analyst with RAND, writes at The Cipher Brief.

As Robinson notes, special ops are on the ground in ideal numbers, they accompany and are dispersed with local forces at the front, and they provide crucial fire support to local forces.

In the late 1940s, SOF were seen to have little purpose in a new world where atomic weapons and strategic bombers reigned. But that changed with the emergence of the Cold War, where proxy wars and insurgencies became more prevalent.

One of the first examples of the new way SOF were used was in the 1950s when the 10th Special Forces Group was tasked with establishing guerrilla forces behind Communist lines in eastern Europe. “That was the moment Special Operations warriors point to as their birthday,” Dwight John Zimmerman and John D. Gresham write in “Beyond Hell and Back: How America’s Special Operations Force Became The Best Fighting Force In The World.”

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots
A member of the U. S. Army Special Forces conducts Security Assistance Training for members of the Armed Forces Philippines (AFP). This field training is held on the Zamboanga Peninsula of the Philippine Islands with the Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines (JSOTF-P) as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. | U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer First Class Edward G. Martens

After 9/11, however, SOF began to be used in more “precision, highly kinetic strike forces enabled by technology and linked through a digitally networked battlefield.” But by and large, the new counter-terrorism strategy in Iraq and Syria may prove to be something of a reset to SOF’s former tactics.

The number of SOF in Iraq and Syria has now reached about 10,000, giving them the means to provide “meaningful support to the variety of indigenous forces fighting ISIS,” Robinson writes.

Related: US officials want to deploy 5,000 more troops to Afghanistan

Furthermore, SOF now accompany local forces to secure locations near the front lines. They no longer give tactical advice from distant headquarters, where they had to analyze operations through “the soda-straw perspective of drone feeds,” Robinson says.

This allows them to see local forces in action, and therefore give better advice.

Over the last year, SOF has increasingly provided more fire support. US Apache helicopters were first used in June 2016 to capture Qayyarah, which is now a staging base for coalition forces’ assault on Mosul. This base now has an ICU, and High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems set up to support the assault.

US howitzers are also set up at a base in Hamman al-Alil, providing support to Iraqi CTS and Federal Police advancing into West Mosul.

This support has been even more helpful to Syrian Democratic Forces, an irregular force that is not heavily armed but nevertheless is the main force fighting ISIS in Syria.

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots
A U.S. Army Soldier, attached to The 7th Special Forces Group, U.S. Army Special Operations Command, conducts reconnaissance during a live-fire exercise at Twentynine Palms, Calif. | United States Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Efren Lopez

Members of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit have also moved into Syria with 155mm howitzers to assault Raqqa. It was reported in March that US Marines near Raqqa “had killed hundreds of enemy fighters and destroyed more than 200 fortifications.” One of the canons they used in these strikes was the M-777 Howitzer, which fires 155mm shells and has a range of up to 25 miles.

SOF has also recently helped position 500 local forces near the strategic Tabqah Dam, which was eventually wrested from ISIS.

However, the fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq is far from over. ISIS has dug bunkers, trenches and tunnels, and laced Raqqa with mines, while in western Mosul, there are still more than 400,000 civilians caught in the middle of heavy fighting.

But if the campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria succeeds, “this new way of combining forces and using SOF to direct a ground war, could become a model for conducting low- to mid-level combat.”

Check out the full article at The Cipher Brief

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Russia & Turkey could destroy the F-35 program

The US’s F-35, from the Joint Strike Fighter program, is the most expensive weapons system of all time and a fighter jet meant to revolutionize aerial combat, but Turkey, a US NATO ally, looks poised to let Russia destroy the program from within.

Turkey, a partner in the F-35 program, has long sought to operate the fighter jet and Russia’s S-400 surface-to-air missile-defense system at the same time.

But experts have told Business Insider that patching Russia through to NATO air defenses, and giving them a good look at the F-35, represents a shocking breakdown of military security.


As such, lawmakers have tried to get the US to stop selling F-35s to Turkey, but Turkey already has two of the fighter jets, and said the S-400 is a done deal.

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots

(Russian Defense Ministry)

Generals are sounding the alarm

On March 5, 2019, US Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the head of US forces in Europe, told a Senate Armed Services Committee that the idea was as bad as it sounds.

“My best military advice would be that we don’t then follow through with the F-35, flying it or working with an ally that’s working with Russian systems, particularly air-defense systems, with what I would say is probably one of most advanced technological capabilities,” Scaparrotti said.

“Anything that an S-400 can do that affords it the ability to better understand a capability like the F-35 is certainly not to the advantage of the coalition,” NATO Allied Air Commander Gen. Tod Wolters said in July 2018.

NATO worries about “how much, for how long, and how close” the F-35 would operate near the S-400s. “All those would have to be determined. We do know for right now it is a challenge,” he continued.

Retired US Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula told Business Insider that NATO countries “don’t want to be networking in Russian systems into your air defenses” as it could lead to “technology transfer and possible compromises of F-35 advantages to the S-400.”

Russia wouldn’t just sell Turkey the radars, batteries, and missiles and then walk away, it would actively provide them support and training. Russian eyes could then gain access to NATO’s air defenses and also take a good look at the F-35.

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The F-35’s fate in Turkey’s hands?

Because NATO is an alliance formed to counter Russia, allowing Russia to learn information about its air defense would defeat the purpose it and possibly blunt the military edge of the most expensive weapons system ever built.

But the US has little choice now. Turkey has pivoted away from democracy and has frequently feuded with its NATO allies since a 2016 attempted coup prompted the country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to consolidate power.

Turkey holds millions of Syrian refugees and has helped stem the number of refugees entering Europe. Turkey has expressed fury at the White House for years over the US support of Kurds in Syria and Iraq during the fight against ISIS. Turkey brands the militant Kurdish units “terrorists.”

The F-35 holds advantages besides stealth, including a never-before-seen ability to network with other fighters, but the S-400 remains a leading threat to the fighters.

Russia, if it spotted an F-35 with its powerful counter-stealth radars, would still face a steep challenge in porting that data to a shooter somewhere that could track and fire on the F-35, but nobody in the US military wants to see Russia looped in to the F-35’s classified tactics and specifics.

Russia has failed to field a fifth-generation fighter jet to compete with the US’s F-22 and F-35 in any meaningful way, but if its missile-defense systems can get an inside look at the F-35, it may not need to.

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

MIGHTY MEMES

The 13 funniest memes for the week of February 22nd

President Trump has officially signed the order to begin the process of developing the Space Force. The logical side of all of our brains is telling us that it’s just going to be an upgraded version of what the Navy and Air Force’s respective Space Commands currently do… but deep down, we all want to sign up.

I mean, who wouldn’t immediately sign an indefinite contract to be a space shuttle door gunner? It represents that tiny glimmer of hope in all of us that says we, one day, can live out every epic space fantasy we’ve ever dreamed up.

The sad truth is that the first couple decades (if not centuries) of the Space Force will involve dealing with boring human problems, not fighting intergalactic aliens bent on destroying our solar system. Oh well.

Hey, while you wait for the army of Space Bugs to start invading, kill some time with these memes.


The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots

(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots

(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots

(Meme via Uniform Humor)

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots

(Meme via Awesome Sh*t My Drills Sergeant Says)

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots

(Meme via Private News Network)

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

Articles

Afghan Army-piloted A-29s will soon attack the Taliban

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots
Photo by Embraer


Afghan pilots will soon be attacking Taliban forces with machine guns and 20mm cannons firing from airplanes in Afghanistan — flying U.S.-provided A-29 Super Tucano aircraft, Air Force officials said.

Loaded with weapons to attack Taliban forces and engineered for “close air support,” the A-29s are turboprop planes armed with one 20mm cannon below the fuselage able to shoot 650 rounds per minute, one 12.7mm machine gun (FN Herstal) under each wing and up to four 7.62mm Dillion Aero M134 Miniguns able to shoot up to 3,000 rounds per minute.

Super Tucanos are also equipped with 70mm rockets, air-to-air missiles such as the AIM-9L Sidewinder, air-to-ground weapons such as the AGM-65 Maverick and precision-guided bombs. It can also use a laser rangefinder and laser-guided weapons.

Four A-29s have been delivered so far as part of an effort to equip the Afghan Army with up to 20 aircraft, Heidi Grant, Under Secretary of the Air Force, International Affairs, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

“Afghan pilots have been training here and learning English in the U.S. A class of eight pilots recently graduated a class at Moody AFB. They are back in Afghanistan. My hope is that in the next month or so you are going to see them doing some close air support for their Army,” Grant added.

Close air support will enable the Afghan Army to better target and destroy groups of Taliban fighters in close-proximity to their forces, giving them a decisive lethal advantage from the air.

The Super Tucano is a highly maneuverable light attack aircraft able to operate in high temperatures and rugged terrain. It is 11.38 meters long and has a wingspan of 11.14 meters; its maximum take-off weight is 5,400 kilograms. The aircraft has a combat radius of 300 nautical miles, can reach speeds up to 367 mph and hits ranges up to 720 nautical miles.

The U.S. is buying them for the Afghans through a special Afghan Security Forces fund that Congress has appropriated, she explained. They are being built by Sierra Nevada out of Jacksonville, Fla. – an effort which brings jobs to the U.S., she added.

“They are right now doing top off tactics training. They trained here in the U.S. but they needed to get into country to do the top-off tactics training,” Grant said.

The presence of armed “close air support” aircraft for the Afghan Army could have a substantial combat impact upon ongoing war with the Taliban – who have no aircraft.

Also, the arrival of the air support comes at a time when some observers, military leaders and lawmakers are concerned about combat progress in Afghanistan, openly questioning President Obama’s plan to reduce U.S. forces from 9,800 to 5,500 by 2017.  Outgoing CentCom Commander Gen. Lloyd Austin III and Sen. John McCain have been among those expressing concern.

At the same time, the presence of combat-changing air-attack ability for Afghan forces could engender a circumstance wherein the U.S. could reduce its presence without compromising ongoing progress in the war against the Taliban.

Articles

70-year-old man raising money for fellow veterans by running up the Empire State Building

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots
(Photo: Big Mac via Wikipedia)


On February 3rd, a 70-year-old veteran will be taking the stairs — 1,576 of them.

Jerry Augustine of Middletown, Connecticut is set to participate in the Empire State Building Run-Up, the world’s oldest and most famous tower race. He will join an elite group of runners selected from thousands who vied for a spot in the event.

This will be the ninth time the Vietnam vet has run up the iconic New York City landmark’s 86 flights of stairs. He is running for Team Red White and Blue, a not-for-profit with the mission to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.

The former Army Spec. was tasked with search and destroy missions, recovering bodies, and ambush patrols during his 1966-1967 deployment to Vietnam. The Hartford Courant recently detailed one of his more harrowing missions:

One day, while performing this duty, Augustine fell into a human trap known as punji pit, a camouflaged hole with sharpened bamboo stakes at the bottom. The stakes might be tipped with excrement to cause infection. Augustine was lucky. He said the pit was old and the stakes had rotted and merely collapsed under his weight.

Augustine said another close call came when he was “point man” on ambush patrol. Approaching a clearing, he said, he was spotted by a guerrilla fighter who fired an RPG. The mortar round struck a tree a few feet away. “It bounced off and landed right next to my boot,” Augustine said. He dove for cover, but the round failed to detonate.

“I still think about how close I was to death,” he said. “When, you’re young you don’t think about, but it hits me now.”

He said one of the worst experiences was when his company was sent to recover the bodies of fallen comrades in the aftermath of a three-day battle in fall 1966. “My platoon had the duty of carrying 30 bodies to the choppers to be put into body bags and sent back to friendly lines,” Augustine said. “It was just horrible.”

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots
Jerry Augustine (center) in Vietnam. (Photo: Augustine personal collection via The Hartford Courant)

After the war he struggled with what is now known as ‘post traumatic stress.’ In 1992, his doctor prescribed Prozac, but it made him lethargic. A friend suggested he drop the meds and hit the pavement.

“My son had a paper route on a bicycle at the time, so I started running along with him delivering papers, a couple of miles a day,” Augustine told The Hartford Courant. “Pretty soon I was entering races, and doing pretty well. I became one of the best in my age group. Running made me feel great.”

Augustine won the ESB Run-Up race in the 50s division in 2001. His last race was 2007.

“When I turned 70 this year, I wanted to see if I could still do it,” he told the Courant. “I’d be really happy to get a time of 20 minutes this time. Maybe even 25 minutes. It’s a lot harder now.”

If you would like to get into ‘run-up-the-stairs-of-a-102-floor-building-in-25-minutes-or-less’ shape, here is Jerry’s simple routine:

  • Sprint up the stairs of a 12 story building: 3 times in a row, 3 times a week.
  • 110 squats and 110 push ups: every night.

For more on Team RWB go here.

Articles

This 1973 war is why the Air Force thinks the A-10 can’t survive in modern combat

In the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the Israeli Armed Forces successfully beat back a two-front invasion by Syria and Egypt. The war lasted only a few weeks, but its implications for air combat continue to reverberate — even helping make the case for ditching the iconic A-10 Warthog.


The Yom Kippur War raged from Oct. 6-25, 1973, and the Israeli forces initially suffered severe setbacks. It was a full, combined arms conflict where tanks, artillery, planes, infantrymen and air defense missiles all had their say.

But one string of events reaches forward in time from those weeks and threatens the A-10.

Israel’s air force, the Chel Ha’Avir, was able to slow and halt nearly all advances by tanks and other ground forces when it was safe to fly. But when the enemy forces stayed under the air defense umbrella, Israel’s pilots came under heavy attack.

In one instance, 55 missiles were flying at Israel’s pilots in a single, small strip of land occupied by Syrian forces.

This resulted in Israeli ground forces either quickly losing their air cover to battlefield losses or to pilots becoming so worried about enemy missiles that they couldn’t operate properly. In the first 3 days of fighting, the Chel Ha’Avir lost approximately 50 fighters and fighter-bombers — 14 percent of the air force’s entire frontline combat strength.

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots
The wreckage of an Israeli A-4 downed during the Yom Kippur War now rests in an Egyptian military museum. (Photo: Leclaire, Public Domain)

Israeli forces turned the tables with a few brilliant maneuvers. At one point, a pilot realized the enemy was firing too many missiles, so he led his men in quick passes as bait for the missileers, causing the enemy to expend all their ordnance while downing a relatively few number of planes. The survivors of this risky maneuver were then able to fly with near impunity.

On another front, artillerymen opened the way for the air force by striking the missile sites with long range guns. They moved forward of their established safe zones to do so, putting their forces at risk to save the planes above them.

Israel went on to win the war, allowing NATO and other Western militaries around the world to pat themselves on the back because their tactics and hardware defeated a coalition equipped with Soviet tactics and hardware.

But for the Chel Ha’Avir and aviation officers around the world, there was a lesson to be parsed out of the data.

Both the A-4 Skyhawk and the F-4 Phantom flew a high number of sorties against the Syrians, Egyptians and their allies. But the Skyhawk suffered a much worse rate of loss than the F-4s.

This was — at least in part — because the F-4 flew faster and higher and could escape surface-to-air missiles and radar-controlled machine guns more easily. Just a year after the A-10’s debut flight and over 3 years before it was introduced to the air fleet, the whole concept of low and slow close air support seemed dated.

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots
An Israeli A-4 similar to those which flew in the Yom Kippur War. (Photo: Oren Rozen CC BY-SA 3.0)

The resulting argument, that low and slow CAS is too risky, is part of the argument about whether the Air Force should ditch the low-and-slow A-10 Warthog for the fast-moving, stealthy F-35 Lightning II.

Of course, not everyone agrees that the Yom Kippur War is still a proper example of the close air support debate.

First, the A-10 has spent its entire service life in the post-Yom Kippur world. While it suffered six losses against the Iraqis during Desert Storm, it has been flying against more advanced air defenses than the A-4s faced in the Yom Kippur War and remained a lethal force throughout the flight. The A-10 has never needed a safe space.

Second, while the A-10’s speed and preferred altitudes may make it more vulnerable than fast movers to ground fire, it also makes the jet more capable when firing against ground targets. To modernize the old John A. Shedd saying about ships, “A ground-attack jet at high-altitude may be safe, but that’s not what they are designed for.”

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots
A-10s aren’t as safe as some other planes, but they save the bacon of the guys on the ground beneath them. (Photo: US Air Force)

Finally, the Yom Kippur War was a short conflict where the Chel Ha’Avir had to fly against a numerically superior enemy while that enemy was marching on its capital. This forced commanders to take additional risks, sending everything they had to slow the initial Syrian and Egyptian momentum.

The U.S. Air Force is much larger and has many more planes at its command. That means that it can field more specialized aircraft. F-35s and F-22s can support ground forces near enemy air defenses and go after missile sites and other fighters while A-10s or the proposed arsenal plane attack ground forces from behind the F-22 and F-35 shield.

This isn’t to say that the Air Force is necessarily wrong to divest out of the A-10 to bolster the F-35. The Warthog can’t stay on the battlefield forever. But if the A-10 has served its entire career in the post-Yom Kippur world, it seems like a shallow argument to say that it couldn’t possibly fight and win for another 5 or 10 years after nearly 40 successful ones.

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Articles

7 Interesting Facts About The Javelin Missile System


The FGM-148 Javelin is portable and cheap when it is relatively compared to the targets it was designed to destroy: tanks. Developed in the 80s and implemented in the 90s, it’s one of the most devastating anti-tank field missiles. Here are seven cool facts about the shoulder anti-tank missile system:

Texas Instruments – the same company known for their scientific calculators – developed the Javelin.

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots
Texas Instruments calculator (Photo: Wikimedia), Javelin (Wikimedia)

To be precise, two companies developed the Javelin: Texas Instruments and Martin Marietta (now Raytheon and Lockheed-Martin).

A Javelin launcher costs $126,000, roughly the same price of a new Porsche 911 GT3.

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots
Javelin (Photo: Wikimedia), Porsche 911 GT3 (Photo: m7snal7arbi/Instagram)

The Javelin is a fire-and-forget missile; it locks onto targets and self-guides in mid-flight.

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots
Photo: YouTube

The gunner identifies the target with the Command Launch Unit (CLU) – the reusable targeting component of the Javelin system – which passes an infrared image to the missile’s onboard seeker system. The seeker hones in on the image despite the missile’s flight path, angle of attack, or target’s movement.

The CLU may be used without a missile as a portable thermal sight.

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots
Photo: Staff Sgt. Bret Mill/US Army

The Army is working on a new CLU that will be 70 percent smaller, 40 percent lighter, and have a 50 percent battery life increase.

The Javelin has two attack modes: direct attack and top attack.

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots
Photo: Wikimedia

In direct attack mode – think fastball – the missile engages the target head-on. This is the ideal mode for attacking buildings and helicopters.

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots
Photo: Wikimedia

In top attack mode – think curveball – the missile sharply climbs up to a cruising altitude, sustains, and sharply dives onto the target. This is the mode used for attacking tanks. A tank’s armor is usually most vulnerable on its top side.

The main rocket ignites after achieving about a five to ten yard clearance from the operator.

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots
Photo: USMC

The Javelin system ejects the missile from the launcher using a conventional motor and rocket propellant that stops burning before it clears the tube. After a short delay – just enough time to clear the operator – the flight motor ignites propelling the missile to the target.

A Javelin missile costs approximately $78,000; about the same price of a base model Range Rover.

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots
Javelin (Photo: Wikimedia), Range Rover (Photo: eriq_adams/Instagram)

Because launching a Javelin missile is about the equivalent of throwing away a Range Rover, most operators never get the opportunity to fire a live Javelin round.

NOW: This Sniper Round Can Change Direction In Mid-Flight

AND: DARPA Is Building A Drone That Can Tell What Color Shirt You’re Wearing From 17,500 Feet

Articles

She loves her rifle…and this killer playlist

Editor’s note: Kayla Williams is an Army war vet and author of Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the US Army. This list originally appeared on her blog.


The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots
The author (right) rockin’ her rifle while tooling around Iraq back in the day.

When I was speaking at a university a few years ago, a student who DJ’d at the local college radio station and had read my book asked me to come on as a guest. He had me put together a list of music I listened to in Iraq, and then interviewed me between songs. It was a really cool experience for me to revisit my deployment through music.

This isn’t limited to my time in Iraq, but is evocative of both my deployment and homecoming. Here it is:

1. Live, “Mental Jewelry”

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots

I started listening to Live in high school and have fond memories of seeing them play. For some reason, the lyrics came into my mind often in Iraq, always making me feel a little melancholy.

2. Bad Religion, “The Process of Belief”

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots

This album came out while I was at DLI, and I listened to it throughout the summer of 2002 while I was at AIT in Texas. Once we got to Iraq, this song in particular made me ache.

3. “Story of My Life,” Social Distortion, Social Distortion

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots

This is one of my favorite albums. Went to see them play in Dallas the summer of 2002 – and spent the whole time feeling a little alienated from civilians. As for this particular song, I left my hometown when I was 15, and every time I’ve gone back have felt that weird sensation of my old neighborhood not being the same. That got even stronger after I joined the Army. I like how this song captures a particular feeling of frustration.

4. “So What,” Ministry, The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots

I was angry as a teenager, and spent a lot of time angry while I was in the Army, too. This is a great song to be really pissed off to. (Random aside: I saw the movie this song has samples from on Mystery Science Theater 3000 once, which was awesome. It’s totally absurd, you should check it out: The Violent Years.)

5. “Holiday in Cambodia,” Dead Kennedys

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots

So there isn’t a lot of DK on Spotify that I could find. The song I wanted to put was “Life Sentence” (the lyrics “you don’t do what you want to but you do the same thing every day” could describe half my time in the Army!), but this is a good one, too. Fits in with the theme of anger.

6. “Jaded,” Operation Ivy,” Operation Ivy

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots

As angry as I got, I never gave up those hopeful kernels, and still clung to that conviction that I could make the world a better place. “Sound System” is another good one off that album, about how music can bring you back up when you feel shitty.

7. “Cactus,” Pixies, Surfer Rosa

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots

I have no idea why this particular Pixies song is the one that I got totally fixated on in Iraq. The mention of the desert? Who knows.

8. “Then She Did,” Jane’s Addiction, Ritual De Lo Habitual

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots

When I was younger and, um, enjoyed experimenting with mind-altering substances, the song “Three Days” was what I loved the most – it took me on this whole mental odyssey. But in Iraq I fell in love with this one, a more reserved and introspective one.

9. “In the Arms of Sleep,” The Smashing Pumpkins, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots

I would listen to this one over and over and over in Iraq, longing to … be there, have those feelings.

10. “I Know, Huh?,” The Vandals, Hitler Bad, Vandals Good

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots

This reminds me of the giddy, heady, happy days of being just home from Iraq, before the bad parts of reintegration kicked in. I have memories of driving around with Zoe singing along with this, being goofy and ridiculous.

11. “8 Mile,” Eminem, 8 Mile

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots

When things started to get really shitty, I would listen to this song (oh, so cheesy! I know!) and tell myself I could push on for just a little longer and couldn’t give up.

Listen to the playlist:

Articles

6 employees fired from US embassy in Afghanistan for drug violations

The State Department has fired six employees at the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan for allegedly using or possessing prohibited drugs, a particularly troubling infraction given the years-long U.S. effort to eradicate opium production in the country.


A senior State Department official said those who were embassy employees were fired and others who were contractors were released from their contracts.

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots
The Taliban and other antigovernment groups participate in and profit from the opiate trade, which is a key source of revenue for the Taliban inside Afghanistan. Pictured here, a Marine posts security while members of the Afghan Narcotics Interdiction Unit search a compound during Operation Speargun in Urmuz, Afghanistan, March 26, 2012.

The official declined to say what led to the investigation, but the Wall Street Journal reported it was launched after a person was wandering about in a state of confusion.

A State Department official told Voice of America News on March 30 the fired workers “were found to have been using or in possession of prohibited substances.”

Opium production in Afghanistan is a major source of income for the Taliban and other insurgents.

Afghanistan is the source of more than 90 percent of the world’s heroin. Despite global efforts to stem the flow of narcotics, the United Nations says production reached near record levels in 2016.

The United States has spent more than $8 billion on drug interdiction in Afghanistan since the start of war against the Taliban in 2001.

Articles

5 epic battles where the victors ended up losing the war

There’s no more unfortunate name in the annals of military history than King Pyrrhus of Epirus whose lands were on the west coast of the Hellenic Peninsula, in modern-day Greece. While he famously won a string of battles against Rome and Carthage in 281 BC, he took horrendous casualties, sometimes as high as 15,000.


The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots
You can probably guess how that turned out.

After one of his costly victories, Pyrrhus famously declared, “One more victory like that and we’re finished.”

Thus the term “Pyrrhic Victory” was born, describing any victory in warfare that cost so much to gain, the winner’s army never really recovers.

This victory may have been the first Pyrrhic one, but it certainly wasn’t the last. Here are a few more costly “wins” that nevertheless lost the war.

1. The Battle of Malplaquet

In 1700, Spain’s King Charles II died without an heir. In the power struggle that followed, France’s 90,000-strong army fought a coalition of 100,000 Dutch, Austrian, Prussian and British soldiers. Slightly outnumbered, the French sought to level the playing field by setting up obstacles and digging fortifications to stymie the coalition.

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots

It took 7 full hours to dislodge the French, and the Duke of Marlborough lost 24,000 men doing it. The rest were too tired to keep going. The French lost less than half that. Marlborough was replaced and the alliance against the French began to fall apart.

2. The Battle of Bunker Hill

In another case of superior numbers running head-on against a fortified position, 2,200 British regulars advancing on Breed’s Hill were ordered to attack the 1,000 American militiamen there. Capturing the hill would give the British the Heights overlooking Boston, so British General William Howe ordered three advances.

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots
Good luck with that.

The first two repelled the redcoats because of very accurate fire from the militiamen. Out of ammo and looking at a hand-to-hand fight for the hill, the militia abandoned the fortification and retreated on the third British advance. The British lost almost half of their attacking force while the colonial rebels lost only 400 men.

3. Napoleon at Borodino

L’Empereur’s invasion of Imperial Russia in 1812 took more than a half million Frenchmen into the heart of the Russian Empire. Napoleon chased the Russians, first under General Barclay de Tolly and then General Mikhail Kutuzov, all the way to Moscow, the Russians burning or otherwise destroying anything in their wake that might have been of use to the French. Near the village of Borodino near modern-day Moscow, Kutuzov’s army stopped to give Napoleon a fight.

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots

The Russians positioned their right wing on an ideal defensive ground while the left occupied a series of redoubts near the village. Napoleon threw 130,000 men at the redoubts, which the Russians fought bitterly to keep. The French lost 35,000 men but failed to destroy the Russian Army. Napoleon marched on Moscow but found the Russians burned the city. The French Emperor stayed for two months. When he realized the Russians would not negotiate for peace, he marched his exhausted troops home. By the time Napoleon’s Grande Armeé found its way home, there were only 93,000 survivors.

4. The Battle of the Alamo

In 1835, colonist in the Mexican province of Texas rebelled against the dictatorial regime of Mexico’s General Antonio López de Santa Anna. Texian rebels drove Mexican forces out of Texas The next year, 100 American-born Texian rebels occupied the Alamo, an old Spanish mission near modern-day San Antonio, along with legendary adventurers of the American West.

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots
Unfortunately, this is how legends of the West tend to die.

Santa Anna marched 1,500 troops into Texas to dislodge the defenders of the Alamo. After ten days of skirmishing, the Mexicans advanced on the Alamo in force and slaughtered every defender to the last man. When word reached the rest of Texas, people rushed to join the Texian Army under Sam Houston. Houston used those troops to surprise the Mexicans at the Battle of San Jacinto, winning in just 18 minutes. The Texians cut down the fleeing Mexicans and captured Santa Anna the next day, winning Texas’ independence.

5. The Battle of Chancellorsville

In 1863, General Robert E. Lee’s outnumber Confederate troops bet on a maneuver that flew in the face of military doctrine – he divided his forces, twice, and fought the Federal forces instead of retreating. This division was unique because it prevented the Union Army under General Joseph Hooker from surrounding the outnumbered rebels.

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots
Stonewall Jackson, pictured right, being unable to even.

Unfortunately, the move cost Lee 13,000 men and his best General, Stonewall Jackson, who was shot by his own men. Two months later, the South would miss those 13,000 at the Battle of Gettysburg.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This US soldier has deployed home to Afghanistan

As an Afghan-American linguist, Sgt. Zabi Abraham strives to help the two countries he loves.

Originally from Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province near the border of Pakistan, Abraham first served as a contractor to support U.S. Special Forces units.

Before and during operations, Abraham, now 35, would translate for the soldiers and share knowledge about his country’s customs and traditions.


“They respected me a lot,” he recalled, “and also gave me the chance to explain every situation to them.”

The soldiers also taught him about America, and he became interested in the opportunities it offered.

Years later, those opportunities led him on a path to U.S. citizenship. He also had the chance to return to Afghanistan, where he now serves as an advisor for one of the U.S. Army’s newest units, the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade.

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots

Sgt. Zabi Abraham, center, an advisor with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, interprets a conversation between Lt. Col. Zachary Miller, right, the battalion commander, and an Afghan National Army officer during an Afghan-led operation near Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 16, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Sean Kimmons)

In Afghanistan, about a quarter of the labor force is unemployed and more than half of the population lives below the national poverty line, according to the most recent data provided by The World Bank.

Determined to have a better life, Abraham’s hard work as a contractor helped him be recommended for a special immigration visa. In 2013, he was approved and moved his family to the United States to start a new journey.

His first taste of America left him amazed when he and his family first stepped foot onto U.S. soil while switching planes in Chicago.

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots

Sgt. Zabi Abraham, center, an advisor with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, speaks with Afghan soldiers during an Afghan-led operation near Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 16, 2018.

(Army photo by Sean Kimmons)

“We saw everything was very nice and very fresh. We said that this is the life,” he said, smiling.

His family chose to live in Missouri and, at first, it took some time to adapt to the American way of life.

The endless choices at megastores, a variety of pay systems (Afghanistan mainly relies on cash), and the other differences in American culture presented some challenges.

“At the beginning, it was little bit hard,” he said. “Everything was very new for us.”

Abraham and his wife also wanted to be a dual-income family, so both obtained learner’s permits so they could drive themselves around.

Although it is legal for women to drive in Afghanistan, many families restrict them from doing so due to safety concerns.

Abraham and his wife studied for the driver’s test and frequently practiced behind the wheel. Once the test came, they both passed.

“It was such a big experience and a good day for us,” he said.

Joining the Army

While things went well in his new home, his heart still longed for Afghanistan and he searched how he could help rebuild the war-torn country.

In 2015, he walked into an Army recruiter’s office and told them he once served as a linguist with U.S. soldiers. Impressed, a recruiter suggested he become an active-duty interpreter.

“My main reason was to come back and use my skill,” said Abraham, who speaks Dari and Pashto, the two most widely spoken Afghan languages.

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots

In traditional Afghan attire, Zabi Abraham, now a sergeant with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, poses for a photo in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, in 2013.

At basic training, Abraham, still an Afghan citizen, was issued sets of the Army combat uniform along with the other trainees. When the time came to wear the uniform, he could not help but share the moment with his family.

“I was very proud and took some pictures and sent them to my family,” he said. “They were proud of me, too.”

Abraham eventually earned his citizenship and was stationed at Fort Irwin, California, where he and other interpreters helped rotational units at the National Training Center prepare for deployments.

Speaking in his native tongue, Abraham and others role-played as peaceful villagers, insurgents and even detainees to gauge how soldiers responded.

News then spread across the training base about a new unit designed to bolster the train, advise and assist mission in Afghanistan.

The more he heard about the 1st SFAB and its experienced soldiers, many of whom have been deployed to Afghanistan, the more it appealed to him.

“I wanted to be involved with such professional people,” he said.

SFAB mission

Now based at the New Kabul Compound in the middle of the country’s capital city, Abraham is one of the most impactful advisors within the brigade’s 5th Battalion.

Often, he is at the battalion commander’s side, translating conversations between him and senior Afghan leaders.

His respectful demeanor and extensive knowledge of Afghan traditions make him a popular soldier to almost every Afghan he meets.

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots

Zabi Abraham, right, now a sergeant with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, prepares to do the Oath of Enlistment while at a military entrance processing station.

“They see him as serving us, but also as serving them,” said Lt. Col. Zachary Miller, the 5th Battalion commander.

During important discussions, Abraham is sort of Miller’s key advisor to ensure things are not lost in translation or to pick up on cultural cues.

“It’s the word choice they are choosing. It may be the way they did or did not answer a certain question,” Miller said. “So, if you got a really quality cultural advisor and interpreter, like we do with Sgt. Abraham, he will stop you from asking a question that is not the right time to ask.”

When the time is right, Abraham will ask those sensitive questions in private to support the mission.

“Even if you get trained on the Dari language,” Miller said, “you’ll never be able to pick up on those things if you’re not a native speaker.”

Wearing the same combat gear as every American soldier over here, Abraham also surprises Afghans when he speaks in their language.

“They don’t realize because I’m in full kit, but after I speak with them they realize I am Afghan,” he said, laughing. “I tell them about the service I provided when I was a linguist with them and right now how I support both countries.

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots

Zabi Abraham, now a sergeant with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, poses for a photo with his wife and two children during a trip to San Diego.

“They are appreciative of my service.”

With his unit’s deployment ending this month, Abraham recently spoke of where his career may go next.

If his family approves — most importantly his wife and two young children — he would like to retire as a soldier.

“Without their support, I could not do anything and achieve my goal here in Afghanistan,” he said. “They are part of my heart.”

Another part of his heart belongs to Afghanistan.

Abraham is in the process of completing his bachelor’s degree and raising his test scores to perhaps re-class to 35P, a cryptologic linguist. That job deals with identifying foreign communications using signals equipment.

Even if he does switch careers, Abraham aspires to be halfway across the world again helping his native country.

“My hope is that one day there is peace in this country,” he said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS latest attack was on a children’s charity in Afghanistan

As ISIS appears to crumble on its home turf in Iraq and Syria, the group’s chapter in Afghanistan — known as ISIS-K — has shown remarkable resilience.


ISIS-K took credit on Jan. 24th for an attack on an office belonging to the Save the Children charity, showing that, despite serious battlefield defeats and senior leadership loses, it remains a capable terrorist group. At least three people were killed in the attack.

The attack on Save the Children has already had a direct effect on the charity’s operation, as they announced the Afghanistan office would close. Similarly, the Red Cross said in October that it was drastically reducing operations in the country following attacks that killed seven of its staff, according to Reuters.

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots

ISIS-K has been effective at attacking forces in the country even in the heart of Afghan government territory and has been involved in dozens of high profile attacks since 2016. Before this recent attack in Jalalabad, an ISIS-K suicide bomber killed 41 people and wounded more than 80 others in Kabul in December.

Fighting back against the group has proven difficult. General John Nicholson, the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan summed it up in a press briefing in November; “It’s like a balloon: We squeeze them in this area and they’ll try to move out elsewhere.”

After the attack on Save the Children, Michael Kugelman, the deputy director of the Asia Program and South Asia senior associate at the Wilson Center, tweeted that it’s “a perfect example of the indiscriminate savagery of ISIS.”

“U.S. airstrikes, including the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used, have been targeting them for months,” Kugelman wrote. “Hasn’t worked.”

In December, Kugelman wrote that he worries about the group’s resilience. He laid out three reasons why ISIS-K is able to survive — the difficult terrain of the country, homegrown radicalization, and a “steady supply of recruits” from the Pakistani Taliban.

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots
Gen. John Nicholson. (Photo from Dept of Defense.)

There is no question that ISIS-K has suffered large losses, as NATO forces, the Afghan Security Forces, and even the Taliban are all fighting ISIS’ Afghan chapter.

Founded in 2015 and made up mostly of Taliban defectors and militants from Iraq and Syria, U.S. officials estimated last April that ISIS-K had 700 members. In November, Afghan officials said the number may be as high as 3,000.

Also Read: Increased number of casualties among Afghan women and children

ISIS-K has had all three of its top leaders (called “emirs”) killed since the group was founded; Hafiz Sayed Khan in an airstrike in July of 2016, Abdul Hasib in a special forces raid last April, and Abu Sayed just a few months later in another special forces raid in July.

Additionally, just weeks after it was declared, the terror group lost its deputy commander Abdul Rauf Aliza in a NATO drone strike. In 2016, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said that “Afghanistan will be their graveyard,” after announcing that at least 200 ISIS militants had been killed over a 21-day operation in Nangarhar province.

More recently, 94 militants — including four commanders — were killed when the US dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb on an ISIS stronghold last April.

Articles

Here are the best military photos for the week of Mar. 11

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

Spc. Joshua Minter, assigned to Dog Company, 3rd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, U.S. Army Alaska, fires a Mark 19 40 mm grenade machine gun while conducting live-fire training at Grezelka range, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Feb. 28, 2017. The paratroopers practiced engaging targets at varying distances utilizing the M240B machine gun and the Mark 19 40 mm grenade machine gun.

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots
U.S. Air Force photo by Alejandro Pena

A B-2 Spirit from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. receives fuel from a KC-10 Extender from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. during a Mobility Exercise held by JB MDL. The Joint Base holds an annual MOBEX in Gulfport, Miss. to practice deploying and operating in a deployed environment.

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua King

ARMY:

Sgt. Christopher D. Miller (front) and Spc. Matthew B. Barton (back), both divers with the 511th Engineer Dive Detachment, set charges to blow notional mines, Feb. 10, 2017, at Camp Buehring, Kuwait. The Soldiers were tested on their troop leading procedures, as well as their knowledge of setting up explosives on land, during this training event. 

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Tom Wade

Pfc. Heaven Southard, an Army military working dog handler with the Directorate of Emergency Services, Area Support Group – Kuwait, releases her military working dog “Jerry” during a demonstration of MWD capabilities at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Mar. 7, 2017. 

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Dalton Smith

NAVY:

OKINAWA, Japan (March 8, 2017) Landing craft utility 1651, attached to Naval Beach Unit (NBU) 7, enters the well deck of USS Ashland (LSD 48). The amphibious dock landing ship is part of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group, and embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, is on a routine patrol, operating in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region to enhance partnerships and be a ready-response force for any type of contingency.

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaleb R. Staples

ARABIAN SEA (March 3, 2017) The amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) transits the Arabian Sea. The ship is deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security operations designed to reassure allies and partners, and preserve the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in the region.

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Devin M. Langer

MARINE CORPS:

Sgt. Allison DeVries, combat photographer, Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division, boils snow during Mountain Training Exercise (MTX) 2-17 at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, Bridgeport, Calif., Feb. 26, 2017. 1st Combat Engineer Battalion (CEB) conducted scenario-driven training that encompassed mobility, counter-mobility and survivability operations in a mountainous, snow-covered environment that challenged 1st CEB to generate combat engineering solutions to infantry driven tasks.

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Danny Gonzalez

Sgt. Johnathan Stamets, radio operator with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, looks through his M8541A optic attached to the M-110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System rifle aboard the USS Somerset (LPD 25) Ombudsman, Jan. 12, 2017.

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. Robert B. Brown Jr.

COAST GUARD:

2016 was the 100 year anniversary of US Coast Guard aviation. To help commemorate the event, select Coast Guard units received a MH-65D helicopter with a centennial paint scheme.

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots
U.S. Coast Guard photo

A Coast Guard ice rescue team member uses a rescue shuttle board to pull a simulated victim out of the freezing water during training, Friday, Feb. 17, 2017 in Burlington, VT. The team hosted Rear Adm. Steven Poulin, commander, First Coast Guard District and U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Steven Cray, adjutant general, Vermont National Guard.

The US military’s special ops has slowly returned to its roots
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Barresi

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