The report details a situation in which Russia’s navy, behind only those of the US and China in size, may soon be capable of denying the US Navy access to the Black and Baltic seas.
Russia’s landgrab in Crimea as well as its enclave in Kaliningrad could lock US forces out of the Black or Baltic seas.
US Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges spoke to this in a Pentagon news briefing earlier this month, saying the nearly 25,000 Russian troops illegally stationed in Crimea had “the ability to really disrupt access into the Black Sea.”
Earlier this year, Russia’s defense ministry announced plans to revive and increase the size and scope of the country’s Black Sea submarine fleet.
The new submarines are designed to excel at warfare in shallower water while being arguably the quietest submarines in the world.
“The new submarine and ship classes will incorporate the latest advances in militarily significant areas such as: weapons; sensors; command, control and communication capabilities; signature reduction; electronic countermeasures; and automation and habitability,” the report states.
The report also describes Russia’s Kalibr missiles, which were put on display in October when Russian boats in the Caspian Sea fired missiles at ground targets in Syria.
The report also speculates that Russia’s fifth-generation aircraft, the PAK FA aka T-50, could be ready for deployment as soon as 2016.
The increased stealth capabilities of the plane, as well as its potential role aboard a new Russian aircraft carrier, could spell big problems for the US.
According to the report, Russia is “reorganizing its personnel structure to more accurately reflect the needs of modern warfare” and will do so by attempting to transition to an all-volunteer force.
The report acknowledges that Russia is under heavy financial strain because of sanctions and historically low oil prices, but the country is nonetheless determined to create a modern navy that is capable of undermining the military superiority of the West.
By any measure, the latest installment of the John Wick franchise is a hit. With a $30 million opening and about $158 million in global box office as of mid-March, “John Wick: Chapter 2” is riding high.
The flick is packed with action, badassery and edge-of-your-seat thrills. But what really stands out about the movie — and what might give it its 90 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating — is the Delta Force-esque gunplay.
The leaked video of “John Wick: Chapter 2” lead man Keanu Reeves punching some paper with tactical training guru Taran Butler in the lead up to the release of the film only helped illustrate how Wick’s got a little Ninja in his blood.
So how do you make the job harder for the assassin of assassins? Ditch the irons and replace them with Nerfs — then see how he does.
Well a YouTube team attempted just that, providing a stand in for Wick and bedecking him with an arsenal of foam and plastic. And what this Nerf John Wick was able to accomplish against 14 assassins will blow your mind.
Five years ago, Marine Corps Veteran Frederick Nardei returned to service, but not the military. He became a certified peer support specialist, dedicated to helping fellow Veterans whose futures were as uncertain as his had once been.
Nardei served as a peer specialist for a recent study at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, helping Veterans enrolled in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) manage their mental health and substance misuse challenges. The study was also conducted at the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford, Mass., where it was led by Dr. Marsha Ellison.
Actively and significantly engaged in their own recovery from mental health issues, VA peer specialists serve as success stories for their fellow Veterans. Their experience using mental health services, combined with their VA training and certification, have made them valuable additions to VA’s mental health offerings.
“My own experiences with homelessness, drug abuse and mental illness had prepared my heart to serve in ways that the Veterans could easily relate to… When I share my recovery story, they say that they are inspired and empowered because they can see that I am the evidence that recovery is possible and achievable,” said Nardei.
The study, led by Pittsburgh VA’s Dr. Matthew Chinman, found that formerly homeless Veteranswho worked extensively with peer specialists had greater improvements in their symptoms than those who did not work with a peer specialist. When asked about their work with a peer specialist, both the Veterans and the other HUD-VASHstaff expressed great satisfaction. Veterans reported being less isolated, more integrated into their community, and more involved in recovery activities as a result of their work with a peer specialist.
Who better to help other Veterans on their recovery journey than someone who has been in their shoes?
“The Veterans who struggled with the shame and stigma of being homelesswere able to overcome those barriers… because I was able to share with them my own experience with being homeless for seven months after my wife left, because of my heroin addiction,” said Nardei, one of an estimated 1,100 Veterans serving as VA peer specialists.
Recover, heal, grow
The peer support program inspires and empowers participants to recover, heal and grow. Nardei believes that there is nothing more powerful than seeing someone accomplish the things that once seemed impossible.
He’s the proof he inspires in others.
To become a VA-trained peer specialist, visit the VA Careers webpage for details.
To learn more about peer specialists and their how they improve Veterans’ lives, download the Peer Support Toolkit.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said he expects Iraqi forces to be successful in their assault to retake Mosul and deliver a sharp blow to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Speaking to reporters after a trip to Europe, Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford listed recent gains leading up to the eventual battle to retake the key northern city. Those advances, he explained, include Iraqi forces bridging the Tigris River near Qayyarah and securing the airfield there.
“The noose is gradually tightening around Mosul,” he said.
The liberation of Mosul will “chip away” at the idea of a physical caliphate for ISIL, he said. Taking back Mosul and Raqqa, ISIL’s so-called capital in Syria, will severely limit the terror group’s capability and ability to operate in the region and beyond, he said.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meets with Iraqi leaders and coalition trainers in the Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve at Besmaya Range Complex April 21, 2016. (DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
“In my view, it’ll be a very significant blow to the Islamic State as they lose Mosul and Raqqa and they can no longer talk about holding a physical caliphate in Syria and Iraq,” Dunford said.
Iraqi leaders have identified Iraqi forces that are required for the operations to take back Mosul, the chairman said. Those forces will be ready in October, he added.
The timing of the assault, Dunford said, is a political decision that rests on Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
“Our job is to actually help the Iraqis generate the forces and the support necessary for operations in Mosul and we’ll be ready for that in October,” the top U.S. general said.
President Barack Obama, after meeting with Abadi yesterday in New York, said he expects a tough fight for the city of more than two million people, noting ISIL has “embedded itself deeply” within Mosul.
Dunford told reporters that hearing about ISIL-inspired terrorist attacks worldwide further steels his resolve to defeat ISIL’s ideology and eliminate the terrorists in Mosul and Raqqa.
“What it continues to give me is a sense of urgency for getting after the physical caliphate, undermining the virtual caliphate and eliminating the ability to conduct supported, directed or inspired attacks,” he said.
This will be done through military means in cooperation with the coalition and through partners on the ground, the chairman said.
“The more aggressive we are at taking the fight to the Islamic State, wherever they happen to be, the more successful we will be in eroding their physical capability to direct attacks and support attacks,” Dunford said.
The United States has added its voice to international calls for China’s communist-led government to give a full public accounting of those who were killed, detained or went missing during the violent suppression of peaceful demonstrations in and around Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.
In a bold statement from Washington to mark the 29th anniversary of a bloody crackdown that left hundreds — some say thousands — dead, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Chinese authorities to release “those who have been jailed for striving to keep the memory of Tiananmen Square alive; and to end the continued harassment of demonstration participants and their families.”
To this day, open discussion of the topic remains forbidden in China and the families of those who lost loved ones continue to face oppression. Chinese authorities have labeled the protests a counter-revolutionary rebellion and repeatedly argued that a clear conclusion of the events was reached long ago.
In an annual statement on the tragedy, the group Tiananmen Mothers urged President Xi Jinping in an open letter to “re-evaluate the June 4th massacre” and called for an end to their harassment.
(Photo by Michel Temer)
“Each year when we would commemorate our loved ones, we are all monitored, put under surveillance, or forced to travel” to places outside of China’s capital, the letter said. The advocacy group Human Rights in China released the open letter from the Tiananmen Mothers ahead of the anniversary.
“No one from the successive governments over the past 29 years has ever asked after us, and not one word of apology has been spoken from anyone, as if the massacre that shocked the world never happened,” the letter said.
In his statement, Pompeo also said that on the anniversary “we remember the tragic loss of innocent lives,” adding that as Liu Xiaobo wrote in his 2010 Nobel Peace Prize speech, “the ghosts of June 4th have not yet been laid to rest.”
Liu was unable to receive his Nobel prize in person in 2010 and died in custody in 2017. The dissident writer played an influential role in the Tiananmen protests and was serving an 11-year sentence for inciting subversion of state power when he passed.
At a regular press briefing on June 4, 2018, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China had lodged “stern representations” with the United States over the statement on Tiananmen.
“The United States year in, year out issues statements making ‘gratuitous criticism’ of China and interfering in China’s internal affairs,” Hua said. “The U.S. Secretary of State has absolutely no qualifications to demand the Chinese government do anything,” she added.
In a statement on Twitter, which is blocked in China like many websites, Hu Xijin, the editor of the party-backed Global Times, called the statement a “meaningless stunt.”
In another post he said: “what wasn’t achieved through a movement that year will be even more impossible to be realized by holding whiny commemorations today.”
Commemorations for Tiananmen are being held across the globe to mark the anniversary and tens of thousands are expected to gather in Hong Kong, the only place in China such large-scale public rallies to mark the incident can be held.
Exiled Tiananmen student protest leader Wu’Er Kaixi welcomed the statement from Pompeo.
However, he added that over the past 29 years western democracies appeasement of China has nurtured the regime into an imminent threat to freedom and democracy.
“The world bears a responsibility to urge China, to press on the Chinese regime to admit their wrongdoing, to restore the facts and then to console the dead,” he said. “And ultimately to answer the demands of the protesters 29 years ago and put China on the right track to freedom and democracy.”
Wu’er Kaixi fled China after the crackdown and now resides in Taiwan where he is the founder of Friends of Liu Xiaobo. The group recently joined hands with several other non-profit organizations and plans to unveil a sculpture in July 2018 — on the anniversary of his death — to commemorate the late Nobel laureate. The sculpture will be located near Taiwan’s iconic Taipei 101 skyscraper.
In Taiwan, the self-ruled democracy that China claims is a part of its territory, political leaders from both sides of the isle have also urged China’s communist leaders to face the past.
On Facebook, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen noted that it was only by facing up to its history that Taiwan has been able to move beyond the tragedies of the past.
“If authorities in Beijing can face up to the June 4th incident and acknowledge that at its roots it was a state atrocity, the unfortunate history of June 4th could become a cornerstone for China to move toward freedom and democracy,” Tsai said.
Tsai’s predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou, a member of the opposition Nationalist Party or KMT, who saw close ties with China while in office, also urged Beijing to face up to history and help heal families’ wounds.
“Only by doing this can the Chinese communists bridge the psychological gap between the people on both sides of the [Taiwan] Strait and be seen by the world as a real great power,” Ma said.
It’s December and many are doing their holiday shopping or making a wishlist of gifts they’d like to receive.
During the Future Ground Combat Vehicle Summit in Levonia, Michigan early in December, Army acquisition professionals and program managers had their own wishlists that included an assortment of robots and ground combat vehicles meant to protect Soldiers and give pause to potential adversaries.
Brian McVeigh, project manager for Force Protection, was big on robots.
Over 7,000 were fielded in just the last decade, he noted. The challenge now is to move the most effective ones into programs of record.
Among these, he said, is the M-160 Robotic Mine Flail, which efficiently clears land mines using rotating chains that flail the ground. It is also rugged enough to be protected against mine explosion fragments.
The M-160 made it into a program of record this year before the holidays, and a number are already involved in route-clearance missions in Afghanistan.
By 2025, dismounted Soldiers will conduct foot patrols alongside robots called Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport, or SMET, vehicles that carry rucksacks and other equipment that will lighten the Soldier load, McVeigh said.
In order to get these to the warfighter sooner rather than later, the Army is procuring them through an Other Transactional Agreement, or OTA, he said.
The OTA got the program rolling fast, with requirements out in April and a down-select six months later in November, he said. Four contracts were awarded for 20 vehicles each, which will be tested by Soldiers in two brigades until the end of next year. Low-rate initial production is expected to follow with a production contract in place.
The requirements were limited to give manufacturers more flexibility in the trade-space, he said. The only firm requirements were that SMET be able to haul 1,000 pounds off-road, cover 60 miles in 72 hours and cost $100,000 or less each.
The OTA was used because Army leaders prioritized getting the weight off the backs of dismounted Soldiers, he noted.
Common Robotic System (Heavy) is designed to disarm or disable unexploded ordnance using a highly dexterous arm remotely controlled by a Soldier. The Army just published requests for information from industry for the wireless-range manipulator arm, McVeigh said.
Feedback from industry on CRS-H has been good, he said. It is expected that by next summer, draft performance specifications will be issued, and it is hoped that fielding can begin as early as 2020. This system is also going the OTA route.
The Enhanced Robotics Payload is another explosives ordnance disposal robot. A request for proposal has been released, McVeigh. And in October, a contract was awarded to Endeavor Robotics for another EOD robot, the Man-Transportable Robotics System Increment II.
Ground combat vehicles
David Dopp, program manager for Mobile Protected Firepower Vehicle, Ground Combat Systems, said a request for proposal was released in late November for MPF.
The MPF he envisions can be described as a light tank. It will be light in the sense that it will weigh less than half as much as an Abrams tank, which will allow two to fit inside a C-17 aircraft. That means its armor will be less than an Abrams.
The MPF will also sport a gun in the 105mm to 120mm range, similar to the ones on early versions of the Abrams, Dopp said.
It is expected that the MPF will provide infantry brigade combat teams with a long-range, direct-fire capability for forcible entry and breaching operations, he noted, so it is not by any stretch a tank replacement.
There will not be a lot of requirements other than MPF being light and powerful, he said. Army leaders are eager to quickly get it into the hands of Soldiers for testing.
A contract could be awarded by early FY19 with low-rate initial production to follow, he said.
Maj. Gen. John Charlton, commander, Army Test and Evaluation Command, said that although the Next Generation Combat Vehicle fielding isn’t expected until 2035, a lot of the components that may find their way onto the NGCV in one shape or another are being currently tested around the Army.
Two such systems that will likely inform development of NGCV, he said, are the Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station-Javelin and the Stryker Remote Weapons Station.
CROWS-J allows the warfighter to remotely engage targets with precision fire from the Javelin while on the move, he said. Stryker RWS is a 30mm cannon on an unmanned turret. Both systems keep the gunner inside the vehicle, in a less exposed area than the turret.
Electro-magnetic interference testing is now underway on the sensors and software, he said.
There are some challenges to overcome in putting this technology on the NGCV, he said, describing a few.
Although the gunner is tucked inside the vehicle, rounds must still be loaded and reloaded in the gun, which means being exposed to enemy fire and working in cramped conditions, he said.
Getting everything working correctly will require a lot of software development, he said. This is probably the most difficult challenge.
And finally, situational awareness could be lost with the crew fully buttoned up inside the vehicle, he said. This could be particularly bad in urban terrain where Soldiers cannot get good visuals of what’s around and above them.
The situational awareness issue could be addressed through adding sensors and cameras so the crew doesn’t feel so completely closed in, he noted.
Other future weapons
Charlton said several promising weapons are in the science and technology and testing stages.
Engineers are now designing extended-range cannons that can be mounted on the Paladin and will fire much greater distances than current artillery, he said, noting that the distances are impressive but classified.
The cannons could find their way on the NGCV, he said.
The challenges are now designing a breech in the gun system that can handle the enormous pressures and getting the APS software and sensors developed. Also, the crew might be adversely affected by the enormous pressures, so some sort of dampening mechanism would be needed.
Another weapon that will eventually make its way to the battlefield is the high-energy laser, Charlton said.
The Army and Air Force are now out at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico using them to knock out air-to-ground and surface-to-air missiles, as well as unmanned aerial vehicles, he said.
A 300-kilowatt laser will be built and tested in the near future, he added.
“We want to ensure the lanes are clear when firing the laser,” he said. “We don’t want to take out one of our own satellites, so it will need to be equipped with an avoidance detection system.”
Lastly, Charlton said that an electromagnetic rail gun will be developed soon, but he’s not sure if it will find its way onto the NGCV. “But it will be on the battlefield in some shape or form,” he said.
The rail gun will shoot small, dense projectiles to distances of 30 kilometers at several times the speed of sound using electromagnetic pulses, he said. That will require some serious power, so initially it might have to be loaded on a large cargo truck.
Dr. Dale Ormond, principal deputy, Research Directorate, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, said his office is working to ensure all of the laboratories across the Department of Defense are talking to each other, helping each other and avoiding duplication of effort.
The areas he’s particularly excited about are artificial intelligence paired with autonomy. Machines programmed for artificial learning will be able to collaborate much better with Soldiers and give commanders more options on the battlefield, he said.
Other promising areas are hypersonic weapons, he said, like the rail guns and lasers that the Army is working on.
He said he also expects to see a lot of developments in the space and cyberspace domains, as well as being able to operate in GPS-denied environments.
The U.S. Navy has just released the final mishap report for the crash involving Blue Angel No. 6 that occurred in Smyrna, Tenn. on June 2, and investigators have determined that it was due to pilot error.
According to the report, the pilot, Capt. Jeff Kuss, took off from the Smyrna Airport as part of the team’s afternoon practice session. Kuss, flying as what the Blue Angels call the “opposing solo,” attempted to execute a “high performance climb,” which involves a high G pull into the vertical using the jet’s afterburners followed by a “Split S” back toward the ground.
Kuss started his dive from too low an altitude, the report states, and he failed to take any corrective action as he hurtled straight down at full power. Just before the F/A-18C hit the trees, Kuss pulled the ejection handle, but it was too late. By the time the canopy blew off and his seat rocketed away he’d traveled too far to allow the chute to open. He died from what the report described as “blunt force trauma” after hitting the ground.
Although the report reveals that Blue Angels 5 and 6 had a brief discussion about a cloud deck above the departure end of the airport, the investigators dismissed weather as a causal factor. The report also states that Kuss was fully qualified for the flight and in good health and that the Hornet he was piloting had no mechanical problems.
The Navy’s report also reveals that the Blue Angels have a history of “Split S” mishaps. In 2004, Blue Angel No. 6 — new to the team at the time — hit the ground after failing to properly execute the maneuver during a practice session. The pilot survived the crash, but the aircraft was a total loss.
The U.S. Marine Corps also had a Hornet crash in 1988 when the wing commander at MCAS El Toro — who flew the air show routine even though he was not fully qualified to do so — attempted a Split S below the proper altitude. The pilot, a colonel, survived, but sustained massive injuries to both of his feet and his face.
Watch the video of the USMC El Toro Split S mishap below:
The Blue Angels skipped the next three shows following Kuss’ death. Cdr. Frank Weisser, who’d been part of the team from 2007-2010, was brought back to assume Opposing Solo duties for the balance of the 2016 season.
Kuss is the twenty-seventh Naval Aviator to die while flying with the Blue Angels either during practice or actual shows in front of crowds. The last fatality before him was Lcdr. Kevin Davis, who was lost in a crash just outside of MCAS Beaufort, SC after blacking out from high G forces and losing control of his airplane and hitting the ground while attempting to rendezvous with the rest of the diamond formation.
The Army is likely catching a lot of grief lately, after a news story reported that Pentagon data showed Joes are fatter than their brethren in other services.
But are they really?
According to the head of the new Defense Health Agency, the way the military measures obesity using the so-called Body Mass Index might be a bit behind the times.
“I know that Navy has looked at this in terms of modifying what they say is a healthy weight and a healthy body mass and I think that’s appropriate,” said Vice Adm. Raquel Bono, Director of the Defense Health Agency told WATM during a breakfast meeting with reporters Oct. 20.
“Do I have any indication that [obesity] is hurting readiness? No,” Bono added. “But I would actually say that is one of the hallmarks of being in the military is that we’re always ready.”
According to the services, a Body Mass Index of 25 or over is considered unsat (the BMI is determined by a simple calculation of height and weight). The National Institutes of Health define obesity as a BMI of 30 or over.
A 44 year-old male who weights 215 pounds and is 74-inches tall has a BMI of 27.6, for example. That’d be considered “clinically obese” to the DoD.
Some in the services argue measuring weight standards using the BMI is a blunt instrument, putting perfectly fit and healthy servicemembers on notice for not being up to snuff.
And while she’s all in favor of modifying how the level of fitness to serve is calculated, Bono is concerned about the overall trend on obesity, with the Pentagon reporting nearly 10 percent of its troops are overweight. And Bono recommended healthier choices in chow halls, regular exercise (not just for the PFT), and stopping smoking.
“My job is to make sure I’m enabling the department to have the healthiest troops possible,” Bono said. “I struggle with encouraging troops to make healthier choices — even when we activate servicemembers with health data or scary pictures of what smoking can do to you they still persist in those behaviors. I don’t know what the right answer is.”
Tanks with the 7th, 9th, and 10th Armored Divisions helped the infantry hold the lines as the Germans attacked, and tanks operating under Patton’s Third Army spearheaded to effort to save the 101st Airborne Division. The tank that led that rescue effort survived the war and was rediscovered in 2008.
2. Battle of Norfolk
Fourteen coalition and Iraqi divisions fought each other at the Battle of Norfolk, the last battle of the Persian Gulf War. Four U.S. and British divisions plus elements of two more destroyed Iraqis fighting in eight divisions, including the elite Tawakalna Republican Guard Division.
The battle opened with a massive artillery and rocket bombardment that fired almost 20,000 artillery and rocket rounds, destroying 22 Iraqi battalions and hundreds of artillery pieces. Tanks and Apache helicopters moved forward, slaughtering their way through Iraqi resistance. The Tawakalna Republican Guard Division and ten other Iraqi divisions were destroyed in the fighting. The U.S. lost six men.
3. Battle of Arracourt
The Battle of Arracourt from Sep. 18 to 29, 1944, was the largest tank battle the U.S. had conducted up to that point in history and saw the American forces brilliantly destroy two Panzer Brigades and additional units from two Panzer divisions.
The Battle of Sidi Bou Zid took place within the Battle of Kasserine Pass. German Gen. Heinz Zeigler led over 200 tanks, including two veteran Panzer divisions. Meanwhile, the American forces were a single understrength division with only 7 of its 13 maneuver battalions. Worse, many of the units were still using the technologically inferior M3 General Grant tanks.
The U.S. units were quickly pushed back and then surrounded on a series of hilltops. After days of hard fighting, the U.S. retreated and left the cutoff forces. American units lost over 2,500 men and had 103 tanks destroyed.
5. Battle of Medina Ridge
Over 100 U.S. tanks raced towards about 100 Iraqi tanks that were dug into defensive positions at the Battle of Medina Ridge in Apr. 1991. The fights was one-sided as the Americans had air support and tanks that could fire from nearly twice as far as the Iraqis. After only 40 minutes, most of the Iraqi tanks were burning in their holes while the Americans continued their advance.
6. Battle of 73 Easting
Then-Capt. H.R. McMaster (now a lieutenant general) was leading his troop of nine M1 tanks in an armed reconnaissance when he crested a hill and found himself facing an elite Iraqi division. He decided he was too close to the enemy tanks to withdraw and call in the rest of the armored cavalry regiment, so his tanks attacked their way through it instead.
The Americans cut a five-kilometer-wide swath through the Iraqi division and then their brothers in Ghost, Killer, and Iron Troops joined the fight. By the time the U.S. stopped firing to ask for the Iraqis’ surrender, 1,000 Iraqi soldiers had been killed and 85 tanks, 40 armored vehicles, 30 other vehicles, and two artillery batteries had been destroyed. Most of the Iraqis quickly surrendered.
“The relationship between a military working dog and a military dog handler is about as close as a man and dog can become. You see this loyalty, a devotion unlike any other, and the protectiveness.” – Robert Crais
The United States military has utilized working dogs since the Revolutionary war. They were originally used as pack animals, carrying as much as forty pounds of supplies between units, including food, guns and ammo. Then during World War I, they were used for more innovative purposes, like killing rats in the trenches. However, it was during World War II that there was a surge in the use of military working dogs. The U.S. military deployed more than 10,000 working dogs throughout WWII. These specially trained dogs were used as sentries, scouts, messengers, and mine detectors. It is estimated that there are approximately 2,300 military working dogs deployed worldwide today.
The military working dogs of today are utilized in many different missions and specialties. After intensive training, each dog is then assigned to a specific specialty based on their strengths and abilities. Once the military working dogs are assigned their specialty, they are shipped out to military installations worldwide.
A few of the possible specialties these dogs can be selected for are:
Sentry dogs are trained to warn their handlers with a growl, bark, or other alert when danger or strangers are nearby. These dogs are valuable assets, especially for working in the dark when attacks from the rear or from cover are the most likely. Sentry dogs are often used on patrols, as well as guarding supply dumps, airports, war plants, and other vital installations.
Scout and patrol dogs are trained with the same skills that sentry dogs are. However, in addition, these dogs are trained to work in silence. Their job is to aid in the detection of ambushes, snipers, and other enemy forces. These particular dogs are somewhat elite among the military working dogs, because only dogs with both superior intelligence and a quiet disposition can be selected for this specialty. Scout and patrol dogs are generally sent out with their handlers to walk point during combat patrols, well ahead of the Infantry patrol.
Casualty dogs are trained in much the same way search and rescue dogs are. They are utilized to search for and report casualties in obscure areas, and casualties who are difficult for parties to locate. The time these dogs save in finding severely injured persons can often mean the difference between life and death.
With the current war on terrorism, explosives hidden on a person, in a vehicle, or in a roadside location is a common threat. Explosive detection dogs are trained to alert their handlers to the scent of the chemicals that are commonly used in explosives. These dogs have such a superior sense of smell that it is nearly impossible to package explosives in a way that they cannot detect.
No matter what their specialty or their mission, the reality is these highly trained K9s are an invaluable part of today’s military. There has yet to be a technology created that can match the ability and heart that military working dogs sustain every day. These dogs are the unsung heroes of the U.S. military, and it is only in recent years that there has been a movement to make sure they are given the appreciation and benefits they deserve. There is constant research going into the best ways to protect them in combat. And along with a push to make K9 Veterans Day an official holiday, there is also a movement to make sure these four-legged heroes are taken care of when their time in service comes to an end.
Such capability would be game-changing for the People’s Republic of China.
“It would provide China with the large and global lift that not even the US has possessed, except by rental,” wrote Peter Singer, an avid China watcher on Popular Science. “It’s large enough to carry helicopters, tanks, artillery, even other aircraft.”
For the most part, as Singer mentioned, China will rent the massive planes, but the agreement does allow for China to domestically build An-225s.
But the herculean plane lends itself to civil applications too. China could easily use it to move construction supplies, to offload its glut of steel, or to bring supplies to its several building projects as part of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative.
As Marcus Weisgerber at DefenseOne points out, the adoption of old, soviet-era technology from Ukraine is an instance of history repeating itself, as China’s sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, is also a refurbished Ukrainian hull.
When it comes to sheer hardship under appalling combat conditions, it is hard to match what the 5307th Composite Unit (provisional), better known as Merrill’s Marauders, endured in the China-India-Burma campaign.
When the Japanese had overrun and taken Burma from its colonial master Great Britain in 1942, it had cut the only real overland route for military supplies heading to Chinese forces fighting the Japanese in mainland China. The famed Allied air transport route “over the hump” of the Himalayas was no substitute for a reliable road considering the amount of supplies needed.
U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill decided at a conference in August 1943 to form special American units for infiltrating Burma, modeled after the British Army Chindits, a long-range penetration unit that had already operated in Burma under Brigadier Ord Wingate. The plan was to disrupt Japanese communications and supply lines and capturing key points, the reopening of the Burma Road could be accelerated.
An Army-wide call for those interested in volunteering was put out under presidential authority, drawing about 3,000 recruits from stateside units. Many were specifically drawn from soldiers who already had experience in jungle fighting from earlier in the war. After assembly in India, they received months of intensive training in jungle warfare under the instruction of Wingate, including extended exercises with the Chindits. The 5307th was placed under the command of Brig. General Frank Merrill, the source of the name ‘Merrill’s Marauders’ eventually given to the unit by the press.
Conceived as a mobile raiding force, the Marauders were lightly equipped by conventional infantry standards, with no heavy weapons beyond light mortars, bazookas, and machine guns. Dense jungle and mountains made ground vehicles impossible, so supplies were to be carried by the soldiers themselves and hundreds of mules and horses. Resupply was limited to airdrops and whatever the unit could forage off the countryside in trade with indigenous locals.
Embarking on Feb. 24, 1944, the Marauders mission began with 2,750 men marching over a thousand miles through the Patkai region of the Himalayas, in order to get behind Japanese lines in Burma. Operating with indigenous Kachin scouts and Chinese forces, they began a series of raids against Japanese patrols, supply lines, and garrisons. Their ultimate goal was to capture the strategic Burmese town of Myitkynia, which had an important airfield and was along the route for an alternate road to China.
The Marauders were almost always outnumbered and outgunned by the Japanese 18th Division, which formed their primary opposition. Lacking artillery and out of range of any serious air support, they had to rely on surprise, training, and mobility to outfight the Japanese regulars, and they often found themselves on the defense because they were ill-equipped for fighting against larger forces.
But their greatest enemy, which inflicted more damage than even superior Japanese forces could, was the jungle. Malaria, amoebic dysentery, and typhus took an awful toll, inflicting more casualties than Japanese fire did. Soldiers shaking from fever and tormented by diarrhea had to force themselves through dense jungle and intense close quarters combat. Torrential rains, stinging insects, and snakes only added to their misery.
The issued K-rations were relatively light and compact, but at 2,900 calories per day were wholly inadequate for heavily loaded men marching, sweating, and fighting in the jungle. Even for men facing hunger, many components of the rations were so widely detested that they were often thrown away, and failed air drops only made the situation worse. Malnourishment and its accompanying weakness and exhaustion made the troops more vulnerable to already endemic diseases, and many of them were reduced to little more than walking skeletons.
Despite the enormous challenges, the Marauders managed to inflict far greater casualties on the Japanese then they suffered, and used their mobility and seeming ability to strike anywhere to throw Japanese forces into confusion. After dozens of skirmishes and several major actions, the 5307th managed to take the airfield at Myitkynia in August 1944 alongside elements of the Chinese Army, and the town itself after reinforcements arrived.
So decimated were the Marauders by disease and combat that only 200 men of the original task force were still present at the end of the campaign. Frank Merrill, who suffered a heart attack before being stricken with malaria by the end of the mission. Every last member was evacuated to hospitals to recuperate from months of hunger, disease, and exhaustion.
The 5307th was disbanded shortly thereafter, and in a very rare distinction every single member of the commando force received the Bronze Star for staying and fighting. They fought five major actions and dozens of smaller ones while marching over 750 miles through enemy territory, all the while fighting a different but even more deadly battle against hunger and disease. The unit was eventually redesignated as the 75th Infantry Regiment, from which today’s 75th Ranger Regiment descended.
Donald Stratton, who served aboard the USS Arizona when it was attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor, passed away on Feb. 15, 2020. He was 97 years old.
Stratton was born and raised in Nebraska and joined the Navy in 1940 at the age of 18 right after finishing high school. He heard rumors of war and figured it was best to join sooner rather than later.
When he was asked why he joined the Navy he said, “My theory was you either had a nice place aboard a ship and were high and dry or you didn’t have anything. In the Army, you were crawling around in the mud and everything else, and I didn’t want to do that.”
After finishing training, he was sent to Washington state, where he would be assigned to his first duty station, the USS Arizona. When he saw the ship for the first time, she was in dry dock. He said, “It was quite a sight for an old flatlander like me to see a 35,000-ton battleship out of the water.”
The Arizona was a Pennsylvania-class battleship that was commissioned during the First World War. While she didn’t see action then, the Navy made good use of her first in the Mediterranean and later in the Pacific. She was 908 feet in length and had twelve 45 caliber, 14-inch guns as part of her armament.
When the Arizona made its way down to Pearl Harbor, Stratton went with her. Stratton and the rest of the crew settled into the routine of training and exercises, both in port and out at sea. There was no doubt in his mind that the U.S. was preparing for war. Like most Americans, though, he was still shocked at how the war began.
The “day that would live in infamy” started out pretty routinely for Stratton and the thousands of other Sailors and Marines at Pearl Harbor. He woke up for Reveille and went to get chow. After bringing oranges to a buddy in sick bay, he stopped at his locker and headed up top. He heard screams and shouts and followed everyone’s points to Ford Island. There he saw an aircraft bank in the morning light and the distinctive rising sun emblem on the plane. Stratton quipped, “Well, that’s the Japanese, man – they’re bombing us.”
Stratton ran to his battle station, calling out coordinates for his anti-aircraft gun crew. His crew soon realized that they didn’t have range on the bombers and watched in horror as the Japanese made their bombing runs.
The Japanese had 10 bombers assigned to attack the Arizona. Of the bombs dropped, three were near misses, and four hit their target. It was the last hit that would prove catastrophic for the Sailors and Marines on board. The bomb penetrated the deck and set off a massive explosion in one of the ship’s magazines. The force of the explosion ripped apart the Arizona and tore her in two.
Stratton had the fireball from the explosion go right through him. He suffered burns over 70% of his body and was stuck aboard a ship that was going down rapidly. Through the smoke, he could make out the USS Vestal and a single sailor waving to him. He watched as the Sailor waved off someone on his own ship and tossed a line over to the Arizona. Stratton and five other men used the rope and traversed the 70 foot gap to safety. Stratton never forgot the sailor yelling, “Come on Sailor, you can make it!” as he struggled to pull his badly burned body to safety.
Two of the men who made it across died alone with 1773 other men on the Arizona. Only 334 men on the ship made it out alive. The Arizona burned for two days after the attack.
Stratton was sent to San Francisco where he spent all of 1942 recovering from his wounds. His weight dropped to 92 pounds, and he couldn’t stand up on his own. He almost had an arm amputated too. Shortly thereafter, he was medically discharged from the Navy
Stratton then decided that he wasn’t going to sit out the rest of the war. He appealed to the Navy and was allowed to reenlist, although he had to go through boot camp again. He was offered a chance to stay stateside and train new recruits, but he refused. He served at sea during the battles of the Philippines and Okinawa where he worked to identify potential kamikaze attacks. He called Okinawa “82 days of hell.”
Stratton left the Navy after the war and took up commercial diving until his retirement. He settled in Colorado Springs, and he actively participated in Pearl Harbor reunions and commemorations. Stratton wanted to make sure people didn’t forget about the men who died that day.
It was at one of those reunions in 2001 that Stratton’s life found another mission to complete. He found out the Sailor aboard the USS Vestal was named Joe George. When the attack commenced the Vestal was moored to the Arizona. After the catastrophic explosion, an officer ordered George to cut lines to the Arizona as it was sinking. George frantically motioned to men trapped on the Arizona, burning to death. The officer told them to let them be and cut the lines.
George waved him off and threw a safety line and saved men, including Stratton. Stratton learned that George had passed away in 1996, so he wouldn’t get a chance to thank him. But to his disbelief, George had never been commended for saving his fellow Sailors.
The Navy looked at the incident and decided they couldn’t award a Sailor for saving lives because he disobeyed an order from an officer. (Some things never change.)
Stratton and fellow rescued Sailor, Lauren Bruner, took up the cause to get George awarded. They met nothing but resistance from the Navy. From 2002 to 2017 Stratton repeatedly tried to get George honored but was ignored. It wasn’t until 2017 when he was able to meet with President Donald Trump and then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis that the ball started rolling. Shortly thereafter, George’s family was presented with a Bronze Star with “V” for George’s heroic actions that day.