In order to meet the goal of a Navy numbering 355 ships, Naval Sea Systems Command will consider resurrecting a number of retired combat vessels from the dead and refitting them for active service.
Though nothing has been set in stone just yet, some of the “younger” ships parked at the various Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facilities around the country could get a new lease on life, thanks to dialed-down purchases of Littoral Combat Ships and the next-generation Zumwalt class destroyer.
Upon decommissioning, warships are often stripped for reusable parts, and sensitive equipment and gear are removed, along with the ship’s weapon systems. Frigates, destroyers and cruisers could lose their deck guns, their radars, and electronics suites — some of which will be used as spare parts for active ships, and the rest of which will be stored until the Navy determines that it has absolutely no use for these retired vessels anymore, heralding the start of the process of their dismantling.
A number of ships will also be sold to allied nations for parts or for active use.
Currently, the Navy retains less than 50 ships within its inactive “ghost” fleet, among them Oliver Hazard-Perry frigates, Ticonderoga guided missile cruisers, Kitty Hawk-class aircraft carriers, and a variety of other types, including fleet replenishment ships and amphibious assault ships.
Among the ships to be evaluated for a potential return to service are a handful of Oliver Hazard-Perry class frigates and the USS Kitty Hawk, a conventionally-powered super carrier mothballed in Bremerton, Washington.
The Kitty Hawk, now over 57 years old, is apparently the only carrier in the Navy’s inactive fleet worthy of consideration for a return to duty. Having been retired in 2009, the Kitty Hawk was modernized enough to support and field all Navy carrier-borne aircraft currently active today.
However, the ship has since been heavily stripped down; many of her combat systems destroyed or sent around the Navy for use with other vessels. The extensive refurbishment this 63,000 ton behemoth would have to undergo would likely prove to be the limiting factor in bringing it back to duty.
This wouldn’t be the first time the Navy has explored the possibility of returning mothballed ships to active duty. In fact, in the 1980s as part of then-President Reagan’s 600 Ship initiative, the Navy recommissioned the legendary WWII-era Iowa class battleships, three of which had been inactive since the late ’50s and one of which had been retired in the late ’60s. All four vessels underwent a costly multi-million dollar overhaul and were ushered back into service.
Two of these battleships — the Wisconsin and the Missouri — would go on to see action during the Persian Gulf War before being quickly retired in 1990 along with their sister ships, the Iowa and the New Jersey.
Bringing back the Hazard-Perry frigates could be far more of a distinct possibility than any of the other ships in the inactive fleet. With the Navy reducing its planned buy of LCS vessels, originally designed to be the successor to the Hazard-Perry boats, and constant engineering issues plaguing the active LCS fleet, a gap has gradually emerged with many clamoring for a more effective frigate-type vessel… or a return to the ships which were previously to be replaced.
A number of Hazard-Perry ships have indeed been sold for scrap, or have been earmarked for a transfer to allied nations, though a few still remain in the inactive reserve, ready to be revamped and returned to service should the need arise.
Ultimately, it will be the bean counters who determine the final fate of the ships in the ghost fleet, and whether or not un-retiring them is a viable option. The cost of refitting and overhauling these vessels to be able to stay relevant against more modern threats, including boat swarms, could prove to be too much for the Navy to foot, especially for a short term investment.
Further options could include hastening the construction of current combat vessels on-order, while retaining more of the older ships in the fleet for an extended service term. However, given the Navy’s needs at the moment, it’s safe to say that NAVSEA will give returning some of these old veterans back to duty serious consideration.
The number of civilians dying in Afghanistan’s protracted 16-year war dropped slightly during the first three months of this year, the United Nations reported April 27, but in a surprising twist more women and children are among the dead and wounded than in previous casualty reports.
The report blamed the hike in casualties among women and children on aerial attacks. According to U.N. figures, there were 148 casualties from aerial bombings in the first three months of this year compared to 29 last year. Casualties from unexploded ordnance, which seemed to claim mostly children, was also up slightly.
“It is civilians, with increasing numbers of women and children, who far too often bear the brunt of the conflict,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan in a release.
Although there was a four percent overall drop in casualties during the first three months of the year, the U.N. suggested the drop may be the result of Afghan civilians fleeing their homes. According to the report there is an unprecedented number of Afghans displaced by war living inside the country. There are another 1.5 million Afghans living as refugees in neighboring Pakistan.
The U.N. blamed 62 percent of the civilian casualties on insurgents while ordinary Afghans caught in the crossfire accounted for nearly 35 percent of all casualties.
Both the Taliban and the Islamic State group are present in Afghanistan. They are fighting each other and Afghanistan’s security forces.
Earlier this week, a half dozen Taliban attacked an army base in northern Afghanistan in one of the worst attacks against the security forces, killing as many as 140 soldiers.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has about 9,800 troops in Afghanistan. NATO ended its combat mission in the country in 2014, and the primary role of U.S. troops is now to assist and train, though increasingly the U.S. has been called in by Afghan Security Forces for support.
The report accused anti-government elements, without specifying Taliban or the Islamic State group, of intentionally targeting civilians.
“During an armed conflict, the intentional killing and injuring of civilians is a war crime,” Yamamoto said in the release. “Anti-Government Elements must stop this deplorable practice and everybody must apply- and respect – the definition of ‘civilian’ provided by international humanitarian law.”
The 107-country Outer Space Treaty signed in 1967 prohibits nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons from being placed or used from Earth’s orbit. What they didn’t count on was the U.S. Air Force’s most simple weapon ever: a tungsten rod that could hit a city with the explosive power of an intercontinental ballistic missile.
During the Vietnam War, the U.S. used what they called “Lazy Dog” bombs. These were simply solid steel pieces, less than two inches long, fitted with fins. There was no explosive – they were simply dropped by the hundreds from planes flying above Vietnam.
Lazy Dog projectiles (aka “kinetic bombardment”) could reach speeds of up to 500 mph as they fell to the ground and could penetrate nine inches of concrete after being dropped from as little as 3,000 feet
The idea is like shooting bullets at a target, except instead of losing velocity as it travels, the projectile is gaining velocity and energy that will be expended on impact. They were shotgunning a large swath of jungle, raining bullet-sized death at high speeds.
That’s how Project Thor came to be.
Instead of hundreds of small projectiles from a few thousand feet, Thor used a large projectile from a few thousand miles above the Earth. The “rods from God” idea was a bundle of telephone-pole sized (20 feet long, one foot in diameter) tungsten rods, dropped from orbit, reaching a speed of up to ten times the speed of sound.
The rod itself would penetrate hundreds of feet into the Earth, destroying any potential hardened bunkers or secret underground sites. More than that, when the rod hits, the explosion would be on par with the magnitude of a ground-penetrating nuclear weapon – but with no fallout.
It would take 15 minutes to destroy a target with such a weapon.
One Quora user who works in the defense aerospace industry quoted a cost of no less than $10,000 per pound to fire anything into space. With 20 cubic feet of dense tungsten weighing in at just over 24,000 pounds, the math is easy. Just one of the rods would be prohibitively expensive. The cost of $230 million dollars per rod was unimaginable during the Cold War.
These days, not so much. The Bush Administration even considered revisiting the idea to hit underground nuclear sites in rogue nations in the years following 9/11. Interestingly enough, the cost of a single Minuteman III ICBM was $7 million in 1962, when it was first introduced ($57 million adjusted for inflation).
The trouble with a nuclear payload is that it isn’t designed to penetrate deep into the surface. And the fallout from a nuclear device can be devastating to surrounding, potentially friendly areas.
A core takeaway from the concept of weapons like Project Thor’s is that hypersonic weapons pack a significant punch and might be the future of global warfare.
In later tweets, O’Neill acknowledged that the U.S. has previously held military parades. And in a reply to another Twitter user, he asserted that Russia and France — which regularly hold them — were third-world countries because unlike the U.S., they couldn’t take over the world.
Historically, “Third World” refers to countries that aligned with neither the West nor the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The term has since taken on a broader meaning to describe economically developing nations.
In another tweet, O’Neill made clear his idea of a military parade befitting the U.S.: the so-called Thunder Run, the U.S. military’s 2003 attack on Baghdad that quickly took the city.
You don’t have to be a history buff to be familiar with Alfred Eisenstaedt’s “Kissing Sailor” photo — though its actual title is “V-J Day in Times Square.” It was taken hours before President Truman officially announced America’s victory in the Pacific War. The sailor in the photo happened to be on a date in New York City. He suddenly decided to celebrate by kissing the closest nurse — it’s just too bad his date wasn’t a nurse.
Authors George Galdorisi and Lawrence Verria did an extensive background study on the photo in their 2012 book, The Kissing Sailor. Their extensive forensic analysis determined that sailor was George Mendonsa and the nurse was Greta Zimmer Friedman. Friedman was not prepared for the kiss. In later years, she admitted that she didn’t even see him coming and that the two were strangers.
Friedman was working in a dental office at nearby Lexington Avenue, and though the war hadn’t officially ended, the rumors around NYC were swirling that Imperial Japan was set to surrender. She went over to Time Square to read the latest news, and sure enough, the electronic tickers all read “V-J DAY, V-J DAY.” That’s when Mendonsa grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her in.
“It wasn’t that much of a kiss, it was more of a jubilant act that he didn’t have to go back,” she told a Veteran’s History Project Interview. “I found out later, he was so happy that he did not have to go back to the Pacific where they already had been through the war.”
He grabbed a nurse because he was so grateful to nurses who tended the wounded in the war. The good news was her bosses cancelled the rest of the appointments for the day. The bad news was she never knew the sailor’s name. She never even saw the photo until the 1960s. What she did know was that Mendonsa had been drinking (he was likely drunk).
Then-Navy Quartermaster 1st Class George Mendonsa was on 30 days leave from his ship, The Sullivans, at the time. He had been at the helm during the Battle of Okinawa, rescuing sailors from the carrier Bunker Hill after it was hit by kamikaze attacks. It’s small wonder he was happy to not have to go back into combat.
He was on a date with his then-girlfriend, Rita Perry, a woman that would later become his wife, waiting for his train back to the West Coast and back to the war. That’s when he heard the news that the war was over.
Rita can be seen just over Mendonsa’s right shoulder.
Former Navy Quartermaster 1st Class George Mendonsa and his wife of 71 years, Rita, celebrate George’s 95th birthday.(Photo by Hal Burke)
By the time The Kissing Sailor hit bookshelves, Rita Perry (now Mendonsa) and George Mendonsa had been married for 66 years. When asked about her feelings being in the background of a famous photo of her husband, 95 years old as of 2018, kissing another woman, she said, “he’s never kissed me like that.”
Whether it’s in the desert, arctic, jungle, an urban environment or at sea, the men and women of the Air Force train to handle any situation.
The primary focus of Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape specialists is to train military personnel to survive any situation. These elite instructors are experts on how to survive in the most remote and hostile environments on the planet, and it’s their responsibility to ensure when a mission doesn’t go as planned, the airmen involved are ready for anything.
This focus on readiness was on display Aug. 5, 2019, during a SERE exercise in Vallejo, California, which provided airmen an opportunity to train using realistic scenarios while testing new technology.
“Aircrew must maintain combat mission ready status, allowing them to be deployable worldwide,” said Tech. Sgt. Emanuel Espino-Mata, 60th Operations Support Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of SERE operations. “Pilots and other airmen considered to be at high risk of isolation during a mission attend refresher training at remote locations near Travis AFB every three years to stay proficient in SERE skills. It’s also vital we as SERE instructors do all we can to ensure our airmen can survive and operate in contested environments.”
Maj. Justin Krull, 6th Air Refueling Squadron KC-10 Extender instructor pilot listens to last-minute instructions on communication devices before a Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training exercise for aircrew members Aug. 5, 2019, in a remote area near Travis Air Force Base.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Heide Couch)
During the exercise, which took place among steep, rocky hills covered with insect-infested trees, 11 airmen from flying squadrons across Travis AFB joined two SERE instructors to test the Somewear Labs Hotspot paired with a combat-configured smartphone, a device that can increase radio battery life.
“Today’s exercise was the first-ever field test of the device developed by Somewear Labs,” Espino-Mata said. “Our C-cell radios only maintain limited battery power. They are also bulky and heavy. This new device can be paired with any smartphone once the user downloads the application and provides encrypted messaging between the user in the field, the receiver, another team member, a recovery force or a personnel recovery cell.”
The device, which is smaller and lighter than some secure communications devices currently being used, has the potential to improve life saving capabilities by using a smartphone platform to run the software, which is something everyone is familiar with and comfortable using, Espino-Mata added.
Aircrew members study communication devices utilized during a Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training exercise Aug. 5, 2019, in a remote area near Travis Air Force Base.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Heide Couch)
It also offers a wide range of features.
“Our system supports digital maps for navigation, a modern digital experience for satellite messaging and data transmission, as well as comprehensive blue-force tracking for the tactical operations center or any command center,” said Nate Simon, Somewear Labs product manager. “This is a huge step in evasion capability. This device is one of the lightest and smallest of its kind and a major enhancement to the current survival kit.”
airmen assigned to aircrew positions are trained to evade enemy forces if their aircraft is brought down in enemy territory. They are taught to find water, food and shelter while evading capture.
“This is important because help may not come for around a week and they may have to travel several miles without being detected,” Espino-Mata said.
Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Heard, 60th Operations Squadron survival, evasion, resistance and escape training noncommissioned officer in charge gives last minute instruction on communication devices before a SERE training exercise for aircrew members Aug. 5, 2019 in a remote area near Travis Air Force Base.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Heide Couch)
In 2018, Simon, who holds a bachelor’s of science degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University, was part of an Air Force Research Laboratory study conducted by Stanford’s class, Hacking 4 Defense: Solving National Security Issues with the Lean Launchpad. The goal of the study was to address issues with survival radios and increase the survivability of downed airmen.
“My team was given a problem by the AFRL to improve personnel recovery,” Simon said. “Given Travis AFB’s proximity to the Bay Area, one of our initial contacts was Sergeant Espino-Mata, who arranged several visits to the base. After over 100 interviews with pilots, aircrew, SERE specialists, rescue squadrons and other Department of Defense experts, we realized a combat smartphone and satellite transceiver could drastically improve the personnel accountability and recovery space.”
Air Force Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape personnel field test Somewear Lab’s Hotspot Aug. 5, 2019, in a remote area near Travis Air Force Base.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Heide Couch)
“Somewear’s first product enables any remote operative to reliably access secure communications and improve their situational awareness with a combination of compact satellite hotspots and software designed for low-bandwidth applications,” Simon added.
One exercise participant was thrilled with how well the Somewear Hotspot performed.
“It’s phenomenal,” said Tech. Sgt. Bernie Rowe, 60th OSS KC-10 Extender instructor flight engineer. “It was really simple to use and with the encryption, I was able to make contact and receive new coordinates and instructions by text without it being coded, like the C-cell survival radios. It is light years ahead of the C-cells.”
The Pentagon’s science and technology research arm is launching a vigorous push into a new level of advanced artificial intelligence, intended to integrate advanced levels of “machine learning,” introduce more “adaptive reasoning” and even help computers determine more subjective phenomena.
It is called the “AI-Next” effort, a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program to leverage rapid advances in AI to help train data to make computer analysis more reliable for human operators, agency Director Steven Walker recently told a small group of reporters.
DARPA scientists explain the fast-evolving AI-Next effort as improving the ability of AI-oriented technology to provide much more sophisticated “contextual explanatory models.”
While humans will still be needed in many instances, the 3rd Wave can be described as introducing a new ability to not only provide answers and interpretations, but also use “machine learning to reason in context and explain results,” DARPA Deputy Director Peter Highnam said.
In short, the AI-Next initiative, intended to evolve into a 3rd Wave, can explain the reason “why” it reached the conclusion it reached, something which offers a breakthrough level of computer-human interface, he added.
“When we talk about the 3rd wave, we are focused on contextual reasoning and adaptation. It requires less data training,” Highnam said.
This not only makes determinations more reliable but massively increases an ability to make more subjective interpretations by understanding how different words or data sets relate to one another.
A computer can only draw from information it has been fed or given, by and large. While it can add seemingly limitless amounts of data almost instantaneously, AI-driven analysis can face challenges if elements of the underlying stored data change for some reason. It is precisely this predicament which the 3rd Wave is intended to address.
“If the underlying data changes then your system was not trained against that,” Highnam explained.
For instance, 3rd wave adaptive reasoning will enable computer algorithms to discern the difference between the use of “principal” and “principle” based on an ability to analyze surrounding words and determine context.
This level of analysis naturally creates much higher levels of reliability and nuance as it can empower humans with a much deeper grasp of the detailed information they might seek.
“That is the future — building enough AI into the machines that they can actually communicate, share data and network at machine speed in real time,” Walker said.
Yet another example of emerging advanced levels of AI would be an ability to organize hours of drone collected video very quickly – and determine moments of relevance for human decision makers. This exponentially increases the speed of human decision making, a factor which could easily determine life or death in combat.
“In a warfighting scenario, humans have to trust it when the computer gives them an answer…through contextual reasoning,” Highnam said.
Given these emerging 3rd Wave advances, making more subjective decisions will increasingly be a realistic element of AI’s functional purview. For this reason and others, DARPA is working closely with the private sector to fortify collaboration with silicon valley and defense industry partners as a way to identify and apply the latest innovations.
DARPA’s 1st, 2nd & 3rd wave of AI
The third wave, described in DARPA materials as bringing “contextual explanatory models” and a much higher level of machine learning, is intended to build upon the 1st and 2nd Waves of DARPA’s previous AI progress.
The 1st Wave, according to available DARPA information, “enables reasoning over narrowly defined problems.” While it does bring certain elements of learning capability, it is described as having a “poor level of certainty.”
This points to the principle challenge of AI, namely fostering an ability to generate “trust” or reliability that the process through which it discovers new patterns, finds answers, and compares new data against volumes of historical data is accurate. Given this challenge, certain existing models of AI integration might have trouble adjusting to changing data or determining sufficient context.
The 2nd Wave enables “creating statistical models and training them on big data,” but has minimal reasoning, DARPA materials explain. This means algorithms are able to recognize new information and often place it in a broader context in relation to an existing database.
The 2nd Wave, therefore, can often determine meaning of previously unrecognized words and information by examining context and performing certain levels of interpretation. AI-enabled computer algorithms, during this phase, are able to accurately analyze words and information by placing them in context with surrounding data and concepts.
With this 2nd wave, however, DARPA scientist explain that there can be limitations regarding the reliability of interpretation and an ability to respond to new information in some instances; this can make its determinations less reliable. Highnam explained this as having less of an ability to train existing data when or if new information changes it. Therefore, this Wave is described by DARPA information as having “minimal reasoning.”
Can AI make subjective determinations?
Raytheon, for example, is currently exploring a collaborative research deal with the Navy to explore prognostics, conditioned-based maintenance and training algorithms to perform real-time analytics on otherwise complex problems. It is a 6-month Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) to explore extensive new AI applications, company developers said.
Raytheon developers were naturally hesitant to specify any particular problems or platforms they are working on with the Navy, but did say they were looking at improved AI to further enable large warfigthing systems, weapons, and networks.
Todd Probert, Raytheon’s Vice President of Mission Support and Modernization, told Warrior Maven in an interview what their effort is working on initiatives which compliment DoD’s current AI push.
“Part of deploying AI is about gaining the confidence to trust the AI if operations change and then break it down even further,” Probert said. “We are training algorithms to do the work of humans.”
Interestingly, the kinds of advances enabled by a 3rd Wave bring the prospect of engineering AI-driven algorithms to interpret subjective nuances. For instance, things like certain philosophical concepts, emotions and psychological nuances influenced by past experience might seem to be the kind of thing computers would not be able to interpret.
While this is of course still true in many ways, as even the most advanced algorithms do not yet parallel human cognition, or emotion, in some respects, AI is increasingly able to make more subjective determinations, Probert said.
Probert explained that advanced AI is able to process certain kinds of intent, emotions, and biases through an ability to gather and organize information related to word selection, voice recognition, patterns of expression, and intonations as a way to discern more subjective phenomena.
Also, if a system has a large enough database, perhaps including prior expressions, writing or information related to new information — it can place new words, expressions and incoming data within a broader, more subjective context, Probert explained.
AI & counterterrorism – Torres AES
Other industry partners are using new levels of AI to fortify counterterrorism investigations and cyber forensics. For example, a US-based global security firm supporting DoD, the US State Dept. and friendly foreign governments, Torres Advanced Enterprise Solutions, employs advanced levels of AI to uncover otherwise obscured or hidden communications among terrorist groups, transnational criminals or other US adversaries.
While much of the details of this kind of AI application, company developers say, are naturally not available for security reasons, Torres cyber forensics experts did say advanced algorithms can find associations and “digital footprints” associated with bad actors or enemy activity using newer methods of AI.
As part of its cyber forensics training of US and US-allied counterterrorism forces, Torres prepares cyber warriors and investigators to leverage AI. Torres conducts cyber forensics training of US-allied Argentinian and Paraguayan counterrorism officials who, for instance, often look to crack down on terrorist financial activity in the more loosely-governed “tri-border” area connecting Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil.
“The system that we train builds in AI, yet does not eliminate the human being. AI-enabled algorithms can identify direct and indirect digital relationships among bad actors,” said Jerry Torres, Torres AES CEO.
For instance, AI can use adaptive reasoning to discern relationships between locations, names, email addresses, or bank accounts used by bad actors.
To illustrate some of the effective uses of AI for these kinds of efforts, Torres pointed to a proprietary software called Maltego — used for open-source intelligence analysis and forensics.
“AI can be a great asset in which our defensive cyber systems learn about the attackers by increasing the knowledge base from each attack, and launching intelligent counter attacks to neutralize the attackers, or feign a counter attack to get the attacker to expose itself. AI is critical to countering attackers,” Torres added.
The software uses AI to find relationships across a variety of online entities to include social media, domains, groups, networks, and other areas of investigative relevance.
The growing impact of AI
AI has advanced quickly to unprecedented levels of autonomy and machine learning wherein algorithms are instantly able to assimilate and analyze new patterns and information, provide context, and compare it against vast volumes of data. Many now follow the seemingly countless applications of this throughout military networks, data systems, weapons, and large platforms.
Computer autonomy currently performs procedural functions, organizes information, and brings incredible processing speed designed to enable much faster decision-making and problems solving by humans performing command and control. While AI can proving seemingly infinite amounts of great relevance in short order — or almost instantaneously — human cognition is still required in many instances to integrate less “tangible” variables, solve dynamic problems or make more subjective determinations.
When it comes to current and emerging platforms, there is already much progress in the area of AI; the F-35s “sensor fusion” relies upon early iterations of AI, Navy Ford-Class carriers use greater levels of automation to perform on-board functions and Virginia-Class Block III attack submarines draw upon touch screen fly-by-wire technology to bring more autonomy to undersea navigation.
Other instances include the Army’s current experimentation with IBM’s AI-enabled Watson computer which, among other things, can be used to wirelessly perform real-time analytics on combat relevant maintenance details on Stryker vehicles. In a manner somewhat analogous to this, a firm called C3IOT uses AI-empowered real-time analytics to perform conditioned-based maintenance on Air Force F-16s.
“Despite higher levels of autonomy, in the end a human will make the decision, using computers as partners. We see the future as much less having machines do everything but rather humans and machines working together to fight the next battle,” Highnam explained.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
Former Navy SEAL officer Chris Fussell has spent the past four years adapting strategies he learned in the special forces to the corporate world.
He’s the chief growth officer of retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s consulting firm, the McChrystal Group, which has worked with companies like Intuit and Seagate Technologies to streamline management and communications systems.
Fussell explains to Ferriss that the best advice he received early in his military career stays with him to this day. One of his mentors taught him that you should always have three people that you’re paying attention to within your organization:
Someone senior who you would like to emulate
A peer who you think is better at the job than you are
A subordinate who is doing your previous job better than you did
This roster is always subject to change, Fussell says, and you don’t need to let the people you’re following know that you’re doing so.
“If you just have those three individuals that you’re constantly measuring yourself off of and who you’re constantly learning from,” Fussell says, “you’re gonna be exponentially better than you are.”
The world of special operations is a mystery to many. This is even more true for the elite operators at the “Tier 1” level: their units aren’t officially listed by the Department of Defense, and their personnel are carefully selected from only the best of other special operations units. Their work is often shrouded in secrecy, and the general public rarely hears about their successes. But a few have stepped out of the shadows to record inspirational stories about their time serving at the tip of the spear or to provide context to missions they were on that made international headlines.
We compiled a list of these important — and sometimes controversial — books written by the operators themselves. Whether you want a peek behind the curtain or to gain a greater understanding of what our nation’s recent military history looks like, these books will no doubt satisfy!
“The Operator: Firing the Shots that Killed Osama bin Laden and My Years as a SEAL Team Warrior” by Robert O’Neill
The title pretty much says it all. As a member of SEAL Team 6, O’Neill was not only on the raid that hunted down the al Qaeda leader, he placed the bullet that ended the bastard’s life. He’s gotten some blowback from the community for speaking about things that are generally kept down low, but the story was already getting out. He told the Washington Post in 2014 that he wanted to maintain some control over the narrative and that his story seemed to aid in the healing process for families of 9/11 victims.
With a movie in the works, O’Neill’s memoir spanning his childhood through his impressive 400-mission career is something to get your hands on now before Hollywood has its way with it.
Notable quote: “‘Once we go on this mission, we aren’t going to see our kids again or kiss our wives. We’ll never eat another steak or smoke another cigar.’ We were trying to get down to the truth about why we were still willing to do this when we pretty much knew we were going to die. What we came up with was that we were doing it for the single mom who dropped her kids off at school and went to work on a Tuesday morning, and then an hour later decided to jump out of a skyscraper because it was better than burning alive. A woman whose last gesture of human decency was holding down her skirt on the long way to the pavement so no one could see her underwear. That’s why we were going. She was just trying to get through a workday, live a life.”
“Inside Delta Force: The Story of America’s Elite Counterterrorist Unit” by Eric Haney
Haney, a founding member of the supersecret and elite unit, details the early years of 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta. Released in 2002, it’s not a hot-off-the-presses memoir, but it’s a must-read for anyone who wants to get to know Delta Force. This is the book that inspired the popular network TV show “The Unit,” on which Haney also served as a producer.
Notable quote: “From the vantage point of my warm, comfortable spot on mother earth, I could see off into infinite space and the eternity of time. In just a few hours, I thought, some of us are going to make that leap into eternity. And I will be one of the instruments of that voyage. I may also be one of the travelers … . It’s going to happen sooner or later. But if today is my day—I’m going to have a cup of coffee first.”
“Leadership in the Shadows: Special Operations Soldier” by SGM Kyle Lamb
Whether military or civilian, the goal of any team is to accomplish the mission. With more than 20 years of experience in leadership positions within the U.S. Army’s special operations community, Lamb is uniquely qualified to get you there. If you need to instill confidence and encourage teamwork, you’ll find the tools in this book.
Notable quote: “You are not born with credibility. You must earn and build your credibility by becoming accountable, listening to your people, and, most importantly, performing on a daily basis. That credibility will be earned through performance and life leadership experiences.”
“The Mission, The Men, and Me: Lessons From a Former Delta Force Commander” by Pete Blaber
The former Delta Force commander distills his experience in the elite strike force into applicable leadership and life lessons for soldiers and civilians alike. And while he’s dropping all this knowledge, Blaber also shares stories about his time in combat and provides insight into the bureaucratic workings of the U.S. government — for better or worse.
Notable quote: “The question that high-ranking leaders always seemed to inject in any risk-averse-oriented discussion was, “Is it worth getting a man killed for?” Forty thousand people die on our highways each year, but when you get into your car each morning, do you ask yourself if driving to work is worth getting killed for?”
“Kill Bin Laden: A Delta Force Commander’s Account of the Hunt for the World’s Most Wanted Man” by Dalton Fury
This New York Times bestseller details how close Delta Force came to killing Usama bin Laden in the Tora Bora mountains of Afghanistan mere months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Met with acclaim and criticism, Fury (a pen name for Thomas Greer, who died in 2016) went on to write a series of books, including fiction, under the pseudonym.
Notable quote: “Many times we had to think and act instantly, with no guidance at all, but that is why Delta picks the kind of operators that it does. They have to be able to think as well as fight. The muhj allies turned their guns on our boys to stop an advance. Rival warlords weighed their military decisions according to personal agendas. When we arrived in Afghanistan in December 2001, the United States was pulling troops out of the area in a weird ploy to trick Usama bin Laden while stripping us of a quick-reaction force. The muhj that were supposed to be doing the bulk of the fighting, and we sucking up the glory, routinely left the battlefield when it got dark, at times abandoning our small teams in the mountains. Some people within the U.S. command system were extremely reluctant to commit highly trained forces because they might get hurt. Some of the highest-ranking people in the Pentagon had no idea of what Delta was trained to do. The CIA bought loyalty out of duffel bags filled with American cash only to learn later that money does not buy everything in Afghanistan. Some of this might have been funny had it not been so serious.”
“Delta Force: A Memoir by the Founder of the U.S. Military’s Most Secretive Special-Operations Unit” by Charlie A. Beckwith
The first commanding officer of Delta Force probably has a pretty impressive story to tell — Beckwith doesn’t disappoint. Originally published in 1983, you won’t find the juicy details about what it takes to be an elite warrior in what is considered by many to be the most effective fighting unit in the world, but you’ll find a detailed history — complete with war stories and the challenges he faced from a project management perspective to get the unit running and gunning.
Notable quote: “Then I remembered something I’d read that Teddy Roosevelt had said: “It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena…who strives…who spends himself…and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
“No Easy Day: The Autobiography of a Navy SEAL: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama bin Laden” by Mark Owen
Before O’Neill started talking, Mark Owen got the conversation (and controversy) started with “No Easy Day.” While it’s been praised for being well-written and providing fascinating insight into the dynamics of SEAL Team 6, Owen has also come under fire from the Naval Special Warfare Command and surrounding community for speaking out about secret missions for what appears to be personal recognition and accolades.
Notable quote: “[to Navy SEALs] Quite frankly, I didn’t even want to use you guys, with your dip and velcro and all your gear bullshit. I wanted to drop a bomb. But people didn’t believe in this lead enough to drop a bomb. So they’re using you guys as canaries. And, in theory, if bin Laden isn’t there, you can sneak away and no one will be the wiser. But bin Laden is there. And you’re going to kill him for me.”
“American Badass: The True Story of a Modern Day Spartan” by Dale Comstock
If you’re in need of some inspiration to get up and be the best American you can be, you’ve found it. Comstock chronicles the successes and failures in his life, offering a glimpse into America’s current warrior mentality. A quick and entertaining read.
Notable quote: “An American Badass doesn’t start fights, but knows if he must fight, he can with courage and conviction. An American Badass doesn’t steal, lie, or subvert the society that he lives in. He lives by a code of unwavering morality, and ethics that are tempered with honor, honesty, integrity, leadership, and loyalty to family, friends, and America.”
“My Share of the Task: A Memoir” by Gen. Stanley McChrystal
One of the most respected leaders of the GWOT, McChrystal served as the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan before retiring in 2010. In his 2014 New York Times bestselling memoir, he lays out the major aspects of his career and his path to becoming a four-star general. A leadership handbook wrapped in a personal narrative, “My Share of the Task” is both informative and entertaining.
Notable quote: “As the demands of the positions differed, and as I grew in age and experience, I found that I had changed as a leader. I learned to ask myself two questions: First, what must the organization I command do and be? And second, how can I best command to achieve that?”
BONUS: “Fearless: The Undaunted Courage and Ultimate Sacrifice of Navy SEAL Team SIX Operator Adam Brown” by Eric Blehm
Even though it wasn’t written by a Tier 1 operator, it’s such an inspiring story about one that we had to include it here. After struggling with addiction and a stint in jail, Adam Brown used his faith to propel him to the highest level of elite warrior — SEAL Team 6. This New York Times bestseller chronicles his life, his struggles, and, ultimately, his ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan.
Notable quote: “Modest, conventional expectations weren’t enough to lure Adam Brown away from the power of drug addiction that ensnared him. Instead, the college dropout already in his mid-twenties found only the big, near-impossible dream of being a Navy SEAL captivating enough to consistently draw him to different choices.”
Best Last Stand: Cillian Murphy and Jamie Dornan, “Anthropoid”
Operation Anthropoid was the Czech government-in-exile’s plot to kill SS General Reinhard Heydrich – the man who designed Hitler’s extermination of Europen Jews. Two Czech agents do the job and are tracked down in a cathedral by what seems like a battalion of Nazi soldiers. They and other members of the Resistance opt to not surrender.
Best Depiction of a Veteran Who Still Fits in his Old Uniform: Hugo Weaving, “Hacksaw Ridge”
Weaving plays Tom Doss, father of Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector who earned the medal of honor as a medic in WWII. In the film, he uses his status as a WWI veteran to get access to a general, but first he has to get in his old uniform. You know, for dramatic effect.
The elder Doss was at the Battle of Belleau Wood in 1918. Since Hacksaw Ridge takes place in 1942 when the younger Doss enlisted, we have to give credit to Tom Doss for being able to fit in that thing 24 years later.
I’ve only been out for eight years and I doubt I could get my blues pants up to my waist.
Best Trailer: “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”
No military movie was as anticipated as “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” the film adaptation of Ben Fountain’s book of the same name. Ang Lee’s movie looked spectacular but was received to mixed reviews.
Viewers may disagree but the one thing you can’t argue about is how great this trailer is.
So if you don’t like the movie, think of this as a trailer for the book. The book is really good. Really, really good.
Best Acting: Steven Lang, “Beyond Glory”
Most actors get an award nod for playing one role, but if WATM were handing out actual statues, we’d give Steven Lang eight of them for “Beyond Glory.” The actor travels around the world, for troops and civilians, telling the story of 8 Medals of Honor, as the guys who received them.
Go ahead, try to watch this movie without getting goosebumps. If you can, then check yourself into the nearest psych ward, because you might not be capable of feelings.
Breakout Performance by a Duo: John Krasinski and David Denman, “13 Hours”
The two men from the NBC series “The Office” reunited on the silver screen in 2016 as Jack Silva and Dave ‘Boon’ Benton in this obscure indie hit. They portray two security contractors working for the U.S. State Department in Libya in a plot to bring down Hillary Clinton. Or something. I don’t know, I don’t follow politics.
Krasinski’s career as an operator clearly began while he was an Air Force pilot at Joint Base Hickam-Pearl Harbor, when he asked Chris Kyle to teach him how to be operator AF.
Best Villain: The Sharks, “USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage”
It’s hard to blame the Japanese submarine for sinking the Indianapolis. the Pacific War was still a war, after all (besides, the skipper of the Japanese boat came to Capt. McVay’s defense at his court-martial). What you can blame are the sharks who ate the survivors of the ship’s sinking.
For the days they spent waiting to be rescued, the sailors of the Indianapolis just hung out, waiting to be gnawed on like some shark’s pickled chum.
Best Combat Action Sequence: Mel Gibson “Hacksaw Ridge”
Leave it to the guy who brought you a medieval combat scene where someone gets hit in the face with a hammer to bring you World War II combat that tosses body parts around like confetti.
Nothing says “war is terrible” like showing the worst parts of it. Mission complete, Mel Gibson. On that note…
Best On-Screen Improv: This guy from “Hacksaw Ridge”
Using what’s left of your Battle Buddy like Captain America uses his vibranium shield isn’t exactly in the Army field manual, but the guys who wrote that weren’t writing it at Okinawa. If your Battle is supposed to save your life, then this guy did the right thing.
Best “Eat Pray Love”-style war movie: “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”
That movie would have been waaaaaaaay different if Julia Roberts went to Afghanistan instead of, say, Italy.
“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” even calls itself “the most American white lady story I’ve ever heard” in the middle of the movie. Special props to WTF for having Margot Robbie explain the “Desert Queen” principle, a longtime staple of deployment lore.
Best Director Who Actually Looks Like He’s In Combat: Michael Bay, “13 Hours”
I’m starting to believe everything Michael Bay does features explosions. Like, when he goes to get coffee or to the post office, a car down the street explodes. Most of us will never have a work photo take that looks this cool.
Drill Sergeant of the Year: Vince Vaughn, “Hacksaw Ridge”
Many cinematic instructors have come and gone over the years, from ones as memorable as Gunny Hartman to the less memorable Merwin Toomey.
You can decide where Vince Vaughn’s Sgt. Howell falls in the pantheon, but for 2016, he’s tops.
During the launch of Operation Market Garden, a young Nelson Bryant and thousands of fellow paratroopers from the 82d Airborne parachuted into occupied Holland in an attempt to dislodge its Nazi occupiers. Bryant, wounded in a previous mission, took shrapnel to the leg as he fell to Earth. After landing, he began freeing himself from his harness. Under fire from nearby German positions, he was forced to cut it off.
Without thinking, he dropped his knife as he scrambled for cover. It seemed to be lost forever — but it was actually only 73 years.
“There were some Germans shooting at me from about 150 yards away, and they were getting damn close,” he told the local Martha’s Vineyard newspaper, the Vineyard Gazette. “As near as I can tell, what happened was I was pretty excited, and a little upset. I remember I cut some of my clothes I was so nervous. I cut out of the harness. What I think I did, I simply forgot my knife and left it there on the ground in its sheath.”
An American paratrooper makes a hard landing in a Dutch field during the airborne phase of Operation Market Garden, September, 1944.
More than 40,000 paratroopers from the 101st and 82d Airborne divisions were dropped into Holland to support Market Garden in 1944. The 82d was supposed to capture and defend the heights over Groesbeek, outside the city of Nijmegen. They were successful in taking the position, but were forced to defend the area from repeated, powerful German counterattacks.
The 82d was also tasked with dropping on either side of the Nijmegen Bridge to hit the bridge’s defenders from both sides and keep it operational for use by Allied forces. Unfortunately, as was the story with Market Garden, things did not go as planned. The entire strike force was dropped to the south of the bridge and would have to assault it from one side, during the day.
After D-Day in Normandy, in June, 1944, Nelson Bryant reluctantly strikes a pose.
The fighting men of the U.S. Army is the stuff of legend in Groesbeek. One day in 2017, 56-year-old André Duijghuisen was looking through his father’s attic when he came across a very different kind of knife. There was clearly something extraordinary about it. It was still in its sheath – and carved into that sheath was a name, “Bryant.”
Duijghuisen did some digging and found a Bryant registered with the 82d Airbone, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment. He found that this Bryant not only survived the war but later became a reporter, and even wrote for the New York Times. Most importantly, he was still alive.
Bryant almost didn’t make to Holland at all.
Nelson Bryant was a student at Dartmouth College in 1943. As a college man, he was exempt from the draft but seeing so many friends and peers go over to fight the Nazis inspired him. He volunteered to join the Army. Unhappy with his stateside supply job, he soon volunteered for the 82d Airborne. He arrived in England just in time to jump into Hitler’s Fortress Europe in the wee hours before the D-Day landings.
It was there, during a reconnaissance mission, that he was shot in the chest by a .50-caliber bullet.
“I heard machine gun fire, the next thing I know, bam,” said Mr. Bryant. “It went in the front, came out the back, 50 caliber. I thought, is this it? I could hear distant gunfire, I could hear cows mooing in the pasture.”
Bryant laid in a hedgerow for four days before making it back to a field hospital in Wales. He worked to recuperate there, first walking on his own, then running. When he found out the 82d was making another jump into occupied Europe, he asked doctors if he would be able to go with them. They thought he was nuts. He wasn’t crazy, he was just determined to finish what he started. Not even a hospital could hold him back.
“When no one was looking, I got my clothes and put them on, walked out of the hospital, and thumbed rides on U.S. military vehicles back to Nottingham, England, and got there a week before we made the jump into Holland,” he said.
Duijghuisen reached out to Bryant and told him that he had his “bayonet” and asked if he would like it returned.
“He said bayonet, and I knew something was wrong because I knew the gun I carried you couldn’t use a bayonet,” Bryant said of the exchange. “Then I realized I was talking to a civilian and he wouldn’t know a bayonet from a trench knife. When he said there was a leather sheath, that was a clue.”
At 56, Duijghusen wasn’t even born during World War II, but the legacy of the men who liberated Holland is still important to the people there.
“The name on the bayonet, it made, for me, something personal,” said Duijghuisen before making the visit to Martha’s Vineyard. “Because of what he did in 1944, and because we are now living in a free world. I think a lot about that. He fought in Holland for our freedom. I’m very excited about that, it will be nice to see him.”
Duijghuisen and his wife traveled to see Bryant in 2017, 73 years after the old veteran jumped into Holland, just to return the trench knife Bryant used to free himself while helping free the Netherlands.
Russia’s lower parliament house has scheduled the first reading of a bill on retaliatory sanctions against the United States for May 15, 2018, meaning the first of three State Duma votes on the legislation could be held that day.
Senior lawmakers met on April 16, 2018, to discuss plans to hit back against Washington, which 10 days earlier imposed asset freezes and financial restrictions on tycoons, security officials, politicians, and companies seen to have close ties to President Vladimir Putin.
The U.S. treasury secretary said the sanctions were a response to Russia’s “malign activity around the globe,” alluding among other things to the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain and Moscow’s alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.
The Russian bill on countering “unfriendly actions by the United States and other foreign states,” introduced on April 13, 2018, would authorize Putin’s government to ban or restrict the import of a raft of U.S. goods and services.
Among goods that could be banned or subjected to restrictions are medicines, alcohol, tobacco, agricultural and industrial products, technological equipment and computer software — though individual Russians would be allowed to bring many of the items into the country for personal use. In addition, individual Americans could be added to existing lists of those barred from entering Russia.
Auditing, legal, and consulting services by U.S. companies could also be subject to bans or restrictions, and curbs could be imposed on U.S. citizens working in Russia. In addition, individual Americans could be added to existing lists of those barred from entering Russia.
Duma deputy speaker Aleksandr Zhukov said on April 16, 2018, that a group of lawmakers and experts will discuss the bill on May 3, 2018.
Russia has sharply criticized the new U.S. sanctions. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, contended on April 16, 2018, that they are “nothing more than an international asset grab” and an effort to give U.S. companies a competitive edge over Russian firms — allegations that U.S. officials say are untrue.
The UK Foreign Office has issued a bizarre terrorism warning for citizens wishing to travel to its territory in Antarctica – a security chief has criticized the move as “pointless back covering”.
The message on the department’s foreign travel advice section reads: “Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in the British Antarctic Territory, attacks can’t be ruled out.
“There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.”
The British Antarctic Territory is a 660,000 square mile stretch of the icy continent that includes the South Pole. It is uninhabited, except for two scientific research stations – and several species of penguin.
Colonel Richard Kemp, who led the British Army into Afghanistan in 2003, told The Sun: “MI5’s then-director-general once said there was a terror threat almost everywhere except Antarctica. Now they’ve put Antarctica on the list.
“We expect guidance based on intelligence, not a pointless exercise in back-covering – unless I’ve missed the Islamic State Polar Brigade.”
The British Antarctic Territory is the largest of the 14 British Overseas Territories, which include the tiny Carribbean islands of Bermuda and The Bahamas.
Similar advice concerning terrorist attacks has also been issued for these paradise holiday destinations.