These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan - We Are The Mighty
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These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan’s turbulent Helmand province, US Marines are rekindling old relationships and identifying weaknesses in the Afghan forces that the Trump administration hopes to address with a new strategy and the targeted infusion of several thousand American forces.


Returning to Afghanistan’s south after five years, Marine Brig. Gen. Roger Turner already knows where he could use some additional US troops. And while he agrees that the fight against the Taliban in Helmand is at a difficult stalemate, he said he is seeing improvements in the local forces as his Marines settle into their roles advising the Afghan National Army’s 215th Corps.

Turner’s report on the fight in Helmand will be part of a broader assessment that Gen. Joseph Dunford will collect this week from his senior military commanders in Afghanistan.

Dunford landed in Kabul Monday with a mission to pull together the final elements of a military strategy that will include sending nearly 4,000 more U.S. troops into the country. He will be meeting with Afghan officials as well as US and coalition military leaders and troops.

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meets with Afghan Air Force Brig. Gen. Eng A. Shafi. DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro.

The expected deployment of more Americans will be specifically molded to bolster the Afghan forces in critical areas so they can eventually take greater control over the security of their own nation.

The Taliban have slowly resurged, following the decision to end the combat role of US and international forces at the end of 2014. The NATO coalition switched to a support and advisory role, while the US has also focused on counter-terrorism missions.

Recognizing the continued Taliban threat and the growing Islamic State presence in the county, the Obama administration slowed its plan to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the end of last year. There are now about 8,400 there.

But commanders have complained that the sharp drawdown hurt their ability to adequately train and advise the Afghans while also increasing the counter-terror fight. As a result, the Trump administration is completing a new military, diplomatic, and economic strategy for the war, and is poised to send the additional US troops, likely bolstered by some added international forces.

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Photo: USMC

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will be in Brussels later this week and is expected to talk with allies about their ongoing support for the war.

While Turner said he has already seen improvements in the Afghan’s 215th Corps, he said adding more advisers would allow him to pinpoint problems at the lower command levels, including more brigades.

“The level and number of advisers you have really gives you the ability to view the chain on all the functional areas. The more areas you can see — you can have a greater impact on the overall capability of the force,” he told the Associated Press in an interview from Helmand Province. “If we had more capacity in the force we would be able to address more problems, faster.”

He said that although the Afghan forces have improved their ability to fight, they still need help at some of the key underpinnings of a combat force, such as getting spare parts to troops with broken equipment.

The seemingly simple task of efficiently ordering and receiving parts — something American forces do routinely — requires a working supply chain from the warehouse to the unit on the battlefield.

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
Kentucky Guardsmen train Afghans. DoD Photo by Lt.j.g. Bryan Mitchell

And Turner said that’s an issue that could be improved with additional advisers.

Other improvements, he said, include increasing the size of Afghanistan’s special operations forces and building the capacity and capabilities of its nascent air force.

The Afghan ground forces in Helmand, he said, have been able to launch offensive operations against the Taliban, including a recent battle in Marjah.

“I don’t think last year they could have taken the fight to Marjah like they just did,” he said. “They’re in a much better position that they were a year ago.”

But they are facing a resilient Taliban, whose fighters are newly financed, now that the poppy harvest is over.

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
Marines in Helmand province, Afghanistan. | US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Mark Fayloga

“Once they draw their finances, they start operations,” said Turner. “What we’ve seen so far since the end of May, when they made that transition, is a steady grind of activity across a number of places in the province.”

What has helped a lot, Turner said, is his Marines’ ability to renew old relationships with Afghan tribal elders, provincial ministers, and military commanders they worked with six or seven years ago.

Battalion officers they knew then are now commanders, and many government leaders are still in place.

“We obviously have a long commitment here in Helmand. It’s been good for the Marines to come back here,” he said. “This is a really meaningful mission. I think people realize that we don’t want to get into a situation where the kinds of pre-9/11 conditions exist again.”

Articles

11 things I learned about Star Trek after enlisting in the military

Watching Star Trek as a kid was awesome. Space battles, morality plays, explosions… everything about it was what a budding young nerd needs to ensure he doesn’t get a date until after high school.


These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
We are all Martin Prince.

But when you grow up and enlist in the real military, you start to notice a few things you never considered when you watched the shows for the first time.

1. Almost everyone is an officer. And enlisted people don’t fare well.

Only in the old Star Trek movies did we ever see enlisted Starfleet personnel.

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
The guy hanging on for dear life? Enlisted. The people who save the day? Officers.

When we do see enlisted people, they’re usually running away or struggling to survive.

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
Sick call is not gonna be packed with enlisted people tomorrow.

2. There was only one main character who was enlisted.

Chief Miles O’Brien was the only main character – who was also enlisted – in any series that warranted a spot in the credits. It still didn’t get him his due respect. Captain Sisko once told him to do something that would take two weeks. He ordered O’Brien to do it in three days.

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
No complaints. Just Jameson. Sounds like a maintainer to me.

As a matter of fact, the chief is always working, even when others are just hanging around. He doesn’t even get credit, recognition, or even a thank you. It’s so egregious, there’s even a Tumblr cartoon about it.

3. There are definitely Starfleet hair regs.

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan

4. The entire crew of the 2009 movie were grossly unqualified.

They pretty much went from Starfleet Academy to being the ranking officers on the Enterprise. This is like an entire crew of O-1s being tasked to command an aircraft carrier. And Captain Kirk made it into the academy because he lost a barfight. If that’s the criteria, there’s a fleet of Marines ready to go to Annapolis.

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
Pictured: Starfleet Entrance Exam

Everyone in Starfleet should be dead.

5. Captain Kirk was probably not the best captain ever.

Someone actually calculated how many people die under Kirk’s command in Star Trek: The Original Series. Kirk lost 12 percent of the crewmen who served with him. If the USS Gerald Ford lost 12 percent of its crew in five years, that would be almost 600 sailors.

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan

That captain would likely not be eligible for promotion. This still doesn’t settle one of the Internet’s first controversies: the Picard vs. Kirk debate. Captain Picard lost two ships (almost a third), and Kirk only lost the one, but he took out a bunch of Klingons in the process. Picard also rammed his into another ship, without giving the crew time to escape.

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan

It’s okay. Those yeomen knew what could happen when they enlisted.

6. Starfleet ships explode really easily.

Every space battle will toss around a few crewmen.

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
It’s okay, he was probably enlisted.

7. Federation ships are really easy to fly.

Literally anyone can fly these ships. Imagine a random Marine taking control of the USS Gerald Ford. You’d probably just abandon ship right away to save time. On Star Trek, if a helmsman goes down, just a few buttons will keep the Enterprise flying.

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
For the uninitiated, that’s the ship’s counselor taking the helm.

8. At least there are some PT standards.

The only overweight officer was Scotty, played by James Doohan – who is a national hero, so shut your mouth.

See Also: The actor who played Scotty on Star Trek was shot six times on D-Day

Besides, he didn’t put on weight until he was much older, so those Federation PT standards must also be adjusted by age. It should be noted that he and Uhura are the only living red shirts.

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
Tough Scotsman.

9. Hand to hand combat is much slower in the future.

Sure, I was in the Air Force, but anyone who’s seen a bar fight knows the stuff hits the fan pretty fast. Much faster than they fight on Star Trek.

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
Has this ever worked in real life?

It’s also much slower in the past. Every time a Star Trek crew goes back in time the fighting never seems to get any more intense. When Kirk went back to the 1960s, it took longer for an Air Force officer to pass out than it took to punch him in the face.

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan

10. Klingon warriors are also not that good at fighting.

Every time the Klingons attack the Enterprise (or any Star Trek crew) they really come up short. In “Generations” they attacked the Enterprise and made the ship’s shields useless. And they STILL lost. Also, they tend to be disposable.

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
Running into the laser. Good idea.

Dunning-Kruger in full effect in this barfight.

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan

11. OPSEC is OPtional.

The captain of the Enterprise routinely goes to the ship’s bartender for advice on the latest missions.

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan

Forget that she’s 500 years old, she’s never been in Starfleet and her biggest enemy is an immortal who is not restricted to the limits of space and time. It just seems like a bad idea to tell her everything.

Articles

Marine Reservist protects family from attacker

Gabriel R. McInnis, a sergeant in the Marine Corps Reserve, thought he was on a routine drive to serve on a funeral honors detail Dec. 27.


While passing through a residential area in Tempe, Arizona, he heard a woman scream.

“I was approaching a light, when I heard some screaming and yelling,” said McInnis, an engineer equipment mechanic with Bulk Fuel Company C, 6th Engineer Support Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group.

As he turned to figure out what the commotion was, he said, he saw a wide-open doorway and a large man physically assaulting Tia Simpkins and her family in her home.

Rapid Response

“I knew I had to act,” McInnis said. “I threw my car into park and ran over to try to stop it.”

He tackled the attacker despite being outclassed in height and weight. Soon the pair was on the ground exchanging blows. Although McInnis took a lot of punches, he prevented the attacker from getting to the family.

“Finally, I catch a lucky break,” McInnis said.

The attacker threw a punch, missed, and fell to the ground. McInnis used the opportunity to perform an arm-bar takedown, a martial arts move, to subdue his opponent. After restraining the attacker, he dialed 911 and the police responded within minutes.

By putting his own welfare on the line, McInnis was able to prevent the assault against Simpkins and her family.

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
Marine Corps Sgt. Gabriel R. McInnis, engineer equipment mechanic with Bulk Fuel Company C, 6th Engineer Support Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group, poses for a photo after receiving a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., Jan. 7, 2017. McInnis received the medal for his actions in preventing an assault of a family in Tempe, Ariz., Dec. 27, 2016. | US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ian Leones

A ‘True Hero’

“I know he is a true hero, because there is no way he could have had time to consider his own safety,” Simpkins said.

McInnis credits the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program with providing him the training to react.

“I’m an MCMAP instructor, and I spend a lot of my personal time training my Marines,” McInnis said. “The Marine Corps teaches right from wrong, and a bigger guy attacking a smaller woman is definitely wrong. I saw that and knew I needed to put an end to what was happening.”

The Marine leadership in his unit also recognized McInnis’s heroics and awarded him the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for his actions.

“He is one of the Marines I really look up to,” said Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Logan M. Tucker, an automotive maintenance mechanic with Company C who trained under McInnis for MCMAP. “He is always improving himself and the Marines around him. What he did embodies Marine Corps ethos. If someone needs help, it’s our duty to take care of people.”

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
Marine Corps Sgt. Gabriel R. McInnis, center, engineer equipment mechanic with Bulk Fuel Company C, 6th Engineer Support Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group, receives a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., Jan. 7, 2017. McInnis received the medal for his actions in preventing an assault of a family in Tempe, Ariz., Dec. 27, 2016. | US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ian Leones

Helping Others

This is not the first time McInnis has used his Marine Corps training to help others. A few years ago during a flight to Hawaii, McInnis used the knowledge he gained from the Combat Lifesaver Course to help a diabetic woman who had passed out during the flight. “I joined to help people, and I’ve had a few opportunities to do it,” McInnis said.

“He acted with the honor, courage and commitment that we always hear about our Marines having,” Simpkins said. “He risked his own life and welfare in order to protect people that he barely even knew.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea warns that it’s ready for both war and diplomacy

North Korea is ready for both dialogue and war, state-run news agency KCNA said Feb. 19, 2018.


In an op-ed, KCNA said the US is trying to derail inter-Korean relations by keeping military options on the table.

“It is obviously an expression of a hideous attempt to block the improvement of inter-Korean relations and again coil up the military tension on the Korean peninsula,” KCNA said.

Using the country’s official name, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the article also said, “the DPRK is fully ready for both dialogue and war,” and that it would be “naive and foolhardy” for the US to “hurt” North Korea.

The statement came shortly after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told 60 Minutes he would continue diplomatic efforts with North Korea “until that first bomb drops.”

Also read: Why North Korea suddenly stopped its aggression

“We don’t know precisely how much time is left on the clock,” Tillerson said on Feb. 18, adding that the US will keep up its policy of maximum pressure until Pyongyang tells him they are ready to talk.

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
An image from the North Korean military parade that immediately preceded the opening ceremonies for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics. (Image by Stefan Krasowski)

Tillerson’s messaging reiterated that of Vice President Mike Pence, who told The Washington Post the US approach is one of “maximum pressure and engagement at the same time.”

North Korea’s latest statement seemed to be directly responding to these two interviews, saying the vice president and secretary of state are “vying with each other to build a world of public opinion.”

Related: The world’s minute-by-minute response to the latest North Korean missile test

Pyongyang also seemed particularly aggrieved by the US State Department’s change to its travel advisory January 2018. Travelers to North Korea are now warned to draft a will, designate a power of attorney and discuss funeral plans with loved ones before their visit.

“The Trump group spouted jargons that tourists should write a will before making a trip to the DPRK. If the U.S. dares to ignite a war against the DPRK, there will be left no one to keep a written will and bury a coffin,” KCNA said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A few of the unique challenges of being a female veteran

It was an exceptionally hot September day in Twentynine Palms, California, and I was sitting in the waiting room of the physical therapist’s office, waiting for my initial appointment. I was there for an injury I’d acquired rappelling in the Marine Corps in 2002 that never properly healed. Two years later I was finally getting in for physical therapy.


The only other person in the waiting room with me was a gentleman, probably about 250lbs, with a beard down to his chest and an old ball cap with a fishing hook stuck through the bill. He looked (and smelled) like he hadn’t showered in weeks. I was pretty sure he was homeless, and had just ducked into the office for a moment of shade and relief from the 120 degree temps outside. In tattered jeans, tennis shoes with holes in them, and at least 3 shirts, he clearly wasn’t ready for physical therapy.

After what seemed forever, a receptionist poked her head into the waiting room, looked directly at the man next to me, and said “Mr. Foley? We’re ready for you.”

The man just stared at her and then looked at me, confused. “I think she means you,” he muttered.

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
Photo: Wikipedia/Rose Physical Therapy Group from United States

“I’m Foley,” I told the woman.

“Oh. Our paperwork says you’re the veteran. I’m so sorry, we’ll fix that to reflect the dependent of the veteran. Come on back,” she pushed the door open for me, barely pausing to breath as she went on. “I really hate it when they mess up this stuff. You’d think it wouldn’t be so hard to write ‘spouse’ in the margins or something!” The woman laughed at her brilliance, going on. “Anyway, I’m sorry. We’ll fix it. How are you today?”

“I’m the veteran,” was all I said.

The woman stopped walking, shocked. “Oh. I didn’t…uh…I didn’t realize girls got injured in the military,” she offered weakly, her voice trailing off in complete confusion.

“Yeah. It happens.” That’s all I could think to say.

Thus was my introduction to life as a female veteran.

Also Read: 4 most annoying regulations for women in the military

Once, during a ceremony at Mount Rushmore, the tour guide asked the veterans in the group to raise their hands. When I raised my hand, he glared at me and practically spat out “Darlin, I mean military veterans. Not their wives. You don’t serve.”

Another time, I sat in a pre-deployment brief filled to the brim with wives when the fiery boot lieutenant fresh from IOC and heading up the Remain Behind Element demanded that all the staff sergeants stand up. Then the sergeants. Then the corporals and so on and so forth. Confused, all kinds of wives stood up when their husband’s ranks were named. Then he shouted for everyone to sit down because none of them had earned any rank. I stayed standing.

He raced up to me and screamed right in my face to sit the f*ck down because I’d never served a day in my life. When I simply told him I was in the Marines, he walked away and never spoke another word to me.

It’s a thing, and it’s a fairly common thing that every female service member and veteran will experience, and often.

In fact, it’s such a common situation that female veterans and service members barely blink when it happens, and male veterans and service members don’t even realize it’s happening.

Recently, I asked some of my female veterans and active duty service member friends to share their experiences on being female veterans with me. I wasn’t at all surprised by some of the responses.

There is a female pilot that works with my husband. Every time she calls somewhere, she gets asked for her husband’s social. Prior to the Marines, she was a cop, so you’d think she’d be used to it and have found a solid way to avoid this. No. Even my own husband used to refer to her as “the female pilot” instead of just by her name like the rest of his buddies. It’s annoying as hell. Also, she isn’t even married.

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
A female pilot smiles for the camera. (Image used with permission)

Another friend, who went into finance post-Army, spoke about how, in the military, we are taught that we have to work twice as hard to appear to be half as professional as our male counterparts. It sucks but it’s true. We had an entire period of instruction in Marine bootcamp about having to hold ourselves to a far higher standard in order to be seen as even remotely equal to our male peers. But in the civilian world, doing that makes her seem “unapproachable” or “too intimidating,” and she gets told to “be more feminine.” How civilians equate “be more feminine” with “don’t be as professional as your male counterparts” is beyond me, but it’s a thing.

Then there is the female pilot who was told she probably should find a way to get out of SERE school (it’s required for all pilots) because what if she has her period during SERE? Sorry to break it to you, dudes, but periods happen. And, in case you didn’t know, our periods don’t alert bears or the Taliban to our presence.

Or the female who got promoted meritoriously to corporal and staff sergeant (in different commands, several years apart) and got asked several times (in complete seriousness) after each promotion who she sucked off to get the promotion. How many male service members get asked that after a feat like TWO meritorious promotions?

There is the reservist, who is also a new mother. At her last battle assembly, she inquired about where she could go to pump. Her commander stared at her like she’d grown three heads and refused to speak to her for the rest of the time. Also note, men: women have breasts, and after a baby, they require pumping. No one is asking for special treatment, just directions to the nearest head to dump some of her milk into a freaking bag.

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden

That’s part of the problem. If a female asks to be treated with an ounce of respect, she’s accused of trying to get special treatment, so she doesn’t ask. She doesn’t demand or insist. For the most part, the female service members and veterans just suck it up and accept it as part of being a girl; they have to be careful around the fragile egos that might get offended if she acts like she might be an equal.

And if she has the audacity to, say, write a noncontroversial article about female grooming standards in the military? She gets ripped to shreds and accused of not even being a veteran based on her photo next to her byline.

Because we all know female veterans don’t color their hair. And male veterans don’t put on 50lbs and grow beards when they get out.

Articles

A Navy carrier just broke the record for dropping bombs on ISIS

The USS Harry S. Truman is celebrating the work of its crew after setting the record for ordnance dropped on ISIS. The Truman launched over 1,118 ordinance pieces against terrorist targets over the past five months, surpassing the 1,085 dropped by the USS Theodore Roosevelt‘s pilots in 2015.


These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
The USS Harry S. Truman launches a jet during training operations. Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class K.H. Anderson/USN

The Truman’s Carrier Air Wing 7  flew 1,407 combat sorties and dropped over 580 tons of ordnance on the Islamic State.

“Since our arrival in the Arabian Gulf, the Truman Strike Group has been conducting operations around the clock,” Capt. Ryan B. Scholl, Truman’s commanding officer, told a Navy journalist. “This deployment is busier than any other I’ve seen. Every Sailor is doing great work individually and executing as a combat team to reach this milestone. It is due to this dedication as a combined force that Truman is making a significant difference fighting for our country.”

The bombing missions by the Navy and Air Force, in addition to raids by the Army’s Delta Force and artillery strikes by the U.S. Marine Corps, have weakened ISIS and helped allied ground forces push them back. The strikes have been moving so quickly that the Pentagon has warned of shortages of bombs.

Meanwhile, the Navy has also hit ISIS targets with cruise missiles when necessary.

All these blows have left ISIS weak, but it has failed to dislodge them entirely. While the predictions continue that ISIS will soon collapse, the fact that the organization is largely self-funded by taxing economic activity and collecting money from black market trade has made it hard to starve the group out. Recent airstrikes targeting ISIS cash and financial leaders — as well as the capturing and killing of ISIS accountants — have hurt the group’s ability to pay its fighters.

And strikes alone can not wipe out the terrorist organization. A January piece from the Council on Foreign Relations pointed out that ISIS had about 30,000 fighters when airstrikes began and had lost 20,000 fighters to strikes by Jan. 2016. Still, their total number of fighters hovered somewhere around 30,000 due to the presence of new recruits.

The recent financial troubles of the so-called caliphate have finally triggered a downtick in fighter numbers, but it’s likely that Navy air wings will be busy dropping bombs on the terrorists for a long time to come.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Coast Guard wants heavy firepower on their new icebreakers

The Coast Guard is getting very serious about fielding highly capable icebreakers — and not just for getting through the frozen oceans in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. They’re also looking to prepare these vessels for a fight. A report by the Washington Times revealed that the Coast Guard wants their next six icebreakers to pack some serious firepower, able to send cruise missiles at a hostile target on land or sea.


Contrary to what some might think, heavily armed icebreakers are not a new phenomenon. In fact, a number of countries are currently operating powerful, combat-ready icebreakers.

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
HDMS Knud Rasmussen outside Akureyri Harbour in Iceland. (Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Adaahh)

The Danish Knud Rasmussen-class icebreakers, for instance, are armed with a 76mm gun, two twin 324mm torpedo tubes for the MU-90 Impact, and a Mk 56 vertical launch system for the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile. Norway’s lone Svalbard-class icebreaker is equipped with a single 57mm gun, similar to those used on the Freedom- and Independence-class littoral combat ships. Russia, of course, is arming its icebreakers as well. The Ivan Susanin-class icebreakers, in service since the 1970s, are armed with a twin 76.2mm gun and two 30mm Gatling guns.

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
A Russian Federal Border Guard Ivan Susanin-class icebreaker. (Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer Jonathan R. Cilley)

Even Canada’s getting in on the action. Their planned Harry Dewolf-class icebreakers are to be equipped with a 25mm Bushmaster chain gun and two M2 .50-caliber heavy machine guns.

The current icebreaker classes in the United States Coast Guard, the Healy and the Polar Star, are each equipped with a pair of M2 .50-caliber heavy machine guns.

“We’ve been able to find offsets to drive the cost down … [and] reserve the space weight and power necessary to fully weaponize these and make these a capable platform offensively in the event this world changes in the next five, 10, even 15 years from now,” Adm. Paul Zukunft, the Commandant of the Coast Guard, said during an address at a symposium hosted by the Surface Navy Association.

Sure, there’s no combat to be done in the Arctic today, but as always, having weapons ready is often the best way to prevent a fight. With so many armed adversaries, we think putting more guns on new icebreakers is a great move.

Articles

3 examples of how battlecruisers sucked in a fight

There are some battlecruisers that might have lasted for a bit, but all too often, battlecruisers had a very short combat career — usually ending in a spectacular fashion.


They had originally been designed to carry a set of big guns to blast apart enemy cruisers, but they also had a very high top speed, so they could outrun anything that could give them a fair fight.

The Royal Navy was familiar with battlecruisers blowing up when hit. They saw it happen at Jutland and the Denmark Strait. But Japan had its own bad experience with battlecruisers. Here are three case studies.

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
HIJMS Akagi (US Navy photo)

1. HIJMS Akagi

Okay, technically, this is an aircraft carrier, but she was converted from a battle cruiser. Akagi was impressive – ww2db.com notes she displaced 36,500 tons and was over 850 feet long. She carried as many as 90 planes.

She went down because of one bomb. Granted, it was a 1,000-pound bomb, but it was still just one conventional bomb.

According to the book “Shattered Sword” by Jon Parshall and Anthony Tully, that bomb (plus the presence of aircraft being armed and fueled) lead to catastrophic fires that eventually forced Isoroku Yamamoto to order his old command to be scuttled.

Akagi had packed a powerful punch in six months of combat – including credit for wrecking the battleship USS Oklahoma (BB 37) and damaging the USS West Virginia (BB 48). But she proved to have a glass jaw.

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
Battlecruiser HIJMS Hiei at Saesbo in 1926. She was sunk in 1942. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

2. HIJMS Hiei

On paper, the HIJMS Hiei (along with her sister ship HIJMS Kirishima) should have torn through Daniel Callaghan’s force at Guadalcanal like a kid through Christmas presents. They were two of the four Kongo-class battlecruisers, and brought the biggest guns to the fight.

But instead, it was Dan Callaghan who triumphed that night (at the cost of his life). As for Hiei? She took an 8-inch armor-piercing shell in the steering compartment, and was left a cripple. The next morning, planes from Henderson Field finished her off.

Crippled by a cruiser, then sunk by planes from the airfield she was supposed to bombard, makes Hiei a classic loser.

Her sister, Kirishima, didn’t fare much better. She went toe-to-toe with the USS Washington (BB 56) two nights later, and was reduced to a wreck before she was scuttled.

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
Two views of HIJMS Kongo as she looked in 1944, the year she was sunk by USS Sealion (SS 315). (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

3. HIJMS Kongo

The lead Kongo-class battlecruiser lasted longer, mostly because during World War II, carriers were rightly seen as the more valuable targets. But when the USS Sealion (SS 315), commanded by Lt. Cdr. Eli Thomas Reich, got her in its sights, Kongo ended up as just another battlecruiser statistic.

Here sources disagree on how many hits she took. Anthony Tully notes at CombinedFleet.com that the Kongo took at least two hits, leading to an eventual capsizing and explosion.

Rear Adm. Samuel Eliot Morison said in the “History of United States Naval Operations in World War II” that a single hit lead to the explosive end of Kongo.

So, there you have it. Three more reasons why battlecruisers are losers — provided by the Japanese Navy.

popular

Troops pick which Army job is the best

People approach joining the Army as if all soldiers are the same, but there are actually a ton of different jobs recruits can enlist for. And since soldiers are willing to leave reviews on sites like Glassdoor.com, it’s easy to see which recruits might re-enlist without prompting and which will spend the next few years counting down to the end of their contract.


1. Human Resources Specialists

 

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
Photo: US Army Sgt. Jason Means

Human resource specialists apparently love being in the Army, giving it a rating of 4.3 out of 5. It looks like sitting behind a desk at headquarters isn’t a bad way to earn the GI Bill.

2. Psychological Operations

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Samuel Bedet

Psychological Operations soldiers gave their career a 4.3 as well. Multiple reviewers cited their free foreign language training and incentive pays as reasons they like their job.

3. Artillerymen

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
Photo: US Army

Artillery has the highest rating of the combat arms branches with a 4.1. Considering the fact that they get to pull strings and make stuff go boom all day, this isn’t a huge shocker.

4. Combat Engineer

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Michel Sauret

 

Considering the fact that combat engineers are stuck with missions like route clearance, it’s surprising that they rated their time serving as a 4 out of 5. But sappers are crazy like that and explosives are fun.

5. Communications specialists

 

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
Pfc. Chris McKenna

 

The Commo guys also gave the Army a 4 out of 5. This is a broad category, including everyone from Satellite Communications Operators to Cable Systems Installer-Maintainers.

6. Army Pilots

 

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
Photo: Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Rissmiller

 

Helicopters are awesome, and their pilots rated serving at 3.9 out of 5. Some of the lower ratings came from OH-58 pilots who are understandably disappointed that the Army has gotten rid of their scout aircraft.

7. Cavalry

 

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
Photo: US Navy Chief Photographer’s Mate Edward Martens

 

Cavlarymen cited their long work hours and the danger of combat arms as drawbacks, but the adrenaline rush, The benefits, and working outside were huge positives. The average review was a 3.9.

8. Army Special Forces

 

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Bradley C. Church

Like the cavalry, Special Forces soldiers gave the Army a 3.9. Reviews cited the incentive pays for Special Forces and the professional environment as big positives. SF guys also get free language training.

9. Intel Analyst

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
Photo: US Army Spc. Nathan Goodall

 

Intelligence analysts gave the Army a 3.8 out of 5. In charge of collecting data from the battlefield and figuring out what the enemy is doing, these guys spend a lot of time locked in secure offices seeing photos and reports no one else gets to.

10. Army Infantry

 

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Shane Hamann

 

The iconic rifleman may be all over the recruiting posters, but sleeping on rocks and rucking 100 pounds of gear isn’t exactly an ideal weekend. They still gave their employer a 3.7 rating, so it must not be all bad.

11. Army Medic

 

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Kaily Brown

Everyone loves medics, but they only rated the Army as a 3.6, so the feeling isn’t mutual. That 3.6 probably comes from their easy access to IV bags for curing hangovers, not from having to look at everyone else’s infections.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The weapons the Army, Air Force, and Navy all want desperately

Russian and Chinese advancements in hypersonic weaponry are driving the US military to field a viable hypersonic strike weapon within the next couple of years.

The Army, Navy, and Air Force are jointly developing a common boost-glide vehicle to clear the way for each of these services to bring American hypersonic weaponry to the battlefield in the near future.

For the Army, that’s the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW). The Air Force is building the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW) and the Navy is pursuing its Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) weapon, The Drive reported Oct. 11, 2018, citing an Aviation Week report. There is the possibility these systems could be deployed as early as 2021.


“There is a very aggressive timeline for testing and demonstrating the capability,” Col. John Rafferty, director of the Army’s Long Range Precision Fires cross-functional team, told reporters at the Association of the United States Army conference in Washington, DC on Oct. 10, 2018. The progress already made “is a result of several months of cooperation between all three services to collaborate on a common hypersonic glide body.”

The Navy is responsible for designing the boost-glide vehicle, as the fleet faces the greatest integration challenges due to the spacial limitations of the firing platforms like ballistic missile submarines, the colonel explained.

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan

U.S. Army Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers from the 1-426 Field Artillery Battery operate an M109A6 Paladin Howitzer at at Fort McCoy, Wis., Aug. 18, 2018

(US Army photo by Spc. John Russell)

“Everybody’s moving in the same direction,” he added, further commenting, “The Army can get there the fastest. It will be in the field, manned by soldiers, and create the deterrent effect that we are looking for.”

As the boost-glide vehicle is unpowered, each service will develop its own booster technology for launching the relevant weapons, which fly at least five times faster than the speed of sound. The goal for the Army’s AHW is for it to travel at sustained speeds of Mach 8, giving it the ability to cover 3,700 miles in just 35 minutes, The Drive reported.

The Air Force has already awarded two hypersonic weapons contracts in 2018, and the Navy just awarded one in October 2018. The Army’s LRPF CFT is focusing on producing a long-range hypersonic weapon, among other weapons, to devastate hardened strategic targets defended by integrated air defense systems.

The US military’s intense push for hypersonic warfighting technology comes as the Russians and Chinese make significant strides with this technology. Hypersonic weapons are game-changers, as their incredible speeds and ability to maneuver at those speeds make them invulnerable to modern air and missile defense systems, making them, in the simplest of terms, weaponry that can not be stopped.

Russia is expected to field its nuclear-armed Avangard hypersonic boost-glide vehicle in 2019, and China has conducted numerous tests of various hypersonic glide vehicles and aircraft, most recently in early August 2018, when China tested its Xingkong-2 hypersonic experimental waverider, which some military experts suspected could be weaponized as a high-speed strike platform.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

It’s official: F-35As in position to fight ISIS

The Air Force’s version of the F-35 Lightning II, the F-35A, has officially been deployed to the Middle East. In the air, the F-35A is supposed to be the most capable variant of the plane, and it has been sent to a base used to generate sorties against ISIS. The base is also well-positioned to support potential U.S. operations in Iran or across the Middle East.


The planes have been sent to the 4th Fighter Wing at Al Dhafra in the United Arab Emirates. The base is too far from Syria for warplanes to reach it without aerial refueling, so it may seem like an odd place from which to attack ISIS. But with the help of aerial tankers, planes like the F-22 and F-35 can take off from there, refuel in the air, and then hit targets across Iraq and Syria before heading from home.

And the F-35A has all the stealth features and sensors of the other F-35 variants without any of the airframe compromises made by the Marine Corps and Navy to help their versions take off from carriers and amphibious assault ships.

So, while the Marine Corps’ F-35B has already made its first combat sortie against the Taliban, and the Navy is focusing on incorporating the F-35C into its own carrier fleet and those of allies, the F-35A could become a frontline and regular attacker against elements of ISIS and other terror groups when they rear their ugly heads for attacks or training.

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
U.S. Air Force’s F-35A Lightning II arrives for first Middle East deployment

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Chris Thornbury)

While ISIS has been defeated territorially, U.S. Central Command believes there are tens of thousands of fighters operating in sleeper cells or other groupings across the Middle East, including in Syria. The F-35A could help other planes spot and target those forces while avoiding triggering the air defenses of countries like Syria.

And Al Dhafra is well positioned for potential future fights as well. The base is less than 200 nautical miles from the Strait of Hormuz, an important trade chokepoint highly susceptible to Iranian interference. And the Iranian capital of Tehran is actually closer to Al Dhafra than Syria is. F-35As and F-22s would be key to defeating Russia-provided air defenses in Iran if America went to war with that country.

Of course, the Air Force has not said exactly what it plans to do with the F-35As at Al Dhafra. The F-35A was declared combat-ready by the flying service in 2016, but the Air Force has focused on improving the plane’s capabilities and commanders’ understanding of it rather than rushing it into combat.

And that makes a lot of sense. The F-35 is famously the most expensive weapons program in history, partially due to just how ambitious the program was from the outset. Its most advanced stealth capabilities, both the passive elements like its coating and physical design as well as its active protections like electronic warfare capabilities, are aimed at advanced adversaries like China.

It’s just not fiscally prudent to spend a lot of expensive F-35 flight hours over Syria where less-advanced airplanes can safely perform. But some stick time there could help season pilots in their planes, allowing them to be more effective in a future fight.

But still, don’t expect to see too many details of too many F-35A missions in combat anytime soon. Even if the Air Force sends them into combat in the coming days, the service will likely want to play the cards close to the chest to prevent Russian air defenses from getting too good of a look at the plane. The more chances that S-400s and similar systems get to look at the F-35, the better their operators will become at tracking and targeting them.

And if the F-35A is flown against Russia or China, we’ll want those operators caught as flat-footed as possible.

Articles

Robo-mule canned for being louder than real mule

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
Sgt. Michael Walters | U.S. Marine Corps


After years of being featured at trade shows and trotted out for high-ranking Marine Corps officials, the Marines’ barrel-chested Legged Squad Support System — known affectionately as the robotic mule — has been put out to pasture.

The machine, which resembles a headless pack mule made of metal, came about through a $32 million, two-and-a-half year contract between the Pentagon’s research arm, known as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and Google Inc.’s Boston Dynamics, of Waltham, Massachusetts.

DARPA teamed up with the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab to create an autonomous four-legged creature that could lighten troops’ load by carrying 400 or more pounds of weight, according to reports about the 2010 contract.

A second contract worth almost $10 million was awarded in 2013 for an additional phase of the LS3 program that would demonstrate how the legged robot would work by following troops on foot through rugged terrain, carrying their gear, and interpreting verbal and visual commands. The contract also provided for the construction of an enhanced version of LS3 that featured a quieter power supply and better survivability against small arms fire.

In 2012, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos attended a demonstration of the prototype’s capabilities at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia. At the time, Amos expressed pride in the developing technology and said it was getting close to something the Marines might use, according to reports.

The robo-mule had its big moment in summer 2014 at Rim of the Pacific, the largest military exercise in the Pacific region. It was featured in high-profile field tests with Marines who put it through its paces on patrols and demonstrated its ability to respond to commands and cross rugged ground.

But the experiment also exhibited the shortcomings of the prototype, Kyle Olson, a spokesman for the Warfighting Lab, told Military.com.

“As Marines were using it, there was the challenge of seeing the potential possibility because of the limitations of the robot itself,” Olson said. “They took it as it was: a loud robot that’s going to give away their position.”

In addition to the lawnmower-like noise of the mule’s gas-powered engine, there were other challenges without clear solutions, including how to repair the hulking robot if it breaks and how to integrate it into a traditional Marine patrol.

With the final funds remaining in the second Boston Dynamics contract, the DARPA-Warfighting Lab team built “Spot,” a robotic quadruped the size of a large dog that functioned on quieter electric power. Last September, Marines put the smaller robot to the test in the woods of Quantico, Virginia.

But while Spot eliminated the noise problem, its slighter frame could only carry loads of 40 pounds or so and didn’t display the advanced autonomous technology that LS3 had.

“I see Spot right now as more of a ground reconnaissance asset,” said Capt. James Pineiro, the Ground Combat Element branch head for the Warfighting Lab. “The problem is, Spot in its current configuration doesn’t have the autonomy to do that. It has the ability to walk in its environment, but it’s completely controller-driven.”

For now, both Spot and LS3 are in storage, with no future experiments or upgrades planned. Pineiro said it would take a new contract and some new interest from Marine Corps top brass to resurrect the program.

While it may seem as though years of work with the robot quadrupeds has wrapped up without a tangible result, Warfighting Lab officials said the Marine Corps did gain important insights about autonomous technology and its potential.

“We tend to play with things that are fanciful and strange,” Olson said. “Learning from it was a big part, and we’re still learning.”

Meanwhile, the lab has ongoing experiments featuring drones and other unmanned vehicles and are exploring uses for them including medical resupply and reconnaissance.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the Air Force personnel issue that can’t be rushed

The Air Force has been struggling for years to correct its pilot shortage, but it has also been dealing with a protracted shortfall of maintainers — the airmen who keep planes flightworthy.


Although the Force has significantly reduced its maintainer shortage, it now faces the daunting task of training the new recruits up to the levels of knowledge and experience the Force needs. That takes considerable time.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said, in Nov. 2017, that the lack of maintainers was having a noticeable effect on air operations.

Also read: How the Air Force will replace JSTARS battle management

Whereas in years past, a pilot would have multiple maintainers on hand for aircraft prep, takeoff, and landing, now, Goldfein said, pilots often have to “taxi slow, because the same single-crew chief that you met has to … drive to the end of the runway to pull the pins and arm the weapons.”

“Then, you sit on the runway before you take off and you wait, because that crew chief has to go jump on a C-17 with his tools to fly ahead to meet you at the other end,” he added. “This is the level of numbers that we’re dealing with.”

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
An aircraft maintainer on the flight line in front of a snow-covered C-5M Super Galaxy, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, January 6, 2015. (US Air Force)

The maintainer shortage has been a problem for some time and was exacerbated by the drawdown in 2014, which grew the shortage by 1,200 airmen. At the end of fiscal year 2015, the force was short some 4,000 maintainers.

The shortages fell especially hard on the most experienced airmen — 1,900 maintainers at the 5- and 7-skill levels were absent. Maintainers at that level work on the Air Force’s advanced aircraft, like the F-35, and those with the most experience were left working 50- to 60-hour weeks to keep aircraft in flying shape.

Related: The F-35 could shoot down ballistic missiles — with one catch

The Air Force tries to keep deployed units at full strength, meaning the personnel shortage was felt acutely among squadrons in the US.

The force rolled out a number of enticements to keep airmen on the flight line. By the end of fiscal year 2016, that shortage shrunk to 3,400 maintainers. By the end of fiscal year 2017, the official tally was down to 400.

“So we’ve been getting well” in terms of maintainers, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said at a Heritage Foundation event last week.

Wilson said in mid-February 2018 that the shortage had fallen to 200 maintainers— though Air Force spokeswoman Erika Yepsen told Business Insider the number can change throughout the year based on the force’s personnel numbers and needs.

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
Senior Airman Daniel Lasal performs a post-flight inspection on an F-16 at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, November 15, 2016. (US Air Force by Staff Sgt. Katherine Spessa)

Wilson added at the Heritage Foundation that simply adding airmen won’t solve the problem created by shedding experienced maintainers.

New, 3-skill level maintainers usually take five to seven years to get fully experienced.

“You go from being an apprentice to a craftsman to a master craftsman,” Wilson said. “So, we have a deficit in those craftsmen, and so we’re looking at different ways to be able to accelerate the learning of those young maintainers.”

“There’s only so much you can do to really learn and master your craft, but we’re almost well in terms of numbers, really now it’s about seasoning that force and getting them to the level of being craftsmen,” she added.

More: The Air Force needs a new A-10 mechanic

To help accelerate training, the Air Force is going to the boneyard — the aircraft storage facility at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. The boneyard (there is more than one) provides long-term storage for mothballed or unused aircraft — the force has scavenged parts from there to keep its largest plane, the C5 Galaxy, in the air.

These US Marines are going back to their old battlefields in Afghanistan
Staff Sgt. Kevin Colon removes exhaust covers from a B-1B Lancer at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, May 21, 2013. (U.S. Air Force)

According to Air Force Times, the force will start pulling F-15s and F-16s from the facility to provide training aircraft for the new maintainers and weapons-loaders. Those planes won’t fly, but they will act as high-tech guinea pigs for aircrews training to work on active combat aircraft. This will also keep the Air Force from having to take active aircraft out of service for training.

More reading: The Air Force just bolted on a bunch of boneyard parts to get its Galaxies up in the air

The Air Force has also brought in civilian contractors to take over some responsibilities — like washing aircraft and instruction — to free up time for maintainers to train.

“Every jet that I can relieve and put back on a flying schedule instead of being a ground instructional trainer, that has second- and third-order return on investment,” Col. Michael Lawrence, head of the Air Force’s maintenance division, told Air Force Times in December 2017.

“When you move jets from one place to another in a maintenance group complex, that drives a level of effort,” Lawrence added. “When we can park a jet down there on a permanent basis, that is a training asset.”

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