Things you should know about how ISIS lost Raqqa - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Things you should know about how ISIS lost Raqqa

After months of fighting, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have conquered Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate and its last major stronghold in the Middle East.


But the victory by no means indicates that ISIS is defeated, and enormous ethnic challenges still lie ahead for the embattled country.

Here’s how the Raqqa campaign was won, and what lies on the horizon for Syria:

Things you should know about how ISIS lost Raqqa
Iraqi special forces are moving closer to the city center of Mosul to knock ISIS out of Iraq. (Dept. of Defense photo)

The campaign to retake Raqqa from ISIS (which seized the ancient Syrian city in early 2014) officially began in November 2016, several weeks after the campaign to retake Mosul, the group’s stronghold in Iraq, was announced.

Source: The Independent

SDF spokesman Talal Sello said the campaign would consist of “first liberating the countryside around Raqqa and isolating the city, and second taking control of the city.”

As per Sello’s description, the SDF advanced south from their territory in northern Syria, capturing ISIS-held villages east and west of Raqqa all while buoyed by American airstrikes. In addition, a key target was the Tabqa Dam on the Euphrates River, which the SDF also seized in May.

Although the Syrian Democratic Front is dominated by Syrian Kurds, the units deployed to fight in the Raqqa campaign were 70% Arab, according to the SDF. This was done to foster ethnic solidarity between soldiers and the majority-Arab city and environs of Raqqa.

The Syrian Democratic Forces that led the Raqqa campaign is a coalition of various militias, however it has always been led by the Kurds.

The undisputed leaders of the SDF are the Popular Defense Units, or the YPG, a Kurdish militia with ties to the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) in Turkey, along with their all-female companion force, the YPJ. The YPG first gained US support during the Battle of Kobane in 2014, when the group handed ISIS its first battlefield defeat while defending the Kurdish town on the border between Syria and Turkey.

Things you should know about how ISIS lost Raqqa
YPG fighters near Raqqa. (WATM file photo)

The SDF was created in order to bring non-Kurdish groups that live in northern Syria, including Assyrian Christians and especially Sunni Arabs, into cooperation with the Kurds to create a single, moderate coalition to defeat ISIS. Yet inter-ethnic problems remain.

Source: Channel News Asia, the YPG and the Washington Post

Despite SDF’s secular, democratic nature and US backing, the group has been accused of war crimes. Although the YPG has denied such allegations, The Nation has reported that the group has expelled Arabs from conquered villages at gunpoint. The United Nations also disputes these claims, saying that these expulsions were for civilians’ safety and did not constitute ethnic cleansing.

In addition, clashes have occurred between the YPG and Assyrians in Kurdish-held territories.

In July, the SDF began the most arduous part of the Raqqa campaign — conquering the city itself. A combined ground and air assault began on Raqqa, and with it came vicious urban warfare and hundreds of civilian casualties.

Because Raqqa is an ancient city, fighting ISIS amidst its small, winding streets proved difficult for both the SDF and their American air support. ISIS used urban guerilla tactics as it had in other places like Mosul, Iraq, making the SDF’s campaign to clear the city from fighters a long, frustrating task.

The presence of civilians made airstrikes and troop movements even more difficult — despite precautions, Amnesty International has reported that “hundreds” of civilians had been killed by US airstrikes in Raqqa, which had begun before SDF ground troops were able to move in. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported that 789 people have been killed by US bombardment in Raqqa between June and August alone. Two hundred of them were children.

Worst of all, however, not only was ISIS using civilians as human shields and moving through underground tunnels, but they also murdered anyone in the city trying to escape through sniper fire and mortar bombardments.

Things you should know about how ISIS lost Raqqa
SDF fighters among rubble in Raqqa. Photo from Voice Of America.

After months of brutal urban warfare and heavy resistance from ISIS fighters, the SDF declared victory in Raqqa on October 17 after seizing the national hospital and the city stadium, where the last ISIS fighters were stationed.

Amid the celebrations, though, the SDF is still in the process of clearing landmines and other explosives from the area, and although it warns that there may still be 100 ISIS militants hiding amid the city’s rubble, nearly 6,000 fighters surrendered as the group’s resistance was in its final hours.

Nevertheless, Arabs in Raqqa were the main celebrants after ISIS’s defeat.

“Raqqa is free, free! Daesh go out,” said a man named Abdullah, according to The Daily Beast. “We kicked them out.”

The SDF’s victory in Raqqa diminishes ISIS’s presence in Iraq and Syria to only a few border territories in the desert. The Islamist group no longer has access to the large cities they conquered when they rose to international prominence in 2014.

Things you should know about how ISIS lost Raqqa
This map from approximately April, 2015, shows who controlled what areas in Syria. ISIS is show in black. (Image Wikipedia)

Things you should know about how ISIS lost Raqqa
This undated map shows a massive decrease in the territory controlled by ISIS. (Image Wikipedia)

However, there remains much work to be done in Raqqa. With a large displaced population and reconstruction costs mounting, the SDF is now faced with the task of dealing with the Raqqa campaign’s fallout.

From the prelude to the battle of Raqqa in June to its conclusion this week, a group of Syrian activist journalists known as Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently has documented more than 3,829 airstrikes, 1,873 civilian deaths, and 450,000 displaced people in the city.

In addition, RBSS estimates that 90% of the city has been destroyed by the months of fighting.

Reuters reports that the SDF has set up the Raqqa Civil Council in order to oversee security and reconstruction efforts in the city, however funding from the US and other sources has so far been insufficient.

Sources: Reuters

“We gave our city as a sacrifice for the sake of defeating terrorism,” Ibrahim Hassan, who heads reconstruction for the RCC, told Reuters. “It’s the world’s duty to help us.”

Things you should know about how ISIS lost Raqqa

In addition to logistical concerns about the future of Raqqa, socio-political ones remain as well.

It is unclear how the Syrian government, which is also conducting campaigns against ISIS in northeastern Syria, will react to the SDF’s vast zone of control. The group, along with the Kurdish-dominated Federation of Northern Syria, hopes to establish its own country in the area, a move that would surely be met with hostility from Damascus.

Kurdish moves toward independence in neighboring Iraq after the fall of ISIS there were met with exactly this kind of aggressive resistance from the government in Baghdad.

Now that ISIS’s territorial control has been shattered, Syrians in Raqqa say it is critical that the resumption of basic services, reconstruction, and social integration are pursued quickly so as to prevent a local insurgency from taking shape as it did in Iraq following the 2003 US invasion.

As the dust settles in the battle against ISIS in Syria, the next phase of the conflict will undoubtedly be about who will control what as zones of power begin to be established for a post-war Syria.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch the Ukroboronprom ‘Fantom’ take its first step toward world domination

A new fighting robot called the Phantom might be deployed on the battlefield in eastern Ukraine next year, according to Defense One.


Ukroboronprom, the Ukrainian defense contractor developing the robot, displayed the robot at the Association of the US Army show in Washington DC on October 9th, Defense One reported.

The Phantom can be fitted with tracks or wheels, as well as a wide variety of weapons, including a coaxial 23 mm machine gun, antitank missiles, and grenade launchers, according to Ukroboronprom.

It runs on a 30 kilowatt hybrid engine that can hit speeds of up to 37 mph, and it can cover a maximum distance of about 81 miles, Ukroboronprom said. It is even capable of evacuating wounded soldiers from the field.

The Phantom also has a backup microwave-communication link that allows it to function even if its receiver is jammed or hacked, Defense One reported. This feature was specifically designed to counter Russian electronic-warfare attacks that have plagued Ukrainian forces, especially in the early days of the war.

Things you should know about how ISIS lost Raqqa

The US is developing fighting robots as well, and Russia already “has a wide array of ground bots” but has not deployed them to the Donbas, according to Defense One.

Ukroboronprom is looking to sell the Phantom and form partnerships in general with other nations, especially the US, according to Foreign Policy.

“We came [to the AUSA in DC] to show our expertise and potential — to show that we can be partners,” Roksolana Sheiko, director of communications policy for UkrOboronProm, told Foreign Policy.

In recent months, the US and Ukraine have agreed to or discussed a number of weapons-and military-equipment sales and joint ventures.

In June, two deals were made to facilitate sale of military equipment and promote joint research and development between the two countries.

In late July, the Pentagon said it was considering arming Kyiv with lethal weapons, including the Javelin antitank missile, to deter Russia.

In late August, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced during his visit to Kyiv that the US had just approved supplying Ukraine with $175 million in military equipment.

The US, however, is still weighing whether to supply Ukraine with lethal weapons, as some believe it might actually provoke, instead of deter, Russia.

Watch the Phantom in action below.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the US Navy canceled this routine Black Sea patrol

Christopher Anderson, an aide to former Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, testified that the White House canceled a Navy freedom-of-navigation operation in the Black Sea after President Donald Trump complained to then-national security adviser John Bolton about a CNN report that framed the operation as a counter to Russia, Politico reported.

According to Anderson’s testimony, the news report in question came from CNN and characterized the operation as antagonistic toward Russia. Anderson testified that Trump called Bolton at home to complain about the article, and the operation was later canceled at the behest of the White House, Anderson said.


“In January, there was an effort to get a routine freedom-of-navigation operation into the Black Sea,” Anderson testified. “There was a freedom-of-navigation operation for the Navy. So we — we, the US government — notified the Turkish government that there was this intent.”

Things you should know about how ISIS lost Raqqa

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook transits the Black Sea.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Edward Guttierrez III)

While Anderson in his testimony placed the report in January, details from his testimony match a story from early December, which had the headline “US makes preparations to sail warship into the Black Sea amid Russia-Ukraine tensions.”

Anderson said the White House asked the Navy to cancel the freedom-of-navigation operation because the report portrayed the operation as a move to counter Russia, which has increased its naval presence there since annexing Crimea in 2014. In November 2018, its forces attacked Ukrainian assets transiting the Kerch Strait, which connects the Black Sea with the Azov Sea. Russia seized three Ukrainian ships and held 24 Ukrainian service members captive.

“We met with Ambassador Bolton and discussed this, and he made it clear that the president had called him to complain about that news report. And that may have just been that he was surprised,” Anderson said.

Things you should know about how ISIS lost Raqqa

Former national security adviser John Bolton.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

“We don’t — I can’t speculate as to why, but that, that operation, was canceled, but then we were able to get a second one for later in February. And we had an Arleigh-class destroyer arrive in Odessa on the fifth anniversary of the Crimea invasion.”

The White House did not respond to Insider’s requests for comment. US 6th Fleet did not address Black Sea transits in December 2018, but said all operations in January and February of 2019 went according to schedule.

“U.S. 6th Fleet conducted our naval operations in the Black Sea region as scheduled in January and February 2019. The U.S. Navy will continue to operate in the Black Sea consistent with international law, to include the Montreaux Convention,” according to spokesman Cmdr. Kyle Raines.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy locates the wreckage of missing C-2A plane

The U.S. Navy has located the wreckage of a transport aircraft that crashed into the Philippine Sea in November, NHK World reported Jan. 6.


In a statement, the Navy’s 7th Fleet says a team of deepwater salvage experts detected an emergency beacon from the C-2A Greyhound. The wreckage rests on the seabed at a depth of 5,640 meters.

The salvage team had been searching the area since late December.

Things you should know about how ISIS lost Raqqa
Matthew Chialastri, Steven Combs, and Bryan Grosso (l to r) were killed in the C-2A Greyhound crash on Nov 22. Lt. Steven Combs, the pilot of the aircraft, is credited with saving the lives of the 8 surviving passengers.  (Images from U.S. Navy)

The crash occurred on Nov. 22nd while the C-2A was flying from a military base in Iwakuni, in western Japan, to the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.

Eight of the 11 crew and passengers were recovered. The U.S. Navy and Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force launched a combined search operation over several days, but failed to locate the three missing.

Read More: Navy pilot lost in C-2 crash ‘flew the hell out of that airplane’

The U.S. 7th fleet says every effort will be made to recover the aircraft and victims despite what it calls very challenging conditions.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy has new, long-range ship killer missiles for the Zumwalt

The Navy is asking Congress for funding to equip its most technologically advanced surface ships, the Zumwalt-class stealth destroyers, with new weapons designed to turn them into long-range ship killers, according to budget documents spotted by Defense News.


One of the new weapons is Raytheon’s SM-6 missile, which serves three purposes: anti-air, anti-surface, and ballistic-missile defense.

Unlike its older brother, the SM-3, the SM-6 has a proximity charge that explodes near its target, meaning it does not have to make physical contact with whatever it is intercepting.

Also read: Why the new Zumwalt destroyers’ guns won’t work

In a test of the missile’s anti-ship capability in March 2016, an SM-6 from an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer took out the decommissioned Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate USS Reuben James.

Back then, the missile’s range was listed as 250 nautical miles, but it’s now expected to be as long as 268 nautical miles. It also has a speed of Mach 3.5.

The SM-6 has had success in its anti-ballistic-missile tests, with the missile intercepting a target in Hawaii in August.

Things you should know about how ISIS lost Raqqa
The USS Zumwalt with the USS Independence and the USS Bunker Hill. (US Navy)

The other new weapon is Raytheon’s Maritime Strike Tomahawk, a variant of the classic cruise missile designed to destroy moving naval targets.

The missiles would be a much-needed addition to the destroyers, as the ships’ main armament, the 155mm Advanced Gun System, is unusable because it has no ammunition. The kind intended for the guns was deemed too expensive, ranging from $800,000 to $1 million for a single round.

Related: Inside the USS Zumwalt, the Navy’s most advanced warship

The guns will remain on the destroyers, but “in an inactive status for future use, when a gun round that can affordably meet the desired capability is developed and fielded,” the budget documents say, according to Defense News.

The Navy decided in November to change the Zumwalt-class ships’ role from land-attack to anti-surface warfare, the documents say. The commander of US Pacific Command said in congressional testimony last week that the change was motivated by China’s increasingly capable navy and the need for more surface ships capable of dealing blows in ship-to-ship combat, Defense News reported.

Things you should know about how ISIS lost Raqqa
USS Zumwalt (US Navy)

All three Zumwalt-class destroyers will be based in the Pacific, the Defense News report says.

More: This is what would happen if the Zumwalt fought a Russian battlecruiser

The new missiles would allow the destroyers to work alongside littoral combat ships, which are expected to soon get upgrades to allow them to take on enemy vessels miles away.

There are two Zumwalt-class destroyers. The USS Zumwalt is now in its homeport in San Diego for overhauls and a weapons installation, Defense News reports, while the USS Michael Monsoor completed its acceptance trials early February 2018.

Articles

Beyond the F-35: Air Force and Navy already working on 6th generation fighter

Fighter jets in 20-years may likely contain the next-generation of stealth technology, electronic warfare, sophisticated computer processing and algorithms, increased autonomy, hypersonic weapons and so-called “smart-skins” where sensors are built into the side of the aircraft itself.


Some of these characteristics may have been on display earlier this year when Northrop Grumman’s SuperBowl AD revealed a flashy first look at its rendering of a new 6th-generation fighter jet. Northrop is one of a number of major defense industry manufacturers who will bid for a contract to build the new plane – when the time is right.

Also read: Here’s what the people who fly and fix the F-35 have to say about history’s most expensive weapons system

The new aircraft, engineered to succeed the 5th-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and explode onto the scene by the mid 2030s, is now in the earliest stages of conceptual development with the Air Force and Navy. The two services are now working together on early conceptual discussions about the types of technologies and capabilities the aircraft will contain. While the Air Force has not yet identified a platform for the new aircraft.

Things you should know about how ISIS lost Raqqa
Lockheed Martin

The Navy’s new aircraft will, at least in part, replace the existing inventory of F/A-18 Super Hornets which will start to retire by 2035, Navy officials said.

The Navy vision for a future carrier air wing in 2040 and beyond is comprised of the carrier-launched variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35C, and legacy aircraft such as the EA-18G Growler electronic jamming aircraft.

Also, around this time is when Navy planners envision its 6th generation aircraft to be ready, an aircraft which will likely be engineered for both manned and unmanned missions.

Technologies are rapidly advancing in coatings, electromagnetic spectrum issues, maneuvering, superiority in sensing the battlespace, communications and data links, Navy leaders have said.

Things you should know about how ISIS lost Raqqa
An F-35B Lightning II takes off from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp on May 25, 2015. | US Navy Photo

Navy officials also add that the Navy is likely to develop new carrier-launched unmanned air vehicles in coming years as well.

Analysts have speculated that as 6th generation developers seek to engineer a sixth-generation aircraft, they will likely explore a range of next-generation technologies such as maximum sensor connectivity, super cruise ability and an aircraft with electronically configured “smart skins.”

Maximum connectivity would mean massively increased communications and sensor technology such as having an ability to achieve real-time connectivity with satellites, other aircraft and anything that could provide relevant battlefieldinformation.Thenew aircraft might also seek to develop the ability to fire hypersonic weapons, however such a development would hinge upon successful progress with yet-to-be-proven technologies such as scramjets traveling at hypersonic speeds. Some tests of early renderings of this technology have been tested successfully and yet other attempts have failed.

Super cruise technology would enable the new fighter jet to cruise at supersonic speeds without needing afterburner, analysts have explained.

Smart aircraft skins would involve dispersing certain technologies or sensors across the fuselage and further integrating them into the aircraft itself, using next-generation computer algorithms to organize and display information for the pilot.

Smart skins with distributed electronics means that instead of having systems mounted on the aircraft, you would have apertures integrated on the skin of the aircraft, analysts have said.

This could reduce drag, increase speed and maneuverability while increasing the technological ability of the sensors.

It is also possible that the new 6th-generation fighter could use advanced, futuristic stealth technology able to enable newer, more capable air defenses. The air defenses of potential adversaries are increasingly using faster computing processing power and are better networked together, more digital, able to detect a wider range of frequencies and able to detect stealthy aircraft at farther distances.

The new 6th-generation fighter will also likely fire lasers and have the ability to launch offensive electronic attacks.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Congressman wants to shutdown Pentagon’s beerbot funding

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake doesn’t want the Pentagon spending any more money on robots that serve beer.

An amendment Flake and fellow Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain submitted to the 2019 Defense Department Appropriations Act would “prohibit the use of funds for the development of beerbots or other robot bartenders.”


Robots have appeared in bars and restaurants in recent years, being used to shake, stir, and garnish drinks — the Makr Shakr robot developed by engineers at MIT was said to be able to mimic a bartender’s movements while mixing drinks to precision.

In late 2014, Royal Caribbean agreed to incorporate the Makr Shakr into a “bionic bar” on one of its cruise ships, where they feature a tablet for customers to order drinks and a robotic arm to make them.

Things you should know about how ISIS lost Raqqa

MIT’s beerbot, a cooperative beer-delivery robot.

(YouTube)

“There are beerbots in the private sector already, so why would we devote resources for this?” Flake told Bloomberg Law.

“There’s just a lot of willy-nilly spending these days,” Flake said. “Why in the world would you spend Department of Defense funding for beerbots?”

Flake’s amendment comes two years after the Defense Department and the National Science Foundation provided million in grants to a project at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab at MIT. Those grants were only a part of the total budget.

The project used a double-armed robot to pick up and move beers around, handing them to two other “turtle bots,” equipped with coolers, that acted as waiters. The waiters, which could not communicate with one another unless they were in close proximity, traveled between rooms in an MIT lab, taking orders from people and getting beers from the bartender bot.

The project’s goal was “to control a group of robots interacting with an environment in order to cooperatively solve a problem.”

While Flake’s amendment would prevent money from going to such studies in the future, it was not clear if future studies could swap alcohol out for something else and still qualify for federal money. Nor is it certain the amendment will be included in the final defense appropriation bill.

www.youtube.com

You can see the MIT beerbot and turtle bots in action below:

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

A third of the Thai boys soccer team want to be Navy SEALs now

Four members of the Thai soccer team that survived being trapped in a flooded cave for more than two weeks now want to be Navy SEALS.

Three boys, and the team coach, said they now aspired to the join the SEALs, whose divers swam into the cave and helped get all 12 boys and the 25-year-old coach out alive.


Asked during a press conference on July 18, 2018, about his future plans, the 14-year-old goalkeeper Ekarat Wongsukchan said: “I still want to pursue my dream to be a professional soccer player, but there might be a new dream, which is to become part of the Navy SEALs.”

Wongsukchan and three other members of the team — including the coach, Ekapol Chantawong — then raised their hand when asked how many of them wanted to be Navy SEALs.

Things you should know about how ISIS lost Raqqa

Members of the rescued Thai soccer team, including some who want to be Thai Navy SEALs.

(Channel News Asia)

It was met with applause from the SEALs onstage at the conference as well as many members of the audience.

Six other members of the team also said they hoped to one day be professional soccer players.

Rescuers found the team huddled on a dry ledge in the partially flooded cave complex after nine days of searches.

Three Thai Navy SEALs and a doctor stayed with the boys over the ensuing week until they were extracted one by one as part of a three-day mission that ended July 9, 2018.

Sanam Kunam, a former SEAL who volunteered to help, died while placing oxygen tanks in the cave.

The team paid condolences to Kunam toward the end of the conference while holding a portrait of the diver with personal messages written around it.

Chanin Vibulrungruang, 11, the youngest of the team, said in his message:

“I would like to thank both Lt. Saman and everyone involved in this. I hope that Lt. Saman has a good sleep and I hope that he rests in peace.

“Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North and South Korea had formal talks for the first time in 2 years

North Korean delegates scheduled to meet their counterparts from South Korea in the first dialogue between the countries in over two years will cross the contentious military demarcation line (MDL) separating the border, South Korean news outlet KBS reported Jan. 8.


South Korea’s Unification Ministry said that the North Korean officials will walk across the MDL at 9:30 a.m. local time to the Peace House at Panmunjom, or “truce village,” according to KBS. The walk from the MDL to the Peace House is roughly 250 meters, South Korean news outlet YTN reported.

Things you should know about how ISIS lost Raqqa
This shows the Conference Row in the Joint Security Area of the Korean Demilitarized Zone, looking into South Korea from North Korea. It shows guards on both sides and a group of tourists in the South. (Image Wikipedia)

The Peace House, located in the South Korean portion of Panmunjom, was previously used to hold talks with North Korea, including the prospect of reunifying families separated during the Korean War in the 1950’s.

The itinerary for the historic trip has been fully planned out, according to Reuters, and the discussion will focus around the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea next month, including the possibility of having North Korean athletes attend the event.

The MDL has seen escalated tensions in recent weeks, particularly due to several North Korean defections.

Also Read: Watch a North Korean defector dodging bullets to cross the DMZ

On Dec. 20, a “low ranking” soldier reportedly defected to South Korea, causing South Korean troops to fire warning shots towards North Korean border guards who approached the MDL in what appeared to be a search for their comrade.

In November, another defector crossed the border in a dramatic escape under a hail of gunfire. Video footage of the incident showed North Korean soldiers firing their weapons at the defector, and crossing the MDL in violation of the UN Armistice Agreement.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Audie Murphy: American war hero, actor, advocate

Audie Murphy was an American actor known for his Western films. However, his initial claim to fame came from being the most decorated U.S. combat soldier of World War II. He was born in 1925 in a small Texas town to poor sharecroppers. Murphy joined the Army in 1942 after falsifying his birth certificate to ensure he could enlist before he was eligible.

During WWII, Murphy was credited with killing 240 members of enemy forces and capturing or wounding many others. In his three years of active service, he became a legend among the 3rd Infantry Division, and is considered one of the best fighting combat soldiers of this or any other century. The U.S. Army has declared that there will never be another Audie Murphy. That is most likely the case too, with modern day technology and modern warfare, it is unlikely any soldier will ever live up to the legend of Audie Murphy.


Murphy became the most decorated soldier of WWII by earning 33 awards and decorations. He was awarded every decoration for valor the United States offers, some more than once. These awards included the Medal of Honor, the highest military award for bravery that can be given to an individual. His awards from the war also included five decorations from France and Belgium.

Audie Murphy was released from active duty on September 21, 1945. After his release, he went to Hollywood at the invitation of actor James Cagney who had seen his picture on the cover of Life Magazine. After years of hardship, struggle to find work and sleeping in a local gymnasium, Murphy finally received token roles in his first two films.

Things you should know about how ISIS lost Raqqa

(Wikimedia Commons)

Murphy’s first starring role came in 1949. In 1950, he received a contract with Universal-International (now known as Universal). He starred in 26 films over the next 15 years, 23 of which were Westerns. Murphy also filmed 26 episodes of a Western television series which went to air on NBC in 1961. Despite good reviews, Murphy’s series was deemed too violent. Only 20 episodes were aired before it was cancelled.

Audie Murphy suffered from what is known today as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He was plagued for years by insomnia and depression. By the mid-1960s, Murphy became dependent on a prescribed sleeping medication, Placidyl. When he realized he had become addicted to the medication, he locked himself inside of a motel room, stopped taking the pills and suffered through the withdrawal symptoms for a week.

Murphy used his fame to help advocate for the needs of U.S. veterans. Unlike most during that time, he chose to speak out about his experiences and struggles with PTSD, known as “Battle Fatigue” at the time. He called out the U.S. government to look closer at and study the emotional impacts of war and urged them to extend health benefits to address PTSD and other mental health issues of returning war veterans.

Things you should know about how ISIS lost Raqqa

(Wikimedia Commons)

On May 28, 1971, while on a business trip, Audie Murphy’s plane crashed just outside of Roanoke, Virginia. He and five others, including the pilot, were killed in the crash. Murphy was 45 at the time of his death.

On June 7, he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. His gravesite, which is near the amphitheater, is the second most visited grave at Arlington, surpassed only by John F. Kennedy’s grave.

Audie Murphy remains a legend among the members of the U.S. Army. While he was well known for his work as an actor in Hollywood, his memory will live on as a true American hero.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This soldier gave up life as an actress to join the Army

Not many people could recognize Carly Schroeder June 27, 2019, at Fort Jackson’s Hilton Field. The blonde-haired, blue-eyed “Lizzy McGuire” and “General Hospital” actress who traded her red carpet heels for combat boots, blended into the crowd of roughly 450 other identically dressed soldiers as they walked across the field during their Basic Combat Training graduation ceremony.

“Army life is very different from Hollywood,” Schroeder said. “There are some similarities, but Army life is very uniform. Everyone is very disciplined and everyone is treated equally.”

No stranger to weapons training and the physicality of stunt work, Schroeder faced a new set of challenges during BCT. She faced marksmanship courses with the Army’s M4 rifle, daily physical fitness workouts, ruck marches, obstacle courses, learning to work with others as a team and a culminating event that tests the abilities and strengths of fellow soldiers to work together to successfully complete a set of missions — The Forge.


“The most difficult thing has to be between the ruck marches and food,” Schroeder said. “Before I came here I was vegan.”

Schroeder lived the vegan lifestyle for quite some time before enlisting, but adapted to a vegetarian diet to take in additional protein during training. While the military has always offered alternate meals to those with dietary needs, it can be challenging to find a wide variety of those foods within the BCT environment.

“It was quite an adjustment,” said Schroeder. “There was only one MRE I could eat, veggie crumbles.”

Things you should know about how ISIS lost Raqqa

Spc. Carly Schroeder, center, the actress who traded her red carpet heels for combat boots, embraces her newly made friends during her Basic Combat Training graduation at Fort Jackson June 26, 2019.

(Photo by Ms. Alexandra Shea)

An MRE, or Meal, Ready-to-Eat, are daily rations that contain about a day’s worth of calories in a convenient to carry and store pouch. The MRE mentioned is Menu 11 — Vegetable Crumbles with Pasta in Taco Style Sauce. With a little help from some new friends, she “fare-d” well with field rations.

“My team mates really made sure they had my back and got the veggie crumbles for me every time,” Schroeder said.

Schroeder, like all trainees to pass through BCT, learned not only the basics of making a soldier physically but also social skills that allowed her to adapt and overcome in stressful situations and when finding herself in a foreign environment with new people. These skills empower soldiers to build personal and professional relationships quickly and units to build a cohesiveness that helps ensure successful future missions.

“Basic Combat Training was fun but hard too,” said Pvt. Mylene Sanchez, a fellow unit member. “The ruck marches were really hard, Schroeder really helped me a lot with them. She helped take some of the weight for me.”

Actions such as helping a buddy out with a few pounds during a ruck march exemplify one of the seven Army core values — selfless service. These values are instilled in each soldier from day one of training and they use them to build strong teams.

“Teamwork was the biggest obstacle for everyone to overcome,” said another unit member Spc. Joel Morris. “As long as you push forward and kept trying, it was a breeze.”

Schroeder easily cultivated relationships, even with those who knew of her silver screen time.

Things you should know about how ISIS lost Raqqa

A camera crew from a nationally syndicated TV program interviews Spc. Carly Schroeder and some of her newly-made friends during their Basic Combat Training graduation June 27, 2019, at Fort Jackson.

(Photo by Ms. Alexandra Shea)

Schroeder explained how she didn’t talk about her time as an actress and how she wanted to blend in so people wouldn’t treat her differently. Eventually, word spread about her acting career, but her relationships with her team members was already cemented.

“She was an amazing leader,” said Pvt. Cindy Ganesh, another unit member who trained alongside Schroeder. “She took the time to go and help and teach. She was a friend, a real friend.”

Morris said, “she would kick everyone’s butt in combatives.”

As the 10-weeks of training came to an end with the graduation ceremony, the soldiers now face Advanced Individual Training. Some of the soldiers who met in training will continue on with fellow graduates depending on the location of their AIT training and their occupational specialty. Schroeder is a 09S — Commissioned Officer Candidate who will attend 12 weeks of tactical and leadership training at Fort Benning, Georgia before she is officially commissioned.

While the former actress is on her way to the next chapter of her military career, she is not likely to forget soon the friendships she built in BCT.

“They’re not my team members anymore, we became Family” Schroeder said. “We worked through 10 hard weeks together. It was brutal but it’s what we bonded over.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why this new program is the smartest thing the VA has done recently

Let’s be completely honest: Getting veterans the help they need is a tricky task. What works for one person may not work for another. Simply telling veterans they have the option to seek help if they need it is important, yes, but it’s not going to pull those who are blind to their own struggles out of the shadows.

There are many veterans who can personally attest to the successes and benefits of the fine mental health professionals within the Veterans Administration. There are others, however, who end up opt for heart-breaking alternatives to talking about their feelings with a stranger. There’s no easy solution to getting help to those who don’t seek it and there’s no magic wand out there that can wish away the pain that our veteran community suffers daily.

But the first step is always going to be opening up about the pain.


Things you should know about how ISIS lost Raqqa

As a community, we’re trained to never, ever be a burden on anyone else while also being willing to move Heaven and Earth if it means saving our comrade. At its heart, that’s what Operation Resilience is about.

(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Jose A. Torres Jr.)

A new pilot program within the Veterans Health Administration called “Operation Resilience” aims to get veterans who’ve been lost since exiting the service to open up to the people who understand their struggles most: their comrades.

The idea behind Operation Resilience is simple. The VA has partnered with an advocacy group, The Independence Fund, to create events that bring veterans who served in a unit together again. Of course, one of the topics on the agenda at these events is a group therapy session, but it’s much deeper than that.

Dr. Keita Franklin, executive director of the department’s suicide prevention efforts, said in a statement that of the roughly 20 veterans who commit suicide a day, most have little-to-no contact with official VA programs. Finding at least one avenue of approach where someone is willing to talk is the key.

Having those who were there with a troubled veteran during the moments that still haunt them can help on countless levels. And surrounding it all with an event that’s legitimately appealing to veterans makes it a hard opportunity to pass up. When you frame event as a chance for veterans to, let’s say, go drinking at some all-expenses-paid ski resort or something — who could say no?

The group dynamic of the event also plays into the stubbornness of most veterans who have a disdain for seeking help. Now, it’s not just about helping yourself, it’s about helping your brothers- and sisters-in-arms — even if they are the one most in need of help.

Things you should know about how ISIS lost Raqqa

There’s no one on this planet that veterans would rather talk about what’s on their mind than with their fellow veterans.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace)

The details of the events are still being worked out, but the pilot event will be with Bravo Company, 2-508 Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division this coming April.

It looks like the VA has caught onto the human element of what brings a group of combat veterans together. If, at the end of the day, a single veteran is able to be pulled out of the hole because their guys came together and got them to talk, well that’s a victory in my book.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Is a French WWI helmet safer than a modern helmet?

Science says yes!

We have all been there before. We spend money on the latest and greatest technological marvel only to realize that maybe the latest doesn’t necessarily mean greatest.


Look at your smartphone. Yeah, you can watch non-stop cat videos and get swiped left on by all the loves of your life, but the battery drops to 50 percent by 10 a.m., and a slight fall will result in a shattered screen. It makes you think back to that trusty Nokia phone that you could literally talk on for three days straight and throw full force at your idiot friend’s head without worrying about it breaking.

Well, the same thing can be said about helmets.

As we learn more about traumatic brain injuries and the effects of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) on the human brain and behavior, scientists started to look at if the helmets used by the American military actually gave the protection that they should be giving. There is no doubt that helmets (regardless of which era) provide protection. While initially designed to protect from bullets and shrapnel, there is an increasing need to protect military members from shockwaves and concussions.

Biomedical researchers at Duke University decided to test out the modern military helmet to see how it held up. They also decided to use older helmets as well to see how they stacked up.

The results, as they say in clickbait headlines, were shocking.
Things you should know about how ISIS lost Raqqa

The older helmets performed just as well as modern counterparts when it came to shockwave protection.

One though, the French Adrian helmet, actually did a better job of protection.

Before we go into why, we need to understand the evolution of the modern combat helmet.

In ancient times all the way to the Middle Ages, metallic helmets were a necessity. The Romans had their Gallic helmet, the Greeks the Corinthian helmet, the knights of the Middle ages had jousting helmets and the Samurai of Japan had their kabuto headgear (Darth Vader’s helmet was based on the samurai style).

These helmets protected from swords, javelins, lances and clubs. But a new invention made them rapidly obsolete: Gunpowder. Bullets could penetrate helmets with ease, and headgear became mostly stylish and ceremonial. The Janissaries of the Ottoman Empire had a long flowing bork, Americans in the Revolution had the trifold, and the British wore bearskins and busbys. Military headgear was tall, decorative, and not really practical.

This all changed with World War I. While artillery and mortars were not new to the battlefield, advances in the types of shells used were. The military brass on both sides rapidly saw that artillery that exploded in the air (airburst) was causing horrific injuries that had not been seen before. It became quite clear that the headgear of the time (like the famous German pickelhaube) was not suited at all for trench warfare. Almost immediately, a call went out for helmets that would deflect shrapnel.

The British had the Brodie, the French produced the Adrian and the Germans came out with the Stahlhelm. While the carnage of World War I was still horrific, helmets did provide protection and were here to stay.

Their future designs were based on protecting the wearer from shrapnel and projectiles. Every helmet designed since, including the Kevlar helmets worn in Iraq and Afghanistan have had that purpose.

While they might have become lighter and sturdier, the intent was the same.

However, scientists have recently discovered that it’s not just projectiles that cause damage. The shockwave that comes from an explosion is just as harmful. Back in World War I, troops would come off the lines in a state of confusion and in a stupor. Doctors would examine the soldier to find no physical damage. The term shell shock was coined to describe men that were rendered combat ineffective while not sustaining wounds. In some circles, this was not considered a medical issue, but a sign of weakness.

Nowadays, we know that the shockwaves from a blast can cause brain damage and trauma, which can cause a soldier to be rendered out of action.

Things you should know about how ISIS lost Raqqa

During the Global War on Terror, medical officers noticed a dramatic drop in pulmonary trauma. The body armor worn by troops clearly did protect not just from shrapnel, but shockwaves as well.

Now, scientists are looking to see if there is a way to design a helmet that can protect the brain from those shockwaves.

The researchers at Duke wanted to see how the American Advanced Combat Helmet (ACH) protected servicemembers from those shockwaves. They decided to test out World War I helmets too to see how much better the helmet did when compared to those primitive models.

It didn’t.

The ACH pretty much offered the same protection from shockwaves as a World War I helmet worn by a British or German soldier. The French Adrian helmet, on the other hand, performed better as far as protection. Why is that? The researchers say it is simple geometry.

The French Adrian helmet has a crest on top and a brim that reflects more outward than the other helmets. The design was to deflect shrapnel, but researchers now know that it does a better job of dissipating shockwaves than other helmets, including the ACH.

Now before you ditch your Kevlar or think it’s worthless, know this. Every helmet offers five to tenfold protection than not wearing one.

Now there will be a rush to design a new helmet that not only deflects shrapnel but also shockwaves.

Who knows, maybe someone reading this will be the one to do so.

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