This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now - We Are The Mighty
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This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now

CAMP PENDLETON, California — Maj. David Palka had seen combat before in Iraq and Afghanistan, but roughly 90% of the Marines under his command — tasked with setting up a remote fire base in northern Iraq in 2016 — had only heard the stories.


Their trial by fire in March 2016 came just hours after they landed on Army CH-47 helicopters under cover of darkness in Makhmur, Iraq. Getting off the helicopters at around 2 a.m., the Marines were in what was essentially open farmland with a large protective berm of dirt around their small perimeter.

“By 0900, we received the first rocket attack,” Palka told Business Insider. As a captain, Palka had led the Marines of Echo Battery, 2nd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment when it was attached to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) from Oct. 2015 to June 2016.

On Monday, Palka was awarded the Bronze Star medal (with combat “V”), the fourth-highest combat award, for what his battalion commander called “sustained valorous leadership.” He’ll also receive the Leftwich Award later this week, a trophy presented annually to a Marine company or battery commander who displays outstanding leadership.

Also read: Everybody should read General John Kelly’s speech about two Marines in the path of a truck bomb

Palka and his unit’s foray into Iraq to set up an artillery support base was previously shrouded in secrecy. But new details have emerged from that mission, showing that they were under constant threat and directly attacked more than a dozen times during their two-and-a-half months there, according to interviews and documents reviewed by Business Insider.

“When they got the call, they were ready,” Lt. Col. Jim Lively, the commander of Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, and Palka’s battalion commander at the time, told Business Insider.

‘It was no surprise that we were rocketed’

When Palka and others among his advance party left their helicopter on March 12, they marked the first American boots on the ground in Iraq to set up a quasi-permanent base since US forces left in 2014.

At what would be named Fire Base Bell — in honor of Staff Sgt. Vincent Bell, a Marine who died in Afghanistan in 2011 — Palka and his Marines began to establish security and build bunkers to protect from enemy fire.

The base was initially protected by 60 infantry Marines from Echo Co. 2/6 armed with rifles, machine-guns, and mortars, along with an Army unit providing radar equipment that would detect and zero in on rockets fired from ISIS positions. Marine artillerymen brought four M777A2 Howitzers to the base just days later.

The base was small and had no creature comforts, and troops dug holes where they would man their guns, fight, and sleep.

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now
Courtesy of David Palka

“It was austere. There was the constant threat 24/7,” Palka said. “My other deployments, you’d come back to a [forward operating base]. Or we’d remain on a FOB and shoot fire support in support of maneuver. We didn’t have an adjacent unit to our left and our right. We were the only general purpose ground force forward. There was no wire.”

Though the Pentagon tried to keep the presence of Marines being back in Iraq quiet, those efforts were thwarted just one week after Palka arrived.

Related: 24 photos that show the honor and loyalty of the Marine Corps

On March 19, Bell was hit once again by rockets fired from ISIS positions located roughly 15 miles away.

“It was no surprise that we were rocketed,” Palka said, noting that military planners had determined that Russian-made 122mm Katyusha rockets were the weapon of choice for ISIS at the time.

“I had received indirect fire on previous deployments, but nothing that large,” he said.

Unfortunately, the first rocket impact that day was a direct hit on the 1st gun position on the line. “As soon as it impacted, it was obvious there were casualties,” he said.

27-year-old Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin was killed, and eight other Marines on Gun One were wounded. Immediately, the other Marines began running toward the rocketed position to render medical care, despite a second rocket landing just a few hundred meters away.

“It was amazing to see them,” Palka said. “The manifestation of all of our training coming to fruition.”

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now
Courtesy of David Palka

Meanwhile, the Army counter-battery radar site honed in on where the rockets had come from. And Palka, according to a military document summarizing his performance, calmly assessed casualties, called for medical evacuations, and executed an artillery counter-fire mission of seven rounds back at ISIS’ firing point. The document noted that the enemy’s rocket position was “effectively” suppressed.

“Dave kept the team focused while they did the evacuation of casualties,” Lively said. “They ran the counter battery mission [as] the fire base was attacked.”

‘This was as kinetic as anything that I had experienced before’

Echo Battery’s mission in Iraq was to set up a small outpost that could provide indirect fire support to Iraqi troops on the front lines. Artillerymen kept busy doing just that. Over the course of slightly more than 60 days at the site, the unit fired more than 2,000 rounds, including high-explosive, illumination, and smoke.

Those efforts made them a big target, as ISIS shot more than 34 rounds at their positions during that time. All told, the unit was attacked on 13 different occasions, which included rockets, small arms, and suicide attacks.

“This was as kinetic as anything that I had experienced before,” Palka said.

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now
Courtesy of David Palka

On two occasions, the base was attacked in a coordinated fashion by about a dozen or so ISIS fighters armed with suicide vests, small arms, machine-guns, and grenades.

The first, which came just two days after Cardin’s death, began with an ISIS fighter detonating his suicide vest against an obstacle of concertina wire.

The Marines fought back over a period of three hours on the night of March 21, eventually killing all of the ISIS fighters with no American casualties. The artillerymen, just over 2,000 feet from the enemy positions, fired illumination rounds as the grunts on the perimeter engaged with their rifles and machine guns.

“I’d say that ISIS and the enemy that we encountered in Iraq this past time… they were more bold. The fact that they would infiltrate the forward line of troops and attempt to engage a Marine element with foreign fighters,” Palka said. “Their weaponry, and their tactics were more advanced. They were more well-trained than any other force that my Marines had directly engaged on previous deployments.”

While Echo Battery fired its guns almost “daily,” it expended much of its ammunition in support of Iraqi forces gearing up to assault the city of Mosul later that year. Ahead of the October offensive to take back Iraq’s second-largest city from the Islamic State, the unit fired off more than 1,300 rounds in support of Iraqi troops attempting to take back villages on the outskirts of the city.

“Our mission was to provide force protection fire support to Iraqi security forces, which we did,” Palka said.

The unit also had a number of “firsts” besides its presence back in Iraq, to include the Corps’ first combat use of precision-guided fuses — which make artillery rounds hit with pinpoint accuracy — and the successful employment of the Army’s TPQ-53 Radar system alongside Marines, which helped them quickly identify where rockets were coming from so they could be taken out.

“There’s nothing I can put into words about how I feel about the Marines in that unit,” Palka said. “Words don’t do it justice. There’s something that you feel and sense when you walk into a room with them.”

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These are the only 3 countries who protect the right to bear arms

The right to keep and bear arms is a longstanding, often glorified right protected by the US Constitution.


Americans own nearly half of all the civilian-owned guns in the world, and on a per capita basis, the US has far more guns than any other nation.

Certainly, many countries are awash with guns. Among the nations with the most firearms are Serbia, Yemen, Switzerland, and Saudi Arabia.

There are only three countries, however, that have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms: Mexico, Guatemala, and the United States — here’s why.

Mexico

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now
Mexican army members salute during a ceremony honoring the 201st Fighter Squadron at Chapultepec Park in Mexico City, Mexico, March 6, 2009. (DoD photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Adam M. Stump.)

Just south of the US border, the Mexican government has a strict hold over civilian gun ownership. Although Mexicans have a right to buy a gun, bureaucratic hurdles, long delays, and narrow restrictions make it extremely difficult to do so.

Article 10 of the 1857 Mexican Constitution guaranteed that “every man has the right to keep and to carry arms for his security and legitimate defense.” But 60 years later in 1917, lawmakers amended it following Mexico’s bloody revolution.

During the rewriting of the constitution, the government placed more severe restrictions on the right to buy guns. The law precluded citizens from buying firearms “reserved for use by the military” and forbid them from carrying “arms within inhabited places without complying with police regulations.”

Read Now: A judge ruled this veteran is a US citizen. Now he faces deportation to Mexico

Today, Mexicans still have a right to buy guns, but they must contend with a vague federal law that determines “the cases, conditions, requirements, and places in which the carrying of arms will be authorized.”

In 2012, The New York Times reported that only members of the police or military can buy the largest weapons in Mexico, such as semiautomatic rifles.

“Handgun permits for home protection allow only for the purchase of calibers no greater than .38,” the Times wrote. One man who wanted to buy a pistol had to pay $803.05 for a Smith Wesson revolver.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle of all is that there is only one shop in the entire country where Mexicans can go to buy guns, and it’s located on a heavily guarded army base in Mexico City.

Guatemala

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now
Guards with guns in Guatamala City. (Image Wikicommons)

Like Mexico, Guatemala permits gun ownership, but with severe restrictions. The right to bear arms is recognized and regulated by article 38 of the current constitution, which was established in 1985.

“The right to own weapons for personal use, not prohibited by the law, in the place of in habitation, is recognized,” the document says. “There will not be an obligation to hand them over, except in cases ordered by a competent judge.”

Although Guatemalans are not allowed to own fully automatic weapons, they are allowed to buy semi-automatic weapons, handguns, rifles, and shotguns if they obtain a permit. Still, that can be difficult.

Also Read: 22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of

For example, individuals who want to purchase a gun for private security purposes need approval from the government. They are also limited in how much ammunition they can own, and they must re-apply and re-qualify for their firearm licenses every one to three years, according to GunPolicy.org.

Despite the restrictions, guns are widely available in Guatemala. In fact, it has one of the highest gun ownership rates per capita in Latin America, according to Insight Crime. The same organization also noted that 75% of homicides in Guatemala involve a gun.

United States

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now
That’s nice, Ted.

Although Mexico and Guatemala both have a constitutional right to bear arms, the US is in a league of its own simply because it is the only country without restrictions on gun ownership in its constitution.

The second amendment states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Those words were adopted in 1791 and have since inspired other countries around the world to provide their citizens with the right to own guns. Only 15 constitutions (in nine countries) “ever included an explicit right to bear arms,” according to The New York Times.

They are Bolivia, Costa Rica, Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua, Liberia, Guatemala, Mexico, and the US. All of those countries, excluding Mexico, the US, and Guatemala, have since rescinded the constitutional right to bear arms.

Articles

How The Screenwriter Behind ‘American Sniper’ Got It Right

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now


The first time screenwriter Jason Hall met Chris Kyle and his posse – Hall’s first-ever visit to Texas – he was the only one in the room wearing tennis shoes instead of cowboy boots.

“I could feel the war on him when I shook his hand,” Hall recounted. “It was a visceral reaction.”

Also Read: ‘American Sniper’ Just Got Nominated For 6 Oscars — Here’s Why It’s A Must-See War Film 

Hall had heard about the legendary sniper – the man with a record number of kills and a 2,100-yard shot to his name – from another SEAL friend based on the west coast. He read Kyle’s autobiography and found it written in the “blustery, chippy voice of a guy just back from the war.”

But once the screenwriter met the SEAL in person he knew that a straight reading of the autobiography would result in a movie that didn’t tell the whole story. There was a lot more to the man than a guy who knew his way around a rifle.

“He was 37, but he looked 57,” Hall said. “The war had taken a toll.” Hall noted how Kyle had trouble crawling around with his kids because his knees were shot.

Kyle’s wife Taya – who’d weathered four war deployments on the home front – added another dimension. Hall studied her reactions to her husband, her concerns when his mood went south and how her face lit up when he was with their children.

“It was the idea of war at home and a marriage reeling in the wake of prolonged war,” Hall said. “In that I saw a film.”

So Hall came up with a proposal that he pitched to a few studios. In time he landed a deal with Warner Brothers that included Bradley Cooper in the lead role. Upon their first meeting, Kyle said to Cooper, “I need to drag you behind my truck and knock the pretty off of you.”

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now
Bradley Cooper with Jason Hall. (Photo: Jason Hall)

For his part Cooper said he was willing to do whatever it took to get it right. The actor started working on his Texas drawl, learning the weapons of a SEAL sniper, and gaining weight, ultimately putting on 44 pounds for the movie.

Hall worked on the screenplay for over two years, closely communicating with Kyle as he honed the various elements. Over that time the two developed a close friendship.

“I’d call him on his cell phone, but being the special operator he was he’d never answer the first time,” Hall said. “He’d text back: ‘What’s up?’ and then we’d talk for hours.”

Hall discovered an Iraqi sniper named “Mustafa” while reading The Sheriff of Ramadi, and after a series of discussions with Kyle he added the enemy shooter to the plot. “Mustafa was Chris’ doppelganger,” Hall said. “He’s an integral part of the story.”

Kyle’s state of mind was also an integral part of the story, but Hall was very guarded about falling into the trap that Hollywood’s clichéd portrayal of post traumatic stress over the last 10 years or so has become.

“Chris saw a lot of combat and took a lot lives and lost brothers,” Hall said. “He felt strongly that he should still be over there, even after his fourth tour. It haunted him.”

Eventually Hall had a script Kyle and he were happy with. The day after he delivered it to the studio he received a phone call from one of Kyle’s teammates, a fellow SEAL. The teammate’s words will forever be burned into Hall’s memory: “Chris was just murdered by another vet.”

Hall attended Kyle’s funeral unsure of the future of “American Sniper,” the film. He felt out of place. The SEALs in attendance treated him as an interloper. He described his presence at the reception following the memorial as “showing up to a ‘Sons of Anarchy’ party in a white Izod.”

Later Hall found himself sitting around a pool with a group of SEALs. None of them seemed interested in talking to him, so he kept his distance, fearing that whatever trust he’d built over the previous two years with Kyle was gone. Finally one of them looked over and said, “Why don’t you get the hell out of here.”

But Hall didn’t leave, sensing he was at a crossroads of sorts. Instead he challenged the guy who’d told him to leave to a wrestling match. The SEAL took him up on it, and the two grappled on the concrete pool deck, drawing blood on knees and elbows in the process. Hall, who’d wrestled in college, wound up winning the scrap.

The ice was broken; trust was reestablished. “I realized the guys were hurting,” Hall said. “They’d lost a brother.”

During those sad days Hall also got an ultimatum from Taya Kyle, who knew that a major motion picture would play a big part in how her children remembered their father: “If you’re going to do this you need to get it right.”

The widow and the screenwriter established a line of communication much like he had maintained with the her husband during the writing of the screenplay, which proved to be invaluable in actress Sienna Miller’s performance in the film and how the couple’s relationship is portrayed.

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now
Actress Sienna Miller plays Taya Kyle, the sniper’s wife. (Photo: Warner Brothers)

Taya Kyle’s input also informs how Bradley Cooper plays Chris Kyle. “If you want to know a man ask his wife,” Hall said.

The last element in “getting in right” in Hall’s opinion was having Clint Eastwood as the director of “American Sniper.” After he signed on Taya related that Chris had said that if he had his pick, Eastwood was the guy he wanted to direct the movie.

“Clint is a jazz musician who brings musicality to the imagery as he tells stories,” Hall said. “And he also has the western mythology down. He’s part of it in America.”

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now

That sensibility was important in bringing art out of the otherwise barren and unpopular landscape of the Iraq War, according to Hall.  “Iraq wasn’t a pretty war,” he said. “It’s ass-hot; you’re thirsty and dirty. Clint found beauty in the truth of that.”

The movie crew also underwrote the movie’s realism by involving veterans in the production, most notably Navy SEAL vet Kevin Lace who started out as a stuntman and wound up playing himself and the wounded vets who appear in the target practice scene toward the end.

“American Sniper” had a limited run in theaters during the holidays, and the box office results were very encouraging and quelled studio execs’ fears surrounding the track record of movies about the Iraq War. (Even the Oscar-winning “The Hurt Locker” didn’t do that well, money-wise.)

But Hall feels that the journey he’s been on with “American Sniper” – shaped by having to deal with the loss of his friend Chris Kyle – created something distinct and more universal than others have managed on the topic.

“‘American Sniper’ started as a war movie,” he said. “But it wound up being a movie about war.”

Watch WATM’s exclusive one-on-one interview with “American Sniper” screenwriter Jason Hall:

More on this topic: ‘American Sniper’ Is A Must-See Film That Brilliantly Honors The Memory Of Chris Kyle

And this: Can You Name The Weapons Used In ‘American Sniper’?

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how many US troops would be wounded in a war with North Korea

US military leaders who attended a classified exercise in Hawaii learned that a war with North Korea could result in around 10,000 American combat-related casualties in the opening days, according to a New York Times report published on Feb.28, 2018.


The tabletop exercise (TTX), which tests hypothetical scenarios, lasted several days and included Army chief of staff Gen. Mark Milley and Special Operations Command commander Gen. Raymond Thomas.

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

While the number of troops who could potentially be wounded in such combat may be startling, civilian casualties were predicted to range from the thousands to the hundreds of thousands, according to The Times. The US stations about 28,500 troops in South Korea, while the capital of Seoul — which is in range of North Korea’s crude, yet devastating artillery fire — has a population of about 24 million.

Given the scope of a war, Milley said that “the brutality of this will be beyond the experience of any living soldier,” officials familiar with the TTX said in the report.

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now
(KCNA)

According to The Times, military leaders looked at various factors, including how many Special Operations forces could deploy to target nuclear sites in North Korea; whether the US Army’s conventional units could end up fighting in tunnels; and methods to destroy the country’s air defenses to pave the way for US aircraft.

Immediate tensions between North Korean and US-South Korean leaders appear to have subsided in recent weeks after the North’s participation in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. But US officials remain skeptical of North Korea’s diplomatic overtures.

Related: South Korea’s plan to convince President Trump to visit North Korea

Though various Trump administration officials have given conflicting statements on US policy, Trump said on Feb. 26, 2018 that he would be open to talks with North Korea “only under the right conditions.”

The US State Department also echoed Trump’s assertions: “Our condition is denuclearization,” spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

“Our policy has not changed. We have talked about this policy since day one of this administration; and that’s maximum pressure, but it’s also the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

Articles

Competing in the Warrior Games also helped this Navy officer fight breast cancer

Lt. Cmdr. Maria G. Mannix is a Navy surface warfare officer who is competing in the 2016 Warrior Games. The cancer fighter has had to juggle her time between doctor appointments, her duties as a deputy director of the Training Support Center in San Diego, and training for the Warrior Games where she’s a competitor in shot put, discus, rifle shooting, and sitting volleyball.


The Warrior Games are an annual competition held by the Department of Defense where wounded and sick service members compete in an Olympic-style competition.

Mannix says that – despite the challenge of being an athlete and Navy officer while fighting cancer – participating in the Warrior Games and other sports competitions with the Navy Wounded Warrior – Safe Harbor program has been an important part of her recovery.

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now
US Navy Lt. Cmdr. Maria Gomez-Mannix competes in the Pacific Trials for the 2015 Warrior Games. Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal

“Safe Harbor has really been a positive part of my recovery process because you meet other teammates that have serious illnesses and serious injuries and you see how they’re dealing with whatever they have, and it’s inspirational. It gives you a different outlook on things,” she said.

It’s not just Mannix’s teammates who help push her forward. The competition from wounded warriors on other teams helps as well.

“I had met a lot of the other athletes from different branches, Army, Marine Corps, Air Force,” she said, “and the more I got to make friends in other branches the more I realized that I needed to step up my game. It’s wonderful to make new friends but you also get to see the competitive edge from everybody else that’s going to be at the games as well. It helped me to focus on improving my athletic skills and trying to get my upper body strength to the best fitness I could have to be here for the games.”

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now
US Navy Lt. Cmdr Maria Gomez-Mannix receives a medal for her performance in a field event of the 2015 Warrior Games. Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Terry W. Miller Jr.

That upper body strength is very important for Mannix. She’s fighting breast cancer and her surgeries have made training a challenge, but a strong upper body is vital to her performance.

“I’ve had multiple upper body surgeries which, anatomically, have changed my upper thoracic cavity. It’s more than just getting ready for the games. It’s PT and rehabilitation as well. But when you’re on the volleyball court, you’re literally using your hands as your legs and you have to be quick so you can react to the ball. There’s a lot of muscle strength that you need to have there. Same with my field events, I’m doing shotput and discus throwing. Again, it’s more of an upper body requirement.”

Mannix says that this training and competition helps patients connect in a way they can’t with their care providers or loved ones.

“We’re having a fantastic time playing and competing, but we’re also recovering and helping each other in a way you’re not going to get talking to a counselor or your doctor or your nurse or even your family and friends. It’s a different type of bond and it’s a different kind of camaraderie.”

“You expand the support network you already have,” she said. “Everybody wants to come home with the gold medal and be the winner, in the end, when the games are done, you hug and you say, ‘The games are over. Let’s go have some fun now.'”

The Navy sitting volleyball team was eliminated early in the tournament, but the field events are taking place Jun. 16 when Mannix will compete in discus and shot put. She will also compete in shooting on Jun. 19.

Viewers can find the games schedule, live streaming schedules, and event results at DoDlive.mil. Updates are also available at the Warrior Games Twitter account.

Articles

Now you can help develop drones and apps for the Marine Corps

The Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory is looking for a few good innovations to shape the future force.


The Quantico, Virginia-based lab will kick off the first “CMC Warfighting Challenge” this month, said Col. John Armellino, the warfightinglab’s operations officer. Marines can starting submitting ideas through the new “CMC Innovation Portal” once it officially goes online Sept. 15. A different challenge will be offered every other month.

Gen. Robert Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps, has encouraged Marines — from general officers to privates — to get creative and identify new ways to bolster the service’s storied combat force. Neller wants, as he often says, “disruptive thinkers.”

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now

Officials seek ideas that are “forward looking, futuristic and cutting edge,” Armellino said. “What we are trying to do is to address our current challenges to ensure the Marine Corps is organized, trained and equipped to meet the demands of the future environment,” he added.

Submissions can be made via the web portal, which had a “soft” opening on Sept. 1. While the first challenge is aimed at getting Marines’ input, Armellino said, the Marine Corps also wants to hear from people in academia and industry. And anyone who submits an idea will be kept in the loop, he said, and “remains part of the process.”

First up: Ideas and ways to make autonomous, robotic systems that can better support Marine air-ground task force operations. The September challenge is targeted at finding solutions to what “Marines do today that seem considerably dull or dirty or dangerous,” Armellino said.

So the lab has pitched this challenge: “Identify missions or tasks assigned to your unit that currently requires a Marine (or Marines) to accomplish, that could, and should, be replaced by robotic, autonomous, or unmanned systems. Missions or tasks that are prime candidates for autonomous solutions are typically dull, dirty or dangerous in nature.”

Some Examples:

  • Dull: Filling sandbags
  • Dirty: Going into a potential CBRNE environment to sense for chemicals
  • Dangerous: Sweeping for mines/IEDs

For November, the Marine Corps wants ideas from developers for apps “that enhance quality of life, physical fitness and warfighting in general,” Armellino said.

The innovation challenges are part of the service’s broader and ongoing effort to help develop the future force. The CMC Warfighting Challenge, he said, will provide “a focused, analytical framework.”

And it wants answers and solutions a lot faster.

So the Marine Corps also is establishing a Rapid Capabilities Office. The office will manage the crowd-sourcing portal and other pathways for innovation and will be “empowered to accelerate turnkey solutions or further incubate ideas” that could be demonstrated, tested and experimented, Armellino said. It also will play a part in the Future Force Implementation Plan.

The RCO, he said, will be a bridge between the Marine Corps’ combat development and systems commands — think, concepts and ideas and the equipment and systems that bring those to life. And it “could accelerate technology for development or rapidly get” what’s available to the operating force much faster, he said.

Innovation is a hot phrase of late, perhaps driven by the resetting of the force mired in two major wars over nearly a generation and facing a much more-advanced, high-tech and hybrid threat environment. Agencies like DARPA have reached out to outsiders for ideas, say, to counter threats to drones.

And the Marine Corps isn’t alone in tapping crowd-sourcing to broaden its stable of thinkers and developers. The Navy created Task Force Innovation in January 2015, along with a web portal for virtual collaboration called The Hatch, spurred by Navy Sec. Ray Mabus‘ Innovation Vision for the department.

The Army in 2013 started soliciting ideas for its “Rapid Equipping Force” program through a website that remains in place today. Soldiers can submit ideas or solutions online. The Army is taken a greater collaborative approach with workshops and meetings to pull ideas from soldiers and others whose innovations, expertise and skills just might help develop better gear, vehicles and equipment. Its third annual Innovation Summit was held Aug. 16-17.

“Innovation needs to be a culture, not a niche corner or a specific time,”Army Training and Doctrine Command chief Gen. David Perkins told the audience at the two-day meeting in Virginia. Soldiers “are natural innovators. We just need to make sure we don’t stifle them.”

In late August, Army Secretary Eric Fanning announced the creation of a Rapid Capabilities Office to find and field technology and equipment more quickly. “We’re serious about keeping our edge, so we need to make changes in how we get soldiers the technology they need,” Fanning said, in an Army news story. “The Army Rapid Capabilities Office is a major step forward, allowing us to prioritize cross-domain, integrated capabilities in order to confront emerging threats and advance America’s military dominance.”

What tangible, concrete innovations come of these efforts remain to be seen.

The CMC Warfighting Challenge is like a next-gen take on “Marine Mail” from the mid-1990s, when the top general, Gen. Chuck Krulak, sought out creative and innovative ideas from Marines. Krulak also established the warfighting lab during his tenure as commandant. In 2007, in the midst of two major conflicts, then-commandant Gen. James Conway revived Marine Mail, but it’s not clear what specifically came of that effort.

Marine Mail, said Armellino, was “a great idea” that also was “unsustainable.” If it’s set up as a “virtual suggestion box,” he said, “you run the risk of being potentially overwhelmed.”

Will the new CMC Warfighting Challenge work?

The Warfighting Lab worked through the web portal bugs during a beta test in July to collect thoughts about wearable technologies. That drew 260 ideas, Armellino said. It likely will fall to the lab’s RCO to cull through those suggestions.

Articles

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition)

Here’s your Hump Day news lineup:


Now: 5 general officers who were almost certainly crazy 

Articles

The second invasion of Nazi-occupied France that you’ve never heard of

On Aug. 15, 1944, a massive flotilla carrying approximately 200,000 heavily armed invaders surged from the Atlantic Ocean into Southern France. The men of the 6th Army Group were there to kill Nazis and chew bubblegum, and they were all out of bubblegum. It’s the invasion you’ve never heard of but should have.


 

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now
The invasion fleet off the coast of Southern France. Photo: US Navy

The invasion of Southern France was originally planned as part of D-Day, but was pushed back due to a shortage of landing craft and slow progress of forces moving up Italy. By the time the allied armies were ready to make their landings, some leaders were pushing to change the plan.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill wanted to use the resources and manpower dedicated to Operation Dragoon, as the invasion was called, to instead push harder through Italy or to land in the Balkans.

An Italian operation could have knocked the country out of the war faster. The Balkan operation would have robbed Germany of needed oil while also limiting the amount of territory that was gained by the Red Army, putting the other Allied powers in a better position against the Soviets after the war.

But Allied commander Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower was adamant that Operation Dragoon should be launched to draw away German forces battling the Allied troops marching east from Normandy. Operation Dragoon would also deliver Marseille and Toulon, large port cities that could facilitate reinforcements and supplies for the push to Berlin, to the allies.

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now
Photo: Wikipedia

So the men of 6th Army Group made their landings on a 35-mile beachhead Aug. 15 and immediately began moving north. German supply and communications lines had been attacked by French partisans and the allied forces capitalized on the confusion, attacking German units as they found them.

British and American paratroopers jumped into Le Muy to the north of the beaches. 1,300 Allied bombers from four aircraft carriers and a number of land bases began striking railroads, bridges, and other infrastructure. Naval ships positioned off the French Riviera began firing on targets fed to them by spotting aircraft.

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now
Paratroopers ride in C-47 Skytrains en route to Le Muy for Operation Dragoon on Aug. 15, 1944. Photo: US Air Force

German troops conscripted from occupied territories quickly surrendered to the Allies. Germany’s Army Group G attempted to delay the Allied forces but was hampered by a lack of equipment and manpower. Also, many of their troops were sent there to recover from wounds received in other theaters, limiting their effectiveness.

Army Group G began preparations to retreat in the first day of fighting.

By Aug. 17, Hitler had authorized the retreat and the U.S. 6th Army Group and the German Army Group G engaged in a chase across miles of southern France. As most of the American and British soldiers in the invasion pushed north to chase the Germans, a number of French troops swung west to liberate the ports at Marseilles and Toulon.

The Allied push north stayed on the offensive, liberating town after town. The American forces eventually met up with Lt. Gen. George S. Patton’s Third Army in early Sep. 1944. The German Army Group G did escape with many of their men.

Allied casualties in the fighting approached 20,000 but the Allied forces captured 100,000 German troops while killing and wounding a number of others.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why pilots love and hate ‘B-tchin’ Betty’

Believe it or not, movies usually get the alarms and alerts in fighter jets wrong. (I know, this is shocking information coming from a website that once specialized in identifying mistakes in movies like Basic, The Hunt for Red October, and The Marine.) The fact is, the worst alarms are rarely loud chimes or claxons. Setting off a bunch of horns in the cockpit while a pilot is already stressed would create more problems than it solved.


This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now
(U.S. Air Force)

 

Instead, the worst alarms are usually announced by a calm voice. And pilots often hate that voice.

So here, in a nutshell, is what’s going on. As engineers started making fourth-generation jet fighters, it became apparent that they needed too many alarms to do it all with lights and sounds. No, it would be much faster and more precise to have a human voice say the exact thing that the pilot needs to know.

And also, experiments had shown that pilots losing consciousness could respond to oral instructions for a longer period than they could understand other auditory or visual alarms.

But the last thing a pilot needs in the emotional roller coaster of a dog fight over Eastern Europe or an engine failure over the ocean is someone emotionally screaming at them through their controls. So jet manufacturers hired voice actors to do careful and calm voice recordings. The first was an actor named Kim Crow.

America opted for a female voice actor because they thought pilots would react much faster to a female voice because girlfriends exist. That’s not a joke, that’s how Kim Crow described it herself in this interview.

It was Crow’s job to warn pilots that they were about to crash into the ground, that a missile is in the air and hunting them, or that radar on the ground has a lock on them. In 1980, Leslie Shook became the voice of the F/A-18. 

So, pilots should love that little voice that calmly alerts them to an emergency, right?

Well, no. And for a few good reasons once you give it a good thought. First of all, these alarms usually go off when things are going very badly. No matter how calm the voice is, you’re going to have an emotional reaction to a voice you only hear when there’s a risk you’re about to die, crash, or accidentally destroy a multi-million dollar aircraft.

But, worse, pilots can’t always spare a hand to turn off the alarm when things are going wrong. Obviously, if you’re dodging Iraqi missiles in Desert Storm and get too close to the deck, you’re going to be too busy escaping the missiles and gaining altitude to toggle off an alarm. But that easily means that some of the most stressful three minutes of your life has a soundtrack, and it’s a woman saying, “Missile alert,” over and over even though you already know there’s a missile.

And so pilots started giving the voices in their planes nicknames, usually derogatory ones. America’s became known as “Bitchin’ Betty.” Britain is known for calling theirs “Nagging Nora.” And Australia reportedly uses “Hank the Yank” because their country apparently thought pilots could quite easily respond to a male voice.

Or maybe Hank is a female nickname in Australia. We’ve never been fighter pilots in Australia.

But while military pilots have mixed feelings toward the voices in their planes, they seem to work. And many of the same tactics are used in civilian planes and helicopters for the same role and for the same reasons.

But just imagine if Siri, Alexa or Cortana only spoke to you when everything was going horribly wrong and wouldn’t shut up during your crises. Yup, you wouldn’t like them much either.

Articles

This is what happens to military working dogs after retirement

After about ten to twelve years, it’s usually time for a military working dog (MWD) to retire.


Unlike us, they don’t get out and start celebrating life immediately. Hundreds of them are sent to Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas every year. Before November 2000, most of the dogs were euthanized or just left in the battlefield troops just left (because despite the rank and funeral honors, they’re listed as equipment).

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now
Military Working Dog Ttoby, 23d Security Forces Squadron, prepares for an MWD demonstration, Feb. 2, 2017, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Ttoby is a Belgian Malinois and specializes in personnel protection and detecting explosives. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Zachary Wolf)

Thankfully, “Robby’s Law” opens up adoption to their former handlers, law enforcement, and civilian families.

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now
Five puppies cloned from Trakr, a German shepherd, who made headlines by rescuing victims from the World Trade Center following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, mug for cameras. (Yonhap News photo)

When a dog is retired out, it is usually because of injury or sickness and the best person to care for the puppy is the handler. More than 90% of these good dogs get adopted by their handler. Makes sense — calling a military working dog your “battle buddy” seems less awkward when the context is with a Labrador Retriever.

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now
Senior Airman Jordan Crouse pets his MWD Hector during a patrol dog certification qualification. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mozer O. Da Cunha)

Next on the order of precedent in MWD adoption is law enforcement. Their services would be invaluable within police forces because they are trained to do exactly when the police would need them to do. However, the dogs are contractually agreed to belong to the department. They are the only ones allowed to allow the dogs to perform patrol, security, or substance detection work and the DoD has strict restrictions otherwise.

Sadly, even the police force won’t take the rest of the military working dogs because of their age or injury. This is where civilians come in. Bare in mind, adoption isn’t a quick process and applicants are carefully screened. It may take about a year on the waiting list to get your first interview.

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now
(Official Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Margaret Gale)

They are not some goofy pug you can just adopt and take home. These dogs have usually deployed and show the same symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress. These dogs were trained to sniff out roadside bombs and to fight the Taliban and now have trouble socializing with other dogs and aren’t as playful as they were before.

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ramon A. Adelan)

The MWD selection process demands that the most energetic and playful puppies are needed for combat. After years of fighting, these old dogs show signs of nervous exhaustion and distress. If that pulls at your heart strings because it hits close to home, it is scientifically proven that dogs (including these MWDs) can aid and benefit those with Post Traumatic Stress.

Related: A dog’s love can cure anything – including PTSD

If you don’t mind the wait, have an appropriate living space for a large dog, and are willing to aid these four legged veterans, there are organizations that can help. Save-A-Vet and Mission K9 Rescue are great places to start.

Articles

This is why North Korea is threatening to attack Guam

The North Korean army’s announcement that it is examining operational plans for attacking Guam after rising tensions with President Donald Trump has brought more global attention to the tiny U.S. territory in the Pacific than it has had in decades. Here is a rundown on the island and it strategic importance.


Geographic Basics

The strip of land in the western Pacific Ocean is roughly the size of Chicago, and just 4 miles (6 km) wide at its narrowest point. It is about 2,200 miles (3,500 km) southeast of North Korea, much closer than it is to any of the United States. Hawaii is about 4,000 miles (6,500 km) to the west. Its proximity to China, Japan, the Philippines, and the Korean Peninsula has long made the island an essential possession of the U.S. military.

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now
Gov. Eddie Baza Calvo (left) of Guam discusses range distance with Maj. Gen. Raymond Fox (right). (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Scott Schmidt)

U.S. Relationship

Guam was claimed by Spain in 1565 and became a U.S. territory in 1898 during the Spanish-American War. Japan seized it for about 2½ years during World War II. In 1950, an act of Congress made it an unincorporated organized territory of the United States. It has limited self-government, with a popularly elected governor, small legislature, and non-voting delegate in the U.S. House of Representatives. Residents do not pay U.S. income taxes or vote in the general election for U.S. president. Its natives are U.S. citizens by birth.

Military History

The U.S. keeps a Naval base and Coast Guard station in the south, and an Air Force base in the north that saw heavy use during the Vietnam War. While already taking up 30 percent of the island, the American military has been seeking to increase its presence by relocating to Guam thousands of Marines who are currently based in Okinawa, Japan. Protecting the island is the U.S. Army’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, which is used to shoot down ballistic missiles.

Last month, the U.S. twice flew a pair of supersonic bombers that took off from Guam over the Korean Peninsula in a show of force after two North Korean tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles. While there has been some resistance and displeasure from the people of Guam over the U.S. military’s presence, it is also essential to the island’s economy, second only to tourism in importance.

This battle between US Marines and ISIS was largely kept secret — until now
The first of two Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptors is launched during a successful intercept test. DoD photo courtesy of Missile Defense Agency.

People and Government

The island was first populated about 4,000 years ago by the ancestors of the Chamorros, still the island’s largest ethnic group. Now, about 160,000 people live on Guam. Its capital city is Hagatna and its largest city is Dededo. Its chief languages are English and Chamorro. It has seen various popular movements pushing for greater self-government or even U.S. statehood, most notably a significant but failed effort in the 1980s to make it a commonwealth on par with Puerto Rico.

MIGHTY TRENDING

See the emotional reunion between this Marine and her canine partner

When Sergeant Angela Cardone enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps at 17, she had no idea she would find a soulmate.

As a military police officer, Sgt. Cardone began training with military working dogs at the Marine Corps Air Station in Iwakuni, Japan. It was here that she met Bogi, a Belgian Malinois.

Cardone admitted it was not love at first sight for the pair.

“When I first was told I was being put on her I was not excited because she didn’t know anything, really—she didn’t even know her own name,” Cardone said. “And I didn’t think she would be able to work or listen. And a month or two in, it completely changed, and we just clicked instantly.”

During this time, Cardone was personally struggling to overcome intense homesickness and the loss of her grandfather. From July 2018 – October 2019, the pair worked as partners conducting patrols and safety sweeps of vehicles, buildings, and cargo in Japan, developing what Cardone calls an “unbreakable bond.” 

canine partner

But that all changed in 2020 when the pair was separated.

“When I was first taken off her, I was kind of shocked, because I had a little bit of time left, so I wasn’t expecting to be off her so soon,” Cardone shared. “So, it definitely sucked, because she was my best friend, and I didn’t have that to go to anymore.”

Cardone was reassigned to Hawaii in June 2020, leaving her canine partner and friend behind in Japan.

“Being without her, it kind of felt like a piece of me was missing,” Cardone shared of being separated from Bogi. “And I just always thought about her, always thinking about how the other handlers were treating her… hopefully it was really good.”

Shortly after being reassigned to Hawaii, Cardone learned that Bogi was going to be medically retired due to a broken bone in her neck. Immediately, the Marine Corps Sergeant got to work trying to figure out how to adopt her, but the road to bringing Bogi from Japan to Hawaii was daunting.

Cardone knew she couldn’t do this alone, and reached out to American Humane for help. As the country’s first and largest humane organization, American Humane’s military program helps bring retired military dogs home to reunite with their former handlers and provides ongoing veterinary care and financial support to make sure that America’s K-9 veterans receive the comfortable, dignified retirements they deserve.

“American Humane is dedicated to honoring the lifesaving contributions of all veterans, including the four-legged heroes who serve our country,” Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane said. “With the support of generous donors, American Humane is committed to helping all military heroes come home to retire on U.S. soil.”

Bogi’s journey home spanned the course of two days. From the Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni Base, she was driven to the Hiroshima Airport, where she flew to Haneda Airport. After spending the night at a professional K-9 handler’s home, Bogi flew just over seven hours to Honolulu, Hawaii.

canine partner

Cardone and Bogi were reunited February 16, 2021 in Honolulu. 

“It was indescribable,” Cardone said of their reunion. “Kind of never thought that this day would actually come so it’s kind of… I don’t know, just a really heartwarming type of feeling.”

The Marine shared the pair’s reunion would not have been possible without American Humane.

“Without them, I probably would have messed up the paperwork [and] I probably would have messed up the travel,” she said. “And I wouldn’t have had this opportunity to be with her again.”

American Humane covered the costs of Bogi’s travel from Japan to Hawaii. It also covered the costs of everything Sgt. Cardone needed to get to welcome Bogi into her new home—a comfortable dog bed, treats, food, toys, and more.

“American Humane is honored to bring Bogi home to reunite with her best friend, Sgt. Angela Cardone,” Ganzert said. “We are thrilled to give Bogi the dignified, comfortable retirement she deserves. Sgt. Cardone and Bogi made so many sacrifices in service to our country. Bringing them back together is the least we can do in return.”

Now that they are together, Cardone plans on spoiling her best friend.

“I’m most looking forward to giving her the retirement she wants,” she said. “Letting her sleep on the couch, sleep in my bed, honestly, and I’m going to bring her right after this to go get a Puppuccino from Starbucks.”

Podcast

The real-life dictator who ruined his country and became a cannibal


Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Stitcher | Spotify

In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Blake, Tim, and O.V. talk with stand-up comedian and Marine veteran Mitch Burrow about a Communist Army cadet and a cannibal dictator, and they make a smooth segue into Ken Burns’ Vietnam documentary.

General Idi Amin dethroned the government of Milton Obote and declared himself president of Uganda. During his eight years of ruthless leadership, it’s estimated he massacred approximately 300,000 civilians.

Then it’s rumored the Ugandan president was a closet cannibal and liked munch on human remains.

Related: These make-believe benefits would make being a vet so much better

In this episode, we talk on a wide-range of topics including:

  • [1:10] The WATM crew discuss the Army cadet who is reported to be a big fan of the Communist party.
  • [3:35] Mitch and Blake attempt to create a list of historical dictators that weren’t considered dicks.
  • [5:45] Blake talks about the dictator of Uganda who decided one-day to start eating people. Yew.
  • [6:35] Mitch puts in his two cents on why capitalism is better than communism.
  • [8:11] Blake attempts a smooth segue into discussing Ken Burns’ Vietnam documentary on PBS.
  • [11:55] We break down who was fighting for whom during the Vietnam War.
  • [14:00] Mitch makes a humorous statement clearing the air about his Marine Corps aspirations.
  • [19:15] Tim plugs his new WATM article franchise about what movies characters are doing after the credits roll.

Also Read: How to see those never-before-published ‘Terminal Lance’ comics

Mitch is a Marine Corps veteran that served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. He then started a career in manufacturing before realizing that it sucked. Now, Mitch has found his true calling in acting silly on a stage in front of strangers on a nightly basis.

To follow Mitch or check out one of his shows visit his website: Mitchburrow.com.

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