After suggesting in late March 2018, that the US would be pulling out of Syria “very soon,” President Donald Trump reportedly told his national security team that he is open to keeping troops in the country for the time being, but wants to look to pull them out sometime soon, a senior administration official told CNN.
The US has now been involved in Syria for about three and a half years, having started its military intervention there as part of Operation Inherent Resolve in September 2014. The military has carried out numerous operations in Syria against ISIS and other targets, according to the Department of Defense, and members of the US Marines, Navy, Air Force, and Army are active in the country.
As of December 2017, there are approximately 2,000 US troops in the country. Four US soldiers have been killed in action in Syria.
The US has carried out over 14,989 airstrikes in Syria since 2014, according to the Pentagon.
While it is difficult to ascertain exactly how much the US military spent in Syria specifically, Operation Inherent Resolve as a whole has cost over over $18 billion as of February 2018, according to the Pentagon. The majority of these funds were spent on Air Force operations.
Since the US mission began, ISIS has seen its territory dwindle in Syria, and now almost all of its holdings have been conquered by local forces on the ground with US support.
US forces are fulfilling a variety of roles in the fight against ISIS
The US mission in Syria is aimed at defeating ISIS and its offshoots, providing coordination between air assets and troops on the ground and the anti-ISIS coalition. So far, this mission has largely been a military success — the group has reportedly lost over 98% of its territory since it stormed across Syria and Iraq in 2014.
(US Army photo)
The US has also been supporting Syrian Kurds in Syria’s north, bolstering a coalition of forces led by the Kurds called the Syrian Democratic Forces by deploying coalition advisers to train, advise, and assist the group. The SDF has conquered swathes of territory from ISIS in northeastern Syria with support from US airstrikes and special forces and, according to the Pentagon, is leading the fight against the remnants of the Islamist group in the country.
But the incredibly fractured nature of the conflict lends itself to additional challenges, Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon told Business insider.
“It’s the most complex battlefield in modern warfare,” he said, explaining that there are active lines of communication open between US forces and other actors in the conflict like Turkey and Russia, which serve to avoid accidental military engagements and as deconfliction hotlines.
Pahon said that now that the active fight against ISIS is drawing down, the US is pivoting to civilian reconstruction efforts, clearing IEDs, and rebuilding civilian infrastructure.
“That’s a big challenge for getting people back into their homes, especially in populated areas like Raqqa,” Pahon said, citing numerous ways in which fleeing ISIS fighters have booby-trapped abandoned homes with explosives.
Pahon said part of the US civilian effort is training people on the ground on how to de-mine former urban battlefields.
He also pointed out that in addition to the military aspect of US operations in the country, other parts of the US government like the State Department and USAID are also active in reconciliation efforts, recovering water access, and rebuilding the power grids in destroyed towns and cities.
“It’s more than a military effort, it’s a whole of government effort,” he said.
Every year, Wreaths Across America works to ensure that every one of the nearly 250,000 graves at Arlington National Cemetery has a wreath on it for Christmas. This year, though, they are very short, and whether they succeed is very much in doubt.
According to a report by the Washington Examiner, this year the group is almost 120,000 wreaths short of being able to accomplish its mission. That means nearly half the graves at the cemetery where two presidents (John F. Kennedy and William Howard Taft), 367 recipients of the Medal of Honor, Thomas G. Lanphier Jr. (the pilot who shot down the plane carrying Isoroku Yamamoto), Apollo 1 astronauts Gus Grissom and Roger Chafee, the crew of the space shuttle Challenger, Admiral Hyman G. Rickover and General of the Armies John J. Pershing would not be decorated.
“Last year at this time we were still short, but not by quite as many. I think a lot of people drive by the cemetery in December and see all those wreaths and unfortunately people still believe that the government does that like they do the flags on Memorial Day,” Wayne Hanson, the chairman of the board for Wreaths Across America told the Examiner.
The origins of Wreaths Across America go back to 1992, when 5,000 surplus wreaths were donated to decorate headstones at Arlington. The ceremony continued until taking off in 2002. In 2007, the organization was recognized as a not-for-profit 501(c)3.
According to the organization’s website, in 2015 over 168 companies delivered over 300 truckloads of wreaths to be placed on the graves of veterans.
With the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon Project, the days of the M4 Carbine and M249 SAW may be numbered. The prototypes from General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems Inc., Textron Systems, and Sig Sauer are vying to replace both 5.56mm weapon systems in infantry and close-combat units. All three NGSW candidates utilize a 6.8mm round, though their designs and mechanics vary greatly. While the NGSW Project is a departure from the M4/M16 family, it is certainly not the first time that the Army or military in general has attempted to find a new rifle.
1. Special Purpose Individual Weapon
The Special Purpose Individual Weapon was an Army program that began in 1951 to develop a flechette-firing rifle. I know what you’re thinking: the M16 wasn’t even adopted until 1964. So how can the SPIW have been a potential replacement for the M16?
Well, Project SALVO was the Army’s first attempt to create the SPIW with the intent of arming soldiers with a weapon that fired small projectiles in large volumes at a high rate of fire, hence its name. Though flechette rounds were tested, the conclusion of Project SALVO was to adopt the Armalite AR-15 as the M16 rifle. However, research and development of the SPIW continued with Project NIBLICK. Now trying to replace the newly adopted M16, the Project NIBLICK also aimed to develop a grenade launcher to complement the flechette-firing rifle. AAI, Springfield Armory, Winchester Arms, and Harrington Richardson all submitted their own unique entries for the SPIW. T
hough none of the submissions were deemed to be effective combat weapons, the grenade launcher from the AAI design was further developed and was eventually as the M203 40mm grenade launcher.
2. Advanced Combat Rifle
Started in 1986, the Advanced Combat Rifle program aimed to replace the M16 with a more accurate rifle. AAI, Colt, HK, Steyr, Ares Inc., and McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Systems all received development contracts, but only the first four companies advanced to the weapon testing phase. The AAI entry utilized a flechette round which, despite the addition of a sound suppressor, created a louder muzzle blast than the M16.
The HK entry was the innovative caseless ammunition G11 which many people will remember from the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops. Steyr submitted a flechette-firing bullpup design that bore a superficial resemblance to the AUG. Colt’s ACR prototype was the most conventional, as it was a highly modified version of the existing M16 design with the addition of a new sight, a hydraulic buffer, and a collapsing buttstock. The Colt ACR also utilized an experimental “duplex round”, a single cartridge with two small bullets in it, to increase the rifle’s volume of fire. However, the “duplex rounds” resulted in decreased accuracy at long range, defeating the purpose of the ACR. In the end, none of the ACR prototypes met or even approached the 100% improvement over the M16 that the program aimed for.
3. Objective Individual Combat Weapon/XM29
In the aftermath of the ACR program, the Army started the Objective Individual Combat Weapon program. The central idea of the OICW program was to develop an infantry rifle that allowed the user to engage targets behind hard cover with the use of airburst munitions. This idea was refined to combine the airburst, low-velocity cannon with an assault rifle.
The kinetic rounds of the rifle could engage a target directly and, if the target retreated behind cover, the airburst munition could be employed instead. By the early 2000s, contract winner Heckler Koch had resigned the XM29, which featured a 20mm High Explosive Air Bursting launcher and a short-barrel 5.56x45mm NATO rifle. However, the 20mm HEAB was found to be inadequately lethal and the short barrel of the rifle did not generate enough muzzle velocity to be as effective as a standard infantry rifle. The XM29 was also too large and heavy to be carried by a rifleman on the frontlines. The XM29 was shelved in 2004.
Designed by Heckler Koch, the XM8 was an offshoot of the shelved XM29. The grenade launcher part of the project went on to be developed into the XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System. The XM8 was a configurable weapon system that allowed the user to set it up as an infantry rifle, a short-barreled personal defense weapon, and even a bipod-equipped support weapon.
The XM8 also featured an integrated sight and IR laser aiming module/illuminator. Over 200 developmental prototypes were delivered to the military. However, testing yielded numerous complaints including the short battery life of the integrated sight and IR module, ergonomic issues, heavy weight, and a hand guard that would melt after firing too many rounds. Following this first phase of testing, the military requested funding for a large field test, which Congress denied. The project was put on hold in April 2005 and formally canceled on October 31 later that year.
5. Individual Carbine
The Individual Carbine competition began in 2010 and sought to replace the M4 carbine in the US Army. The Army solicited manufacturers to submit rifles that provided accurate and reliable firepower, could be fired semi or fully-automatic, possessed integrated Picatinny rails, and was fully ambidextrous. Though the competition did not specify a caliber, any submissions not chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO or 7.62x54mm NATO had to be supplied with ammunition by the manufacturer.
Submissions for the competition included Robinson Armament Co.’s XCR, LWRC’s M6A4, Remington’s ACR (not to be confused with the ACR program), FN Herstal’s FN SCAR, Colt’s CM901, Beretta’s ARX-160, Adcor Defense’s A-556, and HK’s HK416, among others. Over the course of testing, some companies backed out after the Army announced that the winner would have to turn over technical data rights to the Army; others dropped out for financial reasons. By Phase II testing, only FN, HK, Remington, Adcor Defense, Beretta, and Colt remained in the running.
Though Phase II was completed, Phase III was halted in 2013 by questions regarding the program’s cost and necessity. With M4A1 carbines set to be purchased through 2018, the Army began to rethink carbine acquisition. On June 13, 2013, the Individual Carbine competition was formally cancelled on the grounds that none of the submissions met the minimum scores to continue to the next phase of the evaluation.
6. M27 Infantry Assault Rifle
The Marines pride themselves on their ingenuity. Their ability to improvise, adapt, and overcome us part of what makes them such a lethal fighting force. The Corps demonstrated this ability with their acquisition and fielding of the M27 Infantry Assault Rifle. In 2006, the Marine Corps issued contracts to manufacturers to replace the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon with a more mobile Infantry Assault Rifle. Submissions included IAR variants of the FN SCAR and HK416 as well as the Colt IAR6940. In 2009, the HK416 won the competition and began a five-month final testing period before it was formally designated as the M27 IAR in the summer of 2010.
In May 2011, General James Amos ordered the replacement of the M249 SAW by the M27 IAR and limited fielding began. Though the 30round magazine-fed M27 could not provide the sustained suppressive fire that the belt-fed M249 SAW could, the M27’s increased accuracy and reliability offset the rate of fire. In early 2017, Commandant of the Marine Corps General Robert Neller announced that he wanted to equip every 0311 Marine rifleman with the M27 IAR. To meet this demand, the Corps issued a request for 11,000 M27 IARs from HK. Chris Woodburn, deputy of the Maneuver Branch, Fires and Maneuver Integration at Marine Corps Combat Development Command, said, “The new order will replace all M4s in every infantry squad with an M27, except for the squad leader.”
The change would also include Marine infantry training battalions. The deal was finalized in 2018, with the Marines purchasing just over 14,000 M27 IARs. In 2019, the Marine Corps reported that the last of the M27s would be delivered and issued to every infantryman from platoon commander and below by mid-2021. While the M27 will replace the M4 as the standard-issue rifle for the Marine Corps infantry, non-infantry Marines will continue to field the M4 for the foreseeable future. Still, it could be argued that the Marine Corps succeeded in replacing the M4 in a short period of time where the Army failed over a period of decades of programs and competitions. If anything, the NGSW goal of replacing the M4 and M249 with a single weapon system appears to have been lifted from the Marine Corps acquisition and fielding of the M27 IAR.
Only time will tell if the Army will succeed in replacing the M4 through the NGSW Project, or if it be the latest in a long line of failed attempts.
The US Supreme Court has lifted an injunction against the Trump administration’s transgender military ban, allowing him to enforce his policy barring certain transgender troops from joining or staying in the military.
President Donald Trump asked the Supreme Court in November 2018 to lift injunctions issued by federal court judges, which placed a hold on the policy’s implementation while a legal challenge continues in lower courts.
The conservative majority granted the president’s request on Jan. 22, 2019, essentially allowing the ban to be implemented while lower courts decide on its constitutionality. Liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor said they would have kept the injunctions in place blocking the policy, Reuters reported.
President Donald Trump.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
Along with the request to lift injunctions, the Trump administration also asked the Supreme Court to bypass normal judicial proceedings by deciding the legal merits of the policy. The justices refused, allowing a California-based federal appeals court to issue a ruling.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
US Navy Master Chief Petty Officer Raina Hockenberry
On August 5, 2014, Master Chief Raina Hockenberry, 41, was a senior chief midway through a deployment in Afghanistan. She was helping train Afghan forces. While leaving an Afghan military camp in Kabul, a rogue Afghan gunman opened fire. Hockenberry sustained bullet wounds in her stomach, groin, and tibia. This is where the story could’ve ended Hockenberry’s military career. But Hockenberry’s running life theme is never giving up.
Hockenberry celebrates after winning gold in the 50 meter freestyle at the 2018 DoD Warrior Games.
(Master Sgt. Stephen D. Schester)
According to The Navy Times, while she recovered at Walter Reed medical center she immediately asked for a laptop so she could continue to contribute.
“Being in the hospital, you’re a patient and you lose who you are. That laptop was huge. It gave me my identity back. It gave me something to focus on. I was useful again.” Hockenberry said, “My identity was Senior Chief Hockenberry.”
Hockenberry doesn’t take all the credit for staying engaged during the early stages of her recovery process. She extended her gratitude to the junior enlisted service members surrounding her at Walter Reed, “Every time I wanted to quit, there always seemed to be some junior sailor popping in saying, ‘Hey senior, you going to PT?”
One of the injuries sustained by Hockenberry.
(Dennis Oda/The Star)
Despite the complications from her injuries sustained in battle, Hockenberry takes part (and kicks ass) in multiple athletic competitions. Such as the Invictus Games, or the Warrior Games (a competition for wounded, sick, or injured troops). Just last year she set 4 new swimming records en route to 8 gold medals in the latter.
She will be returning with high hopes again this year.
Hockenberry receiving the George Van Cleave Military Leadership Award at 53rd USO Armed Forces Gala.
(Senior Chief Petty Officer Michael Lewis)
Nowadays, when Hockenberry isn’t dominating the Warrior Games, she serves on board of the USS Port Royal, in Hawaii—and she’s grateful to be back.
“Today, I’m just another sailor,” She added, “Granted, I’m a master chief and that’s awesome, but I do drill, I do general quarters, I’m up and down ladder wells. I do what every other sailor does.”
Hockenberry serves as a beacon for other service-members who are battling injuries every single day. Hockenberry’s advice is simple, “You’ve got to fight for what you want,” she said. “If you really want it, there’s so many in the Navy who will help you, you just have to ask.”
She acknowledges the road to recovery is not linear, and that while injuries change how you interact with the world, they do not define the afflicted, “”You don’t have to be perfect. I don’t walk perfect, I sure don’t swim perfect. But that’s okay […] The four gentlemen I went with have all been through the gamut and now have productive lives. It’s just an injury. It’s not your life.”
Hockenberry set up “Operation Proper Exit” in 2016 as a way to bring soldiers wounded in action back to the place where they sustained their injuries, in order to give soldiers proper closure.
Hockenberry will be honored as the Sailor of the Year at the Service Members of the Year ceremony on July 10th.
Patients tried to stomp on one of the cockroaches on the pharmacy floor. Another video shows a roach crawling on a doorway.
“I know they’ve had infestation problems for years,” Brandon Coleman, a whistleblower and Phoenix employee, told Fox 10 Phoenix in an interview.
“They’re used to it,” said Coleman of the veterans at the facility. “They’re used to substandard care. I think veterans feel lucky just to get an appointment with the secret wait list going on in Phoenix. A roach is no big deal.”
A hospital spokesman from Phoenix told the local news outlet that a recent inspection of the pharmacy did not turn up any cockroaches.
“Whenever insects are reported, our environmental management specialists provide immediate action and ensure the external pest control agencies are notified to come on site for complete remediation activities,” the spokesman said.
The problem of cockroaches is not isolated to Phoenix, but has also presented itself at the Hines VA facility in Chicago, where the VA inspector general determined in 2016 that cockroaches had infested the kitchen and were crawling on the food trays and food carts. According to investigators, hospital leadership knew of the problem and did nothing, an issue Coleman suggested may similarly be at play at Phoenix.
“During our unannounced site visit on May 10, 2016, we found dead cockroaches on glue traps dispersed throughout the facility’s main kitchen,” the inspector general report observed. “We observed conditions favorable to pest infestation.”
Time and again in my line of work, people ask me, “What did you do to prepare?” I usually respond with some sort of reference to steel genitalia, eating large amounts of bacon, and shooting nails from my eyes. That usually wows people.
After the hilarity that is EVERY encounter with me, I give them an answer that always seems to underwhelm. “I try to be as strong as I can. All the time. I just want to be the strongest guy out there. That’s my number one goal. Then it’s cardio and mobility.”
Seriously, that’s it.
If you want, I can get into long physiological discussions about how stronger people are less taxed by the same effort expressed on an event by a weaker person. There are so many examples out there, I won’t even bother to ham-handedly try to quote them or paraphrase a saying they came up with.
Do you wanna geek out and banter about the Krebs Cycle? Wanna quote grip strength tests designed by dudes that don’t lift trying to extrapolate the best anaerobic exercise for slow twitch muscle fiber performance? Well, tough crap, I am not that good. The point is this — I can stomp on the ground and scream until I am blue in the face, but it doesn’t matter. I can only tell you what I have seen, and what I think works.
The fact of the matter is this: the stronger man nearly always wins. This isn’t story time, and Goliath wins in real life kids. The freakishly strong 30-year-old whips the young buck more frequently than he doesn’t. The underdog is a great story — but there is a reason why he is the underdog. It’s cause no one thinks he can win, and he most likely won’t. Think Vision Quest: could Louden Swain really beat Shute? Uh, hell no. That dude carried logs up and down steps like, all day, like a damn boss. Plus, Shute looked like he was about 195 pounds as a high school wrestler, and Matthew Modine’s character dropped to 168 pounds to fight him… sorry, I digress.
After covering what I do to prepare, the conversation progresses. Next comes, “What is the typical military member/SOF Operator?” Well, I can’t tell you that. I’ve seen huge, jacked, 225-pound football players quit, cry, and fail. I have seen un-athletic, uncoordinated 155-pound 18-year-olds dig deep and carry those 225-pound guys. There is a single commonality amongst all those that make it, compared to those that don’t, strictly physically speaking. That commonality is strength.
Across the board, the men and women that pass tough selections and outperform their peers in the military are simply stronger than their peers. I did not say “bigger,” I said stronger. Stronger in all tasks, globally stronger. Can you throw on one-third of your bodyweight in armor and gear and carry your friend 400m at a dead sprint? No? Well then, Turbo, I don’t care what your marathon time is.
“Well, fine then. Describe your ideal team mate” is usually what follows next. Which is weird, that people want me to talk about my dream teammate, which is a guy.
Anyway, give me a 180-200-pound guy that can squat, deadlift, press, clean, and snatch close to the “accepted” standards for athletic performance. Add in cardio to his regimen — sprints, preferably. Every once in a while, with safety in mind, force him to work longer than 40 minutes. It should be taxing. Every single gym session works him toward a common goal — mobility, flexibility, strength, power, explosiveness, and injury prevention. If any workout doesn’t directly benefit (without excluding) those tenets, then don’t do it. Strength is priority numeral uno. Cardiovascular/cardiorespiratory conditioning is second, tied with mobility and injury prevention. Everything else — aesthetics, fad training ideas, things you read in muscle and fitness about your abs- throw them away. Let’s not get cute until we are in the top 10 percent of our weight class.
In the current fitness enthusiast world we find ourselves today, I almost always get the following retort next: “BUTBUTBUT what about functional strength? Big guys aren’t the only useful ones. Who cares how much I can lift in the gym real life is where you need it, I have mad cardio and sick abzzzz blah blah blah.”
I will put this as plainly as I can. Being globally stronger, stronger as a whole person, will translate to “functional capability”. I could not give a rat’s ass if a teammate of mine can’t do a nifty “fitness trick” like a double under, or a handstand pushup, or a muscle up. Why would I? Can you give me a real life task where a double under directly translates? Let me head you off here — we took care of “cardio” already. Double-unders are a barely useful parlor trick.
If you cannot pick me up wearing my kit and all my gear — I weigh 260 pounds loaded down — then you are useless, and you don’t get a spot. Sorry, but this is real life. You don’t get to scale real life. I don’t care if you can take half of your bodyweight and move it from ground to overhead 30 times reeeeaaaaallly fast. How fast can you lift 140 percent of your bodyweight to your shoulder and run 100 meters to cover? Oh, you can’t? Then stop with all the “functional fitness” crap to support your point as it applies to the SOF environment. Or produce the science and vetted studies to back up your point. Pro tip — those studies don’t exist.
I want to break this down to brass tacks. In my experience, both in the military and the SOF community, stronger people really are harder to kill. I can tell you from first hand experience, and from second and third hand experience. If you focus 80 percent of your energy to making yourself as strong as you can be, you will be more useful, around for longer, and more likely to be a success in this small focus group.
I liken it to fighting — good fighters want to be stronger later in the fight. Ask an experienced fighter how it is to fight someone that is truly stronger than they are. It is unnerving. Better fighters do this with strength training.
In the end, I always use this analogy: “You can always dig deep and find bigger lungs. In the fight, in the heat of the moment, a true warrior can find a couple more steps, another sprint. That’s going to be there. But strength? You can’t just find a 100-pound PR when you need it. If you can’t lift 280 pounds off the ground and you need to move 350 — well, get as amped up as you would like. Your double unders aren’t going to help you now.”
And if you train to be able to run away, to simply exist as opposed to being strong enough to finish the fight, well, then run away is all you got. And that’s not the business we are in.
The author of this article is an active duty special operator. We are protecting his identity by only using his first name. This article first appeared in The Havok Journal on 26MAR14.
The Medal of Honor awarded to Pvt. Thomas Kelly was sold for 14,000 Euros by auction house Hermann-Historica. (Screengrab from LiveAuctioneers.com)
A Medal of Honor awarded to an Army infantryman for heroism during the Spanish-American War has been sold for $14,000 euros, or nearly $15,500, a Munich-based auction house confirmed Thursday.
The sale comes after advocates including Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and the National Medal of Honor Museum staged a late campaign to stop the auctioning of the medal, saying it damaged the dignity of the nation’s highest award for combat valor. It belonged to Pvt. Thomas Kelly, who earned it in 1898 while fighting in Santiago, Cuba.
But the German auction house Hermann-Historica, which is not bound by U.S. law, went through with the sale. The listing site shows just one bid; the medal ultimately went for four times the starting bid of 3,000 euros.
Bernhard Pacher, managing director of Hermann-Historica, told Stars and Stripes that he had previously sold four Medals of Honor, and added that the seller was a private individual “looking to beef up his pension.”
Reached for comment Thursday, a Hermann-Historica employee confirmed the medal’s sale but asked that further queries be sent by email. An emailed query did not receive an immediate response.
While the sale and barter of the Medal of Honor is illegal in the U.S., the law is not binding on international sellers.
Dave Knaus, a spokesman for the National Medal of Honor Museum, told Military.com that the museum is looking into who bought the medal and contemplating future steps. He said the museum is currently compiling historical data on other medals that have gone missing or changed hands.
Efforts to locate a surviving relative of Kelly, who died in 1920, had not been successful, Knaus said.
According to Kelly’s medal citation, he “gallantly assisted with the rescue of the wounded from in front of the lines and while under heavy fire from the enemy.”
As Russian propaganda blows up the internet with the unveiling of a new laser weapon, this is just a friendly reminder of a couple things. First, Russia lies about new tech all the time. Second, it hasn’t shown the weapon fire. And, most importantly, this weapon was originally announced in a press conference filled with other over-hyped weapons.
Russia originally released footage of its Peresvet Combat Leaser System a few months ago, and it actually showed the weapon in more detail than what came out in December. Neither video actually shows the weapon in action.
(YouTube/Russian Ministry of Defence)
That’s not to say that the Russians can’t build a functioning laser weapon or that America shouldn’t be prepared for its enemies to deploy lasers, but it is to say that we should take our time while pricing mirrored caps for our bomb shelters (save money by cutting old disco balls in half!).
Peresvet has been teased one time since the annual address but is now receiving a lot of publicity as Sputnik, a Russian propaganda outlet, has released a new video of the laser “in service.”
Except, as everyone buzzes about the laser, we all seem to forget that the video is only showing the foreskin of a tent being pulled back to reveal a shiny laser head as a Russian with no face takes a firm grasp of the stick. That is literally as sexily as I can possibly describe this actually very boring video.
Is this a new laser weapon? Probably, but it could just as easily be the trailer for a professional gamer who only uses Apple keyboards and discount joysticks while playing his flight sims on the road.
Assuming it is a weapon, could it tip the balance in a ground war with the U.S. as it shoots down incoming missiles, drones, jets, and helicopters by the thousands? Again, sure. Anything is possible. But lasers are actually super hard to make work as weapons, and they require a ton of energy per each shot.
A U.S. Air Force C-130 flies with an experimental laser in 2009. The laser was later canceled because it couldn’t engage enemy missiles at a significant range.
(U.S. Air Force)
They require somuch energythat America’s first few laser prototypes barely used electricity because the battery and power-generation requirements were technically infeasible. Instead, we filled a C-130 with vats of chemicals that could, yes, create a laser of sufficient strength to down a missile, but not at ranges sufficient to work in a real-world scenario.
With advances in electronics, it is now possible to create lasers powered by electricity that have sufficient strength to bring down objects in the sky or destroy targets on the ground. How can I be so sure? Well, the U.S. Navy, Air Force, and Army prototypes have all been publicly demonstrated and fired.
A target at sea is destroyed by the prototype laser mounted on the Navy’s USS Ponce during a 2015 test. Note that the fireball comes from explosives in the target, not the energy from the laser.
(U.S. Navy video screenshot)
They’ve even been demonstrated working on actual combat platforms like the Army Stryker and the Navy’s amphibious transport dock, USS Ponce. The Air Force demonstrated the aforementioned chemical laser on a C-130 years ago and currently has a contract with Lockheed for high-energy lasers for fighter jets, a weapon it wants combat ready by 2021.
So yeah, there’s no reason to think that Russia can’t develop a similar weapon. And warfighters, especially drone operators, should begin training to operate in environments where Russian lasers can shoot them down (but only when using massive trailers). But America still, obviously, has the edge in laser technology. And we don’t need to panic because Russian propaganda has made an impressive claim.
Remember, Russian leaders also claimed that the Su-57 and T-14 Armata were game-changing weapons that they could build relatively cheaply and would tip the worldwide balance of power. Spoiler: Both weapons are too expensive for Russia to afford and neither appears to work as well as advertised.
The wind blows viciously as it sweeps across the open waters, but the sound of gum being popped out of the pack is a familiar feeling that Senior Chief Quartermaster Steve Schweizer will never forget, even after retirement. It’s something that he takes on every mission, a lucky charm that he’ll leave behind when he walks out of the Assault Craft Unit Four (ACU-4) facility for the very last time.
“I won’t fly without it,” said Schweizer. “I’ve actually been on the ramp getting ready to go and I was feeling my pockets and thought ‘oh it’s not there, no I have to run back inside I know it’s in my desk.’ I’ll look at the water, look at the weather, and I’ll just kind of almost go into a quiet place, like just relax. I know that as soon as that mission starts, it’s ‘go go go’, it’s stress, it’s just operational, operational, operational.”
Schweizer first thought of joining the Navy after being unsure what he wanted to do in life.
“I took half a semester of college and realized it wasn’t what I wanted to do,” said Schweizer. “I had an uncle in the Navy who I didn’t talk to very much, but I told him I decided to join the military and he told me how much fun he had in the Navy so I figured I may have made the right decision.”
Schweizer first joined the LCAC program in 2004 and enjoys what he does.
“I’ve been here for fifteen years and I love what I do,” said Schweizer. “I love flying the crafts, I love teaching people how to fly the crafts, and I like our mission.”
Schweizer began running as a hobby before his 2014 deployment, describing it as an escape and a stress reliever.
“I just put my music on, go for a run, and I just tune everything out,” said Schweizer. “It’s just my relax time, my alone time. It’s definitely one of those things where it’s like if you think of work all the time, if you think of the stress of your job all the time, it’s going to get to you, so it’s my outlet.”
The program has a very high attrition rate and has a difficult training pipeline.
“This is a 90×50 foot hovercraft, it weighs about 200 thousand pounds,” said Schweizer. “You’re controlling it with three different controls. Your feet are doing one job and both hands are doing separate jobs. It takes a lot of coordination and it’s not easy.”
Training in the simulator and manning the live craft are completely different, and requires a lot of attention.
“You always have that heightened sense of awareness,” said Schweizer. “Anticipation of what the craft is going to do and how to counteract it. Never take anything for granted.”
On a small craft that is only manned by five personnel, personnel develop a closer relationship with crew members quicker, Schweizer explained.
“They develop that bond because you know that person has your back, or you know that person is looking out for you,” said Schweizer. “I know my crew, I know their families, I know what they like to do in their spare time, they know that if they’re ever in trouble they know they’ll call me first, or they’ll call one of their crew members first.”
The U.S. military is getting out of the nation-building business and is now focusing on killing terrorists. That is among the policy changes announced by President Donald Trump in a speech delivered at Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia, Aug. 21.
“From now on, victory will have a clear definition: attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing Al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan, and stopping mass terror attacks against America,” he said, while also explicitly refusing to set a timetable or to reveal how many more troops will be deployed.
Trump has already shown an inclination to not micro-manage and to give local commanders authority to make operational and tactical decisions. In April, the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Burst bomb made its combat debut in Afghanistan when it was used to hit a tunnel complex used by the Afghanistan affiliate of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
President Trump, while not mentioning Obama by name, also criticized the abrupt withdrawal of American troops from Iraq in 2011, saying that the removal of troops created a vacuum and allowed ISIS to rise and take control of a number of cities in Iraq.
President Trump also had harsh words for Pakistan over the existence of safe havens for groups like the Taliban. Perhaps the most notable terrorist provided safe haven in that country was Osama bin Laden, who was killed at a hideout in Abbottabad — a city a little over 30 miles from the capital in Islamabad.
Commandos from the 7th Special Operation Kandak prepare for the unitís first independent helicopter assault mission, March 10, 2014, in Washir district, Helmand province, Afghanistan The mission was conducted to disrupt insurgent activity. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Richard B. Lower/Released)
I’m feeling thankful. Maybe because I know orders are on the horizon and there is “change” in the air. Or maybe I’m thankful in spite of it.
Sensing the winds, I can’t help but feel thankful for my military kids. It’s been a long decade filled with multiple schools and countless moves. They’ve said goodbye, more than hello. Yet, they are always ready for adventure. My kids, probably like your kids, always seem to roll with punches, ignoring the winds or leaning hard into it. As a parent, I draw my strength from their resiliency, their never-quit mentality after so many moves. There are many reasons to be thankful for our military kids this season, but here are just a few.
1. Will look an adult in the eyes.
A subtle characteristic of nearly all military kids over the age of six is their uncanny ability to make eye contact with adults when speaking to them. Sounds crazy, but it’s true. Military kids can not only speak to adults, but they make eye contact when they do. Sure, my theory isn’t 100% proven, but I challenge you to talk to any military tween or teen for more than five minutes and you’ll notice their ability to hold a conversation with you while making eye contact. Whether respect for adults comes from experience, diversity or taught at home, I’m thankful for it.
Whether it’s on a playground, in a classroom, at a sporting event or at a ceremony, when the music of our National Anthem starts, military kids will be the first to freeze, turn to the flag and hand to their chest. Grown adults sometimes forget (or don’t know) to remove their hats, stop SnapChat-ing or put down their hot dog when the anthem plays. You can spot a military kid or a Boy Scout in any crowd when the anthem plays. Military kids have watched their parent put on the uniform with a that little flag on the side arm every day. The American flag is a part of their upbringing and I’m thankful for it.
3. Are includers.
There isn’t’ a military kid around that hasn’t been the new kid at least once. Empathy is learned through experience and exposure – military kids have years of both. My kids will nearly break out in hives if they think someone is being left out at lunch or at birthday party. And I know this character trait is runs in deep with military families. Drawing on experience, military kids include the outsider. It’s their superpower.They will embrace the different because they see themselves in others and I’m thankful for it.
4. Are active participants.
Need a someone to play goalkeeper? Need a volunteer to be a lunch buddy? Need a kid to stay behind and clean up? Yep, if there is a military kid in a crowd, they’ll raise their hand. Military kids just want to be a part of action, they want to participate, try out and be helpful. Especially after a tough move, military kids are forced to sit on the sidelines until they see an opening, sometimes they have to make their own opening. Military kids are usually all in, all the time and I’m thankful for it.
New kid having a birthday party? Military kids will show up. School fundraiser? They’ll be there. Need a fifth to play basketball? Just ask. Stocking food at the food bank? They will be five minutes early. Military kids will show up. Whether it’s their upbringing or military values –If my military kid says he’ll will be there, he’ll be there. You can count on military kids andI’m thankful for it.
6. Know problems are designed to be solved.
Military kids, especially the older ones, have the deeper understanding and experience to know there is a solution to nearly every problem. They’ve been thrown into a litany of situations and forced to problem solve. They learn to adapt. They have to, it is survival. From putting on brave face walking into a new school to helping their family shoulder another deployment, they know problems are just challenges ready to be tackled. Military kids are old souls and I’m thankful for it.
Once a friend to a military kid, consider yourself a friend for life. A classmate may not have been in a child’s life for long, but trust me, our kids remember nearly every playdate, experience and conversation. To a military kid, a friendship is treasure they pick up along their journey, a collection of friendships that make up the quilted memory called childhood. Our kids will write, FaceTime, SnapChat, IG and message the heck of out long-distance friends. Military kids have friends across states and continents, but it’s never out of sight out of mind. They are professional friend makers and mean it when they say, “let’s stay in touch.” Kids may not see each other in five years but will pick up exactly where they left off. In truth, our kids need friendships probably more than we’d like to admit. But we promise there is no better friend to have than a military kid. They make the best of friends and I’m thankful for it.
8. Are good for schools.
There are 1.1 million school aged military kids and most attend public schools. Military parents are usually engaged and involved with their child’s education. Whether it’s volunteering, attending ceremonies, homework help or parent-teacher conferences – military kids come with active parents. Teachers and staff can count on their military family population to enroll students who will enrich their school. All military kids have health insurance and a least one parent is always employed which add stability while living a transient lifestyle. Military students bring a fresh perspective and a healthy dose of tolerance into their classroom. Since military students will attend between six and nine schools through their K-12 education, schools can count on our kids to bring their backpack full of resiliency on their first day of school. They make a school a better place for everyone and I’m thankful for it.
Military kids can make a chaotic PCS move into a full-on adventure. They can turn their seven-state DITY move with two dogs into a family vacation. Sure, it’s painful to spend hours in the car with smelly siblings, but I’ll bet you military kids know more about the 50 states, obscure museums, best food on the go and random side show fun than their civilian counterparts. They can sleep in any bed, on the floor, in the car or any restaurant booth almost on demand. They are giddy about a hotel pools, strange souvenir shops, mountain tops, desert sunsets, giant trees and skyscrapers – military kids never tire of being surprised by world around them. They don’t long to return home, but because home is wherever their family is together and for that, I’m thankful.
10. Embrace diversity because they live it.
The upside of moving around the United States and the globe is military kids are exposed to different languages, cultures, cities and people. At ten-years old, my son could read the metro map at the Frankfurt, Germany train station better than I could. At eight years old, my daughter only knew the name for restroom as Water Closet. They would stay up to watch the Iron Bowl (Alabama vs. Auburn) because that’s where they were born. My kids think Texas is best state in the union, but Ohio is the place they want live because it snows. However, they consider Virginia home because that’s the house they liked best. They witnessed firsthand the Syrian refugee crisis on a train trip to Austria and are forever changed by it. They’ve walked halls and gardens of Alcazar in Spain. They’ve attended mass at Notre Dame in Paris and can point out art from Raphael and Michelangelo in the Vatican because of a school project they finished at a DODEA school. They’ve had school field trips to National Archives in D.C. and placed wreaths on U.S. military tombstones in France, they danced through cathedrals older than the United States and did somersaults on ancient ruins in Rome. Their favorite sport is futbol, but not the American kind. They speak a little of Spanish, German and French, but wish they knew Chinese and Arabic. We are raising good beings. Whether it’s living in Japan or England, Kansas or California – this life allows us to expose them to so many different people and cultures – something their civilian peers can’t easily do. They don’t know a world full people who look and think like them and they are better humans for it. It’s a gift for our kids to live this military lifestyle and I am wholeheartedly thankful for it.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
A bit of far off Irish-American-Mexican history brings to light a lesser-known chapter of Irish military service – the time that 265 Irish service members defected.
Some called them heroes; others called them traitors. The Irish immigrants who joined the Army in the 1840s decided when the war broke out between the US and Mexico that they wanted none of it.
Right after the US annexed Texas in 1845, both Mexico and America sent military members to the newly created and shared border.
1845 America was a tumultuous place – Florida was admitted as a state, the Great Fire of Pittsburg destroyed much of the city, and Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, was published.
Thoreau embarked on his two-year experiment to live in the woods at Walden Pond, a huge fire destroyed lots of New York, and the US Naval Academy officially opened its doors. Johnny Appleseed died in 1845, and Edmonia Lewis died.
A lot was going on, no more so evident than within the US Army. In 1845, the Army was a hodgepodge of service personnel, with diverse backgrounds, much like it is today. Service members were from all over the world, especially from western European countries, all of which had distinct and robust Catholic population groups. Many immigrant service members were blatantly disrespected and discriminated against by “native-born Americans,” which led to widespread unrest and low morale. Adding to that was most of the immigrant soldiers were Catholic, outliers in the very protestant America of the time.
So back to the Irish battalion. No one is quite sure exactly how it happened. Still, most historians agree that the widespread abuse of immigrant personnel coupled with the very low troop commitment levels led to a huge percentage of the Army feeling invisible, disenfranchised, and without appropriate ways to voice their frustrations.
Much of the American public felt that the annexation of Texas was useless – an expansionist war was nothing the young country needed. One of the most vocal about the uselessness of the expansion was Abraham Lincoln, who was quoted as not surprised that the Army saw so many deserters during this time.
While the Army was struggling to hold rank, the Mexican military saw an opportunity to infiltrate and spread propaganda, which is exactly what they did.
Several Mexican Army generals sent messages targeted toward immigrant personnel stationed at the Texas border. These messages crossed the Rio Grande River. All held one core focus – that immigrant service members should abandon their American Army posts and join their Catholic brothers in arms in the Mexican military. The messages offered Mexican citizenship and huge land grants – as much as 320 acres for privates.
More than 5,000 US soldiers would desert their posts throughout the war, and more than 40,000 simply disappeared in Mexico.
The Irish defectors were known as the St. Patrick’s Battalion, and their Mexican brothers-in-arms called them “The Red Company” because so many of them had red hair and ruddy complexions.
The battalion’s flag showed a winged harp, three-leaf clovers, and the motto, “Irish till the end of time,” written in Gaelic. The battalion fought alongside the Mexican Army as part of a rolling rearguard that worked to defend against as the US military advanced further into Mexico.
In the final days of the final battle, over 60 deserters were captured, and fifty of them were executed. The Mexican Army pleaded for mercy and leniency, but only a handful of the Irish deserters were actually pardoned.
But, of those who were pardoned, it wasn’t as easy as just walking away. The men had to receive 50 lashes on their backs while being tied to trees in the plaza at Churubusco, and their faces were branded with “D” for deserter. To this day, the Irish battalion is honored every year in festivals throughout Mexico and Ireland.