This is what basic training in the French Foreign Legion is like - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what basic training in the French Foreign Legion is like

If the idea of spending 12 weeks in boot camp is what keeps people from joining the Marine Corps, they should be thankful that it’s only that long. It could always be worse — like in the French Foreign Legion’s four month basic training.

The first four weeks are an introduction to military life. They train at the 4th Foreign Infantry Regiment near Castelnaudary, a country town in Southern France. They also call it “The Farm.”


At the end of this, recruits receive the iconic white Kepi hat that is synonymous with the Foreign Legion in a special ceremony. But basic is far from over. From there, they move on to field training for three weeks, both in and out of the barracks. New Legionnaires spend a week in mountain training as well, high in the French Pyrenees.

Next, the newly-minted Legionnaires will finish a final 75 mile march that must be completed within three days. From there, they take basic educational courses and learn to drive military vehicles. On top of the rigorous training schedule, the non-French speakers will also have to learn basic French every day during training.

As far as the physical demand, the Legion’s rigorous training schedule can take its toll on a recruit. One Quora user, Kjell Saari, who joined the Legion in 1993, said he lost 22 pounds at the Farm, even though he had just been in Afghanistan fighting the Soviets — and he wasn’t eating much there.

“I was at the farm during the late fall/ early winter you realize that hell did freeze over and you died and ended up in hell. I like everyone else got sick as hell well guess what too damn bad, get up and become what you signed up for,” he wrote.

Mentally it can be just as rigorous. Due to the international nature of the group, few of the recruits can communicate at first — and forget about communicating with the instructors. But a “slap in the head makes you remember 100% of the time.” Former Legionnaires say it is important to not give up on yourself and to remember why you came to the Legion in the first place.

The Legion does not get hung up on the things people argue about in the U.S. military. Their tattoo policy actually welcomes tattoos. The only forbidden tattoos are Nazi and other racist art, as well as anything “stupid on your face.”

They don’t care if you’re gay or straight, trans, or married. They don’t care about your race, education, or religion. They don’t even care if you speak French. Once you’re in and past basic training, you can expect that food, clothing, and shelter will be provided, along with a salary on par with American soldiers and 45 days of leave per year.

From there, Legionnaires are shipped off to join the 8,000-plus others deployed throughout France, Africa, Afghanistan, and the Balkans to finish their five-year contract.

The FFL has its own culture — not French culture, Legion culture, as Saari puts it.

“Being in the legion was like being bipolar for 5 years,” Saari says. “Wild highs and bottom of the sea lows. Oh you better like to drink and you better be man enough to get your ass up the next morning and do what’s expected of you no matter how hung over or still drunk you are.”

This is what basic training in the French Foreign Legion is like

MIGHTY HISTORY

How losing Vietnam was actually a victory for 5 other countries

On Jan. 27, 1973, President Richard Nixon signed the Paris Peace Accords, formally ending U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. On Apr. 30, 1975, the country of South Vietnam formally came to an end as North Vietnamese tanks rolled across bases and airfields and into the southern capital of Saigon.

While many look back and see the war as a waste of money, manpower, and materiel given the outcome, there are more than 475 million people who would disagree.


This is what basic training in the French Foreign Legion is like

The foundation of that figure of 475 million is the current population of Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines. It doesn’t mention the relatives of those populations who are no longer alive and didn’t live under the constant threat of global Communism because of the line in the sand drawn by American forces in Vietnam.

World War II-era Navy veteran, Georgetown University professor, and former member of the National Security Council under four presidential administrations, William Lloyd Stearman, wrote about the accomplishments of the United States in the Vietnam War in a recent Wall Street Journal opinion piece. In it, he argues that the Vietnam War was not only winnable, the North Vietnamese were constantly surprised that the Americans didn’t cut off the Ho Chi Minh Trail by invading Laos – a move the NVA thought was inevitable – and thus, win the war for the South.

This is what basic training in the French Foreign Legion is like

The U.S. didn’t want to widen the war, but if the NVA was already in Laos. It was already wider.

While the 96-year-old Stearman spends much of the article rehashing the causes for the outcome of the Vietnam War, the important aspects he adds to the discussion are what the United States and her allies actually achieved through their involvement there, rather than dwelling on what we lost. He argues that without the intervention of the U.S. in Vietnam, the West would have been forced into harder choices in more difficult areas as Communist insurgencies rocked other countries in the region. Quoting Singapore’s visionary leader Lee Kuan Yew, who wrote about this subject in his memoirs:

In 1965, when the U.S. military moved massively into South Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines faced internal threats from armed insurgencies and the communist underground was still active in Singapore. Indonesia [was] in the throes of a failed communist coup. America’s action enabled noncommunist Southeast Asia to put their own houses in order. By 1975, they were in better shape to stand up to the communists. Had there been no U.S. intervention, the will of these countries to resist them would have melted and Southeast Asia would most likely gone communist.”
This is what basic training in the French Foreign Legion is like

Lee Kuan Yew is famous for taking Singapore “from third world to first world” in a single generation.

The U.S. troop buildup in South Vietnam in 1965 spurred Britain to reinforce Malaysia. That same year, Indonesian forces were inspired by anti-Communist action and troop build-ups in the region and successfully fought off a Chinese-led Communist insurgency there. If the insurgency in Indonesia were successful, it would have spread to the Philippines and forced the U.S. to come to the Philippines to fight the Communists, rather than in North Vietnam.

That situation, Stearman argues, would have been far worse and far more costly than the fighting in Vietnam.

Articles

Israeli jet downs Hamas drone

An unmanned aerial vehicle being used by the terrorist group Hamas was shot down by an Israeli fighter today.


According to a report from ynetnews.com, the Israeli fighter shot down the drone as it was departing airspace over the Gaza Strip. Such actions are standard policy for the Israeli Defense Forces. A spokesman for the IDF told ynetnews.com that “the IDF will not allow any airspace violation and will act resolutely against any such attempt.”

This is what basic training in the French Foreign Legion is like
An Israeli F-15 I fighter jet launches anti-missile flares during an air show at the graduation ceremony of Israeli pilots at the Hatzerim air force base in the Negev desert, near the southern Israeli city of Beersheva, on December 27, 2012. (AFP photo by Jack Guez)

Six months ago, an IDF F-16 Fighting Falcon was scrambled to intercept a similar drone, and shot it down off the coast of Gaza.

The use of drones to deliver explosives has already been seen in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS. One attack on Oct. 2, 2016, killed two Kurdish troops and wounded French special operations personnel.

This is what basic training in the French Foreign Legion is like
A captured ISIS drone on the battlefield. (Photo from Iraq Ministry of Defense)

The halftime show of Super Bowl LI, in which pop superstar Lady Gaga used 300 drones for a light show, also has drawn attention from the deputy commander of United States Special Operations Command, according to a report by WeAreTheMighty.com from earlier this month. WATM’s report on those concerns also noted that ISIS was using small drones to drop hand grenades on Coalition forces.

Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since June 15, 2007, following over a week of violent fighting with Fatah. The charter of the terrorist group, known as the Hamas Covenant, calls for the absolute destruction of Israel.

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Navy destroyer fires missiles in self-defense

This is what basic training in the French Foreign Legion is like
The guided-missile destroyer USS Mason steams through the Atlantic Ocean. | U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Katrina Parker


A Navy ship that came under fire from two missiles launched from rebel-held land in Yemen while it transited through international waters Sunday responded in self-defense with three missiles, a Defense Department official confirmed to Military.com.

USNI news first reported that the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Mason launched a RIM-162 Evolved SeaSparrow Missile and two Standard Missile-2s from the waters of the Red Sea, north of the Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb where it was operating when it came under attack.

Also read: Here are 5 times US Navy ships returned to the fleet after severe damage

A defense official confirmed that the missiles had been launched and also confirmed the outlet’s report that the ship had used a Nulka missile decoy, designed to be launched to lure enemy missiles away from their targets.

The Raytheon-made SeaSparrow is designed to intercept supersonic anti-ship missiles, while the SM-2, also made by Raytheon, is the Navy’s primary surface-to-air weapon and a key element of shipboard defense for destroyers.

The Mason was responding to two ballistic missiles that originated around 7 p.m. Sunday from Yemeni territory held by Shiite Houthi rebels. The Mason was not hit by the missiles, and an official from U.S. Navy Forces Central Command said Monday it remained unclear if the ship had been specifically targeted.

Previously, a defense official told the Associated Press that the Mason had used onboard defensive measures to protect itself after the first of the two missiles was fired, but until now no one had publicly confirmed that the ship did indeed fire back.

This exchange comes only a week after the high-speed logistics vessel Swift, a United Arab Emirates-leased ship formerly in service for the Navy’s Military Sealift Command, was badly damaged by a missile while operating near the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait on Oct. 1. The Saudi-led coalition carrying out airstrikes on the rebels in Yemen said the Swift had been attacked by the Houthis.

UAE officials said the ship was transporting humanitarian aid when it was hit.

Today, the Mason remains in the general area that the exchange took place and is continuing a routine patrol, a defense official told Military.com.

“The U.S. is trying to look at what kind of a response would be appropriate in this situation,” the official said. “There’s no sort of a timeline for when a response will come.”

Articles

A Navy SEAL is now governor of Missouri

Eric Greitens — a Navy SEAL; Rhodes scholar; White House Fellow; founder of the veterans organization The Mission Continues;  author; and one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People —  was elected governor of Missouri Nov. 8.


This is what basic training in the French Foreign Legion is like
(Facebook photo)

It was an uphill battle, according to Kaj Larsen, a fellow SEAL and friend of WATM who helped campaign for Greitens. The outgoing governor, Jay Nixon, was ineligible to run for re-election due to the state’s term limits, but Greitens nevertheless faced a tough challenger in current Missouri Attorney Gen. Chris Koster.

“We started with nothing against our opponent’s $11 million,” Larsen wrote on Facebook as Greitens claimed victory in the state. “But when your buddy is in a gunfight, you show up with ammunition to help. For three months straight we outworked our opponent.”

This is what basic training in the French Foreign Legion is like
Kaj Larsen introduces Eric Greitens for his victory speech at a hotel in the Chesterfield suburb of  St. Louis. (Facebook photo)

Greitens is a Republican who ran against what he saw as corrupt establishment politics; called for banning gifts from lobbyists; advocated instituting term limits for every elected office in Missouri; wants to cut government spending; supports the Second Amendment, and called for more backing of local firefighters and law enforcement officers in the state.

Also read: 10 tips on raising resilient kids from an Al Qaeda-fighting Rhodes Scholar

At 42, Greitens is the youngest governor in the United States. This is his first attempt at public office. Republicans have only won the Missouri Governor’s seat once since 1992.

According to his book, “The Heart and the Fist,” Greitens went to Naval Officer Candidate School in January 2001, then went to BUD/S — the basic training course for Navy SEAL candidates — in February 2002.

He deployed four times in support of the Global War on Terror, including tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Horn of Africa. He then joined the Naval Reserve in 2005. His service was attacked during the campaign, but his staff released 225 pages of his military records before the election, according to the St. Louis Dispatch.

His awards include the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart, among many Achievement and Commendation Medals.

This is what basic training in the French Foreign Legion is like
Eric Greitens as a SEAL in Iraq.

“We’re going to take on the special interests and clean up Jefferson City,” Greitens said in his victory speech as recorded by the Kansas City Star. “Our mission in this campaign was to build a stronger and better Missouri we can take in a new direction.”

Not everyone is thrilled with Greitens’ victory. The most controversial issue surrounding his campaign is his support of making Missouri a “Right-to-Work” state, sapping power from local labor unions.

“It was one of the high honors of my life to introduce my friend and swim buddy last night as he took the stage to give his victory speech,” Larsen wrote on Facebook.
Winning the governorship is a big deal, but as the BUD/S motto goes: The only easy day was yesterday.
MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch Russia kick off this year’s massive ‘Zapad 2017’ wargame

Russia and neighboring Belarus have begun a joint military exercise near NATO’s eastern flank that has fanned already deep tensions between Moscow and the West.


Moscow and Minsk say the Zapad (meaning, “West”) 2017 exercise, scheduled from Sept. 14 to 20 in Belarus and parts of western Russia, is officially set to involve 12,700 troops.

But Western officials have said the maneuvers could include some 100,000 personnel in what they call a Russian show of power amid the ongoing standoff with the West over Russian aggression in Ukraine.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite was among those who voiced alarm about Zapad 2017, saying the military exercises are a sign that Russia is preparing for a serious conflict with NATO.

This is what basic training in the French Foreign Legion is like
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

“We are anxious about this drill…It is an open preparation for war with the West,” she told reporters.

“This is designed to provoke us, it’s designed to test our defenses, and that’s why we have to be strong,” British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon told the BBC on Sept. 10.

Russia, meanwhile, has pushed back against what it portrays as Western alarmism over the drills, the first to be held in close proximity to NATO member states since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.

Moscow insists that the size of the exercise will not cross the 13,000-troop threshold that, under Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe rules known as the Vienna Document, would require it to notify other countries and open the maneuvers to observers.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused the West on Sept. 14 of “whipping up hysteria” over its military exercises.

This is what basic training in the French Foreign Legion is like
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

“We reject complaints of these exercises not being transparent,” Peskov told a conference call with reporters. “We believe that whipping up hysteria around these exercises is a provocation.”

Colonel General Andrei Kartapolov, commander of Russia’s Western Military District, said in an interview published by the Russian military’s official Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper on Sept. 13 that the number of troops and hardware used in the drills “will fully comply with the Vienna Document.”

The Zapad exercise is held every four years in rotation with drills in other parts of Russia.

Western governments have responded to Russia’s 2014 seizure of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and backing of separatists in eastern Ukraine with several waves of economic and other sanctions targeting Moscow.

NATO has also bolstered its presence in its easternmost member states that were dominated by Moscow during the Cold War and remain concerned about the Kremlin’s intentions in the region.

This is what basic training in the French Foreign Legion is like
USMC Photo by Cpl. Janessa K. Pon.

Belarus, where part of the Zapad 2017 exercise is being held, borders Ukraine as well as NATO members Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia. The drills are also being staged in Russia’s western exclave of Kaliningrad, which lies between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in Estonia last week that the military alliance would send three observers.

“But these invitations fall short from the transparency required by the OSCE: briefings on the exercise scenario and progress, opportunities to talk to individual soldiers, and overflights of the exercise,” Stoltenberg told reporters on Sept. 6 during his visit to a NATO contingent in Tapa, Estonia.

“We will monitor the [Zapad 2017] activity closely, and we are vigilant but also calm, because we don’t see any imminent threat against any NATO ally,” Stoltenberg added.

This is what basic training in the French Foreign Legion is like
Zapad 13 military exercise. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

In an interview with Reuters in Berlin, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s foreign policy adviser Kostiantyn Yeliseyev said on Sept. 14 that Zapad 2017 is “very dangerous since they are taking place just near the border with Ukraine.”

Yeliseyev added that the exercises’ purpose is to “destabilize the military situation close to the border with NATO member states” and to “keep as long as possible Russian military troops and weaponry near the [Ukrainian] border and then to use them as a platform for a possible future offensive operation.”

Russia, which has repeatedly accused NATO of stoking regional tensions through enlargement after the fall of the Iron Curtain and deployments in Eastern Europe in the aftermath of the Ukraine crisis, has called Western concerns about the Zapad drills baseless, saying the exercise is “purely defensive.”

This is what basic training in the French Foreign Legion is like
Zapad ’13. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

Kartapolov told Krasnaya Zvezda that in addition to the stated 12,700 troops — around 7,200 from Russia and 5,500 from Belarus — Zapad 2017 included about 70 aircraft and up to 680 pieces of military hardware, including tanks, artillery units, and ships,

During the drills, the joint Russian-Belarus operations are targeting a theoretical adversary attempting to undermine the government in Minsk and establish a separatist stronghold in western Belarus.

This scenario echoes Russian concerns over what Moscow calls Western-orchestrated political revolutions in its backyard, most notably in Georgia in 2003 and in Ukraine, where President Viktor Yanukovych, a Kremlin ally, was ousted in early 2014.

The United States and the European Union have repeatedly rejected such allegations, calling those events the result of grassroots anger against corrupt regimes in the former Soviet republics.

Watch Russia kick off the Zapad ’17 exercises in video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykpAmVdl4xk
(Esteban Luna | YouTube)
popular

4 tips for surviving a nasty snake bite

Swelling, redness around the wound, and nausea are just a few of the symptoms of getting bit by a freakin’ snake. There are two types of venom that affect humans in different, deadly ways.

The first is called hemotoxic venom, which is common among vipers. This type of toxin is incredibly painful and destroys human tissue quickly. The second type is called neurotoxic venom, which is found in both cobras and coral snakes. This agent paralyzes muscles and slows down breathing rates.

There are a lot of dumb urban myths out there about how to treat a snake bite, like sucking out the poison or applying a tourniquet to the affected limb. If you want to make a full recovery, take some tips from the experts.


Don’t freak out

We know getting bit by a snake can be quite traumatizing, but the challenge is to not allow your heart rate to increase. The faster your heart beats, the quicker the potentially dangerous venom can spread throughout your body. So keep as calm as possible.

This also means you don’t want to rush to get as the hyperactivity will only elevate your heart rate.

Wash the area with soap and water

Washing the area right afterward will help kill off the majority of the bacteria and other organisms that were in the snake’s mouth before the bite occurred. Let’s face it, snakes don’t go to the dentist too often.

However, don’t submerge the wound in water or apply ice. Hand washing will cleanse the wound enough, and ice won’t tissue swelling caused by the venom.

This is what basic training in the French Foreign Legion is like

The mighty King Cobra snake.

(Photo by Dr. Anand Titus and Geeta N Pereira)

Take a photo of the snake

Don’t ever try catching the snake for identification purposes. Since we live in the modern world where technology is basically everywhere, pull out your camera phone and snap a photo. This will help the medical professionals understand what type of anti-venom you’ll need if that situation takes a negative turn.

Many snakes run-ins are harmless as most species aren’t venomous, but have anticoagulant properties within the snake’s saliva which can cause further bleeding.

Seek medical attention

Although seeking medical quickly is vital, we don’t run to find the help you need that will just increase your heart rate. However, some bite victims have wanted days before getting the care they needed and suffer nasty tissue damage as a result.

Check out Tech Insider‘s video below to find out what to do after suffering a snake bite.

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This big ol’ plane is getting a big ol’ stand-down order

Air Mobility Command has grounded the C-5 Galaxy cargo planes operating at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware after a nose landing-gear unit malfunctioned for the second time in 60 days.


The stand-down order, issued July 17, affects all 18 C-5s stationed at Dover — 12 of them are primary and six are backup aircraft, according to a release.

The Air Force has 56 C-5s in service.

“Aircrew safety is always my top priority and is taken very seriously,” Air Mobility Command’s chief, Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II, said in a release. “We are taking the appropriate measures to properly diagnose the issue and implement a solution.”

This is what basic training in the French Foreign Legion is like
USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Baker

An Air Mobility Command spokesman told Military.com that both malfunctions involved C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft. On May 22 and again July 15, the planes’ “nose landing gear could not extend all the way,” the spokesman said. The C-5M was introduced in 2009 and is the latest model of the C-5.

Air Force personnel will perform inspections “to ensure proper extension and retraction of the C-5 nose landing gear,” Air Mobility Command said. The halt applies only to C-5s at Dover, and Air Mobility Command said it would work to minimize the effect on worldwide operations.

Also read: Behold, the largest plane in the US Air Force

The C-5 is the Air Force’s largest airlifter. It has a 65-foot-tall tail and is 247 feet long with a 223-foot wingspan. The first version, the C-5A, entered service in 1970, and several models have joined the fleet since then.

The C-5M was given more powerful engines, allowing it to carry more cargo and take off over a shorter distance. It can haul 120,000 pounds of cargo more than 5,500 miles — the distance from Dover to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey — without refueling. Without cargo, its range is more than 8,000 miles.

This is what basic training in the French Foreign Legion is like
USAF Airmen load an M1A1 Abrams Tank into an Air Force C-5M Super Galaxy cargo aircraft. (USAF photo by Roland Balik)

In recent years, budgets cuts and sequestration compelled Air Force leadership to begin taking C-5Ms out of service.

Everhart, the Air Mobility Command chief, said in March that total C-5 inventory had fallen to 56 from 112 a few years ago.

But the Air Force has made moves to reverse that deactivation, saying it plans to move at least eight mothballed C-5Ms back into service, using newly allocated funds, over the next four years.

That return to service would partially overlap with an upgrade project for the active fleet of airlifters that is slated to wrap up in 2018.

“I need them back because there’s real-world things that we’ve got to move, and they give me that … added assurance capability,” Everhart told lawmakers at the end of March.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. rejects ‘appalling’ claims of Bosnian election-meddling

The U.S. Embassy in Bosnia-Herzegovina has rejected “appalling accusations” that Washington has sought to interfere in the country’s October 2018 elections, and blasted “irresponsible actors” who are dragging the United States into “conspiracy theories, unfounded accusations, and lies.”

In a statement posted on its website on Sept. 27, 2018, the embassy says the United States does not back any candidate or party, and refuses to be part of a preelection “manipulation.”

During campaigns ahead of the national elections set for Oct. 7, 2018, the public discourse has been “entirely dominated by fear-based rhetoric” that has created a “very poisonous atmosphere,” the statement says.


It criticizes “self-centered politicians” who try to turn the United States and other countries into “adversaries,” instead of addressing the country’s “real enemies” — corruption, unemployment, and poor public services.

The statement did not name any politician or political party, but Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik has accused the United States and Britain of supporting his opponents and seeking to influence the outcome of the upcoming elections.

Dodik, who is running for the Serbs’ seat in Bosnia’s tripartite presidency in the elections, said on Sept. 27, 2018, that Washington and London have secured millions of euros to finance various opposition groups in the country’s predominantly Serbian entity, Republika Srpska.

This is what basic training in the French Foreign Legion is like

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

The pro-Russian president of Republika Srpska in August 2018 accused the United States of using its development agency to interfere in Bosnia’s internal affairs and election process, a charge dismissed by Washington.

Western leaders have also accused Moscow of interfering in the internal affairs of Bosnia and other former Yugoslav republics.

During a visit to Banja Luka, the administrative center of Republika Srpska, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Sept. 21, 2018, that Moscow respected Bosnia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and was not interfering in the country’s elections.

Bosnia is split into two entities: the ethnic Serb-dominated Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation of Bosniaks and Croats. The two entities are linked by joint state-level institutions, including a tripartite presidency.

Featured image: Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is what makes joint terminal attack controllers so deadly

Air Force joint terminal attack controllers, JTACS for short, are airmen who go forward with special operators, infantry, and other maneuver forces to call down the wrath of god on anyone with the cajones to engage American troops while they’re around.

Here’s what they do and what makes them so lethal:


This is what basic training in the French Foreign Legion is like

A Joint Terminal Attack Controller from the 116th Air Support Operations Squadron, 194th Wing, Washington Air National Guard, observes a U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning during close air support training at the Utah Test and Training Range, April 11, 2018.

(U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Jason Kriess)

JTACs are an outgrowth of the “forward air controllers” who tipped battles in World War II through Vietnam. Their job is to keep track of all aircraft available in the area they’re sent into while supporting any maneuver force to which they’re attached. If that maneuver force comes into contact with the enemy, intentionally or otherwise, the JTAC gets to work.

They can fire their personal weapons quickly and accurately if needed, but their priority is fixing the locations of all friendly forces, enemy elements, and civilians on the battlefield. Once the tactical air control party, or TACP, has a map of where he can’t shoot and where he should, he starts calling in help from planes, helicopters, and drones flying overhead.

This is what basic training in the French Foreign Legion is like

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Clayton Eckstrom, Train, Advise, and Assist Command-Air Joint Tactical Air Controller advisor, observes the target accuracy of an Afghan Air Force training strike on Forward Operating Base Hunter, Afghanistan, June 18, 2018.

(Operation Resolute Support)

With the powers of all U.S. air assets at their command, JTACs can do a lot of damage. One of the most common weapons dropped in Iraq and Afghanistan is the JDAM, an older, dumb bomb upgraded with a kit that allows it to be guided to a target. JDAMs can be a 500, 1,000, or 2,000-pound bomb.

But JTACs can also call for bunker busters against hardened targets or strafing runs against personnel and light vehicles. If they think the best way to end the threat to friendlies under their umbrella is to call for attack helicopters to lay down a cloud of rockets, then all they have to do is set it up and tell the pilot that they’re “cleared hot.”

But the Air Force puts a priority on training their JTACs to not only call in fires from the air to the surface, but also “surface-to-surface” fires, employing artillery, like howitzers and rockets. In other words, JTACs are expected to be able to call in Army, Marine Corps, and naval artillery with just as much lethality as they call down fires from the air.

This is what basic training in the French Foreign Legion is like

A joint terminal attack controller from the 18th Air Support Operations Group checks an M4 Carbine during an exercise aimed at pushing JTACs to their limit, Aug. 3, 2018, at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.

(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Janiqua P. Robinson)

So, for those keeping score at home, TACPs can kill you with nearly any artillery that rolls on the ground as well as any bombs and bullets that can be fired from the sky. And they can also kill you with AC-130s, which are planes that fire artillery from the sky.

But, of course, these are also special operations airmen, so even if all of those weapons aren’t available, they’re also well-trained in shooting you in the face.

All of this can quickly become more complicated than it might sound, because the JTAC has to organize all of this chaos, making sure that he never requests artillery that will cross the line of flight of the helicopters and aircraft in the area, since that would end with the aircraft being shot down by friendlies.

This is what basic training in the French Foreign Legion is like

A Slovenian Armed Forces joint terminal attack controller moves through a building during training in Slovenia June 4, 2018.

(U.S. Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Michelle Y. Alvarez-Rea)

But the JTAC community has proven itself equal to the tasks, and often surpassed the call of duty while supporting their friends on the front lines.

For instance, Master Sgt. Thomas Case is the recipient of two Silver Stars, both awarded for actions taken as a JTAC-certified member of the TACP. The first award came for directing hundreds of strikes over a three-day battle in 2003, and the second award came for exposing himself to enemy fire while directing danger-close support from an AC-130.

And Tech Sgt. Robert Gutierrez received the Air Force Cross for directing air strikes in 2009 that saved his entire team, despite the fact that he was severely wounded with a “softball-sized” hole in his back that he didn’t expect to survive. At the time, Guteirrez was just shy of full JTAC certification, and had to get another operator to give the final OK for the mission. But it was his math and decision making, calculated while under fire and medical treatment, that saved the day.

Meanwhile, when British Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, went to war in Afghanistan, he went as a JTAC. And even he ended up deep in the fight, once manning a .50-cal. machine gun to fend off an insurgent attack alongside a bunch of British Gurkhas.

As a matter of fact, the Air Force’s JTACs have been so successful that the Marine Corps has actually adopted the term for referring to some of their forward air controllers, and has launched new efforts to recruit the best Marines into the job.

So yeah, don’t mess with the JTACs. Or do. We’re not your parents, and we’re not here to tell you how to lose your life.

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Here’s why the US is sending 100 more Marines to Afghanistan

A small number of additional Marines is headed to Helmand province, Afghanistan, temporarily in a move designed to “reinforce advisory activities,” military officials confirmed August 8.


The move was first reported by NBC News August 7, which cited defense sources saying dozens of Marines — fewer than 100 — would be added to Task Force Southwest, a 300-man advisory unit that works with local Afghan National Army and defense forces.

The unit deployed in April, representing the first time Marines have been in the Taliban stronghold of Helmand province since they pulled out and ceded headquarters buildings and infrastructure to the Afghans in 2014.

This is what basic training in the French Foreign Legion is like
Afghan National Army Sgt. Rhaman, a machine gunner with 2nd Kandak, 1st Brigade, 215th Corps, fires his weapon under the watch of US Marine Sgt. Joshua Watson. Photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder.

Prior to the Marines’ arrival this year, a US Army advisory element, Task Force Forge, had been deployed to Helmand.

A spokesman for US Central Command, Army Maj. Josh Jacques, said the move is not related to any Defense Department change in policy or strategy in Afghanistan.

“The reallocation of Marine forces in support of the Resolute Support Mission is a routine, theater-coordinated activity,” he said. “These Marines are already in the US Central Command area of responsibility and will be in Afghanistan temporarily to give Resolute Support the ability to reinforce advisory activities.”

Most Marines in CentCom, which covers all of the Middle East, fall under Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Central Command, which has troops stationed at the Al Asad and Al Taqaddum air bases in Iraq and dispersed to other strategic positions in the region.

This is what basic training in the French Foreign Legion is like
Photo by Sgt. Matthew Moeller

But in the recent past, Marines have also been dispatched from shipboard Marine Expeditionary Units deployed to the region to hot spots in the Middle East. Last year, troops from the 26th MEU were sent to Iraq to establish an artillery firebase and support the assault on the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul.

And earlier this year, an artillery element from the 11th MEU was dispatched to Syria to stand up a mobile fires position in support of the coalition fight to flush ISIS out of Raqqa.

The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, is currently deployed to the Middle East.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Philippines draw red line in already tense South China Sea

Amid a simmering trade war, the US and Chinese militaries have exchanged tit-for-tat measures with each other in and above the South China Sea.

In early October 2018, a US Navy destroyer sailed close to Chinese-occupied territory in the area, a freedom-of-navigation exercise meant in part to contest Beijing’s expansive claims.

During that exercise, a Chinese destroyer approached the US ship — reportedly as close as 45 feet — in what Navy officials called an “unsafe and unprofessional maneuver.”


“The tension is escalating, and that could prove to be dangerous to both sides,” a senior US official told Reuters on Sept. 30, 2018, after China canceled a meeting between its officials and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis — the second senior-level meeting called off in a week.

The encounter between the US and Chinese ships took place near the Spratly Islands, at the southern end of the South China Sea. Farther north, at Scarborough Shoal, the US, the Philippines, and China have already butted heads, and their long-standing dispute there could quickly escalate.

The Philippines took over Scarborough after its independence in 1946. But in 2012, after a stand-off with the Philippines, China took de facto control of the shoal, blocking Filipino fishermen from entering.

This is what basic training in the French Foreign Legion is like

Map showing territory claimed by the Philippines, including internal waters, territorial sea, international treaty limits, and exclusive economic zone.

Chinese control of Scarborough — about 130 miles west of the Philippine island of Luzon and about 400 miles from China’s Hainan Island — is an ongoing concern for the Philippines and the US.

Given the shoal’s proximity to the Luzon, if “China puts air-defense missiles and surface-to-surface missiles there, like they have at other South China Sea islands, they could reach the Philippines,” Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said in late August 2018.

That would be “the most direct sort of pushback on the Philippines’ attempt to assert control over Scarborough Shoal,” said Clark, a former US Navy officer.

Beyond a challenge to Manila, a military presence on Scarborough could give China more leverage throughout the South China Sea.

Scarborough would be one point in a triangle edged by the Spratlys and the Paracel Islands, both of which already house Chinese military outposts.

While China can use shore-based assets in the air-defense identification zone it declared over the East China Sea in 2013, the eastern fringe of the South China Sea is out of range for that, Clark said.

“So their thought is, the Chinese would really like to develop Scarborough Shoal and put a radar on it so they can start enforcing an ADIZ, and that would allow them to kind of complete their argument that they have control and oversight over the South China Sea,” Clark said.

Given Scarborough’s proximity to bases in the Philippines and the country’s capital, Manila, as well as to Taiwan, a presence there would extend China’s intelligence-gathering ability and maritime-domain awareness, said Greg Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“But above and beyond the military implications … China has a political interest in establishing control over all the waters and airspace within the nine-dash line, in both peace and war,” Poling said in an email, referring to the boundary of China’s expansive claim in the South China Sea.

‘What is our red line?’

After 2012, Manila took its case to the Permanent Court for Arbitration at The Hague, which ruled in favor of the Philippines in July 2016, rejecting China’s claims and finding that Beijing had interfered with Philippine rights in its exclusive economic zone, including at Scarborough. (EEZs can extend 230 miles from a country’s coast.)

Ahead of that ruling, the US detected signs China was getting ready to reclaim land at the shoal, and then-President Barack Obama reportedly warned Chinese President Xi Jinping of serious consequences for doing so, which was followed by China withdrawing its ships from the area.

This is what basic training in the French Foreign Legion is like

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden talk with Vice President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China and members of the Chinese delegation following their bilateral meeting in the Oval Office, Feb. 14, 2012.

(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

That warning was followed by increased Pentagon activity in the region, including flying A-10 Thunderbolts, which are ground-attack aircraft, near Scarborough a month later.

Tensions between China and Philippines eased after the ruling was issued, however, as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who took office in July 2016, pursued rapprochement.

The Philippines said in February 2017 that it expected China to try to build on the reef, which Manila called “unacceptable.” The following month, Chinese authorities removed comments by an official about building on Scarborough from state-backed media, raising questions about Beijing’s plans.

More recently, the Philippines warned China of its limits at Scarborough.

“What is our red line? Our red line is that they cannot build on Scarborough [Shoal],” Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said in May 2018.

Cayetano said the other two red lines were Chinese action against Philippine troops stationed at Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratlys and the unilateral exploration of natural resources in the area. He said China had been made aware of the Philippine position and that Beijing had its own “red line” for the area.

In July 2018, the acting chief justice of the Philippine supreme court, Antonio Carpio, said Manila should ask the US make Scarborough an “official red line,” requesting its recognition as Philippine territory under the US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty, which obligates each to come to the aid of the other in case of attack.

“Duterte himself has reportedly said that Chinese construction of a permanent facility at Scarborough would be a red line for the Philippines,” Poling said.

The Philippines’ “one real option” to try to prevent Chinese construction on Scarborough would be to invoke that defense treaty, Poling said.

This is what basic training in the French Foreign Legion is like

President Rodrigo Duterte and President Xi Jinping shake hands prior to their bilateral meetings at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, October 2016.

It’s not clear if the treaty applies to the shoal, Poling added, “but the treaty definitely does apply to an attack on Filipino armed forces or ships anywhere in the Pacific.”

“So Manila would probably need to send Navy or Coast Guard ships to interfere with any work China attempted at Scarborough … and then call for US intervention should China use force.”

That could cause China to back off, as Obama’s warning in 2016 did, Poling said.

While China has pulled back from previous attempts to build on the shoal, “they’ve got ships floating around the area just waiting for the chance,” Clark said in late August 2018. “So I wouldn’t be surprised if China tries to restart that project in the next year to … gauge what the US reaction is and see if they can get away with it.”

That would almost certainly force the hand of the US and the Philippines.

“If China’s able to start building an island there and put systems on it, and the Philippines doesn’t resist … all bets are off,” Clark said. “China feels emboldened to say the South China Sea is essentially a Chinese area.”

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

Humor

7 of the top superpowers every Airman possesses

Look! It’s a bird! It’s a plane!


No, it’s just your local veteran Airman. Undoubtedly, this Airman can pull off some amazing feats, like going days and days without sleep, surviving endless attempts at Enlisted Performance Report sabotage, and pulling a reflective belt out of seemingly nowhere.

It’s true, every Airman leaves service with a certain set of special abilities. Below are 7 of the top superpowers that every Airman possesses.

Related: 7 of the top surprises veterans face going to school

7. Sleep? What is that?

Careers across all the branches require us to stretch our body’s limitations. Depending on the circumstance and specific requirements, different aspects of our selves are tested. One of the most common sacrifices, though, is sleep. Airmen quickly learn to operate on minimal sleep.

8 hours per night? Right.

In some cases, you’ll be lucky to get 4.

This is what basic training in the French Foreign Legion is like
12 hour shift, followed by PT… then an appointment… and another… then another 12 hour shift. (Image from How Stuff Works)

6. Turbo dieting

Physical fitness is definitely a part of military culture. In this regard, the Air Force is a bit later to the party than some of our older, more steeled brethren.

On any given morning on the posts of our older brothers, you’ll likely find a squad or two doing some type of PT. This is true on Air Force bases, too. Well, kinda.

You’re just as likely to see a squadron doing regular PT as you are to see a cardio room full of crash-dieting Airmen trying to prepare for their Air Force Physical Training test… which is next week.

This is what basic training in the French Foreign Legion is like
Fat boy, fat boy, where you been? (Image from Warner Bros.’ Full Metal Jacket).

5. Built Ford tough

We are good and strong, for the most part. At least for a while.

This is what basic training in the French Foreign Legion is like
Right? Right. (Image from New Line Cinema’s Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery)

4. “Grin and bear it” champions

There is a common misconception that Airmen are akin to teenagers: quick to talk back and rebel. There are kernels of truth in this, as there are in most myths.

In today’s Air Force, it is much easier to have your career cut off by a simple mistake. It really is a one-mistake Air Force.

You are constantly on edge, so if you value your time in uniform and want it to continue, you might have to eat a bit of humble pie.

Well, actually, a lot of humble pie.

Like, the whole pie.

This is what basic training in the French Foreign Legion is like
Wanna stick around? Eat up, Airman!

3. Acronym deciphering specialty

The U.S. Air Force, like the rest of the military, has fallen in unabashed love with acronyms.

Living in this environment turns your mind into an acronym making and breaking beast.

It is totally possible to get an email with the title, “USAF USN TRNG CQB SF Amn in AETC.”

This is what basic training in the French Foreign Legion is like
Actual footage of higher up thinking up more acronyms. (Image from Warner Bros. Pictures’ Hangover Part III)

2. Adaptability

The only constant is change.

Every Airmen, Marine, Sailor, and Soldier know this. It is embedded into us, if not through instruction, then certainly through the swift and immediate changes of course we experience without much notice.

It really is sink or swim. Adapt or die.

This is what basic training in the French Foreign Legion is like
Pff! Who’s afraid of a little change? (Image from Bold Films’ Nightcrawler)

Also related: 5 of the top excuses MPs hear during traffic stops

1. Selflessness

One of the USAF core values is “service before self.” That mentality will stay with you if it ever got through to you. Airmen will always put others and the big picture before self.

This is sometimes a detriment, but it’s a wonderful ability nonetheless.

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