Lieutenant General Ding Laihang said that as China becomes stronger and security challenges continue to emerge, the military is striving to ensure it can safeguard national interests anywhere in the world.
“In the past, our strategies and guidelines focused on territorial air defense. Now we have been shifting our attention to honing our ability in terms of long-range strategic projection and long-range strike,” he told China National Radio for an article published on Sept. 3.
Lieutenant General Ding Laihang. Photo from South China Morning Post.
“A strategic force must go out,” he said. “We will continue to carry out long-distance training over oceans.”
Ding’s predecessor, General Ma Xiaotian, who stepped down in late August, had earlier said the Air Force “cannot simply guard on land and not fly out” in response to questions on Japan’s concerns about the People’s Liberation Army’s “increasing activities” over the Sea of Japan.
Ma said it is normal for the PLA Air Force to conduct training exercises over the sea, adding that “the Sea of Japan is not Japan’s sea”.
Not long after Ma’s comments, six Chinese H-6K bombers flew through the Miyako Strait between the islands of Okinawa and Miyako in the East China Sea and approached the Kii Peninsula. This was the first time the PLA Air Force had flown that route, Japanese media reported.
In the Sept. 3 article, Ding pledged that the Air Force will intensify its realistic aerial combat drills and continue to carry out exercises with foreign militaries.
Wang Yanan, editor of Aerospace Knowledge magazine, said the Air Force will have two priorities as it moves toward becoming a capable strategic force.
“First, as a lot of new aircraft have been delivered, it must figure out how to make these new planes combat-ready as soon as possible and how to maintain them, as they are different from the old types,” he said.
“For instance, the Air Force now has Y-20 heavy-lift transport jets, but it needs to design methods and gain experience when it comes to airdropping armored vehicles,” he said. “Owning advanced weapons doesn’t equate to being able to use them well.”
The second priority is that the Air Force must improve its capabilities in coordinating different types of aircraft and air defense missiles in an operation, and also nurture joint operation capabilities with other services, like the PLA Navy and Rocket Force, Wang added.
Citing the new-generation strategic bomber that is under development, Wang suggested the Air Force start studying the plane’s usage in future warfare and work closely with designers to make sure the engine and flight-control system are good and reliable.
On August 9, 2014, Staff Sergeant Brandon Dodson lost both his legs to an improvised explosive device blast in Shah Pusta, Afghanistan. He was on his fifth deployment.
About 19 months later, in mid-March 2016, Brandon completed a Team Semper Fi surf camp. It was his fifth time surfing since his injury.
“What’s really interesting about surfing,” says Brandon, who was born and raised in California and surfed all his life, “is it’s the only thing in my life that’s easier since I’ve been injured. Sitting versus having to stand up, I actually surf better now than I did before.”
“The part that’s really difficult is getting from the car to down by the water and paddling out through the breakers,” Brandon continued. “I’m either in big prosthetic legs, or short house legs or a wheelchair — none of which work well in sand. Once I’m in the water, though, I’m totally independent.”
Brandon’s journey to the waters off San Clemente, California by way of Afghanistan has been a truly remarkable one.
Born at Naval Air Station Lemoore in central California (his father was a Marine), Brandon enlisted in July 2003 and was deployed to Iraq a year later. He served as part of a Marine Expeditionary Unit on a ship off the coasts of southeast Asia in 2006, and deployed to Iraq a second time in 2007.
After returning home and serving as a drill instructor in San Diego, Brandon was deployed to Afghanistan in 2012 and again in 2014. He uses the word “surreal” to describe that most recent deployment.
“We were living in nice built-up barracks with anywhere from 3-man rooms to 12-man rooms,” he explained. “We had Wi-Fi, we had a gym, we had a nice chow hall, we had laundry, we had salsa nights, movie nights — we had all the amenities. We’d go from that to doing patrols outside the wire for five days and killing bad guys.”
When Brandon stepped on the pressure plate connected to five pounds of homemade explosives, he was on day one of a three-day operation—the last patrol of his deployment. He was MEDEVAC’d to Camp Bastion, where he remained in a coma for two days.
“I was told I needed 19 liters of blood transfused into me,” he recalls. “I bled out roughly four times the amount of blood in a human body. Then they flew me to Landstuhl; that’s where I woke up. I was there for 3 days, in and out of surgery. I landed in Bethesda August 14, and I’ve been here ever since.”
Brandon’s wife, Jasmine, first learned about the Semper Fi Fund during his initial recovery in Bethesda and Brandon got to know the Fund’s representatives as his recovery progressed.
“When you’re inpatient at Walter Reed, you’re approached by about 1,000 nonprofits that want to see you,” he explains. “The Semper Fi Fund stood out because they had actual people that came around that were damn near employees at the hospital, they’re there all the time. They were so nice, they had so much good advice, and they were able to talk to my wife and family and were able to comfort them in so many ways.”
The support provided to Brandon and Jasmine and their family included helping Brandon’s mother and two brothers with their wages so they could step away from their jobs and be with him during his initial recovery period.
“They helped us to go on a family vacation for my one-year Alive Day,” Brandon added, “and they provided me with the ability to participate in multiple different events — not just surf camp, I did a water skiing camp, another surf camp in Virginia Beach, and I handcycled the Marine Corps Marathon in 2015 with Team Semper Fi.”
“A lot of guys that are injured like me, traumatically injured, some don’t take advantage of opportunities like this,” Brandon says. “They’ll sit and not go on trips and they don’t want to go out in public and not try anything new, and I think that’s the wrong way to go about it. My wife and I, we’ve taken every trip and opportunity—stuff I’ve done before, like surfing, and stuff I haven’t done.”
“The Semper Fi Fund, they’re the best nonprofit for wounded warriors out there, and they help in any capacity. Not just handing out money, even though that’s part of it, but if you need a special adaptive piece of equipment or car modifications, plus they run all these adaptive sports programs—surfing, skiing, all kinds of athletic sports. Anything you can think of, they offer a camp for it. As a Marine, I would say that the Semper Fi Fund is the number-one nonprofit, they’re amazing.”
Looking back over his experiences of the last dozen years or so, Brandon says that he doesn’t get worked up over small things anymore (“like dumb stuff I see on Facebook”)—and has reached an interesting family-oriented perspective on his injury.
“There’s nobody really handicapped in my life, nobody’s in a wheelchair,” he says. “My wife and I, we both had really healthy families growing up, so I was never really exposed to handicapped people at a personal level. It’s not like I was judging them in any way, I don’t think, I was just unaware.”
“Now, what really makes me happy is that my son was only 18 months old when I was injured, so the way he’s growing up, this stuff is not gonna faze him at all. That’ll make him a better person, which makes me happy.”
We Are The Mighty is teaming up with Semper Fi Fund and comedian Rob Riggle to present the Rob Riggle InVETational Golf Classic. The veteran-celebrity golf tournament will raise money and awareness for Semper Fi Fund, one of our nation’s most respected veteran nonprofit organizations, in support of wounded, critically ill and injured service members and their families. Learn more at InVETational.com.
Maciejewski is also a 1st Lt in the Army Reserves and serves as the Executive Officer of the 303rd Military Police Company, Jackson, MI. We Are The Mighty interviewed Maciejewski following his heroic actions.
WATM: How did you feel when you arrived on the scene?
Maciejewski: I’m human just like everyone else. I have those same human emotions and feelings that everyone else has, yet, I need to set that aside. Even though I’m nervous responding to these types of calls, I can’t let the family see that. They need to have the trust in me that I’m going to make things better, that I am a professional, and I will fix the problem. If I respond in a frantic, excited manner, that creates even more chaos on the scene. Maintaining a steady calm nerve was paramount to everyone’s safety.
WATM: What was your thought process at the scene?
Maciejewski: I have many different thoughts running through my head just trying to respond to the scene, for example, what is the fastest route to the call, listening for dispatch information over the radio, operating my patrol car safely with emergency lights activated, reading dispatch notes on my computer, how am I going to handle the call when I arrive, basically creating a game plan of priorities of work in my head, are just some things I am running through my head going to high intensity calls like these.
Once on scene, however, as I saw the family rushing to my vehicle, training immediately kicked in. I recognized the baby not breathing and went through steps to clear that airway as fast as possible. In the video you can see the family all frantic, moving around me, mom grabbing my arms, however, I can’t acknowledge that commotion. I need to fix the problem at hand but simultaneously trying to console the family that everything will be ok.
WATM: What happened after you handed the baby over to the firefighters?
Maciejewski: At that point, I had already recognized the baby was crying and breathing on her own. I felt a sense of joy in me when the firefighters wrapped her in a blanket, checked her vitals in the ambulance and returned outside the ambulance with the infant in much better condition. I could see her face was no longer purple, she was gaining the color in her face back and almost appeared as if nothing happened. She was so relaxed.
After the news from the firefighters came back the baby was much better, mom collapsed to the ground again requiring us to then tend to her aid. She eventually regained consciousness and was reunited with her baby in the ambulance to both be transported to the local hospital for further evaluation. I spoke with dad who was very distraught. He just wanted to see his wife and baby in the ambulance and be with his family before going to the hospital. Once he saw they were both going to be ok, he thanked all the firefighters and police officers on scene for taking the best care of his family.
WATM: How are you feeling now? What sort of responses have you been getting from the community and beyond?
Maciejewski: I still feel a great sense of joy that everything worked out in the end. I’m being hailed as a hero across the nation, however, in my humble opinion, I was placed on that scene for a reason: to preserve life. Simply put, I was just doing my job as I was trained to do. Being in the spotlight and having so much outpouring of love and support from people across the world is something indescribable. There are Chiefs of Police from various jurisdictions across the country reaching out to thank me for a job well done.
WATM: Is there anything else you would like readers to know?
Maciejewski: Stories like this happen every day. Police officers across the world deal with these intense, life-altering situations every day, but they’re not always caught on camera. We don’t do the job for fame or seeking recognition. We take the oath, we wear the badge, to protect the citizens of our great nation.
The US Marine Corps is denying it uses dating apps to recruit after a screenshot of an apparent Bumble conversation depicting such efforts turned up on Reddit.
The screenshot shows a message that says, “Hey! My name is Kaitlin Robertson and I am with the Marine Corps. I would love to have one of my recruiters sit down and talk with you about your options within the Marine Corps including education, financial stability, hundreds of job opportunities, and free health/dental insurance, just to name a few. I would love to make you part of our Marine Corps family!!”
An quick-witted, unnamed young man responded, “You’re not even going to bribe me with crayons?”
But Marine Corps Recruiting Command spokesman Gunnery Sgt. Justin Kronenberg told Stars and Stripes the Marine Corps is not employing popular dating apps to draw in young, able-bodied recruits. He also claimed the Bumble message was not written by a recruiter.
Recruits from Kilo Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Bridget M. Keane)
“We don’t condone use of dating apps for business purposes and no, that Bumble post was not written by a recruiter,” Kronenberg said.
The US military has struggled to recruit in recent years, and all of the branches have sought to find innovative ways to bolster their ranks. The US Army, for example, is on the hunt for a new slogan and is scrapping “Army Strong” in an apparent effort to increase its appeal to young folks.
But it seems that dating apps, however effective they might be, are not going to be included in the military’s recruitment efforts anytime in the near future.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Planespotters found a Russian Mig-31 Foxhound taking off with a never-before-seen mystery weapon that could likely have an anti-satellite role, meaning it’s a nightmare for the US military.
The Foxhound is a 1980s Soviet fighter that remains one of the fastest and highest flying jets ever built. It’s ability to push Mach 3 near the edge of space with large weapons payloads makes it an ideal platform for firing anti-satellite missiles, which Russia appears to have tested in September 2018.
The War Zone noticed Russian aviation photographer ShipSash snapping photos of the Mig-31 armed with a massive missile taking off from the Russian aviation industry’s test center in Zhukovsky near Moscow on Sept. 14, 2018.
Pictures of the Mig-31 at Zhukovsky with the mystery missile can be seen here and here.
The Mig-31 has enjoyed somewhat of a rebirth in recent years as a platform for new Russian super weapons, like the Kinzhal hypersonic anti-surface missile that Russian President Vladimir Putin said could evade any US defenses.
The Mig-31 has a history of use in anti-satellite programs, but the new missile appears to show a renewed effort in that direction.
Two Russian MiG-31 Foxhounds with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles photographed over Moscow, May 5, 2018.
(Russian Defense Ministry)
The US, Russia, and China have all demonstrated anti-satellite capabilities in the past, and as war increasingly relies on information shared via satellite, attacking these critical nodes increasingly makes sense.
It’s unknown if the Mig-31 spotted in September 2018 carried an anti-satellite missile or some kind of satellite launcher, though they both serve a purpose in space-based warfare. Since both sides can destroy satellites, a space-based war would likely involve the downing of old satellites and launching of new satellites at a fast pace.
But that’s where space warfare meets its extreme environmental limit. Space debris orbiting the earth at many times the speed of sound could eventually threaten all existing satellites, plunging the earth back to a pre-Cold War state of relying entirely on terrestrial communications.
While many Russian and Chinese planes still have analog controls and gauges, the US relies most heavily on space assets and GPS, meaning space war would be more of a nightmare for Washington than Moscow.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Officials in charge of equipping America’s top commando units are looking for some high-tech drugs to help boost the performance if their 150 “multi-purpose canines.”
According to news reports, U.S. Special Operations Command wants to find pharmaceutical products or nutritional supplements that will enhance canine hearing, eyesight and other senses.
Think of it as a “Q” for America’s four-legged special operators.
According to an official solicitation for the Performance Enhancing Drugs, SOCOM is looking for a product or combination of products that will do the following:
Improve a dog’s ability to regulate body temperature
Improve acclimatization to acute extremes in temperature, altitude, and/or time zone changes
Increase the speed of recovery from strenuous work
Decrease adverse effects due to blood loss.
SOCOM’s military working dogs have been front and center on several top commando raids — with the most famous being Cairo, a Belgian Malinois who joined SEAL Team 6 in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.
SOCOM, though, is also looking to neutralize enemy K9s through what another solicitation calls “canine response inhibitors.”
Now, during the Vietnam War, the preferred “canine response inhibitor” was known as the “Hush Puppy.” But these days SOCOM is looking for some less permanent methods, including:
Inhibit barking, howling, and whining
Induce movement away from the area where the effects are deployed
Like the performance enhancers, the “canine response inhibitors” could also be used outside the military.
So, the company or companies that win the hearts and minds of SOCOM’s puppies could catch a huge break.
A report in the Marine Corps Times from Friday, April 27, 2018, by journalist Kyle Rempfer revealed that the U.S. Marine Corps Air Ground Task Force Training Command has filed a solicitation for contractors to provide Russian-built Mi-24 Hind attack helicopter or an Mi-17 Hip transport helicopter to serve as accurate opposing forces threat simulation aircraft.
The aircraft would be equipped with electronic tracking pods for integration into simulated combat exercises at the MCAS Yuma Range and Training Area, a large training facility in the Arizona desert. The Yuma Range and Training Area accurately replicates current and potential threat environments throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
According to Rempfer’s report for the Marine Corps Times, the solicitation read in part, “The [Mi-24] attack helicopter, due to its size, flight profile, firepower and defensive maneuvering capabilities, constitutes a unique threat creating a realistic, dissimilar and credible opposing force.”
In their potential role as a technically realistic opposing force flying against U.S. Marine ground forces in training the helicopters would accurately replicate the threat capabilities of many potential adversary forces. While the Mi-24 attack helicopter is primarily an air-to-ground attack helicopter the report also mentioned a potential role for any Russian helicopters acquired or contracted as providing a simulated opposing force capability against U.S. Marine Helicopters and tiltrotor aircraft to possibly include the UH-1Y Venom, AH-1Z Super Cobra and MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor.
The U.S. Marine Training Command’s request went on to read, “The scope of this effort is to provide familiarization of flight characteristics, capabilities and limitations of the foreign adversary rotary-wing and propeller driven aircraft,” according to the solicitation. “This will be accomplished by having accessibility to two foreign adversary contractor-provided aircraft that shall participate in certain exercise events as part of a realistic opposing force.”
In the combined air/ground combat role most commonly performed by the U.S. Marine Corps one relevant adversary aircraft for threat simulation may include the Sukhoi Su-25 (NATO codename “Frogfoot”), although no specific information indicates an interest in the Su-25 from the U.S. Marines.
A remarkable 57 countries currently use the Mi-24 Hind attack helicopter, built at the Mil Helicopter Plant in Moscow, Russia. The aircraft is infamous in western nations for its rugged survivability and significant combat capability. The request for actual Mi-24 Hind helicopters seems to acknowledge the type’s unique and significant capabilities as a potential adversary.
There are currently at least two Mi-24 Hind attack helicopters privately owned in the U.S. by the Lancaster Air Museum in Lancaster, Texas. The aircraft fly frequently at events and airshows around the country.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
The US and South Korean militaries carried out a training exercise focused on “infiltrating North Korea and removing weapons of mass destruction in case of conflict,” military sources told Yonhap News.
Lt. Col. Christopher B. Logan, a spokesman for the US military in South Korea, told Business Insider that the US military doesn’t “discuss specific scenarios,” but that “exercises are vital to the readiness of the US and our allies, and ensure we are ready and trained for combined-joint operations.”
Online video of the exercise, called Warrior Strike, shows US troops training in protective gear and in urban environments, much as they might if they had to fight through a situation where nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons had been used.
If war broke out between the US, South Korea, and North Korea, a key task early in the conflictwould be seizing control of, or destroying, Pyongyang’s weapons of mass destruction.
Though its arsenal remains secretive, experts suspect North Korea possesses chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. North Korea has frequently threatened nuclear attacks on South Korea and the US, and demonstrated nuclear devices six times.
At the moment, China and Russia accuse the US of escalating tensions with North Korea as it increases its military drills, while the US pushes the world to implement strict sanctions on Pyongyang and refuses to accept the nation’s illegally forged nuclear status.
As a fifth-generation stealth fighter, the F-22 is specifically engineered for air supremacy and air dominance missions, meaning its radar-evading technology is designed to elude and destroy enemy air defenses. The aircraft is also configured to function as the world’s premier air-to-air fighter able to “dogfight” and readily destroy enemy aircraft.
“Air superiority, using stealth characteristics is our primary role. The air dominance mission is what we will always do first. Once we are comfortable operating in that battlespace, our airmen are going to find ways to contribute,” Col. Larry Broadwell, the Commander of the 1st Operations Group at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, told Scout Warrior in a special pilot interview.
The F-22’s command and control sensors and avionics help other coalition aircraft identify and destroy targets. While some of the aircraft’s technologies are not “publically discussable,” Broadwell did say that the F-22’s active and passive sensors allow it to function as an “aerial quarterback” allowing the mission to unfold.
For example, drawing upon information from a ground-based command and control center or nearby surveillance plane – such as a Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System – the F-22 can receive information or target coordinates from nearby drones, Broadwell explained.
At the moment, targeting information from drones is relayed from the ground station back up to an F-22. However, computer algorithms and technology is fast evolving such that aircraft like an F-22s will soon be able to quickly view drone video feeds in the cockpit without needing a ground station — and eventually be able to control nearby drones from the air. These developments were highlighted in a special Scout Warrior interview with Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias.
Zacharias explained that fifth generation fighters such as the F-35 and F-22 are quickly approaching an ability to command-and-control nearby drones from the air. This would allow unmanned systems to deliver payload, test enemy air defenses and potentially extend the reach of ISR misisons.
“Because of its sensors, the F-22 is uniquely able to improve the battlefield awareness – not just for airborne F-22s but the other platforms that are airborne as well,” he said. The Raptor has an F-22-specific data link to share information with other F-22s and also has the ability to use a known data link called LINK 16 which enables it to communicate with other aircraft in the coalition, Broadwell explained in an interview last year.
Newer F-22s have a technology called Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR, which uses electromagnetic signals or “pings” to deliver a picture or rendering of the terrain below, allow for better target identification.
The SAR technology sends a ping to the ground and then analyzes the return signal to calculate the contours, distance and characteristics of the ground below.
“The addition of SAR mapping has certainly enhanced our air-to-ground capability. Previously, we would have to take off with pre-determined target coordinates. Now, we have an ability to more dynamically use the SAR to pinpoint a target while airborne,” Broadwell added.
“The F-35 is needed because it is to global precision attack what the F-22 is to air superiority,” he added. “These two aircrafts were built to work together in concert. It is unfortunate that we have so few F-22s. We are going to ask the F-35 to contribute to the air superiority mission,” he said.
Overall, the Air Force operates somewhere between 80 and 100 F-22s. Dave Majumdar of The National Interest writes that many would like to see more F-22s added to the Air Force arsenal. For instance, some members of Congress, such as Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., have requested that more F-22s be built, given its technological superiority.
Citing budget concerns, Air Force officials have said it is unlikely the service will want to build new F-22s, however an incoming Trump administration could possibly want to change that.
The F-22 is known for a range of technologies including an ability called “super cruise” which enables the fighter to reach speeds of Mach 1.5 without needing to turn on its after burners.
“The F-22 engines produce more thrust than any current fighter engine. The combination of sleek aerodynamic design and increased thrust allows the F-22 to cruise at supersonic airspeeds. Super Cruise greatly expands the F-22’s operating envelope in both speed and range over current fighters, which must use fuel-consuming afterburner to operate at supersonic speeds,” Broadwell explained.
The fighter jet fires a 20mm cannon and has the ability to carry and fire all the air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons including precision-guided ground bombs, such Joint Direct Attack Munitions called the GBU 32 and GBU 39, Broadwell explained. In the air-to-air configuration the Raptor carries six AIM-120 AMRAAMs and two AIM-9 Sidewinders, he added.
“The F-22 possesses a sophisticated sensor suite allowing the pilot to track, identify, shoot and kill air-to-air threats before being detected. Significant advances in cockpit design and sensor fusion improve the pilot’s situational awareness,” he said.
It also uses what’s called a radar-warning receiver – a technology which uses an updateable data base called “mission data files” to recognize a wide-range of enemy fighters, Broadwell said.
Made by Lockheed Martin and Boeing, the F-22 uses two Pratt Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines with afterburners and two-dimensional thrust vectoring nozzles, an Air Force statement said. It is 16-feet tall, 62-feet long and weighs 43,340 pounds. Its maximum take-off weight is 83,500.
The aircraft was first introduced in December of 2005, and each plane costs $143 million, Air Force statements say.
“Its greatest asset is the ability to target attack and kill an enemy without the enemy ever being aware they are there,” Broadwell added.
The Air Force’s stealthy F-22 Raptor fighter jet delivered some of the first strikes in the U.S.-led attacks on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, when aerial bombing began in 2014, service officials told Scout Warrior.
After delivering some of the first strikes in the U.S. Coalition-led military action against ISIS, the F-22 began to shift its focus from an air-dominance mission to one more focused on supporting attacks on the ground.
“An F-22 squadron led the first strike in OIR (Operation Inherent Resolve). The aircraft made historic contributions in the air-to-ground regime,”
Even though ISIS does not have sophisticated air defenses or fighter jets of their own to challenge the F-22, there are still impactful ways in which the F-22 continues to greatly help the ongoing attacks, Broadwell said.
“There are no issues with the air superiority mission. That is the first thing they focus on. After that, they can transition to what they have been doing over the last several months and that has been figuring out innovative ways to contribute in the air-to-ground regime to support the coalition,” Broadwell said.
From the summer of 1944 till the end of the war in Europe, the US fielded a unique ‘Ghost Army’ throughout France and the Rhine Valley in order to deceive the Third Reich into over estimating the strength of the Allied forces.
The unit’s sole responsibility was to create illusions and spread disinformation about the strength and location of Allied forces.
According to PBS documentary “The Ghost Army,” these masters of deception saw action dangerously close to the front lines in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany throughout the war.
In total, the unit was responsible for over 20 illusions that befuddled German military planning and masked actual Allied troop movements and deployments.
To the Nazis, the Ghost Army appeared as real units and soldiers.
However, these men were a combination of artists, audio technicians, actors, and designers who, through a commitment to their craft, created inflatable mock-ups of military vehicles, tanks, and artillery.
Arriving in France just after the D-Day invasion, the Ghost Army set to work creating numerous illusions both on and off the battlefield.
On the battlefield, the unit fielded imperfectly camouflaged tanks, planes, and guns in order to convince the Nazis that there were 30,000 more Allied troops on the field than were actually present.
These visual illusions were compounded by the use of audio recordings that could be heard over 9 miles away.
The recordings featured sound effects that mimicked the movement of large armored divisions.
Off the battlefield, actors within the Ghost Army would impersonate US generals and officers in towns throughout France.
These actors, aware that German agents may be spying on them, would flippantly discuss fake military plans and deployments over wine in order to better spread false information.
Earlier this year, American Sniper actor Bradley Cooper announced he will produce Warner Brothers upcoming “Ghost Army” film.
Noah Song did not enroll at the Naval Academy to become a professional baseball player.
First and foremost, he was focused on his education and becoming an officer. Improving his pitching repertoire was nice but not the primary goal. Like all Midshipmen, a military commitment awaited him upon graduation. Being drafted in the fourth round by the Boston Red Sox in 2019 altered that timeline only slightly.
From ballplayer to Marine
“It was supposed to be four years and done with baseball,” Song said. “Everything after graduation has really just been a plus.”
Song, 23, reported to flight school in Pensacola in June, leaving behind an abbreviated stint last season for the Red Sox’s Class A short-season, minor-league affiliate in Lowell, Massachusetts. Song put away his glove without complaint, not surprising considering his family’s priorities.
His younger brother, Elijah, recently completed the Marines’ Officer Candidates School in Virginia and is one year from graduating from Cal Maritime. Song’s father, Bill, and older brother, Daniel, work for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and his sister, Faith, is a nurse.
“It seems like all the kids are gravitating to public service and servicing the country,” Bill Song said. “They’ve really fulfilled everything that I would want from a child.”
Elijah, 20, decided to become a Marine as a college freshman. He was interested in the military before Noah chose Navy but was impressed by watching how his brother matured there.
“To see him go through his transformation, just from a normal kid in high school to this refined military officer, … it made me tell myself, ‘Man, I want to be that squared away, that professional,”’ Elijah said.
Baseball wasn’t always on this Navy grad’s mind
Noah was not always that squared away, especially on the baseball field.
Navy was his only offer to play baseball after he graduated from high school in Claremont, California, about 35 miles east of Los Angeles. Scouts started paying attention during his junior year at Navy, and then Song blossomed as a senior, going 11-1 with a 1.44 ERA and 161 strikeouts in 94 innings.
He was among four finalists for the Golden Spikes Award, given to the top amateur baseball player in the United States.
“I never really thought about [getting drafted] so much, because the mindset was just on becoming an officer,” Noah said. “I completely agree with that. That’s the complete reason we’re there, so [the attention was] kind of weird.”
While awaiting his flight-school orders, Noah was allowed to begin his professional career last summer. In seven games for Lowell, he allowed two earned runs in 17 innings for a 1.06 ERA.
“When he first got here, I don’t think he was overly confident in who he was,” Navy baseball coach Paul Kostacopoulos said. “He went from this kind of nervous, internal person to being a confident man, so to speak. It’s always great to see.”
Elijah was different.
He played golf in high school but was not that interested in sports. He enjoyed tinkering, once learning to load ammunition by researching it online and watching videos.
But mainly he loved flying. Aboard a Cessna 150, Elijah sat in the pilot’s seat for the first time as a high school junior.
“Feeling the pedals and feeling the yoke and feeling the plane actually move from my control, that was just a life-changing experience,” Elijah said.
Noah, whose future in baseball is uncertain, cherishes that view from the air as well.
He said his relationship with Elijah was tight-knit as children, but they were typical brothers. They argued. They fought. They made up.
“Looking back, it’s all just fond memories,” Noah said. “This military experience has definitely brought us a little bit closer than we used to be, just because we share a bond. We get to have that commonality between us, which is pretty cool.”
Following the plea, a military judge has heard testimony from numerous witnesses who either knew Bergdahl or were involved in the search to find him. Soon the military judge is expected to issue Bergdahl’s sentence based on his actions, his time in captivity and the impact on the soldiers who spent weeks searching across Afghanistan. We are the Mighty has been in the courtroom since the plea and has heard many details that haven’t been released before.
Here’s a list of ten things you should know before the Judge issues his sentence.
10. Bergdahl was a waiver Soldier
Bergdahl entered the Army in 2008 with a waiver after being discharged from the Coast Guard nearly two years earlier. The Army has yet to confirm if his waiver was related to mental health issues, but upon his release from captivity, Bergdahl was diagnosed with schizotypal personality disorder. Some symptoms of this disorder include difficulty adjusting to social situations and a distrust of others. During the pre-trial hearings, the Army did rule that despite his diagnosis, Bergdahl did understand his actions when he walked away from his post in 2009.
9. He was described as “Squared Away”
During the trial testimony, some fellow soldiers — including his former leaders — have described Bergdahl as “squared away.” Numerous witnesses have said Bergdahl was always in the designated uniform, on time and in the right place. During his free time, he even read field manuals and philosophy books. This is one of the most interesting turns in the case and begs the question: “How did Bergdahl go from a squared away soldier to a deserter?”
While the rest of Bergdahl’s unit, 4th Brigade 25th ID, deployed to Afghanistan in early 2009, he stayed behind with a staph infection. After recovering, Bergdahl finally deployed as an individual augment and was with his Platoon in Afghanistan for less than two months before he walked off. When asked by the military judge during the trial if he knew that his service in Afghanistan was important, Bergdahl responded, “At the time, it was hard for me to understand.”
7. There were some red flags
In the days and weeks before he walked off, Bergdahl displayed some behavior that might have seemed normal until strung together by investigators, revealing that he may have planned his desertion in advance.
First, he sent his computer home, which to many other soldiers would been weird since writing emails and watching movies is a great way to pass the down time of deployment.
Second, he went to finance and asked for a cash advance before he rotated back to his outpost and subsequently walked off.
Lastly, he left all his serialized gear (weapon, night vision, etc.) at his outpost. One soldier testified that when he found the gear in a neat pile he knew Bergdahl had left on his own.
6. His outpost was “Hell on Earth”
Bergdahl’s platoon was assigned to OP Mest, a small checkpoint in Paktika province close to the Pakistani border. OP Mest guarded a road intersection and was located literally right next to the village of Mest. The outpost was built in a dry river bed that often flooded during the spring rains. As a result of the poor weather and living conditions, many soldiers in the Platoon suffered from bad cases of dysentery. Additionally, the outpost was built over an Afghan cemetery; some soldiers even found bones as they were digging their fighting positions.
In the first few hours and days, the platoon conducted a nearly constant rotation of patrols in the area to try and find Bergdahl. At one point, they stretched themselves so thin that only a Fire Team of three was left at the outpost to man the radio. Many of the soldiers describe the initial days of searching as a “complete hell.”
4. SEAL Team 6 went after Bergdahl and the enemy killed their dog
During the first week of the search, SEAL Team 6 was ordered to find Bergdahl given their unique and specialized training in hostage recovery missions. When one of the SEALs testified at the trial, he remembered saying that “someone is going to get hurt or killed looking for this kid.” A few nights later, the SEALs raided a house where they suspected Bergdahl was being held. During the mission one of the SEALs was shot 7 times and his military working dog was killed by the enemy.
The summer of 2009 was a critical point in the war in Afghanistan. The Afghan elections were scheduled for August and a major mission of U.S. forces was to protect the polling sites from attack and corruption. When Bergdahl walked off in late June, the timing couldn’t have been worse.
For weeks, thousands of soldiers across Afghanistan were ordered to shift their focus from counterinsurgency missions to search recovery operations to find Bergdahl. So many soldiers were flooded into the area where Bergdahl went missing that the Commanders on the ground created a second unit to coordinate the search effort.
By August, the focus shifted away from Bergdahl to the elections and the future of Afghanistan.
Bergdahl’s intelligence value has been defined in two ways. First, a DOD representative of the group that runs Survival, Evasion, Resistance Escape (SERE) school stated that Bergdahl’s detailed description of his captivity will help “prepare forces in the future.” Secondly, the lead intelligence analyst who follows the Haqqani Network, the group that held Bergdahl for nearly 5 years, told the military judge that the information from the debrief helped “build [an understanding] of the capture network like it’s never been done before.”
1. His charges were reduced before he pleaded guilty
The Army initially charged Bergdahl with Desertion and Misbehavior Before the Enemy during Combat Operations in Afghanistan. However, after months of arguments by the lawyers on both sides, Bergdahl finally pleaded guilty to Desertion and Misbehavior Before the Enemy during guard duty at OP Mest and a possible convoy patrol scheduled for the following day.
While this change may seem minor, the distinction is critical during the sentencing phase of the trial. The military judge will now only consider Bergdahl’s actions for the first few hours before he was captured by the enemy instead of the nearly five years Bergdahl was missing.