This is what it's like to do a little 'Rangering' - We Are The Mighty
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This is what it’s like to do a little ‘Rangering’

During my first week in Ranger Battalion, I joined my platoon during a live fire. I wasn’t even allowed real bullets because I was so new. For a portion of the exercise I was on a hill watching the training of another platoon. I was in earshot of an old Ranger first sergeant. The Rangers in training were assaulting a constructed plywood building and were preparing to conduct an explosive breach on the plywood door. The team leader quickly applied the charge with double sided sticky tape and stepped back into the stack, pulling both detonators. “Failed Breach, Failed Breach!” was yelled. It was obvious the detonation cord was faulty.


Before anything else happened, the team leader barreled full speed into the plywood door, obliterating it from the hinges, and providing an entry point into the building. Without any hesitation, all three members of his team followed their leader right into the breach. The training mission went on and was completed successfully. The company commander was scowling about the breach technique but the first sergeant was grinning from ear to ear and bellowed, “That’s some good ole fashioned Rangering right there!” The company commander stopped scowling.

This is what it’s like to do a little ‘Rangering’

I didn’t know much then, but I knew whatever this Rangering was, I wanted to try it and whatever a Ranger was, I wanted to be it. There’s a big difference between telling your friends, your family, or even your recruiter you want to be a Ranger, and then suddenly seeing a defining act of Rangering in front of you. It was an automatic sensation of knowing that you want to join the pack and you want to be the wolf. Rangers were never sheepdogs, they have always been wolves hunting the herd of treachery and I wanted to hunt.

We all touched down in a C-17 on a faraway land. Many of us landed in the C-17 by soaring over the mountains or screaming into the desert. Rarely did anyone go but once; in fact, many of our brothers are still going. What is special about Rangers is that on each of the thousands of deployment hours is someone who went to war months ago and is back again. A man, a team, a platoon, a battalion fully knowing the hazards of their chosen profession.

Running the gambit, sparking the fight, reliving the horror, noting the beauty, enduring the sacrifice, all this is symbolized by a simple scroll on your right sleeve that may as well be tied to your heart. There was a transformation taking place within me, within us all. Rangering made me hear the sound of valor and see the light of courage. The sound I could hear as I followed the drums of war and the light I could see in the enemy across the street.

This is what it’s like to do a little ‘Rangering’
Photo courtesy of US Army

Although this Rangering was a lifestyle, it came with the price of vanquishing what boyish innocence remained in my gaze upon the earth. I was now grown in ways that I could not possibly understand. It was magical and despicable what we were capable of. We flew across night skies, landed in fields, slinked over walls, eviscerated doors, and introduced ourselves to those souls who had lost the evening’s lottery in scumbaggery.

Whenever I returned from a mission, danger or not on that night, there was levity in the brotherhood. We had such little time to ourselves for being anything beyond Rangers and do anything beyond Rangering that when we did – it created exuberance for life that could not be contained. There was never a day without Rangers that I did not smile or laugh.

It’s for this reason that now when I look back, though I hated certain parts, though I despised endless training, though I constantly made other plans for outside of the military; I now feel nostalgia for those times with honorable men, I now feel pride in our shared struggle for our piece of war. I miss being John Wayne when everything was black and white. I miss being a note on the album Appetite for Destruction; I miss seeing the whites of the unsuspecting eyes. Goddamn it, a platoon of Rangers could do anything!

This is what it’s like to do a little ‘Rangering’
US Army photo by Spc. Steven Hitchcock

The irony is that for all the Regiments glory, it’s not built for you to stay. So for me, and those like me, we fade back to which we came or we populate other military units. A small number stay, but the glory days of war hammer team leading and SpecFour Mafia mayhem, seem to disappear as the burden of leadership widens and the loss of lives grows vast. It was great while it lasted and the irony of that is that we all could have gone back had we really wanted to.

If it was so great, then why didn’t we? Probably because at this point it is better to tell these incredible stories, it’s good to drink this beer with war in the rear view, and it’s okay I never had a last shoot out at the Alamo. Rangering created more brothers than I ever could have wanted, but the pain of burying a brother is still the pain of burying a brother, no matter how many stand behind you. I still have the Ranger Creed. I still have my friends. I still have the sorrows of war; I still hear the sirens of action. And every now and then I can still be the teeth in the night, I can still laugh when things really suck, I can still run in short shorts.

“Rangering” was something I did, but I will always be a Ranger; you just have to look at my soul now instead of my sleeve.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Trump orders immediate deployment of hospital ship to Los Angeles, anticipating ‘hotbed’ surge of coronavirus cases in California

President Donald Trump has approved the US military’s deployment of a Navy hospital ship to Los Angeles, California, to bolster coronavirus response efforts.


During a press conference on Sunday afternoon, Trump confirmed that the USNS Mercy, a hospital ship docked in San Diego, will be “immediately” deploying to the port of Los Angeles within a week. Trump and his administration described California as a “hotbed” for potential coronavirus cases in the coming days.

This is what it’s like to do a little ‘Rangering’

FEMA administrator Peter Gaynor in the press conference that despite earlier indications the Mercy was deploying to Washington, the ship would have the “greatest impact” in California based on the potential need for hospital beds there. As of Sunday, Washington state has the second-highest number of coronavirus cases in the US, behind New York.

California ranks fourth as of Sunday, with nearly 1,500 cases. Gov. Gavin Newsom, asked Trump in a letter on Thursday to “immediately deploy” the Mercy. Newsom cited the state’s 126 new positive cases at the time, a 21% increase within one day. Newsom’s office has estimated that 56% of Californians, or 25.5 million people, will test positive within two months.

Gaynor reiterated that the Mercy will focus on alleviating the burden from local hospitals dealing with coronavirus patients. Like the USNS Comfort, which is deploying to New York in the coming weeks, the Mercy will intake trauma cases, according to Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

This is what it’s like to do a little ‘Rangering’

“Even though there are more cases right now in Washington, the projected needs for beds in California is five times more [than] that of Washington,” Gaynor said. “The Mercy will be used to take pressure off of local hospitals, other medical needs — and not for treating COVID-19 cases.”

The ships have made several humanitarian deployments, including to Puerto Rico for relief efforts after Hurricane Maria in 2017, and to Indonesia after a devastating earthquake in 2005.

The ships are staffed by dozens of civilians and up to 1,200 sailors, according to the Navy. Both ships include 12 fully equipped operating rooms, a 1,000-bed hospital, a medical laboratory, and a pharmacy. The ships also have helicopter decks for transport.

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

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This massive air offensive had an adorable name

As the Allies put their plans into action in 1944 preparing for the eventual D-Day landings, they knew that they needed to break German logistics in Normandy. As part of the process, Gen. Jimmy Doolittle and the 8th Air Force targeted the rail networks that crisscrossed France.


But while the landings would be known as Operation Overlord and the evacuation of the Dunkirk was called Operation Dynamo, the rail bombings were named Operation Chattanooga Choo Choo.

This is what it’s like to do a little ‘Rangering’
The generals had a lot of choices for operation names, and they choo- choo- choosed that one. (GIF: YouTube/Simpsons Channelx)

The operation wasn’t named after the “The Simpsons” episode. That would be ridiculous, reader who apparently doesn’t understand that World War II happened before “The Simpsons.”

No, it was named after a popular song of the day. Glenn Miller had recorded the song “Chattanooga Choo Choo” in 1941 and someone on the staff must have liked it. That would be similar to the missile strikes on Syria having been named after a Katy Perry or Taylor Swift song.

This is what it’s like to do a little ‘Rangering’
B-17 formation over Schweinfurt, Germany, Aug. 17, 1943. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Despite the silly name, the operation was a huge success. The air forces wanted to limit German logistics while obscuring the site of the upcoming landings in Operation Overlord. So they dropped bombs all over occupied France but stipulated that two bombs be dropped at Pas de Calais for every one that hit in Normandy.

Adolph Hitler and his cronies were convinced the landings could come at Calais. The bombs ripped through German railways, marshaling yards, wireless radio stations, and other key infrastructure, softening up Normandy for the invasion.

All thanks to Operation Chattanooga Choo Choo.

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Here’s how a war with Iran would go

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei released an incendiary video this week, describing the “humiliation” the U.S. would experience if it were to invade Iran. The video reminds the viewer of the protracted American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and of Hezbollah’s perceived “victory” over Israel in 2006.


The video is as meaningful as any propaganda produced by any government – dubious at best. Iran has never started a war in the modern era. Its standing orders are to never launch a first strike and the success of the Iranian nuclear deal means we will likely not go to war with Iran anytime soon.

That does not keep Iran from trolling the United States more than any country, group, or individual (and we tend to remember that kind of sh*t talk).

This is what it’s like to do a little ‘Rangering’
Also, that hostage crisis. Old habits die hard.

Iran is the industrial, military, and economic Shia counterweight to Saudi Arabia, the preeminent Sunni monarchy in the Middle East. Iran considers the Middle East their backyard: sending money, weapons, and supplies to Shia Islamic groups in neighboring countries in an attempt to destabilize or undermine the Sunni (or secular) leadership there.

The Islamic Republic is currently projecting power all over the region, well beyond the borders of the old Persian Empire: they assist Houthi rebels in Yemen, fund and supply paramilitary organizations like Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army in Iraq and Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon as well as others, all fighting Sunni paramilitary organizations funded by members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, such as the al-Nusra Front. These Iranian-funded and Saudi-funded groups both fought U.S. troops during the Iraq War (though likely not side-by-side). The goal is to keep the fighting there, and not in Iran.

Those are the bare basics of the Sunni-Shia religious civil war everyone is always talking about. The promise of military support from the United States is one of the pillars of Saudi (and global oil market) security. Israel is the U.S.’ eternal ally. America has made promises in to fight ISIS in the region, alongside (but not with) Iranian-backed Iraqi militias, Syrian rebels, and Sunni-funded al-Qaeda groups. Now the Russians are sending more advisors and weapons to the Asad regime (which is also an Iranian client state). All this means we could be right back to where we started.

This is what it’s like to do a little ‘Rangering’
This really isn’t that far off.

The nuclear deal also doesn’t rule out a military strike from Israel. Israel has long depended on security and defense guarantees from the United States and is not averse to starting wars with countries it deems a threat to their long-term survival. As an added bonus, Israel already has nuclear weapons.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government depends on a motley mixture of right-wing political parties and ultra-orthodox Jewish parties, who are convinced Iranian leaders want to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth, despite the fact that this phrase is a misquote from a bad translation.

And a surprise from Israel is not unheard of.

This is what it’s like to do a little ‘Rangering’

Much of Iran’s military hardware predates the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the resulting arms embargo. Because of that embargo, a lot of the Iranian defense industry is homegrown, which means the Iranians are not limited to arms deals with foreign powers.

They can build their own tanks, fighters, and subs. Anything not built in Iran or coming from Russia is likely aging very poorly. Overall defense spending is relatively minuscule, especially in comparison to the GCC.

This is what it’s like to do a little ‘Rangering’

Keep in mind, U.S. defense spending wouldn’t even fit on the scale above.

Iran has about a half million troops on active duty, not including the 125,000 in the Revolutionary Guard Corps. As the name suggests, the IRGC are the most devoted members of the Iranian military. All Iranian forces take men as young as 18, but the Basij Forces (meaning “Mobilization of the Oppressed”) will take a male as young as 15.

The Basij mainly acted as human minesweepers and led human wave attacks to great effect during the Iran-Iraq War.

This is what it’s like to do a little ‘Rangering’
Yep. Pretty Much.

The Iranian conventional forces have 4 branches: The Islamic Republic of Iran Army (IRIA), Navy (IRIN), Air Force (IRIAF), and Air Defense Force (IRIADF). Iran’s conventional military are considered “severely limited, relying heavily on obsolescent and low quality weaponry.”

The IRIA has a large tank force of over 1600 but as with other materiel, it’s aging rapidly. They are able to make their own tanks (the most recent based on the design of the M47M Patton), but not in significant numbers and the U.S. has effective anti-armor tactics.

This is what it’s like to do a little ‘Rangering’
You all know what I’m talking about.

The Iranian Air Force is currently inconsequential. 60 percent of it was purchased by the Shah before he was forced into exile in 1979 and then augmented by Iraqi fighter pilots fleeing to Iran during Desert Storm. It’s a mess, a mishmash of American, Russian, and Chinese planes with some homemade ones thrown in the mix.

The lack of spare parts for these planes caused the development of a robust aerospace industry in Iran, along with their own fighter planes, which the Iranians say can evade radar (good thing the U.S. Air Force created the ultimate dogfighter). With the sanctions being lifted, the government is already putting feelers out to modernize their aging air forces.

The Iranian Navy and Missile forces are the most important branches in its arsenal. If a war ever did break out, Iran’s first tactic would likely be to attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz in an attempt to wreak havoc on the world economy.

The Air Defense Forces consists of ground-based air defenses, using American, Italian, and Chinese surface-to-air missiles, built on Chinese Radar and electronic warfare technology. The deployment and number of Iranian SAM and other Air Defense forces is not entirely known, but reports range from porous to a “significant issue.”

The Iranian Navy is traditionally the smallest branch, numbering some 18,000, including some 2,600 naval Marines, and 2,600 naval aviation forces (but has not carriers) and boasts naval elements from China, North Korea, the former Soviet Union. It has no capital ships and the bulk of its warships are corvettes and destroyers, all heavily armed with anti-ship missiles.

They dp have home-built frigates, however, with up-to-date radar systems, arms, and electronic warfare equipment as well as many helicopters, either Italian, French, or Russian built. They even have some captured from the United States after the failure of Operation Eagle Claw.

The IRIN is augmented with Chinese fast attack ships, Russian Kilo submarines, some home-grown midget submarines which act as torpedo ships and mine layers. The Iranian fleets of patrol boats, missile ships, and mine layers could close the Strait of Hormuz for up to ten days under full attack by the U.S. military.

Much of Iranian military spending is on thousands of missiles for air defense or for attacking ships in neighboring waters. The Iranian surface-to-air missile defense system is also a mixture of American, Russian, and Chinese weapons systems. The SAM system is considered “unlikely to pose a significant threat to American or Israeli aircraft as a long-range air-denial weapon.” The entire system is vulnerable to Stealth-equipped aircraft and would need to be advanced ballistic missile systems like the Russian S-300 (which Iran claims to have).

Here are the four weapons that would cause the most trouble for the U.S. military:

1. Ghadir Midget Submarines

Built with North Korean designs, the oldest finished in 2007, the Ghadir submarine fleet was designed to be sonar evading and carry a heavy load of torpedoes and Shkval rocket torpedoes, which travel through the water at more than 370 mph. The Ghadir submarines are produced by Iran in Iran and are unaffected by the arms embargoes. The Ghadir class can also fire anti-ship missiles at the same time.

2. Sejjil Missiles

Sejil missiles are a homemade, two-stage missile, capable of hitting targets from 2,000 km (almost 1,250 miles). No one knows the exact humber of missiles in the Iranian arsenal, but numbers are estimated in the hundreds and thousands.

This is what it’s like to do a little ‘Rangering’

The Sejil is another weapon the Iranians produce in Iran which is unlikely to be affected by sanctions or arms embargoes. The solid fuel allows a shorter prep time prior to launch and since they are launched from mobile units, a massive first strike from an attacking country is unlikely to neutralize the Sejil threat.

3. Khalij-e Fars Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile

This is also a self-produced weapon of Iranian design. The Khalij-e Fars Missile has a 350 kilometer range and delivers a payload similar to that of the Sejil missile. The homemade mobile missile also features the quickness of a solid fuel missile on a mobile launch system, but has the added benefit of being able to hit a maneuvering target (such as an aircraft carrier) within ten meters.

Uzi Rubin, the designer of the Israel’s Arrow missile defense system calls this Iranian missile “a total game changer.”

4. Hezbollah

Hezbollah is no longer just a ragtag group of terrorists bent on Israel’s destruction. They are a legitimate political party in Lebanon, with a well-trained, well-equipped and well-funded paramilitary organization. They are trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, the Islamic Republic’s special operations and unconventional warfare units, operating exclusively outside of Iran’s borders. The Quds Force was responsible for training most Shia militias to fight U.S. forces during the 2003-2011 Iraq War but also helped topple the Taliban government in Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11. They operate from North America to India and Scandinavia to Sub-Saharan Africa and answer directly to the Supreme Leader of Iran.

The United States considers the Quds Force and Hezbollah to be terror organizations. Hezbollah is currently bolstering the government forces of Bashar al-Asad in the ongoing Syrian Civil War. Their primary opponents are ISIS and its affiliates.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BP6lXPBTZMk
Supporting the Asad government means Hezbollah is also fighting the Free Syrian Army, U.S.-backed “moderate” rebel groups, the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front, and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). Hezbollah is such a capable force, they are able to project significant strength all the way into Iraq from its power base in Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley.

This is what it’s like to do a little ‘Rangering’

It is important to remember that although the Iranian government’s extraterritorial forces have attacked U.S. forces and U.S. allies in the past, the Iranian state has never started an offensive war. Iranian military strategy is designed mainly for home defense and the direction of Quds Force operation is usually designed to keep potential threats to the Iranian regime fighting those forces as far away from Iran as possible.

Even a surgical strike against Iranian nuclear targets is likely to light the powder keg and trigger a greater regional war. A full-scale invasion of Iran would be necessary to forcefully curb the nuclear program. Iran is larger and more populous than Iraq and may require up to 75,000 troops to invade, could kill up to 15,000 U.S. troops and would cost $5.1 trillion. For the Iranians, troop casualties estimate from 300,000 to a million killed and up to 12 million people displaced. Even Israel’s own defense chiefs recommend against it. Only total war would keep Iran from getting the bomb if they wanted to.

A nuke is not what the Iranians were after. The regime’s best reason to obtain a nuclear weapon is to ensure the survival of the Revolutionary regime, for the government’s longevity to be more akin to North Korea’s rather than Ba’athist Iraq’s in the scope of the “Axis of Evil.” The Iran Deal gives the Ayatollah that longevity (and a lifting of greater sanctions) without having to expend the money and resources to build and secure a nuclear weapon, something it likely didn’t want to do in the first place.

 

NOW: 5 mind blowing facts about the U.S. military

OR: What other countries already have nukes?

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What is Hazardous Duty Incentive Pay and why do you need it?

This is what it’s like to do a little ‘Rangering’
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Alex McClendon, 633rd Aerospace Medicine Squadron bioenvironmental engineer technician, prepares to enter a simulated contaminated area during Integrated Base Emergency Response and Capability training at Langley Air Force Base, VA


Hazardous Duty Incentive Pay is part of the U.S. military’s Special and Incentive pay system and is intended to help the services address their manning needs by motivating service members to volunteer for specific jobs that generally otherwise pay them more in the civilian sector.

Each hazardous duty incentive pay amount is in addition to base pay and other entitlements.

Title 37 U.S. Code, chapter 5, subchapter 1, outlines several types of S&I pay, and sections 301a and 310 specifically address Hazardous Duty Incentive Pay and Hostile Fire/Imminent Danger pay, respectively.

HDIP is payable to both enlisted and officers of all the service branches unless specified.

Section 301 (a) addresses the following S&I:

1. Flying Duty (crew members)

Who: Flight crew who are not aviators and regularly fly.

How much: $110 – $250 per month, determined by rank

2. Flying Duty (non crew members)

Who: Anyone on flying duty who isn’t crew, but still performs duties related to flight.

How much: $150 per month

3. Parachute Duty

Who: The crazies who jump out of perfectly good planes.

How much: $150 per month, except for High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) jumps at $225 per month

5. Pressure Chamber Duty, Acceleration and Deceleration Duty, Thermal Stress Duty

Who: 301 (a) (5-7) all pertain to those service members who agree to be guinea pigs.

How much: $150 per month

8. Flight Deck Duty

Who: Those on a flight decks that are more dangerous than normal, because aircraft hurtling towards them at breakneck speeds is just another Tuesday (i.e. on ships).

How much: $150 per month

9. Toxic Pesticides Personal Exposure

Who: Those who are regularly exposed to toxic pesticides in relation to their jobs.

How much: $150 per month, because nothing says “thank you for your service” like toxin poisoning and $150

10. Toxic Fuel/Propellants and Chemical Munitions Exposure

Who: Those doing jobs that expose them to toxic fuels or propellants or chemical munitions.

How much: $150 per month

11. Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) – Maritime Interdiction Operations

Who: Navy personnel who are part of a team that conducts VBSS in support of Maritime Interdiction Operations — basically modern-day American pirates on the good guys team.

How much: $150 per month. Commence to booty jokes.

Section 310 Hostile Fire/Imminent Danger Pay

Who: Those who are subject to hostile fire, explosions of hostile mines; on duty at/ deployed to areas where their status as a service member could put them at risk of threats of physical harm as a result of civil unrest, civil war, terrorism, or wartime conditions

How much: $225 per month

For more information on hazardous duty incentive pay and S&I, check out Military Compensation.

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QUIZ: Who said it, Gen. Mattis or 50 Cent?

Did the retired Marine general say these things or did the rapper say these things?


On the surface, the two have nothing in common. The rapper-actor out of Queens, NY started his career selling drugs at age 12 during the crack epidemic. On the other hand, Mattis began his career as an enlisted Marine during 1960s.

As their careers progressed, 50 Cent left drug-dealing to pursue a music career. He quickly gained a reputation for being a shrewd businessman, becoming an actor, opening an apparel line, and eventually becoming an investor.

“Mad Dog” Mattis had a different path. He graduated to the officer ranks during the 1970s and became known as the “Warrior Monk” because of his bachelor life and lifelong devotion to the study of war. “Saint Mattis of Quantico, Patron Saint of Chaos” is the current secretary of defense.

Besides their different walks of life, the two seem to have a similar outlook. We gathered some of their most famous quotes to make this quiz. Can you guess who said what?

MIGHTY TRENDING

New holes in Russian claims about poisoning suspect

A photograph on display at a Russian military academy is adding to the growing evidence identifying a Russian military intelligence officer who was allegedly involved in the poisoning of a former double agent in England.

The photo, highlighted in an Oct. 2, 2018 report published jointly by RFE/RL’s Russian Service and the open-source investigative website Bellingcat, builds on other recent reports that have used data from passport registries, online photographs, and military records to focus on a Russian man identified by British authorities as Ruslan Boshirov.

British authorities say that Boshirov and another man identified as Aleksandr Petrov were behind the March 2018 poisoning of Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in the English town of Salisbury.


The Skripals survived the poisoning, which used a Soviet-made military nerve agent known as Novichok.

Days after being publicly identified, the two Russians went on state-controlled TV channel RT and claimed they were merely tourists.

The Kremlin has strenuously denied any involvement in the poisoning, which prompted London, Washington, and other Western allies to expel dozens of Russian diplomats.

Passport information and other data compiled by Bellingcat, however, revealed that the two suspects had links to Russian military intelligence, known as the GRU.

This is what it’s like to do a little ‘Rangering’

A CCTV image issued by London’s Metropolitan police showing Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov at Salisbury train station.

Later research pinpointed Boshirov’s alleged true identity as Anatoly Chepiga, who graduated from the Far Eastern Military Academy and received a medal — the Hero of the Russia Federation — in 2014, and holds the rank of colonel in the GRU.

Several people from Chepiga’s hometown also corroborated his identity to Russian and Western media, and confirmed he had been awarded a medal.

Using social-media postings, RFE/RL’s Russian Service, along with Bellingcat, discovered a wall of photos at the military academy honoring famous graduates.

One of the photos, posted between July 2014 and March 2016, is identified as Chepiga. The photo shows a man resembling the man identified as Boshirov on the RT interview.

Bellingcat also obtained a higher-resolution version of the Chepiga photograph on the wall, showing a close resemblance to the man who was interviewed on RT.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has asserted that the allegations about Chepiga and the other man are part of an “information campaign” aimed at Russia.

In June 2018, two other British citizens were also exposed to the nerve agent, apparently by accident; one of them, Dawn Sturgess, died.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Inside Mattis’ $2.5 billion plan to make the military more lethal

Retired Marine infantry officer Joe L’Etoile remembers when training money for his unit was so short “every man got four blanks; then we made butta-butta-bang noises” and “threw dirt clods for grenades.”

Now, L’Etoile is director of the Defense Department’s Close Combat Lethality Task Force and leading an effort to manage $2.5 billion worth of DoD investments into weapons, unmanned systems, body armor, training, and promising new technology for a group that has typically ranked the lowest on the U.S. military’s priority list: the grunts.


This is what it’s like to do a little ‘Rangering’

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Orrin G. Farmer)

But the task force’s mission isn’t just about funding high-tech new equipment for Army, Marine, and special operations close-combat forces. It is also digging into deeply entrenched policies and making changes to improve unit cohesion, leadership, and even the methods used for selecting individuals who serve in close-combat formations.

Launched in February, the new joint task force is a top priority of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, a retired Marine Corps infantry officer himself. With this level of potent support, L’Etoile is able to navigate through the bureaucratic strongholds of the Pentagon that traditionally favor large weapons programs, such as Air Force fighters and Navy ships.

“This is a mechanism that resides at the OSD level, so it’s fairly quick; we are fairly nimble,” L’Etoile told Military.com on July 25. “And because this is the secretary’s priority … the bureaucracies respond well because the message is the secretary’s.”

Before he’s done, L’Etoile said, the task force will “reinvent the way the squad is perceived within the department.”

“I would like to see the squad viewed as a weapons platform and treated as such that its constituent parts matter,” he said. “We would never put an aircraft onto the flight line that didn’t have all of its parts, but a [Marine] squad that only has 10 out of 13? Yeah. Deploy it. Put it into combat. We need to take a look at what that costs us. And fundamentally, I believe down at my molecular level, we can do better.”
This is what it’s like to do a little ‘Rangering’

United States Secretary of Defense James Mattis

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jess Lewis)

​Improving the Squad

Mattis’ Feb. 8 memo to the service secretaries, Joint Chiefs of Staff and all combatant commands announcing the task force sent a shockwave through the force, stating “personnel policies, advances in training methods, and equipment have not kept pace with changes in available technology, human factors, science, and talent management best practices.”

To L’Etoile, the task force is not out to fix what he describes as the U.S. military’s “phenomenal” infantry and direct-action forces.

“Our charter is really just to take it to the next level,” he said. “In terms of priorities, the material solution is not my number-one concern.”

This is what it’s like to do a little ‘Rangering’

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Staci Miller)

​Gifted Grunts

For starters, the task force is looking at ways to identify Marines and soldiers who possess the characteristics and qualities that will make an infantry squad more efficient in the deadly art of close combat.

The concept is murky, but “we are investing in some leading-edge science to get at the question of what are the attributes to be successful in close combat and how do you screen for those attributes?” L’Etoile said. “How do you incentivize individuals with those attributes to come on board to the close-combat team, to stick their hand in the air for an infantry MOS?”

Col. Joey Polanco, the Army service lead at the task force, said it is evaluating several screening programs, some that rely on “big data and analytics to see if this individual would be a better fit for, say, infantry or close-combat formations.”

Polanco, an infantry officer who has served in the 82nd Airborne and 10th Mountain divisions, said the task force is also looking at ways to incentivize these individuals to “want to continue to stay infantry.”

L’Etoile said the task force is committed to changing policy to help fix a “wicked problem” in the Marine Corps of relying too heavily on corporals instead of sergeants to lead infantry squads.

“In the Marine Corps, there are plenty of squads that are being led by corporals instead of sergeants, and there are plenty of squads being led by lance corporals instead of corporals,” he said. “I led infantry units in combat. There is a difference when a squad is led by a lance corporal — no matter how stout his heart and back — and a sergeant leading them.”

Every Marine must be ready to take on leadership roles, but filling key leader jobs with junior enlisted personnel instead of sergeants degrades unit cohesion, L’Etoile said.

“When four guys are best buddies and they went to boot camp together and they go drinking beer together on the weekends … and then one day the squad leader rotates and it’s ‘Hey Johnson, you are now the squad leader,’ the human dynamics of that person becoming an effective leader with folks that were his peers is difficult to overcome,” he said.

It’s equally important to stabilize the squad’s leadership so that “the squad leader doesn’t show up three months before a deployment but is there in enough time to get that cohesion with his unit, his fire team leaders and his squad members,” L’Etoile said. “Having the appropriate grade, age-experience level and training is really, really important.”

The Army is compiling data to see if that issue is a persistent problem in its squads.

“When we get the data back, we will have a better idea of how do we increase the cohesion of an Army squad, and I think what you are going to find is, it needs its own solution, if there in fact is a problem,” L’Etoile said.

This is what it’s like to do a little ‘Rangering’

(U.S. Marine Corps photos by Cpl. Demetrius Morgan)

​No Budget, But Deep Pockets

Just weeks after the first U.S. combat forces went into Afghanistan in late 2001, the Army, Marine Corps and U.S. Special Operations Command began modernizing and upgrading individual and squad weapons and gear.

Since then, equipment officials have labored to field lighter body armor, more efficient load-bearing gear and new weapons to make infantry and special operations forces more lethal.

But the reality is, there is only so much money budgeted toward individual kit and weapons when other service priorities, such as armored vehicles and rotary-wing aircraft, need modernizing as well.

The task force has the freedom to look at where the DoD is “investing its research dollars and render an opinion on whether those dollars are being well spent,” L’Etoile said. “I have no money; I don’t want money. I don’t want to spend the next two years managing a budget. That takes a lot of time and energy.”

“But I am very interested in where money goes. So, for instance, if there is a particular close-combat capability that I believe represents a substantive increase in survivability, lethality — you name it — for a close-combat formation, and I see that is not being funded at a meaningful level, step one is to ask why,” he continued. “Let’s get informed on the issue … and then if it makes sense, go advocate for additional funding for that capability.”

The task force currently has reprogramming or new funding requests worth up to .5 billion for high-tech equipment and training efforts that L’Etoile would not describe in detail.

“I have a number of things that are teed up … it’s premature for me to say,” he said. “In broad categories, we have active requests for additional funding in sensing; think robots and [unmanned aerial systems]. We have requests for additional funding of munitions for training and additional tactical capabilities [and] additional funding for training adversaries, so you get a sparring partner as well as a heavy bag.”

The task force is requesting additional money for advanced night-vision equipment and synthetic-training technologies. L’Etoile also confirmed that it helped fund the Army’s 0 million effort to train and equip the majority of its active brigade combat teams to fight in large, subterranean complexeslike those that exist in North Korea.

“We can go to the department and say, ‘This is of such importance that I think the department should shine a light on it and invest in it,’ ” he said.

This is what it’s like to do a little ‘Rangering’

(US Army)

​Endorsing Futuristic Kit

One example of this is the task force’s interest in an Army program to equip its infantry units with a heads-up display designed to provide soldiers with a digital weapon-sight reticle, as well as tactical data about the immediate battlefield environment.

“The big thing is the Heads-Up Display 3.0. I would tell you that is one of the biggest things we are pushing,” Polanco said. “It’s focused primarily on helping us improve lethality, situational awareness, as well as our mobility.”

The Army is currently working on HUD 1.0, which involves a thermal weapon sight mounted on the soldier’s weapon that can wirelessly transmit the sight reticle into the new dual-tubed Enhanced Night Vision Goggle III B.

The system can also display waypoints and share information with other soldiers in the field, Army officials said.

The HUD 3.0 will draw on the synthetic training environment — one of the Army’s key priorities for modernizing training — and allow soldiers to train and rehearse in a virtual training environment, as well as take into combat.

The service has already had soldiers test the HUD 1.0 version and provide feedback.

“If you look at the increased lethality just by taking that thermal reticle off of the weapon and putting it up into their eye, the testing has been off the chart,” Brig. Gen. Christopher Donahue, director of the Army’s Soldier Lethality Cross Functional Team, said at the Association of the United States Army’s Global Force Symposium earlier this year.

This is what it’s like to do a little ‘Rangering’

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. John Tran)

The Army tried for years in the 1990s to accomplish this with its Land Warrior program, but it could be done only by running bulky cables from the weapon sight to the helmet-mounted display eyepiece. Soldiers found it too awkward and a snag hazard, so the effort was eventually shelved.

“Whatever we want to project up into that reticle — that tube — it’s pretty easy,” Donahue said. “It’s just a matter of how you get it and how much data. We don’t want too much information in there either … we’ve got to figure that out.”

The initial prototypes of the HUD 3.0 are scheduled to be ready in 18 months, he added.

“It is really a state-of-the art capability that allows you to train as you fight from a synthetic training environment standpoint to a live environment,” Polanco said, adding that the task force has submitted a request to the DoD to find funding for the HUD 3.0.

“One of the things we have been able to do as a task force is we have endorsed and advocated strongly for this capability. … It’s going forward as a separate item that we are looking for funding on,” he said.

Perhaps the biggest challenge before the task force is how to ensure all these efforts to make the squad more lethal will not be undone when Mattis is no longer in office.

“We ask ourselves every time we step up to the plate to take on one of these challenges, how do we make it enduring?” L’Etoile said.

“How do we ensure that the progress we make is not unwound when the priorities shift? So it’s important when you take these things on that you are mindful that there ought to be an accompanying policy because … they can’t just get unwound overnight,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

Behold the ‘bazooka Vespa’

In the 1950s France, in the midst of dealing with insurgencies in its colonies in Algeria and Indochina, recognized a military need for easily transportable artillery that could quickly be deployed to the front lines. It happened upon one very novel solution: a militarized Vespa scooter with a built-in armor-piercing gun.


The Vespa 150 TAP, built by French Vespa licensee ACMA, was designed expressly to be used with the French airborne special forces, the Troupes Aéro Portées (TAP).

This is what it’s like to do a little ‘Rangering’
Isn’t the bazooka Vespa…that is…the Vespa Militare magnificent? (Photo: C. Galliani)

The Vespa TAP was designed to be airdropped into a military theater fully assembled and ready for immediate action. This high level of mobility made the TAP the perfect anti-guerilla weapon, since enemy irregulars could appear at a moment’s notice even in remote locations.

Outfitted with an M20 recoilless rifle, the TAP proved more than capable of destroying makeshift fortifications used by guerrillas in Algeria and Indochina. The M20 was designed as an anti-tank recoilless rifle that was outfitted with a high-explosive anti-tank warhead. Under ideal circumstances, the rifle could penetrate 100mm of armor from 7,000 yards away.

The M20 outfitted on the Vespa was never actually meant to be fired while the vehicle was in motion. Instead, the Vespa frame functioned as a way of transporting the artillery to the front line. Once there, the rifle would be removed from the Vespa and placed on a tripod for accurate firing.

Also read: The most ridiculous weapons used throughout history

Remarkably, aside for a slight overhaul of the engine, plus the inclusion of the rifle and ammunition mounts, the standard Vespa and the TAP were designed almost identically. The TAP had a strengthened frame and lower gearing, but besides that it drives just as any Vespa would.

About 500 total TAPs were produced throughout the 1950s.

However ingenious the TAP was, the vehicle was never used outside of the French military during engagements in Algeria and French Indochina.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. Forces recover bodies from plane crash site in Afghanistan

Helicopter-borne U.S. forces have recovered the remains of the crew killed when a military aircraft went down in a Taliban-controlled area of Afghanistan’s Ghazni Province, according to U.S. and Afghan officials.

The Bombardier E-11A, used for military communications, went down in a snowy part of eastern Afghanistan on January 27.


Ghazni police chief Khaled Wardak said U.S. choppers landed at the site in the late afternoon and were reinforced by Afghan security forces on the ground during the operation. Earlier in the day, Afghan forces trying to reach the wreckage clashed with militants.

“Following the removal of the bodies, our forces have moved back to their bases. We don’t know where the foreigners have taken the bodies,” Wardak said.

Nasir Ahmad Faqiri, the head of the provincial council in Ghazni, confirmed the operation, saying the Americans took at least two bodies from the scene.

A U.S. defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that the remains of individuals from the aircraft had been recovered and said the military was in the process of identifying the remains. The Pentagon declined to comment.

The Pentagon only confirmed the aircraft belonged to U.S. forces, but dismissed Taliban claims it had been shot down. The military did not say how many people were aboard or if there were any casualties.

Earlier on January 28, coalition forces flew sorties over the site of the crashed jet with one aircraft firing flares as a crowd gathered nearby, according to witness reports.

This is what it’s like to do a little ‘Rangering’

Wardak said after the plane went down Afghan security forces tried to reach the wreckage late on January 27 when they were ambushed by the Taliban and pushed back.

Ghazni police spokesman Ahmad Khan Sirat confirmed the incident, adding that at least one person was killed in the fighting between Taliban and Afghan forces.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said Afghan forces backed by U.S. military support tried to capture the area around the wreckage.

He said Taliban fighters on the ground counted six bodies at the site of the crash.

Unidentified U.S. officials were quoted as saying the plane was carrying fewer than five people when it crashed.

The crash comes as the Taliban and United States have been in talks on ending the 18-year war in Afghanistan.

The two sides had been negotiating the deal for a year and were on the brink of an announcement in September 2019 when U.S. President Donald Trump abruptly declared the process “dead,” citing Taliban violence.

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

Articles

6 military video games used to train troops on the battlefield

Usually, any mention of “computer-based training” leads to more groans from troops than any GI Party ever could. Not so for these military video games. These games are more like those marathon weekends playing “GoldenEye 64” during the junior high years. Bring out the military equivalent of Funyuns and Mountain Dew (Sunflower seeds and Rip-Its?) and settle in to become the best U.S. troop that ever roamed virtual Earth.

Multi-purpose Arcade Combat Simulator (Super Nintendo)

This is what it’s like to do a little ‘Rangering’
Bring it on, Duck Hunt.


Developed by the U.S. Army and one of the most prolific developers of Super Nintendo (SNES) games, the Multipurpose Arcade Combat Simulator (MACS) used a light gun to rate how well a soldier shoots. MACS also aided in learning to zero a rifle and other basic aspects of marksmanship. The light gun isn’t the standard issue SNES weapon, it’s a replica of Jäger AP-74, which is itself styled after the M-16 rifle used by the U.S. military.

Virtual Reality Combat Training

This is what it’s like to do a little ‘Rangering’

The VIRTSIM System, created by Raytheon, is an immersive, open space, VR training ground. The basketball court-sized game pad keeps track of a soldier’s movements through the use of a rubber pad and a weapon-mounted controller. The limitations of the game and the environment allow for the troops to train on responses to incoming fire of different kinds, but they can’t jump for cover and they will never be as tired in the training simulator as they might be after days of dismounted patrols in the real world. The system’s benefit is that it is a way to train for scenarios that the Army cannot recreate and allows for troops to familiarize themselves with the weapons and equipment they’ll carry in a real-world situation.

Full Spectrum Warrior (Xbox)

This is what it’s like to do a little ‘Rangering’
Even video games couldn’t get desert flak vests.

In 2004, game producer THQ and The U.S. Army-funded Institute for Creative Technologies dropped “Full Spectrum Warrior.” Recognizing that millennials coming into the military since 2000 grew up playing video games, the Army’s Science and Tech community created this first attempt at leveraging video games for training purposes. There were two versions of “Full Spectrum Warrior,” the one released to the public, and the one used as a training tool. The Army’s version is unlocked via a static code (HA2P1PY9TUR5TLE) on the code input screen. The player issues orders and directions to virtual fire teams and squad members, over whom he does not directly control. Another version of the game, called “Full Spectrum Command,” would be introduced later for company-level commanders.

Tactical Iraqi (PC)

This is what it’s like to do a little ‘Rangering’

The “Tactical Iraqi Language and Culture Training System” brought scenario-based PC gameplay to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines before their Surge deployment to Iraq in 2007. The game was developed to teach Iraqi situational language and gestures as well as cultural nuances in a virtual world that could be applied to real-world deployments. It brought Marines face-to-face with Iraqis during simulated missions. The game reduced several months of cultural training to 80 hours of computer-based training.

America’s Army (PC, Xbox)

This is what it’s like to do a little ‘Rangering’
The 55th Signal Co. is there, just not in the frame.

“America’s Army” is not just a game, it’s a series of games. The U.S. Army developed and published this first-person shooter to provide a virtual soldier experience that was “engaging, informative, and entertaining.” Since its initial inception on PC in 2002, it has grown to include iterations on Xbox, Xbox 360, arcade, and mobile apps. The platform has also extended to other government training platforms to further train troops. The latest iteration, “America’s Army: Real Heroes” featured specific, real-world soldiers who have distinguished themselves in combat. The series has won dozens of awards, including Best Action Game of E3 by GameSpy and Best First Person Shooter from Wargamer.

Virtual Battlespace 2

This is what it’s like to do a little ‘Rangering’

“Virtual Battlespace 2” (or VBS2) gives instructors the ability to create custom battlefield simulations that engage the players (read: soldiers) from multiple viewpoints. Like “Full Spectrum Warrior,” it also gives soldiers the ability to issue orders to squad members. As of 2012, the game was still being used for Basic Combat Training scenarios. It teaches land nav, combat scenarios, and platoon-level group strategies. The biggest advantage of using VBS2 is that new soldiers learn from their mistakes more easily and faster, with fewer consequences than say, getting lost in the woods in a land nav exercise.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia and NATO just took one step closer to war

The headlines in Georgia read that the country will one day join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – whether Russia likes it or not. The man who made the declaration is NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. The Secretary was visiting Georgia at the end of a set of joint NATO-Georgian military exercises.

No firm date has been set but the Kremlin, long opposed to Georgia’s membership in the anti-Russian alliance, can’t be pleased with the idea of another NATO country along its border.


This is what it’s like to do a little ‘Rangering’

From the 2011 Film “Five Days of War,” about the Georgian side of the 2008 Russia-Georgia War.

The Russians have occupied part of internationally-recognized Georgian territory since capturing it in 2008. The aftermath of that conflict saw Russian occupation of the territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Russian recognition of those territories as sovereign states, and a permanent Russian military presence in both areas. Thousands of Russian troops are stationed there to this day. Georgia still considers those areas to belong to Georgia.

That same year, the NATO membership decided Georgia would definitely become a NATO member one day. Secretary Stoltenberg reaffirmed the commitment of NATO allies to Georgia, saying there was nothing Russia can do to prevent the move.

“We are not accepting that Russia or any other power can decide what members can do,” he said. “No country has the right to influence NATO’s open-door policy.”

This is what it’s like to do a little ‘Rangering’

American and Georgian troops during military exercises in the Caucasian country.

Georgia has been in what Russia considers its sphere of influence since the days of the Tsar, which can put the country in a precarious situation so close to its powerful neighbor. Ukraine has also been trying to escape Russian influence since the fall of the Soviet Union and has tried to do so by moving closer to joining the NATO alliance. Russia considered Ukraine’s membership in NATO to be a direct national security threat, which led to the unofficial invasion of Ukraine and the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.

Russia used similar tactics in the lead-up to its 2008 invasion of Georgia, including the use of Russian-backed insurgents, Russian-made weapons, and even the first use of concurrent cyberattacks during a conventional armed conflict. If the Russian Army made such an aggressive move on Georgia as a NATO member, the attack would trigger NATO’s Article 5 – that an attack on one member country is an attack on all countries.

This is what it’s like to do a little ‘Rangering’

American troops with the NATO flag in Afghanistan.

The first and only time Article 5 was automatically invoked, the alliance took immediate action. Less than a day after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, struck the United States, NATO member countries informed the United Nations they were invoking Article 5 and that each country would take an immediate eight steps to assist the United States. While provoking the alliance isn’t Russia’s style, the addition of Georgia could still lead to a war.

On three separate occasions, the collective defense agreement came to member state Turkey’s aid at the request of Turkish officials. In 1991, 2003, and again in 2012, the NATO alliance responded with allied troops, weapons, and equipment to the call for aid from a NATO ally. A buildup of allied troops near the border with the breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia would surely be met with a buildup of Russian troops on the opposite side.

This is what it’s like to do a little ‘Rangering’

Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev and President Vladimir Putin.

The Kremlin has not specifically responded to the recent statements made by Jens Stoltenberg, but most recently, Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev warned of “a terrible conflict” brewing just by making such a move. He also questioned the wisdom of provoking such a conflict.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US seizes North Korean cargo ship for violating sanctions

The US seized a North Korean ship and sailed it thousands of miles to check whether it has been used to violate international sanctions.

The US alleges that the “Wise Honest,” North Korea’s second-largest cargo ship, was making illicit shipments of coal and heavy machinery — in violation of US and UN sanctions on North Korea.

The Department of Justice announced May 9, 2019, that it had seized the 17,000-ton ship, the first time a North Korean ship has been commandeered over sanctions violations.

The announcement came after North Korea appeared to launch two short-range missiles in a test, adding further tensions to its relations with the US.


The Wise Honest arrived in the port of Pago Pago in the US territory of American Samoa on May 11, 2019, after a three-week journey, The Associated Press reported.

Assistant Attorney General Demers called the “Wise Honest” a “sanctions-busting ship” and said the US would ensure that North Korea complies with the international sanctions.

“This sanctions-busting ship is now out of service,” Demers said on May 9, 2019.

US seizes massive North Korean cargo vessel for violating sanctions

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“North Korea, and the companies that help it evade US and UN sanctions, should know that we will use all tools at our disposal — including a civil forfeiture action such as this one, or criminal charges — to enforce the sanctions enacted by the U.S. and the global community.”

“We are deeply committed to the role the Justice Department plays in applying maximum pressure to the North Korean regime to cease its belligerence.”

The UN Security Council has banned North Korea from exporting commodities like coal, lead, and iron, in a bid to prevent it from funding its nuclear and weapons programs.

The Department of Justice accused North Korea of “concealing the origin of their ship” and accused Korea Songi Shipping Company, which was using the ship, of violating US law by paying US dollars for improvements and purchases for the ship through oblivious US financial institutions.

“This seizure should serve as a clear signal that we will not allow foreign adversaries to use our financial systems to fund weapons programs which will be used to threaten our nation,” Demers said.

US Coast Guard public affairs officer Amanda Wyrick told the AP that the US would investigate the ship in American Samoa. She did not say where the ship would be brought after the investigation was complete.

The ship was first detained by Indonesia in April 2018, because it was not broadcasting a signal required to give information to other ships and authorities, the Department of Justice said.

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

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