North Korea’s military escapades were back in the headlines in December, after state media in the secretive country reported news of two large-scale military drills involving rocket launchers and fighter jets.
In either case, the country’s missile development and huge artillery stocks pose a significant danger to South Korea and the rest of the world.
It is one of the world’s most secretive countries, so the information largely comes from other sources, but the state’s propaganda efforts mean there are plenty of pictures of the country’s colossal military capacity. Take a look.
*Mike Bird contributed reporting to an earlier version of this article.
U.S. military nutrition experts hope to start testing a new assault ration, known as the Close Combat Assault Ration, that is drastically lighter than existing field rations by 2020.
Ten years ago, the Defense Department’s Combat Feeding Directorate began fielding the First Strike Ration, which was designed to give combat troops the equivalent of three Meals, Ready to Eat a day in a compact, lightweight package.
At about two pounds, the FSR is about half the weight and size of three MREs.
Prototypes of the Close Combat Assault Ration weigh about as much as one MRE and take up about 75 percent less room as an equivalent number of individual meals inside a pack, according to Jeremy Whitsitt, deputy director of the CFD.
“It’s designed for those guys like Army Rangers, special ops guys, light infantry — guys that would potentially be in a mission scenario that would require them to carry multiple days of food, ammunition, water, other supplies, without the potential of being resupplied,” he told Military.com.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Lee Klika)
The idea of having a combat ration tailored to the needs of ground troops has been bounced around before. In 2016, Brig. Gen. Joseph Shrader, commander of Marine Corps Systems Command, told industry professionals at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, that he was interested in developing an MRE specially designed for Marine grunts, who need the most nutrition at the lightest weight possible.
While the CCAR is still in prototype stage, it weighs about 1.5 pounds, Whitsitt said, explaining a process of vacuum microwave drying that shrinks the food by about 50 percent.
A sample CCAR menu contains a tart cherry nut bar, cheddar cheese bar, mocha dessert bar, vacuum-dried strawberries, trail mix of nuts and fruit, Korean barbeque stir fry packet, spinach quiche packet with four small quiches, French toast packet, and a banana that was vacuum microwave dried to about one-third of its original size, according to a recent Army press release.
The goal is to begin testing the CCAR in 2020 and fielding it to replace the FSR in 2023, Whitsitt said, adding that the CCAR will not replace the MRE, which will remain the primary field ration.
On a five-day mission, rather than “field-stripping 15 MREs and taking things that are easy to carry, they can take five of these Close Combat Assault Rations and still get 3,000 calories a day but have more room in their pack for more ammunition, more medical supplies, more water — things that will keep them in the fight longer,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
The USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and a bomber task force are being sent to “send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime,” White House national security adviser John Bolton said in a statement on May 5, 2019.
This decision “represents a prudent repositioning of assets in response to indications of a credible threat by Iranian regime forces,” acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said on May 6, 2019.
Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the new head of US Central Command, requested the additional firepower on May 5, 2019, after reviewing intelligence hinting at a possible Iranian attack on American forces and US interests in the region, The New York Times reported, citing a Department of Defense official.
Shanahan approved the request, and the White House announced it, stressing that “any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.” The White House statement emphasized that the US does not want war with Iran but is ready to respond if attacked.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated this point May 6, 2019. “It is absolutely the case that we’ve seen escalatory action from the Iranians, and it is equally the case that we will hold the Iranians accountable for attacks on American interests,” he said.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
(Photo by Mark Taylor)
The intel, according to Israeli media, appears to have come, at least in part from Israel, which reportedly provided information on a possible Iranian plot against US targets in the region or US allies. Fox News confirmed that the intel came from a friendly intelligence service.
CNN, citing US officials, reported that the intelligence suggested a possible attack on US forces in Syria, Iraq, and at sea. There were reportedly multiple intel threads.
“It is still unclear to us what the Iranians are trying to do and how they are planning to do it, but it is clear to us that the Iranian temperature is on the rise as a result of the growing US pressure campaign against them,” an Israeli official told Israeli reporters. “They are considering retaliating against US interests in the Gulf.”
US sailors prepare to moor USS Abraham Lincoln in Norfolk, Virginia, Sept. 7, 2017.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jennifer M. Kirkman)
Tensions between Washington and Iran have been on the rise since the Trump administration made the decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. The US has targeted its military forces and is currently in the process of trying to cut off Iran’s energy exports.
The latest firepower redirect, which Chief of Naval Operations John Richardson has been celebrating as a shining example of the opportunities provided by the military’s dynamic force employment strategy, appears to be the US bringing out the big guns in hopes of being ready for anything.
The Department of Defense called the deployment “a prudent step in response to indications of heightened Iranian readiness to conduct offensive operations against US forces and our interests.”
“It ensures we have the forces we need in the region to respond to contingencies and to defend US forces and interests in the region,” an emailed Pentagon statement explained. “We emphasize the White House statement that we do not seek war with the Iranian regime, but we will defend US personnel, our allies and our interests in the region.”
The Lincoln is currently in the US European Command area of responsibility, operating in the Mediterranean Sea, but it, along with US bomber aircraft, is being redirected on an accelerated timetable to the Persian Gulf, according to the Pentagon.
“The @USNavy is ready to maneuver around the globe to protect U.S. interests and security,” Richardson tweeted May 6, 2019.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It was only a matter of time before the current climate of unrest led back to the U.S. military — and its 10 Army bases named for Confederate generals, all spread throughout the former Confederacy.
Whether to rename them continues to be a contentious political issue, but the practical-minded among us have moved on. If they are renamed, what will they be called?
So, without once using the term “Forty McFortFace,” here are a few suggestions — some entirely serious, some very not — for changing those 10 antiquated base names.
1. Fort Benning (Georgia)
This Columbus, Georgia, base was named after Confederate Gen. Henry L. Benning, who fought against the Union armies at the Second Battle of Bull Run, Antietam and Gettysburg. It was named for him in 1918, while many Civil War veterans were still alive. That doesn’t mean it needs to keep the name.
For sheer coolness factor, the base could be renamed for former NFL Wide Receiver Calvin Johnson, whose hometown is just an hour away from Columbus. Enemies would think twice if they knew they would be facing soldiers from Fort Megatron.
They both also have a lot of touchdowns. (U.S. Army photo by Ismael Ortega)
In all seriousness, though, renaming Fort Benning will likely be the easiest rechristening of this whole list, as the military’s basic paratrooper training is conducted here. The base could be named for Maj. General William C. Lee, the “Father of the U.S. Airborne,” and the first commander of the Army’s “jump school.”
Naming it “Fort William C. Lee” isn’t weird, either. Just ask the residents of Fort George G. Meade.
2. Fort Lee (Virginia)
So what to do with Fort Lee, Virginia, now that Fort William C. Lee is in Georgia? The current Fort Lee was named for Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia. Even though the federal government seized his estate and turned it into Arlington National Cemetery, it still somehow thought it appropriate to name a base after him.
Robert E. Lee, history’s most undeservingly beloved loser.
A decent thing to do would be to name the base, once a training center for the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), after the WAC’s first director, Oveta Culp Hobby. As the WAC accepted women of all races, it would be a fitting rebranding effort. Gen. Douglas MacArthur did call the WACs “his best soldiers,” after all.
If that doesn’t garner enough support, renaming the installation for Lee’s famous adversary should. Situated in the greater Richmond region, renaming Fort Lee to Fort Grant would send a positive message to the people who look up to the U.S. Army. Grant owned one slave in his life, acquired from his father-in-law, and set the man free in less than a year.
3. Fort Bragg (North Carolina)
Besides being named for a Confederate general, Fort Bragg should be renamed because it’s the home of Army Special Forces, the 75th Ranger Regiment and the Air Force Combat Control School — and it’s named for American history’s worst general.
Is this who we want the home of Army Special Forces to be named for?
Lemme answer that for you: No. (U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Isaac Johnson)
There are a bevy of candidates that would be better suited for the name of such a place. “The President of the Underground Railroad,” Levi Coffin, got his start helping fugitive slaves in Greensboro, North Carolina. “Fort Coffin,” however, sounds, well … So maybe that’s a no.
Then there’s Hiram Revels, born a free man in Fayetteville, he helped organize two regiments of the then-called United States Colored Troops and served as their chaplain. Later, he became the first African American U.S. senator, representing Mississippi.
Fort Revels sounds like a name appropriate for a base in Fayettenam.
4. Fort Hood (Texas)
This Killeen, Texas-based installation is named for John Bell Hood, a Confederate who wasn’t even from Texas. Known for his bravery, all that bravado didn’t help him even slow down Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman on his way to burn down the South and everything they loved. Surely, Texans have a number of people they would prefer to honor over a Confederate. It’s Texas. TEXAS.
For starters, how about the most decorated soldier who ever lived, a World War II Medal of Honor recipient born in Kingston, Texas, who went from enlisted man to officer, then starred in the hit movie about his own life: Audie Murphy.
Fort Murphy would have much better pedigree than Fort Hood, named for a general who peaked before the Civil War was even halfway over.
5. Fort Polk (Louisiana)
What does one rename the most reviled duty station in all of the U.S. Army? Surely, we can honor someone other than a guy with no previous military experience whose Civil War claim to fame is that he died in it.
Louisiana is one of the most unique states in the Union, with a history unlike any other. But again, for sheer coolness factor, we could rename this for Union Col. Algernon Sidney Badger. Badger was from Massachusetts but served at the Battle of Mobile Bay and ended up in Louisiana. He liked it so much, he stayed there when the war was over. Plus, the symbolism of a badger killing a snake is too good to pass up.
Who wouldn’t want to be stationed at Fort Badger?
But the top candidate for Fort Polk‘s new name has to be William C.C. Claiborne, the first American governor of Louisiana. He was conciliatory toward native tribes under his jurisdiction and tried to secure clemency for the captured organizers of the largest slave revolt in U.S. history. He also negotiated for the help of the pirate Jean Lafitte for the defense of New Orleans during the War of 1812.
Fort Polk is dead. Long live Fort Claiborne.
6. Fort Gordon (Georgia)
Only in the old Confederacy could you be hailed a hero upon your return from losing a war. Besides getting that particular participant trophy, John Brown Gordon’s career can’t be discussed without mentioning how many times he was wounded in action.
This photo would be more accurate if you could see the four wounds on his head.
This installation also housed Camp Crockett, a training area for special operators and airborne troops preparing for action during the Vietnam War. It would be an easy historical nod to American legend Davy Crockett, who fought against the Indian Removal Act and later died fighting at the Alamo. If we want to stick to soldiers of the U.S. Army, Fort Gordon is notable because Alvin York, the famed conscientious objector-turned Medal of Honor recipient in World War I, was trained here.
Fort York has a nice ring to it. But Fort Flipper would be more appropriate.
Georgia was home to Henry O. Flipper, the first African American graduate of West Point. Can you imagine the level of harassment this man endured? Commissioned and sent to the frontier areas, he did his job well until he was improperly accused of embezzling quartermaster funds and court-martialed, an injustice to which the Army later admitted. President Bill Clinton would later pardon him.
7. Fort Pickett (Virginia)
Fort Pickett is a National Guard Base in Virginia named after a guy who led one of the most ill-advised infantry charges in history. Not just in American history, but all of world history. While Maj. Gen. George Pickett didn’t order the charge at Gettysburg (Robert E. Lee did, despite all advice against it), his name got slapped on it, whether he liked it or not.
Just like no one cares what they called meat on bread before the 4th Earl of Sandwich started passing them out on card night.
Pickett’s charge led to the defeat of the Confederacy at Gettysburg, a loss from which the South couldn’t recover and ultimately ended their war with loss. And we named a base after him.
A much better choice for the name of the fort would probably be Gibbon, named for Brig. Gen. John Gibbon, commander of the Union forces who stopped Pickett’s part of the infamous charge.
But since this is a base belonging to the Virginia National Guard, they might want to name it after a Virginian. Luckily, there’s no shortage of good Virginians, and two of them are giants of the U.S. Army’s history. Gen. Douglas MacArthur considered Norfolk his home, and Gen. George C. Marshall, Army chief of staff during World War II, attended the Virginia Military Institute.
Pick one, Virginia.
8. Fort A.P. Hill (Virginia)
Then, use the other one to rename Fort A.P. Hill.
Although one of the more capable commanders on the list, this Confederate general’s accomplishments include not being Stonewall Jackson, getting shot seven days before the war ended and having gonorrhea for 21 years.
9. Fort Rucker (Alabama)
Fort Rucker is named for Col. Edmund Rucker, a Confederate Army chef who designed a way for Confederate troops to live on eating grass. While that’s not even remotely true, no one outside of Fort Rucker knows that or cares to Google it. Rucker wasn’t even from Alabama, he just made a lot of money there.
The first suggestion for renaming the base goes to Gen. Oliver W. Dillard, the fifth African American flag officer in Army history, the first black intelligence general and a National Intelligence Hall of Famer. He joined during World War II and served through Korea, Vietnam and most of the Cold War.
But if time in service is what we’re looking for, look no further than Alabama’s own Sgt. Maj. Gilbert “Hashmark” Johnson. Johnson first enlisted in the Army in 1923 and was discharged as a corporal six years later. After four years as a civilian, he again enlisted, this time in the Navy. “Hashmark” was aboard the USS Wyoming when it was attacked at Pearl Harbor. Later that year, he was one of the first black men to join the United States Marine Corps.
If there’s a problem with an Army base named for a Marine, look at who it’s named for now, then look at this photo of Hashmark. (U.S. Marine Corps)
Johnson spent another 17 years in the Corps, with a total of 32 years in service. He earned the name “Hashmark” because he had more service stripes than stripes indicating his rank. Welcome to Fort Hashmark.
10. Camp Beauregard (Louisiana)
Louisiana’s National Guard runs this base, named for Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, one of the South’s most able commanders — and one who would end up arguing for racial cooperation after the Civil War’s end.
While that’s admirable, there’s a good chance he just wanted the votes of newly freed black men against Reconstruction-era radical Republicans, so let’s not go crazy about how reconstructed Beauregard was. If we’re going to choose a Louisianan with questionable motives, let’s name the camp after the aforementioned pirate Jean Lafitte.
Who wears the same facial expression as your First Sergeant.
Lafitte turned from sailor/pirate/merchant to soldier in nearly a heartbeat to help the Americans defend the port city of New Orleans from outside attack, and if that doesn’t sound like the National Guard, I don’t know what does.
We need a batch of good news. A little hops in our step. Something to sip on that takes us to a different time. 1757 to be exact.
Budweiser has done it again. Making history. And this is just straight up awesome. Using the original recipe from George Washington’s handwritten notes found in a notebook from 1757 during the French and Indian War, Budweiser has crafted the next edition in their Reserve collection. Here is the page from the notebook:
So cool! And it just gets better.
This limited edition Freedom Reserve Red Lager is brewed exclusively by veteran brewers who brew for Budweiser.
“We are incredibly proud of our Freedom Reserve Red Lager because it was passionately brewed by our veteran brewers who have bravely served our country,” Budweiser Vice President Ricardo Marques
Proceeds from the beer go to support Folds of Honor, whose mission is to provide scholarships to spouses and children of fallen and disabled service members.
America, ladies and gentlemen.
The 5.4 ABV lager is described as “a rich caramel malt taste and a smooth finish with a hint of molasses.”
Ok, fine, you’ve convinced me. OMW to get some right now. Hopefully you live close enough to snag up some of this speciality brew, too. Enter your zip code here to find out where you can buy it.
This 2018 Memorial Day, toast to the men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice so that we can enjoy our lives safely in our back yards with the peace of mind to sit and have a beer this weekend.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
The early 1980s brought us some epic action movies like “Conan the Barbarian,” “Blade Runner,” and let’s not forget “E.T.”
Although these films were fun to watch, they didn’t have the impact on veterans like the movie “First Blood” did.
Directed by Ted Kotcheff, John J. Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) was a former Green Beret who just wanted to visit his Vietnam buddy when things took a turn for the worse and he ended up battling a small town’s police force after an unlawful arrest.
But we’ve always wondered what it would have been like to serve under his command. Here’s our take on how being in Rambo’s platoon would be.
1. Alternate shooting techniques
In most boot camps we’re taught proper weapons handling. But forget all those safety briefs you were forced to listen to when Capt. Rambo reports in as the new commanding officer, because every shot you fire from here on out will be from your hip.
Plus it looks awesome if you can handle the recoil. (Giphy)
2. No bayonets
Having the ability to mount a knife on the barrel of your rifle isn’t enough.
If you were in Rambo’s company, your blade would have to be up to such standards that it can slice a bad guy up and be thrown across the room with perfect precision.
Miami-based DJ and Air Force veteran Rodrigo Arana – AKA DJ KA5 – is cooking up something special for his featured guest appearance in the USAA Lounge at BaseFEST this weekend. But don’t expect him to just cue up a list of Top 40 hits and fire them off, one after another. He approaches deejaying the way a trained specialist approaches a mission: he plans, he prepares, he drills, and then, when he’s got you captive on the dance floor, he executes.
Result: the beat drops and you lose your mind.
“I’m always about bringing those vibes that are taking you back to that certain time that was good for you [and] I’m always about trying to perfect my craft. That’s something that the military taught me: you can always do better.”
BaseFEST Powered by USAA kicked off in 2017 with two huge festival dates at Camp Lejune and NAS Pensacola, gathering over 20,000+ fans for each and creating a fun atmosphere of appreciation and support for servicemembers, their families, and friends.
(Photo by USAA)
The mission of the festival is “to provide a platform to give back to family programs on base, boost morale for troops and their families, and build strong base communities that are the backbone of our military.” Musical acts like DNCE, Dustin Lynch, Ha Ha Tonka, and DJ KA5 provide a live and lively soundtrack to a wide variety of activities, games, exhibits, and dining.
For Arana, playing BaseFEST is a chance to reconnect with his veteran family, to celebrate the military education that helped set him on the path to doing what he loves.
“Deejaying is about creating a vibe and creating a feeling. You’re painting. A different song is a different color and you’re creating a masterpiece. So by the end of the night, you step back and you look at the whole paining and you realize how you did this for somebody else.”
But military activity has been increasing on the other side of the Baltic Sea and in Kaliningrad — areas that have long been flash points for Russia and NATO.
Moscow assumed control of Kaliningrad after World War II and retained it after the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Now an 86-square-mile exclave, Kaliningrad is home to about a million people who are separated from the rest of Russia by Lithuania, Poland, and Belarus. But that location makes it strategically valuable.
It has Russia’s only Baltic Sea port that is ice-free year-round. In addition to several air bases, it is also home to Russia’s 11th Army Corps. It also looks over one side of the Suwalki Gap, which NATO worries could be blocked during a conflict, cutting the Baltics off from the rest of Europe.
Russia appears to be upgrading its military facilities there.
Moscow has in the past deployed Iskander short-range, nuclear-capable missiles there temporarily, but in February 2018, a Russian lawmaker confirmed that the Iskander, which has a maximum range of about 310 miles, had been moved there permanently in response to NATO’s buildup in Eastern Europe.
Satellite imagery taken between March and June 2018 showed activity around bunkers in Baltiysk, the main base of Russia’s Baltic Fleet, including the fortification of buildings “characteristic of explosive storage bunkers,” Matt Hall, a senior geospatial analyst at 3Gimbals, told Defense One in July 2018.
Imagery taken between mid-July and the beginning of October 2018 showed upgrades at least four sites in Kaliningrad, according to CNN.
That included construction of 40 new bunkers and the expansion of a military storage area near Primorsk, which is Russia’s second-largest Baltic port. Images also showed improvements at the Chkalovsk air base and upgrades at a base in Chernyakhovsk, which houses Iskander missiles.
Kaliningrad received much of the Soviet weaponry in Eastern Europe after the USSR’s collapse, and for a long time the area “was a bit of a dumping ground,” said Jim Townsend, a transatlantic security expert at the Center for a New American Security.
Moscow’s focus on Kaliningrad increased in the early 2000s, around the time the Baltic states — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — joined NATO. Their inclusion was especially galling for Russia, which sees them as its “near abroad.”
“Kaliningrad has been on a trajectory of improvements since the Baltic tensions and certainly since” the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, Townsend said.
The Iskander deployment is of a piece with Russian efforts to influence other European capitals, Townsend added. “They would say, ‘Look, if NATO puts troops into the Baltics, we’re going to put Iskanders onto Kaliningrad.”
Northeast Europe is a particularly sensitive area for Russia, Townsend said.
St. Petersburg, from which the Baltic can only be reached by passing Finland and Estonia, is Russia’s second-biggest city. To the north is the Kola Peninsula, home to Russia’s Northern Fleet and its submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
“The Baltic is kind of a backdoor to that. Kaliningrad helps to defend that backdoor,” Townsend said. “So that’s very sensitive.”
Russia’s military is not the only one active in the Baltics.
The NATO buildup cited by Moscow as reason for permanently deploying Iskander missiles was the multinational battle groups the alliance has stationed in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia since 2016.
More recently, the US Air Force and the Estonian air force heralded the completion of a joint-use facility at Amari air base near the latter’s capital, Tallinn, which was the first completed military construction projected fully funded by the European Deterrence Initiative.
Soviet jets were stationed at Ameri during the Cold War, but since 2004 it has hosted NATO aircraft during their rotations in the alliance’s Baltic air-policing mission. (The Baltic countries don’t have their own combat aircraft.)
US airmen from the 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron marshal in an F-15C Eagle at Siauliai air base, Lithuania, Aug. 29, 2017.
(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)
Improvements at Amari “provide strategic access into that very contentious part of Europe,” said Brig. Gen. Roy Agustin, director of logistics, engineering, and force protection for US Air Forces in Europe and Africa, according to Stars and Stripes. “You look right across the border and there’s a big regional adversary right there.”
The EDI, previously called the European Reassurance Initiative, has funded military projects in Europe since Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014. Since then, the US has spent millions upgrading facilities across Eastern Europe to allow its military and partner forces to respond quickly to crises.
EDI funding also covers Operation Atlantic Resolve, which includes US armored rotations in Europe, a continuous presence in the Black Sea area, and prepositioning equipment and weapons around the continent.
The Pentagon’s 2019 budget request for the EDI was nearly doublewhat it got for the program in 2017 and six times what was allotted for it in 2015.
North of the Baltics, Sweden and Finland — close NATO partners that remain outside the alliance — have also turned increasing attention to military readiness.
Sweden’s armed forces said in 2018 that they needed to boost staffing from 50,000 to 120,000 by 2035 — in addition to adding new surface vessels, subs, and combat aircraft — to meet future challenges.
The report also said Sweden’s military budget would need to more than double over that period. Every mainstream party in the country’s September 2018 parliamentary election backed a military budget increase, but that growth will take time.
Stockholm’s defense outlay has tumbled since hitting 3.68% of GDP in 1963. The 1.03% of GDP currently spent on the military is a historic low, according to Defense News.
Sweden has also reintroduced military conscription and put troops back on Gotland Island in the middle of the Baltic Sea.
More recently, Finland, which shares a 838-mile border and a history of conflict with Russia, has begun pumping money into military modernization — notably id=”listicle-2614964544″.5 billion for the Squadron 2020 program, which includes buying four multirole, ice-breaking, submarine-hunting corvettes armed with surface-to-surface missiles, torpedoes, and sea mines.
The program will also fund upgraded fast-attack missile vessels and upgrades to Finnish mine-layers and mine-countermeasure vessels, according to Defense News.
“The Baltic Sea has become a possible focal point for tension between East and West,” said Finland’s defense minister, Jussi Niinistö. “We are dealing with a more unpredictable Russia.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The mission of the Nellis Air Force Base Honor Guard is to represent the Air Force in a variety of ceremonial functions in Southern Nevada, California, Arizona and Utah. They are responsible for rendering military honors for funeral services and various Air Force ceremonies, as well as provide their services at various opening ceremonies.
For the guardsmen, excellence is the only way “to honor with dignity.” Every day they are fine-tuning their skills, or tweaking the slightest hesitation or shift until they can no longer get it wrong.
Devotion to duty
Under the hot desert sun, a group of airmen stand motionless. In two rows of three, they’re positioned opposite of each other, where the only sound is coming from a gentle wind passing through the formation. Between them rests an unfurled American flag draped over a spotless white casket.
Without so much as a whisper, they simultaneously grip the flag and, with each motion as precise as the next, they begin folding it. As the flag reaches the final fold, the last airman bearing the folded flag breaks the silence.
“Again,” he says.
He hands the flag back to the formation for the airmen to unfold and repeat the movements. The airmen didn’t make a mistake, but in their line of work, they don’t practice until they get it right; they practice until they can’t get it wrong.
Airman 1st Class MaryJane Gutierrez, Nellis Air Force Base honor guardsman, salutes during after playing taps during a military honors funeral at the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Sept. 14, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew D. Sarver)
Before any guardsman is put on a detail, they have nearly a month of training to learn the basic movements. Afterwards, they continue to meticulously work out the slightest imperfections.
“Most of us will have put in about 80 hours of training in the weeks prior to a detail because we have to be perfect. We can’t afford to mess up,” said Airman 1st Class David Diez, Nellis AFB honor guardsman. “Every funeral we do should be as perfect as we would want our funerals to be.”
Grit for greatness
In the distance, the repeated percussion of hands smacking against wood and metal escapes the open doors of the Honor Guard practice room. Inside, three airmen stand shoulder-to-shoulder, staring into a mirror to analyze their every movement.
The airmen lift their rifles with both hands then remove one hand, hit it against the stock and hold the rifles vertically in front of them.
“Port arms!” commands Spegal.
Again, they hit their rifles then position them diagonally across their chests. After taking a brief moment to pause and discuss what needs to be fixed, the airmen pick up their rifles and start again.
Nellis Honor Air Force Base Guardsmen march in formation after presenting the colors at the South Point 400 NASCAR race opening ceremonies at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Sept. 14, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew D. Sarver)
“Honor Guard is pure teamwork,” said Tech. Sgt. Leon Spence, Nellis AFB Honor Guard Non-commissioned officer in charge. “You can’t go to a funeral or a colors presentation and do everything by yourself. You have to be confident in your abilities and confident in your fellow guardsmen’s abilities to execute each detail as precise as possible.”
Passion for perfection
Down a hallway, the soft brushing of lint rollers against freshly pressed uniforms competes with the sound of gentle laughter from a poorly delivered dad joke.
In a room, Staff Sgt. Victoria Schooley and Airman 1st Class Ashley Libbey, Nellis AFB honor guardsmen, sit eye-level with their uniforms. With a ruler in one hand and a butterfly clutch in the other, Libby is aligning her ribbons. Across the room, Schooley is running her fingers up and down every seam of her ceremonial dress uniform, combing for loose strings to cut away with nail clippers or melt down with a lighter.
For them, looking sharp is just as important to having a successful detail as performing the actual maneuvers.
“I joined because I wanted to do a lot more than my regular day-to-day job. I wanted to feel like I had a bigger purpose in the Air Force and a bigger picture of our impact as a whole,” Diez said. “It will teach you to pay attention to detail, when you realize something as little as a crease in the uniform or a slight hesitation in a facing movement can be the difference between precision and failure.”
“We’re here to serve our community and I want to challenge people to come by and tell us what we could do better or to just learn about us and see what it is we do,” echoed Spence.
One year ago in Norfolk, Virginia, aboard USS George H.W. Bush at the establishment ceremony for US 2nd Fleet, I directed the fleet to be ready to fight — ready to fight so that we do not have to.
The last time 2nd Fleet existed, the world looked very different than it does now: Today maritime superiority, vital to our national security, has been placed at risk by resurgent powers, namely Russia and China, seeking to supplant the US as the partner of choice around the world.
The 2nd Fleet of today has redirected its strategic focus from mainly training units to deploy to regional conflicts in the Middle East to operating high-end naval forces and developing tactics to deter potential conflicts, to include near-peer adversaries in the North Atlantic and Arctic.
Arleigh-Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham hits heavy seas in the Atlantic Ocean, deployed in the 2nd Fleet area of operations, Dec. 18, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan Clay)
We must be present in contested spaces — and virtual presence is not true presence. US 2nd Fleet is focused on the waters from the East Coast to the Arctic, Iceland, Norway, and approaches of the Baltic and Azores.
There has never been a question as to whether the North Atlantic or the Arctic is important, but the security environment has changed.
Sailors signal an E-2D Hawkeye ready for launch on the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, Oct. 27, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Gooley)
The Arctic is the only body of water on earth where there has not been a naval battle, and today we know more about the surface of the moon than we do about hydrography in the Arctic.
With waterways remaining open for longer periods, it is becoming a competitive economic and strategic space.
In my office I have a world map from the point of view of the Arctic. When you look at the world from that perspective, you realize just how close North America is to Eurasia. The Northern Passage, close to Russia, and the Northwest Passage, through North America, will provide opportunity for commercial and leisure travel.
However, the waters are dangerous, with increased risks of mishaps. Russia considers itself THE great power in the Arctic, and China is certainly interested in the hydrocarbon and fish available in those waters.
If we do not get into the Arctic with a measured and deliberate approach, the area is destined for conflict. US and Allied presence now, both naval and economic, in the Arctic, could mean a peaceful, cooperative flourishing environment.
US 2nd Fleet is a platform for partnerships; no one nation can face today’s challenges alone.
As an F-18 pilot, I have spent most of my career fulfilling combat missions into the Middle East. In contrast, my counterparts in our Allied and partner Nordic navies have continued to operate at sea in the tough conditions of the North Atlantic and the Arctic.
As the Arctic becomes increasingly navigable, we must look to our partners as experts in the arena and learn from them. We are doing exactly that. Just last week USS Gravely (DDG 107) conducted operations with a Danish ship in the Arctic waters off the coast of Greenland.
We will carry home our lessons learned from these types of operations and implement them going forward.
US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Gravely with Danish navy command and support ship HMDS Absalon off the coast of Greenland, Aug. 16, 2019.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Jessica L. Dowell)
Wherever we operate, we will do so professionally.
Early this summer 2nd Fleet led exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) in the Baltic Sea. We led 18 nations, 50 ships, and nearly 10,000 personnel through two weeks of operations designed to improve integration among us.
The Baltic Sea is a contested space. During BALTOPS the Russian navy announced a simultaneous exercise in the Baltic. Russia is a Baltic nation, and as such we expected our ships and aircraft would operate alongside Russian ships and aircraft.
Each interaction was safe, professional, and in accordance with international norms; as professional mariners, we must all strive for this regardless of diplomatic or political tensions. We will continue to lead by example.
My greatest challenge in the endeavor of standing up 2nd Fleet has not been lack of money or manpower, though both present problems.
Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis speaks to a sailor aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, Feb. 1, 2019.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Amber Smalley)
The greatest challenge I have faced is disrupting the sense of normalcy established during years of fighting FROM the sea, rather than fighting UPON the sea. We need to take a hard look at the assets we have and ensure we are employing them appropriately and fighting as fleets rather than as small task groups or units.
We are adept at operating at the lowest monetary cost, but we can no longer afford to do so. Efficiency does not necessarily correspond to effectiveness. To be successful, we must rewire our assumptions and be willing to be uncomfortable.
In the military, we are in the business of risk management. We often conduct operations that may be considered dangerous by any account, but we weigh the risks, implement mitigation efforts, and assess advantages before moving forward. The most dangerous course of action is complacency — to continue to do things just because it is what we have always done or because there is red tape in the way of changing course.
We have made great progress in the last year, but the heaviest lifting is still to come. The most risky course of action at this point is to continue operations as usual. We are building US 2nd Fleet to be the market disrupter that changes the way we fight as a fleet — as a coalition — and in doing so, we will be ready to fight.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
On his second deployment to Afghanistan, then-Sgt. Sean Karpf led his squad along a narrow pathway between two streambeds in Kandahar.
Up ahead, about 300 meters, a group of suspicious men scrambled on the rooftop of a building. He and his squad moved in closer to pull security.
As he walked on the pathway, which had been previously cleared, his left boot stepped on a pressure plate. A buried bomb exploded.
In a daze, Krapf remembered looking down at the cloud of smoke. He had ringing in his ears; he could taste the chemicals from the bomb.
“It was just chaos,” he recalled of the June 2012 incident. “I could hear people yelling my name, but I was still stunned at that point and I really did not know what was going on.”
Today, Karpf, 33, wears a prosthetic on his left leg that was later amputated below the knee.
Former Sgt. Sean Karpf, who lost his lower left leg after he stepped on a pressure plate that detonated a buried bomb in Afghanistan, now works as a strength and conditioning associate for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
He can often be seen in the weight room or on the practice field for the Jacksonville Jaguars — his favorite NFL team since he was 10 when they began to play in his hometown.
In his first year as a full-time strength and conditioning associate for the team, Karpf has found a new purpose in life that drives him.
Helping players get ready for each weekly battle on the gridiron against opposing teams reminds Karpf of his days as an Army sergeant.
“I love the preparation that goes into the games,” he said in a phone interview Dec. 18, 2018. “It brings me back to military training.”
Former Sgt. Sean Karpf was a squad leader with the 82nd Airborne Division.
Once the smoke cleared, the squad leader with the 82nd Airborne Division saw his injured leg and began to push himself out of the crater the bomb had left.
A medic put a tourniquet on him and he was placed onto a litter. As a medevac helicopter began to land, the Taliban insurgents fired a machine gun toward it and it lifted back up.
A firefight ensued and Karpf, who was still calling out orders to his squad, said an Army attack helicopter swooped in to make a few gun runs so the other helicopter could pick him up.
Karpf, who had played linebacker for a semipro football team in North Carolina, was about to face the biggest test in his life.
He spent over a year at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and had more than 20 surgeries.
The following year, he returned to sports. He competed in several swimming and track and field events in the Warrior Games and took home four gold medals.
“When I was working with the physical therapist, I made sure I got in extra work,” he said. “I had that goal in mind and I think it helped with my recovery.”
He also received a presidential send-off at the White House for a four-day bicycle ride that he and other wounded warriors participated in.
To the sergeant’s surprise, then-President Barack Obama spoke of his recovery and training in his speech.
“I didn’t even know that he was going to talk about me,” Karpf said, laughing. “I was sitting there on the bike and he mentioned my name and told the crowd I was competing in Warrior Games. I was like, wow, that was pretty cool.”
Former Sgt. Sean Karpf, left, who lost his lower left leg after he stepped on a pressure plate that detonated a buried bomb in Afghanistan, now works as a strength and conditioning associate for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Once he left the Army after almost six years, Karpf moved back to Jacksonville. No longer in uniform, depression began to set in and he stopped staying active.
He then started a program through a nonprofit that allowed him to take college courses and do an internship in the local community. He chose his favorite sports team.
At first, he did various office jobs for the Jaguars but then gravitated toward the weight room to help out players.
When his brief internship ended, the father of two was asked to come back to intern for the entire season in 2017.
Following the Jaguars loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game, Karpf came in for his last time with the team to clean out his locker.
Karpf was asked to report to Tom Coughlin, a two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach who now serves as the Jaguars’ executive vice president of football operations.
Coughlin decided to take on the former soldier full time.
“I thought this would be a heck of a guy to hire for our strength and conditioning program because of what he brings to the table,” Coughlin said in a recent ESPN video about Karpf. “And also for our players to maybe get to know a young man who had made those kind of sacrifices for his country.”
Former Sgt. Sean Karpf, a strength and conditioning associate for the Jacksonville Jaguars, gave U.S. flags encased in shadow boxes to players who support the local community, including veterans and their families.
(Photo by Alex Brooks)
Being able to be around the game he loves has been therapeutic for Karpf, who has just started on a master’s degree in injury prevention.
“As far as with the [post-traumatic stress disorder], it’s made it easier,” he said.
He also shares a special bond with those on the team, a similar connection he once had with his fellow soldiers.
“You can see a brotherhood, but it’s not as prevalent as in the military,” he said. “But it’s still that team atmosphere and everybody coming together with that same goal in mind.”
As he was preparing to leave after last season’s final game, he gave folded U.S. flags encased in shadow boxes to players who volunteer in the community, some of those efforts helping veterans and their families.
“I did that before I realized that I was coming back,” Karpf said. “It was my way of saying thank you for everything you do in the community.”
As an honor to Karpf, some players even kept the flags on display in their lockers.
“It’s pretty cool going through the locker room and seeing the flags,” he said. “It means a lot to me.”
One of the most successful and enduring feats of interplanetary exploration, NASA’s Opportunity rover mission is at an end after almost 15 years exploring the surface of Mars and helping lay the groundwork for NASA’s return to the Red Planet.
The Opportunity rover stopped communicating with Earth when a severe Mars-wide dust storm blanketed its location in June 2018. After more than a thousand commands to restore contact, engineers in the Space Flight Operations Facility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) made their last attempt to revive Opportunity Feb. 12, 2019, to no avail. The solar-powered rover’s final communication was received June 10, 2019.
“It is because of trailblazing missions such as Opportunity that there will come a day when our brave astronauts walk on the surface of Mars,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “And when that day arrives, some portion of that first footprint will be owned by the men and women of Opportunity, and a little rover that defied the odds and did so much in the name of exploration.”
Designed to last just 90 Martian days and travel 1,100 yards (1,000 meters), Opportunity vastly surpassed all expectations in its endurance, scientific value and longevity. In addition to exceeding its life expectancy by 60 times, the rover traveled more than 28 miles (45 kilometers) by the time it reached its most appropriate final resting spot on Mars – Perseverance Valley.
“For more than a decade, Opportunity has been an icon in the field of planetary exploration, teaching us about Mars’ ancient past as a wet, potentially habitable planet, and revealing uncharted Martian landscapes,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “Whatever loss we feel now must be tempered with the knowledge that the legacy of Opportunity continues – both on the surface of Mars with the Curiosity rover and InSight lander – and in the clean rooms of JPL, where the upcoming Mars 2020 rover is taking shape.”
The final transmission, sent via the 70-meter Mars Station antenna at NASA’s Goldstone Deep Space Complex in California, ended a multifaceted, eight-month recovery strategy in an attempt to compel the rover to communicate.
“We have made every reasonable engineering effort to try to recover Opportunity and have determined that the likelihood of receiving a signal is far too low to continue recovery efforts,” said John Callas, manager of the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) project at JPL.
The dramatic image of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity’s shadow was taken on sol 180 (July 26, 2004) by the rover’s front hazard-avoidance camera as the rover moved farther into Endurance Crater in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars.
Opportunity landed in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars on Jan. 24, 2004, seven months after its launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Its twin rover, Spirit, landed 20 days earlier in the 103-mile-wide (166-kilometer-wide) Gusev Crater on the other side of Mars. Spirit logged almost 5 miles (8 kilometers) before its mission wrapped up in May 2011.
From the day Opportunity landed, a team of mission engineers, rover drivers and scientists on Earth collaborated to overcome challenges and get the rover from one geologic site on Mars to the next. They plotted workable avenues over rugged terrain so that the 384-pound (174-kilogram) Martian explorer could maneuver around and, at times, over rocks and boulders, climb gravel-strewn slopes as steep as 32-degrees (an off-Earth record), probe crater floors, summit hills and traverse possible dry riverbeds. Its final venture brought it to the western limb of Perseverance Valley.
“I cannot think of a more appropriate place for Opportunity to endure on the surface of Mars than one called Perseverance Valley,” said Michael Watkins, director of JPL. “The records, discoveries and sheer tenacity of this intrepid little rover is testament to the ingenuity, dedication, and perseverance of the people who built and guided her.”
More Opportunity achievements
Set a one-day Mars driving record March 20, 2005, when it traveled 721 feet (220 meters).
Returned more than 217,000 images, including 15 360-degree color panoramas.
Exposed the surfaces of 52 rocks to reveal fresh mineral surfaces for analysis and cleared 72 additional targets with a brush to prepare them for inspection with spectrometers and a microscopic imager.
Discovered strong indications at Endeavour Crater of the action of ancient water similar to the drinkable water of a pond or lake on Earth.
All of the off-roading and on-location scientific analyses were in service of the Mars Exploration Rovers’ primary objective: To seek out historical evidence of the Red Planet’s climate and water at sites where conditions may once have been favorable for life. Because liquid water is required for life, as we know it, Opportunity’s discoveries implied that conditions at Meridiani Planum may have been habitable for some period of time in Martian history.
“From the get-go, Opportunity delivered on our search for evidence regarding water,” said Steve Squyres, principal investigator of the rovers’ science payload at Cornell University. “And when you combine the discoveries of Opportunity and Spirit, they showed us that ancient Mars was a very different place from Mars today, which is a cold, dry, desolate world. But if you look to its ancient past, you find compelling evidence for liquid water below the surface and liquid water at the surface.”
All those accomplishments were not without the occasional extraterrestrial impediment. In 2005 alone, Opportunity lost steering to one of its front wheels, a stuck heater threatened to severely limit the rover’s available power, and a Martian sand ripple almost trapped it for good. Two years later, a two-month dust storm imperiled the rover before relenting. In 2015, Opportunity lost use of its 256-megabyte flash memory and, in 2017, it lost steering to its other front wheel.
Each time the rover faced an obstacle, Opportunity’s team on Earth found and implemented a solution that enabled the rover to bounce back. However, the massive dust storm that took shape in the summer of 2018 proved too much for history’s most senior Mars explorer.
“When I think of Opportunity, I will recall that place on Mars where our intrepid rover far exceeded everyone’s expectations,” Callas said. “But what I suppose I’ll cherish most is the impact Opportunity had on us here on Earth. It’s the accomplished exploration and phenomenal discoveries. It’s the generation of young scientists and engineers who became space explorers with this mission. It’s the public that followed along with our every step. And it’s the technical legacy of the Mars Exploration Rovers, which is carried aboard Curiosity and the upcoming Mars 2020 mission. Farewell, Opportunity, and well done.”
Mars exploration continues unabated. NASA’s InSight lander, which touched down on Nov. 26, is just beginning its scientific investigations. The Curiosity rover has been exploring Gale Crater for more than six years. And, NASA’s Mars 2020 rover and the European Space Agency’s ExoMars rover both will launch in July 2020, becoming the first rover missions designed to seek signs of past microbial life on the Red Planet.
JPL managed the Mars Exploration Rovers Opportunity and Spirit for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. For more information about the agency’s Mars Exploration program, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/mars.
When looking at Iran’s 65th Airborne Special Force Brigade, you might notice a few striking similarities — the yellow enlisted chevrons seem a lot like the the yellow chevrons on old Army greens, for example. Before the Iranian Revolution, their unit insignia looked a lot like the De Oppresso Liber crest that signifies the United States Army Special Forces.
The distinctive green beret worn by the Iranians may not be the same shade of green worn by today’s U.S. Army Special Forces, but Iranian special operators wear green for a reason — they were trained by Americans.
In the 1960s, the United States sent four operational detachments of Army Special Forces operators to Iran to train the Shah’s Imperial military forces. The Mobile Training Teams spent two years as Military Assistance Advisory Group Iran. Before they could even get to Iran, the soldiers had to pass the Special Forces Officer course at Fort Bragg, then learn Farsi at the Monterey, Calif. Defense Language Institute. Only then would they be shipped to Iran to train Iranian Special Forces.
It’s been a long time since the 65th was a part of the Imperial Iranian Special Forces. Now called 65th NOHED Brigade (which is just a Farsi acronym for “airborne special forces”), the unit’s mission is very similar to the ones the U.S. Special Forces trained them for in the 1960s. They perform hostage rescue, psychological operations, irregular warfare, and train for counter-terrorism missions both in and outside of the Islamic Republic.
Inside the Iranian military, the unit is known as the “powerful ghosts.” The nickname stems from a mission given to the 65th in the mid-1990s. They were tasked to take buildings around Tehran from the regular military – and were able to do it in under two hours.
Since their initial standup with U.S. Special Forces, Iran’s 65th Airborne Special Force Brigade survived the 1979 Iranian Revolution, then they survived the brutal Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, and now advise the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as they fight for the Iran-dominated Assad regime in Syria against a fractured rebellion.
NOHED members operating a machine gun in highlands of Kordestan during Iran–Iraq War of the 1980s.
The legacy of the harsh but thorough training with American Green Berets continues in Iran. The current training includes endurance and survival in desert, jungle, and mountain warfare, among other schools, like parachute and freefall training, just like their erstwhile American allies taught so long ago.