The dust has finally settled in the battle between firearms giants Sig Sauer and Glock over the Army’s program to replace more than half a million M9 Beretta handguns after government investigators sided with Sig over a protest that claimed the company was selected unfairly.
In a June 5 report, the Government Accountability Office denied the protest by Glock of the January award of a massive contract to replace nearly 550,000 handguns in the Army and other services with a militarized version of the Sig P320 striker-fired pistol.
While the GAO said each was very close in performance and other factors that evaluators looked into, Sig came in with a program price nearly $130 million less than Glock.
“Based upon the technical evaluation and my comparative analysis of the proposals, the Sig Sauer proposal has a slight technical advantage over the Glock proposal,” the GAO said in its final report. “The advantage of the Sig Sauer proposal is increased when the license rights and production manufacturing factors are brought into consideration … making the Sig Sauer proposal overall the best value to the government.”
The evaluators said the Sig and Glock basically ran neck in neck when it came to reliability, accuracy, and ergonomics. But the Army hit Glock on its safety during the “warfighter evaluation” phase of testing, giving Sig an edge and prompting Glock to factor that into its protest.
The report is unclear on how the Glock safety negatively impacted the Army’s decision, but most commercial versions of both candidate handguns do not have a thumb safety, so each company had to design that into their submissions.
According to the report, Glock submitted one full-sized handgun (presumably the G17 or G19) and Sig submitted two, a full-sized and compact version of the P320. Sig is the only company of the two that manufactures a fully-modular handgun — one that can convert from a full-sized handgun into a sub-compact for concealed carry by changing out a few parts.
Short answer: One is still used as a tactically viable way of getting troops into the fray and the other is more ceremonial.
Benjamin Franklin once said “Where is the prince who can afford to cover his country with troops for its defense, so that ten thousand men descending from the clouds might not, in many places, do an infinite deal of mischief before a force could be brought together to repel them?”
Both of these troops fit that bill over two hundred years later.
Out of all of the current military rivalries, this one still ranks pretty high on the list. As someone who’s Air Assault and let his personal rivalry simmer a bit, there’s no reason to keep it up. The differences between the two just keeps growing with each conflict.
By World War II, many forces developed their own form of Airborne infantry that soared into combat. Allied forces captivated folks back home with the tales of jumping into the European theater. Over the years, airborne operations can be performed in essentially two ways: static jumps (think of the age-old cadence “Stand up, Hook up, Shuffle to the door! Jump right out on the count of Four!”) and HALO/HAHO, or High Altitude, Low Opening and High Opening (free-falling).
Air Assault rose in the Cold War and became more prominent in the Vietnam War. There are usually two means for getting troops into combat, FRIES, or Fast Rope Insertion/Extraction, where you grab a piece of rope and slide out of a hovering helicopter and just Air Insertion, where the helicopter lands on the ground and troops hop out. Technically, there’s also Sling Load operations, where you attach things underneath a helicopter, but that’s more of a special task that’s assigned to Air Assault qualified troops.
But in the wars since 9/11, you can count on one hand the number of combat jumps performed by US troops. They were done twice in Iraq and once in Afghanistan — and all three to command and control airfields.
Making a combat jump authorizes you to wear a Combat Jump Device. It’s a gold star that adorns the Parachutist Badge and is often referred to as a “mustard stain.” Finding one of these bad asses outside of Jump School is like finding a CW5 — you know they have to exist somewhere because you’ve seen the badges at the PX, but it still sounds as plausible as any other barracks rumor.
There isn’t as comprehensive list on total Air Assault missions because it’s far more common. It’s just another way to get around.
Many combat arms guys can tell you that they never went to Air Assault school, but still do Air Assault operations in country. The only Air Assault task restricted to someone who actually went to the school is the previously mentioned sling load operations. Even that has its “volun-told” feel to it. Sling loading has a risk to it that could be deadly if not done properly. Only Airborne school qualified personnel are allowed to complete airborne jumps (because of the weeks they spend just learning how to fall properly).
Sure. We have our disagreements and will probably flame each other in the comment section. They’re both ways to get men out of a perfectly good aircraft.
We both deal with a heavy amount of prop / rotor wash that training can never prepare you for. And both of our badges are still highly sought after by badge-hunters — usually a staff lieutenant or junior NCO. And they both will probably correct you by saying “well actually, according to Army regulation…”
Wear your blood wings proud, my brothers and sisters.
Tim Draper is known for having crazy ideas — and for funding them.
Now, the legendary Silicon Valley investor is making headway on a longtime and perhaps unrealistic effort to split California into three states: Northern California, California, and Southern California.
Draper’s proposal to cut up the Golden State qualified on June 16, 2018, to appear on the ballot in November 2018’s general election. It received more than 402,468 valid signatures, more than the number required by state law, thanks to an ambitious campaign called Cal 3 and financial backing from Draper, an early investor in Tesla, Skype, and Hotmail.
If a majority of California voters who cast ballots agree to divide the state into three, the plan would need approval from both houses of the California Legislature. Then it would reach the US Congress.
The last time an existing state split up, it was the 1860s and a civil war broke out. West Virginia was formed by seceding from a Confederate state over differences in support for slavery.
Draper has reasons for wanting to slice and dice his home state.
With slightly more than 39 million people, California is the most populous US state. Supporters of the initiative argue that it isn’t fairly represented with two senators in Washington. The proposal would give the people of California six senators.
According to the Cal 3 website, partitioning the state would also allow legislatures to make better and more sensible decisions for their communities.
“The California state government isn’t too big to fail, because it is already failing its citizens in so many crucial ways,” Peggy Grande, a representative for the Cal 3 campaign, said in a June 16, 2018 statement. “The reality is that for an overmatched, overstretched, and overwrought state-government structure, it is too big to succeed. Californians deserve a better future.”
However, the proposal is as radical as it is unlikely to pass.
Critics of the initiative say that having three Californias would diminish the power of Democrats. With its 55 electors in the Electoral College, California has long been a stronghold for the Democratic Party. Three smaller states could change that equation, which worries some Democrats.
Under the proposal, each state would have about one-third of California’s population:
California: This would include six counties: Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, and San Benito.
Southern California: This would have 12 counties: San Diego, San Bernardino, Orange, Riverside, Mono, Madera, Inyo, Tulare, Fresno, Kings, Kern, and Imperial.
Northern California: This would make up 40 counties including those of the San Francisco Bay Area and those north of Sacramento, the state capital.
This is the third time Draper has tried to get voters to weigh in on breaking up the most populous US state. He backed proposals in 2012 and 2014 to create six California states, but both initiatives fell short of gathering enough valid signatures.
The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted an amphibious landing in Alvund, Norway, Oct. 29, 2018, during Exercise Trident Juncture 18. The exercise allowed the MEU to rehearse their amphibious and expeditionary capabilities in a unique environment in support of partner nations.
Norway is a NATO Ally and hosted this year’s exercise which provided challenging terrain and weather for the participating Marines. Training in challenging conditions helps acclimate the forces to the elements and enhances their combat readiness.
The amphibious landing consisted of a surface assault and an air assault to display the MEU’s ability to rapidly project combat power ashore. Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Division arrived ashore with roughly 700 Marines, 12 Amphibious Assault Vehicles, six Light Armored Vehicles, and 21 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles, all designed to increase the lethality of the infantry Marines. Marines arrived at the beach landing site and transitioned to follow on operations at subsequent objectives around Alvund. All operations were conducted within the exercise scenario against mock enemy forces which required the Marines to make decisions in real time.
Marines establish a bivouac location during Trident Juncture 18 on Alvund Beach, Oct. 29, 2018 after being delivered ashore from USS Iwo Jima.
“We came to the North Atlantic looking for a challenge and Trident Juncture delivered; throughout the exercise the environment forced us to be flexible and adaptive,” said Maj. Anthony Bariletti, the 24th MEU operations officer.
“It is the adaptability that makes Marine Expeditionary Units such a lethal crisis response force. As Marines, we gain our lethality from the ability to operate as part of a naval integrated team. The ability to conduct amphibious operations in the premier core competency of our service and this exercise provided an outstanding opportunity for the 24th MEU to hone its skills and prepare for combat as a forward deployed, sea-based Marine Air-Ground Task Force.”
A landing craft air cushion lands on Alvund Beach, Norway during an amphibious landing in support of Trident Juncture 18, Oct. 29, 2018.
Throughout the training exercise, the MEU was able to provide strategic speed and agility while operating in international waters and retaining flexibility in support of NATO Allies and partners. Trident Juncture allowed the Marines to operate from the sea with their Navy counterparts and increase interoperability. The success of Trident Juncture will lead to more combat-ready forces capable of proficiently supporting combat operations and humanitarian activities across the globe.
A Marine guides vehicles off of a landing craft air cushion during an amphibious landing in support of Trident Juncture 18 on Alvund Beach, Norway, Oct. 29, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Margaret Gale)
“I’m extremely proud of how hard the Marines and sailors have been working throughout the exercise,” said Sgt. Maj. Christopher Garza, the 24th MEU sergeant major.
“They have endured the challenging cold weather conditions and long work days. It’s great to come together and display our capabilities as a MEU and the Marines and sailors are the ones who make it happen. All the training and preparation they put in has paid off and my hat’s off to them on a job well done up to this point.”
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
A special missions aviator from the 41st Rescue Squadron looks out from an HH-60G Pave Hawk over Grand Bay Bombing and Gunnery Range at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., May 20, 2016. Airmen simulated different combat and rescue situations to synchronize efforts between a variety of Air Combat Command airframes.
An F-15E Strike Eagle soars above Grand Bay Bombing and Gunnery Range at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., May 20, 2016. Multiple Air Combat Command aircraft conducted joint aerial training, showcasing the aircraft’s tactical air and ground maneuvers, as well as their weapons capabilities.
A soldier conducts physical training while deployed with Task Force Red Wolf during Exercise Beyond The Horizon 2016 at San Marcos, Guatemala, May 30, 2016.
A soldier observes a Bradley Fighting Vehicle maneuver on an objective during a U.S. Army Central combined arms live-fire exercise, part of Exercise Eager Lion, at the Joint Training Center, Jordan, May 24, 2016. Eager Lion is an annual two-week interoperability exercise that aims to increase the partnership ties between the U.S. and Jordanian militaries.
NORFOLK, Va. (June 1, 2016) Master Chief Ship’s Serviceman Alberto Sanchez, center, judges a barber competition as part of Surface Line Week Atlantic. Held annually in Norfolk, Surface Line Week brings Sailors and federal civilians together for friendly athletic and professional competitions.
NORFOLK, Va. (June 1, 2016) Seaman Tristen Blair, assigned to the USS Monterey (CG 61), hugs his mother Karla Blair before the ship departs Naval Station Norfolk with the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group (CSG). The ships are deploying in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operation as well as the Great Green Fleet initiative. While deployed, CSG ships and aircraft will employ operational procedures and energy conservation measures in order to enhance operational capabilities, enabling strike group units to go farther, stay longer and deliver more firepower without having to refuel.
Marines assigned to Officer Candidate School (OCS) participate in the Combat Course aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, May 11, 2016. The mission of OCS is to educate and train candidates in order to evaluate and screen individuals for qualities required for commissioning as a Marine Corps officer.
Marines assigned to Officer Candidate School participate in the Montford Point challenge aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, May 19, 2016. The challenge consisted of a supply run where the Marines went through obstacles and faced similar physical challenges as the Montford Point Marines.
This Memorial Day we honor and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and our freedom.
Pictured here is USCG Cutter Marcus Hanna anchored near the Isle of Shoals in New Hampshire. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kenny Galanif.
Results are what make a weapons system great, not just technology.
In the case of fighter aircraft, it’s all about the kills, and with that as the main selection criteria, here’s WATM’s list of the 18 greatest fighters of all time:
1. Fokker Triplane
The iconic aircraft behind the World War I success of Manfred von Richthofen’s Flying Circus was actually designed after a Sopwith Triplane crashed behind German lines in 1917. The Fokker Triplane was relatively slow and hard to see out of, but it possessed an impressive turn rate that “The Red Baron” leveraged towards his war total of 80 confirmed kills.
2. Sopwith Camel
The Sopwith Camel had a more powerful engine and more firepower than the German fighters it went up against, and although the big engine made it hard to handle, in the hands of an experienced pilot the fighter was very lethal. The Sopwith Camel accounted for 1,294 air-to-air kills, the most of any model during World War I.
3. Mitsubishi Zero
At the outset of World War II in the Pacific, the Zero owned the skies, including those over Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The Zero was primarily carrier-based, highly maneuverable, and could fly long range. Because of this the Japanese enjoyed a 12-to-1 kill ratio over the allies during the first few years of the war.
Often incorrectly called the “Me 109,” the Bf-109 remains the most produced fighter aircraft in history and was one of the Luftwaffe’s air-to-air workhorses. The Bf 109 was flown by the three top-scoring German fighter aces of World War II, who claimed 928 victories among them. Through constant design improvements and development by German engineers, the Bf 109 remained lethal in the face of allied technical advances throughout the war.
5. Focke-Wulf Fw-190
The Fw-190 was generally considered superior to the Bf-109 because of it’s bigger engine (a BMW inline 12) and greater firepower. Some of the Luftwaffe ‘ s most successful fighter aces flew the Fw 190, including Otto Kittel with 267 victories, Walter Nowotny with 258, and Erich Rudorffer with 222.
6. P-51 Mustang
The P-51 Mustang was a solution to the clear need for an effective bomber escort starting in 1943. General James Doolittle told the fighters in early 1944 to stop flying in formation with the bombers and instead attack the Luftwaffe wherever it could be found. The Mustang groups were sent in well before the bombers in a “fighter sweep” as a form of air supremacy action, intercepting German fighters while they were forming up. As a result, the Luftwaffe lost 17 percent of its fighter pilots in just over a week, and the Allies were able to establish air superiority. (Wikipedia)
7. P-38 Lightning
In spite of the fact that the twin-boom design limited roll rate performance, the P-38 tallied impressive kill numbers in the Pacific and the China-Burma-India areas when piloted by America’s top aces like Richard Bong (40 victories) and Thomas McGuire (38 victories).
8. P-47 Thunderbolt
In Europe during the critical first three months of 1944 when the German aircraft industry and Berlin were heavily attacked, the P-47 shot down more German fighters than the P-51 (570 out of 873), and shot down approximately 900 of the 1,983 claimed during the first six months of 1944. In Europe, Thunderbolts flew more sorties (423,435) than P-51s, P-38s and P-40s combined. Indeed, it was the P-47 which broke the back of the Luftwaffe on the Western Front in the critical period of January–May 1944. (Wikipedia)
The Spitfire achieved legendary status during the Battle of Britain by racking up the highest victory-to-loss ratio among British aircraft. Spitfires were flown by British aces Johnnie Johnson (34 kills), Douglas Bader (20 kills), and Bob Tuck (27 kills). The Spitfire was produced in greater numbers than any other British aircraft and was the only British fighter to be in continuous production throughout the war. (Wikipedia)
10. F4F Wildcat
The first of the Grumman “Cat” series, the carrier-based F4F was slower, shorter ranged, and less maneuverable than the Japanese Zero. However it’s ruggedness and the development of group tactics like the “Thatch Weave” allowed the Wildcat to ultimately prevail, tallying a nearly 7-to-1 kill ratio over the course of the war.
11. F6F Hellcat
The F6F was designed to improve on the Wildcat’s ability to counter the Mitsubishi A6M Zero and help secure air superiority over the Pacific Theater. Hellcats were credited with 5,223 kills, more than any other Allied naval aircraft.
12. F-4U Corsair
Know to the Japanese as “whistling death,” Corsairs claimed 2,140 air combat victories and an overall kill ratio of over 11-to-1. Legendary F4U pilots include Marines Joe Foss, Marion Carl, and Pappy Boyington.
With the Chinese entry into the Korean War, the MiG-15 began to appear in the skies over Korea. Quickly proving superior to straight-wing American jets such as the F-80 and F-84 Thunderjet, the MiG-15 temporarily gave the Chinese the advantage in the air and ultimately forced United Nations forces to halt daylight bombing until the F-86 arrived to level the air combat playing field.
14. F-86 Sabre
The F-86 was the U.S. answer to the MiG-15 that had dominated the skies over Korea in the early part of that conflict. Engagements in MiG Alley between the two aircraft were numerous, and that period is considered by many as the glory days of air-to-air warfare between jet aircraft. F-86s ended the war with a 10-to-1 kill ratio over the MiG-15s they faced.
15. F-4 Phantom
The F-4 was the fighter and attack workhorse for the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps for several decades and Phantom crews were the last to attain “ace” status in the 20th Century. The most noteworthy event happened on May 10, 1972, when Lieutenant Randy “Duke” Cunningham and Lieutenant (junior grade) William P. Driscoll shot down three MiG-17s to become the first American flying aces of the war.
One of the most widely used fighter aircraft in history, MiG-21s tallied impressive kill numbers during the Vietnam War, the Iran-Iraq War, and the India-Pakistan and Egypt-Israeli conflicts.
17. F-14 Tomcat
The Tomcat didn’t make this list because of it’s long service as the U.S. Navy’s front-line carrier-based fighter (in spite of the fact that “Top Gun” remains the greatest military movie of all time), but because the Iranian Air Force had more than 160 kills with it during the Iran-Iraq War.
18. F-15 Eagle
Eagles made dogfighting history during Operation Desert Storm, primarily because of their superior weapons suite, including state-of-the-art (at the time) identification capability. F-15s had 34 confirmed kills of Iraqi aircraft during the 1991 Gulf War.
Making uniforms for Army Soldiers isn’t just for the big clothing manufacturers anymore. Now, there are others on the job, including 100 Goodwill employees in South Florida. Back in 2018, the Army decided on a new dress uniform. Of course, we all know this change was just one of many that the Army has instituted over the years. The latest iteration of Army uniforms is a vintage style that resembles those of World War II. As of early 2021, they are finally turning from vision into reality. They’re called the Army Green Service Uniforms (AGSU) and they’re coming to a post near you – soon.
But as we all also know buying new uniforms ALL THE TIME can get expensive — like really expensive. A recent trip to Clothing and Sales for a price check showed that outfitting yourself in the Pinks and Greens is going to cost about $650 with alterations. YIKES. So for those of us that don’t want to shell out that kind of dough, here’s an alternative.
Sewing their way into the hearts of US Soldiers
The Goodwill employees in South Florida on the job are honored to be a part of the making of these uniforms. Walter Anderson says he feels like it’s a privilege to participate in the military process in any way he can. He knows Soldiers put their lives in danger for America. So, he’s happy to do what he can to reciprocate their service. In this case, that means sewing their new uniforms.
Goodwill’s vice-president of manufacturing Edward Terris noted that the workers feel a strong connection being able to do their part with something tangible to support the troops. Sewing the uniforms is an additional way to show their patriotism beyond just being a patriotic person.
Giving back to the military just feels good
Terris also brought up the fact that Goodwill hires many people with employment barriers and disabilities. For these populations, having the chance to do work they truly find meaningful is really important in building confidence and feeling pride in what they do. They will be able to walk away from this experience knowing they contributed and made a difference on a national level. Giving back to the US Military, knowing your work is of service to them, is no small feat for anyone.
Their Goodwill is going global
The Goodwill employees of South Florida are in the process of making 1,000 shirts and 300 hats for both the men and women of the US Army. As they finish batches of uniforms, they ship them out across the US. They will complete their sewing work by the end of February 2021.
China’s fight against the deployment of a battery of Terminal High-Altitude Air Defense missiles has now expanded to the deployment of hip-hop.
No, you didn’t read that wrong – China’s now using a rap video as a form of public diplomacy against the ballistic missile defense system, according to a report by the New York Times. The video seems to be bombing, with less than 50,000 views on YouTube.
The video, in English and Chinese, urges South Korea to reconsider the system’s deployment.
Dubbed “CD Rev,” the rap group is based out of Sichuan, China, and has done other videos in support of Beijing’s government — including one on that country’s claims in the South China Sea, a maritime flashpoint involving five other countries, as well as a video celebrating the legacy of Mao Tse-Tung.
A London Daily Mail report from 2011 noted that Mao was responsible for at least 45 million deaths during “The Great Leap Forward,” a brutal attempt to shift the country from an agricultural-based economy to an industrial one.
The deployment of THAAD has drawn sharp criticism from China – and the reactions have included hacking that targeted the South Korean company that allowed the battery of missiles to be placed on a golf course it owned. The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs was also hacked. China has also been blocking videos of South Korean artists, particularly from the K-pop genre.
South Korea recently elected Moon Jae-in, who has favored diplomacy with North Korea, as President after the impeachment and removal from office of Park Geun-Hye.
The THAAD battery, consisting of six launchers that each hold eight missiles along with assorted support vehicles, was deployed to South Korea to counter the threat posed by North Korea’s ballistic missiles. According to ArmyRecognition.com, the system has a range of over 600 miles.
The United States has other options to shoot down a North Korean ballistic missile, including the sea-based RIM-161 Standard SM-3. The system is considered far more capable than the MIM-104 Patriot systems that the United States, Japan, and South Korea have deployed.
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — People are buying drones in droves — from cheapo low-rez toys from Amazon to high-end unmanned planes for commercial surveillance and mapping.
And the Pentagon is following suit, with several companies offering new models of unmanned systems for everything from relaying radio signals to targeting bad guys.
But in a constant cat-and-mouse game, the military is also looking into technologies that will help it find, track, and potentially destroy unmanned planes that are just as easily obtained by America’s enemies as they are by its friends.
The Silent Archer counter-drone system uses radar, and EO/IR scope and jammer technology to target, track and fix small UAVs and their operators. (Photo from SRC Inc.)
One system the Army is testing for its air defense units uses a portable mortar tracking radar and some repurposed improvised explosive device jammers to find and target small drones for gunners to shoot down. In fact, the system works so well, it’s manufacturer says, that it can find the location of the drone’s operator and send that targeting information to Army artillery for the kill.
Dubbed the “Silent Archer,” parts of the counter-drone system have already been used for high-level meetings like the G-8 Summit and for the 2012 Olympics in the United Kingdom, company officials said during the 2016 Air Force Association Air and Space Conference here.
“We can provide targeting information to laser systems, miniguns to artillery — whatever your weapon of choice is,” said Thomas Wilson, VP for radar and sensors business development with Silent Archer maker SRC Inc. “We can also disrupt the control signals, the telemetry signals, the video signals — we can intercept those, we can analyze them, we can jam them in a variety of ways,”
“With those lines of bearing, you can use indirect fires and rain steel on the operator. Which is one of my preferred choices,” he added.
Most of the threats come from unauthorized surveillance of key meetings and military sites. But there’s also a military threat, Wilson said.
“The Army is watching very carefully what’s going on in the Ukraine. Because the Russians are using small UAS for targeting,” Wilson said. “The Ukrainians know that when they see a UAS flying over that very shortly they’re going to get bombarded.”
“So from an Army point of view, in a near-peer kind of a fight, they’re looking at ways to counter those,” he added.
The system works using a radar that’s normally used to detect incoming mortars. Once a suspected UAV is targeted, Silent Archer operators spot the drone through a sophisticated targeting scope. This helps distinguish if the target is actually a drone or a bird, Wilson said. Once it’s determined that the Silent Archer has a drone in its sights, an IED-detecting electronic warfare system tracks the drone’s controlling signal and can jam it or send targeting information back to artillery for a strike.
While the Silent Archer’s range is limited, the system is portable, with the Army testing most of the components on a Stryker armored combat vehicle, Wilson said. So the counter-drone system can move with the troops.
“There’s a lot of security threats from small UASs — we’re talking commercial stuff — flying over a facility and it’s making everybody nervous,” Wilson said. “Are they surveilling it for an attack? … That’s one that’s got everybody fired up right now.”
Recruited as a child soldier into Islamic State’s branch in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Lal Mohammed accompanied his elder teenage brother, Bakht e Ali and their father, Taweez Khan, into the training and indoctrination for a promised life of religious glory. They lived for almost two years as members of the Wilayet e Khorasan, or Islamic State Khorasan Province, in Eastern Afghanistan.
“I was nine years old when I was with them. Now I am 12. They used to show us videos on how to fight and carry out suicide bombings,” Mohammad said.
His older brother was around 16 when he joined the militant group.
Islamic State, known regionally as ISKP, emerged in the region in early 2015. Most originally belonged to the Pakistani Taliban, which had been displaced from their stronghold in Pakistan’s tribal areas by a military operation.
Across the border in Afghanistan, 15 years of war had left vast swathes of territory without government. The age-old Pashtun tradition of welcoming guests helped them find shelter in the homes of local Shinwari tribesmen, who had been refugees during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s and were eager to return the favor.
Eastern Afghanistan, particularly Nangarhar province, became an IS stronghold.
Later, many of those who provided shelter had to flee with their families, often leaving their belongings behind.
“When Daesh (ISKP) came to our area, most people already sympathized with them,” Ali said. “Our tribal elders and religious clerics started backing them. Daesh commanders started sitting with us in our homes. They would show us videos of the infidels oppressing Muslims.”
The militants told the locals their police and army were puppets of infidels and they needed to rise up in jihad, a holy war. Some of the locals, like Khan and his sons, joined their ranks.
Life with ISKP
Life with ISKP for the boys was regimented. They woke up before dawn to offer morning prayers, followed by religious lessons focused on jihad, then daily chores, and, finally, weapons training.
Ali recalled around 100 to 150 kids who lived and trained with them, including some who were under 10 years old, like his brother, Mohammad.
I saw it with my own eyes. They used to tell these young kids that if they carried out suicide bombings, all their troubles would be over and they would go straight to paradise. They were so good at indoctrination that any child who listened to them for a month would not listen to anyone else.
All the children’s needs, clothing, weapons, food, were taken care of. Khan, their father, received a salary from ISKP.
The two brothers remember their training to be very disciplined. The ultimate goal was to make them suicide bombers.
One day, they took the younger brother on a mission. “Daesh fighters told me we were going to be in a firefight, and that they would stay behind and open fire from the check post. I should go forward and explode my suicide vest,” Mohammad said.
ISKP lost that fight and had to retreat. He came back alive.
The militants focused on molding young minds by showing videos and playing militant music to increase the boys’ sense of affiliation with IS. The brothers said the idea of being part of something bigger than themselves, a battle between good and evil, felt good.
‘We wanted to slaughter someone’
Militants punished anyone who did not follow their fundamentalist brand of sharia. “We’ve seen torture. We’ve seen it happening to our own friends or relatives,” Ali recalled.
He also recalled how normal it was to kill someone.
We saw a lot of people get slaughtered. We also wanted to slaughter someone because we were told that this would bring us holy rewards from God. People who disagreed with Daesh were slaughtered.
Khan said, “Sometimes, they would tie people’s hands and feet, and then slaughter them. Sometimes they would hang a man from a tree and just leave him there to die. Sometimes they would just beat someone up with batons ’til he died,” he said.
Escaping from the militants
Not everyone was happy with the militants, but if someone tried to escape, ISKP militants usually went after them to punish or kill them.
Despite that danger, and the promises of heaven and glorious rewards from God, the father and sons said the atrocities became too much for them to handle.
Khan described a growing sense of alienation from the group, which he started seeing as foreigners oppressing his countrymen.
“These men from TTP (Pakistani Taliban) started working here as IS. They started taking land and trees from the locals as spoils of war,” he said. “They used to kidnap Afghanis to get ransom,” he added.
Eventually, Khan decided to take his sons, and some other men under his command, and escape to a government-controlled area. They surrendered to local police. He now works with the police.
“Even now, if IS finds out we are here, they will find us and kill us,” Ali said.
Meanwhile, they have no idea of the fate of dozens of other child soldiers who were living with ISKP.
According to a Human Rights Watch report, the Taliban have also trained and deployed scores of children for military operations and used them to plant homemade bombs.
The United Nations has documented the use of child soldiers by Afghan police.
In December last year, the Afghan government signed an initiative called the Child Protection Policy, with the aim of protecting children in conflict zones, including barring its security forces from using children in armed conflict.
But for children like Ali and Mohammad, there is no effective program to de-radicalize and re-integrate them into society. Now, Bakht e Ali works as a security guard, while Lal Mohammad stays at home and has not joined school again.
The Revolutionary War ended long before photography was a refined process, but the gap between the two historic events was still enough to allow some of America’s true patriots – in the literal sense of the word – to sit for a photo. The Revolution was over by 1783, and the earliest surviving photo dates back to 1826, a 43-year difference. Since the average life span of a man at that time was around 40 years, it’s safe to say these guys barely made it.
Except the photographer didn’t get around to doing it until the middle of the Civil War in 1864 – 83 years after Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown.
(Rev. Elias Hillard)
Downing was 102 when Hillard interviewed him. He enlisted in July 1780 in New Hampshire and served under General Benedict Arnold at the Battle of Saratoga, saying Arnold was a fighting general, one who treated his soldiers well, and as brave a man as ever lived.
He lamented the fact that generals in the Civil War weren’t as gentlemanly as they were in his time.
(Rev. Elias Hillard)
Rev. Daniel Waldo
Waldo was a Connecticut colonist drafted at age 16 in 1778 and captured by the English in 1779. Confined in a New York prison, he was later released in exchange for captured British soldiers. He also lived to be more than 100 years old.
(Rev. Elias Hillard)
At 105, Cook was the oldest surviving veteran of the war. He joined the Continental Army in 1781, only convincing the recruiter because he volunteered to serve for the duration of the war. Cook was in the Army at Brandywine and at Yorktown, under the command of Washington, Lafayette, and Rochambeau. He remembered Washington ordered his men not to laugh at the British after the surrender, because surrender was bad enough.
(Rev. Elias Hillard)
Milliner was a Quebec native who not only served as drummer boy at the Battles of White Plains, Brandywine, Monmouth, and Yorktown, he was also on the crew of the USS Constitution back when the ship was the latest technology in naval warfare. He remembered that General Washington once patted him on the head and referred to Milliner as “his boy.”
A native of Maine who enlisted at age 15, Hutchings served in coastal defense batteries along the Maine coast. He was taken prisoner at the Siege of Castine, the only action he saw in the entire war. The British released him because of his young age. He died in 1866, at the home he lived in for almost 100 years.
(Rev. Elias Hillard)
Link was from Hagerstown, Maryland and enlisted in the Pennsylvania militia on three separate occasions. At 16, he was part of a unit whose job was to defend the Western Frontier – back when that frontier was still in Pennsylvania. The hard drinking, hard working farmer lived to the ripe old age of 104, dying shortly after his photo with Hillard.
Here’s a short list of things we already knew about Kaj Larsen:
1. He’s a former U.S. Navy SEAL
2. He’s an Emmy-nominated producer and war correspondent for VICE and he has a masters from Harvard University.
3. He’s a total hottie a founder of The Mission Continues, an organization that empowers veterans who are adjusting to life at home to find purpose through community impact.
But you might not know that he has rather eclectic taste in music and even learned to play while deployed.
“We’d sit around as a platoon. A couple of us played guitar, and we’d play and sing and that was extraordinarily significant for me on that first deployment. It helped carry us through.”
In a conversation with We Are The Mighty, Larsen shares the songs that meant something to him at different moments during his military career — whether it was the shotgun rack in M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” hitting home before a mission, or the patriotism of Jimi Hendrix’s “Star Spangled Banner” during a controversial time in American history.
Larsen easily carries the gravitas of a combat-experienced SEAL, but he isn’t concerned about being vulnerable. He can laugh about being afraid of his jump training and how R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” helped get him out the door.
That’s the thing about music — in many ways, it becomes the soundtrack to our lives , and Larsen’s has been a rather inspiring one.
Check out what he had to say about music and his SEAL career in this video:
The Army is reinstating a program to provide its personnel a temporary pay bump for deployments longer than nine months.
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston announced the change over the weekend, calling the move a way to ease the burden on personnel as the Army continues to work on ways to “create more predictable deployment cycles.”
Some 180,000 Army active-duty, National Guard, and reserve personnel remain mobilized or forward-deployed, according to Army officials. Known as “hardship duty pay-tempo,” the new benefit will dole out up to $495 a month for personnel whose deployments have been extended past nine months.
Grinston, who was sworn in as the 16th sergeant major of the Army in August 2019, announced the change over the weekend on both Twitter and Instagram, reflecting an ongoing effort by the Army’s most senior enlisted member to improve morale and leadership by reaching out to troops over social media platforms.
As part of his outreach effort, Grinston held a Thanksgiving town hall meeting with a cross-section of personnel from the Army’s Air Defense Artillery branch to discuss issues related to the Army’s operational tempo. Deployment length was one of the hot topics.
“One of the major problems was deployments regularly being extended past the original 9 months,” Grinston tweeted on Sunday, describing the outcome of the Thanksgiving meeting.
While the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq now require a fraction of the manpower they once did, Army personnel are still deployed to those theaters as well as in myriad other locations worldwide — not only to fight terrorism, but to deter America’s near-peer adversaries of China and Russia in ways reminiscent of the Cold War.
In addition to additional counterterrorism operations in Africa and Syria, Army troops also frequently rotate in and around Eastern Europe in training exercises and deployments to deter Russian aggression. Army personnel are also in Ukraine, continuing a training mission that dates back to 2015 — one year after Russia invaded. That worldwide presence puts on a strain on Army personnel and their families, especially with the added burden of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to law, service branch secretaries can authorize supplemental hardship duty pay when a mobilization or deployment “requires the member to perform duties in an operational environment for periods that exceed rotation norms.”
“This doesn’t give you time back with your family, but I hope this shows that Army leaders are LISTENING, and your service makes a difference,” Grinston tweeted on Sunday, adding: “I told you People First meant aligning time and money to help Soldiers. We have to get this right. More details coming soon.”