This makeshift armored vehicle is actually an ISIS suicide bomb truck - We Are The Mighty
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This makeshift armored vehicle is actually an ISIS suicide bomb truck

As anti-ISIS forces retake Mosul and march on Raqqa, more and more of the terror group’s mystique is falling away. It’s hard to be the international bogeyman when your forces are suffering defeats across your caliphate.


This makeshift armored vehicle is actually an ISIS suicide bomb truck
Not pictured: ISIS victories. (Photo: CJTF Operation Inherent Resolve YouTube)

But one of ISIS’s most prominent battlefield weapons is still deadly frightening, the armored vehicle-borne improvised explosive device. While VBIEDs were already common in Iraq and Afghanistan, ISIS upped the ante by creating especially effective armored versions and then employing them like artillery — softening their enemy’s lines and breaking up attacks.

This makeshift armored vehicle is actually an ISIS suicide bomb truck
A captured ISIS vehicle-borne improvised explosive device is displayed where it is held by the Kurdish Peshmerga in Iraq. (Photo: YouTube/ Sky News)

For the Iraqi Army, the Kurdish Peshmerga, and other anti-ISIS forces, understanding these weapons is a matter of life or death. But typically, the weapons are destroyed before they can be captured, either because the soldiers hit it with a rocket, tank, or artillery round, or because the operator triggers his explosive cargo.

This makes it relatively rare that a suicide vehicle is captured intact. But there have been a few, and Sky News got the chance to tour one of these captured vehicles during the Iraqi military’s initial punch into Mosul.

The vehicle, captured by Kurdish Peshmerga, had been heavily modified with the removal of any unnecessary weight, the addition of thick, heavy armor, and the installation of a massive amount of explosives.

See the full tour of the vehicle in the video below:

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Say goodbye to the EA-6B Prowler with these fun facts

In March 2019, the Marine Corps stood down its last squadron of EA-6B Prowlers. This stand down marked the end of the Prowler’s active service in the U.S. military. The tactical electronic warfare jamming bird first started its career in 1971, making it one of the oldest airframes still flying. Well, until Mar. 8th. 2019, it will be.

It will be replaced by the advanced capabilities of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, just like the F-35 replaced the F/A-18 Hornet and the AV-8B Harrier.


This makeshift armored vehicle is actually an ISIS suicide bomb truck

#BabyPictures

It fought everyone from Ho Chi Minh to ISIS

First introduced to southeast Asia in 1972, the Prowler has been there with the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps through thick and thin, deploying more than 70 times and flying more than 260,000 hours.

This makeshift armored vehicle is actually an ISIS suicide bomb truck

Its victories were flawless

Not one Prowler has ever been lost to enemy action. Many have tried; North Vietnam, Libya, Iraq (a few times!), Iran, the Taliban, Panama, no one has been able to take down any of the 170 Prowlers built to defend America. Unfortunately, 50 of those were lost due to accidents and mishaps.

This makeshift armored vehicle is actually an ISIS suicide bomb truck

An EA-6B Prowler at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan.

Its job was to jam enemy radar

But what to do when there’s no enemy radar to jam? It still blocks radio signals and weapon targeting systems. The Prowler was a perfect addition to the Global War on Terror, as it also could block cell signals and garage door openers, keeping troops on the ground safe from many remotely-triggered improvised explosive devices.

This makeshift armored vehicle is actually an ISIS suicide bomb truck

It’s the longest serving tactical jet

F-16? Never met her. The service life of the Prowler beats that of even the F-16, making it the longest-serving tactical fighter jet in the history of the U.S. military.

For now.

This makeshift armored vehicle is actually an ISIS suicide bomb truck

The Prowler helped ice Bin Laden

Sure, the SEALs had a specially-built top-secret helicopter to help them sneak into Pakistan. But it was an EA-6B Prowler that made sure the area around Osama bin Laden’s compound was free and clear of any pesky radar or electronic signals that might give the operation away.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How NATO standardized the FN 5.7x28mm cartridge

The FN 5.7x28mm cartridge is a bit of an oddity. Developed from the ground up by FN Herstal of Belgium, the round was designed for use in handguns and personal defense weapons. It is a small-caliber bottlenecked cartridge that bridges the gap between round-nosed pistol cartridges like the NATO 9x19mm Parabellum used in the M9 and intermediate rifle cartridges the NATO 5.56x45mm used in the M4. In February 2021, the 5.7x28mm caliber was recognized and standardized as a NATO caliber.

This makeshift armored vehicle is actually an ISIS suicide bomb truck
The current variants of the 5.7x28mm cartridge (FN Herstal)

In the late 1980s, body armor was becoming more sophisticated and common. Technological advances in ceramics and synthetic fibers made personal armor more lightweight and concealable. In order to defeat modern armor, FN Herstal began development of a small-caliber round for use in a PDW with better armor penetrating properties than traditional pistol calibers.

In 1990, FN Herstal introduced the 5.7x28mm cartridge along with the P90 personal defense weapon. The compact and sci-fi looking gun (see Stargate and Hunger Games) was designed around the new cartridge. When fired from the P90, the new bullet could pierce the standard NATO body armor at a range of 200m. A slightly shorter version of the round was developed for use in the FN Five-seven pistol which was introduced in 1998, and became the new ball variant standard. Other variants include a frangible round, a tracer round, and a sub-sonic round for use with a suppressor.

In 2002 and 2003, NATO conducted a series of tests to determine if the 5.7x28mm cartridge should be standardized and replace the 9x19mm cartridge. Despite finding that it was undoubtedly superior to the standard 9x19mm and the new Heckler & Koch 4.6x30mm cartridge used in the MP7, the panel rejected the round’s standardization. Although this slowed 5.7x28mm development, the cartridge and its associated weapons are currently used by military and law enforcement agencies in over 40 nations.

Secret Service using weapons with FN cartridges
Secret Service armed with P90s (U.S. Secret Service)

Perhaps one of the most notable users of the 5.7x28mm cartridge is the U.S. Secret Service. Both the P90 and the Five-seven are compact enough to be concealed and possess the armor-penetrating capabilities required for the high-profile protection missions that the agency undertakes. Other notable users include the U.S. Federal Protective Service, the Canadian JTF2 special forces group, and the French GIGN counter-terrorism group.

An arguably greater influence for the popularity of the round, at least in civilian circles, is video games and movies. As previously mentioned, the P90’s distinct sci-fi look lends itself to use in film. Its compact size also makes its easy for actors to manipulate on screen and a popular choice for Hollywood armorers. Video games like Counter-Strike and Call of Duty have featured both the P90 and Five-seven leading to increased interest in the real-life guns.

Because the 5.7x28mm has not been as extensively developed or adopted like the 5.56x45mm or 9x19mm cartridges, its availability and that of the weapons that shoot it on the civilian market remain low. Moreover, the cost of the round and its associated weapons is proportionally high. Still, the PS90 (the civilian version of the P90) and Five-seven can be found and purchased legally by civilians. Additionally, other manufacturers like Kel-Tec and Ruger have released their own guns chambered in the 5.7x28mm cartridge. With the round’s standardization by NATO, its popularity and prevalence is likely to grow in military, police, and civilian use.

This makeshift armored vehicle is actually an ISIS suicide bomb truck
A Secret Service agent carries an FN P90 (U.S. Secret Service)
MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what John McCain thinks of the VA’s Veterans CARE Act proposal

US Senator John McCain today applauded the US Department of Veterans Affairs’ proposed Veterans Coordinated Access and Rewarding Experiences Act, which would bolster the Veterans Choice Program and consolidate the VA’s community care network.


The proposal also includes several measures Senator McCain has strongly advocated to expand quality and timely care for veterans in their communities, such as eliminating the current 30-day/40-mile limit to permit all eligible veterans to use the VA Choice Card.

Also read: The VA is running out of money for Veterans Choice health care program — again

It would also offer patients access to a network of walk-in clinics for minor health issues. This is modeled on a path-breaking partnership in Phoenix, Arizona, that allows Phoenix’s nearly 120,000 veterans to visit dozens of local CVS MinuteClinic locations for care.

This makeshift armored vehicle is actually an ISIS suicide bomb truck
Marines, veterans, and care providers watch as the American flag is walked to the flagpole at the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix, AZ. Photo by Sgt. Justin Boling

Senator McCain released the following statement supporting the VA’s new proposal:

“The VA’s proposed Veterans CARE Act would improve access to health care by developing a consolidated community care network that places veterans first. I am especially pleased to see the VA’s proposal incorporates some of the major reforms I have long advocated, such as eliminating the 30-day/40-mile restriction in the Veterans Choice Program, and expanding the successful pilot program in Phoenix, Arizona, that allows veterans to visit local walk-in clinics nationwide.

Veteran Issues: Military veterans are twice as likely to get ALS, and no one knows why

“Over the last few years, demand for community care through the Veterans Choice Program has grown considerably. Millions of veteran appointments have been made with quality community health care providers around the country. Today, veterans no longer have to wait in long lines or drive hundreds of miles to receive care. Unfortunately, the Veterans Choice Program has also been a victim of its own success, and has outpaced the VA’s ability to accurately predict growing demand for the program. Until the VA can accurately assess demand for care in the community, Congress’ efforts to create an integrated and efficient VA health care system will continue to face difficulty.

This makeshift armored vehicle is actually an ISIS suicide bomb truck
Senator John McCain. DoD photo by Chief Petty Officer James Foehl

“Those efforts must reflect the lessons learned through the Veterans Choice Program. We must set standards for care that are easy to use and understand. We must require the VA to accurately assess demand for care in the community. And we must produce a standardized and transparent system that integrates community and VA services.

“I look forward to working with Secretary Shulkin, my colleagues on the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees, and veterans service organizations to build on the proposed Veterans CARE Act and deliver our veterans the timely, quality, and flexible health care they deserve.”

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Audie Murphy held off waves of armor and troops while atop a burning tank

There’s a very good reason Audie Murphy is one of the most decorated veterans to every wear the US Army uniform.


Murphy was born on June 20, 1925 in Texas. His family was extremely poor, partially due to having twelve young mouths to feed. When his father abandoned the family when Audie was fifteen years old, he was forced to pick up some of the slack by hunting and doing what work he could to keep food on the table. Unfortunately, his mother died just a year after his father left.

Shortly thereafter, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Audie attempted to join the various branches of the U.S. military but was turned down in each case owing to his age and diminutive stature -five and a half feet tall (1.66 meters) and weighing only about 100 pounds (45 kg).

About seven months later, just ten days after he turned seventeen, he tried again. Having gained some weight (getting up to a whopping 112 pounds / 50.8 kg) and with falsified testimony from his sister claiming he was actually 18, this time Audie was able to get into the army. He was then shipped off to North Africa and later deployed to Sicily.

Despite his small size, Murphy proved to be a phenomenal soldier. In 1944, after witnessing the death of a friend during Operation Dragoon, he charged a group of German soldiers, took over their machine guns and other weapons, and proceeded to take out the other enemy soldiers within range using their own artillery. He was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross for his actions that day, the first of many medals.

During another battle shortly after this, to cover retreating Allied soldiers, he jumped onto a tank that had been hit and was on fire, exposing himself to the advancing enemy soldiers. Why did he put himself in such an exposed position on a tank that could potentially explode at any minute? There was a .50 caliber machine gun on the tank.

This makeshift armored vehicle is actually an ISIS suicide bomb truck
Audie Murphy played himself in a movie that detailed his exploits. Photo: Youtube

As Private Anthony Abramski said of the event,

It was like standing on top of a time bomb … he was standing on the TD chassis, exposed to enemy fire from his ankles to his head and silhouetted against the trees and the snow behind him.

Nevertheless, over the course of the next hour, he held off six German tanks and several waves of enemy soldiers, who were all trying desperately to take out the little American who was the only thing in their way at that point. He only retreated when he ran out of ammo. Once this happened, having sustained a leg wound and completely exhausted, Audie said in his book To Hell and Back,

I slide off the tank destroyer and, without once looking back, walk down the road through the forest. If the Germans want to shoot me, let them. I am too weak from fear and exhaustion to care.

Despite the leg wound, as soon as he caught up with his retreating soldiers who had now re-formed, he turned them around and managed to reclaim a stretch of forest from German occupation. According to the official report, in that battle, he killed or severely wounding at least fifty German soldiers by himself. For this act of bravery and for “indomitable courage and his refusal to give an inch of ground [saving] his company from possible encirclement and destruction…” he was awarded the U.S. Medal of Honor.

He rose through the ranks and was a captain when he was pulled out of the war in 1945. All in all, he earned 33 awards and decorations for his exemplary service during the war. He was just 20 years old at the time and, as one movie critic later put it, knew more of death than he did of life.

When Murphy returned from the war, he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition that often went undiagnosed at the time. After being featured on the cover of Life magazine, he found himself in Hollywood without work, sleeping in rough conditions. He caught his big break in 1949 when he starred in the film Bad Boy. That same year, he released the aforementioned autobiography titled To Hell and Back, which topped the bestseller charts. He went on to star as himself in a movie with the same title in 1955; it was Universal’s top-grossing film for nearly 20 years until Jaws usurped it.

Acting seemed to suit him. He made no less than 44 feature films while he was in Hollywood, many of them westerns, and also filmed a 26-episode western TV series called Whispering Smith, which aired in 1961 on NBC. It was criticised for being too violent, however, and cancelled after just 20 episodes were aired.

A man of many talents, Murphy also dabbled in poetry and song-writing as well as horse breeding and racing. Thanks to his earnings from acting, he was able to purchase a ranch in Texas. He was living an incredibly comfortable life, far grander than what he had known as a child.

Yet all was not well with Murphy. Back to his post traumatic stress disorder, he became dependent on sleeping pills to combat the insomnia he experienced after the war. Realizing he had become addicted to them, he locked himself in a motel room for a week, while he worked through the withdrawal symptoms. He ended up beating the addiction and went on to break the taboo of talking about the mental disorders many soldiers suffered when they returned home. His willingness to do so opened up discussions about psychological care for veterans upon their return to the US.

Murphy ended up marrying twice, divorcing his first wife after just two years, and having two sons with his second wife. He appeared to be happy with his family, with more than enough money in the bank to keep them comfortable (though he squandered much of it on gambling in his later years); had acted in dozens of movies; and had amazing war stories to tell his grandkids about. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to get to that stage of his life.

On May 28, 1971, Murphy was in a private plane flying on a business trip from Atlanta, Georgia to Martinsville, Virginia. The weather conditions were less than ideal: rain and fog shortened the pilot’s visibility considerably, and he had a questionable instrument rating. He called in to the Roanoke, Virginia airport to say that he would be landing shortly due to poor conditions. The plane, carrying five passengers including Murphy, never landed in the Roanoke Valley. It crashed into Brush Mountain twenty miles away, close to Blacksburg. Everyone in the crash was killed. Murphy was just 45 years old. The site of the crash has since been turned into a monument, and in the 1990s, the Appalachian Trail was rerouted to go past it.

That wasn’t quite the end for Murphy, though. After a funeral in Arlington Cemetery, where his grave remains the second most visited (after Kennedy’s), he was posthumously awarded his final medal, the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor. It was presented to his last remaining sister, Nadine Murphy, on October 29, 2013 by Governor Rick Perry.

MIGHTY TRENDING

It rains on the sun – this is how

For five months in mid 2017, Emily Mason did the same thing every day. Arriving to her office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, she sat at her desk, opened up her computer, and stared at images of the Sun — all day, every day. “I probably looked through three or five years’ worth of data,” Mason estimated. Then, in October 2017, she stopped. She realized she had been looking at the wrong thing all along.

Mason, a graduate student at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., was searching for coronal rain: giant globs of plasma, or electrified gas, that drip from the Sun’s outer atmosphere back to its surface. But she expected to find it in helmet streamers, the million-mile tall magnetic loops — named for their resemblance to a knight’s pointy helmet — that can be seen protruding from the Sun during a solar eclipse. Computer simulations predicted the coronal rain could be found there. Observations of the solar wind, the gas escaping from the Sun and out into space, hinted that the rain might be happening. And if she could just find it, the underlying rain-making physics would have major implications for the 70-year-old mystery of why the Sun’s outer atmosphere, known as the corona, is so much hotter than its surface. But after nearly half a year of searching, Mason just couldn’t find it. “It was a lot of looking,” Mason said, “for something that never ultimately happened.”


The problem, it turned out, wasn’t what she was looking for, but where. In a paper published today in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, Mason and her coauthors describe the first observations of coronal rain in a smaller, previously overlooked kind of magnetic loop on the Sun. After a long, winding search in the wrong direction, the findings forge a new link between the anomalous heating of the corona and the source of the slow solar wind — two of the biggest mysteries facing solar science today.

This makeshift armored vehicle is actually an ISIS suicide bomb truck

Mason searched for coronal rain in helmet streamers like the one that appears on the left side of this image, taken during the 1994 eclipse as viewed from South America. A smaller pseudostreamer appears on the western limb (right side of image). Named for their resemblance to a knight’s pointy helmet, helmet streamers extend far into the Sun’s faint corona and are most readily seen when the light from the Sun’s bright surface is occluded.

(© 1994 Úpice observatory and Vojtech Rušin, © 2007 Miloslav Druckmüller)

How it rains on the Sun

Observed through the high-resolution telescopes mounted on NASA’s SDO spacecraft, the Sun – a hot ball of plasma, teeming with magnetic field lines traced by giant, fiery loops — seems to have few physical similarities with Earth. But our home planet provides a few useful guides in parsing the Sun’s chaotic tumult: among them, rain.

On Earth, rain is just one part of the larger water cycle, an endless tug-of-war between the push of heat and pull of gravity. It begins when liquid water, pooled on the planet’s surface in oceans, lakes, or streams, is heated by the Sun. Some of it evaporates and rises into the atmosphere, where it cools and condenses into clouds. Eventually, those clouds become heavy enough that gravity’s pull becomes irresistible and the water falls back to Earth as rain, before the process starts anew.

On the Sun, Mason said, coronal rain works similarly, “but instead of 60-degree water you’re dealing with a million-degree plasma.” Plasma, an electrically-charged gas, doesn’t pool like water, but instead traces the magnetic loops that emerge from the Sun’s surface like a rollercoaster on tracks. At the loop’s foot points, where it attaches to the Sun’s surface, the plasma is superheated from a few thousand to over 1.8 million degrees Fahrenheit. It then expands up the loop and gathers at its peak, far from the heat source. As the plasma cools, it condenses and gravity lures it down the loop’s legs as coronal rain.

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Coronal rain, like that shown in this movie from NASA’s SDO in 2012, is sometimes observed after solar eruptions, when the intense heating associated with a solar flare abruptly cuts off after the eruption and the remaining plasma cools and falls back to the solar surface. Mason was searching for coronal rain not associated with eruptions, but instead caused by a cyclical process of heating and cooling similar to the water cycle on Earth.

(NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory/Scientific Visualization Studio/Tom Bridgman, Lead Animator)

Mason was looking for coronal rain in helmet streamers, but her motivation for looking there had more to do with this underlying heating and cooling cycle than the rain itself. Since at least the mid-1990s, scientists have known that helmet streamers are one source of the slow solar wind, a comparatively slow, dense stream of gas that escapes the Sun separately from its fast-moving counterpart. But measurements of the slow solar wind gas revealed that it had once been heated to an extreme degree before cooling and escaping the Sun. The cyclical process of heating and cooling behind coronal rain, if it was happening inside the helmet streamers, would be one piece of the puzzle.

The other reason connects to the coronal heating problem — the mystery of how and why the Sun’s outer atmosphere is some 300 times hotter than its surface. Strikingly, simulations have shown that coronal rain only forms when heat is applied to the very bottom of the loop. “If a loop has coronal rain on it, that means that the bottom 10% of it, or less, is where coronal heating is happening,” said Mason. Raining loops provide a measuring rod, a cutoff point to determine where the corona gets heated. Starting their search in the largest loops they could find — giant helmet streamers — seemed like a modest goal, and one that would maximize their chances of success.

She had the best data for the job: Images taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, a spacecraft that has photographed the Sun every twelve seconds since its launch in 2010. But nearly half a year into the search, Mason still hadn’t observed a single drop of rain in a helmet streamer. She had, however, noticed a slew of tiny magnetic structures, ones she wasn’t familiar with. “They were really bright and they kept drawing my eye,” said Mason. “When I finally took a look at them, sure enough they had tens of hours of rain at a time.”

At first, Mason was so focused on her helmet streamer quest that she made nothing of the observations. “She came to group meeting and said, ‘I never found it — I see it all the time in these other structures, but they’re not helmet streamers,'” said Nicholeen Viall, a solar scientist at Goddard, and a coauthor of the paper. “And I said, ‘Wait…hold on. Where do you see it? I don’t think anybody’s ever seen that before!'”

A measuring rod for heating

These structures differed from helmet streamers in several ways. But the most striking thing about them was their size.

“These loops were much smaller than what we were looking for,” said Spiro Antiochos, who is also a solar physicist at Goddard and a coauthor of the paper. “So that tells you that the heating of the corona is much more localized than we were thinking.”

This makeshift armored vehicle is actually an ISIS suicide bomb truck

Mason’s article analyzed three observations of Raining Null-Point Topologies, or RNTPs, a previously overlooked magnetic structure shown here in two wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light. The coronal rain observed in these comparatively small magnetic loops suggests that the corona may be heated within a far more restricted region than previously expected.

(NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory/Emily Mason)

While the findings don’t say exactly how the corona is heated, “they do push down the floor of where coronal heating could happen,” said Mason. She had found raining loops that were some 30,000 miles high, a mere two percent the height of some of the helmet streamers she was originally looking for. And the rain condenses the region where the key coronal heating can be happening. “We still don’t know exactly what’s heating the corona, but we know it has to happen in this layer,” said Mason.

A new source for the slow solar wind

But one part of the observations didn’t jibe with previous theories. According to the current understanding, coronal rain only forms on closed loops, where the plasma can gather and cool without any means of escape. But as Mason sifted through the data, she found cases where rain was forming on open magnetic field lines. Anchored to the Sun at only one end, the other end of these open field lines fed out into space, and plasma there could escape into the solar wind. To explain the anomaly, Mason and the team developed an alternative explanation — one that connected rain on these tiny magnetic structures to the origins of the slow solar wind.

In the new explanation, the raining plasma begins its journey on a closed loop, but switches — through a process known as magnetic reconnection — to an open one. The phenomenon happens frequently on the Sun, when a closed loop bumps into an open field line and the system rewires itself. Suddenly, the superheated plasma on the closed loop finds itself on an open field line, like a train that has switched tracks. Some of that plasma will rapidly expand, cool down, and fall back to the Sun as coronal rain. But other parts of it will escape – forming, they suspect, one part of the slow solar wind.

Mason is currently working on a computer simulation of the new explanation, but she also hopes that soon-to-come observational evidence may confirm it. Now that Parker Solar Probe, launched in 2018, is traveling closer to the Sun than any spacecraft before it, it can fly through bursts of slow solar wind that can be traced back to the Sun — potentially, to one of Mason’s coronal rain events. After observing coronal rain on an open field line, the outgoing plasma, escaping to the solar wind, would normally be lost to posterity. But no longer. “Potentially we can make that connection with Parker Solar Probe and say, that was it,” said Viall.

Digging through the data

As for finding coronal rain in helmet streamers? The search continues. The simulations are clear: the rain should be there. “Maybe it’s so small you can’t see it?” said Antiochos. “We really don’t know.”

But then again, if Mason had found what she was looking for she might not have made the discovery — or have spent all that time learning the ins and outs of solar data.

“It sounds like a slog, but honestly it’s my favorite thing,” said Mason. “I mean that’s why we built something that takes that many images of the Sun: So we can look at them and figure it out.”

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

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This lone Soviet tank was ready to fight the entire Nazi invasion of Russia

On June 22, 1941, Nazi Germany broke its non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union, invading the Russian-held area of Poland. Nazi tanks streamed across the border between the two occupiers, arriving in the Lithuanian town of Raseiniai the next day.


The resistance there almost threw a wrench in the entire Nazi war plan.

As the Nazis advanced on the town, Soviet mechanized divisions moved to defend it. The local tank garrisons happened to be equipped with Kliment-Voroshilov tanks, an advanced armored vehicle invulnerable to almost anything the German infantry could throw at them.

This makeshift armored vehicle is actually an ISIS suicide bomb truck
A Kliment-Voroshilov Tank, taken out by German infantry.

Anti-tank weapons were useless. The Nazis tried everything to disable the KV tanks — other tanks, artillery, anti-aircraft guns, but nothing worked. Even the vaunted sticky bomb couldn’t stop them.

According to the Russian Daily newspaper Moskovskij Komsomolets, German tanks and infantry advanced on the city but suddenly, well behind enemy lines, one Soviet KV tank drove into the middle of road and stopped — for a full day.

As this day wore on, the KV started tearing up Nazi anti-tank weapons and heavy machine guns as “armor piercing” rounds bounced right off the tank’s skin. The Russians even took out 12 trucks. German engineers threw satchel charges at the tank, with little effect.

This makeshift armored vehicle is actually an ISIS suicide bomb truck
German guns, destroyed by the lone KV at Raseiniai. Photo from the personal archive of Maxim Kolomiets.

According to MK, Nazi battle group commander Colonel Erhard Raus wrote in his account of the action that an 88-mm anti-aircraft gun couldn’t even put a dent in the KV tank’s armor.

“… It turned out that the crew and the tank commander had nerves of steel. They calmly watched the approach of anti-aircraft guns, without interfering with it, as long as it didn’t not pose any threat to the tank. In addition, the closer the anti-aircraft gun, the easier it is to destroy. A critical time in the duel of nerves, when settlement began to prepare the gun to fire. While gunners, nervous, bridged and loaded the gun, the tank tower turned and fired the first shot! Every shot hit the target. The heavily damaged antiaircraft gun fell into the ditch.”

The KV harassed the attacking Germans throughout the night and by morning, the full force of the German infantry attacked the lone KV tank. The tank struck down as many as possible with its machine guns, but it wasn’t enough. The troops were finally able to throw grenades down the tank’s hatches and kill the crew.

Pitched fighting at Raseiniai lasted three days. The lone Soviet tank delayed them by a full day, taking on two full Nazi mechanized divisions.

This makeshift armored vehicle is actually an ISIS suicide bomb truck

Russians have tried for years to postulate why the lone tank stopped and didn’t even try to maneuver. The most likely reason is that the tank ran out of gas. Red Army supply lines to Lithuania weren’t very good to begin with and a Nazi invasion sure wouldn’t have helped.

For 22 hours, the KV blocked the road, preventing the Germans from advancing into greater Russia, destroying or killing every Nazi man and machine in sight.

The Eastern Front of World War II is remembered by history for its brutality. Prisoners and war dead between the German Wehrmacht and the Soviet Red Army were treated with shocking disregard by any standard on both sides. The Nazis considered the Russians subhuman — theirs was a war of extermination.

In this instance, however, the German troops removed the Russian tank crew from their KV and buried them in the nearby woods with full military honors. Colonel Raus recounted in his memoirs:

“I am deeply shocked by this heroism, we buried them with full military honors. They fought to the last breath … “
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The F-35 can now help the US Army destroy enemy missiles

A US Air Force fifth-generation F-35 stealth fighter successfully transmitted live targeting data to US Army ground-based air-and-missile defense systems for the first time in an important test conducted during the recent Orange Flag exercise, the fighter’s developer announced Aug. 6, 2019.

The Army’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) Battle Command System (IBCS), a complex system developed by Northrop Grumman to connect sensors, launchers, and command and control stations, was able to “receive and develop fire control quality composite tracks” by “leveraging the F-35 as an elevated sensor” during the recent exercise, Lockheed Martin revealed.

The tracking data was sent to the IBCS through the F-35 ground station and F-35-IBCS adaptation kit, systems developed by Lockheed to let the F-35 talk to the US Army air-and-missile defense network.


The F-35 is capable of detecting threats that ground-based systems might struggle to pick up on until it’s too late. The curvature of the Earth can affect the ability of certain ground-based radars to adequately detect threats. The F-35 — which, as Breaking Defense noted, has been described by senior Air Force officers as “a computer that happens to fly” — is able to rapidly maneuver towards new targets and to change altitude, which radar arrays on the ground are unable to do.

This makeshift armored vehicle is actually an ISIS suicide bomb truck

A pilot takes the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft up for its first night flight near Edwards Air Force Base.

(photo by Tom Reynolds)

“The F-35, with its advanced sensors and connectivity, is able to gather and seamlessly share critical information enabling greater joint force protection and a higher level of lethality of Army IAMD forces,” Scott Arnold, the vice president and deputy of Integrated Air and Missile Defense at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, explained in a statement.

With the technology and capabilities tested recently, an Army Patriot battery, for example, could theoretically get a better read on an incoming threat using information provided an airborne F-35.

“Any sensor, any effector, any domain,” Dan Verwiel, Northrop Grumman’s vice president and general manager of missile defense and protective systems, told Defense News. “This is the future of the US Army’s fight.”

This makeshift armored vehicle is actually an ISIS suicide bomb truck

F-35A Lightning II.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Alex R. Lloyd)

Three years ago, an F-35 transmitted targeting information to a Navy Aegis Combat System armed with an SM-6 anti-air missile, which was then launched at a mock target simulating an adversarial aircraft. Now, this fighter, one of the most expensive weapons in the US arsenal, is being paired with Army air-and-missile defense networks.

The US military is looking at using the F-35 for multi-domain operations, meaning it wants the jet to do far more than the fighter-bomber missions for which it was initially designed. The fifth-generation jet can also use its high-end sensors to send difficult-to-detect transmissions containing critical data to other air assets, warships, and troops on the ground to increase battlespace awareness.

The capabilities being tested are a top priority as the US military looks to modernize the joint force in the face of great power competition with China and Russia.

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

Intel

How battle drills can be explained through a night of drinking

There are many clever ways to remember stuff from the Army’s study guide. “Low Flying Pilots Eat Tacos,” for example, is a great mnemonic for remembering the first 5 lines of your 9-line medevac. “Sergeant Major Eats Sugar Cookies” is a great one for trying to remember your operation orders. But there isn’t really accepted one for remembering the battle drills. So, instead of a goofy mnemonic, think of the 8 battle drills as the 8 stages of drinking at a bar with your buddies.


For the sake of brevity, we’re only covering battle drills at the platoon level. They’re the same in theory, but the designations are different for squad-level drills. And of course, there’s much more to each battle drill, this is just about remembering the basics.

Battle Drill 1: Platoon attack

Or, when you and your boys are headed out.

You guys are finally headed out. From here on out, you move as a single unit, you stay together as a single unit. Group up and head out. After all, fighting and drinking are the two greatest things an infantryman can do!

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Battle Drill 2: React to contact

Or, getting to the bar.

All the sights and sounds are coming at you at once. Bunker down in a spot that can serve you well — you may be there for a while.

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Battle Drill 3: Break contact

Or, moving around the bar.

There’s no such thing as retreat. You need to scout out a new spot and get there quick. If your boys see a better spot, follow them to it.

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Battle Drill 4: React to ambush

Or, you’re approached by someone you’re interested in, but you’re drunk.

You’re caught in the kill zone. You don’t want to stay in a place where you’re weak. Reposition yourself to give yourself the edge.

This makeshift armored vehicle is actually an ISIS suicide bomb truck
Never leave a fallen comrade. Your boy may need a wingman. (Photo by Spc. L’Erin Wynn)

Battle Drill 5: Knock out bunkers

Or, when you’re trying to use the bathroom.

You observe where you want to “go” and wait until your perfect moment to strike — or take a piss.

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Battle Drill 6: Enter building/clear room

Or, coming home drunk off your ass.

You need to enter the doorway as soon as you can and get out of the kill zone. Be careful, if you or one of your boys is married, you might run into some “heat” for coming in at this hour.

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Battle Drill 7: Enter/clear a trench

Or, trying to curl up into bed.

Keep a low profile. You can adjust, but keep your eyes on the enemy (or the toilet, in case you have to hurl).

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Battle Drill 8: Conduct initial breach of a mined obstacle

Or, dealing with a hangover.

The key is to deal with this one slow and steady — no quick movements. Don’t do anything too stupid and let other people (breach team or EOD) handle it.

This makeshift armored vehicle is actually an ISIS suicide bomb truck
Or just avoid doing anything. That works too. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Armando Limon)

Articles

The 1st Marine War Dog Platoon were the ‘goodest bois’ of WWII

Military dogs see extensive use on the modern battlefield, especially with special operations. The concept goes back to Roman times where legionnaires fielded heavy Mastiffs with armored collars to attack an enemy’s legs and force them to lower their shields. In WWII, the United States Marine Corps decided to experiment with the use of dogs in the Pacific.

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(U.S. Marine Corps)

The Marine Corps University attributes the idea of using dogs in jungle warfare to a Marine Officer serving as a Garde d’Haiti in the 1920s. He trained a dog to work on his patrols to expose bandit ambushes. By 1935, the Smalls Wars Operation doctrine published by the Marine Corps Schools noted, “Dogs on Reconnaissance, – – Dogs have been employed to indicate the presence of a hidden enemy, particularly ambushes.” The concept was revived in 1942.

On November 26, 1942, the Commandant of the Marine Corps penned a letter to the Commanding General, Training Center, Fleet Marine Force, Marine Barracks, New River, North Carolina, which was redesignated Camp Lejeune the next month. In it, the Commandant dictated for the General to “inaugurate a training program for dogs for military employment when personnel and material become available.” At that time, 24 Marines were in dog-related training at other bases and would bring 42 Army dogs with them back to New River. The Commandant noted that a further 20 dogs would be procured by Miss Roslyn Terhune, given obedience training in Baltimore, Maryland, and shipped to New River around the end of January 1943.

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(U.S. Marine Corps)

The Marine Corps also received dogs from Dogs for Defense, Inc., the Doberman Pinscher Club of America, and even private citizens looking to help the war effort. Individual owners wrote to the Marine Corps and volunteered their animals on a donation basis. The Marine Corps’ standard for dogs was 1-5 years old, at least 25 inches high, and weighing a minimum of 50 pounds. Breed was of secondary importance to other attributes like obedience, but certain breeds stood out as more favorable. The most suitable breeds for the Marines were: German Shepherds, Belgian Sheepdogs, Doberman Pinschers, Collies (farm type, with medium length coat), Schnauzers (Giant), Airedale Terriers, Rottweilers, and positive crosses of these breeds. Eskimos, Malamutes, and Siberian Huskies were used exclusively as sledge or pack dogs.

In the early days of the war dog training program, Doberman Pinschers were held in high regard. Their short hair was believed to be more adaptable to the heat of the tropics and their keen senses and athletic ability made them excellent scout and messenger dogs. Moreover, the Marine Corps received the largest portion of donated dogs from the Doberman Pinscher Club of America. In fact, the majority of dogs that went overseas as part of the 1st War Dog Platoon were Dobermans.

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(U.S. Marine Corps)

Unlike the dog training programs of the Army, Navy, and Coast Guard, the Marine Corps dogs were trained exclusively for combat roles. Being a strictly combat organization, the Corps had no interest in training dogs unless they contributed directly to killing the enemy or saving Marines. This concept split the training program into scout dogs and messenger dogs. These specialized dogs would prove invaluable against the Japanese in the Pacific.

In addition to the Dobermans, German Shepherds were found to be adept at the war dog training. Both breeds were trained in scout or messenger roles. The training at Camp Lejeune took approximately 14 weeks and included regular exposure to small arms fire and explosions. Two Marines were assigned to each dog as a trainer and attendant. This trio formed a single dog unit. Throughout training, dogs and their handlers grew accustomed to each others mannerisms and personalities. Dogs alerted their handlers to potential threats in different ways like tugging at the leash or crouching, and handlers learned to recognize these signs. Similarly, dogs learned to be on alert when their handler put them on “watch” to be wary of potential threats. This close relationship was vital for the dog units to work effectively.

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(U.S. Marine Corps)

The first Marine Corps dog unit sent to the Pacific was the 1st Marine War Dog Platoon. Sailing from San Diego, California on June 23, 1943, the Marines and their dogs arrived in the South Pacific on July 11. In November, the platoon was attached to the 2d Marine Raider Regiment during the Bougainville operation. This was the war dogs’ trial by fire and they exceeded every expectation. The official report of the Commanding Officer, 2d Marine Raider Regiment (Provisional) states:

The War Dog Platoon had proven itself to be an unqualified
success and the use of dogs in combat was on trial. This first Marine War
Dog Platoon was admittedly an experimental unit and minor defects were
found that need to be remedied. But the latent possibilities of combat dog
units proved itself beyond any doubt. To prove this only a few of the feats
of the dogs need to be cited.

(1) On ‘D’ day Andy (a Doberman Pinscher) led ‘M’ Co.
all the way to the road block. He alerted scattered sniper
opposition and undoubtedly was the means of preventing
loss of life.

(2) On ‘D’ day Caesar (a German Shepherd) was the only
means of communication between ‘M’ Co. and Second
Battalion CP, carrying messages, overlays and captured
Jap papers. One’s’Plus 1, ‘M’ Co. ‘s telephone lines were
out and Caesar was again the only means of communication.
Caesar was wounded on the morning of ‘D’ plus 2 and had
to be carried back to Regimental CP on a stretcher, but he
had already established himself as a hero. While with ‘M’
Co. he made official runs between company and Battalion
CP, and on at least two of these runs he was under fire.

(3) Otto (a Doberman Pinscher) on ‘D’ plus 1 while
working ahead of the point of a reconnaissance patrol,
alerted the position of a machine gun nest and the patrol
had time to take cover with no casualties when the machine
gun began firing. Otto alerted the position at least one
hundred yards away.

(4) On ‘D’ plus 6 Jack (a German Shepherd) was shot in the
back but even though wounded carried the message back
from the company on the road block that the Japs had
struck and sent stretcher bearers immediately. This was
a vital message because the telephone lines had been cut.
One of Jack’s handlers, Wortman, was wounded at the same
time and thus Jack was the means of bringing help to
his master.

(5) On the night of ‘D’ plus 7 Rex (a Doberman Pinscher)
alerted the presence of Japs in the vicinity. At daybreak
of ‘D’ plus 8 the Japs attacked. This was not a surprise,
however, because the dog had already warned of their
presence.

(6) During the night of ‘D’ plus 7 Jack (a Doberman
Pinscher) frequently alerted a tree near ‘M’ Company
CP. When it became light enough in the morning Jack’s
handler pointed out the tree to a B.A.R. man near him.
A Jap sniper was shot down out of the tree. This sniper
was in a position to do real damage in the company C.P.,
but due to Jack, the sniper was eliminated.

(7) Night security is an intangible. Dogs on night security
have less chance to show spectacularly how they may
be the means of saving life. One fact stands out, and
that is that the troops have confidence in the dogs.

(8) From ‘D’ day until the Second and Third Battalions
were relieved from front line duty on ‘D’ plus 8, there
were dog squads with every company on the front line.

More instances could be cited but this should suffice to
show that the dogs have proven themselves as message carriers,
scouts, and vital night security; and were constantly employed
during the operation of securing and extending the beachhead.

This makeshift armored vehicle is actually an ISIS suicide bomb truck
(U.S. Marine Corps)

The Bougainville report validated the war dog concept. Following it, the Marine Corps continually improved their war dog doctrine. The dogs saw further use in Guam, Peleliu, Iwo Kima, Okinawa, and even Saipan and the Japanese mainland. Today, the National War Dog Cemetery on Guam honors the service of these loyal animals. Fittingly, the Doberman sculpture that tops the memorial is titled “Always Faithful.”

This makeshift armored vehicle is actually an ISIS suicide bomb truck
(U.S. Marine Corps)
MIGHTY SPORTS

Competition pits brother against brother

When Lt. Col. Eric Palicia saw a flyer for an Alpha Warrior qualifier in May 2019, he decided to throw his name in the hat for a chance to go head to head with last year’s overall winner — his younger brother.

In this year’s Alpha Warrior Inter-Service Battle, soldiers, airmen, and sailors completed more than a dozen obstacles that tested their strength, agility and endurance, in a timed race Sept. 14, 2019, in San Antonio.


“I thought, ‘if I could earn a slot, I could compete against my brother,'” said the U.S. Army Europe headquarters engineer, who went on to surprise himself when he passed two more rounds of qualifiers to make it to the competition.

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U.S. Army Lt. Col. Eric Palicia (left), U.S. Army Germany, Wiesbaden, Germany, competes against his brother, U.S. Air Force Capt. Noah Palicia (right), 374th Operations Group C130J instructor pilot, Yokota Air Base, Japan, in the 2019 Air Force and Inter-Service Alpha Warrior Battles Sept. 14, 2019, at the Alpha Warrior Proving Grounds, Selma, Texas.

(Photo by Sarayuth Pinthong)

Palicia earned the top spot among Army competitors and second place overall — right behind his brother, Air Force Capt. Noah Palicia.

Eric Palicia credits bodyweight exercises and running for his success in preparing for the competition.

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U.S. Army Lt. Col. Eric Palicia (left), U.S. Army Germany, Wiesbaden, Germany, competes against his brother, U.S. Air Force Capt. Noah Palicia (right), 374th Operations Group C130J instructor pilot, Yokota Air Base, Japan, in the 2019 Air Force and Inter-Service Alpha Warrior Battles Sept. 14, 2019, at the Alpha Warrior Proving Grounds, Selma, Texas.

(Photo by Sarayuth Pinthong)

“You have to have endurance,” he said. “Cardiovascular fitness is the cornerstone of everything I’ve ever done athletically my whole life.”

Despite that, Palicia said the wins had little to do with him and much more to do with being a positive example.

This makeshift armored vehicle is actually an ISIS suicide bomb truck

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Eric Palicia (left), U.S. Army Germany, Wiesbaden, Germany, competes against his brother, U.S. Air Force Capt. Noah Palicia (right), 374th Operations Group C130J instructor pilot, Yokota Air Base, Japan, in the 2019 Air Force and Inter-Service Alpha Warrior Battles Sept. 14, 2019, at the Alpha Warrior Proving Grounds, Selma, Texas.

(Photo by Sarayuth Pinthong)

“Before the competition started, there were 60 brand new enlistees who did their oath,” he said. “All their families came out, and we had a chance to talk to them, and they asked us what we’d done so far in the military. If they can look at me and see what we’ve done, the whole swath of ranks and ages and everybody gets along, right off the bat those 60 sons and daughters see the organization they’re going into. They see all of us together doing this competition — there’s no ego or animosity. We’re all in it together.”

This makeshift armored vehicle is actually an ISIS suicide bomb truck

Army Lt. Col. Eric Palicia holds a medicine ball over his head during a strength challenge at the 2019 Alpha Warrior Inter-Service Battle, while a crowd cheers him on at Retama Park, Selma, Texas, Sept. 14, 2019.

(Photo by Debbie Aragon)

Next up for Palicia is the Army 10-miler, Oct. 13, 2019, in Washington, D.C.

Palicia said he feels lucky to be supported in his fitness endeavors.

“It’s wonderful to be a part of a command climate that realizes the importance of a competition like this and the importance of leaders doing it,” he said.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy warship seen in South China Sea carrying unusual amount of F-35s

The US Navy amphibious assault ship USS Wasp was recently seen sailing in the South China Sea on its way to the Philippines with an unusually heavy configuration of F-35s.

The Wasp was carrying at least 10 F-35B Lightning II stealth fighters, more than the usual load of six of these hard-hitting fifth-generation jet fighters, The National Interest first reported, adding that the warship may be testing the “light carrier” warfighting concept known as the “Lightning carrier.”


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Sailors on the Wasp.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker)

The amphibious assault ship is participating in the Balikatan exercises, during which “US and Philippine forces will conduct amphibious operations, live-fire training, urban operations, aviation operations, and counterterrorism response,” the US Navy said in a statement over the weekend announcing the Wasp’s arrival.

The annual exercises prepare troops for crises in the Indo-Pacific region. 2019’s exercises are focused on maritime security, a growing concern as China strives to achieve dominance over strategic waterways.

It’s the first time the Wasp and its Marine Corps F-35B fighters have participated in the Balikatan exercises.

The ship and its fighters “represent an increase in military capability committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” the Navy said, using rhetoric consistent with US military freedom-of-navigation operations and bomber flights in the South China Sea, intended to check China.

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The Wasp with a heavy F-35 configuration.

(US Navy/USS Wasp/Facebook)

The F-35B is the Marine Corps’ variant of the Joint Strike Fighter. The Air Force and Navy are also fielding versions of the fighter, the F-35A and the F-35C, the latter of which is designed to operate on full-size carriers.

The F-35B, which was declared combat-ready in 2015, can perform short takeoffs and vertical landings and is suited for operating on amphibious assault ships.

In addition to at least 10 F-35s, the configuration on the Wasp reportedly included four MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and two MH-60S Seahawk helicopters. Typically, there would be fewer fighters and more rotor aircraft, The War Zone reported.

Deploying with more F-35s than usual could be a first step toward fielding of light carriers, an approach that could theoretically boost not only the size of the carrier force but its firepower.

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Marine Corps F-35Bs and MV-22 Ospreys on the flight deck of the Wasp.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker)

The concept is not without precedent. During the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, amphibious assault ships sailed with up to 20 AV-8B Harriers, becoming “Harrier carriers.”

The concept has been rebranded as the “Lightning carrier,” a reference to the fifth-generation fighters the warships would carry into battle.

The War Zone said an America-class amphibious assault ship — successors to the Wasp class — could carry 16 to 20 F-35s in a light-carrier configuration.

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F-35Bs chocked and chained on the flight deck of the Wasp.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Benjamin F. Davella III)

Fall 2018, a US F-35B launched from the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex and conducted the fifth-generation platform’s first combat mission, striking militant targets in the Middle East.

In February 2019, the F-35B achieved another first as it carried out strikes in “beast mode,” meaning an external ordnance loadout, in the Pacific.

The light-carrier concept could see more F-35s doing maritime operations, delivering a massive increase in firepower. This could prove beneficial if the Navy goes ahead with plans to scrap a Nimitz-class carrier as it bets big on the troubled Ford-class carriers and other future combat platforms.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Army Corps finds ‘cremains’ among ashes is utterly fascinating

In November 2018, the Camp Fire decimated the rural town of Paradise, California, becoming the state’s most destructive and deadliest wildfire ever. The windswept wildfire razed more than 14,000 residences, and at least 86 people were killed.

While Sacramento District’s official involvement following the Camp Fire has been minimal, that hasn’t prevented district employees from getting involved.


Joanne Goodsell was recently hired as a Cultural Resources Specialist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. She is also an archaeologist, and wanted to find a way to use her skill-set to help victims of the fire. She would have been motivated to help regardless of where the fire took place, but this one hit home — literally. Goodsell grew up in Paradise.

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(Courtesy Photo)

“It was personal. I had wanted to do something to help, but there’s not much you really can do outside of donating. But sometimes you want to help firsthand, to find a way to do more,” said Goodsell.

She did donate money, but was still looking to find how she could do more. That’s when she came across a Facebook post leading her to a group called the Institute for Canine Forensics.

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(Courtesy Photo)

The ICF, in coordination with two Northern California archaeological consulting firms, was asking for archaeologists to come out and help with the unfortunate task of trying to find people’s ashes; not of those who perished in the fires, but the ashes (also called cremains) of previously deceased and cremated loved ones that were now intermingled with the ashes and debris of their burned out homes.

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(Courtesy Photo)

“A friend had posted a link where the ICF was asking for archaeologists to help with the recovery efforts,” said Goodsell. “So I got in contact with them and found this was a good fit for my skill set as an archaeologist.”

Goodsell’s involvement soon inspired other archaeologists in her section at the Corps to volunteer as well. Joe Griffin, Chief of the Cultural, Recreational, and Social Assessment Section soon got involved, as did archaeologists Hope Schear and Geneva Kraus.

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(Courtesy Photo)

Finding ashes among ashes would seem an impossible task, but the ICF brought in dogs that are specifically trained to locate human cremains. After a client has requested service, an ICF handler speaks to the client to determine the approximate location of the cremains and what kind of container they were in. The dogs then sniff through the debris field and either sit or lay down when they find a scent. From there it’s up to the teams of archaeologists.

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(Courtesy Photo)

Nature’s chemical reactions also provide some help in the archaeologists’ searches. First, the texture of the human ashes are different from ashes of say, burned drywall or wood. Second, when the cremains burn a second time, they turn a different color than the typical gray or white ash surrounding them, making them easier to see.

Dressed in protective clothing, the archaeologists would determine a search area, set up a perimeter and begin excavating down to ground level, removing layers of ash and debris as they worked toward where they believed the cremains to be.

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(Courtesy Photo)

Most often, they eventually found the cremains on the ground, surrounded or mixed in with other ash and debris. Original ceramic containers almost never survived the fire, and metal urns melted. It was helpful that sometimes the searchers also found the original metal medallion that stays with a cremated body, making recognition of the human ashes a bit easier.

“One set of cremains were in a fireproof safe, and even it burned, but we still found some cremains in there,” said Goodsell. “Our highest recovery rates were often for cremains that were in the original containers and had been sitting on the floor of a closet.”

This makeshift armored vehicle is actually an ISIS suicide bomb truck

(Courtesy Photo)

The loss of a loved one’s ashes can add a sense of guilt to the already heavy burden of losing a home, especially for those who had yet to fulfill a promise to spread a loved one’s cremains as requested in person or in a will. Fortunately, Goodsell said they had close to a 70 percent success rate in recovering and returning entire cremains and medallions.

This makeshift armored vehicle is actually an ISIS suicide bomb truck

(Courtesy Photo)

The job of searching for cremains at the Camp Fire is finished, at least for now, but Goodsell hopes that in the near future cremains recovery will become standard operating procedure following wildfire disasters.

“This is not going to be the last time this is needed,” said Goodsell. “Finding and returning the cremains means a great deal to these family members. Even if it was a small, token amount, people were very, very grateful.”

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