This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein's bombed out palace - We Are The Mighty
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This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace

In December 2003, Michael Trotter, Jr. was a soldier stationed in Baghdad, Iraq. His unit was camped out in one of Saddam Hussein’s bombed-out palaces when his commanding officer discovered a piano and suggested Trotter, who enjoyed singing, check it out.


“You had to crawl over soot and rut and rock and rubble from the war to get to this piano; it was like one of those dramatic movie scenes,” Trotter told Real Clear Life.

It’s common for troops to play the easier-to-transport guitar while deployed, but not many get the chance to tickle the ivory. Trotter didn’t know how to play piano, but he began to teach himself. Music became an outlet and an escape from the stress of combat.

When his friend, Army Captain Robert C. Scheetz, Jr., was killed by an IED, Trotter wrote a song called “Dear Martha,” which he then performed at Scheetz’s memorial service. Trotter would go on to sing at many more memorials, providing solace for those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

“Dear Martha” is about the letters written between loved ones divided by war. Trotter recorded the song with his wife, Tanya Blount, as part of their musical duo, The War and Treaty, which explores the concept of creating music out of darkness and despair to find peace, tranquility, and a higher purpose.

While this video doesn’t include any visuals, you can hear their tranquil notes and haunting harmonies by clicking play below — and you really, really should:

(The War and Treaty | YouTube)
MIGHTY HISTORY

Iran banned this most American of hairstyles

Forget business in the front, party in the rear. Iran is all business. There’s no party around back. At least, not for the most American of all possible hairstyles: the mullet. The mullet is so American, in fact, that it’s banned in Iran for precisely that reason. Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance said goodbye to the haircut for being “un-Islamic.”

The haircut was on a list of “decadent Western haircuts” that were banned, alongside ponytails, spiked hairstyles, and long hair in general in 2010.


The year was a difficult one for Iran, coming on the heels of the Green Movement, which protested the 2009 Presidential election and pushed for the removal of the Iran’s much-reviled (but reelected anyway) Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The countrywide protests were the largest since the 1979 Iranian Revolution that saw Imperial Iran transformed into the Islamic Republic.

This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace

“…from my cold, dead head.”

It’s fun to laugh at the idea of banning an American hairstyle that itself has been the butt of thousands of jokes for decades, but the reality is a little less funny. The hairstyle ban is part of a series of punishments from the anti-Western Cultural Ministry and part of the reprisals against the Iranian people for the Green Movement protests.

Raids, arrests, and human rights violations came immediately after the protests, but bans like the one on un-Islamic hairstyles are the enduring legacy of such knee-jerk reactions. Iranian police would start shutting down barber shops offering such hairstyles and fine the owners.

This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace

Causing Achy Breaky Hearts.

It’s a strange notion that the mullet is considered a part of the Western cultural invasion of Iran, considering it’s a hairstyle that may have emerged in the ancient Middle East anyway. At first glance, the look that made Billy Ray Cyrus a cultural icon (for the brief time he was) should seem ridiculous to Iranian Morality policemen, but it’s not the only Western cultural trend to endure in the country.

Iranian men forego beards (even as beards are very much in back in the United States) while embracing neckties and European designer brands. These trends are hard to ignore, but the mullet should hardly seem comparable to the appeal of Prada and Givenchy.

“The proposed styles are inspired by Iranians’ complexion, culture and religion, and Islamic law,” said Jaleh Khodayar, who is in charge of the Modesty and Veil Festival. It was there that acceptable hairstyles were revealed. Also out are things like eyebrow plucking for males and excessive hair gel.

Failure to comply with the new hair regulations for men would result in a forced, bad haircut, courtesy of Iran’s Morality Police. The clerics who run Iranian society believe the looks will ultimate cause their way of life to disappear. But they also believe that sexy, revealing clothing causes earthquakes.

This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace

Earthquakes are definitely because of Niloofar Behboudi and Shabnam Molav and not the 1,500-km long fault line running through Iran.

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US Army general approves Bergdahl sentence, no prison time

Army Gen. Robert Abrams endorsed the decision to spare Pvt. Bowe Bergdahl prison time after Bergdahl plead guilty to desertion and misbehavior charges in 2017. Roberts, the convening authority in the court-martial and the head of U.S. Army Forces Command, approved the sentence, which had reduced Bergdahl in rank from sergeant to private and ordered a fine.

Bergdahl was also given a dishonorable discharge.

This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace

Bergdahl was captured in Paktika province, Afghanistan, on June 30, 2009, and did not return to the United States until June 13, 2014. He was charged with desertion and misbehavior in March 2015. In August 2017, he chose to be tried by a military judge instead of a jury and was sentenced on Nov. 3, 2017.

Prosecutors had requested Bergdahl serve 14 years confinement.

Also read: 10 details you should know about the Bergdahl case

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The F-22 production line debate continues

When the F-22 Raptor production line ceased in 2011, Air Force Lt. Col. Daniel thought the Pentagon had made a huge mistake.


He was driving in his car in 2009 when he found out “the Raptor fleet is done at 187, and I remember thinking, ‘This is not great.’ I thought it was an error.”

Because, “more is better than less, right?” said the F-22 pilot of the 95th Fighter Squadron. He spoke to Military.com on the condition that his last name not be used, due to safety concerns amid ongoing air operations against the Islamic State.

This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace
A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor flying on January 27 (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook)

Military.com recently sat down with a few pilots and a maintainer at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, as part of a trip to observe fifth-generation F-22s flying with fourth-generation F/A-18 Hornets for training.

The Air Force originally wanted at least 381 Raptors. Had the service acquired that many of the stealthy twin-engine fighters from Lockheed Martin Corp., life nowadays might be somewhat less hectic for the service members who fly and maintain them.

More of the F-22 fleet could “mitigate [operations] tempo, and we’re always on the road so if we had more Raptors, there’d be more Raptor squadrons, more Raptor maintainers that would mitigate some training and operational demands,” Daniel said.

Lt. Col. Ben of the 325th Operations Group agreed.

“That’s exactly right,” he said. “But these decisions are above my pay grade.”

Daniel added, “Of course, there’s a huge cost with that.”

He’s right. Indeed, cost was the driving factor behind then-Defense Secretary Bob Gates’ decision to push for the Pentagon to prematurely stop buying the aircraft.

$20 Billion Restart

According to a 2010 RAND study, to restart the F-22 production line to build 75 more of the jets would cost about $20 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars.

To build a new Raptor — not a 1990s version — “you’re not building the same airplane you were building before, and it becomes a much more expensive proposition,” a defense analyst in Washington, D.C. told Military.com on background on Thursday.

This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace
F-22 image via John Dibbs of Lockheed Martin.

“So do you build a new ‘old’ F-22, or do you build an improved one?” the analyst said.

And that figure is a rough estimate to restart a marginal lot of planes. It doesn’t take into account the cost of hiring workers, integrating newer stealth technologies, or training and equipping additional pilots.

Preparing Raptor pilots to fly from the nest takes time, too.

“To make a really good F-22 pilot, I need about seven to eight years to get him to where he is fully employing a jet and can actually quarterback the whole fight,” Daniel said.

But as the Air Force weighs retiring its F-15C/D fleet sometime in the mid-2020s (though lawmakers in Congress will have a say in the matter), many defense experts question how the service plans to maintain its air superiority. For example, will the F-22 eventually take over the role of the F-15 Eagle? If so, will Raptor pilots be more in demand than ever?

F-16s Instead of F-22s?

The questions aren’t abstract. Both the active-duty component and Air National Guard are considering retiring the Boeing-made Eagle, service officials told the House Armed Services Subcommittee during a hearing on Wednesday. The F-16 Fighting Falcon could take over missions from the F-15, they said.

Rep. Martha McSally, an Arizona Republican and former Air Force officer who flew the A-10 Thunderbolt II ground-attack aircraft, said “prior to the F-22, [the F-15] was the best at air-to-air.” The F-16, a fixed-wing, single-engine, fourth-generation platform, “doesn’t bring the same capability,” she said.

This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace
An F-16 Fighting Falcon releases a flare. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian J. Valencia)

The reference by Air Force officials to F-16 rather than F-22 during the hearing also caught the analyst by surprise.

“Why didn’t the Air Force say F-22 restart?” he said during a telephone interview. “Why did they leak that they’re looking to replace it with F-16s instead of using it as a case to examine F-22 restart?”

One reason might be because the Senate hasn’t yet confirmed Heather Wilson, a former Congresswoman nominated by President Donald Trump, to become the next Air Force Secretary, the analyst said. Until she’s confirmed, “the Air Force is worried about making any major decisions,” he said.

Another reason might be because Air Force leaders have zero interest in restarting the F-22 production line. The reference to F-16 may suggest “this is the end for F-22 restart story — not the beginning of it,” he said.

Upgrades Coming

Earlier this week, officials at Lockheed — which produces the F-16 and F-22 — told DefenseOne it plans to move the F-16 production line to South Carolina from Fort Worth, Texas, where it built the single-engine fighters for more than 40 years.

As of Sept. 30, the Air Force had 949 Fighting Falcons, according to Air Force inventory figures obtained by Military.com.

By comparison, the service has less than half as many Eagles and F-15E Strike Eagles. The F-15 inventory totals 456 aircraft and is split almost evenly between the two variants, with 236 of the older Eagles, including 212 one-seat F-15C models and 24 two-seat F-16D models, according to the service data.

“F-15C/D is just one job,” the analyst said of the all-weather, tactical fighter. “The Air Force is going to make the same argument it made on the A-10, which is, ‘As we look around the Air Force to save money, we’re going to retire things that have one job.’

“The F-16 is multi-role … and the F-16 has grown significantly since it was just a little squirt under the F-15’s wing,” he said.

This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace
A formation of U.S. Air Force aircraft (F-16, F-15C and F-15E) fly over Kuwaiti oil fires, set by the retreating Iraqi army during Operation Desert Storm. (U.S. Air Force photo)

For example, in December, Raytheon Co. was awarded a contract to upgrade the F-16 computer system as part of the Modular Mission Computer Upgrade, which features “more than two times the current processing power and 40 times the current memory, equipping USAF pilots with near-fifth-generation aircraft computing power,” the company said in a release at the time.

Just this past week, the Air Force announced the 416th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base in California has begun testing F-16s equipped with Northrop Grumman’s APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar, a fifth-generation Active Electronically Scanned Array fire-control radar.

“It is intended to replace currently used APG-66 and APG-68 radars and provide the F-16 with advanced capabilities similar to fifth-generation fighters like the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II,” the service said in a release.

The Air Force claims it has the capacity in the F-16C community “to recapitalize … radar to serve the same function as the F-15 has done and thereby reduce the different systems that we have to sustain and operate, so that makes it more efficient,” said Maj. Gen. Scott D. West, director of current operations and the service’s deputy chief of staff for operations at the Pentagon.

The effort will help minimize the number of systems pilots operate, West said during the hearing on Capitol Hill.

As for the Eagle, Air National Guard Director Lt. Gen. Scott Rice told Military.com that any planned upgrades will be fulfilled. However, the Air Force may want to look at the next block of upgrades to save on future sustainment and operational costs, he said.

Rice said he believes the Air Force is getting beyond comparing aircraft platforms, “especially in the digital age” when looking at the platforms as systems and “how they integrate is as important and, in the future, will be even more important than the platform itself,” he said.

The F-16 is a “less capable dogfighter than the F-15,” the analyst added, “but at the same time the question is, ‘How realistic is it that you’re going to have a single F-16 without any help'” from other fighter jets? “That’s not how we plan to fly,” he said.

A Magical Airframe?

Last year, the House Armed Services Air and Land Forces subcommittee tasked the Air Force to issue a study of what it would take to get the F-22 line up and running again.

Whether the official study has been completed, “preliminary assessment showed it was cost prohibitive to reopen the F-22 line,” an Air Force spokeswoman told Military.com on Thursday, in line with RAND’s study.

Even so, Lockheed is offering advice on what it would take to do so, said John Cottam, F-22 program deputy for the company in Fort Worth.

This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace
An F-22 deploys flares. (U.S. Air Force photo)

“They have come to us and have asked us for inputs into that study, so we have been working very hard with them, in concert with them to provide that data,” he said last month. “With this new administration, they have priorities that are putting Americans back to work and making America strong, so we believe that what the Air Force provides could very easily resonate with the administration’s policies.”

Cottam added, “As time goes on, if the report isn’t delivered [to Congress], we can then keep delivering our responses and making it more and more refined.”

Meanwhile, Raptor pilots can’t help but wonder if newly minted aircraft will again come off the production line.

In any exercise, pilots show up the first couple of days, “integrate with other platforms — everyone’s trying to learn,” Daniel said. “By the end of the first week, everybody realized we need about 30 more F-22s in the lane because as soon as the F-22s leave, people start to die in the air-to-air fight.”

Daniel said, “It’s always disappointing that we don’t have more, or don’t have more missiles, more gas — it’s always frustrating as an F-22 pilot when you hear, ‘Bingo, bingo,’ and you’re out of missiles and you go home and you start hearing other planes getting shot down.”

The stealth, the speed, the “unfair amount of information the jet provides to us … .it’s magic,” he said.

Even with oncoming upgrades to the F-16, many fighter pilots and others question whether a fourth-generation fighter will — or could — ever step up to such a role.

— Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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13 funniest military memes for the week of June 2

It’s June, in case you’re wondering. But military memes don’t take summer vacations, and these memes will be here with you all through the fighting season.


1. The is why the military has ridiculous names for things, to prevent miscommunication (via Weapons of Meme Destruction).

This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace

2. Never trust junior enlisted with anything but a rifle and a woobie (via Shit my LPO says).

This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace
And only trust them with the rifle if they’re in the Army or Marine Corps.

3. Again, don’t trust junior enlisted with anything but a rifle and a woobie (via Pop smoke).

This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace
Though, to be fair, this game looks awesome.

ALSO SEE: Once upon a time, this ‘little kid’ was a lethal Vietnam War fighter

4. That’s a true friend right there (via Military World).

This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace
Try to line up with this guy on the physical fitness test.

5. While falling in a parachute is the second worst time to learn to fall in a parachute (via Do You Even Jump?).

This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace
The only time that is worse is learning to do a parachute landing fall right after you break both of your legs and some vertebrae.

6. Just dangling under the helicopter waiting to get hit by a stick (via Coast Guard Memes).

This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace
Or, you know, eaten by a shark. Pretty sure this is how Coast Guard admirals fish.

7. There’s always a 70 percent chance it’s a penis (via Decelerate Your Life).

This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace
Even when there is a serious message, there’s at least an eggplant on the end of it.

8. Brad Pitt really moved up in the world (via The Salty Soldier).

This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace
But if you’ve seen the movies, he seems to be happiest as a lieutenant.

9. It’s really romantic until one of you has to spend another two hours melting polish (via Shit my LPO says).

This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace
But, you know, cool profile photo or whatever.

10. Come on, the lieutenant is as likely to eat the dirt as anyone (via Coast Guard Memes).

This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace
At least the enlisted guys will only do it on a dare.

11. Dude didn’t even get a good reenlistment bonus (via Decelerate Your Life).

This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace
Everyone knows you wait for the new fiscal year.

12. Everyone wants to get super fit until they remember how sore your muscles get (via Decelerate Your Life).

This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace

13. Turns out we owe apologies to all those medics and corpsmen.

This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace
Does it fix broken bones, yet?

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Motorcycle soldiers used to rush parts to tanks under fire

They were quite possibly the ballsiest men to serve in World War I — a group of motorcyclists who would wait for tanks to get bogged down or disabled and ride on their two-wheeler’s to the rescue.


Motorcyclists provided a number of services to the tank corps including signaling, dispatch riding, and delivering replacement parts or crewmembers to tanks under attack — even when the area was being targeted by enemy artillery or machine gun fire.

Motorcycle soldiers were envisioned by then-Army Capt. George S. Patton, Jr. when he was first standing up the American tank units. Patton wanted at least two motorcycles and riders for each tank company as well as an additional two riders and bikes for the battalion headquarters.

Motorcycles were necessary for traversing the shell-pocked landscape between World War I trenches — areas with mud so deep and inclines so steep that tanks would often get stuck or break.

This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace
U.S. Marine Corps motorcycle riders in Tientsin, China, in 1927. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Archives)

But the motorcyclists may not have had the worst job supporting the fledgling tank corps in World War I. That award probably goes to the salvage corps whose members had to yank tanks from the battlefield.

In the worst cases, members of the salvage corps would map out where all disabled tanks were in No Man’s Land, then crawl out to them through the mud and under artillery fire at night. If they could get the tank running again, they’d drive it off the battlefield. If not, they would strip it for parts as German snipers and machine gunners hunted for them in the dark.

Luckily, a young tanker whose name was lost to history eventually suggested a better idea — outfit one tank as a recovery vehicle to bring necessary parts and mechanics to their comrades under fire.

This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace
American Army Renault FT light tanks in the Argonne Forest in 1918. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

The recovery tanks could also deliver new crewmembers to the battlefield and could tow away damaged tanks, preventing the necessity of motorcycle riders to roar in under artillery fire.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army confirms one dead in Black Hawk crash during training

The U.S. Army has stated that a person was killed in a Black Hawk training exercise at Fort Hood on Tuesday evening.


Army officials say the 1st Infantry Division from Fort Riley in Kansas was making use of the HH-60M Black Hawk medical helicopter as part of the exercise when the accident occurred and killed one person south of the Robert Gray Army Airfield, the Austin American-Statesman reports.

The training involved medical evacuation hoists. For now, the Army is withholding details on the person killed until all next of kin have been notified of the death. It’s not clear how many soldiers were in the HH-60M when the incident occurred.

This most recent incident reflects a growing trend of training accidents, which has captured the attention not only of military leaders, who have been warning for years of the consequences of budget cuts, but also a growing number of members of Congress. In a Senate speech Wednesday regarding the annual defense budget bill, GOP Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, noted that in the past three years, four times as many service members have died from training accidents than from combat. McCain has long been an opponent of sequestration, which was enshrined in the Budget Control Act of 2011 and imposes “across-the-board” spending cuts.

“And yet as dangerous that these and other foreign threats are, perhaps the greatest harm to our national security and our military is self-inflected,” McCain said. “I repeat: self-inflicted. It is the accumulation of years of uncertain, untimely and inadequate defense funding, which has shrunk our operational forces, harmed their readiness, stunted their modernization, and as every single member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has repeatedly testified before the committed on Armed Services, put the lives of our service members at greater risk.”

McCain noted that 42 service members died in accidents during training exercises this summer alone, mentioning recent incidents like the USS Fitzgerald, the USS John S. McCain and the Marine Corps Kc-130 crash in Mississippi.

MIGHTY TRENDING

President Trump says he ordered the US Navy to ‘destroy’ any Iranian gunboat that harasses American ships at sea

President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he had ordered the US Navy to “destroy” any Iranian gunboat that harassed US ships.


https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/statuses/1252932181447630848
I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea.

twitter.com

No additional clarity or guidance on such an order to the Navy has been provided.

The president’s announcement follows an incident last week in which a swarm of nearly a dozen Iranian gunboats sailed out to harass US Navy and Coast Guard vessels operating in the Persian Gulf.

US Naval Forces Central Command said last Wednesday that 11 Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy boats “conducted dangerous and harassing approaches,” repeatedly crossing the bows and sterns of the US ships.

At one point, the US said, one of the Iranian boats closed to within 10 yards of a Coast Guard cutter.

The US military said that the US vessels issued multiple warnings over bridge-to-bridge radio and sounded their horns but that the Iranian boats did not respond for about an hour.

After responding, the Iranian vessels moved away from the American ships.

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The Navy said in a statement last week that the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy had committed “dangerous and provocative actions” that “increased the risk of miscalculation and collision.”

US Navy

“The IRGCN’s dangerous and provocative actions increased the risk of miscalculation and collision,” US Naval Forces Central Command said in a statement.

At the time of the incident, the Navy expeditionary mobile base vessel Lewis B. Puller, the destroyer Paul Hamilton, and the patrol ships Firebolt and Sirocco, together with the Coast Guard cutters Wrangell and Maui, were carrying out joint operations with Army AH-64E Apache attack helicopters in the Persian Gulf.

The US military, according to a separate recent statement, has been letting US Army helicopters take off from Navy ships in exercises meant to boost “the capabilities of US forces to respond to surface threats,” such as the gunboats Iran routinely sends out to harass both military and commercial vessels.

In its statement following last week’s run-in with Iranian forces, US Naval Forces Central Command concluded by saying that “US naval forces continue to remain vigilant and are trained to act in a professional manner, while our commanding officers retain the inherent right to act in self-defense.”

Insider reached out the Navy and US Central Command for comment but was redirected to the White House, which did not comment on the president’s tweet.

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

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The chair of the joint chiefs of staff reveals biggest lesson he’s learned in the fight against ISIS

This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace
Gen. Dunford touring a facility in Kabul Base Cluster | Flickr


The US has been able to greatly improve its use of intelligence over the 600-day fight against ISIS, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told Business Insider on Tuesday.

“If you want to talk about lessons learned, I‘ll tell you, I’m probably relearning lessons over the last couple of years, and No. 1 is intelligence,” Gen. Joseph Dunford said in response to a question from Business Insider during an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“If you want to know why our operation’s quantifiably more effective today than they were a year and a half ago, it’s because our intelligence is getting much better,” Dunford continued.

Dunford had stressed in recent congressional testimony that with nearly 100 nations and approximately 30,000 foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria, the US military needed more cooperation from other nations’ intelligence operations.

“I won’t go into great detail right now, but in terms of how you fully harness the intelligence community, getting the right people in the right places to do target development — has been something that’s frustrating to me,” Dunford said Tuesday.

“I think we’ve made some improvements that result in the progress that we have made,” he added.

Dunford’s comments came days after the Pentagon announced the US-led coalition, Operation Inherent Resolve, killed Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli, the top financier for ISIS (aka Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh). It was a sign of the progress to which Dunford referred.

“We’re systematically eliminating ISIL’s cabinet,” US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said during a briefing last Friday.

As of March 15, the US-led coalition has conducted a total of 10,962 strikes throughout the region, with 7,336 strikes in Iraq and 3,626 strikes being conducted in Syria.

The Department of Defense puts the total cost of anti-ISIS operations at $6.5 billion as of February 29, 2016. And the average daily cost stands at about $11.4 million for 571 days of operations.

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9 reasons mortarmen are so deadly

Mortars used to be considered artillery weapons because they lob hot metal shells, sometimes filled with explosives, down on the enemy’s heads.


But the mortar migrated to the infantry branch, and the frontline soldiers who crew the weapon maneuver into close ranges with the enemy and then rain hell down upon them. Here’s what makes the mortarman so lethal:

1. Mortarmen can emplace their system and fire it quickly

 

This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace
Mortars are basically a tube, a site, and a baseplate, so they can be assembled at the front and placed into operation quickly. In some situations, the tube can even be sighted by hand and fired without the baseplate, though both of these things reduce the accuracy. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Sarah N. Petrock)

2. Mortars can maintain a relatively high rate of fire

This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace
Because mortar rounds move at a lower rate than howitzer rounds, they require less propellant and generate less heat. This allows them to be fired more quickly. For instance, the M120 120mm mortar system can fire 16 rounds in its first minute and can sustain four rounds per minute. The M1911 howitzer can fire 12 rounds in two minutes and sustain three rounds per minute. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Patrick Kirby)

3. The mortar crew is located near the front, so it can observe and direct its own fire

This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace
Mortars generally maneuver forward with the other infantrymen, meaning that they can see where their targets are and where they land. If necessary, the mortar can still fire from out of sight if a forward observer or other soldier provides targeting adjustments. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Joshua Petke)

4. Mortars are often in direct communication with battlefield leaders, allowing them to quickly react to changes in the combat situation

This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace
Since the mortars are moving with the maneuver element, they can see friendly forces and are often within yelling distance of the battlefield leadership. This allows them to shift fire as friendly troops advance and hit changing target priorities in real time. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Danny Gonzalez)

5. Mortars can be equipped with different fuzes, allowing the weapon’s effects to be tailored to different situations

This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace
A 120mm mortar shell airbursts. Mortars can be set to detonate a certain distance from the ground, after a certain time of flight, upon hitting the surface, or a certain amount of time after hitting the surface. It all depends on what fuzes are equipped and how they are set. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Gustavo Olgiati)

6. Most mortars are relatively light, allowing them to be jumped, driven, or even rucked into combat

This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace
These paratroopers are carrying the M121 120mm mortar system. Mortars can be airdropped into combat and the mortar ammunition can be jumped to the battlefield in soldiers’ rucks, as bundles dropped from the plane doors, or as pallets from the rear. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Alejandro Pena)

7. This mobility allows them to “shoot and scoot” and to stay at the front as the battle lines shift

This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Timothy Valero)

 

8. Mortarmen are still infantry, and they can put their rifles into operation at any point

 

This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace
If a mortar position comes under direct attack or if the battle shifts in a way that makes mortars less useful than rifles, the mortarmen can move into action as riflemen. After all, mortarmen are infantry. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Tia Nagle)

9. Also, machineguns

This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace
A U.S. Marine Corps mortarman pulls security during a modern operations in urban terrain exercise. Mortarmen can even be equipped with machineguns, though we don’t envy the guy rucking a mortar baseplate and a machinegun. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Careaf L. Henson)

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West Point, Ranger School grad is the first female US Army infantry officer

This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace
Capt. Kristen Griest participates in Ranger School. | Photo by Spc. Nikayla Shodeen, US Army


The U.S. Army has just announced that Captain Kristen Griest’s request to change her military occupational specialty from Military Police to Infantry has been approved, according to a report posted by the Ledger-Enquirer.

“Like any other officer who wishes to branch transfer, Capt. Griest applied for an exception to Army policy to transfer from military police to infantry,” Fort Benning Spokesman Bob Purtiman said. “Her transfer was approved by the Department of the Army over the weekend.”

Griest, a West Point graduate, was one of three women to successfully complete Ranger School last August. She is scheduled to graduate from the Captains Career Course at Fort Benning this week. The Army has not announced her next assignment.

This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace
Captain Kristen Griest | Photo by U.S. Army

MIGHTY TRENDING

US, Norway practice crippling enemies in desperate cold

U.S. Marines with Marine Rotational Force–Europe 19.1 and Norwegian Army soldiers conducted close-air-support drills during Exercise Northern Screen in Setermoen, Norway, Oct. 25, 2018.

Northern Screen is a bilateral exercise that includes cold-weather and mountain-warfare training between MRF-E Marines and the Norwegian military, Oct. 24 to Nov. 7, 2018.


“A lot of what we do as joint terminal attack controllers is structured off of a NATO standard and by us communicating with our Norwegian allies we’re overall increasing our ability both as Americans and a united force on how we do our procedures,” said Sgt. John C. Prairie II, a Joint Terminal Attack Controller for MRF-E. “It’s making us more tactically and technically proficient.”

The Marines practiced aircraft medical evacuations and discussed air-control tactics to ensure safety and success in extreme cold-weather environments.

This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace

U.S. Marines with Marine Rotational Force-Europe 19.1 and Norwegian Army soldiers conduct close-air support in Setermoen, Norway, Oct. 25, 2018.

(Photo by Cpl. Ashley McLaughlin)

“With cold-weather training and the gear, one of the biggest downfalls we have is that electronics drain a lot quicker,” said Prairie.

To mitigate such effects Marines cycle through gear more often to keep electronics charged and minimizing use to conserve energy.

“It’s good to work with the gear in a new environment,” said Prairie. “Setting it up, breaking it down, running through the processes, it gives you a new look on how to do it in a new environment.”

Arctic conditions not only affect gear, but also Marines. They must adapt and train to overcome environmental challenges and succeed in missions without injury.

This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace

U.S. Marines with Marine Rotational Force-Europe 19.1 and Norwegian Army soldiers prepare for close-air support drills in Setermoen, Norway, Oct. 25, 2018.

(Photo by Cpl. Ashley McLaughlin)

“The cold-weather predeployment training has really helped out the Marines and really prepared them for what we’re doing out here,” said Prairie. “I feel that everything has gone very smoothly, we’ve definitely improved our efficiency both with our gear setup, break down, our communications with the aircraft and the processes with the Norwegians. I think we’ve done a really good job of building up our ability here.”

This opportunity is a vital asset to train with other nations in environments unlike those in the U.S. This type of training improves NATO capabilities in a non-combative environment to be prepared for any challenges our Allies might face.

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

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5 heroic movie acts a military officer would never do

Hollywood loves to use the military in its movies. You can’t blame Tinsel Town because they’re awesome. But on occasion, film directors and screenwriters tend not to identify the fine line between theatrical and practical.


Americans thrive on celebrating the actions of a war hero that saves the day (in slow motion of course) with the perfect Hans Zimmer underscore playing over the calibrated speakers. It’s emotionally driving.

Veterans can see through the bulls*** and know when our favorite characters go a little too far. So check out these heroic movie acts that an officer would never do (probably).

1.  Rhodey finds Tony

In Jon Favreau’s 2008 “Ironman” Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is kidnapped by a terrorist group and forced to build one of his deadly signature missiles the “Jericho.” Instead, the brilliant engineer creates the Mark 1 suit, defeats the first act villain and escapes.

 

Then, Rhodey (Terrance Howard) just so happens to show up finding Tony walking out and about in what appears to be a very large desolate area after spending three months in captivity. That’s quite a lot of missions he’d have to fly to save his missing bestie. With the odds that this was his first search and rescue mission, he should buy a lottery ticket.

2. Leave no man behind

Owen Wilson stars as a jokester Naval aviator who gets shot down and must fight to stay alive as he’s pursued by some pretty bad boys in Bosnia. Then, Rear Adm. Reigart, played Lex Luthor (I mean  Gene Hackman) risks everything — including his command — to fly out and rescue one of his men in “Behind Enemy Lines.”

That’s what we call heroic.

3. “You can’t handle the truth!”

Audiences love courtroom dramas and that’s why Hollywood continues to produce them.

In Rob Reiner’s 1992 hit “A Few Good Men,”  Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) and Col. Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson) go toe-to-toe in the climatic third act of discovering the truth of who ordered the “code red.”

Let’s face it – real or not, it’s a freakin’ awesome scene!

4.  Engage – Engage!

2005’s “Rules of Engagement” stars Samuel L. Jackson playing Terry Childers, a Marine colonel who after successfully evacuating an American ambassador and his family in Yemen from an invading crowd orders his men to turn their sights on the invaders to end the fight — which contained women and children.

 

Also read: 35 technical errors in ‘Rules of Engagement’

5. Buzzing the tower

Tom Cruise plays Maverick in Tony Scott‘s “Topgun,” which was a hugely successful film in 1986 and helped sell tons of aviator sunglass. Admit it, you bought a pair.

After an epic battle with a Topgun instructor named Jester (played by Michael Ironside), Maverick gets a hair up his a** and decides to buzz the air control tower.

 

A pilot could totally lose his flight status for this prank.

Can you think of any others? Comment below.

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