The family of a decorated special operations Marine killed in Afghanistan in 2011 received his Silver Star after the U.S. Army took the unusual step of upgrading one of his prior medals.
Staff Sgt. Nicholas Sprovtsoff, 28, an explosive ordnance disposal technician with MARSOC’s 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion earned the Bronze Star with combat valor device in 2011 for working heroically to disarm a bomb in Afghanistan before an explosion left him fatally wounded.
But a prior deployment to Afghanistan with an Army unit in 2007, Sprovtsoff had already distinguished himself as a hero. While serving as a sergeant with Marine Corps Embedded Training Team 5-1, attached to the Army’s 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, Sprovtsoff had conducted himself with distinction during a 48-hour firefight.
According to a medal citation obtained by Military.com, he fought with “disregard for his own safety and in spite of wounds sustained in combat,” coordinating his unit’s defense during the long fight.
The medal was approved and awarded as a Bronze Star, but upgraded to a Silver Star last year, said Capt. Barry Morris, a spokesman for MARSOC. The news was first reported by Marine Corps Times Friday.
“[Sprovstoff’s] command at the time nominated him for a Bronze star with “V,” Morris explained. “As it went up the chain, his actions were so heroic, the Army upgraded him to a Silver Star; but at the end of the day, when someone hit the approve button, it was approved as a Bronze Star, rather than a Silver Star.”
Morris said the Army ultimately caught the error and coordinated with the Marine Corps to upgrade the award.
Calls from Military.com to the Army’s awards branch, which oversaw the medal upgrade, were not returned Friday.
The commander of MARSOC, Maj. Gen. Joseph Osterman, presented Sprovstoff’s widow, Tasha, with the award in a ceremony in Colorado Springs, Colorado, according to Marine Corps Times.
“[Sprovtsoff’s] courage, dedication and sacrifice inspire us on a daily basis to help others, to cherish our freedom, and to try to make a positive difference in the world,” Osterman said in a statement. “Also, the individual sacrifices [his] family have made is extremely important for MARSOC to recognize. We will always be inspired by the actions of our fellow Raiders and we will strive to operate at a level that honors them and their family.”
Sprovtsoff was killed Sept. 28, 2011 in Helmand province, Afghanistan and buried in Arlington Cemetery Oct. 6 of the same year.
According to his Bronze Star citation from that deployment, Sprovtsoff had fearlessly and safely led a team of Marines through a region filled with improvised explosive devices following an enemy ambush. His work during the deployment had led to the elimination of 40 IEDs.
Sprovstoff and his wife Tasha are featured in Oliver North’s 2013 book “American Heroes on the Homefront.”
While Sprovtsoff’s award upgrade appears to be an outlier due to an administrative error, there could be more upgrades coming for American troops who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.The Pentagon announced in January that it would review all Silver Stars and service crosses awarded after Sept. 11, 2001 — some 1,100 awards — to determine whether a higher upgrade is warranted. The military services have until Sept. 30, 2017, to turn their recommendations in to the secretary of defense.
The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory uses a picture of Mickey Mouse in its official logo, and it turns out that Walt Disney is totally fine with that.
The Army’s crime lab investigates serious crimes “in which the Army has an interest,” providing everything from forensic laboratory support to the experts that testify in criminal cases. Since they are the folks trying to figure out what happened on a crime scene, it makes sense to have a logo that reflects the profession.
In the Army’s case, that’s a picture of Mickey Mouse looking like Sherlock Holmes with a magnifying glass.
In 1943 the world was at war, and millions of Americans had been called to serve their country. The chain-of-command realized that in order to defeat the enemy aggressors, they had to control the internal criminal element. To assist in accomplishing this mission, the Army’s first forensic laboratory was activated on October 1, 1943, as the Scientific Investigations Branch of the Provost Marshal’s Office, 12th U.S. Army Group, Algiers, French North Africa.
The Laboratory consisted of 2nd Lt. George R. “Pappy” Bird and a photographer. They moved with advancing forces from Algiers to Naples, Italy where Sgt. James Boarders joined the new crime laboratory. The team then moved on to southern France. During this time all their work was done in borrowed offices of abandoned homes. As the offensive picked up speed, Bird, who had been promoted to captain, saw the need for a mobile laboratory. While in Marseilles, France, he obtained a weapons repair truck and its driver from the 27th MP Detachment (CI) and converted it into a laboratory. Bird later added a jeep and a chemist to his team and rejoined the allied advance; crossing the Rhine River and moving into the heart of Germany. The laboratory ended its wartime duty in Fulda, later moved to Wiesbaden, and then to Frankfurt.
The lab has been accredited since 1985, and is the only full service forensic laboratory the DoD has. On the command’s website is a letter from Walt Disney Productions (which is watermarked on the logo under Mickey’s feet), explaining that the studio is just fine with its appropriation of everyone’s favorite mouse:
Somewhere in southern Afghanistan, an explosive ordnance disposal technician spots a glint in the soft dirt. He moves deliberately, but steadily, as he tries to determine if it’s a harmless piece of trash or a bomb. In the back of his mind, the technician can’t help but wonder if this will be the improvised explosive device that kills him.
Since 2003 similar missions have taken the lives of 20 Air Force EOD technicians, when Airmen began diffusing bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan.
With combat missions winding down, EOD is now able to divert attention to its nine other mission sets: aerospace systems and vehicle conventional munitions, weapons of mass destruction, nuclear inventory, UXOs, operational range clearances, mortuary services, defense support for civil authorities, irregular warfare (where EOD teams serve as combat enablers for general forces or special operations), and VIP support.
As the career field shifts into a post-war posture they’re refocusing on these other skill sets. One of these they used to support the Secret Service when two teams from the 325th Civil Engineer Squadron’s EOD flight at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, worked President Barack Obama’s trip to Orlando, Florida, after the nightclub massacre where 49 people were killed in June. The Secret Service tasked EOD teams to sweep venues for explosives, areas en route to the venues, or on any person or object that could be used to harm the president or VIPs they’re protecting.
“For so many years, we have been going 150 mph,” said Senior Master Sgt. Robert K. Brown, 325th CES EOD superintendent, “so when you slow down to 85 mph, you feel like you’re crawling, even though you’re still going faster than most other people on the highway. We’d been doing that for the 12 years of combat operations, and now I think we feel we’re at a snail’s pace.”
Post-war life at the Tyndall AFB flight, one of 52 active-duty EOD flights Air Force-wide, ranges from responding to flares that wash up on the beach after being dropped by the Navy to mark items in the ocean to the occasional unexploded ordnance. The flight is responsible for assessing, rendering inert or safely destroying everything from small arms to guided missiles, although any EOD flight could be called upon to handle anything explosive in nature up to and including a nuclear incident.
The 325th EOD flight’s primary mission is flightline support for the wing’s four fighter squadrons, but it also provides counter-IED support for several tenant organizations.
By the time EOD Airmen left Afghanistan in 2014, they had completed almost 20,000 missions, responded to over 6,500 IEDs, and received more than 150 Purple Hearts for their actions and service in Iraq and Afghanistan. They also deployed often, with a third of the service’s 1,000 EOD members overseas and another third in pre-deployment training preparing to replace them, Brown said. At times the pace was so heavy that EOD Airmen would often be replaced by the same person who replaced them on their last deployment.
“For some of us old-timers in this particular generation, we’ve had a chance to kind of breathe,” Brown said. “In doing so, that’s given us the opportunity to regroup, restock and prepare for the next iteration of conflict that may or may not be coming. So right now is the best time to share the experiences and prepare the next generation for the hard lessons that we’ve had over these past 12 years.”
The two wars might be over, but EOD remains one of the Air Force’s most dangerous jobs. In addition to the 20 EOD technicians lost in the two wars, about 150 have suffered extensive injuries. It is a continuing evolving because of the constantly changing tactics of the enemy.
“The enemy is always going to try to continually be better than us, so we have to ensure that we never sleep in preparation for any force that we’re going to encounter,” said Chief Master Sgt. Neil C. Jones, the EOD operations and training program manager with the Air Force Civil Engineer Center at Tyndall AFB. “We don’t have the opportunity to make a mistake, so we train relentlessly to never get it wrong.”
During the transition, which has begun gradually in the past couple of years, the focus has been on getting everyone back from deployments and training them in the other nine skill sets to reestablish pre-OIF levels of proficiency. But equally important is the challenge of reducing attrition rates during EOD technical training without lowering the standards, Jones said.
EOD students first attend a 20-day preliminary school at Sheppard AFB, Texas, before they go through the Naval School EOD at Eglin AFB, Florida. An average school day is more than 13 hours, and it takes several years for a student to become a fully functional EOD member and a couple of years longer to be a team leader. About 75 percent of students fail to make it through the course.
Two recent changes to reduce attrition rates are the use of computer tablets for rehabilitation training and the addition of a couple of wounded warrior EOD technicians to help students at the school.
Derrick Victor, a retired technical sergeant who was wounded in his last deployment to Afghanistan when a bomb blast killed one Airman and hurt four others, is one of the new instructors. He’s seen the career field evolve through the wars and is now part of its post-war transition.
“Those two wars obviously changed the way that wars are fought as far as being on the ground and in third-world countries where they have to improvise,” Victor said. “It created a bit of a change from being based on supporting aircraft to things that were improvised. We got very good at that skill set, using robotics and working out all of that kind of stuff.
“Even though those two wars have dwindled down, we know that threat is not going to go away,” he continued. “So, as a whole, the career field is trying to keep that skill set rolling through the generations from those of us for who all we knew was Iraq and Afghanistan to all of these young kids coming fresh out of school, so they don’t have to learn on the fly like we did.”
EOD leadership is also placing a priority on training when Airmen get to their flights after graduation. Because the consequences of mistakes are so severe, the goal is to have those mistakes made in training, Brown said.
“I often refer to it as ‘the good, the bad, the ugly and the stupid,'” he said. “That just refers to what went right, what went wrong, what worked that probably shouldn’t have and what did we do that was just plain dumb, which happens in training. That’s OK as long as we learn lessons from it. But it’s not OK if it’s unsafe. Those are sometimes the hardest parts to learn. We want to make sure that if these guys (make a mistake) in training, they don’t do it when it’s for real. Explosives don’t care about peacetime or wartime.”
Another factor that’s evolving is the way the EOD field trains to recover from both emotional and physical trauma. More emphasis is being placed on instilling resiliency before something happens to an EOD technician in the field, Jones said.
Along with the cultural shift from the war years, the field has also been making major transitions in technology. The robot EOD technicians used in Afghanistan has been replaced by, among others, the Micro Tactical Ground Robot. The world’s lightest EOD robot can be carried by a single Airman, travel at 2 mph, climb stairs and see beyond 1,000 feet. Airmen previously carried 100-pound robots attached to their rucksacks. The new 25-pound robot can be carried on their backs.
“The technology advances that we have out there with the global economy, and more importantly, being able to make things lighter, faster and stronger, have allowed us to develop new tools and techniques and robotic platforms that are much smaller, lighter and leaner than what we had 14 years ago,” Jones said.
Technological progress hasn’t just been in robotics. There has also been a dramatic change in treating traumatic injuries downrange.
“I think one of the biggest things that we’ve seen as far as technology has been in the medical arena. We have changed the way we treat people for trauma,” Jones said. “If we can stop the bleeding downrange and get that Airman alive into a helo and back to a field surgical team, we’re running about a 98 percent success rate of saving their lives. So as our enemy continues to develop with technology to use against us, we will continually use our technology to develop a better way to take care of that threat.”
As much as life changes after years of war, one area that remains constant is the role tragic events play in training new EOD technicians. As sobering as the memories are of losing members of the EOD family, their sacrifice provided important training lessons.
“What our fallen have done is the same as our World War II EOD bomb disposal predecessors – with very brave men going down and disarming German rockets and bombs,” Brown said. “If they made a mistake, we would then know not to take that step, that last step. Unfortunately, a lot of bomb disposal techs died that way, but our fallen have taught us how to be better at this craft; they have never failed.”
Kim Jong Un issued an unprecedented threat directly to President Donald Trump Friday.
In response to the president’s warning at the U.N. that the America will “totally destroy” North Korea if the rogue regime attacked the U.S. or its allies, the North Korean leader threatened to “tame” Trump “with fire,” promising the “highest-level” action against the U.S.
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho clarified exactly what this might mean.
“It could be the most powerful detonation of an H-bomb in the Pacific,” he said, adding that he has “no idea about what actions could be taken as it will be ordered by leader Kim Jong Un.”
Earlier this month, North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test to date, detonating a suspected staged thermonuclear weapon, specifically a hydrogen bomb. The country has twice successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile that can reach the U.S., and it North Korean state media has presented images of the warhead. Pyongyang has yet to put everything together and demonstrate its full capabilities though.
It is unclear how North Korea might choose to conduct its next nuclear test, but it could choose to carry out such a test with its new intermediate-range ballistic missile, which it has already fired over Japan twice.
Testing a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific would represent a new kind of North Korean provocation, one unlike anything the world has seen before. Kim is determined to prove that he will not be deterred by Trump. North Korea recently claimed that is close to achieving its nuclear goals, despite international pressure to rein in the aggressive little country.
Super Bowl commercials that honor military veterans aren’t new, and odds are they’re not going anywhere because dammit they’re effective.
The 2017 Hyundai Super Bowl commercial is no exception. Troops stationed in Poland were treated to a surprise when Hyundai gave them a special Super Bowl screening experience. What they didn’t know was that a few of their family members were also getting a treat.
While the service members watched the game in fully immersive, 360-degree live streaming pods, their families joined them via a Super Bowl LI box suite, complete with huggable high-tech teddy bears (wearing the uniform of the day) and cameras that allowed the family members to livestream with their heroes.
Hyundai teamed up with director Peter Berg (Deepwater Horizon, Lone Survivor) to shoot, edit, and broadcast the event.
“I’m honored to have worked on this project with the troops and [Hyundai] for the Super Bowl. Thank you for your service, and thank you for letting me be part of this,” Berg said.
I led multiple combat conditioning programs in the Marine Corps, and I did my Martial Arts Instructor Certification at the MACE in Quantico with the creators of MCMAP. Yet, I had no idea what HITT was. I thought it was just a cheap rip-off of HIIT that the Marine Corps wanted to get their proprietary mitts on.
I was a little salty at certain points in my career.
The short of it is: HIIT is a type of workout and HITT is a comprehensive program that encompasses all aspects of fitness.
A few seconds of this, a few seconds of that…
What HIIT is
High-Intensity interval training (HIIT) really got popular when the Tabata method got some good press. The Tabata method is a type of HIIT workout where you perform a movement for 20 seconds and then rest for 10 seconds. You repeat this sequence for as many rounds as you are adapted to.
Other styles of HIIT follow the same basic layout. You perform a movement for a certain period of time, and then you rest for about half the time you did the movement for.
If you are really particular, you would measure your heart rate and rest until your heart rate gets to about 60% of your estimated maximum heart rate.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BjzcNion5Qq/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link expand=1]Michael Gregory on Instagram: “Here’s how to do a HIIT workout properly. . A lot of people do “HIIT” but they don’t understand the purpose. It’s to to boost your output…”
It might sound like math class, and it basically is. There are plenty of apps and timers out there for HIIT workouts, but most people just wing it.
In fact, most people completely miss the point of HIIT.
At its base, HIIT is a fat burning workout that takes advantage of the anaerobic fuel systems of the body. If you don’t allow your heart rate to get down low enough between sets, you are preventing your body from truly resting. Without enough rest, you cannot perform at 90-100%+ effort, and therefore miss out on burning a maximum amount of fat.
I can and will go more in-depth on this topic in the future. Take a look at the above Instagram post for details on how to properly use HIIT to help you lose that adorable baby fat on your tummy.
Run fast and lift heavy. Sounds pretty good to me.
(Photo by Capt. Colleen McFadden)
What HITT is
High-Intensity Tactical Training, on the other hand, is a program designed by the Marine Corps to prepare Marines for combat. You can read the whole methodology behind it here.
It has 3 basic principles:
Prevent potential for injury
Increase performance levels that support combat specific tasks
Build strength, optimize mobility, and increase speed
Subtle how they squeezed five principles into three, but I’ll roll with it.
High Intensity Tactical Training (HITT) Promo Video- USMC
I’d argue that these components should be the base of every single human being’s training plan, not just military personnel. I would just switch the wording around in number two to read “increase performance levels to support career specific tasks” for the normies.
Reading through the methodology, linked above, I could nitpick some of the specifics of the program. Ultimately though, I’m a fan.
Unlike HIIT, HITT has nothing to do with burning fat whatsoever. Actually, it would probably be in a Marine’s favor to keep a modest amount of body fat on their frame in case things go south and they are without food for multiple days.
The next step is to do the workout with a full combat load. That’s HITT.
(Photo by Capt. Colleen McFadden)
Execution is everything
HIIT and HITT couldn’t be more different. HIIT is for people who are primarily concerned with how they look while HITT is for Marines who want to f*ck sh*t up.
Both of these can be very beneficial to you depending on what you are trying to achieve.
Military personnel don’t have the luxury of knowing exactly what they are getting themselves into with a deployment until they get there. A well-rounded plan, like HITT, that increases all aspects of fitness is ideal if you have the time.
Don’t let this image fool you. This man’s primary form of exercise is not HIIT. He lifts.
HITT is for someone who is looking for long-term nonspecific training that will focus on all aspects of fitness. It doesn’t need to be just for those getting ready for a deployment.
HIIT is for someone who is looking to burn fat while maintaining lean muscle. That’s it for HIIT. It won’t make you stronger, it probably won’t make you much faster. It is exclusively for people who want to lose fat.
The bottom line of this showdown between fitness modalities is that the Marine Corps needs to get better at naming their programs. Otherwise, most people will just write off their highly researched program as a shameless government knock-off of something that already exists.
When you stop and think about it for any length of time, it seems a miracle that the global economy spins on as well as it does. As the spread of the coronavirus Covid-19 has shown, any decent disruption to the global supply chain causes ripples from tourism to iPhone supply that cost billions. Nevertheless, there’s a level of resilience in the global economy, and even though predictions are sounding dire, there isn’t quite panic in the streets yet. So, if you really wanted to cause global havoc and cause your enemies to suffer, what would it cost? Billions? Trillions? Or maybe just the price of a second-hand car? Enter the sea mine.
More than 90% of global trade occurs by sea. This makes strategic maritime chokepoints, such as the Strait of Hormuz and Bab el Mandeb in the Middle East, some of the most strategically important patches of water on earth. Close one or two of those down for any length of time, and we’ve got a serious problem on our hands. This fact is not lost on most major players—hence the military patrols, diplomatic negotiations and international conventions in place to try to mitigate risks to these vulnerable spots.
You’d think it would take something pretty expensive and sophisticated to circumvent these controls, but no. A sea mine is cheap, easy to use, and highly effective at blockading chokepoints. The simplest types of sea mines—variations on the classic spiky ball bobbing in the water—cost only a few thousand dollars but can stop shipping in its tracks.
Iran famously mined the Gulf during the Iran–Iraq War in the 1980s for that very reason, and appeared to be repeating similar tactics last year in both mine and torpedo attacks on tankers traversing the Strait of Hormuz as the sabre-rattling with the US heated up. The Houthis in Yemen are doing their own mining in the Red Sea, ostensibly to protect their ports from Saudi attack. However, in recent weeks, an Egyptian fishing boat in the Red Sea reportedly struck a Houthi mine, killing three of its six crew, and there are reports of Houthi-laid mines drifting off from their original sites and heading who knows where.
The effectiveness of sea mines as a strategic tool lies not just in their immediate threat to an individual ship, but in the time and cost that must go into clearing waters suspected of harbouring mines. Such operations, even in a relatively limited area, can take weeks, months or even years. Australian operations to support mine clearance in Kuwait after the first Gulf War in 1991, for example, stretched for almost five months, searched two square kilometres and dealt with 60 mines. For comparison, the Bab el Mandeb chokepoint is 29 kilometres across at its narrowest point and stretches down some 500 kilometres of Yemeni coastline. And the Houthis may have access to hundreds or even thousands of mines.
The Strait of Hormuz is a slightly roomier 39 kilometres across, but with exponentially higher volumes of oil and gas trade squeezing through its narrow waters. If the sea lines of communication of the Middle East were shut for any length of time, the results for the global supply chain could be catastrophic. To put it in perspective, the Kuwaiti mine-clearance operation of a couple of square kilometres took months; Australia’s current strategic oil reserves, which are heavily dependent on Middle Eastern supply via Singapore, would last around 28 days. Even if Australia reached internationally mandated minimum fuel reserves of 90 days, that’s still well short of the time the Kuwait operation took.
There isn’t even a lot of legal limitation on employing sea mines. Unlike with land mines, there are no treaties in place to ban the use of sea mines, or even a clear definition what counts as one. Given the ubiquity and longevity of mines, there’s plausible deniability in laying a few Soviet-era sea mines here and there.
But how likely is it really that someone will employ sea mines to stop the world? If you’re a state reliant on the global supply chain for your own existence, the answer is: not very. Moored or floating mines in the Strait of Hormuz would do as much (or more) damage to Iran’s economy and geopolitical standing as they would to anyone else’s, and Iran’s leadership is well aware of that. Most non-state actors that have access to such mines are hesitant to use them offensively for similar reasons.
But what about someone with nothing to lose, poor impulse control or a dangerous combination of both? An officer of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps or a Houthi leader with a halfway-decent sense of strategy and self-preservation would probably baulk at more aggressive use of sea mines in high-profile locations. But IRGC Quds Force leader and key regional networker Qassem Soleimani is dead, US President Donald Trump is surrounded by advisers intent on backing Iran into a corner, and Iran’s Houthi partners are on the offensive and have a history of using cheap weaponry to great effect.
This isn’t the time to be watching the strategist who stockpiles a thousand mines; this is the time to be watching the zealot who only wants one.
After months of tedious searching, top U.S. Army leaders on July 13, 2018, announced that Austin, Texas, will be the location of its new Futures Command, which will lead the service’s ambitious modernization effort.
Army Secretary Mark Esper, surrounded by other key leaders, said that Army Futures Command will “establish unity of command and unity of effort by consolidating the Army’s entire modernization process under one roof. It will turn ideas into action through experimenting, prototyping, testing.”
Esper told defense reporters at the Pentagon on July 13, 2018, that the Army chose Austin for a variety of reasons.
“Not only did it possess the talent, entrepreneurial spirit and access to key partners we are seeking, but also because it offers the quality of life our people desire and the cost of living they can afford,” he said.
The announcement comes after the Army scoured the country searching for major cities with the right combination of an innovative industrial presence and academia willing to work with the service in creating its force of the future.
M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank
The effort began three months ago with a list of 30 cities, which was quickly narrowed down to 15. Austin was selected from a short list of five, beating out Boston, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and Raleigh, North Carolina.
The Army announced its plan to build a future force in October 2018. It named six modernization priorities: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, a mobile network, air and missile defense, and soldier lethality. For each priority, special cross-functional teams of experts have been assembled to pursue change for the service.
If all goes as planned, the Army’s new priorities will ultimately lead to the replacement of all of its “Big Five” combat platforms from the Cold War with modern platforms and equipment. These systems include the M1 Abrams tank, Bradley fighting vehicle, Black Hawk helicopter, Apache attack helicopter, and Patriot air defense system.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
A Navy SEAL who fell to his death when his parachute failed to open during a Fleet Week demonstration over the Hudson River has been identified as a 27-year-old Colorado man.
The accident that killed Remington J. Peters occurred Sunday at Liberty State Park, a large New Jersey park across from Manhattan where people catch ferries to see the Statue of Liberty.
Peters, whose identity was revealed late Monday, was a member of an elite Navy parachute team called the Leap Frogs. He was a role model who will be “painfully missed,” his family said in a statement released by the U.S. Navy.
“He was an angel on earth and role model to all,” the statement said. “We couldn’t have been more proud of him. He lived life to the fullest and taught us to do the same.”
The cause of the parachute malfunction that killed Peters is under investigation.
Peters was among four parachutists who drifted down from two helicopters. The Navy said he was pulled from the water by the U.S. Coast Guard. His parachute landed in a parking lot.
The Navy Region Mid-Atlantic commander, Rear Adm. Jack Scorby, asked for prayers “for the Navy SEAL community.”
Beijing’s navy has grown to outnumber the US as it focuses on locking down the South China Sea with increasingly aggressive deployments of missiles, fighter jets, and even nuclear-capable bombers, but a picture from a recent US military exercise shows that the US still has the edge.
China has turned out new warships at a blinding speed the US can’t currently hope to match as well as a massive arsenal of “carrier killer” missiles with US aircraft carrier’s names all but written on them. Meanwhile, the US fleet has dwindled and aged.
The US military recently pulled together Valiant Shield 18, the US-only follow-up to the multi-national RIMPAC naval drill, which is the biggest in the world. The drill saw the US’s forward-deployed USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, 15 surface ships, and 160 aircraft coordinate joint operations — something China sorely lacks.
China’s navy poses a threat with its massive size and long range missiles, but it’s unclear if China can combine operations seamlessly with its air force, army, or rocket force. The US regularly trains towards that goal and has firmed up those skills in real war fighting.
And while China has cooked up new “carrier killer” missiles that no doubt can deliver a knockout blow to US aircraft carriers, everyone has a plan until they get hit. On paper, China’s missiles outrange US aircraft carriers highest-endurance fighters, but this concept of A2/AD (anti-access/area-denial) hasn’t been tested.
“A2/AD is sort of an aspiration. In actual execution, it’s much more difficult,” US Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. John Richardson said in 2016. “Our response would be to inject a lot of friction into that system at every step of the way [and] look to make that much more difficult.”
The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) leads a formation of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 5 ships as U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress aircraft and U.S. Navy F/A-18 Hornets pass overhead for a photo exercise during Valiant Shield 2018.
In the above picture, the Reagan leads a carrier strike group full of guided-missile destroyers, supply ships for long hauls, and a B-52 nuclear capable bomber flying overhead.
B-52s with cruise missiles can reach out and touch China from standoff ranges. US F-15 fighter jets in South Korea could launch long-range munitions at missile launch sites before the carriers even got close. US Marine Corps F-35Bs, which made their debut at this year’s exercise, can slip in under the radar and squash any threats.
For the missiles that do make it through the US’s fingers, each US carrier sails with guided-missile destroyers purposely built to take down ballistic missiles.
The US recently completed a missile interception test with Japan, where a Japanese destroyer with US technology shot down a ballistic missile in flight. The US can also count on South Korea, Australia, and increasingly India to take a stand against Beijing.
In a brief but illuminating interview, US Navy Vice Adm. Tom Rowden, the then-head of the US Navy’s Surface Forces, told Defense News the difference between a US Navy ship and a Chinese navy ship:
“One of them couldn’t fight their way out of a wet paper bag and the other one will rock anything that it comes up against.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and a bomber task force are being sent to “send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime,” White House national security adviser John Bolton said in a statement on May 5, 2019.
This decision “represents a prudent repositioning of assets in response to indications of a credible threat by Iranian regime forces,” acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said on May 6, 2019.
Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the new head of US Central Command, requested the additional firepower on May 5, 2019, after reviewing intelligence hinting at a possible Iranian attack on American forces and US interests in the region, The New York Times reported, citing a Department of Defense official.
Shanahan approved the request, and the White House announced it, stressing that “any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.” The White House statement emphasized that the US does not want war with Iran but is ready to respond if attacked.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated this point May 6, 2019. “It is absolutely the case that we’ve seen escalatory action from the Iranians, and it is equally the case that we will hold the Iranians accountable for attacks on American interests,” he said.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
(Photo by Mark Taylor)
The intel, according to Israeli media, appears to have come, at least in part from Israel, which reportedly provided information on a possible Iranian plot against US targets in the region or US allies. Fox News confirmed that the intel came from a friendly intelligence service.
CNN, citing US officials, reported that the intelligence suggested a possible attack on US forces in Syria, Iraq, and at sea. There were reportedly multiple intel threads.
“It is still unclear to us what the Iranians are trying to do and how they are planning to do it, but it is clear to us that the Iranian temperature is on the rise as a result of the growing US pressure campaign against them,” an Israeli official told Israeli reporters. “They are considering retaliating against US interests in the Gulf.”
US sailors prepare to moor USS Abraham Lincoln in Norfolk, Virginia, Sept. 7, 2017.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jennifer M. Kirkman)
Tensions between Washington and Iran have been on the rise since the Trump administration made the decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. The US has targeted its military forces and is currently in the process of trying to cut off Iran’s energy exports.
The latest firepower redirect, which Chief of Naval Operations John Richardson has been celebrating as a shining example of the opportunities provided by the military’s dynamic force employment strategy, appears to be the US bringing out the big guns in hopes of being ready for anything.
The Department of Defense called the deployment “a prudent step in response to indications of heightened Iranian readiness to conduct offensive operations against US forces and our interests.”
“It ensures we have the forces we need in the region to respond to contingencies and to defend US forces and interests in the region,” an emailed Pentagon statement explained. “We emphasize the White House statement that we do not seek war with the Iranian regime, but we will defend US personnel, our allies and our interests in the region.”
The Lincoln is currently in the US European Command area of responsibility, operating in the Mediterranean Sea, but it, along with US bomber aircraft, is being redirected on an accelerated timetable to the Persian Gulf, according to the Pentagon.
“The @USNavy is ready to maneuver around the globe to protect U.S. interests and security,” Richardson tweeted May 6, 2019.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
At the outbreak of the Korean War, Hector Cafferata, Jr. was a semi-professional football player serving in the United States Marine Corps Reserve. He received just two weeks of additional training before being shipped overseas.
Assigned to Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines just days before landing at Inchon, he, along with the rest of the 1st Marine Division, battled his way into North Korea. By November 1950, Cafferata and the Marines were preparing for an offensive in the vicinity of the Chosin Reservoir.
As the Battle of Chosin Reservoir began, the Marines of Fox Company were defending the Toktong pass. On the night of Nov. 28, the Chinese attacked to dislodge them.
What happened next is a legendary story in the Marine Corps — and Cafferata had a large role to play in that.
Due to an intelligence failure, the Marines were unaware that the entire Chinese 9th Army was advancing on their position. That night they crawled into their sleeping bags with minimal security on watch.
At around 0130, the Marines of Fox Company were awoken to a terrible surprise as all hell broke loose around their position. An entire Chinese division, the 59th, were attacking into the Toktong pass to cut off the 1st Marine Division.
The only things standing in their way were Cafferata and the rest of Fox Company.
He was joined by another Marine, Kenneth Benson, who was temporarily blinded after a grenade explosion had ripped his glasses right off his face. Together they made their way to a small depression and set up to make their stand against the Chinese onslaught.
As the Chinese pressed forward, Cafferata, a crack shot with his M-1 Garand, would empty his clip into the advancing infantry — eight shots, eight communists down.
He would then hand the weapon to Benson to reload while he threw grenades. When the Chinese attacked with their own grenades, he threw them back.
At one point he picked up his entrenching tool and batted the enemy’s grenades right back at them. According to a 2001 interview, Cafferata said he “must have whacked a dozen grenades that night.”
As the Chinese continued to advance, threatening to breakthrough his thinly held portion of the line, he gave them everything he had. He fired his weapon so much he had to pack snow on it to cool it off.
Eventually, Cafferata’s luck began to run out. As he hurled back yet another Chinese grenade, it went off just after leaving his hand. The explosion severed part of his finger and severely damaged his right hand and arm.
Though he was injured, Cafferata’s quick reaction saved several of his comrades.
Despite his wounds, he fought on. The Chinese couldn’t get past him.
Finally, just after daybreak, Cafferata was wounded by a sniper’s bullet and evacuated from the line. When the medics brought him to the aid station, they realized he was suffering from frostbite after fighting in subzero temperatures in his socks all night.
Despite Cafferata being out of action, the rest of Fox Company and the Marines at Chosin Reservoir still had quite a fight on their hands.
According to the Medal of Honor citation for Capt. William Barber, Fox Company’s commander, his 220 Marines held out “5 days and 6 nights against repeated onslaughts by fanatical aggressors.”
And of those 220 Marines, only 82 “were able to walk away from the position so valiantly defended against insuperable odds.” They carried their wounded out with them, including Cafferata and Barber who were both wounded on the first day of fighting.
Cafferata’s wounds earned him 18 months of recovery in various hospitals. His actions earned him the Medal of Honor.
The day after Cafferata’s amazing stand, the Marines “counted approximately one hundred Chinese dead around the ditch where he fought that night,” but according to one source, they “decided not to put that figure in their report because they thought no one would believe it.”
Cafferata was officially credited with fifteen enemy kills.
Cafferata, always humble, would later state, “I did my duty. I protected my fellow Marines. They protected me. And I’m prouder of that than the fact that the government decided to give me the Medal of Honor.”
Hector Cafferata, Jr. passed away on April 12, 2016 at the age of 86.