On Monday, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels off the coast of Yemen launched an attack on a Saudi Arabian naval vessel using suicide boats, or fast attack craft laden with explosives.
According to Fordham University maritime law professor and former US Navy Commander Lawrence Brennan, “this attack is likely to impact US naval operations and rules of engagement (ROE) in nearby waters.”
The year 2016 saw an unprecedented spike in the number of incidents at sea between the US Navy and fast-attack craft of the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), at least one of which required the US Navy to open fire with warning shots.
But the latest attack on the Saudis may give the US Navy pause in the future.
In a questionable video released of the attack, people near the camera can be heard shouting slogans like “death to America,” “death to Israel,” and “death to Jews!” One Pentagon official told the Washington Examiner that the Houthis may have mistaken the Saudi ship they attacked for a US Navy ship, though another official denied it.
In any case, the US Navy frequently deals with Iranian fast-attack craft swarming its vessels and approaching very closely. In one case last year, Iranian fast-attack craft got within 300 yards of a US Navy vessel.
At the time, the US Navy responded by attempting to contact the Iranians, maneuvering evasively, blowing the horn, then finally firing warning shots.
But according to Brennan, the US may not allow hostile, unresponsive ships to get so close to Navy vessels after a force associated with Iran used suicide boats to kill two Saudi sailors.
“The overarching duty of self-defense mandates revision of the ROE to provide a sufficient ‘bubble’ to prevent the risk of a suicide attack, particularly from swarming boats,” said Brennan in an email to Business Insider.
President Donald Trump has already signaled his intention to respond more forcefully.
“With Iran,” Trump said while campaigning in Florida, “when they circle our beautiful destroyers with their little boats, and they make gestures at our people that they shouldn’t be allowed to make, they will be shot out of the water.”
Creating a sense of community may look different for each of us. While some Americans enjoy the close proximity of city life, those who live in rural areas welcome the less crowded towns and wide open spaces as signs of home.
Although many rural residents enjoy these perks, the very nature of life in rural communities may unintentionally isolate them from others. Rural Veterans often report lower quality of life related to mental health than their urban counterparts, a challenge exacerbated by a lack of qualified specialists or nearby medical facilities.
Mental Health Month is observed each May to raise awareness and educate the public about mental illnesses, mental health and wellness, and suicide prevention. Many risk factors disproportionately affect Veterans, especially those in rural communities with shortages of mental health providers.
As the lead advocate for rural Veterans, VA’s Office of Rural Health implements multiple support programs to help improve the health and well-being of rural Veterans. In 2019, ORH focused on eight critical mental health and suicide prevention programs, including:
Rural Suicide Prevention connects Veterans to comprehensive suicide prevention services and resources through enhanced education, public awareness campaigns, community training, crisis support, firearm safety, and care management for high risk individuals.
Vets Prevail Web Based Behavioral Support provides Veterans suffering from depression and/or post-traumatic stress disorder with tools to overcome these challenges. The program focuses on Veterans returning from recent conflicts, like Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn.
Military Sexual Trauma Web-Based Therapy uses telehealth to deliver specialized mental health care directly to the homes of Veterans who have experienced military sexual trauma.
Clinical Resource Hubs – Telemental Health connects specialists with rural Veterans to ensure access to mental health care services in rural areas.
To find out if these programs and others like them are available in your area, please contact your local VA medical center.
If you are a Veteran in crisis — or you’re concerned about one — free, confidential support is available 24/7. Call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, send a text message to 838255, or chat online.
SSG Ken Lepore joined the Army National Guard post-high school to help pay for college and because he loves his country. Through his service in the Army National Guard, he has grown immensely as a professional and as a person. He credits his time on deployment and serving the U.S. in making him a more mature, educated and driven citizen. He now serves as a recruiter for the Army National Guard in Central Ohio and interacts with high schoolers looking for a challenge and the opportunity to serve. Lepore discusses his life experiences, insights and tips on joining the Army National Guard.
1. How long have you been in the Army and what have your experiences been?
I have been in about 15 years overall with about a 3.5-year break in service. My three tours were as a tank crewman and cavalry scout to Kosovo in 2004-2005, then Iraq 2006-2007, and again to Iraq in 2009-2010. I also deployed to support the relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina 2005.
2. When did you become an Army Recruiter?
I became a recruiter in 2015. Before that, I worked as a teacher, in college admissions and now work as an adjunct professor of history at Marion Technical College.
3. What are some of the obstacles that come up during the recruitment process?
The most notable obstacles for recruits to overcome are COVID, of course, their ASVAB score, physical things, legal issues and negative perceptions.
Overall, the answer to this really does depend on the areas where one recruits as well as knowing one’s recruiting area. But remember, it is always about being physically, intellectually and morally qualified. So, there is always the potential that the ASVAB can become an obstacle. For example, I rarely had issues with kids who could not pass the ASVAB, but I recruited out of suburban and exurban schools that have pretty highly ranked education programs.
Again, that does not mean that everyone I met and worked with passed the ASVAB, but it does mean that, based on how ASVAB scoring works, the vast majority of kids I worked with could read and do the math on at least an 11th-grade level. Again, a passing score is a 31 or above, and this is not a percentage, but a percentile.
The physical things are a different kind of obstacle, but even though we ask some questions with that APPLE-MDT process to try to discover any potential medical or physical issues early in the recruiting process, it is typically when conducting a thorough medical questionnaire that any physical/medical issues will become known. This does not necessarily mean that someone will be disqualified – we are recruiters, not doctors, so it is not our place to tell someone if they are disqualified, although we may have a pretty good idea.
But, it identifies the need for more documentation, typically medical docs, which are submitted to MEPS. For example, if someone tells me they had surgery on an ACL, I know that we are going to need documents, so we know they will be okay at training and doing their jobs without that ACL becoming an issue. Then, based on the questionnaire and any accompanying documentation, the doctors at MEPS can make a preliminary determination on if someone is physically qualified or not – if they say no, then we request a waiver.
So, let’s say that nothing is wrong or that there was something like the applicant had braces and the accompanying documents from the dentist show when the braces will be off, and we get preliminary approval, this means we can schedule them for a face-to-face physical at MEPS. This is not like a physical fitness test, but it is more like a sports physical at high school or college – makes sure everything bends the right way, height/weight standards, checks vision/hearing, urinalysis, etc. This is the point where the doctors at MEPS will officially stamp that paperwork as physically qualified, but if anything requires more documentation or is a disqualifier, they will let you know. If that happens, we either try to get the necessary documentation or request a waiver, if possible. There are some things, for example, that we cannot plan for or necessarily know beforehand too, like say astigmatism or a high cylinder in the eye or heart arrhythmia, but that is exactly why it is that two-part process.
Other obstacles are legal obstacles, and this does not just mean having felonies, but even having an unresolved parking ticket – those need to be paid. Again, this was not something I had much of an issue in my former recruiting area, but for others, like with the ASVAB, it can be a real problem, whether drug charges, or a DUI, theft, violent crimes, etc. We have regulations that will let us know what is okay and if a moral waiver and suitability review needs to be initiated.
But this is where that bit of common sense comes into play as well, because members of the military are expected to hold themselves to a high standard and because we need that trust with the public as well. Essentially, I was not afraid to tell someone to get out of my office because of their legal background. My old office partner was doing a sex offender check in the online registry (we do it for everyone), and the guy he was working with came up – process over, dude, we’re done here.
Another time, he and I were at the Franklin County Courthouse, getting court documents on someone as part of a background check, and a lawyer or a social worker came running up to us telling us that her client was perfect for the military and how the military could help him (it is illegal for recruiters to get involved to get charges dropped in order to allow someone to enlist); anyway, my old office partner calmly asked her if her client was someone she would want armed to the teeth, which made her pause. She replied that he was not. Bad choices will derail enlistment – this is not and cannot be the last resort, but rather a first choice.
So this is where the public perception can become a benefit or an obstacle to recruiting. I am someone who very much hates being lumped in as one of McNamara’s boys, and I do get annoyed with the aforementioned perspective that military service is for poor people and stupid people with no prospects in life. This obviously is not true at all – again, I have a graduate degree, and I chose to join twice, one of those times after I had my college paid for. But where this can become an obstacle is, for example, when some parents carry that military service is beneath their child, which I have experienced a couple of times, typically in some of the more affluent areas I recruited in.
I had a kid I was working with whose parents bought him a brand new Mercedes to stop talking to me. I said, “I don’t fault you, dude, that’s a $60,000 car, I don’t think you learned a positive life lesson, but I don’t fault you at all.” Another time, I was taking a young lady just to take her ASVAB, and only do that – nothing else. She just wanted to take it as a career exploration tool, and I told her I will be glad to help.
It was her grandparents who came on the attack, crying when they saw me in uniform, letting me know I was a monster, and they knew people who went to Vietnam and begging their granddaughter not to do this. Again, she was not going to enlist (ever), and I knew that – that’s why her guidance counselor contacted me out of all the recruiters. But I did take great offense to their behavior, and I tactfully reminded them that, among other things, I was/am better educated than both of them. Nonetheless, there does seem to quite often be an uncle or a family member or someone who had a bad experience with a recruiter or with the military, and that becomes a difficult obstacle — overcoming perceptions — particularly entrenched ones.
4. Are there any ways to combat these things, and if so, how?
So, combating the aforementioned obstacles really comes down to the obstacle itself. Something like a recruit being over height and weight standards is actually one of the easier things because I can supply them with a workout plan and make some dietary recommendations, but it is on them to follow it and make it happen. This is actually nice because it shows early on in the process how much someone wants to be in. I had a young man who lost 180 pounds to join, and that said everything I needed to know about his dedication, character, motivation, etc., and I knew that he’d do fine at training and in his unit.
Some of the other medical stuff does become more of a challenge, though, particularly because you don’t want someone to be a liability to themselves or others. But, as mentioned earlier, we can always try to request a waiver – it will get either approved or denied, but at the end of the process, you’ll know why. I worked with a young lady who had a penicillin allergy – we got all the medical documents, submitted them with the questionnaire to MEPS, and she was marked preliminarily as not qualified. So, we submitted a request for a waiver, which did get approved; then she took her physical, passed, and joined. The process took about a week and a half long, but that’s okay, as it shows that even with an allergy to a medicine, we took the right steps and she was taken care of.
Combating the legal obstacles is a little more cut-and-dry because in AR 601-210 and the National Guard’s accompanying documents, the Accessions Options Criteria and the Annex A as well as other regulatory guidance that comes out, it lets us know what we can work with, as far as having a legal background and what we cannot. However, I found that I never really had many problems with interested individuals having legal backgrounds beyond anything more than traffic violations, an occasional single DUI or drug charge – and yes, you can have a whole bunch of traffic tickets and still be able to enlist as an 88M Motor Transport Operator (truck driver), although I tended to steer bad drivers away from that MOS (no pun intended). But, I knew that pretty much anything beyond that, I probably was not going to work with that person anyway because I knew I would not want someone with multiple assaults, theft or domestic violence charges in my squad, so I wouldn’t bother. I cannot speak for other recruiters or other branches of the military, but as a student of history and of languages, I tend to pay attention to the patterns.
It is combating that obstacle of public perceptions that is the most difficult, but I found that I dealt with it two-fold – as a member of the military, and as a recruiter. This is one reason why we, as recruiters, need to be judicious about who we enlist and also not deceive or lie to people we work with. So, this essentially comes down to trust, as it ties into public perception. For starters, one of the best compliments I have ever received in my life was from an undergraduate philosophy professor at Ohio U, who told me that I dispelled every pre-conceived notion he had about people in the military. But because of my relative size (I’m 5’6” and 145 lbs), I do not exactly come off as that hard-charging, flag-waving recruiter, which is good, because that has never been my style.
Instead, I tried to make myself an example, to my soldiers, to my students and now to my recruits. When working with parents and teachers and guidance counselors, it is a similar thing. One soldier’s dad told me in an initial interview (he was prior service) that I was completely unlike any recruiter he had ever met. Several of my teacher and guidance counselor friends at my old schools have echoed similar things. They and my old boss told me that I recruit different kinds of people/soldiers than what they anticipate – actually, a lot of my old recruits have contacted me too and told me that they never could have seen themselves in the military or never even considered it until they met someone just like them – bookish, athletic-ish and trying to figure out how to pay for college.
And as I said, this was not really on my radar until my senior year of high school, so I get it. For me, it felt like I had the chance to show people that there should be zero stigmas from being an enlisted person in any branch of the military (but especially the Army National Guard) because before I turned 28, I had completed nine years in the Guard, three overseas tours, a graduate degree, no student loan debt, a myriad of languages and had a lived a fairly full life before I had attended my 10-year high school reunion. The little things that we can do to get rid of McNamara’s stigma and tip the hat to the importance of disciplined initiative drilled into my head at training. Besides, after you graduate from basic training and job training, you really do feel like you can accomplish anything – all obstacles become surmountable.
A North Korean defector who made a mad dash to freedom amid a hail of bullets in November 2017 says he’s lucky to be alive.
In his first television interview with a US broadcaster since his escape, Oh Chong Song told NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt that it’s a “miracle” he made it out.
Oh, a former North Korean soldier, made international headlines when he bolted through the Demilitarized Zone into South Korea, suffering multiple gunshot wounds as his comrades, hot on his heels, pumped rounds into the fleeing man.
“I was extremely terrified,” Oh told NBC, recounting his escape. “I was wearing a padded jacket and the bullet penetrated through here and came out this way. Because of that penetration wound, the muscle there was blown apart and I could feel the warmth of the blood flowing underneath me. I still ran.”
He collapsed on the South Korean side of the demilitarized zone. “I did think that I was going to die as I was lying there,” he explained. South Korean soldiers rushed to him and dragged him to cover.
“I watch this video once in a while and every time I see it, I realize the fact that I am alive is a miracle,” Oh explained. “I can’t believe it’s me in the video.” He told NBC Nightly News that he was not in his right mind as he was escaping. “I was driving at a very high speed.”
Fleeing to South Korea was an impulsive, spur-of-the-moment decision. He said that had he been caught, assuming they didn’t kill him as he fled, he “would have been either sent to a concentration camp for political prisoners or, worse, executed by firing squad.”
The US medic who treated the defector never thought the young man, who was shot five times during his escape, would even make it to the hospital.
“I remember thinking this guy is probably going to die in the next 15 minutes,” Sgt. 1st Class Gopal Singh previously told Stars and Stripes. The Black Hawk helicopter, flying as fast as the crew could go at 160 mph, needed at least 20 minutes to get to the medical center.
But Singh managed to keep him alive as Oh drifted in and out of consciousness.
“I am truly grateful to him and I hope there will be an opportunity for me to meet him. If I do, I want to thank him in person for everything.” the defector told NBC.
“It’s truly a miracle. He was fighting all the way,” Singh told reporters, saying he’d like to meet Oh. “But just knowing that he’s OK, that’s a pretty good reward.”
Doctors, who fought fiercely to keep Oh alive, also called his survival miraculous.
When the defector arrived at Ajou University Trauma Center in Suwon, just outside of Seoul, he was bleeding out and struggling to breathe. Not only did the doctors have to treat Oh for gunshot wounds, but they also had to deal with large parasites as they worked to repair his intestines, which were torn open by bullet fragments.
South Korean surgeon Lee Cook-Jong said Oh was “like a broken jar.”
“His vital signs were so unstable, he was dying of low blood pressure, he was dying of shock,” he told CNN. Oh had multiple surgeries over a period of several days. “It’s a miracle that he survived,” the doctor said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
(FORT BENNING, Ga.) Students from the Infantry Basic Officer Leader Course (IBOLC), Class 07-16, celebrate with their families and fellow classmates after graduation, October 26, 2016, here, at McGinnis-Wickam Hall. (Photos by: Patrick A. Albright/MCoE PAO Photographer).
The infantry is its own ecosystem where different ranks, Military Occupational Specialties and personalities work together to form a bubble separate from the rest of the Marine Corps. Entering the fleet Marine Force for the first time is a culture shock, especially if you’re suddenly in charge. Young officers have to learn to balance mission accomplishment and maintain good morale. The first challenge of the burden of leadership is earning the respect of the troops. You can demand it, sure, but in garrison. In country, in combat, away from the civilization, only those who earned respect can command Marines.
No fun runs, actually PT
Without exaggeration, every single infantry officer can run. We get it, you ran track in high school, college and have a near-perfect Physical Fitness Test score. Going on runs is unimaginative and is not a team building exercise. The troops would rather do an O course, grappling, swimming or the gym. They really love the gym. You can do rotating stations with different exercises to keep things interesting. Anything with mud — they’re infantry, that’s literally what they signed up for.
Taking the troops out for a run is boring. Smoking the troops on a run every single day will make everyone hate you. Train your troops. If you can be replaced by a treadmill you’re doing a massive disservice to your platoon.
Let your platoon sergeant take charge
The platoon sergeant has been there, done that. They’re your advisor. They want you to succeed because when you look good everyone does too. Here’s a secret: it’s fine if you don’t know everything. Everyone knows ‘you’re the boss,’ everyone knows you’re new. Let him rally the troops and enforce your commands. If the company commander wants a certain type of training done that week and you’re not 100% sure how to do it, ask your enlisted advisor. In private, obviously, but be humble.
No one is going to think less of you because you actually listen to your platoon sergeant. In fact, they’ll respect you more because it communicates that you value your team. You’re showing that you will not risk lives in country because of ego and will consider advice even if you do not accept it.
Do not hold formation for every piece of news
Everyone has a cell phone. If you need to give a series of orders, do your thing, call formation. However, for the love of God, if it’s 1600 on a Friday just send a text that everyone is off work. If the battalion commander didn’t hold formation, then it is asinine for you to hold formation. Now you’re making all the troops with kids get stuck in rush hour traffic and they have less time to spend with their children. Good job.
In the field, use common sense
My platoon loved our first lieutenant, but not in the beginning. Whenever he was mentioned off work someone would say, ‘F that guy’ from across the hall. Our first field operation was Offense and Defense — a basic training exercise where you practice digging defensive positions and patrols. We were at Camp Lejeune, which was built in a swamp. Our planned area was ankle deep in water in the winter yet 200 meters to the right there was a dry spot where we could fit the patrol base.
No, we slept in freezing water for days just because. We patrolled through the thickest, densest part of the swamp 50 meters away from a road. We did not accomplish all of our missions during the op due to running out of time. When the battalion debriefed at the end, other officers used the roads and every platoon adapted to the environment and moved their preplanned bases.
His excuse was ‘the roads were out of play.’ Rules can be broken when mission accomplishment and troop welfare are the priorities. He learned the hard way and it took a while to regain the respect he lost.
Do not help with working parties
The only time an officer should help with manual labor is when there is a time crunch. Other than that, go do officer sh*t and let the enlisted do their jobs. If you help when it is not needed, it makes things awkward. If it is a race against the clock and all hands on deck is not fast enough, boom, everyone will think that you’re a badass when you join the fray.
Featured image: (FORT BENNING, Ga.) Students from the Infantry Basic Officer Leader Course (IBOLC), Class 07-16, celebrate with their families and fellow classmates after graduation, October 26, 2016, here, at McGinnis-Wickam Hall. (Photos by: Patrick A. Albright/MCoE PAO Photographer)
A convoy of stranded Islamic State fighters has generally dispersed throughout Iraq and Syria, depriving the US of the ability to strike them in one place, The Washington Post reports.
The convoy of terrorists came to be after a complex peace deal was struck between ISIS, the Lebanese government, the terrorist group Hezbollah, and the Assad regime. ISIS agreed to evacuate an area near Lebanon in return for safe passage to area it controls near the Iraqi-Syrian border. The US military expressed anger at the deal, pledging to strand the convoy in the middle of the desert and kill as many fighters as possible without endangering the lives of women and children.
“If they try to get to the edge of ISIS territory and link up with ISIS there, we’ll work hard to disrupt that,” Operation Inherent Resolve commander Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend told Pentagon reporters Aug. 31. Townsend’s spokesman Army Col. Ryan Dillon similarly told The New York Times, “If we do identify and find ISIS fighters who have weapons — and like I said, we can discriminate between civilians and ISIS fighters — we will strike when we can. If we are able to do so, we will.”
US Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve commanding general, speaks with Airmen, Marines, and coalition personnel thanking them for the many contributions in support of OIR during an all-call. USAF photo by Tech Sgt. Andy M. Kin.
The fighters, however, appear to have dispersed to different parts of Iraq and Syria, though some parts of the convoy remain marooned in the desert. A section of the fighters have found their way to towns in Iraq, which also was angry about the safe passage given to the terrorist group. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi recently called the peace deal an “insult to the Iraqi people,” adding “honestly speaking, we are unhappy and consider it incorrect.”
The Iraqi Security Forces are currently in the midst of ISIS clearing operations throughout the country after a series of battlefield victories in Mosul and Tal-Afar. The terrorist group still controls some territory and will likely be defended by some of the freed ISIS fighters.
In 2013, a former Soviet Navy officer named Maksim Y. Tokarev penned an article in the U.S. Naval War College Review called Kamikazes: The Soviet Legacy. In the piece, Tokarev details how the USSR intended to use its Tupolev-22M Backfire bombers, a plan that had not been previously released.
The Soviets looked at Japanese tactics in WWII. They recognized Japan still had a fleet of capital ships but by then the nature of naval warfare had changed. Massive U.S. carriers became roving air forces in the oceans. Since much of their own naval and air forces were at the bottom of the Pacific, there was no way for the Japanese to effectively engage the U.S. forces.
The best way they could devise was a strategy as old as aviation in warfare: conduct the earliest possible strike to inflict such damage that the opponent is unable to launch its air forces. By 1944, the Japanese began these asymmetrical suicide attacks, widely known as kamikaze.
By the late 70s and early 80s, the Soviets were unable to create a carrier fleet to compete with the U.S. economically and politically. But they still had to create a strategy to deter U.S. Navy carrier task forces. So their idea was still centered around air combat, but their forces would be land-based, close to Soviet coastlines.
The tactics weren’t intended to look like kamikaze attacks, but in practice, not many Soviet sailors and airmen would be returning from these missions.
The USSR’s naval air force planned to send a fleet of 100 bombers armed with anti-ship missiles against any US aircraft carrier battle group, fully expecting to lose half of them to enemy action. This number would increase by 100 for every carrier. In their defense, these were calculated losses. Soviet planners wanted to slow the reactions of the task force’s entire air-defense system, to produce a “golden time” to launch a calculated missile strike.
Soviet planners learned U.S. interceptor crews were dependent on the opinions of air controllers, so the planners needed to find a way to fool those officers, to overload their sensors or relax their sense of danger by making attacking forces appear to be decoys, which were in reality full, combat-ready strikes.
In contrast, Soviet naval air forces did not trust the targeting information they got from satellites or other intelligence methods. To Soviet pilots, the most reliable source was the direct-tracking ship, a ship shadowing the U.S. fleet constantly sending back coordinates just in case war breaks out.
That’s not all. If war did break out, the shadowing ship was toast, and her captain knew it. So he was prepared to take appropriate action. Tokarev writes:
“At the moment of war declaration or when specifically ordered, after sending the carrier’s position by radio, he would shell the carrier’s flight deck with gunfire…He could even ram the carrier, and some trained their ship’s companies to do so.”
The attacking planes would launch missiles from maximum range to distract the American crews while two reconnaissance TU-16 Badgers would attempt to breach into the center of the task force formation to find carriers visually, their only task to send its exact position to the entire division by radio.
No one in the Badger crews counted on a return flight. They were very aware they were flying a suicide mission.
“Why we are not getting a full tank of fuel, Vasily?”
Once the carrier was located, the main attack group would launch their missiles. Two to three strike groups would approach from different directions and at different altitudes. The main launch had to be made simultaneously by all planes.
The “golden time” opening for the missiles was just “one minute for best results, no more than two minutes for satisfactory ones. If the timing became wider in an exercise, the entire main attack was considered unsuccessful.”
The Soviets calculated twelve hits by conventional missiles would be needed to sink a carrier but single nuclear missile hit could produce the same result.
Because of the difficulty and accident rates associated with bailing out of, abandoning, or even in-flight refueling many Soviet-designed bombers, Soviet Naval Air Force bomber crews considered themselves suicide bombers anyway (even without an enemy). Officers on guided-missile ships assisting in a Soviet air raid counted on surviving a battle against a U.S. Navy carrier air wing for twenty or thirty minutes, tops.
All in all, the expected loss rate was 50 percent of a full strike, whether or not the objective number of U.S. or NATO warships were successfully hit.
No matter how advanced smart bombs get, and no matter how stealthy and quick an aircraft can become, the A-10 has one factor that guarantees it can never truly be replaced: its gun.
These days, pretty much any warplane can drop guided munitions with pinpoint accuracy, but what makes the A-10 so special is one of the only weapons used by the US Air Force that isn’t precision-guided: the 30 mm GAU-8/A Avenger gun with 1,150 incendiary rounds.
In a recent press release, Air Force Col. Sean McCarthy, the 447th Air Expeditionary Group’s commander, explained in a US Department of Defense release exactly why the A-10 can do missions no other plane can.
McCarthy, who commands 550 airmen operating out of Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base, revealed that deliberate targeting of ISIS assets in Syria accounts for only about 10% of airstrikes carried out from the base.
The other 90% are dynamic strikes, or strikes where troops on the ground call in for airstrikes. This is where the Warthog shines.
“A troops-in-contact [report] pops up or a target pops up at short notice, and we respond. It generally doesn’t involve an integrated effort with the coalition. It’s just usually a two-ship of A-10s that show up overhead and we conduct our mission,” McCarthy said of the A-10’s operation out of Incirlik.
The A-10 actually operates in the field as an even more precise weapon than even the most advanced smart bombs.
“The No. 1 thing when it comes to strikes is making sure we do as little damage as possible, especially killing civilians. We try very hard to keep that from happening,” McCarthy said.
So when there is any reason to believe that civilians may be in the area, the A-10 is the best tool for the job. In a murky situation, where “there’s no way to know whether they’re civilian noncombatants or not, we don’t take the chance” of using a bomb, McCarthy said.
“That’s a type of target we’ll go after with the gun,” he added. “It’s a low-collateral-damage weapon, pinpoint accurate, and we employ high-explosive incendiary rounds so nothing’s walking away from that if they get hit.”
Watch the A-10 rip its 30mm gun with pinpoint accuracy, and hear the legendary ‘BRRRT’ in the video below:
Army cyber warriors often say one of the things they like about cyber as a career is that it offers the challenges and opportunities of engaging in cyberspace operations either at a desk or in a tactical environment.
Sgt. Alexander Lecea, Spc. Ashley Lethrud-Adams and Pfc. Kleeman Avery are Cyberspace Operations Specialists assigned to the Expeditionary Cyber Support Detachment (ECSD), 782nd Military Intelligence Battalion (Cyber) who were recently at the National Training Center, supporting a training rotation for a battalion from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team (BCT) of the 1st Cavalry Division.
All three say they chose an Army cyber career because of that mix — being able to move between working in an office and taking part in operations and exercises.
Spc. Ashley Lethrud-Adams, Pfc. Kleeman Avery, and Sgt. Alexander Lecea (left to right), cyberspace operations specialists with the Expeditionary Cyber Support Detachment, 782nd Military Intelligence Battalion (Cyber) provide cyberspace operations support to a training rotation for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division at the National Training Center on Jan. 13, 2019.
(Photo by Mr. Steven P Stover, INSCOM)
The detachment provides, “A little bit of both aspects of the cyber field,” Lecea said. “You get hands-on technical training — you can do this job in an office. But at the same time you can do it in the field. And there are real-world applications.”
While cyberspace operations can be done in an office, it’s not as effective as being on the ground with maneuver units, the sergeant said.
During training exercises such as this rotation in the southern California desert, the trio functioned alongside the cavalry battalion as an Expeditionary Cyber Team that provided cyber effects and intelligence for the rotational training brigade, Lecea said.
“We provide the maneuver commander with cyber effects and support the troops on the ground,” working in concert with the 3rd BCT’s Electronic Warfare officer and Cyber Electromagnetic Activities (CEMA) chief, Lecea explained, to achieve the brigade commander’s intent and guidance.
Capt. Adam Schinder, commander of the Expeditionary Cyber Support Detachment (ECSD), 782nd Military Intelligence Battalion (Cyber), provides command and control for ECSD cyberspace operations specialists supporting training for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division at the National Training Center on Jan. 14, 2019.
(Photo by Mr. Steven P Stover, INSCOM)
Lecea said he went became a cyber warrior because he, “wanted to do something that was challenging and rewarding and also have applications outside the Army. It’s one of the toughest [Military Occupational Specialties], but at the same time I feel that it’s the most rewarding. You have a lot of challenging situations and you have to use your brain. You have to have good teamwork, too.”
The sergeant said he isn’t sure if he will stay in uniform long-term, but added that the Army also offers training opportunities that will prepare him for the future, whether or not he reenlists.
“We’re talking about SEC+, NET+, a lot of industry standards certifications you’ll need outside in the civilian world to get hired. It’s all the stuff they look for,” he said.
Spc. Ashley Lethrud-Adams, Pfc. Kleeman Avery, and Sgt. Alexander Lecea (left to right), cyberspace operations specialists with the Expeditionary Cyber Support Detachment, 782nd Military Intelligence Battalion (Cyber) provide cyberspace operations support to a training rotation for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division at the National Training Center on Jan. 13, 2019.
(Photo by Mr. Steven P Stover, INSCOM)
“I was interested in the field and I didn’t just want to go to college, so I joined Army Cyber,” said Lethrud-Adams. “The Army is a great opportunity because you’re getting paid to learn all this stuff and you get experiences you wouldn’t get elsewhere in the world. You’re not going to get experiences like this in college.”
Lethrud-Adams said his favorite part of cyber operations is malware analysis, and his two teammates vehemently agreed.
Avery, the newest soldier on the team, said he wants to become an ION (Interactive On-Net Operator) and eventually join the FBI.
Until then, he said, he enjoys the challenges of cyber operations and trying to figure things out.
President Donald Trump has warned Iran of a “heavy price” if it or its allies in Iraq attack U.S. troops or assets in Iraq.
“Upon information and belief, Iran or its proxies are planning a sneak attack on U.S. troops and/or assets in Iraq,” Trump tweeted on April 1.
“If this happens, Iran will pay a very heavy price, indeed!” he added.
It was not immediately clear if Trump meant the United States actually has intelligence of such a plan.
Over the past year, the United States has accused Iranian-backed militias of attacks on Iraqi military bases hosting coalition forces and on foreign embassies, particularly the U.S. mission.
Hours before Trump’s tweet, a top military aide to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei cautioned the United States of consequences of “provocative actions” in Iraq.
“Any U.S. action will mark an even larger strategic failure in the current president’s record,” General Yahya Rahim Safavi said, according to the semiofficial news agency Tasnim.
On March 11, a rocket attack on an Iraqi base killed two U.S. troops and one British soldier, heightening tensions in the region.
No one claimed responsibility for the attack, which was followed by deadly U.S. air strikes on the pro-Iranian Kataib Hezbollah militia group.
Tehran warned Trump against taking “dangerous actions.”
In December, Washington blamed Kataib Hezbollah for a strike that killed a U.S. contractor and triggered a round of violence that led Trump to order the killing of a top Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani, in a drone strike in Baghdad the following month.
In retaliation, an Iranian ballistic-missile strike on an Iraqi air base left some 110 U.S. troops suffering from traumatic brain injuries.
As victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma pleaded to be rescued on popular social media apps such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, the National Guard altered its response accordingly.
“It’s been a very dynamic and evolving environment,” National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Joseph Lengyel recently told Military.com. “This has certainly evolved how we do it.”
Lengyel spoke with Military.com at the annual conference of the National Guard Association of the United States in Louisville, KY.
While social media isn’t the primary communications tool between the Guard and those at risk, it’s starting to play a larger role.
The Washington Post reported that during Harvey, a Guard Humvee vanished in Katy, Texas. With no other way to reach the driver, soldiers finally were able communicate with him using SnapChat, a messaging app that can capture a photo or video, which is then relayed to the recipient briefly before it disappears.
Similar situations can happen when there is a communications capability gap in a disaster area, Lengyel said.
“Whenever you go into particular environments, communications is always difficult when you first start. Because the infrastructure [isn’t] there. It has to evolve,” he said.
For example, the Guard got the call to drive to Beaumont, Texas, before the Federal Emergency Management Agency or first responders could set up hub stations to house communications equipment.
The military has crews that monitor response efforts as they happen in real-time.
For example, its only non-offensive air operations center, known as “America’s AOC,” at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, keeps track of relief no matter where it’s needed in the US.
Military.com visited the 601st AOC in March. It evaluates domestic operations, or DomOps, for Air Forces Northern, monitoring the airwaves — and social media sites — for events with potential military ties.
Lengyel said he was impressed with efforts as ongoing training rotations across the globe have not stopped despite the massive hurricane relief effort. Part of the Texas Guard deployed to the Horn of Africa even as Harvey laid waste to the Houston area and Hurricane Irma loomed.
“Every state creates and drafts an all-hazards response plan … and a lot of it comes together from various federal agencies,” Lengyel said of the constant training and push to get ahead of the next big disaster, which could vary from an earthquake to a terrorist attack.
“Everybody has a plan. And we coordinate … and we think about it before it happens, and we’ve gotten much better about this over the years,” he said.
Special Mission Unit Milestone
This year’s relief efforts — from Harvey and Irma to wildfires in the West — created another milestone for the US military this year.
For the first time in the nearly 70-year history of the Air Force Reserve, all three special mission units — weather reconnaissance, firefighting, and aerial spray — were called to action simultaneously, the service said this week.
Air Force Reserve Command’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron — better known as the Hurricane Hunters — out of Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, “have been flying weather reconnaissance missions nonstop” since Aug. 17, the Air Force said in a release.
The 302nd Airlift Wing out of Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, is assisting the National Interagency Fire Center by providing a Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System-equipped C-130H Hercules, aircraft and aircrew to support ongoing aerial firefighting efforts in the western U.S.
And the 910th Airlift Wing, out of Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio, is providing its aerial spray capability to repel mosquitos and other pests in eastern Texas following Harvey.
When The Hunt for Red October came out in 1984, and with it the invention of the techno-thriller genre (author Tom Clancy’s claim to literary greatness), one of the stars was a modified Typhoon-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN). That novel, of course, was adapted to film in 1990.
The book and the film featured two different versions of the silent drive. The book used impellors, while the film used magneto-hydrodynamic propulsion. Now, something that is somewhat similar to the latter version of the Red October’s silent drive could be a reality… thanks to the People’s Liberation Army Navy.
Permanent magnet motors run much more quietly than conventional types currently in use on submarines. This is due to their “brushless” nature, which also means they can be smaller, taking up less volume on submarines (which are notoriously cramped) and increasing their reliability and also improving their endurance.
According to GlobalSecurity.org, China has a small number of nuclear submarines at present, roughly a half-dozen attack subs and four ballistic missile submarines. While greatly outnumbered by those of the United States, China is planning to build many more nuclear-powered subs by 2030, including versions more modern than the Shang and Jin classes that are their current state of the art.
The United States is not standing still. Reportedly, the new Columbia-class SSBNs will also be using a magnetic-drive technology. That said, it should be noted that in both the book and movie versions of Hunt for Red October, the United States Navy was able to track the titular submarine.
When Egypt bought the two Mistral-class amphibious assault ships that France declined to sell to Russia, one thing that didn’t come with those vessels was the armament.
According to the “16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World,” Russia had planned to install a mix of SA-N-8 missiles and AK-630 Gatling guns on the vessels if France has sold them to the Kremlin. But no such luck for Egypt, which had two valuable vessels that were unarmed – or, in the vernacular, sitting ducks.
And then, all of a sudden, they weren’t unarmed anymore. A video released by the Egyptian Ministry of Defense celebrating the Cleopatra 2017 exercise with the French navy shows that the Egyptians have channeled MacGyver — the famed improviser most famously played by Richard Dean Anderson — to fix the problem.
Scenes from the video show at least two AN/TWQ-1 Avenger air-defense vehicles — better known as the M1097 — tied down securely on the deck of one of the vessels, which have been named after Egyptian leaders Gamel Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat. The Humvee-based vehicles carry up to eight FIM-92 Stinger anti-air missiles and also have a M3P .50-caliber machine gun capable of firing up to 1200 rounds a minute.
The Mistral-class ships in service with the French navy are typically equipped with the Simbad point-defense system. Ironically, the missile used in the Simbad is a man-portable SAM also called Mistral. The vessels displace 16,800 tons, have a top speed of 18.8 knots and can hold up to 16 helicopters and 900 troops.
You can see the Egyptian Ministry of Defense video below, showing the tied-down Avengers serving as air-defense assets for the Egyptian navy’s Mistrals.