Amid reports that the US could send anywhere from 5,000 to 120,000 additional troops to the Middle East to confront Iran, Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan offered the first public confirmation May 23, 2019, that additional manpower might be needed.
Shanahan told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday that the Department of Defense was looking at ways to “enhance force protection,” saying that this “may involve sending additional troops,” CNN reported.
Exactly how many troops could be headed that way remains unclear.
The New York Times reported a little over a week ago that the Trump administration was considering sending as many as 120,000 US troops to the Middle East amid rising tensions with Iran. Trump called the report “fake news” the following day but said that if Iran wanted to fight, he would send “a hell of a lot more troops than that.”
On May 22, 2019, Reuters reported that the Pentagon intended to move 5,000 troops into the Middle East to counter Iran. The Associated Press said the number could be as high as 10,000.
Shanahan dismissed these reports May 23, 2019, while declining to say how many more troops might be required. “I woke up this morning and read that we were sending 10,000 troops to the Middle East and read more recently there was 5,000,” he said, according to Voice of America, adding: “There is no 10,000, and there is no 5,000. That’s not accurate.”
The US has already sent the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group, a task force of B-52H Stratofortress heavy, long-range bombers, an amphibious assault vessel, and an air-and-missile defense battery to the US Central Command area of responsibility.
These assets were deployed in response to what CENTCOM called “clear indications that Iranian and Iranian proxy forces were making preparations to possibly attack US forces in the region.” The exact nature of the threat is unclear, as the Pentagon has yet to publicly explain the threat.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) on May 28 warned government partners and private companies about a Russian hacking operation that it says uses a special intrusion technique to target operating systems often used to manage computer infrastructure.
“This is a vulnerability that is being actively exploited, that’s why we’re bringing this notification out,” said Doug Cress, chief of the cybersecurity collaboration center and directorate at NSA, in an advisory. “We really want…the broader cybersecurity community to take this seriously.”
The notice is part of a series of public reports by the U.S, agency to share actionable cyber defense information.
The NSA said the hacking activity was tied to “Russian military cyber actors, publicly known as Sandworm Team” and are part of Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate’s (GRU) Main Center for Special Technologies.
The NSA said the hackers have used the special intrusion technique to add privileged users, disable network security settings, and execute code that enables further network exploitation – “pretty much any attacker’s dream access – as long as that network is using an unpatched version of Exim [mail transfer agent].”
Exim mail transfer agent is software widely used on Unix-based operating systems such as Linux but is far less known than commercial alternatives such as Microsoft Exchange. The vulnerability was patched last year, but some users have not updated their systems.
The NSA did not say who the Russian military hackers have targeted, what business sectors had been most affected, or how many organizations were compromised. But senior U.S. intelligence officials have warned in recent months that Kremlin agents are engaged in activities that could threaten the integrity of the November presidential election.
The Sandworm group is the same one that interfered in the 2016 presidential election, stealing and exposing Democratic National Committee emails and breaking into voter registration databases.
It also has been blamed for disruptive cyberattacks against Ukrainian electric production facilities.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called out the same GRU unit in February for conducting a cyberattack against the country of Georgia.
The United States Navy is positioning major vessels for relief efforts as Hurricane Irma bears down on the southeastern United States. Among those vessels is the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72).
According to a report from USNI News, the Abraham Lincoln is being joined by the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS New York (LPD 21), and the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Farragut (DDG 99). The four vessels are carrying a number of helicopters, including CH-53E Super Stallions and MH-60R/S Seahawks.
The use of major Navy vessels for disaster relief is not new. The Iwo Jima has a number of these missions under her belt, including relief after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Other amphibious ships, including USS Wasp (LHD 1), USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), and the Harpers Ferry-class landing dock ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51), are aiding victims or Irma in the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Caribbean.
For deployments, Wasp-class landing ships usually support as many as 2,000 Marines for six months. The Abraham Lincoln is capable of supporting an air wing of roughly 2,500 personnel for a six-month deployment as well. That takes a lot of supplies – more than enough for the initial stages of disaster relief after a hurricane or earthquake.
The amphibious assault ships are there not only because they can support helicopters, but also because they have some of the best medical facilities afloat. They also can help deliver supplies to shore using air-cushion landing craft. The carrier provides solid medical facilities as well, while the SPY-1 radars on USS Farragut can be helpful in controlling air traffic until land-based air control in a region can be restored.
“The top priority of the federal government, as we work together to support civil authorities, is to minimize suffering and protecting the lives and safety of those affected by Hurricane Irma,” a Navy release stated.
The data-crunching personal finance site took data points from all 50 states, using what it calls “13 key indicators of patriotism.” The indicators include military-related markers, like average number of enlistees, veteran population, active-duty population and reservists. Those make up the “military engagement” part of the calculation
The site also included other forms of patriotism, like voting, volunteering, civic participation and the emphasis schools put on civic education. These factors (and others) make up the “civic engagement” part of WalletHub’s calculation.
Without further ado, here are America’s most and least patriotic states.
The Most Patriotic
1. New Hampshire
We talked about this. The granite state is as hard-core patriotic as they come. True to the foundations of the United States, New Hampshire once threatened to secede from the Union in protest of what it saw as the federal government’s overreach in taxation and personal freedoms. In 2016.
U.S. Army artillerymen conduct a sling-load operation during Operation Granite Viper at the Udairi Range Complex in Kuwait, Sept. 9, 2015. The artillerymen are assigned to the New Hampshire National Guard. (U.S. Army/1st Lt. Benjamin Moreau)
If it seems like the least populous states tend to be at the top of the “most patriotic” list, you aren’t wrong. As of January 2020, Wyoming was No. 50 in terms of population in America, but still produced the ninth most troops as a percentage of population — and the fifth most veterans.
The 39th most populous state is the third most patriotic, according to WalletHub. No small potatoes.
The home of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, along with dozens of separate units from the Army, Air Force and Coast Guard, Alaska boasts thousands of military personnel. It also boasts the most military veterans per capita and the second most number of military enlistees. The Great North also invites veterans to come get a share of oil profits.
Maryland, home of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, is the fifth most patriotic state on the list. Unlike some of the other states at the top of the list, Maryland is full of people, the 19th most populous state in the Union. It also produces the fifth most Peace Corps volunteers.
The Least Patriotic
To name the states that are “least patriotic” isn’t to say that they aren’t patriotic at all or that the people who live there don’t love their country. It simply means that they aren’t as active in the 13 areas WalletHub measured as a barometer of patriotism.
46. West Virginia
West Virginia sits atop the bell curve when it comes to military engagement but is close to the very bottom when it comes to voting in presidential elections. Maybe the mountains have something to do with it!
Don’t @ me, Texas. I didn’t come up with this study or its metrics. But while Texas sits at No. 11 for its military engagement (because of course it does, it’s Texas), its weighted civic engagement rating is all the way down at No. 49. If Troy Aikman told you to go vote, would you do it?
Despite being home to the U.S. Navy’s base in San Diego, the Marine Corps‘ base at Camp Pendleton, and a slew of other military bases, the sheer number of people in California makes it difficult for the state to rise to the top of the list of veterans per capita. The Golden State also has one of lowest numbers of volunteers per capita.
Maybe if we put a drug legalization referendum on the ballot, California’s voter participation will skyrocket.
49. New York
The Empire State has the fewest veterans per capita, which is hardly surprising, given how many people are in New York — and New York City, especially. The state also ranks below California on the volunteerism spectrum. It seems unfair to the rest of New York State, to be weighed down by the City, but the home of the 10th Mountain Division sits solidly at No. 49.
Statues aren’t part of the ranking. (The White House)
50. New Jersey
The state that saw George Washington cross the Delaware to MDK German mercenaries in their sleep on Christmas is now one of the states with the fewest veterans per capita, as the 11th most populous state. It’s also sitting at the bottom of the “military engagement” spectrum and somewhere near the bottom of the “civic engagement” spectrum.
Find out where your home state sits on the list of most patriotic states by visiting WalletHub and learning how it came up with the rankings. Once more, before I hand out my email address and Twitter handle, I’m not calling your home state “unpatriotic.” I’m just the messenger, reminding you to go vote.
Ever since a 2015 poll revealed that a certain slice of Americana supported bombing Agrabah, the fictional city Disney’s Aladdin calls home, it’s been interesting to consider what other fictional countries have actually messed with the United States and totally gotten a pass. Agrabah didn’t actually damage its relations with the U.S., presumably because the U.S. either doesn’t exist yet in that world, or because they don’t have oil.
Meanwhile, a number of other countries have attacked America and/or its American heroes and haven’t yet met the full-on retaliation they deserve.
1. Pottsylvania — “Rocky and Bullwinkle”
These guys have been sending special agents to try and kill American heroes FOR YEARS. Pottsylvania is populated entirely by special agents and saboteurs.
Their children are taught assassination techniques and espionage practices from an early age, their highest medal is the Double Cross and their mysterious dictator (known only as “Fearless Leader”) makes Kim Jong-Un look like a teddy bear. Their two most active agents are skilled infiltrators and have never been captured.
2. Bilya — “Iron Eagle”
Bilya is supposed to be a fictional Arab state in the Middle East. These guys had the balls to shoot down an American F-16, capture its pilot, and then sentence him to hang in a show trial.
Luckily, the pilot’s 16-year-old son Doug (an Air Force Academy reject) and Chappie, an Air Force Reserve pilot, steal two F-16s of their own and fly off to Bilya to rescue him. What should have happened was America launching an all-out raid on Bilyan infrastructure and military targets. Then, after they released the American they took for no reason, the Bilyans would pay us back the $18 million they owe us for shooting down our F-16.
3. Val Verde — “Commando,” “Predator,” and “Die Hard 2“
This nondescript South American country has more coups than a flock of pigeons (say that sentence aloud for the full effect). For some reason, all of their worst representatives seem to end up in the United States, ready to coerce American heroes to do their bidding.
Fortunately, John Matrix lives inside an unlimited ammo cheat code world.
In “Commando,” a deposed dictator named Arius kidnaps John Matrix’ daughter to force him to kill the current president (of Val Verde). Spoiler Alert: he doesn’t even make it to Val Verde. Instead, he ices every single person who came near his daughter.
In “Die Hard 2,” terrorists hit an airport to free another captured dictator, ruining John McClane’s Christmas, everyone’s flight schedules, and never taking any blame for what they do.
And that is United Airlines’ job.
In “Predator,” Dutch Schaeffer’s commando team has to mount a hostage rescue from guerrillas in Val Verde. You might know what happens next (hint: it has something to do with an invisible alien).
Seriously, how many times do they get to mess with America before we do something about this? Who is the President in this movie universe? And I am dying to know more about this place – what are the exports, other than terrorism and contras?
4. Latveria – Marvel Comics
Latveria is an Eastern European nation tucked back into the Carpathian Mountains, led by a guy whose name is freaking Dr. Victor von Doom. Even George W. Bush could convince the world that this guy needed to be ousted, and he wouldn’t have to throw Colin Powell under a bus to do it.
Dr. Doom is obviously a state sponsor of terrorism. Doom is responsible for the proliferation of chemical weapons, attempted assassinations of allied heads of state, and oh so many crimes against humanity.
A regular deployment for our troops down here on Earth gets pretty boring while you’re off-mission. It becomes challenging to find new ways to fill your downtime. Maybe you’ll swing by the MWR and play some video games. Maybe you’ll watch a movie or two — that is until you’ve watched everything on the deployment hard drive twice.
Realistically speaking, the life of a astronaut in space is probably similar. Even the whole zero-G’s thing and watching the Big Blue Marble has got to get boring after a while…
Thankfully, through the power of social media, astronauts can record themselves and upload their shenanigans to the internet for the world (and beyond) to see. No judgment here; whatever takes the edge off while being stuck in the same, tight confinements for nine months at a time…
The great musicians here on Earth have written countless tunes about space and astronauts. These songs are then copied and repeated ad nauseam by that one guy at the party who thinks he can play.
But when David Bowie’s Space Oddity is played by someone who’s actually in space… It doesn’t matter if he’s not on the level of the late, great Ziggy Stardust — it’s awesome on its own level.
Play with toys
There was a challenge a few years back for gifted children to design toys usable in space. The constraints were simple: It had to be fun and not involve plenty of lose pieces that could float around and potentially cause a Homer-Simpson-level disaster.
Since astronauts are generally pretty stand-up people, we can assume they actually accepted the toys and used them instead of letting the kids’ efforts go to waste.
Exercising in zero gravity
As awesome as it is to live in weightlessness for an extended period of time, it can wreak havoc on your body. Your bones will deteriorate and your muscle mass will shrink.
To make sure that their bodies aren’t completely crushed by an inevitable return to normal gravity, astronauts need to exercise a minimum of two hours per day. That’s when things get interesting since they can’t just hop on a normal treadmill or grab some free weights.
Fun experiments (for science, of course)
Although space tourism has expanded in recent years, for the most part, astronauts who were sent up by their respective countries are there to do science. They’ll plan objectives for years, like maintaining the Hubble Telescope in case of emergency or documenting the effects of micro-gravity on an extremely fast spacecraft.
But, sometimes, astronauts get bored writing the same equations and the same formulas only to yield nearly identical outcomes. Sometimes, they just want to see how many zero-G backflips they can do before throwing up. I mean, who could resist a few childish experiments if you spent all those years dreaming of going to space?
For the most part, you have to be pretty nerdy to make it far in NASA’s space program. And there’s nothing nerds love more than some nerdy pop culture.
Astronauts watch everything from Gravity (which I assume they critique like soldiers did The Hurt Locker) to The Simpsons to even Star Wars.
Almost every military career ends with the service member making a decision: find a job or start a business. For those in the National Guard or reserves, this choice parallels time in uniform.
Veterans who choose the path of entrepreneurship have an added resource to lean on. Jason Van Camp founded Warrior Rising — a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping veterans and their immediate family members start their own businesses.
“When you were getting out of the military you had a question, and that question was ‘now what? What am I going to do with myself?'” Van Camp said. “You probably thought to yourself ‘you know I could just sit back and collect my retirement or I could get a job or I could start a business.”
Starting a business after leaving the military is a journey Van Camp knows well. The former green beret left the Army after a seizure disorder forced him to medically retire. He founded Mission 6 Zero, a leadership development firm with high-profile clients including the NFL and Major League Baseball.
Warrior Rising was launched to help other veterans make the transition to business ownership. The resources provided by the organization are free to veterans and their immediate family members. It is funded by donations with 82.4% of every dollar going to veterans. The rest, Van Camp said, goes to overhead. He added that initially, 100% of donations went to veterans, but the company grew too large and he had to hire paid staff to keep up with demand.
In the five years since its founding, Warrior Rising has grown exponentially. In 2015 the company helped six veterans establish businesses. Last year the number was 1,016. This year, Van Camp said, Warrior Rising on pace to help 1,500 veterans start new businesses with about 40 signing up every two weeks.
Despite frequently saying during an online interview that “business is hard,” Van Camp said Warrior Rising already has some success stories.
Firebrand Flag Company, for example, recently sold out on a limited run of fireproof American flags.
“They’re ramping up business right now and I have no doubt this is going to be a multi-million-dollar company,” Van Camp said.
People interested in using Warrior Rising’s free services should first go to the organization’s website to sign up. Van Camp said an intake specialist will call the applicant within 48 hours.
“So, you have an intimate one-on-one conversation with someone about your business idea, what you’re trying to accomplish, why you’re trying to do it. Is it a good idea? Do you have the money for this? Does your spouse support you?” Van Camp said. “Questions about the actual journey you’re about to embark on.”
From there, applicants are sent to Warrior Rising’s education platform, Warrior Academy – online training that translates a military operations order into a business model. Van Camp said the training is designed to be difficult to prepare would-be entrepreneurs for the realities of owning a business.
“You can’t start out with 0,000 salary. That’s not how it works in business,” he said. “You’re going to have to grind and go without pay and suffer for a while before you start seeing revenue — before you start seeing everything start to pay off and you see a return on investment.”
After the training is complete, applicants are paired with mentors who are successful in the industry the veteran hopes to succeed in. Van Camp said the mentors are usually, but not always veterans.
Eventually, after the veteran has met all of the requirements, they can ask Warrior Rising for financial assistance and the organization will assist them in finding investors, loans or grants.
But that’s not the end of a veteran entrepreneur’s journey with Warrior Rising.
“What I realized is it wasn’t just about starting a business and finding your purpose through business ownership, it was also about creating a community and joining a community and joining a tribe of people that can support you and you can feel comfortable with like you’re part of the family with,” Van Camp said. “We have platoons all over the country.”
In the past, the organization hosted numerous in-person events, but the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has forced Warrior Rising to turn to online venues for events.
Van Camp described coronavirus as a game changer in many ways for those hoping to start businesses. First, he said, more people are applying for Warrior Rising’s assistance.
“It’s been even more prevalent because of COVID,” he said. “Because people are at home looking for that next step because they ask the question ‘now what’ and they come to Warrior Rising for help.”
He said the pandemic will continue to affect the business world for the foreseeable future. He said trucking and logistics, online services and recreational vehicle sales businesses are doing well. His outlook is equally optimistic for credit card processing companies, home security and solar sales.
The outlook is less rosy for commercial real estate.
“Clients of mine that have office space, they’re realizing right now that they don’t need office space. They can work from home,” Van Camp said. “They’re putting as much product out the door as they did before. Private equity firms, venture capitalist firms, the companies that basically control their finances are going to say ‘listen, anything that doesn’t affect the bottom line, get rid of’. They’re going say ‘we don’t need office space. We don’t need to pay rent.’ Coronavirus is going to change the game.”
Van Camp said it’s hard to predict what kind of businesses will be successful. The deciding factor usually has more to do with the would-be entrepreneur than the business itself. Even those with ideas others think are bad might succeed if they’re tenacious and adaptable, he added.
“We try to make it difficult for them and if they continue to try to move forward and if they say ‘I don’t care what you think. I don’t care if you laugh at me, I’m doing this no matter what’, those are the guys that succeed,” Van Camp said. “We try to make sure they understand all the risks. We try to help them understand there’s no guarantees and they’re probably going to fail. We give them all the stats. For some people it scares them off. That’s a good thing because they would have been scared off during their business endeavor anyway. I’ve seen some things that I thought ‘well that’s a dumb idea.’ Because they didn’t quit, they proved me wrong.”
A NATO-led training exercise focused on anti-submarine warfare ASW just kicked off in the north Atlantic.
Naval forces from more than 10 nations, including the US, UK, France, Germany, Canada, Norway, and Iceland, will be out in force off the coast of Iceland to hone their skills in hunting down and destroying enemy submarines as part of Exercise Dynamic Mongoose.
Running from June 27 to July 6, the training will feature warships, submarines, and maritime patrol aircraft.
“The presence of NATO in the waters south of Iceland is a a sign of an increased focus on the North Atlantic and will strengthen the Alliance’s knowledge and experience of the area,” Arnor Sigurjonsson Director, Department of Security and Defense, Iceland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs, told Naval Today.
The US Navy is bringing in a Los Angeles-class fast attack sub, an Arleigh Burke-guided missile destroyer, one P-8A Poseidon aircraft, and two P-3C Orion aircraft, both of which are designed to hunt down subs and surface vessels from the air.
“We look forward to this training opportunity with our NATO allies and partners,” Capt. Roger Meyer, commander, Task Force 69, said in a statement. “While promoting international security and stability, Dynamic Mongoose will serve to fortify theater ASW capabilities, enhance interoperability, and strengthen alliances within the European theater.”
The exercise comes amid increasing tensions with Moscow, which has complained about NATO’s acceptance of Montenegro into the alliance and Norway’s recent decision to host more than 300 US Marines in its country for at least another year.
It’s important to know what the weather will be like on any given day. With just a quick check on the internet or your local news, you can determine whether your uniform of the day is going to involve shorts or rain boots. And while knowing the weather back in States is helpful, it’s not like the success of a mission is hanging in the balance.
This is where military weathermen come into play. Whether it’s to determine if conditions are suitable for aircraft or for delicate SEAL operations, military meteorologists play an essential role.
There are three types of military meteorologists used by the United States Armed Forces. The first are the most conventional, often found behind the computers at the Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center (for the Navy) and the 557th Weather Wing (for the Air Force). Historically, these are the troops that commanders would rely on to accurately forecast the weather, which would often be the deciding factor of an upcoming battle.
Civilian meteorologists are fantastic — they average a roughly 2 percent margin of error. Military meteorologists, on the other hand, can’t afford such a margin. They use sophisticated techniques and technologies to deliver the most accurate forecasts when massive operations are on the line.
The second type of meteorologists are the (slightly) insane pilots that fly directly into the eyes of hurricanes. They’ve been given the apt name of “Hurricane Hunters.” Wind speeds over 100 miles per hour are enough to swat an aircraft out of the sky, but these pilots make due in order to keep the civilians back stateside safe — mostly because no one else is daring enough to take on such an important task.
These courageous airmen fly into the eyes of hurricanes and collect whatever data they can about the approaching storm, including wind speeds, air pressure, and humidity. Getting this sort of information from the direct center of the storm is the only way for the folks back home to accurately determine the hurricane’s trajectory — and any potential damage it may cause.
Finally, we have the airmen that have rightfully earned the right to call themselves operators. Troops who’ve never encountered the special operations weather technicians of the Air Force may scoff at their “special operations” status, but they’re no joke. These airmen are embedded with the rest of the operators as they sneak into locations with recon teams and collect valuable information for an upcoming assault.
The SOWTs are trained as recon first and weathermen second. They’ve been a part of nearly every major special operation mission since their establishment in the 70s. These guys were the first into Pakistan just before Operation Neptune Spear with the CIA and gave the final thumbs for the operation that ended in Osama Bin Laden’s death.
U.S. military officials and policymakers are devoting increased attention to the potential for conflict with a near-peer competitor, and they’ve pursued a number of operational and equipment changes to prepare for it.
Among the latest moves is the rollout of more cold-weather gear among the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, underscoring the military’s growing concern about its ability to operate in extreme environments outside the Middle East.
For the last several years, the Army has been looking to update its gear for extremes, mainly jungles and the harsh cold. Included in that search was a new cold-weather boot and a cold-weather clothing system that could be adjusted for various temperatures.
In recent weeks, soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum in New York have done winter training operations with new gloves, headgear, socks, gaiters, parkas, and trousers. That new gear was focused on “face, hands, and feet,” 1st Sgt. Daniel Bryan, first sergeant of the division’s Light Fighters School, told Army Times.
The unit also received new skis. Built shorter and wider, like cross-country skis, they were brought in so inexperienced soldiers could strap into them with their cold-weather boots and be able to maneuver in short order. Those new skis were also being deployed among Army units in Alaska, Vermont, and Italy.
Troops at Fort Drum have done cold-weather exercises for some time, but the base’s recent designation as a Zone 7 — the same designation as Fort Wainwright in Alaska and Camp Ethan Allen in Vermont — steered millions of dollars more in funding there so soldiers could undertake more training.
The new equipment has been fielded as part of an effort to prepare troops physically and mentally for cold-weather operations.
“We don’t want [the cold] to hibernate us,” Bryan said. “We want to be physically and mentally prepared.”
‘You’re going to get your skis … so get ready’
The Marine Corps has also been reorienting itself for operations in the extreme cold.
In mid-January, the Corps issued two requests for information for a cap and gloves for intense cold. The Marines want both to be able to withstand temperatures down to 50 below zero and be fast-drying and water repellant, with the gloves able to work with touchscreen devices.
The Corps also plans to spend $12.75 million — $7 million in fiscal year 2018 — to buy 2,648 sets of the NATO ski system for scout snipers, reconnaissance Marines, and some infantrymen, with the first sets arriving at the end of the 2018 calendar year.
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said in December that the Marine Corps Rotational Force Europe, based in Norway, would be the first to get the gear.
“No Marine is going to leave here unless they know how to ski,” Neller said at the time, according to Military.com. “You’re going to get your skis here in about a week, so get ready.”
U.S. Marines have been in Norway on rotational deployments since early 2017, though they’ve stored equipment there for some time.
The deployments, the first of their kind, have focused on tactical training for offensive operations in cold weather (and irked Russia).
The primary reason for creating the rotational force was improving cold-weather training, one of Neller’s main goals.
Some exercises, done with NATO allies and non-NATO partners, have taken place just 200 miles from Norway’s border with Russia. The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit has also been conducting cold-weather training in neighboring Sweden.
The adjustment to the region hasn’t been totally smooth.
Marines in Norway’s Arctic region in 2016 and early 2017 reported a number of problems with their gear, which was pulled from the service’s inventory of cold-weather equipment. Zippers stuck; seams ripped; backpack frames snapped, and boots repeatedly pulled loose from skis or tore on the metal bindings, according to Military.com.
The equipment problems spurred a wave of feedback from Marines, leading the Corps to start looking at upgrades and replacements — including some cold-weather gear used by the Army as well as reinforced backpack frames suitable for frigid temperatures.
The Marine Corps’ overall plans for new gear goes beyond just outfitting a small rotational force, however, and those moves fit in with preparations for a future fight that Neller has said could be on the horizon.
“I hope I’m wrong, but there’s a war coming,” Neller said during a December address to Marines in Norway. Neller said he saw a “big-ass fight” in the future and told them to be ready for a variety of missions.
Neller also said he expected the force’s attention to shift to new areas. “I think probably the focus, the intended focus is not on the Middle East,” Neller said, according to Military.com. “The focus is more on the Pacific and Russia.”
Increasing tensions with Russia and North Korea have increased the potential the U.S. military could face cold-weather fighting again — particularly in Northwest Asia.
During the Korean War, brutal cold plagued U.S. troops who lacked enough cold-weather gear and faced problems like frozen rations and gear damaged by subzero temperatures. Decades later, soldiers who recovered from frostbite and other injuries found themselves suffering from new symptoms related to their exposure.
There’s something about football that just lends itself to the melodramatic emotions of our youth. It’s the closest socially acceptable approximation to gladiatorial combat young men in our modern civilized world can pursue, and as such, it tends to hold an honored place in our hearts. The gridiron is where we proved our mettle; Where we found that toughness within us we always hoped was there.
And then, just like that, it’s gone. For most of us, football ends right around when real life begins, and you’re left with no choice but to trade in your pads and passion for a steady job and a pile of bills. Although I once had college football aspirations, an injury cost me that opportunity, and I found myself working as a race mechanic alongside a dozen other “coulda beens”–if only we’d made that one last tackle, dodged that one block, or chased the dream while our knees were still strong enough to hack it.
I joined the Marine Corps at 21 years old and with no intention of finding my way back onto the field. I had found my way to rugby after my college football “career” ended, but as I checked in to my first duty station at 29 Palms, California, neither was on my mind. That is, until I noticed the battalion team practicing just a few blocks away from my barracks room.
The next season, I earned myself a starting spot on the battalion team, which led to a spot on the base team, and eventually, to the first of two Marine Corps championships. Those successes, however, were hard earned… as playing ball for the Corps wasn’t quite like it had been back home in the hills of Vermont.
You’re playing against Marines, some of whom are battle-hardened veterans.
As Al Pacino once so eloquently put it, football is a game of inches. For all the strategy, practice, and technique involved, football is one of the few places left that sheer toughness remains a high-value commodity. Sometimes, when everything else is even, it’s the guy that’s willing to hurt that’ll get the job done. Sometimes you have to choose between the game and your safety. Knowing that reaching for that ball thrown across the flats against a zone defense will almost certainly mean taking a helmet to the sternum and choosing to do it anyway isn’t something you’re taught. It’s just who you are.
In most leagues, you’ll be lucky to find a few players willing to throw their bodies into the grinder for a “W.” In the Marine Corps, we already live in the grinder. Infantry units field teams between combat deployments, Marines attend football practices between training rotations in martial arts and on the rifle range. Mental and physical toughness is a prerequisite to success in the Corps, and as such, the playing field is ripe with men willing to hurt in order to achieve their goals.
Service members thrive on competition (and that can really suck).
Playing football in the Marine Corps comes with a level of competitive social pressure that can really only be compared to some high-level college teams. When you’re on a squad with a shot at some trophies, you’re representing more than the team itself, you’re representing your unit. The commanding general may not give a sh*t about your last inspection, but he does about the score of this week’s game. A slew of wins can make you feel like a celebrity, but a bad loss can make you ashamed to show your face at work… or in front of your commanding officer.
Marines, perhaps more than other services, are in a perpetual state of competition. Like Ricky Bobby, if we aren’t first, we’re last… and nobody’s going to let you forget it.
The Corps always comes first.
If you play football for a successful college program, you’re expected to keep up with your grades, but otherwise, the sport is your job. Marine Corps football can be a lot like that–with the obligations of the sport occasionally taking precedence over other duties (like when you go TAD/TDY for away games), but at the end of the day, the Marine Corps is a warfighting institution.
Infantry units, for instance, often had their seasons cut short by field requirements or combat deployments. Players on your team would be pulled from the roster to augment a deploying unit. Last season’s star quarterback may miss this season because he has to travel for training or worse, because he’s been injured or killed since we last took the field. Football is a way of life for most that love the sport, but nothing supersedes the Corps. We’re Marines first, football players second, and if we’re lucky, we eventually get to be old men writing stories about our days with an Eagle, Globe, and Anchor on our helmets.
Ibrahim al-Asiri, an Al Qaeda bomb-maker believed to have masterminded a plot to down a commercial airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, was killed in a US drone strike in Yemen in 2017, US officials confirmed to Fox News and CBS News on Aug. 20, 2018.
Al-Asiri is said to have made the underwear bomb that a Nigerian man named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to detonate on a Northwest Airlines flight to Detroit in December 2009. Al-Asiri was also involved in a plot to hide explosives in printer cartridges being shipped to the US. The first attack was unsuccessful because the attacker failed to detonate the device, and the other bombs were discovered after a tip.
Before his death, al-Asiri was believed to have been working on bombs that could be hidden inside laptops, CBS News reported.
Michael Morell, a former CIA deputy director, told CBS News that al-Asiri was a big reason for increased security at airports. “A good chunk of what you have to take out of your bag and what has to be screened is because of Asiri and his capabilities of putting explosives in very difficult to find places,” he said.
Morell described al-Asiri as “probably the most sophisticated terrorist bomb-maker on the planet.” He said in a tweet on Aug. 20, 2018, that it was “the most significant removal of a terrorist from the battlefield since the killing of [Osama] bin Laden.”
Fox News reported that in 2009, al-Asiri hid explosives in his brother’s clothes in an attempt to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s interior minister; the brother was killed in the attack.
A report from the United Nations and statements from a Yemeni security official and a tribal leader had previously indicated that al-Asiri, a Saudi national and one of America’s most wanted terrorists, was killed in a drone strike in the eastern Yemeni governorate of Marib, The Associated Press reported.
Al Qaeda’s Yemeni affiliate has long been regarded as one of the most dangerous outfits, primarily because of al-Asiri’s bomb-making abilities.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
China’s J-20 stealth fighter jet represents a massive milestone for Beijing’s armed forces and the first stealth aircraft ever fielded outside the US, but the impressive effort still falls noticeably short in some areas.
The J-20 doesn’t have a cannon and represents the only entry into the world of fifth-generation fighters that skips the gun, which has seen 100 years of aerial combat.
Enemy aircraft can’t jam a fighter jet’s gun. Flares and chaff will never fool a gun, which needs no radar. Bullets rip out of the gun already above the speed of sound and need not wait for rocket boosters to kick in.
While the F-22, the US’s fifth-generation stealth superiority fighter, can hold just eight missiles, its 20mm rotary cannon holds 480 rounds it can expend in about five seconds of nonstop firing.
But not every jet needs a gun, and not every jet needs to dogfight.
The F-35B firing its gun pod in the air for the first time.
(Lockheed Martin photo by Dane Wiedmann)
The J-20 doesn’t even consider dogfights
The J-20’s lack of a gun shows that the “Chinese recognize that being in a dogfight is not a mission that they’re building for,” retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke, a former F-22 pilot and F-35B squadron commander, told Business Insider.
“They probably want to avoid a dogfight at all costs,” he continued.
The Chinese jet — with powerful sensors, long-range missiles, and a stealth design — poses a serious threat to US Air Force refueling, early warning, and other support planes. Tactically, beating back these logistical planes with J-20s could allow China to keep the US operating at an arm’s length in a conflict.
But it increasingly looks as if the J-20 would lose handily to US fighter jets in outright combat, and that may be the point.
According to Berke, guns only work to about 800 feet to score aerial kills.
“I’d rather have a missile that’s good to 800 feet that goes out to 20 miles than a gun that goes to 800 feet and closer but nothing else,” Berke said, adding, “Once you start getting outside of 1,000 feet, you can start using missiles.”
Because the J-20 wasn’t meant to be a close-in brawler, the Chinese ditched it, saving room and weight aboard the jet to allow for other technologies.
Also, the mission of the gun in air-to-air combat may be disappearing.
The last US air-to-air-guns kill wasn’t exactly done by a fifth-gen.
The US started building the F-22 in the 1990s with a hangover from combat losses to air-to-air guns in Vietnam after fielding jets without guns and relying solely on missiles. The F-35 includes a gun because it has a broad set of missions that include close air support and air-to-ground fires.
“In air-to-air, the cannon serves one very specific and limited purpose only useful in a very predictable phase of flight, which is a dogfight,” Berke said.
“The Chinese probably recognize that [dogfights are] not where they want the airframe to be and that’s not the investment they want to make,” he continued.
“Utilizing a gun against a highly maneuverable platform is an incredibly challenging task,” Berke said. In World War II, propeller-driven planes frequently engaged in turning fights where they attempted to get behind one another and let the guns rip, and bombers flew with turret gunners covering the whole compass.
But today’s F-22s, J-20s, Su-35s, and other highly maneuverable jets give the guns an “extremely limited use” in combat, according to Berke.
Berke said the US most likely hadn’t scored an air-to-air-guns kill in decades.
A Business Insider review found that the last time a US plane shot down an enemy aircraft with guns was most likely the Cold War-era tank buster A-10 downing an Iraqi helicopter in 1991— hardly applicable to the world of fifth-generation fighter aircraft.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.