Our military does an incredible job of protecting our global interests, but they don’t do it alone. They’ve got a bunch of very good doggies that help them out.
Case in point: President Donald Trump announced in October 2019 that a military dog named Conan played a role in the raid against ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in northwest Syria, but he’s far from the first dog to help out the military.
Dogs have been working as bomb sniffers, message carriers, and guards for US military branches since at least World War I, when a stray Boston bull terrier wandered on to an Army training field and went on to become a unit’s mascot as they traveled to Europe.
In the decades following, trained dogs traveled across the world as they worked with the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force. And their natural skills and instincts are honed in training, making these dogs become the perfect working companions for the troops.
Some of the dogs even became military heroes, sniffing out the enemy, and attacking when needed.
Here are some of the good dogs who have helped the US military over the years.
1. Stubby, a Boston bull terrier, is the most famous US military mascot from World War I.
Before Stubby became the famed dog he is today, he was just a stray pooch who wandered his way on to an Army training center in New Haven, Connecticut.
While on the training grounds in 1917, Private First Class Robert Conroy took him in and Stubby ended up on the front lines of World War I as the mascot for the 102nd Infantry, 26th Yankee Division of the United States Army.
According to The Purple Heart Foundation, Stubby took part in 17 battles, detected traces of gas to warn soldiers, located wounded men on battlefields, and learned drills and bugle calls, and how to decipher English from German.
Following his efforts, Stubby participated in parades, met three presidents, and received dozens of awards, including a Purple Heart.
Rags with Sergeant George E. Hickman, 16th Infantry, 26th Division.
(US Army Signal Corps)
2. Rags was a message carrier for troops in Europe during World War I.
Rags, a stray terrier in Paris during World War I, became a war hero after befriending US Army Private James Donovan in 1918, according to K9 History.
The dog soon became a carrier for Donovan’s unit, carrying messages from the 26th Infantry Regiment to the supporting 7th Field Artillery Brigade.
Rags lost an eye and Donovan was injured by poisonous gas during the Meuse-Argonne Campaign, a major battle in France in 1918. Donovan later died of his injuries.
Rags, meanwhile, lived out his life in Maryland, and died in 1936.
3. Chips is the most famous dog of World War II — and he once single-handedly attacked a hidden German gun nest.
After the US entered World War II, thousands of people donated their dogs to be trained for guard and patrol duty, and Chips was one of them.
The German shepherd-collie-husky mix took part in Allied campaigns in North Africa, Italy, France, and elsewhere in Europe, and was able to take down a hidden German gun nest during the 1943 invasion of Sicily, according to Inside Edition.
He later went on to guard a conference between British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and US President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Lee’s family ended up adopting Lex when he took an early retirement.
“We knew that’s what Dustin would have wanted out of this,” Jerome Lee, the slain Marine’s father, told the Associated Press at the time. “He knew that we would take care of Lex and love him, just like our own.”
Lex died in 2012.
A United States Air Force Belgian Malinois.
6. Cairo, a Belgian Malinois, was part of the SEAL team that took down al-Qaida’s longtime leader, Osama bin Laden in 2011.
Cairo was part of the SEAL Team 6 that helped take down al-Qaida’s longtime leader, Osama bin Laden, in a 2011 raid in Pakistan.
Though there are no available photos of Cairo, his story should be known.
Her handler, Cpl. Juan Rodriguez, ran past a known IED to apply a tourniquet and carry her back to safety.
Lucca then retired to California to live with Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Willingham.
“She is the only reason I made it home to my family and I am fortunate to have served with her,” Willingham said at the time. “In addition to her incredible detection capabilities, Lucca was instrumental in increasing morale for the troops we supported.”
She received a Dickin Medal in London in 2016, the highest valor award for animals in the UK.
Wonderful dog, Conan.
(White House photo)
8. Conan was injured while taking down Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State terrorist group.
A Belgian Malinois named Conan helped take down Islamic State terrorist group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in October 2019.
President Donald Trump published a photo of the Conan on Twitter, after announcing he had “declassified a picture of the wonderful dog” after the Pentagon had declined to reveal any information about the dog.
I didn’t even get a t-shirt. In North Korea, it was too expensive.
Everything in North Korea takes you in through the gift shop and out through the same gift shop in an attempt to milk cash from visitors so they can buy Hennessy en masse from the duty free shop at Beijing Airport. That’s not a joke: 20 people boarding our flight from Beijing to Pyongyang were carrying boxes of cigarettes, cognac, and chocolate.
The plane’s aisles and free spaces overflowed with what looked like supplies for a party at DMX’s house.
In late 2012, I visited the country that honestly believes it won the Korean War by virtue of not being annihilated completely. So it makes sense (in a weird way) they would believe capturing an American ship outside its territorial waters 15 years after the fighting stopped is a giant feather in their cap.
The Pueblo was a Navy Signals Intelligence ship which was attacked and boarded by North Koreans in international waters. The crew didn’t go down easily. As the ship attempted to evade capture, the North Koreans opened up on her. One U.S. sailor was killed by the 57mm guns aboard a North Korean subchaser.
After that volley, the crew signaled compliance and began to destroy the immense amount of classified material aboard. It took two subchasers, four torpedo boats, and two MiG fighters to subdue the Pueblo and its crew, who weren’t even able to man the ship’s guns due to restrictive Navy regulations. The ship’s crew were simply outgunned and outnumbered.
The capture was also unfortunate in timing, since the year it was captured, 1968, was probably the most eventful year in modern American history. The week after the Pueblo’s capture, North Vietnam launched the Tet Offensive, drawing attention away from their plight and putting the media spotlight on America’s first “Television War.”
The Pueblo was sent to Wonsan while its crew was taken to North Korean POW camps. They were starved and tortured but the crew resisted even as the North Koreans attempted to use them as propaganda pieces in photos. The crew was a bit smarter than that.
They literally gave the finger to the Kim regime. At every opportunity they flashed the “Hawaiian good luck sign.” When the captives realized the communists didn’t know what the gesture meant, they flashed it for every camera, ruining all the potential propaganda value. When the North Koreans read what it actually meant in Time magazine, they were beaten for a week.
Fifty years later, her crew repatriated, the Pueblo is still held by North Korea. In 1999 it was moved from Wonsan to Pyongyang, moored on the Taedong River. This is where I saw the ship.
The woman in the bottom right of the above photo was one of our two guides/minders/spies who were present with us for every waking moment of our time in North Korea — except at our hotel — which was on an island in the middle of the same river where the Pueblo was moored.
(photo by Blake Stilwell)
The tour of the Pueblo was just one event in a day packed with them telling their American visitors how awful our government is, how they definitely won that war we had (their holiday marking the end of the war is called “Victory Day”) despite overwhelming material and personnel losses, and how without Marshal Kim Jong-Un’s nuclear weapons, the Yankees and the corrupt regime in the South would immediately try to take over North again. Obviously.
The Pueblo is only the seventh ship to be captured since the American War with the Barbary Pirates and is the second oldest ship still commissioned by the U.S. Navy. The crew of the Pueblo (like Don McClarren, below) sure havn’t forgotten about it.
As of August 2012, the ship seemed in good condition, or as good as North Korea would allow it. Like everything else there, it could have used a coat of paint – which rumor has it – the ship has since received from the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum (Yes, that’s the real name of the museum and that’s really what the North Koreans call the Korean War, which is almost as ridiculous as the Monument to the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War. Because nobody does statues like Communists).
Before exiting through another gift shop, the tour of the Pueblo includes a trip below decks, where photography was strictly prohibited. They monitor Americans pretty closely so I wasn’t able to take a direct video of the presentation of the North Korean version of the Pueblo Incident. Luckily, finding a copy of it wasn’t too difficult.
The film is a priceless taste of the kind of propaganda the people in Pyongyang experience all the time.
Don’t let this accent fool you. North Koreans study for decades just to master foreign languages. One of our guides spoke four fluent languages and one North Korean randomly approached us on the street to say welcome — in perfect English, with a midwestern American accent.
President Donald Trump’s administration is warning Syria that further chemical attacks will be met with a strike like the salvo of 59 cruise missiles that lit up a Syrian air base in April 2017.
Syria would be “ill-advised to go back to violating the chemical convention,” Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said, the Washington Examiner notes.
Two senior administration officials warned that the US could take military action against Syria following a new rash of reports of chemical weapons used against civilians supposedly carried out by the country’s government, The Cipher Brief reported.But even bigger than another strike on Syria — which, while eye-catching, changed little geopolitically — the officials said the US was on to Syria’s backer and enabler: Russia.
“They’re not trying to fool us. They know what we know,” one of the officials said, meaning that Russia isn’t even trying to hide its role in the chemical attacks. “They’re trying to fool you.”
The official was referring to Russia’s media offensive to deny its connection to chemical weapons use in Syria.
An agreement between the US in Russia in 2013 bound Moscow to remove all chemical weapons from Syria, but as repeated instances of chemical weapons attacks show, that was simply not the case.
The officials’ statements to The Cipher Brief follow Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s statements that Russia “bears responsibility” for the chemical warfare still unfolding in Syria.
But while the Trump administration has resolved to punish Syria’s use of chemical weapons with military force, a change in tactics from Damascus may complicate things. Instead of the sarin gas used in April, which requires sophisticated assembly and deployment by an air force, the recent attacks have used chlorine gas, which can simply be dumped out of a truck.
Former US ambassador to Turkey and Washington Institute fellow James Jeffrey told BI that there have been persistent reports of chlorine attacks in Syria since 2013, and it’s not as clearly banned by international agreements as sarin.
Additionally, Jeffrey pointed out that the attacks have not been independently verified by an international agency, meaning it would be harder to build an international consensus around a strike.
“We are even more concerned about the possibility of sarin use,” said Mattis. “We are looking for the evidence.”
But with Russian and Iranian influence growing in Syria and posing a direct threat to US foreign policy interests, it’s possible that the Trump administration may look to make a statement that it’s not buying Russia’s excuses anymore.
As 600 more U.S. troops are headed to help retake Mosul, Iraq, from the Islamic State group, a young woman who escaped that city’s violence is celebrating her new title as a United States Marine.
Amanda Issa escaped with her family from Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, because of the rising threat of the Islamic State group. The Issas stayed in a refugee camp in Turkey for almost a year before moving to Michigan in 2011 — a move made for the promise of better education and more opportunities for the three Issa children.
Amanda, a teenager when she moved to the U.S., remembered the Marines she saw in Mosul during Operation Iraqi Freedom as heroes. Now, a Marine private first class herself, she wears the same Eagle, Globe, and Anchor and has the potential to be a hero for another little girl in her original homeland. She graduated in the top 10 in her high school and went on to earn an associates degree in global studies from Oakland Community College before enlisting in the Marine Corps.
But her journey to become a Marine wasn’t easy. In January she stepped on Parris Island’s iconic yellow footprints only to be injured a month later on a conditioning hike. The injury was bad enough that doctors told her she could be medically separated. Undaunted, she fought back and returned to training and eventually graduated with Platoon 4034, Papa Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion, on Sept. 30.
“Now, to be called a Marine is unbelievable,” she said shortly after making the Oath of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony. “Yeah, being a U.S. citizen is great, but I came here to be a Marine.”
It is unclear when Marines and other U.S. troops will join Iraqi forces in the invasion of Mosul, one of the last major cities held by ISIS. Defense officials say its up to Iraqi leaders to launch the operation, with several top generals saying Baghdad’s troops will likely be ready by October.
Army Ranger and Air Force Pararescueman Wil Willis is literally an American bad ass, so it makes sense Kid Rock’s epic song would make his Battle Mix playlist.
“Music became sort of this way of marking your time through the military.”
He’s not the only vet to talk about the impact music had on his time in the service. Like others, Willis has specific memories tied to the music he listened to while wearing the uniform, whether he connected with the lyrics or sang the songs to keep the cadence on unit runs.
“When you’re in the Ranger battalion, you’re the tip of the spear. ‘Break glass in case of war. Unleash hell’ — War Pigs is what that’s all about.”
Willis said he fought for family and love and adventure; for him, that was the whole point of service.
The next war will be dynamic and disruptive. To prepare for it, some US military leaders have embraced a mindset of “creative destruction” in order to challenge orthodoxy, adopt revolutionary changes, and even question how success should be defined on the battlefield of the future.
Along that line of thinking, for the past three years the US Army’s vaunted 75th Ranger Regiment has run an experimental military design cell called “Project Galahad.” This select team has subsequently gone against the grain of so-called conventional doctrine and investigated novel solutions to tomorrow’s warfighting problems.
“We need to be nimble and can’t hesitate to wipe the board when we need to,” Army Lt. Col. Adam Armstrong, a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment who served as a Project Galahad team member, told Coffee or Die Magazine.
According to a forthcoming article in the Special Operations Journal, Project Galahad was an “act of creative destruction” intended to “create cognitive space for experimentation.”
Armstrong described Project Galahad as a “mixed team of carefully selected officers and [non-commissioned officers] from diverse educational and experiential backgrounds chartered to think big with nearly complete autonomy, beholden only to the [regimental commander].”
“Done a lot of jobs — that’s easily in my top three,” Armstrong added.
With support from the Joint Special Operations University, since 2018 Project Galahad has become a permanent fixture within the 75th Ranger Regiment’s command system. The project’s goals include “fostering innovation” and “disrupting legacy systems to provide novel opportunities.”
Project Galahad implemented a decision-making process called “military design thinking.” A specialized field with roots in chaos and complexity theories, design thinking fosters divergent and experimental ways of problem solving.
Design thinking spurs its practitioners to “challenge their fundamental beliefs” in order to “reframe” a situation. According to the methodology, if you see problems in a different light, you’re more likely to produce innovative solutions.
An early version of design thinking called “Systemic Operational Design theory” — a product of the Israeli Defense Force’s Operational Theory Research Institute — was put into action by select US military teams on the battlefields in Afghanistan and Iraq during the mid-2000s. Since then, the methodology has become more mainstream within the US military as it prepares for a new era of great power competition.
“History seems to show folks rarely know when they are in need of a revolutionary change until circumstances force it upon them,” Armstrong said.
America’s military personnel have the natural attributes of autonomy, creativity, and the appetite for taking risks that are necessary to combat modern adversaries. US society is unique in the value it places on novel and unconventional thinkers. We praise the rule breakers. Whereas in many other countries — particularly those of America’s primary adversaries, Russia and China — that sort of proclivity for independent thought is not inculcated in citizens throughout their lives. So, some say that a design cell like Project Galahad is an effective way for US military units to take advantage of their premier battlefield advantage — the independent character of American troops.
Answering directly to the regimental commander, Project Galahad does not implement policy. Rather, this unique team is charged with bucking orthodoxy and coming up with new ways of doing business. Unlike some other innovation-geared groups and think tanks within the US military, Project Galahad is meant to keep its pulse on the day-to-day realities of regimental life, as well as the requisites of real-world combat.
Prior to the beginning of Project Galahad in 2018, the military design process had already been used for solving real-world combat problems within the 75th Ranger Regiment. Once enacted, Armstrong said Project Galahad was subsequently geared toward “ill-defined, often nascent, and ambiguous problem sets.”
To foster creativity, the Project Galahad team members created a workspace more analogous to a Silicon Valley startup than an elite special operations unit. They covered the walls with whiteboards and Post-it notes and established dedicated collaborative spaces. They even repainted the interior in “less depressing paint than the bland tan colors found in so many government buildings,” Armstrong said. The overarching goal was to spur abstract thought. And, in that vein, the team frequently turned their cellphones and computers off and engaged in what they called “deep thought sessions.”
“By using abstract thought we found we could conceptualize things that maybe we hadn’t thought of, see things we wouldn’t have otherwise seen,” Armstrong said.
The team’s composition, too, was key to its success in generating innovative ideas. There was a major who studied music in university and who was, in Armstrong’s words, a “completely disruptive thinker.” There was a master sergeant who’d spent his career within the regiment and had an MBA “from a very high-end program.” There was a midcareer officer with a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear background, a retired Army master sergeant, and a young officer with only one year in the regiment.
“Each Ranger brought a unique perspective — officer, enlisted, lots of time and life experience, or less,” Armstrong said, adding: “We also kept each other honest. Everyone had a voice, people could question things, we could argue. I was well out of my comfort zone, but that became comfortable after a few months.”
Still, it was difficult for Project Galahad team members to “reframe.” For his part, Armstrong said that after spending 10 years in the 75th Ranger Regiment, he had a lot of “institutionalization” to kick.
“My undergraduate degree is in physics, with almost 10 years in the regiment and an infantry officer — that’s about as ‘regimented’ as they come,” Armstrong said, adding: “We found that the key for Galahad’s team members was their assimilation through structured professional development. Team members went through courses on critical thought, basic and advanced design, and even cognitive optimization.”
Rangers Lead the Way
The Army’s premier special operations direct action raid force, the 75th Ranger Regiment is headquartered at Fort Benning, Georgia. The Rangers specialize in joint special operations raids and joint forcible entry operations.
“The Rangers are the most elite large-scale fighting force the Army has to offer,” the Army says on its website. “Their mission, depending on the operation, can range from airfield seizure to special reconnaissance to direct action raids on select targets and individuals, and they have a rich operational history.”
Ranger units have always been outliers within Army doctrine. The concept of “standing orders” was adopted by US Rangers during the French and Indian War — from 1754 to 1763 — to facilitate the execution of small-unit raids.
Following the Vietnam War, a new, permanent peacetime Ranger battalion was established to be a “change agent” within the Army. It has gone through a series of expansions since then, from a single battalion to a regiment, and more recently adding a special troops battalion and military intelligence battalion. Thus, the experimental Project Galahad program is well suited to the 75th Ranger Regiment’s institutional culture, which remains receptive to novel and unconventional solutions to combat problems.
Since October 2001, the 75th Ranger Regiment has been continuously deployed in support of counterinsurgency fights that stemmed from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. War is always chaotic and dangerous and unpredictable. Yet, over the past two decades of unending combat, war has — in the American experience — existed, more or less, within a fairly consistent battlefield architecture. The nature of combat, the terrain within which it is fought, and even the general nature of the enemy haven’t significantly changed since 2001.
So, while the US military is battle-hardened after 20 years of counterinsurgency combat, all that experience doesn’t necessarily translate into a battlefield advantage against modern adversaries such as China and Russia. When Project Galahad was created, the Rangers faced “plenty of problem sets related to national security, which we knew had the potential to be very different from our experiences of the last 20 years,” Armstrong said.
The unrelenting pace of two decades of constant counterinsurgency combat has been an obstacle to the regiment’s ability to foster innovative, novel solutions to burgeoning threats. In short, the real-world demands of combat took precedence over the kind of “creative destruction” needed to adapt to new threats from burgeoning great-power competitors.
“The operational demand for continuity leaves little room for those who stray outside time-proven institutional practices. The uncertainty of war makes experimentation, even in conceptual forms, a difficult and controversial undertaking,” according to an excerpt from a forthcoming article in the Spring 2021 issue of the Special Operations Journal.
After its conception, Project Galahad helped the 75th Ranger Regiment to address future problems without diverting time and energy away from the management of ongoing combat operations.
“Project Galahad was able to take the problem set on, run it through some design iterations, and then bridge to plans while staying linked in with the regimental commander and our [higher headquarters],” Armstrong said. “Overall, I think that provided a much better product, while allowing quality to remain high on everything else that the regiment was working.”
Project Galahad’s purview also extends to the most basic institutional standards of the US military, including chain of command systems that date back to the 19th-century Prussian army.
In 2017, Col. Brandon Tegtmeier, then commander of the 75th Ranger Regiment, “recognized the risk posed by a legacy paradigm that applied yesterday’s practices to tomorrow’s challenges,” write the authors of the excerpted Special Operations Journal article, which was posted to Facebook.
The Prussian army’s general staff system became the gold standard for Western military chains of command after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 to 1871. For his part, Tegtmeier “decided to take unconventional action toward his own organizational form and took steps to upend the legacy, Prussian-designed Regimental staff system,” the Special Operations Journal reports.
The article’s authors add: “[Tegtmeier] saw the emerging complex security environment of the 21st century as something that required a new way of operating at the Regimental level, starting with his staff’s structure and processes.”
‘Studio for War’
The 2018 US National Defense Strategy made it clear that the preeminent challenge to the US was no longer terrorism but near-peer competitors such as Russia and China. That document underscored the ongoing evolution of thinking within the Pentagon that has spurred changes spanning the gamut from the creation of the US Space Force to the development of new battlefield technologies like artificial intelligence and ultra-long-range artillery systems.
In June 2017, Tegtmeier charged a small team with investigating how the legacy Prussian command system was hobbling his unit’s ability to face new threats. His team came back and confirmed that, yes, the 150-year-old chain of command was indeed a hindrance to innovation. The team also identified an “insular culture” that this old system created, which was also stifling innovation.
Tegtmeier’s investigative team proposed two options to shake things up. He could either implement a top-to-bottom upheaval of the current command system or put in place a “standing cross-functional team” to address specific challenges outside the normal chain of command.
According to the excerpted Special Operations Journal article: “The re-organize option that flipped the Prussian-style staff structure on its head would be recognized as the superior option, despite the vast undertaking required.” However, that option also “risked functional chaos,” the article states.
“The process of analyzing which direction to go was pretty involved — and [Tegtmeier] was leaning toward a complete restructure for most of it,” Armstrong said. “He wanted to eliminate the typical ‘silo’ effect you get in conventional staff structure.”
The Rangers are still at war, and sweeping changes to a 150-year-old command system might be too risky to carry out when lives are still at risk and American national security is still at stake. The regiment’s leadership also worried that the “re-organize option” could adversely affect the unit’s interoperability with the rest of the Army.
Moreover, by existing wholly outside the normal chain of command, the cross-functional team option would likely face less institutional resistance. According to the Special Operations Journal: “It would be a dynamic and highly experimental ‘studio for war’ within the Regiment, unlike any other staff function.”
Ultimately, the cross-functional team option was chosen for its practicality. Thus was begot “Project Galahad.” The project’s name is a nod to a legendary World War II unit, known as “Merrill’s Marauders,” which saw combat in Southeast Asia.
“‘Project Galahad’ was the answer to what I saw as a dire need in our formation — the ability to mass quickly on complex, ambiguous problems without a loss in capacity for the rest of our Regimental staff, already consumed with force generation, force modernization, day to day warfighting, and sustaining readiness for contingencies,” said Tegtmeier, the former 75th Ranger Regiment commander, according to the excerpted Special Operations Journal article.
The Project Galahad team quickly identified “tensions” in the unit. One example: the occasional disparities between the qualifications that make a good Ranger versus what’s most beneficial for career advancement within the Army’s promotion system. That includes the need for Rangers to pursue higher education for the sake of their Army careers — all while maintaining the regiment’s unrelenting operational tempo.
One Project Galahad success story is in the so-called “war for talent” — or, in other words, the ongoing effort to improve recruiting and retention, and to “take care of our people,” Armstrong said. Due to Project Galahad’s recommendations, the 75th Ranger Regiment implemented the “Phalanx” program, which, according to Armstrong, has been instrumental in fostering a healthy unit culture that spurs the regiment’s Rangers to achieve peak performance.
‘Meat on the Bones’
Disruptive change is not always an easy ask within the hierarchical command structure of the US armed forces. Contrarian thinkers may be reluctant to buck the system for myriad reasons — such as the potentially negative consequences on one’s prospects for career advancement.
In short: the hierarchical command system that maintains order and discipline amid the fog of war may not be ideal for fostering creative brainstorming sessions within peaceful circumstances. Still, the so-called old ways remain useful when it comes time to turn innovative ideas into action on the battlefield.
“Design allows you to frame a problem and identify some potential solutions but it still requires a bridge and handoff to plans teams for some detail work, placing meat on the bones,” Armstrong said.
“Conventional chains of command can be pretty ideal […] particularly in a time-constrained environment,” he added. “All that said — [for a] complex problem, when I have the time, I’m probably going to apply design whenever possible.”
While the 75th Ranger Regiment’s Project Galahad has proven successful, other Department of Defense programs geared toward the generation of innovative solutions to tomorrow’s problems have not fared as well under current budgeting priorities.
In October, Coffee or Die Magazinereported on the Army’s decision to defund its University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies — colloquially known in military circles as the “Red Teaming University.” The news followed the Army’s recent decision to shut down its Asymmetric Warfare Group, as well as the Marine Corps’ recent decision to close an experimental training program that focused on complex urban terrain called Project Metropolis II.
Some military experts have criticized these moves as shortsighted and part of a broader prioritization of Pentagon resources toward acquiring new technologies, rather than researching how doctrine should evolve to combat modern threats.
Throughout history, US military-industrial dominance has permitted the luxury of warmup periods in its wars to arrive at a coherent strategic vision and develop workable tactics to achieve victory. Famously, US military forces honed their combat acumen on the North African front in World War II before embarking on the liberation of Europe.
In his Pulitzer Prize-winning account of the Allied North African campaign, An Army at Dawn, Rick Atkinson wrote: “Like the first battles in virtually every American war, this campaign revealed a nation and an army unready to fight and unsure of their martial skills, yet willful and inventive enough to prevail.”
However, against a near-peer adversary such as Russia or China, US military forces will have less time to hone their tactics and find their confidence in battle. The next war may be over before America’s armed forces learn how to fight it. Thus, one key goal of experimental programs like Project Galahad is to spur innovations to combat future threats before meeting them for the first time while in a war.
“That’s the classic innovation conundrum,” Armstrong said. “I think getting it right, 100%, the first time is pretty tough — but I think the employment of concepts like design are going to help us get closer to the mark, and hopefully save us from having to learn some hard lessons at high cost.”
He added, “I am a firm believer that design would work anywhere in the Army, something as simple as applying design thinking to routine problems could be hugely impactful.”
The US Air Force was forced to terminate an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile July 31, 2018, in response to an unsafe “anomaly” that emerged during a test, according to Air Force Global Strike Command.
The 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California ordered the destruction of the $7 million ICBM early July 31, 2018, eliminating it over the Pacific Ocean. Global Strike Command refused to comment as the incident is under investigation.
Air Force Gen. John Hyten, head of US Strategic Command, described the test as “perfect,” at least until “somewhere in flight, we saw an anomaly.”
“The anomaly was going to create an unsafe flight condition, so we destroyed the rocket before it reached its destination,” he said at the 2018 STRATCOM Symposium on Aug. 1, 2018, according to Military.com. “It was the smart thing to do.”
Tests occur regularly, but failures are much more infrequent. Hyten told his audience that the last failure happened in 2011, with the one before that occurring in 2009.
Explaining that this is a “rare thing that is in the missile business,” Hyten said that “now we have to go figure out what happened.”
An unarmed U.S. Air Force Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test at 1:23 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time Monday, May 14, 2018, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Aubree Milks)
One possibility, and potentially the most likely given the STRATCOM’s chief’s characterization of the incident as the emergence of an “unsafe flight condition,” is that the missile veered off course, forcing a Mission Flight Control Officer’s hand. The motto among the MFCOs is reportedly “track ’em or crack ’em,” according to Popular Mechanics, which sent reporters to observe one of these tests firsthand.
In the initial phase of flight, the MFCO may have only a matter of seconds to make the critical decision to terminate a missile, making that individual the sole decision maker for the weapon’s fate. In the later phases, the officer might act on the consent of his/her superiors.
If the officer detects that the missile will cross any predetermined safety lines, that individual will reportedly “send a function,” causing the missile to crack and spiral into the ocean.
While July 31, 2018’s decision to destroy the ICBM was purportedly “smart,” not every executed self-destruct sequence is intentional.
Human error, specifically the pressing of the wrong button, caused a test of a US missile defense system to end in failure July 2017. A tactical datalink controller on the destroyer USS John Paul Jones accidentally identified an incoming ballistic missile as a friendly system, resulting in the initiation of a self-destruct sequence for the SM-3 interceptor, Defense News reported at the time.
The initial report from the US Missile Defense Agency said that the interceptor missed the target, revealing that the “planned intercept was not achieved.” During a later test in January 2018, an SM-3 Block IIA interceptor fired from an Aegis Ashore missile defense facility in Hawaii also failed to achieve the desired intercept.
Hyten said that July 31, 2018’s test failure is exactly why the US tests its systems. “We have to make sure that things work. We learn more from failures than we do successes,” he said, adding that the unsuccessful test does not weaken America’s offensive capabilities.
“I have a full complement of ICBMs on alert,” he explained.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
War is a strange time, and there is perhaps no stranger one in history than World War II.
From rumors that the Nazis were involved in occult research — rumors that have been successfully mined in films like Indiana Jones and comic books like Hellboy— to ominous sightings, mysterious battles, and ghostly planes, World War II scarred the world, and left behind countless mysteries, many of which have never been solved.
We’ve written in the past about some of these, such as the vanishing Amber Room, but now we’re going to investigate a few of the spookiest, eeriest, and most uncanny enigmas left behind by the Second World War.
11. The Nazi Gold Train
Alleged hiding place of the train in Wałbrzych (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
In April of 1945, it was pretty clear to the Nazi forces that the war was almost over, and it wasn’t going in their favor. According to some accounts, they loaded a train with Nazi treasure, including gold and other valuables looted from Jewish victims of the Holocaust, and sent it on a trip through the Owl Mountains, where it disappeared. Some believe that the train vanished into tunnels created in the mountains as part of Der Riese, a secret facility built by the Nazis during the war. In spite of the efforts of countless treasure hunters over the decades, however, the so-called Nazi “ghost train” has never been recovered.
10. Foo Fighters
Even before the term UFO (or Unidentified Flying Object) had been officially adopted by the United States Air Force in 1953, pilots were spotting strange things in the sky. During World War II, they called these mysterious objects “foo fighters,” a name that was borrowed from the Smokey Stover comic strips of artist Bill Holman. Initially reported by the 415th Night Fighter Squadron, and named by their radar operator Donald J. Meiers, these objects were generally thought to be secret weapons employed by the Axis forces, though the Robertson Panel later determined that they were likely natural phenomena such as St. Elmo’s Fire.
9. The Disappearance of Flight 19
An artist’s depiction of Flight 19 (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
While technically occurring shortly after the end of the war, the disappearance of Flight 19 is notable in part because of its role in helping to establish the legend of the Bermuda Triangle. While on a training flight over that infamous patch of ocean, five Grumman TBM Avenger torpedo bombers lost contact with the tower. A Martin PBM Mariner flying boat was launched to search for the planes, which were assumed to have crashed, but the Mariner disappeared as well. No wreckage or bodies were ever recovered, either from Flight 19 or the Mariner, and Navy investigators were unable to determine a cause for the total disappearance of, in all, some 27 men and six planes.
8. The Pearl Harbor Ghost Plane
The P-40B is the only survivor from the Pearl Harbor attack (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
There are plenty of stories of ghost planes and strange sightings in the sky surrounding World War II, but perhaps none are as astonishing as the “Pearl Harbor ghost plane.” On December 8, 1942—nearly a year to the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor—an unidentified plane was picked up on radar headed toward Pearl Harbor from the direction of Japan.
When U.S. planes were sent to investigate, they saw that the mystery plane was a Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, the kind that had been used by American forces in the defense of Pearl Harbor and not used since. They said that the plane was riddled with bullet holes, and that the pilot could be seen inside, bloody and slumped over in the cockpit, though he is said to have waved briefly at the other planes just before the P-40 crash-landed. When search teams explored the wreckage, however, they found no body, and no indication of a pilot, simply a diary that claimed that the plane had flown from Mindanao, an island some 1,300 miles away.
7. The Battle of Los Angeles
The attack on Pearl Harbor shocked America so much that it probably comes as no surprise that when an unidentified object was spotted in the sky over Los Angeles only a few months later, the response was swift. Witnesses described the object in question as round and glowing orange. It didn’t take long for searchlights to begin sweeping the skies or for anti-aircraft guns to fire more than 1,400 shells at the mysterious object. If anything was hit, no wreckage was found. In 1949, the United States Coast Artillery Association claimed that a weather balloon had started the shooting, while in 1983 the U.S. Office of Air Force History chalked the whole event up to a case of “war nerves.”
6. Hitler’s Globe
Hitler’s Globe was also known as the Führer Globe (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Made famous by Charlie Chaplin in his film The Great Dictator, Hitler really did have an enormous globe with a wooden base in his office. Manufactured by the Columbus factory, the globe was one of Hitler’s most prized possessions, but after the end of the war, it was never seen again. Some claim that a globe, recently auctioned by its owner, was Hitler’s, but historian Wolfram Pobanz disputes that, saying the globe in question actually belonged to Joachim von Ribbentrop.
5. Die Glocke
During World War II, Nazi propaganda popularized the idea of a number of Wunderwaffe, or “Miracle Weapons” that were supposedly going to help Germany win the war. Most of these weapons remained prototypes or even simply theoretical, but the idea of them entered the public consciousness, and has proven fertile ground for science fiction writers over the years.
In the year 2000, a Polish journalist named Igor Witkowski described a particularly chilling Wunderwaffe known as Die Glocke, German for “The Bell.” This bell-shaped weapon was said to be roughly 12 feet tall, and contained two rotating cylinders filled with a metallic liquid known as Zerum-525. When activated, the terrifying weapon was supposed to create a zone of effect around itself that would cause blood to coagulate inside the body and plants to decompose. Many of the scientists who worked on Die Glocke were said to have died while testing it, though the weapon was never used and, depending on whom you believe, may never have actually existed at all.
4. The Blood Flag
Hitler is accompanied by the Blutfahne (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Before the rise of the Third Reich, the infamous Nazi flag had already made its appearance during Hitler’s failed Beer Hall Putsch of 1923. During the fighting that followed, the flag was soaked in the blood of Nazi Brown Shirts, and became a potent symbol of the movement.
Throughout the war, Hitler would use replicas of the flag, which was sometimes referred to as the Blutfahne, or “Blood Flag,” in rallies, but the flag itself was last seen in 1944. Some believe that the bloodstained flag was destroyed during the Allied bombing of Munich, while others assert that the flag still exists. Many have claimed ownership of it over the years, but no claims have been proven.
3. 17 British Soldiers at Auschwitz
In 2009, during excavations at perhaps the most infamous of the Nazi concentration camps, a list was found containing the names of 17 British soldiers. What is unclear is what the list was a list of. Were these former prisoners of war, or defectors who joined the SS? What’s more, some of the names had marks by them, which seemed to indicate something, though what they indicated remains unclear.
2. Who Turned in Anne Frank?
Through her famous diary, Anne Frank has become one of the most well known voices of the atrocities of the Holocaust. The diary was written while Frank was hiding in Amsterdam, but she ultimately died in the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp. While her diary shed light upon much of her life, the reason for her death remains a mystery. Someone must have reported her, but who ultimately made the anonymous phone call that led to the capture and execution of Anne Frank and her family?
1. Big Stoop
For a war that was fought more than 70 years ago, the number of Allied soldiers who remain listed as MIA is staggering, clocking in at more than 70,000. Many of these men disappeared in the war’s Pacific theater, where oceans, islands, and jungles made recovery—and discovery—difficult. Among these were the crew of a B-24 bomber called Big Stoop, shot down near Palau. For decades, the plane and its crew were considered lost, with no wreckage or bodies to be found. It wasn’t until 2004 that the plane’s fuselage was located by a team of divers, and not until 2010 that the families of the crew were able to bury at least some of their bones in Arlington National Cemetery, though mysteries still surround the exact fate of the bomber.
These are just a few of the strange and unexplained events that took place during and surrounding the Second World War. Even when the mysteries of war find solutions, the fog that war leaves behind often obscures as much as it reveals, and there can be no doubt that the aftermath of World War II left many other secrets behind, some of which we may still not be aware of even today.
A South Carolina World War II veteran’s family, along with Congressman Joe Wilson and Rep. Bill Taylor, R- SC, recently honored the war hero with the Bronze Star, which he actually received 73 years ago.
On May 20, Aiken County’s James “Boots” Beatty, 96, was presented the award that was authorized in 1944, but he was never notified.
Now, after decades, Wilson and Taylor presented the Bronze Star.
“I honored him recognition from the South Carolina House of Representatives,” Taylor said. “Boots was one of the original military ‘tough guys’. He served in the famed Devil’s Brigade, our county’s First Special Forces Unit and the forerunner of Delta Force, the Navy Seals.”
The Bronze Star Medal, unofficially the Bronze Star, is a United States decoration awarded to members of the United States Armed Forces for either heroic achievement, heroic service, meritorious achievement, or meritorious service in a combat zone.
Beatty received this and several other awards during a special surprise presentation at his home in Aiken.
“Today’s recognition was a surprise arranged by his loving family who didn’t know of his special service until they discovered it six years ago because he never told them,” Taylor said.
Jim Hamilton, Beatty’s son-in-law, and several other family members also presented other medals and decorations Beatty won, but lost over the many years.
Beatty also was presented with the Good Conduct medal, which was approved by the Secretary of War on Oct. 30, 1942; the European — African — Middle Eastern Campaign Medal is a military award of the United States Armed Forces which was first created on Nov. 6, 1942 by executive order 9265, issued by President Franklin D. Roosevelt; and the World War II Victory Medal, Hamilton said.
He also received the Active Duty Army Minute Man Lapel Pin, Combat Infantryman Badge, and the Expert Infantryman Badge.
While Black Hawks, Apaches, and Chinooks usually get top billing when the Army comes out to play at air shows and sporting events (plus the occasional MH-6 Little Bird when special operation aviators come to play), the service does have another helicopter quietly working behind the scenes to plug crucial gaps: the UH-72 Lakota.
But another reason the Lakota doesn’t usually get on the front page is that it doesn’t deploy. It wasn’t purchased to deploy, and then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno told Congress that it couldn’t go overseas as currently configured. It simply doesn’t have the necessary systems to protect itself from enemy fire and keep its pilots alive after crashes.
But the missions the Lakota can do are still important. It’s a workhorse that can fly in rough weather and provide assistance during disaster response. That’s a big part of why it’s primarily flown by National Guard units. It may not be expected to fight and win in the deserts of the Middle East, but it can hoist a family out of hell or high water during a wildfire or flood.
(Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office Scott Sturkol)
And it can do so at a discount. It costs 30 to 50 percent less to fly per flight hour than a Black Hawk according to Sikorsky estimates, partially thanks to the lack of all those protective systems that a Black Hawk has.
This is especially valuable when the UH-72 is used as an air ambulance, which it often is. Litter crews can load a patient in quickly and safely from multiple angles, and the helicopter can carry two litters and a medic per flight. In its utility role, it can carry eight troops instead of the two passengers.
All of this makes the Lakota great for homeland security and disaster response, and the Army has even made it the primary helicopter in its training fleet.
But don’t expect it to become the shiny crown jewel in the Army’s fleet. Modifying the Lakota to take on the Black Hawk’s mission or anything similar would drastically drive up costs and, without upgraded engines, adds little in terms of capability. And the Army is already shopping for more exotic designs like the tilt-rotor V-280 Valor and Sikorsky’s S-97 Raider with its compound rotor and push propeller.
Amid the extensive flooding in Nebraska and across the Midwest, farms, ranches, and feedlots have seen damages that will likely be far in the millions. Preliminary estimates of the overall damage in Nebraska are about $650 million. But it’s important to remember that the damage is ongoing, and that’s why the Nebraska National Guard delivered hay by air and land on March 25.
(Yeah, we know it sounds weird that getting hay wet can start a fire. In the broadest possible strokes: Wet hay composts in a way that generates lots of heat. The heat builds enough to dry some of the outer hay and then ignite it, then fire spreads.)
Cows fed affected hay, at best, can become malnourished. At worst, they are poisoned by the mold.
Nebraska National Guard soldiers provide assistance during flood relief
(Nebraska Air National Guard Senior Master Sgt. Shannon Nielsen)
So, when ranchers and farmers in Nebraska reported that they had some cows safe from the floods and rain, but they were susceptible to becoming malnourished or poisoned by the only feed available, the National Guard planned a way to get fresh, safe hay to them.
Deliveries were conducted via helicopters and truck convoy, getting the feed past flooded roads and terrain and into the farms where it can do some good. In some cases, CH-47 Chinooks are rolling massive bales of hay off their back cargo ramps, essentially bombing areas with fresh hay. This allows them to reach areas where cattle might be trapped and starving, but even ranchers can’t yet reach.
Hopefully, this will ameliorate some of the damages from the storms. But the storms have already hit military installations hard and, as mentioned above, are thought to have caused over half a billion in economic damages.
Moving to a new base is a family decision as much as it is a career move. When considering where to go, there is so much to think about beyond career path; for instance, health and well-being, proximity to family, available health services and more.
Besides, sometimes it’s just fun to live somewhere new! As a military family, you’re likely used to frequent moves. But you can also find the right move that suits your interests, career changes, and more. Moving is a given, but when you get a say in where to go, it can make all the difference in mindset and family unity.
Consider finding a duty base that best suits your family needs for your next stop by:
Fulfilling family needs
First things first, what does your family need? Do you have a family member with certain medical needs? What type of amenities need to be nearby? Look at the proximity and quality of services close to each possible duty station. This information should be available online, with reviews so you can consider a move from afar. Military bases themselves might also offer this information, letting you know in advance what types of treatments are approved at each base. Or, find those who live there already and ask around.
Other things to consider include unique aspects to an area, preferences for climate, distance to important landmarks in your life (family, facilities, etc.).
Of course, moving somewhere new can be a great deal of fun! If you’re ready to try out a new location, think about what can be done and how it’s different from your current duty station. What activities are available that you can’t do now? (Snow skiing, hockey, sailing, rock climbing, and more.) Can you easily travel to landmarks that interest your family? Will you be able to adapt to weather changes easily?
Look at the option for adventure when considering your next base and what type of activities each family member can take on. Keep fun and adventure in mind so you can experience new cultures as well as all there is to be seen.
Looking at career moves
It’s also important to keep career changes in mind with a potential PCS. How will the move affect your military member’s career path? Is there a compromise for their best move that will also help the family? Look toward a solution that helps — or at least doesn’t hurt — a career projection in years to come.
This, of course, is based on you or your spouse’s job in the service. Some jobs will have more location choices than others, while others might head to various bases, depending on the point they are at in their career.
Taking a vote!
If your kids are old enough, consider a family vote to decide where you might PCS. After all, they’re being affected by this move, too, so it’s only fair to consider their wants! It may or may not make a difference in the long run, but it’s worth having a discussion.
Besides, a good old fashioned family vote just seems fun! While parents have final say (and ultimately the military has final final say), it can help kids to feel included and welcomed as part of the family when voting on upcoming PCS locations.
All in all, there is much to consider when looking at military moves. Look at responsible aspects, such as infrastructure and promotion path, but also consider just how much fun is to be had at potential addresses.
How does your family decide where to move next? Tell us below.
Aluminum has served in war since ancient times, but its most common application today is as armor, allowing for well-protected but light vehicles that can tear through rough terrain where steel would get bogged down. But aluminum has an unearned reputation for burning, so troops don’t line up to ride in them under fire.
Crewmen in the coupla of an M-2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle elevate the barrel during a 1987 exercise.
(U.S. Army Pfc. Prince Hearns)
Aluminum got its start in war as alum, a salt composed of aluminum and potassium. This was one of the earliest uses of aluminum in military history. Ancient commanders learned you could apply a solution of the stuff to wood and reduce the chances it would burn when an enemy hit it with fire.
As chemists and scientists learned how to create pure aluminum in the 1800s, some military leaders looked to it for a new age of weaponry. At the time, extracting and smelting aluminum was challenging and super expensive, but Napoleon sponsored research as he sought to create aluminum artillery.
Because aluminum is so much lighter than steel, it could’ve given rise to more mobile artillery units, capable of navigating muddy lanes that would stop heavier units. Napoleon’s scientists could never get the process right to mass produce the metal, so the ideas never came to fruition.
But aluminum has some drawbacks when it comes to weapon barrels. It’s soft, and it has a relatively low melting point. So, start churning out cannon balls from aluminum guns, and you run the risk of warping the barrels right when you need them.
Instead, the modern military uses aluminum, now relatively cheap to mine and refine, to serve as armor. It’s light, and it can take a hit, making it perfect for protection. The softness isn’t ideal for all purposes, but it does mean that the armor isn’t prone to spalling when hit.
But aluminum’s differences from steel extend deep into the thermal sphere. While aluminum does have a lower melting point than steel, it also has a higher thermal conductivity and specific energy (basically, it takes more heat to heat up aluminum than it does to heat up steel). So it can take plenty of localized heat without melting away.
An armored personnel carrier burns in the streets of Egypt during 2011 protests.
(In industrial applications that rely on aluminum burning, the process is usually started by burning another metal, like magnesium, which burns more easily and releases enough heat, and the aluminum is crushed into a fine powder and mixed with oxygen so that the soot doesn’t halt the reaction.)
In a book published in 1993, after the Bradley became one of the heroes of Desert Storm, he claimed that the vehicles survived because of changes made after those tests. But while the Army might have switched the locations where ammo was stored and other design details, they didn’t change the hull material.
But, again, aluminum does melt. And the few Bradley’s that did suffer extended ammo fires did melt quite extensively, sometimes resulting in puddles of aluminum with the steel frame sitting on top of it. This spurred on the belief that the aluminum, itself, had burnt.
The M2A3 Bradley is capable, but troops don’t love its aluminum hull.
(Winifred Brown, U.S. Army)
But aluminum melts at over 1,200 Fahrenheit, hot enough that any crew in a melting aluminum vehicle would’ve died long before the armor plates drip off. Aluminum is great at normal temperatures, providing protection at light weights.
And so aluminum protects vehicles like the M2 Bradley and the M113 armored personnel carrier. The new Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle that is slated to replace the M113 has, you guessed it, an aluminum hull. But while troops might enjoy the increased space, they’ll probably leave off any discussion of the vehicle’s material while bragging.