Everyone remembers their oath of enlistment ceremony, but how many people can say theirs was truly out of this world? Tomorrow, over 800 soldiers participating in a ceremony spanning more than 100 locations around the country will be able to say theirs was. What makes this ceremony so special? It’s being administered by Army astronaut Col. Andrew Morgan from the International Space Station.
“This is an incredible opportunity for us to partner with Space Center Houston to recognize future Soldiers across the nation with a truly unique experience,” said Brig. Gen. Patrick Michaelis, USAREC deputy commanding general in a press release. Michaelis will facilitate the ceremony and question-and-answer session with Morgan. “This is the first event of its kind and will allow us to show the nation the breadth and depth of opportunities the Army offers today’s youth.”
According to USAREC, Morgan is part of the U.S. Army Astronaut Detachment, which supports NASA with flight crew and provides engineering expertise for human interface with space systems. He is an emergency physician in the U.S. Army with sub-specialty certification in primary care sports medicine and was selected to become an astronaut in 2013.
Morgan is also a combat veteran with airborne and ranger tabs and also has served as a combat diver. He’s clearly conquered land and sea, and now space. He’s completed seven spacewalks and one flight to the International Space Station. In addition to the enlistment ceremony, he’ll be sharing his stories and experiences with program attendees on a 20 minute live call from outer space.
Michaelis said, “We need qualified and innovative people to help us continuously adapt to the changing world. The young men and women who will begin their Army story with the incredible experience with Col. Morgan are part of our future. They will perform the traditional jobs most people associate with the Army, like infantry and armor, but they will also take on roles many people don’t realize we do – highly technical and specialized careers in science, technology, engineering and math.”
The oath of enlistment ceremony and question-and-answer session with Morgan will stream live on NASA TV, DVIDS, and U.S. Army Facebook and YouTube pages beginning at 12:50 pm eastern time. We’re over the moon about this event.
The patient transport team prepares to receive a patient aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) on April 2, 2020, while the ship is moored in New York City in support of the nation’s COVID-19 response efforts. Comfort serves as a referral hospital for non-COVID-19 patients currently admitted to shore-based hospitals.
Military medical staff are departing underused Navy hospital ships and field medical centers to relieve overburdened civilian doctors in New York City’s hard-hit hospitals as the coronavirus crisis wears on.
“We’re a fresh face, we’ve got the energy and enthusiasm,” said Air Force Col. Jennifer Ratcliff, who has brought medical teams to Lincoln Hospital and Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx.
The staff there “are tired and have been working very, very long days and weeks,” said Ratcliff, commander of the 927th Aerospace Medical Squadron at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida.
The Navy’s 1,000-bed hospital ship Comfort was sent to the city, arriving at Pier 90 in Manhattan on March 30, to take on the expected overflow of trauma patients from city hospitals as local doctors treated COVID-19 cases. But the patient flow has not materialized, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said at a Pentagon news conference Tuesday.
“The strategy has changed,” he said. “We’re moving off the Comfort our doctors, a portion of our doctors, and putting them into New York City hospitals to provide relief.”
He did not give the number of doctors being reassigned from the Comfort, but said a total of 2,100 military physicians, nurses and medical aides are now in the city and will be augmented soon by additional medical teams coming from the Army.
Ratcliff said the military reinforcements have been well-received.
“You can walk around the hospital and just see that the attendings and the residents are really happy to have us,” she added.
“We’re onboarding hospitals pretty much since we arrived,” Navy Capt. Joe Kochan said of the 1,100 volunteer doctors, nurses and medical aides from the reserves who deployed to the city last week.
“As it stands right now, we’re really pushing out into the hospitals to support their needs,” said Kochan, executive officer of the Operational Health Support Unit based at Portsmouth, Virginia.
When he announced the deployment of medical personnel into the city on April 5, Esper said about 300 would go to 11 city hospitals. It was unclear Tuesday whether that number had increased.
Kochan and Ratcliff joined Army Lt. Col. Leslie Curtis, chief nurse at the 9th Field Hospital out of Fort Hood, Texas, in a telephone conference from New York City to the Pentagon to stress the ongoing needs of the city despite the converted Javits Center and the Comfort being underused thus far.
Fifteen Urban Augmentation Medical Task Forces will be deployed nationwide to assist cities in the fight against coronavirus, and four of those task forces, each consisting of 85 personnel, will be sent to New York City, the Army said.
The military has sought to adjust its efforts in New York City to the shifting requests coming from city and state authorities.
The original intent was to have the Comfort and a field medical facility at the Javits Convention Center treat non-COVID-19 patients to ease some of the burden on overcrowded local hospitals. But the demand to treat non-COVID patients did not emerge in a city on lockdown.
The city then asked that the Comfort and the Javits Center be used only for COVID-19 patients, and the military agreed, but bureaucratic and logistical problems hindered the transfer of patients.
COVID-19 patients first had to be taken to local hospitals to be screened, but the agreement now is to have ambulances take patients directly to the Javits Center or the Comfort.
As of Monday, about 320 patients were at the 1,500-bed capacity Javits Center. The last report Friday from the Pentagon on the Comfort said that there were more than 50 patients aboard the 1,000-bed ship.
Curtis, who has been working at the Javits Center, acknowledged the delays in bringing in patients. “First, we had to determine what the needs were,” she said. Then, the focus turned to “streamlining the bureaucracy, which everyone wants to do at every level.”
“Every day, we’re finding more ways,” she said. “I think this is moving in the right direction.
“We do want to do this. We have the ability to scale up to whatever the demands are, based on the needs of the city or any particular mission that is required,” Curtis added.
There has been speculation that the Comfort might be pulled out of New York City and sent elsewhere, but Ratcliff said she had seen no signs that the military’s efforts in the city would slacken.
“The city, I believe, still needs our assets,” she said. “I don’t think there’s talk of scaling that back but, again, we’ll do whatever the government of New York needs.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday described a city still in need of support despite continuing signs that new coronavirus cases had hit a plateau.
“We’re reducing the rate of infection,” he said. But another 778 deaths from coronavirus were recorded in the city Monday.
“That is terrible, terrible, terrible news,” he said.
For the first time ever, HISTORY is gaining full, unprecedented access to one of the most infamous and secretive hotspots of paranormal and UFO-related activities on earth, Skinwalker Ranch, in a new one-hour nonfiction series, “The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch” premiering Tuesday, March 31 at 10PM ET/PT. Few have ever gained official access to Skinwalker Ranch, and none have ever been able to bring cameras onto the property for a television series, until now.
I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Travis Taylor, the lead astrophysicist of “The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch” about his journey and his experience investigating the unexplained phenomena in Utah’s Uinta Basin. Scientific research, tribal legends, and the unexplained converge at Skinwalker Ranch that you must see to believe.
Photo by History Copyright 2020
WATM: Why and how were you chosen for this project?
Dr. Travis Taylor: Well, first of all for the why and the how I don’t know what you know about me or how much you’ve read of my bio and that sort of thing. I have a PhD and a dual disciplinary degree in electrical engineering and physics called optical science of engineering – it’s basically quantum physics. I have another PhD in aerospace engineering, building and designing spacecraft and rockets. I have a Master’s degree in astronomy. I have a Master’s degree in physics. I have a Master’s degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering. I have a Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. Since I was 17, I’m 51 now, I’ve published about two dozen referee journal articles and well-respected peer review physics, and optics and military defense type journals.
As far as I know, I’m the only person besides my co-author of the book who has taken the idea seriously and written a textbook and a detailed examination on how we would defend the planet if we were actually invaded by aliens. Different types of invasions and what our military approach should and could be. In fact, I’m the only one who teaches from that text on the topic to the Air Force officer’s space school at Maxwell Air Force base. Now, I do that pretty much yearly and have for a while.
My background has been building spacecraft, rockets and high-energy laser weapons and things like that for DOD for a long time. I also am a science fiction writer and have written twenty-something best-selling science fiction novels, mostly military hard science fiction. With that background in mind, I was invited to start doing TV shows in the early 2000s which led to the next TV show and the next TV show and so on. When HISTORY and Prometheus were approached by the new billionaire owner of the Ranch to do an investigation, they said, “Well you need someone who is an experimentalist and who also is experienced with talking on TV and we recommend this guy.”
And that’s how that happened.
The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch: DANGEROUS RADIATION at UFO Hotspot (Season 1) | History
The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch: DANGEROUS RADIATION at UFO Hotspot (Season 1) | History
WATM: What was the first thing that stuck out to you about this investigation when you joined the team of researchers?
Travis Taylor: Well, when the invitation came to me to become a part of the investigation team and to lead the experiment portion of the research, at first I was very skeptical of the phenomena on the ranch being real or being some natural phenomena that maybe causes hallucinations, or unnatural phenomena that causes actual phenomena like lights in the sky or maybe there was a classified defense project. At no time did I think that I was going to find strange, unexplainable physical phenomena at least from the start. That was my philosophy or my thought going into it. But I did have an open mind that, hey, what if I find something that is unexplainable?
WATM: How was evidence gathered of the phenomena at the Ranch?
Travis Taylor: The way we approached it is, we had scientific instrumentation and sensors — as many as we could afford based on the budget we had — spread about the ranch that were collecting data continuously, 24/7. We also had security cameras placed in certain locations to give us as much of a full view of the ranch as possible that were running 24/7. Plus we had game cameras placed in locations that we could move if we thought there was a need to move them. We collected all this information and we went through the video and data pretty much on a daily basis. Plus, there was also multiple cameramen, camera crews and camera sites set up continuously throughout the investigation.
Photo by History Copyright 2020
WATM: Based on the evidence that you have gathered, what are your thoughts on why this phenomena specifically happens at Skinwalker Ranch?
Dr. Travis Taylor: That is an excellent question and we ask ourselves this all the time. Now, the first thing that I will say is that when the team and I talk about this, in no way do we believe that our man-made farming fences along the border of the 500 acres is keeping out any super, you know, physics hyper paranormal — whatever you guys want to call it, phenomenon within the borders of the ranch. In fact, people in the local in Fort Duchenne, Roosevelt and the other town that’s nearby, are all the time reporting phenomena occurring outside of the boundaries of the ranch. Now, that being said, if you look at the Uintah Basin on Google Earth, to me it looks like an ancient meteor impact crater. It looks like it came from the east to the west at a low inclination. And that’s what splattered the salt flats to the west of the Uintah Basin.
There’s Gilsonite all around the Uintah Basin which typically is only found in a meteor impact crater, plus all of the petroleum that is underneath the Uintah Basin. There are a lot of geologists and natural physicists now beginning to think that impact craters cause a phenomena that creates petroleum. If you look at this impact crater, the ranch is dead center give or take but it’s pretty much dead center. Perhaps [it has] something to do with the bowl shape of the basin or whatever caused the basin, made this the central or the nexus for whatever the activity might be.
Photo by History Copyright 2020
WATM: Would the government hide the evidence of extraterrestrials? What impact would that have on the population if they did or did not disclose evidence?
Dr. Travis Taylor:I honestly don’t believe the Brookings Report. I don’t think that people are going to go nuts. What does an invasion of something that’s invisible do to society? Well guess what it makes it’s all go hide in our houses and be afraid to touch anybody. That’s exactly what’s happening right now, as an alien invasion, with this COVID-19. Well I’m not saying the virus is from outer space.
What I’m saying is it’s alien to us and we’re having to defend it in the way that we figure out how to defend it. If there were an alien invasion, we’d have to figure out what type of invasion it were and then how to – what type it was and then go from there. It could be a bazillion possibilities on the type of invasion.
I don’t believe in big conspiracies. There’s no way that humans are adept enough and trust each other enough to create conspiracies so large it would take hundreds and hundreds of people to maintain it. Now there is the possibility that things have been classified for national security reasons.
At such time when it could be disclosed and not reveal a national security advantage, then I could see that taking place but what’s it going to do to the general public? Most people, the general public, believe there are aliens anyway. I don’t think it’s going to do anything except assure them — I’ll tell you what it will do to politics: it will improve the funding for programs to do research like the AATIP program, or like advanced spacecraft technology or like advanced spacesuit technology. Why all of our soldiers don’t have Iron Man suits I can’t explain that. We should be – that should be one of the biggest defense projects we have.
But we don’t spend any money on it. So that’s the things that will change is where we’re spending our money based on what we think the threats are. That’s all I think disclosure will do. The everyday person, I think, they’ll just say ‘I knew it all along, I told you so.’
Photo by History Copyright 2020
WATM: Is it possible that the phenomena observed is man-made, such as Top Secret weapons testing?
Dr. Travis Taylor: So, as a person who does weapons testing for his day job, I can tell you that would be so highly crazy illegal [and] that it’s nonsense. There would be people in jail. What I observed the first day on the ranch, we had a long discussion that if what we were observing was man-made. [What if] someone was violating federal laws and [what we would do] – we needed to alert the authorities if we could prove it was man-made. Then from that point on I realized what we were measuring was impossible even for mankind to make. At that point is when I dropped that line of discussion because I realized just flat out mankind was not doing what we are doing and it’s probably a skeptics coping mechanism because I did it too.
The first conclusion to an odd strange thing is ‘Oh that’s a classified government program’ and ‘Oh they’re doing human testing’ honestly like, you know, there were programs that the CIA did back in the 60s and 70s that I don’t think they’re proud of and where people were involved in those experiments. [So, if] you look at it nowadays, we realize now that you can’t do that and you won’t get away with it forever and somebody will go to jail. I just am thoroughly convinced that this is not some top-secret weapons testing program on people or whatever. Number one: there’s no site nearby that is doing that type of work and number two: they would eventually get caught and go to jail. There is oversight committees on classified programs in Congress and in the Senate. Eventually somebody would say, ‘Wait a minute you all can’t do that.’
Photo by History Copyright 2020
WATM: Okay, so now that we know that there isn’t a government conspiracy or illegal weapons testing — What is happening at Skinwalker Ranch?
Dr. Travis Taylor: So I’m not going to tell you what evidence was observed and what phenomena were observed because and, you know, it would be spoilers for the show. What I will tell you is yes, when you watch the show and you see the evidence we acquired that is scientifically verifiable, you’re going to be blown away because I was. I’m still amazed to this day and still have a hard time believing what I saw.
You can watch the new one-hour nonfiction series “The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch” premiering Today, Tuesday, March 31 at 10PM ET/PT.
Just as the Super Bowl was about to kick off this Sunday, viewers were treated to an amazing commercial celebrating the 100th anniversary of the NFL. Last season, the NFL broke out its first 100 year celebration commercial which featured an astounding amount of NFL legends playing a black-tie version of “kill the man with the ball.”
This year, the NFL took it outside and showed a kid fielding a kick and running across several NFL stadiums and cities, juking and avoiding tacklers and getting encouragement from various NFL legends telling him to, “Take it to the House Kid!”
We see Jim Brown, Joe Montana, Christian McCaffrey, Drew Brees, Payton Manning, Jerry Rice, and Barry Sanders, among others, as the kid takes the ball and (in an amazing, cool, interactive moment) runs onto the live Super Bowl field to deliver the game ball to the referees.
But there is one part of the vignette which really tugs at the heartstrings. One of the many stadiums the kid runs by is in Phoenix. As he nears, he stops at the statue honoring the late Pat Tillman.
Tillman was a safety for the Arizona Cardinals who famously turned down a .6 million dollar contract shortly after 9/11, so he could serve in the military. He and his brother enlisted in the Army, and Tillman became an Army Ranger. After serving one tour in Iraq, Tillman deployed to Afghanistan, where he was killed on April 24, 2004, in a friendly fire incident.
The homage to Tillman is an emotional moment and an integral part of American history.
The Air Force announced the return of several key Tyndall Air Force Base missions, as the base begins its long-term recovery following Hurricane Michael.
“We will rebuild Tyndall Air Force Base,” said Vice President Mike Pence while at the north Florida base Oct. 25, 2018.
A number of important missions will resume at Tyndall AFB in the next few months and others will shift to other locations for the time being. All but approximately 500 airmen will return to the Florida panhandle within 1 to 3 months.
“We are focused on taking care of our airmen and their families and ensuring the resumption of operations. These decisions were important first steps to provide stability and certainty,” said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. “We’re working hard to return their lives to normalcy as quickly as possible.”
Units that will resume operations at Tyndall AFB:
• The 601st Air Force Operations Center will resume operations no later than Jan. 1, 2019. • The 337th Air Control Squadron will resume air battle manager training at a reduced rate by Jan. 1, 2019. A full production rate is expected no later than summer 2019. • Air Force Medical Agency Support team will continue their mission of medical facility oversight. • Air Force Office of Special Investigations will continue their mission from usable facilities. • 53rd Air-to-Air Weapons Evaluation Group will remain at Tyndall AFB. • The Air Force Legal Operations Agency will continue their mission from a usable facility at Tyndall AFB. • Air Force recruiters will continue their mission from local area offices in the Panama City, Florida, area. • The 823rd Red Horse Squadron, Detachment 1, will continue their mission at Tyndall AFB. • The Air Force Civil Engineer Center will continue their mission at Tyndall AFB.
The courtyard of a student housing complex sits flooded with water and debris following Hurricane Michael on Oct. 10, 2018.
Units to be located at Eglin AFB, Florida, with reachback to Tyndall AFB:
• The 43rd and 2nd Fighter Squadrons’ F-22 Fighter Training and T-38 Adversary Training Units will relocate operations to Eglin AFB. Academic and simulator facilities at Tyndall AFB will be used to support training requirements, as well as Tyndall AFB’s surviving low observable maintenance facilities. • The 372nd Training Squadron, Detachment 4, will relocate with the F-22 Fighter Training Units to Eglin AFB.
Units with insufficient infrastructure to resume operations at Tyndall AFB at this time:
• Personnel and F-22s from the 95th Fighter Squadron will relocate to Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia; Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska; and JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. • The Noncommissioned Officer Academy will temporarily disperse across four locations: McGhee-Tyson Air National Guard Base, Tennessee; Maxwell AFB – Gunter Annex, Alabama; Keesler AFB, Mississippi; and Sheppard AFB, Texas.
The Air Force is taking great care to ensure airmen and their families are supported when they return to the base. Officials are working to identify specific airmen required to remain at Tyndall AFB for mission needs or to assist with the longer-term recovery of the base.
“By the winter holidays and in many cases well before, we expect all our airmen — military and civilians — to have certainty about their options, so that everyone is either on a path or already settled,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein.
“The strength of Tyndall (AFB) comes from its airmen and their families. It will take us a while to restore buildings and infrastructure, but returning our airmen and their combat missions to full strength — at Tyndall or somewhere else in the interim — will happen quickly,” he added.
As details are worked out, affected airmen will be contacted by their chain of command or the Air Force Personnel Center. In the meantime, airmen should continue to monitor the Tyndall AFB Facebook page and the Air Force Personnel Center website for additional details as they become available.
President Donald Trump paid a holiday visit Dec. 21 to wounded service members at Walter Reed National Medical Center, hailing them as “some of the bravest people anywhere in the world.”
During his visit, the president awarded the Purple Heart to 1st Lt. Victor Prato of the 127th Airborne Engineer Battalion, who was injured last month while deployed in Afghanistan.
Prato, 25, of Somers, New York, suffered multiple soft tissue injuries following a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device blast, according to the White House.
“One of the most powerful moments of my life watching @POTUS give the Purple Heart to this American Hero,” wrote press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Twitter, where she posted a photo of Prato. “Amazed by the strength and resilience of the men and women in our Armed Forces.”
Trump also met with other sick and injured service members from all branches of the armed forces, Sanders said.
Trump told reporters as he was leaving the White House en route to the medical center that he was going to “say hello to some of the bravest people anywhere in the world.”
“We’re just going to wish them a merry Christmas, a happy New Year,” he said. “We love those people.”
Recently, Russia released new video of the KH-35U “switchblade” anti-ship cruise missile in action, a weapon that can be fired from surface ships or aircraft and flies extremely quickly towards target ships, which are then destroyed in a massive explosion.
The video shows a Su-34 being prepared for takeoff, then jumps to ships being struck by a missile before cutting again to a Su-34 landing. The KH-35U carries an over-1,000-pound warhead and is reportedly capable of destroying vessels of up to 5,000 tons.
The Russians test fired eight missiles during the exercise, according to the Russian Defence Ministry, and all eight hit their targets.
The missile video is impressive and fun to watch, but it’s left many U.S. observers worrying. Russia claims the weapon is impossible to stop and that it renders all current ship defenses powerless.
Both the Su-57 and the T-14 were impressive programs on paper that slowly wilted in the bright light of day. Now, there are few orders for either platform, even from within Russia, as the capabilities ended up being low and the costs high.
(Alex Beltyukov and Vitaly V. Kuzmin, CC BY-SA)
But these are Russian defense claims about a Russian weapon, so it’s prudent to take them with a grain of salt. After all, the T-14 Armata and PAK FA (which became the Su-57) programs haven’t lived up to the hype.
But the KH-35U is a fielded weapon. The first KH-35 came out in the 1980s, and the U variant has been in the field for years. It flies close to the water, can be fired from aircraft ranging from helicopters to jets, and can be carried by surface ships. If Russia’s claims are accurate, it can eliminate destroyers and littoral combat ships with just one shot. Carriers would likely be crippled or destroyed with a shot, but certainly couldn’t withstand sustained bombardment.
A ship is destroyed by a KH-35U anti-ship cruise missile during a Russian test.
So, should America be shaking in its boots? Well, the target ship in the Russian video is a stationary, civilian vessel, and hitting that with a missile is a far cry from getting a cruise missile into the hull of an American carrier sailing at a decent clip with its Phalanx close-in weapon systems firing off rounds.
Meanwhile, the F-35C will have a range about 10 percent greater before aerial refueling. So, aircraft carriers will have plenty of breathing room as long as they keep the radars and patrols up.
But some task forces have little-to-no jet support, and a Su-34 or a similar aircraft could get within range and release the missile. And what’s worse is that the Russians may have already sold the missile to at least one other country. North Korea’s Kumsong-3 anti-ship cruise missile bears a striking resemblance to the KH-35U, meaning that a rogue state may be able to strike American ships from 500 miles away.
Though, again, we should avoid getting too far into speculation without our grains of salt. After all, the Russian military has a history of stripping down the export versions of their weapons, just like the U.S. And, ownership of a missile doesn’t mean you have the expertise and tactical excellence to properly employ it.
US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said August 24 the Trump administration is considering supplying weapons to Ukraine after a meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Kiev.
Mattis said he would return to the United States and advise leaders on what he learned during his visit to Ukraine.
Mattis’ trip is the first by a US defense secretary to Ukraine in more than a decade.
The meeting comes after US Treasury Department in June announced it would add 38 more individuals and entities to the Office of Foreign Assets Control’s list of those sanctions due to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
The move is an attempt to pressure Russia into following Minsk Protocol cease-fire agreement.
Mattis said the United States will continue to pressure Russia because it is “seeking to redraw international borders by force.” The Pentagon chief said the United States will continue to pressure Russia until Moscow changes its behavior.
“The US and our allies will continue to press Russia to honor its Minsk commitments and our sanctions will remain in place until Moscow reverses the actions that triggered them,” Mattis said.
The Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, Airborne, (SOAR-A), has earned the nickname “The Night Stalkers.”
Operating under the cover of night or the shadows of dawn, these elite pilots are responsible for getting special operators into and out of some of their most secret and dangerous operations.
Night Stalker pilots go through rigorous training to become mission-ready to fly in the most challenging conditions, including bad weather and enemy fire, all while relying on infrared and night-vision equipment to navigate through the darkness.
While many of the 160th SOAR’s operations are secret, it’s widely understood that they were involved in the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
A US Army MH-60M Blackhawk from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), June 19, 2019.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
The Night Stalkers fly a few different helicopters, including the MH-60 Black Hawk.
The 160th has over 3,200 personnel and 192 aircraft.
The Night Stalkers operate different versions of the Black Hawk, outfitted for dangerous and covert operations. In fact, all the aircraft the 160th uses are “highly modified and designed to meet the unit’s unique mission requirements,” according to the Army.
All the MH-60s the Night Stalkers use have in-air refueling capability, extending the aircraft’s ability to operate over long distances.
The Night Stalkers’s MH-60 Direct Action Penetrator (DAP) is a Black Hawk specially outfitted with an M230 30 mm automatic cannon. When the aircraft is modified to the DAP, it can move only small numbers of troops, according to US Special Operations Command (SOCOM).
A Navy aviation boatswain’s mate guides an Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment during deck landing qualifications aboard amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu, April 28, 2014.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dustin Knight)
The Night Stalkers also fly the MH-47 Chinook.
The 160th operates two variants of the MH-47 Chinook, a special-operations variant of the Army’s CH-47 Chinook.
The MH-47E is a heavy assault helicopter with aerial refueling capability, as well as advanced integrated avionics, an external rescue hoist, and two L714 turbine engines with Full Authority Digital Electronic Control that enables the MH-47E to operate in high-altitude or very hot environments, according to SOCOM.
The Night Stalkers fly the MH-47G Chinook as well, which has a multi-mode radar to help pilots navigate challenging conditions, as well as two M-134 “minigun” machine guns and one M-60D machine gun for defensive fire.
The MH-47 is used for a variety of operations, including infiltration and exfiltration of troops, assault operations, resupply, parachuting, and combat search and rescue.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Dave Currier, left, an MH-60M Black Hawk pilot, and Spc. Joseph Turnage, a UH-60 Black Hawk crew chief, with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) in Yuma, Arizona, Sept. 23, 2017.
(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brennon A. Taylor)
The 160th was born out of tragedy.
The Night Stalkers were formed after the botched attempt to rescue hostages from the US embassy in Tehran in 1979, known as Operation Eagle Claw.
During that operation, eight US service members were killed, and the need for a specialized group of aviators became apparent.
The 160th was formed in 1981, composed of soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, and was officially designated the 160th Special Operations Aviation Group (Airborne) in 1986.
What we know as the modern 160th was officially activated in 1990.
The Night Stalkers have been active in every military operation since Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada in 1983. The unit lost pilot Michael Durant during the Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia in 1993.
Two MH-47G Chinooks from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment prepare for aerial refueling over California, Jan. 19, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Snider)
The tempo of operations increased significantly after the terror attacks on September 11, 2001.
“At the height of Iraq, those guys were doing two to three missions a night,” a 10-year veteran of the unit with multiple tours to Afghanistan and Iraq told Insider.
“Once the mission has been accomplished, the only reward is another mission,” he said.
Once Night Stalkers are finished with a mission, “they’re not going to Disney World. They’re going back to wherever they came from. They’re going to train again.”
Night Stalker training simulates the challenging environments they’re going into, as well.
US soldiers, assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), practice loading and unloading on a 160th SOAR MH-47 Chinook during sniper training at Ft. Carson, Colorado, June 22, 2017.
(US Army photo by Sgt. Connor Mendez)
Women in the 160th see combat too.
“It’s just not all guys. At least the 160th has female pilots. They’re rowing the boat. They’re in the battle,” the Night Stalker veteran told Insider.
A 10th Special Forces Group soldier and his military working dog jump off a CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 160th SOAR during water training over the Gulf of Mexico, March 1, 2011.
The 160th’s motto — “Night Stalker’s Don’t Quit!” is attributed to Capt. Keith Lucas, the first Night Stalker killed in action.
“The purpose of that organization is to serve the most elite special forces in the United States,” a veteran of the unit told Insider.
“That unit’s gonna be on time, and it’s gonna fly like hell to serve the ground forces,” he said.
The Night Stalkers have a reputation of being on time within 30 seconds of every operation and say they’d rather die than quit.
The Night Stalkers’ motto — often shortened to “NSDQ!” — is vitally important to the team.
“It binds people that have been serving in that organization till now,” the veteran said. Lucas was killed in 1983, during Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada.
The MH-6 Little Bird is a helicopter unique to special operations that was developed in close collaboration with special operators and combat developers.
MH-6 and AH-6 Little Birds are also part of the 160th’s fleet.
These aircraft are small and maneuverable — perfect for use in urban combat zones where pilots must fly low to the ground among buildings and city streets.
The MH-6M and AH-6M are both variants of the McDonnell Douglas 530 commercial helicopter.
The MH-6M is the utility version that can also be used for reconnaissance missions. The AH-6M is the attack version and is equipped with Foward Looking Infrared, or FLIR, which shows crewmembers an infrared video of the terrain and airspace.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is calling for the eventual creation of a European army, echoing a suggestion by French President Emmanuel Macron that recently angered the U.S. president.
“What is really important, if we look at the developments of the past year, is that we have to work on a vision of one day creating a real, true European army,” Merkel said in a speech before the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Nov. 13, 2018.
“A common European army would show the world that there will never again be war between European countries,” she said.
Merkel said she envisioned a European army that would function in parallel with NATO and come under a European Security Council, centralizing the continent’s defense structure.
“Europe must take our fate into our own hands if we want to protect our community,” Merkel said.
Her comments came a week after Macron called for a European army that would give Europe greater independence from the United States as well as defend the continent against such possible aggressors as Russia and China.
His comments provoked an angry response from U.S. President Donald Trump and prompted Trump to step up calls on European countries to increase their contributions to NATO.
President Donald J. Trump visits Suresnes American Cemetery to honor the centennial of Armistice Day, Paris, France, Nov. 11, 2018.
(Photo by Cpl. Kevin Payne)
On Nov. 13, 2018, after returning from a visit to France where his clash with Macron featured prominently, Trump tweeted again on the subject.
“Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China, and Russia. But it was Germany in World Wars One Two — How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along. Pay for NATO or not!” Trump wrote.
Macron did not publicly respond to Trump’s latest tweet. But former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry noted that France helped the fledgling United States win its war of independence against Britain in the 18th century and criticized Trump for “insulting our oldest ally.”
“Stop tweeting! America needs some friends,” Kerry said.
The French and German proposals to create a European army are controversial within NATO and the EU, where many member states are reluctant to give up national sovereignty on defense issues.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has said “more European efforts on defense is great, but it should never undermine the strength of the transatlantic bond.”
That sentiment was echoed by U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Nov. 13, 2018.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
“We see NATO as the cornerstone for the protection of Europe in the security realm and we fully support nations doing more to carry the load,” Mattis said.
France has proposed the initial launch of a European intervention force backed by a small group of member states to handle crises in regions such as Africa, which could later be expanded into a European army.
Germany is critical of that proposal, however, as Macron would like to establish the new force outside the EU framework so as to involve the soon-to-depart Britain, which is a defense heavyweight within NATO.
The EU already has so-called battle groups to respond in crisis situations, though they have never been deployed.
Merkel’s speech came days after she announced that she will step down as chancellor when her current term ends.
The EU stands at a critical juncture, with Britain preparing to leave the bloc in March while populist, anti-EU forces are on the rise.
As head of the EU’s largest economy, Merkel has wielded considerable influence in the bloc during her nearly 13 years as chancellor.
But political wrangling at home has diminished her powers. Following months of infighting in her three-way coalition government and two disastrous state elections, Merkel announced on Oct. 29, 2018, that her current term as chancellor would be her last.
With two 20mm cannons, a 40mm automatic grenade launcher, five .50-cal. machine guns, and two weapon pods that could carry either 70mm rocket launchers or 7.62mm miniguns, the armored ACH-47A Chinook could fly into the teeth of enemy resistance and fly back out as the only survivor.
The aircraft boasted overlapping fields of fire and 360 degree coverage.
Operating under the call sign “Guns-A-Go-Go,” these behemoths were part of an experimental program during Vietnam to create heavy aerial gunships to support ground troops. Four CH-47s were turned into ACH-47As by adding 2,681 pounds of armor and improved engines to each bird.
The first three birds arrived in Vietnam in 1966 where they engaged in six months of operational testing. They were tasked with supporting the U.S. Army’s 1st Cavalry Division as well as a Royal Australian Task Force.
The Army Pictorial Service covered an early mission flown in support of the Australians where the attack Chinooks were sent to destroy known enemy positions.
Though the gunships performed well in combat, the Army was hesitant to expand the program because of high maintenance costs. Also, conventional CH-47s were proving extremely valuable as troop transports and for moving cargo.
Of the four ACH-47s created, three were lost in Vietnam. The first collided with a standard CH-47 while taxiing on an airfield. Another had a retention pin shake loose on a 20mm cannon and was brought down when its own gun fired through the forward rotor blades. The third was grounded by enemy fire and then destroyed by an enemy mortar attack after the crew escaped.
Since the gunships were designed to work in pairs, one providing security while the other attacked, the Army ordered the fourth and final helicopter back to the states. It was used as a maintenance trainer by the Army until 1997, when it was restored. It is now on display at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.
The call sign “Guns-A-Go-Go” was recently passed off to Company A of the Army’s new 4th Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
By February 1945, the cruel and inhumane treatment by the Japanese against their enemies was well known. As the Allies liberated the Philippines, the decision was made to attempt a rescue effort at the Cabanatuan Prison.
This rescue, often referred to as the Great Raid, liberated over 500 prisoners from Cabanatuan on Jan. 30, 1945. These prisoners then described their horrific treatment as well as the atrocities of the Bataan Death March.
This convinced the Allied commanders to attempt more rescue operations in order to save the lives of those held by the Japanese.
A plan was quickly drawn up, this time using paratroopers from the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
The first phase involved inserting the 11th Airborne’s divisional reconnaissance platoon along with Filipino guerrillas as guides.
Prior to the attack they would mark the drop zone for the paratroopers and landing beach for the incoming Amtracs. Others from the platoon would attack the sentries and guard posts of the camp in coordination with the landing of the paratroopers.
The second phase consisted of the landing and assault by the paratroopers. These men were from Company B, 1st Battalion, 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment along with the light machine gun platoon from battalion headquarters company. They were led by 1st Lt. John Ringler.
Simultaneous to the landing of the paratroopers, Filipino guerrillas from the 45th Hunter’s ROTC Regiment would attack the prison camp itself.
Together these two groups would eliminate the Japanese within and the Americans would gather them for transport from the camp.
The third phase of the operation would bring the remainder of the 1st Battalion, 511th PIR across the Laguna de Bay in Amtracs. These would then be used to transport the prisoners to safety.
Finally, another 11th Airborne element, the 188th Glider Infantry Regiment, would make a diversionary attack along the highway leading to the camp. The intent would be to draw the Japanese attention away allowing the paratroopers to escape with the prisoners.
All of this would happen nearly simultaneously. The amount of coordination of forces was tremendous.
Everything was set to go off at 7 AM on Feb. 23, 1945.
The first to depart for the mission were the men of the division reconnaissance platoon who set out the night of Feb. 21 in small Filipino fishing boats. Once across the Laguna de Bay, they entered into the jungle and made their way to hide sites to wait for the assault to begin.
On the morning of the 23rd at 0400, the 1st Battalion minus B Company boarded the 54 Amtracs of the 672nd Amphibian Tractor Battalion and set out across the bay toward their landing beach.
At 0530 the men of B Company boarded the C-47’s for the short flight to Los Baños. By 0640 they were in the air toward their destination.
Lt. John Ringler was the first man out the door of the lead C-47 coming low at 500 feet.
Having already marked the drop zone, the reconnaissance platoon and their accompanying guerrillas, spotting the incoming troop transports, sprung from their hide sites and attacked the Japanese guard post and sentries. Many were quickly overwhelmed.
At the same time, the 45th Hunter’s ROTC Regiment of Filipino guerrillas attacked three sides of the camp. As this was happening, the paratroopers were assembling on the drop zone and the lead elements were breaching the outer perimeter of the camp.
Many Japanese were caught in the open, unarmed, preparing to conduct morning physical training. They were cut down by the gunfire of the assaulting forces.
Some Japanese were able to mount a defense but many simply fled in the face of the charging Americans and Filipinos. By the time the balance of the 1st Battalion arrived at the camp in their Amtracs, the fight was all but over.
In very short order the raiding force had overwhelmed and secured the prison.
Out on the highway, the 188th GIR was making good progress against the Japanese and had successfully established blocking positions by late morning. The sound of their battles reminded the men at the camp that time was of the essence — the Japanese were still nearby.
Due to their harsh treatment, many of the prisoners were malnourished and extremely weak. Those that could walk began making their way towards the beach for evacuation. Others were loaded into the Amtracs at the camp and transported back across the lake.
It took two trips to get all the internees across the lake and a third to evacuate the last of the assault troops, but at the end of the day 2,147 prisoners were liberated from the Los Baños prison camp. The cost to the Americans and Filipinos was just a handful of casualties — no paratroopers were killed in the raid.
Among those evacuated was Frank Buckles, a World War I veteran, who would go on to be the last living veteran from the conflict.
“I doubt that any airborne unit in the world will ever be able to rival the Los Baños prison raid,” said Gen. Colin Powell. “It is the textbook airborne operation for all ages and all armies.”
The White House responded publicly on Oct. 4, 2018, to a heated confrontation between the Chinese navy and a US destroyer in the South China Sea.
“China wants nothing less than to push the United States of America from the Western Pacific and attempt to prevent us from coming to the aid of our allies,” Vice President Mike Pence said at the Hudson Institute. “They will fail.”
He explained that China prioritizes the erosion of American military power.
“China’s aggression was on display this week,” he said, referring to a dangerousencounter between the People’s Liberation Army Navy destroyer Lanzhou and the US destroyer USS Decatur in the hotly-contested South China Sea Sept. 30, 2018. “A Chinese naval vessel came within 45 yards of the USS Decatur as it conducted freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea, forcing our ship to quickly maneuver to avoid collision.”
“Despite such reckless harassment, the United States Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows and our national interests demand,” Pence explained. “We will not be intimidated; we will not stand down.”
Highlighting the Trump administration’s focus on renewed great power competition with China and Russia, the vice president insisted that the US will employ “decisive action to respond to China.”
China has accused the US of endangering regional peace and stability.
“The U.S. side has sent warships into waters near China’s islands and reefs in South China Sea time and again, which has posed a grave threat to China’s sovereignty and security, severely damaged the relations between the two militaries, and significantly undermined regional peace and stability,” the Ministry of Defense said in response to the latest clash.
“The Chinese military resolutely opposes such actions,” the ministry added.
The latest incident in the South China Sea comes amid heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing, and the situation could soon worsen, as the US military is reportedly considering a proposal for a major show of force as a warning to the Chinese, which perceive American actions moves to contain Chinese power.
While the vice president stressed the threats posed by China to American interests, he emphasized that the US desires a productive relationship with Beijing. “But be assured, we will not relent until our relationship with China is grounded in fairness, reciprocity, and respect for our sovereignty,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.