What happened when Russian mercs tried testing the US in Syria - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

What happened when Russian mercs tried testing the US in Syria

More details have emerged from a massive battle in Syria that is said to have pitted hundreds of Russian military contractors and forces loyal to the Syrian government against the US and its Syrian rebel allies — and it looks as if it was a mission to test the US’s resolve.


Bloomberg first reported in February 2018, that Russian military contractors took part in what the US called an “unprovoked attack” on a well-known headquarters of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a rebel cohort the US has trained, equipped, and fought alongside for years.

Also read: The threats just keep coming from Russia over Syria strikes

Reuters cited several sources on Feb. 16, 2018, as confirming that Russian contractors were among the attackers and that they took heavy losses. The purpose of the attack, which saw 500 or so pro-government fighters get close to the US-backed position in Syria, was to test the US’s response, Reuters’ sources said.

How the battle played out

What happened when Russian mercs tried testing the US in Syria
US forces fire off artillery rounds in Syria. (Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)

Initial reports said pro-government forces launched a coordinated attack that included about 500 troops, 122mm howitzers, tanks, and multiple launch rocket systems.

A source close to Wagner, the Russian military contracting firm, told Reuters that most of the troops were Russian contractors and that they advanced into a zone designated as neutral under a deal between the Russian military and the US-led coalition against the terrorist group ISIS.

The troops reportedly sought to find out how the US would react to the encroachment into that zone.

Forces operating Russian-made T-55 and T-72 tanks fired 20 to 30 tank rounds within 500 feet of the SDF base, which held some US troops, said Dana White, the Pentagon press secretary, according to the executive editor of Defense One.

More: Why Russia is hiring mercenaries to fight in Syria

The US-led coalition responded with “AC-130 gunships, F-15s, F-22s, Army Apache helicopter gunships, and Marine Corps artillery,” according to Lucas Tomlinson, a Fox News reporter. CNN also reported that Himars and MQ-9 drones were used in the attack.

“First of all, the bombers attacked, and then they cleaned up using Apaches,” attack helicopters, Yevgeny Shabayev, a Cossack paramilitary leader with ties to Russia’s military contractors, told Reuters.

The Reuters report cites an unnamed source as describing Bloomberg’s report that 300 Russians died as “broadly correct.”

The US reported more than 100 dead. According to Reuters, Russia says only five of its citizens may have died in the attack.

The Pentagon says only one SDF fighter was injured in the attack.

What might the Russians have learned from the ‘test’?

What happened when Russian mercs tried testing the US in Syria
Russia’s military aircraft at a base in Syria. (Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation.)

The pro-government forces operated without air cover from Russia’s military. The US-led coalition apparently warned Russia of the attack, but it’s unclear whether Russia’s military passed on notice to the troops on the ground.

“The warning was 20 minutes beforehand,” a source told Reuters. “In that time, it was not feasible to turn the column around.”

Reports have increasingly indicated that Russia has used military contractors as a means of concealing its combat losses as it looks to bolster Syrian President Bashar Assad’s flagging forces. Russia has denied it has a large ground presence in Syria and has sought to distance itself from those it describes as independent contractors.

Related: Russia just declared the defeat of ISIS in eastern Syria

According to the news website UAWire, Igor Girkin, the former defense minister of the self-described Donetsk People’s Republic, a separatist region backed by Russia in eastern Ukraine, said that Russian mercenaries operating in Syria who died in combat were cremated on sight to hide the true cost of Russia’s involvement.

As the US’s stated mission in Syria of fighting ISIS nears completion, others have taken center stage. The US recently said it would seek to stop Iran from gaining control of a land bridge to Lebanon, its ally, citing concerns that Tehran would arm anti-US and anti-Israeli Hezbollah militants if given the chance.

The US also appears intent on staying on top of Assad’s oilfields in the east both to deny him the economic infrastructure to regain control of the country and to force UN-sanctioned elections.

MIGHTY CULTURE

WATCH: As death toll rises, Italian Air Force delivers hope

As haunting images from Italy of overcrowded emergency rooms and horror stories of Coronavirus flood social media, the Italian Air Force flew with a message of strength for her people. It was a reminder of pride for the country, unity in the face of grave danger and a prayer of resilience for a country beleaguered by an enemy we haven’t seen before: COVID-19.

Set to the backdrop of Giacomo Puccini’s ‘Nessum Dorma,’ performed by Luciano Pavarotti, the flyover is beautiful, chilling and more than anything … full of hope. Translated to English, the last lyrics of the song are, “I will prevail. I will prevail. I will prevail.” You will, Italy. And America will, too.

Watch the flyover:


www.youtube.com


MIGHTY TRENDING

This new nonlethal missile could take out North Korea’s nukes

The White House has been informed of a newly developed cruise missile that proponents say could knock out North Korean missile launches in their tracks without killing anyone, NBC News reported on Monday.


The missile — a Boeing AGM-86B air-launched cruise missile with a payload known as the Counter-electronics High-power Microwave Advanced Missile Project, or Champ — launches from planes, just like the nuclear variant commonly found on B-52s.

What happened when Russian mercs tried testing the US in Syria
B-52 Stratofortress bomber. (Photo by: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jason Robertson)

But instead of a nuclear payload, the Champ payload fires microwave pulses that are designed to disable electronics in their path. It has successfully shut down electronics in multistory buildings in previous tests.

David Deptula, a retired US Air Force general who ran the US’s air war in Iraq, told NBC’s “Nightly News” that the new missile could “quite possibly” shut down a North Korean missile on a launchpad.

“Command and control centers are filled with electronic infrastructure, which is highly vulnerable to high-powered microwaves,” Deptula said.

Politicians say the Pentagon doesn’t like change

Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich, one of several civil and government officials who support the Champ system, told NBC the missile hadn’t been accepted or widely deployed because of roadblocks within the Pentagon.

“The challenges are less technical and more mental,” said Heinrich, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, adding that “the tendency within the Pentagon is oftentimes to continue to try and perfect something,” like existing missile defenses and weapons, rather than employ a new technique.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, echoed that sentiment.

Hunter said last month that “it’s hard to get things through” to the Defense Department that are “doable, that are easy, that are cheap, that are efficient, and that already exist, because that makes nobody happy.”

Also Read: This is how North Korea’s new missile can strike the US

Hunter blamed a broken defense industrial complex for the difficulties in adopting new technologies.

“There’s not retired general that works for Company A that says, ‘I would like to do that thing that costs no money and it doesn’t get me a contract,'” Hunter said, according to Inside Defense. “No one says that.”

Champ is an interesting option, not a silver bullet

But while the Champ system may represent advantages over existing missile defenses that fire interceptors after a missile has launched, exited the atmosphere, and separated into possibly several warheads, it’s not without disadvantages.

The system has to get close to its targets before knocking them down, meaning it could have to violate North Korean airspace, which could be perceived as an act of war.

And if North Korea spotted the incoming cruise missile, which looks exactly like a nuclear-capable cruise missile, it may respond automatically, regardless of the missile’s nonlethal nature.

Military equipment has redundant wiring and insulation to harden it against electronic warfare and attacks like the Champ, so the system would most likely need more work before it could be certified as capable of shutting down a missile launch — if it could achieve such a thing.

For now, NBC reports, officials have briefed the White House on the Champ system and its availability. Whether it fits into President Donald Trump’s strategy of “maximum pressure”against North Korea remains to be seen.

Watch a video explainer on Champ:

MIGHTY TRENDING

4 reasons why Doc is not in formation

It’s a known fact that Marines are territorial by nature and do not play well with other branches while in garrison. It stems from our culture. Even though other branches have more funding and better promotion mobility, our intensity on an individual and unit level cannot be matched.

This intensity means Marines will always choose to save face over admitting they’re hurting, tired, or sick to anyone — with one exception: the Navy Corpsman, often affectionately known as “Doc.”

No other MOS in any branch will ever earn the amount of unwavering loyalty shown to the corpsman by a ferocious pack of Devil Dogs. Not many can understand our way of life because, simply, they weren’t there. No one else was there — nobody except our corpsman.

When they’re not in formation, they get a pass, which is fine — but they’re often gone without explanation. Here’s what they’d tell you:


What happened when Russian mercs tried testing the US in Syria
“You don’t want to distract me while I’m practicing this, Staff sergeant.”

 

They’re honing their craft

The Marine Corps does not have medics, but as a department of the Navy, the Navy sends us those who have the cajones to enter the fires of combat. They’re usually the only medical caregiver on deployments and will perform a wide range of duties, from preventing diseases to rendering urgent emergency treatment on the battlefield. They will utilize their weapon to protect the life of the patient under their care. Badasses.

Their chief may have some training planned for them or they may be fulfilling a class required by the Navy. It is not uncommon to hear that chief himself was in Iraq or Afghanistan at the outset of the conflict and is sharing his wisdom with the next generation. Whatever Navy sorcery is going on in the Battalion Aid Station that demands Sick Call to be canceled must be important. By all means, carry on.

What happened when Russian mercs tried testing the US in Syria
Those who do not qualify for Marine Regs will be issued standard utility uniforms instead.

 

They’re embracing our beloved Corps

According to Article 6501, personnel serving with Marine Corps, officer and enlisted Navy personnel may wear Marine Corps service and utility uniforms, including insignia, following the Marine Corps uniform regulations. If, after a series of tests and inspections, one qualifies to wear Marine Regs (regulation), they will be issued service and dress uniforms at no cost to the service member including all accessories.

The corpsman must also abide by Marine Corps grooming standards. They are required to maintain both Navy and Marine uniforms while attached to the Fleet Marine Force until they return to a Naval unit once again. No one is going to have a problem with Doc missing formation because he’s adopting our customs and traditions.

What happened when Russian mercs tried testing the US in Syria
“First Platoon used crayon on these forms… again…”

 

They could be attacking endless waves of paperwork

Behind every light-duty chit is a mountain of paperwork we’ll never have to deal with. Unfortunately for the corpsmen, they have to process, file, and report everything. They don’t only have to keep up to date with Navy readiness training but Marine Corps readiness as well.

If something is beyond the medical capabilities of the BAS, a troop will be sent to the Navy Hospital for advanced treatment. They will also have to explain — in writing why they made their recommendation. When you have thousands of Marines under your care, the administrative element of medicine piles up.

They’re probably skating, too

Corpsmen have inherited not only our sense of humor, but also our prowess to avoid stupid games when possible. Several have witnessed a Doc pop smoke before their very eyes in a masterful display of “not my pasture, not my bullsh*t,” inspiring envy and respect.

Corpsmen have done what few people have been able to do: become accepted by Marines as one of their own. Loyalty to a platoon goes both ways, and if anybody messes with a corpsman, they’re going face injuries that will warrant that same corpsman’s medical expertise.

Articles

This organization makes the dreams of terminally-ill veterans come true

What happened when Russian mercs tried testing the US in Syria
(Photo: The Dream Foundation)


Dream Foundation was founded in 1994 with a mission to serve terminally ill adults and their families by providing end-of-life dreams that offer inspiration, comfort, and closure. In September 2015, the organization introduced Dreams for Veterans – a program for terminally ill veterans.

“For 21 years we’ve had the privilege of fulfilling over 25,000 final dreams for terminally ill individuals, including veterans of all ages,” said Kisa Heyer, Dream Foundation’s CEO. “Given the number of dream requests we’ve received from the military community has jumped exponentially in recent years, we felt compelled last year to create Dreams for Veterans, a program designed to address the specific needs of our nation’s heroes and their families. Our team is working to double the number of terminally ill veterans we serve in the next three years.”

Dream Foundation has fulfilled 829 dreams specifically for veterans since it was founded in 1994, and since the launch of their Dreams for Veterans program they have fulfilled 111 dreams for veterans. Their motto is: “If you served, you can dream.”

Veteran Joe Hooker who served in Vietnam passed away last summer, but not before he was able to fulfill a promise he had made 40 years ago. On his way back from the war, he made a stop in Honolulu, Hawaii. That visit inspired a lifelong desire to go back to Hawaii “to honor the men and women that gave their life at Pearl Harbor,” as he put it. In his application to Dream Foundation he wrote that he wanted to “learn, touch and understand what happened there.”

The foundation approved this application and sent him along with his brother and sister-in-law on a VIP tour of Pearl Harbor. Although he was suffering from cancer and heart disease, he was able to pay his respects to his fellow brothers and sisters in arms.

“I can go home now and rest in peace,” Hooker said in an interview with Salon.com. He passed away two months later.

Carl Johnson and Lucinda “Cindy” Niggel have also had their final dreams fulfilled by Dream Foundation.

Floreville, Texas resident Carl Johnson, 92, is World War II Army veteran who landed on the sands of Normandy on D-Day. Johnson earned two Bronze Stars, a Silver Star and a Purple Heart. He now has lung disease and has been told by doctors he only has a couple of months to live. He hadn’t seen Ronnie, his disabled son who lives upstate New York, in eight years.

What happened when Russian mercs tried testing the US in Syria
Carl Johnson with his son. (Photo: The Dream Foundation)

“I always said I wanted to give Ronnie a hug before I got laid down beside my wife,” Johnson said. His caregiver contacted Dream Foundation, and in February he was able to wrap his arms around his son one last time.

“I spent a whole day with him and on top of that, [I got to see] lot of my wife’s relatives  – she has a quite a few!” Johnson said.  “They say you can’t win them all, but when you win them all, it’s a miracle.”

Lucinda “Cindy” Niggel, 59, is Navy veteran with terminal breast cancer. Aside from trips to the doctor or hospital, Niggel has spent most of her time confined in her home, on constant oxygen. When Lucinda told a friend she wanted to get out of her house and visit someplace tropical, that friend suggested she look into Dream Foundation.

Dream Foundation provided Cindy and a companion with a vacation to Captiva Island, complete with airfare and funds for food and transportation. “They’re true to their word, and the application process is not hard,” Niggel said. “The trip was amazing. I felt like I was in paradise.”

To learn how you can support Dream Foundation click here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How one hotel brand is going above and beyond to show support to veterans

This article is sponsored by Super 8 by Wyndham.

When America’s big business lends its support to the men and women in uniform, it’s usually about giving a good, old-fashioned military discount. While military members and veterans alike love and appreciate getting a deal as a nod to their service, it’s always a surprise when someone goes the extra mile. Be it someone on the staff, a kind business owner, or a company policy, the appreciation given to service members and their families is always appreciated in return.

But what Super 8 by Wyndham does for military members and their families is more. Yes, right now, they’re offering a twenty-percent military discount and 500 Wyndham Rewards bonus points through December 10th to military members and their families, but they always go the extra mile for service members who are miles away from their homes.


Preferred Parking

This is one of those ideas that undoubtedly sprang from a big-hearted employee. The Super 8 in Adrian, Mich. had an employee by the name of Juice Majewski — a veteran. Majewski was the chain’s maintenance manager and his boss, Jennifer Six, came from a family of military veterans. Six honored his service by creating a veterans-only spot in the Adrian Super 8’s parking lot. When corporate leaders saw the initiative, they decided to take the idea nationally. Now, every Super 8 in North America features preferred parking for vets.

The Human Hug Project

Super 8 is a proud partner of the Human Hug Project, a non-profit organization with the goal of raising awareness for veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress. Members of the Human Hug Project visit VA facilities across the nation in order to spread love and awareness for veterans and their families.

Founder Ian Michael is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Gino Greganti is a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, and Erin Greganti is a Marine Corps wife who knows exactly what service members’ families go through when a loved one returns home from war. Super 8 helps the HHP by providing places to stay as they make their way across the U.S. to visit all of the VA’s healthcare facilities.

What happened when Russian mercs tried testing the US in Syria

ROADM8 Auction

Recently, Super 8 by Wyndham designed a one-of-a-kind Jeep to showcase the latest and greatest amenities found in their newly revamped guest rooms. From the built-in coffee maker to the upholstery that looks like one of the comfortable beds you’d find in a Super 8, this monster of a vehicle is a hotel room in a car.

But it’s more than just an awesome concept car. Super 8 by Wyndham auctioned off the ROADM8 to benefit one of the best charities around: Fisher House Foundation. Fisher House Foundation provides a “home away from home” for families of patients receiving medical care at major military and VA medical centers.

What happened when Russian mercs tried testing the US in Syria

Working with Vets

Super 8’s parent company, Wyndham Hotels Resorts, supports those who are working hard to make a living by using veteran-owned supplier companies.

From maintenance companies to security services to bedding manufacturers, it takes a full complement of amenities and facilities to make guests comfortable — Wyndham knows that by working with veteran-owned businesses, they’ll constantly achieve their mission of giving you a fantastic place to rest.

So next time you hit the road, whether it’s to visit an on-base family member or a spontaneous road trip, know that Super 8 is there to support you all the way.

This article is sponsored by Super 8 by Wyndham.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s an after-action report on Russia’s massive European wargame

Russia finally concluded its quadrennial Zapad-2017 military exercises last week.


The exercises, which were held in Belarus and western Russia for six days, tested Russia’s defensive capabilities against the fictional country of Veishnoriya which had supposedly been infiltrated by western-backed militias.

The games were not, as many eastern European leaders and even some US generals feared, used to occupy Belarus, invade Ukraine or for some other deceitful act.

In fact, Russian tank and airborne units are currently leaving Belarus and heading home.

What happened when Russian mercs tried testing the US in Syria
A Russian T-72B3. Wikimedia Commons photo from user Vitaly Kuzmin.

The games also did not, as many in the west said, appear to involve 100,000 or more Russian troops.

Moscow claimed that only 12,700 troops participated — just under the 13,000 figure that requires foreign observation according to the Vienna Document — and that “official count … in Belarus and parts of nearby Russia was … probably fairly accurate,” Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior research scientist at CNA, told Business Insider.

“The trick is that they have a lot of other official exercises that seem to be taking place nearby,” Gorenburg said.

Russia’s Northern Fleet Moscow conducted exercises in the Barents Sea, and its Strategic Rocket Forces test launched two new RS-24 YARS ICBMs. Additional exercises were also held, including some with China and Egypt in other parts of Russia.

What happened when Russian mercs tried testing the US in Syria
Zapad 13 military exercise. Photo from Russian Kremlin.

“Most of these exercises are not part of Zapad 2017, but as always, it’s a bit hard to tell,” Michael Kofman, a senior research scientist at CNA, recently wrote.

Gorenburg said it’s still too difficult to discern how many troops participated, but guessed that roughly 60,000-70,000 took part. Some analysts have estimated a similar range.

These overblown western estimations of 100,000 or more troops, along with fear of occupations and invasions, Gorenburg said, were a political win for Russia, which “is trying to show its military is back and strong.”

The Kremlin can also now “credibly claim that the West overreacted and fell victim to scaremongering and reporting rumours that Moscow was not being transparent about the nature of the exercise and its intentions,” Mathieu Boulègue, a research fellow at the Chatham House, wrote.

What happened when Russian mercs tried testing the US in Syria
Embassy of the United States in Moscow. Photo from Wikimedia Commons user NVO.

“Short of entrapment, proving the West wrong is increasingly part of the Kremlin’s political strategy which, in turn, strengthens Russia’s sense of superiority,” Boulègue wrote.

Some have even argued that Russia made western media look like fake news, and that these western exagerations were done out of ignorance or to fit their own political agenda.

Despite not appearing to have gone over or been close to the 100,000 or more figure, Russia nevertheless seems, according to Gorenburg and many other analysts, to have had more than 13,000 troops participating in the overall Zapad exercises, which is in violation of the Vienna Document.

While Belarus was rather transparent, and invited foreigners to observe the games, it makes sense that Moscow would want to limit such foreign observation as much as possible. After all, Zapad means “west” in Russian, and the games were essentially a simulation of how well Russian military branches could coordinate a defensive against NATO.

What happened when Russian mercs tried testing the US in Syria
Russian President Vladimir Putin watches the Zapad ’17 military exercises. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

The first three days of the exercises were purely defensive, initially defending against a large aerial attack, which Russian military leaders have determined is the US and NATO’s traditional opening move during invasions, according to the Jamestown Foundation.

The last three days of the exercises were all about “counterattack,” Gorenburg said. For a thorough breakdown of all Russia’s military maneuvers during the exercises, check out Kofman’s blog summarizing all seven days of Zapad-2017.

Ultimately, Russia was able to repel the simulated western invasion, and while “it will take a more detailed analysis” to see how well Russia faired, Moscow initially seems to think “it went fairly well,” Gorenburg said.

Articles

Athlete dedicates Invictus medals to soldier who saved his life

What happened when Russian mercs tried testing the US in Syria


As the Florida sun beat down mercilessly on the adaptive athletes, medically retired Army Sgt. Aaron Stewart competed in cycling and swimming at the 2016 Invictus Games here not for medals, but for a fellow fallen soldier.

Stewart dedicated his athletic performances to Leonard Sear, a fellow soldier who saved his life. Stewart, who is transgender, competed in the female category.

Competing at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World, Stewart earned silver medals in the time trial and criterium in cycling.  And in swimming, he earned silver medals in the 50-meter freestyle and the 100-meter freestyle and a bronze medal in the 50-meter backstroke in his disability category.

In the 2014 Invictus Games, before he began hormone treatments, Stewart earned two gold medals in cycling in the time trial and criterium. At the Warrior Games in 2014, he earned seven medals in swimming, air pistol and the air rifle.

Having served in flight operations for eight years, Stewart has injuries to his back, spinal stenosis and sciatica, shoulder issues and also has post-traumatic stress from military sexual trauma. He said he met Sear while they were serving in a wounded warrior transition battalion in 2012.

Lifesaver

“They did recovery things there where we got together in groups and did yoga, rock climbing and things like that to help mentally bring us together,” Stewart said. “We were in the same unit. I attempted suicide about six months after we became friends, and he found me and saved my life. And then five months to the day after I attempted suicide, he died, so it’s a huge loss — someone that close to me to be gone.”

Thanks to Sear, support from friends like Army Capt. Kelly Elmlinger, and adaptive sports, Stewart said, he’s still here and doesn’t have suicidal thoughts any more. “”He saved my life, but adaptive sports have kept me alive since.”

Stewart recommends adaptive sports to any disabled service members or veterans who may need help in their recovery.

“When I first got injured, I was extremely depressed. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I knew my military career was over at that point,” he said. “Sports gave me something to look forward to. It gave me an objective and something to focus on. It got me out of that depression. It essentially saved my life. It’s kept me going.”

He said anyone thinking about taking up an adaptive sport should get out there and try it.

“You’re not accomplishing anything sitting where you are,” he said. “You’re not going to feel any worse getting out there. It was a life-changer for me, so I would definitely recommend getting out there and trying it. You gain a whole new family, a huge support group, and it’s a lifesaver, really.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

How a ragtag band of civilians got strong for service women

On the day I reported for duty as a volunteer in an extreme Army experiment of women’s strength, I stopped my car at the gate, watched the guard approaching, and thought about turning around. I’d seen the movies. I’d watched A Few Good Men and Private Benjamin and winced at the exhausting runs, pushups, shouting by grouchy drill instructors and general toughness required to thrive on a military base. I was a civilian at the edge of a world full of camo and shorn heads and running in formation and all I could think was, Do I have what it takes to get through this?

It was May of 1995, and scientists at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine (USARIEM) on the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Command (USASSC) base in Natick, Massachusetts, were kicking off a seminal study to determine if women could get strong enough to perform the toughest military tasks usually assigned to men. With only one female soldier available for the seven-month program, the scientists had recruited 45 ordinary civilians. I was a 24-year-old cub reporter in average shape who loathed running. It was time to put on my big-girl pants and push myself past my limits.

From the start, our ragtag band of women seemed an unlikely crew to take on such a lofty pursuit. More weekend walkers than G.I. Janes, we came to the base at varying fitness levels, shapes and sizes, and our ranks included stay-at-home moms, teachers, a landscaper, a student, a prison guard, a bartender and one journalist. But with mighty hearts and iron will, we intended to smash through those expectations. They said women couldn’t do it. We hit back: Watch me.

Sara and several other women she trained with

We did everything asked of us and more. I strapped on a 75-pound backpack and hiked two miles over rugged terrain, and though I ended up shuffling more than running the first time, I finished (albeit with shredded heels and blood blisters). I ran until I was sick while dragging a 110-pound trailer through thick woods and a meadow choked with weeds and wildflowers. I lifted more, more, more each week, carried sandbags and heavy metal boxes until my hands were calloused, pushed through five-mile backpack hikes and sprinted up steep hills.

I was honored to carry water for the women doing the work of defending our country, and I felt pressure to show up for them—a lot of people were watching us, after all. The experiment had made international headlines even before it began when a controversy about women in combat almost shut us down, and now the big TV networks were pressing for access to the base to film us in action (they never got it—my newspaper had the exclusive). At the time, females were still banned from most ground combat roles. I knew that on average we possess around 50 to 60 percent of males’ upper body strength, but I also knew women who could perform incredible physical feats. I didn’t think it was fair for anyone to be banned from a job based on averages.

The test subjects formed fast, tight friendships to help get us through the rigorous training regimen and quickly developed our own rallying cry. In the first week, one of us blurted, “Do what?” when told to do something that seemed near impossible. “F— that!” I replied under my breath. For the rest of the study, we’d shout that call and answer to get psyched up before our toughest tests. Everyone on post knew who we were, and for a long time I noted skeptical glances and heard a snide remark or two while running through the base. But by the end, the soldiers, officers and civilian personnel were openly cheering us on.

This week marks exactly 25 years since the research scientists who designed the study, principal investigator Everett Harman and Pete Frykman, released their results. The full story of our journey is a little-known piece of military history that will be told for the first time in my forthcoming book The Strong Ones: How a Band of Civilian Women Made Their Mark on the Armyout February 9.

Spoiler alert: We did it. The data showed 78 percent of test subjects could now qualify for Army jobs categorized as “very heavy,” in which soldiers must occasionally lift 100 pounds, whereas only 24 percent could at the beginning. We also showed a 33 percent improvement on the 75-pound backpack test, going from 36 minutes to 27.5 minutes for two miles. And we did it all efficiently by training 1 ½ hours a day, five days a week.

News clip of the study proving women could pass army tests

In 2016 when I learned all military jobs were opened up to women, I began my research for The Strong Ones to find out how we might have helped change things. I won’t give away the ending, but I will say the test subjects affected future military women in more ways than one.

It’s been inspiring to watch women kicking butt in so many new roles in every branch over the past few years, and interesting to hear more than a few I’ve met along the way hit back at their doubters the same way we did back then: Watch me.

For a sneak peak, see The Strong Ones book trailer below.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the German military may look to recruit foreigners

The German military, the Bundeswehr, had 21,000 unfilled positions in 2017, and the service is now looking beyond its borders to fill its ranks.

A Defense Ministry report in late 2016 proposed recruiting from other EU countries, and the ministry confirmed in late July 2018 that it was seriously considering doing so.

“The Bundeswehr is growing,” a ministry spokesman told news agency DPA. “For this, we need qualified personnel.”


Germany’s military has shrunk since the Cold War. In 2011, the country ended mandatory military service. From a high of of 585,000 troops in the mid-1980s, the service’s numbers have fallen to just under 179,000 in mid-2018.

What happened when Russian mercs tried testing the US in Syria

A German infantryman stands at the ready with his Heckler Koch G36 during a practice exercise in 2004.

(U.S. Navy photo)

About half of current members of the German military are expected to retire by 2030, and with an aging population, finding native-born replacements may get tougher.

German leaders have pushed to add more troops while beefing up defense spending.

In mid-2016, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said she would remove the cap of 185,000 total troops to help make the force more flexible. She said the military would look to add 14,300 soldiers over seven years. (In early 2017, the Defense Ministry upped that to 20,000 soldiers added by 2024.)

“The Bundeswehr is under pressure to modernize in all areas,” she said at the time. “We have to get away from the process of permanent shrinking.”

Efforts to grow have included more recruitment of minors — a record-high 2,128 people under 18 joined as volunteers in 2017, but signing up young Germans has been criticized.

Recruiting foreigners was generally supported by the governing parties, with some qualifiers.

Karl-Heinz Brunner, a defense expert and member of the Social Democrat Party, said foreigners who join up should be promised citizenship.

“If citizens of other countries are accepted, without the promise of getting a German passport, the Bundeswehr risks becoming a mercenary army,” he told German newspaper Augsburger Allegemeine.

Florian Hahn, a defense spokesman for the Christian Democratic Union, said such a recruitment model “could be developed,” but “a certain level of trust with every soldier must be guaranteed.”

What happened when Russian mercs tried testing the US in Syria

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Burt W. Eichen)

‘Germany just doesn’t feel threatened’

Personnel woes are only part of the Bundeswehr’s problem.

Reports have emerged in recent years of shortages of everything from body armor to tanks. German troops overseas have been hamstrung by damaged or malfunctioning equipment. A lack of spare parts has left some weapons systems unusable.

Reports of inoperable fighter jets — and insufficient training for pilots — have raised questions about whether Germany can fulfill its NATO responsibilities. As of late 2017, all of Germany’s submarines were out of service, and the navy in general has struggled to build ships and develop a strategy.

Gen. Volker Wieker, the military’s inspector general, said in February 2018 that the force would be ready to assume command of NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force in Eastern Europe in 2019.

The Bundeswehr had a long-term plan to address ” still unsatisfactory ” gaps in its capabilities, Wieker said, but it would take at least a decade to recover after years of dwindling defense spending.

Defense spending is a contentious issue in Germany — one supercharged by President Donald Trump’s attacks on NATO members for what he sees as failures to meet the 2%-of-GDP defense-spending level they agreed to reach by 2024.

Governing-coalition members have feuded over how to raise defense expenditures. Those in favor of a quick increase say it’s needed to fix the military. Others want the money directed elsewhere and have said Chancellor Angela Merkel is doing Trump’s militarist bidding.

“What we’ve seen in the last few years — really the sort of tragic and kind of embarrassing stories about the state of the Bundeswehr — that is certainly sinking in, and Germans are now supporting more defense spending than they have in the past,” Sophia Besch, a research fellow at the Center for European Reform, said on a recent edition of the Center for a New American Security’s Brussels Sprouts podcast .

“There is just this huge debate … around the 2% [of GDP defense-spending level] being the right way of going about it,” Besch added.

Some Germans also remain chastened by World War II and the Cold War, which devastated and then divided the country. The Bundeswehr still struggles with its Nazi history.

“There’s a definitely a generational aspect to this,” Besch said. “The sort of traditional pacifist approach … I think is mostly permanent in the older generations.”

Others just aren’t that worried.

“I think the issue today is that Germany just doesn’t feel threatened. Germans just don’t see a threat to themselves,” Besch added. “They see perhaps a threat in the East, but their relationship with Russia is complex. They just don’t see the need to invest that much in defense spending.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

Russia glosses over ‘Kuznetsov Follies’ in new tribute video

Russia recently announced that it would begin drawing down its deployment to Syria. One of the first major assets to depart will be its lone aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, according to a report by Agence France Press.


The Russian government produced a slick tribute video that harkens back to the 1950s Soviet Union, where the same M-4 Bison bombers were flown past the reviewing stands of the 1955 Aviation Day parade several times to make it look like the Soviets had tons of planes.

The new Kuznetsov video showed crewmen standing watch – some on the carrier’s flight deck with an assault rifle, as well as Su-33 Flankers taking off from the ship.

What happened when Russian mercs tried testing the US in Syria
The Admiral Kuznetsov in drydock — a place it should never leave.

That said, there is a whole lot of stuff this video has left out. Regular readers of this site are familiar with the Kuznetsov Follies, coverage of the many… shortcomings, this carrier displayed on the deployment.

The highlight of these follies — well, let just say the term lowlight might be more accurate — would be the splash landings Russian Navy fighters made. In November, a MiG-29K made a splash landing shortly after takeoff. The next month, a Su-33 Flanker made its own splash landing. The Flanker wasn’t to blame – an arresting cable on the craptastic carrier snapped.

What happened when Russian mercs tried testing the US in Syria
Sukhoi Su-33 launching from the Admiral Kuznetsov in 2012. | Russian MoD Photo

The carrier has been known to have breakdowns, too, and as a result, deploys with tugboats. Other problems include a central heating system that doesn’t heat, a busted ventilation system, broken latrines, and a lot of mold and mildew.

So, with all that in mind, here is the Russian video:

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Iran surprises world with completed combat jet

Iran has unveiled a fighter jet which it says is “100-percent” locally made.

Images on state television showed President Hassan Rohani on Aug. 21, 2018, sitting in the cockpit of the new Kowsar plane at the National Defense Industry exhibition.


It is a fourth-generation fighter, with “advanced avionics” and multipurpose radar, the Tasnim news agency said, adding that it was “100-percent indigenously made.”

State television, which showed the plane waiting on a runway for its first public display flight, said that it had already undergone successful testing.

The plane was first publicly announced on Aug. 18, 2018, by Defense Minister Amir Hatami, who gave few details of the project.

The United States has demanded that Tehran curb its defense programs, and is in the process of reimposing crippling sanctions after President Donald Trump withdrew from a landmark nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

Trump called the 2015 agreement, under which Iran pledged to curb its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief, “the worst deal ever.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

Paris-based ‘Charlie Hebdo’ magazine has a new cover taunting ISIS

In its new issue, the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo reacted to the gruesome attacks that shook Paris on Friday.


The cover depicted a man dancing around, with a bottle of Champagne in one hand and drinking out of a flute while the Champagne poured out of apparent bullet holes in his body. The text surrounding the image says: “They have arms. F— them. We have the Champagne!”

The cover was posted on social media ahead of the magazine’s release on Wednesday by a columnist for Charlie Hebdo, Mathieu Madénian.

What happened when Russian mercs tried testing the US in Syria
Photo: Twitter/@Mathieu Madénian

Last week’s attacks on Paris left at least 129 people dead and hundreds more injured, after a wave of shootings and suicide bombings at restaurants, bars, a concert hall, and a sports stadium. The incidents constituted the deadliest attack on French soil since World War II. The Islamic State group, also known as ISIS and ISIL, claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Charlie Hebdo was itself attacked early this year. On January 7, 12 people were killed in a shooting at Charlie Hebdo’s offices in Paris. Five others were killed in several related attacks throughout the capital, including a hostage situation at a Kosher market.

The magazine was targeted in part for its often controversial depictions of religious and political leaders, including the Prophet Muhammad.

The two men behind the Charlie Hebdo attacks, Said and Cherif Kouachi, had been well known to French authorities. Cherif had been jailed before and was reportedly influenced by a radical preacher in France.

Two days after the attack, a top cleric from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was intended as “revenge for the honor” of the Prophet Muhammad.

The slogan, “Je suis Charlie” — French for, “I am Charlie” — became a popular rallying cry across social media after the shootings. After the attacks, hundreds of thousands of people rallied in France and around the world to show their support for the victims and to defend free speech.

This week’s cover is already being shared widely on social media. It embodies a sentiment shared by many Parisians after the attacks: resilience.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information