Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan

There is no greater historical example of an unstoppable force hitting an immovable object than the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. Afghanistan is a mountainous, landlocked, harsh country that makes it very difficult for a great power to bring the full might of that power to bear against the locals. Naval forces are out and, in some area, so is air support. The harsh climate and vast nothingness and remotely populated areas makes supply lines difficult to establish and even harder to defend. But the Soviet Union opted to try anyway, invading in force in 1979.

Under Afghan King Mohammed Zahir Shah, the country was actually developing and modernizing fairly well… until his cousin Mohammed Daoud Khan overthrew him in 1973. He established an Afghan Republic and everything went to hell — for many reasons. Five years later, the Pashtun Nationalist government was overthrown in favor of a Communist regime and Afghanistan became a Cold War battlefront.


Communism did not sit well with the people in rural areas, who weren’t used to the control (and taxes and land reforms) of a Communist central government. So, they started fighting back. Then-President Nur Mohammed Taraki asked the Soviet Union to help quell angry protests against a government that suddenly decided to execute so many of them for failing to comply with Communist reforms. That’s when Hafizullah Amin, the Communist Prime Minister, killed Taraki and seized power.

Then, Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev stepped in.

Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan
He came in like a wrecking ball.

Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan

People like this.

Seeing Afghanistan descending into chaos and worried that the Islamic Revolution in Iran might spread to Afghanistan and other traditionally muslim Soviet Socialist Republics, the USSR decided to move in — and pretty much failed from day one, which was Christmas Day, 1979.

At this point, the Soviets needed to do four things: legitimize the Communist central government in Kabul, rebuild the Afghan Army, destroy resistance to the new government, and win the hearts and minds of the common people they couldn’t directly control.

Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan

“Ownership” being the operative word.

1. They could not establish the Communist government’s legitimacy

Failure was immediate, beginning with the man at the top. After just months in power, Amin was out. Literally. One of the first governmental changes the Soviets made was to kill Amin and replace him with Babrak Kamal. This turned the image of the Soviet invasion from one of an intervention to stabilize the government to one of ownership over Afghanistan.

Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan

These guys, remember?

2. They did not break the back of the resistance

While they were able to take the major cities, as well as transportation and communications centers, the Red Army quickly pushed tribal warlords into the mountainous regions, where they resolved to begin the Islamic Revolution that nobody had thought about until the Soviets invaded in the first place. Instead of conquering the country, they managed to unite Afghanistan’s disparate population against them.

Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan

There’s no Russian translation for “off the beaten path.” Apparently.

The one advantage the Red Army had over mujahideen fighters was their fleet of Hind helicopters. These allowed the Soviets to move people and equipment fast over long distances and into the high mountains. This silver lining lasted until the mid-1980s, when Stinger missiles began to appear in jihadi arsenals. With accurate anti-aircraft missiles, the mujahideen now had the ability to protect their mountainous hiding places and forced the Soviet Union to switch to a tactic of conducting nighttime raiding on enemy targets.

Soviet forces were concentrated in a mass along major highways in the country and in a series of fortified positions throughout their controlled areas. Outside of those areas, neither economy of forces nor consistent supply lines were ever established.

Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan

A map of areas controlled by insurgent groups in Afghanistan in 1985.

In places like Khost, Soviet dominance was never even established. The Red Army established a helicopter base on the outskirts of the city, but the city itself spent 11 years under siege from the Mujahideen forces, cut off from the rest of Soviet operations. When a relief column came to the base in 1987, they reset the siege as soon as the Russians left.

The Soviet Union’s previous experience with invading other countries was limited to East Germany, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia. Afghanistan and its people have little in common with the methods of fighting that work in Europe. The tactics employed by the Soviets were mostly of overwhelming firepower, including scorched-earth policies, carpet bombing, and the use of chemical weapons, none of which won them many friends among the people of the country they were trying to win over.

Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan

Soviet ground forces in action while conducting an offensive operation against the Islamist resistance, the Mujahideen.

3. The Soviets did not win over the hearts and minds of Afghan people

A narrative quickly formed that atheist Communists and traditionally Orthodox Christian Russian invaders were on a mission against Islam. Those Afghan warlords that were pushed out of major urban centers and villages came down from the mountains as a united Islamic front, the mujahideen. With the Cold War in full swing, the United States decided to help fuel the fire by supplying the mujahideen with weapons and equipment to help their jihad against the USSR.

Fighters and money flowed into the mujahideen’s ongoing guerrilla war against the Soviet Union from all corners of the Islamic world. Between 1980 and 1985, the Red Army stomped the mujahideen in a series of battles in the Panjshir Valley against the forces of rebel leaders like Ahmad Shah Massoud. But Massoud would always live to rebuild his forces and come back at the Russian bear.

The Soviets could win as many pitched battles as they wanted, kill as many Afghan fighters as possible, but the endless tide of money and men would mean that the battles would just be fought over and over. Search-and-destroy missions were not going to pacify Afghanistan. In fact, all it did was either kill the population or turned them into refugees — a full one-third of Afghanistan’s population was killed or fled during the Soviet occupation.

Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan

“Set it up like this, it goes bang. Good work, comrade.”

4. The Afghan Army was never an effective force

The Red Army brought in allied advisors from friendly countries to train the Afghan Army in warfighting methods more appropriate than the methods they actually used. Cuban troops who were familiar with insurgency operations from places like Angola and Ethiopia trained the burgeoning Afghan government troops, but the consistent lack of actual combat experience in these tactics wasted a lot of the time they could have spent creating a veteran fighting force.

Furthermore, the inefficient communications and logistics involved with large-scale Soviet operations did little to convince the nascent Afghan troops that their training methods and lessons had any real applicability in real-world fighting. When the Russians left and the Soviet Union fell, many of these trained fighters defected to the mujahideen, leading to the fall of the Afghan Communist regime.

The Soviet Union would stay in Afghanistan until February 1989. They still supported the Communist Afghan government against the mujahideen, which continued until the USSR collapsed in on itself in 1991. In April 1992, mujahideen troops under Ahmad Shah Massoud captured Kabul. But the factional violence within the jihadists didn’t stop and another civil war began.

This time, the victors were an upstart group of hardline Islamists, known as the Taliban.

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5 meaningful ways to thank veterans (and their families) on Veteran’s Day

As the wife of an active-duty Navy pilot preparing for his third combat deployment, I have heard my husband thanked for his service many times, but at this point in the nation’s history that expression of gratitude has been overused. These days automatically telling a veteran “thank you for your service” can come off as obligatory, or worse, insincere. (Think “have a nice day.”)


Here are five more meaningful ways to thank those who have served the nation this Veterans Day:

1. HONOR THE FALLEN BY HELPING THOSE LEFT BEHIND

Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan
(DoD photo by SSG Sean K. Harp)

Veterans Day is not Memorial Day. Memorial Day, celebrated in May, honors those who have died serving their country. Veterans Day pays tribute to all veterans—living or dead—but is generally intended to honor living Americans who have served in the military. However, one of the best ways to thank a living veteran is to do something for the friends he or she has lost. The Tragedy Assistance Programs for Survivors is instrumental in providing aid and support to families in the aftermath of a military member’s death. They connect families with grief counselors, financial resources, seminars and retreats, peer mentors, and a community of other survivors. Nicole Van Dorn, whose husband J. Wesley Van Dorn died after a Navy helicopter crash last year, says the program was invaluable in helping her and her two young boys through a horrific time. “One woman called me twice a week just to let me know she was thinking about me. The fact that she continued to reach out even when I didn’t respond made me feel a little less alone.” TAPS paid for her oldest son to attend a camp where he could meet other children who had lost parents. “Sometimes people don’t know what to do,” she says. “But one way to help is to go through organizations like this one.”

2. HELP A VETERAN MAKE A SMOOTH TRANSITION

Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan
(Photo: TheMissionContinues.org)

When soldiers are injured or disabled in service, they are thrust out of the lives they have known in an instant; most cannot return to the units they left behind. Sometimes the psychological consequences are harder to deal with than the physical ones. The Mission Continues, founded by former Navy Seal Eric Greitens, helps all veterans—not just the wounded—adjust to life at home by finding new missions of service. The organization harnesses veterans’ skills to connect them with volunteer opportunities in their communities.

3. DO SOMETHING FOR MILITARY FAMILIES IN YOUR COMMUNITY

When a soldier is deployed, sometimes for up to a year, daily life for spouses can be challenging. If you know the spouse of a veteran, through your community, church or social group, don’t ask how you can help. Instead, be proactive. When my husband was deployed, a neighbor took my garbage can to the street every week before I had the chance to do it. Offer to come by once a month to mow the lawn or fix what’s broken. Offer babysitting so a mother can run errands or go to a movie. Perform a random act of kindness, however small, for military families. “A woman used to send cards to my house that said, ‘I’m thinking of you,’ or ‘I’m proud of you,’ says Van Dorn of the months after her husband’s death. “She signed them ‘Secret Sister’ so I didn’t have to worry about thanking her.”

4. DONATE YOUR TIME, TALENT OR TREASURE

Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan
(Photo: DogsOnDeployment.org)

If you don’t know anyone in the military personally, there are still ways you can help. Send a book to a deployed soldier through Operation Paperback. Make a quilt for a wounded servicemember through Quilts of Valor. Take photographs of a soldier’s homecoming through Operation: Love Reunited. If you are a counselor, donate your services through Give an Hour. Bring snacks to your local airport’s USO. Take in a servicemember’s pet while he is deployed through Dogs on Deployment. Donate your frequent flier miles to soldiers on emergency leave through Fisher House’s Hero Miles program. Or knit a baby blanket for new military mothers through the Navy-Marine Corp Relief Society.

5. REMEMBER ALL VETERANS…

Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan
(Photo: Honor Flight Network)

… Not just the newest ones. Andrew Lumish, a carpet cleaner from Florida, made the news recently when it was reported that he spends every Sunday cleaning veterans’ gravestones. This Veterans Day, bring flowers to a cemetery. Help a senior veteran visit his memorial in Washington DC by donating to the Honor Flight Network. Or volunteer at a shelter that helps homeless veterans, nearly half of whom served during Vietnam.

Victoria Kelly’s poetry collection, “When the Men Go Off to War,” was published this September by the Naval Institute Press, their first publication of original poetry. She holds degrees from Harvard University, Trinity College Dublin, and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her debut novel, “Mrs. Houdini,” will be published in March by Simon Schuster/Atria Books. She is the spouse of a Navy fighter pilot and the mother of two young daughters.

See more about Victoria Kelly here.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Boston Tea Party and the ungrateful colonists who started it all

On December 16, 1773 a bunch of rebel colonists from Massachusetts got sassy and decided to defy their one true king. While disguised as Indians, they dumped 342 chests of perfectly good tea into Boston Harbor – setting off a chain of events they’ll never come back from. 

Ungrateful, that’s what they were. How dare they throw a tantrum over another tax imposed by King George of Britain and the North Ministry. Didn’t they know that the temporary tax was for a good reason? Without it, the East India Company would have gone under and the British would lose money. The seven year French and Indian War depleted the treasury of Britain, the colonists needed to do their part and shore it up! Maybe the British screwed up by initially trying to hide the tax and collect it later on, but it’s only because they didn’t want to trouble colonists with the headache of knowing what it was really for. It was for their own good after all. But all those colonists cared about were their merchants who were illegally smuggling in Dutch tea to make a living and their so called “rights” for representation when taxed.

Selfish!

So, under the cover of painted faces and Indian garb, men snuck onto the ships that had pulled in and dumped all the tea into the harbor under protest against the British. Even Benjamin Franklin said it was wrong and that the East India Company should be paid back for the destruction of tea. After catching wind of the colonists despicable behavior, the rightfully angry Parliament enacted The Intolerable Acts law. For some reason, this made these heathens even more angry. Rules are for everyone’s good!

They didn’t need to be able to govern themselves anyway and what was so bad about having the British military keeping everyone safe in town? Britain was doing them a favor! Maybe the troops had to be housed inside the homes of colonists and empty buildings, but wasn’t it a small price to pay for safety and security? Well, apparently they didn’t think so because they got all of the colonies to rise up in indignation against Britain. 

What followed would be events that would live on in infamy. 

colonist

How dare these colonists thing they could “declare” independence. Who would have thought of such a thing? Certain people should have a place, especially the colonists, who were basically the step-children of the British. Equality disrupts too much, rules and rankings were put in place for a very good reason: order and decorum, staples of the British. Instead of remaining appreciative of this gift to be able to call oneself British, the colonists rebelled and fought. The American Revolutionary War would lead to the formation of a united country that fought for “liberties” and “freedom” for everyone. Sure those colonists eventually may have also won the war against the world’s leading power against all odds, but whatever. And okay, maybe the United States of America now has the world’s oldest written constitution that has been duplicated by numerous free countries since, but so what. 

Now they are stuck with a country that continues to extend equality for all people, evolving and modernizing with the changing times. This new country even apologizes for mistakes and changes its mind on issues by amending rules and law. Blasphemous. I hope the ancestors of those ungrateful tea throwing colonists are happy being American. 

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The U.S. Army is about to double its Howitzer range

Members of the 82nd Airborne Division, Delta 1-321 Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, fire a 155mm Howitzer during a training mission at Forward Operating Base Andar, Afghanistan, Oct. 10, 2010.(ISAF photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Joseph Swafford/released) Members of the 82nd Airborne Division, Delta 1-321 Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, fire a 155mm Howitzer during a training mission at Forward Operating Base Andar, Afghanistan. | ISAF photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Joseph Swafford


On March 19, U.S. Marine Corps staff sergeant Louis Cardin, a field artilleryman assigned to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, died during an attack on Fire Base Bell outside of Makhmur, Iraq. Coincidentally, the U.S. Army is hard at work developing a farther-firing howitzer that could help keep artillery troops out of range of enemy forces.

The Army is cooking up a suite of improvements could double the range of the existing M-777 howitzer. Right now the 155-millimeter gun, in service with the Army and Marines, can lob shells at targets up to 18 miles away.

The M-777ER version the Army is working on “will be able to reach out and hit targets … before the targets can reach them,” David Bound, the lead engineer on the project at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey, told Army reporters. Troops “won’t have to worry about coming into a situation where they are under fire before they can return fire.”

The modifications add fewer than 1,000 pounds of extra weight onto the older howitzers. The updates include improvements that will help gunners fire more accurately plus a mechanism to automatically load rounds into the gun.

The biggest change is the addition of new barrel that’s six feet longer. The longer M-777ER should be able to hit enemy forces more than 43 miles away. And with more powerful propellant charges and rocket-assisted shells, crews might be able to increase that range even more in the near future.

Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan
The Army’s M-777ER prototype. | U.S. Army photo

While the changes to the M-777 might sound simple, the new gun’s extra length actually complicates its employment. Unlike older towed howitzers that hitch up to cargo trucks with their stabilizing legs, the lightweight M-777 has its tow loop right at the end of its barrel. Folded up for travel, the new version will still be more than 35 feet long.

In combat, troops could end up taking the guns off-road, up hills and over uneven terrain. With six more feet between the truck and the howitzer’s own two wheels, there’s greater potential for the barrel to flex if it isn’t sturdy enough to withstand the shock.

A bent barrel would throw off where the shells fall. A broken barrel might simply explode.

So, the project’s biggest challenge might be just convincing soldiers and Marines that the guns work. “The visual prejudice we are up against is that it looks like it may tip over with all that extra cannon,” Bound noted.

With help from engineers at Benet Labs, the Army plans to run “mobility” demonstrations to prove that the gun and its new features are ready for combat. The ground combat branch also plans to install the longer barrel on the new M-109A7 Paladin self-propelled howitzer.

Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan
Marines hitch an M-777 up to a truck. | U.S. Marine Corps photo

Farther-firing cannons would no doubt help in the fight against Islamic State. Since the summer of 2015, the Army has lobbed hundreds of 227-millimeter rockets at militant forces from bases in Iraq and Jordan.

Launched from the back of a six-wheel truck, these GPS-guided projectiles can hit targets up to 43 miles away — the same range the Army expects of the M-777ER. The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System launcher can shoot one rocket every five seconds. But the vehicle can only fire six rockets in total before the crew needs to reload.

So to provide protection for … advisers in Makhmur, we realize that we need some fire support, we need some artillery to provide great protection,” Army colonel Steve Warren, the Pentagon’s main spokesman for the campaign against Islamic State, told reporters on March 21. “We scratched out a fire base there, placed the guns.”

Rocket and gun artillery have the benefit of being less vulnerable to air defenses and the weather than fighter-bombers or gunship helicopters can be. Depending on where aircraft are during an attack, these weapons might take far less time to get into action.

The trainers and Marines at Fire Base Bell are backing up the Iraqi government’s offensive to liberate Mosul. But in their current configuration, the Marine Corps’ guns can’t reach the outskirts of the terrorist-controlled city.

“The Marines fired upon the enemy infiltration routes in order to disrupt their freedom of movement and ability to attack Kurdish and Peshmerga forces,” the military stated. In short, at the moment the gunners at Fire Base Bell are mainly harassing Islamic State’s fighters. But with the M-777ER’s extra range, they should be able to hit the militants’ main defenses in Mosul’s suburbs.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch the explosive video Strategic Command had to delete on New Years Eve

The United States Military is good at its job and, understandably, a little cocky about it. That cockiness got the U.S. Strategic Command in hot water on New Years Eve 2018 when it posted a tweet about being able to drop something “much bigger” than the ball that drops in New York City’s Times Square every year.


In a move the House Armed Forces Committee members called “tacky,” the official Twitter account of the United States Strategic Command sent a tweet featuring a music video of B-2 bombers hitting targets during a training exercise – 30,000 pound Massive Ordnance Penetrators – also known as “bunker busters” – on a test range.

#TimesSquare tradition rings in the #NewYear by dropping the big ball…if ever needed, we are #ready to drop something much, much bigger.

Watch to the end! @AFGlobalStrike @Whiteman_AFB #Deterrence #Assurance #CombatReadyForce#PeaceIsOurProfession… pic.twitter.com/Aw6vzzTONg

— US Strategic Command (@US_Stratcom) December 31, 2018

U.S. Strategic Command is the body that maintains and commands the United States’ nuclear arsenal. A Strategic Command spokesperson told CNN the post was intended to remind Americans that the United States military was on guard and had its priorities in order, even on a holiday like New Years Eve.

The command was later forced to apologize for the tweet, via Twitter.

The video itself was one created by airmen based at Whiteman Air Force Base, Miss. and is less than a minute long. According to the Aviationist, it likely wasn’t filmed recently but is one of the first videos to show a dual dropping of Massive Ordnance Penetrators.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Starting today, kids born after 9/11 will start enlisting in support of the War on Terror

Well, here’s your sobering thought for the day: The War on Terror has officially turned seventeen years old today, which also happens to be the minimum age required to enlist in the armed services. Take that as you will — it’s neither a good nor a bad thing. It’s simply a thing.

For troops in earlier wars, the circumstances were a little more straightforward. We declared war against our enemies (or the enemies of our allies) and the resulting conflict ended when one side conceded or declared victory. A war against an insurgency, however, is inherently different. There isn’t a clear opposition over which to declare victory.

But that’s neither here nor there. The fact is, an entire generation of kids that learned of the attacks on the World Trade Center from history books instead from live television — in much the same way as we learned of the events of the American Cold War — is now capable of raising their right hand and taking an oath of enlistment.


Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan

You know those troops are going to get mocked relentlessly — or just make all the senior NCOs depressed.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

The official rules of enlistment state that someone must be a U.S. citizen or resident alien, must be 17 years of age with parents’ consent or 18 without, must have a high school diploma (with very few exceptions), and must pass a physical medical exam.

While it’s not uncommon to receive a high school diploma at the age of 16, it’s unlikely that such an early achiever would apply their child-prodigy skills by enlisting as a young private when nearly any university would snatch them up in a heartbeat. However, if an applicant is from one of the seven states that 16-year-olds to test for a GED, can manage to swing a slot reserved for GED-holders, and they pass the ASVAB, well, they’ll officially be the first post-9/11 baby to serve in the post-9/11 military.

Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan

They’ll get their chance again, if the war on terror doesn’t end within the next two years…

(U.S. Marine Corps)

It’s a fairly tough pill to swallow — a kid enlisting to serve in a war they were born into — but it’s not the only significant milestone. There are some troops who have enlisted and served into retirement, all in support of the Global War on Terror.

That’s right, troops who opted into the early retirement system that allowed troops who’ve served for over 15 years to take an early exit could have started and ended their career fighting the same insurgency. The program ended last December, but a handful of troops who enlisted right after 9/11 managed to squeeze into that “early out.”

There’s no word yet when the first post-9/11 baby will fill in the ranks, but I’m sure there will be plenty of pomp and circumstance around their enlistment. We’ll just have to wait and see.

See you in formation, kid.

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The Navy just developed invisible armor that is easy to fix

When most people think armor, they think of thick steel, ceramic or Kevlar. It stops (or mitigates) the harm that incoming rounds can do, but there’s one big problem: You can’t see a friggin’ thing if you’re behind it.


This is no a small problem. Put it this way, in “Clausewitzian Friction and Future War,” Erich Hartmann, who scored 352 kills in World War II, was reported to have believed that 80 percent of his victims never knew he was there. Project Red Baron, also known as the Ault Report, backed that assessment up based on engagements in the Vietnam War.

Bulletproof glass exists, but it can be heavy. When it is hit, though, the impact looks a lot like your windshield after it catches a rock kicked up by an 18-wheeler on the interstate.

That also applies in firefights on the ground – and according to a FoxNews.com report, the Navy has made it a little easier to maintain situational awareness while still being able to stop a bullet. The report notes that the Navy’s new armor, based on thermoplastic elastomers, still maintains its transparency despite being hit by bullets.

Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan
Current bullet-resistant glass after ballistic tests during the IDET 2007 fair in Brno. The good news is the bullets were stopped. The bad news: You can’t see through the window. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In a Department of Defense release, Dr. Mike Roland said, “Because of the dissipative properties of the elastomer, the damage due to a projectile strike is limited to the impact locus. This means that the affect on visibility is almost inconsequential, and multi-hit protection is achieved.”

That is not the only benefit of this new armor. This new material can also be repaired in the field very quickly using nothing more than a hot plate like that used to cook Ramen noodles in a dorm room – or in the barracks.

Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan
Photo: YouTube/CrashZone

“Heating the material above the softening point, around 100 degrees Celsius, melts the small crystallites, enabling the fracture surfaces to meld together and reform via diffusion,” Dr. Roland explained.

Not only will this capability save money by avoid the need to have replacement armor available, this also helps reduce the logistical burden on the supply chain, particularly in remote operating locations that were very common in Afghanistan during the Global War on Terror.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

US submarine maintains ‘readiness and lethality’ after time in ‘limbo’

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper visited the USS Boise on Sept. 25, 2019, praising the crew for maintaining “readiness and lethality,” even though the Los Angeles-class nuclear-powered attack submarine completed its most recent deployment in 2015.

The Boise has been in limbo, awaiting repairs amid a Navy-wide backlog that has sent subs, including the Boise, to private docks for repair, driving up costs.

The Boise is currently at Naval Station Norfolk, according to the Daily Press, and awaiting repair at Newport News Shipbuilders.

Read on to learn more about Esper’s visit to the Boise.


Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper at the USS Boise.

(Department of Defense)

Esper came to Virginia to discuss the problem of Navy suicides.

Esper visited the Boise during a trip to Norfolk, where three Navy sailors assigned to the USS George H.W. Bush have died by suicide in the past two weeks.

“I wish I could tell you we have an answer to prevent future further suicides in the armed services,” Esper told sailors. “We don’t.”

This year, suicides in the armed services have garnered significant attention, with the Air Force calling a one-day operational stand-down in August 2019 to address the number of suicides in its ranks.

Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan

Defense Secretary Mark Esper tours the USS Boise, Sept. 25, 2019.

(Department of Defense)

While at Norfolk, Esper took a tour of the USS Boise.

The submarine Esper praised for its readiness has been out of action for four years and lost its certification to perform unrestricted operations in June 2016 as it awaited repairs, according to Navy spokesperson Cdr. Jodie Cornell.

“The Boise has been waiting for repairs since its last deployment ended in 2015, and become the poster child for problems w/ Navy maintenance,” journalist Paul McLeary tweeted Sept. 25, 2019.

The Boise and two other Los Angeles-class submarines have long awaited repairs that the Navy doesn’t have the capacity to perform, so the service has contracted the labor to private shipyards.

Cornell told Insider that the Boise could go into repairs in spring 2020, but the contract for the private shipbuilder to perform the repair was still in negotiations.

Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan

Esper aboard the USS Boise on Sept. 25, 2019.

(US Department of Defense)

The Boise maintains a full crew, despite being stuck at Naval Base Norfolk.

Cornell told Insider that while there is indeed a full crew aboard the Boise, “the command has been executing an aggressive plan to send crew members to other submarines to both support the other ships, including deployments, and to gain Boise crewmembers valuable operational experience.”

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimated in 2018 that attack submarines have spent 10,363 days in “idle time” — when they can’t operate and are unable to get repairs — since 2008.

During that time, the Navy also spent an estimated id=”listicle-2640620235″.5 billion to maintain attack subs that weren’t operational.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Today’s Springfield Armory isn’t your grandpa’s Springfield Armory

When people think of American firearm manufacturers, legendary names like Colt, Smith & Wesson and Springfield come to mind. However, the modern firearms that today’s Springfield Armory makes like the M1A, SAINT AR-15s, XD pistols and Hellcat sub-compact pistol have little, if any, relation to classic American firearms like the M1903 Springfield and M1 Garand rifles that served in the World Wars. To explain, we have to go back to America’s fight for independence.

In 1777, George Washington was searching for a suitable location for an arms repository. General Henry Knox, chief artillery officer of the Continental Army, recommended Springfield, Massachusetts. Though the town was small and possessed little industrial capacity, it was not meant to host any sort of firearms manufacturing facilities. Rather, the Continental Army needed a central location to store and distribute firearms and munitions throughout New England. Springfield lay at the intersection of three rivers including the Connecticut River and four major roads that led to New York City, Boston, Albany, and Montreal. After scouting the site, Washington approved the location and the Springfield Armory was born.

Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan
Shays’ Rebellion is driven away from Springfield Armory (National Archives)

Although the armory did not produce any firearms, musket cartridges and gun carriages were produced there to support the war effort. As intended, the armory continued to stockpile and distribute muskets, cannons, and other weapons throughout the war. By the 1780s, Springfield Armory was America’s premiere ammunition and weapons arsenal. This made it a prime target for Revolutionary War veteran Daniel Shays and his Regulators.

Burdened by debts and taxes from the war, Shays and other veterans felt betrayed by the government that they had fought to establish. In an effort to overturn it, Shays and his followers marched on Springfield Armory on January 25, 1787. The armory was defended by state militia who fired grape shot at the rebels, forcing them to flee. Four Regulators were killed and 20 were wounded. The rebellion was routed and eventually put down and the armory was untouched.

In 1794, construction of manufacturing facilities began at Springfield Armory. The next year, the armory began producing its first firearms. Though the it employed just 40 workers and produced 245 muskets, it was the start of American national firearms manufacturing. Congress would later establish a second national armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia). However, Harpers Ferry would never grow to match Springfield and would be destroyed during the Civil War.

Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan
Springfield Armory c. 1850 (National Park Service)

Throughout the 19th century, Springfield became a hub for firearm design, research, and production. This national armory model mirrored European nations who had dedicated facilities that were funded, maintained, and operated by the government. Under this model, military firearms like the Trapdoor rifle, M1903 Springfield, and M1 Garand were designed and primarily built by the Springfield Armory. Though private companies like Winchester and Remington were contracted to produce rifles during wartime, the manufacturing processes and procedures were all developed and standardized by Springfield.

By WWII, Springfield Armory had over 15,000 employees and was producing a majority of military firearms. However, employment and production was scaled down significantly after the war. Though Springfield did develop and build the M14 to replace the M1 in 1959, U.S. defense policy was changing.

The idea of maintaining a national armory at the expense of the tax-payer was brought into question in the 1960s by then-Defense Secretary Robert McNamara. He believed that it would be more economical to contract private industry for the design and manufacture of military firearms. Rather than having to constantly scale a national armory between peace and wartime, private companies could be lobbied and compete for government contracts when necessary. Under McNamara’s guidance, the Springfield Armory was slowly scaled back.

Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan
Springfield Armory’s experimental shop where John Garand developed the famous M1 (National Park Service)

By 1968, Springfield Armory was completely shut down. Future rifles like the M16/M4 were designed and built by private companies like Armalite, Colt, and FN. However, just a couple years later, the Springfield Armory name was trademarked by Elmer Balance. Through his Texas-based company, LH Manufacturing, Balance had the idea to build a civilian version of the military M14 rifle and market it with the Springfield name. Using surplus M14 parts, Balance created what we know today as the Springfield M1A.

In 1974, Balance sold his entire enterprise, tooling, trademarks, and all, to the Reese family in Geneseo, Illinois. Springfield relocated from Texas to Illinois where it remains today. Though the M1A is a derivative of the M14 that was designed and manufactured by the original Springfield Armory, the rifle is the closest relation that the modern Springfield Armory has to its Revolutionary War-era namesake.

Despite this, Springfield Armory, Inc. maintains the federal logo of two crossed cannons with a cannonball and the writing “Since 1794”. Moreover, many of the company’s firearms are sub-contracted to other manufacturers including the XD pistol series and Hellcat pistol which are made in Croatia.

Today, the actual Springfield Armory facility in Massachusetts is owned and maintained by the National Park Service as a historic landmark. Though the national Springfield Armory is gone, its impact on American history is undeniable. In addition to designing and building war-winning weapons like the M1903 and M1 Garand, Springfield also revolutionized the manufacturing industry with innovations like interchangeable parts and the Blanchard lathe. The national armory also introduced modern business practices like hourly wages. While the modern private company is a cornerstone of the American firearms market, it’s important to note the difference between it and the national armory that it draws its name from.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Secretary of State visits Baghdad to warn of ‘imminent’ Iranian threat

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an unannounced visit to Baghdad, where he met with Iraqi officials to discuss the United States’ security concerns amid what he called “escalating” Iranian activity.

Pompeo’s May 7, 2019, visit to the Iraqi capital came after the United States earlier this week announced the deployment an aircraft carrier battle group to the Middle East, which U.S. official said was in response to threats to American forces and the country’s allies from Iran.

The U.S. intelligence was “very specific” about “attacks that were imminent,” Pompeo said in Baghdad, without providing details.


Tehran has dismissed the reported threat as “psychological warfare.”

Tensions between Tehran and Washington have escalated since President Donald Trump one year ago withdrew the United States from the 2015 between Iran and world powers and imposed sweeping sanctions on Iran.

After meeting with Iraqi President Barham Salih and Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi in Baghdad, Pompeo told reporters: “We talked to them about the importance of Iraq ensuring that it’s able to adequately protect Americans in their country.”

Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan

U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo meets Iraqi President Barham Salih, in Baghdad, Iraq on Jan. 9, 2019.

(State Department Photo)

He said the purpose of the meetings also was to inform Iraqi leaders about “the increased threat stream that we had seen” so they could effectively provide protection to U.S. forces.

Pompeo said he had assured Iraqi officials that the United States stands ready to “continue to ensure that Iraq is a sovereign, independent nation.”

“We don’t want anyone interfering in their country, certainly not by attacking another nation inside of Iraq,” he said.

Asked about the decision to deploy additional forces to the Middle East, Pompeo said: “The message that we’ve sent to the Iranians, I hope, puts us in a position where we can deter and the Iranians will think twice about attacking American interests.”

After his four-hour visit, Pompeo tweeted that his meetings in Baghdad were used “to reinforce our friendship to underline the need for Iraq to protect diplomatic facilities Coalition personnel.”

Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Ali al-Hakim said the sides discussed “bilateral ties, the latest security developments in the region, and anti-terrorism efforts.”

U.S. forces are deployed in Iraq as part of the international coalition against the extremist group Islamic State.

Ahead of the visit, Pompeo said he would also discuss with the Iraqis pending business accords, including “big energy deals that can disconnect them from Iranian energy.”

Earlier, the U.S. secretary of state had attended a meeting of the Arctic Council in Finland and abruptly canceled a planned visit to Germany due to what a spokesperson said were “pressing issues.”

White House national-security adviser John Bolton on May 5, 2019, said that the deployment of the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier and accompanying ships, along with a bomber task force, to waters near Iran was intended to send “a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.”

The United States was acting “in response to a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings,” Bolton said.

Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Zachary S. Welch)

The Pentagon said on May 7, 2019, that the U.S. bomber task force being sent would consist of long-range, nuclear-capable B-52 bombers.

Keyvan Khosravi, spokesman for Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said the USS Abraham Lincoln was already due in the Persian Gulf and dismissed the U.S. announcement as a “clumsy” attempt to recycle old news for “psychological warfare.”

“From announcements of naval movements (that actually occurred last month) to dire warnings about so-called ‘Iranian threats’,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted. “If US and clients don’t feel safe, it’s because they’re despised by the people of the region — blaming Iran won’t reverse that.”

The latest escalation between Washington and Tehran comes ahead of the May 8 anniversary of the U.S. pullout from the nuclear agreement with Iran that provided the country with relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

The ‘Hobbs & Shaw’ trailer is perfect – don’t at me

Get ready for two minutes and fifty-six seconds of glory because the latest trailer from the ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise just dropped. This is why The Rock wakes up at 4:00 to work out while the rest of us sleep like lazy jerks. Hobbs & Shaw looks like it will be completely ridiculous — and that’s why it’s going to be perfection.

Check it out:


Hobbs & Shaw (Official Trailer)

www.youtube.com

Hobbs & Shaw (Official Trailer)

Hobbs Shaw will be the 9th film in the Fast Furious franchise and just like its predecessors, it’s completely bonkers. But it knows that it’s bonkers — and that’s why it’s brilliant.

The franchise started out in 2001 with street racing, thieves, and an undercover cop (played by the late and very much missed Paul Walker), and since then it has exploded into a billion franchise that burns physics like NOS. In the latest film, they’re upping the ante and throwing in super powers.

Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan

No complaints here.

“I am human evolutionary change. Bullet proof. Super human,” purrs Idris Elba, the self-proclaimed “bad guy” of the film. According to The Rock, Elba plays a “cyber-genetically enhanced anarchist [who] gains control of an insidious bio-threat that could alter humanity forever,” and former nemeses Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) must team up together to stop him.

Even though they hate each other but actually share similar ideals. So silly.

Vanessa Kirby plays a rogue M16 agent in there somewhere, too, and I’ll be watching with my Bechdel checklist…

Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan

This is the party I signed up for.

Johnson has made a career out of over-the-top roles that he absolutely pulls off. He’s not making dark action flicks — he’s making films designed to give the viewer some fun. Hobbs Shaw looks like it will be no exception. The creative team doubled down on action thriller endorphins by playing up that ol’ “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” trope — and they did it because it works.

Also read: Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson wanted to be a CIA agent

Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan

You guys are so silly.

The trailer reveals a peek at what we can expect from the film: car chases, explosions, destroyed buildings, and dudes who have spent a lotta hours in the gym beating each other up.

And a girl. Somewhere. Getting captured it looks like. So probably also rescued. She better have some of her own agency is what I’m saying. We can talk about it later, writing duo Chris Morgan and Gary Scott Thompson…

Ultimately, my bet is that the trailer is advertising the exact film it represents: an action-packed, fun-filled, no brainer experience, which is perfect.

Hobbs Shaw opens on August 2, 2019.

More: Read about that time The Rock surprised a combat veteran

Articles

This is how NATO could go to war against itself

If you think that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – the mutual-defense alliance founded in 1949 – is one big, happy family, you’d be wrong.


There have been deep tensions between NATO countries in the past. For a while, France was not even part of the military structure.

Then, there’s Greece and Turkey. To say they have provided a bit of intra-alliance drama is one of the biggest understatements in the existence of NATO.

Greece and Turkey have had a fair amount of historical animosity. In 1897, the two countries went to war, after which Greece secured the autonomy of Crete. From 1919-1922, the two countries went to war again. Turkey won that second round, pushing Greece out of Asia Minor for the most part.

Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan
A Hellenic Air Force Mirage 2000EG. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In the 1950s, the Cyprus issue renewed tensions despite both countries’ memberships in NATO, as did maritime territorial disputes in the Aegean Sea, leading to a near war in 1987, according to the New York Times.

A March 1996 report by the Congressional Research Service described the Imia/Kardak Crisis of 1995, another near-war.

War loomed again in the Cyprus Missile Crisis of 1997-1998, with the Independent reporting Turkey threatened strikes against Russian S-300 missiles sold to the Greek Cypriots. That crisis wasn’t defused until Greece bought the missiles and based them in Crete.

In the past year, the maritime territorial dispute in the Aegean Sea has heated up again, thanks to Turkish President Recip Tayyip Erdogan, according to recent news reports.

Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan
Land-based S-300 surface-to-air missile launchers | Creative Commons photo

So, what would happen if Greece and Turkey went to war? History can be a guide.

Past crises have usually seen NATO apply a lot of diplomatic pressure to avert war. The North Atlantic Treaty, in fact, gives NATO a very big vice to apply that pressure.

According to quora.com, Article V would still be potentially relevant for the country that was attacked. The text of the treaty makes no exceptions if the aggressor is a member of NATO.

There have been incidents between the two countries in the past where troops have exchanged fire planes have been shot down. So, while wars have been averted so far, the possibility remains that an incident could prompt a full-scale war between these two NATO allies.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 of the worst things to drink out of a grog bowl

Attending military balls is one of those things that everyone has to do. Sure, they’re occasionally mandatory, but it’s great to see everyone in the unit unwind for a single night. Your first sergeant can get roaring drunk and tell everyone stories of when they were a young, dumb private and the specialist can flex on the butterbar for their lack of medals.

The one thing that everyone secretly dreads, however, is the grog bowl. It’s hilarious watching everyone in the unit have to stomach what is, essentially, the bottom-dwelling juices of a trash compactor, but no one actually wants to be the person next in line to grab a glass.


In essence, it’s a concoction of random things that are poured into a giant punch bowl (or, occasionally, an unused toilet). The chain of command usually grabs some random thing off the shelf and pours it in. Each addition is followed by some BS excuse — there’s a symbolic reasoning behind every addition.

For example, a unit at Fort Campbell might add in some Jack Daniel’s because the distillery isn’t too far from post and it’s kind of the unofficial drink of the 101st Airborne. You might also see someone throw coffee into the mix because of the many sleepless nights endured by troops in the unit. Those are awesome, fun additions — but you’ll you have to bite your tongue when something gross gets tossed in.

Like these:

Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan

That’s all you, buddy.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Robin Cresswell)

Tabasco — to represent the blood shed by troops

This is the go-to mixer that seems to find a place in every unit’s grog bowl. If you’re a fan of spicy foods, it’s not that bad… in small doses, that is.

Unfortunately, the person adding the Tabasco won’t just add a few drops like they’re making a Bloody Mary. It’s almost always the entire bottle. Thankfully, just as it does with undesirable MREs, the taste of Tabasco will overpower the taste of the rest of the garbage — that’s why Tabasco is the best of the worst things in the grog.

Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan

Yep. It tastes like nothing.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jacob Massey)

Water — to represent the seas

On one hand, it’s great because the water is going to dilute whatever crap is in the bowl already. Each ounce of water offsets an ounce of garbage. On the other hand, it’s freakin’ water. It’s also going to dilute the good stuff that kind souls put in there.

There are kind souls out there that take pity on everyone who has to drink from the bowl and you’ll, on rare occasions, get a grog bowl that isn’t going to unintentionally poison the unit. Putting water in there is just going to ruin what was otherwise a reasonable sip.

Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan

Everything is forgiven if the salt is added in the style of Salt Bae.

(nusr_ett/Twitter)

A bunch of salt — to represent sweat

Just like Tabasco, salt would be fine in small doses but, just like Tabasco, salt is almost always poured in en masse. And, as you’ve probably guessed, it just makes everything salty.

This one is just lazy. At least you have to go to the store to buy a bottle of Tabasco. Usually, people just grab the salt shaker off the table in front of them and head up to the bowl.

Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan

Just because we ate our fair share of sand while deployed doesn’t mean we want to eat more of it stateside.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lt. Dave Hecht)

Sand — to represent the wars in the deserts

The rules dictating what kind of garbage you can put in the grog bowl typically limits the selection to things you’re willing to actually drink. This rules out, thankfully, things like battery acid. However, for some reason, this same logic doesn’t rule out sand.

Why? Because in the sandstorms of Iraq and Afghanistan, you’re going to unintentionally eat a lot of sand. Therefore, it must be okay to just drink sand, right? Wrong. Thankfully, if you’re just trying to screw everyone over, know that the sand will just sink to the bottom of the bowl and nobody will actually have to drink it.

Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan

At least pretend like you’re making an effort to be an asshole.

(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jacob Andrew Goff)

Milk — to represent… who knows, f*ck it.

There’s rarely any actual reasoning behind adding milk to the bowl. Now, if anyone were to say something along the lines of, “this is for the mothers that are waiting for us,” it’d make a little sense — but I just made that one up on the spot and have never heard it actually uttered at a ball.

It’s typically just tossed in because it’s readily available and someone didn’t want to spend time and effort on screwing everyone else over.

Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan

Same goes for putting old socks in it… jerk.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Adelita Mead)

A boot — to represent… hard work?

Come on. This one is just plain unhygienic. It’s rare that someone will spend the effort (or cash) to buy a fresh, never-worn, boot just to plop it in the grog bowl.

Sometimes, justice intervenes and whoever put their boot in the bowl will have to drink from their own footwear. Believe me, when that jerk ends up at sick call the next week, nobody’s shedding a tear.

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