In the crucial months following the D-Day invasion, the clever foxes of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops repeatedly fooled the Nazis by deploying a Ghost Army; a phantom division of mocked-up tanks, vehicles, and artillery. The artists, actors, designers, and audio-technicians who made up the unit managed to deceive the Nazis on more than 20 occasions.
Now, more than seventy years later, a bipartisan congressional movement seeks to reward the tricksters for their efforts. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) and Rep. Annie Kuster (D-N.H.) have introduced a bill called “The Ghost Army Gold Medal Act,” according to the Washington Times. “It is finally time that the American people recognize their ingenuity and selflessness which saved countless American and Allied lives,” Mr. King says. “The Ghost Army deserve their due.”
The bill has picked up over 30 co-sponsors in the House, with a companion bill being introduced in the Senate. There are currently surviving “Ghost vets” in 11 states and the District of Columbia. If the Ghost Army is awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, they will be joining other specialized WWII units such as the Monuments Men, the Doolittle Raiders, and the Native American Code-talkers.
Though the 23rd was made up of only 1,000 men, they were often able to dupe the Nazi army into believing they numbered closer to 30,000. They did this by strategically placing dummy tanks, trucks, and artillery within enemy line of site, while blasting sound effects of heavily armed infantry on giant boom boxes, while could be heard from more than 20km away. This was often enough to distract the enemy long enough for the non-inflatable Allied Army to get into position on the crucial front lines of Normandy to the Rhine River. It’s estimated that these tactics saved tens of thousands of soldiers’ lives.
The ingenuity of the 23rd wasn’t limited to battlefield theatrics. Actors within the Ghost Army impersonated U.S. general and hi-ranking officers in European towns, brazenly discussing fake military plans over casks of wine and fooling German spies. Architects and set designers even constructed dummy camps and airfields, complete with tents and laundry drying on clotheslines, and fake convoys of empty trucks ferrying back and forth.
Hollywood has taken notice, as well, and a “Ghost Army” film is currently being developed by “American Sniper” actor Bradley Cooper and producer Todd Philips.
Its vulnerability reminded me of a conversation I had two years ago, at the Web Summit conference in Lisbon with cybersecurity investor Sergey Gribov of Flint Capital. He was talking up one of his investments, an industrial cybersecurity firm based in Israel called CyberX. Half-bored, I girded myself for his pitch. They usually go like this: “The internet is full of hackers! They want to steal your data and your money! If only companies used my company’s awesome product, we would all be safe!”
I have heard hundreds of pitches like this.
But my conversation with Gribov was different. It was … extreme. The criminals who break into the web sites of banks or chainstores and steal personal data or money are not the scariest people out there, he told me. The hackers we really ought to be worrying about are the ones trying to take entire countries offline. People who are trying to take down the internet, switch the lights off, cut the water supply, disable railways, or blow up factories.
The West’s weakness is in the older electronics and sensors that control processes in infrastructure and industry. Often these electronics were installed decades ago. The security systems controlling them are ancient or non-existent. If a hacker can gain control of a temperature sensor in a factory, he — they’re usually men — can blow the place up, or set it on fire. “The problem people don’t realise is it becomes a weapon of mass destruction. You can take down a whole country. It can be done,” he said.
And then, how do you respond? Does the country that was attacked — the one struggling to get its power grid back online — launch nukes? Probably not, he said, because “you have no idea who did it.”
“You can have a team of five people sitting in a basement and be just as devastating as WMDs,” he said. “It’s really scary. In some sense it’s a matter of time because it’s really easy.”
At the time, I discounted my conversation with Gribov. His VC fund was invested in CyberX, so he had an obvious interest in propagating the idea that the world is full of bad guys.
But in the years since we talked, two unnerving things happened.
In December 2017, three men pleaded guilty to causing the largest internet outage in history – a distributed “denial of service” attack that blacked out the web across most of the US and large chunks of Northern Europe for about 12 hours. They had disabled Dyn, a company that provides Domain Name System (DNS) services — the web’s directory of addresses, basically — to much of the internet.
“Someone is learning how to take down the Internet,” Bruce Schneier, the CTO of IBM Resilient believes
Both attacks were conducted by relatively unsophisticated actors. The Dyn attack was done by three young men who had created some software that they merely hoped would disable a competitor’s company, until it got out of control. The Mauritania attack was probably done by the government of neighbouring Sierra Leone, which was trying to manipulate local election results by crippling the media.
Three major power suppliers simultaneously taken over by hackers
Next, I talked to Nir Giller, cofounder and CTO of CyberX. He pointed me to the December 2015 blackout in Ukraine, in which three major power suppliers were simultaneously taken over by hackers. The hackers gained remote control of the stations’ dashboards, and manually switched off about 60 substations, leaving 230,000 Ukrainians in the cold and dark for six straight hours.
“It’s a new weapon,” Giller says. “It wasn’t an accident. It was a sophisticated, well-coordinated attack.”
The fact that the hackers targeted a power station was telling. The biggest vulnerabilities in Western infrastructure are older facilities, Giller believes. Factories, energy plants, and water companies all operate using machinery that is often very old. New devices and software are installed alongside the older machinery, often to control or monitor it. This is what the industrial “internet of things” looks like. Hackers don’t need to control an entire plant, the way they did in Ukraine. They only need to control an individual sensor on a single machine. “In the best-case scenario you have to get rid of a batch” of product, Giller says. “In the worst case, it’s medicine that is not supervised or produced correctly.”
CyberX has done work for the Carlsbad Desalination Plant in California. It claims to be the largest seawater desalination plant in the US. And it serves an area prone to annual droughts. Giller declined to say exactly how CyberX protects the plant but the implication of the company’s work is clear — before CyberX showed up, it was pretty easy to shut down the water supply to about 400,000 people in San Diego.
2010 was the year that cybersecurity experts really woke up to the idea that you could take down infrastructure, not just individual companies or web sites. That was the year the Stuxnet virus was deployed to take down the Iranian nuclear program.
“Stuxnet in 2010 was groundbreaking”
The principle behind Stuxnet was simple: Like all software viruses, it copied and sent itself to as many computers running Microsoft Windows as it possibly could, invisibly infecting hundreds of thousands of operating systems worldwide. Once installed, Stuxnet looked for Siemens Step7 industrial software. If it found some, Stuxnet then asked itself a question: “Is this software operating a centrifuge that spins at the exact frequency of an Iranian nuclear power plant that is enriching uranium to create nuclear weapons?” If the answer was “yes,” Stuxnet changed the data coming from the centrifuges, giving their operators false information. The centrifuges stopped working properly. And one-fifth of the Iranian nuclear program’s enrichment facilities were ruined.
“Stuxnet in 2010 was groundbreaking,” Giller says.
Groundbreaking, but extremely sophisticated. Some experts believe that the designers of Stuxnet would need access to Microsoft’s original source code — something that only a government like the US or Israel could command.
Russia is another state actor that is growing its anti-infrastructure resources. In April 2017 the US FBI and the British security services warned that Russia had seeded UK wifi routers — the little boxes that serve wireless internet in your living room — with a hack that can read all the internet traffic going through them. It’s not that Vladimir Putin wants to see what you’re looking at on Pornhub. Rather, “What they’re doing there is building capability,” says Andrew Tsonchev, the director of technology at Darktrace Industrial, a London-based cybersecurity firm that specialises in artificially intelligent, proactive security. “They’re building that and investing in that so they can launch attacks from it across the world if and when they need to.”
A simple extortion device disabled Britain’s largest employer in an afternoon
Then, in 2017, the Wannacry virus attack happened. Like Stuxnet, Wannacry also spread itself through the Microsoft Windows ecosystem. Once activated, it locked up a user’s computer and demanded a ransom in bitcoin if the user wanted their data back. It was intended as a way to extort money from people at scale. The Wannacry malware was too successful, however. It affected so many computers at once that it drew attention to itself, and was quickly disabled by a security researcher (who ironically was later accused of being the creator of yet another type of malware).
During its brief life, Wannacry became most infamous for disabling hundreds of computers used by Britain’s National Health Service, and was at one point a serious threat to the UK’s ability to deliver healthcare in some hospitals.
The fact that a simple extortion device could disable Britain’s largest employer in an afternoon did not go unnoticed. Previously, something like Stuxnet needed the sophistication of a nation-state. But Wannacry looked like something you could create in your bedroom.
A screenshot shows a WannaCry ransomware demand.
Tsonchev told Business Insider that Wannacry changed the culture among serious black-hat hackers.
“It managed to swoop across, and burn down huge sectors in different countries for a bit,” he says. “In the course of that, the shipping industry got hit. We had people like Maersk, and other shipping terminals and operators, they went down for a day or two. What happened is the ransomware managed to get into these port terminals and the harbours that control shipping … that intrigued attackers to realise that was something they could deliberately try and do that wasn’t really in their playbook at that point.”
“Oh look, we can actually start to do things like take down manufacturing plants and affect the global shipping industry”
“So this year, we see follow-on attacks specifically targeting shipping terminals and ports. They hit the Port of Barcelona and the Port of San Diego and others. That seemed to follow the methodology of the lessons learned the previous year. ‘Oh look, we can actually start to do things like take down manufacturing plants and affect the global shipping industry.’ A couple years ago they were just thinking about stealing credit card data.”
But it may have taught North Korea something more useful: You don’t need bombs to bring a nation to its knees.
Oddly, you have a role to play in making sure this doesn’t happen. The reason Russia and North Korea and Israel and the US all got such devastating results in their attacks on foreign infrastructure is because ordinary people are bad at updating the security software on their personal computers. People let their security software get old and vulnerable, and then weeks later they’re hosting Stuxnet or Wannacry or Russia’s wifi listening posts.
National security is, somehow, about “the absurdity of the mundane,” says Tsonchev. “These little annoying popups [on your computer] are actually holding the key to national security and people are just ignoring them. Individuals have a small part to play in keeping the whole country safe.”
So if you’re casting about for a New Year’s resolution right now, consider this one: Resolve to keep your phone and laptop up to date with system security software. Your country needs you.
Amazon is planning to make a foray into delivering ready-to-eat meals based on a technology program pioneered by the Army to improve the infamous MRE field rations.
According to a report by Reuters, the online retailer currently trying to acquire Whole Foods is also looking to sell food items like beef stew and vegetable frittatas that would be shelf stable for at least a year.
This is done using a preparation technique called microwave assisted thermal sterilization, or “MATS,” which was developed by 915 Labs, a start-up in the Denver area.
MATS came about as the Army was seeking to improve its Meals Ready to Eat for troops in the field. Traditional methods of preparing shelf-stable foods involve using pressure cookers, which also remove nutrients and alter the food’s flavor and texture. This requires the use of additive, including sodium and artificial flavors, according to reports.
The new technology involves putting sealed packages of food into water and using microwaves to heat them. Currently, machines can produce about 1,800 meals per hour, but some machines could produce as many as 225 meals a minute.
The shelf-stable foods would be ideal for Amazon’s current delivery system, which involves warehouses to store products that are later delivered to customers. Shelf-stable food that is ready-to-eat is seen as a potential “disruptor” in the industry.
“They will test these products with their consumers, and get a sense of where they would go,” Greg Spragg, the President and CEO of Solve for Food, told Reuters. The company is based in Arkansas, near the headquarters of Wal-Mart.
One bottleneck had been getting approval from the Food and Drug Administration for dishes prepared with MATS. 915 Labs has developed dishes, but is awaiting the go-ahead. Meanwhile, the Australian military has acquired the technology, and several countries in Asia that lack refrigerated supply chains are also purchasing machines.
Oh, and MATS could also be used on MREs, providing the same five-year shelf life that the current versions get as well.
More than 500 service members from Joint Region Marianas and other units from within Indo-Pacific Command assigned to Task Force-West (TF-W) are providing Department of Defense support to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands’ (CNMI) civil and local officials as part of the FEMA-supported Super Typhoon Yutu recovery efforts, which began Oct. 25, 2018, immediately following the storm.
“We are working alongside the people of CNMI to help recover and ensure people get the assistance they need,” said Navy Rear Adm. Shoshana Chatfield, commander of TF-W. “I am extremely proud of the hard work and dedication I’ve seen from my team, both on Saipan and Tinian, and I know they will continue to put forth their best effort until contributions from the DoD are no longer needed.”
Super Typhoon Yutu was the strongest typhoon to hit a U.S. territory and was the second-strongest system to hit U.S. soil in recorded history, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The Category 5 super typhoon had sustained winds of 178 mph, which devastated much of Saipan and Tinian.
A U.S. Army Reserve Soldier embraces a resident standing in line at a Point of Distribution in Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Nov. 3, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. JT May III)
“Ensuring the health and safety of our family following the storm is our top priority,” said Governor Ralph DLG. Torres. “This is the worst storm anyone in the CNMI has ever seen, and we must ensure we take care of each other. We are grateful for the partnership we have with FEMA and our military partners on island to help us during this difficult time. To our federal and military partners, Si Yu’us Ma’ase for your continued support; thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
Sailors assigned to Landing Craft Utility 1634, attached to Naval Beach Unit 7 forward-deployed to Sasebo, Japan, embarked aboard amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland, direct a solider assigned to the Guam Army National Guard as she drives to pick up supplies for Super Typhoon Yutu recovery effort.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kory Alsberry)
More than 50,000 residents on Saipan and Tinian are coming together with outside entities to recover from the destruction caused by Super Typhoon Yutu.
“The CNMI government, American Red Cross, FEMA and the DoD are prioritizing life-saving and life-sustaining missions throughout the designated islands of CNMI,” said Bern Ruiz, FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer for FEMA, the U.S. government’s domestic emergency response agency. “We are focused on restoring community lifelines and working to ensure food, water, medical, and critical supplies are available in sufficient quantity.”
Guam Army National Guard soldiers land on Saipan via C-130 to provide support operations for those affected by Super Typhoon Yutu, Nov. 5, 2018.
During Defense Support to Civil Authorities (DSCA) operations, the U.S. military provides essential support to American citizens affected by declared natural disasters. With FEMA as the lead Federal agency, TF-W continues to partner with civil and local agencies to perform debris clearance on public lands and assist with distribution of water and food to people in need.
U.S. airmen offload a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle from a C-130 transport plane so it can be used to move supplies to the citizens of Saipan after Super Typhoon Yutu, Nov. 4, 2018.
“To the people of CNMI: we stand here with you during this time of crisis,” said Chatfield. “Your military is here to help. We are Marianas Strong.”
TF-W is a joint task force. It is divided into Task Group Saipan and Task Group Tinian, and is comprised of active duty, reserve, and Guam National Guard service members from more than 20 different units across every branch of service. Service members traveled from Japan, Guam, Hawaii, and parts of the continental U.S. as part of TF-W’s DSCA mission. TF-W is providing DoD support to the CNMI civil and local officials as part of the FEMA-supported Typhoon Yutu recovery efforts.
Built in 1985, the Kuznetsov, a 55,000-ton behemoth, is a veteran of a full four deployments and the Russian Navy’s flagship. It’s powered by diesel fuel generators. Serving on the ship is akin to punishment for Russian sailors, who coined the phrase, “If you misbehave, you’ll be sent to the Kuznetsov.”
The carrier’s boilers are also defective to the point where the central heating system is inoperative and crewmen must bring their own heaters. This does not keep the pipes from freezing in extreme temperatures. Instead of fixing the system, the Russian Navy simply closed half the ship’s latrines and stopped running water to 60 percent of its cabins. Half the ventilators are also in need of repair, so the ship reeks of mold and mildew.
To further the discomfort, the cafeteria on board the carrier seats 150 people, for a crew of almost 2,000. Remember that the command closed half the latrines? There are 25 operational ones for 2,000 crewmen. The Russian sailors say they’re in formation ten times a day, for 35 minutes each time. That’s almost six hours of formation every day.
The Kuznetsov in its natural habitat: drydock
Comparatively, the U.S.’ oldest carrier is the Nimitz, build in 1975. The Nimitz is a nuclear-powered carrier, the flagship of its strike group. It is home to more than 6,500 sailors and has an unlimited endurance time and distance. Nimitz-class carriers have a life expectancy of 50 years and will not be replaced until at least 2025. (And they don’t deploy with deepwater tugs.)
Those in America worried about the military capability and force projection of Russia, China, and others can rest at ease. China’s first homegrown carrier uses the same terrible power source as the Kuznetsov as well as similar air assets, like a bow ramp which launches fighters into the air while limiting the weight and armament the planes can carry.
Deep in the Nevada desert — approximately 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas — sits a small town where the human population on a non-work day is zero. But this town wasn’t made for real people to inhabit. Rather, it was specially built just to test atomic blasts that would consume the area with its crushing power and unbelievable heat.
In the 1950s, nuclear testing began at the Nevada National Security Site as technicians mounted the Apple-2 bomb on top of a detonation tower.
The tower stood 1,500 feet above ground level so that when the colossal explosion occurred, the fireball blast wouldn’t effect or damage the monitoring equipment.
The testing facilities’ employees manufactured and assembled shops, gas stations, and homes made of brick and wood — dubbing these areas “Doom Towns.”
Inside these buildings, the workers staged the interiors with full-size mannequin families wearing various types clothing to witness how the different fabrics would hold up during the energy bursts and extreme heat. After denotation, the homes that were within 6,000 feet from ground zero lost rooftops, suffered broken windows and the several coats of paint blistered and scraped off in a matter of a few moments.
By contrast, the homes that were located near the initial blast zone were completely incinerated and their ashes sailed into the wind.
Coalition air power had a busy Veterans’ Day Weekend while attacking the Islamic State of Iraqi and Syria, also known as ISIS.
Across Iraq and Syria, 84 airstrikes were carried out against the terrorist group, 27 of which were around the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, which Iraqi forces have been trying to liberate from ISIS since October.
The attacks took place as Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited the region. Iraqi forces are moving towards the city, in an offensive expected to take months, according to a DOD News article.
“In my judgment, what Mosul does is reduce ISIL inside of Iraq back to an insurgency with terrorist actions and get them to a level where Iraqi security forces with a minimum level of outside support will be able to manage the violence inside Iraq,” Dunford said. “It denies ISIL freedom of movement and sanctuary inside Iraq.”
The terrorist group was in retreat as their eastern defenses around Mosul collapsed, and the Iraqi Army claimed to have secured the Intisar district of the city, and was moving into the neighborhood of Salaam.
As Coalition forces move in, there have been reports of increasing atrocities carried out by ISIS. According to VOA news, one video released by the terrorist group showed four children — none older than 14 — being forced to execute alleged spies. ISIS had developed “hand grenade” drones and was using them around Mosul.
In other news about the fight against ISIS, the BBC reported that ISIS carried out a half-dozen bombings around Baghdad, and a tweet from CombatAir reported that a Russian MiG-29K Fulcrum operating from the Admiral Kuznetsov was lost.
According to a Nov. 11 release, 24 air strikes were carried out by coalition forces, seven of which took place near Mosul. The Mosul-area strikes destroyed or damaged seven mortar systems, an artillery system, three vehicles, and two weapon caches. Other targets hit that day included a command and control node, oil production facilities, three supply routes, fighting positions, heavy machine guns, a storage container, and a bulldozer.
A Department of Defense release on Nov. 12 reported that five out of 23 strikes that day took place near Mosul. Those five strikes hit a fighting position; five mortar systems; two tunnel entrances; two heavy machines guns; four vehicles; a vehicle bomb; and a weapons cache. The other 18 strikes blasted a number of other targets, including a headquarters building; six oil wellheads; five fighting positions; and six ISIS “tactical units.
Nearly 74 years ago, in the skies over Hansa Bay on the northern coast of Papua New Guinea, 2nd Lieutenant Thomas V. Kelly, Jr. was crewing a B-24 bomber named “Heaven Can Wait.” He and ten other crewmen were on a mission to destroy Japanese anti-aircraft batteries when, suddenly, his aircraft was struck, sending it crashing into the ocean below.
The wreckage and those on board were lost to the sea — until May 2018.
The crew of “Heaven Can Wait.” 2nd Lt. Thomas V. Kelly is pictured in the center, top row.
On that fateful day, March 11th, 1944, 2nd Lt. Kelly’s struggle ended — but for those he had left behind back home, it had just begun. Wracked with grief and left without closure, his family pieced together whatever information they could find — eyewitness accounts from military reports, mission documents, diary entries, etc. — to try and better understand. But without help, there would be no conclusion. That’s when Project Recover got involved.
Project Recover makes uses of the most sophisticated underwater imaging technology to find the once-unrecoverable.
Project Recover was established 2012 with the goal of locating the underwater resting places of the 72,000 Americans that have gone missing in action since World War II. Through a partnership between the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, the University of Delaware College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, and the BentProp Project, the organization uses sophisticated, modern technologies to find those once deemed unrecoverable.
The northern end of Hansa Bay, Papua New Guinea.
Upon receiving the compiled evidence, Project Recover set out to Papau New Guinea in October 2017, with aims of searching for 5 sunken U.S. aircraft that accounted for 24 MIA. After carefully reviewing the documents and conducting an archaeological study, the team determined that “Heaven Can Wait” was resting somewhere in the north end of Hansa Bay.
It was there, after 11 days of searching across 27 square kilometers of sea floor, that they found her under 213 feet of water.
What remained of “Heaven Can Wait”
“This is an important step toward our ultimate goal of identifying and returning home the crew of “Heaven Can Wait” who bravely served our country,” said Dan Friedkin, a member of Project Recover and CEO of The Friedkin Group, whose substantial contribution to the Project made the trip to Papau New Guinea possible.
Since their discovery, a process has begun with the U.S. government to, hopefully, recover and identify the remains of the up to 11 crew members aboard “Heaven Can Wait.” In the last five months, there have been three repatriation ceremonies for veterans who served in World War II — all of which are a direct result of Project Recovery’s work — but much remains to be done.
Dan Friedkin stated, with determination, that the organization’s “search efforts for the more than 72,000 missing American service members from World War II will continue.”
For more about Project Recover, be sure to visit their website. For all the details on the amazing story surrounding the recovery of “Heaven Can Wait,” watch the video below.
There are some units in the U.S. Marine Corps that really know how to make an impression.
Like the rest of the military, Marine units have unit crests, nicknames, and of course, mottos. And in quite a few cases, those elements are pretty badass.
These are our picks for the units with the coolest unit mottos, along with a brief explanation of what they do.
1. “Whatever It Takes”
1st Battalion, 4th Marines: Stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, 1/4 is an infantry battalion that has been fighting battles since its first combat operation in the Dominican Republic in 1916. That’s also where 1st Lt. Ernest Williams earned the Medal of Honor, the first for the battalion.
2. “Get Some”
3rd Battalion, 5th Marines: Based at the northern edge of Camp Pendleton, California, the “Dark Horse” battalion is one of the most-decorated battalions in the Marine Corps.
3. “Balls of the Corps”
3rd Battalion, 1st Marines: “The Thundering Third” is stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, and has a notable former member in Gen. Joseph Dunford.
4. “We Quell the Storm, and Ride the Thunder”
3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines: “The Betio Bastards” of 3/2 are based at Camp Lejeune, and have been heavily involved in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. The battalion is perhaps best known for its fight on Tarawa in 1943.
5. “Retreat Hell”
2nd Battalion, 5th Marines: It was in the trenches of World War I where 2/5 got its motto. When told by a French officer that his unit should retreat from the defensive line, Capt. Lloyd Williams replied, “Retreat? Hell, we just got here!” With combat service going back to 1914, 2/5 is the most decorated battalion in Marine history.
6. “Ready for All, Yielding to None”
2nd Battalion, 7th Marines: Stationed at Twentynine Palms, California, the battalion’s current motto is a slight variation on its Vietnam-era one: “Ready for Anything, Counting on Nothing.”
7. “Semper Malus” — Latin for “Always Ugly”
Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 362 (HMH-362): This helicopter unit nicknamed “Ugly Angels,” is stationed at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii and holds the proud distinction of being the first aircraft unit ashore in Vietnam.
8. “Swift, Silent, Deadly”
1st, 2nd, and 3rd Recon Battalions: Reconnaissance Marines are trained for special missions, raids, and you guessed it: reconnaissance. For these three battalions, stationed at Camps Lejeune, Pendleton, and Schwab, the motto pretty much sums up what they can do.
9. “Make Peace or Die”
1st Battalion, 5th Marines: Nicknamed “Geronimo,” the Camp Pendleton based 1/5 has been involved in every major U.S. engagement since World War I. Most recently, the battalion has been deployed to Darwin, Australia as the Corps tries to “pivot to the Pacific.”
The Cold War was the ultimate worldwide, geopolitical game, pitting two disparate ideologies against one another. The battle lines were drawn — and they were clear. In one corner, you had the global Communist bloc and its allies, some perfidious, willing to pit the two superpowers against each other for their own gain. In the other was the West and its allies, defenders of capitalism and democracy (or… at least… they were just not Communists).
For nearly 50 years, this game dominated the world order. It became so ingrained in our brains that, today, it’s still difficult to think of Russia as anything but the Soviet Union, a democracy in name only, just waiting to turn back the clock and surprise us. So we must always be on guard.
Pictured: Chinese foreign policy.
The problem with American foreign policy makers is that they don’t really know if Russia is truly their main adversary these days. Recently, a top CIA Asia expert told the Aspen Security Forum that China was definitely enemy number one, but does not want a direct conflict. China is much more insidious than that. Where the Soviets Russians prefer to openly troll Americans and blatantly defy American objectives, China is subtly undermining American power in strategic locations all over the world. And it has nothing to do with trade disputes.
FBI Director Christopher Wray says China poses the most significant threat to U.S. national security.
“The volume of it. The pervasiveness of it. The significance of it is something that I think this country cannot underestimate,” Wray said. It was a sentiment echoed by many security experts in Aspen — China is ready to replace Russia as a global U.S. competitor and to supplant the U.S. as the economic powerhouse.
China has the second-largest defense budget in the world, the largest standing army in terms of ground forces, the third-largest air force, and a navy of 300 ships and more than 60 submarines — all in the process of modernizing and upgrading. The Chinese are also far ahead of the United States in developing hypersonic weapons.
They’re ready for the United States in a way that Russia hasn’t been prepared for in a long, long time.
“I’m sorry Xi, I misheard you. The future is what?”
And this isn’t exactly a new development. While the United States (and now Russia) were engaged in costly wars and interventions all over the world, China has slowly been expanding its worldwide economic footprint and partnerships. Russia has been harassing its neighbors since 2008 in Georgia, Crimea, Ukraine, and elsewhere. Meanwhile, China began its Belt and Road Initiative, investing billions in infrastructure to link China with markets from Central Asia to Europe.
While no one was watching, Chinese investment dollars have filled coffers all over the world, bringing once-forgotten economic backwaters into the Chinese sphere of influence at the cost of American prestige. Chinese raw materials will build these developing marketplaces and the Yuan may soon even be the currency of choice. If the Belt and Road Forum takes off, it could even cut Chinese reliance on American markets.
Russia seems more threatening because that’s exactly what the Russians are good at. Vladimir Putin is no fan of the West or NATO and it seems like he takes real delight in NATO’s failures, especially in Ukraine. While hypersonic weapons, an increased nuclear weapons capacity, and a deeper relationship with Bashar al-Assad’s Syria seem like a significant threat (and may well be), the reality is those hypersonic weapons aren’t quite perfect and Syria isn’t going as well as planned.
Meanwhile, China is quietly preparing for the future.
Russia’s political-military leadership frequently criticizes the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) for its enlargement and for staging military exercises close to Russian borders. This pattern has intensified since Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014 and the subsequent downturn in its relations with the United States and its allies.
Surprisingly, therefore, Moscow’s official reaction has been somewhat muted during the current run up to the active phases of NATO’s largest exercise in Europe in 25 years—though some Russian military experts have been making critical comments to the media.
On January 23, the US Department of Defense confirmed that a redeployment of United States military personnel had commenced, transferring forces from the homeland to Europe as part of the NATO exercise Defender Europe 2020. The wide-spanning maneuvers will focus on the Baltic States, Poland and Georgia, involving more than 36,000 personnel from 11 countries (Lenta.ru, January 26, 2020).
Russian news outlets have highlighted that this year’s Defender Europe exercise scenario is based on a war breaking out on the continent in 2028, between NATO and an enemy close to its borders. Additional reports stressed the scale of the exercise, with 28,000 U.S. military personnel participating, including the deployment of 20,000 from the United States. Referring to the magnitude of the drills, Vadim Kozyulin, a professor at the Russian Academy of Military Sciences, compared them to the 1983 Able Archer, which resulted in Soviet forces being placed on alert.
Despite the scale of Defender Europe 2020 not even coming close to Able Archer 1983, a number of the upcoming exercise’s features may well cause concern for the Russian defense establishment (Lenta.ru, January 26, 2020). Kozyulin asserted, “Such large-scale exercises will seriously aggravate the situation. Moreover, the main events will be held in Poland, Georgia and the Baltic countries, which not only border Russia, but also [exhibit] an unfriendly attitude toward our country” (Km.ru, January 27).
These reports also stressed a number of aspects of the exercise that may help explain the lack of an official response from Moscow thus far. Defender Europe will become an annual NATO exercise with a large-scale iteration planned for even-numbered years and smaller versions occurring in between. US military personnel will constitute the bulk of the force this year, with European allies collectively providing only 8,000 personnel.
As Russian analysts expect, moving the forces, equipment and hardware will prove quite challenging to the North Atlantic Alliance forces. Moreover, Defender Europe 2020 is the first exercise of its kind, which may have persuaded Russia’s defense leadership to cautiously study the exercise in all its various elements before responding to it (Km.ru, January 27, 2020; Lenta.ru, January 26, 2020; Rusvesna.su, January 25, 2020).
In a detailed commentary in Izvestia, the Moscow-based military analyst Anton Lavrov assesses the implications of the exercise, and identifies areas that will be closely monitored by Russia. Lavrov notes that Defender Europe will work out how the Alliance will fight a “war of the future” by testing an experimental strategy and some of its latest military equipment, adding, “Almost 500 American tanks, self-propelled guns and heavy infantry fighting vehicles, hundreds of aircraft, [as well as] tens of thousands of wheeled vehicles will take part in the exercises.”
The force buildup for the maneuvers will continue until April, and then NATO will conduct a series of drills forming part of the overall exercise. Crucially, this will provide an opportunity for the US to road-test its latest doctrinal development, namely “multi-domain battle,” which adds space and cyberspace to the traditional domains of land, sea and air. Lavrov states, “The concept will be tested in a series of command and staff exercises of the allied forces” (Izvestia, January 26, 2020).
The exercise divides into three related elements: transferring 20,000 US troops from the homeland to Europe and back again, moving US personnel based in Europe, and conducting a series of smaller exercises alongside allied forces.
Lavrov also points to the fact that Defender Europe 2020 will rehearse both defensive and offensive operations. One feature of the offensive operational aspects relates to US airborne forces conducting three joint airborne assault landings. In each case, the leading role is assigned to US forces. In the drop into Latvia, they will be joined by forces from Spain and Italy; in Lithuania, they are aided by personnel from Poland; and an additional multilateral airdrop is planned for Georgia (Izvestia, January 26, 2020).
As noted, one key challenge relates to the logistical tasks of moving troops and equipment over such vast distances. US military personnel and equipment will land at airports across Europe and seaports in Antwerp (Belgium), Vlissingen (Netherlands), Bremerhaven (Germany) and Paldiski (Estonia).
Russian military expert Vyacheslav Shurygin explained the nature of the challenge: “The transport infrastructure of Europe has not encountered such large-scale movements of military equipment for a long time.” Indeed, the redeployment of forces and hardware involved cannot be compared to standard US battle group rotations (Izvestia, January 26, 2020).
Clearly, one of the objectives of the exercise is to assess the efficiency of these deployments into a potential theater of military operations. Lavrov adds, “Even for the modern US Army, the transfer of heavy tank and infantry divisions from continent to continent is a difficult, lengthy and expensive task. Twenty thousand units of equipment that the Americans will use in the maneuvers will arrive from the US, and another 13,000 will be received by the military from storage bases on the spot.
In Europe, there are now four large storages of American military equipment. Each one has everything, from tanks and artillery to trucks and medical vehicles, to equip a tank brigade. Another similar base is being built in Poland and will be commissioned in 2021″ (Izvestia, January 26, 2020).
One commentary in the Russian media stressed not only that NATO was deploying forces for exercises close to Russia’s borders but pointedly also referenced Belarus, which fits with Moscow’s scenario planning for its Zapad series of strategic military exercises: “However, the fact that such a powerful group of US and NATO forces is practicing deployments near the borders of Belarus and Russia, against the background of a growing American military presence in Poland and the Baltic countries, is a matter of concern” (Rusvesna.su, January 25, 2020).
It remains to be seen whether Russia’s political-military leadership will continue to be cautious about Defender Europe, restricting its criticism to public rhetoric, or if it will ultimately try to engage the Alliance in political or information warfare on this front.
We don’t like being called “medics” — if we wanted that title we would have joined the Army (shots fired).
With all that said, the military is known for its rivalry as each branch’s medical department wants to be defined as being the most dominant force. Although there will never be a clear winner, competing for the title is the fun part.
We could brag all day about having the most Medal of Honor recipients, but that just wouldn’t be dignified. So here’s proof that the rate of Hospital Corpsman is the sh*t. Come at me.
Back in the day, we were referred to as Surgeon’s Mates, Apothecary, and Loblolly Boy, among a few others. But it wasn’t until June 17, 1898, when President William McKinley signed an act of Congress that created the Navy Hospital Corps, which allowed enlisted personnel to assist surgeons with the wounded on the battlefield.
It was the Corpsman’s job to keep the irons hot while assisting the doctors with cauterizing patient’s limbs after amputation, as well as keeping buckets of sand at the ready to help the medical staff from slipping on the floor from all those massive bleeds.
Since those days, Corpsmen served right alongside the Marine Corps, fighting and patching them up; and that tradition has carried on through the eras as they continue to earn each others’ respect.
Just some of the different types of Corpsman
With all the many types of Corpsmen out there these days, let’s start from the beginning.
In the modern era, the basic Hospital Corpsman earns the NEC “quad zero” or “0000” rating when they graduate from A-school, and can either head right out to the fleet or get additional orders for more specialized training called “C-schools.”
Some Corpsmen will go on to become laboratory techs, dental techs, or attend one of two the Field Medical Training Battalions.
Also known as field med, this tough training is a few steps down from Marine boot camp and is modified with medical classes catered to performing life-saving interventions in combat.
In field med, Corpsmen learn basic patrolling tactics and infantry maneuvers that will help when they deploy to combat zones with their Marine platoons.
In some cases, Corpsmen can request additional schools if they qualify and decide to re-enlist at the end of their active contracts. Many Corpsmen at the pay grade of E-5 request to attend “Independent Duty Corpsman” or IDC school.
Remember when I told you we were better than Army medics? Here’s what I meant:
After completing training, Independent Duty Corpsmen are allowed to take care of patients, prescribe medications and perform minor surgical procedures without the presence of a medical officer.
No Army enlisted personnel can do that. Write that down.
Unfortunately, with all the valuable training IDC’s go through, when they exit the Navy, they can take the knowledge with them, but the accreditation doesn’t transfer over to the civilian world. Bummer.
It’s official; Corpsmen are not Marines — we’re sailors.
Because most of us have served at one time or another on the Marine side of the house, also known as the “Greenside,” many confuse us with Marines due to our stature and uniform.
The truth is, we don’t mind this because of the brotherly bond we’ve earned. If we’ve taken good care of our Marines, that bond will stretch far beyond our years of military service.
The FMF Corpsman
FMF stands for Fleet Marine Force.
Corpsmen can earn this pin after studying their asses off and answer a sh*t ton of questions about Marine knowledge.
It’s a lot to learn and can take a year to scratch the surface of everything you need to know. In some cases, Corpsmen end up learning more facts about the Marine Corps than Marines.
Plus, if you do receive the honor of getting pinned, it’ll make you look cool in front of your platoon.
It’s also a common practice that you pass down your FMF pin to an up and coming Corpsman who appears to have a promising career.
There are three different types of FMF pins and they all look the same. The Marine Air Wing, Logistic Group, and Division (infantry) all have different knowledge the Corpsman is tested on to earn the plaque.
The Division pin tends to be harder to earn since infantry Corpsmen spend a lot of time in the field without much time to study.
Another impressive aspect of being a Greenside Corpsman is that you’re entitled to wear most of the Marine uniforms except their legendary dress blues — provided you sign a “Page 2” document saying you’ll abide by all Marine Corps regulations.
This includes all uniform inspections and annual exercise tests.
The modified Corpsman dress uniform. That’s badass, Chief — look at the freakin’ stack!
Watch the Corpsman tribute video below, and brothers, stay safe out there. We salute your hard work and dedicated to the Corps.