5 things you should know about 'Anchors Aweigh' - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

5 things you should know about ‘Anchors Aweigh’

Today’s U.S. Navy can trace its origins to the Continental Navy of the Revolutionary War. It boasts the largest, most capable fleet in history, proudly serving its mission of “…winning wars, deterring aggression, and maintaining freedom of the seas.” America’s sailors are the finest in the world, and their rousing song — born in victory — suits them well.


Also read: The complete hater’s guide to the US Navy


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Even if you can’t sing along, you’ve probably heard the familiar tune, but here are five things you might not know about “Anchors Aweigh:”

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1. It was written at the U.S. Naval Academy

Bandmaster Lt. Charles A. Zimmerman served as director of the U.S. Naval Academy Band from 1887 until his death in 1916, and he wrote a march for each graduating class. But it was “Anchors Aweigh” would be the one ultimately adopted by the U.S. Navy as its official song.

5 things you should know about ‘Anchors Aweigh’

The Navy Midshipmen take the field in the 2012 Army-Navy game.

U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad Runge)

2. It helped shut out the Army

By 1906, Navy had not beaten Army on the football field since 1900. Midshipman First Class Alfred Hart Miles approached Zimmerman with a request for a new march — one that would lift spirits and “live forever.” According to legend, Miles and Zimmerman got to work at the Academy’s chapel organ. Later that month, the band and brigade performed the song and the Navy swept the Army in a 10-0 victory.

5 things you should know about ‘Anchors Aweigh’

Sailors secure a line to the capstan while hoisting the anchor chain.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class David Finley)

3. It’s chock full of naval jargon, starting with the title

An anchor is “aweigh” when it is hoisted from the bottom, freeing the vessel. This event is duly noted in the ship’s log.

5 things you should know about ‘Anchors Aweigh’

Nimitz Carrier Strike Group conducts an underway.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael D. Cole)

4. It evolved over time

It wasn’t until 1997 that the lyrics were finally revised (by the 8th Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, John Hagan) to be a little less college football and a little more domination of the high seas.

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5. It boasts ancient lore — like 2300 BC ancient

The revised lyrics include some naval lore, such as a reference to Davy Jones, whose locker on the ocean floor is home to drowned sailors and shipwrecks, and the “seven seas,” an ancient phrase for all the world’s oceans.

Here are the proud lyrics (both original and revised):

Original Lyrics

[Verse 1]

Stand Navy down the field, sails set to the sky.

We’ll never change our course, so Army you steer shy-y-y-y.

Roll up the score, Navy, Anchors Aweigh.

Sail Navy down the field and sink the Army, sink the Army Grey.

[Verse 2]

Get underway, Navy, Decks cleared for the fray,

We’ll hoist true Navy Blue So Army down your Grey-y-y-y.

Full speed ahead, Navy; Army heave to,

Furl Black and Grey and Gold and hoist the Navy, hoist the Navy Blue

[Verse 3]

Blue of the Seven Seas; Gold of God’s great sun

Let these our colors be Till all of time be done-n-n-ne,

By Severn shore we learn Navy’s stern call:

Faith, courage, service true With honor over, honor over all.

Revised Lyrics

(It is verse 2 that is most widely sung)

[Verse 1]

Stand Navy out to sea,

Fight our battle cry;

We’ll never change our course,

So vicious foe steer shy-y-y-y.

Roll out the TNT,

Anchors Aweigh.

Sail on to victory

And sink their bones to Davy Jones, hooray!

[Verse 2]

Anchors Aweigh, my boys,

Anchors Aweigh.

Farewell to foreign shores,

We sail at break of day-ay-ay-ay.

Through our last night ashore,

Drink to the foam,

Until we meet once more.

Here’s wishing you a happy voyage home.

[Verse 3]

Blue of the mighty deep:

Gold of God’s great sun.

Let these our colors be

Till all of time be done, done, done, done.

On seven seas we learn

Navy’s stern call:

Faith, courage, service true,

With honor, over honor, over all.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 great military cadences you haven’t thought about in years

For hundreds of years, military cadences have been used as an iconic tool to keep service members upright during formation runs and marches.


Structurally designed to keep each man or woman properly covered and aligned, a cadence helps a formation of troops in PT land each step at the exact same time as everyone else, preventing a massive falling domino effect.

Related: 6 military cadences you will never forget

5 things you should know about ‘Anchors Aweigh’
Members of the 99th Security Forces Group perform cadence while running in the formation (Photo by Air Force Senior Airman Stephanie Rubi)

Military cadence is a preparatory song performed by the leader of the formation during the marches or organized runs.  Many parts of these running songs are so catchy, they will be forever embedded into our heavy left feet.

Read More: 5 epic military movie mistakes

Take a listen and let yourself be transported back to the good ol’ days of the little yellow bird and the days of sitting in the back of your truck with Josephine.

1. “Down By The River”

2. “Pin My Medals Upon My Chest”
3. “C-130 Rolling Down The Strip”
4. “Hey, Hey Whiskey Jack”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uwUeuB0MTGs
5. “How’d Ya Earn Your Living?”
Cadences tend to cross-breed through the different branches and change words to make them service-specific. We salute everyone for their originality.

5 things you should know about ‘Anchors Aweigh’

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Air Force and Army join forces in training

Airmen from Joint Base Charleston and Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, supported Battalion Mass Tactical Week at Pope Army Airfield, North Carolina, Aug. 18-23, 2019.

BMTW is a joint exercise designed to enhance servicemembers’ abilities by practicing contingency operations in a controlled environment. The exercise incorporated three Air Force C-130J Super Hercules, three Air Force C-17 Globemaster IIIs and Army paratroopers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The exercise allowed all parties to quickly complete training tasks, such as personnel drops and cargo air drops, to better prepare joint forces to operate during global mobility missions.


“We do these types of exercises quarterly throughout the year,” said Lt. Col. Justin Warner, 437th Operations Support Group director of operations and the BMTW air mission commander. “The goal of the BMTW is to have a joint collaboration between the Air Force and the Army. We want not just C-17s, but also other airframes to take part in the same formations to support the Army in whatever their specific scheme of maneuvers may entail. This is a great training opportunity for airlift loadmasters and pilots to see and understand Army procedures, tactics and how they’re organized.”

5 things you should know about ‘Anchors Aweigh’

An Air Force C-17 Globemaster III airdrops equipment onto a landing zone during Battalion Mass Tactical Week at Fort Bragg, N.C., Aug. 20, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cody R. Miller)

Starting in 1917, the 82nd Airborne Division’s mission has evolved to strategically deploy, conduct forcible entry parachute assault and secure key objectives in support of U.S. national interests within 18 hours of notification. However, without the help of transport aircraft, the 82nd Airborne wouldn’t be able to execute this mission and get where they need to go. Air Force assets like the C-130J and C-17 allow for soldiers to safely get to their drop points and complete the mission.

While working with the 82nd airborne soldiers, airmen were able to complete training tasks with a focus on joint operations, readiness and interagency operability.

“Any type of repetition to help us stay proficient and current helps aircrew,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Justin Hampton, a 16th Airlift Squadron loadmaster. “We could be deployed in a matter of weeks or days so training like this really helps us prepare for anything we might face while in a deployed environment. Coming out to work with Army is great because we get to learn their way of doing things and how to work in a joint environment.”

5 things you should know about ‘Anchors Aweigh’

Air Force Capt. Peter Callo, a 621st Mobility Support Operations Squadron air mobility liaison officer from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., inspects communications equipment during Battalion Mass Tactical Week at Fort Bragg, N.C., Aug. 20, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cody R. Miller)

BMTW implemented a mixed formation with the C-130Js and C-17s to target small drop zones in a restricted and austere environment, challenging the expertise of the mission planners and those executing the mission. Despite challenges of weather, timelines and effective communication, participants continued to be flexible and resilient to successfully complete BMTW.

“A mission is only as good as the plan that’s been developed for it,” Warner said. “The planners that have worked here to learn both Army and Air Force terminology and understand how both branches communicate have greatly enhanced our ability to get us to that next level of training and execution.”

Exercises like BMTW are held regularly to keep airmen current and up-to-date on current joint tactics. This specific BMTW was to prepare participants for the upcoming Exercise Mobility Guardian 2019, Air Mobility Command’s premier, large-scale mobility exercise. Mobility Guardian, which is scheduled for Sept. 8–28, 2019, provides a realistic training environment for more than 2,500 airmen to hone their skills with joint and international partners and keep a competitive edge in future conflicts.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Lawmakers just gave the Veterans Choice Program a huge overhaul

On May 16, 2018, The House passed by a vote of 372-70 major veterans legislation to extend and reform the Veterans Choice Program to allow more private care options.

The “VA Mission Act,” would also lift the restrictions on family caregiver benefits, which are now limited to post-9/11 veterans, and extend them to the caregivers of veterans of all eras.


The bill will now go to the Senate, where Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, and Sen. Jon Tester, the ranking member of the Committee, have already expressed their support.

President Donald Trump has said he will sign the bill quickly when it reaches his desk.

In a statement, the White House said the bill would “transform the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) into a modern, high-performing, and integrated healthcare system that will ensure our veterans receive the best healthcare possible from the VA, whether delivered in the VA’s own facilities or in the community.”

5 things you should know about ‘Anchors Aweigh’
President Donald Trump

Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs), which previously had expressed concerns that a rapid expansion of community care options could lead to the “privatization” of VA health care, had lined up to back the new bill.

Denise Rohan, national commander of the two-million member American Legion, said in a statement that “I applaud the passage of the VA Mission Act.” She said the bill “will streamline and fund the Department of Veterans Affairs’ many community care programs” and also “expand caregiver benefits to pre-9/11 veterans and their families.”

Keith Harman, national commander of the 1.7 million member Veterans of Foreign Wars, said the bill “will help improve services throughout the VA health system while utilizing private sector resources when needed, striking the right balance to make sure we provide veterans with the best care possible.”

A similar bill offered in 2017, by Isakson was left out of the omnibus $1.3 trillion spending package signed by Trump in February 2018, for all government agencies, forcing the House and Senate to begin anew on reforming choice.

Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tennessee, the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee who was instrumental in gaining bipartisan support for the new legislation, said that “Over the last several months, we’ve taken great, bipartisan steps to reform the department, and this legislation is yet another strong step in the right direction.”

5 things you should know about ‘Anchors Aweigh’
Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tennessee, the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

Roe said the provisions in the bill would keep “our promise to give veterans more choice in their health care while building on our strong investment in VA’s internal capacity.”

The bill would authorize $5.2 billion to extend the current Veterans Choice Program, whose funding was set to expire on May 31, 2018, for one year while the VA enacts reforms to expand private care options.

Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minnesota, the ranking member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, voted against the bill.

“There is little debate that the VA Mission Act is better than the current Veterans Choice Program,” Walz said, but he questioned whether there would be sufficient funding in the long run to sustain it.

“Voting against this bill is not something I take lightly,” he said. “While I have serious concerns with regard to long term sustainability and implementation, the bill does take steps to consolidate VA’s various care in the community programs while providing much needed stop gap funding for the ailing Veterans Choice Program.”

Former VA Secretary David Shulkin in 2017, said that about one-third of VA medical appointments were being handled in the private sector, but the Trump administration had argued for more private care options for veterans who face long waits for appointments or have to travel long distances to VA facilities.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

Articles

This Chinese province may be filled with the descendants of a lost Roman legion

Around 36 BCE, Chinese forces from the Han Dynasty fought a group of rebels called Xiongnu at a fortress in what is now Kazakhstan.


During the battle, the Chinese noticed their enemy employed a strange but distinctive formation. One historian at the battle recalled a unit that formed a unique “fish-scale“-style of protection using their shields.

Some modern historians think that “fish scale” was a Roman phalanx.

5 things you should know about ‘Anchors Aweigh’

 

The battle took place in a city that was once known as Liqian, now a part of Gansu province in Northern China. And strangely, people living where the old city once stood are known to have interesting genetic traits unlike people in the rest of the country.

Aqualine noses, green eyes, and fair skin are just a few of the features found among the villagers of Zhelaizhai, where the ancient city once stood.

Some historians believe the people of Zhelaizhai are descended from the Roman Legionaries who fought with the Han Chinese.

Just 17 years before the battle in Kazakhstan, Parthians fighting the Romans at the Battle of Carrhae (in modern-day Turkey) delivered one of Rome’s most crushing defeats. They captured 10,000 legionnaires and sent the powerful Roman General Marcus Licinius Crassus packing (parts of him, anyway).

Parthians were known to use captured soldiers as border guards and sent their POWs to the Far East, where escape was all but impossible. That Far East outpost is thought by some to be the ancient area of Liqian.

Nowadays, the Gobi Desert border regions are full of ethnically Chinese people whose DNA tested 58% Caucasian.

The theory does have naysayers. Some believe the DNA could be the result of contact from Silk Road trading between Rome and the Far East. Others say Caucasian Huns and warriors with other racial backgrounds fought through this area of Asia at the time.

At least one expert believes there just isn’t enough physical evidence to say these Chinese are descended from Roman legionaries.

“For it to be indisputable, one would need to find items such as Roman money or weapons that were typical of Roman legionaries,” Maurizio Bettini, an anthropologist from Siena University, told La Repubblica. “Without proof of this kind, the story of the lost legions is just a legend.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

China is making the most of the coronavirus to dislodge the US as the world’s main superpower

China is aggressively pushing its foreign policy agenda while the world is focused on the coronavirus.

In recent months, as the coronavirus, which originated from Wuhan, China, spreads, the government led by President Xi Jinping has tried to strengthen its position around the world, while trying to dislodge the US from its position as a superpower.


5 things you should know about ‘Anchors Aweigh’

It has done this by enforcing its sovereignty over the South China Sea, asserting control in Hong Kong by cracking down on protesters from last year, and intimidating Taiwan with increasing military measures.

China is also using its wealth to push its agenda. It pledged tens of millions of dollars to the World Health Organization (WHO) after the US government announced it would freeze its own funding, and it is providing relief on loans to African countries in exchange for them putting up national assets like copper mines as collateral, according to Vox.

Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project, a think tank in Washington, DC, told Vox: “When it sees opportunities, China moves to exploit them. And we are in a moment where the Chinese definitely see opportunities.”

On April 18, China struck back at protesters in Hong Kong. More than a dozen key people were arrested for their roles in protests that gripped the city between August and October. According to The New York Times, “The arrests signaled a broader crackdown on the anti-government movement.”

On the same day, China strengthened its position in the South China Sea. China created two new districts for cities on Yongxing Island, which, along with earlier renaming the areas, was part of an attempt to assert its sovereignty, according to The Diplomat.

An island in the South China Sea might not sound like much when it’s only about 12 square miles of land, yet the city covers 1.2 million square miles of sea, and China’s push for sovereignty clashes with other claims made by Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines.

As for Taiwan, on April 23, Al Jazeera reported China was escalating military drills around the island, signaling discontent towards Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen who was reelected earlier in the year.

Throughout April, China increased military exercises, including having five warships sail unusually close by, conducting a 36-hour endurance exercise, and having its air force reportedly conducted its first night mission in the area.

In Africa, China’s using the struggling nations’ debts to gain assets. China is the continent’s largest creditor. According to the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studied African governments are indebted to China for about 3 billion.

As debt continues to grow some governments are considering handing over assets to China in exchange for relief, according to the Wall Street Journal. For instance, Zambia was considering handing over its third-largest copper mine.

The most obvious recent occurrence of China moving in on the US was its offer to provide funding to WHO. Business Insider’s Rosie Perper previously reported on its pledge to give WHO million after President Donald Trump announced earlier in April that the US would freeze 0 million in payments, which was previously the largest contribution from a single country.T

John Lee, a former national security adviser to Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, told Business Insider the new contribution was not from goodwill but was designed to boost its “superficial credentials” as a “global contributor” dealing with the coronavirus.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

When an Air Force major called J.J. completed a solo flight in the U-2 in late August 2016 — 60 years after the high-flying aircraft was introduced — he became the 1,000th pilot to do so.

J.J., whose name was withheld by the US Air Force for security reasons, earned his solo patch a few days after pilots No. 998 and No. 999. Those three pilots are in distinguished company, two fellow pilots said.

“We have a pretty small, elite team of folks. We’re between about 60 and 70 active-duty pilots at any given time,” Maj. Matt “Top” Nauman said during an Air Force event at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in New York City.


“We’re about 1,050 [pilots] right now. So to put that in context, there are more people with Super Bowl rings than there are people with U-2 patches,” Nauman added. “It’s a pretty small group of people that we’ve hired over the last 60 to 65 years.”

5 things you should know about ‘Anchors Aweigh’

Pilots at Beale Air Force Base go through pre-flight checks on a U-2 during the 2018 Marine Corps Air Station Miramar Air Show, Sept. 29, 2018

(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Schultze)

The U-2 pilot cadre has remained small in part because the Air Force has long sought applicants with extensive experience and flight time — six years and 1,200 rated hours — to fly a challenging, single-seat plane up to 13 miles above the Earth, all while snapping reconnaissance images. Pilots from all backgrounds, from fighter to trainer, can apply, as can transfers from the Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard.

The Air Force also recently introduced a program allowing student pilots to go directly to the U-2 training pipeline, though that program will only send a few fliers to the Dragon Lady.

The mission itself also keeps the ranks trim. “Part of the reason that we cut so many of the applicants is it’s a really difficult plane to fly,” said Nauman, who joined the U-2 program in 2012.

The first phase is an interview at Beale Air Force Base, California where the U-2s are based, meant to assess “self-confidence, professionalism and airmanship” on the ground and during flights in a TU-2, the U-2 training aircraft.

5 things you should know about ‘Anchors Aweigh’

99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron airmen prepare a U-2 pilot for a mission at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, March 13, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Gracie I. Lee)

On a 2012 fact sheet about the application process, the Air Force said pilots “selected for an interview generally possess a strong flight evaluation history, strong performance evaluations, and exceed the minimum flight experience requirements.”

“When you do an interview, you actually go out to Beale for two weeks,” Nauman said. “You’ll sit down and talk with the different commanders, the directors of operations, [go] over your flight records, your performance reviews, and just kind of your overall goals. ‘So why do you want to fly the U-2? What is it that brought you here?'”

An applicant who makes it through the interviews in Week 1 moves on to Week 2, “where you actually get to fly the aircraft,” Nauman said.

“For some folks, they may have never seen a U-2 in person, and the first time they actually touch the jet is Day 1 of their interview,” Nauman added. “They’ve read about it. They’ve seen it. They’ve talked to some people they knew, but by Week 2 they actually put in you a two-seater with an instructor and you have to demonstrate the ability to land the aircraft.”

5 things you should know about ‘Anchors Aweigh’

A U-2 pilot waits for maintainers and crew chiefs to finish final checks before the scheduled flight time at Beale Air Force Base, California, Oct. 26, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Justin Parsons)

While the U-2 excels at high-altitude reconnaissance missions — its ceiling is above 70,000 feet — taking off and landing are more challenging in the ungainly aircraft, which has a 105-foot wingspan and only two landing gear, under the nose and the tail.

Landing requires a kind of controlled crash in which the pilot descends and slows until the plane stalls, dropping onto the runway — all done with the guidance of fellow pilots racing alongside in cars.

“It’s extremely difficult to land,” Nauman said. “You could YouTube videos of bad U-2 landings all day and see interview sorties that look a little bit sketchy. Understand we have a very wide runway and very experienced acceptance flight instructors, so it is safe despite what you might see.”

Applicants do three acceptance flight sorties, during which they perform flight maneuvers, approaches and landings, and other scenarios, including driving the chase car that assists landing U-2s. After that, a decision is made about whether the applicant will be offered an assignment.

5 things you should know about ‘Anchors Aweigh’

A U-2 lands at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, Nov. 16, 2017.

(Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Colton Elliott)

If you do the flying portion of the interview but aren’t picked, “we will not interview you again,” the Air Force says. “Basically, you get one shot.”

U-2 flight training includes time in the T-38 trainer and time to get other qualifications pilots may need, before moving on to flying the actual U-2, on which trainees must complete two courses: basic and mission. Those take about three months each.

The whole training program can take nine months to a year. The 1st Reconnaissance Wing, which Maj. J.J. joined in August 2016, has eight classes of three new pilots each year.

The solo flight that made J.J. the 1,000 solo pilot was his seventh in the aircraft but his first without an instructor. That first solo was to be followed by a few more two-person outings, after which he would never again have to fly the U-2 with someone else.

5 things you should know about ‘Anchors Aweigh’

US Air Force Maj. Sean Gallagher greets his ground support crew before a U-2 mission somewhere in Southwest Asia, Nov. 24, 2010.

Trainees adjusting to the technical challenges of the U-2 also have to adapt to the physical strain of operating it.

Cruising at 70,000 feet puts the plane above the Armstrong Line — the point at which the boiling point for liquids, like blood, is equal to the normal human body temperature — and requires pilots to wear a space suit that weighs about 70 pounds. Pilots also have to breathe pure oxygen before flying to rid their system of nitrogen.

The suit can be a physical and psychological stumbling block. Interviewees must sit in it for at least 45 minutes to prove their mettle before moving on.

“So you get suited up. You go out to the aircraft. It’s pretty warm on the ground, so it could be an endurance test at times,” Maj. Travis “Lefty” Patterson, a U-2 pilot, said at the event.

“If you’re delayed in take off, your core temperature is heating up pretty rapidly as you’re sitting in, effectively, a plastic bag with a fishbowl” on your head, Patterson added.

The cabin is also pressurized, Patterson said. Previous generations of U-2 pilots flew at what felt like about 29,000 feet — roughly the height of Mt. Everest. (That altitude, along with the challenges of longer and more complex missions in the 2000s, took a toll on pilots’ health.)

5 things you should know about ‘Anchors Aweigh’

A U-2 pilot prepares for takeoff at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, Dec. 12, 2018.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)

In the last decade however, the Air Force has brought the U-2’s cockpit altitude down.

“We’re only sitting at about 15,000 feet — a little higher than you would on a normal airliner,” Patterson added. “We still wear that suit in the event that there’s a malfunction or we have to eject or something like that.”

The pilot is strapped into that suit and flying at that altitude for up to 10 hours or 12 hours. But with their focus on the task at hand, a pilot can forget they’re even wearing the suit, Patterson said.

Upon return, however, pilots still getting used to the Dragon Lady may feel the strain acutely.

“I think after my interview sortie, I came back and [said], ‘Wow, I feel like I just did three days of straight Crossfit,’ just because I didn’t know all the tricks of the trade,” Patterson added.

“A good U-2 pilot will land, and you won’t be able to tell from the outside, but inside it’s almost like you’re flailing around. You’re moving the yoke around. Your feet are moving the rudders. It’s kind of like a full-body workout sometimes.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the Marines wanted a different round for their sniper rifle

The Marine Corps is adopting a new precision sniper rifle to increase the lethality and combat effectiveness of scout snipers on the battlefield.

The Mk13 Mod 7 Sniper Rifle is a bolt-action rifle that offers an increased range of fire and accuracy when compared to current and legacy systems. It includes a long-action receiver, stainless steel barrel, and an extended rail interface system for a mounted scope and night vision optic.

The Mk13 is scheduled for fielding in late 2018 and throughout 2019. Units receiving the Mk13 include infantry and reconnaissance battalions and scout sniper schoolhouses. This weapon is already the primary sniper rifle used by Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, or MARSOC.


Fielding the Mk13 ensures the Corps has commonality in its equipment set and Marine scout snipers have the same level of capability as North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces, said Master Sgt. Shawn Hughes from III MEF.

“When the Mk13 Mod 7 is fielded, it will be the primary sniper rifle in the Marine Corps,” said Lt. Col. Paul Gillikin, Infantry Weapons team lead at Marine Corps Systems Command. “The M40A6 will remain in the schoolhouses and operating forces as an alternate sniper rifle primarily used for training. The M110 and M107 will also remain as additional weapons within the scout sniper equipment set.”

5 things you should know about ‘Anchors Aweigh’
M110 7.62mm Semi-Automatic Sniper System.

The Marine Corps identified a materiel capability gap in the maximum effective ranges of its current sniper rifles. After a comparative assessment was conducted, it was clear that the Mk13 dramatically improved scout sniper capabilities in terms of range and terminal effects.

The 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines Scout Sniper Platoon used the weapon for over a year (including during a deployment) in support of the 2025 Sea Dragon Exercise. Feedback from MCSC’s assessment, MARSOC’s operational use, and 3/5’s testing of the weapon system led to its procurement of the Mk13 for the Corps.

The Mk13 increases scout snipers’ range by roughly 300 meters and will use the .300 Winchester Magnum caliber round, a heavier grain projectile with faster muzzle velocity — characteristics that align Marine sniper capability with the U.S. Army and Special Operations Command.

“The .300 Winchester Magnum round will perform better than the current 7.62 NATO ammo in flight, increasing the Marine Sniper’s first round probability of hit,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Tony Palzkill, Battalion Gunner for Infantry Training Battalion. “This upgrade is an incredible win and will allow snipers to engage targets at greater distances.”

5 things you should know about ‘Anchors Aweigh’
From left to right: .300 win-mag molybdenum disulfide coated hollow point boat tail, .300 win-mag match grade HPBT, .300 win-mag hunting, .308 match grade, .308 cheap russian, 9mm luger.

The Mk13 will also be fielded with an enhanced day optic that provides greater magnification range and an improved reticle.

“This sniper rifle will allow Marines to reengage targets faster with precise long-range fire while staying concealed at all times,” said Sgt. Randy Robles, Quantico Scout Sniper School instructor and MCSC liaison.

“The new day optic allows for positive identification of enemies at greater distances, and it has a grid-style reticle that allows for rapid reengagement without having to dial adjustments or ‘hold’ without a reference point,” he said. “With this type of weapon in the fleet, we will increase our lethality and be able to conceal our location because we are creating a buffer between us and the enemy.”

MCSC completed New Equipment Training for the Mk13 with a cross section of Marines from active-duty, Reserve and training units in early April 2018.

“The snipers seemed to really appreciate the new capabilities that come with this rifle and optic,” said project officer Capt. Frank Coppola. “After the first day on the range, they were sold.”

In a time where technology, ammunition and small arms weapon systems are advancing at an increasingly rapid rate, it is extremely important to ensure the Marine Corps is at the forefront of procuring and fielding new and improved weapon systems to the operating forces, said Gillikin.

“Doing this enables the Corps to maintain the advantage over its enemies on the battlefield, as well as to secure its trusted position as the rapid crisis response force for the United States,” he said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Your guide to 2019 military discounts for Major League Baseball games

Major League Baseball teams are showing their appreciation for service members, both past and present, with military discounts on 2019 game tickets. Many teams also hold military appreciation days to honor those who have served our country.

Look for your favorite team in the list below and take advantage of the military discounts that can help get you to the ballpark for less.

Play ball!


5 things you should know about ‘Anchors Aweigh’

Sailors and Airmen present a giant American flag before the 2012 major league baseball All-Star Game. More than 30 Sailors and 45 Airman held the flag during the singing of the National Anthem and pregame events.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jason C. Winn/Released)

American League

Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles offer a discount off of all tickets for military and their families, available at the Oriole Park Box Office. You can also find bigger discounts by contacting your nearest ITT/Leisure Travel office.

Houston Astros

Members of the military are invited to purchase discounted tickets (online only) to 2019 Houston Astros home games. There is a limit of 6 tickets per person per game. Choose from all Monday through Thursday games and for the Mariners Weekend Series on 9/6 – 9/8. Blackout dates include the Yankees Series (4/8 – 4/10) and Cubs Series (5/27 – 5/29).

Kansas City Royals

Active duty and retired military may purchase up to 4 half-price tickets for all regular season Kansas City Royals games (excluding Opening Day and Marquee game dates) in the Field Plaza, Outfield Plaza and View Level seating areas.

Los Angeles Angels

The Los Angeles Angels offer discounted tickets to military personnel. Specially priced tickets can be purchased online with verification.

Minnesota Twins

The Minnesota Twins offer Military Mondays. For select games throughout the season, active military members or veterans, plus four guests, receive half-price tickets in Home Plate View seating locations.

Oakland Athletics

The A’s offer a military discount to all 2019 home games. Active-duty, reserve, veterans, and retired military personnel are able to purchase tickets at 25% off the dynamic rate in any Field Level or Plaza Level section.

Seattle Mariners

Military members receive 10% off select Main, Terrace and View Level seats at all regular season home games, excluding Opening Night. Limit four tickets per ID.

Tampa Bay Rays

Military members can receive two complimentary tickets to select Monday home games, additional bonus dates and special ticket offers throughout the season. MacDill Air Force Base ITT also offers discounted tickets to Tampa Bay Rays games.

Texas Rangers

Military members receive special pricing on game tickets. Specially priced tickets can be purchased online with verification.

5 things you should know about ‘Anchors Aweigh’

Sailors man the rails while Marines hold up the American flag during the pre-game ceremony of the 2016 Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Petco Park.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chad M. Trudeau)

National League

Arizona Diamondbacks

Military members receive special pricing on game tickets for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Specially priced tickets can be purchased online with verification. Service members can enjoy up to 50% off select locations for every game of the season.

Atlanta Braves

The Atlanta Braves offer discounted tickets for all regular season home games during the 2019 season. They are offering off seats in the Terrace Infield and Home Run Porch, along with 50% off seats in the Grandstand Reserved seating locations. Get this discount online after verification or at the SunTrust Park ticket windows with valid ID.

Cincinnati Reds

The Cincinnati Reds offer special pricing on tickets to active-duty, reserve, veteran, and retired service members and families. Tickets are available in a variety of locations on a first-come, first-served basis. Get discount online after verification.

Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies offer active duty, retired military, reservists and veterans discounted tickets to select home games throughout the 2019 season.

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates offer military and their families special pricing on game tickets (up to half off) after verification online.

San Diego Padres

The San Diego Padres offers military discounts, including 50% off Sunday Military Appreciation tickets. Tickets for military and their families are available online through verification or at the Padres Advance Ticket Windows at Petco Park. And military personnel can also get discounted Padres tickets at the San Diego MWR.

Washington Nationals

The Nationals have a special ticket offer for active-duty, reserve, veteran, and retired military personnel. Military service members can also receive discounted tickets through MWR and ITT offices at area bases and the Pentagon.

Keep up with all military discounts

Whether you’re an active duty service member, a military family member, or a veteran, stay on top of all the military discounts you’re eligible for, from travel accommodations to auto and entertainment deals. Sign up for a free Military.com membership to get full access to all discounts.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time Curtis LeMay beat the Navy in an amazing maritime intercept

Curtis LeMay is best known for running Strategic Air Command in the 1950s and for serving as Air Force Chief of Staff in the 1960s. He’s also known for leading the strategic bombing campaign against Japan at the end of World War II. But before all that, he pulled off an amazing maritime intercept.


Back in 1938, finding ships at sea was a lot harder than it is today. Even with today’s technology, finding a ship that doesn’t want to be found is difficult. Back then, they didn’t have the advantages of radar-equipped maritime patrol planes, like the Lockheed P-3 Orion or Boeing P-8 Poseidon. Nope, all pilots had back then were binoculars to enhance the ol’ Mk 1 eyeball.

5 things you should know about ‘Anchors Aweigh’
General Curtis LeMay (USAF photo)

Keep in mind those technical limitations as we talk about the feat LeMay pulled off in 1938. At the time, the Army Air Corps was in the midst of budget battles. The B-17 was in its infancy, and while the shooting hadn’t started yet, there were some war clouds on the horizon. As hostilities loomed, inter-service rivalries flared, especially tensions over who would defend America’s coast from the enemy.

Related: This is what you need to know about the B-17 Flying Fortress

Three Y1B-17s from the 2nd Bomb Group were selected to carry out an intercept of the Italian liner SS Rex. Aside from LeMay, the crews included Caleb Haynes, who would later become an air commander in the CBI Theater of World War II, and Robert Olds, the 2nd Bomb Group commander and father of legendary fighter pilot Robin Olds.

5 things you should know about ‘Anchors Aweigh’
Clabe V. Haynes, lead pilot in the Rex intercept. (DOD photo)

On May 12, 1938, the three Flying Fortresses took off. According to Air Force Magazine, LeMay had to adjust the plan for the intercept when he learned the SS Rex was further out than expected. That glitch allowed LeMay to demonstrate his amazing skills. The B-17s flew over 600 nautical miles off the coast of the United States, then dropped down almost right on top of the Italian liner.

Initially, the incident caused a fuss among the Navy, which still claims the Air Force cheated by tracking a homing signal operating from the Rex. However, it did lead President Franklin D. Roosevelt to become an advocate of long-range aviation. The B-17 would later become a legend over Europe and the Pacific, but much of it started with the intercept of the SS Rex.

The SS Rex, incidentally, would later be sunk after it was seized by the Nazis.

MIGHTY TRENDING

President Trump says he ordered the US Navy to ‘destroy’ any Iranian gunboat that harasses American ships at sea

President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he had ordered the US Navy to “destroy” any Iranian gunboat that harassed US ships.


https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/statuses/1252932181447630848
I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea.

twitter.com

No additional clarity or guidance on such an order to the Navy has been provided.

The president’s announcement follows an incident last week in which a swarm of nearly a dozen Iranian gunboats sailed out to harass US Navy and Coast Guard vessels operating in the Persian Gulf.

US Naval Forces Central Command said last Wednesday that 11 Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy boats “conducted dangerous and harassing approaches,” repeatedly crossing the bows and sterns of the US ships.

At one point, the US said, one of the Iranian boats closed to within 10 yards of a Coast Guard cutter.

The US military said that the US vessels issued multiple warnings over bridge-to-bridge radio and sounded their horns but that the Iranian boats did not respond for about an hour.

After responding, the Iranian vessels moved away from the American ships.

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The Navy said in a statement last week that the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy had committed “dangerous and provocative actions” that “increased the risk of miscalculation and collision.”

US Navy

“The IRGCN’s dangerous and provocative actions increased the risk of miscalculation and collision,” US Naval Forces Central Command said in a statement.

At the time of the incident, the Navy expeditionary mobile base vessel Lewis B. Puller, the destroyer Paul Hamilton, and the patrol ships Firebolt and Sirocco, together with the Coast Guard cutters Wrangell and Maui, were carrying out joint operations with Army AH-64E Apache attack helicopters in the Persian Gulf.

The US military, according to a separate recent statement, has been letting US Army helicopters take off from Navy ships in exercises meant to boost “the capabilities of US forces to respond to surface threats,” such as the gunboats Iran routinely sends out to harass both military and commercial vessels.

In its statement following last week’s run-in with Iranian forces, US Naval Forces Central Command concluded by saying that “US naval forces continue to remain vigilant and are trained to act in a professional manner, while our commanding officers retain the inherent right to act in self-defense.”

Insider reached out the Navy and US Central Command for comment but was redirected to the White House, which did not comment on the president’s tweet.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Corps finds its most lethal Marines are in their 20s

Top advisers at the Pentagon are presenting Defense Secretary Jim Mattis with an idea that could radically change the way in which the US Marine Corps operates, and it’s aimed at increasing the lethality of grunts.

Retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, chairman of the Pentagon’s Close Combat Lethality Task Force, has suggested that Marines should have to go through four years in a different career field and wait an enlistment before transitioning into the infantry.


The basic premise here is that it would make Marines more effective in combat because they’d have additional skill sets and bring more experience and maturity to bear. But this would break tradition with the youthful nature of the Marine Corps, in which people as young as 18 have long served in combat roles.

Mattis launched the task force Scales is leading earlier this year as part of a broader push to modernize the military’s ground combat units, Military Times reports .

As part of this effort, Scales — an Army field artillery officer who earned the Silver Star in Vietnam when his base was overrun — has been working to convince the Defense Department that soldiers in their mid to late 20s are more lethal. The retired general told Military Times this is, “the optimal age for a close-combat soldier.”

5 things you should know about ‘Anchors Aweigh’

Lance Cpl. William Pearn, a machine gunner trainer for scout sniper school with 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, camouflages himself during exercise Forest Light 17-1 at Somagahara, Japan, March 10, 2017.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Isaac Ibarra)

But roughly 60 percent of the Marine Corps is under the age of 25, which means if Scales’ idea was implemented then there could be significant manpower issues, or the Corps would need to entice more Marines to stay in. Scales acknowledges this issue and said his recommendation could be “a bridge too far.”

Still, he is certain that troops around their mid- to late-20s are easily the most lethal, pointing to special forces as an example. The average age of an enlisted US special forces soldier is 29, according to CNN .

One potential solution is having the Marine Corps reserve a significant percentage of infantry spots for a second enlistment.

In other words, the Marine Corps could still have a high percentage of people under 25 in traditional rifle squads while also injecting older soldiers with broader skill sets into those roles. This could help the Marine Corps tackle many of the more complex challenges it faces on the modern battlefield, especially from a technical standpoint.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

One of the most recent soldiers killed in Afghanistan was 5 when the war started

Army Spc. Gabriel D. Conde’s short life spanned the history of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001, from the euphoria over the fleeting early successes to the current doubts about the new strategy to break what U.S. commanders routinely call a “stalemate.”

When Conde was six years old, then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said the Taliban had been defeated and the Afghan people were now free “to create a better future.”


He was seven years old when then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, “We’re at a point where we clearly have moved from major combat activity to a period of stability and stabilization and reconstruction activities.”

When Conde was 12, then-President George W. Bush was at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan to declare that “the Taliban is gone from power and it’s not coming back.”

In 2009, when Conde was 13, then-President Barack Obama said he would “make the fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban the top priority that it should be. This is a war that we have to win.”

He sent 30,000 more U.S. troops into Afghanistan, with a timeline for their withdrawal.

Obama wanted the withdrawal to be complete by the time he left office, but he left behind about 8,500 U.S. troops to deal with a resurgent Taliban and a new enemy — an offshoot of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria called Islamic State-Khorasan Province, or IS-K.

August 2017, when Conde was 21, President Donald Trump announced a new strategy for Afghanistan that discarded “nation building” in favor of a plan to drive the Taliban into peace talks and a negotiated settlement.

Trump acknowledged that his initial impulse was to pull U.S. troops out completely, but he agreed to boost troop levels from 8,500 to about 14,000.

5 things you should know about ‘Anchors Aweigh’
President Donald Trump

The presence of U.S. troops would now be conditions-based and not subject to artificial timelines. “We’re going to finish what we have to finish. What nobody else has been able to finish, we’re going to be able to do it,” Trump said.

Late April, 2018, the Taliban announced the start of its 16th annual spring offensive.

On May 1, 2018, when Conde was 22, he was killed by small-arms fire in the Tagab District of Kapisa province northeast of Kabul. A second U.S. soldier was wounded.

Conde, of Loveland, Colorado, served with the 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), of 25th Infantry Division, based at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska. His unit was expected to return to Alaska at the end of May 2018.

Also on May 1, 2018, the Trump administration took official note of the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan by granting political asylum to former Capt. Niloofar Rahmani, the first female fixed-wing pilot in the Afghan Air Force, who had been training in the U.S.

Through her lawyer, she had successfully argued to immigration authorities that the chaos in Afghanistan, and death threats against her and her family, made it impossible for her to return.

On the same day that Rahmani won asylum and Conde was killed, the latest in a wave of suicide bombings and terror attacks devastated the Shash Darak district of central Kabul in what Afghans call the “Green Zone.”

Two suicide bombers had slipped past the estimated 14 checkpoints surrounding the district, Afghanistan’s TOLOnews reported.

The first set off a blast and the second, reportedly disguised as a cameraman, joined a pack of reporters and photographers rushing to the scene and triggered a second explosion.

At least 30 people, including nine journalists, were killed. A 10th journalist was killed on the same day in an incident in Khost province. (Short biographies of the 10 journalists can be seen here.)

Mattis put on spot over attacks

In response to May 1, 2018’s events, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Army Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, echoed what other commanders and Pentagon officials have said so many times before during America’s longest war.

They mourned the loss of a valorous soldier and the victims of the bombings. They said the strategy of increased airpower and the buildup of Afghan special forces is showing progress. They pledged to stay the course.

At a session with Pentagon reporters May 1, 2018, Mattis said the Taliban are “on their back foot.”

The recent terror attacks show that they are desperate, he said.

“We anticipated they would do their best” to disrupt upcoming elections with a wave of bombings aimed at discouraging the Afghan people from voting, Mattis said.

“The Taliban realize the danger of the people being allowed to vote,” he added. “Their goal is to destabilize the elected government. This is the normal stuff by people who can’t win at the ballot box. They turn to bombs.”

At a welcoming ceremony on May 2, 2018, for the visiting Macedonian defense minister, Mattis was challenged on how he could point to progress amid the wave of bombings and a recent series of watchdog reports on widespread and continuing corruption in Afghanistan.

5 things you should know about ‘Anchors Aweigh’
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis

“The message from this building has consistently been that the situation is turning around, that things are improving there,” Mattis was told. “How do you reconcile this difference?”

“First, I don’t know that that’s been the message from this building. I would not subscribe to that,” Mattis said. “We said last August NATO is going to hold the line. We knew there would be tough fighting going forward.

“The murder of journalists and other innocent people is a great testimony to what it is we stand for and more importantly what we stand against,” he added.

“The Afghan military is being made more capable. You’ll notice that more of the forces are special forces, advised and assisted, accompanied by NATO mentors. And these are the most effective forces,” Mattis said.

“We anticipated and are doing our best and have been successful at blocking many of these attacks on innocent people but, unfortunately, once in a while they get through because any terrorist organization that realizes it can’t win by ballots and turns to bombs — this is simply what they do. They murder innocent people,” he said.

For the long run, “We’ll stand by the Afghan people, we’ll stand by the Afghan government and the NATO mission will continue as we drive them to a political settlement,” Mattis said.

Nicholson’s two-year plan to end the ‘Forever War’

“Actions like this only strengthen our steadfast commitment to the people of Afghanistan,” Nicholson, who doubles as commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, said after the bombings May 1, 2018, and the death of Conde.

“We offer our sincere condolences to the families of those killed and wounded, and we stand with our Afghan partners in defeating those who would threaten the people of this country, whose cries for peace are being ignored,” he said.

Like many of his troops, the 60-year-old Nicholson, a West Point graduate, has served multiple tours in Afghanistan. When he was confirmed by the Senate in March 2016 to succeed Army Gen. John Campbell as commander, he would go back to Afghanistan for the sixth time.

Since 9/11, “the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan has largely defined my service” in 36 years in uniform, he told the Senate.

Nicholson is the son of Army Brig. Gen. John W. Nicholson, also a West Point graduate, and is distantly related the legendary British Brig. Gen. John Nicholson (1821-1857), who fought in the First Anglo-Afghan War.

Early on in his command, Nicholson was at the forefront on the military advisers who convinced Obama to approve the expansion of the air campaign against the Taliban and IS-K. In February 2017, he began arguing for more troops to partner with the Afghan National Defense Security Forces.

Mattis later signed off on what was essentially Nicholson’s plan. And Trump, in coordination with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, authorized it in an address to the nation in August 2017.

5 things you should know about ‘Anchors Aweigh’
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and U.S. Army Gen. John Nicholson.
(DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

In a video conference from Kabul to the Pentagon in November 2017, Nicholson said it would take about two years to bring 80 percent of Afghanistan under government control and drive the Taliban into peace talks.

“Why 80 percent? Because we think that gives them [the Afghans] a critical mass where they control 80. The Taliban are driven to less than 10 percent of the population; maybe the rest is contested,” Nicholson said.

“And this, we believe, is the critical mass necessary to drive the enemy to irrelevance, meaning they’re living in these remote, outlying areas, or they reconcile — or they die, of course, is the third choice,” he said.

Nicholson’s remarks contrasted with a simultaneous report from the Pentagon’s Inspector General’s office.

In his foreword to the IG’s quarterly report, Acting IG Glenn Fine said, “During the quarter, Taliban insurgents continued to attack Afghan forces and fight for control of districts, and ISIS-K terrorists launched high-profile attacks across the country.”

Fine added, “Internal political tensions increased in Afghanistan, and corruption remained a key challenge to governance despite positive steps by Afghanistan’s Anti-Corruption Justice Center.”

Fine also said that maintaining the accuracy of future IG reports made available to the public is becoming more difficult, since key statistical measures are now being classified.

“When producing this report, we were notified that information that was previously publicly released regarding attrition, casualties, readiness, and personnel strength of Afghan forces that we had included in prior Lead IG reports was now classified,” Fine said. “In addition, we were advised that ratings of Afghan government capabilities were now classified.”

The strategy — what strategy?

In announcing the strategy for Afghanistan in August 2017, Trump made clear that he was doing so with grave misgivings.

“Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan. But nobody knows if or when that will ever happen,” he said.

The skeptics are many. “Why would anybody call this a strategy? We declared we wanted to win, but we didn’t change anything fundamentally that we’re doing,” retired Army Lt. Col. Jason Dempsey, who served two tours in Afghanistan, told Military.com.

The focus now, as it has been for years, is on building up the Afghan military into a more effective force capable of holding and administering territory retaken from the Taliban, he said, “but that army assumes the existence of a functioning government.”

“We are creating a military that assumes the existence of a state that does not exist,” said Dempsey, an adjunct senior fellow of the Military, Veterans and Society Program at the Center for a New American Security.

“What it boils down to is that we can’t decide what we want,” Dempsey said. “The only consensus we have on Afghanistan is that we don’t want to lose.”

In her analysis of the Trump administration’s strategy, Brookings Institution scholar Vanda Felbab-Brown wrote that the president basically had three options — “full military withdrawal, limited counterterrorism engagement, and staying in the country with slightly increased military deployments and intense political engagement.”

“The option the Trump administration chose — staying in Afghanistan with a somewhat enlarged military capacity — is the least bad option,” Felbab-Brown said.

“Thus, the Trump administration’s announced approach to Afghanistan is not a strategy for victory,” she said.

“Staying on militarily buys the United States hope that eventually the Taliban may make enough mistakes to seriously undermine its power,” she said. “However, that is unlikely unless Washington starts explicitly insisting on better governance and political processes in the Afghan government.”

Watchdog reports contrast with claims of progress

The goal of better governance is dependent on an Afghan military as the enabler, but the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said May 2, 2018, that the number of Afghan soldiers and police has declined sharply in the past year.

In a report, SIGAR said that the combined strength of the military and police dropped nearly 11 percent over the past year, from about 331,700 in January 2017 to about 296,400 this January, well below the total authorized strength of 334,000.

“Building up the Afghan forces is a top priority for the U.S. and our international allies, so it is worrisome to see Afghan force strength decreasing,” John Sopko, the head of SIGAR, told reporters.

At the end of January 2018, insurgents controlled or had influence over 14 percent of the Afghanistan’s 407 districts, SIGAR said, while the Afghan government controlled or influenced 56 percent. The remaining districts were contested, SIGAR said.

The report also noted the significant increase in the air campaign: “The total of 1,186 munitions dropped in the first quarter of 2018 is the highest number recorded for this period since reporting began in 2013, and is over two and a half times the amount dropped in the first quarter of 2017.”

In addition, the report indicated that Nicholson’s plan to bomb drug production centers and have the Afghan military interdict shipments in an effort to cut off Taliban funding was having little effect.

“From 2008 through March 20, 2018, over 3,520 interdiction operations resulted in the seizure of 463,342 kilograms of opium. But the sum of these seizures over nearly a decade would account for less than 0.05% of the opium produced in Afghanistan in 2017 alone,” SIGAR said.

Since 9/11, the U.S. has invested more than $850 billion in the war and efforts to bolster the Afghan government, but a recent drumbeat of reports from SIGAR and the Pentagon Inspector General’s office have highlighted widespread and continuing corruption.

At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in April 2018, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, called on Army Secretary Mark Esper to justify a $50 million contract that SIGAR charged was used to buy luxury cars such as Alfa Romeos and Bentleys for Afghan officials and pay for $400,000 salaries for no-show jobs.

“Please tell me that a senator 20 years from now is not going to be sitting here and going, ‘How in the world are taxpayers paying for Alfa Romeos and Bentleys?’ ” McCaskill said.

‘We’ve kind of been going about it wrong’

As of March 2018, there were roughly 14,000 U.S. military personnel serving in Afghanistan as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, according to U.S. officials.

Of the 14,000, about 7,800 of these troops were assigned to NATO’s Resolute Support mission to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces.

The 7,800 number reflects an increase of 400 personnel from the deployment of the Army’s first Security Force Assistance Brigade, or SFAB, to Afghanistan.

In February 2018, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats issued a report on what those troops can be expected to accomplish this year that was at odds with the upbeat assessments of Mattis and Nicholson.

5 things you should know about ‘Anchors Aweigh’
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats

“The overall situation in Afghanistan probably will deteriorate modestly this year in the face of persistent political instability, sustained attacks by the Taliban-led insurgency” and the “unsteady” performance of the Afghan military performance, the DNI’s report said.

Afghan troops “probably will maintain control of most major population centers with coalition force support, but the intensity and geographic scope of Taliban activities will put those centers under continued strain,” the report said.

Mattis and Nicholson have singled out the SFAB as a key component in reforming and refining the operations of the Afghan security forces.

The SFAB concept takes specially selected non-commissioned and commissioned officers, preferably with experience in Afghanistan, and assigns them the train, advise and assist role in place of conventional Brigade Combat Team units.

Before the deployment, Army 1st Sgt. Shaun Morgan, a company senior enlisted leader with the SFAB, told Stars & Stripes that there were no illusions about the difficulty of the job ahead.

“So, we’ve been kind of going about it wrong for a while, I think,” Morgan said. “Maybe this is an opportunity to get on the right foot toward getting it right.”

Previously in Afghanistan, “we couldn’t get it through our heads that we weren’t the fighters,” Morgan told Stripes in a reference to the role of U.S. troops as partners and advisers to the Afghans who were to take the lead in combat.

“I think the bosses decided maybe this is the right shot, and it just makes sense to me,” Morgan said.

The Afghans also were under no illusions on the continuing threats posed by the Taliban and other insurgents, and the risks they take to go about their daily lives.

Shah Marai Faizi, the chief photographer for Agence France-Presse in the Kabul bureau, was among the nine journalists killed in May 1, 2018’s suicide bombings in Kabul. He was the father of six, including a newborn daughter.

In 2017, Shah Marai wrote an essay titled “When Hope Is Gone” that was read in part on the Democracy Now cable program.

“Life seems to be even more difficult than under the Taliban because of the insecurity,” he wrote. “I don’t dare to take my children for a walk. I have five, and they spend their time cooped up inside the house. I have never felt life to have so little prospects, and I don’t see a way out.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

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