The odd and beautiful art form of the Afghan war rug - We Are The Mighty
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The odd and beautiful art form of the Afghan war rug

As troops walk through the bazaars of Afghanistan, they’ll always see the same collection of things for sale. Bootleg DVDs of shows that weren’t even interesting during their time, horrible knockoffs of brand-name clothing, souvenirs with the names of neighboring countries (mostly) scraped off, and gorgeous, handcrafted rugs depicting the mujahedin fighting the Soviets.


It’s almost surreal. Among the piles of junk are these masterpieces marred with spelling errors.

Afghanistan has a history filled with constant warfare. So, it makes sense that their cultural art reflects this. Afghan carpets have been a staple of the culture’s art for hundreds of years, but it was during the 1979 Soviet invasion that the rugs were used as a form of quiet protest.

The odd and beautiful art form of the Afghan war rug
To every other vet who’s been to Afghanistan, it’s nice knowing their most common design has barely changed. (Courtesy Photo)

Their AK-47s and tanks were woven into the rugs next to geometric shapes and flowers. The Baluch or Tup-e-Tung (or just “war rugs”) began appearing all over the country. The tradition continued well into America’s intervention in 2001. Contemporary war rugs now include the attack on the World Trade Center and drones.

The odd and beautiful art form of the Afghan war rug
The rugs are often so well made and sell for such a high price, a single rug sale could bring a family out of poverty. (Photo by Sgt. Heidi Agostini)

 

Funnily enough, the Afghan people prefer not having a constant reminder of the warfare that has plagued their homeland for generations. However, Westerners go crazy for them. War rugs almost exclusively sold to foreigners can fetch up to $25,000 at auction — but are often bartered for much less.

While it’s true that they’re very well-crafted and are the cause for much employment in the country, it still needs to be said that the U.S. Department of Labor recognizes that some are created using child labor. The rugs sold on U.S. and NATO military bases in Afghanistan are carefully vetted to avoid the exploitation of children.

 

The odd and beautiful art form of the Afghan war rug
Still a worthwhile addition to any vet’s collection. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade)
MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how French commandos saved Christmas in Paris in 1994

On December 26, 1994, millions of shoppers across North America rushed to malls in an attempt to make the most of post-Christmas sales. Across the Atlantic Ocean, at an airport in Marseille, France, a small group of men decked out from head to toe in black garb were doing a different kind of rushing — clinging to the back of a mobile staircase while barreling at high speed (or at least as fast as the truck would go) down a runway.


These weren’t ordinary men. Their target was a hulking, cream-white Airbus A300 filled with more than 160 scared and bewildered passengers and flight crew, some of whom were now resigned to accepting an imminent death.

The men on the mobile stairs planned on taking the aircraft in front of them by force, even if it meant giving up their lives in the process. Success was the only acceptable outcome of this operation. Failure would result in the massacring of innocents. Hailing from the National Gendarmerie Intervention Group (more popularly known as GIGN), these black-clad ninjas were counter-terrorists, the best France had to offer.

The odd and beautiful art form of the Afghan war rug
The GIGN raid on Flight 8969
(The Aviation Intelligencer YouTube)

Today’s mission was a hijacked Air France airliner, wired with explosives and crammed with 166 innocent lives. A small group of hijackers, armed to the teeth, were identified as the targets of this mission. Negotiations had failed and the last-resort scenario was now in play.

Just a few days earlier, on Christmas Eve, that same aircraft sat at an airport in Algeria with flight attendants scurrying around, preparing the cabin for takeoff. The pilots and flight engineers chatted among themselves as they completed their pre-departure checklist. Labeled Air France Flight 8969, this plane would travel with 236 passengers and crew from Algiers to Paris.

Civilian airlines flying routes into Algeria were repeatedly warned, at the time, that their planes were under constant threat of missile attacks. As a result, Air France only allowed crews who volunteered for the Algiers route to fly it, as long as they knew the risks involved.

On December 24th, the threat didn’t come from a missile but rather from 4 members of the Armed Islamic Group — a Middle Eastern terrorist organization. Disguised as members of the Algerian presidential security force, they walked into the cabin of the Airbus without arousing any suspicion, though some found it quite odd that they visibly carried their weapons.

Outside the aircraft, airport personnel began to worry when the airliner sat on the apron, sealed and ready to depart for Paris, but didn’t move an inch. Already facing delay, the control tower tried to hail the cockpit — no response. Fears began to manifest and armed tactical response teams were deployed immediately.

The odd and beautiful art form of the Afghan war rug
GIGN operatives practicing clearing a building
(Domenjod)

It was hijacked.

Aboard Flight 8969, the hijackers began checking passports, likely to earmark targets for execution in the event that their demands weren’t met. Soon after, amidst terrified screams, the terrorists revealed their intention to take the aircraft and waved their guns in the air, demanding cooperation.

The hijackers wired explosives in the cockpit and the main cabin while forcing the pilots, at gunpoint, to exchange clothes with them. The airliner was surrounded outside by police and Algerian military personnel. Negotiations began, but would soon break down.

Within hours of the hijacking, two passengers were executed and their bodies were dumped outside the aircraft. Attempts to use the lead hijacker’s mother to get him to surrender peacefully further enraged the terrorist, causing a breakdown in communications. By the following day, Christmas, another passenger was executed. French government officials were outraged — the Algerian military had botched the situation and were losing innocent lives.

The odd and beautiful art form of the Afghan war rug
GIGN commandos with rifles and submachine guns
(Domenjod)

After releasing just over 60 passengers as a sign of good faith, the aircraft was eventually allowed to take off and continue to France, albeit to Marseille as it had burned through too much fuel to make it to Paris.

GIGN was notified and they diverted their aircraft to Marseille, which had already taken off for Spain — as close as they could get to Algeria without entering the country. Having familiarized themselves with the Air France A300 they were aboard — identical to Flight 8969 — they were ready to roll as soon as their plane touched down.

In the early hours of December 26, Flight 8969 landed and was ushered to a secluded spot at Marseille, Unbeknownst to the hijackers, they were now under surveillance by highly-trained and well-experienced GIGN snipers. Their new demands confirmed the rumors of an attack on Paris. They ordered 27 tons of fuel, instead of just the 9 they needed to make it to Paris.

They intended on turning the A300 into a flying, fuel-laden bomb, triggered using the explosives they had previously wired. When detonated over densely-populated Paris, it would kill all on the flight, scores on the ground, and wound and maim many more. GIGN wasn’t about to let this happen.

Tricking the hijackers into clearing a space in the front of the aircraft for a press conference (and forcing the passengers further towards the back of the jet), GIGN prepped the aircraft for a takedown. In the early evening of December 26, the raid began.

Airstairs (mobile staircases) began racing towards Flight 8969 loaded with GIGN commandos that were armed with submachine guns and pistols. They threw stun grenades and entered the fray.

In the chaos, one of the plane’s pilots jumped out of the cockpit window and hobbled to safety. Snipers began firing into the cockpit, aiming for a hijacker they knew had hunkered down in there. The teams that entered through the rear of the aircraft evacuated passengers. Three hijackers were immediately killed; a fourth remained in the cockpit for 20 minutes before meeting his end.

By the end of the engagement, all four hijackers were dead. 13 passengers and 3 crew were wounded. Aside from the 3 passengers who were executed, all survived. The majority of the Air France flight crew returned to the skies despite the trauma.

MIGHTY HISTORY

George Washington was voted Britain’s ‘Greatest Enemy Commander’

In 2012, Britain’s National Army Museum organized a contest asking its patrons which of Britain’s historical enemies was their greatest foe? The answer turned out to be the man who, almost through sheer force of will, and despite a lack of trained and equipped troops, organized the worst defeat the British Empire ever suffered. Ever.

The man was George Washington.


The odd and beautiful art form of the Afghan war rug

“Give us this firecake and I’ll bring forth on this continent a new nation.”

When considering the winner of the contest, the museum took into account Washington’s spirit of endurance against the odds stacked in the British Empire’s favor and the enormous impact of his victory – not in the two centuries to come but in the immediate aftermath.

“His personal leadership was crucial,” said historian Stephen Brumwell, who called the American victory the Empire’s worst defeat. “His army was always under strength, hungry, badly supplied. He shared the dangers of his men. Anyone other than Washington would have given up the fight. He came to personify the cause, and the scale of his victory was immense.”

The odd and beautiful art form of the Afghan war rug

And he made Cornwallis walk next to his horse after Yorktown, apparently. Ballsy.

Each possible commander must have led an army against British forces in combat, which ruled out enemies like Adolf Hitler. Candidates must also have been within the National Army Museum’s timeframe of the 17th century onwards, which ruled out enemies like William the Conqueror, who actually conquered Britain and changed Western Civilization forever.

The 8,000-plus votes in the survey put Washington well above other notable British enemies, such as Napoleon Bonaparte, Irish Independence leader Michael Collins, Nazi Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, and Turkish founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

When US Marines and sailors arrived in the Baltic region in June for 2019’s Baltic Operations exercise, they did so as national leaders came together in Western Europe for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

But the 47th iteration of BaltOps wasn’t tailored to that anniversary, said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Rob Sellin and Marine Maj. Jeff Starr, two officers tasked with planning amphibious operations for BaltOps 2019, in a June 2019 interview.

When they started planning in February 2019, they were aware of the timing, but the schedule was shaped by more immediate concerns. “This is the best weather time to be in this area of the world,” Sellin said.


Sellin and Starr focused on big-picture planning and sought to get the most out of the exercises — “ensuring that we were able to include as many possible craft, as many … landing craft on the amphibious side as possible,” Starr said

“As we traveled and visited all these different countries and different landing locations,” Starr added, “we really had an eye for the specific capabilities and limitations of all the craft that were going to be involved, so that we could make sure to get the maximum inclusion for our NATO partners and allies.”

Below, you can see how the US and its partners trained for one of the most complex operations any military does, and how they did it in an increasingly tense part of the world.

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US Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Ty-Chon Montemoino briefs US and Spanish marines on boarding a landing craft utility while aboard the USS Fort McHenry.

(US Marine/Lance Cpl. Antonio Garcia)

The odd and beautiful art form of the Afghan war rug

Spanish amphibious assault vehicles prepare to exit the well deck of the amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry, June 15, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Chris Roys)

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US and Spanish Marines exit the well deck of the USS Fort McHenry on a landing craft utility, June 12, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Chris Roys)

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US and Romanian marines secure a beach after disembarking Polish mine layer/landing ship ORP Gnierzno, June 12, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Jack D. Aistrup)

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US Marines and sailors and Romanian and Spanish Marines secure a beach after disembarking from a Polish using Soviet Tracked Amphibious Transports and from Landing Craft Utility ships using Lighter Amphibious Resupply Cargo Vehicles and Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacements, June 12, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Jack D. Aistrup)

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Members of the US Navy Fleet Survey Team conduct a hydrographic beach survey in Ravlunda, Sweden, ahead of BALTOPS 2019, May 8, 2019.

(Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command/Kaley Turfitt)

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US Marines disembark a landing craft utility during a tactics exercise in Sweden, June 19, 2019.

(US Marine/Lance Cpl. Antonio Garcia)

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US Marines exchange information with Spanish marines on the flight deck of the USS Fort McHenry, June 14, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Chris Roys)

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US Marines and Romanian marines secure a beach after disembarking from Polish mine layer/landing ship ORP Gniezno in Estonia, June 12, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Abrey Liggins)

The odd and beautiful art form of the Afghan war rug

Royal Marines exit a British navy Merlin MK 4 helicopter via fast rope as part of an amphibious assault in Lithuania, June 16, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Jack D. Aistrup)

11 countries joined the BaltOps amphibious task group, and personnel from four countries took part in the landings. “Contrary to popular belief, the language barriers typically don’t prove too concerning for these planning efforts,” Starr said. “What does prove a little bit challenging for us is various communications systems and how they work interoperably.”

Lithuania borders the Russian province of Kaliningrad along the Baltic Sea, placing some of the amphibious exercises close to Russia.

The odd and beautiful art form of the Afghan war rug

Spanish amphibious assault vehicles exit the well deck of the amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry, June 16, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Chris Roys)

The odd and beautiful art form of the Afghan war rug

A Polish PTS-M carries Romanian Marines ashore during an amphibious assault exercise at Baltic Operations 2019’s Distinguished Visitors Day in Palanga, Lithuania, June 15, 2019.

(US Marine/Lance Cpl. Antonio Garcia)

Like other officials involved in BaltOps, Sellin and Starr stressed that the exercise wasn’t directed at any other country. But tensions between Russia and NATO remain elevated after Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea — particularly around the Baltic states and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.

The Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are NATO members (and rely on NATO air forces to patrol their airspace) as is Norway.

Sweden and Finland are not in NATO but have responded to increasing tension in the region. Both have worked more closely with NATO in addition to bolstering their own militaries.

The odd and beautiful art form of the Afghan war rug

US Marines march to the beach from a landing craft utility for an amphibious assault exercise in Klaipeda, Lithuania, June 15, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Jack D. Aistrup)

The odd and beautiful art form of the Afghan war rug

A Royal Marine disembarks the USS Mount Whitney onto a landing craft vehicle attached to British Royal Navy ship HMS Albion in the Baltic Sea, June 16, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Scott Barnes)

The odd and beautiful art form of the Afghan war rug

Landing craft utility vessels stand by at sea after transporting Marines during an amphibious landing demonstration in Lithuania, June 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Tawanya Norwood)

The odd and beautiful art form of the Afghan war rug

Romanian Marines in an amphibious assault vehicle exit a landing craft utility as a part of an amphibious landing demonstration in Lithuania, June 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Tawanya Norwood)

The odd and beautiful art form of the Afghan war rug

US Marines perform a simulated amphibious assault from a landing craft utility in Lithuania, June 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Tawanya Norwood)

The odd and beautiful art form of the Afghan war rug

A US Marine and Spanish Marines buddy rush across the beach following an amphibious landing demonstration during the final event of NATO exercise Baltic Operations 2019 in Lithuania, June 16, 2019, June 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Tawanya Norwood)

The odd and beautiful art form of the Afghan war rug

A US Navy landing craft offloads vehicles during an amphibious exercise at Kallaste Beach in Estonia, June 12, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Jack D. Aistrup)

BaltOps 2019 took place just after the 75th anniversary of D-Day, and while that still colors popular perceptions of amphibious operations, Starr and Sellin said they don’t plan for the kind of massive landing that put hundreds of thousands of Allied troops ashore in Normandy in 1944.

On June 6, 1944, more than 130,000 Allied troops rushed ashore on Normandy’s beaches as part of Operation Overlord, the beginning of the assault known as D-Day.

The odd and beautiful art form of the Afghan war rug

Romanian Marines storm the beach during an amphibious assault exercise for Baltic Operations 2019’s Distinguished Visitors Day in Palanga, Lithuania, June 15, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Antonio Garcia)

The odd and beautiful art form of the Afghan war rug

US Marine Cpl. Timothy Moffitt runs ashore during an amphibious assault exercise for Baltic Operations 2019 in Palanga, Lithuania, June 15, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Antonio Garcia)

“The reality is as amphibious planners, our job is to give our commanders a variety of options … for ways to accomplish the mission, and it’s very much not limited to putting a huge force ashore,” Sellin said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why these two Air Force bombers are on the way out

The Air Force recently announced its plan for when the B-21 Raider enters service, and it is not good news for two of the strategic bombers currently on inventory. While the B-52 will continue to serve until 2050, marking nearly a century of service, the B-1B Lancer and the B-2A Spirit will be retired as the B-21 comes online.


The Pentagon’s plan gives the B-52 an incredible 98 years of service from first flight to a planned retirement. An Air Force fact sheet notes that there are currently 58 B-52H Stratofortress bombers in active service, with another 18 in the Air Force Reserve.

The odd and beautiful art form of the Afghan war rug

The Air Force is planning to buy as many as 100 Raiders, which could see initial operating capabilities in the middle of the 2020s. Given the Air Force’s history of bomber purchases, that number could be concerningly low.

The original production run of the B-2 Spirit was slated to reach 132 airframes but was stopped at 21. Currently, the Air Force has 20 B-2s in the active force. The B-1A, a predecessor to the Air Force’s essential B-1B Lancer, was scheduled for a production run of 270 planes at $102 million each to replace the B-52 in the late 1970s. Then-President Jimmy Carter canceled the B-1A in favor of air-launched cruise missiles, but his successor, Ronald Reagan, had 100 B-1Bs built. Currently, the Air Force has 62 B-1Bs in service.

The odd and beautiful art form of the Afghan war rug

The Air Force used to have a larger force. “At the end of Desert Storm, in 1991, we had 290 total bombers,” the commander of Global Strike Command, General Robin Rand, said in an Air Force release.

Today, that force has dropped to 157 bombers at five bomb wings and 15 total force bomb squadrons. That’s a 46 percent decrease in our bomber force while we have conducted continuous combat operations, such as Allied Force, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, Odyssey Dawn, Inherent Resolve, and Freedom’s Sentinel, in addition to continuous bomber rotations in the (U.S. Central Command) and (U.S. Pacific Command) areas of responsibility.
MIGHTY TRENDING

Green Berets and foreign weapons… Like kids in a candy store

One of the perks of having a career in Special Operations units was the chance to be trained up and get to fire all manner of foreign, rare, and sometimes very old weapons that you will find still in use.

Special Forces weapons sergeants will be trained in a multitude of U.S. and foreign weapons, and know how to effectively put them to use if they are come across during a foreign deployment.


There is no shortage of weapons that you will come across in many of the Third World countries and some are amazing that they are still in use. And many of them shouldn’t be.

Once in South America, we came across an ancient Thompson submachine gun that looked straight out of Chicago in the times of Al Capone. The old M1928 Thompson with the vertical foregrip, the Cutts compensator, and the noisy 100-round drum magazine (the thing rattled loudly), no wonder the GIs of World War II hated it and opted for the 30-round stick mags.

The odd and beautiful art form of the Afghan war rug

But the Chicago piano was probably last cleaned by Capone’s cronies when we came across it. It was rusted and in crappy shape. However, some Break Free and WD-40 will cure most anything. That said, we all took great delight in cutting that bad boy loose. In close quarters or in clearing buildings, it is still a pretty fearsome weapon. The only thing missing was the violin case.

The odd and beautiful art form of the Afghan war rug
Thompson Submachine Gun, Model 1928A1, stored in a violin case (WikiMedia Commons)

The Panamanian military under Manuel Noriega had a lot of mini-grenades made by Argentina. If memory serves me well, they were stamped with FMK2. Slightly smaller than a normal frag grenade, you could toss those suckers quite a distance. They even came with a different fuse that could be used to fire from a rifle. After “Just Because,” we disarmed the military, and took away nearly all of their cool weaponry, including the Argentinian frags, and gave them rusty ass .38s that some bean counter found in a warehouse in the U.S., as the SF guys transitioned them from military to National Police. But that is a story for another time

But those frags were popular with the SF guys and used for another purpose, they even caught some fish off the coast after Noriega was sent packing to Miami. We’d call it fishing with “Dupont lures.”

The odd and beautiful art form of the Afghan war rug
This replica of a Dutch V40 mini-grenade posted by OnyxSkyDV on AR15.com is a close approximate.

Another weapon that was a blast to shoot was one that is still being used today by the West German military. Back in World War II, the German MG-42 was feared by American GIs, who called it “Hitler’s bone saw” because of the incredible rate of fire the weapon had. The MG-42 had a cyclic rate of about 1550 rounds a minute, easily twice that of the Brownings that U.S. troops carried. The current M240B machine gun in use today has a cyclic rate of fire of about 600 rounds per minute.

The odd and beautiful art form of the Afghan war rug
A German Waffen SS soldier involved in heavy fighting in and around the French town of Caen in mid-1944. He is carrying an MG 42 configured as a light support weapon with a folding bipod and detachable 50-round belt drum container. (WikiMedia Commons)

Originally chambered in 7.92 x 57mm Mauser ammunition, the obvious drawback of the weapon was that, because of the rate of fire, it overheated quickly and needed frequent barrel changes. Now, rechambered for 7.62 mm NATO, the West Germans still use it today.

We came across one of the originals in the WWII caliber with boxes of ancient ammo, it still fired and after putting some serious lead downrange (and setting the range grass on fire, yes it was dry season), it was no wonder why GIs feared it.

The biggest weapon I ever personally fired with the M40 106mm recoilless rifle. Our partner nation Honduras had an anti-tank company in the 6th Infantry Battalion up in the mountains near the border with Nicaragua. They would frequently get alerted up on the border because the Sandinista army units would threaten the border with their armored vehicles.

The odd and beautiful art form of the Afghan war rug

I wrote about one such deployment there in an unintentionally comical piece for another publication. Prior to us being deployed there, our entire SF A-Team got some great training from the SWC Weapons committee on the 106 and then we took a few of them out to get some rounds downrange. The 106 will penetrate 12 inches of cold-rolled steel at about 300 meters.

So despite the guys from Range Control, telling us NOT to fire at an old bulldozer that was sitting there invitingly yellow with the blade dug into the ground…”Danger close” they said…we couldn’t resist. One of us, I will not divulge the name of the guilty party (on the grounds that it may incriminate me…er someone) put a 106 HEAT round right through that blade. Cut through it like a hot knife through butter.

But I think the most fun weapon I ever got to fire was the Russian made ZU-23-2.

ZU 23-2 AA gun firing.

Originally designed as an anti-aircraft weapon, the weapon was a towed 23mm dual weapon. It is towed on a small trailer that can be quickly transformed into a stationary mount. It was used to great effect by NVA and Viet Cong troops during the Vietnam war. Eventually, it was replaced by the ZSU-23-4, the tracked, light-skinned vehicle.

We were supposed to be firing both, however, the ZSU broke down with an electrical short so we just fired the ZU with the autocannons. It is simple and easy to operate and packs a tremendous punch. It is devastating to troops, buildings, and light-skinned vehicles.

While no longer used primarily as an anti-aircraft weapon, it is still in use today and can be found in many places mounted on pickup trucks as a technical. Large amounts of them can be found in Libya, Syria, Yemen as well as many other places.

Those are just a few of the weapons I came across and although I did get to drive an M-1 Abrams once, I didn’t get the opportunity to fire the main gun. Maybe another time…

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Long-lost military slang: The dog robber

There are all sorts of great bits of military lingo and slang that eventually fall by the wayside. While FUBAR has survived through to modern day, SNAFU and TARFU have been mostly forgotten — even though all three were popular slang and had characters in WWII-era GI cartoons named after them. Snafu was even voiced by Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny.


www.youtube.com

One old terms that seems to have fallen out of popularity is “dog robber,” which, today, is occasionally used by a handful of general’s aides and adjutants to describe their own job, though that wasn’t the original meaning of the term.

“Dog robbers” is the U.S. Army equivalent of the British slang term, “batman,” which refers to an officer’s personal valet or orderly, one step removed from the butler. So, while the aides-de-camp were assisting the general with the actual task of conducting battles and campaigns, the batmen and, later, dog robbers, were cleaning uniforms, running errands, and scrounging for any personal items their officer might need.

The odd and beautiful art form of the Afghan war rug

Think Woodhouse right before the massacre in the German trenches.

French Foreign Legion Capt. John Hasey was hit by a burst of machine gun fire in his face and had to be nursed back to health. In his biography, Yankee Fighter, he gave credit to his “dog robber” for keeping him fed before the ambush and helping him reach aid after.

My own platoon was there, with Blashiek, my faithful batman — or dog-robber, as he is known in the United States Army; and when I say “faithful,” I mean exactly that. For six months that tough Polish soldier had cared for me as carefully as any Southern mammy, fed me fresh mule meat when I was starved, and tactfully neglected to let me know what it was. He helped carry me back to a First Aid station outside Damascus when my jaw was shot away and my chest and arms were sprayed with machine-gun fire. It was upon him that I leaned when my legs began to wobble.

These were usually enlisted troops, and their assignments weren’t limited to general officers. Lieutenants could have a batman, especially if they were from a rich family and hired a civilian to work for them, but the practice was most common with captains and above.

This makes it obvious why the term began to fall out of use in the U.S. With the country’s generally dim view of aristrocracy, assigning enlisted soldiers to provide hygiene and personal support to officers feels a little against the country’s values. As this position largely disappeared from the military, the term lost popularity.

The odd and beautiful art form of the Afghan war rug

This is a photo from when King George V visited the New York National Guard. Guess if the king was visiting, I might want a valet, too.

(New York National Guard)

But it did survive. How? It evolved to encompass more of the staff members around the general, especially the aide. And, it reverted back to its original meaning.

See, the U.S. Army didn’t come up with the term. It started to become popular in the military in the Civil War for an officer’s servant, but its first documented use was actually in 1832 to describe a scrounger.

As the servants disappeared, scroungers got the title again instead. James Garner, a famous actor and veteran, actually played a dog robber in the 1964 movie The Americanization of Emily and later told Playboy Magazine that he had been a dog robber (the scrounger type) in the Korean War.

The odd and beautiful art form of the Afghan war rug

And James Garner’s character got to have sex with Mary Poppins. And that was after he admitted to being a dog robber and a coward — not bad.

(Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)

According to Garner, he had served in an Army post office and bartered for the materials to make a bar, a theater, a baseball diamond, and a swimming pool.

That would make him a dog robber on the level of Milo Minderbinder (for all you Catch-22 fans out there).

MIGHTY HISTORY

The top-secret plan to cripple Berlin during a Soviet invasion

During the Cold War, an Army Special Forces unit was tasked with sabotaging Soviet infrastructure and crippling an invasion force to buy NATO time should war break out. The mission was so secret that the entire thing was almost forgotten — until a few veterans of the unit stepped forward.

We spoke to two of these veterans to find out what it was like serving as clandestine soldiers in an occupied city on what was likely a suicide mission if the seemingly-imminent war ever started


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U.S. and Soviet forces standoff across Checkpoint Charlie in 1961, one of the many Cold War flare-ups that occurred in occupied Berlin after World War II.

(U.S. Army)

Master Sgt. Robert Charest is a veteran of Detachment A who has started the push for recording the unit’s history. Chief Warrant Officer 4 James Stejskal is the man who literally wrote the book on Detachment A.

The specific mission of Detachment A changed over the years, but the overarching goal was always preparing to counter and stall a Soviet invasion.

“If the Soviets decided to come across Checkpoint Charlie, we would just try to slow them down so that the rest of the folks, they’d get out of Berlin and all that stuff,” said Charest while describing the mission.

This meant that Charest, Stejskal, and others assigned to the unit — which had about 90 people in it for most of its existence — had to know what infrastructure to hit and how best to reach it. They also had to maintain all of the materials and weapons needed to complete their mission.

The odd and beautiful art form of the Afghan war rug

Berlin was criss-crossed by a network of trains, like this train for travelers on the U-Bahn. Another railway ran around the outside of the city carrying heavy freight, and Detachment A members were prepared to blow up train engines on the railway in case of war.

Some of the targets were obvious, like the railroad that ran around divided Berlin.

“Around Berlin, there was a railway network, basically called the Berliner Ring,” said Stejskal. “It was that railway network that would carry the majority of the Russian forces from east to west. So, you got the guys that are on the ground already and then you got all these troops that are going to be coming from Poland and the Czech Republic and then you’re heading for the Fulda Gap.”

Shutting down the railroad would slow the Soviet advance, but the teams that made up Detachment A needed a way to do it without getting caught. The more stuff they could break before getting captured and killed, the better chance NATO forces would have in building a defensive line and eventually launching a counter attack.

So, they rigged up pieces of coal, filled with explosives. Were these ever loaded into a train, the engineer would eventually blow up his own engine, blocking the rail line with a shattered train until authorities could clean up the mess, drastically slowing reinforcements.

Other targets included factories and other centers of manufacturing, transportation, and command and control.

To supply these missions, Detachment A relied on a series of spy-like gadgets and hidden caches of conventional weapons buried deep all over West Berlin. But the targets were in East Berlin, and Detachment A had to plan on how to strike across the city and, later in the war, across the Berlin Wall, to hit targets.

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Special Forces sergeant Robert Charest while assigned to operation in Berlin, clearly rocking a different grooming standard than most soldiers in the Cold War.

(Photo courtesy of Bob Charest)

This required missions deep into Soviet-held Berlin. While Detachment A members usually enjoyed relaxed grooming standards and wore civilian clothes, spying across the wall was done in uniform surprisingly often.

“You put on a uniform, shaved your hair, got in the military vehicles, went through Checkpoint Charlie, and you had access to East Berlin,” Charest said, “Alexanderplatz and stuff like this. You drove around and that was your cover story. The Russians would do the same thing in West Berlin. They had their little system. That was how we conducted surveillance of our targets.”

The men had a huge advantage when spying on the East, though. Thanks to the 1950 Lodge Act, foreign nationals could obtain U.S. citizenship after a five-year stint in the military. This allowed Detachment A to recruit people from the neighborhoods and areas where their targets were without rousing suspicions. These recruits and leaders proved invaluable.

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Soviet workers build the Berlin Wall, breaking up the city and reducing Detachment A’s ability to surveil its targets.

(U.S. National Archives)

“Our commander was great,” said Stejskal. “Our commander was Czech Officer who had served in the Resistance during World War II. Our Sergeant Major was a German who had served in the German Army, sort of, at the end of World War II. Just, nothing like you could imagine.”

“… several of the guys that reconned these targets were the actual Lodge Act people that lived in Berlin and had come from Berlin,” said Charest. “They knew where these targets were and the intel, G2 and above, knew what targets would be best to slow the Soviets down if they decided to come across.”

Detachment A practiced crossing the wall, swimming through deep canals with SCUBA gear, or making their way through sewer and water pipes under the city. One recon of the sewer pipes even got a senior officer in trouble.

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Allied troops in West Berlin were deep behind Soviet lines. When the Soviets attempted to cut off re-supply to those troops, America launched the massive “Berlin Airlift” to keep them alive. The airlift was a success, but it drove home for many just how vulnerable West Berlin was.

(U.S. Air Force)

“He, along with somebody else, went into the sewer system to check the situation out for crossing points, okay,” Charest said. “Well, little did he know that the CIA had these things monitored with all kinds of stuff. They triggered the alarms.”

While the plans were well laid, they still relied on brave men willing to take on huge risks to make the mission a success. After all, West Berlin was still deep inside East Germany.

“It’s a strange feeling,” said Stejskal. “We were 110 miles behind the East German border, about 12,000 allied troops inside West Berlin surrounded by close to a million Russian and Warsaw Pact soldiers. Oddly enough, I think most of us were very energized to be where we were.”

And the men had a good idea of how dangerous that situation was.

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Soviet forces prepare to leave Hungary. If the Cold War had gone hot, Detachment A members, like the rest of the allied troops in Berlin, would have been outnumbered and outgunned over 100 miles from friendly forces.

(RIA Novosti Archive, CC-BY-SA 3.0)

“Well, it was basically a suicide mission,” Charest said. “If we got in and hit anything and then we had to face escape and evasion, all right? You were on your own. There was nothing set up, formally, for escape and evasion, yet. You were on your own. That’s why you spoke the language, that’s why you were familiar with the countryside. You knew, essentially, you had to get to the coast or wherever NATO withdrew to and stuff like this. But, you had nothing formal, you were on your own.”

“I think we would’ve been hard-pressed to survive more than 72 hours, but you never can tell,” Stejskal said. “How did the OSS agents feel when they parachuted France or into Yugoslavia during World War II? Same kind of feeling. You’re anticipating that you’re going in to a very bad situation, but you got the best tools, the best cover, and everything else.”

Luckily, Detachment A never had to slow a Soviet invasion, despite flare-ups, like the tank standoff at Checkpoint Charlie. Instead, they spent their time training and conducting surveillance, preparing to save American forces in a war that never came and quietly saving American lives while building the framework and doctrine for units that followed them, like SEAL Team 6 and Delta Force.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pentagon says 50 U.S. troops diagnosed with brain injuries after Iran strike

The U.S. military has for the third time raised the number of U.S. service members who suffered traumatic brain injuries in Iran’s missile strike on an Iraqi air base earlier this month, AP reported citing a Pentagon spokesman.


Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Campbell said on January 28 that 16 more service members were now diagnosed with brain injuries, bringing the total to 50.

Thirty-one of the 50 were treated and had returned to duty, Campbell added.

In its previous update last week, the Pentagon said that 34 U.S. service members had suffered injuries.

Initially, President Donald Trump claimed that no Americans were harmed in Iran’s January 8 attack on the Ain Al-Asad air base in western Iraq.

Concussions can cause headaches, dizziness, sensitivity to light, and nausea.

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upload.wikimedia.org

Trump has downplayed the injuries saying he “heard that they had headaches and a couple of other things.”

The remarks angered a U.S. war veterans group.

William Schmitz, national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said on January 24 the group “expects an apology from the president to our service men and women for his misguided remarks.”

Iran’s attack was in retaliation for the U.S. killing of its top military commander, Major General Qasem Soleimani, in a drone strike at Baghdad airport on January 3.

There were some 1,500 U.S. soldiers at the Ain al-Asad base at the time of the attack. Most had been huddling in bunkers after being alerted about the incoming missiles.

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

MIGHTY SPORTS

This 5-minute workout will get you fit fast

You make your best effort to pick up the kettlebells or go for a run as often as you can, but there are those days (or, let’s face it, weeks), when you can barely make it home in time for dinner, let alone heading out to a workout class. The thing is, your body doesn’t care where you sweat. And to a certain extent, it doesn’t care how long you sweat for. Sure, a 30-minute bodyweight workout burns more calories than 10, but research suggests even just a handful of minutes a day devoted to elevating your heart rate can have measurable results.

A University of Utah study, for instance, found that people who exercised less than 10 minutes but at a high intensity had a lower BMI than those who worked out for more than 10 minutes at moderate intensity. And a report in the medical journal Obesity found that people who split an hour of daily exercise into 5-minute chunks were better able to control their appetite and eating compared to those who did a traditional-length workout.


So how do you work out in 5 minutes? What you need is a super-intense, Tabata-style routine that pushes your heart rate through the roof and makes your muscles beg for mercy by the time five minutes is up. We’ve got you covered with this all-in workout.

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(Photo by Sam Knight)

The ultimate 5-minute bodyweight workout

Start with a brief warmup (stretch arms overhead, touch your toes, open legs wide and lower into a gentle squat, stand and twist right, then left).

Minute 1: Jump rope as fast as you can for 50 seconds. Rest 10.

Minute 2: Run in place as fast as you can (like a lineman drill), raising your knees so high you hit your chest for 50 seconds. Rest 10.

Minute 3: Drop and do 20 pushups; flip and do 20 situps; flip and do 20 hand-clap pushups (push off floor with enough force that you can clap hands together in the air between reps).

Minute 4: Squat jumps for 15 seconds (squat and jump in the air vertically, landing back in a squat); box jumps for 15 seconds (stand in front of a sturdy bench or chair, bend knees and spring up onto it, then jump back down); squat jumps again for 20 seconds. Rest 10.

Minute 5: 15 burpees in 30 seconds; 30 jumping jacks in 30 seconds.

Grab some water and take a short walk when you’re done to allow your heart rate a few minutes to return to normal.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

Articles

The inside joke names that soldiers have for different unit patches

For nearly 100 years, U.S. Army soldiers have designed and worn unit patches. And for roughly same amount of time, soldiers have made fun of each other’s patches.


The tradition of Army patches dates back to 1918 when the 81st Infantry Division deployed to Europe wearing a shoulder insignia they had designed for training exercises in South Carolina. Other units complained about the unauthorized unit item to Gen. John Pershing who, rather than punishing the 81st, authorized the patch and recommended other units design their own.

Since then, units have designed and worn patches that motivated soldiers, honored the unit lineage, and encapsulated military history. This is a sampling of some of those patches, along with the alternate names that soldiers remember them by.

1. “Leaning Sh-thouse” — 1st Theater Sustainment Command

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Photo: US Institute of Heraldry

The arrow is supposed to symbolize the ability of the command to fulfill its mission quickly and effectively, but soldiers decided it looked like an outhouse dropped on a hill.

2. “Broken TV” — 3rd Infantry Division

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Photo: US Army Spc. Luke Thornberry

The three lighter stripes symbolize the three major campaigns the division fought in during World War I while the darker stripes symbolize the loyalty of the soldiers who gave their lives. Once TVs were invented, the similarity between a broken set and the patch was undeniable.

3. “Four Lieutenants Pointing North” — 4th Infantry Division

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Photo: US Army Markus Rauchenberger

4th Inf. Div. wants you to see their patch and relate the four ivy leaves to fidelity and tenacity. The Army sees it and just thinks about lieutenants getting lost on the land navigation course.

4. “Crushed Beer Can” — 7th Infantry Division

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Photo: US Institute of Heraldry

This is supposed to be an hourglass formed from two 7s, a normal one and an inverted one. Of course, it really does look more like a can someone crushed in their grip.

5. “Flaming Anus” — 9th Infantry Division

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Photo: US Army Steven Williamson

You see it. You know you do.

6. “Gaggin’ Dragon” — 18th Airborne Corps

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Photo: US Institute of Heraldry

Their mascot is a Sky Dragon so they went with a big scary dragon … that needs someone to administer the heimlich.

7. “Electric Strawberry” — 25th Infantry Division

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Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael Holzworth

Based out of Hawaii, 25th’s patch is a taro leaf, native to Hawaii, with a lightning bolt showing how fast the division completes its missions. Since no one knows what a taro leaf is, most soldiers call it the electric strawberry. They also sometimes get called “Hawaii Power and Light.”

8. “Days Inn” — 41st Infantry Division

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Photo: US Army Steven Williamson

Like 3rd Infantry Division’s, there was nothing odd about this patch when it was adopted in World War I. Still, if you’re only familiar with the hotel chain, this patch feels like copyright infringement. Some soldiers from this unit volunteered for service in Afghanistan in 2008, an experience chronicled in Shepherds of Helmand.

9. “Alcoholics Anonymous” — 82nd Airborne Division

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Photo: US Army D. Myles Cullen

The 82nd Airborne Division was named the All-American Division after a contest held in Atlanta, Ga. The patch’s two A’s are meant to call to mind the “All-American” nickname, but many people are, of course, reminded of the alcoholic support group. This wasn’t helped by the division’s reputation for hard drinking.

10. “Choking Chicken” — 101st Airborne Division

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The 101st was originally based out of Wisconsin and they based their unit patch off of “Old Abe,” a bald eagle carried into combat by the 8th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment during the Civil War. While Abe was a distinguished bald eagle, the unit patch could easily be seen instead as a chicken with corn stuck in its windpipe.

popular

Watch the F-22 take on 5 F-15s — and dominate

The F-22 Raptor is an expensive plane. While some critics pegged its cost at over $300 million a plane, the actual fly-away cost could go down to $116 million per Raptor, according to a 2006 Air Force release.


An F-22 deploys flares. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The F-22 was slated to replace the F-15A/B/C/D Eagles as the premier air-superiority fighter. But the Raptor’s production was halted at 187 airframes. Let’s go through a tale of the tape on these planes, before we see what happens when five Eagles jump a Raptor.

According to Joe Baugher, the F-15 has a top speed of Mach 2.5, a cruising speed of 570 knots, can carry eight air-to-air missiles (usually four AIM-120/AIM-7 and four AIM-9), and has a 20mm M61 cannon with 940 rounds. It has a range of 3,450 miles.

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Baugher notes that the F-22 has a top speed of Mach 2.2 slightly slower than the F-15. But the F-22 cruises at Mach 1.6. It carries four AIM-120 and four AIM-9 missiles. It also has a 20mm M61 cannon. It has a combat radius of up to 800 nautical miles.

Here’s the video showing how the five Eagles fared against the Raptor. Warning: This was not a fair fight.

Articles

That time the Air Force landed bombers on tank treads

During the Cold War, the U.S. Air Force experimented with a seemingly crazy idea for dispersing the weight of their heaviest bomber across the tarmac of airports and bases. They would fit the bombers with tank tread-inspired landing gear.


The B-36 Peacemaker was the largest plane ever built by America. Originally designed before the Pearl Harbor attacks, the B-36 was supposed to be a cross-ocean bomber that could drop 10,000 pounds of ordnance on Berlin or Japan while taking off and landing in the U.S.

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Convair XB-36 takeoff during its first flight on March 29, 1950. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

When flying shorter routes, the plane could carry as much as 86,000 pounds.

The massive B-36 was slowly developed throughout World War II but was finished too late for the war. The first bomber rolled off the line six days after the Japanese surrender. But the plane’s capabilities, carrying 10,000 pounds of ordnance to targets thousands of miles away, made the plane perfect for a nuclear strike role in the Cold War.

There was one big problem, though. The B-36 was extremely heavy, about 419,000 pounds when fully armed. And all that weight initially sat on two smaller tires in the front and two larger ones under the wings.

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Convair XB-36 in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The weight on each tire was so great, the Peacemakers risked sinking into the concrete if they were parked for too long on most airstrips.

So the Air Force tried out a novel solution. They installed tank tread landing gear under the nose and both wings of the plane, allowing the weight to be spread over a much larger area.

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Side view of Convair XB-36. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

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(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Initial tests of the system were successful, but the Air Force scrapped it anyway. It focused on improving more airstrips rather than putting the bulky system on production B-36s. It did start buying the planes with four smaller wheels under each wing instead of the single large one, which also helped with the pressure per square inch on airfields.

The weight-to-surface-area problem would come up again with the B-47, the Peacemaker’s successor. B-47s dispersed during the Cuban Missile crisis sunk into the concrete of Logan Airport in Boston, Massachusetts and pilots had to hire a tow truck driver to pull them out of the holes they created.

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