It was Nov. 19, 1915. British pilots were attacking Ottoman forces at Ferrijik Junction, a rail and logistics hub. The tiny planes involved in the attack swooped and dove as they dropped bombs and fought off enemy fighters. But then, one of the bombers took heavy fire as it conducted its bombing run, crashing into the nearby marshes. But then a hero emerged.
The attack on Ferrijik was focused on cutting Turkish supply lines, and a large mix of planes had been assembled to conduct the attack. One member of that aerial force was Royal Navy Squadron Cmdr. Richard Bell Davies. Davies had already proven himself earlier that year, pressing a bombing attack on German submarine pens in Belgium despite taking heavy damage to his plane and a bullet wound to his thigh, flying for an hour after his injury before landing safely.
During the attack on Ferrijik, Davies was flying a Nieuport fighter, helping to protect the bombers so they could do their mission as effectively as possible.
A younger pilot, Flight Sub-Lt. Gilbert F. Smylie was one of those tasked with actually dropping the bombs. His plane was equipped with eight, and he came in low and slow over the railway to get his ordnance on target. But the heavy ground fire of the Turkish defenders got to him before he dropped his load.
Smylie quickly began losing altitude, but he kept his plane headed toward the target and then released all of his bombs at once over the rail station. One failed to separate, but the other seven fell to the earth from low altitude. Despite shedding all that weight, Smylie couldn’t get his plane back up to altitude, so he turned it toward a dry marshbed and carefully set the plane down.
He attempted to restart his plane, but that failed, and so he decided to take the machine offline permanently to prevent its capture. Smylie set the bird on fire, trusting the fire to set off the bomb and destroy the plane completely. But then he saw something he almost certainly could not have predicted.
A Nieuport fighter was descending toward him. At the time, an airplane had never been used to rescue a downed airman, so the idea of a one-seater descending to save him must have seemed like insanity to Smylie. But, to ensure that this pilot wouldn’t be killed by the exploding bomb, he pulled his pistol and shot the munition to set it off, destroying it before the other plane was too close.
The Nieuport, with Davies at the controls. landed in the marshbed with Smylie even as Bulgarian rifle fire began to crack overhead. Davies’ Nieuport 10 had only one seat, but was originally designed and constructed with two. Important flight controls had bars running through the converted cockpit, and the whole thing was covered with a cowl.
Smylie scrambled into the tight quarters of the former cockpit, contorting himself around a rudder bar and pressing his head against an oil tank, and Davies took off. The explosion of Smylie’s plane had temporarily slowed the enemy fire, and the two pilots were able to escape before the Bulgarians ramped their fire back up.
After about 45 minutes, the pair reached safety, but it took two hours to extract Smylie from the confined quarters.
Smylie received the Distinguished Service Cross for his work that day, and Davies earned the Victoria Cross with his bravery. This first search and rescue from the air would spur the development of dedicated tactics and techniques that have carried forward to today.
It can carry six large rockets and hurl them 90 miles against enemy targets, raining death and destruction on America’s enemies that can slaughter entire enemy units in one fierce volley. The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System has real teeth, and the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, as well as the Romanian and Polish militaries, are about to get a lot more of them.
And HIMARS really is highly mobile. Not only can it drive itself onto the battlefield from a base or depot, but it can also ride on planes as small as the C-130, drive off the back, and get right into the fight. The Marine Corps actually practiced using HIMARS in “air raids” where a transport plane delivered a launcher to a forward airbase, and then the crew rapidly prepared and fired the weapon.
Alternatively, they can carry a single Army Tactical Missile System. This bad boy can fly over 180 miles and packs a 500-pound warhead. The missile made its combat debut in Desert Storm. The U.S. won that one. We’re not saying that it happened because of the ATACMS, but the math adds up.
With increased HIMARS capability in NATO, it would be much more complicated for Russia to invade. And if it did another destabilizing mission like it’s still doing in the Donbas region of Ukraine, HIMARS would still be pretty useful. Those Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine have proven pretty reliant on Russian artillery, and the extra range and precision of HIMARS would allow them to hit back with pinpoint accuracy while out of Russian range.
Too bad for Ukraine that it’s not part of this contract.
Whether or not you agree with the popular theory that the 1988 action picture “Die Hard” is really a Christmas movie, you’ll have to admit that NYPD detective John McClane is Bruce Willis’ greatest role.
There have been four sequels of varying quality over the past decades, but it had been seven years since Willis had played the part. That changed over the weekend when a new “Die Hard” movie showed up on YouTube.
“Die Hard” 2020 is actually a commercial for DieHard, the iconic battery brand formerly owned by Sears and now sold by Advance Auto Parts. The spot brings back a pair of iconic characters from the original movie.
McClane’s car won’t start and he heads to an auto parts store for a new battery. He runs into the original movie’s computer hacker Theo (Clarence Gilyard Jr.), who’s still out for revenge 32 years later.
Theo sends a posse of musclebound thugs to finish off the detective, who crashes through the store window to buy his new battery. After escaping through the ventilation system, he runs into limousine driver Argyle (De’voreaux White), who’s finally paid off the same car he was driving in the first movie.
As they try to get back to McClane’s broken-down muscle car, Theo runs them down and crashes into the limo. The DieHard battery takes a bullet but still works when installed and they crank up the car for an escape.
Will Theo get his revenge or will McClane escape again with a few more scars but still in one piece? You’ll have to watch for the result.
If you’re shocked that Bruce was willing to play John McClane in a commercial, he’s got some thoughts for you.
“I’ve never done any sort of commercial with the John McClane character, but Advance Auto Parts brought an idea to integrate DieHard the battery into the ‘Die Hard’ story through a short film that’s authentic to McClane and both brands,” Willis said in a press release.
“Advance approached this like a motion picture — the script is clever, the production intense and the spot is entertaining,” he continued.” This is what ‘Die Hard’ fans expect. I think they will dig the DieHard –‘Die Hard’ mashup.”
Back in the day before its release, the movie title was a clever play on an iconic brand name. Over the years, the movie became a brand that’s probably bigger than the battery ever was. And now we’ve come full circle: A battery looks to get a boost from a movie that once got a boost from the battery.
Enjoy the spot and don’t get your back up. Bruce’s movie career got jump started by DieHard back in the day and now he’s returning the favor.
Here’s the classic DieHard battery commercial that the movie title was supposed to evoke for audiences back in 1988.
Diehard Battery Ad – Sears Roebuck Auto Center (1976)
In November 1911, Italy was engaged in a costly war against the Ottoman Empire in what is today Libya. It worked out for the Italians in the end, easily defeating the Ottoman Empire, who was by then a shadow of its former glory. The war brought a number of new technologies onto the battlefield, most notably the airplane. Italian pilots were the first to use heavier than air aircraft for both reconnaissance and to drop bombs on enemy positions. One pilot was also the first to fly a night sortie.
For the Turks, who had no anti-air defenses, they were the first to shoot down an aircraft with small arms fire.
The German-built Taube monoplane like the one flown by Lt. Gavotti over Libya.
On Nov. 1, 1911, Giulio Gavotti, an Italian war pilot, climbed into the cockpit of his Etrich Taube monoplane. His mission was to fly over the Ain Zara oasis, occupied by Turkish troops. Instead of just flying over the target, he decided he would throw bombs out of the plane and into the mass of maybe 2,000 enemy soldiers below. The lieutenant would later write to his father that he was really pleased to be the first person to try. His efforts earned him the nickname “the Flying Artilleryman.”
“I notice the dark shape of the oasis. With one hand, I hold the steering wheel, with the other I take out one of the bombs and put it on my lap…. I take the bomb with my right hand, pull off the security tag and throw the bomb out, avoiding the wing. I can see it falling through the sky for couple of seconds and then it disappears. And after a little while, I can see a small dark cloud in the middle of the encampment. I am lucky. I have struck the target.”
And that’s how one pilot ushered in the Air Power age.
Giulio Gavotti, the first bomber pilot.
The young lieutenant had strapped a number of grapefruit-sized grenade-like bombs into a leather pouch in the cockpit. As he flew over the target, he would toss them over the side. The official history of the Italian Army in Libya says that Gavotti screwed in the detonators and flew at an altitude of just 600 feet as he made his bombing runs. He tossed three over the side at an oasis at Tagiura and then one over the Ain Zara Oasis. No one is really sure how many (if any) he actually killed on his run.
In response, the Ottoman Empire issued a formal complaint. Dropping bombs from aerial balloons was outlawed by the Hague Convention of 1899. The Italians countered that the airplanes weren’t balloons and any heavier-than-air craft was legally allowed to drop bombs as Gavotti had.
“I come back really pleased with the result,” Gavotti wrote. “I go straight to report to General Caneva. Everybody is satisfied.”
While the United States fought conflicts and insurgencies in the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa over the last seventeen years, potential adversaries were studying U.S. operations and developing sophisticated weapons, munitions, and disruptive technologies. U.S. forces must anticipate that adversaries will employ these increasingly advanced systems, some approaching or even surpassing U.S. capabilities, while also proliferating them to their allies and proxies around the globe.
Both Russia and China, our two most sophisticated strategic competitors, are developing new approaches to conflict by modernizing their concepts, doctrine, and weapon systems to challenge U.S. forces and our allies across all operational domains (land, sea, space, cyberspace, and space). Russia’s New Generation Warfare and China’s Local Wars under Informationized Conditions are two examples of these new approaches.
In the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa, non-state actors and radical militant groups are gaining military capabilities previously associated only with nation-states. Irregular forces are growing more capable as they adopt new weapons and tactics. Hezbollah has used advanced anti-tank guided missiles, man-portable air defense systems, and a sophisticated mission command system in its conflicts with Israel and participation in the Syrian civil war. Joining Hezbollah in the employment of unmanned aerial vehicles are Al-Qaeda and ISIS, and ISIS has also used chemical weapons. In addition, Iran adopted a very sophisticated warfare doctrine aimed at the U.S., and the Houthi insurgency in Yemen aims rockets and missiles at Saudi Arabia.
The U.S. Army exists to fight our nation’s wars and it rigorously prepares to reach the highest possible level of sustained readiness to defeat such a wide array of threats and capabilities. To attain this end state, training at U.S. Army Combat Training Centers, or CTCs, must be realistic, relevant, and pit training units against a dynamic and uncompromising Opposing Force, or OPFOR.
Soldiers of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment maneuver through the streets of a compound at the National Training Center, Calif., during an OPFOR training exercise.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. David Edge)
The CTC program employs several professional OPFOR units, including the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment at the National Training Center in California’s Mojave Desert, the 1-509th Airborne Infantry Battalion within the swamps of Louisiana at the Joint Readiness Training Center, 1-4th Infantry Battalion at the Joint Multinational Training Center in Hohenfels, Germany, and the World Class OPFOR within the Mission Command Training Program at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. The Army’s Cyber Command also provides specialized support to these OPFOR units with cyber aggressors.
The OPFOR is representative of adversary forces and threat systems that reflect a composite of current and projected combat capabilities. The OPFOR must be capable of challenging training units’ mission essential tasks and key tasks within the Army Universal Task List. To maintain OPFOR’s relevance as a competitive sparring partner, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command devotes major analytic efforts to studying foreign armies and determining the optimum configuration for OPFOR units that both represent a plausible threat and challenge training tasks. This also requires the Army to consistently modernize the OPFOR with replicated peer or near-peer threat weapons and capabilities.
The OPFOR must be capable of challenging U.S. Army training units with contemporary armored vehicles that are equipped with stabilized weapon systems and advanced night optics, as well as realistic kill-or-be-killed signatures and effects via the Multiple Integrated Laser Effects Systems. The OPFOR must also have air attack platforms, advanced integrated air defense systems, unmanned aerial systems, modern-day anti-tank munitions, long-range and guided artillery fires, and improvised explosive devices.
Soldiers from A Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Cavalry Regiment; 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team, race their M2A3 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle toward the opposition force (OPFOR) during a battle simulation exercise at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin.
(Photo by Maj. W. Chris Clyne, 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)
Additionally, the OPFOR must be capable of subjecting training units to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear effects and technologically enhanced deception capabilities. The OPFOR must also be capable of degrading or denying training unit dependency on Cyber-Electromagnetic Activities with threat electronic warfare, cyberspace, and space effects.
Modernizing the U.S. Army’s OPFOR program is an unremitting endeavor, because threats continuously change and technology relentlessly revolutionizes the art of war. Replicating the most realistic threat capabilities and tactics is critical for training units and commanders to practice their tactics, techniques, and procedures, and learn from the consequences of their decisions under tactical conditions.
This topic, as well as the challenges the OPFOR enterprise faces in developing much-needed capabilities to effectively replicate threats in a dynamic Operational Environment that postulates a changing character of future warfare, will be highlighted during a Warriors Corner at the annual Association of the United States Army meeting in Washington D.C. on Oct. 10, 2018, from 2:55-3:35 p.m.
Leaving the military means making a lot of decisions — big decisions — often in a short period of time. One important decision, thankfully, doesn’t have a time limit: What should you do with the balance in your Thrift Savings Plan account?
Several myths and rumors surround the answer to that question, with plenty of salesmen wanting you to believe that you should move your money out of the TSP. Five clear options exist for service members and their TSP account assets after transitioning from the military. Even though there’s no single answer for everyone, three choices are more optimal for most people, and two choices are less right for most people.
The usually-better options include:
Leave the money in your TSP account.
Roll your TSP account balance into an Individual Retirement Arrangement.
Roll your TSP account balance into your new employer’s 401(k) plan.
The rarely-better options include:
Withdraw your TSP account balance in a lump sum.
Transfer your TSP account balance to a qualified annuity.
Leave the balance in your TSP account
Once you have a TSP account, you can leave your money in there until you have to take required minimum distributions. There is no requirement to move it anywhere, at any time. In fact, most military-savvy financial planners recommend that you leave your retirement funds in TSP.
“As an entering argument, we don’t advocate doing anything different with your TSP,” says Sean Gillespie of Redeployment Wealth Strategies. “Just because you can’t contribute to it any more doesn’t mean you have to move it. And with low cost being one of the leading predictors of maximizing your returns, it’s darned difficult to do better than you will with TSP.”
Pros: Leaving your money in the TSP is by far the easiest option, and it’s a good option for many situations. The TSP has very, very low fees. You can move the money elsewhere later. TSP understands tax-free contributions from a Combat Zone Tax Exclusion. You can roll new money from other qualified plans into your TSP account to take advantage of the low costs.
Cons: TSP offers limited distribution options, though they are scheduled to expand this fall. You have limited investment options in TSP. You can’t roll from Traditional TSP to Roth TSP, so if you are trying to move your Traditional money into Roth accounts, it will have to be out of TSP. You can’t take multiple partial withdrawals out of your TSP account.
Roll your TSP balance into an Individual Retirement Arrangement
Pros: You have total control of how you invest your money, and unlimited investment options. You can still roll the money into a 401 (k) in the future. You can convert money that is currently in a Traditional account into a Roth account, but it will be a taxable event. And it’s really nice to put everything in one place!
Cons: IRAs don’t have any loan options, and will probably have higher fees.
Roll your TSP balance into your new employer’s 401 (k) plan
Pros: Moving your TSP balance will streamline your accounts, and that balance will be available for borrowing with a 401 (k) loan. (But don’t do it!)
Cons: Most 401 (k) plans have higher costs than TSP. You’ll still be limited to the investment options in the new plan. There may be a waiting period to participate in your new employer’s 401 (k). Not all 401 (k) plans have a Roth option.
“When you leave military service, don’t be quick to jump out of TSP. It has better and lower-cost investment options than 401 (k) plans.”
Withdraw your TSP account balance in a lump sum
Pros: Cash in hand.
Cons: Withdrawing money from your TSP account may be subject to withdrawal penalties (10%) and taxes (probably in the 20% range). More importantly, you’ll lose all future earnings on that money, and you can’t replace that money into a tax-advantaged account because they have yearly contribution limits.
Transfer your TSP account balance to a qualified annuity
Pros: Predictable, guaranteed income stream for life.
Cons: It is a permanent decision. There may be high fees involved. You may not get anywhere near the full value of your contribution. If it isn’t indexed for inflation, the purchasing power of your monthly benefit will decrease each year.
This is a relatively short overview and can’t possibly cover every possible situation. As with everything, there are exceptions and nuances for many different scenarios. If you are considering moving your TSP to another investment, you may find value in consulting a financial advisor to figure out which choice is right for you and your specific situation.
Lacey Langford, AFC ®, The Military Money Expert ®, suggests several reasons why you might want to consider using a fee-only financial planner vs. the advisor offered through a bank, insurance company or investment company.
“Fee-only allows you to have a clear picture of what you’re paying for and how the advisor is being compensated for the advice and recommendations they’re giving you,” Langford added.
You may have heard that President Trump signed an executive order Friday, March 27 allowing the military to recall members of the selected reserve and some former service members to active duty in support of the government’s response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
While this sounds ominous, the executive order is mainly a formality giving the Pentagon the authority to recall reserve members as necessary. A federal law (10 U.S. Code § 12302) that has been around since 1953 authorizes the president to recall up to one million reservists for up to two years in times of national emergency.
The military branches have also started to gauge interest from recently separated members on volunteering to return to active duty in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Army, for example, recently contacted 800,000 retired members asking about their willingness to return to active duty and help the service fight the pandemic. More than 17,000 retirees, representing various specialties, have responded at the time of this writing.
Maryland National Guard Transports Citizens During COVID-19 Pandemic.
If the coronavirus pandemic worsens and requires a major military mobilization, an involuntary recall would begin only if there aren’t enough active-duty members, selected reserve and guard members and volunteers returning to active duty. The order of recall is as follows:
Retirees and inactive reservists under 60 who have been off active duty for less than five years
Retirees and inactive reservists under 60 who have been off active duty for five years or more
Retirees and inactive reservists, including those retired for disability, who are over 60 years old
Again, the needs of the service are tantamount, and some military specialties may have different rules than others. A medical officer who has been out of the military for 15 years may be recalled before an aircraft mechanic who separated last month.
PA National Guard support COVID-19 test site in Montgomery County.
10 U.S. Code § 12302 also says that recall consideration will be given to:
the length and nature of previous service, to assure such sharing of exposure to hazards as the national security and military requirements will reasonably allow;
family responsibilities; and
employment necessary to maintain the national health, safety, or interest.
That means if you are a health care professional and can do society more good as a civilian, you may be exempted from recall. Also, if you have serious family responsibilities you may be exempted.
The law may also exempt veterans with some disabilities or medical conditions from any involuntary recall. Those with less than honorable discharges and certain separation codes may also be exempted from involuntary recall.
What Happens If You Are Recalled?
You will most likely get a certified letter from the military directing you to an intake center. If you don’t answer the letter, they will send another one to your home of record. If you still don’t respond, you will be identified as a deserter and possibly face legal action.
If you are recalled, you have the same responsibilities as any active-duty member: no drug use, adherence to grooming and physical readiness standards, support of the needs of the military and obedience to the chain of command.
Even if you meet those obligations, you won’t be eligible for any promotions as a recalled member. Instead, you will be paid at your current rank or the rank at which you separated. Your retirement pay and any VA disability benefits will also stop for the duration of your revitalized active duty service.
December 7, 1941, is a day which lives in infamy. But it dawned normally at 7:13 a.m. in Washington, D.C., and the attack on Pearl Harbor didn’t begin until the afternoon in Washington. For leaders like Army Chief of Staff Gen. George C. Marshall, the expectation would have been that it would be another tense day of preparing for war, at least until a single note was presented to him.
Marshall had spent years growing as an Army officer before he was tapped in 1939 to become the chief of staff. By that time, he had 37 years of experience in the military and had served in the mud of the Philippine-American War and of France in World War I, rising to colonel and serving as the chief of staff to then-chief of staff Gen. John J. Pershing.
After World War I, he led a number of units before taking over the Army as a whole, and he was experienced in making do with short spending. But it was probably by late 1939 that the growing regional wars would become a world war. (In an odd twist of history, Marshall’s first day as chief of staff was September 1, 1939, the same day Germany invaded Poland.)
Even though the president, secretaries of State, Navy, and War, and the chiefs of Army and Navy war plans and Chief of Naval Operations had all known for hours about the building intelligence signaling war, Marshall was the first one to order the likelihood of war be briefed to the commanders in the trenches. Unfortunately, transmitting that intelligence would take over 8 hours, and Short wouldn’t receive it until seven hours after the attack began.
So when the day dawned on December 7, Marshall was likely hoping that he could keep shifting resources to where he thought they were needed most, that he had a little more time to reinforce and improve positions across the Atlantic and Pacific. By noon, he knew he was likely out of time and that December 7 would be the day.
Within hours, he would receive a message. It was not addressed to him, though most papers destined for the chief of staff’s desk were laboriously drafted and then addressed to him. It was not typewritten or printed. It wasn’t even written with particularly good handwriting.
But it likely made Marshall’s blood run cold. In just 14 words, it confirmed that the suspected attack was underway.
To all ships Hawaiian area Air raid on PH This is no drill. Urgent
Marshall would learn over the following weeks that over 2,300 Americans had died. He likely second-guessed some of his own decisions about Pearl Harbor after the stunning losses there, though it’s unclear that any of the assets he removed from the island base would have made a difference.
(One of the biggest redeployments from Pearl was nine heavy bombers which, if they had survived the attack, would have been used in the hunt for the Japanese fleet and vengeance on December 7, but American hunters had almost no idea where the Japanese carriers were.)
The air raid pulled America firmly into World War II, awakening the “Sleeping Giant.” America would chase Japanese forces all the way back across the Pacific and would pummel the island nation’s allies in Europe.
Investigators with France’s Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety, who published their report in early April, found that once the man was in the air, he became so stressed by the ride that he pressed the ejector button in panic and was thrown from the aircraft, where he then parachuted down to the ground.
According to the investigation, the man, whose name has been withheld in the report, had no experience with military aircraft and had no interest in flying in a Dassault Rafale B jet before his company surprised him with the ride.
He was wearing a smartwatch at the time of the flight, which allowed investigators to record him having a heart rate between 136 to 142 beats per minute just before taking flight. A normal heart rate for an adult is between 60 and 100 beats per minute.
Heading out into the wilderness for a camping trip is exhilarating and refreshing. Starting a campfire and roasting some marshmallows under the stars is a great way to get in touch with Mother Nature. Although the idea of spending a night in the great outdoors sounds incredible, campers should always remember to bring specific tools and learn important survival skills in the event they sustain an injury and help is far, far away.
It gets cold out there at night, so it’s important to know the basics of starting a fire to keep warm — even in the dire circumstance that you’ve been injured. Do you know how to start a fire with just one hand? You never know — this skill might just save your life.
With your arm in a sling, place narrow log on the ground and then angle a knife up against it. Now, under the knife’s blade, place some dry kindling. Since you only have one-hand, squarely set your foot on the knife’s handle to secure it in place.
Once the knife is nice and snug, take a ferrocerium rod and strike it up against the knife’s blade. This will create a spark and, as long as your dry kindling is close enough, it will catch the spark and ignite.
Like always, provide oxygen and add kindling to feed the fire.
Note: Please remember to always create fires in a safe area regardless of your physical injuries. You don’t want to become a burn victim as well.
Check out Black Scout Survival‘s video below to get a complete breakdown on this single-handed fire starting technique.
The US military and its NATO partners have been looking to reassert their presence in Europe in the wake of Russian action in Crimea.
NATO has deployed multinational units to Eastern Europe, and the US Army has been looking to boost its armor for more rotational deployments. Armored units on the continent are also expanding their training repertoire.
Soldiers from the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, from the 1st Infantry Division, arrived in Europe in September 2017, with roughly 3,300 personnel, 87 tanks, 125 Bradley fighting vehicles, and 18 Paladin self-propelled howitzers for a nine-month rotation at locations in Poland, Germany, Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria.
When they disembarked in Gdansk, Poland, it would be “the first time two armored brigades transition within the European theater sending a full complement of soldiers and equipment into Germany and Poland in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve,” Eastern Europe operations command spokesman US Army Master Sgt. Brent Williams said at the time.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven)
The unit’s rotation is also concluding with something of a first. Between April 22 and April 25, 2018, the 2nd ABCT carried out a tactical road march with over 700 vehicles on public roads between the Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels training areas in southeast Germany — the first time the exercise has been done at the brigade level in 15 years, according to the Army.
“The 7th Army Training Command, who conducts the exercise, decided to leverage the two training areas in Bavaria to connect multiple locations and units to create a more realistic training environment in Europe,” said Capt. Orlandon Howard, 2nd ABCT public-affairs officer.
The exercise was part of the Combined Resolve multinational exercise, which is taking place between April 9 and May 12, 2018, and includes personnel from 13 countries. The exercise is designed to give rotational brigades a graded culminating event in realistic and complex training environment before they return to the US.
After a maneuver live-fire drill, the brigade was ordered to conduct the march to Hohenfels, where it would start preparing for the 10-day, force-on-force portion of the exercise.
The road march required only limited recovery operations and avoided major damage to roads and towns along the route, which the release noted was a significant accomplishment in light of the size of some of the vehicles involved.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kathleen V. Polanco)
Soldiers from the 2nd ABCT were joined by the Polish army’s 12th Mechanized Division, and a number of local residents stopped to watch the procession.
A German family waved at the soldiers while a German man held a US flag across his body. Others wore shirts or hats with US Army printed on them or with unit patches. One local man, Ralf Rosenecker, and several of his friends set up a display of three remote-controlled tanks with US flags, according to an Army release.
“Rosenecker said he was excited to see so many tanks because it had been over 15 years since such a large tactical road march was conducted on German roads,” the Army release said.
The US deployed hundreds of tanks, trucks, and other military equipment, accompanied by about 4,000 troops, to Europe at the beginning of 2017. The deployment, part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, was meant to reassure US allies in the face of what many of them perceived as Russian aggression.
At the time, NATO said the planned deployments — which included US troops to Poland and Germany, Canada, and the UK sending 1,000 troops each to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — were strictly defensive, through Russia rebuked what it saw as a armed buildup by Western countries in Eastern Europe
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Sharon Matthias)
Rotational forces have continued to cycle through Europe, carrying out training exercises with partner forces there.
In January 2018, a convoy of US Paladins traveling from Poland to exercises in southern Germany was briefly stranded, after German border police stopped the Polish contractors transporting them for violating transportation rules.
In March 2018, NATO announced its new logistics command — is meant to ensure the quick movement of troops and material across Europe in the event of conflict — will be based in the southern German city of Ulm.
The EU has also said it is devising a plan for military personnel and equipment to move quickly across Europe in a crisis, avoiding border delays and bridges and roads too weak to handle military vehicles.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Among the first Americans to enter Afghanistan in 2001 after the Sept. 11 attacks were members of the Central Intelligence Agency’s shadowy Special Activities Division, along with elite special operations personnel from the US military’s various branches.
Tragically, it would be one of the CIA’s Special Operations Group – the armed paramilitary branch of the SAD – who would be the first to lay down his life in the War on Terror, becoming the first American casualty in Afghanistan.
In November 2001, Johnny “Mike” Spann, an SOG operative, found himself at Qala-i-Jangi, a century-old fortress positioned near Mazar-i-Sharif, where hundreds of Taliban fighters were held prisoner by Afghan Northern Alliance militia, having been captured during the Siege of Kunduz that same month.
Spann was a graduate of Auburn University and a former Marine, having served six years as an artillery officer before being recruited to the CIA in 1999. He later went on to join the SAD’s SOG soon afterwards, delving deeper into the world of black operations.
The CIA tasked Spann and another officer – an Uzbek language specialist – with interrogating the captives to glean intelligence on Taliban and Al Qaeda activity. The prisoners, as one might expect, were extremely uncooperative, and were additionally very poorly screened by their Afghan captors.
In a matter of minutes, the situation devolved into chaos.
A number of the prisoners rebelled against their captors, pulling out hidden hand grenades and detonating them in suicide attacks. Prisoners crowded around Spann during his questioning session began lunging at the SOG officer.
Spann and a fellow CIA operative immediately brought their guns to bear – the former pulling a pistol, and the latter grabbing an AK-47 from a Northern Alliance guard. In the blink of an eye, Spann was mobbed from all sides and disappeared under a mass of Taliban fighters, while his colleague attempted to make his way to his fallen comrade.
Reports estimate that Spann put down anywhere between three to seven enemy fighters with his pistol, before succumbing to the onslaught. The remaining CIA officer systematically dropped more Taliban fighters who had, by now, killed a number of Northern Alliance troops and took possession of their weapons, before running over to warn Red Cross and other civilian workers in the area to escape.
After contacting US diplomatic services in Uzbekistan, a quick reaction force consisting of American and British special forces hailing from Task Force Dagger was assembled and deployed to the area. The QRF established contact with the sole remaining CIA agent, while digging in for a long fight.
American fighter aircraft were directed to drop smart bombs on the fortress, while a pair of AC-130 Spectre gunships, operating under the cover of night, arrived on station, pounding the resistance into submission with concentrated fire.
After a two-day siege, the fort was retaken and most of rebels had escaped to the fort’s main dungeon.
The prisoners holed up in the dungeon finally surrendered after it was flooded with cold dirty irrigation water from nearby fields. Spann’s body was recovered with care in the aftermath of the battle, having found to be booby trapped by Taliban fighters. Of the 300-500 Taliban prisoners taken captive at the fortress, only 86 were recaptured alive.
Spann’s remains were repatriated to the US , and was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. He was posthumously awarded the Intelligence Star – equivalent to a Silver Star – and the Exceptional Service Medallion.
Today, a memorial still stands today at Qala-i-Jangi, commemorating Spann – the first American casualty in Afghanistan post-9/11.
Artillery fires are the kind of big, thundering fireworks shows that look awesome in movies. That being said, there’s always that crazy scene where Nicholas Cage (or some another action hero) runs through multiple explosions from mortars and artillery, remaining miraculously unscathed as every extra around them is cut down instantly.
So, which is real? Does artillery slaughter indiscriminately or can you get lucky and walk through a storm unscathed?
Marines carry rounds for an M777 howitzer during an exercise in Australia on August 8, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Wetzel)
Well, the actual story is much more complicated. It is possible, even on flat, featureless ground, to survive an artillery strike with little visible injury. But it’s nearly just as possible that you’ll be killed even with an inch of steel between you and the blast when one goes off.
It actually all comes down to fairly basic physics, and the British did extensive research during World War II to figure out how this plays out on the battlefield.
There are three ways that artillery most often claims its victims. The most common is through fragmentation of the shell, when the metal casing is split into many smaller bits and hurled at high speed in all directions. The next most common cause of death and injury is the blast wave; the sudden increase in pressure can damage soft tissue and shatter buildings and vehicles if the round is close enough.
A white phosphorous round busts far over the earth as artillerymen create a screen during an exercise at Fort Stewart, Georgia, on May 22, 2016.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Scott Linblom)
The least common cause of death and injury is the heat wave, where the sudden increase in temperature causes burns on flesh or starts fires.
Whether a given soldier will survive or not is basically a question of whether they are seriously affected by one or more of these lethal effects. So, let’s look at them one by one.
First, the fragmentation, also commonly known as shrapnel. Most artillery rounds are designed to create some kind of shrapnel when they explode. Shrapnel works kind of like a bullet. It’s a piece of metal flying at high speed through the air, hopefully catching an enemy soldier along its path.
An M109 Paladin fires a 155mm high-explosive round during a combined armslive fires exercise on September 9, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Keeler)
When it hits flesh, the shrapnel shreds the tissue it passes through, just like a bullet. But, also like a bullet, the biggest factor in lethality is the amount of energy imparted by the munition into the flesh.
Basically, physics tells us that no energy or mass is created or destroyed except in nuclear reactions. So, a piece of metal flying at high speeds has a lot of energy that is imparted to the flesh it passes through, causing cell death and destroying tissue in a larger area than just what the piece of metal actually touches. According to the British estimates, approximately 43 percent of the front of a human (or 36 percent of a human’s surface area in total) accounts for areas in which shrapnel is likely to cause a lethal wound.
So, if a piece of shrapnel hits any of those spots, it will likely cause cell death and then human death. But, shrapnel dispersion is its own, odd beast. When an artillery shell goes off, it’s easy to imagine that the shrapnel explodes in 360 degrees, creating a sphere of destruction.
Lance Cpl. Miguel Rios, field artillery cannoneer with Mike Battery, 3rd Battalion, 11 Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, arms 155mm rounds for an M777 Howitzer in preparation to fire during training Aug. 9, 2018, at Mount Bundey, Northern Territory, Australia.
(U.S. Marines Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Wetzel)
But shrapnel still carries a lot of momentum from its flight. As the round explodes, the force of the explosion propels the shrapnel out, but the metal fragments still carry a lot of the momentum from when they were crashing down towards the earth.
So, if the artillery round was flying straight down, the shrapnel would hit in a near-perfect circle, as if a giant had fired directly downwards with a shotgun. But the rounds are always flying at some sort of angle, sometimes quite shallow, meaning they’re still flying across the ground as much as falling towards it.
In that case, the shrapnel takes on a “butterfly wing” pattern, where a little shrapnel lands behind the round and a little shrapnel lands ahead of the round, but the vast majority lands on the left and the right.
A howitzer crew with 2nd Battalion, 12th Field Artillery Regiment, Alpha Battery, 2nd Platoon fires artillery in Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom Sentinel, July 23 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Elliot Hughes)
The momentum of the round and the force of the explosion combine to form what’s referred to as a “butterfly wings” pattern where shrapnel is flying at high speed as it hits people and the ground. But, in a likely surprise to most people, even this most lethal area typically only injures or kills just over half the time..
That’s right, even if you’re standing under an artillery round as it goes off, you still have a chance of surviving (but we still don’t recommend it).
But what if you have a nice thick steel plate or concrete wall protecting you? Well, that’ll protect you from most of the effects of shrapnel, but an artillery round that detonates closely enough to your concrete or steel will kill you a different way: the blast wave.
An artillery crewman from Alpha Battery, 2nd Battalion, 114th Field Artillery Regiment, 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team, Task Force Spartan, uses a tool to secure the fuse to the 155mm round during a combined arms live fire exercise on September 11, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Keeler)
See, the explosion at the heart of the an artillery round creates lots of shrapnel because of the sudden expansion of air as the explosive is consumed. But, the blast wave keeps going and can break apart other things, like the concrete or steel protecting you, or even your own body. After all, a blast wave that hits you hard enough will crush your skull much more easily than steel.
The blast wave is most effective at extremely close ranges, measured in feet or inches, not yards. This is what is likely to kill a tank or destroy a bunker, both of which typically require a direct hit or multiple direct hits.
The final lethal effect, the heat wave, is most effective at short ranges and against flammable materials. Think thin-skinned vehicles filled with gas or the flesh of your enemies.
So, if nearly all artillery shells kill you with the same three mechanics, why are there so many types and why are artillerymen so into things like fuses and powder?
Well, remember that quick note about “angles” when it came to shrapnel patterns? Different targets are susceptible to different artillery effects. And changing out fuses and changing the gun’s angle and number of powder bags allows an artilleryman to change how the round flies and where it explodes.
Troopers from the Field Artillery Support Squadron “Steel,” 3d Cavalry Regiment “Brave Rifles,” support Iraqi army operations with artillery fires from their M777A2 Howitzers, Aug. 12, 2018
(U.s. Army photo by 2nd Lt. Jamie Douglas)
For vehicles, especially armored ones, the best way to kill them is to get the explosive to happen as close to the vehicle as possible, preferably while the round is touching the target. That requires an impact fuse that cases a detonation when the round reaches the target or the ground.
But, if you want to cut down hordes of infantry or shred tents and wooden buildings, you want to maximize lethal shrapnel dispersion. The British studied the problem and recommended the rounds go off at 30 feet above the surface. This was traditionally accomplished with timed rounds; the fire direction center did all the math to figure out how long it would take the round to fly and then set the times for when the rounds was near 30 feet off the ground.
But the fuses were imperfect and the math was tricky, so the U.S. eventually figured out proximity fuses, which detonated a set distance from an object or surface.
So, how do poor Joe and Josephine Snuffy try to survive the steel rain? Well, by minimizing their susceptibility to the three effects.
Even just laying down in the dirt reduces the chances that you’ll catch lethal shrapnel — face down is best. That’ll cut your chances of death or major injury down by over 60 percent. Firing from trenches or fox holes can take your chances down to under 5 percent, and lying or crouching in those same trenches or foxholes can get you into the 2-percent range.
Dig some tunnels into the mountain, and you’ll be nearly impossible to kill. That’s why so many troops were able to survive on Japanese islands despite hours or days of bombardment.
If you’re stuck on the move, opt for cover and concealment. Walking or driving through the trees can drastically increase your chances of survival since most shrapnel can make it through one inch of wood or less — but watch out for falling limbs. The blast waves and shrapnel damage can knock massive branches off of trees and drop them onto troops.
If you’re in a vehicle, reduce the amount of flammables on the outside.
This is actually why artillerymen try to hit with as many rounds as possible in the first blast, using methods like “time on target” to get all of their first wave of rounds to land at the same moment. This maximizes the amount of destruction done before the targets can rush for cover or hop into trenches.