You have to hear Drew Brees' inspiring message to his kids - We Are The Mighty
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You have to hear Drew Brees’ inspiring message to his kids

In October 2018 New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees officially became the leading passer in NFL history. While leading his team to a 43-19 win over the Washington Redskins, Brees overtook Peyton Manning in the record books when he hit Trequan Smith for a 62-yard touchdown late in the second quarter. Brees has now thrown for an astounding 72,103 yards in his 18-year career.

Officials stopped the game as soon as the play was completed so that Brees could celebrate his incredible accomplishment. The Super Bowl-winning quarterback took the time to savor the moment with his teammates and coaches at midfield before taking the ball from the referee and finding his family on the sidelines ⏤ they had been brought down on the field in anticipation of his record-setting pass. He then shared an inspiring message with his three sons and daughter.


“You can accomplish anything in life that you work for,” Brees told his four kids as he hugged them on the Saints sideline.

This message will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Brees’ journey. The 39-year-old gunslinger played college at Purdue, where he nearly won the Heisman Trophy his senior year. However, his relatively short stature (Brees is 6’0″, which is short for an NFL quarterback) caused him to fall to the second round of the NFL draft in 2001, where he was picked by the San Diego Chargers. Brees played five seasons in San Diego before the Chargers eventually let him become a free agent after he tore his labrum in 2005.

Brees then joined the Saints, where he won a Super Bowl in 2010, made 10 Pro Bowls, and led the NFL in passing yards 10 times. Along with holding the record for passing yards, Brees is also expected to compete with Tom Brady for most passing touchdowns in NFL history. Both he and Brady are within 40 touchdowns of Manning, who currently holds the record.

As great of a quarterback as Brees is for the Saints, he does an equally great job raising his three sons, Baylen, 9, Bowen, 7, Callen, 6, and daughter, Rylen, 4 with his wife Brittany. Brees coaches his sons’ flag football teams when he’s not busy being the most prolific quarterback ever and said the birth of Rylen“melted [his] heart.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

New T-7A Red Hawk honors Tuskegee Airmen

The Air Force’s all-new advanced trainer aircraft, the T-X, has officially been named the T-7A Red Hawk.

Acting Secretary of the Air Force Matthew Donovan made the announcement during his speech at the 2019 Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Sept. 16, 2019.

Donovan was joined on stage by one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, Col. Charles McGee, who flew more than 400 combat missions in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Also seated in the audience were members of the East Coast Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen.

After a short video highlighting the aircraft’s lineage, Donovan said, “ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the newest Red Tail!” A drape was then lifted to reveal a quarter-scale model of a T-7A Red Hawk painted in a distinct, red-tailed color scheme.


“The name Red Hawk honors the legacy of Tuskegee Airmen and pays homage to their signature red-tailed aircraft from World War II,” Donovan said. “The name is also a tribute to the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, an American fighter aircraft that first flew in 1938 and was flown by the 99th Fighter Squadron, the U.S. Army Air Forces’ first African American fighter squadron.”

Boeing T-X Becomes T-7A Red Hawk

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The Tuskegee Airmen subsequently painted their Republic P-47 Thunderbolts and North American P-51 Mustangs with a red-tailed paint scheme.

The T-7A Red Hawk, manufactured by Boeing, introduces capabilities that prepare pilots for fifth generation fighters, including high-G environment, information and sensor management, high angle of attack flight characteristics, night operations and transferable air-to-air and air-to-ground skills.

“The T-7A will be the staple of a new generation of aircraft,” Donovan said. “The Red Hawk offers advanced capabilities for training tomorrow’s pilots on data links, simulated radar, smart weapons, defensive management systems, as well as synthetic training capabilities.”

Along with updated technology and performance capabilities, the T-7A will be accompanied by enhanced simulators and the ability to update system software faster and more seamlessly. The plane was also designed with maintainers in mind by utilizing easy-to-reach and open access panels.

Two Boeing T-X trainers.

The T-7A features twin tails, slats and big leading-edge root extensions that provide deft handling at low speeds, allowing it to fly in a way that better approximates real world demands and is specifically designed to prepare pilots for fifth-generation aircraft. The aircraft’s single engine generates nearly three times more thrust than the dual engines of the T-38C Talon which it is replacing.

“The distance between the T-38 and an F-35 is night and day,” said Air Force Chief of Staff General David L. Goldfein. “But with the T-7A the distance is much, much smaller, and that’s important because it means the pilots trained on it will be that much better, that much faster at a time when we must be able to train to the speed of the threat.”

A .2 billion contract awarded to Boeing in September 2018 calls for 351 T-7A aircraft, 46 simulators and associated ground equipment to be delivered and installed, replacing Air Education and Training Command’s 57-year-old fleet of T-38C Talons.

The first T-7A aircraft and simulators are scheduled to arrive at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, in 2023. All undergraduate pilot training bases will eventually transition from the T-38C to the T-7A. Those bases include Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi; Laughlin AFB and Sheppard AFB, Texas; and Vance AFB, Oklahoma.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 iconic Pearl Harbor photos and the remarkable stories behind them

The attack on Pearl Harbor happened 77 years ago on Dec. 7, 2018.

The Japanese attack on the US naval base in Hawaii killed more than 2,400 American sailors and civilians and wounded 1,000 more.

Japanese fighter planes also destroyed or damaged almost 20 naval ships and more than 300 planes during the attack.

Several photos were captured during the attack, some of which have become iconic of that infamous day.

Here are the stories behind five of those unforgettable images.


A Japanese fighter plane drops what’s believed to be the first bomb on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

1. The first bomb likely dropped.

The above photo, which was taken by a Japanese photographer, was found by US Navy photographer Martin J. Shemanski at Yokusuka Base near Tokyo Bay shortly after the Japanese surrendered.

The photo shows the Japanese fighter plane (the small black speck that almost looks like a bird) appearing to pull out of a dive after dropping the bomb on Battleship Row. Another Japanese fighter plane can be seen in the upper right corner.

Shemanski and four other US military photographers were ordered to go through Japanese photo processing labs after the surrender, and he found it torn up in a trash can.

“It had a torn photo in it,” Shemanski told the Press-Enterprise in 2015.

“I picked up a couple pieces and I got a shot of a torpedo hitting the Oklahoma. I thought, ‘This is Navy intelligence,'” he added.

The USS Oklahoma was a Nevada-class battleship that was sunk during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Shemanski told the Press-Enterprise that the picture was torn up in about 20 pieces.

Shemanski reassembled the photo and turned it over to US naval intelligence on the USS Shangri-La aircraft carrier.

The USS Shaw explodes during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

(US Navy photo)

2. The USS Shaw explodes.

This photo shows the USS Shaw destroyer exploding while in floating dry dock.

Between 7:55 a.m. and 9:15 a.m., the Shaw was hit by three bombs released by Japanese fighters in steep dives from approximately 1,000 feet, according to the US Navy action report.

The Shaw immediately caught fire, and the ship was abandoned. About 20 minutes later, as sailors were trying to flood the dry dock to save the ship, the forward magazines blew up, which is pictured above.

The blast destroyed the bow and damaged the dry dock and a nearby tugboat.

Initially thought to be a loss, the Shaw was eventually repaired and later took part in several engagements in the Pacific, including the biggest naval battle of all-time, the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

The USS West Virginia (left) next to the USS Tennessee during the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

(US Navy photo)

3. Battleship Row on fire.

The picture above shows the USS West Virginia and USS Tennessee battleships on fire in Battleship Row.

Battleship Row was where seven US Navy battleships were moored on the eastern side of Ford Island (shown in the first picture), which rests in the middle of Pearl Harbor.

These seven battleships alone (the USS Arizona, USS West Virginia, USS Oklahoma, USS Tennessee, USS Maryland, USS California, and USS Nevada) were equal to about 70% of Japan’s active battleship fleet.

As such, these ships were the main target for the Japanese fighter planes, with 29 of Japan’s 40 torpedo planes ordered to attack it.

Each Japanese torpedo plane carried one Type 91 aerial torpedo with a warhead of 992 pounds, and 21 of them hit their targets. Japanese bombers then flew in after the torpedo plane attacks and caused further damage.

In total, the Japanese sunk the Oklahoma and Arizona, and damaged the other five ships.

A small boat rescues a crew member from the water after the Pearl Harbor attack.

4. Rescuing sailors from the USS West Virginia.

This photo shows a boat rescuing a crew member from the water as two other sailors are in the upper center of the burning USS West Virginia’s superstructure.

The USS West Virginia was a Colorado-class battleship that was hit by at least seven torpedoes and two bombs during the attack.

When the West Virginia was raised from the water for repairs six months after the attack, they found the bodies of three US Navy sailors who had been trapped in a compartment for 16 days, according to the Honolulu Advertiser.

US Marines standing guard had heard the sailors banging for help, but they couldn’t do anything. No one on guard wanted to go near the ship and hear the sounds.

When the sailors bodies were finally recovered, rescuers found a calendar on which the sailors had marked their last days.

The West Virginia was later reconstructed and put back into the war in 1944, supporting operations in the Philippines and Okinawa.

Smoke rises from the USS Arizona battleship as it sinks after the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

(NPS Photo)

5. The sinking USS Arizona.

This photo shows the USS Arizona battleship sinking in Battleship Row after it was hit by eight Japanese bombs and one torpedo.

One of the bombs went through a magazine and ignited cordite, which caused an expansion of gases and then a huge explosion.

The Arizona quickly sunk with 1,177 of the 1,512 personnel on board, which was about half the number of people killed in the entire attack.

The battleship burned for more than two days.

This is perhaps the most iconic taken during the Pearl Harbor attack. The Arizona still lies in the harbor as a national memorial.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US residents reportedly detained in Chinese prison camp

Multiple US residents are reportedly detained in China’s prison-like detention camps for Muslims, where inmates have to pledge allegiance to President Xi Jinping in exchange for meals.

“A few” American residents or citizens are being detained in those camps, CNN cited unnamed State Department sources as saying.

It comes after Sam Brownback, the US’s Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, told reporters on March 28, 2019, that a man in California had emailed him to say that his 75-year-old father, who has legal residency in the US, had disappeared after traveling to Xinjiang, a region on China’s western frontier.


China is waging an unprecedented crackdown on the Uighurs, a mostly-Muslim ethnic minority who mainly live in Xinjiang.

Beijing is accused of detaining at least 1 million Uighurs in prison-like centers, where inmates are required to memorize Chinese Communist Party doctrines and shout patriotic phrases like “Long live Xi Jinping!” to receive small amounts of rice for meals, according to recent testimonies reported by The Telegraph.

China is waging an unprecedented crackdown on Uighurs in Xinjiang.

Those who refuse to do so are reportedly electrocuted with a cattle prod, The Telegraph reported. Past detainees have also described being shackled to a chair, strung up, deprived of sleep, and being psychologically tortured.

China refers to these camps as “boarding schools” and “free vocational training” as part of its counterterror measures. Geng Shuang, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, said on March 29, 2019, “the overall situation is stable” in Xinjiang, according to CNN.

Geng added in response to Brownback’s comments that Beijing “is firmly opposed to the US attempt to use the Xinjiang issue to interfere in China’s internal affairs.”

Referring to the unnamed California man who emailed him, Brownback said: “He’s not been able to reach him [his father] for months … doesn’t know whether — where he is and whether he’s still alive.” He added that this account has not yet been verified.

“This gentleman that I just was reading the email about has legal status in the United States,” he added. “He’s not a U.S. citizen, but he had legal status being here, traveled back to Xinjiang after being here with his son in California, and then has not been heard from since.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.

Brownback added that this man is “an intellectual” and has “a number of chronic illnesses,” and that it’s not clear whether he is receiving any treatment. Scholars and activists have warned of Beijing’s efforts to eradicate Uighur culture.

Residents of other countries, including Turkey, Kazakhstan, and Australia, have also been swept up in the crackdown.

Many Uighurs in Xinjiang have actively cut off communications with relatives living abroad for fear of China’s retribution. Talking to people outside China — regardless of the content of the conversation — can get Uighurs arrested and imprisoned.

Relatives of Uighurs in Xinjiang have previously told Business Insider of their anguish at being blocked by their families on social media and messaging apps.

The US government has repeatedly criticized China over the Xinjiang crackdown, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meeting with several Uighurs and describing Beijing’s actions as a sort of “shameful hypocrisy” late March 2019.

Democratic and Republican members of Congress have for months called on the Trump administration to punish Beijing for its actions towards Uighurs in the form of sanctions against those involved. The White House has yet to respond to those requests.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 ways Navy SEALs overcome sleep deprivation

Growing evidence suggests that poor sleep habits harm our health, our relationships, and even our jobs. So if you’re having trouble sleeping, then it’s time to get back to the basics — military style.

Special operators, who are sent on the US military’s most dangerous assignments, must sleep when they can and often face extreme sleep deprivation to complete their missions. Whether you’re a new parent, have a stressful job, or are dealing with a difficult situation, there’s a lot you can learn from these elite operators.


To get a sense of how to sleep like a champ in the worst situations, we pored over sleep techniques for special operators and interviewed a former Navy SEAL who trains pro athletes, firefighters, and police tactical teams on how they maximize their performance.

“There’s not a harder job out there than being a mom or dad, working or stay at home,” said Adam La Reau, who spent 12 years as a Navy SEAL and is a cofounder of O2X Human Performance, a company that trains and advises groups from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Boston Fire Department. “There’s definitely a sleep debt that could occur over time.”

Small tweaks to your routine — what La Reau called “1% changes” in a March 19, 2019 phone interview — will make a huge difference to your sleep.

These are the basics of sleep boot camp. Know these before you nod off.

An airman catches some zzz’s on a C-17 Globemaster flight.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)

Have a presleep game plan.

“It’s like a warm-up routine you do for a work out,” La Reau said. He then ticked off a list of do-nots: eat within two hours before bed, stare at bright lights, or start playing “Fortnite.”

During this time, La Reau suggests activities that will calm your nerves, maybe reading, meditation, listening to music, or dimming the lights.

Definitely: turn off your electronics.

TV watchers, e-tablet readers, “Fortnight” gamers — “They’re getting crushed with light,” La Reau, whose O2X team includes a half-dozen sleep scientists. “And that’s just going to disrupt their circadian rhythm, it’s going to trick your body into thinking it’s day and your body should be up.”

La Reau recommends writing a daily list to help you mentally prepare for the next day.

(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

Put together a list or a reminder of what you need to do the next day.

We all have a lot going on, especially new parents. La Reau says you need to tackle that head-on.

In the hours before bed, put together a list or reminder of what you need to do the next day.

“Every time I go home, I have a list of what I need to do the next day … I feel like I’m prepared when I wake up in the morning,” La Reau said. “I know exactly what I’m going to do, and I sleep better at night for it.”

Aerobic exercise boosts the amount of rejuvenating deep sleep you receive, according to researchers at the John Hopkins Center for Sleep.

(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

Exercise is important, but do it well before bedtime.

Obviously. These are Navy SEALs.

The Navy SEALs’ Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training is notoriously exhausting.

(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

Sleep when you can.

One military sleep manual advises special operators to use the lulls in combat to nap. “Uninterrupted sleep for as little as 10 minutes may partially recover alertness,” the Naval Health Research Center report said.

A nap can boost your energy but don’t zonk out too close to your bedtime, La Reau said.

“Naps are really helpful, and any sleep is better than no sleep at all,” La Reau said. “When the baby takes a nap, that could be a good time for you to take a nap.”

Just think of it as a lull in combat.

Set yourself up for nighttime right.

(US Army photo by Scott T. Sturkol)

Get a high-quality mattress, black-out shades, and a white-noise machine.

“The bedroom should be a sanctuary for sleeping and relaxation and recovery, it’s not to be used as an accessory or a work station,” La Reau said.

He suggests black-out shades, a white-noise machine, and a quality mattress.

“Sleeping on a high-quality mattress is the best investment you’ll ever make,” he said.

Light from devices such as your phone can delay the release of the hormone melatonin, which regulates when you’re tired.

(Photo illustration by Senior Airman Destinee Sweeney)

Put away that phone. Seriously.

It’s not just because of that blue light, either. It’s about stress. You want to use the two hours before bed to relax and unwind — not get yourself worried.

“If you’re going to check your email and you realize you have 10 emails — that doesn’t help you be very settled at night,” La Reau said.

Recognize when you’re exhausted and ask others to help you.

(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

Sleep can be a team sport.

An exhausted parent needs to recognize it and call in reinforcements: friends, family, or their partner.

“I think there’s opportunities to have those open and honest conversations,” La Reau said. “Be like, ‘You know, I’ve got a huge meeting tomorrow, I’m on a long period of travel, I’ve got a lot going on,’ or someone’s just completely exhausted.”

“‘Let me take care of all issues that come up with the kids tonight.'”

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

Articles

SECDEF Mattis’s official aircraft also happens to be America’s ‘Doomsday’ jet

Secretary of Defense James Mattis goes by many badass nicknames, including “Mad Dog,” “Warrior Monk,” and “Chaos.”


So it’s only fitting that the aircraft he usually flies on while functioning his official capacity is known by an equally badass name — “Nightwatch.”  Its name hints at its original mission — a doomsday plane, equipped to provide the president and high-ranking members of the military with the ability to retain control of America’s offensive forces in the event of an all-out nuclear war or cataclysmic event.

Nightwatch now serves as an airborne command post for the SECDEF, allowing him to remain in touch with the U.S. military he oversees while traveling anywhere in the world, especially useful should the unthinkable occur.

Nightwatch refueling over the UK while transiting back to the US (USAF photo)

The Air Force possesses four Nightwatch aircraft — converted Boeing 747-200 jumbo jet airliners. Like their civilian counterparts, these airplanes come with a considerable operating range and internal carriage capacity. However, that, and a passing external resemblance, is where all similarities end. Underneath the hood, these are completely different aircraft with unique systems and sensors that allow it to do what no other aircraft in the Air Force can.

Unlike a commercial Boeing 747, these aircraft, officially designated E-4B Advanced Airborne Command Posts, lack the rows of plush seats, fold-out meal trays and entertainment screens. Instead, each E-4B is divided up into compartments for its Battle Staff, a joint services team of controllers and coordinators ready to interface with various military units should they be called into action.

Nightwatch crew quite literally have the ability to call virtually connect to any phone number in the world, thanks to a complex satellite communications suite aboard the aircraft. It’s this suite that allows them to also relay commands and orders to America’s nuclear arsenal, forward-deployed submarines and Navy battle groups operating around the globe, or even to speak directly with the President at secured locations.

SECDEF James Mattis briefs members of the press aboard an E-4B (USAF photo)

Because Nightwatch was designed during the Cold War, where nuclear war was still a distinct possibility, it was built to fly with incredible endurance. Defense analysts estimate that each E-4B could spend up to seven days flying continuously with the help of aerial refueling, though the Air Force has only actually flown its E-4Bs up to 35 hours in testing thus far.

The cockpit of the aircraft looks just as it would in the 1980s, with a few modifications. Instead of LCD screens and touch-pads, the Air Force has kept the original analog gauge-type flight instruments, as they’re less susceptible to failing after experiencing an electromagnetic pulse blast from a nuclear explosion.

That’s right… the E-4B is built to be able to fly through the immediate aftermath of a nuclear detonation without sustaining any damage to its systems. The entire aircraft is sealed off and pressurized with special “scrubbers” in its air conditioning system constantly filtering out harmful particles that may find their way inside the cabin. Should an E-4B actually fly through nuclear radiation, its crew inside will be completely safe and sound. The aircraft also carries a considerable amount of rations and potable water for its crew, as well as sleeping berths and its own troubleshooting staff, ready to assist with technical malfunctions and glitches as needed.

SECDEF Mattis arriving at King Salman Air Base, Saudi Arabia (USAF photo)

However, flying theses monsters isn’t very cheap at all – each Nightwatch costs an average of around $159,529 per hour to fly. Sourcing parts for the fleet isn’t easy either, especially considering that Boeing ceased production of the 747-200 platform decades ago.

It’s estimated that by 2039, all four E-4Bs will have served out their entire useful lifespans, and will have to be replaced, this time with an even more capable long-range aircraft that will assume the mantle of being America’s doomsday plane. Until that day comes, Nightwatch still serves at the Secretary of Defense’s pleasure, ferrying him around on official trips and visits as a visible sign of American military power.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This airborne sergeant re-enacts World War I

U.S. Army Sgt. Dustin McGraw is stationed with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, the culmination of a life-long dream of being a paratrooper like the heroes of World War II movies that he watched as a child. But as he made his way up, he discovered a love of World War I that has led to him re-enacting battles in France.


His re-enactment group spends a lot of time at a park in Tennessee a few hours from Fort Campbell, allowing McGraw to indulge his passion while maintaining his active duty career. (That park is named for famed Doughboy and Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Alvin C. York, making it a pretty appropriate place to host re-enactments.)

And there is more crossover between the passion and the job than one might initially assume. While re-enactors, obviously, do not face the dangers and many of the hardships endured by soldiers in combat, they do work hard to portray their chosen period accurately. That means that they have to get uniforms, tactics, weapons, and other details right.

And it’s hard to steep yourself that deeply in military history without learning an appreciation for the discipline and perseverance that it takes to succeed in combat. As McGraw points out in the video, maintaining your cool in wool uniforms and metal helmets in the broiling sun isn’t always easy. And, practicing World War I tactics can still help reinforce an understanding of modern warfare. After all, machine guns and rifles haven’t changed all that much.

But that leads to another benefit for McGraw and other soldiers who choose to re-enact past periods of military history: They learn a deep appreciation of modern systems, from weapons to logistics to medicine to gear.

Where modern troops have GPS, Kevlar, lightweight automatic weapons, aid bags, and helicopters, World War I Doughboys had to make do with maps, cotton, rifles of wood and steel, field bandages, and horses. So, while it’s easy to complain when your helicopters are late to the LZ, most people would be more appreciative of the challenges if they spent their weekends trying to simulate logistics with horses.

MIGHTY HISTORY

“Milk Cows” were some of the most important subs in WWII

The German Navy in World War II found a clever but risky method of extending their submarine patrols by building “milk cows,” specialized submarines covered in fuel tanks to refuel their brethren, and drawing the fire of American destroyer and planes.

Submarines were a game-changing weapon in World War I and remained a great strategic tool in World War II, allowing relatively few men to destroy enemy ships, drowning enemy personnel and destroying important ordnance. But they had a range problem.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_JKVaxfgX_0

The German U-461, a milk cow. It was sunk July 30, 1943, with another milk cow and an attack submarine.

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The German standard in World War II was the Type VII C, which had “saddle tanks” that could hold enough fuel for a patrol of 6,500 miles, which might sound like a lot — but is actually fairly limited. U-Boats needed enough fuel to get from their pens, to the start of their patrol, through their route, and then back to the pen. Attacking ships near the U.S. east coast or the Caribbean required a 5,000-mile round trip, leaving just 1,500 miles’ worth of fuel for actually patrolling and attacking.

So, naval planners and engineers came up with a crafty solution: Turn some submarines, dubbed “milk cows,” into refuelers by strapping massive tanks to the outside, and have them refuel the other subs. The milk cows also carried medical personnel and necessary supplies.

This allowed the German submarines to move farther into the Atlantic, preying on convoys that would’ve otherwise thought they were safe. Better, it allowed the submarines to stay on patrol longer, meaning that German subs with the milk hookup were now limited only by mechanical issues. A single milk cow could tend to about 12 other subs.

The USS Cory, top right, attacks U-801, a German submarine that was attempting a linkup with the milk cow U-488, which the Cory was hunting. Cory never found U-488, which was later sunk by an aircraft from the USS Croatan in April, 1944, while attempting to link up with a boat that needed medical assistance.

(U.S. Navy)

Germany ordered 10 of them, and they became one of the most important assets in the Atlantic Ocean.

But the Americans and their allies understood how the milk cows tipped the balance, and they prioritized targeting them. The Allied Naval Headquarters in London ordered, “Get the Milk Cows at any cost!” a message that supposedly originated with Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who later said that the U-boats were his only real fear.

Once the Allies captured the German enigma machine and built up their anti-submarine warfare fleets, open season was declared on milk cows, and the milk cows were uniquely vulnerable.

The milk cow U-459 sinks after suffering an attack from an English bomber.

(Photo: Royal Air Force, Public Domain)

While they could dive deeper than other ships thanks to a thicker hull, they were more bulbous and took longer to get underwater at all. And they were larger, making them easier to spot both with the naked eye and with sonar or radar. But most importantly, they relied on high-frequency radio waves to make contact with their supported subs and set up rendezvous. Since the Allies could read those transmissions, they could crash the parties and strike the cows.

The first was sank by good luck in August 1942 when a seaplane happened over the milk cow U-464 at sea on its maiden patrol. The seaplane, a Catalina, damaged it with depth charges and radioed its position to nearby ships. The commander scuttled the boat to prevent its capture.

Open season on milk cows started the following May. The boat U-463 was spotted on the surface by a British bomber, which managed to drop a number of depth charges directly onto the ship before it could register the danger and dive. It went down with all hands.

The following June, four milk cows were sank, two of them in one battle. Boats U-461 and U-462 were working together on a single German sub when all three were spotted by Allied bombers. The bombers radioed the position and began their attack. The submarines put up a stiff resistance, but ended up prey to the 5 bombers and multiple surface ships that arrived on scene. All three sank.

By October 1943, only three milk cows remained either in the fleet or under active construction. All three would sink before the war ended.

Modern U.S. subs have no need of milk cows and can actually spend an entire cruise undersea with no resupply.

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jeffrey M. Richardson)

The U.S. Navy in World War II relied on surface ships as submarine tenders, but even that role has been largely phased out as America focuses on nuclear-powered submarines that can stay at sea for months without assistance, generating their own power and cleansing their own water thanks to the nuclear reactor. They can even create their own oxygen to stay under longer.

Eventually, the ships do need fresh food, but that’s generally achieved when crews rotate out. There’s simply no need for modern milk cows.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China sends ship to spy on war games

The Australian military is monitoring a Chinese surveillance vessel believed to have been sent to spy on the Talisman Saber war games being held along the coast of Queensland.

The People’s Liberation Army Navy Type 815G Dongdiao-class Auxiliary General Intelligence (AGI) ship is now sailing toward Australia, presumably to observe the joint military exercises involving American, Australian, and Japanese forces, Australia’s ABC News reported, revealing that up to 25,000 troops will be participating in the “high-end” warfighting exercises.

“We’re tracking it,” Lt. Gen. Greg Bilton, Chief of Defense Joint Operations, explained July 6, 2019. “We don’t know yet what its destination is, but we’re assuming that it will come down to the east coast of Queensland, and we’ll take appropriate measures in regards to that.” He did not elaborate on the response.


He did, however, acknowledge that the Chinese ship is in international waters, where it has the right to sail and, if it so desires, conduct surveillance operations.

Type 815G Dongdiao-class Auxiliary General Intelligence ship.

(Australian Defence)

“All nations have the right under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to conduct military surveillance operations in international waters outside a state’s 12 nautical mile territorial sea,” Ashley Townshend, Director of Foreign Policy and Defence at the United States Studies Centre in Sydney, told news.com.au.

“While the US and Australia — along with most other nations — accept this principle and grant it to China, Beijing does not extend this right to other nations in the South China Sea, where it routinely chases away foreign vessels.”

China has long objected to “close-in surveillance” by the US Navy near its shores, despite the People’s Liberation Army Navy routinely doing the same.

Chinese AGI vessels have, in recent years, been making frequent appearances at the joint military exercises in the Pacific. The Australian Defence Department told reporters that it is “aware that there will likely be interest from other countries in exercise Talisman Saber.”

One of China’s AGI vessels was spotted lurking off the Australian coast 2017 during the last iteration of the Talisman Saber exercises.

The U.S. guided-missile destroyer Sterett fires its MK 45 5-inch gun during a naval surface fire support exercise as part of Talisman Saber 17.

(U.S. Navy photo by MC1 Byron C. Linder)

The Chinese navy was disinvited from participating in 2018 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises in response to the militarization of the South China Sea by Chinese forces. Nonetheless, China sent one of its spy ships to monitor the exercises from off the coast of Hawaii.

“We’ve taken all precautions necessary to protect our critical information. The ship’s presence has not affected the conduct of the exercise,” US Pacific Fleet spokesman Capt. Charlie Brown told USNI News at the time.

By allowing the Chinese military to engage in these types of surveillance activities, the US and its allies are hopeful that China will eventually offer the reciprocity it has thus far been unwilling to grant, Ankit Panda, senior editor at The Diplomat, argued.

“For international rules to function they must be reciprocated,” Townshend told news.com.au.

Australian military officials speaking on the condition of anonymity told local broadcaster ABC News that they suspected that a new aspect of Japan’s participation in this year’s Talisman Saber drills has piqued China’s interests.

“This year’s Talisman Saber involves the Japanese Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade, which was created last year primarily as a response option for potential Chinese incursion in the Senkaku Islands,” one official told reporters, adding, “Their capability and interoperability with Australia and the United States will be of interest to Beijing.”

The Australian Defence Department said the Chinese ship will be “taken into account during the planning and conduct of exercises.”

China has not yet commented on the matter.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 things you should know about ‘Anchors Aweigh’

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

2. It helped shut out the Army

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

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

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

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

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

Nimitz Carrier Strike Group conducts an underway.

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

4. It evolved over time

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

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5. It boasts ancient lore — like 2300 BC ancient

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

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

Original Lyrics

[Verse 1]

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

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

Roll up the score, Navy, Anchors Aweigh.

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

[Verse 2]

Get underway, Navy, Decks cleared for the fray,

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

Full speed ahead, Navy; Army heave to,

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

[Verse 3]

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

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

By Severn shore we learn Navy’s stern call:

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

Revised Lyrics

(It is verse 2 that is most widely sung)

[Verse 1]

Stand Navy out to sea,

Fight our battle cry;

We’ll never change our course,

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

Roll out the TNT,

Anchors Aweigh.

Sail on to victory

And sink their bones to Davy Jones, hooray!

[Verse 2]

Anchors Aweigh, my boys,

Anchors Aweigh.

Farewell to foreign shores,

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

Through our last night ashore,

Drink to the foam,

Until we meet once more.

Here’s wishing you a happy voyage home.

[Verse 3]

Blue of the mighty deep:

Gold of God’s great sun.

Let these our colors be

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

On seven seas we learn

Navy’s stern call:

Faith, courage, service true,

With honor, over honor, over all.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army garners new award thanks to sustainable energy

A solar power plant with energy-storage capability that went online in 2018 at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, and a biofuel power plant at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, were among projects that helped the Army gain recognition in 2018 with an award from the Federal Energy Management Program.

“This was recognition for a tremendous amount of teamwork,” said Michael McGhee, executive director of the Army Office of Energy Initiatives. His office oversees and facilitates privately-funded, large-scale energy projects on Army land.


OEI has facilitated 7 million in such projects on 17 Army installations over the past five years. Many of the projects allow utility companies to use Army land in exchange for developing electricity projects more affordably. Some of these projects will save the Army money over the long-term, states the Department of Energy award, but more importantly, they also improve energy security and resilience.

Increasing threat

Energy resilience is a top priority for the Army, said Jack Surash, acting deputy assistant secretary of the Army for energy and sustainability.

“Uninterrupted access to energy is essential to sustaining critical Army missions,” Surash testified at a House energy subcommittee hearing Dec. 12, 2018. He went on to say such uninterrupted power is becoming more challenging “as potential vulnerabilities emerge in the nation’s utility-distribution infrastructure.”

This 1-megawatt utility battery that stores energy from Redstone Arsenal’s solar array in Alabama is the first of its kind for the Army.

(US Army photo)

Threats to the grid include more sophisticated cyberattacks and more frequent severe storms, earthquakes and tsunamis, McGhee said. In consideration of these threats, current Army policy requires critical mission activities to be provided with a minimum of 14 days of energy, which McGhee emphasized is focused on the mission-critical infrastructure that must anticipate the potential for long-term power outages. He added a couple of Army installations currently also have the ability to keep the whole base operating for more than three or four days if the grid goes down.

One of them is Schofield Barracks with its biofuel plant that became operational in May.

Paradise partnership

The Oahu project exemplifies a partnership with a utility company that helps maximize the value for another party’s investment while also serving the needs of the Army, McGhee said.

Hawaiian Electric needed to build a new power plant. The older ones were typically built along the coastline because most of the people lived there and that’s where the fuel shipments came in.

“Unfortunately, that’s also where the strongest effects of a storm surge would be felt in a tsunami or other extreme-weather event,” McGhee said. So the company was looking to place its new plant on higher ground with more security and less risk.

Behind the secure perimeter of Schofield Barracks was an obvious choice, McGhee said.

The biofuel plant provides power to Oahu during peak-demand periods. It has the capability to be decoupled from the grid in case of a grid emergency, McGhee said, and Schofield Barracks has the first right to power from the plant in such an emergency.

The 50-megawatt power plant can provide 100 percent of the power needed to keep Schofield Barracks, Wheeler Army Airfield and Field Station Kunia running during a grid power emergency, according to OEI.

Several days of biofuel are stored on site at the plant and 30 days are available on the island, McGhee said. The plant also uses regular fuel oil and could even be operated on liquefied natural gas, providing what he termed as even more resilience.

For emergency power design, a reliable source of fuel and the ability to use more than one type of fuel is the key to long-term sustainability of operations, he said. In the case of severe weather, resupply of fuel for back-up power often becomes a problem, he added, so having the ability to resupply from multiple sources with multiple types of fuel is desired.

“We need something more than just your standard backup of diesel generators, in order to have a more resilient solution,” McGhee said.

Compelling technology

One of the problems with energy resilience from renewable-power sources, such as solar or wind power, has been the lack of ability to store the power for use when the wind stops or the sun goes down.

Until recently, storage options have not been affordable.

“It’s not so much the technology has gotten cheaper as it is that the manufacturing has gotten to be more extensive, lowering the unit cost,” McGhee said of large-scale battery storage units.

“It’s very exciting for us, because we’ve been looking forward to this moment to couple large-scale, utility-size batteries with our existing large-scale, energy-generation projects that we helped develop,” he said.

The Redstone Arsenal project was OEI’s first foray into large-scale utility batteries, McGhee said, but added several more “are in the works” and could be part of projects in the coming year.

Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment Jordan Gillis stands in the center of those who helped the Army earn recognition with a 2018 Federal Energy and Water Management Award, including to his left, Michael McGhee, director, Office of Energy Initiatives. Jack Surash, acting deputy assistant secretary of the Army for energy and sustainability, is to the right of Gillis.

(US Army photo)

“It’s happening very quickly,” he said, “Companies are better understanding the technology, but they’re also better understanding the value proposition.” More developers are now actively seeking partners for battery-storage projects, he said.

“That technology at an affordable price enables so many other technologies and so many design options that weren’t available before.

“Large-scale affordable battery storage … provides the most compelling new option paths available that are intriguing to improving resilience on Army installations,” he added.

The 1-megawatt battery that became operational on Redstone in February can provide power for 2 megawatt hours, McGhee said, and added that future battery projects are likely to be much larger

Additional components must be added to the Redstone project to enable long-term backup power, he said. But planning is underway for a potential microgrid that could provide sustainable power at the arsenal for a long-term emergency.

Way forward

Large-scale batteries are being evaluated to possibly be added to existing projects at other installations, McGhee said.

For instance, 30-megawatt alternating-current solar photovoltaic power plants have been operating for a couple of years now on Forts Gordon, Benning and Stewart in Georgia.

Fort Rucker and Anniston Army Depot in Alabama have 10-megawatt solar projects that are part of microgrids providing energy to the installations.

Fort Detrick, Maryland, has a 15-megawatt solar project with 59,994 panels that have been providing electricity to the post since 2016.

Fort Hood, Texas has both a 15-megawatt solar array on-post and a 50-megawatt wind turbine farm off-post that have been providing electricity to Fort Hood since 2017. All of these projects could potentially benefit from large-scale battery storage, according to McGhee.

“The batteries we are looking at have a relatively small footprint and require little maintenance,” he said, adding, “they’re a very low-touch kind of technology that has tremendous benefit.”

2019 trends?

Natural Gas may be a trend for the coming year, McGhee said. The cost of natural gas has come down, he explained, making it more economical to build smaller utility electrical plants fueled by gas.

A utility company in Lawton, Oklahoma, is looking at investing in a natural gas plant along with a solar array on Fort Sill, he said. His office is working with the utility on a design and they are beginning environmental reviews. If approved, the project would utilize an “enhanced-use lease authority” where the utility company would be allowed to use the land for siting the natural gas and solar plants in return for providing a backup power capability to the installation.

This biofuel power plant at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, became operational in May 2018 and in the case of an emergency can provide all the electricity needed to operate the installation.

(Courtesy photo)

Most of the OEI projects have used either the enhanced-use lease authority or power purchase agreements to provide energy sustainability, but McGhee said he looking at other options to enhance microgrids. Controls that enable energy from plants to be more efficiently applied to installation facilities could merit direct Army funding he said.

Energy Savings Performance Contracts are another option. ESPCs involve privately-financed design and installation of equipment that provides energy savings over time and those savings then enable the government to pay back the private investment.

Utility Energy ServiceContracts, or UESCs, can also provide services to improve installation power equipment reliability, or McGhee said with more creative thinking, create microgrids.

“We’re weaving together a collection of authorities that very often are not considered in concert,” McGhee said. OEI helps garrisons that that may not have the experience or resources to be working with all the different types of authorities.

“Our office tries to bring a more integrated solution,” he said.

Teamwork for readiness

OEI actually received the FEMP Federal Energy and Water Management Award on Oct. 23 from the Department of Energy. McGhee said he accepted the award on behalf of the many commands and garrisons that helped coordinate the 11 projects above. The Army Corps of Engineers Headquarters and Districts and Centers of Expertise, Installation Management Command, Mission and Installation Contracting Command and Army Materiel Command, along with the Defense Logistics Agency, were among organizations that McGhee said deserve credit for the team award.

The award states the projects generate a total of 350 megawatts of distributed energy that help stabilize and reduce the Army’s costs while improving its security, resilience and reliability.

“Supporting Army readiness is the No. 1 priority,” McGhee said. “Our systems are being designed to improve the Army’s installation readiness.

“In addition we are helping to modernize the Army’s energy infrastructure, adding new technologies, and adding new protections that help us be ready for the needs of tomorrow, to include things like cyber intrusion.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

popular

This Medal of Honor recipient hid within enemy earshot for 8 days

Born into an Air Force family, Brian Thacker received his officer commission through the ROTC program before shipping out to the deadly landscape of Vietnam in the fall of 1970.


During the springtime of the following year, Thacker led a 6-man observation team from a hilltop in the in Kon Tum Province, called Firebase 6.

(Source: Medal of Honor Book/ Screenshot)

Their mission was to support a South Vietnamese artillery unit. After weeks of little to no enemy contact, the enemy finally decided to attack.

Related: This Green Beret was the first Medal of Honor recipient in Vietnam

Boom!

As incoming fire rained down onto the firebase, Thacker noticed the enemy was attempting to knock out a crucial machine gun position that was holding them at bay.

The attack grew, the machine gun fell, and the firebase’s perimeter was starting to break down. Thacker realized the enemy’s objective was to obtain the South Vietnamese artillery shell supply.

As the small allied force was being overrun, Thacker organized an extraction plan and had his team dismantle the artillery shells. They were not going to give up their weaponry.

Huey helicopters came in hot to support Thacker’s team, but two were shot down due to well-placed enemy anti-aircraft weapons.

The Huey was a staple for troop’s transportation during the Vietnam War. (Image from Wikipedia Commons)

Also Read: 7 things troops do on deployments that they won’t admit to

As enemy fire continue to bombard the base, Thacker allowed his men to proceed to the extraction point while he remained behind. He continued to coordinate defenses, eventually calling friendly artillery to strike his position.

The allied barrage purchased his men more time to withdraw — saving their lives.

Alone and cut-off, Thacker carefully maneuvered away from the base to an area he felt the enemy wouldn’t check, but close enough to keep a watchful eye on the firebase.

Now concealed in an area thickly blanketed in bamboo, North Vietnamese troops established another anti-aircraft gun within earshot of Thacker’s position, where he remained for the next 8 days without food or water.

More than a week later, allied forces started retaking the area. Thacker, weakened, painfully crawled out of his bamboo cover and was soon evacuated to a nearby hospital.

On Oct. 15, 1973, President Richard Nixon presented him with the Medal of Honor.

Check out Medal of Honor Book‘s video below to hear this heroic story from the legend himself:

(Medal of Honor Book | YouTube)
MIGHTY TRENDING

The Taliban, the government, and Islamic State: Who controls what in Afghanistan?

After 18 years of fighting, the Afghan war is at a deadly stalemate.

Afghanistan is divided among government forces backed by international troops, the Taliban and its militant allies, the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, and a collection of smaller foreign terrorist groups.


The United States and the Taliban signed a landmark agreement in February aimed at “bringing peace to Afghanistan.” That deal foresees a power-sharing arrangement between the Afghan government and the Taliban, and the full withdrawal of all foreign troops.

As a Taliban delegation arrived in Kabul for talks on prisoner releases and the Afghan government and the Taliban prepare to launch direct peace talks, most of the country is fiercely contested and ravaged by violence, with warring factions pursuing a “fight-and-talk” strategy.

WATCH: Some 900 Taliban members were freed from Afghanistan’s largest prison outside Kabul as part of a prisoner swap under a cease-fire deal on May 26.

The Government

The Afghan government controls the capital, Kabul, provincial capitals, major population centers, and most district centers, according to Resolute Support, the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan.

Around 30 percent of Afghanistan’s 407 districts are in government hands, the Taliban commands some 20 percent, and the rest of the country is contested, according to Long War Journal (LWJ), a project run by the Foundation for Defense Of Democracies, a Washington-based think tank.

The LWJ’s “living map,” based mostly on media reports, is the only publicly available source that tracks district control in Afghanistan, after Resolute Support stopped assessing territorial control and enemy-initiated attacks over the past two years.

Afghan security forces have been on the defensive since NATO’s combat mission in Afghanistan ended in 2014, losing much-needed assistance with logistics, air support, and intelligence.

Resolute Support is training, advising, and assisting the 273,000-strong Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police. Additionally, the Afghan government employs around 20,000 militiamen who are part of the Afghan Local Police.

Meanwhile, a separate U.S. counterterrorism force is combating foreign terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and the IS group and also elements of the Taliban. The United States also funds and supports special Afghan paramilitary units.

The Afghan forces have a large numerical advantage: There are an estimated 60,000 full-time Taliban militants and some 90,000 seasonal fighters.

But government forces are suffering from record casualties, high attrition, and low morale. That is widely blamed on a resurgent Taliban, ineffective leadership in the armed forces, and chronic corruption.

President Ashraf Ghani said in January 2019 that about 45,000 Afghan soldiers and policemen had been killed since he took office in September 2014 — or a staggering 849 per month. In 2018, the government stopped publicizing fatalities.

“The internationally recognized and elected government doesn’t have a monopoly on the use of force nor control over the majority of the country,” says Jonathan Schroden, a security expert with the U.S.-based nonprofit research and analysis organization CNA, who has provided assessments on the security situation in Afghanistan to the U.S. military and Congress.

The Taliban, which claims to be a government in exile, “has eroded much of the government’s control but cannot do so to the point of becoming the recognized government,” Schroden says.

The result, he says, is a “strategic stalemate.”

Government forces had been in an active defensive mode since a weeklong reduction-of-violence agreement preceding the U.S.-Taliban deal. But after two devastating terrorist attacks this month that the government blamed on the Taliban, Ghani ordered government forces to go on the offensive.

The political crisis over the disputed presidential election in September also affected the government’s military posture. There were fears of civil war after Ghani’s leading challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, threatened to form a parallel government and proclaimed himself the president, a scenario that threatened the cohesion of the security forces.

The standoff was resolved after Ghani and Abdullah signed a power-sharing deal — their second after consecutive elections — on May 17.

“The government faced serious challenges for months,” says Obaid Ali, an expert on the insurgency at the Afghanistan Analysts Network, an independent think tank in Kabul. “The government didn’t have a military strategy because the leadership was focused on the internal crisis after the presidential election’s outcome and the U.S.-Taliban talks.”

Ali says the months-long political feud sank morale and complicated logistics within the security forces.

The Taliban

The Taliban controls more territory than at any time since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 toppled the fundamentalist group from power.

The fundamentalist militant group’s leadership fled to neighboring Pakistan, where it allegedly received sanctuary, training, and arms, an accusation Islamabad has denied. From its safe havens in Pakistan, the Taliban has waged a deadly insurgency against Afghan and international troops.

The Taliban has been following what security experts call an “outside-in” strategy that was effectively employed by other insurgencies in Afghanistan, including the mujahedin who fought Soviet and Afghan government forces in the 1980s.

From its sanctuaries in Pakistan, the Taliban captured rural areas of Afghanistan and consolidated control over larger swaths of the countryside while generating recruits and resources. In recent years, the Taliban has encroached on more populated areas with the aim of isolating and then seizing them.

The militants have twice briefly seized control of the northern city of Kunduz, the country’s fifth-most populous.

“The Taliban has so far been successful in seizing and contesting ever larger swaths of rural territory, to the point where they have now almost encircled six to eight of the country’s major cities and are able to routinely sever connections via major roads,” Schroden says.

“The major thing holding the Taliban back at this point is the government’s supremacy of the air and its superior strike forces in the form of the commandos and special police units. But those units are being worn down and the Afghan Army has been slowly failing as an institution for the past five years.”

The Taliban insurgency has been a unifying cause for some smaller foreign militant groups.

Around 20 foreign militant groups are active in Afghanistan, including Pakistani extremist groups like the Pakistani Taliban, Lashkar-e Jhangvi, Lashkar-e Taiba, Jaish-e Muhammad, and Central Asian militant groups including the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the Islamic Jihad Union, and the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a militant group fighting for Uyghur independence in China.

Ali says the Taliban has ties to some of these foreign militant groups. “Some of these groups operate under the Taliban umbrella,” he says. “They can’t operate in Afghanistan without the Taliban’s permission. Each of these groups has a unique relationship with the Taliban — operationally, ideologically, or economically.”

Al-Qaeda is a largely diminished force, with only several hundred fighters in Afghanistan. But it remains a crucial part of the Taliban insurgency. The two groups have been longtime partners and are co-dependent, according to experts.

According to the U.S. State Department, the “implementation of the U.S.-Taliban agreement will require extensive long-term monitoring to ensure Taliban compliance, as the group’s leadership has been reluctant to publicly break with Al-Qaeda.”

Under that deal, the Taliban committed to “preventing any group or individual, including Al-Qaeda, from using the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.”

A January report from the UN’s Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team stated that ties between Al-Qaeda and the Taliban “continue to be close and mutually beneficial, with Al-Qaeda supplying resources and training in exchange for protection.”

Islamic State

Afghan security forces said on May 11 that they had captured the IS group’s regional leader for South Asia, Abu Omar Khorasani, in an operation in Kabul.

This was the latest in a string of recent setbacks for the group.

In April, Afghan security forces in the southern city of Kandahar captured the leader of the IS branch in Afghanistan, Abdullah Orakzai, along with several other militants.

According to the United Nations, since October 2019, over 1,400 IS fighters and affiliates have surrendered to Afghan or U.S. forces.

The U.S. military said the IS group’s stronghold in the eastern province of Nangarhar was “dismantled” in November 2019 due to U.S. air strikes, operations by Afghan forces, and fighting between the Taliban and IS militants.

The U.S. military said around 300 IS fighters and 1,000 of their family members surrendered.

The fighters and family members who did not surrender have relocated to Pakistan or the neighboring province of Kunar, a remote, mountainous region along the border with Pakistan, it added.

The U.S. military estimates that there are between 2,000 and 2,500 IS fighters active in Afghanistan.

Ali says that the IS group has bases in a few districts of Kunar Province, and they are also likely present in parts of neighboring Nuristan Province, another remote, mountainous province. But he says recent reports that IS militants were active in northern Afghanistan are “unreliable.”

“The group has lost most of the territory it held in eastern Afghanistan,” Ali says. “The recent operations against IS have severely weakened them and most have gone underground.”

But he says the recent arrests of IS fighters and leaders in major urban areas shows that there are still IS “sleeper cells” in the country.

Most IS fighters are thought to be former members of Pakistani militant groups, especially the Pakistani Taliban.

“There are a smaller number of Afghans, Central Asians, and even fewer from other regional countries,” Ali adds.

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