These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history - We Are The Mighty
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These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history

Snipers are undoubtedly the most lethal shooters on the battlefield, able to take out targets from hundreds and hundreds of yards away, without their marks being alerted to their presence.


They are experts at blending into the environment, masters of patience, physically developed and always well-trained. But snipers still can’t take the shots they they’re known for without a decent rifle in their hands, capable of helping them reach targets at longer-than-normal ranges.

Over the past 50 years, records for the longest kill-shots in history have been made and broken repeatedly by some of the greatest snipers the world has ever seen. These are the four guns they have used to break and set these records on confirmed kills at unimaginably far distances:

4. Browning M2 ‘Ma Deuce’ Heavy Machine Gun

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history
The M2 machine gun Carlos Hathcock used for his longest confirmed kill in 1967 (Photo US Marine Corps)

 

A WWII-era machine gun used as a sniping system doesn’t exactly evoke any images of precision shooting, but it’s exactly what a 24 year-old Marine by the name of Carlos Hathcock used in early 1967 to take out a Vietcong militiaman pushing a bicycle loaded with weapons and ammunition. Built to fire the .50 BMG round, the M2 had exactly the range and stopping power Hathcock wanted in a gun that would allow him to hit targets at distances far beyond what a standard-issue sniper rifle permitted.

With an Unertl scope mounted to a custom-made bracket crafted by Hathcock himself, and the M2 in single-shot mode, the gun could engage targets at distances over 1600 yards. The machine gun was balanced on an M3 tripod and kept in place with sandbags.

His record-breaking February 1967 kill was made using this setup at 2500 yards, creating a record for the history books which would stand until the War in Afghanistan in 2002.

3. Barrett M82A1 Special Application Scoped Rifle

 

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history
An M82A1 sniper rifle without its signature muzzle brake, circa 1990 (Photo US Army)

According to Chris Martin in his book, “Modern American Snipers,” Sgt. Brian Kremer currently holds the American record for the longest sniper kill in Iraq, while serving with the 75th Ranger Regiment. The M82 SASR is every bit the beast it looks, firing a .50 Browning Machine Gun round at effective ranges up to nearly 2,000 yards. Weighing in 30 pounds, and measuring 48-57 inches long depending on the barrel used, the M82 is without a doubt one of the most fearsome small arms on the battlefield.

The M82 was originally put into service with the US military in 1990, and has been used in every conflict since. Though smaller-caliber sniper rifles are typically unable to hit targets behind cover, American snipers have been able to use the M82 and the Raufoss Mk 211 .50 caliber round to simply shoot their way through obstacles at great distances to reach their marks. Kremer’s shot reportedly measured 2,515 yards.

2. Accuracy International L115A3 Long Range Rifle

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history
British Royal Marine commandos training with L115A1 sniper rifles (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

 

In 2009, British Army sniper Craig Harrison set a new world record for the longest confirmed kill in history with his L115A3, the standard long-range marksman’s rifle of the British military. During an ambush on a convoy he was attached to, Harrison hit a pair of Taliban machine gunners using 10 carefully-placed shots at a range of 2,707 yards, beating out the previous record by 50 yards.

Known in civilian markets as the Arctic Warfare Magnum, the L115A3 is chambered to fire the .338 Lapua round — a devastating bullet with phenomenal range. Known for its armor-piercing abilities at long distances, the .338 is now extremely popular among military snipers and marksmen across the world.

1. C15 Long Range Sniper Weapon

 

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history
A Canadian sniper training on the C15 .50 caliber sniper rifle (Photo Canadian Army)

 

Commercially known as the McMillan Tac-50, this is the rifle which has broken the world record for longest kill on three separate occasions over the last 15 years.

In March 2002 during Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan, Canadian sniper Arron Perry broke Carlos Hathcock’s 35-year record with a confirmed kill at 2,526 yards. Later that month, another Canadian sniper, Rob Furlong, topped Perry with a shot ranging 2,657 yards. Recently, it was reported that yet another Canadian set and holds the world record — now at a mind-blowing 3,540 yards… that’s over half a mile longer than Furlong’s 2002 kill!

The C15, like its commercial name suggests, is built to fire .50 caliber rounds, and has seen service with a number of elite military units, including the US Navy’s SEAL teams, Canada’s Joint Task Force 2, and Israeli special forces.

This monster of a weapon weighs 26 pounds on its own, and measures 57 inches from stock to barrel.

 


Feature image: Wikimedia Commons

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6 historical inaccuracies in Band of Brothers

Most members of the military will be familiar with the HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers,” which follows the story of the men of Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division in WWII. Produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks after their 1998 success, “Saving Private Ryan,” the miniseries has been praised for its drama and storytelling.

Using leftover props and costumes from “Saving Private Ryan,” and with the consulting help of surviving Easy Company veterans, Hanks and Spielberg strove to bring the stories of Easy Company to life. However, “Band of Brothers” did take some artistic license for the sake of storytelling and presented some glaring historical inaccuracies as a result.


A serious WWII history buff could point out dozens of small mistakes in “Band of Brothers” like the inaccuracies of a German Jagdpanther at Bloody Gulch, the wearing of the 101st Screaming Eagle patch during the Battle of the Bulge, or the anachronistic headset worn by a C-47 pilot taking off from England. However, this article will focus on 6 inaccuracies that actually changed important historical details or rewrote a person’s story.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history
A German Gebirgsjäger officer with his Edelweiss badge displayed on his headgear. (Photo posted by user SprogCollector via wehrmacht-awards.com)

 

Edelweiss – Part Three, Carentan

During this episode, Private Albert Blithe is sent forward of Easy Company to re-establish contact with Fox Company during a night movement. Moving quietly through the darkness, he rounds a tree and is startled by a German soldier behind an MG42 machine gun. Lt. Dick Winters emerges from the darkness, further startling Blithe, and informs him that the German is dead. Lt. Lewis Nixon joins them and identifies the German as a Fallschirmjäger, a paratrooper. He further identifies a flower on the German’s uniform as Edelweiss, saying that it only grows high up in the Alps and is meant to be the mark of a true soldier.

Gebirgsjäger, German and Austrian mountain troops, wore Edelweiss badges, not flowers, on their uniforms as a symbol of pride in their mountaineering and soldiering skills. As such, it is highly unlikely that a paratrooper would adopt a symbol that held so much importance to mountain soldiers. It can be likened to U.S. paratroops taking great pride in their distinct bloused jump boots. Later in the 20th century, many a nose was broken at Fort Benning by paratroopers who caught a non-paratrooper wearing bloused jump boots.

Shooting POWs – Part Two, Day of Days

This episode serves as the catalyst for the many rumors about Ronald Speirs shooting German POWs on D-Day. In it, Don Malarkey jogs away from a group of prisoners being watched over by Lt. Speirs and another Dog Company paratrooper when he hears automatic gunfire from behind him—the implication being that Speirs executed the prisoners. In later episodes, the rumors evolve from Speirs shooting a few prisoners, to shooting eight, shooting twenty, and even shooting a drunk sergeant for refusing to go out on patrol.

In a video interview, former Dog Company trooper Private Art Dimarzio recalled capturing three Germans on D-Day with Speirs and a sergeant. “The LT called us together in a bunch and he said, ‘…you take one,’ they were all laying in a ditch, ‘I’ll take this one, and sarge you take that one.’ And we paired off and we shot the three of them.” DiMarzio also noted that, a few hours later, they came upon another group of Germans, all of whom Speirs shot. This account is entirely plausible given the orders issued to the paratroopers by General Maxwell Taylor, commander of the 101st Airborne Division.

“Take no prisoners,” Malarkey recalls General Taylor telling them. “If you were to take prisoners, they’d handicap our ability to perform our mission.”

Hitler’s suicide – Part Nine, Why We Fight

The episode opens stating that it is April 11, 1945 in Thalem, Germany. A string quartet of German civilians plays Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp Minor. Around them, other civilians clear up the rubble of their battered city under the supervision of U.S. soldiers while Easy Company soldiers look down from a damaged apartment building. The rest of the episode flashes back to Easy Company’s initial invasion of Germany before returning to the Thalem apartment where Captain Nixon informs the men that Hitler is dead.

Assuming the men have not been sitting in the same apartment listening to the same string quartet for nineteen days, this scene is anachronistic as Hitler committed suicide on April 30, 1945. It is unclear why this error was made or why it persisted from the HBO television release to the home video release, since a simple edit to the opening statement could make it April 30, 1945. This is an extreme oversight for such a big budget production.

Lt. Dike – Part Seven, The Breaking Point

Part Seven focuses primarily on Easy Company First Sergeant Carwood Lipton as he works to maintain the unit’s morale and combat effectiveness during the Battle of the Bulge. However, his efforts are hindered by their new commander, Lt. Norman Dike. Dike is rarely seen around the men, leaving them to go on walks or make phone calls at Battalion HQ. His behavior earns him the nickname “Foxhole Norman”. During the attack on Foy, Dike becomes paralyzed by fear and panics under pressure, sending a single platoon exposed on a doomed flanking mission. His poor leadership results in the deaths of many Easy Company men before he is relieved by Lt. Speirs and is eventually killed during the attack.

Firsthand accounts show that Dike was not a well-liked officer during his command of Easy Company, but he was by no means the cowardly and ineffective officer that was portrayed on screen. During the attack on Foy, Easy Company trooper Clancy Lyall saw Dike get shot in his right shoulder. Omitted from the on-screen depiction, this wound inhibited Dike’s decision-making and caused him to panic. Furthermore, Dike won two Bronze Star Medals for valor earlier in the war; one in Holland for organizing a hasty defense against, “superior and repeated attacks”, and another at Bastogne where, “…he personally removed from an exposed position, in full enemy view, three wounded members of his company, while under intense small arms fire.”

Finally, Dike was not killed at Foy. He survived his wound and became the aide to General Taylor. Dike remained in the Army for the remainder of the war, served in Korea, and eventually attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserves. He also went back to Yale and earned his law degree. He worked as a U.S. Commissioner in Japan, practiced law in New York City and Washington D.C., and was even employed by the CIA for a time. He died in Rolle, Switzerland on June 23, 1989.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history
Master Sergeant Albert Blithe and his wife Kay. (Photo from findagrave.com)

 

Private Blithe — Part Three, Carentan

Episode three begins with Private Albert Blithe just after D-Day when he rejoins Easy Company after the confusion of the drop. Following the fight to take Carentan, he is struck with a case of hysterical blindness. After recovering, Blithe returns to Easy Company. Following his encounter with the dead German, Blithe admits to Lt. Speirs that he didn’t try to find his unit on D-Day; instead, he hid in a ditch out of fear. Speirs tells him that he’s already dead and that he must accept that in order to function as a soldier should, “without mercy, without compassion, without remorse.”

Blithe follows Speirs’ advice and fights ferociously during the German counterattack at Bloody Gulch. After the battle, Blithe finds a dead German that he shot and removes the Edelweiss on the German’s uniform. Blithe takes the Edelweiss for himself and places it on his uniform, completing his character arc. A few days later, he volunteers to investigate a farmhouse during a patrol where he is shot in the neck by a German sniper. The episode ends saying that Blithe died from his wounds in 1948.

Blithe’s depiction is mostly true. He was stricken with hysterical blindness and he was shot by a sniper whilst investigating a farmhouse. However, Blithe was shot in his collarbone. He recovered from his wounds and was sent back to the states. He remained in the Army and fought with the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team in Korea. After his second war, Blithe was assigned to the Military Assistance Advisory Group in Taiwan. In December 1967, while on active duty in Germany, Blithe attended a ceremony in Bastogne commemorating the Battle of the Bulge. Upon his return to Germany, Blithe felt nauseous and was taken to the ER at Wiesbaden Hospital. He was diagnosed with a perforated ulcer and died in the ICU on December 17 after surgery. Blithe had attained the rank of Master Sergeant and was buried with full honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

The other men of Easy Company never found out what happened to Blithe after he was wounded at the farmhouse. They assumed he succumbed to his wounds and the producers of the show did no further research. Having spent more than 20 years in the Army over the course of three wars, Blithe deserves more credit than he is given in Band of Brothers.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history
Winters displays the surrendered sidearm of the German Major. (Photo from We Stand Alone Together, Credit to HBO)

 

The surrender — Part Ten, Points

The last episode of the miniseries follows Major Dick Winters and Easy Company during the last few months of the war. After the official German surrender, Winters meets with a German Colonel who offers Winters his Luger pistol as his formal surrender. Out of respect for a fellow soldier, Winters allows the Colonel to keep his sidearm. The German is surprised by Winters’ gesture and gives him a crisp salute in return.

In reality, the surrendering German was a Major like Winters. The sidearm that he offered as his formal surrender was a Walther PP (a long-barreled version of James Bond’s famous Walther PPK), which Winters accepted and kept until his death in 2011. In an interview for HBO, Winters showed the pistol and recounted the German’s surrender:

I was assigned this Major and when he walked in, he presented me this pistol and offered his personal surrender, which naturally I accepted gratefully. So that would be the end of the war for his men and this is basically the end of the war for my men. And the significance is that, it wasn’t until later when he had given me this pistol and I got a chance to look at it carefully that I realized, this pistol had never been fired. There was no blood on it. That’s the way all wars should end: with an agreement with no blood on it. And I assure you this pistol has never, never been fired since I’ve had it and it will not be fired.

Winters’ powerful and insightful words about the surrender make the scene in Band of Brothers feel like a missed opportunity. The real-life exchange between the two Majors and the impression that the symbolic pistol left would have been more impactful than the surrender shown on screen.

After the series premiere, Winters told Hanks that he wished the production had been more authentic, hoping for an “80 percent solution.”

Hanks responded, “Look, Major, this is Hollywood. At the end of the day, we will be hailed as geniuses if we get this 12 percent right. We are going to shoot for 17 percent.”

“Band of Brothers” is a well-made and fitting tribute to (most of) the men who fought in Easy Company during WWII. As with most Hollywood productions, the history was adapted for dramatic effect and series structure. Certain stories and experiences were modified or folded into other characters for the sake of storytelling, but the show as a whole is still one of the best portrayals of WWII to date. In the case of the aforementioned stories and experiences however, their true history deserves to be told, learned, and remembered.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the recent strike on Syria might have been illegal

President Donald Trump’s administration for the second time ordered a military strike on the Syrian government without asking for permission from Congress, and it could indicate the legislature has lost its ability to stop the US president from going to war.

The US Constitution, in Article I, Section 8, clearly states that the power to declare war lies with Congress, but since 2001 successive US presidents have used military force in conflicts around the world with increasingly tenuous legality.


Today, the US backs up most of its military activity using broad congressional legislation known as the Authorization for Use of Military Force. The joint resolution, which Congress passed in 2001 after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, allows the president to “use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.”

This has essentially become a carte blanche for the US president to fight terrorism wherever it rears its head.

But on April 13, 2018, the Trump administration attacked Syrian targets in retaliation for an attack on a Damascus suburb the US says involved chemical weapons. Trump ordered a similar punitive strike a year ago, in April 2017.

At Harvard’s Lawfare blog, the law professors Jack Goldsmith and Oona A. Hathaway summed up all of the Trump administration’s possible arguments for the legality of the Syria strikes in an article titled “Bad Legal Arguments for the Syria Airstrikes.”

The article concludes that the US’s stated legal justification, that Article II of the Constitution allows the US to protect itself from attacks, falls short and that other legal arguments are a stretch at best.

Rep. John Garamendi, a California Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee who spoke with Secretary of Defense James Mattis hours before the strike, told Business Insider the strikes were probably illegal.

“The bottom line is I do not believe he has legal authority to conduct those strikes,” Garamendi said.

Congress ‘derelict in its duty’ as Trump doesn’t even try to get approval

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history
The Laboon firing a Tomahawk land-attack missile.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kallysta Castillo)

Trump “could have and should have come to Congress and said these facilities and the use of poisonous gas is horrific, it is illegal based upon the international conventions, and I want to take military action,” Garamendi said, adding that he thought “a limited authorization to do that would have passed Congress in one day” if it had been written in a concise, limited way.

But Trump did not ask for permission, and it shows the incredible power of today’s US presidents to start wars.

“I think that Congress was derelict in its duty,” Garamendi said. “Congress clearly has abdicated one of its most crucial functions, and that is the power to take the US into a war. The Constitution is absolutely clear, and it’s for a very important reason.”

Fred Hof, a former US ambassador to Syria who is now at the Atlantic Council, said that while there was some reason for Congress to allow the president leverage in where and when he strikes, the two branches of government still needed to coordinate.

“Most, maybe all, in Congress would concede there are circumstances in which the commander-in-chief must act quickly and unilaterally,” Hof wrote to Business Insider. “But there are reasons why the Constitution enumerates the duties of the Congress in Article One, as opposed to subsequent Articles. I really do believe it’s incumbent on the executive branch to consult fully with the Congress and take the initiative in getting on the same page with the people’s representatives.”

Lawrence Brennan, a former US Navy captain who is an expert on maritime law, told Business Insider “the last declaration of war was in the course of World War II,” adding that Congress had “absolutely” given the president increased powers to wage war unilaterally.

Possibly illegal strikes create a ‘window’ for the US’s adversaries

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history
President Donald Trump
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

The US missile attack had questionable legality, but it wasn’t even Trump’s first time ordering strikes against Syria’s government, as a salvo of 59 cruise missiles targeted a Syrian air base in April 2017.

Before that, the US attacked Libya’s government forces in 2011. The US is also using the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force as justification for attacking Islamist militants in the Philippines, among other countries.

Garamendi said that by neglecting to request congressional approval, Trump had “given Syria, Russia, and Iran an argument that never should have happened.” He said by opening an internal US argument over whether the strike was legal, Trump had committed a “very serious error” and “opened a diplomatic attack that could easily have been avoided.”

Trump certainly did not start the trend of presidents ordering military action without congressional approval, and he has enjoyed wide support for his actions against chemical weapons use, but the move indicates a jarring reality — that the US president can go to war with thin legal justification and without even bothering to ask Congress.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why this million RPM machine gun is too awesome to be fielded

It’s called the Metal Storm. This Australian-made, U.S.-funded behemoth of a cannon uses the same idea behind a Roman candle to fire round after round out of its 36 barrels. The prototype managed to achieve a maximum rate of fire of 1.62 million rounds per minute as it fired 180 rounds in a 0.01 second burst. At its peak, it can send, almost literally, a wall of 24,000 9mm rounds moving at Mach 5 that can eat through any armor it faces.

In 2007, the U.S. Navy announced that it would buy the Metal Storm grenade variant, but shy of that… nothing. The first prototype was created in June, 1997. It’s been over 20 years now and it’s never been fielded in combat.

Why?


These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history

These could revolutionize drone warfare.

(Metal Storm Limited)

In short, the reason why this potential game-changer has never seen combat is mostly tied to legal issues surrounding contracts. But there’s also the rarely-brought-up question of, “how would we use it?”

Originally developed by J. Mike O’Dwyer under a company of the same name, Metal Storm Limited, the technology behind how the gun electronically fires caseless rounds has been tossed between several countries’ governments and many more companies, acquiring the intellectual property and trademark claims along the way. The rights ultimately landed in the hands of Australian-owned DefendTex.

Owning this patent not only keeps the original Metal Storm under their corporate thumb, but also any variations, including the 3GL grenade launcher, which fires three rounds from one of its four barrels in seconds, and the MAUL (Multi-shot Accessory Under-barrel Launcher), an under-barrel 5-round shotgun using the same technology.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history

On the bright side, if you were turned to paste by this thing, you’d be obliterated in milliseconds and wouldn’t even have a chance to blink.

(Screengrab via YouTube)

Outside of legal issues, there are some very obvious downsides: cost and weight. Its applications, as is, are very circumstantial. It’s extremely heavy and requires plenty of prep time to set up effectively just for a single use. Then, there’s the insane amount of money that goes into fully loading it, only to have it waste nearly all of its ammunition.

Aiming this thing is also a challenge. It was originally conceived to remain stationary and to be used in setting up ambushes. Anything in its line of fire would be effectively turned into a paste, but by stepping a few feet to either side, the target remains fully composed solid.

These extreme limitations aren’t factors for the easier-to-sell versions, the MAUL and the 3GL, which can all easily be manned, moved, and loaded. The MAUL can easily be modified to fire less-lethal rounds and has been issued to Papau New Guinean prison guards while the 3GL has been fitted onto the Cerberus UAV with 3 rounds in a single barrel.

There is still hope for the Metal Storm’s technology. The caseless, electronically fired, multi-stacked rounds will change future wars. But, for now, don’t hold your breath on getting your hands on one of the 9mm versions.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

That time an F-15 landed without a wing

The F-15 Eagle is a legendary air superiority platform with an unparalleled modern air-to-air record of 104 kills with zero loses, but when we think of aircraft that can really take a beating, our minds tend to conjure images of planes like the A-10 Thunderbolt II — landing on forward airstrips with more holes punched in them than a brick of Swiss cheese.


These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history

The A-10 Thunderbolt II piloted by Captain Kim Campbell suffered extensive damage during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. Campbell flew it safely back to base on manual reversion mode after taking damage to the hydraulic system. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Of course, there’s good reason for the A-10’s toughness. The aircraft was purpose built around the positively massive GAU-8 Avenger 30mm gatling-style auto cannon for close air support. The A-10 was built to fight Soviet tanks from low altitude, with titanium armor and bullet-resistant glass wrapped around the pilot to keep the plane in the fight.

The F-15 was a product of the Cold War, not unlike the A-10, but was designed with a very different purpose in mind. With a top speed of Mach 2.5 and enough hard points to carry 11 air-to-air missiles into a fight, the F-15 might be thought of as a Ferrari compared to the gun truck that is the A-10, but that doesn’t mean these blistering fast fighter-killers aren’t pretty tough on their own.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history

(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman John Hughel)

Despite being an American aircraft, the F-15 has done a great deal of fighting under the banners of a number of allied nations. In fact, a good portion of the F-15’s air-to-air record was earned by Israeli pilots — but the most incredible thing an Israeli pilot may have ever pulled off with the venerable F-15 came in 1983, when pilot Ziv Nedivi and instructor Yehoar Gal managed to land the top-tier fighter after losing its entire right wing in a mid-air collision.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history

Israeli F-15 landed, after losing a wing. (Israeli Defense Force)

The 1983 Negev incident

Back in the early 1980s, the F-15 was still a flashy new ride, having just entered service in the United States in 1976. As a part of training, two Israeli F-15Ds (the two-seater variant of the jet) were squaring off in a mock dog fight against four older Douglas A-4N Skyhawks over the Negev desert.

Now, here in the United States, pilots training against one another are required to maintain what’s known as a safety bubble. A five hundred foot or more “bubble” is maintained around each aircraft to ensure collisions don’t occur during the high speed maneuvering inherent to dog fighting, or as pilots tend to call it, executing Basic Fighter Maneuvering (BFM).

As the two Israeli F-15s swung into action against their A-4 aggressor opponents, the reason for this training bubble became pretty apparent. One of the two F-15s, the one with Nedivi at the stick, collided with one of the A-4s, almost instantly destroying the older fighter. Nedivi’s aircraft immediately entered a downward spin and his instructor, Gal, issued the order to eject.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history

A-4N Skyhawk (Tomas Del Coro on WikiMedia Commons)

Nedivi, the student in that setting, was senior in rank to his instructor, and opted not to punch out as he regained some degree of control over the aircraft. As the plane leveled off, he and Gal looked over their right shoulders to see fuel vapor pouring out of the wing area, but because of the cloud of fuel being lost, neither could see the extent of the damage beyond it. As Nedivi reduced their airspeed, the aircraft once again began to roll. Nedivi, aware that there was an airstrip just over ten miles out, made a decision.

He hit the F-15’s two powerful afterburners, capable of increasing the engine output of the fighter from 14,590 pounds of force to a whopping 23,770 pounds. With fuel pouring from the wing of the aircraft and the twin Pratt Whitney F100-PW-220 engines dumping the rest into the burn, it was a gutsy call, but it managed to level the aircraft out and get them pointed in the right direction.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history

Members of the 18th Component Maintenance Squadron engine test facility, run an F-15 Eagle engine at full afterburner while checking for leaks and any other issues. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Omari Bernard)

What Nedivi and Gal didn’t know was that their mid-air collision with the Skyhawk had actually sheared the entire right wing of their F-15 straight off the fuselage just about two feet from its root. With ten miles to cover and little more than vapor left in the fuel lines, the two men were doing the impossible: They were flying in a fighter jet with just one wing.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history

(Youtube)

In order to keep the aircraft stable, Nedivi had to maintain a high air speed, which made touching down a difficult proposition. Nedivi knew that the recommended airspeed for landing an F-15 was right around 130 knots, just shy of 150 miles per hour. As he lowered his tail hook and brought the F-15 down to the tarmac, they were actually flying at 260 knots (right around 300 miles per hour). The tail hook Nedivi hoped would slow their landing was ripped off of the aircraft almost instantly, and for a split second, it seemed their miraculous flight was for naught, as the barricades at the end of the airstrip were fast approaching.

With only about 10 meters left before collision, the F-15 finally came to a stop. As Nedivi tells it, it was only then that he turned to shake hands with his instructor Gal, only to finally see the real extent of the damage. The right wing of the aircraft hadn’t been present for the last ten miles of their flight.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history

(USAF Photo)

Even the F-15’s manufacturer didn’t believe it

It’s safe to say that McDonnell Douglas was well aware that their F-15 Eagle was an incredibly capable platform, but even they were reluctant to believe that the Israeli aviators had managed to fly one without a wing. Some have even quoted the firm as saying such a feat was impossible… that is, until they received a photograph of the plane flying just as the Israeli’s described: Riding on little more than a single wing and a whole lot of courage.

Further analysis determined that the F-15 was able to stay aloft thanks to its powerful engines and the lift created by its fuselage.

That particular two-seater F-15 wasn’t just a training aircraft. In fact, that very jet had already racked up four kills against enemy planes in the 1982 Lebanon War, known within the Israeli military at the time as Operation Peace for Galilee. In a testament to just how incredibly tough these aircraft really are, the damaged F-15 was transported to a maintenance facility in Tel Nof, where it was given a new wing and returned to service.

Two years later, that same jet would score yet another kill, this time against a Syrian Mig-23.

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

MIGHTY FIT

How to fix your elbow pain

I used to look down on people with elbow pain.

How can your elbow hurt unless you’re dropping “The People’s Elbow” all day every day?

Turns out there’s a lot of craziness that can cause elbow pain, and almost none of it has anything to do with what The Rock is cookin’.


These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history

(media.giphy.com)

Intrigued?

There are two general types of elbow pain; golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow. Two very white collar injuries that have nothing to do with spandex singlets or cage matches. That’s good for us. It means we don’t need to fight a roided out muscle man to relieve our elbow discomfort.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history

Check out that wrist extension. There’s a reason it’s called tennis elbow.

(U.S.Air Force photo/Bill Evans)

Tennis elbow

Tennis elbow comes from an issue with your forearm extensors. Those are the muscles on the same side of your forearm as the back of your hand.

Repetitive movements that engage the extensors can start to cause them to become overactive, eventually shorten, and pull away from their connection on the outside of the elbow.

Tennis players generally live in an extended position while swinging the racket, when the ball is hit those muscles loosen dramatically. It’s that rapid contraction and loosening that causes pain.

This same thing happens in the weight room, whether you’re benching or manipulating dumbbells; the forearm extensors end up in a stuck contracted position. This is an overuse injury that is super easy to fix, which we’ll get into shortly.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history

Just some AF brass doin’ what they do best…

(U.S. Air Force photo by Giancarlo Casem)

Golfer’s elbow

Golfer’s elbow is the exact opposite problem of tennis elbow; the issue is in your forearm flexors. Those are the muscles on the same side of your arm as your palm. These muscles become overly contracted, shortened, and eventually pull away from the bone on the inside of the elbow.

Golfers tend to live in this position when they hold their club.

In the gym, this pain can occur from cheating on pulling movements. When your back is too weak to finish a movement you may tend to curl the weight in closer with your forearm to get an extra inch or so of movement. If you’re too weak to let the weight back gently, which is probably the case, if you’re cheating on the rep, it’s going to snap back and cause an eccentric pull in your forearm. Over time this leads to chronic pain.

Elbow Pain When Working Out (WHY & HOW TO FIX IT!!)

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For those of you who work for a living

These issues are repetitive stress injuries. They don’t happen all of a sudden after a dramatic accident. Repeated stress over weeks, months, or years makes the pain a reality in your life.

Any motion that you do every day has the potential to cause an issue over time.

  • If you turn a wrench.
  • If you pull a trigger.
  • If you type at a keyboard (like me these days).

The most astounding thing about elbow pain is that it has nothing to do with your elbow generally. It’s all about the muscles attached to your elbows. This runs true for almost every injury you can imagine. Our joints are just locations where pain manifests; they aren’t the place where it originates. I talked about this same concept in the knee when it comes to knee pain in the squat.

10 Best Self-Treatments for Golfer’s Elbow (Medial Epicondylitis)

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The fix

Massage helps. It really does. These guys in the above video do a great job of explaining how you can start to rehab an issue.

But, the best pain management protocol is a pain mitigation protocol. Train your way to not only pain-free forearms but build the forearms of a Disney prince at the same time.

Here are three simple exercises you should be doing 2-3 times a week to keep your forearms strong and balance out any imbalances you may be developing from repetitive work.

  1. Supinated Forearm Curls: 3 sets of 12-15 reps
  2. Pronated Forearm Curls: 3 sets of 12-15 reps
  3. Plate Pinch Carries: 3 sets of 20-30 feet
Just add these to your training sessions three times per week until the pain subsides. Once you’re pain free you can reduce to training your forearms one time a week.

I fully understand that this article is by no means exhaustive. Respond in the comments of this article on Facebook or send me a direct message at michael@composurefitness.com with your sticking points, comments, or concerns on all things elbow pain.

I’m also making a push to keep the conversation going over at the Mighty Fit Facebook Group. If you haven’t yet joined the group, do so. It’s where I spend the most time answering questions and helping people get the most out of their training.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history
Articles

The Marine Corps version of the Spectre gunship provides firepower and fuel

The AC-130 Spectre gets a lot of the headlines.


It should.

This is a plane that kicks a lot of butt. But the Marine Corps has its own version. And theirs is far more versatile than the Spectre.

Let’s get a closer look at the AKC-130J Harvest HAWK.

Now, before AC-130 fans prepare the flames, we have nothing but respect for the AC-130. With a 25mm GAU-12, a 40mm Bofors, and a M102 105mm Howitzer, the AC-130 can blast the hell out of just about any target.

It is a circling angel of death. J.R.R. Tolkien’s Nazgul have nothing on the Spectre — and would be advised to learn their lesson from the Fellowship of the Ring when Arwen called in that flash flood: Don’t bother running, you’ll just die tired.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history

But the Harvest HAWK is more versatile. As GlobalSecurity.org points out, the AKC-130J started out as the KC-130J. This provided a number of benefits.

First, the Marines already had the airframes flying over Afghanistan to refuel their F/A-18 Hornets and AV-8B Harriers that provided air support.

What makes the Harvest HAWK so lethal? It can carry (or drop) a variety of weapons. One of them is the AGM-114 Hellfire missile, the one commonly used on Predator drones to make the world a better place by blowing terrorists to smithereens.

With a range of five miles and a 20-pound warhead, this missile was intended to take out tanks. The Harvest HAWK carries four, usually on the left wing, according to a 2012 NAVAIR release.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history
The Harvest Hawk equipped KC-130J rests on the runway at Camp Dwyer, Afghanistan, March 24. The one-of-a-kind Harvest Hawk system includes a version of the target sight sensor used on the AH-1Z Cobra attack helicopter as well as a complement of four AGM-114 Hellfire and 10 Griffin missiles. This unique variant of the KC-130J supports 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) in providing closer air support and surveillance for coalition troops on the ground in southwestern Afghanistan. Plans for a 30mm chain gun are in the works. (USMC photo)

The Marines also say another weapon the Harvest HAWK uses to deadly effect is the AGM-176 Griffin. Designation-Systems.net describes the Griffin as a tube-launched missile that is smaller than the Hellfire (Predators can carry three Griffins for each Hellfire).

NAVAIR says that the Griffin can be fired through a modified cargo door. The is only about 13 pounds, though. But that can still do in a terrorist — or a tank, even.

The Harvest HAWK also can use the GBU-44 Viper Strike. Originally known as the Brilliant Anti-Tank submunition (or BAT), it had one problem: its missiles kept getting cancelled.

In 2007, Strategypage.com noted that the Army eventually put a modified BAT on the MQ-5 Hunter. With a 2.5-pound warhead, it can take out a target without damaging the structures nearby.

Oh, and the Harvest HAWK also is slated to get a 30mm cannon in the future, according to a Pentagon report. The likely choice will be the Mk 44 Bushmaster II used on the M1296 Dragoon, a modification of the M1126 Stryker.

With all that, the Harvest HAWK can still refuel the AV-8B, F/A-18, and F-35B jets the Marines use to support infantry. Firepower and fuel, in one airframe – now, that’s awesome!

MIGHTY SPORTS

The new Navy football uniforms are all about the Goat

Every year, the cadets at West Point and the midshipmen of Annapolis meet to put on one of the most patriotic games of the year: the Army-Navy game. Soldiers, sailors, and Marines all cheer on their respective branch as future officers fight for bragging rights on the football field.

And while most troops are watching from the sidelines or the chow hall, gritting their teeth and waiting to see who comes out on top, there’s a secondary, unofficial contest going on — which team has the best uniform. Each year, both teams bust out a special uniform, just for this game.

This time around, West Point chose to honor the 1st Infantry Division on the centennial anniversary of the WWI armistice. The midshipmen, on the other hand, are going with a design that honors their own treasured history by showcasing Bill the Goat.

On the surface, it may seem simplistic, but in actuality, it’s steeped in Navy and Naval Academy lore.


These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history

Could it have been the gifted football players that gave their all on the field that day? Or could it have been the spirit of the goat, channeled through two goofy ensigns who did pretty much the opposite of what they were told to do? The world will never know.

(U.S. Naval Academy)

Navy’s uniform, produced by their sponsor, Under Armor, features the Navy’s traditional white, blue, and gold color scheme. Emblazoned on the right side of the helmet is Annapolis’ mascot, Bill the Goat, with the player’s number on the left — a nod to classic football helmets.

Bill the Goat, for those who don’t already know, became the Naval Academy’s mascot entirely because of the Army-Navy Game. Legend has it, two ensigns were tasked with taking the body of their ship’s beloved goat to the taxidermist. They got “lost” on their way and ended up at the Army-Navy game.

During halftime, one of the ensigns took the goat skin, wore it as a cape, and ran around the sidelines to thunderous applause from the sailors and midshipmen in attendance. The Naval Academy — and presumably the ensigns’ commander — never took disciplinary action against them because it’s believed Bill the Goat was responsible for the Midshipmen winning that day.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history

(Under Armour)

Each uniform also has the phrase, “Don’t Give Up the Ship” embroidered on the bottom. This was the famous battle cry (and last words) of Capt. James Lawrence as he fell to small arms fire sustained during the War of 1812. It has since become the rallying cry of all sailors as they head into battle.

The pants of the uniforms sport a stripe with six dashes. These six dashes are a reference to the Navy’s first six frigates, the USS Constitution (“Old Ironsides”), the USS Constellation, the USS President, the USS United States, the USS Chesapeake, and the USS Congress.

Check out the unveil video below. Go Navy! Beat Army!

Articles

Here are the best military photos for the week of July 1st

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they’re always capturing what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


Air Force:

Tech. Sgt. Brandon Middleton, 41st Rescue Squadron special missions aviator, loads .50 caliber rounds into a machinegun aboard an HH-60G Pave Hawk, June 27, 2017, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The HH-60G flies with two pilots and two SMAs, who are responsible for pre-flight aircraft inspections, passengers, cargo and operating the aircraft’s weapons.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan

U.S. Airmen assigned to the 20th Civil Engineer Squadron fire department extinguish a fire during a live fire training scenario at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., June 27, 2017. The training enables firefighters to hone the skills needed to combat aircraft fires, structural fires and vehicle extractions.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Maldonado

Army:

A convoy consisting of vehicles from Coldsteel Troop, 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment maneuvers out of the National Training Center’s “Colorado Pass” to engage armored elements of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, June 26, 2017. This phase of NTC Rotation 17-07.5 challenged the Raider Brigade’s ability to conduct zone reconnaissance and prepare the area of operations for follow on forces.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. David Edge, 11th ACR

U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to Company A, 4th battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, practice clearing rooms during Military in Urban Terrain training at Tellinda-Har Village June 28, 2017 at Fort Bliss, Tx.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history
Photo by Staff Sgt. Killo Gibson

Navy:

Kenneth Kallen of the Fire Department at Stewart Air National Guard Base uses a hose to wash down number 7 aircraft of the Blue Angels, June 26, 2017. The Blue angels were performing as part of an airshow here at Stewart.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mary Schwarzler

Sailors conduct flight operations aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) in the Pacific Ocean. Nimitz is on an underway period in the U.S. 7th fleet area of operations. The U.S. Navy has patrolled the Indo-Asia Pacific routinely for more than 70 years promoting regional peace and security.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ian Kinkead

Marine Corps:

Marines assigned to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa exit a MV-22B Osprey aircraft during assault training at Sierra Del Retan, Spain, June 26, 2017. SPMAGTF-CR-AF deployed to conduct limited crisis response and theater security operations in Europe and North Africa.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history
U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Jodson B. Graves

Three MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircrafts assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 265 (Reinforced) fly in formation above Sydney, Australia. VMM-265 is part of the Aviation Combat Element of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (31st MEU). The 31st MEU partners with Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 11 to form the amphibious component of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group. The 31st MEU and PHIBRON 11 combine to provide a cohesive blue-green team capable of accomplishing a variety of missions across the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. T. T. Parish

Coast Guard:

A 45-foot Response Boat-Medium crew from Coast Guard Station Wrightsville Beach approaches a capsized vessel near Masonboro Inlet, North Carolina, June 28, 2017. A 22-foot boat with four adults and one 4 year old aboard capsized about three miles off Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, and the Wrightsville Beach boat crew rescued all five people from the water.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history
U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Bob Sylverstein

U.S. Naval Sea Cadets board a 25-foot Response Boat-Small at Maritime Safety and Security Team Honolulu (91107) at Coast Guard Base Honolulu, June 26, 2017. The U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps is a Navy-based organization, which serves to teach teens about sea-going military services, U.S. naval operations and training, community service, discipline and teamwork.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle

Articles

98-year-old grandmother wrote 7,000 letters to troops

Alleen Cooper’s son Larry was serving in Vietnam during that war — and, like many mothers who children have served in wartime, she set him letters. Her son returned from the war, and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, but she hasn’t stopped writing.


In fact, according to WHNT.com, her son was not the first serviceman overseas to get a letter. She began writing troops during World War II.

“A lot of soldiers don’t get any mail at all,” Larry Cooper told WHNT.com, adding that Mrs. Cooper’s mission is personal.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history
Air Force Staff Sgt. Beatriz Baum works alongside Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Misty Parker during a scramble to unload more than 5,000 lbs. of mail slated for delivery to service members deployed to Joint Task Force Horn of Africa at the postal center at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti. (U.S. Air Force photo/Daren Reehl)

According to WGNTV.com, since she started keeping count six years ago, Mrs. Cooper, a 98-year-old grandmother from California, has written over 7,000 letters by hand, and all of them have been unique and at least four pages long. And let’s just repeat the fact that she’s been doing this since World War II, folks.

Just prior to Memorial Day weekend, she connected with one of the servicemen she had written, Marine Staff Sgt. Chris Cantos. When Cantos deployed to Afghanistan in 2010, his unit had no internet access. Their only lifeline was what gets derisively called “snail mail.”

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history
One of the many certificates Mrs. Cooper has received from troops she has written to. (Video screenshot from WGNTV.com)

“She would always send us clippings and jokes. She would tell us about her day,” Cantos told WHNT.com.

One of the other troops who received a letter was a wounded soldier in the hospital. He had lost an ear, and needed to get a new one.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history
A poster from the Ladies’ Auxiliary of the VFW, urging people to write to servicemen. (National Archives)

“All of the time I think of these people and their families at home,” Mrs. Cooper told WHNT.com.

These days, she will admit her hands are getting tired. But she will keep writing the troops for as long as she can.

Articles

This stunning video shows how fast a railgun can shoot

The Navy has been testing a railgun that could see deployment on the guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt and her sister ships. The goal is to get the railgun to not only be able to fire its projectiles to a range of 110 nautical miles, but to increase the rate of fire to as many as ten rounds a minute.


The long range is only one of the many advantages. Another is improved safety. Gunpowder can be very volatile, as a number of British battlecruisers found out at Jutland and at the Denmark Straits. The battleship USS Arizona (BB 39) also found out about how bad a gunpowder explosion in the wrong place at the wrong time can be.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history
The British battlecruiser HMS Hood was sunk when her magazines exploded in the Battle of the Denmark Strait. (Wikimedia Commons)

The approach also saves money, and provides for more ammo capacity. The gunpowder is expensive to safely store, has to be purchased, and it takes up spaces in the ship. All of those factors end up making the ship design more expensive.

The railgun testing is slated to take place over the summer at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division in Virginia. One of the big issues will be to quantify how much electrical power will be needed to send the rounds downrange.

Forget what you saw in 2009’s “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” when an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer took out the Decepticon Devastator. Only the Zumwalt-class destroyers have the electrical power capacity to use a railgun.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history
U.S. Navy photo

Another is addressing the issue of barrel wear – largely because it is sending the mail downrange at Mach 6.

Dr. Tom Beutner of the Office of Naval Research notes that the barrel wear issue is being fixed, saying, “They’ve extended the launcher core life from tens of shots’ core life when program started to something that’s now been fired over 400 times and … we anticipate barrels will be able to do over 1,000 shots.”

Watch the video of the Navy testing the railgun’s autoloader below:

Articles

F-35 forward deploys to Bulgaria

Two F-35A Lightning IIs and about 20 supporting Airmen arrived at Graf Ignatievo Air Base April 28 from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England.


The F-35As are participating in the first training deployment to Europe. The aircraft and total force Airmen are from the 34th Fighter Squadron, 388th Fighter Wing, and the Air Force Reserve’s 466th Fighter Squadron, 419th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

“The United States and Bulgaria have a strong and enduring relationship,” said Lt. Gen. Richard Clark, the Third Air Force commander, during a press event after the arrival. “We routinely train through joint and combined initiatives like Operation Atlantic Resolve and in flying exercises like Thracian Eagle, Thracian Summer and Thracian Star. Our commitment to Bulgaria is but an example of our unwavering support to all allied nations.”

Similar to the aircraft’s visit to Estonia on April 25, this training deployment has been planned for some time and was conducted in close coordination with Bulgarian allies. It gives F-35A pilots the opportunity to engage in familiarization training within the European theater while reassuring allies and partners of U.S. dedication to the enduring peace and stability of the region.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history
U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw

“I have to say that for us, this makes us very proud,” said Maj. Gen. Tsanko Stoykov, the Bulgarian Air Force commander. “Our efforts have been appreciated and we are trusted as a reliable ally and it immensely contributes to the development of the bilateral relations between our two counties and our two air forces.”

This is the first overseas flying training deployment of the U.S. Air Force’s F-35As. The deployment provides support to bolster the security of NATO allies and partners in Europe while demonstrating the U.S. commitment to regional and global security.

Related: Israel’s F-35s may have already flown a combat mission against Russian air defenses in Syria

“We are grateful to our Bulgarian friends for their support in making today possible,” Clark said. “Your cooperation helps prepare the F-35 for its invaluable contribution to our alliance. We look forward to many more years of our shared commitment and partnership.”

This training deployment signifies an important milestone and natural progression of the Joint Strike Fighter Program, allowing the U.S. to further demonstrate the operational capabilities of the aircraft. It also assists in refining the beddown requirements for the F-35A at RAF Lakenheath in order to enhance Europe’s ability to host the future capabilities of the Air Force and coalition team. Also, it helps to integrate with NATO’s infrastructure and enhance fifth-generation aircraft interoperability.

The aircraft and Airmen began arriving in Europe on April 15, and are scheduled to remain in Bulgaria for a brief period of time before returning to RAF Lakenheath to continue their training deployment.

The KC-135 is from 459th Air Refueling Wing, Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, and is providing refueling support for the deployment to Bulgaria.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How a tuba led to the National Guard training allies in Europe

In some ways, the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program — which pairs National Guard elements with partner nations worldwide — started with a tuba.

“The Latvian military band needed a big tuba,” said retired Air Force Maj. Gen. John Conaway, the 22nd chief of the NGB and “father” of the SPP. “And we hauled a tuba over there.”


The trip with the tuba was part of the early planning stages for the program, which turns 25 in 2018.

“We delivered that tuba to the Latvian band and they were amazed to get it,” said Conaway. “That started the program with the first, initial visit.”

That first visit lead the way to a program that now has 74 partnerships with countries throughout the world. But it all started with three: Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

“We were received in grand fashion in all three places,” said Conaway, referring to that initial trip. Where it would go from there, he added, was then still unknown.

“We didn’t know what was going to happen,” he said. “But, we had the visit. That was the start.”

That first visit was the result of a simple directive from Army Gen. John Shalikashvili, then-supreme allied commander in Europe with NATO, and who would be appointed chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1993.

“He called me up and said “we’ve got to help these new emerging democracies [in the Baltics],'” said Conaway, adding that after additional planning with Pentagon officials, he formed a small team and they started working with the State Department. That led to meeting with the presidents of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, as well as military officials in those countries.

“It looked like they wanted our help and we started talking about putting liaison officers from the National Guard on orders with them,” said Conaway. “Our role was to help make the transition [to democracy] as smooth as we could.”

The idea of liaison officers grew into tying specific Guard elements with specific countries.

“The [team] and I huddled and thought, “We’ve got tons of Lithuanians and Lithuanian-Americans living in Pennsylvania,'” Conaway said. “It fit. We’ll tie Lithuania to the Pennsylvania National Guard.”

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history
Sgt. 1st Class Harry R. Martinez, right, with the New Jersey Army National Guard, demonstrates how to load an ammunition drum on a M249 squad automatic weapon to Albanian Officer Candidate Endri Deda while training at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.
(U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen)

The idea grew from there.

“There were a lot of Latvian-Americans in Michigan, so we got with the adjutant general [of the Michigan National Guard] and tied them together with Latvia,” said Conaway. “There are Estonian-Americans in Baltimore, and so we tied [Estonia] together with the Maryland National Guard.”

Conaway added there was little precedent to follow while developing the program.

“We were doing this off the back of an envelope back then,” he said. “It was happening so fast.”

By the time Conaway retired in November 1993, the SPP had 13 partnerships, primarily with former Eastern Bloc countries in Europe.

The following years saw new partnerships added from across the globe.

“It’s grown to 74 partnerships and that’s been an incremental growth of about two to three partnerships a year,” said Air Force Col. Donald McGuire, chief of the international affairs branch at the NGB.

As the program has expanded, the process for adding new partnerships has become more refined.

First, the country has to request to be a member of the program, said McGuire, adding that input from the State Department and the combatant command — the U.S. military command element overseeing specific geographic regions — goes along with that request.

“They collectively decide that this is a good country we want to nominate for selection into the program,” said McGuire, adding that from there staff work is done to determine the best course of action with pairing up elements for a partnership.

“It’s very analytical what the staff here does,” said McGuire. “They put a lot of hard work and brain cells against making sure they’re doing a good analysis to give the chief [of the NGB] the best recommendation they can.”

The long-term success of the program has come about, in part, from that intrinsic relationship with both the State Department and the combatant command, said McGuire. The SPP is nested with the command’s theater security cooperation plan and the State Department’s country study plan.

“It’s in tune with the combatant commanders, therefore, it’s in tune or synchronized with the National Defense Strategy,” McGuire said.

Building relationships, said McGuire, is one of the hallmarks of the program.

“This provides, perhaps, the most well-known and established international partnership capability the National Guard is involved with,” he said. “These are relationships that have grown over the course of time and continue to grow.”

Those relationships have not only seen partners in the program train together, but also work together in the wake of natural disasters and large-scale emergencies.

These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history
Soldiers of the Tennessee Army National Guard demonstrate how to properly apply camouflage concealment to the face at Babadag Training Area in eastern Romania

It’s also seen co-deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan and other areas.

“You wouldn’t have these countries and units deploying together, necessarily, if they didn’t already have this relationship.”

McGuire added that’s a significant element.

“That tells you a lot about the program,” he said. “These co-deployments are real-world operations, named contingencies that represent the next level of collaboration and coordination.”

Building collaboration and coordination is also key to building greater regional security, said Army Brig. Gen. Christopher F. Lawson, the NGB’s vice director of strategy, policy, plans and international affairs.

“In order to promote greater peace and stability in the world long into the future, we will need a program like the SPP because it helps nations transition from security consumers to security providers,” he said.

For Conaway, the continued growth of the program is more than he imagined 25 years ago.

“It is beyond my wildest dreams and imagination that it would be this passionate and this popular and the good the National Guard has done,” he said. “Here we are, 25 years after it started and the National Guard is just as enthusiastic as ever.”

The pairing of the West Virginia National Guard with Qatar was announced in April 2018, and McGuire said additional partnerships are in the coordination phase.

“We have a few more partnerships in the queue,” he said, adding he sees continued growth of the program over the next 25 years and beyond.

“It really is the entry point to a lot of good things that happen,” McGuire said.

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

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