This is why the SAS trains with the British royal family - We Are The Mighty
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This is why the SAS trains with the British royal family

Britain’s royals are guarded by the best London’s Metropolitan Police have to offer — a special unit known as Protection Command. These officers, trained as armed bodyguards for the royal family, can often be seen escorting the Queen, Prince Philip, and other members of the family with steely gazes in blacked-out Land Rovers.


However, especially in this day and age of modern terrorism, there will likely be situations in which Protection Command finds itself hard-pressed to deal with appropriately on their own. That’s when the British Army steps up to the plate with the most elite soldiers they have to offer — the men of the Special Air Service, the oldest active special missions unit in the world.

Should the unthinkable happen where Protection Command’s agents find themselves overrun and outgunned in a fight against terrorists, hostage-takers, or other hostiles, the SAS is prepared to mobilize at a moment’s notice, arriving on-site, locked and loaded to end the situation decisively.

Though the British military and those charged with guarding the royals don’t particularly see such an incident happening anytime soon (or at all, for that matter), the British Army still rigidly maintains that informing and demonstrating their procedures to members of the royal family is an extremely important step in keeping them safe.

 

This is why the SAS trains with the British royal family
Prince Charles and Princess Diana shortly after their wedding in 1986 (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

To that end, royals are brought up to Stirling Lines, Hereford, the home of 22 Special Air Service Regiment, and given a crash course in special operations and counter-terrorism… at least in the ways it would directly relate to them. Donning black coveralls with “His” and “Hers” stenciled on the back, each royal couple gets an unparalleled look into the SAS’s operational capabilities and strengths.

The royals, especially the younger ones, are given a lot of leniency in terms of their personal transportation. This means that they can fly commercial (generally on British Airways) and drive their own vehicles with an escort or a small protection team always nearby. However, should a vehicular ambush occur, the SAS teaches princes, princesses, duchesses, and dukes alike how to drive tactically, using their cars as battering rams to escape the area to safety while larger protective teams are scrambled to pick them up.

Of particular note was the time Prince Charles and Princess Diana underwent their training course and a hot fragment from a stun grenade landed in Diana’s hair, singeing it. The new princess had her hair trimmed immediately after, so that members of the press would be completely unaware.

Related: How the SAS has deployed to London’s streets to stop another terrorist attack

Interestingly enough, vehicular ambushes are among the more tame scenarios the royals are put through when they train with the SAS at Stirling Lines. The fun really begins when young royal couples are sent to the Killing House for an up close and personal look at the SAS in action.

The Killing House is a legendary facility in the special operations community, where SAS candidates and active troopers all train on entering and clearing buildings full of terrorists and hostages. The building is replete with rubber-coated walls, large fans to ventilate smoke, fire suppression systems, and closed-circuit cameras that monitor all the action and record them for debriefing and review.

Metal targets with scorch marks and indents represent enemies to be terminated with extreme prejudice. None of the training that goes on in the Killing House is hypothetical with troopers yelling “bang!” or firing blanks to simulate combat. Instead, the SAS uses live ammunition and sometimes, live hostages, to make every training evolution as realistic as possible.

Occasionally, these live hostages happen to have blue blood in them.

(somethunder86 | YouTube)

That’s right — the royals are brought into the Killing House and told to sit down on chairs or couches, as though being held captive by hostage-takers. SAS operators then storm the House with stun grenades, quickly shooting and killing all enemy combatants without harming the hostages.

Prince Charles famously scribbled a personal note during his training course, saying, “Should this demonstration go wrong I, the undersigned Prince of Wales, will not commit B Squadron 22 Special Air Service Regiment to the Tower of London. Charles.”

The note still sits framed at Hereford to this very day.

According to former members of the SAS, the royals generally handle the shock and awe of the Killing House take-down well, though they’re understandably stunned at first by the brutal noises and the explosions that occur during the assault.

The younger royals aren’t exempt from these specialized protection courses. Actress Meghan Markle recently had to undergo such training due to her engagement to Prince Harry. Kate Middleton and Prince William were also put through a similar course run by the SAS.

All in all, the members of the British royal family can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that their nation’s best are an alert away from coming to the rescue, should the need ever arise.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Army sent soldiers to Vietnam to be ‘combat artists’

For decades, photography has been the primary means of recording war. The medium began its rise to prominence during the American Civil War, thanks to Mathew Brady, a pioneer of photography, and his mobile darkroom. By World War I, photography had completely taken over as the de facto means of documenting war. Today, some form of photography, either still or motion, is still used to capture the iconic moments of a conflict.

But believe it or not, painting has hung on.

During the Vietnam War, the United States Army’s Center for Military History ran a unique program, selecting soldiers for temporary duty in the Vietnam Combat Artists Program. One such soldier was James R. Pollock, who served on Combat Artist Team IV from August 15, 1967, to December 31, 1967.


According to a 2009 essay written by Pollock, these artists followed various units around in the field for anywhere from one to four days. Equipped with a sketchbook and an M1911, they would share the dangers that those troops faced — if they went on patrol, the combat artists went on patrol, too.

This is why the SAS trains with the British royal family

The combat artists followed Army troops everywhere, capturing humanitarian missions like this one.

(U.S. Army Combat Art Program painting by Samuel E. Alexander)

Pollock’s team had orders to spend 60 days in Vietnam assigned to the Command Historian, Headquarters, US Army, Vietnam, followed by another 75 in Hawaii with a Special Services Officer. In Vietnam, they were to make sketches, capturing powerful moments that would be turned into completed paintings while in Hawaii.

This is why the SAS trains with the British royal family

Photography took a prominent role among historians, but paintings can still vividly capture combat.

(U.S. Army Combat Art Program by Burdell Moody)

The combat artists weren’t very high-ranking: Pollock’s team had three Specialist 4s, one Specialist 5, and one sergeant, and was supervised by a lieutenant. The artists also had “open Category Z Air and Military Travel orders” — which basically gave them free reign to hitchhike anywhere.

This is why the SAS trains with the British royal family

James Pollock was one of the artists who was on a Combat Art Team during Vietnam, and later became a famous painter who has documented the Vietnam Combat Artists Program.

(U.S. Army Combat Art Program painting by James Pollock)

Today, combat artwork is still done as part of the United States Army Artist Program, but the Army isn’t alone – the Air Force has one of these programs, too!

Learn more about some of the Vietnam combat artists in the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gO_xeUKp5I

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TRENDING

Weird flex: Turkey doubles down on buying Russian S-400 missile system

The leaders of the US Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees warned Turkey on April 9, 2019, that it risked tough sanctions if it pursued plans to purchase Russian S-400 missile defense systems, and they threatened further legislative action.

“By the end of the year, Turkey will have either F-35 advanced fighter aircraft on its soil or a Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile defense system. It will not have both,” Republican Sens. Jim Risch and Jim Inhofe and Democratic Sens. Bob Menendez and Jack Reed said in a New York Times opinion column.


Risch is chairman of Foreign Relations and Menendez is ranking Democrat. Inhofe chairs Armed Services, where Reed is ranking Democrat.

This is why the SAS trains with the British royal family

President Donald Trump with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the UN General Assembly in New York, Sept. 21, 2017.

(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

As committee leaders, the senators have powers such as placing “holds” on major foreign weapons sales and major roles in writing legislation, which could include punishing Turkey if it goes ahead with the S-400 deal.

The senators said Turkey would be sanctioned, as required under US law, if it goes ahead with the S-400 purchase.

“Sanctions will hit Turkey’s economy hard — rattling international markets, scaring away foreign direct investment and crippling Turkey’s aerospace and defense industry,” they said.

Turkey is a member of the F-35 development program and produces between 6% and 7% of the jet’s components, including parts of the fuselage and cockpit displays. Turkey had planned to buy 100 of the advanced fighters; it has already received two of them.

The US and fellow NATO member Turkey have been at loggerheads over Ankara’s decision to purchase the S-400s, which are not compatible with NATO systems. Washington also says Turkey’s purchase of the S-400s would compromise the security of F-35 fighter jets, which are built by Lockheed Martin and use stealth technology.

Concerns are centered on the potential for the S-400 system to gather data about how the F-35 and its advanced technology, including its stealth and radar, operate.

This is why the SAS trains with the British royal family

A US Air force F-35 on display at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

At the end of March 2019, a bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation that would block the transfer of F-35 technology to Turkey “until [the US] certifies that Turkey will not accept deliver of Russia’s S-400 air-defense system.”

Maryland Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen, one of that bill’s cosponsors, questioned Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about the issue on April 9, 2019.

“The clear and resolute position of the administration is if Turkey gets delivery of the S-400s, it will not get delivery of the F-35s. Is that correct?” Van Hollen asked Pompeo during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing.

“I have communicated that to them privately, and I will do so again publicly right here,” Pompeo replied.

Van Hollen then asked if the .5 billion purchase of the S-400 would trigger action under the “significant transactions” clause of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA.

Pompeo said he would not make a legal conclusion but acknowledged such a purchase would be “a very significant transaction.”

This is why the SAS trains with the British royal family

An F-35A on a test flight, March 28, 2013.

(Lockheed Martin photo)

CAATSA was passed 2017 and is meant as a response to Russian action abroad, including the 2014 incursion into Ukraine and interference in the 2016 US presidential election. The US has already sanctioned China for purchasing Russian military hardware, including the S-400.

However the bill includes a waiver that could be applied to some countries. India, which the US has worked more closely with in recent years, has thus far avoided sanctions for its planned purchase of the S-400 system.

Turkish officials have responded to the controversy by doubling down on their plans to buy the S-400.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on April 9, 2019, that Ankara may consider buying more units of the Russian-made air-defense system if it can buy the US’s Patriot missile system, which the US has previously offered to sell Turkey.

Cavusoglu also said that if the F-35s weren’t delivered, then he “would be placed in a position to buy the planes I need elsewhere.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reportedly said that Ankara could acquire the S-400s earlier than planned.

“The delivery of the S-400 missile-defense system was to be in July. Maybe it can be brought forward,” Turkish media quoted him as saying on April 10, 2019, after a trip to Russia.

Reporting for Reuters by Patricia Zengerle; editing by David Gregorio

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

After 23 years, soldier meets his father for the first time

The soldier nervously scanned the hotel lobby. Suddenly, his eyes lit up and a broad smile immediately filled his face.

“That’s my dad!” he said, and rushed to the hotel door. The soldier embraced his father, and it was clear he didn’t want to let go. Who could blame him?

This was June 24, 2019. He had waited 23 years for this moment.


This is why the SAS trains with the British royal family

U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist with the 358th Engineer Company from Chambersburg, Pa., nervously awaits the arrival of his father, Jorge, June 24, 2019, at the Intercontinental Hotel in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

Leaving Guatemala

Spc. Brandon Paiz, remembered the day he learned he was going to leave his home.

“I was little, about nine and eight months,” Paiz reflected. “My mom said, ‘Hey we’re going to move to the United States with your stepdad, Roger.'”

Paiz, now a tall, muscular masonry/carpentry specialist with the 358th Engineer Company, talked about the apprehension he felt as a small child leaving his birthplace, Guatemala.

“It was a culture shock,” Paiz said. “The first thing I noticed about the United States is that is was really clean, the streets were really clean. It sounds weird, but they handed me a fruit — a banana — and I was like, holy cow, this thing is huge!”

Paiz said he was quick to adapt to his new home, starting with a new-found love of bacon. He also quickly learned to speak English from an unlikely source.

“Spongebob was my favorite cartoon when I was little,” Paiz said. “It was in Spanish, but when I came to the U.S., I kind of remembered the lines, what they were saying.”

This is why the SAS trains with the British royal family

Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist from Chambersburg, Pa., with the 358th Engineer Company, sweats during construction work on a medical clinic June 21, 2019, in Tojocaz, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

He took three years of English as a Second Language classes and, with the help of Spongebob, didn’t need any more classes. Still, it was not easy for the boy.

“There were times I just wanted to go back and see my friends again,” he admitted. He had some scattered memories, such as living in a tall apartment building in Guatemala City, where he would go to the roof and play soccer alone for hours. He remembered buying chips from a lady named Dora, and huge celebrations each March in Guatemala City where people would carry massive statues of the saints down the streets.

“I would make rugs for the celebration,” Paiz said. He spoke quickly and with excitement when recalling his tight-knit community.

Paiz first lived in New Jersey, where he had to re-adapt to being part of a new community. He said while he was learning English, some of the neighborhood kids didn’t want to involve him in activities. However, just as he had used Spongebob to improve his English, Paiz used another tool to make new friends: kickball.

“I was really good at soccer, so when I started playing kickball, then the kids finally started talking to me,” he said with a laugh.

This is why the SAS trains with the British royal family

Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist from Chambersburg, Pa., with the 358th Engineer Company, listens to the morning safety briefing before starting construction work on a medical clinic June 21, 2019, in Tojocaz, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

He was curious about his father. He didn’t know too much about him other than his name was Jorge and that he had seen some occasional pictures of him on his aunt Lorna’s Facebook. He didn’t understand why he had not been there, but he forgave him.

“People make mistakes,” Paiz said. “His mistake was he wasn’t really around as much as he should have been. I’m going to continue to build our relationship, because I can tell he regrets it. I don’t want to give him a hard time with more of the guilt he feels already, I’m just excited to get to know him more.”

This is why the SAS trains with the British royal family

Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist from Chambersburg, Pa., with the 358th Engineer Company, hands construction equipment from a connex to Spc. Pierre Mebe, a plumber, also with the 358th, before beginning construction work on a medical clinic June 21, 2019, in Tojocaz, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

Joining the Army Reserve

“I joined the military for opportunity and education, but above all, I wanted to give back to the country that opened up the doors for me,” Paiz said. “I wanted to do it for the longest time, but I didn’t know exactly how I wanted to do it — whether I wanted to be a cop, but I wanted to do something to give back to the community, so I decided on the military.”

Paiz said he didn’t want to leave his mother, who had at this time divorced from Roger, so he decided on joining the Army Reserve. He didn’t realize it yet, but Paiz was about to join another tight-knit community.

He enlisted as a masonry/carpentry specialist and joined a rowdy group of construction soldiers from throughout Pennsylvania, the 358th Engineer Company, located in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania.

Joining the military proved beneficial in many ways. First, Paiz, who works as a sales representative for a cable company, was able to get the sense of service and giving back to his country as a soldier.

This is why the SAS trains with the British royal family

Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist from Chambersburg, Pa., with the 358th Engineer Company, plays with some dogs outside a medical clinic construction site June 21 in Tojocaz, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

Secondly, Paiz was re-united with a friend from high school, Spc. Pierre Mede, who just like him, had migrated from another country — Haiti — to the United States as a child. The two quickly went from friends, to inseparable best friends.

But most of all, although Paiz didn’t know it yet, the tiny unit from Pennsylvania was about to bring him back to Guatemala. The unit’s annual training mission was in support of Beyond the Horizon, an annual training partnership between U.S Army South, and one of the nations in their area of responsibility in Central and South America. As it so happened, this year’s rotation was in Guatemala, where the 358th Engineers would be building a medical clinic in the mountain village of Tojocaz.

This is why the SAS trains with the British royal family

U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist with the 358th Engineer Company from Chambersburg, Pa., embraces his father, Jorge, June 24, 2019, at the Intercontinental Hotel in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

Homecoming

Paiz knew his unit was going to be traveling to Guatemala. He knew that he would be flying in to Guatemala City where he would meet his aunt Lorna, who he had not seen in several years, but had been very close to growing up. But Paiz was not prepared for what would happen next at Guatemala City Airport.

“Obviously I recognized him, because I had seen him through photos,” Paiz said. “When I walked through the door … my heart just dropped. I knew this was the moment that I had been envisioning in my head for years — I just didn’t think it was going to be that day.

This is why the SAS trains with the British royal family

U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist with the 358th Engineer Company from Chambersburg, Pa., embraces his father, Jorge, June 24, 2019, at the Intercontinental Hotel in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

“I hugged my aunt first, then my other aunt, and a family friend. Then it was his turn. I was really nervous when I finally met him.”

It was a moment he said had rehearsed in his mind countless times.

“I was really shocked, nervous, overwhelmed,” he said. “I had practiced what I was going to tell him for so many years, but it wouldn’t come out. I didn’t cry or anything, but I was glad that I finally closed that chapter in my life, and as it so happened, the military has done that for me.

“My heart was racing, and when I finally hugged him I was like, this is happening. This is real. Twenty-three years later I finally got to see my father.”

One of the soldiers snapped a photo of the brief, impromptu meeting. Paiz would carry it with him as he worked on the clinic with his friend Mede. It was a brief moment, but the two planned a second visit from Paiz in August.

This is why the SAS trains with the British royal family

Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist from Chambersburg, Pa., with the 358th Engineer Company, checks the level on a block during construction work on a medical clinic June 21, 2019, in Tojocaz, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

The clinic

Paiz’ story affected his new brothers in the 358th. It provided the extra bit of motivation the soldiers needed on their construction rotation. Three weeks is not a long time, but if you ask the soldiers, three weeks high in the mountains of Guatemala, sweating and grinding in the hot sun for more than 12 hours every day can be very long. To add to it all, the 358th fell into a situation where they were already several days behind on the project.

The soldiers would leave at 5 a.m. every morning, and come home dirty, sweaty, sore and tired after laying brick until sometimes well after 8 p.m. But though they acknowledged their fatigue, none complained. Because of Paiz, this mission meant something more to them.

His non-commissioned officer, Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Pearce probably said it best: “We respect each other as people. Knowing the fact that one of the soldiers is originally from Guatemala, and that we’re here to help this community and this is his native country, I think everybody has pulled together to say ‘We want to do this.’ We are motivated to make this happen so we can say look what we did for this soldier’s native country.”

This is why the SAS trains with the British royal family

U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist with the 358th Engineer Company from Chambersburg, Pa., embraces his father, Jorge, June 24, 2019, at the Intercontinental Hotel in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

Goodbye, for now

After waiting 23 years, Paiz had met his father and could look forward to the trip in August. As it turned out, he would not have to wait that long.

A couple weeks later, when some of the military leadership learned of Paiz’ unique situation, they arranged for him to hop on a helicopter that was already going from the base the soldiers were staying at with their Guatemalan counterparts in Huehuetenango to Guatemala City.

The flight was picking up some high-ranking officials and flying them back, so Paiz would only have a few minutes to see Jorge. They met for coffee at the Intercontinental Hotel in Guatemala City. Once again, his aunts were there and his cousin too. When everyone sat together at the table, it was as if the family had been together all along. Laughter filled the air.

The talk was of pride. Paiz’ cousin, Celia told him, “I am so proud of you that you became an American soldier. I am proud that you and the other soldiers work with the people here on this mission.”

This is why the SAS trains with the British royal family

U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Brandon Paiz, a carpentry/masonry specialist with the 358th Engineer Company from Chambersburg, Pa., poses for a photo with his cousin Celia taken by his aunt Lorna, June 24 at the Intercontinental Hotel in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Ryan Matson)

There was more laughter, and then the room became quiet. Only Jorge spoke, and though he tried to remain composed, his son’s face brimmed with emotion. His father was apologizing.

“I’m very proud of you that you are an American soldier,” Jorge said. “I’m very proud that you are a good person and you make the right choices. You could have gone another path, but you chose the life of a soldier. That’s because you were raised well by your mother.”

He went on to say that although he had a family of his own, he still thought of his son even if it he felt as though he could not be there.

“That doesn’t mean that I don’t love you and I hope we can maintain strong communication moving forward. I’m grateful that life gave us an opportunity to reunite.” He went on to say that when he saw him now, even as a strapping 23-year-old man, he pictured an 8-year-old boy.

“My son. My blood. A good boy. A good son.”

Finally, Brandon Paiz had gotten what he really needed from his father.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This vet and real-life Santa makes wooden toys for kids every year

Where the Marine Corps has its Toys for Tots, the Army can count on its elderly retirees – at least one of them, anyway. As of Christmas, 2019, Army veteran Jim Annis turned 80 years old. For the past 50 Christmas seasons, the former soldier spent months creating hundreds of wooden toys for children who otherwise might not have anything to open on Christmas morning. When the Salvation Army comes through for these families, Annis comes rolling along right behind them.


Annis spends hundreds of dollars from his own pocket every year to make wooden toys for needy children. The one-man Santa’s Workshop spends much of his free time throughout the year crafting and painting these toys in preparation for Christmastime. By the time he’s ready to donate the pieces to the Salvation Army, Annis has created as many as 300 toys, finished and ready to hand out to the little ones.

“When the Salvation Army gives out the food and clothes to people in this area, I give out my toys,” Annis told Raleigh-Durham’s ABC-11 affiliate. “It feels like you’re sort of forgotten about at Christmas time.”

In case you’re bad at math, creating 300 toys per year for the past 50 years, makes for about 15,000 toys total. But for Annis, it’s not about the money. He was one of those needy children during his childhood. He came from a working family with five children to take care for.

This is why the SAS trains with the British royal family

Jim Annis, a one-man Santa’s Workshop.

(WTVD ABC-11)

Annis gets wooden scraps for free from homeowners and pays only for the tools of production and the acrylic paint for the toys. His costs run about id=”listicle-2641673298″,000 but his return on investment is the smiles of young kids who will get a toy for Christmas this year. Kids can get an array of cool, handmade toys, from fire trucks and dolls to piggy banks. Jim Annis will also make special gifts for American veterans and their loved ones.

“I have to sort of feel right in here,” Annis told North Carolina’s Spectrum News. “That’s the joy I know I’m giving some of the kids, I’m giving them something that I didn’t have a whole lot at Christmas time.”

If you want to donate to materials to this vet’s Christmastime cause, you can call Jim Annis at 919-842-5445.

Articles

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross

On April 6, 2008, two Special Forces operational detachments and more than 100 Afghan commandos began an air assault into a mountain fortress above the Shok Valley.


Six and a half hours later, two members of the assault were killed and nine seriously wounded, over 100 enemy fighters were dead or captured, and eleven men had earned some of the nation’s highest awards for valor. This is what happened.

Entering Shok Valley

The assault was to capture leaders in Hezeb Islami al Gulbadin, a regional insurgent group in Afghanistan. The targets were holed up in a mountain top village surrounded by farm terraces and tall cliffs, providing tough ground for an assaulting force to cover. The village itself was made of strong, multistory buildings that would provide defenders cover while allowing them to fire out.

The American and Afghan force flew to the valley in helicopters. Their initial plan called for a quick insertion close to the village so they could assault while they still had the element of surprise. Their first landing zone was no good though, and so they were dropped into a nearby river and forced to climb up from there. The delay allowed insurgent forces to set up an ambush from the high ground.

Combat breaks out

After the helicopters departed, enemy fighters directed automatic weapon and rocket fire on the American and Afghan National Army soldiers. Their interpreter was killed almost immediately and the communications sergeant, Staff Sgt. Dillon Behr, received a life-threatening wound to his leg. He continued fighting, attempting to suppress some of the incoming fire.

This is why the SAS trains with the British royal family
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eli J. Medellin

Meanwhile, the assault team had already reached the village, and so found themselves cut off when the forces behind them began taking fire. Despite the precarious position he and the lead Afghan commandos were in, Sgt. David Sanders began relaying the sources of incoming fire to the Air Force joint tactical air controller on the mission.

The mission commander, Capt. Kyle Walton, told an Army journalist later that year about the initial bombings on the target. They were all danger close, meaning friendly forces were within range of the bombs’ blast.

“I was standing next to the combat controller, and when we got to a place where we could talk, he called in close air support, and the F-15s rolled in immediately. I knew my guys were up there, and I know that when you call in danger close air, you are probably going to get injured or killed. I called back to Sanders and asked if he was too close. He said, ‘Bring it anyway.’ Bombs started exploding everywhere. When I called to see if he was still alive, all I could hear him saying was, ‘Hit them again.’ ”

The Air Force JTAC, Airman Zachary Rhyner, would go on to call over 70 danger close missions that day, using eight Air Force planes and four Army attack helicopters to achieve effects on the target.

Three-story explosion and sniper warfare

As the battle continued to rage, both sides were using controlled, focused fire to wound and kill enemies. But a massive explosion after an American bomb hit a three-story building in the village brought on a brief lull in the fighting.

“Good guy or bad guy, you’re going to stop when you see that,” Staff Sgt. Luis Morales, a Special Forces intelligence sergeant, told the Army. “It reminded me of the videos from 9/11 — everything starts flushing at you, debris starts falling — and everything gets darker.”

The Americans and Afghan commandos used this time to consolidate some of their forces.

Enemy fighters began closing on the command node, eventually drawing to within 40 feet of it. Walton had the tip of his weapon shot off and was struck twice in the helmet by enemy rounds.

Both before and after the explosion, snipers on each side were playing a key role. For the Americans, one of their top assets was Staff Sgt. Seth E. Howard, a Special Forces weapons sergeant.

Near the command node, Howard was well-positioned to see the enemy fighters draw close to Walton and the JTAC. To prevent them being killed or captured, Walton stepped away from his position and moved into the open to engage the advancing fighters. He halted their advance, allowing Rhyner to continue calling in bombs.

Rhyner’s bombs would also be instrumental in protecting the command node. He sometimes had to order bombs within 100 meters of his and Walton’s position.

This is why the SAS trains with the British royal family
Airman Zachary Rhyner in an undated Air Force photo from another operation.

Planning to leave

American forces and Afghan commandos had more problems as the day wore on. The weather at the outset of the mission had been tricky, but the team was getting reports that a dust storm was getting worse and would stop air support before nightfall. That would leave them without bombs, helicopters, or an exit strategy. Meanwhile, surveillance platforms showed another 200 enemy fighters moving to the battlefield.

Walton had requested medical evacuation multiple times, but enemy fire made it impossible. And with six seriously wounded men, a closing window to exit the battlefield, and the serious danger of being overrun, Walton began looking at pulling the team out. But there was a problem. The initial plans had called for the team to leave by descending back down the terraces, a route now closed due to intense enemy fire.

Sanders had managed to break out of his besieged position in the village when another green beret forced a route open. Now, Walton asked him to recon a route down the sheer cliffs to the north of the village.

This is why the SAS trains with the British royal family
Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Betty R. Chevalier

Sanders told the commander that the route was bad and it was possible that some climbers might break their backs or necks attempting it, but they’d probably live. The situation was so dire, Walton approved it as an exit strategy.

Leaving Shok Valley under heavy fire

Team Sergeant Master Sgt. Scott Ford led the organization at the top of the cliffs. He had less wounded team members carry the more seriously wounded down. One team member made the climb while carrying his leg that had been amputated by a sniper round early in the battle. Others were nursing wounds sustained from both insurgent fire and the effects of all the “danger close” bomb drops.

Ford was defending the top of the cliff other soldiers were climbing down when he was struck in the chest plate by a sniper round. He jumped up and continued fighting, but he was struck again. This time, his left arm was nearly amputated. Ford then finally began his own climb down the mountain, continuing to lead his men as he did so.

Howard, the sniper from above, stayed until all the other Americans and the Afghan commandos had left the mountain. He defended the top of the cliffs with his last magazine before pulling out.

One Afghan commando and an interpreter died, but all of the Americans survived the battle. The Army estimated the insurgents suffered over 150 dead and an untold number of wounded, according to an Army article. Eight insurgents were captured.

After the battle

Many of the wounded members of the team returned to service, including Ford and Sgt. 1st Class John Walding, the team member who lost his leg early on and carried it down the cliffs. Walding is attempting to return to his team, an ambition he describes near the end of this Army video about the battle. He later became the first amputee to graduate the Special Forces Sniper Course.

In a ceremony on Dec. 12, 2008, 10 members of the team were awarded Silver Stars. Rhyner was awarded the Air Force Cross during a separate ceremony in 2009.

NOW: Medal of Honor: Meet the 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

OR: The definitive guide to US special ops

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

The National Guard has been activated. Is this martial law?

At a White House briefing on Sunday, March 22, President Trump stated that the National Guard would be stepping up to assist three states that have been hit the hardest to date by the novel coronavirus: California, New York and Washington state.

President Trump explained that the Guard activation was to help effectively respond to the crisis. This certainly isn’t unprecedented — the National Guard is frequently used in emergency situations. But this definitely got people talking: Are we heading toward martial law? And what does that mean?


Trump Deploys National Guard To Help States Respond To The Coronavirus | NBC News

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In a press release issued by the National Guard Bureau, a spokesperson said, “The National Guard is fully involved at the local, state and federal level in the planning and execution of the nation’s response to COVID-19. In times of emergency, the National Guard Bureau serves as a federal coordinating agency should a state require assistance from the National Guard of another state.”

Additionally the release explained, “At the national level, Guard members are training personnel on COVID-19 response, identifying and preparing National Guard facilities for use as isolation housing, and compiling state medical supply inventories. National Guard personnel will provide assistance to the states that include logistical support, disinfection/cleaning, activate/conduct transportation of medical personnel, call center support, and meal delivery.”

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New York Army National Guard Soldiers move a floor during the placement of tents at the New York-Presbyterian-Hudson Valley Hospital in Cortlandt Manor, N.Y., as medical facilities prepare for the response to the outbreak of COVID 19 patients March 20, 2020. The Soldiers are part of the statewide effort to deploy National Guard members in support of local authorities during the pandemic response. U.S. Army National Guard/Richard Goldenberg.

So that’s what the National Guard does and is doing in this situation … but what does “federalized” actually mean?

Under Title 32 of the U.S. Code, the National Guard can be federalized, meaning that the Guard still reports to the respective state’s governor but the federal government picks up the associated costs. In his briefing, President Trump remarked that he had spoken with the governors of the three states that were impacted.

“We’ll be following them and we hope they can do the job and I think they will. I spoke with all three of the governors today, just a little while ago and they’re very happy with what we’re going to be doing.” Trump said. “This action will give them maximum flexibility to use the Guard against the virus without having to worry about cost or liability and freeing up state resources.” He added, “The federal government has deployed hundreds of tons of supplies from our national stockpile to locations with the greatest need in order to assist in those areas.”

See, that’s nice. They’re going to help build temporary hospitals and coordinate logistics and resources. They’re not going to be driving tanks up and down the streets to make sure people stay in their homes.

Are they?

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Tank convoy

upload.wikimedia.org

In a call with reporters Sunday night, Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, said, “There is no truth to this rumor that people are conspiring, that governors are planning, that anyone is conspiring to use the National Guard, mobilized or not, Title 32 or state, to do military action to enforce shelter in place or quarantines.” He did say that he expected more states would move to Title 32 as the need developed.

Military action enforcing shelter in place or quarantines would be considered martial law.

In dictionary terms, martial law is the suspension of civil authority and the imposition of military authority. The military is in control of the area; it can act as the police, the courts, even the legislature. Martial law is enacted when civilian law enforcement agencies are unable to maintain public order and safety.

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Sounds reasonable and fine, right? Wellll, until you start really digging into what martial law can include, like a suspension of parts of the Constitution, namely the Bill of Rights. In previous uses of martial law, we’ve seen confiscation of firearms (remember Hurricane Katrina? The government seized firearms and supplies when deemed necessary and acceptable, which at the time, they stated was when citizens were resisting evacuation or when a firearm was found in an abandoned home). Other suspensions include due process (Habeas corpus), road closures and blockades, strict zoning regulations (quarantine anyone?) and even automatic search and seizures without warrants (who can forget the images of SWAT teams running through houses in Boston searching for the bombers after the marathon? Do you think they stopped to get a warrant before they went into each one? Spoiler alert: no.).

Martial law has happened in the United States before and someday, it very well may happen again.

But for now, the Guard is just doing what they do best: bringing some much-needed logistics support and maybe even a little hope.

MIGHTY MOVIES

4 war movies rumored to release in 2019

There are definitely epic and unforgettable war films out there ( Saving Private Ryan, Full Metal Jacket, Top Gun*), but every year many war films are released under the radar (how many of you watched Thank You For Your Service? WELL YOU MISSED OUT. IT WAS FANTASTIC).

Service members have high standards for military movies — after all, they portray a life we led, and it’s not always easy to get it right. That won’t stop Hollywood from trying.

Nor should it. Films about the military inspire men and women to volunteer every day. They memorialize our heroes. And most importantly, they remind us of the horrors of war so we can, hopefully, pave a peaceful future for those who will serve after us.

Here are a few films on the slate for this year:

*Don’t be a hater — you know it’s 83% the reason why we have pilots


The Last Full Measure,2019,Sebastian Stan,Samuel L. Jackson,First Look

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The Last Full Measure

During the Vietnam War, an Air Force Pararescueman named William Pitsenbarger saved the lives of 60 soldiers and, when offered the chance to evacuate on a helicopter, he stayed behind to defend the lives of his men. 34 years later, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Acquired by Roadside Attractions and starring Captain America’s Sebastian Stan, Samuel L. Jackson, Ed Harris, Jeremy Irvine, and more, The Last Full Measure will recount Pitsenbarger’s heroism — and the survivors’ efforts to honor his memory.

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Greyhound

A World War II drama starring Tom Hanks, Greyhound is based on the C.S. Forester (ahem creator of Horatio Hornblower ahem) novel The Good Shepherd, in which a convoy of 37 Allied ships crosses the German U-boat infested Atlantic ocean. Hanks plays Ernest Krause, leader of the convoy and in command of his first ship, the Greyhound.

The screenplay is by Hanks himself and directed by Aaron Schneider. It is set to release on March 22, 2019,

Battle of Midway Tactical Overview – World War II | History

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Midway

Set to open during Veterans Day weekend, Midway is a World War II epic about the Battle of Midway in the Pacific, which would go down in history as the turning point in the war.

Lionsgate/Summit Entertainment hired Roland Emmerich to direct, with a cast that includes Woody Harrelson, Aaron Eckhart, Mandy Moore, and Luke Evans.

THE AFTERMATH | Official Trailer | FOX Searchlight

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The Aftermath

Set in a post-World War II Germany, Executive Producer Ridley Scott’s The Aftermath follows a British colonel (Jason Clarke) who oversees the reconstruction of a German city, his wife (Keira Knightley), and the German widower and father (played by Alexander Skarsgard) who previously occupied their new home.

Looks like this film will ponder the phrase “all’s fair in love and war.”

What’s your favorite war movie or tv show of all time? Leave me a comment on Facebook and let me know.

MIGHTY MOVIES

This ‘Jack Ryan’ and ‘The Office’ cut is the funniest thing you’ll see this weekend

Amazon Prime is pushing their new show, Jack Ryan, based on the Tom Clancy character that has saved Britain’s queen, hunted Russian subs, and interrupted terrorist plots across the world in both novels and movies from the ’80s to today.

The character is a mainstay of the the thriller world — an American James Bond — which is why it’s so great that Amazon cast comedy icon John Krasinski in the role.


Now, Funny or Die has done what we’ve all been thinking — they cut together the Jack Ryan commercial and scenes from The Office, pitting America’s top analyst-turned-spy against the criminal genius of Dwight Schrute, the socially awkward and pretentious beet farmer who’s always hatching some failed scheme to teach his office mates a moral lesson.

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Jim (left) feigns working at his desk as Dwight (center) looks at what he believes to be a gift-wrapped desk. Spoiler: The desk is actually gone completely. Jim made a fake frame for the wrapping and the whole thing collapses when Dwight tries to sit down.

(YouTube/The Office US)

Dwight is best known by his self-appointed job title: Assistant to the Regional Manager. Abbreviated, of course, as the Ass. Man.

He labors for years to outmaneuver Jim Halpert, now Jim Ryan, in a series of escalating pranks, from disappearing desks to fake spy taps to false faxes from the future. Apparently, Dwight is not putting up with it any longer.

Check out the hilarious video mashup below and get a look at more sinister Dwight Schrute.

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Jack Ryan debuted August 31, but has already been been renewed for a second season. In the first season, Ryan notices irregularities in bank transactions and eventually finds evidence of a growing terrorist threat against the U.S., leading him across the world in a quest to hunt down the leaders and prevent the attack.

The show brings Michael Bay and John Krasinski back together. The men had previously worked together on 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, a dramatization of the horrible events at the U.S. embassy in Libya in 2012. 13 Hours was probably the most well-known example of Krasinski’s pivot from comedy to action.

After years of playing Jim Halpert in The Office and performing other comedic roles, Krasinski has been branching out, directing movies and focusing on action roles.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Crow GI became the last Indian War Chief during World War II

Few American veterans will ever officially earn both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the title of Crow War Chief. Joe Medicine Crow might be the only one. His other awards include the Bronze Star and the French Légion d’Honneur. How he earned the title of War Chief of the Crow tribe is a feat unheard of for decades before World War II started.

But for all his feats, he was still a Private in the U.S. Army.


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“Promote ahead of peers.”

There are four criteria to become a Crow War Chief, all of which Joe Medicine Crow accomplished during two years of service with the U.S. Army in Europe:

  • Touching an Enemy Without Killing Him
  • Taking an Enemy’s Weapon
  • Leading a Successful War Party
  • Stealing an Enemy’s Horse

The Crow did not likely think this would be so difficult in the age of machine guns and tanks, but as Joe Medicine Crow showed, it was clearly not impossible.

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Also, that’s Dr. Joe Medicine Crow. Just sayin.

The Native American GI was working in a shipyard in Washington state for the first part of World War II. In 1943, he decided to join the U.S. Army. He came from an incredible nomadic warrior tradition. He was the last person to hear a first-hand account of the Battle of Little Bighorn and his grandfather served as a scout for Gen. George Armstrong Custer before the general’s last stand. Joe Medicine Crow would carry this tradition forward, as well as many others.

Before he left for the war, a medicine man provided him with a painted eagle feather he would wear under his uniform before fighting. He would also paint traditional war paint under his uniform, placing two red stripes on his arms. And then, he became a War Chief, the last Crow War Chief.

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Crow lived to the ripe old age of 102.

While fighting at the Siegfried Line, the border fortification that would take the U.S. Army into Germany, the warrior was ordered to take a team – a war party, if you will – and cross a field under a hail of bullets to retrieve some dynamite from a previously destroyed American position. Joe Medicine Crow and seven fellow GIs crossed a field of devastating fire that probably should have killed all of them, grabbed the explosives and blew a huge hole in Hitler’s vaunted line. No one was killed. One down.

After penetrating the line, Joe Medicine Crow and the 103d Infantry advanced on a nearby town that turned out to be heavily defended. As a scout, Joe was ahead of most of his unit. After they were ordered to flank some German defenders, Joe was separated and decided to take a shortcut. That’s when he ran right into a Nazi defender while running at full sprint.

For anyone else, this might have been embarrassing at the least and deadly at the most, but this is Joe Medicine Crow. He sent the Nazi flying and the Nazi’s rifle across the lawn. The American was still standing as he bent over and grabbed his enemy’s weapon. Two down.

Instead of killing the German, Joe decided to drop the weapon and let his warrior skills take over. The two men fought hand-to-hand for what seemed like hours. When Joe finally got the upper hand and started to kill the Nazi soldier with his hands at the man’s throat. But the German began to whimper, and Joe let him go. Three down.

Then, there’s the task of stealing a horse.

Joe Medicine Crow was scouting a farmhouse behind enemy lines one night when he realized it was full of high-ranking SS officers. They all rode there on horses, which were corralled under guard near the house. Joe Medicine Crow snuck through the guards with only his M1911 to protect him. Having grown up learning to ride horses bareback, mounting one of them in Europe was no problem. He let out a Crow war cry and sang a song as he herded all the horses out of the corral and into U.S. Army lore.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

NASA’s newest spacecraft is ready to launch

NASA will provide coverage of the upcoming prelaunch and launch activities for the SpaceX Demo-1 flight test to the International Space Station for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, which is working with the U.S. aerospace industry to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil for the first time since 2011.

NASA and SpaceX are targeting 2:48 a.m. EST Saturday, March 2, 2019, for the launch of the company’s uncrewed Demo-1 flight, which will be the first time a commercially built and operated American rocket and spacecraft designed for humans will launch to the space station. The launch, as well as other activities leading up to the launch, will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website.


The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft will launch on a Falcon 9 rocket from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Crew Dragon is scheduled to dock to the space station at approximately 5:55 a.m. Sunday, March 3, 2019.

This will be the first uncrewed flight test of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and will provide data on the performance of the Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon spacecraft and ground systems, as well as in-orbit, docking and landing operations.

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A SpaceX, Falcon 9 rocket lifts off Space Launch Complex 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The flight test also will provide valuable data toward NASA certifying SpaceX’s crew transportation system for carrying astronauts to and from the space station. SpaceX’s Demo-2 test flight, which will fly NASA astronauts to the space station, is targeted to launch in July 2019.

Following each flight, NASA will review performance data to ensure each upcoming mission is as safe as possible. After completion of all test flights, NASA will continue its review of the systems and flight data for certification ahead of the start of regular crewed flights to the space station.

Full Demo-1 coverage is as follows. All times are EST:

Friday, Feb. 22, 2019:

  • (no earlier than) 6 p.m. – Post-flight readiness review briefing at Kennedy, with the following representatives:
    • William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator, NASA Human Exploration and Operations
    • Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
    • Kirk Shireman, manager, International Space Station Program
    • Hans Koenigsmann, vice president, Build and Flight Reliability, SpaceX
    • Astronaut Office representative

Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019:

  • TBD – Pre-launch briefing at Kennedy, with the following representatives:
    • Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
    • Kirk Shireman, manager, International Space Station Program
    • SpaceX representative
    • Astronaut Office representative

Saturday, March 2, 2019:

  • 2 a.m. – NASA TV launch coverage begins for the 2:48 a.m. liftoff
  • 5 a.m. – Post-launch news conference at Kennedy, with the following representatives:
    • Steve Stich, NASA launch manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
    • Kirk Shireman, manager, International Space Station Program
    • SpaceX representative
    • Astronaut Office representative

Sunday, March 3, 2019:

  • 3:30 a.m. – Rendezvous and docking coverage
  • 8:45 a.m. – Hatch opening coverage
  • 10:30 a.m. – Station crew welcoming ceremony

Friday, March 8, 2019:

  • 12:15 a.m. – Hatch closing coverage begins
  • 2:30 a.m. – Undocking coverage begins
  • 7:30 a.m. – Deorbit and landing coverage
  • TBD – Post-landing briefing on NASA TV, location TBD, with the following representatives:
    • Steve Stich, deputy manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
    • International Space Station Program representative
    • SpaceX representative
    • Astronaut Office representative

The deadline for media to apply for accreditation for this launch has passed, but more information about media accreditation is available by emailing ksc-media-accreditat@mail.nasa.gov.

For more information on event coverage, got to:

https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-spacex-demo-1-briefings-events-and-broadcasts

Articles

These ‘Q-ships’ used to fool subs and take torpedoes in both world wars

Appearances, as the saying goes, can be very deceiving.


This happened to be the exact concept behind Q-ships, heavily armed decoy vessels used by Allied navies during the First World War to harass and destroy German submarines, also known as U-boats.

The Germany Navy’s U-boat fleet quickly proved to be a scourge in the Atlantic, hunting down and sinking Allied merchant and combat ships with impunity. Able to sneak up to convoys and warships virtually undetected, U-boats began racking up kills in incredible numbers, quickly becoming a threat that needed to be dealt with immediately.

Allied ships, often loaded with troops, supplies, and materiel to aid the war effort in Europe were being lost at astonishing rates. As sonar was still an emerging technology, submarine detection was often difficult if not downright impossible. However, a solution began to form in the minds of Allied naval commanders.

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An American Q-ship of the Second World War (Photo from U.S. Navy)

U-boats could only remain submerged for short periods of time, and they were often deployed to sea with a limited supply of torpedoes. As such, most U-boat commanders preferred to run their vessels on the surface, utilizing deck guns for the majority of their attacks on enemy vessels.

The British Navy came up with a solution in the form of a thoroughly disguised merchant vessel carrying a crew of sailors dressed like fishers or merchant mariners. With fake boxes of cargo on the decks of the ship, German U-boats would likely assume that what they see in their periscope’s crosshairs was really just a supply ship, transporting munitions and weaponry for Allied soldiers on the front lines.

A juicy and defenseless target, ripe for the taking.

However, these ships were anything but defenseless. Armed with a variety of deck guns in different calibers, and even depth charges in some cases, the crew could open fire after luring the German submarines close enough, sinking, or at least thoroughly disabling, their enemy’s watercraft.

One less U-boat in the fight.

The British Admiralty decided that these decoy ships would be homeported at Queenstown, Ireland, where they would have easy access to the North Atlantic, and a safe harbor to return to. They would soon be nicknamed Q-ships, thanks to their port of origin.

Deployed in growing numbers, Q-ships began hunting down and attacking German submarines using deception and surprise to their advantage. As soon as U-boats closed in, panels were dropped, the Royal Navy’s ensign was raised and deck guns boomed while sending German sailors scrambling for cover.

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HMS Polyanthus, a WWI-era Q-ship with camouflage designed to break up the lines of the ship (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

However, the plan turned out to be a major dud.

By the war’s end, it was found that throughout 150 reported engagements between Q-ships and U-boats, only 14 submarines were destroyed, while the rest were either damaged or had escaped. The Q-ship program had an even lower success rate than mines, which, given the associated numbers and statistics, was highly embarrassing.

The program, once a closely-kept secret, was shuttered and remained fairly dormant in the years between World Wars, though other navies began exploring similar vessels of their own.

Q-ships would make a reappearance during the Second World War, serving with the German, British, American, and Japanese navies. Oddly enough, German Q-ships wound up racking up higher kill numbers than their Allied counterparts.

In the years since, anti-submarine warfare (ASW for short) has advanced considerably, making sub-hunting something of an art form. Thankfully, the Q-ship concept has been relegated to the history books once and for all, having experienced its trial by fire during the two World Wars, and coming up short.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump warns Russia to be prepared for an all-out strike in Syria

The US and Russia, the world’s two most powerful militaries and biggest nuclear powers, appear set to clash over a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria, with President Donald Trump tweeting on April 11, 2018, for Russia to “get ready” for a US missile strike.

“Russia vows to shoot down any, and all missiles fired at Syria,” Trump tweeted. “Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’ You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”


The first part of the tweet referred to comments by a Russian diplomat threatening a counterresponse to any US military action against the Syrian government, which the US and local aid groups have accused of carrying out several chemical weapons attacks on its own people.

According to Reuters, Russia’s ambassador to Lebanon, Alexander Zasypkin, told the militant group Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV that, “If there is a strike by the Americans,” then “the missiles will be downed and even the sources from which the missiles were fired.”

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President Donald Trump.

Trump canceled a trip to South America over the latest suspected chemical attack, which killed dozens on April 7, 2018, and is instead consulting with John Bolton, his new ultra-hawkish national security adviser. Trump and France have promised a strong joint response in the coming days.

The president and his inner circle are reportedly considering a much larger strike on Syria than the one that took place almost exactly a year ago, on April 7, 2017, in which 59 US sea-based cruise missiles briefly disabled an air base suspected of playing a role in a chemical attack.

This time, Trump has French President Emmanuel Macron in his corner— but also acute threats of escalation from Syria’s most powerful ally, Russia.

“The threats you are proffering that you’re stating vis-à-vis Syria should make us seriously worried, all of us, because we could find ourselves on the threshold of some very sad and serious events,” Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vassily Nebenzia, warned his US counterpart, Nikki Haley, in a heated clash at the UN.

The US wants a massive strike, but Russia won’t make it easy

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Syrian government forces present a more difficult target than most recent US foes. Unlike Islamic State fighters or Taliban militants, the Syrian government is backed by heavy Russian air defenses. Experts on these defenses have told Business Insider the US would struggle to overcome them, even with its arsenal of stealth jets.

It was US Navy ships that fired the missiles in the April 7, 2017, strike. If Russia were to retaliate against a US Navy ship with its own heavy navy presence in the region, the escalation would most likely resemble war between the two countries.

Vladimir Shamanov, a retired general who heads the defense affairs committee in Russia’s lower house of parliament, would not rule out the use of nuclear weapons in an escalation with the US over Syria, saying only that it was “unlikely,” the Associated Press reports.

The US has destroyer ships in the region, The New York Times reports, as well as heavy airpower at military bases around the region. While Russian air defenses seem credible on paper, they seem to have done nothing to stop repeated Israeli airstrikes all around Syria.

US’s and Russia’s military reputations on the line

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A US Air Force F-22 Raptor flying over the Arabian Sea in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in 2016.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook)

On both the Western and Russian sides of the conflict, credibility is on the line. The leaders of the US and France have explicitly warned against the use of chemical weapons, saying they will respond with force. Russia has acted as a guarantor of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s safety in the face of possible Western intervention but has found itself undermined by several strikes from the US and Israel.

Experts previously told Business Insider that an outright war with the US would call Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bluff and betray his true aim of projecting power at low cost, while destroying much of his military.

Additionally, the Syria government, backed by Russia, has struggled to beat lightly armed rebels who have lived under almost nonstop siege for the past seven years.

For the US and France, failure to meaningfully intervene in the conflict would expose them as powerless against Russia, and unable to abate the suffering in Syria even with strong political will.

For now, the world has gone eerily quiet in anticipation of fighting.

European markets dipped slightly on expectations of military action, and the skies around Syria have gone calm as the pan-European air-traffic control agency Eurocontrol warned airlines about flying in the eastern Mediterranean because of the possibility of an air war in Syria within the next 48 hours.

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