It’s hard to determine which is more surprising: the British aching to send troops and materiel to aid the Confederacy during the Civil War or that the first “Special Relationship” was between the U.S. and Russia against the British. Both of these facts are true and for the latter negating the former, we can thank one Cassius Marcellus Clay.
Clay was more than just a namesake for the greatest boxer of all time. He was also a politician, representative, officer in the Mexican War and Civil War, abolitionist, and ambassador with a pedigree in badassery. This man once frightened an opponent so much that the man killed himself the night before they were supposed to duel, which is probably the only duel story to top Andrew Jackson’s.
When Abraham Lincoln was elected President in 1860, he tapped Clay to be his ambassador to the Imperial Russian Court in St. Petersburg. Since the Civil War broke out before Clay left for Russia in 1861 and there were no Federal troops in Washington at the time, Clay raised an Army of 300 volunteers to maintain an active defense of the capital until troops arrived.
The Kentucky politician started his life born to a family of planters (who fought in both the Revolution and the War of 1812) and became one himself before his foray into politics. Despite being a wealthy planter from Kentucky, the Yale-educated Clay became a staunch Abolitionist, opposed to slavery in any form, which would eventually cost him his seat in the legislature.
He started an anti-slavery newspaper called True American which immediately earned him death threats. He was threatened so often and he was so steadfast in his beliefs, he had to seal himself and his press in his office in Lexington, defending the building with two four-pounder cannons.
While giving a speech promoting the abolition of slavery, he was attacked by six brothers for expressing these views. They beat him, stabbed him, and tried to shoot him, but Clay fought off all six with his Bowie knife, killing one of them in the process.
Clay was so infuriating to his pro-slavery opponents, they hired a political gun to assassinate him. The would-be assassin shot Clay in the chest, but the bullet didn’t kill him. Despite being restrained by the assassin’s friends, Clay drew his Bowie knife and cut off the man’s nose and left ear, then gouged out his eye before throwing him over a wall and into a nearby river.
The Russian-British rivalry raged during the American Civil War. British politicians openly advocated intervention in the war and even had a secret plan to burn Boston and New York in sneak attacks from Canada. E. D. Adams’ Great Britain and the American Civil War notes theU.S. considered Russia a “true friend” and was suspicious of British neutrality while Secretary of State William Seward actively advocated war with France.
While in St. Petersburg, Clay won the support of Russia for the Union cause and convinced Tsar Alexander II to threaten worldwide war with England and France to keep them from intervening on the side of the Confederacy, with whom they both sympathized. The Russian Baltic Fleet arrived in New York harbor in in September 1863 and the Russian Far East Fleet arrived in San Francisco that October. The Tsar ordered his Navy to be under Lincoln’s command if war broke out.
Clay was recalled by Lincoln in 1862 and commissioned a Major General in the Union Army. He refused to accept the commission unless Lincoln freed slaves under Confederate control. The President ordered him to Kentucky to assess the effect of Emancipation on the population there, as Kentucky was seen as a vital border state. When Clay returned, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. He left for Russia again the next year and served there until 1869, where he helped secure the Purchase of Alaska, presumably because the Tsar was afraid of him.
In his later years, Clay had so many enemies, he kept cannons to defend his home and office. His daughters became staunch Women’s Rights advocates.
No Hollywood war movie is perfect. No matter how long the production studio takes to develop the project or how long the crew is on set filming the movie, there’re always going to be some avoidable mistakes.
However, we have seen war movies flourish in the eyes of veteran audiences on several occasions. Even within those epic films, there are still areas that aren’t perfect because of a few important reasons.
Some military movies are better off burning their production budget.
“Blocking for the camera” is a film term that means, basically, how the actors move within the scene in relation to the camera’s position.
So, do you remember what Sgt. Horvath said before spearheading forward onto the beaches of Normandy on D-Day in Saving Private Ryan?
“I want to see plenty of feet between men. Five men is a juicy opportunity. One man is a waste of ammo.”
One of the most significant issues veterans have with war movies is how bunched up characters get in firefights or while maneuvering in on the enemy. Having a handful of troops crammed within a few meters of one another is a bad thing, but it’s commonly done due to a movie’s shooting schedule.
What direct Steven Speilberg nailed during the D-Day landing in Saving Private Ryan was showcasing the importance of proper dispersion. Unfortunately, other war films have failed to follow Sgt. Horvath’s advice — which sucks.
Sgt. Horvath and Capt. Miller mentally prepare for the worst. (Image from Dreamworks’ Saving Private Ryan)
3. Overly verbose dialogue
Hollywood commonly hires screenwriters with proven, successful track records to give a voice to their films. Which, for the most part, is the right thing to do. You wouldn’t hire a dentist to fix your back pain.
But, here’s the issue: Unless you’ve actually lived the life or were immersed in military culture for some amount of time, you won’t truly understand how we talk to one another. Many films want to continually remind the audience that the character is either a veteran or on active duty by using dialogue as exposition.
Good dialogue in a war film wins veterans’ hearts and minds, but we rarely see anyone nail it.
2. Misinformed actors
Actors do the best job they can to bring their characters to life and we respect them for that.
Unfortunately, we’ve seen, time and time again, production companies hire veterans as “military consultants” to train the actors to get it right. It is their job to turn actors into operators. That’s great in theory, but the so-called veteran often isn’t an actual operator themselves. Some Navy sailors have never been on a ship and most Marines have never been in combat, but they’ll wear the title of ‘consultant’ all the same.
Some consultants, like Marine veteran Capt. Dale Dye, are legit because they’ve seen the frontlines and survived it. Despite the expression, being a Marine doesn’t make you a rifleman. However, being a 0311 Marine does.
Here’s the kicker: Movies cost millions of dollars to produce, which most of it goes to the people who are the “above the line” talent. However, all of the standard military information producers need to satisfy veteran moviegoers is available on Google, because that information is public domain. It’s how we learn to don our uniforms if we forget something.
Screwing up the details of an on-screen uniform is the most prominent pet-peeve veterans have. It happens all the time.
What’s wrong with this photo?
You can look up Marine Corps rank insignia on your phone. No excuses.
American and Afghan forces were briefing each other at a forward operating base on March 11, 2013, about that day’s mission when machine gun rounds suddenly rained down on them.
The group immediately looked to see where the shots were coming from. The lone airman in the group, then-Tech. Sgt. Delorean Sheridan, identified the source of the shots, which turned out to be coming from a truck in the base’s motor pool.
“Initially, everyone starts to look to see what’s going on,” Sheridan, a combat controller, later told Stars and Stripes. “We’re accustomed to shooting, so our first instinct is, ‘OK, what is the person shooting at?’ I turned and looked back and I saw this guy shooting at me, and the light bulbs hit: It’s some guy trying to kill us.”
The shooter was a new member of the Afghan National Police who had slipped unnoticed to the bed of the truck and taken control of its machine gun.
It was a so-called “green-on-blue attack” — when supposed allies attack friendly forces. Meanwhile, insurgents from outside the base joined what was clearly a coordinated attack, sending more rounds into the grouped-up men. Bullet fragments even struck Sheridan’s body armor.
Sheridan decided that Afghan National Police officer or not, anyone who fired on him from within hand grenade range was conducting a near ambush and it was time to respond with force. He sprinted 25 feet to the truck and fired at his attacker up close and personal.
Once the on-base shooter was down, Sheridan ran back into the kill zone where the machine gun and AK fire from outside the base was still coming in. He grabbed the wounded and carried them to cover and medical aid.
As medics worked to save the wounded, Sheridan called in MEDEVAC flights for the 25 men hit in the fight — an airlift that required six helicopter flights. Twenty-three of them would survive the battle.
While the MEDEVACs were coming in and out, Sheridan assisted with carrying litters and called in strikes on the insurgent forces still attacking the base. The close air support broke up the enemy’s attacks and killed four of the militants.
The Russian pipe-laying vessel Akademik Cherskiy at anchor in northern Germany on May 10.
WASHINGTON — The United States has threatened to sanction any individual or company helping Russia build a controversial natural gas pipeline to Germany as the Kremlin moves to complete the last kilometers of the nearly $11 billion project.
“Get out now — or risk the consequences,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said July 15 during a press conference in Washington announcing the new sanction guidelines for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
The State Department essentially removed language that excluded the pipeline from the powerful Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which was passed in 2017.
Unable to use CAATSA, the United States in December passed legislation to sanction any vessel laying underwater pipes for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, forcing Swiss-based Allseas to quit the project with just about 160 kilometers remaining.
The pipeline, which consists of two parallel lines running under the Baltic Sea, is a combined 1,230 kilometers in length.
Russia is now trying to use its own vessels to finish Nord Stream 2 after receiving permission from Denmark earlier this month. The unfinished portion of the pipeline lies in Denmark’s economic waters.
However, the Russian ship would still need to use the services of Western companies, such as port facilities and insurance, giving the United States the potential to hamper their efforts.
CAATSA allowed Congress to sanction Russian energy export pipelines but contained guidance put in by Pompeo’s predecessor, Rex Tillerson, that grandfathered in Nord Stream 2 and the second leg of TurkStream, which runs under the Black Sea to Turkey.
Pompeo said the State Department is updating the public guidance for CAATSA authorities to include the two Russian-led projects, which he described as “Kremlin tools” to expand European dependence on Russian energy supplies and undermine Ukraine.
Pompeo is set to visit Denmark on July 22 to discuss the pipeline, among other issues.
Nord Stream 2 would pump up to 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Germany annually upon its completion, doubling the European nation’s import of Russian gas.
The project enables Moscow to significantly reduce natural gas shipments through Ukraine, which currently earns billions of dollars annually in transit fees.
“They are winding up and laying the ground for the imposition of additional sanctions if Russia attempts to deploy its pipe-laying vessels,” said Dan Vajdic, an adviser to Ukraine’s state-owned energy firm Naftogaz, which lobbied Washington to impose more sanctions.
The United States is seeking to export more natural gas to Europe while helping Eastern and Central Europe develop the necessary infrastructure to reduce their dependence on Russian oil and gas.
Congress last year approved up to id=”listicle-2646417365″ billion in financing for energy infrastructure projects in the region.
James Carafano, a national security and foreign policy fellow at The Heritage Foundation, told a congressional hearing on July 14 that the completion of Nord Stream 2 would destroy the economic rationale for such U.S.-backed projects.
The State Department has denied that the threat of new sanctions against Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream are designed to help U.S. exporters of natural gas.
The State Department has denied that the threat of new sanctions against Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream are designed to help U.S. exporters of natural gas.
Nonetheless, State Department Spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told RFE/RL in an interview that Russia and Gazprom are in a “difficult position” to be able to finish Nord Stream 2.
“Companies basically have to choose – you can do business with the Russians and Gazprom or you can do business with the United States. We think that companies will make the decision that it is more lucrative to do business with the United States,” she said.
Senator Ted Cruz (Republican-Texas) urged Congress to give the White House more firepower to stop Nord Stream 2 by passing legislation that would impose more sanctions on the pipeline, including on insurance and certification companies.
“The Kremlin will no doubt continue its frantic efforts to circumvent American sanctions, and so it is imperative that Congress provide the administration the broadest possible authorities to counter these ever-changing attempts at evasion,” he said in a statement.
Cruz’s home state of Texas is the largest producer of natural gas in the United States and a key energy exporter.
Hollywood has the ability to spark every veteran’s imagination and when the big screen explores what future militaries may become, it’s enough to make even the most content retiree dream of taking the oath all over again.
Let’s explore the fantastic armies any veteran would love to be a part of.
When Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, Ukraine’s navy lost nearly all of its ships and most of its sailors quit or defected. Now, with help from its allies, Ukraine is slowly getting its sea legs back. This is the story of those who remained loyal to Ukraine and were forced to choose between family and country when they left Crimea. But, as they rebuild their lives and their nation’s fleet, rough waters lie ahead with Russia flexing its maritime muscle on the Black Sea.
Toiling away deep in the U.S. Army’s research and development arm of the Special Operations Command are the scientists crafting the Tactical Assault Light Operations Suit. It looks slick. It looks awesome. It looks like it’s going to change the battlefield in a big way.
The only problem with it is that when military journalists cover it, they see how it looks and immediately attribute it to some sci-fi universe by saying something like, “it’s a real-life Iron Man suit!” So, let’s take a closer look and determine where, exactly, within the broad horizon of nerdom this high-tech exo-suit belongs.
We weren’t exaggerating: Right off the bat, a comparison to Iron Man’s suit is invariably struck by nearlyeverysinglenewsoutlet. To a degree, we can see why. The suit, officials have said, will be considered complete when it’s functional, bullet-proof, and weaponized.
Even Jim Geurtz of SOCOM jokingly told NPR that it’s “not at the Iron Man-flying-suit, you know, flying-at-50,000-feet level.” Since he’s developing the suit, he gets a pass on calling it an Iron Man suit — but a more apt comparison is a War Machine suit. Since the suit is not going to be powered by a nuclear fission reactor and fire lasers, it’s a better match with War Machine’s kinetic arsenal.
(Punisher Vol 1. #218)
Though there’s no proof, we’re pretty sure the name TALOS is a backronym designed to share a name with the ancient Greek legend. In mythology, Talos is a bronze automaton said to have protected Crete from pirates and scoundrels (and is the God of Man in the Elder Scrolls universe, but that’s fantasy and not sci-fi). Coincidentally, Talos’ mythological job would fit it perfectly within the Boba Fett-inspired H&K AR500 suit. Looking at their helmet design, it’s obvious that they know full-well who they want it to look like.
A comparison that the TALOS suit doesn’t get often enough is to the armor of Halo’s Space Marines. The design is strikingly similar to the armor worn by non-player characters in the series.
The suit was also once projected to be able to relay vital information to the wearer via a heads-up display. Command information could also be relayed to the user through their fancy set of glasses. The early designs weren’t too far off from the in-game version, but that was also back when they thought Google Glass was going to change the battlefield…
Black Rifle Coffee Company’s Richard Ryan, who you may know from the popular YouTube channel FullMag, got the chance to fulfill a dream he’s had for over a decade: mounting an M61 Vulcan cannon to the top of a Toyota Prius.
Everyone knows what a Prius is, but the uninitiated may not be familiar with the beastly, Gatling-style M61 Vulcan. The Federation of American Scientists defines the M61 Vulcan as “a hydraulically driven, 6 barreled, rotary action, air cooled, electrically fired weapon, with selectable rates of fire of either 4000 or 6000 rounds per minute.” With that kind of incredible firepower, this angel of death has graced a variety of U.S. jet fighters since the 1950s, as well as the AC-130 gunship — it even felled 39 Soviet-made MiG’s during the Vietnam War.
To pull off this ridiculously awesome feat, Ryan partnered with companies like Hamilton Sons, known for their involvement in restorations of large weapons and historical recreations, and Battlefield Vegas, which acquires rare equipment for the everyday bro or broette to use. Between Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) licenses and the actual manufacturing and acquiring of weapons, the logistics for a video of this scale is neither inexpensive nor easy, so great sponsors were key.
With all that hard work in the rear view, Ryan took some time to explain to Coffee, or Die Magazine exactly how his grand plan came to fruition:
Step 1: Watch “Predator” a lot as a kid and develop a deep appreciation for Jesse Ventura’s Old Painless minigun; fire an even bigger minigun as an adult and find it still isn’t satisfying enough.
Predator (1987) – Old Painless Is Waiting Scene (1/5) | Movieclips
Step 2: Get tricked by clickbait YouTube videos that claim to have close-up or slo-mo footage of an M61 Vulcan but don’t. Vow to make your own video someday because fuck those posers!
Step 3: Drink a cup of strong coffee and devise an absurd plan — like mounting a Vulcan to a milquetoast hybrid vehicle instead of a fighter jet or tank (boring!). “I wanted that counterculture of the Prius. Mounting it to one of those would be epic.”
(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company)
Step 4: Wait. Drink coffee. Wait some more. For eons. Due to the National Firearms Act, machine guns manufactured before 1986 are extraordinarily expensive, and something as rare as a Vulcan cannon is essentially priceless.
Step 5: Six years later, become friends with awesome people, the kind of people who can get their hands on a Vulcan stripped off a demilitarized F-16. Thanks, Battlefield Vegas!
(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company)
Step 6: Bring all the pieces together to modify the gun and the car. Replace the gun’s hydraulic-fed system with an electrical-fed system, as well as electrical primers and new motors. At the same time, strip the entire interior of the car to handle the amount of kinetic energy put out by the weapon: new floor pan, roll cage, and mounting system for the roof, accidentally making the first Prius that someone might actually call “bad ass” in the process.
Step 7: Make sure you’re dressed appropriately for the job.
(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company)
Step 8: Get a quote from General Dynamics for the ammunition. It costs per round, meaning the gun will blow through 0,000 for one minute of sustained fire. Have small heart attack. Drink more coffee.
Step 9: Test everything. Go through six months of meticulous steps, not knowing if everything is going to work. “We were tiptoeing through, shooting five rounds here, three rounds there.”
(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company)
Step 10: Completely blow out the windshield due to overpressure. #mybad
Step 11: “Borrow” about 15 feet of leftover gym flooring from Mat Best’s new gym to roll up and put under the gun so you don’t blow out the windshield again. “I don’t want to Mad Max the vehicle; I want it to be street legal because I think that’s funnier.”
(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company)
Step 11.5: Take time to think about how awesome it is that it’s even possible for a Vulcan-mounted Prius to be street legal.
Step 12: Wait for monsoon season so that you don’t contribute to any forest fires.
Step 13: Look the happiest anyone has ever looked driving a Prius.
(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company)
Step 14: Finally achieve your dream of showing those YouTube weaponry rickrollers that anything can be done with a good cup of coffee and a can-do attitude.
(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company)
Step 15: Share. Let everyone who worked on the project have a turn to shoot because you’re a generous gun god — but also because part of you feels safer standing at a distance.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has ordered the military to put an end to paid service activities once and for all and focus on combat readiness as the commander-in-chief attempts to build a world-class fighting force by mid-century.
In an effort to fulfill a pledge first made three years ago, Xi instructed the armed services on July 31, 2018, to halt all commercial activities, such as “kindergarten education, publishing services, and real estate rentals,” before the year’s end, Bloomberg News reported on Aug. 1, 2018, citing China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency.
Xi called for the cessation of practices that have led troops and officers to become “mercenaries for hire,” the Asia Times reported , citing the PLA Daily, the main newspaper of the Chinese armed services. He reportedly stressed that the move is intended to improve the military by allowing it to “focus on its main mission of battle readiness” through concentrated efforts to strengthen war preparation and fighting ability.
Short on funds, the Chinese military began engaging in commercial activities after the reform and opening up period in the 1970s, but such activities were, with certain exceptions, prohibited by 1998. The Chinese president’s new directive “allows no exception, discount or makeshift compromise,” Xinhua explained, noting that the aim is to purify the military and reduce corruption by eliminating commercial perks and moonlighting opportunities for members of the armed services.
Chinese President Xi Jinping
(Photo by Michel Temer)
“Paid services can sometimes encourage corruption and the military should focus on national defense,” National Defense University professor Gong Fangbin told the Chinese state-affiliated outlet Global Times in March 2016 when Xi first announced plans to eliminate the military’s paid services activities. At that time, he argued that ending paid services would enhance “the military’s combat capability.”
The Chinese military had put an end to 106,000 paid service programs by June 30, 2018, according to the China Daily.
The Chinese president’s announcement on July 31, 2018, came on the eve of China’s Army Day celebrations, when the Chinese People’s Liberation Army turned 91.
Xi, as the leader of China and head of the Communist Party of China’s Central Military Commission, stressed his goal of building a world-class military that can win wars in any theater of combat by 2050 in his speech before the 19th Communist Party Congress in October 2017, stating, “China’s dream of a strong national army will be realized” with mechanization completed by 2020 and modernization finished by 2035.
While the Chinese military has grown stronger, especially with the development of new military technologies and systems, expert observers like Adam Ni, a visiting fellow at the Strategic and Defense Studies Center at Australian National University, argue that China’s military continues to struggle to overcome certain lingering problems, including a lack of combat experience, extensive corruption, limited discipline, and nascent power projection capabilities.
Other countries, the US in particular, are watching carefully as China strives to bolster its national military power. “Great power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary focus of US national security,” Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis stated when the 2018 National Defense Strategy was released, highlighting the threat posed by “revisionist” powers like China and Russia.
Prior to his departure as head of what is now Indo-Pacific Command, then-Adm. Harry Harris reiterated that China is the greatest challenge facing the US. “China remains our biggest long-term challenge. Without focused involvement and engagement by the United States and our allies and partners, China will realize its dream of hegemony in Asia,” he said in May 2018.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Considered the deadliest sniper of all time, Simo Hayha joined Finland’s Civil Guard at the age of 17 and quickly established himself as an excellent marksman. It was here that he honed his skills with the Mosin-Nagant, developing a talent that the Soviets would soon come to fear.
Hayha regularly practiced his warfighting craft by accurately firing his bolt-action rifle 16 times per minute at a target 500-feet away — which is a challenging task.
In 1939, the Soviet Union invaded Finland in what would become known as the “Winter War,” or the Russo-Finnish War.
Although the Finns were highly outnumbered, they had the home-field advantage and turned to guerrilla-style fighting to defend their territory from the encroaching Red Army.
In the beginning, Hayha found himself fighting against an enemy force of 4,000 with just 31 other men at his side.
On Dec. 31, 1939, Hayha scored 25 kill shots while dressed in all white to perfectly camouflage himself among the snow-covered terrain. The talented marksman would stalk his targets in freezing temperatures for several hours. Using the surrounding snow, Hayha packed himself deep within the frozen ground to decrease his chances of being noticed.
Hayha preferred using iron sights instead of optic scopes as other snipers had grown to favor. Although it was harder to get a fix on a target, using iron sights helped him avoid detection from light reflected off the scope.
As Hayha tallied up his kills, he was given a nickname that would write him into the history books — “The White Death.”
He tallied 505 kills, the highest count from any significant war. All of the kills were accomplished in fewer than 100 days — meaning he averaging over five per day. Hayha ended up getting wounded in the war; shot by an explosive bullet which nearly took off his lower left jaw.
He survived the wound and continued to live a long life. Hayha passed away in a veteran’s nursing home in 2002 at the age of 96.
Check out Simple History’s video below to learn more about this talented sniper’s record-setting life.
In thinking about who to select as the Navy’s next generation of senior leadership, the Nation should be fully engaged, particularly with the increasing potential of war at sea against a peer competitor. The Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), Admiral John M. Richardson, who wrote an article for Proceedings Magazine in June 2016 entitled, “Read, Write, Fight,” understands this. So too does Admiral Scott H. Swift, former Commander, Pacific Fleet, who suggested a way to better prepare for a fight in his March 2018 Proceedings piece, “Fleet Problems Offer Opportunities.” Given the possibility of high-end warfare facing the nation now for the first time since the end of the Cold War, picking the right leaders will be key. The question is: Is the right leadership being picked today? Is there a different, better way to consider who will lead the Navy in war?
Since 1974, every Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) has come to the office with the following credentials: command of a carrier strike group (CSG); command of a fleet, and; an operational, four-star command, either Pacific Fleet (PACFLT), Atlantic Fleet/U.S. Fleet Forces Command (LANTFLT/FFC) or Naval Forces, Europe (NAVEUR). The one exception to this formula is that submariners do not command CSGs: Instead, they command submarine groups at the one-star level.
In the last 44 years, there have been only three anomalies: Admiral Jeremy M. Boorda, the 25th CNO never commanded a fleet. Then, in 1996, Admiral Jay L. Johnson, the Vice Chief of Naval Operations (VCNO) who had been scheduled to command Naval Forces, Europe, instead became the 26th CNO when Admiral Boorda took his own life. The current CNO, Admiral Richardson, is the third anomaly in that he has neither commanded a fleet nor had an operational four-star command.
Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Richardson.
Not surprisingly, there are considered reasons in this successive, operational flag, command rule: First, the Navy exists to support the operational element of the fleet – the so-called, “pointy end of the stick.” It is believed that the leader of an organization whose mission is to “conduct prompt and sustained combat operations at sea,” should be a person who is closely acquainted with firing shots in anger, from ensign to four stars. Second, perhaps of even greater import, the CNO sits in the “tank,” with the other Joint Chiefs. It is imperative that he or she knows the score out in the various combatant commands, and this requires genuine joint expertise attained at a high level. This sort of experience comes in places such as the forward fleets, and especially to those who command PACFLT, NAVEUR, or FFC.
This is not to say that the formula works perfectly. By the turn of the century, Surface Warfare Officers dominated a majority of significant leadership positions in the Navy, and held the office of the CNO, without pause, between 2000 and 2011. It was also this generation of leaders which presided over the diminution of the entire surface community. Still, this may all say more about either the struggle against increasing budget restrictions or a misplaced spirit of selflessness on the part of these CNOs than it does about a faulty selection approach. Nor is this to say that those who were anomalous did not perform admirably as CNO. That is for others to decide, in time.
Either way, the questions are these: How does an officer arrive at the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations in the first place? What are the implications which arise when there are sustained and dramatic perturbations at the flag-level? And finally, what does (or should) the future hold in preparing the Navy to face a new era of potential conflict at sea?
A process defined
Sustained superior performance is essential, but beyond that, a careful choreography occurs in every community beginning at first command if not before. Selection to flag is seldom, if ever, accidental or unanticipated. This management becomes even more meticulous once flag officers are selected. At that point, there is a determination made as to who will be groomed for the three and four-star levels, and who will serve in other, still important flag positions. To effectively regulate this complex daisy-chain, a detailed, long-term, name-to-job interaction occurs between all of the warfare communities and the Navy’s (and ultimately government’s) top leadership.
There are really only a few, key, operational flag positions available, and they are earmarked for those bound for the top. This is important as the timing and positioning associated with getting the right officers through those wickets is not a matter of chance. Here is one example: In the surface community, presume that eight officers make flag each year. Of these eight, only four will go on to command a CSG. Of those four, only two will deploy. These deployers are those who have been selected for upward movement, and this is easily observed in a historical review of those who rose higher. Likewise, while there are any number of important three-star commands, they are in not all equal regarding carrying an officer to the office of the CNO.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG 80) left,the guided missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) transit the Atlantic Ocean.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Barnes)
Moreover, it is necessary to mention the one outlier in this job pecking order; Chief of Naval Personnel (CNP). A remarkable number of four-star admirals, some of whom achieved senior operational command, have passed through the CNP’s office, including Admirals Leon A. Edney, Ronald J. Zlatoper, John C. Harvey, Mark E. Ferguson III, and former CNOs Jeremy Boorda and James D. Watkins. Evidently, excelling in this position imparts a unique cachet, though it is neither joint nor operational.
The point here is that delicate timing and positioning are required to marshal those deemed to be most deserving to the top. Though off and on-ramps may be built into the process to allow for surprises and opportunities, the whole process is quite fragile. In recent years, this fragility has been demonstrated through two events; The “Fat Leonard” scandal, and the aftermath of the two warship collisions in Seventh Fleet.
Gutting the operational side in the Pacific
As every sailor knows, there are two sides to any chain-of-command – operational and administrative. The administrative side of the equation is responsible for the manning, training and equipping of units provided to the operational side of the chain. The operational side employs these “all-up rounds” in carrying out the nation’s business at sea.
Following the collisions in Seventh Fleet in the summer of 2017, justice was meted out on behalf of the Navy, through the agency of a Consolidated Disposition Authority (CDA), Admiral James F. Caldwell Jr, Chief of Naval Reactors, appointed by the CNO, Admiral Richardson. Ultimately in this effort, the entire operational chain-of-command in the Pacific, from the ships’ officers of the deck, to CIC watch officers, to the command master chiefs, to the executive officers, to the commanding officers, and then up through their destroyer squadron commander, task force commander, fleet commander and all the way to the Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, was implicated and then either actually or effectively fired. It was a scorched earth approach never before seen in the Navy, and it appeared to be aimed at not only justice but at sending a message to the American people.
Though the punishment handed out to Commander, Naval Surface Forces (CNSF), Vice Admiral Thomas Rowden may seem to have been appropriate, particularly in view of the fact that he was the responsible administrative agent charged to provide fully ready ships to the operational commanders, the fact is that he was only a small part of the responsible administrative chain-of-command. Actually, CNSF relied on a universe of other administrative commands to carry out its mission effectively. For example, the Chief of Naval Personnel (CNP) was responsible for providing schools and personnel (both of which were in demonstrated to be in short supply), and the Office of the CNO was responsible for the provision of funding. U.S. Fleet Forces Command was the “parent” command of CNSF, just as Pacific Fleet was the parent of Seventh Fleet. So, while it may have been desirable, for whatever reason, to create a firewall between the operational commands and those administrative commands responsible for providing the necessary wherewithal to the fleet, it also meant that significant responsibility was evaded by nearly half the chain-of-command, top-to-bottom.
The long reach of Fat Leonard
A crisis was created when Admiral Scott H. Swift, then Commander, Pacific Fleet, was implicated in the Seventh Fleet collisions. Admiral Swift had long been expected to become the next Commander, Indo-Pacific Command, and his removal from the field meant that the Navy was in danger of losing control of its most historic and treasured combatant command to the Air Force. The solution hit upon was to send Admiral Phil Davidson, Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces, to command the U.S. Pacific Command. Not only was Admiral Davidson one of the few viable candidates with sufficient credential and seniority, but he was arriving fresh from completion of the Comprehensive Review (CR) of the collisions, and was unsullied by that disaster. Though that may have been good news regarding saving Pacific Command for the Navy, Admiral Davidson’s last and only tour in the Pacific was a single one as a commander, serving as a staff officer at Pacific Fleet headquarters. Whether a conscious part of the decision or not, his lack of Pacific-experience meant that he was beyond the potential taint of Fat Leonard.
Admiral Phil Davidson.
Numerically speaking, only a few flag officers have been caught in the Fat Leonard scandal. Nevertheless, there have been many more who were frozen in place while the investigation continued. This “freezing” caused some of these officers to miss their planned wickets, resulting in an extraordinary upset in the carefully mapped-out flag progression. As for the collision aftermath, it is impossible to know the exact impacts of those events on the “daisy-chain.” Certainly, the loss of ADM Swift and the shifting of ADM Davidson are significant.
Regardless, all of this begs the question of who may be the next CNO? Watchers had long considered Admiral Davidson to be a leading candidate for the position, and his shift to INDO/PACOM has stirred debate regarding who might be a viable relief for Admiral Richardson.
Based on the historical template, the next CNO likely will be one of the following:
Commander, U.S Pacific Fleet: Admiral John G. Aquilino
Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces: Admiral Christopher W. Grady
Commander, U.S Naval Forces, Europe: Admiral James G. Foggo III
Vice Chief of Naval Operations: Admiral William F. Moran
Each of these officers has all of the historical credentials of operational command and joint experience at the highest level, with the exception of Admiral Moran. However, Admiral Moran merits inclusion in that he would not be the first former Chief of Naval Personnel to become the CNO, though he has not had either fleet nor four-star operational command. Moreover, the current CNO, Admiral Richardson likewise arrived at the job with credentials other than the classic operational command/joint ones which have been common. In other words, a new template may have been set.
Reset the grid for war
If the Nation is moving from a “Profound Peace” into a period of “Great-Power Competition,” then every effort must be bent to ensure that America is fully preparing to meet what may well be an existential challenge. If, as suggested by Captain Dale Rielage, in his May, 2018, USNI General Prize-winning essay, “How We Lost the Great Pacific War,” the United States were to be defeated in a conflict with China – a conflict which would most certainly be primarily a fight at sea – the United States would, for the first time since World War II lose primary control of the sea lines of communication, in the vital Pacific. China would assume dominance of at least Asia and become a prime hegemon all the way to the Arabian Gulf.
In thinking about who the Nation selects for our Navy’s senior leader, it is understood that he or she must be fully and unselfishly engaged in preparing the Fleet for war at sea against peer competitors. What are the characteristics and experiences of peace-time Navy leaders (beyond the aforementioned operational positions)? Are these characteristics the same as those which might be sought leading into a major conflict? History suggests that they are different. One needs only consider the last, great war-at-sea. Many of the Navy’s leaders at the start of World War II were cast aside in favor of those who could bring fire to the enemy. For many of those officers, including Admirals Earnest King, Chester Nimitz, and William Halsey, it is fair to say that they might never have arrived at flag rank based were they measured against today’s standards. To win that war no one cared who was charming or polished or politically astute or properly connected. The question had nothing to do with who had attained a “zero-defects” record. It had everything to do with who could and would defeat the enemy.
More recently, there have been other “reaches” undertaken to identify the right person for the job. In 1955, President Dwight D. Eisenhower reached deep to select Admiral Arleigh Burke as the 15th CNO. At the time of his appointment, Burke was still a rear admiral (two-star). He was promoted two grades and over the heads of many flags of far greater seniority. In 1970, President Richard M. Nixon selected Admiral Elmo Zumwalt as the 19th CNO for very specific reasons and aims, despite his lack of “traditional” credentials.
Today, more than ever, modern war is a “come-as-you-are” affair. There will be no slow, years-long buildup allowed. Economies and modern weapon systems suggest that a real fight will ramp up to criticality almost immediately and that wide-spread, cannot-be-quickly-replaced/repaired damage will be done to the fleets in a matter of months, if not weeks. In other words, what the Navy has, regarding leadership and wherewithal, on day one, is the best that it may have throughout the conflict. The point is this: The right leadership needs to be found and selected, now.
Prove your readiness
Cast a wide net, and seek leaders who are determined to resist the self-interested pressures of outside agencies, prioritizing lethality in the Navy above whatever else may be prized. Who in today’s ranks is best equipped to lead the Navy in waging a high-end war?
An answer may lie in Admiral Swift’s March 2018 piece, “Fleet Problems Offer Opportunities.” Deeper opportunities may be offered to the Navy in this Fleet Problem concept. If, as he suggests in his piece, the new Fleet Problem is designed to do more than check a box, before the deployment of carrier strike groups…if Pacific Fleet is determined to truly test leadership in simulations which approach the real world…if officers will be challenged to do more than just go through the motions…if failure is an option, is this not a chance to really put officers, at a variety of levels, to the real test?
Ships from Carrier Strike Group 8 in the Atlantic Ocean.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Julia A. Casper)
And this test need not only apply to strike group commanders, and their respective warfare commanders. A variety of officers, all at different places in their careers, can be tested in this crucible. Is there any reason that an upward-bound submariner could not take command of the Maritime Operations Center (MOC) for the duration of the game? Stand up an exercise Joint Forces Maritime Component Commander (JFMCC). Stand up an exercise Joint Forces Command. Is there any reason for an officer under consideration for fleet command could not play fleet commander during the game?
Admiral Swift offers a key point in all of this: “We have to guard against the natural byproduct of this training reality, which is an aversion to the risk of failure that is associated with learning at the leading edge of knowledge. We had to convey to the operational leaders that failure during the Fleet Problem was not just tolerated but expected. Without pushing our operational art to the point of failure, learning would be subdued and subtle, not stark and compelling. High-velocity learning happens at the leading edge of knowledge, not at its core, and certainly not at its trailing edge.”
Learning yes, but also testing. Officers at every level can be regularly assigned to the game, and throughout their careers, to test whether they possess skills beyond administrative? The Navy needs lions for leadership in war. The Navy also needs able administrators. Certainly, there are officers in the ranks who are both.
The Navy regularly pulls officers out of their employment to serve in a wide variety of boards. Is there any reason to think that this proposal would not be infinitely more valuable to the service, both in developing the entire officer corps for real, war-time thinking at the operational and strategic level? Let officers merit their promotion beyond unit-level by demonstrating the skill necessary to fully grasp that which is imperative in fighting a war…and that which is chaff.
The next CNO has, in all likelihood already been selected. The process of selection and vetting in long and complex and it is unrealistic to think that ADM Richardson approaches the end of his tenure without a relief already having been selected. The question is, and should be, this: Is the next CNO equipped to lead in war-time?
Art comes in all forms. You can look at a Rembrandt painting and say his mastery of shadows was the antithesis of the Baroque movement that characterized much of 17th-century Europe. You might scoff at a contemporary art piece that, to you, looks like a coffee spill on some printer paper but, according to the artist, “like, totally captures the spirit of America and stuff.”
While we can all objectively say that the coffee-stained paper isn’t going to be studied by scholars hundreds of years from now, both of these examples are, technically, art. That’s because art isn’t defined by its quality but rather by the expression of the artist. To quote the American poet Muriel Rukeyser,
“a work of art is one through which the consciousness of the artist is able to give its emotion to anyone who is prepared to receive them. There is no such thing as bad art.”
In some senses, Leonardo da Vinci’s anatomically correct Vitruvian Man and that giant wang that some infantryman drew in the porta-john in Iraq are more similar than you realize. Not only is a penis central to content of both works — both also fall in line with a given art movement.
(Leonardo da Vinci, ‘L’Uomo Vitruviano,’ drawing, 1490)
Art movements generally follow a few guidelines — and “grunt graffiti” fits within those. The artists (troops) share a similar ideal (discontent with a deployed environment) and employ the same style (crude and hastily drawn) with the same technical approach (permanent markers on walls) to create art within the same time frame in a similar location (Global War on Terrorism).
The general public mislabels the simplicity and minimalism of grunt graffiti as being “unengaging.” But Pablo Picasso is also often placed in this category, too, despite his skill. In December 1945, he created a series of 11 lithographs that began with several masterful sketches of a bull. The lithographs, in sequence, became increasingly abstract while still preserving the “spirit” of the bull — a slap in the face to those who confuse proficiency and artistry.
(Pablo Picasso, ‘The Bull’, lithographs, 1945)
Grunt graffiti is so entwined with military culture that you can find it in almost any stall. Some are elaborately crafted and some are simple doodles. Some are drawn out of boredom and some are made to tell the unit how that troop feels.
Granted, “grunt graffiti” is, more often than not, some kinda crudely drawn dick. Now, we know that nobody is actually going to examine these porta-john decorations closely (unless it’s to punish the artist for vandalism), but we maintain that if a canvas painted white (known to some as “monochromatic art“) can sell for $20 million at auction, then recreating the frescos that adorn the Sistine Chapel (with all prominent themes replaced, primarily, with dicks) should at least get a little respect.
(Maximilian Uriate, ‘Sh*tter Graffiti is an Art… of Dicks III’, Comic, 2014)
Iranian state TV cited a report by the Associated Press (AP) claiming that 100 bodies were found at the site of a US military plane crash in Afghanistan, but the news agency says this report doesn’t exist.
The Islamic Republic of Iran News Network (IRINN), which is part of the state-run Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, reported Tuesday, according to BBC Monitoring: “US authorities have not yet released official casualty figures but the Associated Press, quoting local officials in Ghazni Province in Afghanistan, has announced that nearly 100 corpses have been found at the crash site.”
The AP has published reports on the disaster, but none of them have contained the 100-bodies figure. The AP told Business Insider it did not report this.
Neither officials in the US nor in Ghazni, the Taliban-held province where the crash took place, have given a death toll so far.
US officials on Tuesday recovered the remains and are confirming the identities of people involved in the crash, Reuters reported. The officials did not give a number.
The plane, a US Air Force Bombardier E-11A, is widely believed to have been carrying no more than six people at the time of the crash. New York Times correspondent Mujib Mashal said on Tuesday that the most widely-cited figure is two.
Ghazni provincial police chief Khalid Wardak told Reuters on Tuesday “there are four bodies and two onboard were alive and they are missing,” but said Taliban fighters repelled Afghanistan’s attempt to access the crash site.
Iran’s state-run Channel One network also peddled a theory that a senior CIA official named Michael D’Andrea had been on the plane.