Managing an infantry squad is similar to a sports coach shifting players around to positions that best fit their strengths and talents. Since Marines aren’t created equal, capitalizing on those strengths and building up weakness is why the U.S. military is such a juggernaut today.
On special occasions, a Marine infantry squad patrol is comprised of a platoon leader (if he decides to go), a squad leader, three fire team leaders, three SAW gunners, and six riflemen.
This all, of course, depends on how your squad is made up — we’re even going to throw in a Company Gunny for sh*ts and giggles.
The US-led international coalition said the Syrian Democratic Forces militia launched a ground offensive to capture the Islamic State’s stronghold of Raqqa, the US military said.
The SDF’s offensive began on June 6th after efforts to capture the city’s surrounding territory began in November.
The US-led anti-Islamic State international coalition called the Combined Joint Task Force: Operation Inherent Resolve said the SDF has been “rapidly tightening the noose around the city since their daring air assault behind enemy lines in coalition aircraft in March to begin the seizure of Tabqah.”
US Army Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commanding general of the coalition, said the fight for Raqqa will be long and difficult, but victory will deliver a decisive blow to the idea of the Islamic State as a physical, ruling entity.
The offensive in Raqqa comes as Iraqi security forces near victory in west Mosul, though progress has been slow in the densely populated areas of Iraq’s second-largest city. The SDF’s assault also follows the attacks in London and Manchester for which theIslamic State, also known as ISIL, Daesh, and ISIS, took credit.
“It’s hard to convince new recruits that ISIS is a winning cause when they just lost their twin ‘capitals’ in both Iraq and Syria,” Townsend said in a statement. “We all saw the heinous attack in Manchester, England. ISIS threatens all of our nations, not just Iraq andSyria, but in our own homelands as well. This cannot stand.”
The SDF has called on Raqqa residents to evacuate so they do not become trapped, are not killed by Islamic State snipers and are not used as human shields
The US-led coalition supports the SDF by providing equipment, training, intelligence and logistics support, airstrikes and battlefield advice.
Do you have that buddy who scratches messages into his M4 rounds? Or maybe you’re the sailor who Sharpies “This one’s for you” onto JDAMs destined for a flight over the Gulf. Regardless, it turns out that you’re part of a tradition that dates back to a few hundred years before Jesus.
Yeah, we’re all comedians.
(Air Force Master Sgt. Dave Nolan)
Writing messages on bombs, missiles, and other munitions is a common and long-standing tradition. After the 9/11 Attacks, messages of solidarity for New York and vengeance against al Qaeda and the Taliban started popping up on bombs headed for Afghanistan. Hussein and the Ba’ath party were favorite targets for graffiti over Iraq in the early 2000s.
More recently, bombs headed for Iraq and Syria have had messages for ISIS and Baghdadi, and messages supporting Paris were popular after the attacks in 2015.
Obviously, there’s about zero chance in Hell that anyone on the receiving end will actually read the messages. After all, the bomb casings will get obliterated when they go off. But it’s fun for the troops and lets them get a little steam out. Most service members will never fire a weapon, drop a bomb, or throw a grenade in anger.
(Imperial War Museum)
So it can sometimes be hard for support troops to connect their actions to dismantling ISIS, defeating Saddam, or destroying al Qaeda. It helps the ordnance crews reinforce their part of the mission, and they can imagine their Sharpie-soaked pieces of shrapnel shredding enemy fighters.
But this tradition really dates back. In World War II, British troops designated bombs to destroy the German battleship Tirpitz. And these Americans were hoping their bombs would be great party favors for the Third Reich.
Army Emergency Relief (AER) was formed in 1942 with the mission to alleviate financial stress on the force. Since they opened their doors they’ve given out $2 billion dollars in aid. They remain a part of the Army, and assistance is coordinated by mission and garrison commanders at Army bases throughout the world. With the continual threat of the coronavirus looming, AER is ready and not just to serve soldiers – but all branches of the military.
Lieutenant General Raymond Mason (ret.) has been the Director of AER since 2016 and feels passionate about his role at AER and what the organization can do for military families. He shared that the one thing that keeps him up at night is the soldier or military member that doesn’t know about AER.
“If a soldier, airman, sailor, marine or coast guardsman is distracted by something in their life…. like finances, they probably aren’t focused on their individual training. They aren’t focused on their unit mission and if we send them into a combat zone with those distractions they are a danger to themselves and their buddies on their left and right,” said Mason. That’s where AER comes in.
AER is a 501c3 non-profit and receives no federal funding; instead they rely on the generous donations of others to make their mission a reality. Mason also shared that AER has close relationships with all of the other services relief organizations, with them often working together to serve those in need. For example, a coastie can walk into an AER office on post and get the same help as a soldier, although the representative they work with has to follow the guidelines of their branch’s relief organization.
Their biggest concern right now is information. “I want to make sure everyone from private to general knows about our program,” said Mason. He touched on the new environment of social media and the exploding availability of aid to military families. While he shared that it can be a good thing that there are so many organizations devoted to supporting the military; there are also some really bad agencies out there. Mason shared that AER is working hard on more strategic communication and marketing of their relief program to prevent that.
“This isn’t a giveaway program, it’s a help up. You get back on your feet and get back in the fight,” said Mason. AER is also open to all ranks, knowing that anyone can need assistance at any time. They can walk into AER and know that they’ll have their back. AER maintains a 4 out of 4 star rating with Charity Navigator, shared Mason, and it’s something they are very proud of.
There are military members who are reluctant to request help through relief agencies out of fear of reprimand or negative impacts to their career. While AER encourages members to go to their chain of command with their needs, even granting approval for first sergeants to sign checks up to 00 – Mason understands it isn’t always easy. As long as they are outside of their initial trainings and have been serving over twelve months, they can go through direct access to get help without involving command.
As the military orders a stand down on travel due to the coronavirus, guard families are concerned. Many of them are unable to hold civilian jobs due to the frequent schools, trainings, TDYs and deployments. With orders being canceled or held, this means financial ruin could be just a paycheck away. AER will be there for those families and stands ready to serve them.
But all of this costs money, something that AER will always need to continue to support military members and their families. They are stepping up their donation requests by engaging with American citizens and corporations. “We’ve never done that throughout our history and we are doing it for the first time,” said Mason. He continued by sharing although they’ve received support from them in the past, they’ve never asked. Now they are asking.
AER just began its annual fundraising campaign, which kicked off on March 1 and will run through May 15, 2020. For the first time, they are really involving the bases and have turned it into a fun event that each group can make their own, Mason shared. There will be an awards ceremony later on in the year to celebrate those who went the extra mile.
He also shared that AER and most relief societies receive a very low percentage of donations that are actually received from active duty, which is concerning. Mason stated that it isn’t about the amount that they give, but that they do give. “Military members fight for each other. When in combat you fight for your buddy on your left or right. If you aren’t willing to reach in your back pocket to help your buddy on your left and right, we have a problem,” said Mason.
“Leave no comrade behind” is the army’s creed – it is a motto that all should take to heart, especially at home.
To learn more about AER and how you can help their mission, click here.
The C-47 fulfilled a number of roles in World War II and Korea. It was a supply plane, a plane for dropping paratroopers, and a tow for gliders.
But it was in the Vietnam War that the “Gooney Bird” would get its greatest mission — flying three 7.62mm miniguns through the night to devastate North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces.
The idea for a side-firing gunship had been floating around military circles since at least 1926. In fact, the technique had been tested successfully in 1927 when 1st Lt. Fred Nelson flew a DH-4 with a mounted .30-cal machine gun and destroyed a target on the ground.
But the Army Air Corps and the Army Air Forces never came around to the idea. It was 1963 before the idea of a side-firing aircraft got another serious test. A C-131B modified with gunsights and a minigun was successful in early tests and the experiment was repeated with a C-47.
The U.S. Air Force AC-47 Dragon aircraft flies missions over South Vietnam in support of allied outposts. (Photo: Public Domain)
The final combat variant of the AC-47 consisted of the cargo plane with three 7.62mm miniguns mounted on the left side — two in modified portholes near the cargo door and one in the cargo door itself. The triggers for the three guns were connected to a button in the pilot’s compartment.
If the threat was too large for the AC-47, the flares it dropped would light up the target for follow-on fighters. The AC-47 would stay in the area, directing the attacks by other aircraft.
The AC-47, dubbed “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” by an officer who saw it at work, was so effective that the Air Force launched Project Gunship II, the program which resulted in the AC-130 still in service today.
Though he was peppered by approximately 40 pieces of shrapnel in the blast, he noticed that a flare — activated by another crewmember just before the blast — was rolling around the cargo area.
The flare had yet to fully ignite, but it was only a matter of time before it would, possibly killing the crew on its own and almost certainly causing the cargo hold of ammunition to go off. Levitow crawled to the flare, held the burning implement against his already wounded body, and moved to the door with it.
He was able to throw it out just before the flare ignited.
When people think about the military, rigid discipline and hierarchy come to mind. One imagines a hard-nosed drill instructor barking orders at new recruits or a soldier saluting every time an officer is on deck. From a civilian point of view, it might feel difficult or even unfair. Discipline is very important for any army to function properly. It ensures the smooth transmission of orders and the swift implementation of these decisions.
However, sometimes, soldiers choose not to follow orders. In the heat of the actions, their evaluation of the situation is very different from that of their superior, and they decide to act according to their conscience rather than their orders. Thanks to their risky choice, some of these soldiers became heroes. They save lives, cities or the entire world. Here are the stories of 5 heroes who said no.
The Korean War claimed countless lives, including that of 34,000 Americans. On April 24, 1951, the U.S. Army received orders to retreat to the south, but a company of Rangers was trapped, unable to move from their position. Then-Lt. David Teich volunteered to stay behind and organize a daring extraction. His captain replied: “We’ve got orders to move out. Screw them. Let them fight their own battle.” But despite the threat of 300,000 Chinese soldiers fast approaching, Lt. Teich felt a “moral obligation” to try and help his fellow soldiers.
Ignoring the orders, he led four tanks northward. Army Ranger E.C. Rivera, the soldier who crawled up a napalm-fried hill to radio in about his company’s predicament, described these tanks as “the most beautiful sight of [his] life.” So many men boarded the tanks that the guns were no longer visible. Thanks to Lieutenant Teich’s disobedience, 65 lives were saved on that day. He continued his career to become a major, and survivors still call and write to him in thanks for his heroic actions.
On the evening of September 8, 2009, a joint American-Afghan mission to meet the elders of the village of Ganjgal was awry when the 40 men were ambushed by 150 heavily armed Taliban. Upon hearing the news on the radio, Cpl Dakota Meyer and his friend SSgt Juan Rodrigez-Chavez requested permission to go in to help their fellow soldiers, but they were denied four times. Eventually, they decided to ignore the orders. With Rodrigez-Chavez behind the wheel of a Humvee and Meyer manning the turret, they charged into the line of fire.
Over the course of six hours, they made five trips into the village, despite taking heavy fire. Alternating between shooting a defensive barrage of .50 ammo at the Taliban and loading the wounded into the humvee with one hand while firing his M4 with the other, Cpl Meyer, alongside the driver Rodrigez-Chavez, managed to save 36 out of the 40 men who were ambushed. Unfortunately, on their fifth trip, they discovered the bodies of four Marines who had already died in a ferocious last stand. They still managed to bring the bodies back so they could be properly honored. Cpl Meyer was awarded the Medal of Honor and the chance to down a cold one with President Obama for his heroic actions.
Due to his religious beliefs, Desmond Doss was a conscientious objector. He refused to bear arms or to kill an enemy. Despite these beliefs, he joined the U.S. Army in 1942, where he became a medic, and he was sent to the Pacific Theater with his platoon. In April 1945, in Okinawa, while attempting to occupy an escarpment known as Hacksaw Ridge, his battalion was taking artillery fire and 75 men were wounded in the attack. Corporal Doss refused to take cover alongside his fellow soldiers and went on to rescue all 75 of the wounded.
Crawling under heavy fire, he moved them one by one to a safe area where they could receive medical attention. In the following 22 days, he rescued many more men, exposing himself to danger without a second thought and placing their lives before his. He was eventually wounded by a grenade and by a sniper bullet. He always refused to carry any sort of weapon to defend himself. His actions earned him a well-deserved Medal of Honor after the war.
After the invasion of Normandy in June 1944, the Allies began to retake France from the Germans, bit by bit. Seeing the Allies approaching Paris, Hitler gave the general in command, Dietrich von Choltitz, the order to destroy all religious and historic monuments in Paris, leaving the French capital in ruins, if it ever was to fall to the Allies. According to the legend, the Fuhrer called von Choltitz, yelling “Is Paris burning?” The general had different ideas and refused to carry out the destructive order. According to him, “If for this first time I disobeyed, it was because I knew Hitler was crazy.” On the August 25, 1944, he surrendered the intact city to the Allies.
In 1983, the tensions between the USA and the USSR were high and the Cold War was colder than ever. The two powers were in possession of nuclear arsenals that could cause unimaginable damage all around the world if launched. They were only used as a dissuasion device, but the threat was on everybody’s mind. On the September 16, 1983, LtCol Stanislav Petrov was in charge of monitoring Oko, the USSR’s nuclear attack early-warning system. When one of the satellites announced that the USA had launched five ballistic missiles. Such an attack warranted immediate retaliation.
However, Petrov had “a funny feeling in [his] gut.” He reported the detection to his superiors, according to protocol, but as a false alarm. Had he reported it as an attack, the retaliation would have started a nuclear war. Such an event would have led to destruction on a planet-wide scale. By trusting his instinct rather than a faulty system or any anti-American feelings, Stanislav Petrov probably saved the world.
Featured photo: Sgt. (then Cpl.) Dakota Meyer while deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Ganjgal Village, Kunar province, Afghanistan. Meyer received the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor, from President Barack Obama making him the first living Marine recipient since the Vietnam War. Meyer was assigned to Embedded Training Team 2-8 advising the Afghan National Army in the eastern provinces bordering Pakistan. \
Just days after the attack on Fort Sumter in 1861, Peter Conover Hains graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. At a time when officers and cadets were deserting the U.S. military in favor of serving their home states, especially those who seceded from the Union, this Philadelphia native stayed put — and the U.S. Army would get their investment back in spades.
After 26 of his 57 classmates left to join the Confederacy, Hains became an artillery officer, firing off the first shot of the Battle of Bull Run. There, he fought bravely, even though the Union Army lost terribly. After as many as 30 smaller combat engagements, he eventually found himself in the Army Corps of Engineers and the United States would never be the same.
During the 1863 Siege of Vicksburg, the Union’s Chief Engineer fell ill and was unable to fulfill his duties. So, the responsibility shifted to then-lieutenant Hains. The engineering at Vicksburg would be crucial to the Union victory, so there could be no mistakes. The 12-mile ring of fortifications and entrenchments around the city kept the 33,000 Confederate defenders bottled up and isolated from the outside world. The surrender of Vicksburg, after a 40-days-long siege, along with the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg sounded the death knell for the Confederacy.
Grant promoted Hains to captain for his work.
In the postwar years, he was appointed Engineer Secretary of the U.S. Lighthouse Board and his constructions were so sound that many still stand to this day, undisturbed by rising sea levels or tropical storms. He also fixed the foul-smelling swamp that was Washington, D.C. by designing and constructing the Tidal Basin there, a sort of man-made reservoir that flushes out to the Washington Channel.
Still in the Army by the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898, he served as a brigadier general of volunteers, but no known record of deploying to fight exists. Before and after the Spanish-American War, Hains served on the Nicaragua Canal Commission and was responsible for successfully arguing that such a canal should be built in Panama.
He retired from the Army in 1904 — but the Army wasn’t done with him. World War I broke out for the United States and in September, 1917, Peter Conover Hains was recalled to active duty one last time. For a full year, he managed the structural defenses of Norfolk Harbor and was the district’s Chief Engineer. At age 76, he was the oldest officer in uniform.
His sons and their sons all continued Hains’ military tradition, attending West Point and serving on active duty. He, his sons, and his grandson are all interred in Arlington National Cemetery.
Many Russia-watchers are questioning or makinglight of the Foreign Ministry’s surprise appointment of Steven Seagal as a special envoy for humanitarian ties with the United States — but not the action-film actor himself.
“I take this honour very seriously,” Seagal tweeted late on Aug 5, a day after the Russian Foreign Ministry announced the appointment on Facebook.
Seagal, who has warm ties with President Vladimir Putin and was granted Russian citizenship in 2016, said he was “deeply humbled and honoured” by the appointment.
“I hope we can strive for peace, harmony, and positive results in the world,” Seagal wrote.
Seagal, 66, starred in Hollywood action movies such as Above The Law (1988), Hard To Kill (1990), and Under Siege (1992). His films were popular in the Soviet Union and then in Russia and other ex-Soviet republics.
Seagal has vehemently defended Putin’s policies, including Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula, along with criticizing the U.S. government.
Kyiv last year banned Seagal from entering Ukraine for five years, citing what it said were national security grounds.
The Russian Foreign Ministry statement said that Seagal’s task will be to “foster the further development of Russian-American relations in the humanitarian sphere, including interactions in… culture, the arts, public and youth exchanges, and so forth.”
The position is not paid and will be similar to the United Nations’ goodwill ambassador positions, the statement said.
After nearly two decades of counter-terror operations the world over, the United States military is now shifting its focus back toward great power competition with the likes of China and Russia. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the past two decades have left the U.S. military particularly well suited for the war at hand, but not very well positioned for the wars that are feasibly to come.
During this era of counter-terror operations, China has had the opportunity to seek higher degrees of technological and tactical parity, while having the benefit of not being actively engaged in expensive combat operations on the same scale. That has allowed China’s sea-faring power to grow at an exponential rate in recent years, with an active fleet of more than 770 vessels sailing under the banners of the People’s Liberation Army-Navy, their militarized Coast Guard, and a maritime miitia that takes its orders from the Chinese military as well.
Chinese Navy on parade (Chinese state television)
The addition of China’s massive ballistic missile stockpile, including hypersonic anti-ship platforms the U.S. Navy currently has no means to defend against, has further established China’s advantage in the Pacific. Even if the U.S. Navy leveraged every vessel in its 293-ship fleet, American forces would still be outnumbered by Chinese ships by more than two to one. Importantly, however, the United States likely couldn’t devote its entire fleet to any single conflict due to its global commitments to security and stability, especially regarding essential shipping lanes.
Today, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are both actively seeking ways to mitigate China’s numbers advantage, as well as the area-denial bubble created by China’s anti-ship platforms. Multiple possible solutions are being explored, ranging from hot-loading Marine Corps F-35Bs on austere airstrips on captured islands in the case of the Marines, to the Navy’s ongoing development of the MQ-25 aerial refueling drone that aims to extend the reach of America’s carrier-based fighters. Still, thus far, there has been no magic bullet. In fact, concerns about a near-peer conflict with China has even prompted several high-ranking defense officials to question the practicality of America’s fleet of super-carriers, both because of their immense cost, and because of the likelihood that they could be sunk by China’s hypersonic missiles long before they could get close enough to Chinese shores to begin launching sorties of F-35Cs and F/A-18 Super Hornets.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Mohamed Labanieh/Released)
The fundamental challenges a war with China would present are clear: Finding a way to mitigate the risks posed by advanced anti-ship missiles and offsetting the significant numbers advantage Chinese forces would have within the region. In the past, we’ve discussed the possibility of arming commercial cargo ships with modular weapons systems in a “missile barge” fleet as a means to bolster American numbers and capabilities. Another feasible option that could even work in conjunction with this strategy would be issuing “letters of marque” to private operations, effectively allowing non-military forces to serve as privateers for the U.S. government.
The Capture of a French Ship by Royal Family Privateers by Charles Brooking
American Privateers or Pirates?
The concept of issuing letters of marque to American privateers was recently discussed by retired Marine Colonel Mark Cancian and Brandon Schwartz in the U.S. Naval Institute’s publication, “Proceedings.” Although the idea seems almost ridiculous in the 21st Century, the legal framework outlined by Cancian and Schwartz is sound, and one could argue that their assertions about the viability and strategic value of privateer fleets are as well.
Cancian and Schwartz argue that privateering is not piracy, as there are laws governing it and precedent for the practice established in past U.S. conflicts, including the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.
“Privateering is not piracy—there are rules and commissions, called letters of marque, that governments issue to civilians, allowing them to capture or destroy enemy ships. The U.S. Constitution expressly grants Congress the power to issue them (Article I, section 8, clause 11).” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
However, despite their argument being technically right, it’s difficult to dismiss how the piracy narrative would almost certainly affect public perception of the use of privateers, and potentially even the conflict at large.
While the United States could argue that privateers operate with specifically outlined rules and commissions, even the American public would likely see American privateers as pirates. And because America has found itself trailing behind nations like China and Russia in terms of manipulating public narratives, that narrative could indeed hurt not only public support for the conflict; it could even jeopardize some international relationships.
The Pride of Baltimore, left, and the Lynx, two privateer vessels, reenact a battle of the War of 1812 in Boston Harbor during Boston Navy Week 2012. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elisandro T. Diaz/Released)
Privateers are not pirates in the literal sense only because a government is sanctioning their piracy. In the eyes of those who don’t recognize America’s authority to grant such permissions in far-flung waterways, the two terms would be interchangeable.
Regardless of vernacular, the United States has used this approach to great success in the past. Although the last time American privateers set sale was more than 200 years ago, their approach was modern enough to set precedent for a return to the concept.
“The privateering business was thoroughly modern and capitalistic, with ownership consortiums to split investment costs and profits or losses, and a group contract to incentivize the crew, who were paid only if their ship made profits. A sophisticated set of laws ensured that the capture was ‘good prize,’ and not fraud or robbery. After the courts determined that a merchant ship was a legitimate capture, auctioneers sold off her cargo of coffee, rum, wine, food, hardware, china, or similar consumer goods, which ultimately were bought and consumed by Americans.” -Frederick C. Leiner in “Yes, Privateers Mattered“
In the event of a large-scale conflict with a nation like China, that potential narrative blowback may be a necessary evil. However, the ramifications of that evil could be mitigated through a concerted narrative effort to frame privateer actions in the minds of the populous as an essential part of a broader war effort that has the American people’s best interests in mind.
In the War of 1812, privateering saw such public support (in large part thanks to the profits it drove) that some took to calling the conflict the “War of the People.” Managing the narrative surrounding American privateers could make the concept far more palatable to the American people.
As for the legal aspects of privateering, you can read a thorough legal justification for the practice in a separate piece written by Schwartz called “U.S. Privateering is legal.”
(Italian Center for International Studies)
The role of American privateers at war
China’s massive fleet of vessels in the Pacific can be broken down into their three command groups, all of which ultimately answer to China’s People’s Liberation Army. China’s maritime militia accounts for approximately 300 vessels, the militarized Coast Guard has 135 more, and the PLA-Navy itself boasts an ever-growing roster expected to reach 450 surface vessels by the end of the decade.
In the event of a war with China, the American Navy would have more than its hands full engaging with such a massive force, limiting its ability to cut China off from one of its most significant revenue sources, overseas trade. China’s reliance on shipping products to other nations has helped its economy grow rapidly, but it also represents a strategic disadvantage, as Cancian and Schwartz point out, if America can find the means to disrupt this exchange.
“Thirty-eight percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) comes from trade, against only 9 percent of U.S. GDP. Chinese social stability is built on a trade-off: The Chinese Communist Party has told the people they will not have democratic institutions, but they will receive economic prosperity.” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
In 2018, China’s merchant fleet was already approaching 2,200 total vessels, thanks to massive external demand for inexpensive Chinese exports. America’s Navy would likely be stretched too thin to actually blockade such an expansive merchant fleet. Like with aircraft, America’s preference for large and expensive ships that are capable of fulfilling multiple roles has offered increased capability but significantly decreased numbers. At its peak during World War II, the U.S. Navy boasted more than 6,000 ships. Today, the Navy has 293 far more capable vessels, but none can be in more than one place at a time.
American Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, for instance, are too big and expensive to task with waiting out Chinese ships hiding in foreign ports, and would likely largely be assigned to Aegis missile defense operations. This is where American privateers could offer an important service.
American privateers wouldn’t be tasked with engaging the Chinese Navy or even with sinking merchant ships. Instead, they would be tasked with capturing Chinese cargo vessels, offering them a multi-million dollar bounty on each, and quickly compromising China’s ability to sustain its export sales.
“Since the goal is to capture the hulls and cargo, privateers do not want to sink the vessel, just convince the crew to surrender. How many merchant crews would be inclined to fight rather than surrender and spend the war in comfortable internment?” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
Of course, despite Cancian and Schwartz’ dismissive take on how apt Chinese crews would be to fight to maintain control of their ships, it’s important to remember that these privateers would likely be engaging in close quarters fighting with Chinese crews or security on board. As American privateers proved more costly to the Chinese government, an increased emphasis on protecting these cargo ships would almost certainly follow.
This begs an essential question: Where do you find privateer crews?
Private security contractors in Iraq (DoD photo)
Private infrastructure already exists
While the concept of American privateers seems borderline fantastical, the truth is, the United States has already leveraged the premise of using non-military personnel for security and defensive operations the world over. American security firm Blackwater (now Academi) is perhaps the highest-profile example of America’s use of private military contractors. In fact, contractors in Iraq have reached numbers as high as 160,000 at some points, nearly equaling the total number of U.S. military personnel in the region. At least 20,000 of those private contractors filled armed security roles.
So while the term “privateer” or even pirate suggests an entirely unconventional approach to modern warfare, the premise is already in play. Terminology may dictate perception to a significant degree, but in practice, privateering wouldn’t be all that different from existing relationships the United States maintains with private security outfits. Further, private security firms, including Blackwater, have already operated at sea in a similar manner to privateers, from Blackwater’s armed patrol craft policing Somali pirates off the Horn of Africa to countless armed and privately owned boats patrolling the Indian Ocean today.
In 2007, Blackwater acquired the McArther from the NOAAS. (WikiMedia Commons)
Many such organizations, with existing infrastructure and established relationships with the U.S. government, would likely seek and win contracts, or letters of marque, in the early days of a burgeoning Sino-American war, and stand up their own forces far more quickly than the United States could expand its naval force in the same volume. Rather than building ships and enlisting crews, the United States could simply authorize existing ships with existing crews to go on the offensive against China’s commercial fleets.
The American government’s experience with military contractors throughout the War on Terror means these relationships would not be as without precedent as they may seem, and the existing private military industry would make American privateers a quick and effective means to grow America’s offensive capabilities.
China claims sovereignty over much of the South China Sea (shown in red). A conflict with China would undoubtedly play out here. (WikiMedia Commons)
A complicated solution to a complex problem
Of course, there are many variables at play when discussing a future conflict with China. Incorporating privateers into such a strategy admittedly seems rather extreme from our vantage point in 2020, but it’s important to note that there is no precedent for what something like a 21st Century Sino-American war might look like. The massive sea battles of World War II may offer some sense of scale, but the rapid advancement of technology in the intervening decades creates a hypothetical war that is simply incongruous with the World War II models.
America does boast the largest and most powerful military in the world, but China’s rapidly expanding and modernizing force has not been growing in a vacuum. From space operations to warship construction, China has been developing its war-fighting apparatus with America specifically in mind. China isn’t interested in competing with the United States on its terms and instead has been focused on identifying potential American vulnerabilities and tailoring new capabilities to leverage those flaws.
China’s Type 002 Aircraft carrier (Tyg728 on WikiMedia Commons)
Large scale warfare between technological and economic giants would play out differently than any conflict we’ve ever seen. In order to emerge from such a conflict successfully, America has to do much more than win. Once the price of victory begins to compromise America’s ability to sustain its way of life thereafter, that victory becomes less pronounced.
In order to win in such a conflict, the United States will need to dig deep into its bag of tricks. On the home front, it would mean finding ways to rapidly expand America’s industrial base to replenish vehicles, supplies, and equipment as they’re expended or destroyed on the front lines. The U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, and Space Force will all be required to communicate and rely on one another in ways never before accomplished on a battlefield.
And China’s massive numbers advantage would have to be mitigated somehow. American privateers, or pirates as the press would surely call them, might just do the trick.
“What we’ve found so far is it revolutionizes the way we fight,” Love told Military.com. “It used to be a squad would be dispersed out over maybe 100 yards, so the squad leader couldn’t really communicate with the members at the far end because of all the noise of the weapons. Now they can actually just communicate, and be able to command and control and effectively direct those fires.”
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Christian Wade, the division’s gunner, or infantry weapons officer, said the Lima companies in two other battalions — 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, and 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines — now had silencers, or suppressors, on all their rifles, including the M27 infantry automatic rifles. All units are set to deploy in coming months. The combat engineer platoons that are attached to these units and will deploy with them will also carry suppressed weapons, he said.
Suppressors work by slowing the escape of propellant gases when a gun is fired, which drastically reduces the sound signature. Used by scout snipers and special operations troops to preserve their stealth, the devices are also valuable for their ability to minimize the chaos of battle, enabling not only better communication but also improved situational awareness and accuracy.
“It increases their ability to command and control, to coordinate with each other,” Wade told Military.com. “They shoot better, because they can focus more, and they get more discipline with their fire.”
The noise of gunfire can create an artificial stimulus that gives the illusion of effectiveness, he said. When it’s taken away, he explained, Marines pay more attention to their shooting and its effect on target.
“They’ve got to get up and look, see what effect they’re having on the enemy because you can’t hear it,” he said.
He added that suppressors were already in common use by near-peer militaries, including those of Russia and China.
Wade said he is working on putting suppressors on the Marines’ M249 light machine gun and M240G medium machine gun, using equipment from Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command. The third and final objective will be the suppression of the .50 caliber heavy machine gun, he said.
As the units conduct training and exercises with suppressors, 2nd Marine Division is collaborating with the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab to collect and aggregate data. Weapons with suppressors require additional maintenance and cleaning to prevent fouling, and the cost, nearly $700,000 to outfit an infantry battalion, might give planners pause.
But Wade said he will continue to gather data for the next year-and-a-half, following the units as they deploy. And he expects the idea to have gained significant traction among Marine Corps leadership by then, he said.
“When I show how much overmatch we gain … it will have sold itself,” he said.
Every year, approximately 4 million people travel to Arlington National Cemetery to pay their respects to the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice defending our great country. Most gather in solemn awe at the historic site of “The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” standing atop a hill overlooking Washington, D.C.
If you plan your visit accordingly, you may get to witness the awesomeness that is the changing of the guard, which occurs every 30-minutes during the hot summer and every hour during the cold winter.
In April of 1948, the 3rd US Infantry Regiment proudly took on the responsibility of guarding the tomb 24-hours day. Being a sentinel guard isn’t just about walking back and forth keeping a close eye out, it takes professionalism, honor, and most importantly commitment as one must volunteer for the role.
Prospects are hand-selected after volunteering and undergo either a 2 or 4 week TDY to learn rifle precision, uniform maintenance, and marching, as well as to, memorize seven pages of knowledge. Verbatim.
On average, 60% of the hopefuls will not graduate, but those who do complete the training will move on and become “Newman”.
Newmans assist sentinels prior to guard changes, maintain their uniforms, and must endure three more tests before earning their future position. The entire training takes six to nine months and has a fail rate of 90%.
Sentinels stand a 27-hour guard shift, walking their post a dozen times. Contrary to popular belief, they are allowed to verbally discipline tomb visitors.
Service members from the Norwegian Armed Forces and US Air Force 352d Special Operations Wing participated in a week-long exercise Dec. 9-13, 2019, at Banak Air Station, Norway.
The training was part of a larger exercise that encompassed live ammunition fire, infiltration and exfiltration, and cold-weather training utilizing with the 352nd SOW’s CV-22B Osprey and MC-130J Commando II.
“This exercise is designed as a 352nd SOW Winter Warfare trainer, to test all aspects of the 352nd SOW mission, from the airside to the maintenance side, as well as exercising all logistical functions that we expect to use in future operations,” said US Air Force Lt. Col. Jonathan Niebes, 352nd SOW mission commander for the exercise.
A US Air Force MC-130J Commando II assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing refuels at Banak Air Station, Norway, in preparation for a week-long bilateral training engagement with the Norwegian Armed Forces, December 10, 2019
(US Air Force/1st Lt. Kevyn Stinett)
US Air Force members assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing and Norwegian soldiers load ammunition onto snowmobiles prior to their range training near Banak Air Base, Norway, December 10, 2019.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
“The high north is unique because it is remote. It is sparsely populated. There aren’t a lot of built-up bases, and the weather is very extreme,” said US Air Force Maj. Shaun, CV-22 instructor pilot.
“The 352nd SOW brings a unique capability of long-range infiltration and exfiltration through low-level penetration in all weather conditions. Here in the Arctic, where half the year it is dark, and the weather is not the greatest, we can overcome those challenges through our unique tactics, techniques, and procedures. We’ve taken lessons learned elsewhere around Europe, Africa, and the Middle East and adapted them to the arctic environment.”
A Norwegian soldier prepares to fire an M72 Light Anti-Tank Weapon alongside special tactics operators from 352nd Special Operations Wing, during a live-fire training near Banak Air Base, Norway, December 10, 2019.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
This training simultaneously gives Air Commandos from the 352nd SOW the opportunity to train missions in a challenging environment alongside their NATO partners as well as refining how to operate more safely and efficiently in day-to-day operations.
“As part of our standard equipment, our special tactics operators use ratchets in a variety of functions such as locking and securing objects. During this past week, we learned from the Norwegian ranger soldiers, that it is more effective to use ropes with friction knots for certain tasks as they don’t freeze over when you’re going through variables with the weather,” said a special tactics airmen with the 352nd SOW.
A Norwegian soldier during a live-fire training near Banak Air Base, Norway, December 10, 2019.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
These engagements are opportunities for Norway and the US, to steadily build upon a strong bond, founded on shared values and desires for a robust Trans-Atlantic unity and stability in the European theater and the Arctic region.
“When working with the host nation, it is important to accomplish our training objectives, but more importantly, we are strengthening our already close relationship with our Norwegian allies. These are the folks we are going to integrate with on the battlefield, so the comfortability with our two militaries is vital,” said Niebes.
US Air Force special tactics members assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing conduct cold-weather training on snowmobiles alongside members from the Norwegian Armed Forces near Banak Air Base, Norway, December 10, 2019.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
A US Air Force service member assigned to the 352nd Special Operation Wing based out of RAF Mildenhall refuels a CV-22B Osprey before a mission near Banak Air Station, Norway, December 12, 2019.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
“This is an environment like nowhere else in the world, it could very quickly become a battlespace that would be a reality to compete in, and as special operators who can be any place, any time, we must be proficient in every environment,” said Niebes.
“So for us to get the opportunity to train with experts in winter warfare is super important. The 352nd SOW truly appreciates the professional training with our Norwegian partners, and the increase of relationships and skill we collectively received this week. We look forward to coming back and building upon our combined training in the High North.”
In today’s Army, you can be the toughest general in the U.S. military, but when you turn 64, it’s time to go.
It’s well known most bodies just can’t take the rigors of duty and deployment beyond that (though Gen. Jim Mattis might be the exception), but history does have examples of military leaders who went well past their sexagenarian limitations.
The 73-year-old Prussian Field Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher of the Battle of Warterloo fame did it, and so did the 62-year-old Gen. George Sears Greene, whose men fought off repeated Confederate assaults at Culp’s Hill during the Battle of Gettysburg.
Army Lt. Gen. Nelson A. Miles was another one of these timeless warriors who shattered this stereotype and demonstrated that age does not provide a restriction to some men.
Nelson Appleton Miles spent nearly 42 years in the U.S. Army leading up to his 64th birthday in 1903. During the American Civil War, He rose from a lowly lieutenant to the rank of major general of volunteers by the age of 26-years-old. He fought in such notable battles as Seven Pines, Antietam, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg.
At the Battle of Chancellorsville in May of 1863, he earned the Medal of Honor as the colonel of the 60th New York Infantry for his “distinguished gallantry while holding with his command an advanced position against repeated assaults by a strong force of the enemy.” He was severely injured in this action and suffered three other wounds through the course of the war.
Miles decided to remain in the army after the American Civil War. He is best remembered for his service on the western frontier during the 1870s and the 1880s — immortalized for his capture of the famed Apache leader Geronimo. By 1895, he rose to overall command of the Army.
Though an excellent soldier, Miles was notorious for being stubborn, quarrelsome, overambitious and opinionated. Many, including President Theodore Roosevelt, wanted to see him cast out of the Army once and for all. Those who knew Miles best were aware that he wasn’t going to be forced out of the army without a fight.
Miles’ time for retirement crept up in 1903. He felt that he was still fit for soldiering, so he set out to prove that he was still physically fit to endure the hardships of active campaigning.
At dawn on July 14, 1903, Miles, sporting a summer helmet and light blue shirt, rode out of Oklahoma’s Fort Sill headed toward Fort Reno 90 miles away, intending to shatter Roosevelt’s age barrier. He was accompanied by several younger officers and cheered on by a large crowd of observers.
The tanned and muscular Miles knocked out the first 34 miles in a record time of just under 2.5 hours. Only the 34 year old cavalry officer Capt. Farrand Sayre of the Eight Cavalry was able to keep up with the grueling pace Miles set under the punishing sun and sweltering heat.
Miles tackled the 90 mile ride in just over nine hours, arriving at Fort Reno to the salute of gunfire from the soldiers of the garrison showing “no signs of fatigue.” Within 40 minutes of arriving, Miles changed out of his dusty uniform, reviewed the troops of the garrison, and rode another four miles to catch a 4:00 p.m. train back to Fort Riley, Kansas.
Miles boasted afterward to the papers that, “I enjoyed every moment of the trip, and there was one time that I felt particularly good; that was when I came up to the men who had charge of the pack teams just south of the Canadian river. They had lunch ready and I enjoyed it with them. It made me feel extra good.”
Despite displaying that he was still very much fit for active service, Miles was forced to retire in August of 1903. At 77, the Civil War general and Medal of Honor recipient offered his services to Woodrow Wilson’s administration with the American intervention during World War I. The offer was politely refused by the secretary of war who wrote back to Miles, “in time of emergency out government may need to take advantage of your great experience. Please accept appreciation of your most patriotic offer.”
Miles was still spry enough to serve on the battlefield even in 1916. He did not pass away until 60 years after the American Civil War ended in May of 1925 from a heart attack, outliving President Theodore Roosevelt by six years.