PT Boat. Photographer Jerry Gilmartin and Don MacDonald, May 2011 . (Wikimedia Commons).
On Aug. 2, 1969, David Larson was serving as a gunner’s mate on a patrol boat as it steered up the Saigon River, transporting a seven-man ambush team.
The team was a part of the Army’s LRRP — or Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol. After cruising up river for a time, they set up an ambush position during the day near the riverbank.
As night fell, they silently settled into their discrete position. Little did they know, all hell was about to break loose.
Later that night, the spec ops team engaged four enemy troops who, unknown to them, happened to be a part of a massive force. Almost immediately after engaging, the unit began taking accurate rocket and small arms fire, which, sadly, killed half of the team outright.
One of the LRRP members called to the boat for support. This caught Larson’s attention, getting him fully engaged in the firefight.
The motivated gunner’s mate leaped out of the patrol boat with his M60 in hand and blasted the weapon system on full auto — holding off a force of nearly 50 enemy combatants.
Nothing used to clear the way like an M60. (Image via Giphy)Standing in the direct line of fire, Larson provided enough covering fire for the wounded to clear from the area. When asked, “what goes through your mind during something like that?” David Larson stoically offered a hero’s response:
“At the time, it just comes to you that you need to do it to get the job done.”
For his brave actions, Larson received the coveted Navy Cross.
Check out the Smithsonian Channel’s video below to hear this heroic tale straight from Vietnam veteran David Larson himself.
Ryan Hendrickson is a retired Green Beret who’s been through a lot. Despite overwhelming challenges, he refuses to wear the title of victim and instead calls himself a survivor. He wants you to do the same.
Tip of the Spear wasn’t supposed to be a book. It started as a journal for Hendrickson, a way to work through his thoughts and post-traumatic stress. But after a few months, he saw something in those writings – as did friends. “The therapeutic effect I got from writing actually turned into a book. I had to see the silver lining in something as bad as stepping on an IED [improvised explosive device]. A lot of people that were reading it said the book talks to everyone — not just military — as far as not being a victim in your life,” Hendrickson explained.
In September of 2010, Hendrickson was deployed to Afghanistan as an 18 Charlie, a Special Forces Engineer with Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th special forces. He had just completed the elite schooling to earn the coveted Green Beret and was feeling on top of the world. The first chapter of Tip of the Spear takes the reader vividly through what it’s like to arrive in Afghanistan – and the mission that changed his life.
When Hendrickson and his team entered the deserted Afghan village before dawn, he said he knew something big was coming. When his interpreter went too far ahead of uncleared ground, he had no choice but to quickly and quietly get him back. “I grabbed him by the back of the shirt and moved him around. You never like to have any unknown area or blind spot, so I put the muzzle of my M-4 in the doorway of the compound and stepped back… right onto the IED,” he shared.
Hendrickson said he didn’t realize he hit it at first, remembering that he just felt like he couldn’t breathe because of the heavy dust and ammonia in the air. “As the dust started to clear, I saw that my boot was six inches away from my leg…When I reached behind my knee to pull my leg up, my boot sort of flopped over with my toes pointed at me. I saw these two pearly white objects sticking out of my pant leg. Then it kicked in that it was bone,” he said.
It was then that Hendrickson realized it was really bad. His team couldn’t rush in to support him either, since they knew that if there was one IED, there were probably five. His interpreter started a tourniquet, effectively saving his life. After a while, his team was able to safely make it to him and they got him out. “We could hear the Taliban on chatter celebrating that I got hit and that they were going to move into position to ambush us. They splinted the leg the best they could to put the lower and upper part together,” he said.
Hendrickson was in theater for over a week as they tried to stabilize him and keep him alive. When he made it to San Antonio, it would take 28 surgeries to reattach his leg. Then the real work began. “I had a sergeant major who came in to see me; he told me if I could get medically cleared he’d send me back to combat. That was the big driving factor behind me taking control of my life and hitting rehab as hard as I could. That and knowing the Taliban were cheering when I got hurt. I wasn’t going to let them beat me or win,” he explained.
Although he was medically retired, Hendrickson refused to accept it. After spending a grueling year in rehabilitation, he passed all the required tests and was reinstated into active duty through a special waiver. In March of 2012 – only a year and a half after almost losing his leg to an IED – his boots were back in the sands of Afghanistan.
It wasn’t easy though, he shared. The guys he was working with were concerned he’d be a liability. Hendrickson was sent to the biggest known IED province of Afghanistan, a real test given his own experience. He had to prove himself to his teammates and did it by methodically finding IED after IED, keeping them all safe.
Hendrickson would continue to serve and deploy for years after that. In 2016, he earned a Silver Star for heroic efforts during a difficult seven-hour firefight in Afghanistan. “It wasn’t what I did, it was what we did…It’s the same thing all of us say, we were just doing our job,” he shared. He headed home fromAfghanistan in 2017 and found himself struggling with a lot, mentally.
After trying unsuccessfully to talk with a counselor, he sought help through the chaplain. He advised him to write, using that avenue to tell his story and work through his thoughts. Those thoughts and writing were unknowingly turning into a story of his life, both the good and the bad. It was here that he found healing and the deep resiliency he needed to never feel like a victim again.
Tip of the Spear will bring the reader on a powerful journey through a difficult childhood leading to military service spanning three branches, ultimately leading Hendrickson to become an elite Green Beret. The story culminates with the unfathomable challenge of coming back from an injury that almost took his life and was certainly considered the end of his military career. Hendrickson refused to quit and fought his way past the odds stacked against him.
It’s Hendrick’s hope that readers will use his journey to be inspired to do the same in their own lives. Anything is possible he says, but first you have to become a survivor, not a victim.
To purchase your copy of Tip of the Spear, click here.
On Thursday, October 11, more than 14,000 free tickets will be presented to U.S. veterans and active-duty service members for Universal’s First Man — at more than 500 Regal locations nationwide.
Each of the first 25 service members (per location) with valid, government-issued ID who request a ticket will be given free admission to the 7:00 p.m. preview screening (or first show). First Man, from Academy Award-winning director Damien Chazelle and star Ryan Gosling, arrives in theaters nationwide on October 12.
“During his career as a Naval aviator, our dad flew 78 combat missions in the Korean War,” said Mark and Rick Armstrong. “The friendships he forged during those critical years remained deeply important to him all of his days. Freedom — much like landing on the moon — is an achievement that is hard fought and hard won, and it cannot be accomplished without the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform and their loved ones. We’d like to join Universal and Regal in thanking all our current and past veterans, as well as their families, for their brave service to this great nation.”
“As an Air Force veteran, I am proud to see this historical achievement from other veterans and NASA featured on the big screen. These military heroes are an incredible example of the courage and determination that allowed us to reach new heights in space exploration,” said Ken Thewes, CMO at Regal. “As a tribute to the courageous men and women in the armed forces, we are honored to offer complimentary tickets for active-duty military and veterans to be the first to see First Man at any participating Regal theatres.”
The promotion will be available at all Regal theatres playing First Man. Free tickets will be available on a first-come, first-served basis and may be picked up at the Regal box office on October 11. Each guest must present a valid government-issued military ID to receive their ticket, with a limit of one free ticket for each military ID presented, while supplies last. This offer is valid for the 7:00 p.m. screening (or first showing) of the film on October 11, only.
“Neil Armstrong represents the best and bravest of humanity, and this film from director Damien Chazelle is stunning,” said Jim Orr, President, Distribution, Universal Pictures. “Early audiences have championed this new masterpiece, and we’re grateful that our partners at Regal have opened their doors to active-duty and retired service members with free tickets. We know these heroes will enjoy First Man, and we’re thrilled they’ll be among the first to experience it.”
Once the Coast Guard has a suspect vessel in its sights on the high seas, there’s usually nowhere for it to go, but getting it to stop isn’t always easy.
The crew of the Coast Guard cutter James returned to Florida in November 2018 with nearly 38,000 pounds of cocaine seized by it and other Coast Guard ships in the Pacific. Stacked on some of the bales of cocaine were clear signs of the Coast Guard’s precision.
“So what you see here are some engine cowlings,” said Capt. Jeffrey Randall, commander of the James, referring to the half-dozen plastic covers perched on bales of seized drugs like trophies.
“We pair up the capabilities of the ship, the sensors of the ship, with our helicopter detachment that’s back there,” he said, referring to the helicopter parked behind the crew on the James‘ aft deck.
“That helicopter has what we call an aerial-use-of-force capability. So we can shoot from the aircraft with precision marksman fire, and we direct it at the engines of the vessel to stop the vessels when they fail to heave to.”
A helicopter crew from the Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron Jacksonville trains over the St. Johns River on Sept. 22, 2009.
(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Hulme)
Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Paulo Cheng, a maritime enforcement specialist and student of the Precision Marksmanship School, shoots at known distance targets with an M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System during the Precision Marksmanship Course at the Spartan Ranch Tactical Training Center in Maysville, July 26, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Nicholas Lubchenko)
Petty Officer 1st Class Jesse Pitrelli and Petty Officer 1st Class Peter Purcell at Army Sniper School at Fort Benning, Georgia, February 16, 2016. Pitrelli and Purcell are the first active-duty Coast Guardsmen in history to graduate from Army Sniper school.
(US Coast Guard photo)
“We conduct training on the flat range weekly, do various range and yard lines, concentrating mostly on snaps and movers,” a Coast Guard Maritime Security Response Team member told Military.com, referring to targets that appear suddenly and change position. “Because that’s where your bread and butter is. I mean, shooting moving targets is it.”
“The relationship between the shooter and the spotter is extremely important. The spotter’s job is probably the hardest He’s evaluating the factors with the wind,” the MRST member said. “The spotters responsibility is to actually see what the wind is doing and give the shooter the correct information so that he can make that accurate shot.”
Pitrelli and Purcell participate in training during Army Sniper School at Fort Benning, Georgia.
(US Army photo)
Petty Officer 2nd Class Anthony Phillips, a precision marksman at Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron, displays the weaponry used by a HITRON during missions, Feb. 23, 2010.
(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Bobby Nash)
Coast Guard marksmen have also shown their prowess in head-to-head competition. In 2017 and 2018, Coast Guard teams finished 3rd and 9th, respectively, in the International Sniper Competition hosted by the US Army. In both those years, the Coast Guardsmen beat out the Marines, who finished 7th in 2017 and 10th in 2018.
A gunner in an MH-68 Stingray helicopter from the Helicopter Interdiction Squadron from Jacksonville, Florida, patrols a drug transit zone alongside the Coast Guard cutter Gallatin from Charleston, S.C.
(Photo by Chief Warrant Officer Donnie Brzuska)
A Coast Guard aerial marksman from Air Station San Francisco sights in on a target during counter-terrorism training, in San Pablo Bay, California, June 11, 2009.
(US Coast Guard photo)
On shared waterways of ports and rivers, the Coast Guard has to determine who is just a boater and who has malicious intent. “We have a continuum, what we call a use-of-force continuum,” Capt. Jason Tama, commander of Coast Guard sector New York, told Business Insider in October 2018. “The last thing we want to do is, certainly, use deadly force, but we’re prepared to do that if we have to.”
Coast Guard marksmen are often armed with Robar RC-50 anti-material rifles, which are designed to take out machinery and are also used by US Special Operations Command.
Coast Guard helicopters and surface vessels, like the 45-foot small boats used in the use-of-force demonstration in New York Harbor in October 2018, can be armed with mounted M240 machine guns.
“Our first move, we’ll move out to intercept them, try to determine their intent and get the vessel to stop, using lights and sirens just like you would on any street in America,” Lt. Cmdr. Devon Brennan, head of the Coast Guard’s Maritime Safety and Security Team in New York, said during a use-of-force demonstration in October 2018. “If radio call-outs and communications doesn’t work, the next step will be to deploy the warning shots. … If they still don’t comply, then we escalate the steps to disable their engines.”
The Coast Guard’s Maritime Safety and Security Teams, or MSSTs, and Maritime Safety and Response Teams, or MSRTs, were set up after the September 11 to respond to terrorism and other threats to US ports and waterways.
There are now 11 MSST teams whose assignments include security for UN General Assemblies, national political conventions, hurricane-response efforts, and major sporting events.
MSRTs are a ready-alert force for the Coast Guard and Defense Department combatant commanders for both short-notice operations and planned security needs. MSRTs provide subject-matter expertise for security, training, and disaster-response events and recent operations include presidential inaugurations and NATO summits.
The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Harriet Lane approaches a suspected smuggling vessel while a helicopter crew from the Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron monitors from the air on Feb. 25, 2018.
(US Coast Guard photo)
A helicopter crew from the Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron Jacksonville demonstrates warning shots fired at a non-compliant boat off the coast of Jacksonville, Sept. 24, 2009.
(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Hulme)
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In 1862, the Merrimack and the Monitor fought the famous naval battle at Hampton Roads where ships with iron armor fought each other for the first time. That clash is often cited as one of the moments where warfare changed overnight. Suddenly, it was clear that most cannons couldn’t penetrate iron hulls, and so every navy rushed to armor their hulls.
Just four years later, two fleets of wooden and iron-hulled boats clashed in the waters near Venice, and this first clash of iron fleets got weird, fast.
The Battle of Lissa was fought near an island of the same name in the Adriatic Sea, sometimes known as Vis, its Croatian name. A large Italian fleet of about 26 ships, including 13 ironclads, faced off against about 26 Austrian ships, but only seven Austrian ships were ironclads.
But the ironclad numbers weren’t the end of the Italian advantage. The ships that took part were powered by a mix of sail and steam. Like, each ship used both. Some ships were predominantly steam-powered but had sails to make them more efficient on long voyages, and some were sail-powered with small steam engines and paddles to help them quickly turn in combat. The ships predominantly powered by steam were generally more effective in combat, and Italy had a higher mix of those. And the Italian ships were generally larger, as well.
But most importantly, the Italian ships had larger guns and more rifled pieces. At the time, rifle-fired rounds and exploding rounds were about the only thing that could pierce iron armor. And by larger guns, we mean the largest Austrian guns were 48-pounders, and every piece of Italian naval artillery was larger.
So, the Italian ships were larger, better armed and armored, and technologically advanced. Guess the Italians won. Cool. Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.
The Austrian wooden battleship Kaiser rams an Italian ironclad in the Battle. The ship left its figurehead behind after the clash.
Except, nope, just wait. Italy sent ships to capture the island of Lissa from an Austrian garrison on July 16, 1866. This assault was repelled, and the Italian ships returned on the night of July 19 to try again. The next morning, July 20, 1866, was rainy and the waters were covered in mist.
But the Italian fleet used the weather as a cover for their coming bombardment and landings right up until a dispatch vessel ran back to elements of the fleet with news that Austrian ships had reached the island. The Italian fleet had been split up to bombard multiple targets and land troops. They were not properly massed for a naval battle.
The Italians were unimpressed, though, and continued to focus on landing troops. With the technological and numerical advantage, it must have seemed that they could bat away any attempts at disturbing the landings.
Ships are designed with long bodies to minimize resistance and to give stability, but artillery works best when it’s deployed side-by-side with all the guns firing in support of one another. So, when one group of ships charges on another, the group firing broadsides can typically fire many more cannons than the group that is charging. So, seemingly, this would work to the Italians’ advantage.
But then the Italian admiral did something completely baffling. He changed flagships as the Austrians bore down on him. He would later claim that he did this so he would be on a faster ship that could more efficiently relay orders, but the Italian ship crews didn’t know about the change and so would look to the wrong ship for direction for most of the battle.
And then the Austrians got a second break. Their headlong charge was obscured as the naval guns opened fire and began to emit those huge clouds of smoke. The Austrian commander, Rear Adm. Wilhelm von Tegetthoff, charged through the smoke with most of his ships and suddenly realized that he had unwittingly passed through the Italian line of battle.
So the Italian fleet was receiving no clear orders from what the captains thought was the flagship, was obscured by smoke, and suddenly had an enemy literally sailing through their lines. The battle quickly descended into a tight mass of ships circling and firing on one another with little real coordination. As the smoke filled the air and everyone lost sight of nearly everything, it became tough for combatants to tell who they were supposed to fight.
An illustration shows Rear Adm. Wilhelm von Tegetthoff during the Battle of Lissa.
Von Tegetthoff, though, had issued an order that worked perfectly in this insanity. Remember, Austria’s largest guns in the battle were nearly useless for firing at armor plating. The 48-pound shells that were his most powerful projectile would still need a lucky shot to seriously damage an Italian ironclad. So, von Tegetthoff had ordered his ships to ram Italian vessels whenever the opportunity arose.
And so the spinning, chaotic, smoke-filled brawl that morning was perfect for them. It softened the impact of the Italian artillery advantage, and Austrian crews began ramming everything that looked vaguely Italian.
Yeah, the first clash of iron fleets descended into a battle of naval ramming, a tactic that had lost favor in the decades prior because rammings were hard to pull off as the ships required a lot of time and space to build up speed, but easy to avoid as the targeted vessel could pull out of the way or turn so that an otherwise lethal blow would be a glancing hit instead.
In the melee of Lissa, ships of both sides rammed each other, and gun crews fired on ships that they were locked into combat with. An Austrian battleship rammed an Italian vessel and left its figurehead, a statue of the emperor, in the enemy’s iron armor. The Austrian ship even caught fire when one of its masts broke, landed on its own smokestack, and then became overheated by the exhaust.
The Italian ship Re d’Italia sinks at the end of the Battle of Lissa.
(Carl Frederik Sørensen)
When the ships were exchanging shells, the Italians generally got the better of the exchanges as they could lob 300-pound shells from some guns. But the Austrian proficiency at ramming claimed a greater toll.
The heavy Italian ship rolled away, rolled back, and then sank in less than two minutes as sailors and marines struggled to escape the suction of the quickly sinking iron.
The fleets disentangled themselves. The Austrian forces had lost no ships, had only one badly damaged, and had suffered almost 200 casualties including 38 killed. The Italians had lost a prized ironclad and hundreds killed. Worse, a fire was spreading on another ironclad, the Palestro. Despite heroic efforts by the crew to save the ship, including flooding its powder magazines, a separate store of shells and powder was ignited.
The ship blew up like a massive bomb, sending parts of its plating and hull high in the air. Hundreds more Italian sailors died, and the wreckage sank within minutes. Italy had lost a second ironclad, and its death toll for the battle rose to 620. Not to mention, the shores of Lissa were now safe from the threatened Italian amphibious assault.
The aftereffect of Lissa was even weirder than the battle, though. The success of rams led to new ship designs that emphasized the weapon for decades, so even in World War I modern-ish battleships and many smaller vessels still carried iron rams at the waterline. And, maybe even more surprising, the Austrian success at Lissa had become moot before it was even fought.
The Austrian Empire had been decisively defeated on land at the Battle of Königgrätz by Prussian forces on July 3. Prussian forces on the continent kept pressure on Austria for the rest of July, and the war came to an end with Prussian victory.
Germanic tribes, and their Italian allies, were allowed to consolidate their peoples into new nations separate from the Austrian Empire. That empire renamed itself the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and, 48 years later, one of its archdukes was killed while riding in a car in the town of Sarajevo, less than 130 miles northeast of Lissa.
(Today, the island is part of Croatia and is known by its name in the Croatian language, Vis.)
Attacking enemy fighters in close-air-support aircraft, using ground-based laser designators to “paint” targets for aircraft, and training friendly forces for the rigors of high-casualty close-in combat are all US Air Force Special Operations Force skills tested and refined during the last decade and a half of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Drawing upon these Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTPs), Air Force Special Operations Command is accelerating a strategic shift from its recent counterinsurgency focus to preparing for “high-end” combat or major force-on-force warfare against a technologically advanced enemy.
“I would tell you there is definitely strategic value for Special Operations in the high-end fight. With our mentality, we think outside of the box and about how to present dilemmas for the enemy,” Lt. Gen Marshall Webb, said Sept. 17, 2018, at the Air Force Association Convention.
Webb emphasized that the Command’s counterterrorism focus will not diminish in coming years but likely increase as existing threats persist and new ones emerge. At the same time, he made it clear that AFSOC is “laser focused on the high-end” and currently adapting its well-established TTPs to support major power warfare.
“We have to extend the TTPs for high-end conflict as well, including multi-domain command and control,” Webb said.
Interestingly, migrating combat-tested TTPs to a high-end fight does not seem to be an insurmountable stretch but, rather, an extension of refined combat practices. Significantly, many TTPs fundamental to counterinsurgency are also of great tactical and strategic relevance to major-power warfare. For example, during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Air Force Special Operations, the Special Tactics Squadron, used advanced targeting techniques to guide aircraft attacking the Taliban. This included using Forward Air Controllers to radio strike coordinates to circling attack aircraft and using laser designators to paint ground targets.
AFSOC contributions to the war in Afghanistan are highlighted in a 2017 Special Operations Annex portion of Air Force Doctrine published by the Lemay Center for Doctrine, Maxwell AFB.
An AC-130U gunship.
“AFSOC CCTs were instrumental in the first major gain of the conflict, leveraging airpower that led to the capture of the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif on Nov. 9, 2001 — a major breakthrough in the struggle to oust the Taliban and al-Qaeda,” the doctrine writes.
This kind of integrated air-ground operation, used to great effect in Afghanistan, is also something of potentially great value in a high-end conflict as well. The prospect of needing close air support to fortify advancing units on the ground or attacking low-flying enemy air assets presents the kinds of scenarios anticipated in major war.
The Air Force Special Operations AC-130 gunship, for instance, often circled Kandahar in Afghanistan, to fire its 105mm side-firing cannons to attack Taliban fighters. While there are of course major differences when between attacking insurgents and engaging in major air combat with a near-peer enemy, some of the tactics, approaches and technologies do seem to cross over and offer value to both kinds of conflict.
Webb further elaborated upon AFSOCs role in close air support missions will be enhanced by the service’s emerging Light Attack Aircraft. The aircraft is designed for rugged counterinsurgency missions in combat environments where the Air Force has established air superiority. At the same time, the need for these kinds of attack missions are at very least conceivable, if not likely, in large-scale warfare also.
“The need for the Light Attack Aircraft is an excellent requirement for AFSOC,” Webb said.
Special Operations Forces (SOF) are also known for a substantial intelligence expertise, used to both train and equip friendly forces and offer crucial combat-relevant detail to the larger force. Advising allied fighters is yet another instance of skills likely to be of great value in major war. Part of this intel mission includes air and ground reconnaissance using sensors, scouting forces and unique positioning in combat terrain in support of the larger fight.
Operating in small units, often somewhat autonomously, SOF are experienced fighters in austere, or otherwise hard to reach, combat areas. This skill also, quite naturally, would add value in major force-on-force warfare, as well.
SOF is “out there in the hinterlands and don’t have the luxury of an F-16,” Webb explained.
The Air Force’s Curtis Lemay Center for Doctrine, Development and Education also cites the full range of Special Operations mission sets, many of which are specifically designed for large scale war. Combat areas listed in the Doctrine text include a range of missions relevant to both COIN and major war such as “information operations, precision strike, ISR, command and control and specialized air mobility.”
The overall strategic roadmap, such as that articulated by Webb, mirrors multi-domain concepts written into special ops doctrine materials. The Lemay Center’s 2017 Doctrine Special Ops Annex text identifies a “combat continuum” for Special Ops missions, to include low-intensity conflict such as security cooperation and deterrence, limited contingencies and major operations.”
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
At the qualification range, a group of Soldiers congregate during the lunch break. Unexpectedly, a Sergeant Major descends upon them In his growling voice he barks about their uniform deficiencies and how the range is not to standard. As quickly as he appears, he vanishes, and for a few minutes, Soldiers awkwardly stare at each other thinking, “what the hell?” The proverbial Sergeant Major storm did little to change the unit, and the Soldiers resume their meal and continue as if it never happened.
The role of the senior noncommissioned officer is not ensuring all Soldiers have eye protection and reflective belts or ensuring the lawns in their footprint are pristine, fixing deficiencies using the “leadership” methodology described above. Young Soldiers across the Army picture master sergeants and sergeants major holding coffee cups, spewing anger, and never actually doing anything. The problem with the senior NCO leadership is this image and the fact that they’ve made this image a reality!
When senior NCOs see a unit’s problem with standards and discipline they think it’s a problem that can be fixed right away with a spot correction, but in reality it is a systemic problem of failing to develop the unit’s NCOs and aspiring leaders. NCOs in a unit not enforcing standards either don’t know the standards or are ignoring them. A senior NCO can go around making all the spot corrections in the world; it will never fix corner cutting, shortcomings of communication, and lack of discipline.
The senior NCO’s job is to establish the standard, outline the expectations, and develop leaders across their formation. This leadership eventually trickles down to the most junior Soldier. However, the current methodology of leadership from the first paragraph and perception of senior NCOs is something leaders must overcome to fulfill their roles.
Here are five ways senior NCOs can enhance the image of our profession and, more importantly, improve their unit.
Get out. Emails can be checked at a later date. The window to engage with Soldiers is limited, while access to a computer usually is not. Running effective meetings frees up space to see Soldiers. Identify quality engagement opportunities that maximize presence across the formation.
Speaking with the leadership and disappearing to another event before engaging the Soldiers who are actually doing the training doesn’t change perceptions. Ensure leaders understand the expectation that battlefield circulation is an opportunity to see training and highlight the great work of leaders and Soldiers in their formation.
Teach. In most cases, the senior NCOs are the most experienced tacticians, with the most deployments, live fires, and combined training center rotations. Offer techniques, tactics and best practices to make the event better. Share this wisdom with not only the NCOICs, but with the most junior Soldiers. Attack the negative images of senior NCOs from both angles; from the top down and the bottom up.
Even if the senior NCOs aren’t experienced in their Soldiers’ field, their perspective can help them understand the bigger picture and relevancy of the tasks or training.
Listen. Establish two way communication with Soldiers at events. People like to talk about what they do. Learn about them, their concerns, issues, and complaints. Don’t interrupt, listen and take notes to fall back on and read later.
Ask leaders and Soldiers what help or resources they need. This is something a senior NCO can impact immediately. Helping to fix problems with range control, logistics, line unit and staff relations, and coordination between units is NCO business.
Remember the people you talk with don’t see the world from the same lens as a senior NCO. When responding, do not belittle or be condescending, you will lose the battle for personal respect, damaging the reputation of the senior leadership position.
Make the Correction. Any unsafe acts need to be corrected immediately. However, in most cases, there is another approach than the sergeant major storm. Meet with the leadership before departing. Have a professional conversation with NCOs discussing the issues and why it’s important for everyone to enforce the standard. Enable and empower the NCOs to make the correction. It doesn’t matter if leaders agree or disagree with the standard, it’s the NCO’s job to enforce them.
Finish by highlighting a positive. The first engagement and the last will be the two things people remember. It is easy for anyone to dwell on the negative, but at most training events, there are good things happening. This may be the only time that Soldier sees their senior NCO leadership and that impression will stick for a while.
Follow up. Before visiting the unit again, reflect on the notes taken. Address the issues and concerns, and follow up with unit leadership if they people weren’t at the event. Send an email to leaders to reinforce the message. The next time there is an opportunity to observe the unit, see if things changed.
Helicopter pilots have it easy in some ways — they do not need runways to take off or land — just a clearing. Well, one look at this video taken on Oct. 26, 2016, showing a Royal Danish Navy Sikorsky MH-60R landing on one of that navy’s Thetis-class oceangoing patrol vessels, will how just how tough a landing can be sometimes.
In this video, the Thetis-class patrol vessel is in the midst of a storm. Note the very expert technique the Danish pilot uses to match the vessel’s speed, and the very deft touch used to keep from slamming the helicopter into the pitching deck.
The MH-60R is a multi-role maritime helicopter capable of carrying Mk 46, Mk 50, or Mk 54 lightweight torpedoes. It also can carry AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles. According to the official MH-60 website, it has a crew of three, a top speed of 140 knots, and can stay up for over two and a half hours.
According to Naval-Technology.com, the Thetis-class ocean patrol vessels displace 3,500 tons, have a top speed of 20 knots, hold 60 crew, and are 369 feet long. The Danish Navy has four of these vessels in service. Two entered service in 1991, two entered service in 1992.
Training away from home is part of the military way. Schools, deployments, overnight sessions — all of these and more are a regular occurrence for military members. And then, on the other side of things, are their families, left to hold down the fort at home.
Over time it’s a schedule that everyone becomes used to … that is, until young kids are involved. While older kids can certainly understand the logistics of a parent being away (even if they don’t like it), with toddlers or babies, it’s another story. They simply aren’t old enough to grasp what’s taking place. They cry, they act out, and they’re confused as to why mom or dad disappears for days, weeks, or even months at a time.
Teaching these training schedules to kids is certainly hard, but it’s also one that can leave them better emotionally equipped in years to come.
Talk about it
When parents are away at training, it’s ok to tell your kids — in fact, you should tell your kids that, “Daddy’s at work” or “Mommy had to go on a work trip.” These explanations might not make sense in the status quo, but they will teach them that sometimes parents are gone, but it’s nothing to worry about. We know they will come back, and in the meantime, it’s ok to miss them and talk about what they’re doing.
Adjust the conversation in a way that’s age-appropriate, so your kids can still remain informed without being confused or overwhelmed with military training schedules.
Keep it busy
When a parent is in the field, it’s a good time to bring out the fun distractions. Not only will this make it easier for the parent at home, but the kids will have an easier time with the transition. This is true for kids of all ages, not just the littles! Check out local family-friendly events. Get out the “messy” or “outside only” toys and share some new family fun. Make crafts, cook together, or try something new. It’ll give the kids something to talk about once the other parent comes home, and it will speed up everything else in the meantime.
Did we mention this helps the time go faster?
Learn about the process
What’s mom or dad off doing, anyway? Sounds like the perfect time for a lesson. Use this time to talk about what’s being accomplished during this time away. Talk about the history of the armed forces, look into camping gear to talk about field stays, and help your kids find your spouse’s location on a globe or map. When at a school, discuss new jobs and how the training will help mom or dad learn.
Sure, the kids might get bored (and probably will), but keeping this info handy will help them become smarter individuals.
Have them help
Technically, this takes place before your loved one ever leaves. Allow your kids to be involved in the getting-ready-to-leave process. Plan and wash laundry, fold clothes, get out the suitcase and start packing. Older kids can be in charge of a checklist and ensure everything has been added to the luggage.
No one likes training schedules or time away, but making your children a part of the process can ease their fears about mom or dad being away. Help your little ones add this coping mechanism to their toolbox of growing emotions.
When it’s time for travel or days away for your military member, don’t worry about the kids! They are smarter and more adaptable than we realize. Talking about what’s ahead and staying busy in the meantime will help the time pass in a way that’s healthy rather than taboo.
China’s leaders are increasingly on edge as US Navy warships have begun transiting the tense Taiwan Strait on a regular basis.
The US Navy sent a guided-missile destroyer and a fleet oiler through the strait Jan. 24, 2019, the third time in four months the US has sent warships through the closely-watched waterway.
“We urge the US to tread lightly,” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying responded Jan. 25, 2019. She compared the Taiwan Strait to a family home with a yard divided by a road, stressing that while it is reasonable for pedestrians to pass through, it is a different scenario if someone is there to make trouble by engaging in “provocative behavior” and “threatening the safety” of the family.
She noted that China has already raised the issue with the US, adding that China has asked the US to approach Taiwan cautiously so as to avoid damaging US-China relations.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald.
China displeasure stems from not only from concerns that US military activity around the island will empower Taiwan’s pro-independence forces but also frustration with the US Navy’s refusal to ask permission before transiting the international strait between China and Taiwan, a democratic island it views as a rogue province.
The US has long insisted it doesn’t need permission. “We don’t need China’s permission to go through the Taiwan Strait, it is international waters. We will exercise our free right of passage whenever and wherever we choose, as we have done repeatedly in the past, and will do in the future,” retired Adm. Timothy Keating, former head of US Pacific Command (now Indo-Pacific Command), explained in 2007, when the US Navy sailed the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk through the strait.
Beijing, however, considers these transits to be purposeful provocations.
“The purpose of US warships is to flex their geopolitical muscle,” the nationalist Global Times, a hawkish Chinese state-affiliated tabloid, wrote in an editorial Jan. 25, 2019, asserting, “China will find the US action irritating, but such actions can never deter China.
The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk.
“The US Navy “should refrain from staging military provocation in China’s coastal areas,” the paper argued, suggesting that failure to do so could result in a clash.
US Pacific Fleet said that Jan. 24, 2019’s passage demonstrated “the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” as well as US determination to “fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.” The US uses similar rhetoric to characterize its freedom-of-navigation operations and bomber overflights.
The US insists that it is simply re-reinforcing the rules of the road, so to speak, as they pertain to activities in international waters, and Navy leadership has made it clear that the US will continue to transit the Taiwan Strait.
“We see the Taiwan Straits as international waters, and that’s why we do the transits through the straits,” Adm. John Richardson, chief of US naval operations, said recently, adding that the Navy is “just exercising the right to pass through those waters in accordance with international law.”
The admiral suggested that the US could send a carrier through those waters if it wanted to, something the Navy hasn’t done in more than a decade.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In an embarrassing moment for the Swiss Air Force’s demo team, the Patrouille Suisse squadron made a low-altitude pass over a yodeling festival when it was supposed to be making a commemorative flight honoring a local aviator a few miles away.
The Swiss aerial display team was expected to fly over an event marking the 100th anniversary of the death of aviation pioneer Oskar Bider in Langenbruck, but the team missed their mark by about four miles, flying over the nearby Muemliswil instead, The Aviationist first reported.
The obsolete F-5E Tiger II fighters flown by the demo team are not equipped with GPS, and the team did not have a man on the ground, as is often the case for these types of events. As the team was approaching the intended destination, the team leader spotted a festival area with tents and incorrectly assumed they were in the right place for the show.
The Patrouille Suisse.
Spokesman for the Swiss military Daniel Reist, local media reported, explained that the instruments in the aircraft flown by the display team are over four decades old. “Navigation is done with a map, a feeling and sight,” he said in a statement, adding that these aircraft are no longer suitable for combat and would never be used in a crisis.
“Unfortunate circumstances led to the mistake” the spokesman said. Switzerland’s Ministry of Defense said that the demonstration team had not had a chance to practice the maneuver prior to the event, explaining that the team was distracted, The Associated Press reported.
The commander of the Swiss demo team has apologized for the error.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
An expert sniper can sneak up on an enemy naked as the day he was born. It’s not particularly advised, but one top sharpshooter did exactly that just to prove a point, Marine snipers told Insider.
“Ghillie suits make people feel like they are invisible,” a Marine Corps scout sniper instructor at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia explained of the full-body uniforms that snipers are trained to adorn with grass and other materials to blend into their environment.
“The vegetation and the camouflage, that’s only one part of it,” the instructor added. “It’s more route selection and movement. It’s about what you are putting between you and the target.”
One top sniper proved that to be true by completing stalking training — an exercise where snipers are asked to sneak into position and fire on a target without getting caught by observers using high-powered optics — in nothing but his boots, two Marines told Insider.
A Marine undergoing the 2nd Marine Division Combat Skills Center’s Pre-Scout Sniper Course prepares to move during a stalking exercise at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Paul S. Martinez)
“He was one of our instructors, and he wanted to show up his fellow HOGs on the glass,” a schoolhouse instructor said, referring to the observers (nicknamed “Hunters of Gunmen” or HOGs) searching for the PIGs (Professionally Instructed Gunmen) in the field with monocular or binocular devices.
“I’m going to do this naked, and you’re not going to catch me,” the legendary sniper supposedly said. “I’m going to go out there and burn you guys down naked except for boots on.”
And, he did, Insider learned from the Marines.
No clothes. No ghillie suit. No vegetation. The sniper went into the field with nothing but a painted face and a pair of boots. Insider recently observed a stalking exercise at Quantico, where snipers in training worked their way down a lane filled with snakes, various bugs, and quite a few thorns. It was not an environment for someone to crawl around in nude. It’s unclear what type of stalking lane the naked Marine was on.
The sniper is said to have used screens, natural features on the stalking lane that shield the sniper from view, to avoid the watchful eyes of his training enemy.
He was also very careful and deliberate with his movements.
A Marine scout sniper candidate with Scout Sniper Platoon, Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment looks through the scope of his rifle during a stalking exercise.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Austin Long)
“That’s the art of invisibility,” an instructor told Insider. “It’s all about movement. Some animals are phenomenal at it.” Lions, for example, will crawl low and burn through the grass until they get in range of their target.
That’s a hard skill to learn though. “When you are crawling on the ground, it’s hard to understand where you are at. It’s like being an ant,” a second instructor explained. “It’s the weirdest thing in the world when you get that low to the earth and you start crawling. It makes people uncomfortable.”
When Insider visited the base last month, we watched a group of trainees go through stalking training for the first time. Several of them were spotted in the lane because they raised their heads to see their target more clearly.
“They love to raise up. They love to look up,” an instructor explained. “It’s such a natural human instinct, to think that to see something you need 180 degrees.”
“Human beings are so uncomfortable when they can’t see what is going on around them,” another instructor told Insider. “You have to fight that uncomfortable feeling. You have to force yourself to act unnaturally to be an effective stalker.”
The naked Marine, whose fully clothed picture hangs in the scout sniper schoolhouse at Quantico, seems to have a great grasp of that concept.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Gathering Storm is an intense new show on National Geographic featuring the United States Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force. Each branch is highlighted as they race against time to complete vital missions during catastrophic storms.
Keo Films spent over a year developing the six-part series for National Geographic. The show will bring viewers inside the intensity of the world’s most powerful storms and outline the devastating impacts of climate change. Keo Films gave hundreds of cameras to maritime workers to document a year at sea and what happens during a major storm. Cameras also followed the three military branches serving in the midst of deadly storms.
The Coast Guard can usually be found right in the middle of it all, always ready.
Chief Warrant Officer Paul Roszkowski is a part of the leadership within the Coast Guard Motion Picture and Television office and was involved in the series from the start. “The Coast Guard worked with Keo Films for more than a year to coordinate filming part of our mission the public generally doesn’t get to see. This involved getting international film crews cleared to film at a moment’s notice at a number of Coast Guard units across the country and prestaging cameras at some units in case a storm formed. We are grateful to all of the units that participated in this which include USCGC Cypress, USCGC Alex Haley, Sector Guam and Sector Miami. Gathering Storm will give a peek behind the curtain of what Coast Guard personnel are doing before a major storm hits and the rescues start,” he shared.
Sector Miami is one of the busiest areas of responsibility for the Coast Guard. When hurricane season approaches, that responsibility increases tenfold. “We have two of the busiest cruise ports in the country… The port coordination team is vital. The decisions that are made [during a storm] are impactful. When we set those port conditions, the implications they have on all the stakeholders in the area are huge,” Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Daniel Delgado explained.
As the Incident Management Division Chief for Sector Miami, Delgado worked closely with Keo Films for the series. “They were interested in seeing the preparation that goes into the ‘before the storm’ work. A group of people were here with us here in the sector building and also gave cameras to our teams that went out to verify pre-storm preparations. It was great working with the crew and they were very respectful of us and the work we had to do and didn’t impede it,” Delgado shared.
When hurricanes are approaching, the Coast Guard receives daily updates from the National Hurricane Center, which is a part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Although the public has probably heard of the term “hurricane hunters,” they may not realize who’s flying many of those planes to gather vital weather data that gets dispersed to the Coast Guard: the United States Air Force.
In the first episode, viewers watch as the production crew follows members of Sector Miami navigating the Coast Guard’s response to Hurricane Dorian, a Category 5 hurricane which devastated the Bahamas and Abaco Islands in 2019. The damage left the islands in ruins and Hurricane Dorian was soon declared the worst natural disaster in Bahamian history. The Coast Guard saved the lives of over 400 people, flying and sailing through hurricane force winds and almost zero visibility to do it.
While the first two episodes focus on powerful hurricanes, the series then takes viewers into typhoon alley and through the roughest and most deadly fishing ground on the earth – the Bering Sea. Then watch as the Coast Guard and Navy rush to respond to typhoons in the Pacific, all while the Air Force is flying through the storms to gather the important data needed to respond.
“We featured the ‘Hurricane Hunters’ of the 53 Weather Reconnaissance Squadron of the USAF Reserve, based out of Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi,” Executive Producer Matt Cole said. He shared that he enjoyed getting to personally interview veteran Hurricane Hunter Lieutenant Colonel Sean Cross about what it’s like flying into powerful storms.
Viewers will also watch the Navy become storm chasers with their advanced technology. “It was fascinating to see how the US Navy center in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii plays a lead role for the whole of that region in tracking typhoons and even providing life-saving forecasts. So, out there where typhoons are such a serious and life threatening problem, the forecasts provided by the US Navy using satellite data are invaluable,” Cole said.
The Keo Films also learned a lot during the filming process. For instance, prior to working on the series Cole and the film crew thought ships were safer in harbor during a storm – an assumption the Coast Guard was quick to correct.
“The folks who work out at sea face these huge storms at their fiercest. By filming with maritime workers on ships at sea we were able to capture the reality of cyclonic weather events and to track their development, through the eyes of these people who work in their path,” Cole explained. Although Hurricanes receive a lot of attention from the media during hurricane season, the show goes even deeper by revealing what it’s like to be in the middle of it all.
Film taken from over 1000 cameras paint a stark and terrifying picture of the impact of storms and climate change, felt on every corner of the globe. “I think that like us, the viewers of the series will come away with a lot more respect for the workforce that makes a living out on the ocean and the military teams that are on constant vigil to try to keep them safe when storms are brewing, through understanding the power and scale of the dangers they face,” Cole said.
The six-part series on National Geographic will air two episodes in a row each Saturday beginning August 15th, 2020 at 10pm.