When we left off, you were hanging from a pull-up bar trying to get your knees to your chest for the first time since Basic.
Max, in his wisdom, started you out in the gym, which is full of many helpful things, like dumbbells and molecules of air. He wanted you to develop a little stoutness at your center, because he knows what’s coming and you, silly wittle baby, do not. You’re wet behind the ears, is what he’s saying. And that’s not even 5% wet enough to pass the Max Your Body, Season 1 final exam.
Today, you’re either going to sink or survive.
Because it’s all well and good to be fit with both feet planted on firm ground, unbound and wearing comfy, civilian shoes. It’s been years since you were a fetus, so you’ve forgotten what it’s like when there’s water on all sides of you, it’s dark and murky, and it’s up to you to figure out where your next lungful of sweet, sweet air is coming from.
Today, Max would like to remind you of the primordial fluid from whence you swam. And to make it extra memorable, he’s going to bind your feet at the ankles and your hands behind your back.
If you haven’t tapped out at this point, it’s advisable that you tap a buddy to be in charge of Operation You Not Drowning. Everything all nice and secure? Excellent! In you go.
Your mission — and it’s too late to opt out — is to suppress your rational panic and concentrate on using all this handy fitness you’ve been developing to go Full Amphibian while the water rises around you. You. Can. Do. This. For nine months, this was your everything. You used to be the Chuck Norris of tadpoles. Time to make your mother proud.
And if you do start getting the urge to have a big baby meltdown, just remember, there’s a benefit to plunging in with Max.
The benefit is you’ve lost the illusion of control. There’s no turning back. And the alternative to rising to this most fetal of challenges is sinking to the most fatal of depths.
Death, at whatever depth, is dumb. So it’s your choice, baby.
Watch as Max takes your fear and drowns it in a municipal pool, in the video embedded at the top.
In a script flipped from previous elections, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton styled herself as the candidate defending American exceptionalism, international alliances and the military in a speech to thousands of veterans Wednesday.
Speaking here at the American Legion National Convention, Clinton highlighted her personal and professional military bona fides, describing her upbringing as the daughter of a Navy chief petty officer and invoking her role as an adviser in the May 2011 Navy SEAL raid that killed al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden.
“I was deeply honored to be part of that small group advising the president,” she said. “I brought to those discussions my experience as a senator from New York on 9/11 and my commitment to do whatever I could in whatever role I had to bring bin Laden to justice.”
She recalled watching the SEALs adapt and carry on with the mission as one of the Black Hawk helicopters clipped the wall of bin Laden’s compound and was disabled.
“I was holding my breath for the entire operation,” she said.
Although the SEALs were racing against the clock to destroy the damaged chopper and depart after taking out bin Laden, Clinton said, they took time to move women and children — bin Laden’s family members — to safety.
“That is what honor looks like,” she said. “Maybe the soldiers of other nations wouldn’t have bothered. Or maybe the’d have taken revenge on those family members of terrorists. But that is not who we are. And anyone who doesn’t understand that, doesn’t understand what makes our nation great.”
The statement was one of many pointed rebukes to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who is set to address the convention on Thursday.
Last December, Trump said on a Fox News talk show that U.S. leaders had to “take out [the] families” of terrorists to be effective against them. He later would walk the remark back.
Clinton also took Trump to task for comments disparaging Gold Star father Khizr Khan, who spoke in Clinton’s support at the Democratic National Convention in July, and former prisoner of war Sen. John McCain, whose heroism Trump has questioned, saying in 2015: “I like people who weren’t captured.”
“I will never disrespect Gold Star families or prisoners of war,” Clinton said. “To insult them is just so wrong, and it says a lot about the person doing the insulting.”
Clinton struck a centrist note, acknowledging she spoke to an audience that tended to lean conservative. And she emphasized her commitment to the ideas of American exceptionalism and military strength.
She called her father, Navy veteran Hugh Rodham, a “rock-ribbed” Republican with whom she had never agreed on politics but had learned to converse with civilly.
“I believe we are still Lincoln’s last best hope of Earth … Still Reagan’s shining city on a hill,” she said. “Part of what makes America an exceptional nation is that we are also an indispensable nation. In fact, we are the indispensable nation. My friends, we are so lucky to be American when so many people want to be Americans too.”
She promised to send troops into harm’s way only as a last resort — a statement that drew applause from the convention — and promised to support and develop U.S. alliances, saying they were unmatched by those of competing global powers Russia and China.
“You don’t build a coalition by insulting our friends and acting like a loose cannon,” she said, subtly rebuking Trump, who has been critical of U.S. allies and NATO for not paying their share of defense costs. “You do it by putting in the slow, hard work of building relationships.”
On veterans’ issues, Clinton emphasized her support for reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs, rather than privatizing the system, and pledged to fight to end the national “epidemic” of veterans’ suicide.
Clinton said she would support expanded tax credits for businesses that hire veterans and would promote policies that allow veterans to get credit for military job skills as they transition into the civilian workforce.
She also promised a crackdown on for-profit schools and organizations that prey on veterans and military families. “They should be ashamed of themselves, and we’re going to hold them accountable,” she said.
Clinton touted the endorsements she has received from retired military leaders and Republican national security experts, and promised to cross the aisle to work out a sustainable defense budget plan, denouncing the sequestration cuts, enacted through the bipartisan Budget Control Act, that placed arbitrary caps on defense spending.
“The last thing we need is a president who brings more name-calling and temper tantrums to Washington,” she said.
One of America’s closest allies is preparing to put China’s claims to the test in the South China Sea.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson revealed at a high-level meeting in Sydney, Australia, that the UK will be sending its new aircraft carriers into the region to uphold freedom of navigation and the rules-based international order. Australia has been hesitant to act, fearing increased tension with Beijing.
“One of the first things we will do with the two new colossal aircraft carriers that we have just built,” Johnson explained, “is send them on a freedom-of-navigation operation to this area to vindicate our belief in the rules-based international system and in the freedom of navigation through those waterways which are absolutely vital for world trade.”
The UK’s new aircraft carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, is undergoing maiden sea trials and is expected to be commissioned into the Royal Navy later this year.
British Defense Secretary Sir Michael Fallon confirmed the deployment without providing any real details. “We haven’t mapped out the initial deployments yet but, yes, you would expect to see these carriers in the India Pacific Ocean, this part of the world because it is in this part of the world we see increasing tension, increasing challenges,” Fallon told the Australia Broadcasting Corporation.
Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne hinted that Australia might also step up its activities in the area.
“Importantly today, we also discussed developments in our region, particularly with respect to freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight which is a global issue and countries like Australia and the United Kingdom have a shared interest in those global freedoms,” Payne said, adding, “We agreed today that we would identify opportunities to conduct, where possible, cooperative activities in the region when we have assets that are in the area at the same time.”
There still appears to be a certain hesitancy to make the same commitment as the Americans and the British.
China claims the vast majority of the South China Sea, asserting its dominance through the illegal development of artificial islands, the construction of military outposts, and regular naval and bomber patrols in the area. Beijing’s claims were discredited by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague last year, but China rejected both the authority and ruling of the arbitration tribunal, declaring its sovereignty over massive swaths of the ocean to be indisputable.
The Trump administration has started putting increased pressure on China, which has so far failed to rein in North Korea, a major point of concern for the new administration. The US Navy has conducted two freedom-of-navigation operations and two bomber overflights in the South China Sea, angering Beijing.
Troy Green is an Army veteran with a full range of responsibilities, from being a father and leading his daughter’s Girl Scouts troop to fundraising for the Missouri Veterans Home. After coming home from the Army, Troy dove headfirst into his hometown. He’s deeply involved in his community and spends an incredible amount of time devoted to significant causes. On top of his heavy schedule, Troy wanted to pursue the education afforded to him by the GI Bill.
Bricks-and-mortar schools don’t work for everyone, especially adults with jobs and families. Online education is a great option for busy active duty service members, veterans, and military families because students can matriculate anywhere and the hours are flexible. But not all online institutions are created equal, especially when it comes to providing value to the military community. Finding one that truly understands the military way of life is essential . . . and rare.
Grantham University is one of the best online colleges for military service members because the institution strives to make a service member’s college experience fit his or her life. Grantham’s range of undergraduate and graduate degree programs help troops prepare for promotion opportunities or even career changes.
The military has always been in Grantham’s DNA. Grantham University was founded in 1951 by WWII veteran Donald Grantham to provide other veterans a way to better their lives through distance learning. That spirit combined with the latest online technologies, including effective use of social media, allows Grantham to offer military students targeted online degree programs in the most affordable manner possible. A flexible, self-paced curriculum allows military students to work at their own speed when they have the time. Grantham also assists in creating military-only study groups so classmates can relate to each other in all the ways that matter and make the educational experience more enjoyable and effective. And Grantham helps students choose a targeted degree that complements military experience.
Israel’s Arrow missile defense system managed to get its first kill. This particular kill is notable because it was a Syrian surface-to-air missile.
According to a report by FoxNews.com, Israeli jets had attacked a number of Syrian targets. After the successful operation, they were targeted by Syrian air-defense systems, including surface-to-air missiles.
Reportedly, at least one of the surface-to-air missiles was shot down by an Arrow. According to astronautix.com, the system designed to kill ballistic missiles, had its first test flight in 1990 and has hit targets as high as 60 miles up.
Army-Technology.com notes that the Israeli system has a range of up to 56 miles and a top speed of Mach 9. That is about three times the speed of the legendary SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance plane.
The surprise, of course, is that the Arrow proved capable of killing the unidentified surface-to-air missile the Syrians fired.
Surface-to-air missiles are much harder targets to hit than ballistic missiles because they will maneuver to target a fighter or other aircraft.
Furthermore, the SAM that was shot down is very likely to have been of Russian manufacture (DefenseNews.com reported the missile was a SA-5 Gammon, also known as the S-200).
Most of the missiles are from various production blocks of the Arrow 2, but this past January, Reuters reported that the first Arrow 3 battery had become operational.
While the Arrow 2 intercepts incoming warheads in the atmosphere, the Arrow 3 is capable of exoatmospheric intercepts. One battery has been built so far, and will supplement Israel’s Arrow 2 batteries. The Arrow 3’s range is up to 2,400 kilometers, according to CSIS.
The US Marine Corps’ Black Sea Rotational Force left its base in Romania for training in Bulgaria this month, carrying out exercises that are another sign the US military is preparing for a kind of conflict that’s different from what it has faced in recent decades.
A Marine Forces Europe and Africa release issued earlier in July said units from the rotational force were headed to Bulgaria’s Novo Selo training area, “where they would be able to take advantage of the rough, verdurous terrain for multiple training events.”
“We deployed from the place where we’re stationed at in Romania to this training area in Bulgaria. That way we can utilize the training areas out here that are a little better suited for the training that we’re trying to accomplish,” an unidentified Marine said in a video released this week by the command, first spotted by Marine Corps Times.
The Marines carried out a number of exercises focused on combined-arms proficiency and on building operational capacity.
Marines perform high-angle fire training with a Mk 19 40mm grenade launcher at Novo Selo Training Area, Bulgaria, July 2, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Abrey Liggins)
“During this training event we had snipers conducting everything from unknown distance ranges to live-fire stalks,” said 1st Lt. Daniel Kult, a combined anti-armor team (CAAT) platoon commander. “We also had our 81 mm mortar platoon conducting dismounted and mounted live-fire operations, both day and night.”
“We have our combined-anti-armor platoon conducting high-angle Mark-19 fire, which is a new thing for us,” the Marine said in the video. “It’s not really done in the Marine Corps anymore.”
High-angle fire with the Mark 19, an automatic grenade launcher that can fire up to 60 40mm grenades a minute, could come in handy if Marines engaged enemy personnel behind walls or other barriers, Marine Corps machine-gunners told the Times. Such fire could also be useful against Russian armor or other vehicles.
The gunners said that with skilled observers and good communications, high-angle fire — a skill taught at the Corps’ advanced machine-gunner course — from Mark 19s could quickly be walked onto a target.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Abrey Liggins)
According to the release, platoons from Weapons Company from the 1st Battalion of the 6th Marine Regiment, typically work independently, making the joint exercises at Novo Selo a valuable opportunity.
“We don’t always get together as a company and do these combined training events, so as a whole, it improves our unit cohesion,” said Cpl. Benjamin Lepla, a forward observer. “Now we know how long it takes for every section to set up their equipment and assault the objective from different positions.”
“The most important event that we’re doing out here is the combined attack utilizing the entire company,” Kult said. “It’s a unique opportunity because normally we’re all away from each other, either supporting other companies, or in direct support of the battalion.”
NATO forces have
increased their presence in Eastern Europe in the years since Russia began its incursion in Ukraine in 2014, and US military units in Europe have been boosting their capabilities.
Earlier this year, the Army’s Ironhorse Brigade arrived for a rotation in Eastern Europe — but instead of sailing to Germany, the unit disembarked in Belgium
for the first time in decades to practice traveling across the continent by road, rail, and barge.
The US military has been shifting its attention to preparations for a potential conflict with near-peer competitors like China or Russia — a change outlined in the
National Defense Strategy released earlier this year.
Marine lubricates the interior of a Mark 19 grenade launcher at Novo Selo Training Area, Bulgaria, July 2, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Abrey Liggins)
Such a conflict would be different from the fights of the recent past, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller has said.
“I don’t think the next fight is going to be a stability op/counterinsurgency: It’s going to be a violent, violent fight,” Neller said in mid-2017, according to Marine Corps Times.
For the Marines, it also likely means a change in operational focus, away from the Middle East and toward the Pacific and northern and eastern Europe, Neller told Marines in Norway late last year.
He stressed that amid that shift, Marines should remain ready for a potential conflict, predicting a “big-ass fight” on the horizon, according to Military.com.
“I hope I’m wrong, but there’s a war coming,” he told the Marines in Norway, who are part of a new rotational force meant to expand training and boost readiness. “You’re in a fight here, an informational fight, a political fight, by your presence.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Vice President Mike Pence on Oct. 23, 2018, didn’t immediately rule out positioning nuclear weapons in space sometime in the future. In a conversation with the Washington Post during its “Transformers: Space” summit, Pence was asked if the United States was looking to renegotiate the terms of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which currently bans “weapons of mass destruction,” but still allows for conventional weapons in orbit.
“That treaty…doesn’t ban military activity,” Pence said. “It gives nations a fair amount of flexibility in operating in their security interests in outer space. At this time we don’t see any need to amend the treaty, but as time goes forward, the hope that we could continue to see outer space as a domain where peace will reign will require military presence.”
Post reporter Robert Costa, who interviewed Pence onstage at the forum, asked him if he thought nuclear weapons should be banned from space.
“They are now,” Pence replied.
“Should they always be banned from space?” Costa said.
A SpaceX “flight proven” first stage booster successfully lands on Landing Zone 1, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., Dec. 15, 2017.
“Well, look. I think what we need to do is make sure that we provide for the common defense of the people of the United States of America. And that’s the president’s determination here,” Pence replied. “What we want to do is continue to advance the principle that peace comes through strength.”
The vice president on Oct. 23, 2018, headlined a few events to promote plans for the Trump administration’s proposed Space Force, intended to be the sixth military branch.
Following his appearance at the Post, Pence convened a meeting of the National Space Council at Fort McNair, where cabinet secretaries, members of the national space and security councils, and policy officials discussed recommendations to begin forming the Department of the Space Force.
Echoing a plan Pence unveiled at the Pentagon in August 2018, Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said the Defense Department would move to:
Establish the creation of a unified space command, known as U.S. Space Command
Direct a legislative proposal for a Space Force for the White House to review
Form a budget request proposal to include Space Force elements in the fiscal year 2020 budget Review various space agency authorities to understand and streamline chain-of-command
Establishes the Space Development Agency for new satellite and technology procurement
Strengthen relationships between the new military space branch and the intelligence community
The recommendations, approved unanimously in the meeting, will eventually be woven into Space Policy Directive-4, known as SPD-4, Space News reported.
When SPD-4 may be signed by the president was not disclosed, even though members of the Pentagon have been waiting to discuss the directive for some months, Military.com reported last week.
During the two-hour meeting, the conferees heard from Doug Loverro, deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy; Mark Sirangelo, an “entrepreneur-in-residence” at the University of Colorado Boulder’s aerospace engineering program and former head of Sierra Nevada Corporation’s space business; and Air Force Lt. Gen. James K. McLaughlin, deputy commander of U.S. Cyber Command.
U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. James K. McLaughlin, Deputy Commander of U.S. Cyber Command.
All were in favor of establishing a Space Force. McLaughlin, however, stressed interoperability and warned of bureaucratic overlap.
“I think you undermine the need for a department if you try to create a combatant command with service-like authorities,” McLaughlin said. “We have to be careful about these three entities not overlapping, and drawing clear lines.”
Current space operations conducted by bases that belong to Air Force Space Command, the Army‘s 1st Space Brigade, the Navy‘s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command and the Naval Satellite Operations Center will all be absorbed into the Space Force, according to plans.
Space Force will not initially include “the transfer of [the] strategic intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance mission of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO),” the 13-page memo said, as reported by DefenseOne Monday. Whether the intelligence agency will be incorporated at a later date remains to be seen.
“It was not easy to do this,” Shanahan said Tuesday. “But we are moving out.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Four North Korean soldiers fired about 40 rounds at a comrade fleeing into South Korea and hit him five times in the first shooting at the jointly controlled area of the heavily fortified border in more than 30 years, the South’s military said Nov. 14.
South Korean soldiers did not fire their weapons, but the Nov. 13 incident occurred at a time of high animosity over North Korea’s nuclear program. The North has expressed intense anger over past high-profile defections.
The soldier is being treated at a South Korean hospital after a five-hour operation for the gunshot wounds he suffered during his escape across the Joint Security Area. His personal details and motive for defection are unknown and his exact medical condition is unclear.
South Korea’s military said he suffered injuries in his internal organs but wasn’t in a life-threatening condition. But the Ajou University Medical Center near Seoul said the soldier was relying on a breathing machine after the surgery removed the bullets. Lee Guk-jong, a doctor who leads Ajou’s medical team for the soldier, described his patient’s condition as “very dangerous” and said the next 10 days might determine whether he recovers.
On Nov. 13, he first drove a military jeep but left the vehicle when one of its wheels fell into a ditch. He then fled across the JSA, with fellow soldiers chasing and firing at him, South Korea’s military said, citing unspecified surveillance systems installed in the area.
Suh Wook, chief director of operations for the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, told lawmakers that North Korea fired a total of about 40 rounds in a shooting that his office suggested started while the soldier was in the jeep.
The solider was found beneath a pile of leaves on the southern side of the JSA and South Korean troops crawled there to recover him. A U.N. Command helicopter later transported him to the Ajou medical center, according to South Korean officials.
The North’s official media haven’t reported the case as of Nov. 14. They have previously accused South Korea of kidnapping or enticing North Koreans to defect. About 30,000 North Koreans have fled to South Korea, mostly via China, since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.
The JSA is jointly overseen by the American-led U.N. Command and by North Korea, with South Korean and North Korean border guards facing each other only meters (feet) apart. It is located inside the 4-kilometer-wide (2 1/2-mile-wide) Demilitarized Zone, which forms the de facto border between the Koreas since the Korean War. While both sides of the DMZ are guarded by barbed wire fences, mines and tank traps, the JSA includes the truce village of Panmunjom which provides the site for rare talks and draws curious tourists.
Monday’s incident was the first shooting at the Joint Security Area since North Korean and U.N. Command soldiers traded gunfire when a Soviet citizen defected by sprinting to the South Korean sector of the JSA in 1984. A North Korean soldier defected there in 1998 and another in 2007 but neither of those events involved gunfire between the rivals, according to South Korea’s military.
The 1984 exchange of gunfire happened after North Korean soldiers crossed the border and fired, according to the U.N. Command. In Monday’s incident, it wasn’t known if the North continued firing after the defector was officially in the southern part of the Joint Security Area. The U.N. Command said Tuesday that an investigation into the incident was underway.
The Joint Security Area was the site of some bloodshed during the Cold War but there hasn’t been major violence there in recent years. In 1976, North Korean soldiers axed two American army officers to death and the United States responded by flying nuclear-capable B-52 bombers toward the DMZ in an attempt to intimidate the North.
The exercises, which were held in Belarus and western Russia for six days, tested Russia’s defensive capabilities against the fictional country of Veishnoriya which had supposedly been infiltrated by western-backed militias.
The games were not, as many eastern European leaders and even some US generals feared, used to occupy Belarus, invade Ukraine or for some other deceitful act.
In fact, Russian tank and airborne units are currently leaving Belarus and heading home.
The games also did not, as many in the west said, appear to involve 100,000 or more Russian troops.
Moscow claimed that only 12,700 troops participated — just under the 13,000 figure that requires foreign observation according to the Vienna Document — and that “official count … in Belarus and parts of nearby Russia was … probably fairly accurate,” Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior research scientist at CNA, told Business Insider.
“The trick is that they have a lot of other official exercises that seem to be taking place nearby,” Gorenburg said.
Russia’s Northern Fleet Moscow conducted exercises in the Barents Sea, and its Strategic Rocket Forces test launched two new RS-24 YARS ICBMs. Additional exercises were also held, including some with China and Egypt in other parts of Russia.
“Most of these exercises are not part of Zapad 2017, but as always, it’s a bit hard to tell,” Michael Kofman, a senior research scientist at CNA, recently wrote.
Gorenburg said it’s still too difficult to discern how many troops participated, but guessed that roughly 60,000-70,000 took part. Some analysts have estimated a similar range.
These overblown western estimations of 100,000 or more troops, along with fear of occupations and invasions, Gorenburg said, were a political win for Russia, which “is trying to show its military is back and strong.”
The Kremlin can also now “credibly claim that the West overreacted and fell victim to scaremongering and reporting rumours that Moscow was not being transparent about the nature of the exercise and its intentions,” Mathieu Boulègue, a research fellow at the Chatham House, wrote.
“Short of entrapment, proving the West wrong is increasingly part of the Kremlin’s political strategy which, in turn, strengthens Russia’s sense of superiority,” Boulègue wrote.
Some have even argued that Russia made western media look like fake news, and that these western exagerations were done out of ignorance or to fit their own political agenda.
Despite not appearing to have gone over or been close to the 100,000 or more figure, Russia nevertheless seems, according to Gorenburg and many otheranalysts, to have had more than 13,000 troops participating in the overall Zapad exercises, which is in violation of the Vienna Document.
While Belarus was rather transparent, and invited foreigners to observe the games, it makes sense that Moscow would want to limit such foreign observation as much as possible. After all, Zapad means “west” in Russian, and the games were essentially a simulation of how well Russian military branches could coordinate a defensive against NATO.
The first three days of the exercises were purely defensive, initially defending against a large aerial attack, which Russian military leaders have determined is the US and NATO’s traditional opening move during invasions, according to the Jamestown Foundation.
The last three days of the exercises were all about “counterattack,” Gorenburg said. For a thorough breakdown of all Russia’s military maneuvers during the exercises, check out Kofman’s blog summarizing all seven days of Zapad-2017.
Ultimately, Russia was able to repel the simulated western invasion, and while “it will take a more detailed analysis” to see how well Russia faired, Moscow initially seems to think “it went fairly well,” Gorenburg said.
The 2004 Second Battle of Fallujah will be talked about among Marines for years to come, but for some who fought in those deadly streets and from room-to-room, the battle continues to play out long after they come home.
“The most difficult part of transitioning into the civilian world is the fact that I was still alive,” says Matt Ranbarger, a Marine rifleman who fought in Fallujah, in a new documentary released on YouTube called “The November War.”
The end result of a successful Kickstarter campaign, “The November War” gives an intimate look at just one event that changed the lives of the nearly dozen Marines profiled in the film: An operation to clear a house in the insurgent-infested city on Nov. 22, 2004.
“I remember we got a briefing that morning, and I didn’t like it,” squad leader Catcher Cutstherope says, describing how his leaders told the Marines they could no longer use frag grenades when room clearing. Instead, they were instructed to use flash or stun grenades, and only use frags if they were absolutely certain there was an insurgent inside.
“We were all pretty much ‘what the f–k are we gonna do with a flash grenade, it’s not gonna do anything,'” Nathan Douglas says. “We were pretty much right on that part.”
With part interview, part battle footage — shot by Marines during the battle with their own personal cameras — the film is unlike other post-9/11 war documentaries. Similar docs give the viewer insight into a full deployment — “Restrepo” and the follow-up “Korengal” are good examples — or a bigger picture look at both the planning and execution of a combat operation, like “The Battle for Marjah.”
“The November War” takes neither of these approaches, and the film is much better for it. Instead, Garrett Anderson, the filmmaker and Marine veteran who also fought in the battle, captures poignant moments from his former platoon-mates years after their combat experience is over. Some describe going into a room as an insurgent fires, while others talk through their thoughts after being shot.
In describing clearing the house — a costly endeavor that resulted in six Marines wounded — the film reveals the part of that day that still haunts all involved: The death of their friend, Cpl. Michael Cohen.
The documentary captures visceral stress among the Marines. Years later, sweat beads off their foreheads. As they speak, they are measured, but their voices are tinged with emotion. Viewers can tell they see that day just as clearly, more than a decade later.
Perhaps the most revealing part of the film is when Anderson asks all his interviewees whether it was worth it. One Marine filmed is offended by the question, answering that of course every Marine would answer yes. But that doesn’t play out onscreen, as two members of the unit express their doubts.
“Losing that many guys, friends … any of them,” says Brian Lynch, the platoon’s corpsman. “I don’t think it was worth it.”
In the end, “The November War” is one of those must-watch documentaries. It gives a look into what it’s like for troops in combat, and beautifully captures the raw emotion that can still endure long after they come home.
“You know how people say ‘freedom isn’t free?'” asks Lance Cpl. Munoz soon after the film opens.
“Well, you, the one watching this at home on TV right now … sitting eating popcorn, or a burger,” he says, pointing to the camera. “Living the high life. And if you’re a Marine watching this sh– and you’re laughing, it’s because you already went through this sh–.”
U.S. Army modernization officials defended the rapid prototyping strategy for the service’s Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) system, even though infantry units won’t receive the new light tank until 2025.
The two companies will each build 12 prototypes so the Army can begin testing them in early 2020. The goal is to down-select to a winner by fiscal 2022.
“We are excited about this opportunity,” Maj. Gen. Brian Cummings, head of Program Executive Office Ground Combat Systems, told reporters at the Pentagon. “We have an aggressive schedule to take a look at these two companies as they build the prototypes.”
BAE Systems displays an early prototype of its Mobile Protected Firepower at AUSA’s meeting and exposition in Washington. Events such as this provide industry with opportunities to showcase technologies and discuss requirements for new capabilities.
(BAE Systems photo)
GDLS and BAE beat out SAIC and its partner, ST Engineering Land Systems Ltd., but Army officials would not comment on the reason the winners were chosen.
Service officials lauded the contract awards as a major step forward in streamlining Army acquisition and said they plan to use the rapid prototyping approach as a model for future programs.
But even if the Army in 2022 selects one of the companies to build production MPF systems, it likely will take another three years before the service will field the first of 504 of these lightweight tanks to infantry brigade combat teams.
Army officials said it would take longer to field the MPF if they hadn’t used what’s known as “Middle Tier Acquisition Rapid Prototyping (Section 804)” contracts, an acquisition tool designed to streamline testing and development of prototypes.
The process is quicker than other acquisition procedures in that the MPF program will not use time-consuming preliminary and critical design reviews to ensure that platforms meet requirements, Army officials explained.
“For a new system, [going through that process] could add as much as a year-and-a-half to two years onto the whole cycle,” said David Dopp, Mobile Protected Firepower program manager, adding that the Army is pleased it will take just 14 months for GDLS and BAE to produce the 12 prototypes each.
“Fourteen months is very challenging. I don’t think you can find another program that ever got prototypes in 14 months,” he said. “When you build these vehicles and you put them together, [sometimes] they don’t work, or if they do work, we take them out and test them, and there are things that happen, and we need that time to prove it out.”
A General Dynamics Land Systems Griffin II prototype vehicle. GD was selected to produce similar, medium-weight, large-caliber prototype vehicles for the U.S. Army’s Mobile Protected Firepower program.
(General Dynamics photo)
Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team, said the Army will use the 14 months to get a headstart on figuring out how infantry units will utilize the MPF to destroy enemy bunkers and other hardened battlefield positions.
“Right now, we are doing experiments and tactical training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, with vehicles that have a similar profile of the Mobile Protective Firepower to develop tactics, techniques and procedures for the light forces to work with mechanized vehicles in the close fight,” he said.
The MPF concept emerged several years ago when maneuver leaders started calling for a lightweight, armored platform for light infantry forces equipped with a cannon powerful enough to destroy hardened targets.
Staff Sgt. August O’Neil, Air Force Wounded Warrior, and fellow pararescueman and Wounded Warrior, Staff Sgt. Nick Robillard, prepare to deliver the Care Beyond Duty flag during the opening ceremony of the 2016 U.S. Air Force Trials at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Feb. 26, 2016. | U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Taylor Curry
In July 2011, Air Force Staff Sgt. August O’Neill, a pararescueman, was sent to rescue a group of Marines pinned down in Afghanistan when enemy insurgents opened fire on his team’s helicopter.
A round bounced off the helicopter’s door, tearing through both of O’Neill’s lower legs and critically wounding his left, resulting in 20 surgeries over the next three-and-a-half years as doctors tried to save the limb.
O’Neill finally told doctors to remove his left leg last year, but he remains determined to continue his career as a pararescueman.
Determined to Resume Career
“I haven’t looked back since,” said O’Neill, who’s training with the 342nd Training Squadron here, as he prepares to requalify for assignment to a pararescue team.
“I knew I wasn’t done doing this job,” he added.
Pararescue isn’t an easy job for any airman, let alone one who’s had their leg amputated just above the knee, but O’Neill believes he’s still up to the task.
“There are going to be issues that come up here and there,” O’Neill said. “But I’m sure I’ll make it back on a team. Just like anybody who hasn’t been in their job for a long time … I basically need to make sure everybody else knows that I’m capable of doing the job, and … I need to make sure I haven’t lost anything that I need.”
Pararescumen serve in one of the most physically demanding fields in the armed forces, with the journey from basic training to joining an operational unit spanning almost two years, according to the technical training course guide.
Seeking a ‘New Normal’
O’Neill said he isn’t expecting any special treatment as he trains over the next few months to demonstrate his mission readiness.
“I wouldn’t want to do this job if I couldn’t meet the same qualifications as everybody else, because that would put the people on my team at risk,” he explained. “You’re only as strong as your weakest member, so if I can’t keep up with them, that means they’re carrying me and that’s not something that I want.”
Living with a prosthetic is a minor annoyance in terms of his daily routine, O’Neill said. He doesn’t sleep with the leg on, for example, so he has to hop to the bathroom or the refrigerator when he wakes in the middle of the night.
“It’s just finding a ‘new normal’ for all the things I was able to do with two legs before,” he explained. “I’ve just been finding ways to get everything done.”
That minor annoyance turns into a bigger challenge during pararescue training, where O’Neill will have to depend on his ingenuity and adaptability to meet the other demands to the job.
“Anything from picking up a patient — where I can’t just roll down on a knee and lift them up — I have to find a different way to brace myself to get people up and move out,” he noted. “Everything is challenging, but it’s just a matter of finding out how to do it.”
As if navigating this “new normal” wasn’t enough, O’Neill said his training has been grueling.
“It’s tough mentally and physically,” he said. “You aren’t pushed to your limit — you’re pushed beyond that — to the limits that the instructors know you can reach. There are so many qualifications that you need to keep up with that you … can’t do so without being mentally prepared.”
One thing, at least, hasn’t changed for O’Neill since returning from his injury.
“I don’t like running,” he chuckled. “I’ve never been a distance runner and after four years of not running … that’s still difficult, but I can still run. It’s not as pretty as it was before, but I’m able to at least get the job done.”
China’s People’s Liberation Army Gen. He Lei, one of the more hawkish voices asserting Beijing’s absolute rights to the South China Sea, made a telling observation at a defense conference in Singapore that reveals his military’s biggest weakness.
Though it’s strange to regret peace, He correctly identified what the Academy of Military Science of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army previously told Business Insider was the Chinese military’s biggest weakness: inexperience.
The People’s Liberation Army, the military owned by China’s Communist Party, has never fought a real war. Its missions center around humanitarian relief and policing its own borders. Besides a brief fights with Vietnam, India, and Russia on its borders, as well as involvement in the Korean War, the entire post-World War II period for China has been peaceful.
Meanwhile, the US and Russia, other top-tier militaries, have engaged in regular battles.
While much of China’s emerging new military doctrine seems sound in theory, it’s yet to be tested.
China can build ships and planes, but can’t shake the doubt
Rowden explained that while a US and a Chinese ship may both appear combat-ready,”[o]ne of them couldn’t fight their way out of a wet paper bag and the other one will rock anything that it comes up against.”
But that’s just at sea, and ground combat with its toll on individual soldiers is a whole different beast. When Chinese soldiers, many of them conscripts, are tested in battle, it’s unclear if they’ll soldier on with the same grit as the US’s all-volunteer force.
While the world can appreciate peace and a lack of fighting, as China looks to displace the US as the dominant military power, it will remain untested and doubt-ridden until it faces real combat.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.