As the battle against ISIS continues to rage, the various Kurdish militia groups have proven to be the most effective ground force at stemming the militant tide.
Seeking to turn back the jihadists, a small but growing number of US veterans have traveled to Iraq and Syria to join the fight, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Two US veterans that the WSJ identified who fought in Syria and returned are former Army Ranger Bruce Windorski and Marine combat veteran Jamie Lane.
Although Windorski, 40, and Lane, 29, had different reasons for joining the fight against ISIS, they followed a similar route to the front lines.
Both veterans flew into Sulaymaniyah, Iraq via Turkey. Once in Sulaymaniyah, the two veterans met with members of the Kurdish YPG which drove them through Iraqi Kurdistan to a Kurdish military training camp in northern Syria. The YPG, more than any other Kurdish faction, has successfully managed to court foreign fighters for their operations against ISIS.
“The quickest route to the front lines is the YPG, which has drivers in Iraq ready to pick up Westerners,” the WSJ notes.
“Its Lions of Rojava Facebook page, named after a Kurdish region the fighters are trying to claim, appeals: ‘Welcome to our Family Brothers and Sisters. Join YPG…and send ISIS terrorists to Hell and save Humanity.'”
After a brief stint in a military training camp, the YPG proceeded to move Lane and Windorski — along with other foreign fighters from Greece, England, Australia, and France — to the front lines. Before combat, the YPG allowed the fighters to choose their own weapons and ammunition. Although, the WSJ noted that there was a lack of body armor available to any fighters in the organization.
This general makeshift approach to supplies among the YPG was also apparent in the structure of the YPG forces itself. US citizens can fight alongside the YPG as the US government has not designated it terrorist or enemy organization. However, the YPG’s sister organization, the PKK, is a designated terrorist organization and US citizens who fight alongside the PKK can have legal action brought against them upon return to the US.
This legal distinction by the US of the two organizations poses challenges for US citizens fighting in Syria against ISIS.
“There often seemed little to distinguish the ‘terrorist’ PKK and America’s YPG friends, Westerners who fought alongside the Kurds say,” the WSJ notes. “PKK militants would become YPG fighters by changing fatigues.”
Ultimately, after arming and training, Windorski and Lane engaged in a night long battle against ISIS. The two barely survived the encounter and both soon after returned to the US. Although the two took part in the same battle, they differed on their ultimate beliefs about whether US citizens should take it upon themselves to fight ISIS alongside the Kurds.
Whereas Windorsky would encourage willing individuals to join the Kurds, Lane said he would tell others not to go.
“It’s not what you’re thinking,” Lane told the WSJ. “You’re not going to fight ISIS. You’re fighting for the revolution of Rojava.”
Lane’s assessment matches a bitter truth about the YPG on the ground. Although the Kurds have been on a roll pushing back ISIS across swathes of northern Syria, the group has also been accused of seizing non-Kurdish land in an attempt to alter the demography of the area to better suite a future Kurdish state.
Such actions, which the YPG deny, would ultimately only help prolong conflict in the area and could feed into ISIS recruiting strategies.
Fighting fires is hungry work. And since firefighters spend long hours, even days, at the fire station, it naturally falls to some schlub rookie to lace up an apron and put food on the table. That’s normally how it goes.
But Meals Ready To Eat doesn’t profile normal.
In South Philadelphia, there’s a fire station where things go down a bit differently. That’s because the members of Philly’s Fire Engine 60, Ladder 19 are lucky enough to count a gourmet chef among their ranks. In fact, he outranks most of them. He’s Lieutenant Bill Joerger, he’s a former Marine and this kitchen is his by right of mastery.
It is a little weird for a ranking officer to spend hours rustling the chow. It’s a little strange that he goes to such lengths to source ingredients for his culinary art. It’s a bit outlandish when those meals are complex enough to necessitate a demo plate.
But Bill Joerger doesn’t care about any of that. When not actively saving lives, he cares about honing his cooking skills, eating well, and creating — in the midst of a chaotic work environment — some small sacred space where everyone can relax and just be people together.
“You have the brotherhood in the Marine Corps, and it’s the same as being in the firehouse…it’s some satisfaction for me to know that I’m producing a good meal for these guys after the things that we deal with on a daily basis.”
Meals Ready to Eat host August Dannehl spent a day with Joerger at the firehouse, experiencing the often violent stop-and-start nature of a firefighter’s day and, in the down moments, sous-cheffing for the Lieutenant. The story of how Joerger found his way from the Marine Corps to a cookbook and then to the firehouse kitchen is a lesson in utilizing one’s passion to impose some order in the midst of life’s disarray.
Shaolin Kung Fu is one of the oldest and most intense forms of Chinese martial arts. Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and a number of other martial arts movie stars have also made Kung Fu one of the most famous forms.
As a part of a religious order, the Shaolin monks were persecuted by Chinese Communists during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution. The temple was mostly destroyed and stayed that way for years. But when Jet Li made “Shaolin Shi,” it was enough to make Mao give in: the temple was rebuilt and some much-needed tourism revenue came in as Kung Fu made a comeback.
Here are a few things you may not have known about Kung Fu and the elite Shaolin Monks.
1. The founder of Shaolin Kung Fu was from India.
Legend has it that the founder of the Shaolin order, a Buddhist monk from India named Bodhidharma, spent nine years meditating in a cave near his monastery. The legend has it that to keep him from falling asleep, the monk cut off his eyelids and threw them on the ground.
Pre-Workout would not be invented for another 1,500 years.
Green Tea began to grow from the spot where he threw his eyelids and now Buddhist monks use green tea to maintain their focus during meditation.
2. Kung Fu is studied in a “Kwoon.”
The word “dojo” is reserved for places that teach Japanese martial arts, like Aikido. When entering a kwoon, bow at a 45-degree angle with your hands at your chest — the right in a fist, and the left open-palm.
This represents the yin and yang and that your heart is at peace.
3. Kung Fu practitioners wear a different uniform.
Again, much of the look of the loose-fitting
gi and colored belts comes from the Japanese practice. Traditional Chinese Kung Fu doesn’t use colored belt levels (though some Western teachers might use them as a teaching tool). Chinese Kung Fu uses a uniform that is tight at the ankles and sometimes even at the wrists.
4. The most elite Shaolin monk was a werewolf.
Ok, he wasn’t an
actual werewolf. In the late 19th century lived a monk named Tai Jin. The poor guy suffered from a condition known as hypertrichosis. Also known as “Werewolf Syndrome” because of the insane amount of body hair that grows on affected areas.
It might have helped his self-esteem to know that, according to legend, he was the best fighter in all of China.
No comfort for Chewbacca here.
Tai Jin was abandoned at the monastery as a baby because of his body hair. The monks raised him and trained him. He eventually dedicated himself to one form of martial art. Legend also has it that upon meeting the 12 masters of Shaolin, the boy threw a dagger into the ceiling, killing a would-be assassin. He explained to the masters that he could hear 13 people breathing, not just 12.
For more about the Shaolin monks and their founder, check out the above episode of Elite Forces.
What they could do is hamper the Americans’ ability to pursue them in a retreat.
One of the ways they did that was by using creative methods to rig booby traps to injure or kill U.S. troops.
They were often marked by the Viet Cong using broken bushes, palm leaves, or certain alignments of sticks, such as a rectangle or tripod. The retreating Vietnamese would fashion traps from crude spikes, grenades, wires, and even memorabilia.
1. Punji Sticks
These are traps made with sharpened bamboo stakes, often smeared with urine, feces, or another substance that would cause infection in the victim. The VC would dig a hole and put the sticks in the bottom, then cover it with a thin frame. The victim would put his foot through the cover and fall on the spikes below.
A more insidious trap featured spears pointed downward so victims would be injured only when they tried to pull out of the trap.
2. Snake Pits
Yes, this is exactly what it sounds like. Viet Cong guerrillas would often carried Bamboo Pit Vipers in their packs to (hopefully) kill anyone who searches through them. They would also tie the deadly snakes to bamboo and hide them throughout their tunnel complexes. When the Bamboo was released, so was the snake – right onto the enemy.
The snakes were nicknamed “three-step snakes,” because three steps was all you could make before the venom kills you. U.S. “tunnel rats” had to be specially trained to navigate and disarm these traps.
Two cans were mounted on trees along either side of a path. The safety pins on the grenades are removed and the explosives are put into cans, which hold down the striker levers. The tripwire was then tied to each grenade. When the wire was tripped, the grenades were pulled out of the cans to detonate instantly. This could also be done with one can and a stake.
4. Flag Bombs
The NVA and VC loved to fly flags and they knew U.S. troops loved to capture enemy flags. So when they were forced to leave a base or location, they often rigged the flags with an explosive of some kind, so when US troops started to take down the flag, it would set off the charge.
In fact, any attempt to move the pole or flag set off the booby trap. This is similar to a “keepsake, lose hand” trap, where the NVA would intentionally rig anything a U.S. troop would consider a war trophy with an explosive.
5. Cartridge Trap
This trap was an awful one because it was very difficult to detect. A cartridge – a round of ammunition – would be set into a piece of bamboo and lowered into a shallow hole in the ground. At the bottom of the bamboo was a board and a nail.
The regular weight of someone walking on the cartridge would drive the nail into the primer, turning the nail into a firing pin and firing the bullet upward through the unsuspecting victim’s foot.
6. Bamboo Whip
Another sharpened bamboo trap, the whip consisted of spikes over a long bamboo pole. The pole was pulled back into an arc using a catch attached to a tripwire. When the wire is tripped, the catch gives out and sent foot-long spikes into a trooper’s chest at a hundred miles an hour.
A tiger trap was similar to the mace, in that a tripwire would undo the catch on a rope. Only instead of a swinging ball, the death from above took the form of an man-sized plank weighted with bricks and full of barbed metal spikes quickly falling to earth on someone’s forehead.
While the week-long exercise also featured anti-submarine warfare and other naval operations, most of the news coverage was of the Marines hitting the island. (In their defense, getting good footage of submarine battles is kinda tough).
Sure, pundits wrung their hands about the ramifications of a China and Russia conducting joint operations. But the fear may have been a bit overblown. After all, China participates in a lot of naval exercises with the U.S. as well.
The location and the activities in the exercise are important, though. Portions of the hotly contested South China Sea are claimed by a few nations, including the Philippines, China, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan. If China were to try to edge other countries off their claims by force, this is the exact exercise they would need to do to get ready.
And the Chinese marines do look good in the video below, working with landing craft, tanks, and air assets to quickly take and hold the island alongside their Russian counterparts in green. See more footage of them in the full video from War Leaks below:
An Australian SA70 Black Hawk helicopter clipped a rotor blade during a counterterrorism exercise in the harbor of Sydney and had to perform an emergency landing in a nearby park.
The SA70 Black Hawk chopper was taking part in a maritime counterterrorism exercise, fast-roping commandos on top of a small cruise ship in the middle of Sydney harbor. It was holding station above the ship, having just placed its commandos on the vessel when one of its main rotor blades clipped a communications mast. Upon impact, debris scattered all over the scene.
But the pilots remained calm and coolly flew the aircraft to nearby Robinson Park for an emergency landing.
The Black Hawk helicopter was from the 6th Aviation Regiment (and most probably from the unit’s 171st Aviation Squadron). The 6th Aviation Regiment is specially trained and equipped to support special operations units.
Maritime counterterrorism is one of the toughest special operations mission sets. It involves numerous moving parts, from boats to helicopters, and has all the potential to go wrong. The goal is to reach the hostages and neutralize the terrorists as soon as possible. To achieve that in the fastest way possible, special operations units often use several insertion methods simultaneously. The skill required by the pilots and crews of the helicopters and boats is tremendous, especially if you consider that the target vessel might be moving and also account for the sea state.
This isn’t the first time an Australian Black Hawk supporting special operations troops is involved in an accident. In 1996, two Black Hawks supporting a Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) counterterrorism exercise in Queensland collided. As in the Sydney Harbor incident, one of the S70A Black Hawks clipped a rotor blade but this time against another Black Hawk. The first Black Hawk immediately went down, while the second crash-landed and went up in flames. In total, 18 troops (15 SASR operators and 3 aviators) were killed, making it the worse single loss of life in Australian special operations history.
The 6th Aviation Regiment is the Australian equivalent of the US 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, better known as the “Night Stalkers.”
However, the Australian unit has more limited lift capabilities, currently operating only the S70A Black Hawk. In comparison, the Night Stalkers fly both the light AH/MH-6 Little Birds, MH-60 Black Hawks, and MH-47 Chinooks, thus providing light, medium, and heavy-lift options to their special operations customers.
Although the Special Air Service Regiment—the Australian military’s Tier 1 special operations unit and the equivalent of Delta Force and SEAL Team Six—used to be wholly responsible for domestic counterterrorism, that mission set is now been shared with the 2nd Commando Regiment, a unit similar to the U.S. 75th Ranger Regiment.
SASR operators man the Tactical Assault Group-West (TAG-W), which is responsible for domestic counterterrorism operations in the West part of Australia (the SASR is headquartered in Perth, West Australia). Commandos man the Tactical Assault Group-East (TAG-E), which is responsible for domestic counterterrorism operations in the East part of Australia, including the capital, Canberra.
Considering the location of the exercise, it is safe to say that these operators were from TAG-E.
Multiple media outlets are reporting that the largest non-nuclear bomb in the United States arsenal has made its combat debut.
According to a report by CNN, the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast, also called the Mother of All Bombs, was used to hit a cave and tunnel complex used by the Afghanistan affiliate of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan.
Designation-Systems.net notes that the GBU-43 weighs 21,700 pounds – almost 11 tons – which includes 18,700 pounds of high explosive. It has a 40-inch diameter and is 30 feet long. The bomb is often used by the MC-130, a special operations variant of the C-130 Hercules.
One DOD official told FoxNews.com, “We kicked it out the back door.”
The GBU-43’s GPS guidance allows it to be dropped from high altitudes from as far as three miles away – out of the reach of some air defenses, and also allowing planes to avoid being caught in the bomb’s blast radius. The London Daily Mail noted that the bomb can leave a crater almost a thousand feet wide.
The GBU-43 replaced the BLU-82 Daisy Cutter, a Vietnam-era bomb that weighed in at 15,000 pounds, and saw action in the Vietnam War, Desert Storm, and Operation Enduring Freedom, with a similar delivery method. Designation-Systems.net notes that the bomb’s explosive was 12,600 pounds of a mixture of ammonium nitrate, polystyrene, and aluminum powder. The last BLU-82 was dropped in 2008.
On April 27, 2021 a Marine veteran heard a woman screaming from the bathroom of the store he was shopping in. After hearing the fleeing suspect had raped her, he jumped into action.
Damian Austin was shopping at Kroger’s grocery store in Savannah, Georgia when he apparently heard a woman screaming. He told Savannah’s WSAV “It made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck because it wasn’t a normal yell.” After a customer behind him said that the now fleeing man had raped a woman, he didn’t hesitate. Austin immediately gave chase to the suspect.
The chase led him through the Kroger’s parking lot and into a grassy area near an Ace Hardware store. It was there that Austin pulled out his gun, which he had a concealed permit for, and ordered the man to stop and surrender. Security footage from a nearby store caught it all.
Another customer assisted Austin by purchasing a package of zip ties to secure the suspect until police arrived. Later identified as Gregory Hathorn, the suspect was charged with felony kidnapping, felony rape, and misdemeanor battery against the woman.
The Chatham County Police Department Chief Jeff Hadley told Savannah WSAV “I just can’t commend them enough for involving themselves in a dangerous situation obviously, so this person could be held accountable and we could make an arrest and there wasn’t any further danger to the community.”
He told KFOR “I hope this doesn’t dictate her life from this point on. There are people who still care and they’ll act in time of need.”
Savannah KTSM 9 News reported that the neighborhood residents are calling the Marine Corps veteran a hero for his actions. The manager of the Ace Hardware presented Austin with a gift card as a thank you but the veteran didn’t want accolades. He told KTSM 9 News that he’s just grateful he could do something and help make his community a little safer.
There has always been something alluring about lost ships and planes. Maybe it’s the massive treasure some wrecks hold in their belly, or maybe it’s the clues to lost history that some ghost ships provide.
Some of these wrecks were civilian vessels, like the former USS West Point (AP 23), which also had names like SS America. Others were planes that crash-landed like the Akutan Zero did. Mostly, there is just this sense of mystery around them.
Take for instance the Lady Be Good, a B-24 Liberator that got lost during a sandstorm that ended up flying two hours south of its base. It was missing for over a decade until discovered by an oil exploration crew. All but one of the crew were accounted for, but when parts of the B-24 were used on other planes, several suffered mishaps. A curse? Or just coincidence?
The Lady Be Good is not the only B-24D on the list – another one, which landed on Atka Island in the Aleutians, also made the list. This time, the plane was found sooner but left in place. It now constitutes part of the Valor in the Pacific National Monument.
Also on the list is an RB-29 called Kee Bird, whose crew survived, but which caught fire during a salvage attempt.
Perhaps the craziest story is that of the Sverdlov-class cruiser Murmansk. This was a powerful ship, with a dozen 152mm guns in four triple mounts, 10 533mm torpedo tubes in two quintuple mounts, 12 100mm guns in six twin mounts, and 32 37mm anti-aircraft guns. However, her end was sad.
Sold to India to become razor blades, she broke from her towline and ended up on the Norwegian coast.
So, check out the video below to see some of the world’s most fascinating ghost ships and planes.
While much of the world’s attention is focused on the effort by North Korea to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) with working nuclear warheads, there is another weapon that is also quite deadly in the arsenal of Kim Jong Un’s regime. Ironically, it is quite low-tech.
That weapon is the An-2 Colt, a seventy-year-old design that is still in front-line service, which means it has the B-52 Stratofortress beaten by about eight years! So, why has this little plane stuck around, and what makes it so deadly in the hands of Kim Jong Un?
According to MilitaryFactory.com, the An-2 has a top speed of 160 miles per hour, and a range of 525 miles. Not a lot when you compare it to the B-52, which can go 595 miles per hour and fly over 10,000 miles. China is still producing the plane, while upgrade kits are being developed by Antonov. The plane was in production for 45 years, and according to the report from Korrespondent, thousands remain in service.
When it comes down to it, what seem like fatal weaknesses actually make the An-2 deadly in modern combat.
The reason? The plane usually flies low and slow – and as such, it is very hard for modern fighters like the F-22, F-35, and F-16 to locate, track, and fire on. Not only that, the slow speeds and low-altitude operations meant that large portions of the plane can be covered with fabric, according to Warbird Alley. There are also a lot of An-2s in North Korea’s inventory – at least 200, according to a report by MSN.com.
While the plane is often used to deliver troops or supplies, the real threat may be the fact that it could carry some other cargo. While North Korea is just now developing nuclear warheads that fit on missiles, there is the frightening possibility that a nuclear weapon could be delivered using an An-2.
That is how this 70-year-old biplane design could very well be North Korea’s deadliest weapon. You can see a video on the An-2 below.
We all know the services love to hate oneachother. But believe it or not, the pilots within the services tend to hate on any plane they don’t fly.
Don’t believe me? Have you heard that band Dos Gringos? They rock, but those two Viper drivers also touch upon the intra-service hating in “I Wish I had a Gun Just Like the A-10.” You can listen to it as we hate on their mount – the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
Don’t take all the hating as license to go after them. They may enjoy razzing each other — saying mean things about the other mounts. But they will all come after you if you try to pick on one of them.
Why making fun of the F-16 is easy
Where do we start? It’s a single-engine plane. Not much range. Offensive payload? Probably the lowest among air force combat jets. In fact, really, if you ask any A-10, F-15, F-15E, F-22, or F-35 jock, the fact older F-16s are becoming target drones is appropriate somehow.
The A-10, of course, laughs at the notion the F-16 can do close-air support. With that 20mm popgun, how do they expect to blow up a tank?
Why you should actually hate it
Because it got to play parts in “Iron Eagle” and three sequels. Because that Doug Masters kid made flying it look easy – and even rigged a sound system.
Because being single-engine means that if something goes bad, the pilot goes sky-diving. Like that poor Jordanian guy who got captured by ISIS. Oh, and that short range, means it has some kind of drinking problem. It’s always hogging the tankers.
Not to mention, they’re everywhere. It seems like every country gets its hands on these planes.
Why you ought to love the F-16
This is one versatile fighter. You need to scramble up to say hello to a prowling Russian? F-16s can do that. Want to blast the hell out of enemy forces in close contact with friendlies? The “Viper” variant can do that. Dogfight with MiGs? The F-16 can do that, too. Hit an enemy installation? Can do.
There’s a lot of them. Many NATO allies have them. So do American allies in the Far East and Middle East. It’s even had growth potential. Japan’s F-2, the Israeli F-16I, and the F-16E/F for the UAE all have proven themselves. When China wanted a new multi-role fighter for the PLAAF, they had to knock off the Israeli knock-off of the F-16.
It’s also around a lot. You see, the U.S. didn’t buy that many F-22s. The F-35 is just coming on line. The A-10 needs new wings, or a lot will retire. They just chopped up a bunch of perfectly good B-52s. But the F-16s are around and there are a lot of them – over 1,000 of them on inventory. And that doesn’t count what is in the boneyard.
And with what we saw with the F-4 Phantom, the F-16 will be around for a long time. In fact, the last Viper driver has probably not even been born yet.