Posts filed under ‘Skills and Training’

FRIDAY FOTO (June 6, 2014)

Sky Soldier

(U.S. Army photo by Specialist Charles Probst)

(U.S. Army photo by Specialist Charles Probst)

A soldier from the Tarantula Team in Operations Group at the Army’s National Training Center descends during an airborne operation at Fort Irwin in California’s Mojave Desert. This operation fullfills the paratrooper’s requirement to maintain jump status and remain proficient and ready for future contingencies.

The Tarantula Team is one of several “Critter” Teams — including Scorpions and Cobras — located at the National Training Center  at Fort Irwin (this blog has a very good description and explanation of the NTC). The Team was formed in 1987 as part of the Operations Group to improve the fighting capabilities of Light Infantry and Airborne battalions.

Click on the photo to see a larger image.


June 6, 2014 at 11:30 am Leave a comment

SHAKO: The Night Before D-Day (40 Years Later)

Old D-Day Story – With a Twist.

Gen. Eisenhower talks with 101st Airborne Division paratroopers before D-Day. (Defense Dept. photo)

Gen. Eisenhower talks with 101st Airborne Division paratroopers before D-Day.
(Defense Dept. photo)

All the attention and remembrances that the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in France is getting recently jogged my memory about another D-Day story I uncovered 30 years ago – for the 40th anniversary of history’s biggest amphibious invasion.

Your 4GWAR editor was South Bend, Indiana correspondent for the Associated Press when someone told me about a priest then serving at the University of Notre Dame who had a great D-Day story. Monsignor Francis L. Sampson had been an Army chaplain serving with the 501st Parachute Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division. (The same division but a different regiment from the one featured in the book and cable TV series “Band of Brothers.”)

Sampson parachuted into Normandy along with the 101st the night before D-Day, was captured by the Waffen SS and almost shot on June 6. After the Germans realized he was only a chaplain they let him return to the barn where he had been tending wounded paratroopers too badly hurt to be moved. He and an Army medic tended both German and U.S. wounded until American forces overran the area and captured the Germans who had captured Sampson.

He went on to jump into Holland in late 1944 in Operation Market Garden (“A Bridge too Far”), was captured again at the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944 and liberated from a grim German POW camp by Russian troops in April 1945.

Pretty good story, I thought. As I pitched it to my editor in Indianapolis, he told me about a Frenchman, now a local business magazine publisher who was a small boy in Normandy on that night in June, 1944. Bernard Marie, now in his mid 40s, was offering a free lunch in Indianapolis to any U.S. vet who could prove he was in Normandy on what became known as “The Longest Day.”

We decided to combine both men’s stories after I interviewed them and also put them in touch with each other. Here is the beginning of the story that ran in U.S. newspapers on the afternoon of June 5, 1984:

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – On the night of June 5, 1944, Bernard Marie spent his fifth birthday huddled in a cellar 25 miles from Omaha Beach. Monsignor Francis L. Sampson flew through German anti-aircraft fire over Normandy, convinced he was going to die.

The story had some humorous and harrowing anecdotes. My favorite was when the first U.S. paratroopers broke into little Bernard’s house. He thought their four-letter-word cussing sounded like German (think about it). And was terrified the Germans had come to get his family. But when he saw the American flag patch sewn on every trooper’s sleeve he knew things were going to be all right, he told me.

Back to 1984: Press photographers captured the embrace of the 72-year-old Catholic priest and the grown up French boy – even though they had never met before – amid scores of applauding WWII vets.

But the story doesn’t end there. While trying to find a complete copy of the original story, which so far hasn’t happened. I came across Monsignor Sampson’s obituary in the Des Moines Register (he was a native of Iowa). I learned that he had stayed in the Army rising to the rank of major general (two stars) and had served as the Army’s Chief of Chaplains from 1967 to 1971. He died in January 1996.

Fr_ Francis L Sampson grave marker 1912 to 1996But what really got my attention was a sidebar in the obituary, that noted an action Sampson performed in the days immediately after D-Day, may have inspired – at least in part – the movie “Saving Private Ryan.” See for yourself, here.

For more on this remarkable career that spanned three wars and a lot of souls in need, click here.

To learn more about D-Day, click here for the Defense Department’s 70th Anniversary page.


SHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.


June 5, 2014 at 11:53 pm Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (June 1-June 7, 1814)

June 1 Chesapeake Campaign

Rear Adm. George Cockburn (Royal Museums Greenwich)

Rear Adm. George Cockburn
(Royal Museums Greenwich)

Raids by a British fleet continue along the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay. A skirmish off Cedar Point, Maryland (June 1, 1814) ends as an indecisive encounter near the mouth of the Patuxent River between an American flotilla and British ships from Rear Admiral Sir George Cockburn’s fleet.

Both sides maneuvered for advantage and exchanged shots at long range, but the Americans broke off the action action before any damage was done to ships on either side.

***  *** ***

June 6 War of the Frontier

Explorer, soldier and Indian fighter William Clark, is territorial governor of Missouri and a brigadier general of militia. On June 6, 1814, Clark establishes Fort Shelby near present day Priarie du Chien, Wisconsin.

William Clark in 1810

William Clark in 1810

Clark, who was co-leader f the 1804-1805 Lewis and Clark expedition to explore the Louisiana territory – yes, that William Clark – makes the preemptive move to occupy a fur-trading settlement at the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers. The waterway connects the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River watershed.

But the fort was the beginning of renewed Indian troubles on the Frontier. The British and local Indians, including Dakota, Ojibway and Winnebago, plan to attack and besiege the fort.


June 2, 2014 at 12:30 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (May 29, 2014)

Dog Day Afternoon.

U.S. Army photo by Capt. John Farmer

U.S. Army photo by Capt. John Farmer

Lithuanian soldiers provide a security escort for U.S. Army Sgt. Kara Yost, right, and Kajo, her military working dog, during urban assault training at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany.

Yost, a military police dog handler, and Kajo are assigned to the 131st Military Working Dog Detachment, 615th Military Police Company.

To see more photos of the training exercise, click here.

May 30, 2014 at 12:51 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO Extra (May 23, 2014) UPDATE

Wearin’ of the Green. 

UPDATES with link to AP story on Air Force report about a botched security drill at another ICBM site last summer.

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brittany Y. Auld

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brittany Y. Auld

We know we’ve run photos in the past of the sniper camouflage outfit known as a ghillie suit, but this one caught our eye. With the red plastic training rifles and all green smoke, it looks more like a special effects scene from a science fiction movie than an important security exercise at an Air Force nuclear missile base.

But as kooky as the scene in this photo may appear, it illustrates part of a key training session: keeping the nation’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) sites secure.

Here we see the opposing forces — the pretend bad guys — capturing a missile payload transport vehicle during a “recapture and recovery exercise” at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota. The exercise involved a mock hijack of a payload transporter and the necessary steps for the 91st Security Forces Group to recover the vehicle.

Such exercises evaluate the missile base’s response force and their abilities to deny hostile intruders access to Minot’s Minuteman III nuclear missiles and their launch area. The drills also hone skills for recovering control of critical equipment if attackers do gain access.

UPDATE: The necessity of such exercises has been underscored by an Air Force internal report on  the security team’s “botched response” to a simulated attack at another Air Force base last summer, according to an exclusive report by the Associated Press. (See it here)

For more photos, click here.

May 23, 2014 at 11:46 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (May 23, 2014)

Balikatan Bundle

(Photo by U.S. Air Force Maj. Teodoro Apalisok)

(Photo by U.S. Air Force Maj. Teodoro Apalisok)

Chief Master Sgt. Reynold Albright (right) and Philippine Navy personnel prepare a low altitude airdrop from a U.S. Air Force C-130H Hercules cargo plane during Exercise Balikatan near Subic Bay in the Philippines.

Albright is a 36th Airlift Squadron superintendent demonstrating the unique Low-cost, Low-altitude airdrop (LCLA) technique  to practice delivering humanitarian aid and supplies to remote regions. LCLA uses available resources and re-purposed personnel parachutes to build supply pallets at a fraction of the cost of other airdrop bundles. The pallets are dropped at low altitude, which improves drop accuracy.

Balikatan, which translates from Tagalog to “shoulder-to-shoulder,” is an annual bilateral exercise focusing on U.S. -Philippine cooperation and mutual defense.

May 23, 2014 at 12:45 am Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: International Special Ops Exercise in Tampa

Land, Sea and Air

TAMPA, Florida – Special Operations Forces from the United States and other nations converged on the waterfront of downtown Tampa today (May 21) via parachute, helicopter, inflatable assault boat, all terrain vehicle and swimming underwater in a demonstration of international commando skills at a defense industry conference today.

4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle

4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle

Your 4GWAR editor saw it all while covering this annual conference where special operators explain their technology and equipment needs to contractors and manufacturers.

The lunchtime event was conducted in the waters just outside the Tampa Convention Center where this year’s Special Operations Forces Industry Conference is being held.

(4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

(4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

The idea behind the exercise was to showcase the tactical capabilities of commandos from different nations working together. In addition to U.S. Navy SEALS and special boat operators,, Army Rangers, Army and Air Force pilots, the 30-minutes exercise included special ops troops from Britain, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Poland and Sweden among others.

The scenario included the “rescue” of Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn from “terrorists.” Two MH-6 Littlebird helicopters delivered snipers to cover the rescue. Two rigid hull inflatable assault boats stormed the water front with covering fire from the two small helicopters. An MH-60 Blackhawk helicopter delivered additional troops via rappel rope down to the ground. Still more troops jumped into the water from the Blackhawk and parachutists from the United States, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Poland jumped from an MC-130 airplane from 8,000 feet and landed in the water near the convention center.

The conference, sponsored by the National Defense Industry Association, drew more than 300 exhibiting companies and nearly 8,000 attendees.

4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle

4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle

 Click on the photos to enlarge.


May 21, 2014 at 5:56 pm Leave a comment

UNMANNED SYSTEMS: Notes from AUVSI’s 2014 Conference and Trade Show

 Show’s Over.

On the exhibit floor at AUVSI's Unmanned Systems 2014. (4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

Robots and drones on the exhibit floor at AUVSI’s Unmanned Systems 2014.
(4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

ORLANDO, Florida – The big droids, drones and bots show sponsored by the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) is over after four days in Florida and here’s what your 4GWAR editor learned in the process. (Be sure to click on the photos to see a larger image)


First off, the organization is considering a name change. If we had a dollar for every person we had to explain what AUVSI stood for over the years – we’d be at least a thousandaire. At the opening session of the gathering Monday (May 12) AUVSI Board Chairman John Lademan said the decade-old organization was at least thinking about a name that would better reflect its diversity: manufacturers and operators of robots, unmanned aircraft, remotely operated ground vehicles and automous vehicles that move in and under the waves – not to mention the sensor makers, parts suppliers, maintenance, training and research organizations that are also members.

“We’re looking at rebranding. That’s not something we’re committed to yet, but it’s something we’re exploring,” Landeman said. No word yet on when some ideas might be floated.

*** *** ***

General Explanation

Lt. Gen. Kevin Mangum on the big screen at AUVSI. (4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

Lt. Gen. Kevin Mangum on the big screen at AUVSI.
(4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

At that same session, the deputy head of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, Lieutenant General Kevin Mangum explained why the Army was teaming manned and unmanned systems – especially drones and helicopters – as it deals with reductions in force and funding.

Mangum said Army testing has shown Manned-Unmanned Teaming, known as MUM-T, can increase how long aircraft can conduct reconnaissance and surveillance missions – without putting humans in harms way (standoff capability). MUM-T also increases lethality and survivability he said.

As an example, he told 4GWAR after speaking, the Army is pairing drones like the MQ-1 Gray Eagle with Apache attack helicopters to replace the OH-58 Kiowa scout helicopter, which is being phased out – largely for financial reasons.

*** *** ***

Fire Ox

Lockheed Martin unveiled its commercial fire service variant of its Squad Mission Supply System robotic ground vehicle at AUVSI Unmanned Systems 2014. (4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

Lockheed Martin unveiled its commercial fire service variant of its Squad Mission Supply System robotic ground vehicle at AUVSI Unmanned Systems 2014.
(4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

Lockheed Martin introduced a fire fighting variant of the six-wheeled autonomous ground vehicle it unveiled in 2006 to carry the bullets, batteries and other heavy loads that a squad of soldiers or Marines would otherwise have to hump over rugged country.

That unmanned ground vehicle — officially the Squad Mission Support System but also called Ox — has been tested in the field by the U.S. and British armies and is slated for another capability test in August. It be guided from a distance using satellite communications and then picked up and carried in a sling beneath an unmanned helicopter, Lockheed’s K-MAX.

But a bright red version of the OX, known as the Fire Ox, was on display on the exhibit floor at the Orange County Convention Center. It has a dual use nozzle for spraying water or firefighting foam, as well as a video camera and thermal  imaging sensor so it can be sent on ahead of firefighters to assess danger.

Don Nimblett, Lockheed Martin’s unmanned systems business development manager, said the domestic military market is flat right now, adding: “that’s one of the reasons [why] we’re looking into the commercial market.”

Lockheed had plenty of company when it comes to re-purposing systems originally designed for the defense sector. Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) maker Insitu talked up the capabilities of its Scan Eagle small UAS in helping emergency managers in Australia get a handle on wildfires. The land and ship-launched Scan Eagle was developed for the Navy and Marine Corps and was widely used in Afghanistan and Iraq.

And AeroVironment, another maker of small UAS brought in a North Dakota sherriff’s deputy – who also teaches the state’s school of aeronautics – to talk about how small unmanned fixed wing aircraft and helicopters have been used for police work by the Grand Forks County Sheriff’s Department.

*** *** ***

FAA Blues

Nine small UAS took to the air over NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Sunday (May 11) to demonstrate the many uses of smaller remotely controlled and autonomous aircraft.

But the FAA, which oversees air safety, kept a pretty short leash on the event, preventing most visitors from approaching the staging area for aircraft launching. Instead spectators had to watch the proceedings about 100 yards away from the aircraft, monitoring their progress in the sky with several large TV monitors.

The "view" from the spectator section at the outdoor SUAS demo at Kennedy Space Center. (4GWAR Blog photo by John M. Doyle)

The “view” from the spectator section at the outdoor SUAS demo at Kennedy Space Center.
(4GWAR Blog photo by John M. Doyle)

That added to an undercurrent of grumbling throughout the conference about what is seen as the FAA’s slow pace in integrating unmanned aircraft into the national airspace with airliners, private planes and traffic helicopters. (More on this later)


May 15, 2014 at 11:58 pm 1 comment

FRIDAY FOTO (May 9, 2014)

Night People.

U.S. Army photo by Specialist Philip Diab

U.S. Army photo by Specialist Philip Diab

Like green-eyed alien hunters, U.S. Army Rangers peer into the dim light of dusk through night vision goggles. These two soldiers — from Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment — are taking part in annual Task Force Training at Fort Knox, Kentucky.

Rangers are constantly training to maintain the highest level of tactical proficiency.  The 3rd Battalion is being evaluated for how its soldiers perform during operational situations. The Ranger Regiment (despite the high number, there is only one) is one of the components of U.S. Army Special Operations Command.

To see more photos of this training exercise, click here. And don’t forget to click on the photo to enlarge it for better viewing.


May 9, 2014 at 1:53 am 1 comment

FRIDAY FOTO (May 2, 2014)

The British Are Coming

Defense Dept. photo by Claudette Roulo

Defense Dept. photo by Claudette Roulo

In bearskin headgear known as a busby, the pipes and drums of the British Army’s 1st Battalion, Scots Guards, performs in the Pentagon courtyard Thursday (May 1, 2014). The Scots Guards is the oldest unit in the British Army, tracing its lineage back to 1642 in the service of King Charles I.

The pipe band is made up of 12 bagpipers, 10 drummers and two dancers (see photo below) and is led by a pipe major.

In between performances, James Townsend Jr., deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO policy noted that in addition to being the oldest infantry battalion in the United Kingdom, the unit has skills in engineering and combined arms, which have been displayed on the battlefield. “So while we enjoy your musicianship here, we [also] know being good Scots Guards you enjoy a scrap” he added.

The Scots Guards served alongside U.S. Marines in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province in 2012-2013, said British Army Brigadier General Douglas Chalmers, liaison officer for the chief of the U.K. defense staff.

The dancer below is attired in a kilt with the Regiment’s official tartan, Royal Stewart. If you click on the photo and enlarge it, look for the traditional dirk, or dagger, tucked into the stocking on his right leg.

One of the two Highland dancers attached to the 1st Battalion, Scots Guards, band performs outside the Pentagon.  (Defense Dept. photo photo by Claudette Roulo)

One of the two Highland dancers attached to the 1st Battalion, Scots Guards band performs outside the Pentagon.
(Defense Dept. photo photo by Claudette Roulo)

There doesn’t appear to be any video/audio of this event yet, but to hear what the full band (brass and woodwinds) sounds like click here.

Or click here to see a YouTube video of the pipes and drums leading the 1st Battalion’s 2013 homecoming parade through the streets of Glasgow after their deployment in Afghanistan. We suggest skipping to the 2:00 or 3:00 minute mark of the 14:00 video.


May 2, 2014 at 3:00 am 1 comment

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