FRIDAY FOTO: April 29, 2016

Sapper Haul.

Army engineers compete in 2016 Best Sapper Competition

Army photo by Sgt. Anthony Hewitt

No, defense budget cuts haven’t come to this.

These two Army paratroopers are hauling this Humvee as part of the Best Sapper Competition at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, home of the Army Engineers School.

Sapper is an ancient term for military engineers. In olden days they designed and dug the trenches, built the forts and figured out how to break into castles.

These days, a Sapper is usually a combat engineer who has completed the 28-day Sapper Leader Course, and earned the red Sapper uniform tab. That tab says they are among the best at their complex and dangerous craft, which includes bridge-building, laying or clearing minefields, demolitions, creating field defenses as well as building, road and airfield construction and repair.

To earn the Sapper tab you have to graduate from the Sapper course, but you don’t have to be an engineer, according to the Army.

The paratroopers in this photo, Army 1st Sergeant Jose Casillas and Sergeant 1st Class Tim Shay are assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division’s 307th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team.

What’s the difference between a 1st Sergeant and a Sergeant 1st Class? Click here for an explanation.

April 29, 2016 at 12:21 am Leave a comment

ARCTIC NATION: Another Russia-NATO Flashpoint?

Kola Peninsula.

One of the most interesting articles in Thursday’s New York Times was an opinion piece by a German journalist about the Kola Peninsula, Russia’s northwestern-most territory in the Far North.

kola-peninsula-tundra-map

Kola Peninsula tundra ecoregion highlighted along the Barents and White Seas. (Source: WWF via the Encyclopedia of Earth).

Ice-coated barbed wire fences, surveillance cameras and settlements that look more like military installations mark this frigid region, but the coastline is warmed by the waters of the Gulf Stream, according to Jochen Bittner, a political editor for Die Zeit.

That makes the forbidding landscape of the Kola Peninsula “a gigantic marine pier, guaranteeing Russia’s naval fleet access to the Atlantic and offering a hub for operations in an area of the world that might become the next crisis zone between Russia and NATO: the North Pole,” says Bittner.

It’s no secret the Russian military has been building up its facilities in the Arctic, including several new air bases. But Bittner’s piece brings some diplomatic and political perspective to what’s at stake for Russia and the West in this increasingly important region.

To read more, click here.

ARCTIC NATION is an occasional 4GWAR posting on the High North. The U.S. “National Strategy for the Arctic Region” describes the United States as “an Arctic Nation with broad and fundamental interests in the Arctic Region, where we seek to meet our national security needs, protect the environment, responsibly manage resources, account for indigenous communities, support scientific research, and strengthen international cooperation on a wide range of issues.”

 

April 28, 2016 at 11:06 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (April 22, 2016)

Last Run.

Here we go Kiowa Warriors

Defense Dept. photo by Kenneth Kassens.

Thirty-two OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters with the 1st Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade  — the last U.S.-based Kiowa squadron–  conduct a flyover during a farewell flight above Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Under the Aviation Restructuring Initiative (ARI)  — a cost-saving program to fund future development and acquisition of helicopters — the Army is divesting its OH-58 Kiowa Scout helicopters. The Army is replacing them with active duty AH-64 Apache attack helos and pairing them with unmanned aircraft.

The 1st Squadron will deploy to Korea this summer. When it returns, it will be switching over to Apaches.

The April 15 flyover served as a final “thank you” and farewell to the residents of the Fort Bragg and the Fayetteville, N. C. community. To learn more about the flyover, the Kiowa Warriors and the people who flew them, click here to read an article co-authored by our friend and colleague, Drew Brooks of the Fayetteville Observer, (via Stars and Stripes).

April 21, 2016 at 11:45 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO: April 15, 2016

Now Boarding.

FRIFO 4-15-2016 pARATROOPERS c-17.

Air Force photo by Alejandro Pena

Paratroopers board and position their gear inside an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft before participating in a night jump at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, March 31, 2016.

To see what a night drop looks like, click here.

April 15, 2016 at 1:07 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO: April 8, 2016

Lonely Vista.

All Secured: U.S. Marines Remain Alert in Iraq

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sergeant Rick Hurtado

U.S. Marine Sergeant Josh Greathouse scans the area during a perimeter patrol in Al Taqaddum, Iraq on March 21, 2016.

Greathouse is a member of 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Special Purpose Marine Air  (SPMAGTF) Ground Task Force.

 

April 8, 2016 at 1:36 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY, April 1, 2016

I Robot, You Pitcher.

FRIFO 4-1-2016 EOD Robot baseball

U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Mickey Treigle

No, there wasn’t a bomb threat at a spring training baseball game in Phoenix, Arizona late last month. Quite the contrary, the Talon bomb disposal robot shown here is bringing out the ball for the first pitch of the March 25 game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants as part of Navy Week festivities.

We assume the sailor in white was going to throw that first pitch, not the Explosive Ordnance Disposal operator in full bomb squad gear to his right. Normally, the EOD operator would be using the Talon to examine, and if necessary, defuse a bomb, from a safe distance.

April 1, 2016 at 12:17 am Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: New Commanders at SOCOM, CENTCOM

Ranger In, Ranger Out.

Votel relinquishes command of USSOCOM

Army General Joseph Votel, former commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter during the change-of-command ceremony March 30 at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida. Newly promoted Army General Raymond “Tony” Thomas assumes command of SOCOM and Votel becomes commander of U.S. Central Command. (Photo by Technical Sergeant Angelita M. Lawrence)

Four star Army General Joseph Votel, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), has taken over as commander of U.S. Central Command (CENCOM), which oversees U.S. operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.

At the same time Votel moved over to CENTCOM, Army General Raymond “Tony” Thomas replaced him at Special Operations Command.

Both men are Army Rangers and both are former commanders of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) — a SOCOM component which oversees the hunt for terrorists among other tasks. Thomas has also served in the 1st Special Operations Forcers Operational Deteachment — Delta, the highly secretive Army commando unit known as Delta Force.

160330-F-YT673-465

Army General Raymond “Tony” Thomas at the change of command ceremony at MacDill Air Force Base at Tampa, Florida.

Both Thomas and Votel are also 1980 graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point New York.

At a brief press conference before the change of command ceremonies in Tampa, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said “accelerating the defeat” of the terrorist group that calls itself Islamic State is President Obama’s top priority. Carter added that the United States and its allies would be successful in Iraq and Syria in defeating Islamic State (also known as ISIS and ISIL), but the group has spread around the world and the United States may be fighting the terror group on U.S. soil. “It’s going to require effort around the world, and yes, it’s going to require protection against the homeland,” Carter added.

mapMidEast

U.S. Central Command’s area of operations (in color). (CENCOM  map)

 

 

 

March 31, 2016 at 10:48 pm Leave a comment

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