Archive for June, 2015



4GWAR photo. Copyright John M. Doyle

4GWAR photo. Copyright John M. Doyle

Your 4GWAR editor is on vacation. Postings will resume on Thursday, July 2.

Until then: Be safe. Be smart.


June 27, 2015 at 4:44 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (June 26, 2015)

Tough Customer.

 (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sergeant Ezekiel R. Kitandwe)

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sergeant Ezekiel R. Kitandwe)

A member of Special Operations Command throws the shot put during field competition for the 2015 Defense Department Warrior Games, at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, June 23, 2015.

The Warrior Games, founded in 2010, is a Paralympic-style competition that features eight adaptive sports for wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans from the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy/Coast Guard, Air Force, Special Operations Command, and the British Armed Forces.

To see more photos of these amazing people, click here.

June 27, 2015 at 12:45 am Leave a comment

SHAKO: Waterloo Bicentennial; U.S. Army Turns 240; 99th Flag Day; 150th Juneteenth

A Month to Remember.

The month of June is when summer really gets going (in the northern hemisphere). Traditionally, it’s a time of graduations and weddings and outdoor recreation before the heat gets oppressive and the bugs become maddening. This year, it also marks the anniversaries of several significant historical events.

Napoleon Meets His Waterloo.

Scotland Forever! Iconic 1881 British painting of the charge of the Royal Scots Greys at Waterloo by Lady Butler.

Scotland Forever! Iconic 1881 British painting of the charge of the Royal Scots Greys at Waterloo by Lady Butler.

It’s been 200 years since combined British, Dutch, and Prussian forces under England’s Duke of Wellington defeated France’s Armee du Nord (Army of the North) near the village of Waterloo. The climactic 9-hour battle on June 18, 1815 led to defeat and final exile for French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte — ending France’s domination of Europe and changing European diplomacy and politics for decades.

The basic story:

Napoleon, defeated in 1814 and sent into exile on the island of Elba, escapes and returns to France, raises an army, scares the reigning French king and his government out of Paris and marches to Belgium to confront the latest international alliance (Britain, the Netherlands, Austria, Russia, Prussia and several smaller German states) formed to defeat him.

Napoleon defeats — but doesn’t destroy — a Prussian army under Marshal Blucher on June 16 at Ligny in Belgium. The emperor’s strategy is to defeat each army separately before they can mass and overwhelm the French. The Russian and Austrian armies are still far off. So on June 18, Napoleon turned on the Anglo-Dutch-German forces under Wellington near Waterloo. Because of heavy rains the night before, the battlefield is sodden and Napoleon decides to delay his attack until the fields dry out enough so his troops and cannon won’t have to slog miles through the mire.  Many historians count this as a mistake — if not a blunder — for the delay allows the Prussians to reorganize and come to Wellington’s aid and overwhelm the now-outnumbered French.

Marshall Ney and his staff leading the cavalry charge at Waterloo (Painting by Louis Dumoulin)

Marshal Ney and his staff leading the cavalry charge at Waterloo
(Painting by Louis Dumoulin)

Because of the enormity of  events that day (Wellington’s forces numbered 68,000. Napoleon had 82,000 at his command and the Prussians brought another 30,000 to their second-go-round with the French.) we leave it to others to describe the ebb and flow of battle.

Here is a sampling of detailed online accounts of the battle:

Encyclopaedia; the BBC’s iWonder; British; The Napoleonic History SocietyWhat the Battle of Europe teaches us about Europe today; 

Under the pressure of attacks by the Prussians and Wellington, the French army falls apart. Napoleon is forced to abdicate again, and is sent into exile again, but much farther away to the island of St. Helena’s in the South Atlantic, where he dies in 1821. Britain, arguably, becomes the most powerful nation in Europe, if not the world. And except for failed revolts and revolutions — mostly in 1848 — there is no big military conflict in Europe until 1854 when Britain, France and Turkey wage war against Russia in the Crimea (which gave us the Charge of the Light Brigade, Florence Nightingale and the original Thin Red Line.)

*** *** ***

Closer to home, there are a couple of other significant events that happened in June.

Juneteenth 150.

Regular visitors may remember in April we posted that Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Virginia on April 9, 1865 did not end the Civil War. There were still two armies, one in North Carolina commanded by Joseph Johnston and another in the West commanded by Edmund Kirby Smith. Johnston  surrendered on April 26 and Kirby Smith surrendered on May 26.

Last month we also posted that the last battle of the Civil War was fought at Palmito Ranch on the Rio Grande in Texas on May 12-13. By the way, the Confederates won that battle.

General Order No. 3

But that still didn’t end slavery in Texas. It wasn’t until June 19, 1865 when U.S. Major General Gordon sailed into Galveston Bay with 1,800 Union troops and announced his General Order No. 3.


It informed the people of Texas, that “in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States (President Lincoln), all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.”

Until then, the estimated 250,000 slaves in Texas did not know that Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had freed them — and all the other slaves in states in open rebellion against Washington, as of January 1863. It’s important to note that the Emancipation Proclamation couldn’t be enforced until Union troops gained control of each state that had left the Union. The last major Union thrust west of the Mississippi River from Louisiana had ended in failure in May 1864.

The date, June 19th — or Juneteenth — has become a significant holiday for African-Americans to celebrate freedom from enslavement.

Happy Birthday, U.S. Army.

Army Secretary John McHugh, U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno, and Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel A. Dailey, cut the Army Birthday cake during the 2015 Army Ball in Washington D.C., June 13, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by John G. Martinez)

Army Secretary John McHugh, U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno, and Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel A. Dailey, cut the Army Birthday cake during the 2015 Army Ball in Washington D.C., June 13, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by John G. Martinez)

On June 14, 1775 — at the urging of John Adams (the future 2nd U.S. president) — the Continental Congress, in effect, created the U.S. Army by voting $2 million in funding for the colonial militias around Boston and New York City. Congress also ordered the raising of ten companies of expert riflemen from Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Together with the ragtag militias in New England and New York they would form the first Continental Army. George Washington of Virginia, one of the few colonials with military command experience (from the French and Indian War)  would take command in Cambridge, Massachusetts on July 3, 1775.

For more birthday photos around the Army, click here.

Flag Day

Two years later, on June 14, 1777, Congress adopted the 13-star, 13-red-and-white-striped flag as the national flag. Flag day was celebrated on various days in various ways around the United States until the 20th century.

As war wracked Europe and the Middle East in 1916, and it looked more and more like the United States would be drawn into the horrific conflict known as the Great War, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation that officially established June 14 as Flag Day. In August 1949, National Flag Day was established by an Act of Congress — but it’s not an official federal holiday. Next year will mark the 100th anniversary of June 14 as oficially-designated flag day.

U.S. Flag Day poster 1917. (Library of Congress via wikipedia)

U.S. Flag Day poster 1917.
(Library of Congress via wikipedia)


SHAKOSHAKO 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 26, 2015 at 2:17 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (June 19, 2015)

Sunrise Drop.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Aaron S. Patterson, Combat Camera)

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Aaron S. Patterson, Combat Camera)

Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Eddie Myers parachutes from a UH-1Y Venom helicopter during insertion training on Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.

Myers is a parachute safety officer assigned to Detachment 4th Force Reconnaissance Company.

Click on photo to enlarge image.

June 19, 2015 at 12:23 am Leave a comment

CYBER SECURITY: Coast Guard Commandant Discusses Cyber Strategy

Cyber Hygiene.

U.S. Coast Guard Cyber Command Seal

U.S. Coast Guard Cyber Command Seal

In a world where North Korea can hack a movie production company’s internal communication and employee data as an act of revenge and diplomatic pique and U.S. authorities are looking into cyber spying on a Major League Baseball team — possibly by another team — it should come as no surprise that another U.S. government agency is upping its cyber defense game.

The U.S. Coast Guard has developed a cyber strategy to guide its priorities over the next 10 years. Those priorities include: defending U.S. cyberspace and the Coast Guard’s network; recognizing cyberspace as an operational domain and defend the Coast Guard’s information and communication networks while developing capabilities to detect, deter and defeat malicious activity in cyberspace; protecting the information system infrastructure that the national Maritime Transportation System relies on, which has economic and national security implications.

Admiral Paul Zukunft, the Coast Guard’s commandant, outlined the strategy this week at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington think tank. He noted that all aspects of modern life have been enhanced – but often made dependent — on information technology from mobile phones to data storage facilities. And that has made numerous entities, including the nation’s Maritime Transportation System vulnerable to a wide range of cyber attacks by adversaries ranging from terrorists and hostile nation states to transnational organized crime cartels and disaffected or sloppy IT workers.

A key defense, Zukunft said several times  was “cyber hygiene,” following safety practices when using government, corporate or personal computer systems. That includes not sharing passwords or using easily corruptible devices like thumb drives.

Zukunft noted that the nation’s security and prosperity is critically reliant on a safe and secure maritime domain, which, in turn is dependent on safe and reliable communications and digital networks. But the Coast Guard faces a daunting task. The two-year-old Coast Guard Cyber Command has just 70 members compared to the thousands at the Defense Department’s cyber unit. The cyber strategy notes that a recent report to Congress indicates an 1,121-percent rise in cybersecurity incidents reported to government agencies from 2006 to 2014. The report, by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) cites a significant rise in the compromise of sensitive information which could adversely affect national security, public health and safety.

June 18, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Chad bombings; Nigeria booby-trap bomb

27 Dead in Chad Suicide Bombings.

Chad's location in Africa (CIA World Factbook)

Chad’s location in Africa
(CIA World Factbook)

Suicide bombers killed more than 20 people in the capital city of Chad, N’Djamena, on Monday (June 15) and authorities say it appeared to be retaliation for Chad’s leading role in the campaign against the violent extremist Islamic group Boko Haram, Reuters reports.

At least 100 people were injured in two simultaneous attacks on a police headquarters and a police cadet training school. The government, which said that four Boko Haram fighters were among the 27 dead, announced a number of measures to tighten security in the capital which serves as the headquarters for a 3,000-strong French military mission fighting militant extremists in he region.

Among the security measures being imposed: a ban from wearing a full-face veil, the BBC reported Wednesday (June 17). Chad’s prime minister said the veil was used as “camouflage” by militants, adding that security forces will burn all full-face veils (that cover everything but the eyes) sold in markets.

Boko Haram has not commented on the attack but has previously threatened to attack Chad, after its forces started to help Nigeria. N’Djamena is headquarters for a regional taskforce tofight Boko Haram with troops from Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Benin.

*** *** ***

Boko Haram Explosion.

At least 23 people were killed in the north-eastern Nigerian town of Monguno after a Boko Haram bomb confiscated by vigilantes exploded, the BBC reports.

The vigilantes were celebrating a successful operation with the military against the Islamist militants when the improvised explosive device (IED) went off killing and injuring people gathered around the celebrations.

The BBC reports the blast was believed to be an accidental explosion. But Al Jazeera reports that the Nigerian military believe it was some sort of booby trap set by Boko Haram before they were killed or fled.

Nigerian fighters routinely use improvised explosive devices in their attacks. Despite losing territory this year, Boko Haram still controls a few areas.

Nigeria (CIA World factbook)

(CIA World factbook)

Bombings and hit-and-run attacks continue. Suspected Boko Haram gunmen last week killed 37 people in raids on five villages around Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, a military source and a local village defense group told Al Jazeera.

June 18, 2015 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

COUNTER TERRORISM: Mastermind of Deadly Algerian Gas Plant Attack Reported Killed


Mokhtar Belmokhtar (State Dept. Wanted poster)

Mokhtar Belmokhtar
(State Dept. Wanted poster)

The one-eyed Islamist militant who ordered a deadly attack on an Algerian gas plant two years ago has been killed in a U.S. air strike, Libyan officials say, the BBC and other news outlets are reporting,

Mokhtar Belmokhtar and other fighters were killed in the operation in the eastern city of Ajdabiya, according to a statement from Libya’s government Sunday (June 14).

The BBC cautioned that there have been incorrect reports of his death in the past. If confirmed, however, Belmokhtar’s death “would be a major counterterrorism victory for the United States against one of the world’s most wanted militants,” according to the New York Times.

June 14, 2015 at 10:52 pm Leave a comment

UNMANNED AIRCRAFT: Think Tank Raises the Security Issue of Worldwide Drone Proliferation

A “Drone-Saturated World”.

Within a few years, military drones like this Air National Guard MQ1 Predator are expected to have plenty of company in the skies around the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Paul Duquette)

Within a few years, military drones like this Air National Guard MQ1 Predator are expected to have plenty of company in the skies around the world.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Paul Duquette)

Industry is looking to use unmanned aircraft for a variety of commercial purposes — from monitoring crops and livestock to inspecting oil rigs and pipelines  — but a Washington think tank warns that the proliferation of drones poses a national security risk that government leaders must consider before the technology’s rapid development leaves them behind.

The Center for a New American Security this past week issued the first in a series of reports from its World of Proliferated Drones project, which recommends the U.S. government consider foreign policy and national security issues arising from “a drone saturated world” in the future.

The project, which plans a number of reports and war games “engaging international audiences” isn’t anti-drone. And it doesn’t raise the usual privacy or public safety arguments espoused by civil libertarians or pilots groups. Instead, it notes that thousands of drones are here now — mostly used by militaries around the world. But those numbers are going to skyrocket as the technology becomes available for more individuals, companies and industries.

“Over 90 countries and non-state actors operate drones today, including at least 30 that operate or are developing armed drones,” notes the 40-page report, A Technology Primer, adding” This global proliferation raises a number of challenging security issues.” For example: “Are states more willing to shoot down a spy drone since there is no one on board — and if they do, does that constitute an act of war?

"DJI Phantom 1 1530564a" by © Nevit Dilmen. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

“DJI Phantom 1 1530564a” by © Nevit Dilmen. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Small “hobbyist” drones, which can be purchased by anyone and flown without a license or formal training pose a small risk because of their limited payload and range capabilities although the recent incident of a small drone crash-landing on the White House grounds shows they are ubiquitous and hard to detect near even the most heavily-guarded site.

Of more concern are midsize military and commercial drones, which can fly farther, stay aloft longer and carry larger payloads. They are too complicated to operate and too expensive to acquire by most individuals or small groups but the report notes 87 countries from — military powers like the United States and China to small countries like Cyprus and Trinidad and Tobago — are operating  such systems — “and this number is likely to grow in the years to come.” And non-state entities like the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah have obtained midsize military-grade systems  already.

U.N. peacekeepers have deployed Falco Selex ES2 drones along the eastern border of the Democratic Republic of Congo (Photo courtesy of Selex ES)

U.N. peacekeepers have deployed European-made Falco Selex ES2 drones in the Democratic Republic of Congo
(Photo courtesy of Selex ES)

Larger military drones that can carry bombs and missiles or highly sophisticated surveillance payloads are also proliferating but until they acquire stealth technology or electronic attack capabilities, the report says, they are vulnerable to advanced air defenses and manned fighter aircraft. So far, only U.S. drones have those capabilities but a number of countries including Russia, Israel, China, India, France, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Greece, Switzerland and Britain are working on their own stealth combat drones.

“Preventing the proliferation of armed drones is impossible — drones are hear to stay,” the CNAS report concludes. What that means for international security “is an open question,” it adds noting that the United States, which is the industry leader, “can help influence how drones are used and perceived by others.”

June 13, 2015 at 9:29 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (June 12, 2015)

Dealing with Gravity.

U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Markus Rauchenberger

U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Markus Rauchenberger

U.S. Army Sergeant Samantha Melanson of the 15th Engineer Battalion, rappels from a 55-foot tower during an air assault course at the Joint Multinational Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany.

Before you can rappel down a rope from a hovering helicopter, you have to learn how to do it from a stationary 55-foot tower. Even that is no piece of cake, as the photo below illustrates.

U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Markus Rauchenberger

U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Markus Rauchenberger

The course is being conducted through the 7th Army Combined Arms Training Center by a mobile training team from Fort Bragg, North Carolina and marks the first time the air assault course has been held at the newly built and renovated air assault facilities at Grafenwoehr.

To see more photos, click here.

June 12, 2015 at 2:15 am Leave a comment

UNMANNED SYSTEMS: S. Korean Team Wins DARPA Robotic Challenge [UPDATE]

Why can’t a Robot be more like a Man?

South Korea's Team Kaist robot DRC-Hubo uses a tool to cut a hole in a wall during the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals, June 5-6, 2015, in Pomona, Calif.  (DARPA photo)

South Korea’s Team KAIST robot, DRC-Hubo, uses a tool to cut a hole in a wall during the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals, June 5-6, 2015, in Pomona, Calif.
(DARPA photo)

Updates with photos and more details.

A robotics team from South Korea has taken the top prize in a $3.5 million challenge conducted by the Defense Department’s think-outside-the-box research unit.

Team KAIST of Daejon, Republic of Korea, and its robot DRC-Hubo, took first place in the two-day competition that ended Saturday (June 6), as well as the top prize of $2 million.  Two American teams, from Florida and Pennsylvania took second and third place. More than 10,000 spectators turned out for the challenge at the former Los Angeles County Fairgrounds — now known as the Fairplex — in Pomona, California.

Sponsored by the Defense Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the DARPA Robotics Challenge brought 23 teams from six countries together for a two-day competition of robot systems capable of assisting humans in responding to natural and man-made disasters. The idea, first promoted by DARPA in 2012, was a response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster the previous year following a devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Small, tracked robots were able to enter damaged nuclear facilities to monitor radioactivity and provide video of areas too dangerous for humans to enter. But those robots lacked the ability to shut down equipment, get around debris or climb stairs to upper levels in the facility.

Carnegie Mellon University's CHIMP robot (DARPA photo)

Carnegie Mellon University’s CHIMP robot opens a door.
(DARPA photo)

Your 4GWAR editor first wrote about the challenge for Unmanned Systems magazine in November 2012.

According to DARPA program manager and DRC organizer Gill Pratt, the challenge was designed to be extremely difficult. Participating teams had a very short time period to collaborate and develop the hardware, software, sensors, and human-machine control interfaces to enable their robots to complete a series of disaster response-related challenge tasks selected by DARPA. The tasks for each robot included: driving a vehicle alone for 100 meters; walking through rubble; tripping electrical circuit breakers; using a tool to cut a hole in a wall; turning valves and climbing stairs.

There were a dozen teams from the United States and 11 more from Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea and China (Hong Kong).

South Korea's Team KAIST after winning the DARPA Robotics Challenge. DARPA photo)

South Korea’s Team KAIST claims their $2 Million prize after winning the DARPA Robotics Challenge.
(DARPA photo)

The winner, Team KAIST, is from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. Their robot was called Hubo for humanoid robot. Coming in second, and winning a $1 million prize was Team IHMC Robotics of Pensacola, Florida. IHMC stands for the Institute of Human and Machine Cognition. Their robot was called Running Man. In third place, and earning a $500,000 prize was a team from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh — Team Tartan Rescue. Their robot was called CHIMP for CMU Highly Intelligent Mobile Platform.

All the competitors had to drive Polaris Industries’ limited edition DARPA Polaris Ranger XP900 and GEM electric vehicles for the the robot driving part of the DRC Finals.

Click on the photos to enlarge the image. To see more photos of the competition, click here.

To see videos of the DRC, including when Team KAIST won, click here.

June 11, 2015 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

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