Archive for November, 2019

FRIDAY FOTO (November 29, 2019)

Surreal Sunset.

MQ-9 Reaper and aircrew underneath Nevada sunset

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class William Rio Rosado)

An MQ-9 Reaper drone, or unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), sits on the flight line as the sun sets at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada on November 20, 2019. A larger and more heavily-armed version of the MQ-1 Predator, the Reaper  is the first attack drone also designed for long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance. Both UAVs — called remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) by the Air Force — are manufactured by California-based General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. Earlier this month, General Atomics announced that its Predator-series of drones, which includes the Predator, Predator B, Gray Eagle, Avenger and MQ-9B SkyGuardian lines, has surpassed six million flight hours.

November 29, 2019 at 6:58 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (November 22, 2019)

Seems Like Old Times.

Tiger TRIUMPH Beach Landing

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Christian Ayers)

While military planners and strategists say the era of massive amphibious landings like Omaha Beach or Iwo Jima are over, the Marines aren’t getting rid of their landing craft just yet.

This November 19, 2019 photo shows U.S. Marines and Indian forces wading to shore at Kakinada Beach on the Bay of Bengal. The amphibious landing was part of a disaster response training scenario during Tiger Triumph, a humanitarian exercise that aims to improve partnership, readiness and cooperation between the U.S. and Indian militaries.

Organizers said the nine-day exercise on India’s eastern coast, was the first drill of its kind to include the U.S. military and all three of India’s armed services, according to Stars and Stripes, the American military newspaper.

India has held similar exercises — involving all three branches of its armed forces — with only one other country: Russia. During the Cold War, India was closer to the Soviet Union than to the United States, and much of the Indian arsenal still dates back to that era, according to the New York Times.

Tiger Triumph brought together 500 U.S. Marines and sailors, and about 1,200 Indian soldiers, sailors and air force personnel for side-by-side training. While the official focus was to prepare for rescue operations and disaster response, it also included search-and-seizure training and live-fire drills, the Times noted.

The exercise represents “a tangible and necessary implementation of a series of U.S. strategic pronouncements regarding the importance of U.S. international partnerships in general and India in particular,” according to an opinion piece by the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, appearing in Defense News.

November 22, 2019 at 6:28 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (November 15, 2019)

Air Force Tackles Infinity.

210th EIS connects PSAB

(U.S. Air Force photo by Technical Sergeant John Wilkes)

The nature of infinity has been the subject of philosophical discussion since the time of the Ancient Greeks. By the late 19th Century, infinity — as a mathematical concept — refined and extended the old philosophical concept, in particular by introducing infinitely many different sizes of infinite sets. Infinity is also a concept in physics and cosmology. The ancient sideways figure-eight symbol has been around as a mathematical symbol of infinity since the mid-17th Century.

But the only mathematical issue these U.S. airmen are tussling with (in a November 5, 2019 photo)  is how many hands it takes to wrestle a fiber optic cable into place at Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia — a hot, dusty area which only seems infinite.

November 15, 2019 at 10:40 am Leave a comment

SHAKO: Veterans Day 2019

A Terrible Beauty.

In late May — on Memorial Day — America remembers the honored dead, those who gave their lives in this country’s wars since 1775.

But on Veterans Day every November, Americans honor the living who served or continue to serve in uniform. November 11 is the anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I – the “War to End All Wars” in 1918. Unfortunately, history has proven that was an overly optimistic term for what turned out to be the First World War.

Veterans Day 2019 Arlington Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery, Nov. 3, 2019 (4GWAR photo copyright John M. Doyle)

A few years after that conflict, the United States buried an unknown soldier killed on the battlefields of France in a new tomb, a monument to all the slain, at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington. On Memorial Day and Veterans Day there is always a solemn ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown (the original soldier has been joined by fellow nameless warriors from World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

On Sunday November  3, your 4GWAR editor joined more than 50 fellow Norwich University alumni at a much smaller ceremony in Arlington, to locate the graves of Norwich grads buried in the National Cemetery. We had the privilege of joining a small group of Norwich vets, including two serving Army officers, to do the honors among the fields of white headstones.

Veterans Day 2019 Arlington with Norwich

Norwich University alumni search the rows of gravestones in Arlington National Cemetery. (4GWAR photo copyright John M. Doyle)

Once a grave on our list was located, a small American flag and the Maroon and Gold flag of Norwich, a 200-year-old Vermont military academy, were planted in front of the headstone and a Norwich commemorative coin was placed atop it. The Army officers, a lieutenant colonel and a brigadier general saluted the fallen. Then we retrieved flags and coin and moved on to the next grave site.

Veterans Day 2019 Arlington with Norwich2

Honoring Norwich’s dead at Arlington. (4GWAR photo copyright by John M. Doyle)

Our task accomplished, we headed to the Tomb of the Unknown for a Norwich Maroon and Gold wreath laying ceremony at the tomb in the waning afternoon sunlight.

Veterans Day 2019 Honor Guard Tomb Norwich wreath

Third Infantry Regiment honor guard passes the Norwich wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown (4GWAR Photo copyright John M. Doyle)





November 11, 2019 at 11:59 pm 2 comments

SHAKO: Happy Birthday USMC!

244 Years and Counting.

November 10 is the 244th anniversary of the creation of the United States Marine Corps. On that date in 1775, the Continental Congress passed a resolution to create two battalions of Marines.  Capt. (later Major) Samuel Nichols — considered the Corps’ first commandant — advertised in and around Philadelphia for “a few good men” and signed them up at Tun Tavern on the Philadelphia waterfront.

Less than five months later they were at sea heading for the Bahamas and a raid on New Providence and Nassau Town to capture naval supplies from the British, including  shells, shot and cannon — but not much-needed gunpowder.

SHAKO Battle_of_Nassau

New Providence Raid, March 1776, oil painting on canvas by V. Zveg, 1973. It depicts Continental Sailors and Marines landing on New Providence Island, Bahamas, on March 3, 1776, the Marines’ first combat operation. (Photo U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command.

Since then, the Marines have made numerous assaults from the sea at Vera Cruz, Mexico in 1847, Korea in 1871, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in 1898, several Caribbean and Central American nations during the so-called Banana Wars between 1914 and 1934, and the island hopping campaigns in the Pacific from Guadalcanal to Okinawa in 1942 through 1945, and Inchon, Korea in 1950.

In the snow of far-off Northern lands*

One of the Marines’ toughest battles was in the snow and below-freezing temperatures around North Korea’s Chosin Reservoir in late 1950. After swamps and jungles of Vietnam in the 1960s and 70s, and the deserts of Iraq and mountain valleys of Afghanistan since 2002, the Marines are training for winter warfare again — in the Arctic.

On The Attack

Marines move into a tactical position in Setermoen, Norway, on October 31, 2019, during Exercise Reindeer, a U.S.-Norwegian exercise focusing on cold weather training and interoperability. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sergeant Justin Toledo)

Since 2017, a small force of 330 U.S. Marines, based near the town of Vaernes on Norway’s midwest coast, have been rotating in and out of the country every six months. Now with the agreement of the Norwegian government, that rotational deployment has more than doubled in size.

Melting Arctic sea ice, caused by climate change, has touched off a race to establish commercial sea lanes across the top of the world as well as accessing untapped fishing stocks and vast underwater petroleum and mineral stores. Territorial disputes have also touched off a mini arms race in the polar region, with Russia, Norway, Canada and the United States all boosting their military presence at a rate not seen since the Cold War.

Birthday Traditions.

The Marine Corps Birthday has been a big deal with the Corps since 1921, when then-Commandant Major Gen. John LeJeune issued Marine Corps Order No. 47, Series 1921, summarizing the history, tradition and mission of the Marine Corps and directing that the order be read to every command on every subsequent November 10.

Since 1952, the Marine Corps has had another tradition: the cake cutting ceremony. The 20th USMC commandant, Gen. Lemuel C. Shepherd Jr., formalized the ceremony, stating the first piece of cake must be presented to the oldest Marine present, who passes it to the youngest Marine.

So where ever they may be serving, God bless the United States and success to the Marines, as their traditional toast goes.

*Line from the second stanza of the Marine Corps Hymn.

*** *** ***

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.

.west point cadets.pdf

(U.S. Military Academy photo)



November 10, 2019 at 11:49 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (November 8, 2019)

Big Bird, Big Sky, Baltic Sea.

Bomber Task Force operates over the Baltic Sea

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Trevor T. McBride)

A U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress flies at high altitude during a mission over the Baltic Sea on October 23, 2019. The Cold War-era long-range, heavy bomber is part of a deployment aimed at improving bomber interoperability with joint partners and allied nations NATO and non-NATO — but friendly — nations.

Both NATO, and the United States in particular, have stepped up their presence in the Baltic region since Russia began throwing its weight around after annexing Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula — without asking — in 2014.

Since then, some Scandinavian countries have been boosting defense budgets even restoring a military draft as Russian aircraft and naval vessels have acted more aggressively in the region. As an example of rising concerns, Sweden and Finland, two non-aligned nations during the Cold War, have been joining NATO exercises in the region.


(Map courtesy of NATO Review.)



November 8, 2019 at 11:58 am Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPS: Medal of Honor for Green Beret; Niger Ambush Heroes Recognized

Medal of Honor.

Hall of Heroes Induction Ceremony

Medal of Honor recipient Army Master Sgt. Matthew O. Williams is inducted into the Hall of Heroes by Defense Secetary Mark T. Esper at the Pentagon on October. 31, 2019. (Defense Department photo by Marine Corps Corporal Marcos A. Alvarado)

Army Special Forces Master Sergeant Matthew O. Williams has been awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award of valor, for his combat actions in the Shok Valley of Afghanistan in  2008.

At the time of the battle, Williams — then a sergeant — was a a weapons sergeant with Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) 3336, of Special Operations Task Force 11. On April 6, 2008, the ODA was on a mission to capture or kill high-value targets of the Hezeb Islami al Gulbadin in Shok Valley, Nuristan Province.

Williams was part of an assault element — several American soldiers and a larger Afghan commando force — inserted by helicopter. As they were moving up a mountain toward their objective, they were engaged by intense enemy machine guns, snipers and rocket-propelled grenades.

Williams heard that the lead element had sustained several casualties and was in danger of being overrun. He immediately gathered the commandos around him while braving intense enemy fire and led a counterattack across a 100-meter long valley of ice-covered boulders and a fast-moving, ice-cold, waist-deep river.

During the course of a six-hour battle, Williams rescued other members of the assault element and evacuated numerous casualties while continuously exposing himself to insurgent fire.

Williams is the second Medal of Honor recipient from this engagement. He joins former Staff Sergeant Ron Shurer II,  a medical sergeant with ODA 3336, who received the top valor award on October 1, 2018.

Like Williams, Shurer, battled his way across icy terrain under heavy enemy fire to reach the pinned down lead element.  For the next five and a half hours, Shurer helped keep the large insurgent force at bay while simultaneously providing care to his wounded teammates. Overall, Shurer’s actions helped save the lives of all wounded casualties under his care.

Originally, Williams was awarded the Silver Star medal, the third-highest decoration for valor in combat. The Army reviewed and upgraded the award to the Medal of Honor for gallantry and heroism above and beyond the call of duty.

Medal Of Honor Ceremony

Williams was joined by Ronald J. Shurer II after Williams’ Medal of Honor Ceremony at the White House on October 30, 2019. (Defense Department photo)

*** *** ***

Nigerien Heroes.

The head of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) awarded six medals to Nigerien soldiers who fought alongside Army Special Forces in a 2017 ambush near the village of Tongo Tongo that claimed the lives of four Green Berets and four Nigerien soldiers.

Army General Richard Clarke, the SOCOM commander, presented the awards in Niamey, Niger’s capital, along with the U.S. Ambassador Eric Whitaker, to four surviving soldiers, and family members of two others who were killed, Army Times reported.


(Map of Niger: CIA World Fact Book)

The honors included two Bronze Star medals, one Army Commendation Medal and three Army Achievement medals. The four surviving Nigeriens who received awards were Corporal Moustapha Kakalé, Soldier 2nd Class Ibrahim Assoumane, Soldier 2nd Class Abdou Kane and Soldier 2nd Class Kamel Issoufou Oumar.

Family members representing Adjutant Chief Soumana Bagué and Soldier 2nd Class Abdoul Rachid Yarima received posthumous awards and condolences from Clarke and Whitaker, according to embassy officials.

The four Americans killed in the attack were: Sergeant First Class Jeremiah Johnson, Staff Sergeant Bryan Black, Staff Sergeant Dustin Wright and Sergeant LaDavid Johnson.

Sergeant LaDavid Johnson and Staff Sergeant Wright were awarded the Silver Star Medal posthumously for bravery. Johnson and Black received the Bronze Star Medal with Valor posthumously. Other members of the 11-man Special Operations team also received commendations.

However, Army Times noted, the mission and the Defense Department report on the fatal ambush remain controversial.  A lack of air support or persistent overhead surveillance aircraft worsened the disaster near the Niger-Mali border when the U.S. troops and their Nigerien partners were ambushed by an Islamic-State aligned force three times their size.


U.S. Army General Richard Clarke, head of Special Operations Command, pins a medal on one of six Nigerien soldiers decorated for bravery in a 2017 terrorist ambush that left four of their comrades and four U.S. Green Berets dead. (Photo: U.S. Embassy Niamey via Twitter) 

The investigation, conducted by U.S. Africa Command, identified “individual, organizational, and institutional failures and deficiencies that contributed to the tragic events of 4 October 2017,” but it concluded “no single failure or deficiency was the sole reason for the events” on that day.



November 8, 2019 at 12:24 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (November 1, 2019)

Threading a Needle.


(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Zachary Anderson)

Two sailors help guide the pilot of an MH-60S Seahawk helicopter during a vertical replenishment (VERTREP) as part of a COMPTUEX training exercise in the Atlantic Ocean, on October 23, 2019.

We’ve seen plenty of photos and videos over the years showing Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard helos picking up or dropping off cargo as viewed from the ground or the deck of a ship. But this photo captures what it looks like inside the helicopter, with these sailors acting, in effect, like the backing-up camera on the rear of an SUV.

COMPTUEX is a large-scale rehearsal that U.S. Navy Carrier Strike Groups perform before departing for deployment. The exercise assesses a strike group’s ability to conduct military operations at sea and project power ashore through joint planning and execution of challenging, realistic training scenarios.

November 1, 2019 at 1:04 pm Leave a comment


November 2019


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