Archive for January, 2020

FRIDAY FOTO (January 24, 2020)

Wet Work.

Hotel Company Crucible

(Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Christopher McMurry)

Marine Corps recruits participate in a Crucible event at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina, on January 10, 2020. The Crucible is a 54-hour field training exercise that presents continuous physical and mental challenges. After successfully completing The Crucible, recruits are welcomed as members of the Corps and awarded the Marines’ eagle, globe and anchor emblem.

Luckily, as wet and uncomfortable as these recruits look, at least it wasn’t typical January weather that day. The high on January 10, 2020 at Parris Island was an unseasonable 72 degrees, with a low of 54. The average historical high temperature for January 10 in those parts is 60 degrees, with a much colder low of 39 degrees, according to AccuWeather. Maybe hot and wet in January is worse?

To see a short video clip of the Crucible, click here.

January 24, 2020 at 12:10 am Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Al Shabab Raid on US Base

Al Shabab Raid Fallout.

Earlier this month m embers of the al Shabab terrorist group attack a Kenyan military base near the Somalia border. Three Americans were killed and numerous U.S. aircraft and vehicles were damaged or destroyed. The fallout from this surprise — and costly — raid is still developing.


The Horn of Africa

Here is some of what U.S. Africa Command, which oversees U.S. military activities across the continent (except for Egypt), had to say about it today (Thursday, January 23).

“U.S. Africa Command continues to investigate the January 5 attack on the Kenyan Defense Force Military Base in Manda Bay, Kenya, that killed U.S. Army Specialist Henry J. Mayfield, Jr., and two U.S. contractors, Bruce Triplett and Dustin Harrison.

“In the early morning hours of Jan. 5, al-Shabaab initiated mortar fire on the Kenyan Defense Force installation and Camp Simba, while simultaneously assaulting the airfield. U.S. forces are primarily located at Camp Simba, about one mile from the airfield. Shortly after the attack began, U.S. forces at Camp Simba quickly responded and actively counterattacked the enemy at the airfield.”

U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, Africa Command’s chief said “The attack at Manda Bay demonstrates that al-Shabaab remains a dangerous and capable enemy.” The general called Shabab “a menace to the people of East Africa and U.S. national interests there.” Townsend maintained Shabab’s goal is “eventually attacking the U.S. homeland.”

Since 2010, al-Shabab has killed hundreds of innocent people outside the borders of Somalia.

Marine Raiders.

The attack caught American and Kenyan forces by surprise, but Marine Raiders — the Special Operations unit of the Marine Corps — were in a base about a mile away and led the counter attack, according to Marine Corps Times.

Multiple sources within the Marine Raider community told Marine Corps Times that about a dozen Marines from 3rd Marine Raider Battalion, based out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, led Kenyan commandos against the Islamic militants. The Marines engaged in an intense firefight with the al-Shabab militants, the sources said, ultimately pushing the Islamic fighters out of the military base.

“While numbers are still being verified, it is estimated that several dozen al-Shabaab fighters were repelled,” U.S. Africa Command said in a Thursday press release. “Because of the size of the Kenyan base, clearance and security operations continued for several more hours to ensure the entire base was secure.”

Chaos at First.

The New York Times first reported Wednesday (January 22) that Marine Raiders participated in the counterattack.

The Marines were located at Camp Simba, the Times reported ― roughly a mile from the airfield at Manda Bay where the attack took place. The Times initially reported that the Marines’ response was delayed due to their distance from the base, but on Thursday U.S. Africa Command said that the Marines’ response was “timely.”

The brazen assault at Manda Bay, a sleepy seaside base near the Somali border, was largely overshadowed by the crisis with Iran after the killing of that country’s most important general two days earlier, and is only now drawing closer scrutiny from Congress and Pentagon officials, the Times noted.

The storming of an airfield used by the American military so alarmed the Pentagon that it immediately sent about 100 troops from the 101st Airborne Division to establish security at the base. Army Green Berets from Germany also were shuttled to Djibouti, the Pentagon’s major hub in Africa, in case the entire base was in danger of being taken by al Shabab, an East African terrorist group affiliated with Al Qaeda, according to the Times.

January 23, 2020 at 11:43 pm Leave a comment

SHAKO: In a First, New Aircraft Carrier to be Named for African American Hero of Pearl Harbor

USS Doris Miller (CVN81).

The Navy is naming its next aircraft carrier, (CVN 81) the USS Doris Miller, after Pearl Harbor hero Doris “Dorie” Miller, the first African American awarded the Navy Cross.


Navy Admiral Chester Nimitz personally pins the Navy Cross on sailor Doris “Dorie” Miller. (U.S. Navy photo)

At a Martin Luther King Day ceremony (Monday, January 20) at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii Acting Navy Secretary Thomas B. Modly announced the future CVN81 would be named for Miller. It would be the first time a U.S. aircraft carrier was named for an African American and also the first time one was named for an enlisted sailor.

The son of a Texas sharecroper, Miller was just 22 when he was awarded the Navy Cross, the Navy’s second highest decoration for bravery, for his actions on December 7, 1941.

The U.S. Army and Navy were largely segregated all-white organizations in 1941 and the few blacks in the services were assigned menial jobs, like Miller, a messman — essentialy a waiter, busboy and dishwasher — on the battleship USS  West Virginia. When the Japanese attack began, Miller began passing ammunition to antiaircraft gunners. A big man — high school football player and boxing champion of the West Virginia’s crew — Miller began carrying the wounded to safety. Among them was the ship’s commander, Captain Mervyn Bennion, who died from his wounds during the attack.

Miller then manned a .50-calibre Browning anti-aircraft gun, for which he had no training, and continued firing on the enemy planes until he ran out of ammunition. Struck by two armor piercing bombs and five torpedoes, the West Virginia was afire and slowly sinking when the last remaining officer ordered the crew to abandon ship.

Miller was commended for his heroism by Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox on April 1, 1942, and on  May 27, 1942 he received the Navy Cross personally from Admiral Chester Nimitz, the Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet.

Eventually promoted to Ships Cook, 3rd Class, Miller shipped out on the escort aircraft carrier, Liscombe Bay (CVE 56) in 1943. The ship was torpedoed and sank within minutes during the invasion of the Gilbert Islands (Operation Galvanic). Only 272 members of the crew survived, while 646 died, including Miller.


Family members of Dorie Miller unveil a plaque commemorating the future Ford-class aircraft carrier USS Doris Miller (CVN 81) at a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration event at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin R. Pacheco)

Family members were on hand to unveil an artists’ rendering of what the USS Miller will look like. The carrier will be the second Navy ship named for Miller. In 1975 the Knox class frigate, USS Miller (FF-1091) was launched.

Regular visitors to 4GWAR may remember we told Dorie Miller’s story in our Pearl Harbor anniversary post on December 8, 2019.

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.west point cadets.pdf

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.

January 22, 2020 at 1:06 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (January 17, 2020)

Fighting Fire with …

JBER fire protection specialists certify as ice rescue technicians

(U.S. Air Force photo by Alejandro Pena)

U.S. Air Force fire protection specialists navigate in freezing water while practicing self-recovery techniques during ice rescue training at Six Mile Lake at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, January 11, 2020.

The training, conducted in below zero temperatures, provides the knowledge and skills necessary for safe rescue and recovery operations in, on and around ice and cold water.

You gotta wonder if these folks ever dreamed they’d be doing this — as firefighters, no less  — when the joined the Air Force.

January 17, 2020 at 9:02 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (January 10, 2020)

Optical Delusion.

USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71)

(U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Alexander Williams)

This photo may look like a contractor repairing rooftop parking on a downtown San Diego office building — but looks can be deceiving.

Actually, in this photo, Seaman Chelsea Pedarre, U.S. Navy, is driving a deck scrubber on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) berthed at Naval Base San Diego on December 19, 2019.

The photo below shows the aircraft carrier moored pier side at Naval Station North Island in 2016. Big, ain’t it?

FRIFO add 1-10-2020

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jimmi Lee Bruner)

Here’s a link to a brief video of the carrier’s return to San Diego in 2018. It gives a sense of the ship’s enormous size and the thousands of people it carries.

January 10, 2020 at 12:53 pm Leave a comment

Robots, ‘droids & Drones: Drone Strike Kills Iranian General; Saudi, U.S. Counter Drone Research

Drone Shot heard ’round the World.

Armed MQ-9 Reaper drone over Afghanistan

An MQ-9 Reaper, armed with GBU-12 Paveway II laser guided munitions and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, flies over southern Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Lieutenant Colonel Leslie Pratt)

Tensions grew in the Middle East and around the world last week after a U.S. Air Force drone attack near the Baghdad airport early Friday (January 3) killed Iran’s most powerful security and intelligence commander — Major General Qassem Soleimani.

Missiles fired from a U.S. MQ-9 Reaper blew up the Soleimani’s convoy as it departed the airport. The general was the longtime leader of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, the foreign-facing branch of the country’s powerful security apparatus, according to the New York Times.

He worked closely with Iraqi and Lebanese allies, nurturing proxy forces to form a Shiite axis of power throughout the region. His profile rose amid the fight to prop up President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, and later the fight against the Islamic State, the Times noted.

President Donald Trump said he ordered the killing of the Iranian general “to stop a war,” not start one, but in the tense aftermath the Pentagon braced for retaliation by sending more troops to the Middle East, the Associated Press reported. Democrats in Congress and numerous leaders around the world — especially American allies in Europe and Middle East worried that the strike made war more likely.

In Baghdad, Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi condemned the American drone strike, which also killed an Iraqi general who was deputy commander of the Iranian-backed militias in Iraq known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, the AP noted.

The Reaper — a remotely piloted aircraft in Air Force parlance — is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance drone that is primarily an attack aircraft but it also can perform intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions as well as close air support, combat search and rescue and convoy or raid overwatch.

The Reaper is a bigger, more powerful version of the MQ-1 Predator drone, which it replaced in July 2017. Both aircraft are manufactured by California-based General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.

America’s use of weaponized drones began after 9/11, expanded during Barack Obama’s presidency and appears to have increased further still under Trump, according to Britain’s Guardian newspaper. In March 2019, Trump revoked the Obama-era policy which required intelligence officials to disclose the number of people killed in drone strikes on terrorist targets outside war zones, according to NBC News.

On Thursday (January 9), the House of Representatives approved a war powers resolution with a vote of 224-194 that calls for limiting the White House’s ability to direct combat actions against Iran. Three only Republicans crossed party lines to vote in favor of the resolution, which now goes to the Senate, CNN reported.

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Saudi Counter Drone System.

Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI) is working on a new national counter-dronesystem, according Defense News.  The new system — under development with international partners – seeks to address asymmetric threats to the country and protect critical infrastructure and domestic military bases.

Drone swarms and low-altitude cruise missiles attacked Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq and Khurais oil facilities in September. The current air defense systems were unable to stop the assault.

The new system is in the testing stage and is expected to be rolled out in the near term, said SAMI’s chief executive officer, Andreas Schwer.  told Defense News. The C-drone system will have the options to thwart all types of drones from very small ones to the professional militarized threats, he added.

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F-16 Shoots Down Drone.

An Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet recently shot down a targeting test drone, successfully demonstrating shooting a small drone at low altitudes, Air Force Magazine reports.


(Screenshot from U.S. Air Force video by 1st Lieutenant Savanah Bray)

The 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, conducted the December 19 test. The AGR-20A Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System laser-guided rocket was originally developed for combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as a low-cost, low-collateral weapon. By adapting the rocket for cruise missile defense, it can serve the same role as the much more expensive AIM-120 missile, according to the Air Force release.

“The test was unprecedented and will shape the future of how the Air Force executes CMD [counter missile defense],” said Colonel Ryan Messer, commander of the 53d Wing at Eglin.

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FAA, FBI Investigate Drone Swarms.

Speaking of shooting down drones, law enforcement agencies in Colorado and Nebraska  warned residents — alarmed and annoyed by mysterious swarms of drones flying at night — that shooting a drone out of the sky would be a crime, the New York Times reports.

Since mid-December, sheriff’s departments in the border area of the three states have been flooded with at least 30 reports of nighttime drone sightings, according to CBS News. Groups of a dozen or more machines, sometimes flying in formation, have been reported. The FBI, Federal Aviation Administration and U.S. Air Force have been called to investigate the drone swarms. While there is a lot of speculation, no one seems to know who owns or has been operating them, according to the Times.

The sightings come just as the FAA has announced new regulations that would make it easier for law enforcement to identify and track drones.

January 9, 2020 at 11:35 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (January 3, 2020)

Gray (and Graying) Formation.

JBSA-Randolph focuses on building Instructor Pilot’s Skills

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sergeant Christopher Boitz)

Looking (from this angle) more like wingless, flying cars out of a science fiction movie, a trio of T-38C Talons travel in a tight formation over Texas. This December 19, 2019 photo was taken while the T-38s — which do have wings — were returning to Joint Base San Antonio after a training flight.

The Northrop T-38 was the world’s first supersonic advanced jet trainer and has served as the Air Force’s primary aircraft for training fighter pilots since 1961. The Air Force Air Education and Training Command uses the T-38C variant to prepare pilots for front-line fighter and bomber aircraft such as the F-15E Strike Eagle, F-15C Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, B-1B Lancer, A-10 Thunderbolt and F-22 Raptor.

The twin-engine, high-altitude Talon has been used in a variety of roles because of its “design, economy of operations, ease of maintenance, high performance and exceptional safety record,” according to the January 2014 Air Force fact sheet. The dart-like jet is also used by NASA and the Turkish Air Force and was flown in the past by the air forces of Germany, Portugal, South Korea and Taiwan.

However, there have been at least a half a dozen crashes involving ageing U.S. T-38s since November 2017, according to the Stars and Stripes newspaper.  The worn out T-38s are restricted from making the tight turns of today’s fighters, lest they disintegrate in midair, Smithsonian’s Air & Space magazine reported in 2018. Pilots training on the F-22 and F-35 must undergo additional training in F-16s to verify that they can handle the G-forces, Air & Space noted.

On September 27, 2018, the Air Force awarded The Boeing Company a contract, worth up to $9.2 billion, to procure 351 Advanced Pilot Training (APT T-X) aircraft and 46 Ground-Based Training Systems to replace the existing fleet of T-38C jet trainers, according to the Congressional Research Service.

The new trainer was officially named the T-7A Red Hawk, to honor the Tuskegee Airmen, the African-American fighter pilots of World War II — who were known as the Red Tails because they decorated their P-47 Thunderbolts and P-51 Mustangs with a red-tailed paint scheme.

Oh, and by the way — Happy New Year everyone!

January 3, 2020 at 1:03 pm Leave a comment

ARCTIC NATION: Navy’s “Arctic” Fleet; Marines’ Cold Weather Boot; Arctic Report Card

Navy’s 2nd Fleet “Fully Operational”.

The U.S. Navy’s 2nd Fleet — reestablished to counter Russia in the north Atlantic — has reached full operational capability, the Stars and Stripes website reported Thursday (January 2, 2020).

The Norfolk, Va.-based 2nd Fleet, reestablished in 2018, will be responsible for overseeing ships, aircraft and landing forces on the east coast and the north Atlantic, reaching up into the Arctic.

USS Harry S. Truman and USS Normandy Transit the Atlantic

The USS Harry Truman (CVN75) entered Arctic waters in October 2018, the first time in 30 years a U.S. aircraft carrier ventured into the Arctic Circle. ( (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Scott Swofford)

The declaration of “full operational capability” certifies that 2nd Fleet’s command-and-control infrastructure is capable of running its assigned operations, Stars and Stripes, noted.

“Our allies and competitors alike are well aware that many of the world’s most active shipping lanes lie within the North Atlantic,” 2nd Fleet commander, Vice Admiral Andrew Lewis, said  Vice Admiral Andrew Lewis, who heads the fleet, said, according to Defense News.

“Combined with the opening of waterways in the Arctic, this competitive space will only grow, and 2nd Fleet’s devotion to the development and employment of capable forces will ensure that our nation is both present and ready to fight in the region if and when called upon,” Lewis added.

When the Navy stood up the fleet last year, it cited Russia as the primary concern for which the new force is to address, Defense News noted. At the time, then-Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson said: “This is a dynamic response to the dynamic security environment.”

In a sign of how strategically important the High North has become, Stars and Stripes noted,  last September, the 2nd Fleet established a Maritime Operations Center in Keflavik, Iceland, where 30 staff members now are based.

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Marines Getting the Boot.

The U.S. Marine Corps could be getting its first new intense cold-weather boot since the 1960s, the Marine Corps Times reports.

The Marine Corps Systems Command is finalizing  testing and evaluation of two commercial options, with the winner expected to be delivered by summer 2020.

The two semifinalists are the Belleville Intense Cold Weather Boot and the Danner Acadia. Over the ­winter, systems command staff will conduct follow-on user evaluations to validate the two boot submissions in a real world environment.

1st CEB Hikes During MTX 2-17

Marines snowshoeing downhill  at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, California on February 22, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Danny Gonzalez).

The Marines and Army have been using a big, white, 1960s-era rubberized intense cold weather boot — nicknamed the “Mickey Mouse” boot — for more than half a century. Officially known as the Extreme Cold Weather Boot, it is effective at preventing frostbite and ­keeping feet warm down to minus 60 degrees Fahrenheit. But it is heavy and traps moisture creating wet feet.

The new boot is part of efforts to upgrade cold weather gear as Marines are expected to ­contribute forces to Arctic regions, such as their regular ­700-Marine rotations to Norway. Another gear item in that kit was the 2018 purchase of a new ski system, which was awarded to Serket USA for its Scout model ski and Patrol ski binding, the Marine Corps Times said.

Click here to see a video about extreme cold weather boots (Mickey Mouse or Bunny boots are addressed at 3:29)

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More Bad News.

Temperatures in the Arctic region remained near record highs in 2019, according to a report issued in December by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The higher temperatures led to low summer sea ice, cascading impacts on the regional food web and growing concerns over sea level rise, according to the New York Times.

Mid-summer sea ice off Svalbard, Norway 2019.

Thinning Midsummer sea ice off Svalbard, Norway in June 2019. (Photo by John M. Doyle, copyright 2019, Sonoma Road Strategies)

Average temperatures for the year ending in September were the second highest since 1900, the year records began, scientists said. While short of a new high, it raised concerns over a continuing trend: The past six years have been the warmest ever recorded in the region.

The peer-reviewed assessment produced by NOAA takes a broad look at the effects of climate change in the region and compares current findings with the historical record. Climate researchers are concerned about the Arctic because it is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet — causing changes both in the ocean and on land, the Times reported December 10, 2019.

In July, Reykjavik, Iceland, experienced its warmest month on record. Similarly, Anchorage, Alaska, set heat records in June, July and August. Warming temperatures were just one of the concerning changes documented in the report. Ninety-five percent of the Greenland ice sheet thawed in 2019, driven partly by the onset of an earlier-than-usual melt, prompting growing concerns over sea level rise.

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ARCTIC NATION is an occasional 4GWAR posting on the Far 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 region. “Those interests include national security needs, protecting the environment, responsibly managing resources, considering the needs of indigenous communities, support for scientific research, and strengthening international cooperation on a wide range of issues.”

January 2, 2020 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment


January 2020


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