Posts filed under ‘Afghanistan’

SHAKO: New Medal of Honor Museum; Movies About MoH Heroes; Medal of Honor Quiz

Above and Beyond the Call of Duty.

Friday, March 25, was National Medal of Honor Day, established by Congress to “foster public appreciation and recognition of Medal of Honor recipients.”

Since the medal was created in 1861, 3,511 members of the U.S. military have received the Medal. Some of the names are quite famous like movie star and World War II legend Audie Murphy, frontier scout and showman Buffalo Bill Cody, and William “Wild Bill” Donovan, commander of the fabled Fighting 69th New York regiment in World War One and head of the CIA’s predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in World War II.

But most are names that are famous briefly when they receive the Medal, like Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone, cited for his heroism on Guadalcanal in 1942, but largely forgotten until the HBO Series The Pacific, rediscovered Basilone’s story.

Standards to award the Medal of Honor have evolved over time, but the Medal has always stood for actions that go above and beyond. The current criteria were established in 1963 during the Vietnam War, according to the Congressional Medal of Honor website.

The Medal is authorized for any military service member who “distinguishes himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty

The Defense Department announced on March 25 that ground had been broken for a Medal of Honor museum in Texas.

Medal of Honor recipients are honored at the National Medal of Honor Museum’s groundbreaking ceremony in Arlington, Texas, March 25, 2022.

At the museum’s groundbreaking ceremony in Arlington, Texas, Army General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the stories of selfless service deserve a permanent home. Their stories of heroism, service and valor must be shared, he added. And that’s exactly what the museum will do.

Milley told stories of some of the 15 Medal of Honor recipients who attended the groundbreaking, as well as others not present.

“It’s those stories that will document our country’s bravery, that gives purpose to our entire military. It’s their heroism,” he said.

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Movies About MoH Heroism

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a moving picture is worth tens of thousands.

Here’s a short list of seven Hollywood movies over the years that told the stories of Medal of Honor awardees from the Civil War, the First and Second World Wars, Vietnam, Somalia and Afghanistan.

 

1. Hacksaw Ridge (World War II, 1945)

This 2016 film recounts the selfless bravery of Army Medic Desmond T. Doss, during the Battle of Okinawa. A pacifist who refused to kill or even carry a weapon in combat, Doss became the first man in American history to receive the Medal of Honor without firing a shot.

 

2. Sergeant York (World War 1, 1918)

Tennessee farmer and marksman Alvin York was another pacifist who didn’t even want to serve in the Army when he was drafted in 1917, according to this 1942 film. However, his nearly single-handed assault on German machine guns resulting in more than a dozen Germans killed and 132 captured earned him the nickname “One Man Army,” as well as the Medal of Honor. Gary Cooper won an Oscar for his portrayal of York.

 

3. Black Hawk Down (Somalia, 1993)

This 2001 film recounts the story of 160 U.S. Army Rangers and Delta Force operators who dropped into Mogadishu in October 1993 to capture two top lieutenants of a renegade warlord, but found themselves in a desperate battle with a large force of heavily-armed Somalis. Posthumous MoH recipients Master Sergeant Gary Gordon and Sergeant First Class Randy Shughart were played in the film by Johnny Strong and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.

 

4. Lone Survivor (Afghanistan, 2005)

This 2013 film is about Marcus Luttrell, the only member of his SEAL team to survive a vicious running gun battle with Afghan insurgents during a mission to capture or kill notorious Taliban leader Ahmad Shah. The team commander, Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy, portrayed by Taylor Kitsch, was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.

 

5. We Were Soldiers (Vietnam, 1965)

The story of the battle of Ia Drang Valley, the first major battle of the American phase of the Vietnam War, pitting U.S. Air Cavalry troopers against North Vietnam Army regulars. The movie also shows the stress on soldiers’ families back home waiting for news of their loved ones. Helicopter pilot Major Bruce ‘Snake’ Crandall, the Medal of Honor for his heroism ferrying supplies and troops into and wounded soldiers out of a “Hot LZ,” a landing zone under heavy fire, was played by Greg Kinnear.

 

 

6. Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (World War II, 1942)

Spencer Tracy plays then-Army Air Force Colonel James “Jimmy” Doolittle, the commander of the first air attack on Tokyo less than six months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Doolittle, who planned the mission, trained the crews of B-25 land-based bombers to take off from an aircraft carrier, and then flew the lead bomber in the risky all-volunteer mission, was awarded the Medal of Honor.

 

7. The Great Locomotive Chase (Civil War, 1862)

During the Civil War a Union spy and volunteer soldiers, who risked hanging as spies if captured, plotted to steal a Confederate train and drive it to Union territory while destroying the Confederate railway system along the way. The survivors of this daring raid were the first U.S. troops to receive the new Medal of Honor. The raid failed in its main objective and all the raiders were captured. Eight were hanged. Eight others escaped and the rest were traded in a prisoner exchange. In all, 19 were awarded the first Medals of Honor, including Private Jacob Parrott of the 33rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, who is considered the first soldier awarded the MoH. Claude Jarman Jr., played Parrott in the 1956 Disney live action film about the raid.

The Mitchell Raiders receive the first Medals of Honor in The Great Locomotive Chase. (Disney via Military.com)

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Last, but not Least — a Quiz.

The Pentagon web site asks how much do you know about the the nation’s highest medal for valor in combat?

Click here, to take the quiz.

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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 in the photo.

West Point cadets in dress parade uniform. (U.S. Military Academy)

March 28, 2022 at 2:05 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (August 27, 2021)

No Better Friend

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla)

A U.S. Marine with the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command (SPMAGTF-CR-CC) escorts a boy to his family during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 24.

The Marines have a saying about themselves: “No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy.” This photo illustrates the first part of that saying.

Two days after the photo was taken, 11 Marines and a Hospital Corpsman — one of the Navy medics who take care of Marines in the danger zone — were killed by a terrorist bomb just outside the airport. Fifteen other U.S. service members were injured in the blast. Scores of Afghans were also killed and more than 100 injured.

The attack is believed to be the handiwork of a violent extremist group that calls itself ISIS-K, an offshoot of the Islamic State terrorist organization that established a sprawling caliphate in Iraq and Syria. The group was all but destroyed by a U.S.-led campaign but affiliates like ISIS-K have since emerged and drawn recruits from other local and regional militant groups.

Despite the tragic loss of life, the mission to evacuate American citizens and vulnerable Afghan civilians from Afghanistan will continue undeterred, Marine Corps General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., commander of U.S. Central Command, said during a briefing Thursday (August 26) at the Pentagon.

“Let me be clear: while we’re saddened by the loss of life, both U.S. and Afghan [citizens], we’re continuing to execute the mission,” the general said. Currently, there are now some 5,000 individuals awaiting evacuation from the country, McKenzie added.

Since August 14, more than 104,000 civilians have been evacuated — including about 5,000 Americans. McKenzie said he believed there are a little over 1,000 American civilians still left in the country. “We’re doing everything we can, in concert with our Department of State partners, to reach out to them and to help them leave, if they want to leave. And remember, not everybody wants to leave,” he said.

At the White House, President Joe Biden said “We must complete this mission and we will.” He also vowed to hunt down the perpetrators. “We won’t forgive. We won’t forget. We’ll hunt you down and we’ll make you pay,” Biden promised the attackers at a press conference hours after the attack.

We have a feeling that sometime in the not too distant future, the Marines, or some other unit of the U.S. military, will come knocking to collect that payment from ISIS-K.

August 27, 2021 at 12:04 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (January 1, 2021)

Hard Core, Old School.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Michael Washburn)

The U.S. Air Force isn’t just about jets, missiles and drones. It’s about the power of human strength and intelligence, too.

The red berets these airmen are wearing means they are part of Air Force Special Operations — combat controllers and tactical air control party members, who wear scarlet berets and pararescuemen, who wear maroon ones — in short, commandos.  They fly, parachute or chopper into hostile environments — often behind enemy lines — to pave the way for other troops and aircraft operations.

And this is not a photo of ordinary morning PT exercises. Instead, it shows Staff Sergeant Alaxey Germanovich, a combat controller with the 26th Special Tactics Squadron, leading Air Force and Army special operators in pushups following a ceremony where he received the Air Force Cross, a heroism award second only to the Medal of Honor.

Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett, presented the Air Force Cross to Germanovich during a December 10, 2020 ceremony at Cannon Air Force Base, in New Mexico.

Germanovich was cited for his actions as the air-to-ground liaison for his special ops team during a fierce 2017 firefight in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan. His efforts were credited with saving over 150 friendly forces and destroying 11 separate fighting positions. After the award ceremony, Germanovich led the troops in pushups to commemorate the event, the firefight and the ultimate sacrifice paid during the clash by Army Staff Sergeant Mark De Alencar, a Special Forces Soldier assigned to the team in which the combat controller was also embedded.

January 1, 2021 at 7:00 pm 2 comments

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: Medal of Honor for Ranger (Updated); Al Qaeda Threat in Africa

Army Ranger Awarded Medal of Honor

Army Sergeant Major Thomas “Patrick” Payne conducting a security patrol while on a mission in northern Afghanistan in 2014. (Courtesy photo via U.S. Army)

Army Sergeant Major Thomas “Patrick” Payne — a Ranger in the U.S. Army Special Operations Command — received the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony on Friday (September 11, 2020) for heroics in 2015 when he and others rescued some 70 hostages facing imminent execution by Islamic State (ISIS) fighters.

Payne, then a Sergeant 1st Class, was the assistant team leader of a group of operators with the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta. They joined Kurdish commandos on the October 22, 2015, nighttime raid to free Iraqi hostages from the ISIS prison compound in the northern town of Hawija.

Payne will become the first living Delta Force member to receive the Medal of Honor, according to Military.com. Army officials have identified Payne as a Ranger, but they have not publicly confirmed his affiliation with the elite and highly secretive Delta Force, the website noted.

Intelligence reported the hostages were being housed in two buildings inside the heavily-fortified compound. Payne’s team would be responsible for clearing one of them. The raiders arrived by CH-47 Chinook helicopter, but a complete brownout ensued as the helicopter rotors stirred up dust. Using their night vision googles, Payne and others navigated to the wall of the compound as enemy gunfire erupted, according to an Army report of the incident.

Patrick’s team met light resistance as they cleared their assigned building. Once inside, they used bold cutters to break thick locks on two rooms with steel prison doors, releasing nearly 40 hostages. There was still an intense firefight going on at the other building. The other team radioed for assistance.

Under heavy machine-gun fire Patrick and others climbed a ladder to the roof of the one-story building, where they engaged the enemy with hand grenades and small arms fire. Insurgents below them detonated suicide vests, causing the roof to shake. At the same time, smoke billowed out from the roof and enemy gunfire targeted Patrick’s team.

They moved under heavy fire back to ground level and breached windows and walls to enter the building. Once inside, the fighting was intense and the Kurdish commandos began taking casualties.

In order to release the remaining hostages, Patrick reentered the flaming structure with bolt cutters despite heavy gunfire fire. Flames touched off ammunition from a nearby weapons cache. Amid the smoke and chaos, Patrick twice more entered the burning building and with the Kurds, helped release about 30 more hostages.

Patrick and the others did not learn that one of their team members Master Sergeant Josh Wheeler, had been killed in action, until they returned to base.

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Why Africa Matters.

The head of U.S. Special Operations Command Africa says the continent is important in the effort to counter violent extremist organizations.

“Al Qaeda and Islamic State have both stated that they intend to attack and undermine the United States,” says Air Force Maj. Gen. Dagvin Anderson, adding that both groups have found a safe haven in Africa. In Africa, Anderson told an American Enterprise Institute (AEI) virtual conference on countering violent extremism, “they can establish themselves, they can develop their means ,and then they can eventually establish — whether it’s a caliphate or their area of control that will give them resources” to undermine the international order and attack the United States and Western allies and partners.

The Sahel Region of Africa. (Wikipedia)

Having lost its caliphate in Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State has been West, with the Islamic State Grand Sahara in the Mali region and the Islamic State West Africa, in Northeastern Nigeria. Even more disturbing, Anderson said, “we’re seeing them as they expand down the eastern coast, the Swahili coast of Africa. And so we see them established in Somalia. We see them going down into Mozambique, in Tanzania. And we see that these affiliates continue to expand and leverage each other.”

Meanwhile, Al Qaeda has been more patient, avoiding attention while it created two big affiliates — al Shabaab in Somalia and AQIM, al Qaeda Islamic Maghreb. 

“This is not a threat that one nation can take care of on its own. It’s not a United States problem. It’s an international problem,” Anderson said.

Special operations troops have long trained their counterparts in Somalia, Kenya, Niger and other countries, while civil affairs units have supported local goodwill projects, in countries like Cameroon, where Nigeria-based Boko Haram encroaches, notes Military Times.

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Silver Stars for Heroism.

Two Green Berets and an Air Force pararescueman were awarded Silver Star medals for their heroism during a nearly eight-hour firefight last year after the Special Forces team stumbled upon an elite Taliban force in a small Afghan village, according to Stars and Stripes.

All three Silver Stars were awarded at a small ceremony in the Rock Garden on the 7th Group compound at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida., in August, along with six Bronze Star Medals with Valor devices, three Army Commendation Medals with Valor devices and four Purple Hearts earned over the six-month deployment last year of the 7th Group’s 1st Battalion.

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SOCOM Modernizes Small Craft Fleet.

The small surface craft fleet that supports the clandestine operations of Navy SEALs and Marine Raiders is undergoing a modernization program, according to Seapower magazine.

The SEALs use special operations craft, to approach shores and insert and extract teams of special warfare operators. These craft are fast, quiet, capable of shallow-water operations, and armed with machine guns for use if their cover is blown. The small craft also can be used for coastal patrol missions and to interdict hostile craft and conduct visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) missions.

Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen (SWCC) operate the Special Operations Craft Riverine (SOC-R), which is specifically designed for the clandestine insertion and extraction of U.S. Navy SEALs and other special operations forces in shallow waterways and open water environments. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jayme Pastoric)

Navy Special Warfare Command, the parent unit of the SEAL teams, as a component of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), receives much of its equipment not through normal service acquisition channels but through SOCOM. SOCOM is a combatant command but is unusual in that it has its own acquisition budget and programs.

The special warfare community nearing completion of recapitalization of two classes of small boats and well along in a modernization program that will increase the capabilities of its special operations craft. See details here.

September 11, 2020 at 2:11 am Leave a comment

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.

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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

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)

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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-Niger

(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.

EII-bajXkAY_3TH

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

DROIDS & DRONES: Medical Supply Test; Euro Drone Swarms; More Pumas for DHS

Testing Medical Supply Drones.

The U.S. Marine Corps, in conjunction with California drone maker Zipline, has been testing unmanned aircraft as combat zone delivery systems for medical supplies.

Zipline partnered with the Defense Department and Naval Medical Research Center to deploy its drones during four multinational military exercises in Australia this past summer (July 30 to September 5). Zipline made more than 400 deliveries, including mock blood resupplies to shock trauma platoons, MSNBC reported.

The Defense Department’s innovation unit came to the drone company because of its success transporting medical supplies by drone in the African countries of Rwanda and Ghana.

Zipline drone parachute

A Zipline drone-delivered package carrying three units of blood drifts to the ground. (Photo: courtesy Zipline).

The autonomous, fixed wing, catapult-launched drones made hundreds of deliveries of blood and other medical supplies in small parachute bundles dropped at their destinations. All told, they flew 461 day and night sorties and made 381 drops. It was the first time a U.S. Marine Air-Ground Task Force had incorporated autonomous drone delivery into their high availability, disaster recovery planning, according to the Defense One website.

It was not the first time the Marines have used drones for cargo delivery. Two unmanned K-MAX helicopters flew nearly 1,000 cargo missions in Afghanistan between 2011 and 2015. The Marines are still using the K-MAXes, which are currently being fitted with more autonomous capabilities. However, the Zipline drones offer a new realm of delivery options compared to a 3-ton K-MAX helicopter. The relatively small, fixed-wing Zipline drones, with a wingspan of around seven feet and a payload of just 4.5 pounds, can’t fly as fast or carry as much as the K-Max. But they are easier to load and operate, allowing them to make a lot more drops than the K-MAX, according to Defense One.

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Navy’s China Lake is expanding for future weapons, drones.

Despite two major earthquakes that struck California’s China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station in early July, the Navy is moving ahead with expansion plans at the massive facility to accommodate new and future weaponry, including unmanned aerial vehicles,

The Navy has acquired more than 33,00 acres of public lands abutting China Lake’s  South Range, which houses the Weapons Division’s electronic warfare range complex.  The expansion would boost operations at China Lake’s vast land range complex by 25 percent, reports  U.S. Naval Institute News.

China Lake, 150 miles north of Los Angeles, is the Navy’s largest single landholding. Its vast weapons ranges and laboratories support a significant amount of military weapons research, development, testing and operations, according to USNI News.

However, it’s also in a seismically active region. The major earthquakes that struck on July 5 caused more than $4 billion in damages to facilities and infrastructure that affect some operations and will take years to restore.

Gremlins DARPA concept art

DARPA Gremlins program concept art. (Courtesy DARPA)

Among the operations affected was an initial demonstration flight for an air-launch-and-recovered swarming drone concept that had been planned for September. Dynetics, Inc., a science and technology firm based in Alabama, expected its initial flight test of the Gremlins Air Vehicle (GAV) to occur last month. The test of the small, reusable unmanned vehicles operating with a C-130 transport aircraft is part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Gremlins program under a $38.6 million contract for the demonstration phase, USNI NEWS reported.

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Europeans to study self learning drone swarms.

A European consortium is pitching the idea of training intelligent drone swarms to confuse, disable and destroy an enemy’s air defenses.

The proposal is part of the Prepartory Action on Defence Research effort by the European Union to improve collaboration on drones among member states. Participating countries are Finland, Germany, Slovenia, Estonia, the Netherlands and Austria.

The idea behind “SEAD Swarm” — which stands for “suppresion of enemy air defenses” — is to create necessary algorithms that would enable a mass of aerial drones to inspect the characteristics of air defense systems, distribute the information within the swarm and derive a plan of attack against weak points, according to Defense News. Actions taken could include blinding radar sensors, overwhelming anti-aircraft fire with kamikaze-type tactics, or attacking sites with explosive or electronic-warfare payloads.

If adopted by the EU, Defense News said, participating countries of would detail military officials to an advisory board to help ensure the planned simulations reflect real-world combat situations.

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Pentagon: Chinese drones for target practice only

The Pentagon says Chinese-manufactured drones it purchased months after their use was prohibited because of cybersecurity concerns are being used only as “targets” and are not being deployed with elite U.S. forces on missions.

Last month an investigation by the VOA website revealed the U.S. Air Force and the Navy had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on drones made by market-leader Da Jiang Innovations (DJI) for some of the military’s most sensitive and secretive operators — including the Air Force’s only special tactics wing and Navy SEAL teams.

In each case, the Pentagon said, the services used special exemptions granted by the the Defense Department’s acquisition and sustainment office “on a case by case basis, to support urgent needs.”

Many in Congress the Pentagon’s continued use of Chinese-manufactured drones as a possible security leak risk. Earlier this year, the Senate Armed Services Committee also included a provision in the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act banning the use of Chinese-made drones.

Ellen Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, told reporters October 18 that her office wrote the waivers in order to use the drones “on ranges in highly controlled conditions,” to test the U.S. military’s counterdrone capabilities.

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Border Patrol Drone Contract to AeroVironment

The U.S. Border Patrol has awarded a $5.25 million firm fixed-price contract award for AeroVironment Puma 3  unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and support equipment.

Delivery is anticipated by January, 2020 for the man-portable, fixed wing UAS, which is designed for land and maritime operations.

PUMA Border Patrol

The U.S. Border Patrol, a unit of the Department of Homeland Security, will use the man-launched Puma 3 AE small unmanned aircraft system to extend its reach to remote border areas. (Photo courtesy AeroVironment)

Easy to transport, deploy and operate, the Puma system can be launched from anywhere, at any time, and requires no additional infrastructure, such as runways or launch devices.  The AeroVironment Puma flies for hours in the most extreme environments while producing high-resolution, continuous or on-demand spot surveillance of critical land and sea border areas at any time of the day or night.

October 24, 2019 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: Deadly Year for Green Berets; McRaven on Afghanistan; New Brazil Commando Unit

Every Single One.

Every single active-duty Special Forces Group has lost at least one soldier in Afghanistan or Syria this year, the Task & Purpose website reports.

Green Berets 2012 graduates

Special Forces Qualification Course graduates in 2012 wearing their green berets for the first time. (U.S. Army photo by Dave Chace, Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School)

A total of 12 members of the Army special operations forces community have died in 2019. All but one of those soldiers were killed in combat. The most recent special operators to fall are: Sergeant 1st Class Jeremy W. Griffin, 1st Special Forces Group, on September 16; Sergeant 1st Class Dustin B. Ard, also of the 1st Special Forces Group, on August 29; and Master Sergeants Luis F. DeLeon-Figueroa and Jose J. Gonzalez, both of the 7th Special Forces Group and killed in the same action on August 21. All four soldiers were mortally wounded during combat operations with Afghan Army troops.

Ten of the 17 U.S. troops killed so far this year in Afghanistan were Army special operators. Eight of the fallen were Green Berets. Another was attached to the 10th Special Forces Group and one other was a Ranger, according to Task & Purpose.

“Green Beret teams are embedded with the Afghan commandos, which is doing the lion’s share of the fighting on the ground – that’s why they’re taking the lion’s share of the casualties,” Representative Michael Waltz (R-Florida) — a retired Special Forces officer —  told Task & Purpose. For a list of the Special Operations soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Syria this year, click here.

More than 2,400 U.S. service personnel have died in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 to topple the Taliban, which sheltered bin Laden.

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Ex-Top U.S. Commando on Afghanistan.

William_McRaven_commander_of_the_US_Special_Operations_Command

Admiral William McRaven speaks to Special Operations commanders in January 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christopher Williams)

The former head of U.S. Special Operations Command ― who oversaw the mission that took out Osama Bin Laden ― believes U.S. involvement in Afghanistan is far from over. “I’ve said we have to accept the fact — I think we do — that we’re going to be there for a very long time,” retired Navy Admiral William McRaven told an audience at the New America Special Operations Forces Policy Forum in Washington September 19.

McRaven, a Navy SEAL who headed SOCOM from 2011 to 2014, said it was a mistake to sit down with the Taliban, the Military Times reported. “I do believe that if we negotiate some sort of settlement with the Taliban, and that settlement involves the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan,” he said, “it won’t be six months or a year before all of the blood and treasure we have put into Afghanistan will have been reversed because the Taliban will come back in and do what the Taliban do.”

The Taliban and U.S. diplomats reportedly had reached an interim peace agreement this summer after nine rounds of peace talks in the Gulf State of Qatar. However, the deal fell apart just before the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks when President Trump canceled a secret meeting with Taliban officials at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland.

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New Brazilian Commando Unit.

Brazil’s Navy plans to create its own maritime special operations command, to be designated as the Comando Naval de Operações Especiais (CoNavOpEsp), according to the Jane’s 360 website.

Brazil special ops-Forças_especiais,_Comandos_(26712384805)

Brazil’s Army has had special ops troops, Comando de Operações Especiais, (C Op Esp) since 2003.

The organization will be based in Rio de Janeiro under a rear admiral as part of the Naval Operations Command (ComOpNav). The plan calls for CoNavOpEsp — under a single command structure — to unify the direction and co-ordination of special operations missions, Jane’s reported.

Among the missions the existing Army commando unit, Comando de Operações Especiais, is tasked with: Direct action, airfield seizure, special reconnaissance, airborne and air assault operations, and personnel recovery.

*** *** ***

U.S., Estonian Commandos Train in Vertical Insertion.

Air Commandos with the U.S. Air Force 352nd Special Operations Wing, trained with Estonian and other U.S. special operations forces near Amari, Estonia, in early September. A NATO member since 2004, Estonia, like other Baltic nations once occupied by the Soviet Union, has been under pressure from Russia. A massive series of cyber attacks that paralyzed Estonia in 2007 was believed to be the work of Moscow, although the accusation was never proven.

From September 3 though September 9, the Estonian and U.S. commandos conducted a multitude of air operations out of an Air Force Special Operation Command CV-22 Osprey.  The tilt rotor aircraft is the Air Force’s premier Special Cops vertical lift assault platform. “Ospreys and their crews are capable of the full spectrum of SOF [Special Operations Forces] missions in all phases of conflict. They conduct the infiltration, exfiltration, and resupply of special operations forces throughout the European theater,” said U.S. Air Force Colonel Clay Freeman, commander of the 352nd Special Ops Wing.

Estonian Fast roping Osprey.jpg

An Estonian Special Operations Forces operator fast ropes out the back of a U.S. Air Force CV-22 Osprey on a similar training mission in 2017.   (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sergeant Matt Britton)

U.S. and Estonian troops spent the week focused on three mission objectives: Familiarization with the Fast Rope Insertion and Extraction System (FRIES) ;  casualty evacuation; and rapidly loading and off-loading a tactical vehicle from the aircraft.

During the FRIES training, U.S. and Estonia personnel practiced fast-roping from twilight and into the night. That new capability will allow forces to be inserted into small or confined areas were normal aircraft landings are impractical.

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More Training for USAF First Female Ranger.

Back in August, U.S. Air Force 1st Lieutenant Chelsey Hibsch made history by becoming the first female in the U.S. Air Force to graduate from the tough Army Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Ranger tab pinned

Air Force First Lieutenant Chelsey Hibsch, of the 821st Contingency Response Squadron, has her  Ranger tab pinned on after graduating from the U.S. Army Ranger School August 30, 2019, at Fort Benning, Georgia. (U.S. Army photo John Tongret)

Hibsch, a security forces officer assigned to the 821st Contingency Response Squadron (CRS) at Travis Air Force Base in California,  will be back with her unit training for short-notice disaster response and combat zone airfield preparation worldwide, the website Military.com reported.

The 821st CRS is part of the 621st Contingency Response Wing, whose highly specialized personnel are trained to deploy quickly in order to open airfields or establish, expand, sustain and coordinate air mobility operations for wartime tasks or disaster relief.

Lt. Chelsey Hibsch Army Ranger tab.

Then-2nd Lieutenant Chelsey Hibsch, speaking at a Women’s History Month luncheon at Yokota Air Base, Japan, on March 26. (U.S. Air Force photo by Machiko Arita)

Hibsch, a former enlisted airman from Attica, New York, was in the process of transitioning to the 621st from a previous assignment in the Indo-Pacific region when she was selected for Ranger School — a challenging, two-month-long course. Competing in the Ranger Assessment Course at Camp Bullis, Texas prompted her to enroll in Army Ranger School.

After then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta lifted a ban on women serving in ground combat roles in 2013, the Army opened the Ranger School to female applicants two years later. Two female West Point graduates, Captain Kristen Griest and First Lieutenant Shaye Haver, were the first women to earn the coveted Ranger tab (shoulder patch). Now more than a dozen service women have completed Ranger school.

September 25, 2019 at 10:36 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (August 9, 2019)

Star Guard.

190802-F-ZD147-0451C

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Keifer Bowes)

An airman guards a C-130J Super Hercules  transport aircraft during cargo loading and unloading operations in Afghanistan, on August 3, 2019.

Nearly 18 years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks led to U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, the war torn country remains a very dangerous place. In late July, two U.S. soldiers were killed in Uruzgan province in what officials have described as an “insider” attack by an Afghan soldier. Fourteen U.S. troops have died this year from injuries sustained in the conflict, according to the Washington Post. The Post noted  nearly 2,400 American troops have died in the country since the war began and more than 20,000 have been wounded, according to the Pentagon.

 

 

August 9, 2019 at 4:12 am Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPS: Green Beret Killed; Combat Controller Honored; SOCOM Brain Trauma Concerns

Veteran Green Beret Killed.

A highly decorated Army Special Forces sergeant major, on his seventh combat deployment, died July 13 from injuries sustained during combat operations in Afghanistan, according to the website Task & Purpose.

The Pentagon identified the slain Green Beret as 40-year-old Sergeant Major James G. Sartor, a member of 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne).

Green Beret Sgt Maj

Special Forces Sergeant Major James G.  Sartor, was killed July 13, 2019 in Afghanistan. (Army Special Operations Command photo)

Sartor, of Teague, Texas, was killed by enemy small arms fire in Faryab Province, Afghanistan, according to the Pentagon.

“He led his soldiers from the front and his presence will be terribly missed,” Colonel  Brian Rauen, commander of the 10th Special Forces Group (SFG) said in a statement.

Sartor joined the Army in June 2001 and was assigned as an infantryman with the 3rd Infantry Division. He deployed to Iraq in 2002. After passing his Special Forces qualification Sartor joined the 10th SFG in 2005. He deployed to Iraq as a Green Beret in 2006, 2007, 2009, and 2010. He later deployed to Afghanistan in 2017 and 2019, according to U.S. Special Operations Command.

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Silver Star for Combat Controller.

An Air Force combat air traffic controller has been awarded the Silver Star medal for his heroic, quick action during an intense, 2018 green-on-blue insider attack in Afghanistan.

Technical Sergeant Michael Perolio with the 350th Special Warfare Training Squadron, quickly took charge and rallied his teammates after an ambush erupted in a village in Nangarhar province on January 11, 2018.

He swiftly organized fields of fire, called in airstrikes and rendered aid to his wounded comrades — all while repeatedly exposing himself to heavy machine-gun fire — as he hurried his team out of the kill zone and back to their camp, according to Air Force Times.

Perolio was the Joint Terminal Attack Controller for a team of Army Green Berets with Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 0221. The Green berets were partnered with the Afghan 8th Special Operations Kandak Commandos in Mohmand valley in Nangarhar’s Achin district.

“Perolio saved my life and the lives of several of my guys,” said Army Captain William Clark, the ground force commander for the team, who was severely wounded in the ambush, Air Force Times reported. The five-man team — Perolio, Clark and another Green Beret and two Afghans, an interpreter and a militia commander — were leaving a meeting with what they thought was a friendly village elder when heavy machine gun fire raked their unarmored all-terrain vehicle. The Green Beret captain and both Afghans were shot. The militia commander did not survive.

Perolio took command, organized a defense, called in an air strike and radioed back to base to be ready for incoming casualties before roaring out of the kill zone and making the normally 25-minute drive over rough terrain back to base in 15 minutes

Combat controllers are specially trained, FAA-certified air traffic controllers who parachute or helicopter into enemy territory with ground troops to coordinate close air support, establish assault zones or airfields and supply fire control and reconnaissance. They are also among the first on the ground at the scene of natural disasters, like the 2010 Haitian earthquake,  to guide in relief flights when normal air traffic is disrupted.

combat controllers

In addition to being expert divers, rock climbers, snowmobile and motocross riders, Air Force Special Operators are also expert parachutists. (U.S. Air Force photo)

For more information about Air Force Special Operations assignments, click here.

*** * ** ***

SOCOM Brain Trauma Study.

Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is studying how brain trauma injuries during the 17-year war on terror is affecting elite U.S. troops like Navy SEALS and Army Rangers.

Joint SF team participate in exercise Emerald Warrior 2018

Special operations forces move out of an Air Force CV-22 Osprey aircraft in 2018, at Melrose Training Range, New Mexico. (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Clayton Cupit)

SOCOM, which oversees the training and equipping of special operations troops in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, is examining whether trauma suffered by special operators — including brain fatigue and abnormalities in the visual cortex — affect the ability of special operations forces to make snap decisions in the field, according to the Middle East news site Al-Monitor.

The program includes an eight-year neurological testing effort by Army Special Operations Command, supported by the National Football League and the University of North Carolina, to establish a baseline for treating mild traumatic brain injuries, according to military officials and documents reviewed by Al-Monitor.

July 25, 2019 at 11:56 pm 2 comments

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