Here’s A Brief History of the Airborne

WAC_1

Members of the 82nd Airborne Division wait to board an aircraft while in full kit during operation Devil Strike at Fort Bragg, N.C., July 16, 2016. Operation Devil Strike showcased the Global Response Forces ability to deploy on short notice. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ericka Engblom)
Members of the 82nd Airborne Division wait to board an aircraft while in full kit during operation Devil Strike at Fort Bragg, N.C., July 16, 2016. Operation Devil Strike showcased the Global Response Forces ability to deploy on short notice. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ericka Engblom)

For those of you that have looked into Army Special Operations Forces, you’ve certainly noticed by now that the vast majority of them are Airborne.  If you’ve ever tuned in to HBO, you’ve probably seen the series Band of Brothers, detailing the exploits of Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR), 101st Airborne Division.  You may have even heard of the 82nd Airborne Division (I grew up at Fort Bragg, so I assumed for the longest time everyone knew who the 82nd was).  But what is the Airborne, and where did the Airborne come from?  And what maniac first decided it was a good idea?

Early parachute designs were sketched as far back as Leonardo Da Vinci, but the first successful parachute jump didn’t occur until 1797, when Andre Jacques Garnerin jumped from a balloon at a height of 3,200 feet.  Parachuting was still considered an odd amusement for many years, although others made successful jumps, primarily from balloons with the parachutes packed in the balloon versus on the jumper.  In 1911, a Russian named Gleb Kotelnikov invented the knapsack parachute, which was originally packed into a hard case until he perfected his soft case in 1924.  The stage was now set for weaponizing the parachutist.  And militaries didn’t take long to consider it.  Only 6 years after Kotelnikov’s invention, no less a mind that Winston Churchill was proposing air-dropped infantry.  Colonel Billy Mitchell, of the US Army Air Corps, likewise proposed a similar idea.

The first military parachutist drop, however, took place between 1930 and 1933 (sources vary on the year), back where the knapsack parachute began – Russia.  The first drop was small – only 62 parachutists – but in 1936, Russia conducted an operation involving over 1,000 parachutists.  Other armies took note, including Germany, France, Japan, and Italy.  Germany would actually successfully drop paratroopers (fallschirmjagers) into combat for the first time in history in

Paratroopers descend from the sky during World War II.
Paratroopers descend from the sky during World War II.

1940 during the invasion of Denmark.  Britain and the United States, though behind, now began developing airborne units, noting the success Germany had with airfield and bridge seizures during not only the Denmark invasion, but Norway, Holland, and Belgium  as well.  In the US, these first airborne unites were called the United States Army Airborne Test Platoon, then the US Parachute Troops.  Japan also successfully deployed paratroopers as early as 1942, and used them with success in Indonesia, Timor, Sumatra, and the Philippines.

The Soviets were the first Allied force to deploy paratroopers in combat in 1942, followed by the British, and finally the United States, when the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion parachuted into Algeria on the 8th of November.  Between 1942 and 1943, US paratroopers made multiple jumps into Africa and Italy, including the 509th, 505th, and 504th PIR (among others), and the 503rd PIR parachuted into New Guinea.  However, the largest airborne combat jump in history took place on the 6th of June, 1944, when 20,000 troops of the US 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, as well as the British 6th Airborne Division were dropped into Normandy as part of Operation Overlord.  While the Overlord drop is probably the most popularly known World War II jump, it was far from the last American combat jump.  Ten other drops were made into France, Holland, New Guinea, Germany, and the Philippines all the way until 1945.  After World War II, US Paratroopers made static-line jumps into Korea, South Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Grenada, Panama, Iraq, and Afghanistan, with the last recorded US combat jump taking place on March 23, 2003.

Paratroopers of the 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, search for enemy combatants during a movement to contact mission as part of a field training exercise (FTX) on Fort Bragg, N.C., Aug. 24, 2016. The 2nd BCT conducted the FTX to increase combat readiness and train for a variety of war-fighting missions as part of the nation’s contingency-response force.
Paratroopers of the 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, search for enemy combatants during a movement to contact mission as part of a field training exercise (FTX) on Fort Bragg, N.C., Aug. 24, 2016. The 2nd BCT conducted the FTX to increase combat readiness and train for a variety of war-fighting missions as part of the nation’s contingency-response force.

Through 61 years of combat jumps, the US Army Airborne units have built a long and proud history of being the first to a fight, winning hard fought ground, and tenaciously defending it.  They’ve been accused of being hot-headed, arrogant, and a number of other unsavory things along the way (labels they tend to wear somewhat proudly, at least if the 82nd is an indication).  Their record speaks for themselves – they are the soldiers crazy enough to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, and they’ll do it in the middle of the night, en masse, take your toys, and they won’t give them back so long as they’re still standing.

Who are you?

Airborne!

How far?

All the way!

***Disclaimer: I know I haven’t gotten close to really detailing all the exploits of the Airborne throughout their existence, but this was only intended as a brief history of where they came from, not a comprehensive examination.***

Further Reading:

http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/ops/airborne-jumps.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gleb_Kotelnikov

Sky Soldiers – History’s First Airborne Units

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-first-parachutist

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallschirmj%C3%A4ger

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_Airborne_Troops

http://www.armyparatrooper.org/history.html

About the author

Joel is an 12 year veteran of the US Coast Guard, where he has served at various units including the International Training Division and Maritime Security Response Team. He has held qualifications including Deployable Team Leader/Instructor, Direct Action Section Team Leader, and Precision Marksman – Observer. He has deployed/instructed on five continents and served in quick reaction force roles for multiple National Special Security Events in the US. He is the owner of Hybrid Defensive Strategies, LLC in Chesapeake, VA, and can be contacted on Facebook and Instagram. Any opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the US Coast Guard or the US Government.

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The Aberration of War and its Impacts on Planning

So it’s the time of year again when the Naval War College classes start up, and I’m abusing myself this year with Strategy & War and Joint Maritime Operations.  You lucky guys and gals get to be the recipients of some of the studies and writing I’m doing for class.  Enjoy.

In 2007, Philip Meilinger, a retired US Air Force colonel, published an article in Joint Force Quarterly titled American Military Culture and Strategy that discusses some of the historical cultures of the US military and the civil government as it relates to the execution of the war.  Although written nine years ago – not even halfway through the “War on Terror” – it still holds some discussion value for those in authority as the war continues, despite being declared finished on at least two occasions.

One of the most salient points that COL Meilinger brings up is a quote from Alexis de Tocqueville regarding democracies and war: “There are two things that a democratic people will always find tough, to begin a war and to end it.”  Tocqueville also brought up the natural isolation of America; surrounded by friendly countries, separated from the majority of the world by water, the United States spent a significant portion of its early years officially isolated regarding military alliances, and with no significant standing military forces.

The Founding Fathers were against a large standing army, fearing it as a vehicle of oppression, and no less a patriarch than George Washington warned against the idea of  permanent international alliances in his Farewell Address: “It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.”  The state of mind during that period of time was that the United States would go to war only when absolutely necessary, that a military force would be raised to meet the need, that the war would be fought until the enemy surrendered, and that the military force would then be demobilized back into the population.  This outlook persists and has shaped American conflicts throughout history.

Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks to Dr. Khaild al-Obeidi, Iraqi Minister of Defense, at the Ministry of Defense in Baghdad, July 31st, 2016. Dunford is visiting Iraq to assess the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. (DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks to Dr. Khaild al-Obeidi, Iraqi Minister of Defense, at the Ministry of Defense in Baghdad, July 31st, 2016. Dunford is visiting Iraq to assess the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. (DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

COL Meilinger argues that this “short-term” view of war (he contends that culturally, America views war as an aberration in the normal flow of society and is slow to engage and quick to disengage) dovetails with Tocqueville’s views on democracies starting and ending wars. This has led to military leaders throughout American history focusing purely on the dynamic aspect of a war, and failing to consider the cultural and political implications of their actions, much less devoting time to adequate planning for peace after the war.  Except for post-war Germany and Japan, history would certainly seem to support his hypothesis; recent history supports it even more so.  It would be a safe argument to posit that we are where we are today due, in large part, to this cultural failure at both the military and civil government levels.  The failure of the Bush administration to adequately plan for the aftermath of a successful invasion coupled with the inability of the Obama administration to recognize the consequences of an abrupt withdrawal have given us the media-savvy and stone-age-savage Daesh to contend with for the foreseeable future.

A counterpoint to the colonel’s argument that the military ignores political and cultural considerations would be the

U.S. Soldiers with Battery C, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force Strike, execute a fire mission with an M777 howitzer during an operation to support Iraqi security forces at Kara Soar Base, Iraq, Aug. 7, 2016. Battery C Soldiers support the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve mission by providing indirect fire support for Iraqi security forces as they continue to combat Da’esh and re-take lost terrain. The assistance and support these Soldiers provide demonstrate the commitment of the United States as part of a Coalition of regional and international nations joined together to defeat ISIL and the threat they pose to Iraq, Syria, the region and the wider international community. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Daniel I Johnson/Released
U.S. Soldiers with Battery C, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force Strike, execute a fire mission with an M777 howitzer during an operation to support Iraqi security forces at Kara Soar Base, Iraq, Aug. 7, 2016. Battery C Soldiers support the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve mission by providing indirect fire support for Iraqi security forces as they continue to combat Da’esh and re-take lost terrain. The assistance and support these Soldiers provide demonstrate the commitment of the United States as part of a Coalition of regional and international nations joined to defeat ISIL and the threat they pose to Iraq, Syria, the region, and the wider international community. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Daniel I Johnson/Released

War in Afghanistan, during which the commanders made a dramatic reactionary swing from the full exercise of active power to an extremely culturally sensitive (some would argue paranoid) multi-tiered system for requesting permission to engage possible hostiles, especially with higher-damage weaponry such as close air support and artillery.  While designed to minimize civilian casualties in line with the “hearts and minds” theory, soldiers on the ground frequently complained that the rules tied their hands and exposed them to additional, unnecessary risk.  Captain (now Major) William Swenson loudly criticized the military’s decision not to provide air support to his troops – due to this risk-adverseness – on the day of the battle for which he received the Medal of Honor.  Many people familiar with his case believe (but cannot prove) that the mysterious loss of his MoH recommendation for two years was due to these criticisms.  Five officers were eventually disciplined over the incident.

How much credence is given to political and cultural considerations is a necessary decision that must be made at the Presidential level, with full and open input from the military and other concerned agencies.  In the end, the President and his advisers must choose the type of war they intend to wage, the level of casualties they are willing to accept, and the monetary cost of the conflict that they will accept.  To say that political considerations such as the will of the people and the threat perception of the public can be ignored for a definitive victory is tempting but unrealistic in today’s world.  Soldiers on the ground may not like the final decision, but it is far removed from their hands.

A Peshmerga soldier engages his target at a weapons range, as a German coalition instructor looks on, during a six-week infantry basic course near Erbil, Iraq, Jan. 12, 2016. Peshmerga soldiers attend a six-week infantry basic course that will help them gain more skills to aid in their fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). There are six Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve training locations, four building partner capacity sites and two specialized training sites. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Sergio Rangel/Released)
A Peshmerga soldier engages his target at a weapons range, as a German coalition instructor looks on, during a six-week infantry basic course near Erbil, Iraq, Jan. 12, 2016. Peshmerga soldiers attend a six-week infantry basic course that will help them gain more skills to aid in their fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). There are six Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve training locations, four building partner capacity sites and two specialized training sites. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Sergio Rangel/Released)

The second counterpoint to COL Meilinger’s argument lies within the military’s doctrine.  Joint Publication 3-0 (published four years after the article) contains the doctrine of unified action, which is defined as “a comprehensive approach that synchronizes, coordinates, and when appropriate, integrates military operations with the activities of other governmental and non-governmental organizations to achieve unity of effort.”  Arguably, this concept should wholly remove the issues of cultural conflicts and failure to plan for the peace.

Various governmental and non-governmental agencies who specialize in bringing to bear the full spectrum of US power (diplomatic, information, military, and economic) to achieve the desired strategic end state realize the pre-approved termination criteria.

“specified conditions approved by the President or Secretary of Defense that must be met before a joint operation [including unified action] can be concluded.”

Perhaps we’ve finally learned from our mistakes.  Realistically, even with a section devoted to it in military doctrine, real unified action will only take place if an emphasis is put on it during the initial planning phase by the President and his various Secretaries.  Otherwise, it remains a very good idea in a neat book, and COL Meilinger’s points of the short-term aberration of war and all of its associated shortfalls remain the reality faced by the troops.

Further Reading:
COL Meilinger’s article (pg. 80)
George Washington’s Farewell Address
Joint Publication 3-0

About the author

Joel is a 12 year veteran of the US Coast Guard, where he has served in various units including the International Training Division and Maritime Security Response Team. He has held qualifications including Deployable Team Leader/Instructor, Direct Action Section Team Leader, and Precision Marksman – Observer. He has deployed/instructed on five continents and served in quick reaction force roles for multiple National Special Security Events in the US. He is the owner of Hybrid Defensive Strategies, LLC in Chesapeake, VA, and can be contacted on Facebook and Instagram. Any opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the US Coast Guard or the US Government.

Shooting Drill of the Week (DoW)

Essential-target

RANGE: 5 yard line

STARTING POSITION: Gun holstered and shooter facing downrange. There should be 1 round chambered and 0 rounds in your magazine in order to cause the firearm to go “dry” after the first shot is fired. The first replacement magazine should have 2 rounds and the second replacement magazine should have at least 3 rounds.

TARGETS: #15, 14 and 12

DRILL: On the buzzer, draw and fire 1 round into target #15, reload and fire 2 more rounds into target #14, reload and fire 3 rounds into target #12.

END GAME: The point of this drill is to perform it as quickly as possible. You should be most focused on speeding up the split times.

SCORE: Your score is your best split time of the 10 different iterations.

TIPS: If you want to know your reload time, look at the split time on your shot timer between shots 1 and 2 as well as shots 3 and 4. 

The Essentials Target is available at refactortactical.com. 

Daesh’s Global Presence and Homeland Threats

The smallest  action  you  do  in  their  heartland  is better  and  more  enduring  to  us  than  what  you would  if  you  were  with  us.  If  one  of  you  hoped  to reach  the  Islamic  State,  we  wish  we  were  in  your place to punish the Crusaders day and night.
ABU MOHAMMED AL-ADNANI
ISIS Audio Recording
May 2016

Following up on my last article regarding new research about the typical patterns of radicalization of lone and solo actor terrorists, this week I’m bringing you the House of Representatives’ Committee on Homeland Security’s August “Terror Threat Snapshot.”

Their recent report Terror Gone Viral: Overview of the 100+ ISIS-Linked Plots Against the West.  Yes, there’s a connection, it’s not just me trying to plug the last article.  First off, some stats – according to the report, since 2014, there have been 103 plots to attack the “West,” which is  “countries  located  in  Europe  and  North  America,  as  well  as Australia, or targets affiliated with those countries outside of the conflict zone in Syria and Iraq.”  The report does not cover

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson testifies before Congress.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson testifies before Congress.

Daesh attacks within Syria or Iraq, Africa, or Asia unless there was an affiliation to the countries mentioned above, meaning that there are many attacks not considered.  In 2016, Daesh was successful in 44% of their plots, up 13% from last year.  Of those plots, 47% were directed Vice inspired, up 12% from last year.  Back to the previous article, this 47 % fit the profile of a solo actor versus a lone actor (the “lone wolf” tag in its truest sense it refers to lone actor terrorists, meaning an attacker who is inspired by but receives no assistance from, a terrorist group).  The successful attacks are also more deadly, with an average of 58 casualties per attack in 2016, up to an average of 10 per attack over 2015.  Those numbers only run through July.  40% of the 103 plots targeted the United States and its interests.

Apparently, Daesh continues to globalize their operations, which U.S. intelligence has been warning would happen as Daesh continues to lose ground.  While recent success in Iraq is certainly fantastic news for those who have suffered under Daesh’s direct rule, it doesn’t mean the threat is anymore neutralized.

Reports estimate that Daesh has 34 groups pledging allegiance and eight official branches, located in Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Brazil, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Lebanon, Nigeria, the Palestinian territories (Gaza), Pakistan, Philippines, Russia (North Caucasus region), Sudan, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen.  Of these, the Libyan group is considered the most dangerous outside of the Iraq/Syria theater.

Their reach isn’t limited to far away lands.  In the span of seven days in July, three U.S. citizens were arrested for planning attacks.  Each was either actively receiving direction from Daesh, had previously met with Daesh representatives, or was actively seeking direction from Daesh.  Referring back to the research in the last article, at least one of these individuals had friends who knew of his allegiance, and he had posted on Facebook of his intentions.  FBI Director James Comey testified in May that as many as 800 of the FBI’s over 1,000 active “homegrown terror investigations” are linked to Daesh.  The threat isn’t just limited to active attack plots.  Since 2014, 105 individuals had either been arrested or charged in absentia for plots, traveling to join Daesh, or providing material support to Daesh.  For those of you who follow the news it’s no surprise, but in those same years we’ve seen seven terrorists killed

Incoming Commanding General Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve Lieutenant General Stephen J. Townsend (second left) chats with Commanding Officer Training Task Unit Task Group Taji Lieutenant Colonel David McCammon, DSM (right) and Commander Task Group Taji Colonel Andrew Lowe (second right) during his visit to the Taji Military Complex in Iraq. Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve is a multinational effort to weaken and destroy Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant operations in the Middle East region and around the world. (Australian Defence Force photo by LSIS Jake Badior)
Incoming Commanding General Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve Lieutenant General Stephen J. Townsend (second left) chats with Commanding Officer Training Task Unit Task Group Taji Lieutenant Colonel David McCammon, DSM (right) and Commander Task Group Taji Colonel Andrew Lowe (second right) during his visit to the Taji Military Complex in Iraq. Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve is a multinational effort to weaken and destroy Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant operations in the Middle East region and around the world. (Australian Defence Force photo by LSIS Jake Badior)

carrying out five attacks in four states.  According to the reporting, “(n)early 90 percent of the ISIS supporters charged in the U.S. are male and approximately 35 percent of them are converts to Islam; their average age is 26.”

Six months into 2016, and almost eighteen months into the military battle against Daesh, gains have been made on the ground, thanks to U.S.-supported Iraqi forces; however, Daesh continues to be a threat around the world and has demonstrated its ability to strike globally and with deadly effect.

Further Reading:

https://homeland.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/100-ISIS-Linked-Plots-Report-.pdf

https://homeland.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/August-Terror-Threat-Snaphot.pdf

About the author

Joel is a 12 year veteran of the US Coast Guard, where he has served in various units including the International Training Division and Maritime Security Response Team. He has held qualifications including Deployable Team Leader/Instructor, Direct Action Section Team Leader, and Precision Marksman – Observer. He has deployed/instructed on five continents and served in quick reaction force roles for many National Special Security Events in the US. He is the owner of Hybrid Defensive Strategies, LLC in Chesapeake, VA, and can be contacted on Facebook and Instagram. Any opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the US Coast Guard or the US Government.