How the Army uses the West Virginia wilderness to find out who has what it takes to join Delta Force

Delta Force graduates 1978
Graduates of one of Delta Force’s Operator Training Courses in 1978.

  • The Army’s Delta Force is among the US’s most skilled and secretive special-operations units.
  • That status is due in large part to Delta’s arduous, and at times brutal, selection process.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Delta Force is the Army’s special-mission unit for counterterrorism and hostage rescues.

Created in the late 1970s in the image of the British Special Air Service (SAS), Delta Force has been at the very tip of the US military spear for decades.

The Unit, as Delta Force operators refer to it, has been involved in all major and minor US military operations and campaigns since its formation, including in Iran, Panama, Grenada, Somalia, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.

Delta Force is part of the secretive Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) alongside its Navy counterpart, SEAL Team 6, and some other special-mission units that specialize in intelligence gathering and covert and clandestine transportation.

With an attrition rate historically hovering at 90%, Delta Force has one of the hardest and most selective selection and assessment processes in the US military.

Considered the cream of the crop of US special operations, Delta Force’s selection process reflects its vaunted status.

Open to all

Army soldiers Delta Force
US Army 10th Mountain Division soldiers at a Delta Force recruitment meeting in Iraq, August 23, 2007.

Anyone can volunteer for the course, formally known as Assessment and Selection, regardless of their service branch or status (active duty, national guard, or reserves).

“In my time, it was usually about 60% Green Berets, 39% Rangers, and 1% random guys, such as cooks, chaplain assistants, and mechanics. We even had a flute player from the Army band try out in my Selection, but he didn’t make it,” George Hand IV, a retired Delta Force operator, told Insider.

That dynamic, however, has gradually changed, with more Rangers and fewer Green Berets trying out for the big leagues. Special-operators from other services also volunteer for Delta Force’s Selection.

In the last few years, Air Force Pararescuemen, Recon Marines, and Marine Raiders have passed Selection and moved to the next phase, with some even making it into the Unit.

“The great thing about the Unit is that we’ll get candidates from all over the place. Not just from the Army, but from other services as well. Blue [SEAL Team 6], doesn’t get that. They only get vanilla SEALs and SWCC guys,” a former Delta Force operator told Insider.

Although SEAL Team 6 recruits from across the Navy for its various support and enabler positions, it only screens SEALs and Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen (SWCC) for its assault squadrons.

For example, a Navy explosive ordinance disposal (EOD) technician or a cryptologist could serve on SEAL Team 6 in a support role and go out on target, but they wouldn’t go through the physically and technically arduous Green Team.

“The [Delta] cadre are very professional. They’re following a script. This isn’t your Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) or Ranger Assessment and Selection Process (RASP). There is no yelling, no shouting. That alone is enough to unsettle seasoned guys who are used to an ‘in-your-face’ approach during Selections,” the former Delta Force operator added.

A hard course

Delta Force candidate soldier Assessment Selection
A Delta Force candidate during the Stress Phase of Assessment and Selection.

Assessment and Selection takes place in the mountains of West Virginia and last for about a month. Delta Force Selection is divided into three phases.

In the first phase, the cadre, which consists of Delta Force operators overseeing the process, get the candidates acquainted with the course and administer basic physical training, administrative tests, evaluations, and land-navigation instruction.

During this phase, candidates complete individual ruck marches and instructor-led ruck marches, during which Delta Force operators will set the pace and candidates have to keep up or quit.

In the next phase, called the “Stress Phase,” candidates don’t get to return to barracks after each day. Instead, they remain on the field, and every morning they get a set of coordinates for a location that they have to find with just a compass, map, and their wits.

Although the points might be a few miles apart, the West Virginia terrain requires candidates to cover far more than the map distance between points. The candidates average between 12 to 18 miles a day throughout the course, with several 20-miles plus ruck-marches.

Candidates aren’t allowed to communicate with each other at any time. Cadre continuously stress that Selection is an individual effort. The few that make it this far face the longest ruck-march yet.

Selection’s final event is the “Long Walk,” in which candidates have to finish a timed 40-mile ruck-march. By this point, candidates are already physically destroyed, having covered hundreds of miles during the previous weeks.

The survivors then go through the commander’s board, where the Delta Force commander and his ranking men grill each candidate individually to determine if he is a good fit for the Unit.

Addition by attrition

Delta Force candidate soldier Assessment Selection
George Hand IV sends a candidate to his next point during the Stress Phase of Assessment and Selection.

Selection often produces some hilarious stories. When a Selection course starts, locals are usually briefed so they aren’t surprised to see random men in fatigues with huge rucksacks roaming through their fields.

“When I realized I was lost on day four I knocked on a hillbilly’s door and asked him for help. He sat with me and we looked over my maps carefully. After a brief while he finally slapped his knee, claiming he could get me where I needed to go. He drove fast and left me in a cloud of dust. When the dust settled, I could see that I was in the exact same spot I was when I first realized I was lost. They know not to help candidates,” Hand told Insider.

For those who do manage to pass the commander’s board, the journey has just begun.

Following Selection, there is the Operator Training Course (OTC), a six-month course that teaches prospective operators the dark arts of close-quarters battle and close target reconnaissance, as well as other skills like military free-fall parachuting and offensive driving.

Those unfortunate enough to finish Selection but not pass the commander’s board return to their units with a certificate for finishing an advanced land-navigation course.

“My class of Delta Selection had the highest graduation number in history to date,” with 29 members, Hand said.

“The attrition was 87.5%. Most classes run in 90s percentile attrition. A graduation of just two men was not unheard of, and there is even a class graduation of a single man, Ray P., the Million Dollar Man,” Hand told Insider.

Hand has written one of the few accurate accounts of life inside Delta Force. “Brothers of the Cloth” describes Hand’s time in Delta, with operations from Mogadishu to the Balkans, and includes stories from legendary Delta Force operators.

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate.

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The Army wants deadlier, more destructive ammo to go with its new sniper rifle

US Army sniper during a sniper competition
A US Army sniper during a sniper competition.

  • The Army just picked a new, multi-caliber sniper rifle: the MK22 Multi-role Adaptive Design, or MRAD.
  • Now it wants a new class of ammunition to make snipers deadlier and more destructive against enemy personnel and equipment.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Army just picked a new, multi-caliber sniper rifle. Now, it wants a new class of ammunition to make snipers deadlier and more destructive against enemy personnel and equipment.

Under its Precision Sniper Rifle, or PSR, effort, the service awarded a $50 million contract in late March to Barrett Firearms Manufacturing Inc. for the MK22 Multi-role Adaptive Design, or MRAD, sniper rifle, which can be chambered for .338 Norma Magnum, .300 Norma Magnum and 7.62×51 NATO ammunition.

“A lot of the capability that we are looking for in the PSR is really resident in the ammunition,” Lt. Col. Christopher Kennedy, chief of the Lethality Branch at Fort Benning, Georgia, told an audience Wednesday at the Maneuver Capabilities Development and Integration Directorate’s Industry Day. “And while we are going to field [the MRAD] with commercial, off-the-shelf ammo, we are actually looking for a lot more capability, especially out of the .338.”

The MRAD will allow Army snipers to shoot out to 1,500 meters with the barrel chambered for .338 Norma Magnum. That’s 300 meters farther than the current M2010 Enhanced Sniper Rifle, chambered for .300 Winchester Magnum.

The new rifle is scheduled to replace the M2010 and the Barrett .50 caliber M107 sniper rifle, which snipers have used to attack enemy soft-skinned vehicles and other equipment in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So as part of the new ammo effort, the Army is “going to be pursuing some anti-materiel [ammo] in the .338 caliber,” Kennedy said.

Mk 22 MRAD rifle
The Mk 22 MRAD sniper rifle.

The service also wants “some improved performance rounds – think highly lethal against human rounds – in all three calibers,” he said, adding that it also will need new subsonic ammunition for suppressed sniper shots.

“I don’t want to say silent because nothing is silent, but some very quiet ammunition that is chambered on all three of those calibers,” Kennedy said. “We have done a lot of market surveys, the [product managers] looked around, and the stuff that we are looking for just doesn’t exist or at least we don’t know about it. So, there are some real opportunities if you are in the ammunition-making business.”

Army maneuver officials used the industry day to give defense firms an idea of what the service needs both in the near term and over the next decade.

In the short term, the Army will be looking for reduced-range ammunition for the Next Generation Squad Weapon, or NGSW, which will fire a special 6.8 mm projectile.

The service is in the final phase of evaluating NGSW rifle and auto rifle prototypes, which are slated to start replacing the 5.56 mm M4A1 carbine and the M249 squad automatic weapon in infantry and other close-combat units in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2022.

Textron Systems, General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems Inc., and Sig Sauer have delivered prototype systems and ammunition for the competitive effort.

Each vendor’s design is unique and fires a different version of the common 6.8 mm ammunition, which is being designed to exceed the 600-meter maximum effective range of an M249 on point targets. The M4A1 has about a 500-meter maximum effective range on point targets.

The Army has no current plans to extend its marksmanship ranges, so the service will need a reduced-range training round chambered in the 6.8 mm, Kennedy said.

“We are really looking and saying how are we going to train this weapon?” he said. “We are not going to be able to go to a tank-round range to do live fires with these weapons all the time, so I am looking for something that has an [estimated range] that’s more like traditional 5.56 mm … but we can shoot it out of that new weapon.

“If not, we are literally going to be having to go to larger and larger ranges to do what the Army has traditionally done on a lot smaller ranges.”

– Matthew Cox can be reached at

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US Army says it needs to ‘regain dominance’ in the Arctic, but it’s still figuring out what it needs to do it

Army Alaska Arctic paratroopers C-130J
US Army paratroopers exit a C-130J during exercise Arctic Warrior 21 in Alaska, February 8, 2021

As military activity increases in the Arctic, the US Army is putting renewed emphasis on the region, particularly Alaska, seeking to rebuild its ability to operate in the toughest conditions.

“We have a long history of training and operating out here. It really hit its peak in the ’80s,” Maj. Gen. Peter Andrysiak, commander of US Army Alaska, told Insider in a March interview.

In the 1990s and 2000s, the Army shifted its focus to the Middle East, adapting its formations and capabilities to better deploy and operate there. “As a result, those [Arctic] skill sets atrophied,” Andrysiak said.

But the Army is refocusing on the high latitudes, underscored by the release in mid-March of its Arctic strategy, titled “Regaining Arctic Dominance.”

Canadian army Chinook helicopter Alaska Arctic
US and Canadian personnel during a simulated aerial assault as part of Arctic Warrior 21, February 17, 2021.

With adversaries, namely Russia and China, increasing their activity in the Arctic, the Army “must have the proper training to endure the harsh Arctic environment during extended operations, equipment that can function in challenging terrain and extreme temperatures, and the infrastructure to sustain the force over vast distances,” the document says.

Among the strategy’s objectives are the creation of an operational headquarters, led by a major general, with specially trained and equipped combat brigades, an increase in the materiel readiness of Arctic-capable units, and an improvement in the training of US forces to operate in the region.

The goal is have soldiers capable of high-end operations not only in Alaska but throughout the Arctic and in mountains elsewhere, but the Army is still assessing what it needs to do that.

‘In and through’ the Arctic

Army Alaska Arctic paratroopers
US Army paratroopers clear snow before installing a cold-weather tent in Alaska during Arctic Warrior 21, February 7, 2021.

US Army Alaska conducted its Arctic Warrior exercise in February, reflecting a decision made last year to “start focusing on the coldest parts of the year,” Andrysiak said in March.

“Now what we’ve been asked to do is start training in October and largely finish up by March and then build the higher-end skills to operate in and through” the Arctic, Andrysiak told Insider.

Extreme cold, snow, and mountainous terrain all present specific challenges in the winter months, and during the exercise, the Army’s Combined Arms Center led a review to find where equipment fell short.

“They’re in the process now of doing this very detailed gap analysis that the Army will then take in turn and figure out what they’ve got to do to adapt existing capabilities or, where necessary, acquire new capabilities,” Andrysiak said.

Col. J.P. Clark, chief of the strategy division within the Army general staff, said at a March press conference that “shortfalls in equipment” found during the analysis “will be handled pretty quickly,” with requests to address “near-term deficiencies” likely coming in the 2023 defense budget.

“We have a year to kind of dig into those questions and see where we want to have the money go,” Clark said.

Army Alaska Arctic AH-64 Apache helicopter
Logistics personnel from Army Aviation and Missile Command support Arctic testing on an AH-64 Apache, February 12, 2021.

The strategy calls for equipment that can be used in temperatures as low as -65 degrees for extended periods, but much of the service’s gear – such as tents, batteries, and vehicles – can’t function well or at all in that extreme cold.

Freezing temperatures make it hard to keep water on hand, hindering cooking and other essential operations. Extreme cold also affects electronics, which are also hampered by the region’s long distances and sparse satellite coverage.

“We’ve got to go back and figure out where do we need to alter the key performance parameters [for equipment] and then what modifications that we need to make to existing capabilities,” Andrysiak told Insider.

The cold affects hydraulics, brakes, even weapons on vehicles, but snow poses a different challenge. “That 16 or 18 inches of snow, if you’re not plowing it, they can’t operate in it,” Andrysiak said. Ground movement can also be hard in warmer months, when lakes, rivers, and swamps thaw.

In the 1980s, US Army Alaska had 700 small unit support vehicles, a tracked vehicle that can move through snow. Now it has “less than 50,” and while the Army is working on a replacement, whether it will be what’s needed “is yet to be determined,” Andrysiak said.

As analysis of mobility challenges unfolds, “we can inform our modernization efforts of those potential future requirements,” Elizabeth Felling, a strategic planner in the Army general staff, said at the press conference.

Infrastructure needs are also an issue. While there are many bases across the state, parts of Alaska lack transportation infrastructure, like paved roads or ports, inhibiting movement.

Army Alaska Arctic paratroopers small unit support vehicle
A Small Unit Support Vehicle (SUSV) moves paratroopers over deep snowy terrain during Arctic Warrior 21, February 9, 2021.

“If we want to be able to project power to remote locations, either we’ve got to change the equipment that we operate with so that it relies less on infrastructure or we’ve got to build the infrastructure, which takes a lot of time,” Andrysiak said.

The Army is “looking at how well our bases … support our forces and their ability to train,” Felling said, adding that as training requirements become clear, so will infrastructure needs.

The Army’s embrace of multi-domain operations – working with other service branches in the air, on land, at sea, and in space and cyberspace – brings with it new infrastructure requirements and new challenges for logistics and sustainment, both exacerbated by the harsh Arctic conditions.

The Army is reviewing requirements for different approaches to multi-domain operations, Clark said. “Once we kind of figure out what we want to do, then we can figure out what the logistical tail that is required.”

The Army has 11,600 soldiers in Alaska, and it’s “premature” to say how many more may be stationed there, but, Felling said, “options are being worked with Army senior leaders, and we expect that there will be announcements for that probably later on this year or maybe even next.”

The Army has already started an Alaska-focused recruiting campaign. Other efforts are underway to improve quality of life there to boost retention.

“There’s no doubt that with ‘people first‘ being a priority for the chief of staff of the Army and [for] us … we’ve got to make an investment that’s commensurate – that speaks to ‘people first,'” Andrysiak said.

‘They’re committed’

Army Alaska Arctic paratroopers
US Army paratroopers conduct a simulated attack as part of Arctic Warrior 21, February 11, 2021.

The strategy outlines how the Army will support the Defense Department’s Arctic strategy, published in 2019, and officials said last month that the service’s goals will take years to reach.

“We have a long time period for the implementation,” Clark said. “It will be quite a bit in order to get our full multi-domain force as has been laid out. We’ve used 2028 and 2035 as our waypoint and our aim point.”

But things are moving quickly, according to Andrysiak, who said the strategy itself came together in about six months.

“The sense of urgency and investment … has been unprecedented, in my opinion,” Andrysiak told Insider.

Andrysiak said he was “confident” that some equipment could be adapted “relatively quickly” and that there was “the right level of engagement and support” to address other shortfalls.

“There’s a lot that we have to learn in the human dimension, and our ability to operate in the human dimension is largely impacted by material solutions,” Andrysiak added.

“What we’ve got to do here has got to be measured in years, because this is just a very unique environment,” Andrysiak said. “My view is with this strategy the Army knows that. It’s a multi-year approach, and they’re committed to that.”

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The US command overseeing the nukes sent out a confusing and unintelligible tweet – here’s 11 times the military has screwed up on social media

An armor crewmen performs maintenance on a M1 Abrams tank during a platoon combined arms live fire exercise
An armor crewmen performs maintenance on a M1 Abrams tank during a platoon combined arms live fire exercise

  • The military has codified the rules for managing these official accounts. But sometimes these social-media pros flub it.
  • The screw-ups range from the Pentagon’s threat to bomb millenials converging near Area 51 to a “KnowYourMil” post about military systems that got it wrong.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Every day, scores of US military commands reach millions with posts aimed to inform and inspire: videos of valor, motivational photos, and, yes, puppy pics.

The military has codified the rules for managing these official accounts. But sometimes these social-media pros – even those at the four-star command responsible for the US’s nuclear weapons – fail miserably.

Here’s a rundown of some of the military’s most embarrassing, troubling, and dumb social-media mistakes in recent years.


Minuteman III
Test of an unarmed Minuteman III ICBM at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California

US Strategic Command, which oversees the US nuclear arsenal, sent out an unintelligible tweet on March 28, 2021 that went viral before it was deleted.

The post simply said: “;l;;gmlxzssaw.”

In a follow-on tweet, STRATCOM wrote: “”Apologizes for any confusion. Please disregard this post.”

The blunder received lots of humorous responses on social media, including a retired US Army lieutenant general.


‘A string of explicit tweets’

A sign of Fort Bragg is seen in Fayetteville, North Carolina September 26, 2014. REUTERS/Chris Keane
A sign of Fort Bragg is seen in Fayetteville, North Carolina

An “administrator” used Fort Bragg’s official Twitter account to send explicit sexual messages to an OnlyFans creator.

The Army installation initially claimed the account was hacked before deleting not just the tweets but its entire Twitter account. The base later acknowledged that the tweets were sent by one of their own.

Read More: US Army base says it’s sorry for claiming its Twitter account was hacked after an ‘administrator’ sent sexual messages at an OnlyFans creator

“Know what else has CV that isn’t #COVID19?”

An F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jet, 48th Fighter Squadron, conducts a show of force while a team of U.S. Air Force Special Tactics operators, 352nd Special Operations Wing, board a CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotator aircraft, 7th Special Operations Squadron, for exfiltration during exercise Valiant Liberty at Muckleburgh, Norfolk, U.K., March 12, 2020
An F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jet, 48th Fighter Squadron, conducts a show of force while a team of U.S. Air Force Special Tactics operators, 352nd Special Operations Wing, board a CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotator aircraft, 7th Special Operations Squadron, for exfiltration during exercise Valiant Liberty at Muckleburgh, Norfolk, U.K., March 12, 2020

Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) deleted a March 25, 2020 tweet making light of the coronavirus.

The tweet, which featured a picture of a CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, read: “Know what else has CV that isn’t #COVID19? #CV22uesday!”

The tweet was deemed to be in poor taste given the devastation the virus had caused. An AFSOC spokesman told Military Times that “we recognize it was in poor taste and have taken it down and apologize to anyone offended.” He added that the command will “review how this happened and act accordingly.”

Questions about COVID-19?

Screenshot of an Army social media post on its COVID-19 response
Screenshot of an Army social media post on its COVID-19 response

The Army put out a post on March 21, 2020 as part of an Army COVID-19 question and answer series that was considered racist and offensive. “Why did the man eat a bat?” the post asked. The answer, which was accompanied by a picture of a man shrugging, was “it wasn’t because he was thirsty.”

The Instagram post appears to have been referencing early reports that the coronavirus outbreak originated from the consumption of bats in China, which have fueled insensitive comments and jokes.

“This is simply unacceptable. We do not know how #COVID19 first infected humans but racism has no place in our Armed Forces,” Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth wrote on Twitter in response.

The social media manager responsible for the post, which, in addition to offensive content, also included inaccurate coronavirus information, was fired.


M109A6 Paladins of the Utah Army National Guard are staged for movement from the port in Agadir, Morocco, to training areas where they will be used as part of African Lion 20, the largest exercise in Africa
M109A6 Paladins of the Utah Army National Guard are staged for movement from the port in Agadir, Morocco, to training areas where they will be used as part of African Lion 20, the largest exercise in Africa

On March 6, 2020 the Defense Department flubbed a #KnowYourMil moment, when it tweeted out an image of Utah National Guard M109 Paladins but wrote: “Ready to roll out the big guns! The tanks of the @UTNationalGuard are lined up and ready to participated in #AfricaLion.”

Paladins are tracked and have large cannons, but they are not tanks. The Utah National Guard responded to the tweet, writing, “Guys … the M109 Paladin is a 155mm turreted self-propelled howitzer.”

Remembering the Battle of the Bulge with a picture of a Nazi that massacred US troops

battle of the bulge us infantry foxhole
US infantrymen of the 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, First U.S. Army, crouch in a snow-filled ditch, taking shelter from a German artillery barrage during the Battle of Heartbreak Crossroads in the Krinkelter woods on 14 December 1944.

In a move that drew significant criticism, the official Facebook pages of the Army 10th Mountain Division, the 18th Airborne Corps, and the Department of Defense all shared the picture of a Nazi responsible for the murder of more than 84 American prisoners of war in Dec. 16, 2019 posts commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, a fierce WWII battle.

The posts were later deleted. The Army said that it “regrets” that the image was included in the post that was shared on social media.

Read More: The Army and the Pentagon commemorated the Battle of the Bulge with a large photo of a Nazi who murdered US prisoners in that fight


A Stryker armored fighting vehicle participates in a Nov. 8 training at Fort Irwin, Calif.

On November 20, 2019, the Department of Defense’s official Twitter account shared this stunning image of an armored vehicle firing at a training exercise with the tag, #KnowYourMil.

The only problem — they named the wrong armored vehicle.

That’s a Stryker armored vehicle firing its 105mm gun, not a Paladin self-propelled howitzer, as the DoD tweet identified it. One easy way to tell them apart is that the Paladin is a tracked vehicle like a tank. Strykers have wheels.

‘The last thing #Millennials will see if they attempt the #area51 raid today’

A U.S. Air Force 509th Bomb Wing B-2 Spirit approaches a 351st Aerial Refueling Squadron KC-135 Stratotanker during the Bomber Task Force training exercise over England, Aug. 29, 2019.
A U.S. Air Force 509th Bomb Wing B-2 Spirit approaches a 351st Aerial Refueling Squadron KC-135 Stratotanker during the Bomber Task Force training exercise over England, Aug. 29, 2019.

On Sept. 20, 2019, the Pentagon’s Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS) tweeted out a warning to millennials planning to attend the “Storm Area 51” event that day, suggesting it was going to bomb them.

“The last thing #Millennials will see if they attempt the #area51 raid today,” the tweet read. The accompanying image was a B-2 Spirit bomber, a highly-capable stealth aircraft built to slip past enemy defenses and devastate targets with nuclear and conventional munitions.

The tweet prompted some backlash online, and the next day, DVIDS deleted the offending tweet and sent out a new one explaining that “last night, a DVIDSHUB employee posted a tweet that in NO WAY supports the stance of the Department of Defense.”

Read more: The Department of Defense had to apologize after a tweet suggested the US military was going to bomb millennials into oblivion if they tried to raid Area 51

‘#Ready to drop something much, much bigger’

US Strategic Command B-2 bomber video
A still image from a video posted by US Strategic Command.

US Strategic Command, which oversees the US’s nuclear arsenal, rang in 2019 with a reminder that they’re ready, at any time, to start a nuclear war.

Playing off the image of the ball dropping in New York City’s Times Square, STRATCOM’s official account posted a tweet that included a clip of a B-2 dropping bombs. The command apologized for the message.

Read more: US Strategic Command apologizes for tweeting a ‘pump up’ video about dropping nuclear bombs


a10 warthog a 10
The A-10 Thunderbolt is armed with a 30mm cannon that fires so rapidly that the crack of each bullet blends into a thundering sound.

In May 2018, the internet was debating whether the word heard on a short audio recording was “Yanny” or “Laurel.” Then the US Air Force joined the debate, referring to a recent strike on Taliban.

“The Taliban Forces in Farah city #Afghanistan would much rather have heard #Yanny or #Laurel than the deafening #BRRRT they got courtesy of our #A10,” the official US Air Force Twitter account said.

The A-10 gunship carries a fearsome 30mm cannon used to destroy buildings, shred ground vehicles, and kill insurgents. It can fire so rapidly — nearly 3,900 rounds a minute — that the sound of each bullet is indistinguishable from the previous one, blending into a thundering “BRRRT.” 

The US Air Force apologized for the tweet and deleted it, acknowledging it was in “poor taste.”

Read more: Air Force apologizes for tweet comparing A-10 strikes to viral ‘Yanny vs. Laurel’ clip, saying it was in ‘poor taste’

‘I’m like really smart now’

mindy kaling the office
Mindy Kaling’s joke briefly got some props from the US Army.

In January 2018, President Donald Trump fired off a flurry a tweets defending himself in response to the headline-grabbing details in Michael Wolff’s book, “Fire and Fury.”

Trump said he was “like, really smart” and “a very stable genius.” 

That prompted a tweet from comedian Mindy Kaling from her character in the office, with the caption: “You guys, I’m like really smart now, you don’t even know.”

The US Army’s official Twitter account liked Kaling’s tweet, to which she replied: “#armystrong”

By the following day, the US Army had unliked the tweet.

Read more: The US Army’s Twitter account ‘inadvertently’ liked Mindy Kaling’s tweet mocking Trump’s intelligence

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The US Army official account threw shade at Fox’s Tucker Carlson for his ‘ridiculous’ comments against women in the military

Fox News host Tucker Carlson.

  • Fox New’s host Tucker Carlson said that President Joe Biden was “feminizing the military.”
  • The US Army threw shade at Carlson by posting photos of women in the Army with the “Soldier’s Creed.”
  • The top Pentagon spokesman said the military would not “take personnel advice from a talk-show host.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US Army’s official Twitter account threw shade at Tucker Carlson after he went on a long rant on his television show against President Joe Biden for supposedly making the military “more feminine.”

Carlson said on his Fox News show Wednesday night that the Biden administration was spending too much attention feminizing the military while overlooking threats posed by China, who he said is actually making its military more masculine.

The complaint stems from Biden’s comments on Monday for International Women’s Day where he highlighted the progress the armed forces is making to accommodate female troops, who make up roughly 16% of the force.

“We’re making good progress designing body armor that fits women properly, tailoring combat uniforms for women, creating maternity flight suits, updating requirements for their hairstyles,” Biden said.

On Thursday, the US Army posted several photos on Twitter of the “Soldier’s Creed” coupled with photographs of women performing various roles in the Army in what appeared to be in response to Carlson’s remarks. Earlier in the day, several current US Army generals also took to Twitter to tell Carlson that he “couldn’t be more wrong.”

This is not the first time the Army’s social media account has vouched for women in the armed forces during Women’s History Month. The account has posted and retweeted several pieces of content supporting women in the military since the beginning of March.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby called Carlson’s tirade against women in the military “ridiculous” and noted that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin “shares the revulsion of so many others to what Mr. Carlson said.”

“What we absolutely won’t do,” Kirby added, “is take personnel advice from a talk-show host.”

Ryan Pickrell contributed reporting.

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How Green Berets prepared to carry ‘backpack nukes’ on top-secret one-way missions during the Cold War

Green Light HALO
A Green Light operator conducting a High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) jump with the MK54 SADM.

  • During the Cold War, military planners wanted nuclear weapons they could use without sparking an all-out nuclear war.
  • That led to the development of tactical nuclear weapons for use against military or military-related targets.
  • Teams of Army Green Berets were trained to carry those nukes to their targets, which they saw as a one-way mission.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Throughout the Cold War, as the nuclear arms race became more frantic, a nuclear confrontation between the US and the Soviet Union remained a major concern.

With intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched missiles, and air-dropped bombs, both countries had several options when it came to nuclear warfare.

But the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the closing days of World War II made clear the destructive capability of nuclear arms and the danger of a full-blown nuclear conflict.

As a result, US strategists sought ways to use nuclear weapons without triggering an all-out nuclear war.

The tactical nuclear option

Davy Crockett Bomb mini nuke nuclear
An M-388 Davy Crockett nuclear weapon mounted to a recoilless rifle at Aberdeen Proving Ground, March 1961.

In the 1950s, the US military came up with the tactical nuclear option, using weapons with a lower yield and range than their strategic counterparts.

These weapons would be used on the battlefield or against a military-related target to gain an operational advantage. For example, the Air Force could drop a tactical nuclear bomb on a Soviet division invading Poland to stop its advance without triggering a disproportionate response – such as a nuclear attack on New York City.

There were two types of tactical nuclear munitions: The Medium Atomic Demolition Munition (MADM) had a medium-yield payload and required several troops to carry it. The Special Atomic Demolition Munition (SADM) had a low-yield payload but could be carried by one soldier.

The order to use tactical nuclear weapons would still have to come from both political and military authorities. SADMs were subject to the same command-and-control procedures as other tactical nuclear weapons and were meant to be used only if there were no other means of creating the desired effect.

Tactical nuclear weapons came in several forms, including artillery shells, gravity bombs, short-range missiles, and even landmines. But perhaps the most interesting iteration was the “backpack nuke,” which was to be carried by Army Special Forces operators.

Green Light Teams

Davy Crockett nuclear bomb
US officials with an M-388 Davy Crockett nuclear weapon. It used one of the smallest nuclear warheads ever developed by the US.

Specially trained Green Berets were assigned to Green Light Teams. Their purpose was to clandestinely deploy in NATO or Warsaw Pact countries and detonate their SADM in a conflict with the Soviets. The Pentagon later included North Korea and Iran on the target list.

Green Light teams’ main targets were tunnels, major bridges, mountain passes, dams, canals, ports, major railroad hubs, oil facilities, water-plant factories, and underground storage or operations facilities.

In other words, SADMs were intended to either slow down the enemy by destroying or significantly altering the landscape or to target the logistical, communications, and operations hubs that are vital to an army, especially during offensive operations.

Green Light teams primarily carried the MK-54 SADM. Nicknamed the “Monkey” or “Pig,” the device weighed almost 60 pounds and could fit in a large rucksack.

In each team, there was a chief operator who was primarily responsible for the activation of the SADM. He and other members of the team held the codes required to activate the bomb.

Like every Green Beret team, Green Light teams were trained in various insertion methods, including parachuting – both static-line and military free-fall – skiing, and combat diving.

Free-falling was probably the most realistic insertion method other than ground infiltration, but doing it with the device was tough.

During parachute insertions, the chief operator seldom got to jump with the device because it had a high probability of injury for the jumper, and the chief operator was key to mission success.

An operator would have to strap the SADM between his legs like a rucksack, but the device would work against him as he tried to stabilize in the air before deploying his parachute. Even in static-line parachuting, when the ripcord is hooked to the plane, there would still be issues.

Paratroopers will release their rucksacks or other heavy cargo attached to them via a line moments before landing to prevent injuries. But the SADM tended to get stuck between the jumper’s feet in the crucial seconds before landing, resulting in several sprained ankles and broken legs.

Everything even closely associated with Green Light teams was top secret, and the seriousness of the mission followed Green Light operators outside work. They were instructed to travel only on US airliners and never to fly above a communist country in case the plane had to make an emergency landing, which could lead to them being held by local authorities.

No one is coming for us

Army Special Forces Green Beret skiing
Soldiers of the 77th Special Forces Group are towed on skis during training at Camp Hale, Colorado, February 5, 1956.

A common thread among successive generations of Green Light teams was their distrust of leadership when it came to their specific mission.

“During training, the instructors had told us we had about 30 minutes to clear the blast radius of the device. We never really believed that,” a retired Special Forces operator who served on a Green Light team told Insider.

“In every other mission, teams would have an extraction plan. We didn’t. It was all up to us to get the hell out of dodge. But that’s not how the Army works. So that’s why we never really believed that we could get out alive in case we had to use one of those things. It was a one-way mission,” the retired Green Beret added.

There were Green Light teams forward-deployed in Europe – even in Berlin – always on standby to launch. Some Green Light teams even sought to forward deploy inside East Germany to be ready in case the Soviets unleashed their military on Western Europe.

Green Light teams also deployed to South Korea at different times and were on standby in case tensions with North Korea turned into war.

With the end of the Cold War, the Green Light teams were deactivated. They were never used in a real-world operation.

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (National Service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate.

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The Army is qualifying new units to fly Black Hawk helicopters equipped with a controversial mine delivery system

Army M139 Volcano mine Black Hawk helicopter
Soldiers use a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter to employ M-139 Air Volcano mines during a capabilities exercise at Bisung Range near the city of Yangpyeong, South Korea, March 1, 2012.

  • The M-139 Volcano Mine Delivery System, originally built in the 1980s and ’90s, has been in storage for more than 20 years.
  • But a unit of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division recently published photos of aircrews conducting qualifications on the system mounted on a UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Recently, the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, part of the 82nd Airborne Division, posted some photos of the unit’s aircrews conducting qualifications on the M-139 Volcano Mine Delivery System mounted to the UH-60M Black Hawk on its social media accounts.

The system is designed to rapidly scatter mines to create large minefields, meant to delay/disrupt enemy movement and protect the flanks of friendly units on the ground, by laying 960 mines in under one minute.

The M-139 Volcano was originally built in the 1980s and ’90s and it was stored for more than 20 years before the US Army decided to resuscitate the system to provide a scatterable mine capability to the ground forces.

The decision to restore this capability and begin to qualify again the crews is a consequence of the tactical strategies shift of the recent years, which foresaw a return to confrontations with near-peer adversaries and a definitive FLOT (Forward Line of Own Troops).

When work to refurbish the Volcano begun at the Anniston Army Depot, workers faced some challenges after many components were found corroded after being locked up for such a long time and many of them being out of production, requiring the “cannibalization” of some M-139 systems in order to salvage working components, at least until the development of a repair process is complete.

Early works to test the viability of the re-introduction in service begun at the depot in 2014, with works on a larger scale funded in 2017.

The M-139 has two variants, the Ground Volcano, which can be mounted on trucks like the Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck (HEMTT), and the Air Volcano, that is now being adapted to the UH-60M Black Hawk. Before being stored, the system was qualified aboard the previous variant of the Black Hawk, the UH-60L.

In 2017 the system was mounted for the first time on a UH-60M model Black Hawk at Fort Bliss (Texas), with the Army laying out a basic implementation plan and then working it out with the maintenance crews, before writing a technical manual for installations on the UH-60M later at other units.

Army M139 Volcano mine Black Hawk helicopter
Soldiers conduct M139 Volcano system training using a UH-60 Black Hawk at Makua Range, Hawaii, June 23, 2020.

The Combat Aviation Brigade of the 1st Armored Division then used the system during training at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin (California) while supporting 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Infantry Division.

Other units that have been working on qualifying their aircrews are the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division in 2018 and the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division earlier this year.

The Volcano uses modified Gator mines, the same that were developed to be dropped by aircraft inside the CBU-78/B (Navy) and CBU-89/B (Air Force). The entire system is made of four main components, which are the mine canister, the dispenser, the dispenser control unit (DCU) and the mounting hardware.

The latter includes a jettison subassembly to be fitted to the Black Hawk to detach and propel the racks and canisters away from the aircraft in the event of an emergency.

The M-139 uses M87 and M87A1 mine canisters which contain five Anti-Tank (AT) mines and one Anti-Personnel (AP) mine or six AT mines, respectively, plus a propulsion device to scatter them 35 to 70 meters away from the helicopter. The mine canisters are capable of dispensing mines with 4-hour, 48-hour, and 15-day self-destruct timers.

Army M139 Volcano mine Black Hawk helicopter
Soldiers conduct conducted aircrew qualification on the M139 Volcano Mine System, December 17, 2020.

The US Army is working to upgrade the system so that it can remain in service for at least 15-20 years, and a part of the works is meant to make the system fully compliant with the Ottawa Treaty, the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, even if the United States is a non-signatory state.

The treaty covers only anti-personnel mines and does not address anti-tank mines, so it is safe to say that the Volcano will use only the M87A1 mine canisters or upgraded variants.

The M-139 can be used to emplace large minefields rapidly both offensively, to destroy, delay or deviate enemy forces, and defensively, to block potential avenues of approach from a flank and reduce friendly forces vulnerabilities to counterattack.

The Air Volcano is considered the fastest method for accurately emplacing these large tactical minefields in deep, close, and rear operations, but the helicopter is extremely vulnerable while flying at the steady low altitude, low speed, and the regular path required to scatter the mines.

Some other limitations are performance-related, as the Black Hawk is near its maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) when the system is installed and it’s slower and handles differently, while some others are self-defense-related, as the crew cannot operate the M-240 machine guns that are usually pintle mounted on the helicopter.

The latter, added to the extreme vulnerability of the UH-60M during the mine-laying process, require the coordination with AH-64 Apache attack helicopters to provide security.

Army M139 Volcano mine Black Hawk helicopter
Soldiers conduct M139 Volcano system training using a UH-60 Black Hawk at Makua Range, Hawaii, June 23, 2020.

While the use of the Volcano Mine Delivery System can be controversial because of the nature of the weapon and the Ottawa Treaty, it is worth noting that the US forces ended the use of persistent landmines in 2010, while in 2014 the Obama administration changed the US Anti-Personnel Landmine (APL) policy by banning the production and acquisition of APLs, restricting their use only to the Korean Peninsula to defend South Korea.

However, this year, the Trump administration published a new policy that basically reversed the 2014 one. According to the Department of Defense, the 2020 policy “encourages the Military Departments to explore acquiring landmines that could further reduce the risk of unintended harm to non-combatants.”

In 2016 the US Army set up a program “to develop an Ottawa Convention-compliant air-delivered, operator-controlled munition system that will provide both antivehicle and antipersonnel munitions and will replace the current GATOR system, with an initial operating capability goal by FY25.”

The Gator Landmine Replacement Program was reportedly focused on AT mines only to initially supplement and then replace the Volcano and similar systems. It is not known if the recent change in policies will affect the Volcano and the Gator Landmine Replacement Program in any way.

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