The view from the front: military matters and motivation for 5/13/22.
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Happy Friday, everyone! Hope you’ve had a great week and are looking forward to the weekend!
Speaking for myself, my weekend started early!
I had to work last Sunday in my day job, but as a part of that, I got today off. So I played a round of golf this morning and had a great time. (This might be a photo of me.)
Golf is a new-found love of mine. I’ve hated golf for most of my life, and even tried it for a few months almost fifteen years ago.
But the sport frustrated me to no end and I gave it up at that time until about two years ago, when a new friend of mine discussed his love for it. Ever since then, it’s been pretty much all-out for me, and I even went so far as to join a golf training center where I could hit an unlimited amount of balls each month on the driving range. (And let me tell you, I have — to the point of injury, when I finally slowed up — because I never half-do anything. lol)
This weekend, I’ll be spending much of it at the baseball field. My 13-year-old stepson plays travel baseball, which is pretty much its entirely own world. (I expect a comment or two about golf or travel baseball, by the way, by my ever-so-awesome readers.)
Back to travel baseball, though. It’s almost all-consuming. Conditioning lessons, organized team practice, individual practice focused on hitting and fielding, weekend tournaments (often an hour or more away). These weekend tournaments take up much of your Saturdays and Sundays.
But you pretty much adjust to it and actually begin to enjoy the rhythms of it, as well as enjoy the growth that each ball player goes through as they compete and make memories that will last a lifetime. (Many of these players he has played with for several years or more, so you get to know the parents and it sort of becomes its own family/lifestyle.)
So, that was my day and will be my weekend. If any of you want to share yours, you’re free to comment or email me. (I’m weird in two ways. First, I actually do want to get to know my followers/supporters. Two, I think online friends can actually be real-life friends, and I cherish and appreciate every one of you.)
Moving to the news, we begin with the defenders of the Mariupol steel plant, who are STILL hanging on somehow.
I still don’t know how they have, but news reports say the Russians let up on their assault some yesterday and the day prior. I think the Russians have almost given up. Or maybe they’re preparing for a final push. (Heck, maybe they’ve actually decided to do what they initially said, which was to starve out the defenders.)
But none of this means that the situation is anything less than horrible and desperate. In fact, it’s so bad that the defenders have even asked Elon Musk for help in their evacuation.
Let’s hope and pray they find some kind of rescue (or even a form of re-supply of food and ammunition in the short term).
And if you want more about the details of those at the steel plant, check out this excellent thread.
Moving from that specific situation, I wanted to write more broadly about something happening in the war as our next topic.
That issue is the war for supremacy of the skies: typically one of the most important factors for victory going back to World War II.
And yet Russia failed to destroy the small Ukranian air force in the beginning of the war. In the weeks that followed, an increasing parity has evolved.
There are even videos of Ukrainian jets flying across the skies. (Sometimes, even in pairs!)
And here’s two of them striking Snake Island. (Yes, THAT Snake Island, where a small detachment of sailors on the island radioed in the first days of the war, "Russian warship, go f**k yourself.")
I’m not the only one to notice the (gaining?) strength of the Ukrainian Air Force. In fact, The Atlantic published a great article about the surprising equality in the air.
From the article:
Airpower should have been one of Russia’s greatest advantages over Ukraine. With almost 4,000 combat aircraft and extensive experience bombing targets in Syria, Georgia, and Chechnya, Russia’s air force was expected to play a vital role in the invasion, allowing the Russian army to plunge deep into Ukraine, seize Kyiv, and destroy the Ukrainian military. But more than two months into the war, Vladimir Putin’s air force is still fighting for control of the skies.
The Russian air force’s failure is perhaps the most important, but least discussed, story of the military conflict so far.
The Ukrainians have integrated a range of air and anti-air capabilities to stymie the much larger Russian air force. Starting with cheap, handheld, portable surface-to-air missiles, the Ukrainians have been able to restrict Russian airpower to a few eastern and southern areas, greatly limiting Russian freedom of maneuver. The addition of much more potent, and longer-range, S-300 missile systems from Slovakia makes the Russians even more vulnerable. The threat of the S-300s forces individual Russian aircraft, which generally lack refueling, electronic-warfare, and command-and-control support, to fly low to the ground to screen themselves from attack. This, in turn, makes them more vulnerable to the handheld surface-to-air missiles.
It’s a great article that describes how America and other countries might learn lessons from Ukraine, which could be applied in situations where we don’t dominate the skies. (Say, in Taiwan if China threw its full power at the island and we only had a couple of carriers nearby.)
But back to Ukraine, this kind of poor outfitting isn’t exactly helping the Russian cause in the skies. (Hat tip @JoshuaMcGuoirk.)
I never cease to be amazed at just how pathetic the Russian military continues to be: in both equipment and morale.
Moving from the air back to the ground, I’ve written in previous newsletters about how Russia has been stalled in Donbas, and even losing some ground.
But it’s not for lack of effort, as you can see below.
From the article.
The better part of a Russian army battalion — 50 or so vehicles and up to a thousand troops — in recent days tried to cross a pontoon bridge spanning the Siverskyi Donets River, running west to east between the separatist provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian artillery caught them at the river bank—and destroyed them. … It’s unclear how many Russians died or were wounded, but it’s worth noting that no battalion can lose three-quarters of its vehicles and remain capable of operations. In one strike, the Ukrainians removed from the battlefield one of roughly the 99 Russian battalion tactical groups in Ukraine.
Here are some photos of what remains of that battle.
These were horrific losses for a single day’s battle, even by Russian standards.
And if you really want to get into the weeds of this battle, here’s the story that’s gone viral about the Ukrainian soldier who predicted where the crossing would happen based on map study and a recon of the area. (Click the link below and follow the thread; it’s quite the story.)
Speaking of Russian losses and Ukrainian superiority, I wanted to share a slightly different topic that’s struck me.
This entire time, I’ve mostly attributed the dominance of the Ukrainians to their fighting spirit and eight-plus years of war experience in fighting the Russians, which has mostly featured conscripts.
But if you watch the clip below of a Ukrainian sniper, who now “owns” a tank that he uses to hunt Russian vehicles, you’ll learn he’s new to war.
What’s so striking about the clip is that he and the next person interviewed aren’t hardened veterans.
Instead, they are people who were soft citizens even just two months ago (he was a software engineer), but they have become efficient fighters in a very short time under the toughest of conditions. A great clip, if you have a moment to watch it.
Also, in the same line of thinking, the below clip shows an older gentleman also fighting the Russians, and I don’t think any of us would say he’s regular Ukrainian military age or rank. (Hat tip: @JaradStout.)
One final bit of news about Ukraine before we leave that topic. The battle for Snake Island is continuing, and you really need to read the thread about what’s happening in the video below.
On the off chance that you don’t go read that thread, the author of it takes a single event and then further elaborates on what is likely happening on the island. Especially, how the events happening paint a larger picture of the troubles the Russians are having both on Snake Island and out at sea.
Moving along, I had some other defense news to share, but I think we’ve gotten our fill in this edition. I’ll share plenty more on Tuesday, which will allow me to go into more details about it. (Teaser: it’ll involve ships, lasers, and maybe even fighter jets; maybe even A-10s, too.)
But let’s end with some motivation and wisdom. First, this inspiring story of courage.
Second, how about this?!
This is a local story about a local high school kid, who barely made the baseball team, who’s going to be making millions before too long.
The lesson: Never give up. Always believe. Work your ass off.
Now, for some humor because man, these war realities in Ukraine can be heavy for all of us.
And finally more motivation. Because that’s what half of you are paying for, right?!
A quick reminder that there are so many good Americans out there, and that we are so good as a people (despite the loud and obnoxious ones who scream the loudest).
(Hat tip on the previous video to Atticus Finch, who said, “Despite it all, most Americans are still stand up people. The kind of people who help each other without thinking twice. Good job to these folks!”)
Okay, one or two more, because I’m relentless, just as you should be.
On this note, there is this, from a man who lost his father to suicide 22 years ago.
Todd, who gave me permission to share this, said, “Over the years I’ve battled my own issues, particularly after tours to Iraq and Afghanistan. I just want everyone to know — even in the darkest of times, there are people who will drop everything to be there for you.”
An important message for sure. If you’re struggling, reach out to someone. If you’re not, reach out to someone who might be that you haven’t heard from in a while.
Okay, now let’s end on a lighter note.
That’s it for this edition.
As a reminder, please be kind and endeavor to love your fellow Americans. We need to pull this country together, and that starts with all of us.
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Stan R. Mitchell
P.S. Don’t forget to check out my books. I’ve written a CIA/Marine sniper series, a detective series, a private investigator series, an action-packed Western, a leadership/biography book, and two realistic war novels: one about World War IIand one about Afghanistan.