America’s oldest fighting force was founded officially on December 13th, 1636, when the first Militia fighting forces gathered in Massachusetts. 382 years later, here are some of the lesser-known facts about the US National Guard:
1. The very first national guard consisted of militia forces that were divided into three regiments (these units were the first “minutemen,” known for their quick response times).
2. Today, the descendants of those regiments are the 181st Infantry, the 182nd Infantry, the 101st Field Artillery, and the 101st Engineer Battalion of the Massachusetts Army National Guard. They are the oldest units in the entire U.S. military.
3. Two U.S. presidents have served in the National Guard – Harry S. Truman, and George W. Bush
4. President Kennedy once used national guard troops to enforce integration legislature after governor George Wallace blocked the doorway of the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa to prevent integration.
5. National Guard soldiers have fought in every single war since their founding.
6. 50,000 members took on missions during the 9/11 attacks.
7. There have been 780,000 mobilizations of National Guard units since September 11, 2001. They provided about half of the troops to Afghanistan and Iraq.
8.) The National Guard is second only to the U.S. Army in terms of members.
U.S. Army Spc. Josh Sadler, of Regimental Higher Headquarters Troop, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, Tennessee Army National Guard participates in training in preparation for deployment to Iraq at Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center in Hattiesburg, Miss., on Dec. 12, 2009. This will be the units second tour in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in five years. DoD photo by Russell Lee Klika, U.S. Army. (Released)
9. As each state has their own National Guard units, members must swear to uphold both Federal and State constitutions.
10. The National Guard name was not official until 1916, but it was first popularized by the Marquis de Lafayette during the Revolutionary War. Lafayette went on to become the leader of his own National Guard in France.
Lafayette as a lieutenant general, in 1791. Portrait by Joseph-Désiré Court
11. The National Guard was the first to create an African-American unit, 54th Massachusetts Volunteers, during the Civil War. One member of this unit, Sgt. Carney, was the first African-American to receive the Medal of Honor.
The landings on D-Day have become iconic in the minds of many people who think about World War II in Europe. But the landings at Normandy were not the only invasion of France that the Allies carried out. There was a second invasion – and it is not as widely recognized. In fact, if Winston Churchill had his way, it wouldn’t have happened.
In the planning for D-Day, one of the biggest concerns had been to keep the Germans unaware as to the actual location of the invasion for as long as possible. Much of the decoy efforts were focused on the Pas-de-Calais region of France, but other areas were targeted as well. According to Volume XI of Samuel Eliot Morison’s “History of United States Naval Operations in World War II,” The Invasion of France and Germany, one of the decoy locations was the Mediterranean coast of France.
However, Eisenhower saw the proposed Operation Anvil as a way to supplement Overlord with a second amphibious operation within days of the Normandy landings. Winston Churchill, though, was opposed to that idea, and that opposition strengthened after the landings at Anzio bogged down. But the port of Marseilles was seen as a valuable logistics hub – and Southern France was closer to the German border than Normandy.
Finally, to get the British to approve Operation Anvil, it was delayed for two months. By then, it wasn’t so much a second front as it was the second part of a one-two-punch, and the codename was changed to Operation Dragoon. On Aug. 15, 1944, over 880 ships arrived off the southern coast of France. Three divisions, the 3rd Infantry Division, the 36th Infantry Division, and the 45th Infantry Division, went ashore. The landings faced much less opposition than the Normandy landings, and these forces helped send the Germans into full retreat from France.
While Winston Churchill paid a visit to the landing beaches, he was never thrilled with the operation. However, it was a smashing success, described by Morison as “the nearly lawless [amphibious landing] on a large scale.”
Senior Air Force officials want to return a number of C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft to active duty after budget cuts pushed them out of service over the last few years.
The C-5 Galaxy is the largest airlifter in the Air Force, standing 65 feet high with a length of 247 feet and a 223-foot wingspan.
The C-5M model, first deployed in 2009, featured more powerful engines that allowed it to haul more cargo with less room needed for takeoff.
The C-5M can haul 120,000 pounds of cargo more than 5,500 miles — the distance from Dover Air Force base in Delaware to Incirlik airbase in Turkey — without refueling. Without cargo, that range jumps to more than 8,000 miles.
It can carry up to 36 standard pallets and 81 troops at the same time or a wide variety of gear, including tanks, helicopters, submarines, equipment, and food and emergency supplies. The C-5M also set 45 aviation records in one flight.
Because of previous budget cuts as well as sequestration, the Air Force has already moved 12 C-5s and C-5Ms into backup aircraft inventory, “which means we still have the aircraft but lost all manning and funding to operate them,” Air Mobility Commander Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II told lawmakers at the end of March.
Everhart also said the C-5 inventory had fallen from 112 C-5s a few years prior to just 56 now.
In the coming years, the Air Force wants to move at least eight of the mothballed C-5Ms back into service, using newly allocated funds, according to DodBuzz.
“We’re going to buy back two a year for four years, if we’re able to have a predictable budget to get the fleet back to higher quality,” Lt. Gen. Jerry D. Harris, the Air Force deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements, told the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee this week.
“I need them back because there’s real world things that we’ve got to move, and they give me that … added assurance capability,” Everhart told lawmakers at the end of March. The C-5M’s increased range makes it doubly valuable in the vast Pacific theater.
“Recently, one of these aircraft flew from Travis Air Force Base, California, to Yokota, Japan,” Everhart said of the C-5M. “It’s the only airlifter in the inventory that can make the flight nonstop, which means we can put the American flag on the ground in hours versus days.”
Air Mobility Command also intends to improve its current active fleet of airlifters, “upgrading the avionics to improve communications, navigation and surveillance/air traffic management compliance as well as adding new safety equipment and installing a new autopilot system,” according to an Air Force release.
The project, slated to wrap up in 2018, will also upgrade C-5As, C-5Bs, and C-5Cs into C-5M Super Galaxies by installing the F-138 commercial engine, the release said, giving them a “22 percent increase in thrust, a 30 percent shorter takeoff roll, a 58 percent faster climb rate and will allow significantly more cargo to be carried over longer distances.”
For centuries, militaries have been trying to devise ways to disguise their troops and gear.
Sure, there was a time there where cladding your soldiers in the gaudiest of uniforms was considered more sporting than slapping on the face paint, but we all know how those Redcoats were sent packing by a guerrillas who slipped through the trees wearing green.
Can you see me now? (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Today’s militaries spend billions on camo patterns in hopes they’ll give their troops the edge. But a company that’s been on the forefront of concealment technology is about to one-up the industry and make all those fancy patterns out there obsolete.
Canada-based Hyperstealth Biotechnology Corp. has developed a material that its inventor claims can bend light around a subject, literally making it invisible.
Dubbed “Quantum Stealth,” the material has reportedly evolved from its introduction in 2012 to be flexible enough for uniforms and clothing. And it requires no power to operate.
It reportedly works by bending the visible light around the material, a feat even some of the world’s best material scientists and physicists can’t seem to get right.
But Hyperstealth’s Guy Cramer claims he’s nailed it.
Can you see the Predator? (Photo from theiaplois.com)
“We’re bending the entire spectrum of light—infrared, ultraviolet, thermal,” Cramer told The Atlantic. “People are disappearing. It doesn’t use cameras or mirrors or require power.”
Cramer did not respond to a WATM request for comment on this story.
For years Cramer had been flirting with the U.S. military and special operations community to adopt the technology for real-world applications. But according to a statement on his website from May, diplomatic hurdles got in the way of a technology transfer and the Army cancelled its search for “adaptive” camouflage.
But that hasn’t stopped Cramer from continuing his pitch for Quantum Stealth. And while he’s been cagey about how it works, people who’ve seen it are convinced it’s legit.
“As I viewed several other videos, it was interesting to see that environmental conditions appear to effect how well Quantum Stealth works,” wrote Special Forces veteran Jack Murphy for Business Insider. “With different background colors and poor lighting, you could sometimes make something out moving around behind the material. However, even under these adverse conditions, Cramer’s invention appeared to deliver the goods: rendering the person or object 95-98 percent invisible with just a few flashes of color moving from behind the blind.”
Cramer claims he was given permission by the U.S. and Canadian governments to develop a commercial version of Quantum Stealth for hunters and outdoorsmen.
Dubbed “INVISIB,” the material will have versions designed for law enforcement agencies, another for sportsmen and a more advanced version for military units.
“This material cannot be seen visually (nor the target it is hiding) and current optical technology is not going to help you find them either in the day or night,” Cramer said in a statement.
When the players on the Army West Point football team take the field, they do so for more than themselves.
They represent the U.S. Military Academy and the generations of graduates who make up the Long Gray Line. They play for the U.S. Army and those who have fought and died protecting America. And each week during the season, they play for a particular division of the Army and the soldiers currently serving and who have served in it.
For most of the regular season, the division is honored by a patch on the back of the players’ helmets. But for the past three years during the Army-Navy Game, the Black Knights have honored one of the Army’s divisions by wearing an entire uniform telling the division’s story.
The new uniform tradition started with a design telling the story of the 82nd Airborne Division. So far, the 10th Mountain Division and 1st Infantry Division have also been honored.
This year, Army will take the field in honor of the 1st Cavalry Division and tell the story of the soldiers’ role in the Vietnam War as America’s first airmobility division.
(Danny Wild, USA Today)
This year, Army will take the field in honor of the 1st Cavalry Division and tell the story of the soldiers’ role in the Vietnam War as America’s first airmobility division.
The 1st Cav’s role as the honored division was kept secret until the uniform was unveiled Dec. 5, 2019, in front of the assembled Corps of Cadets, but the process of designing the uniform for the game each year is an 18-month collaboration between Nike and West Point’s Department of History.
The cycle of divisions is decided three to four years in advance by West Point’s Athletic Department, and each design process starts about a year and a half out from the game. This year’s uniform hasn’t been unveiled yet, but most of the work is already done on 2020’s uniform and the process for 2021 will start to ramp up in the near future.
After the division is selected, step one of the process is determining the timeline that will be honored. For the 82nd Airborne it was World War II and for the 1st Infantry Division they highlighted World War I for the 100th anniversary of the signing of the armistice.
Then, Nike’s designer in partnership with the USMA history department starts doing research and crafting the story the uniform will tell.
“It is almost like a method actor preparing for a role,” Kristy Lauzonis, senior graphic designer for Nike college football uniforms, said. “I just go as deep as humanly possible with the research. I order books, read everything I can under the sun and then that is when I start hitting the history department back with all kinds of crazy questions.”
In 2017 Army represented the 10th Mountain Division with its Army Navy uniform.
(Photo by Cadet Henry Guerra)
With help from the Department of History, Lauzonis goes through photos and artifacts of the unit from the chosen timeline and starts working to craft a uniform that will authentically tell the story of the unit. Some elements are predetermined by NCAA rules such as whether the uniform is light or dark depending on if Army is home or away, but everything from colors of elements to fonts are built from scratch in order to make them historically accurate.
On the first uniform, the flag on the players’ shoulder may have looked backward to a casual observer, but it was placed the way it was worn in World War II. On the 10th Mountain Uniform, the popular Pando Commando logo wasn’t something created by Nike, but was instead a little used logo found during the research process. On last year’s uniforms, the Black Lions were to tell the story of the 28th Infantry Regiment and the first major combat for American forces in World War I.
“I think one of the great things about being authentic to history is you will have those moments like where you’ve done something where it is 100% authentic and people aren’t aware of it,” Lauzonis said. “That is that bonus element where everyone is saying the flag is backward and we are able to say it pre-existed flag code and this is exactly how it was worn on the uniform and we purposely did it that way. It is not just a company woops we flipped the flag the wrong way. We are never going to do that.”
Throughout the entire process, the USMA history department is fact checking elements on the uniform and making sure they accurately represent the division’s history and the timeline being depicted. That includes checking colors such as the red used in last year’s Big Red One on the helmet and making sure each insignia used is authentic and historically accurate.
In 2016 the Black Knights honored the 82nd Airborne Division.
(US Army photo)
“We provide historical context and then of course, the Nike designers are amazing,” Steve Waddell, an assistant professor in the Department of History, said. “They’ve got to kind of translate a historical idea concept to actually make it work on a real uniform and have the color contrasts and everything work … I’m a World War II historian and we did the 82nd Airborne for the first one. It’s just exciting that they’re tying the sport of football to military history and military history is always popular.”
Along with assisting in the uniform design, the USMA history department helps tell the story of the uniform and the division through the athletic department’s microsite, which is created as part of the unveil each year.
There the elements of the uniform are explained, and the story of the division is told in detail.
“The Army’s business is people,” Capt. Alexander Humes, an instructor in the Department of History, said. “That’s why it’s also important to tell the story of this unit and the people that were part of this unit and to take this as an opportunity to do that. This presents the Army a great opportunity in something as highly visible as the Army-Navy Game to be able to tell its story to the American public.”
This year’s uniform pulls elements from the 1st Cav’s Vietnam War era uniforms and the pants were designed to resemble the motif of the UH-1 “Hueys” the soldiers flew during the war.
“I hope that for the folks that are in or have a relationship to the unit, that they feel like their story is being told authentically,” Lauzonis said of her goal when designing the uniform each year. “That they feel like they now have something they can wear with pride and that we’ve done right by them with the storytelling.”
The annual rivalry game against the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis will take place Dec. 14, 2019, in Philadelphia.
When the Great War began in 1914, the armies on both sides brought new technologies to the battlefield the likes of which the world had never seen. The destruction and carnage caused by these new weapons was so extensive that portions of old battlefields are still uninhabitable.
World War I saw the first widespread use of armed aircraft and tanks as well as the machine gun. But some of the weapons devised during the war were truly terrifying.
The flamethrower was especially useful because even just the idea of being burned alive drove men from the trenches into the open where they could be cut down by rifle and machine gun fire.
The terrible nature of the flamethrower, Flammenwerfer in German, meant that the troops carrying them were marked men. As soon as they were spotted, they became the targets of gunfire. Should one happen to be taken prisoner, they were often subjected to summary execution.
The British went a different way with their flamethrowers and developed the Livens Large Gallery Flame Projector. These were stationary weapons deployed in long trenches forward of the lines preceding an attack. The nozzle would spring out of the ground and send a wall of flame 300 feet in the enemy’s direction.
These were used with great effectiveness at the Somme on July 1, 1916 when they burned out a section of the German line before British infantry was able to rush in and capture the burning remnants.
2. Trench Knife
Even with the advent of the firearm, hand-to-hand combat was still a given on the battlefield. However, with the introduction of trench warfare, a new weapon was needed in order to fight effectively in such close quarters. Enter the trench knife.
The most terrifying trench knives were developed by the United States. The M1917, America’s first trench knife, combined three killing tools in one. The blade of the weapon was triangular which meant it could only be used for stabbing, but it inflicted terrible wounds.
Triangular stab wounds were so gruesome that they were eventually banned by the Geneva Conventions in 1949 because they cause undue suffering. The knife also had a “knuckle duster” hand guard mounted with spikes in order to deliver maximum damage with a punching attack. Finally, the knife had a “skull crusher” pommel on the bottom in order to smash the enemy’s head with a downward attack.
Along with the trench knife the Allies developed other special weapons for the specific purpose of trench raiding. Trench raiding was the practice of sneaking over to enemy lines’ and then, as quietly as possible, killing everyone in sight, snatching a few prisoners, lobbing a few explosives into bunkers and high-tailing it back to friendly lines before the enemy knew what hit them.
As rifles would make too much noise, trench raiding clubs were developed. There was no specific design of a trench raiding club, though many were patterned after medieval weapons such as maces and flails.
Others were crude handmade implements using whatever was around. This often consisted of heavy lengths of wood with nails, barbed wire, or other metal attached to the striking end to inflict maximum damage.
When Americans entered the fight on the Western Front they brought with them a new weapon that absolutely terrified the Germans: the shotgun. The United States used a few different shotguns but the primary weapon was the Winchester M1897 Trench Grade shotgun. This was a modified version of Winchester’s model 1897 with a shortened 20″ barrel, heat shield, and bayonet lug.
The shotgun, with 6 shells of 00 buck, was so effective that American troops referred to it as the “trench sweeper” or “trench broom.”
The Germans, however, were less than pleased at the introduction of this new weapon to the battlefield. The effectiveness of the shotgun so terrified the Germans that they filed a diplomatic protest against its use. They argued that it should be outlawed in combat and threatened to punish any Americans captured with the weapon.
America rejected the German protest and threatened retaliation for any punishment against American soldiers.
5. Poison Gas
Of course any list of terrifying weapons of war has to include poison gas; it is the epitome of horrible weapons. Poisonous gas came in three main forms: Chlorine, Phosgene, and Mustard Gas.
The first poison gas attack was launched by the Germans against French forces at Ypres in 1915. After that, both sides began to develop their chemical weapon arsenals as well as countermeasures.
The true purpose of the gas was generally not to kill — though it certainly could — but to produce large numbers of casualties or to pollute the battlefield and force the enemy from their positions.
Gas also caused mass panic amongst the troops because of the choking and blindness brought on by exposure causing them to flee their positions. Mustard gas was particularly terrible because in addition to severely irritating the throat, lungs, and eyes, it also burned exposed skin, creating large painful blisters.
Though artillery had been around for centuries leading up to WWI, its use on the battlefields of Europe was unprecedented. This was because of two reasons.
Second, because the world had never seen such concentrations of artillery before.
Artillery shells were fired in mass concentrations that turned the earth into such a quagmire that later shells would fail to detonate and instead they would simply bury themselves into the ground. Massive bombardments destroyed trenches and buried men alive.
Artillery bombardments were so prolific that a new term, shell shock, was developed to describe the symptoms of survivors of horrendous bombardments.
There is another Murph the military comes to know through the years, and he does not come with an Instagram worthy WOD. We’re talking Murphy’s law, the one that wreaks havoc on your government issued bank account.
Years of service and plenty of direct hits to the checking account later, a few of us have learned how to add a bit of financial padding to military life.
Here are 4 tips for disaster proofing your finances:
Quit going through cars like you go through (fill in the blank)
Car buying is a longstanding way to get screwed over as military personnel. Unlike the rest of the world, buying a vehicle for military life requires a whole new set of things to consider. Take this list into consideration before you go through cars like you go through…other things. Your savings account will thank you.
Always go for AWD or 4WD.
It needs to drive well in Alaska, Arizona or the Alps. If it can’t, you’ll be forced to buy again at almost every post.
Be prepared to ditch the second vehicle.
Shipping a second vehicle for OCONUS assignments means an average ,000 out of pocket each way. Is it worth it? Probably not.
Get to know the Military Lending Act
Every used car salesman will claim to be a retired First Sergeant, and every one of them cannot wait to strap you into an interest rate higher than your IQ score.
This is why we can’t have nice things
Government contracted movers are exactly why we can’t have nice things. Before you buy, ask yourself: Will this survive being thrown off a moving truck? If the answer is no, buy something cheaper. In military life, you need to know the household goods to save or splurge on.
Tough boxes (splurge)
Investing in tough boxes is a smart way to keep things both organized and safer from moving-related damages. Use them to house everything from tools to your heirloom china dishes.
Everyday furniture (save)
Screws will get stripped, scuff marks will happen, and eventually, you will replace a fair bit of the goods you acquired. Save your investment pieces for things like mattresses or multifunctional pieces that can be utilized as a dresser or TV cabinet in the likely chance something won’t fit or something else won’t make it.
Quit buying houses like they are forever homes
Bold enough to buy a home while in the military? Spoiler alert, it’s nothing like buying on HGTV. Whatever you buy better have universal appeal because two years from now it will be someone else’s American dream.
The savvy military landlord knows to buy with these tips in mind:
Choose something with rental potential.
Your mortgage should be significantly lower than BAH and the potential rental income (think 0-0 cheaper).
Choose something that will be easy to sell.
Slap the twinkle right out of your eye when looking for homes to buy while serving. Your oddball taste or preference to live in a secluded cabin ten miles into the wilderness will quickly go from dream to nightmare once you’re paying two mortgages after your one of a kind place didn’t sell.
I’ve got the power…of attorney
Who knew a little document could do so much damage? Carefully and thoughtfully designating not just anyone as your power of attorney is a decision not to take lightly. Here’s some basic left and right limits for your money.
Do- Put your money in more than one bank.
Don’t- Give power of attorney to the stripper who is “a really good listener.”
Do- Name an alternate or limit power if you aren’t on good terms.
Don’t- Give it away to your brand new girlfriend or boyfriend as a trust exercise.
Well. The world still isn’t doing too great right now and the ghost of Nero is somewhere out there presumably fiddling. Another week of social distancing, binge-watching shows you never thought you’d care about and there’s still a shortage of sh*t tickets as we haven’t even gotten to the apex of this pandemic.
The news seems bleak at the moment but there are cases of folks coming out the other side of this sickness. In particular, two WWII veterans – Bill Kelly, 95, and Bill Lapschies, 104. Now, I’m not the type of guy to bring up “feel good” fluff pieces for the sake of feel-good-ness. I bring them up because their interviews are both perfect responses of what you’d expect from the Greatest Generation’s vets.
Kelly responded with a, “I survived the foxholes of Guam, I can get through this coronavirus bullsh*t!” and Lapschies, who celebrated his 104th birthday with a full recovery, says he’s “pretty good. I made it. Good for a few more!” After some internet sleuthing, Lapschies does appear to be the oldest survivor of the coronavirus from what I could find.
Just goes to show you that even in the worst moments, veterans of all eras have an instinctual habit of keeping a stiff upper lip and a sense of humor. Speaking of which, here’s some memes…
It’s a well-known fact that Marine recruits east of the Mississippi go to the flat lands of Parris Island for basic training while those from the west head to sunny San Diego.
What many don’t know is there is a huge rivalry between “Island” and “Hollywood” Marines, and it all boils down to who had it tougher. Although the competitive nature between the two is all in good fun, Marines are known for fighting both big and small battles.
Since the curriculum at both of the training camps is the same, there are a few differences that separate the two.
“I think the sand fleas give you that discipline because you’re standing in formation and you got them biting on the back of your neck,” Capt. Robert Brooks states during an interview, fueling the rivalry in support of Parris Island.
Capt. Joseph Reney, however, jokes in favor of California:
“San Diego has hills and hiking is hard. I would say San Diego makes tougher Marines.”
Regardless of the training location, both boot camps produce the same product — a patriotic Marine.
The SR-71 Blackbird is the fastest and highest-flying production aircraft ever to exist. It holds all of the world’s airspeed and altitude records, even after its retirement from the Air Force in the late 1990s.
It’s an incredible accomplishment considering the spy plane was developed during the 1950s and 60s without the help of computers.
The long-range, supersonic Blackbird was capable of flying at Mach 3 for more than an hour unlike its closest competitor, the Russian-made MiG-25 Foxbat, which could do it for a few minutes, according to the TechLaboratories video below.
The SR-71 was only about 45 feet shorter than the Boeing 727 passenger airliner. From nose to tail, the sleek jet measured 107.4 feet long, had a wingspan of 55.6 feet, stood 18.5 feet high and weighed about 140,000 pounds — including a fuel weight of 80,000 pounds.
Remarkably, the Blackbird had better gas mileage traveling at three times the speed of sound than at slower speeds. But it was still extremely expensive to operate, which is why Congress finally decommissioned the bird in 1998.
From its engines to its airframe, this TechLaboratories video explains the incredible engineering magic behind the SR-71 Blackbird:
The role of the Dustoff is sacred, enshrined in both the relationship between medical personnel and their patients as well as treaties that underlie the Law of Armed Conflict, but the practical concerns of providing medical care to troops under fire will be sorely tested in a war with a modern foe.
An Army air ambulance picks up a simulated Marine casualty during a 2018 exercise in Romania.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alexander Sturdivant)
Currently, the U.S. and most of its allies — as well as many of its greatest rivals — enjoy nearly unquestioned air superiority in their areas of operations and responsibility. So, a commander of a modern military force, whether they’re Italian, French, Chinese, or American, can request a medical evacuation with near certainty that the wounded or sick person can be picked up quickly.
Even in active theaters of war like Afghanistan, wounded personnel can often be delivered to advanced medical care within the “Golden Hour,” the first hour after injury when medical intervention will make the biggest difference between life and death, recovery, and permanent disability.
But the advanced medical capabilities available across NATO and in Russian and Chinese forces rely on an evacuation infrastructure built for uncontested environments, where the worst threat to aircraft comes from IEDs and machine gun fire.
In a new paper from RAND Europe, defense analyst Marta Kepe dovetails recent speeches from military leaders, war game results, and scholarly work. They all point to a conflict wherein troops may have to wait days or longer for evacuation, meaning that providing care at the point of injury, possibly while still under threat of enemy attack, will be the only real chance for life-saving intervention.
Take the case of war with North Korea, a much “easier” hypothetical conflict than one with China or Russia. While North Korea lacks advanced air defense assets and electronic warfare assets, that simply means that they can’t jam all communications and they likely can’t shoot down fifth-generation fighters.
But medevacs rely on helicopters that, by and large, are susceptible to North Korean air defenses. Fly too high and they can be targeted and destroyed by nearly any surface-to air missile that North Korea has. Fly too low and infantrymen with RPGs and machine guns can potentially kill them.
An M113 ambulance drives through the Kuwaiti desert during a demonstration.
And that’s before the helicopters’ traditional escorts in Afghanistan and Iraq, AH-64 Apaches that’re armed to the teeth, are tasked for more urgent missions, like taking out air defense and artillery sites.
All this combines to form a battlefield where command teams will need to use ground ambulances and standard vehicles to get their wounded far from the front lines before they can be picked up, tying up assets needed for the advance, taxing supply lines that now have competing traffic, and extending the time between injury and treatment.
Some battlefields, meanwhile, might be underground where it’s nearly impossible to quickly communicate with the surface or with air assets. People wounded while fighting for control of cave networks or underground bunker systems would need to be carried out on foot, then evacuated in ground vehicles to pickup sites, and then flown to hospitals.
The hospital ship USNS Mercy pulls into port.
(U.S. Military Sealift Command Sarah Buford)
And the closest hospitals might be ships far offshore since role 3 and 4 hospitals on land take time to construct and are vulnerable to attack. While deliberately targeting a hospital is illegal, there’s no guarantee that the treaties would be honored by enemy commanders (Remember, Russia’s annexations of South Ossetia and Crimea were violations of international law, as were China’s cyber attacks and territory seizures in the Pacific).
But China and Russia would be worse since they have the assets necessary to shutdown American communication networks, making it impossible for ground commanders to call for medical aid. They’re also more likely to be able to pinpoint signal sources, making it risky for a platoon leader to call for medical aid for wounded troops.
And China and Russia’s air forces and air defenses, while not quite as large as America’s, are much more potent and well-trained that Iran or North Korea’s. They could likely hold out for months or years while inflicting heavy casualties to American air assets, preventing the establishment of a permissive medevac capability for even longer.
Air Force special operators render simulated medical aid during an exercise at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2017. The ability for non-medical personnel to render aid under fire is expected to become more important in the coming years.
There is good news, though. The U.S. military has acknowledged these shortcomings and is trying to lay the framework for what a medical corps in a contested environment should look like.
The Army is expanding it’s “Tactical Combat Casualty Care,” or TC3, program where combat lifesavers are trained in military first aid. DARPA is working on autonomous or remotely piloted pods that can fly medical capsules with supplies in or casualty evacuation capsules out without risking flight crews. The Marine Corps already has an experimental autonomous helicopter for logistics.
They could also be more dispersed. Instead of building a few large hospitals with large staffs on easily targeted installations, surgical teams and other care providers could operate in small groups. That way, if one or two teams are destroyed or forced to retreat, there would still be a few groups providing medical care.
In addition to more dispersed and forward-positioned medical personnel, there’s room for expanding the medical capabilities of non-medical personnel.
Historically, those types of rotations have been limited to medics and other specialized troops. Medical personnel, meanwhile, would see an increased number of rotations into civilian trauma centers in the U.S. and allied countries.
But the most important aspect of medical care under fire in tomorrow’s war will be the same as it is today: Achieve and maintain fire superiority. The best way to open a window to evacuate your own personnel is by killing everyone on the enemy side wounding your troops and trying to prevent it.
In 2014, archivists from the U.S. Navy’s Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) uncovered a rare trove of photos while moving furniture around during an office renovation. The photos were a donation in their backlog, glass prints of 150 images of the Navy during the Spanish-American War and Philippine War that followed.
The photos were taken by Douglas White, a special correspondent of the San Francisco Examiner during the conflict. His photos were uncovered at the beginning of a restoration project of the NHHC facility at Washington, D.C.’s Navy Yard.
“Once it was realized what they had uncovered, there was tremendous excitement amongst the staff, especially the historians,” Lisa Crunk, the head of the NHHC’s photo archives told Navy.mil. “The images are an amazing find, though they were never really lost – they were simply waiting to be re-discovered.”
Captain Dennis Geary of the California Heavy Artillery rides his horse through Cavite in the Philippines. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command)
The USS Boston, ca 1898. The Boston was in the Battle of Manila.