15 things you didn't know about 4th of July - We Are The Mighty
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15 things you didn’t know about 4th of July

Do you think you know everything about the 4th of July? The U.S. national holiday has a surprising, enlightening, and sometimes worrying history that you probably don’t know about. Millions are unaware of the truths behind how and why America really celebrates Independence Day. Some of those nagging questions you have at the back of your mind will be answered in this revealing fact list about Independence Day in the United States.


What is the true story behind 4th of July? Why is it celebrated and how? From the number of hot dogs consumed, to inside jokes with Nicolas Cage (he was kind of right, you guys), to historical untruths revealed for what they really are, you’re about to learn the secrets behind one of the most popular national holidays in America.

15 Things You Didn’t Know About the 4th of July

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It looks like the Saudis are going to get their new US smart bombs after all

The US Senate on June 13 narrowly averted a bid by a bipartisan group of senators to block President Donald Trump’s $500m sale of guided, air-to-ground bombs for use in Yemen by Saudi Arabia’s Royal Air Force.


The vote was 53-47 to defeat a resolution of disapproval that had been offered by Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, and Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat. Senate Republicans were joined by five Democrats to defeat the measure. Four Republicans joined most Democrats to vote against the arms sale.

“We are fueling an arms race in the Middle East,” Paul said in remarks during Senate debate, citing the famine and Cholera outbreak in Yemen and Saudi domestic rights abuses as reasons not to support Trump’s munitions sale.

What is happening today in Yemen is a humanitarian crisis,” Murphy said in floor remarks. “The United States supports the Saudi-led bombing campaign that has had the effect of causing a humanitarian nightmare to play out in that country.”

At issue are JDAMs, or Joint Direct Attack Munitions, which are guidance systems to be used with 230kg bombs and bunker busters on Saudi F-15 fighter jets.

15 things you didn’t know about 4th of July
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis meets with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, April 19, 2017. (DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

President Barack Obama withheld sale of the guidance systems in 2016 out of concern the Saudis were deliberately attacking civilians and critical infrastructure in Yemen, already one of the world’s poorest nations before the war.

Speaking for majority Republicans, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina blamed military threats posed by Iran.

The Iranian theocracy is the most destabilizing force in the Mideast,” Graham said. “They have aggressively pursued military action through proxies and directly been involved in military action in Syria. Iran’s efforts to dominate Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and now Yemen have to be pushed back.”

More than 4,125 civilians have been killed and more than 7,200 civilians have been wounded in Yemen since the Saudi-led air campaign started in March 2015, according to a recent report by Human Rights Watch.  Most of those casualties resulted from Saudi coalition air strikes.

The June 13 Senate vote was close enough and the outcome sufficiently uncertain that Vice President Mike Pence was briefly called to the chamber to break a tie had there been one, a rare occurrence. Republicans hold a 52-48 advantage in the Senate.

Though largely symbolic, the close vote signals a potential shift in congressional willingness to support Saudi Arabia’s ongoing campaign in Yemen. By comparison, a similar resolution last year attempting to block tank sales by Obama failed by a 71-27 margin.

The disputed sale of guided missiles is a small part of a major, $110B package of arms, including M1 tanks, Chinook and Black Hawk helicopters – arranged by Trump on his May 20 visit to Riyadh. There’s been no real move in Congress to challenge that larger transfer, begun under Obama following the Iran-United Nations nuclear deal.

Under the Arms Control Act of 1976, Congress requires presidents to notify it of any pending arms sale, and in the case of sales to the Middle East to certify that any shipments would not adversely affect Israel’s qualitative military advantage over its regional neighbors. Congress can block any arms sale simply by passing a resolution of disapproval.

Humor

5 military myths that Hollywood has taught us to believe

We love movies! That’s why producers spend millions of dollars making them. Sometimes the films we watch are so compelling, audience members believe every moment that is spoon fed to them is the truth.


We’re all guilty of falling for it. Many movie goers get sold on the narrative as the story unfolds across the big screen — even to the point where the performances feel true to life — and the delicate line between truth and fiction becomes too thin.

Related: 7 life lessons we learned from watching ‘Full Metal Jacket’

So check out these military myths that Hollywood puts in their movies and want us to think actually happen — but don’t fall for it.

1. Vietnam veterans are crazy

Movies and TV shows love to feature characters that had tough military careers and reverted to drinking to suppress the memories. This does happen in real life from time-to-time, but not to everyone.

Most who served during that era use their military experience to propel themselves and inspire others.

2. You throw your clean cover after a military graduation

It’s a lot of work to not only find the cover you just flung into the air but clean the grass stains off too.

Does anyone have a tide pen? (Paramount)

3. Cinematic deaths

They just don’t exist — but we tip our hats to filmmaker Oliver Stone (an Army veteran) for capturing this epic movie moment in 1986s Platoon.

How many rounds do you think he took? (Orion Pictures)

4. That one guy who can save the day

In the military, you train as a team and you fight as one, as well.

The debate isn’t if one single person can save another’s ass during battle — that frequently happens.

What we call bullsh*t on is when that single motivator springs into action and becomes the final denominator and leads them to victory as the rest of his team remains pinned down and losing the fight.

They have the need for speed (Paramount)

5. No one gets concussions…ever

We’ve seen countless movies where people get blown up by various sources of explosive ordnance and seem to recover right away (just watch any 80s movie). Since we want to believe the good guys are as tough as nails, they will just brush off the injury and carry on.

It rarely happens like that.

In fact, the traumatic brain injury has been called the signature wound of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Hearing a phone or bells ringing is one of the first signs of concussion (Sony)

Can you think of any others? Comment below.

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Why the American military created the Silver Star, Navy Cross and other medals for valor

Today, the Silver Star, Navy Cross, Distinguished Service Cross, and Air Force Cross are known as awards that recognize heroic actions by service members in combat.


But they were created on the heels of serious controversy over other awards.

During the Civil War, Congress created the Medal of Honor to recognize valor. But some of the awards were seen as questionable by some. Perhaps the most egregious of these was the case of the 27th Maine Regiment.

According to HomeofHeroes.com, the 864 men of this regiment were awarded the medal en masse due to a poorly-worded order by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and a bureaucratic snafu.

15 things you didn’t know about 4th of July
Sgt. Joshua Moore receives the Navy Cross from Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus during a 2013 awards ceremony. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Arif Patani)

So, in 1917, there was an effort to clean up the mess that had been created. A total 911 Medals of Honor were revoked, including those from the 27th Maine. But there was also an effort to make sure that the Medal of Honor would not be so frivolously awarded in the future, while still recognizing gallantry in action.

As America entered World War I, it was obvious there would be acts of valor. So Congress created the Distinguished Service Cross and Silver Citation Star (Which would later become the Silver Star Medal) in 1918, and the Navy Cross in 1919 to address valor that didn’t rise to the level of the Medal of Honor. It was the start of the “Pyramid of Honor,” which now has a host of decorations to recognize servicemen (and women) for valor or for other meritorious actions.

15 things you didn’t know about 4th of July
Army Spc. Craig Middleton receives the silver star from Army Maj. Gen. Kurt Fuller in a 2012 ceremony. (Photo: US Army)

So, what sort of courageous actions warrant which medal? Perhaps one indicator of today’s standards can come from the sample citations in SECNAV Instruction 1650.1H.

Historically, though, it should be noted that in the Vietnam War, Randy “Duke” Cunningham received the Navy Cross for making ace (an Air University bio reports that he was nominated for the Medal of Honor for his actions on May 10, 1972).

Or, one can look at the actions of Leigh Ann Hester to get a good idea of what would warrant a Silver Star.

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South Korea wants North Korea to host some 2018 Winter Olympics events

South Korea’s sports minister, Do Jong-hwan, suggested that North Korea host some events at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic games in an attempt to engage Kim Jong Un and promote peace, the Guardian reports.


The idea reflects a larger effort by South Korea’s newly elected President Moon Jae-in, who seeks to revive the old “sunshine policy” whereby South Korea makes overtures of friendship and unity to the North to ease military tensions.

Moon has also pushed for both Koreas to host the 2030 World Cup, saying “if the neighboring countries in north-east Asia, including North and South Korea, can host the World Cup together, it would help to create peace.”

15 things you didn’t know about 4th of July
President of South Korea, Moon Jae-in. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

North Korean athletes have made limited appearances at global sporting events like the World Cup and the Olympics, with two gold medals in Rio’s 2016 games. In soccer, the North Koreans haven’t fared as well.

Do said the Winter Games could go down as the “peace Olympics,” and help to “thaw lingering tensions” between the North and South, according to the Korea Herald.

But building stadiums and holding games in North Korea would raise two major questions: How sound is investment in a nation that continues to threaten its neighbors and enemies with an ever-evolving nuclear missile program, and would international travelers feel at ease visiting the country that just released a US detainee in a coma?

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Midshipmen playing the Army-Navy game with the fleet painted on their helmets

15 things you didn’t know about 4th of July
(Photo: Navy Sports/Under Armour)


Navy Sports and Under Armour just revealed the innovative (and professionally developmental) football uniforms that the Midshipmen of the U.S. Naval Academy will wear for the Army-Navy game on Dec. 12.

According to a press release:

The uniform is inspired by and pays homage to seven of the historic ships that make up the U.S. Naval Fleet. Each ship is detailed on one of seven hand-painted helmets that each player will wear, assigned by position. Additionally, the rally cry “damn the torpedoes!” is featured on the uniform as a nod to Admiral Farragut’s historic Naval victory at the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864.

Design Details:

• Uniform font replicates the design and font used on Navy ships.

• Battleship gray color featured on the cleats, baselayer sleeves and jersey shoulders.

• Eagle, Globe and Anchor Marine Corps logo highlighted on the uniform pant.

• Baselayer features the overhead sketch of the seven Naval ships featured on the helmets.

• “Damn the Torpedoes!” scripted on the uniform pant and jersey hem as a reminder of the historic battle cry that rallies the U.S. Naval Fleet.

Helmet Details and Position Assignment:

• Linebacker: Cruiser – Provides anti-air defense and packs the biggest punch of Naval surface ships representative of the linebackers on the Navy football team.

• Defensive Back: Destroyer – Known for significant fire power, speed, and anti-missile defense as are Navy’s defensive backs.

• Wide Receiver: Submarine – Predominantly utilized as blockers, wide receivers play a key role in driving the Navy rush attack, taking on a stealth-like persona as they blend into the rhythm of the offense but bring significant fire power when called upon, just like a Naval submarine.

• Lineman: Amphibious Assault Ships – Just as a lineman’s job is the create a hole for a running back or linebacker, these ships are utilized to establish the “beach head” that enables the invading force to gain access and ultimately accomplish their objective.

• Quarterback: Aircraft Carrier – The QB of the Naval Fleet, the aircraft carrier is the ultimate decision maker; the “quick strike” weapon of the Naval fleet.

• Running Back: Littoral Combat Ship – Like running backs, these fast and nimble ships can navigate through both crowded shallow and deep waters.

• Kicker/Special Teams: Minesweeper – Much like the specific task of the Navy special teams, this small ship has a unique mission of identifying and eliminating mines.

15 things you didn’t know about 4th of July
(Photo: Navy Sports/Under Armour)

What will the Black Knights of Army West Point come up with?

See the entire helmet photo gallery here.

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These 2 scenarios show why having a bigger Navy is better

It is one of the sneakiest, most insidious things in warfare. It can creep up on you, and you’ll suddenly find out that you no longer can do all that you wanted to do. It’s called “virtual attrition,” and while it doesn’t make many headlines, it matters more to military operations than you’d think.


So, what exactly is “virtual attrition?” Well, plain old attrition is defined by the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary as “the act or process of weakening and gradually defeating an enemy through constant attacks and continued pressure over a long period of time.” In war, these are the planes that are shot down, the ships that are sunk, the tanks that go “jack in the box,” the troops that are killed. In other words, you lost them for good.

15 things you didn’t know about 4th of July
An F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the Salty Dogs of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 conducts a captive carry flight test of an AGM-88E Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile (AARGM) at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. (U.S. Navy photo by Greg L. Davis/Released)

Virtual attrition, therefore involves “losing” the assets. Only it doesn’t involve actually destroying the asset. Here’s a couple of examples:

Scenario One: There is a factory complex in Bad Guy Land that you want to remove from the landscape. It will take 16 Joint Direct Attack Munitions to destroy. Now, four F/A-18E Super Hornets from one of the squadrons in the air wing of USS Enterprise can each carry four JDAMs, that should put enough bombs on target, right?

Well, not quite. You see, Mr. Sleazebag Swinemolestor, the dictator of Bad Guy Land, just got some brand new Russian S-300 missile systems (the SA-10 Grumble). He’s got one defending the factory complex you want to go away. He also got some brand new J-11 Flankers from China that he’s using to protect the place.

Now, sending planes into the teeth of air defenses doesn’t work out so well. We found that out the hard way in more than a couple wars.

So now, you may need some escorts. Well, we can add a couple more F/A-18Es with AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missiles and AGM-154A Joint Standoff Attack Weapons to deal with the S-300s, and two more loaded with a ton of AIM-120 AMRAAMs for the Flankers.

15 things you didn’t know about 4th of July
Aviation Ordnancemen assigned to the Diamondbacks of Strike Fighter Squadron One Zero Two (VFA-102), load a CATM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation (HARM) missile on one of their squadrons F/A-18F Super Hornets aboard the conventionally powered aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63). The CATM-88 is an inert training version of the AGM-88 HARM missile, which is a supersonic air-to-surface tactical missile designed to seek and destroy enemy radar-equipped air defense systems. Kitty Hawk and embarked Carrier Air Wing Five (CVW-5) are currently conducting operations in the Western Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographers Mate 3rd Class Jonathan Chandler)

Only those four additional Super Hornets have to come from somewhere. On a carrier (or even a land base), there are only so many airframes. The S-300s and the Flankers just forced the United States to double the size of the “package” they are sending to service the target.

A carrier usually has 24 Super Hornets. Some will be down for maintenance. Some will be needed to provide air cover for the carrier or planes like the E-2 Hawkeye or EA-18 Growler. There will be other targets to hit, like bridges, air bases, headquarters buildings… you get the picture.

Now, you can’t hit all the targets you want to hit, because you need to not only make the factory go away, you need to make the defenses go away. You have lost the use of the planes as strike assets. In essence, other missions get shortchanged. That is one way virtual attrition works.

Scenario 2: China’s DF-21 has gotten a lot of hype as a threat. That ignores the fact that the RIM-161 SM-3 Standard Missile is already capable of defeating it. But the DF-21 still inflicts the “virtual attrition.”

Let’s assume that BadGuyLand’s dictator, the aforementioned Sleazebag Swinemolestor, has bought 30 DF-21s. Now, while the SM-3 has proven reliable (a success rate of about 90 percent in tests), the usual practice will be a “shoot-shoot look” approach — firing two missiles at each target, and looking to see if you got it. That is a quick way to eat up missiles, especially when you miss.

15 things you didn’t know about 4th of July
An SM-3 Block 1B interceptor is launched from the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) during a Missile Defense Agency test and successfully intercepted a complex short-range ballistic missile target off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii. (U.S. Department of Defense photo/Released)

So now, the Enterprise’s escorts have to load more SM-3s into their Mark 41 Vertical Launch Systems. The problem being, of course, they only have 96 cells each. And if you are carrying more SM-3s, you have to take other missiles out, like BGM-109 Tomahawks, RIM-66 SM-2 Standard Missiles, and RUM-139 Vertical Launch ASROCs.

Now, you could fix this by adding the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group (originally planned for a WESTPAC deployment), with her escorts, the Bunker Hill, the Winston S. Churchill, the Harmon Rabb, and the Cole. But that carrier group has to come from somewhere… so you now have to make up for that or pray that the region stays calm.

15 things you didn’t know about 4th of July
The Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), steams in formation with ships from Carrier Strike Group Five (CSG 5) and the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) during Exercise Invincible Spirit. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Burke/Released)

The other alternative is to add more escorts. You could strip the Mac Taylor from anti-piracy duty off Somalia, or call in the John S. McCain from her Freedom of Navigation exercise in the South China Sea, or maybe even have the Dave Nolan detach from the replenishment ships. But then you take risks by pulling those ships from those missions.

In essence, virtual attrition means you have to pull in extra assets – and the assets you pull in, no matter how good they are, cannot be in two places at once. It is not spectacular. It doesn’t make headlines, but virtual attrition is a real problem that the military has to address.

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This drill sergeant saved 8 soldiers in the most heroic way

Inspired by his favorite hero Audie Murphy, Pfc. John Baker, an assistant machine gunner, found himself getting ready to battle enemy forces in the Tay Ninh Province, South Vietnam, in the fall of 1966.


Assigned to Company A of the 27th Army infantry, Baker’s unit was sent out on a mission to help support a sister company trapped by an aggressive and well-supplied Viet Cong force.

Shortly after Baker and his unit arrived at the combat zone in the early morning, intel reports suggested that the enemy had grown to nearly 3,000.

Without regard for their own lives, 257 allied troops loaded their weapons and proceeded into the heart of the jungle.

“The jungle itself was so thick, it looked like going into a wooded area at night,” Baker recalls.

Related: Once upon a time, this ‘little kid’ was a lethal Vietnam War fighter

As the sun began to rise, enemy gunfire rang out in multiple directions. Baker removed his gear and used his 5-foot 2-inch build to crawl approximately 20-yards undetected, where he discovered several enemy bunkers. Baker quickly returned to brief his CO.

Enemy gunfire was again broke out, temporarily trapping Baker and his squad.

“The only way we could get out was fight our way out,” Baker proudly states.

As the chaos mounted, Baker bravely took the left flank and blew up a few enemy bunkers. Then he spotted several wounded soldiers and carried him to the rear for medical treatment.

Also Read: This is how Hanoi reacted to the epic Ken Burns ‘Vietnam War’ documentary series

Baker replenished his ammo and ran back into the fight killing a few VC snipers along the way.

Then, it happened. Boom!

An enemy grenade detonated nearby causing Baker to sustain multiple fragmentation injuries. He dusted himself off and got right back into the fight. At the end of the intense firefight, Baker was credited for killing 10 enemy troops, destroying six enemy bunkers and saving eight allied troops.

After Baker returned from Vietnam, he worked as a drill sergeant in Fort Jackson in South Carolina. During his time there, he was informed by his company commander that President Johnson was to award him with the Medal of Honor for his bravery.

15 things you didn’t know about 4th of July
Medal of Honor Recipient John F. Baker, Jr. at his ceremony.

Check out Medal of Honor Book‘s video below to hear Baker’s story firsthand for yourself.

MedalOfHonorBook, YouTube
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8 legends of the National Guard and Reserve

The “citizen soldiers” of the National Guard and Reserve have a long history of stepping up when America needed them.


Here are 8 heroes who left their civilian jobs to kick the enemy in the teeth:

1. The general who waded ashore with the first wave on D-Day

15 things you didn’t know about 4th of July
Photo: Army.mil

The son of the popular president, Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. served in both World Wars. In the first one, he was a reserve officer who received a Distinguished Service Cross for rescuing a wounded man under fire, a Silver Star for leading his men while blinded by a gas attack, and an Army Distinguished Service Medal for his leadership in battalion command, along with another Silver Star for valor.

It was in World War II that the reservist really shone. He was decorated for valor in the Tunisian Campaign three times, twice for leading his own men into heavy fire and once for taking command of 3,000 Frenchmen and leading them. He received a Medal of Honor for his actions on D-Day when he landed on the beaches with the first wave and personally led waves of men through the deadly surf.

2. The private first class who took out an enemy pillbox with just a bomb and a knife

Pfc. Michael J. Perkins was in Belleu Bois, France Oct. 27, 1918 with his Massachusetts National Guard infantry company when Germans started throwing grenades at his unit from a pillbox. Perkins crawled up to the pillbox door and, when the Germans opened it to throw out more grenades, he threw his own bomb inside.

Immediately after the explosion, Perkins rushed in with his trench knife and began stabbing people until the 25 survivors surrendered, giving the Americans a new pillbox and 7 functioning machineguns, according to Perkins’ Medal of Honor citation.

3. A convicted deserter who received the Medal of Honor and other medals for valor

15 things you didn’t know about 4th of July
Photos: US Army

Lewis L. Millett joined the Massachusetts National Guard in 1938. He deserted to Canada in 1941 to get to war faster, then re-joined the U.S. Army in Africa. There, he received a Silver Star for driving a half-track of burning ammunition away from exposed troops, a conviction for his earlier desertion, and a battlefield commission to second lieutenant.

In the Korean War, he received a Medal of Honor and a Distinguished Service Cross. Each was for a daring bayonet charge and the two fights took place within four days of each other. It was after he was sent home to receive his Medal of Honor that he switched to the Regular Army.

READ MORE: This Medal of Honor recipient was a convicted deserter

4. The leader of the 2nd Ranger Battalion and the most daring mission on D-Day

15 things you didn’t know about 4th of July
Photos: US Army

Lt. Col. Earl Rudder led one of the most dangerous missions of D-Day, the assault up the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc. Rudder and his 2nd Ranger Battalion climbed sheer cliffs with tiny rope ladders while under fire from German defenders.

The battalion’s losses were over 50 percent and Rudder was shot twice in the assault, but the Rangers were successful. Rudder received a Distinguished Service Cross and was later sent to the 109th Infantry Regiment. During the Battle of the Bulge he led the destruction of key bridges while under heavy fire, stopping a German attack.

5. The only president to order an atomic strike

15 things you didn’t know about 4th of July

President Harry S. Truman was an artillery colonel in the Army Reserve when the war broke out. While most reservists were called to active duty, Truman was exempted for something about “Senate duties” and “Vice-something or another.”

In 1945, he became president and the only reservist to order an atomic strike, something he did twice. He also led America for most of the Korean War and the start of the Cold War.

6. The corporal who assumed command of a platoon attack in World War I

15 things you didn’t know about 4th of July
Photo: Alabama Department of Archives and History

The Alabama National Guard’s Company G of the 167th Infantry was just starting its assault on a fortified, elevated position in Jul. 1918 when the platoon commander and platoon sergeant were both killed. Cpl. Sidney E. Manning was also severely wounded but rallied the 35 surviving members of the platoon and continued the assault.

He took the objective with only seven of his men still alive and, despite his own wounds, provided cover for the rest of the platoon with an automatic rifle until his company was fully deployed on the hill. He survived the battle and was awarded the Medal of Honor.

7. The human mortar tube of Okinawa

Staff Sgt. Beauford T. Anderson was repelling a Japanese assault with the 96th Infantry Regiment (Organized Reserves) when a Japanese assault hit his unit’s flank. He and his men fell back into an old tomb and tried to fight off the attack.

When he ran low on ammo, he grabbed a dud mortar round and threw it at the Japanese. The resulting explosion tore a hole in the attacking force, so Anderson armed and threw more mortar rounds. He was credited with single-handedly defeating the attack and received a Medal of Honor. He also received a Bronze Star with Valor for rescuing two wounded soldiers under fire on Leyte.

8. The private who tried to take a machinegun nest with a bayonet

15 things you didn’t know about 4th of July
Photo: Public Domain via Wikipedia

Pfc. George Dilboy was walking with his platoon leader in the 103rd Infantry Regiment on a railroad track when they were attacked by an enemy machinegun only 100 yards away. Dilboy immediately returned fire while standing in the open. When that didn’t work, he sprinted at the gun with his bayonet fixed until the gunners nearly amputated his right leg and hit him multiple times in the body.

Twenty-five yards from the gun, he lined up his rifle sights and began picking the crew off, killing two men and forcing the rest to flee before dying himself. Gen. John J. Pershing later called Dilboy one of the ten greatest heroes of World War I.

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Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen

Defense Department officials told lawmakers Wednesday they hope to forgive about 90 percent of cases involving thousands of California National Guard members that auditors say received improper bonuses during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.


“It is my hope that by the end of the year, we will have something between 1,000 and 2,000 cases total out of the universe of 17,000 that are subject to review,” Peter Levine, undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, told members of the House Armed Services Committee.

Also read: National Guard chief says ‘tie goes to the soldier’ in California re-enlistment bonus scandal

Levine was among Pentagon and Army National Guard officials who testified at the Dec. 7 hearing to tell lawmakers how the Pentagon plans to resolve what some are calling a betrayal of the troops by next summer and prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.

15 things you didn’t know about 4th of July
Maj. Gen. William H. Wade, the adjutant general for the California National Guard administers the oath of enlistment to Soldiers of Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 143rd Field Artillery during a recent visit Victory Base Complex, Iraq in 2007.

“Compensation, whether it is a bonus for a service agreement or regular pay, is an obligation to our service members and their families that they should not have to worry about,” said Rep. Joseph Heck, a Republican from Nevada and chairman of the panel’s Military Personnel Subcommittee.

“I find it unacceptable that we would place the additional burden of years of concern about the legitimacy of a bonus payment or a student loan repayment on those who volunteer to serve,” he added.

Lawmakers have come up with a compromise as part of the National Defense Authorization Act that calls on the Pentagon to forgive the enlistment bonuses and student loan benefits unless the soldier who received the money “knew or reasonably should have known” that he or she was ineligible for it.

The Los Angeles Times/Tribune Washington Bureau reported last month that the Pentagon was demanding repayment of enlistment bonuses given to California Guard soldiers to help fill enlistment quotas for the wars. Many of the soldiers served in combat, and some returned with severe injuries.

Many of soldiers were told to repay bonuses of $15,000 or more years after they had completed their military service. Student loan repayments, which were also given out improperly to soldiers with educational loans, sometimes totaled as much as $50,000.

“Many reasons these cases are particularly troublesome,” Levine said. “Many of them are based on a technical deficiency.

“Particularly in cases like this, where we have a service member who made a commitment on the basis of a bonus and served out that commitment, so when we come in later after someone has fulfilled their commitment and then question on a technical ground why they received a bonus in the first place — that is a particular hardship,” he said.

15 things you didn’t know about 4th of July
Soldiers of the California National Guard’s 40th Infantry Division rehearsing an air assault mission at Fort Hunter Liggett Feb. 8. | Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Cossel

There are two basic categories of cases, Levine said. One type involves about 1,400 cases already ordered to pay back bonuses. The second category of 16,000 cases involves soldiers who were put under suspicion or threat of recoupment of bonuses they received.

“For those cases that are in recoupment, we have the question of, ‘Are we going to dismiss the case? Are we going to forgive the debt? Are we going to repay the soldier if we decide it was improper?’ ” Levine said.

Through detailed screenings, “It’s my hope we can get from about 1,400 down to about 700 … that’s a goal; I don’t know what exact numbers we can get to.”

As for the larger category of about 16,000 cases, “We have greater discretion because we haven’t yet established the debt yet,” Levine said.

Several “rules of thumb” will be established in an attempt to:

— Screen out cases that are more than 10 years old.

— Screen out cases with a debt of $10,000 or less.

— Screen out most of the cases that involve enlisted members and lower ranking members without prior service on the basis that it’s unlikely they would be able to understand their contract fully without assistance.

“As we go through those screens from that second universe of 16,000 or so cases, I expect to reduce that by about 90 percent, so we get down to about 10 percent,” Levine said. “We will then put that universe through the kinds of substantive screens, and I hope to get that down further.

“The objective is to find that easy ones first, get rid of those, tell people ‘we are not pursuing you … we are telling you, you are off the hook; we are done with you,’ so we can focus our resources on the cases that are the most significant.”

Many lawmakers said they felt the California Guard scandal severely damaged the trust of current Guard members across the country.

“In some of these cases, there have been troops — through no fault of their own — that are suffering the consequences,” said Rep. Paul Cook, a Republican from California. “It’s our fault, and I use that word collectively on behalf of all officers that are in positions of authority. We betrayed the trust of the troops, and there is no excuse for that.”

Rep. Susan Davis, a Democrat from the state, said it’s “critically important that we do not forget service members and their families that have been deeply affected by this.”

“Once these families have encountered financial hardships, we know it can be truly difficult to recover. Even if we return their bonus, we have already upended their lives by creating unnecessary emotional stress and financial instability.”

Army Master Sgt. Toni Jaffe, the California Guard’s incentive manager, pleaded guilty in 2011 to filing false claims of $15.2 million and was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison.

But National Guard officials told lawmakers that many others were held accountable, including leaders who failed to provide proper oversight, said Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin, adjutant general for the California National Guard.

“We punished, within the California National Guard, 61 people — including firing four general officers and two full colonels,” Baldwin said.

The Department of Justice prosecuted 44 soldiers. Of those, 26 were found guilty and convicted, Baldwin said. Another 15 cases are pending, and the remainder were either dismissed or acquitted, Baldwin said.

Lt. Gen. Timothy Kadavy, director of the Army National Guard, told lawmakers that the National Guard Bureau has taken steps to prevent this from happening again.

In 2010, the bureau conducted a review of all incentive programs across all states territories and the District of Columbia and found “no systemic fraud,” Kadavy said.

In 2012, the National Guard stood up the Guard Incentive Management System, or GIMS, which now provides “a centralized oversight program for bonus and incentive payments,” he said.

In 2016, the Army Audit Agency conducted an “external review” of GIMS and validated its effectiveness, Kadavy said. Auditors found that the system “substantially improved the controls of eligibility monitoring and payment phases of the incentive process.”

Despite the steps being taken to resolve the problem, officials admitted that they should have known about this a lot sooner.

“We have oversight on the California National Guard, the Army has oversight, the National Guard Bureau has oversight,” Levine said. “We were not aware of this until we read it in the newspaper, and that is on us; we missed this.”

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4 ways to track down underwater assassins before they strike

Much has been made of Russian and Chinese missiles – and they do warrant attention. But the submarine still remains a very deadly assassin. If anything, that danger has taken on new forms, as the crew of the South Korean corvette Cheonan found out in 2010.


So, how will these underwater assassins be prevented from carrying out their nefarious deeds? Here are four systems that were displayed by L3 Ocean Systems at SeaAirSpace 2017.

1. Firefly

The big problem many helicopters deal with is weight. Every pound for sensors is a pound that can’t be fuel or a weapon or a sonobouy.

At less than 400 pounds, the Firefly is a dipping sonar that can be used on much smaller helicopters – allowing someone who needs some coastal ASW to install it on more platforms than if it were a heavier sonar. Or, on the flip side, the helo that trades in a heavier dipping sonar for this lighter one gains more fuel, and thus, more range – or possibly an extra weapon, giving it an extra shot at an enemy sub.

Firefly can operate as deep as 656 feet of water, and can pick up a target almost 20 miles away. That’s not bad for this small package.

15 things you didn’t know about 4th of July
An artist’s impression of a helicopter using L3 Ocean Systems’s Firefly dipping sonar. (Scanned and cropped from L3 handout)

2. HELRAS

The Helicopter Long Range Active Sonar is used by nine separate navies, including Italy, Thailand, Greece, and Turkey. This sonar weighs 716 pounds – but it is also interoperable with the sonars on surface ships and the sonobouys dropped by other helicopters and maritime patrol planes.

It can operate at depths of up to 1,640 feet — meaning running silent and running deep won’t help a sub escape detection from this sonar. And once the sub is located… its captain will have an exciting – and short – time to ponder his situation.

15 things you didn’t know about 4th of July
A helicopter uses the HELRAS dipping sonar. (Scanned and cropped from L3 handout)

3. LFATS

Let’s face it – diesel-electric submarines are getting better and better. They are finding ways to operate without having to snorkel while charging their batteries. The batteries are getting better, and even cell phone battery technology is being leveraged for subs.

The solution is to do what they did in World War II – use active sonar to ping and find the submarine. The Low-Frequency Active Towed Sonar can do that – and can be placed on a vessel as small as 100 tons. It can operate at depths of up to 984 feet. In essence, in shallow water, there is no place for a sub to hide from this sonar. Not when every patrol boat can have one.

15 things you didn’t know about 4th of July
The Low Frequency Active Towed Sonar – or LFATS – can be used on boats as small as 100 tons. (Scanned and cropped from L3 handout)

4. TB-23F

You might find it interesting that a towed-array for a submarine is on here, but the U.S. Navy’s nuclear submarines sometimes have to operate in shallow water where diesel boats can hide a lot more easily.

Able to operate at depths of over 1,000 feet at a speed of up to 12 knots, the TB-23F makes any submarine that tows it more capable when it comes to hunting the submarines of the enemy.

15 things you didn’t know about 4th of July
Submarines – even the Kilo depicted in this illustration – can get in the shallow-water ASW game with the TB-23F. (Scanned and cropped from L3 handout).

So, while the submarine threat has gotten worse, a lot of works has been done on developing ways to find these underwater assassins before they can do harm to the valuable ships.

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The Special Forces who avenged 9/11 on horseback

Before 9/11, the last time American forces fought on horseback was on January 16, 1942 when the U.S. Army’s 26th Cavalry Regiment charged an advanced guard of the 14th Japanese Army as it advanced from Manila.


15 things you didn’t know about 4th of July
Philippines! F*ck Yeah!

After the terror attacks of Sep. 11, 2001, the United States demanded the extradition of Osama bin Laden from the Taliban, then the recognized government of Afghanistan. When the Taliban didn’t cough him up, the U.S. military went to work.

Official combat operations started on Oct. 7, 2001 in the form of airstrikes and Tomahawk missile strikes against suspected al-Qaeda training sites near Kandahar, Kabul, and Herat. On Nov. 16, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced “we have had limited number of American forces on the ground for weeks.”

He was talking about the Horse Soldiers, U.S. Special Forces attempting to secure Northern Afghanistan with the Afghan Northern Alliance.

15 things you didn’t know about 4th of July

The elite troops were there to connect with and advise the Northern Alliance fighters who had been fighting the Taliban government since 1996. They were just in time. On Sep. 9, 2001, al-Qaeda operatives assassinated Ahmad Shah Massoud, the longtime resistance fighter who led wars against the Soviet Union and later, the Taliban (Massoud even tried to warn Western leaders about the 9/11 attacks). He rejected the Taliban’s strict interpretation of Islam and was the able political and military leader of the Northern Alliance. When the Americans arrived the Alliance fighters were ready to avenge Massoud. The only way to get around the country was on horseback.

For some of the American commandos, it was their first time on a horse.  “It was like riding a bobcat,” Lt. Col. Max Bowers (Ret.) told CNN.

Sergeant 1st Class Joe Jung, the team’s medic and sniper, was thrown from his horse, broke his back, and continued with the mission. “I would not allow myself to be the weak link,” Jung said. “It’s not in my nature, and it’s not in any Green Beret’s nature.”

Bowers carried a piece of the World Trade Center during the entire mission and months later, buried it with full military honors at Mazar-e-Sharif.

The commandos’ horses were trained by the Northern Alliance warriors to run toward gunfire. Charges pitting Alliance forces against the Taliban were much like those centuries ago, but the fighters used AK-47s instead of sabers.

Air Force Combat Controller Master Sgt. Bart Decker used laser-guided airstrikes to support Alliance forces. Abdul Rashid Dostum, leader of Alliance forces, referred to one of the female navigators on an AC-130 gunship providing close air support as the “Angel of Death.”

15 things you didn’t know about 4th of July

During the Battle of Mazar-e-Sharif, Jung treated Taliban fighters. The special forces let one go, allowing him to tell other Taliban fighters he was treated humanely and they would be too. This led to mass surrender after the battle. After Mazar-e Sharif, Jung heard an odd accent among the wounded at a prison camp.

That voice came from John Walker Lindh, the infamous “American Taliban.” The Taliban POWs would later rise up against their captors, capturing the arsenal at Mazar-e Sharif, killing CIA operator Mike Spann, the first casualty of American operations in Afghanistan.

It took two months for the Allied forces to defeat the Taliban government.

Kentucky sculptor Douwe Blumberg created a monument of the horse soldiers in his studio in 2011, in honor of the entire military special operations community. That statue, the American Response Monument, is now at the World Trade Center site in New York.

15 things you didn’t know about 4th of July
De oppresso liber.

NOW: 8 post-9/11 heroes who should have received the medal of honor — but didn’t

OR: Never before seen photos show Bush Administration officials right after 9/11  

 

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President Trump proclaims Armed Forces Day

In a proclamation signed before he left on the first foreign trip, President Donald Trump proclaimed the third Saturday of May to be Armed Forces Day.


“For almost 70 years, our Nation has set aside one day to recognize the great debt we owe to the men and women who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard,” Trump said in a statement. “On Armed Forces Day, we salute the bravery of those who defend our Nation’s peace and security.  Their service defends for Americans the freedom that all people deserve.”

15 things you didn’t know about 4th of July
(DOD Poster)

According to the Department of Defense website, the celebration of Armed Forces Day first began in 1950, following a proclamation on Aug. 31, 1949, by then-Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson. Johnson’s intention was to replace separate holidays for the Navy, Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force.

“I invite the Governors of the States and Territories and other areas subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to provide for the observance of Armed Forces Day within their jurisdiction each year in an appropriate manner designed to increase public understanding and appreciation of the Armed Forces of the United States.  I also invite veterans, civic, and other organizations to join in the observance of Armed Forces Day each year,” Trump said in the proclamation, which has been issued by his predecessors in virtually the same form, including George W. Bush, George H. W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan.

15 things you didn’t know about 4th of July
West Point U.S. Military Academy cadets march in the 58th Presidential Inauguration Parade in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

Trump’s proclamation did make special note of the 100th anniversary of America’s entry into World War I, citing the 4.7 million Americans who served in that conflict. Trump also re-tweeted a Defense Department tweet featuring a video.

“Finally, I call upon all Americans to display the flag of the United States at their homes and businesses on Armed Forces Day, and I urge citizens to learn more about military service by attending and participating in the local observances of the day,” Trump’s proclamation concluded.

 

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