Becky R. asks: Why do they use 21 guns in the 21 gun salute?
The 21-gun salute that we know today has its roots in the ancient tradition of warriors demonstrating their peaceful intentions by resting the point of their weapons on the ground.
The notion of making a soldier’s weapons useless to show that he came in peace continued even as warfare changed over the centuries. Gunpowder and cannons became commonplace among militaries and private forces, both on land and at sea around the 14th century. In order for a ship entering a foreign port to show those on shore that they came in peace, the captain would have his crew fire the guns. This rendered the weapons inoperable for a period of time, with early guns only being capable of firing a single shot before crews needed to reload them.
Traditionally when a British ship entered into a foreign port, it would fire its guns seven times. The reason for the seven shots is widely debated to this day. One theory states that the majority of the British ships at this point only carried seven guns and so firing seven shots became the standard to signal those on shore that the ship was now unarmed. Ships carried enough gunpowder and ammunition to reload multiple times, but beyond symbolism, the idea here was that the lengthy process of reloading would allow the soldiers onshore more than enough time to disable the ship with their own weapons if needs be.
Another proposed theory for the number seven relates to the Bible. After creating the world, the Bible states that God rested on the seventh day (or for the seventh “event”- there is some debate over the “day” vs. “event” translation). So it has been theorized that the number could have been chosen in reference to its Biblical significance, perhaps of resting with the ship coming to port after a long journey. Yet another theory stems from the pervasive superstitious nature of sailors combined with the historic notion in certain regions that the number 7 is sacred, and that odd numbers are lucky and even unlucky. In fact, for a time it was common to use an even number of shots to signify the death of a ship captain when returning from the voyage the death occurred on.
Whatever the underlying reason, the guns onshore would return fire as a form of welcome once the incoming ship finished firing the seven rounds. However, the shore bound guns fired three rounds for every one fired by the incoming ships, putting the total number of shots fired at twenty-one in these cases. As with the “7” number, it’s not known precisely why in the regions that used this number scheme that they chose a 3 to 1 ratio. What is known is that as time went on where this was practiced, it became traditional for the ships themselves to start firing off 21 shots as well, perhaps due to the ships becoming larger and being equipped with more guns, with the captains ostensibly preferring a 1 to 1 salute.
This then brings us to when firing the 21 shots became considered a type of official salute, rather than a symbolic way to indicate peaceful intentions. This seems to have started around 1730 when it became a recognized salute to British government officials. Specifically, the British Navy allowed its ships and captains the option to perform the 21-gun salute as a way to honor members of the British Royal Family during select anniversaries. About eighty years later, in 1808, the 21-gun salute officially became the standard salute to honor British Royalty.
While the British Navy adopted the 21-gun salute in 1808 as the standard, other nations, such as the United States, didn’t adopt it until much later. In fact, the United States War Department decided in 1810 to define the “national salute” as having the same number of shots as there were states in the nation. That number grew every year that a new state joined the Union. Needless to say, this quickly became a cumbersome way to salute the United States and its dignitaries.
That said, the United States did make the “Presidential Salute” a 21-gun salute in 1842, and in 1890 officially accepted the 21-gun salute as the “national salute.” This followed the 1875 British proposal to the United States of a “Gun for Gun Salute” of 21-guns to honor visiting dignitaries. Essentially, the British and French, among other nations, at this point were all using 21 guns for their salutes, but the U.S. system required many more shots for their dignitaries. Besides needing to fire off more cannons, this also potentially signified greater honor to the U.S. dignitaries than to those of other nations. Thus, the British proposed a 1 for 1 shot, with 21 being the number, which was accepted by the U.S. on August 18, 1875.
The 21-gun salute still represents a significant honor today. In the United States, the 21-gun salute occurs to honor a President, former president, or the head of foreign state. It can also be fired in order to honor the United States Flag. The salute also occurs at noon on the day of the funeral of a President, former President, or President-elect along with on Memorial Day.
You may have noticed that there’s no mention of the 21-gun salute occurring during military funerals and that’s a common misconception. Known as the “3 Volleys,” the salute that occurs during soldiers’ funerals follows a battlefield tradition where both sides stopped fighting so that they could remove their dead from the field. The series of three shots, or volleys, let the other side know that the dead had been taken care of and that that battle could resume. Therefore the number of volleys is more important than the actual number of shots. Even the United States Army Manuel’s section on the Ceremonial Firing Party at a funeral named the number of riflemen as between five and eight, rather than an exact number.
When ships were engaged in battle during the 14th century, the common practice was that the captured or defeated ship needed to expend all of its ammunition in order to make it helpless in the presence of the other ship and signify surrender.
A 62-gun salute was fired upon the birth of Prince George of England. The 21-gun salute was increased to 41-guns because the guns were fired from a royal park or residence and an additional 21-guns were added in order to pay respect to the city of London.
The U.S.-backed coalition effort to retake the city of Mosul officially began Monday, but experts say the end of the battle against ISIS is far from over.
Pentagon officials warned reporters before the operation began that ISIS was likely to convert to insurgency after losing the city of Mosul. “If anything, it’s gonna be more difficult,” is how Canadian Army Brig. Gen. Dave Anderson described the coming fight against ISIS as an insurgent force.
The retaking of Mosul highlights the Obama administration’s central belief that retaking territory from ISIS constitutes victory against the group. “It’s as if we’ve decided by taking territory back, they won’t be terrorists anymore,” Dr. Frederick Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute previously told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
As ISIS reverts to a guerrilla insurgency, Iraq must begin to grapple with the underlying sectarian tensions that threaten to engulf it after the defeat of ISIS. The operation to retake Mosul is composed of the U.S., Iraqi Security Forces, Kurdish Peshmerga, Iranian-backed Shiite militias, and Turkish troops. Each group has its own vested interest in the future of Mosul and greater Iraq.
“What has emerged from the conflict is a complex patchwork of ethnic, tribal and religious militias that claim fief over particular territories,” Ramzy Mardini of the Atlantic Council leveled a stark warning on the administration’s pursuit of defeating ISIS in a recent op-ed for The New York Times.
Shiite militias participating alongside Iraqi Security Forces in anti-ISIS operations have well known ties to humanitarian atrocities against Sunni civilians. The United Nations estimates nearly 1.5 million civilians remain in Mosul, and if Sunni citizens are harassed or outright killed by militias it could lend sympathy to defeated ISIS terrorists. ISIS’s history lies in a guerrilla insurgent force that capitalized on sectarian tensions to seize territory.
Retired Army Gen. David Petraeus parroted Mardini’s thinking in August, saying failure to stabilize post-ISIS Iraq could lead to the rise of another version of ISIS. “The challenge of Mosul and Nineveh is the considerable number of ethnic groups, religious sects, tribes and other elements that make up the province.”
Ultimately, Petraeus warns the biggest challenge in Iraq is not the defeat of ISIS, but is “to ensure post-conflict security, reconstruction and, above all, governance that is representative of and responsive to the people.” He warns, “Failure to do so could lead to ISIS 3.0.”
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Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning has a lot of work ahead of him. Keeping the Army strong enough to counter threats from Russia, China, and international terrorism while facing constant budget questions is tough.
Only time will tell if he can rise to the challenge. If nothing else, though, he will definitely leave his mark on the Twittersphere because he is already killing it there.
Fanning was confirmed on May 17, 2016. Since then, he’s Tweeted a Star Wars GIF to show love for baseball:
Of course, it’s not all movies with the new SECARMY. He was scheduled to visit soldiers training in Anakonda 16 during the 241st Army Birthday and tweeted a clip of Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” video to let them know he was coming to Torun, Poland to make sure they were working out:
That turned into a Twitter exchange where he challenged a German general to one-handed pushups (via a GIF of “Kung Fu Panda,” because of course he used “Kung Fu Panda”) and 16th Sustainment Brigade soldiers responded with a video of 0-handed pushups:
Finally, while Fanning was working out with the troops, the Secretary of the Navy tweeted a happy birthday message to America’s oldest military branch. The Fanning responded with an awesome sea turtle, giving a nod to the sea service and “The Little Mermaid” in the process:
But while he can’t be physically present every time a soldier is in danger or needs comfort, he can help keep morale up by ensuring troops know that someone smart and capable has their back in Washington D.C. If he can run the beltway half as well as he runs his Twitter feed, then the Army should be okay.
The Internet is currently losing its collective cool over the King penguin promoted to brigadier general. While this is cute, it can sting for enlisted troops to learn that an animal has been promoted above them.
Well, it gets worse, guys and girls, because Brigadier Sir Olav isn’t the only adorable animal who outranks you. Olav has five American counterparts from history who held a military rank of sergeant or above:
1. Brigadier Sir Nils Olav
Brigadier Sir Nils Olav is one of the only animal members of a military officer corps or royal nobility.The penguin resides at the zoo in Edinburgh, Scotland and serves as the mascot of the Royal Norwegian Guard. The first penguin mascot of the guard was adopted in 1972. The name “Nils Olav” and mascot duties are passed on after the death of a mascot.
The Royal Norwegian Guard comes to the zoo every year for a military ceremony, and the penguin inspects them. Before each inspection, the penguin is promoted a single rank. The current penguin is the third to hold the name and has climbed from lance corporal to brigadier general. He is expected to live another 10 years and so could become the senior-most member of the Norway military.
Sinbad served 11 years of sea duty on the USCGC Campbell before retiring to Barnegat Light Station. During the war, he was known for causing a series of minor international incidents for which the Coast Guard was forced to write him up.
She was promoted to sergeant for her heroics there and was later promoted twice to staff sergeant, once by her colonel and once by the then-Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Randolph Pate.
4. Boatswain’s Mate Chief Maximilian Talisman
Boatswain’s Mate Chief Maximilian Talisman was a mascot aboard the USCGC Klamath who was officially assessed numerous times and always received a 3.4 out of 4.0 or better on his service reviews. He crossed the International Date Line twice and served in the Arctic Circle and Korea, according to a Coast Guard history.
5. Sgt. Stubby
Stubby was a dog who joined U.S. soldiers drilling on a field in Massachusetts in 1917. He learned the unit’s drill commands and bugle calls and was adopted by the men who later smuggled him to the frontlines in France. An officer spotted Stubby overseas and was berating his handler when the dog rendered his version of a salute, placing his right paw over his right eye.
The officer relented and Stubby served in the trenches, often warning the men of incoming gas attacks and searching for wounded personnel. He was promoted to sergeant for having spotted and attacked a German spy mapping the trench systems.
In an undated update from the Coast Guard, Turk held the rank of chief boatswain’s mate and was still on active service. But, he joined the Coast Guard in 1996 and so has likely retired and moved on by now. Hopefully, he was rewarded well for his service at Coast Guard Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina, where he promoted life preserver use and stood watch with his fellow Coast Guardsmen.
This is the first in a series about how branches of the military hate on each other. We’ll feature all branches of the U.S. military, written by veterans of that branch being brutally honest with themselves and their services.
The branches of the U.S. Military are like a very large family. They deal with one another because they have to, not because they always get along.
The differences don’t stop at uniforms. Each branch has its own goals, mission, and its own internal culture. At the upper levels of the services, they compete for funds and favor from civilians in DoD. In the lower ranks, they compete for fun and favor from civilians in bars and strip clubs (especially in North Carolina). The branches are like siblings, competing for the intangible title of who’s “the best” from no one in particular.
“The Soviets are our adversary. Our enemy is the Navy.” – Gen. Curtis LeMay, U.S. Air Force
Of course, when it comes to joint operations downrange, a lot of that goes out the window. But when the op-tempo isn’t as hectic and frustration has time to build, the awesome Army platoon who saved your ass last month become a bunch of damn stupid grunts who steal everything you don’t lock down and leave their Gatorade piss bottles everywhere. Parsing out the best and worst of our services isn’t hard if we’re honest with ourselves.
Here’s how the other branches hate on the Air Force, how they should actually be hating on the Air Force, how the Air Force hates on the Air Force, and why to really love the Air Force.
The easiest ways make fun of the Air Force
The quickest way is to talk about how nerdy or weak airmen are. Until a few years back, Air Force basic training was only six and half weeks long. Airmen will always emphasize the six and a half. During that same time, once in the active Air Force, the physical fitness test was taken on a stationary bike which resulted in so many invalid scores, the Air Force had to replace it.
This is also why the Air Force keeps getting the blame for the Stress Card myth, despite having nothing to do with what really happened at all. By 2010, most airmen’s responses to the waist tape portion of the new PT test was to “hope Air Force leaders would ditch the tape test altogether” because 1/5 of the Air Force couldn’t pass the new test. Still, the main form of exercise for airmen is probably playing basketball at the base gym.
Many, many Air Force career fields are office jobs, hence the name “Chair Force.” Many, many more aren’t office jobs, which rubs aircraft maintainers and other flightline personnel the wrong way for some reason. Airmen will hate on each other for this, with those who work in shifts on the flightline calling those who don’t by the derogatory term nonners, or Non-Sortie Producing Motherf–kers (a sortie is an air mission with one take off and one landing). Nonners hate that and no one cares. One more thing to argue about.
The new Airman Battle Uniform (ABU) was the Air Force answer to the Marines’ MARPAT uniforms and the Army’s ACUs, without the effectiveness, purpose, or realistic uses of either. Washing ABUs with brightening detergent actually makes the uniform MORE VISIBLE, especially to night vision equipment. All the other branches ever see is green boots and the regular morale shirt Friday mantra of “Are airmen allowed to wear red shirts?”
The Air Force is also the youngest branch, formed after WWII, and with the most opposition possible. Politicians and the other branches were so dead set against an Air Force, one general was court-martialed for being a pest about it and airmen have been whiny and annoying ever since, which pretty much proved everyone right. Every other branch says the Air Force has no history and no one argues with them, because airmen don’t care to. They remember William Pitsenbarger, John Levitow, maybe Robin Olds, and WWII when WAPS testing time comes around.
Also, Air Force Band members start at E-6 and their music videos cost more than a Marine Corps barracks.
Why to actually hate the Air Force
The U.S. Air Force as an organization is a lot of things: expensive, cynical, and sociopathic. It’s more like a uniformed, evil corporation at times. The biggest concern of the Air Force is the most expensive weapons system ever conceived by man, which doesn’t work, and if it did, would only help the Air Force get more money to maintain it while it could be spending that money replacing nuclear missile launch computers made in the 1960s. Our jet costs so much, the Marines can’t get up-armored Humvees but the beds in Air Force billeting are too soft for the USAF brass to lose sleep over it. The Air Force doesn’t even know how much its new long range bomber will cost, but it promised to let us know soon.
Airmen can be the most condescending a–holes this side of the wild blue yonder. They will turn on each other faster than a hungry bear. If you don’t believe me, go read a forum thread where airmen are talking about Spencer Stone’s STEP promotion.
Though USAF basic training is much more difficult now and the Air Force acquired a real fitness test, it’s still not as difficult as training to join the Coast Guard but Airmen will make fun of the Coast Guard anyway. They will still talk sh-t and when you throw the Chair Force thing in their face, they immediately throw Air Force pararescue jumpers back at you, even though most of them have never even seen a PJ. Also, the Air Force has a lot of fighter pilots, but everyone talks sh-t about them behind their backs, even airmen who’ve never met any pilot ever, which is 100 percent possible.
The Air Force has a lot of jobs which require higher ASVAB scores and a baseline education. They will never let you forget that even though a lot of airmen are as dumb and as smart as any soldier or sailor. This is why its ICBM teams are cheating on their proficiency tests and no one noticed until they started texting each other answers.
The only regulation most Air Force people know by heart is AFI 36-2903, the dress and appearance regulation. When anyone in the Air Force wants to appear as if they have things memorized, they will “quote” from this Air Force Instruction, because they all like to pretend they know it by heart, but its the only numbered AFI most of them know, whether they’re 100 percent sure what the standard actually says or not.
Airmen generally deploy the least of any branch. At the height of the Global War on Terror in 2009, the Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC — Air Force job function) with the longest average enlisted deployment was Explosives Ordnance Disposal (EOD) at 119 days, just over 3 months. The longest officer deployment (for electronic warfare specialists) was 214 days, or 7 months, or par with the Marine Corps, but shorter than the Army. Yet, Airmen deploying to al-Udeid would complain just as much as Airmen going to Bagram.
From around the Air Force:
“Merry Christmas to all those who didn’t get axed in 2014… last year’s force shaping message initially advertising massive cuts scheduled for 2014 was made public on Christmas Eve.”
“Most of you joined the USAF because it was more laid back, had better facilities and treated people better than the USA or the USMC. Admit it. You didn’t become an Air Force pilot because the other services wouldn’t take you.”
“I absolutely hate it every time I see a MSgt lecturing a junior enlisted about how “hard” the civilian world is.. this coming from a loser lifer who joined right out of high school and decided to spend the next 20 years of his life kissing ass and dedicating his life to the Air Force (and losing a few marriages along the way usually) Dude has no idea what the civilian world is even like and clung to the one way he knew for dear life and never let go.”
“I knew I was getting out the instant I joined.”
“A friend of mine was overworked in an mxs unit after 9/11 turning jets on an insane, unhealthy schedule. He wanted to get out because he didn’t want to be a jet mechanic all his life. But he didn’t want to let his shop down. Thing is, is after he ended up leaving, they replaced him. Just like he replaced someone before him. The AF doesn’t care. They will recall you after you separate if they need you. They will RIF you if they don’t. They will reclass you if they want. The AF takes care of the AF #1.”
“My CDCs do not make me a better technician”
“Two sacred USAF rules: 1) You do not embarrass your chain of command 2) You do not ‘give a sh*t’ when it’s not your day to ‘give a sh*t’, especially about stuff way above your pay-grade… When junior officers insist on running head-first into well-marked closed doors, they will be made to disappear.”
“From a recent Commander’s Call, what many NCO’s took away from that mass discussion is learn to back stab a fellow airman to get on top.”
“Don’t rush to finish your degree either associated, bachelor, master, once you become a MSgt and above you need to have a Doctorate.”
“Take care of your people but remember when they get promoted they are going to be competing against you.”
“Make sure that you get a lot of LOA, coins and documentation for everything you do to prove that you’re a 5 or 4. Don’t just let your supervisor write your EPR, QC his/her work before they route it up the chain.”
“Having left the military with two of these [CCAF] “degrees” I can say that literally no one outside of the USAF gives two squirrel poops about it. I happened to get both in the course of completing my bachelors, so I’m not even sure what the “degree” is even for. I never went to anything other than tech school and ALS, yet somehow this counts as an associate’s degree?”
“The USAF isn’t the Third Reich, but sometimes you really just want to shout Uber Alles to these crotchedy two-faced generals.”
“Would we as individuals have been cut the same amount of slack if we spent SIX years trying to figure out force shaping initiatives? How about the idiocy with uniforms? Reflective belts? What about one of the most expensive airframes ever being grounded for five months?”
“Calling the AF corporate is a HUGE part of the problem. We don’t even call them Airmen anymore. Our newest “development” tool refers to us as “employees”. (Ref the AF Portal).”
“I’ve seen how they decide who promotes, who gets BTZ, who gets retained. I’ve seen how people climb that ladder to Chief. I’m glad I’m not a part of it any more.”
“With the help of our squadron intel officer, I presented a CONOP for improved AC-130 operations to my deployed mission commander, a USAF Lt. Col. and well-respected gunship pilot. He tried to critique the new CONOP but quickly became frustrated with my counter-arguments and finally told me to ‘Stop worrying about the conventional guys… only the stupid ones are being killed.'”
“Honestly, what difference does it make if a Security Forces SSgt can tell you who the first pilot was? (It doesn’t.) It [the PDG] is useful as a guidebook, in case you have a quick question about discipline, uniforms, benefits. Other than that, it makes a nice paperweight.”
“Get rid of 90% of the bands the AF has. This isn’t the 40’s, I get more entertainment from my Ipod. Use that money to book a half way decent band to perform”
“When my wife had our twins…it really would have been nice if she had a little more time to get closer to being in reg. Not sure what the magic number is but it would have been nice. Her unit didn’t even say hello to her when she came off of leave, just walked her into the scale and failed her.”
“I mean the guy who was appointed as the head of the sexual assault program sexually assaulted a woman and that guy just got reassigned.”
“Apparently the USAF doesn’t trust anyone to determine on a personal basis the suitability for promotion. At least the army has boards, even if they are convoluted and focused on the wrong things.”
“the Air Force awarded a foreign military sales contract worth more than $100 million to a company that submitted a past performance record of about $150,000, doing unrelated work.”
“Current culture states petting puppies at the animal shelter, holding bake sales and holding meetings where you discuss with your peers where and when these things can be done is held in higher esteem and considered more important than doing the best you can at your job.”
“they’re bribing me to stay, because they’ve failed at replacing me.”
From a 27-year CMSgt:
“The real, honest core values, that a person needs to live by to succeed in the Air Force in 2015 are:
1. Self before Service 2. Excellence in all our PT 3. Integrity third”
“The General should be held to the same or higher standard than the A1C when it comes to punishment. They aren’t.”
“I will never forget after taking questions from a bunch of angry, know-it-all Captains for the better part of an hour, the Colonel simply told us “YOU have to allow YOUR Air Force to make mistakes.”
“Stop with the re-branding of the AF every year. I don’t feel like a “warrior” so stop trying to convince me that I am one by reciting the Airmans Creed at every event!”
“5 things I hate the most about the Air Force:
1- Closed for training on (insert day here).
2- Sexual assault training.
3- The 10 different offices that you can complain to: ig, chaplain, meo, sarc, afrc what do these people do all day?
4- The term “standby to standby”.
5- Senior Ncos, they usually have bad haircuts and no real purpose in life.”
“You seriously are telling me that people TESTED the PT uniform? With the cardboard tshirts that don’t breath and shorts that would look home in a certain brightly colored San Francisco parade? Or the ABU with it’s billion pockets and winter weight fabric (and that’s overlooking the abortion that is it’s camo pattern).
Or blues mondays? As a flier that can be tasked at any minute why am I not showing up to work prepared to fly at any minute? Oh to “support the war fighter” I am wearing the least war like uniform. That makes sense.”
Why to love the Air Force
Airmen may not be able to capture and occupy an enemy area on their own but they will make damn sure those who can will be able to do so with the least possible resistance. Nuclear arsenals aside, no one is better at killing the enemy en masse as the Air Force is and airmen will stay awake and working for days on end to make sure passengers, wounded, supplies, and bombs keep going where they need to be. For example, during Operation Desert Storm, airmen on the ground worked tens of thousands of sorties in 38 days.
Almost everything in a war zone, from water to helicopters, is shipped via USAF, loaded and flown by airmen who are running on Rip-Its and Burger King.
Airmen, despite their cynicism, can be really, really funny. They know their reputation among other branches and are usually game to play along and give all the sh-t thrown at them right back to the soldiers, sailors, and Marines giving it. Aircrews are also generous with their flight pay when buying drinks.
The A-10 Thunderbolt II is beloved by everyone (except Air Force generals).
The Air Force has a great quality of life. An Air Force Base makes the average Army post look like a very large homeless shelter. Most of the time in joint communities, any military member has access to Air Force Morale, Welfare, and Recreation services, which can even put similar civilian services to shame. This is especially true when deployed.
When you’re deploying to the Middle East, having to stop at al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar for any reason is a great day. Swimming pools, A/C, ice cream, Western restaurants and fast food joints, a legit fitness center and base exchange along with three beers a day make for a great visit before reality sets in and you have to go back to a real deployment.
Also, all that money the Air Force spends on tech really does pay off. The Air Force is developing tech to automate weapons systems, put lasers on fighter planes, and allow troops to control drones with their minds. Historically, much of the tech developed by the Air Force end up with civilian uses.
The flip side of the Air Force being like a corporation is airmen tend to focus on their Air Force specialty, rather than just the particulars of being in the military (like being a rifleman, for example). This means when any one from any branch has to deal with an airman, they will more often than not be meeting with someone who is confident, knowledgable, and professional in their work center. Airmen are (traditionally) so good at their jobs, Army officers who have needs they can get from the Air Force instead of the Army will go to the Air Force for those needs.
Airmen are also incredibly generous with their time and money. Aside from making volunteer work a de facto criteria for annual Enlisted Performance Reports (EPR), Airmen will volunteer their time for causes beyond what’s expected by the Air Force’s “total Airman concept” and squadron burger burns. Airmen also donate millions from their paychecks to the Combined Federal Campaign and Air Force Aid Society charities.
And yes, Pararescue Jumpers are awesome human beings.
A U.S. Army company commander uses one of his interpreters to consult with tribal elders in a village in Paktika Province in eastern Afghanistan following an air assault. (Photo: Ward Carroll)
It was early morning, still dark at Fort Bragg when one of my teammates called from Afghanistan with bad news.
“Both Juma and Ish have been killed,” he said, without any attempt to hide the fact that he’d been crying.
It was May 2006, and the bulk of our unit was one month away from another deployment to Afghanistan. Two of our best interpreters had been stopped at a Taliban checkpoint. A fighter recognized them. He knew they’d been working with the Americans. Their bodies were found the next morning, brutally tortured and mutilated.
I went numb as the words continued through the phone. I scrambled for a note pad to try to capture all the information. It was too much to process. As soon as everyone mustered in the team room, I broke the news. The impact was immediate. To us, it was no different than losing a fellow American soldier.
Congress has authorized 8,750 visas for Afghan interpreters, but only 1,982 have been issued through December, according to the Los Angeles Times. Thousands of interpreters are in jeopardy as the State Department tries to clear the logjam of applications for the Special Immigrant Visa.
The Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project, which also assists Afghan refugees, told the Times the SIV process is “prohibitively complicated, bureaucratic and opaque.” The group ran into the same problem at the end of the Iraq War when only slightly more than 6,500 out of 25,000 visas were issued to Iraqi interpreters.
As a Special Forces officer with eight deployments, I can tell you without a doubt that Afghans who have risked their lives, families and futures are going to be left behind to face horrific consequences, like Juma and Ish did, for aiding the United States.
This will have a lasting impact on future wars and U.S. strategic interests. As American forces track terrorists in the Arabian Peninsula and across the African continent, we will need local assistance at many levels, specifically interpreters. Leaving our Afghan allies to die is a clear warning to anyone who would even think about assisting the US in its foreign policy or strategy that unless you are on the Department of State or CIA payroll, you will be left to die.
Interpreters are our eyes and ears when deployed. They know the local customs, cultural norms and religion. They can see when things are out of place and they understand the nuisance of the villages and tribes. When American forces arrived in Afghanistan in 2001, we knew nothing. Our interpreters have kept us safe and even helped us fight. But they also became part of our units, teams and families.
Take Jerry for example.
Jerry (a nickname we gave him) was my personal interpreter during Operation Medusa, the largest Coalition operation in ISAF history. A 22-year-old kid, he emulated our speech, dressed in our uniform and even chewed neswar, the Afghan version of Copenhagen, like the other members of the team.
Prior to the mission, he had gotten married. We told him he could sit this operation out since we knew it was going to be very dangerous and he was a newlywed.
“I don’t think so, my brother,” he said in Pashtu.
Jerry liked to make me practice my Pashtu so that I understood what was being said in tribal meetings behind my back. I remember him smiling like a Cheshire cat, his short thick beard and black curly hair sticking out from under the Special Forces ball cap I had given him as he said, “If you go, I go. If you die, I die.”
Two months after the battle, we were maneuvering thru a village when the vehicle Jerry was riding in struck an IED. As I approached the mangled truck, the first thing I saw in the dirt was Jerry’s burned ball cap.
I turned to go call in a Medevac. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Jerry struggling to stand against a mud wall. In spite of the fact that he had been blown nearly 30 feet in to the air, he was holding his broken weapon and pulling security.
His scrawny legs wobbled in misery. He was bloody and covered in dirt. He lived up to his promise to die with us. I made the commitment then and there that I would not leave him, nor the others interpreters like him behind.
Since I left Afghanistan in 2012, Jerry has been attacked in his mosque, moved his family nearly a dozen times and survived being shot three times. His last email to me was a desperate plea.
“I’m 24-hour in house not coming out like jailer, bro,” he wrote. “Thanks again for keeping asking me, brother. I wish I didn’t have my two daughters suffer if I die. I would be (in) paradise if I see you in the State with my Family. Please help us.”
I’ve written letters, emails, and made hundreds of phone calls trying to pry loose a half dozen applications of interpreters I worked with in Afghanistan. I feel betrayed by the American immigration policy and the deadly double standard it represents. We will accept immigrants who snuck across our borders illegally but not heroes who have served our nation and its cause.
Afghan Interpreters are throwing themselves at the altar of freedom only to be left to die. To State Department bureaucrats, these men are pieces of paper, but to thousands of American soldiers, they are brothers in arms.
They should be allowed to live in peace and freedom. They’ve earned it.
FORT BENNING, Ga., October 20, 2015 — Speaking to a room-full of infantry lieutenants at the 2nd Battalion, 11th Infantry Regiment Headquarters here Oct. 2, Army 2nd Lt. Michael Janowski sought to motivate recent Infantry Basic Officer Leader Course graduates with his story of resilience as they prepared to begin the Ranger course in a couple of days.
Last year, Janowski graduated from Ranger School and beat cancer twice in the process.
“Hopefully, I can give you a new perspective today,” Janowski said.
Janowski told the lieutenants that he began Ranger School on July 21, 2014, but during the Ranger Training Assessment Course he began to have medical concerns.
“I didn’t want to go to the hospital, because I didn’t want to lose my Ranger slot. I was too naive, too stubborn. So I went to Ranger School anyway,” he said.
Janowski didn’t tell the course medics about his medical concerns. Instead, he confided in a fellow student who happened to be a Special Forces medic.
“After a few days, he pulled me to the side and was like, ‘It’s not getting better and I’ve had this idea of what it might be, but I didn’t want to scare you. I think it’s cancer. You should go to the medics,'” Janowski said.
That night, Janowski went to the medics and was rushed to the hospital, where he learned that he had stage-one testicular cancer.
He underwent surgery and returned to the Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Course, or IBOLC, the next day, where he said he wanted to return to Ranger School.
Janowski waited two weeks to find out if the surgery worked.
“During those two weeks I was extremely fearful, not knowing the road ahead, and those are some of the feelings you are going to feel when you’re at Ranger School,” he said. “You’re going to be afraid. You’re not going to know what’s next. You’re not going to know if you’re going to recycle. My fight with cancer was the best training I got for Ranger School.”
At the end of the two weeks, Janowski learned that the surgery worked, and he was cancer free. He returned to the Ranger course Sept. 5, just five weeks after his surgery.
“Everyone in this room, I guarantee, is better physically than I am,” he said. “I’m not very big, not very strong and not very fast, but I went through Ranger School five weeks after [having] cancer and made it through [Ranger Assessment Phase] week.”
Janowski told the lieutenants that if they want their Ranger tabs bad enough, they will get them.
“RAP week is too easy. Ranger School is too easy. You don’t have to be a physical stud to get through. It’s literally all mental,” he said. Janowski made it through RAP week and then took a blood test to make sure the cancer had not returned.
“During my eight-hour pass, I got pulled aside and they [told] me the cancer is back,” he recalled, noting the disease had spread to his lungs and abdomen and had become stage four.
Janowski was medically dropped from the Ranger course again and he began to question whether or not he would survive.
“So, now I’ve wasted a bunch of time. I just got the hell beat out of me for no reason and I’m still losing. Trying to pick myself up after that was impossible,” he said. Janowski went to his hometown for medical leave and spent three months going through chemotherapy.
“It was five hours a day of just sitting in a chair, getting poison pumped into your body. It doesn’t hurt in the moment, but those days as it goes on and on it just beats you down,” he said.
During his treatment, Janowski said he lost all of his hair and watched himself physically deteriorate.
“Near the end of it I was at the bottom of the stairs trying to get up and I couldn’t stand up. I couldn’t walk up the stairs. And there were moments when I was in Mountain Phase when I was sitting there at 3 a.m. on a long walk, looking up to the top of the mountain and thinking there’s no way I’m getting up this mountain. Then I thought back to those days, where I sat at the bottom of the stairs,” he said.
He told the lieutenants they will have moments in Ranger School when they feel like they can’t possibly complete the task at hand.
“I can tell you from my experience, the body will go forever. Your mind will shut off before your body does,” he said.
Janowski said every Ranger student should push themselves beyond their limits.
“Trust me, your body will not fail you. You’re going to feel like you have nothing left in the tank, but I’ve seen what it’s like to be on the edge of death when the chemo completely broke me down to where I couldn’t stand on my own two feet without somebody helping me — and the body still had more to give,” he said.
When Janowski finished his chemotherapy treatments, he began looking for alternative ways to serve his country. He thought he would be medically discharged, but he realized that he truly wanted to complete the Ranger course.
Determined to Complete Ranger School
“I didn’t want to be older and telling my kids how to get through tough times and then look back at my own track record and realize that I let Ranger School get away, to realize that the cancer beat me,” he said.
Janowski returned to the 2nd Battalion, 11th Infantry Regiment and began IBOLC.
“I came back two weeks after chemo and suffered through IBOLC,” he said. “Guys were trying to get me to do hill sprints and I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I was pathetic. Doing 10 push-ups was awful.”
Despite the difficulty, Janowski made it through IBOLC and prepared to return to Ranger School for the third time.
But on June 10, 11 days before the course was to begin, he received a phone call from his doctor, who said the cancer had returned.
“At this point, I’ve done surgery. I’ve done chemo. There’s nothing you can do for me. It’s just a time bomb. I’m going to die at some point,” he said.
Janowski said he went to his apartment that day and wept.
“I just sat there on the ground crying, so broken there was nothing anyone could have done for me,” he said.
Luckily, that test had a false positive. Janowski was still cancer-free and he went to Ranger School as planned, June 21.
Janowski said his battle with cancer taught him to “attack,” because when you’re diagnosed with cancer there is no alternative.
“So, I’ll go into chemo and I’ll sit in the chair all day. I’ll do whatever it takes. I’ll attack all day,” he said.
Janowski said soldiers should have that attack mentality when they enter the Ranger course.
“When you go to your PT test on Monday, don’t ever tell yourself it’s only 49 push-ups. Hell no, get out there and be like ‘I’m going to do 1,000 push-ups,” he said. “I’m going to make this Ranger instructor count to a thousand because I know he is going to make my life hell for 62 days. Do not ever play defensive. Attack every second of Ranger School. Always maintain that aggressiveness, and you’re going to crush it.”
Dr. Justin Sanchez, director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Biological Technologies Office, fist-bumps with one of the first two advanced “LUKE” arms to be delivered from a new production line during a ceremony at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Dec. 22, 2016 DoD photo
Dr. Justin Sanchez, director of DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office, delivered the first two advanced “LUKE” arms from a new production line Dec. 22 — evidence that the fast-track DARPA research effort has completed its transition into a commercial enterprise, DARPA officials said.
The ceremony took place at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
“The commercial production and availability of these remarkable arms for patients marks a major milestone in the [DARPA] Revolutionizing Prosthetics program and most importantly an opportunity for our wounded warriors to enjoy a major enhancement in their quality of life,” Sanchez said, “and we are not stopping here.”
The RP program is supporting initial production of the bionic arms and is making progress restoring upper-arm control, he added.
“Ultimately we envision these limbs providing even greater dexterity and highly refined sensory experiences by connecting them directly to users’ peripheral and central nervous systems,” Sanchez said.
As part of the production transition process, DARPA is collaborating with Walter Reed to make the bionic arms available to service members and veterans who are rehabilitating after suffering upper-limb loss, DARPA says.
The first production versions of “LUKE” arms, a groundbreaking upper-limb prostheses, were on display during a ceremony at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Dec. 22, 2016 The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is collaborating with Walter Reed to make the bionic arms available to service members and veterans who are rehabilitating after suffering upper-limb loss. DoD photo
LUKE stands for “life under kinetic evolution” but is also a passing reference to the limb that Luke Skywalker wore in Star Wars: Episode V, The Empire Strikes Back.
The limbs are being manufactured by Mobius Bionics LLC, of Manchester, New Hampshire, a company created to market the technology developed by DEKA Integrated Solutions Corp., also of Manchester, under DARPA’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics program.
The prosthetic system allows very dexterous arm and hand movement with grip force feedback through a simple intuitive control system, DARPA says.
The modular battery-powered limb is near-natural size and weight. Its hand has six user-chosen grips and an arm that allows for simultaneous control of multiple joints using inputs that include wireless signals generated by innovative sensors worn on a user’s feet.
The technology that powers prosthetic legs has advanced steadily over the past two decades but prosthetic arms and hands are a tougher challenge, in part because of the need for greater degrees of dexterity, DARPA says.
When the LUKE arm first went into development, people who had lost upper limbs had to use a relatively primitive split-hook device that hadn’t changed much since it was introduced in 1912.
DARPA launched the Revolutionizing Prosthetics program with a goal of getting U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for an advanced electromechanical prosthetic upper limb with near-natural control that enhances independence and improves quality of life for amputees. LUKE received FDA approval less than eight years after the effort began, DARPA says.
Under a recently finalized agreement between DARPA and Walter Reed, DARPA will transfer LUKE arms from an initial production run to the medical center for prescription to patients. Mobius Bionics will train the Walter Reed staff to fit, service and support the arms.
A new video that called US forces “perverted animals,” and portrayed them under attack was uploaded on a YouTube account run by North Korean propagandists.
In the video published on Saturday, still photos of an aircraft carrier, reportedly the USS Carl Vinson, and a B-1B bomber can be seen in simulated flames, a patriotic speech was recorded over the footage, under North Korea’s characteristically stern tone.
Additionally, photos of US and South Korean forces were displayed, presumably in their annual joint military exercises that take place this time of year.
The narrator in the video declared that “a knife will be stabbed into the throat of the carrier,” and that “the bomber will fall from the sky after getting hit by a hail of fire,” Japan Times reported.
The still photos used in the video resemble photo packages produced by professional news organizations, such as Reuters. Further, there also seems to be an image that bears some semblance to real-time strategy video games.
The same propaganda network was scrutinized in 2013 for a video that placed virtual crosshairs over the US Capitol building and portrayed simulated attacks on New York and Washington.
The video was uploaded shortly after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson traveled to South Korea for the first time as the US’s top diplomat, and saying that “the threat of North Korea is imminent.” Much to North Korea’s chagrin, annual military exercises involving 17,000 US troops and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system are also being conducted in South Korea.
Though the video’s rhetoric may sound inciteful, North Korea has a storied history of using inflammatory verbiage in their broadcasts, often targeting their southern counterpart and the US.
When veterans of World War II returned home to McMinn County, Tennessee, they probably weren’t surprised to find that many of the same politicians from before the war were still running the place. A local political machine run by Paul Cantrell had been suspected of running the county and committing election fraud since 1936.
However, when the sheriff’s deputies began targeting the veterans with fines for minor arrests, the vets suspected they were being taken advantage of. One veteran, Bill White, later told American Heritage magazine:
“There were several beer joints and honky-tonks around Athens; we were pretty wild; we started having trouble with the law enforcement at that time because they started making a habit of picking up GIs and fining them heavily for most anything—they were kind of making a racket out of it.
“After long hard years of service—most of us were hard-core veterans of World War II—we were used to drinking our liquor and our beer without being molested. When these things happened, the GIs got madder—the more GIs they arrested, the more they beat up, the madder we got …”
By early 1946, the vets and the townspeople were tired of what they saw as corrupt practices by Paul Cantrell and his lackeys. The vets started their own political party with candidates for five offices. The focus of the contest was the race for sheriff between Paul Cantrell and Henry Knox, a veteran of North Africa.
Everyone knew that the election could turn violent. Veterans in nearby Blount County promised 450 men who could assist in any need that McMinn County had on election day. In response, Cantrell hired two hundred “deputies” from outside the county to guard polling places.
What happened next would go down as the “Battle of Athens,” or the “McMinn County War.”
Tensions built on election day as the veterans faced off with the special deputies. By 3 p.m., an hour before the polls closed, violence broke out. Deputies beat and shot a black farmer who tried to vote and arrested two veterans who were then held hostage in the Athens Water Works. Other veterans responded by taking hostage deputies who were sent to arrest them. Still, Cantrell was able to fill most of the ballot boxes with purchased votes and get them to the jail, ensuring he would win the election.
While the sheriff and his lackeys counted the votes in the jail, White and the other veterans were getting angry. Finally, sometime after 6 p.m., White led a raid on the National Guard armory to get guns.
White said in a 1969 interview that they “broke down the armory doors and took all the rifles, two Thompson sub-machine guns, and all the ammunition we could carry, loaded it up in the two-ton truck and went back to GI headquarters and passed out seventy high-powered rifles and two bandoleers of ammunition with each one.”
The veterans set siege to the jail, firing on deputies that were outside the jail when they arrived. One deputy fell wounded into the building while another crawled under a car after he was hit in his leg. But, Cantrell and others were safely locked behind the brick walls of the jail. The veterans needed to get through before other police or the National Guard arrived.
Molotov cocktails proved ineffective but at 2:30 in the morning, someone arrived with dynamite. At about the same time, an ambulance arrived and the veterans let it through, assuming it was there for the wounded. Instead, Paul Cantrell and one of his men escaped in it.
A few minutes later, the vets started throwing dynamite. The first bundle was used to blow up a deputy’s cruiser, flipping it over. Then, three more bundles were thrown. One landed on the porch roof, one under another car, and one against the jail wall. The nearly simultaneous explosions destroyed the wall and car and threw the jail porch off of its foundation.
The deputies in the jail, as well as some hiding out in the courthouse, surrendered immediately. The veterans were then forced to protect the deputies as local townspeople attempted to kill them. At least one deputy had his throat slit and another of Cantrell’s men was shot in the jaw.
The veterans established a patrol to keep the peace. To prevent a counterattack by Cantrell, the vets placed machine guns at all the approaches to Athens, where the jail and courthouse were located.
The rest of the incident played out without violence. Henry Knox took over as sheriff Aug. 4, 1946 and future elections dismantled what was left of Cantrell’s machine.
If you were wondering about why China didn’t bother to show up to that hearing at the Hague on their South China Sea island claims — when their boycott of the process only made the adverse ruling a guarantee — well, now you know why.
China, like Cersei Lannister from “Game of Thrones,” had no intention of accepting the consequences for their failure to take part.
According to reports from the Wall Street Journal and CBSNews.com, China has deployed weapons to at least seven of the artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea, despite a promise from Chinese president Xi Jingpin.
The report from the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative noted that satellite photos showed various anti-aircraft weapons on the islands. These join the 10,000-foot airstrips on the islands, which have operated J-11 Flankers. Two such locations in the Spratly Islands are Mischief Reef and Fiery Cross Reef, located about 650 nautical miles from the northernmost point of Hainan Island.
In essence, China has turned these islands into unsinkable, albeit immobile, aircraft carriers. China’s J-15, for instance, has a combat radius of about 540 nautical miles, according to GlobalSecurity.org. By getting those unsinkable aircraft carriers, the J-15s (as well as J-11 and J-16 Flankers in the Chinese inventory) can now carry more weapons, and less fuel, and spend more time dogfighting their adversaries.
When combined with China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning, these bases greatly increase the striking power of the Chinese in the region. The Liaoning, like its sister ship, the Russian Admiral Kuznetsov, has a very limited aircraft capacity (about 18 Su-33 Flankers or MiG-29K Fulcrums for the Russian carrier, and a similar number of J-15 Flankers for the Chinese ship).
That alone cannot stand up to a United States Navy aircraft carrier (carrying 36 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and 10 F-35C Lightnings). The islands also provide alternate bases, to avoid those embarrassing splash landings that are common with the Kuznetsov.
However, these island bases, if each had a squadron of J-11, J-15 or J-16 Flankers, suddenly change the odds, especially if the Philippines refuse to host land-based fighters. Now, the Chinese could have a numerical advantage in the region against one carrier group, and inflict virtual attrition on the United States Navy.
The forward bases have caused concern from other countries, like the Philippines.
“It would mean that the Chinese are militarizing the area, which is not good,” the Philippine defense secretary told CBSNews.com.
The Philippines have been trying to modernize their forces, including with the recent purchase of a dozen KA-50 jets from South Korea, and the acquisition of second-hand Hamilton-class high-endurance cutters from the U.S. Coast Guard.
They still are badly out-classed by Chinese forces in the region.
The U.S. Navy has conducted freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea. In one of the recent operations, the USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) “conducted routine operations” while transiting the region, which is claimed by China. Navy surveillance and maritime patrol aircraft in the region had had a series of close calls with Chinese fighters, including an Aug. 2014 intercept where a J-11 came within 20 feet of a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon.
Tensions with China increased when President-elect Donald Trump accepted a congratulatory phone call from Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen after winning the Nov. 8 presidential election. Trump had taken a tough line on trade with China during the campaign.
The Marine Corps and Raytheon are developing a new precision-guided 120mm explosive mortar round so that forward deployed forces can more effectively target and destroy enemies from farther distances than existing mortars.
The weapon is designed to shoot up into the air in a vertical trajectory before identifying, tracking and exploding and enemy target upon decent to the ground. The vertical landing allows the weapon to achieve great precision, Raytheon officials said.
Called the Precision Extended Range Munition, or PERM, the program is test firing a GPS-guided mortar round able to extend the range of today’s mortar weapons from about seven kilometers to about 16 kilometers, Paul Daniels, Raytheon Program Manager, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
“This doubles their range and gives them precision,” Daniels added.
The extended range could provide a key tactical advantage because 16 kilometers stand-off distance from the enemy could enable Marines to destroy enemy positions without themselves being vulnerable to incoming fire.
Raytheon was recently awarded a qualification and production contract by the Marine Corps, which plans to use the new weapon as part of its emerging Expeditionary Fire Support System, or EFSS.
This system is put together to allow forward-deployed Marines to quickly maneuver into enemy territory with precision firepower and mobility. EFSS can deploy on board an MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, a CH-53 Super Stallion helicopter or travel from ship-to-shore as part of an amphibious operation, among other things. The new weapon will serve as part of the Corps’ fires triad which includes 155mm artillery rounds, 120mm mortars and Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, or MLRS.
PERM can fill what’s called a needed “capability gap,” because there may be some targets that are not suitable for larger 155mm artillery rounds and are better attacked by 120mm mortars.
Precision mortar fire could bring tactical advantages for Marines in combat, particularly in condensed urban areas or mountainous terrain where elevation might separate attacking forces from the enemy.
“Mortars are particularly useful. They have a very high angle and rate of fire. They can fire almost straight up,” Daniels said.
For instance, the precision targeting technology integrated into PERM could allow forces to attack enemy positions in urban areas without risking damage to nearby civilians; this kind of attack would not be possible with today’s unguided 120mm mortar rounds.
“It will be ready within a couple of years,” Daniels said.