5 ways US military combat uniforms have changed since Vietnam - We Are The Mighty
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5 ways US military combat uniforms have changed since Vietnam

When you’re asked what’s the most important tool for any U.S. service member who’s facing down a bad guy in battle, the most obvious response is his or her weapon.


When it comes down to it and the shots are flying, it’s the rifle or handgun that can make the difference between victory and defeat. But there’s a lot more to it than that, and oftentimes it’s what the trooper is actually wearing that can determine whether the bullets start flying in the first place.

Military uniform designers and suppliers over the last half century have been developing new ways to help soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines avoid fights if they want to and to survive them when things go loud. From things as simple as pocket placement and camouflage, to fabrics that won’t burn or show up in night vision goggles, the folks who build combat uniforms for America’s military have taken the best of material science and matched it with the conditions and operations troops are facing in increasingly complex and austere combat environments.

While the “modern” battle uniform traces much of its lineage to the Vietnam War, a lot has changed in the 50 years since that utilitarian design changed the course of what U.S. service members wear when they fight.

Ode to Tactical Pants

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The Vietnam war saw the first major evolution in combat uniforms since World War II. When troops needed better access to their gear, clothing manufacturers answered the call.

(U.S. Military photo via Propper)

1. Combat uniform pockets

It was really the Korean war that introduced the pant-leg cargo pockets we all know today, according to an official Army history. But combat uniforms issued to troops in Vietnam took those to another level.

With bellowed pleats and secure flaps, there were few items the side cargo pocket couldn’t handle. Vietnam-era combat blouses also used an innovative angled chest pocket design that made it easier to reach items in the heat of battle.

In the 1980s, the U.S. military ditched the angled chest pockets for vertical ones, mostly for appearance, and the combat trousers maintained their six-pocket design until the 2000s.

But when America went to war after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, pocket placement and design took a quantum leap. Way more “utilitarian” than combat threads of Vietnam and the Cold War, the new battle rigs are like night and day — with everything from pen pockets near the wrist of a combat blouse, to ankle pockets on the trousers to bellowed shoulder pockets.

Interestingly, it was special operations troops that developed the shoulder pocket later adopted by both the Marine Corps and Army for their combat uniforms. During the opening days of the Global War on Terror, spec ops troops cut cargo pockets off their extra trousers and sewed them onto the arms of their combat jackets, giving them extra storage within an arm’s reach.

Modern combat uniforms now also incorporate internal pockets for knee pads and elbow pads, so when a trooper has to take a knee or go prone in a hurry, he’s not banging his joints on the dirt.

Marines in Iraq were issued fire-resistant flight suits to guard against burns from IED strikes.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

2. Combat uniform material

By Vietnam, the heavy cotton and polyester of the Korean War-era uniform were replaced with a tropical-weight cotton ripstop that was wind-resistant yet cooler for troops operating in the sweltering heat of Southeast Asian jungles.

Both trousers and jackets were made of this cotton-poplin material for years, until the Army adopted the so-called “Battle Dress Uniform” in the early 1980s. That uniform was made with a nylon-cotton blended material with was more durable and easier to launder than the Vietnam-era combat duds.

But the military was forced to offer a variation of the BDU in cotton ripstop after operations in Grenada proved the nylon-cotton blend material too hot in warmer climates.

Though today’s combat uniforms are made with similar materials to those of the BDU-era, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan proved that some front-line troops need kit that’s resistant to the flame and flash of roadside bombs and IEDs.

Early on, some troops — including Marines deployed to Iraq — wore flight suits manufactured with flame resistant Nomex during combat operations. But that fabric wasn’t durable enough for the rigors of battle on the ground. So companies developed new, more durable flame-resistant fabrics for combat uniforms like Defender-M and Drifire.

Now all the services offer variants of their standard combat uniforms in flame-resistant material that protects troops against burns from improvised bombs.

American Special Forces soldiers adopted the camouflage pattern of ARVN Rangers dubbed “tiger stripe” to blend into the Southeast Asian jungles.

(Image by Bettmann/CORBIS by Shunsuke Akatsuka via Flicker)

3. Combat uniform camouflage

Ahhh, camouflage.

It’s like the 1911 vs. (everything) debate, or the M-16 versus the AK-47 argument.

For decades, the question of camouflage patterns has been as much art as it was science. And over the last half century, the U.S. military has seen no fewer than 11 different patterns bedecking America’s warfighters.

The six-color Desert Combat Uniform is the iconic look of Operation Desert Storm.

(U.S. Military photo via Propper)

Most Joes in the Vietnam War were clad in olive drab combat uniforms. But special operations troops began using camouflage garments in greater numbers during the war, and acted as the bleeding edge for pattern development within the wider military.

From ARVN Ranger “tiger stripes” to old-school duck hunter camo, the commandos in The ‘Nam proved that breaking up your outline saved lives. With the adoption of the BDU in 1981, the military locked into the service-wide “woodland” camouflage pattern.

The Marine Corps was the first service in the U.S. military to dramatically change its uniforms from the BDU design. The service also was the first to adopt a “digital” camo pattern.

(U.S. Military photo via Propper)

In the early ’90s, the services developed desert combat uniform with a so-called “six-color desert” pattern (also known as “chocolate chips”). These uniforms were issued to troops conducting exercises and operations in arid climates and were more widely issued to service members deployed to Operation Desert Storm.

The woodland BDU dominated for more than 20 years until shortly after 9/11. And it was the Marine Corps that took the whole U.S. military in an entirely different direction.

Soldiers complained that the UCP didn’t really work in any environment

(US Army)

The Corps was the first to adopt a camouflage pattern with so-called “fractal geometry” — otherwise known as “digital camouflage” — that diverges from the curvy lines and solid colors of woodland to a more three-dimensional scheme designed to literally trick the brain. While the Marines adopted a digital woodland pattern and a desert version in 2003, the Army decided to try a single pattern that would work in a variety of environments a year later.

Dubbed the Universal Combat Pattern, or “UCP,” the green-grey pallet flopped, with most soldiers complaining that instead of working in a bunch of environments, it made Joes stand out in all of them. As in Vietnam, special operations troops engaged overseas adopted a commercial pattern dubbed “Multicam,” which harkened back to the analog patterns akin to woodland.

The Navy recently adopted a new camouflage uniform in a pattern developed by the SEALs.

(U.S. Navy)

Pressure mounted on the Army to ditch UCP and adopt Multicam, and by 2015, the service abandoned the one-size-fits all digital pattern and adopted Multicam for all its combat garments.

Likewise, the Air Force and Navy experimented with different patterns and pallets since the Army adopted UCP, with the Sea Service issuing a blue digital uniform for its sailors and the Air Force settling on a digital tiger stripe pattern in a UCP pallet. In 2016, the Navy ditched its so-called “blueberry” pattern for one developed by the SEALs — AOR 1 and AOR 2 — which looks similar to the Marine Corps “MARPAT” digital scheme.

The Air Force still issues its Airman Battle Uniform in the digital tiger stripe pattern to all airmen except those deploying to Afghanistan and on joint missions in the combat zone.

New uniforms incorporate innovative technology from the outdoor sports industry.

(DoD)

4. Combat uniform design

Aside from the rapid development and deployment of new camouflage patterns, some of the most impressive changes to U.S. military combat uniforms have been with their overall design.

Gone is the boxy, ill-fitting combat ensemble of troops slogging through the rice paddies and jungle paths of Southeast Asia. Today’s battle uniform traces its design to the high-tech construction of the extreme outdoor sports world, from high-altitude climbing to remote big game hunting.

Troops in the services now have uniforms that have pre-curved legs and arms, angled and bellowed pockets that stay flat when they’re empty, Velcro closures and adjustable waists. The services even use specially-designed combat shirts that ditch the jacket altogether and use built-in moisture-wicking fabric to keep a trooper’s torso cool under body armor yet provide durable sleeves and arm pockets for gear needed in the fight.
With integrated pockets for knee pads and elbow pads, the new combat uniforms’ design takes “utilitarian” to a whole new level.

US Marines inside the Citadel in Hue City rescue the body of a dead Marine during the Tet Offensive.

(Photo via Flickr)

5. Combat armor

Aside from the actual clothing an American combat trooper wears, there are a host of new protective items that make up his or her battlefield loadout. These items have evolved exponentially over the last half century, and many uniform manufacturers have supplied protective accessories to integrate with their clothing.

Students from the Saint George’s University of Medicine pose with a member of the 82nd Airborne Division during Operation Urgent Fury.

(U.S. Military photo via Flickr)

Late in the war, the Vietnam-era soldier or Marine was issued a body armor vest that would protect him against grenade fragments and some pistol rounds. Made of ballistic nylon and fiberglass plates, the armor was best known as the “flak jacket.” It was heavy and didn’t protect against rifle rounds.

In the 1980s, the U.S. military developed a new body armor system using steel plates and Kevlar fabric that could stop a rifle round. First used in combat during Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada, the so-called Personnel Armor System for Ground Troops, or PASGT, was a revolution in personal protection.

Today’s armor and helmets are lighter, more protective and offer a host of methods to modify the loadout for specific missions.

(Photo courtesy Propper)

Still heavy and bulky, armor evolved over the years since 9/11 to be lighter, with a slimmer profile and much more protective than the flaks of yore. Today’s vests can protect against multiple armor-piercing rifle rounds, shrapnel and pistol shots — all in a vest that weighs a fraction of its PASGT brethren.

Like the armor vest, the “steel pot” of Vietnam has changed dramatically in the last 50 years. The new Army Combat Helmet and Marine Corps Lightweight Helmet can take multiple bullet strikes and shrapnel hits, allow for greater mobility than the Vietnam-era one or the PASGT and now incorporate various attachment points for accessories like night vision goggles, IR strobes and cameras.


MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump wants a more American paint job for Air Force One

Donald Trump reportedly wants to redesign his official presidential planes, because the current ones don’t look American enough.

The president thinks the current light-blue-and-white color scheme on the jets do not sufficiently represent the US, Axios reported on July 12, 2018, quoting an unidentified source.

The US Air Force maintains two identical Boeing 747 planes, which take on the “Air Force One” call sign when the president is onboard. One of them is always ready to go at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.


The White House and Boeing struck a .9 billion deal in February 2018 for two new Air Force One planes, and Trump has requested that they be ready by 2021.

Trump now wants a redesign that “looks more American,” Axios reported, adding that he wants to make it red, white, and blue.

The president’s two Air Force One jets are currently light blue — “luminous ultramarine blue”, technically — and white, with a light brown and white lining, with the words “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” emblazoned on it. It also has the official presidential seal near the stairs the president typically uses to disembark the plane.

Trump also wants to make his bed aboard the planes bigger and more comfortable, like the one on his personal plane, Axios reported. During the presidential campaign, Trump used his personal plane — a Boeing 757 airliner-turned-private-jet— to travel around the country. It reportedly cost 0 million.

Donald Trump’s personal plane.

(Photo by Tomás Del Coro)

The White House did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

While Trump has the power to redesign the jet, the US Air Force might take issue with it. Some senior officers like the current look as it is “known around the world,” Axios said, quoting its source.

Former President John F. Kennedy and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy designed Air Force One’s current color scheme. Before that, presidents traveled on a rather plain Boeing C-137 Stratoliner. Axios reported that Trump had wanted the new planes to move away from the “Jackie Kennedy color.”

President Kennedy and renowned French industrial designer Raymond Loewy sat on the floor of the Oval Office in 1962 with colored paper and crayons to sketch out that paint scheme, according to a book about the history of the jet, titled “Air Force One: The Aircraft that Shaped the Modern Presidency.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China may have murdered the president of Interpol

It’s been more than a month since Beijing confirmed that the vanished Interpol president had been detained in China, and we’re no closer to knowing what happened.

Meng Hongwei disappeared after traveling to China on Sept. 29, 2018. Beijing broke its silence over the matter a week later, on Oct. 7, 2018, saying that it had detained him and was investigating him over bribery allegations.


That same day Interpol said it received Meng’s resignation — without specifying the source — and accepted it “with immediate effect.”

Jürgen Stock, Interpol’s secretary-general, told reporters on Nov. 8, 2018, that “there was no reason for me to (suspect) that anything was forced or wrong” about the resignation.

Interpol secretary-general Jürgen Stock.

Details of China’s allegations against Meng remain unclear. His detention appears to be part of a wider “anti-corruption drive” led by President Xi Jinping since his ascendancy to the Chinese leadership.

Activists at Human Rights Watch believe Meng is kept under a form of secret detention called liuzhi (留置), where the person is held incommunicado without access to lawyers or relatives for up to six months.

Sophie Richardson, the organization’s China director, told Business Insider that “we assume but cannot confirm” that.

The wife’s fight

Meng’s wife, Grace, repeatedly denied China’s corruption charges and claimed that her husband’s disappearance was “political persecution.”

She told the BBC in October 2018: “I’m not sure he’s alive. They are cruel. They are dirty,” she added, referring to China’s tactics to silence people.

Grace Meng added that she received a threatening phone call shortly after Meng’s disappearance, in which a man speaking in Chinese warned her not to speak out.

Reuters reported early November 2018 that Meng had retained two law firms in London and Paris to track down her husband. Business Insider contacted the two firms for comment on Meng’s next steps.

The last text Grace Meng received from her husband on Sept. 25, 2018, says in Chinese: “Wait for my call,” followed by a knife emoji — a possible warning that he was in danger.

Interpol says it can’t investigate, but is “strongly encouraging” China to speak out

The international police organization, where Meng was elected president in 2016, has not provided much clarity either.

It has not released a public statement since Oct. 7, 2018, when it acknowledged Meng’s resignation and has not responded to Business Insider’s request for comment.

Stock, Interpol’s secretary-general, said on Nov. 8, 2018, that the organization’s rules forbade him from investigating Meng’s disappearance.

“We are not an investigative body,” he said, according to the Associated Press. He added that “we are strongly encouraging China” to provide details of Meng’s whereabouts.

Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Richardson of Human Rights Watch told Business Insider: “If President Xi was even remotely serious about the rule of law, Meng would be guaranteed fair trial rights, but that is highly unlikely to happen given the profound politicization of China’s legal system.”

Rights groups protested Meng’s election to the Interpol presidency at the time, citing his previous work at China’s ministry of public security in Xinjiang and Tibet. The two regions are home to the country’s Uighur and Tibetan ethnic minorities, who Beijing has attempted to muzzle.

During Meng’s tenure, China submitted multiple “red notices” — Interpol arrest warrants — for dissidents around the world.

Roderic Wye, an associate fellow at Chatham House and former first secretary in the British Embassy in Beijing, told Business Insider in October 2018 that public disappearances were not unusual in China, especially in politics.

“It is often a sign that someone has got into trouble if they fail to appear in public doing their normal duties for a period of time,” he said.

Earlier in 2018 Chinese authorities publicly disappeared prominent Chinese actress Fan Bingbing for three months after she was accused of evading taxes.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Scorpion was Army airborne’s lightweight anti-tank firepower

In nature, scorpions are deadly creatures that wield a fearsome sting. So, it makes sense that they’ve lent their name to many a weapon, like the F-89 Scorpion and the Textron Scorpion, just to name two of the most prominent. One of the lesser-known weapons to hold this arachnid moniker is the the M56 Scorpion.

The M56 was a contemporary of the M50 Ontos, an anti-tank six-shooter that served with the Marine Corps for 13 years, giving them a lightweight vehicle with a potent punch. The Army took a different approach in fielding a similar vehicle.

Instead of the six 106mm recoilless rifles the Marines selected for the Ontos, the Army opted for a single M54 90mm gun as the primary armament for the M56. The Scorpion had 29 rounds for the main gun — which was its only weapon.


The Scorpion was intended to give the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions some serious anti-tank firepower. They needed something lightweight — and the Scorpion was only 15,750 pounds, according to MilitaryFactory.com, less than a third of the weight of the M41 Walker Bulldog light tank. That weight combined with a 90mm gun and you’ve got yourself a winning vehicle, right?

This M56 at the American Armored Foundation Museum shows how small the M56 Scorpion was, despite its powerful 90mm M54 gun.

(Photo by Ryan Crierie)

Well, not quite. It turns out that when you’ve a powerful gun on a light vehicle, the recoil can be vicious. In this case, it was real bad – firing the Scorpion’s gun could send it flying three feet into the air. As you can imagine, this was an extremely uncomfortable experience for the crew in two ways. Not only did it jolt them about, risking serious injury, it also exposed their position to enemy forces — which is last thing you want on a battlefield.

The M56 Scorpion, like the M50 Ontos, saw action in Vietnam.

(US Army)

Unlike the Ontos, the Scorpion did see some export sales. The Spanish Marines bought some, and so did Morocco and South Korea. The M56 saw action in the Vietnam War, primarily serving with the 173rd Airborne Brigade. The M56 was eventually replaced by the M551 Sheridan, which not only saw action in Vietnam, but served into the 1990s.

Learn more about this lightweight Scorpion in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sPZR40OHdfc

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY MOVIES

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Peter Markle grew up during a period of intense change for the country with the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War etched into his mind. His father proudly served in WWII in the Pacific where he brought those hard-learned lessons and values back to the family, which greatly impacted Peter. After time in the U.S. Army Reserves and on the USA Hockey Team, Markle decided to become a filmmaker. He has directed many great films, especially military and historical ones, to include Bat 21, Faith of my Fathers, Flight 93, Saving Jessica Lynch, Nightbreaker and Youngblood. Markle has also directed numerous episodes for hit shows including the X-Files, CSI, Without a Trace, Life, NYPD Blue, Burn Notice, Rescue Me, ER and Homicide: Life on the Street.

WATM: Tell me about your family and your life growing up?

I was born in Danville, PA. in the Geisinger Hospital that my mother’s father started. We lived on a farm outside Hazelton, PA. I have vivid memories from my first years there. The barn and particularly the hay loft, the fresh fruit that was picked daily in season, the creek where one of the workers killed a water moccasin one day. In first grade we moved to Minneapolis where my father got a job at a bank and I was introduced to a real winter. And the rink directly across the street in the park where I discovered ice hockey.

When I grew up there was no social media and absolutely no restrictions what you did with your free time when not in school. We had a black lab that left the house in the morning with us, went on his own way when he got bored with our activities which included exploration, sports, fishing etc. My dad hung a huge bell that could be heard

a half a mile away which was rung for lunch and dinner. The dog was always the first one back. Times have changed. We had enormous freedom and there was no temptation to bury our faces in smart phones. All activity was self-created.

I distinctly remember being fascinated the movies and got completely lost in them at the local cinema which is still there today. One of my favorites was Shane with Alan Ladd. Years later his son, Alvan Ladd, Jr. greenlit one of my films (Youngblood).

Markle with Flint Generals (IHL). Photo credit PM.

I continued hockey throughout high school and my senior year was asked to join the Olympic Hockey development program which ran through the summer. I played at Yale, had a tryout after my senior year with Boston, played minor league hockey and then three years with the US National team participating in two World tournaments.

Markle with the USA team. First row second from the right. Photo credit PM.

WATM: What is the most distinct memory of your mother and your father?

My parents were very social and community involved. My dad was one of the founders the youth hockey program in our area which started with one team and expanded in a few years into 500 participants. My mother worked throughout her life for hospitals concentrating on rehabilitation. Her interest in health care no doubt emanated from her father who was first assistant surgeon to Will and Charlie Mayo and at one point in his career became President of the American College of Surgeons. They were both extremely social and the vast majority of their best friends served in some way during WW2, many as Naval pilots. My dad was interested in everyone he met. He was the best listener I’ve known. That did not imply he didn’t have a point of view. His advice was judicious and more than often accepted. My mother was a community organizer. That would include in her community as well as her hospital work. Her friends would call her in the morning for their marching orders for the day.

WATM: What values were stressed at home?

It was the traditional ‘Golden Rule’. It’s a timeless aphorism and sometimes hard to follow in a competitive world like film but being honest and empathetic wins out in the short and long run. My mother also told me that lying not only was reprehensible but far more difficult to keep track of than the truth. Both underscored that failure was the inevitable pathway to success. It all depends on how you react to it.

WATM: What influenced you to join the US Army, what was your experience and what lessons did you take away from your service?

I graduated from college at the height of the Vietnam conflict and joined the rest of my class in deciding what was the next move. A significant number of the class including myself applied for the Naval OCS (officer candidate school) in the language division which was in Monterey, Ca. The sample copy of the test which was based on a made-up language was circulated around the campus. I remember looking at it and getting the gist of the concept. Apparently, the other students there got the gist as not one of several hundred who took it missed a question. There was some sort of investigation by the Navy, but it was dropped. I did not attend OCS and assumed upon graduating I would be drafted. I was playing professional hockey when I was told to report to Fort Snelling where the Minnesota Army Reserve was located. I was with four other players at the end of a 200-person line when our names were called, and we were told to report to the front. We were all inducted into the Reserves and told that we would all get time off when playing for the US National hockey team including world tournaments. A month later I was in Stockholm.

Peter lining up for the action shot even before becoming a director. Photo credit PM.

I did basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in the middle of the summer. It was incredibly hot and humid. I made fast friends in my platoon and had a great drill sergeant. It was a lot like summer football camp but with longer hours. Up at 4am for a 5-mile run in army boots to lights out at 10pm. I was told that you had to learn how to stand in formation while asleep. Done. We had soldiers who gained 80 pounds (never had more than one meal a day) and others who lost 80 (never ran over 10 yards in their lives before). It was a very different mix from my fraternity in college where we had 4 Olympic Swimmers (including Don Schollander who won 5 gold medals and Calvin Hill who was All Pro in the NFL. As a footnote The President of the frat my sophomore year was Fred W. Smith, founder/CEO of FedEx and decorated US Marine in Vietnam, and for my senior year it was George W. Bush who also ended up in the Air Force Reserves.

The harassment was handed out pretty democratically until the PT contest. Parallel bars, low crawl, 100-yard man carry, the 6-minute mile in army boots, push ups etc. I scored the only perfect score in my company (200 men) and was given the weekend off. That would not have happened if my 98-pound roommate, Eddie Pragg, didn’t let me use him for the man carry.

I have to underscore that my boot camp experience on every level was positive. It was tough but extremely well organized. The officers were exacting but fair. The staff was totally professional. It ran like clockwork at a time when so many were going through the turnstile each day. There are some correlations to making a film where it demands a unified front and an ability to make quick adjustments according to the situation at hand. I was just a grunt in the machine but there were numerous examples among the staff on every level as well as my fellow platoon mates that have stayed with me my entire life.

No one knew other than a small handful of reservists as to whether they would end up in Vietnam. I did not have to confront the prospect of being shipped out. I realized that I was uniquely privileged. I did OJT (on the job training) at Fort Ord in Chicago before ending back in Minneapolis for weekend duty once a month at Fort Snelling. Motor pool, clerical work, city public projects. No riots or disasters to contend with. We did summer camp at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin and in addition to my normal duties and drills I was an editor of the camp newspaper distributed the last day. I decided to take a somewhat satirical angle on the experience and was surprised at the reception. There was laughter, soldiers reading bits out loud and fortunately no reprisals from the brass. I was encouraged to write by my freshman English professor in college and never took it seriously until listening to the reception of my version of ‘The Onion’ distributed around camp.

I would be remiss not to mention that it was my father who was the real soldier. He dropped out of the University of Pennsylvania to join the Navy. He got his pilot license at 17 and became one the youngest flight instructors in the armed forces during WW2. He was assigned to the USS Bataan, a light aircraft carrier, and fought in the last years in the Pacific through the surrender which he witnessed being docked next to the Missouri in Tokyo Bay. Because of his flight experience he was put in charge of the CIC (combat information center) directing planes when airborne, spotted bogies (enemy planes) and skunks (unidentified surface ships) basically directing aerial combat operations along with the brass. They were in the middle of the kamikaze blitz and had numerous close calls. He witnessed both the Bunker Hill and the Franklin take direct hits some less than 200 meters away with the loss of over 1000 sailors. During one Kamikaze attack a sister ship got hit and 19 soldiers were thrown overboard. Dad marked his ship’s position using the DTR (dead reckoning system) and he convinced the brass to take 8 ships after dark for a search. They implemented a staggered zig zag course for six hours and miraculously found the sailors within 10 minutes of the search stop order. To be noted as well, his brother, Alvan, landed on Omaha Beach, fought 5 major battles in the Bulge as an artillery captain and was honored the Chevalier of the Legion of Honneur by the French. He attended the 70th Anniversary of Normandy.

Peter’s father (Thomas) during WWII. Photo credit PM.

Pictures from Peter’s father during his time in the Navy. Photo credit PM.

Pictures from Peter’s father during his time in the Navy. Photo credit PM.

Pictures from Peter’s father during his time in the Navy. Photo credit PM.

Pictures from Peter’s father during his time in the Navy. Photo credit PM.

Pictures from Peter’s father during his time in the Navy. Photo credit PM.

Pictures from Peter’s father during his time in the Navy. Photo credit PM.

WATM: What values have you carried over from the Army into directing and writing?

It’s a tiresome analogy but it would be teamwork. I’ve been on series where one show had 4 stages in use at the same time. One devoted primarily to build sets designed for a particular episode, another three with sets for shooting a current episode, pickups from previous episodes and for the next one. Well over 100 people will be working to accomplish the same goal. Each department head is crucial to the mission (production; accounting; director and assistant directors; art; camera; casting; catering; construction; costume; lighting; grip; locations; makeup/hair; medic; post-production; property; publicity; research; script supervision; set dressing; sound; special effects; stand-ins; stunts; transportation; video playback; visual effects. The similarity to the chain of command in the military is obvious. Lots of departments. Lots of personnel. And all interdependent with one another. I guess the ‘weakest link in the chain’ is a prevalent dynamic in both film and the armed forces. I was shooting a film in Borneo (Bat 21) and the special effects department head had set a series of explosions along a path through the jungle Gene Hackman and Danny Glover would run by. This was primarily done using a nail-board which each nail represented an explosion. After going hot contacting the individual nails with metal (could be a screwdriver) set off the blast. The department head said that he was going to use a computer program instead of the old system, the ‘eyeball approach’. I questioned whether it made sense to switch now but he said it was safer. I called action and Danny and Gene started running along a riverbank. An explosion (representing a bomb) goes off so close to them that they both instinctively duck and cover their faces but continue running. The second explosion is closer, and we get the same reaction for the talent. I look over at effects and he is white as a ghost. The shot was incredible, but we almost lost two actors. Back to the nail board. We never told Gene or Danny.

WATM: What is the most fulfilling project you have done and why?

I guess it’s always the first one because you actually pulled off the impossible. It was a low budget comedy called The Personals where no one was paid. It got great reviews and a crazy learning experience. Bat 21 was up there for the subject matter, the location and working with Gene and Danny. Flight 93 was the first 9/11 film and it was done for AE TV. It was nominated for and won a bunch of Emmys. It was also a challenge to write because the majority of the account took place on the plane. The 9/11 Commission report had just come out and had a great deal of information that I was able to incorporate into the film. We covered not only the drama on the plane but also the families as well as the air traffic controllers and military involvement on the ground.

WATM: What was your experience like in working with such talents as Gene Hackman, Danny Glover, Senator John McCain, Kiefer Sutherland, Dennis Hopper, Daryl Hannah, Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves, Cynthia Gibb, John Candy, Jerry Reed, Joe Pantoliano, Ed Lauter and the like?

After a tryout with the New York Islanders and being assigned to a farm team I made the abrupt decision to become a filmmaker. A good friend of my parents told me something that I never forgot – ‘If you do something you love you increase the odds a hundred-fold that you will be happy and successful.’ I gave it a shot. I ended up doing several military related projects including Bat 21 with Gene Hackman, Faith of my Fathers with Scott Glenn and Shawn Hatosy, Saving Jessica Lynch, Flight 93 and Nightbreaker with Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez.

All were based on true stories. Bat 21 chronicled the rescue of a 52-year-old Air Force Colonel who was flying a mission to identify through electronic surveillance SAM missile sites that would be knocked out by fighter jets prior to a B52 carpet bombing. His plane was hit by a SAM and he ended up in enemy territory with no ground combat experience. He was guided to his rescue by a spotter plane that flew daily missions tracking him. Gene Hackman played the Colonel and Danny Glover the pilot. Both actors were terrific to work with. Gene prepped at night and arrived early in the day to walk the ‘set’ (only locations in our case). I don’t think I ever did more than 3 takes with him in a scene. Danny is a natural and had great insights into his character. All day aerial shooting was done with him in the plane. It was 95 degrees, humid and our takes had to be limited to seconds in some cases. It was major hazard duty, but Danny embraced it. At times he had control of the stick and relied on our stunt pilot in the other seat to let him know when to bank away.

On the set of Bat 21 with Gene Hackman and Peter. Photo credit Peter.

Clayton Rohner and Danny Glover in Bat 21. Photo credit IMDB.com

Faith of my Fathers was based on John’s McCain’s early days at Annapolis through his release from the Hanoi Hilton where he was imprisoned for 5 years. Shawn Hatosy was remarkable as he had to age 20 years over the course of the film in portraying John. Scott Glenn was perfect, giving an understated yet powerful performance as his father who was commander of all U.S forces in the Vietnam theater. McCain himself visited the set in New Orleans where we reconstructed an abandoned brewery into the prison. One day I watched him walk over to a cell by himself and enter. I joined him and asked him what he thought. His reply, ‘it’s identical. But you know at times I actually miss it.’ Perplexed, I asked, ‘miss what?’ John replied, ‘being there. I made some great friends. It was one of those shared experiences that forms you for the rest of your life.’ That summed up John McCain for me.

Peter, Shawn Hatosy and Senator John McCain on the set of Faith of my Fathers. Photo credit Peter.

Saving Jessica Lynch was a jingoistic, short of the facts script when I received it. I did extensive research which included interviewing soldiers who were in Iraq and one we hired as an extra who was part of the actual rescue effort. The final product told the real story: A convoy consisting of essentially non-combat personnel (cooks and clerks) made a couple of bad decisions and ended up driving through a town inhabited by Fedayeen. The New York Times and other reputable news outlets broke stories that our film debunked. Lynch did not shoot back during the attack. Eleven American soldiers died. She was taken to a hospital and was on her back through her rescue. The Times wrote a retraction after the film aired praising the film for its authenticity.

Laura Regan in Saving Jessica Lynch. Photo credit IMDB.com

Pete and Laura on set. Photo credit PM.

A scene from Saving Jessica Lynch. Photo credit IMDB.com.

Peter directing a scene of Saving Jessica Lynch. Photo credit PM.

Just before filming starts on the set of Saving Jessica Lynch. Photo credit IMDB.com

An action sequence from Saving Jessica Lynch. Photo credit PM.

Nightbreaker was a pet project of Martin Sheen. It chronicled the use of army soldiers as guinea pigs to determine the short- and long-term effects of being exposed to a nuclear blast. This was a story from the 50s when nuclear proliferation was at its apex. Emilio plays Martin role as a young man during the actual tests. It tracks the character in middle age trying to come to terms with his involvement. Both actors were terrific to work with and inhabited the pervasive guilt from being involved in the malignant endeavor. Joey Pantoliano played a Sergeant who was in charge of a platoon of guinea pig soldiers and brought the entire range of conflicted emotions to his part.

Peter with Martin Sheen on the set of Nighbreaker. Photo credit Peter.

Joe Pantaliano, Peter and Emilio Estevez on set for Nightbreaker. Photo credit IMDB.com

Peter and Martin on set. Photo credit Peter.

Flight 93 was the first film about 9/11. Obviously, there was a military component as soon as it was discovered that it was a coordinated terrorist attack. I remember someone seeing the film and mentioning that it must have been harrowing to make. I noted that our fuselage (the real interior of a 757) was flying at an altitude of one meter, zero knots and within a 15 second walk to craft services (snacks). The best we could do would imagine how we would have reacted in the situation. Would we have been that heroic? Would we be at the head of the conga line attacking the cockpit or hiding in the bathroom in the back? Maybe somewhere in the middle? The coordination between the military and the civilian air services was impressive even though three of the four targets were hit. The passengers on 93 had more time to gather information and communicate with ground control so enable them to coordinate an attack.

Peter on the set of Flight 93. Photo credit IMDB.com

What the outside of the set looked like. Photo credit PM.

Peter working with the cast on Flight 93. Photo credit IMDB.com

More on set work for Flight 93. Photo credit IMDB.com

93 was an intense journey as are all films. Lots of moving parts, decisions, conflicts and compromises. But ultimately it is teamwork that wins out.

Rob Lowe, Pete and Patrick Swayze on set for Youngblood. Photo credit IMDB.com

Pete (bottom center) with the cast and some crew of Youngblood. Photo credit IMDB.com

Youngblood was a passion project and a blast to make. It was about a young hockey player from the US trying out for an elite Canadian junior team. Rob Lowe, Pat Swayze and Cindy Gibb were the leads. Keanu Reeves played a goalie and it was his first job in a film. Goalies are characters because it’s such an insane position and he was totally quirky in the audition. Rob was great to work with. He had no previous experience skating but progressed quickly enough for us to make it work. He had two doubles who filled in the action scenes who were both elite players.

Pat was a figure skater and quickly adjusted to hockey skates. Rob would agree with me that Pat was a force of nature. He’d be working on 10 other personal projects when not on the set. He composed the song ‘She’s like the Wind’ in his hotel room using a portable mixing setup. We had two scrimmages a week during prep with crew and our hockey extras. Our extras were elite players (two went into the NHL a month after wrap and had huge careers). An executive from MGM came up to make sure I wasn’t participating in the games for obvious reasons and was taken to the rink and just as he sat down, he saw me collide with another player. Pat who knew the exec was there skated over to me and said ‘stay down. He’ll have a heart attack.’

Rob, Peter, Ed Lauter and Ken James. Photo credit PM.

Pete on the ice with his DP Mark Irwin. Photo credit PM.

Tony Danza, Pete, Nick Tuturro and Samuel L. Jackson on the set of Dead and Alive: The Race for Gus Farace. Photo credit IMDB.com

Frank Vincent, Tony Danza and Pete on Dead and Alive: The Race for Gus Farace. Photo credit IMDB.com

Danny Glover and Pete sharing a moment. Photo credit PM.

Dayton Callie, Michael Madsen, Pete and Dennis Hopper on the set of The Last Days of Frankie the Fly. Photo credit IMDB.com

Pete on the set of “The X-Files” with David Duchovny. Lily with the poncho, Pete, David and Melinda (Pete’s wife) Photo credit IMDB.com

Peter and Louis Gossett Jr. on the set of El Diablo. Photo credit IMDB.com

Pete and Daryl Hannah taking a break on The Last Days of Frankie the Fly. Photo credit IMDB.com

WATM: As a veteran, how do we get more veteran stories told in the Hollywood arena?

There are so many diverse stories that can be told. The multiple perspectives include what branch of service, when, the mission, the soldiers involved, fact or fiction etc. Like any project it depends on the strength of the narrative and its ability to attract the actors that help finance the project and the studio/production company to green light it. Personally, I think the number is infinite. All conflicts are different just like every individual is different.

Dennis Hopper, Pete and Kiefer Sutherland on The Last Days of Frankie the Fly. Photo credit IMDB.com

Gillian Anderson and Peter on the set of “The X-Files”. Photo credit IMDB.com

WATM: What are you most proud of in life and your career?

First would be having a family which I did at an advanced age. I met my wife, Melinda, while casting a television film. I guess you could call it an acceptable version of the casting couch. That is to say I wasn’t the only one in the room and it wasn’t at the Peninsula Hotel. She was the best actress for the part, and I was immediately attracted to her by her performance and presence. We laughed and argued (about the role) in the room. I knew she was going to be a challenge, but it has made our lives infinitely interesting. And, of course, I’m a guy and like most of our species have not progressed that much from the stone age. We have two kids, Lily and Lucas. As moms and dads know, when children make an appearance, life as you knew it evaporates. But in a good and challenging way. When they got into their teens, I learned so much. Such as I was a horrible dresser and not to yell at basketball or soccer officials. We taught them both to ski and the progression of literally carrying them down the hill to not being able to ski any of their favorite double black runs with them is humbling. You realize that you can give them some direction but that they are on their own paths and need to fumble and fall and learn to pick themselves up again.

Per career I think it would be not willing to quit. To keep trying. I never had a film gross 100 million and did not play one game in the NHL, but I was rewarded in countless ways for my efforts. I have met so many wonderful, dedicated, talented people along the way which is one of the most valid ways to judge one’s life. And I can say that my time spent in the Army was an integral part of the on-going journey.


MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s what the Army’s powerful light tank could look like

The US Army just moved one step closer to a new light tank intended to boost the firepower of airborne and other light infantry units.

The Army is currently looking for a new tracked armored vehicle able to protect and support infantrymen as they “destroy the enemy in some of the worst places in the world,” Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, the director of the Army’s Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team, said Dec. 17, 2018.


“This capability is much needed in our infantry forces,” he told reporters at a media roundtable.

The infantry has artillery, but “there’s no precision munition to remove bunkers from the battlefield, to shoot into buildings in dense urban terrain,” Coffman explained. That is where Mobile Protected Firepower comes into play.

Two companies, BAE Systems and General Dynamics, have been awarded Section 804 Middle Tier Acquisition Rapid Prototyping contracts for this development project, the Army revealed Dec. 17, 2018. Each contract is worth 6 million, and each company will provide a total of 12 prototypes.

BAE Systems Mobile Protected Firepower.

(BAE Systems photo)

The purpose of Mobile Protected Firepower is to “disrupt, breach, and break through” fortified defenses

The MPF, a 30-ton light tank expected to fill a critical capability gap, is one of five next-generation combat vehicles being developed by Army Futures Command, a new four-star command focused on preparing the force for high-end warfighting against near-peer threats in an age of renewed great power competition.

The Army, shifting its focus from counterinsurgency to high-intensity multi-domain operations with an eye on rivals China and Russia, wants contractors to deliver a vehicle that offers mobility, lethality, and survivability.

The MPF light tanks would provide the firepower to breach heavily-fortified defensive positions, potentially in an area, such as Russian and Chinese anti-access zones, where the US might not be able to achieve absolute air superiority.

The MPF vehicles will help Infantry Combat Brigade Teams (ICBTs) “disrupt, breach, and break through” secure defensive zones, Coffman explained.

The final Mobile Protected Firepower light tank, which will be delivered to troops in 2025, will be a tracked vehicle with either a 105 mm or 120 mm cannon that can withstand an unspecified level of fire. The Army also wants to be able to carry at least two light tanks aboard a C-17 Globemaster III for easy transport.

BAE Systems displayed its Mobile Protected Firepower prototype at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) Annual Meeting Exposition in October 2016 in Washington.

(BAE Systems via U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center)

BAE Systems’ MPF solution

BAE Systems presented a Mobile Protected Firepower prototype at the Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting Exposition in 2016. BAE Systems’ latest proposal is a variant of the original design.

BAE Systems Mobile Protected Firepower.

(BAE Systems photo)

“Our offering integrates innovative technology that reduces the burden on the crew into a compact design deployable in areas that are hard to reach,” Deepak Bazaz, director of combat vehicles programs at BAE Systems, said in a statement.

GDLS displayed its Griffin tech demonstrator, a starting point for MPF discussions, at the AUSA Annual Meeting Exposition.

(General Dynamics via U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center)

General Dynamics’ MPF

General Dynamics Land Systems displayed a technology demonstrator at AUSA 2016 as a starting point for discussions with the Army about its expectations for the MPF platform.

The company is currently playing its cards close to the vest with its latest proposal, offering only the following picture while clarifying that the vehicle pictured is not the company’s exact offering.

A General Dynamics Land Systems Griffin II prototype vehicle. GD was selected to produce similar, medium-weight, large-caliber prototype vehicles for the U.S. Army’s Mobile Protected Firepower program.

(General Dynamics photo)

“We are excited about this opportunity to provide the US Army a large-caliber, highly mobile combat vehicle to support the infantry brigade combat teams,” Don Kotchman, the vice president and general manager of General Dynamics Land Systems US Market, said in a statement.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force’s brand-new F-35 has already set a speed record

The 388th Fighter Wing set a speed record for bringing online a newly-delivered aircraft, flying a local sortie less than five hours after accepting delivery of its 68th F-35A Lightning II.

Aircraft 5261 left Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth, Texas, production facility a little after 8 a.m. Aug. 1, 2019, landed at Hill AFB at 10 a.m., and by 3 p.m. had taken off on its first combat training mission.

“The F-35A program’s production and delivery plan was designed to allow rapid aircraft induction and quick use by the customers,” said Col. Michael Miles, 388th Maintenance Group commander. “We’ve shown the enterprise it’s possible.”


This isn’t just a “gee-whiz” record. In theory, it means that F-35As could be deployed directly from the factory into combat if a large-scale conflict ever drives that need, Miles said.

Crew chiefs with the 421st Aircraft Maintenance Unit work on an F35A Lightning II at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, July 31, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

When a new F-35A comes off the line at the production facility, it undergoes several contract and government check flights before the Air Force accepts final delivery. These flights generate data points that are collected in the Autonomic Logistics Information System and then passed on to the gaining unit, in this case the 388th FW.

The previous timeline for inducting new aircraft was measured in days and weeks, but process and system improvements in the data collection and transfer process bodes well for the future, said Chief Master Sgt. Trey Munn, 388th Maintenance Group chief enlisted manager.

A US Air Force F-35A Lightning II of the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base in Utah after receiving fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over Germany, July 23, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Emerson Nuñez)

“We’ve been working toward this goal as the program has matured and this is great step, and a testament to the work of the folks at Lockheed Martin, the Joint Program Office, and the airmen in the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings,” Munn said.

The 388th and 419th are the Air Force first combat-capable F-35 units. The first operational F-35As arrived at Hill in October 2015. The active duty 388th FW and Air Force Reserve 419th FW fly and maintain the jet in a Total Force partnership, which capitalizes on the strength of both components. By the end of this year, Hill AFB will be home to 78 F-35s.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

Articles

These 8 TV characters would never survive in the real military

Over the years Hollywood has shed both positive and negative light on the military experience. While the biographical examples might face severe scrutiny over matters of accuracy, here are 8 fictional military characters who inarguably wouldn’t cut it in the real deal:


1. Ensign Charles Beaumont Parker – “McHale’s Navy”

When the military is used as the basis for a sitcom, it’s inevitable that some of the troops won’t exactly be up to snuff. Ensign Parker brings that to another level, actively causing harm to U.S. and Allied Forces. (The show takes place during World War II.) He accidentally fires a depth charge in one episode, and in another accidentally shoots down an Allied aircraft. That’s a level of ineptitude the United States military wouldn’t and frankly couldn’t stand for.

2. Buster Bluth – “Arrested Development”

Buster is enlists in “Army,” as he calls it, due to a dare a comedian makes to his mother. And lucky for him, he’s immediately honorably discharged after having his hand bit off by a seal. In season 4, he re-enlists to control drones in Iraq. Buster has a blast – until someone explains to him that what he’s doing is real, and he immediately has a panic attack. Then again, Buster once had a panic attack because a llama was near him. He might tell you he’s in Army, but he isn’t Army Strong.

3. Beetle Bailey – “Beetle Bailey”

One thing you certainly can’t be in any branch of the military is lazy, and Beetle Bailey is perhaps the laziest of them all. He’ll do anything to get out of work, including putting his fellow soldiers, and commanding officers, at serious risks. Luckily, the characters at Camp Swampy don’t seem to face any particular risk of war being declared, and therefore will likely avoid any form of actual combat. If they did face an enemy attack, or were sent to fight someplace, chances are Beetle Bailey would be too lazy to even raise his arms.

4. Gareth Keenan – “The Office” (BBC version)

There’s no real reason to doubt Gareth Keenan when he claims he was a Lieutenant in the Territorial Army before joining Wernam-Hogg, aside from how utterly clueless he seems to be when Tim and Dawn quiz him about tactical strategy. Gareth talks a big game, always being prepared to take a man from behind, give a man a lethal blow, or even discharge with rapid speed if enemies should uncover and enter his hole — you know, find out where he’s hiding. The fact Gareth never seems to understand the double entendres behind his own boasts kind of makes him look foolish, perhaps too foolish to actually achieve any kind of rank.

5. Zapp Brannigan – “Futurama”

Zapp may be a 25-Star General in the Year 3000, buts its impossible to imagine he’d last a single day in any branch of the U.S. military. No part of Brannigan’s success makes sense. Although Brannigan’s Law is named after him, he openly admits he doesn’t understand it in the slightest. In fact, most of Brannigan’s successes are subjugating and annihilating weak and defenseless aliens, which, while smart satire, isn’t something that would actually be tolerated in the military.

6. Don Draper – “Mad Men”

Don’s a special case on this list, in that his whole story is that he quite literally couldn’t make it in the military. As fans now know, Draper’s mystery actually began with him as Dick Whitman, but things dramatically changed during the Korean War. Terrible things happen during war, and its hard to say how any individual would react when faced with the horrors Whitman and his Lieutenant, the real Don Draper, faced. But what’s clear is Whitman’s reaction is highly illegal and wouldn’t be tolerated in any military.

7. Homer Simpson – “The Simpsons”

Homer Simpson has had over 100 jobs, and he’s been terrible at nearly every one of them. His time in the service still manages to rank among his most inept. Homer actually joined the service twice—first as a member of the Navy Reserve in Season 9, then in Season 18 he enlisted in the Army. As a member of the Navy Reserve, Homer nearly caused a nuclear war with Russia, and in the Army he turned a training exercise into a city-wide explosive event. The military always welcomes recruits, but Homer should probably stick to his hundreds of other jobs.

8. Dave Titus – “Titus”

Everyone in the Titus family seems to think it would be a great idea for Dave to join the Army. It could teach him responsibility and get him to stop doing drugs and being lazy. However, his brother Christopher sees it a different way: the Army isn’t going to bring Dave up; Dave’s going to bring the Army down. Fearing “Private Dave” could somehow cause nuclear destruction, Christopher gives Dave some pot to smoke on the way to recruitment, hoping this story will find a less destructive end.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Normalcy bias can make you lose a fight before it starts

Sometimes you just know something’s not right. You feel a twinge in the pit of your gut, a growing sense of uneasiness, and you start to notice things that you wouldn’t normally notice. Is that guy acting weird or am I just being paranoid? You ask yourself before dismissing the thought. Come on, nothing’s gonna happen in this neighborhood.


Despite the headlines saturating every media outlet in the country, the United States is (statistically speaking) an overwhelmingly safe place to live. Regardless of our ever-present concerns about violent crime, mass shootings, and terror attacks, the likelihood that you’ll find yourself faced with a violent end are far lower than you’ll find throughout much of the world… and as a result, Americans are at a disadvantage when it comes to cultivating a high level of situational awareness.

Instead, Americans tend to develop what’s called a normalcy bias. Put simply, normalcy bias is our natural inclination to shrug away concerns about potential threats, because we’ve developed a deep-seated sense of what’s normal.

I’m sure these guys are just waiting for an Uber.

(Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Shejal Pulivarti, US Army)

Our minds are evolutionarily hard-wired to assess and prioritize risks, and after decades of living in a world where you’ve never faced an active shooter or a terror attack, our brains tend to file those potential threats way in the back, after more pressing concerns like crashing our cars or falling down the stairs. The sheer unlikelihood that we could find ourselves in the middle of a fight for our lives just tends to make us ignore those fights until they’ve already landed right in our laps.

Normalcy bias manifests as a delay in our processing of what’s going on around us, as we hush away our gut instincts and dismiss our seemingly “unfounded” concerns as paranoia. In a nutshell, it’s our way of clinging to reality as we’ve come to know it through a lifetime of nervous twinges that we’ve ignored, followed by confirmations that we were safe. Those times you hesitated before dragging your trash can through the dark alley behind your house growing up helped you to overcome a fear of the dark, but also helped to establish a bias toward dismissing your concerns about what could be a threat.

Instead of dismissing your nervousness about dark alleys, listen to your gut and be objective about any potential threats.

(Courtesy of Franck Michel on Flickr)

That intellectual buffer is the source of normalcy bias. We discount concerns that seem unlikely and scold ourselves for being afraid of the dark, but those gut feelings are often actually the sum of a series of parts assembled subconsciously by the incredible, pattern recognizing computers we call our brains. The evidence of a threat may not be irrefutable, but something has our hair standing on end. We dismiss it as a product of our overactive imaginations and eventually, this even stalls our ability to process real evidence of threats; as they break through the cognitive barriers between what our lives have been to this point and what they are about to become.

Fortunately, there’s a simple way to overcome the mental inhibitors of normalcy bias: simply practice maintaining an objective mindset when it comes to threats. When you catch yourself dismissing concerns about a bulge in the waistband of the rowdy drunk at the bar or the chances something dangerous could be waiting for you at the other end of a dark alley, stop and put some real thought into your situation instead of allowing normalcy bias to silence the warning bells in your head.

I snapped this photo of the closest rooftop to us with my phone as we got out of dodge.

While in Alexandria, Egypt with my wife a few years ago, we were given a tour of a large building near the city’s port. As our tour reached the roof, our tour guide left us to enjoy the views and see ourselves out at our leisure, but before we could really take in the sights, I noticed a two-man sniper team perching themselves on a nearby roof. A bit further down the closed road to the port, I saw another team moving into position as well, and then another.. Chances were good that these guys were members of law enforcement preparing security for an arrival, or port security conducting training. Honestly, we’ll never know–because the minute I spotted what could be a sign of impending trouble, I made the decision that we were leaving.

I never heard any news about something terrible happening at that port in Alexandria that day, but as an American traveling overseas with my adorable (but not all that good in a fight) wife, I try my best to avoid situations that involve armed overwatch from guys that aren’t wearing Old Glory on their shoulders.

Overcoming normalcy bias isn’t about living in a constant state of paranoia, but rather about listening to your gut and making a rational decision. Sometimes the things we perceive as threats are nothing more than bumps in the night… but when those bumps in the night are caused by real people that mean you harm, it pays to trust your gut.

Articles

This Red Flag is going to be incredible

F-22 Raptor fighter jets from Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, have joined combat air forces from across the nation for the joint, full-spectrum readiness exercise Red Flag 17-3.


Ten F-22s from the 95th Fighter Squadron are joining the exercise alongside Marine Corps F-35B and Air Force F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighters.

This is a first in Red Flag history that both variants of F-35 will take part in the exercise, officials said. The F-35B is the short-takeoff and vertical-landing version of the jet, and the F-35A has conventional takeoff and landing capabilities.

Other aircraft such as B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit bombers, E-3 Sentry airborne warning and control aircraft, F-16 Fighting Falcon fighters, and more will also be featured and will each play an important role in the exercise theater, officials said.

The F-22 is designed to project air dominance rapidly and at great distances.

USAF photo by Master Sgt. Burt Traynor

“We’re primarily an escort role,” said Air Force Capt. Brady Amack, 95th Fighter Squadron pilot. “We integrate with other aircraft, whether they’re fourth or fifth generation, and ensure they’re able to execute their mission. The amount of experience we get is huge. There is no other area, really, where we can train with so many different types of aircraft in such a large area.”

Higher Level of Training

By gathering these diverse units together, the exercise facilitates readiness training on a higher level, as each unit rings specific expertise and talents to the table, officials said. Red Flag teaches them to work together as they would in the field, possibly for the first time, before facing an actual threat, they added.

Red Flag 17-3 is exclusively reserved for U.S. military forces, which allows for specific training when coordinating fifth-generation assets, exercise officials noted, adding that Tyndall’s Raptors will be able to learn from working with both F-35 units taking part.

Photo courtesy of US Navy

Both aircrafts’ stealth capabilities, advanced avionics, communication and sensory capabilities help augment the capabilities of the other aircraft, Amack said.
“Working with the F-35s brings a different skill set to the fifth-generation world,” he added. “Having a more diverse group of low-observable assets has allowed us to do great things.”

The mission of the Red Flag exercise overall is to maximize the combat readiness and survivability of participants by providing a realistic training environment and a preflight and post-flight training forum that encourages a free exchange of ideas.

The 95th Fighter Squadron benefits by learning how to completely integrate into multi-aircraft units and gaining experience from intense sorties, officials said.

“Since Red Flag 17-3, in particular, is U.S. only, we get to take the opportunity to take things to the next level,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Mark Sadler, 414th Combat Training Squadron commander.

“This Red Flag alone gives us our singular largest fifth-generation footprint, which allows us to learn as we continue to build new ideas. As we look to be innovative and solve problems, we’ll only increase our readiness by getting smarter as a force and as joint warfighters.”
MIGHTY HISTORY

Britain unveils drone that will protect vulnerable warships

Britain’s Ministry of Defence has announced the successful testing of a new kit that turns small combat boats into drones that can protect larger warships, warning them of drones, small enemy vessels, and shore defenses, among other threats.


The British Royal Navy attached a kit to the Pacific 24 rigid inflatable boat. The resulting Maritime Autonomy Surface Testbed was 13 meters, or 43 feet, in length, so it is known as MAST-13. Because Britain likes to name their things simply.

The MAST-13 was demonstrated at the Defence and Security Equipment International Conference on September 10 in London as senior members of the British defense community looked on. The MAST-13 was tasked with protecting the HMS Argyll in the London Docklands. The MAST-13 detected threats on the riverbed and transmitted them back to Argyll.

“MAST-13 is pioneering the future of Unmanned Surface Vehicles for our world-leading navy,” said U.K. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace. “The development of unmanned technology is vital for success in modern warfare, going beyond the capability of traditional ships to attack and defend in uncertain environments.

“As more advanced technology and new threats continue to evolve, collaborative technology development ensures we are constantly pushing the boundaries to give our armed forces the best capabilities possible,” he continued.

Britain is investing heavily in protecting large ships as its navy has constructed new carriers that it can ill-afford to lose. This makes force protection a key mission for the Royal Navy moving forward, and the MAST-13 could be perfect for that mission.

In addition, the Royal Navy expects to use the program in anti-piracy and border control operations.

The technological developments necessary for MAST-13 fall under Britain’s NavyX program to develop autonomous vessels. The Programme Director for NavyX, Royal Navy Commander Sean Trevethan, said, “Ultimately this will change the way we fight, through integrated command and control, and lead to the development of new tactics, techniques, and procedures.”

He also said, “This is much more than an autonomous surface vessel demonstration for the Royal Navy. What we are doing is the first step of exploiting system architecture in a complex warship to integrate an unmanned system into the ship.”

Vessels like the MAST-13 would be highly valued in the potential, but still unlikely, war with Iran. Iran has historically put pressure on the international community by restricting movement through the Strait of Hormuz. Iranian territory dominates the narrow waterway.

The MAST-13 could help larger ships moving through the strait avoid mines and other threats in the case of open conflict.

BAE Systems, the company which makes the PAC24 RIB, has also created an autonomous system for the Pacific 950 RIB.

Articles

That time an admiral used his own Navy Cross to decorate a hero

Coast Guard Signalman Ray Evans was a legend in World War II who drew machine gun fire from Japanese soldiers while pulling Chesty Puller’s Marines out of a hairy situation on Guadalcanal in 1942. The Navy awarded him a Navy Cross, but Vice Adm. Joseph Stika had no medal to hand to Evans, so he took off his own Navy Cross and pinned it on Evans.


For Stika, the groundwork was laid in 1918 when he was serving near a munitions yard in Morgan, New Jersey. The Gillespie Ammunitions Yard suffered a series of explosions on Oct. 4 that continued for two days.

Shattered cars sit near the site of the T.A. Gillespie Plant explosion in 1918. (Photo: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

It was one of the largest ordnance activities in America at the time, handling 10 percent of all artillery shells used by American forces at the Western front. When the first explosions started, they triggered a chain reaction that turned the entire area into a Hellscape, detonating more explosives and spreading unexploded ordnance across the surrounding area.

Stika, then a Coast Guard first lieutenant (which the Coast Guard used to have), led a team of five Coast Guardsmen and two soldiers into the explosions to secure and remove ordnance before it could go off. For two days, they repaired rail lines and drove trains out of the blaze, sometimes while the trains themselves were on fire or within burning areas.

Soldier feeds orphans created during the T.A. Gillespie Plant explosion in 1918. (Photo: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

Twelve members of the Coast Guard, including Stika, were awarded Navy Crosses for their actions that October.

Stika rose through the ranks during the interwar period and was serving as a vice admiral in 1942 when Evans and Coast Guard Signalman Douglas Munro were called to service at Guadalcanal. The two enlisted men had joined at the same recruiting station on the same day and been assigned to the same cutter, leading to a deep friendship.

The two were split up for different missions but were reunited at Guadalcanal where their orders intersected. On the island, they were asked by a Marine Corps major to take part in a mission planned by then-Lt. Col. Lewis “Chesty” Puller.

Coast Guardsmen and sailors unload supplies at Guadalcanal in support of the U.S. Marine Corps. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The Marines had been trying to get across the Matanikau River for some time with no success. Puller wanted to try an amphibious assault that would deliver Marines onto a beachhead behind the river. These Marines would then clear the Japanese and allow their compatriots to cross.

Munro and Evans agreed, and the initial landings went well. But as the Coast Guardsmen were headed back to base, they learned that the Marines had been ambushed soon after the boats left, and they desperately needed extraction.

American troops of the 163rd Infantry Regiment, hit the beach from Higgins boats like those piloted by Chief Signalmen Ray Evans and Douglas Munro at Guadalcanal. (Photo: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

Puller rushed to Navy ships in the ocean to direct artillery fire in support of his men, and the Coast Guardsmen were sent back to pull out the Marines. Evans and Munro volunteered to stay back from the beach and lay heavy fire on the Japanese, drawing their attention while the rest of the flotilla loaded up the Marines.

The extraction went well and the boats turned to head back to base, but one of the boats became stuck on a nearby beach. Munro and Evans towed the boat off the sand, but a Japanese machine gunner spotted them and opened fire as they did so.

(Painting: U.S. Coast Guard)

Munro was hit in the head. He would die later that day and become the only Coast Guardsman to receive the Medal of Honor.

Evans was put in for the Navy Cross. He only found out about the award when he made it back to Alameda, California, and was ordered to the ceremony. But when he arrived, something unexpected happened.

The orders for the award had come without a physical medal. So, Stika removed his own Navy Cross, earned more than 20 years before in the munitions explosions, and placed the medal on Evans for his actions on Guadalcanal.

The two men became friends and Evans routinely visited Stika after the older man’s retirement. Evans would go on to be a Coast Guard commander before retiring from the service.

Articles

This is how British Commandos pulled off ‘The Greatest Raid of All’

During World War II, there were many ingenious and courageous raids, but only one would come to be known as “The Greatest Raid of All” – the British raid on St. Nazaire.


Since the beginning of hostilities, the German Navy had wreaked havoc on shipping in the Atlantic. With the fall of France, the Nazis had ample facilities on the Atlantic to service their fleet, well away from areas patrolled by the Royal Navy. The British wanted to take this away and force them through the English Channel or the GIUK (Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom) gap, which they heavily defended. To do this, they devised a daring raid that would put the port of St. Nazaire out of action.

The plan, codenamed Operation Chariot, was to assault the port with commandos supported by a converted destroyer, the HMS Campbeltown. The British planned to load the Campbeltown with explosives and then ram it into the dry docks where it would detonate. The commandos would also land and destroy the port while up-gunned motor launches searched for targets of opportunity.

The raiding force consisted of 265 commandos (primarily from No.2 Commando) along with 346 Royal Navy sailors split between twelve motor launches and four torpedo boats.

The raiders set out from England on the afternoon of March 26, 1942, and arrived at the target just after midnight on March 28. At that point, the Campbeltown raised a German naval ensign to deceive German shore batteries. However, a planned bombing by the Royal Air Force put the harbor on high alert, and just eight minutes from their objective they were illuminated by spotlights.

British Commandos, 1942

A gun battle between the approaching ships and the Germans ensued. At one mile out, the British raised their own naval ensign, increased speed, and drove through the murderous German fire. The helmsman of the Campbeltown was killed, his replacement wounded, and the whole crew blinded by searchlights. At 1:34 a.m., the destroyer found the Normandie dry dock gates, hitting with such force as to drive the destroyer 33 feet onto the gates.

As the commandos disembarked, the Germans rained small arms fire on the raiders. Despite suffering numerous casualties, they were able to complete their objectives, destroying harbor facilities and machinery.

The commandos on the motor launches were not so lucky. As the boats attempted to make their way to shore, most of them were put out of action by the German guns. Many sank without landing their units. All but four of 16 sank.

The motor launches were the means of egress from the port for the commandos already ashore. The image of many of them burning in the estuary was a disheartening sight.

Lt. Col. Newman, leading the Commandos on shore, and Commander Ryder of the Royal Navy realized evacuation by sea was no longer an option. Ryder signaled the remaining boats to leave the harbor and make for the open sea. Newman gathered the commandos and issued three orders: Do the best to get back to England, no surrender until all ammunition is exhausted and no surrender at all if they could help it. With that, they headed into the city to face the Germans and attempt an escape over land.

Commando prisoners under German escort

The Commandos were quickly surrounded. They fought until their ammunition was expended before proceeding with their only remaining option: surrender. Five commandos did manage to escape the German trap though and make their way through France, neutral Spain, and to British Gibraltar, from which they returned to England.

As the Germans recaptured the port, they also captured 215 British commandos and Royal Navy sailors. Unaware that the Campbeltown lodged in the dry dock was a bomb waiting to explode, a German officer blithely told Lt. Commander Sam Beattie, who had been commanding the Campbeltown, the damage caused by the ramming would only take a matter of weeks to repair. Just as he did the Campbeltown exploded, killing 360 people in the area and destroying the docks – putting them out of commission for the remainder of the war.

HMS Campbeltown wedged in the dock gates. Note the exposed forward gun position on Campbeltown and the German anti-aircraft gun position on the roof of the building at the rear.

The British paid dearly for this success. Of over 600 personnel involved, only 227 returned to England. Besides those taken prisoner, the British also had 169 killed in action. The raid generated a large number of awards for gallantry, one of the highest concentrations for any battle. Five Victoria Crosses, Britain’s highest award for gallantry, were awarded, two posthumously. There were a total of 84 other decorations for the raiders ranging from the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal to the Military Medal.

Close up of HMS Campbeltown after the raid. Note the shell damage in the hull and upper works and the German personnel on board the vessel. Close up of HMS Campbeltown after the raid. Note the shell damage in the hull and upper works and the German personnel on board the vessel.

The raid infuriated Hitler and, along with other raids by commandos, caused the Germans to spread troops all along the coast to defend against future raids or invasions. More importantly, the destruction of the St. Nazaire port denied the Germans repair facilities for large ships on the Atlantic coast. Due to the daring nature of the operation and the high price paid for success, the action came to be called “The Greatest Raid of All.”