The 7 everyday struggles of women in the military - We Are The Mighty
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The 7 everyday struggles of women in the military

Being in the military means keeping up with grooming standards. Being a woman in the military means keeping up with grooming standards of the military and society. While there is a lot of press around sexual harassment and assault in the military, and it is a real problem, there are plenty of other aspects to being a female in uniform. It also means plenty of trash talk, confusion, and humorous adventures dealing with men in the line of duty.


Throughout any career in the military, there are plenty of gripes that come from the lowest of privates to the highest of generals. Females, though, have a special set of complaints which develop over the course of their careers. Here are seven basic things women learn during their service.

1. Keeping your hair in regs is harder than it looks

The 7 everyday struggles of women in the military
(U.S. Coast Guard Training Video)

While the buzzcuts and high-and-tights adorn the heads of many men in the military, attempting to keep long, thick hair in a perfect sockbun is hardly the equivalent. Gel, hairspray, bobby pins, socks, hair ties, and prayers go into each bun, which often has to be fixed throughout the day.

2. Morale items can end up sapping your morale

The 7 everyday struggles of women in the military
Female drill instructors at a Marine Corps basic training graduation practice (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Vincent White)

Many woman in the military own a ton of t-shirts and sweatshirts bearing branches and units, just like their male counterparts. Wearing these in public, women will often get asked if their boyfriend is in the military. The look on people’s faces when you politely correct them is always priceless.

3. Haters gonna hate

The 7 everyday struggles of women in the military
Lt. Col. Christine Mau, 33rd Operations Group puts on her helmet before taking her first flight in the F-35A at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marleah Robertson)

Snide comments come with being a woman in the military, but sometimes the questions leave you speechless. Things like “Aren’t women in the Army lesbians?” or “They let you fire a real gun?” or even “Green and tan aren’t really flattering on you.” The questions are rooted in discrimination against women who serve, but many women take the questions in stride and use it as a way to teach someone about what it’s really like to serve.

4. There are many, many more grooming standards

The 7 everyday struggles of women in the military
Machinery Repairman 2nd Class Joslyn Kelly from Fairfax, Virginia, shares her #WhyIServe statement from USS George Washington (CVN 73). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chris Cavagnaro/Released)

Makeup is accepted throughout the military, but regulations demand a “natural look.” Servicewomen across the branches become experts at the “no-makeup makeup,” with natural lips, eyes, and cheeks. Even if no one can tell, keeping a bit of your femininity in uniform is crucial to staying sane, especially on long duty weekends. Along with extreme makeup, nail color on the hands is not authorized, many relish in pedicures with beautiful colors. Even behind heavy combat boots, a rainbow of shades of nail polish can be found.

5. You never stop proving your value

The 7 everyday struggles of women in the military
Maj. Lisa A. Jaster carries a fellow soldier during the Darby Queen obstacle course at the U.S. Army’s Ranger School at Fort Benning, Ga. (U.S. Army photo)

Every new person has to prove themselves but now that combat roles are open to women, there is a new level of proving yourself as the first generation of women in jobs that have been exclusively for men over the last hundred years. Trying to prove yourself as a .50 cal gunner as a petite woman is hardly easy, but the women who do it will pave the way.

6. Nothing issued off the rack actually fits

The 7 everyday struggles of women in the military
Spc. Arielle Mailloux gets some help adjusting her protoype Generation III Improved Outer Tactical Vest from Capt. Lindsey Pawlowski at Fort Campbell, Ky. (U.S. Army photo)

Combat equipment, such as body armor, was developed and sized with men in mind. Many women have found themselves unable to fit in the smallest sizes of some flak jackets and bulletproof vests, not to mention the uncomfortable fits that were meant for more square body types.

7. “If the military wanted you to have kids . . .”

Women with children are often faced with criticism, accused of abandoning their children while deployed or being unfit parents for choosing work over families. One writer went so far as to say that women in the military were punished for being both mothers and serving in the military. The stigma of a woman not staying home with her husband and children is more visible in the military than anywhere else, with pressure from both civilians and from their own peers.

The 7 everyday struggles of women in the military
Jeannie Leavitt, the first U.S. Air Force fighter pilot in 1993 (U.S. Air Force photo)

Despite all of the challenges, it is rewarding to be a part of the proud line of women who have served in the military, whether as a part of the WAVES, WAGS, and SPARS of WWII or today as sailors, soldiers, Marines, coasties, and airmen.

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This Marine vet went streaking for the most veteran reason possible

If you’re a fan of the Houston Astros, Friday, July 27, was a miserable night. The Astros suffered a humiliating 11-2 defeat on their home field, Minute Maid Park, at the hands of their same-state rivals, the Texas Rangers. But by the game’s end, nobody was talking about the 9-run deficit. Instead, they were talking about a Marine Corps veteran — and true American hero — dropped trow and ran across the field at the game’s conclusion, wearing only a pair of Ol’ Glory silkies and shoes.

Chris White, a Houston native and president of Freedom Hard, took to the field in front of 42,592 baseball fans in a display that would bring a tear of joy to any red, white, and blue-blooded American. He made it all the way across the outfield, dodging security guards who were no match for his skill. White eventually put his hands up, surrendering after earning the love and admiration of the country.


In case you’ve missed this beautiful display of patriotism, here’s the video:

All joking aside, Chris White’s Freedom Hard is a veteran owned and operated company that uses humor (like the now-infamous streak) to raise awareness of issues within the veteran community. When he was interviewed by Houston’s KPRC 2, he opened up about his motivations.

The streaking, as hilarious as it was, gave him a soap box to briefly stand on and speak to the world about a deadly serious issue that affects many veterans: suicide.

“If I can make you laugh for at least five minutes, then you’re not thinking about that dark space you could potentially be in,” he said. “If I can gear it toward patriotism, to me, I consider that the Holy Grail.”
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You bring credit upon the Corps, the military community, and the United States of America.

(Freedom Hard)

A GoFundMe campaign was started in his honor (to post his bail) and it quickly raised 0.00. Instead of using cash, he donated every last cent to Camp4Heroes, a North Carolina resort that provides a tranquil environment for struggling veterans to enjoy nature.

Every aspect of Freedom Hard is geared towards giving back to the veteran community. A dollar of every sale is directly donated to the buyer’s choice of a non-profit organization supporting veterans.

We salute you, Chris White.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Iran surprises world with completed combat jet

Iran has unveiled a fighter jet which it says is “100-percent” locally made.

Images on state television showed President Hassan Rohani on Aug. 21, 2018, sitting in the cockpit of the new Kowsar plane at the National Defense Industry exhibition.


It is a fourth-generation fighter, with “advanced avionics” and multipurpose radar, the Tasnim news agency said, adding that it was “100-percent indigenously made.”

State television, which showed the plane waiting on a runway for its first public display flight, said that it had already undergone successful testing.

The plane was first publicly announced on Aug. 18, 2018, by Defense Minister Amir Hatami, who gave few details of the project.

The United States has demanded that Tehran curb its defense programs, and is in the process of reimposing crippling sanctions after President Donald Trump withdrew from a landmark nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

Trump called the 2015 agreement, under which Iran pledged to curb its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief, “the worst deal ever.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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5 key pieces of military technology developed by the US to fight the Vietnam War

Whenever America enters a new battle, it faces a different enemy on new terrain where new technologies are needed to combat the bad guys.


The Vietnam War was one of those combat zones, and it forced military planners to adapt their technology to an enemy that didn’t wear uniforms and could blend in with the population seemingly at will.

So as troops penetrated the Southeast Asian jungles, these five influential pieces of technology helped combat Americans newest adversaries.

Related: How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture

1. The Huey

This single-engine, twin-blade helicopter became one of the key troop transport aircraft of the Vietnam War. The Huey was durable and could fly into tight spots to drop off and pick up troops where needed.

The 7 everyday struggles of women in the military
Troops from 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment load up onto a Huey in Vietnam, 1966.

2. Claymore mines

This directional, anti-personnel mine was used primarily to ambush VC forces and protect U.S. rear areas. Its kill radius of ball bearings boosted by C4 explosive was effective up to 100 meters.

Due to the “front towards enemy” explosive feature, this mine was ideal for the defensive position and could be set up for destruction in a matter of moments.

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The famous and always trustworthy, Claymore mine.

3. The TOW missile

Short for “Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided,” the TOW was a state of the art missile that could destroy tanks, trucks, and enemy artillery stations with a push of a button.

Due to its versatility, the TOW missile could be successfully mounted on a Huey for both defensive and offensive operations.

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M274 Mechanical Mule fitted with TOW missile system. (Source: USMC photo, 1967)

4. Grenade launcher

The China Lake Launcher was commonly used by the Navy SEALs in Vietnam due to his lightweight and rapid ability to fire four shells in a short period — making it the ideal weapon for secret missions.

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(Source: History/YouTube/Screenshot)

5. F-100 Super Sabre

This well-designed jet was the first fighter to maintain supersonic speed during flight and flew 360,283 combat missions, making it the most efficient and utilized fighter plane on the U.S. side during the Vietnam War.

The 7 everyday struggles of women in the military
F-100 Super Sabre fires its cannons onto and enemy target. (Source: History/YouTube/Screenshot)

Also Read: This Vietnam War vet will receive MoH for saving 10 soldiers

Check out this HISTORY video to see these tech developments in action.

(HISTORY, YouTube)
MIGHTY TACTICAL

4 reasons why 360-degree cameras should be on the battlefield

Within the last few years, 360-degree cameras have hit the market and they’re changing the way we record our favorite memories. They may also have implications for how our nation fights its enemies.

When it comes to fighting a ground war, having as many sets of surveilling eyes as possible is a good idea — an idea that could save lives.


Although the infantrymen that patrol hostile streets on a daily basis are highly-trained, it’s near impossible to recount every single detail exactly as it happened after the fact.

In the event that something abnormal happens on a trip outside the wire, having footage from a 360-degree camera can provide you with all the analysis you need.

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It could help with your disability claim

A lot of sh*t can happen while you’re outside the wire in a short amount of time.

In the event that something bad happens and the platoon doc wasn’t there to witness it, there’s a good chance that it was captured clearly with the 360-degree camera. That dramatic footage will come in handy when you’re battling the VA for compensation.

You could update your terrain maps

One of the most significant issues with serving in a war that takes place in a developing country is that enemies can quickly take down and rebuild their dried-mud structures.

With the help of a 360-degree camera, if a structure is, in fact, rebuilt after being wiped away via airstrike, the new footage will help you update terrain maps. By simply carrying one of these versatile tools, you’ll record new information without even trying.

It’s called surveillance, people.

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We thought so.

The footage could be better than any war trophy

Who here wants to document an awesome firefight where you kick enemies’ asses from all angles?

It can help identify high-value individuals

This may come as a shocker, but when the bad guys interact with allied forces, they typically lie about their identities. Having a 360-degree camera on deck can help analysts identify potential threats, even if the allied troop isn’t looking.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

The best backyard games come from Scandinavia

The best backyard games, the ones that earn a coveted spot in your warm weather rotation, are casual activities that work as well for crowds as they do for one-on-one matchups. While we won’t ever turn down a game of cornhole, kanjam, ladder toss, and horseshoes, the best backyard games and lawn games come from Scandinavia. Why? Simple. Because of their soul-witheringly long winters, Scandinavians know how to celebrate summer. That celebration often includes participation in simple, fun games that lend themselves to hours of time on that oh-so-important sunlight. The games on this list exist are those that require you to throw one thing at a set of other things. They’re easy to pick up but still require skill and, when the time is right, lend themselves to serious competition. Think cornhole gets competitive? Try a game of Kubb or Mölkky and get back to us. Here are a few games to consider adding to your backyard this summer.


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Yard Games Kubb

The Swedish game Kubb dates back more than 1,000 years, when Vikings first conceived of the game as a pastime during those, long light-filled summer nights when they were finished sinking Skeggøx into the chests of their enemies. Legend has it, they’d lob the skulls and limbs of their slain foes across a decreed playing area; eventually, over centuries, it evolved into a more civilized game. In recent years, its exploded in popularity. Modern Kubb sets are, thankfully, made of carved wood instead of cadavers. Each contains 10 wooden blocks, called kubbs, as well as a foot-tall king (marked by a set of points to designate a crown) six tall blocks, and six skittles, the latter of which are used to demarcate a playing field. Once the field is set up properly, the object of the game is to lob kubbs in an attempt to knock down an opponent’s pins and, finally, their king. Accidentally knock down the king before the other pins results in an automatic loss. Simple, but good for hours of warm weather entertainment.

Buy now for .99.

The 7 everyday struggles of women in the military

Molkky

More or less a mash-up of cornhole and bowling, Mölkky is a Finnish lawn game similar to Kubb. Twelve slim, numbered pins called “skittles” are set up on the grass. Teams take turns throwing a wooden block, or karttus, at said pins in an attempt to knock them down. The team who is first to knock down 50 points worth of pins wins. As is the case with games that have been around for a very long time, the rules vary and some are more complicated than others. Regardless of which you follow, the outcome is the same: fun.

Buy now for .97.

The 7 everyday struggles of women in the military

Schilte Sjoelbak

A board game that can be played anywhere but is best befitting of the backyard, Sjoelbak is the Dutch version of shuffleboard. It consists of a 16-inch wide, 79-inch long wooden board and 30 wooden pucks. Each side of the board has four wooden channels; players take turns sliding pucks, trying to get them in appropriate lanes. After three rounds, the pucks are totaled (scoring is a bit confusing, but the rules are explained here) and the winner is decided. Again, it’s quite simple. But set up the board on a back table and don’t be surprised if it’s played long into the evening.

Buy now for 9.00.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

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The sexiest military aircraft

They say if it looks right, it flies right. And if that’s true, then this must be the best flying list on Earth. Military aircraft, as a rule, are all about function – just getting the job done, and getting home in one piece. But every so often, some fighter jet, combat aircraft, or hyperspeed recon flier will cross that line from function to form, and wind up looking dead-sexy in the process.


Of course, there are all kinds of ways to be sexy, and it depends on who’s looking. Guys might look for long, lean curves stretched tightly over a tensed chassis. Ladies might care more about pure romance, daring deed, cut lines, and lantern-jawed toughness. And history offers plenty of both, from World War I Army aircraft to modern day, multi-role stealth assassins.

On this list, we’re going to take a look at some of the sexiest planes from the Air Force, Army, Marines and armed forces worldwide. And just for fun, we’re also going to give their human equivalents, just so nobody feels weird being turned on by a plane. Check out these military planes and US fighter jets, and let us know if we got their human comparisons right.

The Sexiest Military Aircrafts

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why World War II veterans are returning captured Japanese flags

It’s not uncommon for troops who overrun an enemy position to take a photo with a captured enemy banner. It’s just as common for them to take that banner home as a souvenir. There are a lot worse things to remove from the battlefield. American troops have been capturing flags since the founding of the republic.

So, why are these World War II veterans returning captured Japanese flags?


The importance of a unit’s standard dates back to antiquity. Roman legions carried standards that took on an almost divine quality, representing the Legion, the Emperor, and even the Gods themselves. They would take extraordinary measures to recover a captured standard, even invading neighboring countries decades after losing the standards just to get them back. The Japanese had a similar tradition with their Yosegaki Hinomaru.

The 7 everyday struggles of women in the military

The hinomaru was a blank flag carried by every drafted Japanese soldier. It was signed by everyone in their life; mother, father, sisters, brothers, neighbors, teachers, wives, and children. It was a good luck charm that wished bravery and a safe return home to the carrier. The Japanese troop then marched off to war, the flag folded and tucked somewhere on his person.

These are usually the flags that were captured by American troops in World War II. Because no one enjoys taking photos with the flags of their fallen enemies like U.S. troops.

Read: These 13 photos of US troops with enemy flags show some traditions never die

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U.S. Marines with a yosegaki hinomaru after the Battle of Iwo Jima. (U.S. Army)

But American troops had no idea these flags were the personal keepsakes of fallen individuals and not unit flags carried by the Japanese army. Now that the men who captured these battlefield trophies are aging and dying, the flags are being sold off or thrown away altogether, but there’s a better way to handle these pieces of history: giving them back.

And that’s what World War II veterans and their families are doing. Through the international nonprofit Obon Society, families and veterans who still possess a captured yosegaki hinomaru are tracking down the Japanese veterans and families of Japanese veterans of the Pacific War to return the family heirlooms and help the aging veterans heal their decades-old, invisible wounds.

If there’s any doubt about the power of these standards, even to this day, just watch below as a Japanese man reacts to seeing his missing brother’s yosegaki hinomaru.

There are no better frenemies than American and Japanese veterans of WWII. In the years that followed, the U.S. and Japan grew ever closer as allies and as people. Despite the overwhelming brutality of the war, the enduring friendships that developed in the years since have been a testament to the idea that peace is always possible, even in the face of such hard fighting. The only thing that remains is handling the losses incurred along the way – brothers, fathers, sons, and friends.

Groups like the Obon Society and its team of researchers make it easy to start healing the pain that remains between families and friends who lost loved ones in the war. If you or your departed veterans have a flag like the ones seen in the photos above, contact the Obon Society to return the flag to its family and maybe even make contact with them.

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Why Russia has three nuclear footballs – and who can use them

The United States closest geopolitical rival is Russia, but when it comes to the way their militaries operate, that’s where the two countries’ similarities end. Nowhere is this more apparent than in their command and control structures for launching nuclear weapons.

It’s a well-known fact that the President of the United States has a military officer who follows his every move while carrying the nuclear “football.” This is essentially a suitcase filled with everything necessary for the president to authorize and launch a nuclear strike while he’s not in a designated command and control area, such as the White House. 

In the United States, one person, the President of the United States, has sole authority to launch a nuclear strike, either an offensive strike or in retaliation. In the Russian Federation, the president’s power is checked by the military when it comes to a nuclear launch. 

The Russian Federation’s military has three of these nuclear footballs, which follow around three very important Russian defense officials. This system is known as a “triple key” system. The first football follows the President of Russia, who is currently Vladimir Putin. The Russian president’s football doesn’t contain an actual nuclear key, but instead a system of launch codes. 

The 7 everyday struggles of women in the military
“Who’s got the nukes? Oh, not you? BOOM. Annexed” (Russian Presidential Press and Information Office)

But Vladimir Putin can’t initiate a nuclear strike by himself, on his own authority. It’s probably the one thing he can’t do in Russia. Instead, in a time of need, the president’s codes must be sent to the Russian Defense Minister, currently Russian army Gen. Sergey Shoygu, who has held the position since 2012. 

Once the Minister of Defense receives an order and launch codes from the president, he sends his codes and the president’s codes to the Chief of the General Staff, currently Gen. Valery Gerasimov. Once the Chief of the General Staff has all three sets of codes, then he can make the launch orders to the missile crews.

It’s estimated that the entire process, once initiated, should take about 20 minutes. This process was considered a highly-guarded state secret in the days of the Soviet Union, and a lot of misinformation still exists surrounding it. The three-step process is generally known to be true. 

One unconfirmed rumor states that the defense minister and the Chief of the General Staff must transmit their codes separately to limit unauthorized access from renegade military personnel. Another rumor says that the Chief of the General Staff actually has the president’s codes as well. This structure, it’s believed, prevents a power grab from the defense minister’s office, nipping any conspiracy against the president in the bud. 

There is also no system of transferring launch authority in place in case one of these three men suddenly becomes unable to perform their duties. The first and only time a Russian leader has ever publicly legalized a line of succession in case he was unable to act came from Boris Yeltsin shortly after the end of the Soviet Union. 

After the 1993 coup against Yeltsin, the Russian constitution codified the presidential line of succession, putting the president’s power in the hands of the Russian Prime Minister. But it does not list the line of succession if the prime minister were to be disabled or killed. 

Russia’s system of positive control of its nuclear launch capabilities is one that it came by through a number of trials and errors. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Soviet commander in Cuba had the authority to launch a nuclear strike without Moscow’s permission, for example. Nothing was guaranteed. 

The 7 everyday struggles of women in the military

These days, that power rests firmly in hands of three longtime officeholders, with a rudimentary system of checks and balances to keep one from overriding the others. Probably for the best.

Feature image: Screen capture from YouTube

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The Army experimented with bio weapons on conscientious objectors

Ask around Fort Detrick and you’ll probably learn more about Operation Whitecoat — an Army program that exposed human participants to infectious pathogens. But outside the base, the experiments are virtually unheard of, according to Randy Larsen, a former Air Force pilot turned documentary filmmaker.


“I found there are very few people who have ever heard of Whitecoat, which is why there’s a good reason to tell the story,” Larsen said.

Larsen himself became fascinated with the program — which recruited more than 2,300 noncombatant conscientious objectors from the Seventh-day Adventist Church — after a friend suggested it as a documentary topic.

What he anticipated would be a five- to six-month hobby project eventually turned into a 20-month film production, culminating in an eponymously named documentary on the operation and its volunteers.

Operation Whitecoat (2017) Trailer from Randall Larsen on Vimeo.

 

The film “Operation Whitecoat” made its debut in Frederick on May 30 at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, the agency that conducted the tests from 1954 to 1973. But Larsen will also hold two public screenings on June 3 at the Frederick Seventh-day Adventist Church on Jefferson Pike.

Gary Swanson and Ken Jones, two Whitecoat participants who attended the screening on May 30, said outreach to the church was especially important. Despite the huge role played by Seventh-day Adventists, knowledge of the project has faded among church members.

“It’s very little-known, I’ve found that to be true,” Swanson said. “Even in the church, it doesn’t come up very often.”

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United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases

A lasting legacy

Despite the relative obscurity of Operation Whitecoat, civilians around the country — and around the world — can thank the program for the development of several widely used vaccines. Tularemia, yellow fever, and hepatitis vaccines were all tested on participants in the project, Larsen said.

“That’s why I found it interesting to see that the yellow fever outbreak was a front-page story today,” he added at the May 30 screening, pointing out a USA Today article on the spread of the disease in Brazil. “Because the vaccine was developed here at Fort Detrick with the Whitecoat program.”

To research for his documentary, Larsen interviewed participants all across the country and dug deep into the documentation of the program.

Letters between military and church leaders indicate that the Army considered the program a viable alternative to battlefield service for church members, whose religious beliefs urge against combat.

“The general consensus is that it is just not morally responsible to bear arms,” said Swanson, who later worked in publishing for the Adventist church. “That the taking of life is not the business of a Christian.”

There is, however, strong scriptural support for serving one’s country in a peaceful capacity, he added. As a result, most church members served the U.S. either as medics or as Whitecoat volunteers once the program became an option.

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Operation Whitecoat consent letter

While both Swanson and Jones participated in the program, their experiences were slightly different. Jones, 83, served from 1954 to 1955 and then worked as a corpsman for the program until September 1958.

As one of the inaugural volunteers, he distinctly remembers walking across a catwalk at Fort Detrick — then called Camp Detrick — to the “Eight Ball,” where participants were exposed to the pathogens.

He and the other men in his group were dosed with Q fever, a relatively common bacterial disease with flu-like symptoms. None of them got sick, Jones said, but the experiment did help researchers adjust the dose for future volunteers.

“It’s like this — when you start your car, you take little steps to get there,” he explained. “You don’t take one big step and just jump in. Well, the amount they gave us, they knew we handled it OK. Now, the next three that came up, they did get sick.”

Swanson served later, and was part of an even lesser-known aspect of the program — one that benefited scientists at NASA. He reported for service in October 1969, and was part of an experiment to determine how well astronauts could function should they became sick while on a mission.

In his study, teams of five men were exposed to sandfly fever and then trained on a simulated spacecraft console. Eight hours a day, three days a week, the teams pretended to operate the consoles, even while some of them developed nausea and fevers of up to 104 degrees.

“You had to keep calibrated and you had to keep it set,” Swanson said. “When you saw it going wrong, you had to figure out how to fix it. And we were told it was part of a study underwritten by NASA to anticipate astronauts’ ability to operate sophisticated equipment if they were sick.”

The 7 everyday struggles of women in the military
Operation Whitecoat helped improve the use of gas masks and biohazard suits

Beyond the benefit to NASA, USAMRIID still attributes the development of essential safety gear — including gas masks and biohazard suits — to Operation Whitecoat.

The program even played a small role in the Camp David Accords. In 1977, an outbreak of Rift Valley fever in Egypt killed thousands of residents and animals. The vaccine for the disease — tested by Whitecoat volunteers — was a major bargaining chip for both Egypt and Israel when leaders met with President Jimmy Carter in 1978.

“That was such a little-known piece of history that the people at USAMRIID didn’t even know about it,” Larsen said.

Ethical implications

Larsen and researchers at USAMRIID also tout the program as the harbinger of stringent standards for human testing. Operation Whitecoat set a precedent for informed consent — the policy of clearly educating human test subjects on the details and risks of research experiments — and served as a foil to other horrific experiments conducting on unknowing subjects, including the Tuskegee syphilis experiment and human radiation exposure by the Atomic Energy Commission.

“It’s a story that all Americans can be proud of,” Larsen said. “The fact is, Operation Whitecoat is one of the highest standards of ethical research out there.”

One of the most striking details of the project, he added, is that military leaders and researchers at USAMRIID exposed themselves to the pathogens before subjecting their participants. Both Jones and Swanson said that it was strong leadership that prevented real fear among the volunteers.

“I’ve thought about this many times, and I can’t give you an answer on what went through my mind as I went across that catwalk,” Jones said. “I was 21 years old. We felt like we had good leadership. We trusted what they were telling us, and we followed.”

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Will Trump’s tweets shoot down the Lightning?

Fresh off a tweet targeting the climbing costs of the new Air Force One, President-elect Donald Trump has now turned his attention to a much bigger program: The F-35 Lightning II.


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Sailors assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS America and F-35B Lightning II Marine Corps personnel prepare to equip the aircraft with inert 500-pound GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided test bombs during flight operations. (US Navy)

In a tweet sent out at 8:26 AM, Trump wrote, “The F-35 program and cost is out of control. Billions of dollars can and will be saved on military (and other) purchases after January 20th.”

 

The tweet is not much of a surprise. Aviation Week and Space Technology, sometimes referred to as “Aviation Leak,” noted during the Air Force One controversy that Trump had been critical of the F-35’s costs during his successful presidential campaign.

Last week, after Trump tweeted about the rising costs of the planned replacement for the VC-25, CNN reported that the CEO of Boeing contacted Trump to assure the president-elect that he would work to keep costs down.

The program — which has been so delayed that the Marines had to pull legacy F/A-18 Hornets out of the “boneyard” at Davis Monthan Air Force Base to have enough planes to do its mission — has seen costs climb to roughly $100 million per aircraft. The plane is slated to replace F-16 Fighting Falcons, legacy F/A-18 Hornets, A-10 Thunderbolts, and the AV-8B Harriers in U.S. military service.

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Mission planners could risk four airmen in fifth-generation planes or up to 75 in legacy aircraft when embarking on dangerous missions. US Air Force

The state of the Marine Corps F/A-18 inventory may preclude a complete cancellation of the F-35 buy, however. Since Oct. 1, four Marine F/A-18 Hornets have crashed. In the most recent crash, the pilot was killed despite ejecting from his plane.

Trump’s tweet comes as news emerged of the Pentagon concealing a report of $125 billion in “administrative waste” over the last five years.

The money wasted could have funded a number of weapon systems that the Pentagon had cut over the last eight years.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time a Soviet citizen defected across the Korean DMZ

Just recently, a North Korean soldier made a mad dash under heavy fire to freedom on the south side of the Korean Demilitarized Zone. His escape made headlines all over the world – but he isn’t the first person to defect successfully across the DMZ.


On the day after Thanksgiving 1984, a Soviet citizen on a tour of the DMZ suddenly abandoned his group and sprinted to freedom in South Korea.

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Kinda like that, yeah.

Vasilii Matuzok long dreamed of fleeing the oppression of Communism. He even obtained a job in Pyongyang as a means of making his escape attempt.

But despite its name, the Demilitarized Zone is anything but. The four-kilometer wide area is heavily mined and guarded by armed soldiers from each side. A crossing there was as near suicidal during the Cold War as it is today.

However, at a small village named Panmunjom (the site of the Korean War Armistice signing), the North and South created a Joint Security Area. This area is heavily guarded but it contains no minefields or other the deterrents to crossing that can’t be said for the rest of the DMZ.

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When Matuzok’s tour group was distracted, he made a break for it.

Immediately realizing what was happening, some 30 North Korean soldiers pursued him and fired wildly in the hopes of bringing him down before he could reach the other side.

This immediately created a significant incident. As the two sides were still technically at war – having never signed a peace agreement – the North Korean soldiers pursuing Matuzok instantaneously became an armed incursion. The UN guards quickly alerted the United Nations Quick Reaction Force at nearby Camp Kitty Hawk.

The United Nations had a Joint Security Force company comprised of Americans and Koreans stationed at Camp Kitty Hawk to respond to any incidents at the Joint Security Area and provide the guard detail.

As the incident developed into a full-on firefight between the North Korean soldiers and the UN’s JSA guards, Capt. Bert Mizusawa got the call at Camp Kitty Hawk. He told his men to load up while he got as much information as he could from the Tactical Operations Center.

As his group sped the quarter mile to the JSA, Mizusawa was unaware of the defection. His sole purpose was to restore the Armistice conditions. The North Korean soldiers, invaders at this point, had to be turned back, he said, “with no concern for proportionality… we were going to win no matter what.”

When Mizusawa and the QRF arrived with three infantry squads augmented with three machine gun teams, the UN guards at the JSA had the intruding North Koreans pinned down in an area known as the “Sunken Garden.” It had been only fifteen minutes since Matuzok defected.

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U.S. soldiers from the QRF can be seen advancing through the Sunken Garden area of the JSA in the last stages of the 1984 JSA shootout.

Mizusawa sent one squad east to reinforce the men at Checkpoint 4, who were engaged against the North Koreans there while he personally led the other two squads on a flanking maneuver to the southwest. During their movement, the men came across Matuzok hiding in the bushes.

Captain Mizusawa immediately realized the urgency of the situation. If the North Koreans were able to kill or recapture Matuzok, they controlled the narrative of the day’s events.

After confirming Matuzok’s intention to defect, Mizusawa put him in the personal custody of the QRF Platoon Sergeant who raced him to safety at Camp Kitty Hawk.

With the defector now secured Mizasawa was in a tactically perfect situation. He had his enemy pinned down on low ground and was in position to move in from the flank. The Americans executed a textbook example of Battle Drill 1A. As the lead fire team bounded into the Sunken Garden under accurate suppressive fire, the North Koreans attempted to flee.

Caught in the open, they chose to surrender rather than be gunned down.

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The allied US-ROK forces suffered one killed, one wounded.

The elapsed time since the defection was approximately 20 minutes. It only took six minutes after the arrival of the QRF platoon to defeat the North Korean threat.

During the fighting, a South Korean KATUSA soldier was killed and an American soldier wounded when they drew heavy fire from the North Koreans protecting the escape of Matuzok.

The North Koreans lost three killed, five wounded, and eight captured during the incident.

One of the dead was thought to be the leader of the infamous Axe Murder incident in 1976.

However, for the North Korean soldiers, failure in this situation would be costly. It is believed that the leader of the North Korean troops and his subordinate were summarily executed immediately after the incident.

Despite being one of the worst instances of violence on the DMZ in some time, further bloodshed was avoided.

Hoping to keep the incident quiet, the Army choose to withhold some awards immediately after the firefight. It would not be until the year 2000 that the Army recognized the service and awarded or upgraded seventeen decorations to participants on that day.

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Mizusawa was recognized with a Bronze Star medal after the 1984 JSA Shootout.

Matuzok, the defector that started everything, eventually was allowed to resettle in the U.S. as a refugee under an assumed name.

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Watch award-winning actor Bryan Cranston narrate the D-Day landings

“The only way they could capture the beach was to blast the Germans out of each pillbox… and that’s what they did,” wrote Jay Kay, a U.S. Navy ensign who piloted a landing craft filled with American troops during the D-Day invasions of June 6, 1944. Ensign Kay survived the war and would move to Florida to become a dentist in the postwar years, leading an ordinary life for a man who did an extraordinary thing.


Kay was just one of thousands of American, British, and Canadian troops who did their job assaulting Hitler’s vaunted Fortress Europe and then wrote home about it. Now, thanks to AARP and the Center for American War Letters at Chapman University, we have a chance to watch the memories of Kay and others come alive with the help of award-winning actor Bryan Cranston.

AARP has taken original 35mm film footage of D-Day, from preparation to landing and beyond, and digitized it to full-quality 4K footage. This captivating imagery was then skillfully edited and narrated by the Emmy-award winning actor, whose credits include the acclaimed shows Malcolm in the Middle and Breaking Bad, as well as the Broadway hit Network and many, many film credits.

In three vignettes created by AARP, Cranston reads the words written by American troops, officer and enlisted alike, who supported the landings at Normandy that day. From the sea, he reads the words of Ens. Jay Kay, who piloted landing craft. From the air, the words come from Jim “Pee Wee” Martin, who was awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and Distinguished Unit Citation after the war. On the ground, the words are from PFC. Dominick “Dom” Bart, part of the first wave of Operation Overlord.

The three videos recount the feelings shared by the men who jumped into occupied France, who drove other men onto the beaches through mine-filled waters, and the men who risked everything on those beaches to free the millions of Europeans who lived and died under the Nazi jackboot.

At times, they are equally hopeful and heartbreaking, a recollection of a rollercoaster of horrors and anticipation felt by those who fight wars. They are filled with the memories of young men who are encountering war and death, often for the first time, in a trial by fire that took them through one of history’s most extraordinary events, a battle that signaled the beginning of the end for one of the world’s most sinister monsters.

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