There’s no shortage of heroic war stories — truth or fiction — with heavy amounts of glory and honor in them, which can cause young adults to crave certain adventures. Although serving in the infantry does bring a level of individual satisfaction, many facts tend to get left out regarding what it’s really like to be a ground pounder.
So before you run to your local recruiting office to sign on the dotted line and become a hero or whatever, here are a few things you might need to know:
1. It’s a dangerous job
Movies do a great job depicting how dangerous war can be as directors add in cinematic kills and awesome camera work.
In real life, there’s no pulse-pounding theme music or slow motion effects — the sh*t is real.
Once you make a friend in the infantry, you always have that special bond no matter what.
Hopefully, you’re the “Maverick” in the relationship. (Image via Giphy)
3. It can be really, really boring
You’ve probably heard the phrase “hurry up and wait.” In a grunt unit, everything takes more time than it should and you’re going to have plenty of down time. So make sure you have games downloaded on your smartphone to play and help you stay awake while you wait for the higher-ups to “pass the word.”
It’s called a “working party.” This sounds way more fun than it actually is. Instead of plenty of beer and drunken coeds, you’ll be outside in the heat “police calling” cigarette butts or mopping your boss’s office.
If this looks fun, being a boot in the infantry may be your calling(Image via Giphy)
U.S. Marines hit the streets in the local community [Chatan, Okinawa, Japan] to assist as crossing guards for Chatan Elementary School July 18, 2019.
Three Marines on camp guard duty volunteered their morning to serve as crossing guards near the elementary school in support of the recent safety campaign.
“Today I’m pretty much just helping the little kids cross the street to go to school,” said Lance Cpl. Timothy Silva, with Combat Logistics Battalion-4, 3rd Marine Logistics Group.
Silva is currently serving camp duty on Camp Foster, Okinawa for the next twenty days.
“The reason I am at this spot particularly is because there is a hill to my right, and what I was told was that, the cars, they just come speeding up here and can’t really see the kids when they are crossing, so I’m just here making sure that the kids that do come here, cross safely .” — Lance Cpl. Timothy Silva, with Combat Logistics Battalion-4, 3rd Marine Logistics Group
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Samuel Brusseau)
The elementary school personnel and Marine volunteers made an effective team working together to ensure student safety.
“I volunteered myself for this duty, it is fun,” Silva also stated standing on a street corner helping children attend their second to last day of the school year.
School will resume in September 2019.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Samuel Brusseau)
Silva went on to say that this duty has given him the best look into Okinawan culture.
“You get to see all the little kids, the local kids, you say hello to them and see how they interact with each other in the morning when they are tired and on their way to school.”
Marine volunteers participate in activities island-wide to enhance the relationship with the local community.
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
Those who serve in the military always face a certain amount of risk. From the outside, many people think that combat with the enemy is the only danger, but troops face all sorts of peril and uncertainty, both at war and in peacetime training missions. For example, a recent, tragic accident hit the news when a Navy flight surgeon was struck and killed while on-base at Camp Pendleton.
Fatalities like these make headlines, but there are many smaller accidents that happen within the military, too — some of which are preventable with just a little thought. For a while, the Navy Safety Center used humor to drive home the need to think things through while on duty, while off duty, or even while in one’s own kitchen. Every week, from 1992 until the retirement of Derek Nelson in 2015, the Navy Safety Center sent out a brief message to the fleet every Friday.
“Some people think safety is serious business, and of course it is. People get maimed, blinded, and killed, but in terms of getting the message out, humor has a real role to play,” Nelson said in a 2007 Navy release. The Navy began to call these weekly messages, the “Friday Funnies.”
In one release, Nelson highlighted the folly of taking shortcuts. The release told the cautionary tale of two Marine sergeants who tried to take a shortcut to get some training and ended up flipping the vehicle they were in. Thanks to seatbelts and airbags, they walked away with just scratches and bruises. Another release mentioned how an Army “man overboard” drill using a real Soldier lead to the need to call in a Navy P-3 for assistance — the Soldier was found three hours later.
Sometimes, however, the releases were not so funny. One from May 2008 discussed the death of a Navy petty officer first class in a street luge accident that occurred while he was on leave. In this case, Nelson looked over the deceased sailor’s MySpace page and noted that twice the sailor had posted about “injuries that may have warranted a WESS injury report or at least counseling from his supervisor.”
It’s been two years since Nelson’s retirement and the last of the “Friday Funnies.” Even then, Nelson noted that the “juicy” tales had grown scarcer, writing in his retirement message that “it has been getting harder to find them in the mishap reports. I’ll chalk this fact up as progress, and I’ll be gone before anyone can prove different.”
The Friday Funnies were effective for over 23 years, though. Nelson said in 2007, “I get emails from people saying they almost did something stupid but stopped at the last minute because they didn’t want to end up in the Friday Funnies.” The best incidents were preserved in a magazine – no word on when the full archives will be available online.
In the meantime, Nelson describes how he made the magic happen in this 2011 video.
The search for an effective rapid-fire weapon, particularly in the latter 19th century, took on some innovative designs, most of them of dubious battlefield utility and rarely employed. All this changed when the U.S. Army adopted the famed Gatling gun in 1866, which could reliably fire up to 400 rounds a minute and had already proven itself in small quantities during the Civil War. John Gatling — ironically a physician — had suddenly made warfare far more deadly.
Here is a look at some early attempts at automatic weapons before Gatling turned them into the staples of warfare they are today.
1. Repeating Crossbows
The Polybolos was a large repeating ballista dating back to the 3rd century B.C. It was supposedly the invention of a Greek engineer named Dionysus, who worked at the large arsenal on the island of Rhodes. Fed by a large wooden magazine holding several dozen bolts of the weapon’s cradle, it allowed its crew to crank a large windlass back and forth, allowing it to achieve a far greater rate of fire than conventional ballistics.
A replica built by the Discovery show “MythBusters” proved that it could have been a very feasible weapon, but would have suffered from severe reliability problems.
A device similar in concept called the Chu Ko Nu was in use by Chinese soldiers as early as the 4th century B.C., but it was conceived more as a rapid fire light crossbow. Holding up to 10 bolts, the soldier could rapidly crank a handle and fire every couple of seconds, an astonishing rate of fire for a weapon at the time. The bolts were light and its range was short, but it was intended for mass formations and made up for its lack of power with volume of fire. To increase lethality, its bolts were sometimes coated in poison.
2. Coffee mill gun
The American Civil War saw widespread experimentation in weaponry, and among the most sought was a rapid fire battlefield gun that could support the infantry. The “coffee mill,” or Agar gun, the namesake of it’s inventor Wilson Agar and mounted on a light artillery carriage, was one such attempt. Standard .58 rifle cartridges were loaded in special steel tubes and were placed in a large hopper on top of the weapon. A hand crank fed the cartridges and allowed a rate of fire of up to 120 rounds per minute. The feeding mechanism resembled an old-fashioned coffee mill, giving it its nickname. President Abraham Lincoln witnessed a demonstration and was very impressed by the weapon’s performance, and a small number were purchased by the Union Army.
Despite its impressive rate of fire, the weapon had serious disadvantages. Reloading the steel tubes was cumbersome, making keeping up the rate of fire difficult, and their loss made the weapon useless. The feed mechanism was vulnerable to jamming, and the weapon was highly prone to overheating. Its range was no greater than a standard rifled musket. Though it saw some action, its flaws, and the few number purchased ensured it played only a minor role in the war, and it was quickly replaced by the far more effective Gatling gun.
One approach to rapid fire was the clustering of large numbers of single-shot barrels together that were fed by a single large breach, firing in sequence before being loaded in again. The Mitrailleuse, from the French word for grapeshot, was the pinnacle of this concept. The original design came from it’s Belgian inventor Captain Fafchamps in 1851, but many variants saw service in the French Army leading up to the Franco-Prussian war.
Carrying up to 50 barrels and mounted on an artillery carriage, the weapon was breech loaded using large steel blocks studded with ammunition. A small crank was then turned to manually fire each round. A skilled gunner on some types could achieve over 100 rounds a minute. The Reffye variant which was most commonly used by the French used 13mm rounds with a range of over 2,000 yards. Unlike a modern machine gun, it was used more as artillery, with all its ammunition being expended on a single point target.
By the time the Franco-Prussian war broke out, the French had slightly more than 200 Mitrailleuses in service. The Prussians, despite having few rapid fire weapons of their own, were not particularly impressed by their enemies wonder weapon. It’s inability to be targeted quickly, and it’s rapid expenditure of ammunition onto a single target, rendered it tactically inflexible and redundant to conventional artillery. The small numbers deployed also limited the weapon’s effectiveness. After losing the war, the French phased the Mitrailleuse out.
The US Air Force on March 5, 2019, tested the XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, which it calls a “long-range, high subsonic unmanned air vehicle” designed to fight against Russia and China in suicide missions too dangerous for manned fighter jets.
The Air Force tested the Valkyrie as part of its Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology program, which in layman’s terms means a program to create cheap aircraft that can soak up enemy missiles, clearing the way for other jets to follow.
According to Justin Bronk, a combat aviation expert at the Royal United Services Institute, some threats even these elite jets likely can’t survive.
Chinese HongQi 9 [HQ-9] launcher during China’s 60th anniversary parade, 2009.
(Photo by Jian Kang)
“Missions which are effectively one way, where there’s a campaign-critical target that is realistically too high threat to expect” jets to survive call for drones, said Bronk.
While the F-22 and F-35 represent true all-aspect stealth aircraft optimized to evade detection, tracking, and interception via missiles, they have a fatal weakness.
To drop bombs or fire missiles, both aircraft must open up their bomb bays, ruining their stealth shaping. Additionally, radar or communications emissions may compromise their operations.
“Even if you get there and deliver munitions, you’re probably not getting out of it,” Bronk said of flying manned aircraft in ultra-high threat scenarios.
The cheapest F-35s the US will ever buy will likely cost million. F-22s, bought in small numbers, cost around 0 million each. Perhaps even more valuable than the jet, is the US pilot manning each system.
Instead, why not send a cheap drone? Or at the stated cost of -3 million a pop, why not a swarm of drones?
The Valkyrie can’t carry many weapons. It’s not meant to carry any air-to-air missiles, it can’t go very fast, and it will never be a dogfighter, said Bronk.
“But if you can pump these out for million at 100 or so a year, you could hugely increase the Air Force’s combat edge,” he continued.
The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, a long-range, high subsonic unmanned air vehicle, completed its inaugural flight March 5, 2019, at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona. The Air Force Research Laboratory partnered with Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems to develop the XQ-58A.
(Air Force Research Laboratory)
The battle plan
With a range of between 1,500 and 2,000 nautical miles, the Valkyrie far outranges US stealth fighters or fighters of any kind.
This lends itself to a swarming attack, wherein dozens or even hundreds of Valkyries come flying in at high subsonic speeds to either drop air-to-ground bombs, jam radars with electronic warfare, spy on enemy missile sites, or even just soak up the first wave of enemy missiles, which incidentally would also likely provide targeting data to other US assets.
Next, the US’s manned aircraft could take on a greatly softened up target, which has just weathered a swarm of jamming, bombing, semi-stealthy drones forcing them to fire millions of dollars worth of missiles at cheap jets essentially meant to be shot down.
“XQ-58A is the first example of a class of UAV that is defined by low procurement and operating costs while providing game changing combat capability,” Doug Szczublewski, the Air Force’s XQ-58A Program Manager said in a release.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
NavaTheBeast is an active duty Marine and fitness trainer. In this fifteen-minute video, we get a glimpse into the life of a Recon Marine through his interview with one.
The questions primarily focus on how to become a Recon Marine. Among the suggested exercises were running and swimming, where the Recon Marine explained how the officer who became his platoon commander thought he was in good shape, but was in last place.
Before the interview, though, it focuses on some of the highlights of being a Recon Marine. Potential trainees are in a pool (about 15-20 feet deep), wearing swimming trunks, with their hands and feet bound, and bouncing off the bottom of this pool to get air. Some more interesting aspects, including an underwater insertion, as well as a CH-53E Super Stallion, weapons training, and the start of a parachute insertion, are also shown.
The consequences for quitting training to be a Recon Marine are also outlined. Watch the video — and learn what the real secret is to becoming a Recon Marine.
As the third-highest award for bravery in combat awarded to service members in the military, the Silver Star honors those who display exceptional courage while engaged in military combat operations against enemy forces.
When you see a Silver Star distinction on a license plate or on a uniform, you might wonder what the service member did to earn the distinction. Here’s everything you need to know about the Silver Star Medal but didn’t want to ask.
The Silver Star Requirements
The SSM is awarded for bravery, as long as the action doesn’t justify the award of one of the next higher valor awards (the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, the Air Force Cross or the Coast Guard Cross).
The act of bravery has to have taken place while in combat action against an enemy of the United States while involved in military operations that involve conflict with an opposing foreign force. It can also occur while serving with a friendly force engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.
This medal is awarded for singular acts of heroism over a brief period, such as one to two days.
Air Force pilots, combat systems officers and Navy/Marine naval aviators/flight officers are often ineligible to receive the Silver Star after becoming an ace (having five or more confirmed aerial kills). However, the last conflict to produce aces was the Vietnam War, and during that conflict, several Silver Stars were awarded to aces.
Finely constructed details
The Silver Star Medal is a gold five-pointed star, 1 ½ inch in diameter with a laurel wreath encircling rays forming the center. A smaller, 3/16 inch silver star is superimposed in the center. The pendant is suspended from a rectangular shaped metal loop with rounded corners.
On the backside, the reserve has the inscription, “For Gallantry in Action.” The ribbon measures 1 3/8 inches wide and has a 5.6mm wide Old Glory Red stripe in the center, proceeding outward pairs of white and ultramarine blue.
Second and subsequent Silver Star awards are denoted by bronze or silver oak leaf clusters in the Air Force and Army, and gold and silver stars for the Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard.
Recipients of Silver Star Medals
To date, independent groups estimate that between 100,000 and 150,000 Silver Stars have been awarded since the decoration was established. The Department of Defense doesn’t keep records for how many are issued.
The first Silver Star was awarded to Gen. Douglas MacArthur in 1932, who was then awarded Silver Stars seven additional times for his actions in WWI.
Col. Davis Hackworth was awarded 10 Silver Star medals for his actions in both Korea and Vietnam. It’s thought that he has the highest number of medals issued to one single person.
Former Secretary of State Alexander Haig, Senator John Kerry, Army Gen. George Marshall and Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North all received Silver Stars.
In WWI, three Army nurses were cited with the Citation Star for their bravery in attending to wounded service personnel while under artillery fire in July 1918. However, in 2007, it was discovered that the nurses never received their awards. These three nurses were Jane Rignel, for her bravery in giving aid to the wounded while under fire, and Irene Robar and Linnie Leckrone, for their courage to attend to the wounded while under artillery bombardments.
The first woman to receive both the Silver Star and the Purple Heart was also an Army nurse – Lt. Col. Cordelia Cook. She served in WWII and later went on to have a career as a civilian nurse.
In 2005, Army National Guard Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester received the Silver Star for her gallantry during an insurgent ambush on a convoy in Iraq. In 2008, Army Spec. Monica Lin Brown received the Silver Star for her extraordinary heroism as a medic in the War in Afghanistan.
Since September 11, 2001, the Silver Star has been awarded to service members during combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
An Italian woman was in a severe car collision in Niger and staff at the local hospital realized they couldn’t treat the woman properly with the equipment they had on hand. What followed was an 18-hour odyssey that relied on medical staff from six countries and U.S. Special Operations Command Forward, a pop-up blood bank, and a doctor translating medical jargon between four languages.
It all started when an Italian woman and her male passenger were driving near Nigerien Air Base 101 in Niamey, capital of Niger. The ensuing wreck injured them both. Nigerien ambulance services moved them to the local hospital where doctors made the call that the woman needed to go to a more advanced facility.
The hospital said the woman had a liver bleed, a life-threatening condition that requires surgery. The case was referred to Italian military doctors nearby who asked the American surgeons of SOCFWD — North And West Africa for help. The ground surgical team quickly discovered that the liver bleed wasn’t the only problem.
Three doctors, U.S. Air Force Capts. Melanie Gates, left, Nick McKenzie, and Richard Thorsted, all with Special Operations Command Forward — Northwest Africa ground surgical team, gather for a photo at Nigerien Air Base 101, Niamey, Niger, on June 21, 2018. The doctors were all involved in an emergency surgery which successfully saved the life of an injured Italian woman.
(U.S. Air Force)
“Upon reviewing the CT scans, there was also evidence of free air in the abdomen, concerning for a small bowel injury,” U.S. Air Force Capt. Melanie Gates, GST emergency medical physician, told an Air Force journalist. “When the patient arrived, her skin was white and she was in serious pain with minimal responsiveness. Her vitals were much worse than previously reported.”
“First thoughts upon seeing patient … she wasn’t doing well,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Richard Thorsted, GST anesthesiologist. “She arrived to us in critical condition with a high fever.”
Italian military members, left (sand-colored uniforms), Special Operations Command Forward Northwest Africa ground surgical team members, middle (in civilian clothes), and members from the 768th EABS, right (in multi camo-patterned uniforms) gather for a photo at Nigerien Air Base 101, Niamey, Niger, on June 4, 2018. A multinational team of medical practitioners on the base saved the life of an Italian civilian injured outside by patching together a team of doctors and other medical personnel from six nations and multiple military branches.
(U.S. Air Force)
The doctors initiated two important actions as they prepared to conduct the surgery; coordination for an airlift to take the patient to Senegal once the surgery was finished, and the collection of A-positive blood to keep the patient going during surgery and airlift.
Both requests would require more work and luck than expected.
First, the major stakeholders needed to ensure the aeromedical evacuation took place included French personnel who controlled a lot of the coordination in the area, Senegalese personnel who would receive the patient into their care, Germans who would conduct the evacuation if civilian personnel could not, Americans who were performing the first surgery, and Nigerians who had originally secured the patient and whose country was hosting her first surgery.
Luckily, Italian military doctor Valantina Di Nitto spoke at least three languages and was able to pass critical patient information and medical plans of action between all the stakeholders. She created a road map for medical care, from the surgery in Niger to Senegal and, eventually, to Italy.
At the same time, base personnel needed to immediately procure five units of A-positive blood. Unfortunately, the medical personnel who knew how to draw the blood weren’t yet familiar with the equipment available on the base.
Lt. Col. Justin Tingey, 768th Expeditionary Air Base Squadron flight doctor, and Master Sgt. Melissa Cessna, 768th EABS independent duty medical technician, pose for a photo at Nigerien Air Base 101, Niamey, Niger, on June 21, 2018. The team recently set up a walking blood bank to enable life-saving surgery to an Italian woman who nearly died in a car accident outside the base. The patient is now in good condition and recovering in Italy.
(U.S. Air Force)
In a weird coincidence, U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Bryan Killings did know how to use the equipment, and he was passing through the base en route to another destination. He got a text message from his bosses while at dinner.
“My leadership told me they had a patient coming through and they needed me to assist them,” Killings said. “They said they needed A-positive blood.”
Killings rushed to the walking blood bank and trained Army and Air Force personnel on how to use the equipment, then assisted in the collection of blood from five donors.
In the operating theater, a team of Air Force doctors took the blood and got to work. The three doctors, Air Force Capts. Melanie Gates, Nick McKenzie, and Richard Thorsted, were all recent graduates of medical school.
Luckily, after completing their residency programs, all three had undergone special military training before heading to Africa that included clinical scenarios in austere conditions.
“Our training kicked in. We all knew our roles and worked well together,” Gates told Tech Sgt. Nick Wilson. “I believe our training was crucial for our development as a team and ability to handle situations like this.”
In the end, the amalgamation of civilian and military medical personnel pulled it off, and the patient is recovering Naples, Italy. She is currently in good condition.
(H/t to Tech Sgt. Nick Wilson who wrote a three-part series on this story for the Air Force. To learn more, you can read his full articles here, here, and here.)
The M107 self-propelled howitzer hasn’t gotten much attention. The M109 series of 155mm howitzers, on the other hand, is reaching its 55th year in operational service with the United States Army. Meanwhile, the M107 is fading into obscurity. Despite its (lack of) reputation, this howitzer was crucial for both the United States and Israel, among other nations.
The M107 and M110 shared the same chassis, but both were equipped with different guns — the M107 packed a 175mm gun and the M110 used an eight-inch cannon. Sharing a chassis was a boon in terms of both maintenance and logistics, since it meant the supply clerks had fewer categories of parts to handle.
A M107 self-propelled gun reaches out to touch the enemy during a fire mission in South Vietnam.
That also meant the guns were swappable — a M107 could become a M110 and vice versa depending on the mission. Want to deliver a particularly big punch? The M110 was your choice. Need to reach out and touch someone up to 25 miles away? The M107 is your choice for that.
The M107 entered operational service with the United States Army in 1962. By 1979, it had been retired, but it served for a while in a number of other militaries. Its most notable service was with Israel, which pushed its maximum range to 30 miles thanks to the efforts of Dr. Gerald Bull. M107s shelled Damascus during the Yom Kippur War, destroyed at least 15 surface-to-air missile sites, and are still held in reserve by the Israeli military.
The Israelis were able to use M107 to hit targets up to 30 miles away.
The M107 also saw action in the Iran-Iraq War, where it was used by Iranian forces. The M107 was first replaced by the M110A2, a longer-range eight-inch gun, and, ultimately, by the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System.
You can see how the Army introduced this long-range gun to America in the video below!
If you mess up just one glorious time in the U.S. military, your friends and peers will never let you forget it. It’s always been this way, even in World War II. From November 1943 until she was lost in 1945, the destroyer USS William D. Porter was greeted by home ports and other U.S. Navy ships with: “Don’t shoot, we’re Republicans!” That’s what happens when you almost assassinate the President.
Yes, that President.
In 1943, the USS Iowa was ferrying President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull, along with the top brass of the entire United States military in the middle of the biggest, most dangerous war ever. It was a very special, important mission. They were on their way to meet their Allied counterparts in Cairo and Tehran, including British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin.
The whole thing was almost derailed by one torpedo fired at the Iowa, by a destroyer in the Iowa’s own convoy, the William D. Porter. And it was a fast-running, powerful 500-pound torpedo.
The Porter was a hard-luck ship that hadn’t even seen combat yet. As she left Norfolk, she scraped the side of her sister ship, almost tearing her apart. While on convoy duty crossing the Atlantic, one of her depth charges slipped out of its hold and detonated, sending the convoy into a tizzy. Later, a large wave washed everything on the destroyer’s deck into the ocean, including a sailor that was never found. Once things calmed down a bit, the crews settled in for some target practice as the President watched on.
The Iowa launched target balloons, which the ships fired at in turn, including the Porter. Next, the skipper of the Porter ordered torpedo practice with Iowa as the target. But when the simulated order to fire a torpedo accidentally launched an armed torpedo, the bridge understandably flipped out.
Yes, that USS Iowa.
Under strict radio silence to avoid attracting German u-boats, the crew of the Porter began to furiously signal Iowa. Unfortunately, in their haste, they mentioned nothing about a torpedo, instead telling the battleship that the destroyer was backing up at full speed. Eventually, they radioed the Iowa anyway. After a brief disagreement about radio procedures, the huge battleship moved out of the way of the oncoming torpedo, which exploded in the wake of the battleship, with President Roosevelt aware of the torpedo and watching it come.
The guns of the battleship turned on the William D. Porter. The ship was ordered to make its way to Bermuda, its entire ship’s company under arrest. It was surrounded by U.S. Marines when it arrived in Bermuda. The crew was dismissed to landward assignments, and its skipper was sentenced to 14 years in prison – a sentence President Roosevelt commuted to no punishment because he considered it an averted accident.
The “WIllie Dee” sinks in the Pacific, June 1945.
The destroyer itself would go on fighting the war while continuing its hard luck, accidentally shooting down American planes and strafing her sister ship with gunfire. In June 1945, a Japanese kamikaze pilot who missed his initial target sank into the sea next to the Porter. It exploded directly underneath the ship, however, and sent her to the bottom.
The US Navy is banning vaping aboard ships, submarines, aircraft, boats, craft and heavy equipment.
The Navy announced April 14 that it is suspending the use, possession, storage and charging of so-called “Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems” aboard navy craft following continued reports of explosions of ENDS due to the overheating of lithium-ion batteries.
The prohibition applies to sailors, Marines, Military Sealift Command civilians and any personnel working on or visiting those units.
The Navy said it implemented this policy to protect the safety and welfare of sailors and to protect the ships, submarines, aircraft and equipment. Multiple sailors have suffered serious injuries from these devices, to include first- and second-degree burns and facial disfigurement. In these cases, injuries resulted from battery explosions during ENDS use, charging, replacement or inadvertent contact with a metal object while transporting.
The prohibition will be effective 30 days from the release of the policy May 14, and will remain in effect until a final determination can be made following a thorough analysis.
Deployed units may request extensions on device removal until their next port visit. Supervisors should ensure that removable lithium-ion batteries are removed from the units and stored according to the ENDS manufacturer instructions, in plastic wrap, in a plastic bag or any other non-conductive storage container.
Sailors on shore will still be allowed to use ENDS on base, but must do so in designated smoking areas ashore while on military installations.
Paratroopers assigned to Company A, 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment prepare to conduct security checks near the Pakistan border at Combat Outpost Dand Patan in Afghanistan’s Paktya province in 2012. | U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Epperson
President Obama once again altered his withdrawal plan for Afghanistan on Thursday, announcing that 8,400 U.S. troops would remain in the country next year rather than the 5,500 he initially authorized.
The announcement by Obama at the White House, with Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford flanking him, left decisions on future U.S. commitments to Afghanistan to the next president and essentially scuttled Obama’s dream of leaving office after ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The decision I’m making today ensures that my successor has a solid foundation for progress in Afghanistan, as well as the flexibility to address the threat of terrorism as it evolves,” Obama said. “I firmly believe the decision I’m announcing is the right thing to do.”
Currently, there are about 9,800 U.S. troops authorized for Afghanistan. Obama had earlier agreed to alter his plan to begin reducing that number to 5,500 by January 2017 by keeping the 9,800 in Afghanistan through the rest of this year, as recommended by his generals.
In a statement, Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee who just returned from a fact-finding trip to Afghanistan, said “the decision to retain 8,400 U.S. troops in Afghanistan into next year is certainly preferable to cutting those forces by nearly half. That said, when the president himself describes the security situation in Afghanistan as ‘precarious,’ it is difficult to discern any strategic rationale for withdrawing 1,400 U.S. troops by the end of the year.”
The number of civilian deaths in the Afghan war has reached a record high, continuing an almost unbroken trend of nearly a decade of rising casualties.
The number of deaths of women and children grew especially fast, primarily due to the Taliban’s use of homemade bombs, which caused 40% of civilian casualties in the first six months of 2017, according to UN figures released on July 17.
Child casualties increased by 9% to 436, compared with the same period last year, and 1,141 children were wounded. Female deaths rose by 23%, with 174 women killed and 462 injured.
US and Afghan airstrikes also contributed to the surge in civilian victims, with a 43%increase in casualties from the air, the figures showed.
Tadamichi Yamamoto, the head of the UN’s Afghanistan mission, said: “The human cost of this ugly war in Afghanistan – loss of life, destruction, and immense suffering – is far too high.
“The continued use of indiscriminate, disproportionate, and illegal improvised explosive devices [IEDs] is particularly appalling and must immediately stop.”
The UN attributes about two-thirds of casualties to the Taliban and other anti-government groups such as Islamic State.
The worst attack of the war on civilians occurred in the Afghan capital, Kabul, on May 31, when a truck bomb killed at least 150 people, amounting to nearly one-quarter of the 596 civilian deaths from IEDs in 2017.
In the countryside, bombs carpeting fields or left in abandoned houses have contributed to a steady, slow-grinding toll, with 1,483 civilians injured and many suffering amputations.
Kamel Danesh, 19, a student and avid cricketer, was helping a friend clear a house in Helmand a month ago when he stepped on a mine left by the Taliban.
“I didn’t hear the blast. I was just knocked over. My mouth filled with dust. I tried to stand up but couldn’t,” Danesh said. “I looked down and my leg was cut off at the bone. My hand was cut off.”
A rickshaw transported him from the suburbs of the provincial capital to Emergency, an Italian-run trauma centre, where medics saved his life.
“It was so painful. I prayed to God to take me,” Danesh said. The provincial cricket association named the Ramadan tournament after him, but he will never play again.
In June, the US conducted 389 aerial attacks in Afghanistan, putting this year on a par with 2013, when there were nearly 50,000 US soldiers in the country.
Of the 232 civilian casualties from 48 aerial operations, 114 were caused by Afghans and 85 by Americans. In one especially deadly operation, the US killed 26 civilians in airstrikes in Sangin district in Helmand.
With peace talks elusive, the war is expected to intensify and prolong the violence that has engulfed Afghanistan for four decades.
Danesh lost his leg to a conflict that began when he was two. As a child, his father and grandfather used to tell him war stories, but “now it is the young people who are sacrificing”, he said.