In today’s hi-tech age of drones and stealth and computer wizardry we might have a tendency to take military capabilities for granted. So here are nine military aviation firsts to remind us of how far we’ve come over the last 107 years or so:
1. First military flight
The Wright Brothers were contracted by the U.S. Army to conduct first-ever flight trials at Fort Meyer just outside of Washington, DC in 1908. Wilbur had a business commitment in Europe, so Orville had to do the Army flights by himself, the first time the brothers worked separately since their historic flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903.
2. First military aviation fatality
On September 17, about halfway into the Army flight program, with Army observer Lt. Thomas E. Selfridge on board, the airplane piloted by Orville Wright experienced a mechanical malfunction involving one of the propellers and crashed. Orville was severely injured and Selfridge died, making him the first military aviation fatality.
3. First aircraft carrier ops
Eugene Ely was the first pilot to launch from a stationary ship in November 1910. He took off from a structure fixed over the forecastle of the US armored cruiser USS Birmingham at Hampton Roads, Virginia and landed nearby on Willoughby Spit after some five minutes in the air. On 18 January 1911, he became the first pilot to land on a stationary ship. He took off from the Tanforan racetrack and landed on a similar temporary structure on the aft of the USS Pennsylvania anchored at the San Francisco waterfront—the improvised braking system of sandbags and ropes led directly to the arresting hook and wires. His aircraft was then turned around and he was able to take off again. (Source: Wikipedia)
4. First strike sortie
The first real world bombing mission was flown on November 1, 1911 by Sottotenente Giulio Gavotti, against Turkish troops in Libya. Gavotti was flying an early model of Etrich Taube aircraft. It’s also interesting to note that the Turks were the first to shoot down an aircraft (using rifle fire) during that same conflict.
5. First air-to-air kill
The first conventional air-to-air kill occured on October 5, 1914, during World War I, when a gunner on a French Voisin bagged a German Aviatik reconnaissance aircraft.
6. First ace
“Vut eez theez volleyball you speak uf?”
Adolphe Pégoud shot down his fifth German aircraft in April of 1915, making him the first military ace ever. On August 31 of that same year, Pégoud was shot down by one of his pre-war flight students, Unteroffizier Walter Kandulski, while intercepting a German reconnaissance aircraft. He died in the crash. Kandulski later dropped a funeral wreath over the French lines in tribute.
7. First military pilot to go supersonic
After Bell Aircraft test pilot “Slick” Goodlin demanded $150,000 ($1.6 million in 2015 dollars) to break the sound barrier, the USAAF selected Chuck Yeager to fly the rocket-powered Bell XS-1 in a NACA program to research high-speed flight. Yeager broke the sound barrier on October 14, 1947, flying the X-1 at Mach 1.07 at an altitude of 45,000 ft. over the Rogers Dry Lake in the Mojave Desert.
8. First military pilot in space
On April 12, 1961, Senior Lieutenant Yuri Gagarin launched in the the Vostok 3KA-3 spacecraft from Baikonur Cosmodrome, which made him the first human to travel into space and the first to orbit the earth.
9. First military pilot to walk on the moon
Most people assume that Neil Armstrong was an active duty military officer at the time of the Apollo 11 mission, but he was actually a civilian, which makes Col. “Buzz” Aldrin, the second man out of the lunar module, the first military pilot to walk on the moon.
A settlement has been reached in a landmark lawsuit that the American Civil Liberties Union brought against two psychologists involved in designing the CIA’s harsh interrogation program used in the war on terror.
The deal announced August 17 marked the first time the CIA or its private contractors have been held accountable for the torture program, which began as a result of the attacks on September 11, said professor Deborah Pearlstein of the Cardozo Law School in New York.
“This sends a signal to those who might consider doing this in the future,” Pearlstein said. “There are consequences for torture.”
Terms of the settlement were not disclosed August 17. The deal avoided a civil jury trial that had been set for September 5 in federal court in Spokane, Washington.
Pearlstein said the settlement also makes it unlikely the CIA will pursue torture again in the war on terror. “This puts an exclamation mark at the end of torture,” she said.
“We certainly hope this opens the door for further lawsuits,” said Sarah Dougherty, an anti-torture activist for Physicians for Human Rights.
The ACLU sued James Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen on behalf of three former detainees, including one who died in custody, who contended they were tortured at secret CIA prisons overseas. Mitchell and Jessen were under contract with the federal government following the September 11 terror attacks.
The lawsuit claimed they designed, implemented, and personally administered an experimental torture program. The techniques they developed included waterboarding, slamming the three men into walls, stuffing them inside coffin-like boxes, exposing them to extreme temperatures, starving them, and keeping them awake for days, the ACLU said.
“This outcome shows that there are consequences for torture and that survivors can and will hold those responsible for torture accountable,” said Dror Ladin, an attorney for the ACLU. “It is a clear warning for anyone who thinks they can torture with impunity.”
James T. Smith, lead defense attorney, said the psychologists were public servants whose interrogation methods were authorized by the government.
“The facts would have borne out that while the plaintiffs suffered mistreatment by some of their captors, none of that mistreatment was conducted, condoned, or caused by Drs. Mitchell and Jessen,” Smith said.
Jessen said in a statement that he and Mitchell “served our country at a time when freedom and safety hung in the balance.”
The torture program began as a result of the attacks on September 11. USCG photo by PA3 Tom Sperduto.
Mitchell also defended their work, saying, “I am confident that our efforts were necessary, legal, and helped save countless lives.”
But the group Physicians for Human Rights said the case shows that health professionals who participate in torture will be held accountable.
“These two psychologists had a fundamental ethical obligation to do no harm, which they perverted to inflict severe pain and suffering on human beings in captivity,” said Donna McKay, executive director of the group.
The lawsuit sought unspecified monetary damages from the psychologists on behalf of Suleiman Abdullah Salim, Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, and the estate of Gul Rahman.
Rahman, an Afghan, was taken from his home in Pakistan in 2002 to a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan. He died of hypothermia several weeks later after being shackled to a floor in near-freezing conditions.
According to the lawsuit, Salim and Ben Soud both were subjected to waterboarding, daily beatings, and sleep deprivation in secret CIA sites. Salim, a Tanzanian, and Ben Soud, a Libyan, were later released after officials determined they posed no threat.
A US Senate investigation in 2014 found that Mitchell and Jessen’s techniques produced no useful intelligence. They were paid $81 million for their work. President Barack Obama terminated the contract in 2009.
Mitchell and Jessen previously worked at the Air Force survival school at Fairchild Air Force Base outside Spokane, where they trained pilots to avoid capture and resist interrogation and torture. The CIA hired them to reverse-engineer their methods to break terrorism suspects.
The ACLU said it was the first civil lawsuit involving the CIA’s torture program that was not dismissed at the initial stages. The Justice Department got involved to keep classified information secret but did not try to block it.
Though there was no trial, the psychologists and several CIA officials underwent lengthy questioning in video depositions. Some documents that had been secret were declassified.
The ACLU issued a joint statement from the surviving plaintiffs, who said they achieved their goals.
“We were able to tell the world about horrific torture, the CIA had to release secret records, and the psychologists and high-level CIA officials were forced to answer our lawyer’s questions,” the statement said.
The lawsuit was brought under a law allowing foreign citizens to have access to US courts to seek justice for violations of their rights.
In the ultimate example of “fake it til you make it,” Ferdinand Demara boarded the HMCS Cayuga, a Canadian Navy destroyer during the Korean War. He was impersonating a doctor, which was fine until the ship started taking on more serious casualties and Demara was left as the ship’s only “surgeon”.
This is the point where most people would throw up their hands and announce the game was up, but Demara wasn’t ultimately labeled “the Great Imposter” for nothing. He had a photographic memory and a very high IQ.
So the new doctor went into his quarters for a few minutes with a medical textbook, came back out and then operated the 16 badly injured troops — including one who required major chest surgery — and saved them all.
There is no word on which textbook you can read to learn how to perform surgery in a few minutes, but whichever one it is, it’s totally worth the money. There is also no mention of how Demara managed to board the vessel and how no one recognized there was a new crewman aboard with no papers.
Demara’s identity was somehow discovered after this incident and he could no longer live under different identities (he was even featured in Time Magazine). He previously worked as civil engineer, a zoology graduate, a doctor of applied psychology, a monk (on two separate occasions), an assistant warden at a Texas prison, philosophy dean at a Pennsylvania college, a hospital orderly, a lawyer, cancer researcher, and a teacher.
There was even a movie made about his life starring Tony Curtis. After that level of recognition, Demara could no longer blend in and integrate himself as he once did.
An interesting note, Demara never sought financial gain, just the experience of the job. He died in 1982.
The elite U.S. Coast Guardsmen of the specialized forces deploy around the globe to fight terrorism and prevent attacks.
The Coast Guard anti-terrorism mission is most perfectly exemplified by two groups: the Maritime Safety and Security Teams and the Maritime Security Response Team. The MSRT and the MSSTs were part of the Coast Guard Deployable Operations Groups before the DOG was dissolved in 2013.
The Maritime Security Response Team is the group that answers the 911 call and rapidly deploys when an impending terrorist attack is suspected or underway at an American port or waterway. They’re also charged with conducting higher risk law enforcement missions.
Like the MSRT, the Maritime Safety and Security Teams can rapidly deploy when necessary — they secured sensitive areas in Boston within hours of the Boston Marathon bombings — but they focus on longer missions, deploying to American and friendly ports that are at increased risk of attack and establishing a semi-permanent presence.
Twelve MSSTs provide security at ports from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to New York Harbor, from San Diego to Anchorage, Alaska and Honolulu.
“Special operations” technically covers only Department of Defense assets. The Coast Guard, operating under the Department of Homeland Security, classifies its elite operators as Deployable Specialized Forces.
See more photos of them below:
A Maritime Security Response Team member pulls security during a ferry boarding in an exercise Oct. 22, 2015.
The MSRT members quickly gained control of the ferry and searched it for radiological threats.
A military working dog with the MSRT was brought in to search the vessel while his human counterparts controlled it.
A member of a Maritime Safety and Security team patrols New York waterways in Nov. 2003.
Adopted by the Nazi Party in the 1930s, Hitler’s infamous “sieg heil” (meaning “hail victory”) salute was mandatory for all German citizens as a demonstration of loyalty to the Führer, his party, and his nation.
August Landmesser, the lone German refusing to raise a stiff right arm amid Hitler’s presence at a 1936 rally, had been a loyal Nazi.
Two years later, Landmesser fell madly in love with Irma Eckler, a Jewish woman, and proposed marriage to her in 1935.
After his engagement to a Jewish woman was discovered, Landmesser was expelled from the Nazi Party.
Landmesser and Eckler decided to file a marriage application in Hamburg, but the union was denied under the newly enacted Nuremberg Laws.
The couple welcomed their first daughter, Ingrid, in October 1935.
And then on June 13, 1936, Landmesser gave a crossed-arm stance during Hitler’s christening of a new German navy vessel.
The act of defiance stands out amid the throng of Nazi salutes
In 1937, fed up, Landmesser attempted to flee Nazi Germany to Denmark with his family. But he was detained at the border and charged with “dishonoring the race,” or “racial infamy,” under the Nuremberg Laws.
A year later, Landmesser was acquitted for a lack of evidence and was instructed to not have a relationship with Eckler.
Refusing to abandon the mother of his child, Landmesser ignored Nazi wishes and was arrested again in 1938 and sentenced to nearly three years in a concentration camp.
He would never see the woman he loved or his child again.
The secret state police also arrested Eckler, who was several months pregnant with the couple’s second daughter. She gave birth to Irene in prison and was sent to an all-women’s concentration camp soon after her delivery.
Eckler is believed to have been transferred to what the Nazi’s called a “euthanasia center” in 1942, where she was killed with 14,000 others. After his prison sentence, Landmesser worked a few jobs before he was drafted into war in 1944. A few months later, he was declared missing in action in Croatia.
Let’s face it. As 2016 has shown, we live in a dangerous world.
Furthermore, there are real problems and challenges at the Pentagon, like $125 billion in “administrative waste” over the last five years.
In less than a month, a new team takes charge, which is to be lead by retired Marine Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis, President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to serve as Secretary of Defense.
So, what are some of the challenges that “Mad Dog” and his team will face?
1. Getting the nuclear house in order
Most of America’s strategic delivery systems are older than music superstar, sometime actress, and veteran serenader Taylor Swift.
Of the two that are younger than her, only one isn’t “feeling 22” as the hit song puts it. In fact, in some case, very outdated tech is being used. How outdated? Try 8-inch floppy disks in an era when a micro SD card capable of holding 128 gigabytes costs less than $40.
Don’t get us wrong, most civilian employees at the Department of Defense do a lot of good. But as the active duty military dropped from 1.73 million in Sep. 2005 to just under 1.33 million in Sep. 2016, the civilian workforce increased from 663,866 to 733,992, according to Pentagon reports.
California Republican Rep. Ken Calvert noted in a Washington Examiner op-ed that the ratio of civilian employees to uniformed personnel is at a historical high.
There was $125 billion of “administrative waste” over the last five years. That money could have bought a lot of gear for the troops. This needs to be addressed as soon as possible, with Iran and China, among other countries, getting a little aggressive. The DOD’s business is to fight wars, and a little refocusing on military manpower might be needed.
3. Acquisition Reform
It is taking longer to deliver weapon systems to the troops, and they are getting more expensive.
Do we have to look to the 1970s for acquisition reform? (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
The Air Force announced the B-21 Raider earlier this year. But it might not be in service until the mid-2020s at the very earliest — and the B-52 isn’t getting any younger. The F-35 has taken almost 15 years to reach an initial operational capability after the winner was chosen in 2001.
By comparison, Joe Baugher notes that the F-111 took about five years from the selection of General Dynamics to the first planes reaching operational squadrons — and that drew controversy back then.
4. Cyber warfare
With some of the hacks that have gone on, it’s amazing that so many people find this a snoozer. Keep in mind, this October, a massive cyberattack cost companies over $110 million — enough to buy a F-35B.
And the Pentagon needs to tighten its defenses — this past June, over 130 bugs were found when DOD offered “bug bounties” to so-called “white hat” hackers. While it’s nice a lot of the bugs were found… did the “white hats” miss any?
5. Old Equipment
Age isn’t just striking the nuclear force. Many of the systems used for conventional warfare are old as well. In a commentary for the Washington Examiner, Representative Ken Calvert (R-CA) noted that many F-15 Eagle fighters are over 30 years old. To put this into context, take a look at how old three music superstars are: Taylor Swift is 27, Ariana Grande is 23, and Ke$ha is 29. It’s past time for recapitalization.
Photo by Tech. Sgt. Carmen Cheney
NATO Special Operations Component Command-Afghanistan.
“No foreign invader has ever won a war in Afghanistan.”
It’s one of the first things the instructor told the next rotation of Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) as we began our training for our deployment to Afghanistan. While I don’t believe his point was, “It’s a fool’s errand to try and change that statistic,” over a decade later, I wonder if that is what he was trying to tell us — even then.
We were encouraged to read “Three Cups of Tea” so we could learn about building schools in Afghanistan. I read it as requested, and as I walked through each chapter, I wondered if the leadership who had highly recommended the book had actually read it themselves.
“Three Cups of Tea” shares the story of Greg Mortenson, who began working to build schools in Pakistan. When Mortenson met with village elders, he learned they first needed a bridge, not a school. It took listening, a number of projects and lots of time to make progress in this one village. The U.S. was trying to make an impact with rotating teams that were under-equipped and only in the country for nine months.
A hope was placed on the PRTs. We were supposed to change the tide in the war: Win their hearts and minds.
Although we received months of training, nowhere in our manual did it say how we actually could “win hearts and minds.” We found ourselves in a country trying to do a job without everything we needed. We were managing huge construction projects with a pencil and a laptop. There was no support from the leadership when we expressed our concerns or the challenges we were facing.
As a Civil Engineer, I was tasked to manage projects and create new ones. We were required to follow the plans from Kabul. We were told to construct two-story schoolhouses in a community where people lived in makeshift shacks and mud huts. When we expressed our concerns about how these blueprints included generators (which the Afghans didn’t have fuel for), buildings (the Afghans had no idea how to maintain), and the overall lack of planning from the local Kapisa government, we were told we needed to focus on submitting more projects.
Our words fell on deaf ears.
When we told leadership we were limited due to the new rules that prevented our office from taking on more projects, they encouraged us to have more members on our team get the training certification so their name could be on the project instead of ours. The names didn’t matter — we were still tasked with managing projects that were doomed to fail from the start.
The focus was not on winning hearts and minds. Instead, it was encapsulated in how good of a performance report could be written by the dollars spent and projects created.
The PRT had lost their way. Now, as Afghanistan falls, I want to be shocked and surprised, but I’m not.
For a long time, I stopped thinking about my deployment. It hurt too much to think of the pain I endured. For so long, I questioned if anything I did mattered. What was it all for?
To cope with my deployment, I focused on the ways the deployment changed me into the person I am today. I made three close friends that I group chat with almost daily. I learned I am more capable than I ever thought. I took the courage and strength to create a business and help others share their story. Instead of focusing on our collective failures, I am trying to find the nobility in the services we rendered while we were there. It’s difficult to process 20 years of war “ending” with the Taliban back in control… with our interpreters and those who worked for us left in a panic, trying to escape. It’s hard for me to process and not to feel anything but anger. If nothing else, when we look back at these decades, may we learn from our biggest mistake: trying to change hearts and minds when we should have been listening.
Before the tank entered the lexicon of military history, there was horse cavalry.
The horse, like the modern day tank, provided support to the infantry and artillery. However, while every kingdom, like every modern nation today, has some sort of mobile land support designed to punch holes through enemy lines, only a handful of nations have the best trained. So here we take a look at 5 epic cavalry formations of the ancient world.
1. The Numidians (light cavalry)
The Numidians were from what is now Algeria and were known for their cavalry abilities.
The Numidian cavalry of the ancient world. (Photo Wikimedia Commons)
Hannibal used these Numidian cavalrymen during the Second Punic War. So what made the Numidian cavalry so darn good?
The Numidians saw many battles during Hannibal’s campaign in Roman Italy. The Greek historian Polybius, describes the Numidian warriors as light cavalry armed with missile weapons (javelins). The Battle of Cannae 216 BCE, showcased their abilities.
What made the Numidian cavalry so effective at Cannae is that unlike the Spaniard and Celtic cavalries that also accompanied Hannibal, the Spaniard and Celtic horsemen were heavy cavalries that fought en masse, much like the Roman cavalry. The Numidians, being light cavalry, fought in a much looser formation and because of this, they harassed the Roman cavalry with complicated tactics before disengaging.
And while the Celtic and Spaniard cavalries had the Roman cavalry fixed, the Numidians went from harassment to providing shock support once the Roman cavalry turned their back. This caused the Roman cavalry to flee once the Numidians made contact and understood that if they do not make a break for it, they would be enveloped and decimated.
2. The Scythians (light cavalry)
The Scythians may not be the original inventors of asymmetrical warfare, but one could argue that they perfected it.
(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
The Scythians were ancient nomadic horse warriors who were first mentioned by the Assyrians during the reign of Sargon II (reigned 722 – 705 BCE). What made these horsemen so powerful was that they were raised in the saddle and were typically armed with a distinctive composite bow.
The Scythian bow is unique and revered throughout the ancient world by kings, historians, and a philosopher. King Esarhaddon of Assyria had a Cimmerian bow, the Babylonian armies of Nebuchadnezzar II and Nabonidus were equipped with their bows and arrows, and even Hercules’ Greek portrait displays him armed with a Scythian bow. The Greek philosopher Plato said,
The customs of the Scythians proves our error; for they not only hold the bow from them with the left hand and draw the arrow to them with their right, but use either hand for both purposes.
When one examines the Scythian lifestyle, one can easily gain an understanding of the type of warfare necessarily carried on against more sedentary (non-migratory) people, like those in Mesopotamia. The Scythian took a guerilla approach to warfare as their method, using small bands to conduct military operations. Herodotus mentions their method of warfare when King Darius of Persia campaigned against them.
It is thus with me, Persian: I have never fled for fear of any man, nor do I now flee from you; this that I have done is no new thing or other than my practice in peace. But as to the reason why I do not straightway fight with you, this too I will tell you. For we Scythians have no towns or planted lands, that we might meet you the sooner in battle, fearing lest the one be taken or the other wasted. But if nothing will serve you but fighting straightway, we have the graves of our fathers; come, find these and essay to destroy them; then shall you know whether we will fight you for those graves or no. Till then we will not join battle unless we think it good.
The description indicates that the Scythians against whom Darius was warring had no center of gravity. King Darius’ military campaign into Scythia (modern Ukraine) went for nothing. As he could not catch them, the Scythians burnt their own their fields, destroyed Persian supplies, and harassed his forces with hit and run tactics.
In the end, Darius turned his large army around and headed home before it was annihilated.
3. The Parthians (light cavalry)
The Parthian horsemen are much like the Scythians.
The Parthians also known as the Parni/Aparni, originated from eastern Iran and like the Scythians, wore light attire, carried a composite bow and a sidearm — possibly a sword or a dagger. What made the Parthian horse archers so powerful was their ability to hit and run, and this was demonstrated at the Battle of Carrhae in 53 BCE between the Roman Republic and the Parthian Empire.
(Photo Wikimedia Commons)
The Roman general Crassus led his Roman legions into the desert wilderness thinking they were going to face a pussycat. Instead, they found themselves face-to-face with an equal foe. Once Crassus gave the order to form a square, the Parthian horse archers saw an opportunity. They showered the Romans with raining death.
The average Parthian horse archer, with a quiver of 30 arrows, loosed between eight to ten arrows a minute at Carrhae. It would take almost three minutes to exhaust his arsenal before needing to be resupplied. The amount of Parthian horse archers at the battle is estimated at 10,000. Now, if all 10,000 fired away for 20 minutes, the amount of arrows fired by an individual horse archer would have been between 160-200 arrows. Take 10,000 and the amount of arrows fired upon the Roman soldiers are estimated to have been an astounding 1.6-2 million arrows in a 20-minute timeframe.
In the convulsion and agony of their pain they writhed as the arrows struck them; the men broke them off in their wounds and then lacerated and disfigured their own bodies by trying to tear out by main force the barbed arrow heads that had pierced through their veins and muscles.
Romans could do little, for if they break formation they are dead, if they stand still they are dead but have a chance. Only nightfall saved them. While the Parthian horse archers showered the Romans with death, the Parthian cataphract was the hammer.
4. The Parthian Cataphract (heavy armored cavalry)
When it comes to heavy cavalry in the ancient world, the Parthian cataphract takes the lead.
Parthian heavy armored cataphract. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
The word cataphract comes from the Greek Kataphraktos means “completely enclosed.” The origins of the cataphract may not have started with the Parthians but with the Massagetae, who also inhabited portions of Eastern Iran three centuries before the arrival of the Parthians. If you want more info on this, click “here.”
The Parthian cataphract in many ways looked like the medieval knights of Europe. What made them so effective on the field of battle was that the rider and horse were covered in armor. The rider would carry a lance, sword, and presumably a bow.
At the Battle of Carrhae, the cataphract would charge into Roman lines once the legions locked shields to protect themselves from the arrows. According to Plutarch, the cataphracts would hit the lines with such a force that “many (Romans) perished hemmed in by the horsemen. Others were knocked over by the pikes or were carried off transfixed.”
This hit and run attack would go on for some time until the Roman broke and fled.
5. Late Roman Equites Cataphractarii and Sassanid Clibanarii (very heavily armored cavalry)
It may be an understatement to say that Equites cataphractarii were heavy cavalry as they were indeed the heaviest of the bunch.
among them were the full-armoured cavalry (whom they called clibanarii or cataphracti equites), all masked, furnished with protecting breastplates and girt with iron belts, so that you might have supposed them statues polished by the hand of Praxiteles, not men. Thin circles of iron plates, fitted to the curves of their bodies, completely covered their limbs; so that whichever way they had to move their members, their garment fitted, so skilfully were the joinings made
The Clibanarii were Sassanid. However, the Sassanids also used this term to describe the Equites cataphractarii. The description provided by Ammianus Marcellinus about the Clibanarii goes as follows:
Moreover, all the companies were clad in iron, and all parts of their bodies were covered with thick plates, so fitted that the stiff joints conformed with those of their limbs; and the forms of human faces were so skilfully fitted to their heads, that, since their entire bodies were plated with metal, arrows that fell upon them could lodge only where they could see a little through tiny openings fitted to the circle of the eye, or where through the tips of their noses they were able to get a little breath. Of these some, who were armed with pikes, stood so motionless that you would think them held fast by clamps of bronze.
The Persians opposed us serried bands of mail-clad horsemen in such close order that the gleam of moving bodies covered with closely fitting plates of iron dazzled the eyes of those who looked upon them, while the whole throng of horses was protected by coverings of leather.
So who had the best cavalry in the ancient world? Well, the answer to that question is the various nomads who dotted the Eurasian Steppe, Central Asia, and the Iranian plateau. These various nomads are the ones who not only perfected horse archery and heavy cavalry, they also brought civilization the chariot.
However, horse archers and heavy cavalry — no matter the kingdom — would come to an end once the gunpowder age arrived. Eventually new tactics took the rider off his mount and placed him into a tank.
Congress sent President Donald Trump legislation to provide the biggest expansion of college aid for military veterans in a decade.
The Senate cleared the bill by voice vote on August 2, passing the second piece of legislation aimed at addressing urgent problems at the beleaguered Department of Veterans Affairs in as many days. The House passed the bipartisan college aid legislation last week.
The measure is a broad effort to better prepare veterans for life after active-duty service amid a rapidly changing job market.
Building on major legislation passed in 2008 that guaranteed a full-ride scholarship to any in-state public university — or a similar cash amount for private college students — the bill removes a 15-year time limit to tap into GI benefits and increases money for thousands in the National Guard and Reserve.
Veterans would get additional payments if they complete science, technology, and engineering courses. The bill also would restore benefits if a college closed in the middle of the semester, a protection added when thousands of veterans were hurt by the collapse of for-profit college giant ITT Technical Institute and Corinthian Colleges. Purple Heart recipients, meanwhile, would be fully eligible for benefits, regardless of length of time in service.
“This bill invests in the proven success of our veterans,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee. “When our veterans return home, they should have every opportunity available to them to pursue their desired profession and career.”
The panel’s top Democrat, Jon Tester of Montana, says the bill “also does right by Guardsmen and Reservists by getting them the education, housing, and health care that they have earned. I look forward to working with President Trump to quickly sign our bill into law.”
Tester is one of the more vulnerable Democrats up for re-election next year, seeking another term in a state Trump won last year.
Sens. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., (left) and Jon Tester, D-Mont (right)
The Senate, on August 2, backed a measure that authorizes $3.9 billion in emergency spending to avert imminent bankruptcy in the VA’s Veterans Choice Program of private-sector care. About $1.8 million of that money would bolster core VA programs, including 28 leases for new VA medical facilities.
The education benefits would take effect for enlistees who begin using their GI Bill money next year.
For a student attending a private university, the additional benefits to members of the Guard and Reserve could mean $2,300 a year more in tuition than they are receiving now, plus a bigger housing allowance.
A wide range of veterans’ groups had supported the expanded GI Bill benefits. The American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans group, hailed the proposal as launching a “new era” for those who served in uniform.
According to Student Veterans of America, only about half of the 200,000 service members who leave the military each year go on to enroll in a college, while surveys indicate that veterans often outperform peers in the classroom.
Veterans of Foreign Wars estimates that hundreds of thousands of veterans stand to gain from the new benefits.
The expanded educational benefits would be paid for by bringing living stipend payments under the GI Bill down to a similar level as that received by an active-duty member, whose payments were reduced in 2014 by 1 percent a year for five years. Total government spending on the GI Bill is expected to be more than $100 billion over 10 years.
Have you ever been asked whether you have ever killed someone?
If you are a military veteran, chances are you probably have — and it’s always been awkward. Because honestly, what are you really supposed to say? It’s not a question that most troops want to answer: If it’s a yes, it was likely in combat and just part of your job. If it’s a no, should you feel bad that you weren’t one of the cool kids on your block with a confirmed kill?
From a civilian perspective, most simply don’t know it’s an inappropriate question. In their eyes, troops are taking out bad guys all day long, and they are genuinely curious about how that goes. And for veterans who end up on the receiving end of this question, it’s important to remember this ignorance — and that you were once this clueless too.
So how do vets respond? There are a few ways, ranging from the super-serious to the sarcastic as hell.
1. The super-serious: “That’s not an appropriate question to ask.”
If you want to shut it down right here, you can answer back with this. Because really, it’s hardly ever appropriate to ask that question. No one runs up to World War II vets and asks whether they killed anyone. They are just thanked for their service and left alone, not burdened with potentially rough memories.
2. The serious: “Yes/No, but that’s not something I want to talk about.”
You’ve given the answer to that morbid question, but made it clear that’s all they are going to get. If pressed, you can always revert to explaining that it’s inappropriate.
3. The uncomfortably silent: “Yes/No [pause for dramatic effect]”
If you want to flip the uncomfortableness around on the person asking the question, respond with a simple yes or no and then just look straight back at them, with unblinking eye contact. Talk about awkward.
4. Answering the awkward question with a awkward question: “Have you ever slept with your sister?”
With this one, you can effectively turn the tables and demonstrate just how awkward the question made you. The questioner will likely recoil when asked — similarly to your reaction — and you can then add, “No, huh? Ok let’s talk about something else then.”
5. The True Lies answer: “Yeah, but they were all bad.”
Take a page out of Arnold’s playbook from the film “True Lies.” If you haven’t seen it (what?!), Schwarzenegger plays an international spy but his wife has no clue. When she finds out and starts asking him questions, she gets to the killing question. He tries to soften the blow of this shocking news. I think it went ok.
6. The funny: “You mean today, or in total?”
You could always give an unexpected answer dripping with sarcasm. Go with this one, dramatically saying “not yet,” or give a ridiculous number: Like 67.
“Well my official number if 67, but that’s only confirmed. Pretty sure I’ve gotten a lot more than that.”
So how do you respond? Let us know in the comments.
Despite Hot Shots Part Deux‘s claim to be the bloodiest movie ever, we actually did the math and found the top body counts for war films featuring the U.S. military. These counts are only for onscreen, confirmed dead. If they’re still moving when the director cuts to the next shot, it doesn’t count. The results are surprising.
9. Delta Force
Despite his online reputation for ceaseless badassery, Chuck Norris’ seminal work Delta Force only has 78 confirmed kills. Though admittedly, 43 of those are at the hands of Chuck Norris himself.
8. Rambo Series
First Blood (commonly known as “the Rambo movie”) is the most surprising. With a body count of one confirmed kill, you wonder how John Rambo earned the reputation of being Hollywood’s biggest military badass… until you see the rest of the Rambo films (lots of cops go through windows, though). Body counts rise at a near exponential rate after the commies kill Rambo’s love interest, with 80 kills in First Blood Part II, 158 in Rambo III, and a whopping 273 in 2008’s Rambo. At that rate, I imagine that Rambo: Last Bloodwill maim more people than a movie starring 100 untamed lions.
7. The Patriot
Another surprise is the number of onscreen deaths in The Patriot. Mel Gibson’s Revolutionary War film, based on the Southern colonies’ fight against brutal British Colonel Banastre Tarleton, only had 123 onscreen kills.
6. Black Hawk Down
Black Hawk Down is considered one of the most realistic portrayals of any military action ever depicted onscreen, but the 135 deaths (122 Somalis, 13 Americans) doesn’t reflect the real-world body count of 1,500 Somalis, 18 Americans, 1 Malaysian and 1 Pakistani.
5. Saving Private Ryan
Steven Spielberg’s WWII epic Saving Private Ryan defined the distinctive WWII onscreen look and feel, replicated again and again. Appropriately, the film starts with his vision of the intense D-Day landings at Normandy. The final tally, including the dog tags of the KIA, stands at 243.
Platoon’s 277 kills are enough to give anyone a thousand-yard stare.
3. We Were Soldiers
The 305 total onscreen deaths between US forces and the North Vietnamese Army in We Were Soldiers gives Mel Gibson war film extras a higher mortality rate than Sean Bean in any film or TV show ever.
2. Inglourious Basterds
Quentin Tarantino’s films have a reputation for violence and his WWII masterwork Inglourious Basterds delivers Lieutenant Aldo Raine’s scalps and then some with a confirmed kill count of 315.
The all-time top body count of any movie featuring US troops in combat goes to Nicolas Cage’s Windtalkers with a whopping 548 onscreen kills.
This is the party your first sergeant had nightmares about.
And yet, “Office Christmas Party” was exactly what I asked Santa for this year: it was funny and festive all the way down to Rudolph the Red-Nose pasty on some background actor’s left boob.
The throwaway lines were so fantastic I almost didn’t want to laugh — lest I miss something — but I did laugh. I “ho ho ho’d” the whole way through.
Jennifer Anniston plays the Grinch-like CEO of Zenotek, who threatens to close down the branch run by her brother (played by T.J. Miller, who may have actually been Cindy Lou Who in a previous life).
Miller enlists his earnest Chief Technical Officer (Jason Bateman) and my new girl crush Olivia Munn to host an epic office Christmas party in a last-ditch effort to impress a potential client and save the branch.
We’ve seen Anniston, Miller, and Bateman play these roles before — and they’re perfectly good at them — but let’s talk about the true heroes of this film, starting with Kate McKinnon, the HR rep fighting a long, uphill battle.
McKinnon’s ability to steal a scene with but a wink is something I’ll never tire of. She is precious, especially in her non-denominational holiday sweater. Be sure to stick around for her bloopers during the credits and check out her bonus material on the film’s Facebook page.
Veep’s Sam Richardson turns it up when he rocks the DJ booth; he nails unassuming characters with the precision of a SEAL sniper and I never want to go to a party without his “fwam fwam fwam” again.
Then there’s Jillian Bell, perhaps best known for “Workaholics,” whose portrayal of a pimp almost makes me want to become a pimp. She definitely has me rethinking whether I should indeed take that open-carry course…
All in all, this film everything one could want from the holidays: mayhem, familial arguments with a “tap out rule,” and a killer party playlist.
Now let’s go make like a Christmas tree and get lit!