“My dad’s name is Chad J. Simon, he was a staff sergeant, and I can’t say I can remember anything about him, I just wonder if he was the one who taught me how to tie my shoes,” said Dylan, who lost his father when he was too young to remember. Also on the boat were three sisters, Alexis, Starr and Kylee, who lost their dad, Spc. Grant Dampier.
Camp Hometown Heroes is a non-profit organization dedicated to counseling kids ages 7 through 17 who’ve lost loved ones while serving in the military. According to Dylan, the week-long camp is raising money to spread the organization to other locations where it can continue to serve kids for free.
Historically, the military has relied on clearly defined boundaries of acceptable interaction between the officer and enlisted ranks to maintain good order and discipline.
It is a long-standing custom that dates back hundreds of years and has proven itself effective time after time. But not everyone feels it’s a custom worth holding on to.
“I think there should not be a difference between officer and enlisted ranks,” said former Air Force officer Shannon Corbeil. “I believe we should all reach rank based on experience and accomplishment.”
On the other hand, Chase Millsap — another former officer — believes the military should maintain its course because officers bring leadership experience accomplished through higher learning and training.
On September 21, 1942, 73 years ago, the maiden flight of the Boeing B-29 “Superfortress” took place.
The plane was the successor of Boeing’s ultra-tough B-17 “Flying Fortress,” and the predecessor to the B-52 “Stratofortress,” which is still in use today.
The plane would become the long range, heavy bombing workhorse of the Pacific theater of World War II, where it achieved fame and infamy for dropping Atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Relive the legacy of this iconic bomber in the pictures below.
The B-29 was very advanced for its time, featuring a pressurized cabin, tricycle dual-wheeled landing gear, and remote controlled gun turrets.
Only the front and back compartments were pressurized, meaning that the crew had to crawl over the bomb bay via a narrow 35-foot tunnel.
At the time, it was the heaviest production plane in the world, weighing in at 105,000 pounds with an optional 20,000 pounds of bombs.
A B-29 from the 468th Bombardment group attacking Hatto, Formosa on 18 October 1944 with high-explosive bombs. Overshot runway due to prop failure Jun 17, 1945 at West Field, Tinian.
In addition to bombs, the B-29 was armed with 12 remotely controlled .50 caliber Browning machine guns and a 20 millimeter cannon at the tail gun.
Kenneth W. Roberts, of Weitchpee, Calif., assigned to the Japan-based 98th Bomb Wing, checks his trio of .50 caliber tail-stingers before another mission over North Korea in his U.S. Air Force B-29 “Superfortress.”
Here is rare color footage of a formation of B-29s dropping bombs.
Have you ever run into a spider web at night, and gotten a case of the “screaming mimi’s?” Ever met a sizeable lady, and silently spoken the words “Big Bertha?” Ever fired a bottle rocket at your cousin on the Fourth of July, used a GPS nav system, or shot a gun? Well, you have artillery to thank for all of that. And a lot more.
Big artillery pieces are like great warriors in their own rights. They’ve got names, personalities, biographies, and histories of their own. Gustav and Dora, Thor and Little David, Davey Crockett and Satan himself; they all have seen battle from time to time. It’s kind of odd how much of artillery history has worked its way into pop culture, and how often we refer to the big guns of days gone by.
Here are a few of the biggest, coolest and most important ballistic weapons in history. Vote up the best artillery pieces from history, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comment section.
The AC-130 just got its signature weapon back – and many in the public may not have known it was gone.
According to a report by Strategypage.com, the decision ends a 12-year hiatus on the powerful cannon, which has been used on versions of the Spectre gunship since 1972 – along with two 20mm Vulcan cannon and a 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft gun in the AC-130H. The AC-130U replaces the two 20mm guns with the 25mm GAU-12 used on the AV-8B Harrier.
The decision had been made to halt use of the 105mm gun in favor of missiles like the AGM-114 Hellfire and AGM-176 Griffin as well as the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb. The problem was, the need for guns didn’t go away. The Air Force started out by adding the 30mm Bushmaster II chain gun. This helped out, especially when troops were in close contact or there was a need to avoid collateral damage.
The gun’s rounds were also a lot cheaper than the missiles – even though the guns are only really useful at night.
The “boots on the ground” and the crews, though, kept making the case to bring the 105mm gun back. So, the Air Force tested a new mount for the 105mm gun. While previous incarnations of the AC-130 had the gun mounted to the side, now the gun will be fired from the rear of the plane.
While this puts an end to the famous pylon turn, it also means the AC-130 can hold twice as many 105mm howitzer rounds as it used to.
Testing of the new mount was finished in 2017, and will go on the new AC-130J Ghostrider, which will replace older AC-130H, AC-130U, and AC-130W aircraft by 2021.
Here’s a review of the questions and responses from the candidates during the first-ever NBC/Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Commander-in-Chief Forum that was held on September 7th with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in attendance. (Full video is available here.)
What is the most important characteristic that the commander in chief can possess?
Clinton: “I’ve had the unique experience of watching and working with several presidents . . . What you want in a commander in chief is someone who listens, who evaluates what is begin told to him or her, who is able to sort out the very difficult options being presented and then makes the decision . . . Temperament and judgment is key.”
Trump: “I built a great company, I’ve been all over the world, I’ve dealt with foreigncountries, I’ve done tremendously dealing with China and I’ve had great experience dealing on a national basis. I have great judgment. I know what’s going on. I’ve called so many of the shots.”
On the Iraq War:
Clinton: “The decision to go to war in Iraq was a mistake. I have said that my voting to give President Bush that authority was, from my perspective, my mistake. I also believe that it is imperative that we learn from the mistakes, like after action reports are supposed to do. We must learn what led us down that path so that it never happens again. I think I’m in the best possible position to be able to understand that and prevent it.”
Trump: “I was totally against the war in Iraq . . . because I said it was going to totally destabilize the Middle East, which it has. It has absolutely been a disastrous war and by the way, perhaps almost as bad was the way Barack Obama got out. That was a disaster.”
Editor’s note: Read a fact-check on his response here.
On the Iran nuclear deal: “If they cheat, how would you respond?”
Clinton: “I have said we are going to enforce [the nuclear deal] to the letter . . . I think we have enough insight into what they are doing [on the nuclear issue] to be able to say we have to distrust, but verify. What I am focused is all the other malicious activities of the Iranians: ballistic missiles, support for terrorists, being involved in Syria, Yemen and other places . . . I would rather as president be dealing with Iran on all of those issues without having to worry about their race to creating a nuclear weapon. We have made the world safer, we just have to make sure it’s enforced.”
Trump was not asked this question
On veterans and suicide:
Clinton: “I rolled out my mental health agenda last week [you can read it here]. I have a whole section devoted to veterans’ mental health. We’ve got to remove the stigma. We’ve got to help people currently serving not to feel that if they report their sense of unease or depression that it’s somehow going to be a mark against them. We’ve have to do more about addiction, not only drugs but also alcohol. I have put forth a really robust agenda working with VSOs and other groups like TAPS who have been thinking about this and trying to figure out what we’re going to do to help our veterans.”
Trump: “It’s actually 22. It’s almost impossible to conceive that this is happening in our country. Twenty to 22 people a day are killing themselves. A lot of it is they’re killing themselves over the fact that they’re in tremendous pain and they can’t see a doctor. We’re going to speed up the process. We’re going to create a great mental health division. They need help . . . We’re doing nothing for them. The VA is really almost, you could say, a corrupt enterprise . . . We are going to make it efficient and good and if it’s not good, you’re going out to private hospitals, public hospitals and doctors.”
On terrorist attacks on American soil:
Clinton: “I’m going to do everything in my power that that’s the result. I’m not going to promise something that I think most Americans know is going to be a huge challenge. We’ve got to have an intelligence surge. We’ve got to get a lot more cooperation out of Europe and out of the Middle East. We have to do a better job of not only collecting and analyzing the intelligence we do have, but distributing it much more quickly down the ladder to state and local law enforcement. We also have to do a better job combating ISIS online — where they recruit, where they radicalize and I don’t think we’re doing as much as we can . . . We have to wage this war against ISIS from the air, on the ground and online in cyberspace.”
Trump was not asked this question.
Clinton: “We have to defeat ISIS. That is my highest counter-terrorism goal. We’ve got to do it with air power. We’ve got to do it with much more support from the Arabs and the Kurds who will fight on the ground against ISIS. We have to squeeze them by continuing to support the Iraqi military. We’re going to work to make sure they have the support. They have special forces as you know, they have enablers, surveillance, intelligence, reconnaissance. They are not going to get ground troops. We are not putting ground troops into Iraq ever again and we are not putting ground troops in Syria. Those are the kinds of decisions we have to make on a case-by-case basis.”
Trump: “The generals under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have not been successful . . . The generals have been reduced to rubble. They have been reduced to a point where it’s an embarrassing for our country. You have a force of 30,000 or so people. Nobody really knows . . . I can just see the great General George Patton spinning in his grave as ISIS we can’t beat . . . I didn’t learn anything [from a recent briefing to suggest that he cannot quickly defeat ISIS]. What I did learn was that our leadership, Barack Obama did not follow what our experts . . . said to do.”
On prepping for office:
Clinton was not asked this question.
Trump: “In the front row you have four generals, you have admirals, we have people all throughout the audience that I’m dealing with. Right here is a list that was just printed today of 88 admirals and generals that I meet with and I talk to . . . I’m doing a lot of different things. We’re running a big campaign, we’re doing very well . . . I’m also running a business . . . In the meantime, I am studying . . . I think I’ve learned a lot . . . Also, I really feel like I have a lot of common sense on the issues you’ve asked about.”
Veteran questions to Clinton:
How can you expect those such as myself who were and are entrusted with America’s most sensitive information to have any confidence in your leadership as president when you clearly corrupted our national security?
Clinton: “I communicated about classified material on a wholly separate system. I took it very seriously. When I traveled I went into one of those little tents. . . because we didn’t want there to be any potential for someone to have embedded a camera to try to see whatever it was that I was seeing that was designated, marked and headed as classified. I did exactly what I should have done and I take it very seriously. Always have, always will.”
Editor’s note: For a fact-check on her response to handling classified information, go here.
How do you respond to progressives . . . that your hawkish foreign policy will continue and what is your plan to end wasteful war campaigns?
Clinton: “I view force as a last resort, not a first choice. I will do everything in my power to make sure that our men and women in the military are fully prepared for any challenge that they may have to face on our behalf. I will also be as careful as I can in making the most significant decision any president or commander in chief can make.”
Do you think the problems with the VA have been made to seem worse than they really are?
Clinton has faced criticism for making the comment that “the problems with the VA are not as widespread as they are made out to be.”
Clinton: “I was outraged by the stories that came out about the VA. I have been very clear about the necessity of doing whatever is required to move the VA into the 21st century, to provide the kind of treatment options that our veterans today desperately need and deserve. I will not let the VA be privatized. I think that would be very disastrous for our military veterans. I’m going to have a meeting every week in the Oval Office, we’re going to bring the VA people and the DoD people. We’ve got to have a better fit between getting mustered out and getting into the VA system.”
Veteran questions to Trump:
Assuming we do defeat ISIS, what next? What is your plan for the region to ensure that a group like them doesn’t just come back? (Editor’s note: This question was posed by Marine vet Phil Klay, the award-winning author of “Redeployment.”)
Trump: “Part of the problem that we’ve had is we go in, we defeat somebody and we don’t know what we’re doing after that . . . You look at Iraq. You look at how badly that was handled. And then, when President Obama took over, likewise it was a disaster . . . If I win, I don’t want to broadcast to the enemy exactly what my plan is . . . I may like my plan or I may like the generals’ plan . . . There will probably be different generals then. ”
Do you believe that an undocumented person who serves or wants to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces deserves to stay in this country legally?
Trump: “I think that when you serve in the Armed Forces that’s a very special situation and I could see myself working that out. If they plan on serving, if they get in, I would absolutely hold those people. Now we have to very careful, we have to vet very carefully, everybody would agree with that. But the answer is it would be a very special circumstance.”
In your first 120 days of your presidency, how would you de-escalate the tensions and, more importantly, what steps would you take to bring Mr. Putin and the Russian government back to the negotiating table?
Trump: “I think I would have a very good relationship with many foreign leaders . . . I think I would have a very, very good relationship with Putin and I think I would have a very, very good relationship with Russia . . . Russia wants to defeat ISIS as badly as we do. If we had a relationship with Russia, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could work on it together and knock the hell out of ISIS? . . . I’m a negotiator. We’re going to take back our country.”
How will you translate those words [about helping veterans] to action after you take office?
Trump: “I’ve been very close to the vets. You see the relationship I have with the vets just by looking at the polls . . . I have a very, very powerful plan that’s on my website. One of the big problems is the wait time. Vets are waiting six days, seven days, eight days . . . Under a part of my plan, if they have that long wait, they walk outside, they go to their local doctor, they choose their doctor, they choose their hospital, whether its public or private, they get themselves better. In many cases, it’s a minor procedure, or it’s a pill a prescription. And they end up dying because they can’t see the doctor. We will pay the bill . . .”
Editor’s note: Read Trump’s 10 Point VA Plan here.
What specifically would you do to support all victims of sexual assault in the military?
Trump: “It’s a massive problem. The numbers are staggering and hard to believe. We’re going to have to run it very tight. At the same time, I want to keep the court system within the military. I don’t think it should be outside the military, but we have to come down very, very hard on that . . . The best thing we can do is set up a court system within the military. Right now, the court system practically doesn’t exist.”
Trump: “It is a correct tweet. There are many people that think that is absolutely correct. Since then, it’s gotten worse. Something has to happen. Nobody gets prosecuted. You have the report of rape and nobody gets prosecuted. There is no consequence . . . You have to go after that person. Look at the small number of results.”
A new sniper rifle that can change between three calibers at the twist of a barrel.
These are just a few of the new technologies America’s top special operators are looking for to help them go after the bad guys of the future.
According to an announcement released last month, the Joint Special Operations Command — the folks in charge of so-called “Tier 1” commandos, including SEAL Team 6 and Delta Force — is asking industry for help developing several new weapons technologies to help them do their job in a variety of battlefields.
First off, the JSOC operators are looking for a machine gun chambered in a “medium caliber” — usually considered anywhere between a 30-06 and 5.56 — that can reach out accurately to 2,000 yards. That’s slightly more than the maximum effective range of the new lightweight M240L that’s chambered in 7.62mm. The special operators want the machine gun to weigh 24 pounds or less — the M240L has a spec weight of 22.3 pounds.
But sources say what SOCOM is really leaning toward is a machine gun chambered in .338 — “it’s all the rage,” our source said.
It’s no secret that special operations troops put a lot of stock in silence and stealth. From advanced night vision to secret helicopters that cut down on rotor noise and radar signature, the Tier 1 commandos are always looking for ways to creep in and out of a target while most are unawares.
So that’s why JSOC is throwing out a request to industry for ideas on a so-called “Suppressed Upper Receiver Group.” Essentially what the spec ops troops are looking for is a rifle upper that fits on current M4-style standard lower receivers that is designed to operate in full-time suppressed mode.
Most of today’s special operators use detachable suppressors that mount on the flash hider or muzzle brake at the end of the rifle’s barrel. But what JSOC wants is a specially-designed upper that has that suppressor built into it. Advocates argue a dedicated suppressed upper would help make the rifle perform better and run cleaner.
But SOCOM had to cancel an earlier request for proposals on the SURG due to unrealistic requirements, sources say, and that’s why JSOC is asking industry to see what it’s got.
The primary problem with the earlier request, insiders say, was how to deal with the heat a suppressor generates during high rates of fire. It was so bad, some say, that it could damage sensitive electronic sights and laser pointers mounted to the rifle’s handguard.
The special operators are “seeking a next-generation, modular upper receiver group that is interoperable with current lower receivers and is optimized for full time suppressed operation,” SOCOM says “[It] must have advanced heat mitigation technology to counter mirage effect.”
The new JSOC specs “are more realistic and not from a video game,” one source told WATM.
Lastly, JSOC has tweaked its request for a so-called Advanced Precision Sniper Rifle. While the ASR request has been out there for a while, SOCOM has changed the chambering options for the rifle.
Now the command wants a rifle that can change from a .308 caliber precision rifle to one in .300 Norma Magnum or .338 Norma Magnum. That’s a change from previous requests for .308, .300 WinMag and .338 Lapua Magnum.
A former special operations sniper instructor tells WATM that the Norma Magnum round feeds better from a magazine than its Lapua counterpart, and the .300 NM has a better ballistic performance than .338 LM.
Program officials with SOCOM are inviting industry to submit their ideas in person during an industry day in Florida in early November.
The Navy is arming aircraft carriers with a prototype high-tech torpedo defense technology able to detect, classify, track and destroy incoming enemy torpedoes, service officials said.
The Anti-Torpedo Defense System, currently installed on five aircraft carriers and deployed on one carrier at the moment, is slated to be fully operational by 2022.
The overall SSTD system, which consists of a sensor, processor and small interceptor missile, is a first-of-its-kind “hard kill” countermeasure for ships and carriers designed to defeat torpedoes, Navy officials said.
The emerging Surface Ship Torpedo Defense technology includes the Anti-Torpedo Defense System, or ATTDS and an SLQ-25 Acoustic Device Countermeasure; the ATTDS consists of a Countermeasure Anti-Torpedo program and Torpedo Warning System.
“The ATTDS is designed to detect, classify, track and localize incoming torpedoes utilizing the Torpedo Warning System leading to a torpedo hard-kill by employing the Countermeasure Anti-Torpedo,” Collen O’Rourke, spokeswoman for Naval Sea Systems Command, told Scout Warrior.
Thus far, the ATTDS has completed three carrier deployments. The ATTDS Program of Record plan for future ships includes additional carriers and Combat Logistic Force ships.
Earlier this year, the ATTDS was installed and operated on the USNS BRITTIN (TAKR-305) over a six day period during which the latest system hardware and software was tested. The results of the testing are instrumental for continued system development, O’Rourke added.
The technology is slated for additional testing and safety certifications.
The emergence of a specifically-engineered torpedo defense system is quite significant for the Navy – as it comes a time when many weapons developers are expressing concern about the potential vulnerability of carriers in light of high-tech weapons such as long-range anti-ship missiles and hypersonic weapons. An ability to protect the large platforms submarine-launched torpedo attacks adds a substantial element to a carrier’s layered defense systems.
Ships already have a layered system of defenses which includes sensors, radar and several interceptor technologies designed to intercept large, medium and small scale threats from a variety of ranges.
For example, most aircraft carriers are currently configured with Sea Sparrow interceptor missiles designed to destroy incoming air and surface threats and the Phalanx Close-in-Weapons System, or CIWS. CIWS is a rapid-fire gun designed as an area weapon intended to protect ships from surface threats closer to the boat’s edge, such as fast-attack boats.
Torpedo defense for surface ships, however, involves another portion of the threat envelope and is a different question. SSTD is being rapidly developed to address this, Navy officials explained.
The system consists of a Torpedo Warning System Receive Array launched from the winch at the end of the ship, essentially a towed sensor or receiver engineered to detect the presence of incoming torpedo fire. The Receive Array sends information to a processor which then computes key information and sends data to interceptor projectiles – or Countermeasures Anti-Torpedos, or CAT – attached to the side of the ship.
The towed array picks up the acoustic noise. The processors filter it out and inform the crew. The crew then makes the decision about whether to fire a CAT, Navy officials said.
The CATs are mounted on the carriers’ sponson, projections from the side of the ship designed for protection, stability or the mounting of armaments.
The individual technological pieces of the SSTD system are engineered to work together to locate and destroy incoming torpedos in a matter of seconds or less. Tactical display screens on the bridge of the ship are designed to inform commanders about the system’s operations.
After being tested on some smaller ships such as destroyers, the SSTD was approved for use on aircraft carriers in 2011 by then Chief Naval Officer Adm. Jonathan Greenert, according to the Navy.
The SSTD effort is described by Navy officials as a rapid prototyping endeavor designed to fast-track development of the technology. In fact, the Torpedo Warning System recently won a 2013 DoD “Myth-Busters” award for successful acquisition practices such as delivering the TWS to the USS Bush on an accelerated schedule. The TWS is made by 3 Phoenix.
The Countermeasure Anti-Torpedo is being developed by the Pennsylvania State University Applied Research Laboratory, officials said.
The Polish president has bestowed a high honor on the US Army commander in Europe as Poland marked its Armed Forces Day with a military parade.
President Andrzej Duda bestowed the Commander’s Cross with a Star of the Order of Merit on Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the commander of the US Army in Europe.
Some 1,500 Polish soldiers then paraded in Warsaw, while fighter planes and other aircraft flew in formation above.
Polish President Andrzej Duda. Wikimedia Commons photo by Radosław Czarnecki.
Poland’s marching soldiers were joined by a small unit of US troops, some of the thousands who deployed to Poland this year as part of efforts to reassure European countries concerned about possible Russian aggression.
US Ambassador to Poland Paul Jones said on Twitter that the Americans were proud to march alongside their Polish allies.
When planning their annual vacations, most American families don’t normally top their lists with Dayton, Ohio. While there are probably some sights to see in Dayton, arguably the most enticing reason to visit is the National Museum of the United States Air Force.
With notable examples of aircraft from before powered flight to the present day, the museum also includes slices of history from the U.S. and its Air Force. Watching the Avengers in IMAX is cool, but so is flying a fighter mission or buzzing through the skies on D-Day.
The exhibits aren’t limited to aircraft and wars. The museum documents air history from the balloons of the Civil War to the first powered flights (the Wright Brothers were bicycle mechanics from Dayton). It also takes visitors through exhibits on the Holocaust all the way through Cold War tensions and its nuclear armaments, as well as a tribute to Bob Hope and his dedication to the USO.
You can’t ride the bombs, though. They’ll ask you not to do that.
It was terribly difficult to narrow this list to a few items, considering the extensive Air Force and U.S. Military history contained here. Notable runners-up include a very visual walkthrough of Checkpoint Charlie, an explanation of POW tapping codes in the Hanoi Hilton, a graphic description of MiG Alley during the Korean War, a Boeing Bird of Prey, and an F-22 Raptor.
1. The First Presidential Jet
Though the President’s plane began its designation as Air Force One during the Eisenhower era, the first jet aircraft to fly with the distinctive blue and white pattern as we know it today was President Kennedy’s Special Airlift Mission (SAM) 26000. It was the first aircraft specially designed for the President of the United States. President Johnson was sworn in as President on it. It was also the plane that flew President Kennedy’s body back to Washington after his assassination in Dallas and the plane that flew Nixon to China.
2. An SR-71 Blackbird
You might wonder why the Air Force fly this plane anymore. My guess is the Blackbird just wasn’t fair to America’s enemies, so we stepped back a little bit. It was the first stealth aircraft, and paved the way for later stealth technology. It holds the record for fast aircraft not destined for orbit and from 1966 to 1998, it was the Department of Defense’s go-to for high altitude reconnaissance. The SR-71 was capable of Mach 3 speeds and was never lost in combat because the Blackbird would just fly faster than any missile launched at it. Peace out.
3. Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. All of them.
Ok not ALL of them, but one each of many kinds. Officially called The Missile Space Gallery, it houses Thor missiles, Titan I and II, Minuteman, Peacekeepers and Jupiter missiles. It also contains Mercury and Gemini spacecraft as well as the command module from Apollo 15, the fourth mission to land on the moon. You can see the missiles from the ground or go on a raised platform and see them from the nose cones — the last thing Nikita Khrushchev would have seen if Curtis LeMay had his way.
4. The Doolittle Raiders’ Toast
Eighty small silver goblets commemorate the 80 men who joined together to blacken Japan’s eye after the sucker punch at Pearl Harbor in 1941. In less than six months after the sneak attack, 16 B-25 Medium Range Bombers took off from aircraft carriers (a then-unheard of feat) to bomb Tokyo undetected, without fighter escort. The attack had little military value beyond boosting U.S. morale and hurting Japanese morale, but it set the tone for the war in the Pacific as an all-out street fight.
The surviving raiders met annually on Doolittle’s birthday and in 1959, were presented by the city of Tucson with the silver goblets, each engraved twice with the name of a Raider. The case they’re in was built by Richard E. “Dick” Cole, Doolittle’s copilot during the 1942 raid. At every Raiders’ Ceremony, the surviving Raiders toast the deceased and then turn the recently deceased goblet’s upside down, where the engraved name can be read that way. When there are only two left, the two will share the final toast.
5. The Beginnings of an Iraq War Exhibit
I don’t know about how any other post-9/11 veterans feel about seeing themselves in museums. For me, museums have traditionally held stories from faraway places and some very old things. So it’s a strange feeling to see your own war already immortalized in a museum. Though admittedly, there isn’t much to this exhibit save for what a tent city DFAC looks like from the outside and the wall of the Air Terminal Operations Center from al-Udeid Air Base, Qatar from 2003. What’s interesting about the wall is that many of those who deployed in support of Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom went through this passenger terminal, and many of those wrote and drew on the drywall supporting the tent. It’s interesting to think of how the wars our current troops are fighting will be remembered in the future.
We all have our favorite gear, for whatever reason. Maybe it saved our asses, maybe it repaired a weapon, maybe it just made it possible to get a few hours sleep through a long, cold night. There’s nothing better than a reliable piece of gear to keep coming back to over and over. Often, troops will try to keep as much of their field gear as possible when they separate.
After reading through a few Amazon reviews, it’s easy to understand why. What’s your favorite?
1. 550 Cord – 5 Stars
Also known as parachute cord, the 550 comes from its breaking strength of at least 550 pounds. It’s made of nylon, wrapped around an internal core which increases strength and keeps the main rope from fraying. The cord was originally used in parachute suspension lines, but its use became widespread as paratroopers would cut the cord from the chutes as a useful tool for the future. These days, troops use it to secure packs to vehicles, set up camouflage nets, make lanyards, or tie up bracelets or belts that can be unraveled when needed.
2. Issue Anglehead Flashlight – 5 Stars
The anglehead design was first used by the U.S. military in World War II and has been a staple of all branches ever since. The chief supplier of these lights, Fulton, supplied them to the U.S. government since the Vietnam War. There are plenty of knockoff versions of it. If yours is a real one, it will have “MX-991/U” imprinted on the side of the light.
Here’s one review:
“I served in the Army over 20 years ago under SOCOM, so this flashlight has a minimum of that many years under its belt and all the action marks that comes with it… I clicked on the power button – not expecting anything special, and… IT TURNED ON.”
3. Woobie – 4.5 Stars
The “Woobie” is a nylon-polyester blanket, really the liner for the standard-issue poncho. It’s known as a Woobie because of the great affection troops have for it, the way a baby loves its blanket. Woobies are lightweight, easily packed, and do a great job of keeping troops warm in cooler temperatures.
A reviewer writes:
“Of all the pieces of U.S. military kit I’ve ever seen (through 20+ years of military service), none equal the Wubbie [sic] for value for money, utility, and comfort.
I bought my first poncho liner in Vietnam in 1964. It was one of the old ones from back when they were made from parachute silk. Now, almost fifty years later, I’m still using it. I guess I’m a 65 year old man with a blankie!”
4. Chem-lights – 4.5 Stars
Chem-lights are designed for 360-degree visibility up to a mile away for up to 12 hours. There are, of course, some variances. They also need to be durable, waterproof, and flame retardant. They have a number of uses when a flashlight or fire isn’t the right tool, and the light gets brighter as the temperature gets warmer.
“In my decade and a half in the military I have probably gone through thousands of Cyalume ChemLight just myself. They have a million uses, both fun and functional. But most important the Cyalume models have proven to be utterly reliable and bright.”
They can also be used as flares to mark an area without worrying about fire or flame. The uses for them are only limited by imagination, from Christmas lights to Fourth of July ‘rockets’ there is a lot of fun and use to be had.”
5. Gerber MP600 Multi-Tool – 4.5 Stars
This tool’s usefulness practically speaks for itself. With 14 components, providing knives with different edges, screwdrivers, a ruler, bottle and can openers, wire cutters, crimpers, and a file, all with a lanyard ring (perfect for 550 cord loops), the multitool is perfect for minimizing space and weight while providing myriad uses.
“It has all the tools I need as a soldier and it has done very nicely for me.
With a potential need to carry in a deployed environment, the matte black finish is certainly a plus.”
6. 100mph Tape (Duct Tape) – 4 Stars
Also known as “olive drab green reinforcement tape,” it covers shiny objects and tapes things down to reduce rattling noises when on patrol, but it’s so much more than that. Since supplies have historically been an issue in the large scale wars of the past, troops needed an all-purpose way to make quick fixes without all the necessary equipment.
From one review:
“The only downside that I can find is that it is literally so strong that anything even touching the edge of the roll will stick to it just from the small amount of adhesive that comes in contact with it.
All duct tape is not created equal
I always have a roll of this stuff, and 550 Cord in my Gear. I’ve used it for everything from quick repairs, marking my luggage, to camouflaging my gear for Patrols. Not sure about the 100 MPH thing, but I do know that once you tape it to your gear, you’ll need to cut it off.”
Fifteen years after a 17-hour battle on an Afghan mountaintop, a pararescueman’s extraordinary heroism was recognized with an Air Force Cross, upgraded from a Silver Star, following a service-wide review of medals awarded since 9/11.
Then-Tech. Sgt. Keary Miller –against overwhelming odds and a barrage of heavy fire from Al Qaeda militants– dashed through deep snow into the line of fire multiple times to assess and care for critically-wounded U.S. service members, March 4, 2002.
Miller was previously awarded the Silver Star medal for these actions, Nov. 1, 2003. The Air Force Cross is the service’s highest combat medal for valor, second only to the Medal of Honor.
“We are blessed to have Airmen like Keary in the Special Tactics community,” said Col. Michael Martin, the 24th Special Operations Wing commander, who directed training for Miller’s pararescue team before their deployment in 2002. “In an extraordinary situation, Keary acted with courage and valor to save the lives of 10 special operations teammates. This medal upgrade accentuates his selflessness despite an overwhelming enemy force…although Keary may humbly disagree, he belongs to a legacy of heroes.”
Miller was deployed from the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, an Air National Guard unit based in Standiford, Kentucky. During the mission, he was the Air Force combat search and rescue team leader assigned to a U.S Army Ranger quick reaction force.
“I would describe Keary as a dedicated pararescueman – dedicated to his craft and dedicated to the motto ‘That others may live.’ That’s how he defined himself and that really defines his actions that day,” said Lt. Col. Sean Mclane, the 123rd STS commander, who was a second lieutenant in Miller’s home unit during that time. “We have a proud legacy and a tradition of valor, and Keary is a big part of that.”
On March 4, 2002, his team was tasked to support a joint special operations team on a mountaintop called Takur Ghar, occupied by Al Qaeda forces– an engagement commonly known as the Battle of Roberts Ridge after the first casualty of the battle, Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts.
One of the most significant events in recent Special Operations history began when a joint special operations team attempted to infiltrate Takur Ghar, which held a well-fortified and concealed force. The ensuing battle would result in the loss of seven special operations team members.
“We were notified there was a missing aircrew and we were launching a team to go find them,” said Maj. Gabriel Brown, a Special Tactics officer, formerly an enlisted combat controller. “It was unknown who exactly was missing, but we loaded up two helicopters full of Rangers and the (combat search and rescue) package, which included me, Senior Airman Jason Cunningham [pararescueman] and Keary, who was my team leader. I trusted him.”
As the quick reaction force helicopter made its approach over the landing zone, they were struck by rocket propelled grenades at close range –they returned fire with mini guns, but the helicopter impacted the ground hard, lurching into the snow.
“Once we landed, 7.62mm rounds ripped through the fuselage–the daylight popping through, smoke aglow; then the rotors decelerated to a grinding halt,” Brown said. “Immediately, we had several casualties; I remember seeing two Rangers face down. Keary and I were deep in the aircraft—and we made eye contact and shared kind of a ‘here we go’ moment.”
The team disembarked from the aircraft to combat the blistering fire of a waiting enemy. At great risk to his own life, Miller moved through the snowy terrain, crossing into the line of fire on several occasions in order to assess and care for critically wounded servicemen.
“I saw Keary taking action on the wounded, worried about collecting the casualties and triaging them,” Brown said, who was in charge of aircraft communications and precision strike. “He was careful in his thoughts and actions, conducting himself calmly and coolly – relaying the casualty information to me all morning.”
As the battle continued, Miller collected ammunition from the deceased to distribute it to multiple positions in need of ammo, moving through heavy enemy fire each time.
“I was listening to the updates as they were coming in; I was so proud because my friends were on that mountain and their future was so uncertain but they were rocking it – they were doing everything right,” Mclane said, who was listening real-time to satellite communications of the battle. “It’s like, these guys might not make it off this mountain, but by God, they’re going down swinging.”
When Cunningham was killed during another attack, the casualty collection point he was at was compromised. Miller assumed Cunningham’s role — providing medical aid under fire to the wounded – and braved enemy fire to move the wounded to better cover and concealment.
“I wholeheartedly believe the Air Force Cross accurately represents Keary’s actions that day,” said Brown. “I know those lives were saved that day were because of his efforts within that environment…the steps he took to ensure they made it off the battlefield.”
Miller is credited with saving the lives of 10 U.S. service members that day, and the recovery of seven who were killed in action.
Following his deployment, Miller returned to the 123rd STS as a mentor for the newest generation of operators. The events he experienced helped him to shape tactics, techniques and procedures for years to come.
“Keary was already a mature pararescueman before he went on that mission,” Mclane said. “But, when he returned, he really dedicated himself to improving our body armor, our equipment, our (tactics, techniques and procedures) when under fire – he was driven to be better, and to make his teammates better.”
The Army’s pathfinders are elite airborne infantrymen capable of slipping into enemy territory to prepare drop zones and landing zones, conduct reconnaissance, place navigational aids, provide air traffic control, and recover wounded personnel. Basically, they have more applications than an iPhone, and they can do all it at night, on their own, without reinforcements or resupply while under fire.
The units got their start in World War II after parachute drops into North Africa in 1942 and Sicily in 1943 resulted in troops dispersed across the target areas instead of massed into effective fighting formations. To fix this, the Army borrowed tactics and techniques from British scout companies to create their own pathfinder platoons and companies.
As World War II continued, pathfinders led the way into Normandy on D-Day and southern France in Operation Dragoon as well as aided the aerial resupply of troops pinned down in the Battle of the Bulge. They used signal fires, special radios, and lights to create paths for aircraft to follow, ensuring pilots could navigate to their target.
In the Korean and Vietnam wars, pathfinders continued their missions leading airborne forces but the expansion of helicopter operations gave them another job.
Today, pathfinders are primarily used for recovering wounded and isolated personnel, conducting reconnaissance, and assisting in helicopter assaults. They’re also experts in sling-load operations, the movement of heavy equipment by slinging it under a chopper.
The Army has cut the pathfinders to two companies, one in the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade and one with 82nd’s CAB. These companies rarely fight as a single unit. Instead, commanders kick out small teams of pathfinders to support operations across a large geographical area where they conduct all their missions. These teams of about six men have seen heavy combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
With the shortage of dedicated pathfinder companies, infantry units send soldiers to the Army’s Pathfinder School at Fort Benning, Georgia. These soldiers become experts in linking Army ground and aviation elements, assisting their units when pathfinder companies aren’t available.