Col. Robert A. Hefford was a decorated pilot in Vietnam who received Silver Stars for shielding troops with his helicopter on two occasions and a Distinguished Flying Cross for flying into heavy resistance in another firefight.
On Jan. 21, 1968, then-Maj. Hefford was a mission commander flying against enemy forces during the Tet Offensive. He was performing low-level recon ahead of a friendly advance. When he found the enemy, he engaged with rockets and mini-guns. Hefford received seven hits from enemy ground fire to his aircraft and was wounded in his face, hand, leg, and an eye.
Another helicopter was then hit, wounding the pilot and killing the scout observer aboard. Hefford, despite his own wounds and damage to his aircraft, maneuvered between the enemy and the stricken bird, acting as a shield for his men. He then evacuated the downed crew and took them to a hospital. He received the Silver Star for his actions.
A few months later, on April 18, 1968, Hefford was flying a UH-1H helicopter on a combat mission when an OH-6A scout was shot down. He flew in to the battle area to provide command and control and immediately started mixing it up with the enemies on the ground. The ground forces got in trouble and started calling for airstrikes, but the Air Force jets started dropping it too close to friendly forces.
Troops on the ground called off the strikes, but the Air Force pilot didn’t get the message right away. Hefford flew his helicopter into the jet’s flight path, forcing the jet to abandon its approach right before it released its napalm. He was again awarded the Silver Star.
Perhaps Hefford’s greatest act of gallantry came years before. On July 7, 1965, then-Cpt. Hefford provided security for medical evacuations. Intense enemy fire on the birds required Hefford to provide heavy suppressive fire in response. His first mission in was successful with little incident. When he returned with another evacuation bird, he drew enemy fire while the Medevac picked up its patients.
A burst of machine-gun fire struck inside the cockpit just over Hefford’s head. Hefford continued his assault on the enemy positions, allowing the medical helicopter to complete the evacuation. Hefford was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Hefford retired from the Army as a colonel in 1984.
Vietnam-era Marine and Hue City veteran John Ligato once remarked that the most ferocious fighting machine the world has ever seen is the 19-year-old pissed off Marine. In the case of John J. Kelly, he couldn’t be more right.
Kelly joined the Marines in May 1917, just one month after the U.S. Congress declared war on Germany. The Chicago native was soon in France with 78th Company, 6th Regiment, 2d Division. That’s where he would earn the Army and Navy versions of the Medal of Honor — at the same time.
In October 1918, Kelly was in Blanc Mont Ridge in France, which the Germans occupied since 1915. The French were joined by two divisions of the U.S. Army and Major General John Lejeune’s 2d Division of Marines — including Pvt. John Kelly.
At the start of the near-monthlong battle, Kelly ran through no-man’s land, 100 yards ahead of an allied artillery barrage — straight toward a machine gun nest.
He chucked a grenade into the nest, killing one of the Germans. Then he took out the other using his sidearm.
The American advance at St. Etienne turned the tide of the Battle of Blanc Mont against the Germans. By Oct. 28, the area they occupied since the very start of the World War was now firmly in Allied hands.
Kelly was awarded both the Army and Navy Medals of Honor by General John J. Pershing, the commander of the American Expeditionary Force, in 1919. With the war over, Kelly left the military and returned to civilian life.
He returned to his native Illinois, where he died in 1957.
It’s been nearly a year since US intelligence agencies accused top Russian officials of authorizing hacks on voting systems in the US’s 2016 presidential election, and mounting evidence suggests that the US has not fought back against the hacks as strongly as possible.
But attributing and responding to cyber crimes can be difficult, as it can take “months, if not years” before even discovering the attack according Ken Geers, a cyber-security expert for Comodo with experience in the NSA.
Even after finding and attributing an attack, experts may disagree over how best to deter Russia from conducting more attacks.
But should President Donald Trump “make the call” that Russia is to blame and must be retaliated against, Geers told Business Insider an out-of-the-box idea for how to retaliate.
“It’s been suggested that we could give Russia strong encryption or pro-democracy tools that the FSB [the Federal Security Service, Russia’s equivalent of the FBI] can’t read or can’t break,” said Geers.
In Russia, Putin’s autocratic government strictly controls access to the internet and monitors the communications of its citizens, allowing it suppress negative stories and flood media with pro-regime propaganda.
If the US provided Russians with tools to communicate secretly and effectively, new, unmonitored information could flow freely and Russians wouldn’t have to fear speaking honestly about their government.
The move would be attractive because it is “asymmetric,” meaning that Russia could not retaliate in turn, according to Geers. In the US, the government does not control communications, and Americans are already free to say whatever they want about the government.
“What if we flooded the Russian market with unbreakable encryption tools for free downloads?,” Geers continued. “That would really make them angry and annoy them. It would put the question back to them, ‘what are you going to do about it?'”
To accomplish this, the NSA could spend time “fingerprinting” or studying RUNET, the Russian version of the internet, according to Geers. The NSA would study the challenges Russia has with censorship, how it polices and monitor communications, and then develop a “fool-proof” tool with user manuals in Russian and drop it into the Russian market with free downloads as a “big surprise,” he added.
“You’re just trying to figure out how to kick them in the balls,” Geers said of the possible tactic. “But they’d probably figure out how to defeat it in time.”
Geers acknowledged that such a move could elicit a dangerous response from Russia, but, without killing or even hurting anyone, it’s unclear how Russia could escalate the conflict.
As it stands, it appears that Russian hacking attempts have continued even after former president Barack Obama expelled Russian diplomats from the US in retaliation last year. Cyber-security experts attribute a series of recent intrusions into US nuclear power plants to Russia.
Taking bold action, as Geers suggests, would leave Russia scrambling to attribute the attack to the US without clear evidence, while putting out fires from a newly empowered public inquiry into its dealings.
The ball would be in Russia’s court, so to speak, and they might think twice about hacking the US election next time.
Hollywood’s latest take on the decades-old rivalry between Batman and Superman may be a dud, but it does raise an important question. How could humanity take down a seemingly invulnerable demi-god?
I reached out to a noted U.S. military scientist and weapons-designer who once helped us devise a strategy to kill Godzilla. I asked how the American armed forces could deal with a rogue Last Son of Krypton.
“Superman’s powers are formidable,” the scientist told me on condition of anonymity. “He is described as virtually invulnerable.”
But Superman does have weaknesses — and the military could exploit them. The scientist explained his plan. Frankly, it sounded a like a more-practical version of the various methods Batman has tried over his many years of kicking Kal El’s ass.
This story includes some minor spoilers for Batman v Superman.
Batman rarely faces Superman alone. In Frank Miller’s comic The Dark Knight Returns, he enlists Green Arrow. And in Miller’s sequel The Dark Knight Strikes Again, the combined forces of the Green Arrow, Flash and Atom make quick work of Superman.
Our weapons-designer said he approves of Batman’s team philosophy. “The clever use of combined arms will be crucial,” the scientist said. “Sophisticated complementary employment of information operations and the most lethal weapons-effects will be needed to outwit and outgun [Superman].”
Batman’s command of information is the main reason he almost always wins in his various battles with Superman. Bruce Wayne is smarter than Kal El is — and he always plans way ahead. Superman, so accustomed to being the strongest guy in the room, always rushes headlong into Batman’s traps.
Our military scientist said he thinks an evil Clark Kent would be doubly weak. “An evil Superman will, by nature, suffer one more vulnerability — hubris. This arrogance can be exploited by military’s deception and psychological operations.”
The scientist proposed a plot to draw Supes into the desert by gathering all his enemies in one spot — and calling him out.
I can do one better. Just copy the plan Batman and Lex Luthor employ when they want to draw Superman to a particular location — kidnap Lois Lane.
Once the Last Son of Krypton is in position, the military would spring its trap. “The weapon must overcome the best of Superman’s protections — his accelerated healing capabilities, his speed and agility,” the scientist explained.
“Light-scale speed and overwhelming penetrability of destructive effects will be key,” he continued. “Lethal radiation [is] promising, so Superman’s demise probably demands the crafty application of nuclear weapons.”
Superman’s survived nukes before, but more on that later. For the weapons to have an effect on Kal El, the military would have to weaken him first — and that means kryptonite. That’s something Batman knows, too. In pretty much all of his fights with Superman, Batman wields the glowing green rock that saps Supes’ strength.
“But those harmful rays are traditionally delivered as a chronic dose over time,” the scientist explained. Batman often lures Clark close to the radioactive rock, but never uses it to kill him. Bats always holds back. Even the aerosol version he packs in Batman v Superman — and in The Dark Knight Returns — is carefully formulated to weaken, not to kill.
But our goal isn’t to weaken Superman. We want him dead. The weapons-designer told me an aerosol kryptonite would be the best Superman-killer. But we’d want to totally blanket the battlefield in the radioactive green fog.
“An acute dose delivered instantaneously will be critical for assured mission-accomplishment,” the scientist said. With the Man of Steel reeling from the kryptonite cloud, it’d be time to hit him with mankind’s deadliest weapon. A nuclear bomb. Actually, several of them.
“Nuclear weapons offer a smorgasbord of lethal and acute radiations,” the scientist explained. “These include neutrons (fast and thermal), x-rays, gamma rays, fission fragments, alpha particles and high energy freed electrons (beta radiation).”
“The most penetrative of these are fast-neutron and gamma radiations, both prodigiously produced in fusion reactions. A redundant array of small, concealable, fusion-boosted fission bomb detonations should do.”
How many nukes constitute a “redundant array” when dealing with the Man of Steel? Superman has taken a nuke to the chest before and lived. In both The Dark Knight Returns and Batman v Superman, he survives an ICBM.
Sure, Supes almost dies both times, but almost doesn’t count when you’re trying to fell a living god. So let’s be safe and hit Kal El with a dozen strategic nukes. Six megatons in all. Enough to kill millions of people.
The weapons-designer said the military should bury the nukes just below the surface, deep enough to hide the devices from Supes’ initial glance. The scientists said he wants to put his trap on top of the atomic land mine. I want to use Lois Lane.
Yeah, we’re probably going to lose the intrepid reporter in the resulting blast, but what’s one life compared to the harm an evil Superman might inflict?
Superman possesses x-ray vision, so it would be possible for Kal El to seethe subsurface nuke trap, but the scientist said he has a plan for that, too. “X-ray-sensitive detectors would cause the networked array to detonate as one.”
“At close range, invulnerability will prove to be a myth,” he said. “High-energy neutrons, gamma radiation and hard x-rays will overcome any conceivable [defense]. Superman’s legendary cellular make-up will disintegrate into a plasma gas. His legendary speed [won’t] permit him to outrun nuclear death approaching him at light-comparable speed.”
“The battle would culminate instantaneously, and decisively. The arrogance of [Superman] would evaporate in a mushroom cloud, never to reappear. Not even in a sequel.”
Crews from the Army, Coast Guard, Navy, and local agencies in Hawaii searched around the clock as strong currents moved the wreckage into a deep-water search area that spanned 72,000 nautical miles (115,873 kilometers).
“Our five soldiers who represent the best and the brightest of America have not been found,” said Maj. Gen. Christopher Cavoli, commander of the 25th Infantry Division.
The Army identified the missing soldiers as 1st Lt. Kathryn M. Bailey, 26, of Hope Mills, North Carolina; Chief Warrant Officer 3 Brian M. Woeber, 41, of Decatur, Alabama; Chief Warrant Officer 2 Stephen T. Cantrell, 32, of Wichita Falls, Texas; Staff Sgt.Abigail R. Milam, 33, of Jenkins, Kentucky; and Sgt. Michael L. Nelson, 30, of Antioch, Tennessee.
Army and Coast Guard officials on August 21 notified the families of the missing soldiers that they were ending the search and rescue operation, Cavoli said.
“It is a very, very difficult decision, and it weighs heavily, particularly on the hearts of the Coast Guard,” said Rear Adm. Vincent B. Atkins, commander of the US Coast Guard’s 14th District.
“We used all of our training and professionalism in this very dynamic environment to mount the best response possible,” Atkins added.
There has been no determination yet of the crash’s cause, Cavoli said after the search was suspended.
Two Black Hawk helicopter crews were conducting training off the western tip of Oahu the night of August 15 when one aircrew lost contact with the crew whose helicopter went missing.
When the pilot on the lead helicopter realized the other aircraft was missing, he immediately turned his helicopter around and began to search, Cavoli said. But he later determined he didn’t have the equipment he needed to launch a professional search so he alerted the Coast Guard, Cavoli said.
A multi-agency team searched more than 72,000 nautical miles (115,873 kilometers) over the last week but saw no signs of life or of the crew that went missing. They found what appeared to be pieces of helicopter fuselage and a helmet in a debris field that expanded with strong currents to remote, deep areas of the ocean.
The Navy brought in remotely operated underwater vehicles and sonar to help in the search and get a better picture of the ocean floor, which drops quickly off the coast of Oahu and is over 1,000 feet (305 meters) deep in parts of the search area.
During the search, the Army and Coast Guard held joint briefings with family members every six hours to keep them informed, Cavoli said.
The fact that parts of the fuselage were found indicated the helicopter’s impact with the ocean was substantial, said Mario Vittone, a retired Coast Guardsman and expert on sea survival.
“There’s not a big record of people surviving impacts with the water when the impact is so significant that the fuselage is torn apart,” he said.
People can last about three days without water as long as they are not working very hard, but in the ocean it is difficult to get rest while trying to survive, Vittone said.
All five crew members on board had life vests, air bottles for underwater breathing, and radios with built-in GPS systems, the Army has said.
“All these things lead you to believe they didn’t leave the aircraft, because if they could get out of the aircraft and inflate their floatation devices, then why would they not then turn on their beacons?” Vittone said.
It’s possible the next big innovation in Marine Corps classroom or tactical training could come from an airman or a soldier.
Marine Corps Training and Education Command is in the final days of soliciting ideas for an innovation challenge focused on how to improve small-unit training, from policy to curriculum and classroom instruction to the use of tools like simulation and gaming. Any federal employee is eligible to submit ideas, including uniformed members of all service branches, including the Marine Corps, to defense department civilians.
“Sometimes it’s hard for this organization to look inside itself for new ideas,” Maj. Gen. James Lukeman, commanding general of TECOM, told Military.com in an interview. “So one of those ways that you get good ideas is, you go outside the organization.”
To date, TECOM spokesman Capt. Joshua Pena said, about 150 submissions have been collected; those eligible to submit ideas have until March 31 to send them in via a dedicated site accessed through DoD credentials. Submissions for the innovation challenge will be reviewed in April, and winners will be notified in May, officials said.
Last year, the Marine Corps has conducted a Corps-wide innovation challenge on autonomous systems and robotics, and another challenge specific to the logistics community.
“The specific focus was on how to create better decision makers,” Lukeman said. “The idea is that the ability to make good decisions quickly with limited information is critical for success on the battlefield, so how do we change our training and education that creates better decision makers for the Marine Corps.”
The Marine Corps is not promising a financial reward for winners of the challenge, or even a guarantee that their ideas will be implemented. But the authors of the best ideas will get a free trip to TECOM at Quantico, Virginia, where their proposals will be workshopped with subject matter experts.
“We just had a discussion the other day about the commandant’s reading list, on books that are out there for Marines to read, and they’ve been out there for a while,” said Sgt. Maj. Justin LeHew, the senior enlisted adviser for TECOM. “Somebody said, ‘well, they have audiobooks that are out there to do that. I could learn by using an audiobook.’ There are different things that are just provoking thought.”
Even as ideas still roll in, changes are taking place at Quantico that affect Marine Corps training. In a January message to the force, Commandant Gen. Robert Neller called for the Marine Corps to develop a new plan for Marine Corps-wide use of simulation and virtual training environments no later than this June. He also ordered that a plan be developed to build a world-class simulation and gaming center at Quantico to enhance realistic training and better prepare Marines to fight.
With retired Marine Gen. Jim Mattis, who once told fellow officers that “Powerpoint makes us stupid,” now at the helm of the defense department, Lukeman said TECOM was also working to minimize slide-lecture briefings and presentations.
“This is what we’re trying to get away from, is sit in a classroom and get taught,” he said. “The other thing that we’ve shifted to is, where possible, we want for Marines to get taught by other Marines … We’re going with the method of having a unit leader discussion over having a class.”
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
An A-10 Thunderbolt II departs after receiving fuel from a 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 Stratotanker during a flight in support of Operation Inherent Resolve April 19, 2017. The 340th EARS, part of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, is responsible for delivering fuel for U.S. and coalition forces, enabling a persistent 24/7 presence in the area of responsibility.
The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and Patrouille de France fly together over Death Valley, Calif., April 17, 2017. The Thunderbirds and Patrouille de France are two of the oldest aerial demonstration teams in the world.
U.S. Soldiers with the 20th CBRNE Command conduct a 7.5 mile ruck march for their German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge (GAFPB) at the Yakima Training Center, Wash., April 22, 2017. The ruck march is one of five events in the Military training portion of the GAFPB that requires participants to wear a 35-pound ruck and complete it in one to two hours or less depending on the distance.
U.S. Vice President Michael R. Pence shakes hands with South Korean Gen. Leem Ho-Young, deputy commanding general of Combined Forces Command, near the demilitarized zone in South Korea, April 17, 2017. Pence is making his first trip to South Korea in order to receive a strategic overview of the peninsula.
NORFOLK (April 27, 2017) Quartermaster 1st Class Jose Triana, assigned to the Pre-Commissioning Unit aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), attaches signal flags to a line. Ford’s “over the top” lines are being weight tested by the ship’s navigation department.
PHILIPPINE SEA (April 28, 2017) The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer JS Ashigara (DDG 178), foreground, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) transit the Philippine Sea. The U.S. Navy has patrolled the Indo-Asia-Pacific routinely for more than 70 years promoting regional peace and security.
U.S. Marines with the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment are transported by a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 466 during an exercise as part of Weapons and Tactics Instructors course (WTI) 2-17 near Yuma, Ariz., April 20, 2017. WTI is held biannually at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma, Ariz., to provide students with detailed training on the various ranges in Arizona and California.
U.S. Marines with Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division provide security during a CH-53 day battle drill in support of Weapons and Tactics Instructors course (WTI) 2-17 at Fire Base Burt. Calif., April 8, 2017.
The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Rollin Fritch Sector North Carolina comes alongside the 43-foot sailboat Tuesday, April 26, 2017, 13 miles south of Hatteras, North Carolina. Several Coast Guard assets came together to tow the Nanette through storms to moor up in Morehead City, North Carolina.
An aircrew member from Air Station San Diego is being hoisted up to a Coast Guard MH60 Jayhawk helicopter at Point Vicente Lighthouse in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. April 26, 2017. Consistently training helps the aircrews stay adept for situations where they will have to perform an actual cliff side rescue.
A rifle platoon is tasked with assaulting a compound consisting of four buildings using only their own manpower plus a sniper team.
They will be wearing TALOS armor, an “Iron Man”-like suit which covers nearly their entire body, cools them off when necessary, and actively assists their movements to improve performance and reduce fatigue.
-15:00 — The platoon stages for the assault
The platoon moves into its assault and support positions. It has all of the troops it did in 2015, plus a drone operator.
Its weapons squads will be providing the base of fire, and are separate from where 1st, 2nd, and 3rd squads are preparing to assault. The sniper team is on overwatch, protecting the platoon from a nearby hilltop.
Weapons squad brings up video feeds from two of the drones on a tablet.
0:00-1:00 — The assault begins
At the platoon leader’s command, the platoon sergeant moves forward with 1st squad and initiates the breach into the enemy area. 1st squad fights the enemy personnel on the perimeter, forming an opening for follow on forces.
Simultaneously, the drone operator orders eight of his drones to fly to the target buildings ahead of the platoon.
They see the first laser truck between themselves and the compound. It knocks one of the advancing drones out of the sky, but the missile team fires two Javelin missiles at it. The laser swivels to counter the new threat and shoots down one missile in flight, but the second strikes the truck and destroys it.
Another drone goes down to laser fire when a still-hidden truck engages it.
1:00-4:00 — Breaching and mapping
Second and 3rd squad begin moving onto the objective as 1st squad forms and holds the breach in the enemy’s perimeter defenses.
One drone is taken down when an enemy soldier strikes it with his rifle butt and then immediately stands on the drone, holding it in place. The drone operator sees an alert and sends the self-destruct signal. A pound of C4 explodes inside a fragmentary case, killing the first soldier and wounding two others.
The other three drones send their maps to the advancing 2nd and 3rd squad leaders who relay key information to their men as they reach the entrances to the building. The drones then fly to the roofs and park themselves on the edges, looking for the other enemy laser.
4:00-5:00 — Striking the second laser and establishing an automated perimeter
One of the drones is spotted by the enemy laser team as it lands on the roof. The laser team waits for the drone’s rotors to stop spinning and then burns through its body, destroying it. The sniper team detects the beam on a sensor and uses it to spot the truck.
They radio the platoon sergeant and fire on the laser turret, cracking the glass and disabling the system.
With the counter-drone lasers down, the operator is free to signal the four drones that remained with the LS3 mules. The drones begin taking flares, mines, and sensors from the mules and deploying them at pre-programmed points around the objective.
The two remaining rooftop drones take off again and head to the third target building to begin mapping.
An Argus — a drone that can tell what color shirt the enemy is wearing from 17,500 feet overhead — heads to the battlefield.
5:00-6:00 — Securing the first buildings
Second and 3rd squad hit the first pair of buildings. Second squad knows to expect enemy casualties in the first room since the drone went off there. With the drone-generated maps, the squads know ahead of time where windows, doors, and most furniture are in the rooms. They take the buildings quickly and capture two enemy soldiers.
With the first buildings secure and no enemy personnel spotted around the perimeter, 1st squad attacks the laser truck and kills the crew. It then breaks into its fire teams and holds the captured buildings while 2nd and 3rd squads prepare to move on the second pair of buildings. The medic sets up a casualty collection point and begins treating the POWs. A Medevac is called.
The drones mapping the third target building are captured and the operator orders both to detonate. 2nd squad hits the third building with a mostly complete map while 3rd squad takes the fourth building more slowly. 3rd squad takes one casualty during the attack, a gunshot wound that catches a soldier through a gap in the stomach armor of the TALOS. The TALOS immediately squeezes the fibers in that part of the suit, putting pressure on the wound. It also alerts the medic, squad leader, and platoon leadership.
8:00-12:00 — Treating the wounded
The squad leader orders a fire team to move the soldier to the casualty collection point. The medic is low on medical supplies but knows he has a patient with a gunshot wound through the abdomen coming in. He requests additional supplies to the CCP from the drones and the drone operator confirms it as a top priority.
Two quadcopters with the Ls3 mules grab an aid bag from a mule’s back and fly it to the medic’s position, arriving at the same time as the patient. The medic grabs an injector of ClotFoam from the pack and tells the TALOS to relax the pressure on the wound. He places the injector into the hole formed by the bullet and fills the soldier with foam that will stop bleeding, hold the damaged organs in place, and be easily removed in surgery. He alerts the platoon sergeant that the patient is ready to be medically evacuated.
12:00-15:00 — The runner returns with friends
The Argus operator radios the platoon leader and tells him the runner is returning the the battlefield with two friends in a vehicle with a mounted machine gun.
Weapons and 1st squad are establishing the platoon perimeter and the platoon leader alerts them and the sniper team to the inbound threat.
A missile team moves to the expected contact side, but the sniper team already has eyes on the target. Knowing the vehicle will be moving quickly and bumping on the road, he loads EXACTO rounds. He leads the target and fires. The vehicle speeds up while the round is in the air, but the sniper continues to mark the target and the round turns in the air, finally ripping through the driver’s neck. With the vehicle stopped, the snipers quickly dispatch the other two fighters.
23:00 — Medevac and site exploitation
The medic gets his patients onto the Medevac bird and the platoon begins site exploitation. Their exploitation is protected by a drone that can watch the surrounding 15 square miles for threats, static defense placed by their drones, a sniper team with steerable rounds on overwatch, and their platoon perimeter.
Seventy-one years ago on June 6, 1944, the largest seaborne invasion in history began. It was known as D-Day.
The climactic World War II battle featured waves of amphibious landings on the beaches, airborne drops behind enemy lines, and an incredible group of American Rangers who scaled cliffs at Point Du Hoc. On the 40th anniversary of D-Day, President Ronald Reagan told their story, and it’s a speech that everyone should hear.
Standing on top of that same cliff on the northern coast of France, Reagan detailed the story of the Rangers, who had to climb a rock wall as Germans fired on them with machine-guns and cut their ropes.
“When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again,” Reagan said, to an audience of world leaders and veterans of D-Day at the Ranger Monument there. “They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe. Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After 2 days of fighting, only 90 could still bear arms.”
Roughly four miles from Omaha Beach, where soldiers were also landing on June 6, 1944, Pointe Du Hoc was vital to the American effort, as the Germans had placed heavy artillery at the position that could rain fire down on the beaches.
“These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc,” Reagan continued, looking toward the Rangers from that campaign sitting before him. “These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.”
Now 31 years after Reagan finished his speech, and 71 years from that terrible day in World War II, his closing remarks still ring true:
“Strengthened by their courage, heartened by their value [valor], and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died.”
A little more than 12 months after training pipelines for previously closed elite special operator jobs opened to women, the U.S. military has yet to see its first female Navy SEAL or Green Beret.
The component commanders for each of the service special operations commands say they’re ready to integrate female operators into their units, but it’s not yet clear when they’ll have the opportunity to do so.
The Navy is closely monitoring the interest of female applicants. In fact, Naval Special Warfare Command is eyeing one Reserve Officer Training Corps member who’s interested in the SEALs, and another woman who has yet to enter the service but has expressed interest in becoming a special warfare combatant craft crewman, a community even smaller than the SEALs with a training pipeline nearly as rigorous.
But it will likely be years until the Navy has a woman in one of these elite units.
Rear Adm. Tim Szymanski, head of Naval Special Warfare Command, which includes the elite SEALs and other Navy special operations units, noted that the enlisted training pipeline for SEALs is two-and-a-half years from start to end, meaning a female applicant who began the process now wouldn’t join a team until nearly 2020.
And that assumes that she makes it through the infamously grueling Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training.
“Just last week, we secured Hell Week … [we started with] 165 folks. We finished with 29. It’s a tough pipeline and that is not uncommon,” Szymanski told an audience at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict conference near Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. “Five classes a year, and that’s what you have, demographically.”
While the Army Rangers famously had three female officers earn their tabs in 2015 in a special program ahead of the December 2015 Defense Department mandate that actually gave women the right to serve in the Rangers, the elite regiment remains male-only, at least for now.
To date, one female officer in a support military occupational specialty has completed the training process and will likely join the unit by the end of March, said Lt. Gen. Kenneth Tovo, commander of Army Special Operations Command.
In other previously closed Army special operations elements, he said, two enlisted women have attempted special operations assessment and selection but haven’t made it through. One, who was dropped due to injury and not to failure to meet standards, is likely to reattempt the process, Tovo said.
Two female officers are also expected to begin assessment and selection in the “near future,” he said.
“So we’re going slow,” Tovo said. “The day we got the word that SF and rangers were available to women, our recruiting battalion that actually works for recruit command sent an email to every eligible woman, notifying them of the opportunity and soliciting their volunteerism. We are working things across the force through special ops recruiting battalion to talk to women and get them interested.”
Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command was the first service to report publicly that it had women in its training pipeline. But in a year, MARSOC has had just three applicants, and none who made it through the first phase of assessment and selection, commander Maj. Gen. Carl Mundy III said at the conference. Currently, he added, there are no women in training, and none on deck to enter the pipeline.
The Air Force, which opened its combat control, pararescue and tactical air control party jobs to women last year, has had several applicants, but all have been dropped from training due to injury or failure to meet standards, said Lt. Gen. Marshall Webb, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command.
“I think this is a slow build … and we’ll keep after it,” Webb said, noting that that the service observed similar trends when it opened other jobs up to women decades ago. “AFSOC is looking for the highest caliber candidates, and when a person meets that standard, she will be joining our ranks.”
For some of the services, the challenge is twofold.
Tovo said Army Special Forces recruits primarily from the infantry, which opened to women at the same time SF did. And women are moving quickly into these previously closed jobs; the first 10 women graduated from the Army’s infantry officer course in October, and 140 women are reportedly on deck to enter infantry training in 2017, while more have already been reclassified. But it’s still a small field.
MARSOC also recruits heavily from Marine Corps ground combat MOSs. To date, just three female Marines assigned to one of these jobs have entered the fleet.
“This is a process; it’s going to take time,” Tovo said. “We are focused on it, we’re ready for it and I have no doubt when we get the opportunity to put women through our qualification courses, it going to be done to a professional standard and we will be proud of the results of the female operators who come out the other end.”
Szymanski suggested that social barriers to women serving in units such as the SEALs may no longer be the impediment they once were, as younger, more tolerant sailors enter the force.
“The students coming through, it’s no big deal to them,” he said. “This generation’s much more tolerant of society than our generation — a multi-diverse, gender-neutral society. Some of the integration [challenges] will be with our older cohorts.”
It’s possible, however, that the services will have to rethink recruitment in light of a widened field of potential applicants. Szymanski said his contracted SEAL scout teams visit high schools to recruit talent, but tend to target events with high male participation.
“Typically in the past, that’s been things like wrestling matches and those types of things,” he said. “So I now have to be sure that they’re thinking about, how do they incentivize or attract younger females at some of those events. Maybe swimming meets; swimmers typically will fend well in the pipeline if they’re good in the water.”
So what would it look like if an American and Chinese fleet went to blows in the western Pacific? While the U.S. could win the seapower contest, China has enough land-based assets in the area to more than make up the difference.
The fighting would likely start with an innocent mistake during a freedom of navigation operation conducted by the U.S. Navy such as the planned deployment of the USS Carl Vinson. Vinson is headed into the South China Sea along with two destroyers, the USS Wayne E. Meyer and USS Michael Murphy, and the cruiser USS Lake Champlain.
Meanwhile, China’s aircraft carrier Liaoningdeployed to the South China Sea in late 2016/early 2017 with three guided-missile destroyers, two guided-missile frigates, an anti-submarine corvette, and an oiler.
If the two forces came to blows, the American force would enjoy an initial advantage despite the Chinese numerical superiority. That’s because America’s air wings on the carrier are vastly more capable than China’s.
They would be facing off against Carrier Air Wing 2, the air wing currently assigned to the Vinson. Air Wing 2 has three strike fighter squadrons — 2, 34, and 137 — which fly 10-12 F/A-18 Hornets each. They have approximately 34 Hornets which would be supported by the four E-2C Hawkeye early warning radar planes of the Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 113.
The entire force would also be supported by the EA-18G Growlers of Electronic Attack Squadron 136.
So 13 Chinese fighters would fly partially blind and with limited weapons against approximately 34 American fighters backed up by early warning radar and electronic attack aircraft. The American forces would annihilate the Chinese.
Which they would have to do, because the Americans need all that firepower still available to take out the more plentiful ships of the Chinese strike group.
The Growlers would be essential to limiting the anti-air capabilities of the five guided-missile ships — all of which carry anti-air missiles — and the Liaoning which carries the Type 1130 close-in weapons system which is potentially capable of firing 10,000 rounds per minute at missiles and aircraft attacking it.
The Hornets could be joined by the MH-60Rs of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 78 and the MH-60Ss of Helicopter Sea Squadron 4, but the Navy may prefer to keep the helicopters in reserve.
In the not-so-distant future, the pilots would likely receive the Harpoon Block II with a 134-nautical mile range. That’s long enough that the planes could fire on the guided-missile ships from just outside of their long-range surface-to-air missiles, the HQ-9 with its 108-nautical mile range.
But if the Vinson is stuck with just the earlier Harpoons, those have only a 67-nautical mile range. While the Hornets could still get the job done, they’d have to fly near the surface of the ocean, pop up and fire their missiles, and then evade any incoming missiles as they make their escape.
Still, they could destroy the Chinese fleet, even if they lose a couple of Hornets in the attack.
But the American fleet would then need to withdraw, because Chinese planes and missiles from the Spratly and Paracel islands could strike at the carrier fleet almost anywhere it went in the South China Sea.
While the American strike group could complete a fighting withdrawal — hitting all known locations of Chinese missile batteries within range using land-attack missiles from the cruiser and destroyers — the group just doesn’t have the firepower to really try to take out all of China’s militarized islands and reefs.
So, rather than go on the attack, the carrier group would likely use its Standard Missiles for ship defense and withdraw out of range. If a battle this size took place, it would surely be the start of a major war.
Better to save the Vinson and bring it back later with another strike group and a Marine Expeditionary Unit that can take and hold the ground after the Tomahawk missiles, Harriers, and Hornets soften the islands up.
You’ve seen them before at this time of year — United States Marines in their full dress blues standing near bins full of toys with the signature logo of the Toys for Tots program. And you’ve definitely seen this commercial:
Just two years after the end of World War II, a Marine Corps Reserve officer named Maj. Bill Hendricks wanted to donate a Raggedy Ann doll his wife had made to a charity in the Los Angeles area, but he couldn’t find one that met what he had in mind.
What he did find were thousands of children who needed toys.
“That first year we delivered the toys ourselves,” Hendricks told said in an interview before his 1992 death. “We were winding up the campaign on Christmas Eve, delivering toys right up to midnight. A master sergeant and I went to a place where three kids were waiting up for us. I can still see their faces. After leaving the toys, one of the children followed us out to the car and said, ‘Thank you very much.’ That ‘thank you’ was worth the effort.”
The first run was so successful, the USMC expanded it to a nationwide effort the next year. Every Marine Corps Reserve site worked with the local community to collect and distribute millions of toys.
In the years following, the Marines received star-studded help from the likes of Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin. The logo was designed by Walt Disney himself.
Now the effort is augmented by the nonprofit Toys for Tots Foundation, which expanded the number of toys collected to 16 million worth an estimated $243 million every year. The foundation regularly receives four-star ratings from Charity navigator and in 2003 was on Forbes’ Top Ten Children’s Charities.