Army officials admitted the service doesn’t know as much as it should about its soldiers’ personal hygiene in the field even after Army programs have created antimicrobial treatments for socks and shirts.
The Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center wants to change that. In response, the center’s Consumer Research Team issued a survey for soldiers to figure how soldiers combat common afflictions in the field like jock itch, athlete’s foot and body odor.
The Army wants to know what works and what doesn’t so it can better develop future solutions for items like sleeping bag liners, t-shirts, socks and boots.
Here is a link to the survey although a computer connected to a CAC identification is required to open and fill it out.
“Currently, the military doesn’t have any requirements for (antimicrobial treatments),” said Wendy Johnson of the Consumer Research Team. “And so the question is, should the military have requirements? What should they be? How do we know that this stuff is good enough, is doing what it’s supposed to do?”
Johnson did make a puzzling comment later in the survey announcement.
“We think that some of these things are going to get very low incidence rates, so we want thousands of Soldiers to answer this questionnaire for us,” Johnson said in the press release.
Earlier this month, police in Argentina raided the home of an art collector and found a door leading to a room full of Nazi knives, sculptures, medical devices, magnifying glasses, and a large bust portrait of Adolf Hitler.
“There are no precedents for a find like this,” Nestor Roncaglia, the head of Argentina’s federal police, told The Associated Press. “Pieces are stolen or are imitations. But this is original, and we have to get to the bottom of it.”
Patricia Bullrich, Argentina’s security minister, told the AP: “There are objects to measure heads that was the logic of the Aryan race.”
Investigators are trying to figure out how such an extensive collection of Nazi memorabilia made it into the South American country, where several Nazi officials fled at the end of World War II.
After finding some illicit paintings at an art gallery, Argentinian police raided a Buenos Aires art collector’s home and found close to 75 items of old Nazi memorabilia that the man kept hidden by a bookcase that led to his secret shrine.
Members of the federal police carry a Nazi statue at the Interpol headquarters in Buenos Aires. Photo by Natacha Pisarenko (Associated Press via News Edge)
A Hitler photo negative, Nazi sculptures, knives, head-measuring medical devices, and children’s toys with swastikas on them were among some of the items found.
A knife with Nazi markings was found in the man’s home. Photo by Natacha Pisarenko (Associated Press via News Edge).
This device was used to measure the size of a person’s head.
A World War II German army mortar aiming device, right, is shown at the Interpol headquarters in Buenos Aires. Photo by Natacha Pisarenko (Associated Press via News Edge)
The police handed over the items to investigators and historians, who are trying to figure out how such a large collection made it into the home of one South American man.
A box with swastikas containing harmonicas for children. Photo by Natacha Pisarenko (Associated Press via News Edge).
After World War II, many high-ranking Nazi leaders fled to Argentina to escape trial. “Finding 75 original pieces is historic and could offer irrefutable proof of the presence of top leaders who escaped from Nazi Germany,” Ariel Cohen Sabban, the president of a political umbrella for Argentina’s Jewish institutes, told the AP.
An hourglass with Nazi markings. Photo by Natacha Pisarenko (Associated Press via News Edge).
One of the nation’s oldest veterans has been celebrated by his Texas hometown on his 111th birthday.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler declared Thursday Richard Overton Day in the city and also gave the street he has lived on for the past 45 years the honorary name of Richard Overton Avenue.
While Overton concedes that 111 is “pretty old,” he tells KVUE-TV he still feels good. Overton mentioned that the secret to a long life is smoking cigars and drinking whiskey, two things he continues to indulge in today.
Overton was already in his 30s when he volunteered and served in the Army. He was at Pearl Harbor just after the Japanese attack.
In 2013, he was honored by President Barack Obama at a Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
We all know that washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with warm soapy water is the key to prevent disease from spreading. But back in Colonial America, lots of people didn’t have access to soap or water. In fact, most historians think average Americans bathed just a few times a year. That means you probably get haircuts more often than early Americans took baths.
If your skin is getting dried and chapped from all this handwashing and hand sanitizing, trust us when we say early Americans had it way worse. Hygiene was basically non-existent for early American colonists and when they did get around to cleaning themselves, it wasn’t nearly up to our standards. Overall, it was all pretty gross.
Life in Colonial America had a lot going on – from forging independence from the United Kingdom to early settlers exploring the lands wanted to call home. With all the exploring and war-waging, sometimes it was tough to keep up with personal hygiene. In fact, bathing wasn’t that important at all.
Sometimes people went months without bathing
Forget about one shower a day or even one shower a month. Most early Americans probably went entire months without setting foot inside water. That’s because it took forever to gather enough water for a bath – not to mention wasting all that precious firewood. When a person finally made it to the tub, it’s likely that they bathed in the same water as everyone else who lived in their house. Talk about gross.
But even in warm months, most early Americans shied away from taking baths. Lots of people thought taking too many baths might make a person get sick.
No one used soap in Colonial America
Today’s fitness wearables have alerts programmed in to tell you when you’ve washed your hands long enough to kill germs and bacteria. Most people in America bathe once a day and wash their hair at least that often, too. But people in Colonial America didn’t have wearables, much less running water or indoor plumbing. So there was no one telling them how long to wash for, or even that washing every day was important.
Social status wasn’t really tied to hygiene, or how good a person smelled or how fresh their clothes were. In fact, most working-class people barely had enough clothing to change from one day to the next, so they just wore the same outfit on repeat. That makes early Colonial Americans the original Capsule Wardrobe enthusiasts. Most people had just two outfits – one for everyday wear and one for special occasions and Sundays.
So people just wore the same clothes every day and didn’t both washing them or their bodies. Besides that, the whole soap making process took forever and was super time consuming so unless you had some soap lying around, you probably weren’t itching to take a bath.
And then when you did, the lye soap popular back in the day probably dried your skin out and left you rashy anyway – so maybe it was best to stay away from baths. Today’s handwashing definitely gets annoying but it’s definitely better than the alternative in Colonial America.
Was Hitler zonked out on heroin for most of the Second World War? Historian Normen Ohler has uncovered some shocking evidence indicating that he was, disclosed in the author’s new book, Der totale Rausch: Drogen im Dritten Reich (The Total Rush: Drugs in the Third Reich).
According to the book, Hitler, a strict vegetarian who touted the clear-mindedness of Aryans, was “ceaselessly” fed a combination of animal steroids and Eukodal, a close cousin of heroin, by his personal physician, Dr. Theodor Morrell.
Extensive digging through Dr. Morrell’s personal notes led Ohler to learn that the doctor’s prescriptions had been profoundly misinterpreted. Eukodal, previously translated as Enkodal, was falsely accepted as a legitimate medical treatment. In reality, it was a close cousin to heroin, on which Hitler became so dependent that he threatened to shoot Morrell after learning that supplies of the drug were dwindling.
In an interview with DW, the author discusses the impact that the drug had on the war effort:
Hitler loved Eukodal. Especially in the fall of 1944, when the military situation was quite bad, he used this strong drug that made him euphoric even when reality wasn’t looking euphoric at all. The generals kept telling him: “We need to change our tactics. We need to end this. We are going to lose the war.” And he didn’t want to hear it. He had Dr. Morell give him the drugs that made him feel invulnerable and on top of the situation.
While Hitler received his daily fix, the Fuhrer made sure that his soldiers were sufficiently doped up as well. The Nazis were kept high and alert by copious doses of Pervitin, an early form of crystal meth, which lessened their appetites and allowed them to fight longer. Between 1939 and 1945, more than 200 million pills of Pervitin were administered to German troops, according to records accessed by Ohler.
Though the Nazi’s use of Pervitin has been known for awhile, new details on the sheer scope of the drug’s prevalence have surfaced thanks to Ohler’s research. These Pervitin insights, combined with the monumental discovery of Hitler’s heroin habit, have made Ohler’s new book one of the most-talked about Nazi research projects in years.
Hans Mommsen, a distinguished German historian, does not mince words in his assessment of the work’s significance: “This book will change the accepted face of the history of the war.”
Two U.S. Army soldiers will finally be awarded the nation’s highest military award, nearly a century after they displayed incredible bravery during World War I.
Sgt. Henry Johnson, a black soldier assigned to the “Harlem Hellfighters” of the 369th U.S. Infantry Regiment, and Sgt. William Shemin, a Jewish soldier with the 47th Infantry Regiment, will receive the Medal of Honor (posthumously) on Tuesday. Ninety-seven years after they were denied the award due to discrimination, the pair of soldiers will finally be recognized in a ceremony at The White House.
While serving as a sentry in the Argonne Forest with another soldier on May 15, 1918, then-Pvt. Johnson came under heavy enemy fire after a raiding party of 12 German soldiers came upon his position. Despite receiving significant injuries, Johnson held off the Germans using grenades, a rifle, a knife, and even his bare hands.
“The Germans came from all sides,” Johnson told an interviewer after the war, according to The Daily Beast. “Roberts kept handing me the grenades and I kept throwing them, and the Dutchmen kept squealing but jes’ the same, they kept comin’ on. When the grenades were all gone I started in with my rifle.”
Johnson exposed himself to enemy fire and held back the German forces until they retreated, according to the U.S. Army.
On Aug. 7, 1918 in an area southeast of Bazoches, France, Sgt. Sgt. Shemin left the safety of his platoon’s trench and repeatedly crossed an open area to rescue wounded soldiers, despite the threat of heavy machine gun and rifle fire. Then after his officers and senior non-commissioned officers were wounded or killed, Shemin took command of the platoon and “displayed great initiative under fire” until he was wounded himself on Aug. 9, according to the U.S. Army.
Why did it take almost a century for Shemin to be recognized with the highest U.S. military award for valor in combat? Perhaps because of widespread discrimination in the military during that period of history; Shemin was Jewish.
“Anti-Semitism was a way of life in the Army in World War I,” said Mrs. Roth, who has been waging the campaign on behalf of her father’s honor since 2002. “They’re making a wrong right, 97 years later. The discrimination hurts, but all has been made right.”
Their recognition comes as a result of a 2002 move by Congress to review combat actions of Jewish and Hispanic veterans and ensure “those deserving the Medal Of Honor were not denied because of prejudice,” the White House explained to CNN. The act was later amended to review all possible cases of discrimination.
In March, President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to 24 soldiers who had been denied the award due to prejudice, NBC reported.
The Royal Marines apparently hold unarmed combat displays to engage with the public on “Poppy Day,” the British Commonwealth version of Memorial Day. And the display the Marines put on is pretty impressive.
This 2015 demonstration was held at the Waterloo station in London and featured four Marines fighting and a few announcing, answering crowd questions, and collecting funds for Remembrance Sunday.
The Marines showed how they could sneak up on armed guards and take them out:
They displayed a masterful and nuanced way to kick someone in the chest:
This probably didn’t hurt. Especially not when his head landed off the mat and on the tile. (GIF: YouTube/Ministry of Defence)
And, of course, they choked a dude out and then took a selfie with him:
See more of the Royal Marines’ awesome moves in the video below:
Eric Greitens is no parenting expert, so why should you listen to his tips on raising resilient kids? Take your pick: The guy’s a Rhodes Scholar with a doctoral degree in ethics, philosophy and public policy. After doing humanitarian work in some of the less pleasant corners of the world, he became a Navy SEAL with 4 deployments, including a turn commanding an Al Qaeda targeting cell. Along the way, he picked up a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star, and 7 other major military awards and commendations. Greitens has persevered through more in one life than most could in 5, and he did all that before having his first kid last year. So, how has he applied what he knows about resilience to that little adventure? Read on …
1. If you‘re not a resilient guy, your kid won‘t be a resilient kid.
“To paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson, who you are will speak more loudly to your children than anything you say,” says Greitens. If they see you always able to pick yourself up when you’ve been knocked down, that’s behavior they’re going to adopt intuitively. While you’re at it, maybe try to get knocked down a little less.
2. Being resilient begins with taking responsibility.
If you have no ownership over anything – actions, property, your sister’s feelings – then you have no incentive try hard or try again when the moment calls for it. “Teach your children early not to pass the blame or make excuses, but to take responsibility for their actions” says Greitens. That doesn’t just apply when they tag their sister in the face with a rubber band; it’s just as important when they agree to walk the dog or keep their room clean.
3. Empower them through service.
Helping others teaches all sorts of important skills, including empathy and resourcefulness and an understanding that life’s a box of chocolates and sometimes you pick the one with the gross orange-flavored filling. But, more importantly, Greitens says, “Children who know that they have something to offer others will learn that they can shape the world around them for the better.” That’s a powerful source of optimism for a kid, and it will come in handy when you’re old and broke.
4. Make a daily habit of being grateful.
Now that your kid is seeing what misfortune looks like through their service, it’s a good time to introduce the idea of gratitude. If nothing else in life, they’ve got a father who loves them unconditionally and irrationally (they probably also have a roof over their head and 3 square meals a day, too), and not everyone is so lucky. Taking a minute out of each day to remember that makes it easier to handle whatever curveball comes next.
5. Resist the urge to fix, solve or answer everything for them.
“Your children should know that you’re always there for them, and that they can call on you when needed,” says Greitens. “But give them the opportunity to learn to solve their own problems.” You know you’re supposed to object to this and insist that you just can’t help rushing in to save them because you love them so much, but admit it: His plan is way less work for you.
6. Help them understand consequences, for better and worse.
Learning the negative consequences of their actions is a key step in your kid understanding why they shouldn’t torture the dog and why they should do their homework. It’s on you to enforce the consequences that are within your control, but they don’t always have to be negative – understanding how their actions can also have positive outcomes will help them look for the best course of action in any situation.
7. Failure is a good thing.
“In failure, children learn how to struggle with adversity and how to confront fear. By reflecting on failure, children begin to see how to correct themselves and then try again with better results. A culture that rewards failure with trophies steals from children the great treasure chest of wisdom that comes from pain, from difficulty, from falling short.” Considering that, when Greitens talks about struggling with adversity and confronting fear, he means “Shit I saw serving as a Navy SEAL,” it’s probably best to take him at his word on this one.
8. Allow risk taking.
Failure, consequences, independence, responsibility – every single one of the aforementioned tips involves your kid taking some kind of risk. If you try too hard to mitigate those risks, you mitigate your whole kid. “To be something we never were, we have to do something we’ve never done,” says Greitens. Again, Navy SEAL. Don’t argue.
9. Know when to bring the authority.
“Not every risk is a good risk to take, and adults need to be clear with children about what will and won’t be tolerated. Children don’t get to choose to ride in a car without seatbelts,” says Greitens. Properly wielded, authority actually frees your kid up to take the good kind of risks, because you’ve established safe limits within which to operate – like, in the yard but not in the street. Or in their pants and not without pants.
10. Demonstrate your love for them every day.
What? You thought the guy was a hardass just because of the whole Navy SEAL thing?
When you’re asked what’s the most important tool for any U.S. service member who’s facing down a bad guy in battle, the most obvious response is his or her weapon.
When it comes down to it and the shots are flying, it’s the rifle or handgun that can make the difference between victory and defeat. But there’s a lot more to it than that, and oftentimes it’s what the trooper is actually wearing that can determine whether the bullets start flying in the first place.
Military uniform designers and suppliers over the last half century have been developing new ways to help soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines avoid fights if they want to and to survive them when things go loud. From things as simple as pocket placement and camouflage, to fabrics that won’t burn or show up in night vision goggles, the folks who build combat uniforms for America’s military have taken the best of material science and matched it with the conditions and operations troops are facing in increasingly complex and austere combat environments.
While the “modern” battle uniform traces much of its lineage to the Vietnam War, a lot has changed in the 50 years since that utilitarian design changed the course of what U.S. service members wear when they fight.
It was really the Korean war that introduced the pant-leg cargo pockets we all know today, according to an official Army history. But combat uniforms issued to troops in Vietnam took those to another level.
With bellowed pleats and secure flaps, there were few items the side cargo pocket couldn’t handle. Vietnam-era combat blouses also used an innovative angled chest pocket design that made it easier to reach items in the heat of battle.
In the 1980s, the U.S. military ditched the angled chest pockets for vertical ones, mostly for appearance, and the combat trousers maintained their six-pocket design until the 2000s.
But when America went to war after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, pocket placement and design took a quantum leap. Way more “utilitarian” than combat threads of Vietnam and the Cold War, the new battle rigs are like night and day — with everything from pen pockets near the wrist of a combat blouse, to ankle pockets on the trousers to bellowed shoulder pockets.
Interestingly, it was special operations troops that developed the shoulder pocket later adopted by both the Marine Corps and Army for their combat uniforms. During the opening days of the Global War on Terror, spec ops troops cut cargo pockets off their extra trousers and sewed them onto the arms of their combat jackets, giving them extra storage within an arm’s reach.
Modern combat uniforms now also incorporate internal pockets for knee pads and elbow pads, so when a trooper has to take a knee or go prone in a hurry, he’s not banging his joints on the dirt.
Marines in Iraq were issued fire-resistant flight suits to guard against burns from IED strikes.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
2. Combat uniform material
By Vietnam, the heavy cotton and polyester of the Korean War-era uniform were replaced with a tropical-weight cotton ripstop that was wind-resistant yet cooler for troops operating in the sweltering heat of Southeast Asian jungles.
Both trousers and jackets were made of this cotton-poplin material for years, until the Army adopted the so-called “Battle Dress Uniform” in the early 1980s. That uniform was made with a nylon-cotton blended material with was more durable and easier to launder than the Vietnam-era combat duds.
But the military was forced to offer a variation of the BDU in cotton ripstop after operations in Grenada proved the nylon-cotton blend material too hot in warmer climates.
Though today’s combat uniforms are made with similar materials to those of the BDU-era, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan proved that some front-line troops need kit that’s resistant to the flame and flash of roadside bombs and IEDs.
Early on, some troops — including Marines deployed to Iraq — wore flight suits manufactured with flame resistant Nomex during combat operations. But that fabric wasn’t durable enough for the rigors of battle on the ground. So companies developed new, more durable flame-resistant fabrics for combat uniforms like Defender-M and Drifire.
Now all the services offer variants of their standard combat uniforms in flame-resistant material that protects troops against burns from improvised bombs.
American Special Forces soldiers adopted the camouflage pattern of ARVN Rangers dubbed “tiger stripe” to blend into the Southeast Asian jungles.
(Image by Bettmann/CORBIS by Shunsuke Akatsuka via Flicker)
3. Combat uniform camouflage
It’s like the 1911 vs. (everything) debate, or the M-16 versus the AK-47 argument.
For decades, the question of camouflage patterns has been as much art as it was science. And over the last half century, the U.S. military has seen no fewer than 11 different patterns bedecking America’s warfighters.
The six-color Desert Combat Uniform is the iconic look of Operation Desert Storm.
Most Joes in the Vietnam War were clad in olive drab combat uniforms. But special operations troops began using camouflage garments in greater numbers during the war, and acted as the bleeding edge for pattern development within the wider military.
From ARVN Ranger “tiger stripes” to old-school duck hunter camo, the commandos in The ‘Nam proved that breaking up your outline saved lives. With the adoption of the BDU in 1981, the military locked into the service-wide “woodland” camouflage pattern.
The Marine Corps was the first service in the U.S. military to dramatically change its uniforms from the BDU design. The service also was the first to adopt a “digital” camo pattern.
In the early ’90s, the services developed desert combat uniform with a so-called “six-color desert” pattern (also known as “chocolate chips”). These uniforms were issued to troops conducting exercises and operations in arid climates and were more widely issued to service members deployed to Operation Desert Storm.
The woodland BDU dominated for more than 20 years until shortly after 9/11. And it was the Marine Corps that took the whole U.S. military in an entirely different direction.
Soldiers complained that the UCP didn’t really work in any environment
The Corps was the first to adopt a camouflage pattern with so-called “fractal geometry” — otherwise known as “digital camouflage” — that diverges from the curvy lines and solid colors of woodland to a more three-dimensional scheme designed to literally trick the brain. While the Marines adopted a digital woodland pattern and a desert version in 2003, the Army decided to try a single pattern that would work in a variety of environments a year later.
Dubbed the Universal Combat Pattern, or “UCP,” the green-grey pallet flopped, with most soldiers complaining that instead of working in a bunch of environments, it made Joes stand out in all of them. As in Vietnam, special operations troops engaged overseas adopted a commercial pattern dubbed “Multicam,” which harkened back to the analog patterns akin to woodland.
The Navy recently adopted a new camouflage uniform in a pattern developed by the SEALs.
Pressure mounted on the Army to ditch UCP and adopt Multicam, and by 2015, the service abandoned the one-size-fits all digital pattern and adopted Multicam for all its combat garments.
Likewise, the Air Force and Navy experimented with different patterns and pallets since the Army adopted UCP, with the Sea Service issuing a blue digital uniform for its sailors and the Air Force settling on a digital tiger stripe pattern in a UCP pallet. In 2016, the Navy ditched its so-called “blueberry” pattern for one developed by the SEALs — AOR 1 and AOR 2 — which looks similar to the Marine Corps “MARPAT” digital scheme.
The Air Force still issues its Airman Battle Uniform in the digital tiger stripe pattern to all airmen except those deploying to Afghanistan and on joint missions in the combat zone.
New uniforms incorporate innovative technology from the outdoor sports industry.
4. Combat uniform design
Aside from the rapid development and deployment of new camouflage patterns, some of the most impressive changes to U.S. military combat uniforms have been with their overall design.
Gone is the boxy, ill-fitting combat ensemble of troops slogging through the rice paddies and jungle paths of Southeast Asia. Today’s battle uniform traces its design to the high-tech construction of the extreme outdoor sports world, from high-altitude climbing to remote big game hunting.
Troops in the services now have uniforms that have pre-curved legs and arms, angled and bellowed pockets that stay flat when they’re empty, Velcro closures and adjustable waists. The services even use specially-designed combat shirts that ditch the jacket altogether and use built-in moisture-wicking fabric to keep a trooper’s torso cool under body armor yet provide durable sleeves and arm pockets for gear needed in the fight. With integrated pockets for knee pads and elbow pads, the new combat uniforms’ design takes “utilitarian” to a whole new level.
US Marines inside the Citadel in Hue City rescue the body of a dead Marine during the Tet Offensive.
(Photo via Flickr)
5. Combat armor
Aside from the actual clothing an American combat trooper wears, there are a host of new protective items that make up his or her battlefield loadout. These items have evolved exponentially over the last half century, and many uniform manufacturers have supplied protective accessories to integrate with their clothing.
Students from the Saint George’s University of Medicine pose with a member of the 82nd Airborne Division during Operation Urgent Fury.
(U.S. Military photo via Flickr)
Late in the war, the Vietnam-era soldier or Marine was issued a body armor vest that would protect him against grenade fragments and some pistol rounds. Made of ballistic nylon and fiberglass plates, the armor was best known as the “flak jacket.” It was heavy and didn’t protect against rifle rounds.
In the 1980s, the U.S. military developed a new body armor system using steel plates and Kevlar fabric that could stop a rifle round. First used in combat during Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada, the so-called Personnel Armor System for Ground Troops, or PASGT, was a revolution in personal protection.
Today’s armor and helmets are lighter, more protective and offer a host of methods to modify the loadout for specific missions.
Still heavy and bulky, armor evolved over the years since 9/11 to be lighter, with a slimmer profile and much more protective than the flaks of yore. Today’s vests can protect against multiple armor-piercing rifle rounds, shrapnel and pistol shots — all in a vest that weighs a fraction of its PASGT brethren.
Like the armor vest, the “steel pot” of Vietnam has changed dramatically in the last 50 years. The new Army Combat Helmet and Marine Corps Lightweight Helmet can take multiple bullet strikes and shrapnel hits, allow for greater mobility than the Vietnam-era one or the PASGT and now incorporate various attachment points for accessories like night vision goggles, IR strobes and cameras.
Whenever the Pentagon sends troops abroad it’s about demonstrating resolve, reassuring allies or confronting potential opponents – or some combination of all three. But for the A-10 Warthogs and their crews in the Philippines, their biggest message might be one for critics back home.
On April 16, the U.S. Air Force announced that four of the venerable ground attack jets would remain in the Philippines after taking part in the annual Balikatan training exercises with Manila’s forces. Three HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopters and an MC-130H Combat Talon II tanker would round out the new air contingent at Clark Air Base.
“The Air Contingent will remain in place as long as both the Philippines and the United States deem necessary,” MSgt. Matthew McGovern, the Operations Division Manager for the Pacific Air Force’s public affairs office, told We Are the Mighty in an email. “Our aircraft, flying in and around the South China Sea, are flying within international airspace and are simply demonstrating freedom of navigation in these areas.”
The deployment at Clark is one part of a deal between Washington and Manila called the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. Signed on April 28, 2014, the arrangement opened a number of Philippine military bases to American troops and outlined plans for increased cooperation between the two countries’ armed forces.
The EDCA would “help strengthen our 65-year-old alliance, and deepen our military-to-military cooperation at a time of great change in the Asia-Pacific,” Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter told reporters during a visit to the Philippines on April 14. “In the South China Sea, China’s actions in particular are causing anxiety and raising regional tensions.”
As Carter noted, Beijing’s ambitions in the South China Sea is the major concern for the Philippines and its neighbors in Southeast Asia. Effectively claiming the entire body of water as its sovereign territory, China policy has brought it near close to skirmishing with Manila’s ships.
In 2012, the Philippines found itself in a particularly embarrassing stand-off with unarmed Chinese “marine surveillance” ships near the disputed Scarborough Shoal, less than 250 miles west of Manila. While Beijing’s vessels ultimately withdrew, they blocked the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar – an ex-U.S. Coast Guard cutter and the largest ship then in the Philippine Navy – from moving into arrest Chinese fishermen.
Since then, Chinese authorities have used their dominant position to harass Philippine fishermen in the area. More importantly, Beijing began building a series of man-made islands – complete with air defenses, ballistic missile sites and runways able to support fighter jets and bombers – throughout the South China Sea to help enforce its claims.
“Countries across the Asia-Pacific are voicing concern with China’s land reclamation, which stands out in size and scope, as well as its militarization in the South China Sea,” Carter added in his comments in Manila. “We’re continuing to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows.”
So, it’s no surprise that the A-10’s first mission was a show of force over the Scarborough Shoal, which China refers to as Huangyan Island and claims as its own. With plans to develop the narrow strip of land into a tourist destination, Beijing was incensed to see the Warthogs fly by.
“This threatens the sovereignty and national security of the relevant coastal states, as well as the regional peace and stability,” the Chinese Ministry of Defense said in a statement according to People’s Daily, an official organ of the country’s Communist Party. “We must express our concern and protest towards it.”
Though originally built to blast hordes of Soviet tanks in Europe, the blunt nosed attackers are a threat to small warships and other surface targets. The aircraft’s main armament is a single, massive 30-millimeter cannon that can fire up to 70 shells per second.
On top of that, the straight-winged planes can carry precision laser- and GPS-guided bombs and missiles. On March 28, 2011, Warthogs showed off their maritime skills when they destroyed two Libyan patrol craft during the international air campaign against the country’s long time dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
After the Pentagon announced the Warthog would stay in the Philippines, the Air Force released shots of the jets sitting at Clark, each loaded with targeting pods, training versions of the AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missile and an AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missile. Northrop Grumman’s LITENING pod has a laser designator and a powerful infrared camera that can also double as a surveillance system if necessary.
Over Scarborough, the A-10s sported a LITENING on the right wing and an AN/ALQ-184 electronic jamming pod on the left. All four Warthogs, along with two of the Pave Hawks, went out for the initial maritime patrol.
But the Warthogs made an even bigger statement just by flying the mission at all – and not to officials in Beijing, but to critics back home. The deployment comes as the Air Force continues to move forward with plans to retire the low- and slow-flying planes without a clear replacement available.
To hear the flying branch tell it, the aircraft are inflexible, dated Cold Warriors unable to survive over the modern battlefield. Unlike multi-role fighter bombers like the F-16 or up-coming, but troublesome F-35, the A-10 is only good at one thing: close air support for troops on the ground.
The A-10 “is a 40-year-old single-purpose airplane,” then Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said in February 2014. “There’s only so much you can get out of that airplane,” Air Force Gen. Herbert Carlisle, chief of Air Combat Command, declared more than a year later.
The Warthogs’ trip to the Philippines stands in stark contrast to these claims. According to the Air Force itself, the A-10s and HH-60s will fly missions providing air and maritime domain awareness and personnel recovery, combating piracy and otherwise keeping anyone from denying access to “the global commons” in the South China Sea.
The flying branch didn’t randomly pick the A-10 for the job either. “Selecting the A-10C and HH-60Gs for this mission was strategically and economically the right decision,” Brig. Gen. Dirk Smith, PACAF’s director of air and cyberspace operations, told Air Force reporters after the detachment stood up at Clark.
“PACAF considered multiple options for what aircraft to use, however, the A-10Cs were the right choice for a number of reasons,” McGovern explained further. “A-10Cs also have a proven record operating out of short and austere airstrips, provide a flexible range of capabilities, and have a mission profile consistent with the air and maritime domain awareness operations the air contingent will conduct.”
The Warthog’s ability to stay airborne for long periods of time was another point in its favor. Of course, the fact that the jets were already in the Philippines for Balikatan didn’t hurt.
Still, the A-10 is cheap to operate in general. Compared to around $20,000 per flying hour for the F-16 or more three times that amount for bombers like the B-1 and B-52, the Air Force has to spend less than $20,000 for every hour a Warthog is in the air.
“With a relatively small investment we were able to deepen our ties with our Philippine allies and strengthen our relationship,” McGovern added. “The aircraft involved in subsequent deployments will be tailored to airfield capability and capacity and desired objectives.”
In February, the Air Force announced plans to start retiring the A-10s by 2017 and have the entire fleet gone by the end of 2022. Hopefully deployments like the one to the Philippines will show both the Chinese and the Pentagon that the Warthogs still have a lot of fight left in them.
They don’t even put Charms in MREs anymore. Because if everyone is just going to chuck the candy out the Humvee window, that’s just a gross waste of high-fructose corn syrup.
Those who aren’t new to the service and have ever deployed with Marines probably saw the same scene at some point. Hungry Marines pour into their MREs and take out their favorite parts and toss the rest into the MRE box (a process known as ratf*cking). Let’s face it, some MRE parts are definitely better than others.
No matter what an individual’s tastes were, one item was always discarded: the Charms candy. The reason for that was a mixture of superstition and because the younger guys knew someone would slap the candy out of their hands or out of their mouths for the cardinal sin of even opening the wrapper.
The simplest answer is that Marines grow up in the Corps learning that Charms are just plain bad luck. Whether it was learned from saltier Marines or experienced firsthand, those things might as well be pure evil.
Eating Charms is like begging for the world’s largest thunderstorm to rain down on you and your platoon – even in the desert. Or they might set off a roadside bomb. Some think you’ll get mortared just for opening an MRE with Charms in it – unless you bury it.
Some troops have been known to donate them to the more persistent local children – at high velocity. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Grant Okubo)
The luck varied as much as the flavors did. As Sgt. Kenneth Wilson told Agence France-Presse just before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, a lemon-flavored Charm could cause a vehicle breakdown. The green ones were the ones that brought the rain. Raspberry meant certain death.
The US Air Force’s flight schools have a reputation for churning out some of the best pilots in the world. But not even with that standing, only 558 in the service’s entire history were ever able to earn the title “Bandit” — the name awarded exclusively to pilots assigned to fly the top-secret F-117 Nighthawk stealth jet.
During the first years of the Nighthawk program in the 1980s, candidate pilots were drawn from a pool of fast-jet pilots. Only fighter or attack pilots with minimum of 1,000 hours were considered for the job, though candidates with 2,000 or more hours were preferred, given their extensive piloting experience.
According to Warren Thompson in his book, “Bandits over Baghdad,” stealth program brass struck a careful balance between recruiting pilots with phenomenal service records and pilots who were known to push themselves to the edge of the envelope — constantly demonstrating their prowess in the cockpit of the latest and greatest multimillion dollar fighters in America’s arsenal.
Early Bandits already in the program, having earned their number, were allowed to refer fellow pilots from other units, based on critical evaluations of their skill and abilities as military aviators. The majority of candidates, however, came from fighter squadrons whose commanding officers were vaguely instructed to cherry-pick one or two of their very best pilots, and send them to Arizona to begin training on a new airframe.
Nobody, including the selectees themselves, had much of a clue what they were about to get involved in.
Further adding to the mystery was the fact that this “new” airframe was actually the A-7 Corsair II, an attack jet which had already been in service with the Air Force for a number of years. Nighthawk program evaluators chose the A-7 for its similarity to the F-117 in terms of handling, cockpit layout and flight characteristics. Upon the conclusion of their flight training, candidates would appear for a final series of check rides and tests in Nevada.
The 162d Tactical Fighter Group of the Arizona Air National Guard handled this segment of the selection phase on behalf of the 4450th Tactical Group. The 4450th was the cover for the Nighthawk’s existence, drafted up by the Air Force as a supposed A-7 flight test unit.
The casual observer, and even other military personnel not read into the Nighthawk program, would merely see this outfit as yet another one of the Air Force’s myriad boring units, though in reality, it was anything but that.
If the candidates survived the A-7 flight course, passed their final tests in their new jet, and were approved by the selection cadre, they were finally told what they were really there for — to be the next breed of American black operations pilots, flying an aircraft the government habitually denied even existed.
The Nighthawk was developed more as an attack aircraft than a fighter, though it was still granted the “F” designation like other fighters the USAF fields today. Built to evade and avoid radar detection, the F-117 was the deadly ghost America’s enemies didn’t see coming or going, even after it was too late and the bombs had already deployed from the jet’s twin recessed bays.
All prospective Bandits were now introduced in-person to their new aircraft at the Tonopah Test Range, a highly-guarded military facility known to play host to some of the most secretive Air Force projects ever undertaken. After strenuous classroom sessions followed by training missions flown in top-of-the-line simulators, pilots were then taken back to Arizona to Luke Air Force Base, where they would train briefly on the F-15 Eagle, learning to perform a ‘no-flap’ landing, which would simulate the Nighthawk’s handling dynamics during approaches and landings.
After passing muster, the candidates were handed the figurative keys to the F-117 and were allowed to fly for the first time. Upon their first solo in the Nighthawk, each pilot was assigned a number and were officially awarded the title “Bandit.” As no Nighthawk was ever built with a twin cockpit, instructors flew near their candidates in chase planes while maintaining constant radio contact. After further nighttime and daytime training missions which qualified pilots to operate their jets in adverse conditions, a battery of tests and evaluations followed.
By this time, the class was severely depleted in size – the starting quantity of candidates diminished over time either because pilots opted out of the program, or were dropped by evaluators and instructors just because they weren’t good enough to fly this next-level aircraft. If the candidate was successful in his very last round of testing, he would be sent for further training to become combat qualified and would be initiated as a permanent member of the Nighthawk community.
Pilots were then sent to an operational squadron, where they would go on to fly daring missions in extreme secrecy around the world, from Panama to Yugoslavia, and onward to Afghanistan and even Iraq. The Nighthawk has since been retired from service, having been replaced by the F-22 in its role as a stealth attack jet, though the Bandit number has been permanently capped at 558, forever sealing the status of these pilots as some of the most elite military aviators in history.