Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache - We Are The Mighty
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Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache

The Boeing AH-64 Apache Attack Helicopter is one of the deadliest aircraft on the modern battlefield. Like the fierce warriors of the Native American Apache Tribe for which it’s named, the helicopter strikes quick and strikes hard. However, the AH-64 is not the first American aircraft to bear the Apache name.

In February 1942, the North American Mustang Mk. I was introduced to Britain’s RAF as a low-altitude reconnaissance and ground-support aircraft. When the Lend-Lease contract with Britain ran out of funds, 93 Mustangs were passed to the U.S. Army Air Force. North American Aviation President Howard Kindelberger pressed the USAAF for a fighter contract to build more Mustangs, given the American designation P-51. However, no funds were available for new fighter contracts in fiscal year 1942. There were, however, funds available for an attack aircraft.

Seeing the potential of the P-51 as a fighter and wanting to keep the airframe in production, General Oliver P. Echols issued specifications to turn it into a bomber. By adding bomb racks, dive brakes and a heavier-duty wing, the P-51 was converted into the A-36A. Given the official name Apache, 500 A-36As were ordered from North American in an April 1942 contract. Just five months later, the first Apache rolled out of the NAA Inglewood plant and underwent its first test flight in October.

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache
The NAA Inglewood production line c. October 1942 (Library of Congress)

The A-36A was equipped with two .50 cal M2 Browning machine guns in its nose and four more in its wings. With its two underwing hardpoints, the Apache could also carry up to 1,000 pounds of bombs. Unlike the P-51 fighter it was derived from, the A-36A was never upgraded with the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine. Rather, it retained its Allison V-12 engine. However, the USAAF envisaged an operating altitude below 12,000 feet for the Apache, so the high-altitude performance of the Merlin engine was not deemed necessary.

The first Apaches were deployed in early 1943. They flew in North Africa and during the Allied invasion of Sicily. With its dive brakes, the A-36A was an effective ground attack aircraft. After the Sicilian campaign, Apache squadrons were heavily employed to mop up enemy gun positions in close support of advancing Allied forces. It was during this time that the 27th Fighter-Bomber Group petitioned to change the A-36A’s name to Invader. Although the name was never formally changed, the 27th FBG unofficially nicknamed the A-36A the Invader. Interestingly, most combat reports used neither Apache nor Invader. Rather, the A-36A was often referred to in reports as a Mustang. Author Williams Hess claims that the Germans called A-36As, “screaming helldivers.”

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache
An A-36A Apache of the 86th Bombardment Group (Dive) (U.S. Air Force)

Although it was modified into a ground attacker, the Apache retained some of the dogfighting ability of the P-51 it was derived from. In fact, the aircraft accumulated a total of 84 aerial kills. There was even an Apache ace, Lt. Michael T. Russo of the 27th FBG. However, by June 1944, the Apaches in Europe were replaced by Curtiss P-40 Warhawks and Republic P-47 Thunderbolts.

The Apache also saw combat with the 311th Fighter-Bomber Group in the China-Burma-India theater. However, it was at a major disadvantage against the Japanese Nakajima Ki-43 Oscar. The Oscar was lighter and more maneuverable than the Apache at all altitudes. Moreover, the Apaches often flew long-range missions at high altitude over the Himalayas where the Allison engine was far below peak performance. As a result, the Apaches suffered heavy losses against the Japanese with no kills to claim.

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache
A-36A “Margie H” on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force (U.S. Air Force)

The Apaches served until the end of the war with some retained in the US as training aircraft. Despite its relative obscurity compared to other WWII aircraft, the A-36A played a major role in the Allied victory, especially in the Mediterranean theater. Very few Apaches survived the postwar scrapping of obsolete aircraft. Today, two airworthy A-36As are privately owned along with one static display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.

Featured image: One RAF A-36A was delivered. Note the bomb racks and slatted dive brakes (RAF)

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This knife-wielding Gurkha rushed four enemy foxholes and a bunker to save his unit

The problem the Japanese had in Burma during World War II wasn’t just dense jungle and rough terrain. It wasn’t even just that they were fighting the British Empire’s best – the Gurkhas.


No, their main problem is that they were fighting in the Gurkhas’ backyard. They were in Bhanbhagta Gurung’s backyard.

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache
It just seems like a bad idea. Gurung looks like he’s begging you to try something.

In February 1945, the 2nd Gurkha Rifles was part of a greater offensive in Burma, one that sought to retake Mandalay. The elite Nepalese warriors were to fight the enemy in diversion tactics, drawing attention away from their Army’s main objective. The Gurkhas held two positions — known as Snowdon and Snowdon East. One night, the Japanese stormed Snowdon East in full force, killing many of its defenders and pushing the rest out.

By the next day, it was heavily fortified.

The Gurkhas were ordered to take it back, no matter how many men it cost them.

As they approached, the Nepalese warriors started taking intense fire from snipers, mortars, grenades, and machine guns. They were sitting ducks, and there was nothing they could do about it. Rifleman Bhanbhagta Gurung stood up in the melee – fully exposed – and calmly just shot the sniper with his service rifle.

The 2nd Rifles began to advance again but were stopped 20 yards short of Snowdon East by murderous fire. Some of his fellow riflemen were killed before the attack could even begin. That’s when Gurung sprinted into action. This time, he literally sprinted.

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache
An unknown Gurkha soldier charges an enemy position in WWII Burma.

Also: How the Gurkha warriors of Nepal became so feared

Acting alone, he rushed four foxholes, dodging gunfire at point-blank range. When he came to the first, he just dropped in two grenades as he rushed to the next enemy position. When he got to the second foxhole, he jumped in and bayoneted its Japanese defenders. He did the same rushing move on the next two foxholes.

This entire time, he was dodging bullets from a Japanese light machine gun in a bunker. The gun was still spitting bullets, holding up the advance of two platoons of Gurkha fighters. Gurung, despite realizing he was out of ammunition and frag grenades, rushed the bunker, and slipped in two smoke grenades.

When two partially-blinded defenders came out of the bunker, Gurung killed them with his kukri knife, the entered the bunker and gave the machine gunner the same fate.

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache
A gurkha moves on an enemy position using his kukri knife in WWII.

Also Read: The Gurkha kukri is designed for absolute devastation

A position that took dozens of Japanese infantry to storm and reinforce had fallen to one fleet-footed Gurkha and his kukri knife in a matter of minutes, saving the men of his platoon and another from storming the heavily-fortified position.

King George VI presented Bhanbhagta Gurung with the Victoria Cross at Buckingham Palace in October 1945. According to the Telegraph, Gurung left the service to take care of his widowed mother and wife in Nepal. His three sons also served in the 2nd Gurkha Rifles.

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache

Gurung died in Nepal in 2008 at 87.

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The US military’s 2017 New Years Resolutions

We all have a few things we need to work on. The U.S. military is no different. A new year is a new beginning, especially with a new Commander-in-Chief in control. It’s time to finally get around to doing all those things we said we were gonna do.


If sequestration is the household equivalent of cleaning out the garage, those old paint cans aren’t gonna move themselves. Here are some more of the military’s 2017 New Years resolutions.

1. Get in shape.

Ah fitness…the eternal struggle…as many of us veterans (whose old uniforms don’t fit as well as they used to) know.

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache
(20th Century Fox)

In 2016, an Associated Press piece asked if U.S. troops were “too fat to fight,” thanks to a study by the Army research center. The VA is addressing the issue with a standardized weight management program going into place at VA centers across America.

The Army is instituting a Combat Arms fitness test, as well as a fitness test for those changing their MOS. The Marines can now retake PFTs as much as they want while the Air Force re-measured their running tracks.

The bottom line is the military asks a lot of its troops, and physical fitness is a huge factor in readiness. Time to get get them gains..

2. Get our financial situation together.

There’s a new sheriff in town. And he’s not paying for a new Air Force One.

First Boeing, then Lockheed received the brunt of the Donald’s ire. Someone apparently told him about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s price tag, because that was his next defense contractor target on Twitter.

The military is going to have to play with the toys they have or hope the military-industrial complex bows to the incoming President’s demands.

3. Work on our relationships.

Let’s be honest. In the last few years, we have not been as good to our allies as we could have.

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache
She’s not celebrating her shoulder rub.

Nor have we been all that upfront with our competition.

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache
Watch the world’s two most powerful men chat like they’re waiting for the bus. (Kremlin photo)

We can do better. We just have to be ourselves — the shining example to the rest of the world that we know we can be. That doesn’t mean we have to wear our heart on our sleeve. We’re the United States. Our military wears their heart on our sleeve.

From the very top of the chain of command to the very bottom, we need to be more upfront and less touchy-feely.

4. Finally finish our education.

We have one more history class before we can finally finish up that degree. Now…time to learn about this “graveyard of empires” we heard so much about…

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache
A 120 mm mortar round flies out of the tube as U.S. Army soldiers take cover at Observation Post Mustang in eastern Afghanistan’s Kunar province on Jan. 26, 2016. (U.S. Army photo)

It doesn’t need to be a literal graveyard, after all.

5. Spend more time with family.

Because together everyone achieves more!

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache
Members of 3rd Platoon, Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment, 172nd Infantry Brigade, work at dislodging their M-777 155mm howitzer from the three-foot deep hole it dug its spades into after firing several rocket-assisted projectiles. The huge weapon weighs 9,000 pounds and can launch projectiles over 30 kilometers. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ken Scar)

Heavy deployment tempos, long tours, short tours, or just intense work schedules (especially at a less-than-ideal assignment) places a heavy burden on service members and their loved ones. Let’s focus on that in 2017 and keep in touch, even if it’s just via Skype.

Also, there are just some things your military buddies will do that your civilian BFFs won’t. It’s important to maintain those relationships.

6. Drink less.

Let’s be honest, unless we’re talking about Rip-Its, cutting down on booze is probably the first resolution out the window, but after alcohol related events (like that time Japan imposed prohibition on all U.S. sailors), it might be time to consider looking at our drinking habits.

Then again, Rip-Its are the unofficial fuel of the U.S. military, so that’s probably out too.

 

Long live Rip-Its.

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Navy adds new regulation after ‘Marines United’ cyber bullying scandal

Acting Secretary of the Navy Sean Stackley has just issued a new regulation that now gives the Navy’s Judge Advocate General Corps a new weapon to use against those who post private nude photos.


Related: The 5 military laws that nearly everyone breaks

According to a report in the Navy Times, Article 1168 has been added to Navy Regulations, prohibiting the “wrongful distribution or broadcasting of an intimate image.” The addition of this regulation means that Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice can be brought into play against the next “Marines United” scandal participants.

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache
(U.S. Navy photo)

“The addition of Article 1168 ‘Nonconsensual distribution or broadcasting of an image’ to Navy Regulations serves to underscore leadership’s commitment to eliminating degrading behaviors that erode trust and weaken the Navy and Marine Corps Team,” Rear Adm. Dawn Cutler, the Navy’s chief of information, said in a statement quoted by the Navy Times. “It provides commanders another tool to maintain good order and discipline by holding Sailors and Marines accountable for inappropriate conduct in the nonconsensual sharing of intimate imagery.”

“This article adds the potential charge of Article 92 ‘Failure to obey [an] order or regulation’ to the possible charges that can be used against an alleged perpetrator. Each case of alleged misconduct will be evaluated on its own facts and circumstances,” Cutler added.

According to an ALNAV message sent out on April 17, the addition of Article 1168 is an “interim change” pending formal amendment to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache
Photo: Marine Corps Sgt. Rebekka Heite

Article 92 of the UCMJ makes it illegal to disobey a lawful order. Violators of that who fail to follow any “lawful general order or regulation” are to be “punished as a court-martial may direct.”

Also read: 6 weird laws unique to the US military

Previously, the Marines had been relying on Articles 133 and 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, according to a March 5 release by the Marine Corps. Article 120c was also seen as a possible option in some cases.

Articles 133 and 134 are seen as “catch-all” provisions for “conduct unbecoming.” According to the UCMJ, violations of Article 133 “shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.” Violations of Article 134 are to be “punished at the discretion of that court” while taking into consideration “according to the nature and degree of the offense.”

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11 reactions to seeing your relief show up after a long watch

Standing watch is important but could feel like a complete time suck for sailors. Here are 11 reactions sailors have when standing duty:


1. When you see your name twice on the watch bill back-to-back.

2. Not all watches are bad. Sometimes they feel like a break.

3. Watch turns into “relief lookout” 30 minutes away from your scheduled end time.

4. When you confirm the approaching sailor is your relief.

5. Calm down gung ho sailor. He didn’t get to his watch early by choice.

6. Standing an easy “balls to eight” watch (midnight to 8:00 AM) on a Friday morning feels like a three-day weekend for sailors that are not deployed.

*Sailors who work before having a watch during this time slot typically have the rest of the day off to recover.

7.  Here’s the typical reaction to the end of a balls to eight watch during the week.

8. When everything goes according to schedule.

9. When your relief doesn’t show up on time.

10. How you feel when your relief finally shows up after being late.

11. When you fly under the radar.

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache

NOW: 5 differences between the Navy and the Coast Guard

OR: The 11 stages of leaving the Navy

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The 13 funniest military memes of the week of Aug. 26

We search through page after page of funny military memes so that you can just check in every week and see the 13 funniest.


You’re welcome.

1. Everyone knows the “choke yourself” scene is coming up next, right?

(via Dysfunctional Veterans)

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache
It may go a little differently this time.

2. Coast Guardsmen are masters of puddles from the surface to the greatest depths (via Military Memes).

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache
Even if those depths are too shallow for the buoy to actually be over the diver.

3. The candy isn’t worth it and the cake is a lie (via Military Memes).

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache
Don’t do it!

SEE ALSO: Pentagon considers lifetime access to Exchange for vets

4. Worst way to start an NCOER:

(via Humor During Deployment)

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache

5. “Your wedding photos had a fake T-Rex? Ours had actual operators.”

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache
Sort of makes the groom look underwhelming, though.

6. Notice that the Jetsons wore Flintstone-style clothing? That Marine-uniform envy is real (via Pop Smoke).

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache
Marine Corps: Worst gear, best clothes.

7. A-10 musicals are my favorite soundtracks (via Pop Smoke).

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache

8. “Then you’ll see! Then you’ll all see!”

(via Sh*t my LPO says)

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache
Except they won’t see, because you’ll be in the chief’s mess and they’ll still be out without you.

9. “But if you can run 5 kilometers so fast, why did you use an Uber to get to the hotel?”

(via The Salty Soldier)

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache
How many incentive days off do you think an Olympian gets for a silver medal? Bet he had duty the very next weekend.

10. The only Pokemon I was ever interested in:

(via Sh*t my LPO says)

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache
That’s a lie. I loved dragons as a kid and played the game solely to raise a Charmander to Charizard.

11. The green stop sign is a pretty useful tool of chaos:

(via The Salty Soldier)

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache
It’s usually employed by Blue Falcons.

12. It’s more alarming but also funnier when you realize that this kid is a firefighter on base:

(via Team Non-Rec)

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache

13. “This street looks familiar.”

(via Sh*t my LPO says)

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache
Would’ve thought a Navy career would have more water. And booze.

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This is the history behind the Navy’s ‘dixie cup’

The Navy’s famous “dixie cup” is one of the most iconic symbols worn in the military today. You can spot a sailor from a mile away who’s wearing the traditional white cover.


Historically speaking, the familiar headgear wasn’t the first worn by the brave men and women who man their battle stations.

According to the Blue Jacket manual, so-called “flat hats” were first authorized in 1852 and became the standard cover for sailors throughout the American Civil War.

Related: This is why some Marines wear the ‘French Fourragere,’ and some don’t

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache
These two sailors wearing the classic flat hats and enjoying cigars were assigned to the destroyer USS McDougal during the Great War in 1918. (Source: Robert F. Dorr Collection photo)

The flat hats were made from dark blue wool and commonly featured an embroidered headband of the ship name the sailor belonged to on the front of the brim. Reportedly, that feature ended in January 1941 to make it harder for adversaries to learn the what U.S. ships were in port. The ship’s names were replaced with a U.S. Navy embroidery instead.

In 1866, a white sennet straw hat was authorized to be worn during the summer months to help shield the hardworking sailors from the bright sunlight.

But it wasn’t until 1886 where a high-domed, low rolled brim made of wedge-shaped pieces of canvas was written into uniform regulation.

Also Read: This is why some sailors wear gold stripes, and some wear red

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache
Chief Boatswain’s Mate Keith Oliver (left) evaluates his sailors during a service dress blues uniform inspection. (Source Wikipedia Commons)

Eventually, the canvas material was replaced by a cheaper, more comfortable cotton. This option became popular with the sailors who wore them as they could bend the cover to reflect their individual personality — and still be within regs.

It’s unclear exactly when the term “dixie cup” was coined, but since the popular paper product made its public debut in the early 1900s, it’s likely that’s when the term was coined.

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7 surprising facts you probably don’t know about the US Army

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache
Photo Credit: US Army


1. The Army is older than the country it serves.

Americans celebrate the birth of their nation as July 4, 1776, but the Army is actually the country’s “big brother.” Which makes sense, considering the Continental Army of 1775 — led by future President George Washington — needed to start beating the British in the colonies so Thomas Jefferson could finally get some time to write.

Before the Army was established, colonists were organized into rag-tag militias with no real structure or unified chain-of-command. But in the spring of 1775, most wanted to attack the British near Boston but knew they needed more structure to confront the professional soldiers on the other side. That’s where the official birth of the Army came in, on June 14, 1775, through a resolution from the Continental Congress.

The next day, George Washington was appointed as commander-in-chief of the new Army, and took command of his troops in Boston on July 3, 1775, according to the Army History Division.

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache

2. If the U.S. Army were a city, it would be the tenth-largest in the United States.

There are just over one million soldiers currently serving in the Army. Just about half of that number is on active-duty and serving full-time, while the rest make up the reserve components of National Guard and Army Reserve. To put it in perspective, a city filled with soldiers would have more people in it than San Jose, California, Austin, Texas, Jacksonville, Florida, and San Francisco, California.

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache
Photo: Capt. Charlie Emmons/US Army

3. It is also the second-largest employer.

With 2.2 million people on the payroll, Walmart is America’s largest employer. But the Army maintains the second spot with more than one million active-duty and reserve soldiers. While budget cuts are going to bring the number of soldiers in uniform down substantially in 2015 to about 1,042,200, the Army still beats the next-largest employer of Yum! Brands, which has 523,000 total employees.

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael Holzworth

4. Specialist is the most-prevalent rank among soldiers — by far.

There’s a reason many soldiers joke about the existence of an “E-4 Mafia.” That’s because if you want anything done in the Army, you’ll probably need a Specialist (or three) to get it done. Across active-duty and reserve ranks in 2015, there are 264,890 specialists, making up more than one-quarter of the U.S. Army.

Though the Army used to have Specialist ranks that had grades from Spec-4 to Spec-9, it eliminated that system in 1985, setting aside Specialist-4 as a junior-enlisted rank called just “Specialist” from then on. Unlike Corporals who are also E-4s, the Specialist rank isn’t considered a non-commissioned officer, which is probably why some are very good at earning their “sham shield.” 

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache

5. The service burns through nearly one billion gallons of fuel every year.

Just like any other large organization that needs energy to sustain operations, the Army needs fuel. A lot of fuel. A 2011 Army fact sheet estimated the Army used over 22 gallons every day, per soldier — much more than only one gallon required per soldier during World War II.

A 2008 Army report said the service purchased approximately 880 million gallons of fuel for mobility operations. The report is a little dated though, and the Army has been working hard to bring down its energy usage — along with the rest of the DoD — citing a reliance on fossil fuels as a major national security risk and logistical problem for troops in the field.

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

6. Among U.S. Presidents with military service, most served in the Army.

Of the 44 men who have served as President of the United States, 31 had military service. Twenty-four of them served in the Army, or in state militias (our modern-day National Guard). Though being in the military is not a requirement for the presidency, President George Washington started a trend that saw future presidents in some cases making their name as war heroes: Theodore Roosevelt received the Medal of Honor for his famous charge up San Juan Hill, and George H.W. Bush received the Distinguished Flying Cross during World War II and barely escaped after his plane was shot down.

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache

7. The Army owns so much land that if it were a state, it would be larger than Hawaii and Massachusetts combined.

Not surprisingly, the Army has a ton of infrastructure. Soldiers serve at 158 installations around the world, and the service owns more than 15 million acres of land across the U.S., which totals up to roughly 24,000 square miles. That would make the “State of Army” larger than smaller states like Maryland, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Vermont.

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How to make yourself hard to kill, according to a special operator

Time and again in my line of work, people ask me, “What did you do to prepare?” I usually respond with some sort of reference to steel genitalia, eating large amounts of bacon, and shooting nails from my eyes. That usually wows people.


After the hilarity that is EVERY encounter with me, I give them an answer that always seems to underwhelm. “I try to be as strong as I can. All the time. I just want to be the strongest guy out there. That’s my number one goal. Then it’s cardio and mobility.”

Seriously, that’s it.

If you want, I can get into long physiological discussions about how stronger people are less taxed by the same effort expressed on an event by a weaker person. There are so many examples out there, I won’t even bother to ham-handedly try to quote them or paraphrase a saying they came up with.

Related: 4 key differences between the Green Berets and Delta Force

Do you wanna geek out and banter about the Krebs Cycle? Wanna quote grip strength tests designed by dudes that don’t lift trying to extrapolate the best anaerobic exercise for slow twitch muscle fiber performance? Well, tough crap, I am not that good. The point is this — I can stomp on the ground and scream until I am blue in the face, but it doesn’t matter. I can only tell you what I have seen, and what I think works.

The fact of the matter is this: the stronger man nearly always wins. This isn’t story time, and Goliath wins in real life kids. The freakishly strong 30-year-old whips the young buck more frequently than he doesn’t. The underdog is a great story — but there is a reason why he is the underdog. It’s cause no one thinks he can win, and he most likely won’t. Think Vision Quest:  could Louden Swain really beat Shute? Uh, hell no. That dude carried logs up and down steps like, all day, like a damn boss. Plus, Shute looked like he was about 195 pounds as a high school wrestler, and Matthew Modine’s character dropped to 168 pounds to fight him… sorry, I digress.

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache
U.S. Army Capt. Jason Parsons, a Medical Activity pharmacist assigned to Fort Jackson, lifts a weighted trap bar during the Urban Assault Course at the Best Ranger Competition 2016 on Ft. Benning, Ga., April 15, 2016. The 33rd annual David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition 2016 is a three-day event consisting of challenges that test competitors’ physical, mental, and technical capabilities. (U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Kohl)

After covering what I do to prepare, the conversation progresses. Next comes, “What is the typical military member/SOF Operator?” Well, I can’t tell you that. I’ve seen huge, jacked, 225-pound football players quit, cry, and fail. I have seen un-athletic, uncoordinated 155-pound 18-year-olds dig deep and carry those 225-pound guys. There is a single commonality amongst all those that make it, compared to those that don’t, strictly physically speaking. That commonality is strength.

Across the board, the men and women that pass tough selections and outperform their peers in the military are simply stronger than their peers. I did not say “bigger,” I said stronger. Stronger in all tasks, globally stronger. Can you throw on one-third of your bodyweight in armor and gear and carry your friend 400m at a dead sprint? No? Well then, Turbo, I don’t care what your marathon time is.

“Well, fine then. Describe your ideal team mate” is usually what follows next. Which is weird, that people want me to talk about my dream teammate, which is a guy.

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache
A group U.S. Army Ranger students, assigned to the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade, carries a zodiac boat to a a river to be able to disembark a mission on Camp Rudder, Eglin Air Force Base, Fl., July 7, 2016. The Florida Phase of Ranger School is the third and final phase that these Ranger students must complete to earn the coveted Ranger Tab. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Austin Berner)

Anyway, give me a 180-200-pound guy that can squat, deadlift, press, clean, and snatch close to the “accepted” standards for athletic performance. Add in cardio to his regimen — sprints, preferably. Every once in a while, with safety in mind, force him to work longer than 40 minutes. It should be taxing. Every single gym session works him toward a common goal — mobility, flexibility, strength, power, explosiveness, and injury prevention. If any workout doesn’t directly benefit (without excluding) those tenets, then don’t do it. Strength is priority numeral uno. Cardiovascular/cardiorespiratory conditioning is second, tied with mobility and injury prevention. Everything else — aesthetics, fad training ideas, things you read in muscle and fitness about your abs- throw them away. Let’s not get cute until we are in the top 10 percent of our weight class.

In the current fitness enthusiast world we find ourselves today, I almost always get the following retort next: “BUTBUTBUT what about functional strength? Big guys aren’t the only useful ones. Who cares how much I can lift in the gym real life is where you need it, I have mad cardio and sick abzzzz blah blah blah.”

I will put this as plainly as I can. Being globally stronger, stronger as a whole person, will translate to “functional capability”. I could not give a rat’s ass if a teammate of mine can’t do a nifty “fitness trick” like a double under, or a handstand pushup, or a muscle up. Why would I? Can you give me a real life task where a double under directly translates? Let me head you off here — we took care of “cardio” already. Double-unders are a barely useful parlor trick.

Related: 5 key differences between Delta Force and SEAL Team 6

If you cannot pick me up wearing my kit and all my gear — I weigh 260 pounds loaded down — then you are useless, and you don’t get a spot. Sorry, but this is real life. You don’t get to scale real life. I don’t care if you can take half of your bodyweight and move it from ground to overhead 30 times reeeeaaaaallly fast. How fast can you lift 140 percent of your bodyweight to your shoulder and run 100 meters to cover? Oh, you can’t? Then stop with all the “functional fitness” crap to support your point as it applies to the SOF environment. Or produce the science and vetted studies to back up your point. Pro tip — those studies don’t exist.

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache
Workout with a buddy, but don’t actually carry them unless you are taking turns. Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michelle Kapica

I want to break this down to brass tacks. In my experience, both in the military and the SOF community, stronger people really are harder to kill. I can tell you from first hand experience, and from second and third hand experience. If you focus 80 percent of your energy to making yourself as strong as you can be, you will be more useful, around for longer, and more likely to be a success in this small focus group.

I liken it to fighting — good fighters want to be stronger later in the fight. Ask an experienced fighter how it is to fight someone that is truly stronger than they are. It is unnerving. Better fighters do this with strength training.

In the end, I always use this analogy:  “You can always dig deep and find bigger lungs. In the fight, in the heat of the moment, a true warrior can find a couple more steps, another sprint. That’s going to be there. But strength? You can’t just find a 100-pound PR when you need it. If you can’t lift 280 pounds off the ground and you need to move 350 — well, get as amped up as you would like. Your double unders aren’t going to help you now.”

And if you train to be able to run away, to simply exist as opposed to being strong enough to finish the fight, well, then run away is all you got. And that’s not the business we are in.

-Aaron

The author of this article is an active duty special operator.  We are protecting his identity by only using his first name.  This article first appeared in The Havok Journal on 26MAR14.

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The American Legion just elected its first female national commander

A retired University of Wisconsin administrator was elected national commander of the nation’s largest veterans organization today during The American Legion’s 99th national convention.


Denise H. Rohan, a Vietnam-era veteran of the US Army, is the first woman to be elected to the top position of the 2 million member American Legion.

“Women were allowed to vote for national commander of The American Legion back in 1919, before they could vote for the president of the United States,” Rohan said. “The American Legion has always believed that a veteran is a veteran regardless of gender, race, or religion. If I can offer a different perspective than other Legionnaires, that’s great. But I am excited to build on the great programs, dedicated service and proud legacy of the many Legionnaires who came before me.”

Rohan has served The American Legion since 1984. While commander of Post 333 in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, she established Sons of the American Legion Squadron 333 and chartered Boy Scout Troop 333. She has also served as the department (state) commander of the Wisconsin American Legion.

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache
Denise H. Rohan. Image from American Legion.

She was employed with the University of Wisconsin Madison as the assistant bursar of student loans until her retirement in 2012. She managed the University of Wisconsin Madison, University of Wisconsin Green Bay, and University of Wisconsin Colleges’ $120 million loan portfolio made up of approximately 200 different federal, institutional and state programs in compliance with all laws, regulations, and policy.

Rohan was responsible for the efficiency and design of the computerized student loan accounts-receivable system.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This bomber made the B-52 look puny

The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress has the nickname “Big Ugly Fat F***er” — or just the BUFF — but is it the biggest bomber that ever served? Believe it or not, that answer is, “No.”


There was a much bigger bomber in the fleet — and while it never dropped a bomb in anger, it was the backbone of Strategic Air Command in its early years. That plane was the Convair B-36 Peacemaker.

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache
A prototype B-52 next to a B-36 Peacemaker. (U.S. Air Force photo)

 

The Peacemaker was immense, according to a fact sheet from the National Museum of the Air Force: Its wingspan was 230 feet (compared to 185 feet for a B-52), the B-36 was 162 feet long (compared to just over 159 feet for the B-52), and it could carry up to 86,000 pounds of bombs, according to aviation historian Joe Baugher. The B-52’s maximum bomb load is 70,000 pounds, per an Air Force fact sheet.

How did you get such an immense craft off the ground? Very carefully.

The B-36 had six Pratt and Whitney R-4360 engines in a pusher configuration and four General Electric J47 jet engines. These were able to lift a fully-loaded B-36 off the ground and propel it to a top speed of 435 miles per hour.

 

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache
The immense scale of the B-36 is apparent by looking at the one on exhibit at the National Museum of the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Depending on the model, the B-36 had up to 16 20mm cannon in twin turrets. The B-36 entered service in 1948 – and it gave SAC 11 years of superb service, being replaced by the B-52. Five planes survive, all of which are on display.

Below, this clip from the 1955 movie “Strategic Air Command” shows how this plane took flight. Jimmy Stewart plays a major league baseball player called back into Air Force service (Stewart was famously a bomber pilot who saw action in World War II and the Vietnam War).

Also recognizable in this clip is the flight engineer, played by Harry Morgan, famous for playing Sherman Potter on “MASH” and as Detective Rich Gannon in the 1960s edition of “Dragnet.”

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First female Marines apply to MARSOC

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache
Maricela Veliz | U.S. Marine Corps


Just weeks after previously closed military ground combat and special operations jobs were declared open to women, the Marine Corps’ special operations command has had its first female applicants.

Maj. Gen. Joseph Osterman, commanding general of MARSOC, told Military.com the command has already received several requests from female Marines to enter the assessment and selection pipeline to become a critical skills operator. While Osterman could not specify how many women had applied, he said the first female applicant surfaced only days after the Jan. 4 deadline Defense Secretary Ash Carter set for new jobs to open.

“The very first week of January … we had one female applicant on the West Coast,” Osterman said. “Unfortunately, there was something in the prerequisite stuff she didn’t have, a [general technical] score or something. It was, ‘get re-tested and come on back,’ that kind of thing.”

Osterman said MARSOC is actively soliciting and recruiting qualified female Marines to join the command’s ranks. The command does not have, as Osterman put it, a “street to fleet” recruiting program; rather, it recruits from within the ranks of the Marine Corps.

To qualify for MARSOC critical skills operator assessment and selection, a Marine must be a seasoned corporal or a sergeant, or a first lieutenant or captain. The Marine must also have a minimum GT score of 105 and a minimum physical fitness test score of 225 out of 300, and be able to pass a command swim assessment and meet medical screening criteria.

“We’ve actively identified all the females in the Marine Corps writ large who meet all the prerequisites just like with our normal screening teams,” Osterman said. “We’ve notified or contacted every one of them and let them know, ‘it’s open, you’re eligible.'”

MARSOC submitted its broad implementation plan to the Secretary of Defense at the beginning of January after receiving input from the Marine Corps and U.S. Special Operations Command, Osterman said. In terms of training and job skills, he said, the command does have an advantage over the Marine Corps in that there were already clear gender-neutral physical standards in place for critical skills operators, while the Corps has only recently created such standards for infantry jobs.

MARSOC’s training pipeline is notoriously grueling. After a three-week initial assessment and selection period that tests physical fitness and a range of other aptitudes, Marines enter a second, 19-day assessment and selection training phase. Applicants who make it through both AS phases can then begin a nine-month individual training course that covers survival, evasion, resistance and escape [SERE], special reconnaissance, close urban combat, irregular warfare and many other skill sets.

Osterman said Wednesday that 40 percent of Marines who enter the MARSOC pipeline go on to become critical skills operators.

“When [Marines] go into assessment and screening, it’s a very holistic psychological profile. It’s swim, it’s physical fitness, but we don’t even count the PFT as part of the evaluation. It’s much more comprehensive than that,” Osterman said. “It’s a pretty sophisticated standardization system which is nice in that, again, we already had this and it’s gender-neutral already.”

MARSOC is also making plans to prepare its leadership for the advent of female trainees and operators, Osterman said.

A December study by the Rand Corporation found that 85 percent of 7,600 surveyed operators within all of SOCOM opposed the idea of serving alongside female counterparts. Many cited fears that female operators would harm combat effectiveness and provide a distraction down range.

Acknowledging the study, Osterman said he planned to hold a town hall meeting for MARSOC leadership to discuss the implementation of Carter’s gender integration mandate and to discuss thoughts and concerns.

“The tone and tenor from my perspective is, the concern was mostly about standards,” Osterman said of the Rand report. “Our standards are as they’ve always been and we’re not changing them.”

On a personal note, Osterman said he could see benefits to having female operators downrange.

“There are things that women can do, as I’ve seen many times in Afghanistan and Iraq, where there’s a lot of value added in the combined arms kind of approach,” he said.

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Here is how a war between the United States and Iran could start

The recent incident involving the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72) and an Iranian speedboat is a reminder that the South China Sea is not the world’s only maritime flashpoint.


The Persian Gulf is such a hot spot as well — mostly with the many instances where Iranian vessels have harassed American ships, with the closest encounter being within 150 yards. When you are talking about ships weighing thousands of tons, that is getting awfully close. Ships cannot turn and stop on a dime. As a result, an incident like the one involving USS Mahan could very well touch off a war.

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache
The Flight II Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72). (U.S. Navy photo)

How so?

First there’s the risk of the warning shots actually hitting the incoming vessel.

There’s also the possibility that a suicide speedboat will hit an American ship. The October 2000 attack on the destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) took place in port with a small fiberglass boat.

Iran’s “fast attack craft” that have a history of harassing American ships are, in some cases, larger, and pack heavy machine guns and rocket launchers. Those incidents have also produced warnings of a “tactical miscalculation” that could lead to an armed conflict.

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache
Iranian fast-attack boats during a naval exercise in 2015. (Wikimedia photo by Sayyed Shahaboddin Vajedi)

Something like the Boghammer, which became notorious for its attacks on tankers in the Iran-Iraq War, displaces about six and a half tons. It has a top speed of 45 knots (or nautical miles per hour). When these speedboats get within 1,000 yards, they are less than half a knot away — and at top speed, an American ship could have as little as 40 seconds to react. A Boghammer could easily carry a murder-suicide bomb similar to that used to attack the Cole.

The damage one of those boats can do is best reflected in the Cole attack. Only this time the damage would be suffered while at sea, not while refueling in a port where assistance is readily available. It cost $250 million to repair the Cole, which was out of action for 14 months, according to MaritimeTerrorism.com.

Before the attack helicopter, this WWII plane was named the Apache
USS Cole (DDG 67) is towed from Aden by the tug USNS Catawba (ATF 168). (U.S. Navy photo)

Understandably, an American ship commander would be very nervous about the possibility of such an attack.

All it would take would be one commander deciding that the Iranian “fast attack craft” posed a threat to his ship; defensively sinking the craft could kick off Iranian retaliation. American and Iranian forces would start exchanging fire in small naval and air actions. The United States would probably win most of those — albeit in some cases, there might be damage to ships or aircraft.

Iran, though, would likely start launching ballistic missiles at Israel, trying to use the same gambit Saddam Hussein did in 1991.

The Iranian-American War would then be on in earnest.

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