A U.S. Marine was killed in a freak accident on August 4 after a tree fell on him during physical training at his California base.
Lance Cpl. Cody Haley, 20, was working out in a wooded area at Camp Pendleton with members of his unit when the incident took place. While on a run, the Marines tried to move a log they were unaware was holding up a dead tree, which fell on top of Haley and killed him, according to a source familiar with the matter.
A native of Hardin, Iowa, Haley had deployed in 2016 with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit. He was awarded the National Defense Service medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service medal, and the Sea Service Deployment ribbon, the Marine Corps said.
“We are heartbroken at the tragic loss of a member of the Marine Corps family, and we will do all we can to comfort the family, friends and colleagues of the deceased,” the Corps said in a news release to the Marine Times.
Robert O’Neill ate a last meal with his children and then hugged them goodbye — “most likely forever,” he privately thought.
Even his wife didn’t know where he was going.
On May 2, 2011, two helicopters touched down, one crash-landing, under the cover of darkness within an al Qaeda compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The 23-strong team entered a house and crept up the stairs.
A SEAL in front of O’Neill went along a hallway to provide cover, he recalled. When O’Neill entered the bedroom, he saw a man — bearded, tall, and gaunt — standing there.
“I knew it was him immediately,” he said. “He was taller than I imagined.”
O’Neill, a senior chief petty officer in the US Navy SEALs, aimed his rifle and fired twice, he said, hitting the 6-foot-5 figure in the head both times. Osama Bin Laden collapsed. O’Neill shot him again.
Despite his training, which taught him to immediately start gathering intel, O’Neill said he was momentarily dazed by the magnitude of what he had just done.
On July 26, the retired SEAL, in the midst of a lecture series to publicize his memoir, “The Operator,” will come to the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda to speak about his life and how his experiences can translate to the lives of others.
And, for the first time ever, the gear he wore the night he hunted down bin Laden — boots, helmet, bullet-proof vest, all in desert-camouflage — is on public display, until the end of July.
Navy SEALs in desert camouflage. (U.S. Navy photo)
“This will probably be our biggest event of the year,” said Joe Lopez, spokesman for the non-profit Nixon Foundation.
How did the Nixon pull off the coup before any other museum?
“They asked,” O’Neill, 41, said this week. “They asked, and I said, ‘Why not?'”
Hours after the raid, when then-President Barack Obama announced from the White House that Special Forces had killed bin Laden and that “his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity,” Americans erupted in celebration.
The details of the mission were classified. Retaliation, if members of SEAL Team 6 became known, was possible. Secrecy was paramount.
The initial excitement he felt over firing the kill shots, he said, eventually waned as his name spread through the military community and Washington, D.C.
“The secret was poorly kept,” O’Neill said. “And my name got leaked.”
So in November 2014, O’Neill fully came out and said he indeed was the shooter.
Some fellow SEALs were irked at O’Neill’s position under the spotlight. Several, anonymously, have accused him of breaking the military code by seeking glory or even lying about being the one who killed bin Laden.
The US government won’t confirm the shooter’s identity.
“I don’t really care,” O’Neill said. “I was with the team. The tactics got me to the spot. I just fired the shots. There’s no doubt it was me.”
“The Operator: Firing the Shots that Killed Osama bin Laden and My Years as a SEAL Team Warrior” came out in April. The book, O’Neill said, is about success — how “a guy from Butte, Montana, who didn’t know how to swim, became a Navy SEAL.”
And how that guy, who had never envisioned a career in the military, spent 16 years in uniform because of a breakup with a girlfriend.
“I wanted to leave town so I signed up for the Navy,” he said. “That’s part of the book. Don’t just sit there and sulk. Do something.”
O’Neill went on 400-plus missions, including the 2009 rescue of Capt. Richard Phillips from Somali pirates, and the 2005 mission to save fellow SEAL Marcus Luttrell. Those rescues were turned into Tom Hanks’ film, “Captain Phillips,” and Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg’s “Lone Survivor.”
“When I discuss my missions,” the former special operator said about his appearances, “I tell them why we were good at the missions, how we worked as a team, and how and why we developed these traits.”
O’Neill, a Virginia native, has yet to visit the Nixon Library. But when approached, he quickly agreed.
“This is huge for us,” Lopez said. “We also thought it would be cool to have something he wore that night on display.”
Officials thought a boot would be good. Or maybe a glove. Perhaps, if lucky, his helmet.
Minus a T-shirt donated to New York City’s 9/11 Memorial Museum, the Nixon got to borrow everything.
“My uniform was at my dad’s house,” he said. “So I had it shipped there.”
O’Neill’s gear is mounted on a mannequin inside a glass case, flanked by American flags with a video nearby explaining his non-profit, Your Grateful Nation, which helps veterans, particularly those from the Special Forces, prepare for second careers.
The case is next to the front entrance in the lobby, opposite a wall-length portrait of the 37th president.
“He’s a hero,” said retired Air Force Maj. Terry Scheschy, of Riverside County, who fought in the Vietnam War and, last week, visited the Nixon Library. “To me, this provides a lot of value to the museum.”
Betty Kuo, 42, of Manhattan Beach, came to the Nixon with her family, including her two young children and their cousins. As she was buying tickets, the children saw the SEAL uniform and sprinted toward it.
Kuo joined them.
“It’s good to teach them that we’re safe, but we can’t take that for granted,” she said. “The military keeps us safe.”
Going into the mission, O’Neill certainly didn’t feel safe himself — he had doubts that his team would escape without harm.
“I thought the mission was one-way,” he said. “That’s why everyone was so excited after the mission. We all got out.”
When Maj. Gen. William Westmoreland took command of the 101st Airborne in 1958, he noticed a severe lack of proficiency in small-unit tactics and patrolling.
So he immediately created a school to fix the problem.
When he took command of all American forces in the Vietnam War, he once again created a school to teach long-range patrolling and small unit tactics with a Ranger-qualified cadre of instructors from the 5th Special Forces Group. To graduate from this school, you had to bet your life on it.
Dubbed “Recondo” school, Westmoreland claimed it was an amalgamation of Reconnaissance, Commando, and Doughboy. Recondo training emphasized both reconnaissance and standard infantry skills at the small unit level.
In 1960, Army Magazine described the Recondo tactics as “dedicated to the domination of certain areas of the battlefield by small aggressive roving patrols of opportunity which have not been assigned a definite reconnaissance or combat mission.” From these graduates, the 101st developed the Recondo Patrol.
This patrol type was meant to allow a Recondo to create as much havoc as possible in their area of operations. The patrol could be used against a disorganized enemy, as a screen for retrograde operations, to develop a situation or conduct a feint ahead of an advancing force, or to eliminate guerrilla activity.
It was the last ability that Recondos would put to great use in Vietnam.
The Recondo school was set up at Nha Trang and was inspired but the highly successful Long-Range Reconnaissance Patrol training conducted by detachment B-52 from 5th Special Forces. This program, known as Project Delta, was originally intended to train Special Forces and their Vietnamese counterparts in guerrilla-like ambushes.
The course became so popular that within two years over half of the students were from regular Army units. Westmoreland expanded the school to teach Recondo tactics to as many LRRPs as possible.
In order to qualify for the MACV Recondo school, participants had to be in-country at least one month and have at least six months remaining on their tour upon completion. Students also had to have a combat arms MOS and an actual or pending assignment to an LRRP unit. Finally, they had to be in excellent physical shape and be proficient in general military knowledge.
The school was open to soldiers and marines of the Free World Military Assistance Forces, including the South Vietnamese, Koreans, Australians, and Filipinos. Many U.S. Marines also attended the training.
The curriculum of the school included improving students’ skills in the areas of map reading, intelligence gathering, weapons training, and communications. Weapons training included a variety of American weapons as well as weapons used by the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese army. Particular attention was also given to mines and booby-traps. Communications covered the use of several different radios, field expedient antennas, and proper message writing techniques.
The school also gave advanced training in medical treatment, including the use of Ringer’s lactate solution and intravenous and intramuscular injections. Schooling also focused on air operations – especially the use of the UH-1 Huey helicopter for insertions and extractions. Forward Air Controller techniques were taught with students calling in live ordnance on a target.
Most importantly, the school taught patrolling.
Students learned different patrolling techniques, preparation, and organization. Proper patrol security was taught along with intelligence-gathering techniques. The students trained heavily in immediate action drills to react to or initiate enemy contact.
After over 300 hours of training, averaging over 12 hours per day, it was time for the students to take the final exam: an actual combat patrol.
In the early days of the program, the area the prospective graduates patrolled was relatively secure and quiet. As the war progressed, however, contact with the enemy became a given. This led to students saying “you bet your life” to graduate from Recondo School.
At least two students died in Recondo training with many others wounded. An unknown number of Viet Cong were also killed in the skirmishes during the “you bet your life” patrol. This led to the school itself receiving a nickname of its own: “the deadliest school on earth”.
In just over four years of operation, over 5,600 students attended Recondo school. Just 3,515 men graduated, not quite two-thirds of all who tried. Each student who graduated was awarded a Recondo patch, worn on the right breast pocket, and an individual Recondo number that was recorded in their 201 personnel file. The Honor Graduate from each class was also given a specially engraved Recondo knife.
Despite the school and its graduates’ success, Westmoreland’s successor, Gen. Creighton Abrams, officially closed the school on December 19, 1970. The Recondo name and training lived on, as some divisions continued to host their own Recondo schools until they were eventually closed too.
Dating a service member is different than dating a civilian. But just how much different is it? Here are eight things to consider before jumping into a relationship with someone in uniform.
1. Service members are independent and you should be too.
Troops have to deploy, which means not having him or her around for important events like anniversaries, birthdays and weddings. If you’re a person that constantly needs their physical presence, dating a service member is probably the wrong choice.
2. Don’t be jealous.
Most of the U.S. military is integrated. They deploy to remote locations and work long hours with members of the opposite sex. You’ll have a hard time trusting your significant other if you’re naturally jealous.
3. Don’t overly display supportive military gear like you’re rooting for your favorite sports team.
It’s okay to be proud of your boyfriend or girlfriend serving in the military, but you can take it a bit too far. Gear includes t-shirts, bumper stickers, jewelry and more. You may think it’s cute and supportive, but you’ve just painted a target on the back of your significant other as the butt of many jokes.
4. It’s not being mean, it’s tough love.
Service members are used to direct communication, so avoid that passive aggressive, vague, manipulative language that your mother-in-law likes to use. Direct communication is instilled from day one in the military. I can still remember my drill instructor yelling, “say what you mean, and mean what you say!”
5. There will be secrets.
Depending on their specialty, service members are trained to be more guarded than others. This is especially true with members that require a clearance to do their job. You can poke and prod all you want, but it’s not going to happen. You’ll have to be okay with not knowing that part of their life.
6. You have to be willing to move.
If you’re looking for a life partner in the military, you’ve got to be willing to give up ties to a specific location. This could mean giving up your career and being away from family. Some service members move every three years. Are you willing to live like a nomad?
7. You have to be flexible.
Plans might change or be canceled at the last minute. One moment they’re free to go on a date night, the next day they’re pulling an all-nighter. Same goes for weekends. Just because they spend one weekend with you doesn’t mean that next weekend will be the same.
8. Learn to tolerate his buddies.
The military is a brotherhood. Their lives depend on this special bond, so don’t think that they can just go out and get new friends. Learn to get along with friends, even the annoying immature one.
American speculation is mounting that North Korea will soon be testing a nuclear-capable missile. This follows a seismic event that the Kim regime claimed was its first successful hydrogen bomb test.
Japan and the United State regularly monitor North Korean test sites for activity via satellite. Two U.S. officials told AFP that the Communist state’s Sohae satellite complex is buzzing with activity.
The North has launched satellites into orbit before, most recently in 2012, but the same U.S. officials believe the technology used for those launches could be used for intercontinental ballistic missile launches as well.
International bodies are still struggling with how to respond to the hydrogen bomb test. There isn’t much left to sanction in North Korea. China, the North’s largest trading partner, is unlikely to slap any more restrictions on trade with the Kim regime without a direct threat to itself or its interests.
Why does North Korea act so provocatively? According to former Soviet diplomat Alexei Lankov, the saber rattling is a function of the nation being starved for resources and strapped for cash. The North’s military mobilizes while the government threatens South Korea, all in an effort to convince the west that the only way to prevent war is to provide funding and grain. But Kim’s strategy has backfired, resulting in sanctions rather than assistance.
“All the nuclear test proved is the North still does not have a reliable launch vehicle,” Lankov told Fox News.
North Korea is said to have over a thousand missiles of varying capabilities, but is not yet known to have developed a nuclear-capable warhead. Its longest-range missile, the Taepodong-2, has a advertised range of 6,000 kilometers, but the North has never successfully tested one.
If the North Korean Taepodong-2 missile becomes operational, it would be be able to hit America’s Pacific allies as well as U.S. bases on Okinawa, Guam, and most of Alaska.
WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FROM “DRAGONSTONE,””STORMBORN,” AND “THE QUEEN’S JUSTICE.”
Daenerys Targaryen (played by Emilia Clarke) has had a bad couple of weeks in this penultimate run of “Game of Thrones.” As of the first three episodes in season seven, her forces are well on their way to being defeated in detail.
For the audience, this makes for satisfying conflict and suspense. Most everyone is rooting for fall of Cersei at the hands of Khaleesi, and this will make their final showdown exceptional.
But we can’t help but note that if the Mother of Dragons had studied a little U.S. military history, she might not have suffered such losses. Instead, Daenerys has managed to blunder away large parts of her forces — and her advantage over the Lannisters — and she did it with a number elementary mistakes that cadets at West Point or Annapolis could have pointed out in an instant.
This is not exactly a resume-enhancer for the Commander-in-Chief of the Seven Kingdoms.
Check out her four biggest mistakes since returning to Westeros:
1. Dispersion of Forces
She made the decision to split her naval forces, trying to do too much at once. She sent part of her fleet to pick up the Dornish Army and to bring them back to Dragonstone, while sending the rest to deliver the Unsullied to take Casterly Rock.
Japan made similar mistakes in the weeks leading up to the Battle of Midway, costing them a light carrier sunk, two fleet carriers rendered combat ineffective due to battle damage or losses, and two other carriers with substantial combat power diverted to a secondary task.
2. Failure to Secure Control of the Sea
Knowing that Yara and Theon Greyjoy were fleeing from the person who had usurped the throne of the Iron Islands, Daenerys should have sought to replicate the Battle of the North Cape, in which a pair of convoys was used to draw out the German battlecruiser Scharnhorst to where it could be destroyed by a superior force (or in this case, by the dragons). After that she could transport armies at leisure.
Instead, she didn’t deal with the enemy fleet, and look what happened.
3. Acting with Inadequate Intelligence
Daenerys also failed to establish a means to determine enemy intentions, which, as Joe Rochefort proved, can be vital to defeating a foe. As a result, the Tyrells, not to mention their fortune and bannermen, fell to the combined Lannister/Tarly army.
4. Observing Restrictive Rules of Engagement
Daenerys did have the option of going straight at Cersei Lannister, but declined due to concerns about civilian casualties.
This has been a subject of controversy during conflicts throughout history. Every military leader is faced with measuring out the cost of “collateral damage” and so, too, must Daenerys — especially when her opponent has no sense of moral restraint. How many more losses will she suffer before she resorts to fighting at Cersei’s level?
Hopefully by now she must know not to underestimate her enemy…especially considering Cersei’s hiding a surface-to-air missile under King’s Landing…
Brace yourselves — the death of at least one dragon is coming. (Game of Thrones screenshot | HBO)
North Korea’s latest missile test, carried out this past weekend, ended about sixty miles off the Russian coast. Russia is not happy about the test, as one might imagine. In fact, they may get angry. Of course, we should note that Putin has options aside from sending Kim Jong-un a letter telling him how angry Moscow is.
Russia has long pushed the development of surface-to-air missiles, and the Soviets put that system on the map in 1960 by downing the Lockheed U-2 flown by Francis Gary Powers. In one sense, Russia needs to have good air defenses since their fighters tend to come out second-best when tangling with American or Western designs.
So, what options does Russia have to shoot down a North Korean missile? Quite a few – and it can be hard to tell them apart.
1. SA-10 Grumble
This is probably the oldest of Russia’s area-defense systems capable of downing a ballistic missile. Like the Patriot, it was initially intended to provide air defense for important targets by shooting down the strike aircraft. It eventually began to cover the tactical ballistic missile threat as well – much as the Patriot made that evolution.
According to GlobalSecurity.org, the baseline SA-10, or S-300PMU, now exported to a number of countries (including Iran), had a maximum range of 124 miles. A navalized version of this missile, the SA-N-6, is used on the Kirov and Slava-class cruisers.
2. SA-12 Gladiator
The Russians consider the SA-12 to be a member of the S-300 family. While the S-300 was initially designed to handle planes, the SA-12 was targeted more towards the MGM-52 Lance. Designation-Systems.net notes that the Lance’s W70 warhead could deliver up to a 100-kiloton yield. That could ruin your whole day.
But the development of a conventional cluster munition warhead for the Lance really bothered the Russians, who expected to see a many as 400 Lances launched in the early stages of a war in Europe. GlobalSecurity.org credits the SA-12 with a range of about 62 miles – not as long a reach as the SA-10 but more than enough to take out an incoming missile before it can do harm.
3. SA-20 Gargoyle
This is an improved version of the SA-10, according to GlobalSecurity.org. It has the same maximum range as the SA-10 version (about 124 miles), but there is a capability to engage faster targets than the baseline SA-10, which usually translates into neutralizing ballistic missiles launched from further away.
The system, also uses several types of missiles — including in the 9M96 family (9M96E1 and 9M96E2) that are smaller than baseline SA-10 missiles. Like the SA-10, there is a naval version, called the SA-N-20, which is on the Pyotr Velikiy and China’s Type 51C destroyers.
4. SA-21 Growler
This is also known as the S-400. The system made headlines when it deployed to Syria after Turkey shot down a Su-24 Fencer jet. The system is often compared to the American Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, but unlike THAAD, it is also capable of hitting aircraft and cruise missiles. GlobalSecurity.org credits the SA-21 with a range of about 250 miles.
5. SA-23 Giant
What the SA-20 is to the SA-10, the SA-23 is to the SA-12. This is a substantially improved version of the SA-12, and is intended to deal with longer-range ballistic missiles than the MGM-52 that the SA-12 was intended to take out. The SA-23, also known as the Antey 2500, has a range of 124 miles according to GlobalSecurity.org.
Russia’s born-of-necessity work on surface-to-air missiles has lead to some very capable options in air defense. The real scary part is that Russia has been willing to export those systems – and that could mean they will face American pilots sooner rather than later.
Captain Dale Dye is known for his direct support on Platoon, Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, The Pacific and many more war films. The Marine Corps Entertainment Media Liaison Office recently interviewed Dye to learn about his life, both inside and outside of the service. Dye discusses his experiences, insights and lifelong wisdom. Watch the interview here:
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:
Maj. John Fuccillo, an air mobility liaison officer, looks on as a C-130 Hercules takes off during exercise Cerberus Strike 16-02 at the Red Devil Landing Zone, Colo., Sept. 12, 2016. Contingency response forces rehearsed potential real-world situations by training with Army counterparts during the exercise. Fuccillo is with the 621st Mobility Support Operations Squadron assigned to the Army’s 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colo.
Multiple B-2 Spirits land for aircraft recovery as storm clouds gather Aug. 24, 2016, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. The B-2s low-observable, or stealth, characteristics give it the ability to penetrate an enemy’s most sophisticated defenses and threaten its most valued, heavily defended targets, while avoiding adversary detection, tracking and engagement.
A soldier with 4th Squadron, 2D Cavalry Regiment, conducts a gunnery table during Exercise #BraveWarrior16 at CESR Training Area, Hungary, Sept. 15, 2016.
A soldier, assigned to the South Carolina National Guard, fires a M240B machine gun during crew-served weapons familiarization night training at Fort Jackson, S.C., Sept. 15, 2016.
GULF OF OMAN (Sept. 18, 2016) Seaman Kennedy Prescott performs a deadlift during a power lifting competition aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41). Whidbey Island is deployed with the Wasp Amphibious Ready Group to support maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.
PHILIPPINE SEA (Sept. 20, 2016) Marines conduct maintenance on an SH-53E Super Stallion on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). Bonhomme Richard, flagship of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group, is operating in the Philippine Sea in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia Pacific region.
PHILIPPINE SEA (Sept. 20, 2016) Amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) steams through the waters near Guam during a routine deployment. Bonhomme Richard, flagship of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group, is operating in the Philippine Sea in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia Pacific region.
Cpl. Chris Lawler, a crewmaster with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 152, observes an F/A-18C Hornet with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 122 approach the refueling hose during Exercise Pitch Black 2016 at Royal Australian Air Force Base Tindal, Australia, Aug. 9, 2016. VMGR-152 provides aerial refueling and assault support during expeditionary, joint and combined operations like Pitch Black. This exercise is a biennial, three week, multinational, large-force training exercise hosted by RAAF Tindal.
Marines with Marine Rotational Force Darwin and French Armed Forces New Caledonia service members paddle out to Orphelinat Bay, New Caledonia as part of the Nautical Commando Course. Marines with MRF-D are participating in the full Nautical Commando Course for the first time to engage their amphibious heritage during.
Washdown at OPBAT! Petty Officer 2nd Class Ronald Carrasquillo from Air Station Clearwater, washes down an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter in Great Inagua, Bahamas.
Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Schuyler Chervinko, an aviation maintenance technician from Air Station Clearwater, takes a fuel sample from an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter in Great Inagua, Bahamas. Aircraft maintenance crew members, like Chervinko, deploy to the opbat constantly ready to support Operation Bahamas Turks and Caicos.
The Islamic State is “dead set” on using chemical weapons attacks, including sulfur-mustard gas, to endanger U.S. troops and blunt or delay the long-planned offensive to retake Mosul in northwestern Iraq, a Pentagon spokesman said Monday.
“I think we can fully expect, as this road toward Mosul progresses, ISIL is likely to try to use it again,” Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said, using another acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. “They are dead set on it.”
Last week, ISIS fighters fired an artillery shell near U.S. troops at the Qayyarah West airfield, about 40 miles southeast of Mosul, that was initially suspected of having traces of sulfur-mustard blistering agent. There were no deaths or injuries in the incident.
In a briefing from Baghdad to the Pentagon last Friday, Army Col. John Dorrian, the spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, said that first test of an oily substance on shell fragments was positive, a second test was negative, and a third was inconclusive.
“We have no conclusive evidence” that mustard gas was used, Dorrian said. He said more tests were being conducted.
However, Kurdish peshmerga forces participating in the “shaping operations” for the Mosul offensive said last year that ISIS fired mortar shells suspected of containing mustard gas at their positions about 20 miles east of the Qayyarah airfield. ISIS is also suspected of using chlorine gas in Syria.
Earlier this month, U.S. and coalition aircraft carried out strikes against a former pharmaceutical factory in Mosul that ISIS was suspected of having turned into a chemical weapons complex.
At the Pentagon, Davis said ISIS “would love to use chemical weapons against us and against the Iraqis as they move forward, and we are making every effort to make sure we are ready for it.”
U.S. troops in Iraq have access to gas masks and Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) gear to protect against chemical attacks.
In the 2003 invasion of Iraq, troops carried masks and MOPP suits with them at all times and frequently had to don them as alarms went off on the possibility that chemical weapons were in the area.
Later U.S. inspections and reports found that Iraq had stopped producing and stockpiling weapons of mass destruction before the invasion.
“We fully recognize that this is something that ISIL has done before,” Davis said of the possibility of chemical attacks. “They have done it many times, at least a couple of dozen that we know of, where they have launched crude, makeshift munitions that are filled with this mustard agent.”
“That is not something we view as militarily significant, but obviously it is further evidence that ISIL knows no boundaries when it comes to their conduct on the battlefield,” he said.
In addition to U.S. troops having access to gas masks and MOPP gear, Davis said the U.S. has distributed more than 50,000 kits of personal protective gear for Iraqi and Kurdish forces.
In the Mosul offensive, American advisers are expected to move closer to the battlefront. The Defense Department has authorized U.S. commanders to place advisers with the Iraqi Security Forces and Kurdish peshmerga at the battalion level.
In his briefing last Friday, Dorrian said eight to 12 brigades of the Iraqi Security Forces were “ready to go” against Mosul, where ISIS has had nearly two years to build up defenses. The U.S. estimates that the group “no longer is able to mass enough forces to stop the advance” on the city, and its fighters are experiencing “flagging morale” from the loss of territory and the unrelenting coalition airstrikes, Dorrian said.
U.S. airstrikes recently destroyed an estimated 29 ISIS boats on the Tigris River and also blew up a bridge over which the group’s vehicles were attempting to escape, he said.
To defend Mosul, ISIS has built “intricate defenses,” including elaborate tunnel networks and interconnected layers of improvised explosive devices along likely “avenues of approach” to the city, Dorrian said.
The U.S. has also seen reports that ISIS has dug trenches and filled them with oil to be set on fire once the offensive begins. “They’ve built a hell on earth around themselves,” he said.
The rumor mill is one of the most amazing things about Army service. Conjecture seems to travel through the Private News Network at speeds rivaling any military vehicle. Unfortunately, the PNN is not the most accurate place to get news and there are certain urban legends that show up time and again. Here are five of the rumors that just won’t die.
1. “These soft new soldiers could get a break in basic by just raising their stress cards.”
It seems like every time the Army graduates a class of basic trainees, the rumor pops up that this class was issued the fabled “stress cards.” These legendary pieces of paper would allow soldiers to take a time out if basic was getting too stressful and challenging, but the cards were never supposed to provide a break.
Snopes researched this myth and found an example of cards referencing stress in Navy recruits, while Stars and Stripes found a card that was issued to new soldiers. Neither card allowed for a time out though. The Navy card listed resources stressed sailors could turn to instead of running away or committing suicide. The Army cards served as a reminder to training cadre that recruit stress was real and should be managed.
For both services, there are reports of recruits trying to get out of training by raising the card, but training cadre were not obliged to provide a time out. A 1997 federal advisory committee recommended the use of the cards end due to the widespread misconception that they could be used to take a break.
2. “The Army was drugging us in basic. That’s why we didn’t want to have sex.”
Soldiers in basic may be surprised to find they can go months without sex and not miss it during training. In whispered conversations over dining facility tables, this is blamed on the Army lacing the food or water with saltpeter or other anti-libido drugs.
Stars and Stripes addressed this rumor and every branch of service provided an enthusiastic denial of the myth. In the article, a spokeswoman for the Kinsey Institute addressed the likely cause of soldiers’ lowered sex drive.
“Most people when they are under stress are not interested in sex,” Jennifer Bass told Stars and Stripes. “There are other things going on that are more important that they have to take care of physically and emotionally, and usually those two have to be working together for sexual response to happen.”
The rumor sometimes manifests as the Army drugging deployed soldiers, but the real cause of the dampened libido overseas is probably the physical and emotional stress of combat.
3. “Really, my granddad’s uncle had an M-16 with Mattel right on the grips.”
The story goes that the first shipments of M-16s to U.S. troops in Vietnam had handgrips stamped with the Mattel logo, since Mattel had been subcontracted to make the parts in the first few runs of the new rifles.
While a great story, it’s not true. Snopes thinks the rumor started due to a joke among service members. The M-16 was plagued with problems when it first debuted with U.S. troops. Since it was made of plastic and did not function well as a weapon, troops joked that it was a toy using the tagline of the largest toy manufacturer of the time, “You Can Tell It’s Mattel… It’s Swell!” Mattel also manufactured a toy version of the weapon, likely adding to the myth.
The rifle was originally created by Armalite, and it had been producing the M-16 for export for over three years before the U.S. placed an order in 1962. Armalite had supplied an order to the Federation of Malaysia in late 1959, followed by orders for testing in India and fielding by the South Vietnamese. Manufacturing of the design was licensed out in 1962 to Colt who made the weapons finally delivered to U.S. troops in Vietnam in 1965. Colt, Armalite, and yes, even Mattel, have all denied involvement the toymaker had any part in manufacturing parts for the M-16.
4. “Hollywood doesn’t get our uniforms right because it would be against the law.”
Military movies are filled with annoying inaccuracies, something WATM has been happy to point out on multiple occasions. The rumor when it comes to uniform errors is that federal law prohibits civilians from wearing military uniforms, so Hollywood changes aspects of the uniform to get around the law.
Since actors are allowed to wear the uniform while performing, Hollywood could legally portray the uniform properly just as easily as they display it incorrectly. Typically, movies gets the uniforms wrong because the crew doesn’t know better or doesn’t care. At the end of the day, it’s a costume designer outfitting the actors, not military technical advisors.
5. “Starbucks doesn’t support the troops!”
Many companies have been accused of not supporting the troops for various reasons, but Starbucks seems to be the one who gets criticized the most due to a myth that they openly voiced a lack of support to the Marines. The origin of the Starbucks myth is actually well established. A Marine Corps sergeant heard that some of his peers had requested free Starbucks coffee and been turned down.
The sergeant blasted out an email requesting true patriots boycott Starbucks. Starbucks addressed the accusations, saying that the corporation doesn’t provide free coffee to any organization besides non-profit charities, and the policy wasn’t meant as a comment on military service members. Starbucks employees receive free coffee from the company, and Starbucks allowed its employees to donate this coffee to troops deployed. The company itself just didn’t directly donate any beans.
The originator of the email later apologized, but the myth that Starbucks once voiced opposition to war veterans persists. Starbucks has made a few large overtures to the military community to prove its loyalty. They’ve sent care packages to troops, introduced programs to hire more veterans, and used profits from stores in military areas to fund local veteran charities. In 2014, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced a $30 million donation to support research into PTSD and brain trauma.
Earlier this week, the United States was reminded that veterans of World War II and the Korean War are passing away at a remarkable rate when Frank Levingston died at 110 years old. He was the oldest living WWII veteran but the median age of this era of vets is 90, and 430 of them die each day. The National WWII Museum estimated that there are only roughly 690,000 left of the 16 million who served.
It can’t be easy to be the last of a dying generation, but someone has to be. World War II and Korea veterans have a little bit of time left, but not much. The last surviving World War I veteran died in 2011. Here’s a look at who the last surviving veterans were for each American war and when they were laid to rest.
Lemuel Cook, Revolutionary War
Cook was born in 1759, the only one on this list to be born a British subject. He was from Connecticut and enlisted in the 2nd Continental Light Dragoons at age 16, seeing action at the Battle of Brandywine and Siege of Yorktown. He was also present at General Cornwallis’ surrender during the Virginia Campaign. After being discharged in 1784, Cook would watch the beginning and end of the Civil War as a civilian. He died in 1866.
Hiram Cronk, War of 1812
The last surviving veteran of “Mr. Madison’s War,” Cronk was born in 1800 in Upstate New York. He and other New York Volunteers fought in the defense of Sackett’s Harbor, west of Watertown, which held a major shipyard during the War of 1812. He lived to be 105 years old, drawing a monthly pension of $97 from New York and the Federal government for his service ($1,443 in today’s dollars).
Owen Thomas Edgar, Mexican-American War
The Philadelphia native was a U.S. Navy sailor on the frigates Potomac,Allegheny, Pennsylvania, and Experience. Born in 1831, he lived to be 98 years old, dying in 1929. After three years of service, he was only promoted once during his enlistment.
Albert Henry Woolson, Civil War – Union Army
Woolson was born in Antwerp, New York in 1850. His father was wounded in the Union Army at the Battle of Shiloh. Woolson himself was enlisted as a drummer in the 1st Minnesota Heavy Artillery Regiment. His unit never saw action and Woolson spent the rest of his life as Vice Commander in Chief of the political action group, Grand Army of the Republic, fighting for the rights and views of Civil War veterans. He died in Duluth, Minnesota in 1956.
The last combat veteran of the Union Army was James Hard of the 37th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment. He fought at the battles of First Bull Run, Antietam, and Chancellorsville, and met Abraham Lincoln at a White House reception.
Pleasant Crump, Civil War – Confederate Army
Born in Alabama in 1847, Crump and a buddy enlisted as privates in the 10th Alabama Infantry Regiment in November 1864. He fought at the Battle of Hatcher’s Run and the siege of Petersburg before watching General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House. After the surrender, Crump walked home to Alabama. He died in 1951 at age 104, the last confirmed survivor of the Confederate Army.
Frederick Fraske, Indian Wars
Fraske was an immigrant from the Kingdom of Prussia, now part of Germany. He came to the U.S. in 1877 with his family, settling in Chicago. At 21, he enlisted in the Army and was sent to the 17th Infantry in Wyoming. Although he spent his career preparing Fort D.A. Russell for an attack from the native tribes, the attack never came and he spent his three years of enlisted service and went home to Chicago. He died at age 101 in 1973.
John Daw was born Hasteen-tsoh in 1870. He would grow up to become an enlisted U.S. Army tracker, looking for Apaches in New Mexico until 1894. He would return to the Navajo Nation in Arizona after leaving the service, dying in 1965 as the last surviving Navajo Tracker.
Jones Morgan, Spanish-American War
Morgan was a Buffalo Soldier who lived to be 113 years old. He enlisted in 1896 in the 9th Cavalry Regiment. He later maintained the horses of the Rough Riders and served as a camp cook on the war’s Cuban front. Despite the controversy surrounding his claim (his enlistment papers burned in a fire in 1912), no one doubted Morgan, but he wasn’t given recognition until 1992, the year before he died.
Nathan Cook, Boxer Rebellion Philippine-American War
Cook is probably the saltiest American sailor who ever lived. Enlisting in 1901 (age 15) after quitting his job at a Kansas City meat packing plant, he served in the Philippines, during the uprising after the Treaty of Paris that ended the Spanish-American War ceded the Philippines to the U.S. Cook also saw action during the Boxer Rebellion in China and the fighting along the U.S.-Mexico border precipitated by Pancho Villa. He was promoted to warrant officer after 12 years of service. He continued to serve during World War I, commanding a sub chaser and sinking two U-boats. He was the XO of a transport ship during World War II and retired in 1942, after some 40 years of service. He died in 1992 at age 104.
Frank Buckles, World War I
Yes, all the doughboys are gone now. The last was Frank Buckles of West Virginia who died in 2011. he enlisted in the Army at age 16 in 1917 to be and ambulance driver. he was turned down by the Marines because he was too small and by the Navy because he had flat feet. After the Armistice in 1918, he escorted German POWs back to Germany. He was discharged in 1919. He would work in shipping as a civilian and was captured by the Japanese in the Philippines in 1942 and spent the rest of the war in civilian prison camps.
Buckles spent his last days appealing to the American public to create a World War I memorial in Washington, DC. Buckles died at age 110, but his dream did not. The National World War I Memorial is set to be built where Pershing Park is today.