Men aren’t the only ones lighting up their enemies on the battlefield. These 6 elite military units are staffed entirely by women.
1. Kurdish Women’s Defense Units
The Kurdish YPJ is a female militia that began in 2012 as part of the Kurdish resistance to ISIS and the al-Nusra Front. They’ve fought in numerous battles and have a psychological impact on the men they fight because ISIS fighters believe they can’t go to heaven if killed by a woman.
China has a single female special forces unit. Based in Hong Kong, the unit boasts 50 highly-trained combatants.
4. Russian female airborne battalion
These women train at the Russian airborne academy to become officers in charge of paratroopers. They learn how to conduct an airborne insertion, how best to maneuver as a unit on the battlefield, and how to shoot their enemies center mass.
5. Swedish Women’s Voluntary Defence Service
Commonly called the Lotta Corps, these women are part of the national defense plan for Sweden should it be invaded. They are trained in basic military tactics and strategy, but are a reserve force. Like the U.S. Army Reserves, their primary jobs are combat support or combat service support rather than frontline combat.
6. Libyan “Revolutionary Nuns”
Though it was disbanded following the Libyan Civil War, this elite cadre of bodyguards were key to dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s personal security. They were highly trained in firearms and martial arts. In an attack in 1998, one woman was killed after leaping onto Gaddafi while he was being shot at by Libyan rebels.
In August 1990, Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Army invaded and occupied neighboring Kuwait in a move which brought swift condemnation from much of the rest of the world. In response, U.S. President George H.W. Bush ordered planes, ships, and troops brought in to Saudi Arabia as quickly as possible to help mount a defense against possible Iraqi aggression. As Iraqi troops massed at the Saudi-Kuwaiti border, Operation Desert Shield began in full force, as the Coalition forces grew to 48 nations.
The United States isn’t known for its passivity when it comes to aggression against its interests, however. The U.S. was actively planning a response to the Iraqi invasion and a subsequent liberation of Kuwait, which happened between January and February 1991 in what became known as Operation Desert Storm.
We pretty much sent everyone. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Daniel Jackson)
During the military build-up, planners wanted to fool Saddam into thinking the Coalition forces would invade Kuwait near the “boot heel” of the country, while planning to really hit the Iraqi occupation forces with a “left hook” strategy. The centerpiece of this deception effort was at Forward Operating Base Weasel, an effort unlike anything since Operation Fortitude during WWII, the misinformation campaign designed to cover the real location for the D-Day invasions.
FOB Weasel was what Rick Atkinson, author of Crusade: The Untold Story of the Persian Gulf War called “a Potemkin base… giving the impression of 130,000 troops across a hundred square kilometers.” Army truck drivers wearing the red berets of paratroopers would shuttle vehicles between FOB Weasel and logistic bases.
The U.S. army’s XVIII Airborne Corps established FOB Weasel near the phony invasion area. They set up a network of small, fake camps with a few dozen soldiers using radios operated by computers to create radio traffic, fake messages between fake headquarters, as well as smoke generators and loudspeakers blasting fake Humvee, tank, and truck noises to simulate movement. Inflatable tanks with PVC turrets and helicopters with fiberglass rotors were lined up on the ground as well. Inflatable fuel bladders, Camo netting, and heat strips to fool infrared cameras completed the illusion. The Americans even taped “Egyptian” radio traffic messages about the supposed American presence to be intercepted by the Iraqis.
As late as February 21st, Iraqi intelligence still thought the Americans were near the Kuwaiti boot heel, well after the Iraqis were expelled from Kuwait.
Let’s face it, there are some cool rifles out there.
There’s the HK416, a derivative of the M16 that is best known as the rifle used by SEAL Team Six to kill Osama bin Laden. There is the Steyr AUG, a so-called “bullpup” design that packs a full-sized rifle in a shorter package.
Others don’t fare so well, like the Canadian Ross rifle, an effort by America’s northern neighbor to be self-reliant in at least some aspect of small arms. It didn’t work, and today Canada uses a version of the M16 known as the C7 alongside a variant of the M4 carbine called the C8.
Even the Germans had a recent dud in the G36 rifle, which they are trying to replace.
One possible contender for this replacement is the HK433 rifle — basically an effort to take the best features from the AR-15/M16 platform, which includes the HK416, and the G36. Yes, the G36 had some virtues, including its ability to be operated by both right-handed shooters and southpaws.
According to a handout from Heckler and Koch that was available at the Association of the United States Army annual exhibition in Washington, D.C., the HK433 offers operators the choice between the operating concept of the M16/M4/AR-15 and that of the G36. But this rifle, chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO, is customizable in many more ways.
There are six choices for barrel length, from 11 inches to 20 inches. Two color options, black and “flat dark earth” are available. The rifle can handle a grenade launcher, optics, and a suppressor. The rifle also includes an adjustable cheek rest, a round counter, a magazine well that is compatible with both the AR-15 and G36 magazines, and a foldable and retractable buttstock.
And as the U.S. Army takes a look at its potential future rifle, the HK433 could be a contender.
I know a lot of veterans who based their military careers on whichever recruiting office they walked into first. That’s one way to go about signing your life away to Uncle Sam, but it’s not what I would recommend. The military is a major commitment and will probably affect the rest of your life, whether you serve for four years or forty.
The biggest factors that go into your military experience are which branch you join and whether you enlist or commission as an officer. In this article, we’ll be going over some of the differences between officers and enlisted personnel across the five branches of the military.
We’ll cover everything from pay and benefits, mission execution to culture.
How to Join
Qualifications for enlisting in the military:
Be a U.S. citizen or resident alien
Meet the age and fitness requirements
Have a high school diploma
Pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test
For each branch, enlisted personnel begin their military experience with a form of boot camp. It is a strenuous introduction to military life, from the medical in-processing to the physical training to the hazing discipline. After about eight weeks of boot camp, enlisted personnel will receive their first duty assignments (probably at a job-specific training location) and they’ll be ready to actively serve in the military.
Qualifications for commissioning in the military:
Be a U.S. citizen or resident alien
Meet the age and fitness requirements
Have an undergraduate degree
Complete an officer training program
In order to earn a commission into the United States military, officer candidates must complete an officer training program. Two options for cadets without college degrees are to attend a military academy, such as West Point or the Air Force Academy, or to join the Reserve Officer Training Corps while attending the qualified college of their choice.
Academy cadets and ROTC cadets will learn about the military while completing their undergraduate or graduate degrees. Half-way through their studies, they will attend a summer boot camp, much like the enlisted boot camps except that cadets will already be expected to meet physical fitness and academic requirements. For officer candidates, boot camp is the rite of passage that will elevate cadets to the leadership fundamentals portion of their training.
Once academy or ROTC cadets graduate and receive their degrees, they commission into active duty and receive orders for their first assignment, which, like enlisted personnel, will probably include a job-specific training.
A third route to becoming an officer is to complete an Officer Candidate School (or Officer Training School, depending on the branch). Cadets who already have college degrees will undergo a three-month training program that includes military academics and leadership training as well as boot camp. Once complete, OCS/OTS cadets will commission just like academy and ROTC cadets.
Enlisted personnel make up 82% of the military. They are primarily responsible for carrying out military operations. The remaining 18% are officers, who are responsible for overseeing operations and enlisted personnel.
Officers will have a head-start on managerial experience, commanding personnel at the mid- to senior-level corporate executive level. They hold a commission from the President of the United States, a position that comes with more authority and responsibility.
Enlisted personnel, however, are the subject matter experts. They will have the hands-on application of the mission and as they rise in rank they will also rise in leadership authority and experience. Enlisted personnel are also expected to continue their education while on active duty and many earn degrees and vocational training that can translate to a civilian career after their service.
Mission requirements and experience will vary depending on your military career and assignment location. A career in cyber operations might mean the mission is conducted over the internet, where the officer’s role is to aggregate information collected by enlisted personnel. A career in the infantry might mean that an officer is coordinating weapons and targets as enlisted personnel fight in combat.
That being said, there are certain career fields only available to officers or enlisted. A prime example: Air Force pilots are officers.
Officers will start out at a higher pay grade than enlisted personnel, though enlisted service members are eligible for a variety of bonuses that can be quite substantial. Officers will also receive higher benefits such as monthly Basic Allowance for Housing. You can see from the charts below, however, that year-for-year and promotion-to-promotion, officers tend to make about twice as much money as enlisted personnel from monthly basic pay alone.
Monthly rate of enlisted basic pay
Monthly rate of officer basic pay
Let’s say you want to serve in the military to help pay for college.
Veterans (enlisted and officer) who meet qualifications are eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, a program that will help pay for college classes or an on-the-job training program after military service. The Post-9/11 GI Bill includes tuition and BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing) assistance so it’s a major benefit when veterans transition back to civilian life.
But it’s not precisely equal for everyone.
According to the VA, “If you have at least 90 days of aggregate active duty service after Sept. 10, 2001, and are still on active duty, or if you are an honorably discharged Veteran or were discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days, you may be eligible for this VA-administered program.”
In other words, after a typical four-year service commitment, the average enlisted veteran will qualify for a paid college degree (and the Yellow Ribbon Program can supplement tuition that the GI Bill might not cover, at a private school for example).
The average officer, however, will not qualify for the GI Bill after a four-year service commitment. Here’s why:
Tuition and fees for the military academies is free for officer candidates. ROTC cadets also compete for varying degrees of scholarships to cover their college expenses in addition to receiving stipends during training.
In other words, most officers receive a college degree and then they serve in the military. If they want to earn Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, they will have to serve additional time beyond their initial service commitment. Over time, officers accrue a percentage of the GI Bill.
So, if you’re still in high school and you’re trying to decide what you want to do in the military and what career you might want after the military, it could make sense to enlist first and gain professional experience then go to college courtesy of the GI Bill in the field you want to pursue.
As an alternative, you can complete your officer training and earn your first degree, serve in the military and gain professional experience similar to that of mid-level professionals, then either separate after your service commitment and pursue a civilian career or continue to serve longer and accrue GI Bill benefits for your next degree.
There are no wrong options here – it all depends on whether you know what career you want, whether it aligns with your potential military career and what kind of degree or vocational training would support you.
Officers tend to be older when they join the military, having already obtained their undergraduate degree. They are also trained with an emphasis on leadership and responsibility. Furthermore, active duty officers generally have the option of living off-base as opposed to barracks. For many of these reasons, officers get into less trouble than enlisted personnel while on active duty.
A 2015 Pew Research Center analysis of data from the Department of Defense revealed that 17% of active-duty officers were female – up from their share of 12% in 1990. And 15% of enlisted personnel were female in 2015, up from 11% in 1990.
Both officers and enlisted make critical contributions to the United States military. Their experiences will vary from location to location and job to job. They will also vary based on their branch. Be sure to read about the differences between each branch of the military to decide which one is best suited for you.
By all accounts, Jaqueline Carrizosa is about as badass as it gets.
The former Navy gunner’s mate and rescue swimmer has turned her civilian life into careers as a body builder, Hollywood technical expert and competitive motocross racer.
And while she’s serious about reaching her goals, Carrizosa knows how to let her hair down and connect with people from all walks of life.
Maybe she’s like Wonder Woman with tattoos.
Though, she credits her Navy career with shaping her outlook on life, it’s riding that keeps her grounded, Carrizosa said.
“Riding to me is how I find my zen,” Carrizosa says. “I can have the worst day in the world and [ride] and I don’t think about anything else — nothing else exists in my head.”
That ability to shut out the noise came in handy after Carrizosa suffered a near-fatal accident on a bicycle last year. She was nearly paralyzed when a motorist hit her and sent her to the hospital for weeks.
But she bounced back and is seen as a hero to many in the veteran community for her tenacity and activism.
“I like that me pushing my own personal boundries and sharing that story motivates other people,” Carrizosa said. “I love the letters I get from fathers who tell me that their 8-year-old daughter loves me and wants to ride because of me.”
The United States military has a long history of adopting so-called wildcat calibers from the civilian world. Hell, the 5.56mm round that fills every M249 belt and M16 magazine has its origins as an experimental varmint round for civilian hunters — the .222 Remington Magnum.
But this was back when the U.S. military’s budget was not only enormous, but had less congressional oversight.
In the middle of the Cold War and a heated arms race with the Soviet Union, America was willing to adopt new tech without concern for the pricy or problematic logistics of adopting a new round for all branches.
Today, only small special operations groups like hand-selected units from SOCOM can afford to rearm with bleeding edge tech or equipment
In particular, sniper elements of various units tend to be the first to adopt new cartridges for their highly specialized work.
For a long time, this meant choosing between 7.62×51, .50 BMG or .300 Winchester Magnum. Eventually, someone decided they wanted the incredible effective range of the .50BMG round without the awful ballistic coefficient that makes anti-personal use at extreme ranges difficult.
After all, .50 BMG began life as a heavy machine gun round suited for anti-vehicle use, then aircraft use before being adopted to anti-material use in big-bore sniper rifles.
Developed in the early 1980s, the resulting .338 Lapua Magnum was an immediate hit in the vast expanses of Middle East like the mountains and deserts of Afghanistan. Yet, it didn’t perform nearly as well in an anti-material role as the .50BMG, and some experts argued it didn’t retain sufficient energy for reliable soft target neutralization past 1,800 yards — though data on terminal ballistics data at this distance are not normally available to the public.
But this seems like a moot point, the best snipers in any military consider a shot at that distance both incredibly difficult and exceptionally rare. Which makes the recent adoption of a new round for the Advanced Sniper Rifle by U.S. Special Operations Command so interesting.
Dubbed, the .300 Norma Magnum, this new round boasts an improved ballistic coefficient over the .338 Lapua. However, the .300 Norma actually uses a .308-caliber round which is smaller than the one employed in the .338 cartridge.
If this seems strange given past complaints about limited effectiveness against semi-hardened targets, you’re on the right path. Indeed, instead of trying to shoehorn a cartridge designed for shooting soft targets into an anti-material role, the new .300 Norma Magnum fully embraces the .308-caliber bullet’s anti-personnel qualities and top-notch ballistic coefficient.
Some food for thought: At that range, the intended target wouldn’t hear the shot for a full three seconds after it left the barrel.
The new cartridge’s potential for accuracy brings distant soft targets in delicate locations – i.e. those saturated with non-combatants – within the grasp of the US military. While the caliber of the .300 Norma’s projectile may lead some to believe this round is a downgrade from the .338 Lapua, it’s more akin to a different tool for different situations.
This round may finally put a stop to insurgents using towers of religious buildings or hospitals to call in mortar strikes or coordinate ambushes.
But this is all speculation; with the round being as new as it is, and special operators just now adopting it, the public won’t likely hear anything about its performance for years.
Either way, one thing is certain: the long reach of America’s special forces, just got even longer.
As North Korea and South Korea pledged to end hostilities and work toward denuclearization, some people have suggested US President Donald Trump should win the Nobel Peace Prize.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in pledged in a historic summit on April 27, 2018, to end the Korean War — which has technically been ongoing since 1950 because it ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty — and to work toward a “complete” denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Many people think the credit should go to Trump — so much so that he should win the next Nobel Peace Prize.
Trump has discussed with the leaders of key nations in East Asia, including South Korea and China, his goal to denuclearize North Korea. The US has also drafted multiple rounds of UN and Treasury sanctions to punish North Korea for its nuclear program.
Hours before Kim and Moon’s announcement on April 27, 2018, Daniel McCarthy, editor-at-large of The American Conservative, wrote in The Telegraph and Sydney Morning Herald, Trump “will have defused the most dangerous crisis the world faces at present.”
“To make peace demands a new approach, and President Trump has found one,” McCarthy wrote.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham also told Fox News before the Koreas’ announcement: “Donald Trump convinced North Korea and China he was serious about bringing about change. We’re not there yet, but if this happens, President Trump deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.”
Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, also tweeted that Trump, Kim, Moon, and China’s Xi Jinping deserved to jointly win the Nobel Peace Prize.
“I’ve been critical of Trump foreign policy missteps in past year,” Bremmer said in a separate tweet. “But today’s historic North/South Korea breakthrough does not happen without priority & pressure from US President. Trump deserves full credit.”
In Seoul, pro-unification activists were photographed by Getty Images holding placards saying: “Trump, you’ll be winner of 2018 Nobel Prize!”
British betting site Coral also set the odds to Trump and Kim jointly winning the 2018 Nobel Prize at 2/1 — the highest on the list.
In late April 2018, he also gave the two Koreas his “blessing to discuss the end of the war.”
Trump and Kim have gone from exchanging heated barbs — from “rocket man” to “mentally deranged US dotard” — to agreeing to meet in person for the first time, which is expected to take place in May 2018.
North Korea’s Kim Jong Un is not only the leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he is the Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), the fourth-largest military in the world.
North Korea’s military is part of its foundation; Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Un’s grandfather and the founder of the so-called “Hermit Kingdom,” used his own military service — as a guerilla fighting against the Japanese occupation of Korea — to burnish his cult of personality, according to Washington Post reporter Anna Fifield’s book, “The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un.”
Military service is baked into the North Korean constitution; “National defense is the supreme duty and honor of citizens,” it says, and military service is generally compulsory. Kim has never served in the North Korean military but reportedly graduated near the top of his class at a prestigious military academy, a claim that experts and a former North Korean military member found highly suspect.
North Korea spends approximately 25% of its GDP on its military, including its nuclear program, spending .5 billion each year on its forces between 2004 and 2014. It boasts 1.1 million troops, about 5% of its population, according to CFR.
According to North Korean propaganda, the 35-year-old Kim Jong Un prepared to lead this massive force by attending Kim Il Sung Military University in Pyongyang; experts said it was more likely that he had received some instruction from military trainers associated with this university.
Some propaganda accounts cited by Fifield say Kim, who reportedly started at the academy when he was 18, was such a natural at military strategy that he was soon training his instructors.
Kim’s ‘elite’ alma mater
Kim Il Sung Military University is a “military institution for educating elite military officers,” according to Bruce W. Bennett, senior defense analyst at The RAND Corporation. It was established in 1952, according to North Korea Leadership Watch, and is one of several military training schools.
“The students of this university are middle level officers such as majors and lieutenant colonels,” Bennett said, equating the university to institutions like the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.
“It is the university that is a gateway to becoming a senior officer in the Korean People’s Army (KPA). Most of North Korean military generals studied in this university when they were mid-career,” Bennett told INSIDER via email.
An image of Pyongyang, with Kim Il Sung Military University outlined.
(North Korea Leadership Watch/Google Images)
Fifield’s book, and official North Korean propaganda, report that Kim studied here alongside his older brother, Kim Jong Chol.
“It was their mother’s idea to send them to the military academy, a way to bolster her sons’ claim to succession,” Fifield writes. Kim Jong Un and Kim Jong Chol are the children of Kim Jong Il and Ko Yong Hui, to whom he was not officially married. Kim Jong Il installed Ko Yong Hui and her sons in a home in his compound, ensuring they were well cared for.
Kim Jong Un reportedly entered the university in 2002, after his early education in Switzerland, and began studying “juche-oriented military leadership,” Fifield writes, referring to the North Korean concept of juche, or self-reliance. Juche is essential to the North Korean identity, although the country was economically dependent on the Soviet Union until its collapse. China is now its most important economic relationship.
“I would expect that most of the training at Kim Il Sung Military University would be on military operations, military history, and political indoctrination,” Bennett told INSIDER via email.
“But a big part of the curriculum is likely also competition between the personnel to see how they deal with each other physically and mentally, which leads to forming bonds of friendship critical as officers are promoted.”
‘A natural at military strategy’
While Kim Jong Un never served in the KPA, North Korea Leadership Watch (NKLW) contends that it’s likely some students are able to enter Kim Il Sung Military University without any prior service, straight out of high school.
NKLW describes Kim Il Sung Military University as modeled on Soviet military academies; while there might be classes on North Korean military history, the structure and academics of Kim Il Sung Military University find their closest analogs in the Soviet system.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Command of the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) in an unknown location in North Korea in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency.
According to North Korean official state media, Fifield writes, Kim Jong Un was “such a natural at military strategy that he was instructing the instructors rather than learning from them.”
He graduated on Dec. 24, 2006, Fifield writes, “with honors,” after writing a final dissertation on “A Simulation for the Improvement of Accuracy in the Operational Map by the Global Positioning System (GPS).”
But a former member of the North Korean military who now lives in the US and is familiar with the Kim family said it was unlikely that Kim Jong Un actually attended Kim Il Sung Military University, at least not in the traditional sense.
“According to North Korean propaganda, Kim Jong Un attended Kim Il Sung Military University, but I couldn’t find any of his classmates or Army mates. If he really attended that university, somebody should know that he attended,” the former military member said.
“If Kim Jong Un actually attended that college, he has pictures, he has a record, and he has friends. But [none] of the North Korean elite could find his picture and his friends. I think it’s a kind of propaganda,” the former military member said, noting that the North Korean propaganda department would have exploited any evidence of Kim Jong Un having attended the university to build up his cult of personality.
Rather than actually physically attending classes, there were “probably private instructors visiting his house to give him a lecture,” the former military member said.
“Kim Il Sung Military University is a more closed university, the students are military officers, not civilians, so they can keep the secret that Kim Jong Un didn’t actually attend.”
Kim would have been unique in attending the military school named for his grandfather; “I don’t think most of the Kim family become military officers — they avoid becoming military officers,” the former military member said.
“They have a good life […] they don’t need to go [in] the military to risk their lives.”
In order to qualify for a school like Kim Il Sung Military University, potential recruits must have, “superior service records, excellent physical condition and trusted political reliability” and have “a flawless family background, be popular among fellow soldiers, and receive the approval of their commanding and political officers,” according to Joseph Bermudez’s book “Shield of the Great Leader: The Armed Forces of North Korea.”
NKLW contends that Kim probably had private tutoring for at least a few years, and that he was likely a very good student, exhausting teachers with his questions. The academics on military operations are thought to be rigorous, even if it’s unlikely Kim also participated in the physical and professional competitions that other students must face.
In whatever capacity he studied with the university’s instructors, it influenced his relationship with the North Korean military today, in particular the aggressive missile testing North Korea undertook under the third Kim leader.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
When Johnson Beharry was awarded the Victoria Cross, it was the first time a living soldier received the award in over 30 years. It’s not an easy award to pick up, and perhaps Lance Sgt. Beharry should have died in Iraq – but he didn’t. And because he survived, so did many, many men from his unit.
In May 2004, Beharry was driving an armored vehicle to help rescue a foot patrol that was caught in an ambush. The Warrior, an armored infantry fighting vehicle used by the UK military, had taken so many RPG hits that most of his crew were injured and he was unable to see using his periscope.
So, he popped open the hatch.
A British Army MCV-80 Warrior Infantry Tracked Fighting Vehicle.
He drove the rest of the way with his head outside of the protection of the vehicle. In doing so, he exposed his head to the same nonstop barrage of bullets and RPG fire that wounded most of his fellow soldiers. He drove the Warrior right through the ambush until he got to the threatened foot patrol.
He drove through multiple ambushes, small arms fire, heavy machine gun fire, several RPGs, and even improvised explosive devices. His commander and gunner, along with others in the crew, were wounded and incapacitated. Beharry didn’t know their status because the Warrior’s communications system was damaged in the initial ambush. With smoke pouring into his vehicle, he drove through the Iraqi night.
Beharry’s Warrior fighting vehicle after arriving at Cimic House outpost.
At one point, he could see an RPG flying at him, directly toward his face. He quickly pulled down the lid of the hatch with one hand, while driving the vehicle with the other. The blast pulled the hatch out of his hand but allowed the force and flame to pass over him.
Next, a 7.62 round hit Beharry in the head, lodging into his helmet, but miraculously not wounding him. Beharry pressed the vehicle on, away from the ambush area. He saw another Warrior from his unit and followed it through the dark streets of al-Amarah until they reached their destination: a British Army outpost. Still under intense fire, Beharry lifted his platoon commander and then his gunner out of the vehicle’s turret and into the safety of the other Warrior. He then went back into his Warrior and drove it to the outpost.
Lance Sgt. Johnson Beharry poses with one of two captured Chinese cannons used to create Victoria Cross medals.
Once inside a defended perimeter, Beharry secured the Warrior, pulled the fire extinguisher, and moved to the other, seemingly undamaged Warrior, where he passed out from sheer exhaustion. But his story doesn’t end there – Victoria Crosses, the UK’s equivalent to the Medal of Honor, are exceedingly difficult medals to earn. A month later, Johnson Beharry was back in action in Iraq.
The coalition base in al-Amarah was under attack from a mortar team in June, 2004. Beharry was part of a quick reaction force sent to neutralize the threat to the base. Driving again through the city at night, Beharry’s armored vehicle was ambushed on its way to the attackers. The initial volley of that ambush saw an RPG explode just six inches from the young soldier’s head, causing serious injury.
Beharry is presented with the Victoria Cross by Queen Elizabeth II.
Other RPGs rocked the vehicle, and the turret, again incapacitating and wounding the vehicle commander and the others in the crew. With blood pouring into his face, Beharry stayed in control of the vehicle. He drove the vehicle out of the ambush area – in reverse – until it became lodged in the side of a building. Only then did he lose consciousness from loss of blood. But in moving out of the ambush zone, other Warriors were able to come to their aid. All of them survived both of the deadly attacks.
The attack put him in a coma, and his wounds ultimately required him to leave the service. Before that, he was presented with the Victoria Cross by Queen Elizabeth II on Apr. 27, 2005. Since then, he has made a number of public appearances and implored veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to seek mental health assistance for post-traumatic stress. These days, he runs a youth foundation to keep kids away from gangs and rehabilitate former gang members.
In the military, everyone loves to compare their job with others as part of a pissing contest to see who has it worst. Some cite their terrible living conditions, others tell horror stories of intense training, and the rest point to the awful, boring tasks handed to them. But there’s only one clear winner of the Absolute Worst Job contest — and that goes to the U.S. Navy’s loblolly boy.
Now, we’re not saying this to discredit your terrible MOS or rating — we’re sure yours is perfectly horrible — but unless your job is centered almost entirely around handling the medical waste that accumulated out at sea in the 1700s, then you probably can’t compete.
If reading about medical waste makes you a bit squeamish, we wouldn’t blame you if you’d instead like to check out our article about cute animals greeting returning troops. No? Alright, weirdo — but don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Which also involved a lot of cleaning. Pre-Industrial Era medicine wasn’t known for its cleanliness.
The loblolly boy was the junior-most enlisted surgeon’s assistant back in the day. While the average operating table on a vessel consisted of the surgeon and a surgeon’s mate or two, all of the work that was deemed “below the officer” was shoveled directly onto the loblolly boy.
The name comes directly from the English slang term ‘lob,’ which meant ‘bubbling’ or ‘boiling,’ and ‘lolly,’ which was a soup or broth. This is in regards to one of the more lighthearted tasks assigned to these troops: to feed soup or stew to the injured sailors and Marines.
But since they were the lowest-ranking member of the medical team, they also had to handle the other tasks associated with nursing the wounded, like cleaning chamber pots, organizing medical supplies, cleaning medical instruments, and, of course, assisting in surgery.
We’re not talking the cleanest of working environments here, but at least they tried their best.
Back in the 18th century, amputation was a go-to answer for a lot of dire medical situations. Wound too bad? Amputation. Infection looks like it’s spreading? Amputation. Bone shattered too much? Amputation. Skin starting to turn green after you ignored a simple scrape? Amputation. It’s a pretty grim solution, but there’s no denying its effectiveness when the alternative was often death.
This was also long before anesthetics or analgesics, so the operations had to be done quickly — because, you know, that was the most “humane” way to cut someone’s leg off. They’d have the loblolly boy hold them down while Doc sawed it off. Problem is, the loblolly boy was often just a kid or young adult, which made restraining a fully grown Marine who’s getting parts cut off a significant challenge.
Old Victorian English surgeons in a hospital got the process down to 30 seconds flat. Civil War surgeons in the midst of a battle would clock in at around the same time, but the process was a whole lot messier. The loblolly boy, of course, had to clean up the inevitable splatters before the next patient came in. Disposing of amputated limbs was one of the primary duties of the loblolly boy.
If you’re a corpsman, now you know you can always win the debate of how’s job has been historically worse.
(U.S. Navy photo)
The job wasn’t the most glamorous, but it did open the doors for loblolly boys to work their way up in the medical field. This gave an opportunity to those who would otherwise not have it — for social, economical, or racial reasons. Many of the first African American surgeons got their start in the military as loblolly boys.
Ann Bradford Stokes, an escaped slave, was taken aboard the USS Red Rover during the Civil War and became both one of the first women to enlist and one of the first African Americans to enlist in the United States Navy. Though she could not read or write during her time of service, she did her job dutifully for years and became the very first woman in U.S. history to receive a military pension.
This terrible job evolved throughout the years, later known as surgeon’s steward, apothecary, and bayman, before becoming what we today know: the hospital corpsmen.
All good things must come to an end — including deployments. While getting out-of-country is the only goal, troops have a checklist of tasks that must be completed before they’re finally allowed to reunite with their families back home.
No one likes doing any of these tasks, especially when they’re already checked-out mentally.
6. Training up your replacements.
Meeting the new unit that comes in-country is the first sign that your deployment is almost over.
Getting people who are busy preparing for departure to teach the newbies that are completely lost is never an easy task, but hey, that’s the military.
5. Cleaning gear
In the Ancient Greek legend of Sisyphus, the protagonist is cursed with the never-ending task of rolling a boulder up a mountain just for it to roll down the hill when he nears the top.
This is much like the never-ending struggle of troops trying to sweep all of the dirt out of the motor pool in the desert. Sweep as you might, it’ll never end. It’ll get just good enough for inspection until it’s time to finally get out of country.
4. Sending gear back stateside
All of the troubles of selecting what you need and don’t need happens all over again — but in reverse. You’ll be putting gear away that you won’t see for a few months. It’s a fine idea for the extra parts of your sleeping system, but people who bring or buy video game consoles while deployed now have to worry about bringing it back home.
Of course, if you really wanted to make things easier (and you have the money for it), you could always use the postal service to send a tough box or two with your useful stuff.
Traveling through customs in the civilian world is a cinch. Flash your passport, fill out a form, and don’t bring anything that’ll set off any alarms.
Did you know that gunpowder residue trips U.S. Customs’ sensors? Damn near every combat arms troop does, too — all of our gear is covered in gunpowder residue. Even though we’re carrying our weapons with us, they’ll still look at you funny for that gunpowder residue.
2. The flight
It’s like being a kid on Christmas Eve again. Just a few more hours and you get what you want. You know you should probably catch some sleep on the plane but your blood is pumping too much.
All of the “whatever amount ofdays and a wake-up” are now in hours. Minutes. Seconds. You watch the GPS tracker on the plane more than the actual in-flight movies. The anxiety builds; landing can’t come soon enough.
1. That. Last. Formation. Before. Freedom.
Quick show of hands: Out of the countless times commanders have given a passionate speech to the friends and families of returning troops, how many are remembered by the troops?
Those months kind of fly by, but the last speech — you know, the one that starts with, “these fine gentlemen before you…” — goes in one ear and out the other. The only thing troops are focusing on is if they can find their loved ones in the crowd.
On May 2 and 4, 1972, two SR-71 Blackbirds overflew Hanoi, North Vietnam at noon. The first plane broke the sound barrier, causing an ear-splitting sonic boom over the city. Fifteen seconds later, the other Blackbird did the same thing.
Prisoners at Hoa Lo developed a code-tapping language to communicate with each other. Capt. James Stockdale, who was the senior ranking officer at the prison, taught many incoming POWs this code. It kept the men sane and their spirits up.
Communicating with Washington was trickier. Three months into his captivity, Stockdale was allowed to write to his wife, Sybil. Two months later, he was allowed to write again. When she received the letters, she found them confusing. Nicknames and references to their mutual friends were wrong.
Sybil gave the letters to Naval Intelligence in San Diego who figured out he was using doublespeak – deliberately misleading language –to let his superiors know he was not being treated well in North Vietnam. With her cooperation, the CIA and Office of Naval Intelligence decided to use her correspondence back to her husband as a way to communicate with the prisoners.
Her first letter included a Polaroid of her with a secret message sandwiched between the sheets of photographic paper. It explained the process of using invisible ink to send messages to the CIA. He listed the other POWs with him and detailed the abuses inflicted on American prisoners there.
The new communication policy allowed the prisoners and the CIA to trade a wealth of information, so much so that the prisoners were actually able to assemble a small shortwave radio, which was eventually discovered during an inspection).
In 1969, two prisoners, Air Force Captains John Dramesi and Edwin Atterberry, escaped from the prison at Cu Loc but were recaptured the next day. Massive reprisals from their captors followed, and thus the prisoners’ leadership determined the retribution was too much and escape attempts should only be made with a “high likelihood of success and assurance of outside assistance.” That’s when they came up with the Red River plan.
Members of the escaping POW group sent their plan to the U.S. Defense Secretary Melvin Laird approved the plan in January 1972. By May, everything was in place. The sonic booms were a go.
Despite a few setbacks, members of SEAL Team One and Underwater Demolition Team Eleven used SEAL Delivery Vehicles (SDV – mini-submarines) and HH-3A helicopters to patrol the coastline throughout May and June looking for escaped POWs. They never found any.
As the senior ranking officer, Stockdale forbid any escape attempts. He judged the plan too risky and the threat of reprisals too harsh. (Prisoners were often killed during these reprisals). The would-be escapees were frustrated by the policy, but they obeyed.
Article III of the Code of Conduct for prisoners does say American POWs should make every effort to escape captivity. Article IV, however, prohibits any action that would cause harm to other captured personnel. So Thunderhead was terminated.
The POWs would communicate with Washington throughout the war. Eventually, another radio was smuggled in, which gave POWs a direct line from the camp to the U.S. Seventh Fleet commanders aboard ships in the Gulf of Tonkin.
In January 1973, 591 POWs were repatriated back to the United States. For his leadership among the prisoners and work to galvanize the resistance to their captors, Stockdale received the Medal of Honor from President Gerald Ford.
In 1979, film-making legend Francis Ford Coppola released one of the most critically acclaimed films of all time, Apocalypse Now. The story follows Capt. Willard (as played by Martin Sheen), a man tasked with the dangerous mission of traveling deep into the jungles of Cambodia to assassinate a rogue colonel who military intelligence believes has gone insane.
Immediately, the film captivated audiences around the globe. In fact, you can still find screenings of this film in movie theaters throughout the country today. It’s a masterclass in stunning scenery and epic metaphor.
Although this film holds a well-documented place in cinematic history, there are a few things you probably didn’t know about the Vietnam-era classic.
No major movie studio wanted to produce the film
At the time, movie studios were still bitter about the realities of the Vietnam War. Because of this, George Lucas (who worked on the early stages of the film’s development) and John Millius took the script to several studios and were repeatedly turned down.
As a result, the film was put on indefinite hold. Coppola, in the interim, went on to direct a couple of small movies you may have heard of — The Godfather, parts I and II.
After that overwhelming success, Coppola decided to produce his passion project without the help of studios, putting up million of his own money.
A rare film print of Harvey Keitel sharing a laugh with Robert Duvall.
Coppola fired his leading man
Originally, talented actor Harvey Keitel was cast to play the role of Capt. Willard. But, soon after filming started, he was fired and replaced with Martin Sheen, who had his own reservations about taking on the role.
Brando wanted some big bucks to play the role of Kurtz
Coppola convinced Marlon Brando to play the iconic role, one that would become one of his most famous characters. However, Brando wanted a million dollars per week to play the insane colonel. After the production agreed to his request, he was scheduled for three weeks of work. Coppola handed over one million smackeroos as an advance.
After a few weeks of shooting, production began running late. Brando’s people threatened to drop out and keep the million-dollar advance due to rescheduling.
Coppola wasn’t happy but, eventually, everything worked out. The acclaimed director got his villain to deliver an epic performance.
The helicopters that were used in filming were constantly being called away to fight the rebels
At the time of shooting, the Phillipines was in the midst of a rebellion. The pilots that were used during the famous “Ride of the Valkyries” scene kept getting ordered away to fight against rebel forces that were reportedly just 10 miles away from Coppola’s production.