Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’ - We Are The Mighty
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Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’

Historian Rick Atkinson has become famous as one of our greatest chroniclers of war with his World War II Liberation Trilogy, and he’s off to a strong start to his Revolution Trilogy with the 2019 best seller, “The British Are Coming.”

More than a decade before he won the Pulitzer Prize for “An Army at Dawn” (Liberation Trilogy, Book 1), Atkinson caught the attention of military history readers with 1989’s “The Long Gray Line,” a chronicle of 25 years in the life of the West Point Class of 1966.Advertisement

The book captures a shift in military culture. These young officers were born in the waning days of World War II and inevitably brought a different perspective that sometimes clashed with senior officers whose experiences were defined by that conflict.

Some of these men didn’t make it back, and others were instrumental in remaking the Army in the years after Vietnam. Atkinson uses their experiences to tell an epic story of how U.S. forces redefined their mission in the late 20th century.

Since the book was published, we’ve lived through a terror attack on U.S. soil and a pair of wars that lasted far longer than the conflict in Southeast Asia. Even though no one profiled in the book nor the author could have imagined what was coming, “The Long Gray Line” nonetheless offers a lot of perspective on why we’ve conducted the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan the way we have.Advertisement

Atkinson’s Army officer father was stationed in Munich when the writer was born there in 1952. He turned down an appointment to West Point himself and built a career as a reporter at The Washington Post, winning a journalism Pulitzer for a series of articles about the West Point Class of 1966. Those articles are the basis of “The Long Gray Line.”

If you weren’t around in 1989 or weren’t listening to audiobooks back then, you probably don’t know that almost anything over 300 pages was abridged for its audio version so that it wouldn’t require too many cassette tapes. CDs helped a bit, but the unabridged audio standard didn’t hit until we started streaming and listening to books on our iPods and phones in the early 2000s.

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’

So, here we are in 2021, and we’ve finally got an unabridged version of “The Long Gray Line.” The full 28 hours include an introduction read by Atkinson and a conversation between the author and Ty Seidule, the former head of the history department at the United States Military Academy. Narrator Adam Barr reads the book for you.

You can listen to Chapter 1 below. It’s only nine minutes long, but you are likely to find yourself hooked before it’s over.

https://www.military.com/off-duty/books/2021/05/13/follow-west-point-class-of-1966-vietnam-long-gray-line.html

If you’re into reading instead of listening, “The Long Gray Line” is available in ebook or paperback editions.

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Featured photo: US Military Academy

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This ‘Magic Carpet’ will help Navy pilots land on carriers

Landing on an aircraft carrier is one of the most difficult tasks any aviator can face. A 1991 Los Angeles Times article quoted one Desert Storm veteran as saying that the stress really came “when I got back to the ship and started landing on the carrier in the dark,” rather than when he was being shot at by Iraqi SAMs.


How can that stress be eased? This is an eternal question – mostly because there are lots of variables. One carrier landing could be in daylight with clear skies and a calm sea. The next could be in the middle of a thunderstorm in pitch black darkness. A pilot has to keep all of that in mind, not to mention the fact that the carrier itself is moving.

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Gaines

Boeing, though, has been working on some new software for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and the EA-18G Growlers to make this most difficult and stressful of tasks a little less so. It’s called the Maritime Augmented Guidance with Integrated Controls for Carrier Approach and Recovery Precision Enabling Technologies. The acronym appropriately spells “MAGIC CARPET.”

This system handles calculating the many variables pilots making a carrier landing have to deal with, allowing the pilot to make simpler adjustments as the plane heads in for a landing.

Boeing put out a video about MAGIC CARPET. Take a look at the future of carrier landings!

Articles

12 amazing trick shots to show off at the gun range

Let’s be honest, punching paper at the range is boring.


If the RO is a hardass, it’s standard targets, a second between shots and no movement or draws.

But when you get out to the wilds and can really stretch out  your irons, it’s a perfect time for a little trickery.

These 12 trick shots performed by the crew at Dude Perfect take some serious skill to ace. If you’ve got a range where you can shoot props, stick to the four rules, and give ’em a whirl.

1. The Rainbow Six kick shot

This is more of a physics problem than anything else, but nailing a three-point shot with help from the butt end of a scattergun is kinda rad.

via GIPHYNot sure if I’d want to heft a basketball hoop into the backcountry for that one though.

2. Splitting the bullet

First of all, rocking a Kriss Vector with a can is badass enough, but splitting those 230 grains of .45 ACP ballistic goodness on the edge of an axe? Now that’s taking it to a whole new level of awesomeness.

via GIPHYOk, so how many takes for this one?

3. Flying drone target

Who doesn’t love drones bro? Who doesn’t hate the idea of one snooping on you? This is one all “people of the gun” should embed firmly into their muscle memory for the day when the government goons come to take our pieces.

via GIPHYJust don’t try it on that $1,000 DJI Phantom.

4. Firepower versus fruit

It’s the bread and butter shot of folks like FPSRussia and the Fruit Assassin, but who doesn’t like seeing the pulp fly with a little 30-06 fun through a watermelon?

via GIPHY 

The key is to use the right ammo and put it square in the sweet spot (pun intended) to get the most out of the terminal ballistics.

Smoothie anyone?

5. Tapping it in

Now this is right up the alley of people like Jerry Miculek and Rob Leatham who make a living plinking poppers and swingers. But man is this a ninja shot for a pistol at this distance.

via GIPHY 

He shoots, he scores!

6. Upside down bottle blaster

This is one we’ve seen a million times pulled off by our great friend over at Hickock45. How many bottles of soda has that guy splattered all over his field of steel?

via GIPHY 

But still, shot placement is key here — get it right in the sweet spot and you’re go for throttle up.

7. The blind shot

OK, now this one gives us a case of the heebie jeebies since we’re technically violating one of the four rules of firearm safety here (“know your target and what’s beyond”). But it’s such a radical shot that no tactard out there could admit to not wanting to try at some point on their ballistic bucket list.

via GIPHY 

My question is how did the shooter know where to aim?

8. Big boom battle

Ahhh, the sweet sound of Tannerite.

Few substances have done more to sex up the art of backyard plinking than the mix-and-go explosive fun of Tannerite. I mean, you can buy buckets of it at Walmart so why not race your friends to blow up buckets of it?

via GIPHY 

And we like the fact that the bolt gunner smoked the competition here.

9. Fog blaster

We’re not sure what’s so tricky about this one, but like the “splitting bullet” shot, it’s kind of all about the blaster. And pairing a .50 caliber SASR with a bucket of Tannerite? That’s like washing down a dry aged Strassburger ribeye with a 1947 Cheval Blanc.

via GIPHY 

Big bullets + big explosions = big fun!

10. Upside down shot

Now we’re operating operationally.

via GIPHY 

Get your SAS on with this upside down pistol shot on abseil. Feels like something out of a London embassy siege, doesn’t it?

11. The selfie shot

Now we’re really impressed with this one.

via GIPHYIt looks like a hand-me-down .22 with iron sights. Could there be some ballistic app running in the background there?

Not sure, but this is one we’re definitely going to try the next time the RO isn’t breathing down our necks.

12. Rainbow Six half mile shot

At the end of the day, making long shots is impressive in its own right. And while stretching it out to about 900 yards isn’t totally, wickedly difficult, dropping a b-ball into the hoop by popping a balloon at 900 yards is kinda darn awesome.

via GIPHYBe sure to watch the entire Dude Perfect trick shot video for more gun fun.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DS0uPxZXI5Y
Articles

Here are the best military photos for the week of Jan. 14

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:


AIR FORCE:

We had to do a double take, and yes it’s real! A CV-22 Osprey performs a routine formation flight while en route to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., Jan. 9, 2017. The 1st Special Operations Wing conducted a flyover for the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship game featuring the Clemson Tigers versus Alabama Crimson Tide.

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
U.S. Air Force photo

Master Sgt. Michael Meyer checks on the tires of a C-130H Hercules at the 179th Airlift Wing in Mansfield, Ohio, during routine morning maintenance Dec. 28, 2016. The Ohio Air National Guard unit has a 40-year history of flying airlift missions since it received the first C-130B model in the winter of 1976.

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. Joe Harwood

Soldiers from Multinational Battle Group-East brave the cold to participate in a sledding competition on Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, Jan. 8. Each sled was an example of high-tech Army engineering, carefully constructed for speed, style and comfort.

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
U.S. Army photos by Spc. Adeline Witherspoon, 20th Public Affairs Detachment

ARMY:

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
U.S. Army photo by Capt. William Carraway

Talk about a ‘boom with a view! Soldiers in a M1A2 Abrams tank, assigned to 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, fire at targets at Fort Stewart, Georgia, Dec. 8, 2016.

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Erick Ritterby

NAVY:

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Jan 11, 2017) The amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) conducts a live-fire exercise with the ship’s RIM 116 Rolling Airframe Missile weapon system. Bataan is underway conducting composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX) with the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group in preparation for an upcoming deployment.

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Petty Officer Nicholas Frank Cottone

ARABIAN SEA (Jan 9, 2017) After being sprayed with Oleoresin Capsaicin Fire Controlman 2nd Class Tauren Terry demonstrates a takedown on Cryptologic Technician Maintenance 2nd Class David McDowell as Master at Arms 1st Class Cecily Schutt evaluates Sailors’ performance during security reaction force basic training on the flight deck of Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72), Jan. 9. USS Mahan is deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security operations and theater security operation efforts.

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford

MARINE CORPS:

Marines with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa, fire their weapons during a rifle range near Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy, Jan. 3, 2017. Marines with U.S. Marine Forces Europe and Africa, conducted a stress shoot, which involved a physically strenuous work-out followed by a course of fire aimed at testing the Marine’s cognitive function.

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alexander Mitchell

Cpl. Evangellos Kanellakos, a field radio operator with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, launches an RQ-11B Raven small unmanned aerial system during Exercise Alligator Dagger. The Raven provides aerial imagery up to 10 km away from its point of origin for close range surveillance, which can support forward observation of fires, identifying enemy locations, and to provide feedback for improving defensive and offensive positions.

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
U.S. Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Adam Miller

COAST GUARD:

We are always ready.

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
USCG photo by Lieutenant Jiah Barnett

Sector San Francisco’s Incident Management Division (IMD) wrapped up operations on a case involving a World War II landing craft and a tractor it had been carrying, which both capsized in the Sacramento River. Initially a SAR case, all hands on board were okay, but diesel fuel entered the water. IMD worked with the responsible party of the landing craft, who hired a salvage company to mitigate the environmental threat of the pollution by removing the landing craft and tractor via crane.

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
U.S. Coast Guard photo

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

The Internet is absolutely chock-full of military memes. Who knew? Check out 13 of our favorites from this week below.


1. The only piece of tech we got from Star Wars was the PT belt (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
Chewie’s crossbow might’ve been more useful.

2. Wanna know why your navigation system messed up?

(via Sh-t my LPO says)

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
UNSAT.

SEE ALSO: Russia’s only aircraft carrier is a floating hell for the crew

3. We’re sure the Rangers have almost caught up (via Team Non-Rec).

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’

4. Force Recon has no mercy.

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
If that’s painful for you, too bad.

5. Dig deep, embrace the suck (via Squidable).

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
Also, no double dipping.

6. After all you’ve been through together, you leave them on the shelves!? (via Marine Corps Memes)

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
Go help a battle buddy today.

7. Most effective protection in the known world (via Hey Shipmate).

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
Plan B has nothing on those Coke bottles.

8. “Tape can’t stop me! I’m in officer in the Navy!”

(via Hey Shipmate)

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’

9. Why are you guys laughing? Those are pretty nice digs.

(via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting)

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
Check out how much of the wall is still there.

10. The “gentleman” part applies to some generals more than others.

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
Luckily, the rank-and-file Marines don’t care.

11. Yeah! Tear it up, ground-pounder!! (via Grunt Nation)

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
Wait. Is that an airman?

12. It’s a pill on a Navy ship, of course it’s Motrin (via Sh-t my LPO says).

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
But it looks more like a big Mike and Ike.

13. Keep pushing through (via Hey Shipmate).

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
That day is totally worth it.

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Here’s what makes Marine One unlike any other helicopter in the world

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
Wikimedia


Among the special modes of transportation reserved for the president is Marine One.

A specialty built helicopter, Marine One accompanies the president around the country and even overseas. Built to rescue the president during an emergency, the helicopter is customized with a suite of amazing features.

“The helicopter was very smooth, very impressive,” Obama told reporters after his first ride in the helicopter in 2009. “You go right over the Washington Monument and then you know — kind of curve in by the Capitol. It was spectacular.”

We have compiled some of Marine One’s most amazing features below.

Each year, only four pilots from HMX-1 squadron, aka “The Nighthawks,” have the honor of flying Marine One.

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
White House

The helicopter can cruise at over 150 mph …

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
Wikimedia

… and can continue flying even if one of its three engines fails.

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
Flickr

Marine One has ballistic armor, missile warning systems, and antimissile defenses.

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
Wikimedia

The helicopter is also equipped with secure communication lines for the president to remain in contact with the White House and the Pentagon.

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
White House

No matter where in the world the helicopter lands, the president is always greeted by a Marine.

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
Flickr

Similar to the identical decoy that flies alongside Air Force One, a decoy helicopter flies with Marine One.

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
White House

Unlike most helicopters, Marine One is so quiet that the president can speak in a normal tone of voice.

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
White House

There is 200 square feet of interior space …

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
White House

… enough space for 14 passengers.

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
White House

Marine One is deployed to serve the president domestically and abroad.

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
Wikimedia

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Army captain killed in Orlando may be eligible for Purple Heart

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
Antonio Davon Brown, a 29-year-old captain in the U.S. Army Reserve, was one of 49 people who was killed in the shooting. | Photo courtesy Texas AM University)


The Defense Department on Thursday left open the possibility that Army Reserve Capt. Antonio Davon Brown, who was killed in the attack at the Orlando nightclub early Sunday, might be eligible to receive the Purple Heart.

Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said that the Purple Heart for Brown would be considered but the award would “depend on the definition of the event” in which his life was lost, a reference to the criteria for the Purple Heart established by Congress after the Fort Hood, Texas, shootings in 2009. Cook said the decision on the award would be up to the Army.

Brown was at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando frequented by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community when the worst mass shooting in U.S. history occurred. Police say he was among the 49 killed by 29-year-old Omar Mateen, who reportedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in 911 calls.

Following lobbying by families of the victims, Congress in 2013 added to the criteria for the Purple Heart to make victims of the Fort Hood massacre eligible. At Fort Hood, Nidal Hasan, a U.S. Army major and psychiatrist, fatally shot 13 people and wounded more than 30 others. Hasan was sentenced to death and is being held at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, during appeals.

Congress in 2015 amended the National Defense Authorization Act to expand eligibility for the Purple Heart to include troops killed in an attack where “the individual or entity was in communication with the foreign terrorist organization before the attack,” and where “the attack was inspired or motivated by the foreign terrorist organization.”

Then-Army Secretary John McHugh later said, “The Purple Heart’s strict eligibility criteria has prevented us from awarding it to victims of the horrific attack at Fort Hood. Now that Congress has changed the criteria, we believe here is sufficient reason to allow these men and women to be awarded and recognized with either the Purple Heart or, in the case of civilians, the Defense of Freedom medal.”

McHugh’s action also applied to an attack on a Little Rock, Arkansas, recruiting station in 2009 in which Pvt. William Long was killed and Pvt. Quinton Ezeagwula was wounded. The shooter, Abdulhakim Muhammad, was later convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Brown, who joined the Army three years before the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy against openly gay service was scrapped, was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 383rd Regiment, 4th Cavalry Brigade, 85th Support Command based in St. Louis, Missouri.

Brown, whose home of record was listed as Orlando, graduated from Florida (AM) Agricultural and Mechanical University with his undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant on August 8, 2008. In 2010, he received his Master’s degree in Business Administration from University of Mary, North Dakota.

In May 2009, he served on active duty with the 1st Special Troop Battalion, Fort Riley, Kansas. It was during that assignment with the battalion that Brown served an 11-month overseas deployment to Kuwait, the Army Reserves said.

In a statement Tuesday, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said that Brown “served his country for nearly a decade, stepping forward to do the noblest thing a young person can do, which is to protect others.

“His service both at home and overseas gave his fellow Americans the security to dream their dreams, and live full lives,” Carter said. “The attack in Orlando was a cowardly assault on those freedoms, and a reminder of the importance of the mission to which Capt. Brown devoted his life.”

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Marines rev up amphibious assault capabilities

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
An assault amphibious vehicle (AAV) with the AAV platoon, Echo Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Melissa Wenger


The Marine Corps is revving up its fleet of 1970s-era Amphibious Assault Vehicles to integrate the latest technology and make them better able to stop roadside-bombs and other kinds of enemy attacks, service officials said.

The existing fleet, which is designed to execute a wide range of amphibious attack missions from ship-to-shore, is now receiving new side armor (called spall liner), suspension, power trains, engine upgrades, water jets, underbelly ballistic protections and blast-mitigating seats to slow down or thwart the damage from IEDs and roadside bombs, Maj. Paul Rivera, AAV SU Project Team Lead, told Scout Warrior

“The purpose of this variant is to bring back survivability and force protection back to the AAV P-variant (existing vehicle),” he said.

The classic AAV, armed with a .50-cal machine gun and 40mm grenade launcher, is being given new technology so that it can serve in the Corps fleet for several more decades.

“The AAV was originally expected to serve for only 20-years when it fielded in 1972. Here we are in 2016. In effect we want to keep these around until 2035,” John Garner, Program Manager for Advanced Amphibious Assault,” said in an interview with Scout Warrior.

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
Marines with Alpha Company, 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, begin to exit their vehicles as they index their company-level beach operations on Camp Lejeune, N.C. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dalton Precht

The new AAV, called AAV “SU” for survivability upgrade, will be more than 10,000 pounds heavier than its predecessor and include a new suspension able to lift the hull of the vehicle higher off the ground to better safeguard Marines inside from being hit by blast debris. With greater ground clearance, debris from an explosion has to farther travel, therefore lessening the impact upon those hit by the attack.

The AAV SU will be about 70,000 pounds when fully combat loaded, compared to the 58,000-pound weight of the current AAV.

“By increasing the weight you have a secondary and tertiary effects which better protect Marines.  We are also bringing in a new power train, new suspension and new water jets for water mobility,” Rivera said.

A new, stronger transmission for the AAV SU will integrate with a more powerful 625 HP Cummins engine, he added.

The original AAV is engineered to travel five-to-six knots in the water, reach distances up to 12 nautical miles and hit speeds of 45mph on land – a speed designed to allow the vehicle to keep up with an Abrams tank, Corps officials said.

In addition, the new AAV SU will reach an acquisition benchmark called “Milestone C” in the Spring of next year. This will begin paving the way toward full-rate production by 2023, Rivera explained.

The new waterjet will bring more speed to the platform, Rivera added.

“The old legacy water jet comes from a sewage pump. That sewage pump was designed to do sewage and not necessarily project a vehicle through the water. The new waterjet uses an axial flow,” Rivera said.

The new, more flexible blast-mitigating seats are deigned to prevent Marines’ feet from resting directly on the floor in order to prevent them from being injured from an underbelly IED blast.

“It is not just surviving the blast and making sure Marines aren’t killed, we are really focusing on those lower extremities and making sure they are walking away from the actual event,” Rivera said.

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
Assault amphibious vehicles (AAVs) with the AAV platoon, Echo Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), leave the well deck of the dock landing ship USS Comstock. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Melissa Wenger

The seat is engineered with a measure of elasticity such that it can respond differently, depending on the severity of a blast.

“If it’s a high-intensity blast, the seat will activate in accordance with the blast. Each blast is different. As the blast gets bigger the blast is able to adjust,” Rivera said.

In total, the Marines plan to upgrade the majority of their fleet of 392 AAV SU vehicles.

The idea with Amphibious Assault Vehicles, known for famous historical attacks such as Iwo Jima in WWII (using earlier versions), is to project power from the sea by moving deadly combat forces through the water and up onto land where they can launch attacks, secure a beachhead or reinforce existing land forces.

Often deploying from an Amphibious Assault Ship, AAVs swim alongside Landing Craft Air Cushions which can transport larger numbers of Marines and land war equipment — such as artillery and battle tanks.

AAVs can also be used for humanitarian missions in places where, for example, ports might be damaged an unable to accommodate larger ships.

Alongside this ongoing effort to modernize the existing fleet of AAVs, the Corps is also constructing a new, wheeled Amphibious Combat Vehicles, or ACVs. These new platforms will include a wide range of next-generation technologies, travel much faster, deploy from much farther distances and perform at a much higher level across the board compared with the existing fleet.

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An Air Force pilot used a commercial GPS system during the Iraq War

While flying an F-16 in the Iraq War, Air Force pilot Raj Shah had a multimillion-dollar global positioning system at his disposal. While flying combat missions in 2006, he had everything the Air Force thought he might need, including the global coordinates of his intended targets. 

His problem was there was no way of looking at the military-specific system to know where he was in relation to those targets. There was no little plane icon on the screen to indicate where he was. No dot. Not even a little triangle. 

It seems that many millions of dollars may pay for innovation, but a little common sense came at a much higher price – or did it? Shah found a simple fix, and began to revolutionize the way the U.S. military interacts with maybe its greatest asset of the 21st century: Big Tech. 

While flying those missions, it occurred to Shah that civilian-grade GPS technology was far surpassing anything the military had. The F-16 took its first flight some 47 years ago and even though its avionics and other tech had been upgraded since, getting those upgrades often comes with some intense budgetary wrangling. 

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
“In one mile — recalculating… in three miles — recalculating…” (U.S. Air Force photo SMSgt Thomas Meneguin)

Needless to say, it did not have Waze or Google Maps available to the pilots. While neither of those apps were available back then, the F-16 didn’t have the latest and greatest that was. And despite what Donald Rumsfeld has famously said about going to war with the army you have, Shah thought he could do better.

When he was able to go home on leave, one of the first things the pilot did was pick up an iPAQ HW-6500, a PC-based digital assistant launched by Compaq in the year 2000. He then loaded a run-of-the-mill aviation map application. When he returned to duty in Iraq, he put the iPAQ on his lap and used that to aid his navigation, ignoring the ultra-expensive software on his F-16. 

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
I mean… that’s fair. This thing looks complicated anyway (U.S. Navy)

Shah would later head the Silicon Valley-based Defense Innovation Unit, a Pentagon office that not only specializes in working with America’s Big Tech sector, but is able to fast-track the funding of special prototypes. This was especially important as a way to integrate emerging technologies into the U.S. military at a time when American military dominance relied on it staying ahead of technological rivals. 

The DIUx (the “x” stands for “experimental”) was founded in 2015 to do just that. Using an old Space Race-era law that allowed NASA to stay one step ahead of the Soviet Union, the DIUx was able to procure new technologies. The law was called “Other Transaction Authority” (OTA), and was a fast lane for the military and defense contractors to introduce new tech to the U.S. government and its various agencies. 

That same year, Congress passed a law expanding the use of OTA to various other projects, so long as it was blessed by the Pentagon brass for its military effectiveness. Silicon Valley executives now had a reason to sit down with U.S. government and military officials, knowing there could be a deal within weeks – instead of months or years. 

Raj Shah, the F-16 pilot who originally flew missions in the Iraq War with a civilian GPS system, took over as head of the DIUx office in 2016 and expanded its reach beyond Silicon Valley. By the time he left the post in 2018, he had branch offices in Boston and in Austin, Texas, two other important sectors of technological innovation and development. 

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Here are 3 things the VA needs from Congress right now

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
(Photo: VA)


Current VA Secretary Bob McDonald and former VA Secretary James Peake just posted an op-ed at The Hill listing the things they believe Congress needs to do to help the VA right now:

While the Department is making significant progress, VA needs Congress’ help to achieve all of the breakthrough priorities on behalf of veterans . . . particularly in three pressing areas:

1. Untangle the seven different ways VA provides care in the community today

Today’s rules make the process inefficient, they cause confusion for both the veterans and providers, they are in place because of legislation added over the years, and they must be legislatively corrected.

2. VA needs the authority to enter into partnerships

VA needs the authority to enter into partnerships to make needed changes to our West Los Angeles campus and more quickly end veterans’ homelessness in the city with the largest concentration of homeless veterans.

3. VA needs Congress’s help to finally fix the claims appeal process

VA needs Congress’s help to finally fix the broken process by which veterans appeal unfavorable claims decisions—a process conceived over 80 years ago that is unlike any other appeals process in the federal government. Over the decades, layers of additions to the process have made it more complicated, more unpredictable, less clear, and less veteran-friendly.

Read the entire story at The Hill.

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US to evacuate Afghan interpreters ahead of troop withdrawal

The Biden administration told lawmakers Wednesday the US will soon start to evacuate thousands of Afghans who have assisted American troops for nearly two decades to other countries in an attempt to keep them safe while they apply for entry to the United States, The New York Times reported.

As the drawdown in Afghanistan enters its final stages, many veterans and some legislators have warned of a looming humanitarian crisis for the locals who have helped American forces during the past 20 years of war.

“When that last soldier goes wheels up out of Afghanistan, it is a death sentence for our local allies, the Taliban have made that clear in their words and in their actions as they hunt these people down right now as we speak,” Rep. Michael Waltz, a Florida Republican and former Green Beret, said last week.

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
Marine Cpl. Devon Sanderfield and an Afghan interpreter communicate with a local man in Changwalok, Afghanistan. US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Zachary Nola, courtesy of DVIDS.

More than 18,000 interpreters, security guards, fixers, embassy clerks, and engineers have applied for the Special Immigrant Visa, which takes more than two years on average to obtain. The Times reports that those applicants have 53,000 family members. A senior administration official told the Times family members would also be evacuated to another country to await visa processing.

Calls for the Biden administration to swiftly evacuate Afghan contractors have grown in recent months, with advocates fearing the Taliban could go “house to house” after Western forces leave, targeting interpreters and their families. The Taliban, meanwhile, said earlier this month that Afghans who helped foreign forces have nothing to fear as long as they “show remorse for their past actions” and don’t engage in future “treason against Islam and the country.”

Interpreters don’t trust that promise. The Taliban has tortured and killed dozens of Afghan translators during the past two decades, the news agency AFP reported.

“The Taliban will not pardon us. They will kill us and they will behead us,” Omid Mahmoodi, an interpreter who worked with US forces between 2018 and 2020, told AFP.

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’
Matthew Zeller, far left, in Afghanistan with his interpreter, Janis Shinwari, third from right, who later came to the US with Zeller’s help. Zeller has worked for years to bring interpreters and other Afghans to America. Photo courtesy of Matthew Zeller.

It’s not clear yet where Afghans will wait, or whether third countries have agreed to the plan. In a June 12, 2021, letter to President Joe Biden, Guam’s governor Lourdes Aflague Leon Guerrero asked that the island be a landing point for those in need, like it was in 1975 when the US evacuated approximately 130,000 Vietnamese refugees.

According to a document from the Truman Center obtained by Coffee or Die Magazine, the cost of flying Afghan allies to Guam would be relatively low. The Truman Center’s Matthew Zeller estimates the average price would be $9,981.65 per person, for a total cost of about $699 million for 70,000 evacuees.

“It sounds like a lot of money until you realize it’s an additional 8.3 hours of the DOD budget. But it’s a hell of a down payment in keeping Americans alive in future wars. Because this is how we’re going to show people that we keep our word,” Zeller said.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

Feature image: US Army photo by Spc. Andrew Baker

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Today in military history: Battle of Midway begins

On June 4, 1942, the Battle of Midway began when a Japanese fleet of almost 100 ships, led by the architect of the Pearl Harbor attack, attempted an even more overwhelming attack that would have kicked the U.S. out of the Central Pacific and allowed the empire to threaten Washington and California. Instead, that fleet stumbled into one of the most unlikely ambushes and naval upsets in the history of warfare.

Thanks to quick and decisive action by key sailors in the fleet, the U.S. ripped victory from the jaws of almost-certain defeat.

The Kido Butai, which was the largest fleet in the world at the time, had successfully fended off a variety of land-based attacks from American carriers. Just as they were about to mount a counter-attack three of the fleet’s carriers – the Akagi, Kaga, and Soryu – were hit by dive bombers from the USS Enterprise and USS Yorktown.

The fourth carrier, the Hiryu, would carry out two strikes that would leave the Yorktown crippled. 

Japan’s carrier air arm would never fully recover from the events of June 4, 1942. The Battle of Midway was truly the turning point of the Pacific Theater.

Featured Image: Devastators of VT-6 aboard USS Enterprise being prepared for takeoff during the Battle of Midway.

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Previously removed pages of 9-11 report show possible link between terrorists and Saudi government

Follow the West Point Class of 1966 to Vietnam in ‘The Long Gray Line’


New documents released by the White House July 15 show both the FBI and CIA found substantial evidence that several of the 9/11 hijackers received assistance from officers with the Saudi Arabian intelligence service while preparing for their attacks on Washington and New York.

While the intelligence described in the documents leaves some doubt on how strong the link between the 19 terrorists and the Saudi government was, it is the first time since 2003 that information on any ties between al Qaida and Saudi Arabian intelligence connected to the 9/11 attacks has been made public.

“While in the United States, some of the September 11 hijackers were in contact with and received support or assistance from individuals who may be connected to the Saudi government,” the report says. “There is information … that at least two of those individuals were alleged by some to be Saudi intelligence officers.”

The newly-released documents are 28 pages from the so-called “9/11 Report” ordered by Congress in the wake of the terrorist attacks that were removed from the final draft in an effort that some say was intended to shield one of America’s most important Middle East allies from embarrassment.

But pressure has been mounting on the Obama Administration to release the formerly classified pages by some in Congress and by attorneys for the families of 9/11 victims who are suing the Saudi government for its alleged role in the attacks.

The documents describe tactical help several of the attackers received from suspected Saudi intelligence operatives here in the U.S., including housing assistance, meetings with local imams and even one case where officials believed a Saudi operative was testing airline security during a flight to Washington, D.C.

“According to an FBI agent in Phoenix, the FBI suspects Mohammed al-Qudhaeen of being [REDACTED],” the report says. “Al-Qudhaeen was involved in a 1999 incident aboard an America West flight, which the FBI’s Phoenix office now suspects may have been a ‘dry run’ to test airline security.”

While the newly-released pages paint a detailed picture of how some suspected Saudi government officials and intelligence agents had ties to the al Qaida attackers and may have helped them plan and execute the attack, it’s unclear whether the effort was officially sanctioned by the Saudi royal family.

Congressional investigators “confirmed that the intelligence community also has information … indicating that individuals associated with the Saudi government in the United States may have other ties to al Qaida and other terrorist groups,” the report says. “Neither CIA nor FBI witnesses were able to identify definitively the extent of Saudi support for terrorist activity globally or within the United States and the extent to which such support, if it exists, is knowing or inadvertent in nature.”

While not necessarily a “smoking gun,” the most damning evidence in the pages deals with Omar al-Bayoumi and Osama Bassnan, alleged Saudi intelligence officers who provided direct assistance to “hijackers-to-be” Kahlid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi after they arrived in San Diego in 2000. Both men were financed by a Saudi company affiliated with the Saudi Ministry of Defense and they used those funds to secure housing and other incidentals for the future hijackers.

Along with illustrating how protracted the terrorists’ 9/11 planning was — taking place over several years — this newly-released section of the report also shows that the FBI dropped the ball on several occasions, failing to share intelligence between headquarters and the San Diego field office and summarily ending an investigation into the suspicious funding of a mosque construction — an investigation that — in hindsight — may have allowed the FBI to stymie the chain of events that eventually led to the horrific attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Editor-in-chief Ward Carroll contributed to this report.

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