Women led armies and nations, won battles, and fought wars to their very end. From Boudica’s repeated victories over Roman legions and Joan of Arc’s relief of Orléans to Mary Walker joining Sherman’s March to the Sea, women have a military legacy as old and storied as any. Here are a few modern women who stood up when the call came.
1. Margarita Neri – Mexico
Neri was a soldadera, a female soldier of the Mexican Revolution who traveled alongside the men. Most of the soldaderas only traveled with their husbands and didn’t fight, instead tending to the needs of their husbands. Margarita Neri was not one of these women.
She commanded more than 1,000 women in 1910 as her unit swept through Tabasco and Chiapas looting, burning, and killing. These were not unusual events in such a war, except this group’s commander was a woman who carried a bloody machete and vowed to decapitate longtime dictator Porfirio Díaz.
After a while, her bloody reputation would come to precede her. The ruthless nature of that reputation prompted the governor of Guerrero to smuggle himself out of town once he heard she was approaching.
After the war ended, the soldaderas returned to their homes without recognition of their contributions or pensions for the veterans. Many died homeless and destitute.
2. Marie Marvingt – France
If ever there were a Jane Of All Trades, it was Marie Marvingt. Raised in the Lorraine area of France, she was a champion shooter, athlete, and aviation pioneer. She is the godmother of aeromedical evacuation, developing the concept of air ambulances before World War I.
When World War I broke out, she disguised herself as a man and served as a front line soldier in France. After being discovered and sent home, she was requested by Marshal Ferdinand Foch to join an Italian mountain regiment in the Southern Alps.
In 1915, she became the first female combat pilot ever when she began flying bombing missions on German bases and in German-held territory. The interwar years saw her working as a journalist and war correspondent. While in Morocco, she invented a metal ski method for landing airplanes on sand.
During WWII, she formed a nurses parachute unit, who would drop nurses into combat zones when weather wouldn’t permit air ambulances to land. When France fell, she became a member of the Maquis – the core of the French Resistance.
3. Sabiha Gökçen – Turkey
Gökçen was the first Turkish female combat pilot, and some believe she was the first female combat pilot, though that claim is disputed. What isn’t disputed is her childhood as one of eight adopted children of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, father of modern Turkey.
As such, she was able to learn to fly in Russia. Though she was not able to attend the Turkish War College, Kemal, as her patron, ensured she received an education in combat operations anyway at the Turkish Military Aviation Academy.
Gökçen later wrote “Atatürk tested her by asking her to press a gun against her head and pull the trigger” and “she did not flinch.” It was this unflinching devotion which put her in the Easter regions of the country. She provided close air support to Turkish troops suppressing what would come to be called the Dersim Rebellion. Gökçen personally bombed the home of the insurgent leader, killing him and many of his lieutenants.
She would spend much of her career training pilots as an officer in the Turkish Air Force.
4. Lyudmila Pavlichenko – Soviet Union (Ukraine)
Hell hath no fury like a Ukrainian woman scorned by Nazis. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, a senior at Kiev University volunteered to join the Red Army infantry, declined being placed as a nurse, and opted to be a sniper instead, despite the staggering 75 percent loss rate for female snipers.
In her audition to be a sniper, she had to target two Romanians aiding Germans on a hill near the front. After she picked the two off, she was accepted, but did not tally the Romanians into her final kill count because “they were test shots.”
By the end of 1942, Pavilchenko had 309 confirmed kills, including 36 counter-sniper wins. She was wounded four times, including shrapnel wounds to the face. She was so successful, the Germans tried to bribe her with chocolate and a commission to defect and join the German army. When that didn’t work, they threatened to tear her to 309 pieces.
She wasn’t afraid. Pavilchenko was elated to know the Germans were keeping track. On a tour in the US to foster public opinion for the allies opening a second European front, Pavilchenko described her feelings on her daily life as a sniper as “uncomplicated,” remarking: “dead Germans are harmless.”
China wants to become east Asia’s dominant power. And in order to do that, the country needs a navy that can balance out American and US-allied assets in the region.
China wants a force that is capable of operating for extended periods in the open ocean, away from the coasts or support bases. A “blue-water navy” would allow China to protect vital trade routes while also enabling Beijing to project force in areas far from China’s coastline.
Beijing’s naval development could be one of the biggest strategic challenges the US faces in coming decades. And the Chinese navy is already pretty formidable. The following graphic from the US Office of Naval Intelligence shows every surface ship in the Chinese Navy as of February 2015 (you can view a much larger version of the graphic here):
The largest ship in China’s navy is currently the Liaoning aircraft carrier, a refurbished Soviet-built craft that’s had an array of problems. The vessel is several decades old and of questionable quality — it suffered an unexpected power outage during sea trials in October of 2014.
But the Liaoning may just be a practice carrier for the Chinese Navy. China is using the low-cost vessel to master the operation of carrier battle groups before purchasing and developing more expensive and capable vessels.
There are reports that China is planning on developing three carrier battle groups, in a massive ramping-up of naval force projection.
The Luyang II 052C class guided missile destroyer is also noteworthy. These ships are designed to operate in open ocean away from China’s coasts, allowing Beijing to press its territorial ambitions throughout the Pacific and the South China Sea.
Additionally, a ship model called the Jinan will feature a number of new-generation weapons, and is specially designed to protect any future Chinese aircraft carriers.
“The guided missile destroyer Ji’nan (hull number 152), is equipped with multiple sets of home-made new-type weapons,” China Military Online reports.
“It is able to attack surface warships and submarines independently or in coordination with other strength of the PLAN. The ship also possesses strong capabilities of conducting long-distance early-warning and detecting as well as regional air-defense operation.”
Admiral Harry Harris, the commander of United States Pacific Command, called Chinese criticism of the deployment of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system “preposterous” during testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The blunt talk comes in the wake of reports that China has unleashed hackers against South Korean government and business interests after the South Korean decision to allow deployment of a THAAD battery. According to Defense News, a battery has six launchers, and a Missile Defense Agency fact sheet notes each launcher has eight missiles. So, this battery has 48 missiles ready for launch.
While the United States has other missile-defense options to protect allies in the region like South Korea and Japan, THAAD is one of the more capable options according to ArmyRecognition.com, with a range of about 600 miles and the ability to hit targets almost 500,000 feet above ground level. The system is also highly mobile.
The MIM-104 Patriot surface-to-air missile, which proved itself capable of intercepting ballistic missiles during Operation Desert Storm, is already operated in the region by the United States, Japan, and South Korea, according to ArmyRecognition.com. The Patriot has a range of 43.5 miles and is capable of also targeting aircraft in addition to ballistic missiles.
Adm. Harris also declared support for a study into the feasibility of deploying Ground-Based Interceptors to Hawaii. This system currently is based in Alaska and California, with 30 interceptors split between Fort Greely and Vandenberg Air Force Base. The GBI has shown a success rate of almost 53 percent in tests, per the Missile Defense Agency.
A Hawaii basing option for the GBI would add another tier of defenses to that state, which along with Alaska are potentially in range of North Korean ICBMs like the Taepodong 2 and KN-08.
Sociological examination of veterans confirms higher rates of voting, volunteering, and civic engagement
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The veteran empowerment campaign Got Your 6 today unveiled the latest findings of its annual Veterans Civic Health Index, a major study that confirms significant and positive trends in levels of civic engagement among veterans. As the nation approaches Election Day, Got Your 6’s findings provide tangible evidence that veterans volunteer, engage with local governments and community organizations, vote, and help neighbors, all at rates higher than their non-veteran counterparts.
Findings from the report were highlighted this morning at an event titled “Veterans: America’s Greatest Assets” at SiriusXM’s Washington, D.C. studios. The event featured panels moderated by SiriusXM POTUS Channel 124 host Jared Rizzi and included Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald, co-chairs of the Congressional Post-9/11 Veterans Caucus Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) and Scott Perry (R-Pa.), and Got Your 6 Executive Director Bill Rausch, among others.
Among other data points, the 2016 Veterans Civic Health Index found:
Voting – 73.8 percent of veterans always or sometimes vote in local elections, versus 57 percent of non-veterans.
Service – Veteran volunteers serve an average of 169 hours annually – more than four full work weeks. Non-veteran volunteers serve about 25 percent fewer hours annually.
Civic Involvement – 11 percent of veterans attended a public meeting in the last year, versus 8.2 percent of non-veterans.
Community Engagement – 10.7 percent of veterans worked with their neighbors to fix community problems, compared to 7.6 percent of non-veterans.
“This report shows that by investing in our country’s veterans we’re really investing in our communities,” said Rausch. “The Veterans Civic Health Index continues to be shared as a tool to increase understanding, eliminate misconceptions, and empower veterans as they return home. Now, as our nation prepares to vote in November, this report serves as an indispensable annual metric for evaluating the veteran empowerment movement.”
“I’m thankful to Got Your 6 for putting this study together which proves what many of us inherently know to be true: that veterans are engaged members of their communities. To them, service does not end when the uniform comes off; it often means being a leader in their community, a dutiful employee, a coveted neighbor and a civic asset,” said Sec. McDonald. “A sense of purpose lasts a lifetime. Our nation is stronger because of its veterans.”
“Contrary to the misguided stereotype that veterans have difficulty coping when they re-enter civilian life, this report confirms what many veterans already know: veterans continue to impact their communities in positive and significant ways after leaving the military. Veterans are not a population that requires services, but a population that continues to serve our nation,” said Rep. Perry, co-chair of the Post-9/11 Veterans Caucus.
“This report underscores what so many of us see and experience every day: when our veterans return to civilian life, their mission of service doesn’t end. Whether it’s running for local office, volunteering in their communities, exercising their right and responsibility to vote, and so much more, our veterans continue to give back and serve our communities long after they leave the military. With roughly 500 veterans reentering civilian life every day, this report highlights the many ways our veterans continue to serve, and the responsibility we have to support and empower them,” said Rep. Gabbard, co-chair of the Post-9/11 Veterans Caucus.
“It is important to recognize how civic health is entwined with many of the social and political issues that are top of mind for Americans today,” said VCHI author and Got Your 6 Director of Strategy Julia Tivald. “As the VCHI reports, civic engagement is vital for strong communities, and veterans – through their consistently high engagement – are strengthening communities at higher rates than their non-veteran peers. As we search for solutions to some of our country’s most pressing issues, we should look to veterans who are continuing to lead in their communities, and also follow their example by engaging alongside them.”
Listen to “Veterans: America’s Greatest Assets” on SiriusXM’s POTUS Channel 124 Friday, Sept. 30 at 2pm ET and Saturday, Oct. 1 at 1pm and 9pm ET.
The report also features a detailed examination of the city of Baltimore, Md., demonstrating that local veterans volunteer more than local nonveterans (30.7 percent versus 27.2 percent), participate in civic organizations (20.7 percent versus 7.3 percent), and vote at higher rates in local elections (75.8 percent v 61.2 percent).
Khizr Khan came to national prominence after his impassioned speech at last week’s Democratic National Convention. His remarks touched on the value of his son’s sacrifice for the country and why he believes Muslim immigrants should be allowed to take part in the American process.
Some of Khan’s remarks were aimed directly at Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, including asking whether Trump had ever read the Constitution. In response, Trump fired back in a way that has offended many in the veteran community. Trump specifically addressed the silence of Capt. Khan’s mother, Ghazala Khan, and implied that she likely didn’t speak because her husband (and the Muslim faith) wouldn’t allow it. She later addressed his comments in a Washington Post op-ed and told him it was a mother’s grief, not her religion, that rendered her incapable of speaking.
In a joint letter, seven veterans organizations have asserted that the Khan family’s right to question the intentions and actions of presidential candidates and other potential elected officials should be respected.
We are all Gold Star Families, who have lost those we love the most in war. Ours is a sacrifice you will never know. Ours is a sacrifice we would never want you to know.
Your recent comments regarding the Khan family were repugnant, and personally offensive to us. When you question a mother’s pain, by implying that her religion, not her grief, kept her from addressing an arena of people, you are attacking us. When you say your job building buildings is akin to our sacrifice, you are attacking our sacrifice.
You are not just attacking us, you are cheapening the sacrifice made by those we lost.
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:
A fly away security team from the 1st Battalion, 153rd Infantry Regiment provides security for a C-130J May 26, 2017, during a cargo mission in Somalia, supporting the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa. CJTF-HOA promotes prosperity and security in East Africa by assisting partner nations with countering violent extremist organizations, fostering regional security cooperation, and by protecting U.S. personnel and facilities in its 10-country area of responsibility.
U.S. Air Force firefighters from the 8th Civil Engineer Squadron, Kunsan Air Base, 51st Civil Engineer Squadron, Osan Air Base, and Republic of Korea Air Force firefighters, spray water at a fire during combined fire training at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, May 23, 2017. U.S. and ROKAF firefighters trained together to help bridge communication gaps and improve their efficiency in responding to real-world scenarios.
Soldiers of the 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team, Mississippi Army National Guard, provide security while transporting residents during an evacuation exercise during the 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team’s National Training Center rotation May 31, 2017, at Fort Irwin, California.
A UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter sits under Milky Way galaxy in the Mojave Desert May 30, 2017, at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California. The 25 second exposure was taken when the moon was setting, lighting up the clouds on one side of the horizon. Further detail in the Milky Way galaxy was brought out by stacking 10 images together. Soldiers of Company C, 1st Battalion, 106th Aviation Regiment, are at NTC conducting combat training to strengthen their individual and combat readiness skills.
1st Sgt. Tyler S. Brownlee, second from left, Company B, 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, briefs Company B soldiers April 25, 2017, about their role in the following day’s air assault mission during the “Operation Raider Focus” exercise at Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site.
WESTERN PACIFIC (May 26, 2017) A wave breaks on the forecastle of Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) as the ship begins her approach to fleet replenishment oiler USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204) for a replenishment-at-sea. The U.S. Navy has patrolled the Indo-Asia-Pacific routinely for more than 70 years promoting regional peace and security.
SEA OF JAPAN (June 1, 2017) The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group, including the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) and the guided-missile destroyers USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) and USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112), operate with the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group including, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), CVW-5, USS Shiloh (CG 67), USS Barry (DDG 52), USS McCampbell (DDG 85), USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) and USS Mustin (DDG 89), and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships (JS) Hyuga (DDH 181) and JS Ashigara (DDG 178) in the western Pacific region. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and U.S. Navy forces routinely train together to improve interoperability and readiness to provide stability and security for the Indo-Asia Pacific region.
Marines with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 363 insert Marines with 3rd Marine Regiment in a long range raid simulation during Integrated Training Exercise (ITX) 3-17 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, May 27. ITX is a combined-arms exercise enabling Marines across 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing to operate as an aviation combat element integrated with ground and logistics combat elements as a Marine air-ground task force. More than 650 Marines and 27 aircraft with 3rd MAW are supporting ITX 3-17.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. David Bickel
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Dustin Pagano, combat marksmanship coach, Combat Marksmanship Company, Weapons Training Battalion, sites in on a target at Altcar Training Camp, Hightown, United Kingdom on May 24, 2017. The U.S. Marine Corps travels to the United Kingdom annually to compete in the Royal Marines Operational Shooting Competition and learn with their allies while building relationships.
An HH-65 Dolphin helicopter hoists a rescue swimmer during a search and rescue demonstration for Fleet Week New York, May 29, 2017. This year commemorates the 29th annual celebration of the U.S. Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard.
Congressman Charlie Crist, U.S. Representative for Florida’s 13th District, right, speaks with Air Station Clearwater crew members Tuesday, May 30, 2017, prior to an aerial assessment of beach erosion along Pinellas County, Florida’s coast. Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew members provided the overflight for the congressman and Army Corps of Engineers personnel.
When I was speaking at a university a few years ago, a student who DJ’d at the local college radio station and had read my book asked me to come on as a guest. He had me put together a list of music I listened to in Iraq, and then interviewed me between songs. It was a really cool experience for me to revisit my deployment through music.
This isn’t limited to my time in Iraq, but is evocative of both my deployment and homecoming. Here it is:
1. Live, “Mental Jewelry”
I started listening to Live in high school and have fond memories of seeing them play. For some reason, the lyrics came into my mind often in Iraq, always making me feel a little melancholy.
2. Bad Religion, “The Process of Belief”
This album came out while I was at DLI, and I listened to it throughout the summer of 2002 while I was at AIT in Texas. Once we got to Iraq, this song in particular made me ache.
3. “Story of My Life,” Social Distortion, Social Distortion
This is one of my favorite albums. Went to see them play in Dallas the summer of 2002 – and spent the whole time feeling a little alienated from civilians. As for this particular song, I left my hometown when I was 15, and every time I’ve gone back have felt that weird sensation of my old neighborhood not being the same. That got even stronger after I joined the Army. I like how this song captures a particular feeling of frustration.
4. “So What,” Ministry, The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste
I was angry as a teenager, and spent a lot of time angry while I was in the Army, too. This is a great song to be really pissed off to. (Random aside: I saw the movie this song has samples from on Mystery Science Theater 3000 once, which was awesome. It’s totally absurd, you should check it out: The Violent Years.)
5. “Holiday in Cambodia,” Dead Kennedys
So there isn’t a lot of DK on Spotify that I could find. The song I wanted to put was “Life Sentence” (the lyrics “you don’t do what you want to but you do the same thing every day” could describe half my time in the Army!), but this is a good one, too. Fits in with the theme of anger.
6. “Jaded,” Operation Ivy,” Operation Ivy
As angry as I got, I never gave up those hopeful kernels, and still clung to that conviction that I could make the world a better place. “Sound System” is another good one off that album, about how music can bring you back up when you feel shitty.
7. “Cactus,” Pixies, Surfer Rosa
I have no idea why this particular Pixies song is the one that I got totally fixated on in Iraq. The mention of the desert? Who knows.
8. “Then She Did,” Jane’s Addiction, Ritual De Lo Habitual
When I was younger and, um, enjoyed experimenting with mind-altering substances, the song “Three Days” was what I loved the most – it took me on this whole mental odyssey. But in Iraq I fell in love with this one, a more reserved and introspective one.
9. “In the Arms of Sleep,” The Smashing Pumpkins, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
I would listen to this one over and over and over in Iraq, longing to … be there, have those feelings.
10. “I Know, Huh?,” The Vandals, Hitler Bad, Vandals Good
This reminds me of the giddy, heady, happy days of being just home from Iraq, before the bad parts of reintegration kicked in. I have memories of driving around with Zoe singing along with this, being goofy and ridiculous.
11. “8 Mile,” Eminem, 8 Mile
When things started to get really shitty, I would listen to this song (oh, so cheesy! I know!) and tell myself I could push on for just a little longer and couldn’t give up.
Can you believe it is that time of year again? Tax season is here and it is usually the last thing you want to deal with, especially if your spouse is deployed. Deployment comes with stressors of its own; don’t let your taxes be one of them. As military families, we know that we often face special circumstances with our taxes. If you don’t know where to start, and are in need of some guidance, here are 4 things you should consider before filing your taxes.
1. Work with Your Legal Office
Did you forget to get a special power of attorney in order to file your taxes? Don’t worry! Your base legal office can help. They provide not only services to prepare a special power of attorney, but many other tax services as well. First thing you will need to do is find your legal office on a nearby military installation. Using the Armed Forces Legal Assistance website, enter your zip code and the distance you are willing to travel, you will find the locations of the nearest legal offices near you.
You will want to call ahead to ensure, however most of these services are available at legal assistance offices:
Wills, testamentary trusts, and estate planning
Domestic relations, including divorce, legal separation, annulment, custody, and paternity
Adoption and name changes
Taxes, including basic advice and assistance on Federal, State, and local taxes — see below for more details on this!
Landlord-tenant relations, including review of personal leases and communication and correspondence
Servicemembers Civil Relief Act advice and assistance
So once you find your office, give them a call and schedule an appointment. Also, don’t forget to ask them what documents to bring with you; you wouldn’t want to make a wasted trip!
2. If You Need Help Filing Your Taxes Get It
If you need help getting your taxes filed, your legal office has a Voluntary Income Tax Assistance program (VITA) that can help. Make sure to call and check with your legal center to see if this service is available at your installation. The VITA will help you file your taxes free of charge, but you will want to make sure to go as early in the day as possible in order to avoid long lines. If you have decided to go to a private tax preparer, make sure they are familiar filing returns for service members and their dependents. Or you can always file your taxes yourself for free using the Military One Source website. I personally have been using this service for years and it works great for me and my family’s needs.
3. Get The Other Things You Need
Whether you have decided to file with a professional, or do them yourself at home, there are still quite a few things you will need to ensure you have before you get started. A tax professional will let you know what to bring, but be sure to keep the following at hand and ready when filing:
• Military ID
• All W-2 and 1099 forms
• Social Security cards for all family members
• Deductions and credit information
• Bank account and routing numbers
• Receipts for child care expenses
• Last year’s tax return
• Special power of attorney authorizing you to do business on behalf of the deployed service member. If you don’t have this, call that legal office!
4. Give Yourself Plenty of Time
Lastly, but perhaps the most important thing to remember, ensure you give yourself enough time. Federal income taxes need to be filed no later than April 15, 2016, unless you qualify for an extension such as the Combat zone and hazardous duty extensions. If you or your spouse are serving in a combat zone or are receiving hostile fire or imminent danger pay, the deadline for filing income taxes is 180 days after your last day in the combat zone or hazardous duty area. The IRS has a list available of the combat zones. So make sure you have everything you need and make those appointments in time.
With a distinguished history dating back to the end of American Civil War, the men and women of the elite Secret Service take on one of the world’s toughest tasks — protecting the U.S. president and other government officials from assassination attempts.
Originally designated to control the issue of combating US currency counterfeiting, it wasn’t until after the assassination of former President William McKinley when the Service Secret was assigned to protect the POTUS in 1901.
The Secret Service’s mission is to prevent life-threatening incidents well before they occur. They scope out meeting locations days before their clients show up and map out vantage points and escape routes if the situation goes pear shaped.
In the sniper world, the mission is the same. Highly-trained sharpshooters are always on the alert, completely focused and ready to strike at all times.
Working in teams of two, you can usually spot them posted on the White House’s rooftop examining your every move.
Usually armed with high-powered rifles, each team is equipped with a shooter and a spotter. These snipers go through intense training learning how to react to any situation that they may face.
Remarkably, no sniper team has ever had to fire a shot since the unit was formed in 1971.
WWI is regarded as the world’s first “total” war, not only because of the enormity of its destruction and the sheer loss of human life, but also because so many non-combatants on the home front were tapped to help in their nation’s war efforts. As men left for combat, women could increasingly be found working in and managing such traditionally male-dominated fields as transportation and industry, and many women departed for the dangers of the front as nurses, laundresses, cooks, and drivers—often for the purpose of freeing more men up for the actual fighting.
While much of this is well-known to the typical First World War buff, what many do not know is that Russia—and Russia alone—created all-female combat units to actively fight alongside men on the front. According to Melissa Stockdale’s article “‘My Death for the Motherland Is Happiness’: Women, Patriotism, and Soldiering in Russia’s Great War,” the most famous of these units was known as The First Women’s Battalion of Death, and it’s estimated that approximately 6,000 Russian women served in such battalions throughout the war.
To understand how these battalions came about, one must first understand some basics of the Russian domestic situation at this time.
In March of 1917, Tsar Nicholas, submitting to the fact that he could no longer fight the tides of revolution, abdicated the throne to an incredibly precarious—albeit democratic—new government. The following months saw a flood of liberal and egalitarian policies instituted throughout Russia, with women getting the vote, as well as legal entitlement to equal pay.
Meanwhile, the new government also believed that victory in the World War was vital to the country’s self-interest. Laurie Stoff, author of They Fought for the Motherland: Russia’s Women Soldiers in WWI and the Revolution, writes that this meant newly appointed Minister of War Alexandra Kerensky was now faced with the mammoth task of breathing life into a war effort of which the majority of Russians—especially Russian soldiers—wanted no more part. Insubordination rates and violence against officers (especially officers with aristocratic backgrounds) were at an all-time high, and after three years at the front in often horrific day-to-day conditions, most of Russia’s soldiers simply wanted to go home.
Kerensky’s answer to low morale was the creation of what he called “shock battalions,” or “battalions of death,” which he envisioned as brigades of the most disciplined, exemplary Russian fighters. They would theoretically be deployed to various places along the front to awe and inspire war-weary soldiers.
Kerensky’s vision of these shock battalions coincided almost exactly with an idea brought forward by a peasant-woman-turned-soldier named Maria Bochkareva (while by no means common, there were a number of known incidents of individual women serving in otherwise all-male units throughout Europe during this time). Bochkareva asserted that a disciplined, exemplary battalion of Russian women could serve to “shame” the weary and unmotivated soldiers at the front.
While Bochkareva earnestly believed in a woman’s ability to fight, The Ministry of War mostly saw her proposal as the perfect propaganda tool to compliment their shock battalions—if even women, they reasoned, were answering their country’s call to arms, then surely men would feel obliged to follow suit. Thus, Kerensky gave his permission for the First Women’s Battalion of Death to be formed, led under Bochkareva’s command.
According to historian Richard Abraham, The First Women’s Battalion of Death was made public in late May with a major publicity campaign throughout St. Petersburg, and within a matter of weeks the Battalion had over 2,000 female recruits from a diverse range of backgrounds and education levels.
Enlistment was open to women aged eighteen and older, with women under the age of twenty-one required to have permission from their parents to join. According to Stockdale, the recruits were also made to swear an oath in which they promised everything from “courage and valor” to “cheerfulness, happiness, kindness, hospitality, chastity, and fastidiousness.” After these initial requirements were met, as well as the passing of a health evaluation, the women were marched off to training grounds to begin the process that would turn them from “women to soldiers.”
This process first entailed the shaving of their heads, ridding the women of one of their most “impractical” and outwardly feminine features. As no uniforms for women existed, the recruits were administered clothes designed for men that were often ill-fitting on the female frame; this proved especially problematic in regards to footwear, as their boots were often impossibly over-sized. To further enforce their new identities, Bochkareva discouraged and punished excessive smiling and giggling—behavior she considered overly-feminine—and instead encouraged spitting, smoking, and cursing among her recruits.
Along with these physical transformations, the women also began a grueling daily training process designed to prepare them for battle. The recruits rose at five o’ clock each morning and drilled until nine o’ clock at night, at which point they slept on bare boards covered by thin bed sheets. Their training consisted of strenuous exercises, marching drills, lessons in hand-to-hand combat, and rifle handling.
Any behavior deemed “flirtatious” or at all feminine was strictly prohibited, and Bochkareva was known to punish even minor transgressions with corporal punishment. She stomped out any signs of traditional femininity not only in an attempt to make “warriors of the weaker sex,” but also in order to curb government anxiety that female soldiers at the front would result in illicit sexual relations. As one official stated, “Who will guarantee that the presence of women soldiers at the front will not yield there little soldiers?” Bochkareva thus deemed the sexlessness of her soldiers as a mark of her own professional dedication and triumph.
Stockdale states that while on the home front these female soldiers were publicly celebrated, their reception in combat was decidedly less welcome. Upon arriving at the front, the Battalion was met with boos, jeers, and an overall sense of resentment by male soldiers. Not only did the deep-rooted misogyny of the military complex and culture at large shine through, but in general, the exhausted men were antagonistic to anything that they perceived as an attempt by their leaders to prolong the fighting.
Even when the Women’s Battalion proved itself both disciplined and courageous under fire, male soldiers remained angered and insulted by their presence. Within just a few months, Bochkareva was forced to disband the unit, allowing her women to join groups elsewhere wherever they saw fit. In her memoir, Yashka, My Life As A Peasant, Exile, and Soldier, Bochkareva, wrote:
“They could not stand it much longer where they were. They were prepared to fight the Germans, to be tortured by them, to die at their hands or in prison camps. But they were not prepared for the torments and humiliations that they were made to suffer by our own men. That had never entered into our calculations at the time that the Battalion was formed.”
Upon the ultimate Bolshevik takeover in the fall, Russia withdrew from the war altogether, and the ill-fated women’s battalions faded into practically less than a footnote in Russian history. Some scholars speculate that this is because the battalions were so closely associated with the military propaganda of the old regime, whereas others assert that it had more to do with the Russian people’s desperate desire to return to some sense of normalcy after years of international and internal warfare.
Stockdale writes that the women soldiers themselves had an extremely difficult time readjusting after their return home. Their close-shaven heads made them instantly recognizable as former members of female battalions, and they were easy targets in the mist of the Bolshevik fervor taking hold of the country; there are eye-witness accounts of former battalion members getting beaten, sexually assaulted, and even thrown off moving trains during this period.
Remarkably, many of the former battalion members continued in their desire to fight, with a large number joining both the revolutionary and anti-revolutionary armies on individual bases in the years to come.
Bob Hope was among the brightest stars during his era. He was known for his comedic one-liners and performances over a long career in entertainment.
He passed away in 2003 at the age of 100 but left a legacy of humor and humanitarianism having traveled the world for more than half his life to deliver laughter and entertainment to American troops. His legacy of service to the troops lives on through the Bob Dolores Hope Foundation, thanks to his granddaughter Miranda Hope and Easterseals.
Join us for an informative episode of the We Are The Mighty podcast with Miranda Hope and discover why Bob Hope continues to be beloved by our troops.
Miranda Hope serves as a Member, Director, and Vice President of the Bob and Dolores Hope Foundation, which is dedicated to serving those in need and those who serve to protect our nation. She has worked as a public school teacher, a counselor, and a performer. She holds degrees from Columbia University (MFA) and Stanford University (BA) and offers trauma-informed yoga and meditation to civilian, military, and incarcerated populations.
Selected links and show notes:
[01:15] Bob Hope’s history with American troops.
[04:45] How Miranda Hope became involved with the troops.
[06:50] How today’s veterans respond to Bob Hope.
[09:10] The mission of the Bob Dolores Hope Foundation.
[13:35] How the foundation benefits veterans.
[14:50] Who can apply to this program.
[15:15] Why the Bob Dolores Hope Foundation teamed up with Easterseals.
[17:00] Issues that plague today’s veterans.
[21:00] Future plans and expansion of the program.
He was asked if the US should reinstate the draft.
Yes, he replied, but not to grow the size of the armed forces.
He argued that since only 1% of Americans serve their country, America lacks in shared experience — there’s almost no common background between the upper class and the middle class, the educated and the uneducated, the rural and the urban.
The solution, then, wouldn’t be mandatory military service, but national service — programs like Teach for America and City Year, but made accessible to a full quarter of a yearly cohort rather than an elite few.
Since that conversation, McChrystal has campaigned for making a “service year” a part of young Americans’ trajectories. The goal is to “create 1 million civilian national service opportunities every year for Americans between the ages of 18 and 28 to get outside their comfort zones while serving side by side with people from different backgrounds.”
In an interview with Business Insider, McChrystal, who has held positions as head of US Joint Special Operations Command and as the top commander of US and international forces in Afghanistan, explained his plan for making that happen, and the effects national service could have on American society.
Business Insider: What does the word “citizenship” mean to you, and how does national service inform it?
Gen. Stanley McChrystal: When I think of citizenship, I think of a nation as a covenant. It’s an agreement between a bunch of people to form a compact that does such things as common defense, common welfare, whatnot. The United States is not a place; it’s an idea, and it’s basically a contract between us.
BI: So if a nation is an agreement, then citizenship is putting that agreement into action?
SM: That’s exactly what it is.
BI: What does citizenship have to do with having a common experience?
SM: We’ve become a nation that’s split 50 ways.
There are fewer ties to the community today than when you lived in a small town, and everybody had to get together to raise a barn. You knew your neighbors because you had to. Grandparents tended to live in the same town as parents, and kids grew up there. Nowadays, we don’t live that way.
BI: But service programs today are unreachable for most people, so how can they serve as a common link? Teach for America, the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps — these programs have acceptance rates comparable to Ivy League schools. How do you make service more accessible?
SM: What has happened is that many of our service practices have become almost elitist programs. They do it because they can, and also it protects their brand and their reputation so they can survive in tough times. But it’s not solving the problem because most of people who go do those kinds of things, I think they come out better citizens, but it’s too small a number — it’s less than 200,000 kids a year.
BI: There are a ton of social structures at work here. How do you make a change?
SM: We’ve got 4 million young people in every year cohort in America, so we think that in the next 10 years we’ve got to get to about a million kids every year to do a year of national service. That would be 25% of the year group.
Now, I can’t prove this, but our sense is that if we get to 25%, you probably get the critical mass, because what we’re trying to do is get this into the culture of America so that service is voluntary but it’s expected. Meaning if you go to interview for a job, you go to apply to a school, you go to run for congress, people are going to naturally ask, Where did you serve?
BI: OK, so how do you make that happen?
SM: Creating a big government agency isn’t the mechanism to do this.
We’re trying to take existing organizations like Teach for America and expand those. Then Cisco, the corporation, has donated money and helped to develop a digital platform that is going to give us a 21st-century ability to match opportunities and people looking for a service year opportunity.
I think we create a marketplace to do this that obviously starts slowly and then builds up momentum. And then once we get to the point where people really believe that service is not only a good thing to do — in an altruistic sense as citizen — but it also advantages them.
BI: There seems to be a lot of anxiety around doing “a gap year.” Are any programs already in place that take away that anxiety?
SM: There’s a program that Tufts University rolled out that’s called 1+4. And I was up there when they announced it. And what you do is, you apply for Tufts — I think there are 50 slots for the class that came in last September — but you do your first year doing national service, kind of like you’re red-shirted for football, and then you do your four years.
You’re already accepted, so the family doesn’t worry, Is Johnny going to go to college? If you’re on financial aid, Tufts pays for it. They pay for the national service. Tufts believe they get a more mature freshman. We’re pushing this in a lot of universities now because it’s a win-win for a university.
They do get a more mature person, and parents don’t worry about the vagaries of the gap year. There could be a lot of different permutations of that kind of thing, but those are the kinds of things that we see as practical steps.
BI: How will you know when the plan has succeeded?
SM: The key part of the ecosystem is the culture that demands national service. At some point, my goal is to get it so that nobody would run for Congress who hadn’t served, because they think they’d get pummeled for not having done a service year.
Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, a front-runner for defense secretary in a Trump administration, could face stormy Senate confirmation hearings over his views on women in combat, post-traumatic stress, Iran, and other issues.
Mattis also would bring with him a bottom-up leadership style honed in command positions from the rifle platoon level to U.S. Central Command that seemingly would be at odds with President-elect Donald Trump’s top-down management philosophy and the by-the-book bureaucracy of the Pentagon.
In his writings, speeches and think-tank comments since retiring in 2013 as a revered figure in the Marine Corps, Mattis has been characteristically blunt on a range of issues from the role of women in the military and post-traumatic stress to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Iran.
Mattis also has praised the Mideast diplomacy efforts of Secretary of State John Kerry, who was often mocked by Trump during the campaign, but Trump has kept Mattis at the top of his short list for the Pentagon post.
The general has apparently cleared his calendar in anticipation of a Trump decision.
Mattis canceled a Dec. 14 speaking engagement at a Jamestown Foundation conference on terrorism, according to The Hill newspaper’s Kristina Wong. He has discussed the possibility of his selection as defense secretary with the leadership of the Center for a New American Security, where he is a board member, the Hill said.
Others believed to be under consideration for the defense post are Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican and former Army captain; Stephen Hadley, the National Security Adviser in the administration of President George W. Bush; and former Sen. Jim Talent, a Missouri Republican.
Trump met with Mattis before Thanksgiving and later called him the “real deal” and a “generals’ general” who rated ample consideration for the defense nomination. Trump also said he was “surprised” when Mattis told him he could get more out of a terrorism suspect’s interrogation with a few beers and a pack of cigarettes than he could with waterboarding and torture.
Trump later spoke at length with The New York Times about the potential choice of Mattis and other matters, but did not touch on the roles of women in the military or Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s historic decision last March to open up all military occupational specialties to women who qualify.
Women in Combat
Mattis, now a distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution in California, has questioned whether women are suited for what he called the “intimate killing” of close combat, and whether male commanders would balk at sending women into such situations.
Mattis also said he was concerned about “Eros” in the trenches when young men and women live in close quarters in the “atavistic” atmosphere of combat. “I don’t care if you go anywhere in history where you would find that this has worked,” he said of putting “healthy young men and women together and we expect them to act like little saints.”
In periodic speeches to the Marines’ Memorial Club in San Francisco, Mattis said that the U.S. military is a “national treasure,” and it is inevitable that women would want to serve in every MOS.
“The problem is that in the atavistic primate world” of close-quarters combat, “the idea of putting women in there is not setting them up for success,” Mattis said. He stressed that he was not talking about whether women could perform the required amounts of pushups, pullups and other physical requirements — “that’s not the point.”
Commanders must consider “what makes us most combat effective when you jump into that room and you’re doing what we call intimate killing,” he said. “It would only be someone who never crossed the line of departure into close encounters fighting that would ever even promote such an idea” as putting women into close combat.
If nominated, Mattis would almost certainly be challenged on women in combat in confirmation hearings before the Senate Armed Services Committee, which has six women on the panel.
One of them is Sen. Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican who retired as a lieutenant colonel after 23 years in the Army Reserves and Iowa National Guard. Ernst, who served a deployment in Operation Iraqi Freedom and is the first female veteran in the Senate, has applauded the opportunity for women who meet the standards to serve in the combat arms.
Opponents of women in combat have said that the next defense secretary could easily reverse the current rules opening up all billets to women.
Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, told Military Times, “Those policies have to be rolled back. Right now, the policy is that women can and will be assigned to ground combat units. That pronouncement can indeed be changed by a future secretary of defense.”
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of “Ashley’s War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield,” said the argument is misguided since women have already proven their worth in combat.
The rules could be changed by the next administration, but “the record of service speaks for itself,” Lemmon said. Even when regulations banned women from combat, “They were there. They were there because special ops needed them there,” she said.
“I have never thought this was about political correctness or a feminist agenda,” Lemmon said of the issue of women in combat, “but rather about military readiness and having the right people in the right jobs. In some ways, it is remarkable to me that we have Americans who want to say that even if you meet the standard, you cannot be there.”
Mattis has also differed with current thinking on post-traumatic stress and its treatment in the military and in the Department of Veterans Affairs, where the leadership has labored to remove the “stigma” against seeking help.
“We have such a fixation on disease and disorder that troops coming home have to be told, actually have to be told, ‘You don’t have to be messed up,’ ” Mattis said. “What’s the message we’re sending them?”
“My concern is we’ve got so many people who think they’re messed up now, or think they should be, that the ones who really need help are being submerged in the broader population and so the ones who need the help the most aren’t getting the attention they need to be getting,” he said.
“There’s no room for woe-is-me, for self-pity, or for cynicism” in the military, Mattis said. “Further, there is no room for military people, including our veterans, to see themselves as victims even if so many of our countrymen are prone to relish that role. In the military, we make choices. We’re not victims.”
The misperception about war and its aftermath is that “somehow we’re damaged by this. I’m on record that it didn’t traumatize me to do away with some people slapping women around,” Mattis said, but there was a growing acceptance that “we’re all post-traumatic stressed out” and that veterans were “somehow damaged goods. I don’t buy it.”
Mattis stepped down as commander of U.S. Central Command in 2013, reportedly after clashing with the White House on Iran. Now, his views on the threat posed by Iran appear to line up with those of Trump.
“Among the many challenges the Mideast faces, I think Iran is foremost,” Mattis said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies last April.
“The Iranian regime, in my mind, is the single most enduring threat to peace and stability in the Mideast,” and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action worked out by Secretary Kerry and others to rein in Iran’s nuclear programs has not altered the threat, he said.
During the campaign, Trump called the Iran pact a “terrible deal” and suggested he would renegotiate it or possibly scrap it, but Mattis is against that course of action.
“It was not a mistake to engage on the nuclear issue” with Iran, he said, adding that the deal “was not without some merit” and “there’s no going back, absent a clear violation” of the agreement.
Kerry has been pilloried by Trump on his overall performance as secretary of state, but Mattis lauded his efforts in the Mideast, particularly on his thus-far fruitless attempts to bring about a two-state solution between the Israelis and the Palestinians. However, the two sides must want peace “as bad as the secretary of state. I admire and salute Secretary Kerry’s efforts,” he said.
Should Mattis get the nomination, he would take to the Pentagon a unique leadership style that relies on feedback from the ranks. “Generals get a lot of credit but very little of it is earned by their own blood, sweat and tears,” he has said, adding that the credit should go to the front-line troops.
“There are two kinds of generals — one gets briefed, the other briefs his staff,” and Mattis made clear that he was the second type of general. “I found it faster if I would go out and spend most of my time with the lead elements” in an effort “to get a sense if the lads thought we were winning. We didn’t use command and control, we used command and feedback.”
“Wandering around like that really unleashed a lot of combat power,” said Mattis, whose nickname was “Mad Dog” and who had the radio call sign “Chaos.”
When asked about the most important trait for a leader, he said, “It comes down to building trust.”
Leaders must be able to make those in their command “feel your passion for excellence. If they believe you care about them, you can speak to them bluntly and they’re ready to go back into the brawl,” he said.
If he were to be confirmed by the Senate, Mattis would be the first recently retired general to hold the defense secretary’s post since Gen. George C. Marshall, the Army chief of staff during World War II. Marshall was named secretary of defense by President Harry Truman in 1950.
The choice of Mattis would for the first time put two Marines in the top uniformed and civilian posts at the Pentagon. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford served under Mattis as a colonel in command of the 5th Marine Regiment during the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Senate confirmation would be the second hurdle for Mattis. He first would need a waiver from Congress to get around the rule barring military officers from accepting posts requiring Senate confirmation for seven years after retirement. Mattis left the military in 2013.