The F-11F Tiger was a supersonic fighter designed for the Navy, first produced in 1954 and first tried on a carrier in 1956. At the time, supersonic flight was not a new concept. Air Force test pilot Charles “Chuck” Yeager had broken the sound barrier in 1947 and new supersonic planes were rolling off of assembly lines.
The first U.S. Air Force jet fighter capable of level supersonic flight was the F-100 Super Sabre. Grumman’s F-11F Tiger was an adaptation of an earlier Grumman fighter, the F9F Cougar. The defense contractor wanted to lower the plane’s transonic drag by completely redesigning the wing assembly.
This new design used spoilers to control the plane’s roll and had improved low-velocity maneuverability. Most importantly for the U.S. Navy, those new wings folded up for easier storage aboard American aircraft carriers. The result was a supersonic fighter capable of 10,500 pounds of thrust and a speed of Mach 1.1. One more critical element remained: its armament.
Tigers were outfitted with AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles and four 20-millimeter Mark-12 cannons. Those cannons would prove themselves especially effective against fighter aircraft – namely the Grumman F11F Tiger.
On Sept. 21, 1956 test pilot Tom Attridge took to the skies behind the stick of an F-11F to run some tests for Grumman on the plane’s weapons capabilities. He climbed to 20,000 feet, dropped down to 13,000 feet and test fired all four cannons in two, four-second bursts. His guns were emptied.
After the first burst, he switched to afterburners before firing the second volley. Suddenly, the Tiger rattled as if it had been hit by a bird. He had to slow the plane’s speed to 230 miles per hour after his canopy and the right engine showed apparent damage. His plane was suddenly only at 78% power. The engine began to sound like it was “tearing up.”
Then, he lost power entirely, just two miles from his Long Island home base. As he attempted to make for the runway, the plane caught fire, lost a wing and a stabilizer, and Attridge had to abandon the plane. He survived the ejection.
Upon closer examination, Grumman engineers found three damage points in the F-11F Tiger. Attridge manages to hit his own plane in the canopy glass, right engine, and nose cone. They even found a 20-millimeter bullet lodged in the engine’s compressor.
Attridge managed to shoot himself down because the projectiles’ velocity and altitude drops coincided with the aircraft’s descent and downward pitch. When he dove down at .5-G, he put himself below the bullets’ trajectories. It took only 11 seconds to catch up to his own bullets.
Luckily for Attridge, the plane was loaded with dummy practice rounds, straight metal slugs that did not explode on impact with the target, like the kind used in air-to-air combat. If they had been using real ammunition, it’s unlikely the pilot would have survived either the hit to the canopy glass or the hit to the plane’s engine.
If Attridge had not dived down as steep as he did, the bullets would have missed his plane entirely. It was the air resistance that slowed the bullets down to the point where they could hit the F-11F.
The Navy called it a “million to one shot,” but advised that the increasing speed of jet aircraft could make it likely the event would happen again one day – and it did. In 1973, an AIM-7 Sparrow missile caught the end of an F-14 Tomcat’s fuel tank and took down that plane. Those pilots also survived.
The US Defense Department is making another multi-million dollar investment in high-energy lasers that have the potential to destroy enemy drones and mortars, disrupt communication systems, and provide military forces with other portable, less costly options on the battlefield.
US Senator Martin Heinrich, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and longtime supporter of directed energy research, announced the $17 million investment during a news conference Wednesday inside a Boeing lab where many of the innovations were developed.
The US already has the ability to shoot down enemy rockets and take out other threats with traditional weapons, but Heinrich said it’s expensive.
High-energy lasers and microwave systems represent a shift to weapons with essentially endless ammunition and the ability to wipe out multiple threats in a short amount of time, he said.
“This is ready for prime time and getting people to just wrap their head around the fact that you can put a laser on something moving really fast and destroy it … has been the biggest challenge,” said Heinrich, who has an engineering degree.
Boeing has been working on high-energy laser and microwave weapons systems for years. The effort included a billion-dollar project to outfit a 747 with a laser cannon that could shoot down missiles while airborne. The system was complex and filled the entire back half of the massive plane.
With advancements over the past two decades, high-powered laser weapons systems can now fit into a large suitcase for transport across the battlefield or be mounted to a vehicle for targeting something as small as the device that controls the wings of a military drone.
“Laser technology has moved from science fiction to real life,” said Ron Dauk, head of Boeing’s Albuquerque site.
The company’s compact laser system has undergone testing by the military and engineers are working on a higher-powered version for testing next year.
While the technology has matured, Dauk and Heinrich said the exciting part is that it’s on the verge of moving from the lab to the battlefield.
Another $200 million has been requested in this year’s defense appropriations bill that would establish a program within the Pentagon for accelerating the transition of directed-energy research to real applications.
Heinrich said continued investment in such projects will help solidify New Mexico’s position as a leading site of directed-energy research and bring more money and high-tech jobs to the state.
Boeing already contributes about $120 million to the state’s economy through its contracts with vendors.
The Syrian government has asked Iran to take over the supervision and payroll of thousands of Shi’ite militiamen fighting alongside Russian and Syrian troops in support of President Bashar al-Assad, according to a government source and a news report.
The pro-opposition Syrian news website Zaman Al Wasel reported that it obtained a Syrian defense ministry document saying the Assad regime has approved a plan to give Iran responsibility for paying foreign fighters – mostly Shi’ites of varying nationalities. Shi’ite fighters mostly are paid in cash from Iran, the Syrian government and coffers of the Lebanese-based, pro-Iranian Hezbollah, according to analysts.
Iran would foot the bill alone in the future, a Syrian official told VOA on the condition of anonymity, confirming the Al Wasel report.
“The number of Shia militia has increased dramatically during the last two months,” the official said. “While a big part of these militia were recruited by Iran, a relatively big part was recruited by the Syrian government directly. We are speaking about more than 50,000 militants from different nationalities. The Syrian government requested that Iran provide for all of the mentioned militias.”
The document from Al Wasel put the number of fighters to be paid at 88,733 — a figure analysts say is exaggerated. They estimate that about 10,000 Iranian combat troops are in Syria fighting alongside thousands of fighters from Lebanon’s Tehran-affiliated Shiite militia Hezbollah and assorted Shiite militia made up of renegade Pakistanis, central Asians and other nationalities. Since January 2013, more than 1,000 members of Iran’s elite Quds Force or other elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) units have been killed fighting in Syria.
Tehran says its forces are in Syria to protect the Zeinab Shrine in Damascus, a Shi’ite holy site. But since 2011, Iran has been a major backer of the Syrian regime in its war with rebel groups across the country, at first sending advisers, then forces from the IRGC and expanding far beyond the shrine area.
Iran has long expressed a desire to command a unified army in the region, particularly in Syria, and its growing power in Syria and Iraq is causing unease in Western capitals. In an interview with the Mashregh news agency last August, Mohammad Ali Falaki, an IRGC leader, announced formation of a unified army in Syria which appears to have come to loose fruition.
“It would hardly be abnormal for Iran’s IRGC to be controlling yet more Shia jihadists,” said Talha Abdulrazaq, a researcher at the University of Exeter’s Strategy and Security Institute.
In the long run, the formation of a unified army in Syria under Tehran supervision appears very practical, analysts say.
“It seems plausible that the Syrian government shift the responsibility for management and organization of the militias, especially where financial burden is concerned,” said Rasool Nafisi, a Middle East affairs expert in Washington.
Asserting its military prowess would help Iran push its political agenda in the region, some analysts believe.
“The bigger and more advanced army you control, the stronger voice you have,” said Daryoush Babak, a Washington-based retired Iranian military adviser.
But unifying Assad supporters under Tehran’s umbrella could worsen sectarian conflict in the region between Shi’ites and Sunni, analysts say.
Iran is looking for any chance to increase its influence and gain an upper hand against Saudi Arabia, its strongest rival in the war of minds and hearts, analysts say. Saudi Arabia and Iran support rival groups in Syria’s civil war. And In a speech in Saudi Arabia, President Donald Trump accused Tehran of contributing to instability in the region.
“Tehran and Riyadh … keep contradicting each other to prove whose ideology leads the region,” said Nafisi.
While Syria has relied on Iran militarily in the fight against rebels and Islamic State, it’s unlikely to grant Tehran a controlling foothold in the country, analysts say.
“In Syria, it is not likely to happen as long as the Assad regime harbors ambitions of regaining sovereignty rather than being reduced to an Iranian protectorate,” said Alfoneh.
It was a huge morale boost for the battle-weary soldiers living at Patrol Base Murray the morning they got a visit from the Army’s top general. They couldn’t have imagined that anyone of that importance would come to their dusty, dangerous slice of the combat zone.
It felt good, but less than an hour after he and his entourage went wheels up, five of their fellow soldiers would be dead, the victims of a cunning sniper who sucked them into his web with ruthlessly primitive tactics.
The first victim was Spc. William Edwards. On a patrol outside the wire during the four-star general’s visit, he cautiously popped his Bradley’s driver hatch open three-quarters of the way to peer outside, and was shot high on his back squarely between the shoulders.
“It was a great sniper shot,” then-Lt. Col. Ken Adgie, commander of 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry, said of the clean hit, which Edwards’ platoon immediately knew had come from a three-story house about 200 meters away.
As the medics and docs in the aid station worked to save Edwards’ life, the rest of his buddies from Bravo Company, 2nd Platoon went into reaction mode and headed straight for the house to find the sniper.
The battalion, part of the 3rd Infantry Division, was on mission in the region of Arab Jabour about six miles southeast of the Baghdad, a lush agrarian area where magnificent houses that once belonged to the ruling Sunni elite grace the banks of the Tigris River.
It was now teeming with al-Qaeda operatives and their hired help. The troops called it “IED Alley” — aptly named as the division’s tally of men lost after a year in combat was more than 150, mostly to buried bombs. But the sniper threat was a constant.
The presumed sniper house was on a ribbon of land between a one-lane hardball road and the river less than a mile south of Patrol Base Murray, and 2nd Platoon had surrounded it within 15 minutes of the incident with Edwards.
Four soldiers – Sgt. Scott Kirkpatrick, Spc. Justin Penrod, Sgt. Andrew Lancaster and Staff Sgt. William Scates – went into the house to clear it. They entered through the back door.
“There was a trip wire deep in the house at the end of the hallway going into the living room. A pressure sensitive wire, something under the carpet,” Adgie said.
Unbeknownst to the soldiers, the house was booby trapped with as many as four 155 mm artillery rounds enhanced with homemade explosives and when the first soldier stepped on the trigger, it tripped a circuit and detonated the charge, blowing everyone up in a fiery explosion.
The soldiers were killed, a heavy toll that raised to five the number of soldiers the battalion lost that day, all within 30 minutes.
“The explosion was huge,” Adgie said. “Structurally the house stood, but it caught fire then burned for six hours. We had to wait for it to go out and the Navy EOD guys to go in and make sure it was safe before we could get one of the bodies out.”
Early that evening, with the scope of the tragedy barely having sunk in yet, the company commander and platoon leader went back to the house with an interpreter and climbed an inside stairway to the third floor to see if they could find a clue about the sniper.
On the wall, in Arabic, was a hateful taunt from the sniper himself, a message that read, roughly, “This is where the sniper got your guys.”
But the sniper was long gone and had left nothing behind but the note.
Infuriated by the deadly “gotcha” they had found, the unit’s human intelligence collection team went to work immediately, plying every source in every corner of their battle space to find out who the sniper was.
One of their best resources was a small team of Iraqis the battalion called their “Bird Dogs,” three men – former insurgents – who lived with the unit at Patrol Base Murray and ran a cell phone operation to reach out to a network of sympathetic friends in Arab Jabour.
The sniper, it turns out, was already famous in the Al Qaeda-friendly area for his highly successful and prominent ambush and a short 48 hours later, the U.S. soldiers, with the help of the Bird Dogs, had a name and a description.
He was Mohamed Uthman, a 5-foot, 2-inch tall foot soldier for Al Qaeda who had a reputation for being a murderous criminal. And, no surprise, he was already known as a “high value target” on a list the Americans had of their most wanted.
“Word on the street was, this is the guy who did it, and he kept on working after that. He was a cold blooded killer and he killed more Iraqis than he did Americans,” Adgie said.
The mean little sniper eluded capture for months, until one night when he made the decision to go out and kill people with the wrong insurgent mortar team.
It was December 11, 2007, four months to the day he had snuffed out the lives of the five soldiers, and Adgie cleared an Air Force F-16 hot to drop a bomb on the mortar team, unaware that Uthman was one of the teammates.
They found out after a site exploitation team identified one of the dead as the diminutive sniper.
“When Adgie lost those soldiers in that house borne IED, I flew in and we were on our knees praying and crying like babies,” said then-Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of 3rd ID. “We learned, but we learned the hard way. If something looked like it might be rigged with explosives, we just blew it up. I wasn’t going to allow my kids to go in there again because we’d already lost four.”
The tiny killer was gone, but insurgent snipers continued to bedevil the troops, said Lynch, who recalled the death of a soldier in an Abrams M1A1 tank, who, like Edwards in the Bradley, opened his hatch while the tank was on the move and was shot by a sniper from a range they estimated at about 1,000 meters.
“He’s a thinking, adaptive enemy,” Lynch said. “They watched our movements and based on their training they could pace their engagement on the rate of movement of the vehicle.”
Lynch pointed out that the division’s brigade and battalion commanders under his command had all been to Iraq at least once before and had come to know the value of having well trained and equipped sniper teams.
In Arab Jabour the sniper teams were used consistently to overwatch IED hot spots and other things like long range cameras placed on elevated platforms. The cameras provided overwatch as well, but the snipers came into play and could shoot from concealed locations if anyone messed with those cameras.
“There’s clearly a continuing role for our snipers. They found their niche on the battlefield,” Lynch said.
Gina Cavallaro is the author of Sniper: American Single-Shot Warriors in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This incredible story was brought to you by Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions which are set to release the military thriller “The Wall” May 12. The movie, starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson and John Cena, is a harrowing story pitting the infamous insurgent sniper known as “Juba” against an American sharpshooter who uses an unsteady wall for protection as he tries to rescue his wounded comrade.
As American forces became embroiled in the conflict in Vietnam it was quickly apparent to commanders that they were fighting a war for which they were not prepared.
The guerrilla warfare and hit-and-run tactics of the Viet Cong were difficult to counter, especially for conventional forces. Luckily, our allies, the British, had already developed a tactic that they had used to great effect in Malaya.
Facing a communist insurgency of their own, but with limited resources, the British had developed specialized teams to track the enemy through the jungle and destroy them. This tactic was so effective the British would employ it against insurgencies all across the empire.
Knowing the French tactics had been insufficient, and not wanting to meet the same fate, Gen. Westmoreland sent observers to the British Jungle Warfare School in Malaya to see if the tactics could be adopted by American forces.
Impressed by what they saw the Americans made a deal for the British to train fourteen teams, to be known as Combat Tracker Teams, at the British Jungle Warfare School. Due to British neutrality, the soldiers to be trained traveled on official government passports and used only British gear while in training so as to maintain secrecy and low-visibility.
The basic organization of the Combat Tracker Teams consisted of two to four sections of five-men. The section was composed of a team leader, a visual tracker, a cover man, a radio operator, and a dog handler with a well-trained Labrador retriever. Not typical for combat operations the Labs were highly-effective in Vietnam. They were effective trackers, quiet in the field, and, most importantly, due to their even-temperament could more easily change handlers – a prized-quality for an army rotating men out of country, but often heart-breaking for their handlers.
The teams were in for intense training once they arrived in Malaya. For the dog handlers training was three months long, for everyone else it was two months. The cadre consisted of British and New Zealand SAS as well as Gurkhas, who usually played the enemy to add to the realism. Wash out rates were high.
The initial address to the trainees was often quite shocking to them. They were told the problem with the American army was that it was more focused on rank than knowledge. And that by the time they were done, they would feel more at home in the jungle than the North Vietnamese themselves.
After surviving the grueling training, the first teams returned to Vietnam in 1967 to be assigned to combat units. The team assigned to the 101st Airborne Division was told they must go through the division’s finishing school before they would be allowed in the field. Part-way through the first day it became obvious to the cadre that the trackers knew more than they could possibly teach them and they were passed through the course on the spot.
According to their group’s website, once in country, the Combat Tracker Teams were to “reestablish contact with the ‘elusive enemy’; reconnaissance of an area for possible enemy activities; and locate lost or missing friendly personnel.”
Once the troops hit the ground, they knew why their trainers had pushed them so hard – keeping up with a dog in the jungle while staying absolutely silent, as well as being alert and constantly ready for action is very hard work.
But that work paid off for the Americans. It was common to hear from the grunts about how the enemy could just “melt back into the jungle.” And that was where the trackers came in. Pushing out well ahead of the line infantry units no detail was too small for either the visual tracker or the working dog to pick up.
John Dupla, a combat tracker with the 1st Cavalry Division, said “we were taught to develop a sixth sense, utilizing methods Native American scouts used, such as looking for broken twigs and turned over leaves and rocks.”
Depending on the conditions and situation either the visual tracker or the dog handler and his lab would lead the team. Always right behind him was the cover man. Since the point person’s attention was focused on searching for trails and clues the cover man became his lookout, providing protection.
Although the unit’s mission was often not to directly engage the enemy, sometimes it was unavoidable. As one combat tracker related “if you got into something, you shot your way out.” Ideally, the trackers would locate the enemy and call the infantry behind them into the fight.
However, as the Viet Cong became aware of the effectiveness of the trackers they sought ways to counter them. Retreating groups would often send a contingent off in a different direction to draw the trackers away from the main force and into an ambush. One Combat Tracker Team lost their visual tracker and cover man to enemy snipers in this manner.
Despite their effectiveness many American commanders simply did not understand how to properly employ the trackers. Their small size and the secrecy of their training meant few in the infantry understood how they operated. They were sometimes thought of as scouts and to simply walk point for a larger formation.
The program was disbanded in 1971 as American drew down forces in Vietnam. The trackers were broken up and folded into their parent infantry units. Veiled in secrecy and lacking the notoriety of Special Forces the legacy of the Combat Tracker Teams quietly faded away.
There is no doubt though that the Combat Tracker Teams were effective, saved lives, and made life much harder for the enemy.
America’s neighbor to the north is known for their politeness, medical care, maple syrup cartels, Ryan Gosling, hormone-free cows, and love for Kraft Mac and Cheese.
None of these facts should come as a surprise. Canadians are just a hair’s breadth away from being Americans. In fact, we wanted Canada so bad the Articles of Confederation stated that Canada could join the United States at any time, just by asking. Everyone else needed a nine-state agreement. We settled for Vermont instead.
But don’t be fooled by their overwhelmingly nice disposition, their Prime Minister who takes public transit to work, or that Alex Trebek shaved his mustache. Outnumbered Canadians beat the crap out of us in the only war we ever fought.
Canadian Forces are still deployed around the world, often alongside American counterparts. And historically, Canada has been just as hyped as the U.S. to take the fight to the fascists, the Communists, or the terrorists.
Maybe it comes from being the world’s largest consumer of Budweiser. Don’t drink too much of that stuff, guys. You’ll be buying hummers and spreading freedom in no time.
1. Canada just built a Civil War monument.
At a time when the U.S. is removing some Civil War monuments, an Ontario-based Civil War re-enactors group erected one. It’s a monument to the Canadian soldiers who died in the American Civil War.
Though Canada was still in the British sphere during the time period, some 6,000 Canadians headed south (and some further south) to fight on both sides of the war.
“We don’t have any far-right maniacs, racists or anti-Semites, we’re just town folks who are interested in history,” Grays and Blues president Bob McLaughlin told Postmedia News.
The United States didn’t declare war until the next day. When Parliament reconvened on Jan. 21, 1942, King let them know that Canada was at war with Japan…and also Finland, Hungary, and Romania.
3. Canada took in Vietnam Draft Dodgers…then replaced them.
It wasn’t official or anything. Canada didn’t exchange unwilling participants with willing ones. While an estimated 30,000 would-be conscripts fled the draft for Canada (and were warmly welcomed), 30,000 Canadians fled peace-ridden Canada for the jungles of Southeast Asia.
The Canadian government outlawed such volunteerism, but the 30,000 Canadians still managed to sign up for Vietnam service. Those that did received the same treatment as every other soldier, including the assignment of social security numbers. That is, until, after the war, when they got none of the post-service benefits. It wasn’t until 1986 that they got the same treatment…in Canada.
The Canadian Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial is called “The North Wall” and can be found in Windsor, Ontario.
4. Canada took in Americans during the 9/11 attacks.
Flights bound for the U.S. that day were diverted or grounded — except in Canada, where they were welcomed by Operation Yellow Ribbon. Canada wanted to help get any potentially dangerous flights on the ground as soon as possible. They even opened up their military airfields to the 255 flights diverted to their airspace.
In all, some 30,000 people were left displaced inside Canada. And if you have to be a refugee somewhere — even temporarily — Canada is the place to be. If hotels, gyms, and schools were full, Canadians started taking Americans into their own homes and putting them up.
Army Sgt. Joe Kieyoomia was captured by Japanese forces in 1942 as the Philippines fell to the Japanese war machine. Unfortunately for him, that was the start of 43 months of captivity that began with the infamous Bataan Death March and only ended with the surrender of Japan.
When he was captured by the Japanese, Kieyoomia – like tens of thousands of other Filipino and American POWs – was forced to walk some 60-70 miles in the sweltering heat, under constant enemy mistreatment. When he finally arrived at a prison camp, he watched as his captors forced them to dig their own graves and then shot them.
Kieyoomia was eventually sent to the Japanese mainland, because of his looks and his name. The enemy assumed he was Japanese American, but unfortunately for Kieyoomia in this instance, he was a Navajo. When he arrived on the mainland, he was beaten and tortured daily.
“They didn’t believe me,” he told The Deseret News when he was 72 years old. “The only thing they understood about Americans was black and white. I guess they didn’t know about Indians.”
But Kieyoomia wasn’t a code talker. He was deployed to the Philippines with New Mexico’s 200th Coast Artillery. When the Japanese needed to know what the Najavo code was, they came to Kieyoomia – but he didn’t know the code. He didn’t even know about the existence of the code.
The Japanese then had him listen to radio broadcasts – he was surprised to hear his native language. The broadcasts made no sense. His jailers didn’t believe that he couldn’t understand the messages and he was forced to stand naked in six inches of snow on a parade ground in below freezing temperatures.
Kieyoomia’s feet froze to the ground. When he was forced back inside, his skin stuck to the ground and he left a bloody trail on the parade ground. He was tortured for months on end.
“I salute the code talkers,” he said in the interview with Deseret News. “And even if I knew about their code, I wouldn’t tell the Japanese.”
The Japanese came to Kieyoomia with written words, transliterated into English. The Japanese tortured him to learn the Navajo code, but it was very different from mere words from the language. Kieyoomia couldn’t tell them if he wanted to it was gibberish, and it was designed to sound that way, even if someone spoke the language.
The Navajo soldier tried to end his own life with a hunger strike, but that only earned him more beatings from his Japanese captors.
His troubles were only ended by the second atomic bomb dropped on Japan. On Aug. 9, 1945 “Fat Man” detonated over the city, killing 40-75,000 people instantly.
Kieyoomia miraculously survived the nuclear blast because of the way he was sitting next to the concrete wall in his cell. He was abandoned for three days before a Japanese officer freed him.
After the war, Sgt. Joe Kieyoomia returned to the Navajo nation, recovered from his wounds, and lived to age 77. He died in 1997.
The Department of Veteran Affairs has just released the draft master plan for how the agency intends to improve the campus of its West Los Angeles facility after years of encroachment, misuse, and neglect. The plan follows a landmark legal ruling last year following a lawsuit that alleged that VA was violating the covenant of an 1888 deed whereby the United States acquired title to the West LA Campus by misusing parts of it for commercial purposes in lieu of caring for and serving veterans.
The agreement established a nonprofit, Vets Advocacy, to serve as a partner in the West LA VA master planning process. Vets Advocacy and We Are The Mighty have joined forces in a grassroots campaign to assist the veteran community in voicing how they’d like to see VA services provided at the West LA VA campus.
“With the proper veteran input, the West LA VA redevelopment plan has the potential to serve as a 21st Century blueprint for VA campuses nationwide,” said Jonathan Sherin, a psychiatrist and veteran advocate who has been a key facilitator of the planning effort.
The new master plan for the West LA Campus will help VA determine and implement the most effective use of the campus for veterans, particularly for homeless veterans, including underserved populations such as female veterans, aging veterans, and those who are severely physically or mentally disabled. Focus areas include considerations surrounding vet housing (both temporary and permanent), vet services, and historic preservation.
The draft plan divides the campus into four zones labeled (1-4 respectively) “Healthcare Excellence,” “Coordinated Care,” “Veteran Housing,” and “Recreation.” Details of each zone can be found in the document.
“This draft master plan provides the VA with a stronger foundation to build a 21st century healthcare campus and vibrant community for veterans,” VA Secretary Robert McDonald said in a statement. “It also helps to ensure we will have the housing and healthcare resources needed to sustain the mission of ending veteran homelessness.”
Now that the draft master plan has been published, veterans have 45 days to review it and provide inputs, thereby helping to ensure the plan meets the needs of those it is designed to assist. The master plan can be viewed and downloaded and comments can be submitted at #VATHERIGHTWAY.
Update: Pvt. Erika Lopez turned herself in to Army authorities Feb. 4 after reports of her desertion went viral. The Army will now decide whether to charge her with a crime, administratively separate her from the service, or allow her to continue training. The original post on Lopez’s disappearance is below:
According to reports from Tennessee news channels, the first woman to enlist as a combat engineer from that state has gone absent without leave and has been gone for over 30 days, meaning she is now technically a deserter.
The Army has been unable to locate Lopez despite numerous attempts. It’s one of the few situations where the most desirable scenario is that a soldier deserted, since the alternative is that something has happened to her.
While there have been reports listing Lopez as the Army’s first female combat engineer, that title actually goes to Vermont National Guard Spc. Skylar Anderson who graduated the combat engineer course in December and continues to serve in Vermont. Lopez was actually the fourth woman to enlist as a combat engineer.
Similarly, Lopez has been described as the first woman to become a combat arms soldier. The term “combat arms” was rescinded in 2008 with an updated version of Army Field Manual 3-0, but the first female combat arms soldiers were those who enlisted into air defense MOSs in the early 1990s.* Combat engineers were a combat arms MOS when that term was in use.
*Updated Feb. 5, 2016: This paragraph originally stated that combat engineer was not technically a combat arms specialty. When “combat arms” was a doctrinal term, Army Engineering was a combat arms branch.
Entering the military requires an oath to obey the lawful orders of those in the higher chain of command. Commanding officers can order troops into a suicide mission if it serves the greater purpose. When obeying orders, it’s necessary for those troops to believe a commander wouldn’t order them into harm’s way unless it was necessary, that the order serves a greater good, and it’s not an illegal order.
Most of the nine men listed here (in no order) did not disobey orders because they were illegal. They disobeyed them because lives were at stake and felt saving those lives was worth the risk. Others pushed the envelope to keep the enemy on its heels. People make mistakes, even when the stakes are life and death. It can mean the difference in the course of the entire war (as seen with Gen. Sickles) or to a few men who are alive because someone took a chance on them (in the case of Benaya Rein).
1. Dakota Meyer, U.S. Marine Corps, Afghanistan
In 2009, Meyer was at the Battle of Ganjgal, where his commander ordered him to disregard a distress call from ambushed Afghan and American troops, four of them friends, pinned down by possibly hundreds of enemy fighters. He repeatedly asked permission to drive his truck to help relieve his outnumbered and surrounded friends and allies. He and another Marine hopped in a Humvee. Meyer manned the gun while the other drove the vehicle.
They drove right into the firestorm, loading the beleaguered Afghans, mostly wounded, onto their humvee. As weapons jammed, Meyer would grab another, and another. They drove into the melee five times, until they came across Meyer’s friends, now fallen, and pulled them out too. Meyer received the Medal of Honor for his actions.
2. Daniel Hellings, British Army, Afghanistan
Hellings was on a joint patrol in Helmand Province with Afghan allies when his patrol was hit by an explosion. An improvised explosive device (IED) was detonated in an alleyway, injuring two of the patrollers. Then another went off, injuring a third man. Hellings’ commander ordered an immediate withdrawal. Instead, Hellings got down on the ground and started a fingertip search for more bombs — and found four more. He was on the ground, poking around in the dirt until he found all of the IEDs. For his bravery and quick thinking, he was awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal.
3. Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov, Soviet Army, Cold War
Petrov was in command of the Oko Nuclear Early Warning System on the morning of September 26, 1983 when it detected a probable launch of American nuclear missiles. Suspecting it was a false alarm, he disobeyed the standing order of reporting it to his commanding officers, who likely would have “retaliated” with their nuclear arsenal.
In this case, doing nothing was doing something big, as in completely averting World War III, and mutually assured destruction. It also showed a flaw in the USSR’s early warning system and helped to avert further misunderstandings.
4. Benaya Rein, Israel Defence Forces, Second Lebanon War
Several Israeli soldiers, lacking accurate maps, became lost in 2006 while downrange in Southern Lebanon. As they attempted to get their bearings, about 20 men appeared in the distance, and the commander — thinking they were Hezbollah fighters — ordered Benaya Rein to open fire.
Rein wasn’t so sure. Instead, he took a tank out to the location to investigate. When he arrived, he found 20 of his fellow IDF soldiers. “Because he refused to follow his commander’s order, the lives of these soldiers were saved,” his mother told an Israeli paper.
Rein would later be killed after the tank he was commanding was hit by a Hezbollah missile. He was one of the last Israelis killed during the war.
5. Lt. David Teich, U.S. Army, Korean War
Teich was in a tank company near the 38th parallel in 1951 when a radio distress call came in from the Eighth Ranger Company. Wounded, outnumbered, and under heavy fire, the Rangers were near Teich’s tanks, and facing 300,000 Communist troops, moving steadily toward their position. Teich wanted to help, but was ordered to withdraw instead, his captain saying “We’ve got orders to move out. Screw them. Let them fight their own battles.”
Teich went anyway. He led four tanks over to the Rangers’ position and took out so many Rangers on each tank, they covered up the tank’s turrets. He still gets letters from the troops he saved that day, thanking him for disobeying his order to move out.
6. Cpl. Desmond Doss, U.S. Army, World War II
Doss wanted to serve, he just wasn’t willing to kill to do it and refused every order to carry a weapon or fire one. However, Doss would do anything to save his men, repeatedly braving Japanese fire to pull the injured to the rear. As his unit climbed a vertical cliffside at Okinawa, the Japanese opened up with artillery, mortars, and machine guns, turning his unit back and killing or wounding 75 men. Doss retrieved them one by one, loading them onto a litter and down the cliff.
A few days later, in the mouth of a cave, he braved a shower of grenades thrown from eight yards away, dressed wounds, and made four trips to pull his soldiers out. He treated his own wounds and waited five hours for a litter to carry him off. On the way back, the three men carrying him had to take cover from a tank attack. While waiting, Doss crawled off his litter, treated a more injured man, and told the litter bearers to take the other man. While waiting for them to come back, he was hit in the arm by a sniper and crawled 300 yards to an aid station. He was the first conscientious objector to earn the Medal of Honor.
7. Lt. Thomas Currie ‘Diver’ Derrick, Australian Imperial Force, WWII
The Battle of Sattelberg in the Pacific nation of New Guinea was as hard-fought as any in the Pacific Theater. It took the Australians a grudgingly slow eight days to push the Japanese out of the town and they paid dearly for it. On November 24, 1943, Lt. Derrick was ordered to withdraw his platoon because the CO didn’t think he could capture the heights around Sattelberg.
Derrick’s response: “Bugger the CO. Just give me twenty more minutes and we’ll have this place.”
Derrick climbed a vertical cliff by himself, holding on with one hand and throwing grenades with the other, stopping only to fire his rifle. He cleared out 10 machine gun nests that night and forced the Japanese to withdraw. The Aussies captured Sattelberg and Derrick was awarded the Victoria Cross.
8. 1st. Lt. Frank Luke, Jr., U.S. Army Air Corps, WWI
In September 1918, Luke was grounded by his commanding officer and told that if he disobeyed, he would be charged with being AWOL. Luke, an ace with 15 aerial victories, flew anyway, going out to find military reconnaissance balloons. Balloons sound like an easy target, but they were heavily defended by anti-aircraft weapons.
He knocked out three balloons that day before he was forced down by machine gun fire. Once out of his plane (which he landed, he wasn’t shot down) he kept fighting the Germans with his sidearm until a bullet wound killed him. Luke is the first pilot to receive the Medal of Honor.
9. Maj. Gen. Daniel Sickles, Union Army, Civil War
Sickles’ slight disobedience to orders during the Battle of Gettysburg changed the momentum of the war and may have changed the entire history of the United States. In a move historians haven’t stopped talking about for 150 years, Sickles moved his men to Peach Orchard instead of Little Round Top, as Gen. George G. Meade ordered him. This move prompted Confederate Gen. James Longstreet to attack the Union troops in the orchard and the wheat field, nearly destroying the Union forces there. Which, admittedly, sounds terrible.
The Confederate move allowed Union troops to flank them in a counteroffensive and completely rout the Confederate forces, winning Gettysburg for the Union and ending Robert E. Lee’s invasion of the North. Sickles himself lost a leg in the fighting, but received the Medal of Honor and helped preserve Gettysburg as a national historic site after the war.
As the fighting in Mosul has started, some ISIS militants have been trying to make a fast getaway. Not a bad idea when you consider the atrocities they’ve committed and the size of the force lining up to drive them out.
According to the British newspaper The Sun, though, some of these militants have been trying to escape under the radar by dressing as women. For at least two of them, though, it didn’t work out – Kurdish peshmerga fighters saw through the disguise and nabbed them.
The tactic sometimes worked, as a 2009 article by the New York Daily News described how some Taliban insurgents were able to slip away from Marines. Items of clothing like the burqa also were used to hide weapons and explosives.
A strange story about the Aussies facing off against Stinger missile-wielding kangaroos started circulating around the internet in 1999. The most interesting development was that the story proved to be true. Mostly.
The original story was about the Defence Science and Technology Organization’s Land Operations/Simulations division in Australia developing the realism of their exercise scenarios. As the story tells it, the programmers were supposed to add mobs of kangaroos to the simulation, making sure to program how they might scatter from low-flying helicopters.
Supposedly, the Australian programmers reused object code from a simulated infantry unit on the marsupials. The new kangaroos scattered from the helicopter, as programmed. Then, they reappeared behind a hill, armed to the teeth with Stinger missiles. The programmers apparently forgot to deprogram their infantry training.
Snopes, the website dedicated to investigating internet rumors, picked up this story in 2007. They found that the internet actually had the basic story right.
Dr. Anne-Marie Grisogono, head of the Simulation Land Operations Division at the Australian DSTO, told Snopes that programmers knew what they were doing. Heavily armed kangaroos became part of the simulation, weapons and all.
The Aussies thought it was hilarious, and not at all embarrassing.
“Since we were not at that stage interested in weapons,” Dr. Grisogono told Snopes, “we had not set any weapon or projectile types, so what the kangaroos fired at us was, in fact, the default object for the simulation, which happened to be large multicolored beachballs.”