Measured against today’s politically correct standards for training raw recruits, I must have been abused to the point of permanent psychologically scarring during basic training.
Only, that’s not how I remember it.
The definition of the word abuse seems now to be generationally interpreted. In my generation it meant ‘treat with cruelty or violence.’ Today it appears to mean disturbing another’s chi. In fairness to today’s recruits, their feeling in boot camp is the same as mine was. The loss of personal freedoms, learning to respect authority, and being a part of a team can be disorientating concepts to many.
I’m not saying that the training of raw recruits then or now is better or worse. I am saying that the judicious application of power to totally control and mold a human being into an effective contributor to an organization is appropriate and far from abusive or cruel.
We’ve all seen folks, both draftee and enlistee, we were positive would never survive boot camp go on to stellar careers at the highest levels of the military because someone else was responsible for developing the drive the recruit wasn’t even aware they possessed.
Yelling at someone who commits an error that could result in injury to themselves or others is neither cruel nor violent.
Having a foot unceremoniously planted in your butt when falling behind on the morning run was actually a motivational gesture. You might feel you’re going to die on the run, but you won’t fall behind again. The foot was embarrassing — not painful, cruel, or abusive. Anybody remember that handprint on their butt from the first jump at Benning? It wasn’t abuse. It gave you something else to think about besides freezing in the door.
In the final days of boot camp we had earned a post pass. We could only go to the PX, post theatre, or beer garden. After falling in formation wearing highly decorated Class ‘A’s (name tags and U.S. brass) we filed up by squad to sign for our passes.
During this process the platoon sergeant asked if anyone had a pencil. I did and ran it up to him, then returned to formation. When he had finished calling out the names to collect their passes and was folding his little OD green wooden table, I was still at attention.
As he began to walk away I said, “Excuse me, Staff Sgt. Johnson. I signed for a pass.”
He looked in the sign out book and responded, “No you didn’t, boy. Look.” I looked, and my name had been erased, possibly with my own pencil.
Cruel? It took me years to admit it was my mistake, but I got it. To this day I only use pencil on electronically scanned forms and crossword puzzles.
I’m a product of the Greatest Generation. My dad, uncles, and neighbors had all served. We were raised on the stories of that era and had no illusions about what to expect in boot camp. We were all prepared to be treated as one rank below, and certainly less revered than the general’s dog.
But some fifty years later not a day goes by that I don’t call on and use those lessons imprinted on me in boot camp: Help those who need it but don’t facilitate weakness. Be part of something greater than myself. This life is not all about me. Spend any available time you have improving your position.
To all my “abusers”: you earned my respect and have my heartfelt thanks for making me the person I am today.
This article first appeared in The Havok Journal on 10MAR15.
Most Americans don’t know much about General George Custer beyond the fact that he was killed — along with all of his troops — by Native American warriors at the Battle of Little Bighorn. Here are 9 other facts that illustrate there was a lot more to the man beyond the bad tactical decisions he made that day:
1. He didn’t graduate with the rest of his West Point class because he got in trouble
The night before he was supposed to graduate with the Class of 1861, he was the cadet duty officer. During his watch he came across two junior cadets having a heated discussion, and instead of breaking it up he suggested they settle it by fighting it out. He was punished by the officers on the staff for his lack of judgment and kept from getting his diploma and commission until a few months later.
2. His future father-in-law wasn’t a big fan at first
Custer had a romantic interest in Libbie Bacon, who was from a prominent Michigan family, but her father was concerned about his working class roots and excessive drinking.
3. He was given sick leave following the Battle of Antietam
Custer distinguished himself at the bloody Battle of Antietam near Maryland’s border with West Virginia on the Potomac River, but the campaign took a physical and emotional toll. He was given sick leave, which he used to return to Michigan and pursue his relationship with Libbie.
4. He pinned on his first general’s star at age 23
Custer remains the youngest general officer in U.S. military history.
5. He became a national hero after the Battle of Gettysburg (and his future father-in-law started to like him)
Custer led several charges at Gettysburg, including one where his horse was shot out from under him. On his final charge (mounted once again), Custer raised his saber and shouted, “come on, you Wolverines!” as he drove off the dismounted Rebels. His glory came at a great cost, however: 50 percent of the soldiers in his company were killed during the battle. The tales of his heroism spread far and wide, and his name was soon synonymous with victory in the war. His notoriety also shifted the attitude of Libby’s dad, and in time he was able to successfully ask for her hand in marriage.
6. He considered being a coal baron or a politician after the Civil War
Because of his celebrity Custer was well-connected, and as the military grew smaller and his sense of purpose after the war faded, he considered working in both the coal industry and politics. But before he could move on either option, Gen. Sherman summoned him to help move the country westward.
7. He was demoted to colonel for a while
As tends to happen after every major war, the U.S. Army downsized following the Civil War, which reduced the number of general officer billets. In order to remain on active duty Custer had to accept being reduced to the rank of colonel for a while.
8. While he was popular with troops during the Civil War, his men hated him while he blazed across the wild west
From his first days establishing a more permanent U.S. military presence in Texas until that fateful day on the plains of Montana he was constrained by an unresponsive military bureaucracy and limited resources, and those things contributed to a draconian, self-centered, and often hypocritical leadership style that tended to trash morale.
9. He was killed at Little Bighorn only 15 years after leaving West Point
Custer miscalculated his enemy on June 25, 1876. When his scout Bloody Knife told him there were more Sioux waiting for the Seventh Cavalry than they had bullets, he simply responded, “Well, I guess we’ll go through them in one day.” Somewhere Sitting Bull was saying the same thing, and his prediction proved to be the accurate one.
Here’s the Battle of Little Bighorn as portrayed in the movie classic “Little Big Man,” starring Dustin Hoffman as Custer’s scout and Richard Mulligan as Custer:
Going to war is not about the ideologies of the left or the right, it’s about becoming a man.
“I’m a journalist,” said Sebastian Junger – Oscar-nominated documentarian and best-selling author – in an interview with War is Boring. “I don’t put any political agenda into my work. I think the right wing tends to idolize soldiers – you can’t talk about them critically in any way. The left wing went from vilifying them in Vietnam to seeing them as victims of a military-industrial complex.”
For young men, however, war is much simpler than a political agenda. Modern society doesn’t describe what manhood is and much less, what it requires. Joining the military fills that void by finding a peer group and purpose to their lives, according to War is Boring.
This generation has a track record for delaying the rituals of adulthood. They’re taking longer to finish school, achieve financial independence, marry and have children, compared with their parent’s generation, according to a New York Times article about millennials. Perhaps it’s a financial decision as the article explains, after all, we did just go through the great recession, or it’s young men devising their own rites of passage.
Junger tells War is Boring that tribal societies have clear rituals and expectations of adulthood:
There’s a lot of initiation rites for young men around the world that involve torturing young men,” he explains. “So that young man can then demonstrate that he’s willing to undergo an enormous amount of pain in order to achieve adult status.
They could actually live untested lives, if left to their own devices,” Junger says. But “they don’t want 30-year-old males wondering about their manhood.”
But initiation rites help define the line between childhood and the adult world, and they define what manhood is. “We don’t have anything like that,” Junger says. “But I think it’s wired in us. It’s certainly wired into our language when we talk about, ‘C’mon, be a man about it,’ or ‘Man up.'”
The way Junger sees it, young men choose to fight, “Okay, if I go to war, surely I’ll come back a man.” When he asked why they joined, the common response was the terrorist attacks on 9/11, military family tradition, and the thought of becoming a man. Check out the full article on War is Boring.
Sebastian Junger is famous for his award-winning chronicle of the war in Afghanistan in the documentary films Restrepo
(2014), and his book WarWAR
(2010). Here’s the official trailer for Korengal:
You might think that legendary fighter planes like the F4U Corsair and P-51 Mustang saw their last action in the Korean War.
It seems like a reasonable assumption – but it’d be dead wrong.
Believe it or not, the last combat those planes saw came around the time that F-4 Phantoms and MiG-21s were fighting for air superiority over North Vietnam, and Israeli Mirages and Neshers took on the air forces of Egypt, Syria, and other Arab countries.
In 1969, El Salvador and Honduras went to war. It lasted about 100 hours, and started less than three weeks after the end of a contentious qualifying series for the 1970 World Cup.
Dubbed the “Soccer War,” the fighting left nearly 3,200 people dead, both military and civilian.
Notable was that it was the last combat action that some legendary planes would see. The war started when El Salvador began its attacks — a makeshift affair with passenger planes being modified to carry bombs for the first strikes. El Salvadoran troops followed the strikes and pushed into Honduras.
Honduras at the time had 19 F4U Corsairs in its inventory, along with 6 AT-6 Texan attack planes. El Salvador had 11 P-51D Mustangs in service, plus some that upgraded Cavalier Mustangs. They had 25 F4U/FG-1 Corsairs in service as well.
During the fighting, Honduran Corsairs downed a P-51 and two Corsairs, gained air superiority over the battlefield, and began pushing the invaders back. Anti-aircraft fire claimed two more Salvadoran Mustangs, while two P-51s were lost in a mid-air collision.
Two Salvadoran Corsairs were also shot down by ground fire.
When all was said and done, the Organization of American States intervened to arrange for a cease-fire. The war ended with a status quo ante bellum. Today, both Air Forces operate A-37B Dragonfly attack planes (15 for El Salvador, 10 for Honduras), but Honduras also has nine F-5E Tiger II fighters. Honduras and El Salvador took over a decade to sign a formal peace treaty, but the underlying tensions remain in that region.
While the disputes that lead to the Soccer War have not been resolved, the Soccer War did give some legends one last chance to serve.
After having success with unmarked trailer trucks in Ukraine, Russia is looking to exploit its incognito strategy even further. The Russians have come up with a weapons concept reminiscent of Optimus Prime from Transformers.
It’s designed to surprise the U.S. military by sneaking up under the cover of an inconspicuous semi-trailer truck. When the weapon is close enough to strike, the trailer disconnects from the truck and transforms into a nasty helicopter drone with missiles and a Gatling gun.
In keeping with Hollywood’s depiction of Russian bad guys, the trailer also includes two get-away motorcycles. Seriously, it looks like something you’d expect to see in a ‘Die Hard’ flick.
Here’s how it works:
The trailer pulls up within striking distance of its target.
One soldier in civilian clothes scopes out the area while another soldier stays behind to monitor the transformation.
Most of the transformation is self automated.
A final weapons check is done with an iPad before the nasty payload is deployed.
The drone surprises the target by rising from the tree line.
Counter-terrorism operations outside of active war zones under President Donald Trump are outpacing the Obama administration by nearly five times, Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow Micah Zenko said July 31.
The US has launched at least 100 counter-terrorism operations since Trump took office. Zenko compared this number to the mere 21 operations launched under former President Barack Obama in his last six months in office. These operations include raids by US special operators, drone strikes, and other lethal actions.
The majority of the operations listed in Zenko’s analysis occurred in Yemen where the US is actively battling an al-Qaeda insurgency. Trump declared Yemen an “area of active hostilities” after taking office, which allows the military to carry out counter-terrorism strikes without going through a White House-led approval process.
Zenko’s previous April analysis revealed that the US averaged approximately one counter-terrorism strike per day in the first 74 days of Trump’s presidency. “There is a sense among these commanders that they are able to do a bit more — and so they are,” a senior US defense official said of the Trump administration in April.
Trump has also considered changing the way the US targets terrorists in drone strikes. The new rules would instead target terrorists under military protocols which allow for some civilian casualties, as long as they weighed proportionally by the commander responsible for approving the operation. The loosening of drone strike protocol couples with broader counter-terrorism policy changes by the administration, including a change in rules of engagement in the fight against ISIS, more leeway for Pentagon commanders considering ground raids, and increased willingness to use military force.
Officials at Goodfellow determined the outdoor running course was 85 feet longer than required, which may have caused 18 airmen stationed at the base between 2010 and 2016 to fail the fitness assessment, the announcement said. The track was last measured in 2010.
At Hanscom, the track was found to be 360 feet longer than it should be, likely causing 41 airmen stationed there between 2008 and 2016 to fail. The track was last measured in 2008.
“All airmen who should have passed were notified,” Brzozowske said in an email.
“If still on active duty, their fitness scores were adjusted to the correct passing score. If there were any personnel actions taken resulting from the inaccurate [fitness assessment] failures, airmen should work with their chain of command, Force Support Squadron and legal office, and potentially the Air Force Personnel Center to correct records,” she wrote.
The service’s inspector general also plans to include the PT program “as an Air Force inspection requirement on future wing unit effectiveness inspections,” the announcement said.
In addition, each time a base redesigns or modifies a running track, it must measure it as a precaution, it said.
With the fear that hordes of Russian tanks would storm through the Fulda Gap at the start of World War III, the United States Army looked for an advanced helicopter.
The first attempt, the AH-56 Cheyenne, didn’t quite make it. According to GlobalSecurity.org, the Cheyenne was cancelled due to a combination of upgrades to the AH-1 Cobra, and “unresolved technical problems.”
The Army still wanted an advanced gunship. Enter the Apache, which beat out Bell’s AH-63.
The Apache was built to kill tanks and other vehicles. An Army fact sheet notes that this chopper is able to carry up to 16 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, four 19-round pods for the 70mm Hydra rocket, or a combination of Hellfires and Hydras, the Apache can take out a lot of vehicles in one sortie.
That doesn’t include its 30mm M230 cannon with 1200 rounds of ammo. The latest Apaches are equipped with the Longbow millimeter-wave radar.
According to Victor Suvarov’s “Inside the Soviet Army,” a standard Soviet tank battalion had 31 tanks, so one Apache has enough Hellfires to take out over half a battalion. Even the most modern tanks, like the T-90, cannot withstand the Hellfire.
Then, keep this in mind: Apaches are not solo hunters. Like wolves, they hunt in packs. A typical attack helicopter company has eight Apaches.
So, what would happen to a typical Russian tank battalion, equipped with T-80 main battle tanks (with a three-man crew, and a 125mm main gun) if they were to cross into Poland, or even the Baltics?
Things get ugly for the Russian tankers.
That Russian tank battalion is tasked with supporting three motorized rifle battalions, in either BMP infantry fighting vehicles or BTR armored personnel carriers, or it is part of a tank regiment with two other tank battalions and a battalion of BMPs. In this case, let’s assume it is part of the motorized rifle regiment.
This regiment is slated to hit a battalion from a heavy brigade combat team, which has two companies of Abrams tanks, and two of Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles, plus a scout platoon of six Bradley Cavalry Fighting Vehicles.
A company of Apaches is sent to support the American battalion. Six, armed with eight Hellfires and 38 70mm Hydra rockets, are sent to deal with the three battalions of BMPs. The other two, each armed with 16 Hellfires, get to deal with the tank battalion.
According to Globalsecurity.org, the AN/APG-78 Longbow radars are capable of prioritizing targets. This allows the Apaches to unleash their Hellfires from near-maximum range.
The Hellfires have proven to be very accurate – Globalsecurity.org noted that at least 80% of as many as 4,000 Hellfires fired during Operation Desert Storm hit their targets.
Assuming 80% of the 32 Hellfires fired hit, that means 25 of the 31 T-80 main battle tanks in the tank battalion are now scrap metal.
Similar results from the 48 fired mean that what had been three battalions of 30 BMPs each are now down to two of 17 BMPs, and one of 18, a total of 52 BMPs and six T-80 tanks facing off against the American battalion.
That attack would not go well for Russia, to put it mildly.
The 107-country Outer Space Treaty signed in 1967 prohibits nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons from being placed or used from Earth’s orbit. What they didn’t count on was the U.S. Air Force’s most simple weapon ever: a tungsten rod that could hit a city with the explosive power of an intercontinental ballistic missile.
During the Vietnam War, the U.S. used what they called “Lazy Dog” bombs. These were simply solid steel pieces, less than two inches long, fitted with fins. There was no explosive – they were simply dropped by the hundreds from planes flying above Vietnam.
Lazy Dog projectiles (aka “kinetic bombardment”) could reach speeds of up to 500 mph as they fell to the ground and could penetrate nine inches of concrete after being dropped from as little as 3,000 feet
The idea is like shooting bullets at a target, except instead of losing velocity as it travels, the projectile is gaining velocity and energy that will be expended on impact. They were shotgunning a large swath of jungle, raining bullet-sized death at high speeds.
That’s how Project Thor came to be.
Instead of hundreds of small projectiles from a few thousand feet, Thor used a large projectile from a few thousand miles above the Earth. The “rods from God” idea was a bundle of telephone-pole sized (20 feet long, one foot in diameter) tungsten rods, dropped from orbit, reaching a speed of up to ten times the speed of sound.
The rod itself would penetrate hundreds of feet into the Earth, destroying any potential hardened bunkers or secret underground sites. More than that, when the rod hits, the explosion would be on par with the magnitude of a ground-penetrating nuclear weapon – but with no fallout.
It would take 15 minutes to destroy a target with such a weapon.
One Quora user who works in the defense aerospace industry quoted a cost of no less than $10,000 per pound to fire anything into space. With 20 cubic feet of dense tungsten weighing in at just over 24,000 pounds, the math is easy. Just one of the rods would be prohibitively expensive. The cost of $230 million dollars per rod was unimaginable during the Cold War.
These days, not so much. The Bush Administration even considered revisiting the idea to hit underground nuclear sites in rogue nations in the years following 9/11. Interestingly enough, the cost of a single Minuteman III ICBM was $7 million in 1962, when it was first introduced ($57 million adjusted for inflation).
The trouble with a nuclear payload is that it isn’t designed to penetrate deep into the surface. And the fallout from a nuclear device can be devastating to surrounding, potentially friendly areas.
A core takeaway from the concept of weapons like Project Thor’s is that hypersonic weapons pack a significant punch and might be the future of global warfare.
Earlier this week a Russian Su-27 Flanker made what DOD officials described as an “unsafe and unprofessional” pass on U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon. The Russian fighter came within ten feet of the American maritime patrol jet, which was operating over international waters in the Black Sea.
The incident is the latest involving American surveillance or maritime patrol aircraft. Earlier this year, an RC-135U Combat Sent surveillance aircraft also had a close encounter with a Russian Flanker. Russian Su-24 Fencers have buzzed American and Canadian ships in the Black Sea and Baltic Sea since 2014, the year that Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula.
“These actions have the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions between countries, and could result in a miscalculation or accident which results in serious injury or death,” the Pentagon said in a statement released Wednesday.
The Russians aren’t alone with these types of acts. In 2014 and 2015, the Pentagon reported on incidents involving Chinese fighters also acting in an unsafe manner while intercepting P-8 and RC-135 aircraft over the South China Sea.
And in 2001, a People’s Liberation Army Navy J-8 Finback piloted by Wang Wei collided with a U.S. Navy EP-3E Aries II surveillance aircraft. The J-8 crashed, killing Wei, while the EP-3E made an emergency landing on Hainan Island, where the crew was held for over a week.
The U.S. military has a history of finding effective ways around serious tactical and strategic problems. Here are five times they found themselves outgunned, outnumbered, or outmaneuvered but managed to pull off a victory anyway.
1. Col. Lewis “Chesty” Puller and the troops at Chosin Reservoir
When Marine legend Col. Lewis “Chesty” Puller found himself hopelessly surrounded and outnumbered at the Chosin Reservoir in Korea, he had few options and worst prospects. But instead of surrendering to the 7 Chinese divisions surrounding him, he ordered his men to advance south.
Though the only weapon they had capable of killing the heavy Japanese ships was their limited torpedo supply, the destroyers and destroyer escorts of the Navy task force charged at the Japanese force in an attempt to let the U.S. carrier escorts escape.
Over the next two hours, the limited American ships and Naval aircraft attacked the Japanese force so viciously that Japanese Adm. Takeo Kurita believed he’d run into the entire U.S. Third Fleet. Kurita retreated. Three of his cruisers were sunk and a fourth crippled while the U.S. lost four ships but protected the troops landing on Leyte Island.
3. The Battle of the Bulge
The Allied advance across eastern Europe was nearly stopped at the Battle of the Bulge when three German armies managed to launch a surprise attack against four American divisions strung across a 124-mile front.
One of the key positions in the battle was Bastogne, Belgium where 22,000 Americans — mostly paratroopers with the 101st Airborne Division — were holding off a massive force of 54,000 Germans backed by heavy artillery. The Germans suggested an American surrender after two days of fighting.
The American general responded simply, “NUTS!” and the American force held out for another five days, giving time for armored units from the Third Army to reach them. Rather than withdraw to rest, the paratroopers then began retaking Allied positions lost in the previous weeks.
4. John Paul Jones and his sinking flagship capture his enemy’s ship
The father of the American Navy was watching his flagship, the Bonhomme Richard, sink beneath him after attacking the HMS Serapis on Sep. 23, 1779 at the Battle of Flamborough Head.
5. Maj. Gen. Benedict Arnold commands an ad hoc navy to save his army
In Jun. 1776, elements of the Continental Army retreated to Fort Tinconderoga and Fort Crown Pont in New York. Knowing that a larger and more capable British army and navy was trying to finish the war before Winter fell, Maj. Gen. Benedict Arnold had to find a way to stall.
Despite losing nearly all of his ships and Fort Crown Point, Arnold successfully evacuated his men to Ticonderoga and delayed the British long enough that they couldn’t attack the fort before winter settled in. The British were ordered into winter quarters and the Continental Army prepared for 1777 — the year they would gain the advantage in the war at the Battle of Saratoga.