Marine amputee Kirstie Ennis makes history atop Denali - We Are The Mighty
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Marine amputee Kirstie Ennis makes history atop Denali

On June 23, 2012, U.S. Marine Kirstie Ennis crashed in a helicopter during her last deployment to Afghanistan; she suffered a traumatic brain injury, severe facial trauma, a left leg above-the-knee amputation, damage to her cervical spine and damage to her upper arms.

On June 23, 2021, she returned from her successful summit of Mt. Denali, the highest point in North America at 20,310 ft; the latest peak she has conquered in her Seven Summit climb to raise awareness for organizations like Merging Vets and Players, a non-profit organization that coaches, mentors and leads combat veterans and former athletes to their highest level of performance. 

Ennis plans to complete the Messner version of the Seven Summits — the highest peak on each of the seven continents. Messner version combines Oceania with Australia to make a proper technical climb.

To date, she has completed the following five climbs: 

Aconcagua (Argentina, highest point in South America — successful in 2019)
Denali (Alaska, highest point in North America — Successful in 2021)
Kilimanjaro (Tanzania, highest point in Africa — Successful in 2017)
Elbrus (Russia, highest point in Europe — Successful in 2018)
Puncak Jaya AKA Carstenzs (Indonesia, highest point in Oceania — Successful in 2017)

She has two final climbs to summit:

Vinson (highest point in Antarctica — Scheduled for 2021/2022, 1st attempt)
Everest (highest point in Asia — Attempted in 2019; spun 600 feet from summit; 2nd attempt TBD)

In 2018, her first attempt at Denali resulted in a bitter descent after reaching 18,200 ft in treacherous weather conditions when one of her guides began to struggle with AMS (acute mountain sickness or altitude sickness that results in dizziness, nausea, headaches, shortness of breath, and other dangerous symptoms).

But Ennis isn’t one to be defeated. 

Three years later, she’s able to look back on another “alive day” with pride. “I’m down from a successful Denali climb and feeling stronger than ever. I’m still overwhelmed with emotions. I’m humbled as it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, physically, mentally, and emotionally — but I’m proud of my team and my effort — we did the damn thing,” she shared on Instagram.

A Paralympic athlete and leader in the prosthetic industry, she created the Kirstie Ennis Foundation, which provides education, opportunities, and healing in the outdoors through their recreational therapy clinics and expeditions; introduces new and recycled medical device technology to underserved communities around the world; and partners with organizations with similar missions of improving the quality of life of individuals through mobility.

From snowboarding clinics to the Seven Summits Project, Ennis is not only climbing mountains, she’s moving them — for herself and for anyone else who needs a little extra motivation and support along the way.

Featured Image: Kirstie Ennis with the 212th Rescue Squadron at the Denali Summit. (Kirstie Ennis Instagram)

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Could USS San Antonio be the basis for BMD’s future?

Ballistic missile defense has become a growing concern. Russia has been modernizing not only its strategic forces, but has also deployed the Iskander tactical ballistic system. China has the DF-21 anti-ship ballistic missile. The need clearly exists for new assets to stop these missiles — or at least lessen the virtual attrition they would inflict.


Huntington Ingalls Industries has a solution — but this solution comes from a surprising basis. The company, which builds everything from Arleigh Burke-class destroyers to amphibious assault ships, has proposed using the hull of the San Antonio-class landing platform dock amphibious ship to mount.

Marine amputee Kirstie Ennis makes history atop Denali
A close look at the radars and the VLS of a model of a proposed ballistic missile defense ship from Huntington Ingalls Industries displayed at the SeaAirSpace 2017 Expo. (Photo by Harold Hutchison)

The design is still a concept — there’s a lot of options in terms of what radars to use, and how the exact weapons fit would work. The model shows at the SeaAirSpace Expo 2017 featured 96 cells in the Mk 41 Vertical Launch System, or the equivalent of a Burke-class destroyer. That’s a low-end version, though. A handout provided says the system can hold as many as 288 cells. This is 225 percent of the capacity of a Ticonderoga-class cruiser, and 300 percent of an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer’s capacity.

Of course, the Mk41 can hold a number of missiles, including the RIM-66 SM-2, the RIM-174 SM-6, the RIM-161 SM-3 — all of which can knock down ballistic missiles. For local defense, a quad-pack RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile is an option. The Mk 41 also can launch the RUM-139 Vertical-Launch ASROC and the BGM-109 Tomahawk. In other words, this ballistic missile defense ship can do more than just play defense — it can provide a hell of an offensive punch as well.

Marine amputee Kirstie Ennis makes history atop Denali
USS Hopper (DDG 70) fires a RIM-161 SM-3 missile in 2009. (U.S. Navy photo)

The handout also notes other armament options, including a rail gun, two Mk 46 chain guns, advanced radars, launchers for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile, and .50-caliber machine guns. Yes, even in a super-modern missile-defense vessel, Ma Deuce still has a place in the armament suite. No matter how you look at it, that is a lot of firepower.

The propulsion options include the diesel powerplants used on the San Antonio, providing a top speed of 22 knots. Using an integrated power system similar to that on the destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) would get a top speed of about 29 knots, according to a Huntinton Ingals representative at the expo.

Marine amputee Kirstie Ennis makes history atop Denali
A look at the sern of a model of a proposed ballistic missile defense ship displayed at SeaAirSpace2017 by Huntington Ingalls Industries. The well deck from the San Antonio is converted into a hangar – reminiscent of late World War II surface combatants. (Photo by Harold Hutchison)

The ship is still just a concept, but with President Trump proposing a 350-ship Navy, that concept could be a very awesome reality.

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The path to Mars goes through military test pilot school

Marine amputee Kirstie Ennis makes history atop Denali
(Photo: NASA)


Early on the morning of December, 5 NASA launched the Orion rocket — the first American spacecraft designed for manned space exploration since the Saturn V rocket powered the Apollo missions to the moon.  According to NASA, the Orion spacecraft – unmanned for this first mission – orbited Earth twice, reaching an altitude of approximately 3,600 miles above Earth before landing in the Pacific Ocean.

“[This mission was] a huge step for NASA and a really critical part of our work to pioneer deep space on our Journey to Mars,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.  “The teams did a tremendous job putting Orion through its paces in the real environment it will endure as we push the boundary of human exploration in the coming years.”

And with the success of this mission astronauts once again think about going into space instead of hanging around Houston like a bunch of glorified academics.  The sense of purpose that evaporated with the last Shuttle flight is back, and in a big way.  We’re on our way to Mars!

You remember Mars, right?

Marine amputee Kirstie Ennis makes history atop Denali

So do you want a chance to be among the first to walk on the Red Planet?  Then you need to be an astronaut.  And there are two surefire ways to be selected:  You can get a Ph.D. in astrophysics or something else equally boring and be selected by NASA as an astronaut mission specialist or you can join the military and go to flight school on the government’s dime and earn your pilot’s wings and be selected as an astronaut pilot.

But there’s more to it than just being a military pilot.  According to NASA’s website, candidates must have at least 1,000 hours pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft. The website also states that “flight test experience is highly desirable,” which undersells the requirement a little bit in that the fact is that the large majority of the pilots who have ever been selected to become NASA astronauts have been test pilot school graduates.

There are only three sanctioned military test pilot schools in the world:  U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in California, U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland, and Empire Test Pilot School at Boscombe Down in the U.K.

Here’s a video produced by the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School that gives an overview of the command:

Military pilots of various branches and nationalities attend each of these schools, but generally pilots prefer to stick with the school that fully focuses on their warfare specialty, for instance, flying off of aircraft carriers.

Test pilot school is about a year long and very rigorous both in the classroom and airborne.  The instruction is designed to teach students how to take the principles of science, math, and engineering into the cockpit and then back again in order that they can quickly and effectively analyze performance characteristics and assist in creating better designs if required.  At test pilot school you’ll learn how to take an airplane beyond its design limits without destroying it, and you’ll also learn how to write accurate reports

Like everything else cool and kick-ass, getting into test pilot school is very competitive.  Applicants need fleet experience, and they also need to have been graded at the top of their peer group every step of the way.  And it’s not a “hard” requirement, but because of the intensity of the syllabus most test pilots schools look for candidates with engineering degrees.

Classes convene twice a year and each class is only comprised of about 20 students.

For more on what being a test pilot is all about read Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff.  Unlike the movie based on the book, the first half of the book provides great insights into the history of what life is like in the world of military test and evaluation.

And here’s a video from World War II era that describes some spin recovery techniques . . . techniques developed by test pilots:

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Don’t pack a lip with that shrapnel-flavored snuff

Bring it in, take a knee, drink some water. You need to read this before you start popping that little can and getting a pinch — there’s a recall on Copenhagen, Skoal and Husky, which sucks, we know, but might save you some additional mouth pain.


It’s one thing to mix MRE instant coffee or Rip It powder in with your dip. But potentially mixing shrapnel in is quite another.

Marine amputee Kirstie Ennis makes history atop Denali
Is there some JDAM in there? (DoD photo)

Since four to five times as many military members use smokeless tobacco as their civilian counterparts (and given an average DoD expenditure of more than $1.6 billion per year on tobacco-related medical care), we reckon this is a warning that oughta get out there.

The recall comes from the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co., a subsidiary of Altria Group Inc. It’s a voluntary recall, applying to all products coming out of its Franklin Park facility in Illinois. Among them are a number of the company’s most popular products, including Cope Long Cut Straight (overseas military only), Skoal Long Cut Wintergreen (overseas military only) and about three dozen other flavors.

According to Altria…

“USSTC initiated the recall after receiving eight consumer complaints of foreign metal objects, including sharp metal objects, found in select cans. In each case, the object was visible to the consumer and there have been no reports of consumer injury. Complaints have been received from consumers in Indiana, Texas, North Carolina, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Ohio.”

The FDA is apparently aware of the complaints and the voluntary recall and is investigating.

Chances are if you’ve ever served, you’ve either used “smokeless tobacco” — i.e. snuff — or worked alongside or deployed with someone who has. Its use is ubiquitous, in both line and support units. The Millenium Cohort Study of 2012 made the relationship between combat and smokeless tobacco use very clear.

Overall, troops who were deployed but did not see combat were almost one-third more likely to take up a smokeless tobacco habit than their non-deployed counterparts. Those odds were two-thirds to three-quarters higher for troops who were in combat or who deployed multiple times.

DoD wide tobacco use in the military has declined since an Iraq War high, but it’s still far higher than the general civilian population and continues despite numerous measures taken discourage or even forbid it. Such regs as AFI 40–102, SECNAV 5100.13E, Army Regulation 600-63, and numerous local regulations like the one below for gyrenes are in place, but their impact is fairly anemic.

(5) Use of smokeless tobacco is prohibited during briefings, meetings, classes, formations, inspections, and while on watch. (6) The expectoration of smokeless tobacco waste is confined to heads within government buildings aboard this installation. The expectoration of smokeless tobacco waste within or from government vehicles is not permitted.

The reasons for that are many, and doubtless require little articulation here…stress relief, boredom, a boost to stay awake during long hours and night operations are the most often cited.

As long as assorted chumps are shooting at us in faraway places, that’s not likely to change either.

You can find further details in this press release from Altria.

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Meet Musa the Sniper, scourge of ISIS in Kobani

One man got inside the heads of ISIS fighters, literally and figuratively, throughout the months-long Siege of Kobani. He was called Heval Hardem, a.k.a.: “Musa the Sniper.”


Marine amputee Kirstie Ennis makes history atop Denali

“I walked for miles once just to kill a single ISIS fighter,” Musa told Kurdish media. “Before and after killing them, I knew who the ISIS fighters were and could identify them by the bullet.”

The bullet came from Musa’s signature weapon, a Russian-made Dragunov rifle, which gave him a deadly range of 400 meters.

Marine amputee Kirstie Ennis makes history atop Denali

“I killed one with a bullet to the head while he was trying to run away,” he once boasted to the Daily Mail. “The others were easier because they could not run very fast.”

26 year-old Musa the Sniper was born in Iran (or “Eastern Kurdistan”) and joined the Syrian Kurdish YPG three years ago. He fought in Kobani from the first day until the last, training others to be snipers when he wasn’t protecting Kurdish fighters on the ground. He was an essential part of the Kurdish fight against Daesh (what the Arabs call ISIS, an acronym of the group’s name in Arabic, which means “a bigot who imposes his views on others”) in Kobani. For four months, he moved continually from ruined house to ruined house house in the city, providing cover and killing as many enemy fighters as possible.

Marine amputee Kirstie Ennis makes history atop Denali

In September 2014, ISIS fighters captured 350 Kurdish villages in the Northern Syrian area of Rojava, an area claimed by the Kurds since the start of the Syrian Civil War. The main city they captured was Kobani, a small city on the Turkish border. When the siege of Kobani picked up a lot of attention in the West, ISIS poured thousands of fighters into the area in an effort to show their superiority. Instead it became an example of tactical blunder, due mainly to the efforts of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) to push ISIS from the town. American air strikes with aid from the Iraqi Peshmerga and Free Syrian Army helped dislodge ISIS. The biggest morale booster to the YPG fighters in Kobani, however, was Musa the Sniper.

Marine amputee Kirstie Ennis makes history atop Denali

Musa is credited with hundreds of kills in Kobani alone. He was himself killed earlier this year in the Kobani region. An Italian volunteer for the Kurdish International Brigade of Rojava, a unit comprised of Western volunteers who are fighting ISIS in Syria, penned a memorial to Musa. In it, the Italian who identified himself as “Marcello” wrote the following:

In the city when we were few and DAESH [sic] was occupying most of the buildings, the sniper was king. The Chechen snipers limited the movement of comrades and caused many of them to fall martyrs. These were highly paid mercenaries coming from abroad to destroy us.

We could not even raise our heads with the fear of being struck by sniper fire. Then Hardem came. At that moment ‘Musa the sniper’ of Kobanê was born to strike back fear in waylyers’ hearts’.

If the snipers were kings in Kobanê, then Hardem was the Emperor. Every time a problem came up, Heval Hardem was the man to call first. He would fight day and night, and after a while DAESH learned about his feat. No Chechen sniper could defeat him, many of us are alive because of him.

If ever a true hero was born, that’s Hardem. Hero of Kobanê.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJusa7WPLOY

NOW: Meet the “Angel of Death” who’s trolling and killing ISIS fighters

OR: Meet the U.S. Military Veterans fighting ISIS

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This is how SEAL Team 6 could stop North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un

President Donald Trump has called North Korea a “brutal regime,” and many in his administration think that America should do something about it.


But that wouldn’t be as easy as sneaking a sniper into Pyongyang and taking a shot at North Korea’s top leader during a parade. There are too many variables to consider.

The tight security surrounding Kim Jong-un and the fanatical devotion of his followers are serious obstacles that must be taken seriously. All phases of this operation must be carefully thought out if North Korea is to be liberated.

Yet, Kim Jong-un has a very elaborate yacht on the east coast near Wonsan that he’s very proud of.

If SEAL Team 6 could board the ship in the shroud of night, terminating the despot might be possible. Security would be tight, but disabling vessels is no new task for our boys.

The U.S. has toppled brutal dictators and terrorists before. As the Inch’on Landing took inspiration from Normandy; we can compare this and learn from previous operations.

This is only a thought experiment using history as a guideline.

Preparation – Operation Mongoose (Cuba)

Marine amputee Kirstie Ennis makes history atop Denali
President John F. Kennedy briefed on Operation Mongoose

After the Bay of Pigs incident, the Central Intelligence Agency began a psychological warfare campaign against Cuba. The idea behind this was to create distrust between the Cuban people and the government. The goal was to spark an internal revolt within Cuba.

The CIA authorized sabotage acts against refineries and power plants to shatter its economy. This part wouldn’t be necessary in North Korea since sanctions have already crippled that country.

If there’s any possibility for action in North Korea, there needs to be distrust of Kim Jong-un — a crack in an idol seen as a god.

North Koreans have very restricted television channels for those who are allowed to watch. This would be a logical starting point. Record atrocities. Film the labor camps. Show how little the government truly cares for its people. And end with clips of South Koreans willing to embrace the long lost family.

SEAL Team 6 would infiltrate a broadcasting station and play these tapes. If you could get that message to the people, it will help shine light on the lies told to them.

Assassination – Operation Neptune Spear (Pakistan)

Marine amputee Kirstie Ennis makes history atop Denali
President Barack Obama receives an update on Operation Neptune Spear in the Situation Room

On May 1st 2011, the US conducted the daring raid against the most wanted man in the world, Osama bin Laden.  SEAL Team 6 and CIA operators stormed his safe house outside Abbottabad, Pakistan. This well organized and prepared mission is the epitome of “tactical precision.”

On the eastern coast of North Korea sits Kim Jong-un’s mansion — filled to the brim with amenities fit for a 33-year-old dictator. The compound is more of a private amusement park with rides, water slides, and his beloved yachts. He uses it to throw lavish parties for close friends and high ranking party officials.

With the location right on the beach, there is no better location for SEAL Team 6 to infiltrate from.

Fallout – Operation Odyssey Dawn (Libya)

Marine amputee Kirstie Ennis makes history atop Denali
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, USS Barry (DDG 52), launches a Tomahawk missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn.

In March 2011, NATO authorized all necessary measures to insure the safety of civilians during the Libyan Civil War. President Obama stressed that there would be no US troops sent there to fight, so NATO launched a combined 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles to support anti-Gaddafi forces.

Even after Gaddafi’s capture and execution, his loyalists still remained active. The country remained in political unrest. Political scientist Riadh Sidaoui said of the mayhem that “Gaddafi has created a great void for his exercise of power. There is no institution, no army, no electoral tradition in the country.”

Three years later, a second Libyan Civil War began.

If the US were to succeed after an assassination, there would have to be a swift reunification of Korea. South Koreans, generally, do not see North Koreans as a threat. The older generation still sees them as family that has broken apart. Party loyalty would need to break to prevent further uprisings.

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Here are 5 things vets can do to make sure the American public gets it right

Marine amputee Kirstie Ennis makes history atop Denali
(US Army photo by Sgt Kenneth Toole)


Recent events, new suicide data and employer survey results paint a difficult picture of veterans in America. Veterans need to take an active role in changing trends and perceptions.

The disheartening events in Dallas struck a heart-breaking blow to the families affected by the loss of life and the community around them. The veteran community, more broadly, reacted with shock and dismay when details surrounding the likely perpetrator indicated he was an honorably discharged Army veteran.

Two other news items that same week added to the negative narrative that continues to hover unfairly over all veterans. First, the Department of Veterans Affairs published the most comprehensive study on veteran suicide to date, which more accurately estimated the number to be 20 per day. Most concerning in the new findings are the risks to younger veterans and women veterans when compared to non-veteran counterparts. Veterans under age 30 have twice the suicide rate when compared to older veterans (who still account for the largest portion of veteran suicides). Similarly, young women veterans are nearly four times as likely to die by suicide compared to non-veteran women.

Second, Edelman released some of the results of its recent survey which found 84 percent of employers viewed veterans as heroes, but only 26 percent viewed veterans as “strategic assets.” Similar studies in recent years show an increasing division between veterans and other Americans with no military connection. A general lack of understanding between those who have served and those who have not plagues many veterans seeking future opportunities.

In less than 72 hours, Americans read articles depicting veterans as homicidal maniacs, suicidal victims and employees of little value. These stories have the potential of reversing progress made by many government and private sector leaders who have worked tirelessly to create a more responsible narrative reflecting the spectrum of attributes (both positive and negative) relating to service member and veteran experiences. Leaders at the White House’s Joining Forces Initiative, led by Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden, along with former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen and General Dempsey, and private sector stakeholders and advocates have helped dispel myths about veterans in recent years.

Yet, despite these public-facing efforts and campaigns, the convergence of several news items has the potential to reverse progress. Coupled with the Joint Chiefs of Staff ending its biggest advocacy effort aimed at helping service members transition, the Chairman’s Office of Reintegration (formerly Office of Warrior and Family Support), our nation’s veterans, service members and military-affiliated families will continue to be plagued by false narratives, misallocated resources and stereotypes.

With these challenges in mind, veterans and military families need to take an active role in setting the record straight and in voicing real needs to ensure resources are directed where needed most. Here are several ways families can start:

1. Tell your story

Sociologists teach us that societies are always changing. These changes are often the result of modification in social relationships. Sharing your experiences with others is a vital step in reducing the civilian-military drift. As Gen. Martin Dempsey articulated, “If you want to stay connected to the American people, you can’t do it episodically.” The most powerful way to reconnect with the rest of America is to openly share your military experiences without exaggeration or diminishing the realities.

2. Participate in surveys

Academic institutions, government agencies and nonprofit organization are often seeking survey responses from veterans or military families. Taking 10 or 15 minutes to provide input could ensure you and other military-affiliated families get the resources they need. One such survey, conducted by Military-Transition.org, is ongoing and actively seeking recently transitioned service member respondents. The Center for a New American Security is also running a Veteran Retention Survey.

3. Give Feedback

We all know the power of customer reviews. Sites like Yelp, Trip Advisor, or Google+ are some of the first places consumers look before choosing a location for dinner, planning a vacation or making a purchase at a retailer. As veterans, we know there is an inherent trust of other veterans. Many of us rely on fellow veterans to help us find credible counselors, get information about a new community we’re moving to or help us find an employer who has values similar to those experienced while in uniform. Now is the time to merge these two realities (the value of aggregated online reviews and inherent veteran trust of fellow veterans). Are you giving feedback and leaving reviews for businesses that offer discounts to service members and veterans? Have you accessed services from a nonprofit organization or public agency and if so, did you leave them feedback so they can improve their services? If you’re not doing so, I’d encourage you to leave feedback. To make it simple, try a new site, WeVets.us, designed exclusively to capture veteran and military family feedback so fellow services members and veterans can find valuable services.

4. Self-identify in the workplace

CEB Global reviewed the records of more than one million employees and found veterans to be 4 percent more productive than non-veteran employees and have a 3 percent lower turnover rate. While the Edleman survey above indicates an employer perception problem, the CEB data indicate a strong business case for hiring veterans. As a veteran in the workforce, are you self-identifying to your employer? Are you serving your company in a way that leverages your prior military experiences? It is through self-identification and exemplary service that employer perceptions will shift over time.

5. Vote

One of the most coveted freedoms service members defend is our right to vote. As defenders and former defenders of that right, exercise your own right to vote. Elect public officials who have veteran and military family interests in mind. Register to vote and then vote in upcoming elections. If you’re overseas or a military voter, register here.

Chris Ford is a champion for veterans and military families; advocating for solutions that eliminate barriers to the successful transition and reintegration of service members and their families. As the CEO of NAVSO, he expresses his passion and commitment to improve the lives of veterans and military families by providing essential resources to those who serve them. Chris is a 20-year Air Force veteran who retired in 2014 from the Joint Chiefs of Staff where he served in the Chairman’s Office of Warrior and Family Support. During his Air Force career, he deployed in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom and earned many decorations and awards including the Bronze Star Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, and the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Valor.

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Today in military history: Last US ground forces leave Vietnam

On Aug. 11, 1972, the last U.S. ground combat unit departed South Vietnam.

The American experience in Vietnam was a long and painful one for the nation. For those against the war, it appeared to be a meat grinder for draftees, unfairly targeting the poor, the uneducated, and minorities. For those in favor of the war and those who served in the military at the time, the American public and media were (and still are) misled about what happened during the war and so feel betrayed by many at home (Jane Fonda is the enduring symbol of the cultural schism).

After eight years of fighting the Vietnamese Communists, the United States withdrew the last of its combat units from the country, leaving behind some 43,500 advisors, airmen, and support troops, including nearby naval posturing.

As the war plummeted in popularity, President Nixon announced his intentions to “Vietnamize” the conflict. That is, enable South Vietnamese to assume more responsibility and gradually withdraw U.S. forces. 

The last of the American troops withdrew in 1973 and two years later, North and South Vietnam would be unified under Communist control.

More than 3 million people were killed in the conflict, including 58,220 Americans with another 150,000 wounded, in a war that divided the American public for decades. The war ended the Presidency of Lyndon Johnson and left a lasting impression on Richard Nixon’s. It was the backbone to the most tumultuous period in American history since before the Civil War one century prior.

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The top 6 reasons civilians back out of military service

Anyone who’s ever served in uniform has probably heard someone say the immortal line: “I would have joined the military, but…”


Lots of civilians make a trip to the recruiter with an eye toward military service, full of patriotic zeal and martial courage. But many pull out at the last minute and give their friends and family some song and dance about why they couldn’t commit.

 

Marine amputee Kirstie Ennis makes history atop Denali
…But the MRE bread is too good? A U.S. Marine recruit with Alpha Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, takes part in a Meal, Ready-to-Eat during the Crucible at Parris Island, South Carolina, Dec. 3, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jamal D. Sutter)

 

No matter what excuse they give you for not signing on the dotted line, here are six real reasons recruiters tell us people decide not to join.

 

1. They’re physically disqualified

 

Marine amputee Kirstie Ennis makes history atop Denali
The Marine Corps Bulletin 1020, released June 2, 2016, explains the new Marine Corps tattoo policy.

 

A recruit who wants to join but is physically disqualified is disappointing for both the recruit and the recruiter. Applicants can be physically disqualified because of asthma, bad eyesight, scoliosis, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and other causes. Sometimes people disqualify themselves with tattoos, ear gauges or other kinds of body art.

2. Friends and family talk them out of it

Some occupations in the military are the most dangerous jobs in the world, but that doesn’t mean they will necessarily lead to death. The type of job and location of a recruit’s duty station will determine the risk that military personnel encounter. Approximately 80 percent of career fields in the military are non-combat related.

Still, some potential recruits are convinced their service will kill them.

3. They don’t want to leave a significant other

Being in a relationship while going through the process of enlisting is challenging. Getting married or having a child as a single parent may affect the process of enlistment and eligibility to serve. Some refuse to leave their partner behind and instead give up on a potential military career for love.

4. They enlist and sign a contract but don’t get their dream job

Marine amputee Kirstie Ennis makes history atop Denali
Everyone wants to be gangster, until there’s gangster poop to be burned. (Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Kowshon Ye)

Open positions are based on the needs and manning of the particular service. In the Navy, (my expertise) most jobs do not have to be permanent. Changing jobs can be easy if there’s a new job open and you can meet the qualifications. The Army has a program where a service member can re-enlist and change his MOS. But for some people, not having the ideal job is non-negotiable, so they never enlist.

5. The recruiting experience went south

Marine amputee Kirstie Ennis makes history atop Denali
Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Micky M. Bazaldua

Recruiters have a duty and job to fill the needs of the military, but they are also responsible for building a connection with applicants. The relationship between a recruiter and a candidate is often seen as a reflection of what the service will be like, but that shouldn’t not be the only thing to consider. Still, a negative recruiting experience can discourage people from joining.

6. Some people just back out

Marine amputee Kirstie Ennis makes history atop Denali
That look tho. (photo by U.S. Army Recruiting)

The service is not for everyone and though the idea of joining seems attractive because of the honor, the uniform and the respect — it is a sacrifice. Some people may at some point feel they can make it but don’t. After weighing the pros and cons, people just change their mind.

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These high-speed German cops still wear armor from the Middle Ages

It’s been years since knights were last sent into battle wearing insanely heavy and uncomfortable metal suits for protection against swords and arrows.


Centuries, actually.

But as it turns out, while knights are now a thing of the past, their armor is still in use today with at least one special operations police unit in Germany. That’s right… Germany’s elite “SEK” Spezialeinsatzkommandos (Special Deployment Commandos in English) are sometimes sent into sticky situations wearing chain mail suits of armor.

Though they’ve traded in long swords and sabers years ago for Heckler Koch submachine guns and Sig pistols, these German cops still utilize chain mail armor to protect themselves in close quarters missions against terrorists, hostage takers, or even just your run-of-the-mill deranged knife-wielder.

Marine amputee Kirstie Ennis makes history atop Denali
An SEK operative fast-ropes from a police helicopter during a demonstration (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

While chain mail armor isn’t enough to stop bullets or anything that can penetrate at high velocities, it’s still pretty effective against close-in attacks using blades or sharp objects. Mail consists of small metal ringlets woven together to form a mesh-like sheet. These sheets are then fashioned into wearable coats and pants which still allow the wearer a fair degree of movement.

Last year, SEK operatives were spotted wearing chain mail while responding to a mentally-disturbed 21 year-old threatening to kill randomly with a pruning saw. Later on, images began surfacing of commandos donning mail shirts and hoods in urban settings, wearing a weird blend of modern tactical gear and the ancient mesh armor.

Marine amputee Kirstie Ennis makes history atop Denali
An SEK wearing chain mail under his assault vest while responding to a threat (Photo from Snopes.com)

These German commandos have been known to wear their mail suits above or beneath their gear, depending on the scenario they face and their role in resolving it. Hostage or suicide negotiations would generally prompt the wearing of the armor above a Kevlar bulletproof vest and radio, for example.

According to Stefan Schubert in his book, “Inside Police: The Unknown Side of Everyday Police,” the SEK are easily some of the most high-speed special operations police units in the world, having been formed in the 1970s in West Germany to tackle hostage situations, provide protection for dignitaries, and rapid armed response to terrorist threats.

Around the same time, a similar East German police force known as Service Unit 9 was also established. Both were merged under the SEK name and mission after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany at the end of the Cold War.

SEK teams are more like highly-developed SWAT teams in the US, attached to German state police agencies across the country. Their federal counterpart is the legendary GSG 9 of the Bundespolizei, home to some of the best counterterrorist operatives today.

Marine amputee Kirstie Ennis makes history atop Denali An SEK commando covering an assault during a demonstration in Dortmund, circa 2013 (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

The recruitment process to join an SEK team is extremely strenuous, and the ensuing selection phase has a high attrition rate. Candidates typically face between 6 to 8 months of physical, tactical and environment-specific training before being declared operational. Additional training includes skiing, snowmobiling and scuba diving.

When placed on active status, an SEK commando can choose virtually any tactical loadout that fits their preferences and mission. Operatives are also given a lot of leeway in uniforms, often choosing to be in plainclothes in order to blend into crowds and work unnoticed.

However, when on mission, you can generally tell an SEK commando apart from a regular police officer by the fact that they always cover their faces with balaclavas to protect their identities — standard procedure for all SEK teams throughout Germany.

But if ever the balaclava isn’t enough to give away their presence, just look for the guy toting a tricked-out carbine wearing Medieval armor and tennis shoes.

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‘Artillery mishap’ claims 2 US soldiers in Iraq

Two American soldiers have been killed while conducting combat operations in Iraq, the US military said, adding that the deaths were “not due to enemy contact” but instead were the result of an artillery “mishap.”


Five other soldiers were wounded, the DoD said.

The soldiers killed in the incident were identified as 22-year-old Sgt. Allen L. Stigler Jr. of Arlington, Texas, and 30-year-old Sgt. Roshain E. Brooks of Brooklyn, New York.

Both were artillerymen assigned to 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. The 2nd BCT is based at Camp Swift, Iraq.

Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commander of US forces battling the Islamic State group in Iraq, said the coalition “sends our deepest condolences to these heroes’ families, friends and teammates.”

More than 5,000 US troops are taking part in the war against IS in Iraq, according the Pentagon. The vast majority operate within heavily guarded bases, collecting and sharing intelligence with Iraqi forces and providing logistical support.

Marine amputee Kirstie Ennis makes history atop Denali
U.S. Army Paratroopers of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division secure a helicopter-landing zone during simulated casualty evacuation in a force provider drill at Camp Swift, Makhmour, Iraq, on Jan. 22, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ian Ryan)

But as the fight has evolved over the past three years, more and more US troops are operating close to the front lines. In addition to the two troops killed August 13, five other US troops have been killed in Iraq in the fight against IS, including two in the battle to retake the northern city of Mosul.

More than 1,200 Iraqi forces were killed in the battle for Mosul and more than 6,000 wounded, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said earlier this month.

Iraq’s prime minister declared victory against IS in Mosul in July, and Iraqi forces are now preparing to retake the IS-held town of Tel Afar, to the west.

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Top sniper squads from around the world just competed in Germany

Military trainers in Germany just wrapped up a four-day competition to determine the best sniper squad in Europe and a Norwegian team took first place at the end of 27 events designed to test key tasks that snipers must complete in combat.


Eleven countries sent squads to the competition, and the U.S. sent five squads including paratroopers and Marines.

Marine amputee Kirstie Ennis makes history atop Denali
A Spanish soldier fires at a target from a Zodiac boat during the European Best Sniper Squad Competition at the 7th Army Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, Oct. 24, 2016.(Photo and cutline: U.S. Army Spc. Emily Houdershieldt)

The competition, hosted by the U.S. Army Europe and organized by the 7th Army Training Command, took place at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany. Participants took part in multiple shooting competitions as well as casualty evacuation, ruck marching, and other general military events.

Also read: Meet the 62-year-old sniper who has over 170 ISIS kills

Marine amputee Kirstie Ennis makes history atop Denali
Spanish soldiers master the Rough Terrain Run task during the European Best Sniper Squad Competition at the 7th Army Training Command’s, Grafenwoehr Training Area, Bavaria, Germany, Oct. 26, 2016. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Army Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)

“The competition challenged the competitors’ physical and mental toughness as well as their marksmanship proficiency,” said U.S. Army Maj. Erick Nyingi, the officer in charge of the competition.

One of the most suspenseful and distinctly sniper-oriented events was the stalking lane, where squads had to proceed as far as possible without being detected by observers.

Marine amputee Kirstie Ennis makes history atop Denali
A Latvian soldier checks the camouflage of his weapon before taking part in the stalking challenge of the European Best Sniper Squad Competition at the 7th Army Training Command’s, Grafenwoehr Training Area, Bavaria, Germany, Oct. 26, 2016. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Army Spc. Emily Houdershieldt)

Some high-octane events included a high-angle shot lane where snipers rode in a Black Hawk helicopter and had to engage two targets in under two minutes using three rounds or less. There was also a water shoot where the snipers engaged targets from a boat.

Marine amputee Kirstie Ennis makes history atop Denali
U.S. Marines conduct the high-angle shot lane during the European Best Sniper Squad Competition at the 7th Army Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Bavaria, Germany, Oct. 24, 2016. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Army Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)

The sniper squad competition is the 2016 version of the annual Best Squad competition held by U.S. Army Europe. Each year focuses on a different type of squad. Last year, it was infantry squads.

No matter which type of unit is highlighted, the goal is to bring NATO members and other allies together to share tactics and engage in friendly competition so the troops can share new tactics, and training techniques.

Marine amputee Kirstie Ennis makes history atop Denali
The Norwegian squad finished in first place during the 2016 European Best Squad Competition, hosted by U.S. Army Europe at 7th Army Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Oct. 27, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)

“Overall the competition will definitely meet the objective of getting the squads to exchange ideas and [tactics],” Nyingi said. “There was a lot of collaboration after each day’s events, and I believe the greatest dividends will be realized from this exchange of ideas.”

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7 startling facts about the US military after 20 years of war

With the conflicts in both Iraq and Afghanistan either drawing down or seeing the United States take a non-combat role, many are looking back to see how the Armed Forces have changed since the days following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. 

The most revealing data visualization so far has come from USA Today, who created a stunning set of graphs and visuals using 20 years of data from places like the Council on Foreign Relations, the Costs of War Project, the Watson Institute, Brown University and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

What it shows is the unbelievable growth of the U.S. military’s global reach and an incredible amount of military spending. Here are just a few revelations. 

1. The U.S. might have 800 military bases around the world

Marine amputee Kirstie Ennis makes history atop Denali
(U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Heather Stanton)

The main visual on USA Today’s in-depth chart shows the growth of the United States’ military bases worldwide, and shows the order in which they opened since the end of the Cold War. In 85 of those countries, the U.S. has conducted counterterrorism operations.

What’s more stunning is that combing through endless Pentagon documents, researchers were able to list an astonishing 800 current U.S. military bases overseas, says American University’s David Vine. 

2. In 2021, U.S. troops saw combat in eight countries

It’s not unusual to see stories and reports from the front lines of fighting in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, but USA Today reports that in February 2021, American combat forces were in action in eight total countries that month, far more than the media often report. 

It may come as a surprise to many that US troops were also actively engaged in combat in Mali, NIgeria, Somalia, Kenya and Yemen. The United States was also conducting drone or air strikes in Libya and Pakistan while conducting counterterrorism operations with unknown details across Africa, South America and Central and Southeast Asia.

3. Our main geopolitical rival has only one overseas base

The Pentagon says China is building up bases in Pakistan and the Pacific Rim region, which should come as no surprise, given its controversial territorial claims in the South China Sea, but it only has one confirmed foreign military installation – in Djibouti, where the U.S. also operates a military base. 

United States forces are not only also in Djibouti, they are also stationed at bases in the eight countries surrounding Djibouti, which may help check the expansion of Chinese influence in Africa – or not. 

4. The human cost of decades of war is high

Marine amputee Kirstie Ennis makes history atop Denali
U.S. Army

In the 20 years following the September 11 attacks and the resulting Global War On Terrorism, civilians in the affected countries have borne the brunt of the death toll. More than 335,000 civilians have been killed in the fighting. 

If we’re keeping score by body count between the belligerents, the terrorists and other extremists have fared the second worst, with more than 259,000 killed. National militaries like those of Iraq and Afghanistan came in third with 177,073 while U.S. Allies have lost 12,468. The United States has seen 7,950 American contractors and 7,104 troops killed in action. 

5. The Global War on Terror cost more than $6 trillion

Wars are expensive and the Global War on Terrorism is no different (it’s not over, by the way). The Department of Defense alone has spent some $1.9 trillion to fight it. The Department of Homeland Security has spent at least $1 trillion, the DoD budget has grown by $803 billion in the past 20 years and the cost of taking care of American veterans is running $437 billion.

What’s really staggering is that the second largest expenditure is the estimated interest spent on borrowing the money to pay for the war, which is currently costing the U.S. taxpayer $925 billion.

6. Global warfare is changing

Despite the advances in battlefield technology and American supremacy due to fighting the war on terror, everything we’ve learned may all be for naught. The newest battlegrounds are not in physical locations, they’re in cyberspace, and the U.S. is taking the brunt of those attacks. 

Since 2005, China has targeted American government networks, public networks, and private companies 67 times. Russian and Iran have attacked the US 28 times each and North Korea has targeted U.S. networks 12 times. When extremists attack the United States, the Department of Homeland Security says the source of those attacks are domestic terrorists.

7. The U.S. outspends everyone on defense – by a lot

Marine amputee Kirstie Ennis makes history atop Denali
(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Julius Delos Reyes)

The budget allotted to the Department of Defense is $731.8 billion, which far outpaces the next 10 countries’ defense budgets. In fact they would all have to band together to spend an equivalent amount to rival U.S. defense spending. 

China, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea and Brazil together spend as much as the Pentagon every year, just for regular planned operations and development. This spending doesn’t always even account for extra spending allotted by Congress for other, related programs, the Department of Homeland Security or the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

Feature image: U.S. Army

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