Everyone wants to get in on the pranking fun of April Fools’ Day, and people working in the national security establishment are no different.
From the individual branches of the military to non-profits run by veterans, we looked around to find out what kind of pranks were pulled on April 1st. Here they are.
From the U.S. Army:
Army drones to deliver 3D printed pizzas to forward operating bases
NATICK, Mass. (April 1, 2015) – Pizzas made to order on 3D printers soon could be delivered by drones to hungry Soldiers at outposts across the globe.
According to researchers at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center, the pizzas would be produced on specially designed 3D printers and flown to outposts while still hot. Natick researchers called it “an unexpected breakthrough” beyond the recently announced development of a Meal, Ready-to-Eat, also known as MRE, pizza, which has a shelf life of three years.
“It’s great to be able to offer the warfighter a little slice of home with the MRE pizza,” said John Harlow, supervisory culinary transfer engineer at Natick, “but we never lost sight of our true goal — delivering piping hot, complete, custom pizzas to our men and women in the field. Who deserves them more?”
Washington D.C. has been the home to the Marine Barracks since President Thomas Jefferson and Commandant Lt. Col. William Ward Burrows selected the spot in 1801. For more than 214 years it has been the epicenter of Marine Corps’ tradition, ceremony, and a symbol of one of the finest military branches in the world.
In mid-2016 Marine Barracks Washington D.C. will be no more. The post will begin its move to a similar sized lot located just outside of Detroit, Mich.
“It has been decided, due to budgetary constraints, drawdown of personnel, and the incentives from the city of Detroit, that it is in the best interest of the Marine Corps to relocate our post to a new and fresh arena,” said the Barracks public affairs officer Capt. Lane Kensington.
Oral History Project Hopes To Preserve Memories Of Navy Dolphins
It’s a round-the-clock effort to save the war stories of these creatures before they’re lost. With a grant from the South Illinois SeaWorld Fund and the Aaron and Myrna Lipshitz Foundation, work is proceeding at a feverish pace. Cory Storr calls it a race against time.
CORY STORR: It’s a race against time. These dolphins are reaching their 80’s, their 90’s. We learned our lesson when we neglected to collect the stories from the Army rescue bunnies used in Korea.
SIEGEL: Belleville, of course, means beautiful city in French, and French itself is the language of love. So it’s appropriate that the Navy picked this southern Illinois town – the eighth largest in the state – to be home to retired dolphins. They are housed in what was, until recently, a facility to farm-raise whales. The recession led to that multimillion dollar business shutting down. And now, Belleville’s Chamber of Commerce is counting on the dolphin story project to succeed in its wake.
But during a recent visit to Washington, D.C., senior Air Force officials offered Uriarte “a lot of money” to focus on airmen instead.
“When I told them I didn’t really know anything about the Air Force, they simply told me ‘it’s okay no one really does, just make it about two women,” he wrote. ‘Everyone knows we have great looking women,’
“The new series will follow the hilarious predicaments of Airmen Abby and Sanchez, which makes this the first all-female leading cast of a military comic strip. Since they never deploy, the series mostly just sticks to their adventures at Starbucks and the AAFES exchange.”
One of America’s closest allies is preparing to put China’s claims to the test in the South China Sea.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson revealed at a high-level meeting in Sydney, Australia, that the UK will be sending its new aircraft carriers into the region to uphold freedom of navigation and the rules-based international order. Australia has been hesitant to act, fearing increased tension with Beijing.
“One of the first things we will do with the two new colossal aircraft carriers that we have just built,” Johnson explained, “is send them on a freedom-of-navigation operation to this area to vindicate our belief in the rules-based international system and in the freedom of navigation through those waterways which are absolutely vital for world trade.”
The UK’s new aircraft carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, is undergoing maiden sea trials and is expected to be commissioned into the Royal Navy later this year.
British Defense Secretary Sir Michael Fallon confirmed the deployment without providing any real details. “We haven’t mapped out the initial deployments yet but, yes, you would expect to see these carriers in the India Pacific Ocean, this part of the world because it is in this part of the world we see increasing tension, increasing challenges,” Fallon told the Australia Broadcasting Corporation.
Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne hinted that Australia might also step up its activities in the area.
“Importantly today, we also discussed developments in our region, particularly with respect to freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight which is a global issue and countries like Australia and the United Kingdom have a shared interest in those global freedoms,” Payne said, adding, “We agreed today that we would identify opportunities to conduct, where possible, cooperative activities in the region when we have assets that are in the area at the same time.”
There still appears to be a certain hesitancy to make the same commitment as the Americans and the British.
China claims the vast majority of the South China Sea, asserting its dominance through the illegal development of artificial islands, the construction of military outposts, and regular naval and bomber patrols in the area. Beijing’s claims were discredited by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague last year, but China rejected both the authority and ruling of the arbitration tribunal, declaring its sovereignty over massive swaths of the ocean to be indisputable.
The Trump administration has started putting increased pressure on China, which has so far failed to rein in North Korea, a major point of concern for the new administration. The US Navy has conducted two freedom-of-navigation operations and two bomber overflights in the South China Sea, angering Beijing.
The US military shot an incoming missile out of the sky in a successful intercept test Aug. 30.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones launched an SM-6 interceptor to bring down a medium-range ballistic missile off the coast of Hawaii, according to the Missile Defense Agency.
The missile was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. Using the on-board AN/SPY-1 radar, the destroyer detected and tracked the missile.
“We are working closely with the fleet to develop this important new capability, and this was a key milestone in giving our Aegis BMD ships an enhanced capability to defeat ballistic missiles in their terminal phase,” MDA Director Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves said in a statement. “We will continue developing ballistic missile defense technologies to stay ahead of the threat as it evolves.”
The Aug. 30 test marked the second time an SM-6 interceptor has been used to intercept an MRBM. The military has conducted three tests in total, but during a test in June, the interceptor failed as a result of human error. A sailor on the USS John Paul Jones triggered a self-destruct sequence by mistake.
The US military’s latest intercept test comes just two days after North Korea launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan in an unusually-provocative missile test. The North warned that it will continue firing missiles into the Pacific Ocean, adding that the recent test was a “prelude” to possible strikes on or around Guam.
The US has lost a few Aegis destroyers in recent months, hindering missile defense in a volatile region. Both the USS Fitzgerald and USS John McCain were damaged severely after collisions with merchant vessels in June and August. The two accidents killed seventeen American sailors. The US military still has numerous missile defense assets — from Patriot interceptors to Terminal High Altitude Area Defense systems — in the area though.
Was Hitler zonked out on heroin for most of the Second World War? Historian Normen Ohler has uncovered some shocking evidence indicating that he was, disclosed in the author’s new book, Der totale Rausch: Drogen im Dritten Reich (The Total Rush: Drugs in the Third Reich).
According to the book, Hitler, a strict vegetarian who touted the clear-mindedness of Aryans, was “ceaselessly” fed a combination of animal steroids and Eukodal, a close cousin of heroin, by his personal physician, Dr. Theodor Morrell.
Extensive digging through Dr. Morrell’s personal notes led Ohler to learn that the doctor’s prescriptions had been profoundly misinterpreted. Eukodal, previously translated as Enkodal, was falsely accepted as a legitimate medical treatment. In reality, it was a close cousin to heroin, on which Hitler became so dependent that he threatened to shoot Morrell after learning that supplies of the drug were dwindling.
In an interview with DW, the author discusses the impact that the drug had on the war effort:
Hitler loved Eukodal. Especially in the fall of 1944, when the military situation was quite bad, he used this strong drug that made him euphoric even when reality wasn’t looking euphoric at all. The generals kept telling him: “We need to change our tactics. We need to end this. We are going to lose the war.” And he didn’t want to hear it. He had Dr. Morell give him the drugs that made him feel invulnerable and on top of the situation.
While Hitler received his daily fix, the Fuhrer made sure that his soldiers were sufficiently doped up as well. The Nazis were kept high and alert by copious doses of Pervitin, an early form of crystal meth, which lessened their appetites and allowed them to fight longer. Between 1939 and 1945, more than 200 million pills of Pervitin were administered to German troops, according to records accessed by Ohler.
Though the Nazi’s use of Pervitin has been known for awhile, new details on the sheer scope of the drug’s prevalence have surfaced thanks to Ohler’s research. These Pervitin insights, combined with the monumental discovery of Hitler’s heroin habit, have made Ohler’s new book one of the most-talked about Nazi research projects in years.
Hans Mommsen, a distinguished German historian, does not mince words in his assessment of the work’s significance: “This book will change the accepted face of the history of the war.”
It seems like a country just can’t get world power status until they have an embassy overrun by locals in Tehran.
The United States Embassy in Iran was infamously overrun in 1979, with American hostages being held for 444 days. The last U.S. Ambassador to Iran, William H. Sullivan, was not among those hostages, and fortunately none of the American embassy workers were killed.
Probably less well-known is when the citizens of Tehran overran the Russian embassy in 1829. At the time, Iran was known as Persia and the two countries just concluded a two-year border war — which did not go well for the Persians.
Persia, especially the capital, was full of anti-Russian sentiment. The Persians had been forced to give up much of their northern border areas, lost access to the Caspian Sea, and most importantly (for these events) liberated any Armenian held captive to move to Russian territory.
The first official postwar Russian envoy to Persia was the renowned Russian comedy writer Alexander Griboyedov. The playwright and author recently married into Russian aristocracy, which resulted in his Persian posting.
Shortly after the Tsar sent Griboyedov to Tehran as Minister Plenipotentiary (a rank just below an official ambassador), two Christian Armenian women and one Armenian eunuch escaped from the Persian royal family harem, seeking refuge in the Russian embassy.
The Shah demanded their return, but Griboyedov wouldn’t give in. The terms of a treaty gave the Armenians the right to return to Russia. Thousands of angry Persians turned out to protest the Russian embassy, but Griboyedov wouldn’t budge.
The National Interest cited “contemporary accounts” in the telling of this story, saying the locals were incited by mullahs to storm the building. The Minister Plenipotentiary, other Russian diplomats, and the embassy guards in the building tried to fight as best they could but were overwhelmed.
Their bodies were dragged into the streets of Tehran, each decapitated in turn.
Griboyedov’s body was eventually returned to his native Tbilisi, now in Georgia. Shah Fath-Ali sent an envoy to Tsar Nicholas I of Russia as an apology for Griboyedov’s death, along with an 88-carat diamond, known as the Shah Diamond, in the hopes the Tsar wouldn’t return with the Russian army.
The diamond is still on display in the Kremlin, a grim reminder of how even the most powerful nations can still be victims of a mob.
The U.S. Air Force released test-launched an unarmed Minuteman III missile Feb. 25 in order to test the reliability of the Cold War-era, nuclear-capable weapons. The Minuteman III is an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
“This is the second ICBM launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in the past 5 days and while it may seem routine, a tremendous amount of effort is required to safely assess the current performance and validate the security of the nation’s fielded ICBM force,” said Col. J. Christopher Moss, 30th Space Wing commander. “Our teams are made of dedicated Airmen who make a difference for the Air Force and the nation and I am proud to be a part of this team.”
The tested missile flew 4,000 miles over the Pacific to a test area in the Marshall Islands which opened up speculation that the missile test may have been a reminder to North Korea that the U.S. can hit it at any time. North Korea recently launched a failed satellite that some say was a camouflaged test of its own ballistic missiles and a threat to the U.S.
Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work said the test was necessary to remind rival nations that the aging U.S. nuclear missiles are still very capable, but he didn’t mention North Korea.
“We and the Russians and the Chinese routinely do test shots to prove that the operational missiles that we have are reliable,” he told journalists at the launch. “And that is a signal … that we are prepared to use nuclear weapons in defense of our country if necessary.”
Each Minuteman III missile can carry up to three nuclear warheads which each strike different targets. Each warhead packs a 300-500 kiloton yield, about 20-33 times the strength of the bomb that struck Hiroshima. The missile tested Feb. 25 carried a test version of the re-entry vehicles which steer nuclear warheads.
The Air Force has had to reduce its number of ICBMs to meet the requirements of the New START treaty which caps the number at 400 armed missiles and 50 unarmed reserves. The Minuteman III missile is the only U.S. land-based ICBM currently in service.
Somewhere in southern Afghanistan, an explosive ordnance disposal technician spots a glint in the soft dirt. He moves deliberately, but steadily, as he tries to determine if it’s a harmless piece of trash or a bomb. In the back of his mind, the technician can’t help but wonder if this will be the improvised explosive device that kills him.
Since 2003 similar missions have taken the lives of 20 Air Force EOD technicians, when Airmen began diffusing bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan.
With combat missions winding down, EOD is now able to divert attention to its nine other mission sets: aerospace systems and vehicle conventional munitions, weapons of mass destruction, nuclear inventory, UXOs, operational range clearances, mortuary services, defense support for civil authorities, irregular warfare (where EOD teams serve as combat enablers for general forces or special operations), and VIP support.
As the career field shifts into a post-war posture they’re refocusing on these other skill sets. One of these they used to support the Secret Service when two teams from the 325th Civil Engineer Squadron’s EOD flight at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, worked President Barack Obama’s trip to Orlando, Florida, after the nightclub massacre where 49 people were killed in June. The Secret Service tasked EOD teams to sweep venues for explosives, areas en route to the venues, or on any person or object that could be used to harm the president or VIPs they’re protecting.
“For so many years, we have been going 150 mph,” said Senior Master Sgt. Robert K. Brown, 325th CES EOD superintendent, “so when you slow down to 85 mph, you feel like you’re crawling, even though you’re still going faster than most other people on the highway. We’d been doing that for the 12 years of combat operations, and now I think we feel we’re at a snail’s pace.”
Post-war life at the Tyndall AFB flight, one of 52 active-duty EOD flights Air Force-wide, ranges from responding to flares that wash up on the beach after being dropped by the Navy to mark items in the ocean to the occasional unexploded ordnance. The flight is responsible for assessing, rendering inert or safely destroying everything from small arms to guided missiles, although any EOD flight could be called upon to handle anything explosive in nature up to and including a nuclear incident.
The 325th EOD flight’s primary mission is flightline support for the wing’s four fighter squadrons, but it also provides counter-IED support for several tenant organizations.
By the time EOD Airmen left Afghanistan in 2014, they had completed almost 20,000 missions, responded to over 6,500 IEDs, and received more than 150 Purple Hearts for their actions and service in Iraq and Afghanistan. They also deployed often, with a third of the service’s 1,000 EOD members overseas and another third in pre-deployment training preparing to replace them, Brown said. At times the pace was so heavy that EOD Airmen would often be replaced by the same person who replaced them on their last deployment.
“For some of us old-timers in this particular generation, we’ve had a chance to kind of breathe,” Brown said. “In doing so, that’s given us the opportunity to regroup, restock and prepare for the next iteration of conflict that may or may not be coming. So right now is the best time to share the experiences and prepare the next generation for the hard lessons that we’ve had over these past 12 years.”
The two wars might be over, but EOD remains one of the Air Force’s most dangerous jobs. In addition to the 20 EOD technicians lost in the two wars, about 150 have suffered extensive injuries. It is a continuing evolving because of the constantly changing tactics of the enemy.
“The enemy is always going to try to continually be better than us, so we have to ensure that we never sleep in preparation for any force that we’re going to encounter,” said Chief Master Sgt. Neil C. Jones, the EOD operations and training program manager with the Air Force Civil Engineer Center at Tyndall AFB. “We don’t have the opportunity to make a mistake, so we train relentlessly to never get it wrong.”
During the transition, which has begun gradually in the past couple of years, the focus has been on getting everyone back from deployments and training them in the other nine skill sets to reestablish pre-OIF levels of proficiency. But equally important is the challenge of reducing attrition rates during EOD technical training without lowering the standards, Jones said.
EOD students first attend a 20-day preliminary school at Sheppard AFB, Texas, before they go through the Naval School EOD at Eglin AFB, Florida. An average school day is more than 13 hours, and it takes several years for a student to become a fully functional EOD member and a couple of years longer to be a team leader. About 75 percent of students fail to make it through the course.
Two recent changes to reduce attrition rates are the use of computer tablets for rehabilitation training and the addition of a couple of wounded warrior EOD technicians to help students at the school.
Derrick Victor, a retired technical sergeant who was wounded in his last deployment to Afghanistan when a bomb blast killed one Airman and hurt four others, is one of the new instructors. He’s seen the career field evolve through the wars and is now part of its post-war transition.
“Those two wars obviously changed the way that wars are fought as far as being on the ground and in third-world countries where they have to improvise,” Victor said. “It created a bit of a change from being based on supporting aircraft to things that were improvised. We got very good at that skill set, using robotics and working out all of that kind of stuff.
“Even though those two wars have dwindled down, we know that threat is not going to go away,” he continued. “So, as a whole, the career field is trying to keep that skill set rolling through the generations from those of us for who all we knew was Iraq and Afghanistan to all of these young kids coming fresh out of school, so they don’t have to learn on the fly like we did.”
EOD leadership is also placing a priority on training when Airmen get to their flights after graduation. Because the consequences of mistakes are so severe, the goal is to have those mistakes made in training, Brown said.
“I often refer to it as ‘the good, the bad, the ugly and the stupid,'” he said. “That just refers to what went right, what went wrong, what worked that probably shouldn’t have and what did we do that was just plain dumb, which happens in training. That’s OK as long as we learn lessons from it. But it’s not OK if it’s unsafe. Those are sometimes the hardest parts to learn. We want to make sure that if these guys (make a mistake) in training, they don’t do it when it’s for real. Explosives don’t care about peacetime or wartime.”
Another factor that’s evolving is the way the EOD field trains to recover from both emotional and physical trauma. More emphasis is being placed on instilling resiliency before something happens to an EOD technician in the field, Jones said.
Along with the cultural shift from the war years, the field has also been making major transitions in technology. The robot EOD technicians used in Afghanistan has been replaced by, among others, the Micro Tactical Ground Robot. The world’s lightest EOD robot can be carried by a single Airman, travel at 2 mph, climb stairs and see beyond 1,000 feet. Airmen previously carried 100-pound robots attached to their rucksacks. The new 25-pound robot can be carried on their backs.
“The technology advances that we have out there with the global economy, and more importantly, being able to make things lighter, faster and stronger, have allowed us to develop new tools and techniques and robotic platforms that are much smaller, lighter and leaner than what we had 14 years ago,” Jones said.
Technological progress hasn’t just been in robotics. There has also been a dramatic change in treating traumatic injuries downrange.
“I think one of the biggest things that we’ve seen as far as technology has been in the medical arena. We have changed the way we treat people for trauma,” Jones said. “If we can stop the bleeding downrange and get that Airman alive into a helo and back to a field surgical team, we’re running about a 98 percent success rate of saving their lives. So as our enemy continues to develop with technology to use against us, we will continually use our technology to develop a better way to take care of that threat.”
As much as life changes after years of war, one area that remains constant is the role tragic events play in training new EOD technicians. As sobering as the memories are of losing members of the EOD family, their sacrifice provided important training lessons.
“What our fallen have done is the same as our World War II EOD bomb disposal predecessors – with very brave men going down and disarming German rockets and bombs,” Brown said. “If they made a mistake, we would then know not to take that step, that last step. Unfortunately, a lot of bomb disposal techs died that way, but our fallen have taught us how to be better at this craft; they have never failed.”
On June 20th, at the Paris Air Show, executives with Lockheed Martin Corp. presented the C-130JSOF, a variant of the C-130J Super Hercules built for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, armed overwatch, and on-demand forward aerial refueling, among other features.
Painted a stealthy black, the aircraft is depicted in promotional materials targeting tanks from the air, dropping parajumpers, and swooping low for exfiltration operations.
Tony Frese, vice president of business development for Air Mobility and Maritime Missions for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, said the concept for the aircraft variant is built on experience and feedback from customers on how they use the Super Hercules.
“It is in the world of special operations and special missions the true versatility of the C-130J is on display, accrued day after day in life and death situations,” he said. “In more than 50 years, the C-130 has been synonymous with special operations and special missions.”
The United States already uses the C-130 for special operations, with purpose-built American configurations including the MC-130E/H Combat Talon, flown by the Air Force and used for airdrop, special ops helicopter in-flight refueling, and psychological operations, and the MC-130J Commando II, flown by Air Force Special Operations Command.
The new SOF aircraft is the first time a purpose-built configuration has been made available for the international market, Frese said.
Lockheed expects interest from nations in the Pacific and Middle East, he said, and anticipates building 100 to 200 of the aircraft for international buyers. As is standard practice, all international sales of the aircraft would have to be approved by the US government.
While standard configurations of the C-130J sell for roughly $70 million, Frese said this aircraft would likely start in the mid-$80 million range, with more for additional modifications.
“We understand the world we live in today is increasingly unpredictable,” he said. “Our operators, current and potential, tell us they need to support their special ops forces with a solution that is reliable, affordable and effective and, in this case, proven to support special operations in the sky and on the ground.”
North Korea issued a message of warning to the United States on April 25, vowing to respond to force with force if attacked.
But Pyongyang did not engage in a major provocation on the 85th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Army as some analysts have speculated, a possible sign Kim Jong Un could be taking a step back in the face of renewed pressure from China and the United States.
Workers’ Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun stated in an editorial on April 25 that its army has the capacity to “respond to any war the United States wants,” and that the “era of the U.S. imperialist’s nuclear terror has ended forever,” because North Korea has developed its own nuclear capacity.
The editorial also suggested the absence of a nuclear or missile provocation on April 25 was no guarantee the Kim Jong Un regime would refrain from a test in the near future.
“In the area of defense, as we produce more advanced weapons, we must work toward creating more events similar to the ‘March 18 Revolution,'” Pyongyang stated.
The North Korean leader did not issue a message on the day of the anniversary, most recently making an appearance at a pig farm, according to KCTV.
China and the United States condemned North Korea’s missile provocations in April, and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said the United States would respond if North Korea attacks U.S. troops in the region.
“If you see [Kim] attack a military base, if you see some sort of intercontinental ballistic missile, then obviously we’re going to [strike back],” Haley said on NBC’s “Today.” “But right now, we’re saying, ‘Don’t test, don’t use nuclear missiles, don’t try and do any more actions,’ and I think he’s understanding that.”
Senate lawmakers on Thursday once again signaled to the Veterans Affairs Department they want VA doctors able to talk to patients about use of medical marijuana.
By a 20-10 bipartisan vote, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed an amendment to the military construction and veterans legislation allowing agency doctors to make recommendations to vets on the use of medical marijuana — something they can’t do now even in states where cannabis prescriptions are legal.
“We should be doing everything we can to make life easier for our veterans,” Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon, said in a statement. “Prohibiting VA doctors from talking to their patients about medical marijuana just doesn’t make sense. The VA shouldn’t be taking legal treatment options off the table for veterans.”
Medical marijuana is being prescribed in some states for symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, even though its effectiveness remains questionable.
The legislative amendment was sponsored by Merkley and Sen. Steve Daines, a Republican from Montana, who successfully got the same amendment through the committee in November, only to see it stripped from the bill by House lawmakers a month later.
The latest language still has to be considered by the full Senate and then be sent once more to the House for approval.
The VA won’t comment on the lawmakers’ actions on medical marijuana, but its website quotes a report by Marcel Bonn-Miller of the National Center for PTSD at the VA Medical Center in Palo Alto, California, and Glenna Rousseau of the VA Medical Center in White River Junction, Vermont, dismissing marijuana as useful in treating veterans.
“Controlled studies have not been conducted to evaluate the safety or effectiveness of medical marijuana for PTSD,” the report states. “Thus, there is no evidence at this time that marijuana is an effective treatment for PTSD. In fact, research suggests that marijuana can be harmful to individuals with PTSD.”
The federal government in 2014 approved a study on medical marijuana to be conducted by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a California-based nonprofit research center. But the research hasn’t yet been completed.
In January 1973, the United States agreed to end direct combat operations in Vietnam. Under the provisions of the Paris Peace Accords, the fighting between North and South Vietnam was also temporarily halted. Though the accords were never ratified by the Senate, on March 29, 1973 the last U.S. troops left Vietnam, ending more than twenty years of military assistance and eight years of direct combat support from the U.S. military. With only a handful of Marines left to guard the embassy in Saigon, the North Vietnamese government in Hanoi released the last 67 of its admitted prisoners of war.
During World War II Ho Chi Minh fought alongside the American OSS against the Japanese. After the war, Ho declared an independent Vietnam but soon realized the West would restore French rule in what was then known as Indochina. With the help of Communist governments in China and the Soviet Union, Ho led an eight-year insurgency against the French, and the country was split in two in 1954.
The United States began to support South Vietnam as early as 1954. President Eisenhower pledged his unwavering support for the regime of Southern dictator Ngo Dinh Diem. The Diem regime arrested, tortured, and/or killed upwards of 100,000 people whom he suspected supported the Northern Communists. Diem would be killed in a coup in 1963.
In the 1960’s North Vietnamese guerrillas, known as the Viet Cong (VC), began attacking villages and government institutions in the South. By 1965, the U.S. began to send over men and materiel in large numbers, escalating the conflict to a major war. By 1969, the peak of U.S. military involvement, more than half a million U.S. troops were involved in the war. The war included the largest aerial bombing campaigns in history. President Richard Nixon, who was elected on a platform of ending the war, oversaw a brief expansion. Before it ended, the air war expanded, and the conflict migrated into neighboring Cambodia and Laos (attempts to block Northern supply routes along the Ho Chi Minh Trail).
The U.S. left South Vietnam in 1973, but the fighting between North and South continued. The year 1974 would be the most costly one for the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) in terms of combat losses. In 1975, Northern Communist forces captured the southern capital of Saigon and the country was unified as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City. The last Americans were airlifted out on April 30, 1975.
More than three million people were killed in the Vietnam War, including 1.5 million civilians and 58,000 Americans. Ho Chi Minh would not survive the end of the war, dying in 1969. President Lyndon B. Johnson, who oversaw much of the escalation, would not live to see U.S. troops withdraw. He died in January 1973.
Think you can hack competing as a top CrossFit athlete while on active duty? Former Navy SEAL and top CrossFit athlete Josh Bridges thinks so, too.
Bridges, who while a member of SEAL Team 3 placed second in the 2011 worldwide CrossFit championship, known as the Games, told Military.com that given enough motivation, dedication and a friendly command, an active duty athlete could have what it takes.
“As long you had the right command who was willing to be like ‘yeah, we’ll let you train’ – as long as you’re doing your job and getting all that stuff done, why not?” Bridges told Military.com during a recent interview. “I think it’s doable.”
Since 2011 when he first competed while on active duty, Games-level CrossFit competition has shifted from a field of athletes who hold full time jobs outside of the sport, to athletes who train fulltime. That change, Bridges said, would undoubtedly make it harder for an active duty service member today to make it than it was for him in 2011.
Still, he said “If you really want to be a competitive athlete and be in the military at the same time, it’s doable. You’re going to have to put in long hours, and when your friends and buddies are going out to the bars on the weekends, you’re not going to be able to. … There’s going to be some sacrifices you’re going to have to be willing to make.”
To make the Games while on active duty he said he had to get permission from his Chief to miss some training. He also had to sacrifice a lot of time at home.
“It was tough,” he said. “There were definitely days where I’d be out doing land warfare drills in 105 degree temperatures, and then on a one or two hour break in the middle of the day, I’d have to go into the gym and train. You definitely had to set your priorities right and just be like ‘this is what I have to do if I want to go to the Games. It is what it is.'”
Competing at Games level and successfully training as a SEAL share some of the same skills, Bridges said, in that sometimes you have to just “shut your brain off” about the physical demands.
“In CrossFit, at the Games, you’re going to be asked to do workouts that you’ve never done and movements that you’ve never practiced,” he said. “Being a SEAL is the same way – you almost have to shut your brain off and stop thinking. …You definitely have to be 110 percent into it.”
Bridges, 34, finished first this year in CrossFit’s California regional Games qualifier and will compete in the Games in Madison, Wisconsin August 3 to 6. Bridges left the Navy in 2015 as an E-6, and spent the last three years of his active duty time in a training command as a master training specialist while rehabbing from knee surgery for a torn ACL, PCL and MCL sustained during deployment.
Anyone familiar with CrossFit knows that thanks to the sport’s focus on movements that rely heavily on knee strength and mobility, including heavy barbell and odd weight work, getting back into competition shape after a major knee injury is no small feat. But Bridges said he keeps the fire burning by focusing on his goals.
“It’s not easy, for sure, to sit there and go into the gym day in and day out and grind, and grind and grind,” he said. “When I went to start competing I had a goal to win the Games. I fell just short. After the injury I was like ‘hey, you can have same goes, it’s just really going to be hard. … I’m a little hard-headed sometimes, that once I have that goal, I’m going to make it happen no matter what.”