The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
The guided-missile destroyer USS Carney departs Mayport for its new homeport of Rota, Spain, Sept. 6.
An F-22 Raptor pilot from the 95th Fighter Squadron based at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., gets situated in his aircraft prior to taking off from Ämari Air Base, Estonia, Sept. 4, 2015.
Airman 1st Class Stefan Alvarez, a 3rd Combat Camera Squadron photojournalist, loads 5.56 mm ammunition into an M4 magazine in preparation for the next drill during Advanced Weapons and Tactics Training Sept. 4, 2015, in Converse, Texas.
A Critical Skills Operator with U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command uses a torch to cut through a metal door to gain entry on a building during Marine Special Operation School’s Master Breacher’s Course at Stone Bay aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Aug. 5, 2015.
1st Lt. Keith G. Lowell administers OC spray during the OC Spray Performance Evaluation Course on Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan, Aug. 27, 2015. This course is part of the Non-Lethal Weapons Instructor Course, which is only offered once a year to all service members on Okinawa.
U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Diego ASTs run pilots and aviation crews through Shallow Water Egress Training at Naval Base Point Loma. The training is conducted in a controlled environment to prepare flight crews on how to safely exit an overturned helicopter in the water.
The Washington Free Beacon reported last week that the Navy has stated in its latest Force Structure Assessment that it needs a larger force – setting an ideal goal of 355 ships, an increase from the 308 requested in the 2014 update. Currently, the Navy has 273 ships that are deployable.
Why does the Navy need all those ships? Here’s a list:
While ISIS is one threat, Iran is lurking as well.
The Littoral Combat Ship needs work
Let’s face it, if we were looking for a new Coast Guard cutter, the littoral combat ship would have been fine. But the Navy needs smaller combatants because there will be a need to handle some of the dirty jobs, like mine warfare.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appears to have dramatically reshuffled his senior leadership after expressing frustration with the negligence and irresponsible actions of some senior officials, offenses that have purportedly resulted in a “great crisis.”
Kim recently took a photo with top officials that confirmed suspicions a shake-up had taken place at the highest levels.
In the photo, Ri Pyong Chol, a top military official who held the rank of marshal and oversaw aspects of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, is seen standing not in the front row but a few rows back and was dressed in civilian clothing, according to NK News.
It appears that Ri is no longer a member of the Politburo Presidium.
Pak Jong Chon, another top military official, seems to have been demoted from marshal to vice marshal, and another officer, Kim Jong Gwan, looked to have lost his vice marshal status.
Photos also suggest that Choe Sang Gon, a science and education official, has lost his standing within the politburo, Reuters reported, noting that two other officials appear to have been promoted.
The apparent reshuffling of senior leadership follows a meeting in late June in which Kim chastised top officials for unspecified failings apparently linked to the COVID-19 situation.
North Korean state media reported that Kim said “senior officials in charge of important state affairs neglected the implementation of important decisions of the [Worker’s Party of Korea] on taking organizational, institutional, material, scientific and technological measures as required by the prolonged state emergency epidemic prevention campaign associated with the worldwide health crisis.”
He said their “lack of ability and irresponsibility” created “a great crisis in ensuring the security of the state and safety of the people.”
What that crisis may be is unclear, but there are indications that North Korea is facing a food shortage, economic challenges, and possibly COVID-19 outbreaks domestically.
The Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the ruling worker’s party, wrote recently that while some mistakes are forgivable, “causing critical harm to our party, country and people due to irresponsibility and negligence of duty is never acceptable,” The Daily Beast reported.
North Korea has always been very hard to read, and expert opinions on the subject tend to vary from person to person.
Bruce Bechtol, a former Pentagon intelligence analyst and an expert on North Korea, told The Daily Beast recent developments indicate “the country is in big trouble right now,” with other experts suggesting that more purges may follow.
A lot of people get nicknames in the military, usually something derogatory. But not these guys. These 11 military leaders got awesome nicknames by doing awesome stuff.
Here’s what they are and how they got them:
1. Group Capt. Sir Douglas “Tin Legs” Bader
Group Capt. Sir Douglas Bader was a Royal Air Force hero of the second World War known for his exploits in the air and frequent escape attempts as a prisoner of war in Nazi Germany. He did all of this despite the fact that he lost his legs in 1931 in an air show accident. He was drummed out of the service due to disability but returned when Britain entered World War II. He wore two prosthetic legs and earned his insensitive but inarguably awesome nickname.
2. Capt. Michael “Black Baron” Wittmann
Michael Wittman was an SS-Hauptsturmführer, the SS equivalent of an army captain, in command of a tank crew in World War II. From his time as a young enlisted man to his death as a captain, he was known for his skill in tanks and scout cars. As the war ground on, Wittman became one of the war’s greatest tank aces, scoring 138 tank kills and 132 anti-tank gun kills.
He was recognized with medals and a message of congratulations from Adolph Hitler. He was giving the nickname “The Black Baron” as an homage to the World War I flying ace, “The Red Baron,” Manfred Von Richtofen.
3. General of the Armies John “Black Jack” Pershing
General of the Armies John “Black Jack” Pershing led the American Expeditionary Forces through World War I and became one of America’s highest ranked officers in history, second only to President George Washington.
Pershing’s nickname was originally a horrible epithet given to him by students while he instructed at West Point. They angrily called him “[N-word] Jack” in reference to his time commanding a segregated unit. The name was softened to “Black Jack” and has become a part of his legacy.
4. Gen. Norman “The Bear” Schwarzkopf
Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf is probably best known for his leadership of Desert Storm. He sported two colorful nicknames. He didn’t like the most famous one, “Stormin’ Norman,” probably because it alluded to his volatile temper. But he seemed to have a fondness for his second, “The Bear,” an allusion to his 6ft., 4in. height and nearly 240-pound size.
Lt. Gen. James Gavin is probably best known for the same achievement that gave him his nickname, commanding one of America’s first airborne units and literally writing the book on airborne operations, FM 31-30: Tactics and Technique of the Air-Borne Troops.
Even after he rose to the rank of general officer ranks, he kept conducting combat jumps with his men. He landed in Normandy as a brigadier general and jumped in Operation Market Garden as a major general, earning him another nickname, “The Jumping General.”
6. Gen. Sir Frank “The Bearded Man” Messervy
Gen. Sir Frank Messervy was a successful cavalry officer in the British Indian Army in both World Wars and later served as the first commander of the Pakistan Army. In garrison, he had the appearance of a stereotypical, well-groomed Englishman. But he famously neglected to shave during battles, leading to a thick beard when he was engaged for more than a few days.
7. Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller
One of the greatest heroes of the Korean War, Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller tried to join World War I but the conflict ended just before he could ship out. Instead, he fought in anti-guerilla wars, World War II, and the Korean War. But for all of his battlefield exploits, he received a nickname for his physical appearance. His impeccable posture and large frame made him look “chesty,” so that became his name.
8. Maj. Gen. Smedley “The Fighting Quaker” Butler
Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler was born into a Quaker family in Pennsylvania in 1881. Despite the Quakers’ aversion to violence, Butler lied about his age to become a Marine Corps second lieutenant in 1898, developed a reputation for being fierce in a fight, and made his way to major general while receiving two Medals of Honor in his career.
Butler also received a brevet promotion to captain when he was 19 for valorous action conducted before officers were eligible for the Medal of Honor. In recognition of his huge brass ones, his men started calling him “The Fighting Quaker.”
9. “The Constable” Gen. Charles de Gaulle
Gen. Charles de Gaulle was the highest ranking member of France’s military in World War II and led Free French Forces against the Nazis after the fall of France.
Staff Sgt. William Guarnere fought viciously against the Germans as a paratrooper in Europe and gained a reputation for it, leading to his nickname “Wild Bill” and his portrayal in Band of Brothers.
Because of his exotic last name, he also gained the unfortunate nickname of “gonorrhea.”
11. Francis “The Swamp Fox” Marion
Brig. Gen. Francis Marion was best known for leading guerilla fighters through the woods and swamps of the southern colonies during the American Revolution. After repeatedly being harassed by Marion and his men, the British sent Col. Banastre Tarleton to hunt him down.
Marion evaded Tarleton over and over again. When a 26-mile chase through the swamps came up empty, Tarleton complained that he would never find that “swamp fox” and the name stuck.
“Thousands of our post-9/11 veterans carry the invisible burden of post-traumatic stress, and there is an overwhelming need to expand the available treatment options,” DeSantis said in a statement. “The VA should use every tool at their disposal to support and treat our veterans, including the specialized care offered by service dogs.”
The Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) Act is a five-year, $10 million program to give post-9/11 veterans with a service dog and veterinary health insurance. The veteran must have been treated for PTSD and have completed an established evidence-based treatment. They must remain significantly symptomatic, rating a 3 or 4 on the PTSD scale.
Service dogs are known to be effective in treating veterans with anxiety disorders, physical pain, and other limitations. The animals are proven to give new life and independence to recovering veterans.
A little-known group of specially-trained Coast Guardsmen are playing a key role in securing a presidential retreat in Florida and guarding against the smuggling of doomsday weapons out of war-torn Syria.
“This is a team that’s not sand lot ball. These are the pros that have very unique weapons skills and training and not everyone makes this team,” said Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft during a breakfast meeting with reporters April 12. “These teams are if anything probably over employed right now in terms of their optempo — both on the anti-terrorism front and on the counter-terrorism front as well.”
Established in the years after 9/11 to provide another layer of special operations capability both in the United States and worldwide, the Coast Guard previously housed these various specialized teams under one command, dubbed the “Deployable Operations Group.” Comprised of highly-trained boat teams, crisis response forces and counter proliferation experts, the DOG was disbanded in 2012 and its units dispersed to separate commands.
Despite its troubled past, the Coast Guard’s special operators are front and center in some of America’s most high profile missions. Zukunft said his teams are providing maritime security for President Donald Trump when he visits his golf resort at Mar a Lago in Florida, working closely with the U.S. Secret Service to protect world leaders from potential attack.
“I had three teams providing force protection for presidents of the two largest nations in the world — China and the United States — at Mar a Lago. That’s what these teams do, Zukunft said. “We’re seeing more and more of these nationally significant security events in the maritime domain.”
The service’s capability also includes Coast Guardsmen trained to locate and secure chemical and nuclear weapons — operators that are part of the Maritime Security Response Teams. Similar to SEALs, the MSRT Coast Guardsmen can take down ships, oil platforms and other vehicles used to smuggle WMD material over water.
It’s members of these MSRT units that are currently deployed to help the U.S. military guard against doomsday weapons leaking out of Syria and other regional hotspots.
“We have a full-up [counter terrorism team] deployed right now in the Mediterranean in support of CENTCOM. It’s an advanced interdiction team in case there is any movement of a weapon of mass destruction,” Zukunft said. “This is a team that if necessary, forces itself onboard a ship … and they have all of the weapons skills of special forces, but they have law enforcement authority.”
Despite the rocky road in the unit’s formation, Zukunft is confident the Coast Guard’s special operations units are here to stay.
“To turn the lights out and then decide ‘whoa we have this threat’ — it’s going to take [a while] to reconstitute that, and in doing so the assumption would be that we will never have a terrorist attack directed agains the United States ever again,” he said. “I am not willing to make that assumption. I am all in.”
On Sep. 2, 1945, Japan formally proclaimed an unconditional surrender to the Allies, bringing the hostilities of World War Two to an end.
On Dec. 7, 1941, the Empire of Japan launched a brutal attack on Pearl Harbor, killing over 2,300 American military personnel and catapulting America into World War II. Nearly four years of brutal fighting began that day.
By the time America released atomic weapons on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese military forces were all but devastated or out-maneuvered, leaving the people of the Japanese mainland vulnerable to further attacks — and Emperor Hirohito knew it.
But the terms of surrender would take another week to negotiate.
Finally, on Aug. 15, Hirohito went on national radio to announce the surrender of Japan and — the United States immediately accepted.
Watch footage of the historic surrender ceremony from the Smithsonian Channel:
On Sep. 2, in a twenty minute ceremony aboard the deck of the USS Missouri, representatives from Japan signed the official Instrument of Surrender, ending the most devastating war in human history.
As thousands of fighting men stood witness to this historic event, MacArthur accompanied Adms. Chester Nimitz and William Halsey while they greeted the Japanese delegation aboard the Navy vessel.
After the Japanese were led away, allied forces conducted one more flight maneuver to seal their victory — 1,500 planes roared across the sky over the bay to celebrate the end of World War II.
Dictators tend to be colorful people. They’re constantly alone, afraid of lots of weird things, and really paranoid everyone’s going to kill them. They have absolute power but their egos are eggshell thin. They’re fragile, volatile and worry all the time. Or maybe they’re just a little crazy from the non-stop high of having absolute power.
A look back at other dictators shows that all of them have strange quirks. For example, Hitler refused to eat meat but thought it was fine to take meth every day. Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier was so obsessed with JKF that he sent someone to collect the air around the late president’s grave. Duvalier though the air would help him control JKF’s spirit. Spoiler alert: that didn’t work. Muammar Qaddafi’s crush on Condoleezza Rice rivals anything we’ve ever seen come out of Hollywood.
And that’s just the beginning. The deeper you look at dictators, the more bizarre you realize they are. They’re all a little bizarre. Saddam Hussein was no different.
1. He penned a best-selling romance novel
His book was originally published anonymously, but everyone knows Hussein wrote “Zabiba and the King“. In the decade between its publishing and the Gulf War, the Iraqi dictator encouraged Iraqi artists to tell stories fabricated stories about the “idyllic life” of citizens in Iraq. He wanted to “bring the feats of the ‘Mother of All Battles’ home to the people.”
Typical of an ego-driven dictator, the author of the book claimed he wanted to remain anonymous … all the while feeding leaks to the news. Iraqi newspapers started to report that Hussein might be the author and the legend was born. The novel became an immediate bestseller. Then it was turned into a musical spectacular. We’re not sure if we’d ever be able to sit through that performance, though.
The CIA believes the book was probably ghostwritten with Hussein’s guidance.
2. He received a UNESCO award for raising Iraq’s quality of life
Hussein served as the Ba’ath Party vice-chairman from 1968 to 1979. In that time, he created a nationwide literacy program, setting up reading circles in Iraq’s cities. Missing these classes was punishable by three years imprisonment.
He built roads, schools, and hospitals and carved out a public health system that was tops in the region. The UN’s Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization honored his achievement in helping to eradicate illiteracy in his country.
Then, in 1979, he seized power. His actions in the coming years would make his development work look like a planned deception.
3. A Saddam-like character was featured in a Justice League comic
In a 1999 comic book, the Justice League of America – Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Arrow, and others – watched as UN weapons inspectors were ejected from the rogue Middle East nation of Kirai. Meanwhile, a well-meaning but naive new member of the League name Antaeus kills the dictator (who looks a lot like Saddam) of the country rather than do things the JLA way.
The country descends into a multi-faction civil war, ethnic conflict, regional powers exerting military influence, and a battlefield for the ongoing fight between Sunni and Shia Islam.
This was in 1999. If only President Bush read DC Comics.
4. He wiped out an entire civilization
Saddam accused Iraq’s Marsh Arabs of colluding with the Iranians during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War. In order to kill them all easier, he drained the legendary marshes – once thought to be the biblical garden of eden. The 9,000-square kilometer area was slowly dwindling to 760 by the time of the 2003 American invasion.
The people inhabiting those wetlands were either killed or forced to flee Saddam’s paranoid wrath. After the dictator’s ouster, the Iraqis destroyed the dams preventing water from flowing back into the wetlands and its ancient inhabitants started to return.
The year he took power in Iraq, Hussein received a congratulatory note from Reverend Jacob Yasso in Detroit. The dictator sent Yasso and his congregation of Chaldean Christians $250,000. Chaldeans are a sect of Christianity with roots in modern-day Iraq.
Saddam invited Yasso to come to Baghdad for a meet and greet. Yasso decided to gift the Iraqi dictator with the key to the city of Detroit, courtesy of then-Mayor Coleman Young. As a way of saying thanks, Hussein then gave the church another $200,000.
7. He hated Froot Loops
The personal jailer for Saddam, while he was a prisoner, fell to U.S. Army Spc. Sean O’Shea, a Pennsylvania National Guardsman. O’Shea mopped the floors in Saddam’s cell, served him meals, and was essentially a sort of valet for Saddam Hussein.
The old man gave him advice on everything from women to home remedies. One of the few times O’Shea ever “saw him look defeated” was when the jail ran out of Raisin Bran Crunch and had to serve the guy Froot Loops. The dictator hated them.
In an effort to prevent the 2003 American invasion of Iraq, the dictator offered to debate U.S. President George W. Bush on live TV. In a three-hour interview with CBS News, he offered a satellite link-up to debate the U.S. President.
“I am ready to conduct a direct dialogue – a debate – with your president,” CBS quoted Saddam as saying. “I will say what I want and he will say what he wants.”
The White House said the offer wasn’t a serious one but Hussein reiterated his stance.
“This is something proposed in earnest out of my respect for the people of the United States and the people of Iraq and the people of the world. I call for this because war is not a joke.”
9. He commissioned a Qur’an written in his own blood
Despite the fact that using blood to write a Qur’an is considered haram – forbidden – in every sect, branch, an offshoot of Islam, that never stopped Saddam Hussein. He commissioned one on his 60th birthday. Calligrapher Abbas Shakir Joudi wrote 6,000 verses and 336,000 words of the Qur’an using 50 pints of blood over the course of two years.
If you’re a blood expert who questions if it’s possible to give that much blood over two years, you aren’t alone. A blood donation expert once estimated it would have taken at least nine years to safely donate that much blood. That sort of thing never stopped Saddam Hussein either.
10. Young Saddam was raised by a single mother and wanted to be a lawyer
Saddam was raised by his mother after his father popped smoke one day. His dad was a shepherd, so there’s no real telling where he went. But the major male influence in Saddam’s life was his uncle, who was a member of the Ba’ath Party. Saddam’s brother died from cancer. Then his mom couldn’t afford to take care of him. So, Saddam got shipped off to live with his Arab nationalist uncle and a dictator was born. Saddam eventually went to Egypt to study law. But that was only after a failed assassination attempt on the sitting Iraqi president, Abd al-Karim Qasim.
When Qasim was ousted for good in 1963, Saddam the educated lawyer returned to Iraq and the Ba’ath party.
When soldiers, airman and sailors are injured by enemy fire, ambushed or pinned down by dangerous attacks, Air Force HH-60 Pave Hawk rescue helicopters are tasked with the risky combat mission of flying in behind enemy lines — to save imperiled service members.
“We’ve made a promise to our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines — and that promise is we will always come get you,” Brig. Gen. Eric Fick, Director of Global Reach Programs, Air Force Acquisition, told Scout Warrior in an interview earlier this year.
However, the Pave Hawk fleet has been taxed by recent combat in Iraq and Afghanistan; the fleet has been decimated by loss, damage and the wear and tear of consistent high-risk combat missions. As a result, the Air Force is deeply immersed in a crucial effort to restore the fleet to its needed operational strength, Fick explained.
“Due to the constant operation since 9-11, we have suffered loses of those helicopters in an operational sense. The objective is to bring back the fleet to full strength,” Fick said.
Facing the regular threat of Taliban or insurgent RPG, Pave Hawks are armed with .50-cal machine guns and 7.62mm weapons. They are also built with extra armor to defend against small arms fire and various kinds of enemy attacks.
“We are outfitted to go into a hostile environment to recover people, which is why we need extra armor and guns. The mission incorporates more than just recovering the downed airman, it could also include someone who is injured by and IED. We are outfitted to go recover them bring them back and give them the aid that they need. We can do MEDEVAC but also MEDEVAC behind the forward lines,” Fick explained.
Upgrades to the “life-saving” Pave Hawk helicopters include the addition of a color weather radar, upgraded radar warning receivers, automatic direction finders, digital intercom system and an ethernet backbone to the avionics system.
“This is most likely on a daily basis saving the lives of soldiers, airmen and sailors. When they get in trouble these are the guys (HH-60G) that come get them. These are the aircraft that let them do it,” he added.
Pave Hawk Upgrades
At the moment, the Air Force operates 97 embattled Pave Hawks; the goal is to restore the fleet to 112 helicopters.
The Air Force Pave Hawk restoration and upgrade is progressing along a two-fold trajectory involving the conversion of Army UH-60 Black Hawks and existing HH-60Gs into new models called Operational Loss Replacement, or OLR, helicopters.
The Army Black Hawks are given new communications technology, navigational systems, radar warning receivers and hoist refueling probes allowing the aircraft to refuel mid-mission. In addition, they are engineered with an infrared jammer and flare countermeasure dispensing system. The converted helicopters are also given longer range fuel tanks and increased armor for combat rescue missions, Lt. Col. Charles Mcmullen, HH-60 program element monitor, told Scout Warrior.
In total, 21 Army Black Hawks will be converted into upgraded models. Three of them will be configured as test models and 18 will go to three different guard units and then to active duty forces, Fick said. The first UH-60 helicopter has already been converted into a Pave Hawk, he added.
The creation of OLR models from HH-60G helicopters includes the addition of a color weather radar, upgraded radar warning receivers, automatic direction finders, digital intercom system and an ethernet backbone to the avionics system.
“A new color multi-function display on the dashboard can switch between an active moving map and infrared imaging system which can be used in low light to land the helicopter and pick up injured service members,” Fick added.
The new “picture in picture” color display allows pilots to merge separate laptop and control panel screens into a single screen designed to better expedite navigation and decision making while lowering the pilot’s workload.
All existing Pave Hawks will be transformed into OLR models within the next several years. The restoration of the Air Force Pave Hawk fleet is designed to preserve operational rescue helicopters until the services’ emerging new Combat Rescue Helicopter arrives in the mid 2020s.
“The mods will start next year. The challenge is we want to get the OLR birds out first. We are working the phasing and the timing of those mods to make sure we do not reduce readiness,” Fick added.
The Sikorsky-built helicopter operates two General Electric T700-GE-700 or T700-GE-701C engines, weighs 22,000 pounds and reaches speeds up to 184 miles per hour. It has an operating range of 504-miles.
Pave Hawk History
Pave Hawks combat missions began in Operation Just Cause. During Operation Desert Storm they provided combat search and rescue coverage for coalition forces in western Iraq, coastal Kuwait, the Persian Gulf and Saudi Arabia, Air Force statements said.
They also provided emergency evacuation coverage for U.S. Navy SEAL teams penetrating the Kuwaiti coast before the invasion.
During Operation Allied Force, Pave Hawks provided continuous combat search and rescue coverage for NATO air forces, and successfully recovered two Air Force pilots who were isolated behind enemy lines.
Dust off your VHS tape, grab a DVD, or search Netflix for the 1996 comedy ‘Sgt. Bilko’ starring comedic icons Steve Martin, Dan Aykroyd and the late, great Phil Hartman and give it a rewatch sometime. The movie is a remake of the hit 1950’s series The Phil Silvers Show. Most will agree that the movie was not nearly as good as the show. In fact, the numbers to prove it. “Sgt. Bilko” has a 32 percent critic favorability rating on the movie review site Rotten Tomatoes. Users score the film a bit better at 45 percent.
Martin plays the wheeling and dealing Army Master Sgt. Ernest Bilko, a motor pool supervisor who uses his soldiers to make a quick buck by running an illegal gambling ring on a fictional Army base called Fort Baxter. Aykroyd plays Army Col. John T. Hall, the base’s commanding officer. The colonel seems mostly unaware of or unconcerned with Bilko’s antics and Bilko practically runs the base.
It’s all smooth sailing for Bilko until an old rival (Major Colin Thorn, played by Hartman) arrives to inspect his motor pool. It’s part of a plan to punish Bilko for the fixed boxing match that sent him to Greenland years before. He also seeks his revenge by trying to steal away Bilko’s fianceé.
The movie is also centered on the development of a Hover Tank that can rise over land and water. However, the tank is not yet ready for prime time. The fate of Fort Baxter and Bilko’s career rest on the tank performing well in a high-profile demonstration in front of a Congressional delegation and senior military officials.
Although it’s not a great military film and several blunders are clearly noticeable in the movie. The wear of military uniforms and errors in military customs and courtesies are the most egregious errors, but there are some scenes that many veterans will find funny.
In the opening scenes of the movie, Bilko is signaled by the base radio station that Col. Hall is on his way to his location. The motor pool is a mini Las Vegas with craps and roulette tables, full bar and massage room. The Soldiers are in a hurry to hide all the illegal activities but find themselves in a dilemma when they have to hide a horse used in a previous gambling scheme. In classic Bilko fashion, he tries to smooth talk his way out of trouble.
The rivalry between Maj. Thorn and Master Sgt. Bilko is explained in this flashback scene. In anticipation of a big boxing championship match, Bilko takes in bets. Like the good con man he is, Bilko pays off one of the fighters to take a dive hoping to score some big money. But a problem arises when Bilko’s assistant pays off the wrong fighter. The miscommunication leads to a double knockout. Somehow though it’s Thorn and not Bilko who gets in trouble for the botched fight.
Bilko’s platoon is given a surprise barracks inspection. The motor pool barracks are trashed. Facing certain failure, Bilko switches the signs between his barracks and a neighboring women’s barracks. In typical military fashion, the men line up in front of the rooms. When Thorn finds a bra in one of the closets, he asks the soldier if it’s his. His DADT-related reply is classic: “It is my understanding that you can no longer ask me these questions, Sir.”
Duane Doberman is one of Bilko’s most lovable soldiers. However, he is clearly out of Army weight standards. Maj. Thorn is out to get him but his battle buddies come to his rescue, helping him complete some push-ups in front of the officer. See the push-ups for yourself:
Viva Las Vegas
Bilko’s dream of going to Vegas comes true when he is allowed to go to a military exercise in Nevada. He is overjoyed and cruises the Vegas strip in some military hardware.
The Hover Tank
Like a good NCO, Master Sgt. Bilko outwits Maj. Thorn and gets the tank up and running with some deceptive tactics. Eventually, it leads to the dismissal of Thorn back to Greenland. Bilko is once again the ruler of his domain. “It’s no wonder why they call him a Master Sergeant.”
A military airborne operation is inherently risky. Parachutes can fail, troops can be scattered by the wind and Murphy can generally rear his ugly head and make anything and everything happen. In order to mitigate risk, airborne operations are meticulously planned and prepared for. Parachutes are packed by highly skilled riggers, pathfinders are sent ahead to mark drop zones, and weather forecasts are checked minute by minute before a jump. In the unlikely event that a trooper’s main chute does fail, a reserve chute is carried as a backup. After all, two is one and one is none. But what happens in case of a water landing?
Paratroopers can easily be loaded down with over 100 pounds of gear on a combat jump. If a trooper lands in deep water like a lake, the likelihood of drowning is extremely high with all that weight. Enter the parachutist flotation system.
Going as far back as 1951 with the B-7 Parachutist Life Preserver, a flotation device is a vital piece of life-saving equipment in airborne operations. As with everything in the military, there’s guidance dictating its use. Generally, flotation devices are a regulatory requirement for jumps where the surveyed drop zone is within 1000 meters of a water obstacle. Moreover, that water obstacle must be more than 2 meters deep.
Inflated with CO2 cartridges, the B-7 was also issued with sea dye markers to help spot waterborne paratroopers. Although it could save their lives, troops didn’t care much for the B-7. “[They were] extraordinarily uncomfortable to wear since they go on under the parachute harness and all the other equipment, to include the LBE/LBV,” one Sgt. Maj. recalled.
The B-7 was later joined by more advanced flotation devices like the Life Preserver LPU-10/P and Tactical Flotation Support System. The former is basically a slightly updated version of the B-7 that could be inflated orally if the CO2 cartridges failed. Conversely, the TFSS is a much more advanced flotation system. It comes in different forms like a cummerbund worn on the sides of a plate carrier or ballistic vest, or as two separate cells worn on either side of a belt. Luckily for military parachutists, the TFSS is much more comfortable to jump with that the old B-7.
In 2018, the Army began searching for a new flotation system to replace its inventory of flotation devices. The announcement by the Army’s Natick Soldier System Center stated that the legacy systems, “do not meet all of the Army’s requirements for intentional, and/or unintentional parachutist water entry.”
In 2021, the Army began testing the new Parachutist Flotation Device. Evaluated by paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division and 3rd Special Forces Group, the PFD is an even more modern iteration of the flotation device concept than the TFSS.
“The PFD is much easier to rig for static line operations,” said platoon sergeant and jumpmaster Sgt. 1st Class Steven Branch. “We barely noticed having it on, and it can easily suspend a Soldier with combat equipment for a long time if needed. Overall I was very impressed with every aspect of the PFD.”
Upon completion of its evaluation, the PFD will make its way across the Army’s airborne units and replace legacy flotation systems. Although their use is even rarer than reserve chutes, flotation devices are just as vital a piece of life-saving equipment that every paratrooper would rather have and not need than need and not have.
On February 3rd, a 70-year-old veteran will be taking the stairs — 1,576 of them.
Jerry Augustine of Middletown, Connecticut is set to participate in the Empire State Building Run-Up, the world’s oldest and most famous tower race. He will join an elite group of runners selected from thousands who vied for a spot in the event.
This will be the ninth time the Vietnam vet has run up the iconic New York City landmark’s 86 flights of stairs. He is running for Team Red White and Blue, a not-for-profit with the mission to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.
The former Army Spec. was tasked with search and destroy missions, recovering bodies, and ambush patrols during his 1966-1967 deployment to Vietnam. The Hartford Courant recently detailed one of his more harrowing missions:
One day, while performing this duty, Augustine fell into a human trap known as punji pit, a camouflaged hole with sharpened bamboo stakes at the bottom. The stakes might be tipped with excrement to cause infection. Augustine was lucky. He said the pit was old and the stakes had rotted and merely collapsed under his weight.
Augustine said another close call came when he was “point man” on ambush patrol. Approaching a clearing, he said, he was spotted by a guerrilla fighter who fired an RPG. The mortar round struck a tree a few feet away. “It bounced off and landed right next to my boot,” Augustine said. He dove for cover, but the round failed to detonate.
“I still think about how close I was to death,” he said. “When, you’re young you don’t think about, but it hits me now.”
He said one of the worst experiences was when his company was sent to recover the bodies of fallen comrades in the aftermath of a three-day battle in fall 1966. “My platoon had the duty of carrying 30 bodies to the choppers to be put into body bags and sent back to friendly lines,” Augustine said. “It was just horrible.”
After the war he struggled with what is now known as ‘post traumatic stress.’ In 1992, his doctor prescribed Prozac, but it made him lethargic. A friend suggested he drop the meds and hit the pavement.
“My son had a paper route on a bicycle at the time, so I started running along with him delivering papers, a couple of miles a day,” Augustine told The Hartford Courant. “Pretty soon I was entering races, and doing pretty well. I became one of the best in my age group. Running made me feel great.”
Augustine won the ESB Run-Up race in the 50s division in 2001. His last race was 2007.
“When I turned 70 this year, I wanted to see if I could still do it,” he told the Courant. “I’d be really happy to get a time of 20 minutes this time. Maybe even 25 minutes. It’s a lot harder now.”
If you would like to get into ‘run-up-the-stairs-of-a-102-floor-building-in-25-minutes-or-less’ shape, here is Jerry’s simple routine:
Sprint up the stairs of a 12 story building: 3 times in a row, 3 times a week.
American special operators are using a new virtual reality trainer to simulate their air insertions before they jump, allowing them to conduct near-perfect rehearsals over and over before the actual mission.
PARASIM incorporates a harness tailor-made to parachute manufacturer’s specifications, a virtual reality headset, and a digital environment using weather simulation and satellite or map imagery. All of this put together allows operators to create custom mission profiles and then practice them.
“If I need to insert a SEAL team in Syria tomorrow night, all I need is a latitude and longitude,” David Landon, president and CEO of Systems Technology Inc., told Defense News. “So by the time they actually make the jump, they’ve already done it. There are no surprises.”
The system can even handle multiple jumpers in a single simulation, allowing a unit to virtually jump as a team and work together to make the proper insertion to the target area.
Every military branch in the Department of Defense has purchased the system, according to Systems Technology Inc.’s website.