The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period - We Are The Mighty
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The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here is the best of what they shot this week:


AIR FORCE

Tech. Sgt. Timothy Cotterall, an Air National Guard emergency manager, is decontaminated following attempts to identify multiple biological contaminants in a simulated lab during a Global Dragon training event on March 18, 2015. Held at the Guardian Centers of Georgia, Global Dragon Deployment For Training provides a refresher course for Airmen, allowing them to put their skills to use to identify live chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear agents and materials. 

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period
Photo: Tech. Sgt. Timothy Cotterall/US Air Force

The lights along the flightline at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, shine under the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights March 18, 2015. Eielson is home to RED FLAG-Alaska, a series of Pacific Air Forces commander-directed field training exercises for U.S. forces, provides joint offensive counter-air, interdiction, close air support, and large force employment training in a simulated combat environment.

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period
Photo: Staff Sgt. Shawn Nickel/US Air Force

NAVY

WATERS NEAR GUAM (March 26, 2015) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62), right, comes alongside the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Pecos (T-AO 197) for a replenishment-at-sea during Multi-Sail 2015.

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Patrick Dionne/US Navy

WATERS NEAR GUAM (March 27, 2015) U.S. Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships are underway in formation during Multi-Sail 2015. Multi-Sail is an annual Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15 exercise designed to assess combat systems, improve teamwork and increase warfighting capabilities in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force is participating in Multi-Sail for the first time.

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Daniel M. Young/US Navy

ARMY

The sun sets on Soldiers assigned to 2d Cavalry Regiment, after conducting a tactical road march from Mihail Kogalniceanu Airbase to Smardan Training Area, Romania, March 24, 2015. The Soldiers are preparing to partner with Soldiers assigned to 173rd Airborne Brigade and Romanian forces for a multinational training event in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period
Photo: Sgt. William A. Tanner/US Army

Paratroopers assigned to 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, conduct an after action review after completing a night live-fire, on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.during U.S. Army Alaska’s Exercise Spartan Valkyrie, March 23, 2015.

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period
Photo: Staff Sgt. Daniel Love/US Army

MARINE CORPS

A Marine engages targets from a UH-1Y Venom with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 161, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, during Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) above San Clemente Island, California, March 20, 2015. COMPTUEX gives the Marines of VMM-161 the opportunity to practice real-world scenarios and hone their skill sets.

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period
Photo: Sgt. Jamean Berry/US Marine Corps

A Marine with Combat Logistics Battalion 2, dives underwater to perform a self-rescue drill during a swim qualification course aboard Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, March 18, 2015. The purpose of the course was to maintain proficiency, and enhance the Marines skills in water survival techniques.

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period
Photo: Lance Cpl. Andre Dakis/US Marine Corps

COAST GUARD

Coast Guard members from Coast Guard Sector Boston, Coast Guard Station Merrimack River and the First Coast Guard District conduct flare training on Plum Island, Mass., Dec. 15, 2014. The participants fired several different types of flares to gain familiarity with the operation and appearance for each type of flare.

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period
Photo: Petty Officer 3rd Class MyeongHi Clegg/US Coast Guard

As the sun sets, a crew member acts as lookout aboard Barque Eagle in the North Atlantic, April 2, 2014. Coast guard Cutter Eagle is the only active commissioned sailing vessel, and one of only two commissioned sailing vessels along with the USS Constitution, in American military service.

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period
Photo: Petty Officer 2nd Class LaNola Stone/US Coast Guard

NOW: Why Vietnam vet and Hollywood legend Dale Dye thinks ending the draft was a ‘terrible mistake’

AND: 5 sports stars who saw heavy combat in the military

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This is what a war between Qatar and Saudi Arabia would look like

With tensions between Qatar and a Saudi-lead group of Arab countries (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt) increasing over allegations that Qatar funds terrorist groups, and a blockade being imposed, there is the question as to what would happen if this broke out into war.


Could Qatar hold on? Would Saudi Arabia have some new real estate?

Let’s start with a look at the Qatari military. The blockade is one likely flashpoint, and the balance of naval forces is decidedly not in Qatar’s favor. According to the “16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World,” the Qatari navy consists of seven patrol combatants equipped with MM.40 Exocet anti-ship missiles. This force is outclassed by the Saudi navy, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain, which combine for nine frigates, plus 10 corvettes and up to 30 guided-missile patrol combatants.

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period
An al Madinah class frigate of the Royal Saudi Navy. (Royal Saudi Navy photo)

In essence, Qatar isn’t about to break this blockade any time soon. Any naval battle will be very short – and will end with the Qatari navy on the bottom. The only question will be how much of an honor guard they will take with them.

It’s important to note that eight of the Saudi-led coalition frigates are equipped with surface-to-air missiles, while the corvettes at least have point-defense systems like the Mk 15 Phalanx or launchers for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile.

So, what happens if the Saudi-lead coalition decides to roll into Qatar? Again, this will likely be a short fight. The Egyptian army and the combination of the Saudi army and Saudi National Guard would be operating under friendly skies very quickly.

According to FlightGlobal.com’s World Air Forces 2017, Qatar has a single squadron of 13 Mirage 2000-5 fighters (nine Mirage 2000-5EDA, four Mirage 2000-5DDAs) on hand. Yes, they ordered 72 F-15QA Eagles, 18 Rafale Cs and six Rafale Bs, but those haven’t been delivered.

As things stand right now, Bahrain’s air force of 17 F-16Cs and 8 F-5Es could arguably take the Qatari air force on their own. That doesn’t count what the United Arab Emirates or Saudi Arabia could throw in.

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period
A Royal Saudi Air Force F-15S in its hangar. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Qatar does have Patriot and THAAD batteries. These systems make for a formidable air-defense system. That said, the sheer numbers of planes from the Saudi-lead coalition (“World Air Forces 2017” notes that Saudi Arabia has 48 Eurofighters, 129 F-15C/S/SA, and 81 Tornado IDS while the UAE has 55 F-16E, 23 F-16F, and 49 Mirage 2000-5 fighters on hand) would likely overwhelm those defenses.

The ground battle would also be short. The Qatari army performed well during the Battle of Khafji in Desert Storm. But with one tank battalion, four mechanized infantry battalions, and an anti-tank battalion (according to GlobalSecurity.org), they are badly outnumbered by the eight brigades (two armored, five mechanized infantry, and one airborne) assigned to the Royal Saudi Land Forces. The Saudi Arabian National Guard brings 11 additional brigades.

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period
Saudi troops march in formation. (WATM file photo)

Qatar has two trump cards to keep this crisis from going hot. One is the American presence at Al Udeid Air Base – in essence, the Saudi-lead coalition is not going to want to accidentally hit American personnel. The other is the fact that Turkey, under Recip Teyap Erdogan, is condemning the blockade, and Turkey has a formidable military of its own. But Turkey is a long way off, and may not be able to do much to stop a Saudi-lead invasion.

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Women in combat may cause Congress to end selective service process

The House Armed Services Committee will reexamine the Selective Service System’s viability and explore possible alternatives in this year’s review of the National Defense Authorization Bill, the legislation that sets the spending guidelines and policy directives for the coming fiscal year.


The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period
A U.S. Marine with Fox Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), fires his weapon as part of a deck shoot aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8). (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Evan R. White)

Congressional staffers told the Military Times that the move comes after all the hand wringing over the idea of women registering for the draft now that they can be assigned to combat jobs in the military. Some of the representatives who sit on the House committee were part of a group who entered legislation to abolish the Selective Service System entirely, which they deem to be obsolete and outdated.

U.S. law says all male citizens of the United States and male immigrants (and bizarrely, illegal immigrants, too) have to register for the Selective Service System within 30 days of their 18th birthday. After the Vietnam War, President Gerald Ford abolished the draft, but President Jimmy Carter reestablished it as a response to the potential threat posed by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. William Tanner)

The SSS costs roughly $23 million per year to operate, but nobody’s actually been drafted since 1973. Even at the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, the option of instituting a draft was deemed unnecessary.

The draft isn’t dead yet, however. Before any changes are made to the current system, the Senate would also have to approve the legislation, and then it would move over to the President’s desk for his signature (or his veto).

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This bionic exoskeleton will give troops a leg up in combat operations

It is not Iron Man. It isn’t even Iron Fist. Lockheed Martin’s newest exoskeleton is more like Iron Leg. But for a soldier humping his weapons, ammo and body armor up a mountain in Afghanistan or a high-rise building in a future urban battle, a device to take the load off would be welcome. And, unlike science fiction supersuits, we can build it now.


Exoskeletons are part of the Pentagon’s Third Offset Strategy, which seeks to use robotics and artificial intelligence to enhance humans on the battlefield, rather than to replace them. There’s no area where the need is more acute than in the infantry, which takes the vast majority of casualties.

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period
U.S. Army official file photo: A Punisher unmanned ground vehicle follows Soldiers during the PACMAN-I experiment in Hawaii. (U.S. Army photo)

One particularly persistent problem: weight. US foot troops have been overburdened since at least D-Day, where some men drowned in shallow water under their heavy packs. The problem has become especially acute since 9/11, with US troops in body armor laboring to chase Taliban in flip-flops. The military is constantly looking at ways to make equipment lighter, but those improvements are mainly on the margins, a pound shaved here or there. It’s also experimenting with wheeled or tracked robots that can carry some of a squad’s equipment, but these robotic mules can’t yet keep up with nimble infantrymen over rough terrain.

So if you can’t lighten the soldier’s load, and you can’t take it off him, can you make him stronger? Nowadays, the answer is yes: We have the technology.

How It Works

The Lockheed exoskeleton’s full and unwieldly designation is FORTIS Knee-Stress Relief Device (K-SRD), which makes it sounds like a piece of molded plastic your insurance would refuse to cover. In fact, it’s a sophisticated synthesis of multiple technologies:

a rigid load-bearing framework to transfer weight off the wearer to the ground; compact actuators at the knee to increase strength (future models may add actuators at the hip as well); soft materials that buffer between the human being and the rigid frame, helping translate analog human movements into digital signals to the actuators; and an artificial intelligence that adjusts the machinery to move seamlessly with the wearer — unlike past earlier exoskeletons that often resisted the body’s natural movements.

In tests, elite Tier One special operators wearing K-SRD found they could do twice as many squats lifting 185 pounds of weight, going from an average of 20-25 reps to over 50. There were similar improvements climbing stairs carrying a 185-lb simulated casualty, said Lockheed product manager Keith Maxwell, a former Navy and “Other Government Agency” operator himself. “It literally pushes you up flights of stairs,” he told me. “(You) do it faster, with much less fatigue.”

However, the gains are greatest with vertical movement and least on level ground, Maxwell emphasized. On a 15-degree slope, he said, the device reduces the human’s energy expenditure — the “net metabolic cost” — by only about 9 percent. On level ground, it doesn’t save any energy, he said. Why? Humans evolved over millions of years for long-distance chases across the savannah: The theory of persistence hunting suggests our ancestors, lacking bows and arrows, simply ran after prey until it collapsed from exhaustion. Nothing modern technology can make is likely to improve on human performance over level ground, at least any time soon.

With K-SRD on level ground, said Maxwell, “what we’re able to do is break even” — which is a marked improvement over past exoskeletons. Lockheed spent years on an 85-lb rigid exoskeleton called HULC (Human Universal Load Carrier), which was good at carrying heavy weights but lousy at matching human movements. “The problem was that terrain is irregular and human gait is infinitely variable,” Maxwell said, so HULC’s computer kept misunderstanding what the wearer wanted to do and moving the wrong way. Overall, Maxwell said, walking around in a HULC actually cost 15 to 25 percent more energy than having no exoskeletal “help” at all.

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period
The FORTIS Industrial Exoskeleton. (Lockheed)

Lockheed moved on to the less ambitious FORTIS, essentially a rigid support frame — it doesn’t require electricity because it doesn’t have actuators — that could help factory and shipyard workers handle heavy tools without fatigue. The wearer has enough mobility to relocate, tools in hand, to another worksite within 100 yards, but the industrial FORTIS far too awkward for the battlefield.

The FORTIS K-SRD, by contrast, uses its mix of rigid and flexible components, and a much more sophisticated set of algorithms than HULC, to move with the wearer’s body. Testers were able to operate it with only 15 minutes of training, Maxwell said, and some of the special operators didn’t bother with the training at all.

“They can run, they can climb, they can squat,” Maxwell said. They can hit the dirt, take cover, and crawl, then jump up and dash forward and take cover again. They can even walk along a balance beam although for such precision movements he recommends turning the strength-magnifying actuators off, done with a simple thumb movement on the controls. One tester even found his K-SRD comfortable enough to sleep with it on.

The Case Against Iron Man

After decades of exoskeleton development, Lockheed wants to get this device out into the field soon. The K-SRD team is working mostly closely with the Army’s Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Mass., which they expect to buy a number of K-SRDs for test purposes and institute a Cooperative Research Development Agreement (CRADA) in the next 30-60 days. Other partners include the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force and the Marine Expeditionary Rifle Squad initiative. Lockheed is even working with theDepartment of Homeland Security and some foreign fire departments on potential firefighting and rescue applications, since those also involve heavily burdened humans climbing up and down with life and death and stake.

Maxwell did not mention Special Operations Command, whose TALOS program envisions a full-body suit of mechanical armor able to resist point-blank gunshots — what then-SOCOM chief Adm. William McRaven compared to Iron Man’s suit.

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period
Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) relies on the JARVIS artificial intelligence to help pilot his Iron Man suit — the kind of “human-machine teaming” that increasingly intrigues the Pentagon. (Marvel Comics/Paramount Pictures)

“Can we have an up-armored solution that’s capable of breaching and entering and being relatively invulnerable to 7.62 AP (armor piercing) bullets at point-blank range? Yeah, we can do that,” said Maxwell. That said, it’d probably be heavy and slow, far from the flight-capable suit in the comics.

“Iron Man has…hurt exoskeleton development,” Maxwell said, because it’s created impossible expectations — literally impossible, since the CGI suit in the movies routinely violates the laws of physics. When Iron Man drops from the sky to a neat three-point landing, in particular, the sudden deceleration would liquefy Tony Stark inside the suit.

Nevertheless, Maxwell said, while real-world exoskeletons may not copy the comic books, they’re still a marvel. When our best troops put them on, he said, “they become something more than human.” They become something more than mere machines, as well, he said: “The man in the machine will beat the machine (by itself) every time.”

That’s the so-called centaur model of human-machine teaming at the heart of the Pentagon’s Third Offset Strategy. It’s the synergy of a human imagination and agility controlling the strength and speed of a machine, like the mythical centaur combining rider and horse into a single being.

“As long as there’s judgment (required) in situations in which the person is going to have to make a call, we’re going to want a human in the loop. Eventually, if we can get machines to do that for us…we’ll just make these robots,” Maxwell told me. “Until then…you take the absolute best human beings and combine them with the absolute best in machines.”

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This Green Beret’s heroism was so incredible that Ronald Reagan said it was hard to believe

Master Sgt. Raul “Roy” P. Benavidez was a young special forces linguist and medic when, in 1965, he stepped on a mine in Vietnam and was evacuated to the United States. He was told he’d never walk again. But, wanting to return to Vietnam, he began a nightly ritual of attempting to relearn how to walk despite explicit orders from his doctors.


A year later, his doctor was standing in Benavidez’s hospital room with medical discharge papers. The doctor made a deal with Benavidez that he’d tear up the discharge if Benavidez walked out of the room. Benavidez did one better by walking out of the ward.

Amazingly, this was not the most insane or heroic part of Benavidez’s life. That’s because, after returning to Vietnam, Benavidez volunteered to assist with the emergency extraction of a 12-man special forces team under extreme fire on May 2, 1968. He rode into battle on the fourth helicopter to attempt extraction, the first three having been driven back by withering small arms and anti-aircraft fire. The fourth bird also decided it couldn’t land, but allowed Benavidez to drop out of the helicopter 75 meters from the team.

Benavidez ran the 75 meters and was wounded three times in the process, including once in the head and once in the face. Despite his wounds, he began repositioning the wounded team members so they could lay down fire while also marking the location for aircraft to attempt extraction. When the bird arrived, he ran alongside, providing cover fire, as the helicopter picked up the wounded. Right as the helicopter and Benavidez reached the dead team leader, Benavidez was hit by small arms fire and grenade shrapnel while the pilot was mortally wounded and crashed the aircraft.

Benavidez again recovered the wounded and placed them in a defensive perimeter. He began circuits of the perimeter, distributing ammunition and water. As the enemy increased its pressure on the team, he began calling in airstrikes.

Another aircraft arrived to attempt extraction and Benavidez — despite his own serious injuries — ferried the dead and wounded to the waiting helicopter until he was clubbed from behind by an enemy soldier. He engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the soldier and killed him, but sustained bayonet wounds. While ferrying the last of the wounded to the bird, he engaged two additional enemy soldiers, killing them and protecting the helicopter.

Then, just to prove being wounded 37 times in six hours of combat ain’t no thang, he did a final sweep of the perimeter to ensure no wounded men or classified material was left on the battlefield.

Finally, Benavidez allowed himself to be pulled from the fight. Upon arriving back at the base, he was declared dead by two doctors. As the second one was zipping up the body bag, Benavidez proved he was alive by spitting in the doctor’s face, much like he had been spitting in the face of death for the previous six hours.

It would be nearly 13 more years before Benavidez was awarded the Medal of Honor, primarily because it was thought that there were no surviving witnesses to testify to his actions. After a team member who did survive, Brian O’Conner, heard Benavidez was still alive and that a witness testimony would allow him to be awarded the nation’s highest military honor, O’Conner provided a 10-page report to satisfy the requirement.

On February 24, 1981, President Ronald Reagan presented the Medal Of Honor. Before reading the citation, he told the crowd, “If the story of his heroism were a movie script, you would not believe it.”

The reading of the citation and Benavidez’s story, in his own words, is available in the video below.

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‘Kilroy Was Here’ was the WWII-era viral meme

Kilroy, the bald guy with the long nose hanging over a wall, may be the world’s first viral meme. While it didn’t originate with U.S. servicemen in World War II, it resonated with them. And Kilroy has had staying power all over the world well after WWII.


The graffiti originated with a British doodle called “Mr. Chad,” who commented on rationing and shortages during the war. Often accompanied by the phrase “Wot? No Sugar”, “Wot? No engines?”, or anything decrying the lack of supplies in Britain at the time. “Eventually,” etymologist Eric Shackle writes, “the spirit of Allied unity merged, with the British drawing appearing over the American phrase.”

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period

The little graffiti doodle became a national joke. GIs and civilians alike would compete to draw “Kilroy was here” in the most remote, obscure places. “Kilroy was here” suddenly appeared on the torch of the Statue of Liberty, Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the Marco Polo Bridge in China, a girder on the George Washington Bridge in New York, and even the bellies of pregnant women in hospitals.

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period

Kilroy the name is widely considered to originate from J.J. Kilroy, a welding inspector at the Bethlehem Steel Shipyards in Quincy, Massachusetts. The New York Times told the story of how Kilroy, tired of co-workers claiming he didn’t inspect their work, began writing “Kilroy was here” with a crayon, instead of making the usual chalk mark. When these ships came in for repairs in worldwide ports, wartime workers would open sealed compartments to find the doodle. This random appearance would be an amazing feat from the repair crews’ perspective since no one would have been able to access these areas.

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period

For years, rumors and theories abounded about the origin of the name. In 1946, the American Transit Association held a contest, offering a full-size street car to anyone who could prove they were the real Kilroy. J.J. Kilroy entered and corroborated his story with other shipyard workers. The ATA sent the trolley to Kilroy’s house in Halifax, Mass. where he attached the 12-ton car to his home and used it as living space for his nine children.

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period

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These Coasties were tougher than your first sergeant

The Coast Guard is typically more worried about life jackets than L-shaped ambushes, so they often get a reputation for being bad-ss free, but it’s actually not true.


A bunch of the oft-mocked “puddle pirates” are actually tough as nails. Here are six Coasties from history who weren’t afraid to put life and limb on the line so that others may live:

6. A rescue swimmer personally saved half a crew in the middle of a hurricane

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period
The HMS Bounty, a 180-foot sailboat, shown submerged in the Atlantic Ocean during Hurricane Sandy. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Tim Kuklewski)

When the HMS Bounty, a replica ship based on a 1780s design, sailed into the Atlantic ahead of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, it was pretty much doomed. Few people on the crew of 15 had any real experience on tall ships and the captain failed to account for how much damage high winds could do to his wooden masts and hull.

So the Coast Guard had to attempt a rescue in severe conditions. Petty Officer Third Class Daniel J. Todd, a rescue swimmer, dove into the waters and braved 30-foot waves for an hour to rescue nine crew members, many of them one at a time.

Five other members of the Bounty crew were rescued by other helicopters. The captain and one crew member died.

5. A pilot twice braved volatile ice to pull out stranded allies

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period
First Lt. John A. Pritchard gets ready to take off on what will be his final rescue flight. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard)

Coast Guard Lt. John A . Pritchard was assigned to duties on the USCGC Northland in 1942 when the ship was operating near the Greenland Ice Cap.

On Nov. 23, he led a motorboat crew through the ice, under a shelf liable to collapse at any moment, onto the shore, and across a dangerous glacier in the middle of the night to rescue three Canadian airmen. He would posthumously receive the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his actions.

Later that same month, he flew onto the ice cap to rescue downed American airmen. On Nov. 28, he landed on the ice and then took off with two Army fliers, saving them both.

He returned the next day and picked up a third flier but never made it back to his ship. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross posthumously for his November 28-29 actions.

4. The crew of the USCGC Campbell, which rammed a German submarine

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period
The USCGC Campbell while in Navy service in World War II. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard)

On Feb. 22, 1943, the USCGC Campbell was escorting other ships when a German submarine suddenly appeared in the ocean nearby. The Campbell immediately turned towards the enemy craft and rammed it, damaging both vessels but failing to sink the enemy sub.

Despite a large hole in the Campbell’s side, it stayed in the fight and engaged the sub with direct fire and depth charges, eventually destroying the enemy. The Campbell took a few prisoners on board, but its commander, Commander James Hirshfield, had been wounded by shell shrapnel.

Hirshfield remained in command and had the Campbell brought into port for repairs.

3. The coxswain who navigated an exploding ship to rescue survivors

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

When the USNS Potomac caught fire in 1961 while discharging aviation fuel, the sea quickly became a hellscape. Explosions on the ship repeatedly sent shrapnel across the surface of the water and burning fuel heated the surrounding air and filled it with noxious gasses.

Coast Guard Boatswain’s Mate First Class Howard R. Jones piloted a lifeboat under the stern of the Potomac and rescued five crew members. He delivered those to a nearby hospital and then returned to the still-burning vessel where he searched for other survivors, finding another missing crew member.

The reserves of fuel on the ship kept it burning for five days before it sank.

2. Three Coasties volunteer to rescue over 30 survivors in a horrendous storm

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period
(Photos: U.S. Coast Guard)

The Coast Guard often refers to the events of Feb. 18, 1952, as their “Finest Hours,” and a movie based on the events came out in 2016. Two 520-foot ships, the Fort Mercer and the Pendleton, broke apart in a massive nor’easter. The Pendleton broke first, but a short circuit stopped it from reporting the damage.

The Fort Mercer crew was rescued and the crews finally spotted the beleaguered Pendleton. A crew of four volunteers motored past the sandbars off Massachusetts and made it to the bow section of the Pendleton.

Despite massive waves, freezing temperatures, and a broken compass, the four men were able to rescue 32 of the 33 men still alive on the Pendleton and get them back to shore.

1. Two signalmen save Marines under fire at Guadalcanal

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period
(Painting: U.S. Coast Guard)

Chief Signalman Raymond Evans and Signalman First Class Douglas Munro were attached to the 1st Marine Division in 1942 when they were sent to Guadalcanal as part of the invasion. The two men were there on different missions, but both were asked to pilot boats to land Marines on another part of the island.

The initial landings were uneventful, but soon after the Coasties returned, they heard that the Marines were under heavy fire and were signaling for help. They both volunteered to return in Higgins boats, a few panels of slapped together plywood filled with gasoline and ammunition, and rescue the Marines.

They even volunteered for service in the boat designated to draw Japanese fire.

Miraculously, the Coasties were able to suppress many of the Japanese guns as the Marine withdrew to the boats, but Munro was tragically hit in the head by a Japanese machine gun burst while helping a beached craft en route back to the beach.

He survived just long enough to famously ask, “Did the Marines get off?” before succumbing to his wounds.

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The bagpipe-playing soldier who killed a Nazi sergeant with a longbow

So this guy is one of my favorite people ever.  His life story sounds like a Dos Equis commercial. His full name is John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill, better known as Jack Churchill or “Mad Jack”.  A few of my favorite qualities and accomplishments of his up front:


  • Officer in the British Army from 1926-1936 and 1939-1959.  During WWII, he was a Lieutenant-Colonel.
  • Worked as a newspaper editor and male model in Nairobi, Kenya between 1936 and 1939.
  • His motto was, “Any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed.”
  • When the war in Europe ended, he was sent to Burma to fight the Japanese but by the time he arrived, the war was over. He really, really didn’t like this because he wanted to keep fighting.
  • After the war he served as an instructor at the land-air warfare school in Australia, he became an avid surfer.
  • After retiring from the army in 1959, he regularly scared train conductors and pedestrians by throwing his briefcase from the train. Why? He threw it into his own backyard because he didn’t want to carry it home from the train station.

So now for my favorite part: he carried bagpipes, a Scottish broadsword, and a longbow with arrows into most battles. His unusual gear choices followed him into battle wherever he went, and even played a key role in the Battle of France.

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period
‘Mad Jack’ Churchill with his War Bow; 6′ tall, with an 80-lb pull. The only documented archer to inflict casualties in WW2.

When Hitler invaded Poland in September 1939, Mad Jack Churchill gave up his roles as a male model and newspaper editor in Kenya to resume his service in the British Army.  As part of an expeditionary force to France, he led his unit – the Manchester Regiment – into battle in May 1940.  Near the Belgian border, Churchill and his men set up an ambush on a German patrol, where he instructed his men to begin the ambush once they saw his arrow fly.

As a Nazi sergeant came into range, he fired an arrow from his traditional longbow and killed the German officer.  In doing so, Churchill became the last known person to kill an enemy in battle using a longbow.

In 1941, Churchill was second in command for a raid on a German garrison on the west coast of Norway.  As the landing craft hit the beaches and the ramp went down, Churchill was standing there blasting his bagpipes.  When he finished his song, he launched a grenade toward the German fortifications and sprinted into battle.

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period
Far right: Mad Jack storms a beach with his Scottish broadsword

Churchill’s bagpipe skills were on display again as the Allies invaded Sicily and also when they invaded the Italian peninsula near Salerno.  At the latter, Churchill led an attack on a German observation post and captured 42 German soldiers with only the help of a Corporal.

In 1944, Churchill’s forces were tasked with assisting Tito’s Partisan forces in Yugoslavia.  Here they were expected to retake the island of Brač.  While the Partisan forces remained on the beach, Churchill and six others reached the objective alone.  While he again played his bagpipes, his six fellow soldiers were killed by a mortar and he was knocked unconscious by a grenade and captured.  He was then sent to Berlin for interrogation, after which he was sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp just north of Berlin.

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period
Wikimedia Commons photo

You would think that was the end of his hilarious eccentricity, but it wasn’t.  Being the badass he was, Churchill and another British officer escaped from the concentration camp and headed north to the Baltic coast.  He was captured again just before he got to the coast and sent to an SS-guarded prison in Tyrol, Austria in April 1945.  Once released, he walked over 90 miles to Verona, Italy, where he ran into an American armored group, who helped him get back to Britain.

That was the last action he’d see in World War II, as his arrival in the Pacific was too late.  Churchill then went on to serve in British Palestine until 1948, after which he moved to Australia to be an instructor at the land-air warfare school.  He eventually retired from the Army in 1959, and lived to the age of 89 in Surrey, England.

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Canada and Denmark are using booze and flags to fight over this island

Hans Island is a tiny speck of rock that lies almost exactly halfway between Canada and Greenland in the Nares Straight, a thin body of Arctic seawater between the two countries. Denmark and Canada both claim the island as sovereign soil.


For over 95 years, they’ve been fighting the world’s most gentlemanly military struggle by sending their navies to claim the island using sarcastic signs, national flags, and bottles of Danish brandy and Canadian whisky.

The island was mapped in 1920 and has been a spot of contention between between Canada and Denmark ever since. Since the .5-square-mile island has no resources, inhabitants, wildlife, and hardly any soil, the island has limited value in itself.

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period
Photo: Copyright Free/Twthmoses

But, its location makes it a prime spot for managing sea traffic going into and out of the Arctic, something that is becoming more important with each bit of sea ice that melts. So, the two countries sat down and settled most of their border disputes in 1973 but were unable to come to terms on Hans Island.

Sometime in the 1980s, the bottles began appearing on the island. Denmark upped the ante sometime in the early 2000s when they placed a large flag on the island and a sign that said, “Welcome to Denmark,” with the liquor. Canada answered back with its own flag, sign, and liquor in July 2005.

The conflict has edged into more serious territory a few times. A visit to the island by the Canadian Defense Minister in 2005 drew angry comments from Denmark as did a 2004 increase in Canadian defense spending increase that cited Hans Island as a factor.

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period
The small rock in the center of this satellite image is Hans Island. Photo: NASA

Still, the island has continued to exist in a polite limbo. Canada even suspended operations on and near the island in 2013 amid worries about creating an international incident with Denmark.

Potential solutions to the issue have been discussed many times, and splitting the island down the middle or sharing it is the solution proposed most often.

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This is why the future of motocross is female

Pop quiz, hot shot:

What do gun enthusiasm, maritime rescues, and high-velocity dirt biking have in common?

? ? ? ? ? ? ?

Time’s up.


Those divergent interests all come together in Navy Vet and motocross racer, Jacqueline Carrizosa.

The former Navy gunner’s mate and rescue swimmer is, in post-military life, a rider on the rise in the Western U.S. amateur motocross circuit. And the time it took her to try to teach Oscar Mike host Ryan Curtis to stick one basic jump is, believe us, no reflection on her abilities.

Check out a side-by-side comparison, Ryan v. Jacqueline, leaping the same stretch of track.

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period
Ryan (top), floating like a tank. Jacqueline (bottom), flying Navy Air. (Go90 Oscar Mike screenshot)

Yeah. She’s awesome.

As a teenager, Carrizosa had trouble staying on the straight and narrow after her family moved from California to Las Vegas, but she thrived in the Navy, excelling at physically demanding and traditionally male-dominated disciplines.

When things got rocky again after she left active duty, the same approach helped her. She found structure and purpose in highly skilled action sports, specifically motocross. Her advice?

“Establish something that makes you money, you know what I mean? But also keep your soul alive. You gotta follow your heart. I would say 85% heart, 15% brain.”

Jacqueline Carrizosa. WISE.

But it all proved a little too much for Curtis. The motocross badassery, the beauty, the sheer volume of withering sass. A day at the track with Carrizosa hit him right in the feels (understandable).

And so, completely biffing the ratio, he went 100% heart, 0% brains.

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period

You don’t have to imagine how that went over. All you gotta do is watch as Curtis gets his motocross mojo crossed, in the video embedded at the top.

Watch more Oscar Mike:

This Green Beret will make you a mental commando

The Marine Rapper will make you shake your Citizen Rump

This Iraq vet kayaker will make you rethink PTSD

This is what happens when a Navy SEAL becomes an actor

This is what happens when a SEAL helps you with your lady problems

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6 things corpsmen should know before going to the ‘Greenside’

There aren’t many jobs in the military where your sea-duty station consists of serving with another branch. But for the Navy rate of an “HM,” or Hospital Corpsman, that’s exactly where you can expect to find yourself.


After you graduate Field Medical Training Battalion, expect to get orders to the Marine Corps side of the house or what we call, the “Greenside” — sooner rather than later.

We call it the greenside because you’re going to wear a sh*t ton of green for the next three years.

Related: 4 unusual tasks Corpsman do that their recruiters left out

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period
Doc, meet the company first sergeant. (imgflip.com)

It can be pretty nerve-wracking for a Corpsman to cross over for the first time. But don’t worry, WATM has your back.

Check out what you should know about heading over to “Greenside.”

1. PT

You don’t have to be a marathon athlete, but don’t let your Marines ever see you fall out of a hike, a run, or get hurt — you’ll look like a p*ssy.

Be the exact opposite of this guy (giphy

2. Chugging a beer

Marines drink a lot of beer during barracks parties. So get your tolerance up and have a few I.Vs handy.

Finding new ways to drink is badass. Plus you’ll look cool. (giphy

3. Always be cool

Marines are trained to love their Doc — they’re also trained to kill. They’re going to look to you for advice from time-to-time. When your grunts do something right, congratulate them.

Great job, Lance Corporal! (giphy)

4. Know every line from “Full Metal Jacket”

Marines love that sh*t when you manage to work a line or two into a conversation. Oh, make sure you have a copy of the movie on your hard drive when you deploy; it’s the “unofficial” movie of the Marine Corps.

Any line will do, as long as it fits the conversation. (giphy)

5. Know your ranks

Marine ranks are different than Navy ones. A Marine Captain is an O-3, compared to a Navy Captain who is an O-6. Big difference.

“Do I look like I’m in the Navy to you!” (giphy)Learn to count chevrons. Senior NCOs’ collar devices can blend into their uniform, making it tough to make out their proper title. Find an alternate way to greet them properly, or you can just take the less populated walkways (aka the long way).

Also Read: 8 tips for ‘skating’ in the military

6. Learn sick call

Face it, the Navy has only given you officially 12-16 weeks worth of medical training. No one is going to ask you to perform open-heart surgery on your first day.

Marines are going to get sick and injured, and that’s your time to shine. When you’re working in the B.A.S., or “battalion aid station,” you’re going to have to explain why your patient is in sick call to the Independent Duty Corpsman or the doctor on staff. Knowing the medical terminology will earn you respect from the Navy doctor to the point they aren’t going to waste their time doing the second examination.

Getting your Marine a day off work or light duty is key. Impress your Marine and your life, and your heavy pack will seem lighter on a hike — it’s a beautiful thing.

Can you think of any more? Comment below.
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How the Army shoots down enemy mortars and rockets

The Army uses a defensive weapon stripped from Navy vessels to shoot down enemy rockets and mortars before they can reach friendly troops. And, as a free bonus, they tell nearby artillery units where the enemy’s shot came from, allowing for quick retaliation.


Phalanx weapons were originally fielded as a Close-In Weapon Systems on Navy ships. Raytheon — responding to an Army request for weapons that would shut down mortar and rocket attacks on coalition bases in Iraq — pitched the Phalanx for the new mission.

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period
Specialist. Jamael O. Turner, of Nashville, Tenn., shows one of the first rockets his unit shot down with the counter rocket artillery and mortar at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. (Photo: U.S. Army)

And the Land-Based Phalanx Weapons System performs. A radar scans the air near protected bases. When it sees an incoming round that could threaten personnel or equipment, the gun and a camera-based tracking system turn to watch it.

At the optimal moment, the Phalanx fires a long stream of self-destructing 20mm rounds from it’s six-barrel Gatling gun. The weapon can fire 75 rounds per second.

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period
(Original video: U.S. Army Sgt. Neil Stanfield)

The armor-piercing rounds disable or destroy the enemy munitions. The rounds self-destruct after a set distance, ensuring that they don’t rain down on civilians or friendly forces in the area.

Of course, the system can’t always down the incoming round, especially when the system is undergoing maintenance. So most C-RAM equipped bases are equipped with a warning system to alert troops when enemy munitions are incoming.

Either way, the system calculates the most likely point of origin for the enemy round and feeds that information to the fire direction center of nearby artillery units.

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period
Soldiers from Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 44th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 101st Sustainment Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), load ammunition into a Land-Based Phalanx Weapon System at Fort Sill. (Photo: U.S. Army 1st Lt. Lee-Ann Craig)

When that unit can get eyes on the shooter, they’re able to quickly fire counter artillery, destroying the jerks who took the shot in the first place.

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