Nachos were invented by military spouses... sort of - We Are The Mighty
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Nachos were invented by military spouses… sort of

Mexico. Although invented in Mexico, nachos are not Mexican food. They – like fajitas, chimichangas, and ground beef enchiladas – are American inventions. Not to say that Mexicans didn’t have a hand in creating said culinary gems. However, most were invented by Mexican restaurateurs in the southwestern United States to please the “Gringo palette.”


So how did three American women sort of invent nachos? In 1943, a group of American military wives, whose husbands were stationed in Eagle Pass, Texas, did what everyone does in American border towns: crossed the border to the Mexican sister city. When they got to the Victory Restaurant, the restaurant’s cook was nowhere to be found. Well, the maitre d’, Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya, was not about to turn away potential clients. So he looked around the kitchen, and as you might have guessed, he got some tortillas, cheese (real cheese, not the kind we are used to now…more on that later), and jalapeños together and BAM! Nachos Especiales were born.

Nachos were invented by military spouses… sort of
It probably looked nothing like this.

Now, you would think that, as the inventor of one of the most popular foods in America, Mr. Anaya would have become quiet rich. Well, you’d be wrong. He never capitalized on the success of his invention. By the 1960s he saw how successful his creation had become, and he and his son tried to take legal action and claim ownership of the recipe. Lawyers informed the pair that the statute of limitations had run out on the matter.

And what about the cheese? Frank Liberto, an Italian-American owner of concession stands did not want his customers to stand in line waiting for their nachos. So he concocted a secret recipe for the orang-y, gooey, nacho cheese we see today. So secret was his concoction, in fact, in 1983 a man was arrested for trying to buy Liberto’s formula. Little known fact: according the FDA, the cheese used on nachos today is not actually cheese.

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That time 621 Brits rammed a suicide ship into a Nazi fortress

In 1942, a group of British commandos and sailors launched a daring raid to cripple the Nazi drydocks at St. Nazaire, France — the only facility in the northern Atlantic that could handle repairs to Germany’s largest battleships.


The raid consisted of 18 vessels and 621 British servicemen who ran a destroyer loaded with explosives into the Nazi-held docks.

The drydock at St. Nazaire — often called the Normandie docks after the French passenger ship Normandie that the docks were originally constructed to support — was the only facility capable of repairing the legendary German battleship Tirpitz if it was damaged.

The Tirpitz was a strategic target for the British.

Nachos were invented by military spouses… sort of
The HMS Campbeltown as it was being converted to resemble a German warship for the St. Nazaire raid. (Photo: Royal Navy)

Britain’s audacious plan was dubbed “Operation Chariot.” It called for the HMS Campbeltown, a former U.S. destroyer that was traded to the United Kingdom, to sail straight down the river approach to Normandie.

When it reached the target, the ship would ram the drydock at full speed.

The Campbeltown had a 4-ton bomb nestled in the hull that would be set to go off in the early morning hours after the ramming.

Fifteen motor launches — 112-ft. long wooden boats with little armor or firepower — along with a motor torpedo boat and a motor gunboat provided a 17-ship escort for the Campbeltown.

These ships were supposed to provide some cover for the destroyer and evacuate the sailors and commandos after the mission.

Nachos were invented by military spouses… sort of
British Motor Torpedo Boat 74 before it took part in the St. Nazaire raid. (Photo: Royal Navy)

The entire convoy left England on March 26, 1942. Only a few senior officers believed the mission had any chance of success, and even those thought that there was little or no chance that any of the men would make it home alive.

The fleet sailed down to the entrance to the waterways and turned east for the final five-mile trip upriver. As they turned, the commander ordered the fuzes on the bombs be lit. The men had approximately eight hours until their ship would blow sky high.

A Royal Air Force bombing mission was supposed to distract the defenders for as long as possible, but cloud cover caused the crews to not drop their bombs for fear of causing French casualties. Instead, the circling planes just alerted the Germans that something was going on.

Nachos were invented by military spouses… sort of
British commandos rush with scaling ladders. (Photo: YouTube/993ti)

The Campbeltown had been modified to make it appear a little like a German ship, and it flew a German flag. But the camouflage job wasn’t particularly good.

The first few German defenses let the ships pass unmolested, but the flotilla quickly came under scrutiny.

Initially, British signallers using a stolen German code book were able to provide the right responses to challenges, but the Nazis got wise to the ruse and opened fire on the British.

Dozens of artillery emplacements and machine guns on both banks of the river started shooting the Campbeltown as other machine guns concentrated on the smaller ships.

The motor launches were quickly engulfed in flames as rounds pierced the external fuel tanks on the wooden decks and turned the boats into raging bonfires.

The Campbeltown proceeded upriver even after the helmsman was killed. The man who stepped up to replace him was also killed.

Finally, the scientist who had designed the bomb in the Campbeltown’s hold stepped up and steered the ship forward.

The commandos and sailors silenced as many German guns as they could, but survivors said the ship was still alight with the fire and sparks kicked up by the constant volleys hitting the Campbeltown.

Despite the fierce fire, the Campbeltown was able to strike the dock and ran aground on its lip.

St. Nazaire, Zerstörer "HMS Campbeltown" The HMS Campbeltown sits on the lip of the Normandie dock after crashing into it. (Photo: German army archives)

The surviving commandos spilled off of the ship and rushed to their assigned targets, setting bombs on the pumping house, the winding houses, and the caissons that made the drydock work.

Despite the commandos wounds and fatigue, they got the job done, knocking out the dock’s infrastructure.

But when they arrived back at their pickup point, nearly all of the motor launches were sinking or on fire. The commander gave the order for the men to disperse into small groups and attempt to fight their way to the Spanish border, 350 miles away.

Nachos were invented by military spouses… sort of
British prisoners are escorted by German troops in the final hours of the St. Nazaire raid. (Photo: German army archives)

Most of the men were captured or killed during the attempted escape through the French city. The Germans treated the British fighters well, probably in honor of their bravery for having attacked a fortress at 10 to 1 odds.

Only 227 British troops made it out. Five fought their way to France, and 222 made it to safety on the surviving boats.

The prisoners left in the town were dismayed to see that the Campbeltown did not blow up on schedule. At 10 a.m., hours after the bomb was set to blow, the ship was covered in German soldiers.

Some of them were walking with their French girlfriends on the ship’s decks.

According to Lt. Cmdr. Sam Beattie, one of the mission commanders who later received the Victoria Cross for his actions, was being mocked by a German officer for trying to break the docks with a flimsy ship when the bomb blew. Then the bomb went off.

Nachos were invented by military spouses… sort of
The remains of the HMS Campbeltown sit in the Normandie dry dock after a bomb in the ship’s hull rendered the docks unusable. (Photo: YouTube/993ti)

The resulting damage killed most of the men nearby and did so much damage to the dock that it wasn’t operable again until 1947.

The mission resulted in the award of five Victoria Crosses and four Croix de Guerre, Britain and France’s highest awards for valor. Another 80 awards were given to the men who carried out the raid.

WATCH

WATCH: Where do retired aircraft end up?

Ever wonder where planes go to die? After their last mission, Air Force aircraft doesn’t just disappear. They retire to Arizona. And, if they’re salvageable, the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) makes sure they get recycled. If you were to fly over the Davis Monthan AFB in Arizona, know what you’d see? The resting place of thousands of retired aircraft. Davis is nicknamed “The Boneyard” for good reason – the base houses nearly 2,600 acres of aircraft, many of them retired and disassembled.

Why Arizona?

AMARG Air Force Graveyard’s location in Arizona has very good reasons. The desert climate is perfect for storing this vast quantity of aircraft. The risk of corrosion or other damage from the elements is low.

Parked at The Boneyard are more than 4,000 aircraft. If they were still in use, this number of planes would make up the second-largest air force in the world. Pretty wild to think that they’re all just sitting at the Boneyard, aging gracefully. Some of the aircraft are full-on retired, ceremony and all. But the rest are in storage. Sometimes those aircraft get repurposed for training and other uses.

Retired Aircraft Save Taxpayers Money

The US Air Force, along with most other US government agencies, sends their retired aircraft to this Arizona location to be “recycled.” They are either disassembled for parts to use in other aircraft or sold as scrap metal.

The goal of this program is to save taxpayers money. We’ve been doing it this way since WWII. For every dollar that is spent on AMARG’s mission, almost $11 is returned to the national treasury. That’s a pretty solid return.

The Boneyard is Full of Military History

Not long after WWII ended, the surplus of aircraft around the globe was astounding. Some of them still had use for parts or scrap, while others, entire fleets even, became obsolete. Then there are also the planes that simply needed regeneration and storage until their next use. The problem was, there was nowhere to put all these aircraft. That’s when they started ferrying them over to Arizona.

Since 1962, Davis Monthan AFB has been the complete storage facility for all government aircraft. This includes Coast Guard, NASA, Border Patrol, Marine, and Navy aircraft, plus Reserve and National Guard units.

For the aircraft historian, Davis presents a bounty unlike anything else. The variety, age, and rarity of aircraft calling the Boneyard home is astounding. So many a budding historian will eventually find themselves walking the lanes, exploring the aircraft.

These days, our aircraft production isn’t nearly what it used to be. So fewer types of aircraft are produced. At some point, the Boneyard might not exist, – all the more reason for aircraft and military history buffs to get their fill in now.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The inventor of the Gatling gun wanted it to save lives

The iconic ‘BRRRRRT’ of the A-10’s GAU-8 30mm autocannon is created by its extremely high rate of fire. The gun is able to achieve this thanks to its multi-barrel Gatling design. Rather than firing all of its rounds from a single barrel, the gun uses seven barrels to distribute the heat created when it fires. This design is the brainchild of American inventor Dr. Richard J. Gatling.

Nachos were invented by military spouses… sort of
Dr. Richard J. Gatling (Public Domain)

Gatling was an creative southern man from North Carolina. At the age of 21, he invented a screw propeller for steamboats. However, he was beat to the invention by John Ericsson who patented the design just a few months before. Gatling worked as a merchant and teacher in North Carolina before he moved to Missouri at the age of 36. There, he continued working as a merchant and inventor. He created a rice-sowing machine and a wheat drill to aid in farming. Following a bout with smallpox, Gatling became interested in medicine.

Gatling attended the Ohio Medical College and graduated in 1850. Though he had his MD, he never actually practiced medicine. Rather, Gatling was more interested in inventing things. He continued to work in business and tinker with ideas until the outbreak of the Civil War.

At that time, Gatling lived in Indianapolis, Indiana. As Union soldiers returned from battle, Gatling noticed something about the war’s casualties. More soldiers were killed or taken out of action by battlefield illness than by bullets or shrapnel. Gatling deduced that if a weapon existed that reduced the number of men needed to fight a war, more men could be spared. “It occurred to me that if I could invent a machine—a gun—which could by its rapidity of fire, enable one man to do as much battle duty as a hundred, that it would, to a large extent supersede the necessity of large armies, and consequently, exposure to battle and disease [would] be greatly diminished,” he wrote.

Nachos were invented by military spouses… sort of
Dr. Gatling’s patent for ‘Improvement in Battery Guns’ (U.S. Patent Office)

During the Civil War, a highly trained soldier could fire five rounds a minute. Gatling concluded that his design needed to be simple to operate with very little training. The gun was powered by a crank shaft that was turned by hand. This allowed for a rate of fire of up to 200 rounds per minute with no skill required. Additionally, the gun was gravity-fed from a top-mounted reloader. This meant that the loader just needed to drop cartridges in from the top to keep the gun firing. Again, very little skill was required.

The Gatling gun made its combat debut at the Siege of Petersburg, Virginia in 1864. However, the gun was unproven and expensive. The 12 guns used at Petersburg were purchased personally by Union commanders. It was not until 1866 that the U.S. Army adopted the Gatling gun after a sales representative demonstrated it in combat.

To his’s dismay, his invention did little to reduce the casualties of human conflict. Rather, the gun was further refined with the inventions of newer, deadlier cartridges and smokeless gunpowder. While the Gatling gun was used until the late 19th century, its design gave rise to modern rotary guns like the aforementioned GAU-8 Avenger, the M61 Vulcan, and the M134 Minigun. Gatling’s legacy also includes a WWII Fletcher-class destroyer, USS Gatling (DD-671), as well as the slang word “gat” which is a shortening of the gun that’s named after him.

Nachos were invented by military spouses… sort of
A battery of 1-inch Gatling guns c. 1877 (U.S. Army)
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Mattis orders separate reviews of F-35, Air Force One programs

Defense Secretary James Mattis has ordered separate reviews of the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and Air Force One programs in hopes of restructuring and reducing program costs, an official announced Friday.


In two memorandums signed and effective immediately, Mattis said Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work will “oversee a review that compares the F-35C and F/A-18E/F operational capabilities and assess the extent that the F/A-18E/F improvements [an advanced Super Hornet] can be made in order to provide a competitive, cost effective fighter aircraft alternative,” according to a statement from Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis.

Related: Mattis’ first message to the troops shows his leadership style

For the Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization program, known as Air Force One, Mattis said Work’s review should “identify specific areas where costs can be lowered,” such as “autonomous operations, aircraft power generation, environmental conditioning [cooling], survivability, and military [and] civilian communication capabilities,” the memo said.

The memos didn’t specify if the review will reduce the planned number of aircraft.

“This is a prudent step to incorporate additional information into the budget preparation process and to inform the secretary’s recommendations to the president regarding critical military capabilities,” Davis said in an email statement.

“This action is also consistent with the president’s guidance to provide the strongest and most efficient military possible for our nation’s defense, and it aligns with the secretary’s priority to increase military readiness while gaining full value from every taxpayer dollar spent on defense,” he said.

Nachos were invented by military spouses… sort of
How many people view the F-35 program at this point. | WATM /U.S. Navy photo

Both the F-35 stealth fighter and Air Force One presidential aircraft acquisition programs have been in President Donald Trump’s crosshairs in recent weeks.

Trump has criticized the high cost of the $4 billion Air Force One being developed by Boeing and the nearly $400 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter being manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corp.

On Dec. 6, Trump tweeted “cancel order!” in reference to the Air Force One program. He brought up the issue again during a Dec. 16 speech in Pennsylvania, and also called the F-35 program a “disaster” with its cost overruns.

Also read: A-10 vs. F-35 flyoff may begin next year

“Based on the tremendous cost and cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35, I have asked Boeing to price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet!” Trump tweeted on Dec. 22.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is expected to cost nearly $400 billion in development and procurement costs to field a fleet of 2,457 single-engine fighters — and some $1.5 trillion in lifetime sustainment costs, according to Pentagon figures. It’s the Pentagon’s single most expensive acquisition effort.

Nachos were invented by military spouses… sort of
While it hasn’t caused quite the media firestorm the F-35 program has caused, Air Force One still has its share of cost overruns. | Wikimedia Commons photo

Trump has met with Lockheed Martin Corp.’s CEO Marillyn Hewson on multiple occasions and last week with Boeing’s CEO Dennis Muilenburg.

The company heads have vowed — in what they said were productive conversations with the president — to drive down costs on both programs.

“We made some great progress on simplifying requirements for Air Force One, streamlining the process, streamlining certification by using commercial practices,” Muilenburg said just days after Trump met with Hewson.

“All of that is going to provide a better airplane at a lower cost, so I’m pleased with the progress there,” he said. “And similarly on fighters, we were able to talk about options for the country and capabilities that will, again, provide the best capability for our warfighters most affordably.”

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What you need to know about North Korean threats


Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Stitcher | Spotify

For the past 40 years, the United States and South Korea participate in a joint military training exercise simulating a war against the Communist north.

The exercise mobilizes around 20,000 U.S. and South Korean troops in land, sea and air maneuvers. In return, North Korea typically responds with missile launches and nuclear tests — increasing tensions and the potential for conflict on the peninsula.

In this episode of the We Are The Mighty Podcast Mark Harper and Shannon Corbeil — two former Air Force officers — share their experience with these war games and what you need to know about the threat from the DPRK.

Related: When life gives you Tootsie Rolls, use them to escape North Korean forces

Hosted by:

Guests:

  • Mark Harper: Air Force veteran and SVP of Creative and Business Development at WATM
  • Shannon Corbeil: Former Air Force intelligence officer

Selected links and show notes from the episode:

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8 tips for ‘skating’ in the military

Each year thousands of men and women enter the military with different expectations. Some end up making their military service a career, while others call it a day after completing their first contract.


Whatever you decide, here’s a few tips on making those first enlisted years as manageable as possible.

1. Learn To Negotiate

It’s well known that the E-4 and below run the show. Since you probably fall into this demographic, you get told what to do more than you get to tell others.

Find out a few job perks your MOS or rate has that others may value and consider trading goods or services for it.

For instance: There’s a company-wide hike approaching, and you don’t feel like taking part. Get to know the staff at your local medical clinic and strike up a deal to get you out in exchange for something you have or can do for them later.

2. Out Of Sight — Out Of Mind

Staying under the radar can take the time to plan and practice to master. Knowing every nook and cranny in your general area can be useful when the boss enters with a job in mind and you need a place to hide.

3. Request Special Liberty

Here’s a sneaky little strategy that many might overlook.

Service members in good standing can get approved for free days off that won’t count against their accumulated leave days. Commands don’t advertise this option as much to their personnel when they submit single-day leave requests, but you can still ask for one.

The key to getting this option approved is to find a low-Karmic risk reason why you “need” a particular day off.

Note: You don’t want the false reason you use to ever come true. Choose wisely.

4. Volunteer for day time events

Morale, Wellness, and Recreation, or “MWR” is a non-profit organization that sponsors various entertainment events that are intended to boost the morale of all active duty members. The MWR members are primarily made up of volunteers themselves and are constantly looking for help.

The majority of MWR events are held during the afternoon. So you may have to cut out of work early to attend — and who wants to do that, right?

5. Put on a serious face

Most people tend to avoid conversation with another person who appears to be in deep thought or a bad mood. So use this look to your advantage when you just don’t feel like listening to people.

Consider using a prop like a clipboard to strengthen the effect.

Nachos were invented by military spouses… sort of
Team America (Source: Paramount/Screenshot)

6. Have a lookout

Skating isn’t always a solo effort — it can sometimes take a whole team to pull off correctly.

Your seniors were at some point a part of the E-4 Mafia where they learned the art of skating. Depending on your location, you may not have the proper viewing to spot when your first sergeant or chief comes barreling around the corner discovering you and your comrades playing grab ass.

Consider putting a lookout in a designed spot to warn everyone of the inbound coffee mug holding boss breaches the area. Also take turns on the lookout position. No one wants to only hear the fun.

Nachos were invented by military spouses… sort of

7. Roll Call

Another one that calls for some backup.

The military’s made up of a lot of moving parts. People come and go handling various tasks throughout the day.

As long as you’re accounted for during roll call, you’ve pretty much got the upper hand on skating through whatever job lies ahead.

Here’s how.

When a roll call starts, someone holding a clipboard, probably sporting a serious face like we talked about earlier will sound off a list of names from a sheet of paper. Once they hear the word “here!” shouted back to them they assume that’s the person they just called out for even if they haven’t lifted their eyes from the paper.

This works if the person calling out the names can’t put faces to those names or is in on the “skating.”

Have your buddies’ back if they are off skating somewhere, just make sure when you do it, they repay the favor.

8. Get your driver’s license

Driving a military vehicle on base requires the operator to have a special license. Getting the qualification can take some practice and concentration, but once you familiarize yourself with the multi-ton vehicle, you become an asset to the higher ups now that you can drive them around.

Nachos were invented by military spouses… sort of
Instead of taking part in a 10-mile hike in a full combat load, you could drive the safety vehicle. Think about it.

Can you think of any other? Comment below.

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This book chronicles how women served alongside special ops in combat

People who like compelling, well-crafted tales of America’s soldiers in action will like Ashley’s War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield. Gayle Tzemach Lemmon’s recently released book tells the story behind the first team of female soldiers to join American special operators on the battlefield. The key to this book, however, is not simply that they are strong females, but that they are strong soldiers.


That message appears in the very first pages of the book, where she follows two soldiers on their first mission. The “newbies,” as she calls them, are preparing to go on a dangerous operation with an aggressive, seasoned Ranger team to capture an insurgent leader deep in Afghanistan. Lemmon identifies the newbies as “Second Lieutenant White” and “Staff Sergeant Mason,” sharing only at the very end of the introduction that White and Mason are women.

Nachos were invented by military spouses… sort of

 

The book then flashes back to the story behind the creation of this unique unit, called Cultural Support Teams or CSTs. In 2010, the military’s Special Operations Command faced a problem – due to cultural mores that at best frowned on male-female interaction, American combat troops were effectively prohibited from communicating with Afghan women. That left half of Afghanistan’s population – potential sources of intelligence and partners to build lasting relationships – out of reach to American troops. So senior special operations commanders developed the CSTs to place female soldiers with American special operators in combat situations and engage with Afghan women on sensitive missions.

In describing the genesis of the CSTs as a unit, Lemmon also presents several of the individuals who volunteered for the pilot program. They are a cast of real characters, but make no mistake – these are smart alpha-women who are as fit and committed to success as any elite athlete. Readers learn about Anne Jeremy, the “serious, no-nonsense” officer who proved herself in combat by leading her convoy through a Taliban ambush of heavy arms fire that endured intermittently for 24 hours; Lane Mason, the 23-year-old Iraq War veteran who was a high-school track star in Nevada and volunteered for the CSTs to face down some demons in her past; Amber Treadmont, the intelligence officer from rural Pennsylvania who printed out the CST application within one minute of learning about the program; and Kate Raimann, the West Point grad and military police officer who played on her high school’s football team for all four years even though she hated football, just to prove that she could do it.

Lemmon’s depictions of these women are vivid, giving readers a textured understanding of who they are and what drove them to volunteer for an unprecedented program that would place them in incredibly dangerous situations.  In fact, these nuanced profiles raise my sole problem with the book – namely, that there were so many interesting personalities that I couldn’t keep track of them all. Lemmon used a few Homeric epithets, like reminding readers late in the book that Lane was “the Guard soldier and track star from Nevada,” but a few more mental cues might have helped keep everyone straight.

But those are small drops of concern amidst an ocean of good writing and compelling moments. Lemmon deftly draws readers through the brutal candidate assessment (“100 hours of hell”), the women’s anxiety about whether they would be selected, their post-selection training at Fort Benning, and their subsequent deployments to Afghanistan.

One scene in particular encapsulates the challenging nature of the CSTs’ role. Kate, the football-hating football player, was on a raid of a compound to capture a key Taliban fighter. Her job, like all of the CSTs, was to assemble the compound’s women and children, gather as much information from them as possible, and protect them if necessary. Soon after the Afghan and American forces entered the compound, heavy contact erupted, and Kate began shepherding the group of women and children to a building nearby.

As she directed [the interpreter], Kate scooped up a small baby, barefoot and crying. She threw the little guy over her left shoulder and took off running as the sound of gunfire grew louder behind her. Using her right arm she grabbed the hand of a small girl and drew her close to her body.

“Stay with me, stay with me!” Kate urged, hoping the child would trust and understand her movements even if she didn’t understand her words.

Suddenly Kate felt the jagged terrain take hold of her left foot. She began tumbling forward as one of her boots got trapped in a deep hole she hadn’t detected through the green film of her night-vision goggles.

The baby, Kate thought. Instinctively she held him tight against her chest as the momentum of her fall sent her spinning into a diving, forward roll. She released the little girl’s hand just in time to keep her from falling, too.

A second later Kate lay on her back with the baby tucked up against her body armor. He hadn’t moved despite the somersault and was now just looking at her wide-eyed and silent.

Kate felt the baby’s warm breath on her neck, looked up at the twinkling stars above, and heard the rat-a-tat-tat of gunfire around her, maybe three dozen feet away.

What the fuck is my job right now? she asked herself as she hugged the baby tight and again took the hand of the little girl who was standing nearby. This is crazy.

The book juxtaposes “crazy” moments like that with poignant moments that further illustrate the CSTs’ unique position as women in combat environments. In one anecdote, a female civilian interpreter from California named Nadia meets three new CSTs, and they bond over perhaps the most non-military item of all: mascara.

The four women – Ashley, Anne, Lane, and Nadia – were in the washroom getting ready for the first meeting of the day when Anne and Lane broke out their traveling cosmetic kits. It was a small gesture, but for Nadia, it spoke volumes.

During her years overseas she had been around a lot of military women who frankly frightened her. They conveyed the impression that any sign of femininity would be perceived as weakness. But here, in this tiny bathroom, were three incredibly fit, Army-uniformed, down-to-earth gals who could embrace being female and being a soldier in a war zone. She found it refreshing – and inspiring.

“Oh my God, you wear makeup!” she burst out.

Anne laughed as she put the final touches on an abbreviated makeup regimen.

“Oh, yes, always have to have mascara on,” she replied. “I am blond and look like I have no eyelashes. I don’t want to scare people!”

Lemmon also peppers the book with several sidebars that add interesting and important context, like the value of interpreters and the history of military dogs. While a discussion about the evolution of female soldiers’ uniforms may not seem terribly interesting on its face, she deftly weaves it into the story because it mattered to the CSTs – the ill-fitting gear was obviously designed for men and therefore had bulges in places where the women didn’t need them and lacked material where they did. That seemingly whimsical anecdote illustrates just how unprecedented their mission was.

The book builds to an emotional climax with – spoiler alert – the first death of a CST soldier. It’s an undeniably tough moment, and Lemmon treats the subject – the agonized reaction of the soldier’s family and her sister CSTs – with appropriate respect. The Rangers serving with the deceased soldier sent the family a condolence card, with an important quote:

“Having a woman come out with us was a new thing for all of us,” wrote her weapons squad leader. “Being one of the first groups of CST, she really set a good impression not only on us, but also the higher leadership. I am sorry for your loss, but I want you to know that she was good at her job and a valuable member of this platoon.”

That statement, to me, seemed to summarize the whole point of the book: these women are not just strong females – they are strong soldiers.

* * *

Mark Lee Greenblatt is the author of Valor: Unsung Heroes from Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Home Front, (Taylor Trade, 2014), which is available on Amazon and at Barnes Noble and independent bookstores across the country.  Mark has been appeared on NBC, CBS, MSNBC, Fox News Radio, CSPAN-Book TV, Wall Street Journal TV, Forbes​.com, and dozens of other media outlets.  Visit Mark’s website to learn more about the heroes in Valor or to send an email to the heroes.

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Veep shows ‘Late Show’ audience he’s struggling over vet son’s death

Vice-President Joe Biden is still struggling with the death of his son, Beau. Beau Biden served in the Delaware Army National Guard, Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps, 261st Signal Brigade. He deployed to Iraq’s Camp Victory near Baghdad for nearly a year of active duty, from the Autumn of 2008 to Autumn 2009. The younger Biden succumbed to brain cancer earlier this year. He was 46.


In a recent interview with Stephen Colbert, the Veep recounted how he felt during a visit to Denver, when someone who served with Maj. Biden called out to him.

“Maj. Beau Biden. Bronze Star, sir. Served with him in Iraq,” the man said, Biden recalled. “I was doing great,” Biden said. “But then I lost it. You can’t do that.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XwmMPytjrK4feature=youtu.bet=5m3s

The Vice-President’s first wife and 1-year-old daughter were killed in a car accident weeks after he was first elected to the Senate in 1972. He said that his faith helped sustain him, and he said he felt he would be letting his family down, including Beau, if he let his grief overtake him – that he needed to “just get up.”

Beau Biden joined the Delaware National Guard in 2003. He deployed while serving as Delaware’s Attorney General. In his absence, he appointed a Republican to take his spot while he was in Iraq. During his service, he requested to be able to wear a different last name on his uniform, in an effort not to receive special treatment from his subordinates and superiors alike. While in Iraq, he was awarded a Bronze Star and the Legion of Merit.

Now: The veteran’s guide to getting a job on Capitol Hill 

 

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8 reasons the new guy always gets caught when he screws up

Screwing up in the military is a given. Sometimes a person is just trying to sham, sometimes they get drunk at the wrong time, and occasionally they even make an honest mistake. Service members who have been in a while know how to avoid getting caught. New guys are making these eight mistakes.


1. Bad risk management

Leaders do composite risk management for missions. Smart shammers do CRM for everything else. Every entry on this list can be chalked up to a failure of composite risk management. Shamming during work? Plan on how to avoid snitchs’ eyes. Headed off base to get plastered? Plan for how to get to a recall formation.

2. New guys are too stupid to play dumb

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Privates like to seem like they have it all together. This is huge mistake. Sergeants love taking a soldier under their wing and “teaching” them things. When they play dumb, their mistake will become a “teachable moment” instead of a counseling statement.

“Private! Why weren’t you at PT formation?”

“Sergeant, I got lost and couldn’t use my cell phone to call you because I was in uniform.”

“Couldn’t use your cell –? Oh. No. You can use it. You just can’t walk and talk, private. Here, I’ll explain …”

3. They don’t think of good cover stories

Most of the time, new guys will get through shenanigans without seeing a single senior noncommissioned officer, but too many new guys fail to prepare a cover story to throw leaders off the scent, just in case. The cover story should match the environment. For instance, smart soldiers bring plastic bags when shamming in the motor pool. If caught , they just say: “Well, my sergeant sent me to get an exhaust sample in this bag from truck ID-10-T, but I can’t find that bumper number anywhere.” Again, new guys get to play dumb.

4. They don’t get organized

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The reason old hands in the barracks are more organized than new guys has nothing to do with inspections. It’s because they need their stuff handy when they screw up. If they’re getting drunk while there’s a chance first sergeant will call everyone in, they’re prepared to rapidly brush their teeth, put on a uniform, get to formation, and be dress-right-dress by the time the squad leader starts taking accountability. Less organized troops would still be hazily looking for their uniform top and boots.

5. New guys don’t work as a team

New guys try to get away with stuff by hiding all the evidence from everyone, rather than selecting members of their squad and platoon they can trust to help them in a crisis. Instead of shamming alone, smart troops designate roles to each other. For smoking in the woods while assigned to a cleanup detail, two people should be in charge of collecting cigarettes and dropping them in an energy drink can, two people should be in charge of immediately looking at the ground like they’re hunting for trash, and someone should be standing lookout.

6. Failure to stage supplies

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Photo: US Army

That can in number 5 and the trash bag in number 2 don’t magically happen. They’re staged supplies. Electric razors can be placed in cars for use while driving to a recall formation, military publications can be opened to make it look like someone is studying doctrine rather than sleeping, and cans of dip are handy for bribing squad leaders.

7. They need better escape routes

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Photo by: US Army

Never slack off in an area with only one exit. Always be prepared to make a quick exit on an unexpected route.

7. They don’t get representation in the Terminal Lance Underground/E-4 Mafia

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Different services have different versions of the junior enlisted league, but everyone should join theirs. The sergeants and petty officers of the world are working together to catch the junior enlisted, the junior enlisted must band together in defense. New guys don’t always have an advocate in one of these fine organizations to help them distract NCOs, lose files, or text them ahead of a crisis. They should get one.

8. They forget to stand at parade rest

Seriously, do it every time. Parade rest is like stealth camouflage for privates. Troops should stand at parade rest every chance they get. It makes NCOs think they’re too afraid to break the rules.

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Cpl. Kyle Carpenter jumped on a grenade and saved his best friend’s life

On Nov. 21, 2010 while providing security on a rooftop in Afghanistan, then-Lance Cpl. Kyle Carpenter jumped on a grenade to save his best friend’s life, an action he later received the Medal of Honor for.


“I only remember a few moments after I got hit,” Carpenter told me previously when I interviewed him for Business Insider. “But nothing before.”

The scene was near Marjah, with Carpenter and his squad — supported by engineers, an interpreter, and Afghan National Army troops — moved south of their main base to establish a small outpost to wrestle control of the area from the Taliban. It was Nov. 19, 2010, and as Carpenter told me, they were guaranteed to take enemy fire.

That “contact” came one day later, when their small patrol base came under blistering attack from small arms, sniper fire, rockets, and grenades. Two Marines were injured and evacuated. “The rest of the day it was sporadic but still constant enemy [AK-47] fire on our post that was on top of the roof,” he said.

While the Marines took sporadic fire while setting up their new base over the next two days, it was on Nov. 21 that Carpenter would distinguish himself with his heroism.

“Enemy forces had maneuvered in close through the use of the walls of the compound across the street to the east,” according to Carpenter’s summary of action. The Taliban threw three grenades into the compound.

One landed in the center of the base, injuring an Afghan soldier. The second harmlessly detonated near the post that was destroyed the previous day. The last landed on the roof, dangerously close to him and his friend, Lance Cpl. Nick Eufrazio. He didn’t remember actually jumping on the grenade, but multiple eyewitnesses and forensics showed that was exactly what happened.

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“The majority of the grenade blast was deflected down rather than up, causing a cone-shaped hole to be blown down through the ceiling of the command operations center,” the summary reads.

Carpenter was severely wounded, with injuries to his face, jaw, and upper and lower extremities. Eufrazio received shrapnel to the head. Both were immediately evacuated and survived. Eufrazio is still recovering from the attack, while Carpenter has bounced back from his devastating wounds in a fashion that’s nothing short of remarkable.

He received the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award, on Jun. 19, 2014.

“I mean I would grab that [grenade] and kick it right back,” Carpenter told me half-jokingly, when I asked if he had any regrets. “But besides that … I wouldn’t change anything. We’re both alive and we’re here and I’m fully appreciating my second chance.”

Here’s his full citation, courtesy of the U.S. Marine Corps:

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This airman saved his crew after their plane was hit with a mortar

Airman 1st Class John Lee Levitow was a loadmaster on an AC-47 — an aerial gunship and the predecessor to the AC-130 — that was pounding Viet Cong forces on the night of Feb. 24, 1969.


But then disaster struck.

The plane was dropping flares and firing in support of a U.S. base under attack, and one of the Viet Cong mortars firing on the base sent a round up that struck the AC-47 instead.

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Airman 1st Class John L. Levitow’s Douglas AC-47D was struck by a mortar round on Feb. 24, 1969. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

The mortar round detonated on impact, sending thousands of pieces of shrapnel through the plane and crew. Levitow was hit with 40 pieces of shrapnel, and the other six members of the crew didn’t fare much better.

But the worst piece of news was still coming. Levitow started to drag another injured crew member away from the door before he spotted an armed Mk-24 flare that was smoking and rolling around near stored ammo.

The flares operate on a timer set to anywhere between 5 and 30 seconds. Once armed, a crewmember would throw the flare out the door and it would parachute down. Magnesium in the flare would ignite a 4,000 degree Fahrenheit flame that illuminated the battlefield.

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Airman 1st Class John L. Levitow saved the life of his crew and the plane they were flying in in 1969 by throwing an ignited flare out of the craft despite his serious injuries. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

But with the flare counting down to an ignition inside the aircraft, it would instead set off nearby ammo, burn a hole through the floor, and cook everything in the cabin, including the seven crewmembers aboard.

Levitow, despite his serious wound from the shrapnel, crawled his way to the 27-pound flare and attempted to grab it three times, but it kept escaping his hands. So he threw himself on it, clutched it to his body, and dragged it towards the door.

“I had the aircraft in a 30-degree bank, and how Levitow ever managed to get to the flare and throw it out, I’ll never know,” said pilot Maj. Kenneth Carpenter.

Somehow, Levitow got the flare to the door and out of the plane just before it ignited, saving everyone aboard. The pilot was able to limp the plane back to an emergency landing.

For Levitow, that was his 181st mission. He recovered from his wounds and completed another 20 combat missions before heading home and receiving his discharge paperwork in August 1969.

Less than a year later, he reported to the White House to receive the Medal of Honor from President Richard M. Nixon. He is the lowest-ranking member of the Air Force to ever receive the award.

An Air Force C-17 was named for him in 1998, “The Spirit of John L. Levitow.” He passed away in 2000.

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3 systems America scrapped after its mid-range nuke agreement with the USSR

The 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union eliminated an entire class of ground-launched missiles.


The treaty states: “…each Party shall eliminate its intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles, not have such systems thereafter, and carry out the other obligations set forth in this Treaty.”

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The 3M-14 land attack missile, which may be the basis of the INF Treaty-busting SSC-8. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to a report by the New York Times, Russia has operationally deployed one battalion equipped with the SSC-8 cruise missile. A 2015 Washington Free Beacon report noted that American intelligence officials assessed the missile’s range as falling within the scope of weapons prohibited by the INF Treaty (any ground-launched system with a range between 300 and 3,400 miles).

The blog ArmsControlWonk has estimated the SSC-8’s range to be between 2,000 and 2,500 kilometers (1,242 and 1,553 miles) based on the assumption it is a version of the SS-N-30A “Sizzler” cruise missile.

While it looks like the Russians could be holding onto some banned systems, the U.S. scrapped three systems falling under the INF Treaty.

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A BGM-109G Gryphon is launched. (DOD photo)

1. The BGM-109G Gryphon cruise missile

Forget the name, this was really a ground-launched Tomahawk that was deployed by the Air Force. According to the website of the USAF Police Alumni Association, six wings of this missile were deployed to NATO in the 1980s. Designation-Systems.net noted that the BGM-109G had a range of 1,553 miles and carried a 200-kiloton W84 warhead.

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Pershing missile ARTY/ORD round 32 roars skyward, T-time 815 hours at Hueco Range, Ft. Bliss, Texas. (US Army photo)

2. The MGM-31A Pershing I and MGM-31B Pershing Ia ballistic missiles

The Pershing I packed one of the biggest punches of any American nuclear delivery system and could hit targets 740 miles away. With a W50 warhead and a yield of 400 kilotons (about 20 times that of the bomb used on Nagasaki), the Pershing Ia actually was too much bang for a tactical role, according to Designation-Systems.net.

The West Germans operated 72 Pershing 1a missiles, according to a 1987 New York Times report.

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The US Army launches a Pershing II battlefield support missile on a long-range flight down the Eastern Test Range at 10:06 a.m. EST on Feb. 9, 1983. This was the fourth test flight in the Pershing II engineering and development program and the third flight from Cape Canaveral. (DOD photo)

3. The MGM-31C Pershing II

According to GlobalSecurity.org, this missile had longer range (1,100 miles), and had a W85 warhead that had a yield of up to 50 kilotons. While only one-eighth as powerful as the warhead on the Pershing I and Pershing Ia, the Pershing II was quite accurate – and could ruin anyone’s day.

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A Soviet inspector stands beside the mangled remnants of two Pershing II missile stages. Several missiles are being destroyed in the presence of Soviet inspectors in accordance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. (DOD photo)

According to the State Department’s web site, all three of these systems were destroyed (with the exception of museum pieces) by the end of May, 1991.

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