World War II history buffs are going to lose their minds. A Syrian rebel faction called the al-Tawhid Brigade stumbled on an arms cache of 5,000 German WWII-era Sturmgwehr 44 (STG-44) rifles.
The STG-44 was designed to increase the volume of fire for German infantry units fighting on the Eastern Front against the Soviet Red Army. It accomplished this mission but was developed too late in the war to make an impact.
The rebels thought they’d found a cache of Ak-47s. The two don’t look that much alike, but it’s understandable how the ill-armed and ill-equipped group would get excited at their find anyway.
Besides, there’s little reason to see how 5,000 Nazi-built rifles worth an estimated $30,000 apiece ended up in the Syrian desert.
The al-Tawhid Brigade was an Islamist faction originally allied with the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian National Coalition against the government of Bashar al-Asad. In 2013, the al-Tawhid Brigade along with 11 other factions, would leave the Coalition and join al-Qaeda. That same year, its head commander died of wounds sustained in a Syrian government air strike and the group’s membership would defect to the various other groups fighting pro-Asad forces. The group is now defunct.
There is no word on what happened to the rare, expensive Nazi relics. For those keeping tabs at home, that’s a $150 million dollar loss.
Keep an eye out for those STG-44s. They’ve shown up in state-sponsored gun buybacks in California and Connecticut.
On Wednesday, journalist Dolia Estevez reported that during a brief, blunt phone call the previous Friday, US President Donald Trump threatened and cajoled Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.
According to Estevez, who cited “confidential information” obtained from sources on both sides of the call, Trump disparaged Mexico and Mexicans, threatened to levy taxes on Mexican imports, and went so far as to hint at sending US troops to confront drug traffickers who, Trump said, Mexico’s military had been incapable of stopping.
The incendiary comments attracted instant attention, both for their vitriol and for their verisimilitude, as Trump frequently inveighed against Mexico throughout his campaign and has kept up his harsh rhetoric during the first days of his administration.
Estevez’s report also characterized Peña Nieto’s response as “stammering.” Much of the Mexican public has been frustrated with Peña Nieto’s response to Trump’s attacks, and the Mexican president has seen his approval rating fall to 12% in recent weeks.
However, while Trump has mentioned a 35% tariff on exports from US companies in Mexico, the most commonly floated number is a 20% tax on Mexican goods entering the US. The White House lists no press briefing by Spicer on January 27, the day of the call.
Hours after Estevez’s report surfaced, a report from The Associated Press corroborated some of the content of the conversation, but downplayed the tone.
“You have a bunch of bad hombres down there,” Trump told Peña Nieto, according to an excerpt seen by the AP. “You aren’t doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn’t, so I just might send them down to take care of it.”
But, the AP said, the excerpt did not make clear who Trump was referring to as “bad hombres,” nor did it make evident the tone or context of Trump’s remark. Moreover, the excerpt did not include Peña Nieto’s response.
The Mexican government also issued a statement around the same time totally rejecting Estevez’s report.
“[It’s] necessary to clarify that the publication is based in absolute falsities and with evident ill intention,” Mexico’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement released on Twitter.
“During the call, President Peña Nieto was clear and emphatic in signaling the differences of position in respect to some statements made by President Trump in public and which he repeated during their dialogue,” the ministry said, adding:
“You assert that you obtained information from confidential sources from ‘both sides of the border.'”
“Only [Peña Nieto] and the foreign minister participated in that call and neither of them remember knowing you or having spoken with you ever. Whoever has been your confidential source on this side of the border, lied to you.”
Eduardo Sanchez, Mexico’s presidential office spokesman, said the conversation was respectful, not hostile or humiliating, as described by Estevez.
“It is absolutely false that President Trump has threatened to send troops to the border,” he said during a Wednesday-night interview with Mexican journalist Carlos Loret de Mola.
Later on Wednesday, the Mexican government issued a statement disputing the AP’s initial report, saying the details of it “did not correspond to reality.”
“The negative expressions to which [the AP report] makes reference, did not happen during said telephone call,” the statement, posted on Twitter, said. “On the contrary, the tone was constructive …”
The White House also disputed the account of a contentious call between Trump and Peña Nieto.
“The White House tells me POTUS did not threaten to invade Mexico,” Andrew Beatty, the AFP’s White House correspondent, tweeted a little before 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
Jim Acosta, CNN’s senior White House correspondent, also tweeted a comment he attributed to a White House official: “Reports that the President threatened to invade Mexico are false. Even the Mexican government is disputing these reports.”
A more in-depth report from CNN published Wednesday night cited a transcript of the call that differed from the text published by the AP:
“You have some pretty tough hombres in Mexico that you may need help with. We are willing to help with that big-league, but they have be knocked out and you have not done a good job knocking them out.”
A source told CNN that the AP’s report was based on a readout of the conversation between Trump and Peña Nieto written by aides, not on a transcript.
In a further qualification, the White House characterized Trump’s “bad hombres” remark as “lighthearted” to the AP in a story published on Thursday morning.
The White House said the comments were “part of a discussion about how the United States and Mexico could work collaboratively to combat drug cartels and other criminal elements, and make the border more secure.”
A White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the AP the conversation was “pleasant and constructive.”
While both sides has downplayed the content of the conversation and dismissed the reportedly hostile tone, the exact nature of the phone call is still unclear, and may remain so until a full transcript or audio (which the Mexican government traditionally does not record) is revealed.
In any case, Trump’s dealings with foreign leaders during his first two weeks as president have been concerning for observers, both at home and abroad.
“(Trump’s) interactions are naive in that he keeps suggesting we will have the best relationship ever with a broad departure of countries, but there is no substance to back it up,” a government official with knowledge of Trump’s interactions with foreign leaders told CNN.
“Source familiar with Trump foreign leader calls says the POTUS convos are turning faces ‘white’ inside the” White House, Acosta tweeted late on Wednesday.
During that call, Trump bragged about his election victory and said Australia was going to send the US “the next Boston bombers” as part of an Obama-approved deal to taken in refugees held by Australia, which he criticized.
Descriptions of Trump’s calls are at odds with “sanitized” White House accounts, The Washington Post, which first reported the nature of the Turnbull call, said of Trump’s discussions with foreign leaders, adding:
“The characterizations provide insight into Trump’s temperament and approach to the diplomatic requirements of his job as the nation’s chief executive, a role in which he continues to employ both the uncompromising negotiating tactics he honed as a real estate developer and the bombastic style he exhibited as a reality television personality.”
The contentious nature of the Trump’s call with the Australian leader was especially troubling, in light of the longstanding and close-knit ties Washington and Canberra have developed over decades.
While the call with Mexico’s president appears to be less sensational that initially reported, that correction will likely do little to sooth the nerves of Mexicans and people of Mexican descent in Mexico and in the US.
Moreover, Mexicans appear to have been caught up in the “extreme vetting” Trump has targeted at citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries.
“We have reports of Mexicans who have been held for more than 12 hours … We have a case of a family who were held for more than 10 hours and we’re looking into that,” Marcelino Miranda, consul for legal affairs at Mexico’s consulate in Chicago, said on Tuesday.
Miranda said he believed stringent questioning faced by those Mexicans had nothing to do with the newly intensified vetting process, though others from the country likely see it as part of a broader hostility to the US’s southern neighbor.
Trump “wants to make an example of Mexico to show how he will deal with countries around the world,” Maria Eugenia Valdes, a political scientist at the Autonomous Metropolitan University in Mexico, told journalist Ioan Grillo.
“This man is capable of anything,” she added.
“When you hear about the tough phone calls I’m having, don’t worry about it, just don’t worry about it,” Trump said during a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday morning.
“We’re going to straighten it out,” Trump added. “That’s what I do. I fix things.”
On Tuesday, April 17, U.S. Navy veteran Tammie Jo Shults landed Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 after her aircraft ripped apart mid-air. One passenger was killed and seven more were injured, but it could have been much worse.
After graduating from MidAmerica Nazarene University, Shults became one of the first female fighter pilots in the U.S. military, flying the F/A-18 Hornet and achieving the rank of Lieutenant Commander before separating. After her service, she became a Southwest pilot, joining the 6.2 percent of female commercial pilots in the United States.
“Could you have medical meet us there on the runway as well? We’ve got injured passengers,” Shults told Air Traffic Control. “It’s not on fire, but part of it’s missing. They said there’s a hole, and — uh — someone went out.”
Cause of the incident has yet to be determined, but BBC reported that, according to the US National Transportation Safety Board, officials found evidence of metal fatigue where a fan blade had broken off
As of this writing, Shults has yet to make a formal statement, but passengers have taken to social media and mainstream news to hail her as the hero she is:
“Tammie Jo Schults, the pilot came back to speak to each of us personally. This is a true American Hero. A huge thank you for her knowledge, guidance and bravery in a traumatic situation. God bless her and all the crew, ” wrote Diana McBride Self.
American troops were cleared of wrongdoing in the wake of 33 civilian deaths during a firefight in Kunduz, Afghanistan, which took place Nov. 2-3, 2016.
“The investigation concluded that U.S. forces acted in self-defense, in accordance with the Law of Armed Conflict, and in accordance with all applicable regulations and policy,” a release from the headquarters of Operation Resolute Support said.
“The investigation concluded that U.S. air assets used the minimum amount of force required to neutralize the various threats from the civilian buildings and protect friendly forces. The investigation further concluded that no civilians were seen or identified in the course of the battle. The civilians who were wounded or killed were likely inside the buildings from which the Taliban were firing.”
The furious firefight, which, according to a report by Reuters, left five members of a joint U.S.-Afghan force dead and fifteen wounded, also included the destruction of a Taliban ammo cache, which destroyed buildings in the area. At least 26 Taliban, including three leaders of the terrorist group, were killed, with another 26 wounded.
“On this occasion the Taliban chose to hide amongst civilians and then attacked Afghan and U.S. forces. I wish to assure President Ghani and the people of Afghanistan that we will take all possible measures to protect Afghan civilians,” Army General John Nicholson, the commander of Operation Resolute Support, said in a statement.
Commandos from the 7th Special Operation Kandak prepare for the unitís first independent helicopter assault mission, March 10, 2014, in Washir district, Helmand province, Afghanistan The mission was conducted to disrupt insurgent activity. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Richard B. Lower/Released)
A 2015 operation in Kunduz was marred when an Air Force AC-130 Spectre gunship attacked a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders, killing 42 people. A report issued in the aftermath indicated that the unmarked facility had been hit unintentionally. Sixteen personnel, including a two-star general, were disciplined after the attack.
“It has been determined that no further action will be taken because U.S. forces acted in self defense and followed all applicable law and policy,” the statement from Operation Resolute Support said.
Every week, most of my emails are from young sailors and civilians who wish to become SEALs one day. Though I try to focus more on fitness, I thought it was time to answer the several emails with my top ten things you need to know before going to BUD/S – SEAL Training.
1. Arrive Fit!
Not just able to do the minimum scores but the above average recommended PFT scores:
– 500 yds swim – under 9:00
– Pushups – 100 in 2:00
– Situps – 100 in 2:00
– Pullups – 20
– 1.5 mile run – under 9:00 in boots and pants
If you need letters of recommendation from SEALs, most SEALs will not endorse you unless you can achieve the above numbers. Sometimes it takes a solid year of training before you are physically capable of reaching these scores. You WILL have to take this PFT before going to BUD/S and on the first day at BUD/S.
2. Run in Boots and Swim with Fins
At least 3-4 months prior to arriving at BUD/s get the legs used to swimming with fins and running in boots. They issue Bates 924s and UDT or Rocket Fins at BUD/S. The fins are difficult to find, so any stiff fin that requires you to wear booties will do.
3. Officers at BUD/S
Go there ready to lead and get to know your men. Start the team building necessary to complete BUD/S. You can’t do everything by yourself, so learn to delegate but do not be too good to scrub the floors either. Be motivated and push the guys to succeed. Always lead from the front.
4. Enlisted at BUD/S
Be motivated and ready to work as a team. Follow orders but provide feedback so your team can be better at overcoming obstacles that you will face. Never be late!
5. BUD/S is Six Months Long
Prepare for the long term, not the short term. Too many people lose focus early on their training and quit. It would be similar to training for a 10K race and running a Marathon by accident. You have to be mentally focused on running the Marathon – in this case a six month “marathon.”
The four mile timed runs are weekly and occur on the beach – hard packed sand next to the water line. They are tough, but not bad if you prepare properly. The 2 mile ocean swims are not bad either if you are used to swimming with fins when you arrive. The obstacle course will get you too if you are not used to climbing ropes and doing pullups. Upperbody strength is tested to the max with this test.
7. Eating at BUD/S
You get three great meals a day at BUD/S, usually more than you can eat. During Hellweek, you get four meals a day – every six hours! The trick to making it through Hellweek is just to make it to the next meal. Break up the week into several six-hour blocks of time. In a couple of days, you will be on “auto-pilot” and it will be all downhill from there. And if you need any help with dieting before you go to BUD/S, I developed a new dieting aid that may help you:
This seems to be a tough exercise for many. Practice 4 count flutterkicks with your abdominal workouts and shoot for sets of at least 100. There may be a day you have to do 1000 flutterkicks. By the way – that takes 45 minutes!
9. Wet and Sandy
Jumping into the ocean then rolling around in the sand is a standard form of punishment / motivation for the class at BUD/S. It is cold and not comfortable, so you just have to prepare yourself for getting wet and sandy every day at BUD/S. On days that you do not get wet and sandy, it will be the same feeling as getting off early at work on a three day weekend!
10. Did I Mention Running?
You should be able to run at least 4 miles in 28 minutes in boots with ease. If not, you will so learn to hate the “goon-squad”. The goon squad is to motivate you never to be last again or fail a run again. You only get three chances to with most events. If you fail three of anything – you will be back in the Fleet.
Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle – check out the Military.com Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at Military.com. To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him email@example.com.
A UH-60 Black Hawk has crashed in southern Maryland.
According to a report by the Washington Times, the crash occurred near Leonardtown, Maryland, about 60 miles southeast of Washington, DC. The helo went down between the third and fourth holes of the Breton Bay Golf and Country Club, avoiding populated areas.
Two Maryland State Police medevac helicopters have been sent to the scene. An employee of the golf course told the Washington Times the helicopter was flying low, then started spinning.
FoxNews.com reported that the Black Hawk was based out of Fort Belvoir and had a crew of three on board. One was injured and taken to a local hospital, the other two were reported to be okay.
Since its introduction, the Army Combat Fitness Test has attracted a lot of attention in the ranks. Designed to replace the APFT with a gender-neutral fitness test with performance requirements based on MOS, the ACFT has seen many changes over the past few years. With the Army now in the ACFT 3.0 data collection period, updated guidance for the new test is expected in 2022. In the meantime, all soldiers will be taking the ACFT. This includes astronauts.
Dr. Andrew “Drew” Morgan is an Army Colonel and NASA astronaut. A 1998 West Point graduate, Morgan earned his Doctorate in Medicine from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland in 2002. He served extensively in Joint Special Operations Command. During his time on a JSOC medical team, Morgan also worked as a part-time physician for the U.S. Army Parachute Team, the “Golden Knights.” He went on to become the Battalion Surgeon for 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) where he served three years on flight, combat dive and Airborne status. In addition to his dive and parachute training, Morgan has also earned the coveted Ranger tab.
In 2013, Morgan was selected as one of eight members of NASA’s 21st astronaut class. His spaceflight experience includes Expedition 60, 61 and 62. NASA reports that Morgan has conducted seven spacewalks totaling 45 hours and 48 minutes, an American record for a single spaceflight. Continuing to lead from the front, Morgan took the ACFT in space, with some modifications to adjust for the lack of gravity. Check out the U.S. Army video by Staff Sgt. Dennis DePrisco, Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Rognstad and Master Sgt. Robert Segin.
The infantry squad leader is a billet that demands leadership and integrity. There is an unofficial rite of passage that every squad must endure. I’m not talking about the first order issued or the trials of combat. No–it’s when your squad leader sings his favorite, stereotypically “girly” songs. Maybe it’s boredom or his brain has turned to soup because of all the stupid he has to put up with.
In Afghanistan, our squad leader lost a bet to our Staff NCO and had to do a patrol debrief wearing spandex short shorts. What we saw was not meant for mortal eyes. The constant stretching and Ke$ha songs, however, were not mandatory. If he had to pay the price, so did all of us. If your squad leader doesn’t sing ridiculous songs at some point, is he even a real leader?
Ke$ha – Tik Tok
Vietnam Veterans had Jimi Hendrix and Creedence Clearwater Revival – meanwhile, we have this. Out of all the things that can give someone PTSD, I can’t listen to this song without remembering the horrors of that day. Was it worth it Staff Sergeant?
Pinkfong – Baby Shark
If you have had kids this song has given you PTSD. Naturally, drill instructors sunk their teeth into it immediately at the height of it’s popularity.
Katy Perry – Firework
For a long time, Katy Perry was the darling of the Marine Corps. She has done numerous shows for the troops on USO tours and even made a tribute music video. She has partnered with UNICEF and Generosity Water to help children around the world. Her humanitarian resume stretches decades into the past making it less inhibiting to be a fan in uniform. If your squad leader didn’t at least hum this during a tactical halt, sweating and losing his marbles – yet happy, then it wasn’t a real deployment.
Britney Spears – Baby one more time
A classic. A must have on the list. Generally the older SNCOs sing this because of their aversion to pop culture, although ironically, this is pop culture – but old.
Christina Aguilera – Genie in a Bottle
Same as above.
Lady Gaga – Bad Romance
When I was a devil pup embarking on my first deployment, this song hit the air waves. Unfortunately for us, since we were without internet, it was one of the only songs people would sing. Mother Monster is beautiful and a great singer. However, when her lyrics come out of the mouth of the leadership, you start reevaluating your life choices.
The Navy’s theme song
As is tradition.
Aqua – Barbie Girl
We’ve all sung this one. Laugh it up because then we’re going in a fun run when its over. Even the Russians are doing it!
It was less than two years ago — December 2015 — that the last barriers barring women from certain combat positions finally fell. Now, the new play “Bullet Catchers” envisions a not-so-distant future where women and men officially serve together in the same infantry unit.
“It’s been a 70-year journey for women to fully integrate into all branches, units, and occupations of the military,” said Lory Manning, who served in the Navy for 25 years, starting in the late 1960s.
For Manning, the armed forces offered a different path at a time where options were limited for women. “I did not want to be a schoolteacher and I wanted out of New Jersey,” she recalled by phone. “The Navy seemed like a good opportunity – for travel especially.”
She explained that it has been a piecemeal process to lift the restrictions. For example, in 1992 women were allowed into combat aviation, said Manning, a fellow at the Service Women’s Action Network, known as SWAN. According to the organization’s website, there are “nearly 2.5 million service women in the US.”
The nature of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the sheer number of women deployed during those two conflicts means women (and men) who were not in combat roles saw combat, she said.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, over “300,000 women have deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq,” according to a SWAN report dated Feb. 1, 2017. More than 1,000 women were wounded, and 166 were killed during combat operations, the report noted.
“Now, even though they fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, they are officially allowed to fight,” Manning said.
Sandra W. Lee, who plays two roles in “Bullet Catchers,” saw combat in Iraq although she was assigned to civil affairs, she told Chelsea Now in a phone interview. Lee joined the army in response to 9/11, she said, and served from 2002 to 2010.
Civil affairs focuses broadly on rebuilding a country’s infrastructure, and in Iraq, Lee explained she worked on rebuilding schools. Her unit did train in combat, and Lee said she went along with another division as they conducted security sweeps and raids, and looked for weapons caches.
“We would fill in a lot,” she recalled. “We did a lot of missions that were not part of our job description. But being a solider, that is in the job description.”
Lee, who was in Iraq from 2003 to 2004, said that while driving in the country, her convoy was hit four different times by roadside bombs. She said she has a brain injury that stems from those incidents. She was also diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, known as PSTD. Lee said she was raped by another solider during her deployment.
Her experiences inform how she plays Até, which in the play is the goddess of war and a warrior. Being a woman in the military, Lee explained, there is a perception that females are not good enough and “you have to prove yourself in order to join their ranks.”
Due to her brain injury, Lee was somewhat apprehensive about contributing to the writing of the play but said she put her voice into Até, whose character was a “shell” when she joined the production last December.
“The nice thing about this process it was a group effort,” she said.
Indeed, the co-creators of “Bullet Catchers,” Maggie Moore and Julia Sears, sought input from the actors for the play, which was a collaborative endeavor. “It felt like a writer’s room for a lot of the process,” Sears, who is also the play’s director, said by phone.
The actors were given writing assignments, Sears said, such as writing the fairytale version of their character’s arc in the play, or being challenged to write five minutes of theater within a half hour. “They have so much ownership over what they’re making,” Sears said.
Moore and Sears were the final editors but the actors had a part in shaping their characters, like Lee with Até. Moore, who is also the play’s associate director, said the actors found their voices as writers. While Moore and Sears were honored to be the leaders, she said, the play belongs to the collective. “We all jumped off the cliff together,” Moore said by phone.
Neither Moore nor Sears served in the military. The genesis of the project stems from when Moore was working at the Washington, DC-based Truman National Security Project in early 2015, she explained. Sears and Moore have been friends since college, and followed the news of whether the last restrictions on combat positions would be lifted. Sears thought the story of women fighting for recognition in combat would be an excellent story, Moore said.
Sears and Moore interviewed 35 veterans and current service members – an about even mix of women and men. The veterans had fought in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, Sears said. The interview process took about three months, Sears said, with Moore and her then listening and transcribing the interviews. From there, they started to narrow down stories and characters, Sears said.
A bullet catcher is “army slang for an infantryman,” according to the play’s website, and Moore said, “It’s kind of a badge of honor to be a bullet catcher.”
Some women are going through infantry training right now, she said, and “we’re seeing the movement towards the world we built in the play becoming a reality.”
“Bullet Catchers” follows the journey of “the first official mixed gender infantry unit in the US Army, from training to deployment,” according to the play’s website. Moore said it was important to highlight a diversity of experience and so the play’s characters run the gamut from private to lieutenant colonel.
Jessica Vera plays Maya de los Santos, who, in the play, is a lieutenant colonel and the first female commander of a forward operating base, Vera explained by phone. Vera described Maya as a leader, someone who not only sees the opportunity before her, but also the weight of that level of responsibility.
While Vera has no military experience, her father was an Army Ranger, her older brother was in the Army Cavalry and is currently serving in the Air Force. Growing up in a military household has informed how she plays Maya, she said.
One of the play’s first scenes is Maya picking up her wife, Jordan, a civilian, and taking her over the threshold after getting married. Lee, the veteran, also plays Jordan in the play, and said Vera helped to shape Jordan’s character. While the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy has been officially abandoned, Lee said, “There’s still a stigma. It depends on who your command is.”
On the other end of the military spectrum is character Joan Boudica, played by Emma Walton. Joan is a private and is brand new to the experience, Walton explained by phone. Joan is part of the reserves and is randomly picked for special training and is deployed, she said. “It’s a coming of age story for her,” Walton, who has no military experience, said.
Walton said women have been in the military for a long time – flying planes and protecting the country like men are. “We’re excited to show it,” she said. “The rest of America thinks that they’re nurses, they’re doing paperwork. That’s just not true.”
Sears, the director, said she hopes the play spurs a myriad of conversations for the audience, including a larger discussion of women in leadership roles. “We’re hoping that this story — as specific and nuanced [as it is] – can still have reverberations for woman and anyone who has tried to move the needle of gender integration in general,” she said.
The 369th Infantry Regiment isn’t a fixture in history textbooks. It should be. Nicknamed the “Harlem Hellfighters” by the Germans, they were the first African-American infantry unit to fight in World War I. They were also one of the most decorated. Here are 5 reasons why the “Harlem Hellfighters” are the ultimate American heroes:
1. They were the first African-American infantry unit to fight in World War I
Approximately 380,000 African-Americans served in the U.S. Army during the Great War. Although there was no specific segregation policy outlined in the draft legislation, African-American volunteers were told to “tear off one corner of their registration cards so they could easily be identified and inducted separate.” Translation: The military was willing to accept black troops as long as they didn’t mix with the white population. Most of the African-American soldiers who volunteered were confined to labor battalions. Shipped to France in December 1917, the 369th Infantry Regiment was initially going to be kept on the sidelines. Their fortunes changed when Gen. John Pershing assigned them to the16th Division of the French Army. Unlike their American allies, the French were happy to accept any soldier willing to fight on the front lines, regardless of race.
2. The got their nickname from the Germans
The 369th soon became one of the most feared units in the Allied forces. Famous for never ceding an inch of ground, they were nicknamed the “Harlem Hellfighters” by the Germans. Since over 70 percent of the unit hailed from Harlem, the name stuck. That wasn’t the only nickname they earned during the war: The French were so impressed by their general badassery that they dubbed them the “Men of Bronze.”
3. They introduced the French to American Jazz
Bet you didn’t see this one coming. When they weren’t scaring the bejesusout of the Germans, the369th made some pretty boss music. Led by James Reese Europe, the 369th Infantry Jazz Band, also known as the “Hellfighters,” introduced the French to the sweet stylings of American ragtime. Largely forgotten now, Europe became an international sensation. After the war, the Hellfighters performed for more then a million people when they marched up Fifth Avenue during the World War I victory parade.
4. They saw more combat than any other American unit
The 369th spent 191 consecutive days on the front lines. Which means they saw more action than any other American regiment. They were also the first Allied unit to reach the Rhine.
5. They broke down racial barriers
The “Harlem Hellfighters” helped combat racial stereotypes at home and abroad. When they returned home, the soldiers were welcomed as heroes. Unfortunately for America, this new period of racial tolerance didn’t last. During the “Red Summer” of 1919, anti-black race riots erupted in twenty-six cities across America. Tragically, lynching increased from fifty-eight in 1918 to seventy-seven in 1919. At least ten of the victims were war veterans, and some were lynched while in uniform. The U.S. military remained segregated until 1948.
Interested in learning more about the “Harlem Hellfighters”? Make sure to watch William Miles’s Men of Bronze. Filmed in 1977, the eye-opening documentary features interviews with four veterans of the 369th.
John W. “Jack” Hinson was a man who found himself firmly on both sides at the outset of the Civil War. He claimed neutrality and achieved it by giving intelligence reports to both sides, including one report to then-Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.
Hinson was a farmer on the Tennessee-Kentucky border who seemed to be trying to just get through the war intact. He owned slaves but had opposed secession. One son joined the Confederate Army and another joined a militia, but the family hosted Grant after his victory at Fort Donelson.
But Hinson lived in a region that was fiercely contested by the North and South, and the Hinsons were caught in the crosshairs.
An Army lieutenant ordered the boys tied to a tree and shot. After the execution, the officer cut off their heads and ordered them placed on gate posts at the Hinson plantation.
Jack Hinson did not respond well to this. He buried the bodies and then cleared the plantation, sending away his family and slaves.
He ordered a custom sniper rifle. Like the Whitworth Rifle that achieved the longest sniper shot in the Civil War, Hinson’s rifle fired hexagonal rounds through a rifled barrel. Unlike the Whitworth, the rifle weighed 17 pounds and fired .50-caliber rounds accurately to 880 yards.
After that he began searching out targets of opportunity, focusing his attacks on the vital river trade up and down the Tennessee River.
In one instance, a gunboat attacked by Hinson even surrendered under the belief that they were under fire by a large rebel force. Hinson couldn’t accept the surrender because, again, he was on his own in the woods of Tennessee with a single rifle.
Hinson is also believed to have killed a group of pro-Southern renegades who attacked a neighbor, so he carried some of his “neutrality” into his single-man campaign against the North.
After the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, it was pretty clear everybody in the government had to get into the anti-terrorism game.
From the formation of the Department of Homeland Security out of a host of separate law enforcement and police agencies, to a more robust role for Joint Special Operations Command in the hunt for terrorist leaders, the American government mobilized to make sure another al Qaeda attack would never happen again on U.S. soil.
For years, the Coast Guard had occupied a quasi-military role in the U.S. government, particularly after the “war on drugs” morphed its domestic law enforcement job into a much more expeditionary, anti-drug one.
But with the World Trade Center in rubble, the Coast Guard knew it had to get into the game.
That’s why in 2007 the Deployable Operations Group was formerly established within the Coast Guard to be a sort of domestic maritime counter-and-anti-terrorism force to address threats to the homeland and abroad. As part of SOCOM, the DOG trained and equipped Coast Guardsmen to do everything from take down a terrorist-captured ship to detecting and recovering dirty nukes.
For six years, the DOG executed several missions across the globe and prepared for security duties in the U.S., including deploying for the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and helping with anti-piracy missions off the African coast (think Maersk Alabama). The DOG even sent two officers to SEAL training who later became frogmen in the teams.
But in 2013, then-Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert Papp disbanded the DOG and spread its component organizations across the Coast Guard. And though they’re not operating as part of SOCOM missions anymore, the Coast Guard commandos are still on the job with a mandate to conduct “Ports, Waterways and Coastal Security” missions in the maritime domain.
“The PWCS mission entails the protection of the U.S. Maritime Domain and the U.S. Marine Transportation System and those who live, work or recreate near them; the prevention and disruption of terrorist attacks, sabotage, espionage, or subversive acts; and response to and recovery from those that do occur,” the Coast Guard says. “Conducting PWCS deters terrorists from using or exploiting the MTS as a means for attacks on U.S. territory, population centers, vessels, critical infrastructure, and key resources.”
The primary units that make up the Coast Guard’s commandos include:
1. Port Security Units
Boat crews from Coast Guard Port Security Unit 313in Everett, Wash., conduct high-speed boat maneuvers and safety zone drills during an exercise at Naval Station Everett July 22, 2015. The exercise was held in an effort to fine tune their capabilities in constructing and running entry control points, establishing perimeter security, and maintaining waterside security and safety zones. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Zac Crawford)
These Coast Guard teams patrol in small boats to make sure no funny stuff is going on where marine vessels are parked. The PSU teams work to secure areas around major events on the coast or bordering waterways, including United Nations meetings in New York and high-profile meetings and visits by foreign dignitaries in cities like Miami.
2. Tactical Law Enforcement Teams
These Coast Guard teams are an extension and formalization of the service’s counter drug operations. The TACLETs also execute the same kinds of missions as SWAT teams, responding to active shooter situations and arresting suspects. These teams also participated in counter-piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden and in the Suez Canal.
3. Maritime Safety Security Teams
U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team (MSST) 91114 patrols the coastline of Guantanamo Bay, Jan. 14. MSST 91114 provides maritime anti-terrorism and force protection for Joint Task Force Guantanamo. (photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Elisha Dawkins)
When the security situation goes up a notch — beyond a couple minimally-armed pirates or a deranged shooter — that’s when they call the Coast Guard’s Maritime Safety Security Teams. Think of these guys as the FBI Hostage Rescue or LA SWAT team of the Coast Guard. They can take down a better armed ship full of pirates, can guard sensitive installations like the Guantanamo Bay terrorist prison or keep looters in check after Hurricane Sandy.
4. Maritime Security Response Team
Tosca and her Maritime Security Response Team canine officer sweep the deck of Mississippi Canyon Block 582, Medusa Platform during a joint exercise May 21, 2014. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Robert Nash)
The Maritime Security Response Teams are about as close to Navy SEALs as the Coast Guard gets (and many of them are trained by SEAL instructors). The MSRT includes snipers, dog handlers and explosive ordnance disposal technicians who are so highly trained they can detect and dispose of a chemical, biological or radiological weapon.
MSRT Coast Guardsmen are the counter-terrorism force within the service (as opposed to an “anti-terrorism” which is primarily defensive in nature), with missions to take down terrorist-infested ships, hit bad guys from helicopters and assault objectives like Rangers or SEALs. The force is also trained to recover high-value terrorists or free captured innocents.
“It’s important to know that the MSRT is scalable in the size of their response to an event or mission,” said a top Maritime Security Response Team commander. “Depending on the scope of the mission or the event, will determine how many team members are needed to deploy and their areas of expertise, in order to effectively complete the mission.”
Aztec warriors as depicted in the Codex Mendoza (Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc.).
Every civilization will face a crisis that either shapes it by adapting to a threat or destroying it. The Aztecs – arguably one of the most brutal communities that ever existed, dealt with its destruction daily. While literature attempts to convey how callous the Aztecs were, it is still hard to imagine a society functioning in that high state of violence. The Aztec practice of human sacrifice was a widespread tradition accepted in everyday life of The Aztec people.
As technology improves, we peer more deeply into the past. From 2015 through 2018, archaeologists unearthed evidence of towering skull racks near the Templo Mayor. One of the motifs found in mass graves is that they most have markings from ceremonial deaths instead of battle. The excavation site strengthens this argument. Although considered a barbaric civilization because of the empire’s emphasis on wars and human sacrifices, it had a complex hierarchy, professional army, settlements, treaties with neighboring empires and wealth. Barbarism is relative to point of view.
While The Aztec empire was largely defined by war, religion was a core cultural component. The Aztecs selected their capital, Tenochtitlan, because of an eagle that they interpreted as a sign from their god, Huitzilopochtli. Founded in 1325, Tenochtitlan continued to be a central part of The Aztec community. This a place where they mounted the Templo Mayor as their base of religion. The Aztecs believed if they did not provide daily sacrifices to the Gods Huitzilopochtli and Tlaloc, their world would end.
Despite claims of an exaggeration to justify the enormity of inhuman behavior, there is less doubt about the nature of the killings. Fray Diego Duran, a Spanish historian, reports that over 80,400 people went through gruesome ceremonies that entailed clawing, slicing and stoning. Children who were frequent victims considered “pure and unadulterated” went through live burning and tossing from the pinnacle of temples.
The Gods demand it
The Aztecs believed many gods had destroyed the world four times in their battle for dominance. In the gods’ fifth battle that coincided with The Aztecs’ battle, the gods decided to create humanity and the sun to sustain organic life by giving up their blood. At the same time, The Aztecs believed the fifth battle would end the world, and the only way to sustain life was by shedding human blood.
Obtaining enough blood to sustain the world entailed carrying out human sacrifices once every four days in a year to coincide with the most important calendar dates. Although prisoners formed a significant portion of the human death tolls, it was not uncommon for locals to “join the honorable deity.” To capture a considerable number of prisoners for sacrifice, The Aztecs developed militaristic technologies to prevent them from killing their enemies.
Almost every aspect of The Aztec culture was tailored for human sacrifice. In addition to slicing out the victim’s heart at Templo Mayor’s, The Aztecs also practiced some form of cannibalism. After beheading, the victim’s body was gifted to noblemen and other distinguished members to prepare limb broth. In what was termed as “communing with the gods,” cannibalism was, both to the victim and nobleman, considered a great honor.
Human sacrifice also served as a signature of expanding The Aztec empire between the 15th through the 16th century. The ritual killings of captives and widespread display of skulls as a centerpiece for structures around the temple served as visceral reminders of the empire’s dominion. Although the remains of the people don’t explicitly show whether victims were burned alive, there are pictorial depictions of victims being hung upside down as they were burned.
Across history and cultures, escalating human sacrifices coincided with complex societies and social stratification. Like gladiator wars, mass execution of Egyptian slaves beside their fallen masters and the Aztec culture was a particularly effective way to intimidate rivals and expand the empire. In an ironic twist of fate, epidemics caused by the new Europeans entering the Americas caused ritual sacrifices to plummet. Their world did indeed came to an end; their greatest fear came to pass when the blood stopped flowing. That is why Aztecs would rather take prisoners alive than deliberately kill them in battle.