Heightened tensions in the East Asia region increased after Japan scrambled F-15J Eagle fighters in response to Russian military activity.
According to a report by the Daily Mail, the first incident involved a pair of Tu-95 “Bear” strategic bombers. Japan then scrambled the Eagles, which are locally-built versions of the F-15C Eagle in service with the United States Air Force.
The Russians later sent two pairs of maritime patrol planes. One consisted of Tu-142 “Bears,” the other were Ilyushin Il-38 “May” aircraft.
The actions come as the United States and Japan are planning what Reuters called a “joint show of force” in the East China Sea. The United States has sent the Nimitz-class carrier U.S. Carl Vinson (CVN 70) to the area as the tensions have risen, and Japan reportedly plans to deploy destroyers alongside the American carrier.
In March 2017, the United States and Japan conducted joint drills, and Japan sent their newest carrier, the Izumo to the South China Sea.
The Tu-95 “Bear” is Russia’s primary strategic bomber. According to the Naval Institute Guide to World Military Aviation, it has a range of 8,100 nautical miles without aerial refueling.
Depending on the version, it can carry up to 16 AS-15 “Kent” cruise missiles that have nuclear or conventional warheads. The plane can also carry anti-ship missiles or regular bombs.
The Tu-142 is an antisubmarine-warfare aircraft based on the Tu-95. This plane was exported to India in the 1980s, and it served until late March 2017, when it was replaced with P-8 Poseidon aircraft.
The Il-38 is a maritime patrol aircraft that is smaller than the Tu-142. According to the Naval Institute Guide to World Military Aviation, the Il-38 has a range of 3,890 nautical miles, a top speed of 390 knots, and can carry up to 11,000 pounds of ordnance.
The Il-38 was involved in a February 2017 incident in which the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) was buzzed.
On Dec. 8, 2012, Byers was part of a SEAL Team Six unit deep in the Taliban-controlled mountains of Afghanistan on a mission to rescue Dr. Dilip Josheph when all hell broke loose. According to the MoH citation, Byers distinguished himself that night by showing extreme courage and disregard for his life when he shielded the hostage with his body while simultaneously taking out two insurgents.
In this Navy video, Byers shares the story of that evening, as well as his reaction to the news that he would be receiving the Medal of Honor.
In October of 1942, Charles Mason took one last look at the hulking gray warship the US Navy had entrusted to his command, ensuring that all other personnel had been accounted for and evacuated from its massive long decks. Seconds later, Mason jumped into the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean to be picked up by nearby American destroyers, leaving his now-empty and thoroughly damaged aircraft carrier — the USS Hornet — to its fate.
While Mason passed away in 1971, a retired Vice Admiral with numerous honors and service distinctions to his name, neither he nor the 2000-plus survivors of the Hornet would ever see their ship again, as they steamed away from an inbound Japanese flotilla on the destroyers and frigates which had picked them up.
An aircraft tug still chained to the flight deck of the Hornet (R/V Petrel photograph)
Last month, the Petrel’s remotely-operated vehicles (essentially underwater drones) found the lost ship — (the last American fleet carrier to have been sunk by enemy fire) — by triangulating its approximate location through researching and poring through old ships logs from the last Navy surface vessels to see her.
The R/V Petrel, owned by the estate of the deceased co-founder of Microsoft, Paul Allen, has led the way in rediscovering the wrecks of a number of warships once thought eternally lost to the depths of the world’s largest ocean. Among the many finds to its name are the USS Indianapolis, the USS Juneau, and the Japanese battleship Musashi — sister ship of the infamous behemoth Yamato.
The Hornet, one of the most beloved boats in the Navy at the time of its sinking, was a veteran of the Doolittle Raid, having participated in delivering a joint forces comeback punch to Japan in the wake of the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. It would quickly rearm and resupply for the Battle of Midway in May 1942, where it helped turn the tide of the war against the juggernaut Imperial Japanese Navy.
One of the Hornet’s anti-aircraft guns (R/V Petrel photograph)
Then, just over five months after Midway, Hornet was lost during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. Alongside the USS Enterprise, Hornet’s fighters and bombers dished out a heavy beating to nearby Japanese warships, including the Shōkaku, one of several aircraft carriers which had participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor the previous year.
Japanese aircraft responded in kind, crippling the Hornet and preventing it from launching and recovering its aircraft. Attempts to repair the carrier and get it back in the fight proved to be futile against the Japanese onslaught, and the order was begrudgingly given to abandon ship. To prevent the carrier from falling into enemy hands, nearby American frigates and destroyers began shelling the Midway veteran after picking up its crew, but despite being considerably damaged, it refused to sink.
An advancing Japanese battle group engaged the Hornet, not knowing that it was emptied of its crew and aircraft, and sank it with a barrage of torpedoes. The ship would not to be seen again until early 2019 when the R/V Petrel rediscovered it not too far off the coast of the Solomon Islands. Of the 2200-strong crew aboard the Hornet, 140 were killed in action.
The Hornet currently sits at a depth of 17,000 feet in fairly decent condition. Pictures from the wreck site show barnacle-encrusted surfaces and hardware, rusting away in the salty and murky depths of the ocean.
Given that a number of the Hornet’s crew perished aboard the ship, it’s almost certain that the wreck is also their final resting site, making it a war grave. Thus, the Hornet will remain untouched and a protected site, as the Navy considers it hallowed ground. R/V Petrel is currently still operating in the South Pacific near the Solomon Islands as it continues its search for other lost warships in the area, including the Japanese battleship Hiei.
Americans celebrate the birth of their nation as July 4, 1776, but the Army is actually the country’s “big brother.” Which makes sense, considering the Continental Army of 1775 — led by future President George Washington — needed to start beating the British in the colonies so Thomas Jefferson could finally get some time to write.
Before the Army was established, colonists were organized into rag-tag militias with no real structure or unified chain-of-command. But in the spring of 1775, most wanted to attack the British near Boston but knew they needed more structure to confront the professional soldiers on the other side. That’s where the official birth of the Army came in, on June 14, 1775, through a resolution from the Continental Congress.
The next day, George Washington was appointed as commander-in-chief of the new Army, and took command of his troops in Boston on July 3, 1775, according to the Army History Division.
2. If the U.S. Army were a city, it would be the tenth-largest in the United States.
There are just over one million soldiers currently serving in the Army. Just about half of that number is on active-duty and serving full-time, while the rest make up the reserve components of National Guard and Army Reserve. To put it in perspective, a city filled with soldiers would have more people in it than San Jose, California, Austin, Texas, Jacksonville, Florida, and San Francisco, California.
3. It is also the second-largest employer.
With 2.2 million people on the payroll, Walmart is America’s largest employer. But the Army maintains the second spot with more than one million active-duty and reserve soldiers. While budget cuts are going to bring the number of soldiers in uniform down substantially in 2015 to about 1,042,200, the Army still beats the next-largest employer of Yum! Brands, which has 523,000 total employees.
4. Specialist is the most-prevalent rank among soldiers — by far.
There’s a reason many soldiers joke about the existence of an “E-4 Mafia.” That’s because if you want anything done in the Army, you’ll probably need a Specialist (or three) to get it done. Across active-duty and reserve ranks in 2015, there are 264,890 specialists, making up more than one-quarter of the U.S. Army.
Though the Army used to have Specialist ranks that had grades from Spec-4 to Spec-9, it eliminated that system in 1985, setting aside Specialist-4 as a junior-enlisted rank called just “Specialist” from then on. Unlike Corporals who are also E-4s, the Specialist rank isn’t considered a non-commissioned officer, which is probably why some are very good at earning their “sham shield.”
5. The service burns through nearly one billion gallons of fuel every year.
Just like any other large organization that needs energy to sustain operations, the Army needs fuel. A lot of fuel. A 2011 Army fact sheet estimated the Army used over 22 gallons every day, per soldier — much more than only one gallon required per soldier during World War II.
A 2008 Army report said the service purchased approximately 880 million gallons of fuel for mobility operations. The report is a little dated though, and the Army has been working hard to bring down its energy usage — along with the rest of the DoD — citing a reliance on fossil fuels as a major national security risk and logistical problem for troops in the field.
6. Among U.S. Presidents with military service, most served in the Army.
Of the 44 men who have served as President of the United States, 31 had military service. Twenty-four of them served in the Army, or in state militias (our modern-day National Guard). Though being in the military is not a requirement for the presidency, President George Washington started a trend that saw future presidents in some cases making their name as war heroes: Theodore Roosevelt received the Medal of Honor for his famous charge up San Juan Hill, and George H.W. Bush received the Distinguished Flying Cross during World War II and barely escaped after his plane was shot down.
7. The Army owns so much land that if it were a state, it would be larger than Hawaii and Massachusetts combined.
Not surprisingly, the Army has a ton of infrastructure. Soldiers serve at 158 installations around the world, and the service owns more than 15 million acres of land across the U.S., which totals up to roughly 24,000 square miles. That would make the “State of Army” larger than smaller states like Maryland, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Vermont.
Lyndon B. Johnson had only been in office for a few months following the assassination of President Kennedy when he found himself on the campaign trail, mired in election year politics as he fought to stay in office.
His opponent was Arizona Governor Barry Goldwater, a staunch conservative who fancied himself as representing the values of the “good ol’ days,” unimpressed by the social changes looming across the country. Goldwater focused on the spectre of the Soviet Union and the associated spread of Communism. More than once from the stump he railed that he would make North Vietnam into a “mud puddle” once he was commander-in-chief. Goldwater also decried the scourge of the “welfare state,” saying that the proliferation of entitlement programs would be the end of America as good, law-abiding Americans knew it.
Johnson, meanwhile, staked his campaign on what he called the “Great Society” — a series of programs designed to reduce poverty. He was also very determined to improve civil rights.
This political ad was designed to paint Goldwater as a loose cannon — one with an itchy nuke trigger finger.
The ad worked. Johnson’s victory over Goldwater in the national election remains the most lopsided in terms of popular votes (43 million to 27 million) and the sixth-most lopsided in terms of electoral votes (486 to 52). Johnson won all but six states (Arizona, which was Goldwater’s home state) and the Bible Belt from Louisiana to Georgia (primarily due to LBJ’s civil rights efforts).
Although Goldwater was embarrassed by the election results, his politics did become the framework for the current Conservative movement as well as the Libertarian Party.
A pirate attack on an Italian ship in the Gulf of Mexico that left two sailors wounded isn’t the first such incident, and with Mexico struggling to address rising insecurity, it’s not likely to be the last.
About eight armed pirates arrived in two small ships and boarded the vessel, an Italian-flagged supply ship named Remas, in the evening on Nov. 11, 2019, and robbed the crew, according to reports about the incident.
The ship was being operated by the Italian firm Micoperi, which services offshore oil platforms. The incident took place about 12 miles off the coast of Ciudad del Carmen in the state of Campeche in southeast Mexico.
The Mexican navy said Nov. 12, 2019, that two of the roughly 35 people on board were wounded — one shot in the leg and another struck in the head.
The navy said it sent a fast boat to the site of the attack late on Nov. 11, 2019. The sailors were taken to a private clinic for treatment, according to local media.
The incident is only the latest attack on oil infrastructure and extraction operations in the Gulf of Mexico.
“They’re starting to attack ships that are transporting petroleum for Pemex” and providing other services, said Mike Vigil, former chief of international operations for the US Drug Enforcement Administration. “Now I presume this is going to be the wave of the future. They are going to be attacking more and more tankers.”
Thieves, sometimes disguised as fishermen, typically arrive in small boats with powerful outboard motors, quickly boarding platforms or other ships to take valuables from crew and other equipment, which is often resold ashore.
Mexico’s state oil firm, known as Pemex, has acknowledged the threat, and together with the navy has said it would increase security efforts. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said in March 2019 that the navy would establish a permanent operation at the port of Dos Bocas, Tabasco, his home state, to confront the pirates.
Nevertheless, there have been reports of hundreds of robberies of this kind.
Pemex documents obtained by the newspaper Milenio showed that 197 such robberies took place in 2018, the most out of the past three years and a 310% increase over the 48 attacks in 2016. Those robberies cost the firm at least .5 million between 2016 and 2018, according to the documents.
The waters at the southern end of the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Campeche and neighboring Tabasco state — where Pemex operates more than 100 platforms — are the most affected.
‘Wave of the future’
The rise in theft from fuel platforms in the Gulf mirrors the increase in fuel theft from pipelines and Pemex facilities on the ground. The number of unauthorized taps discovered on fuel lines nearly quintupled between 2011 and 2016.
The theft has cost the Mexican government billions of dollars and is sometimes deadly for the thieves and others at the scene.
Drill vessel prepares for drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico, July 9, 2010.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Tiffany Carvalho)
Cracking down on fuel theft was one of Lopez Obrador’s first security initiatives after taking office in December 2018. The president declared victory in spring 2019, saying his administration had reduced fuel theft by 95% and defeated theives.
That response included deploying troops and federal police to pipelines and other high-theft areas, but that alienated some communities, and security forces have struggled to strike a balance between providing security and allowing the industry to operate. In some areas, violence has risen even as fuel theft declined.
“The military is providing more security to the pipelines, but it will be difficult to provide security to vessels shipping petroleum,” Vigil said, noting that government still needs to respond to violence rising throughout Mexico and that the military doesn’t have the training or resources to effectively pursue pirates in the Gulf. “I have to assume it’s going to become more and more dangerous for Pemex transports [and] transport ships.”
Fuel theft on land is not always the work of organized crime. At times, local residents have tapped pipelines to access fuel for their own use or for resale. Stealing fuel and other hardware at sea is harder but still lucrative, meaning it’s likely to continue and grow as an area of interest for cartels and other criminal groups.
“Not everybody uses drugs, but everybody uses gas,” Vigil said. “It is evolving. It’s going to be the wave of the future. There’s so much money involved”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
President Donald Trump, on Feb. 12, 2018, released his budget request for fiscal 2019, marking the first step in a months-long process in which lawmakers from both chambers of Congress debate and, ultimately, decide on its funding levels and policy provisions.
Trump’s defense budget request for the fiscal year, beginning Oct. 1, totals $716 billion, including $686 billion for the Defense Department alone. The Pentagon’s top line includes a base budget of $597.1 billion and an overseas contingency operations, or war, budget of $89 billion. It represents a nearly 12 percent increase over the current year’s level of nearly $612 billion.
But defense spending as a share of the economy would remain relatively flat at roughly 3.1 percent, according to Pentagon budget documents, and the spending bump would be financed in part by deficit spending.
Here’s a breakdown of everything you need to know about the President’s budget request:
2.6% pay raise
The Defense Department proposed a 2.6 percent military pay raise for 2019 that would come on top of the 2.4 percent increase this year. “In support of the department’s effort to continue to build a bigger, more lethal and ready force, the FY2019 budget proposes a 2.6 percent increase in military basic pay,” the Pentagon said in releasing its budget request. The proposed raise, which would have to be approved by Congress and the White House, would amount to the largest military pay raise in nine years, the department said in the supporting papers for the budget request. Check out Military.com’s pay charts to see what the change would mean for you.
16K more troops
The proposed spending plan would add 16,400 more troops, bringing the size of the total force, including the Guard and Reserve components, to 2.15 million members. That figure differs from those published in the Pentagon’s overview budget document because it takes into account 2018 levels recently authorized by Congress. The additional troops would include 15,600 for the active component, with 1.3 million service members; and 800 for the Guard and Reserve, with 817,700 service members, respectively. Here’s how those figures break down: 4,000 soldiers for the active Army, 7,500 sailors for the Navy, 100 Marines for the Marine Corps, and 4,000 airmen for the Air Force; 100 sailors for the Navy Reserve, 200 airmen for the Air Force Reserve, and 500 airmen for the Air National Guard.
The president’s budget would fund a number of weapons systems designed to give the U.S. armed forces a technological edge over adversaries, including new missile interceptors and cyber operations. It would also fund a higher number of existing aircraft, ships and combat vehicles, including adding 77 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, 24 F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter jets, 68 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, 250 B61 nuclear bomb upgrades, three Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, two fleet replenishment oilers, five satellite launches through the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program and 5,113 Joint Light Tactical Vehicles.
The Army is requesting $182 billion, including war funding, a 15 percent increase from $158 billion, according to budget documents. The service wants to continue growing its headcount, with funding for 4,000 soldiers for the active component, largely to resource fires, air defense and logistics units. The service would also purchase large quantities of long-range missiles and artillery shells, and would buy a higher number of aircraft such as the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters made by Boeing Co.; combat vehicles including the Joint Light Tactical Vehicles made by Oshkosh Corp., and missile systems such as the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System and the Army Tactical Missile System.
The Navy is requesting $194.1 billion, including war funding, a 12 percent increase from $173 billion in fiscal 2018, according to budget documents. However, the much-hailed jump-start in Navy shipbuilding to reach the larger fleet officials say the service needs represents only a small portion of the service’s requested funding increase. By 2023, the Navy expects to add 54 new ships, but most of them had already been part of long-term production plans. For 2019, the plan includes only one more ship than was budgeted in 2018: an additional Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, for a total purchase of three instead of two. The service is also set to add 7,600 sailors as its fleet grows, in part to man new Navy variant of the V-22 Osprey, the CMV-22.
The Air Force is requesting $194.1 billion, including war funding, a 14 percent increase. The proposal would increase the size of the service’s active-duty end strength to just over 329,100 airmen, an increase of 4,000 airmen over the current year, according to the documents. The Air National Guard is requesting another 500 airmen; the Air Force Reserve wants another 200 airmen. The spending plan also includes funding to train nearly 1,000 pilots to deal with a chronic shortage; buy more F-35A Joint Strike Fighters, MQ-9 Reaper drones, KC-46 tankers; develop the future B-21 bomber; and replenish the stockpile of precision-guided munitions such as the Joint Direct Attack Munition, or JDAM, and Hellfire missiles.
Part of the Navy’s fiscal 2019 budget request, the Marine Corps is asking for $28.9 billion, a nearly 5 percent increase. As a second rotation of Marine advisers begins work in Helmand province, Afghanistan, and other units continue to fight ISIS in the Middle East, the budget request features a significant increase in big guns and artillery rockets — as well as a plus-up of some 1,100 Marines, including 2018 manning increases. There are significant procurement outlays as the Marine Corps makes big investments in its CH-53K King Stallion, slated to replace the CH-53E Super Stallion heavy lift helicopter in coming years, and continues to pursue the amphibious combat vehicle 1.1. Among the most eye-catching planned buys, however, are in ground weapons systems, including 155mm towed howitzers and high mobility artillery rocket systems, or HIMARS.
The Coast Guard asked for about $11.7 billion in funding for fiscal 2019, an increase of $979 million, or 8.4 percent, over its previous request. The additional money would include $750 million for a new heavy icebreaker slated for delivery in 2023. The funding would go toward building “the Nation’s first new heavy Polar Icebreaker in over 40 years,” a budget document states. In other big-ticket equipment items, the service’s budget request also includes $400 million in funding for an offshore patrol cutter and $240 million in funding to buy four new fast response cutters (FRCs), designed to replace the 110-foot patrol boats and to enhance the service’s ability to conduct search-and-rescue operations, enforce border security, interdict drugs, uphold immigration laws and prevent terrorism.
The Veterans Affairs Department requested $199 billion, an increase of $12 billion, or 6.5 percent, from the current request. The plan includes nearly $110 billion in mandatory funding for benefits programs and $89 billion in discretionary funding, with the goal of “expanding health-care services, improving quality and expanding choice to over 9 million enrolled Veterans,” the VA said. The budget includes money for the Veterans Choice Program, which allows vets to seek private-sector care. It also includes another $1.2 billion for a costly effort begun in 2011 to make health records electronic and reintroduces a controversial proposal to round-down cost-of-living (COLA) adjustments to the nearest dollar for vets who receive disability compensation — a practice that was standard until 2013, Stars and Stripes reported.
It is uncertain what the record is for the time between Army parachute jumps, but Lt. Col. John Hall may hold it at 30 years and six months.
When Hall parachuted from a military aircraft January 2018, it was the first time he had done so in over thirty years. Hall, a 53-year-old school teacher at Kearsley High School in Flint, Michigan, is serving a one-year tour of duty in Vicenza, Italy, as the public affairs officer for the storied 173rd Airborne Brigade, the contingency response force for U.S. Army Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.
I first worked with the 173rd Airborne when I was put on active duty with the Michigan National Guard in 2014 and sent to the Baltic Countries of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve and in support of Latvia, our State Partnership Nation,” Hall said. “The 173rd Airborne Public Affairs leaders and I developed a close working relationship, so last summer, when they needed an experienced public affairs officer to lead their team, I was selected and put on orders.
The 173rd Brigade commander sent word to Hall that he would be expected to jump from aircraft as a part of his duties.
“I was really excited and completely terrified at the same time. I graduated from ‘Jump School’ when I was 19 years old and last jumped when I was 22, so I knew what to do,” Hall said with a laugh.
The 173rd put Hall through a one-day airborne refresher course, he said. This training included parachute landing, actions in the aircraft, and emergency procedures, followed by multiple jumps from a 34-foot tower in which his technique was assessed.
The next day, Hall reported to Aviano Air Base in northern Italy, donned his parachute with a couple of hundred other Soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade, climbed aboard an Air Force C-17 aircraft and, when 1,200 feet over the Juliet Drop Zone, exited the door and tested his training.
“The jet blast spun me in the air so when my ‘chute deployed it was pretty twisted and did not have a full canopy,” Hall said. “I was surprised that I automatically reached up, pulled the ‘risers’ apart and worked the parachute fully open. Good training takes over and we automatically do the right thing. I then checked my position in the sky and prepared to land. It was all over in less than a minute. I took up a good parachute landing fall position and the landing was perfect.”
Hall has served in the Army since graduating from LakeVille High School in the Flint area where he was an All-State wrestler, president of the school’s student council, and where he began dating his eventual wife, Laura.
“I enlisted as a combat medic when I was 19 years old and served in the 82nd Airborne Division in the mid-1980s, where we conducted frequent parachute operations as a part of our combat training,” Hall said. “After leaving the 82nd, I didn’t think I would ever jump from a military aircraft ever again.”
Since leaving active duty with the 82nd, Hall has served in the Army Reserve, the Florida and Michigan National Guard, and has been called back to active duty — to include combat duty in Iraq — on multiple occasions, but he has not been assigned to a unit with an airborne mission until now.
He was initially commissioned as a cavalry officer following officer candidate school and served as a Scout Platoon Leader in E Troop, 153rd Cavalry Regiment in Ocala, Florida. His later assignments include company commander in the 1-125th Infantry in Flint, Michigan, as well as executive officer and commander of the 126th Press Camp Headquarters at Fort Custer, Michigan. It was in the 126th PCH that Hall served a combat tour in Baghdad.
Service in Iraq
Coincidentally enough, while serving as a press officer for Multinational Forces Iraq, Hall was serving in a combat zone at the same time as his daughter, Savannah, who had recently been commissioned as an officer through the University of Michigan ROTC program.
“My daughter, Savannah, grew up around the Army and has seen me in uniform since I was in the 82nd Airborne,” Hall said. “She decided when she went to college that she wanted to enroll in ROTC, serve in the Army, and be a paratrooper. It was indeed a proud moment when I pinned her ‘Jump Wings’ on her at Fort Benning, Georgia. And now my youngest daughter, Samantha, is shipping off to Army basic training later this spring. It remains to be seen if she, too, will become a paratrooper.”
Hall has been working in Vicenza, Italy, on the senior staff of the 173rd Airborne Brigade since August 2017. In this short time, he has supported airborne combat training in Latvia, Germany, Slovenia, a historic mission to Serbia, mountaineering training with the Italian Alpini Brigade, and next week will travel to Toulouse, France, to support 173rd Airborne combined engineering operations with French paratroopers.
High operational tempo
“The operational tempo here at the 173rd Airborne is intense. We continually have combat training going on with our NATO allies throughout Europe,” Hall said. “Our command philosophy is that we are always ‘preparing our soldiers for the unforgiving crucible of ground combat.'”
A significant part of this, in the 173rd Airborne Brigade, is conducting airborne operations, so Hall will complete several more jumps from military aircraft in the coming months.
As far as teaching is concerned, Hall intends to return to the classroom teaching English, history, and theater for the fall 2018 semester. It is certain that the dynamic training and real-world experiences contribute to his classes and his students’ enthusiasm.
Until then, Hall is an Army paratrooper and he said he’s proud of the Soldiers he works with.
Hall added, “It is truly an honor to be able to serve with the ‘Sky Soldiers’ of the 173rd Airborne Brigade. To be able to begin my military career with the 82nd Airborne Division and end it with the 173rd Airborne Brigade is remarkable. I am humbled every day by the discipline, determination, and dedication of these young Americans forward stationed and always prepared to defend their country.”
As 1941-America faced the prospect of entering World War II, Looney Tunes made a cartoon that perfectly captured the struggles of Army life. Surprisingly (or maybe not considering the timeless nature of serving), the jokes still work in the modern Army.
There are those annoying times that soldiers playing bummer Army games like “Never-Ending Ruck March” have to walk past a sign for civilian luxuries like trains.
The cartoon, voiced by legends like Mel Blanc, even takes shots at what it’s like to train with tight budgets, something service members dealing with sequestration can understand.
In 1941, the paratroopers appear to have been the most affected by budget cuts and having to use “simulated” gear.
The machine gunners get off easy since they can practice firing in 3 to 5-second bursts using food in the chow hall.
(The whole thing is pretty funny, so check it out below):
Berlin was a dangerous place during the Cold War. A preserved piece of the Wall containing a mural memorializing 146 Germans killed trying to escape communism stands in stark testament.
As the grand central station of East-West espionage, the city was a playground for all sorts of secret agents. And its place in the history of the 20th century far outweighs its size. Indeed, 37 percent of Americans viewed the fall of the Berlin Wall as the single most important event of the 1980s.
That Wall came down after 28 years because Americans in uniform stood as a barrier to Soviet aggression. The vast majority of those GIs were clearly visible. But a small contingent operated behind the scenes, not even acknowledged until long after the Cold War ended. Only this year were they fully and publicly recognized.
Born in the Mid-’50s
Though the Status-of-Forces Agreement signed by all four powers occupying Berlin prohibited elite forces, each country had its own prowling the city. It was 10 years after WWII ended, however, before the U.S. had such a unit formally in place there.
In August 1956, the elite 10th Special Forces Group, based in Bad Tolz, Germany, stationed the secretive 7781 Army Unit (also known as the 39th Special Forces Operational Detachment) in West Berlin. It consisted of six modified detachments that became part of the Headquarters Company of the 6th Infantry Regiment. Each team had six members.
Two years later, the unit was renamed Detachment A and assigned to the Headquarters Company of the U.S. Army Garrison, Berlin. Then in April 1962, it was attached to the Berlin Brigade. Its area of operations was primarily that city, but it could undertake missions elsewhere in Europe.
“Detachment A was literally in the eye of the Cold War hurricane,” said Lt. Gen. Charles T. Cleveland, commanding general of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. As an unconventional and classified outfit of 90 men (a normal tour of duty was three years), Detachment A carried out clandestine operations.
Originally operating in small cells, by the late 1960s it expanded to 12-man “A” teams. Unit members were as unique as the U.S. Army ever recruited. Many were German or East European refugees who still had families trapped behind the Iron Curtain. In the early years, a significant number were WWII vets, too. Hence they brought much-needed skills along with knowledge of other nations and languages to the unit.
Training and tools of the trade
Physical training was wide-ranging and progressively intense. For instance, winter warfare training in Bavaria consisted of downhill and cross-country skiing equivalent to extreme skiing. Specialized demolition training was required for various targets in Berlin. Some teammates attended the CIA’s specialized demo course at Harvey Point, N.C. Scuba diving was another required skill.
Every month, members made parachute jumps staging out of Tempelhof Air Base in Berlin. Detachment A participated in NATO escape and evasion exercises. Exercises exclusive to Berlin included dead drops, live drops, primary meetings, surveillance and communications. Team members trained with the elite West German Federal Border Guard and Border Protection Group 9, British Special Air Service and special police units.
But they also taught an urban course to other 10th SFG personnel, as well as SEAL Team 2 based on Crete. As masters of spy craft, team members carried items reminiscent of a James Bond movie.
Coal filled with C-4 explosives was used to potentially sabotage the rail ring surrounding Berlin. Oneshot cigarette-lighter guns, vials filled with metal shavings for destruction of turbines and noise-suppressed weapons for eliminating targets were all part of the arsenal. The German Walther MPK 9mm SMG that fit in a briefcase was the weapon of choice.
All scuba gear was German-made, including the one-man portable decompression chamber. Every member spoke fluent German and dressed mostly in authentic German civilian clothes. They sometimes carried non-American flash documentation and identification. Dual passports, or dual nationalities, were part of the deception.
Adversaries in this potentially deadly game of cat and mouse included the notorious East German Secret Police (Stasi), Soviet KGB (Committee for State Security) and even Spetsnaz (Russian Special Purpose Forces). Being vigilant of Soviet surveillance was a given. The KGB had members under constant watch and possessed dossiers on everyone in Detachment A. Yet the Green Berets always deceived their adversaries into believing they were an exponentially larger force than they really were.
During the mid-1970s, the unit’s mission began to evolve. Though the classic Cold War enemy always remained, a new one reared its ugly head in the form of terrorism. The lethal Red Army Faction —a rabid Marxist group targeting the U.S. military starting in 1972—came into play, killing six GIs in all. That meant being prepared to take on terrorists with snipers and SWAT tactics.
“They were very brave men and took on some tough missions,” recalled Sidney Shachnow, who led Detachment A from 1970 to 1974. Still, the Soviet threat hovered over the divided city. In 1978, the unit was tasked by the CIA with digging up several mission sites positioned throughout Berlin for stay-behind operations. Also, to maintain the equipment in them— weapons and demolitions, for example.
In April of 1980 Detachment ‘A’ participated in “Operation Eagle Claw,” the attempt to end the Iran hostage crisis by rescuing 52 diplomats held captive at the United States Embassy and the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tehran, Iran. Det-A’s portion of the mission was code-named “Storm Cloud.”
Detachment ‘A’ was responsible for the pre-mission reconnaissance of the targets by successfully infiltrating a team into Tehran on several occasions and contributed an element to rescue three hostages held in the MFA.
When the first mission was aborted because of a crash involving a C-130 and a CH-53 in the middle of the Iranian desert, a second attempt was planned for later that year. That was cancelled when negotiations proved successful.
Four years later the mission of this unique outfit was deemed unnecessary even though the Cold War was far from over. At the end of 1984, Detachment A was disbanded.
“I knew when I closed the door,” said Eugene Piasecki, the detachment’s last commander, “I would no longer serve in a unit like that.”
Bob Charest, a retired Army master sergeant, served with Detachment A from 1969 to 1972 and 1973 to 1978.
We would’ve loved to have been a fly on the wall when someone walked into a room and said, “You know what the world needs more of? Motorcycles with miniguns on them!”
Did the people blessed with this kind of wisdom previously work as Sonny Barger’s life coach? It certainly seems like every 1-percenter’s wet dream. Were they perhaps former department of corrections employees who were fired over suggesting that electric chairs be replaced with electric bleachers?
Perhaps they once pitched an ad-campaign slogan to Honda along the lines of, “You meet the nicest people on a motorcycle with a cannon.”
Wherever the idea came from, it apparently didn’t fall on deaf ears.
What was once only possible in movies has finally been brought to life, and RECOIL was privileged to see it in action. Lane splitting just took on a whole new meaning.
Brainstorming sessions between Dillon Aero and Tailgunner Exhaust led to something that looks like the bastard son of Blue Thunder. The Tailgunner Dillon Aero M134X Interceptor, as it’s called, found its way to our email inbox — so we sent our editor, Iain Knievel, out to investigate the situation further. We were all curious to see if this thing was intended for anything other than a potential reboot of Street Hawk (congrats if you even remember that show).
Our research revealed that the M134X was truly an engineering masterpiece. That’s because the brains behind it really know their craft.
You may have seen the work of brothers Cal and Charlie Giordano, proprietors of Tailgunner Exhaust, not only in their Gatling gun-inspired exhaust systems, but creations such as a handmade submarine that have appeared in episodes of Modern Marvels. They decided to approach the minigun gurus at Dillon Aero about creating a promotional conceptual bike.
Unlike many concept vehicles that are all show and no go, this one was engineered to be fully functional and designed for the average rider to operate.
To our knowledge, mounting a functioning minigun to a motorcycle chassis was never attempted until now.
The 300 pounds of recoil generated by the 7.62 NATO-caliber M134 was enough to make people believe that such a feat defied the laws of physics and begged too many unanswerable questions. Even if it could be fired while riding, how long would it take before the frame began to tear? Could it be aimed with any degree of accuracy? Was the driver guaranteed a Darwin Award?
The bike was built not only to defy the naysayers of minigun versatility, but also as a way to deploy the weapon system to the field quickly or to catch a fast-moving vehicle. In order to create a bike that drove and handled well enough to do all this, they chose the proven Yamaha R1 Superbike chassis as the platform. Its aluminum frame and high power-to-weight ratio enables the package to be light on its feet.
To disperse the load, Tailgunner created an aluminum cantilever mount for the gun that attaches where the custom extended swingarm connects. The linear actuator enables the gun to be moved up and down by a switch located where the turn signal formerly resided. The custom fuel tanks were moved to the rear of the bike for better balance. Heavy-duty billet aluminum steering yokes were also specially made for the project. Body panels are all fabricated from aircraft-grade aluminum and covered in MultiCam wrap by Crye Precision. Believe it or not, the whole bike only weighs about 500 pounds.
An air intake was built into the mount and two external air filters were mounted up high to allow for better filtration and easy maintenance. The bike is powered by a Yamaha 1,000cc inline-four with a twin nitrous oxide system. It’s all mated to the six-speed Yamaha transmission. The electronics are powered by a 12-volt battery that runs the motorcycle, with a separate 24-volt battery mounted inside the swingarm to operate the gun. A large Samsung smartphone in front of the driver serves as instrumentation to keep it simple.
The motorcycle doesn’t have to be running to fire. The gun can be armed with a switch on the console in front of the driver. The trigger is very appropriately located where the horn button was. Aiming is accomplished by moving the cantilever up or down and steering the bike right or left. Although that’s really dead reckoning in terms of accuracy, a laser sight and gun-mounted camera may be added in the future, with reticles appearing on the smartphone.
After two years of trial and error, a finished bike finally met the standards of all parties involved. The M134X will be put up for sale when its promotional duties are completed, and it is, in fact, street legal (without the gun, of course, unless you have the proper permits). Tailgunner could even create a replica if the money’s there. Civilian and law enforcement versions are already in the works.
Not only have the minds involved disproven the notion that mounting a minigun on a motorcycle was impossible, but they showed that it could be done in a practical way. Who knows, maybe we’ll see M134Xs roaming the battlefield one day with additions such as smoke screens, oil slicks, or caltrops. It seems the fellas at Tailgunner figured out a way to channel the spirits of Richard Gatling and Burt Munro. Nice to know guys who can come up with things like this are on our side. Check out the full videos on RECOILtv to see the M134X in action.
Don’t think the fun stops there. Cal made this super shorty Timemachinist AR-M134X to complement the Tailgunner Dillon Aero M134X project. It’s an all-billet build based on a Sharps lower and a custom-made Timemachinist/Tailgunner Gatling-style upper.
Since the motorcycle itself and miniguns are nearly unobtainable to the public, you might be seeing AR Gatling Gun-inspired full-float tubes for sale in the future if the interest is there. The barrels don’t spin, but this pistol version has a Noveske 7.5 Diplomat barrel inside it.
While the AR-M134X was designed to look like a minigun barrel assembly, it was engineered to function as a high-performance handguard. Check out more of Cal’s work, such as his custom watches, at www.timemachinistwatches.com.
Since its launch in 2007, the Veterans Crisis Line has been an invaluable resource for Veterans nationwide — answering more than 3 million calls and initiating the dispatch of emergency services to callers in crisis nearly 78,000 times.
Veterans Crisis Line responders have also engaged in nearly 363,000 chats through the anonymous online chat service added in 2009, and we’ve answered more than 81,000 texts since our text messaging service began in November 2011.
I say all of this to show that from the start, the Veterans Crisis Line staff has consistently looked for more opportunities to better serve Veterans, and that desire to expand our services hasn’t slowed down.
The No Veterans Crisis Line Call Should Go Unanswered Act took effect in 2016, and we’ve responded with steps designed to provide the best support possible. From employing staggered shift scheduling for better coverage during periods of high call volume to formalizing our intensive training program and incorporating the latest evidence-based practices, we are always working to enhance our ability to serve Veterans.
New call center in Kansas
Most recently, we implemented an automatic transfer system: With the push of a button, a local VA Medical Center can directly connect a Veteran to the Veterans Crisis Line. Soon, we will greatly expand call capacity with the opening of a third call center in Topeka, Kan.
The results of these efforts have already begun to show, as virtually every call we receive is answered by a Veterans Crisis Line responder with specific training to provide support to Veterans and Service members. In 2017, just 0.3 percent of calls to the Veterans Crisis Line were rolled over to non-VA crisis line operators, and that percentage fell to 0.07 in December.
We’re committed to providing the support that our Veterans have earned. If you’re experiencing a crisis or having thoughts of harming yourself, the Veterans Crisis Line can help. More than 500 responders are ready to answer your call, because they believe no Veteran should be without support in a time of need. You served your country, and we’re here to serve you.
If you or a Veteran you know is in crisis, call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, text to 838255, or chat online at www.VeteransCrisisLine.net to get immediate help.