This one South Carolina county raised 4 Medal of Honor recipients - We Are The Mighty
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This one South Carolina county raised 4 Medal of Honor recipients

Pickens County, South Carolina lies in the northwest corner of the state on the border of North Carolina. The rural county has only a few hundred people per square mile and a total population of 120,000. Surprisingly, this small county has produced four Medal of Honor recipients, which makes it the county with the most Medals of Honor per capita in the nation, according to a report in Patch.


Here are the four recipients:

1. Pfc. Charles Barker slowed an enemy advance with hand-to-hand fighting.

This one South Carolina county raised 4 Medal of Honor recipients
Photo: US Army

Army Pfc. Charles Barker was part of a platoon in Korea that came upon enemy soldiers digging emplacements on a slope June 4, 1953. The patrol engaged the diggers but found itself facing heavy enemy resistance. As mortars began to fall on the platoon, the platoon leader ordered a withdrawal. Barker volunteered to cover the platoon move and was last seen engaged in hand-to-hand combat.

2. Pfc. William McWhorter absorbed an explosive blast to save his assistant gunner.

Army Pfc. William McWhorter was manning a heavy machine gunner in combat on Leyte Island in the Philippines on Dec. 5, 1944 when an enemy demolitions squad rushed his position. McWhorter and his assistant gunner successfully killed some of the attackers, but one managed to throw a fused demolition charge into the trench. McWhorter grabbed it and pulled it into his body just before it exploded. His actions saved the life of the assistant gunner who was able to continue fighting.

3. Lance Cpl. James “Donnie” Howe jumped on a grenade to save another Marine.

This one South Carolina county raised 4 Medal of Honor recipients
Photo: US Marine Corp

Marine Lance Cpl. James “Donnie” Howe was in a defensive position on a beach bordering bamboo thickets in Vietnam on May 6, 1970. A group of enemy sappers crept unnoticed to the position in the dark of early morning and launched a grenade attack. Howe and two others moved to a better position and began suppressing the enemy. When another grenade landed in the middle of the group, Howe jumped on it and saved the others.

4. Pvt. Furman Smith single-handedly held off an enemy counterattack.

During the Allied advance in Italy in World War II, Army Pvt. Furman Smith was part of an infantry company attack on a strong point. Smith was in the lead element when an attack by 80 Germans succeeded in wounding two men. While the rest of the lead element pulled back to the company’s position, Smith rushed forward. He recovered the wounded and placed them in shell craters that provided some cover. He then took a position nearby and held off the Germans with rifle fire until he was ultimately overrun.

NOW:  9 post-9/11 heroes who should have received the Medal of Honor — but didn’t

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This was the Air Force’s plan to turn a Boeing 747 into an airborne aircraft carrier

We’ve all see the Avengers movie featuring SHIELD’s massive flying aircraft carrier — you know, the one with the gigantic fans and stealth cloaking?


But what you may not know is that the concept of an actual flying carrier isn’t really anything new, and the US military has investigated it time and time again throughout its history. The most recent proposal for such a vehicle came in the form of a highly modified Boeing 747 called the Airborne Aircraft Carrier.

This one South Carolina county raised 4 Medal of Honor recipients
The concept of a flying aircraft carrier isn’t as far fetched as it seems. (Photo via AgentsofShield WIKIA)

While oceangoing aircraft carriers can bring their complements of fighter and attack aircraft quite literally anywhere around the seven seas, areas deeper inland are far less accessible and sometimes require the use of larger numbers of support assets like refueling tankers, which aren’t always available for a variety of reasons.

The AAC concept tried to solve that problem by using a larger aircraft to fly smaller aircraft above or near deployment zones, where it would release its fighters to carry out their missions.

This one South Carolina county raised 4 Medal of Honor recipients
A Sparrowhawk fighter hanging underneath the USS Macon airship during testing (US Navy

In the 1930s, the US Navy first began exploring the idea of an airborne carrier by outfitting two dirigible airships, the USS Akron and the USS Macon, with a trapeze mechanism for recovering and launching small propeller fighter planes, along with an internal hangar for storage.

Both the Akron and Macon were lost in storms that decade, but not before they were able to successfully demonstrate that with enough practice and patience, aircraft could be deployed from airbases in the sky.

The onset of World War II made the Navy forget about this idea. But during the Cold War, the notion of having an airborne carrier was resurrected — this time by the Air Force.

At first, the Fighter Conveyor project attempted to put a Republic F-84 “parasite” fighter in the belly of a B-36 Peacemaker nuclear bomber, launched in-flight for reconnaissance operations. The creation of the U-2 Dragon Lady spy plane made the FICON project a moot point, sending it to the graveyard after four years of testing.

This one South Carolina county raised 4 Medal of Honor recipients
A B-36 Peacemaker launching an F-84 parasite fighter as part of a FICON test (USAF)

Later on, famed defense contractor Lockheed proposed a gigantic nuclear-powered flying mothership with a crew of over 850 and an aerial endurance of 40+ days. The Air Force, by 1973, decided to go a slightly more conventional route instead.

At the time, the Boeing 747 was easily the largest civilian aircraft in the world, serving as a long-range passenger airliner and a cargo transport for a number of freight companies. It wasn’t wholly unreasonable to suggest that such an aircraft could be converted for use as an airborne carrier, fielding a small group of aircraft inside its cavernous interior.

The Air Force’s Flight Dynamics Laboratory, based out of Wright-Patterson AFB, was put on the case to determine the feasibility of such an experiment.

This one South Carolina county raised 4 Medal of Honor recipients
Depictions of the microfighters the AAC would carry by the Flight Dynamics Laboratory (Photo from USAF)

The AAC project called for a Boeing 747-200 to be hollowed out and refitted with a two-level internal hangar that would hold “micro fighters”, small short-range fighter aircraft that could fight air-to-air and air-to-ground sorties after being dropped out of the underside of the jumbo jet. Should the fighters need an extension on their range, the AAC mothership could refuel them as needed from a rotating boom on its rear. Upon concluding their sorties, the micro fighters would simply fly underneath the AAC and be picked up by a mechanism, bringing them back into the hangar.

The AAC would also contain storage for extra fuel, spares and parts, as well as a magazine for missiles and bombs for the microfighters. In addition, sleeping quarters for the crew and pilots, and a small crew lounge for breaks in-between missions was also to be part of the hypothetical flying carrier.

All in all, the concept seemed to be absolutely doable and certainly something the Air Force seemed interested in pursuing, given that the report also projected that conventional Navy aircraft carriers would apparently be obsolete by the year 2000.

This one South Carolina county raised 4 Medal of Honor recipients
The interior layout of the AAC proposal (Photo from USAF)

However, the project was stalled when research into the design and development of the AAC’s necessary microfighters went nowhere. An airborne warning and control version of the AAC was also proposed, replete with a pair of reconnaissance micro aircraft for surveillance missions; this was also shot down.

Eventually, the Air Force shelved the concept altogether not long after the Flight Dynamics Laboratory claimed it was possible.

While the US military hasn’t done much, if anything at all, to investigate flying aircraft carriers in the four and a half decades since, this seems to be an idea that just won’t go away. Maybe, just maybe, we might see these bizarre vehicles in the not-so-distant future, as technology advances and mission types evolve!

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5 places every boot needs to hit while at Camp Pendleton

Every week, new service members report for duty at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton located in Southern California. There, they’ll undergo some intense training — but they’ll also have some time off. So, the boots will often ask others what fun stuff is nearby.

You might get a few good suggestions but, for the most part, it’s tough for a newbie to travel around without spending a sh*t ton of cash. So, if you’re “ballin’ on a budget,” we’ve come up with a few places you can visit while on liberty that won’t bleed your wallet dry.


This one South Carolina county raised 4 Medal of Honor recipients

The ferris wheel and ice rink located near the heart of Irvine Spectrum.

Irvine Spectrum

Located in Irvine, this outdoor mall contains of plenty of excellent restaurants, a state-of-the-art movie theater, and a Dave and Busters to help you hone your gaming skills. Just north of Camp Pendleton, the large shopping center has enough to keep you entertained for hours.

This one South Carolina county raised 4 Medal of Honor recipients

Welcome to the laid-back OC Tavern

OC Tavern

Ready for some excellent fish tacos? Well, OC Tavern has great ones alongside a full bar to get you smashed — if you’re of age, of course. This place hosts concerts, has a cigar lounge, and is a great place to play billiards. Since it’s located just a few minutes north of Camp Pendleton, it’s an easy spot to reach on a Friday or Saturday night.

This one South Carolina county raised 4 Medal of Honor recipients

The Kaleidoscope. They have girls at the gym!

The Kaleidoscope

Located in Mission Viejo, this shopping and entertainment area is close to Camp Pendleton and features a Buffalo Wild Wings, a solid movie solid theater, and a gym where real girls go — as opposed to the male-dominated Marine gyms.

Since it’s closer than Irvine Spectrum, the Uber ride will be cheap, which is perfect for junior enlisted who don’t make a lot of cash.

This one South Carolina county raised 4 Medal of Honor recipients

Chill out and have a good time at Goody’s Tavern.

Goody’s Tavern

Located just north of Camp Pendleton, Goody’s Tavern is a chill place for great drinks and entertainment. You’ll run into tons of Marines here, so you know you’ll be in good company.

This one South Carolina county raised 4 Medal of Honor recipients

Members of the Western Army Infantry Regiment, Japan Ground Self Defense Force, and Marines with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit play a game of football on the Del Mar Beach at the conclusion of Exercise Iron Fist.

(Photo by Sgt. Christopher O’Quin)

Del Mar Beach

Located near the main gate, the beach in Del Mar has everything you need to blow off steam. There, you can camp and rent small cottages for a few days at a time. These rental areas are so close to the shore that you’ll hear the waves lapping onto the sand as you sleep. There are also BBQ pits available, and you can sneak in a few games of football or volleyball before heading back to the office on Monday morning.

It’s perfect.

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5 epic battles where the victors ended up losing the war

There’s no more unfortunate name in the annals of military history than King Pyrrhus of Epirus whose lands were on the west coast of the Hellenic Peninsula, in modern-day Greece. While he famously won a string of battles against Rome and Carthage in 281 BC, he took horrendous casualties, sometimes as high as 15,000.


This one South Carolina county raised 4 Medal of Honor recipients
You can probably guess how that turned out.

After one of his costly victories, Pyrrhus famously declared, “One more victory like that and we’re finished.”

Thus the term “Pyrrhic Victory” was born, describing any victory in warfare that cost so much to gain, the winner’s army never really recovers.

This victory may have been the first Pyrrhic one, but it certainly wasn’t the last. Here are a few more costly “wins” that nevertheless lost the war.

1. The Battle of Malplaquet

In 1700, Spain’s King Charles II died without an heir. In the power struggle that followed, France’s 90,000-strong army fought a coalition of 100,000 Dutch, Austrian, Prussian and British soldiers. Slightly outnumbered, the French sought to level the playing field by setting up obstacles and digging fortifications to stymie the coalition.

This one South Carolina county raised 4 Medal of Honor recipients

It took 7 full hours to dislodge the French, and the Duke of Marlborough lost 24,000 men doing it. The rest were too tired to keep going. The French lost less than half that. Marlborough was replaced and the alliance against the French began to fall apart.

2. The Battle of Bunker Hill

In another case of superior numbers running head-on against a fortified position, 2,200 British regulars advancing on Breed’s Hill were ordered to attack the 1,000 American militiamen there. Capturing the hill would give the British the Heights overlooking Boston, so British General William Howe ordered three advances.

This one South Carolina county raised 4 Medal of Honor recipients
Good luck with that.

The first two repelled the redcoats because of very accurate fire from the militiamen. Out of ammo and looking at a hand-to-hand fight for the hill, the militia abandoned the fortification and retreated on the third British advance. The British lost almost half of their attacking force while the colonial rebels lost only 400 men.

3. Napoleon at Borodino

L’Empereur’s invasion of Imperial Russia in 1812 took more than a half million Frenchmen into the heart of the Russian Empire. Napoleon chased the Russians, first under General Barclay de Tolly and then General Mikhail Kutuzov, all the way to Moscow, the Russians burning or otherwise destroying anything in their wake that might have been of use to the French. Near the village of Borodino near modern-day Moscow, Kutuzov’s army stopped to give Napoleon a fight.

This one South Carolina county raised 4 Medal of Honor recipients

The Russians positioned their right wing on an ideal defensive ground while the left occupied a series of redoubts near the village. Napoleon threw 130,000 men at the redoubts, which the Russians fought bitterly to keep. The French lost 35,000 men but failed to destroy the Russian Army. Napoleon marched on Moscow but found the Russians burned the city. The French Emperor stayed for two months. When he realized the Russians would not negotiate for peace, he marched his exhausted troops home. By the time Napoleon’s Grande Armeé found its way home, there were only 93,000 survivors.

4. The Battle of the Alamo

In 1835, colonist in the Mexican province of Texas rebelled against the dictatorial regime of Mexico’s General Antonio López de Santa Anna. Texian rebels drove Mexican forces out of Texas The next year, 100 American-born Texian rebels occupied the Alamo, an old Spanish mission near modern-day San Antonio, along with legendary adventurers of the American West.

This one South Carolina county raised 4 Medal of Honor recipients
Unfortunately, this is how legends of the West tend to die.

Santa Anna marched 1,500 troops into Texas to dislodge the defenders of the Alamo. After ten days of skirmishing, the Mexicans advanced on the Alamo in force and slaughtered every defender to the last man. When word reached the rest of Texas, people rushed to join the Texian Army under Sam Houston. Houston used those troops to surprise the Mexicans at the Battle of San Jacinto, winning in just 18 minutes. The Texians cut down the fleeing Mexicans and captured Santa Anna the next day, winning Texas’ independence.

5. The Battle of Chancellorsville

In 1863, General Robert E. Lee’s outnumber Confederate troops bet on a maneuver that flew in the face of military doctrine – he divided his forces, twice, and fought the Federal forces instead of retreating. This division was unique because it prevented the Union Army under General Joseph Hooker from surrounding the outnumbered rebels.

This one South Carolina county raised 4 Medal of Honor recipients
Stonewall Jackson, pictured right, being unable to even.

Unfortunately, the move cost Lee 13,000 men and his best General, Stonewall Jackson, who was shot by his own men. Two months later, the South would miss those 13,000 at the Battle of Gettysburg.

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GI Bill gets huge boost with this new law

Military veterans are getting unlimited access to college assistance under legislation President Donald Trump has signed into law.


The Forever GI Act removed a 15-year limit on using the benefits, effective immediately. The measure increases financial assistance for National Guard and Reserve members, building on a 2008 law that guaranteed veterans a full-ride scholarship to any in-state, public university, or a similar cash amount to attend private colleges.

Purple Heart recipients forced to leave the service due to injury are eligible for benefits, as are dependents of service members who are killed in the line of duty.

Veterans would get additional payments for completing science, technology, and engineering courses, part of a broad effort to better prepare them for life after active-duty service amid a fast-changing job market. The law also restores benefits if a college closes mid-semester, a protection that was added after thousands of veterans were hurt by the collapse of for-profit college giant ITT Technical Institute and Corinthian Colleges.

This one South Carolina county raised 4 Medal of Honor recipients
USMC photo by Sgt. Melissa Marnell

“This is expanding our ability to support our veterans in getting education,” Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin told reporters at a briefing after Trump signed the measure at his New Jersey golf club following two nights at his home at New York’s Trump Tower.

Trump is staying at the New Jersey club on a working vacation. Journalists were not permitted to see the president sign the bill, as the White House has done for other veterans’ legislation he has turned into law. That includes a measure Trump signed at the club August 12 to provide nearly $4 billion in emergency funding for a temporary veterans health care program.

The August 16 signing came the day after Trump was rebuked for continuing to insist that “both sides” were culpable for an outbreak of violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend between white supremacists and counter-demonstrators. One woman was killed.

This one South Carolina county raised 4 Medal of Honor recipients
Photo by Michael Vadon

Also, two Virginia state troopers died in the crash of their helicopter. They were monitoring the rally.

A wide range of veterans groups supported the education measure. The Veterans of Foreign Wars says hundreds of thousands stand to benefit.

Student Veterans of America says that only about half of the 200,000 service members who leave the military each year go on to enroll in college, while surveys indicate that veterans often outperform peers in the classroom.

The expanded educational benefits would be paid for by bringing living stipend payments under the GI Bill down to a similar level as that received by an active-duty member, whose payments were reduced in 2014 by 1 percent a year for five years. Total government spending on the GI Bill is expected to be more than $100 billion over 10 years.

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CENTCOM dusts off Vietnam-era aircraft to fight ISIS

Don’t call it a comeback. Last year, CENTCOM deployed two Vietnam-era aircraft in a three-month trial run against ISIS. Based on that success, the U.S. military is considering reviving the dual-propeller OV-10 Bronco’s combat role.


This one South Carolina county raised 4 Medal of Honor recipients

The aged airframe flew 132 sorties in 2015, 120 of those were combat missions, with a 99 percent completion rate. Its counterinsurgency role would be a bridge between fighters and helicopters. Its slower speed makes it more maneuverable than fast-moving jets while its short takeoff and landing needs allowed it to operate from remote or unprepared airstrips. It can carry troops, wounded, and up to 3,200 pounds of supplies.

Check out WATM’s podcast to hear the author and other veterans discuss what the OV-10 Bronco means in the fight against ISIS. 

It’s a battle-tested, inexpensive, and reliable platform for moving small teams and for reconnaissance. It also provides a cheap close air support option with a 20mm cannon or its four internal 7.62mm machine guns to give Iraqis the same support U.S. troops have in ground combat. The Bronco has seven hardpoints that could be updated and adapted for GPS and laser-guided munitions and Griffon or Hellfire missiles.

This one South Carolina county raised 4 Medal of Honor recipients
And it takes off from carriers too.

The planes deployed “to a location in Southwest Asia,” according to Capt. Bryant Davis, a CENTCOM spokesman. CENTCOM was trying to determine if the Broncos “increased effectiveness of airpower in a counterinsurgency… while reducing cost and preserving high-end special aviation resources performing similar missions.”

The OV-10 first served in Vietnam, deploying in 1968 with U.S. Marines. It provided forward air control (FAC), helicopter escort, ground attack, observation,light logistics duties, and waterway patrols in the Mekong Delta. The last OV-10 was retired by the Marine Corps in 1995, after serving in Operation Desert Storm.

Catch the Bronco in action:

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This charity helps troops beat Halo when they’re not beating the Taliban

Operation Supply Drop (OSD) is the kind of organization that sounds very simple at first. They collect donated video games, console systems, and cash to send gaming care packages to troops overseas and here in the United States. The nonprofit calls these care packages “supply drops.”


As anyone who’s been deployed can attest, the periods of excitement and fear are interspersed with long periods of monotony. OSD began in a garage with an Iraq War vet boxing up donations to help his peers enjoy the same hobby he loved: gaming.

From those humble roots, OSD has now grown into a charity that does a lot more. While they still generate care packages for deployed service members, they’ve expanded into creating unique experiences for veterans, fighting veteran joblessness, and other causes which affect warriors.

The expansion had some growing pains. The founder publicly split and created his own new organization. But the CEO, Glen Banton, is excited for all the ways OSD’s expanded mission has let them serve veterans.

“We’re in the business of helping veterans,” he said in an interview with WATM. “Unfortunately, the video game thing sometimes overshadows the other things we do. But essentially, it needs to be about putting veterans first. How can we keep supporting as many vets as possible. That’s while you’re deployed and need something to spend your time with, or when you get home and have other needs.”

This one South Carolina county raised 4 Medal of Honor recipients
Photo: Courtesy Army Maj. Erik Johnson

OSD began by enlarging the supply drop program, and then adding on new programs.

“The supply drops increased in size and scope. We started going to bases themselves, rec centers, mess halls, day rooms, hospitals, events, Halloween and Christmas parties… Anywhere we can impact a lot of troops per day and have fun.”

In a recent supply drop at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, OSD worked with Army occupational therapist Maj. Eric Johnson who has used video games to help wounded warriors progress in their therapy. But the center had just an old Nintendo Wii with which to work.

Johnson gave a wish list to OSD who was able to get the medical center six new video game consoles and almost 100 games plus peripherals like steering wheels. It was OSD’s largest supply drop yet.

“Glen and his team, they came with OSD last week and, blew me away,” Johnson said. “Way more than I had asked for, way more than I anticipated.”

This one South Carolina county raised 4 Medal of Honor recipients
Wounded warriors play video games at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas after a the Operation Supply Drops largest drop. Photo: Courtesy Operation Supply Drop

Then there are “Thank You Deployments,” where a veteran or a small group of veterans get to participate in a special event or outing, usually by working with corporate or non-profit partners.

“There are VIP outings, genuinely relevant to the veteran,” Banton said. “So, we might take them to a gaming conference or on a trip to a studio. But there might be other stuff.

“We’ve had race car experiences. We met a driver who worked for Forza and is a vet. He helps get them full access, a ride in the pace car, access to the lounge. It’s really amazing.

“And as the community grows, it continues to get broader and broader. It doesn’t take us away from gaming. It takes us to people who are gamers and do other stuff.”

OSD also has a “Teams” program. The teams encourage people to get locally connected with active duty service members and veterans so everyone can engage at the local level on big issues like veteran suicide, depression, homelessness, and unemployment.

“The Teams Program is the action arm of OSD,” Banton said. “They’re local chapters with veteran and civilian members who address things like veteran suicide or homelessness. Really, what we look at with the teams is, how do we create within Seattle, L.A., Muncie, Indiana, how do we engage in a way that helps?”

While it may seem like this is OSD straying from their roots as a gamer-veteran focused charity, Banton and his team don’t see it that way.

Glenn explained, “If someone asks, ‘Hey, OSD, I need some help and don’t know where to go. I think I can get this job but I don’t have the clothes,’ or ‘I don’t have the home base to do the interview,’ we can help with that.

“So we can, for a thousand dollars, get them housed for six months and get them help through this community, then they become a big part of the community.

“That individual doesn’t have space to enjoy an XBox if he wanted to. to us, it’s very clear and it’s easy. We know exactly what we’re supposed to be doing: Inspiring veterans and other civilian supporters to give back to those around them.”

For those interested in getting involved helping veterans through OSD, head to “The Teams” page, make a donation, or learn about the 8-bit Salute where gamers can play to raise money for future supply drops and other events.

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What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?

Physically fit? Check. Mentally fit? Check. Spiritually fit? Hmm.


That could be the response from more Marines and even other military service members of this Millennial generation, as fewer troops are claiming a religion than those of previous decades.

This one South Carolina county raised 4 Medal of Honor recipients
Time to get your ‘spirit’ on Marine! (USMC photo)

Earlier this month, Gen. Robert Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps, issued an all-hands message to encourage his men and women and Navy sailors assigned to their units to take note of their own “spiritual fitness.”

“During this time, I ask each of you to reflect on what you and the Marines and sailors you lead are doing to achieve and maintain an optimal level of strength and resilience. Your leaders and chaplains at all levels stand ready to engage with you in this task,” Neller, a veteran infantry officer entering his second year as the service’s top general officer, wrote in the Oct. 3 message. “By attending to spiritual fitness with the same rigor given to physical, social and mental fitness, Marines and sailors can become and remain the honorable warriors and model citizens our nation expects.”

The general’s mention of honorable warriors and model citizens – most Marines serve four to eight years and then return to civilian life – harkens to a generation ago. In the 1990s — with a military facing force cuts, ethical scandals and retention concerns — then-commandant Gen. Charles Krulak often spoke with Marines about the importance of integrity, having a “moral compass” and courage to do the right thing.

It wasn’t specifically directed at religion or spirituality but took a broad, holistic approach at building better “citizen-soldiers.”

In this generation, will that challenge to look inward at their spirituality, however they define it to be, resonate with Millennial Marines? And, if so, how?

If religious affiliation is any measure of that, military leaders might well be worried.

Last year, the Pew Research Center found that fewer Americans were identifying as religious. In its 2014 Religious Landscape Survey, the Pew Research Center found that 70.6 percent of Americans identified with a Christian-based religion, with “Evangelical Protestant,” “Catholic” and “Mainline Protestant” the top groups. Almost 6 percent claimed non-Christian faiths – Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu, for example.

But almost 23 percent in the survey of 35,000 Americans said they were unaffiliated – known as “nones” – or nonbelievers, and 15.8 percent of them claimed no ties even to agnostics or atheists. That was a significant change from 2007, when 16 percent identified as “nones.”

The biggest group, 35 percent, among “nones” are Millennials, considered those born between 1981 and 1996, and “nones” as a whole “are getting even younger,” Pew found. It’s also an age group — 20 to 35 — that’s well represented within the military services.

So how will today’s Marines receive this latest message?

The Marine Corps hasn’t detailed just what the push for spiritual fitness will entail, but it’s described as part of leadership development and a holistic approach to overall fitness along with physical, mental and social wellness. The service’s deputy chaplain, Navy Capt. William Kennedy, said it wasn’t a program but “an engagement strategy to enable leaders at every level to communicate the importance of faith, values and moral living inside the Marine Corps culture of fitness.”

“Spiritual fitness is for everyone,” Kennedy said in an email response to WATM. “Every Marine has a position on matters of spirituality, belief in a higher being and religion. The individual Marine chooses if and how they will grow in spiritual fitness, enabling them to fulfill their duties successfully while deployed and in garrison.”

Scott said the Navy’s top chaplain Rear Adm. Brent Scott sent a letter to all Marine Corps’ chaplains, challenging them to “engage their commanders and the Marine Corps in conversations on spiritual fitness.”

A non-profit group, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, has criticized the Corps’ plan as an attempt to push religious, if not Christian, values on all Marines.

Mikey Weinstein, the group’s founder and president and a former Air Force lawyer, has threatened to sue the Marine Corps to stop it from mandating spiritual fitness training for every Marine rather than having it be voluntary. Weinstein told Military.com last week that the service’s plan to include spiritual fitness with some training and education courses is “nothing more than a Trojan Horse for fundamentalist Christians to proselytize to a captive audience.”

“If they call this ‘mental fitness,’ that’s great,” Weinstein told WATM. But while Marines are regularly tested in physical fitness and military proficiency, he said, “who gets to decide what Marines are spiritually fit?”

While troops can be required to sit through legal discussions with a judge advocate or medical training with medics, they can’t be required to attend teachings or preaching by unit chaplains, he said, citing separation of church and state. If the Marine Corps sets mandatory lectures, testing or measuring tools or classes that discuss things like faith or “a higher power,” for example, that will push it into religious beliefs and violate the constitutional prohibition against religious tests, Weinstein said.

“If they do it, they’ll be in court,” he said.

In 2010, MRFF threatened to sue the Army when it pushed out a similar assessment program on spiritual fitness for soldiers, and Weinstein said the service eventually revised it.

But “spiritual fitness” remains a popular concept around the military — a phrase that might seem to avoid any specific religion to many but still retains an element of a belief. The Air Force considers it one of its comprehensive fitness pillars, along with mental, physical and social. And spiritual fitness is often mentioned in programs to help build resiliency among troops, including those grappling with combat or post-traumatic stress and even in programs to strengthen relationships among military couples and families.

Navy chaplain Kennedy described spirituality generally as something “that gives meaning and purpose in life.” It also might “refer to the practice of a philosophy, religion or way of living,” he said. “For some this is expressed in commitment to family, institution or esprit de corps. For others, it may apply to application of faith.”

Military chaplains have the duty to advise commanders and service members on “spiritual matters.” They “are required to perform faith-specific ministries that do not conflict with the tenets or faith requirements of their religious organizations. Additionally, chaplains are required to provide or facilitate religious support, pastoral care and spiritual wellness to all service members, regardless of religious affiliation,” according to a July 2015 Defense Department Inspector General report on “rights of conscience protections” for troops and chaplains.

Weinstein, who said he’s Jewish but “not that religious,” said his group isn’t anti-religion and counts 48,000 active-duty troops among its members, with 98 percent who affiliate with a religion. Many supporters don’t want the military services telling them what or whether to believe, he said, adding that “thousands of military people [say] that’s my personal business.”

But is spiritual fitness inherently a part of something religious, or is it separate from a religious belief?

It may depend on who is defining it. A spiritual fitness guide briefing slide by the U.S. Navy Chaplains Corps, whose members advise Navy and Marine Corps units, describes spiritual fitness this way: “A term used to capture a person’s overall spiritual health and reflects how spirituality may help one cope with and enjoy life. Spirituality may be used generally to refer to that which gives meaning and purpose in life. The term may be used more specifically to refer to the practice of a philosophy, religion or way of living.”

Would having no religious affiliation or belief render one without spirituality? For some Leathernecks, the Marine Corps itself is like a religion, with its own spirituality that “non-believers” – like POGs or people-other-than-grunts – can’t understand.

The Marines’ own institutional bible, so-to-speak, the warfighting publication “Leading Marines,” stated in its 1995 edition: “This manual is based on the firm belief that, as others have said in countless ways, our Corps embodies the spirit and essence of those who have gone before. It is about the belief, shared by all Marines, that there is no higher calling than that of a United States Marine.”

Editor’s Note: This story has been changed to correct attribution from the Marine Corps Deputy Chaplain.

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The Air Force says Space Marines are not happening… yet

The latest Air Force Chief of Staff’s world is a complete departure from his predecessor’s – one where things are not “pretty darn good.”


General David Goldfein is no stranger to agression. He’s a trained fighter pilot who flew missions during Desert Storm and over Serbia in Operation Allied Force.

This one South Carolina county raised 4 Medal of Honor recipients
General David Goldfein being sworn in as the Air Force’s 21st Chief of Staff. (U.S. Air Force photo by Scott Ash)

Goldfein’s Air Force has 12 core functions and one of those is space defense. The top air officer says space is no longer going to be considered a “benign environment.” Instead, the Air Force will see it as a “war-fighting domain”– but space doesn’t need foot soldiers just yet, according to Goldfein.

“Anything that separates space and makes it unique and different, relative to all of the war-fighting missions that we perform that are reliant on space, I don’t think that will move us in the right direction at this time,” he told lawmakers during a hearing on Capitol Hill..

His comments come in response to Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee and two subcommittees for readiness and strategic forces.

Rogers wants to create a “Space Corps” — a new military branch for operations in Earth’s orbit.

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Rogers Congratulates Medal of Honor recipient Bennie G. Adkins outside the Pentagon. (Mike Rogers photo)

Despite the Air Force being a “world-class military service,” space should not be led by people who “get up each morning thinking about fighters and bombers…you cannot organize, train, and equip in space the way you do a fighter squad,” Rogers said at the 33rd Space Symposium, held in Colorado Springs.

The Alabama Congressman went on to note that of the Air Force’s 37 newest one-star generals, not one had extensive space experience – they are predominantly pilots.

Rogers called for a Space Corps within the Air Force that would one day break off to form its own branch, much like the Army Air Corps broke from the Army in 1947.

The Air Force is currently undergoing major organizational changes to address the concerns about which Rogers is most concerned, a change that Goldfein says will be significantly affected by the formation of a Space Corps.

This one South Carolina county raised 4 Medal of Honor recipients

“Whether there’s a time in our future when we want to take a look at this again, I would say that we probably ought to keep that dialogue open,” Goldfein said. “But right now, I think it would actually move us in the wrong direction.”

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This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

From May 26 to Jun. 4, 1940, one of the largest evacuations in human history saved approximately 338,000 Allied troops and gave the Allies the strength to continue resisting Adolph Hitler’s Third Reich.


The operation was more successful than the planners’ wildest dreams, partially because of the skill and bravery of boat crews and troops but also because of horrible decisions by the German high command.

The days leading up to the evacuation were characterized by one of the most effective German Blitzkriegs. British, Belgian, and French forces were falling back across France and a thrust by Germany through the Ardennes successfully cut the Allied force in half. By May 19, Britain was looking for ways to get its expeditionary force back across the channel.

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Troops line up on the beaches in hopes of rescue at Dunkirk. Photo: Imperial War Museum

A failed counterattack on May 21 sealed France’s fate but Germany’s advances made it appear impossible to stage a large evacuation. The Germans crossed the canals near Dunkirk by May 24 and were about to capture Dunkirk, the last port the British could feasibly use. Luckily, Hitler ordered his Panzers to stop advancing and to even fall back a short distance to the canals.

Hitler’s reasoning is a source of debate, but two main factors are thought to have been uppermost in his mind.

First, Hermann Goering may have been successful in his attempts to convince the fuhrer that the Luftwaffe could kill the troops on the beaches of Dunkirk . Also, there was a chance that Hitler believed that Britain was more likely to surrender if it hadn’t been embarrassed and didn’t have the slaughter of approximately 200,000 of its own troops to rally around.

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French troops fill a ship evacuating Dunkirk. Photo: Public Domain

Unfortunately for Hitler, Britain sent nearly the entirety of the Royal Air Force, including planes from the defensive-in-nature British Metropolitan Air Force, to cover Operation Dynamo. Working with French and British navy ships in the waters below, they were able to establish a weak air superiority over the beaches and parts of the channel, limiting the chances for the Luftwaffe to attack.

On May 25, King George VI declared a national day of prayer and attended a special service at Westminster Abbey. The next day, Operation Dynamo kicked off. Almost 400,000 British, Belgian, and French troops lined up in the water and on the beaches in hopes of rescue. Senior commanders were skeptical that they could get even 25 percent of them to safety.

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British troops walk through the water to waiting ships. Photo: Imperial War Museum

In a perimeter around Dunkirk, British and French units prepared to fight delaying actions, often to the last man, to give their buddies a chance to retreat. On May 26, these troops were sorely tested. The Belgian King Leopold, whose troops were cut off in small pockets and being quickly overwhelmed, surrendered to the Nazis and Hitler allowed the Panzers to attack Dunkirk.

As the tanks crashed against the defenders, the Royal Air Force and other planes desperately fought to keep the Nazis away from the ships. The Royal Navy was attempting to evacuate as many men as possible, but found itself unable to keep up.

British leaders finally announced to the public how desperate the situation on the beaches was. Dunkirk was burning to the ground and troops were being bombed on the sand and strafed as they stood neck-deep in the water. The public responded valiantly, cobbling together hundreds of privately-owned vessels to form a flotilla of “Little Ships” that became a symbol of British perseverance.

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Troops rescued from Dunkirk celebrate on their way to safety. Photo: Public Domain

The action drug on for days as six destroyers, eight personnel ships, and about 200 small craft were sunk and tens of thousands of men were killed or captured. But, 338,000 troops were rescued, approximately 140,000 from the British Expeditionary Force and 198,000 from the Polish, French, and Belgian armies. Forty-thousand were lost, either captured or killed.

In Britain, “Dunkirk Spirit” became a symbol of national pride, an embodiment of how Britons could come together to face down any foe and overcome any challenge. Prime Minister Winston Churchill spoke in the House of Commons, saying that Britain would fight on the beaches, on the landing grounds, in the fields, and in the streets.

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This German soldier received the same wounds in the same town as his father did 30 years earlier

In late 1944, German Pvt. Paul-Alfred Stoob was one of the many German troops quickly retreating from Allied forces. During his withdrawal, he was hit with fire from a Sherman tank and wounded in his head and leg. When he finally made it home to Germany, he learned that his father was also wounded in his head and leg in the exact same town in World War I.


Stoob was a Panther tank driver taking part in the general German withdrawal in 1944 before the Battle of the Bulge temporarily halted Germany’s loss in territory. After the Panther was destroyed by Allied fire, Stoob and the rest of his crew stole a truck and headed east towards Belgium.

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A World War II Panther tank in a museum. (Photo: Stahlkocher CC BY-SA 2.0)

According to his story in Stephen E. Ambrose’s “Citizen Soldiers: The U.S. Army from the Beaches of Normandy to the Surrender of Germany,” Stoob and his crew were struggling to find food and supplies during their escape.

They managed to scrape together bread and some eggs before lucking out and discovering a stash of delicacies abandoned by a German headquarters unit. Only a short time after they filled their truck with the fresh food, an American Sherman crew spotted them and opened fire. Stoob was hit in the head and leg, but still tried to escape.

This one South Carolina county raised 4 Medal of Honor recipients
The Sherman tank wasn’t known for its firepower, but it could easily deal with a few German dismounts. (Photo: U.S.Army)

He made for a nearby cemetery and attempted to use the gravestones as cover for his escape. Before he could get away, a French priest begged for him to stop and then went and got an American medic to tend to his wounds.

Stoob spent the rest of the war in a prisoner of war camp in the U.S. and didn’t make it home until 1947. That was when he learned that his father, a veteran of World War I, had been wounded in the same unnamed village in 1914, exactly 30 years before his son.

This one South Carolina county raised 4 Medal of Honor recipients
Then Lt. Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. stands with Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., the son of President Theodore Roosevelt and a Medal of Honor recipient who invaded two countries with his son because #squadgoals. (Photo: U.S. Army)

They weren’t the only father-son duo to bond over the course of the world wars. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. served with his brothers in World War I and then invaded North Africa and Normandy in World War II with his own son, Capt. Quentin Roosevelt II. Both Roosevelts were decorated for valor in the operations and Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. received the Medal of Honor posthumously for his role in the D-Day invasion.

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5 key differences between Army medics and Navy corpsmen

Walk into any military hospital, and you can usually get away with calling any of the medical personnel “Doc” if you’re unfamiliar with the individual military branches’ rank structure.


It happens all the time.

But bump into any Navy hospital corpsman and refer to him as a “medic,” and you’re going to get the stink-eye followed by a short and stern correction like, “I’m not a medic, I’m a corpsman.”

The fact is, both Army medics and Navy corpsmen provide the same service and deliver the best patient care they can muster. To the untrained civilian eye — and even to some in the military — there’s no difference between two jobs. But there is.

Related: This corpsman has 10 useful tips to assist a gunshot victim

We’re here to set the record straight. So check out these five things that separate Army medics and Navy corpsmen.

1. They’re from different branches

The biggest difference is the history and pride the individual branch has. Let’s be clear, it’s a significant and ongoing rivalry — but in the end, we all know they’re on the same team.

2. M.O.S. / Rate

Combat Medic Specialists hold the MOS (military occupational specialty) of 68 Whiskey — these guys and gals are well trained. They also have 18 Delta — designated for the special forces community.

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Combat Medics and Balad Airmen Deliver Medical Aid to Balad Iraqis

A Hospital Corpsman holds a rate of “0000” or “quad zero” after graduating “A” school. They then can go on to a “C” school to receive more specialized training like “8404” Field Medical Service Technician, where the sailor will usually find him or herself stationed with the Marines.

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HM3 Bradley Erickson cleans facial wounds for Lance Cpl. Timothy Mixon after an IED attack (Wiki Commons)

Both jobs are crucial on the battlefield.

3. Symbols

The Combat Medic Badge is awarded to any member of the Army Medical Department at the rank of Colonel or below who provided medical care to troops under fire.

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The “Caduceus” is the Navy Corpsman rating insignia.

This one South Carolina county raised 4 Medal of Honor recipients

Both symbols feature two snakes winding around a winged staff.

Also Read: This is why Navy medics get combat first aid training in US cities

 4. Deployments

Everyone’s going to deploy at on time or another — it’s a fundamental part of military life. But deployment tempo varies from branch to branch, so medics and corpsman have different experiences.

Now, combat medics typically deploy all over the world with their infantry units and assist with humanitarian efforts. 

Hospital corpsmen deploy on ships, as individual augmentees, and as support for Marines on combat operations.

This one South Carolina county raised 4 Medal of Honor recipients
Navy HM2 Gilbert Velez, assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment takes a knee on patrol. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Jeremy Harris)

5. Advance Training

Although both jobs take some serious training to earn their respected titles, the Navy takes double duty as many enlisted corpsmen become IDCs, or Independent Duty Corpsmen.

Considered the equal of a Physician’s Assistant in the civilian world (but their military credentials don’t carry over), IDCs in most cases are the primary caregiver while a ship is underway, or a unit is deployed. After becoming an IDC, the sailor is qualified to write prescriptions, conduct specific medical procedures, and treat many ailments during sick call.

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HM1 Class Shawn A. Fisher, right, independent duty corpsman assigned to the Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine USS Rhode Island (SSBN 740) shares information regarding nicotine gum with Petty Officer 3rd Class William Leach at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay Medical Clinic. (Photo by MC1 Erica R. Gardner)

If you’re interested in learning more about becoming an Army medic or Navy Corpsman — contact a local recruiter today.

Can you think of any other differences between Corpsmen and Medics? Comment below.

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Here’s the manual that Al Qaeda and ISIS use to brainwash people online

The US and other Western countries have been alarmed at how the Islamic State militant group has been able to lure teenagers and young people to the Middle East to join its ranks.


Rukmini Callimachi of The New York Times recently wrote about a 23-year-old American woman from Washington state who has been communicating with Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh) recruiters online.

The woman, “Alex,” showed Callimachi the messages and reading materials these recruiters had sent her, and their approach to grooming her seems textbook.

The Times notes that the tactics are similar to those laid out in an Al Qaeda manual called “A Course in the Art of Recruiting.” Though ISIS and Al Qaeda are now two separate organizations, ISIS recruiters seem to follow many of the same basic guidelines for luring people into their group and indoctrinating them. And with the rise of social media, reaching these recruits across the globe has become even easier.

The ISIS recruiters Alex connected with through social media built their relationships with her slowly. They started off by talking to her about Islam and gradually indoctrinated her to believe that the Western media had exaggerated ISIS atrocities.

While Al Qaeda seemed more cautious about whom it recruited, ISIS is more open. Its members communicate with people online, many of whom have never been to Muslim countries, and also target women, whom they marry to ISIS fighters in Syria and elsewhere.

Here’s a look at what the Al Qaeda training manual says about recruiting:

Extremists seek out non-religious people.

From the manual: “You should take precautions against the religious people whom you invite, because maybe they will reject the da’wa (invitation) and end up being the reason for our defeat.”

ISIS looks to manipulate those who are vulnerable and searching for meaning in their lives. Those who don’t know much about Islam can be easier to indoctrinate and less likely to push back on what they’re told.

The manual says nonreligious Muslim youths are preferred: “This is because you will be the one to guide him (i.e., this nonreligious Muslim) to the right path; and you can choose who you want to be with you in your brigade, God willing. This sector (contains candidates) without limit, especially the youths, who are the safest people (for recruitment), and all praise be to Allah. However, we must be careful, too.”

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A young ISIS supporter in Raqqa, Syria, in August. Photo: Youtube Screenshot/ Vice News

They also seek out students and people who are isolated, living away from big cities.

Jihadists go after people in isolated areas because they “have a natural disposition for the religion and it is easy to convince them and to shape them,” according to the manual.

High-school and college students are also prime targets. From the manual:

The university is like a place of isolation for a period of four, five, or six years and is full of youths (full of zeal, vigor, and anti-government sentiments). However, you should be careful because it is also full of spies.

[High school students] are young but tomorrow they will be adults, so if you don’t give them da’wa some one else will (but it will be for materialistic goals). However, don’t be in a hurry because haste in this matter might destroy the da’wa. The merits of this sector: 1. Often they have pure minds; 2. It is very safe to deal with them because they are not likely to be spies, especially after they pass the stage of individual da’wa.

The recruitment starts subtly as to not scare the person away.

“Be careful of talking about the problems of the Muslims from the beginning (of the relationship) so as not to make the relationship appear as your recruiting him,” the manual says. “He will say to himself, ‘you are doing all of this with me, just to recruit me, etc.’ Also, don’t rush anything because there will be a proper time for everything.

“Be careful not to talk about Al Qaeda, Salafi Jihadis, or any specific jihadi group in the first stages, but the da’ee (preacher) should speak about the mujahideen and the resistance fighters in general, because maybe this candidate loves the mujahideen but the media has distorted their image, especially Al Qaeda.”

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A book that an ISIS recruiter gave a 23-year-old woman in Washington state Photo: Screenshot / The New York Times

They ply recruits with jihadist propaganda.

“You should also make a schedule for him to listen to at least one lecture daily,” the manual says. “These lectures, books, and pamphlets must become his best friends.”

The manual also advises sending Islamic books and lectures on CDs. There’s a list of recommended reading, but the manual says recruiters shouldn’t show candidates any jihadi videos “except when his iman (faith) is at a high level, and when he is in a state of tranquility in order to have the best effect on him and on his heart.”

They exploit tragedies.

The manual tells recruiters to “use current events and/or horrible occasions (i.e., the siege of Gaza) to comment and explain the situation of the Muslims (according to the Islamic perspective).”

“Make most of your speech about Palestine,” the manual instructs. “This is because there is no disagreement (amongst the scholars and Muslims) about it, and it is dear to the Islamic nation. Also the rest of the arenas of Jihad have been distorted and misrepresented by the media in different percentages (i.e., the Jihad in Islamic Morocco has been greatly distorted, but the Jihad in Chechnya has been partially distorted).”

They become close to the recruits and strike up a friendship with them.

The manual advises: “Help to fulfill his needs. Be good with him even if he does something to harm/offend you, because everybody likes the person who does something good for them. Listen to him to get to know more about his personality. Take part with him in his good and bad times.”

Recruiters also stay in close contact — the manual instructs them to make sure they don’t go more than one week without reaching out to their recruit.

They reinforce the person’s good qualities and remind them of Islamic “paradise.”

From the manual: “Get to know his good morals and manners and praise them in front of him; also, tie these good morals and manners to Islam (i.e., make sure you explain to the candidate that his good morals and manners are found and promoted in Islam).

“Focus on At-Targheeb (teachings of the desiring for Paradise), but don’t completely leave At-Tarheeb (teachings of the terrifying punishments of the Hellfire). (You should spend more time reminding the candidate of Paradise and how to get there, than about Hellfire.)”

Once recruiters establish relationships with recruits, they start talking about jihad.

“The candidate should get to know most of the hadith of Jihad and Martyrdom by any means, until he desires and hopes for this,” the manual says. “This usually happens to the one who fears the punishments in the Hereafter. And when he knows that Jihad will rescue him from the horror of the Day of Judgment, the result will be that he desires and hopes for Jihad.”

During this stage, the recruiter also makes sure the recruit adheres to prayer times and reads the Quran.

They control the message.

Recruiters make sure not to veer off-message. They want to avoid creating doubt in the recruit.

The manual says an entrance could be made “through Current affairs; who knows, maybe a big operation will be performed in the near future.”

It continues:

A lot of Mujahideen brothers have had dreams about big operations. Also maybe more defamation against the Messenger (sws) will occur (so you can take advantage of this situation to speak about Jihad to the candidate). Or the candidate might see a meeting of the Mujahideen on any T.V. station, so you can let him hear this meeting which might cause him to love the Mujahideen.

Or you can let him watch a Jihad documentary on any TV Station (i.e. al Jazeera), such as documentaries on the Jihad in Iraq. Or you can let him watch documentaries on the lives of Mujahideen leaders, etc. All of this must bring about a benefit in the da’wa (calling) him to Jihad. And do your best to deter him from the TV channels of the hypocrites, like Al I’briya and others, as well as from any other media distortions (about Jihad).

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Photo: Youtube Screenshot/ Business Insider

“I say this about your coalition: you threaten us with your countries, bring every nation that you wish to us, bring every nation that you want to come and fight us. Whether it’s 50 nations or 50,000 nations it means nothing to us.”

ISIS is steadily attempting to build a “caliphate,” an Islamic empire that aims to unite the world’s Muslims under a single religious and political entity, in the Middle East, and the group has already seized large swaths of Iraq and Syria.

ISIS governs its territory according to a strict interpretation of Sharia law and convinces its recruits that they must move to the caliphate if they are able, lest they live among the “infidels” who persecute them in the West.

Westerners who convert to Islam to join ISIS are particularly valuable to the group because of the worldwide headlines they garner in the media.

ISIS plays the propaganda game well and sees recruitment as essential to the long-term survival of the group.

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This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.