The first female operator passed Naval Special Warfare training - We Are The Mighty
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The first female operator passed Naval Special Warfare training

On July 15, 2021, 17 sailors of Crewman Qualification Training Class 115 completed the assessment and selection to become Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen. Included in the class is NSW’s first female operator.

The first female operator passed Naval Special Warfare training
Cmdr. Brad Geary, NSW Basic Training Command commanding officer, addresses CQT Class 115 during their graduation ceremony (U.S. Navy)

SWCC is a special operations force under Naval Special Warfare Command that operates small watercraft to conduct special operations missions. Their exploits were highlighted in the 2012 film Act of Valor which featured active duty U.S. Navy SEALs and SWCC operators.

SEALs and SWCC go through similar but separate specialized training programs at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado. SWCC operators train extensively on watercraft and weapons tactics to facilitate infiltration and exfiltration of other special operators under any condition. Historically, only 35% of candidates complete the course to become operators. The SWCC motto is “On Time, On Target, Never Quit,” and they live up to every word.

The first female operator passed Naval Special Warfare training
When you need a treeline obliterated from the water, you call SWCC (U.S. Navy)

The graduation of the first female sailor from the SWCC course is a historic milestone for the Navy. “Becoming the first woman to graduate from a Naval Special Warfare training pipeline is an extraordinary accomplishment, and we are incredibly proud of our teammate,” said Rear Adm. H. W. Howard, commander, U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command. “Like her fellow operators, she demonstrated the character, cognitive and leadership attributes required to join our force.”

The first female operator passed Naval Special Warfare training
A SWCC graduate receives a compass prior to the ceremony (U.S. Navy)

Following graduation, the sailors will either report to a Special Boat Team or further specialized training. In addition to their watercraft and weapon skills, SWCC operators are required to possess a plethora of special operations skills like parachuting, medical treatment, navigation, and engineering.

Feature Image: U.S. Navy photo

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Prince Harry deploys with Team Rubicon UK

Team Rubicon launched what they call “Operation Nirman,” in mid-March 2016. The mission is to rebuild a school and restore services in areas of Central Nepal damaged by last year’s devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake. Team Rubicon members from the U.S., United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and Germany deployed to assist with Nirman. They will also receive help from the Prince of Wales.


Prince Harry is in the country on an official tour to see the many initiatives supporting the people of Nepal in the wake of the earthquake’s widespread destruction. After his official tour ends, the prince, himself an Afghan War veteran, will remain in Nepal with Team Rubicon on their relief efforts.

The first female operator passed Naval Special Warfare training
Harry visits 4-year-old Biplov Puri in the Kanti Childrens Hospital in Nepal. (Kensington Palace photo)

The 31-year-old royal is known for his dedication to veterans from all countries and  his support for tackling the challenges they face. He runs  the Endeavor Fund with his brother, Prince William and his wife, Princess Catherine. Endeavor Fund is a UK-based nonprofit to help service members overcome these challenges while “keeping Armed Forces issues in the public consciousness.”

The first female operator passed Naval Special Warfare training
Prince Harry on patrol through the deserted town of Garmisir close to FOB Delhi, Helmand, Afghanistan in 2008.

Prince Harry will be embedded with a group of Team Rubicon volunteers in a remote village to help with the reconstruction of the new school. The team will trek into the mountains of Central Nepal with all the necessary equipment to assist the local community in repairing and rebuilding their school.

The first female operator passed Naval Special Warfare training
Harry while visiting Leorani, a village in Central Nepal, as he made his way through the mountains to rendezvous with Team Rubicon UK. (Kensington Palace photo)

Since the earthquake struck, students have been taking their classes in makeshift classrooms made of poles, tarps, and tin sheets. These temporary facilities will provide little defense against the difficult weather conditions in the rainy season to come.

“The people I have met and the beauty of this country make it very hard to leave,” Prince Harry said. “The team I’m joining will be working with the community to rebuild a school damaged in the earthquake. I’m so grateful to have this opportunity to do my small bit to help.”

Team Rubicon UK was formed in response to the Nepal earthquake. General Sir Nick Parker, former Commander in Chief of the UK Land Forces and now Chairman of Team Rubicon UK, called for veterans in the United Kingdom to volunteer their time and skills in the immediate aftermath. A team quickly joined their Team Rubicon USA counterparts to provide medical aid, search and rescue support, and translation assistance in several remote regions of Nepal.

The first female operator passed Naval Special Warfare training
Former British Army gunner Christopher Lyon cleans up a local playground in Shermathang, Sinduhupalchok. (Team Rubicon photo)

By the end of the 2015, Team Rubicon UK responded to calls for help after floods in Cumbria and Yorkshire, as well as undertaking rebuilding projects in Nepal and the Philippines.

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Iraqi pilot killed in F-16 crash during training in southeastern Arizona

An Iraqi student pilot was killed when an F-16 jet crashed during a training mission in southeastern Arizona, authorities said Sept. 6.


First Lt. Lacey Roberts of the Arizona Air National Guard’s 162nd Wing said the Air Force has activated a team to investigate the crash, which occurred Sept. 5 about 80 miles (129 kilometers) northwest of Tucson.

The pilot’s identity was not released. His death was the second of an Iraqi pilot flying an F-16 that crashed in Arizona in recent years.

The first female operator passed Naval Special Warfare training
USAF photo by Senior Master Sgt. Gary J. Rihn

Roberts said the plane belonged to the Iraqi air force and that the routine training mission was being conducted in conjunction with the 162nd Wing, which is based at Tucson International Airport.

The US military is training Iraqi pilots to fly F-16s at the request of Iraq’s government, Roberts said.

In July 2015, an Iraqi brigadier general flying from the 162nd died when his F-16, a newer model recently delivered to the Iraqi air force, crashed during night training near Douglas.

The first female operator passed Naval Special Warfare training
US Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Hayden Johnson

In January 2016, a Taiwanese pilot on a training flight from Luke Air Force Base near Phoenix was killed when his F-16 went down in Yavapai County.

The 162nd Wing is the Air Guard’s biggest F-16 training operation and conducts training missions across military ranges in southern and central Arizona.

The wing has hosted training for allied nations since 1990 and trained pilots from nations such as Iraq, Singapore, Poland, Norway, Denmark, Oman, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

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NASA wants veteran military officers for a yearlong, simulated Mars mission

In 1969, Americans became the first to go to the Moon. In the 21st century, America is determined to return to the Moon and go on to Mars. In preparation for Mars missions, NASA needs to replicate living on the red planet and study “how highly motivated individuals respond under the rigor of a long-duration, ground-based simulation.” Who better to take on such a challenge than military veterans? After all, over half of the Artemis team, NASA’s program to return to the moon, are veterans.

The first female operator passed Naval Special Warfare training
A render of the Mars Dune Alpha at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (NASA/ICON)

NASA is seeking applicants to serve as crew members in a one-year long analog mission. Volunteers will live in a habitat simulating life on Mars. The mission series, known as Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog, includes three separate simulations at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. According to NASA, CHAPEA will “support research to develop methods and technologies to prevent and resolve potential problems on future human spaceflight missions to the Moon and Mars.”

The first female operator passed Naval Special Warfare training
The Martian surface as captured by the Perseverance rover (NASA)

Crew selection follows the standard NASA criteria for astronaut applicants. Participants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents, non-smokers, 30 to 55 years old, and proficient in English in order to effectively communicate with their fellow crew members and mission control. NASA requires a master’s degree in a STEM field with at least two years of professional STEM experience or a minimum of 1,000 flight hours. However, applicants who have completed two years of work toward a doctoral STEM program, completed a medical degree, or a test pilot program will also be considered. Finally, applicants with four years of professional experience who have completed military officer training or possess a STEM Bachelor of Science also meet the application requirements.

The first female operator passed Naval Special Warfare training
A render of the Mars Dune Alpha on Mars (NASA/ICON)

The rest of the application process includes medical evaluations, psychological testing and a psychiatric screening to ensure that applicants can meet the physical and mental demands of long-term isolation. NASA notes that special dietary requirements like allergies and intolerances are disqualifying factors since they cannot be accommodated for on long-term missions. Specific medications like blood thinners and daily insulin will also disqualify candidates. Finally, applicants must not be prone to motion sickness while using virtual reality equipment.

The first female operator passed Naval Special Warfare training
NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover (NASA)

If selected, participants will live and work with three other crew members in the Mars Dune Alpha, a 1,700-square-foot model 3-D printed by ICON for NASA. Their habitat will test crew members by simulating the challenges associated with a Mars mission. This includes, but is not limited to, limited resources, equipment failure, communications delays, and environmental stressors. During their yearlong simulation, crew members will simulate spacewalks, conduct scientific research, exchange communications, and employ virtual reality and robotic controls. The results of the simulation will provide NASA with valuable scientific data to validate systems for future missions and develop solutions to problems that they encounter.

The first female operator passed Naval Special Warfare training
CHAPEA will be the closest thing to space exploration without a blast off (NASA)

Interested parties can apply to CHAPEA on NASA’s website. The selection process may take up to 13 months with the simulation scheduled to begin in Fall 2022.

Feature Image: NASA photo

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This Navy SEAL will receive posthumous promotion

The Navy announced Thursday that a SEAL killed in action last week will be posthumously advanced to senior chief petty officer.


The first female operator passed Naval Special Warfare training

Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens, 36, of Peoria, Illinois, died Jan. 29, 2017, in the Arabian Peninsula of Yemen, of wounds sustained in a raid against al-Qaida.

The Navy approved an exception to policy request for Owens’ posthumous advancement, effective the day of his death.

Owens was eligible for the fiscal year 2018 active duty Senior Chief Petty Officer Selection Board, which will convene in April.

Also read: US Army gives heroic Marine a posthumous medal upgrade to Silver Star

For more news from Chief of Naval Personnel, visit www.navy.mil/local/cnp/.

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Aerial footage of the Abraham Lincoln super carrier drifting

Considered one of the most technologically advanced ships in the Navy’s arsenal, the USS Abraham Lincoln is the fifth ship built in the Nimitz-class of aircraft carriers.


Originally costing nearly three billion dollars in the mid-’80s, the carrier was christened and launched by Newport News Shipbuilding under the command of Capt. J. J. Dantone.

Do you remember when former President George W. Bush gave a speech congratulating America for completing the mission in Iraq back in 2003? That took place aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln (and is probably a moment the former POTUS would probably like to take back for obvious reasons but let’s stay on track here).

 

The first female operator passed Naval Special Warfare training
The mission hasn’t been accomplished, at least not yet.

In May of 2017, the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier was redelivered back to the Navy after undergoing nearly a four-year mid-life Refueling and Complex Overhaul.

Approximately 2.5 million hours of labor were committed to the overhaul and restoration of this legendary aircraft carrier.

The first female operator passed Naval Special Warfare training
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) busting an epic U-turn in the Atlantic Ocean. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

 

The vessel’s upgrades include various repairs and replacements of ventilation, electrical, propellers, rudders, and combat and aviation support systems.

With the innovated modification to the rudders and propellers, the USS Abraham Lincoln can now tactfully turn around with minimal support.

Check out Ultimate Military Channel‘s video below to watch this impressive aircraft carrier drift for yourself.

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This was the youngest soldier wounded in the Civil War

Underage soldiers were often allowed to enlist during the Civil War — especially if they chose a non-combat position such as bugler or drummer boy. This led to boys barely in their teens suffering wounds alongside the grown men.


In one case, a 12-year-old boy nearly lost his left hand and arm when it was shattered by an artillery shell.

The first female operator passed Naval Special Warfare training
Drummer boy William Black was wounded by a Confederate shell in battle at the age of 12 making him the youngest service member wounded in the Civil War. (Photo: Matthew Brady, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

William Black originally enlisted at the age of 9 in an Indiana Regiment as a drummer in 1861 and served at the Battle of Baton Rouge with his father.

Sometime in 1864, he was serving in battle when an artillery shell burst nearby. The shrapnel ripped through his left hand and arm. He is widely regarded as having been the youngest Civil War casualty.

But he was far from the only young boy to earn notoriety in the Civil War. The Army’s youngest noncommissioned officer was John Clem. Clem joined the Army at 11 as a drummer boy but was gifted a cut-down musket by his unit. He allegedly shot a Confederate officer demanding his surrender at Chickamauga and was promoted to sergeant at the age of 12.

The first female operator passed Naval Special Warfare training
John Lincoln Clem as a young drummer boy. (Photo: Library of Congress)

At least two young boys earned Medals of Honor in the war. Orion P. Howe was a 14-year-old drummer boy in 1863 when he delivered ammo under fire at the battle of Vicksburg. He was wounded during his attempt but pressed on, completing his mission.

Bugle player John Cook dropped his instrument and joined a cannon crew under fire at Antietam, helping the Union hold the line against Confederate forces attempting to invade North.

And Black wasn’t the worst wounded of young boys, just the youngest. John Mather Sloan lost a leg in the war while he was only 13 years old.

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4 actions to take before leaving the military

The first female operator passed Naval Special Warfare training
Photo: US Army Cpl. Carol A. Lehman


The months and weeks leading up to separation or retirement can be exciting and terrifying. Some of you have a post-military career lined up, and others of you are faced with the overwhelming reality that there is no obvious and predictable next step.

To ensure you control as much of the career transition process as possible, you will need to do some deep thinking, self-reflection, and self-marketing to make yourself attractive to potential employers. Whether you are starting your own business, working for the government, joining a non-profit organization, or seeking employment in a private company, here are four important actions you can take to position yourself for success:

1. Define your goal and set a strategy

Defining your career goal to closely tie to the industry or job you are pursuing. For instance, if you want to be a journalist, it would help if your first job was in writing or editorial work. Your strategy might include getting connected to influencers and decision makers in journalism or publishing, demonstrating your abilities (perhaps you’ll write a blog, publish an article or write an essay showing your skills), and preparing a portfolio of your work that highlights your abilities and talents.

Next, get more detailed in your plan. Your first step might be to get lists of key publications you would like to work for, identifying the right person to contact for an informational interview (see number 3 below), and reading through their website to understand the opportunities and challenges facing that publication.

2. Make yourself findable online

As you transition out of military service (even if you will join the Guard and Reserve), your social networking will evolve. Now, more than ever, pay attention to your online presence. Recruiters, employers and hiring managers scour online profiles to find potential candidates, evaluate them, and find consistency in their values, experience, and talents.

Follow these rules to make yourself findable online:

    • Create a profile that genuinely represents you. From your headshot to your summary of your experiences and goals, make sure you represent your goals and values authentically. Recruiters are looking for real people with real ideas and credible experience.
    • Work your online networks. Platforms like Monster.com, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter are best used for business and career, so keep them professional. Have a plan for adding your voice to important conversations, and building your visibility in key groups and forums where recruiters for companies in your target industries participate.
    • Remember that everything you post is public. Nothing typed into or shared on a computer, smart phone, or tablet is private – ever! Anyone can share a screen shot of your instant message or “offline” post. Assume the hiring manager for your dream job is seeing that photo or that post… would they still want to hire you?

3. Request informational interviews

Instead of asking for a job, consider asking professionals for informational interviews. This type of meeting is an opportunity for you to spend 15-30 minutes with people in the industries, companies, or jobs you want to pursue, asking them about their field, career and insights. Because you are not asking for employment, it is a more relaxed meeting where you might inquire: “How did you get into this career?” or “Where do you see this industry headed over the next 10 years?”

4. Enlist champions

Use the contacts you make in the informational interviews, online connections, and mentors you connected with during your service to become your advocates. They can write your recommendations, introduce you to key contacts that might be helpful to your strategy, and endorse you when asked about your talents, character, and skills.

Nurture the relationship with your champions – send handwritten notes to say thank you, and let them know what you’re up to (successes and frustrations). Keep your energy level high and optimistic in your communications with them; people want to back a winner, so make sure you communicate that you are a good investment for them to support.

The transition process is not easy. Even those who have a career path lined up after taking off the uniform will find many nuances of the civilian work place different, frustrating and exciting. Start with a strategy for building your career, instead of just finding “a job” and you will reap the rewards of your hard work!

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Why handling battlefield casualties was so gruesome during the Civil War

The Civil War produced casualties and war dead on a level previously unencountered by Americans and it was all happening in their farms, fields and in some cases, literally their own backyards. 

Maj. William Childs said after the Battle of Antietam that the days following a battle are always worse than the battle itself. The war killed some 600,000 Americans and turned entire geographic areas into cemeteries. 

When the battle was over and the smoke cleared, these battlefields were littered with thousands of dead and dying bodies, as can be seen in the photographs by Mathew Brady. Someone had to bury the war dead. Often this fell to Black soldiers and servants, in some cases the Union used hired labor but it could also be handled by anyone, including the local townspeople. 

At the beginning of the Civil War, there was no set of rules in place governing the handling of dead and wounded for either side of the war. For a wounded soldier, the enemy wasn’t the only concern. They lay among the dead and the pestilence and disease breeding around them. They also had to worry about wild animals. Wounded troops lying on the battlefield might sometimes be moved, but they might not.

The first female operator passed Naval Special Warfare training
National Archives/ Mathew Brady

A post-battle truce could take place after a battle, but that was entirely at the discretion of the leaders of the opposing forces. Sometimes a truce was called to collect and bury the dead, sometimes it was refused. 

In 1862, the Army of the Potomac finally enacted a policy of handling the dead and dying, establishing the first ambulance corps. It wasn’t until 1864 when the same policy was adopted throughout the Union Army, which established who, when and where they could operate on the field after the battle. 

For anyone doing the burial, this could be gruesome work. They often did not have the tools they needed for the job, sometimes even foregoing carts or shovels. Burying thousands of men killed in combat took an extraordinarily long time, especially without the right tools for the job.

The dead of the Civil War were also not afforded coffins. There just weren’t enough available nor was there a distribution system in place to get them to the battlefields. The armies had other, more pressing concerns. Soldiers were buried at the discretion of whoever had come to bury them. They could sometimes be buried with reverence, sometimes with haste, other times buried after being stripped of their possessions and clothing.  

The first female operator passed Naval Special Warfare training
Some of the more “fortunate” who were given hospital beds
(National Archives/ Mathew Brady)

With the bodies lying where they fell as people worked to dig their graves, the decaying bodies often sat in the sun and other elements awaiting their final resting place. The smell of the decay was so terrible and risk of disease so great that sometimes individual graves had to be discarded in favor of a large trench to place all the bodies. 

Even once the bodies were buried, they might still need to be reburied. After the Battle of Gettysburg, a fight that killed around 50,000, they attempted to bury the dead where they fell in individual graves. They eventually had to forgo that in favor of a trench due to the number of bodies. Those that were buried individually were not buried deep enough and body parts soon began to breach the surface and had to be reburied. 

As a result, mass graves became used more and more, often dug by the winning side, in haste to press their advantage. These holes could be very shallow, with not much cover on them. The dead would be revealed years later, as dogs and pigs dug them up, the topsoil eroded or were otherwise revealed by the elements. 

Those with the means were able to have their loved ones’ remains returned for a proper funeral service and burial in a cemetery. Eventually Congress passed legislation in 1867 that allowed for the dead to be reburied in national cemeteries following the war, complete with fences, markers and a registry of those buried. 

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Chuck Hagel’s Really Nice Resignation Message To The Troops

The first female operator passed Naval Special Warfare training


The White House announced the resignation of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel today — a surprise to many who’d come to respect the Vietnam-era veteran as a man of the troops.  Whatever the politics, Hagel has always conducted himself with the sort of dignity that’s evident in his official message to the military that was just released through DoD channels. Here it is:

To the men and women of the Department of Defense:

I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know that this morning, President Obama accepted my letter of resignation. I have agreed to continue to serve as Secretary of Defense until my successor is confirmed by the United States Senate.

You should know I did not make this decision lightly. But after much discussion, the President and I agreed that now was the right time for new leadership here at the Pentagon.

I want you to know that I am immensely proud of what we have accomplished together. We have prepared ourselves, our Allies and the Afghan National Security Forces for a successful transition in Afghanistan. We have taken the fight to ISIL and, with our Iraqi and coalition partners, have blunted the momentum of this barbaric enemy. We have come to the aid of millions of people around the world who have suffered the ravages of natural disaster and of disease. We have worked tirelessly to sustain our all-volunteer force that has given so much during 13 years of war. And we have bolstered enduring alliances and strengthened emerging partnerships, all the while setting in motion important reforms that will prepare this institution for the challenges facing us in the decades to come.

Most importantly, we have helped keep this country and our fellow citizens safe. We have sustained the blessings of liberty our ancestors secured and upheld the oath we took.

That work will continue. It must continue. The world is still too dangerous, the threats too numerous, for us to lose focus. And even as I promised the President my full support going forward, so, too, do I promise that I will work hard to support you right up until my last day in office. I owe you that.

There will be time later to say farewell. For now, please know how much I respect and admire your service and that of your families. As I gather with my own family this Thanksgiving holiday — a luxury I realize not all of you will enjoy — it will be the privilege of having worked with you these last two years for which I will be most grateful.

Thank you for all you do for this country. God bless you. Happy Thanksgiving.

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This badass was a Legionnaire, OSS officer, US Marine, and Hollywood heartthrob

Most people would be grateful to experience any one of the occupations listed above–French Foreign Legionnaire, wartime spy, US Marine, or Hollywood heartthrob, but because Pierre (Peter) Julien Ortiz was not “most people,” he chose to immerse himself in all four.


The man who would become the most-decorated member of the Office of Strategic Services and one of the most decorated US Marines in World War II was born in New York City in 1913, to a French father who had a strong Spanish background, and an American mother.

The young Peter–once described as “tall, handsome, urbane, and sophisticated”–had many influential connections in French society and was a student in Grenoble when he decided to trade the tranquil life of a college student for something more exciting–a five-year enlistment in the French Foreign Legion. He enlisted in 1932 in the name of his Polish girlfriend.

The first female operator passed Naval Special Warfare training
Photo courtesy of the CIA

Peter rose from private to sergeant and was offered a permanent commission as a second lieutenant–if he would re-enlist for five years and agree to eventually become a naturalized French citizen.

He refused and instead returned to the United States. Peter had, however, made quite the impression–he had fought with the Legion in several engagements in Africa with the indigenous Rif tribesmen, had been wounded in 1933, and came home with a chest full of medals, including two awards of the Croix de Guerre.

Upon his return, he joined his mother in California, serving as a technical advisor for war films until the outbreak of World War II in Europe, which–since the United States was still neutral in 1939–prompted Peter to return to the Legion in October of that year, as a sergeant.

 

The first female operator passed Naval Special Warfare training
The French ‘Croix de Guerre’. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

 

By May 1940, he had received a battlefield commission but became a POW in June 1940 during the Battle of France when he was wounded while blowing up a fuel dump.

When he learned that some gasoline had not been blown up before the Germans arrived, he commandeered a motorcycle and returned to the area, drove through the German camp, destroyed the gasoline dump, and was returning to his own lines when he was shot in the hip, making him easy to capture.

Only the skill of a German POW camp surgeon kept him from being paralyzed.

Shifted between POW camps in Germany, Poland, and Austria for 15 months, he attempted escape on several occasions, finally successful in October 1941, fleeing to the United States by way of Lisbon, Portugal.

The first female operator passed Naval Special Warfare training
Photo licensed by Wikimedia Commons

Debriefed by both Army and Navy intelligence officers, he was promised a commission–as he had been by both the Free French and the British in Portugal. He longed to wear a US military uniform.

By June 1942, after a visit with his mother and hearing nothing about the commission, he enlisted in the US Marine Corps and was sent to Parris Island, South Carolina for boot camp.

Predictably, his numerous French military decorations caused him to stand out in formation, so much so that the Chief of Staff at the Recruit Depot wrote the USMC Commandant about Peter, enclosing copies of his French military awards, along with his application for a commission.

On August 1, 1942, Private Ortiz became 2nd Lt. Ortiz and became an assistant training officer at Parris Island.

Then dispatched to join the 23d Marines at Camp Lejeune, NC, he was–in a decision that only makes sense to military veterans–sent to jump school, despite already being a highly-decorated combat veteran and long-time paratrooper.

The first female operator passed Naval Special Warfare training
Photo licensed under Wikimedia Commons

Peter’s native French language capability, combined with his French Foreign Legion experience attracted the attention of influential senior Marines, one of whom wrote, “The rather unique experiences and qualifications of Lieutenant Ortiz indicate that he would be of exceptional value to American units operating in North Africa.”

And so it was–on December 3, 1942, now-Captain Ortiz was ordered to Tangier, Morocco for duty as the assistant naval attaché. In reality, his mission was to organize Arab tribesmen to observe German forces on the Tunisian border.

In a personal encounter with a German patrol, which he dispersed with the liberal use of grenades, Peter was wounded again, and spent time recuperating in an Algiers hospital, wearing his newly-awarded Purple Heart medal.

Peter Ortiz returned to the United States to recuperate in April 1943 and the next month was assigned to the Naval Command of OSS; one of only 80 USMC officers who served in the OSS during the war.

The first female operator passed Naval Special Warfare training
Photo licensed under Wikimedia Commons

By July, he was in London pending assignment to France. His mission was to evaluate the strength and capabilities of the local resistance movement in the Vercors area of the Haute Savoie, a region in southeastern France, and then organize and arm the Maquis in preparation for the long-awaited D-Day assault.

The mechanism used to achieve this goal was an inter-allied team of British, French, and American agents, known as UNION–Colonel Pierre Fourcaud represented the Free French forces, former schoolmaster Col. H.H.A. Thackwaite for the British Special Operations Executive, and Peter Ortiz for the OSS/Special Operations as the US representative.

Team members parachuted into France in civilian clothes, per Special Operations Executive standard practice, later changing into their uniforms: the first Allied officers to appear in uniform in France since 1940.

Peter and his teammates found a challenging situation on the ground–a shortage of money and transportation, poor security, few military supplies, and a general lack of willingness on the part of politically-divided resistance groups to work together.

The first female operator passed Naval Special Warfare training
Haute Savoie, France. Photo licensed by Wikimedia Commons

In May, the group was withdrawn to England pending reassignment.

Promoted to Major and awarded the first of two Navy Crosses he would earn, Peter returned to France on August 1, 1944, as the head of a mission known as Union II, an OSS Operational Group.

Rather than engage in espionage and intelligence collection, the heavily-armed OGs were to engage in “direct action,” meaning sabotage and preventing retreating German units from destroying key installations.

Accompanying Peter–code-named “Chambellan”–were five Marines, a Free French officer carrying false papers identifying him as a Marine, and an Army Air Forces captain.

In a chance encounter in Albertville with several hundred troops of the German 157th Alpine Reserve Division, Peter and his small team were soon overwhelmed.

The first female operator passed Naval Special Warfare training

Aware of several recent incidents of German slaughter of French townspeople and faced with the threat of German reprisals, Peter decided only surrender would spare the local populace from the wrath of the German forces.

Following his surrender on August 16, Peter was dispatched to the naval POW camp Marlag / Milag Nord, located in the small German village of Westertimke, near Bremen, in northern Germany.

He made repeated attempts to escape, until Apr 10, 1945, when the camp was hastily evacuated and he was able to slip away as a column of Spitfires attacked the retreating Germans.

After hiding for 10 days, Peter and two fellow POWs decided they would be better off back in their POW barracks and so returned there on April 27–two days before the camp was liberated by the British 7th Guards Armored Division.

The freed Peter was then transported to Brussels and back to London, where he was awarded his second Navy Cross.

Records of the OSS indicate that Peter was actually nominated for the Medal of Honor instead of a second Navy Cross, one of the few ever so honored: no OSS member has ever been awarded the Medal of Honor.

The first female operator passed Naval Special Warfare training
Photo licensed by Wikimedia Commons

With the war over, Peter returned to “Tinseltown,” to work as a technical advisor to the movie industry again – and also as an actor.

Peter was good friends with fellow OSS veteran and renowned Hollywood director John Ford, and played minor roles in several of Ford’s John Wayne films, including Rio Grande, in which he played “Captain St. Jacques.”

As one biographer noted, however, “He wasn’t the greatest of actors, and he never really liked seeing the movies he was in.”

He continued in the Marine Corps Reserve, achieving the rank of lieutenant colonel.

In April 1954, with Indochina heating up, he wrote a letter to the USMC Commandant, offering his services as a Marine observer there; the USMC response was ‘current military policies will not permit the assignment requested.”

The first female operator passed Naval Special Warfare training
Publicity still from Rio Grande (1950). Photo from Wikimedia Commons

 

In March 1955, the 41-year-old highly-decorated Marine who had already lived several lives’ worth of excitement, retired and was promoted to colonel on the retired list as a decorated combat veteran.

He was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour by the French government, another in a long list of awards, including his two Navy Crosses, the Croix de Guerre with five citations, the Legion of Merit with a combat “Valor” device, and selection as a Member of the Order of British Empire (Military Division).

Peter moved to Prescott, Arizona, where he succumbed to cancer at the Veterans Medical Center on May 16, 1988, at the age of 75. He was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery , his graveside service attended by military representatives from the United States, United Kingdom, France, and the French Foreign Legion. He was survived by his wife and his son, also a US Naval Academy graduate and USMC Major.

The wide swath that Peter cut during his life ensured that he would be remembered, at least by some, afterwards.

In 1994, commemoration ceremonies were conducted in each of two French towns where Peter fought–invited to the ceremonies were his wife, their son, and two of the enlisted Marines under his command in France.

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Centron, France, from above. Photo from Google Maps

One of the two towns, Centron, unveiled a plaque naming the town center “Place Peter Ortiz.”

As side tribute, during the CBS coverage of the 1994 Winter Olympics in Albertville, Charles Kuralt narrated a 20-minute segment on the fascinating life of Peter Ortiz. He has been featured in several USMC publications and in at least one monograph– Ortiz: To Live a Man’s Life by Laura Homan Lacey and John W. Brunner, and a 1958 magazine article by Walter Wager entitled ” They Called Him the Widow Maker–the Fantastic Saga of Pete Ortiz : WWII’s Most Incredible Spy.”

As late USMC historian Benis Frank has written, “Peter Julien Ortiz was a man among men. It is doubtful that his kind has been seen since his time.”

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The US Navy built 12 concrete ships for World War I

During World War I, steel for building ships was in short supply.


While American President Woodrow Wilson was determined to keep the U.S. out of the war, he didn’t want America’s Merchant Marine to be left unbuilt. So he approved the construction of 24 ships made from concrete to the tune of $50 million ($11.4 billion adjusted for inflation) to help build American shipping capacity.

Concrete, while cheap and readily available, is expensive to build and operate when it comes to ships. They need thick hulls, which means less room for cargo. Only 12 were ever built and by the time they were ready, the Great War was over.

A website dedicated to this “experiment in ship building,” ConcreteShips.org, keeps track of what happened to these 12 innovations.

SS Atlantus

The Atlantus was a steamer that was sold as a ferry landing ship. Before she could ever be used for that, she broke free during a storm and grounded near Cape May, New Jersey, in 1926.

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The Atlantus in 1926.

She’s been falling apart ever since but what’s left can still be seen from shore.

SS Cape Fear

A good example of the drawbacks of using concrete for shipbuilding, the Cape Fear ran into a cargo ship in Rhode Island, shattered, and then sank with 19 crewmen lost.

SS Cuyamaca

The Cuyamaca was stripped down in New Orleans after she was built. She was then converted into an oil barge. Like other concrete ships hauling oil in the Gulf of Mexico, not much is known about her final resting place.

SS Dinsmore

Artificial structures sunk in coastal areas protect the coasts from negative effects due to weather and the spread of sediment. The Dinsmore is living on in this regard. She was sunk to be a breakwater in the Gulf of Mexico.

SS Latham

The Latham also became an oil barge, storing oil pumped in the Gulf of Mexico. While transporting oil pipes, she hit a jetty and nearly sank. She’s now floating around the Gulf somewhere, storing oil.

SS Moffitt

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SS Moffitt being launched.

Moffitt is another oil barge off the coast of New Orleans.

SS Palo Alto

This ship was turned into a dance club and restaurant in California. It featured an arcade and a swimming pool before the company that ran the place collapsed in the Great Depression.

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The Palo Alto (used by permission)

When a storm cracked her across the middle, the Palo Alto became a fishing pier.

SS Peralta

Now in British Columbia, Canada, the Peralta spent time as a floating fish cannery and is now a floating breakwater. She’s the only one of the 12 still afloat.

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The SS Peralta (photo by Scott J. Lowe)

The Peralta is also the largest concrete ship still afloat anywhere in the world. She protects the log storage pond of a Canadian paper company.

SS Polias

After hitting an underwater ledge, Polias shattered and sank off the coast of Maine. Fourteen crewmen died trying to abandon ship.

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A 1924 hurricane further shattered her wreck. What remains is off the coast of Port Clyde, Maine.

SS San Pasqual

When the San Pasqual ran aground off Cuba, no one was inclined to dig her out. She stayed there and became a depot ship and then a prison. Now, she’s a 10 room hotel.

SS Sapona

Originally sold for scrap, Sapona was converted into an offshore liquor warehouse during Prohibition. She was grounded off the coast of Bimini, an island of the Bahamas, during a hurricane. The stern broke off, destroying the rum running owner’s stock and leaving him penniless.

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The Sapona in 2009

The Army Air Forces and Navy used Sapona for target practice during WWII.

SS Selma

Called the “Flagship of Texas,” the Selma was an oil tanker that hit a jetty off the coast of Tampico, Florida. The government sent Selma to Galveston for repairs, but the shipwrights had no experience with concrete. She was taken to Pelican Island, Texa in 1922, where she sits today.

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The SS Selma in Galveston (photo by John Wiley)

The Texas Army named her its flagship 70 years later.

NOW WATCH:

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North Korea claims credit for major cyber attacks

In a shocking new revelation, a former computer expert from North Korea has exposed the role played by Pyongyang’s spy agency in some of the most successful cyber attacks.


In the wake of the WannaCry attack that rattled the world, affecting over 150 countries, security experts had raised doubts about North Korea’s intelligence agency Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB) being behind the attack.

Now, Kim Heung-kwang, a former computer science professor in North Korea has stated in an interview with Reuters that the cyber attacks allegedly by North Korea were masterminded by Unit 180.

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A large scale cyber-attack was launched in waves against Dyn, an infrastructure company who monitors 150 companies, 77 of which were impacted.

Unit 180 is a special cell that is part of North Korea’s elite cyber warfare group, the Reconnaissance General Bureau.

The attacks, Heung-kwang believes, were aimed at raising money as dozens of countries impose sanctions on North Korea due to its ever-expanding nuclear weapons program, which has not only threatened peace on the Korean peninsula but has become a global threat.

According to Heung-kwang, “Unit 180 is engaged in hacking financial institutions (by) breaching and withdrawing money out of bank accounts.”

He further added, “The hackers go overseas to find somewhere with better internet services than North Korea so as not to leave a trace.”

He explained that the hackers might be heading to other countries as employees of trading firms or overseas branches of North Korean companies or joint ventures in China and Southeast Asia.

Also read: The US is amping up its cyber war force

Meanwhile, James Lewis, an expert at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, has said that Pyongyang has previously used hacking for espionage and political harassment against South Korea and U.S.

Lewis explained, “They changed after Sony by using hacking to support criminal activities to generate hard currency for the regime. So far, it’s worked as well or better as drugs, counterfeiting, smuggling — all their usual tricks.”

Further, in a report submitted to Congress, the U.S. Department of Defense said that North Korea likely “views cyber as a cost-effective, asymmetric, deniable tool that it can employ with little risk from reprisal attacks, in part because its networks are largely separated from the internet.”

The report added, “It is likely to use internet infrastructure from third-party nations.”

Some officials in South Korea even claim to have considerable evidence of North Korea’s cyber attacks.

Ahn Chong-ghee, South Korea’s vice foreign minister said in a statement, “North Korea is carrying out cyber attacks through third countries to cover up the origin of the attacks and use their information and communication technology infrastructure.”

According to a former South Korean police researcher, Yoo Dong-ryul, Malaysia has been a base for North Korean cyber operations.

Further, Michael Madden, an expert on the North Korean leadership, said Unit 180 was one among several elite cyber warfare groups in the North Korean intelligence community.

In June 2016, law enforcement officials in Seoul accused North Korea of hacking over 140,000 computers at 160 South Korean companies and government agencies and planting malicious code as part of a long-term plan to lay the groundwork for a massive cyber attack.

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