Leonard Matlovich joined the Air Force in 1963. He served three tours in Vietnam, volunteering for all of them. The son of an Air Force Chief, his service record was nothing short of exemplary. The only problem was that Matlovich was gay in the military at a time when discrimination was accepted practice.
Leonard Matlovich enlisting in the U.S. Air Force, CMSgt Matlovich by his side. (leonardmatlovich.com)
Matlovich might seem like an anomaly by today’s standards. He was a conservative Republican and a staunch Catholic who hated the reforms of Vatican II. He even converted to Mormonism later in his service.
In 1966, he received an Air Force Commendation Medal for bravery during a mortar attack. He personally ran to the base perimeter to bolster the defenses there and help tend to the wounded.
He was innovative and dedicated. An electrician, he came up with a nighttime lighting system for base perimeters that inhibited the ability of North Vietnamese snipers to target the base population. Matlovich personally repaired all the base systems during nighttime attacks, never waiting until the dust settled. This is how he received a second Commendation Medal and the Bronze Star.
Matlovich received a Purple Heart while clearing mines near Da Nang. He was blown up by a mine and as he lay there in pain he realized the physical pain was not nearly as bad as the pain he felt for hiding who he truly was.
That’s when he decided to challenge the Air Force policy on homosexuals in the service. By 1975 Matlovich was up for a discharge based on his sexuality. He lawyered up and was determined to fight the case all the way to the Supreme Court. It caught the media’s attention and Matlovich became the first openly-gay person to appear on the cover of a U.S. magazine.
The Air Force decided to let him stay if he signed a document saying he’d never engage in homosexual acts again. Matlovich refused.
He was going to be drummed out of the Air Force under a General Discharge. It was upgraded to Honorable by the Secretary of the Air Force, based on Matlovich’s service record, but that didn’t stop the Tech Sergeant.
In 1976, Matlovich and his lawyers took their case to the U.S. district court in Washington, D.C. to argue the Air Force policy violated the same constitutional principles that recently won Civil Rights cases for African-Americans and women in the United States.
All it led to was a re-wording of the DoD anti-gay policy.
He fought to stay in the Air Force as an openly-gay man but in the end accepted that the court cases would never stop. He took a cash settlement for his back pay, which he immediately donated to nonprofits who fought for gay rights.
Matlovich spent the rest of his life fighting for equal rights for the LGBT community in the United States. In 1986, he was diagnosed with HIV and began to fight for more attention to HIV/AIDS research. Matlovich was a vocal critic to the Reagan Administration’s response to the outbreak of the disease.
When Leonard Matlovich died of AIDS in 1988, he was buried in Washington, D.C.’s Congressional Cemetery. His gravestone doesn’t have his name on it. He wanted it to be a memorial for all homosexual military veterans. It reads:
“A Gay Vietnam Veteran | When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.”
Leonard Matlovich’s gravesite has become a pilgrimage site for the LGBT community, especially those serving in the military of United States and other countries.
The Marine Corps will begin fielding a reinforced pack frame for their standard rucksacks as early as 2018 following reports of the current issue FILBE frames becoming brittle and snapping in cold weather.
The current frame has been fielded since 2011, but issues with its durability began surfacing in 2013 from the Marine School of Infantry – West. Further incidents with the frame breaking arose during airborne operations and mountain warfare training and exercises in Norway during the winter of 2015 and 2016.
The new frame is identical in form and how it attaches to the pack and the Marine, but is constructed using stronger materials.
The frame has already been tested by Marine Recon units during a variety of exercises, and will undergo further trials in sub-freezing weather where it will be checked for signs of stress and cracking after heavy use.
“The reinforced frame is being tested in both constant cold temperature environments, as well as changing temperature environments,” Infantry Combat Equipment engineer Mackie Jordan said in a press release.
“Future testing may include hot-to-cold/cold-to-hot testing to simulate rapid temperature changes during jump operations.”
The Marines have been beefing up their presence and training in Norway, where many of the worst cold-weather breakage issues occurred.
Modern plastic composite pack frames are designed to help distribute the weight of the pack more evenly and take stress off the shoulders. Infantry on foot can easily be forced to carry equipment well in excess of 100 pounds over long distances and severe conditions, making efficient and durable packs vital.
The sunny side of planet Earth had all of its GPS communications temporarily knocked out Sept. 6 after the sun emitted two massive solar flares, showering the planet with radiation storms.
Both events were X-Class solar flares, the most severe classification, and one of them was the most powerful since 2005, Engadget reported. When solar flares like these are directed at Earth, the resulting radiation storm can easily impede radio and GPS communications. These resulted in heavy communications interference for a full hour Sept. 6.
The second storm was an X9.3, the strongest since 2005 and severe enough to cause the sun to spew out plasma from its surface in a coronal mass ejection. Radio emissions collected by the US Space Weather Prediction Center indicate that the storm caused a “wide area of blackouts” on the sunlit side of Earth, according to Space.com.
The Marine Corps’ new CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift helicopter is on track to surpass the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter in unit cost, a lawmaker said this month.
The still-in-development King Stallion is designed to replace the Marines’ CH-53E Super Stallion choppers, which are reaching the end of their service lives. But while Super Stallions cost about $24 million apiece, or $41 million in current dollars, the Sikorsky/Lockheed Martin King Stallion began with a per-unit price tag of about $95 million — and there are indications it could rise further.
Citing a 2016 Selected Acquisition Report from the Government Accountability Office, Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Mass., said the CH-53K estimated unit cost had increased about 14 percent from the baseline estimate. Information provided directly from the Marine Corps to House lawmakers this year, she said, indicated that the choppers were now expected to cost 22 percent more than the baseline estimate, or $122 million per copy.
“The Marine Corps intends to buy 200 of these aircraft, so that cost growth multiplied times 200 is a heck of a lot of money,” Tsongas said during a March 10 hearing before a House Armed Services subcommittee. “And even if there is no additional cost growth, it seems worth pointing out that $122 million per aircraft in 2006 dollars exceeds the current cost of an F-35A aircraft for the Air Force by a significant margin.”
The most recent lot of Lockheed Martin F-35As cost $94.6 million apiece, down from over $100 million in previous buys. The Marine Corps’ F-35B and the Navy’s F-35C, modified for ship take-off and landing, remain slightly over $120 million apiece.
Previously the Marines’ Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey held the distinction of being the priciest rotorcraft in the air, at some $72 million apiece. The Lockheed Martin VH-71 Kestrel, a planned replacement for the Marine One presidential transport fleet, did at one point reach a $400 million unit cost amid massive overruns, but the aircraft never entered full-rate production, and the program was officially canceled in 2009.
But the Marines’ head of Programs and Resources said the service is prepared to shoulder the cost of their cutting-edge chopper.
Speaking before the committee March 10, Lt. Gen. Gary Thomas noted that the Marine Corps expected the unit cost to drop to below $89 million when the aircraft enters full-rate production, sometime between 2019 and 2022. As the F-35A unit cost is expected to drop as low as $85 million in the same time-frame, the two programs will remain close in that regard.
“That’s still very expensive; we’re working very hard with the program office and the vendor to keep the cost down and to drive value for the taxpayer,” Thomas said. “In terms of, can we afford it, we do have a plan without our topline that would account for purchases of the new aircraft we desire.”
A spokeswoman for Lockheed Martin, Erin Cox, said in a statement provided to Military.com that the King Stallion program was now on track and meeting goals.
“The CH-53K heavy-lift helicopter, as previously known and reported, overcame developmental issues as are common with new, highly complex programs and is now completely on track and scheduled for Milestone C review leading to initial low rate production,” she said. “The program is performing extremely well.”
Tsongas pointed out that the Marine Corps is now spending three times as much on aviation modernization as it is on modernization of ground vehicles, despite being at its core a ground force. Thomas called the spending plan balanced, noting that the service had active plans to modernize its vehicles, but the realities of aviation costs and the urgency to replace aging platforms required more outlay on aircraft.
The first CH-53K aircraft are expected to reach initial operational capability in 2019. They are designed to carry an external load of 27,000 pounds, more than three times the capacity of the CH-53E Super Stallion, and feature a wider cabin to carry troops and gear.
There’s something magical about the approach of a New Year. After all, it’s the time we tend to create wonderful fantasies about what the coming year will bring. Untold riches, a beautiful new hobby, and a six-pack that would make Schwarznegger shed a tear are at the top of many lists.
However, come the end of January – let’s face it. The struggle bus is real and the wheels are about to come off. And you know what? That’s ok!
This New Year, give yourself some grace if you make – and then break – these resolutions.
1. Limit Family Screen Time, Starting with Fortnite
I guess we could cut back an hour…or two…and parent by using less screen time in the house. But, since we’re talking crazy, I could also churn my own butter, but that’s not happening either.
2. ‘Marie Kondo’ the $@%& Out of this House Before We PCS
Converts swear by organizational queen Marie Kondo’s life-changing magic of tidying up. And soon, you too find dreams of nice, clutter-free spaces dancing in your head. This year is finally THE YEAR to de-clutter before a PCS.
But let’s face it. Once you pull out every piece of clothing and lay it on your bed, it doesn’t take long to realize this little exercise does anything but spark joy. Back into the closet it goes, right next to “The Box” and the curtains you swore would fit in the next house.
3. Not Go Into Feral-Mode Every Time My Spouse Leaves
Whether it’s a lengthy deployment, or the seemingly never-ending rounds of TDYs – it’s oh so tempting to set the loftiest of lofty self-improvement goals to stay busy while our spouses are away from home.
But, if you find yourself having ice cream, mac and cheese, or wine for dinner for a week straight, that’s ok too. We’ve all been there.
4. Stay on Top of the Laundry
Is that the third time I’ve washed the same load of laundry – because I left it overnight in the machine? Someone remind me – why did we ever want to grow up and become adults?
5. Not Buy Plane Tickets Before Leave is Finalized
Until one magical commercial later. Disney – here we come. Hopefully.
6. Finally, Step Outside of my Comfort Zone
This is the year I’m finally going to do it! I will step outside of my comfort zone, meet that village I keep hearing about, learn a new hobby, and sign up for ALL of the things. Crochet, CrossFit and Zumba – here I come!
Right after I finish catching up on my latest Facebook gossip and hiding in my car for five minutes in the commissary parking lot to avoid people…
7. Learn to Better Manage my Time
Ok, who are we kidding? I call foul and blame the military for teaching us constant lessons in the fine skill of “hurry-up…and wait.”
This year, let’s resolve to give ourselves grace and let go of the pressure to be perfect. Regrets? None.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
The Air Force is mired in a deepening pilot crisis, with a shortage of approximately 2,000 pilots from the active-duty Air Force, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve at the end of fiscal year 2017 in September.
Now it appears the Air Force is considering a step it has long avoided: training enlisted airmen to be combat aviators.
A new six-month pilot-training program will consist of 15 officers and five enlisted airmen, Maj. Gen. Timothy Leahy, chief of the Second Air Force, told his commanders in a November 30 email, seen by Air Force Times.
Currently, the only Air Force personnel eligible to be pilots are commissioned officers, and achieving officer status requires a four-year college degree.
“Enlisted volunteers will be pioneers in innovating Air Force aviator recruitment, selection, and training processes by demonstrating the potential of non-college graduates to succeed in a rigorous pilot training environment,” Leahy, whose command is responsible for basic military and tactical training for Air Force personnel, wrote in the email.
Leahy added that the training program would provide data to Air Education and Training Command commander Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast about “the potential for enlisted members to train to fly modern combat aircraft,” according to Air Force Times. The email was obtained by former airman Steven Mayne, who runs the unofficial Air Force amn/nco/snco Facebook page.
The email said there was a December 15 deadline for airmen to volunteer online and that those picked would start training on February 15. Those who succeed would take solo flights in T-6 single-engine turboprop training aircraft.
Air Education and Training Command spokeswoman Marilyn Holliday confirmed the email to Air Force Times and said the command “chose to focus on flying training because of the urgency involved with the enterprise.” She added that the program was meant to examine how airmen learn and would look at technology that could lead to better and faster learning.
However, she also downplayed enlisted airmen’s proximity to the pilot’s seat, telling Task Purpose that, while the training program was started because of the need for pilots, the “study is not looking at changing our pilot force, but rather it is exploring new ways to effectively and efficiently deliver training.”
“The plan for this six-month program is to explore the technology available to produce a student, similarly-skilled to a UPT graduate,” Holliday told Task Purpose, referring to the Air Force’s yearlong basic aviation course, Undergraduate Pilot Training.
Officers who pass the six-month course will get pilot’s wings and move on to specialized training, while enlisted airmen who pass will return to the specialty they were selected for during basic training, Holliday said, adding that they could have their flight hours applied to a civilian pilot’s license.
‘The natural progression’
The Air Force said at the end of 2015 that it would begin training enlisted airmen to fly RQ-4 remotely piloted aircraft — part of an effort to meet demand for unmanned-aircraft pilots. At the end of 2016, two master sergeants became the first enlisted airmen in 60 years to complete solo flights during initial flight training.
The Air Force continued that training this year, with 30 enlisted airmen (chosen from 800 initial applicants) starting training for the RQ-4 Global Hawk in March. Outside of that initiative, however, the force has shown little interest in training enlisted airmen to fly manned aircraft.
Despite that reluctance, Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Kaleth Wright told Air Force Timesearlier this year that many enlisted men have pilot’s licenses and that enlisted airmen piloting manned aircraft appeared to be “the natural progression.”
Wright also started a study at the end of the summer to explore what benefit the Air Force would get from bringing back the warrant officer program, which some have said would be a way to properly recognize and compensate enlisted pilots for their expanded duties as fliers.
Air Force officials have pointed to a number of reasons for the force’s pilot shortage including quality-of-life issues, recruitment by private airlines, as well as strain created by three decades of ongoing operations around the world.
The shortage of qualified fliers has also been exacerbated by a bottleneck in the Air Force’s training pipeline, caused by a combination of factors like force drawdowns, longer deployments, and budget restrictions.
Air Force leaders have zeroed in on budget woes as a particular problem.
Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfein said in November that he worried, “if we cannot move past sequester in its current form, we’re going to break this force.”
This month, with the window closing on budget legislation, Goldfein again sounded alarm about the worst-case scenario for the Air Force: A budget deal that doesn’t lift spending limits put in place by the Budget Control Act.
Such an outcome would “devastate” the Air Force, Goldfein told Air Force Times, adding to problems created by the last budget sequester and hindering the service’s ability to keep pilots in their planes and, in turn, in uniform.
“If you’re not preparing for or executing combat operations, then you’ll likely stop flying,” Goldfein said. “Currencies will lapse, qualifications will cease, and we’ll potentially look back on the timeframe of having an only 2,000 pilots short [force] as a dream.”
Years of complex operations and the ongoing demands of units in the field have left the armed forces struggling to maintain both operational capacity and high levels of readiness, according to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office.
“After more than a decade combating violent extremists and conducting contingency operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and most recently Syria, [the Defense Department] has prioritized the rebalancing of its forces in recent budget requests to build and sustain the capabilities necessary to prevail across a full range of potential contingencies,” the report states.
“However, DoD has acknowledged that unrelenting demands from geographic commanders for particular types of forces are disrupting manning, training, and equipping cycles,” it adds.
Each of the service branches has had some success in addressing readiness issues, but problems remain in some areas for each.
For the Marine Corps, as of February, about 80% of aviation units didn’t have the minimum number of aircraft ready for training. The Marines also had a significant shortage of aircraft ready for wartime requirements.
A high pace of operations has also hindered the Navy’s maintenance efforts. The service bases its readiness recovery on deployment and maintenance schedules. “However, GAO reported that from 2011 through 2014, only 28 percent of scheduled maintenance was completed on time and just 11 percent for carriers.”
Like the Navy, the Air Force has seen continued operations with a shrinking pool of resources and little time for repair and recovery, citing Air Force reports that less than 50% of its forces are at acceptable readiness levels.
Photo courtesy of USAF
The service branch also says it is short of 1,500 pilots and 3,400 aircraft maintainers.
Air Force leaders are looking at several options to address these personnel issues, including heftier retention bonuses and stop-loss policies.
While the Army has seen readiness improvements in recent years, as GAO notes, it continues to have important deficiencies that put it at a disadvantage compared to other countries.
“For example, the Army reports that two thirds of its initial critical formations — units needed at the outset of a major conflict — are at acceptable levels of readiness, but it cautions that it risks consuming readiness as fast as the service can build it given current demands,” the report says.
The Army has also gotten withering criticism of its unit readiness from within the service itself.
According to Capt. Scott Metz, who until recently was a observer/controller/trainer at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, “many of our multinational partners are more tactically proficient at company level and below than their American counterparts.”
US troops from the 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment call in their location in the back woods of the mock village they are taking over during Saber Junction 17, a field-training exercise at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center on May 15, 2017, at Hohenfels, Germany. (US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Richard Frost)
“In fact,” Metz wrote in a paper published this spring, “several of them are significantly better trained and more prepared for war than we are.”
Metz recounted how unit commanders arriving at the JMRC would caution him about their unit’s lack of preparation and the minimal training done at their home stations. In his role as the opposition-force commander during exercises, he could see how this manifested itself in potentially fatal mistakes in the field.
US soldiers prepare to engage a multinational force while during an exercise at Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Germany, March 25, 2017. US Army photo by Sgt. William Frye.
The opposition-force commander “knows from past experience that the Americans will probably stay on or near the roads,” Metz writes, adding:
“They will stop for long periods of time in the open with minimal dispersion. They will not effectively use their dismounted infantry and will likely leave them in the back of vehicles for too long, allowing them to be killed with the vehicle. They also will probably make little use of tactical formations and will not use terrain to their advantage.”
All units make mistakes during their time at the JMRC, according to Metz.
The shortcomings evident in units that visit the facility come rather from deficiencies in training they do at home.
“The problem is that they are making mistakes because they have not trained as a platoon or company,” Metz states.
A multitude of factors outside the control of commanders limits the time and resources they can devote to small-unit training.
This has resulted in the longstanding problem of a “deluge of requirements,” Metz writes, citing a 2015 report that “makes the case that the Army overtasks subordinates to such a level that it is impossible for Army units and Army leaders to do everything they are tasked to do.”
US Army paratroopers finish boarding an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft loaded with a heavy-drop-rigged Humvee for a night jump onto Malemute Drop Zone, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. Photo courtesy of the US Army.
The problem is a deep-rooted one and will take some time to correct, requiring a cultural change starting at the highest levels of the Army’s leadership, Metz writes.
Gen. Mark Milley, the Army’s chief of staff, told the Senate this month that the Army, like the Air Force, is also suffering from a lack of personnel.
He told the Senate Appropriations’ defense subcommittee that the service’s portion of US defense strategy, the Army needs an active component of 540,000 to 550,000. That active component is now 476,000.
A US soldier, left, and a US Army Interpreter look over a map with an Iraqi army soldier before starting a cordon and search in the Ninewa Forest in Mosul, Iraq, June 8, 2008. US Army/Pfc. Sarah De Boise
Though the US armed forces maintains definite advantages over peers and other forces in technology, training, and capabilities, years of operations and, according to many officials, reductions in funding have imperiled the US military’s ability overcome opponents and fulfill its missions.
“In just a few years, if we don’t change our trajectory, we will lose our qualitative and quantitative competitive advantage,” Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the House Armed Services Committee earlier this June.
Even though I am a prophet, you can’t base your entire life off a horoscope, no matter how badass and totally true it is. You might have to make some decisions on your own. I know, that’s scary and you might make mistakes. I can’t be there to hold your hand. At least, not unless you pay me, a lot, cause you’re pretty f’ed up.
Anyway, don’t be such a soup sandwich. You’re embarrassing me.
Remember all those times you fantasized about how great your life would be if the universe provided the perfect opportunity? That time is here, and if you don’t go for your goals right now, you will have missed an incredibly powerful time for growth and achievement. Your perceived career and money problems seem to be looming over your head, but they’ll pass without consequence if you don’t do anything impulsively. You are positioned for incredible advancement, but all you can think of this weekend are lustful thoughts. Just don’t break the bank or do something in public your mom would find distasteful, because this week it will definitely end up on the internet.
You only get rewarded if you actually do the right thing.
Leaders don’t do the right thing because someone is watching. A real leader does the right thing all the time—when things are good and when things are sh!t. They also never stop improving, even when things are going great. Don’t get complacent; just because you hope everything you do will work out perfectly, doesn’t mean it will. If asked to work alone or in secret, do it and do your work to the higher standards. You will find yourself in unexpected leadership roles.
This week finds you focused on friends and events, maybe planning to see some live music or something. Don’t plan a trip just yet. Remember that thing where you have to put on a uniform and play military? This week forces you to find balance between your increasing need for freedom and work which must be redone. The fact this mess was not your doing is inconsequential. You must fix the mistakes of others, and you must do so perfectly. Try to be a good leader and don’t cry about it while you work. Everyone else will be inspired by your example, and you may even enjoy yourself.
Okay Private, let’s do this again. Literally, you will be asked to return to something you believed was complete. Just got back from a deployment? The field? A float? You might have to go back. Do whatever the task requires and try not to tell too many lies this week. Your web of deceit is more likely to trap you than your prey. This weekend brings all the adult entertainment you could hope for, especially if you are traveling. Have fun, but be respectful—you never know who is lurking about watching.
This week finds you re-examining the past, again. On top of that nonsense, your decision-making ability concerning money is terribly flawed and emotionally driven. Don’t burn any bridges no matter how much you would like to this week; just focus on the little things and keep your head down. If you find yourself involved in a romance with someone other than your primary relationship, keep it on the DL, and you will probably get away with it this week. As long as you don’t leave a paper trail, anyway, so hide those receipts and don’t tell your friends about your illicit fling, that is.
Whatever your go-to move is, your game is on point.
Oh yeah, it’s about time us Leos got some love, pun intended. If you are single and looking for a friend, or relationship, or repeat from your past you are likely to find it. In fact, even if you are not looking for it, it will probably find you. Time with your friends will lead to romantic opportunities. Oh yeah, don’t forget about your oath of enlistment; this week it’s low on your priority list, but your relentless work ethic coupled with powerful aggression positions you for career advancement.
If you get the opportunity for advanced training this week, jump on it. Even if you have to forgo something you really want. It will not only pay off, it will be way more fun than you were expecting. If the training involves shooting, blowing stuff up, or punching people in the face, you will not only excel, but will probably end up as the honor grad. Have fun and remember the only person you should expect perfection from is yourself. As long as you remember—while perfection is the goal, it is an unreachable one.
Come on, it’s just some desperately needed character building.
Does a squad leader have to pull a midnight guard shift or is that the work of the lower enlisted swine? Trick question, but you might want to review the NCO’s creed. Anyway, I’ll tell you the answer: Yes, you do. There is a good chance it will feel like the only thing that exists this week is work, but that’s not totally true. This is a time to focus on your duties, but your pleasant attitude and willingness to do things you normally feel are beneath you will endear you to others and lead to all sorts of travel and romance opportunities.
Just remember how you felt the first time you watched the Miracle of Life.
Hey corporal, are you trying to make a baby? Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but didn’t they show you that video about where babies come from in Boot Camp? Let me know if you need me to send you a link so you can review it. Other than your sloppy finances and questionable morals, things are looking up for you. Your home and family life are pleasant and engaging. You may find a positive change in your daily duties. Lateral transfer, perhaps?
You win a four-day pass for crushing the SGM’s PT event? Go visit your family. You will have a bunch of your favorite thing, Fun. Promise. You might even get someone to show you how to do your laundry. No matter where you find yourself this week, get out and explore the local area, even if you’ve been everywhere a million times before. Surprising excitement awaits you. Just don’t overdraft your account again while enjoying yourself.
There, there, it’ll all be over soon. Uhhh… we hope.
Remember how life has been kicking your ass recently? There is a light at the end of the tunnel. This week starts with no apparent end to the problems you have been dealing with, but by next week things start to improve, slowly at first, then gaining momentum rapidly. However, there will continue to be one thing hanging over your head through next week; just accept what you cannot control. Besides, it has to be resolved eventually. I think…..
We both know you can’t help it, but for the love of God. Please skip the melodrama.
This week, you might find your military duties getting in the way of your favorite hobby—going out and spending time in public with as many different people as possible. On top of that, you are forced to work in isolation and in secret. You’re not gonna die. I mean not from working by yourself, but eventually yes, you will die. To make it worse you will have an old friend, or maybe a new one, drop by this weekend to ‘catch up and stuff’ and come Monday they will not want to leave. We all know how you feel about ‘long term relationships,’ and it will restrict your freedom far too much.
Siege warfare is a military tactic in which an enemy army surrounds a castle or fortress and attempts to break in either by physical force or by starving the inhabitants into submission. In other words, it is a nasty ordeal for all involved and it often sports some diabolical tactics.
Here are three sieges from ancient history that show just how nasty things can get.
1. Battle of Jericho (late 17th or 16th centuries BCE)
The siege of Jericho is a well-known story. The Israelites marched around the walls seven times and on the seventh circuit they stopped, the Levites blew into their shofars and the next thing you know the walls came tumbling down, end of story. However, there is an alternative history that wrings more true.
The Israelite commander named Joshua used psychological terror and stealth to bring down the walls of Jericho. In other words, before Joshua mustered his forces on the days preceding the Jericho battle, he sent two men to scout out the area and the city of Jericho like any good commander would.
Once the men were in the city, they went straight to the inn. An inn is a perfect place for a pair of strangers seeking information. The men got lucky when a prostitute by name of Rahab approached them and gave them all the details about the city’s security. Afterward, both spies swore to Rahab that she and her family would be spared so long as she left a scarlet cord hanging from her window.
Once the spies returned with the goodies, Joshua assembled his forces and deployed to Jericho, where they would march around the city for seven days. There are two reasons for this. First was to terrorize the city’s inhabitants with this bizarre rounding of the city day after day.
Second, was to keep the guards along the wall occupied by watching the army. While this goes on, a number of men would break rank undetected and head to Rahab’s window and climb up the scarlet cord. This would go on for six days. After the seventh day came, the Israelite army stopped, the shofars sounded and the men shouted.
This was a signal for the uncertain amount of men staying in Rahab’s apartment to attack the city from the inside by taking the main gate and opening it for the Israelites to storm in. Once the Israelites were in, the slaughter begins.
Every man, woman, child — and even livestock — were put to the sword, except for Rahab and her family.
2. The Siege of Baghdad (1258)
In 1258, the massive Mongol army along with many foreign nations under the authority of Prince Hulegu, surrounded the city of Baghdad after conquering much of Iran and northern Iraq. Once the Mongols settled into camp, the destruction began.
On jan. 30, 1258, the Hulegu gave the order to commence the bombardment of the city walls. But there was a problem. The Mongol siege crews had no rocks. The siege train carrying the needed stones was three days journey away.
While the Mongols look for suitable projectiles to throw at the city walls, Hulegu ordered his Mongol archers to fire arrows over the walls with messages attached saying the city’s residents would be treated with kindness if they surrender.
While Hulegu sought to end this siege peacefully, Mongol engineers came up empty handed in the catapult rock search. However, not all was lost. Mongol engineers stripped foundation stones from the buildings in the suburbs and uprooted palm trees to use as hasty projectiles, battering the walls of Baghdad (James Chambers, The Devil’s Horsemen, 145).
The Caliph quickly sent ambassadors to negotiate peace but Hulegu would not hear the plea and detained them. Hulegu’s message was clear, surrender was not enough; it must be unconditional surrender.
While the Caliph continued to send envoys to Hulegu, the Mongols continued to bombard the walls — focusing on the Ajami tower, which was reduced to rubble by Feb. 1. The Mongols would finally break into the city the next day and seized a portion of the eastern wall. However, the battle was far from over and the negotiations continued for another four days. On the 6 February, the bombardment was over but the Mongols remained on the wall until the Caliph surrendered. Hulegu sent another message, this one to the armies of Baghdad. The message told them to lay down their arms and leave their posts.
Seeing the situation was unwinnable by use of arms, the Caliph’s advisors advised him to flee. But one man by the name of Ibn Alqami proposed that the best way to end this was for the Caliph to go before Hulegu. Hulegu’s terms to the Caliph were simple: turn over his daughter so that he could marry her and recognize Hulegu as the supreme authority.
If accepted, Hulegu would end the siege. The Caliph agreed and his forces marched out thinking they were going to retire to Syria. However, the forces were killed and later the Caliph and his sons were put to death. As for Baghdad, well, the hounds of hell were let loose.
Hulegu then ordered the troops guarding the walls to descend and kill the inhabitants of the city, great and small. (The Mongols) organized as though harvesting a field and cut down countless, numberless multitudes of men, women, and children. For forty days they did not stop. Then they grew weary and stopped killing. Their hands grew tired; they took others for sale. They destroyed mercilessly.
However, Hulegu’s wife, the senior Khantun (lady), named Doquz Khatun was a Christian. She spared the Christians of Baghdad, Nestorians and other denominations and beseeched her husband not to kill them. And he spared them with their goods and property.
Hulegu ordered all his soldiers to take the goods and property of the city. They all loaded up with gold, silver, precious stones, pearls, and costly garments, for it was an extremely rich city, unequalled on earth.
Hulegu himself took his share the caliph’s treasures—three thousand camel loads; and there was no counting the horses, mules and asses.
3. “Bring out your Dead!” The Siege of Kaffa (1346)
While this is a not ranking list, the Siege of Kaffa probably wins hands down for the suckiest siege. The reason is that Kaffa is ground zero for the worst plague to date to ever fall upon mankind. However, I understand the plague started elsewhere, but for Europe, Kaffa is the main source. So how did it happen?
In 1346, Mongols besieged the Genoese city of Kaffa located on the Black Sea. Before this siege, the Mongols and Genoese made an agreement in 1266 that the city would serve as a trading center between Europe and the Far East. However, the city would be taken over by the Mongols later on only to be given back. This seesaw agreement tradeoff would go on for some time.
The final straw came in 1343 when Christian locals and Muslims in the enclave of Tana inflamed. In turn, the Christians fled to Kaffa to escape the wrath of Khan Janibeg. Janibeg sent his army after them and found them hiding in the city. So what better option than to besiege the city.
In 1344, the Genoese were successful in breaking the siege by killing 15,000 of the Khan’s men and destroying their siege engines. The Khan would come back and try again in 1346, but as the Mongol besieged the city, a mysterious illness began to circulate the encampment. The Mongols, seeing their men fall ill and die, decided to use the bodies as a weapon. According to the notary Gabriel de Mussis:
The dying Tartars, stunned and stupefied by the immensity of the disaster brought about by the disease, and realizing that they had no hope of escape, lost interest in the siege. But they ordered corpses to be placed in catapults (trebuchets) and lobbed into the city in the hope that the intolerable stench would kill everyone inside. What seemed like mountains of dead were thrown into the city, and the Christians could not hide or flee or escape from them, although they dumped as many of the bodies as they could in the sea. And soon the rotting corpses tainted the air and poisoned the water supply, and the stench was so overwhelming that hardly one in several thousand was in a position to flee the remains of the Tartar army. Moreover, one infected man could carry the poison to others, and infect people and places with the disease by look alone. No one knew, or could discover, a means of defense.
Eventually, the city would surrender in 1349. But the damage had been done, and some of the Genoese took to their ships heading back for the ports in Italy. Unfortunately, some on board of those ships were infected with the bubonic plague. Gabriel de Mussis mentions this, stating:
…As it happened, among those who escaped from Caffa by boat were a few sailors who had been infected with the poisonous disease. Some boats were bound for Genoa, others went to Venice and to other Christian areas. When the sailors reached these places and mixed with the people there, it was as if they had brought evil spirits with them: every city, every settlement, every place was poisoned by the contagious pestilence, and their inhabitants, both men and women, died suddenly.
Overall, the Siege of Kaffa could be the deadliest siege ever. The outcome of the siege and the bubonic plague affected much of the world, particularly Europe, since Asia was already contaminated.
While it is possible that had the siege at Kaffa not taken place, the plague may not have infected Europe, or it may have come much later. But given that the siege did happen, it may have unwittingly resulted in the deaths of 50 million people out of a population of 80 million in Europe from 1346-1353.
A staggering report from the Military Times concludes that accidents involving all aircraft of the US military rose 40% between the 2013 and 2017 fiscal years, and that those accidents resulted in the deaths of at least 133 service members.
The accidents are likely tied to the massive budget cuts that Congress put in place during the sequestration, as well as to an increase in flight hours despite a shortage of pilots.
The report is the first time the deadly crashes have been mapped against the sequester, showing the effect budget cuts may have on the military, according to Military Times Pentagon Bureau Chief Tara Copp, who authored the story.
Approximately 5,500 accidents occurred in the four year period, but the Military Times database records 7,590 accidents that have happened since 2011. They were divided in three categories: Class-A, Class-B, and Class-C.
Class-A was defined as an accident that resulted in “extreme damage, aircraft destroyed or fatality.” Class-B was defined as an accident that rustled in “major damage,” and Class-C as “some damage.”
(Kyodo News via NewsEdge)
Class-C accidents were the majority of the mishaps at 6,322. Class-B accidents were second at 744, followed by Class-A accidents at 524. The last three of those accidents, which killed at least 16 pilots or crew members, happened in the last three weeks.
In addition to the cost of life, the various categories also take financial costs into account. Class-A accidents cost the most, at $2 million or more. Class-B follows at $500,000 or more, and Class-C at $50,000 or more.
For 10 of the last 11 years, the military was funded through continuing resolutions under the Budget Control Act, which was signed in 2011. As the sequestration efforts ramped up in 2013, the military saw more cuts.
The budget cuts due to the sequestration efforts have long angered many in the Department of Defense. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said in February 2018, that “no enemy in the field has done as much to harm the readiness of US military than the combined impact of the Budget Control Act’s defense spending caps.”
(DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)
“Hopefully someone in Congress will wake up and realize things are bad and getting worse,” an active duty Air Force maintainer, who has worked on A-10s, F-16s, and F-15s, told Military Times. “The war machine is like any other machine, and cannot run forever. After 17 years of running this machine at near capacity, the tank is approaching empty.”
President Donald Trump signed a $700 billion defense policy bill in December 2017. Trump also signed a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill in March 2018, touting that it had the largest increase in defense spending in 15 years.
The Air Force has responded to the report with an announcement that they have launched an investigation into the large amounts of Class-C accidents. They also stressed that Class-A incidents have been on the decline.
“Any Class A accident is one too many,” Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen “Seve” Wilson said in an interview with Military.com.
“The safest year ever was 2014, and 2017 was our second safest year, so our Class A mishaps have been trending down,” he added.
The United States is still grappling with the legacy of the Civil War, but legislators in the House of Representatives are moving to prevent the military from naming any assets — including bases and warships — after Confederate soldiers or any locations of Confederate victory, Politico reported.
A draft of the National Defense Authorization Act passed the House July 2019, and contains explicit language barring the practice. Even if this amendment is signed into law, it wouldn’t retroactively apply to assets currently honoring the Confederacy like the cruiser USS Chancellorsville, named for an important Confederate victory.
After a significant cultural reckoning with the legacy of the Confederacy, including the removal of statues and monuments honoring the Confederate dead, the military still uses 10 bases that honor Confederate soldiers — men that fought to uphold the practice of slavery.
“We are naming ships of the United States Navy after people who fought war against the United States,” a veteran told Navy Times.
U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers jump out of a UH-60 Blackhawk, while fellow Soldiers swim to shore, as part of a Helocast event at Mott Lake at the 2019 U.S. Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition at Fort Bragg, N.C., June 27, 2019. This year’s Best Warrior Competition will determine the top noncommissioned officer and junior enlisted Soldier who will represent the U.S. Army Reserve in the Department of the Army Best Warrior Competition later this year at Fort A.P. Hill, Va.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron Rognstad)
Ft. Bragg in Fayetteville, North Carolina is named for Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg.
Fort Bragg is home to the Airborne and Special Operations Forces. Established in 1918 as Camp Bragg, the base is one of the largest military installations in the world and employs about 57,000 military personnel, according to the Army.
Fort Bragg is also named after Braxton Bragg, a Confederate general and West Point graduate who was born in Warrenton, North Carolina. The Army’s history of the base doesn’t mention Bragg’s Confederate ties, saying instead that the base bears his name because of his success in the Mexican-American War that began in 1846.
According to the National Park Service, Bragg had resigned from the Army and “was overseeing his Louisiana plantation when the [Civil] war began.”
Bragg was apointed a brigadier general in 1861, commanding defenses from Pensacola, Florida to Mobile, Alabama. He later commanded the Army of Tennessee, and after a series of defeats, went to Richmond to advise Confederate President Jefferson Davis. He died in 1876.
Marines with 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, head toward shooting point 26 aboard their Amphibious Assault Vehicles during a live fire exercise in participation with Mission Readiness Exercise at Fort. A.P. Hill, Va., June 18, 2019. The Reserve Marines are undergoing MRX to prepare for Integrated Training Exercise, which is an even larger scale training event that is necessary for the unit to operate efficiently for their upcoming deployment.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Markeith Hall)
Fort A.P. Hill is named for Ambrose Powell Hill, who was killed in the Civil War.
Fort A.P. Hill, located near Bowling Green, Virginia was established June 11, 1941 as a training installation, a role it still serves today. The Army estimates that 80,000 troops from all branches of the military trained here each year during the War on Terror. It also hosted the Boy Scout Jamboree every four years from 1981 to 2005, and in 2010 as well.
The Army calls A.P. (short for Ambrose Powell) Hill a “distinguished” Confederate general, and notes that John Wilkes Booth was killed nearby.
Ambrose Powell Hill was a Lieutenant General in the Confederate Army.
(Library of Congress)
A.P. Hill served in the Confederate army.
Hill was born in Culpeper, Virginia, and was a graduate of West Point. He died in 1865 at the Third Battle of Petersburg, according to Military.com.
Paratroopers file onto a C-17 aircraft for an airborne operation over Blackstone Army Airfield June 6. Many of the parachutists attended a morning ceremony at Fort Lee commemorating the airborne and other operations occuring 75 years ago on D-Day.
(Terrance Bell / US Army Garrison Fort Lee Public Affairs)
Fort Lee is named for Gen. Robert E. Lee, perhaps the most famous Confederate general.
Fort Lee, in Prince George County, Virginia, is named for Robert E. Lee, the Virginia general who was a slave owner. Fort Lee was established as Camp Lee in 1917, but the original site was dismantled after the end of World War I, but re-established during World War II. In 1950, it was formally renamed Fort Lee, and it’s now the Army’s third-largest training site.
(The Library of Congress)
Robert E. Lee was one of the Confederacy’s most famous figures. He surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant in 1865, ending the Civil War.
Parachutists line up for their flight on a Chinook helicopter Nov. 29 at Blackstone Army Airfield.
(Terrance Bell / US Army Garrison Fort Lee Public Affairs)
Fort Pickett is named for Maj. Gen. George Pickett, who led an eponymous, ill-fated charge in the Battle of Gettysburg.
Fort Pickett is a Virginia National Guard installation near Blackstone, Virginia. It was established as Camp Pickett on July 3, 1942 at 3:00 PM — 79 years to the hour after Maj. Gen. George E. Pickett began his charge at the Battle of Gettysburg, as the Virginia National Guard notes.
Fort Pickett hosts the Virginia National Guard and Air Guard.
Maj. Gen. George E. Pickett.
(Library of Congress)
Maj. Gen. George Pickett left the US Army to join the Confederate Army in 1861.
U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Darius Davis, a Combat Documentation Production Specialist with the 982nd Signal Company (Combat Camera)(Airborne), fires from the kneeling position during the M16 qualification range of the 335th Signal Command (Theater) Best Warrior Competition 2019 at Fort Gordon, Georgia, April 19, 2019.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Leron Richards)
Fort Gordon is home to the US Army Cyber Corps and Signal Corps.
Soldiers conduct pathfinder training at the Liberty Pickup Zone on post March 21, 2019. During this portion of the training Soldiers conduct a VIRS Transmission and airborne operations from UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. The U.S. Army pathfinder School teaches Soldiers to infiltrate areas and set up parachute drop zones for airborne and air assault operations.
(U.S. Army photo by Patrick Albright)
Fort Benning, also in Georgia, is named for Brig. Gen. Henry Benning, who was born in Georgia.
A C-12 Huron, from Fort Rucker, Alabama, arrives on the flight line at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Sept. 12, 2018. The aircraft evacuated to Barksdale as a proactive measure to prevent possible damage from Hurricane Florence.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Lillian Miller)
Fort Rucker is named after Col. Edmund Rucker.
Fort Rucker, an Army Aviation training base in Alabama, was established May 1, 1942. Edmund Rucker was a Confederate colonel — not a general — and became an industrial leader in Alabama after the war. German and Italian prisoners of war were held nearby during World War II, according to the Army.
Louisiana National Guard Airmen and Soldiers compete in the Adjutant General’s Match at Camp Beauregard in Pineville, Louisiana, Oct. 19-20, 2017.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Noshoba Davis)
Louisiana’s Camp Beauregard is named for Gen. Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard.
Louisiana’s National Guard calls Camp Beauregard, located in Pineville, Louisiana, home. Beauregard was a West Point graduate, and championed the use of what we now recognize as the Confederate flag, according to The Washington Post.
U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), clear an urban environment during brigade live fire exercise at Fort Polk, La. Mar.11, 2019
(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Justin Wright)
Louisiana’s Fort Polk is named for Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk.
Polk was a second cousin of US President James Polk, and died during the Battle of Atlanta. Polk was a West Point graduate but served as an Episcopal priest until he joined the Confederacy, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Fort Polk, located in central Louisiana, hosts the Army’s Joint Readiness Training Center.
Students at Fort Hood Air Assault school conduct rappel operations. The Soldiers who participated in the training learned the basics of Air Assault operations from the instructors of the Phantom Warrior Academy.
(Photo by Sgt. Gregory Hunter)
Fort Hood is named for Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood.
As North Korean soldiers from the adjacent guard tower ran toward the vehicle, the defector quickly got out and ran south across the MDL. In the video, several North Korean soldiers can be seen firing their weapons at the defector, who appears to be only a few feet away.
One North Korean soldier appeared to cross the MDL for a few seconds, then run back toward it. The UNC said it found that North Korea had breached the 1953 armistice agreement that ended the Korean War.
The Korean People’s Army “violated the armistice agreement by one, firing weapons across the MDL, and two, by actually crossing the MDL,” a spokesman said during a news conference Tuesday.
During multiple surgical procedures, doctors found dozens of parasites in the defector’s digestive tract, which they say sheds light on a humanitarian crisis in North Korea. He is reportedly in stable condition.
Sources told the South Korean newspaper The Dong-a Ilbo that as he received medical care, the defector asked, “Is this South Korea?”
After he received confirmation that he was, in fact, in South Korea, he said he would “like to listen to South Korean songs,” The Ilbo reported.
To much pomp and circumstance, Russia revealed its newest generation of battle-tank to the world during the annual Victory Day Parade in Moscow in the beginning of May.
Embarrassingly for Moscow, it’s new third-generation T-14 tank — hailed as surpassing all other Western tanks — ran into mechanical problems and broke down during a rehearsal of the Victory Day Parade.
Not missing a chance to show up its competition, Chinese arms giant Norinco released a press release in May through the WeChat messaging service that threw shade over the entirety of the Russian tank industry — while simultaneously praising its own VT-4 tank.
“The T-14’s transmission is not well-developed, as we saw through a malfunction taking place during a rehearsal before the May 9 parade. By comparison, the VT-4 has never encountered such problems so far,” Norinco wrote over WeChat, as translated by China Daily. “Our tanks also have world-class fire-control systems, which the Russians are still trying to catch up with.”
The WeChat article also dismissed Russian tanks as being too expensive and not worthy of the investment, as compared to Chinese tanks.
“Another important issue is the price – the T-14 is reported to have a price as high as that of the United States’ M1A2 Abrams. … Why don’t buyers consider Chinese tanks that have well-developed technologies and equipment as well as much-lower prices?”
According to China Daily, the VT-4 can compete with any “first-class tank used by Western militaries,” such as the US M1A2 Abrams or the Russian T-14.
However, as The Diplomat notes, the Chinese tank industry has been developed from licence-built technology originating in Russia. As such, the VT-4 is at least largely modelled off of previous generations of Russian tanks whereas the T-14 includes entirely new Russian engineering designs.
In any case, neither the VT-4 nor the T-14 have yet to enter mass-production, as The Diplomat notes, and most analysis of the two tanks is based upon prototypes of the vehicles. In this case, Norinco’s snark is nothing more than an intelligent marketing campaign to draw attention away from the Russian tank industry and support Chinese arms exports.