There has long been a dispute between the towns of Lexington and Concord over which fight sparked the Revolution, but the first shots were fired at Lexington, which was less of a battle and more of a massacre. The debate was so fierce that President Ulysses Grant almost avoided the centennial celebrations there to avoid the issue. Taken together, however, there is little doubt that the spark of the Revolution started on this day in April, 1775.
The Battles of Lexington and Concord were the first military engagements of the American Revolution, pitting members of the Massachusetts Bay Colony militia against British regular army forces. The militia was not under the royal governor, but controlled by the rebel Massachusetts Provincial Congress.
Seven hundred British troops were dispatched from Tory-held Boston to capture and destroy rebel arsenals at Concord, Mass. The rebels knew the British would come and had already moved the weapons and supplies. The British force moved through Lexington on the way to Concord.
At first light on April 19, 1775, the Redcoats met some 70 colonial militiamen moving into ranks on the local common. They were vastly outnumbered. Their commander, John Parker, was not willing to risk his men at such odds, and so placed them in formation, but not blocking the road to Concord. He ordered his men not to fire unless fired upon.
Rather than just march on to Concord, a British Marine lieutenant led his men onto Lexington Common to disarm the militia. Instead of disarming, the colonists moved to disperse. That’s when a shot rang out from an unknown source. Before this encounter, there was no war declared in the colonies. The British had come and gone to seize arms and supplies many times, retreating back to the major cities each time. This time was different.
The idea of Americans in open rebellion against the British Crown was likely a shock to the subject of the British Empire. At the time of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the British controlled territory on every inhabitable continent across the globe. Down on Lexington Common, however, those opening salvos left eight Americans dead and an equal number injured, along with one injured British regular. The engagement soured the chances of reconciliation between the colonies and the Crown.
The British would continue to Concord, where the Battle of North Bridge in Concord would kill two colonists and three Redcoats. The British retreated all the way back to Boston and were harassed by colonial militias the entire way home.
Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson composed the “Concord Hymn” in 1837, immortalizing the two events for the unveiling of a battle monument at Concord’s North Bridge.
“By the rude bridge that arched the flood/Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled/Here once the embattled farmers stood/And fired the shot heard round the world.”
This story would one day lead to the defeat of the British at the hands of a Franco-American force, the birth of America, and eventually, School House Rock.
Anyone who’s ever shot an AR or M4 with a suppressor knows how much better the experience is. Hence the saying, “Once you go suppressed, you never go back.”
Previously the exclusive domain of special operations troops, the Marine Corps is experimenting with outfitting an entire infantry battalion with suppressors to fire with their M16 and M4 rifles — and even with their light, medium and heavy machine guns, like the M2 .50cal.
“What we’ve found so far is it revolutionizes the way we fight,” a top Marine Corps official told Military.com recently. “It used to be a squad would be dispersed out over maybe 100 yards, so the squad leader couldn’t really communicate with the members at the far end because of all the noise of the weapons. Now they can actually just communicate, and be able to command and control and effectively direct those fires.”
Industry and military experts agree, saying suppressors deliver tremendous advantages to troops in battle. But there’s a reason why the technology has been primarily in the kit bag of special operations troops and highly trained snipers — they’re not always “grunt proof” and can sometimes cause more problems than they solve if used improperly, experts say.
So first, let’s look at three reasons why firearm sound suppressors awesome. Then we’ll show you three reasons why they’re a potential bigtime problem.
1. Signature mitigation
One of the main benefits to suppressor use by infantry troops, military experts say, is that the suppressor helps eliminate the flash of the powder burn from a fired round from emerging from the end of the barrel. Sound suppressors are like a vehicle muffler and use a series of baffles to progressively disperse the gas and flash from a shot.
The flash from a shot is a dead giveaway of a trooper’s position to the enemy — especially at night. (DoD photo)
When a trooper fires his rifle equipped with a suppressor — which can add another 4-6 inches to the end of the barrel (more on that in our “disadvantages list”) — that’s a lot of extra room for the flash to dissipate, making it hard for a bad guy to see a Marine’s position in the dark.
“This reduces or eliminates attention drawn to the shooter, making him virtually invisible,” said one Marine infantry expert. “We like to fight at night because it helps us reduce the enemy’s ability to see us or identify us as quickly — add a suppressor and it will help increase tempo.”
2. Recoil reduction
One of the things that a lot of shooters don’t realize is that a suppressor drastically reduces a firearm’s felt recoil, one industry expert said. Trapping the gasses within the suppressor negates the need for muzzle breaks or other devices to help keep the barrel level shot after shot.
As anyone who’s had to fire a shot in anger would know, accuracy is the key to survival, and suppressors help a lot in this area.
“Suppressors reduce firing recoil significantly … reducing the speed and quantity of the gas expelled and reducing the total momentum of the matter leaving the barrel, transferring to the gun as recoil,” the Marine infantry expert told WATM. “Suppressors also increase the speed of the bullet to the target, and this will cause an increase in accuracy and the shooter’s ability to track the target longer — and if needed calmly fire another carefully aimed shot.”
3. Sound suppression
Of course, as the name implies, suppressors are primarily designed to reduce the report of a firearm. They are not “silencers” like the Hollywood image would imply. A suppressor typically reduces the sound of a rifle from 160 dB to 135 dB — just enough to make it hearing safe, but by no means deadly quiet.
But that sound reduction is enough to provide a major advantage in fighting indoors and helping small unit leaders communicate better on the battlefield. Particularly when used with a machine gun, the suppressor can expand the area a unit can communicate and operate, industry and military experts say.
“Especially in [close quarters battle] suppressors are particularly useful in enclosed spaces where the sound, flash and pressure effects of a weapon being fired are amplified,” the infantry expert said. “Such effects may disorient the shooter, affecting situational awareness, concentration and accuracy. This could also reduce the noise in the battlefield thus aiding leaders in maintaining command and control.”
And the affect on a trooper’s hearing isn’t anything to shake a stick at either, industry experts say.
“The VA spends about $10 million per year on helping veterans who’re suffering from hearing loss,” the silencer industry source said. “That’s a big concern for service members who’re being exposed to gunfire throughout their career.”
While it’s clear most agree suppressors deliver major advantages to the war fighter, it’s not all ninja moves and .5 MOA shots every time.
Look, it’s physics folks. That gas and flash from a shot has to go somewhere.
Trapped in the suppressor, the hot gas and flash of a magazine dump, for example, can heat the accessory up to as much as 500 degrees. That’s enough to melt handguards and deliver severe burns if a trooper absentmindedly handles one.
That means if grunts are using suppressors as a matter of course, they have to add yet another element to look out for when they’re manipulating their weapons.
2. Length and Weight
Adding a “can” to the end of a rifle adds extra weight and length to the firearm. That changes how the trooper operates, particularly in close quarters battle scenarios.
The whole point of equipping infantry Marines with 14.5-inch barreled M4s is the make them more maneuverable. Adding another 6 inches to their rifle puts them right back in M16 A4 land, the Marine infantry expert said.
The added weight to the end of the barrel also affects accuracy and manipulation, industry sources say. A suppressor can make a rifle “front heavy,” changing the way a shooter has to mount the rifle and balance it for an accurate shot.
Great care has to be taken in mounting a suppressor to a rifle, the industry expert told us. Marines are probably using suppressors that attach to the rifle using a quick-attach mount so that a trooper can take the suppressor off quickly if needed (the other type of attachment is to just thread it directly to the barrel).
If this attachment isn’t done right and the suppressor is just a tiny bit off from the line of the barrel, it can result in the fired bullet impacting the baffles inside the suppressor, causing it to rupture. This is known as a “baffle strike,” and while it doesn’t usually cause severe injury, it can take a gun out of a fight, the industry source said.
Additionally, on direct (gas) impingement guns like the M4 (but not like the piston-driven M27), the suppressor can force a lot of gas back into the rifle breach.
“A suppressor scenario is going to result in a much filthier gun,” the industry source said. “That could cause more malfunctions if it’s not cleaned immediately.”
Modern suppressors are awesome and make shooting a firearm more controllable, accurate and safe. Most believe outfitting service members with this technology increases their effectiveness on the battlefield. But its important to remember they do come with some drawbacks that take training and practice to avoid.
Iraqi nationals who risked their lives to help American troops in wartime should not be subject to a recent executive order halting immigration from Iraq, a bipartisan group of lawmakers wrote in a letter to President Donald Trump on Monday.
The letter, a joint effort by Reps. Duncan Hunter, R-California, and Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, asks Trump to grant the request of Defense Secretary James Mattis to exempt Iraqi military interpreters, aides and allies from the scope of the order. Both Hunter and Kinzinger are veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively.
The letter was also signed by Reps. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio; Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon; Seth Moulton, D-Massachusetts; and Peter Welch, D-Vermont. Stivers and Moulton are also veterans. Moulton, a Marine Corps veteran of Iraq, has publicly discussed bringing his own interpreter to the United States on a Special Immigrant Visa.
“We made a promise to the men and women who served alongside us on the battlefield, and we must uphold that promise to leave no man behind,” Hunter and Kinzinger said in a joint statement. “We urge the president to honor Secretary Mattis’ requests, and stand up for those who stood by our military and American personnel. For the safety of these courageous individuals and their families, and in the interest of our national security, it’s critical that we make this exception and do so swiftly.”
On his own, Moulton has taken an even stronger stance in full opposition to Trump’s executive order. In a statement, he warned that closing doors to immigration would fuel antipathy against the U.S. and help Islamic State radicals recruit new suicide bombers.
“His policies literally put our troops’ lives at risk — I’ve heard this loud and clear when I have visited them overseas,” he said. “They also prove he has zero understanding of our country’s values and no intention of defending our Constitution.”
Trump’s executive order, published Jan. 27, put an immediate temporary halt to immigration from seven countries, including Iraq. The order caused immigrants currently in transit to be taken into custody, including Hameed Khalid Darweesh, who had reportedly worked for the U.S. government in Iraq for more than a decade. Darweesh, who was granted a Special Immigrant Visa on Jan. 20, was ultimately released into the U.S. a full day later.
A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, told reporters Monday that the Defense Department is making a list of Iraqis who had worked to help U.S. troops for submission to the government agencies carrying out the executive order.
Special Immigrant Visas were created in 2008 for the express purpose of providing a special path for people from Iraq and Afghanistan who had assisted American troops to resettle in the United States, a recognition that these individuals and their families often faced greater danger because of their service.
“It is important that a special exception is made for the consideration of individuals who directly supported American personnel overseas,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter. “We respectfully ask that you take this action to ensure these individuals are not put in any further danger. Doing so would send a strong signal to those who show such immense courage to advance U.S. security interests at a risk to their own safety, as well as the many veterans and warfighters who’ve relied on the service of these individuals for their own protection and to accomplish their objectives.”
The U.S. Army Reserve celebrates its 109th birthday on Apr. 23. During more than a century of service, its soldiers have defended America in combat, added to its prestige in peacetime, and — in one case — even provided a president who led America through the end of World War II and the start of the Cold War.
Here are six of the most impressive Army reservists to ever wear the uniform:
1. Charles Lindbergh
The famous pilot of the Spirit of St. Louis aircraft, Charles Lindbergh, was the first man to fly from New York to Paris non-stop. He did so in his capacity as a civilian pilot, but he was also an Army Air Service reservist. President Calvin Coolidge awarded Lindbergh the Medal of Honor.
Lindbergh later had a falling out with the Roosevelt administration over his isolationism and resigned his commission in April 1945. When America joined the war that December, Lindbergh was blocked from re-entering military service but managed to fly combat missions in the Pacific anyway.
Eifler had originally joined the Army when he was only 15 and was first discharged at the age of 17 when the military found out. He became a Reserve officer years later and eventually rose to the rank of colonel. For his work with Detachment 101, he was dubbed “the most dangerous colonel.”
3. Beauford T. Anderson
Staff Sgt. Beauford T. Anderson was fighting on the island of Okinawa when Japanese forces managed to flank part of the 96th Infantry Regiment (Organized Reserves) and force them back. The Americans eventually fell back into an old tomb and Anderson slowed their assault by emptying his carbine into the attackers at point blank range.
He had already received the Bronze Star with Valor for rescuing wounded soldiers under fire on Leyte.
4. Harry S. Truman
Yes, that Harry S. Truman, the one who ordered two nuclear bombs to be dropped on Japan. He was an Army Reserve colonel when America entered World War II and was excused from drilling for obvious reasons. He served in the Senate for most of the war before being selected as President Franklin Roosevelt’s running mate in the 1944 elections.
Your grandparents and great grandparents fighting in World War II were hit with just as much safety rules as troops are today, it’s just those rules rarely make it to the history books.
But they weren’t always given their safety rules in boring briefings. When the 1940s War Department and Department of the Navy really wanted to drive safety rules home, they made snazzy safety videos and posters.
The Navy used “Ensign Dilbert,” a soup-sandwich who always breaks safety rules, to highlight the grisly results of incompetency in aviation.
And Dilbert does some truly stupid stuff. He mishandles his weapons, tows aerial targets into ground crews, and even accidentally kills a civilian his first flight of the day. And the Navy isn’t afraid to show the (PG-13) bodies of his victims.
A Roman poet named Juvenal is credited with saying; “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” –a Latin phrase that means “who will guard the guardians?” Chaplains are often seen as these guardians, someone who looks after those who protect others.
Historically, nearly every unit in the Army has had chaplains assigned to look after the spiritual and/or emotional needs of the force, to include elite units such as U.S. Army Airborne, Rangers, and Special Forces. While many chaplains assigned to these units decide to go through the Basic Airborne Course and Ranger School, which can help them better relate to the soldiers in their care, few have had the opportunity to attend and complete the U.S. Army Special Forces Qualification Course.
“Support soldiers such as the staff judge advocate, surgeons office and chaplains, are a necessity to Special Forces, but they are not required and/or rarely offered the opportunity to attend SFQC, without having to re-class (change their MOS),” said Chaplain (Capt.) Mike Smith, now a Special Forces qualified chaplain with 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division. “Now, since I completed the course and earned the coveted Green Beret, they see me as one of them. I have ‘survived’ the same challenges they had to survive in order to serve in the Special Forces community.”
“To me, it isn’t the fact that I am able to wear the beret as much as it allows me to understand the operators I serve. There is a sense of alienation when a support soldier, including the chaplain, arrives to an SF unit. There is some assessment time where the unit attempts to understand the new chaplain,” said Chaplain (Maj.) Timothy Maracle, a Special Forces qualified chaplain with 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne). “This period of acceptance and access to the unit allows a chaplain the ability to express their identity to the new group of soldiers and operators. On the other side, when the unit finally does accept the chaplain, there is an unbreakable bond. We support one another as if they were our own flesh and blood. The beret is the vehicle of access, but it doesn’t do everything for a chaplain, just provides access.”
Smith recalls some of the challenges he faced through his journey, explaining that a mere week from graduation he was told he may be receiving a certificate of completion rather than actually donning the Green Beret with the rest of his classmates. However, senior SF personnel such as Chaplain (Col.) Keith Croom expressed those chaplains who have met the same standards of SFQC as other candidates should be granted the opportunity to don the Green Beret and thus minister with their SF brethren.
Although these chaplains have met the same standards, been through the same training, and hold the same qualifications as many SF soldiers, they do not consider themselves ‘operators.”
“If there is one thing I learned, it is that I am not an ‘operator.’ I was not and am not called to that role. It’s not to say that I couldn’t take on that role, because I have gone through the training, but it’s more to say that my role is different,” said Chaplain (Maj.) Peter Hofman, a SF Qualified Chaplain and instructor at the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School, Fort Jackson, South Carolina. “My role is to guard the guardians, to minister to those in the SF community.”
Hofman also recalls a moment during his time at SFQC when he was met with his share of adversity.
After his final patrol in the Small Unit Tactics portion of the course, Hofman notes that he was sitting with the rest of his platoon waiting for a final AAR (after action review), when an instructor walked up to him and said, “What’s your deal man?”, which led him to believe he had done something wrong. The instructor then clarified his initial question by asking why Hofman, as a chaplain, was learning about assaulting objectives and carrying weapons.
“I could tell he was irritated by my presence and after a little back and forth I finally said, ‘Well sergeant, I think the SF motto: ‘De Oppresso Liber’ is an important mission,” he said. “In fact, it is the same mission that Jesus stated was his mission in ‘Luke 4’ quoting from ‘Isaiah, chapter 61′. It’s a mission that I would like to be a part of and the SF community is a brotherhood that I would be honored to serve in’. Apparently, that satisfied him because he walked away. In that moment I became more aware than ever before what a huge responsibility I was being charged with and what a privilege it was to be there and serve with these ‘guardians.'”
Because of the unique situation these chaplains find themselves in (attending SFAS and SFQC as Chaplains), they also share a unique perspective.
“The essence of what SFQC has done for me is knowledge. Knowledge about how much these soldiers have been pushed, pulled, and stressed while going through the course. Knowledge about the way operators think, which assisted me during counselings with their spouse. Knowledge about how important perception is to an operator, as it is the first impression of a person that will assist an operator when he needs it,” said Maracle. “Knowledge about my own weaknesses and how understanding my breaking points, I can understand that in others as well. And finally, knowledge about the bigger picture of what is truly important to an operator and how to support them when they don’t even know they need it.”
According to Maracle, for him and his fellow chaplains, enduring and ultimately graduating this grueling course was never about the glory, but always about the soldiers they would later serve.
“Any time a chaplain can successfully complete challenging courses and become tabbed, I believe it bolsters the reputation of the (Chaplains) Corps,” said Crawley “I am a better man and chaplain for having gone through, and I believe it also gives us a voice in places we may not have without it.”
The elite U.S. Coast Guardsmen of the specialized forces deploy around the globe to fight terrorism and prevent attacks.
The Coast Guard anti-terrorism mission is most perfectly exemplified by two groups: the Maritime Safety and Security Teams and the Maritime Security Response Team. The MSRT and the MSSTs were part of the Coast Guard Deployable Operations Groups before the DOG was dissolved in 2013.
The Maritime Security Response Team is the group that answers the 911 call and rapidly deploys when an impending terrorist attack is suspected or underway at an American port or waterway. They’re also charged with conducting higher risk law enforcement missions.
Like the MSRT, the Maritime Safety and Security Teams can rapidly deploy when necessary — they secured sensitive areas in Boston within hours of the Boston Marathon bombings — but they focus on longer missions, deploying to American and friendly ports that are at increased risk of attack and establishing a semi-permanent presence.
Twelve MSSTs provide security at ports from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to New York Harbor, from San Diego to Anchorage, Alaska and Honolulu.
“Special operations” technically covers only Department of Defense assets. The Coast Guard, operating under the Department of Homeland Security, classifies its elite operators as Deployable Specialized Forces.
See more photos of them below:
A Maritime Security Response Team member pulls security during a ferry boarding in an exercise Oct. 22, 2015.
The MSRT members quickly gained control of the ferry and searched it for radiological threats.
A military working dog with the MSRT was brought in to search the vessel while his human counterparts controlled it.
A member of a Maritime Safety and Security team patrols New York waterways in Nov. 2003.
The first female recruits at Recruit Training Command were issued their new enlisted white hats, or Dixie cups, as part of the Navy’s efforts for uniformity in service members’ uniform, April 4.
While the rest of the enlisted female E1-E6 Sailors have until Oct. 31 to begin wearing their Dixie cups, the recruits at the Navy’s only boot camp have already begun to do so as per NAVADMIN 236/15.
The Navy redesigned several uniform elements for Sailors that improve uniformity across the force as well as improve the function and fit of their uniforms. The changes will eventually make uniforms and covers more gender neutral.
“This feels incredible as we are making a part of history,” said Seaman Recruit Madeleine Bohnert, of St. Louis, Missouri, as she tried on her cover. “It’s really awesome how something as simple as our cover is so symbolic in regards to equality and the uniformity in the military. It’s a sense of pride knowing that we are a part of getting the first Dixie cups.”
During uniform issue, the female recruits lined up wearing their new covers as their Recruit Division Commanders ensured they were being properly worn.
As Engineman 2nd Class Shanice Floyd, RDC, helped adjust her recruits’ covers for proper fitting, she instructed those with longer hair in braids or buns how to make correct adjustments to accommodate the Dixie cup.
“We’re already part of a team and this just promotes it in a better way,” said Floyd. “Junior enlisted males and females already wear the same dress white uniform so this way when we get into the same dress blues uniform we’ll look more as a unit.”
The Alternative Combination Cover (ACC) and current male combination cover for officers and chief petty officers can now be worn by both men and women in service dress uniforms. All officers and chiefs will be required to wear the ACC Oct. 31.
“I am very excited to be one of the first females to be given the opportunity to wear the Dixie cup, and I believe we’ve come really far as a country and as a service,” said Seaman Recruit Maria Frazier, of Springfield, Ohio. “I think it’s really beneficial because as we work side by side, we have to work as a team. For me, it’s important that as we’re working together, we look uniform so we can work in uniform.”
The Dixie cup will match the recently redesigned Service Dress Blue uniforms in jumper style for both men and women, beginning Oct. 1.
The jumper will incorporate a side zipper and the slacks will have a front zipper to help with changing in and out of uniform. This will be the eventual end of the female version of the “crackerjack” uniform with a jacket and tie for female petty officers and junior Sailors.
“I feel that females have been performing to the standard equal to their male counterparts, and right now, with these new covers, we look more as a team,” said Floyd.
Just four days into September, a story out of Iraq caught the attention of Western media. Burqas, the traditional, full-body covering on Muslim women living under some Islamic traditions, were reportedly banned by Islamic State commanders.
Katie Zavadski at the Daily Beast tracked exactly how the story came to the West. Women in ISIS-controlled territory are routinely forced to wear the niqab, a gown-like garment that covers the head and includes a veil for covering the face. They are also forced to wear gloves and other accessories – but never a burqa.
There is also the question of an Iranian news source in the reporting.
“I’m thinking, why would anyone in Mosul contact an Iranian [news] agency,” Rasha al-Aqeedi, a Mosul native and research fellow at the al-Mesbar Studies and Research Center in Dubai, told The Daily Beast.
These planned campaigns of “covert influence” are more common than one might think.
During the Cold War, the United States had its own foreign influence machine. The CIA program dubbed “Mockingbird” placed reports from the agency to unwitting reporters in over 25 major newspapers and wire agencies, including the New York Times, Washington Post, CBS, and Time magazine.
The Guatemalan military never fully trusted Guzmán. So when a shipment of arms bound from Soviet-dominated Poland arrived in the country, it was outed by The New York Times, who quoted “Guatemalan Army officers” saying “some of the arms … were duds, worn out, or entirely wrong for use there.” It was the first anyone in the Guatemalan military knew of the secret shipment and created even more mistrust in the government.
In addition, the now-defunct U.S. Information Agency wrote hundreds of articles based on CIA reports, distributing them throughout Latin America.
Even though agencies in the U.S. are prevented by law from influencing American media, this doesn’t mean wire stories don’t end up there. And some misinformation campaigns can become real in the minds of people, regardless of how true the stories are.
In the early years of the AIDS epidemic, the KGB planted a story in an Indian newspaper, The Patriot, that AIDS was a product of a U.S. biological warfare program. That story has since shifted to include other diseases and has even traveled to the United States itself. Similar stories evolved about Sickle Cell Anemia and even crack-cocaine.
Propaganda stories like these work for a number of reasons. First and foremost, they represent a fear that is logical. They also play to the core values of the target country; people want to believe these stories.
The West wanted to believe that women under ISIS domination would use the tools of their oppression to strike back at their oppressors. Some would like to believe they would do the same in similar situations.
Iran’s goal with stories like these is to limit the scope of our discussion in Iraq and Syria, to remind us that ISIS is evil and any action in support of ending their reign of terror should generally be seen as a good thing, some experts claim.
It is also to remind the West that secular and Shia-dominated countries like Iran, Iraq, and Syria are not as oppressive of women as Sunni areas of the Middle East. Where ISIS and Saudi Arabia (Iran’s chief foes in a greater ideological war) force women to wear full-body coverings, face veils, and even gloves, Syrian and Iraqi women are not forced to do these things. In Iran, a simple head scarf and loose coverings are sufficient.
The important thing to remember – for all of us to remember – is the old adage that sometimes what seems “too good to be true” probably isn’t.
Military advocates are rallying to stop a proposal in the U.S. Senate to reduce military housing allowances.
The Senate Armed Services Committee’s version of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which sets policy and spending targets for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, would curb the military’s Basic Allowance for Housing, or BAH, for new entrants beginning in 2018 by only covering what they actually pay in rent. It would also reduce the combined value of the benefit received by military couples or roommates.
“We’re not in favor of the language in there,” Michael Barron, deputy director of government relations at the Military Officers Association of America, an advocacy group based in Arlington, Virginia, told Military.com. “We’ve got some major concerns with it.”
The Senate panel led by Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, wants the monthly BAH — which varies by paygrade, dependent status and region in the U.S. — to be more like the Overseas Housing Allowance — which covers only housing expenses.
Section 604 of the Bill S.2943 is titled, “Reform of Basic Allowance for Housing.”
Beginning Jan. 1, 2018, the legislation would set the allowance for new entrants at “the actual monthly cost of housing” or an amount “based on the costs of adequate housing” for each military housing area, according to a copy of the legislation. It also states two or more service members occupying the same housing would split the allowance.
It’s unclear whether the full chamber will approve the language when it votes on the defense authorization bill at a later date. Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine have already introduced amendments to strike the provision. The House didn’t include similar language in its version of the bill and the Defense Department hasn’t requested the change.
In addition, Congress is already supporting a Pentagon plan to slow the growth of Basic Allowance for Housing over five years so service members on average pay 2 percent of their housing costs this year, 3 percent in 2017, 4 percent in 2018 and 5 percent in 2019 and thereafter. Troops won’t see a modification in the allowance until they change duty stations.
Senators argue the housing allowance has become “bloated and ripe for abuse” and note the change could save an estimated $200 million, according to an article by Leo Shane III, a reporter for the Military Times newspapers who first reported the proposal.
Barron said the allowance is part of regular military compensation designed to retain and recruit talented people into the military. He also noted in the 1990s troops paid roughly 15 percent of their housing allowance out of pocket and that lawmakers in Congress had “done a lot of work” over the past decade to reduce that expense.
“We really don’t think they should be trying to make these reductions for new entrants coming in. We just don’t think it’s the right thing to do,” he said.
“You’re already asking a service member to pay more for retirement savings,” he added, referring to the recent overhaul of the military retirement system that incorporated a 401(k)-style plan. “You’re asking them also now to pay more for housing.”
In the aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg, the Confederate Army was in full retreat, forced to abandon all of its dead and most of its wounded. The Union Army and citizens of Gettysburg had an ugly cleanup task ahead of them. Along with the numerous corpses littered about the battlefield, at least 27,574 rifles (I’ve also seen 37,574 listed) were recovered. Of the recovered weapons, a staggering 24,000 were found to be loaded, either 87% or 63%, depending on which number you accept for the total number of rifles. Of the loaded rifles, 12,000 were loaded more than once and half of these (6,000 total) had been loaded between three and ten times. One poor guy had reloaded his weapon twenty-three times without firing a single shot. At first glance, this doesn’t seem to make any sense whatsoever.
One could draw any number of conclusions from this data. But an obvious one might be that for some reason, large numbers of soldiers were not discharging their weapons during the battle but continued to reload anyway, perhaps to give off the appearance that they were participating in volleys. The thick smoke, mass confusion, and thunderous sounds of musket and cannon fire would probably prevent a neighbor on your line from definitively observing that you weren’t actually firing your weapon. You could even mimic the rifle’s kickback as you pretended to fire. In his book on the psychological impact of killing in war, On Killing, Dave Grossman argues this very point, coming to the conclusion that the discarded but loaded weapons recovered after Gettysburg mostly represent soldiers who were psychologically unable or unwilling to fire at the enemy.
Paddy Griffin highlights a few other possibilities in her well regarded book, Battle Tactics of the Civil War. For one, Griffin argues that the high rate of misfire in Civil War era rifles combined with the inability of many soldiers to reload properly under hectic battle conditions would render a large number of rifles unusable in a short period of time. Loading a civil war rifle, such as the Springfield 1861, was a complex and time consuming process. In the heat of battle, it is to be expected that some number of soldiers will panic, lose focus, or act in fear, leading them to misload and thus misfire their weapon, rendering them useless.
The rifles of the era were prone to overheating and often malfunctioned on their own and the rate of misfire only increased with each successful shot. Inserting the percussion cap, the final step before firing, was easy to bungle or forget, potentially leading a soldier to think that he had discharged his weapon when he hadn’t. There is also the chance that a soldier accidentally fires his ramrod (essential for reloading), then begins to reload his weapon only to find he cannot complete the job. These weapons would likely be abandoned. A new weapon would be claimed but it too could be a discard. The soldier would reload the newly acquired weapon only to find that it cannot fire, and then immediately drop it. Now the rifle is double loaded. There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that in some instances the misfire rate could be as high as 25% during combat. We might believe then that many of the loaded rifles were discarded on the battlefield precisely because they couldn’t fire. Functioning rifles might be desirable enough to be claimed from the battlefield long before an official tally of leftover weapons was made.
Finally we must consider the high attrition rate of artillery fire, which could engage the enemy at much longer ranges than musket volleys. During Pickett’s Charge, the confederate army marched slowly towards the union lines and only began anything resembling a spirited jog once they had closed to a few hundred yards. Throughout the war, both sides were reluctant to fire until they had their intended target within their sights. By the time they reached volley range, cannon fire would have already decimated whole sections of the line, leaving behind dead or dying men clutching fully loaded rifles.
These factors probably all contributed. It’s certainly believable in light of other studies that some percentage of soldiers intentionally fired over the head of the enemy, or perhaps double, triple, or quadruple loaded their rifles to avoid firing them at all. But 90 or even 60%? That seems ludicrous. The number of casualties at the battle alone (33,000 between the two sides), not all of which could have been caused by artillery, attests otherwise. Those who misloaded or misfired their weapons were among the lucky ones. Plenty were killed before they could fire off a single pre-loaded shot.
During World War II there were numerous ways in which American citizens at home could help the war effort. Victory gardens, rationing, recycling (then known as scrap collection), and most importantly war bonds were all a part of daily life.
But some Americans wanted to do more – a lot more. The employees of the Union Pacific Railroad and the citizens of Sparks, Nevada held war bond drives to buy planes that would fly against the Nazis.
By 1943, the American war effort was in full swing on both fronts. The railroads were busy carrying men and materiel coast to coast to be shipped off to the war abroad. Despite their hard work supporting the cause, the railroad men of the Union Pacific still wanted to do more. So, driven by their patriotism, 65,000 employees voluntarily increased their payroll deductions for war bonds during the months of May and June to the tune of $379,000. For their efforts they were rewarded with being the first railroad group to be honored with a named heavy bomber, a B-17 F called The Spirit of the Union Pacific, in August 1943.
The following spring, inspired by what the Union Pacific Railroad had done, the city of Sparks, Nevada took up an effort to ‘buy a bomber,’ as their rallying cry became. The 6,200 residents of Sparks raised $600,000 in the effort to purchase a bomber, the equivalent of nearly $8 million today. With their nearly $10,000 per resident effort, the citizens of Sparks were honored with a B-25J Mitchell bomber named The Spirit of Sparks.
The Spirit of the Union Pacific arrived in England for combat on September 9, 1943 and was assigned to the 571st Bomb Squadron, 390th Bomb Group, Eighth Air Force. Between that time and October 10 the plane flew four successful missions before being taken over by Capt. Robert Short and his crew as a replacement for their usual plane Short Stuff. Unfortunately this would be the last mission of the war for The Spirit of the Union Pacific as well as Capt. Short and his crew. On October 10 The Spirit of the Union Pacific and her crew were on a mission to bomb Munster, Germany as part of a larger effort later known as ‘Black Week’ due to the high losses of American bombers. Just short of the target the formation encountered heavy flak and German fighters. The Spirit of the Union Pacific was hit in the #3 engine causing a fire that consumed the plane. Upon realizing the severity of the hit Capt. Short ordered the crew to bail out. Two other crew members bailed out but did not survive and one was likely fatally injured and crashed with the plane. The remaining seven crewmen landed safely but were immediately captured by the Germans and spent the rest of the war as POW’s.
The Spirit of Sparks arrived in Italy in late 1944 and was assigned to the 321st Bomb Squadron located at Fano, Italy. During its tour The Spirit of Sparks flew over 150 successful missions against Axis positions in Italy and Southern Europe. Lt. Jack Kenyon and his crew flew 30 missions in The Spirit of Sparks in early 1945 taking no casualties before rotating out. Command next passed to Capt. McEldery who despite losing two wingmen in one mission also completed his missions without casualties. Capt. McEldery would be the final commander of the plane though as during transition training for the next crew the new pilot came in for a hard landing that crumpled the wings of the plane ending a very successful career. The plane was scrapped in Italy and used to repair other damaged bombers.
A scale model of The Spirit of Sparks along with a painting done by a crew member who survived 69 missions onboard can be found at the Sparks Heritage Museum in Nevada. Numerous other cities, organizations, companies also purchased planes that served in World War II though little is known about them.