The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles - We Are The Mighty
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The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles

After testing revealed problems with how standard-issued magazines load certain ammunition into Marine rifles, the Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use the wildly popular polymer-made Magpul PMAG.


The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles
The Marine Corps has just authorized Marine units to purchase the Magpul PMAG GenM3 magazine saying government-issued ones don’t work as well with all Marine weapons.(Photo by WATM)

“The Magpul GenM3 PMag was the only magazine to perform to acceptable levels across all combinations of Marine Corps 5.56mm rifles and ammunition during testing,” the Marine Corps’ top gear buying office told WATM.

In a Corpswide message released in mid December, Marine Corps Systems Command issued guidance ordering Marines to use the Magpul Industries-made PMAG Gen. M3 with M-16, M-4 and M-27 rifles, as well as the M-249 machine gun.

Industry sources say the issue stems from how the Army’s new M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round feeds from government issued magazines, causing damage to the internal components of the Marine Corps’ M27 — a version of the Heckler Koch 416 rifle.

“It was damaging the feed ramps and the chamber face of the 416,” an industry source told WATM. “It was presenting the M855A1 round at a lower angle and damaging the upper barrel extension.”

The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles
A soldier packs the popular Magpul PMAG into combat. The Marine Corps has just issued guidance saying all units must use the PMAG since government-issued ones don’t perform well on certain Marine rifles. (Photo by U.S. Army)

In fact, the Army was having its own problems with the standard magazine and the M855A1 round, so it developed a new magazine, dubbed the “Enhanced Performance Magazine” to deal with the issue.

But that one didn’t work for the Corps either.

“The legacy metal 30-round magazines are no longer manufactured and their replacement, the Enhanced Performance Magazine (EPM), does not perform to acceptable levels with all combinations of the Marine Corps’ 5.56mm rifle platforms and ammunition,” the Corps told WATM.

The Corps — along with the Army — had reportedly banned use of after-market magazines, including the PMAG, in 2012 after troops were having problems with poorly-made knockoffs.

Magpul was one of the first companies to introduce polymer-built magazines for M-16s, and M-4s and the PMAG became increasingly popular among soldiers and Marines fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The new PMAG GenM3 takes advantage of 10 years of experience building magazines for a variety of rifles and calibers, incorporating enhanced geometry, better followers and an optimized round-count window, Magpul officials said.

“We haven’t had a single stoppage in any testing of the PMAG GenM3,” a Magpul official told WATM. “We’re happy to help the Marine Corps in a way that enhances the warfighter.”

The Corps is not buying PMAGs to replace all its current magazines, but is instead giving units the option to buy their own.

“There are currently no procurements for any of the 5.56 rifle platforms and as we normally only issue magazines with a new weapon fielding, there are no plans to issue Magpul magazines at the service-level,” the Corps said. “Unit procurement through Defense Logistics Agency is expected to be comparable to current commercial cost on the open market.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is China’s new mysterious stealth bomber project

China made history as the only nation other than the US to ever field a stealth fighter jet, and a new report on China’s military power from the Defense Intelligence Agency just revealed yet another batch of stealth combat aircraft projects.

China “is developing new medium- and long-range stealth bombers to strike regional and global targets,” the report reads. “Stealth technology continues to play a key role in the development of these new bombers, which probably will reach initial operational capability no sooner than 2025,” it continued.


Today, China holds perhaps the world’s most passive nuclear arsenal with nuclear warheads that never arm missiles and nominally “nuclear-capable” bombers that have never flown missions with nuclear warheads on board.

China’s only current bomber is the H-6K, an updated, licensed knock off of the Soviet Tupolev Tu-16, which entered into service in 1954 and was retired by Moscow in 1993.

The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles

A Xian H-6K bomber.

While the H-6K serves the purpose of signaling capability and resolve, by landing on artificial islands in the South China Sea, for example, it’s nowhere near a modern bomber.

Plans and some potential images have leaked for the H-20, a long-range replacement for the H-6K, but until now the second Chinese stealth bomber has remained a rumor and a mystery.

The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles

Could China combine the stealth of the B-2 with the fighter prowess of an F-22?

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joel Pfiester)

Fighter/bomber?

Experts who spoke to Business Insider about China’s H-20 described the bomber as likely looking a lot like the US’s B-2, a big, flat, flying wing type design.

But the DIA hinted at something a bit more sporty in its report for the second mystery bomber.

“These new bombers will have additional capabilities, with full-spectrum upgrades compared with current operational bomber fleets, and will employ many fifth-generation fighter technologies in their design,” the report said.

While a long-range flying wing type bomber like the H-20 has little use for fighter maneuvers, a medium-range fighter/bomber aircraft could easily make use of the avionics and tactics China gained in developing its stealth fighter, the J-20.

The DIA in a table later in the report refers to the second bomber as a “tactical bomber” and with a fighter/bomber mission, an advanced radar and long-range air-to-air missiles.

The Drive points out that a bomber like the one described by the DIA would have increased endurance and wouldn’t rely so heavily on refueling tankers, thought to be a weak link with US combat aircraft.

The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles

Image shows the unnamed Chinese long range missile that could be a big problem for the US.

(dafeng cao / Twitter)

Secret weapon?

China has long been developing a massive, 19-foot long very long range air-to-air missile that experts say could pose a direct challenge to top US fighters like the F-35, F-22, and all legacy aircraft.

But the J-20 likely can’t carry this long missile. A stealthy platform with a large internal weapons bay, like the fighter/bomber describe by the DIA, in theory, could handle this weapon.

With both an air-to-air and an air-to-ground mission, the mysterious new bomber may represent a missing link in China’s emerging vision of air supremacy against the US.

Every big-deck US aircraft carrier launches early warning radar aircraft to act as long-range sensors for its fighter fleets, and this new missile appears purpose-built to down them.

“The best solution to this problem I can figure out is to send a super-maneuverable fighter jet with very long-range missiles to destroy those high-value targets, which are the ‘eyes’ of enemy jets,” Air force researcher Fu Qianshao told Chinese media of its new long-range missile.

The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles

China’s J-20.

(Times Asi / Flickr)

Super-maneuverability is one of the fifth-generation fighter characteristics that China may employ on its new bomber, according to the DIA.

“So the successful development of this potential new missile would be a major breakthrough,” said Fu.China has long hyped its existing J-20 as an air superiority fighter, but that assessment is routinely shot down by Western analysts who say the plane doesn’t stand a chance in close combat with US F-15s or European Typhoons.

For the US, which can bring to bear the tremendous power of large fleets of land and ship-launched fighter jets anywhere in the world, its main weakness in air combat remains short ranges on its new jets, which leads to a reliance on unarmed refuelers.

But China, by following through on a medium range fighter bomber with long range missiles, may have cracked the code of how to dominate the skies of the Pacific while the US pours money into short range fighters like the F-35 or long-range bombers like the B-21.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

Russian allies want to be trained by Steven Seagal

Steven Seagal, Actor:


Environmentalist.

Internationalist.

The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles
Seagal in Chechnya

Humanitarian:

The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles

Now, he may extend his resumé to include drill sergeant. He recently spent three days in Serbia as a guest of the Serbian government. While in Belgrade, Seagal met with Serbia’s Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic and President Tomislav Nikolic. It went much better than the time Seagal met Eastern Europeans in Driven to Kill.

The Serbians had another offer for him. They offered the actor and producer a job training Serbian special police forces in Aikido, the Japanese martial art for which Seagal is famous.

The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles
Which is strange, because he doesn’t believe in your authority.

He was in Serbia to be honored for his work with the Brothers Karic Foundation, a Serbian nonprofit dedicated to promoting tolerance and coexistence while promoting Serbian culture abroad.

The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles
(Photo: Aleksandar Vucic/Twitter)

The 63-year-old action film actor is one of many celebrities openly socializing with Russian President Vladimir Putin who once received the same honor.

The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles
They aren’t shaking hands, they’re both trying to break the other’s arm. (Kremlin photo)

Seagal’s affinity toward the Russians and Serbia — a longtime traditional Russian ally — is well documented. The actor’s response is not known, but the chances of someone’s arm being broken was high.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How to tell what type of machine gun you’re looking at

For over a century, machine guns have had a major effect on ground combat. Their efficacy against infantry prompted the invention of the tank in World War I, for instance. They’ve changed the way wars are fought and have played a huge role in forging history.


That said, it’s important to keep in mind that not all machine guns are the same, and getting the nomenclature right is important. While this isn’t as hotly contested as the debate between “magazine” and “clip”, it can get touchy. We’re talking about some cool machine guns here, we want to make sure we’re using the right terms as we imagine letting loose on a range with them.

There are several types of machine guns. Let’s take a look:

Original HMG – Heavy Machine Guns

As originally understood, this term applies to water-cooled guns intended to provide a sustained volume of fire, like Germany’s Maxim machine guns that were used in World War I or the Browning M1917. HMGs are typically heavy, stationary weapons. They might not be very mobile, but as a grunt, you don’t wanna have to charge them.

The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles
United States Army personnel, including the son of John Moses Browning, fire an M1917 heavy machine gun. (U.S. Army photo)

MMG – Medium Machine Guns

These guns emerged in World War II as a more mobile option for sustained fire. The M1919A4 is a prime example. MMGs don’t provide as much sustained fire as water-cooled guns, but their versatility and firepower have proved to be very lethal.

The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles
Marine Pfc. Douglas Lightheart cradles his M1919 30-cal. machinegun as he and his buddy, Pfc. Gerald Churchby, take time out for a cigarette while fighting on Peleliu Island. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. H. H. Clements)

AR – Automatic Rifle

The automatic rifle emerged in World War I. The earliest issued rifles, namely the French Chauchat, were pieces of crap, but later offerings, like the Browning Automatic Rifle, were mainstays of World War II. Today, the Marines field the M27.

The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles
A U.S. Marine fires the Browning Automatic Rifle in World War II. (Photo: U.S. Archives)

LMG – Light Machine Gun

The light machine gun was another strike at finding that sweet spot between firepower and mobility. Like an automatic rifle, it uses a box magazine and you can fire it from your shoulder. However, using the bipod is highly recommended for accuracy. When you think LMG, think Bren or Lewis.

The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles
British troops take a rest, with a Bren light machine gun visible on the trail. (Photo from Imperial War Museum)

GPMG – General Purpose Machine Gun

After World War II, some engineers took a look at all the machine gun options and realized that they could come up with something that balances all available capabilities. Germany’s MG34 and MG42 were the first GPMGs to emerge. Today, just about every country uses these.

The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles
Lance Corporal Kendall S. Boyd (left) and PFC Ryan J. Jones (right), combat engineers, Combat Assault Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, hone their machine gunnery skills by firing the M240G medium machine gun in 2004. Note the rivets on the receiver. (USMC photo)

SAW – Squad Automatic Weapons

Also known as LSWs, or Light Support Weapons, these weapons emerged as a problem was discovered with the GPMGs. GPMGs typically used ammunition of a different caliber than ARs and LMGs. SAWs use the same type of ammo as the rifle squad, making it an efficient, potent choice. A modern example is the M249 SAW.

The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles
A U.S. Marine fires an M249 light machine gun. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Donald Holbert)

HMG (Modern) – Heavy Machine Guns

The modern heavy machine gun packs huge amounts of stopping power with .50-caliber rounds. For examples of the modern HMG, think Ma Deuce or the Russian DShK.

The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles
Marines with Company A, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry-West (SOI-West), fire the M2A1 .50 caliber heavy machine gun as part of their basic infantry training Sept. 20, 2016, at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. (Official Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Joseph A. Prado)

For more details on how to tell which type of machine gun you’re admiring, watch the video below:

(Forgotten Weapons | YouTube)
Articles

5 ways Russia’s military is literally falling apart

Russia has been saber-rattling so hard that cracks are forming in the blade and the hilt seems to be falling off. The military has been embarrassed by a number of of high profile failures and missteps in the past few years.


To be clear, the Russians aren’t helpless and certain units are deadly. They have a large nuclear arsenal, some of the world’s quietest submarines, and an impressive new tank. But here are six reasons Russian military planners can’t be sleeping easy.

1. Their planes keep falling out of the air.

The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles
The MiG-29 in flight. Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Kevin L. Bishop

An Su-24M tactical bomber and a Tu-95 strategic bomber crashed in separate incidents in July, two MiG-29 fighters crashed in June as did an Su-34 strike fighter. In total, these crashes cost the lives of four Russian service members and resulted in the groundings of the Tu-95 and MiG-29 fleets.

Meanwhile, the replacements for the aging fighters keep getting cut back due to funding problems, a theme which will recur in this list. Also, Russia claims that it is building new Tu-160 bombers and developing a brand new bomber, but industry experts think it is frankly not feasible for the Russians to find the required high-skill workers or money to do everything at once.

2. Their only aircraft carrier needs a tug boat escort and can’t launch fully-armed planes.

The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles
Photo: Mil.ru

The Russians have one carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov. The ship was launched in 1985 and began active duty in the fleet in 1991. In 24 years, it has served only four frontline deployments. It requires tugs to accompany it in deepwater in case it breaks down at sea and needs to be refueled every 45 days. The crew has trouble completing the refueling missions however, sometimes spilling the fuel across the ocean instead.

Meanwhile, even when everything is working to plan, the Kuznetsov has troubles. It isn’t a proper carrier and launches aircraft from a bow ramp rather than catapults, limiting her jets to low takeoff weights with limited fuel and ammunition. Plumbing problems in the ship limit the number of functioning latrines to 25 for her full crew of nearly 2,000. In 2011, U.S. Navy ships trailed the Kuznetsov to her home port to rescue the Russians if the ship sank.

Russia is planning a larger, more robust new carrier but it would still rely on ramps for two of its four launching positions, would require refueling every 120 days, wouldn’t have many ports it could be parked in, and may be too expensive and complex for Russia to actually complete.

3. They rely on conscripts and soldiers forced into contracts.

The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles
Photo: US Air Force

Russian Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev, then-head of the National Center for Defense, bragged in 2014 that “two army brigades, 12 special forces units and five battalions of airborne troops and marines were manned entirely with contract servicemen,” according to RT, a Russian media outlet. But, that’s the first time the Russian military has had more contract soldiers than volunteers in its history. And, first-term contract soldiers aren’t “volunteers” the way they are in America.

In America, all service members are volunteers who don’t have to serve in the military unless a draft is ordered. In Russia, males between the age of 18-27 must serve in the military, either one year as a conscript or two as a “volunteer.”

4. Even their domestic displays of power keep going wrong.

In July, a Russian Navy Day celebration saw a missile frigate fire at a target only for the missile to fail, spinning through the air and breaking apart meters from the ship, a display of an anti-aircraft missile failed in April when the missile fell back to the ground, and one of Russia’s premier new tanks broke down during a rehearsal for the country’s Victory Day Parade.

Tragically, a helicopter also crashed during an air show Aug. 3, killing one of the pilots.

5. Their funding situation is bad and getting worse.

While Russia continues to spend heavily on defense, the upgrades will eventually be limited by what the rest of the economy can bear.

Russia, crippled by sanctions, falling oil prices, and a weakening currency, has been forced to cut their purchase plans for fighters and new tanks. Some Russian contractors have attempted to sell the nation new helicopter carriers after a deal with France fell through, but there are reports that Russia can’t afford new ships anyway. Meanwhile, Russia’s largest economic ally, China, has questionable loyalty to Moscow.

NOW: See how Russia’s all-female paratrooper battalion trains for war

OR: This video shows the awesome capabilities of Russia’s elite Spetsnaz troops

MIGHTY HISTORY

A Green Beret was the inspiration for Col. Kurtz in ‘Apocalypse Now’

The Army’s Special Forces command came down to one man during the Vietnam War. His job performance earned him the nod from screenwriter John Milius, who turned retired Army Colonel Robert Rheault’s legacy into something more enduring than he ever imagined. He was immortalized forever by actor Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now.

Unlike Col. Kurtz, however, there was nothing insane or dark about Col. Rheault.


The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles

Rheault shortly after the end of the “Green Beret Case.”

Robert Rheault grew up in a privileged New England family, went to West Point and later studied in Paris, at the Sorbonne. The young Army officer picked up a Silver Star for service in Korea, but it was his time in Vietnam that would change his career forever, devastating the man who only ever wanted the Army life.

In Vietnam, Col. Rheault commanded all of the United States Special Forces. Taking command of the 5th Special Forces Group in July, 1969, it was only three weeks before the darkest incident of his career would put him in the middle of one of the war’s most controversial events – the “Green Beret Case.”

The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles

Rheault was an accomplished soldier, a paratrooper, Silver Star Recipient and Korean War veteran by the time he arrived in Vietnam.

The United States had been in Vietnam in force since 1965. By 1969, there were more than a half million U.S. troops in theater. Special Forces A-Teams were operating in 80 or more isolated areas throughout Vietnam. Given their mission and skills sets, the intelligence gathered by Special Forces soldiers was the most solid in the entire war, and the U.S. military estimated that SF components were able to identify, track, and eliminate entire Viet Cong units in their area of responsibility.

At the time, Special Forces operators were in the middle of a project called GAMMA, a similar intelligence-gathering operation targeting the North Vietnamese in Cambodia – and the project was the biggest secret of the war until that point. After SF troops identified NVA or VC units in “neutral” Cambodia, B-52 bombers would illegally hit those Communist targets in defiance of UN conventions.

Rheault commanded a force of Green Berets and South Vietnamese commandos who would lead raids into the neighboring countries to gather intelligence and take out key Communist infiltration, transportation, or storage sites – whatever would cause the most harm to the enemy. Sites they couldn’t take care of themselves were left to the CIA and the U.S. Air Force. The Colonel oversaw five of these “collection teams” and its 98 codenamed agents. It was the most successful intelligence net of the war.

But something kept happening to the Special Forces’ most valuable intelligence assets. They kept ending up dead or disappearing entirely. They began to suspect a double agent in their midst. That’s when a Special Forces team raided a Communist camp in Cambodia. Among the intel they picked up was a roll of film that included a photo of a South Vietnamese GAMMA agent, Thai Khac Chuyen.

He was not long for this world.

After ten days of interrogations and lie detector tests, Chuyen was found to have lied about compromising the GAMMA program. To make matters worse, the double agent might also have been working for the South Vietnamese government. This meant that if the triple agent was released to them, he could possibly walk free, a prospect unacceptable to the Americans. After conferring with the CIA, they decided to handle Chuyen in the way that most double- or triple-agents meet their end. He disappeared.

Chuyen’s American handler, Sgt. Alvin Smith, was not a member of Special Forces, but rather an Army intelligence specialist assigned to the project. It turns out that Smith did not follow protocol when onboarding Chuyen. Smith failed to administer a polygraph test that might have revealed why Chuyen spoke such fluent English, that the agent was from North Vietnam and had family there, and had worked for many other U.S. outfits and left them all in incredible turmoil.

The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles

Col. Rheault returns to the U.S. with his wife in 1969.

Smith began to fear for his own safety, having failed the Special Forces and compromising one of the best intelligence networks of the entire war. So he fled, taking refuge with the CIA office in the area and spilling the beans about what really happened to the triple-agent Chuyen. Rheault and seven other officers were arrested for premeditated murder and jailed at Long Binh.

Rheault actually knew about it and lied about the cover story (that Chuyen was sent on a mission and disappeared) to protect the men who served under him. But Rheault took no part in the planning or execution of Chuyen’s murder. Still, he lied to Gen. Creighton Abrams who already had a distaste for the Special Forces. So, when the officers’ courts-martial began, the Army was looking to throw the book at all of them.

The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles

Abrams was well-known for hating paratroopers and Special Forces.

The event made national news and soldiers under Rheault’s command were flabbergasted. The colonel had done nothing wrong, and they knew it. Moreover, there was no one more qualified for his position in the entire country, as he was one of very few officers qualified to wear the coveted green beret. But the CIA wouldn’t testify against the soldiers, and by September, 1969, it wouldn’t matter. The Secretary of the Army, Stanley Resor, dropped the charges against the men after succumbing to pressure from President Nixon and American public opinion.

By then, the damage was done. All eight of the officers’ careers were ruined, and Rheault accepted an early retirement. The fallout didn’t stop there. The publicity associated with what became known as the “Green Beret Case” prompted RAND Corporation analyst Daniel Ellsberg to leak the “Pentagon Papers” to the American Press.

Articles

Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of profiles of incredible female veterans that WATM will be presenting in concert with Women’s History Month.


The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles
Kayla Williams (right) with unidentified female soldier next to an up-armored Humvee during the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The title of Kayla Williams’ 2005 book, Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the US Army uses an old marching cadence to seemingly thumb its nose at what some might consider the more antiquated ways of US Army culture, especially when it comes to women. Fifteen percent of the Army is female, but Williams would come to learn during the Iraq War, the only women in the Army the public knew well were Lynndie England and Jessica Lynch… and those were not the people Williams wanted representing women in the Army.

“When I came home from Iraq, I realized people can be ignorant about the role of women in combat,” Williams told me. “Some people asked if I was allowed to carry a gun, some asked if I was in the infantry, even though women still can’t be. I was acutely aware women’s roles were largely unknown to the general public and I wanted to give a nuanced perspective of what women experience in the current conflicts.”

Williams was an Army signals intelligence linguist, specializing in intercept and direction finding. She enlisted in 2000 because she wanted to learn another language. The language the Army chose would dramatically affect the way she looked at her career.

“I got Arabic as opposed to Korean or Chinese,” Williams says. “I was at the Defense Language Institute on 9/11 and it was clear to us then the world had changed.” In 2003, Williams was part of the initial invasion of Iraq with the 101st Airborne Air Assault. Though her primary function was signals intelligence, she found there was a huge need for Arabic translation on the ground. Beyond any of her expectations she found herself doing foot patrols with the Army infantry.

“This was the very early days of the war,” she recalls. “The Iraqi people were still hopeful they would see a better future in the aftermath of the down fall of the regime. I was making a difference in the lives of those Iraqis and in the lives of my fellow soldiers.”

Williams’ work took her all over the American area of responsibility in Iraq.  She worked her way North to Mosul, Sinjar, and Tal Afar, and spent a great deal of time on the Syrian border.

“In my experience,” she says, “everyone has to prove themselves in a new unit, male or female. Everyone is going to test you. It’s inevitable. In the combat arms units I was attached to, how they treated me depended on how well I did my job. When they saw me translating for them, they could see I could help them. And when commanders treated me with respect, the troops would too.”

The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles
Williams getting promoted in Iraq.

Though far from a support structure, Kayla Williams remembers those first days in the Northern areas of Iraq as relatively peaceful.  By the time her deployment was over, however, the situation had completely changed. They had electricity and running water in their camp, but now the insurgency had taken root.

“When we drove back to Kuwait at the end of my tour we had to do it at night in a blackout drive.”

Despite personal feelings about the war, Williams approached every mission to the best of her ability. She knew her skill as a translator could be the most necessary help to the war, and thus the troops. She thought at the time though we went to war for the wrong reasons, maybe we still did a good thing. Now, with a Master’s degree in International Affairs with a focus on the Middle East from American University, her observations are more grounded in fact than feeling.

“Maybe in a generation or two the Middle East will be better off,” she says. “But who knows? Who predicted the rise of ISIS? I’m not sure that anyone can predict the long term. It’s the polite way of saying I hope we didn’t fuck it up too bad.”

Williams sees the roles of women in the Armed Forces as a necessary one, especially given cultural sensitivities in predominantly Muslim countries. To her, being able to assign women to combat units will give field commanders better command and control capability without sacrificing readiness or discipline.

“The decision to lift the exclusion policy for women in combat was a validation and vindication of the more than 280,000 women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Williams says. “The former Secretary of Defense made the decision with the unanimous support of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Now commanders will be able to train like they fight and function better as a military by putting the right people in the right jobs.”

Williams’ second book, Plenty of Time When We Get Home: Love and Recovery in the Aftermath of War is the story of her return home, her husband’s struggle with traumatic brain injury (TBI) from an IED attack during his own time in Iraq, and how they struggled to overcome; it was published in 2014.

Now: Female Vet Says ‘They’ll Have To Pry My Uniform Out Of My Hands’

And: This Female Vet Is One Of History’s Most Decorated Combat Photographers

Articles

Here’s what happened to 6 American soldiers who defected to North Korea

Isolated and sealed off from the rest of the world, North Korea doesn’t exactly shine as a beacon of hope and light. But for a half dozen American soldiers serving after the Korean War ended, it apparently seemed that way.


The war came to a halt with an armistice in 1953, though the North has often threatened to back out, while it’s not blustering about destroying its neighbor or lobbing artillery shells over the de-militarized zone. Since that time, both sides have occasionally come close to war once again. But with U.S. soldiers still stationed in and supporting the South, that probably wouldn’t work too well for the Hermit Kingdom.

So what happens when an American soldier decides to switch teams? In 1962 we got an answer, along with five others who defected to North Korea (There are many others who defected during the war listed here).

1. Pvt. Larry Allen Abshier

On May 28, 1962, Pvt. Abshier walked off his post and meandered through the minefields of the Korean DMZ and fled to North Korea, becoming the first post-war defector. According to a defector who came across later, Abshier was a bit of a troublemaker and was caught smoking marijuana on a number of occasions. So rather than face Army discipline, he chose the most repressive regime on earth, according to NK News.

Once he got there, he was used for his obvious propaganda value. The North broadcasted on June 13 that Abshier could no longer stand his “humiliating life” in the American military, and then later, as other defectors showed up, he became a big-time star of propaganda films, usually playing as Evil American #1. Seriously, he even has his own IMDB page.

 

The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles
Abshier in a North Korean film.

Abshier did end up getting married — twice. His first wife was taken away from him when his captors found out she was pregnant. His second wife was a Thai woman who was kidnapped by Pyongyang agents. But despite plenty of hype about American defectors being treated to lavish rewards, Abshier was forced to read propaganda about Kim Il Sung for 11 hours a day and lived in a crappy house. He died of a heart attack on July 11, 1983.

2. Pfc. James Joseph Dresnok

Just like Abshier, Pfc. James Dresnok wasn’t the recruiting poster soldier (yes, we know you’re shocked). After serving two years in West Germany, he found himself on the South Korean DMZ, facing a court-martial. According to “60 Minutes,” his wife had left him and he had left his base without permission, and the Man was about to drop the hammer.

So he just walked through a minefield instead, joining Abshier (although they didn’t know each other). Like him, Dresnok was later plastered on magazines, books, and made appearances in movies. After four years of that, he (and others) finally figured out their new life sucked, and sought asylum in the Soviet embassy. And the Soviets told them to pound sand.

The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles
Dresnok in a still from a Chinese news package.

Luckily, the North Koreans didn’t shoot him, and he decided to just conform. “Oh, I gotta think like this, I gotta act like this. I’ve studied their revolutionary history, their lofty virtues about the Great Leader. Little by little, I came to understand the Korean people,” Dresnok told “60 Minutes.”

He’s still there, alive and kicking. Dresnok, who goes by Joe, taught English for some time and now lives in a small apartment in Pyongyang, living off his government check. He’s been married twice, and even has three kids. His oldest son James considers himself Korean, and wants to be a diplomat, according to CBS.

3. Cpl. Jerry Wayne Parrish

In Dec. 1963, Cpl. Jerry Parrish walked across the DMZ, according to NK News. The why for Parrish wasn’t as clear cut as the others, though Charles Jenkins (who defected next) wrote in his book that he cited personal reasons, but “didn’t elaborate about them much except to say that if he ever went home, his father-in-law would kill him.”

There’s much less known about Parrish’s time in North Korea until Jenkins showed up in 1965. At that point, the North now had four American mouths to feed, and it stuck them into a crappy house and pitted them against each other so they would become indoctrinated.

“At first the four of us lived in one house, one room, very small, no beds — we had to sleep on the floor,” Jenkins told Far Eastern Economic Review. “There was no running water. We had to carry water approximately 200 metres up the hill. And the water was river water.”

He added: “If I didn’t listen to the North Korean government, they would tie me up, call Dresnok in to beat me. Dresnok really enjoyed it.”

Like the others, he was used mostly for propaganda. He starred as “Lewis” in the 1978 cult classic (only in North Korean minds) film “Unsung Heroes.” He married a Lebanese woman — who swears she wasn’t kidnapped or anything — and had three sons, all of whom remain in North Korea. Parrish died of “massive internal infection” in 1997, according to the Far Eastern Economic Review.

4. Sgt. Charles Robert Jenkins

Jenkins is perhaps the most well-known of the American defectors, since he’s still around, unrepentant, and still giving interviews. But his story of defection was basically your Army buddy’s version of “I got drunk and went to get a tattoo and I don’t know what happened.” According to The Atlantic, on Jan. 4, 1965 Jenkins pounded 10 beers then decided to desert his infantry squad while leading them on patrol, in an effort to avoid going to Vietnam. Well, mission accomplished, bro.

It wasn’t long before the beer wore off. “I made a lot of mistakes in my life, maybe, but that was the worst mistake anybody ever make,” he told CBS News. “That’s for sure.”

Once he got there, he was put into a small home with the others and slept on the floor, forced to memorize propaganda all day. This was a far cry from his real plan, hoping the North Koreans would send him to Russia and the Russians would swap him back to the U.S. (on what planet does this make sense?).

Among one of the worst things to happen to Jenkins involved his choice of ink: On his forearm he had the letters “U.S.” underneath infantry crossed rifles. The North Koreans held him down and cut off those letters, according to Far Eastern Economic Review.

He lived in North Korea for nearly 40 years, teaching English, translating, and of course, starring in propaganda. He married a Japanese woman who had been kidnapped and had two daughters. In 2002, she was freed in a rare act of diplomacy on Kim Jong Il’s part, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offered Jenkins the same courtesy. He took it in 2004.

Though the Army did throw him in the stockade for a whopping total of 24 days and gave him a dishonorable discharge, a hilarious twist from his time of desertion before he was tried qualified him for all the service medals during the period. So he actually showed up to his court-martial wearing a Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. Thanks for your service, Chuck.

The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles
Jenkins after returning from North Korea.

Jenkins now lives with his wife in Japan, where he works at a historical museum, The Atlantic reported.

5. Pfc. Roy Chung

There’s some controversy over what actually happened to Chung. Born in South Korea as Chung Ryeu, he moved to the U.S. with his parents in 1973 and joined the Army for the college money, later serving in West Germany. But here’s where it gets weird: He was nowhere near Korea when he disappeared.

In June 1979, he vanished from his unit in Germany, and three months later, North Korean state radio announced he had defected. The Pentagon and State Department maintain that’s probably true. But his parents are convinced he was kidnapped, The Washington Post reported.

None of the others reported ever coming into contact with him, and there’s not much else known about his time in North Korea. He may still be alive, but is rumored to have died of natural causes.

The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles
Chung in North Korean People’s Army uniform in an undated photo.

6. Pvt. Joseph T. White

The last person to join the defection dream team came on Aug. 28, 1982, when Pvt. Joseph White shot a lock off a gate at the Korean DMZ and started walking through the minefields. Carrying his M-16 rifle and ammo, he walked north and called out “I am coming” to his soon-to-be new best friends, according to Asia Times.

”My son did not cross that line,” Kathleen White, his mother, told The New York Times. ”He loved this country and he loved that uniform and everything about it. Joey was nothing but gung-ho Army and gung-ho Reagan.”

But back at his barracks, investigators found plenty of pro-North leaflets and other propaganda. And his fellow soldiers were dumbfounded. The last time they saw him, his arms were being held behind his back and North Korean soldiers were pushing him into a bunker, The New York Times reported.

What happened next is up for debate. In his autobiography, Jenkins said his government minders told him White had suffered an epileptic seizure and was paralyzed, but he never heard anything more. But in 1986, White’s parents received a letter from a North Korean friend “who had been on good terms” with the soldier, explaining that he drowned in a river while enjoying a “leisure time” outing, the AP reported.

Since the propaganda bulls–t coming from North Korea is so thick, what really happened is impossible to verify.

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7 key facts about the USO’s 75 years of service

The USO was formed on Feb. 4, 1941 as the nation prepared for the possibility that it would get dragged into another World War. Now, 75 years later, the USO serves America’s warfighters with an estimated 10 million “connections” every year in the form of entertainment tours, homecoming celebrations, care packages, and more.


Here are 7 facts about how the USO got where it is today:

1. The USO began at the request of President Franklin D. Roosevelt

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Photo: Courtesy USO, Inc.

With the “War in Europe” spreading in the early 1940s, President Roosevelt knew he might soon have a massive military that would need morale assistance. He asked six private organizations — the YMCA, the YWCA, the National Catholic Community Service, the National Jewish Welfare Board, the Traveler’s Aid Association, and the Salvation Army — for their help.

Rather than just draw straws or split up areas on a map, the six organizations combined into a sort of entertainment Voltron that focused on one demographic, the troops.

2. The first services were USO shows and free Coke, both of which continue today

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The late Robin Williams performs for sailors in Bahrain in 2003. (Photo: US Navy Journalist 1st Class Dennis J. Herring)

As the Army and Navy grew in preparation for the war, the most urgent mission of the USO was giving service members the feeling and tastes of home. The USO began a partnership with Coke (that continues to this day) and started bringing in talented soldiers and entertainers to perform for crowds of troops.

3. The USO had a break in service

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Marilyn Monroe visited Korea in 1954. Photo: Department of Defense

In 1947 the occupying forces in Europe and Asia were shrinking and the USO was granted an “honorable discharge” from service by President Harry S. Truman. The Korean War kicked off in 1950 and the USO was back in service by 1951. It wasn’t until after American forces were withdrawn from Vietnam that the USO officially dedicated itself peacetime operations as well as wartime.

4. Bob Hope performed at the first USO center in a combat zone

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Photo: National Archives and Records Administration

While the USO is now known for setting up shop in combat zones, no large USO facilities existed in contested areas during Korea or World War II. The first was in Saigon, Vietnam where Bob Hope performed a Christmas Special in 1964. He would perform a Christmas special for U.S. troops nearly every year until 1973, most of them in Vietnam.

5. The USO is headquartered in the Bob Hope Building

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Bob Hope had a long and enduring relationship with the USO. He first performed with them a few months after their formation and before World War II even started. He continued to headline tours and recruit other entertainers through World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf War in addition to smaller conflicts and peacetime performances.

In 1985 the USO moved into a new headquarters building that they named for the performer in recognition of his hard work and dedication to the organization.

6. Stephen Colbert’s stint in the Army was in partnership with the USO

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Photo: US Army

While a lot of people remember when Stephen Colbert “enlisted” in the U.S. Army in 2009, not everyone remembers that his week-long trip to Iraq was a USO tour. Colbert filmed his show from the country for that week and allowed Gen. Ray Odierno to shave his had.

7. The longest-running USO tour is a Sesame Street experience

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Photo: US Department of Defense

The Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families has run since 2008. In 2014, it celebrated a milestone as it reached its 500,000 military family member. The show has been performed over 1,000 times at more than 140 military bases worldwide.

(h/t to the USO’s interactive timeline where much of the information for this article was found. Check it out to learn more about USO history and see additional photos.)

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Here’s what the Pentagon thinks about those bases China keeps building around the globe

China’s construction of a military outpost in Djibouti is just the first of what will likely be an ongoing expansion in friendly foreign ports around the world to support distant deployments, a new Pentagon report concludes, predicting that Pakistan may be another potential location.

The annual assessment of China’s military might also notes that while China has not seized much new land to create more man-made islands, it has substantially built up the reefs with extended runways and other military facilities. It has also increased patrols and law enforcement to protect them.


The Djibouti base construction is near Camp Lemonnier, the U.S. base in the Horn of Africa nation. But American military leaders have said they don’t see it as a threat that will interfere with U.S. operations there.

“China most likely will seek to establish additional military bases in countries with which it has a longstanding friendly relationship and similar strategic interests, such as Pakistan, and in which there is a precedent for hosting foreign militaries,” the Pentagon report said. “This initiative, along with regular naval vessel visits to foreign ports, both reflects and amplifies China’s growing influence, extending the reach of its armed forces.”

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A Chinese destroyer pulls into Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in 2006. (Photo by: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ben A. Gonzales)

The military expansion ties into a broader Chinese initiative to build a “new Silk Road” of ports, railways and roads to expand trade across an arc of countries through Asia, Africa and Europe. Countries including Pakistan and Afghanistan welcome it as a path out of poverty.

But India and others would be unhappy with additional Chinese development in Pakistan, particularly anything linked to the military.

China has cited anti-piracy patrolling as one of the reasons for developing what it calls a naval logistics center in Djibouti. Construction began in February 2016. Beijing has said the facility will help the army and navy participate in United Nations peacekeeping operations and provide humanitarian assistance.

But the expanded presence around the world would align with China’s growing economic interests and would help it project military power further from its borders.

The report cautioned, however, that China’s efforts to build more bases “may be constrained by the willingness of countries to support” the presence of China’s People’s Liberation Army in one of their ports.

The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles

Unlike previous reports, the new assessment doesn’t document a lot of new island creation by China in the East and China Seas. Last year’s report said China had reclaimed 3,200 acres of land in the southeastern South China Sea.

Instead, the new report focuses on the military build-up on the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

It said that as of late last year, China was building 24 fighter-sized hangars, fixed-weapons positions, barracks, administration buildings, and communication facilities on each of the three largest outposts — Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief Reefs. Each has runways that are at least 8,800 feet long.

Once complete, the report said China will be able to house up to three regiments of fighters in the Spratly Islands.

China has also built up infrastructure on the four smaller outposts, including land-based guns and communications facilities.

The report added that, “China has used coercive tactics, such as the use of law enforcement vessels and its maritime militia, to enforce maritime claims and advance its interests in ways that are calculated to fall below the threshold of provoking conflict.”

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Oliver Stone thinks Edward Snowden is a hero

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Edward Snowdon in Oliver Stone’s new movie coming out in September. (Photo: Open Road Films)


In the first full trailer for Snowden, Oliver Stone’s biopic of the NSA contractor who leaked classified documents to the media in 2013, the director makes clear that he thinks Edward Snowden is an American hero.

 

The movie version of Snowden (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a good soldier who trains on broken legs without complaint for two weeks, aspired to serve in special forces and wants to join the CIA to serve his country. He is shocked by what he sees at the NSA and wants the rest of America to make an informed decision in the privacy versus security debate.

All of this matches up perfectly with Vietnam veteran Stone’s long-time movie obsessions with shadowy government figures and national security. After getting delayed twice, the movie finally opens in theaters on September 16.

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The 82nd Airborne deploys more troops to ‘brutal’ ISIS fight

Several small groups of soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division have deployed in early 2017, bound for the Middle East and the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.


That fight, according to U.S. officials, includes the “most significant urban combat to take place since World War II.”

“It is tough and brutal,” Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend said from Baghdad late March, describing the ongoing operation to liberate Mosul, Iraq, from ISIS.

“House by house, block by block fights. Despite that, the Iraqi Security Forces continue to press ISIS on multiple axes, presenting them with multiple dilemmas. We know the enemy cannot respond to this. Tough fighting in one sector provides the opportunity for other elements to advance in other areas, and that’s what the Iraqi Security Forces have been doing.”

Townsend is the commander of the anti-ISIS coalition, known as Combined Joint Task Force — Operation Inherent Resolve. He’s also the commander of the 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg.

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U.S. Army 1st Lt. Branden Quintana and Sgt. Cory Ballentine, both 82nd Airborne Division, pull security with M4 carbines on the roof of an Iraqi police station in Habaniyah, Anbar province, Iraq, July 13, 2011. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kissta Feldner/Released)

The coalition he leads includes dozens of countries making varied contributions to the fight. The 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team is a key contributor among U.S. forces, with more than 1,800 paratroopers deployed in support of an advise-and-assist mission, training and equipping Iraqi forces before battle and providing intelligence, artillery support and advice during combat.

The latest 82nd Airborne troops to deploy in support of the fight are also from the unit, known as Falcon Brigade. Although they are not expected to remain in country for the entirety of what’s left of the nine-month deployment.

Army leaders first discussed the additional deployments last month, when a three-star general told members of Congress up to 2,500 soldiers from the brigade could join the rest of their unit on the deployment.

But officials have said more recently that it’s unclear if that number will be called forward. Instead, smaller groups — such as the two companies of about 200 soldiers who left Fort Bragg last Tuesday — have been deployed.

Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon via telephone last week, Townsend said ISIS was causing massive human suffering and would continue to do so if the Iraqi forces and their coalition partners do not prevail.

“Our enemy, ISIS, are evil and murderous butchers, engaged in purposeful and mass slaughter,” he said. “There are countless mass graves surrounding Mosul. ISIS put those bodies in there…the savages that are ISIS deliberately target, terrorize, and kill innocent civilians every day. The best and fastest way to end this human suffering is to quickly liberate these cities and Iraq and Syria from ISIS.”

Townsend said officials have observed civilians fleeing ISIS-held buildings. They’ve heard reports that ISIS was shooting civilians trying to leave Mosul. Iraqi forces have reported houses filled with hostages and rigged to explode.

“This is a difficult and brutal fight on multiple fronts,” he said. “…it is the toughest and most brutal phase of this war and…the toughest and most brutal close quarters combat that I have experienced in my 34 year of service.”

“ISIS is slaughtering Iraqis and Syrians on a daily basis,” Townsend added. “ISIS is cutting off heads. ISIS is shooting people, throwing people from buildings, burning them alive in cases, and they’re making a video record to prove it. This has got to stop. This evil has got to be stamped out.”

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This is the FBI’s dream team of elite counterterrorism operators

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has its own “dream team” of special operators trained to save the lives of hostages and respond to terror attacks.


It’s called the Hostage Rescue Team. With the memory of a terrorist attack at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, and Los Angeles selected to host the games in 1984, U.S. officials realized they had no dedicated counterterrorism force that could respond to such an event.

Out of this planning, HRT was born. While initially trained to respond to hostage situations, the team has evolved to support high-risk arrests, protect dignitaries, and assist the military in foreign war zones.

But before agents can join the team which — not surprisingly — often attracts ex-Navy SEALs and Army Special Forces, they need two years of experience as a field agent. After this, they can volunteer for HRT, but it’s not easy.

First, agents need to go through a two-week selection process at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. They are evaluated by senior HRT personnel on whether they would be able to mesh with the team — not on how good they are as operators.

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Photo: FBI

At selection, they are tested in physical fitness, shooting, making arrests, teamwork, and how they react during stressful situations.

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On average, less than 33 percent of candidates make it through selection, according to the book “To Be An FBI Special Agent” by Henry Holden.

The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles

Those who make the cut are then assigned to New Operator Training School, which is also at Quantico.

The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles

HRT training is similar to military special operations units, with the caveat that agents also train to arrest suspects whenever possible.

The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles

Over the six month training course at NOTS, agents learn skills such as fast-roping out of helicopters and SCUBA diving.

The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles

But according to the FBI, the skill they focus on that is most critical is close-quarters battle, or CQB. “How quickly we can secure a house with a credible threat inside might mean the difference between a hostage living or dying,” said Special Agent John Piser, in a story on the FBI’s website.

The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles

The HRT has special “shoot houses” where operators can train in the art of clearing rooms, as instructors watch and critique them on catwalks above.

The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles

If they graduate NOTS, operators join their individual teams at HRT. But they still have another year of training in basic assault skills, along with specialty training in communications, emergency medicine, or breaching.

The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles

Some go on to get even more specialized training, like HRT snipers.

The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles

Members earn their HRT patch, which bears the Latin motto “Servare Vitas,” which means “to save lives.”

The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles

HRT’s numbers are low: Less than 300, according to Business Insider. But that doesn’t make them any less capable. The team can respond to any number of threats within the U.S. in just four hours.

The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles

“As an elite counterterrorism tactical team for law enforcement, the HRT is one of the best — if not the best — in the United States,” said Sean Joyce, deputy director of the FBI and former HRT operator. “They are elite because of their training.”

NOW CHECK OUT: The elite history of the U.S. Navy SEALs