These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI - We Are The Mighty
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These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI

It was a warm Sunday afternoon on May 20, 1917, as nurses and doctors of Chicago’s Base Hospital Unit No. 12 gathered on deck of the U.S.S. Mongolia to watch Navy gunners conduct target practice.


Laura Huckleberry, one of the nurses standing on deck, had grown up on a farm near North Vernon, Indiana, and graduated from the Illinois Training School for Nurses in 1913. With Huckleberry were her roommates, Emma Matzen and Edith Ayres, also graduates of the Illinois Training School Class of 1913 and Red Cross Reserve Nurses selected for coveted spots in the hospital unit.

Also enjoying the Atlantic breezes while lounging in deck chairs or standing at the ship’s railing, the group included Scottish-born Helen Burnett Wood, a nursing supervisor at Evanston Hospital. Wood’s mother had protested her daughter’s decision to join the unit, but the 28-year-old Wood had written just before the ship sailed to tell them not to worry.

But Wood’s mother’s worst fears soon materialized.

“We watched them load and fire and then Emma said, ‘Somebody’s shot,'” Huckleberry later wrote of the event in her diary. “I turned and saw two girls on the deck and blood all around.”

Related: These 6 women earned the Silver Star for valor in war

Pieces of flying shrapnel struck Ayres in the left temple and her side, while Wood’s heart was pierced. Both were killed instantly. Matzen suffered shrapnel wounds to her leg and arm. As doctors and nurses attended to their fallen comrades, the ship turned around and returned to New York. The wounded Emma Matzen was taken to the Brooklyn Naval Yard Hospital, then transferred to New York Presbyterian Hospital and later to convalesce at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C.

These three women became the first American military casualties of World War I. But it was unclear whether they were entitled to military benefits. Before their bodies were shipped home, Ayers and Wood were honored by the American Red Cross in a memorial service at St. Stephen’s Church. Their coffins, placed side by side, were draped with the Allied flags as New Yorkers paid their respects.

Although technically not buried with full military honors, the two nurses were honored in their local communities in elaborate public services described as “similar to those accorded the sons of Uncle Sam who fall on the field of battle.”

In honor of their martyred patriot, 32 autos in a “slow and solemn march” accompanied the hearse carrying Edith Ayers’ casket from the rail junction to Attica, Ohio. Area schools were closed for two days and most of the community paid their respects as her body lay in state in the Methodist Church. The burial concluded with a 21-gun salute from the 8th Ohio National Guard as a delegation of Red Cross nurses and representatives of the governor and the state of Ohio stood in silence.

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI
A gun on the U.S.S. Mongolia. | Public Domain photo

Wealthy financier and former Evanston mayor James Patten, whose wife was a friend of Helen Wood, telegraphed his New York representative to have the body shipped to Chicago at his cost. Evanston Hospital, Northwestern University and First Presbyterian Church officials took part in planning the memorial services after obtaining the consent of relatives.

More than 5,000 people lined the streets of Evanston to view her funeral escort, which included a marching band, 50 cadets from Great Lakes Naval Station, Red Cross nurses, hospital and university officials and other dignitaries. Following church services, a contingent of Red Cross nurses accompanied grieving family and friends to the gravesite.

Part of the ambiguity about the military status of these nurses came from the fact that they were enrolled by the American Red Cross before being inducted into the U.S. Army. They also served without rank or commission. Although the Army and Navy had formed nursing corps before the war, this was the first time they had inducted women in large numbers.

The Senate Naval Affairs Committee investigated the incident, determining that it resulted from the malfunctioning of the brass cap on the powder cartridge case and ordering changes to naval guns to prevent recurrence of such mishaps. But as U.S. war casualties mounted, these women were soon forgotten.

Emma Matzen recovered from her injuries and rejoined her unit in France later that year. In 1919, she returned home to Nebraska, where she and a sister, also a nurse, ran a small hospital. Each adopted infant girls who had been abandoned at the hospital; both girls later became nurses as well. Matzen moved to Ft. Wayne, Indiana, in 1949 where she did private duty nursing until she was 87. She was the only female among the 49 residents in her local VA Hospital; she died in 1979 at the age of 100.

Until the mid-1940s, the Edith Work Ayers American Legion Post in Cleveland was an all-women’s group comprised of former WWI Red Cross nurses and volunteers. The Attica Ohio Historical Society has honored her during annual Memorial Day ceremonies. Ayers’ graveside, although also without mention of any military service, has an American Legion marker. An Attica high school student, with the endorsement of the American Legion, has applied to the Ohio History Commission for a plaque to be placed in Attica in honor of its native daughter.

In Northesk Church near Musselburgh, Scotland, Helen Wood’s name is the first listed on a Roll of Honor of the congregation’s WWI deceased. In 2014, the flag which draped her coffin and her Red Cross pin were displayed in a WWI exhibition at the local museum. But Helen Wood is buried thousands of miles away in Chicago’s Rosehill Cemetery. Among the grand tombstones of famous Chicagoans and war veterans, Wood’s simple headstone makes no mention of her military death. Her wartime sacrifice is recognized only by a marker provided long ago by the Gold Star Father’s Association.

On the centennial of the accident aboard the Mongolia, a public wreath laying ceremony will be held at Helen Burnett Wood’s grave site in Rosehill Cemetery May 20. Part of “Northwestern Remembers the First World War”, a series of exhibits, lectures, and commemorations from Northwestern University Libraries will also be part of the remembering of America’s first casualties of WWI.  Support of the event is provided by the Pritzker Military Museum Library.

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The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period

The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:


AIR FORCE

President Barack Obama transits aboard Air Force One through the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., April 2, 2015. Obama was in town to discuss job training and economic growth during a visit to Indatus, a Louisville-based technology company that focuses on cloud-based applications.

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI
Photo: Maj. Dale Greer/USAF

Crew chiefs prepare a B-1B Lancer on Al Udeid Airbase, Qatar, for combat operations against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists, April 8, 2015. Al Udeid is a strategic coalition air base in Qatar that supports over 90 combat and support aircraft and houses more than 5,000 military personnel.

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI
Photo: Senior Airman James Richardson/USAF

NAVY

The guided-missile destroyer USS Oscar Austin (DDG 79) moors between two buoys in Port Victoria, Seychelles. Oscar Austin is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe and Africa.

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI
Photo: Ensign Kirsten Krock/USN

CARIBBEAN SEA (April 15, 2015) An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter attached to the Sea Knights of Helicopter Combat Support Squadron (HC) 22 provides search and rescue support during a search and rescue exercise conducted by the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) during Continuing Promise 2015.

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Kameren Guy Hodnett/USN

ARMY

A Paratrooper from the 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division provides security while mounted on a camouflaged Lightweight Tactical All Terrain Vehicle during Combined Joint Operational Access Exercise 15-01 on Fort Bragg, North Carolina, April 14, 2015.

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI
Photo: Sgt. Flor Gonzalez/US Army

Engineers, from 2nd Cavalry Regiment, conduct a platoon breach at Hohenfels Training Area, Germany, April 13, 2015, as part of Exercise Saber Junction 15. Saber Junction 15 is a multinational training exercise which builds and maintains partnership and interoperability within NATO.

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI
Photo: Maj. Neil Penttila/US Army

MARINE CORPS

LISBON, Portugal – U.S. Marines with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa post security during an assault training exercise near Lisbon, Portugal, April 10, 2015. Marines stationed out of Moron Air Base, Spain, traveled to Portugal to utilize a variety of different ranges and training exercises alongside with the Portuguese Marines.

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI
Photo: Lance Cpl. Christopher Mendoza/USMC

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY , N.C. – Naval aviators with Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Training Squadron 1 shoot flares from an EA-6B Prowler during routine training above Eastern North Carolina, April 14, 2015. VMAQT-1 student pilots and electronics countermeasures officers train to perform dynamic maneuvers while focusing on communication and radar jamming.

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI
Photo: Cpl. Grace L. Waladkewics/USMC

COAST GUARD

A helicopter from U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen stands at the ready on the flight deck of Coast Guard Cutter Resolute.

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI
Photo: USCG

The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Senecastands watch over Lower Manhattan in New York City with One World Trade Center in the background.

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI
Photo: USCG

NOW: 9 reasons candidates are disqualified from military service

OR: Watch Shepherds of Helmand:

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13 funniest military memes for the week of June 23

We found a bunch of military memes that made us laugh, then we whittled it down to our 13 favorites, and then we tried to become the invisible man, which didn’t work.


And so you should look at these memes.

1. One of the worst bits of news you can wake up to (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI
Even worse, you have to call your family and they want answers you don’t have.

2. It’s an endurance race, and you can’t possibly win (via Valhalla Wear).

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI
Your colon won’t win, either.

3. Awesome burn, Marines (via Team Non-Rec).

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI
Not sure how you’re capable of unf-cking anything but a crayon factory, but good burn.

ALSO SEE: The Air Force can forget about buying more of the world’s most advanced fighter 

4. Somebody won at every round of “Nose Goes” as a kid (via Shit my LPO says).

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI
Hope he brought something to read up there. He shouldn’t come down until sweepers is done.

5. Come on, what’s an oil change more or less between friends? (via Military Memes)

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI

6. This is why the Army should bring back specialist 5-9 (via Military Nations).

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI
That way, we can separate the hard workers who aren’t ready for leadership from these guys.

7. You’re gonna shoot down U.S. planes, huh? (via Decelerate Your Life)

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI
Better make sure the pilot can’t eject, ’cause Mattis will kill his way to rescue the aircrew and fully expect them to have necklaces of Russian ears by the time he gets there.

8. He is the one. He is the E4 Mafia Don (via Shit my LPO says).

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI
Most phones have an option to mute a certain caller. Just make sure to turn the alerts back on on duty days.

9. Drill sergeants are experts in keeping everything in perspective (via The Salty Soldier).

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI

10. The real invisible man was the only known case of a chief warrant officer 6 (via Weapons of Meme Destruction).

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI

11. Unfortunately, you’re about to see everything 730 more times, Thomas (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI
And you know, your reenlistment window will open soon ….

12. In the real world, it’s suppressive fire and you still hope to kill someone, or it’s targeted shots and killing them is the entire point (via Valhalla Wear).

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI

13. Some even prefer it that way (via Weapons of Meme Destruction).

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI
Just don’t let them inspect your teeth unless you watch them wash their hands.

MIGHTY HISTORY

One woman wrote 25,000 letters for wounded soldiers who couldn’t

In 1917, the horrors of World War I were something entirely new to the world. “The War to End All Wars” inflicted horrible casualties and painful deaths in a way no one had ever seen before in the history of warfare. Mechanized vehicles, poison gas, trench-clearing shotguns, and even the constant mud and water that filled the trenches took its toll on the men who fought the war.

Many of those wounded and dying from the new weapons of war found themselves laying next to Red Cross volunteer May Bradford, who would write what for many of her patients, was the last words they would ever say to their loved ones.


These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI

Even those who survived were altered forever by the new weapons of war.

For those that were dying, Bradford recorded their last words. For those that were too injured to write, she informed their families of their loved one’s situation. For those who were simply illiterate, she was happy to take care of them too. She was part of the French No. 26 General Hospital, near Etaples, France during the war. She was there following her surgeon husband, Sir John Bradford.

She had been there for the entire war, watching the dying and wounded roll in and out of the clinics and field hospitals. She immediately took up the mantle of “hospital letter writer” for anyone who might want or need her services. Over the course of Britain’s time in the war, she wrote more than 25,000 letters, averaging 12 or more every day for four and a half years.

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI

Bradford later wrote a book of her experiences.

Rather than wear the traditional uniform of the scores of Red Cross volunteers at English aid stations around the world, Lady Bradford wore her usual clothes, which were usually an impeccably clean and neat dress, which made the men in her care feel less like they were in a hospital with a nurse and more like they were dictating a letter with an old friend.

In her relatively short time as a letter writer for the sick, injured, and mortally wounded, Bradford experienced firsthand the horrors of the First World War – and experienced the emotional rollercoaster of fighting that war secondhand.

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Watch an unmanned aerial tanker refuel an F/A-18 Super Hornet

First flown on September 19, 2019, the Boeing MQ-25A Stingray is an unmanned aerial refueling drone. On June 4, 2021, the Stingray conducted its first successful refueling test.

The Navy began developing a carrier-based UAV in 2006. Called the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike program, the Navy wanted a stealthy strike aircraft for penetrating enemy air defenses. However, delays in the UCLASS program redirected the Navy’s efforts to other roles. Under the Carrier-Based Aerial-Refueling System, the Navy sought to bring a Super Hornet-sized carrier-based aerial refueling tanker drone to the fleet. In July 2016, the concept was officially given the name MQ-25A Stingray.

In October 2017, the Navy requested proposals from Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and General Atomics for the Stingray. On August 30, 2018, Boeing was announced the winner of the competition. An $805 million contract was issued for four MQ-25As to be produced by August 2024. Three more aircraft were ordered in 2020.

The successful midair refueling between the Stingray and Super Hornet on June 4 was the first major milestone in the future of unmanned carrier-based aircraft. “During the flight, the receiver Navy F/A-18 [Super] Hornet approached the Boeing-owned MQ-25 T1 test asset, conducted a formation evaluation, wake survey, drogue tracking and then plugged with the unmanned aircraft. T1 then successfully transferred fuel from its Aerial Refueling Store (ARS) to the F/A-18,” said Naval Air Systems Command.

Designated T1, the first Stingray is scheduled to test basic deck handling aboard an in-port aircraft carrier in Norfolk later this year. The Navy is now set to buy 76 MQ-25As at a cost of $1.3 billion. Initial operating capability for the MQ-25A is set for 2025.

Featured photo: MQ-25A T1 refuels an F/A-18 Super Hornet (Boeing)

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The Inaugural events start tonight. Here’s how to watch.

On January 20, 2021, Joseph R. Biden will be sworn in as America’s 46th president. This year will look very different due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Prior to the 20th amendment, Inauguration Day was always March 4, the anniversary of the Constitution taking effect. January 20 has been “the day” since 1933, unless it falls on a Sunday. This and some of the more modern traditions are the only things that will still be the same. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has continued to ravage the globe and our country. With this in mind, the majority of the inaugural events will be virtual. The Presidential Inauguration Committee has created some special events leading up to the big day. Here’s a partial list of televised events (all times listed are in eastern time).

Image credit – Adam Schultz

Saturday, January 16 at 7pm there will be a virtual welcome event, American United: An Inauguration Welcome Event Celebrating America’s Changemakers, featuring musical guests and speakers to kick off the festivities. The focus will be on the country’s unsung heroes and the impacts they have made with their work. Sunday, January 17 at 8pm, the inaugural committee will have a concert titled, We the People

Monday, January 18 is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The soon-to-be president has dedicated the day to service. To honor the spirit of King, it has been designated as the National Day of Service. The call to action is for Americans all over the country to engage in a day of volunteerism within their own communities and the event has been titled United We Serve. That evening at 8pm eastern, there will be a virtual event with entertainers and speakers who will celebrate the legacy of King. 

Tuesday, January 19, will be a somber day; the day is dedicated to American lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. The committee is inviting cities and communities across the country to join in on a moment of unity and remembrance at 5:30pm, by lighting their buildings and ringing their church bells. In Washington, D.C., there will be a lighting ceremony around the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. 

As in years past, Biden will be sworn in on the west side of the U.S. Capitol alongside his soon to be Vice President, Kamala Harris. The attendance at the event will be minimal, with only congressional members present in accordance with safety protocols. But all across the National Mall there will be 200,000 American flags waving in the wind, in the place of Americans who would normally be there to witness the momentous event.  

Following the swearing in ceremony, the new president will make his address to the nation. The last part of this event will include the pass in review, a longstanding military tradition to reflect on the peaceful transfer of power. After that, the newly sworn in president and vice president will head to Arlington National Cemetery with their spouses to lay a wreath on the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier. They will be joined by President Barack Obama, President George W Bush, President Bill Clinton and their spouses. 

Instead of the traditional parade to the White House that Americans are used to, the new president and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, will receive a presidential escort to the White House by representatives from every military branch. There will then be a full televised virtual parade, showcasing communities and citizens from all over the country. At 8:30pm, Tom Hanks will host Celebrating America, a prime-time television event in lieu of the traditional inaugural balls. President Biden and Vice President will offer remarks as well as a host of other speakers that represent the diversity of America. After that, President Biden and Vice President Harris will go to work.

To watch all of the inauguration festivities planned for the next five days, click here. Be sure to watch the swearing in LIVE on the We Are The Mighty Facebook page.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time a warship pretended to be an island

Sometimes in life, the guy with the drunken, so-crazy-it-just-might-work ideas hits one out of the park and saves the day. This is clearly what happened in 1942 aboard the HNLMS Abraham Crijnssen, the last Dutch warship standing after the Battle of the Java Sea.


Originally planning to escape to Australia with three other warships, the then-stranded minesweeper had to make the voyage alone and unprotected. The slow-moving vessel could only get up to about 15 knots and had very few guns, boasting only a single 3-inch gun and two Oerlikon 20 mm canons — making it a sitting duck for the Japanese bombers that circled above.

Related: 37 awesome photos of life on a US Navy carrier

Knowing their only chance of survival was to make it to the Allies Down Under, the Crijnssen‘s 45 crew members frantically brainstormed ways to make the retreat undetected. The winning idea? What if the warship pretended to be an island?

 

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI
The Abraham Cristessen in all its jungle finery Photo: Wikipedia

You can almost hear crazy-idea guy anticipating his shipmates’ reluctance: “Now guys, just hear me out…” But lucky for him, the Abraham Crijnessen was strapped for time, resources and alternative means of escape, automatically making the island idea the best idea. Now it was time to put the plan into action.

The crew went ashore to nearby islands and cut down as many trees as they could lug back onto the deck. Then the timber was arranged to look like a jungle canopy, covering as much square footage as possible. Any leftover parts of the ship were painted to look like rocks and cliff faces — these guys weren’t messing around.

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI
Check out that boat-shaped island. Oh wait… Photo: Wikipedia

Now, a camoflauged ship in deep trouble is better than a completely exposed ship. But there was still the problem of the Japanese noticing a mysterious moving island and wondering what would happen if they shot at it. Because of this, the crew figured the best means of convincing the Axis powers that they were an island was to truly be an island: by not moving at all during daylight hours.

While the sun was up they would anchor the ship near other islands, then cover as much ocean as they could once night fell — praying the Japanese wouldn’t notice a disappearing and reappearing island amongst the nearly 18,000 existing islands in Indonesia. And, as luck would have it, they didn’t.

The Crijnssen managed to go undetected by Japanese planes and avoid the destroyer that sank the other Dutch warships, surviving the eight-day journey to Australia and reuniting with Allied forces.

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Marine Corps F-35s will go head-to-head with F-18s, F-22s, F-16s, and more at Red Flag

For the first time ever, six US Marine F-35s took part in Red Flag, a hyper realistic, three-week-long training exercise that takes place in the skies above Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.


The fifth-generation jets will take part in aerial combat and close-air support drills, as well as mock war games against opposing forces as part of the exercise. Red Flag is scheduled to run from July 11 to July 29.

Red Flag represents an important test for the troubled jet, which has so far been a nightmarish project running behind and over budget. In previous simulations of combat against legacy platforms, the F-35 embarrassingly failed against F-16s.

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI
Pilots with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 exit F-35B Lightning II’s after conducting training during exercise Red Flag 16-3 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, July 20, 2016. | U.S. Lance Cpl. Harley Robinson

However, in more recent simulations, the improved F-35 simply dominated F-15s in dogfights.

The Marine pilots seem optimistic about the F-35s’ prospects in the simulated combat, and they are pleased with the work it has done so far.

“We’re really working on showcasing our surface-to-air capabilities,” Maj. Brendan Walsh, an F-35 pilot said in a Marine Corps press release. “The F-35 is integrating by doing various roles in air-to-air and air-to-ground training.”

“With the stealth capability, the biggest thing that this aircraft brings that the others do not is situational awareness,” Walsh said.

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI
Two U.S. Marine F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters complete vertical landings aboard the USS Wasp (LHD-1) during operational testing May 18, 2015. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Remington Hall

“The sensor sweep capability that the F-35 brings to the fight, not only builds those pictures for me, but for the other platforms as well. We’re able to share our knowledge of the battle space with the rest of the participants in order to make everyone more effective.”

As with any warplane, the capability of the platform is directly tied to the skill of the pilot, and exercises like Red Flag provide unparalleled opportunities to train in realistic situations. This year, the F-35 will train with F-16s, F-22s, F-18s, B-52s and other current Air Force, Army, Marine, and Navy platforms.

Lt. Col. J.T. Bardo, the commanding officer of the Marine flight squadron taking part in Red Flag said of the F-35: “If I had to go into combat, I wouldn’t want to go into combat in any other airplane.”

Watch a video report on the F-35 at Red Flag below:

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This is what your next MOPP suit could look like

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI
Soldiers train in classic MOPP gear just before Desert Storm in 1991. (Photo: U.S. Army)


For over 20 years, American warfighters have worn the Joint Services Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology (JSLIST) on the battlefield and during training for their CBRN protection. But its days are numbered. Brought into service in the 1990’s and now nearing the end of its shelf life, the JSLIST will be replaced by the Uniform Integrated Protective Ensemble, Increment 2 (UIPE II) in the very near future. What will UIPE II look like? That’s not certain at the moment, but there are some new technologies and advancements that are likely to have an impact:

  1. Better materials – Anyone who has worn the JSLIST remembers the black powder residue that coated your skin and uniform after taking it off. That’s because it had layers of activated charcoal that consisted mostly of carbon. Nowadays, carbon beads are all the rage and can provide adequate protection at a lighter weight.
  2. Lamination of materials – A recent breakthrough in research proved that removing the air gap between layers of materials can lower the thermal burden on the soldier by a large margin. Picture this…future CBRN suits will most likely be layers of materials. So if you have an outer shell, a carbon bead layer, an aerosol barrier, and a comfort liner sewn together in one suit, the thin layers of air in between those materials will heat up. But laminating them together squeezes out all the air and ends up making the soldier cooler. And not just a little, but a lot. That’s huge.
  3. Undergarments – Using the same concept as lamination, undergarments can keep the warfighter cooler than an overgarment by removing the air next to the skin. Research has shown that wearing an undergarment as close to the skin as possible reduces the heat stress. It will take some getting used to, but the UIPE increment 1 suit consists of an undergarment under the duty uniform and is being fielded now.
  4. Conformal fit – Once again, getting rid of all that air brings the temperature down, so a closer fitting uniform with less material reduces the thermal burden on the warfighter while also reducing the potential for snagging on surfaces as he does his mission.
  5. Better seams and closures – Contamination doesn’t get through a suit unless it has a path and those paths are almost always along seams and closures. Seams and closures are frequently the weakest points that allow particles to get through, but several advancements will counter that.
  6. Omniphobic coatings – Have you ever seen that video of ketchup rolling off a dress shirt? Well, it’s out there and it works. Now think of how effective that concept can be for chemical agents. If 50% of the agent sheds off the uniform and falls to the ground before it has a chance to soak into the suit, that’s half the contamination that can reach the trooper. Omniphobic coatings are still in their early stages of development, but they could be game changers when matured.
  7. Composite materials – Just because you can make a suit out of one material doesn’t mean you should. Future suits will have different materials in different areas, like stretchy woven fabrics in the torso (where body armor is) and knit materials that offer less stretch but more protection in the arms and legs.
  8. Overall lower thermal burden – Here’s where the money is. Almost all of these factors contribute to the one big advantage everyone who’s ever worn MOPP 4 wants to hear – less heat stress – which equates to warfighters being able to stay in the suit and do their jobs longer with a lower chance of being a heat casualty. Break out the champagne.
  9. Flame resistance – Because catching on fire sucks. Most uniforms these days have flame resistant coatings or fabrics, but therein lies the challenge. When you add up all the other technologies, the big question is how do you do it all? How do you coat a suit with omniphobics and flame resistance while also laminating composite materials, making it conformal fitting and lowering the thermal burden while also providing an adequate level of CBRN protection, which is the most important aspect of all? Really smart people are working on that.
  10. A family of suits – Common sense tells us one size does not fit all. The DoD has a history of procuring one suit for everyone, like the JSLIST is now fielded to all warfighters. But slowly that has been changing. Everyone has a different job to do while wearing CBRN suits. Some warfighters need a low level of protection for a short period of time while others need more protection for longer periods. A family of suits instead of one is the answer.

MOPP 4 sucks. It’s just a basic tenet of warfighting. We embrace the suck and drive on, but with the progress CBRN suits have made recently, we won’t have to embrace quite as much suck as before.

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Senate confirms Mattis as secretary of defense

The U.S. Senate on Friday confirmed retired Marine Gen. James Mattis to serve as the next secretary of defense.


A majority of the upper chamber voted in favor of Mattis taking over the top civilian job at the Pentagon.

The move came after President Donald Trump, in one of his first acts as the new commander in chief, signed a waiver passed by Congress to permit Mattis to serve in the role.

Related: 6 new changes to expect at the Pentagon with Mattis as SECDEF

After taking the oath of office, Trump remained at the Capitol to sign a number of documents officially nominating his choices for cabinet and ambassador posts and to declare Jan. 20 a “National Day of Patriotism.”

Among the documents was the historic waiver for the 66-year-old Mattis, who led the 2003 invasion of Iraq as commander of the 1st Marine Division, commanded a task force in Afghanistan in 2001, and commanded a battalion in the Persian Gulf war in 1990.

In 1947, Congress passed a law barring members of the military from taking the Defense Secretary’s post until seven years after retirement to preserve civilian control of the military. Mattis retired in 2013.

The only previous exception to the law was the waiver granted to Gen. George C. Marshall, the five-star Army chief of staff in World War II, who became Defense Secretary in 1950.

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI
U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, commander, U.S. Central Command visits with Marines stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait on Feb. 26, 2011. | DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley

Earlier this week in separate action, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted 26-1 to approve Mattis for a confirmation vote by the full Senate. The only “No” vote in the Committee was from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, who praised Mattis but said she was voting against him on the issue of civilian control.

The full Senate was expected to confirm Mattis, possibly later Friday. If confirmed, Mattis was expected to make his first visit as the 26th Secretary of Defense to the Pentagon to meet with Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford and Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work, who was staying on temporarily at the Pentagon to assist with management issues.

During the campaign, Trump said he would demand a plan from his commanders within 30 days of taking office speed up and ultimately end the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. In his inaugural address, Trump said he would “eradicate radical Islamic terrorism from the face of the Earth.”

During his Senate confirmation hearings, Mattis also said he would be reviewing plans to “accelerate” the ISIS campaign but gave no details.

Already, there were signs that the U.S. military was moving more aggressively against ISIS and also the Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria. On Wednesday, in the last combat mission specifically authorized by President Barack Obama, B-2 Spirit stealth bombers flying out of Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri struck ISIS camps in Libya.

On Thursday, a B-52 bomber deployed to the region dropped munitions in Syria west of Aleppo against a training camp of the Jabhat Fatah al-Sham group, formerly known as the Al Nusra Front and linked to Al Qaeda.

Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman said “The removal of this training camp disrupts training operations and discourages hardline Islamist and Syrian opposition groups from joining or cooperating with Al Qaeda on the battlefield.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

World War II vets rebuilt an APC to drive through the Iron Curtain

On July 25, 1953, seven Czechoslovakians rolled across one of the most heavily guarded borders in the world to freedom in the West. They rolled over three rows of barbed wire, land mines, and guard towers on their way into West Germany. The Czech border guards didn’t even try to stop them. No one fired a shot. They all just watched in stunned disbelief as the Nazi armored personnel vehicle just tore its way across the Iron Curtain.


The story of Vaclav Uhlik is a success story for American soft power, specifically the Cold War-era broadcasts of Radio Free Europe. Uhlik was an engineer in the new, Soviet-dominated Czechoslovakia following the end of World War II. He was a concentration camp survivor, a fighter for the Czech Underground, and mechanic who hid a big secret from the new Communist authorities in his country: there was an armored vehicle in his backyard – and he was rebuilding it.

For three years, he listened to the broadcasts of Radio Free Europe as he gathered parts and materials needed to get the APC operational again. The broadcasts gave him hope. His progress gave him patience. He was assisted by former Czech soldiers Walter Hora and Vaclav Krejciri in his efforts, and they were rewarded by riding in the vehicle the night it was to drive to the West.

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI

The Czech-West German Border in 1980.

(Photo by Alan Denney)

Starting nearly from scratch, the men slowly reconstructed a battered Nazi Saurer RR-7 Artillery Tractor. Vaclav Uhlik, the engineer, rebuilt the vehicle as an armored personnel carrier. He made it large enough to carry himself, his wife and two children, the two veterans, Josef Pisarik, and Libuse Hrdonkova, a Czech woman who married an American after the war. Since he could only stay with her for three months, she decided to come to him in Iowa.

After years of tinkering and preparation, the modified RR-7, covered in the brush and foliage that hid it from Czechoslovakian authorities for so long, rumbled its way to the West German border. They drove through the Bavarian forest to the Wald-München (near Nuremberg) border crossing. And he did cross the border, except he didn’t go through the gates, instead opting to go right through the rows of barbed wire between guard towers and minefields.

The border guards just watched in awe, as they thought the APC was a friendly army vehicle. The Czechs inside had only what they wore with them, but they were on the right side of the Iron Curtain.

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI

The seven Czechs drove the APC for several miles into West Germany and away from the border until they were stopped by West German police, taken to an American installation to be interviewed by intelligence officers, and then welcomed to their new home in the West. They would eventually be resettled in Springfield, Mass. – all except Hrdonkova. She would move to Sioux City, Iowa, to be with her long-separated husband.

Articles

‘Kilroy Was Here’ was the WWII-era viral meme

Kilroy, the bald guy with the long nose hanging over a wall, may be the world’s first viral meme. While it didn’t originate with U.S. servicemen in World War II, it resonated with them. And Kilroy has had staying power all over the world well after WWII.


The graffiti originated with a British doodle called “Mr. Chad,” who commented on rationing and shortages during the war. Often accompanied by the phrase “Wot? No Sugar”, “Wot? No engines?”, or anything decrying the lack of supplies in Britain at the time. “Eventually,” etymologist Eric Shackle writes, “the spirit of Allied unity merged, with the British drawing appearing over the American phrase.”

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI

The little graffiti doodle became a national joke. GIs and civilians alike would compete to draw “Kilroy was here” in the most remote, obscure places. “Kilroy was here” suddenly appeared on the torch of the Statue of Liberty, Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the Marco Polo Bridge in China, a girder on the George Washington Bridge in New York, and even the bellies of pregnant women in hospitals.

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI

Kilroy the name is widely considered to originate from J.J. Kilroy, a welding inspector at the Bethlehem Steel Shipyards in Quincy, Massachusetts. The New York Times told the story of how Kilroy, tired of co-workers claiming he didn’t inspect their work, began writing “Kilroy was here” with a crayon, instead of making the usual chalk mark. When these ships came in for repairs in worldwide ports, wartime workers would open sealed compartments to find the doodle. This random appearance would be an amazing feat from the repair crews’ perspective since no one would have been able to access these areas.

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI

For years, rumors and theories abounded about the origin of the name. In 1946, the American Transit Association held a contest, offering a full-size street car to anyone who could prove they were the real Kilroy. J.J. Kilroy entered and corroborated his story with other shipyard workers. The ATA sent the trolley to Kilroy’s house in Halifax, Mass. where he attached the 12-ton car to his home and used it as living space for his nine children.

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI

Articles

The Olympics for special operators just got underway

The Summer Olympics Games may be in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil but all eyes are on Peru this week as security forces from 20 nations compete at Fuerzas Comando, a friendly military skills competition where the top special operations forces and police forces from the Western Hemisphere compete for the coveted Fuerzas Comando Cup.


These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI
Special Operations Forces from 20 nations take part in opening ceremonies for Fuerzas Comando 2016 outside of Lima, Peru. (U.S. Army photo)

Along with the U.S. and Colombian delegations, teams from the nations of Argentina, Belize, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and Uruguay will compete in this year’s event. The U.S. team is represented by elite Green Berets from the Army’s 7th Special Forces Group.

The U.S. is looking to finally bring home the gold after coming in second place each of the previous two years, losing to the Colombian special operations team. Colombia has won the last three Fuerzas Comando competitions and has won seven times overall since the games were established in 2011.

Sponsored by U.S. Southern Command and executed by U.S. Special Operations Command South, the annual event aims to improve cooperation, knowledge, and interoperability between participating countries. It’s broken down into two parts: an assault team competition and a sniper team competition.  Each event is scored and evaluated by judges from each of the 20 participating nations to provide a fair and balanced evaluation of all the participating nations.

The team who wins each event wins 200 points. The team with the most points by the end of the week-long event wins the title of Fuerzas Comando champion. These are the events in which the teams will be judged:

Physical Fitness

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI
(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Christine Lorenz)

This event consists of push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and a 2-mile run.

2016 Competition Update: The Guatemala Team place 1st in this event and were awarded 200 points. They were followed by Mexico and Honduras. The U.S. team placed 14th in this event.  

Marksmanship

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI
A U.S. Army Special Forces soldier fires at a 100-meter range July 16, 2015, during Fuerzas Comando competition held in Poptun, Guatemala. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Christine Lorenz)

A series of tests assessing the marksmanship abilities of the assault team members using both rifle and pistol from various distances. Each of the events is timed.

Stress test

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI
A member of the U.S. team pulls an evacuation sled loaded with a 250-pound mannequin to a range during the Fuerzas Comando Stress Test event. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Wilma Orozco Fanfan)

Competitors must run long distances with heavy objects and drag large mannequins across various stations on a firing range and then engage stationary targets. The team with the most successful hits wins 200 points.

Aquatics

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI
Peruvian team members swim down a creek while pulling their gear during last year’s Fuerzas Comando. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Andrew Kuhn)

This event consists of getting across a large body of water in a raft, run 3 miles with their rucks, swim with full military gear and weapons, and then sprint to a pistol marksmanship range and engage targets.

Obstacle Course

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI
Haitian competitors navigate an obstacle during Fuerzas Comando 15. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Chad Menegay)

The obstacle course consists of a series of stations such as a rope climb, horizontal ladders, wall climbs, and rappelling tall towers to test each individual’s strength, endurance, and balance.

Ruck March

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI
Chilean competitors race to complete a 20-kilometer road march during last year’s Fuerzas Comando competition held in Poptun, Guatemala. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Osvaldo Equite)

Competitors compete in a 12-mile ruck march with full military equipment. Team with the fastest time wins the event.

Combat Assault (Shoot House)

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI
Members of the Uruguayan assault team breach a doorway during a live-fire shoot house. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Carden)

Each nation’s assault team moves through a shoot house to clear several targets. Teams must eliminate all threats located inside and rescue a hostage dummy. Each team must carry their hostage back to the finish line to successfully complete the event.

Sniper concealment and Mobility

Move within a range observe and engage a target while remaining undetected. They must return to the starting point without being seen by the judges. The teams have 90 mins to complete this event.

Sniper Unknown Distance Shoot

 

These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI
The Panamanian sniper team scans for targets during a live-fire exercise as part of last year’s Fuerzas Comando. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Carden)

Competitors engage targets from various distances, 300 to 800 meters. The team who hits the most targets wins the event.

The exercise ends with a multinational friendship airborne jump. To stay updated on the day-to-day results and scores on the competition, follow https://www.facebook.com/USSOCSOUTH/

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