This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI - We Are The Mighty
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This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI

There are hundreds (if not thousands) of numbered units throughout the military, many with storied histories and with extensive combat roles since the United States military began operating on the world stage in the early 20th Century. The U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment can trace its lineage all the way back to the American Revolution. The 1st Infantry Division can claim to be the longest continuously serving division in the U.S. military. Even the U.S. Navy has the famed USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned sailing ship in the fleet. However, no unit has been deployed to every major conflict of the last one hundred years except for one — the 5th Marine Regiment.


This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI
Lance Cpl. Seth H. Capps, a member of the United States Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon, drinks out of Devil Dog Fountain following the 93rd anniversary of the Battle for Belleau Wood May 30. (Photo By Cpl. Bobby J. Yarbrough)

The 5th Marine Regiment’s story begins on June 8, 1917, when it was activated in Philadelphia as part of the United States’ buildup for World War I. The Regiment was assigned to the 4th Marine Brigade, which became a part of the U.S. Army’s 2nd Division. The 5th would establish itself in Marine Corps lore for its actions at the Battle of Belleau Wood in the spring of 1918. They would also fight at places such as Aisne and St. Mihiel, as well as the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.

During the regiment’s service in France, it earned its nickname, “the Fighting Fifth,” and was awarded the French Fourragère for receiving three Croix de Guerre citations, a decoration members of the 5th Marines still wear today. The unit also had five folks (3 USMC, 2 USN) receive the Medal of Honor.

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI
A Collier’s drawing of Belleau Wood, circa 1921

The next major action for the Fighting Fifth was battling their way across the Pacific in World War II. The 5th landed on Guadalcanal on August 7, 1942 and endured four months of grueling combat on there before being relieved with the rest of the division on December 9, 1942. For their efforts during Guadalcanal, the 5th Marines and the entire 1st Marine Division received their first Presidential Unit Citation.

After a rest and refit in Australia, the 5th Marines returned to combat in the late stages of Operation Cartwheel in late December 1943. They landed at Cape Gloucester, New Britain and would fight there until February 1944 when they were relieved by the 40th Infantry Division. The Marines had another period of rest and refit before encountering their greatest challenges of the war, at Peleliu and Okinawa.

The 5th Marines entered combat on Peleliu on September 15, 1944. Unbeknownst to them, the Japanese changed their tactics from attempting to stop landings at the beach to fortifying the entire island and creating a defense in depth. The lack of this knowledge would cost the Marines dearly. After the seizure of the airfield, the rest of the division set about clearing the remainder of the island.

By late October, the 5th Marines were the only regiment still combat effective and their commander, Col. Harold Harris, turned to siege tactics to remove the Japanese, telling his officers “be lavish with ordnance and stingy with men’s lives.” The Marines handed over operations of the island to the 81st Infantry Division and moved on to prepare for the invasion of Okinawa.

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI

The 5th Marines final action of the World War II was at Okinawa, where they landed along with the rest of the 1st Marine Division and 6th Marine Division on April 1, 1945. They were able to quickly clear the northern part of the island but Japanese resistance to the south would require extraordinary effort to reduce. The fight on Okinawa made places like Sugar Loaf Hill and Shuri Castle famous.In all of World War II four Marines from the 5th were awarded the Medal of Honor. Following the fall of Okinawa and the Japanese surrender,  the 5th was sent to China for occupation duty.

War soon found the 5th Marines again when they were deployed as part of the Provisional Marine Brigade to the Pusan Perimeter in South Korea to shore up defenses against the invading North Koreans. The Fighting Fifth then rejoined their World War II counterparts, the 1st and 7th Marines, in reforming the 1st Marine Division to take part in the landings at Inchon and the liberation of Seoul.

That winter the 5th Marines fought for their lives at the “Frozen Chosin” Reservoir. When the situation looked bleak and the Marines were falling back Gen. Oliver Smith told his command, “Retreat, Hell! We’re not retreating, we’re just advancing in a different direction!”

After their withdrawal from North Korea, the 5th Marines remained in the war and would hold off the Chinese attempts to break the Main Line of Resistance until the armistice in July 1953. The heroic efforts of the 5th Marines garnered ten more Medals of Honor and another Presidential Unit Citation. The regiment left Korea in 1955.

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI

Peacetime would not last long for the 5th as just over a decade after leaving Korea they were deployed as part of the troop buildup in Vietnam in May 1966. The 5th Marines and the rest of the 1st Marine Division would spend six years battling the North Vietnamese Army and Vietcong. Their fighting spirit would make their name known once again, this time at places like Huế during the Tet Offensive. During the Vietnam War, seven members of the regiment received the Medal of Honor before returning to Camp Pendleton in 1971.

The 5th Marines returned to combat once again against the forces of Saddam Hussein in 1991 as part of Operation Desert Storm. 1st Battalion served as part of Task Force Ripper, while the 2nd and 3rd Battalions joined later and participated in the Liberation of Kuwait. The 5th Marines returned to the Middle East in 2003 as part of the Invasion of Iraq where they spearheaded the Marine Corps efforts. After defeating Iraqi forces, the 5th Marines remained in Iraq until October 2003, conducting security and stability operations. They would return to Iraq two more times, each time completing a 13-month deployment. Beginning in 2009 separate battalions of the 5th Marines began deployments to Afghanistan until the deployment of Regimental Combat Team 5 in 2011. 2nd Battalion was the last to deploy serving with RCT 6 in 2012.

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI
Cpl. Brian Conley of 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division drinks from the Devil Dog Fountain in the town of Belleau, France, May 26.After participating in the Memorial Day ceremony at the Belleau cemetery the Marines of 5th Marine Reg. walked to the town of Belleau to spend time with the locals and French marines to strengthen French-American relationships while memorializing losses in the battle of Belleau Wood. (Official Marine Corps photo by: Cpl. Daniel A. Wulz)

In the nearly 100 years since the 5th Marine Regiment was first formed, 24 Marines from the regiment have received the Medal of Honor, second only to the 7th Marines 36 recipients. The 5th Marines have also been a part of the 1st Marine Division when it received all nine of its Presidential Unit Citations, as well as earning two of its own during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. According to the Marine Corps website, the 5th Marines are the most decorated regiment in the Corps.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The perfect grooming products for your bug-out bag

You wake up to a bunch of texts asking if you are ok. You stare at your phone, then turn on the television and see that there is some type of calamity in your area and you need to go. So, you walk to the garage, grab your bug-out bag that’s been hanging on the wall, throw some bottles of water in the trunk and hop in your car. You head out of town knowing you have enough supplies to last you for a few days until this blows over.

If you served in the military, you probably are prepared like this because you probably have some variation of a bug-out bag. For some of us, it is a small little pack that has the basics to last 48-72 hours. For others, it pretty much has everything you need to survive any crazy scenario up to and including the Apocalypse.


Typically, your bug-out bag should be able to ensure your survival in the 2-3-day window. While some people might scoff that the idea of having a pack sitting around, the fact is most Americans are decidedly underprepared when life drastically changes, and disaster becomes the norm. (I mean you did see the rush on toilet paper this past month)

Most of us military/vet types learned that proper planning prevents piss poor performance and that is very important when it comes to your safety and well-being.

Well-being is a term that we continually tend to redefine as we get older. One thing we know is that in addition to the water, food, fire starters, and flashlights that are in your bag, the toiletries you take with you are important as well. Yes, you need to take meds, a toothbrush, toothpaste, and toilet paper.

But you also need to take care of your body, too.

Enter BRAVO SIERRA.

The Military-Native performance wellness company that makes top of the line grooming products for both military personnel, veterans, and civilians has some of the best personal care products that you will need in your bug-out bag. Why them?

BRAVO SIERRA, a personal care company founded by a team of veterans and civilians, has military members field test their products in real world environments. They use true data and actual feedback which ensures that products that you have in your bug-out bag will get you through a good 48-72 hour stretch while keeping you clean, healthy, and refreshed.

Here are some of the products you should definitely add to your bug-out bag!

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI

Antibacterial Body Wipes

These were lifesavers when you were out on deployment and in the field. Why wouldn’t you have it there now? In every bug-out bag, there should be body wipes. Bacteria leads to infection and you don’t want to risk that at all. These wipes kill 99.99% of bacteria in 60 seconds. Also, it helps to be able to clean yourself off when you don’t have access to a ready shower or water supply. Not only are these wipes bacteria killers, they are alcohol-free (which is great for your skin) and leaves you smelling like an adult instead of a baby. Durability matters, too, and these are 4x thicker than baby wipes while remaining biodegradable.

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI

Hair and Body Solid Cleanser

Yes, you need soap in your bag. And not just some random bar. This coconut-derived cleanser is a two-in-one that will save space and keep you clean. It’s also great on your skin. BRAVO SIERRA’s hydrating formula and coconut-derived cleansing agent allows you to use this product from hair to toe without drying skin, hair, face or scalp.

The last thing you need is dry cracking skin that will leave you open to cuts, sores, and dirt and this bar doesn’t use the traditional harsh cleansing agent that strips your skin like other soaps.

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI

Deodorant

Yes, you need to not stink. Remember your bug-out bag needs to keep you held over for 48-72 hours. You need to make sure that you feel fresh and smell normal too. Unlike many brands, BRAVO SIERRA doesn’t use baking soda or aluminum in their deodorant.

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI

Hair/Body Wash & Shave

The ultimate combo and space saver, this is your soap, shampoo, and shaving cream in one. Use it to clean your body, wash your hair, and keep your face within regs. Enriched with ginseng and blue algae, this gel to foam wonder is a must have for your bug-out bag.

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI

Lip Balm

Why have lip balm handy? Dry/chapped lips lead to crack and, potentially, infection. You don’t want that.If your lips are prone to crack or chap, it is wise to have this handy in your bag.

And no, this isn’t the lip balm your mom uses. BRAVO SIERRA’s is fragrance-free, flavor-free, non-greasy and doesn’t leave you with glossy lips! It’s also enriched with murumuru butter from the Amazon, which means it’s so clean you could eat it — but you should probably stick to regular food.

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI

Face Sunscreen SPF 30

This one is an obvious one. Even if you have layers and don’t plan on being outside, sunscreen will go a long way to ensuring your skin’s health. Blocking out the sun‘s rays keeps you from getting burnt, and you don’t want to be burnt, especially if you are in a situation that means you are outside your AO for a couple of days. What makes this sunscreen great is that it’s lightweight, non-greasy, non-shiny, non-sticky, and fragrance-free.

So, now that you know what grooming products you need in your bug-out bag, let’s get to work!

Visit BRAVO SIERRA and stock up.

This article is sponsored by BRAVO SIERRA.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Soldiers to be issued locator beacons like the Coast Guard’s

The U.S. Army recently awarded a $34 million contract to McMurdo Inc. for personnel recovery devices that can be used to pinpoint a missing soldier’s location.

This PRD is a dual-mode personal locator beacon built to military specifications that will be integrated into the Army’s Personnel Recovery Support System, or PRSS.


“The PRD will be capable of transmitting both open and secure signals (training/combat dual mode) to alert and notify that a soldier has become isolated, missing, detained or captured,” according to an April 11, 2018 press release from Orolia, McMurdo’s parent company.

McMurdo was awarded a contract in 2016 to develop working prototypes of the PRD that could coordinate with the service’s PRSS.

“The Army recognized a need to complement its PRSS with a dual-mode, easy-to-use distress beacon to provide initial report/locate functionality, even in remote locations,” said Mark Cianciolo, general manager of McMurdo’s aerospace, defense and government programs, in a 2016 press release.

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI
The McMurdo Inc. FastFind 220 personal locator beacon used by the Coast Guard. The U.S. Army awarded McMurdo a $34 million contract for similar personal recovery devices to be used for locating missing soldiers.
(McMurdo Group photo)

Commercially made personal locator beacons have become extremely popular with mountain climbers and other adventurers, who depend on them to send a signal to rescuers in the event they become injured in remote locations.

McMurdo’s positioning device has been designed to meet military standards and has improved accuracy. It also has decreased size, weight and power requirements, the release states.

“We are extremely proud and honored to have been selected by the U.S. Army as the provider of this critical positioning device for the safety of U.S. warfighters,” Jean-Yves Courtois, chief executive officer of Orolia, said in the April 11, 2018 press release.

The PRD is based on Orolia’s new rugged and small positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) platform, but the release did not specify the exact model being produced for the Army.

The Coast Guard awarded McMurdo a $3 million contract in 2016 for 16,000 FastFind 220 personal locator beacons.

The handheld FastFind 220 is used to notify emergency personnel during an air, land or water emergency in remote or high-risk environments. It uses a 406MHz frequency and transmits a distress signal containing unique beacon identification information and location data through the international search-and-rescue satellite system operated by Cospas-Sarsat, according to an Aug. 17, 2016, post on Intelligent Aerospace.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Air Force helps Army prepare for real world operations

Airmen from the 815th and 327th Airlift Squadrons provided airlift and airdrop support for the Army’s exercise Arctic Anvil, Oct. 1-6, 2019.

Arctic Anvil is a joint, multi-national, force-on-force culminating training exercise at Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center, Mississippi, that runs throughout the month of October.

“The 815th (AS), along with the 327th Airlift Squadron, had the pleasure of supporting the (4th Brigade Combat Team, Airborne, 25th Infantry Division) for the exercise Arctic Anvil by providing personnel and equipment airdrop as well as short-field, air-land operations,” said Lt. Col. Mark Suckow, 815th AS pilot. “We were able to airdrop 400 paratroopers and equipment Wednesday night and 20 bundles of supplies Sunday into Camp Shelby.”


The 815th AS is an Air Force Reserve Command tactical airlift unit assigned to the 403rd Wing. The unit transports supplies, equipment and personnel into a theater of operation. The 403rd Wing maintains 20 C-130J Super Hercules aircraft, 10 of which are flown by the 815th AS.

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI

Maj. Nick Foreman (left) and Maj. Chris Bean, 815th Airlift Squadron pilots, fly a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft toward Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center, Miss., Oct. 2, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Carranza)

“We had the opportunity to provide three aircrews and two C-130Js to help execute the mass airlift and airdrop,” Col. Dan Collister, 913th Airlift Group deputy commander said. The 327th AS is a unit of the 913th AG based out of Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, and is an associate unit of the 19th Airlift Wing, an active duty unit equipped with C-130J aircraft.

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI

Col. Daniel Collister, 913th Airlift Group deputy commander and pilot, conducts a pre-mission brief with loadmasters, Army jumpmasters and Army safety crew prior to takeoff during the joint forces exercise Arctic Anvil at Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center, Miss., Oct. 1-6, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Jessica L. Kendziorek)

“Our primary mission at the 913th is to provide combat-ready airmen, tactical airlift and agile combat support. Participating in a joint exercise such as this is a great way for our Reserve Citizen airmen to hone their skills and get experience working hand-in-hand with partner units and sister services,” Collister said.

More than 3,000 soldiers of the 4/25th ICBT (ABN), based out of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, are participating in the exercise.

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI

4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, Soldiers stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, board a C-130J flown by the 327th Airlift Squadron during the joint forces training exercise Arctic Anvil at Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center, Miss., Oct. 1-6, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Jessica L. Kendziorek)

“At Camp Shelby, our paratroopers have completed a mass tactical airborne operation followed by force-on-force exercises culminating with combined live-fire training that will prepare us for the brigade’s upcoming joint readiness training exercise in January,” said Army Col. Christopher Landers, 4/25th IBCT (ABN) commander. “Camp Shelby and the state of Mississippi have provided a remarkable training opportunity, that without their significant support, would not have been possible.”

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI

A C-130J Super Hercules aircraft sits on the flightline at Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center, Miss. Oct. 1, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Carranza)

In addition to the 4/25th ICBT (ABN), soldiers from the 177th Combat Sustainment Support Brigade, the 3rd Royal Canadian Regiment and airmen from various units collaborated for the exercise.

Airmen from the 403rd Wing, 319th Airlift Group, 321st Contingency Response Squadron and 81st Training Wing supported the Air Force’s role in Arctic Anvil. Airmen from the 81st Logistics Readiness Squadron and Operations Support Flight contributed to the exercise with ground vehicle transportation and airspace support for the soldiers who were rigging their supplies for airdrop.

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI

The 815th Airlift Squadron completes an airdrop of container delivery systems during the Army joint forces exercise Arctic Anvil.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jessica L. Kendziorek)

“I am proud of our crews for this exercise,” Suckow said. “They executed the mission as planned and helped us to meet our objectives. Time over target for airdrop and air-land operations were executed flawlessly. The air-land portion into the (landing zone) was completed in less than minimal time from landing to takeoff. Having the opportunity to work with thousands of soldiers in a large scale exercise like this is very beneficial training for us, it prepares us for real world operations.”

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 of the ugliest planes that ever flew after World War II

Historically, there have been some beautiful aircraft. Not only have these sophisticated marvels of technology dominated the skies, they’ve looked very elegant doing so. Some aircraft, however, weren’t so lucky. We’re talking about planes that fell off the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down.

And before you call us shallow, we’re not just talking about looks — ugliness is more than skin-deep. Whether it’s a horrendous aesthetic, poor combat performance, or vastly unmet potential, these six fugly birds never had a chance at beauty.

To be brutally honest, if these planes were people, they’d likely end up being incels for one reason or another. So, let’s get to making some of the ugliest planes to take to the skies since World War II feel very, very bad about themselves.


This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI

Look at that big radar under the Avro Shackleton. Did the designers draw inspiration from a bullfrog?

(USAF photo by SSgt. Jose Lopez)

Avro Shackleton AEW.2

This was an airborne radar plane — but it doesn’t have the elegance of the E-3 Sentry. No, this is a slow, lumbering plane with a big bubble under its nose that makes it look like a bullfrog. It was supposed to be replaced by a version of the Nimrod maritime patrol plane, but that didn’t work out. Eventually, the Brits dumped this hideous plane in favor of E-3s.

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI

The plane designer who came up with this one certainly had a major mental malfunction.

(US Navy)

De Haviland Vampire

This early British fighter should be a lesson to designers: What once worked with props, aesthetically, may not work with jets. The twin-boom arrangement that worked for the two Allison propeller-driven engines just doesn’t make sense for a single jet engine. This Vampire probably should have lived up to its name and stayed out of the light of day.

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI

This English Electric Lightning is being hauled away by a Sikorsky HH-53C. When it was flyable, it wasn’t much prettier.

(USAF photo by MSgt. Samual A. Hotton)

English Electric Lightning

First off, the designers at English Electric got the engine arrangement sideways. They put one on top of the other. This beast first flew in 1954 and the RAF kept it around until 1988, but this plane only saw action with the Royal Saudi Air Force in 1970 during a border war with South Yemen. The only thing this plane had going for it was speed.

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI

The prettiest thing about the F-4 Phantom is its combat record. On the looks front, it looks like a flying brick — a brick that needs two engines to get airborne.

(USAF)

McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom

When it comes to performance, this classic plane is hard to beat, but in terms of looks, the nickname “Double Ugly” is very apt. The folks who probably found the Phantom the ugliest were those who had to face it in combat. Many MiGs met their end at the hands of this plane.

But let’s be honest, while this plane’s combat record is a thing of beauty, from the outside, it was an eyesore.

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI

Saab 21

This plane couldn’t decide if it wanted to be a prop plane or a jet plane. It first flew in 1943 and its career ended in 1954. The plane served with Sweden, but never really took off in the export market. If you can’t even decide on the propulsion system, what chance do you have of making the plane look remotely presentable?

What really sucks about this plane is that it had potential — which was wasted completely.

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI

One of the low-lights of the F7U Cutlass’s career: This ramp strike didn’t just kill the pilot, it killed three other sailors.

(US Navy)

Vought F7U Cutlass

This plane didn’t look very good. The thing is, its looks were the least of its problems. It was very hard to fly — over a quarter of them were lost to accidents. It didn’t even make it eight years from first flight to retirement.

Here’s the ugliest part: 25 pilots died during this flying abomination’s far-too-long career.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack

Air strikes in eastern Syria have killed 26 fighters from an Iran-backed Iraqi paramilitary group following a deadly attack on U.S.-led coalition forces in neighboring Iraq.


The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the March 12 strikes near the Syrian border town of Albu Kamal were probably carried out by the coalition.

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI

But a spokesman for the coalition said in an statement to AFP that it “did not conduct any strikes in Syria or Iraq last night.”

Later in the day, U.S. Defense Secretary Mike Esper blamed Iranian-backed Shi’ite militia groups for the attack on the coalition at the Camp Taji military base, located less than 30 kilometers north of Baghdad.

But he did not confirm whether the U.S. or its allies had carried out the eastern Syria attack.

However, Esper said that “all options are on the table” as Washington and its allies try to bring those responsible for the attack, which killed two U.S. troops and one British soldier and wounded a dozen others when a barrage of Katyusha rockets were launched from a truck later discovered several kilometers from Camp Taji.

Syrian state media reported that in the attack in eastern Syria, unidentified jets hit targets southeast of Albu Kamal with only material damage.

However, the Observatory said camps of the Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella grouping of Iran-backed Shi’ite militias, were hit in the strikes, which came after a rocket attack on the Camp Taji military base, located less than 30 kilometers north of Baghdad.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab “underscored that those responsible for the [Camp Taji] attacks must be held accountable,” the State Department said of a phone call between the two.

Iraq’s military said caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi ordered an investigation into what he called “a very serious security challenge and hostile act.”

No-one claimed responsibility for the rocket attack, but the United States has accused Iran-backed militias of previous attacks on Iraqi bases hosting coalition forces.

U.S. Marine General Kenneth McKenzie, the head of Central Command, told a Senate hearing that the attack was being investigated.

But he noted that Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah “the only group known to have previously conducted an indirect fire attack of this scale against U.S. civilian and coalition forces in such an incident Iraq.”

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI

upload.wikimedia.org

U.S. President Donald Trump on March 12 said it had not been fully determined whether Iran, which has backed a number of anti-U.S. militia groups in neighboring Iraq, was responsible for the Katyusha attack.

Washington blamed that militia for a strike in December that killed a U.S. contractor and triggered a round of violence that led U.S. President Donald Trump to order the killing of a top Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani, in a drone strike in Baghdad the following month.

In retaliation, an Iranian ballistic missile strike on an Iraqi air base left some 110 U.S. troops suffering from traumatic brain injuries.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The bloodiest day in British military history

World War I is not the bloodiest war in the history of war, but rapid advances in technology as well as the failure of military leaders to adjust their tactics resulted in possibly the bloodiest day in British military history when the nation lost almost 20,000 troops on July 1, 1916.


The roots of the bloodshed of July 1 date back before the war even started as the Gatling Gun gave way to true machine guns, originally known as “gunpowder engines,” and advances in mortars, artillery, and even the standard rifle made soldiers of all types much more lethal.

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI

Members of the British Border Regiment rest in dugouts during the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

(Imperial War Museums)

But, importantly, many of these breakthroughs favored static defenses. Soldiers could march forward with machine guns, but they would struggle to quickly emplace them and get them into operation. Defenders, meanwhile, could build fortifications around their machine guns and mow down enemy forces with near impunity.

After the war started in 1914, Germany managed to quickly move into France before getting bogged down in a line that eventually stretched across Europe. A German attack at Verdun in early 1916 became a black hole for French troops. The attack was designed to bleed France dry and force it out of the war.

The Germans expected Britain to launch its own attack against German lines to relieve the pressure from France. And Britain did have a plan for an attack, but it would prove to be a failure.

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI

General Sir Sam Hughes watches a British attack at the Battle of the Somme, October 1917.

(BiblioArchives, CC BY 2.0)

A joint British-Franco assault was scheduled for the summer. The main thrust was to come along a narrow stretch of the River Somme and the first day would see approximately 100,000 British troops rushing German lines in what was hoped to be a quick advance.

The date was eventually set for July 1, 1916, and the British initiated a massive artillery bombardment for a week before the assault. But the Germans were able to move most of their troops into fortifications in the trenches, and relatively few troops were lost in the week before the British attacked.

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI

Staged film frame from The Battle of the Somme, a propaganda film that was likely filmed before the battle.

(Imperial War Museum)

When the artillery suddenly stopped on the morning of July 1, German machine gunners moved back to their positions and looked up to see thousands of British troops marching towards them.

The machine gunners opened up, artillery spotters started calling for fires, hell rained down on British troops.

The day wore on, and British troops kept marching across. Entire units took losses of 90 percent, basically wiping them out. British forces took 60 percent casualties wounded, missing, and killed. Approximately 19,240 of which were fatalities. They had taken three square miles territory.

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI

Soldiers with the Royal Irish Rifles sit in a communication trench on July 1, 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

(Cassowary Colorizations, CC BY-SA 2.0)

But the battle wasn’t over. While small changes in tactics and the later introduction of the tank reduced the number of casualties that Britain took, the battle would wage on for five months and the combatants eventually inflicted over 1,000,000 casualties on one another.

While Britain failed to take most of its planned objectives despite throwing hundreds of thousands of men into the grinder, one part was successful. German forces were forced to move some artillery and troops from the attack on Verdun to the Somme, relieving pressure on the French defenders.

Since France suffered 190,000 casualties during the fight in the Somme, even that is a dubious success.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force’s tricky paths to 386 operational squadrons

The U.S. Air Force will soon need to make a decision on whether its plan to grow to 386 operational squadrons should focus on procuring top-of-the-line equipment and aircraft, or stretching the legs of some of its oldest warplanes even longer, experts say.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson announced in September 2018 that the service wants at least 74 additional squadrons over the next decade. What service brass don’t yet know is what could fill those squadrons.


Some say the Air Force will have to choose between quantity — building up strength for additional missions around the globe — or quality, including investment in better and newer equipment and warfighting capabilities. It’s not likely the service will get the resources to pursue both.

“It’s quite a big bite of the elephant, so to speak,” said John “JV” Venable, a senior research fellow for defense policy at The Heritage Foundation.

Wilson’s Sept. 17, 2018 announcement mapped out a 25 percent increase in Air Force operational squadrons, with the bulk of the growth taking place in those that conduct command and control; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and tanker refueling operations.

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks with members of the workforce during a town hall at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., April 5, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Maki)

She broke down the planned plus-up as follows:

  • 5 additional bomber squadrons
  • 7 more fighter squadrons
  • 7 additional space squadrons
  • 14 more tanker squadrons
  • 7 special operations squadrons
  • 9 combat search-and-rescue squadrons
  • 22 squadrons that conduct command and control and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance
  • 2 remotely piloted aircraft squadrons
  • 1 more airlift squadron

Venable, who flew F-16 Fighting Falcons throughout his 25-year Air Force career, estimated that buying new aircraft such KC-46 Pegasus tankers, F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and newer C-17 Globemaster IIIs for the squadron build-up could set the Air Force back some billion on plane costs alone.

An additional 14 airlift squadrons using C-17s could cost roughly billion; five bomber squadrons of fifth-generation B-21 Raider bombers would cost roughly billion; and seven additional fighter squadrons of either F-22 Raptors or F-35s would be .5 billion, Venable said, citing his own research.

“Tanker aircraft, that was the biggest increase in squadron size, a significant amount of aircraft [that it would take for 14 squadrons] … comes out to .81 billion,” he said.

By Venable’s estimates, it would require a mix of nearly 500 new fighter, bomber, tanker, and airlift aircraft to fill the additional units. That doesn’t include the purchase new helicopters for the combat-search-and-rescue mission, nor remotely piloted aircraft for the additional drone squadron the service wants.

And because the Air Force wants to build 386 squadrons in a 10-year stretch, new aircraft would require expedited production. For example, Boeing Co. would need to churn out 20 KC-46 tankers a year, up from the 15 per year the Air Force currently plans to buy, Venable said.

The service says it will need roughly 40,000 airmen and personnel to achieve these goals by the 2030 timeframe. Venable said the personnel that come with these missions would cost an additional billion over the next decade.

The Air Force thus would be spending closer to billion per year on these components of its 386-squadron plan, he said.

New vs. old

In light of recent Defense Department spending fiascos such as the Joint Strike Fighter, which cost billions more than estimated and faced unanticipated delays, some think the Air Force should focus on extending the life of its current aircraft, rather than buying new inventory.

The Air Force will not be able to afford such a buildup of scale along with the modernization programs it already has in the pipeline for some of its oldest fighters, said Todd Harrison, director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Harrison was first to estimate it would cost roughly billion a year to execute a 74-squadron buildup, tweeting the figure shortly after Wilson’s announcement.

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI

F-16 Fighting Falcons in flight.

If the Air Force wants to increase squadrons quickly, buying new isn’t the way to go, Harrison told Military.com. The quickest way to grow the force the service wants would be to stop retiring the planes it already has, he said.

“I’m not advocating for this, but … as you acquire new aircraft and add to the inventory, don’t retire the planes you were supposed to be replacing,” said Harrison.

“That doesn’t necessarily give you the capabilities that you’re looking for,” he added, saying the service might have to forego investment in more fifth-generation power as a result.

By holding onto legacy aircraft, the Air Force might be able to achieve increased operational capacity while saving on upfront costs the delays associated with a new acquisition process, Harrison said.

The cost of sustaining older aircraft, or even a service-life extension program “is still going to be much less than the cost of buying brand-new, current-generation aircraft,” he said.

Just don’t throw hybrid versions or advanced versions of legacy aircraft into the mix.

It has been reported the Air Force is not only considering an advanced F-15X” fourth-plus generation fighter for its inventory, but is also open to an F-22/F-35 fifth-generation hybrid concept.

“That would just complicate the situation even more,” Harrison said.

Venable agreed.

“Why would you ever invest that much money and get a fourth-generation platform when you could up the volume and money into the F-35 pot?” Venable said.

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI

Boeing is proposing a new version of its F-15 Eagle, the F-15X.

(Boeing)

Running the numbers

Focusing on squadron numbers as a measure of capability may not be the right move for the Air Force, Harrison said.

The Navy announced a similar strategy in 2016, calling for a fleet of 355 ships by the 2030s. But counting ships and counting squadrons are two different matters, he said.

“While it’s an imperfect metric, you can at least count ships,” Harrison said. “A squadron is not a distinct object. It’s an organization construct and [each] varies significantly, even within the same type of aircraft.”

Still less clear, he said, is what the Air Force will need in terms of logistics and support for its planned buildup.

Harrison estimates that the aircraft increase could be even more than anticipated, once support and backup is factored in.

For example, if it’s assumed the squadrons will stay about the same size they are today, with between 10 and 24 aircraft, “you’re looking at an increase [in] total inventory of about 1,100 to 1,200” planes when keeping test and backup aircraft in mind, he said.

A squadron typically has 500 to 600 personnel, including not just pilots, but also support members needed to execute the unit’s designated mission, he said. Add in all those jobs, and it’s easy to reach the 40,000 personnel the Air Force wants to add by the 2030 timeframe.

“It’s difficult to say what is achievable here, or what the Air Force’s real endstate is,” said Brian Laslie, an Air Force historian who has written two books: “The Air Force Way of War” and “Architect of Air Power.”

“[But] I also think the senior leaders look at the current administration and see a time to strike while the iron is hot, so to speak,” Laslie told Military.com. “Bottom line: there are not enough squadrons across the board to execute all the missions … [and] for the first time in decades, the time might be right to ask for more in future budgets.”

The way forward

Air Force leaders are having ongoing meetings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill ahead of a full report, due to Congress in 2019, about the service’s strategy for growth.

So far, they seem to be gaining slow and steady backing.

Following the service’s announcement of plans for a plus-up to 386 operational squadrons, members of the Senate’s Air Force Caucus signaled their support.

“The Air Force believes this future force will enable them to deter aggression in three regions (Indo-Pacific, Europe and the Middle East), degrade terrorist and Weapons of Mass Destruction threats, defeat aggression by a major power, and deter attacks on the homeland,” the caucus said in a letter authored by Sens. John Boozman, R-Arkansas; John Hoeven, R-North Dakota, Jon Tester, D-Montana, and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. “We are encouraged by the Air Force’s clear articulation of its vision to best posture the service to execute our National Defense Strategy.”

For Air Force leadership, the impact of the pace of operations on current and future airmen must also be taken into account.

“Every airman can tell you they are overstretched,” Wilson said in late September during an address at The National Press Club.

The secretary said the new plan is not intended to influence the fiscal 2020 budget, but instead to offer “more of a long-term view” on how airmen are going to meet future threats.

“I think we’ve all known this for some time. The Air Force is too small for what the nation is asking it to do. The Air Force has declined significantly in size … and it’s driving the difficulty in retention of aircrew,” Wilson said.

There will be much to consider in the months ahead as the Air Force draws up its blueprint for growth, Laslie said.

“I think the Air Force looks at several things with regard to the operations side of the house: contingency operations, training requirements, and other deploymentsF-22s in Poland, for example — and there is just not enough aircraft and aircrews to do all that is required,” Laslie said. “When you couple this with the demands that are placed on existing global plans, there is just not enough to go around.”

It’s clear, Laslie said, that the Air Force does need to expand in order to respond to current global threats and demands. The question that remains, though, is how best to go about that expansion.

“There is a recognition amongst senior leaders that ‘Do more with less’ has reached its limit, and the only way to do more … is with more,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

Here’s why North Korea’s latest type of missile would be a nightmare to stop

On Sunday, North Korea launched a missile into the Sea of Japan for the first time since US President Donald Trump took office.


South Korean officials told Reuters that the missile, a land-based adaptation of the submarine-launched KN-11, doesn’t have the range to strike the US but has another trait that’s just as troubling, if not more: solid fuel.

Related: Mattis threatens ‘overwhelming’ response if North Korea ever uses nukes

North Korean missiles usually rely on liquid fuel and have to be gassed up similar to how you’d fill up a car.

North Korea, like many nuclear powers, mounts its nuclear-capable missiles on trucks.

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI
The test-fire of Pukguksong-2. This photo was released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on February 13. | KCNA/Handout

Road-mobile missile launchers can hide easier, launch from almost anywhere, and take an enemy by surprise — but liquid fuel complicates all that.

To launch a liquid-fueled missile, a giant convoy of military trucks must drive out to a location, fuel up the rocket with the multiple types of fuel for the different stages of launch, and then fire away. This requires dozens of trucks and associated military personnel. Such a large-scale deployment is much harder to conceal from a vigilant foe.

“Liquid-fueled missiles are more vulnerable to tracking and preemptive strikes. Solid-fueled ballistic missiles are not fueled on site and therefore pose more of a threat, because solid-fueled ballistic missiles require less support and can be deployed more quickly,” Kelsey Davenport, the director of nonproliferation policy and a North Korea expert at the Arms Control Association, told Business Insider.

With a missile like the one tested on Sunday, North Korea could simply park a truck and let it fly.

That’s exactly what the video of its latest launch shows:

“Another striking feature of the test was the transport erector launcher that was used to launch the missile. Images indicate that it ran on treads rather than wheels,” Davenport said. “This allows North Korea to move its missiles through more difficult terrains.”

To counter such a sneaky launcher, an adversary would have to spend extensively on surveillance and recon technology.

So while North Korea remains without an ICBM to directly threaten the US mainland, its successful launch of a solid-fueled missile means it has developed a destabilizing technology that could strike US military bases, South Korea, or Japan with a moment’s notice.

Articles

This veteran is restoring the same helicopter he flew in Vietnam

MIGHTY TACTICAL

DoD might get awesome stealth target drone thanks to cadets

Cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy are working with aerospace instructors and industry partners to develop the Defense Department’s first large stealth target drone to test missile tracking systems.

“As far as we know, this is the first large stealth target drone,” said Thomas McLaughlin, the Academy’s Aeronautic Research Center director.

McLaughlin said the project is the DoD’s first aircraft development with significant contributions by cadets at a service academy.

“It has had cadet involvement in its evolution over several years,” McLaughlin said. “It’s quite rare that a student design has evolved to the point of potential inventory use.”


Dr. Steven Brandt and Cadet 1st Class Joshua Geerinck are among the Academy members who have worked to perfect the drone’s physical design for more than a decade. Brandt teaches aircraft design and is on the team of government and industry experts overseeing contractor work on the project.

“For the first five years, we just did design studies,” Brandt said. “Finally, in the fall of 2007, we said “let’s build an aircraft.”

Cadets and faculty have worked on the drone’s design since 2008 as part of that government industry team. The current version is 40 feet long, with a 24-foot wingspan and 9-foot-high vertical tails.

“It’s the size of a T-38 trainer aircraft,” Brandt said, referring to the Northrop T-38 Talon, a two-seat, twin-jet supersonic jet trainer. “[The target drone] uses two T-38 Trainer engines. We explored multiple options to refine its shape and helped eliminate designs that were not as good.”

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI

A T-38 Talon flies over Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Dec. 7, 2018.

(Photo by Airman 1st Class Tristan Viglianco)

McLaughlin said the project is important because of its implications in the national defense arena.

“The government owns the intellectual property rights, which makes for substantially reduced production and sustainment costs down the road,” he said.

Geerinck is one of three cadets on the project. He’s been testing the flight stability of the target drone in the Academy’s wind tunnel.

“We’re trying to find a combination of flight-control inputs that will always cause the aircraft to enter a backflip that will cause it to crash,” he said. “The system is important because it allows us to prevent injury or damage to other people or persons on the ground in case there is a catastrophic failure or loss of control.”

McLaughlin said cadets will stay involved in the development of the prototype through its initial flight test and beyond, should it go into production.

“The entire project is the validation of the Academy’s emphasis on putting real-world problems before cadets and expecting them to make real contributions to Air Force engineering,” he said. “In the Aeronautics Department, all cadets perform research and aircraft design — it’s not just for top students.”

Cadets don’t just learn about engineering at the Academy, “they perform it,” McLaughlin said.

“They put their heart and soul into their efforts, knowing that an external customer cares about the outcome of their work,” he said. “Our research program relies on a high level of mentorship that is as much about role modeling as it is about learning facts.”

Brandt said the government-industry team plans to demonstrate the target drone in September at the Army’s Dugway Proving Ground near Salt Lake City. Depending on the results of that demo, the Defense Department could purchase the design or select it for prototyping.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

Articles

This presidential candidate hatched a successful rescue mission in Iran

In a little-known operation during the opening days of the Iranian Islamic revolution, a Texas billionaire — who would later run for president twice as an Independent — put together a daring rescue mission for two employees imprisoned by revolutionaries.


Through cunning, guile, persistence — and a little luck — the Americans were secreted out of the country in the midst of a violent revolution that would see 52 other Americans held for 444 days and a failed rescue attempt that ended in the deaths of eight U.S. troops and a deeply wounded presidency.

Related: This deadly failure in the Iranian desert lives in hostage rescue mission infamy

A full year before the American embassy in Iran was seized by revolutionaries, militants resisting supreme leader Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi captured two employees of a Texas computer company who were in the country helping put together information systems for the government. Their boss, a Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot, was determined to get them out — by skill or by force.

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI

Perot is best remembered for his two third-party campaigns for the U.S. presidency. The now 86-year-old CEO was the last third-party candidate to poll neck-in-neck with the two major party candidates.

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI

Perot founded IT equipment company Electronic Data Systems in 1962. Within six years, Perot became what Forbes called “the fastest, richest Texan.” He would sell EDS to General Motors for $2.4 billion in 1984 — but in 1978, he was still the man in charge. He made a deal with the Shah to install EDS social security computer systems in Iran and sent Paul J. Chiapparone and William Gaylord to fulfill the contract.

In December 1978, Chiapparone and Gaylord were denied their passports to leave the country. When the two Americans went to negotiate their exit from Iran, they were thrown in jail by Islamic revolutionaries.

With bail set at $12.7 million, it was a good thing Ross Perot was their boss.

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI
Perot was appointed by Secretary of the Navy John Warner to report on the conditions of Americans in Vietnamese and Laotian POW camps for four years until the prisoners were released in 1972 at the end of the Vietnam War.

The very next month the Shah abdicated his throne and fled the country, leaving a power vacuum that would eventually be filled by Islamic revolutionaries led by the cleric Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Americans all over Iran would be persecuted and some held prisoner, including 52 U.S. embassy personnel held for 444 days. But Perot refused to let his men suffer the same fate. And though he was willing to pay the ransom, there was concern that the captors might not receive the funds.

So Perot launched Operation HOTFOOT (Help Our Two Friends Out Of Tehran). He recruited a team of mercenaries with combat experience in Vietnam, including retired Army Col. Arthur “Bull” Simons, to lead the rescue.

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI

The original plan called for Simons’ team of former Green Berets to storm the Ministry of Justice building and walk out with the two employees. But the rescuers later learned Chiapparone and Gaylord were moved to Qasr Prison just outside Tehran.

Perot snuck into Iran on January 13 via a series of courier jets that moved news footage in and out of the country to try a negotiated release of his men. Coming up empty on a peaceful resolution, Perot lost patience.

With the two men in Qasr Prison, a commando raid became too dangerous. So instead they hatched a plan for an Iranian EDS employee named Rashid to start a riot and lead a crowd of angry, pro-Khomeini revolutionaries to storm the prison and free thousands of political prisoners held inside.

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI
The prison is now a museum and memorial to the Shah’s prisoners.

Simons and his team picked up the prisoners and moved them to Tehran, where they began the 500-mile journey to an EDS rescue team waiting in Turkey. Despite being arrested in almost every town they fled through, Rashid kept them from the executioner and guided their escape from Iran.

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI
Courtroom sketch of the rescue by Ida Libby Dengrove (University of Virginia archives)

On February 17 — after 46 days in Iran — all of Perot’s EDS employees and every member of his rescue team — including Rashid — arrived at his hotel room in Istanbul, and the next day were home safe in the United States.

Perot’s men made it out of Iran in two Land Rovers in two days. By November 1979, almost a full year after the EDS employees were captured, 52 American Embassy workers would be held hostage while the world’s most powerful military held its breath.

 

MIGHTY MOVIES

6 reasons ‘The Long Road Home’ might be the most realistic military show ever

This week, National Geographic will air the first episode of The Long Road Home. The miniseries is a scripted retelling of the beginning of the U.S. Army’s fight in the Siege of Sadr City of April 2004. What began with an uprising against the U.S. occupation forces in the Shia neighborhood of the capital led to a long protracted siege spanning years.


The Long Road Home is the story of an ambushed Army escort convoy from 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. It’s based on the true story of a platoon forced to hole up in a civilian home and await rescue. With eight American soldiers lost in the initial fighting in the Baghdad neighborhood, the battle came to be known as “Black Sunday.”

Adapted from ABC News correspondent Martha Raddatz’ book of the same name, the show meticulously created what might be the most accurate military story in film or television.

1. The show’s military advisors were in Sadr City that day.

Any military show or movie with an interest in authenticity is going to have veteran technical advisors on hand to tell the director when things are wrong. But in The Long Road Home, you can expect more than infantry badges and rank to be in the right place. You can expect the people and vehicles to be in Sadr City in the right places too.

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI
The actors and 2-5 Cav vets from The Long Road Home talked to We Are The Mighty about their experiences making the show. (National Geographic)

Showrunner Mikko Alanne hired two veterans from Black Sunday – Eric Bourquin and Aaron Fowler – to be the show’s military advisors. If one of the actors needed to know how to wear a patrol cap, the two veterans could show him. But unlike most shows, if the director needed a minute-by-minute breakdown, he could ask the guys who were there.

“Personally, I like it,” says Fowler. “Because I’m a retired Sergeant First Class, so I have the anal-retentive part down. I’ve got lots of notebooks, and I have access to all the guys. If one of the actors had a question, I could get my phone and hand them the person that did the action they had questions about.”

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI
Jeremy Sisto as Sgt. Robert Miltenberger in The Long Road Home. (National Geographic)

“Eric [Bourquin] was in the platoon that was pinned down on the roof and Aaron [Fowler] was among the rescuers,” says Alanne.

“I’m very proud to be a part of what happened and how it’s been handled. I’ve struggled with having to open up, because having such a wide spotlight cast on a pretty intense part of my life,” says Bourquin. “I learned things I didn’t know transpired. Because the whole time, I was stuck on the roof for four hours. People were out there trying to come in, to get us, so I’d been exposed to a lot of things that I wasn’t aware of and that was healing too. This is honoring them. Now everybody’s gonna always know their story. With that being said, how could I not be involved?”

2. Raddatz’ interviewed everyone close to the fighting.

You don’t get to be the Chief Global Affairs Correspondent of a major network without being addicted to the facts. Martha Raddatz, who literally wrote the book on the events in Sadr City that day, was working for ABC News in Baghdad at the time when she heard about what happened. She ended up talking to everyone from 2-5 Cav that was still in country.

“This story came to me,” she says. “I was covering politics and policy when a general told me about this battle. I had to go talk to these guys. We did pieces for ABC News, for Nightline… I was just so stricken by them. I come from a foreign affairs background and I see presidents make policy and then I went over and saw the effects of that policy.”

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI
Raddatz is still covering military operations in the CENTCOM area as of 2016.

She was introduced to the families through the soldiers who fought there that day.

“It will be with me forever,” Raddatz says. “It felt like they could all be my neighbors. One day they’re all in minivans with their kids, and in three days they’re in the middle of a battle. These aren’t a bunch of action figures, these are real human beings.”

3. Mike Medavoy is an executive producer.

If the name of a film producer doesn’t excite you, that’s fine. An executive producer’s name likely doesn’t carry a lot of weight with most of America.

In the case of The Long Road Home, however, the addition of Medavoy puts the miniseries in the hands of a guy who helped make the legendary war movies Apocalypse Now, Platoon, and The Thin Red Line (not to mention non-military films Rocky, Raging Bull, and Terminator 2).

4. The Long Road Home’s depiction of Army families is heartfelt and real.

When the cast arrived at Fort Hood and met the families of 2-5 Cav, they got just a taste of what living in a military family is like.

“I took away an incredible sense of community,” says actress Katie Paxton, who plays Amber Aguero, wife to Lt. Shane Aguero. “You felt that community from the soldiers. When you’re in war covering your sector, you’re covering the guy to your left. You’re covering the guy to your right. And those guys are your family. I never really understood that until I talked to soldiers.”

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI
A still from the opening episode of The Long Road Home. (National Geographic)

“I grew up in the city as a city kid, and this totally dispelled all of my ideas of what the soldier was actually like,” says actor Ian Quinlan, who plays Spc. Robert Arsiaga. “There was a very significant through line between these soldiers – a lot of these guys joined after 9/11. It blew me away because as a New Yorker I didn’t know anyone in my immediate vicinity in New York who would ever think of that.”

“Hearing their stories, you just feel the goosebumps,” says Karina Ortiz, who plays one of the Gold Star Wives. “The soldiers leave and everything is fine at first, but then people start hearing things. Rumors. The waiting. The not knowing. I would get teary-eyed and just feel their pain. Or I’d feel their fear.”

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI
Jason Ritter portrays Capt. Troy Denomy with Kate Bosworth as Gina Denomy on the set of The Long Road Home at Fort Hood, Texas. (Photo: National Geographic/Van Redin)

The experience of recreating the events of April 2004 even had an effect on its veterans.

“One of the Gold Star Wives came up to me after the Fort Hood premiere and told me thank you,” Eric Bourquin says. “I don’t know why. Her husband died trying to come rescue us guys that were stuck on the roof. But the more I thought about it I realized everyone watching is going to see what the families and everyone involved goes through when shit happens.”

5. The showrunner’s background is in documentary.

“I was very cognizant from the beginning that real life people were going to be watching this,” says Mikko Alanne. “It was my hope that we would be able to use everyone’s real name, and so Martha and I worked very closely on reaching out to all the families.”

The two were very successful. The show originally premiered in Fort Hood’s Abrams Gym. After the show’s Los Angeles premiere, the veterans and Gold Star Families took the stage with their TV counterparts, to a standing ovation from an elite Hollywood audience. But the realism didn’t stop with cooperation.

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI
A still from The Long Road Home. Sadr City was meticulously recreated on Fort Hood for these scenes. (National Geographic)

“So many of the families sent us their photographs, actual photographs used as props, or photographs of their homes for us to recreate,” Alanne says. “And it was very important to me the cast reached out to their real-life counterparts. Bonds were formed between the actors and the real life families, and everyone became infused with the same mission that Martha really started; that these families and these experiences would not be lost to history.”

6. The Fort Hood scenes are really Fort Hood.

When you see Fort Hood, Tex. depicted on screen, you can be sure that’s what Fort Hood really looks like. The show was shot entirely at Fort Hood. The cast even lived in base housing. More important than that, however, is the exact recreation of Sadr City built on Fort Hood that took the veterans on the base back to April 2004.

“The smell was the only thing that wasn’t exactly recreated,” says Fowler. “We veterans and Gold Star Families got to walk back to the streets of Sadr City that we would never get to go. It was an incredibly healing experience. Exposure therapy plain and simple.”

Eric Bourquin agrees.

“Being able to travel back to your battlespace without fear of being captured and ending up in a YouTube video is a gift that can’t be put into words,” he says. “Just like the guys that go back and visit France, or Korea, or Vietnam — it’s become a reality.”

This is the only unit to see combat in every major conflict since WWI
A candid from behind the scenes of The Long Road Home on Fort Hood. (National Geographic)

The Long Road Home starts Tuesday Nov. 7 at 9pm on National Geographic.

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