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This legendary Navy skipper sank 19 enemy ships

In the early months of 1943, the USS Wahoo was on its third war patrol when the sub and its crew found themselves under the new leadership of Lt. Commander Dudley Morton after relieving Marvin Kennedy from his duty.


After serving in the Asiatic Fleet, the Kentucky native and Naval Academy graduate recognized that many of the submarine skippers weren’t as aggressive as he felt they needed for certain victory.

Related: Life aboard WWII submarines was brutal

USS Wahoo, July 14th, 1943.

Highly motivated to prove his worth, Morton sailed his crew to New Guinea’s Wewak Harbor to attack a Japanese Destroyer. After firing five torpedoes at the enemy vessel and missing, the Japanese ship began to charge the Wahoo at full-speed.

Morton prepared his sailors and instructed them to remain calm. Once the enemy destroyer was within an 800-meter range, Morton once again ordered his crew to fire a torpedo, which resulted in a direct hit.

The Wahoo would sink four additional ships before heading back to home base, Pearl Harbor.

Over the next to two patrols, Morton and the Wahoo destroyed nine merchant ships, including a 15,000-ton seaplane tender, and began earning a name for himself racking up legendary numbers.

After a brief period back at Pearl Harbor to reload, the Wahoo set sail for the Sea of Japan and sank four other ships in the first week of October — bringing the tally up to 19.

It’s reported that on Oct. 11th, the Wahoo was hit by Japanese depth charges and aerial bombs, which damaged Morton’s submarine and caused her to sink near the near La Pérouse Strait — killing everyone on board.

Morton was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Navy Cross for his work as USS Wahoo’s skipper.

Also Read: This new speedboat-submarine could change amphibious warfare forever

Check out the Smithsonian channel video below honoring Morton as a fallen American hero.

(Smithsonian Channel, YouTube)
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Call it ‘Ma Deuce’ or 50-cal, the Browning M-2 machine gun is one bad mother of a weapon

The Browning M-2 heavy machine gun has served U.S. soldiers since the 1930s. (Department of Defense photo.)


It’s one of the longest-serving weapons in the U.S. arsenal, packing a punch that few forget whether they are firing the weapon or on the receiving end of its tremendous firepower.

The Browning M-2 .50-caliber heavy machine gun casts a long shadow over U.S. military history – and it holds a special place in the hearts of many soldiers.

Nicknamed “Ma Deuce” by World War II G.I.s, some who have fired the weapon consider it the mother of all machine guns.

“Witnessing the down-range effects of the .50-caliber bullet is an eye-opening experience,” writes Gordon Rottman, author of Browning .50-Caliber Machine Guns.  “There are few who can say they were wounded by a .50-cal. Those hit seldom say much more.”

First conceived during World War I, the Browning M-2 has been in production since 1933. Since then, it’s made history in the hands of some extraordinary fighting men.

A wounded Audie Murphy, one of America’s most decorated soldiers, fired one atop a burning tank destroyer and held off six Panzer tanks and 250 German soldiers for more than hour during a battle in Eastern France, an act of bravery that won him the Medal of Honor.

The long-range firepower of the Ma Deuce combined with its single-shot ability convinced legendary Marine Corps sniper Carlos Hathcock that he had an unusual but effective weapon. In 1967, Hathcock mounted a 10-power scope on an M-2, which he later aimed at a Viet Cong guerilla that he killed 2,500 yards away – a nearly one-and-a-half mile shot that remained the world record for longest sniper kill until 2002.

In 2003, U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith climbed on top an armored vehicle and fired the 50-cal at more than 100 enemy soldiers that pinned down his platoon, saving the lives of his men. Killed during the fire fight, Smith received the Medal of Honor posthumously, the first awarded in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The technological terrors of World War I with its use of armor and airplanes convinced American Expeditionary Force commander Gen. John Pershing that the Army needed a heavy machine gun if it was going to keep pace with world militaries. Both the French and British possessed large-caliber machine guns like the Hotchkiss, but during World War I the U.S. inventory of machine guns only fired rifle-sized calibers.

Eventually, American weapons genius John Browning experimented with his existing M1917 .30-caliber machine gun design to develop a heavy machine gun that fired the .50-caliber round. By 1921, the Army adopted an experimental, water-cooled .50-caliber machine gun based on the Browning design that was the “father” of the Ma Deuce.

After Browning’s death, other weapons designers corrected flaws in the M1921 such as its lightweight barrel.  During the 1930s, the Colt Co. took over production of the weapon – but it was still essentially Browning’s original design and it gained the familiar designation of Browning M-2.

The classic configuration of the Ma Deuce is a belt-fed, air-cooled, recoil-operated machine gun. Its size alone makes it look formidable: It is nearly six-feet long and weighs 84 pounds without its tripod, 128 pounds when tripod mounted.

It fires up to 550 rounds per minute, but it can be set to fire single shots. Because of the weapon’s design, the ammo belt can be fed from either the right or left after a few adjustments to the gun.

What’s more, the 50-cal has the potential to let the gunner “reach out and touch someone.” The weapon’s effective range is 6,000 feet, but its maximum range is four miles.

Both the Army and the Navy loved the M-2 and by World War II it was everywhere: Mounted on tanks as a coaxial gun, placed in aircraft to shoot down enemy fighters, mounted on a tripod so GIs and Marines could lay down suppressive and covering fire, and placed on board naval vessels as an anti-aircraft gun.

There was even a holy terror nicknamed “the Kraut Mower,” the M-45 Quadmount. Originally designed as an anti-aircraft weapon, it was four Ma Deuces in an armored housing mounted on a halftrack.

But as the war progressed, innovative soldiers discovered it was a hellishly effective anti-personnel weapon.  For example, if a machine-gun nest or a sniper pinned down Allied troops and the M-45 was nearby, they would have it open fire on the German position.

The barrage of .50-caliber rounds would simply mow down the building or tree and its German threat – hence, the weapon’s nickname.

The Browning M-2 has its weaknesses. If the gun’s barrel overheats a new barrel needs to be installed on the weapon. The gun will malfunction violently if a barrel change is not performed exactly right, and the task was often a finicky and time-consuming job.

M-2 malfunctions caused by improperly performed barrel changes injured dozens of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan before the Pentagon approved adoption of a “quick change” kit in 2012 that allows a barrel replacement without manually resetting the weapon, according to a Department of Defense report for Congress.

Its weight and tendency to vibrate the gunner’s body can make it awkward to use. But it is a powerful weapon that can dominate any tactical situation.

And that’s why the ‘Ma Deuce’ will be on battlefields for years to come.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Artillery would be critical in a war with Russia

Senior U.S. Army officials on March 26, 2018, mapped out a plan to dramatically increase the range of the service’s artillery and missile systems to counter a Russian threat that would leave ground forces without air support in the “first few weeks” of a war in Europe.


The Army has named long-range precision fires as its top modernization priority in a reform effort aimed at replacing the service’s major weapons platforms.

“We’ve got to push the maximum range of all systems under development for close, deep, and strategic, and we have got to outgun the enemy,” Gen. Robert Brown, commanding general of United States Army Pacific Command, told an audience during a panel discussion on “improving long-range precision fires” at the Association of the United States Army’s Global Force Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama.

Also read: This tank is the backbone of the Russian Army

“We don’t do that right now; it’s a huge gap. … We need cannons that fire as far as rockets today. We need rockets that fire as far as today’s missiles, and we need missiles out to 499 kilometers.”

Currently, Russian air defenses are effective enough to keep fixed-wing aircraft from conducting close-air support; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; and other support missions vital to ground combat forces, said John Gordon IV, a senior policy researcher at Rand Corp.

An M109 Paladin gun crew with B Battery, 4th Battalion, 1st Field Artillery Regiment, Division Artillery, at Fort Bliss, Texas. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Gabrielle Weaver)

Rand conducted a study for officials at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, concluding that in the first seven to 10 days of a conflict with Russia, “the Russians would have very significant advantage in terms of numbers and all aspects of ground combat.”

“Because of the power and the range and the lethality of these Russian air defenses, it’s going to make all forms of air support much more difficult, and the ground forces are going to feel the effects,” Gordon said.

“It’s certainly going to put a premium on U.S. Army field artillery. It’s going to put a premium on long-range fires to compensate for what will, at least initially, be a significant degradation in the amount of air support — less joint ISR, less CAS, less interdiction, less offensive and defensive counter-air, so all that is going to have an effect on Army operations because of the quality of these Russian air defenses,” he said.

Russia also has a larger number of superior artillery systems than the U.S., Gordon said.

“The Russians take this stuff seriously; artillery has been the strong suit of the Russian Army since the days of the czars,” he said.

“They’ve got a range advantage over us in a number of different areas, particularly cannons,” Gordon said. “Typically, modern Russian cannons have got 50 percent to 100 percent greater range than the current generation of U.S. cannons.”

Related: That time American and Russian tanks faced off in a divided Berlin

Brig. Gen. Stephen Maranian, commandant of the Army’s Field Artillery School, who now leads the newly formed cross-functional team responsible for the long-range precision fires modernization priority, said the Army is looking at hypervelocity, electromagnetics, and “very large-caliber cannon” to improve long-range fires in the long term.

In the shorter term, the service is working on replacing the Army Tactical Missile System, or ATacMS, with the Precision Strike Missile, Maranian said.

ATacMS, which has a range of 160 kilometers, was terminated in 2007, but the Army has since extended the service life of the program.

An M109A6 Paladin fires a gas propelled 155mm Howitzer round in Mosul, Iraq. (Photo by US Army Spc. Gregory Gieske)

“We expect to see [Precision Strike Missile] prototypes fly within the next fiscal year in 2019,” Maranian said. “From there, hopefully, a delivery of the base missile by early 2023.”

The base missile is going to provide a “huge upgrade from ATAcMs,” increasing the range out to 499 kilometers, the limit of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, or INF, Treaty, he said.

“It’s going to provide 1.5 times the speed, it’s going to be twice the capacity … and it’s also going to have the ability to be even more lethal than the ATAcMs,” he added.

Maranian said the base missile will be able to go after “multi-domain targets — so the ability to hit a ship at sea, the ability to hit moving targets on the land domain, the ability to have sub-munitions that attack heavy armored targets and have effects … and the ability to use sensors to hone in on targets. Those are all aspects of future spirals of this missile that the base Precision Strike Missile will provide.”

In terms of artillery, Maranian said the Army is planning a “dramatic increase to the firepower” that exists in its brigade combat teams.

The Army has been attempting to upgrade its Paladin 155mm self-propelled howitzers systems. The M109A6 Paladin Integrated Management, or PIM, just completed its initial operational test and evaluation in March 2018, Maranian said.

More: This armored vehicle sports an anti-aircraft cannon

The Army is relying on the Extended Range Cannon Artillery, or ERCA, technology to extend the range of the system.

The upgraded, rocket-assisted projectile, which will increase the range out to 40 kilometers, is scheduled to be ready by fiscal 2021, he said.

An upgraded breech, which will help boost the range out to 70 kilometers, will be ready by the fiscal 2023 timeframe, as will be the “incorporation of an autoloader to improve our four rounds in the initial minute, and one round a minute after that, sustained rate to a six-to-10 round a minute sustained rate of fire,” Maranian said.

“That will be the basis of achieving overmatch against any adversary in any theater,” he said.

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The invasion of Iraq began 13 years ago

U.S. and coalition forces invaded Iraq 13 years ago today,  kicking off a war that would last until the end of 2011.


President George W. Bush had given Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein an ultimatum to cede power and leave the country by early-morning Mar. 20, 2003. American forces stepped off the line of departure 90 minutes after the clock ran out.

An F-117A Nighthawk drops a laser-guided bomb during training. Photo: Air Force Master Sgt. Edward Snyder

Jets and Tomahawk missiles struck government and military targets deep within the country, including some within Baghdad. The first strike was conducted by F-117 stealth fighters against Dora Farms, a retreat near Baghdad where Saddam and two of his sons were believed to be that morning.

Most of Dora Farms was destroyed in the attack, but Saddam had left the area long before the bombs fell.

Saddam quickly went into hiding as CIA operatives and special operations troops called in airstrikes throughout Iraq. Fearful that the Iraqi military would destroy infrastructure and set traps for advancing troops like they did in the First Persian Gulf War, the coalition sent in ground forces just hours after the first airstrikes.

British Royal Marines prepare for the invasion of Iraq. Photo: Ministry of Defence Dave Coombs

U.S. soldiers under V Corps and Marines with the I Marine Expeditionary Force invaded from Kuwait into Iraq towards Baghdad.

At the same time, U.S. Marines, British forces, and Polish commandos began an assault over land and sea against Al Faw peninsula and the port city of Umm Qasr. The area is home to a large amount of oil infrastructure and it controls waterways that would be vital to moving ships loaded with supplies into the country.

Just behind the front lines, Spanish troops moved into Iraq to provide humanitarian assistance.

Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. John L. Houghton, Jr.

The initial invasion ran from Mar. 20 to May 1 and was an unqualified success. While Saddam Hussein managed to escape into hiding, his forces put up little resistance. U.S. and allied forces were able to capture the entire country with little damage to infrastructure. American troops were pushing into Baghdad and walking American flags through palaces owned by Saddam by early April, just weeks after the invasion began.

Of course, things got more complicated after that, to put it mildly. Sectarian violence and a brutal insurgency against the new government of Iraq and the coalition forces would drag out the war for another 8 years.

But that’s another story . . . .

MIGHTY HISTORY

This former President’s son was killed in combat in World War I

The casualty list released by the American Expeditionary Force on July 21, 1918 listed 64 American soldiers and Marines killed in action and 28 missing.

But the name reporters noticed first was that of a 20 year-old college student from Oyster Bay, Long Island: Lt. Quentin Roosevelt.

Quentin Roosevelt had been a public figure since he was four years-old, when his father, Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, became president.


Roosevelt had been missing since July 14, 1918, when he and four other pilots from the U.S. Army Air Service’s 95th Aero Squadron engaged at least seven German aircraft near the village of Chamery, France.

His father had been notified that he was missing and presumed dead on July 17 and took it hard.

Quentin Roosevelt was a flight leader in the 95th and despite his famous family, he was very much a regular guy.

“Everyone who met him for the first time expected him to have the airs and superciliousness of a spoiled boy,” wrote Capt. Eddy Rickenbacker, the top American Ace of World War I. “This notion was quickly lost after the first glimpse one had of Quentin.”

Army Air Service Lt. Quentin Roosevelt

“Gay, hearty and absolutely square in everything he said or did, Quentin Roosevelt was one of the most popular fellows in the group. We loved him purely for his own natural self,” Rickenbacker remembered.

Quentin Roosevelt was the fifth child of Teddy and Edith Roosevelt. Quentin was his father’s favorite and his dad told stories to reporters about Quentin and the gang of boys — sons of White House employees — he played with.
When the United States entered World War I, Quentin Roosevelt was a Harvard student.

His father had argued for American entry into the war, so it was only natural for Quentin and the other three Roosevelt sons to join the military.

Quentin dropped out of Harvard and joined the 1st Aero Company of the New York National Guard. The unit trained at a local airfield on Long Island, which was later renamed Roosevelt Field in Quentin Roosevelt’s honor.

The 1st Aero Company was federalized in June 1917 as the 1st Reserve Aero Squadron and sent to France. Roosevelt went along and was assigned as a supply officer at a training base.

He learned to fly the Nieuport 28 fight that the French had provided to the Americans. The Nieuport 28 was a light biplane fighter armed with two Vickers machine gun.

Army Air Service Lt. Quentin Roosevelt

The French had decided to outfit their fighter squadrons with the better SPAD 13 fighter, so the Nieuports were available for the Americans. They equipped the 95th and three other American fighter squadrons.

In June 1918 Roosevelt joined the 95th. Roosevelt was a good pilot but gained a reputation for being a risk-taker. With four weeks of training, Quentin Roosevelt got into the fight in July 1918.

On July 5, 1918 he was in combat twice.

On his first mission, the engine of Roosevelt’s Nieuport malfunctioned. A German fighter shot at him but missed. Later that day he took up another plane and the machine guns jammed.

On July 9 he shot down a German plane and may have got another.

On July 14 — Bastille Day the other American pilots were ordered into the air as part of the American effort to stop the German advance in what became known as the Second Battle of the Marne. The German Army was attacking toward Paris. The American Army was in their way.

New York National Guard Chaplain (Cpt.) Father Francis P. Duffy, the chaplain of New York’s famed “Fighting 69th” reads a service as a cross is placed on the grave of Lt. Quentin Roosevelt in August 1918.

In World War I the main enemy air threat was observation planes that found targets for artillery. The job for Roosevelt and the other American pilots was to escort observation planes over German lines.

The Americans accomplished their mission and were heading home when they were jumped by at least seven German plans. The weather was cloudy, so Lt. Edward Buford, the flight leader, decided to break off and retreat.

But instead he saw one American plane engaging three German aircraft.

“I shook the two I was maneuvering with, and tried to get over to him but before I could reach him his machine turned over on its back and plunged down and out of control,” Buford said.

“At the time of the fight I did not know who the pilot was I’d seen go down. ” Buford remembered, “But as Quentin did not come back, it must have been him.”

Quentin Roosevelt’s grave outside Chamrey, France after the French erected a more permanent grave marking.

“His loss was one of the severest blows we have ever had in the squadron. He certainly died fighting,” Buford wrote.

Three German pilots took credit for downing Roosevelt. Most historians give credit to Sgt. Carl-Emil Graper. Roosevelt, Graper wrote later, fought courageously.

The Germans were shocked to find out they had killed the son of an American president.

On July 15 they buried Quentin Roosevelt with military honors where his plane crashed outside the village of Chamery. A thousand German soldiers paid their respects, according to an American prisoner of war who watched.

On the cross they erected, the German soldiers wrote: “Lieutenant Roosevelt, buried by the Germans.”

When the German’s retreated, and the Allies retook Chamery, Quentin Roosevelt’s grave became a tourist attraction. Soldiers visited his grave, had their photograph taken there, and took pieces of his Nieuport as souvenirs.

The commander of New York’s 69th Infantry, Col. Frank McCoy, had served as President Roosevelt’s military aid and had known Quentin when he was a boy. At McCoy’s direction, the regiment’s chaplain Father (Capt.) Francis Duffy had a cross made and put it in place at the grave.

American Soldiers stand at the grave of Lt. Quentin Roosevelt in 1918.

“The plot had already been ornamented with a rustic fence by the soldiers of the 32nd Division. We erected our own little monument without molesting the one that had been left by the Germans,” he wrote in his memoirs.

“It is fitting that enemy and friend alike should pay tribute to his heroism,” Duffy added.

An Army Signal Corps photographer and movie cameraman recorded the event.

After the war, the temporary grave stone was replaced with a permanent one and Edith Roosevelt gave a fountain to the village of Chamery in memory of her son.

Quentin Roosevelt’s body remained where he fell until 1955. Then, at the request of the Roosevelt family, Quentin’s remains were exhumed.

He was laid to rest next to another son of Teddy Roosevelt; Theodore Roosevelt Jr. Ted, as he was called, was a brigadier general in the Army who led the men of the 4th Infantry Division ashore on Utah Beach on D-Day before dying of a heart attack on July 12, 1944.

Both men are buried in the Omaha Beach American Cemetery.

Quentin’s death shocked the apparently unstoppable Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. who grieved deeply, according to his biographers.

Teddy Roosevelt had fought childhood asthma, coped with the deaths of his first wife and mother on the same day, started down rustlers as a rancher in the Dakotas, faced enemy fire in the Spanish American War, survived a shooting attempt in 1912 and survived tropical illness and exhaustion during a 1914 expedition in the Amazon.

But six months after Quentin’s death, Theodore Roosevelt died of a heart attack in his sleep.

During the World War I centennial observance the Division of Military and Naval Affairs will be issue press releases noting key dates which impacted New Yorkers based on information provided by the New York State Military Museum in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. More than 400,000 New Yorkers served in the military during World War I, more than any other state.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

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Here’s how a little girl who lost her Marine dad taught the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff the full cost of war

General Dempsey talking to the troops in Iraq. (Photo: CBS News)


Like most general officers commissioned right after the Vietnam War ended, Gen. Martin Dempsey’s firsthand experience of dealing with combat losses came relatively late in his career. During the summer of 2003, then-Major General Dempsey was commanding “Task Force Iron” in Iraq when the post-invasion lull ended and the insurgency began going after American troops.

“We started taking casualties,” Gen. Dempsey recounted. “And during the morning briefing, after we talked about the high-level mission items and what we called ‘significant incidents,’ we’d flash up the names of the fallen and have a moment of silence.

“The names were up there on the screen and then, whoosh, they were gone,” he said. “After about two or three weeks of the same thing, I became really uncomfortable with that. One minute it was there and real, and then the next minute it was somebody else’s problem.”

Gen. Dempsey attended a number of the memorial services held at the forward operating bases downrange for those killed in action.

“They were both heart wrenching and inspirational,” the general said about the services. “To see the love that these soldiers had for each other made me take my responsibilities that much more seriously.”

But as he greeted the battle buddies of the fallen, Gen. Dempsey wasn’t sure what to say to them that would help at those moments. “I had nothing,” he said. “I mean, I’d say, ‘hang in there’ or ‘we’re really sorry about what happened’ . . . I felt so superficial.”

Then it hit him one morning after he was just waking up in his quarters in Baghdad. “A phrase was echoing in my head,” he remembered. “Make it matter.”

He did two things immediately after that: First, he had laminated cards made for every soldier who had been killed to that point. The cards were carried by all the general officers in theater as a constant physical reminder of the human cost of the war. In time the number of casualties became so great that it was impractical to carry the cards at all times, so he had a mahogany box engraved with “Make it Matter” on the top and put all but three of the cards inside of it. He would constantly rotate the three he carried in his pocket with the ones in the box.

Second, from that point forward when he would address the soldiers in units that had experienced losses, he’d simply say, “Make it matter.”

“They knew exactly what I meant,” Gen. Dempsey said.

****

Five years after Gen. Dempsey’s introduction to the challenges a two-star leader faces during periods of significant combat losses, Marine Corps Major David Yaggy, a veteran of three combat deployments, was an instructor flying in the rear cockpit of a Navy T-34C trainer on a cross-country flight between Florida and South Carolina when the airplane went down in the hills of Alabama. Yaggy and his flight student at the controls in the front cockpit were both killed in the crash.

The day of that crash is burned into the memory of Maj. Yaggy’s widow, Erin. She first heard from a realtor friend that a helicopter had gone down, and she immediately went online and saw a report that, in fact, a T-34 had crashed in Alabama. Fearing the worst, she put her 18-month-old daughter Lizzy in a stroller and went for a walk, in denial and hoping to avoid any officials who might show up to tell her that her husband had been killed.

During the walk, she received a phone call from her cousin. “Where are you?” she asked.

“I’m at your house,” he replied. That was all he said.

Erin ran home pushing the stroller, in her words, “like a crazy person.” When she arrived she caught a glimpse of a uniform, and she broke down, hysterical. “That didn’t go so well,” she said.

She had a long period of vacillating between shock, anger, and sorrow. “I felt like other people wanted me to cry,” she said. “I was like, ‘I don’t want permission to cry, I just want him here.”

Lizzy Yaggy visiting the Arlington National Cemetery gravesite of her father. (Photo: Erin Yaggy)

The sister of the flight student killed with Erin’s husband convinced her to get involved with Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), and she wound up making the short trip from Baltimore to Washington DC to attend her first Good Grief Camp — the organization’s signature gathering — when Lizzy was four years old.

****

General Dempsey had just taken over as Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army when his aide briefed him that he was scheduled to address the TAPS Good Grief Camp attendees gathered in a hotel ballroom across the interstate from the Pentagon. Although the general had heard of TAPS and was armed with the requisite three-by-five cards filled with talking points provided by his staff, when he got there he realized he wasn’t fully ready for what he was walking into.

“I walked into this room with 600 kids all wearing big round buttons with images of their parents, and I knew I was ill-prepared,” Gen. Dempsey said. “It was emotionally overwhelming. It’s hard enough meeting a single family that’s had a loss. It’s another thing altogether meeting 600 families.”

Gen. Dempsey started his appearance with a question-and-answer session, and after a couple of innocent ones like “do you have your own airplane?” and “do you like pizza?” a little girl dramatically shifted the mood by asking, “Is my daddy an angel?”

“I was stunned,” Gen. Dempsey recalled. “How do you answer that question?”

Lizzy Yaggy greets Gen. Dempsey during TAPS Good Grief Camp. (Photo: Erin Yaggy)

The general thought for a few moments before calling an audible of sorts. Fearing that he could well break down if he tried to talk he decided to attempt something else.

“I knew I could sing through emotion instead of trying to speak,” he said.

So he answered that, of course, her father was an angel — like the fathers of everyone there — and that the entire group should sing together because singing is joyful and the fact that their fathers were angels should bring them great joy.

Then he launched into the Irish classic, “The Unicorn Song,” including a lesson in the proper hand gestures required during the chorus. Soon the entire room was singing.

After his appearance, General Dempsey asked Bonnie Carroll, the founder of TAPS, if he could meet the little girl who’d asked the question and her family, so Bonnie introduced him to the Yaggys. The general was immediately struck by Lizzy’s spark, and, as Erin put it, Lizzy was drawn to the man with lots of silver stars on his Army uniform who’d raised her spirits by singing with all of the kids.

“His timing was perfect,” Erin said. “Before [General Dempsey’s singalong], Lizzy had just said, ‘I don’t want to talk about daddy being dead anymore.’ Her attitude changed after she met General Dempsey.”

****

At the following year’s Good Grief Camp, they began what blossomed into a tradition: Lizzy introduced him as the keynote speaker.

“She stood up and said, ‘this is General Dempsey.  We love him, and he loves to sing, and he makes us feel good,'” the general recalled. “And she finished with, ‘and now my friend, General Dempsey.'” With that, once again, General Dempsey had to fight back tears as he faced hundreds of military survivors.

Lizzy introducing Gen. Dempsey at the TAPS Gala for the first time. (Photo: Erin Yaggy)

General Dempsey and his wife Deanie stayed in touch with the Yaggys, exchanging email updates and Christmas cards. The third year Lizzy introduced the general he’d taken over as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Pentagon’s senior-most position. Before they got on stage together she gave him a little box with an angel-shaped medallion in it, saying, “You’re my guardian angel.”

The general was deeply moved and wanted to return the gesture, but all his aide had in his possession was a ballcap with the numeral “18” on the front of it, signifying the 18th CJCS. He wrote in black ink on the bill: “To Lizzy — From your chairman friend. Martin E. Dempsey.”

“It was so cute to see her wearing that hat for the rest of the night,” Deanie Dempsey said. “Here was this little girl in this long green dress with a ballcap on.”

“She wore that hat all the time after that,” Erin said. “She even took it to bed with her.”

Lizzy wearing her favorite hat, a gift from the 18th CJCS. (Photo: Erin Yaggy)

The entire time General Dempsey served as the chairman he only had two things on his desk in the Pentagon: The mahogany “Make it Matter” box full of the laminated cards that profiled those who were killed under his command in Iraq and the guardian angel medallion Lizzy gave him.

****

When it came time for the general to retire, the Pentagon’s protocol apparatus sprang into action — after all, a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff change of command is like the Super Bowl of military ceremonies. As the officials were coordinating all the moving parts, including the details surrounding President Obama’s attendance, they were surprised to learn who the outgoing chairman wanted to introduce him. They pushed back, but the general was insistent.

The day arrived and at the appropriate moment in the event, a little girl on the dais confidently strode by the dignitaries and political appointees and the President of the United States and stood on the box positioned behind the podium just for her.

And without any hesitation, Lizzy Yaggy delivered her remarks to the thousands in attendance, and finished with, “Please welcome my friend, General Dempsey . . .”

Lizzy hugging now-retired Gen. Dempsey at this year’s TAPS Good Grief Camp in DC. (Photo: TAPS.org)

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39 Awesome photos of life in the US Marine Corps infantry

YouTube, We Are The Mighty


From fighting pirates in the First Barbary War of 1801 to seizing the Kandahar International Airport in 2001 and beyond, Marine Corps infantrymen have been fighting and winning our nation’s battles for more than 200 years.

Known as “grunts,” infantrymen receive specialized training in weapons, tactics, and communications that make them effective in combat. And while many things have changed for grunts over time, they continue to carry on the legacy that was forged from the “small wars” to the “Frozen Chosin” to the jungles of Vietnam.

After more than a decade of war following the 9/11 attacks, many grunts have deployed to combat …

Photo Credit: US Marine Corps

… In Iraq, where they earned their place in history at Nasiriyah, Najaf, and Fallujah (shown here), and many others.

Photo Credit: US Marine Corps

While others deployed to Afghanistan, into the deadly Korengal Valley …

Photo Credit: Darren Allen

 … Or more recently to Marjah, in Helmand Province.

Photo Credit: US Marine Corps

But before infantrymen join their units, they need to complete initial training. For enlisted Marines, that means going to the School of Infantry, either at Camp Pendleton, California or Camp Geiger, North Carolina.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

For officers, their training at Infantry Officer Course in Quantico, Va. involves both tactics and weapons, along with a more intense focus on how to lead an infantry platoon.

Photo Credit: US Marine Corps

While most enlisted grunts become 0311 riflemen, others receive more specialized training, like 0331 machine-gunners, which learn the M240 machine gun (shown here), the MK19 grenade launcher, and the M2 .50 cal.

Photo Credit: US Marine Corps

0341 Mortarmen learn how to operate the 60 mm (shown below) and 81 mm mortar systems, which help riflemen with indirect fire support when they need a little bit more firepower.

Photo Credit: US Marine Corps

0351 Assaultmen learn basic demolitions, breaching, and become experts in destroying bad guys with the SMAW rocket system. The Shoulder-launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon (SMAW) is shown below.

Photo Credit: US Marine Corps

Packing even more punch that’s usually vehicle-mounted, 0352 Anti-tank missilemen learn their primary M41 SABER (below) heavy anti-tank weapon and the Javelin, a medium anti-tank weapon.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Some more experienced infantrymen go into specialized fields, such as Reconnaissance or snipers (below).

Photo Credit: Zac Mercoli

Always present is a focus on mission accomplishment, and to “keep their honor clean” — to preserve the legacy of the Corps …

Photo Credit: Library of Congress

… That grunts are proud of. Always remembering heroics from the Chosin Reservoir Marines in Korea …

Photo Credit: US Marine Corps

… To those who fought in Vietnam jungles, or the storied battles of Hue and Khe Sanh.

Photo Credit: US Marine Corps

Since Vietnam, grunts have been repeatedly been called upon for minor and major engagements, such as Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and Operation United Shield in Somalia in 1995 (below).

Photo Credit: Darren Allen

But it’s not all combat.

Photo Credit: Darren Allen

Marine grunts are constantly training, whether it’s practicing amphibious landings …

Photo Credit: US Marine Corps

… Or learning the skills needed to survive and thrive in a jungle environment.

Photo Credit: US Marine Corps

Sometimes they take a break to catch up on their reading.

Photo Credit: Michael Sinclair

And when they’re not training, they are trying to have fun.

Photo Credit: Josh Boston

Sometimes … maybe too much fun.

Photo Credit: Donnie Hickman

While technology has made today’s infantrymen even deadlier, the life of the grunt has always been spartan.

Photo Credit: US Marine Corps

Grunts often work in rough conditions, and they need to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Photo Credit: Nate Hall

And quite often, they need to be self-sufficient. At remote patrol bases, that means everything from burning their trash and other waste …

Photo Credit: Paul Martin

To fixing their morning coffee in any way they can.

Photo Credit: Daniel Evans

Grunts learn to appreciate the little things, like care packages from home …

Photo Credit: Matt McElhinney

… Any privacy they can get …

Photo Credit: Daniel Evans

… Or a “FOB Pup” to play around with in between missions.

Photo Credit: Daniel Evans

When they get into a fight with the enemy, they battle back just as their predecessors did.

Photo Credit: Zac Mercoli

And with solid training and leadership, they can easily transition, as Gen. Mattis says, from no worse enemy to no better friend.

Photo Credit: Nate Hall

When things don’t go exactly as planned …

Photo Credit: Josh Boston

… Grunts can usually shake it off with a smile.

Photo Credit: JC Eliott

Especially in a combat zone, humor helps a unit through tough times.

Photo Credit: Zac Mercoli

And there are plenty of opportunities for laughs.

Photo Credit: Marc Anthony Madding

Whether it’s graffiti on a barrier …

Photo Credit: JC Eliott

 Or taunting the Taliban with a Phillies t-shirt.

Photo Credit: Zac Mercoli

But the bottom line is that grunts are the Marine Corps’ professional war-fighters.

Photo Credit: Nate Hall

They forge brotherhoods that last for a lifetime.

Photo Credit: Nate Hall

And they never forget those who didn’t make it home.

Memorial ceremony for Sgt. Thomas Spitzer. (Photo Credit: US Marine Corps)

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 ways for military spouses to keep their own identity

Marrying someone in the military comes with a lot of “stuff.” Some of that stuff is so beautiful – like watching your service member put on their uniform and promising to protect this country – that it takes your breath away. Being married to a soldier, sailor, airman, Marine, Guardsman or Coastie is something that will absolutely enrich your life beyond your wildest dreams. But attached to the beautiful things are some harder parts of the military spouse life.


Walking through the journey of a military spouse comes with challenges. You will be faced with increased responsibilities and continual life changes. From learning the military lingo, acronyms, the ins and outs of Tricare, or managing an overseas PCS, the “opportunities” to learn are endless. But out of all the things to understand and navigate in military life, the most important thing to learn is how to not lose something really, really, important: yourself.

Much of this loss of identity comes initially due to the level of pride felt for your husband or wife’s service to the county. It is a life-changing and awe-inspiring thing to be a part of. Being involved as a military advocate or volunteering your time is an honorable thing, as long as you are doing it for the right reasons. It isn’t altogether uncommon for military spouses to completely lose their voice and sense of self. They get stuck behind their service member’s uniform. The key thing to remember is that you aren’t the one wearing it. They are.

Many military spouses stop going to school, working, or striving toward whatever their dreams were before they said: “I do.” Pair that with deployments and the stress of managing life alone can lead to depression, isolation, and unhappiness. A 2019 study found that 7% of female military spouses meet the criteria for depression, as compared to only 3% of females in the general population. That same study also showed higher rates of addiction to alcohol and binge drinking for military spouses.

For many military spouses, it is hard to recognize who they were before they married their service member. It’s much easier to press pause on your own life and wait for the mission to be complete. But when you do this, you miss so many of life’s opportunities in the process. With this loss of identity comes resentment, which can lead to divorce. The divorced military spouse has a new set of challenges, typically with children to support, no education, and a sparse resume. Now, these spouses have lost something they gave absolutely everything to: their military spouse title. Don’t let this be you.

Your service member will be working toward continual advancement in rank during their military career. You should also be living a life of purpose, intentionality, and advancing in your own growth right along with them. You only get one life, go live it!

Here are 6 ways for military spouses to keep their own identities:

Have the goal conversation before you get married

Be raw and honest with your service member. Lay out your goals for your future and plan for them together. All of them. It is advisable that you write them down and post them somewhere visible – this will be an accountability reminder for both of you.

Prepare to get creative

The military is going to change the path to your goals. Probably more than once, and yeah, it really sucks. Embrace the suck and have a plan b, c, and d. Your goals are worth it. You are worth it.

Don’t ever stop learning

This is the number one mistake military spouses make. If you are in school when you meet your service member, don’t you dare stop going. Also, see above.

Swallow your pride and use the resources

As a military spouse, you will have so much support; say yes to all of the things.

  • Military spouse scholarships are everywhere to help you pay for schooling. Don’t be too proud to apply.
  • Career counseling and resume building assistance will be available to you. Go make your appointment.

Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, talk during the kickoff of the Military Spouse Employment Partnership.

Mingle

Network with other military spouses who are in your wheelhouse. They get it and will help you navigate your journey more successfully. This is one of the military life’s most beautiful blessings; that instant connection with the military community. Life is better with MilSpouse besties.

Want to be a stay at home parent or military spouse? Do it right.

If being in this role makes your heart sing – go for it! Do what sets your soul on fire; do not settle or give up your own personal dreams for your future. If being a stay at home parent or spouse is your jam, go all in. Make sure you own that choice, and you are making yourself happy. No one, not even your uniformed service member, can do that for you.

Articles

West Point’s Class of 1915 is one the stars fell on

Over the years, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point has graduated thousands of officers who have gone on to do great things with their lives. Two Presidents of the United States and 75 Medal of Honor recipients are West Pointers. But no single class has been quite as successful as the Class of 1915.


The Class of 1915 was comprised some of the most famous names in the history of the U.S. Army, including Dwight Eisenhower and Omar Bradley. There were 164 graduates that year and over one third, 59 total, went on to become generals, spawning the nickname ‘The Class the Stars Fell On.”

All told, two of them were named as five-star Generals of the Army, two others became four-star generals, seven made lieutenant general, 24 pinned on two-stars, and 24 made brigadier. To top it all off, Dwight Eisenhower was elected as the 34th President of the United States.

And was the only guy who could make this group of people feel inferior at the 10-year reunion.

There were a number of factors that affected the outcome for this class. The first was the timing of their graduation. With the Punitive Expedition in 1916 and America’s entry into World War I in 1917, the Class of 1915 found themselves in combat early in their careers.

Second, a career as a military officer was rather nice for the times, compared to other jobs. With the onset of the Great Depression in 1929, resignations became exceedingly rare, even if promotions were non-existent.

Finally, with the rapid expansion of the armed forces for World War II, this class of officers quickly moved into high level command positions due to their experience and seniority. The first among the class to reach the general officer ranks was also the first Puerto Rican and Hispanic to attend and graduate from West Point, Luis R. Esteves.

Also, a feather in his cap at the reunion.

The two highest ranking members of the class were Dwight Eisenhower and Omar Bradley. Eisenhower quickly gained a reputation for his planning and administrative abilities and in just three years’ time would advance from the rank of brigadier general to General of the Army, a five-star rank, as the commander of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force. During World War II, he planned and led the invasions of North Africa, Sicily, Italy, and Normandy. Bradley would enter the war with Eisenhower in North Africa and quickly receive promotions as well. Bradley took charge of the Twelfth Army Group, consisting of four field armies and over one million men, the largest group of American soldiers to ever serve under a single field commander. Bradley would not receive his fifth star until the Korean War, when he served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The class also had two four-star generals in Joseph McNarney and James Van Fleet. McNarney was originally commissioned in the infantry but then attended flight school. Under his recommendation, the Army Air Forces became an autonomous component of the Army. He would eventually become the Supreme Commander of the Mediterranean Theatre. James Van Fleet was also commissioned in the infantry and during World War II he commanded both the 4th and 90th Infantry Divisions as well as III Corps. During the Korean War, he commanded the Eighth Army. He was also one of, if not the, most decorated officers of the class, having earned three Distinguished Service Crosses, three Silver Stars, three Bronze Stars, and three Purple Hearts.

James A. Van Fleet, who beat the crap out of Germany, North Korea, and old age.

Although a number of the class distinguished themselves in combat in World War I, many members of the class did not, and would not, see combat until World War II, where they would truly distinguish themselves. A total of thirteen men from the class would command divisions during WWII. In Europe, Generals Leland Hobbs led the 30th Infantry Division, earning the nickname ‘Roosevelt’s SS’ from the Germans and were considered by S.L.A. Marshall to be the number one infantry division in theatre.

Lt. Gen. John Leonard, who received a Distinguished Service Cross in WWI, would lead the 9th Armored Division throughout the war and during their daring taking of the Remagen Bridge.  In the Pacific, Joseph Swing, who would eventually become a Lieutenant General, commanded the 11th Airborne Division. Swing was instrumental in saving the airborne divisions by chairing the Swing Board and showing their utility in the Knollwood Maneuver.

In the air, Lt. Gen. Hubert Harmon would command the Sixth and Thirteenth Air Forces and go on to be the first Superintendent of the Air Force Academy. Another Lieutenant General, George Stratemeyer, would command the air forces in the China-India-Burma Theatre of Operations.

Many of these officers retired shortly after World War II but a few continued to serve. The longest serving member of the class was Lt. Gen. Hubert Harmon who retired in 1956 after 41 years of service. The last surviving general of the class was James Van Fleet, who died at the age of 100 in 1992. Although the number of graduates each year at West Point is now significantly greater than it was in 1915 it is highly unlikely that there will ever be another class to achieve such greatness.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Senior Israelis hold talks with Russia after Syrian shoot down

Israel’s air force chief held “professional, open” talks with officials in Moscow in the aftermath of the shoot-down of a Russian warplane by Syria earlier in the week that Russian officials said was caused by Israeli actions.

Major General Amikam Norkin traveled to Moscow on Sept. 20, 2018, to share his military’s findings on the incident in which 15 Russian service-members aboard the Il-20 surveillance plane were killed off the coast of Syria.

Russia has acknowledged that antiaircraft forces of its ally Syria inadvertently brought down the plane, but it also blamed Israel for conducting a fighter jet raid on Syrian forces around the same time.


A statement released by the Israeli military after Norkin’s Moscow visit said that “the meetings were held in good spirits, and the representatives shared a professional, open, and transparent discussion on various issues.”

“Both sides emphasized the importance of the states’ interests and the continued implementation of the deconfliction system,” the statement said.

Israel and Russia have set up an exchange of information between their forces operating in and around Syria to reduce the risk of air incidents.

The Russian plane was shot down by Syrian air defenses on Sept. 17, 2018, after Israeli missiles struck the coastal region of Latakia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Israeli military said its jets had targeted a Syrian site that was in the process of transferring weapons to Iran-backed Hizballah militants.

It added that Israeli planes were already in Israeli airspace when Syria fired the missiles that hit the Russian plane.

Israel insisted it warned Russian forces of its raid ahead of time in accordance with previous agreements.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said the Israeli warning came less than a minute before the strike, and it accused the Israeli military of using the Russian plane as a cover to dodge Syrian defense systems.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Russian President Vladimir to express sorrow over the deaths of crew member, blaming Syria and offering to send Norkin with detailed information.

“I told him that we have the right of self-defense,” Netanyahu said on Sept. 20, 2018, adding that “there is also very great importance to maintaining the security coordination between Israel and Russia.”

Russia, along with Iran, has given Syrian President Bashar al-Assad support throughout the country’s seven-year civil war, which began with a government crackdown on protesters in March 2011.

Russian air support has been particularly crucial in allowing Assad to hold off Islamic insurgents and Western-backed rebels and maintain power.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Shop these 6 veteran-owned businesses on Small Business Saturday

Whether you’re an avid leave-at-three-in-the-morning-and-stand-outside-Walmart-for-hours kind of shopper or more of the hell-no-I’m-not-leaving-my-couch kind, save your money on Black Friday and spend it all the next day: Small Business Saturday. Specifically, spend your money with these 6 veteran-owned businesses for everyone on your holiday shopping list:


Death Before Decaf mug

Blue Angel Coffee

For the coffee lover:

Blue Angel not only has awesome coffee, but their merch is some of the best around. Who doesn’t need a mug that says “Coffee because crack is bad for you,” or “Death before decaf,” among other hilarious quips?

The Lower 48 in Alder

Dark Horse Wood

For the patriot:

We know you love ‘Merica more than anyone and most of the people in your life do too. Nothing says pride like hanging The Lower 48 in Alder on your wall for all to see. Beautifully handmade by Dark Horse Wood, this gorgeous craftsmanship is a gift that will keep on giving.

Rumi Spice Blend Gift Box

Rumi Spice

For the cook:

The best kind of presents are ones that you can feel good about gifting. Rumi Spice was founded by veterans to connect Afghan farmers with the global food market to lay down a foundation for peace, one flower at a time. “Spice for good” sounds like something we can get behind—and that we can use as stocking stuffers. With Afghan saffron, wild black cumin and spice blends, the artisan chef in your family will appreciate not just the spices, but the meaning behind them as well.

USMC MRE T-shirt

Military Muscle

For the Marine:

Have that buddy you love to make fun of? Buy him this t-shirt from Military Muscle that has a box of crayons on it labeled USMC MRE (you’re welcome). Plus, you can feel good about it. For every t-shirt purchased, Military Muscle donates one to either someone deployed or a homeless vet.

Leadslingers Bourbon Whiskey

Leadslingers Whiskey

For the bourbon lover:

If you’re looking for a smooth, tasty bourbon, look no further than Leadslingers to make your holiday spirits bright. With a light bourbon flavor born from its single barrel aging process, it’s double distilled and handcrafted in Moore, Oklahoma. It’s got top shelf flavor without the hefty price tag. It “melds sophistication and down home flavors, delivering hints of oak, toffee and vanilla; it’s sure to satisfy even the most distinguishing taster.”

The Krypteia

Toor Knives

For the outdoorsman:

What’s better than knife hands? An actual knife. Toor Knives gives you mount, engraving and sheath options, allowing you to build a customized knife and a one-of-a-kind gift.

Whether you start your holiday shopping at midnight on Thanksgiving or would rather procrastinate until Christmas Eve, you do you… and do veteran-owned too.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Marine vet won a $63 million judgement for his imprisonment in Iran

A U.S. judge has ordered Iran’s government to pay $63.5 million to a former U.S. Marine who was held in Iranian jails for more than four years.


U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle of Washington, D.C., ruled in favor of 33-year-old Amir Hekmati, an Iranian-American, after Iran failed to respond to the complaint.

Hekmati was detained in August 2011 after he went to Iran to visit family and spend time with an ailing grandmother.

Amir Hekmati with his siblings and parents several years after his parents resettled into the United States. (Image Facebook)

He was arrested on espionage charges and sentenced to death. The sentence was later overturned by Iran’s Supreme Court and he was instead given a 10-year sentence.

He was freed in January 2016 as part of a prisoner swap along with four other American prisoners after Washington granted clemency to seven Iranians.

Hekmati filed suit in May 2016, claiming he was tortured and tricked into providing a false confession while held in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison.

It is uncertain if the U.S.-born Hekmati will actually receive any of the money, but his attorney, Scott Gilbert, said the family was pleased with the decision and “will do everything in our power to ensure that Amir’s claim is paid in full.”

Freed along with Hekmati was Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian and two other Iranian-Americans in exchange for pardons or charges being dropped against the seven Iranians.

Articles

The 7 most important military decisions the next president will make in 2017

With ISIS continuing to fight, Russia and China throwing their weight around, and budget shortfalls becoming bigger and bigger problems, the Department of Defense will definitely need strong leadership in the form of a commander-in-chief and his political appointees in the months immediately following the inauguration next year.


Here are 7 important decisions he or she will have to tackle:

1. Will the U.S. pressure China to get off of contested islands, force them off with war, or let China have its way?

The Littoral Combat Ship USS Fort Worth conducts a patrol through international waters near the Spratly Islands. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Conor Minto)

America has a vested interest in navigational freedoms in the South China Sea. Many allies transport their oil, other energy supplies, and manufactured goods through the South China Sea and the U.S. Navy uses routes there to get between the Pacific and Indian oceans.

Currently, a few sets of islands in the area are contested, most importantly the Spratly Islands. In addition to controlling important sea routes, the area may hold vast supplies of oil and natural gas. The most optimistic estimates put it second to only Saudi Arabia in terms of total oil reserves

China is deep in a campaign to control the South China Sea by claiming historical precedent and by building new bases and infrastructure on them. An international tribunal ruling on the issue will likely side against China shortly, but China probably won’t accept the decision.

That leaves a big decision for the next president. Does America recognize Chinese claims, back up U.S. allies in the area through diplomatic pressure, or begin a military confrontation that could trigger a major war?

2. How dedicated is the U.S. to the NATO alliance and deterring Russian aggression?

173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team soldiers conduct exercises in partnership with NATO forces. (Photo: US Army Pfc. Randy Wren)

For decades, America’s presence in NATO was unquestionable. Candidates might argue about specific NATO policies, but membership was a given. Now, a debate exists about whether NATO might need to be adjusted or a new, anti-terror coalition built in its place.

America pays more than its fair share for the alliance. Every member is supposed to spend 2 percent or more of its GDP on defense, but only America and four other countries did so in 2015. Even among the five who hit their spending goals, America outspends everyone else both in terms of GDP and real expenses. The U.S. is responsible for about 75 percent of NATO spending.

And NATO was designed to defeat Russia expansion. Though members assisted in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they’ve struggled with what the alliance’s responsibilities are when addressing ISIS. For those who think ISIS should be the top priority, there’s a question about why the U.S. is spending so much time and energy on a European alliance.

So the question before the next president is, should America continue to dedicate diplomatic and military resources to a Europe-focused alliance when ISIS continues to inspire attacks in America and Europe while threatening governments in the Middle East?

3. What part of the world is the real priority?

(Photo: US Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy)

To use the cliche, “If everything is a priority, nothing is.” The American military does not have the necessary size and resources to contain both Russia and China while fighting ISIS and other terrorist organizations. The next U.S. president will have to decide what is and isn’t most important.

Alliances can help the U.S. overcome some of the shortfalls, but each “priority” requires sacrifices somewhere else. The next president will have to decide if protecting Ukranian sovereignty is worth the damage to negotiations in Syria. They’ll have to decide if the best use of military equipment is to park it in eastern Europe to deter Rusia or to send it to exercises in Asia to deter China.

Obama spent most of his administration trying to pivot to Asia while Middle Eastern and European crises kept forcing America back into those regions. Where the next president decides to focus will decide whether Russia is contained, China is pushed off the manmade islands, and/or if ISIS and its affiliates are smothered.

4. What is America’s role in the ongoing fight against ISIS and is there a need for more ground troops?

U.S. Marines fire artillery to break up ISIS fighters attacking Kurdish and Peshmerga forces. (Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Andre Dakis)

On the note of transferring forces, those vehicles that could be redirected from supporting NATO or conducting exercises could be set to Iraq, Syria, and other countries to fight ISIS, but is that America’s job?

Though America’s invasion destabilized the region, Iraq’s rulers asked U.S. troops to leave before putting up a half-hearted and strategically insufficient response to ISIS. So the next president will have to decide whether America owes a moral debt to prop up the Iraqi government and Syrian rebels and whether it is in America’s best interest to do so.

The answer to those two questions will fuel the biggest one, should America deploy additional ground forces (something generals are asking for), risking becoming mired in another long war, to stop the rise of ISIS and other terrorist groups in the region?

5. How long will the Air Force keep the A-10?

(Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Chris Drzazgowski)

The struggle between A-10 supporters and detractors continues to rage. Air Force officials and A-10 detractors say the plane has to be retired due to budget constraints and the limited ability to use the plane in a contested environment. Proponents of the A-10 insist that it’s the cheapest and most effective close-air support platform.

The battle has nearly come to a head a few times. The Air Force was forced by Congress to keep the A-10 flying and finally agreed to a showdown between the A-10 and F-35 for some time in 2016. The critical analysis of the results will almost certainly come while Obama is still in office, but the A-10 decision will likely wait until the next president takes office.

The decision will officially be made by the Air Force, but the president can appoint senior officers sympathetic to one camp or the other. Also, the president’s role as the head of their political party will give them some control when Congress decides which platforms to dedicate money to supporting.

So the new president will have to decide in 2017 what close air support looks like for the next few years. Will it be the low, slow, cheap, and effective A-10 beloved by ground troops? Or the fast-flying, expensive, but technologically advanced and survivable F-35?

6. How much is readiness worth and where does the money come from?

US Marines conduct underwater training. (Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jered T. Stone)

Sequestration, the mandatory reduction of military and domestic budgets under the Budget Control Act of 2011, puts a cap on U.S. military spending. The service chiefs sound the alarm bell every year that mandatory budget cuts hurt readiness and force the branches into limbo every year.

The next president, along with the next Congress, will have to decide how much military readiness they want to buy and where the money comes from. To increase the percentage of the force that is deployed or ready to deploy at any one time without sacrificing new weapons and technology programs, money would need to be raised by cutting other parts of the federal budget or raising taxes.

So, what size conflict should the military always be ready for? And where does the money for training, equipment, and logistics come from to keep that force ready?

7. How many generals and admirals should the U.S. have?

Generals and admirals are on the chopping block, though service chiefs like Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller, seen here speaking to a group of Marines, are likely too valuable to cut. (Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Shawn Valosin)

As the number of U.S. troops has decreased in the past 30 years, the number of U.S. general officers has rarely dropped and was actually raised by over 100 since Sep. 11, 2001, causing a 65 percent increase in the number of four-star officers to total number of service members. This has led to questions about whether it’s time to ax some generals and admirals.

Former Secretaries of Defense Chuck Hagel and Robert Gates both proposed serious cuts, and the Senate Armed Services Committee has recently floated a 25 percent reduction in the total number of general officers.

Not only would this significantly cut personnel costs since each general and their staff costs over an estimated $1 million per year, but it would reduce the bureaucracy that field commanders have to go through when getting decisions and requests approved.