During the opening days of Operation Iraqi Freedom, elements of the 3rd Infantry Division had come under fire from Iraqi forces, including T-72 tanks. That’s when the boots on the ground called for air support.
Thornton came within 1,000 yards of the enemy, using his A-10’s GAU-8 cannon in some cases. Ultimately, he and the other pilot would be credited with killing three T-72s, six other armored vehicles, and a number of other targets.
Fourteen years after that battle, Thornton, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, will receive the Silver Star in a ceremony in July that will be presided over by Gen. Mike Holmes, the commander of Air Combat Command. The ceremony will take place at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.
“This courageous and aggressive attack, while under withering fire and in poor weather, along with Capt. Thornton’s superior flying skills and true attack pilot grit, allowed Task Force 2-69 Armor to cross the Tigris River with minimal combat losses and successfully accomplish their objective of linking up with coalition forces completing the 360-degree encirclement of Baghdad,” the citation that outlined the award reads.
Thornton had been assigned to the 75th Fighter Squadron at Pope Field, near Fort Bragg, prior to his retirement. At the time of the incident, Thornton was a captain in the Air Force.
While Eddie Rickenbacker has a claim to fame as the top American ace of World War I, there were plenty of other Americans who fought valiantly with Allies from the air.
One of them, Eugene Bullard, has the distinction of being the first African-American military pilot.
According to Air and Space Power Journal, Bullard was born in Columbus, Georgia, on Oct 9, 1894. At 8 years old, he left Georgia after his father narrowly escaped a lynching, and made his way to Norfolk where he worked a series of odd jobs before he stowed away on a ship bound for Scotland.
He worked more odd jobs across Scotland and England, including as a longshoreman and on a fish wagon, until he discovered talents for boxing and performing. That talent eventually landed him in Paris just as World War I started.
Bullard spent two years with an infantry unit and was wounded during the Battle of Verdun. He then transferred to the French Flying Corps. During his time in the infantry, he was nicknamed “The Black Swallow of Death.” Bullard would score two kills in just over two months of combat flying. After the U.S. ignored his application to be a pilot for the American military despite his combat experience, he was transferred to non-combat duties by the French until his discharge in 1919.
Bullard would settle down in France, but come to his adopted country’s defense again in World War II, first serving as a spy, then seeing ground combat near Orleans. After he was wounded, he was medically evacuated, along with his daughters to the United States. He eventually went to work as an elevator operator in New York City.
In 1954, France invited Bullard and two other men to re-light the Eternal Flame at the Arc de Triomphe. In 1959, he was named a Knight of the Legion of Honor, and was interviewed on the Today Show. The next year, Charles de Gaulle publicly declared Bullard a hero of France.
Bullard died on Oct. 12, 1961, after an illness caused by the wounds he had received. He was 67 years old. In 1994, 100 years after he was born, the U.S. Air Force granted him a commission as a Lieutenant.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
The sun rises behind an F-35A Lightning II Aug. 2, 2016, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The F-35A is the latest deployable fifth-generation aircraft capable of providing air superiority, interdiction, suppression of enemy air defenses and close air support, as well as great command and control functions through fused sensors, and will provide pilots with unprecedented situational awareness of the battlespace.
Staff Sgt. Corey Blanar, 455th Expeditionary Communications Squadron, cable and antenna maintenance noncommissioned officer in charge and Patrick Casket, 455th Expeditionary Communications Squadron, cable and antenna maintenance technician, roll a cable reel, Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, July 30, 2016. The cable team ensures that all cable and wireless systems are installed and maintained and provide command and control (C2) capabilities throughout the base.
Soldiers assigned to 4th Brigade Combat Team move to an assembly area after executing a joint forcible entry exercise at Malemute Drop Zone on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson JBER, Alaska, Aug. 23, 2016.
A soldier currently deployed to Kosovo with the KFOR Multinational Battle Group-East, fires at a target during the stress shoot portion of the MNBG-E Best Warrior Competition, Aug. 28, 2016.
PACIFIC OCEAN (Aug. 29, 2016) Marines, assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), depart the well deck of the amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20) in a combat rubber raiding craft (CRRC). Green Bay, part of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group, is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
PACIFIC OCEAN (Aug. 30, 2016) Sailors on board the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) render passing honors to the fast-attack submarine USS Pasadena (SSN 752) as it transits the San Diego Bay. Carl Vinson is currently underway in preparation for an upcoming deployment.
The sun sets over the USS Green Bay (LPD-20) at White Beach Naval Base, Okinawa, Japan, August 21, 2016. Marines of the 31st MEU are currently embarked on ships of the USS Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group for a scheduled fall patrol of the Asia-Pacific Region.
Marines with Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marines and Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163 (Reinforced), set up security around the back of an MV-22 Osprey during the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Composite Training Unit Exercise aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, August 23, 2016. TRAP is one of the standing missions a MEU must be capable of executing during its deployment.
Red Man training held during our in-port time helps keep our law enforcement personnel proficient and trains new members on Coast Guard law enforcement techniques.
On April 1, 1967, the Coast Guard was transferred from the Treasury Department to the newly-formed Department of Transportation, and then to the Department of Homeland Security in 2003, but we have continued our wartime roles in modern conflicts as well.
The ousted commander of a Marine Corps air station rearranged his pilots’ flight schedules to give himself more time in the cockpit and had a reputation of being a “big, angry colonel,” according to an investigation into complaints about him.
Col. Mark Coppess, the former commanding officer of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa, Japan, abused his staff and officers for months “so he could achieve his personal objectives to fly,” a 351-page report into his behavior states. A copy of the investigation was obtained by Military.com on Aug 6, 2018.
UC-35D in flight
Coppess was relieved of command June 5 by Brig. Gen. Paul Rock, head of Marine Corps Installations Pacific. Rock lost confidence in the colonel’s ability to lead, the service reported at the time.
Some believed Coppess, an AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopter pilot, was aggressively trying to earn flight time in a UC-35 Cessna Citation business jet. Coppess, who could not immediately be reached for comment, requested that he be scheduled to fly three times per week, according to the investigation.
“Colonel Coppess would remove pilots from the flight schedule and replace them with himself,” one witness said, according to the documents. “… This looked like Colonel Coppess was trying to receive more fixed-wing time to set himself up for a career post-Marine Corps.”
A Super cobra flies past USS Fort McHenry during a Search and Seizure (VBSS) drill
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kristopher Wilson)
One witness said Coppess put his own time in the cockpit ahead of more junior pilots, adding that the colonel once said, “the captains can fly less. I’ve done my time.”
Others cited a poor command climate under Coppess and alleged abuse of authority and undue command influence. Five pilots interviewed during the investigation reported “personally being pressured to produce certain outcomes not in accordance with orders, [standard operating procedures] and directives” for Coppess’ benefit.
“He creates an atmosphere of fear and reprisal,” a witness told the investigating officer. “He is using his position, title, and rank to get what he wants for himself.”
Coppess denied using his position to unduly influence flight operations at Futenma, but acknowledged that he’d heard about the accusations from Rock.
A former operations officer at Futenma said scheduling staff had to route the weekly flight schedule through Coppess’ office before producing the daily schedules.
“He inserted himself into the schedule writing process,” the officer said. “… There is a perception of a ‘self hook-up’ concerning Col. Coppess’ flying.”
Coppess also told his Marines there was “no rank in the cockpit.” But those under his command didn’t always find that to be the case.
The colonel showed an unwillingness to accept constructive feedback from junior personnel, one witness said, adding they feared some might be unwilling to “correct procedural deviations and potential flight safety concerns due to apprehension about retribution from Col. Coppess.”
Pilots weren’t comfortable flying with Coppess, according to the investigation, and he was identified as a “high-risk aviator.” He had a reputation for being “difficult in the cockpit,” one witness said. Others said he was not experienced flying a fixed-wing aircraft.
Coppess once “rose his flaps at a non-standard time,” according to a witness, and on another occasion “warmed a burrito on the exhaust duct of the aircraft.”
While there aren’t any Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization [NATOPS] prohibiting pilots from doing either, the witness said the acts were considered “different enough” for the aircraft commanders to raise the issue to a party whose name was redacted in the report.
Coppess did not address those incidents in the investigating officer’s documents, but did say that he supports naval aviation’s constructs for safety and standardization.
In a memo for a May command meeting, he urged other aviators to be straight with him about his aviation skills, despite his rank and position. The memo was included in the investigation, though it’s not immediately clear whether the meeting was held.
“It will help me in knowing and owning my weaknesses and seeking improvement,” Coppess wrote in the meeting memo. “… I fully intend to know and own my shortcomings as an aviator.”
Despite the deficiencies some witnesses described, several people told the investigating officer that Coppess was pressuring people in the command to make him a Transport Aircraft Commander, or TAC. One in particular said he was under “constant pressure” to make Coppess a TAC in the UC-35D.
“[He] is not ready and is a below-average copilot,” the witness said. “I was specifically told by him a few months ago that he will be a TAC, will be dual [qualified to fly both our UC-35 and UC-12], and that he will be an instructor in at least one of the planes.”
Coppess addressed those issues in an April 27 letter that was included in the investigation. Writing to a redacted party, Coppess said he recognized the standardization board’s role in nominating pilots for additional designations and qualifications. He did “not intend to influence members of the Standardization Board in their responsibilities,” he wrote.
“I apologize for the unintentional perception of undue command influence on the [board’s] role of nominating pilots for designations and qualifications,” he said. “That won’t happen again. When the [board] determines I’ve progressed in proficiency and I’m nominated, I will be ready for the TAC syllabus.”
He also invited the person to bring any fears of reprisal to his attention.
While at Futenma, Coppess racked up more flight hours than any other air station commanding officer in the Marine Corps during the same period, according to the investigation. His command did not immediately respond to questions about his current assignment.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @Militarydotcom on Twitter.
When most Americans think of the World War II battle for Iwo Jima – if they think of it at all, 75 years later – they think of one image: Marines raising the U.S. flag atop Mount Suribachi, the island’s highest point.
That moment, captured in black and white by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal and as a color film by Marine Sergeant William Genaust, is powerful, embodying the spirit of the Marine Corps.
But these pictures are far from the only images of the bloodiest fight in the Marines’ history. A larger library of film, and the men captured on them, is similarly emotionally affecting. It can even bring Americans alive today closer to a war that ended in the middle of the last century.
Take for instance, just one scene: Two Marines kneel with a dog before a grave marker. It is in the final frames of a film documenting the dedication of one of the three cemeteries on the island. Those two Marines are among hundreds present to remember the more than 6,000 Americans killed on the island in over a month of fighting. The sequence is intentionally framed by the cinematographer, who was clearly looking for the right image to end the roll of film in his camera.
I came across this film clip in my work as a curator of a collection of motion picture films shot by Marine Corps photographers from World War II through the 1970s. In a partnership between the History Division of the Marine Corps and the University of South Carolina, where I work, we are digitizing these films, seeking to provide direct public access to the video and expand historical understanding of the Marine Corps’ role in society.
Over the past two years of scanning, I have come to realize that our work also enables a more powerful relationship with the past by fostering individual connections with videos, something that the digitizing of the large quantity of footage makes possible.
The campaign within the battle
Iwo Jima, an island in the western Pacific less than 1,000 miles south of Tokyo, was considered a key potential stepping stone toward an invasion of Japan itself.
During the battle to take the island from the Japanese, more than 70,000 Marines and attached Army and Navy personnel set foot on Iwo Jima. That included combat soldiers, but also medical corpsmen, chaplains, service and supply soldiers and others. More than 6,800 Americans were killed on the island and on ships and landing craft aiding in the attack; more than 19,200 were wounded.
More than 50 Marine combat cameramen operated across the eight square miles of Iwo Jima during the battle, which stretched from Feb. 19 to March 26, 1945. Many shot still images, but at least 26 shot motion pictures. Three of these Marine cinematographers were killed in action.
Even before the battle began, Marine Corps leaders knew they wanted a comprehensive visual account of the battle. Beyond a historical record, combat photography from Iwo Jima would assist in planning and training for the invasion of the Japanese main islands. Some Marine cameramen were assigned to the front lines of individual units, and others to specific activities, like engineering and medical operations.
Most of the cameramen on Iwo Jima used 100-foot film reels that could capture about two and a half minutes of film. Sgt. Genaust, who shot the color sequence atop Suribachi, shot at least 25 reels – just over an hour of film – before he was killed, roughly halfway through the campaign.
Other cameramen who survived the entire battle produced significantly more. Sgt. Francis Cockrell was assigned to document the work of the 5th Division’s medical activities. Shooting at least 89 reels, he probably produced almost four hours of film.
Sgt. Louis L. Louft fought with the 13th Marines, an artillery regiment; his more than 100 film reels likely resulted in more than four hours of content. Landing on the beach with engineers of the 4th Division on Feb. 25, 1945, Pfc. Angelo S. Abramo compiled over three hours of material in the month of fighting he witnessed.
Even taking a conservative average of an hour of film from each of the 26 combat cameramen, that suggests there was at least 24 hours of unique film from the battle. Many surviving elements of this record are now part of the film library of the Marine Corps History Division, which we’re working with. The remainder are cataloged by the National Archives and Records Administration.
While military historians visiting the History Division in the past have used this large library, the bulk of its films have not been readily available to the public, something that mass digitization is finally making possible.
For many decades, the visual records made by Marines have been seen by the public only piecemeal, often with selected portions used as mere stock footage in films, documentaries and news programs, chosen because a shot has action, not because of the historical context of the imagery.
Even when they are used responsibly by documentary filmmakers, the editing and selection of scenes imposes the filmmaker’s interpretation on the images. As a historian and archivist, though, I believe it is important for people to directly engage with historical sources of all types, including the films from Iwo Jima.
The ‘highest and purest’ form
After the battle, the Americans buried their dead in temporary cemeteries, awaiting transportation back to the U.S. The film segment just before the graveside scene shows a service honoring the Americans of all backgrounds who had bled and died together.
At that service, Rabbi Roland B. Gittelsohn, the Marines’ first-ever Jewish chaplain, gave a eulogy that has become one of the Marine Corps’ most treasured texts. Noting the diversity of the dead, Gittelsohn said, “Here lie officers and men, Negroes and whites, rich men and poor … together. Here are Protestants, Catholics, and Jews together. Here no man prefers another because of his faith or despises him because of his color.”
After the dedication ceremonies, Marines walked the 5th Division cemetery, looking for familiar names. The photographers were there, and one recorded the footage of the two Marines – names not known – and the dog, at a grave with only the number 322 as a visible marking.
The image stood out. The two Marines looking directly at the camera seemed to reach across the decades to compel a response. Researchers at the History Division identified the Marine beneath marker 322 as Pfc. Ernest Langbeen from Chicago. It felt appropriate and important to add his name to the online description for that film, so I did.
I then located members of the Langbeen family, and told them that this part of their family’s history existed in the History Division’s collections and was now preserved and available online after more than seven decades.
Speaking with the family, I learned more about the Marine in grave 322. One of the two Marines in the picture may well be his best friend from before the war, a friend who joined the Corps with him. They asked to serve together and were assigned to the same unit, the 13th Regiment.
Now, family members who never knew this Marine have a new connection to their history and the country’s history. More connections will come for others. The digital archive we’re building will make it easier for researchers and the public at large to explore the military and personal history in each frame of every film.
The visual library of more than 80 online videos from Iwo Jima carries in it countless Pfc. Langbeens, ordinary Americans whose lives were disrupted by a global war. Each film holds traces of lives cut short or otherwise irrevocably altered.
The films are a reminder that, 75 years after World War II, all Americans remain tied to Iwo Jima, as well as battlegrounds across the world like Monte Cassino, Peleliu, Bataan and Colleville-sur-mer. Americans may find their relatives in this footage, or they may not. But what they will find is evidence of the sacrifices made by those fighting on their behalf, sacrifices that connect each and every American to the battle of Iwo Jima.
The U.S. military is an expeditionary force capable of deploying anywhere in the world, and as a consequence of that, aircrews flying into harm’s way might get shot down or crash in hostile lands. That’s when the work starts for combat search and rescue teams.
1. When the military needs to recover downed aircrews, it conducts a “personnel recovery” mission.
2. Different branches have different names and preferred methods for these missions, but all of them include a lot of planning and attention to detail.
3. Once a plan is created, a group of specialized warriors prepares to jump, fly, or drive into combat. In this photo, an Air Force pararescue team gets ready to parachute into a simulated mission.
4. If the service doesn’t know the exact location of a downed aircrew, they dispatch people to go search for them. The preferred method is to fly over the area and use sensors to search the ground.
5. Sometimes, aircraft are limited by weather, enemy activity, or other factors. This can lead to troops having to search through a dangerous area on foot.
6. Personnel can get to the search area in a variety of ways, including parachuting in.
7. Helicopters are the most popular method of insertion of recovery personnel.
8. In recent years the V-22 Osprey has been increasingly employed.
9. Once the rescue crews are nearby, isolated personnel are encouraged to signal them using pre-assigned methods. Here, a simulated casualty swings a chemlight to signal to other Marines landing in a cloud of dust.
10. On the ground, the recovery team is responsible for securing the area and watching out for enemy activity.
11. Medical assets assigned to the team will evaluate any casualties and conduct emergency care for members of the downed aircrew.
12. Then, everyone gets back on the birds to get out of dodge before any enemies show up.
13. For service members isolated in areas where helicopters can’t land, the rescue crews can bring in winches or other equipment to get everyone out anyway.
14. Once everyone is on board, the birds head back to base. The formerly isolated personnel will then be offered medical care and either return to their unit or be sent back to the U.S. for additional treatment.
NATO member and partner forces are in Norway for a sprawling military exercise called Trident Juncture — the largest since the Cold War, officials have said.
Russia is not happy with NATO’s robust presence next to its territory and has decided to put on its own show of force.
From Nov. 1 to Nov. 3, 2018, Russian ships will carry out rocket drills in the Norwegian Sea, west of activities related to Trident Juncture, which runs from Oct. 25 to Nov. 7, 2018.
The exercises come at a time of heightened tension in Europe, home to some of the world’s most capable armed forces, based on the 2018 military strength ranking compiled by Global Firepower.
The ranking aims to level the playing between smaller countries with technical advantages and larger, less-sophisticated countries.
Additional factors — geography, logistical capabilities, natural resources, and industrial capacity — are taken into account, as are things like diversity of weapons and assets, national development, and manpower.
NATO members, 27 of which are European, also get a boost, as the alliance is designed to share resources and military support. The US military has a massive presence in Europe — including its largest base outside the US— but isn’t included here as the US isn’t part of Europe.
Below, you can see the 25 most powerful militaries in Europe.
Belgium air force helicopter Alouette III takes off from BNS Godetia for a tactical flight over the fjords in support of an amphibious exercise during NATO’s Trident Juncture exercise.
(NATO Photo By WO FRAN C.Valverde)
25. Belgium (Overall ranking: 68)
Power Index rating: 1.0885
Total population: 11,491,346
Total military personnel: 38,800
Total aircraft strength: 164
Fighter aircraft: 45
Combat tanks: 0
Total naval assets: 17
Defense budget: .085 billion
A Portuguese sniper team identifies targets during the range-estimation event of the Europe Best Sniper Team Competition at 7th Army Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, July 29, 2018.
(US Army photo by Spc. Emily Houdershieldt)
24. Portugal (Overall ranking: 63)
Power Index rating: 1.0035
Total population: 10,839,514
Total military personnel: 268,500
Total aircraft strength: 93
Fighter aircraft: 24
Combat tanks: 133
Total naval assets: 41
Defense budget: .8 billion
Slovak soldiers report to their commander during the opening ceremony of Slovak Shield 2018 at Lest Military Training Center, Sept. 23, 2018.
Austrian soldiers load gear onto their packhorses before hiking to a high-angle range during the International Special Training Centre High-Angle/Urban Course at the Hochfilzen Training Area, Austria, Sept. 12, 2018.
(US Army photo)
22. Austria (Overall ranking: 61)
Power Index rating: 0.9953
Total population: 8,754,413
Total military personnel: 170,000
Total aircraft strength: 124
Fighter aircraft: 15
Combat tanks: 56
Total naval assets: 0
Defense budget: .22 billion
A Bulgarian army tank crew maneuvers a T-72 tank during an exercise with US soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division’s 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team at the Novo Selo Training Area, Sept. 15, 2018.
(US Army National Guard photo Sgt. Jamar Marcel Pugh)
21. Bulgaria (Overall ranking: 60)
Power Index rating: 0.9839
Total population: 7,101,510
Total military personnel: 52,650
Total aircraft strength: 73
Fighter aircraft: 20
Combat tanks: 531
Total naval assets: 29
Defense budget: 0 million
Standing NATO Maritime Group One trains with Finnish fast-attack missile boat FNS Hanko during a passing exercise in the Baltic Sea, Aug. 28, 2017.
(NATO photo by Christian Valverde)
20. Finland (Overall ranking: 59)
Power Index rating: 0.9687
Total population: 5,518,371
Total military personnel: 262,050
Total aircraft strength: 153
Fighter aircraft: 55
Combat tanks: 160
Total naval assets: 270
Defense budget: .66 billion
Cpl. Cedric Jackson, a US soldier from the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team of Army’s 1st Infantry Division, assists a Hungarian soldier in applying tape to secure a fluid-administration tube to a simulated casualty during a combat life-saver course led by US troops in Tata, Hungary, Dec. 2017.
A Norwegian soldier takes aim during Trident Juncture 18 near Røros, Norway, Oct. 2018.
14. Norway (Overall ranking: 36)
Power Index rating: 0.6784
Total population: 5,320,045
Total military personnel: 72,500
Total aircraft strength: 128
Fighter aircraft: 49
Combat tanks: 52
Total naval assets: 62
Defense budget: billion
13. Switzerland (Overall ranking: 34)
Power Index rating: 0.6634
Total population: 8,236,303
Total military personnel: 171,000
Total aircraft strength: 167
Fighter aircraft: 54
Combat tanks: 134
Total naval assets: 0
Defense budget: .83 billion
Swedish air force Pvt. Salem Mimic, left, and Pvt. Andreas Frojd, right, both with Counter Special Forces Platoon, provide security for US Air Force airmen and aircraft on the flight line at Kallax Air Base, Sweden, during Exercise Trident Juncture 18, Oct. 26, 2018.
(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)
12. Sweden (Overall ranking: 31)
Power Index rating: 0.6071
Total population: 9,960,487
Total military personnel: 43,875
Total aircraft strength: 206
Fighter aircraft: 72
Combat tanks: 120
Total naval assets: 63
Defense budget: .2 billion
erved by US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, in Prague, Czech Republic, Oct. 28, 2018.
(Defense Department photo by Lisa Ferdinando)
11. Czech Republic (Overall ranking: 30)
Power Index rating: 0.5969
Total population: 10,674,723
Total military personnel: 29,050
Total aircraft strength: 103
Fighter aircraft: 12
Combat tanks: 123
Total naval assets: 0
Defense budget: .6 billion
10. Ukraine (Overall ranking: 29)
Power Index rating: 0.5383
Total population: 44,033,874
Total military personnel: 1,182,000
Total aircraft strength: 240
Fighter aircraft: 39
Combat tanks: 2,214
Total naval assets: 25
Defense budget: .88 billion
9. Greece (Overall ranking: 28)
Power Index rating: 0.5255
Total population: 10,768,477
Total military personnel: 413,750
Total aircraft strength: 567
Fighter aircraft: 189
Combat tanks: 1,345
Total naval assets: 115
Defense budget: .54 billion
8. Poland (Overall ranking: 22)
Power Index rating: 0.4276
Total population: 38,476,269
Total military personnel: 184,650
Total aircraft strength: 466
Fighter aircraft: 99
Combat tanks: 1,065
Total naval assets: 83
Defense budget: .36 billion
A sniper and spotter from the Spanish Lepanto Battalion line up their target near Folldal during Exercise Trident Juncture, using the .50 caliber Barrett and the .338 caliber Accuracy sniper rifles, firing at targets over 1,000 meters away.
(Photo by 1st German/Netherlands Corps)
7. Spain (Overall ranking: 19)
Power Index rating: 0.4079
Total population: 48,958,159
Total military personnel: 174,700
Total aircraft strength: 524
Fighter aircraft: 122
Combat tanks: 327
Total naval assets: 46 (one aircraft carrier)
Defense budget: .6 billion
An Italian F-35A fighter jet with special tail markings.
(Italian Air Force photo)
6. Italy (Overall ranking: 11)
Power Index rating: 0.2565
Total population: 62,137,802
Total military personnel: 267,500
Total aircraft strength: 828
Fighter aircraft: 90
Combat tanks: 200
Total naval assets: 143 (two aircraft carriers)
Defense budget: .7 billion
5. Germany (Overall ranking: 10)
Power Index rating: 0.2461
Total population: 80,594,017
Total military personnel: 208,641
Total aircraft strength: 714
Fighter aircraft: 94
Combat tanks: 432
Total naval assets: 81
Defense budget: .2 billion
4. Turkey (Overall ranking: 9)
Power Index rating: 0.2216
Total population: 80,845,215
Total military personnel: 710,565
Total aircraft strength: 1,056
Fighter aircraft: 207
Combat tanks: 2,446
Total naval assets: 194
Defense budget: .2 billion
3. United Kingdom (Overall ranking: 6)
Power Index rating: 0.1917
Total population: 64,769,452
Total military personnel: 279,230
Total aircraft strength: 832
Fighter aircraft: 103
Combat tanks: 227
Total naval assets: 76 (two aircraft carriers)
Defense budget: billion
French sailors watch the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush as it transits alongside the French navy frigate Forbin, Oct. 25, 2017.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Matt Matlage)
2. France (Overall ranking: 5)
Power Index rating: 0.1869
Total population: 67,106,161
Total military personnel: 388,635
Total aircraft strength: 1,262
Fighter aircraft: 299
Combat tanks: 406
Total naval assets: 118 (four aircraft carriers)
Defense budget: billion
Russian troops participating in the Zapad 2017 exercises in Belarus and Russia.
(Russian Ministry of Defense photo)
1. Russia (Overall ranking: 2)
Power Index rating: 0.0841
Total population: 142,257,519
Total military personnel: 3,586,128
Total aircraft strength: 3,914
Fighter aircraft: 818
Combat tanks: 20,300
Total naval assets: 352 (one aircraft carrier)
Defense budget: billion
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Members of the Senate on Friday confirmed Lloyd Austin, a retired Army four-star general, to run the Defense Department — a historic move that gives the military its first Black defense secretary.
Senators confirmed Austin’s nomination in a vote of 93 to 2. Austin is the second member of President Joe Biden’s Cabinet to be approved, following Avril Haines as director of national intelligence on Wednesday.
Austin arrived at the Pentagon just after noon Friday to be sworn in and begin work.
He tweeted immediately following the vote that he’s proud to be the first African American to hold the position.
The House and Senate on Thursday cleared the way for Austin to be confirmed after both chambers approved the waiver he needs to serve as defense secretary. He’s been out of uniform for less than the seven years required by law after retiring from the Army in 2016.
The House approved the waiver in a vote of 326 to 78 Thursday afternoon. The Senate followed suit, 69 to 27.
Austin said in a video message posted earlier this month that becoming the first Black defense secretary would be an honor and privilege. But it’s not the first time he’s broken barriers in his career.
Austin was the first African American to command an infantry division in combat. He was also the first African American to be vice chief of the Army and, later, the first Black general to lead U.S. Central Command.
“It shouldn’t have taken this long for us to get here,” he said. “There should’ve been someone that preceded me.”
Austin steps into the role as defense secretary at a time when the military is facing renewed scrutiny over the issue of racism and extremism in the ranks.
The military community is also overrepresented among those arrested following the Jan. 6 siege at the U.S. Capitol. Nearly one in five, or almost 20%, of the people who have been charged over their alleged involvement in the attack appear to have a military history, NPR reported this week. Only about 7% of all American adults are military veterans, NPR noted.
Lawmakers from both parties have said Austin is the right person to lead the Defense Department at this time, despite not meeting the seven-year “cooling-off period” required to serve in the civilian leadership position.
Several senators said ahead of Friday’s vote that they would confirm Austin. Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat who’s on the Senate Armed Services Committee, called Austin an exceptionally qualified leader with a long and distinguished career.
Still, both Reed and Sen. Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Congress should not overlook the importance of the law that bars recently retired leaders, like Austin, from serving as defense secretary.
“I’ll vote today to confirm a clear patriot with an impressive career,” McConnell said. “But I’ll cast that vote with the understanding that our new secretary of defense specifically commits to balancing civil-military relations, empowering civilian leaders at the Pentagon and playing an active role in the inherently political budget process to get our forces what they need.”
The retired Army general is the second retired officer to get a waiver in four years. Congress granted one to Jim Mattis when President Donald Trump nominated him to be SecDef a few years after he retired from the Marine Corps.
The two Republican senators to vote against Austin’s confirmation were Mike Lee of Utah and Josh Hawley of Missouri.
An Air Force officer who only began obstacle course racing in 2016, ran right straight into her 75-mile goal, placing second place in one of the toughest obstacle course races.
“I honestly never considered placing, it didn’t seem like something that was within reach for me this year,” said Capt. Erin Rost, 319th Recruiting Squadron operations flight commander.
In a “bracket breaking moment,” Rost earned 2nd place out of 231 females and ranked 18 of more than 1,206 participants in her first World’s Toughest Mudder held November 2018.
The Air Force Academy graduate entered the obstacle course race noon on Nov. 10, 2018, a frigid winter day in Fairburn, Georgia. She would repeat the grueling five-mile lap with more than 20 mud-drenched obstacles until she met her goal of 75 miles.
“On lap 11, it was still dark,” she said. “My body was literally freezing and for the first time I had tears in my eyes. In that moment, a poem that helped me endure military training and other tough times in my life showed up to help me once again.”
She would repeat Invictus by William Erest Henley in her mind throughout the pitch black, sometimes lonely, night.
Capt. Erin Rost, 319th Recruiting Squadron operations flight commander, poses for a photo at the finish line of the World’s Toughest Mudder, Nov. 10-11, 2018.
Her experience and spirits were uplifted when she started hearing from others that she had a chance to place.
“Around 8:30 a.m., after completing lap 12 (60 miles), I found out I had a chance for third place but the fourth place woman was close behind,” said Rost. “This motivated me to run faster the next two laps.”
Her cheering fans, mother and boyfriend, encouraged her to move faster because no one knew how close the competitor behind her was. They reminded her of her goals, kept her fed and hydrated and pushed her forward.
“When I returned to the pit after completing 65 miles, I was informed that I had improved my lap time by nearly 30 minutes,” said Rost. “There was about three hours remaining and I was two laps away from my goal and based on my lap splits, I knew it was possible.”
Next, a reporter from a podcast seeking to interview her said that if she completed this final lap she would earn second place because the current second place female concluded her race earlier that morning with 14 laps.
“I realized at this point, as long as I finished this final lap before 1:30 p.m., I would get second place,” she said. “It was very surreal. It brings me back to military training when you are really challenged but overcome. When you push yourself and succeed, there is nothing like the reminder of that to renew your spirit.”
At this point in the race, she recalled she had been awake for 36 hours, racing nonstop for 25 of those hours and worried about being alone through the last obstacles. She witnessed others lose motivation during the course of the night, when temperatures dropped to 20 degrees. Obstacles started freezing and other competitors began feeling waterlogged.
Wingmen were essential in the final stretch more than ever. Some of the obstacles are designed to require teamwork. One of them required competitors to physically step on another person to reach the top of a wall, without another person there it was nearly impossible to get up the wall.
“You meet interesting people along the way,” Rost said. “It is great to be around such an encouraging and supportive community.”
Along the path she met an Army green beret and a financial analyst who takes time away from Hollywood-like celebrity engagements to run. These interactions kept the race interesting and passed the time.
She completed the race at 1:10 p.m. in second place, with 20 minutes to spare feeling like a true “bracket buster.”
“While I’m super proud of how I placed, I am even more proud of getting my goal mileage because it reminds me why I love OCR so much,” Rost said. “It is not about what place you get, it is about pushing yourself to and beyond your limits. It is about doing your best each race and believing that with hard work, a good attitude and a little bit of grit, anything is possible.”
Resiliency, physical strength, mental stamina, persistence, and willpower are things serious runners all have in common, according to Rost.
“This is also specifically what my military brethren do,” she said. “We encourage others that they can do it too. If you work hard and have a good attitude, you can do anything.”
Her squadron witnesses this in her performance daily.
“Capt. Rost sets the example for everyone around her,” said Chief Master Sgt. Cory Frommer, 319th RCS superintendent. “You can’t help but to be inspired by her tenacity and winning mindset. She doesn’t know how to quit. When other members of the squadron or base community work with her, they are left no choice but to push their own boundaries just to try to keep up with her. As for the recruiting mission, her incredible performance demonstrates what the Air Force is all about, and when people see airmen like her, they are inspired to be a part of that world.”
She believes her limited experience in the OCR community coupled with her recent winning of the coveted World’s Toughest Mudder silver bib, are a good role model for those who may wonder if they could do a run like that.
“I played competitive soccer growing up and for a period of time in college before getting into bodybuilding,” said Rost. “OCRs combine a little bit of everything, as opposed to being great at just one thing such as running, lifting, grip strength, etc. You have to be good at a little bit of everything.”
What she reminds her audience is that her simple daily personal goals brought her to this point.
“I knew improving my running endurance would need to be a focus area,” said Rost. “I set mileage goals every week and started finding local half, full and ultramarathons. I also started rock climbing to improve my grip strength, participated in crossfit to improve muscular endurance and boxed as a crosstraining workout. As the race got closer, I worked up to three workouts a day.”
Her goal was to do at least one race a month while slowly increasing her monthly mileage goals. After completing her first Tough Mudder in 2016, she did four more in 2017. In 2018 she expanded her OCR experience to include two Spartan races, two half marathons, a full marathon and two ultramarathons.
“I wanted to start seriously competing in OCRs and figured if I can do one of the most difficult OCR formats in the world, than I can do anything,” said Rost.
Editor’s note: Tune in to CBS at 12:30 p.m. on Dec. 15 to watch the full coverage of the World’s Toughest Mudder Capt. Rost participated in.
Female sailors seem to be getting the hair regulations loosened to allow a more natural look. This (obviously) caused a gigantic backlash among male soldiers demanding the permitting of beards. Honestly, it doesn’t really make sense to disallow sailors to grow beards in the first place. After all, naval history tied to glorious beards, in both the U.S. Navy and around the world. As long as they keep their beards groomed, it’d be a boost to morale and it’d cut out the crappy rush to shave each morning.
But we’ll see. 7th Fleet will probably crash another ship into a civilian fishing vessel and blame it on sailors having beards instead of actually taking responsibility for it.
Wounded veteran Bryan Anderson didn’t know what swimming would be like missing three limbs. But as is his style, he learned to adapt and overcome and now enjoys hot summer days lounging by the pool and working it with the ladies #BryanStyle.
World War II has given the video game industry plenty of material, but a good World War I game is pretty hard to find.
Not anymore. A recently-released game set on the early 20th century battlefields puts players into the trenches, and it’s surprisingly good.
The first World War was a very different kind of war. Soldiers often served in long stalemates between trench lines, or “went over the top” to attack the enemy. It was often a battle for just inches of more ground, and not allowing game players to move very far seems a bit counterintuitive in a game.
With the game “Verdun,” the developers took an innovative approach to this problem, and made a World War I game actually worth playing. The developers went to great lengths to use historically accurate equipment, uniforms, and weapons, and they used reconnaissance photos — and in some cases walked the ground — to recreate the landscape of 1914-1918 France.
Still, a game that looks realistic could still turn out to be terrible. The gameplay is important, and “Verdun” excels in this area. While it’s a first-person shooter game, “Verdun” requires players to work along with their squad, much like they would if they really were in an infantry unit.
What makes Verdun so different from other first-person shooters is the way battles ebb and flow. Some players are instructed to assault individual enemy strongpoints, while others are told to defend. Anyone who disobeys an order by moving outside the engagement area is killed — effectively shot on the spot for cowardice.
“The maps are a composition,” Hoebe said. “This imagery can all be found through Google. There are large collections of postcards on Flickr, but also Belgian towns post their historical collections online. I pretty much went through the extent of what could be found … and compressed this into on overall image.
The gameplay is unlike your typical World War II shooter or, any modern shooter for that matter. If you enjoy running around blasting the bad guys in “Call of Duty” while enduring quite a few hits, the realism of this game will certainly be a surprise.
“If you’re going into Verdun with a mind to cut about the place, emptying hot lead into the faces of all and sundry with reckless abandon, then you can quite rightly expect to be put into the ground very quickly. And many, many times, too,” writes Game Watcher.
There are three game modes: Frontlines, Attrition and Rifle Deathmatch. Deathmatch is the multiplayer slugfest you’d come to expect from most first-person shooters, except this one features no rocket launchers (sorry Doom fans) and only bolt-action rifles.
Frontlines is the game’s “campaign mode,” where you team up with your squad, ordered to capture or defend your ground. Attrition is centered around a single battle, with each side’s manpower levels being depleted as the player is killed and re-spawns.
“If nothing else, Verdun‘s given me an excellent understanding of what a mess World War I was,” Hayden Dingman wrote at PCWorld. “The game doesn’t have the best graphics, the best sound, the best character models, or what have you—and yet few games have so consistently stressed me out like Verdun.”
Kenny Bass liked his job. As a 22-year-old Marine participating in the initial invasion of Iraq, life couldn’t have been more exciting.
“I was part of the combined anti-armor platoon,” he explained. “It was the ‘CAAT platoon.’ We were doing a lot of counter-ambush patrols, the insurgents were attacking Red Cross personnel, civilian contractors and other non-combatants. So we were tasked with going out and trying to solicit an attack. We were Infantry Marines, and young, so most of us were pretty excited about doing that kind of work. We had heavy-duty machine guns and anti-tank missiles.”
About four months into his tour, the odds caught up with the young Infantry Marine. The unarmored Humvee he was riding in struck an IED.
“I was sitting in the passenger side rear, and the IED blew up by the right front bumper,” he said. “Nobody got killed, and I just took a couple pieces of shrapnel to my face, nothing major. I think the blast wave injury was the major thing.”
Nevertheless, by the time he returned home from Iraq in early 2004, Bass was a different man.
“My friends noticed a change in me,” he said. “I was depressed. And I was anxious. I remember going to a flea market one time and that’s when I had my first panic attack, because of all the people there. It was like I was still in Iraq, where just about everyone you see is a potential threat. I hated going out to eat or going to the mall or anything like that.”
104 in a 65 Zone
As if depression, anxiety and panic weren’t enough, another symptom began to surface.Anger.
“I was walking around with an anger level of about seven or eight,” Bass explained. “One time I got pulled over by the California Highway Patrol for doing 104 mph. I got mad at the cop for pulling me over. I was such a jerk. It didn’t take much to tip me off.”
At home, the 33-year-old Veteran’s garage became his haven.
“I’d sit out there all day smoking cigarettes,” he said. “I could see the street from there, which made me feel safe, and I could also hear what was going on in the house. So I had everything covered.”
From Bad to Worse
To dull the anxiety and the fear, the former Marine turned to alcohol.
I started drinking a lot,” he said. “Of course the alcohol just made things worse. I got to the point where I hated to wake up in the morning. I hated my life. I wanted to be healthy again. I wanted to work again and not be on disability.”
In an effort to get his life back, Bass headed over to the Dayton VA Medical Center in 2007. There he began therapy sessions with Bill Wall, a clinical social worker who had served in the military for 30 years.
“Kenny went through our therapy program here at Dayton,” Wall explained, “but it was clear that he was still having some issues with personality changes, hyper-vigilance, anxiety, depression, anger and other symptoms related to post traumatic stress. When he would go out in public, he just didn’t feel safe or in control. I thought maybe a psychiatric service dog might be a good next step for him, so I recommended he look into it.”
Wall, a Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, had good reasons for thinking a service dog might be the game-changer Kenny Bass was desperately in need of.
“You can feel a lot more safe with a dog around you,” the social worker observed. “The dog has been trained to pick up on any fear or anxiety you might be feeling. They can actually smell it. The dog then does something to distract you or make you feel less anxious. When you become overloaded, the dog knows it and helps you refocus. Even before you realize you’re overloaded, the dog will pick up on it. For example, if you’re in a crowd of people and you begin showing subtle signs of distress, your dog will try to create a buffer zone around you. The dog is trying to give you a sense of safety.”
“A psychiatric service dog is…always focused on taking care of you.”
And when the world seems like a safer place, chances are you’re more likely to get out there and participate in it, Wall observed.
“The dog can help you have successful outings,” he said, “and the more successful outings you experience, the better you get at it. Your new experiences gradually begin to replace your old, traumatic experiences. You’re re-learning your behavioral script.”
Back From the Brink
In 2012, after doing a little research, Kenny Bass was able to get himself paired up with an 18-month-old German Shepard named Atlas, a highly-trained service dog provided by a non-profit called Instinctive Guardians.
“If you’re a Veteran, and suicidal, a little thing like that can be lifesaving,” Bass continued. “Atlas definitely brought me back from the brink. He’s such a character now. He gets me laughing.”“Atlas became my support system,” Bass said. “He could tell when I was having nightmares. He’d jump on the bed, lick my face and wake me up. A few weeks after I got him I was sitting alone in my garage, as usual. He came over and dropped his ball in my lap. Five minutes later I was out in the backyard with him, in the sunshine, throwing the ball for him.
Aside from being a natural comedian, Atlas also serves as a competent body guard.
“When we’re out, I can trust Atlas to be vigilant for me,” Bass said. “I’m experiencing more things now because of him. When we’re somewhere crowded, he’ll block for me. He’ll walk back and forth behind me to keep people from getting too close.
“And when I tell him to ‘post,’ he sits down on my right side, facing the other way. If somebody approaches me from behind, he’ll nudge me. He’s alerting me. It’s a good feeling knowing he’s watching and that I don’t have to.”
Having turned his life around two years ago with the help of Atlas, Bass decided it was time to start giving back. In 2013 he helped found The Battle Buddy Foundation, a non-profit that trains service dogs for Veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress.
“When you’re in combat, you don’t go anywhere without a buddy, someone to watch your back,” Bass said. “That’s where the term ‘Battle Buddy’ comes from.”
He added: “It’s a good feeling to know someone always has your back.”
To learn more about how VA is helping Veterans with PTSD, visit the VA National Center for PTSD Website at www.ptsd.va.gov