Poor farmers and fishermen the world over need all the help they can get. Sometimes, buying a boat is just too costly, no matter how critical it is to their livelihood. So when the raw materials necessary to create exactly what is needed start raining from the sky, no one would think twice about using them.
That’s exactly what the people of Vietnam began doing during the Vietnam War and the decades that followed.
On Jan. 2, 1967, Col. Robin Olds was leading a flight of F-4 Phantom II fighters in a surprise raid over North Vietnam. The raid itself wasn’t a surprise; Olds wanted the enemy to see him coming and take off to intercept. The surprise was what the North Vietnamese would find once they were airborne. “Operation Bolo” was a go.
Olds and his Phantoms were outfitted with special gear that would make the enemy air base believe they would engage slower, less dangerous F-105 Thunderchief fighter bombers. By the time the communists realized they were going up against waves of nimble, faster F-4 Phantom fighters, it would be too late.
And it was. As soon as the North Vietnamese MiG-21s cleared the cloud cover, the Air Force another flight of Phantoms, led by Col. Daniel “Chappie” James were already in the area. Olds, like many other fighter pilots of his day, jettisoned his external fuel tanks and engaged the enemy MiGs.
Air combat isn’t the only reason for pilots to jettison external tanks. Once they began to run empty, tanks were often dumped to lower the weight of the aircraft and extend the life of what fuel was remaining. Once dropped from the plane, the tanks simply fell into the countryside, landing wherever they landed.
The U.S. Air Force alone flew some 5.25 million sorties over North and South Vietnam during the American involvement there. While not all of those were fighter missions and not all of those required pilots to dump their external fuel tanks, a lot of tanks were dumped into Vietnam.
In Vietnam, however, the tanks weren’t simply taken to some waste dump or discarded out of hand. In the 1960s, Vietnam’s rural population was comprised of mostly farmers and fishermen, many of which lived in the coastal areas of the South China Sea or near the Mekong River. When the F-4s dropped fuel tanks, they were dropping materials that could be repurposed.
F-4 Phantoms carried three external fuel tanks, a large 600-gallon tank in the center under the fuselage, along with two 370-gallon tanks under its wings. This means tens of thousands of drop tanks were potentially dropped into Vietnam’s jungles and farmlands throughout the war.
While dropping empty aluminum from thousands of feet in the air would likely cause a lot of damage to them, enough survived to where Vietnam’s population was able to upcycle them for a new purpose: river canoes.
Today, visitors to Vietnam’s rural areas along the rivers can see potentially dozens of repurposed Air Force drop tanks being used as canoes by the locals. Many are cut in half, others have been refitted to look more like canoes, carry an onboard motor, or hold fish and other supplies.
For months leading up to this week’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens premiere, the universe created by George Lucas, purchased by Disney, and boosted by Sci-Fi mastermind JJ Abrams has been central in our cultural consciousness. But remember that other franchise Abrams revived from the mothballs film and television history, the one whose crew boldly goes where no one has gone before?
A trailer for the third installment of the rebooted Star Trek franchise, Star Trek Beyond, just popped up without warning, to what appears to be mixed applause from the trekkie-trekker community. Why, you might ask? The trailer clearly shows a significant reduction in lens flare over the previous two installments. No, the people either love or hate the choice of music for the trailer. Judge for yourselves.
There’s not much discussion about what’s new or even what the plot is, except that the cast of the previous two films have returned, with the notable addition of Idris Elba joining them as this guy. I think. Maybe not.
Who knows. They’ve been pretty hush-hush about this ever since production began.
This time it seems, things will be different. Where Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek immediately turned the canon of Star Trek on its head, director Justin Lin’s vision for the franchise is more to the heart of the “wild west in space” spirit of the original series (also, Lin probably watched more than just the Wrath of Khan for background research). And of course, Captain Kirk somehow gets on a motorcycle because Lin’s previous credits include three Fast Furious movies.
But he is responsible for the epic “Modern Warfare” episode of Community… so there’s hope.
Today, we see cruise missiles as very accurate. This was not always the case. In fact, one cruise missile has the distinction of hitting the wrong continent – and it was quite a miss.
The missile in question was the SM-62 Snark. It was intended to help deter Soviet aggression. According to Designation-Systems.net, with a maximum range of 6,000 miles and a top speed of 550 knots, it had a W39 nuclear warhead with a 4 megaton yield – 20 times as powerful as the W80 used on the Tomahawk cruise missile and the AGM-86 Air Launched Cruise Missile.
It flew at 50,000 feet – which at the time made it hard to intercept with enemy anti-aircraft missiles.
The Snark needed the big warhead. The closest it came to hitting its target was within about eight miles. That is a very far cry from the 260 feet that Designation-Systems.net cited the early models of the Tomahawk cruise missile achieving.
But Air Force magazine described the miss to end all misses. On Dec. 5, 1956, a Snark was launched with a flight plan to cruise to Puerto Rico and return to its base in Florida. Only, it stopped responding to signals.
Even a self-destruct command didn’t work. The Air Force scrambled fighters to shoot down the wayward missile, but they couldn’t pull off the intercept – proving that the design got that part right.
Ultimately, the missile went beyond tracking range – last seen headed towards Brazil. The missile would remain missing for 26 years until some wreckage was found in that South American country.
According to a Reuters report in the Regina Leader-Post, unidentified Brazilians found the parts and reported them.
Designation-Systems.net reported that the Snark would achieve a brief period of fully operational service from February to June 1961 (an initial operating capability was established in 1959). But then-President John F. Kennedy ordered the one active wing to stand down, largely due to the development of inter-continental ballistic missiles.
John Browning’s most famous creation, at least in the United States, is the ubiquitous Model 1911. It’s everywhere, and probably within reach of well more than a few people reading this article. The 1911’s active service life in military organizations is pretty much over. However, another of Browning’s continues to serve — the Model 1919 Machine Gun.
The Model 1919 was essentially an air-cooled Model 1917. It was chambered in the powerful and effective .30-06 round, modernized following extensive ballistic testing in the post-World War I years. Unlike most ground-mounted WWI-era machine guns, the 1919 was air cooled, had a heavier barrel, and was easier to maintain under combat conditions than its water-cooled cousins.
It didn’t require all the accouterments of a water-cooled gun, such as a bulky water jacket, water, and a condensing can. The 1919 was originally fed by a cloth belt and designed for vehicles—or a very solid (and heavy) tripod. It had a reasonable rate of fire at 500 rounds per minute on average. By WWII, it was the standard U.S. light machine gun, serving alongside Browning’s M1917 and the legendary Browning M2 HMG.
Like most of Browning’s designs, the 1919 was very reliable for the day and age in which it was produced (insert Glock joke here). It was also apparent early on that the 1919 was versatile. By the end of WWII, it was mounted on tanks, in aircraft, and found in various calibers, including .303 British. It served in virtually every Allied army, and if you dig hard enough, you can even find pictures of enemy troops using captured 1919s. It was very effective against personnel, and when loaded with armor-piercing ammunition, it was also effective against thin-skinned armored vehicles.
In the air, the modified M1919 was called the ANM2. This variant was specifically modified for aerial warfare, boasting a blistering rate of fire at 1,200-plus rpm. The improvements in aircraft technology and design during the period meant rifle-caliber machine guns were only effective when their throw weight could be boosted by increased rates of fire, and by mounting anywhere from two to six of the guns. Feeding them with the most destructive type of ammunition available, generally one form or another of API-T (Armor Piercing Incendiary Tracer), helped.
While the ANM2 served valiantly, it was not as effective as its Browning M2 brethren as an anti-aircraft machine gun. In the decade before WWII, fighter aircraft were increasingly fitted with heavier machine guns, generally .50 BMG Browning variants in the U.S., or 20mm (or larger) cannons in Europe. It wasn’t the fault of the ANM2 that it was less effective against aircraft; it was the fault of the ordnance officers who decided to mount it in aircraft in the first place.
In the infantry role, the M1919 was successful within its limitations. Keep in mind the M1919 was designed in an era when the belt-fed machine gun was essentially a static weapon. The exception to this trend at the time was the MG08/15, which was an intentional departure designed specifically to make the infantry machine gun more portable and useful. By WWII, the MG08/15 concept (a highly mobile, portable general-purpose machine gun [GPMG]) evolved into the MG34 and eventually the MG42 in German service. This is where the M1919’s combat failings became apparent.
Although accurate, reliable, and possessing a good sustainable rate of fire, it was clumsy and awkward on a mobile battlefield compared to the MG34 and MG42. The tripod was large and unwieldy, and it was not always easy to emplace. U.S. troops frequently had to improvise with the 1919, more or less propping it up against or on the WWII equivalent of “a rock or something” when the tripod simply wouldn’t work under the conditions.
As a result, the M1919A6 was developed. This variant added a buttstock and a bipod to the M1919 in attempt to turn it into a light machine gun, more like the MG34 or MG42. However, it was still about a pound heavier than the standard M1919 without the tripod, weighing in at 32 pounds. It was an improvised solution akin to adding a bipod and a buttstock to a boulder. It was still awkward; although it was a bit less unwieldy and more stable, it appeared far too late in the war to have much of an impact.
Again, don’t blame the gun, blame the ordnance weenies.
Until the M60 (a less-than-fantastic GPMG, but a product of the “made here” school of ordnance development) was made widely available during the Vietnam War, the U.S. infantry were saddled with the M1919 and M1919A6 combination.
As a vehicle-mounted machine gun, the 1919 excelled. As a matter of fact, it does such a good job it’s still in service in many places across the globe. It’s been modernized, now using disintegrating link belts instead of old-fashioned cloth belts. Most 1919s still in service were converted to 7.62 NATO, as well, to ease the strain on logistics. Notably, however, one 1919 variant, the M37 Coaxial MG, was somewhat notoriously problematic, again mostly because some people just can’t resist fixing something that works.
There have been some interesting variants of the 1919 over the years. Several ANM2s were converted into a variant called the Stinger. The Stinger was basically a scavenged aircraft-mounted gun with a bipod, carry handle, and buttstock. The extremely high rate of fire was welcomed (for the six or so guns which appear to have actually made it into combat), but the Stinger only served in limited numbers. Its primary claim to fame was being the weapon “Terrible” Tony Stein used during the combat action that earned him a Medal of Honor on Iwo Jima.
If you ever get a chance to fire a ground-mounted M1919, we highly recommend you do so. As it was originally designed, it’s accurate, reliable, and very easy to shoot. As a machine gun for a fixed position, it can easily hold its own against any gun of its era. It’s easy to manipulate, strip, and clean, and it’s very robust in its most common and most current variant, the 1919A4. However, remember it’s almost a 100-year-old design; don’t expect it to perform like a modern machine gun.
On March 10, 2021 the United States House of Representatives unanimously approved the VA Vaccine Act, requiring the Department of Veteran Affairs to offer the COVID-19 vaccine to all veterans.
With the passage of the VA Vaccine Act in the House, it changes things considerably. The language of the bill makes it a requirement that all veterans have the opportunity to receive the vaccine, regardless of attachment to the VA’s health services. This means quite literally any veteran can receive the vaccination as long as they qualify for VA services, including those living overseas. The legislation also includes the veterans caregivers.
There are some restrictions, however. Those enrolled in the VA healthcare system are prioritized over those who aren’t currently enrolled. When the vaccine supply is available, veterans not receiving VA care can then receive it.
The bill was introduced by Congressman Mike Bost of Illinois, the leading Republican on the Veterans’ Affairs committee in the House of Representatives. “Getting vaccines into the arms of every person who wants one as soon as we can is key to finally getting us past this pandemic. In my mind, veterans should always be at the front of the line,” said Ranking Member Bost in a statement.
Congressman Charlie Crist of Florida was also on the bill’s introduction. In a statement he shared his frustration in hearing from his veteran constituents who weren’t able to get through the red tape of the VA. “I’m proud that the House has taken decisive action to do right by Florida’s Veterans. I introduced Vaccines for Veterans Act because Veterans were calling my office saying they tried to get their coronavirus vaccine at the VA but were turned away,” he said.
Now, they won’t be.
In a VA press release Acting VA Under Secretary for Health Richard Stone M.D shared that the VA now has a third highly effective vaccine to offer to veterans with the FDA emergency approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The release also shared that as of March 3, 2021 both doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 had been administered by the VA to almost 1 million individuals. The Johnson & Johnson version of the vaccine only requires one dose.
The VA Vaccine Act now heads to the Senate, where a similar measure was introduced on March 9, 2021. Senators will now have to make the decision on whether to act on the House approved bill or move forward with their own, potentially delaying the process of approval. Based on the swiftness that both Congress and the Biden administration are pushing the vaccinations of all Americans, it appears the Senate will approve the House bill.
The bill has the support of nine Veterans Service Organizations (VSO) including Paralyzed Veterans of America, Minority Veterans of America, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, The American Legion, Wounded Warrior Project, AMVETS and Veterans for Common Sense.
“After such a difficult year, stories of vulnerable veterans being denied lifesaving vaccines from VA are painful to hear,” said Bost in a statement. “The VA VACCINE Act would make sure that doesn’t happen again. The bill gives VA the authority it needs to meet this moment. It is a lifeline for veterans and their caregivers. I urge my Senate colleagues to send it to the President’s desk as soon as possible.”
Acting VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. Richard Stone said the VA is supportive of the legislation in an interview with Military Times. “It’s the next logical step for us,” he said. “Should Congress give us the authority, we’ll be ready.”
Precision U.S. strikes conducted Oct. 23 targeted two of al-Qaida’s most senior leaders in Afghanistan, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook announced last night.
In a statement, Cook said officials are still assessing the results of the strikes, which targeted Faruq al-Qatani and Bilal al-Utabi.
“Their demise would represent a significant blow to the terrorist group’s presence in Afghanistan, which remains committed to facilitating attacks against the United States, our allies and partners,” the press secretary said.
Qatani served as al-Qaida’s emir for northeastern Afghanistan, assigned by the group’s leadership to re-establish safe havens for the terrorist organization, Cook said. “He was a senior planner for attacks against the United States, and has a long history of directing deadly attacks against U.S. forces and our coalition allies,” he added.
Utabi is assessed to have been involved in efforts to re-establish a safe haven in Afghanistan from which to threaten the West, Cook said, and in efforts to recruit and train foreign fighters.
After an extensive period of surveillance, the United States targeted the al-Qaida leaders at what was assessed as command-and-control locations in remote areas of Afghanistan’s Kunar province, Cook said.
“If these strikes are determined to be successful,” he added, “eliminating these core leaders of al-Qaida will disrupt efforts to plot against the United States and our allies and partners around the world, reduce the threat to our Afghan partners, and assist their efforts to deny al-Qaida safe haven in Afghanistan.
Transitioning to a civilian career doesn’t have to be boring. Here are 7 ways to join the civilian workforce while preserving the adrenaline rush that made the military rewarding (and, dare we say, fun):
1. Wilderness guides
Wilderness guides help campers, hunters, and adventurers navigate the backcountry safely while teaching them survival techniques. Vets who excelled in survival training and loved patrolling through the woods will excel here. Most guides hold a certificate or degree that can be paid for with the G.I. Bill, but a degree isn’t required. Avg. Salary: $42,000
Vets who want to keep working in small teams under challenging conditions might enjoy firefighting. Candidates need to maintain their fitness and can get a toehold by volunteering for a fire company, getting a fire science degree, or preferably both. And you can really ramp up the energy as a smoke jumper. These elite firefighters parachute ahead of the path of a wildfire, laying down the first line of defense against it spreading. Avg. Salary: $39,000
Diving demands attention to detail and the ability to work under pressure, especially when something goes wrong. All diving work includes the inherent danger of working underwater, of course, but those who want to up the ante can work in shark tanks, underwater caves, or even nuclear reactors. Avg. Salary: $41,000
4. Law enforcement
Photo: Oregon Department of Transportation – SWAT Team
There are many parallels between the military and law enforcement. Both require teamwork. Both wear uniforms. Both demand comfort around weapons. And both require a lot of discipline. Many police departments (like Oakland PD, for instance) have programs to recruit veterans. Also, vets can collect the G.I. Bill at many police academies on top of their academy pay from the police department. Avg. Salary: $41,000
It may not be as exciting as carrier operations, but civilian pilots are needed to fly everything from jetliners to air ambulances to news choppers. Military pilots with lots of flight hours and a good safety record can easily transition to a civilian career. Those without any experience will need to stop off at a civilian flight school first — an expensive and time-consuming proposition, but ultimately worth the effort for those who want to take to the skies. Avg. Salary: $61,000
6. Helicopter lineman
Vets who loved hanging out of helicopters while on active duty might be interested in working for utility repair companies that need people to work on remote high-voltage power lines. Aerial lineman walk along the wires or ride in a hovering helicopter. Many companies require that applicants have lineman experience before working in the air, so vets entering the field will likely start in a ground position before moving up to helo ops. Avg. Salary: $56,000
7. Videographer or photographer
Media agencies need footage and pictures from extreme weather events, war zones, and disaster areas. Media specialists and combat camera vets are ready-on-arrival for these sorts of assignments. And like the military, the job requires a lot of travel and can be dangerous. Avg. Salary: $52,000
U.S. Pacific Command has deployed the first elements of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, known as THAAD, to South Korea, implementing the U.S.-South Korean alliance’s July decision to bring the defensive capability to the Korean Peninsula.
North Korea’s accelerating program of nuclear weapons tests and ballistic missile launches constitute a threat to international peace and security and violate multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions, Pacom officials said, adding that the THAAD ballistic missile defense system deployment contributes to a layered defense and enhances the alliance’s shield against North Korean missile threats.
“Continued provocative actions by North Korea, to include yesterday’s launch of multiple missiles, only confirm the prudence of our alliance decision last year to deploy THAAD to South Korea,” Navy Adm. Harry Harris, Pacom commander, said. “We will resolutely honor our alliance commitments to South Korea and stand ready to defend ourselves, the American homeland and our allies.”
The THAAD system is a strictly defensive capability, and it poses no threat to other countries in the region, Pacom officials said. It is designed to intercept and destroy short- and medium-range ballistic missiles inside or outside the atmosphere during their final phase of flight.
Pacom joint military forces remain vigilant in the face of North Korean ballistic missile threats and provocations and are fully committed to working closely with South Korea to maintain security in the region, officials said.
Only in Patton’s Army could a mild-mannered history teacher from Moline, Illinois, join the service and become forever immortalized as “Bazooka Charlie.”
Charles Carpenter joined the Army as a pilot shortly after America’s entry into World War II. He became an aerial artillery observer with the 4th Armored Division of Gen. George S. Patton’s Third Army. It was here Carpenter became a legend on both sides of the war.
By the time he arrived in Europe in 1944, then-Maj. Carpenter had a lot of flying time training for artillery observation and reconnaissance. However, his first great feat in Europe was not in the air, it was on the ground.
While scouting for advanced landing fields in a jeep near Avranches, France, Carpenter came across a unit pinned down by Germans holding a nearby town. He ran up to the lead tank, jumped on the .50 cal machine gun, fired off a burst at the Germans, and yelled, “Let’s Go!”
Although technically not the leader of the unit, the men followed his commands and assaulted the town, capturing it in minutes. Unfortunately, Carpenter ordered the tank he was riding to fire at what he thought was an enemy tank. The shot took the bulldozer plow off a fellow American tank.
He was arrested after the incident and threatened with a firing squad before his commanding general came to his rescue. He was told to expect a court-martial — until word of his exploits reached Gen. Patton. Patton personally stopped the court-martial proceedings and instead awarded Carpenter a Silver Star for his bravery, saying Carpenter was “the kind of fighting man I want in my army.”
After the incident, Carpenter kept to the skies, but he certainly wasn’t out of the fight. Though discouraged by his plane’s lack of armament and offensive capability, he heard rumors of other scout pilots attaching weapons to their planes. He conceived an idea that would truly make him famous in the European Theater.
With the help of an ordinance tech and a crew chief, Carpenter attached two M1 bazookas to the struts of his L-4 Grasshopper (the military version of a Piper Cub), which he then promptly dubbed “Rosie the Rocketer.” Each bazooka was controlled electronically from switches in the cockpit and could be fired individually or at the same time.
It wasn’t long before Carpenter scored his first kill, taking out a German armored car. He wasn’t satisfied with just blasting light vehicles, so he added four more bazookas. He also managed to acquire the improved M9 bazooka, which was capable of firing M6A3 High Explosive Anti-Tank rounds.
Carpenter’s methods for destroying German armor earned him another nickname, the “Mad Major.” His technique was to perform a shallow dive at enemy tanks and then blast them from 100 meters before pulling up and out of range of enemy small arms fire.
Although the technique was effective, it was downright crazy. Many of Carpenter’s fellow pilots who heard his exploits decided they would give it a try as well “but found that driving their frail aircraft into a hail of German small arms fire was extremely unhealthy,” the Lawrence Journal-World reported, “and returned to their observation duties.”
“Bazooka Charlie” soon racked up more kills – including two of the feared German Tiger tanks. In one instance, Carpenter destroyed a German column, then landed in a field to check out the still-burning remnants of his work. While on the ground, he captured six Germans with a discarded rifle he happened to pick up.
In another instance, he spotted infantry forces under attack by German armor. He dove into the fray and fired all his rockets. He then returned to his airfield to reload then returned to the battle. Carpenter made three trips to the battlefield. He helped break up the attack, destroying two German tanks in the process.
“Some people around here think I’m nuts,” Carpenter once said, “but I just believe that if we’re going to fight a war, we have to go on with it 60-minutes an hour and 24-hours a day.”
And get on with it he did. By war’s end, Carpenter was credited with destroying six enemy tanks, making him a tank ace, though his total count and contributions are likely much higher.
It wasn’t just the Americans who took notice of Bazooka Charlie’s exploits. Carpenter himself once said “Word must be getting around among those Krauts to watch out for Cubs with bazookas on them. Every time I show up now, they shoot with everything they have. They never used to bother Cubs. Bazookas must be bothering them a bit.”
Despite flying an unprotected aircraft right into the enemy to score his kills, Carpenter was never wounded. For his exploits during the war, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and awarded the Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster and the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster to go with his Silver Star.
After the war, “Bazooka Charlie” once again became Mr. Carpenter and went back to teaching high school history in Illinois before losing a battle with cancer in 1966.
A combat controller will receive the Air Force’s highest combat medal for extraordinary heroism, after a service-wide review of medals awarded since 9/11.
The Air Force Cross will be presented to former Staff Sgt. Christopher Baradat, now separated, who had received the Silver Star medal for his essential role in rescuing 150 coalition members in Afghanistan, April 6, 2013.
“Chris Baradat exemplifies the professionalism, courage and lethality of special tactics Airmen,” said Col. Michael E. Martin, the 24th Special Operation Wing commander. “Every day, special tactics Airmen like Chris willingly put themselves in harm’s way to fight and win our nation’s wars.”
While on his third deployment, Baradat was attached to a U.S. Army Special Forces team tasked to support pinned-down coalition forces flanked by enemy fighters in a valley in Kunar Province. As the special forces convoy approached the steep valley, it became clear that the vehicles wouldn’t fit through the narrow mountain path.
Baradat and eight others dismounted and sprinted toward the embattled friendly forces, but came under heavy fire within 1,000 meters of their objective. Without hesitation, Baradat identified the enemy’s position and called in close air support from A-10 Thunderbolt II fighter jets and AC-130 gunships—eliminating the immediate threat. The team pressed toward the friendly forces when they were again pinned down by an avalanche of enemy gunfire from the ridgelines above.
They took cover in a small compound nearby, but the thick walls limited the radio signal, interfering with the ground force’s link to the aircraft above. The team was outnumbered and outgunned, Baradat knew it would only be a matter of time before the enemy had them surrounded.
With complete disregard for his own personal safety, Baradat left cover and exposed himself directly to enemy gunfire to communicate with the aircraft above and protect the team. “That was where I needed to be standing to communicate with the aircraft and to get the mission done,” he said in an interview from 2014.
Although his team shouted at him to take cover, he systematically began engaging the enemy.”I remember repeatedly yelling at him to get behind cover, yet he ignored the warnings, choosing instead to keep fires on the enemy positions,” wrote one of his Army Special Forces teammates about the event.
Baradat controlled multiple aircraft while he stood in the open courtyard–sprayed by dirt as rounds impacted the ground near him– relaying targets he spotted to the aircraft above.
“Throughout the next two hours, I witnessed (Staff) Sgt. Baradat call for fire and utilize eight different aircraft [six A-10s and two AC-130s] to eliminate the enemy threatening both his team and the friendly forces they were sent to rescue,” wrote one of the AC-130 pilots in an after action report. But enemy fire intensified as the single element navigated through the narrow terrain in their armored vehicles, vulnerable to the enemy.
Baradat’s radio connection was limited inside the vehicle, so with no hesitation, he positioned himself on the vehicle’s running board outside the safety of the vehicle’s armor … secured only by a teammate holding onto his belt.
With his body scraping the narrow canyon walls, peppered by falling rocks knocked loose from the heavy machine gun fire, Baradat directed precise strafing runs and bomb drops until the entire team was clear of enemy fire. “You never know what to expect going into any combat situation, but I do feel that the intense and diverse training that I received from … the special tactics community, set me up to handle the stress of the situation,” Baradat said of the battle. “I was only one piece of the puzzle that day; if it wasn’t for the extreme professionalism and fearless intensity of my Army Special Forces team, the mission could have turned out a lot differently.”
In the end, Baradat precisely directed 13 500-pound bombs and over 1,100 rounds of ammunition during three hours of intense fighting, contributing to the safety of 150 troops and destruction of 50 enemy and 13 enemy fighting positions.
“He is an American hero who did an outstanding job under incredible circumstances, seamlessly integrating air power into a complex and dangerous ground mission,” Martin said. The Air Force Cross is presented for extraordinary heroism while engaged in military operations against an enemy of the United States. This is the ninth Air Force Cross to be awarded since 9/11; all have been awarded to special tactics Airmen.
The upgrade was due to a Defense Department-directed review of medals from recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan to ensure service members are appropriately recognized for their actions.
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James approved nine medal upgrades for eight Airmen, Jan. 17, 2017, including Baradat and Keary Miller, a retired pararescueman from the Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron.
“I am extremely humbled to receive this award,” Baradat said. “The men who have previously been awarded the Air Force Cross have done amazing things on the battlefield, and it is an honor to be a part of that group.”
NOW WATCH: This airman saved 23 wounded troops during an insider attack
Checking out your weapon from the armory can be like standing in line at the DMV — it’s the worst game of hurry up and wait ever.
You were instructed to show up bright and early to check out your weapon, but the armorers never seemed to be there on time.
But once you received your rifle, life seemed to finally make sense now that you get to shoot something up. After an amazing day at the range, you now have the problem of cleaning the rifle so well the Marines working at the armory will take it back on your first pass.
If not you’ll stay and clean all evening long because the armors usually stand a 24-hour duty.
So check out how your day typically went after you checked out your rifle from the armory.
1. When you’re told to be on time at the armory but the gate is locked.
Where are they? (Images via Giphy)
2. After 20 minutes of ringing the bell and a few Starbucks espresso shots — you finally gain entry.
Hulk wants in! (Images via Giphy)
3. When the armorer’s window finally opens for the first time after waiting what felt like an eternity.
That’s freakin’ bright. (Images via Giphy)
4. The look you give when the armorer when he asks you for the weapon’s serial number but all the caffeine you drank pulled all the blood out of your brain. Good thing you brought your weapons card with you.
Damn, I’m having a brain fart. (Images via Giphy)
5. Then when you get your beautiful and perfectly oiled rifle from the armor.
It feels like f*cking Christmas. (Images via Giphy)
6. How you felt running to the range to take your stress out on a few already destroyed armored vehicles.
Move! Out of my way! (Image via Giphy)
7. How you felt after putting hundreds of rounds accurately down range.
I’m the strongest man alive! (Images via Giphy)
8. After the adrenaline goes away, you realized it’s already 1700, you still need to clean out all the carbon that’s built up, and you have a date in a few hours.
Where did the time go? (Images via Giphy)
9. This is how fast you ran back to the armory.
Move! (Images via Giphy)
10. You scrubbed your weapon in record time.
That looks good enough. (Images via Giphy)
11. But the armorer used his dirty finger and rejected taking the rifle back into storage.
That’s not the finger we were talking about but okay. (Images via Giphy)
12. Then you yelled …
We feel you. (Images via Giphy)
13. You then began angrily scrubbing your rifle.
F*ck you carbon! (Images via Giphy)
14. Then you noticed the other platoons going home for the day and you’re still stuck here.
Farewell. (Images via Giphy)
15. After your arm gets tired, the perfect idea pops into your head.
I got it! (Images via Giphy)
16. When you walk up to the armorer’s window and you clearly put $10 inside the weapon’s ejection port.
We think she’s trying to drop a hint. (Images via Giphy)
Retired Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills went out on a foot patrol on April 10, 2012. It was his third tour in Afghanistan. He woke up on his 25th birthday to find that he’d stepped on on improvised explosive device, or IED, and that he’d suddenly become a quadruple amputee.
David Vobora was an NFL athlete who’d been dubbed “Mr. Irrelevant” after being the last draft pick of the season in 2008. While playing for the Seattle Seahawks, Vobora blew out his shoulder. It would ultimately force him to retire from the NFL at just 25 years old.
In the intervening years, Mills and Vobora forged an unlikely friendship.
“I had 25 good years with my arms and legs, and now I got the rest of my life to still keep living and pushing forward,” Mills said during an interview on “The Ellen Degeneres Show” yesterday.
“Something was missing,” Vobora, who is now a personal trainer, said. He noted that his work with professional athletes and wealthy clients was failing to fill a void in his life.
When Vobora met Mills, “I just knew I had to work with him.”
Mills talks about his predicament with lots of humor. When thanked for his heroism, Mills somewhat shrugs and replies, “I didn’t do more than anyone else. I just had a bad day at work, you know; a case of the Mondays.”
His wife, with whom he is expecting their second child, is equally humorous. “I’m in it for the handicapped parking,” Mills quotes her as having said shortly after his leg had to be amputated.
It was for many years considered the gold standard in after-market tactical gear. Packs, pouches and carriers developed by a SEAL for SEALs — or anyone else who needed gear that stood up to the abuse of America’s commandos.
For Mike Noell, what started as a small business sewing together specialized tactical equipment for his fellow frogmen out of his Virginia Beach garage, blossomed into the multi-million dollar, internationally-known Blackhawk! (yes, with the exclamation point). From plate carriers to Halligan tools, Blackhawk! became the one-stop-shop for special operators, police SWAT teams and even weekend warriors who wanted to look the part.
When he sold Blackhawk! to ATK — which later established the outdoor and shooting sports product conglomerate Vista Outdoors — for an untold sum in 2010, it seemed Noell was on the top of the world, using his newfound financial influence to work with upstart companies and take a little break from a lifetime of kicking in doors and running big businesses.
But that all changed when he dropped another flash bang on the industry at this year’s SHOT Show in Las Vegas, announcing his new company, Sentry.
“It’s a new Blackhawk!,” Noell told WATM during a visit to his company’s booth at this year’s SHOT Show. “This time we’re going with a higher-end set of products.”
Like the earlier Blackhawk!, Sentry is a combination of several smaller companies, including optic and firearm covers from ScopeCoat, gun cleaning products from Sentry Solutions and a new line of high-end bags and packs under the new Sentry brand.
While ScopeCoat and SlideCoat products have been around for a while, the wow factor comes from the new Sentry packs. Each features a waterproof ripstop nylon construction with rugged, rubberized zippers to keep the contents dry. And Noell’s team has added new, lightweight MOLLE-style webbing dubbed “1080” that allows the user to attach pouches at various angles.
“We basically made these packs for the type of activities we like to do,” said Sentry’s Nick Ferros. “I’m a fisherman, so I just design what I need.”
Noell said he’s resurrected the old Uncle Mike’s (which was part of the Blackhawk! family of brands) manufacturing facility in Boise, Idaho, and is reaching out to old employees there to get band back together. He’s also teamed with longtime Blackhawk! exec Terry Naughton, who’s serving as Sentry’s president.
With a building roster of products and a focus on the technology of today, it’ll be interesting to see whether Sentry becomes the tactical colossus that Blackhawk! once was.