Our 8 most shared articles of 2016 - We Are The Mighty
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Our 8 most shared articles of 2016

Now that 2016 is coming to a close, we wanted to recap the year with the most shared articles. From the deaths of notable veterans to the weapon that shoots 1 million rounds per minute, here are the posts that flew around your social media feeds:


1. Marine who raised first flag on Iwo Jima dies at 94

Our 8 most shared articles of 2016
Raising the First Flag on Iwo Jima by SSgt. Louis R. Lowery, USMC, is the most widely circulated photograph of the first flag flown on Mt. Suribachi.Marine Corps Maj. John Keith Wells, who as a first lieutenant led the platoon that helped take Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima and which raised the first American flag from the mountain’s summit, died in February.

He was awarded the Navy Cross and the Purple Heart for his actions on Iwo Jima after he continued leading his men up the mountain despite grievous wounds.

2. That day a lone Gurkha took out 30 Taliban using every weapon within reach

Our 8 most shared articles of 2016

British Royal Gurkha Rifle Sgt. Dipprasad Pun was pulling guard on top of a two-story outpost in Afghanistan when he investigated a noise and found two insurgents burying an IED.

As he went to engage them, the Taliban triggered a complex attack that Pun beat off by expending all of his ammo, throwing some grenades and mines, and hurling a machine gun tripod at the enemy.

3. 11 things a military buddy would do that a civilian BFF probably won’t

Our 8 most shared articles of 2016
Workout with a buddy, but don’t actually carry them unless you are taking turns. (Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michelle Kapica)

A funny look at the differences between military buddies, who would check out your rash or save you in a firefight, and your civilian buddies, who might help you put together furniture or something.

4. How long the US military would last in a war against the rest of the world

Our 8 most shared articles of 2016
(Photo: Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago)

What would happen if the militaries of the entire rest of the world attacked the U.S. all at once? Not just our enemies, but our traditional allies like France and Britain as well? We’d stomp them. Here’s how.

5. Oldest American WWII veteran dies at 110

Our 8 most shared articles of 2016
Photo: www.Facebook.com/MrOvertonDoc

Frank Levingston was 110, making him the oldest American and the oldest World War II veteran, when he died in May. He was known for his colorful commentary.

6. The Metal Storm gun can fire at 1 million rounds per minute

Our 8 most shared articles of 2016
(Photo: YouTube)

This weapon features rounds stacked inside dozens of barrels and electric charges can fire all the rounds stored in the weapon at once or in multiple volleys. At its maximum fire rate, this equates to 1 million rounds per minute.

7. 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

Our 8 most shared articles of 2016
Lizzy Yaggy greets Gen. Dempsey during TAPS Good Grief Camp. (Photo: Erin Yaggy)

Most general officers struggle with the deaths caused by their decisions in war, but all that came home like it never had before for Army Gen. Martin Dempsey when he met the then-four-year-old Lizzy Yaggy, the daughter of a Marine aviator lost in a plane crash.

The two became close friends and Dempsey even asked Yaggy to introduce him at his retirement ceremony.

8. CENTCOM dusts off Vietnam-era aircraft to fight ISIS

Our 8 most shared articles of 2016
Image: NASA Lewis Research Center Hangar and OV-10 Airplane

As the world struggled with the rapid and surprising rise of the Islamic State, an old airplane was quietly pressed back into combat service, the OV-10 Bronco.

These small planes served in combat from Vietnam to Desert Storm with the U.S. Marines before they were retired in 1995. But the plane flew over 100 sorties against ISIS, including 120 combat missions.

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Her uncle disowned her but that didn’t stop this war bride

An estimated 300,000 “war brides,” as they were known, left home to make the intrepid voyage to the United States after falling in love with American soldiers who were stationed abroad during World War II. There were so many that the United States passed a series of War Brides Acts in 1945 and 1946. This legislation provided them with an immigration pathway that didn’t previously exist under the Immigration Act of 1924, which imposed quotas on immigrants based on their nation of origin and strategically excluded or limited immigration from certain parts of the world, particularly Asia.

Equipped with little but a feeling and a sense of promise, war brides left everything that was familiar behind to forge a new identity in the United States. Many spoke little to no English upon their arrival in the country, and they were introduced to post-war American culture through specially designed curricula and communities. To this day, organizations for war brides in the United States provide networks for military spouses and their children, helping them keep their heritage alive and share their experiences of their adopted home.

To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II on September 2, 2020, We Are The Mighty is proud to collaborate with Babbel, the new way to learn a foreign language. Babbel conducted interviews with surviving war brides as much of the world endured lockdown. Many of these women are now in their 80s and 90s, and their oral histories celebrate the challenges and successes of adapting to a new culture and language, as well as reflect on the leap of faith they all took to travel across the world to an unknown country. Spoiler alert: there are few regrets.

War Brides is a 5 part series.

Tsuchino Forrester

I came to America in 1960. Washington is such a beautiful state, with its mountains, oceans and rivers. In many ways it reminds me of Japan, and that’s why I settled here. There’s also a strong Japanese community in Seattle, where my husband and I have settled.

I was born in the countryside of Japan, so I would run around a lot and study little. I remember playing all the time with no restrictions. When the war started, I was about 10 years old. We were in the countryside, and we had a ranch, so we didn’t have a problem feeding ourselves. Maybe a bit with meat and fish, but we produced our own rice and vegetables, so we were never hungry. I don’t remember seeing any soldiers, and we didn’t get bombed. Maybe 20 miles from my house was a city, Fukuoka, and one time I remember seeing the bombs from afar. To me it looked like fireworks. That’s what I remember.

I met my husband, Michael Forrester, through a mutual friend. He was in the U.S. Air Force. One night, he was visiting his friend, and by chance, I was visiting his friend’s wife, so that’s how we met. At first, I thought he was a snob like all the other American soldiers who came to Japan. You know how soldiers come in and take over our country and we couldn’t say anything. He thought he was a big shot, so I thought I would show him my Japanese spirit! That changed when he showed how persistent he was. He kept coming back, and the Japanese guys, they never did that. And he had plans for his life. I liked that about him. The way he looked to the future of his life — that’s what I fell in love with. He wanted to become a pilot, and I wanted to help.

When my father died, my brother quit school to become the head of the family. At that time in Japan, women weren’t supposed to be more educated than the head of the family, so my mother wouldn’t let me go to college. My teacher even tried to talk to my mother to convince her, but she still said no. So with Mike, and his plans, I said, “This is someone I can help go to college.” And now we’ve been married 62 years.

Initially, my family were not happy about me wanting to marry an American. Some of my family had died in the war, so my uncle was strictly against Americans and those who associated with them. He disowned me. But my other family members, they knew how stubborn I was, and they knew that once I had made up my mind, that was it. Their only worry was how would they help me if I was so far away.

We married in 1958. There were a couple of things in our way. When we filed for permission with the U.S. Air Force to marry, they sent Mike back to the United States! So it took time — close to two years. When he managed to come back to Japan, he was stationed. We actually had three weddings. The first was in a Shinto temple, which the Japanese recognized as an official marriage, but the Americans did not. It made it easier for me to move with Mike to his new station on Okinoerabujima. Then our second wedding was December 23, 1958, and our chaplain one was on February 17, 1959.

Our first wedding was a Japanese wedding, which meant you have to take your shoes off, and that’s when I saw that Mike had holes in his socks! I remember looking at his feet and saying, “What is this?”. The U.S. Air Force found out about our Shinto wedding, and they didn’t like it. They almost court-martialed Mike for it. But his mother wrote to President Eisenhower, who stopped it.

We moved ahead with our plans to move to the United States. I had gotten my visa and passport, and Mike was due to finish his service in the air force. One night, the MP and Japanese police knocked on my door, and I thought, “What now? Is Mike going to jail again?” But this time, it was the sad news that Mike’s father had died. So Mike had to leave straight away. It actually turned out that even though Mike left before me, I arrived in America two days before him. The American Red Cross helped me with getting the right tickets and everything. When I arrived in New York, I slept in the same bed as his mother, because there was no space for me.

Because it all happened so fast, I didn’t have a chance to feel sad about leaving Japan. It was more about how I could get there safely. And I was young, so my mind was made up. I’d heard great things about America. It was the land of opportunity. I know a lot of Japanese people who miss Japanese food, but I don’t miss much about Japan. I liked hamburgers, and steak, and Mike’s mom’s specialty was spaghetti. That was good!

I learned how to read and write English a little in Japan, but the pronunciation was difficult for me. Some words were easy to confuse, like “yard” and “garden.” When I arrived in America, I had three younger brothers-in-law. I had to learn how to speak English for my own survival. I was always listening in the beginning, and I found that was the best teacher.

We moved around America a lot. When I first came, I felt so free and energetic. I love it here. Nowadays, I think people forget to show kindness and manners, however, which saddens me.

I have been back to Japan many times since. It has changed a lot. Especially my village. We used to run through all the houses playing hide and seek without permission. But now all the houses have fences, and gates, so it must be different being a child there. And there are lots of multistory buildings. Everything is being built up.

I think it’s not enough for a young person to marry someone from another culture or another country simply for the sake of living in another country. There needs to be some sort of goal they share. They should think twice, because love will get you into trouble. On some level, I just don’t resonate with that sort of easy thinking of an easy marriage.

Part I: Alice Lawson

Part II: Nina Edillo

Part III: Emilia Zecchino

Part IV: Huguette Coghlan

Babbel has now launched a discount for those involved with the military and veterans, as well as their relatives, as a thank you for their service. It is available here: https://welcome.babbel.com/en/military-discount/

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15 women who helped pave the way in the Army

“Women have served in the defense of this land for years before our United States was born. They have contributed their talents, skills and courage to this endeavor for more than two centuries with an astounding record of achievement that stretches from Lexington and Concord to the Persian Gulf and beyond,” said retired Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, chief of staff of the Army, 1991-1995.

Our 8 most shared articles of 2016
Depicted from left, Civil War nurse Clara Barton, Susie King Taylor and Dr. Mary Walker. On the right is WAC founder Col. Oveta Culp Hobby and later WAC Deputy Director Col. Bettie J. Morden. Moving toward the front is Brig. Gen. Clara Adams-Ender and Brig Gen. Sheridan Cadoria. In front is today’s Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Nadja West. (Photo Credit: Peggy Frierson)


1. Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley, Revolutionary War (1775 – 1783)

Mary Ludwig McCauley gained the nickname of “Molly Pitcher” in 1778 by carrying water to the men on the Revolutionary battlefield in Monmouth, New Jersey. She replaced her husband, Capt. John Hays, when he collapsed at his cannon. Since then, many women who carried water to men on the battlefield were called “Molly Pitchers.”

2. Clara Barton, Civil War nurse (1861 – 1865)

Clara Barton witnessed immense suffering on the Civil War battlefield and did much to alleviate it. She was on the scene ministering to those most in need, taking care of the wounded, dead, and dying.

Barton became a “professional angel” after the war. She lectured and worked on humanitarian causes relentlessly, and went on to become the first president of the American Association of the Red Cross. At the age of 77, she was still in the field taking care of Soldiers in military hospitals in Cuba during the Spanish-American War.

3. Susie King Taylor, Civil War (1861-1865)

Born a slave in Georgia in 1848, Susie Baker, who later became known as Susie King Taylor, gained her freedom in April 1862. Baker was initially appointed laundress of the 33rd U.S. Colored Troops, re-organized from the 1st South Carolina Volunteers. Due to her nursing skills and her ability to read and write, her responsibilities with the regiment began to multiply. More than a few African-American women may have provided service as the Union Army began forming regiments of all black men. After the war, Taylor helped to organize a branch of the Women’s Relief Corps.

4. Dr. Mary Walker, Union Army contract surgeon (1861-1865)

Dr. Mary Walker graduated from Syracuse Medical College in 1855 and later earned a second degree in 1862 from Hygeia Therapeutic College in New York. During the Civil War, she worked at first as a volunteer in Manassas and Fredericksburg, Virginia. Later she worked as a contract physician for the 52nd Ohio Infantry Regiment. Walker is the only woman ever granted the Medal of Honor.

5. Mary Catherine O’Rourke, Telephone operator and interpreter (1917-1918)

Mary Catherine O’ Rourke was one of 450 “Hello Girls” who served in the Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators Unit during World War I. They were bilingual female switchboard operators recruited by Gen. John J. Pershing to improve communications on the Western Front.

The Signal Corps women were given the same status as nurses, and had 10 extra regulations placed on them to preserve their “status as women.” They had the rank of lieutenant, but had to buy their own uniforms.

Mary Catherine O’Rourke was in the fourth group of these women who shipped off to France during World War I. She studied French with instructors from the University of Grenoble. She was assigned to Paris and served as interpreter for Gen. John J. Pershing during months of negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference which resulted in the Treaty of Versailles.

6. Col. Oveta Culp Hobby, First WAC director (1942-1945)

Col. Oveta Culp Hobby was called upon to serve as the chief, Women’s Interest Section, Bureau of Public Affairs for the War Department. She served in this position for one year before becoming the first woman sworn into the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, or WAAC in 1942 and appointed as its director. The WAAC was converted to the Women’s Army Corps in July 1943 and Hobby was appointed to the rank of colonel in the Army of the United States as she continued to serve as director of the WAC.

After setting the stage for the creation of the WAC, Hobby built the corps to the strength of over 100,000 by April 1944. She established procedures and policies for recruitment, training, administration, discipline, assignment, and discharge for the WAC. She surmounted difficulties in arranging for the training, clothing, assignments, recognition, and acceptance of women in the Army. Hobby made it possible for women to serve in over 400 non-combat military jobs at posts throughout the United States, and in every overseas theater.

Hobby was later called upon by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to serve as the first secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare from 1953-1955.

7. Col. Bettie J. Morden, WAC deputy director, 1971

Bettie J. Morden had a long, distinguished career in the Army that took many turns. She enlisted in the WAAC on Oct. 14, 1942. She receiving basic and administrative training at the First WAAC Training Center, Fort Des Moines, Iowa. She served throughout World War II at the Third WAAC Training Center, Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, as an administrative noncommissioned officer of the Publications Office. Morden later served as a first sergeant with Headquarters Company on the South Post. After the war ended, Morden was discharged in November 1945.

In September 1949, she entered the WAC, U.S. Army Reserve, and was commissioned a second lieutenant in February 1950. In November 1966, she was assigned as executive officer, Office of the Director, WAC, at the Pentagon and was promoted to full colonel on June 9, 1970. She assumed the position of acting deputy director, WAC, on Feb 1, 1971. She retired on Dec. 31, 1972, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.

In July 1973, Morden was elected president of the WAC Foundation, now the U.S. Army Women’s Museum Foundation, a private organization formed initially in 1969 to support the museum. Morden resigned from the presidency in June 2001.

8. Jacqueline Cochran, Pioneer female aviator (Pre-World War II to 1970)

After developing a successful line of cosmetics, Jacqueline Cochran took flying lesson in the 1930s so that she could use her travel and sales time more efficiently. She eventually became a test pilot. She helped design the first oxygen mask and became the first person to fly above 20,000 feet wearing one. She set three speed records and a world altitude record of 33,000 feet — all before 1940.

She was the first woman to fly a heavy bomber over the Atlantic. She volunteered for duty as a combat pilot in the European Theater during World War II, but her offer was rejected. She trained American women as transport pilots in England for the Air Transport Auxiliary of the Royal Air Force.

Upon return to the United States, she oversaw flight training for women and the merging of the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron into the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots in July 1943. She was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal in 1945 for her service in World War II.

After the war, she was commissioned in 1948. She became the first woman to break the sound barrier in an F-86 Sabre Jet in 1953 and went on to set a world speed record of 1,429 mph in 1964. She retired from the Air Force Reserve as a colonel in 1970.

9. Brig. Gen. Clara L. Adams-Ender, Army Nurse Corps (1961-1993)

In 1967, Brig. Gen. Adams-Ender became the first female in the Army to qualify for and be awarded the Expert Field Medical Badge. She was also the first woman to earn a master’s of military arts and science degree .at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

On Sept. 1, 1987, she was promoted to brigadier general and appointed the chief of the Army Nurse Corps.

In 1991, she was selected to be commanding general of Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and served in this capacity as well as that of deputy commanding general of the U.S. Military District of Washington until her retirement in 1993.

10. Command Sgt. Maj. Yzetta L. Nelson, First woman command sergeant major (1944-1970)

Yzetta L. Nelson joined the Women’s Army Corps in 1944. In 1966, she was promoted to the rank of sergeant major. On March 30, 1968, she became the first WAC promoted to the new rank of command sergeant major. She continued to serve in the WAC until her retirement in 1970.

11. Brig. Gen. Sherian G. Cadoria, First African-American female general (1961-1990)

Promoted to brigadier general in 1985, Sherian G. Cadoria was the highest-ranking black woman in the Army until she retired in 1990. She entered the Army in 1961, with a direct commission as a first lieutenant in the Women’s Army Corps. In the 1970s, she transferred to the Military Police Corps.

12. Sgt. Danyell E. Wilson, First black female sentinel at Tomb of Unknowns

Sgt. Danyell E. Wilson became the first African-American woman to earn the prestigious Tomb Guard Badge and become a sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknowns, Jan. 22, 1997.

Born in 1974 in Montgomery, Alabama, Wilson joined the Army in February 1993. She was a military police officer assigned to the MP Company, 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). She completed testing and a rigorous eight-month trial period and became part of the Honor Guard Company of The Old Guard.

14. Sgt. Maj. Michele S. Jones, First command sergeant major of Army Reserve

In September 2003, Sgt. Maj. Michele S. Jones was selected by Lt. Gen. James R. Helmly, Army Reserve chief, to become the ninth command sergeant major of the Army Reserve. She was the first woman to serve in that position and the first to be chosen as the senior NCO in any of the Army’s components. For some time, she was also the highest-ranking African-American in any of the military services.

Jones entered the Army in 1982. She attended basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and advanced individual training at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana. She was the first woman to serve as class president at the United States Sergeants Major Academy.

15. Lt. Gen. Nadja West, Surgeon general of the U.S. Army

Lt. Gen. Nadja Y. West is the 44th surgeon general of the United States Army and commanding general, U.S. Army Medical Command.

West is a graduate of the United States Military Academy with a bachelor of science in engineering. She earned a doctorate of medicine from George Washington University School of Medicine in the District of Columbia.

Her last assignment was as the Joint Staff surgeon at the Pentagon. In that capacity, she served as the chief medical advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and coordinated all health services issues to include operational medicine, force health protection, and readiness.

(Editor’s note: The above 15 are just a sampling of the many women who have contributed to shaping the U.S. Army.)

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Here’s why almost 60K soldiers could lose their housing allowance

About 60,000 US soldiers will have their monthly Basic Allowance for Housing payments revoked if they don’t update their personnel files with documents proving they qualify for the benefit.


The mandate to update the documents, first reported Aug. 30 by the site US Army WTF Moments, will be released in an official message “soon,” Army officials said.

That message will direct soldiers to update their documentation in the interactive Personnel Electronic Records Management System, service officials told Military.com on Aug. 31.

“An ALARACT addressing the required documentation that should be loaded into iPERMS for BAH and the timeline for required actions is being drafted,” Army Lt. Col. Randy Taylor, an Army manpower and reserve affairs spokesman, said in an email to Military.com.

“Currently, we have around 60,000 soldiers who are missing documentation in iPERMS,” he added.

Our 8 most shared articles of 2016
Photo from USMC.

Whether a service member qualifies for BAH is based on paygrade and if he or she has dependents.

For those who qualify to live outside the barracks, the allowance amount is based on paygrade, dependents, and duty station zip code.

Dual military couples are both given a BAH payment at the “without dependents rate,” unless they have children. In that case, one of the members receives the “with dependents rate,” while the other does not.

Our 8 most shared articles of 2016
Newly promoted Staff Sgt. Heather E. Estes, a motor transport operator from 68th Transportation Company, pins the rank of staff sergeant on her husband, Staff Sgt. Trysen J. Estes, a motor transport operator from 68th TC, during a promotion ceremony for the dual military couple. Photo by Spc. Fabian Ortega.

Documents that show eligibility and should be in iPERMS can include birth, adoption, and marriage certificates.

Soldiers will be given 60 days from the release of the ALARACT message to upload their missing documentation, Taylor said.

After the 60 days, their with-dependents rate BAH payments will be reduced or, in the case of soldiers who do not otherwise qualify for BAH, eliminated.

They will be notified of the need to update by both email and by their unit, he said.

If soldiers still have not updated their documents within 90 days of the initial deadline, they will be referred to the Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) under suspicion of BAH fraud, USAWTFM reported.

Our 8 most shared articles of 2016
Lt. Col. William Walker 49th Material Maintenance Group and his family prepare to cut the ribbon on their new home at the Soaring Heights Communities ribbon cutting ceremony at Holloman Air Force Base.

Taylor, whose initial response didn’t mention such a referral, said the iPERMS document requirement has been in place since 2013.

“Since 2013, there has been a Secretary of the Army directive mandating that key supporting documents are to be stored in the interactive Personnel Electronic Records Management System (iPERMS),” he said in the email.

“Loading KSD in iPERMS allows the Army to improve on its business processes and ensure all Soldiers are receiving the correct payments for their entitlements to include BAH,” he wrote.

The Pentagon is preparing for its first-ever full financial audit, which is to begin this fall. White House officials hope to have the audit completed by mid-2019.

Our 8 most shared articles of 2016
Under Secretary of the Army Joseph Westphal, center, discusses business transformation and best practices with representatives. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Bernardo Fuller.

Meanwhile, BAH payments and rates remain a point of contention on Capitol Hill as some lawmakers look to find cost savings by changing who can qualify for the higher with-dependents rates.

Lawmakers ultimately scrapped a 2016 proposal that would have severely limited the amount of housing allowance available to dual-military married couples and service members sharing off-base housing with other troops.

proposal in the 2018 authorization bill, which is still under negotiation between the House and Senate, would focus reductions only on dual-military couples, bumping both members down to a “without dependent” housing rate regardless of whether the couple has children.

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How this ‘dog’ blasted Axis subs to smithereens

Just before America’s official involvement in World War II, Fido was born. It took a while for Fido to be ready to serve, though. Only 4,000 were fielded – down from a planned 10,000 — largely because Fido was so effective.


For Fido, though, the mission was a one-way trip.

Now, you dog lovers out there, don’t go flying off the handle. Fido wasn’t some poor canine conscripted for use in war to be blown to bits while killing the enemy. No, this “Fido” — as the sailors who used it against enemy subs took to calling it — was purely machine. A torpedo, to be exact.

Okay, technically Fido’s designation was as the Mk 24 Mine, but this torpedo was unique in that it could sniff out enemy submarines.

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Diagram of the Mk 24. (US Navy graphic)

According to UBoat.net, Fido’s “nose” consisted of four hydrophones placed at equidistant points around the body of the Mk 13 aerial torpedo. These gave the torpedo steering directions as they detected the skulking submarine and guided the torpedo to a direct impact on the hull. That’s when a 100-pound high-explosive warhead would do its job. The result should be a sunken enemy submarine.

Fido could go at a speed of 12 knots and its batteries would last for 15 minutes. It could be dropped from up to 300 feet high by planes going as fast as 120 knots. Submarines could increase their speed to try to outrun it, but their batteries would run out very quickly, forcing them to the surface, where they’d be sitting ducks to American guns. If they didn’t go fast, the torpedo would catch them.

Fido was used on anything from a TBF Avenger to the PBY Catalina. It took a little less than a year and a half for Fido to make it from the drawing board to its first enemy kill. Fido claimed 33 Axis submarines in the Atlantic (32 German, one Japanese), and four more in the Pacific (all Japanese).

Our 8 most shared articles of 2016
USS Roosevelt (DG 80) launches a Mk 54 MAKO torpedo, the evolutionary descendant of the Mk 24 Fido. (US Navy photo)

Fido was, in one sense, the progenitor of today’s advanced air-dropped anti-submarine torpedoes, the Mk 46, the Mk 50 Barracuda, and the Mk 54 MAKO. Such is the legacy of a torpedo that sniffed out Axis subs.

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The nice old man in the popular military meme is actually operator AF

If you follow us on Facebook or popular military pages like Terminal Lance, Duffel Blog, and others, chances are you’ve come across the meme of Sgt. Maj. Mike Vining.


You know, the soldier in his Army dress uniform with the smug, nice looking grandfather face wearing a huge fruit salad on his chest and massive spectacles.

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Sergeant Maj. Mike Vining as a popular military meme

Yes, that one. After noticing the comments under one of our articles shared on Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Said mentioning his badassery, we looked Vining up.

Turns out, he’s operator as f-ck! While some may say, “duh, just look at his ribbons,” it’s easy to be dismissive with that Mr. Rodgers look — it just doesn’t fit.

Related: A rare glimpse of life as a Delta Force operator

Vining’s full list of military accolades, including his DD-214, career timeline, and pictures of him serving, are included in his Together We Served profile.

Most noticeably, Vining was a 1st SFOD-D — Delta Force — operator during his three decade Army career. Under the “Reflections on SGM Vining’s US Army Service” section he comments about his decision to join Delta Force:

In 1978, I decided I wanted something more challenging, so I volunteered to join a new unit that was forming up at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. They wanted people with an EOD background. The unit was 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta (Airborne). I spent the next 21 years in Delta and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), except for a year in a EOD unit in Alaska. In 1988, I transferred from EOD to Infantry. I figured I stood a better chance making Sergeant Major in Infantry, which worked out for me.

Like most who served, he also had unforgettable buddies. When asked to recount a particular incident from his service that may or may not have been funny at the time — but still makes him laugh — he said:

It would be SFC Donald L. “Don” Briere. At times he reminded me of the cartoon character Wiley Coyote. We were in New Zealand in 1980 on a joint-country special operations exercise. We were on a recon mission to scout out a target site. It was just Don and I on the recon team. We had a tall steep muddy embankment that we needed to negotiate. I looked at it and thought, no way. Don thought we could do it. As he moved across it, you could see his hands and feet sliding down. He clawed up and slid down some more. Finally he slid all the way down the slope into the water. I was rolling with laughter and said, “You want me to follow you?” I found another way around the obstacle.

Vining continues to be involved with the military and veteran community, he’s a member of several organizations, including the VFW, National EOD Association, and others, according to his profile.

After exploring his incredible career, Vining is someone we’d definitely love to have a drink with.

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7 signs you’re a Blue Falcon

Everyone knows being a Blue Falcon is bad, but no one believes that they’re the blue falcon. Here are 7 indicators that maybe you should start shopping for nests.


1. When someone asks for volunteers, you immediately start thinking of who isn’t doing anything.

Our 8 most shared articles of 2016

Look, it’s the platoon sergeant’s or the chief’s job to figure out who is doing what. If they don’t have a grip on their troop-to-task, that doesn’t make it O.K. for you to start naming who’s free for a tasking.

2. You find yourself saying, “Well, so-and-so did it earlier, first sergeant.”

Our 8 most shared articles of 2016
Blue falcons have their own barracks.

Keep your mouth shut, snitch. First sergeant doesn’t need to know who snuck to the barracks first during those engrossing Powerpoint presentations battalion put together. Let him yell at you until he runs out of steam, then go back to the stupid briefings and suck it up.

3. You make the kind of mistakes that trigger company recalls.

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Everyone screws up a few times a year, which is normal. Not everyone screws up so badly that the entire rest of their unit has to come in Saturday morning. Maybe keep your infractions a little more discreet in the future.

Or, make your mistakes epic enough that the unit will enjoy the recall just because they get to hear the story. “Wait, we’re here because Schmuckatelli crashed the general’s car with the installation command sergeant major’s daughter in the front seat? Can I make popcorn before you start, first sergeant?”

4. You frequently hear bus sounds or the words, “Caw! Caw!”

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Yeah, your friends are trying to give you a hint, dude. You’re throwing people under the bus and then buddy f-cking them as they crawl out.

5. You take too much credit — especially for stuff you didn’t do with your own hands.

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Always share credit. When you’re praised for rifle marksmanship, mention who helped you train. If you perform superbly at the board, mention the guys in your squad who quizzed you.

But, when you weren’t there, you shouldn’t take any credit. Say who actually did the work. Do not take the recognition, do not take the coin, do not tell stories about it later.

6. You’re always the guy that the team or squad leader has to pull aside.

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Look, sucking at your job is a version of being the blue falcon. It’s not as malicious or direct as being a credit hog or a snitch, but not learning how to fulfill your position in the squad screws everyone else over. Read the manuals, practice the drills, watch the other guys in the squad. Learn your role.

7. Someone sent you this list or tagged you on Facebook in the comments.

Yeah, there’s a reason someone thought you, specifically, should read this list. Go back through it with a comb. Read each entry and keep a tally of which apply to you. Then, stop being a blue falcon. Caw caw.

NOW: The 7 biggest ‘Blue Falcons’ in US military history

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Why you should never run through smoke you didn’t throw

When Army basic training soldier Jennifer Campbell was told to run through smoke on the obstacle course, she leaned into it and went for the awesome photo moment of charging through the thickest plume of smoke.


Want more? This is why officers should just stay in the office

Unfortunately for her, it wasn’t white smoke; it was o-chlorobenzylidene malononitrile, a potent form of tear gas used to teach basic trainees to trust their chemical masks and other gear. But Campbell wasn’t wearing chemical gear; she was running full speed and sucking down air on an obstacle course.

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Jennifer Campbell, a U.S. Army basic trainee, cries after getting hit in the face with CS gas. (Go90 No Sh*t There I Was screenshot)

So the young soldier got two lungs full of the agitating gas, forcing violent coughs as her drill sergeants got a good laugh and the other trainees scrambled to get their masks on.

But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and Campbell got her own laughs when the winds shifted and the rest of her platoon got hit unprotected, including the drill sergeant who triggered her episode. See how it all went down in the Go90 video embedded at the top.

Watch more No Sh*t There I Was:

Why it sucks to report to the ‘Good Idea Fairy’

A Ranger describes what being a ‘towed jumper’ is actually like

This is why the military shouldn’t completely outlaw hazing

Smooth talking your way through gear turn-in is a stinky proposition

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Here is how Russia could shoot down a North Korean missile

North Korea’s latest missile test, carried out this past weekend, ended about sixty miles off the Russian coast. Russia is not happy about the test, as one might imagine. In fact, they may get angry. Of course, we should note that Putin has options aside from sending Kim Jong-un a letter telling him how angry Moscow is.


Russia has long pushed the development of surface-to-air missiles, and the Soviets put that system on the map in 1960 by downing the Lockheed U-2 flown by Francis Gary Powers. In one sense, Russia needs to have good air defenses since their fighters tend to come out second-best when tangling with American or Western designs.

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A USAF Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady. When Russia shot one down in 1960 with a SA-2 Guideline, it proved the surface-to-air missile was a factor in warfare. | U.S. Air Force photo

So, what options does Russia have to shoot down a North Korean missile? Quite a few – and it can be hard to tell them apart.

1. SA-10 Grumble

This is probably the oldest of Russia’s area-defense systems capable of downing a ballistic missile. Like the Patriot, it was initially intended to provide air defense for important targets by shooting down the strike aircraft. It eventually began to cover the tactical ballistic missile threat as well – much as the Patriot made that evolution.

According to GlobalSecurity.org, the baseline SA-10, or S-300PMU, now exported to a number of countries (including Iran), had a maximum range of 124 miles. A navalized version of this missile, the SA-N-6, is used on the Kirov and Slava-class cruisers.

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The SA-10 Grumble system. (DOD image)

2. SA-12 Gladiator

The Russians consider the SA-12 to be a member of the S-300 family. While the S-300 was initially designed to handle planes, the SA-12 was targeted more towards the MGM-52 Lance. Designation-Systems.net notes that the Lance’s W70 warhead could deliver up to a 100-kiloton yield. That could ruin your whole day.

But the development of a conventional cluster munition warhead for the Lance really bothered the Russians, who expected to see a many as 400 Lances launched in the early stages of a war in Europe. GlobalSecurity.org credits the SA-12 with a range of about 62 miles – not as long a reach as the SA-10 but more than enough to take out an incoming missile before it can do harm.

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The SA-12 Gladiator system at an arms expo. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

3. SA-20 Gargoyle

This is an improved version of the SA-10, according to GlobalSecurity.org. It has the same maximum range as the SA-10 version (about 124 miles), but there is a capability to engage faster targets than the baseline SA-10, which usually translates into neutralizing ballistic missiles launched from further away.

The system, also uses several types of missiles — including in the 9M96 family (9M96E1 and 9M96E2) that are smaller than baseline SA-10 missiles. Like the SA-10, there is a naval version, called the SA-N-20, which is on the Pyotr Velikiy and China’s Type 51C destroyers.

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The SA-20 Gargoyle – an improved version of the SA-10. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

4. SA-21 Growler

This is also known as the S-400. The system made headlines when it deployed to Syria after Turkey shot down a Su-24 Fencer jet. The system is often compared to the American Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, but unlike THAAD, it is also capable of hitting aircraft and cruise missiles. GlobalSecurity.org credits the SA-21 with a range of about 250 miles.

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Launch vehicle for the SA-21, which has a range of about 250 miles. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

5. SA-23 Giant

What the SA-20 is to the SA-10, the SA-23 is to the SA-12. This is a substantially improved version of the SA-12, and is intended to deal with longer-range ballistic missiles than the MGM-52 that the SA-12 was intended to take out. The SA-23, also known as the Antey 2500, has a range of 124 miles according to GlobalSecurity.org.

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SA-23 launch vehicles. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Russia’s born-of-necessity work on surface-to-air missiles has lead to some very capable options in air defense. The real scary part is that Russia has been willing to export those systems – and that could mean they will face American pilots sooner rather than later.

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This Marine legend earned three Navy Crosses in a single deployment

Colonel William A. “Ironman” Lee — most often remembered for his exploits as a gunnery sergeant — earned three Navy Crosses between 1930 and 1932 during a single deployment to Nicaragua as a Marine tasked with leading that country’s national guard against violent rebels.


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Lee was a veteran of World War I when he was sent with other American troops to Nicaragua in 1927 to assist the Nicaraguan National Guard in a long-running fight against a leftist rebellion.

The Marines, including Lee, took command of small groups of local soldiers, trained them, and led them in combat.

In 1930, Lee was a gunnery sergeant who led the Nicaraguans against superior enemy forces six times between Mar. 20 and Aug. 19, forcing the enemy to retreat each time. Lee’s men were thought to have killed at least 10 enemy fighters and wounded many more over the span of the ten battles. Lee was awarded his first Navy Cross for his leadership and valor.

In December of the same year, Lee led a 10-day patrol through the jungle and engaged in three heavy fights with the rebels. His men defeated the rebels in each of the firefights, twice while fighting against rebel forces with superior numbers. This action netted Lee his second Navy Cross.

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Two years later, Lee was partnered with then-First Lt. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller as the two led a 40-man Nicaraguan element deep into the jungle, nearly 100 miles from the nearest reinforcements. On the seventh day of the patrol, the men were ambushed by an enemy force estimated at over 150 fighters.

Automatic weapons fire rained down on the Marines and Nicaraguans as rebels fired their rifles and threw grenades. Lee was hit in the arm and head almost immediately at the start of the fight. Puller led the Nicaraguans against the enemy to achieve fire superiority without knowing if Lee was alive or dead.

Luckily for them all, Lee was only unconscious and awoke approximately 15 minutes later as the battle continued. Despite his grievous wounds, he clawed his way to the Nicaraguans’ machine gun, moved it to a good firing position, and started raining hell on the rebels. He then returned to the main element and resumed his duties as the second in command on the final attack.

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U.S. Marines holding the Nicaraguan rebel leader Augusto César Sandino’s Flag. Nicaragua, 1932. (Marine Corps photo)

The Marines and Nicaraguans then conducting a fighting withdrawal back to their base, engaging the enemy multiple times and defeating more ambushes.

Lee was awarded his third and final Navy Cross for his actions while Chesty Puller was awarded his second.

Lee would go on to fight in China during the lead up to World War II. Soon after the war broke out, he and his men were captured by Japanese forces and taken as prisoners of war and tortured. Lee survived the ordeal and continued serving in the Marine Corps until his retirement in 1950. He died of cancer in 1998.

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Here’s how you can help this veteran nonprofit go above and beyond in conservation

Land Rover has always been known for their gorgeous cars dominating rugged terrain. Now, they’re looking to make an impact beyond the highways: in marine and coastal conservation. The company is currently sponsoring a “Defender Above & Beyond Service Awards” for nonprofits to compete for a fully-customized Defender to help their organization go “Above & Beyond.” Five nonprofits remain in the “Marine and Coastal Conservation” category, and only one is veteran-owned and operated: FORCE BLUE.

“Over the past year, there have been incredible displays of bravery and resilience,” Land Rover stated on their website. “As defenders and helpers in your own right, you have been pushed to your limits—only to discover how truly capable you are. We are inspired by your commitment to serving others. And we want to support you.

“For seven decades, Land Rover has been creating hard-working vehicles that are known worldwide for taking service workers on missions to help others. Now we are awarding seven customized Defender models to seven U.S. nonprofits that go Above & Beyond for their communities every day.

“We know that great things happen when a highly capable vehicle is driven by highly capable people.” FORCE BLUE is certainly run by capable people — Jim Ritterhoff and Rudy Reyes.

According to their website, the idea for FORCE BLUE grew out of a dive trip co-founders Ritterhoff and Reyes took to the Cayman Islands in Summer 2015 to meet up with their friend, Keith Sahm, General Manager of Sunset House, the oldest continuously operated dive resort in the Caribbean.

For Ritterhoff and Sahm, experienced recreational divers who’d been reef diving for decades, this was just another week in paradise. But for Reyes, a former Recon Marine who had struggled with PTS and depression since returning home from multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, the experience was nothing short of life changing.

“Here’s this trained combat diver,” Ritterhoff remembers. “One of the best, most highly skilled individuals you’ll ever encounter underwater. Yet he’s never seen a fish.”

For Reyes, like most SOF veterans, diving had never been about exploration or enjoyment. To him diving meant hauling 200 lbs. of gear underwater to destroy some potentially dangerous target in the dead of night. What Cayman offered was transformative.

Reyes immediately proposed scheduling another trip so that he could bring down more of his Recon brothers to experience what he just had. But after a few hours of discussion, the three men hatched a different plan. One that would include combat divers from all branches of service, along with marine scientists, conservationists and journalists.

“We saw it as the ultimate win-win,” says Sahm. “An opportunity to do some good, not only for our veterans, but for the planet as well.”

“By starting a program that isn’t just about helping veterans or just about helping the marine environment, but about helping both, we’re really uniting two worlds.” Says Ritterhoff. Hopefully, FORCE BLUE will encourage each to look at the other with a bit more empathy and understanding.”

Help FORCE BLUE continue to go Above & Beyond by voting once a day, every day until May 3, here.

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Airman seeks to rejoin pararescue team despite loss of leg

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Staff Sgt. August O’Neil, Air Force Wounded Warrior, and fellow pararescueman and Wounded Warrior, Staff Sgt. Nick Robillard, prepare to deliver the Care Beyond Duty flag during the opening ceremony of the 2016 U.S. Air Force Trials at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Feb. 26, 2016. | U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Taylor Curry


In July 2011, Air Force Staff Sgt. August O’Neill, a pararescueman, was sent to rescue a group of Marines pinned down in Afghanistan when enemy insurgents opened fire on his team’s helicopter.

A round bounced off the helicopter’s door, tearing through both of O’Neill’s lower legs and critically wounding his left, resulting in 20 surgeries over the next three-and-a-half years as doctors tried to save the limb.

O’Neill finally told doctors to remove his left leg last year, but he remains determined to continue his career as a pararescueman.

Determined to Resume Career

“I haven’t looked back since,” said O’Neill, who’s training with the 342nd Training Squadron here, as he prepares to requalify for assignment to a pararescue team.

“I knew I wasn’t done doing this job,” he added.

Pararescue isn’t an easy job for any airman, let alone one who’s had their leg amputated just above the knee, but O’Neill believes he’s still up to the task.

“There are going to be issues that come up here and there,” O’Neill said. “But I’m sure I’ll make it back on a team. Just like anybody who hasn’t been in their job for a long time … I basically need to make sure everybody else knows that I’m capable of doing the job, and … I need to make sure I haven’t lost anything that I need.”

Pararescumen serve in one of the most physically demanding fields in the armed forces, with the journey from basic training to joining an operational unit spanning almost two years, according to the technical training course guide.

Seeking a ‘New Normal’

O’Neill said he isn’t expecting any special treatment as he trains over the next few months to demonstrate his mission readiness.

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Wounded warriors and Air Force pararescuemen Staff Sgt. August O’Neill, right, and Staff Sgt. Nick Robillard pose for a portrait with the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program flag at the 2016 U.S. Air Force Trials at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Feb. 26, 2016. | Air Force photo by Senior Airman Taylor Curry

“I wouldn’t want to do this job if I couldn’t meet the same qualifications as everybody else, because that would put the people on my team at risk,” he explained. “You’re only as strong as your weakest member, so if I can’t keep up with them, that means they’re carrying me and that’s not something that I want.”

Living with a prosthetic is a minor annoyance in terms of his daily routine, O’Neill said. He doesn’t sleep with the leg on, for example, so he has to hop to the bathroom or the refrigerator when he wakes in the middle of the night.

“It’s just finding a ‘new normal’ for all the things I was able to do with two legs before,” he explained. “I’ve just been finding ways to get everything done.”

That minor annoyance turns into a bigger challenge during pararescue training, where O’Neill will have to depend on his ingenuity and adaptability to meet the other demands to the job.

“Anything from picking up a patient — where I can’t just roll down on a knee and lift them up — I have to find a different way to brace myself to get people up and move out,” he noted. “Everything is challenging, but it’s just a matter of finding out how to do it.”

As if navigating this “new normal” wasn’t enough, O’Neill said his training has been grueling.

“It’s tough mentally and physically,” he said. “You aren’t pushed to your limit — you’re pushed beyond that — to the limits that the instructors know you can reach. There are so many qualifications that you need to keep up with that you … can’t do so without being mentally prepared.”

One thing, at least, hasn’t changed for O’Neill since returning from his injury.

“I don’t like running,” he chuckled. “I’ve never been a distance runner and after four years of not running … that’s still difficult, but I can still run. It’s not as pretty as it was before, but I’m able to at least get the job done.”

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This one South Carolina county raised 4 Medal of Honor recipients

Pickens County, South Carolina lies in the northwest corner of the state on the border of North Carolina. The rural county has only a few hundred people per square mile and a total population of 120,000. Surprisingly, this small county has produced four Medal of Honor recipients, which makes it the county with the most Medals of Honor per capita in the nation, according to a report in Patch.


Here are the four recipients:

1. Pfc. Charles Barker slowed an enemy advance with hand-to-hand fighting.

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Photo: US Army

Army Pfc. Charles Barker was part of a platoon in Korea that came upon enemy soldiers digging emplacements on a slope June 4, 1953. The patrol engaged the diggers but found itself facing heavy enemy resistance. As mortars began to fall on the platoon, the platoon leader ordered a withdrawal. Barker volunteered to cover the platoon move and was last seen engaged in hand-to-hand combat.

2. Pfc. William McWhorter absorbed an explosive blast to save his assistant gunner.

Army Pfc. William McWhorter was manning a heavy machine gunner in combat on Leyte Island in the Philippines on Dec. 5, 1944 when an enemy demolitions squad rushed his position. McWhorter and his assistant gunner successfully killed some of the attackers, but one managed to throw a fused demolition charge into the trench. McWhorter grabbed it and pulled it into his body just before it exploded. His actions saved the life of the assistant gunner who was able to continue fighting.

3. Lance Cpl. James “Donnie” Howe jumped on a grenade to save another Marine.

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Photo: US Marine Corp

Marine Lance Cpl. James “Donnie” Howe was in a defensive position on a beach bordering bamboo thickets in Vietnam on May 6, 1970. A group of enemy sappers crept unnoticed to the position in the dark of early morning and launched a grenade attack. Howe and two others moved to a better position and began suppressing the enemy. When another grenade landed in the middle of the group, Howe jumped on it and saved the others.

4. Pvt. Furman Smith single-handedly held off an enemy counterattack.

During the Allied advance in Italy in World War II, Army Pvt. Furman Smith was part of an infantry company attack on a strong point. Smith was in the lead element when an attack by 80 Germans succeeded in wounding two men. While the rest of the lead element pulled back to the company’s position, Smith rushed forward. He recovered the wounded and placed them in shell craters that provided some cover. He then took a position nearby and held off the Germans with rifle fire until he was ultimately overrun.

NOW:  9 post-9/11 heroes who should have received the Medal of Honor — but didn’t

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