Capt. Edward Rickenbacker was one of the few American fighter pilots to earn the title “Ace of Aces,” given by the press for his 26 kills in World War I. He is arguably one of the most decorated service members to ever live.
But before he was a decorated hero, Rickenbacker was a professional race car driver who almost wasn’t allowed to fly.
Rickenbacker raced cars from 1912-1917, racing in a number of events including the first Indianapolis 500. He even broke the land speed record, reaching a blistering 134 mph.
When America entered World War I, he volunteered to organize a very unique unit: a fighter squadron filled entirely with race car drivers.
The guts, reflexes, and situational awareness needed to succeed racing early automobiles 100 mph or faster would have served flying squadrons well, but the U.S. Army wasn’t interested. Worse, Rickenbacker was considered too old to become a pilot himself.
The young aviator graduated the pilot’s course 17 days after starting it and began the career that would make him famous.
In his first few months as a pilot, he scored 7 victories, becoming an ace pilot. He took command of his unit, the 94th Pursuit Squadron, and scored two more kills in a daring attack on Sep. 25, 1918, his first day as the commander.
While conducting a solo patrol, he spotted five aircraft. He maneuvered above them unseen and then dove through the formation, downing two and scattering the rest. He received both the French Croix de Guerre and the Medal of Honor for his valor.
It was when he reached 12 kills that the press began calling him the “Ace of Aces,” a title he didn’t like, according to History Net. The three aviators who had been adorned with the title before Rickenbacker were all killed in combat.
The nickname served Rickenbacker better than it did his predecessors. He didn’t just survive the next month, he scored 14 new victories and ended the war with 26.
DARPA wants Navy SEALs to be more seal-like, so they invented PowerSwim.
“Technically it’s called an oscillating foil propulsion device,” DARPA program manager Jay Lowell says, in a video from DARPA TV. “That’s a really fancy way of saying it’s a wing that helps push a diver through the water.”
The typical swimmer fins are no more than 15 percent efficient in their conversion of human exertion. By contrast, PowerSwim helps divers swim 80 percent more efficient. This dramatic improvement in swimming efficiency will enable a subsurface swimmer to move up to two times faster than what’s currently possible, improving performance, safety, and range, according to DARPA.
It all began when the entrenched British forces recognized the “Silent Night, Holy Night” Christmas carol coming from the German side. “Our boys said, ‘Let’s join in.’ So we joined in with the song,” Francis Sumpter told the History Channel.
Confused by the pleasant, yet awkward moment, the British troops didn’t know how to react to what was happening on the German side. So they began to pop their heads over the trench and quickly retreated in case the Germans started shooting.
“And then we saw a German standing up, waving his arms, and we didn’t shoot,” said Pvt. Leslie Wellington, who witnessed the moment.
The Germans approached the British trench calling out “Merry Christmas” in English. At first the British troops thought it was a trick, but when they saw that the Germans were unarmed, they began to climb out of the trenches. Slowly and cautiously, both sides approached each other and began to shake each other’s hands. They exchanged gifts and sang carols together, and even played soccer. For a moment, in the middle of the “Great War,” there was peace on earth.
“By Christmas 1914, every soldier knew that the enemy was sharing the same misery as they were,” Dominiek Dendooven of the Flanders Field Museum in Ypres, Belgium, told the History Channel.
The troops on both sides knew that engaging with the enemy in this manner is treason and grounds for court martial and even punishable by death. This fear alone would motivate both sides to resume fighting.
Both sides would retreat to their trenches that night wondering if they would continue to defy the war the next morning. Pvt. Archibald Stanley remembers how his officer resumed the fighting, “Well, a few of them knocking around, this fella come up the next day. He says, ‘You Still got the armistice?’ He picked up his rifle, and he shot one of those Germans dead.”
The so-called Christmas Truce of 1914 came only five months after the outbreak of war in Europe and was one of the last examples of the outdated notion of chivalry between enemies in warfare. It was never repeated—future attempts at holiday ceasefires were quashed by officers’ threats of disciplinary action—but it served as heartening proof, however brief, that beneath the brutal clash of weapons, the soldiers’ essential humanity endured.
The Marines have been having a hard time with their force of F/A-18 Hornets. The situation was bad enough that a couple of months ago, they pulled nearly two dozen from Davis Monthan Air Force Base’s preservation facility. But things have gotten worse, with three crashes, two of them fatal, over the summer.
The result: The Marines recently called a timeout. All three Marine Air Wings were ordered to halt F/A-18 operations for 24 hours while commanders figure out a way to reduce the accident rate on these planes. As reported by the USNI Blog, each MAW is required to take two such days each year for purposes of sharing “best practices” and to figure out how to improve the Marine Corps’ Hornets’ state of readiness. Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, the Marine Corps’ Deputy Commandant for Aviation, who ordered the stand-down, will receive reports on the readiness of Marine Hornet squadrons.
Service-wide groundings of a particular model of airplane have happened before. F-15s across the United States Air Force were grounded in November 2007 after one Eagle assigned to the Missouri Air National Guard fell apart during a flight. It was later discovered that a longeron (that connects the aircraft’s skin to the frame) failed, causing the aircraft’s mid-flight disintegration. The Air Force retired its F-15A/B models as they, too, aged. A report from The Los Angeles Times at the time of the F-15 crash stated that many F-15s were already under flight restrictions due to concerns about metal fatigue.
Despite the issues that the F-15 force had with fatigue and flight time, the F-22’s production was stopped at 187 airframes in 2009, forcing a number of F-15C airframes (roughly 178 – almost ten squadrons’ worth) to keep soldiering on, despite their advancing age (the last F-15C serial number for the United States Air Force was from Fiscal Year 1986 – over three decades ago).
The Marines use the F/A-18C/D versions of the Hornet, while the bulk of the Navy’s force has transitioned to F/A-18E/F Super Hornets. The Super Hornets have longer range and greater payload, as well as more modern electronics and some signature reduction. The Marines did not buy Super Hornets, choosing to hold out for the F-35. But because of F-35 program delays, the Marine Hornets have had to hold out longer than planned.
This situation is ironic in one sense: The F/A-18 first entered service with the Marine Corps, which was seeking to replace aging F-4 Phantoms. The Hornet drew raves for ease of maintenance and its availability. Now, the F/A-18s are the aging mounts, and the Marines are struggling to keep them airborne.
After serving in the Armed Forces, beginning a rewarding career is one of the most important steps a veteran can take. Sadly, the expense of attending college or enrolling in a vocational training program can be a major obstacle. A fully-online technology program called V School hopes to change that. Partnering with We Are The Mighty, the online school is offering a full-ride scholarshipto help a deserving veteran, active or reserve military member, or one of their dependents on their path to success.
V School has been helping veterans break into tech since 2013.
V School describes itself as a “veteran-backed tech education,” and for good reason. One-third of their staff members are veterans, and the school is approved to accept the G.I. Bill. More importantly, the program is highly-rated and seeks to help students to succeed in more ways than one. Here’s what every student can expect from the V School experience:
A flexible schedule based on content-mastery, not rigid deadlines
Outcome-based training focused on preparing students for future employment.
A student-staff ratio of 1:8
Access to a lifetime of career support from industry insiders
Assistance building a strong portfolio to help land your first job in tech
Mentorship from alumni and fellow vets
After completing the program, graduates are prepared to hit the job market hard.
On Course Report, 55 students have reviewed the school, with an average rating of 4.8 stars out of 5.
Verified reviewer Ryan Pettingill shared one of many rave reviews, stating, “The product this company brings to Utah is absolutely top notch. The mindful teachers and other cooperative faculty work hard every day to provide an excellent learning experience. The skills I have learned here about Website Development surpass anything I could have learned at a traditional 4-year University. Choosing this school may have been the best decision I have ever made to seriously change my career path.”
Who the V School Scholarship is for
If you’re an outstanding member of the military community who’s passionate about coding and ready to step into a new career, we’re talkin’ to you. Military spouses and family are welcome, too!
How to Apply
Prior coding experience isn’t required, but every applicant will need to take an aptitude test to see whether you’d make a good fit for the job. You’ll also have to fill out an application and answer a few essay questions. Easy! If you’re interested in being the recipient of the Full-Ride Military + Veteran Scholarship, apply online right here. V School can’t wait to meet you!
The US believes North Korea fired a missile shortly before midnight Japan time, or 11 am EST July 28, a defense official confirmed to Business Insider — and initial estimates indicate it could be the longest-range missile ever tested by the Hermit Kingdom.
“I can confirm that we detected a launch of a ballistic missile from North Korea,” Lt. Col. Christopher Logan told Business Insider. “We assess that this missile was an intercontinental ballistic missile, as had been expected” Capt. Jeff Davis later said in a Pentagon release.
Ankit Panda, a senior editor at the Asia-focused news website The Diplomat, cited a US source as saying that the missile flew for 47 minutes, reaching an altitude of 2,300 miles and traveling 620 miles. Such a long flight time and high crest suggest a tremendous range.
While North Korea had already demonstrated an intercontinental range with the July 4 test of its Hwasong-14 ICBM, the missile launched July 28 appeared capable of reaching New York or Washington, DC. Yet as with the previous launch, it is unclear whether North Korea has developed the technology to accurately deliver a nuclear warhead to the US mainland.
The missile on July 28 may have landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone, according to the Japanese public broadcaster NHK.
As launching an ICBM at full range could easily be interpreted as an act of war, North Korea lofts its missiles on a steep angle. Therefore a missile that flies only a few hundred miles toward Japan can still demonstrate a range of many thousands of miles.
For weeks, US intelligence monitoring North Korean military sites had predicted another missile test. July 27 marked the Day of Victory in the Great Fatherland Liberation War, a North Korean holiday celebrating the end of the Korean War on July 27, 1953.
North Korea has a pattern of launching missiles on historically significant dates, like its July 4 debut of an ICBM, but the weather July 27 was poor, possibly preventing a launch.
Typically, North Korea waits until the day after a launch to release photos or video from the event, which researchers analyze for insights into Pyongyang’s shadowy missile program.
Have you ever been asked whether you have ever killed someone?
If you are a military veteran, chances are you probably have — and it’s always been awkward. Because honestly, what are you really supposed to say? It’s not a question that most troops want to answer: If it’s a yes, it was likely in combat and just part of your job. If it’s a no, should you feel bad that you weren’t one of the cool kids on your block with a confirmed kill?
From a civilian perspective, most simply don’t know it’s an inappropriate question. In their eyes, troops are taking out bad guys all day long, and they are genuinely curious about how that goes. And for veterans who end up on the receiving end of this question, it’s important to remember this ignorance — and that you were once this clueless too.
So how do vets respond? There are a few ways, ranging from the super-serious to the sarcastic as hell.
1. The super-serious: “That’s not an appropriate question to ask.”
If you want to shut it down right here, you can answer back with this. Because really, it’s hardly ever appropriate to ask that question. No one runs up to World War II vets and asks whether they killed anyone. They are just thanked for their service and left alone, not burdened with potentially rough memories.
2. The serious: “Yes/No, but that’s not something I want to talk about.”
You’ve given the answer to that morbid question, but made it clear that’s all they are going to get. If pressed, you can always revert to explaining that it’s inappropriate.
3. The uncomfortably silent: “Yes/No [pause for dramatic effect]”
If you want to flip the uncomfortableness around on the person asking the question, respond with a simple yes or no and then just look straight back at them, with unblinking eye contact. Talk about awkward.
4. Answering the awkward question with a awkward question: “Have you ever slept with your sister?”
With this one, you can effectively turn the tables and demonstrate just how awkward the question made you. The questioner will likely recoil when asked — similarly to your reaction — and you can then add, “No, huh? Ok let’s talk about something else then.”
5. The True Lies answer: “Yeah, but they were all bad.”
Take a page out of Arnold’s playbook from the film “True Lies.” If you haven’t seen it (what?!), Schwarzenegger plays an international spy but his wife has no clue. When she finds out and starts asking him questions, she gets to the killing question. He tries to soften the blow of this shocking news. I think it went ok.
6. The funny: “You mean today, or in total?”
You could always give an unexpected answer dripping with sarcasm. Go with this one, dramatically saying “not yet,” or give a ridiculous number: Like 67.
“Well my official number if 67, but that’s only confirmed. Pretty sure I’ve gotten a lot more than that.”
So how do you respond? Let us know in the comments.
A new video that called US forces “perverted animals,” and portrayed them under attack was uploaded on a YouTube account run by North Korean propagandists.
In the video published on Saturday, still photos of an aircraft carrier, reportedly the USS Carl Vinson, and a B-1B bomber can be seen in simulated flames, a patriotic speech was recorded over the footage, under North Korea’s characteristically stern tone.
Additionally, photos of US and South Korean forces were displayed, presumably in their annual joint military exercises that take place this time of year.
The narrator in the video declared that “a knife will be stabbed into the throat of the carrier,” and that “the bomber will fall from the sky after getting hit by a hail of fire,” Japan Times reported.
The still photos used in the video resemble photo packages produced by professional news organizations, such as Reuters. Further, there also seems to be an image that bears some semblance to real-time strategy video games.
The same propaganda network was scrutinized in 2013 for a video that placed virtual crosshairs over the US Capitol building and portrayed simulated attacks on New York and Washington.
The video was uploaded shortly after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson traveled to South Korea for the first time as the US’s top diplomat, and saying that “the threat of North Korea is imminent.” Much to North Korea’s chagrin, annual military exercises involving 17,000 US troops and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system are also being conducted in South Korea.
Though the video’s rhetoric may sound inciteful, North Korea has a storied history of using inflammatory verbiage in their broadcasts, often targeting their southern counterpart and the US.
Retired Navy Vice Adm. Diego Hernandez, who was the first Hispanic-American to serve as vice commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, has died at the age of 83.
According to a report by the Miami Herald, Hernandez, a Vietnam War veteran who was shot down twice and awarded the Silver Star among other decorations, passed away on July 7 after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease. Hernandez was best known as the Navy’s highest-ranking officer of Hispanic descent.
Born in 1934, Hernandez came from a working-class family in Puerto Rico. In 1955, after graduating from the Illinois Institute of Technology, he entered the Navy. In 1956, he was designated a Naval Aviator. After flying 147 combat missions over Vietnam, he attended the Naval War College and served on the faculty.
His later career included tours commanding VF-84 (the famous “Jolly Rogers”), Air Wing Six, the carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67), and the Third Fleet.
During his time at the Third Fleet, Hernandez played a major role in integrating Alaska into United States Pacific Command and turning that force into one that was ready to take on the Soviets around the Aleutian Islands and off the Kamchatka Peninsula.
“Duke’s task was to turn this ‘McHale’s Navy’-style lash-up into a proper combat-oriented staff. It fell to Duke to awaken the whole Pacific Fleet to this, shall we say, cold reality,” retired Navy Capt. Charles Connor told the Miami Herald.
After commanding the Third Fleet, Hernandez took the post as vice commander as NORAD, which also made him the deputy commander of Space Command.
“He had his hands on the red buttons with all our atomic warfare,” former Miami mayor Maurice Ferré told the Miami Herald.
The ship made famous in the book and subsequent film “The Perfect Storm” has been intentionally sunk off the New Jersey and Delaware coasts so it can become part of an artificial reef.
The sinking of the Tamaroa, a 205-foot (62-meter) Coast Guard vessel, took place May 10. The sinking initially was scheduled to occur several months ago, but was repeatedly delayed by rough seas and other related issues.
The vessel was sent down about 33 nautical miles (61 kilometers) off the coast of Cape May, New Jersey. It was deployed in water more than 120 feet (36.5 meters) deep after patches were removed from holes that were pre-cut into its hull, according to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
The pre-cut holes were part of the extensive work that had to be done before the ship could be sunk, including the removal of interior paneling and insulation as well as emptying and cleaning the vessel of all fuel and fluids.
The ship turned on its side as it slowly went down in the calm water, then turned straight up as the bulk of the vessel went under water. It then disappeared from view as a person on board a neighboring vessel thanked the Tamaroa for its long service.
A tugboat had started hauling the Tamaroa from a Norfolk, Virginia, shipyard on Monday afternoon and it slowly made its way up the Eastern Seaboard on Tuesday without any issues.
The Tamaroa was first commissioned by the U.S. Navy in 1934 under the name Zuni and saw action during World War II when it helped tow damaged vessels across the war-torn Pacific Ocean. It was transferred to the Coast Guard and renamed in 1946, then continued to serve until it eventually was decommissioned in 1994.
The vessel’s most notable mission came in October 1991, when three strong storm systems came together off the New England coast, generating 40-foot (12-meter) waves and wind gusts of more than 70 mph.
The Tamaroa’s crew helped save three people aboard a sailboat that was caught in the storm. They also rescued four of five crewmen of an Air National Guard helicopter that ran out of fuel during a similar rescue mission and had to be ditched in the ocean.
Both events were documented in Sebastian Junger’s 1997 book, “The Perfect Storm,” and a movie of the same name starring George Clooney.
Ra may be supplying the Taliban as they fight and NATO forces in Afghanistan, a top commander said Thay.
“We have seen the influence of Ra of late – an increased influence – in terms of association and perhaps even supply to the Taliban,” Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander and General, told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
Scaparrotti did not elaborate on what kinds of supplies might be provided or how direct Ra’s involvement could be.
His comments are built on suspicions raised last month by General John Nicholson, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, who testified that Ra is giving the Taliban encouragement and diplomatic cover. Nicholson did not, however, address whether Ra was supplying the terrorist group.
“Ra has been legitimizing the Taliban and supporting the Taliban,” he told VOA’s Afghan service in an interview last month.
Ra, which had an ill-fated intervention in Afghanistan that started in 1979 and ended nearly a decade later, has been trying to exert influence in the region again and has set up six-country peace talks next week that exclude .
On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the Constitution, establishing the document as the “supreme law of the land.”
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Post Revolutionary War, it quickly became apparent that the Articles of Confederation — America’s first national government wherein states acted together only for specific purposes — needed a makeover. Cue the Constitution of the United States, which created, among other things, a system of checks and balances for a more centralized federal government with the power of the union vested in the people.
The Constitutional Convention began in May of 1787, with delegates shuttered within the State House and sworn to secrecy so they could speak freely. By mid-June, they had decided to completely redesign the government. One of the biggest arguments was over congressional representation, which resulted in a compromise: the Senate would comprise two representatives from each state while the House of Representatives would give each state one representative for every 30,000 people. In this agreement, enslaved persons were counted as three-fifths of a person, even though they were stripped of their power or voice.
Ratification of the Constitution required nine out of the thirteen states’ approval, which took about six heated months to accomplish.
The Constitution took effect in 1789. It has been amended 27 times to meet the needs of the nation, with the first 10 amendments making up the Bill of Rights. Fun fact: The United States Constitution is the oldest written constitution still in use in the world.
Featured Image: Washington as Statesman at the Constitutional Convention (Junius Brutus Stearns, 1810-1885).
It was a dynamic, often turbulent, year around the military community. 2015 saw domestic terrorism, growing aggression from former Cold War adversaries, and the Pentagon dealing with unprecedented budgetary and cultural challenges. Here are WATM’s picks for the top 15 stories of the year:
1. The “American Sniper” controversy
The Clint Eastwood-helmed biopic from real-life American sniper Chris Kyle divided the U.S. like a red Starbucks cup. The film earned a whopping $100 million during its opening weekend, but inconsistencies from the book and the depictions of certain onscreen combat actions (like taking aim at a child in Iraq, for example) sparked a few anti-war tweets from actor Seth Rogen and filmmaker Michael Moore. The movie also caused a backlash about how much of a hero Kyle really was, bringing into question whether the all of the events Kyle wrote about really happened.
As much as military experts lauded the film for “getting it right” in terms of technical detail and overall atmospherics (including the challenges of reintegration) “American Sniper” also exposed that the civilian-military divide is alive and well.
2. Troops deployed to fight Ebola outbreak return from West Africa
In 2014, President Obama ordered 2,800 U.S. troops and Department of Defense personnel to West Africa to help combat the Ebola epidemic there. Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea were the hardest hit, with more than 22,000 reported cases and more than 8,000 confirmed deaths from the virus. U.S. troops were vital to the mission to contain the victims and maintain the quarantines. In February 2015, all but 100 of those troops deployed returned home, not a single one infected by the virus.
“Military engineers oversaw the building of new Ebola Treatment Units; military logisticians directed the deployment of life-saving resources from across the globe; and military doctors supported the brave men and women who treated patients every day,” said Rajiv Shah, then-head of the U.S. Agency for International Development.
3. Bowe Bergdahl faces general court martial
The Army, for more than a year, deliberated on just how to deal with the aftermath of the Bowe Bergdahl incident. Though it is clear Bergdahl walked away from his post during his last deployment to Afghanistan in June 2009 and was held until his release in a prisoner exchange with the Taliban in 2014, the Army stated its belief that there is no evidence Bergdahl engaged in any misconduct while held captive by the Taliban and Haqqani Network. The matter was sent before a four-star general to review the facts for a possible court martial.
In March, the Army charged Bergdahl with “desertion with intent to shirk important or hazardous duty” and one count of “misbehavior before the enemy by endangering the safety of a command, unit or place.” Sgt. Bergdahl’s story is now the subject of the wildly popular “Serial” podcast, featuring interviews with those for Bergdahl’s unit, as well as his Taliban captors.
4. Donald Trump blasts Sen. John McCain’s service record
Trump was speaking at the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa in July when moderator Frank Luntz asked the Presidential candidate about an incident where McCain referred to Trump’s supporters as “the crazies.” Luntz referred to the Arizona Senator as a “war hero.”
“He’s a war hero because he was captured… I like people who weren’t captured,” Trump replied and then told the audience that McCain “graduated last in his class at Annapolis (Naval Academy).” After the event, Trump released a statement:
“I am not a fan John McCain because he has done so little for our veterans… I have great respect for all those who serve in our military including those that weren’t captured and are also heroes.”
The statement was condemned by the Republican Party, other GOP hopefuls, and much of the American media. Sen. McCain did not immediately comment. McCain, who was shot down over North Vietnam in 1967, spent the next six years being beaten and tortured as a POW in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton.” He appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joeshortly after Trump’s remarks, but did not demand an apology.
“I’m not a hero,” the 78-year-old senator said. “But those who were my senior ranking officers … those that inspired us to do things we otherwise wouldn’t be capable of doing, those are the people I think he owes an apology to.”
“I think he may owe an apology to the families of those who have sacrificed in conflict and those who have undergone the prison experience in serving their country,” McCain added. “When Mr. Trump says he prefers to be with people who are not captured, the great honor of my life was to be in the company of heroes.”
5. Marines who lowered the American Flag in Havana raise it again
In January 1961, three U.S. Marines in Havana, Cuba lowered the U.S. embassy flag for the last time. The day before, President Eisenhower severed diplomatic relations with Cuba after a coup brought dictator Fidel Castro to power. Castro ordered all but 11 U.S. diplomats to leave Cuba.
6. U.S. troops Spencer Stone and Alek Skarlatos prevent terror attacks on a Paris train
In August 2015, a heavily armed Moroccan national was set to shoot up a Paris-bound train, killing as many people as possible. As he exited the bathroom, two Frenchmen attempted to wrest the would-be shooter’s AKM rifle away. One was shot through the neck, the other fell to the floor. At that point three Americans — a civilian named Anthony Sadler, U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone and U.S. Army Specialist Alek Skarlatos — jumped the gunman. Stone put the man in a choke hold, taking repeated stab wounds from a box cutter, while Skarlatos took the attacker’s rifle, beating him in the head until the man lost consciousness.
As others restrained the attacker, Stone (who is an Air Force medic) tended to the wounds of the first passenger, pushing his finger on the neck artery to stop the bleeding. All survived. Sadler, Skarlatos, and Stone were named Knights of the Legion d’Honneur by French President Francois Hollande. Sadler received the Secretary of Defense Medal for Valor (civilian equivalent of the Distinguished Service Cross). Skarlatos received the Soldier’s Medal (the highest non-combat award). And Stone was awarded the Airman’s Medal, and Purple Heart. Stone also received a STEP promotion to staff sergeant after his regular promotion to senior airman.
7. First female soldiers earn Ranger Tabs
The two female officers, Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, became the first women to complete the U.S. Army’s grueling Ranger school at Fort Benning, Georgia amid the ongoing debate about the roles of women fighting in combat. Griest is a military police officer and Haver is an Apache helicopter pilot. Both are graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The two were among 19 women who started the course. A third woman graduated in October.
8. Russia enters the Syrian Civil War
In September, Russian military aircraft carried out the country’s first airstrikes in support of President Bashar al-Asad’s regime in Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin maintained his forces were attacking ISIS positions, but there were many reports of Russian forces attacking anti-regime positions. Russia’s support for Syria goes back to the Cold War and the Soviet Union’s support for Asad’s father, Hafez al-Asad who ruled Syria for almost 30 years before his death in 2000. The issue was made even more complicated after Turkey shot down a Russian aircraft for violating Turkish airspace.
9. Marine Corps publishes a study about gender-integrated units
The Marine Corps released a summary of results in September 2015 based on a nine-month study of gender-integrated units in combat situations. Called “Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force,” the four-page summary described how all-male units performed significantly better on 69 percent of tactical tasks and how female Marines were injured at twice the rate of men. The study also claimed that all-male units were faster, stronger, had less body fat, and were more accurate with every standard individual weapon like M4 carbines and M203 grenade launchers.
The study’s summary did note the performance of female Marines in individual combat situations and in current overall combat operations, saying: “Female Marines have performed superbly in the combat environments of Iraq and Afghanistan and are fully part of the fabric of a combat-hardened Marine Corps after the longest period of continuous combat operations in the Corps’ history.”
10. Training “Moderate” Syrian rebels falls apart
The first round of American-trained “moderate” Syrian fighters made their way into Syria in September 2015. They were quickly routed by or defected to the al-Qaeda affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra Front, a Sunni Islamist group. Al-Nusra stormed the rebel headquarters and took some of the fighters hostage. Later the same month, 75 more American-trained Syrian rebels entered the country via Turkey, where the majority of the training takes place. Almost immediately, those U.S.-backed fighters surrendered to the al-Nusra front. The “vetted” U.S.-backed leader, Anas Obaid, told al-Nusra he intentionally deceived the U.S. to get the weapons.
The U.S.’ $500 million dollar plan to arm and train “moderate” Syrian rebels was a disaster. CENTCOM, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East, reported of the 5,400 rebels planned to be in Syria fighting ISIS this year, there were only “four or five” active fighters in country. The CENTCOM spokesman went on to say there is no way the goal could be reached in 2015. The Obama Administration nixed the plan to train rebels by October 9th.
11. Congress saves A-10 from the Air Force
The A-10 Thunderbolt II is the only aircraft built specifically for a close-air support mission. The signature feature is its 30mm gatling gun, the GAU-8 Avenger. The distinctive sound made by the weapon (the BRRRRRT – created as rounds fire faster than the speed of sound), has been music to the ears of the troops on the ground, so much so that the plane has earned the nickname of “the grunt in the air.” The Air Force wanted to retire the slow-moving but stout plane to make room in their budget for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III says is “designed for the whole battlespace.” But critics claim the F-35 ill-suited for the close air support mission.
In the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress ordered the Air Force to produce a reliable, independent study on how they will replace the A-10’s CAS mission while providing the necessary funds to keep the Warthog flying.
12. President Obama extended U.S. military’s Afghan mission into 2017
They won’t have a direct combat role, but U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan through 2017. When President Obama leaves office in 2017, 5,500 troops will remain in Afghanistan. A resurgent Taliban and a growing ISIS threat will keep the U.S. forces busy as they work to keep the Afghan government in power.
The Obama Administration announced the extension in October. The War in Afghanistan is almost 15 years old and claimed the lives of 2,230 service members and cost more than $1 trillion. The new yearly plan costs upwards of $15 billion per year.
13. ISIS and China hack DoD computers, stealing troops’ personal data
In mid-October, a native of Kosovo was detained in Malaysia and alleged to be the hacker who had forced his way into the U.S. government software that held the personal information of U.S. troops and federal workers. The Kosovar, said to have ties to ISIS, stole data belonging to 1,300 people and gave it to the terror group’s hacking division.
One month prior, Chinese hackers forced their way into the systems of the Office of Personnel Management, and stole 5.6 million fingerprints, which, in turn, affected the compromised the records of 21.5 million Federal employees and applicants. The personal data also potentially contained information about intelligence agents posted overseas. The data included the employees’ biographical forms used when applying for sensitive or classified jobs.
14. All Combat Jobs are opened to women
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter ordered the Pentagon to open all military combat roles to women, rejecting limitations on the most dangerous military jobs. The secretary’s orders gave the branches until January 1st to plan their changes and force those combat roles open to women by April 1st, including infantry, reconnaissance, and special operations forces.
Women already have access to most front-line roles in the Army, Navy and Air Force. Earlier in 2015, women were integrated into the Navy’s Submarine Service. Women have been serving as fighter pilots in the Air Force and Navy since 1993, and the Army has been fighting to open its infantry positions to women since September 2015. The defense secretary’s rationale was simply that any qualified candidate should be allowed to compete for the jobs.
15. U.S. deploys special forces ground troops to fight ISIS
In a departure from the U.S. military’s policy of providing air support and “advisors” to support Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces fighting ISIS (Daesh) in Iraq and Syria, Defense Secretary Ash Carter authorized the deployment of additional special operations forces in Iraq to conduct raids to free hostages, capture Daesh leaders, and gather intelligence.
Earlier in the year, the U.S. deployed 3,300 troops to Iraq in training and advisory capacities, as well as support for air operations. The new standing force will be based in Iraq but conduct operations in Iraq and in Syria. The total special force could number up in the hundreds. In October, U.S. special forces and Iraqi troops conducted a raid on an ISIS compound to free 70 Iraqi prisoners, resulting in the first U.S. castualty in the war against ISIS.