World War I's bloodiest front is one you've never heard of - We Are The Mighty
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World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of

The Isonzo campaign, fought in present-day Slovenia from June 1915 to November 1917 between Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, is one of the bloodiest series of battles during World War I, yet is hardly remembered outside of the countries involved. A dozen engagements that often ran into each other ended up costing 1.7 million casualties, and the stalemate was only ended with the disastrous Italian defeat at Caporetto.


After Italy entered the war in May 1915, the Isonzo Valley presented the only real option for serious offensive operations into Austria, since the remainder of the front was mountainous terrain heavily fortified by the Austro-Hungarians. But the Isonzo River, called the Sloca River today, presented a formidable obstacle, and the fortifications in the hills overlooking the river made any crossing almost impossible.

The Italian Army’s Chief of Staff, Luigi Cadorna, believed that a determined attack could break through the enemy lines, seize the strategic towns of Gorizia and Trieste, and set the stage for a march on Vienna. He assembled two field armies for the offensive, and the Austro-Hungarians, despite disastrous losses in the fighting in Serbia and Galicia, foresaw the coming attack and assembled 100,000 men for the defense.

Cadorna, like many of his contemporaries, was a firm believer in the offensive and the frontal assault, but operations in the area would not be easy. The Isonzo River was prone to flooding, and the terrain difficulties surrounding it were extreme, with enemy fortifications dug in atop steep rocky slopes. The Italian army was also suffering from a shortage of modern artillery, making a direct attack even more hazardous.

The Italian offensive began on June 23, sparking the First Battle of Isonzo. Italian soldiers found themselves charging head-long uphill into barbed-wire and fortifications that their artillery had been unable to break up, and attempting to cross the Isonzo while under ferocious Austro-Hungarian counter-barrages. The fighting raged until Austro-Hungarian reinforcements arrived and stopped the offensive in its tracks. The Italian Army had suffered nearly 15,000 casualties, nearly double the enemies, while achieving practically no real gains.

This was a pattern that was to repeat itself throughout 1915 in three more failed Italian assaults, resulting in a quarter of a million casualties with no significant success. Cadorna showed himself particularly incapable of learning from the carnage, and was himself usually as far as 50 kilometers behind the front lines. He was also a savage disciplinarian, routinely ordering the execution of soldiers for cowardice and straggling.

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
Captured Italian soldiers are escorted to the rear by German soldiers during the Battle of Caporetto.

A fifth attack in March of 1916 also failed, but then an opportunity seemed to present itself. After appeals from the French to lessen the pressure they were feeling at Verdun from the Germans, the Russians launched a massive offensive under General Aleksei Brusilov against the Austro-Hungarians at Lusk in modern day Ukraine. The Austro-Hungarians desperately shifted troops north from the Italian front, and Cadorna took advantage of this weakness. The sixth attack launched on August 6 was the Italian’s only real success of the entire campaign, seizing territory along a 20-km front and the town of Gorizia, but at the cost of over 50,000 Italian casualties.

The Italians continued to launch offensives into 1917, and despite Italy’s terrible losses the Austro-Hungarians were beginning to feel the war of attrition. They simply did not have the manpower the Italians had, and and their lines near Gorizia were on the brink of collapse. At last, appeals to Germany for reinforcements were answered, and a combined offensive was launched against the Italians at Caporetto, who were all forward deployed with no reserves for a defense in depth.

At 2 a.m. on October 24, a massive artillery barrage featuring high explosives, smoke, and huge quantities of chemical weapons caught the Italian 2nd Army completely by surprise. Their lines were broken almost immediately by special German stormtrooper units practicing new assault tactics featuring flamethrowers and the mass use of hand grenades. By October 30 the Italians had withdrawn past the Tagliomento river. Italy had lost over 300,000 men in a week, most of them taken prisoner.

The scale of the disaster led to the dismissal of Cadorna, shook the Allied governments, and led to France and England hurriedly rushing reinforcements to Italy. The Germans and Austro-Hungarians could not sustain the offensive, but Isonzo as a viable front for the Italians was essentially gone. Two and half years and more than a million and a half casualties from both sides had resulted in no gains to speak of.

Even in the carnage of World War I, the Isonzo campaign stands out for bloodshed concentrated in a single sector. Cadorna in particular was one of the most callous, stubborn, and unimaginative generals in a war noted for such leaders, and the Italian Army paid a terrible price for his ruthlessness and incompetence. The Isonzo and the disaster at Caporetto became a byword for failure in Italy, and the disillusionment caused by Italy’s massive losses in the war with little to show for it played a large role in the rise of fascism and dictator Benito Mussolini. Like so much of World War I, the Isonzo campaign played its own role in sparking World War II over 20 years later.

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7 things you need in your bug out bag when sh** gets real

When the time comes to get out of the house and hit the road for a few days to reach a safe place, what do you take with you? What if you lived in Washington D.C. and need to get to your cousin’s house in Charleston, West Virginia, among the throngs of frightened masses choking the roadways and buying up all the supplies during a natural disaster? A simple answer is a bug out bag.


Bug out bags are just what the name implies — bags you and your family can grab at a moment’s notice and bug out of the area. A bug out bag can get you through a few days by itself, but it’s a temporary means to an end. The water and food will eventually run out so you have to pack one in a methodical manner that meets your expectations and criteria. When prepping bags, it’s important to keep in mind a few things:

What is the threat? What are you running from? Where are you running to?

What is the environment? A bug out bag for a family living in the Everglades is not going to look much like a bug out bag for a family living in Anchorage. Determine what it is you need the most of — water, heat, food, etc?

How much can you and your family carry? If you’re a big guy and can carry a lot, then by all means find a large rucksack and maximize it. But if you have kids (who should all be carrying their own bags), take their capabilities into account and pack accordingly.

Be redundant. That old cliché “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is very true of bug out bags. Let’s say you and your family are crossing a stream and one bag gets lost down river. If that bag had the only Epi Pen for your allergic son, you’ve just made your situation worse.

I have three kids and packed each of them a bag according to how much they can carry and what they would need to survive in the Northern Virginia area for 5 days with no assistance. Our area has a lot of natural water sources, so I’m not overly concerned with finding water. All three bags have the following basics:

1. Water

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
The human body cannot survive without water! Keep this primary directive in mind. Water packets are great for the short term, but you will need to find a water source as soon as possible. My bags all have 5 purified water packets, a folding water bottle, and water purification tablets so I can fill a bottle, disinfect it, and drink fairly quickly. I also have a Life Straw in each bag so we can drink from any source on the go.

2. Five days of meals

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of

For food preparation, I have included a small folding stove, a canteen cup, and 2 cans of camp fuel or heat tabs is great for boiling water for freeze dried meals.

One set of steel utensils or a multi-use eating tool is a must.

3. Fire making materials

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
Redundancy is key here. It’s easy to carry several forms of fire making materials without overloading the pack. Wise Fire Starter, fire sticks, butane lighters, and flint are all fairly lightweight.

4. Items to keep you warm and dry

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
Everyone needs to stay warm and dry. Chemically activated hand and body warmers, gloves, a ski cap, an emergency blanket, and a folding poncho are easy to find and relatively small.

5. Light

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
Have a mix of direct light (flashlights, head lamps) and marking lights (chem lights). A powerful handheld flashlight can also act as a blinder for animals and humans. Pack an extra set of batteries for whatever light you choose. Several companies make flashlights that don’t need batteries.

6. First aid kit

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
Each bag has a small, basic first aid kit with bandages, alcohol wipes, gauze, and other basic items. I also put one trauma pack and a snake bite kit in each bag.

Make sure you include basic meds and specific meds for each particular person. Each bag has a travel container of Neosporin, Advil, Tylenol, Benadryl, Orajel, Blistex, Dayquil, Nyquil, Gold Bond, insect wipes, sun block, and a protective mask. One of my sons requires an inhaler and an Epi Pen, as well.

Hygiene is more important than you think. Besides fighting off bacteria and infections, a basic cleaning can raise your morale. Each bag should have a small travel pack of toothpaste, toothbrush, body wash, baby wipes, tissues, a cloth, and hand sanitizer. Add other items as needed.

7. Tools and Weapons

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
A Gerber or other multi tool is a must as is a good pocket knife. I like to pack a small shovel, a tree saw, a fishing kit, and a Mace gun with extra cartridges. I also have a multi-use bracelet on the outside of the bag with a compass, cord and flint.

A few more miscellaneous things:

Toss in a whistle with a compass, a deck of cards, a notepad, a signal mirror, a signal flag, a NIOSH approved face mask, and a watch that doesn’t need a battery. A small survival manual is a good idea if you can find one.

Include three pairs of underwear and socks per person. If you can fit a change of clothes, do so.

As for basic communications, everyone has a cell phone nowadays, which is good and bad. They provide immediate communications, but the networks they rely on can be knocked out easily. Backup comms are a must. A simple battery operated radio with a limited range in each bag provides short range comms and most importantly, can help avoid family members getting separated.

I keep an IFAK (Individual First Aid Kit) on the outside of my ruck so it can be accessed easily. If I’m injured, I want my kids to be able to get to it and treat me without having to dig through the ruck. I also keep my ammo on the outside for easy access.

I carry a small tent and, just to be safe, I put an extra set of my son’s prescription meds in my ruck. I keep my ruck in the car because I’d rather have it with me at work and on vacations than sitting in my basement where it doesn’t do anyone any good. Also, if I find myself in a survival situation (snowstorm, car failure, zombie apocalypse, etc) I’m ready.

There are a lot of companies that sell pre-packed bug out bags that are a great start, but I encourage you to customize them to your situation and environment. I highly recommend my friend Tim Kennedy’s Sheepdog Response website.

Stay ready!

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Artist takes his craft to war and back again

When Poto Liefi awoke on September 11, 2001 he wasn’t thinking about being a soldier or going to war. He was a 38-year-old commercial artist working in Los Angeles, and he had just helped launch a new Sketchers shoe campaign for Target.


Poto was good at what he did and enjoyed the work.

After Poto pivoted from fine arts to commercial arts – a few years out of art school – he went from working on clothing and backpack lines to designing shoes.

“I learned how to create a product line,” he said. “And I also learned where my work fit relative to the entire product line.”

He followed his work for Sketchers with a line of hiking boots that, in turn, turned into Taos footwear, a women’s shoe company.

Then the World Trade Center towers fell, and the Pentagon was hit.

He decided to join the Army. Most of his colleagues in the designer world thought he was crazy. Even his recruiter – after visiting his expansive glass office – asked why he was leaving a comfortable world behind.

“I wasn’t satisfied with work anymore,” Poto said. “I had the news going all the time, and I felt a sense of responsibility to do something.”

The maximum age for recruits had just been upped from 34 to 42 when Poto showed up to Fort Jackson for basic training as a 38 year-old recruit. “I lucked out big time,” he said.

After boot camp he was given a 25M Multimedia Illustrator designation. “At first I thought it was stupid to get paid peanuts for the same job I was doing on the outside,” he said. “But after I did the research I saw there was a lot more to it.”

Poto was assigned to 304th Psychological Operations Company, and in 2008 he deployed to Fallujah, Iraq. He immediately put his skills to work on posters, billboards, and web content.

“I was surprised at what we were able to do with the proper messaging,” he said. “We actually had campaigns, branding the Iraqi Security Forces. We were getting a good, consistent message on the streets, and getting locals to rally around an ideology.”

He returned to the U.S. at the end of 2008. Less than a year and a half later he was deployed again, this time to Afghanistan with the 344th Psychological Operations Company.

“Just as I’d sold Iraq to the Iraqis I had to sell Afghanistan to Afghans.”

Part of the time Poto worked with the Australian Army based in Uruzgan, and there he realized they needed to deviate from the standard Army playbook to be effective.

“We had to take our military goggles off,” he said. “We weren’t the only media outlet the locals were exposed to.”

But in spite of the challenges Poto believes they accomplished their mission. He sums up his experience at war with a simple thought: “Pride shows.”

He returned home in March of 2011, a 43-year-old corporal ready to transition back to the civilian workforce. But it was anything but a smooth process. Reintegration was tough in spite of his pre-military work experience, a circumstance he blames on his age and the stigma of post traumatic stress. It took him three years to find a full-time job.

He finally landed a job as a supply chain manager at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Corona, California.

Poto’s transition advice to veterans following him back to the civilian side is straightforward: “Never feel entitled,” he said. “Be thankful, be respectful, and be real still.”

At the same time he held fast to his creative side. One day he took the image of a soldier who’d fallen in Iraq – PFC Corrina Lau – and superimposed it into a classic war poster. The result was powerful and immediate.

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of

“I got very emotional reactions from the first people I showed the artwork to,” Poto said. “They said things like, ‘This is alive.'”

Poto did similar artwork for the families of other fallen warriors, and the response compelled him to brand the effort “Freedom’s On Me.”

“Freedom’s On Me is a way to keep the legacies of these service members alive,” Poto explains. “These are people that were in the military, not a bunch of robots.”

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of

See more about Poto’s artwork at Freedomsonme.com and on Facebook.

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10 leadership lessons to live by, straight from the Army’s top enlisted leader

Prior Sergeant Major of the Army Dailey offered some powerful guidance for the “backbone of the Army,” the non-commissioned officers’ corps. In case you missed it the first time we posted it, here it is:


No. 1. Yelling doesn’t make you skinny. PT does.

If you’re not out there saluting the flag every morning at 6:30, you can automatically assume your soldiers are not. Soldiers don’t care if you’re in first place. They just want to see you out there. This is a team sport. PT might not be the most important thing you do that day, but it is the most important thing you do every day in the United States Army. The bottom line is, wars are won between 6:30 and 9.

No. 2. Think about what you’re going to say before you say it.

I’ve never regretted taking the distinct opportunity to keep my mouth shut. You’re the sergeant major. People are going to listen to you. By all means, if you have something important or something informative to add to the discussion, then say it. But don’t just talk so people can hear you. For goodness sake, you’re embarrassing the rest of us. Sit down and listen. Sometimes you might just learn something.

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
DoD Photo by Cpl. Christopher Mendoza

No. 3. If you find yourself having to remind everyone all of the time that you’re the sergeant major and you’re in charge, you’re probably not.

That one’s pretty self-explanatory.

No. 4. You have to work very hard at being more informed and less emotional.

Sergeants major, I’ll put it in simple terms: Nobody likes a dumb loudmouth. They don’t. Take the time to do the research. Learn how to be brief. Listen to people, and give everyone the time of day. Everyone makes mistakes, even sergeants major, and you will make less of them if you have time to be more informed.

No. 5. If you can’t have fun every day, then you need to go home.

You are the morale officer. You don’t have to be everyone’s friend, but you do have to be positive all the time. The sergeant major is the one everyone looks to when it’s cold, when it’s hot, when it’s raining, or things are just going south. Your job is to keep the unit together. That’s why you’re there. The first place they will look when things go bad is you, and they will watch your reaction.

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
DoD Photo by Lance Cpl. Joseph Abrego

No. 6. Don’t be the feared leader. It doesn’t work.

If soldiers run the other way when you show up, that’s absolutely not cool. Most leaders who yell all the time, they’re in fact hiding behind their inability to effectively lead. Soldiers and leaders should be seeking you, looking for your guidance, asking you to be their mentors on their Army career track, not posting jokes about you on the ‘Dufflebag blog’. That’s not cool. Funny, but it’s not cool.

No. 7. Don’t do anything — and I mean anything — negative over email.

You have to call them. Go see them in person. Email’s just a tool. It’s not a substitute for leadership. It’s also permanent. You’ve all heard it. Once you hit ‘send,’ it’s official, and you can never bring it back. Automatically assume that whatever you write on email will be on the cover of the Army Times and all over Facebook by the end of the week. Trust me, I know this personally.

No. 8. It’s OK to be nervous. All of us are.

This happens to be my favorite. It came from my mother. My mom always used to tell me that if you’re not nervous on the first day of school, then you’re either not telling the truth, you either don’t care, or you’re just plain stupid. [Being nervous] makes you try harder. That’s what makes you care more.  Once that feeling is gone, once you feel like you have everything figured out, it’s time to go home, because the care stops.  Don’t do this alone. You need a battle buddy. You need someone you can call, a mentor you can confide in. Don’t make the same mistakes someone else has made. Those are the dumb mistakes. Don’t do this alone.

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
Sergeant Major Dailey. DoD Photo by Timothy Hale

No. 9. If your own justification for being an expert in everything you do is your 28 years of military experience, then it’s time to fill out your 4187 [form requesting personnel action] and end your military experience.

Not everything gets better with age, sergeants major. You have to work at it every day. Remember, you are the walking textbook. You are the information portal. Take the time to keep yourself relevant.

No. 10. Never forget that you’re just a soldier.

That’s all you are. No better than any other, but just one of them. You may get paid a little more, but when the time comes, your job is to treat them all fair, take care of them as if they were your own children, and expect no more from them of that of which you expect from yourself.

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Team Red, White & Blue raised over $1.25 million with the Old Glory Relay

Old Glory traveled through 10 states and touched more than 8,000 hands on its 4,216 mile journey across America this year. Now the third annual Old Glory Relay across the United States has come to an end.


Organized by Team Red, White Blue, the national event spans 62 days and brings together runners, cyclists, walkers and hikers who have a shared interest in connecting with veterans and civilians to the communities they call home.

With support from incredible members and sponsors like Microsoft, Westfield, The Schultz Family Foundation, Amazon, Salesforce, Starbucks and La Quinta Inn Suites, the event raised more than $1,250,000! Team RWB will then use the donations to help establish new chapters across the United States and to sponsor events where veterans and community members with a shared interest in social and physical activities can get together for a little PT and camaraderie.

You can read more about Team Red, White Blue’s success with the Old Glory Relay here.

There are many ways to get involved with Team Red, White Blue, so join the team and get started today. There are always local events happening, and keep an eye out for Team RWB’s national events like the Old Glory Relay!

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These are the 11 biological weapons the Soviets wanted to use on the US

World War II and the Cold War brought out the worst in everyone. So it should be a surprise to no one to find out the Soviet Union developed biological warfare agents almost as soon as the dust from the October Revolution settled.


Despite being a signatory to the Geneva Convention of 1925 – which outlawed chemical and biological weapons – and the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, the Soviets had dozens of sites to develop eleven agents for use on any potential enemy.

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
Guess who.

The Russian Bioweapons program would be the most capable, deadliest program in the world. It was complete with viruses and pathogens that were genetically-altered and antibiotic resistant, with sophisticated delivery systems.

When the Soviet Union fell, the scientists at these facilities lost their jobs and their work became vulnerable to theft, sale, and misuse. Enjoy this list!

Category A Agents

Category A agents are easily weaponized, extremely virulent, hard to fight and contain, and/or have high mortality rates. They have the added bonus of being an agent that would cause a panic among the enemy population.

1. Anthrax

For most of us post-9/11 veterans, Anthrax was the one that could have been all too real. In the days following 9/11, letters containing Anthrax spores were sent to members of Congress and the media. Subsequently, troops deploying overseas to countries like Afghanistan and Iraq were given a course of Anthrax vaccines.

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
Thanks, assholes.

Anthrax can present in four ways: skin, inhalation, injection, and intestinal. All are caused by the Bacillus anthracis bacteria. Before antibiotics, Anthrax killed hundreds of thousands of people, but now there are only 2,000 or so worldwide cases a year.

The mortality rate is anywhere from 24 to 80 percent, depending on which type you get.

2. Plague

Ah, plague. The biblical weapon. This one makes a little bit of sense. Since the Soviet Union would most likely go to war with Western Europe, the best weapon to use would be something that regularly wiped out more Europeans than the Catholic Church.

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
There was a time when everyone expected the Spanish Inquisition.

Plague works fast, incubating in two to six days, with a sudden headache and chills at the end of the incubation period. Gangrene and buboes (swollen lymph nodes in the armpit and groin) are the best indicator of plague.

There are other symptoms too, but after two weeks, it won’t matter. Because you’ll be dead.

3. Tularemia

Never hear of Tularemia? Good for you. Tularemia is one of the many reasons you shouldn’t touch dead animals. It’s a nasty bug that can survive for long periods outside of a host.

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
Like any Kardashian not named Kim.

Tularemia can enter the body through lungs, skin, or eyes. It can present as a skin ulcer, but the most dangerous form is when it’s inhaled. Pneumoic tularemia will quickly spread into the bloodstream, killing 30-60 percent of those infected.

4. Botulism

This is deadly neurotoxin, the deadliest substance known. It was used as a biological agent by Japan in WWII and was subsequently produced by almost every biological warfare program – for a good reason. Botulism is easy to produce and presents in 12-36 hours once in the body.

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
This is why you don’t eat food from bulging cans.

In an aerosol infection (like a bioweapon attack), even detecting botulism could be difficult. Treatment is mainly supportive, there is little that can be done once symptoms start to present. The only known antitoxin even produces anaphylaxis, which means it can only be administered in a hospital setting.

5. Smallpox

Smallpox is the disease that won the new world for the Europeans, more than guns, horses, or booze. It killed off 90 percent of the indigenous population of the Americas, whose immune systems were unprepared for it.

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of

The World Health Organization announced the eradication of Smallpox in 1980. The smallpox vaccine was developed in 1796 and after the eradication of the disease, widespread vaccinations were halted. This gave the Soviets the idea to rigorously pursue it as a weapon.

6. Marburg Virus

The Marburg Virus is a hemorrhagic fever, in the same family as the Ebola virus, the deadliest of hemorrhagic viruses. In an unprepared population, the mortality rate can be as high as 90-100 percent. So if you’re unfamiliar with Marburg Virus, imagine someone making Ebola airborne and killing you with it.

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
Just let me choose how I die, please.

While an experimental vaccine and treatment for Marburg Virus has been developed and shows promise, it’s still untested on humans. So why did the Soviets design a type of virus that could be loaded into an ICBM warhead and kill people in days?

Because they’re assholes.

Category B Agents

Category B agents are also easy to transmit and/or virulent among a population, but is less likely to kill or cause panic. Still, they should be taken seriously. Some, like Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis can have lasting effects.

7. Glanders

Glanders can enter the body through the skin and eyes, but also via the nose and lungs. The symptoms are similar to the flu or common cold, but once it’s in the bloodstream, it can be fatal within seven to ten days.

I’m not going to include a photo, because it’s really gross to look at.

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
Stupid Glanders.

The bacteria is at the top of the list for potential bioterrorism agents and was even believed to be intentionally spread to the Russian Army by the Germans in WWI. The Russians allegedly used it in Afghanistan during their ten-year occupation.

8. Brucellosis

This is usually caused by drinking raw milk or imbibing other raw dairy products. If an animal has brucellosis, they’re transmitting it to you. It’s also an inhalation hazard that can affect hunters dressing wild game. Symptoms are flu-like when inhaled and soon inflame the organs, especially the liver and spleen. Symptoms can last anywhere from a matter of weeks to years.

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
First Vietnam, now Brucellosis.

Brucellosis was once called both “Bang’s Disease” and “Malta Fever.” It has been weaponized since the 50s, with a lethality estimate of one to two percent. Just kill me with fire if I have the flu for two years.

9. Q-fever

Like most of the agents on the list, Q-fever is also spread via inhalation or contacts with infected domestic animals – unless the Russians bombed your town with it. The agent can survive for up to 60 days on some surfaces.

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
No, Q-Bert didn’t die from Q Fever. Don’t be silly. It was cancer.

When the American Biological Weapons arsenal was destroyed in the early 1970s, the U.S. had just under 5,100 gallons of Q-fever.

10. Viral Encephalitis

The worst part about this agent is that there is no effective drug treatment for it, and that any treatment is merely supportive – meaning that there is no way to treat the cause of the disease, only to manage the symptoms.

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
Pictured: how your body determines your response to Encephalitis.

The incubation period is fast, one to six days, and causes flu-like symptoms. It can incapacitate the infected for up to two weeks and cause swelling of the brain. Up to 30 percent of infected persons have permanent neurological conditions, like seizures and paralysis.

11. Staphylococcal Enterotoxin

Staph infections are pretty common but as a biological agent, it’s stable to store and weaponize as an aerosol agent. At low doses, it can incapacitate and it can kill at higher doses. The biggest concern is that a mass infection of a population is extremely difficult to treat effectively.

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
There’s at least one surefire treatment.

This agent can infect food and water but is deadliest when inhaled. High doses of inhaled Staph can lead to shock and multi-organ failure. Symptoms of any dosage appear within 1-8 hours.

Category C Agents

Category C consists mostly of potential agents, but the Soviet program didn’t use any of the C category as we know it today. This category includes virulent but untested (for biowarfare) agents like SARS, Rabies, or Yellow Fever.

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The secret air campaign in Laos during the Vietnam War

“The job of the Ravens was to, literally, look for trouble. And they often found it . . .”


—Orr Kelly, FROM A DARK SKY, The Story of U.S. Air Force Special Operations

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
The Cessna O-1 Bird Dog FAC aircraft was unmarked when flown by Raven Forward Air Controllers. Photo: Wikipedia/US Air Force

Two wars were being waged in Southeast Asia in the 1960s and early 1970s. One was the “public war” in Vietnam. Highly publicized and highly controlled from Washington, it had all the media trappings associated with major military operations. The other was a “secret war” in Laos. Waged under the tightest of security, little oversight and with minimal assets compared to the conflict in Vietnam, its objective was to interdict and destroy the flow of men, equipment and supplies along the Ho Chi Minh trail from North Vietnam to South Vietnam. Responsibility for conducting day-to-day air operations, in what one pilot called a “high risk, no-bullshit war,” was assigned to volunteers operating under the call sign Ravens, a small group of unconventional and incredibly fearless air combat controllers thinly disguised as civilian operatives.

The reason the campaign in Laos had to waged in secret was the terms of the Geneva Accords signed between the United States and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) on July 23, 1962, that guaranteed the neutrality of the Kingdom of Laos, a land-locked nation abutting Vietnam’s western border. One of the provisions in the Accords was the requirement that all foreign military forces had to leave Laos. Though the United States complied North Vietnam ignored it. Laotian Prime Minister Price Souvanna Phoumo’s request for American military aid against North Vietnam’s violation presented President John F. Kennedy’s administration with a quandary: how to comply with the prince’s request without violating the accords. Another concern was that official American military involvement might inspire a tit-for-tat response by China and the Soviet Union that risked escalating hostilities, touching off World War III.

But Laos’ strategic location, along with the fear that doing nothing would cause the country to go communist, caused President Kennedy to direct the Air Force to formulate a plan to assist Laos. Working in partnership with the CIA, the result was a covert operation placed under the command of America’s ambassador to Laos, William Sullivan, and later his successor G. McMurtrie Godley, who closely controlled all American activities there. Air Force Attaché Colonel Gus Sonnenburg and his successors directed air operations. The covert air program began modestly with the deployment in 1963 of four combat control team sergeants, call sign Butterfly.

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
A CIA U-10D Helio Courier aircraft sits on a covert mountaintop landing strip (LS) “Lima site” in Laos. The planes were owned by a CIA front company, Air America. Photo: Wikipedia

To get around the Geneva Accords restrictions, the Air Force Butterfly NCOs (and all subsequent volunteers) were scrubbed of their military identity and given a new civilian cover for the duration of their deployment in Laos, a process colorfully referred to as “sheep dipping.” Sitting in the co-pilot’s seat of the spotter aircraft, Butterflies would issue targeting instructions to Thai, Laotian, and later Hmong pilots trained through Project Water Pump. Originally created to teach indigenous and Thai pilots how to conduct Search and Rescue missions from forward bases along the Laotian border with Vietnam, Water Pump was soon expanded to train pilots for combat roles.

The Butterfly program came to an abrupt end in April 1966 when General William Momyer, the 7th Air Force commander, learned that the Butterflies were NCOs, and not jet fighter pilots, per doctrine. The following month, on May 5, 1966, Air Force lieutenants Jim F. Lemon and Truman (“T.R.”) Young, upon returning to Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base after directing air strikes at the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Vietnam, were presented with an offer they couldn’t refuse by their commanding officer: volunteer for a secret program, and a variety of minor disciplinary breaches including “rat-racing” (unauthorized acrobatics in O-1 Bird Dogs) and furniture broken during an excessive outburst of enthusiasm at a recent party would not appear in their personnel files. The lieutenants volunteered and the Raven program was launched.

The Ravens were part of a new air campaign in Laos begun in 1967 under the code name Palace Dog/Project 404. FACs for the program included pilots trained by Colonel Henry “Heinie” Aderholt following his tour of duty as commander of the 56th Air Commando Wing at Nakhon Phanom. After that deployment he was assigned deputy chief of staff for operations at the Special Air Warfare Center (now Air Force Special Operations Force) at Eglin Air Force Base.

After completion of their training and upon arriving for duty in Vietnam the FACs were informed that after six months they could volunteer for special duty through the Steve Canyon Program. After being successfully vetted and screened, the volunteers were sent to the American embassy at the Laotian capital of Vientiane where they were sheep dipped and assigned.

Mavericks, with an aggressiveness and courage bordering on the foolhardy, and stamina to endure flying twelve or more hours a day under some of the most harrowing combat and weather conditions, the Ravens and their Hmong counterparts the Nokateng (Swooping Bird) fought the war from bases at Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Pakse, Savannakhet, and Long Chieng, flying O-1 Bird Dogs, O-2 Skymasters, modified for combat AT-28 Trojans, Porter Pilatus and other aircraft.

To say that the flights were dangerous is an understatement. Of the 191 who served as Ravens, thirty-one paid for their dedication with their lives.

Major Mike Cavanaugh was a Raven in 1969. He recalled that the intensity of action over Laos caused them to become extraordinarily adept at spotting signs of enemy presence. “One time,” he recalled, “I saw bushes which came to a ninety- degree angle. The clever devil that I am, I know that bushes don’t grow in ninety- degree angles. That’s all I had to go on; I hit it with a set of fighters. I uncovered pallet after pallet of 122 mm rockets. . . . [W]e had secondary explosions for two solid days.”

One Raven’s routine was to do a dawn patrol scouting flight before breakfast,looking for such signs of enemy activity as smoke from cook fires that might indicate an enemy bivouac, or trails where the early morning dew had been brushed away by troop traffic. Upon returning for breakfast, he’d have a checklist of locations to investigate later that morning.

On one flight another Raven, Captain Karl L. Polifka, spotted a suspicious mound in the Plaine des Jarres (Plain of Jars), so named for the thousands of megalithic stone jars scattered throughout it. After alerting the base of his finding, he was informed that Intelligence indicated it was the entrance to a cave storing 500 barrels of fuel. Polifka called in a fighter-bomber who dropped a guided bomb on the mound. The resulting explosion created a fireball 1,000 feet across and was so hot that a passing rain cloud was sucked into its vortex.

While the Ravens participated because they were volunteers, their Hmong counterparts fought because it was their country. Polifka said that the Hmong pilots’ dedication was “unsurpassed by any combat pilot anywhere. . . . They seemed to have no fear, although I do think they had a vision of early mortality.” Raven Darrel Cavanaugh said, “In close, they were damned accurate. They liked to get down there and mix it up with the bad guys.”

The best pilot among the Hmong, and his admirers argued the best combat pilot in Laos regardless of nationality, was Ly Leu (also spelled Lee Lue). A schoolteacher and son-in-law to the charismatic Hmong leader General Vang Po, Captain Ly Leu was the first Hmong to volunteer for Project Water Pump. After completing T-28 training and earning his wings at Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base, he returned to Laos to wage war against the communists. His motto was “Fly ’til you die”

The Ravens who worked and fought with him loved him. One Raven who observed Ly Leu in action recalled that in strafing runs it was not unusual for him to fly twenty feet above the ground and that his idea of strafing “was to stick a .50 caliber gun in the enemy’s ear and pull the trigger.” From dawn to dusk, Ly Leu flew non-stop, as many as ten missions a day. After returning from a mission, to reduce downtime he’d assist in loading ordnance for the next mission before flying off again. When he landed at dusk he was so tired he had to be lifted out of the cockpit. Ly Leu averaged 120 missions a month and racked up more than 5,000 sorties during his career. On July 12, 1969, the newly promoted Major Ly Leu flew his final mission. Attacking Pathet Lao forces in Moung Soui, northwest of the Plaines des Jarres, he was shot down and killed by enemy anti-aircraft fire. Posthumously promoted by General Vang Po to lieutenant colonel, in gratitude the Americans posthumously awarded Ly Leu the Silver Star.

Though Ravens operated throughout Laos, their major base was at Long Chieng (or Long Tieng). Located southwest of the Plaine des Jarres in Xiangkhouang Province in the north central highlands of Laos, Long Chieng (officially code-named by the Americans Lima Site 30, but usually referred to as Lima Site 20 Alternate, or just “Alternate”) was located in a mountainous valley at an elevation of 3,100 feet. The Hmong are mountain dwellers and General Vang Pao made Long Chieng his headquarters, eventually gathering 30,000 troops into his guerilla army.

At its peak of operations, Long Chieng had a population of more than 40,000, and its airfield conducted about 400 flights a day, making it one of the busiest in the world. Long Chieng gained a reputation of being “the most secret place in the world” because despite its size (it was the second largest city in Laos after the capital, Vientiane, and had the world’s largest Hmong population), it never appeared on any map.

Compared to the air war over Vietnam, the forces available in Laos were negligible—the number of Ravens in Laos at any one time was always small, and General Vang Pao’s air arm often numbered less than a dozen serviceable aircraft. That was a major reason why Hmong pilots flew the high number of missions they did. Even so, they were not alone in the skies. Raven FACs, who also flew a grueling schedule, became expert in calling in Air Force assets when needed, whether it was to aid Hmong ground troops in danger of being overrun or taking out a target of opportunity.

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
An armoured North American T-28D-5 Nomad plane at Long Tieng airfield in Laos. Photo: Wikipedia

In some cases, the enemy ironically helped the Ravens in their interdiction missions. Polifka recalled that enemy troops had been taught that an AK-47 was capable of shooting down an F-4 Phantom, something that was possible if it was flying a low-flying strafing mission. Cruising at 12,000 feet or more was another matter. But Polifka said the enemy troops didn’t take that difference of distance into account.

He recalled there would be times that he’d be on a Raven mission, flying between 2,500 and 3,000 feet and he’d look down and suddenly see a ridge line light up with muzzle flashes. “[Enemy troops] wouldn’t really be shooting at [me]; they would be shooting at a bunch of F-4s flying somewhere.” With the enemy soldiers having revealed themselves, Ravens would then call in an air strike. He said, “We know of one case where there were three survivors of a five-hundred-man battalion that straggled into a regimental command post.”

By 1969 Raven guided air operations had become so deadly and successful that Vang Pao was able to switch from guerrilla to conventional war and launch an offensive that wrested control of the Plaine des Jarres from the Pathet Lao. Though because of what happened in Vietnam ultimate victory in Laos was not achieved, the record of the Ravens’ accomplishment demonstrated that when the time came, a handful of highly skilled, dedicated, resourceful, and courageous men could accomplish a mission others regarded as impossible.

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The UK’s MI6 intelligence agency really issues licenses to kill

Or…licences. With a C. Because they’re British.


In any case, it’s probably the coolest thing any movie spy was ever issued. James Bond, with his “00” designation has one, and maybe a whole handful of real-world MI6 agents do too — because they’re real.

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
And apparently anything goes.

A 2008 Reuters report on the inquest into Princess Diana’s death covered the testimony of MI6 intelligence operatives. The goal of the inquest was to determine if the Britain’s royal family ordered Diana killed.

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of

The result was no, of course they didn’t. But what it did reveal was a look at how the intelligence agency operates, especially in regards to targeted killings. It turns out British operatives are allowed to kill their enemies.

But first they need a Class Seven Authorisation and the personal signature of the Foreign Secretary.

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of

Richard Dearlove, the former head of Britain’s spy agency, revealed this during the inquiry. Diana and her lover, Dodi al-Fayed, were killed in a 1997 car accident in Paris. Ten more agents were required to give testimony in 2008 as the royal family faced accusations of wrongdoing from al-Fayed’s father, Mohamed.

Actually getting the Class Seven Authorisation is easier than it sounds. According to Dearlove’s testimony, once the paperwork is finished, it has to be signed off by a “senior regional official.” Then, it would have to go through the chief of the agency — in Diana’s case, it would have been Dearlove.

After that, it would have to “go down restricted channels to the Foreign Secretary.”

Socialism turns even the smallest tasks into a whole bureaucratic ordeal. I bet the process was much smoother when Maggie Thatcher was in office.

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Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age

If the B-52 was a person it’d be old enough to retire and collect social security, but instead we’re using it to bomb America’s haters in the Middle East.


As the cliché saying goes — it’s like a fine wine, it only gets better with age. And in the case of the B-52, it’s true. Boeing’s B-52 Stratofortress was made in 1952 and was supposed to be in service for only a decade. But constant updates have made it a relevant weapon 60 years later.

Its low operating costs have kept it in service despite the advent of more advanced bombers, such as the canceled B-70 Valkyrie, B-1 Lancer and the B-2 Spirit.

With a payload of 70,000 pounds and a wide array of weapons, including bombs, mines and missiles, the B-52 has been the backbone of the manned strategic bomber force for the U.S. for the past 40 years, according to the U.S. Air Force. The B-52 is expected to serve beyond the year 2040.

Here’s the B-52 Stratofortress throughout the years:

The first B-52H Stratofortress delivered to Minot Air Force Base

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of

B-52D dropping 500-lb bombs

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
A B-52D Stratofortress from the 93rd Bombardment Wing at Castle Air Force Base, California, drops bombs. B-52Ds were modified in 1966 to carry 108, 500-lb bombs while the normal conventional payload before was only 51. (Image: Wikimedia)

A B-52H Stratofortress of the 2d Bomb Wing takes off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
A B-52 Stratofortress takes off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, to participate in an exercise scenario Aug. 22. The aircraft, aircrew and maintainers are deployed from Barksdale AFB, La., as part of the continuous bomber presence in the Pacific region. During their deployment to Guam, the bomber squadron’s participation in exercises will emphasize the U.S. bomber presence, demonstrating U.S. commitment to the Pacific region. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Master Sgt. Mahmoud Rasouliyan)

The aircrew inside the B-52 cockpit

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
Aircrew assigned to the 96th Bomb Squadron participate in a RED FLAG-Alaska 10-2 sortie on a B-52H Stratofortress, April 29, 2010, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The aircrew is assigned to Barksdale AFB, Louisiana. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Boitz)

A view of the lower deck of the B-52, dubbed the battle station

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
Capt. Jeff Rogers (left) and 1st Lt. Patrick Applegate are ready in the lower deck of a B-52 Stratofortress at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., on Aug. 21, 2006. The officers are with the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

At the navigation station

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
Capt. Michael Minameyer reviews map during a RED FLAG-Alaska 10-2 sortie on a B-52H Stratofortress, April 29, 2010, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. RF-A provides participants 67,000 square miles of airspace, more than 30 threat simulators, one conventional bombing range and two tactical bombing ranges containing more than 400 different types of targets. Captain Minameyer is a navigator assigned to the 96th Bomb Squadron, Barksdale AFB, Louisiana. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Boitz)

Mid-air refueling

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. — A member of the 916th Air Refueling Wing off-loads fuel to a B-52 over the Pacific near Guam.

Refueling over Guam

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. — Airmen of the 916th begin to return to home in early November after a deployment to Guam supporting the bomber mission. Here, a KC-135 tanker refuels a B-52.

Pulling chocks

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
A B-52 Stratofortress takes off from Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Aug. 21. The bomber is with the 5th Bomb Wing. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qw6XTz_GGFU
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This airman is a survivor — and a leader

Air Force Staff Sgt. Srun Sookmeewiriya — or “Sook,” as many people know him — may seem like a happy and carefree airman at first glance.


The 313th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron’s noncommissioned officer in charge of reports regularly puts forth an earnest effort here to keep his unit alive and running, so his dark past and his struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts come as a surprise to many.

“He’s like the morale person — that’s what everybody else refers him to,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Melissa Vela, the 313th EOSS NCO in charge of console operations. “He’s so full of energy. He’s so infectious, he makes everybody laugh.”

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
Air Force Staff Sgt. Srun Sookmeewiriya, 313th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of reports, holds a picture of himself with his younger brother, Thana, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Feb. 16, 2017. Sookmeewiriya, who attempted to commit suicide twice, said he draws inspiration from his brother to remain resilient and encourages airmen to open up about their struggles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Magbanua)

Unknown to many of his wingmen, Sook’s current persona is possible only because he recovered from serious trauma he experienced as a young man. When Sook still lived in his native Thailand, both of his parents committed suicide. He witnessed his mother’s suicide, and he found his father’s body after his father had taken his own life and attempted to kill Sook’s younger brother, Thana.

“I saw him lying there in bed,” he recalled. “I wasn’t sure what happened. I tried to wake him up to see if he was still alive. I thought I was alone, and I didn’t know who I would go to now. My head was just spinning at that point. It was a shock.” Thana survived the gunshot wound, but was never the same, physically or mentally, Sook said.

Suicide Attempts

With his mother and father gone, Thana was the only family Sook had left. He went to a boarding school, where he said depression haunted him and other children bullied him for not having parents. This led to a suicide attempt by ingesting a large amount of over-the-counter medication. He was in a coma for two days.

Sook finished boarding school and eventually immigrated to the United States, where Thana would join him soon afterward. Sook spent his early time in the U.S. with relatives from his father’s first marriage. He would bounce from family to family because of his troubled personality, he said, and he also felt as if he was just an outsider because of his status as a “half-relative.”

“I felt like I didn’t belong, because I wasn’t a part of their family,” Sook said. “I didn’t feel any emotion when I hugged them.”

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
Trauma can take many forms; in recent years the military is striving to raise awareness of its symptoms and provide treatment.

The feeling of being an outsider overwhelmed Sook, and he tried to kill himself again.

“I didn’t want to deal with the state I was in: not feeling welcome and not feeling like I was part of the family,” he said. “At that time as a kid, I thought that the best way was to just end it all and leave.”

Sook said he tried to hide his attempted suicide, but his relatives eventually found out and sent him to a doctor to get help. His half-sister, Kim, was especially appalled, and confronted him about what he done. She asked, “What about your brother?”

Also read: 5 things military spouses need to know about PTSD

“When she mentioned my brother, I totally thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m leaving him behind,'” Sook said. That’s when he decided to turn around and confront his issues instead of running from them. Sook described his brother as his inspiration in his fight against depression.

“He was the only family I had up to that point. It was me and him. He has been through a lot tougher things than I had. Because of the gunshot wound, he was scarred for life. He didn’t grow up normally, but he never gave up. That’s one reason why I should not and will not give up on him, because he didn’t either.”

Strength in Recovery

As part of his recovery process, Sook found strength in his faith and from Kim, who helped him get back on his feet.

“It took me a while — basically, a couple years,” he said. “I think I’m still bouncing back to this day. I think of this tragedy as a lesson, and that lesson is to not repeat the same thing that [my parents] did.”

Sook joined the Air Force as a civil engineer airman, and cross-trained to be an air mobility controller. He adopted Thana as his dependent, and eventually married and started a family. He noted that although his life still has its ups and downs, he copes by confiding in his wife. He also expressed gratitude for the support his coworkers give him continuously.

“Having a good work center in the Air Force actually helped me out a lot,” he said. “When I have other issues, they continue to help me out.”

Vela described how surprised she was when Sook opened up to her about his past, saying that she would have never guessed that an airman like Sook would have experienced so much trauma.

“I was speechless the whole time he told his story,” she recalled. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, are you OK?’ To me, I can see the strength in his words and his actions. Seeing the strength that he had to come forth and tell his story is amazing.”

Encouragement for Others

Sook shares his story occasionally with the public, hoping to encourage people suffering from depression to seek help and not to try to survive on their own. He said he emphasizes how important it is to open up to people who care, and that many people are standing by at agencies on the base ready to assist in their battle against depression.

“Don’t bottle up those issues,” he added. “If you stress out, talk it out. Find somebody who is willing to listen.”

Sook said he encourages airmen to look for a cause and to do what it takes to survive so they can continue to fight for it.

“Don’t give up. Look for what you’re fighting for,” he said. “I fight for my brother, my wife, and my kids. It’s their future and my future.”

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US paratroopers are testing this new tactical chest rig

The US Army is testing a new fighting load system for paratroopers, designed specifically for airborne operations.


“The Airborne Tactical Assault Panel, or ABN-TAP, was developed with the paratrooper in mind and will allow the paratrooper a greater degree of comfort, mobility, and safety during static line airborne infiltration operations,” said Rich Landry of the US Army Soldier Systems Center laboratories in Natick, Massachusetts.

Previous fighting load system designs interfered with the fit of the T-11 parachute harness and moved T-11 reserve activation handle further away from the paratrooper’s grasp.

The ABN-TAP, which is similar to the old Load Bearing Equipment or LBE, enables soldiers to rig the fighting load under the parachute harness but below the reserve parachute.

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
Fort Bragg paratroopers in action. Army Photo by Sgt. Steven Galimore.

“This will allow paratroopers to properly adjust the T-11 parachute harness to their specific sizing requirements and keep the T-11 reserve parachute handle well within reach,” said Sgt. 1st Class Ian Seymour, Test NCO from the Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate, or ABNSOTD.

The ABN-TAP design actually draws its lineage from the older LBE system used with the T-10 and MC1-1 parachute systems by paratroopers for decades.

Soon after the Global War on Terror began, all branches of the armed services rushed to modernize field equipment to meet the rigors of modern combat and allow for the constant presence of body armor, according to Mike Tracy, deputy test division chief at ABNSOTD.

“With the vest/plate carrier systems seeing overwhelming soldier acceptance, the task of providing the paratrooper with a modern design compatible with current parachute systems is challenging to say the least,” Tracy said.

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
Soldiers from the 57th Sapper Company, 27th Engineer Battalion, 20th Engineer Brigade, assemble the Airborne Tactical Assault Panel. US Army photo by Jim Finney.

The ABN-TAP bridges this gap by providing both new and old capabilities to the paratrooper.

Tracy explained that this new fighting load system allows not only for rigging under the parachute harness and reserve, but can be rapidly adjusted to serve as a “chest rig” design upon landing.

“Ground troops consider this to be the most efficient design under current operational conditions,” said Tracy.

“Operational testing using airborne paratroopers, collects data which truly allows the Army to evaluate the suitability and safety of the ABN-TAP when worn during static line airborne operations and follow-on missions,” Tracy said.

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
The Airborne Tactical Assault Panel (ABN-TAP) rigging configurations. Photo from US Army.

Before testing soldiers participated in New Equipment Training, which included familiarization with the system, fitting and proper rigging of the ABN-TAP with the T-11 parachute system.

Soldiers then conducted parachute jumps from a C-17 aircraft at 1,250 feet above ground level over Sicily Drop Zone at Bragg.

Upon completion of testing, the ABN-TAP could potentially be issued to Army airborne forces worldwide.

“Any time soldiers and their leaders get involved in operational testing, they have the opportunity to use, work with, and offer up their own suggestions on pieces of equipment that can impact development of systems that future soldiers will use in combat,” said Col. Brad Mock, the director of all the Army’s Airborne testing.

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This Naval Academy grad is trying to become one of America’s newest astronauts

On Day 1 of her training as an astronaut, Navy Lt. Kayla Barron walked out of NASA’s Johnson Space Center and watched with her new colleagues as the moon partially blotted out the sun.


Eclipse glasses in hand, the Naval Academy graduate said she began to get a sense of her place in at the agency. The astronauts are some of NASA’s highest-profile employees, but Barron said they’re just one part of the team.

“Everybody here is really excited about what they’re doing and doing really interesting things,” Barron said August 22 in an interview. “In a big-picture sense, everybody comes to work for the same reason.”

Barron, 29, was working as an aide at the academy in Annapolis when she was selected earlier in the summer to become an astronaut. She’ll now embark on two years of training with 11 other NASA candidates and two Canadians.

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
2017 NASA Astronaut Class. (from left) Zena Cardman, Jasmin Moghbeli, Jonny Kim, Frank Rubio, Matthew Dominick, Warren Hoburg, Robb Kulin, Kayla Barron, Bob Hines, Raji Chari, Loral O’ Hara and Jessica Watkins. NASA photo by Robert Markowitz.

Many of the lessons will focus on the workings of the International Space Station, but there is a chance that members of the 2017 class — the agency’s largest in years — could end up on a mission to Mars.

“There’s a lot for us to learn, a lot of new things to master,” Barron said.

Among them: working from the back seat of a training jet, practicing spacewalks in a pool, and getting to grips with speaking Russian.

Barron was initially interested in pursuing a career as a naval aviator, but couldn’t meet the eyesight requirements. But now NASA will train her on its supersonic T-38 jets, working alongside a pilot and learning about making quick decisions and communicating clearly and getting used to extreme G-forces.

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
A T-38 Talon. Photo from USAF.

Barron will keep her Navy rank but said NASA’s astronaut office blends military and civilian cultures — a reflection of the varied backgrounds of the trainees.

“It’s an interesting kind of melting pot,” she said.

The trainees are expected to bring their own ideas to the class and learn from one another.

Barron, who has a master’s degree from the University of Cambridge and served as one of the first female officers on a submarine, said her military experience taught her about working as an engineer under extreme conditions.

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
An astronaut performing a spacewalk. Photo from NASA.

“I think that gives me a bit of perspective on how you can keep your equipment and team running when you’re in a hostile place with limited resources,” Barron said.

During a question-and-answer session between the trainees and three astronauts on the International Space Station, biochemist Peggy Whitson said being able to fix things is one of the most important parts of the job.

“You can’t be hesitant about taking something apart and putting it back together,” Whitson said.

Barron, who said she’s both excited and nervous about learning Russian, asked the astronauts what advice they had about working with crew members from other nations.

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
The International Space Station. Photo from NASA.

Col. Jack Fischer said that it was important not just to learn the language but to gain an understanding of the other culture.

“It’s no different from how you would figure out how to get along with anyone in a small-group dynamic,” he said.

Barron is originally from Richland, Wash., but will now be living in Houston near the space center.

“We all live out in town,” she said. “We have a real life outside of work.”

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Retired A-10 crew chief discusses his relationship with the Thunderbolt II

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of


In the heart of the Sonoran Desert lies a 2,600-acre piece of land, a “boneyard,” where it is commonly understood a unique bond exists between an Airman and his aircraft.

Since the days shortly after World War II, this particular piece of land, located on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, has been the final resting place for tens of thousands of military aircraft, many of which have played a significant role in shaping the world since the early 1940’s.

The boneyard is home to the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group. It’s where 600 technicians, from dozens of specialties, ensure the preservation or perform the “cannibalization” of the sleeping fleet. Most of the technicians have decades of experience, both military and civilian, spanning multiple generations of airframes. However, not many have the level of relationship Richard Brunt has with the A-10 Thunderbolt II, which pilots and crews lovingly refer to as the “Warthog.”

Those who come across Brunt in the boneyard, may assume he’s just another mechanic. He has that seasoned maintainer demeanor, sun-scorched skin, roughly calloused hands, and sarcasm perpetuated by thousands of hours of knuckle-busting wrench turns.

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
Richard Brunt cleans the windscreen of an A-10 at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, circa 1988. | Photo by Richard Brunt

Nevertheless, Brunt is far more than a junkyard part puller.

“I joined the military in 1975, but it wasn’t until my second tour of active duty that I worked as an aviation crew chief,” said Brunt. “I always had a passion for all things aviation, so I was excited.

“Initially I worked five years on F-4 (Phantoms), F-111 (Aardvarks), and as a quality assurance inspector. But, in 1987, after a three-year tour at Osan Air Base, Korea, that’s when I was struck by the Thunderbolt.”

Brunt joined a “hodge-podge of crew chiefs and pilots” from all over the world who were tasked with activating the Air Force’s first OA-10 forward air controller (FAC) airborne unit.

“We all had to learn a new aircraft; none of us had touched an A-10 … it made us a close-knit group,” Brunt said. “All of us worked together, the mechanics and the pilots. We had one goal in mind: get qualified.”

From 1987 to 1990, Staff Sgt. Brunt and the 23rd Tactical Air Support Squadron trained day in and day out, traveling throughout the country. They were also tasked with providing heavily armed airborne FAC to support the Army’s renowned and battle-tested 82nd and the 101st Airborne Divisions.

After two years of intense training, the Davis-Monthan AFB OA-10 unit was called upon to support Operation Desert Storm. The unit would formally usher in the new era of close air-support and give rise to a new term – “tank-plinking.”

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
An A-10A Thunderbolt II aircraft takes part in a mission during Operation Desert Storm. The aircraft is armed with AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, AGM-65 Maverick missiles, and Mark 82 500-pound bombs. | Air Force photo

The sight of the group’s hard work and preparation finally being utilized during Desert Storm is as vivid for Brunt as if it were yesterday.  He calls it the fondest memory of his career.

“I remember the night we caught the (Iraqi) Republican Guard moving south along the Highway of Death (Highway 80, which runs from Kuwait City to Basra, Iraq),” Brunt said. “The first group of A-10s I launched came back and the pilots were all pumped up. They had spotted a whole convoy that spanned many miles.

“That night, we launched nearly 600 jets. Our pilots did a typical tactical attack; they knocked out the front, then knocked out the back, boxing them in. Each jet carried 1,150 pounds of (high-explosive incendiary), the 30 millimeter cannon, four bombs, and two to four air-to-ground missiles … each one came back empty. It was a great day.”

Although missions like that night were filled with adrenaline and affirmation, those moments were always short-lived. Most days were filled with nonstop sortie generation, harsh conditions and constant angst from the surrounding dangers.

Still, it was never just a job for Brunt, it was a sense of pride; it was never just his name on the side of the plane that connected him to the machine, it was much deeper.

“Every day, multiple times a day, that was my plane heading into danger, my pilot relying on my machine to respond accurately and protect his life,” Brunt said.

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
Richard Brunt, left, and Captain Patrick B. Olson stand in front an OA-10, number 197, in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. | Photo courtesy Richard Brunt

Unfortunately, one of the most defining moments in Brunt’s love affair with the A-10 was the loss of a dear friend and colleague.

“His name was Lt. Patrick Olson,” Brunt said. “We called him Oly. He was a great officer. I was his crew chief; it was our names on the side of aircraft 77-197.

“I remember it clear as day. There was a light drizzle and as we prepared for launch; Oly was talking about how he heard the war may end really soon. I got him in the plane, buckled him up and he took off up north toward the Republican Guard.”

That day, Feb. 27, 1991, Olson was directing fire toward Iraqi tanks when he was spotted and immediately engaged. He quickly yanked the A-10′s vertical to the ground, banked sharply and instead of disengaging, went directly for the Iraqi tanks. Olson’s aircraft took critical damage.

“He was hit with (anti-aircraft artillery), they disabled his rudder and elevator,” said Brunt. He was told to bailout… but he said ‘No, I’m going to land this thing.'”

Because of the damage sustained by the aircraft, as he was preparing to land, the gear in his wing broke through the skin, the plane slide sideways, flipped over and burst into flames.

“I took it very hard,” explained Brunt, “When the expediter pulled me aside and told me that Oly wouldn’t be coming back, I burst into tears; it was hard for me to process.”

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of
Richard Brunt touches a memorial plaque, located in Heritage Park at Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, Ariz., Mar 5, 2016, which honors Captain Patrick B. Olson. | Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.

The war ended the next day.

After an emotionally charged six months in Saudi Arabia, Brunt spent the next five years traveling the world with the A-10, supporting multiple operations. Then, in 1996, after 17 years and 10 months in the service, Brunt was the subject of the Air Force’s reduction in force efforts; he retired as a technical sergeant with full benefits.

Following retirement, Brunt looked for ways to stay with the A-10. It wasn’t until 2002, after six years of working multiple jobs in aviation, that he was finally reunited with the aircraft.

“For years I had been trying to get back to the plane that I knew the best, the one I spent 11 years with,” Brunt explained. “The wait had been too long.”

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of

While the Thunderbolts were the same, Brunt’s new involvement with them was exactly the opposite of what it used to be. Instead of repairing them, he was tearing them apart.

“It’s a shame going through the save list and striping them down,” Brunt said. “It’s hard to imagine that the very aircraft that took me to all ends of the world would soon be crushed up, salvaged and probably turned into beer cans.

“At least for now, the A-10 will live on for a few more years and the parts I pull will keep the aircraft flying and save the tax-payers millions of dollars. When the A-10 is finally taken out of commission, it will not be forgotten. It has given me some of the greatest moments of my life. For that I owe it a great deal of gratitude.”

For those traveling to Davis-Monthan that get a chance to tour the boneyard, look for Brunt. You’ll find him hard at work, carefully stripping down the birds he once repaired. Ask him about his time with the A-10 and you’ll see a subtle grin and a sparkle in his eye…he’ll begin to point out his favorites starting with the NF (Nail FAC) Desert Storm aircraft.

World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of

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