Typically, every single day of the work week, service members come together and stand quietly in organized columns, called a ‘formation.’
At these formations, service members are accounted for and various information is passed along.
Sounds easy and quick enough, right? You’d be wrong.
It’s no secret that nobody wants to attend these.
Most service members do not like standing at the position of attention for extended periods, waiting for the higher-ups to get their sh*t together. So, things tend to go south quickly for various reasons.
1. Someone shows up wearing the wrong uniform or cover
Some people don’t pay attention well enough, show up in the wrong uniform, and, unsurprisingly, stick out like a sore thumb. Some do it on purpose, though, when they are about to get out of the military.
2. That time everyone laughed because someone farted
As immature as it sounds, it’s incredibly difficult not to smirk or even laugh when somebody rips a loud one. Farts plus formation always equals funny. Sometimes, you just need something hilarious to get through a boring formation.
3. When someone locks their knees and passes out
This happens more often than you think, especially at various military ceremonies. Don’t forget to bend your knees and wiggle your toes to keep the blood flowing.
4. We sometimes forget the difference between left and right.
We start marching with our left foot and we align with the troop to our left-hand side. Sometimes, however, troops mindlessly mix up which foot or hand is actually their left one.
John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, announced on May 5, 2019, that the US would send the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier and its associated strike group to the waters near Iran to “send a message” and respond to vague threats.
But the US will be sending the powerful carrier to a job it’s arguably ill-suited for, putting thousands of sailors at a major military disadvantage. And if a conflict were to arise, the sinking of a US aircraft carrier would be in Iran’s sights.
Though the carrier’s deployment to Iran’s nearby waters may have been planned long ago, Bolton has been clear that the ship’s return to the region marks a response to “a number of troubling and escalatory incident and warnings” from Iran.
While Bolton did not get into specifics, a report from Axios said Israel passed the US “information on an alleged Iranian plot to attack” US forces or interests in the region.
The Wall Street Journal cited US officials as saying new intelligence “showed that Iran drew up plans to target U.S. forces in Iraq and possibly Syria, to orchestrate attacks in the Bab el-Mandeb strait near Yemen through proxies and in the Persian Gulf with its own armed drones.”
US aircraft carrier strike groups represent the highest order of naval power ever put to sea, but they’re not the right tool for every job.
Caitlin Talmadge, an associate professor of security studies, said on Twitter that US carriers are “designed for operations on the open ocean.”
As a floating air base with guided-missile destroyers and cruisers sailing nearby for anti-missile defenses from land and sea, the carriers are best off when moving around far from the range of missiles fired from ashore.
The narrow, “confined waters of the Persian Gulf make carriers tremendously more vulnerable to asymmetric air, land, and naval threats,” wrote Talmadge.
Iran’s home field advantage could sink a tanker
In the shallow, brown waters of the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow pass through which about a fifth of the world’s oil passes through, Iran’s outdated submarines and missiles see a vastly uneven playing ground leveled out.
“Ideally, a Nimitz class carrier would operate within comfortable range of its targets (based on the range of its air wing) but at sufficient stand-off distance to minimize the risk of enemy threats,” Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst at Stratfor, a geopolitical consulting firm, told Business Insider. “This varies based on operating environment, but is usually between 300 to 400 nautical miles.”
Aircraft carriers do send a message, and have been relied on for such by presidents for decades, but according to Talmadge, it’s kind of empty in this situation.
The USS Abraham Lincoln makes a sharp turn at sea.
In the Gulf wars, or against militants like ISIS, aircraft carriers made plenty of sense.
“Iraq has tiny coast, couldn’t contest US carrier presence, so unusual situation,” continued Talmadge, who pointed out that Iran was a different kind of beast.
But “Iran’s geography military capabilities, particularly presence of significant assets near Strait of Hormuz, make sailing carrier through Gulf a lot riskier, and w/ less benefit given US ability to deploy carriers in Arabian Sea Indian Ocean instead,” she said.
In fact, the Persian Gulf, Iran’s home waters, plays directly into their hands. One of Iran’s favorite and best documented ways to harass the US Navy is to use fast attack boats in a swarming attack.
Swarm boat attacks, would “not be much of a danger in the open sea,” where the carrier had room to maneuver, but could be a problem in the choked gulf.
“Iran has various systems that can be a threat within the Persian Gulf, including anti-ship cruise missiles, fast attack craft and swarm boats, mini-submarines, and even asymmetric tactics like UAV swarms that seek to harass rather than disable the carrier,” Lamrani continued.
Iran’s Ghadir submarine behind a US carrier strike group in a propaganda video.
(Iranian TV via MEMRI)
Aircraft carriers lack onboard defenses against torpedoes, something that an old Iranian submarine could manage. In the noisy brown waters of the Persian Gulf, the US Navy may also struggle to track such small boats.
Furthermore, Iranian media has fantasized for years about sinking an aircraft carrier. In the country’s state-controlled media, the massive ships are often seen as targets ripe for sinking.
With US-Iranian relations hitting a startling new low, the Trump administration’s decision to send an aircraft carrier to Tehran’s home waters seems a risky choice with little apparent payoff.
Accompanying the carrier deployment announced by Bolton was an increase in bombers in the region. As Business Insider reported before, Iran is highly unlikely to attack even small, exposed groups of US troops in the region because the response from nearby US airbases would all but obliterate the country.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The standard U.S. Armed Forces field ration is, above all other considerations, designed to make you emotional.
Sure, an MRE needs to be nutritious. Obviously, it also needs to be lightweight, packable, durable, quick, and easy to prepare. It’s got to have a long shelf life because who knows when it’ll be called up for active duty. And at the end of the day — and not just because it’s the end of the day — the damn thing ought to taste good.
After years of research and development, laboratory refinement, and testing in the field, the military has the MRE dialed to within an inch of its life. Private, does your dinner have “Vegetable Rotini” stamped on its olive drab shrink wrap? Yes? Then, by God, you can trust that when you just add water, the thing you find rehydrated on the end of your spork will resemble a rotini (Vegetable Class) to the highest degree achievable by military science.
Meals Ready To Eat host August Dannehl trusted in the prowess of the military’s culinary industrial complex. After all, he named his show after its signature offering.
When he visited the labs and testing facilities of the United States Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, MA, he was excited to spend some quality time covering familiar territory. What he didn’t count on was the depth of the emotional response that many of his interview subjects had to meals they’d eaten as soldiers in the field. And it turns out, that response is no accident.
We want it to be a quality meal that we provide to them. We don’t know if that’s going to be their last meal.
Watch host August Dannehl and fellow veteran Mike Williams, currently the Executive Chef of West Hollywood restaurant Norah, transform the military’s utilitarian ration MRE into a mouthwatering “Jambalaya Risotto with Duo of Duck.”
Meals Ready to Eat can be seen on KCET in Southern California, on Link TV Nationwide (DirecTV 375 and DISH Network 9410), and online at KCET.org.
The Army’s decision to change its marksmanship training and make the test more realistic has a lot going for it. If signed into policy, it will hopefully make soldiers more lethal. But there’s a basic piece of physics that a lot of soldiers, especially support soldiers who often fire at paper, don’t think about when firing, that will become more important if the Army really does get rid of “paper” qualifications: gravity and bullet rise/drop.
And this isn’t a purely academic problem. Not understanding the role of gravity on rifle marksmanship will make it more likely that shooters fire over the tops of targets in the middle of the range while qualifying. We’re going to start below with the quick guidance troops can use at the range. After that, we’ll go into the theory behind it:
Rifle ranges are fun! If you know what you’re doing.
(U.S. Army Spc. Garrett Bradley)
The general guidance
Hello shooters! If you’re a perfect shooter, who has no issue hitting targets, keep doing what you’re doing, don’t read this. In fact, a shooter perfectly applying the four fundamentals of marksmanship, meaning their point of aim is always center mass at the time they fire, will never miss a basic rifle marksmanship target regardless of whether or not they understand bullet drop. So, feel free to go watch cat videos. Congrats!
If you are missing, especially missing when firing at the mid-range targets, then start aiming at the targets’ “belly buttons” when they’re between 100 and 250 meters away. Only do this at ranges from 100 to 250 meters. Do not, repeat, do not aim low at 300-meter targets.
I originally got this advice from an artillery observer turned military journalist at Fort Bragg who qualified expert all the time, and it really does help a lot of shooters. If you want to know why it works, keep on reading.
An Army table from FM 3-22.9 illustrating the rise and then drop of M885 ball ammunition fired from M4s and M16s.
The theory behind it
Right now, soldiers can take one of two tests when qualifying on their rifles. They can fire at pop-up targets on a large range or at a paper target with small silhouettes just 25 meters away. The paper target ranges are much easier for commanders and staff to organize, but are nowhere near as realistic.
For shooters firing at paper targets 25 meters away, their point of aim and point of impact should be exactly the same. Point of aim is the exact spot that the shooter has lined up their sights. Point of impact is where the round actually impacts.
An M4 perfectly zeroed for 300 meters, as is standard, should have a perfect match between point of aim and point of impact at both 300 meters and 25 meters. So, when a shooter is firing at a paper target 25 meters away, the rounds should hit where the shooter is aiming. But bullets don’t fly flat, and shooters used to paper who get sent to a pop-up range under the new marksmanship program will have to learn to deal with bullet drop.
Properly zeroing your rifle is super important.
(U.S. Army Pfc. Arcadia Jackson)
First, a quick primer on the ballistics of an M4 and M16. The rounds are small but are fired at extremely high speeds, over 3,000 fps. But they aren’t actually fired exactly level with the weapon sights, because the barrel isn’t exactly level with the sights. Instead, the barrel is tilted ever so slightly upward, meaning the bullet is fired slightly up into the sky when a shooter is aiming at something directly in front of them.
This is by design, because gravity begins affecting a bullet the moment it leaves the barrel (up until that point, it is supported by the barrel or magazine.) Basically, the designers wanted to help riflemen shoot quickly and accurately in combat, so they tilted the barrel to compensate for gravity. The barrel points up because gravity pulls down.
And the designers set the weapon up so these effects would largely cancel each other out at the ranges that soldiers operate at most often. This worked out to about 300 meters, the same ranges the Army currently tests soldiers on their ability to shoot.
Basically, the barrel’s tilt causes the round to “rise” for the first 175 to 200 meters of flight when it runs out of upward momentum. Then, gravity overcomes the momentum, and it starts to fall.
An E-type silhouette is 40 inches tall. If a shooter aimed at the exact center of the target, that would be the red dot. An M4’s rate of bullet climb with M885 ball ammunition would create a point of impact at the blue dot, 6 inches above point of aim. M16s have an even more pronounced bullet rise.
(Francis Filch original, CC BY-SA 4.0, Red dots by Logan Nye)
So, when an M4 is properly zeroed to 300 meters, then the point of aim and point of impact should be exactly level at 300 meters. But remember, it’s an arc. And the opposite side of the arc, and the bullet is falling to level with the sights at 300 meters. The opposite side of the arc, the spot where the bullet has climbed to the point of aim, is at 25 meters.
So, when firing on an Alt C target at 25 meters, a shooter would never notice the problem because the point of aim and point of impact would match.
But when firing on a pop-up range with targets between 50 and 300 meters, some people will accidentally shoot over the target’s shoulders or even the target’s head. That’s because an M4 round has climbed as much as 6 inches at 200 meters and is only just beginning to fall. (An M16 round climbs even higher, about 9 inches, but those weapons are less common now.) That can put the round’s point of impact at the neck of the target, a much thinner bit of flesh to hit.
So if a shooter has a tendency to aim just a little high when under the time pressure of the range, that high point of aim combines with the climb of the point of impact to result in a shot over the head. If the shooter aims just a little left or right, they’ll miss the neck and hit air.
The easy way to compensate for this is to imagine a belly button on the targets between 100 and 250 meters. That way, the 4-6 inches that the point of impact is above the point of aim will result in rounds hitting center of the chest. If the shooter aims a little high, they are still hitting chest or neck. Left and right is just more abdominal or chest area.
Obviously, if the shooter is aiming in the dirt, they could still hit abdominal but might even bury the round if they’re really low.
But, remember, this only applies to targets between 100 and 250 meters where the rise of the round from the tilted barrel has significantly changed the point of impact. Shooters should just aim center mass at the 50 and 300-meter targets.
And, if all of this is too complicated, don’t worry too much about it. Perfectly shot rounds, with all four fundamentals of marksmanship perfectly applied, will always hit the target anyway. That’s because the Army uses E-type silhouettes at all the distances where this matters, and E-type silhouettes are 40 inches tall. If the point of aim is center mass, then the round’s climb of 6 inches will still put the point of impact in the black.
An engineer at the respected RAND Corporation has a suggestion for small countries that want to keep their enemies at bay but can’t afford a proper navy: use loads of sea mines and drones. It seems obvious, but the advice could prevent America getting dragged into a world war.
Explosive ordnance disposal technicians simulate the destruction of a submerged mine.
(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Charles White)
Engineer Scott Savitz names a few countries in his RAND post, such as Bahrain, Taiwan, and the Republic of Georgia, two American allies and a potential future member of NATO. While all of them spend significant portions of their GDP on defense, they are all also potential targets of larger neighbors with much larger navies.
So, it’s in the best interest of these countries (and the U.S.) if those countries can find a way to stave off potential invasions. RAND’s suggestion is to spend money on mines and drones, which require much more money to defeat than they cost to create. This could cripple an invading fleet or deter it entirely.
While mines are a tried and true — but frowned upon — platform dating back centuries, modern naval tactics give them short shrift. Unmanned drones in water, air, and on land, however, are reaching maturity.
A Royal Norwegian Naval Explosive Ordnance Disposal Commando collects information during a mine-countermeasure dive during exercise Arctic Specialist 2018.
The idea is for the smaller nations to build up mine-laying fleets that go on regular training missions, laying fake mines in potentially vulnerable waters. This would create two major problems for invading nations: An enemy force capable of quickly saturating the water with mines as well as thousands of decoys that would hamper mine-clearing vessels.
And, mine clearance requires warships to sail relatively predictable patterns, allowing the defending nation to better predict where invading forces will have vulnerable ships.
The drones, meanwhile, could be used for laying mines, directly attacking enemy ships, conducting electronic surveillance, or even slipping into enemy ports to attack them in their “safe spaces” — a sort of Doolittle Raid for the robot age. They could even be used to target troop transports.
While the Russian, Iranian, and Chinese Navies are much larger than their Georgian, Bahrain, and Taiwanese counterparts, they don’t have much sea-lift capability, meaning that the loss of even a couple of troop ships could doom a potential invasion.
All of these factors could combine to convince invading forces to keep their ships at home, or at least slow the attacking force, meaning that reinforcements from the U.S. or other allied forces could arrive before an amphibious landing is achieved.
It’s easier to contest a landing than it is to throwback an already-fortified foothold.
A underwater drone used to measure salinity, temperature, and depth information is recovered by the U.S. Navy during normal operations.
For Bahrain and Taiwan, both island nations, ensuring that an enemy can’t land on their coast nearly protects them from invasion. As long as their air forces and air defenses remain robust, they’re safe.
The Republic of Georgia, on the other hand, has already suffered a four-day land invasion from Russia. While securing their coastline from naval attack would make the country more secure, it would still need to fortify its land borders to prevent further incursion.
A Navy drone, the Fire Scout, lazes a target for the MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopter that accompanies it.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Third Class Trenton J. Kotlarz)
For America, allies that are more secure need less assistance and are less likely to collapse during invasion without large numbers of American reinforcements.
But, of course, mines remain a controversial defense measure. They’re hard and expensive to clear, even after the war is over. And while sea mines are less likely to hurt playing children or families than leftover landmines, they can still pose a hazard to peacetime shipping operations, especially for the country that had to lay them in the first place.
ProPublica senior reporter Sebastian Rotella, author of “Rip Crew,” lays out what popular TV shows and movies like “Narcos” and “Sicario” get right and wrong about Mexican drug cartels. Following is a transcript of the video.
Sebastian Rotella: I’m Sebastian Rotella. I’m the author of the novel Rip Crew and I’m a senior reporter at Propublica.
“Sicario” was a, was a good movie, and some of the things it portrayed were very accurate, for example that shootout at the border, if you remember in “Sicario” when they’re at the border crossing, stuck in traffic, that has happened, and something that I was very worried about when I was covering the border, because you know that is a sort of a prime vulnerability moment when you’re stuck in that traffic at the border.
There were other things in, for example, in “Sicario” that I thought pushed the envelope, the sort of gratuitous and casual torture taking place on US territory, that in my experience, you know, it happens very rarely, I’m really not aware of it. And that isn’t because there aren’t particularly Latin American law enforcement and intelligence and military units that work with the US that engage in that kind of activity, but it tends to happen precisely in those countries. You know, the idea that you would bring someone into the US to do that and expose yourself to all kinds of potential prosecution and scandal, that did not ring true, for example. So it really depends.
I think “Narcos” is quite well-researched. What happens is, and I’ve done this having written fiction, and having been involved in projects where you move this stuff to the big screen, things have to be simplified, they have to be made dramatic, they have, you lose nuance, and oftentimes, they’ll be things that happen in real life that I think would make for good, it would be good on, on a TV show or a movie, but they’re harder to portray because oftentimes they happen out of ineptitude.
Right, I mean the scary thing sometimes about this world is the combination of that, how lethal, but sometimes how inept or how unsophisticated some of these actors are, that factor that is hard to portray in the best series this question of ineptitude of the mix of sophistication and coincidence and sort of human flaws, I think when that is draw out in series, that is when they’re at their best, because I think that is very human and that is very real. There is still a sense of the drug lords in Mexico. You know people talk a lot about Chapo Guzman, who was just captured.
The thing about Chapo Guzman is he was kind of the last of the drug lords of his style, and one of the reasons that Mexico was so violent, and the drug violence and drug corruption has gotten so bad is precisely because the generation of drug lords like Chapo Guzman has kind of died out, and the people who run most of the cartels now, the cartels are adamized and fragmented for one thing. And the other thing is what you have is a phenomenon, is as the drug lords like Chapo Guzman have faded out, the trigger men, the gun men, who pretty much resolve everything through violence have risen.
So it’s not to say that Chapo Guzman and the Arellano-Felix brothers whom I covered in Tijuana years ago and others, weren’t violent. They were bloodthirsty and sadistic, but they also had a sense of when to corrupt, rather than kill, when to do packs, when to, how to, how to, how to approach this as a, as a business, as a violent business, but a business, none the less. Whereas the drug cartels like the Zetas, and some of the remnants of other cartels that have risen, the Zetas were former commandos in Mexico actually military men who took over and created their own cartel. Pretty much they resolve everything through violence, so people think about a drug lord sort of sitting on a throne somewhere and running this vast empire and it’s much more a series of smaller, very anarchic, dangerous, chaotic empires, that are, you know, that have been splintered and fractured and that unfortunately has created more violence and not less.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Sideboys salute Capt. Brett Crozier, commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), during a change of command ceremony on the ship’s flight deck. Crozier relieved Capt. Carlos Sardiello to become the 16th commanding officer of Theodore Roosevelt. U.S. Navy/Sean Lynch
The USS Roosevelt has dominated headlines lately after news broke that a few sailors had contracted COVID-19 while the carrier was at sea. First, the count of sick sailors was only two. Then, as this virus tends to go, the number grew exponentially. As of Wednesday, there were 93 crew members with the virus. Roosevelt Captain Brett Crozier requested help and after he thought enough was not being done, he was suspected of leaking the letter to the press, as it was published in the San Francisco Chronicle, Capt. Crozier’s hometown paper.
In the four-page letter to senior military leadership, Crozier asked for additional support, stating that only a small number of those infected had disembarked from the deployed carrier, in port in Guam. A majority of the crew remained onboard, where, as anyone who has spent time on a ship knows, social distancing isn’t just difficult; it is impossible. “Due to a warship’s inherent limitations of space, we are not doing this,” Crozier wrote in the letter. “The spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating.”
Crozier asked that the majority of his crew be removed, asking for compliant quarantine rooms on Guam as soon as possible. “Removing the majority of personnel from a deployed U.S. nuclear aircraft carrier and isolating them for two weeks may seem like an extraordinary measure. … This is a necessary risk,” Crozier wrote. “Keeping over 4,000 young men and women on board the TR is an unnecessary risk and breaks faith with those Sailors entrusted to our care. …This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do,” he continued in the letter. “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors.”
While the letter ultimately had the outcome Capt. Crozier intended — many of the crew were quarantined on Guam, it came at a high cost: Capt. Crozier was relieved of command.
In a press conference Thursday evening, Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said Crozier was removed because he didn’t follow chain of command protocol in how he handled the situation.
While Modly praised Capt. Crozier, he ultimately relieved him because the captain “allowed the complexity of the challenge of the COVID breakout on the ship to overwhelm his ability to act professionally.” You can read the full text of Modly’s statement, here.
“The responsibility for this decision rests with me,” Modly stated. “I expect no congratulations for it. Captain Crozier is an incredible man. … I have no doubt in my mind that Captain Crozier did what he thought was in the best interest of the safety and well-being of his crew. Unfortunately, it did the opposite. It unnecessarily raised the alarm of the families of our sailors and Marines with no plans to address those concerns.”
The crew cheered the Captain off of the ship. We wish all of the sailors on the Roosevelt a speedy recovery.
Preserving the secrets both Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame wasn’t just a job for fans who saw leaks of the film online, but also, a huge undertaking on the part of Marvel Studios. And now, in the just-released digital home video version of Endgame, Marvel bosses reveal exactly how they kept certain huge spoilers from leaking.
We already knew that several cast members didn’t get complete scripts for Infinity War and Endgame, but now executive producer Trinh Tran and Marvel chief Kevin Feige have explained there were “code red” and “code blue” versions of these scripts. What does it mean? Well, it turns out the code blue scripts had fake versions of several character deaths where those characters…lived!
On the just-released digital download of Avengers: Endgame for home video, there’s a 6-minute video called “Avengers Script Security and the Secret Scenes of Infinity War and Endgame.” Here, Marvel presents animated versions of the code blue fake scripts, written in such a way to disguise the fact various characters died in both films. Here’s a breakdown of the shockingly hilarious scenes, but to get the full effect, you really should snag Endgame on streaming.
Warning: spoilers for both Endgame and fake alternate scenes in Endgame and Infinity War follow! Stop reading now if you haven’t seen the movie, or don’t want to be spoiled on the alternate plot twists of these bizzaro scenes.
“Loki Plays a Trick”
At the beginning of Infinity War, Loki tried to stab Thanos, but was then strangled to death. It was a shocking way to start the movie, but in the fake script, Loki uses a magic trick and flies away in a stolen space pod, waving at Thor. Thanos, bizarrely, sees no need to go after him. WHAT.
“Gamora Shakes It Off”
Everybody was devastated by Gamora’s death in Infinity War, but in the fake version of the script, there was a scene called “Gamora Shakes It Off.” Right after Gamora is thrown to her death, Thanos sees his daughter as a kind of absurd puppet on strings who hands him the Soul Stone. This then magically creates a pair of giant scissors that cut Gamora free of magic puppet strings. Boom! She’s alive! She tells Thanos not to destroy half the universe, but he teleports away. Bottom line, in this version Gamora is alive!
“The Vision Crashes”
After Thanos pulls the Mind Stone out of Vision at the end of Infinity War, the character was totally dead. But, in the fake version of the script, right after Wanda is cradling Vision’s lifeless body, his eyes light up again and he speaks in the cadence of the computer Jarvis, Tony Stark’s A.I. which Vision merged with, back in Avengers:Age of Ultron. So, in this version, Vision lives, but kind of as weird computer version of himself.
“Thanos Keeps It Together”
At the beginning of Endgame, Thor, somewhat redundantly, cut off Thanos’s head. But, in the fake version of the script, Thor’s ax-hammer just bounces-off of Thanos’s head. And then, Thanos simply takes a nap and Thor shrugs his shoulders and walks away. Considering that a 2014 version of Thanos ended-up returning later in the movie, it feels like that the impact of this silly alternate take isn’t all that different?
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Veterans and military personnel are still understandably frustrated with NFL players kneeling during the national anthem — but that doesn’t mean the league is at odds with the military-veteran community. If the response from our community has taught anything to NFL franchises, it’s that teams have a lot to learn about how veterans and military units come together and operate as a team.
NFL players, for the most part, spend their whole lives training and preparing for the chance to play on Sundays in the fall. But throughout the course of their careers, they may end up playing for a slew of different teams with different objects, different methods, and different goals. No matter which city you’re representing, there’s a lot about football plays that can be related to small-unit tactics on the battlefield. The most important parts of both are to ensure each member of the team follows the plan, follows their orders, and covers their position. Your squad mates are depending on each man to do their part.
So, it makes sense to bring in some of the U.S. military’s finest veterans to show these players how individuals in military units come together to form a cohesive fighting force when the stakes are life and death. That’s where Mission6Zero comes in.
Jason Van Camp served in the U.S. Army’s Special Forces.
“How can you fight for the guy next to you if you don’t even know who he is?”
Jason Van Camp is the Founder and Chairman of Mission6Zero. He’s also a former U.S. Army Special Forces soldier who graduated from West Point and played football for the Army’s Black Knights. He founded Mission6Zero to help teams in professional sports, the corporate world, and law enforcement optimize their performance through knowledge — knowledge of themselves, their organization, and their surroundings.
While Mission6Zero isn’t limited to the NFL, the NFL needs Mission6Zero now more than ever — and the Army football player is uniquely situated to address their issues. He put together his own expert team, one that included fellow SF veteran and Seattle Seahawks longsnapper, Nate Boyer.
“When things get really bad, the warfighter is thinking only of his team.”
Van Camp’s organization brings Special Forces veterans, Medal of Honor recipients, wounded warriors, drill instructors, and other exceptional veterans (along with human performance psychologists and behavioral experts) to the fore when dealing with athletic franchises. In their most recent case study, they found it wasn’t just what team members communicated to one another that was important, it was how they communicated that mattered.
Mission6Zero does more than tell war stories and lecture teams on how to be more like a unit. The science behind how members of a unit bond in combat is the same as how members bond on a team. The more you learn about someone, the closer you get to that person. When you start to know everyone on that level, the team becomes the most important part of life.
You will never want to let the team down, but, just as importantly, you know they will never let you down.
Green Beret and Seattle Seahawks player Nate Boyer.
“The warfighter’s biggest fear is to let down the teammate to his left or right. “
It may seem obvious to a military veteran, but to many athletes and professional sports teams, it’s not so obvious. Through the course of Mission6Zero’s work in the NFL, the organization found instances of teammates who had never spoken to one another – even after the season began.
When Mission6Zero finds that the best predictor of team productivity is how teams communicate outside of the workplace and there are teammates who never talk at all, it’s easy to identify potential problems in an organization. Those “Mandatory Fun” sessions we weren’t so keen on attending while we were in the military were actually one of the most useful training opportunities we could ever have attended.
In 1775, Captains Samuel Nicholas and Robert Mullan recruited men in a popular Philadelphia bar, promising them beer and adventure on the high seas. Just a few months after that November gathering at Tun Tavern, some five companies of the finest Marines landed on the island of Nassau and handed the stunned British a gleaming defeat.
Marines across the Corps maintain that the two newly-commissioned officers were in Philadelphia’s Tun Tavern that chilly November day to create a cadre of warriors who would serve aboard ships of the Continental Navy. Former Quaker and onetime pacifist Samuel Nicholas managed to raise two battalions of Marines out of Philadelphia. They would need all the help they could get because while the Army was fighting the British off at home, the Marines were going to take the fight to the enemy.
In the early days of the American Revolution, the colonial government of Virginia moved its stores of gunpowder to a “safer” location, to keep it out of the hands of rebel forces — who were desperately low. That location was in the Bahamas, supposedly safe from marauding rebel ships and fighters.
When word reached Congress about the large stores of gunpowder in the Crown Colony of the Bahamas, the body sent secret instructions to Commodore Esek Hopkins to lead a flotilla of eight ships and 220 Marines (led by Capt. Samuel Nicholas) to Nassau and capture the large gunpowder supply in March, 1776. Consisting of two forts, Nassau and Montagu, the island’s defenses were a wreck. Fort Nassau could not support firing its 46 cannons. Fort Montagu controlled the entrance to the harbor, but most of the gunpowder and ammunition on the island was held at Nassau.
After a brief council, Hopkins decided the landing party would land near Fort Nassau aboard three ships at first light. The invaders would capture the town of New Providence before the alarm was raised among the island’s defenders.
They were spotted by the British, who then fired guns from Fort Nassau to arouse the island’s defenses. The landing team was forced to withdraw back to the ships and the ships left to rejoin the rest of the flotilla to determine their next move. The aborted raid did have a positive effect for the nascent Americans however: The Governor of the Bahamas almost had the extra gunpowder moved aboard one ship for safekeeping, but that idea was abandoned. The gunpowder stayed put and Fort Montagu was reinforced with only 30 mostly unarmed militiamen.
Back aboard the rebel flotilla, a new plan was hatched. The Marines, bolstered by 50 Continental Sailors, would land on Nassau via three ships and backed by the USS Wasp for firepower. In two hours, the Americans landed their entire force east of Montagu unopposed. This was the first amphibious landing of the U.S. Marine Corps.
After landing, the Marines encountered a British reconnaissance force as Fort Montagu was reinforced with another 80 militiamen. Word soon got out that the invading force was sizably larger than the island’s defenses, Montagu fired only three shots before giving up, and the militiamen simply returned to their homes. The Marines occupied the fort that night. The next morning, they occupied Fort Nassau without a shot.
Unfortunately for the invaders, the governor managed to sneak 150 barrels of gunpowder out of the harbor that night because none of the American ships were guarding the harbor. They did take the remaining gunpowder stores and all the weapons and guns the flotilla could carry. These weapons were later used by the Army under Gen. George Washington.
Belgian Air Force F-16s scrambled to intercept two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack supersonic, nuclear-capable bombers, accompanied by two Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker fighters over the Baltic Sea on Sept. 17, 2019.
The Belgian Air Force has been guarding the Baltic airspace since Sept. 3, 2019, when it took over the police mission from fellow NATO member Hungary, which was supported by Spain and the UK in its mission. Four Belgian F-16s and at least 60 soldiers have been deployed to protect Baltic airspace from unwelcome incursions, according to the Belgian Ministry of Defense.
Sept. 17, 2019’s interception was Belgium’s first since it began its rotation over Baltic airspace, and seemingly at very close range.
Russian aircraft have engaged in several provocative actions over NATO airspace this year. In June 2019, British Typhoon fighter jets scrambled to intercept Russian Su-30 Flanker fighters twice in two days.
An British air force Typhoon fighter jet, foreground, with a Russian fighter over the Baltics.
But NATO countries aren’t merely reacting to Russian aggression. In August 2019 alone, US and UK aircraft sent clear messages to Russia:
US B-2 Spirit stealth bombers flew with UK F-35s, the B-2’s first time flying with non-US F-35s.
B-2 Spirit bombers landed in Iceland for the first time. The B-2, which operates from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, Andersen Air Force Base on Guam, Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, and Royal Air Force Fairford in the UK, needs specific conditions to support its stealth capabilities.
B-2 bombers flew their first extended sorties over the Norwegian Sea earlier in September 2019 — right in Russia’s backyard.
Two US Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bombers, currently deployed to RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, fly alongside two Royal Air Force F-35B Lightning aircraft from RAF Marham near the White Cliffs of Dover, England, Aug. 29, 2019.
(US Air Force/UK Ministry of Defense)
NATO countries share the mission of protecting Baltic airspace, as the Baltic countries — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — don’t have the infrastructure to protect their own airspace and are considered at risk of destabilization or invasion by Russia.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
When the USS Emory S. Land, one of the Navy’s two submarine tenders, sailed into the Ulithi Atoll on Dec. 7, 2019, it was a return to a major hub for US operations in World War II and yet another sign the US military is thinking about how it would fight a war in the Pacific.
Only four of the atoll’s 40 small islands are inhabited, but they all surround one of the world’s largest lagoons, which was a vital jumping-off point for the Navy as it island-hopped closer to the Japanese mainland during the war.
“It was the logistical hub for the invasions in the Philippines, Leyte Gulf, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa — all of those operations were launched from the base at Ulithi,” Capt. Michael Luckett, commanding officer of the Emory S. Land, said in a release. “At the height, there were as many as 700 ships anchored there in the lagoon, including dry docks, repair ships, tenders, battleships, aircraft carriers, destroyers, and sea planes.”
The Philippines, which includes Leyte Gulf, and the Japanese islands, including Okinawa, are part of the Pacific’s first island chain, of which Taiwan is also part.
Farther east is the second island chain, comprising Japan’s volcanic islands, which include Iwo Jima, and the Mariana Islands, which are administered by the US and include Guam, where the Land and fellow tender USS Frank Cable are stationed.
The approximate boundaries of the first and second island chains in the western Pacific.
(US Defense Department)
The island chain strategy has been around for some time, developed with the Soviet Union in mind. It has gained renewed attention as China’s influence has risen.
The first island chain is now within reach of Chinese naval and land-based weapons, while the second island chain is an important strategic line of defense for the US. Ulithi, west of Guam, has an important place between the two.
“It’s a convenient place to operate that’s relatively close but not so close that you’re going to be exposed to large numbers of either Chinese forces or Chinese missile attack, potentially,” said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
While underway replenishment is common for the Navy today, calm waters inside atolls like Ulithi still make them valuable spots to resupply submarines and surface ships.
“One thing you can’t do while you’re underway is rearming. So a ship that launches a bunch of missiles … they can’t just send the missiles over and reload them at sea,” said Clark, who was a Navy submariner and led development of strategy as special assistant to the chief of naval operations.
“You pretty much have to pull into port” to rearm, Clark said. “So this would be a way to have the ship pull into the atoll, have the tender load up the missiles in the [vertical launching system] magazine, and then the ship can go back out rearmed,” Clark added.
In a conflict, the release said, Ulithi “could again represent a logistical hub capable of supporting the fleet.”
Sailors aboard submarine tender USS Emory S. Land look on as submarine tender USS Frank Cable departs Apra Harbor in Guam for sea trials, December 16, 2019.
(US Navy photo by MCS 2nd Class Heather C. Wamsley)
Not just submarines
The Land and Cable, usually working out of Guam or Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, provide maintenance and logistical support to US ships in the 5th and 7th Fleet areas of operation.
“They’re designed mainly for submarines because submarines have more maintenance requirements, but they actually do maintenance on surface ships as well,” Clark said.
They mostly do minor repairs, but they can work on more complex systems like nuclear reactors. Tenders also have dive teams that can do perform repairs on the hull and its coating in the water.
“They can do welding. They can do hull repair. They can do replacement of components. They can remove interference that’s in the way of replacing a pump or something,” Clark added. “So they can do lots of relatively heavy maintenance that just doesn’t require dry-docking.”
These kinds of fixes can extend how long a warship is suited for combat before it must return to an industrial hub for an overhaul.
The Land’s visit to Ulithi was meant “to demonstrate the submarine tender’s ability to return to Ulithi and successfully anchor within the lagoon,” the release said. Luckett said it showed the Land could “do all of the things needed inside the lagoon without any support from external sources.”
“The idea,” Clark said, is that the tenders would provide support “not just for submarines but also for surface ships. That’s probably the the bigger purpose of putting it into the atoll … to support surface combatants.”
An unmanned aerial vehicle delivers a 5-pound payload to the the Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS Hawaii during a training exercise off the coast of Oahu, October 10, 2019.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Michael B. Zingaro)
Keeping the fight going
The Pentagon’s shift to “great power competition” with Russia and China has put renewed emphasis on logistics networks in Europe and the Pacific, the latter of which, a vast ocean dotted with far-flung islands, presents a particular challenge for resupply and reinforcement.
The Navy has “been putting time and research into how you might do it. They actually haven’t been making that many investments changing how they do the logistics,” Clark said, but there have “been analyses and studies and some technical research on different techniques.”
One of those was illustrated in October, when sailors used a small drone to deliver a 5-pound package to a sub about a mile off the coast of Oahu in Hawaii.
“What started as an innovative idea has come to fruition as a potentially radical new submarine logistics delivery capability,” a Navy officer said at the time. “A large percentage of parts that are needed on submarines weigh less than 5 pounds, so this capability could alleviate the need for boats to pull into ports for parts or medical supplies.”
The drone’s payload and its range put limits on the additional capability it can provide to the fleet right now, Clark said.
But it would still provide some safety benefit and save time by obviating the need for a sub to sail into port to get those supplies — and in a conflict in the western Pacific, where China could sortie a lot of subs quickly, timing could make all the difference.
Plus, success with a small drone now could lead to bigger advantages in the future.
“If you take that and extrapolate,” Clark said, “a larger drone could cover a longer distance and maybe do the same operation, so now I do get a more distributed supply network.”
“If you had a bigger UAV, like a Fire Scout or something, that could go for three hours and might cover a couple of hundred miles. Well, then maybe … that’ll allow you to spread out your logistics networks,” Clark added, referring to an unmanned helicopter the Navy wants to use aboard littoral combat ships.
“Now the ship with a couple of Fire Scouts can cover a lot more area than it could if it was just doing it by itself.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Garlin Conner charged alone into the cold abyss, toward the massive silhouettes of German tanks in the distance.
Clutching a telephone, radio and wire, the first lieutenant carried himself through the frigid January air, toward 600 encroaching Germans and the enemy rounds he knew were coming.
Conner could not turn back if he wanted to.
His company needed a guide to cut into the surging German infantry or risk getting overrun. The Kentucky marksman always fought in front of his men, and his fellow soldiers trusted him to lead. Conner often fired at the opposition standing while others ducked for cover.
Conner could see the enemy before they spotted him, fellow soldiers wrote.
The thunder of the German rifles didn’t rattle him. His father had raised him to be fearless while hunting wild game in the woods of southern Kentucky. A bullet wound in his left hip could not keep him from returning to the front lines, nor could orders to remain at a military field hospital. On a frigid winter morning in 1945, Conner would once more put himself between his fellow soldiers and the onslaught of enemy fire.
This time, in a snow-covered forest, 5-foot-6-inch Conner faced the full brunt of German forces. On Jan. 24, the Nazi-led German army mounted a desperate surge to split American units near the French-German border.
Conner headed toward the flurry of bullets until he ducked into a shallow, snowy ditch.
Here in the frozen French countryside, amid rampant automatic fire, Conner would make what could be his final stand, guiding American artillery toward the German infantry. Here, Conner would remain until American forces stopped the Germans, or until a bullet stopped him.
When locals in the rural farming town of Albany, Kentucky, would ask Garlin “Murl” Conner about his time in World War II, he’d hush them quickly.
“I’d done what I had to do,” Conner said in soldier accounts, “and that’s all there is to it.”
After returning to Clinton County following the war and starting a tobacco farm, the decorated Army veteran decided he had seen enough of the world and the horrors of armed combat. Conner had found peace plowing fields in the shadows of the Appalachians.
Conner never boasted about his acts of bravery.
For more than 53 years until his death in 1998, he rarely spoke about the war again — not to his wife, Pauline, or even to a fellow soldier.
During the two decades since Conner died of complications related to heart and kidney failure, others took up the cause the farmer so adamantly declined. Former Army Green Beret Richard Chilton, with the support of seven retired generals, presented Conner’s bid for the Medal of Honor to the Army’s personnel records office.
The curious case of Conner, who held a war record so compelling that it rivals the accolades of the more famous veteran Audie Murphy, baffled those who knew him. In all, Conner spent more than 800 days on the front lines in World War II. He suffered seven combat wounds while earning four Silver Stars, three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, the French military decoration Croix de Guerre, and the Distinguished Service Cross.
And yet, in an effort to get Conner recognized with a Medal of Honor, Chilton and his team endured a difficult quest that spanned decades. A federal district court rejected Conner’s initial bid for the award. In the 2014 ruling, a federal judge in Kentucky told a heartbroken Pauline that she had not filed her husband’s paperwork in time.
Conner had for decades shied away from talk of the award, much like he avoided any conversation of his four years in the Army. Still, his family continued to cling to hope that one day Conner would earn the U.S. military’s highest distinction.
Old Kentucky home
A curving paved road leads to Murl and Pauline Conner’s red brick farmhouse wedged near the foothills of the Appalachians in southern Kentucky, two miles north of the Tennessee state line.
Blue skies hang over Albany’s green rolling landscape, as plowed fields seem to shine under the midday sun. Cardinals outside the one-story house chirp as a light wind sweeps by. This farm, cradled in the hilly terrain of Clinton County, hid the story of a man whose steely courage withstood the gravest circumstances.
Just footsteps down the road from the farm, Murl’s son Paul, and his wife Kathy, live in a modular home that was built to replace their home that had been destroyed by a tornado. Paul took over the farm after his father suffered a heart attack on a spring day in 1979.
He spent long hours planting tobacco plants before the farm transitioned into raising cattle as its primary product.
Born nine years after Conner returned from the war, Paul contrasts his dad in appearance. Burly and stout, he sports a much larger frame than his father, who had been thin and wiry, at 5-foot-6-inches tall, and weighing only 120 pounds during active duty.
Paul shares his father’s love of animals. And Paul raised his four children with the same grounded morals he learned from his father. Paul said his father offered sound advice that Paul would later instill in his children. “Be a man of your word,” Paul recalled his dad saying. “Do what you say. If you can’t fulfill a promise, don’t make it. Be mindful of people around you because everyone has feelings.”
In the family’s living room, Paul sits next to a black and white portrait of Murl as a young soldier, flanked by faded portraits of Paul’s children and grandchildren. Decorated with beige ceramic lamps, rustic wooden chairs and shelves, the room has changed little since Pauline and her husband moved into the home more than 50 years ago.
For decades the photo loomed over the room. As a boy, Paul occasionally would stare at the black and white picture in awe.
When he asked his father about his time in the Army, he’d receive the same cold response: “We went over there, we did what we had to do,” Paul recalled his father saying. “And it needs to stay over there.”
Paul grew up without knowing the full extent of his father’s achievements on the battlefield. And for the most part, so did Pauline.
Generations have passed since the soldier with only an eighth-grade education used wit and intelligence to thwart enemy advances. But buried in eyewitness accounts and in the testimonials of fellow soldiers, Conner’s heroic deeds remained etched in history, unknown to his family and many of Albany’s residents.
“I just thought he was a farmer and he did a little something in the war,” said Walton Haddix, a family friend of the Conners. “But he never would talk about it. He never mentioned anything he did in the military.”
Outside of his war medals, this 200-acre farm on the lower east end of Clinton County is Conner’s lasting legacy. The family purchased the plot of land in 1949, after the government bought the family’s previous farm to make way for the Wolf Creek Dam and Lake Cumberland Reservoir. With his time in service long behind him, Conner turned his attention to his farm and raising Paul.
He never boasted about his wartime achievements, telling his wife he didn’t want to appear to be bragging. After all, Conner’s five brothers also served in the military: four in World War II and one in the Korean War.
As a farmer, he took pride in working on his farm, where he could often be found in his long-sleeved khaki shirt, farmer’s billed cap and overalls, riding a tractor or teaching Paul how to grow tobacco from the soil.
But the war never truly left him. Sometimes, at night, Conner would wake, gripped with tension and reliving moments from the battlefield, said his wife. Instead of returning to bed, Conner would retreat to the family’s wooden porch, where he lingered for hours smoking cigarettes.
The episodes at times became so traumatic, Pauline declines to talk in detail about them. Pauline said her husband suffered symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder, an illness that had not yet been widely identified until the Vietnam War.
“If anyone had PTSD, it was Murl,” Pauline said.
Conner carried the burden internally, never voicing his anguish to his family. The last time Conner had spoken publicly about the war, it happened to be the same day Pauline laid eyes on her future husband for the first time.
A hero’s welcome
On a bright spring day in May 1945, the Wells family heard that a war hero, a native of Clinton County, would be returning after four years overseas.
The local American Legion post organized a parade in the town square to welcome back a war veteran whose bravery had townspeople talking. They traveled from surrounding counties, some by wagon. Others drove in by car, while some came on foot.
Garlin Murl Conner, a farmer’s son who voluntarily joined the Army in 1941, had come home from the war.
Pauline Wells, still in her teenage years, climbed into the back of the family’s horse-drawn wagon along with her two brothers, two sisters and her parents at the family’s farm in northern Clinton County. They drove the wagon along a dirt trail, 10 miles to the town square. The county’s schools dismissed classes early so students could attend the parade.
Pauline’s family learned that following the parade, Conner would be speaking to the crowd about the war. So townspeople crowded into the second floor of the old courthouse. Sergeant Alvin C. York, the most decorated soldier of the First World War, also attended, beginning what became a lifelong friendship with Conner. Pauline leaned onto the wooden bench in the back row to hear Conner speak.
“I was expecting a giant of a man,” Pauline said.
When Conner finally emerged before the crowd, his appearance stunned Pauline. Wearing his olive-colored military dress uniform, the lieutenant’s small stature underwhelmed the young Pauline. With narrow shoulders, and a slender frame, Conner hardly appeared like heroes in storybooks.
“That little wharf rat,” Pauline said to her mother, Tressie. “He couldn’t have done all the things they said he’d done.”
But unbeknownst to Pauline and her family, Conner had long proved his mettle to U.S. forces, the Allies, and fellow soldiers, his commanding officer would say.
Conner was a quiet man of few words. The native of nearby Aaron, Kentucky, stood before the crowded courtroom and said what would be his last public statements about his time in the war.
“It gives me great pleasure,” Conner began, “to be able to come out here today. I am not a speaker, and did not come here to make a speech.”
“But,” Conner continued, “I will try to explain to you a small part of the war in Europe and some of the things I saw.”
Conner didn’t mince words. He talked first about the early November morning in 1942 when his unit first landed on the shore of Fedala, Morocco, in support of Operation Torch. American and Allied forces wrested control of North Africa from the Axis powers in only three days.
He moved onto the invasion of Licata, Sicily, a war-ravaged city that lay in tatters after 38 days of continuous fighting. Through his 10-minute testimony, Conner didn’t talk about his medals, or the times he fought on the front lines ahead of his men. Instead he spoke of his unit’s achievements, and how they survived the changing elements and terrain.
Finally, Conner touched on his unit’s trek into southern France and a difficult battle in the foothills of the Vosges Mountains. But he didn’t say a word about any of his selfless, valorous acts. Nor did he mention a fateful January morning near a small French village during the aftermath of the Battle of the Bulge, when for three hours in the winter of 1945, he risked his life so his unit could survive.
At any cost
On the morning of Jan. 24, 1945, the men of the K Company, 7th Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division entered the Brunwald Woods near Houssen, France.
As U.S. troops scrambled to reinforce their position in the small village near the German-French border, a bitter cold swept over eastern France, creating a stinging chill.
As the frigid wind stung their faces, K Company’s soldiers marched into the snow to take on a Battalion of desperate German soldiers.
Conner had rejoined his unit in the French countryside while still recovering from a sniper bullet wound in his left hip. Conner, knowing a crucial battle loomed, had earlier slipped out of the field hospital in northern France and returned to the front lines.
Upon his return, Conner learned that his commanding officer, Lt. Col. Lloyd Ramsey, had made arrangements to send him home. Conner had earned eligibility to return to Kentucky based on his time served and accolades earned. Ramsey removed Conner from the front lines and reassigned him to serve as his intelligence officer in battalion headquarters for his own safety.
Hitler’s army, facing looming defeat, countered American forces with desperate barrage after barrage, attacking U.S. forces with ruthless resolve. The German assaults gravely concerned Ramsey. The day before, the Germans had rallied for a fierce offensive against another company, costing the Americans 25 men.
Ramsey needed a patrol team to scout the enemy’s position, but resources ran thin.
Conner, still ailing from his hip injury, once again volunteered to take a patrol and said he would attempt to use direct artillery to halt the German offensive. Ramsey, knowing the weight of Conner’s previous contributions and his pending return home, reluctantly agreed.
“No words can express the outstanding leadership qualities that Lt. Conner had,” the late Ramsey wrote. “(He was) always willing to do more than his part.”
Conner had built a reputation as an expert scout and marksman. The soldier from the Bluegrass State had earned the respect of his fellow soldiers by fearlessly confronting the enemy and taking dangerous missions. Maurice Williams, a soldier who served under Conner, said Conner’s background as a Kentucky outdoorsman helped prepare him to go undetected in combat. Raised on a farm during the Depression era, Conner learned to become a skilled marksman and hunter.
“He could go through the woods unnoticed,” Haddix, the family friend, said. “And if a squirrel (was) in a tree somewhere and move its tail, he could see it.”
While other soldiers would go on night scouting missions with team members, Conner operated alone.
Conner had fostered such a respect from his fellow soldiers, and had performed with such distinction, that he earned a battlefield commission at Anzio. Conner, along with the highly-decorated Murphy, both served in the 3rd Infantry Division, which suffered more casualties than any other during World War II.
“He always led from the front,” wrote Williams, who fought alongside Conner earlier in the war. “And his platoon felt safe following him.”
At about 8 a.m. on Jan. 24, a sudden barrage of light artillery swept on the American troops. Six German Panzer tanks emerged from the frigid air, flanked by a battalion of 600 German soldiers descending on K Company. The powerful, 9-foot tall tanks nearly spanned 27 feet across and 12 feet wide.
“The Americans, the Allies, had nothing like it,” said Luther Conner, President of Clinton County’s historical society. “It was the most potent war weapon at that time. It was just a monster. It caused fear just for a soldier to see the size of it.”
Two thirds of the battalion pushed toward K Company, attempting to split and divide the Americans. A week earlier, a German Panzer division attacked Second Battalion’s 600 soldiers. About 100 returned to their units. Germans killed or took the remainder as prisoners.
Near Houssen, K Company faced similar odds. Conner knew his unit’s only chance in the wintry conditions rested in his hands. He needed to guide artillery fire on the Germans.
Conner saw the towering frames of German Panzers barrelling through the forest. Without a moment’s hesitation, the soldier sprinted straight toward tanks, carrying a telephone, radio, and wire reel.
Conner uncoiled the wire as exploding shells and wood splinters from the surrounding woods showered upon him. Conner ran nearly 400 yards toward the enemy, ignoring warnings from his unit, said Chilton.
He did not stop until he had advanced 30 yards past the American Infantry front line.
There, in a shallow ditch beneath the January snow, Conner planted himself before the oncoming German fire. And for three hours, Conner laid like immovable rock under a violent wave, directing artillery rounds onto the German infantry. As swarm after swarm of German soldiers came like an avalanche upon him, Conner, barked directions and coordinates to battalion headquarters.
“Although he was in a prone position, the ditch only covered part of his body,” wrote 1st Lt. Harold Wigetman, who served as the S-3 in 3rd Battalion. “He was wedged in there so tight, that it was almost impossible for him to move or shift his position.”
The Germans soon grew aware of the lone figure in the snow guiding the American artillery. German soldiers began to swarm and surround Conner and the Americans. The German army mounted a final surge to overwhelm the American forces.
Conner, seeing the enemy close, made a lasting, drastic choice to defeat the German infantry.
Conner directed American artillery rounds toward his position, and the surrounding Germans. As the enemy attack continued to unfurl, Conner put himself in peril so that his unit could achieve victory.
“He cared about his men more than he cared about himself,” Chilton said.
With bullets flying toward him from both directions, Conner never wavered. At one point, a German soldier ran within five yards of Conner clutching a grenade before an American stopped him. Haddix said Conner dispatched German soldiers with his submachine gun.
“With icy self-control, he kept telephoning his directions,” Wigetman wrote, “although he must have seen that the (Germans) would have killed him before he could get on his feet.”
The American onslaught led by Conner overwhelmed the German attack. By the time the final rounds fell, Conner’s actions had resulted in killing 50 German soldiers and leaving more than 150 wounded. American munitions destroyed the six German tanks.
“I saw elements waver … their fighting spirit broken by the deadly concentration of (American) fire,” Wigetman wrote.
Conner paid a heavy toll for his valor during the war. The injury to his left hip would hamper his mobility for the rest of his life. Like many veterans of his generation, Conner did not think highly of anything he had achieved in Europe, his wife said.
“He was always very humble,” Pauline said. “He did what he felt like he had to do to protect our freedom to vote and our freedom of speech, which we have truly earned from what he did and others like him.”
Ramsey called Conner the greatest combat soldier he had ever seen. Troops who remembered him noted Conner’s cool resolve under the most difficult conditions.
Wrote Williams in his journal, “I had such confidence in (Lt.) Conner. I would have followed him anywhere he wanted to go.”
In the years after Conner’s heart attack in 1979, he found a new calling. He listened with concern to stories of soldiers who had not received their veteran’s affairs benefits. Some servicemen struggled with living expenses after they left the service.
Conner and his wife would drive across Clinton County’s 196 square miles of rolling hills and farmland to meet with vets. They extended their travels to 10 neighboring counties. Once a month they would place their paperwork and a suitcase in their Buick sedan and travel to veterans’ homes or meet them at their office in the courthouses. Pauline acted as his secretary, fielding phone calls and helping her husband coordinate his appointments with the veterans in need.
The night episodes continued through the years, Pauline said. And Conner still struggled to sleep on some nights. But helping other veterans, she said, helped him find peace.
“(Assisting veterans) became his life,” Paul said.
But listening to the tales of other soldiers and hearing about their struggles awakened a longing in Conner he thought that he had long buried.
Throughout his four years in the Army, Conner’s concerns rested with his soldiers, never seeking personal glory, but always on the lookout for how he could help, whether scouting the enemy position, or finding ways to help retired vets file their military records. But hearing their stories, Pauline said, she noticed for the first time regret.
That regret became clear in 1996, his wife said.
Chilton, a former Army Green Beret from Wisconsin, wrote a letter to Conner in search of information on his late uncle, Pfc. Gordon Roberts, who was killed after landing at Anzio. Conner, no longer able to speak or write, invited Chilton to his Albany home.
Chilton visited Conner on a fall day in 1996. He sat with Conner in the family living room, and asked him questions about his uncle and the war, while Conner nodded his answers from his wheelchair.
Chilton learned that Conner had indeed served with his uncle, and that Conner had carried his uncle in his last moments to a medical aid station. Conner, reliving a moment from 50 years prior, began to weep.
Pauline suggested that she could sort through her husband’s old war records to search for documentation of Roberts’ service. She carried her husband’s weathered, military green duffel bag out of the living room closet and pulled out old paperwork, records and medals contained inside a cardboard box.
As Chilton skimmed through the pages, his eyes widened. Chilton saw the decorations: the Purple Hearts and Bronze Star and Silver Stars. The Kentucky native had participated in eight major campaigns and had been wounded in each of the countries he toured.
“My God,” a stunned Chilton said to Pauline. “This man should have been awarded the Medal of Honor.”
Chilton, feeling sudden inspiration, asked Pauline and Garlin if he could pursue an application for the medal on Murl’s behalf. Pauline turned to her husband.
“I looked at [Garlin],” she said. “And he was looking at me so straight with tears in his eyes.”
Conner nodded his head yes. After 50 years, he was finally ready to apply for the honor that he had for so long been reluctant to seek.
“He’s my hero,” Pauline said, sitting in the Conner family’s living room, clutching the brown picture frame holding her husband’s black and white service photo. “He always has been.”
Wearing a black blazer and rose-colored blouse, her once-blonde locks have faded into gray. Now 89 years old, her voice wavers when she talks about the life of her late husband. She fondly recalls his humility and his quiet way of voicing his approval.
Finally, she talks about that spring night in 1945, when she and Garlin slipped away from Clinton County in his convertible with nothing but a homemade dress to get married at a courthouse in Rossville, Georgia. They would stop at a neighboring town on the way to Georgia to purchase clothing for Pauline. Pauline said Garlin’s patience and understanding swayed her to marry him after two weeks of dating.
Though their early marriage suffered the occasional bumps, Pauline stood by her husband’s side for more than five decades. Conner suffered a heart attack in 1979, after falling ill riding on the tractor. He underwent open heart surgery later that year, and a second surgery 11 years later.
In the years before his death, Garlin had battled numerous illnesses, including kidney failure, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease. He suffered a stroke that left him bedridden and no longer able to speak. Pauline took on the role of caretaker, cooking his meals and driving him to his medical appointments. She took a part-time job for additional income.
Conner passed mercifully on a November day in 1998. He was 79.
“The last few years my dad was alive, he wasn’t really alive,” Paul said. “It progressively got worse. I wish I hadn’t have had to see that part of it. But we can’t choose how we’re going to live and how the last days are going to be.”
At the Weldon Haddix Funeral home along Business Route 127 in Albany, hundreds waited in line to view Conner’s remains. In the rectangular, brick building nestled between local businesses on the north side of Albany, farmers, neighbors and veterans paid their respects. Veterans whom Conner had helped approached Pauline to express their gratitude for Conner’s assistance years ago. Neighboring farmers whom Conner helped as president of the Clinton County Farm Bureau also attended. To this day, Pauline said, veterans still greet her.
“They come up and hug me for what I’ve done, for what [Garlin] has done,” Pauline said. “And I always hug them and tell them I love every one of them.”
Conner’s acts left a lasting impression on Ramsey. The two remained in touch for decades through letters and phone calls. Ramsey later retired as a major general and suffered five combat wounds during his time in service. He encouraged Conner to apply for the medal over the years, Pauline said. But each time, Conner declined and the medals and decorations remained mostly untouched inside the duffel bag, in the living room closet.
Ramsey, whose 34-year career spanned three wars, wrote in 2006: “One of the most disappointing regrets of my career is not having the Medal of Honor awarded to the most outstanding soldier I’ve had the privilege of commanding.” The Army medically retired Ramsey in 1974.
A final plea
Chilton continued to press on Conner’s application for the Medal of Honor, writing letters and contacting politicians.
New evidence had been uncovered by Congressman Ed Whitfield’s office in the National Archives in Washington, including three eyewitness accounts written by fellow soldiers who fought on the front lines with Conner. The three affidavits painted in vivid detail accounts of Conner’s acts in January 1945. But even the affidavits would not be enough.
The Army Board for Correction of Military Records rejected Chilton’s original application for Conner’s eligibility for the medal. Haddix assembled a legal team, headed by Dennis Shepherd of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs as lead trial counsel, and included Luther Conner, who also serves as the Conner family’s lawyer, to begin work on a lawsuit which was filed in federal court. That lawsuit would obtain a ruling ordering the Board to grant Pauline a new hearing and to consider the new evidence.
In 2014, U.S. District Judge Thomas Russell ruled that the statute of limitations to correct Conner’s military record had expired and that the family could no longer continue to seek the award.
After the judge dismissed Pauline’s case in 2014, she said she had lost hope. She returned to Albany and resigned herself to the idea that her husband’s decorated service record would remain as it was, without the addition of the honor that Conner’s family and friends felt he deserved. Despite the backing of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs, several generals and Congressman Ed Whitfield, Conner’s chances for the Medal dimmed.
But then, on March 2, 2015, Conner’s case reached a turning point at the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. During the appeal for Conner’s Medal of Honor bid, Assistant U.S. Attorney Candace Hill was assigned to represent the government’s stance against Conner’s case. For 15 minutes, Hill defended the Army’s previous stance during the proceedings, saying the case should be left alone.
But then, in a closing moment of abject candor, Hill revealed her true feelings.
Hill broke into tears, as she discussed her father’s service as an officer in the same unit as Conner during World War II. She said her father suffered a severe leg injury on Jan. 25, 1945, one day after Conner’s heroic acts.
“For all I know,” she said. “Garlin Conner may have … helped save his life.”
Hill’s words, according to an Associated Press report, convinced the panel to submit Conner’s case to a federal mediator. The mediator then directed the ABCMR to grant a new hearing and to consider all evidence, including the recently discovered eyewitness accounts. The following October, the Board granted “full relief” to Pauline’s request to upgrade Conner’s Distinguished Service Cross to the Medal of Honor.
Still, Conner’s bid for the medal needed further approval from the Secretary of the Army, the Secretary of Defense, and the president.
Last March, Pauline received a call from a military officer at the Pentagon who told her to expect an important phone call from a high-ranking DOD official regarding her husband. Could this be the phone call she had been waiting for? It must be a trick, Pauline thought, and she called Luther Conner, the family’s attorney, to confirm its validity. When Luther gave his assurances, Pauline still asked Luther, and his wife Susan, to sit with her for the important call.
The following Monday the phone rang.
“Is this Lyda Conner?” asked a man with a gruff, New York accent.
“I go by Pauline,” she said.
“You sound just like an old country gal,” the man said.
“I am,” Pauline said, soon realizing the caller was the president.
“It’s a beautiful place down there where you live,” President Trump said.
“Yes it is,” Pauline said, as she sat in the family’s tidy living room, amid family photos of Conner, her son, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Outside, redbirds chirped in the cool spring air.
“You are the widow of Lieutenant Garlin Conner?” Trump asked.
“I am,” she confirmed.
After a brief exchange of pleasantries, Trump said, “Well I’ve got some good news for you. He has a wonderful military record — one of the best I’ve ever seen. I am going to award him the Medal of Honor.”
The news soon spread to the rest of the Conner family, Conner’s legal team and Clinton County’s residents. Chilton, who spent much of his own time and money on Conner’s journey, could breathe a sigh of relief. Chilton traveled across the country in his quest to bring the Medal of Honor to the Conner family. He’d conducted dozens of interviews with former veterans who knew Conner. Nearly all have since passed. Chilton also penned what he said could be hundreds of hand-written letters to congressmen and to the Army.
A 22-year quest for a man who left everything on the battlefield had finally ended. Conner will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony June 26.
“It gets you kind of numb, you know?” Chilton said. “It sinks in and you understand it. You realize how long you’ve been after it and how long you’ve been doing it. I was just kind of numb … I felt good for him. I felt good for his wife; she suffered through all this stuff. I felt good for (Paul). They’ll all know this forever: (he’s) a hero.”
Pauline was asked what she thought her husband would say if he was still alive. Pauline thought for a moment. And she recalled how her husband might not want the honor, and might brush it aside once more. He might defer credit to the men he fought alongside. But Pauline said she sensed her husband’s attitude toward the honor had changed during his waning years. She remembered his regret in the 1996 meeting with Chilton.
Maybe, Conner might just tip his cap, and smile.
“More than anything I miss him,” Pauline said wistfully. “And I wish he was here so he could go get the Medal himself. Because I think he would have been proud of it. I know he would have.”
“I always kept thinking he didn’t want it in his younger days. And he didn’t really. … When he got older, he wished he had.”
The story of Garlin Conner doesn’t lie in his heroic acts or in his courage under the grimmest of odds. His family says it lies in his unending desire to help others, whether guiding soldiers on the battlefields of Western Europe, or helping veterans in the rolling hills of Clinton County, Kentucky.
Chilton, a military veteran of 20 years, traveled the world with both the U.S. Army and the Israeli Army during Desert Storm. Perhaps the Wisconsin resident put it best.
“I’ve traveled a lot and I’ve seen a lot,” Chilton said. “But I’ve never met anyone like Garlin Conner.”
Editor’s note: Garlin Murl Conner will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in a ceremony at the White House June 26, 2018. President Trump will present the Medal to Conner’s widow, Pauline, at the ceremony.