70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes - We Are The Mighty
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70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes

From the first American jet fighter to the latest unmanned aircraft systems, Skunk Works has been innovating for more than 70 years.


Skunk Works was formed in 1943 by the U.S. Army’s Air Tactical Service Command and Lockheed Aircraft Corporation to counter the growing German jet threat. The organization’s first answer was the XP-80 Shooting Star jet fighter, which was designed and built in 143 days.

Skunk Works is responsible for some of the most famous aircraft designs, including the U-2, SR-71 Blackbird, F-117 Nighthawk and others. This short Lockheed Martin promotional video highlights some of their famous innovations, its culture and some of their latest UAS concepts.

Watch:

Intel

How 5 Lithuanian soldiers showed how serious living next to Russia really is

If the ongoing conflict in Ukraine has taught Russia’s neighbors anything, it’s that you never really know if Russia is going to make good on a threat. And if it does, you need to be seriously prepared for what comes next. 

While Lithuania doesn’t exactly share a border with Russia, it’s still in a tough neighborhood. It does share a border with Moscow’s closest Eastern European ally, Belarus. And as a former member of the Soviet Union, they know Russia could be back at any time. 

The soldiers of Lithuania’s armed forces know this fact better than anyone else. Forced conscription of Lithuanian citizens ended in 2008 but after Russia invaded the Crimean Peninsula and began to support Russian separatists in Ukraine, the country revived the practice. 

Ever since, Lithuanian special forces have been training Ukrainian troops to resist Russia and the separatist movements it backs. Despite the small size of its armed forces, the Lithuanians punch well above their weight class, seeing action everywhere from Mali to Iraq to Afghanistan.

The skill and training of Lithuania’s military was demonstrated in 2020 when the Žemaitija Motorised Infantry Brigade, a reconnaissance unit attached to Lithuania’s land forces, conducted a military escape and evasion exercise. Five soldiers, including a draftee, were assigned to evade the rest of their unit. They did it a little too well. 

After the soldiers failed to reach their predetermined meeting point, the Lithuanian military believed something bad happened to them and launched an all-out rescue effort that included helicopters and search dogs. 

The only problem was that no one told the soldiers the exercise had ended. 

According to Lithuanian military spokesman Laimis Bratikas, the event is a kind of graduation exam for military scouts, training in the heart of Lithuania’s deep forests. These soldiers were about to get the highest marks on this exam.

For a full 24 hours, the five men didn’t just avoid a military exercise, they successfully evaded a real-world rescue operation.

russian soldiers
Russian soldiers with the 13th Tactical Group and American soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 41st Field Artillery (1-41), take a short break at checkpoint 75 in the east sector of Kosovo, during Operation JOINT GUARDIAN II.

The next time you hear someone try to downplay the skills of America’s NATO allies, remember that some of them, even those drafted into their armed forces, might have more skills than you think. They’ve been preparing to fight Russia for most of their lives.

Articles

The 13 Funniest Military Memes Of The Week

The staff at WATM sorts through the interwebs to find you the very best military memes out there. Here are our 13 picks for this week:


Snipers: The Waldoes of the military.

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
Don’t worry if you can’t find them. They’ll find you.

Remember to properly secure your firearms and Marines.

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
Don’t worry, guys. It probably won’t be long.

Ingenuity means different things to different people.

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
(If you want to make fun of them, use small words so they get it.)

This is unfair and inaccurate:

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
We all know SEALs start with book deals and then sell the movie rights later.

If you don’t need fixing, basic training will be easy.

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
Trust me, though, we all needed some fixing . . .

Speaking of drill sergeants, they’re arriving with your wake up call.

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
Your wake-up call will be at zero-dark thirty.

I can’t relax if I don’t feel safe.

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
It’s called position improvement, and if we get attacked you’ll stop complaining.

Finally, camouflage for the Navy (a.k.a. “aquaflage”) makes sense.

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes

 Reflective belts in the military are like car keys for teenagers.

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
You can’t go anywhere without them, the older crowd uses them to control you, and you lose them every time you want to leave.

 Air Force marksmanship training focuses on real world skills.

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
(But don’t worry, you won’t ever get in a real firefight.)

 Bring every item, even the ones you weren’t issued.

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
You’ll also be unpacking it at every stop for inspections. And when we get in-country. And a few more times because first sergeant wants to see it. By the way, the packing list isn’t final.

 Air Force: Military lite.

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
Notice how the Coast Guard didn’t occur to either of them?

Keep updating social media, ISIS.

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
We can target off of your pictures. Please, send more.

NOW: The Hilarious Result Of Mashing Up Left Shark With Famous Military Quotes

And: 11 Things New Soldiers Complain About During Basic Training

Intel

This Medal of Honor recipient thinks Donald Trump is wrong on Muslims

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
Photos: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey and Michael Vadon CC BY-SA 4.0


Medal of Honor recipient and Afghan War Veteran Dakota Meyer recently penned an essay on Trump’s plan to ban all Muslims from entering the country.

Meyer, who fought beside Muslims while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, points out that Trump’s tactics will likely aid ISIS recruiting and threaten American security. It would also keep out the translators whose services saved American lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the interpreter who Meyer worked to get into America safely.

Read Meyer’s essay over at Warriorscout.com 

Intel

This is the ultimate special operations weapon

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
Image: courtesy of FN Herstal


NATO wanted a replacement for its 9x19mm Parabellum firearms; what it got is the ultimate special ops weapon.

The FN Herstal P90 is a compact but powerful sub-machine gun. It was designed for vehicle crews, support personnel, special forces and counter-terrorist groups.

It’s an ugly futuristic-looking weapon. The bullpup design with ambidextrous controls and top-mounted magazine make it unconventional. But make no mistake, this is an incredibly useful weapon. It’s so effective that it’s currently in service with military and police forces in over 20 nations throughout the world, according to this video.

Watch:

American Heroes Channel, YouTube

Intel

Air Force builds up Alaskan F-35 fleet in ‘great power competition’ Arctic pivot

April 2021 marks one year since the Air Force’s first two F-35A Lightning II advanced stealth fighters arrived at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska. Twenty-five of the Air Force’s fifth-generation fighters are now at Eielson, part of the service’s overall plan to turn Alaska into a “fifth-gen powerhouse,” according to an Air Force press release.

“We have come a long way since the arrival of the first aircraft in April 2020 to now,” Air Force Maj. Jarod DiGeorge of the 354th Fighter Wing said in the release. “Flying 24 sorties in one day barely eight months after first wheels down at Eielson. We are currently on track to achieve initial combat capability this spring and full combat capability next winter.”

Former Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James issued a 2016 “record of decision,” effectively establishing Eielson as the home for the service’s Alaska-based F-35s. Additionally, the measure reactivated the 354th Fighter Wing and placed it at Eielson. The wing is slated to receive 54 F-35As in total and is on track to reach full capacity by March 2022.

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
A US Air Force F-35A Lightning II assigned to the 354th Fighter Wing flies over Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Dec. 18, 2020. Thirty-five F-35As, F-16 Fighting Falcons, and KC-135 Stratotankers conducted an “Elephant Walk” formation showcasing the air assets located in interior Alaska. US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kaylee Dubois/Released.

A strong deterrent in Alaska is quickly becoming a focal point of a renewed “great power competition” between China, Russia, and the US. In January 2018, Beijing’s so-called Polar Silk Road Arctic strategy declared China to be a “near-Arctic state” — even though China’s nearest territory to the Arctic is some 900 miles away. Additionally, Moscow and Beijing have agreed to connect the Northern Sea Route, claimed by Russia, with China’s Maritime Silk Road.

By 2022, Alaska will be one of most heavily defended airspaces on earth. When Eielson’s F-35 fleet is at full strength, Alaska will have more of America’s advanced, fifth-generation fighters than any other US state.

“America cannot afford to fall behind as other nations devote resources to the Arctic region to secure their national interests. America’s very real interests in the Arctic will only increase in the years to come,” authors Luke Coffey and Daniel Kochis wrote in a March 2020 report for The Heritage Foundation.

As Eielson AFB gets more F-35As, it gets closer to being fully combat capable. “It allows our aircrew to be able to train realistically without limitations and to accomplish their specific airborne requirements to be fully proficient in the mission and fly at a combat mission ready rate,” DiGeorge said. “Each and every aircraft we receive is also a projection of the wing’s airpower and furthers our ability to strike in a moment’s notice.”

Articles

This extreme winter survival course teaches troops how to stay alive in Arctic conditions

Few places on the face of the earth can be as unforgiving or as deadly as the frozen Arctic.


Because of the dangers of the Arctic environment, coupled with the growing strategic importance of this part of the world, the US Air Force runs the Arctic Survival School out of Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska.

Each year, this five-day intensive training program, also known as Cool School, teaches over 700 servicemembers the survival skills necessary to fight back against nature and survive in the Arctic.

“Mother nature does not like you in this situation,” Survival Instructor Staff Sgt. Seth Reab, tells his students in the morning freeze. “She’s violent. She’s harsh. Your job is to survive until help comes; her job is to find a way to take your life.”

The Air Force’s Cool School, which brings in more than 700 participants every year across all service branches, takes place outside Eielson Air Force Base, deep inside Alaska. Temperatures average about 30 degrees below zero.

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon young Jr./USAF

At the start of the course, all participants are given the emergency equipment they would have depending upon what plane they would be flying.

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
Photo: YouTube

The emergency equipment usually works. But everything else in the Arctic will try to kill the participants. This includes subzero temperatures …

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
Photo: YouTube

… and even dehydration. Despite the abundance of snow, it is extremely difficult to drink enough water under harsh Arctic conditions.

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
Photo: YouTube

One of the first things students are taught is to harvest snow in parachutes, in order to melt it down for water.

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon young Jr./USAF

This supply of snow can then be moved into tin cans, in which the snow can be mixed until it melts enough to easily drink.

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr./USAF

Warmth is just as important as water. Students are taught to find tender wood with which to build a fire.

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr./USAF

In Cool School, students are taught the ideal way to split wood into longer thin splints that will burn more easily and evenly.

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
Photo: YouTube

Servicemembers learn to create sparks with a metal match. Though somewhat antiquated, metal matches can be used indefinitely.

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
Photo: YouTube

Once students create a fire, it can be used for signaling, heat, and food preparation.

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr./USAF

Students also learn more basic practical skills — they have to change socks in order to keep feet dry so as to avoid hypothermia.

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr./USAF

On the first night of school, students are taught to create open primitive shelters that provide little insulation from the elements.

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr./USAF

Staff Sgt. Joseph Reimer unpacks his duffle bag during the first night of arctic field training near Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The course is five days in duration with instruction in familiarization with the arctic environment, medical, personal protection, sustenance and signaling. Reimer is an explosive ordnance disposal technician assigned to the 354th Civil Engineer Squadron

During the second day, instructors teach students to make more complex A-frame shelters out of wood and a parachute or tarp.

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr./USAF

Airman 1st Class Ray Simon prepares the cover for his thermalized A-frame shelter during arctic survival training at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The A-frame shelter is designed to keep the survivor warm and dry to endure harsh arctic nights. Simon is a 3rd Maintenance Support Squadron crew chief.

The A-frame is then covered with almost a foot of snow to provide insulation.

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
Photo Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr./USAF

Airman 1st Class Ray Simon looks out of his thermalized A-frame tent during Arctic Survival School training. The thermalized A-frame is designed to keep survivors warm and dry in arctic environments. Simon is a 3rd Maintenance Support Squadron crew chief and also a member of a crash disable damage recovery team responsible for retrieving downed aircraft in emergency situations.

Another vital principle of survival students learn is how to create an effective signal fire by placing a flare inside a base of kindling and smoke-generating tree limbs.

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
Photo: Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr./USAF

Staff Sgt. Seth Reab ignites a flare in the middle of tender wood to create a smoke signal during a field training lesson at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The signal flare can be seen for up to 10 miles away and much further when rescue help is coming through the air. Reab is an Air Force Arctic Survival School instructor assigned to Det. 1, 66th Training Squadron at Eielson AFB.

Next to the smoke signal, students create a giant letter ‘V’ to alert passing pilots that they are in need of rescue.

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
photo: YouTube

You can watch a recap of the Arctic Survival School below.

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

Intel

This Navy admiral pulled an ‘Undercover Boss’ on his sailors

Navy Rear Adm. Dave Thomas took part in an “Undercover Boss”-like segment for a local news channel where he dressed up as a junior enlisted seaman.


When the world’s saltiest “E-3” arrives with a camera crew, it’s like a “Hello, my name is Matt” moment, but the sailors play along. The admiral attempts to scrape rust and load an amphibious landing vehicle under the careful watch of petty officers before the big reveal.

Check out the video below:

Articles

The US is doubling down on its futuristic hypersonic weapons program

While some defense contractors might have been concerned that a new presidential administration might lead to budget cuts, order reductions or the end of some programs altogether, they can rest easy on their piles of money now. 

President Biden will not only keep many of President Trump’s weapons development programs in place, he’s seeking an expansion in many areas. One of the biggest is a 20 % increase in the proposed budgets for hypersonic weapons. 

Since announcing its homegrown sets of hypersonic missiles, Russia has spurred a kind of new arms race with hypersonics. In December 2019, the Russian military announced that it fielded its first regiment of Avangard hypersonic missiles. It also conducted several successful tests on its new Zircon sea-based cruise missile in 2020.

The United States has been eager to catch up in the field of hypersonic weapon development, but its efforts have been hampered by Congress. The Department of the Air Force has six (or more) hypersonic weapon programs in development, according to the Intercept. The House of Representatives has already been highly critical of the Air Force’s hypersonic developments.

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
Congress has been skeptical about programs like the AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon, seen here mounted on a B-52H prior to launch for a test in August 2020 (U.S. Air Force photo by Matt Williams)

That criticism led to the House forcing the Air Force to cancel one of the two prototypes it already had in development. 

The chief issue with hypersonic weapons is that all the information popularly known about their capabilities comes from Russia, who has a vested interest in making sure outsiders don’t know the full story about hypersonic possibilities – or limitations.

Researcher Cameron Tracy recently published a research paper in the journal Science & Global Security stating that hypersonic weapons’ capabilities may be more hype than hope. More importantly, the paper says existing Air Force intercontinental ballistic missiles may be faster than the new missiles developed by Russia. 

Tracy took the numbers for his research from a publicly available missile vehicle test conducted more than a decade ago, long before Russia revealed the existence of its hypersonics program.

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapons Concept (DARPA illustration)

Officials at the Pentagon countered Tracy’s report by saying the most recent data on hypersonic weapons is still classified and that changes in the development of these weapons have revealed the need for further research. They also argued that the United States would use these weapons using different tactics than Russia or China and that technology is much different than ballistic missiles systems. 

Russian weapons move so fast – anywhere from Mach 6 and higher – that a plasma cloud forms in front of the missile as it travels. This cloud can absorb radio waves, making it practically invisible to active radar systems.

If the United States’ early warning systems do get wind of a hypersonic weapon, reaction times limit response capabilities. Aegis missile interceptor systems aren’t fast enough to catch up to a theoretical hypersonic attack.

In the case of the Zircon missile, detecting it would give American units just 60 seconds to respond. Most estimate that the United States would need to destroy the weapons at their launch sites or simply place a target in its projected path. 

Russia has 15 corvettes in Navy service that could carry up to 25 Zircon missiles. Just six of these missiles could sink a carrier like the USS Gerald R. Ford. 

Although the Department of Defense has stated its intent to use different tactics with hypersonic weapons, it has not since revealed how its research could help provide a potential defense against them.

Feature image: DoD

Articles

How one Soviet agent single-handedly changed the course of World War II

When Richard Sorge was born, his German parents were living in what is now Azerbaijan, working for the Russian government. He moved with his family to Berlin at a very young age. He was raised in a typical upper-middle-class family, supporters of the German Empire and the Kaiser.

Like many Europeans, he became disillusioned with the state of affairs during and after World War I, and his political views changed. If Richard Sorge hadn’t become a Communist, World War II might have lasted much longer – or ended differently. 

At age 18, Sorge enlisted in the German Army and was sent to the Western Front. As a member of a reasonably wealthy family, he was supportive of the Kaiser and the war – at first. As the war dragged on, his views on war not only changed, his entire political point of view changed along with it. 

Sorge was wounded in his hands and both legs and was discharged in 1916. By the time he left the army, he was no longer a German nationalist. As he recovered from his wounds, he read the works of Karl Marx and became a Communist. After earning a doctorate degree, he joined the Communist Party and moved to the Soviet Union.

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
Sorge (left) in uniform in 1915 (German Federal Archive)

It was in the USSR that he was recruited to work for the Red Army’s intelligence directorate. He was sent back to Germany posing as a journalist. He would spend years in Germany, China, and Great Britain, reporting back to the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) on the development of communist parties in those countries and the outbreaks of violence in China. 

Once Japan had taken parts of China in 1931, the Soviet Union was worried that the Japanese Empire would invade the Soviet Far East. Sorge was sent to Germany to join the Nazi Party, get a job as a correspondent in Japan, and set up an intelligence gathering ring there.

That’s exactly what he did. After reading Adolph Hitler’s Mein Kampf, he became adept at creating Nazi propaganda and began attending beer hall meetings. He was so good at his work in Germany that three publications commissioned his work in Japan. Sorge’s farewell dinner was attended by Joseph Goebbels himself. 

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
He was so good at peddling fake Nazi bullsh*t that he had this guy buying in (German Federal Archive)

By 1933, Sorge was working in Japan as a correspondent for Germany’s top newspaper. His real job, from his Soviet handlers, was to determine if Japan was planning an attack on the USSR. He recruited a team of communist informants and by 1935 had contacts in both the German military presence in Japan, as well as the Japanese military and government. 

Sorge was, soon after he was established, committed to the role of the hard-drinking playboy and ladies man, a typical Nazi diplomat in Japan at the time. He was so trusted by the German delegation in Japan that they weren’t just sharing information with the Soviet spy, Sorge was actively writing diplomatic cables back to Berlin.

After some Japanese officers started a border clash with the USSR near Manchuria, Sorge learned that it was an isolated incident and that Japan had no intentions of an all-out invasion of the USSR. 

By far, the two most important intelligence findings of Sorge’s time in Japan came after World War II had started in earnest. He learned that Nazi Germany was planning its invasion of the USSR in 1941, but Soviet leader Joseph Stalin wrote off Sorge as a drunkard. Sorge’s next intelligence coup would not be ignored.

In September 1941, Sorge learned that the Japanese military command was resisting German pressure to go to war with the USSR and wanted to attack the United States’ possessions in the Pacific instead. He reported to Moscow that the Japanese would not invade the Soviet Union until the Nazis captured Moscow, the Japanese had enough troops to invade Siberia, and a civil uprising could be started there.

After receiving this intelligence and seeing the Germans halted before Moscow, Stalin felt he could move Soviet Far East divisions to counter the Nazi invasion and turn the tide against the Germans. 

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
This intel was crucial to the Soviets driving the Germans out of Stalingrad and turning the tide on the Eastern Front (Wikimedia Commons)

Sorge was eventually arrested under the suspicion of espionage. He confessed under torture and was hanged as a spy in November 1944.


Feature image: German Federal Archive

Articles

Incredible photos of US Marines learning how to survive in the jungle during one of Asia’s biggest military exercises

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
A US Marine biting into a freshly skinned king cobra as part of a survival exercise during Cobra Gold 2006. (Photo: slagheap/Flickr)


The US-led annual multinational military exercise Cobra Gold kicked off in Thailand on Monday, despite a faltering relationship between the two countries following Thailand’s military coup in May 2014.

Cobra Gold 2015 is scaled down due compared to past years because of the frosty relations between Thailand’s ruling military junta and the US. But it’s still a massive military exercise even in a reduced form. This year 13,000 personnel from 7 participating nations have joined in the exercises, the AP reports.

The participant countries are Thailand, the United States, Singapore, Japan, Indonesia, Republic of Korea and Malaysia, while India and China are taking part in humanitarian training missions. Even though the exercise is smaller than in the past, the scope of Cobra Gold has grown since the first one was held in 1982 and involved only the US and Thailand.

Exercises in Cobra Gold 2015 include jungle survival training and civic assistance programs in underdeveloped regions of Thailand.

Survival training is a big part of Cobra Gold. Thai Marines demonstrate how to capture a cobra in the wild.

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
Photo: Cpl. Isaac Ibarra/USMC

US Marines then help decapitate the cobra and take turns drinking its blood. Cobra blood is surprisingly hydrating and can be used as a temporary replacement for water if a Marine is lost without supplies.

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
Photo: Cpl. ISaac Ibarra/USMC

Thai Marines also teach their counterparts how to recognize edible jungle fruits.

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
Photo: Cpl. Isaac Ibarra/USMC

Like cobra blood, several of the fruits can serve as an improvised source of hydration.

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
Photo: Cpl. Isaac Ibarra/USMC

Marines are also instructed in the proper way to eat scorpions and spiders. Spiders are eaten after their fangs are ripped off, while scorpions are edible once the stinger is removed.

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
Photo: Cpl. Isaac Ibarra/USMC

Aside from survival lessons, participant countries also take part in construction projects to build greater regional cooperation in the event of disasters like typhoons or plane crashes. Here, Chinese and US soldiers work together to build a school as part of Cobra Gold 2015.

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
Photo: Cpl. James Marchetti/US Pacific Command

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This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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Will the US military continue to fly the Confederate flag?

70 years of Skunk Works innovation in 2 minutes
Photo: Flickr


The Confederate flag’s dark and nuanced history has long made the rebel banner an uncomfortable topic of conversation. In the minds of many Americans, it is a symbol of slavery and institutionalized racism – an emblem on par with the Nazi swastika. For others, it’s simply an expression of regional pride.

However, after the racially-motivated church slayings in South Carolina last week – committed by a man who was a proud flyer of the stars and bars – state governments have begun to remove the Confederate flag from their federal buildings. The United States military, on the other hand, has yet to address the issue officially.

South Carolina’s Army Guard still flies 16 streamers that were created under the Confederacy, and servicemen and women are allowed to sport the Confederate flag on clothing and tattoos — something the Defense Department does not consider offensive material. Still, some military officials have decided to retire the flag after the shootings, including The Citadel, South Carolina’s famous military academy, which removed the Confederate Naval Jack from its chapel.

Gen. Daniel Allyn, vice chief of the U.S. Army, spoke to the The Military Times about the rebel flag’s importance within the American military:

“I think that, when you are a student of military history, let’s face it: One of our greatest military generals in the history of our nation was Robert E. Lee,” Allyn said, referring to the legendary Confederate commander.

At Army posts throughout the country, there are “thousands of battle pictorials of Grant and Lee going up against each other with their requisite flags,” he added, noting Lee’s Union counterpart, Gen. Ulysses Grant, who later became America’s 18th president. “So yes, you will find those resident. And if those are offensive to people, I’m sure that our commanders will deal with that.”

“We swear our allegiance to the flag of the United States of America,” Allyn said, “… and we will protect and defend that flag.”

For more on the topic, check out The Military Times

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