A common misconception civilians have about the military is that we all have cool call signs, like Hawk-Eye, Maverick, or whatever. The truth is, if you’ve got a nickname, you’re either high enough rank to have earned one, you’re a pilot, you’re called by your unit’s name, or you did something so bad that it’s used to mock you.
If anyone calls you one of these in the military, look up the definition of sarcasm. You don’t want to earn any of these:
7. High Speed
This is the one dude who’s just trying way too hard. Maybe they got antsy when the Battalion Commander gave a speech on the range or they watched old Army recruitment commercials and decided to be “all that they can be.”
The military is based on “one team, one fight.” If you’re going WAAAAAAY above and beyond for extra brownie points, you’re ass-kissing.
This term is reserved for the kid who probably only got their name right on the ASVAB. It’s usually given out when someone does something monumentally stupid, like dry their boots in the communal dryer or actually bring an exhaust sample to the mechanics.
The nickname is more of a play on the phrase, “there’s a fine line between bravery and stupidity.” Put down the crayons and read a book.
Slacking off is part of the military, but this person takes things to the next level. They just vanish like they’re freaking Casper.
Most times, there’s no issue if you’re swinging by the gas station for a drink or whatever. The moment you swing by your barracks room to play a few rounds of Call of Duty, well, you might be earning the next nickname, too…
4. Blue Falcon
Whenever anyone is willing to screw over their comrades for the sake of personal interests, they’re a Blue Falcon.
Spend five minutes in the military and you’ll know that this name isn’t a reference to the Hanna-Barbera superhero. It’s a more formal way of saying that this person is a Buddy F*cker.
Just because they sell something cool at the BX/PX/NEx/MCX/cheapo surplus store, doesn’t mean you need to buy it — but chances are this guy bought that crap.
Also called “geardo,” they stick out like a sore thumb because they’re rocking so much unauthorized gear because “it looked cool.” They look more like they’re on a civilian airsoft team than in the world’s most elite fighting force.
2. (whatever) Ranger
In the Army, Rangers are some of the biggest badasses. However, if they have a qualifier, such as “Sick Call” Ranger, then you know they ride the hell out of the ability to go to sick call. PX Ranger is the guy who buys everything they can from the PX (especially if it’s unauthorized). PowerPoint Ranger is that high-speed butter bar who spent hours on a slideshow that put everyone to sleep. The list goes on.
No one thinks they’re a fraction of the badassery of actual Rangers.
1. Desert Queen
This one, is uh — to put it politely — the woman who enjoys getting the most attention while deployed. Don’t. Just don’t.
If you’re a woman who gets called this, knock a motherf*cker’s teeth out.
David Burnett was a U.S. Army Special Operations Crew Chief with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. You might know it better as the “Night Stalkers.” He even wrote a book about his time with the Night Stalkers. His latest project isn’t about the Army, however. It’s for the Army, for the military. It’s an invention borne of necessity – as all great inventions are – and could save lives.
In short, David Burnett wants you out of his helicopter as soon as possible.
While he was in the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, troops would board his Chinook for the ride, normally hanging their go bags and other gear inside with carabiners and bungee cord. These are the usual, practical things with which American troops deploy to combat zones. While sitting in a brightly-lit flightline with the cabin lights on, this was no big deal. But U.S. troops, especially special operators, don’t fly to the enemy with the cabin lights on. They’re usually flying in at night, blacked out. It was in those situations David Burnett realized he and his Chinook were spending a lot more time on the ground than they wanted.
The good guys were having trouble releasing their stowed gear. It was still connected to the aircraft. All the old methods of fixing their gear didn’t offer quick-release functionality. David Burnett decided he was going to do something about that.
The Tac Clamp was born.
Burnett’s creation isn’t just a metal clamp. It can be hooked and fastened for quick release, or it can be placed on a tactical track for movement in a ready room, a hangar, arms room, or even the back of an aircraft. With the push of a button, the Tac Clamp will release its iron grip and let the special operator free to bring the fight to the enemy – and it works. It works really well. Burnett’s clamp has been submitted to aircrews at MacDill Air Force Base for review and is currently being field-tested by Navy Search and Rescue teams.
“I deployed with the 160th five times as a crew chief, and I saw this problem constantly on the aircraft and on vehicles too,” Burnett says. ” The reason was because all of these outdated methods they were using don’t offer quick release and is not very intuitive. This is something you clamp inside the aircraft but is not exclusive to the aircraft. If they were doing a ground assault and they can hook the Tac Clamp in their gear and just push a button to release it.”
Burnett even created a Tac Clamp for aerial photography.
Currently, Burnett is working on getting one of the military branches to accept the Tac Clamp for consideration for small-business contracting programs. He currently has two proposals submitted, one for the Air Force and two for the Army. It’s been a long road for Burnett, but he hasn’t given up. What he’s offering is something he’s seen a need for in the military, one that could potentially save American lives. He’s already getting feedback on his aluminum clamp from troops in the field.
“Troops tell me they need a small version, made of hard plastic, one they can attach to their kit,” says Burnett, who enjoys the innovation. “All branches of service, they’re realizing they can streamline innovation process by allowing small businesses to propose their technologies and get new products and innovative technologies fielded within 18 months.”
“I have no idea why I joined the Army,” said Spc. Ken Park, a soldier with the 414th Civil Affairs Battalion, based out of Southfield, Michigan. “My parents were extremely against it. I was a spoiled brat. I was fat.”
Park came from what he considered to be a privileged life. He was constantly told that he was special by his parents and his teachers. But Spc Park never really felt like that was a life for him. “Coming from that sort of privileged background, joining the Army, being told that I was the same as everyone else sort of put me in my place.”
“My recruiter even told me I couldn’t join, the first time. He said I should go to school instead, and I could join later” said Park. He was about 60 pounds overweight at the time, so he joined a gym and, through hard work and discipline, ended up losing 70 pounds. Park was, perhaps unknowingly, starting to re-program himself into the Army life even before he officially enlisted.
By being in the Army, Park said, he has learned life skills that he may not have learned otherwise. “I didn’t know how to do laundry until the first or second day of basic. Actually, my battle buddy looked at me weird. He said, ‘How do you not know how to do laundry as an 18 year old?’ I had someone do that for me my whole life” said Park. “But now I know the value of a dollar. How hard you have to work to be something. And how to do laundry,” he said with a chuckle.
Spc. Ken Parks, a soldier with the 414th Civil Affairs Battalion listens to the range safety officer issue commands targets during a qualification table at his unit’s November drill weekend at Fort Custer, Mich. on Nov. 16th, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Bob Yarbrough)
Park went on to say that his Army experience has only gotten better. “In AIT (Advanced Individual Training) I had a case of bronchitis, but I kept going. We had a PT test and I had to pass. “There was [harsh winter] weather like this. And I had to go on. The fast guys came back, because they knew I had bronchitis, but I had to pass. I made it and it was hard, but I don’t know that I would have made it without them.”
Spc. Park isn’t new to the U.S. Army Reserve, but he is new to the Civil Affairs Community, and the 414th, first drilling with the unit in September. He says his time in the 414th has been eye-opeing. “There aren’t many places you can go, in the Army or in normal life, where someone will see you struggling, and say ‘Hey, I know you’re tired, I got you’ and they take care of you so the mission still gets done.”
Park came to the 414th after being contacted by an Officer in the unit. “Cpt. Babcock actually reached out to me on LinkedIn,” said Park, “because I’m fluent in Korean and Japanese. Now I feel proud to be part of the unit, and I hope to live up to the expectations of the Commander and the First Sergeant.”
“Despite being told that I shouldn’t, and couldn’t, join the Army, I’m glad I did,” said Park. “It gave me a higher value, a better reason for doing what I do.”
Perhaps one of the earliest examples of a successful commando raid can be found in the 12th century B.C. during the legendary siege of Troy. Though some historians doubt its certainty, both Homer’s Illiad and Virgil’s Aeneid histories point to a daring operation conducted by a select cadre of up to 30 Greek warriors who sealed themselves into the hollow body of an enormous wooden horse statue.
The symbol of the walled city of Troy, the horse was cunningly offered as a gift to the Trojans as the Greek fleet disembarked for home. Seen as a sign of good luck and an offering to the goddess Athena, King Priam of Troy accepted the gift over the objections of several in his court. That night, the Greek commandos emerged from the horse, opening the gates to the rest of the Greek army that clandestinely returned to shore and sacked the city.
Whether its truth or myth, the Greek raid of Troy using subterfuge and disguise still lives on as one of the most cunning and dangerous special operations raids of all time.
2. Assault on Eben-Emael
The first modern military to embrace the concept of special operations, the German army of World War II conducted one of the first commando raids of the 20th Century in the opening days of the invasion of France. Rehearsed in minute detail over a year, the raid by German paratroopers, or Flieger-Jaeger, on the Belgian fortress at Eben Emael is still considered one of the most thoroughly-planned and executed commando operations in history.
A nearly 80-man team of specially-selected paratroopers, including engineers and assaulters commanded by Capt. S.A. Koch, flew aboard nine gliders to the heavily armed fortress built as a part of the famed Maginot Line intended to blunt an anticipated German invasion after World War I. In the early morning hours of May 10, 1940, and despite severe damage to their gliders from anti-aircraft fire and not a few servings of bad luck, the German commandos were able to neutralize the fort’s more than a dozen heavy guns. Though unable to penetrate the fort itself and forced to fight off harassing attacks for more than a day before the Belgians surrendered, the paratroopers rendered Eben Emael’s guns useless within minutes of the assault.
The paratroopers were eventually relieved by German infantry supported by Stuka dive bombers and each of the participants was awarded a medal of valor for the successful — and daring — raid.
3. Entebbe Raid
In one of the most iconic hostage rescues ever — and one that served to epitomize the cunning grit of the fledgling Jewish state — the operation by Israeli commandos to seize a hijacked Air France jetliner in the Ugandan city of Entebbe perhaps epitomizes how special ops could successfully blunt terrorist attacks.
On June 27, 1976, an Air France flight out of Tel Aviv bound for Paris was hijacked by four terrorists, including two West German revolutionaries and two attackers from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. After a brief stop in Athens and Tripoli the plane eventually landed into the open arms of Idi Amin’s Uganda. The terrorists demanded $5 million and the release of 40 Israeli-held Palestinian militants and threatened to kill the Israeli passengers of the flight.
When negotiations eventually broke down several days later, the Israeli military began planning a raid that would eventually involve nearly 100 men, including 29 assaulters from the legendary Sayeret Matkal — which was modeled off the British Special Air Service — who would fly into Entebbe airport via C-130 Hercules transports and rescue the hostages held in a nearby terminal building.
In the late hours of July 4, the C-130s carrying the assault team commanded by Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu lifted off from the Sinai bound for Entebbe. After landing at the Ugandan airport, the Sayeret Matkal assaulters stormed off the plane in a series of vehicles similar to a motorcade used by Idi Amin. The team eventually secured the hostages, killed the hijackers and held off Ugandan army attacks until they lifted off from Entebbe 90 minutes later.
In all, three hostages were killed, one Israeli commando was killed and five were wounded.
4. Operation Neptune Spear
It may not be surprising to some that probably the most complex and dangerous commando raid in modern times was pulled off by Navy SEALs. A nearly 400 mile round trip into a nuclear armed country who has no idea you’re coming? Check. A terrorist target who’s been running from you for a decade and has a team of fanatical followers rigged to blow you to smithereens if he gets even a whiff of your plan? Check. A super-secret stealth helicopter? Check. A team of spies backing you up? Check. A commando dog? Check.
Sounds like a job for SEAL Team VI.
It’s no longer much of a secret that the operation to kill or capture Osama bin Laden was one of the ballsiest raids ever launched by special ops troops. From the months of practice on full mock-ups of the Abbottabad, Pakistan, bin Laden compound to the clandestine attempts to get DNA samples of the terrorist mastermind, Operation Neptune Spear will surely remain at the top of the list of most daring commando raids for years to come.
On the night of May 1, 2011, a select team of about 24 SEALs from the Naval Special Warfare Development Group flew aboard previously unknown stealth Black Hawk helicopters and assaulted bin Laden’s sprawling compound deep in Pakistani territory. After a crash nearly threw the operation sideways, the SEALs successfully assaulted the compound, killing bin Laden, his son Khalid, his courier Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, al-Kuwaiti’s brother Abrar and his wife. The raid took a total of 38 minutes, with more than half the time devoted to plundering the compound’s trove of intelligence, including computers, hard drives and documents.
The almost unimaginably complex raid was a complete success, with all operators successfully exfiltrating the compound without a single casualty. And if you remember anything from the raid, it’ll probably be the radio call from bin Laden’s room: “For God and country … Geronimo EKIA.”
5. The Raid on Son Tay Prison Camp
Dubbed “Operation Kingpin” and commanded by legendary Army Special Forces Col. Arthur D. “Bull” Simons, the commando raid on the Son Tay prison camp in North Vietnam ranks up with one of the riskiest missions in spec ops history. And while ultimately unsuccessful in its primary mission of rescuing the camp’s American prisoners of war, the mission serves as a prime example of joint special operations planning and support.
Planning for the mission began in early May 1970 after Air Force aerial photos confirmed the camp’s existence, which for years had been suspected of housing more than 60 POWs. Simons selected a team of 130 Special Forces Soldiers from about 500 volunteers to begin training at a secret base in Florida. Over several months, the commandos and Air Force Special Operations air crews flying HH-3E Jolly Green Giants rehearsed the raid on a scale model of the camp.
Finally, in the late hours of November 20, support aircraft including A-1 Skyraiders, F-4 Phantoms and F-105G Wild Weasels and the assault force of six Jolly Green Giant helicopters lifted off for the rescue from bases in Thailand and South Vietnam. At about 2:00am local time, the main assault force of some 50 Green Berets deliberately crash landed its helicopter into the main courtyard of the prison camp guns blazing. After a methodical search of the prison barracks and multiple engagements with guards, the assault force boarded a second helicopter for its exfiltration, empty handed.
Though the mission didn’t recover any of the POWs (intelligence later found they had been moved in July), the raid was a major success, involving a host of joint service assets — including a Navy decoy mission using A-7 Corsairs and A-6 Intruders that tied up North Vietnamese air defense assets as cover for the raid — and resulting in only one injury.
6. Operation Flipper
On the eve of a major offensive in North Africa against the German Afrika Corps, British generals planned a daring operation to assault Gen. Irwin Rommel’s headquarters and kill or capture the legendary Desert Fox.
Dubbed “Operation Flipper,” a team of nearly 60 soldiers from the #11 Scottish Commando and Special Boat Service were to make their way ashore on the coast of Libya and assault inland to Rommel’s headquarters near Apollonia. But the Nov. 10, 1941, mission was a disaster from the start.
Weather eventually forced much of the assault team to abandon the mission, leaving only 25 commandos to attack the objective. The team made it to Rommel’s headquarters but were shortly discovered by German staff and guards. The commando leader was shot and eventually died on the scene. And to make matters worse, Rommel was not at the headquarters.
The operation ended in total failure, with only two of the commandos and one of the SBS operators making it home alive. Nevertheless, Operation Flipper is seen as a bold and complex commando raid that combined covert insertion from a submarine, an arduous trek across miles of desert and a target whose death or capture could have decisively changed the direction of World War II.
7. Operation Oak
It was July 1943 and the Allies were beginning their push north from Sicily and bombing Rome. With the Nazis tied up in the epic battle of Kursk in Ukraine, Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini was left to his own devices after the Grand Fascist Council passed a no confidence vote on his leadership and he was arrested.
Eventually imprisoned at the Campo Imperatore ski resort high on a mountain in Gran Sasso, Italy, Mussolini was thought to be safe from any escape. But Hitler had other plans.
So on September 12, 1943, elite paratroopers from the German Fallschirmjager and Waffen SS commandos flew DFS 230 gliders to the mountaintop redoubt, landing atop the resort and subduing Mussolini’s 200 captors without firing a shot. The Italian strongman was then whisked away aboard a short takeoff prop plane and eventually took up residence in Vienna, Austria.
Dubbed “Operation Oak” by the German high command, the commando operation was bold and technically difficult given the remoteness and altitude of the Campo Imperatore resort, not to mention the compliment of 200 well-trained Carabinieri guards securing the site — all of whom surrendered to the elite German operators without a fight.
8. Operation Nimrod
In one of the most public commando raids in history, two teams of British Special Air Service operators conducted an early evening assault on the Iranian embassy in London in front of hundreds of television cameras and reporters who broadcast the operation in real time.
Dubbed “Operation Nimrod,” the SAS assaulters repelled from the roof of the embassy and crashed through the ground floor to rescue 26 hostages taken by an extremist Arab independence group. For six days in April and May of 1980, a team of six terrorist besieged the embassy, deadlocking on negotiations with British officials.
On May 5, the SAS was called in after the terrorists killed one of their hostages and the raid was launched in broad daylight. More than 30 assaulters were involved in the raid, which killed all but one of the terrorists. One hostage was killed in the crossfire.
While the entire raid lasted only 17 minutes, the SAS was embroiled in controversy over its tactics, with some questioning whether the commandos used excessive force. One of the terrorists escaped with the hostages but was discovered by an SAS operator later and served a 27-year prison sentence.
9. Moscow Theater Rescue
In one of the boldest terrorist hostage takings in history, Chechen separatists besieged a Moscow theater holding more than 800 people captive for nearly a week.
Up to 40 Chechen terrorists, including female suicide bombers strapped with explosives and detonators, held theatergoers for days, demanding the withdrawal of all Russian forces from the Republic of Chechnya. Negotiations broke down, two hostages were killed and the Russian government spooled up the elite Alpha Group of the Federation’s Spetznaz.
On October 26, 2002, using a specialized gas to knock out both the terrorist captors and their hostages pumped in through the theater’s air ducts, the Alpha troops stormed the theater guns blazing. No quarter was given to the terrorists, some of whom lay unconscious with bombs still strapped to them and thumbs on their detonators. The Spetznaz commandos shot nearly 40 Chechen terrorists and captured several more.
While most of the hostages were rescued, more than 130 eventually died from poor care after the assault, the gas causing many to suffocate. Some of the Alpha troops also suffered injuries due to exposure to the gas. The raid was aggressive, cunning and was the first known major commando assault to use a still unknown gas to suppress the target before the assault.
10. Benjamin Tallmadge
While not a specific raid per se, the combined operations of Maj. Benjamin Tallmadge and his troop of 2nd Continental Light Dragoons caused mischief and mayhem among British troops during the American Revolution, raiding Redcoat convoys, burning supplies and even running an espionage ring in the Northeast.
In one famous operation, Tallmadge and his Dragoons rowed across Long Island sound, hiked 20 miles inland and assaulted the British fort at Manor St. George in New York. The colonial commandos killed two British troops and quickly subdued the fort in the dead of night in November 1780. Tallmadge and his Dragoons are also famous for holding off attempts by British commandos to assault Gen. George Washington and his staff, serving as Washington’s personal body guard.
Tallmadge also played a pivotal role in unmasking the treachery of Benedict Arnold and his spy ring.
The role of Tallmadge’s 2nd Continental Light Dragoons is noteworthy because at the time such special operations and covert assaults were frowned upon by many traditional military officers, and it is seen as a testament to Washington’s strategic thinking that he allowed Tallmadge and his patriot commandos to operate as they did.
Christian Lowe is the former managing editor of Military.com. He’s currently the online content director at the Grand View Media Group.
The US Air Force set out to return to Cold War numbers by growing nearly 25% and taking on hundreds more planes to form an additional 74 squadrons, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson announced on Sept. 17, 2018.
The US Air Force, which typically acquires aircraft only after long vetting and bidding processes, will attempt the radical change in short order to fulfill President Donald Trump’s vision of a bigger military to take on Russia and China.
In the US’s new National Security Strategy, National Defense Strategy, and Nuclear Posture Review, the Trump administration redefined the US’s foremost enemies not as rogue groups like ISIS or Al Qaeda, but China and Russia.
While the US has fought counter insurgencies against small terror groups and non-state actors nonstop since Sept. 11, 2001, the resurgence of an aggressive Russia now at war in Ukraine and Syria, and the emergence of China now unilaterally attempting to dominate the South China Sea, has renewed the US military’s focus on winning massive wars.
This chart shows how many new squadrons the Air Force wants and how they’ll be distributed. The Air Force announced a goal of 386 squadrons, up from 312. Depending on the airframe, a squadron can have 8-24 planes.
For the bomber squadrons, which include nuclear capable bombers like the B-52 and B-2, that number will grow only slightly and likely include the mysterious new B-21 Raider bomber, which no one has ever seen outside classified circles.
In the fighter jet department, it’s likely F-35s will comprise most of this growth. Aerial tankers and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms, likely drones, will also see a big bump.
The Air Force hopes to build the force up to 386 squadrons by 2030, but has not provided any information on how it plans to fund the venture. The US Air Force has requested 6 billion for next fiscal year, already a six percent bump over the previous year. While Wilson promised to streamline acquisition, which famously can take years and cost billions, there’s real doubts about how fast the organization can move. The US Air Force started working on the F-22 in 1981. It first flew in 1997 and first went into combat in 2014. The F-35 started in 2001 and just last year experienced its first combat in Israel’s service.
“We are not naive about the budget realities,” Wilson said at the Air Force’s annual Air, Space Cyber Conference. “At the same time, we think we owe our countrymen an honest answer on what is required to protect the vital, national interests of this country under the strategy we have been given, and so we believe this is, if not the perfect answer, it is an honest answer to that question: What is the Air Force we need?”
Currently, China’s military is in the midst of building up a tremendous air force and navy while also threatening some of the US’s core interests and most promising technologies.
The biggest US Air Force defense projects involve stealth aircraft, like the B-21 and F-35. As of yet unpublished research on China’s military reviewed by Business Insider found Chinese fighter aircraft now number around 1,610 compared to about 1,960 US fighters.
China has made strides towards quantum radars designed to negate the US stealth advantage as well as a stealth fighter of its own, the J-20.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
B Company, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment in Somalia, 1993 (U.S. Army photo)
On October 3, 1993, Task Force Ranger conducted a raid in the Black Sea neighborhood of Mogadishu, Somalia to capture high-ranking lieutenants of the Aidid militia. The task force was an all-star special operations team composed of elements from the 75th Ranger Regiment, 1st SFOD-D, 160th SOAR, Navy SEALs from DEVGRU, and PJs and CCTs from the 24th Special Tactics Squadron.
As Nightstalker MH-6 Little Birds inserted Delta Operators on the target building, Rangers fast-roped down from MH-60 Blackhawks to the building’s four corners to secure a perimeter. During the insertion, Pfc. Todd Blackburn missed the rope and fell to the street below. Undeterred, the rest of the Rangers fast-roped out of the Blackhawks to establish security. The last Ranger out of the Blackhawk in front of Blackburn’s was team leader Sgt. Keni Thomas. As he reached for the rope, Thomas turned to the Blackhawk’s crew chief who yelled to him, “NO FEAR!”
“SCREW YOU!” Thomas responded as he dropped into the gunfire below. In his mind, it was easy for someone to say “no fear” if they’re the ones that get to fly away from the bullets. But Thomas was a Ranger, one of America’s elite, highly trained warriors. He led his team and maintained the perimeter around the target building from the Somali militia who were shooting at them, but mostly missing by his account.
Thirty-five minutes later, the target individuals were secure, loaded up on the trucks, and everyone was ready to return to base. With everything looking good, Thomas’ thoughts drifted as he thought about how he was now a bona fide combat veteran and could qualify for a VA loan. It was then that CW3 Cliff Wolcott and CW3 Donovan Briley’s Blackhawk was shot down. What was supposed to be a quick mission on a day off had turned into a battle against an entire city; after all, an American Soldier will never leave a fallen comrade.
Super 61 went down about five blocks from the target building. As the Rangers stepped off to secure the crash site, Thomas’ squad leader was shot in the neck. As the medics treated the squad leader’s neck wound, the platoon sergeant came up to Thomas and told him, “You’re in charge now.”
“What do you mean I’m in charge sarn’t?” Thomas asked, not wanting the increased responsibility.
“Hey, hey, sarn’t Thomas,” Sgt. Watson snapped his fingers to focus Thomas’ attention. “You’re in charge.” It was then that Thomas’ NCO training kicked in and he rogered up. Taking his squad leaders’ radio, he reassigned positions in his own team and took lead of the squad. The Rangers continued to make their way to the crash site as they took fire from unseen enemies.
Suddenly, one of the Rangers spotted a hostile Somali. “He’s in the tree sarn’t! He’s in the tree!” Pfc. Floyd, Thomas’ SAW gunner, yelled out frantically.
“Well if you see him, why don’t you shoot him?” Sgt. Watson responded self-evidently. It dawned on Floyd that he had, in fact, joined the Army and was allowed to shoot at people who shot at him. But rather than firing in 3 to 5 second bursts, Floyd proceeded to let out a constant stream of cyclic fire until Thomas hit him and told him to stop.
With the barrel of his machine gun glowing from the heat, Floyd stood up, lifted his goggles, and asked naively, “Did I get him?”
As the tree fell over, cut down by Floyd’s gunfire, Thomas said sarcastically, “Floyd, I don’t know if you got him, but you got the whole tree.”
Thomas and his squad continued to fight their way to the crash site and defended it until the bodies of the crew were recovered the next day. Incredibly and in spite of their casualties, their chalk was the only one to return with everyone alive that day. Thomas credits this accomplishment to the skill of their medic and the leadership of Sgt. Watson.
After Somalia, Thomas went on to serve in the Ranger recon teams. He ended his military career in 1997 as a Staff Sergeant, having earned the Master Parachutist Badge, the Military Freefall Parachutist Badge, the Special Operations Diver badge, British and Belgian jump wings, and a Bronze Star for Valor with a “V” device.
Thomas served in the Army with distinction (Photo from KeniThomas.com)
Upon leaving active duty, Thomas worked as a youth counselor and eventually became a motivational speaker, drawing on his experiences in the Ranger Regiment. He also served as a consultant on We Were Soldiers and Black Hawk Down where he was portrayed by actor Tac Fitzgerald. However, it was Thomas’ passion for music that he focused on most after the army.
Thomas formed the country music band Cornbread and began his music career by performing in and around Columbus, Georgia. By the late 90’s, the band started to make a name for itself, playing shows on college campuses like Auburn University. In the 2002 movie Sweet Home Alabama, Thomas and Cornbread perform a cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama as the movie’s featured song. To date, the band has released three albums as Cornbread and four under Keni Thomas’ name. Thomas has also performed several times at the prestigious Grand Ole Opry, with his most recent performance in May 2014.
Though he’s broken into the country music world, Thomas has not forgotten his military roots. He has performed overseas on USO tours during which he takes the extra time to connect with each servicemember that he meets and exchange stories. His favorite venues are the remote outposts where he performs for groups as small as a platoon. He also donates some of his proceeds to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, a non-profit that provides scholarships and financial aid to the children of wounded or deceased operators.
Thomas performing in Kuwait on a USO tour in 2006 (U.S. Navy photo)
From the streets of Mogadishu to the music halls of Nashville, Thomas has lived up to both the Soldier’s Creed and the Ranger Creed in never leaving a fallen comrade. He continues to tell the stories of his fallen brothers in his music and his motivational talks. Rangers like Thomas lead the way…all the way!
Despite having the world’s second largest military budget, the Chinese military is far behind the U.S. in taking care of their troops. An article on Yahoo claims that the total value of a Chinese service member’s gear is roughly equivalent to the cost of two iPods whereas the U.S. spends approximately the price of a mid-level car on each service member. This means that not only do U.S. troops generally enjoy greater comfort and security, but that the Chinese are putting their military dollars into other projects.
The lack of spending on troop gear has not gone unnoticed by Chinese troops. According to a PLA political officer, “If we provide him with advanced protective equipment he will feel very assured, and as a result he will have more confidence to win the war.”
1. They used rope to hold up their underwear until recently.
2. Most of them are still wearing steel helmets.
3. None of their headgear features communication equipment.
4. Helmets weren’t standard issue during the Vietnam war.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told President Donald Trump on Jan. 2, 2019, that the military is planning border security enhancements, suggesting that the deployment of active- duty troops to backstop Customs and Border Protection (CBP) could be extended past the Jan. 31, 2019 deadline.
“We’re doing additional planning to strengthen the support that we’re providing to Kirstjen and her team,” Shanahan said in a reference to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.
“We’ve been very, very closely coupled with Kirstjen,” he said in brief remarks at a White House Cabinet meeting presided over by the president. “The collaboration has been seamless.”
Shanahan, seated next to Trump during the meeting, said the border troops are conducting daily operational training and focusing on the “restoration of fences,” as well as “building out additional mileage for the wall.”
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.
In his only public remarks on his first full day as acting secretary, Shanahan said, “The Army Corps of Engineers is dialed in on doing this cost-effectively and with the right amount of urgency as to where we can build additional stand-up walls quickly and then get after the threat.
“The threat is real. The risks are real. We need to control our borders,” Shanahan said in remarks that echoed those of Trump on the need for border security enhancements, including major extensions of existing border walls.
Days before the November 2018 midterm elections, the military — on Trump’s orders — began deploying active-duty troops to southern border states to support CBP against a population of migrants streaming north, many of whom said they were seeking political asylum from violence in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
A total of 5,900 active-duty troops eventually were deployed to the border, according to U.S. Northern Command. The active-duty personnel were in addition to about 2,100 National Guard troops who had been on the border since April 2018.
The active-duty service members had an initial withdrawal date of Dec. 15, 2018. In early December, then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the number of active-duty troops on the border would be reduced, but those remaining would have their deployments extended to at least Jan. 31, 2019.
In an informal session with Pentagon reporters in December 2018, Mattis estimated the cost of the active-duty deployment was about million through mid-December.
On Dec. 21, 2018, Northern Command said that about 2,600 active-duty troops remained on the border, including 1,200 in California, 700 in Arizona and 700 in Texas. Late December 2018, Pentagon officials speaking on background said it was unclear whether those troops would be extended past the Jan. 31, 2019 deadline.
Soldiers from various Engineering Units install concertina wire Nov. 5, 2018, in Texas.
(US Air Force photo by Airman First Class Daniel A. Hernandez)
The troops’ presence could also be affected by any proposed resolution to end the partial government shutdown, now in its 13th day.
Homeland Security is one of several departments whose appropriations were not passed in the last Congress, resulting in border patrol agents working without pay. The Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs both have their budgets fully funded and are not affected by the shutdown.
At Jan. 2, 2019’s Cabinet meeting, Trump praised the active-duty troops’ contribution to border security, and he was adamant that the government shutdown would continue until House and Senate Democrats agree to more funding for the wall.
“The military’s been fantastic. We’ve been working with Pat Shanahan. So much has been done. The Army Corps of Engineers has been fantastic,” Trump said. But he added that border security can’t be assured without the wall.
In areas where the wall has been erected, “nobody’s coming through,” Trump said.
“We want to finish it; we want to complete it. You can’t have a partial wall,” he said, because “people come through” the areas where the wall is absent.
In the areas where the wall is present, “you can’t get through unless you’re a world-class pole vaulter on the Olympic team,” Trump said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
In the wake of a startling report from the organization Open the Books showing massive federal government expenditures in the final month of the fiscal year, troops everywhere want you to know that they deserve steak and lobster every once in a while. But the Defense Department spending problems highlighted in the report may have little to do with surf and turf dinners.
The 32-page Open the Books report, published March 2019, showed the federal government as a whole spent an astounding $97 billion in September 2018 as the fiscal year was drawing to a close — up 16 percent from the previous fiscal year and 39 percent from fiscal 2015. DoD spending accounted for $61.2 billion of that spending spree, awarding “use-it-or-lose-it” contracts and buying, among other things, $4.6 million worth of crab and lobster and a Wexford leather club chair costing more than $9,300.
“This kind of waste has to stop. It’s an insult to taxpayers,” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, tweeted, sharing a Fox Business story about the seafood buy.
Military veterans were quick to protest, however, saying the nice food is often used by military units to boost morale on grueling deployments or to soften the blow when bad news comes.
“Surf turf night was a regular thing even when I was in Iraq,” tweeted Maximilian Uriarte, a former Marine Corps infantryman and creator of the popular comic strip Terminal Lance. “Feeding troops lobster a few times a year is not a waste of money.”
Fred Wellman, a retired Army officer and the CEO of veteran-focused PR firm ScoutComms, also chimed in.
“Nothing that ever beat the morale boost like steak and lobster night downrange. Period,” he tweeted. “Taking care of the troops that you and your peers sent to war isn’t ‘waste.’ Gutlessly letting the war go without supervision of the actual effort is! But no…let’s take their good food.”
Focusing on the lobster, though, misses the point on how the Pentagon’s spending habits actually do troops a disservice, according to Mandy Smithberger, director of the Center for Defense Information at the Project on Government Oversight.
“The lobster tail example captures one’s imagination, but that’s not where congressional oversight needs to focus,” Smithberger told Military.com. “As you see spending go up, you see the amount of this use-it-or-lose-it spending going up as well, and that’s really not to the good.”
She said the billions of expenditures demonstrated DoD efforts to “use money to paper over management problems.”
For the Pentagon, the biggest year-end expenditure was professional services and support, accounting for .6 billion of spending in September 2018. Then came fixed-wing aircraft, a buy of .6 billion. Other top spending items include IT and telecom hardware services and support, .7 billion; combat ships and landing vessels, .9 billion; and guided missiles, nearly billion.
(US Navy photo by Dale M. Hopkins)
More than the individual items and services purchased, the biggest problem may be the way the spending happens — and the perverse incentives not to end up with leftover money at the end of the year, because it might negatively impact efforts to obtain funds the following year.
“Congress is a lot of the problem,” Smithberger said. “Appropriators look and see whatever is not spent, they take and use for their pet project.”
As the Pentagon budget request continues to balloon year after year, Smithberger said she’d like to see incentives to save money and a system that would keep planners from worrying about a loss of resources the following year.
“If the department showed that it was able to save tens of billions of dollars, they would have a more credible case for the topline,” she said.
There’s plenty of evidence, Smithberger said, that money alone doesn’t solve or prevent institutional problems. For example, she said, the Navy was making big investments in shipbuilding when two guided-missile destroyers collided with commercial ships in separate deadly incidents within months of each other in 2017. While investigations did cite scarcity of resources, training was found to be a major shortfall contributing to the disasters.
When it comes to defense spending, “it’s a lot of hollow rhetoric and it’s really costly when we decide to only express our support through appropriations and not through real decision-making and responsibility,” she said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Taiwan is planning a series of new, large-scale combat drills to boost military readiness for the possibility of armed conflict with mainland China.
Taiwan’s military announced Jan. 9, 2019, that new drills are “being drafted based on newly adopted tactics for defending against a possible Chinese invasion,” according Maj. Gen. Yeh Kuo-hui, chief of the Ministry of National Defense’s Operations and Planning Division, the Associated Press reported, citing Taiwan’s official Central News Agency.
2019’s exercises will include a month of combat readiness training in the first quarter, another month-long live-fire exercise in the second quarter, joint anti-landing operations in the third quarter, and joint anti-airborne maneuvers in the fourth and final quarter, Focus Taiwan reported.
China claims absolute, indisputable sovereignty over Taiwan, an autonomous democratic territory perceived in Beijing as a renegade province. “We make no promise to abandon the use of force, and retain the option of taking all necessary measures” to achieve reunification, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned in a message to the island.
Chinese President Xi Jinping.
China has an 3-million-member army and the world’s second largest defense budget. Taiwan lacks the numbers, but it does have a technologically capable fighting force, which the island hopes could repel a Chinese invasion.
Beijing has previously warned Taipei that efforts to bolster its military capabilities are pointless.
“I want to stress that it is a dead end to deny reunification by using force,” Wu Qian, spokesman for the Chinese defense ministry, stated in late December 2018, stating that the People’s Liberation Army will continue to conduct exercises and operations near Taiwan.
The Chinese military carried out 18,000 military drills in 2018 and China’s armed forces are expected to continue to ramp up training in response to perceived threats to Chinese national interests. Taiwan’s military is doing the same.
“We want to assure citizens that the military is constantly beefing up its combat preparedness and stands ready to fight for the survival of the Republic of China (Taiwan),” Taiwan’s military spokesman Chen Chung-chi said recently.
In 2019, for the first time ever, the Council on Foreign Relations listed Taiwan as a potential flashpoint on its annual Preventive Priorities Survey, although it was ranked as a Tier II concern beyond other possible conflict zones, like the South China Sea and the Korean Peninsula.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Directed by Nicolai Fuglsig, the film chronicles one of the first Special Forces teams to deploy to Afghanistan after the attacks on 9/11. The SF team joins forces with the Afghan Northern Alliance and rides into battle against the Taliban on horseback.
12 Strong brilliantly captures how difficult it is for ground troops to work and fight alongside Afghan freedom fighters against the insurgents due to the language and cultural barrier.
The film stars WATM friend Rob Riggle, Chris Hemsworth, Michael Pena, and Michael Shannon.
2. The 15:17 to Paris
Directed by Hollywood icon Clint Eastwood, the film focuses on the American soldiers who discover a terrorist plot on a train headed to Paris.
Interesting enough, the three Americans who thwarted a terrorist attack play themselves in the film alongside actress Jenna Fischer — and we like Jenna Fischer.
3. Tough As They Come
Starring and directed by Hollywood legend Sylvester Stallone, the film tracks Travis Mills (played by Marine veteran Adam Driver), a quadriplegic soldier returning from Afghanistan after his horrific injury.
Back in the U.S., Mills has to reconcile with his stepfather while coping with his new life using prosthetic legs and arms.
Directed by Todd Robinson, the film showcases a Pentagon investigator who teams up with a few veterans of “Operation Abilene” to persuade Congress to award deceased Air Force medic, William Pitsenbarger, the Medal of Honor 35 years later.
Pitsenbarger is accredited with saving over 60 ambushed service members in one of the bloodiest campaigns of the Vietnam War.
The film stars Sebastian Stan, William Hurt, and Samual L. Jackson.
Directed by Justin Kurzel, the film chronicles a nameless ex-Nazi captain who navigates the ruins of post-WWII Germany to atone for the crimes he committed during the war by hunting the surviving members of his former SS Death Squad.
Gal Gadot is rumored to have a role, but additional information hasn’t been released.
6. The 34th Battalion
Directed and produced by Luke Sparke, the film follows four friends from Maitland, New South Wales who join the 34th Battalion to serve on the Western Front. The film depicts the experiences of the unit, which was recruited in 1916.
Since 1996, “the Crucible” has been the subject of Marine recruits’ nightmares. It serves as the final test you must complete in order to officially and finally earn the title of United States Marine. During this 54-hour event, your platoon is split into squads, each led by one of your drill instructors, and each recruit must take a crack at being squad leader.
Throughout boot camp, you become accustomed to getting 8 hours of sleep and enjoying 3 meals per day, but during the Crucible, you’ll get just 6 hours of rest and three MREs to last you the whole 54-hour period. You’ll have to face down physical challenges throughout the day to test your mettle and see if you really have what it takes to be a Marine.
Here are some tips for surviving.
Remember — you’ll need this skill for the rest of your career.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Yamil Casarreal)
Work as a team
Most of the challenges you’re going to face are team-based. You and the other recruits have developing individual strengths throughout boot camp, but you may not yet have developed great teamwork skills. The Crucible will, essentially, force you to figure it out.
Don’t be a weak leader.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joseph Jacob)
When you’re selected to be the squad leader, be loud, be firm, and don’t be afraid to use the powerful voice you’ve spent the last three months perfecting.
Even if you plan ahead, be prepared to be hungry the whole time.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Carlin Warren)
Plan your meals
For the love of Chesty Puller, don’t scarf down your only meal for the day. Divide up your snacks and save the main meal. It sucks, but it’s better than going hungry in the second half because you ate everything during the first.
Just say, “f*ck it.”
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Pete Thibodeau)
Don’t be afraid to do anything
Hopefully, during boot camp, you’ve learned the importance courage since it’s one of the core values of the Corps. If you’re not brave yet, the Crucible is filled with challenges that will make sure you are before you become a Marine.
Just get back up and keep moving.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Joseph Jacob)
You may fail some challenges, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get to try again. So, don’t get discouraged when you’re getting smoked by a drill instructor.
Embrace the suck and you’ll make it through.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Yamil Casarreal)
Have a positive attitude
A positive outlook will get you through any situation. Even if you’re sitting on the cold dirt at 3 am when it’s less than 30 degrees outside, if you can find a way to be positive, you’ll get through it. If you learn this during boot camp, the rest of your military career will be a piece of cake.
It’s easy, when you’re one of the world’s great powers, to think that most battles will go your way. And the ones that won’t? Well, you can only lose so badly when you’ve got better technology, larger formations, and/or God on your side. Unfortunately, that’s not true, and even great powers can get themselves curb stomped in surprising ways.
Here are seven military defeats where someone thought they could be the big dog in a fight only to find out they were facing a bear:
Painting depicting the final minutes, and Russian losses, at the Battle of Tsushima Strait where a Russian fleet was annihilated by a larger, better prepared Japanese fleet in 1905.
Battle of Tsushima
It’s sometimes hard to remember that Russia once fielded a top-tier navy that made enemies around the world quiver in their boots. That actually changed during the Battle of Tsushima, when Russia sent a massive fleet to defend their claims in and around Korea from a growing Japanese Navy. The Japanese Navy used their better ships, tactics, and telegraphy (think ship-to-ship Morse code) to demolish the Russians.
The two fleets closed with each other on May 27, 1905, and the Japanese ships were in better condition, allowing them to sail slightly faster. Even better for the Japanese, there was a heavy fog that their telegraph traffic could penetrate, but the Russians couldn’t communicate as well with their lights and flags.
Japan’s five battleships and 84 other ships and boats were able to twice “cross the T” of Russia’s 38 ships, pounding the Russians with broadsides while the Russians could only reply with forward guns. The Russians were forced to flee, sinking only three Japanese torpedo boats while losing 28 ships.
Ottoman soldiers man machine guns in 1916, similar to the troops that maintained the Siege of Kut.
(Library of Congress)
Siege of Kut
The Siege of Kut took place in 1915 in what is now Iraq. British-Indian forces, retreating from a defeat at the hands of the Ottoman Empire, decided to stop at Kut, a position easily defended, but difficult to resupply. Since we’re talking about a siege, you can probably guess how that went.
Approximately 11,000 British and Indian infantrymen reached the fortress on December 3, and the Ottomans arrived four days later with 11,000 troops of their own — and with more reinforcements on the way. The British sent away cavalry and other forces that could escape and then settled in for the siege. The Ottoman forces, under command of a German adviser, cut off river and land access to the city.
British forces outside the city attempted to relieve it three times, but all three attempts failed dismally. While the Ottomans suffered approximately 10,000 casualties, the British were eventually forced to surrender after suffering 30,000 casualties and the capture of an additional 10,000 troops, including six generals.
Australian troops man captured Italian tanks during the capture of the port city of Tobruk in 1941 after Italian forces spread themselves too thin.
(Australian War Memorial)
Italian Western Desert Campaign — World War II
The Italian invasion of Egypt in 1940 was a fine if uninspired victory for the Italian fascists. They moved forward about 12 miles per day for about a week in September, 1940. During the campaign, the Italians failed to keep their troops close enough together to properly support one another, and the British took advantage of that fact the following December in Operation Compass.
The British planned a five-day raid in response. The goal was simply to push the Italians back a little, but the British made a note before the first attacks stating that they should be prepared to keep pushing, just in case — and this came in handy. The British forces quickly made much more progress than expected.
The Italians were occupying a series of fortified camps and, one after another, they fell to a force of 36,000 British soldiers. The British attacked from December 9 to February 9, 1941, and lost less than 600 troops killed and missing while inflicting over 5,000 kills and capturing over 125,000 Italian soldiers, 420 tanks, 564 aircraft, and multiple cities, including the key port of Tobruk.
Colorized photo of French artillerymen during the defense of France in 1940 as the German blitzkrieg thunders towards Paris.
Battle of France
As we head into this one, let’s take a quick break to say that WATM actually really respects the performance of the French military from conflicts like the 100 Years War to the American Revolution to World War I. But the Battle of France in World War II was, uh, not France’s finest moment.
The French military knew that an invasion by Germany was likely in 1940, and they tried to prepare through modernization efforts and training. But, they made two big assumptions that would turn out to be false: The Ardennes Forest’s challenging terrain would prevent an invasion through there, and Belgium would last for weeks or months, allowing France to re-deploy troops as necessary if the Germans invaded through there.
Instead, the Germans proved the many of their tanks could make it through the Ardennes Forest, and Belgium fell within days. France, despite having more modern equipment and slightly more troops, fell to Germany in only 46 days with 1.9 million troops taken prisoner, thousands of tanks and aircraft destroyed or captured, and most of their country under German control.
Oil tanks burn on Midway Atoll after a Japanese air attack at the outset of the Battle of Midway on June 4, 1942.
Battle of Midway
The Battle of Midway was supposed to be Pear Harbor: The Sequel. It was an ambush set only six months after the attacks at Pearl. The Japanese goal was to draw the American fleet into a battle the Americans would think they could win, then slam them with additional forces and wipe out much America’s remaining carrier and capital ship strength.
Instead, America captured Japanese communications traffic and set an ambush of their own. Japan was working on the assumption that America would only have two carriers and a fleet full of demoralized sailors. Instead, America intercepted the plans and showed up with an extra carrier and prepped over 120 aircraft on Midway itself to join the battle.
On June 4, 1942, the fleets clashed, and Japanese aircraft were outnumbered by a vengeful U.S. presence in the air. Japan would lose three carriers and almost 250 aircraft in the fight while sinking one U.S. carrier and downing approximately 150 U.S. aircraft. The battle tipped the balance of power in the Pacific in World War II.
Soviets celebrate holding the city of Stalingrad in February 1943 after the German assault failed.
Battle of Stalingrad
The German invasion of Soviet Union relied on a number of horrible assumptions, including the idea that Soviets, especially the Slavs, were racially inferior and part of an uncoordinated system that would crumble at the first real assault from German armor. Unfortunately for them, racism and hope aren’t viable strategies.
Instead, the Soviets forced Germany to fight for nearly every foot of Soviet territory they took, and Stalingrad was arguably the worst of all. For nearly six months, German forces slogged their way through the city, street by street, and some of the streets were impossible to take. At “Pavlov’s House,” an infantry platoon turned an apartment building into a fortress and wiped out German armored formations for weeks.
The Germans threw well over 1 million men against the city and lost over 800,000 of them killed, captured, and wounded. The Soviets actually lost more (over 1.1 million), but they bled the German formations dry of food, ammo, and in some cases, men, allowing the Soviet Union to take the offensive and begin pushing the enemy back towards Berlin.
The Bridge at Arnhem stands after British paratroopers were pushed back by a German counterattack in 1944.
(Imperial War Museum)
Operation Market Garden
In 1944, the allies hoped they could end the war in Europe before Christmas — push into the German heartland, take out industry, and push into Berlin by December and give all the Allied citizens the world’s best Christmas present. The plan called for a two-force approach, airborne assaults to take key bridges and a ground campaign to envelope portions of the Ruhr River.
The assault on Sep. 17, 1944, didn’t go as planned. German forces had learned lessons from previous Allied offensives, like a little thing called D-Day, and they made sure to reinforce bridges where possible and blow them up when they couldn’t hold them.
In a series of nine key bridges, the capture of most of them was either delayed or prevented. So, the airborne forces remained isolated as the armored forces couldn’t punch through the German defenders without bridges. Over 15,000 troops were killed, captured, or wounded while inflicting somewhere around 10,000 casualties and failing to take the key terrain, guaranteeing that the war would continue into 1945.