Army researchers have discovered that being initially uncertain when faced with making critical mission-related decisions based on various forms of information may lead to better overall results in the end.
Army collaborative research has studied networked teams and asked the following question: “Does the uncertainty regarding shared information result in lower decision making performance?”
The answer seems to be “not necessarily,” as the findings suggest that uncertainty may actually be helpful in certain situations.
This finding may sound counterintuitive, as many algorithms specifically incorporate the objective to reduce uncertainty by removing conflicting or irrelevant data.
Reducing uncertainty is desirable when decision makers are processing high-quality information which is correct, timely, complete and actionable.
Additionally, in automated settings requiring no human input, prior beliefs may not impact decisions and it is not necessary to consider the impact of uncertainty on beliefs.
However, many real-world scenarios do not correspond to this idealized setting and hence more nuanced approaches may be needed.
Army graphic designed by U.S. Army Research Laboratory graphic artist Evan Jensen delivers the key idea that making decisions under uncertainty may not be such a bad thing after all.
“We are continuously flooded with large amounts of unverified information from social and news media in our daily lives,” said Dr. Jin-Hee Cho, a project lead of the trustworthy multi-genre networks with the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Research Laboratory’s Network Science Division. “Hence, we may find ourselves unable to make a decision due to too much information as opposed to too little.”
In the context of battlefield situations, different information through diverse channels is available for a decision maker, for example, a commander.
The commander needs to incorporate all opinions or evidence to make a final decision, which is often closely related to time-sensitive mission completion in a given military context.
“Investigating how uncertainty plays a role in forming opinions with different qualities of information is critical to supporting warfighters’ decision making capability,” Cho said. “But, what if we cannot reduce uncertainty further?”
Recently, Cho presented her research paper entitled “Is uncertainty always bad: The effect of topic competence on uncertain opinions” at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ International Conference on Communications.
This research is completed in collaboration with Professor Sibel Adali at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where Cho and Adali have been working together through the Research Laboratory’s collaborative program called the Network Science Collaborative Technology Alliance.
In the paper, the researchers pointed out that although past work investigated how uncertain and subjective opinions evolve and diffuse in social networks, there is little work on directly showing the impact of uncertain, noisy information and topic competence on forming subjective opinions and beliefs as well as decision making performance.
Dr. Jin-Hee Cho, project lead of the trustworthy multi-genre networks with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory’s Network Science Division.
“Information often has multiple attributes that all contribute to decision making in conjunction with the competence, knowledge and prior beliefs of individuals in the given topic,” Adali said. “Many information models tend to oversimplify the problem abstracting out these factors which become quite important in situations involving uncertain, noisy or unreliable information.”
The key motivation of this study is to answer the following question: “When we are stuck with high uncertainty due to noisy, not credible information, how can an individual maximize the positive effect of a small pieces of good information for decision making?”
To study this problem, Cho and Adali extended the subjective logic framework to incorporate interactions between different qualities of information and human agents in scenarios requiring processing of uncertain information.
In their recent research paper, the following lessons are presented as answers to this key problem:
One, as human cognition is limited in detecting good or bad information or processing a large volume of information, errors are inevitable.
However, as long as an individual is not biased towards false information, systematic errors do not cascade in the network.
In this case, high uncertainty can even help the decision maker to maximize the effect of small pieces of good information because the uncertainty can be largely credited by being treated as good information.
Another insight is that less information is better, particularly when the quality of information is not guaranteed.
“A non-biased view is vital for correct decision making under high uncertainty,” Cho said. “You don’t even have to favor true information either. If we are not biased, it allows even small pieces of true information to lead you to the right decision.”
So, when faced with tough decisions on the battlefield, warfighters need not rely solely on one way of thinking and processing information, as the answer they need to successfully make a move or complete a mission could be right in front of them in the form of an uncertain feeling.
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.
President Donald Trump welcomed the arrival of the three Korean-Americans held captive in North Korea at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on the early morning of May 10, 2018, following weeks of speculation about their release.
Authorities released the three detainees — Kim Dong-chul, Kim Sang-duk, and Kim Hak-song — after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in North Korea and met with leader Kim Jong Un on May 8, 2018.
Walking out of their plane without assistance and onto the tarmac, the detainees appeared in good spirit and waved at a cheering crowd. On the ground, two firetrucks hoisted an enormous American flag, giving the impression of a major political victory for the US and Trump.
“We would like to express our deep appreciation to the United States government, President Trump, Secretary Pompeo, and the people of the United States for bringing us home,” the three said in a statement released by the State Department.
“We thank God, and all our families and friends who prayed for us and for our return. God Bless America, the greatest nation in the world,” the statement continued.
Trump called the former detainees “incredible people” and said their release “was a very important thing to all of us.”
“This is a special night for these three, really great people,” Trump said as he shook their hand. “And congratulations on being in this country.”
“It was nice letting them go before the meeting,” Trump continued. “Frankly, we didn’t think this was going to happen, and it did.”
Korean Central News Agency, North Korea’s state-run media outlet, said that Kim “accepted an official suggestion of the US president for the release” and granted “amnesty” to them.
The alleged crimes that landed them in custody in North Korea ranged from committing “hostile acts” to subvert the country and overthrow the government. Criminal charges in the North are typically exaggerated and disproportionate to the alleged offenses.
The three men were previously held in labor camps, with Kim Dong-chul being held captive the longest after his arrest in 2015.
“You should make care that they do not make the same mistakes again,” a North Korean official said to Pompeo. “This was a hard decision.”
Their return to US was a long time coming. Discussions between South and North Korean officials during the 2018 Winter Olympics earlier this year culminated in a historic summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un in April 2018 — the first such meeting between leaders of the North and South in more than a decade.
The mens’ release and Pompeo’s trip to North Korea, his second since April 2018, are seen as the latest signs of warming relations on the Korean Peninsula, and a prelude to the upcoming US-North Korea summit. After months of missile launches from the North and chest-beating from the US in 2017, Trump and Kim began to soften their rhetoric after the Winter Olympics.
“I appreciate Kim Jong Un doing this and allowing them to go,” Trump said to reporters after the release of the three captives.
Trump announced that the date and location of the US-North Korea summit had been set; however, did not reveal specifics other than that he ruled out the Demilitarized Zone as one of the options.
Still, the US president remains cautious: “Everything can be scuttled,” Trump said of his scheduled meeting with Kim.
“A lot of good things can happen, a lot of bad things can happen. I believe that we have — both sides want to negotiate a deal. I think it’s going to be a very successful deal.”
The release of the detainees may be a reason to celebrate, but it comes too late for some — in 2017, Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old American student, died shortly after his release from a North Korean prison.
After serving a year of his 15-year prison sentence for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster, Warmbier returned to the US in a comatose state. Unable to see and react to verbal commands, Warmbier succumbed to his condition and died.
Warmbier’s parents have since railed against the regime, despite it’s recent overtures of peace. Recently, the Warmbiers filed a wrongful death lawsuit against North Korea and alleged it tortured and killed Otto.
“I can’t let Otto die in vain,” Cindy Warmbier, Otto’s mother, said on May 8, 2018. “We’re not special, but we’re Americans and we know what freedom’s like, and we have to stand up for this.”
Upon the arrival of the former prisoners, Trump offered his condolences to the Warmbier family: “I want to pay my warmest respects to the parents of Otto Warmbier, who is a great young man who really suffered.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Air Force physical training uniform issued in the mid-2000s was never really beloved by anyone in the Air Force. The shorts were sized four times too small, the plastic-like fabric made a racket while running, and the moisture-wicking shirts seem glued on after absorbing even the slightest sweat. They were only a marginal improvement over their all-cotton, all-gray predecessors.
Well, it’s looking like all of that could be gone in the near future. A new PT uniform may be on the way.
New half-zips, compression technology, and optional designs are just a few of the new features that reflect recent innovations in popular sportswear. As for the shorts, the new ones will have two length options: standard and runner.
The alleged new Air Force PT uniform options.
(Air Force LCMC)
The above is supposedly a slide from an Air Force Life Cycle Management Center presentation, dated Nov. 20, 2018. This is in line with comments made by Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright, who, just a few months ago, said the service had a new PT uniform in the works.
As you can see in the diagrams above, the new design is much more versatile and modern. Each iteration of the uniform has several options in terms of size and color. The addition of compression pants and shirts is a big step up from the simpler track pants or shorts options of the previous uniforms.
The header slide from the new PT uniform presentation.
(Air Force LCMC)
The slides first made an appearance on the Air Force-themed Facebook humor page Air Force amn/nco/snco and have since found their way to a report in Air Force Times. Airmen regularly privately submit such information to the Air Force amn/nco/snco Facebook page, which says the slides are legit. The same Facebook page broke the story of the Air Force move to its new Operational Camouflage Pattern combat battle uniforms.
The new uniforms will maintain the same gray-blue color schemes but could come with better material features, like improved moisture-wicking material and shorts that don’t feel like swim trunks.
Chief Wright previously estimated the Air Force would release the new PT uniforms in mid-to-late 2019.
In order to win, militaries try to beef up their own numbers, acquire better technology, or in some cases: totally bullsh*t the other side into thinking they are going to do something they aren’t really doing.
It’s called a feint. In a nutshell, a military feint is a tactic employed in order to deceive the other side. A military might feint that it’s going to attack Town A so the enemy shifts all its forces there, only to later attack Town B.
Here are four times the U.S. military pulled it off to great effect:
1. Both sides made fake guns out of painted logs in the Civil War.
Since photography wasn’t as widespread and there weren’t any reconnaissance planes, feints were arguably easier to pull off during the Civil War. That was definitely the case for the both sides, which sometimes used fake guns to trick each other into thinking they were going to attack somewhere else, or the place they were defending was heavily-fortified.
Known as “Quaker Guns,” soldiers would take wooden logs, paint them black, and then prop them up on a fence or in a mount, making them look like artillery pieces from a distance. From the official US Army magazine:
When Confederate forces advanced on Munson’s Hill after the first Battle of Manassas, they held the hill for three months, but when Federal troops gained the hill in October of 1861, they discovered they had been tricked. There was nothing on the hill except Quaker guns.
Quaker Guns were used before and after the Civil War. But the tactic saw extensive use by the Confederates, to make up for their lack of actually artillery.
2. The Allies misled the Germans so well in World War II, Nazi leaders thought the real D-Day invasion was a feint.
In what is perhaps the best feint ever, Allied forces during World War II confused the Nazis so well that they didn’t even know what was happening when the real D-Day landings began.
The deceit goes back to a plan developed prior to the June 6, 1944 landings called Operation Fortitude. Split into two parts — North and South — Fortitude had the goal of convincing the Nazis that the Allies wanted to invade occupied Norway, and Pas de Calais in France. They really wanted to invade Normandy, but the Germans had no clue.
The Allies literally created a fake army consisting of inflatable tanks and trucks, and broadcast hours-long transmissions about troop movements that the Germans would intercept.
When the landings finally came at Normandy, German commanders thought it was a smaller force, and the much larger attack was happening later.
“North of Seine quiet so far. No landings from sea. Pas de Calais sector: nothing to report,” a German message on June 6 reads. Then about a day after invasion, forces were warned: “Further enemy landings are to be expected in the entire coastal area. Enemy landings for a thrust toward Belgium to be expected.”
The Allies were pretty awesome at this deception game. Just one year prior, they fooled the Germans using a uniformed corpse with “top secret” documents into preparing for an invasion in the wrong place, when the Allies instead invaded Sicily.
3. The US Army built a fake base to fool Saddam Hussein, and it worked.
The ground war of the Persian Gulf War was over pretty quickly, thanks to Gen. Schwarzkopf’s extensive planning and leadership. Schwarzkopf wanted to use a “left hook” or “Hail Mary” play of his forces, effectively cutting off Iraqi forces in Kuwait by going behind their lines.
But in order to achieve it, Schwarzkopf needed to trick the Iraqi Army. Instead of Iraq thinking they would get hit with a “left hook,” Army planners wanted them to think the U.S. would invade near Kuwait’s “boot heel.” FOB Weasel was how they did it.
It was eerily similar to Operation Fortitude. From a previous article by our own Blake Stilwell:
FOB Weasel was what Rick Atkinson, author of Crusade: The Untold Story of the Persian Gulf War called “a Potemkin base… giving the impression of 130,000 troops across a hundred square kilometers.” Army truck drivers wearing the red berets of paratroopers would shuttle vehicles between FOB Weasel and logistic bases.
The U.S. army’s XVIII Airborne Corps established FOB Weasel near the phony invasion area. They set up a network of small, fake camps with a few dozen soldiers using radios operated by computers to create radio traffic, fake messages between fake headquarters, as well as smoke generators and loudspeakers blasting fake Humvee, tank, and truck noises to simulate movement. Inflatable tanks with PVC turrets and helicopters with fiberglass rotors were lined up on the ground as well. Inflatable fuel bladders, Camo netting, and heat strips to fool infrared cameras completed the illusion. The Americans even taped “Egyptian” radio traffic messages about the supposed American presence to be intercepted by the Iraqis.
As Stilwell notes, even well after the Iraqi Army was expelled from Kuwait on Feb. 21 1991, Iraqi intelligence still thought American forces were near the “boot heel.”
4. The insurgents knew US troops were coming before the Second Battle of Fallujah, but they had no idea of when or where.
Before the Second Battle of Fallujah in 2004, insurgents were well aware that an attack was on the horizon. The city had become completely lawless, swept up by a large number of insurgents, who were spending their time building up defenses in the city.
On the outskirts, Fallujah was completely cut off by U.S. troops surrounding it. Insurgents inside the city knew they would eventually be attacked, but a series of feint attacks made it hard to pinpoint from where or when. And beyond deceit, the feints allowed troops to test out enemy capabilities before the main effort.
From the Marine Corps Gazette:
Marine battalions manning vehicle checkpoints (VCPs) or participating in feints were extremely successful in targeting fixed enemy defenses and degrading insurgent command and control capabilities. A series of feints conducted by 1st Marine Division (1st MarDiv) deceived the insurgents as to the time and location of our main attack. They knew we were coming, but they didn’t know when or from where. The feints also allowed us to develop actionable intelligence on their positions for targeting in Phase II. The Commanding Officer, 3d Battalion, 1st Marines, whose Marines manned the southern VCPs around Fallujah, described this period as a real-world fire support coordination exercise that provided a valuable opportunity for his fire support coordinator and company fire support teams to work tactics, techniques, and procedures and to practice coordinating surface and air-delivered fires.
In an interesting example from a grunt on the ground, a feint attack from Lima Co. 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines tested enemy defenses and helped planners realize the spot they feint attacked wasn’t the best for the real thing.
“Had we decided to attack from the south, the battle would have been hellacious from day one,” one Marine recalls in the book “We Were One.” “The thing we discovered after the battle was they oriented a lot of their defenses to the south.”
It’s almost time to say goodbye to the tiger stripe.
The U.S. Air Force is approaching its sunset date for the Airman Battle Uniform, known as the ABU, in favor of the Army‘s Operational Camouflage Uniform. The service approved the OCP to be worn full time beginning Oct. 1, 2018, with the expectation that all airmen and Space Force guardians would make the changeover by April 1, 2021.
The service asked airmen at McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base in Tennessee whether they had any final words on the ABU, which has been their standard service duty uniform for more than a decade. Some said they aren’t sad to see it go, while others saw its potential, according to a release.
Master Sgt. Mike Smith at the base’s I.G. Brown Training and Education Center asked airmen their opinions and received a variety of responses.Advertisement
“Not since leisure suit wearers were cool has an outfit been so disliked and oppositely loved,” he said in the release. “One opponent compared its camouflage design to an over-patterned couch; another advocate hailed its unique ability to channel the wind down her sleeves, from one arm to the other while driving down the road — she will miss that.”
In 2013, The Washington Post reported that there were 10 different types of military camouflage uniforms floating around, dependent on where a service member was stationed.
The ABU’s “tiger stripe” pattern was supposed to pay homage to camouflage used during the Vietnam War, according to the Post. But early iterations “looked slightly off” from one uniform to the next, with multiple shades making up the pattern, Smith said.
The ABU didn’t really help airmen blend in in Afghanistan. As a precaution, airmen were issued the Operation Enduring Freedom Camouflage Pattern, the same as their soldier brethren, when deploying outside the wire — unless they were in the mountains.
“Turned out, the ABU pattern blended into the mountains extremely well,” an airman who had once stationed at Bagram Airfield told Smith.
“ABUs came in handy when I wanted to blend in with concrete,” another airman told him.
Respondents also panned the ABU’s matching footwear. Airmen knew to keep a pair of shoes handy when changing after work because “there were no doubts that the sage-green boots weren’t hip with a pair of blue jeans and a T-shirt,” Smith said in the release. “It looked about as stylish as a fat collar and polyester bell-bottoms.”
If airmen accidentally forgot spare shoes during a TDY, they “had to own it,” one airman told Smith. “Or you stayed in the dorm.”
Still, the ABU has its perks. Troops can wash and wear the uniform without having to iron or press it, and the oversized apron-style front pockets help airmen pack extra items like “a handful of cookies and a banana to stash on your way out,” Smith wrote.
Airmen also have liked having their rank prominently displayed on the sleeve.
While the OCP uniform was designed with fit and function in mind for both men and women, ranks and name tape will be velcroed on instead of sewn like it is on the ABU. The service is working to manufacture new OCP name and service tape that is less busy to make it easier to identify air and space personnel.
“History will show that the U.S. Air Force once had a unique utility uniform that, no matter our opinions of it, airmen wore with absolute pride all over the world,” Smith wrote.
“For those last holdouts: It’s time to fold it up,” he added. “Now Airmen share their cloth with the U.S. Army’s Soldiers and the U.S. Space Force’s Guardians, and that’s ‘Dynomite.’”
A U.S. service member has been killed in action in Afghanistan, the second American to die while supporting operations in the country in January 2019.
Officials with Operation Resolute Support announced Jan. 22, 2019, that the death of the service member, whose service branch was not identified, is under investigation.
It’s not clear where the service member was killed. Defense Department policy is not to release the names of those who died supporting combat operations until 24 hours after next-of-kin is notified.
This most recent death comes five days after Army Sgt. Sgt. Cameron Meddock, of the 75th Ranger Regiment, died from combat wounds at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany on Jan. 17, 2019. Meddock was shot during combat operations in Badghis province, Afghanistan, on Jan. 13, 2019.
Sgt. Cameron A. Meddock, 26, of Spearman, Texas.
(U.S. Army Special Operations Command)
Earlier January 2019, Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan R. Farmer and Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Shannon M. Kent were killed, along with an American DoD contractor and civilian worker, in a bombing in the northern Syrian town of Manbij. Three other American troops were wounded in the bombing.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
A Chinese military analyst told the state-run China Central Television that Beijing would soon fly its new J-20 stealth fighter into Taiwan’s airspace.
“J-20s can come and go at will above Taiwan,” Wang Mingliang, a military researcher at China National Defense University, said, according to Asia Times, adding that Taiwan was worried about “precision strikes on the leadership or key targets.”
This threat was also echoed by Zhou Chenming, another Chinese military analyst, in early May 2018.
“The PLA air force jets will enter the Taiwan [air defense identification zone] sooner or later,” Chenming told the South China Morning Post.
China’s “goal is reunification with Taiwan” and “this is just one piece,” Dan Blumenthal, the director of Asian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, told Business Insider, adding that cyber, sea, and political warfare were also part of Beijing’s plan to coerce Taiwan into reunification.
(Screenshot / hindu judaic)
But Taiwan has a plan to counter China’s J-20: new mobile passive radars and new active radars for their F-16Vs, according to Taipei Times.
Taiwan will begin testing two new mobile passive radars developed by the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology in 2018, and plans to begin mass producing them by 2020.
These passive radars will work in tandem with APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radars, which Taiwan started mounting on its F-16Vs in January 2017, Asia Times reported.
The active and passive radars will be linked in a way so that they do not emit radiation, making them less susceptible to electronic jamming and anti-radiation missile attacks, Asia Times reported.
“It’s exactly what they should be doing,” Blumenthal said. “Just like any country would, they’re going to try to chase [the J-20s] away,” adding that Taiwan’s plan would be effective but that the country still wouldn’t be able to defend its airspace as well as major powers such as the US.
“Taiwan could probably use all sorts of help,” Blumenthal said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In the early hours of Oct. 10, 2018, many communities in Northwest Florida prepared for a storm expected to make landfall as a Category 2 hurricane.
Tyndall Air Force Base was also preparing for the storm named Hurricane Michael.
Base leaders evacuated nonessential personnel, stored equipment in protected areas as much as possible and a team of individuals battened down the hatches in a two-story cinder block emergency operations center building with almost no windows to ride out the storm on base.
Col. Brian Laidlaw, 325th Fighter Wing commander, was one of the individuals who stayed during the storm. The “ride-out team” was ready for a Category 2 hurricane.
However, the scene soon changed.
“We realized very quickly that this would be the storm we had trained for,” Laidlaw said.
The Category 2 hurricane escalated into a Category 5 within just a few hours.
Col. Brian Laidlaw, 325th Fighter Wing commander, walks with President Donald J. Trump, after a flightline tour at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., May 8, 2019. Tyndall AFB leaders and civic leaders met with Trump to provide an update on base recovery efforts.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Monica Roybal)
Hurricane Michael hit the coastline and surrounding areas of Tyndall AFB, Mexico Beach and Panama City.
“Without question, this was not just a Tyndall AFB event,” Laidlaw said. “This was a Northwest Florida event. The whole area took a hit. Thankfully we were in a secure building to wait out the storm.”
As the storm progressed, the eye of the hurricane passed over Tyndall AFB for a handful of minutes.
“The only reason we knew we were in the eye of the storm was because the walls stopped shaking,” Laidlaw said.
The eye passed. After the second half of the storm ran its course, it was safe for the ride-out team to emerge from their shelter and survey the damage.
“We recognized very quickly how much work we had to do,” Laidlaw said. “It will probably take five to seven years before the rebuild (of Tyndall AFB) will be complete.”
An assessment of the damage concluded that 484 buildings on base were destroyed or damaged beyond repair, while the other half were stable enough to sustain repairs.
“This base has been here for 79 years and most structures pre-date modern day building codes,” Laidlaw said. “We built the infrastructure in the 40s and 50s and repurposed it many times over the years. It was important, very soon after the storm, to bring in engineers to take a close look at the base. As we did so, we learned what worked and what didn’t work.”
According to Laidlaw, the Air Force allocated 8 million for immediate repairs. To get the base back to pre-storm capacity will require more time and more funding in the future.
One of the first concerns was how to make the base available to accept relief forces.
“The Air Force and our joint partners sent us relief just a little faster than we were able to take it,” Laidlaw said. “We saw an outpouring of support from the Air Force, and other organizations, to get us back on our feet.”
“Much like many communities across Florida, our community is fiercely protective of our airmen and the missions we have here,” Laidlaw said. “We have to make the base compatible not only for today’s missions but for those of the future and to protect assets and aircraft we haven’t even invented yet.”
Staff Sgt. Jake Gonzalez, fire truck and refueling mechanic temporarily assigned to the 325th Logistics Readiness Squadron, repairs a refueling truck component at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., June 4, 2019. Hurricane Michael brought devastation to Tyndall AFB and units across the base adapted to limited manning and temporary facilities.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)
Prior to Hurricane Michael, Tyndall AFB was home to two F-22 Raptor squadrons including the training school house for that weapons system. Today, some aspects of that mission are still here at Tyndall AFB, like the academics and simulator facility, while others have moved temporarily to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.
As for the rebuild of Tyndall AFB, the base is preparing to take on a new mission consistent with the long-range goals of the Air Force.
“The secretary of the Air Force directed a rebuild to house up to three squadrons of F-35A Lightning IIs, and the base remains the preferred alternative for the MQ-9 Reaper,” Laidlaw said.
According to Laidlaw, Tyndall AFB is a critical asset for the nation’s defense strategy.
“We have some of the best training airspace anywhere in the Department of Defense,” Laidlaw said. “Tyndall AFB has 29,000 acres of land, 70% of which are in their natural state and are uninhabited.”
According to Laidlaw, the buffer Tyndall AFB acreage and 129 miles of coastline provides, allows for testing and training that is invaluable and free from encroachment. The base takes great pride in maintaining the land in its natural state.
Almost one year after the storm, Tyndall AFB is building up forces again.
“Currently, we have 80% of the (personnel) we had before the storm,” Laidlaw said. “As we recover the base we’ve transitioned from living in offices, to living in tents, to living in modern facilities and, in some cases, in repaired dorms and lodging rooms.”
“We no longer have any airmen living in tents” he continued. “We moved our airmen from these short-term temporary tents into facilities to hold us over until we fully rebuild.”
Tyndall AFB had 11 operational dormitories available when Hurricane Michael hit. Only three survived the storm but required immediate repairs before personnel could move in. Currently, there are four dorms available for housing airmen.
Task Force Talon II Airmen rally around Chief Master Sgt. Craig Williams, 325th Fighter Wing command chief, at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Nov. 28, 2018. Williams spoke to his fellow Airmen on the state of Tyndall AFB now and in the future. Task Force Talon II Airmen are responsible for clearing debris from various parts of Tyndall AFB.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Isaiah J. Soliz)
In addition to building replacement dorms for personnel, Tyndall AFB has the enormous task of rebuilding other buildings across the installation. For this task, the Air Force Civil Engineer Center Program Management Office stood up a unit on Tyndall AFB to coordinate the construction efforts.
“We are going to combine multi-purpose facilities, which will give us fewer buildings, but we will get much more use out of them,” Laidlaw said. “Brig. Gen. Patrice Melancon, Tyndall AFB Program Management executive director, is championing the technologies needed to build the base of the 21st century.”
Tyndall AFB and AFCEC PMO have been working together from the very beginning to get Tyndall AFB back to full capability and ready to accept F-35s and MQ-9s.
“The partnership between the 325th Fighter Wing and the Tyndall AFB Program Management Office following Hurricane Michael has been like no other,” Melancon said. “Col. Laidlaw’s leadership has been instrumental to the base’s success. I am so very proud of the dedicated airmen, civilians, and contractors who flew in from around the country with their sleeves rolled up ready to work. These dedicated individuals have literally moved mountains of debris and worked to repair key buildings quickly this past year to get critical base missions back online.”
According to Melancon, Tyndall AFB will be ready for an F-35 mission by October 2023.
“The rebuild will support a 21st century mission while also focusing on structural resiliency and efficiency,” Laidlaw said. “The people who are here want to be here. We have the right experts in the right areas.”
“When an event like this happens, it becomes a team effort,” he continued. “I do think there’s a story to tell. We’ve learned a lot, and the communities around us have learned a lot, and we are happy to share what we have learned.”
“The (partnership between Tyndall AFB and) the state of Florida and Bay County is very beneficial,” Laidlaw said. “It will take a long time to recover. Like us, our community takes great pride in taking care of our airmen and our mission.”
“I never thought we’d come this far so fast,” Laidlaw said. “It’s hard to believe it’s been a whole year. Our people are amazing. We have the right people in the right places with the right resources, and they have accomplished so much.”
“There have been some great airmen, both military and civilian, at Tyndall AFB before, during and after the storm,” Laidlaw said. “Their hard work and determination have sustained our momentum through twelve long months.”
“I can’t imagine where we would be without these people and the support from their families,” he continued. “The reality is, (you can replace buildings, but) you can’t replace people. The mission needs airmen. Tyndall AFB’s airmen make the base just a little bit better every single day.”
The patient transport team prepares to receive a patient aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) on April 2, 2020, while the ship is moored in New York City in support of the nation’s COVID-19 response efforts. Comfort serves as a referral hospital for non-COVID-19 patients currently admitted to shore-based hospitals.
Military medical staff are departing underused Navy hospital ships and field medical centers to relieve overburdened civilian doctors in New York City’s hard-hit hospitals as the coronavirus crisis wears on.
“We’re a fresh face, we’ve got the energy and enthusiasm,” said Air Force Col. Jennifer Ratcliff, who has brought medical teams to Lincoln Hospital and Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx.
The staff there “are tired and have been working very, very long days and weeks,” said Ratcliff, commander of the 927th Aerospace Medical Squadron at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida.
The Navy’s 1,000-bed hospital ship Comfort was sent to the city, arriving at Pier 90 in Manhattan on March 30, to take on the expected overflow of trauma patients from city hospitals as local doctors treated COVID-19 cases. But the patient flow has not materialized, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said at a Pentagon news conference Tuesday.
“The strategy has changed,” he said. “We’re moving off the Comfort our doctors, a portion of our doctors, and putting them into New York City hospitals to provide relief.”
He did not give the number of doctors being reassigned from the Comfort, but said a total of 2,100 military physicians, nurses and medical aides are now in the city and will be augmented soon by additional medical teams coming from the Army.
Ratcliff said the military reinforcements have been well-received.
“You can walk around the hospital and just see that the attendings and the residents are really happy to have us,” she added.
“We’re onboarding hospitals pretty much since we arrived,” Navy Capt. Joe Kochan said of the 1,100 volunteer doctors, nurses and medical aides from the reserves who deployed to the city last week.
“As it stands right now, we’re really pushing out into the hospitals to support their needs,” said Kochan, executive officer of the Operational Health Support Unit based at Portsmouth, Virginia.
When he announced the deployment of medical personnel into the city on April 5, Esper said about 300 would go to 11 city hospitals. It was unclear Tuesday whether that number had increased.
Kochan and Ratcliff joined Army Lt. Col. Leslie Curtis, chief nurse at the 9th Field Hospital out of Fort Hood, Texas, in a telephone conference from New York City to the Pentagon to stress the ongoing needs of the city despite the converted Javits Center and the Comfort being underused thus far.
Fifteen Urban Augmentation Medical Task Forces will be deployed nationwide to assist cities in the fight against coronavirus, and four of those task forces, each consisting of 85 personnel, will be sent to New York City, the Army said.
The military has sought to adjust its efforts in New York City to the shifting requests coming from city and state authorities.
The original intent was to have the Comfort and a field medical facility at the Javits Convention Center treat non-COVID-19 patients to ease some of the burden on overcrowded local hospitals. But the demand to treat non-COVID patients did not emerge in a city on lockdown.
The city then asked that the Comfort and the Javits Center be used only for COVID-19 patients, and the military agreed, but bureaucratic and logistical problems hindered the transfer of patients.
COVID-19 patients first had to be taken to local hospitals to be screened, but the agreement now is to have ambulances take patients directly to the Javits Center or the Comfort.
As of Monday, about 320 patients were at the 1,500-bed capacity Javits Center. The last report Friday from the Pentagon on the Comfort said that there were more than 50 patients aboard the 1,000-bed ship.
Curtis, who has been working at the Javits Center, acknowledged the delays in bringing in patients. “First, we had to determine what the needs were,” she said. Then, the focus turned to “streamlining the bureaucracy, which everyone wants to do at every level.”
“Every day, we’re finding more ways,” she said. “I think this is moving in the right direction.
“We do want to do this. We have the ability to scale up to whatever the demands are, based on the needs of the city or any particular mission that is required,” Curtis added.
There has been speculation that the Comfort might be pulled out of New York City and sent elsewhere, but Ratcliff said she had seen no signs that the military’s efforts in the city would slacken.
“The city, I believe, still needs our assets,” she said. “I don’t think there’s talk of scaling that back but, again, we’ll do whatever the government of New York needs.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday described a city still in need of support despite continuing signs that new coronavirus cases had hit a plateau.
“We’re reducing the rate of infection,” he said. But another 778 deaths from coronavirus were recorded in the city Monday.
“That is terrible, terrible, terrible news,” he said.
On Sept. 14, 2012, 15 heavily armed Taliban fighters disguised in U.S. Army uniforms infiltrated Camp Bastion, a large Marine Corps and British forces base and Afghan National Army training complex. Camp Bastion could accommodate some 30,000 people, so when the Taliban split into three teams to wreak havoc on the base’s interior, things could have gone very badly for the Marines.
The infiltrators made it all the way to the flight line, where their coordinated, complex attack began by targeting the Marines’ Harrier aircraft. It would be the single biggest loss of American airpower since the Vietnam War. It would also be the first time that the maintainers and pilots of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VMA-211) operated as riflemen since World War II.
A video released later showed the attackers dressed for the assault.
The fighting began at 10pm local time with one Taliban team engaging the flight line personnel, another targeting the refueling area, and a third focusing on destroying aircraft using explosives and RPGs. It was an aircraft explosion that signaled the start of the attack.
Within minutes, six Harriers were burning on the tarmac, the Marine helicopter area was surrounded by fires, and the cryogenics and fuel pit areas were on fire as small arms crackled and tracers lit up the night sky. The Taliban brought everything from hand grenades to heavy machine guns and caught the Marines completely off guard.
Lt. Col. Christopher Raible’s memorial.
Marines scrambled to protective barriers as RPGs exploded around the flight line. They initially believed it was an attack of opportunity from outside the base — a random, lucky hit from rockets or mortars. But after ten explosions, one every ten seconds, it was clear that this was more than a few lucky shots. The Troops in Contact alarm began to sound. They called in the British quick reaction force, but they were on the other side of the base and the Marines would have to hold their own until they arrived.
The Marines quickly moved to don their flak jackets and retrieve their rifles. The Taliban weren’t going to stop at the aircraft. They fired RPGs at the building that housed Marine workstations while another hit a building that contained the medical section. An anti-personnel RPG killed the commander of VMA-211, Lt. Col. Christopher Raible, before he could organize a defense. Shrapnel from one of the RPGs lodged in his neck as he was leading a crew full of mechanics and maintainers out into the night as a rifle unit.
By this time, every Marine was operating as a rifleman. Weapons and ammo were doled out to anyone without one and Marines began taking up their fields of fire. The air wing was a total, confusing mess as the fuel bladders blew up, temporarily turning the night into day.
A Huey aircraft commander and two enlisted Marines were the ones who brought the weapons to the flight line area. They went to check on the entry control point and began to take fire from the cryogenics area. A Huey crew chief manned an M240 to suppress the enemy fire.
At the same time, Marines were struggling to get remaining aircraft in the air to provide close-air support. All they could muster was two Hueys and a Cobra, but the Marines managed to get them ready to fly in the midst of the confusing, intense attack. Thick smoke, burning ordnance, and enemy fire loomed as flight line Marines took up defensive positions to cover the helicopters’ takeoff.
One of the Harrier jets destroyed in the raid.
When the helicopters were airborne, things changed quickly on the ground. They told the JTAC to concentrate fire toward the enemy position in the cryogenics facility. When the southern wall of that building lit up with tracers, the AH-1 Cobra helicopter peppered the building with 20mm rounds and UH-1V Venom Hueys tore through it with 300 .50-cal rounds while a gunner on the ground hit it with 600 rounds from a GAU-17.
After the aerial hit, the British quick reaction force arrived and cleared out the infiltrating Taliban in the cryogenics facility with 40mm grenade launchers. That left four Taliban hiding in the T-walls near the flight line. As Marines on the ground attempted to converge on the remaining Taliban attackers, guns from the helicopters eliminated the last of the threat.
When the smoke cleared, two Marines, Lt. Col. Raible and Sgt. Bradley Atwell, had been killed. Allied wounded numbered 17, six Harriers were completely destroyed, and another two were damaged, along with an Air Force C-130E. Three fuel bladders and a few sunshade hangars were also destroyed. All but one of the attacking Taliban fighters were killed in action. The attack caused some 0 million in damages.
Maj. Gen. Charles M. Gurganus, left, and Maj. Gen. Gregg A. Sturdevant were forced to retire just one year after the raid.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
The story doesn’t end there. The Marine Corps wanted to know how 15 heavily armed Taliban fighters were able to get onto the base in the first place. It turned out the commander of Bastion, Maj. Gen. Charles Gurganus, reduced the number of Marines patrolling the base of 30,000 from 325 to 100 just one month before the attack, leaving the base guarded by troops from Tonga. He and Maj. Gen. Gregg Sturdevant were forced to retire in the days following the incident. Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James Amos, said the two failed to accurately assess the strength and capabilities of the enemy in the area and failed to protect their troops.
Sturdevant was the Marine aviation commander of the base and was blamed for inadequate force protection measures on the flight line area that night. The two Marines who went to check the entry control point found it unmanned before they started taking fire from the cryogenics facility. Meanwhile, the British review of the attack found that only 11 of 24 guard towers were manned that night. Both generals retired with fully pay and benefits.
Later, it would be revealed that the attackers spent months posing as poppy farmers, probing the base defenses and testing reactions from perimeter guards. They were able to map out the base, its defenses, its fuel farms, and the airfield. They were even trying to target Prince Harry, who was stationed on the base at that time.
In the short history of our country, the United States rose to global military dominance — yeah, I said it. Come at me, China.
But the road to the top was paved with the blood of good men and women. Looking back, there are some pivotal battles we remember with solemn pride and a little bit of hoo-rah. Let’s check out 10 of the most intense battles in United States history.
10. The Battle of Chosin
(Photo by U.S. Air Force)
The Battle of Chosin Reservoir was one of the defining battles of the Korean War and the stuff of legend in the Marine Corps. In the Fall of 1950, U.N. Forces under the command of General MacArthur had almost captured the entirety of North Korea when they were attacked by thousands of Chinese Communist soldiers. The U.S. X Corps was forced to retreat and by mid-November the 1st Marine Division and elements of the 7th Infantry Division found themselves surrounded, outnumbered, and at risk of annihilation in the high North Korean Mountains at the Chosin Reservoir. Their only way out was a fighting retreat back to the coast.
Although as Chesty Puller put it, they weren’t retreating, they were “fighting in the opposite direction.”
Over the course of the next 17 days, the Marines and soldiers fought the Chinese — and bouts of frostbite — with fierce determination and epic endurance. They broke through the enemy’s encirclement and even rebuilt a bridge the Chinese destroyed using prebuilt bridge sections dropped by the U.S. Air Force.
By the end of the battle, the U.S. Marines suffered 836 dead and roughly 10,000 wounded. The Army had 2,000 dead and 1,000 wounded. The Chinese had the most catastrophic losses. Six out of their ten divisions were wiped out and only one would ever see combat again. Although exact numbers are not known, historians estimate that anywhere between 30,000 and 80,000 Chinese were killed.
Although technically a loss for the Marines, the Battle of Chosin Reservoir lives on in memory as an example of the Marine fighting spirit and the ability to find strength even when the odds are stacked against them.
9. The Battle of Antietam
(Painting by Thure Thulstrup)
A year and a half into the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln needed a Union victory. He finalized the Emancipation Proclamation during the summer but his cabinet feared it would be too difficult to enforce after a string of northern losses, including the Second Battle of Bull Run (known as the Battle of Manassas to the rebels).
Lincoln charged Major General George B. McClellan with the defense of Washington D.C. against Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s first invasion of the North. Earlier in the month, Lee divided his men, sending General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson to capture Harper’s Ferry. Following Jackson’s success, Lee decided to make a stand in Maryland at Antietam Creek.
After two days of posturing, fighting began early in the morning on Sep. 17, 1862, and lasted well past sundown, with staggering casualties on both sides and no ground gained. The next day, both armies gathered their dead and wounded and Lee retreated south.
It was the bloodiest one day battle in American history, with 23,000 casualties from both sides and nearly 4,000 dead.
Sticking with the Civil War, let’s move on:
8. The Battle of Gettysburg
(Painting by Don Troiani)
The Battle of Gettysburg was not only the largest battle of the Civil War, it remains the largest battle ever fought in North America.
Confederate General Robert E. Lee had just won a decisive victory against Union General George Meade’s Army of the Potomac in Virginia. Wanting to capitalize on the recent victory, Lee led his troops on a second invasion into the Northern states to defeat the Union on their own soil and hopefully gain recognition of the confederacy by European countries.
General George Meade’s Army of the Potomac pursued Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and the two forces met near Gettysburg on July 1, 1863. The Confederates outnumbered the Yankees at roughly 30,000 to 18,000. By the end of the first day, the Yankees were forced to retreat through town to cemetery ridge and Culp’s Hill.
By the next day, both sides had gained reinforcements. Meade now had roughly 94,000 soldiers in a fish hook formation, allowing him to successfully move troops from one front to another. Lee had roughly 72,000 soldiers wrapped around the fish hook.
The Confederates attacked first but at the end of the second day, the Union defense lines held strong.
On the 3rd day, Lee tried an aggressive attack to crush the federals. He sent General Pickett with approximately 12,500 men to crush the Union Army with a direct charge.
It turned out to be one of Lee’s most ill-fated decisions. Fifty percent of Pickett’s men were wounded or killed and the rest of his troops were forced to retreat.
Casualties were high on both sides. The Union suffered around 23,000 casualties while the South suffered 28,000 — more than a third of Lee’s army.
The battle was the deadliest in the Civil War and prompted Lincoln’s iconic Gettysburg address four and a half months later at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery.
Although the fighting continued for nearly two more years, Gettysburg was an irrevocable turning point in the war in the Union’s favor.
7. Hue City
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. W. F. Dickman)
The North Vietnamese captured the venerated capital city of Hue during the Tet Offensive, a coordinated series of attacks on over a hundred American and South Vietnamese positions countrywide.
The battle to regain Hue began in February 1968 and lasted nearly a month, as Marines ferociously drove North Vietnamese and Communist Viet Cong forces from the city.
The Perfume River divided the city of Hue in two. To the north was the Citadel, a three-square mile fortress surrounded by walls 30-feet high and up to 40-feet thick, with a moat on three sides and the Perfume River on the 4th. To the south, the smaller and more modern section of Hue was connected to the Citadel by a bridge.
U.S. Marines and soldiers were tasked with clearing out the entrenched enemy in the southern portion of the city, while the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) would clear out the Northern portion and the citadel.
Untrained for urban combat, U.S. battalions had to come up with tactics and techniques on the spot — while facing a brutal enemy. The process was methodical and casualty heavy. They went from house to house and room to room to gain ground. Speed, surprise, and shock were essential to achieve victory.
After clearing the south side, U.S. battalions broke into the Citadel from the bridge to assist ARVN troops.
Finally on Feb. 24, the South Vietnamese flag flew over the citadel. On March 2, the longest sustained infantry battle the war had seen to this point was officially declared over.
The U.S. suffered 216 dead and 1364 wounded. South Vietnamese losses totaled 384 dead and 1,830 wounded with thousands of civilians were caught in the the cross-fire or murdered. The North Vietnamese casualties included 5,000 dead and countless more wounded.
Virtually all of Hue was destroyed, leaving roughly 100,000 homeless.
While technically a win for the U.S. and South Vietnamese, the news coverage of the event shocked the American population and broke their faith in the war.
U.S. troops would not experience that intensity of urban fighting again for another 36 years until the second battle of Fallujah, which is number six on our list.
An estimated 4000 enemy combatants were in the city when the fighting began — it’s even suspected that al’Qa’eda terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi held his headquarters there. They fortified their defenses before the attack, preparing spider holes, traps, and concealed IEDs throughout the town. They created propane bombs hidden in buildings, cut off access to escape routes and roofs, and designed fields of fire where they believed coalition forces would maneuver.
Nearly 70% of the civilian population fled the city, reducing civilian casualties and allowing coalition forces to launch their assault. Army, Marine, and Iraqi forces attacked with an air barrage, followed by an insertion of Marines and Navy Seabees, who bulldozed obstacles. The worst of the fighting continued for the first week, but insurgents resisted throughout the six-week campaign.
By the end of December, 82 US troops were killed with another 600 wounded. British and Iraqi forces sustained 12 killed with another 53 wounded. Over 2000 insurgents were killed while another 1200 were captured.
Keeping with Post-9/11, let’s talk about Afghanistan.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. David R. Hernandez)
The Battle of Sangin was one of the deadliest campaigns in Operation Enduring Freedom. The Sangin River Valley was a Taliban stronghold and was considered the center of opium production. In 2010, United States Marines replaced the British forces in Sangin and initiated a deadly campaign to clear out the insurgent presence in the region. The counterinsurgency lasted for four years, and during this time Marines sustained casualties at some of the highest rates seen during the 17-year conflict in Afghanistan.
IEDs peppered the landscape, killing or maiming hundreds. During the height of the fighting, there was daily contact with the enemy just meters outside allied FOBs. In October 2010, 3rd Battalion 5th Marines began a 7-month tour that would kill dozens of them in action and injure hundreds more, with at least 34 of them becoming single, double, or triple amputees. But the “Dark Horse” Marines made progress extending their security perimeter and clearing Highway 611, which allowed for the transportation and operation of future units.
By 2012, Sangin was transformed from a battlefield into a thriving rural town, but the price was over 100 British and American lives lost and hundreds more wounded. The Taliban continued to fight for Sangin, and today, the area remains in contention.
4. Operation Bolo
(U.S. Air Force photo)
This is the only air-to-air fight we’ll cover. It’s decidedly less deadly than any other battle on this list, but the tactics and implications merit a discussion.
In the last months of 1966, the North Vietnamese Army’s Mig-21 Fishbed fleet had become more active and successful at intercepting the F-105 Thunderchief formations of the United States Air Force.
The F-105 “Thuds” were super-sonic fighter-bombers with the mission of destroying communist air defense systems. They did this in the role of the wild weasels, a group that would fly slow and low enough to bait the communist surface-to-air systems into targeting them, thus giving away the enemy position and allowing the Wild Weasels to attack and destroy.
But with the MiG-21 added to the fight, the Thuds were falling vulnerable to air-to-air attacks.
The U.S. Air Force decided they needed to neutralize the MiG threat. Air Force legend and World War II Ace Colonel Robin Olds designed a gutsy plan to accomplish this.
Known as Operation Bolo, the mission was to lure the enemy MiGs into battle by hiding supersonic F-4C jets among the slower and less-maneuverable Thud formations.
On Jan. 2, 1967, Olds and his formation of phantoms took to the cloudy skies to fly the F-105 bomb run. They kept to the F-105 speed and flew in the F-105 formation.
Popping up from the clouds, the Fishbeds attacked in pairs. Olds and his formation began a legendary dogfight, where U.S. forces exploited their tactical and technical advantage over the enemy.
Within 13 minutes, seven MiGs were destroyed — roughly half the NVA Mig -21 fleet. The Americans hauled ass back to Thailand with zero casualties.
In the next week, similar missions took out more communist aircraft. As a result, the North Vietnamese were forced to ground their aircraft for several months as they re-trained their pilots and sought new air defense tactics.
Colonel Olds remains the only U.S. Air Force ace with victories in both World War II and Vietnam.
To illustrate how terrible it can be when our birds are shot down, let’s move on to Somalia.
3. Battle of Mogadishu
(U.S. Army photo)
On Dec. 9, 1992, eighteen hundred United States Marines arrived in Mogadishu, Somalia to help affect peace in the war-torn country. As part of Operation Restore Hope, the Marines supported international aid workers in the country for humanitarian aid operations, including food and supply distribution. In 1993, President Bill Clinton reduced the U.S. presence as the United Nations formally assumed responsibility for operations.
In June, however, Pakistani UN peacekeepers were ambushed by militias loyal to Somali warlord General Mohammad Farrah Aidid, and 24 UN soldiers from Pakistan were killed.
In response, the UN authorized the arrest of Aidid, and President Clinton dispatched 160 Army Rangers and Delta Force operators on a mission to capture the warlord and other leaders of his militia.
The operation went disastrously wrong. Two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters were shot down and a brutal urban battle began. The first Black Hawk was struck by an RPG, killing the pilot and co-pilot in the crash, and injuring five more passengers, including one who would die later from his wounds. A rescue mission retrieved the rest of the survivors, but then the second Black Hawk was struck, killing three in the crash. Pilot Mike Durant survived, but his back and leg were broken and he was taken prisoner.
Two Delta Force operators, MSG Gary Gordon and SFC Randy Shughart, were killed attempting to rescue Durant, who was held prisoner for 11 days until his release was secured through diplomatic negotiations. Gordon and Shughart would be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions.
(DoD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Robert M. Warren)
In the final stretch of World War II, the allies sought to gain control of strategic islands in the Pacific. Iwo Jima was a barren Pacific Island located roughly 660 miles from Japan, making it an ideal forward-deployed location for the Allies and Axis powers alike. On Feb. 19, 1945, after three days of naval and aerial bombardments, which launched over sixty-eight hundred tons of bombs and twenty-two thousand shells, the first wave of United States Marines stormed Iwo Jima’s volcanic shores.
Over 21,000 Japanese were there to greet them, heavily entrenched in a complex network of underground tunnels and artillery positions. What followed was some of the most violent fighting of the Pacific in World War II, due in large part to the determination of the Japanese to die before they would surrender.
They burned any vegetation that might have provided the Marines with cover, then launched artillery fire at the Marines’ exposed positions. Naval Seabees got to work on U.S. artillery positions, forward command posts, and field hospitals — all while holding their own in the fight.
The iconic raising of the American Flag over Mount Suribachi took place four days into the battle, but the fighting continued for a month. Marines used artillery and flamethrowers to destroy enemy defenses, and the final battle on March 26 included a massive attack against the Americans that ultimately came down to hand-to-hand combat.
In the end, nearly all of the Japanese defenders were killed, except for a couple hundred prisoners. Over 6000 Americans died helping to take the island, with 17,000 more wounded.
This one is ranked for its intensity, carnage, and outcome.
D-Day was the largest air, land, and sea operation undertaken to date and a logistics marvel. One of the most important battles in World War II, it turned the tide of the conflict in the Allies’ favor and eventually led to their victory in Europe.
Allied forces had been planning D-Day for months. Codenamed Operation Overlord, its goal was to gain a strong foothold in continental Europe by landing thousands of Allied troops and supplies on the beaches of Normandy, France.
The original invasion date was set for May, but due to poor weather conditions it was postponed until June. Despite the continued poor weather, General Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, gave the order to attack.
D-Day would commence on June 6, 1944.
On Eisenhower’s orders, roughly 176,000 troops embarked on their journey from England to France on 6,000 landing craft, ships, and other vessels.
Just before midnight, airborne troops parachuted into occupied France, surprising the Germans.
Air and naval bombardments were underway to weaken the German defenses before the main invasion began.
At 0630 local time, the land insertion struck across five sectors in a 60-mile coastal stretch of Normandy. British and Canadian troops overcame light opposition to capture Gold, Juno, and Sword beaches, as did the Americans at Utah. But the American G.I.’s at Omaha faced a tough fight.
The aerial and naval bombardment had done little to diminish the heavily fortified German defenses, both on the shore and on the cliffs above the beaches. Allied amphibious tanks were launched too far from shore and only 2 out of 29 made it to the beach. Many soldiers drowned in the waves, dragged down by the weight of their rucksacks, and many more were mowed down by the constant German fire.
Small groups of Americans managed to make it across the beach and traverse up the cliffs.
Allied casualties on June 6 have been estimated at over 10,000 killed, wounded, and missing in action, consisting of around 6,603 Americans, 2,700 British, and 946 Canadians.
By the end of the day, 155,000 Allied troops successfully stormed and held Normandy’s beaches. By Aug. 21, 1944, the allies had successfully landed over 2 million men in Northern France and suffered 226,386 casualties. German losses included over 240,000 casualties and 200,000 captured. Between 13,000 and 20,000 French civilians died, and many more were seriously wounded.
The success of the invasion was the beginning of the end of the war in Europe. It forced the Germans to fight a two-front war with the Soviets on the East and British, Canadian, and U.S. forces on the west.
The Nazi Third Reich would fall the following May.
This article was written with contributions by Megan Hayes.
One of the biggest drawbacks of being in the combat arms is a perceived lack of post-service opportunities out here in the civilian world. A recently released grunt might take a look through job listings, see a laundry list of requirements, become convinced that applying is a pointless effort, and send themselves into a downward spiral. We’ve seen it happen too many times — we all know a brother- or sister-in-arms who has fallen down this hole.
This misconception couldn’t be further from the truth. The truth is, there really isn’t much of advantage to being a former POG over being former infantry when it comes time to find a job. Unless that guy who was a computer analyst in the Army is specifically going into a civilian computer analyst job, you’re both on even footing.
In fact, when you cut away the military jargon from your resume and translate your skills into something a civilian employer can read, the grunts actually have the upper hand, based solely on the day-to-day lifestyle of combat arms troops.
This article isn’t meant to discredit a support troop’s career path. All troops can pull useful information out of this article, but it’s intended mostly for the grunts who don’t realize their true potential.
It’s best if you let your resume do the talking…
(Meme via Valhalla Wear)
Your awards are proof for all the “fluff” in your resume
Let’s be honest; everyone is going to add some decorative fluff their resume. Employers expect this and have to weed through said fluff to get the heart of the issue. Even if you don’t embellish a little on your resume, prospective employers will assume you’re fluffing it up. It’s just how these things go.
Typically, grunts don’t have awards tossed to them like candy, so when they get one, it means something. So, if you’ve got it, flaunt it. Go ahead and mention why you were given the award; that’s the real impressive part.
Deployment stories usually do well with civilians who have no idea what life in the military is actually like.
(Meme via Pop Smoke)
Your deployment history can solidify your communication skills
Writing about your deployment history is, in a word, complicated. Unfortunately, there’s a stigma associated with veterans of combat zones. Some employers unjustly see veterans as unqualified because they assume we all have post-traumatic stress and are difficult to work with — despite the fact that that’s discrimination clearly forbidden by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Still, civilian employers, no matter the industry, are looking for three key traits in an employee: Communication skills, leadership potential, and management ability. There’s no question that a deployment checks these three boxes. If you’ve deployed, then you have a proven ability to “communicate with a team and higher-ups under extremely stressful conditions.”
They don’t need to know about your salty attitude until you’ve been on board for several months.
(Meme via CONUS Battle Drills)
Your leadership skills are needed for promotion in civilian workplace
Employers want a new hire for one of two reasons: They’re either looking to fill a vacancy to complete a specific task or they’re trying to bring someone on for the long-haul, someone who will rise within the ranks and remain loyal to the employer.
Support guys, like that Army computer analyst from the earlier example, might be a shoe-in for that one entry-level position, but it’s the grunt they’ll be looking at for the long-term. Grunts take on leadership roles from the first moment they’re assigned a boot private to babysit watch over. What the civilian employer wants to hear is that you “oversaw and aided in the growth of subordinates over the course of several years.”
Civilians won’t know that you were volun-told or needed to make rank. It just sounds extremely impressive to the uninformed.
(Meme via The Salty Soldier)
Your military schooling is tangible proof of management skills
In every complete resume, the final portion is reserved for educational history. Typically, this is where an applicant lists their high school diploma and college degrees, but it’s also used for technical schools and any kind of additional education. Good news, grunts: this is also where you put those random schools you were sent to.
Officer Candidate School and NCO Academies definitely count. Put those on there. Plus, most NCO schools are given overly “hooah” names. Go ahead and tell me what sounds better: “Warrior Leader Course” or “Los Angeles City College?”
Follow wherever your heart takes you. You’ll find someone out there willing to pay you money to do it.
(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)
Your college degree will cover down on anything else missing on the resume
At the end of the day, your military experience looks good and it makes for a great topic of discussion during the interview, but you can’t expect anything more than a foot in the door if you don’t meet the required qualifications.
Thankfully, using that GI Bill that you earned can help boost your odds in any field you’re pursuing. Once you’ve finished your degree, the job market is ripe for the picking, and your military service will give you an edge over the competition.
For further instruction on how to best translate your military history into a fantastic civilian resume, please check out this article by the folks over at Zety. They’re professionals who dedicate themselves to this very subject. It’s a great read.