How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

Weight was the issue. The B-25B, carrying a full combat load, was just too heavy to takeoff from the deck of the USS Hornet.

While the nation was still reeling in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Gen. Henry “Hap” Arnold, Chief of Staff of the Army Air Force, assigned Lt. Col. James “Jimmy” Doolittle to conduct a bombing mission on Tokyo to disrupt Japanese aggression and momentum and embolden the American public for the task ahead.

A seemingly impossible mission, as the United States had no aircraft with enough range to reach the Japanese home islands from any U.S. or allied nation’s runways.


The attack would have to be launched from the sea. However, carrier-based aircraft could only carry one or two small bombs each and had such short range that one of the U.S.’s precious few carriers would have to approach dangerously close to Japan, making it an easy target. The mission was seemingly over before it began.

Until the airmen examined the problem from a unique perspective – perhaps a longer range B-25B bomber, never designed to launch from an aircraft carrier, could be stripped of enough excess weight to launch at sea, bomb the target and then fly on to friendly airfields in China.

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win


U.S. Army Air Force B-25 Mitchell bombers launch from the deck of the U.S.S. Hornet on April 18, 1942 to bomb the Japanese home islands in what came to be known as the Doolittle Raid.

On April 18, 1942 Doolittle’s Raiders did just that, launching off the deck of the Hornet, with wooden broomsticks in place of machine guns to save weight and extra fuel tanks to make the journey, and successfully completed their mission over Japan.

While bombers haven’t flown off a carrier since, the same spirit of innovation and trust in airmen that made the Doolittle raid possible is still alive and well in today’s Air Force.

Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein has challenged leaders across the force to take risks, trust their people and embrace failure as a way to learn and grow.

One unit, the 99th Reconnaissance Squadron, welcomed this idea with open arms.

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

A mobile chase car driver pursues a U-2 Dragon Lady reconnaissance aircraft during its landing at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Dec. 7, 2015. Mobile chase car drivers act as a second pair of eyes and ears for U-2 pilots during their launch and landings, radioing adjustments to the aircraft to make up for the pilot’s limited sight of the runway. Pilots of the 99th Reconnaissance Squadron have procured GPS-style aviation watches that aid pilots in communicating with ground chase crews and collect inflight data to help with training, tracking physiological aspects of the pilots.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kentavist P. Brackin)

“The path that we’re making for our new initiatives is actually modeled off the Doolittle Raider patch, and we actually look to that for inspiration,” said Capt. Syed, 99th RS pilot. “They achieved something in a moment of national crisis, and really lifted morale and mood of the nation by doing something everybody thought was impossible, and what we’re trying to do in our little squadron with a few people, is to change the make up and the culture, so that when people come into work they’re happy, they feel empowered, and the leadership has enabled that.”

Syed saw a need in the aging U2 and T-38 airframes around him that could be met by using off-the-shelf products. One was a GPS-style aviation watch that would aid pilots and collect inflight data to help with training, tracking physiological aspects of the pilots and, in some instances, aid in safely returning an aircraft when mishaps occur.

“It wasn’t anything that I did, it was really what the culture and the environment of this organization allowed us to do,” Syed said. “We were able to go from thought to having it on our wrist in 100 days. And in other organizations of the Defense Department, I think that’s almost impossible.”

Discover the future: A simple but powerful charge put forth by Lt. Col. Matthew Nussbaum, 99th RS commander, has invigorated his squadron with the willingness and enthusiasm to seek out what is possible within the constraints of the DoD.

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

Lt. Col. Matthew Nussbaum, 99th Reconnaissance Squadron commander, fosters a command climate that encourages his airmen to start projects without being afraid of failing. Products of his command range from resourcing their own aviation watches to creating software applications built by 99th RS members that can benefit flying squadrons.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)

“There’s those that value initiative, mission command, execution, freedom of maneuver, but there’s a law of physics, so to speak, a law of humanity that bureaucracy grows. In the U.S. military, and the Air Force in particular, that bureaucracy has grown, and slowed us down,” said Nussbaum.

The culture of innovation being developed at the 99th is driving change, agility and initiative while disempowering the bureaucracy and putting the power of decision-making and freedom of maneuver back in its member’s hands, says Nussbaum.

In many ways, the 99th RS is similar to most Air Force squadrons, but what makes it stand out is its quest for information and learning.

“Knowledge is the key to everything,” said Maj. Ray, 99th RS pilot. “For us, in the case of being able to self resource and self heal, we’ve gotten into different areas to which we aren’t familiar like U.S. code, the defense, federal and Air Force acquisition regulation, and all these different entities, and what we’re discovering is that knowledge gives you the freedom to maneuver.”

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

Members of the 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron prepare Lt. Col. Jeff Klosky for a U-2 Dragon Lady mission, April 19, 2014, at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Russ Scalf)

Ray and Syed credit their leadership with giving them the leniency and the freedom to be able to try and experiment, discover, learn and learn about learning. This symbiotic leader-follower relationship has allowed the team to progress rapidly.

“It’s a dynamic instability, F-16s are agile airplanes because they’re inherently unstable,” Ray said. “We’re not trying to destabilize command and control of the organization, what we’re trying to do is effect that same command and control at the user level – at the level of those who are out fighting and defending their nation. To resource them, and allow them to resource themselves, in ways people previously did not think was possible.”

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

Maj. Ray and Capt. Syed are 99th Reconnaissance Squadron who took initiative in learning the acquisitions process in order to make sure their squadron is equipped and ready to execute the mission.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)

Freedom of maneuver isn’t without challenges, though. Some of the toughest challenges come from the individuals themselves and learning to work as a team.

Nussbaum cautions people who think the frozen middle is a place that exists in a certain group of people but instead that it is in all of us. A whole team approach is key to mission accomplishment and having the tolerance to let others try problem solving in their own way is vital. Allowing everyone to have a chance to participate and come up with solutions adds a sense of ownership and fun to the process.

Like Doolittle, the 99th and the Air Force face many challenges that require new approaches and open-mindedness. Untethering unit members to give freedom to explore all avenues of problem solving is a progressive way ahead and one the Air Force is taking seriously.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 3 most realistic firefights ever filmed by Hollywood

It’s no secret that movies get a lot wrong about firearms and the ways they’re used in a fight. From every 80’s protagonist refusing to shoulder their rifles when they fire, to the seemingly infinite magazine capacity in every hero’s gun, filmmakers have long prized what looks cool over what’s actually possible in their work, and to be honest, it’s hard to blame them. After all, diving sideways while firing pistols from each hand does look pretty badass, even if it’s just about the dumbest thing someone could do in a firefight.

There are, of course, exceptions to the rule when it comes to Hollywood’s depictions of firefights–movies that manage to offer a realistic representation of how armed conflicts actually play out while still giving the audience something to get excited about. These movies may not be realistic from end to end, but each offers at least one firefight that was realistic enough to get even highly trained warfighters to inch up toward the edges of their seats.


“Sicario” – Border Scene HD

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Delta’s time to shine: “Sicario”

The border scene in 2015’s Sicario is worthy of study from multiple angles: as an exercise in film making, this scene puts on a clinic in tension building, and although some elements of the circumstances may not be entirely realistic, the way in which the ensuing firefight plays out offers a concise and brutal introduction to the capabilities boasted by the sorts of men that find their way onto an elite team like Delta.

Unlike the Chuck Norris depictions of Delta from the past, these men are short on words and heavy on action, using their skill sets to not only neutralize opponents, but to keep the situation as contained as possible. The tense lead up and rapid conclusion leaves the viewer with the same sense of continued stress even after the shooting stops that anyone who has ever been in a fight can relate to, despite the operators themselves who are seemingly unphased. As real special operators will often attest, it’s less about being unphased and more about getting the job done–but to the rest of us mere mortals, it looks pretty much the same.

Saving Private Ryan – Omaha Beach HD

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The Gold Standard: “Saving Private Ryan”

When “Saving Private Ryan” premiered in 1998, I distinctly recall my parents returning home early from their long-planned date night. My father, a Vietnam veteran that had long struggled with elements of his service had been excited about the new Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg wartime epic, but found the opening scene depicting the graphic reality of the Normandy invasion of World War II to be too realistic to handle. My dad, who never spoke of his time deployed, chose to leave the theater and spent the rest of the evening sitting quietly in his room.

This list is, in spirit, a celebration of realism in cinema, but realism has a weight to it, and sometimes, that weight can feel too heavy to manage. A number of veterans have echoed my father’s sentiments about the film (he did eventually watch it at home by himself), calling that opening sequence, often heralded as a masterpiece of film making, one of the hardest scenes they’ve ever managed to watch.

Heat (1995) – Shootout Scene – Bank Robbery [HD – 21:9]

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Val Kilmer helps train Green Berets: “Heat”

The dramatic ten-minute shootout in “Heat” has become legendary in Hollywood for good reason. For six weeks, the film’s production team closed down parts of downtown Los Angeles every Saturday and Sunday to turn the city into a war zone, and the actors came prepared to do their parts. Production brought in real British SAS operatives to train the actors in real combat tactics at the nearby L.A. County Sheriff’s combat shooting ranges.

Legend has it that Val Kilmer took to the training so well that the shot of him laying down fire in multiple directions and reloading his weapon (without the scene cutting) has been shown at Fort Bragg as a part of training for American Green Berets. Marines training at MCRD San Diego have also been shown this firefight from “Heat” as a depiction of how to effectively retreat under fire.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What a Hiroshima resident saw the day the bomb dropped


On Aug. 6, 1941, P. Siomes, a German priest, was sitting in his room when the sunny, summer day outside was suddenly lit by an even brighter light that blinded him just before an explosion of sound and heat slammed into the building he was in.

The next month, he gave a full recounting of the hours and days following the bombing in a statement to the U.S. Army.


Author’s note: This article is based on a statement from P. Siomes, a German priest who was in the outskirts of Hiroshima when the bomb dropped. His English is great, but not perfect, but we’ve decided to be as honest to his original text as possible when transcribing. This leaves a few minor grammar and spelling errors, but we do not believe it hinders comprehension. His full statement is available here.

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

An atomic cloud rises over Hiroshima after the bomb is dropped.

(509th Operations Group)

Siomes was part of the Society of Jesus, headquartered in a church at the edge of Hiroshima, and he remembers it being about 8:14 when the city center suddenly filled with a bright, yellow light. He described it as being like the magnesium flash from a camera, but sustained. Over the next ten seconds, he felt an increase in heat, heard what sounded like a small and distant explosion, and was halfway to his door when his window suddenly exploded inward.

He was later glad to have made it away from the window, because he later found that his wall was filled with large shards of glass from the explosion that would’ve been embedded in him instead of the wall.

Siomes had believed that the damage to the building was from a bomb that burst overhead, assuming that the light was an unconnected phenomenon. But when he went outside to check the damage, all the worst damage was on the side of the building facing the city, and there was no bomb crater in sight.

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

A Red Cross Hospital is one of the only things left standing after the bomb. Near the center of the city, even the buildings that survived the blast were consumed within hours and days by the fires triggered by the heat and radiation.

(Hiroshima Peace Media Center)

But looking out into the city, he could see the extent of the damage. Houses were burning closer to town, and nearby woods were already becoming a large inferno. As the men at the facility, mostly monks and priests, begin helping fight the flames, a storm started, and rain began to fall.

Yes, the skies were clear before the bombs dropped, but a sudden rainfall is actually one of the very weird side effects of a nuclear blast. This would help fight the fires, but it also carries tons of irradiated dust, debris, and ash back to earth and helps it cling to the skin of survivors, but Siomes didn’t know this in 1945.

He and his fellow Christians began assisting the wounded in addition to fighting the fires. One of the priests “had studied medicine” before he took his vows, and the priests gave as much medical support as they could.

Father Noktor who, before taking holy orders, had studied medicine, ministers to the injured, but our bandages and drugs are soon gone. We must be content with cleansing the wounds. More and more of the injured come to us. The least injured drag the more seriously wounded.
How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

A military document provides a guide to the extent of destruction caused by the single bomb on August 6.

(U.S. Army illustration)

And the damages to the city and surrounding area weren’t limited to just the immediate effects of the bomb. High winds damaged infrastructure and knocked over trees and buildings for hours after the initial blast. Siomes believed that this may have been caused by the fires pulling in more air, and research after the war backed him up.

Finally, we reach the entrance of the park. A large proportion of the populace has taken refuge there, but even the trees of the park are on fire in several places. Paths and bridges are blocked by the trunks of fallen trees and are almost impassable. We are told that a high wind, which may have resulted from the heat of the burning city, had uprooted the large trees.

Later on, Siomes would see some of this chaos himself. He went into the city with others to search out some of the missing priests, and they were able to find their quarry. But as they tried to make it back out ahead of the fire, they kept finding wounded trapped under debris, and attempted to rescue them, but then had to move on as the fires got close.

Eventually, they’d take refuge in Asano Park and, as the fires got close:

A very violent whirlwind now begins to uproot large trees, and lifts them high into the air. As it reaches the water, a water spout forms which is approximately 100 meters high.

This infrastructure damage made it harder for survivors to organize themselves and render aid, which was catastrophic as new emergencies kept popping up. Worse, planners had never envisioned losing an entire city in one fell swoop, and they had concentrated key supplies in a few caches near the city center, all destroyed by the bomb and fires.

For Siomes, the priests, and the monks, this all meant that their aid would necessarily be limited. It took more than a day for them simply to find out where all of their own survivors were. Some of them even had the exotic new injuries that only nuclear bombs can create.

One of the priests had been serving in the city when the bomb hit, and while he was processing the sudden burst of light, his hand was already blistering from what would later be identified as radiation. It was the equivalent of an instant, severe sunburn.

Father Kopp is bleeding about the head and neck, and he has a large burn on the right palm. He was standing in front of the nunnery ready to go home. All of a sudden, he became aware of the light, felt the wave of heat and a large blister formed on his hand.

Father Kopp was lucky; he had actually been near the epicenter of the blast but was well protected by the structure which held firm.

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

The city of Hiroshima after the bomb was dropped on August 6, 1945.

(U.S. Navy Public Affairs)

As the hours turned into days, the survivors kept tending the wounded and eating what they could find. Bodies lined the rivers and streets, and only skeletons remained of most of the buildings. Survivors had to drag the bodies or carry them on available carts out of the city, gather wood, and then cremate them in the valleys.

Rumors and stories began to rise, especially among the fifty or so refugees that were housed at what remained of the church, about what exactly had happened.

Some were likely propaganda or ill-informed attempts to explain what had happened:

As much as six kilometers from the center of the explosion, all houses were damaged and many collapses and caught fire. Even fifteen kilometers away, windows were broken. It was rumored that the enemy fliers had first spread an explosive and incendiary material over the city and then had created the explosion and ignition.
How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

View, looking northwest, from the Red Cross Hospital which survived the bomb. The other structures are largely ones re-built after the bomb.

(U.S. Government)

Some of the rumors were reports of how different victims suffered from the bombs:

Many of the wounded also died because they had been weakened by under-nourishment and consequently the strength to recover. Those who had normal strength and who received good care slowly healed the burns which had been associated with the bomb. There were also cases, however, whose prognosis seemed good who died suddenly. There were also some who had only small external wounds who died within a week or later, after an inflamation of the pharyax and oral cavity had taken place.

A paragraph later, Siomes recalls:

Only several cases are known to me personally where individuals who did not have external burns died later. Father Kleinserge and Father Cisslik, who near the center of the explosion, but who did not suffer burns became quite weak some fourteen days after the explosion.Up to this time small incised wounds had healed normally, but thereafter the wounds which were still unhealed became worse and are to date (in September) still incompletely healed.

But the biggest surprise probably comes at the end of the document where Siomes shares debates between he and his peers about the morality of the bomb.

He doesn’t come to a final decision, but he does note:

None of us in those days heard a single outburst against the Americans on the part of the Japanese, nor was there any evidence of a vengeful spirit…We have discussed among ourselves the ethics of the use of the bomb. Some consider it in the same category as poison gas and were against its use on a civil population. Other were of the view that in total war, as carried on in Japan, there was no difference between civilians and soldier and that the bomb itself was an effective force tending to end the bloodshed, warning Japan to surrender and thus avoid total destruction.

It’s an argument that continues today, but apparently consumed some of the immediate attention of survivors in the hours and days following its first use.

MIGHTY CULTURE

US military brings stability to villages near Air Base 201

Growing trust between the local community and U.S. service members, and fostering good relationships with the government in the area surrounding a new base increases the chance of local support for airmen deployed there in an effort to bring stability to the region.

The U.S. Army’s 411th Civil Affairs Battalion are experts in nurturing relationships in host countries. Partnering with local community groups and base groups, civil affairs specialists have donated food, supplies, built classrooms and built solar powered wells in the communities surrounding Air Base 201 in Agadez, Niger. They also trained technicians on how to maintain the solar panels.


This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Ukrainian president says compensation offered by Iran for shooting down airliner not enough

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said in televised remarks that Iran offered $80,000 per victim after it shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet on January 8, but that Ukraine did not accept the offer because “it was too little.”


Zelenskiy added in comments made on Ukrainian 1+1 television that “of course, human life is not measured by money, but we will push for more” compensation for families of the victims.

Air-defense forces of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) shot down Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752 shortly after takeoff in Tehran on January 8, killing all 176 people on board.

Iran has said the downing was an accident, and in mid-January said it would send the black-box flight recorders to Kyiv for analysis.

However, Zelenskiy said that Ukraine had yet to receive the recorders, and that Tehran had instead suggested that Ukrainian specialists fly to Iran on February 3 to examine the black boxes.

“I’m afraid that the Iranians might attract our specialists and then say, ‘Let’s decipher [the recorders] on the spot,’ and then say, ‘Why do you need the black boxes now?'” Zelenskiy said.

“No, we want to take these boxes [to Ukraine],” he added.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is what you should know about the ‘Aztec Eagles’

Though a select few get most of the credit, a lot of countries were involved in the Allied efforts of World War II. There were so many moving parts that it’s easy to forget that certain groups, including our own U.S. Coast Guard, were actively involved. While we might make jokes about Canadians being overly polite today, we must certainly not forget that they kicked some serious ass in Europe. However, there’s another country that played a significant role in the global conflict that many seem to gloss over outside of discussing the Zimmerman Telegram: Mexico.

There was no real shortage of volunteers during WWII, but more help was always appreciated. That’s where Mexico comes in. Pissed about losing oil ships in the Gulf, Mexico declared war on Axis powers in 1942. Shortly thereafter, Mexico became one of the only Latin American countries to send troops overseas.

The most widely recognized group to deploy was the Mexican Army’s Escuadrón 201 — the Aztec Eagles. Here’s what you should know:


How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

(U.S. Air Force)

The 201st Fighter Squadron was formed in response to German submarines sinking two oil tankers, the SS Potrero del Llano and the SS Faja de Oro. These dudes were obviously pissed and wanted to hop into the war to kick some ass, just like the rest of us. So, they got 30 experienced pilots together with 270 other volunteers to be ground crew. After their formation, they were sent to Texas in July of 1944.

The Aztec Eagles trained at Randolph Field in San Antonio as well as Majors Field in Greenville, Texas. The pilots received months of training in weapons, communication, tactics, as well as advanced combat air tactics, formation flying, and gunnery. They held a graduation ceremony in February, 1945, and received their battle flag, which went down in history as the first time Mexican troops were trained by to fight a war overseas.

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

A P-47D sporting insignias of both the Army Air Forces and Mexican Air Force.

(U.S. Army Air Force)

In March, 1945, following their transformation into hardened warriors, the 201st Fighter Squadron was sent to the Philippines attached to the Army Air Force’s own 58th Fighter Group to participate in expelling Japanese control. In June of that same year, they flew two missions per day using U.S. aircraft. By July, they received their own P-47D Thunderbolts, with which they fought plenty.

During their time in the Philippines, the 201st flew at least 90 combat missions and, throughout those, lost eight pilots. They also flew 53 ground support missions for the Army’s 25th Infantry Division, four fighter sweeps over Formosa, and dive bombing missions. All the while, they also had no provision for replacements, which made each pilot loss especially painful.

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

Former 201st Fighter Squadron members salute during a ceremony at Chapultepec Park in Mexico City, March 6, 2009.

(Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Adam M. Stump)

By the end of it, the 201st had put down 30,000 Japanese troops, destroyed enemy buildings, vehicles, anti-aircraft and machine gun emplacements, and ammunition depots. General Douglas MacArthur gave them recognition, and they were awarded the Philippine Legion of Honor, complete with rank of Legionnaire, in 2004.

The 201st Fighter Squadron is still around today.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 lesser-known facts about the most decorated soldier in American history

No other soldier in American history has ever come close to earning the level of respect dutifully given to Lieutenant Audie Murphy. To date, no other soldier has managed to earn every single award for valor — including the Medal of Honor, two Silver Stars, and three Bronze Stars.

His legendary story has humble beginnings — he was a 5’5″, 17-year-old kid from Texas who tried to enlist with every branch and wasn’t admitted until he falsified his age to get into the Army. His heroic exploits are countless: Jumping on a burning tank and mowing down Nazis, single-handedly taking out German armor, and out-shooting snipers at every turn. If you’ve seen it in an action film and thought to yourself, “no way,” Audie Murphy probably did it.

But this isn’t a retelling of his high-profile heroics. If you’ve served in the U.S. military and don’t know the story of this man, then you should probably be doing push-ups and ordering a book about him right now. For the rest of you, enjoy these lesser-known facts about the legendary Audie Murphy


How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

Then, of course, came what he would be known for — fighting in Germany.

(Signal Corps Archives)

His rise in the ranks

After Pearl Harbor, Murphy was desperate to enlist. He finally got into the Army as a private on June 30, 1942 — just ten days after his 17th birthday. By February 20, 1943, he was shipped to Casablanca as part of the North Africa Campaign.

He was promoted to PFC while training for Sicily in May and, upon landing at Licata in July, he made corporal. After taking Campania in December, he was promoted to sergeant. He was again promoted to staff sergeant just a month later. He earned the Bronze Star with a “V” device and an oak leaf cluster before finishing up in Italy and moving onto the rest of Europe.

In less than a year, he went from private to staff sergeant.

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

Murphy wanted to make a second film, titled ‘The Way Back,’ that chronicled his life after service, but it never came to fruition.

(Universal Pictures)

His acting career

After the war, he was offered the opportunity to attend West Point, but instead decided to pursue a career in acting. He practiced Shakespeare in his free time until he landed his first major role in The Kid From Texas, in which he played Billy the Kid.

Meanwhile, Murphy was working alongside one of his Army buddies to write a semi-autobiographical novel, To Hell and Back, which was adapted to film — Murphy played the lead role. In both the book and resulting film, he downplayed some elements of his service during the war as to avoid accusations of exaggeration. That’s how badass his actual actions were.

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

Even in his darkest hours, he was still a fantastic human being.

(Whispering Smith)

He never wanted to sell out 

To put it bluntly, Audie Murphy had hit rock bottom in the 60s. He suffered from an addiction to the prescription drug Placidyl – a habit that he kicked by locking himself in a motel room until he was clean – became reclusive, attempted suicide several times, and lost much of his money to gambling and poor investments.

Throughout all of his struggles, however, he got offers to star in commercials for cigarettes and alcohol. Taking a single deal would have put him back on his feet, but he knew that if he took the money, he’d be setting a bad example for the countless children who looked up to him — so he declined them all.

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

The gravestone was made before it came to light that he and his sister had falsified his year of birth so he could serve in WWII. He was actually born in 1925.

His grave is one of the most visited graves at Arlington

On May 28, 1971,Audie Murphy boarded a private jet in Atlanta, Georgia, and made hisway toward Martinsville, Virginia. There was heavy fog but the pilot chose to fly through it. The Aero Commander 680 carrying Murphycrashed into the side of Brush Mountain, 20 miles west of Roanoke. There were no survivors.

He was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery,Section 46, headstone number 46-366-11. Outside of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldierand President John F. Kennedy, Murphy’s headstone is the most-visited grave. The volumeof tourists visiting to pay respects was so great that they had to buildan entirely new flagstone walkway to accommodatethe foot traffic.

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

I’ve had the honor of serving under a few S.A.M.C. members. To this day, many years later, I know that they’d gladly give me the shirt off their back at the drop of a dime.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kamaile Chan)

A club of the finest NCOs in the Army is named in his honor

The spirit of Audie Murphy lives on through the outstanding non-commissioned officers of the United States Army. Formed in 1986, the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club recognizes the most professional, most intelligent, and most decorated leaders in the Army today.

The requirements for entry into this club are stringent, but above all, an NCO must be known for putting the well-being of his or her soldiers above their own. Earning the medallion is one of the surest ways to let the troops serving under you know that they’ll be well taken care of.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

A former Green Beret has a real solution to the US policing problem

When demonstrators in Springfield, Massachusetts marched to protest against heavy-handed law enforcement in the wake of George Floyd’s death it was entirely peaceful. No rocks were thrown at the police, no cars were turned over and no one was arrested in the state’s third largest city.

“The citizens of Springfield have a good working relationship with the cops,” said Army Special Forces veteran and retired Massachusetts State Trooper Michael Cutone.


And he should know — he can take at least some of the credit for reworking the entire relationship.

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

Massachusetts State Trooper Michael Cutone walks with local children on their way to a school bus stop in Springfield, Mass. (Michael Cutone/The Trinity Project)

Cutone split his time between the Army Guard and the police force, gathering decades of experience along the way. Eventually he started to see where lessons learned in his military career could apply to the toughest streets of Massachusetts.

“I was in the Guard, so when I got active duty orders, I would put on the green hat,” Cutone says. “I’d be gone six months, a year, then I’d be back in my trooper uniform. It was two different worlds but I loved both of them.”

Swapping between jobs kept him in touch with both the fundamentals of counterinsurgency overseas and the hard work of policing an area stateside. And it led him to wonder: what if he paired the best of both methods into a program for home?

In a time where calls to “defund the police” are growing louder, Cutone’s method of police work is now getting more funding from state and federal lawmakers. It’s called C3 Policing and it doesn’t take the police out of the community, it puts the needs of a community first.

“Community members are your greatest resource,” Cutone says. “In the Army, you don’t survive that well if you’re embedded in a hostile community, so you go win over the local population.”

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

Michael Cutone and Tom O’Hare, one of The Trinity Project’s C3 instructors, while deployed to Iraq with U.S. Army Special Forces in 2013. (Provided by Michael Cutone)

If Cutone’s choice of words sounds familiar to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, that shouldn’t be a surprise. “C3” means Counter Criminal Continuum and it’s basically the application of the Army Special Forces’ counterinsurgency tactics used in the Global War on Terror to violent crime and gang activity in American cities.

In 2009 the crime rate in Springfield was three times the rate in the State of Massachusetts as a whole.

“In the north end of the city, you hand open-air drug selling, gang members carrying SKS rifles out in the open and it culminated in three shooting and two murders in a week,” Cutone says.

Cutone asked his State Police sergeant if he could do a dismounted patrol — to walk around the streets 12th worst city in America in his State Trooper uniform. It was unheard of. Somehow, his sergeant agreed.

He began walking the streets, talking to people, buying a cup of coffee here, a pastry there. It dawned on Cutone that maybe law enforcement is approaching street crime in the wrong way. So he continued to walk the streets, engaging the population the way Army Special Forces taught him.

He went to community meetings to build legitimacy within the populace and eventually approached the city’s deputy police chief with his background and ideas. When the chief agreed to hear him out, Cutone wrote up an entire action plan for a small community in the North end of the city, using the eight building blocks taught by the Army.

Among these were “work by, with and through the local population” and “Detect, degrade, disrupt and dismantle criminal activity” — counterinsurgency maxims proven time and again overseas. Citizens began to meet police officers and interact with them. Eventually the local police force established a C3 Department and hand-picked C3 officers to begin to integrate themselves into the fabric of the community.

After retiring from both the Army and Massachusetts State Police in 2020, Cutone, with fellow State Trooper and Special Forces soldier Thomas Sarrouf, co-founded The Trinity Project, a police engagement consultancy and training company that trains officers in C3 Policing, using counterinsurgency to take back U.S. streets..

While “counterinsurgency” may bring to mind images of soldiers kicking in doors and raiding houses, Cutone said C3 is about building legitimacy through community partnerships using 8 core principles developed through the counterinsurgency techniques taught to American Special Forces:

  • Legitimacy is crucial to achieving our goals
  • You must understand the environment (the ground truth)
  • Unity of effort is essential
  • Intelligence drives operations
  • Prepare for a long-term commitment
  • Local factors are primary
  • Security under the rule of law
  • Gangs and drug dealers must be separated from their cause and support

“When you call the cops to come fix a problem, that’s just a transactional relationship,” Cutone says. “It’s not transformative. We are starting with a message to counter the gang’s message, offer services and create pressure points on these gangs to make it impossible to operate.”

The end result is transformational. Since Cutone began his style of policing, the annual crime rate of Springfield has decreased 6% every year. While the city is still not quite the bastion of law and order, things are beginning to turn around.

Some of the proof is seen outside the raw data. For example, more outside investment is beginning to come into the area. Buildings are no longer left vacant, businesses are coming in and drug dealers are no longer active in the open. C3 operations are even expanding to the rest of the city.

Cutone and his staff at the Trinity Project are ready to bring community engagement through C3 Policing to any city ready to think outside the box.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Fighter pilot who flew last WWII combat mission dies

Capt Jerry Yellin, World War II fighter pilot, who flew the last combat mission in August 1945, was laid to rest with full military honors Jan. 15, 2019, at Arlington Cemetery, Virginia.

Yellin enlisted two months after Pearl Harbor on his 18th birthday. After graduating from Luke Air Field, Arizona, as a fighter pilot in August 1943, he spent the remainder of the war flying P-40, P-47 and P-51 combat missions in the Pacific with the 78th Fighter Squadron. He was part of the first land-based fighter mission over Japan on April 7, 1945, and was the lead on the last mission of the war on Aug. 14, 1945.


He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with an oak leaf cluster and the Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters.

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

Capt Jerry Yellin, World War II fighter pilot, who flew the last combat mission in August 1945, was laid to rest with full military honors Jan. 15, 2019, at Arlington Cemetery, Va.

(US Air Force photo)

Although his flying career was short, he witnessed more turmoil than any human being should ever have to witness. Yellin was discharged in December 1945 and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, before it was recognized as such.

After thirty years of suffering, his wife introduced him to the topic of transcendental meditation and it turned out to be the key to a better life. Yellin shared his positive experience with transcendental meditation as a motivational speaker and worked tirelessly in his efforts to help other service members with PTSD.

Additionally, he wrote two books on his experiences in the war, and he was profiled in volume 5 of “Veterans in Blue,” showcasing his contribution to the legacy of the Air Force.

Yellin passed away on Dec. 21, 2017, at the age of 93. His wife of 65 years, the former Helene Schulman, was interred with him. A flyover of four A-10 aircraft from the 23rd Wing at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, paid him the final tribute.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

Articles

The Nazi’s (implausible) plan to invade the American mainland

In March 1942, the U.S. was fully engaged in the second World War, fighting against Japan and Germany. The Pearl Harbor attack had happened just months prior, and now there was a U-boat war happening right off the eastern seaboard of the United States.


Americans were understandably nervous. Then Life Magazine scared the heck out of its readers with an article about what would happen if the Nazis and the Japanese decided to invade.

In an article titled “Now the US must fight for its life,” Life shared maps of a potential invasion that must have been pretty terrifying to John Q. Public in the early days of the war.

The magazine, fortunately, was way, way off. The Germans did investigate a potential invasion of the U.S., aided by the the long-range Amerika bomber, but they eventually found such an endeavor too costly, especially as the war continued to go poorly for them.

Though German U-boats were sinking some ships off the American coast, fielding a long-range bomber against the U.S. needed a nuclear bomb underneath it to be truly effective, which the Germans never figured out. And Berlin simply didn’t have the resources or manpower to stage a feasible land invasion — a point nailed home by the fact that Germany had previously scrapped an invasion plan for England in 1941.

Regardless, it was a scary time for Americans in March 1942, and it was the heyday of military propaganda. So here is how Life imagined such an operation:

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

MIGHTY TRENDING

Jimmy Carter offered to meet Kim Jong Un in North Korea for negotiations

Former President Jimmy Carter has offered to travel to North Korea to meet Kim Jong Un in a bid to break the diplomatic stalemate between Washington and Pyongyang over the denuclearization of the rogue state.

Representative Ro Khanna, a California Democrat, told Politico that the former president had expressed his willingness to travel to North Korea in a conversation on March 7, 2019.

“I think President Carter can help (President Trump) for the sake of the country,” Khanna later told CNN.


Carter was the first US president to travel to North Korea, visiting the country in 1994 to meet Kim’s grandfather, former leader Kim Il Sung. Carter’s visit helped to defuse the first North Korean nuclear crisis, paving the way for the Agreed Framework, in which North Korea agreed to give up its nuclear program in exchange for aid.

Jimmy Carter meets Kim Il-Sung (1994)

www.youtube.com

He returned to the country in 2010, where he helped secure the release of American captive Aijalon Gomes.

In the interview with CNN, Khanna said that Carter’s experience negotiating with Kim’s grandfather would be an asset for the Trump administration, following the collapse of negotiations between Kim Jong Un and President Trump in Hanoi, Vietnam.

“I think it would be so profound because he could talk to Kim Jong Un about his grandfather and the framework he established,” Khanna said.

Khanna said that he and Carter had on March 7, 2019, been discussing plans to revive the denuclearization plans the former president brokered with Kim Il Sung, to develop a new joint framework for peace.

The Carter Centre and White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Carter seems to hold no great respect for Trump, and in an appearance on Stephen Colbert’s show in March 2018 agreed when the host said Trump’s election showed Americans were willing to elect a “jerk” as president. Trump meanwhile has derided Carter’s leadership and “everyman” image while in the White House.

President Jimmy Carter Is Still Praying For Donald Trump

www.youtube.com

However, Carter has previously made efforts to broker a relationship with the administration, and was critical of hostile press coverage of Trump in October 2017, when he first offered to help Trump negotiate with Kim.

“I think the media have been harder on Trump than any other president certainly that I’ve known about,” Carter told New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.

“I think they feel free to claim that Trump is mentally deranged and everything else without hesitation.”

Then remarks were welcomed by Trump, who tweeted: “Just read the nice remarks by President Jimmy Carter about me and how badly I am treated by the press (Fake News).”

“Thank you Mr. President!”

The nuclear summit between Trump and Kim came unstuck when Kim demanded an end to US sanctions.

Analysts earlier in the week said that satellite imagery showed North Korea had started rebuilding a long-range missile launch site in the wake of the collapse of the negotiations.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

5 mind-blowing facts about the US military

1) The United States Military is one of the world’s largest providers of international aid and disaster relief.

I enjoy this fact because so little is it remembered. Not only is the US military usually involved with most global conflicts, but they are also present in the time of need for almost every international natural disaster in which aid is needed. I love advertising this fact because so often I hear about all the evils of the United States, but not once have I ever heard the phrase, “Hey America. Thanks a bunch for the assist. Tsunamis really suck.”


As well as this the military also makes regular deployments to disenfranchised and impoverished developing nations to provide immediate health and medical support during times of non-violence or disaster. These services are free to the people of those nations and supported entirely by United States taxpayer dollars.

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

This is the USNS Mercy. She is a massive hospital ship and, along with her sister ship the USNS Comfort, has the proud and distinguished mission to sail around the world to places in desperate need of medical aid and support. Officially, their primary mission is to:

provide rapid, flexible, and mobile acute medical and surgical services to support Marine Corps Air/Ground Task Forces deployed ashore; Army and Air Force units deployed ashore; and naval amphibious task forces and battle forces afloat.

Secondarily, they provide mobile surgical hospital service for use by appropriate US Government agencies in disaster/humanitarian relief or limited humanitarian care incidents to these missions or peacetime military operations.

Looking at the record though, you’ll find that the Mercy and Comfort have been quite busy with “secondary” missions. Here is a list of some of the Mercyand Comfort‘s “secondary” missions:

  • 1987 – (USNS Mercy) Over 62,000 outpatients and almost 1,000 inpatients were treated at seven Philippine and South Pacific ports during training in 1984 through 1987.
  • 1990* – (USNS Mercy) Admitted 690 patients and performed almost 300 surgeries. (USNS Comfort) More than 8,000 outpatients were seen, and 700 inpatients. 337 surgical procedures were performed. Other notable benchmarks include: more than 2,100 safe helicopter evolutions; 7,000 prescriptions filled; 17,000 laboratory tests completed; 1,600 eyeglasses made; 800,000 meals served and 1,340 radiographic studies, including 141CT scans.
  • 2001 – 9/11 – (USNS Comfort) The ship’s clinic saw 561 guests for cuts, respiratory ailments, fractures and other minor injuries, and Comfort‘s team of Navy psychology personnel provided 500 mental health consultations to relief workers.[5] Comfort also hosted a group of volunteer New York area massage therapists who gave 1,359 therapeutic medical massages to ship guests.
  • 2003 * – (USNS Comfort) 590 surgical procedures, transfused more than 600 units of blood, developed more than 8,000 radiographic images and treated nearly 700 patients including almost 200 Iraqi civilians and enemy prisoners of war.
  • 2005 – Indian Ocean Tsunami – (USNS Mercy) Combined, provided 108,000 patient services, rendered by members of the Department of Defense, Project Hope, and the United States Public Health Service.
  • 2005 – (USNS Comfort) Comfort deployed on September 2, 2005, after only a two-day preparation, to assist in Gulf Coast recovery efforts after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Starting in Pascagoula, Mississippi and then sailing to New Orleans, Comfort personnel saw 1,956 patients total.
  • 2007 – (USNS Comfort) Central and South America. In all, the civilian and military medical team treated more than 98,000 patients, provided 386,000 patient encounters and performed 1,100 surgeries. Dentists and staff treated 25,000 patients, extracting 300 teeth, and performing 4,000 fillings, 7,000 sealings, and 20,000 fluoride applications. In addition to treating patients, bio-medical professionals fixed about a thousand pieces of medical equipment at local health facilities. The ship’s crew also delivered nearly $200,000 dollars worth of donated humanitarian aid.
  • 2008 –  (USNS Mercy) Over the course of one deployment, Mercy would treat 91,000 patients, including performing 1,369 surgeries.
  • 2010 – (USNS Mercy) Treated 109,754 patients and performed 1,580 surgeries in Southeast Asia.
  • 2010 – (USNS Comfort) Haiti Earthquake disaster. Between January 19 and February 28, 2010, the ship’s staff treated 1,000 Haitian patients and performed 850 surgeries. Also, the mission saw the ship’s first on-board delivery, of a 4-pound, 5-ounce premature baby named Esther.
  • 2011 – (USNS Comfort) – The ship deployed for five months providing medical services to locations in the Caribbean and Latin America.

It is important to remember that all this is done, by only two ships. Beyond these two ships the United States Navy takes part in many humanitarian service missions each year. Several ships are deployed with missions other than warfare to provide free aid and medical support.

There are also ongoing operations such as the Pacific Partnership. The Pacific Partnership is an annual deployment of forces from the Pacific Fleet of the United States Navy (USN), in cooperation with regional governments and military forces, along with humanitarian and non-government organizations.

The deployment was conceived following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, as a way to improve the interoperability of the region’s military forces, governments, and humanitarian organizations during disaster relief operations, while providing humanitarian, medical, dental, and engineering assistance to nations of the Pacific, and strengthening relationships and security ties between the nations. Between 2006 and 2010, Pacific Partnership has visited 13 countries, treated more than 300,000 patients, and built over 130 engineering projects.

The MEU to the Rescue.

Within the United States Marines there exist elements that specialize in being the first into a war zone. Most of the offensive parts of the Marine Corps are built around this idea, but particularly there is one capability that is most crucial to this. The Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU for short) is capable of deploying troops to virtually any location on Earth within reach of a shoreline within 48 hours.

What they also do though, is deploy troops to major disaster areas as well. Being that the MEUs are literally patrolling every ocean in the world for signs of danger and disorder, they are already equipped with a large supply and armament for potentially long-term hostile engagements and specialized in reaching and operating with little to no infrastructure in hard-to-reach places. This sucks for them, but makes them uniquely capable of doing something else pretty special. It makes them adeptly able to address and adapt to the needs of millions of people throughout the world in need of immediate emergency assistance. They are able to move so quickly that they outpace more formal relief organizations by days or weeks.

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win
Colombo, Sri Lanka (Jan. 10, 2005) – A U.S. Marine Corps amphibious vehicle prepares to bring Marines and Sailors aboard an awaiting Landing Craft Utility (LCU) at the end of the day’s relief efforts in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Helicopters from USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) and Marines and Sailors assigned to 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit are supporting Operation Unified Assistance, the humanitarian operation effort in the wake of the Tsunami that struck South East Asia. The Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group is currently operating in the Indian Ocean off the waters of Indonesia and Thailand. U.S. Navy photo by Lance Cpl. Joseph Ward (RELEASED)

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win
A U.S. Navy doctor treats patients from tsunami-devastated villages in Banda Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia, on Jan. 6, 2005. Helicopters from the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group are providing humanitarian assistance to areas devastated by the Dec. 26, 2004, Indian Ocean tsunami. The strike group is operating in the Indian Ocean off the coasts of Indonesia and Thailand in support of Operation Unified Assistance. DoD photo by Petty Officer 3rd class Tyler J. Clements, U.S. Navy. (Released)

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win
Medan, Indonesia (Jan. 4, 2005) – Marines assigned to 3rd Transportation Support Battalion, 3rd Force Service Support Group, help distribute humanitarian relief supplies at Palonia Air Field in Medan, Indonesia. Helicopters from USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) and Marines assigned to 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit are supporting Operation Unified Assistance, the humanitarian operation effort in the wake of the Tsunami that struck South East Asia. The Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group is currently operating in the Indian Ocean off the waters of Indonesia and Thailand. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Andreas A. Plaza (RELEASED)

More recently, after the devastation from the 2010 Haiti Earthquake disaster, soldiers from the United States Army were deployed to assist in delivering badly needed supplies, such as food, water and other necessities to the region.

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win
Soldiers prepare food and water for Haitian victims of the Earthquake.

I’m going to lay it out straight. I am willing to bet almost no one knew before reading this answer about the scale of the United States’ disaster relief history. You probably had no idea of the depth of support that the United States military contributes to the world each time a major disaster strikes somewhere on the planet Earth. You know that help was sent, but did your ever really ask who it was or what form it took? You may have heard of 150 doctors that went, but were you aware of the tens of thousands of soldiers, sailors and Marines that were there before even the news journalists were present?

Sure, many people will rattle off statistics about what monsters we are. They will talk about all the people that the military kills and all the dead people out there that the United States military are responsible for each year, which is odd since such things are essentially what the military, all militaries, are designed to do.

They will cite things that the Americans are responsible for doing wrong, but no one in the history of the world can declare that they have made such great strides in providing aid and relief like the Americans.This should ring especially significant since we have absolutely no real obligation to do so if previous major world powers are to be our example. You could compare us to the Raubwirtschaft (plunder economies) of Germany, Japan and Russia during their time in power.

You could also look at “aid” the European people provided the African colonies during their time as superpowers. Even better… look at what they are doing for the world right now. Where is their great big white boat with doctors and dentists? Where are their Marines after an earthquake or hurricane? At home, on their porch sipping on a cup of self-righteousness as they lecture the world about the virtues of pacifism and the horrors of the American military. It’s hypocritical and it’s ignorant.

While many find that the superstructure that is the US military is a bloated and imperialistic beast, it’s still the largest and most efficient source in the world to get help where help is needed. That help happens whether that be in calming a diplomatic hot spot, giving food to a devastated rural village or providing dental care to children in a part of a country that has never seen a dentist. Would I like to see other, more pacifist organizations do the job? Sure I would, so far the world is more content to complain than do anything.

The US military doesn’t suffer from that handicap. Say what you want about us, but without that aid provided by hundreds of thousands of American service people and hundreds of millions of taxpayers, millions upon millions of people who have been fed, vaccinated, operated on, given shelter, given homes, bathed, birthed, and listened to would now be dead. Many more would not experience the quality of life they now experience. Sure it’s easy to gauge the military on violent metrics, but how do you measure the value of those we have helped? That’s a philosopher’s discussion, not one for the Marines. Yeah, the Americans and their military have their faults, but if you’re one of them you ought to be pretty proud right now. [2]

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

 

That is such a pretty medal isn’t it? About that…

2) The uniforms are not provided by tax payer dollars. They are paid for by the troops themselves.

 

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

Neat how I segued from the Humanitarian Service Medal to my point on how much uniforms cost huh? See this beautiful example of a human being above? People who can read his rack (the medals on his chest) know this man is truly a boss. I’ll list a few of the really cool ones. He’s stellar: Two Navy Commendation Medals, Three Navy Achievement medals and a few Good Cookies. He’s also a badass: Two National Defense Medals (two different periods of war), several combat action ribbons, two devices known throughout the Corps as the recon combo and the crème de la crème, the enemy accuracy medal better known as the Purple Heart. Plus this flower looking thing I can only assume means he’s awesome (or Canadian?) not to mention at least 13 different pieces of insignia I don’t care to mention.

Do you know how John D. Taxpayer thanks the honorable Gunnery Sergeant Awesomesauce? By making him pay for each and every damn thing you see… even down to the buttons on his stinking coat. Did I mention those medals are gold plated?

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

 

These are the Uniforms of the USMC. [3] I will make the caveat that it is true that military personnel are provided with one piece of every item they need when they first enter boot camp. What most don’t know is that these also come out of their paycheck. It is sort of a hidden cost since we are more involved in boot camp than watching our finances. We all know it happens, but just have to get it done.

It is assumed that this uniform item is supposed to last throughout their enlistment which could last 30 years. And those medals you earn? You’re given one when earn it. It’s like the Humanitarian Service Medal above. It isn’t the gold plated version and basically, you have no uniform you are allowed to wear it in. For all the medals you actually wear, you have to pay between $13 and $60. Interesting huh? This is made easier by a stipend military folks receive that is around $200 every year for replacement of uniform items. Let’s look closer at that.

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

I am going to go over an estimated cost of what is shown by the Gunnery Sergeant in this picture. Mind you I am only showing you the parts visible in the picture, which themselves are only one of many Marine Corps regulation uniforms.Section A: Cover

Total Cost of “Cool Hat”: $83.40

Section B: Medals

Total cost of “Bling” – $296.33

Section C: Other Devices

Extra Doo-Dads – $30.12

Section D: The Blues Coat

Total for the Coat: $423.80

Total for everything visible:

$833.65

Plus Tax!

[4]

I’ll remind readers that this is just what is visible in that image. Not shown, but simply must be there are $83 pants, $99 shoes, a $50 belt buckle, service stripes, blood stripes and at least four other trinkets I can think of off the top of my head. Let’s not forget that that guy doesn’t look like a seamstress so add in tailoring. Also, this is all still just one uniform of the six that Marines are required to upkeep at all times not to mention multiple sets of pristine camouflage utilities.

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

You might not realize this from the outside, but military troops’ uniforms come at a very high cost. Not only is there the cost of earning the right to wear it, but the sacrifice of time and money to upkeep it. As I have said, we receive the few items we are issued (bought) at boot camp. We are issued one cheap version of the medals we earn, but aren’t really allowed to wear (because it’s the cheap version). We also receive a regular pittance to upkeep it. I hope I have shown that that is hopelessly not enough for all the gear and uniform items we are expected to maintain.

I could go on about how many pairs of combat utilities I went through on my two Iraq deployments and my many training missions and how the two they gave me just didn’t make it. I could go on about how if one of those gold medals got scratched… it was worthless and you had to get a new one. Did you know that gold is one of the most malleable metals on Earth? You will once you replace a $22 medal because Corporal saw a scratch on it. I could go on about the countless inspections to ensure that our uniforms were perfect… perfect. But I won’t do into detail on those. What I will say is that they are important to us.

We work exceptionally hard to make sure that they are pristine and represent all the greatest qualities we can put into them. They are trying to convey an image and ideal of respectable men and women that instill courage and a sense of pride and security in the people they serve.Of course this is also why we write answers like this Nick Layon’s answer to What is the fashion trend you dislike the most? or go ballistic when we see celebrities do this:

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

Or when we see comments like this we want to simply choke someone:

So what you don’t like is when the citizens you protect wear the uniform you wear while preserving our freedom? And for this you raise your voice at them? Are you aware sir, that the taxes those people pay on the clothes you don’t like them wearing are what pays your salary?

Yes. In case you didn’t know. Military personnel can easily spend more than a third of their after tax disposable income a year on uniform items. They do this out a sense of pride. They do this out of a sense of honor and respect to the uniform and what it represents. They do this so that when you see them you can gain a sense of pride and feel safe knowing that when all hell breaks lose, a professional is ready to meet it. They do this to not be yelled at during inspections. They do this because it proves that they are special.

What I hope you take away from this, if nothing else, is that your tax dollars are a drop in the bucket for what military personnel pay every year for their uniforms. Also, don’t be surprised to receive a knife hand to the temple if you expect praise, gratitude, fealty or admiration because you were so generous to pay your damned taxes this year. Military people don’t owe you anything just because you pay taxes and you didn’t put those medals on our chests. We look good because we paid for the right to. [5]

3) Our Navy Started off Basically as Pirates.

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

Ok, I know I just made the biggest deal about how the United States military has relatively unheard-of aspects that include noble and virtuous service to disaster-stricken regions and that our uniforms mark us as some of the proudest and most professional military personnel on the planet. So why on Earth would I say that we started off as pirates? Because someone who reads the facts and has a vague understanding of military practices has some hard truths to deal with.

There are some colorful factoids hidden in sunken chests down under the sea that paint a picture few have ever really seen. There was some downright swashbuckling going on back then. I’ve taken a pretty liberal historical licence, but there is, as is the case with everything else, much more to the story than what made it to our history books. Let’s take a look.

Take a look at this flag. What do you see? Anything familiar?

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

You guessed right! It’s the flag of the British East India Company! How smart you are! Doesn’t look at all like anything else after all…Notice again some of the elements of the flag. The first thing we need to know is that this was a Naval flag and all the elements have important Naval meanings. It was colonial practice to place the mother nation’s standard at the top corner against the mast. Here we see the Union Jack present as it appeared at the time. What is also important was the red field.

In those days, such a flag would denote the ensign of the trade navy. It would look like this. This meant that it was an official trade ship flying under the protection of the crown of England. The red color also meant that it was a civilian ship and that its only mission should be one of trade.

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

So alright, well still the stripes are a big deal though. It’s hard not to see those stripes, right?

Yes. It is hard.  That’s why many of the major shipping companies of that era made special marks on their flags by simply sewing white stripes across the field. Don’t think of it as red and white stripes, but as a red field with white stripes on it. In fact there was one such company that made a remarkable effort to emulate the Colonial Flag, nearly 70 years before we ever flew it. They were the East India Trading Company, and had been waving a flag virtually identical to the Grand Union Flag for the better part of a century before the Revolutionary War.

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

Now it’s just me, but if I was a British ship just looking over and see a flag that looked like that I probably wouldn’t think of some navy that no one has heard of yet… of course I bet that was the intention. Some might call that a case of mistaken identity, clever use of unconventional warfare while others might go as far as to say that it is downright piracy. Still some might just say it is one big convenient coincidence.

On Marines

A few things that you should know about the Marine Corps. One of the first facts that every good Marine knows, myself being among that population, is where the Marine Corps was born. Do you know? It was Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, Pennsylvanian. Yep, at a bar. The proudest and most lethal fighting men in the planet are the ancestors of a bunch of rowdy drunks. Well, for better or worse little has changed.Our first recorded battle was the Battle of Nassau, led by Captain Samuel Nicholas, which consisted of 250 Marines and sailors who landed in New Providence and marched to Nassau Town. There, they wreaked much damage and seized naval stores of shot, shells, and cannon, but failed to capture most of the desperately needed gun powder. The forts at Nassau and Fort Montagu were raided and stripped of their armaments, while Marines occupied the town of Nassau for a lengthy stay. While in Nassau the Marines “relieved” them of some of their unwanted burdens as well. Governor Browne complained that the rebel officers consumed most of his liquor stores during the occupation, and also wrote that he was taken in chains like a “felon to the gallows” when he was arrested and taken to the Alfred.Since then, for the most part, we have cleaned up our act a bit. For those early days, however, it is my belief that the Continental Marines’ use of “unconventional warfare” to complete their goals at the time might warrant a closer look at our views of their history or at least just reveal them as the colorfully exuberant fellows of cheer and good character that they were.

The Father of the American Navy

Switching back to the Navy, meet John Paul “Jones” and the Continental Navy. After combing the web for information on John Paul, on his best day, he was a jerk. Let’s begin. This man is often times cited as one of the founding fathers of the U.S. Navy. His sarcophagus even rests to this day in the US Naval Academy in Annapolis. Pretty cool, but let’s check his resumé.

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

  • Began work on a slave-trade ship.
  • Next, worked on a brig (prison ship) where his first mate and captain conveniently died of disease, leaving him the de facto captain of the ship.
  • He later captained his own ship where he savagely flogged two of his sailors for disciplinary actions, one to death.
  • After this he killed one of his sailors for mutiny by stabbing him in the chest.
  • Following this incident he fled the Royal Navy and went to Virginia.
  • He also added the surname “Jones”.
  • By his account it was an act of self-defense, but no one I know runs to a non-extradition country and changes their name for self-defense. Just saying, I don’t think he was all-in-all a stand-up guy.

Following this John Paul Jones was recruited to the Continental Navy. His successful exploits with the Royal Navy made him a prime candidate for a new navy starving for officers, even psychos. He then captained one of the vessels bound for Nassau in the Bahamas. The small fleet of ships captured the city, several ships and supplies, the whole time waving what was believed to be the Grand Union Flag.

From this point on, John Paul Jones led many other raids on naval shipping and port towns. He was successful enough that he was given the go-ahead to become a curse on English shipping. After touching base in France he actually sailed up to the coast of England and Ireland and started attacking British merchant shipping. In his career he captured many ships and a vast amount of supplies for the Colonial cause. All this while routinely facing problems from his crew who, as his journal accounts “‘Their object,’ they said, ‘was gain not honor.’ Among other actions his men were famed for raiding villages and conducting arson attacks on the English towns. In another report, Jones stated that at one point he wanted to leave, but his crew wished to “pillage, burn, and plunder all they could”. Now this is just me talking, but I am surprised that a man who once beat his sailors to death would be having such discipline problems. Just sayin’.

Now I know that not everyone is a fan of 18th century naval warfare, but his tactics were conducive to a rather different form of naval warfare than his famed Bon Homme Richard where he is famed for his saying, “I have not yet begun to fight!” No, this was a different form of naval practice. If you haven’t pieced it together yet…John Paul Jones and much of the Colonial Navy were pirates. [6]

4) The United States Military is one the Most Educated Industries in the World.

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

The United States military boasts some of the most educated warfighters in the world, not to mention in the history of warfare. All US service members must have at the time of their enlistment a high school diploma or the general equivalency diploma. To be more clear, more than 99% of those enlisted have a high school education comparable to about 60% that you will find in the general population. Also compared to the population of the United States, more service members have also attended some college compared to their typical 18- to 24-year-old counterparts. They have all also passed a standardized test on  English proficiency, mathematics, science and government. This test also serves as a placement exam for military jobs. [7]

To top this most MOS schools or Military Occupational Specialty schools boast world-class educational training. First you have to be good enough to get into the school you want, which can have very high scores required to get in. No, we don’t have the greatest recreational facilities and the dorms suck. It isn’t the Ivy League, but the education level is beyond par.

While stationed in 29 Palms California, a hole in the middle of the California desert, I received two years worth of the most rigorous training in Computer Science, Data Network Administration and Information Systems Maintenance. I say two years except that I only had six months to do it. And the training is taken very seriously. While typically civilians are allowed to pass with virtually any grade so long as they beg enough, every test in a military school is a fail if scored under 80% and if you fail you can be booted from the program.

The United States Marine Corps even has an amazing secret that few on the outside know anything about. We have a correspondence college which is a universal part of nearly every Marine’s military experience. It is called the Marine Corps Institute (MCI for short). It was started when Major General Lejeune issued a Post Order establishing three new schools: Automobile Mechanics, Music, Typewriting and Shorthand. Special Order No. 299 announces that 11 new schools will open January 5, 1920.

Of course we have courses you won’t find at Stanford, Harvard, or UCLA or any state school for that matter. There doesn’t seem to be a need for 0321B The M240G Machine Gunner, 0090A Pistol Marksmanship, or 0365 Antiarmor Operations there, but what you might be surprised by what would be the other courses one wouldn’t expect to see by the barbarian warmongers that are the United States Marine Corps: 0119H Punctuation, 0120 Basic Grammar and Composition and 1334 Math for Marines.

Perhaps that’s where Marines figure out what it takes to re-calculate the trajectory of an object traveling at 3,110 ft/s for a three-inch change in elevation at 5 times the length of a standard football field when factoring in for wind speed and direction as well as differences in elevation?” Actually that’s not true. Marine recruits do in that in week six of their basictraining.

One more shocker regarding the nerdiness of the US Military? How about this, the Marines have a book club. Now this isn’t Oprah’s Book Club. It’s the Commandant’s Reading List [9]. On this list are books and documents intended to both encourage the martial spirit in the minds of young warriors and inspire the intellectual capabilities of scholarly warfighters. What follows are some of the more impressive works that appear. This is by no means a complete list.

You will obviously find on the list titles such Marine Corps classics as:

Also listed are many other works on warfare such as:

Books on Moral Codes and Ethics:

Books on Leadership, Management Philosophy and Administration:

Works on military history:

As well as important world studies for the military minded:

There is even one on environmentalism!

Even books that show the importance of a civilian leadership and the consequences when they don’t do a good job.

And there is even a nerd section. You know that new movie Ender’s Game? You know it was first a book written by Orson Scott? You know that it has been on the reading list for decades?

 

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

Most importantly, there are two other works which are required reading. These are works that cement what it is that every military person stands for and what they fight for. They are the clear definition of the values of their nation. When you see what else is on this list… you’ll wonder why no one else is required to read them as well besides members of the US military.

 

5) You’ll be fine in it.

Many assume that the only people who would want to join the military are those who want to die from some car bomb in Iraq. Just as many assume that the majority of us have seen more than we actually have. There is also this myth that we are all just “the lucky few” who survived four years in the middle of some never-ending artillery barrage. The truth is, while there are plenty of risks, which are widely known, you are far safer in the United States military than most would believe possible.

For example, what if I told you that there is less than a one in a thousand chance that you might actually be killed if you even go to war when you go with the Americans? The risk of death in the United States military during the most recent decade is less than .1% while the risk of being wounded in action is a sizable amount less than 1%.

We have currently about 2,518,542 people in the United States military. Since 9/11, estimates would safely place the number of people who have served in some branch to be about 6 to 7 million people, probably more. The total people who died as a result of action in either Iraq or Afghanistan since then is about 6,660. which means that fewer than about 0.088% of the people who have enlisted have been killed as a result of that decision. If you consider wounded, then the number increases to about 0.738% percent. For the those not blessed with the ability to conceptualize such things, here’s a tasty pie.

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

To better answer this question I also wanted to address these statistics reflected when considering only those who actually participated in a combat deployment. I asked the question How many US troops have been deployed to either Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001? to gain a better picture of just that question. From that Daniel Kearns produced this document (Page on Senate) which is a brief and simple, but important piece of information on the Iraq War.

From that we have a best estimate of 1.5 million warfighters deployed to war in Iraq during the war. Taking this with earlier data we see total killed accounted for .29% of those deployed while wounded accounted for 2.15%. So, to be clear, of those deployed to the hottest combat zone in recent American military history, the highest chance of death was .29% for deployed troops and risk of violent injury was still only 2.15%. [6]

This trait, however, isn’t anything new. The US military, at least since the dawn of the 20th century and perhaps because of the carnage of our own civil war, have adapted a mentality and strategy that ensures our military does not easily sacrifice its own. We simply have values that don’t allow us to experience heavy troop losses and a wealth that affords the ability to win without them.

In truth we live today in a time-period where we have proven that experience matters more than assets and that a troop’s life is almost always more valuable than the patch of Earth they are fighting for. That’s why modern warfare doesn’t allow for high losses. Take a look at the figures for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, pulled from Wikipedia. This doesn’t include the insurgency years that followed, but showcased the last time we fought a full-on war with an advanced national military.

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win
That last statistic is significant.

The Coalition’s troop strength before the battle was 265,000 troops, mostly from the United States and the UK. The Iraqis’ troop level was 1,119,000, more than 4x that fielded by the Coalition. The end result, however, was that through great strategic, technological, and logistical superiority, the American lead Coalition was able to inflict as many as 261 times as many casualties as the Iraqi were capable of delivering in return. That’s more than 250 Iraqi killed for every Coalition death. A more lopsided battle has never been fought.

Perhaps it is just that we don’t fight that much or stay safely behind our big walls. We just send out the evil drones and high powered missiles, snipers, and other cowardly means of fighting a war. Well, given the option… wouldn’t you? I know these guys certainly would if given a second chance.

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

A grim look through history will show that American military doctrine has focused on a few key tenets throughout at least the last century. We focus on augmenting our troops through overwhelming technology rather than creating a culture that loves war. The facts are that Americans deeply hate conflict. We will do whatever we can to avoid it on an interpersonal level, regardless of whatever you think about our foreign policy. This is reflected in our demographics. Today, after 13 years of war, and with a sizeable portion of our Vietnam-era veterans still alive, US veterans still only number 22 million individuals and account for less than 7% of the total population.

Note, that is veterans, not active service members. The Department of Veterans Affairs projects that that number is set to decrease, not only in percentages, but in real value. They project that by 2043 we will only have 14 million veterans alive for a total percentage of the population at only 3.5%. The decreasing number of veterans means a country culturally disconnected from the realities of its wars because of the peacefulness of the daily lives of its citizens.

And that’s how we want it. The alternatives are thus: during the Second World War, you saw very different social military philosophies come head to head. Among these were the Americans and the Japanese. The Japanese were fantastic engineers and created marvelous machines. One such was the Zero fighter. It had a turning capability and climb that was far superior to other fighters. It was more agile and a deadly threat.

The trade-offs? It’s aluminum coating was brittle and the plane offered no armor for the pilot, engine or other critical points of the aircraft. Its light construction also made it prone to catching fire and exploding during combat. Add this to the practice of Japanese fighters on the ground routinely combating US Marines with suicidal “Banzai” charges, the human-wave attack and we see a culture which adopted an ancient form of warfare: the military death cult. Death and the warrior were at that time so intertwined through a perversion of the Samurai Bushido culture that the leadership of Japan could order hundreds of thousands of Japanese to their deaths without the Japanese people resisting at all.

This culminated in the ultimate corruption of bravery and honor; the creation of the Kamikaze pilot and the “Baka” Bomb.

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

This is the Japanese Yokosuka MXY-7 Ohka (“cherry blossom”), a rocket-powered parasite aircraft used towards the end of the war. The U.S. called them Baka Bombs (“idiot bombs”). They called it this, because the only intended purpose of the aircraft was to be guided by a pilot to impact directly with an enemy ship by a pilot who had reserved himself to die in the effort. The Kamikaze (Divine Wind) is named for the legendary holy force which protects the Japanese from invasion by outsiders, namely because of a storm which swallowed up tens of thousands of Mongol invaders hundreds of years ago before they ever set foot on Japanese soil.

The Kamikaze myth was resurrected for the creation of a force of airmen who volunteered and trained for a mission in which they would surely die, once again, like a storm from Heaven protecting Japan from foreign invaders. So committed were these soldiers and those who commanded them to this idea of a glorious death for their nation and their emperor,  they even attended a ceremony before their mission which could only be described as their funeral.

In contrast, the American philosophy emphasized an entirely different approach. We preferred to keep our warriors alive, if for no other moral reason than to pass on their experience and be useful on a better day. We engineered fighter aircraft with more power that could give us the strength and survivability to keep fighting. Add to this the individual support given to the individual troop. While the base soldier thrown away during a Japanese suicide charge was said to be worth less than $10 by their own admiralty, the United States Marine, the most underfunded of the military branches, would deploy with supplies of everything from ammunition, food, water, and bandages, to paper and pencils and glass eyes of every imaginable size and color… just in case.

This excerpt from Flags of Our Fathers displays in the days and weeks leading up to the Battle of Iwo Jima the American philosophy, strategy, and implementation of sending every man with all the gear to have a dominating edge, and the greatest chance possible of coming home.

… the movement of over 100,000 men, Marines, Navy support personnel, Coast Guard units across 4,000 miles of ocean for three weeks is a triumph of American industry galvanizing itself in a time of great national peril. At the outset of the war, Japan’s naval strength was more than double that of America’s, but across the American continent, the idling factories steamed and sparked to life. Most of the vessels came splashing off the industrial assembly lines in the six months before this assault…

… And it has not just been a matter of hardware. The civilians of America have mobilized behind these fighting boys. Behind each man on board the ships are hundreds of workers. In the factories, in the cities and towns, on the heartland farms; Rosie the Riveter, boy scouts collecting paper and metal, the young girl who would become Marilyn Monroe, sweating away in a defense plant.

Here is some of what those mobilized civilians have generated for this tremendous force: For each of the seventy thousand assault troop Marines 1,322 lbs of supplies and equipment. Some of it sounds weirdly domestic: dog food, garbage cans, light bulbs, house paint. Some of it suggests an island business office: duplicating machines, carbon paper, movie projectors. Some sounds like kids’ camping gear: toilet paper, socks,  shoelaces, paper and pencils, flashlights, blankets. Some begin to suggest a sterner mission: flares, plasma, bandages, crucifixes, holy water, canisters of disinfectant to spray on corpses. And some of it gets exactly to the point: artillery, machine guns, automatic rifles, grenades and ammunition. The transport ships carry six thousand five-gallon cans of water, enough food to feed the population of Atlanta for a month or the assaulting Marines for two months. The Marines brought along one hundred million cigarettes.

This isn’t to say our strategy made us invulnerable. We endured great losses to be sure, 19,000 at the Battle of the Bulge, 16,293 at Normandy, 12,513 in Okinawa, and countless other battles throughout the war, totaling around 405,000 dead Americans. While that number is appalling, it pales compared with others. Soviet Union – up to 13,000,000 military dead, Germany – up to 5,500,000, Japan – 2,120,000. These figures do not include civilian dead, of which the United States had virtually none.

That said, we dominated the Japanese in World War II once we steadied ourselves from the attack on Pearl Harbor. We suffered 1/24th their total losses in a war they began. The same can be seen in Iraq or Afghanistan and can be seen as well in any major conflict we have been a part of in the last one hundred years. This is because our philosophy wins wars in this modern age. War isn’t won by weapons; it is won by warriors. Make the warrior a weapon and give him the tools to succeed and come home, and no other force on Earth can defeat him.

Jon Davis is a three time Quora Top Writer. He is a Marine, honorably discharged in 2008. Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, small business owner, teacher, writer and Christian.

* Anyone who looks closely will see that these are periods when the US military was actively engaged in combat action, so this can’t count as a peacekeeping mission. However what you will notice is that during the deployments many more patients were treated than casualties received by Americans. This means that the rest of those treated were civilians and enemy POWs.

[2] If for no other reason than because all those who judge you haven’t done a fucking thing to help anyone. 😉

[3] The center image is pictured with gear and a weapon. The gear is provided, but I couldn’t find an image that fit with the others showing only cammies. Also not pictured are Desert BDUs.

[4] I know I shouldn’t be posting this because that is probably some Marine at a funeral or something. I feel like such a dick, but it is just such a perfect picture. Forgive me Chesty.

[5] I hope no one takes from this that I or other military people are complaining too heavily about this or consider it any act of severe injustice. The point of this section was just to deliver what in my mind was a “mind-blowing fact about the military” that I believe few are aware of. Beyond that I wanted to give a more clear picture of what some of the “sacrifices” that people hear so much about actually look like. We don’t all die or get shot and people know that and assume that that means that military people don’t deserve respect unless they actually died for your freedom. In this case I hope that people can at least look at those uniforms and know how much work and financial sacrifice went into making them look the way they do, let alone the price of earning the right to wear them.

[6] I know that I have taken a very liberal stance on historical interpretation here. What is important to know is that much of the Navy and Marine Corps’ actions were exactly what was needed to complete the mission for a Navy with no ships. They were also much more common practices for the ways that military encounters were done in those days. Still, if we were do the unforgivable and judge those of the past by today’s standard, the Colonial Navy’s actions against the British in the American Revolution might easily fall into the categories of pirate actions by unbiased observers.

[7] Curious about the rigorous qualifications required to be good enough to join the United States Military? United States Military Enlistment Standards. Good luck.

[8] Thanks to Eric Tang for sharing with me the Army’s version of the Marine Corps Reading List. I skimmed through it and found some very great reads that I’ve recently bought to put on my to-do list. You can see the Army’s Professional Reading List here: The U.S. Army Chief of Staff’s.

[9] These figures do not account for job specialty, which will skew heavily towards infantry-type units. I don’t have data for this, but as the previous statistics probably surprised many, so will those of the infantry when they become available.

Stats from:

War in Afghanistan (2001–present) – 2,173 US KIA,   23,500 Coalition WIA (Majority US)

Iraq War – 4,487 US KIA,   32,226 US WIA

Estimations based on United States Department of Defense

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NOW CHECK OUT: 7 things that make you stick out in the US military

MIGHTY HISTORY

500 people in China built a road to free American WWII remains

After the bodies of ten American airmen in their B-24 Liberator were found in the Mao’er Mountains in a remote area of central China, the local villagers did the most extraordinary thing: They banded together to dig an entirely new road to make sure those airmen could be retrieved and returned to their families.


In 1997, the remains of these World War II-era airmen were repatriated to the United States from China. The bodies were entombed in the B-24 where they died, at the very top of China’s tallest mountain, impassable by most. But Chinese farmers on the hunt for herbs came across the rusted sarcophagus in October 1996.

From that day on, it was the mission of the locals to get these ten airmen home.

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

The summit of Mao’er Mountain is not the easiest place to get to.

Some 52 years before they were found, the ten airmen were flying their second mission in complete darkness. They had just come from a successful raid against Japanese ships of the coast of Taiwan in August, 1944. They could not have predicted they were about to run into the 6,000-foot-tall mountain.

The crash spread debris across the mountain’s dangerous steep and slippery slopes, where it all stayed exactly as it landed for more than half a century before the two farmers came across the wreckage. When discovered, Chinese officials sent video and photo of the site to then-President Bill Clinton. In a show of gratitude for the United States’ wartime efforts, 500 locals of Xingan County banded together for two months to cut a path and dig a road to the crash site so the bodies could be extracted.

How a reconnaissance unit is slashing bureaucracy to win

American C-47 carrying supplies for Chinese troops. Flying the mountains in China was dangerous for even the more experienced pilots.

By January, 1997, a team of forensics experts from the U.S. POW/MIA Office were able to traverse the mountain path the the site. It was still a treacherous climb, but the road made it all possible. Without the locals’ effort, getting the remains of the airmen back to the U.S. would have been nearly impossible.

Fifty years ago these brave young men scattered their blood over this beautiful region,” Liang Ziwei, director of foreign affairs in Xingan told a group of assembled reporters.

Identified by their dog tags, they were indeed young – the youngest was just 19 and the oldest was only 27. Their families were notified and the remains sent to Hawaii for official identification.

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