There are some things we can’t bear to part with. This holds especially true of items with sentimental value, those which spark memories or are a piece of family history. However, those items often remain tucked away in a box, a chest of drawers, attic or basement as we carry them from duty station to duty station.
It’s those special items that inspired Cameron Cruse and Lisa Bradley, co-founders of the military-spouse owned handbag company R. Riveter, to come up with its one-of-a-kind Heirloom Collection earlier this year.
“Most of us have things in our homes that have been passed down from generation to generation and mean a great deal to us but we struggle to find a way to showcase them every day,” Bradley said.
The R. Riveter project allows customers to transform their well-loved and sentimental materials like old military uniforms, jackets and duffle bags into one-of-a-kind handbags and accessories.
For Mary Schmid Carter, the launch of the Heirloom Collection was fortuitous after finding her 93-year-old grandfather’s military uniform from his time serving during World War II.
“We’d always heard about his time serving in the South Pacific, and what else would you do with a uniform that’s at least 70 years old?” she said.
Charles Feigl received his draft letter in January of 1944, just one month after his 18th birthday. He enlisted in the Navy and packed his bags for training. After learning morse code, ship steering and how to prepare nautical charts, the young man from Buffalo, N.Y. boarded a newly commissioned ship on a journey to see more of the world than he could have ever imagined.
“Our Heirloom Collection is a great way to honor our veterans and create something truly unique that is useful and beautiful,” Cruse said.
Crafted by military spouses like the rest of R. Riveter’s handbags and accessories, pieces created through the Heirloom Project range in price between $65-$500 depending on the size of the product and materials used.
When she took the uniform into R. Riveter’s flagship store in Southern Pines, N.C., the R. Riveter team discovered it was a Coast Guard uniform, even though Feigl served in the Navy.
Turns out, that discovery was part of Feigl’s story.
After the war was over in 1945, he made the long journey home from the Pacific to be discharged. On his last night of active duty service, Feigl was assigned an overnight watch on an empty English ship in New York Harbor. He returned to base the next morning to discover his belongings ransacked. His uniform, badges and memorabilia were all stolen.
“He had to buy a uniform just to be discharged,” Schmid Carter said.
Her goal was to have handbags made for each of the women on that side of the family, including her mother, aunts and cousins.
“I knew it would be a challenge to get ten handbags made from just one uniform, but the team at R. Riveter was determined to make it happen,” she added.
Schmid Carter expects the handbags to arrive just in time for Christmas.
“I think it will be a really special moment, an opportunity to honor [Feigl] while we still have him here. Rather than his uniform collecting dust, each of us can carry a piece of our family history with us,” said Schmid Carter.
Those interested in creating their own heirloom handbags can visit the R. Riveter flagship store in Southern Pines, or take a style survey on the R. Riveter website. There, the process is simple. Just upload photos of the item(s) and begin creating a one-of-a-kind piece. Customers select the leather color used, size of bags, and what aspects of the material they provide they want to be featured in their customized heirloom bag. The average bag takes approximately 6-10 weeks to craft.
Schmid Carter raves about the experience.
“It was wonderful. If I can get my hands on my other grandfather’s military uniform, I’d love to have handbags created for the other side of my family.”
When a locked-down America tunes into the May 25 premiere of NBC’s “The Titan Games”, sports-starved viewers may notice a familiar face competing for the title and $100,000 grand prize: Chantae McMillan Langhorst, the track and field Olympian and nude high-jumper for The BODY Issue of ESPN The Magazine.
“One of the biggest reasons I wanted to do “The Titan Games” was its challenges that I have never faced before and will never face again,” McMillan said. “I’m doing obstacles on the show that are strength and cardio all at one time. Each event is over in five minutes, but you’re so fatigued afterward.”
The 32-year-old from Rolla, Missouri knows all about pushing through fatigue. McMillan is not only an elite athlete, but an Army wife to Warrant Officer 1 Devon Langhorst, a helicopter pilot stationed at Fort Rucker, Alabama and mom to 18-month-old Otto. She is also the daughter of two career soldiers.
McMillan competed in the 2012 Olympics in London as a heptathlete and was training for the 2020 Olympic Trials as a javelin thrower when the coronavirus pandemic caused mass cancellations of sporting events. After competing in one track meet in March, organizers of future meets canceled their competitions.
At first, McMillan was unruffled.
“I thought, okay, my next meet will be in May, then trials in June,” she said.
The Tokyo Olympics and its trials were postponed until 2021. The initial disappointment turned out to be a “blessing in disguise,” she says.
“I was like, ‘Alright, let’s go,'” McMillan said. “It takes a lot of weight off my shoulders, because from March to June I didn’t know if I could be where I wanted to be, so I was kind of stressed out.”
McMillan lost her 64-year-old father in 2015 to appendectomy complications, right before failing to qualify for the 2016 Olympic games. She bounced back, becoming an Army wife and mom in 2018 and switching from heptathlon to javelin, one of her strongest events.
She’s still aiming for Olympic glory — just a year later than originally planned. She and her coach, two-time Olympic hammer thrower Kibwe Johnson, are training her body as if she were throwing her way through a normal season.
“A couple weeks ago, coach asked me where my strength is, and I feel the strongest I’ve felt in years,” McMillan said. “I feel very powerful. Now it’s just translating onto the field. I feel so strong.”
That strength has not gone unnoticed by those outside the track and field world. In November, a casting producer for “The Titan Games” asked McMillan to audition for the show’s sophomore season after seeing her training photos and videos on Instagram.
McMillan auditioned alongside thousands of others to be a competitor. She succeeded and spent the first two weeks of February filming in Atlanta. Not only did she get to meet Dwayne Johnson, the show’s host, McMillan also connected with plenty of fellow athletes.
“It was very amazing, being around so many people who are likeminded and striving to be the best they can,” McMillan said. “It has still carried on to this day to motivate me to be better.”
The show’s obstacles, designed for 13 episodes with entertainment in mind, were vastly different than the pure “run-jump-throw” actions McMillan said she is used to in track and field.
“They’re just weird obstacles that challenge you in ways you never thought you could be challenged,” McMillan said.
This season of NBC’s show pits professional titans like Super Bowl champion Victor Cruz, UFC fighter Tyron Woodley and “American Ninja Warrior” star Jessie Graff against “everyday” athletes like McMillan. Four of the 36 competitors are active-duty military members.
Viewers can expect to be surprised at who makes it to Mt. Olympus, the show’s ultimate event, McMillan said.
“I think people will be able to connect with all of us, the way our stories are going to be told,” she said. “It’s not every day you’re around motivated people like that.”
There’s probably a grand total of five people on planet Earth who are perfectly sane and enjoy cleaning — that’s why Marines hate field day. It can take a long time to complete (depending on how bad of a day your platoon sergeant is having), it’s tedious, and it most certainly is not the coolest thing since sliced bread — but it’s an important part of the weekly routine. It’s kind of like when Mr. Miyagi is teaching Daniel-san karate in the original Karate Kid. Yeah. Sure, waxing a car might seem like a dumb task, but you actually learn a lot — and that’s why we think it would be a great video game for kids.
Kids are tough, and like new Marines, they’re blank slates and in need of lots of hand-holding and instruction, even for something for something as simple as taking trash out. This is where video games can help.
So, grab some VR goggles, put ’em on your youngster, boot up Field Day: The Game, and prepare to teach them the following lessons:
Being able to be thorough means you’ll identify smaller details that others won’t see right away.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Ryan Persinger)
Attention to detail
In real-life field day, you’re taught to be extremely thorough — not just with your cleaning, but with every task you’re given. This attention to detail is the very thing that makes Marines great civilians, and it can help your kid succeed in everyday life, too.
Being able to follow instructions contributes to the overall success of your work — no matter what it is.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tawanya Norwood)
If your kid learns how to follow instructions early on, they’re going to be a much more successful in life. For better or worse, kinds tend to emulate things they see in media — why not give them a digital example?
In the Marine Corps, if you’re doing something wrong, you’re going to hear about it. Over time, you learn to take feedback, grow, and fix your mistakes instead of being hung up on them. If you sit there and brood over not getting it perfect the first time around, you’re only taking time away from yourself. Developing a resilience to feedback is a valuable skill.
Maybe then you won’t have to argue about cleaning?
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Hinton)
The desire to clean
Your kid might get so good at the Field Day: The Game that they’ll try it out in real-life. Make sure you commend them for a job well done — who knows, maybe they’ll to want to do it more often.
What’s better than someone volunteering to do chores?
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Colton Brownlee)
The annoying amount of cleaning you have to do on field day quickly teaches you that it’s best to do a little cleaning throughout the week. You to take action before you’re asked — this lesson is carried over into any areas of life.
When Chad Hennings won the top award for College Football’s best inside lineman in 1987, it significantly raised his stock for the NFL draft. He would need it. Despite being the best in the game in his day, he still wasn’t drafted until the 11th round. The reason is that Hennings played football at the Air Force Academy, and would have to serve four years in the military before he could pursue his NFL dreams.
He wouldn’t have to do that today. Defense Secretary Mark Esper just signed a new memo, laying out the guidelines newly-graduated academy athletes need to pursue professional sports careers instead of entering the military.
Hennings spent four years as a pilot and would actually get his last four years waived by the Air Force. By the time he got to the Dallas Cowboys, he was already 27 years old – almost elderly by NFL standards. Luckily for Hennings, he really was one of the best linemen ever to play the game. After his first start in 1992, he went on to win three Super Bowls and snag 27.5 sacks before retiring after the 2000 season. But other athletes weren’t so lucky.
The issue of letting service members who can play at a professional level attempt that dream has been hotly debated by both pro sports fans and policymakers in Washington. The NCAA is big business now, and the NFL is even bigger, generating 5 million and .1 billion in annual revenues, respectively. The pressure to maintain popular talent is definitely on, but the service academies mean more than just big bucks for big-time athletes. They’re supposed to, anyway. There are many who are against the idea.
One in particular.
Before the Obama Administration, academy athletes were required to fulfill their service obligations. The Obama Administration allowed academy athletes to defer their service if they were good enough to be drafted by the NFL. Shortly after Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds was allowed to be drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 2016, the Pentagon rescinded that policy. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis believed the academies “exist to develop future officers,” and those trained officers should fulfill the expectations of their education.
President Trump stepped in in June 2019, saying there was such a short window of talent between their college career and potential professional sports careers, that academy athletes should be allowed to try and take advantage. On Nov. 15, 2019, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper signed a memo that dictates what the athletes must do to try and take advantage – which includes getting permission from the SECDEF and either serving their commitment or paying the government back for their education.
These days, academy grads usually owe the military five years of service after graduation. Under the new athletics policy, once permission is obtained from the Secretary of Defense, the athlete must agree to return to the military and serve those five years. The waiver is then reviewed by the DoD every year while the athlete is in his pro sports position. If they can’t pass the medical standards when they get to the military, they’ll serve five years in a civilian job. If they don’t do either of those, they’ll be charged for their education.
It’s not impossible for service academy grads to serve first and then join the NFL. In addition to the Cowboys’ Chad Hennings, Navy’s Roger Staubach, Mike Wahle, and Phil McConkey as well Army’s Glenn Davis and Alejandro Villanueva all had successful NFL careers after serving their obligations.
A weapons sergeant with the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) who heroically fought up a mountain through a barrage of enemy fire to help rescue his detachment members will receive the Medal of Honor.
The White House announced today that Master Sgt. Matthew O. Williams went above and beyond the call of duty during an operation on April 6, 2008. Williams — a sergeant at the time of the operation — was assigned to Special Operations Task Force-33 in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.
Williams will receive the highest military award for valor at a White House ceremony, Oct. 30, 2019. A “Hall of Heroes” induction ceremony at the Pentagon is slated for Oct. 31, 2019.
In April 2008, Williams joined 14 other Special Forces operators and roughly 100 Afghan commandos on a mission to take out or apprehend high-value enemy targets that were operating out of a mountain-top village within Shok Valley.
Then-Sgt. Matthew Williams with other team members assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), wait on a hill top for the helicopter exfiltration in eastern Afghanistan, late spring 2007.
(Master Sgt. Matthew Williams)
Shortly after the joint force dropped into the area and organized into elements, the lead command and control team started their treacherous hike up a near-vertical mountainside toward the objective.
It did not take long for the adversary to respond. A barrage of heavy sniper and machine-gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades rained down on the team’s location.
In the ensuing chaos, the lead element was pinned down at a higher elevation and isolated from the larger military force. Further, they had sustained injuries and were requesting support.
In response, Williams organized a counter-assault team and led them across a waist-deep, ice-cold fast-moving river, and fought their way up the terraced mountain to the besieged lead element’s location.
Joined by his team sergeant, Williams positioned his Afghan commando force to provide a violent base of suppressive fire, preventing the enemy force from overrunning the team’s position. In turn, the actions of Williams and his team allowed the first command and control element to consolidate and move the casualties down the mountain.
As Williams worked to defend the force’s position, an enemy sniper took aim and injured his team sergeant. With disregard for his safety, Williams maneuvered through an onslaught of heavy machine-gun fire to render aid.
Then-Sgt. Matthew Williams assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), conducts long-range weapons training at Camp Morehead, Afghanistan, during the fall of 2009.
(U.S. Army Master Sgt. Matthew Williams)
Once his team sergeant was secure, the joint team egressed off the mountainside. Williams descended with his team sergeant off a near-vertical 60-foot cliff to a casualty collection point and continued to provide first aid.
With more injured soldiers coming down the mountainside, Williams ascended through a hail of small arms fire to help with their evacuation, and also repair his operational detachment commander’s radio.
As Williams returned to the base of the mountain with three wounded soldiers, enemy forces maneuvered to their position in an attempt to overrun the casualty collection point. Williams and the Afghan commandos quickly responded with a counter-attack and courageously fought back the attacking force.
As the medical evacuation helicopter arrived, Williams exposed himself to insurgent fire again to help transport casualties. Once the injured were secure, Williams continued to direct Commando fires and suppress numerous enemy positions. The team’s actions enabled the evacuation of the wounded and dead without further casualties.
The entire Shok Valley operation lasted for more than six hours. During that time, Williams and the joint force fought back against about 200 adversaries, all while they were subjected to a series of friendly, danger-close air strikes.
Williams is the second member of his detachment to receive the Medal of Honor for this operation. The president presented Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer II the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony Oct. 1, 2018.
In this video, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, a member of the Defense Innovation (Unit) Board, talks about how space exploration, and the development of technologies that make it possible, can inspire a new generation to seek careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
As with the Apollo and space shuttle missions of previous generations, the U.S. Air Force was once again an integral part of a launch that had everybody looking up. It was an event which will undoubtedly inspire future STEM generations to consider a career in the Air Force.
In a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, NASA astronauts Air Force Col. Robert Behnken and retired Marine Corps Col. Douglas Hurley launched at 3:22 p.m. EDT May 30, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida–the same launch pad used for the Apollo 11 Moon Landing mission.
They were the first astronauts to fly into space from U.S. soil in nine years aboard the first commercially built and operated American spacecraft to carry humans to orbit, opening a new era in human spaceflight.
The astronauts’ spacecraft then docked with International Space Station’s Harmony module at 10:16 a.m. EDT May 31, where Behnken and Hurley were welcomed as crew members of Expedition 63 by fellow NASA astronaut Navy Capt. Chris Cassidy.
Astronaut U.S. Air Force Col. Robert Behnken is welcomed aboard the International Space Station after he and retired Marine Col. Douglas Hurley docked their SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on Sunday, March 31, 2020. The two astronauts were the first to launch from American soil in nine years. (STILL PHOTO FROM VIDEO // NASA)
In addition, U.S. Air Force “Guardian Angel” pararescue forces were pre-positioned in key locations, alert and ready to deploy at a moment’s notice, had the astronauts needed to abort the launch and splash down within 200 nautical miles of the launch site. An HC-130 Combat King II aircraft along with two HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters were set to deploy from Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, if needed.
These aircraft will carry a team of up to nine pararescue specialists along with rescue equipment and medical supplies. The pararescue specialists would jump from the aircraft with inflatable boats and an inflatable ring called a stabilization collar to steady the capsule and other equipment in the water.
Pararescue specialists from the 304th Rescue Squadron, located in Portland, Oregon and supporting the 45th Operations Group’s Detachment 3, based out of Patrick Air Force Base, prepare equipment during an April astronaut rescue exercise with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and SpaceX off of Florida’s eastern coast. The pararescue specialists, also known as “Guardian Angels,” jumped from military aircraft and simulated a rescue operation to demonstrate their ability to safely remove crew from the SpaceX Crew Dragon in the unlikely event of an emergency landing. The pararescue specialists are fully qualified paramedics able to perform field surgery, if necessary. (PHOTO // U.S. AIR FORCE)
For contingency landings outside of the 200 nautical mile-radius, a C-17 Globesmater III aircraft would have deployed with the same type of team and equipment to execute rescue operation from either Charleston AFB, South Carolina, or Hickam AFB, Hawaii, depending on the splashdown location.
The “Guardian Angels” will also be ready when the astronauts return to Earth.
On Dec. 13, 1636, the National Guard was officially formed, combining militia regiments from Massachusetts into one organized unit. The Massachusetts National Guard — pictured above at its first muster in the spring of 1637 — has the four oldest units in the US Army: 181st Infantry Regiment, 182nd Cavalry Regiment, 101st Field Artillery Regiment, and the 101st Engineer Battalion. Since the National Guard’s inception, these citizen soldiers continue to serve the nation’s call.
On the National Guard’s 384th birthday, we put together a list of four times it has saved the day.
The 30th “Old Hickory” Division
Fast-forward 281 years from its birth to 1917. The entire National Guard was drafted into the US Army for service in World War I. This meant 17 divisions were off to Europe for the first time in the nation’s history. Among the most famous and battle hardened was the 30th “Old Hickory” Division, aptly named in honor of general and former President Andrew “Old Hickory” Jackson. He had ties to North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee, the three states from which the initial draftees were pulled.
The Old Hickory Division earned more Medals of Honor — 12 — than any other division during the war. They were called other names out of respect for their ferocity in combat, including “The Workhorse of the Western Front” and “Roosevelt’s SS Troops,” the latter coinage by the German High Command.
In World War II, the men who made up the Old Hickory Division lived up to their name, serving 282 total days on the battlefield. The division had 3,435 soldiers killed in action and 12,960 wounded. They received six Medals of Honor, 65 Distinguished Service Crosses, 1,718 Silver Stars, 6,319 Bronze Stars, and 20,000 Purple Hearts. Some soldiers received the Purple Heart more than once.
The Guard Tanks of World War II
The first tank-to-tank combat was fought by the 192nd Tank Battalion in the Philippines in 1941. First Lt. Benjamin Morin was the first tank commander to engage enemy forces in World War II. The battle was not a victorious one, as his M3 Stuart Tank was disabled and caught fire, forcing him and his men to surrender to the Japanese. He went on to endure three and a half years as a prisoner of war.
The Guard tanks of the 192nd Tank Battalion were later asked to hold their position for six hours to cover the retreat of forces to Bataan. They held the position for three days. There were 596 soldiers who answered the call of duty, and among them 325 were killed in combat, executed, died in POW camps, or were killed by American submarines aboard unmarked “Hell Ships” tasked with transporting POWs. The 194th Tank Battalion also saw action in the Philippines. Staff Sgt. Emil C. Morello earned the Silver Star for ramming his tank over an enemy roadblock, destroying a Japanese weapon position, and firing his main gun until his tank was disabled. His crew pretended to be dead and escaped on foot, only to be killed or captured in Bataan, where the rest of the battalion forces would later surrender.
The Air National Guard
When the US military must move heaven and earth in response to a crisis, they call the Air National Guard. Even before the unit was officially established alongside the Air Force in 1947, it was involved in the Border War between the US and Mexico. The 1st Aero Company, New York National Guard, mobilized in 1916 to provide assistance. The Air National Guard has earned a proud reputation, both in combat and for disaster relief.
Master Sgt. Keary Miller, a pararescueman assigned to the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, was first awarded the Silver Star for bravery in the 17-hour gunfight during the Battle of Takur Ghar in Afghanistan. He provided lifesaving aid to a wounded helicopter pilot and set up multiple casualty collection points for Army Rangers on that snowy mountaintop in 2002. He also distributed ammunition to his teammates while under heavy enemy fire. In recent years, this battle has come under the microscope of the Defense Department to properly award these airmen, Rangers, and SEALs for their heroism that day. Miller’s Silver Star was upgraded to the Air Force Cross; John Chapman, an Air Force combat controller, and Britt Slabinsky, a Navy SEAL, each received the Medal of Honor.
In the midst of the Global War on Terror, the Air National Guard also responded to international and domestic crises such as the Indian Ocean tsunami and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, the tsunami that hit Japan in 2011, and Hurricane Sandy in 2012. These are a few notable exploits, but the Air Guard has long provided aid and support as well as rescued countless victims in distress. The 210th Rescue Squadron of the Alaska Air National Guard, famously known as the “Guardians of the North,” are one of the busiest search and rescue units in the world.
The National Guard in 2020
We may not think of this immediately because we are currently living through it, but the National Guard has saved the day countless times this year. They remain on the front lines to provide aid during the current pandemic, entering the battle against COVID-19 in March. The Tennessee National Guard flew 500,000 swabs to Memphis to resupply COVID-19 test kits, and the New York National Guard helped with distribution of food in hard-hit areas.
They have also deployed to suppress wildfires in the Pacific Northwest. In September, a 1,000-member force was sent to Oregon to give assistance. California National Guard aircrew members responsible for rescuing 242 people from the Creek Fire were each awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism. They flew in Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters on three daring flights to carry the trapped campers to safety.
In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic and the wildfires in 2020, the National Guard has also served to support public safety amid the civil unrest across the country, including in Minneapolis after the death of George Floyd. The year isn’t over yet, but the National Guard is equipped to handle any problem that may arise with the same professionalism and dedication it has exhibited thus far.
Historically, all empires either fall or morph into some other empire… and then fall. While we don’t use the term “empire” to describe nation-states that much anymore, some countries are still able to project power outside their borders. they project power globally (like the United States) or regionally (like Iran). But when it comes to having to defend their home turf, some countries are just not going to roll over for any reason.
These are those countries.
This is America.
1. The United States of America
We all saw this one coming, so let’s get it out of the way early and start with what I know many are thinking: any invader of the United States isn’t facing just the U.S. military, they’re facing all 330 million Americans. Yes, there are more weapons than people in the U.S. (and that’s just considering the guns we know about). Americans are even allowed to design and build their own weapons in many states, without ever having to register. So who knows what they’re packing. This also means every American with an arsenal can recruit and train their own band of Wolverines.
This is just Los Angeles county.
Even if an invader managed to take control of the civilian population — and that’s a big if — they’d still have to get through the best-trained, best-equipped military in the world first, all recruited from the very violently pro-America people I was just telling you about.
Then they have to hold on to that territory without getting killed and without the locals organizing against them. Too bad many major American cities are already organized. And armed. And ready to go killing again once the war dies down a bit. We call them street gangs.
Me either. But you feel free to fight the next Stalingrad if you want.
Albuquerque, Houston, Oklahoma City, Detroit, Baltimore, New York City — whether the invasion moves from east to west or west to east, there are a lot of pressure points invaders need to secure before moving on. Which brings up another point: America is huge.
Our four mainland time zones contain seven different climate regions, not to mention everything from high mountains to marshland, swamps to deserts, and in some places, a lot of flat nothing. Just going across the mighty Mississippi River without a bridge is enough to kill off a good chunk of an army while the residents of East St. Louis are using it as target practice.
When the invaders get out of the actual geographical features of the United States (where roving bands of armed American militias are waiting in ambush), the invader will enter some of the largest cities in the world, three of which are in the top 100 in terms of population, and many are full of the aforementioned gangs and violent extremist groups.
Ever look up at New York City buildings and just imagine what it would be like to have to invade, conquer, and keep a city so populous and so large in size and scale?
This one goes well beyond the myth of “General Winter” (although that would definitely be a factor for most invading countries). Russia projects power regionally but its armed forces (as I mentioned before in other articles) is not as great as Putin is hyping it up to be lately.
If invaded, however, Russia doesn’t have to project anything and its legendary toughness can really bloom, even in the middle of the freezing Russian winter. Invading Russia, as any student of history knows, is a terribly difficult task. When Napoleon invaded in 1812, the Russian people took casualties, to be sure, but what really suffered was Russia’s towns, cities, farms, and other infrastructure — all of it destroyed by Russians.
Which is called Volgograd now. And invaders will have to take this city, too. Good luck with that.
That’s right, Russians would rather destroy their own country than leave it for any invader. And if you’re thinking that was a long time ago and how modern Russians might have different sensibilities, remember they did that when the Nazis invaded in World War II. From there, the fighting only got more brutal. So any invader has to remember that they’re likely fighting every single Russian – across 11 times zones.
Did you catch that? There are 11 time zones in Russia, the largest country by land mass. If that wasn’t bad enough, Russia also contains every single climate type there is (yes, Russia has a rain forest. Look it up). If that wasn’t enough, they will likely have to fight every ex-Soviet client state around Russia’s borders, too. Many of them are still very loyal to Russia and would take up arms to fight for their Russian friends. This only extends the range and variety of people, climate, and geography to conquer. It means everything from the deserts of Kazakhstan, to the mountains and forests of the Caucasus region, and to the frozen shores of the Black and Caspian Seas
The steppes and tundras of Central Asia are not a forgiving place and just like the Americans who would take up arms against an invader, the Russian and pro-Russian people living in these areas will too. These are hardy, gun-toting, skilled hunters who have no compulsion about killing an invader, having grown up with their parents’ and grandparents’ stories about fighting the Great Patriotic War against the Nazis.
Fighting which included the deadliest fighting in the history of human warfare (which the Russians won) at Stalingrad.
“Come at me bro.”
Despite what every successive American general would have you believe for the past 17 years, victory in Afghanistan is not just around the corner.
Every invading empire who thought victory was just around the corner in Afghanistan really just helped contribute to Afghanistan’s legacy as “The Graveyard of Empires.” This includes the current sole superpower in the world, the United States, the only other superpower to ever exist, the Soviet Union, and the largest empire ever assembled by any state in the world, the British Empire at its height.
Also known as the original Brexit.
What makes Afghanistan so difficult to capture and keep is first and foremost its terrain. It’s a giant bowl of desert surrounded by some of the highest peaks in the world. Any army an invader can’t destroy could just fade away into the mountains and lick their wounds until the next fighting season came. In modern times, the high peaks negate the advantage of armor and tanks, just as it negated the advantage of heavy cavalry in earlier times.
The United States is a viable fighting force in Afghanistan because of its logistical advantage. Where the U.S. can get supplies and troops in and out relatively easily, the attacking British in 1839 had a much less reliable system. That’s why only one man of 16,000 troops and camp followers returned.
That’s why it’s remembered as the “Disaster in Afghanistan.”
Just Palaw me.
The most important reason no one can conquer Afghanistan is because any invader has to completely subdue the population. The whole population. And these people are as diverse as it gets. Pashtun, Turkmen, Baloch, Palaw, Tajik, and Uzbek are jut a few of the ethnic groups in the country. Even after 17 years in the country, many Americans wouldn’t pick up on the fact that one of those ethnic groups I just mentioned is actually a rice dish.
Put aside Taliban or Mujaheddin loyalty for a moment and imagine the life of a regular Afghan man. Their clan, their tribe, their unit, their sheikh, their ethnicity, their religion, maybe their provincial or central government? And when you do take into account their loyalties to extremist groups, you have to factor in the group, that unit, and the shadow government. That’s 12 potential loyalties right there. Imagine trying to subdue 34 million of them, because you have to if you invade Afghanistan.
Defeating those people in pitched battles didn’t work, ask the British. Massacring them also didn’t work, ask the Soviets. The American nation building strategy isn’t coming along either.
And China didn’t even try to equip their soldiers back then. Today, they would have rifles and shoes — and maybe food.
Did your invading army plan on fighting one billion people? Because that is what is likely to happen when invading China. The most populous country in the world now boasts 1.3 billion-plus people. For the uninitiated or bad at math (or both), that means they have almost the entire population of the United States plus a billion. Having written these wargaming posts for a few years now, I know that many will tell me to consider that this doesn’t mean China has a skilled or fearsome force of ground troops and that all they’ve ever tactically perfected on a modern battlefield is human wave attacks.
Imagine a billion people running at your unit.
While these one billion Chinese people likely don’t have their own arms, it wouldn’t take long for the planned central bureaucracy to start handing out weapons to form a unified front against an invader. There’s an old U.S. military saying: if it’s stupid and it works, it isn’t stupid. So it may sound like a throwing a few million soldiers at an invader is stupid, but it’s quite the human wave and it will likely work. So even if the numbers of the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir are repeated and it takes ten Chinese divisions to repel one Marine Division, the Marines will need to send 25 divisions just to establish a beachhead.
Enjoy that iPhone.
The fun doesn’t stop just because the invader made it ashore. China is as massive as the United States with a diverse climate and diverse geographical features. It’s surrounded by extreme weather and oceans on all sides, so invaders will have to be prepared for the impassable Gobi Desert and the jungles of Southeast Asia, not to mention the mountainous, snowy Himalayan regions which will make air support difficult.
If invading troops aren’t massacred along the way by bands of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, then they still get to contend with a variety of tropical diseases along with the diseases that come from overpopulation and pollution.
This is just in fighting a conventional war. The Chinese are the masters of ripping off foreign technology, so an invading army would have to assume that the country they’re invading will also have all the technological prowess of the United States – and with its 750-million-plus person manpower (assuming they didn’t die in a human wave) and strong economy, they’re ready to grind on for a long time.
This is probably the only entry on the list many readers didn’t predict. But on its own, India is a formidable place to invade.
Remember that India has always lived in a rough neighborhood.
To the north and east lay harsh Himalayan mountain passes and arid deserts makes up roughly half of India’s northwest regions. In the southwest, India is wet and tropical, limiting the best places to land an ocean-born invasion force.
That is, if you ever get to land an invasion force on the subcontinent. Part of India’s major naval strategy is to flood her territorial waters with enough submarines to sink both enemy warships and enemy landing craft while strangling sea lanes of enemy shipping. This tactic has been in place for a long time, since before China’s foreign policy went from one of “peaceful rise” to “crouching tiger.”
And Gurkhas. They have Gurkhas.
Since the British left India in 1947, they’ve had to deal with Pakistan on a few occasions and even went to war with China once. Ever since, China and Pakistan have only grown closer so India’s entire defense strategy has to be predicated on the idea of fighting a war on two fronts — and they’re ready for it.
Fighting in India is not a small matter as any Indian general will probably tell you. The height of the Himalayan mountains makes air support very difficult, even impossible at times. India can’t rely exclusively on one benefactor, meaning it can’t just choose to be closer to the USA or Russia. India cares about Pakistan and China and will accept any tech or gear that helps them win that war. As such, their near-limitless manpower, religious fervor, and billion-plus population would make them a formidable opponent on any front.
On July 9, a female National Guard soldier became the first woman to graduate from U.S. Army Special Forces training since Capt. Katie Wilder did so in 1980, earning the coveted Green Beret. The woman, whose identity the Army is withholding for personnel security purposes, joins more than a dozen women who have completed elite schools that were only available to men until the Pentagon opened all combat jobs, including special operations positions, to women in 2016.
Coffee or Die spoke with several men who served in special operations units alongside women in combat to get their thoughts on the historic event.
Special Forces soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) conduct an AAR after Counter Improvised Explosive Device training at Panzer Local Training area near Stuttgart, Germany, June. 10, 2020. Photo by Patrik Orcutt/U.S. Army.
Luke Ryan, right, served as a team leader with 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. Photo courtesy of Luke Ryan/Coffee or Die.
Retired Army Master Sergeant Jariko Denman served with the 75th Ranger Regiment for 16 years.
“In Afghanistan, women in Cultural Support Teams (CSTs) attached to us and other special operations forces, including Green Berets and [U.S. Navy] SEALs. CSTs were enablers, just like explosive ordnance disposal techs or others whose specialties we needed to support our missions.
“On my last four deployments as a task force senior enlisted advisor, we had CSTs with us, so I’ve been in firefights with women, chasing down bad guys alongside them. There was never a case in my experience of women weighing us down. I can’t say that for every other enabler who attached to us. Women coming into that job realized they were going into that hyperkinetic environment, and they brought their ‘A’ game. They knew they could not be a weak link, so they came in shape, and they were very successful.
“For any leader building a team, we know the team isn’t as strong if everybody looks and thinks the same. You want a diversity of skills and backgrounds because that diversity reflects your needs. High-performing individuals who have vastly different life experiences are an asset in SOF.
“As long as we maintain the same SOF qualification standards for everyone, I think women in SOF are just as capable as men, and I’m glad to see more women joining our ranks and getting the same special designations men have always had the opportunity to attain.”
Joe and Shannon Kent with their sons. Photo courtesy of Joe Kent/Coffee or Die.
Luke Ryan served as an Army Ranger and team leader with 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.
“I was on the mission where Captain Jenny Moreno was killed in action in October 2013. She was a nurse by trade but was attached to my Ranger platoon as a Cultural Support Team (CST) member. When she saw that several of my Ranger buddies had been seriously wounded, she moved to help them without regard for her own safety. She was killed in the process. That kind of selfless bravery is something I will never forget. I hold her in the same high regard as I hold my Ranger brethren who were killed doing the same thing.
“Women have already been fighting in special operations components for years. That part isn’t new. They were attached to our unit for my four deployments, and I will never doubt the ability of a woman to be courageous and effective on the battlefield. Moreno didn’t have a Ranger scroll, but in my opinion, she earned one. If I see her in the next life, I’ll give her mine.
“As far as integrating into traditional special operations units, I’ve seen the courage of women in SOF tested on the battlefield, and I’m in full support of it. As long as standards are maintained, allowing women in SOF will be a non-issue.”
Rob Garnett in Eastern Afghanistan on his last deployment in 2010. Photo courtesy of Rob Garnett/One More Wave.
Retired Chief Warrant Officer 3 Joe Kent served as a Ranger and Special Forces operator. His wife, Senior Chief Petty Officer Shannon Kent, was killed while serving on a special operations task force in the fight against ISIS in 2019.
“My wife trained as an Arabic linguist and signals intelligence collector. In Iraq, special operations forces relied heavily on intelligence professionals who had to work with local Iraqis to develop informants and gather intelligence for our missions. Iraqi women often had intelligence we needed, and women like Shannon stepped up to provide a capability that none of us had. Her contributions gave us a more complete picture of whatever situation we were heading into, which was invaluable.
“As years went on, Shannon gained more and more trust in the SOF community, and her performance in special operations opened doors for other intelligence professionals to try out for special operations forces.
“Anyone who has served alongside women in special operations should know it was just a matter of time before a woman would wear the Green Beret and Special Forces long tab.
“As Americans, our country has decided we’re going to have this all-volunteer force, so we get the military that shows up and volunteers to go fight. Plenty of women have fought and died, and to say they can’t go be combat arms or special operators is wrong. My wife was good enough to die alongside SEALs and operators on her fifth deployment but not have the same opportunity to prove herself in SOF qualification courses? That’s ridiculous.
“I’m very glad the ban on women serving in combat arms and special operations was lifted, and my hat’s off to the woman who completed Special Forces qualification.”
Nolan Peterson has covered conflict around the world. Photo courtesy of Nolan Peterson/Coffee or Die.
Rob Garnett served as a Navy SEAL for almost 23 years.
“In Baghdad in 2003, I was waiting with an Iraqi Interpreter at one of the entrances to the Green Zone to escort an Iraqi National inside. As vehicles moved through the ‘s curves’ of the base access point, we heard the guards start shouting ‘Stop!’ at a small car approaching the gate. When the vehicle didn’t stop, the soldier standing next to me began firing at the approaching vehicle, and I began to fire as well. The vehicle slowly came to a stop after the driver was killed. As the soldiers moved to inspect the vehicle, they found the trunk was full of 155 rounds made into an IED.
“When I walked over to the soldier who had first engaged the vehicle to say ‘great job,’ I realized this person was not a soldier but an airman, as well as a female. I remember joking with her and saying, ‘No females in combat, right?’ She just smiled and said, ‘Fuck off.’ She told me she didn’t plan on letting anyone inside that wasn’t supposed to be there.
“From my perspective, we aren’t getting female commandos in SOF now; we are getting MORE commandos. We can engage with more of the population when we include females in SOF operations, and I feel like most folks wouldn’t be as concerned about someone’s gender but more about a new team member’s performance.
“I would guess the soldier who completed SF training doesn’t want to be known as the first female SF soldier; she just wants to be a commando like everyone else.”
Nolan Peterson is a former Air Force special operations pilot who served with the 34th Special Operations Squadron.
“On my first deployment to Afghanistan, I served alongside a woman pilot whose impact I’ll never forget. On a long night mission, orbiting above a Taliban compound, helping good guys kill bad guys, I was pretty stressed and anxious. My greatest fear was I’d screw up somehow and get Americans hurt, or worse.
“They measure a pilot’s worth in hours flown because experience matters most. And, lucky for me, I was copilot to a woman who had years of combat experience. She had actually been one of my instructor pilots and played a big role in training me, and I was able to do my job that night in spite of the nervousness — thanks in no small part to the steady leadership and proficient skills of my pilot. It’s easy to do your job well when you’ve got a good example to follow.
“As we left station and started flying back to Bagram, we could see meteors streaking overhead through our night-vision goggles. Then the sun began to peak over the Hindu Kush.
“‘Pretty cool, isn’t it?’ I remember her saying. Then, as if granted permission, I suddenly stopped being so afraid of screwing up and took a moment to appreciate that, yes, this was, in fact, pretty damn cool. Then she told me I’d done well that night and had turned out to be a fine pilot. She was confident I’d go on and make her proud. Since she’d played a key role in training me, my performance was a reflection on her too. That small compliment she gave me was worth more than any medal.
“More than anything, on that debut deployment I’d wanted to prove myself to the people who’d mattered most — that’s to say, the people who’d been to war before me. And that pilot had been to war a lot. Hell, she’d spent most of the best years of her life either in war zones or training for them. She was a warrior, a professional, a mentor, and a damn good pilot. And getting her stamp of approval was one of my proudest moments.
“So when it comes to the recent news of a woman graduating the Special Forces Qualification Course, I think it’s long overdue. Women have been serving in combat and in special operations forces for years. They volunteer for the same risks, assume the same responsibilities and have had to uphold the same standards as their male counterparts. Once the bullets are flying, all that matters is that you’re good at your job. And without a doubt, to make it through the Green Beret selection process, that woman has clearly proven herself to be among the best of the best.”
Disclosure: Nolan Peterson is a senior staff writer for Coffee or Die; Luke Ryan is an associate editor, and Jariko Denman is a contributing writer.
The Army was on track to meet or exceed its recruiting goals again this year, with help from an unexpected boost of enlistments in the traditionally difficult northeast region, Army officials said Wednesday.
“The whole East Coast, from Richmond north, is really taking off,” Army Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, commander of Army Recruiting Command, said at a Pentagon roundtable with defense reporters.
He didn’t have specific numbers at the ready, but said Army recruiters had met 100% of their goals in New York City and Boston, where recruiting has normally lagged behind the South and Southwest.
Muth and Dr. Eugene “Casey” Wardynski, assistant Army secretary for manpower and reserve affairs, also said that the surging economy, with unemployment at 3.6%, was not having the usual effect of discouraging enlistments.
“We want to be great in a great economy,” Wardynski said. “We’re in a position to do great when America is doing great.”
Muth said the Army fell short of its goal in fiscal 2018, when about 70,000 were recruited, compared to the goal of 76,000. Last year, the Army met its goal of 68,000 new recruits. And so far this year, the service is pacing 2,026 recruitments ahead of the same period last year, Muth said.
The plan was to have the end strength of the Army at 485,000 by the end of this fiscal year on Sept. 30, Wardynski said. With recruitments currently going well, the Army already has plans for a late entry pool for recruitments in excess of 485,000, he said.
Both Wardynski and Muth attributed the improving recruiting numbers to a new marketing campaign called “What’s Your Warrior,” begun last November to highlight opportunities in the Army for today’s youth.
They also emphasized a switch to focus more on 22 major cities for recruiting, and a targeting of so-called “Generation Z,” those born between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s.
Under Brig. Gen. Alex Fink, chief of Army Enterprise Marketing, the Army marketing team moved from its headquarters near the Pentagon to Chicago last fall to get closer to private-sector expertise. That includes DDB Chicago, which has a billion contract as Army’s full-service ad agency until 2028.
Fink said the effort to connect with Generation Z through such innovations as virtual recruiting stations and more creative uses of Instagram and YouTube were already paying off. In December, the Army logged 4.6 million visits to GoArmy.com, Fink said.
Here’s a question that could change your life: What matters most to you in your life? The answer can start you on the path to Whole Health.
Whole Health puts the focus of health care on the veteran rather than just the veteran’s illnesses and symptoms. It’s a patient-centered approach that considers the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual, and environmental factors that can influence your health. Veterans examine these areas of their lives and set goals based on what matters most to them. In turn, those goals drive the health planning decisions they make with their VA care team.
All VA medical centers and clinics now offer training in Whole Health and personal health planning, as well as a range of well-being programs.
Cultural norms create a lot of stereotypes about the ideal warrior. We all know that warriors must be strong in both mind and body. Yet, there is still a perception that only men can fill military ranks while women, known as the “weaker sex” (except when it comes to childbirth), of course, must sit at home and wait.
Then, there’s the notion that even if a woman were a strong warrior, she couldn’t possibly also be attractive, right?
Now, a cadre of millennial beauty queens who serve or have served in the military are exploding stereotypes and breaking barriers everywhere with a wave of their scepters (or maybe their 9mms). This is because warriors and beauty queens actually have a lot in common.
Physical and mental conditioning
On deployment, MREs are more likely on the menu than yogurt, fish, vegetables, and fruit. But while MREs might nourish you enough to get the mission done, they’re not exactly packed with beautifying supernutrients.
Allison (Alli) Paganetti-Albers, Miss Rhode Island USA 2005, former Army Capt., and host of WATM’s ‘Troop Soup,’ had to be lean for competition, but was required to stay within Army height and weight standards. She was restricted from going on a diet that would jeopardize her ROTC scholarship. Her first commitment was to her Army contract, so she chose to stay within those standards and won her pageant anyway.
The toughness that comes from military training and experience translates into confidence on the runway. And the opposite is also true — pageantry helps in achieving military goals. Staying on task, thinking positive, turning off negative feelings, and pushing away fear of failure are all essential to thriving in the pageant world, and help build a strong discipline.
Teamwork and being part of something greater than one’s self
In the military, the team is everything. You depend upon the people to your left and right. The satisfaction of being part of a great military team is unmatched.
But aren’t queens just about themselves? Not really. Amazingly, the stereotype of extreme cattiness typically doesn’t exist.
“Pageants should be part of something greater than self. There’s no room to tear each other down. If you don’t feel a sense of teamwork in pageantry, you’re doing something wrong. There must be a sisterhood and collaboration,” says Alexandra Curtis, Miss Rhode Island America 2015 and Rhode Island National Guard Sgt.
Another way beauty queens are about others is how they use their platforms. Besides her work with the ALS Association, Alexandra is very much into helping young women get into politics. She was inspired by women who blazed the trail before her by combining political office with Reserve and Guard careers. And her sister queens devote time to great causes, such as helping wounded veterans, visiting with active military members, and inspiring schoolchildren.
There’s an extra sense of community responsibility among these contestants because they’re military women. They feel they have to be good role models in both careers as they represent the country first, themselves second.
Goals and obstacles
When you’re serving, the goal is accomplishing the mission. In pageantry, the goal is winning the title. But both military and pageant careers require facing down hurdles — just ask Marina Gray, Miss Maine USA 2018 and National Guard Sgt. Marina broke out of poverty and neglect when she became legally emancipated from her parents at age 16. From that moment on, she lived on her own and supported herself.
She enlisted in the Guard as a way to help pay for college. Her love of the Maine Coast helped, but her outlook was most important. She grew up religious. “The best way to beat adversity is to be optimistic. Don’t ask ‘why me?’ Think: ‘It happened to me because I could handle it’. Things happen for a reason.”
Marina felt some discrimination from her male peers, not because for being a beauty queen, but because of her gender. She dealt with it by working even harder and became a 2015 Soldier of the Year, a 2017 NCO of the year, and earned various fitness awards. “I’ve faced much adversity in my life and the way I’ve overcome all my road bumps is what I think makes me a beautiful person. I think character shines much brighter than any shade of lipstick.”
Yes, these women are gorgeous, but don’t be fooled by their beauty. They’re also about grit and determination. In their commitment to the warrior ethos and pageantry, two seemingly different careers, queens and warriors are more alike than not. They’ve tossed a couple of grenades at the notion that you cannot be beautiful and talented and strong and brave at the same time
A contingent of senior Air Force leaders and other high-ranking officials are visiting multiple locations across the Arctic April 27-May 3, 2019, in an attempt to better understand operational challenges and refine approaches for meeting the changing security dynamics in the region.
“The Arctic has always been a vital, indispensable part of any strategy to ensure the security and prosperity of the United States, our allies and our partners,” said Maj. Gen. Brian S. Robinson.
“While that has not changed, there are new activities and concerns in the Arctic, and our allies and partners are on the front lines of those changes. This trip provides important, firsthand insight on how our partners are preparing for a shifting landscape and how we can best adapt our policies, activities, and partnerships to successfully meet the emerging challenges in the region,” Robinson said.
The group includes Robinson along with Air Force Lt. Gen. Jerry Harris, Brig. Gen. Michael G. Koscheski as well as senior Air Force officials Kenneth E. Bray and John M. Trumpfheller. All of them are touring facilities in Norway, Finland, and Sweden to see how Arctic allies and partners of the U.S. view security and operate in the region’s harsh conditions. The trip also offers opportunities for representatives of the countries to discuss joint operations and other activities that contribute to the shared interests and priorities of each country.
U.S. Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, Commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) and U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Paul McKenna, the NORAD and USNORTHCOM Command Senior Enlisted Leader, visit units and tour facilities at Thule AB, Greenland, April 24, 2019. The Arctic is strategic terrain in the defense of our northern approaches and is critical to our national security.
(Photo by Preston Schlachter)
The visit is especially important given changes in the Arctic’s climate and environment, which have increased activity in the area from nations and commercial interests. Also notable is its timing, since the Department of Defense is required to deliver to Congress a detailed strategy for the region by June 1, 2019.
The visit is just the latest effort on the part of the Air Force to develop an Arctic strategy nested within DoD objectives. In broad terms, the DoD’s objectives are to prevent and deter conflict in the Arctic and prepare to respond to a wide range of challenges and contingencies, with the ultimate goal of a secure and stable region where U.S. national interests are safeguarded and nations work together to address challenges.
As an Arctic nation, the U.S. has long been active in the region. Key allies and partners in the Arctic include: Canada, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, all NATO allies and NATO’s Enhanced Opportunity Partners, Sweden and Finland. These nations work together in numerous fora to address shared regional concerns (e.g., fisheries management, shipping safety, scientific research).