This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

When Johnson Beharry was awarded the Victoria Cross, it was the first time a living soldier received the award in over 30 years. It’s not an easy award to pick up, and perhaps Lance Sgt. Beharry should have died in Iraq – but he didn’t. And because he survived, so did many, many men from his unit.


In May 2004, Beharry was driving an armored vehicle to help rescue a foot patrol that was caught in an ambush. The Warrior, an armored infantry fighting vehicle used by the UK military, had taken so many RPG hits that most of his crew were injured and he was unable to see using his periscope.

So, he popped open the hatch.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

A British Army MCV-80 Warrior Infantry Tracked Fighting Vehicle.

He drove the rest of the way with his head outside of the protection of the vehicle. In doing so, he exposed his head to the same nonstop barrage of bullets and RPG fire that wounded most of his fellow soldiers. He drove the Warrior right through the ambush until he got to the threatened foot patrol.

He drove through multiple ambushes, small arms fire, heavy machine gun fire, several RPGs, and even improvised explosive devices. His commander and gunner, along with others in the crew, were wounded and incapacitated. Beharry didn’t know their status because the Warrior’s communications system was damaged in the initial ambush. With smoke pouring into his vehicle, he drove through the Iraqi night.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

Beharry’s Warrior fighting vehicle after arriving at Cimic House outpost.

At one point, he could see an RPG flying at him, directly toward his face. He quickly pulled down the lid of the hatch with one hand, while driving the vehicle with the other. The blast pulled the hatch out of his hand but allowed the force and flame to pass over him.

Next, a 7.62 round hit Beharry in the head, lodging into his helmet, but miraculously not wounding him. Beharry pressed the vehicle on, away from the ambush area. He saw another Warrior from his unit and followed it through the dark streets of al-Amarah until they reached their destination: a British Army outpost. Still under intense fire, Beharry lifted his platoon commander and then his gunner out of the vehicle’s turret and into the safety of the other Warrior. He then went back into his Warrior and drove it to the outpost.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

Lance Sgt. Johnson Beharry poses with one of two captured Chinese cannons used to create Victoria Cross medals.

Once inside a defended perimeter, Beharry secured the Warrior, pulled the fire extinguisher, and moved to the other, seemingly undamaged Warrior, where he passed out from sheer exhaustion. But his story doesn’t end there – Victoria Crosses, the UK’s equivalent to the Medal of Honor, are exceedingly difficult medals to earn. A month later, Johnson Beharry was back in action in Iraq.

The coalition base in al-Amarah was under attack from a mortar team in June, 2004. Beharry was part of a quick reaction force sent to neutralize the threat to the base. Driving again through the city at night, Beharry’s armored vehicle was ambushed on its way to the attackers. The initial volley of that ambush saw an RPG explode just six inches from the young soldier’s head, causing serious injury.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

Beharry is presented with the Victoria Cross by Queen Elizabeth II.

Other RPGs rocked the vehicle, and the turret, again incapacitating and wounding the vehicle commander and the others in the crew. With blood pouring into his face, Beharry stayed in control of the vehicle. He drove the vehicle out of the ambush area – in reverse – until it became lodged in the side of a building. Only then did he lose consciousness from loss of blood. But in moving out of the ambush zone, other Warriors were able to come to their aid. All of them survived both of the deadly attacks.

The attack put him in a coma, and his wounds ultimately required him to leave the service. Before that, he was presented with the Victoria Cross by Queen Elizabeth II on Apr. 27, 2005. Since then, he has made a number of public appearances and implored veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to seek mental health assistance for post-traumatic stress. These days, he runs a youth foundation to keep kids away from gangs and rehabilitate former gang members.

MIGHTY HISTORY

When the Coast Guard saved New York from a huge blast

In the early evening of April 24, 1943, Coast Guardsmen braved leaping flames and saved New York City from what could have been the largest man-made explosion in history to that point, a blast that would’ve wiped out sections of the harbor and, potentially, large swaths of the larger city and parts of New Jersey. Instead, just one ship was lost and zero lives.


This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

Painting of the El Estero fire by Austin Dwyer.

(Austin Dwyer via U.S. Coast Guard)

While all the other branches rib the Coast Guard for being a band of puddle pirates, it’s important when really looking at its history to remember that, first, they actually have conducted a ton of deepwater missions. And, more importantly for this discussion, the shallow waters of the world are home to vital and dangerous missions that the Coast Guard does well.

The Coast Guard often takes on a large role during conflicts to help to ensure that war materiel is safely moved from industrial powerhouses in the U.S. to theaters of war overseas. During World War II, this included loading many of the Liberty Ships and other vessels that plied the Atlantic and Pacific.

But logistic expediencies created real hazards. It made sense in terms of speed and efficiency to move all the munitions, vehicles, and other vital supplies to a handful of ports and load it on ships from there. But doing so meant that strings of railroad cars and ships filled with explosive materials would be stored right next to each other.

On Saturday, April 24, Coast Guardsmen working on explosive loading details finished loading 1,365 tons of ammo onto the Panamanian freighter El Estero. But before they could even get fully aweigh, smoke started to come up out of the ship’s passageways.

Investigations would later reveal that the boiler had likely been leaking fuel oil into bilge water in the compartment below it, and a boiler flashback ignited the pooled fuel and started a fire. But once the fire was going, it would be able to boil oil to give itself more fuel and heat up the ammo until it started to explode.

The engine room crew immediately started fighting the flames with handheld extinguishers, but it wasn’t enough, so officers went to the Coast Guard barracks for volunteers. Could someone, anyone, please climb onto the burning ship, descend into its belly, and fight flames in the hopes of it not blowing up?

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

A graphic tried to tackle the level of damage if the ship had exploded. This high traffic area would have made an explosion of the El Estero especially catastrophic.

(New York Daily News illustration via U.S. Coast Guard)

But the Coast Guardsmen knew what was at stake. The loading docks were always filled with ammo and fuel and, on April 24, there were two other nearly full ships nearby, there were railroad cars loaded with ammunition waiting to unload, and there was a fuel farm that served the departing ships. A detonation on the El Estero would likely trigger a chain reaction.

And explosions like this had happened before. Before the U.S. joined World War I, American firms sold arms to each side under equal terms, but British buyers were able to secure more credit while German ones were unlikely to even be able to get their purchases to the fighting thanks to a British blockade. So, German saboteurs blew up the shipping facilities at Black Tom Island in New Jersey, killing at least five people, destroying over million in property, and partially excavating the island.

Another World War I explosion, this one on a ship with 5,000 tons of TNT in Halifax Harbor in Canada, had killed 1,500 people leveling a large section of Halifax, Canada, in 1917. The combined loads of the El Estero and nearby ships and trains, somewhere around 5,000 total tons of explosives, dwarfed the size of the Halifax explosion. And an El Estero explosion would’ve been on the doorstep of New York City and could’ve flattened everything for five miles around.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

Coast Guardsmen on a fireboat. Small vessels like these assisted in controlling the El Estero fire.

(U.S. Coast Guard)

And so 60 Coast Guardsmen, most of them in dress uniforms while awaiting their Easter Day liberty passes, rushed to the ship. New York firefighters arrived soon after with a firefighting ship, and they began passing hoses into the holds of the El Estero, but it was Coast Guardsmen who descended into the smoke and fire.

Survivors would describe a heat that overwhelmed them. The hot deck plates warmed and then burned their feet, paint peeled off the walls, and the heat continued to build. The Coast Guard officer in charge was Lt.j.g. Francis McCausland. It was his first day of work at the station.

But he was able to get tugboats to move the other ammo ships away and ordered Army soldiers to shift as many of the train cars out of range as they could move. By the time that additional fire trucks and Coast Guard fireboats arrived at 5:35, the fiercely burning El Estero was largely isolated, but still surrounded by the city, fuel stores, and warehouses of ammo.

The Coast Guard seemed to get the upper hand on the ship for a few minutes as the oily black smoke gave way to yellow and white streaks of flames, a signal that streams of water were hitting the major source of the fire. But the oily smoke returned, and the heat continued to rise.

About 40 volunteers were ordered off the ship, and a crew of 20 stayed onboard to try and keep the fire contained as long as possible while the ship was towed to a safe detonation point. Those 20 passed their personal effects to the men ordered off, some of whom wanted to stay and keep working. These included an engaged man who had to personally be ordered off the decks.

The further the ship was out of the harbor, the more lives would be saved in New York City and in the surrounding harbor from the pending explosion. Coast Guardsmen shoved anti-aircraft shells from the decks into the water and kept directing the water from the tugs onto the hot ammo as they traveled.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

The El Estero rests mostly below the waves.

(Public Domain)

Miraculously, their work was enough, and the ship was towed out as the nearby cities prepared for an explosion that never came. Fuel barrels on the decks popped and boomed open, but the burnt and exhausted Coast Guardsmen onboard were eventually able to build up enough water in the ship to sink it.

(The ship was designed so that it could only be scuttled from one spot that was directly underneath the burning boilers, so the Coast Guardsmen could only sink it by flooding it.)

Once the hull of the ship was under the waves, the threat of a full ammo explosion was largely dissipated. Firefighters kept water pouring onto the still burning superstructure for hours until, finally, the threat was gone. No one had died in a crisis that was later found to have threatened as many as one million residents with death, injury, or extreme property damage.

All the Coast Guardsmen involved were given special medals for their efforts, and the U.S. government overhauled ammo-handling procedures to move dangerous operations away from population centers. This would save lives in June 1944, when an ammo ship with 4,600 tons of ammunition exploded northeast of San Francisco, killing 300 sailors on the ship and nearby, but leaving the city untouched.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Gainey Cup is the Army’s annual cavalry competition and yes, it includes a final charge

As a showcase for the fourth biennial Gainey Cup International Best Scout Squad Competition, the U.S. Army Armor School hosted the Scouts in Action demonstration, April 29, 2019, at Red Cloud Range.

The Gainey Cup determines the best six-soldier scout squad in the Army and internationally by testing squads on their scout and cavalry skills, their physical stamina, and their cohesion as a team.


This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

(Photo by Mr. Markeith Horace)

The Scouts in Action demonstration was an opportunity for the Armor School to tell the history of the U.S. Cavalry and to show the public what scout squads do for their units, according to Capt. Tim Sweeney, Cavalry Leaders Course instructor.

“Part of what we do in the cavalry is really in the shadows and really hidden from the world to see, because that’s the nature of our business,” said Sweeney. “[Scouts in Action] was a demonstration of the different weapons platforms that we have and how they can be used to execute missions on the battlefield. So we’re just bringing what the Cav does to light.”

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

Retired Command Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey, right, the namesake of the biennial Gainey Cup, speaks to competitors before the Recon Run.

(Photo by Mr. Patrick Albright)

During the historical portion of Scouts in Action, the spectators, which included soldiers, civilians and Family members, saw scouts as they would have appeared in period uniforms as they would have ridden or driven period conveyances. They rode horses as Army scouts would have during the Civil War and drove jeeps as Army scouts would have during World War II. Then they drove the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, the Bradley fighting vehicle and the Stryker armored vehicle, all from the latter part of the 20th century.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

(Photo by Mr. Markeith Horace)

As part of the demonstration of scout skills for the audience, a scout squad performed aerial reconnaissance using a drone. After a notional enemy fired upon the scouts the scouts fired back. Their HMMWV got several rounds off in a one-second burst. Then a Bradley fighting vehicle joined the aciton. Then scouts in Abrams tanks fired at the enemy, each concussive thud knocking up dust.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

(Photo by Mr. Markeith Horace)

“So today was the demonstration of the firepower they have,” said Sweeney. “Then over the next three days, they’ll use that firepower and use their dismounted capabilities to execute the missions and really achieve their commander’s end state.”

When the demonstration concluded, the spectators had the opportunity to get refreshments, talk with soldiers and explore some of the vehicles they had just seen in action. The demonstration served as a public entry point to the competition already in progress.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

(Photo by Mr. Patrick Albright)

The scout squads arrived the week before and took part in knowledge tests, vehicle identification, a call for fire, a gunnery skills test and a land navigation course.

Units participating this year include the 1st Armored Division; 1st Cavalry Division; 1st, 3rd, 4th, 7th and 25th Infantry Divisions; 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team; 10th Mountain Division; 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions; 2nd, 3rd and 134th Cavalry Regiments; 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment; U.S. Army Alaska; 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment; and the Canadian, Great Britain, Netherlands and German armies.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

(Photo by Mr. Markeith Horace)

The squads began the second week of competition with an early morning reconnaissance run at Brave Rifles Field at Harmony Church. During the reconnaissance run, the six-person scout squads must run in uniform and with gear over a set course they do not know the distance to. The course is complete once every member of a squad crosses the finish line back at Brave Rifles Field.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

(Photo by Mr. Patrick Albright)

Over three days, the squads will perform exercises that synthesize skills they were evaluated on during the first week. A scout squad proficiency exercise requires the scout squads to orient on a reconnaissance objective while performing reconnaissance on 20 kilometers of terrain occupied by enemy forces. During the scout skills event, the squads must maneuver within their vehicle while collecting and reporting information. As part of a lethality exercise, the squads must conduct a tactical mission under live fire, and then they receive a grade according to their ability to report and engage the enemy force.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

(Photo by Mr. Patrick Albright)

Besides drawing focus to the scout mission operational specialty, the competition also serves as a training event for the U.S. Armor School and the units the scout squads represent.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

(Photo by Mr. Patrick Albright)

“This competition does a very good job of highlighting the capabilities and limitations that Cavalry scouts encounter, so it’s a way that units can continue to build their training plan, and the Army can look at training and figure out how we can become more and more lethal,” he said.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

(Photo by Mr. Patrick Albright)


The final event of the competition is the Final Charge scheduled for 8 a.m. May 3, 2019, at Brave Rifles Field. After the final charge, the awards ceremony is scheduled to begin.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Winnie the Pooh’ was created by a vet explaining war to his boy

There is nothing more heart-wrenching to veterans with families than having to explain why daddy hasn’t been the same ever since he returned from the war. A reasonable adult can grasp the idea that war is hell and that it can change a person forever, but an innocent kid — one who was sheltered from such grim concepts by that very veteran — cannot.

A. A. Milne, an English author and veteran of both World Wars, was struggling to explain this harsh reality to his own child when he penned the 1926 children’s classic, Winnie-the-Pooh.


This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

This might help give you a picture of just how awful the Battle of the Somme was. Fellow British Army officer and writer J.R.R. Tolkien fought in the Battle and used it as inspiration for the Dead Marshes in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

(New Line Cinema)

As a young man, Alan Alexander Milne stood up for King and Country when it was announced that the United Kingdom had entered World War I. He was commissioned as an officer into the 4th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, as a member of the Royal Corps of Signals on February 1, 1915. Soon after, he was sent to France to fight in the Battle of the Somme.

The description, “Hell on Earth” is apt, but doesn’t come close to fully describing the carnage of what became the bloodiest battle in human history. More than three million men fought and one million men were wounded or killed — many of Milne’s closest friends were among the numerous casualties. Bodies were stacked in the flooded-out trenches where other men lived, fought, and died.

On August 10, 1915, Milne and his men were sent to enable communications by laying telephone line dangerously close to an enemy position. He tried warning his command of the foolishness of the action to no avail. Two days later, he and his battalion were attacked, just as he had foreseen. Sixty British men perished in an instant. Milne was one of the hundred or so badly wounded in the ambush. He was sent home for his wounds suffered that day.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

A.A. Milne, his son, Christopher Robin, and Winnie the Pooh.

(Photo by Howard Coster)

Milne returned to his wife, Daphne de Selincourt, and spent many years recovering physically. His light finally came to him on August 21, 1920, when his son, Christopher Robin Milne, was born. He put his writings on hold — it was his therapeutic outlet for handling his shell shock (now known as post-traumatic stress) — so he could be the best possible father to his baby boy.

One fateful day, he took his son to the London Zoo where they bonded over enjoying a new visitor to the park, a little Canadian Black Bear named Winnipeg (or Winnie for short). Alan was drawn to the bear because it had been a mascot used by the Canadian Expeditionary Force in WWI. Despite being one of the most terrifying creatures in the zoo, Winnie was reclusive, often shying away from people.

Alan saw himself in that bear. At the same time, Christopher loved the bear for being cuddly and cute. Understandably, Alan bought his son a teddy — the real-life Winnie the Pooh bear.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

It all kind of makes you think about that line Winnie’s says to Christopher, “If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.”

(New York Public Library)

The demons of war followed Milne throughout his life. It was noted that when Christopher was little, Alan terrified him when he confused a swarm of buzzing bees with whizzing bullets. The popping of balloons sent him ducking for cover. Milne knew of only one way to explain to his son what was happening — through his writing. A.A. Milne started writing a collection of short stories entitled Winnie-the-Pooh.

It’s been theorized by Dr. Sarah Shea that Milne wrote into each character of Winnie-the-Pooh a different psychological disorder. While only A. A. Milne could tell us for certain, Dr. Shea’s theory seems pointed in the right direction, but may be a little too impersonal. After all, the book was written specifically for one child, by name, and features the stuffed animals that the boy loved.

It’s more likely, in my opinion, that the stories were a way for Milne to explain his own post-traumatic stress to his six-year-old son. Every stuffed friend in the Hundred Acre Woods is a child-friendly representation of a characteristic of post-traumatic stress. Piglet is paranoia, Eeyore is depression, Tigger is impulsive behaviors, Rabbit is perfectionism-caused aggression, Owl is memory loss, and Kanga Roo represent over-protection. This leaves Winnie, who Alan wrote in for himself as Christopher Robin’s guide through the Hundred Acre Woods — his father’s mind.

The books were published on October 14, 1926. As a child, Christopher Robin embraced the connection to his father, but as the books grew in popularity, he would resent being mocked for his namesake character.

Christopher Robin Milne eventually followed in his father’s footsteps and they both served in the Second World War. His father was a Captain in the British Home Guard and he served as a sapper in the Royal Engineers.

It was only after his service that he grew to accept his father’s stories and embraced his legacy, which endures to this day.

In fact, Christopher Robin, a film starring Ewan McGregor and directed by Marc Forster (known for Finding Neverland), is opening this weekend. Be sure to check it out.


MIGHTY CULTURE

How to celebrate Halloween on a military base

Halloween festivities in 2020 are bound to be a bit different due to the pandemic, but for military families, unique ways of celebrating are nothing new. Life on military bases is similar to “normal” life in many ways, but it does come with its own set of pros and cons. To learn how to celebrate Halloween like a military family, keep reading!

1. If you’re still adjusting to life at a new base, things are usually kept simple.

Moving to a new base is a significant change for the entire family. When you’ve just started unpacking, military families know it’s okay not to go all out for the holiday. The kids are all about the candy, anyway! Make some quick caramel apples together, let them go crazy with the face paint, and watch a spooky movie with popcorn and candy. Easy.

2. You get LOTS of discounts!

Military discounts are always a thing, but the holidays are the perfect time to make the most of it. Military families get discounts on costumes, decorations, fabric…pretty much anything! HalloweenCostume.com offers $10 off a $50 order with a military ID. Spirit Halloween, Jo-Ann Fabrics, Michael’s, Kirkland’s, Home Depot, and Lowes all offer discounts as well. The discounts are usually around 10-15% which doesn’t seem like much, but if you’re stocking up on decorations or planning costumes for the whole fam, your wallet will notice the difference!

3. Decorations spice things up. 

The only problem with military housing is that it all looks the same. To add some personality and spooky style, lots of military fams get creative with their Halloween haunted house decor. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Have the kids help choose a theme and run with it. They can even decorate the windows with this washable window paint!

4. Some families send cards to friends afar. 

One of the toughest parts of being a military kid is moving around a lot. If they used to have a group of best buddies to trick or treat with, reach out to stay connected and send some fun. Help them decorate Halloween cards and tape their friend’s favorite candy inside for a thoughtful surprise.

5. The pumpkin carving contests are next level. 

Show off your military pride and pumpkin carving skills! Are you a pro with a pocket knife? A pumpkin carving contest is probably happening, so put your skills to good use and kick some pumpkin carving butt. Alternatively, you can use paint for a longer-lasting decoration. You can go for a patriotic pumpkin, or remind everyone which branch of the military is the best…but we’re not taking any sides! May the best pumpkin win.

6. They make the most of on-base Halloween activities.

Almost every base has their own set of scheduled autumn activities, which usually include a costume contest, games, trick or treating, and haunted houses for the big kids. The events will likely be modified this year to keep kids COVID-free, but the on-base festivities still have a lot of benefits. There are usually more rules and security, so your kids can celebrate without roaming sketchy neighborhoods in the dark. If this is your first year on a base, see what activities are planned this year and get involved!

7. After the fun, families often give back. 

Who hasn’t overdone it in the candy aisle? If you have tons of leftover candy after trick or treating comes to a close, don’t toss it out. Instead, donate it to Treats for Troops to help service members overseas enjoy a Kit Kat or two! Happy Halloween!

MIGHTY CULTURE

How a Marine Corps scout sniper managed to sneak up on his enemy naked

An expert sniper can sneak up on an enemy naked as the day he was born. It’s not particularly advised, but one top sharpshooter did exactly that just to prove a point, Marine snipers told Insider.

“Ghillie suits make people feel like they are invisible,” a Marine Corps scout sniper instructor at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia explained of the full-body uniforms that snipers are trained to adorn with grass and other materials to blend into their environment.

“The vegetation and the camouflage, that’s only one part of it,” the instructor added. “It’s more route selection and movement. It’s about what you are putting between you and the target.”


One top sniper proved that to be true by completing stalking training — an exercise where snipers are asked to sneak into position and fire on a target without getting caught by observers using high-powered optics — in nothing but his boots, two Marines told Insider.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

A Marine undergoing the 2nd Marine Division Combat Skills Center’s Pre-Scout Sniper Course prepares to move during a stalking exercise at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Paul S. Martinez)

“He was one of our instructors, and he wanted to show up his fellow HOGs on the glass,” a schoolhouse instructor said, referring to the observers (nicknamed “Hunters of Gunmen” or HOGs) searching for the PIGs (Professionally Instructed Gunmen) in the field with monocular or binocular devices.

“I’m going to do this naked, and you’re not going to catch me,” the legendary sniper supposedly said. “I’m going to go out there and burn you guys down naked except for boots on.”

And, he did, Insider learned from the Marines.

No clothes. No ghillie suit. No vegetation. The sniper went into the field with nothing but a painted face and a pair of boots. Insider recently observed a stalking exercise at Quantico, where snipers in training worked their way down a lane filled with snakes, various bugs, and quite a few thorns. It was not an environment for someone to crawl around in nude. It’s unclear what type of stalking lane the naked Marine was on.

The sniper is said to have used screens, natural features on the stalking lane that shield the sniper from view, to avoid the watchful eyes of his training enemy.

He was also very careful and deliberate with his movements.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

A Marine scout sniper candidate with Scout Sniper Platoon, Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment looks through the scope of his rifle during a stalking exercise.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Austin Long)

“That’s the art of invisibility,” an instructor told Insider. “It’s all about movement. Some animals are phenomenal at it.” Lions, for example, will crawl low and burn through the grass until they get in range of their target.

That’s a hard skill to learn though. “When you are crawling on the ground, it’s hard to understand where you are at. It’s like being an ant,” a second instructor explained. “It’s the weirdest thing in the world when you get that low to the earth and you start crawling. It makes people uncomfortable.”

When Insider visited the base last month, we watched a group of trainees go through stalking training for the first time. Several of them were spotted in the lane because they raised their heads to see their target more clearly.

“They love to raise up. They love to look up,” an instructor explained. “It’s such a natural human instinct, to think that to see something you need 180 degrees.”

“Human beings are so uncomfortable when they can’t see what is going on around them,” another instructor told Insider. “You have to fight that uncomfortable feeling. You have to force yourself to act unnaturally to be an effective stalker.”

The naked Marine, whose fully clothed picture hangs in the scout sniper schoolhouse at Quantico, seems to have a great grasp of that concept.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Honoring the life of one of the ‘richest and most beloved men in America’

Ross Perot, the self-made billionaire, philanthropist and third-party presidential candidate, died July 9, 2019, at his home in Texas. He was 89.

Henry Ross Perot was born in Texarkana, Texas, on June 27, 1930. His story is the epitome of hard work, and one that has rarely been equaled: He rose from Depression-era poverty to become one of the richest and most beloved men in America.

Read the tributes, the stories, interviews, memoirs, and what pops up most, the one constant is that Perot never stopped working.


As a boy, he delivered newspapers. He joined the Boy Scouts at 12, then made Eagle Scout in just 13 months. In his US Naval Academy yearbook, a classmate wrote: “As president of the Class of ’53 he listened to all gripes, then went ahead and did something about them.” At 25, he personally “dug his father’s grave with a shovel and filled it as a final tribute to him.” At 27, after leaving the Navy, he went to work at IBM where he soon became a top salesman. One year, he met the annual sales quota by the second week of January. At 32, he’d left IBM and formed his own company, Electronic Data Systems. By 38, when he took the company public, he was suddenly worth 0 million. In the 80s, Perot sold the company for billions, then started another company, Perot Systems Corp., that later sold for billions more.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

Ross Perot, 1986.

“Every day he came to work trying to figure out how he could help somebody,” said Ross Perot Jr., in an interview.

And that’s another thing that pops up, another constant: Perot’s connection to people, to his employees, to POWs in North Vietnam and their families, to Gulf War Veterans suffering from a mysterious illness, and to the millions of Americans he reached in self-paid 30-minute TV spots in the 90s when he ran for president.

“Ross Perot epitomized the entrepreneurial spirit and the American creed,” said Former President George W. Bush, in a statement. “He gave selflessly of his time and resources to help others in our community, across our country, and around the world. He loved the U.S. military and supported our service members and veterans. Most importantly, he loved his dear wife, children, and grandchildren.”

That’s the last thing, the most important thing — his family.

“I want people to know about Dad’s twinkle in his eyes,” said daughter Nancy Perot. “He always gave us the biggest hugs. We never doubted that we were the most important things in his life.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

popular

This pilot defected with the Soviet Union’s most advanced plane

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head
(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

 


Lieutenant Viktor Belenko decided he had had enough. Despite being considered an expert fighter pilot with one of the Soviet Union’s elite squadrons, with all the perks that went with it, Belenko was tired of the shortages and propaganda that defined much of life in the USSR. He feared that reports of plenty in the U.S. were also exaggerated, but he decided to take a chance. On September 6, 1976 during a routine training mission, he switched off his radio and bolted to Hakodate airport in Japan. After nearly running out of fuel, barely avoiding a civilian jetliner, and overshooting the runway, he set down in Japan with only a busted landing gear. It turned out to be one of the great intelligence coups of the Cold War.

Given this gift, including a flight manual that Belenko had helpfully brought along, Western intelligence agencies proceeded to tear the plane to bits analyzing the fighter whose capabilities up until now were only an assumption. When the Soviet Union demanded its return, Japan agreed on the condition that they recoup shipping costs. The plane showed up at a docked Soviet vessel in dozens of crates, and when the Soviets realized at least 20 key components were missing, they demanded $10 million in compensation. As befitted the Cold War, neither ever paid.

The MiG-25 “Foxbat” was the newest and most advanced fighter the Soviet Union possessed. The United States and its allied NATO countries were genuinely concerned over its capabilities, and it was generally assumed to be an advanced fighter bomber that could outfly anything NATO had. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The Mig-25 was very cutting edge in its way. It was one of the fastest fighters ever produced, with a theoretical top speed of mach 3.2 at the risk of engine damage, putting it near the vaunted U.S. SR-71 spy plane. It’s radar was one of the most powerful ever put on a plane of its size.

 

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head
Viktor Belenko

 

But those strengths were where it ended. The MiG-25 was built around its extremely heavy engines, and it showed. It had a ridiculously short combat range, and even its unarmed cruising range was too short, as Belenko’s journey could attest. It was so specialized in high-altitude interception that flying it at low altitude and speed could be very difficult. It could not carry weapons for ground attack, did not have a integral cannon, and the large wings NATO interpreted as making it a formidable dogfighter were simply meant to keep its heavy airframe in the air. In reality, it was maneuverable and would be mincemeat in a conventional dogfight once it closed to short range. Its electronics were still vacuum tube technology, and its airframe would literally bend itself out of shape if the pilot was not careful. It was made to be a high speed missile carrier targeting bombers or U.S. high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft like the U-2 inside Soviet airspace, and not much more.

Despite its flaws, the Soviet Union built over a thousand of them, and it was widely exported to a number of countries, where its combat record in several wars was mixed at best. An updated version called the MiG-31 was later built that shared aspects with the original, including many of its shortcomings.

Belkov, for all his doubts, received a welcome beyond his skeptical hopes. In an old saw that applied to many Soviet visitors, he was flabbergasted by his first visit to an American supermarket, and wondered if it was a CIA hoax. He was granted citizenship by an act of Congress in 1980, and he co-wrote an autobiography called MiG Pilot that had some success. He reportedly works as an aerospace engineer to this day. His daring escape still stands as one of the defining moments of the Cold War.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The insane victory that inspired the Confederate army’s only medal

The Confederate Army had better things to do than decide how it would award medals to its fighting men. In that era, Americans weren’t really into medals and ribbons, as it was considered a very European military tradition. The Civil War changed all that. The brutality of the war, combined with the feats of heroics performed by those who fought it inspired the need for such awards.

That being said, the Confederacy had its heroes as well, but aside from a Confederate Congressional “Roll of Honor,” nothing much was ever done in terms of awards and decorations – until the Second Battle of Sabine Pass.


This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

Sabine Pass is a small outlet from Lake Sabine that pours into the Gulf of Mexico, bordering both Texas and Louisiana. During the Civil War, it was a lightly defended Western outpost, far from the central fighting of the war. As a result, the shoddy earthwork fortifications at the pass had mostly old smoothbore cannon to defend it, eight guns in total. But then the French installed a pro-French Emperor in Mexico, opening the possibility for Confederate supplies to reach Mexico by rail, then onto Europe under French-flagged ships, completely circumventing the Union blockade and providing the South with crucial money, arms, and supplies.

The Union sent 5,000 troops, 18 transports, and four armed gunboats to capture the pass and cut the South off from French Mexico. Defending the fort were the Jeff Davis Guards, named for the Confederate President, 47 Irish immigrants from bigger cities in Texas, and well-trained and drilled artillerymen. This was the largest amphibious assault ever taken by the United States until this point so you’d think the Union would have come prepared. You’d be wrong. So wrong.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

Only the lightest of the Union ships could enter the river, due to the shallow nature of the entryway. Four steamers and 150 Union sharpshooters were to cross the sandbars then take out the fort and its guns so the rest of the Union force could take the town and then move on to Houston. That never happened. Instead, accurate cannon fire from the fort hit one of the steamers in her boiler, disabling another and grounding the USS Arizona. The two ships surrendered, and the rest of the invasion force ended up running back to New Orleans.

In all, the battle last 45 minutes. The Davis Guards fired 137 rounds from their eight guns, dwarfing the Union’s rate of fire and ensuring those guns couldn’t be used for weeks after the battle. The handful of Confederates then went to capture the Union troops on the disabled ships, taking 315 Union troops prisoner. The Union forces suffered a further 19 killed and nine wounded at the cost of zero casualties to the Confederates. It was the most lopsided victory of the war.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

Richard Dowling, commander of the Davis Guards, wearing his medal.

Grateful Texans decided to reward the men for not only staying at their posts in the face of overwhelming odds, but for actually winning. They cast medals from Mexican silver coins, engraving “DG” on one side with a Malta Cross and the date of the battle on the other. It was hung on the uniform by a green ribbon, representing the Irish heritage of the fort’s defenders. In all, 47 were awarded to the men, with two more awarded to their officers, and one struck just for their namesake, Jefferson Davis. Davis ensured the Confederate Congress authorized the medal for wear, the only medal so authorized.

The President had his on him when he was captured after the war’s end.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why Brazil’s World War II force had the best unit patch

Brazil’s contribution to the Allied war effort is extraordinary but often forgotten. Though Brazil originally tried to remain neutral in the conflict, the United States eventually encouraged the country to break off relations with the Axis powers. As a result, German u-boats began to sink Brazilian shipping and kill Brazilian citizens.

As a result, Brazil entered the war on the Allied side in August 1942, ready to punish the Axis for killing Brazilians.


The Brazilian Expeditionary Force numbered some 25,000 men, the only ally from South America to contribute troops to the war effort. Brazil’s fighting force would play a crucial role in some of the critical European battles to come, in a way no one thought possible. Literally.

Some commenters said the world would more likely see snakes smoking than see Brazilian troops on a World War II battlefield. So when the BEF showed up to deploy with the U.S. Fifth Army, they looked a lot like the Americans in their fatigues, save for one important detail: a shoulder patch, featuring a snake smoking a pipe.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

Now proudly calling themselves the “Smoking Cobras,” the Brazilian forces were ready to fight the Italians and Germans anywhere they were needed. Meanwhile, the Brazilian Navy and Air Force were getting their revenge on the Axis Navy and Air Forces that had so damaged Brazilian shipping. After losing 36 or more ships before entering the war, they lost only three ships afterward. And despite Brazil’s Air Force only flying five percent of the war’s air sorties, they managed to destroy 85 percent of Axis ammo dumps, 36 percent of Axis fuel depots, and 28 percent of Axis transportation infrastructure.

Back on the ground, the “Smoking Cobras” of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force were fighting the Italians and Germans in the Italian Campaign in 1943 and making short work of their enemy while providing much-needed rest for units that had been fighting for months.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

A Brazilian mortar crew fires their 81mm mortar in support of infantry in the Sassomolare area of the Fifth Army front north of Florence, April 1945.

The three regimental combat teams that comprised the BEF took on the German 148th Division, soundly defeating them at the Battle of Collecchio. Other victories came in succession: Camaiore, Monte Prano, Serchio Valley. The Brazilians also took down the Italian Monte Rosa, San Marco, and Italia divisions. In all, they captured more than 15,000 prisoners and took a further 500 out of action in later campaigns.

They retreated only when they ran out of ammunition, and their losses in Italy numbered just north of 450 killed in action.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China’s communist party might be cracking under trade pressure

The intensifying trade war between China and the US has caused a massive rift between the countries, but sources say tension is also rising internally among elite members of the Communist Party of China.

Over the past decade, President Xi Jinping has worked diligently to consolidate power and cement his rule over China, claiming control over the country’ military and government and cracking down on all forms of political dissent.


In the process, Chinese propaganda has pushed hard on the portrayal of China as a strong, nationalistic country, with Xi at its core.

Several sources close to the government told Reuters that this aggressive branding had backfired, further provoking the US as it ramps up tariffs in one of the largest trade wars in economic history.

An anonymous government-policy adviser told Reuters of a growing concern among leadership that China’s economic outlook had “become grim” as its relationship with the US deteriorated over trade.

“The evolution from a trade conflict to trade war has made people rethink things,” the policy adviser said.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“This is seen as being related to the exaggeration of China’s strength by some Chinese institutions and scholars that have influenced the US perceptions and even domestic views.”

Two additional sources told Reuters that disapproval was being felt among senior government members and that backlash might hit the close Xi aide and chief ideological strategist Wang Huning, who has been widely credited for crafting Xi’s strongman image.

“He’s in trouble for mishandling the propaganda and hyping up China too much,” a source tied to China’s leadership and propaganda system said.

And discontent has echoed through the ranks of China’s Communist veterans.

Sources told the Japanese daily Sankei Shimbun that several party elders including former President Hu Jintao and former Premier Wen Jiabao sent a letter in July 2018 to Communist leadership urging a review of economic and diplomatic policy and noting the party’s tendency toward personality-cult leadership.

A veteran member of the Communist Party who was said to be close to Hu told Sankei Shimbun that signs of waning support for Xi’s “dictatorial regime” had been emerging since June 2018, as Xi’s prominent presence in state propaganda was beginning to diminish. In July 2018, Xi’s name was noticeably absent from the front pages of the state mouthpiece People’s Daily — twice in one week.

July 2018, Xi swiftly called for a meeting with the powerful Politburo decision-making body, made up of the party’s 25 most senior members, reportedly outlining plans to stabilize the economy hit hard by US tariffs.

Xi was most likely gearing up for the annual Communist summit at the resort of Beidaihe, where top party leaders gather to discuss party policy behind closed doors.

The retreat, which is often kept secret, is said to be underway, and Xi’s leadership and US-China trade are likely to be high on the agenda, according to Taiwan News.

China and the US have kicked their trade war into high gear, as the US announced it would impose 25% tariffs on billion worth of Chinese goods starting August 23, 2018.

In response, China announced 25% tariffs on billion worth of US goods meant to take effect the same day — though critics have suggested China is running out of cards to play as the US imports more Chinese goods than the reverse and can deal far deadlier blows to China’s economy.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This was the only fighter that had a chance of catching the SR-71

When the SR-71 Blackbird was revealed to the public by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, the Soviets were caught by surprise. The fact was, the SR-71 couldn’t be caught by any air defense, rendered nearly invulnerable due to its blazing speed and high altitude. The Soviets, though, had a plane that could give it a close chase.


That plane was the MiG-25 Foxbat and it was originally designed to catch another deadly airframe, the B-70 Valkyrie bomber. The Valkyrie never entered service, but the Soviets still pushed the MiG-25, especially after the SR-71 was revealed.

After all, it was the only plane that had a prayer of catching a Blackbird — and even then, it was a very, very faint prayer.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

The Soviet Union produced almost 1,200 MiG-25 Foxbats, as opposed to 32 SR-71 Blackbirds.

(USAF)

While the SR-71 was built in very small numbers, the Soviets built a lot of MiG-25s — almost 1,200 were produced. Some were exported to countries like Syria, Iraq, and Libya, but many remained in Soviet service. The plane had a top speed of 2,156 miles per hour (compared to the Blackbird’s 2,200 miles per hour) and its primary weapon was the AA-6 Acrid.

The AA-6 Acrid was huge, packing a 150-pound, high-explosive warhead. It had a maximum range of about 30 miles and could go at Mach 4.5. The Foxbat was originally intended to be a bomber-killer, but there was a huge air of mystery around this plane. That mystery was compounded by the outstanding performance of the reconnaissance variant prior to the Yom Kippur War. Soviet pilots flying from Egypt were able to evade Israeli F-4s. That alone prompted much concern in the United States.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

The AA-6 Acrid is the primary weapon of the MiG-25 Foxbat,

(Photo by Jno~commonswiki)

The MiG-25’s emergence prompted the Air Force to start development of what became the F-15 Eagle. The two planes would face off the Middle East over Lebanon and Iraq, and the MiG-25 would emerge in second place.

Some sources claim an Iraqi MiG-25 was responsible for shooting down the F/A-18 Hornet piloted by Scott Speicher on the opening day of Desert Storm, but others claim that a SA-2 Guideline was to blame.

Learn more about this Russian answer to the Blackbird in the video below! Tell us, do you think the Foxbat could catch and kill the Lockheed legend?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSRf8KXMdPY

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US just unleashed the most dangerous ‘hunter-killer’ on earth

The US Navy commissioned the USS South Dakota on Feb. 2, 2019, and, in doing so, ushered in a new era of millennial undersea war fighters and the most technologically advanced submarine hunter-killer on Earth.

“I think we can honestly call South Dakota ‘America’s first millennial submarine’ from construction to operation,” Rep. Joe Courtney of Connecticut said at the South Dakota’s commissioning.

While millennials across the board make up the majority of the US’s combat service members in any service, the South Dakota was built by the shipbuilder General Dynamics Electric Boat, whose workforce is more than half millennial, The Day reported.


“The rise of the millennial generation emerging to lead Electric Boat’s important work for the country, I believe, is a powerful rebuttal of cynics and naysayers that say that American manufacturing and technological excellence are a thing of the past,” Courtney said.

In the slides below, meet the young sailors and new submarine that makes the South Dakota the most modern and fearsome submarine in the world today.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

The color guard parade the ensign during a commissioning ceremony for the Virginia-class attack submarine USS South Dakota on Feb. 2, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Steven Hoskins)

The South Dakota is a fast-attack boat.

The South Dakota is a fast-attack submarine, which trades the world-ending nuclear might of a ballistic-missiles submarine, or “boomer,” for Tomahawk cruise missiles, mines, and torpedoes.

Boomer submarines hide in oceans around the world on the longshot chance the US may call upon them to conduct nuclear warfare. These submarines are not to be seen and avoid combat.

But fast-attack subs such as the South Dakota meet naval combat head-on.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

(Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Samuel Souvannason

One weapon makes the South Dakota a force to be reckoned with up to 1,500 miles inland: the Tomahawk. The South Dakota can hold dozens of these land-attack missiles.

Fast-attack submarines like the South Dakota serve as a door-kicker, as one did in 2011 when the US opened its campaign against Libya with a salvo of cruise missiles from the USS Michigan. These submarines also must hunt and sink enemy ships and submarines in times of combat, and the South Dakota is unmatched in that department.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

(Photo by Chief Petty Officer Darryl Wood)

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

Members of SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team Two prepare to launch one of the team’s SEAL delivery vehicles from the back of the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Philadelphia during a training exercise.

(US Navy photo by Chief Photographer’s Mate Andrew McKaskle)

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

The US Navy Virginia-class attack submarine USS South Dakota.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

Russian Typhoon-class submarine.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

(US Navy photo)

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

Type 039 submarine.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

Capt. Ronald Withrow, outgoing commanding officer of the South Dakota, right, returns a salute from his relief, Missouri native Cmdr. Craig Litty, left.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist First Class Steven Hoskins)

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

(US Navy photo)

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

(US Navy photo)

Submarine combat is a very dangerous and tricky game. Any sonar or radar ping can reveal a sub’s location, so the ships need to sit and listen quietly to safely line up a kill.

The South Dakota can detect ships and subs with an off-board array of sensors that it can communicate with in near real time. This represents a breakthrough in undersea warfare.

This soldier saved his entire crew after taking an RPG to the head

Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Paul Durocher, a pre-commissioned unit South Dakota submariner.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jared Bunn)

But submarines are only as good as their crews. The South Dakota will live or die based on its crew’s ability to stick together and problem solve.

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

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