Just as the Super Bowl was about to kick off this Sunday, viewers were treated to an amazing commercial celebrating the 100th anniversary of the NFL. Last season, the NFL broke out its first 100 year celebration commercial which featured an astounding amount of NFL legends playing a black-tie version of “kill the man with the ball.”
This year, the NFL took it outside and showed a kid fielding a kick and running across several NFL stadiums and cities, juking and avoiding tacklers and getting encouragement from various NFL legends telling him to, “Take it to the House Kid!”
We see Jim Brown, Joe Montana, Christian McCaffrey, Drew Brees, Payton Manning, Jerry Rice, and Barry Sanders, among others, as the kid takes the ball and (in an amazing, cool, interactive moment) runs onto the live Super Bowl field to deliver the game ball to the referees.
But there is one part of the vignette which really tugs at the heartstrings. One of the many stadiums the kid runs by is in Phoenix. As he nears, he stops at the statue honoring the late Pat Tillman.
Tillman was a safety for the Arizona Cardinals who famously turned down a .6 million dollar contract shortly after 9/11, so he could serve in the military. He and his brother enlisted in the Army, and Tillman became an Army Ranger. After serving one tour in Iraq, Tillman deployed to Afghanistan, where he was killed on April 24, 2004, in a friendly fire incident.
The homage to Tillman is an emotional moment and an integral part of American history.
Everyone knows you can’t leave Marines alone to be bored. Idle hands are the devil’s plaything, and no one plays around more than Devil Dogs. If you don’t believe me, just check out Terminal Lance’s Instagram page for a few minutes. I’ll wait.
While most Marines are content to goof around in the barracks or as a group during some hurry-up-and-wait, there are some examples of Marine Corps behavior that show why you should never leave Uncle Sam’s Most Capable troops alone to their own devices. Even for a minute.
(Congressional Medal of Honor Society)
Made a personal weapon from an aircraft machine gun
While fighting in the World War II Battle of Bougainville, Cpl. Tony Stein picked up a .30 caliber ANM2 Browning machine gun from the wrecked wings of a Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber. Since he was a toolmaker before the war, he was able to refashion the aircraft weapon – which fired 1200-1500 rounds per minute – into a personal machine gun. He dubbed it “the Stinger” and later carried it into combat on Iwo Jima.
While there, Stein would clear enemy pillboxes with the Stinger, then carry a wounded Marine back to the beach as he picked up more ammunition. Stein did this eight times, and for his efforts, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. He was later killed by a sniper in the battle for Mount Suribachi – which he only joined after leaving a hospital ship.
Became a Warlord in Somalia
Remember the movie Black Hawk Down, where a group of Army Special Forces operators and Rangers attempt to capture Somali warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid in order to regain the stability of Mogadishu? It’s too bad the Army didn’t know that all they had to do was wait until 1996 when his son would rise to power.
His son, Hussein Farah Aidid, was just hanging out as a Marine Corps artilleryman in Battery B, 14th Marines at the Marine Corps Reserve base in Pico Rivera, Calif. As a matter of fact, just a few years after the events of Task Force Ranger depicted in Black Hawk Down, the younger Aidid told his reserve unit he was leaving the country for a while. And he did. He went to Somalia to prepare to take his father’s place in one of the most powerful militias in Mogadishu. When Mohammed Farah Aidid died, his son was declared his successor. The Corporal was now a General.
Sgt. Faustin Wirkus’ weekend libo is off the chain.
Became the Voodoo King of Haiti
In 1915, Sgt. Faustin Wirkus was one of many United States Marines sent into Haiti to stabilized the American-backed government from succumbing to a German-backed coup. After four years of duty in the Caribbean, the NCO was sent to La Gonâve, an island that, until he came along, no white man had ever set foot on and lived. This worked out for Wirkus because he had been curious about Gonâve for the entire time he was deployed. His first assignment there was to arrest the locals for practicing voodoo.
The local voodoo queen, Ti Memenne, had a ceremony for Faustin, which he thought was a celebration of some kind. And it was. The locals thought their old king had been reincarnated as a white man. They decided that Faustin was their new old king – and he ruled their island until the President of Haiti forced him to go home to Pennsylvania.
Howard Foote always wanted to be a fighter pilot. Sadly, when he was joining the Marine Corps, he could not qualify to be a pilot, so he settled for the next best thing: an airplane mechanic. But just because the Marine Corps said he wasn’t allowed to be one of their pilots didn’t mean he would never fly a USMC fighter. One night, the mechanic suited up, hopped in his perfectly-maintained A-4M Skyhawk, and took off into the night.
The Corps, to their credit, didn’t try to intercept Foote as he flew his way around the skies above California. Foote flew the fighter to his hearts’ content and landed safely… into the hands of the waiting police. He was sent to the stockade and served some time before being discharged. Luckily for him, it wasn’t a dishonorable one, so Foote was able to realize his dream of becoming a pilot – this time legally. For NASA.
Lots of Marines fall in love and get married to a local when they’re in the middle of their first assignment. While some aim low and take strippers or lawyers, one enlisted Marine decided that wasn’t enough. His deployment to Bahrain was going to be memorable, so he decided to marry into a local family.
The ruling Al-Khalifa family, that is.
In 1999, Lance Cpl. Jason Johnson fell in love with Meriam bint Abdullah al-Khalifa after meeting the princess at a local mall. He helped smuggle her out of Bahrain and into the United States, which is why he later faced a court-martial, not for getting married without the Corps’ consent.
Pandemic mania has set in as the country braces together (on their couches) to flatten the curve. While we’re all hoping to drop a few curves (on the international scale), our doomsday snacks are threatening to exponentially expand our waistlines.
Sticking to a militant regiment of working out might look different, but it’s not impossible. Think of it like a fun drinking game…without the drinking and a lot less fun. Here’s your new at home PT list.
Replace your Drill Sergeant with your hangry kids
Eager to replace the salty Sergeant voice still ringing in your head yelling, “Drop and give me 20?” We’ve got a solution for that — kids in quarantine. Every time you hear “I want a snack” that’s your cue to drop and pump out a quick round of push-ups, sit-ups or burpees. Believe us when we say you’ll never be in better shape.
Trips to the fridge require squats
It’s 10:27 am and you’re on your third trip to the icebox. You want to quit the snacks but the snacks are calling you. How do people ignore a perfectly good pint of ice cream all day? They do it by mandating squats for each and every trip to the fridge. Rocky road looks a lot rockier if it means a set of 50.
No ruck, no problems
Working out with a full-fledged army of children running around makes sunrise PT look a lot more attractive right about now. Need to get some miles in with munchkins around? This is what they made child carrier backpacks for. Strap ’em in and ruck on.
How to end news cycle scrolling
Doomsday news is so fascinating, it can lead to an infectious disease we’re calling “mindless scrolling.” But alas, there is a cure for getting off the couch and redirecting your tired eyeballs from the hourly updates. Next time you’re feeling the itch to peek at the latest pandemic news, require yourself to run a solid mile first. Yep, a whole mile. Give a mile, get a minute (or 60) of news coverage. If you’re a habitual news checker, you can thank us later for your new marathon-ready body.
Keep calm and drink on
We’ve said it before — military life has prepared you for this. Watching every civilian lose their s!*t right now over the government disrupting plans and telling them what to do is entertaining to say the least. We as a community know a thing or two about government mandates. For every Facebook post you see fretting over cancelled plans, take a drink…of “water.” Drinking half your bodyweight in water is a challenge no more if you follow this plan. We’re guessing you’ll be up to your mark well before noon.
When Royal Air Force pilot Sydney Cohen crash landed on the Italian-controlled island of Lampedusa in 1943, he thought he would be in for the fight of his life. Lampedusa was the home of more than 4,000 Italian troops in garrison, and all Cohen had was his service weapon to fight them.
Instead, he was in for the surprise of his life, and was crowned King of Lampedusa shortly after.
A biplane similar to the one flown by Syd Cohen.
Cohen was supposed to be headed back to his home base on Malta in a Swordfish biplane but never quite made it. The pilot was flying with his two-man crew, Sgt. Peter Tait, the navigator, and Sgt. Les Wright, the wireless operator and gunner, on a search and rescue mission over the Mediterranean Sea. Their instruments failed mid-flight and they got turned around, only to run out of fuel before realizing the island below was not Malta.
The plane had a “fit of gremlins,” as Cohen later described it. The only place he could land was on the Axis-held island of Lampedusa.
Luckily for the RAF pilot, there were no Nazis on Lampedusa, only Italians. The island had a big runway and the crew saw no option but to go in and land on it, consequence be damned. They could never reach Malta in their condition and it was better than crashing into the ocean. They also didn’t know that the Allies ran heavy bombing missions on the island. So when he crash landed on the island, it made for incredible headlines back in London. Not because of a terrific battle – it was the mass surrender of 4,300 Italians.
“As we came down on a ropey landing ground we saw a burnt hangar and burnt aircraft around us,” Cohen said. “A crowd of Italians came out to meet us and we put our hands up to surrender but then we saw they were all waving white sheets shouting, `No, no. We surrender.’ The whole island was surrendering to us.”
It’s good to be the king.
Cohen got bold and asked to see the island’s commandant. As they moved toward the commandant’s villa, another Allied air raid began. The RAF pilot began to surmise the Italians were sick of getting bombed and really were ready to surrender.
“They asked me to return to Malta and inform the authorities of their offer to surrender,” he said. “They gave me a scrap of paper with a signature on it.”
So Cohen refueled and took off for the Allied base in Tunis to give the RAF the news. Upon hearing it, the RAF, the newspapers, London society, and even the British Jewish population raved about the new “King of Lampedusa.”
The play “The King of Lampedusa” performed in London’s East End.
Cohen’s story was immediately picked up and turned into a play and a musical. Hollywood even wanted to make a movie of the event as soon as possible. News of the debacle even reached the ears of Nazi propagandists in Berlin, who threatened to give the Jews in London’s East End “a visit from the Luftwaffe.”
The real life of Sydney Cohen doesn’t have a happy ending, no matter how the play, musical, and/or feature film turned out. Cohen disappeared while flying a mission near the Straits of Dover in August 1946. Neither his body nor the wreckage of his plane were ever located and no one knows exactly what happened to him.
The Hague and international community have little remorse for convicted war criminals. Generally, there are only two sentences: death and prison. This has been the case since 1919, when the Treaty of Versailles was established. The Treaty distinguishes war crimes (acts committed under the guise of military necessity) from crimes against humanity (acts committed against the civilian population) and manages the overlap between the two.
Let’s take a look at how the international community punishes war criminals for their transgressions against humanity:
The most lenient of the punishments is never issued by The Hague, but is enforced by the country of the criminal to prevent the issue from going higher. The guilty are confined to their home instead of a traditional prison. If they are allowed outside communication or travel, it’s strictly monitored.
Notable Criminal: Pol Pot (1997 until death in 1998)
Although he was accused or directly responsible for the deaths of between 1 and 3 million people in Cambodia (which only had a population of 8 million people), Saloth Sar, later known as Pol Pot, was only ever tried for the execution of his right-hand man, Son Sen. Around 10 months into his sentence, he died of a lethal combination of Valium and chloroquine. It’s unknown if it was intentional suicide, accidental, or even murder.
Lengthy prison sentences
For most war criminals, lengthy prison sentences are the norm. Unless you’re found to be only an accessory to war crimes, sentences are typically twenty years and more. With such long imprisonments, life after release is still hell.
Notable Criminal: Charles Taylor (sentenced to 50 years in 2012)
Taylor was the deposed President of Liberia and one of the most prominent warlords in Africa. He rose to power during the First Liberian Civil War and was heavily involved in the Sierra Leone Civil War along with the Second Liberian Civil War. The presiding judge at The Hague, Richard Lussick, said at his sentencing, “The accused has been found responsible for aiding and abetting as well as planning some of the most heinous and brutal crimes recorded in human history.”
Life in prison
For the top echelon of war criminals — those too vile even for the sweet release of death — a life sentence is the punishment of choice.
Notable Criminal: Philippe Pétain (1945 until death in 1951)
Pétain was once a beloved General, the Lion of Verdun, hero of France — that was until the fall of France in 1940. He was immediately appointed Prime Minister of France and turned the Third French Republic into Vichy France, the puppet state of Nazi Germany. He willingly sided with Hitler’s agenda (including antisemitism, censorship, and the “felony of opinion”) while squashing the French Resistance.
After the fall of the Axis Powers, Pétain was was tried for treason and aiding the Nazi Regime. He was convicted of all charges and sentenced to death. Charles De Gaulle, the new President of France, commuted his sentence to life in prison because of his age and military service during WWI. He was stripped of all military ranks and honors except for the distinction of Marshal of France.
Surprisingly enough, the highest possible punishment for war crimes is also the most issued. A large percentage of those tried at the Nuremberg Trials received the death penalty — more specifically, death by hanging. The added benefit effect of death by hangings as opposed to use of firing squad is that it took an agonizing 12 to 28 minutes for war criminals to die.
Notable Criminals: Saddam Hussein (Dec. 30, 2006)
Numerous genocides, ethnic cleansings, invasions of foreign states, countless human rights abuses, and the responsibility for the deaths of up to 182,000 civilians, Saddam Hussein was, at one point, the world’s foremost war criminal. Captured by U.S.-led forces near Tikrit, Iraq in 2003, he was later handed to the Iraqi people for a lengthy trial process before he was eventually executed.
Everyone knows about the famous 4077th MASH, or Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. But if you ever wanted to see the kind of docs that Michael Bay or Jerry Buckheimer would do a movie about, look at the Air Force’s Special Operations Surgical Teams, or SOSTs.
According to the U.S. Army, a MASH unit usually had about 113 people, while a 2006 Army release about the last MASH becoming a Combat Support Hospital, or CSH, notes that the CSH has about 250 personnel.
According to the Air Force web site, the SOST is much smaller. It has six people: an ER doctor, a general surgeon, a nurse anesthetist, a critical care nurse, a respiratory therapist, and a surgical technician.
The MASH and CSH have trucks and vehicles to deliver their stuff. SOSTs only have what they can carry in on their backs. Oh, did I mention they are also tactically trained? Yep, a member of a SOST can put lead into a bad guy, then provide medical care for the good guys who got hit.
In one Air Force Special Operations Command release, what one such team did while engaged in the fight against ISIS is nothing short of amazing. They treated victims who were suffering from the effects of ISIS chemical weapon attacks, handled 19 mass casualty attacks, and carried out 16 life-saving surgical operations. A total of 750 patients were treated by these docs over an eight-week deployment.
Again, this was with just what they carried on their backs.
At one point, the team was treating casualties when mortar rounds impacted about 250 meters away. The six members of the team donned their body armor, got their weapons ready, and went back to work. Maj. Nelson Pacheco, Capt. Cade Reedy, Lt. Col. Ben Mitchell, Lt. Col. Matthew Uber, Tech. Sgt. Richard Holguin, and Maj. Justin Manley are all up for Bronze Stars for their actions.
It takes a lot to get into a SOST. You can download the application here. One thing for sure, these are the most badass folks with medical degrees!
It happens so often, it is almost routine. An aircraft is trying to take out a ground target, and moves in to drop its bombs. The bombs then leave the plane, head down to the ground, and blow the target into smithereens. That’s how it’s supposed to work, and it does.
Unless it doesn’t. The fact is, even routine operations can be risky. Refueling in flight is one of those – and that has seen its share of close calls where things have gone wrong.
The action of dropping bombs on target has its dangers, too. One very iconic series of photos from World War II shows a United States Army Air Force B-17 get hit by a bomb dropped by another B-17, shearing off the stabilizer. None of that B-17’s crew got out.
But those are not the only cases. When you are dropping millions of bombs, sometimes things go wrong. It’s particularly likely when you have a new plane or a new bomb. The Air Force had an entire office at Elgin Air Force Base known as SEEK EAGLE to certify ways to carry and drop various external stores.
The video below shows some of these close calls, where bombs and external fuel tanks don’t do what one would expect in the routine action of dropping the tanks or a bomb. Some of these look spectacular, like the clip featuring a F-111 Aardvark dropping what appears to be a fuel tank. Other scenes show the weapons hitting the planes as they head down, or missing by a matter of inches.
Think of this video as yet another reminder that even in peacetime, the risks are very great for those who defend their country.
A video has surfaced on several social media outlets including Reddit and Instagram showing a Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter releasing five air-to-ground weapons simultaneously with subsequent scenes where the weapons hit several targets precisely. The video sources go on to claim that at least one of the targets was “moving at almost 40 mph”.
The telemetry displayed in the video dates it on Nov. 28, 2018 (even though the close up on the moving target is dated Dec. 3, 2018), but the video surfaced on the internet in January 2019 (it was released by the RAF 17Sqn on Instagram). Defense expert and author Ian D’Costa told TheAviationist.com, “It’s an F-35 at NTTR (Nellis Test and Training Range), I could be wrong, but it [seems to be] dropping five Paveway IVs and hitting all five targets with GEOT (Good Effect on Target).”
There have been test drops of the Paveway IV precision guided bomb from both test F-35 aircraft and from U.S. Marine F-35Bs. However, only the British and the Saudi Arabians are currently reported to be using the Paveway IV 500-pound smart bomb operationally.
In the weapons carrying configuration shown in the new range video the F-35 is carrying the Paveway IVs in a “third day of war” configuration sometimes referred to as “beast mode” on the outside of the aircraft. The F-35 is equipped with an internal weapons bay capable of carrying munitions including air-to-air missiles and, in U.S. service, two 2,000-pound GBU-31 JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) with Mk-84 warheads.
Load carrying capability of F-35 in both low-observable “stealth” and “beast mode” for more permissive air defense environment.
When the F-35 carries all of its weapons internally it maintains its low observability or “stealth” capability. This is a critical asset during the earliest phase of a conflict when combat aircraft are operating in a non-permissive environment with threats like surface-to-air missiles, automatic radar guided anti-aircraft guns and enemy aircraft. The F-35s low observability and internal weapons bay enable it to operate with greater autonomy in this high-threat environment. Once the surface-to-air and air-to-air threat is moderated the F-35 can begin to prosecute targets using externally carried precision strike munitions that will increase the aircraft’s radar signature but are employed at a time when enemy air defenses have been suppressed and are less of a threat to aircrews.
File photo of RAF F-35B with full external bomb load of Paveway IVs.
This video is significant since it continues the trend of showcasing the F-35’s emerging capabilities, at least in a testing role. Critics of the F-35 program have often claimed the aircraft is limited in its ability to effectively operate in a hostile environment. In 2018 however, both the Israeli Air Force and the U.S. Marines employed the F-35 in different variants in combat. In the case of the Israelis, there was a persistent surface-to-air and air-to-air threat in the region where the combat operations were conducted.
Earlier in 2018 an F-35 made headlines when it intercepted two drones, or remotely piloted aircraft (RPA’s) simultaneously during a successful test using AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced, Medium Range, Air-to-Air Missiles). The two drones were simultaneously detected and killed using the F-35’s Electro Optical Targeting System or “EOTS”.
USAF Lt. Col. Tucker Hamilton, Director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force and Commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base, California, told reporters last year, “Two AMRAAMs had multiple targets – to shoot two airborne targets simultaneously. It was a complex set up that happened over the Pacific. They were shooting at drones.”
While potentially valid criticisms of the F-35 program continue, many focused on cost and maintainability of the complex weapons system, the program has scored a consistent year-long run of developmental and operational victories with only one significant setback when a U.S. Marine F-35B crashed in late September 2018. The pilot escaped that accident.
In the social media space the buzz about the F-35 took a turn last week when smartphone video of the USAF’s new F-35A Demo Team practicing at Luke AFB surfaced. Online observers expressed surprise and excitement over the maneuvers displayed in the video with one comments on social media remarking, “With this (new video) and the maneuvering GIF I’m beginning to think the F-35 might be more capable than the naysayers have been complaining about.”
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
You’ll never get a more true-to-life snapshot of the other branches than the one you get when you begin your deployment. Everyone from every branch (and occasionally every allied nation) is crammed in together in a transient barracks — also known as a “tent city.”
It doesn’t matter what type of unit you’re in, everyone gets put in the same tents and the results are hilarious. Here’s who you’ll meet in these temporary towns.
If you’re at a level where someone might accuse you of Stolen Valor while you’re deployed in Afghanistan, you might be a hyper-POG.
(Meme via /r/Army)
There’s no shame in claiming an MOS that doesn’t operate on the front lines. Your mission is just different and you’re out there doing your part, too. The playful rivalry between grunts and non-grunts is a good thing — a little banter back and forth between infantrymen and their radio operators is fun.
And then there’re the troops that give the rest of the POGs a bad name. These guys use rolling suitcases instead of duffel bags. They get upset that they’re made to drink Green Beans Coffee instead of enjoying Starbucks. They look they haven’t done PT since they left Basic. The list goes on…
Don’t expect much from the people who’ve turned their “however-long and a wake up” into just “a wake up.”
(Photo by Cpl. Darien J. Bjorndal)
The tired grunts
These transient barracks are used for both incoming personnel and for outbound troops who are more than ready to get the hell out of there.
These grunts just did their time, maybe got extended, and are this close to going home. They are completely out of f*cks to give. Honestly, it’s probably best not to mess with these guys. They’re likely contemplating mugging the Hyper-POGs who suffered through a “two-beer limit” at Manas Air Base.
It’s usually the tired grunts that spread all the hilarious lies.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
The gullible boots
These guys aren’t just the lower enlisted who’ve spent about two days in the military. This category includes anyone who acts like a boot moments before their first deployment. And man, are they fun to mess with.
They’ll ask the dumbest questions. This is when people first hear about the dreaded combat drop and how terrifying camel spiders truly are. To all you gullible folks out there, remember to take these stories with a grain of salt.
Or when Cav Scouts take their stetsons to Afghanistan and wonder why everyone is on their ass for bringing it.
(Photo by Sgt. Richard Sherba)
The “kinda-but-not-actually-a-regulation” standard bearer
The military is filled with regulations. No doubt about that. If one NCO catches a lower enlisted doing something outside of regs, like walking around with their uniform jacked up, they have every right to call them out.
That being said, every unit is different and plays by different rules when it comes to the little things. One unit may not give a damn if you walk to the showers in sandals while others might. It only becomes a problem when units collide and suddenly you’re getting grilled for doing something the way you always have.
If you thought our POGs were kept to a lower standard…
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Sean K. Harp)
The foreign ally with no professional standard
America’s allies also bunk up with our troops in tent cities. The standard bearer is probably losing their sh*t over how things are done by foreign troops.
For example, I’ve witnessed a foreign ally misplace not one, not two, but three grenades and their assigned weapon in Afghanistan. This was addressed with a casual, “meh, it happens.” Meanwhile, every American troop there just looked on in amazement as EOD got involved.
If you smell like a burn pit but have never even seen one… Take the hint.
(Photo by Cpl. Alfred V. Lopez)
The American with no hygeinic standard
Now, let’s not pretend American troops are without fault. This one goes out to every single one of the nasty motherf*ckers who thinks that showering is optional. I’d like to express this from the bottom of my heart — not just for me, but for everyone who has ever shared a tent with you: f*ck you.
If this guy doesn’t care enough to stay clean for the single week while in transit, then they’re probably not going to stay clean for the next 12 months they’ll spend with their unit.
Their beards make us even more envious…
(Photo by Senior Airman Cierra Presentado)
The contractor who won at life
Want to know who everyone really envies on a deployment? The contractors that are out there doing nearly the same mission as most troops, only for a sh*t-ton more money and countless other benefits.
You can’t even be mad at the contractors. Most of them are vets who’ve transitioned from active duty to contractor life. More than likely, they’re also probably the happiest people out there. I mean, hell, every vet says they’d kill to go back and these guys are making bank doing it.
For many years, U.S. troops have hunted our nation’s enemies under the blanket of complete darkness, scoring some impressive kills due, in part, to our outstanding ability to see at night — just ask Osama bin Laden.
Oh, wait. You can’t.
Today, you can head to a tactical store and pick up a relatively inexpensive set of NVGs for a few hundred bucks. Although many models seem to have issues with depth-of-field, cheaper night optics can still get you from A to B on a somewhat clear night.
Although this impressive piece of tech can be used by anybody, not many people look into how this technology works or how it came to be. Let’s fix that.
Despite the fact that we defeated the Germans in WWII, they can still claim credit over many important technological advancements. For example, they manufactured the first nighttime image enhancer. The concept was worked on as early as 1935 but wasn’t put in the hands of German soldiers until 1939.
However, only the most highly trained soldiers were issued this new technology to employ in night attacks. By the end of the war, Hitler’s army had also equipped nearly 50 Panther tanks with this tech. These tanks saw combat on both the Western and Eastern Fronts.
When you look into a set of NVGs, you’ll immediately notice the green display. This isn’t some arbitrary color choice on the part of the manufacturer — your eyes are more sensitive to that particular color.
When we say “sensitive,” we’re not referring to your current emotional status. It means our eyes detect this color naturally, making it easier to pick out shapes in the otherwise dark. In short, it’s easy on the eyes.
How NVGs work
The device detects low levels of light and amplifies them. You want a little more of a breakdown? Okay, let’s get scientific.
When dim light enters the NVGs, it hits an internal layer, called the “photocathode,” which releases electrons. These electrons then hit a second layer called a “micro-channel plate,” where they get multiplied before hitting the third layer, called the phosphor screen.
After passing through that layer, the electrons are converted back into light. The more electrons the device produces, the higher the image quality. Check out the video below for a full breakdown.
You can build your own set at home
Although high-quality NVGs require some real ingenuity and tech to produce, Superhero Armory built a rudimentary set using a pair of LCD sunglasses, a small night-vision camera, and some LED lights.
Each week during the season, Army West Point Football players wear a decal on the back of their helmet honoring an Army division the current cadets may one day serve with.
During Aug. 30, 2019’s season opener against Rice, the team honored the soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division with the red, white, and blue AA decal proudly displayed on the back of their helmets along with the American flag.
The commanding general and command sergeant major of the 82nd Airborne Division attended the game, the division’s chorus performed before the review parade and has become the norm over the last couple years soldiers from the division who are eligible to attend the U.S. Military Academy were invited to visit for the game.
This season marks the third year of the Soldier Visit Program where five to 10 West Point eligible soldiers from the honored division for home games are invited to attend the game and learn more about West Point.
Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division pose for a photo with their host cadets from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point after the Army vs. Rice football game at Michie Stadium Aug. 30, 2019, at West Point, N.Y.
(Photo by Cadet Samuel Wehrli)
The visits are structured much in the same way as an official visit for an athlete being recruited by one of West Point’s corps squad teams. The soldiers arrive the Thursday before the game and are paired with a prior-service cadet currently attending West Point who hosts them for the weekend. The soldiers stay in the barracks with their host cadet, attend classes and eat in the cadet mess hall.
They are also given a tour of both West Point and the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School and the chance to meet with leadership from both West Point and USMAPS.
They then attend the football game with the corps of cadets and are honored along with division leadership on the field during a break in the game.
The goal of the program is to introduce eligible soldiers, meaning those who are under 23 years old, unmarried and have no dependents, to the possibility of applying to attend West Point.
“I go out to the Army a lot and I’ll talk to command sergeant majors or sergeant first classes who are senior noncommissioned officers and they’ll be like, ‘I had no idea that West Point was an option as a soldier.’ It blows my mind,” Capt. David Mason, the soldiers regional commander and founder of the Soldier Visit Program, said.
As part of each year’s incoming class, West Point has available slots for 85 current active duty soldiers and 85 Reserve/National Guard soldiers. Typically, the full allotment of Reserve/National Guard soldiers are admitted, but less than 50 of the spots for active duty soldiers are filled, Mason said. There are also additional spots available for soldiers to attend the prep school for a year.
According to Capt. Brian Gaudette, an officer in the West Point Directorate of Admissions, on average 53% of prior service applicants are admitted to the academy, a much higher percentage than applicants coming directly from high school.
“They see it as more attainable,” Mason said of the soldiers’ reactions after visiting for a football game. “They learn more about USMAPS because people have this pie in the sky view of what a West Point cadet is, and that it is the all-star captain of the football team, and they’re on all-state and they do all these things. They don’t see themselves as that mold. I think it definitely opens their eyes.”
Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division talk to Command Sgt. Maj. Jack Love, West Point senior enlisted leader during their visit before the Army vs. Rice football game Aug. 30, 2019, at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.
(Photo by Robert Luna)
Once the soldiers return to their division, even if they don’t end up applying to West Point, the academy still gains a benefit from them telling their friends about the program and spreading the word that West Point is an option for soldiers on active duty.
Pfc. Abdiel Leon was one of 10 soldiers from the 82nd airborne Division to visit for the Rice game. Prior to being invited on the trip, he said he had heard of the prior-service program at West Point but knew next to nothing about it. In the month since being invited, and even before arriving at West Point for the visit, he’d done enough research to compel him to go ahead and apply to the academy.
“So far, after seeing all the things that I saw and all the good opportunities and the things I could do here, I’m definitely going to go through and finish that application,” Leon said. “I never even thought about West Point. I never even thought that I would be given the opportunity. So, now that I was given the opportunity just to even come here, it has definitely changed my mind a lot.”
During the trip, the 82nd Airborne Division soldiers had the chance to spend time with prior-service cadets, meet with Command Sgt. Maj. Jack Love, the senior enlisted Leader at West Point, and attend a spirit dinner in the cadet mess hall along with going to the season opener for the Black Knights.
“I plan on staying in the Army for 20 years, and there’s no better place to try to stay in than USMA,” Sgt. Levi Aslani said of why he is interested in West Point. “The connections you make here, the opportunities you make, or are given to you, no other place compares.”
Aslani applied to West Point for the Class of 2023 and after not getting in on his first try he is taking this year to improve his application with the hope of being accepted to the prep school for the next academic year. After visiting West Point for the first time, he said his desire to attend West Point has only increased.
“I paired up with a prior service E-5 as well,” Aslani said. “He was in the boat of either staying enlisted or being an officer and he chose the officer route and he’s really reaping the benefits from it.”
The visits are a chance for the soldiers to meet with current cadets who have taken the same path as them and ask questions they couldn’t get answered elsewhere. After being invited to take part in the visit, Pfc. Mackenzie Hochstetler said she talked with officers who are West Point graduates to learn more about the academy. But it was not until she arrived at the academy that she has come to realize why it is special.
“It’s definitely a place that you see a lot of competitiveness,” Hochstetler said. “A lot of times, you don’t really see that in the regular Army, but everyone wants to be the best. I think that’s a really cool atmosphere. I think that’s really important, especially being at West Point and that reputation of being a West Point grad, I kind of understand it now. Because it’s a pretty big deal. It’s pretty prestigious.”
Military simulators are always a huge hit within the gaming community. Flight simulators give gamers the opportunity to sit in a (simulated) cockpit. First-person shooters imitate the life of an infantryman. World of Warships and World of Tanks give the gearheads out there a chance to pilot their favorite vessels.
And then there’s the game that’s taken gaming world by storm lately: Fortnite. It features a 100-player, battle-royale mode that has players duke it out until only the best (or luckiest) player survives. At first glance, it seems like a standard PUBG clone — until you realize that a huge part of the game is about, as its name implies, building forts.
Underneath its goofy graphics and RNG-laden (random number generator) loot system is actually a fairly intricate game. The overall premise is simple: Land somewhere, scavenge materials to build, find loot, build stuff, fight the enemy, move toward the objective, and build more stuff.
Then, it suddenly hits you.
What separates the skilled players from the 10-year-old kiddies screaming memes into their headsets is the ability to construct a dependable, defensible position. In order to be successful in Fortnite, you have to quickly build and rebuild secure bases that can’t easily be destroyed while giving you the ability to get up high and view the battlefield.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley J. Hayes)
This is not unlike the essence of what a real combat engineer does in real life: Deploy somewhere, get hand-me-down materials from the last unit who was in Afghanistan, build stuff, fight the enemy, continue the mission, and then build more stuff.
Granted, you’re distilling an entire career into a 20-minute long video-game match, but the parallels are there — but real engineers have more fun. Building stuff is only half of the job description; using explosives to take out enemy positions is when the real fun begins.
But we can go back even further to learn how pandemics have shaped society and the outcomes of conflict.
So, let’s go back over 2400 years ago….
Pericles had the perfect plan! The Athenians moved behind the walls of the city, letting the Spartans attack across land. They would wait them out in a Fabian Strategy. Food would not be an issue because Athens could rely on its maritime imports to keep them fed. Money wasn’t a problem, because they had plenty in the bank. Meanwhile, their fleet projected combat power into Spartan territory, raiding coastal cities and shaming the Spartans. Not only would Pericles avoid fighting the Spartans on their terms, he would also sew doubt of Spartan superiority among the Peloponnesian League by attacking the “home front.” As Athens and Sparta finished the campaigning season in the first year of the war, Athens believed their strategy was working as evidenced by Pericles’ Funeral Oration.
As the second year of the war began, disease struck in Athens. The plague caught everyone by surprise, and as Thucydides points out, “there was no ostensible cause; but people in good health were all of a sudden attacked by violent heats in the head…” The plague swept through Athens killing men, women, and children, and with it came devastating effects on society. Thucydides wrote that lawlessness broke out as men watched others die and private property came up for grabs. The unforeseen disease affected Athenian will; they questioned the value of Pericles’ strategy and the war itself, ultimately sending envoys to Sparta to seek peace.
The Athenian experience with the plague should remind us of the power of the unseen. Disease can reshape society. It can influence the outcome of war. And although we have not experienced the devastating effects of contagion on a mass scale in modern times, we may only be standing in the proverbial eye of the storm.
One can argue that microscopic parasites could be placed on equal footing with geography, war, and migration in shaping the world that we know today. In Plagues and Peoples by William H. McNeill, the author traces the history of mankind, pointing out how disease proved a major factor in the trajectory of our species. First, he points out that disease served to break down communities of people, enabling them to be absorbed by larger groups. He writes that,
“Such human material could then be incorporated into the tissues of the enlarged civilization itself, either as individuals or families and small village groupings… The way in which digestion regularly breaks down the larger chemical structures of our food in order to permit molecules and atoms to enter into our own bodily structures seems closely parallel to this historical process.”
He observes that the plague led to changes in European society in the 14 and 15 centuries. In England, the Black Death of 1348-1350 led to changes in the social fabric of society, increasing wages and quality of life for serfs. McNeil even suggests that diseases in Europe created enough social upheaval that it successfully set the conditions for Martin Luther’s Reformation.
He further argues that disease set the conditions for European expansion into the New World. For example, Hernando Cortez, who had less than 600 soldiers, was able to conquer an Aztec empire of millions in the early 1500s with the help of contagion. Within fifty years of his landing, the population of central Mexico shrank to a tenth of its size. This catastrophic drop in population levels had significant impacts on religion, defense, and their society in general, paving the way for European growth in the region.
McNeill is not alone in his argument. In Bacteria and Bayonets: The Impact of Disease in the American Military History, David R. Petriello argues that contagion played a major factor in the successful colonization of North America and the American experience with war. Smallpox and other illnesses depopulated the regions surrounding the colonies, giving the settlers the space to grow.
Most Americans have heard the story of how an Indian named Squanto helped save the Plymouth settlers by teaching them planting techniques and guiding them through the peace process with surrounding tribes. However, it was disease more so than goodwill that saved the Pilgrims. The author writes, “When Squanto wandered into the Pilgrim’s’ world he did so as an exile. Had it not been for the epidemic visited his tribe…Squanto himself would not have been seeking out kindred human company.”
While the U.S. military responds to the threat of the Coronavirus, this isn’t the first time it’s battled contagions. Long ago, before we stood in lines to get way too many shots before deployments, commanders dealt with smallpox, influenza, dysentery, and venereal disease, as it affected 30% of armies up through World War I. These outbreaks, more than likely, had an impact on the outcome of key campaigns.
In the Revolutionary and Civil War, disease took important leaders out of important battles the eve of engagements. And it caused commanders to hold off on taking advantage of fleeting opportunities in both conflicts, as they had to wait for replacements to arrive. It has only been in recent history, that we have brought disease’s impact on war under control.
Vaccinations didn’t become common practice until World War II. As Petriello observes, “Whereas there were 102,000 cases of measles in World War I with 2,370 deaths, there were only 60,809 cases in World War II with only 33 deaths reported.”
Thanks to technological advances in medicine, it has been almost a hundred years since disease sat in the front row of a national security conversation. However, things are changing. We’ve seen how the Coronavirus is affecting markets, diplomacy and even troops serving abroad. Maybe it’s time we reexamined our preparedness for these outbreaks.
In the end, Pericles succumbed to the plague, and Athens lost an important leader. Those who came after him chose a different strategic path for the city, which ultimately proved costly for the Delian League. This incident during the Peloponnesian War is worth making us pause and think about the role of contagions in human history and conflict. It has wiped out cultures and set the conditions for the successful expansion of others. It has served as a significant factor in wars of the past. Finally, it may yet play a major role in world affairs again.