Being a platoon medic is one of the toughest and most rewarding jobs in the military. You are expected to go above and beyond to render care to the sick and wounded troops — under some insane environmental conditions.
Through selfless sacrifices, platoon medics create a special, lifelong bond with the brave infantryman they have the pleasure of serving alongside. Being called “Doc” by the men that trust you with their lives is an absolute privilege, but it isn’t without its drawbacks. Although the occupation has tons of upsides, these 4 downsides are tough to swallow.
Here’s some Motrin for you, and don’t forget to change your socks.
Photos by Cpl. Bryan Nygaard
You never know how much gear to bring
Medical gear can weigh a freakin’ ton. Many docs in the field carry bandages of various sizes, several bags of I.V. solution, and a few sterile surgical instruments with them as they trek through the enemy’s backyard. The problem is, there’s no surefire way to predict how much of everything you’ll need to cover your troops — especially in the event of a mass-causality situation.
Showing weakness shakes confidence
Although medics and corpsmen are only human, it’s not okay for any of them to get sick or injured. You’ll come down with something eventually, and when you do, it sucks to see the rest of the boys lose a little confidence in themselves knowing their favorite “pecker checker” is going to be out of the fight for a while.
Most grunts only want their doc to work on them, not a stranger.
“Getting some ice cream” is a phrase grunts use as a nice way to reference one of their brothers- or sisters-in-arms needing to be medevaced to a hospital.
“He’ll be okay, Cpl. Jackson just left for some ice cream.”
This term became very popular after Forrest Gump offered Lt. Dan a cone while they recovered in an American hospital in Vietnam.
HM3 Christopher Hogans treats a dog bite on a local Afghan man’s hand during a security patrol in Khowst Province, Afghanistan. The Marines and sailors of the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines is conducting security and stabilization operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
(Photo by Marine Cpl. James L. Yarboro)
Treating the enemy
Corpsmen are required, by The Gevena Convention, to treat everyone — even the bad guys — if they’re brought before them. You knew it was part of the job when you took the corpsman’s oath, but it stings to help the guy who might try to hurt you and your men later.
*Update: We reached out to Martin Grier to ask about some of the more stunning claims surrounding the rifle and heard back just after the original article went to press. We’ve updated, in bold, the muzzle velocity and fire rates below with his response.
*Second update: After another discussion with Martin Grier, the inventor of the weapon, we’ve learned that some of the reporting on the weapon’s firing action is incorrect, and we had originally repeated those incorrect claims. We’ve corrected the reporting in bold.
The Army is requesting a prototype of a personal rifle that has four bores, triggering headlines everywhere — but the bigger news might be that the manufacturer claims that it cannot jam, is electrically fired, and weighs less than today’s common weapons.
And, we’re using “bullet” here instead of “round,” the general military term, intentionally. Rounds are self-contained units with propellant, projectile, and primer. Most of them also have a case. But the L5, FD Munitions’ prototype that will feed into the Army’s requested design, uses blocks of ammo instead.
In the block ammo, a single block of composite material has multiple hollows carved out. In the case of the Army proposed prototype, it has four hollows. Each hollow is filled with propellant, a firing pin, and a bullet that is precisely aligned with a bore. When the shooter fires, an electronic charge triggers a firing pin striker, igniting the propellant, sending the bullet down the bore and towards the target.
The FD Munitions L5 rifle prototype has five bores and few moving parts. The Army has requested a four-bore version for testing.
The shooter would still typically fire one round at a time. The bores are stacked vertically as are the “blocks” of ammo. Each trigger pull typically fires the next round in sequence. When four rounds have been fired, the first “block” of ammo is ejected and the next block is loaded.
All of this allows for a system with much fewer moving parts than a traditional, all-mechanical rifle. FD Munitions claims that, since only the blocks are moving and they only move 0.5 inches at a time, the weapon has a minimized probability of jamming. And, since most of the heat of the weapon firing stays in the block, which is soon ejected, the weapon has much less chance of overheating.
The FD Munitions L5 rifle prototype fires rounds from “blocks” of ammo via electric actuation instead of a mechanical hammer.
But, of course, the Army has to test all of this before it can make a decision — hence the prototype.
We heard back from the inventor, Martin Grier, about the firing rates and velocity just after we originally went to press. Here’s what he told us about the numbers (light edits for clarity):
The velocity quote of 2,500 mph is close, with velocities of 3,400-3,600 fps. achievable with our composite Charge-Block ammunition (depending on projectile mass). The COPV (composite overwrap pressure vessel) design is much stronger than steel and can safely operate at 80k psi. The maximum theoretical rate of fire with our electronic fire control is about 6,000 shots per minute (SPM) in full-auto mode, since the pulse width is 10ms. (1/100 sec.) In burst-fire mode, That rate goes up to 7,500 spm since the pulses can be overlapped somewhat for short periods. In actual use, for a personal weapon, 4-600 spm in full-auto mode seems to be the most controllable, just as with other weapons, and in burst fire 1,800 spm is the sweet spot. Since the tech is fully scalable, in other applications, such as [Squad Automatic Weapon], or other crew-served weapons, different rates of fire may be more useful. The electronic fire control can be easily set for any rate up to the maximum.
The blocks of ammunition contain four to five bullets each and, when ejected, take a lot of the heat with them, allowing the shooter to fire more rounds before the weapon overheats.
The Army would need to verify those rates. And, it would need to know at what ranges the weapon is accurate in both standard firing and when firing four rounds simultaneously. Do the rounds affect each other in flight when traveling so close together at such high speeds?
And how much weight would a combat load be with the metal blocks? They certainly contain more material than four loose rounds would, so would an infantryman need to carry significantly more weight? And while the ejected blocks may take a lot of the heat with them, there’s still the friction of the rounds traveling down the bores with the exploding gasses to heat up the barrel. What’s the sustained rate of fire before it overheats?
While the Army digs into all the numbers and tests things like reliability and heat dissipation, the rest of us can talk about how cool it sounds. It’s like a video-game weapon come to life.
Provisions allowing Guard members to transfer some or all of their Post- 9/11 GI Bill benefits to their spouse or children are set to change, limiting the timeframe soldiers and airmen can transfer those benefits.
“You have to have a minimum of six years [in service] in order to be eligible to transfer benefits, and after 16 years you’re no longer eligible,” said Don Sutton, GI Bill program manager with the Army National Guard, describing the changes set to go into effect July 12, 2019.
The six-years-of-service rule isn’t new, said Sutton.
“You’ve always had to have a minimum of six years of service in order to transfer your Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits,” he said, adding the big change is the cutoff at 16 years of service.
“You’ll have a 10-year-window in which to transfer benefits,” he said, stressing that Guard members won’t lose the benefits after 16 years of service, just the ability to transfer them to their spouse, children or other dependents.
Soldiers and airmen from the Arizona National Guard.
“The Post-9/11 GI Bill and the transfer of benefits are two entirely different and separate programs,” said Sutton. “Even though soldiers may be ineligible to transfer benefits, they still have the Post-9/11 for their own use.”
For those interested in transferring their benefits, an additional four-year service obligation is still required.
“The [transfer of benefits] is a retention incentive,” said Sutton. “It’s designed to keep people in the service.”
Being able to transfer benefits to a dependent may have been perceived by some service members as an entitlement, said Sutton, adding that was one of the reasons for the timeframe change.
“In law, transferring those benefits has always been designed as a retention incentive,” he said.
The exact number of Guard members who may be impacted by the change wasn’t available, said Sutton, adding that among those who could be affected are those who didn’t qualify for Post- 9/11 GI Bill benefits until later in their career.
“We do have a small population of soldiers who are over 16 years [of service] before they did their first deployment,” he said.
Some Guard members who may have earned the benefits early on, but didn’t have dependents until later in their careers, may also be affected.
“They joined at 18 and now they’re 15, 16 years in and they get married or have kids later on in life,” said Sutton, who urged Guard members who plan on transferring their benefits to do so as soon as they are eligible.
“If you wait, you’re potentially going to miss out,” he said.
Some Guard members may have been waiting to transfer the benefits until their children reach college age.
Spc. Sabrina Day, 132nd Military Police Company, South Carolina National Guard, with her three-year-old son, Blake.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brad Mincey)
“There sometimes are some misconceptions that they have to wait until their kids are college age or that they’re high school seniors in order to do the transfer,” said Sutton, adding there is no age requirement to transfer Post-9/ 11 benefits to dependent children.
“As soon as a child is born and registered in DEERS [Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System], you can transfer,” he said.
After that transfer has been completed, Guard members can still make changes to how those benefits are divided between dependents or which dependent receives those benefits.
“Once the transfer is executed, and you’ve agreed to that service obligation, you can add dependents in, and you can move months around between dependents,” said Sutton. “It’s just that initial transfer has to be done before you hit 16 years of service.”
However, there is one group of Guard members who will not be affected by any of the changes: those who have received the Purple Heart since Sept. 11, 2001.
“The only rule around transferring benefits that applies [to those individuals] is you have to still be in the service to transfer them.”
Regardless of status, Sutton reiterated that Guard members are better off transferring those benefits sooner rather than later.
“Transfer as soon as you’re eligible,” he said. “Don’t miss the boat because you’ve been eligible for 10 years and you just didn’t do it.”
Many Netflix shows are short lived. With the exception of some of its earliest series, such as “House of Cards” and “Orange Is the New Black,” Netflix has a tendency to cancel shows after two or three seasons.
Ampere Analysis tracked 61 canceled TV shows between September 2018 and March 2019 across streaming and traditional TV. The report, released on April 9, 2019, found that streaming services are more likely to cancel a show early on. Original streaming shows have an average lifespan of two seasons, compared to four seasons on cable and six-and-a-half seasons on broadcast networks.
Netflix accounts for 68% of video-on-demand cancellations, and 12 of its 13 canceled shows since September 2018 were for series with three seasons or fewer, according to Ampere.
“The VoD services seem determined to drive subscriber growth through a continuous pipeline of new content, but this comes at the cost of missing out on long-running franchises like NBC’s ‘Law Order’ that keep customers coming back year after year, reducing churn,” Fred Black, an Ampere analyst, said in the report.
Season six of “Law Order.”
It’s worth noting that Netflix shows are ordered straight to series, and the streamer drops entire seasons at once. On traditional TV networks, a pilot is typically ordered first, and many shows don’t even make it past the pilot phase.
Netflix’s recent cancellations include “One Day at a Time” and its Marvel TV shows, such as “Daredevil” and “The Punisher.” Netflix canceled “One Day at a Time” in March 2019 after three seasons, saying “not enough people watched to justify another season.” It canceled its remaining Marvel shows, “The Punisher” and “Jessica Jones,” in February 2019.
Deadline reported March 2019 that Netflix sees little value in long-lasting shows, and prefers ones that run 10 episodes a season and 30 episodes total. After that, they often become too expensive to continue to invest in, unless they are a breakout hit that Netflix owns like “Stranger Things.” And the shorter the season, the easier it is for new viewers to jump into a show for the first time.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Bowe Bergdahl was Pfc. Bergdahl when he walked off his post in Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and was captured by the Taliban. Five years later, however, when the White House exchanged five Taliban detainees for his release, he was Sgt. Bergdahl.
According to the Department of Defense, prisoners of war and those under missing status continue to be considered for promotion along with their contemporaries. They must be considered for promotion to the next highest grade when they become eligible.
For enlisted, it is based on time in grade and time in service. The eligibility for officers is based on the date of rank in their current grade.
A notable story is of then-Cmdr. James Stockdale. When he was captured and sent to the Hanoi Hilton, he was the most senior POW and so was the ranking officer among the prisoners there. When Lt. Col. ‘Robbie’ Risner was also captured, he outranked Stockdale by time in grade.
Later, a newly captured naval pilot informed Stockdale of his promotion to captain, he assumed command again.
This continues for prisoners of war but stops for those on missing status when they are presumed dead under Title 37 of the U.S. Code, section 555.
This happened with 1st Lt. John Leslie Ryder. His aircraft, nicknamed “Bird Dog,” went missing during a visual reconnaissance flight during the Vietnam War on June 9, 1970.
During the flight, the crew failed to report in by radio and calls were not answered. The search could not be mounted until the next day. The search continued until the 19th to no avail. A year to the day later, Lt. Ryder was promoted to captain.
Payment is also changed from regular enlistments. Instead of being involved in DFAS, the payment is authorized by Congress and made directly through the Secretary of the Treasury, tax-free. Any earnings, leave and money, are still given to the individual at their appropriate rank and are held until return.
There is also no limit on leave accrual, meaning it is well deserved for the returning service member to take all of the leave at two and-a-half days per month.
As an Afghan-American linguist, Sgt. Zabi Abraham strives to help the two countries he loves.
Originally from Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province near the border of Pakistan, Abraham first served as a contractor to support U.S. Special Forces units.
Before and during operations, Abraham, now 35, would translate for the soldiers and share knowledge about his country’s customs and traditions.
“They respected me a lot,” he recalled, “and also gave me the chance to explain every situation to them.”
The soldiers also taught him about America, and he became interested in the opportunities it offered.
Years later, those opportunities led him on a path to U.S. citizenship. He also had the chance to return to Afghanistan, where he now serves as an advisor for one of the U.S. Army’s newest units, the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade.
Sgt. Zabi Abraham, center, an advisor with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, interprets a conversation between Lt. Col. Zachary Miller, right, the battalion commander, and an Afghan National Army officer during an Afghan-led operation near Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 16, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Sean Kimmons)
In Afghanistan, about a quarter of the labor force is unemployed and more than half of the population lives below the national poverty line, according to the most recent data provided by The World Bank.
Determined to have a better life, Abraham’s hard work as a contractor helped him be recommended for a special immigration visa. In 2013, he was approved and moved his family to the United States to start a new journey.
His first taste of America left him amazed when he and his family first stepped foot onto U.S. soil while switching planes in Chicago.
Sgt. Zabi Abraham, center, an advisor with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, speaks with Afghan soldiers during an Afghan-led operation near Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 16, 2018.
(Army photo by Sean Kimmons)
“We saw everything was very nice and very fresh. We said that this is the life,” he said, smiling.
His family chose to live in Missouri and, at first, it took some time to adapt to the American way of life.
The endless choices at megastores, a variety of pay systems (Afghanistan mainly relies on cash), and the other differences in American culture presented some challenges.
“At the beginning, it was little bit hard,” he said. “Everything was very new for us.”
Abraham and his wife also wanted to be a dual-income family, so both obtained learner’s permits so they could drive themselves around.
Although it is legal for women to drive in Afghanistan, many families restrict them from doing so due to safety concerns.
Abraham and his wife studied for the driver’s test and frequently practiced behind the wheel. Once the test came, they both passed.
“It was such a big experience and a good day for us,” he said.
Joining the Army
While things went well in his new home, his heart still longed for Afghanistan and he searched how he could help rebuild the war-torn country.
In 2015, he walked into an Army recruiter’s office and told them he once served as a linguist with U.S. soldiers. Impressed, a recruiter suggested he become an active-duty interpreter.
“My main reason was to come back and use my skill,” said Abraham, who speaks Dari and Pashto, the two most widely spoken Afghan languages.
In traditional Afghan attire, Zabi Abraham, now a sergeant with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, poses for a photo in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, in 2013.
At basic training, Abraham, still an Afghan citizen, was issued sets of the Army combat uniform along with the other trainees. When the time came to wear the uniform, he could not help but share the moment with his family.
“I was very proud and took some pictures and sent them to my family,” he said. “They were proud of me, too.”
Abraham eventually earned his citizenship and was stationed at Fort Irwin, California, where he and other interpreters helped rotational units at the National Training Center prepare for deployments.
Speaking in his native tongue, Abraham and others role-played as peaceful villagers, insurgents and even detainees to gauge how soldiers responded.
News then spread across the training base about a new unit designed to bolster the train, advise and assist mission in Afghanistan.
The more he heard about the 1st SFAB and its experienced soldiers, many of whom have been deployed to Afghanistan, the more it appealed to him.
“I wanted to be involved with such professional people,” he said.
Now based at the New Kabul Compound in the middle of the country’s capital city, Abraham is one of the most impactful advisors within the brigade’s 5th Battalion.
Often, he is at the battalion commander’s side, translating conversations between him and senior Afghan leaders.
His respectful demeanor and extensive knowledge of Afghan traditions make him a popular soldier to almost every Afghan he meets.
Zabi Abraham, right, now a sergeant with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, prepares to do the Oath of Enlistment while at a military entrance processing station.
“They see him as serving us, but also as serving them,” said Lt. Col. Zachary Miller, the 5th Battalion commander.
During important discussions, Abraham is sort of Miller’s key advisor to ensure things are not lost in translation or to pick up on cultural cues.
“It’s the word choice they are choosing. It may be the way they did or did not answer a certain question,” Miller said. “So, if you got a really quality cultural advisor and interpreter, like we do with Sgt. Abraham, he will stop you from asking a question that is not the right time to ask.”
When the time is right, Abraham will ask those sensitive questions in private to support the mission.
“Even if you get trained on the Dari language,” Miller said, “you’ll never be able to pick up on those things if you’re not a native speaker.”
Wearing the same combat gear as every American soldier over here, Abraham also surprises Afghans when he speaks in their language.
“They don’t realize because I’m in full kit, but after I speak with them they realize I am Afghan,” he said, laughing. “I tell them about the service I provided when I was a linguist with them and right now how I support both countries.
Zabi Abraham, now a sergeant with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, poses for a photo with his wife and two children during a trip to San Diego.
“They are appreciative of my service.”
With his unit’s deployment ending this month, Abraham recently spoke of where his career may go next.
If his family approves — most importantly his wife and two young children — he would like to retire as a soldier.
“Without their support, I could not do anything and achieve my goal here in Afghanistan,” he said. “They are part of my heart.”
Another part of his heart belongs to Afghanistan.
Abraham is in the process of completing his bachelor’s degree and raising his test scores to perhaps re-class to 35P, a cryptologic linguist. That job deals with identifying foreign communications using signals equipment.
Even if he does switch careers, Abraham aspires to be halfway across the world again helping his native country.
“My hope is that one day there is peace in this country,” he said.
Firefighters battle a fire aboard the US Navy amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. John J. Mike)
A devastating fire continues to spread throughout the US Navy amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard, a US Navy official revealed in an update Monday, over 24 hours after the ship burst into flames.
Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck, the commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 3, told reporters that the fire, which is believed to have originated in the lower vehicle storage area, has damaged the superstructure, collapsed the masts, and spread to the bow.
Sobeck said at the moment it is believed that there are two decks standing between a fire as hot as 1,000 degrees in some places and about 1 million gallons of fuel, but he said that while the risk of the fire reaching the fuel was “absolutely a concern,” the response team would “make sure” the fire does not reach the fuel.
With all the water that has been dumped onto the ship, the Bonhomme Richard is listing on its side. Navy helicopters alone have dumped 415 buckets of water on the ship.
And a total of 57 people, including 34 sailors and 23 civilians, have suffered injuries, such as smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion. Five remain in the hospital.
He added: “We’re just going to get right back at it once we get this thing contained and put out.”
On Monday, he reiterated that he remained hopeful.
There are more than 400 sailors battling the blaze aboard the Bonhomme Richard. “We’re doing everything we can,” the admiral said, adding that the Navy responders would “make every effort to save the ship.”
Firefighters battle a fire aboard the US Navy amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christina Ross)
‘Hell in a very small space’
The ongoing fight aboard the ship is intense. “Shipboard fires are enormously hard to fight,” retired Adm. James Stavridis, a former NATO commander, wrote on Twitter Monday.
“Having been through a couple, I can tell you they are hell in a very small space,” he said. With temperatures as high as they are in some places on the ship, sailors are rotating in and out on 15-minute firefighting shifts.
The specific cause of the fire is unknown and will likely remain unknown until the fire can be extinguished.
The ship was undergoing maintenance at Naval Base San Diego when the fire ignited.
“At least some, if not all of, the major firefighting systems are tagged out for maintenance,” retired US Navy Capt. Earle Yerger, the former commander of the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan, told Insider. Sobeck confirmed that the Halon fire-suppression system was not active.
Furthermore, “in the yards, you have multiple cables, wires, and hoses running straight through passageways,” he said. “As a result, you can’t close the fire doors. Once [the fire] got seeded and got going, there is no way to contain it. It was like a chimney all the way up to the island.”
Yerger added that limited manning may have also hindered the crew’s early ability to fight the fire, saying that had the ship been at sea with a full crew, they would have likely had it under control in less than an hour. At the time of the fire, there were only 160 people on the ship.
While Sobeck has expressed optimism the ship could be saved, Yerger said the ship was likely too far gone.
“You’re not going to fix it,” he told Insider, adding that the ship’s future probably involved being towed out and sunk to a “deep point in the ocean.”
“Build a new America-class and call it a day. This ship is 23 years old. You’d be better off to start fresh,” he said, referring to the newer amphibs replacing the Wasp-class vessels. “Just let it go.”
In the early months of 1943, the USS Wahoo was on its third war patrol when the sub and its crew found themselves under the new leadership of Lt. Commander Dudley Morton after relieving Marvin Kennedy from his duty.
After serving in the Asiatic Fleet, the Kentucky native and Naval Academy graduate recognized that many of the submarine skippers weren’t as aggressive as he felt they needed for certain victory.
Highly motivated to prove his worth, Morton sailed his crew to New Guinea’s Wewak Harbor to attack a Japanese Destroyer. After firing five torpedoes at the enemy vessel and missing, the Japanese ship began to charge the Wahoo at full-speed.
Morton prepared his sailors and instructed them to remain calm. Once the enemy destroyer was within an 800-meter range, Morton once again ordered his crew to fire a torpedo, which resulted in a direct hit.
The Wahoo would sink four additional ships before heading back to home base, Pearl Harbor.
After a brief period back at Pearl Harbor to reload, the Wahoo set sail for the Sea of Japan and sank four other ships in the first week of October — bringing the tally up to 19.
It’s reported that on Oct. 11th, the Wahoo was hit by Japanese depth charges and aerial bombs, which damaged Morton’s submarine and caused her to sink near the near La Pérouse Strait — killing everyone on board.
Morton was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Navy Cross for his work as USS Wahoo’s skipper.
North Korea isn’t turning a lot of people away from military service. Men are universally drafted for service around age 17. If you’re in the political elite, chances are good your kids are safe. The same goes for the opposite end of the spectrum. The lowest castes of the Korean hierarchy are also exempt – why would they fight for a system that hates them?
For women, the system is much, much different. The process is a little more selective and can be unsurprisingly horrifying.
It can always get worse.
Women are stationed exclusively with other women, sleeping 30 to a barracks. Like in U.S. military basic training, they sleep in bunk beds with only a cabinet to hold their belongings. Their cabinets, however, also contain small photos of the leaders of North Korea. Lee So-yeon, a North Korean defector whose job was to infiltrate the south and relay artillery coordinates in the event of a war, had photos of deceased ex-President Kim Il-Sung and then-living Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il.
When she first arrived to her duty station in the early 1990s, the chow halls actually had menus of food items to choose from. In reality, they were just for show. The troops got bowls of rice with bits of corn. For special events, they would get bits of meat and little candies. Troops like Lee would slip into apple orchards to steal their fill.
Still, life among the troops was a proud life. War with the U.S. and South Korea is the paradise on earth they are promised from day one. Then there are other, less traditional positions.
Especially for North Korea’s Harvey Weinstein over here.
The North’s founding leader Kim Il-Sung created a women’s pleasure squad, the kippumjo. The pleasure squads, sole job was to perform for the Leader, the leadership of the Korean Workers Party, and even sometimes the country’s honored guests. The 2,000-strong unit was said to have been disbanded by Kim Jong-Un after his father, Kim Jong-Il, died in 2011.
One member of this unit was Mi Hyang, who provided an incredible trove of information on Kim when she defected to the South years ago. She described a much different man than the propaganda made him out to be. She was recruited based on her looks and her height. Kim Jong-Il was very short, so any woman over 5’5″ was excluded. Like any other conscript, she was recruited in high school. Officers visited her school and took the prettier girls aside, asking if they’d ever been with a man and inspecting their bodies for scars and blemishes.
Are we creeped out yet? Here’s how their service ends.
After they’re drafted, they trained for six months before being interviewed by the Dear Leader, who would then decide if he liked them. If he did, they could serve him until they turned 25, a period of ten years.
Other conscripts must now serve until age 30 but get none of the benefits of the kippumjo, like new appliances and a ,000 stipend. No one knows if the unit exists in any form under Kim Jong-Un. For the regular Army, their lives were dirty (they had no real ways to clean themselves, save for a garden hose that was sometimes filled with frogs), and a bed made of rice casings, only to wake up and perform the manual labor of cooking and cleaning.
If thousands of U.S. servicemen went missing in action over 10 years of combat, it would surely be the biggest political issue of our day.
And it was after the end of the Vietnam War.
Well into the 1980s, it was a sore point for politicians and others from all walks of life. A few enterprising Americans took matters into their own hands – once even funded by Dirty Harry himself.
American troops these days might have a hard time imagining 2,494 missing U.S. troops. But for Vietnam-era veterans, the idea is all too real. Years after the war ended and Saigon fell to the Communists, the American public was still divided over the thought – and what to do about it.
As of 1983, the Pentagon was still telling reporters at the Boston Globe that it couldn’t rule out the possibility of Vietnam War POWs left behind in Southeast Asia. After a reported 480 firsthand sightings of POWs after the fall of Saigon in 1975, many POW families and members of the veteran community were convinced the American government was just “sweeping it under the rug.”
That’s when an ex-Green Beret named Bo Gritz gained fame. Gritz is said to have made multiple incursions into Laos to find the alleged missing and prisoners. Gritz was also convinced there were American prisoners in Southeast Asia. If there were, he was determined to take the issue out of the political area and turn Indochina into a new battlefield if necessary – anything to get those troops back home.
According to the Boston Globe, the 44-year-old veteran soldier interviewed ex-POWs who were repatriated at the end of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. He was even given access to American intelligence reports on the issue. His conclusion was to form a team of ex-Green Berets to go to Laos and find these men.
Gritz’ plan was to link up with Laotian anti-Communist resistance fighters under the command of a Laotian general who sided with the Americans during the Vietnam War. He also commanded 40,000 troops as part of a secret CIA Army in Laos. According to the CIA, the effort was funded primarily through actor-director Clint Eastwood, who even informed President Reagan of Gritz’ plan (though the White House disputed the Reagan conversation).
The February 1983 rescue effort failed to return with any firsthand or photographic evidence of POWs or movement of POWs in Laos. By this time the hunt for POWs became a “growth industry” in Thailand. Nothing was found of the 568 missing troops thought to be in Laos. Even worse, Gritz’ other missions became a publicity stunt.
What was supposed to be a two-week incursion was halted after 72 hours when the group was ambushed by guerrillas from another faction. They retreated back into Thailand where they were arrested for possessing advanced radio equipment. Two Lao soldiers were killed and one American was captured.
The end result was one more American captured in Indochina and the movie “Uncommon Valor,” starring Gene Hackman. The film was based on notes taken by Gritz during his “rescue mission” to Laos.
No one has ever claimed that life aboard a U.S. Navy ship was luxurious. Even on the most advanced warships on the planet life can still be cramped. Though today amenities are much improved, the sailors patrolling the oceans in World War II had a much different life than their modern counterparts.
For one thing, the submarines of World War II were much smaller. Though only about 60 feet shorter than a modern submarine, the Gato and Balao-class submarines the U.S. Navy operated in World War II had a displacement of only about one third that of modern Virginia class submarines.
In that small space, the submariners — some 60 to 80 in all — had to store themselves, their gear, and provisions for 75 days.
A submarine of that size simply could not fit all of the necessary provisions for a long war patrol in the appropriate spaces. To accommodate, the crew stashed boxes of food and other things anywhere they would fit — the showers, the engine room, even on the deck until there was space inside to fit it all.
There was one upside though. Because of the dangerous and grueling nature of submarine duty, the Navy did its best to ensure that submariners got the best food the Navy had to offer. They also found room to install an ice cream freezer as a small luxury for the crew.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t much time or space to enjoy that food. Most of the time the men were lucky to get ten minutes to eat as the boat’s three “shifts” all had to pass through the tiny galley in a short amount of time.
The serving of food was often times also dictated by restrictions on the submarines movements. Submarines were under strict orders not to surface during the day when they were within 500 miles of a Japanese airfield in order to avoid aerial observation and attack. In the early days of the war in the Pacific this meant just about everywhere as the Japanese were in control of vast swaths of territory and ocean.
This meant that the submarines stayed submerged during the day and only surfaced at night. In order to compensate, many crews flipped their schedules doing their normal daily routines at night. The crews called this “going into reversa.” This allowed the crew to take advantage of the time the sub was on the surface.
This was important because once the submarine dove after running its diesel engines for hours, the boat would quickly heat up. The engine room temperature could soar to over 100 degrees before spreading throughout the sub. Combine that with the 80 men working and breathing and the air inside could quickly become foul.
The men knew the air was getting bad when they had trouble lighting their cigarettes due to the lack of oxygen (oh the irony).
To make matters worse, there was little water available for bathing and on long patrols most men only showered about every ten days or so. Laundry was out of the question. Because of these conditions submarines developed a unique smell – a combination of diesel fuel, sweat, cigarettes, hydraulic fluid, cooking, and sewage.
On older submarines, the World War I-era S-boats — often referred to as pigboats — the conditions were even worse. Without proper ventilation, the odors were even stronger. This also led to mold and mildew throughout the boat as well as rather large cockroaches that the crews could never quite seem to eradicate.
If the conditions themselves weren’t bad enough, the crews then had to sail their boats into hostile waters, often alone, to attack the enemy.
Submarines often targeted shipping boats, but sometimes would find themselves tangling with enemy surface vessels. Once a sub was spotted, the enemy ships would move in for the kill with depth charges.
Of the 263 submarines that made war patrols in World War II, 41 of them were lost to enemy action while another eleven were lost to accidents or other reasons. This was nearly one out of every five submarines, making the job of submariner one of the most dangerous of the war.
A further danger the submarines faced was being the target of their own torpedoes. Due to issues with the early Mk. 14 torpedo that was used, it had a tendency to make a circular run and come back to strike the sub that fired it. At least one submarine, the USS Tang, was sunk this way.
On special missions, submarines landed reconnaissance parties on enemy shores, and in a few cases used their 5″ deck guns to bombard enemy positions.
The bravery of the submarines was well-known in World War II. Presidential Unit Citations were awarded 36 times to submarine crews. Seven submarine skippers were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions at sea.
American submariners in World War II set a tradition of duty and bravery that is carried on by American submarine crews today.
The U.S. withdrawal from a landmark 1987 nuclear arms treaty could make the world “more dangerous” and force Moscow to take steps to restore the balance of power, senior Russian officials said as U.S. national security adviser John Bolton held talks on the issue in Moscow.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov issued words of warning on Oct. 22, 2018, two days after President Donald Trump declared that the United States would withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty.
European allies of the United States also expressed concern, and the European Union’s executive commission urged Washington and Moscow to negotiate to “preserve this treaty.”
Peskov said Russia wants to hear “some kind of explanation” of the U.S. plans from Trump’s national-security adviser, John Bolton, who is meeting with senior officials in Moscow on Oct. 22-23, 2018.
“This is a question of strategic security. And I again repeat: such intentions are capable of making the world more dangerous,” he said, adding that if the United States abandons the pact and develops weapons that it prohibited, Russia “will need to take action…to restore balance in this area.”
President Donald Trump’s national-security adviser, John Bolton.
(Photo by Eric Bridiers)
“Any action in this area will be met with a counteraction, because the strategic stability can only been ensured on the basis of parity,” Lavrov said in separate comments. “Such parity will be secured under all circumstances. We bear a responsibility for global stability and we expect the United States not to shed its share of responsibility either.”
The INF treaty prohibits the United States and Russia from possessing, producing, or deploying medium-range, ground-launched cruise missiles with a range of between 500 kilometers and 5,500 kilometers.
Peskov repeated Russian denials of U.S. accusations that Moscow is in violation of the treaty, and said that the United States has taken no formal steps to withdraw from the pact as yet.
Bolton on Oct. 22, 2018, met with his Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Putin’s Security Council, and then headed into a meeting with Lavrov at the Russian Foreign Ministry that was described by the Kremlin as a ‘working dinner.”
Bolton was expected to meet with Putin on Oct. 23, 2018.
Russian Security Council spokesman Yevgeny Anoshin said Bolton and Patrushev discussed “a wide range of issues [involving] international security and Russian-American cooperation in the sphere of security.”
Ahead of the meetings, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov also said Russia hopes Bolton will clarify the U.S. position on the treaty.
Nikolai Patrushev and Vladimir Putin.
Earlier, Ryabkov said a unilateral U.S. withdrawal from the INF would be “very dangerous” and lead to a “military-technical” retaliation — wording that refers to weapons and suggests that Russia could take steps to develop or deploy new arms.
Both France and Germany also voiced concern.
French President Emmanuel Macron spoke to Trump on Oct. 21, 2018, and “underlined the importance of this treaty, especially with regards to European security and our strategic stability,” Macron’s office said in a statement on Oct. 22, 2018.
Many U.S. missiles banned by the INF had been deployed in Europe as a bulwark against the Soviet Union, but Macron’s remark underscores what analysts says would be resistance in many NATO countries to such deployments now.
European Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic told reporters that the United States and Russia “need to remain in a constructive dialogue to preserve this treaty and ensure it is fully and verifiably implemented.”
The German government regrets the U.S. plan to withdraw, spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Oct. 22, 2018, adding that “NATO partners must now consult on the consequences of the American decision.”
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said a day earlier that Trump’s announcement “raises difficult questions for us and Europe,” but added that Russia had not convincingly addressed the allegations that it had violated the treaty.
China criticized the United States, saying on Oct. 22, 2018, that a unilateral withdrawal would have negative consequences and urging Washington to handle the issue “prudently.”
“The document has an important role in developing international relations, in nuclear disarmament, and in maintaining global strategic balance and stability,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said when asked about Trump’s comments.
U.S. officials have said Russia has been developing such a missile for years, and Washington made its accusations public in 2014.
Russia has repeatedly denied the U.S. accusations and also alleged that some elements of the U.S. missile-defense systems in Europe were in violation of the agreement. Washington denies that.
The INF, agreed four years before the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, was the first arms-control treaty to eliminate an entire class of missiles.
“Russia has not, unfortunately, honored the agreement. So we’re going to terminate the agreement and we’re going to pull out,” Trump told reporters on Oct. 20, 2018, during a campaign stop in the state of Nevada.
The United States is “not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons [when] we’re not allowed to,” Trump said.
The announcement brought sharp criticism from former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who signed the treaty in 1987 with U.S. President Ronald Reagan.
General Secretary Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan signing the INF Treaty in the East Room of the White House.
Gorbachev, 87, told the Interfax news agency that the move showed a “lack of wisdom” in Washington.
“Getting rid of the treaty is a mistake,” he said, adding that leaders “absolutely must not tear up old agreements on disarmament.”
Reactions were mixed in the West.
In Britain, Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson said his country stands “absolutely resolute” with Washington on the issue and called on the Kremlin to “get its house in order.”
U.S. Senator Rand Paul (Republican-Kentucky), criticized Bolton, and said on Fox News that he believes the national-security adviser was behind the decision to withdraw from the treaty.
“I don’t think he recognizes the important achievement of Reagan and Gorbachev on this,” Paul said.
Bolton has been a critic of a number of treaties, including arms-control pacts.
Many U.S. critics of Trump’s promise to withdraw say that doing so now hands a victory to Russia because Moscow, despite evidence that it is violating the treaty, can blame the United States for its demise.
Aside from the INF dispute, other issues are raising tensions between Moscow and Washington at the time of Bolton’s visit, including Russian actions in Ukraine and Syria as well as alleged Kremlin interference in U.S. elections.
Lavrov said on Oct. 22, 2018, that Russia would welcome talks with the United States on extending the 2010 New START treaty, which limits numbers of Russian and U.S. long-range nuclear weapons such as intercontinental ballistic missiles, beyond its 2021 expiration date.
Meanwhile, Peskov, when asked to comment on remarks Putin made on Oct. 18, said Russian president had stated that Moscow would not launch a nuclear strike unless it was attacked with nuclear weapons or targeted in a conventional attack that threatened its existence.
Note that when writing “Veterans Day,” there is no apostrophe. It’s not a day that belongs to veterans, it’s a day for the country to recognize veterans – all of them.
The United States has a tradition of recognizing those who fight in its wars. Memorial Day began as a way for Union soldiers who fought in the Civil War to decorate the graves of their fallen comrades (the day was originally called Decoration Day). Eventually, it would come to recognize all Americans troops killed in action.
Veterans Day was born from the trenches of World War I. The horrors of that war spurred not just Americans but most combatants to recognize those who fought in that terrible conflict.
In America, the anniversary of the war’s end became known as Armistice Day. After the brutal fighting of World War II and Korea, Armistice Day became Veterans Day.
The United States certainly isn’t the only country to experience the devastation a war can take on its population (and especially on those who fight that war). A few others take a day to recognize the significance of those who serve.
1. Australia and New Zealand
The land down under celebrates it veterans on what is known as ANZAC Day, on April 25. The day marks the anniversary of the first major military action from Australia and New Zealand Army Corps during World War I, the Battle of Gallipoli, against the Ottoman Turks. The first ANZAC Day was in 1926 and was later expanded to include the World War II veterans.
These days, ANZAC Day begins at dawn, with commemorations at war memorials and reflections on the meanings of war.
Since 1928, Belgium recognized its fallen on Armistice Day with the “Last Post” ceremony. A bugler calls out the “Last Post,” noting the end of the day (a British song, similar in effect to the modern U.S. Army “retreat”). Poppies are spread out from the tops of the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium.
The French also recognize Armistice Day on Nov. 11. The country throws military parades and its people wear black or dark clothing.
While Denmark was officially a neutral country in WWI, it doesn’t share the Nov. 11 remembrance with other Western European countries. Instead, Denmark honors living and dead troops from any conflict on its Flag Day, Sep. 5th.
Volkstrauertag is a day honoring the nation’s war dead on the Sunday closest to Nov. 16. The German president speaks to the assembled government and then the national anthem is played just before “Ichhatt’ einen Kameraden” (“I had a comrade”).
Since 1963, Yom Hazikaron, or “Day of the Memory,” has been Israel’s day for celebrating its fallen troops and for those who died in terrorist attacks and politically-motivated violence. It’s traditionally held on the 5th of Ivar (on the Hebrew calendar) but will be held in the preceding days to avoid falling on Shabbat.
Italy also celebrates its veterans with the marking of the end of World War I. Since Italy spent the bulk of the war fighting the Austro-Hungarian Empire and peace on the Italian Front was separate from the rest of the Western Front, the end of the war – and Italy’s veterans – are celebrated on Nov. 4.
8. The Netherlands
Veteranendag, recognizing everyone who served in the country’s military, happens on the last Saturday in June. The celebration has gained importance since the country began deploying to Afghanistan. Celebrations include a ceremony in front of the King of the Netherlands in the Hall of Knights, a parade in The Hague, and a meeting between veterans and civilians at the Malieveld, a National Mall-type area in The Hague.
As a member of the Commonwealth, Nigeria originally shared Nov. 11 as Remembrance Day but changed it to Jan. 15th to commemorate the end of the Nigerian Civil War in 1970.
Veterandagen is celebrated every May 8, coinciding with the World War II Victory in Europe Day. Norway’s observation of the day is recent, as they’ve only been celebratingit since 2011.
The Swede celebrate their veterans and those who served as UN Peacekeepers every May 29 with a large ceremony in Stockholm, attended by the Swedish Royal Family.
12. The United Kingdom and the Commonwealth
Those watching the news or sporting events on BBC or CBC may have noticed a red, flower-looking device on the lapels of the announcers. Those are poppies worn for Remembrance Sunday. For the month or so leading up to Nov. 11, Great Britain and the Commonwealth countries wear poppies to remember those who died in war. Wear of the poppy actually started with an American school teacher, but became a symbol of WWI because of the poem “In Flanders Field” by John McCrae.