The U.S. Army Recruitment Command has always struggled to find new and innovative ways to connect with the ever-evolving youth. A poster of Uncle Sam saying he “wants you for the U.S. Army” may have worked wonders for one generation, but in 2002, young adults needed something new. The answer was a video game: America’s Army.
Conceived by Colonel Casey Wardynski, the Army’s Chief Economist and a professor at West Point, the idea was to provide the public with a virtual soldier experience that was engaging, informative, and entertaining. Wardynski felt that the best way to convey this was through the booming video-game market.
America’s Army approached the market in a pretty unique way (by 2002 standards). First of all, it was completely free to play — all it required to get started was an internet connection. The game was developed, published, and distributed entirely within the U.S. Army and was built upon the Unreal Engine.
The next major selling point was the game’s realism. When the first iteration of America’s Army was released, many of its competitors were over-the-top action games, like Grand Theft Auto: Vice City or 007: Nightfire. Others popular titles of the time, like Splinter Cell or Ghost Recon, portrayed the military in a fun but unrealistic manner.
America’s Army went in a different direction. It put a heavy emphasis on little things. The focus was on immersion rather than spectacle. The game’s tutorial, for example, placed you with a virtual Drill Sergeant and gave pointers on real-world weapon etiquette — things more important to real life than to the game itself. The game also focused on the Army’s seven core values.
Realism wasn’t just about details, though — it was about gameplay. For example, being shot in the leg would make your character go limp and slug around. The game even went into great depth regarding practical medical aid lessons, and has since been credited with saving lives after a player remembered skills developed in-game as he approached a horrific car accident.
Above all, the game was enjoyable. It’s hard to find accurate recruitment numbers related to the game as it was released on the first 4th of July following the September 11th attacks, but the game was highly decorated within the gaming community and even earned Computer Gaming World Magazine’s Editor’s Choice Award in 2002.
Well, here’s your sobering thought for the day: The War on Terror has officially turned seventeen years old today, which also happens to be the minimum age required to enlist in the armed services. Take that as you will — it’s neither a good nor a bad thing. It’s simply a thing.
For troops in earlier wars, the circumstances were a little more straightforward. We declared war against our enemies (or the enemies of our allies) and the resulting conflict ended when one side conceded or declared victory. A war against an insurgency, however, is inherently different. There isn’t a clear opposition over which to declare victory.
But that’s neither here nor there. The fact is, an entire generation of kids that learned of the attacks on the World Trade Center from history books instead from live television — in much the same way as we learned of the events of the American Cold War — is now capable of raising their right hand and taking an oath of enlistment.
You know those troops are going to get mocked relentlessly — or just make all the senior NCOs depressed.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
The official rules of enlistment state that someone must be a U.S. citizen or resident alien, must be 17 years of age with parents’ consent or 18 without, must have a high school diploma (with very few exceptions), and must pass a physical medical exam.
While it’s not uncommon to receive a high school diploma at the age of 16, it’s unlikely that such an early achiever would apply their child-prodigy skills by enlisting as a young private when nearly any university would snatch them up in a heartbeat. However, if an applicant is from one of the seven states that 16-year-olds to test for a GED, can manage to swing a slot reserved for GED-holders, and they pass the ASVAB, well, they’ll officially be the first post-9/11 baby to serve in the post-9/11 military.
They’ll get their chance again, if the war on terror doesn’t end within the next two years…
(U.S. Marine Corps)
It’s a fairly tough pill to swallow — a kid enlisting to serve in a war they were born into — but it’s not the only significant milestone. There are some troops who have enlisted and served into retirement, all in support of the Global War on Terror.
That’s right, troops who opted into the early retirement system that allowed troops who’ve served for over 15 years to take an early exit could have started and ended their career fighting the same insurgency. The program ended last December, but a handful of troops who enlisted right after 9/11 managed to squeeze into that “early out.”
There’s no word yet when the first post-9/11 baby will fill in the ranks, but I’m sure there will be plenty of pomp and circumstance around their enlistment. We’ll just have to wait and see.
In this age of smartphones and social media, we often get unprecedented access to events that we normally would have just read about in a paper long ago. Many of us have seen videos of combat in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and countless other places. We see the perspective of our enemies as they strap on Go-Pros and launch attacks. We see camera footage of Special Forces carrying out operations. We see airstrikes from drones and watch enemy bodies get turned to hamburger meat by attack helicopters.
For older conflicts, however, we usually see sanitized footage released by the government or newsreels that were edited with sound effects added. But have you ever wondered what it sounded like to storm the beaches of Iwo Jima?
Well, now you can hear it for yourself. Audio from the actual Iwo Jima landings can be heard here.
In it, we hear two Marine Corps Correspondents give a ‘play by play’ as the Marines head toward the beach. The first person identified as one Sgt. Mawson of the 4th Marine Division goes first.
As gunfire sounds around him, Mawson is on board a landing craft en route to the beach. He sees Marines being tossed into the air from mortar and artillery fire and states the beach ‘seems to be aflame.’ As the landing craft clears the warships, he heads straight to the beach. As he gets closer, he can see a tank already aflame. When they are only a couple of hundred yards out, he can see Marines moving up and down the beach through wrecked vehicles. He makes reference to the abandoned Japanese navy ships that were left to corrode on the beach, a sign of the decimation the Japanese Imperial Navy experienced in early battles like Midway.
The second Marine is not known by name. However, his words are even more grave than the first correspondent as his audio conveys his arrival on the black sands of Iwo Jima.
He starts at the line of departure and about 2000 yards from shore. He states that the beach ‘looks to be practically on fire.’ In the fog of war, he reports that casualties in the first wave are light. We know now that the Japanese allowed the Marines on the island and opened up once most of the first waves were settled on the beach. It seems like this correspondent can see the Japanese attack, but the severity is not known to him yet. He tells us he sees dive bombers strafing enemy positions.
Then, upon fully seeing the absolute carnage on the beach, he has a very human moment. He talks about his wife and daughter back home. He wonders aloud if they are alright and then wishes that he would be able to go back home to them.
Many of us who have been overseas have had this moment when you have a firm vision of your own mortality and immediately think of your loved ones back home. Through his professional demeanor, it’s a human and heartbreaking moment.
As the craft gets closer, he observed machine gun fire coming down from Mt. Suribachi aimed at his craft, although for the moment, they are out of range.
The landing craft grounds on the beach, and the ramp goes down, and a machine gun goes off. You hear in the background, ‘what the hell was that?’ and wonder if some poor soul had a negligent discharge (although I am sure a few minutes later, no one cared).
As he wades ashore, he mentions that the water is so high that his pistol gets wet as he trudges ashore. He starts giving a matter of fact description of the beach and its make-up before coming back to what he is doing. The gunfire gets louder.
He yells ‘spread out!’ as he and his stick get closer to the beach. You can hear incoming fire around him as he very calmly explains his situation. He states so far that no one around him has been hit, and you can hear a dive bomber flying overhead.
But unfortunately, as we know now, Iwo was not to be an easy operation.
He sees his first casualty, a Marine who is being evacuated. He then sees other Marines being hit by enemy fire, and his voice starts to dampen from the gravity of the situation. About 100 feet from the beach, we hear him as he sees more casualties. He sees a Marine lying on his back with ‘his blood pouring into the water.’ He is very calm as there are fire and death all around him.
Upon coming ashore, he is surprised to see that the Marines are still on the beach. He sees that the first waves are bogged down from the fire and sand. This was exactly the plan of the Japanese commander, and from the sound of the recording, it was initially very successful at bogging down the Marines and inflicting heavy losses.
The next thing he says tells of a courage that all Marines know of and admire. He talks of corpsman walking up and down the beach, seemingly unaffected by the incoming fire, checking up and down to make sure everyone who needs it, is being treated. Gotta love those Docs!
The recording ends with the correspondent headed toward the first wave as more Marines come in the waves behind him.
As we know now, what was supposed to be an easy landing and week-long battle turned into one of the bloodiest battles in World War II. Over 6,000 Marines died bravely to take Iwo Jima.
If anything, these recordings document a small part of their heroic journeys and horrible ordeals.
Hollywood tends to get military life wrong — and portrayals of helicopter pilots in the Vietnam War are no exception. Despite what you’ve seen in movies, daily operations didn’t always involve pulling troops from a hot landing zone or going in with guns and rockets blazing — and it wasn’t always done in a Huey, either.
In fact, while it’s best-known for playing a key role in Operation Enduring Freedom, the CH-47 Chinook saw a lot of action in the Vietnam War. This helicopter has served with the Army for over half a century and year and is still going strong — new variants, the CH-47F and MH-47G, are rolling off the production lines as we speak!
CH-47 Chinooks and UH-1 Hueys load troops during Operation Crazy Horse. Over 30,000 troops were moved into difficult terrain in that 1966 operation.
(US Army photo)
For a lot of helicopter pilots, especially those who flew the CH-47A, CH-47B, and CH-47C models of the Chinook, the Vietnam War was mostly about moving cargo from one part of the operating theater to another, often hauling upwards of 7,000 pounds of cargo inside its cavernous cabin. The Chinook has a history of doing precisely that, whether in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Desert Storm, or any number of peacetime operations.
In Vietnam, CH-47s were also used to recover planes and helicopters. These would often be taken back to repair depots, like USNS Corpus Christi Bay (T ARVH 1). Chinooks were also often used for moving artillery pieces — and their crews and ammo — to new locations. It was faster and safer than going by ground, even though the helicopters sometimes found themselves overloaded by troops. In 1966, the Chinook made a name for itself during Operation Crazy Horse, during which over 30,000 troops were transported by chopper into very difficult terrain.
A CH-47F in Afghanistan. The latest versions of the Chinook carry three times as much cargo as the ones that flew in Vietnam.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Nathan Hoskins)
At least 200 CH-47s were lost during Vietnam, either to enemy action or operational losses. Those harsh experiences, however, led to improvements. Today’s CH-47s haul 24,000 pounds, more than three times the 7,000 pounds carried by early Chinooks in Vietnam.
See what a day in the life of a Vietnam War Chinook pilot was like in the video below!
In today’s military, seniority by rank is limited to four-star generals and admirals. And while public law still allows for five-star generals, one hasn’t been appointed since Omar Bradley held the rank in 1950.
Yet, six-star general is a rank that (technically) exists.
Two men have held higher ranks in the Armed Forces of the United States. The latest was General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing, whose contributions to service were awarded with the title General of the Armies of the United States, complete with gold four-star insignia. His rank was higher than that of other four star generals due to an act of Congress that mandated that he remain preeminent above all personnel until his death in 1948.
Although I hope the act of Congress didn’t specify the year.
The other is the father of America, who wore only two stars in his lifetime, President George Washington. The Continental Congress commissioned Washington as a Major General in 1775. As Commander-In-Chief, he outranked all others fielded by Congress. After his Presidency, his successor, John Adams, promoted him to Lieutenant General and he would be on the Army rolls as Lt. Gen. Washington in perpetuity, outranked by every four- and five-star general who came after him.
Toward the end of World War II, Congress considered promoting Gen. Douglas MacArthur, already a five-star general, to General of the Armies, on the same level as Pershing. The Army Institute of Heraldry even designed an insignia for this rank which included six stars.
But as the years went on and the U.S. came closer to its bicentennial birthday, the idea that someone could outrank George Washington began to bother some in government, including President Gerald Ford. In 1976, Ford would sign a bill which promoted Washington to stand “above all grades of the Army, past or present.”
The text of the bill reads:
“Whereas it is considered fitting and proper that no officer of the United States Army should outrank Lieutenant General George Washington on the Army list: Now, therefore, be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That… The President is authorized and requested to appoint George Washington posthumously to the grade of General of the Armies of the United States, such appointment to take effect on July 4, 1976.”
News reports at the time referred to his promotion as a six-star general’s rank (though there is no mention of the insignia he would wear).
House Representative Lucien Nedzl of Michigan thought the rank was unnecessary, saying “it’s like the Pope offering to make Christ a Cardinal.”
The US’s first test of a missile since withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty has Russia and China rattled, with each nuclear-armed rival warning that the US is igniting a great-power arms race.
Arms-control experts have said that a “new missile race” is underway, arguing that strategic rivals are likely to match US weapons developments “missile for missile.”
The US military on Aug. 18, 2019, conducted its first flight test of a conventional ground-launched cruise missile that would have been banned under the INF Treaty a little over two weeks ago.
The 1987 treaty was a Cold War-era agreement between Washington and Moscow that put restrictions on missile development, prohibiting either side from developing or fielding intermediate-range ground-launched missiles, systems with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. China — never a party to this pact — has been developing missiles in this range for decades.
Accusing Russia of violating the agreement through its work on the Novator 9M729, a missile that NATO refers to as SSC-8, the US said earlier this year that it would “move forward with developing our own military response,” a position supported by NATO.
When the US formally withdrew from the treaty at the start of August 2019, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper explained that the Department of Defense would “fully pursue the development of these ground-launched conventional missiles.”
Sixteen days later, the US tested its first post-INF missile — alarming not only Moscow but Beijing.
“We will not allow ourselves to get drawn into a costly arms race,” Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, told Russian state media, according to The Guardian.
Urging the US to let go of a Cold War mentality, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Geng Shuang, said that the US test and future tests would ultimately “lead to escalated military confrontation” that would harm “international and regional security.”
Russia, which insists it did not violate the INF Treaty, has repeatedly warned the US against deploying intermediate-range missiles in Europe.
The weapon tested Aug. 18, 2019, as The War Zone explains, was a ground-launched BGM-109 Tomahawk, a variant of the BGM-109G Gryphon, a US missile system that together with the Pershing II mid-range ballistic missile comprised the forward-deployed tactical nuclear forces in Europe before the INF Treaty was signed and all relevant weapon systems were destroyed.
On Aug. 18, 2019, at 2:30 p.m. PT, the Defense Department conducted a flight test of a conventionally configured ground-launched cruise missile at San Nicolas Island, California.
(DoD photo by Scott Howe)
In an apparent response to Moscow, the US said it had no plans to put post-INF Treaty missiles in Europe. Beijing may actually have more reason to worry.
The Pentagon — and specifically the new secretary of defense — has expressed an interest in positioning new intermediate-range missiles in the Pacific to counter regional threats like China.
Esper told reporters recently that at least 80% of China’s inventory “is intermediate-range systems,” adding that it shouldn’t surprise China “that we would want to have a like capability.”
The US has not announced where any of these missiles would be deployed.
While some observers see the US wading into a major arms race as it focuses more on great-power competition, others see this as a reasonable strategic evolution in US military capabilities.
“We want China’s leadership to wake up every morning and think ‘This is not a good day to pick a fight with the United States or its allies,'” Tom Karako, a missile-defense expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Insider.
Over the years, China has developed increasingly capable missiles designed to target US bases across the Pacific and sink US carriers at sea, while the US has expressed an interest in deploying new capabilities to tilt the scales back the other way.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) receives fuel from the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Tippecanoe (T-AO 199) during a replenishment at sea March 17, 2020. The Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group is on a scheduled deployment to the Indo-Pacific. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Dylan Lavin)
When most of us join the Navy, we don’t expect to be put into positions where our lives are in danger. For sure, we know it’s a possibility; as is joining any branch of the Armed Forces, but not as probable as our USMC and Army brothers-in-arms.
But now that a sailor has fallen to the virus, it’s apparent just how potent and diverse enemy combatants can be.
I served four years on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, from 2006 to 2010. The crew aboard CVN-71 refer to their ship as The Big Stick, personifying the ship as the US’s show of force to allow us to “Walk Softly” throughout the world. My job was to safely and efficiently maintain the electrical and steam plant systems within the two powerful Nuclear Reactor plants that power and propel the ship.
We steamed everywhere from South Africa to England to the middle of nowhere deep in the Atlantic ocean. We also spent six months sending F-18 Super Hornets to Afghanistan to provide Close Air Support for ISAF forces on the ground.
PHILIPPINE SEA (March 18, 2020) An F/A-18F Super Hornet, assigned to the “Black Knights” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 154, lands on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) March 18, 2020. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nicholas V. Huynh)
Sailing a warship is inherently dangerous. There are cables with thousands of volts of heart-stopping power running through them, manifolds of high-pressure steam harnessing enough force to easily cut a person in half and thousands of people carrying-out dynamic operations both above and below-deck. Not to mention the mighty (and oftentimes unpredictable) sea, rocking and listing the ship with sometimes violent and turbulent waves.
In my four years on The Big Stick I lost three fellow shipmates to these various dangers. Now that the world is fighting a new, global enemy, unconventional deaths like losing a sailor to COVID-19 are becoming a new normal for families all across the world. And now, we see that active duty military members are just as susceptible as anyone else.
Photo courtesy of August Dannehl
Part of the allure of joining the Navy is being able to see the world. The main mission of the Navy is to bring US sovereign territory, in the form of floating cities like the Roosevelt, to any corner of the planet in just a matter of hours. This allows sailors to enjoy the perks of visiting ports in places like Cape Town, Tokyo and Da Nang. Unfortunately, now, that perk also led to the death of one of my fellow Rough Riders.
The virus likely infiltrated the ship during a port visit to Vietnam’s fifth largest city. Da Nang offered its sandy beaches and opulent hotels to provide some RR for the crew of the TR but before long, the crew was ordered back to the ship, underway early and restricted to “River City” communications (meaning no phone calls or internet access).
Back in 2008, steaming off the coast of Iran, River City was set pretty much all the time (and we hated it) but we knew it was necessary. Recently, this order meant something very serious was unfolding and the sailors aboard knew it.
Photo courtesy of August Dannehl
When that first River City was set just weeks ago, it was hard to imagine just how serious this situation would be. No one could have predicted then that over 500 Rough Riders would test positive for the coronavirus, a Navy Captain with 30 years of military experience would be fired, a Trump-appointed official would resign and one sailor would ultimately die in the line of duty from this silent, unpredictable enemy.
Living for months at a time on a carrier out to sea, confined to extremely small and cramped spaces, living and working alongside fellow Sailors in close proximity; these truths have always been the downsides of Navy service. Now, in the age of COVID-19, they have proven deadly.
The US State Department updated a travel warning to India during violent escalation in fighting along the border between nuclear rivals India and Pakistan.
The State Department warned women against a troubling rise in sexual violence and all travelers against potential terror attacks.
India and Pakistan, bitter rivals for decades, have been fighting inside Kashmir, a disputed border region which each country administers in part. The fighting kicked off after a Feb. 16, 2019 terror attack killed 40 Indian security forces.
Air battles, shelling, and ground fighting have followed sporadically since that attack, with planes being shot down and Pakistan temporarily closing its airspace.
The State Department has called for “increased caution in India due to crime and terrorism,” and for US citizens to stay at least 10 kilometers away from the disputed border region, and not to enter Kashmir at all.
An Indian Air Force Mirage 2000.
(US Air Force photo)
“Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and government facilities,” State warned.
State also cautioned about the larger India-Pakistan border, ethnic insurgent groups in the northeastern states of India, and Maoist extremist groups in Central and Eastern India.
Across India, the world’s largest democracy, State cautioned that “rape is one of the fastest growing crimes in India.”
“Violent crime, such as sexual assault, has occurred at tourist sites and in other locations,” the warning continued.
“If you decide to travel to India… Do not travel alone, particularly if you are a woman,” the statement read, linking to a guide for women travelers.
Across the border in Pakistan, the State Department urges visitors to reconsider travel to anywhere in the country, but has not revised this recommendation to reflect recent fighting.
Update: This post has been updated to reflect that the State Department had a similar travel warning in place before the terror attack in Kashmir.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It’s been roughly two weeks since the release of Black Panther and the frenzy is still unfolding. The movie is the 18th in Marvel Cinematic Universe and it doesn’t disappoint — unless you are among the most anal of comic geeks. All in all, the movie is amazing and, by now, you’ve had plenty of time to go see it.
There is one particular character that stands out among the fray and that is Erik “Killmonger” Stephens. Michael B. Jordan brought the screen adaptation of this character to life and immediately shot straight up the ranks of the great comic-book-inspired villains in cinema.
Killmonger stands out for various reasons. From his origin story to his amazing fighting skills, there is one thing that just cannot be ignored: how operator Killmonger actually is.
It is revealed that Erik Stevens is a graduate of both the Naval Academy and MIT. In the movie, they don’t tell you which type of degree he pursued and obtained, but in the comics, they make it clear that he has multiple PhDs.
Erik Killmonger is considered to have a genius-level intellect and a charismatic leadership style.
In the same monologue that reveals Killmonger’s education, we also learn that Stevens was a Navy SEAL! We all know that SEALs are some of the most insane badasses around.
If Killmonger was one of them and later joined a JSOC unit, it’s an extremely safe bet to assume he could hang with any fighter in the world.
In the comics, Killmonger nearly defeats the Black Panther in combat but is undone by his own aggression.
Just think about this for a moment. T’Challa was born, raised, and groomed to one day be king and to assume the mantle of Black Panther.
Killmonger was an orphan who somehow attended and graduated from the Naval Academy by 19 and ended up being a Navy f*cking SEAL! Killmonger handily defeated T’Challa in hand-to-hand combat, which says a lot about the level of skill he reached.
In the MCU storyline, Killmonger is actually T’Challa’s first cousin. He was abandoned after T’Chaka murdered his father. He had a legitimate right to the throne and he took it through wit, training, and might.
Navy Corpsmen and Army medics are some of the best medical professionals in the world who go above and beyond to render care to sick and wounded troops in the line of duty.
Although the armed forces’ “docs” have earned tons of combat decorations throughout their proud history, not every part of the job feels valorous or glamorous. In fact, many docs must accomplish tasks they absolutely hate in order to do their job well. Here are just a few of unpleasant functions the job requires.
Taking care of a bad guy
The Geneva Convention requires that docs care for wounded bad guys, regardless of how they were injured. It’s no fun knowing you’re helping a guy who just might take a pot shot at you later.
Not being in the safety vehicle during a mandatory hike
Realistically, there aren’t many troops out there who look forward to a mandatory conditioning hike.
Several miles into the excursion, when your feet are beyond swollen, you’ll start to curse (in your mind) when you see the smiling faces of personnel in the safety vehicles. They’re just chilling.
We dislike those weak-minded troops who show up and waste the medical staff’s time. The truth is, so-called “sick-call commandos” fake illness to get out of responsibilities, taking time away from other people who need to see the doctor because they’re actually ill or injured.
A troop showing up to sick call 5 minutes after its secured, but we still have to treat them
Monday through Thursday, having a sick or injured troop come in late isn’t a big deal. However, imagine it’s 1700 on a sunny Friday evening and someone who could technically wait until Monday morning shows up for treatment — not cool.
Having to ‘bore punch’ a patient
If you’re not familiar what a “bore punch” is, you’ll want to ask the kids to leave the room before we tell you. Okay, they’re gone? Cool.
Bore punching is when the doc uses a giant cotton swab to take a sample from inside a male patient’s urethra to test for bacteria. It’s unpleasant for both parties.
There’s a perpetual debate on the differences between Corpsmen and medics. The truth is, they’re very much alike aside from the branches under which they serve. That, and Corpsmen are way more decorated… and sexy.
That said, they hate being called a “medics” instead of the proper term, which is “Corpsman.” “Doc” works, too.
The Korean Demilitarized Zone is probably the most watched, most ironically named 250 kilometers found anywhere in the world. Despite the unprecedented brutality of the Korean War and the sporadic violence between the two, people still routinely try to get through the DMZ, often even going the hard way – going right through the most heavily defended strip of land in the world.
Commando raids, spies, and even axe murderers have all tried to cross the DMZ in some way. In just 25 years after the Korean Armistice was signed, more than 200 incursion attempts were made across the area. There had to be a better way.
This is how they did it in 1969. Surely by 2019, we could do better.
Enter Samsung, the South Korean multinational conglomerate best known for making exploding mobile phones, which makes so many other products. They have an aerospace division, as well as divisions to make textiles, chemicals, and even automated sentry guns that kill the hell out of anyone who doesn’t know the password – the Samsung SGR-A1.
The defense system is a highly-classified, first-of-its-kind unit that incorporates surveillance, tracking, firing, and voice recognition technology to keep the humans in South Korea’s military free to operate elsewhere while still being massively outnumbered.
Gun-toting death robots is the perfect solution.
While other sentry guns have been developed and deployed elsewhere, this is the grand stage. The Korean Peninsula is the Carnegie Hall of weapons testing, where chances are good the weapon will likely get used in an operational capacity sooner rather than later. Failure is not an option. That’s why each 0,000 sentry gun comes equipped with a laser rangefinder, thermographic camera, IR illuminator, a K3 LMG machine gun with 1,000 rounds of ammo, and a Mikor MGL 40mm multiple grenade launcher that doesn’t give a damn about the ethical issues surrounding autonomous killing machines.
If this thing had legs, it would be a Terminator-Predator hybrid.
The only controversy surrounding these weapons, now deployed in the DMZ, is whether or not they truly need a human in the loop to do their job. The system could conceivably be automated to kill or capture anyone who happened upon them in the area, regardless of their affiliation. To the robot, if you’re in the DMZ for any reason, you are the enemy. And you must be stopped.
“Human soldiers can easily fall asleep or allow for the depreciation of their concentration over time,” Huh Kwang-hak, a spokesman for Samsung Techwin, told Stars and Stripes. “But these robots have automatic surveillance, which doesn’t leave room for anything resembling human laziness. They also won’t have any fear (of) enemy attackers on the front lines.”
We all know that Marines win our nation’s battles, and their discipline under pressure is a matter of life or death. However, and as weird as it may seem, there is a lot that the driving range and the fairway can teach us about winning battles. I know because I recently joined my friend Marine Major Ben Ortiz and his fellow golf warrior, Erik Anders Lang, for a round at the Desert Winds golf course on Marine Corps Base Twentynine Palms.
Major Ben Ortiz or, ‘Bennie Boy’ as I call him, have known each other since our first days at the Naval Academy. I already know what you’re thinking… of course, two Academy grads and officers are golfers. But literally, nothing could be further from the truth. Golf was never supposed to be part of either of our lives.
“Seriously, dude? You play golf, now?” I ask a little sarcastically as Bennie and I walk to the clubhouse.
Bennie is a Mustang (an officer who was enlisted first), and he grew up in a neighborhood outside of Chicago where even the mention of golf could get you ridiculed for life or worse. After joining the Marines he deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan where he’s been a kind of intelligence officer that grunts love and terrorists hate. So when he asked me to play golf with him, I immediately started to question his mental state.
“Dude, you have no idea. Golf has made me a better Marine. More focused…lethal.” Bennie smiles as he justifies why we are on a golf course at 0730.
Major Ortiz tees off with focus
As we approach the clubhouse, I meet a squad of Marines who have been recruited to play with us this morning, but we are also joined by a true golf warrior, Erik Anders Lang. Erik is a bit of an anomaly himself. He never picked up a club until his thirties, and now he travels the world for his seriesAdventures In Golf. At first, I am a little wary that Erik, who looks a little like he just rolled out of bed, can compete with the Marines on their home turf. But after watching Erik tee off with a nearly 350-yard drive down the center of the first hole, I realize that I am not only watching a true golfer but a sniper.
As Bennie, Erik, and I walk the desert course we begin to chat about the game and the Marine Corps. At each hole, I realize the golfers are fighting the terrain, the weather and even their own subconscious, an enemy more elusive than the adversaries Bennie and other Marines face abroad. As we near the end of the course, Bennie begins to explain his theory a little more.
“Intel is all about collecting and analyzing information and then turning it into something useful for the Grunts. A lot of people think that bad intel is a result of bad information, but there is a second and even more important component, the analyst. If I am distracted or unfocused, I can be the weak link. Golf, and the battle on each hole, has taught me about mental and physical discipline.”
Major Ortiz (4th from left) and Erik Lang (center) after a round of golf.
Erik smiles and nods in agreement. He knows the mental strength it takes to master the club. After a quick competition on the driving range, which Erik (the sniper) wins, we sit down in the chow hall for an After Action of the morning’s performance. Bennie has changed out of his golf clothes and into cammies, and Erik begins to explain to us how Tiger Woods inspired him to pick up a club.
“Not everyone is perfect in golf,” Erik starts. “He’s human, he’s obviously made mistakes, but if you watch carefully you can see how he processes the course and the ball with each shot.”
Erik’s got a point. Now, I am pretty sure that when Tiger Woods stepped onto the 18th green, poised to win the 2019 Masters, there was almost nothing going through his mind other than the basics of putting. In the seconds before Tiger’s final stroke, there was no time for self-doubt, fear or even distractions from the thousands standing around him and the millions watching all across the globe. With one quick putt, Tiger was back on top of the world and his pure calmness, poise, and discipline under such pressure is something we all can admire, especially Marines like me.
But unlike Tiger, Marines must use these same attributes for something much bigger than a green jacket. Now, I begin to see what both Bennie and Erik are stressing to me. Golf is a sport of discipline and focus which can extend beyond the course and onto the most stressful battlefields abroad.
Bennie now speaks to the group before we roll out for the day.
“I hope that other Marines will realize that the course is much more than a game. It’s about training too.”
I think Bennie’s onto something that both Erik Lang and Tiger Woods already know: maybe we can all be better Marines if we spend a little time on the course.
Major Ortiz (left) and the Author (right) after our round of golf. Bennie’s war face is the same from Quantico.