The Star Wars franchise is all about placing fantastical elements within in a sci-fi setting. In order to truly enjoy the films, you have to suspend your disbelief a little bit — otherwise it’ll look a lot like cosmic samurai fighting a faceless evil empire across a galaxy filled with people who magically speak the same language and function just fine without a space suit wherever they end up.
Putting a bit more thought into it, the Imperial Stormtroopers seem to get the short end of the stick nearly every single time. With the soon-to-be-released Solo: A Star Wars Story on the horizon, it’s fun to remember why they probably wouldn’t make the most intimidating enemy — especially not with highly-overused AT-AT walkers.
(Photo by Tim Moreillon)
To all seven of you out there who haven’t seen Star Wars, the AT-AT is a gigantic, robotic troop transport used by the antagonists that’s sort-of a futuristic callback to Hannibal’s elephants. They’re fairly intimidating in the films until you realize just how dumb of a design they really are.
At least they acknowledged that painting its weak spot bright orange was an objectively bad idea.
Its weaknesses are extremely obvious
The most glaring mistake of the AT-AT is that they’re so easy to destroy. In The Empire Strikes Back, our heroes turn the tide during a battle on the icy planet of Hoth when they decide to trip the lumbering armor. Really? Why did it take some rural moisture farmer to make that mental breakthrough?
Not only that, but Luke Skywalker also destroyed one by throwing a single grenade, which, somehow, blows up the head. They’re even more easily destroyed in Rogue One, when a single rocket to the walker’s “neck” is enough to take it down.
This is about the field of fire of an AT-AT. Avoid this and you’re fine.
Its only weapons are front-facing
If you’re facing the front of an AT-AT, you’re probably screwed. If you’re literally anywhere outside of its 30-degree field of facing, you’re completely safe.
Without any kind of air support, like what happened to them in The Empire Strikes Back, the opportunity to flank them is wide open. If you’re thinking that it could just turn around, that brings us to our next point.
This is it TRYING to turn.
It can barely turn
To be fair, the AT-AT can turn a little bit in Episode V and some of the obscure novels (which are no longer canon) say that they have an additional joint under the plating to help it turn. But, even if we’re generous, they can turn maybe fifteen degrees with each slow, lumbering step.
This is happens in a time when, according to the logic that has been established by the franchise, intergalactic travel and troop transport is done with spaceships. But, instead of carrying troops via something that fly, they chose something that can barely change course.
It can’t really leave this small clearing so, for any reason other than creating drama, this makes no sense.
It wouldn’t be able to maneuver anywhere
Let’s bring things back to the real world for a moment and discuss why tank treads work in almost every environment while horses don’t: Legs get caught in things. They get tangled in snares and sink into sand, snow, and mud. Tank treads, conversely, just roll through it all.
Now magnify that four-legged beast to the size of an AT-AT. All of those same problems still exist, but now you can cross cities and forests off that list, too.
Poor little AT-AT… At least you tried.
It’s a terrible design for a troop transport
Let’s bring it back to the fact that they rely on what are essentially robot camels when they have countless other options at their disposal. A spaceship can warp in and push out every Stormtrooper in a blink of an eye. The AT-AT, on the other hand, needs to bend down, load troops into the vehicle, carry them all somewhere, bend back down, and, finally, unload them.
All of that just to get some troops forward in an easily destructible, undefended deathtrap that can barely get around. Sure, they’re intimidating, but don’t you have Death Stars and Star Destroyers for that?
At the end of a long day of antiwar protests in Washington on Oct. 21, 1967, beat poet Allen Ginsburg was leading the crowd in a Tibetan chanting in an effort to psychically levitate the Pentagon into space. The protests were in a bizarre new phase, having already turned violent, injuring dozens of protestors as well as the soldiers defending the building.
By the time of this protest, the United States had been increasing its presence and roles in South Vietnam while the draft and the body count was taking its toll on the American psyche. There was no precedent in American history for the level of government defiance and protest that was about to take place. With 500 American troops dying in Vietnam every month and no end to the war in sight, groups all over the country decided to convene on Washington – specifically the Pentagon.
It was organized by many groups – it was almost a “who’s who” of the antiwar movement – but the primary organizer was antiwar activist Jerry Rubin. Rubin believed the Pentagon was now the real seat of power in the United States and wanted to make a showing there, instead of the White House or Capitol Building. Also arriving among the tens of thousands of people there that day were Dr. Benjamin Spock, Norman Mailer, and antiwar activist Abbie Hoffman.
The younger people might remember his likeness from a scene in “Forrest Gump.”
Hoffman was one of the co-founders of the Yippies, or Youth International Movement. The Yippies were an anti-establishment anarchist group whose antics bordered on the theatrical when not outright ridiculous. They became known for displays of symbolic protests and street pranks, and often, some kind of merger of the two. Hoffman was present at the October 1967 Pentagon protests as were many of his fellow future Yippies.
The day began with a series of speeches on the National Mall, one of which saw Dr. Benjamin Spock declare President Lyndon Johnson to be the real enemy of the people. The crowd then marched across the Arlington Bridge to the Pentagon, where they were met by members of the National Guard and the 82nd Airborne who firmly stood their ground on the steps of the building. This is where one hippie, calling himself “Super Joel,” famously put a flower in the barrel of one of their rifles.
Hoffman and the Yippies began to call for the Pentagon to levitate, using psychic energy to lift the building 300 feet into the air and to end the war. They even got a permit for it from the General Services Administration, but the permit only allowed them to levitate the building 10 feet. They wanted to circle the building, arm-in-arm, and perform an exorcism ritual on it, to flush out the demons and end the war. They never made it that far.
When they arrived at the Pentagon, the crowd became unruly in some areas, and a group of 3,000 attempted to break the barricade and enter the building. Some of them were actually successful but were beaten back to their protest or arrested. Hoffman and the Yippies stayed put for the duration of their 48-hour permit. They never did finish the exorcism.
Senior Afghan officials have praised voters who cast ballots in parliamentary elections that were plagued by violence and organizational problems, saying the turnout shows that Afghans are rejecting the ideology of Taliban militants.
“The Taliban wanted to build a stream of blood, but the Taliban was defeated and the Taliban’s thoughts and ideas were rejected,” Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah told a cabinet meeting on Oct. 22, 2018.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.
(US Department of State)
Around 4 million out of 8.8 million registered voters in a country of more than 30 million cast their ballots over the two-day voting at more than 4,500 polling centers across the country, according to election authorities, despite deadly militant attacks in which dozens of people were killed and delays caused by technical and organizational problems.
The Taliban had issued several warnings in the days leading up to the poll demanding the more than 2,500 candidates for the lower house of parliament withdraw from the race and for voters to stay home.
(US Department of State)
Preliminary results of the parliamentary elections, which were seen as a key test of the government’s ability to provide security across the country, were expected to be released on Nov. 10, 2018, at the earliest. Final results will likely be out sometime in December 2018, an election commission spokesman has said.
Originally scheduled for 2015, the vote was delayed for three years amid disputes over electoral reforms and because of the instability following NATO’s handover of security responsibilities to Afghan forces at the end of 2014.
“The Afghan people want a system based on the people’s vote, and in fact, we have witnessed a historical moment,” said Abdullah, who also admitted there were shortcomings during the vote.
Voting was extended to a second day on Oct. 21, 2018, after hundreds of polling stations were closed on the first day of voting due to technical and security issues.
But only 253 of the 401 polling centers that were scheduled to be open on Oct. 21, 2018 were operational, with the remainder closed for security reasons, election authorities said.
An Afghan man prepares to vote in a villiage near Kabul, Afghanistan Sept. 18, 2010
(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Gloria Wilson)
At some of the centers that opened for voting, there were insufficient ballot papers and voter rolls were “either incomplete or nonexistent,” Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) spokesman Ali Reza Rohani said, adding, “most of the problems we had yesterday still exist today.”
The ECC said it had received more than 5,000 complaints of irregularities from voters and candidates, and the Interior Ministry said 44 people had been charged with “illegal interference in the election and fraud.”
However, President Ashraf Ghani said in a televised address to the nation after polls closed on Oct. 21, 2018, that the election turnout showed that voters “have the power and will to defeat their enemies.”
Ghani also challenged the Taliban to “show if your way or the way of democracy is preferred by the people.”
In a tweet on Oct. 21, 2018, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg commended “the millions of Afghan men women who have exercised their democratic right to vote the Afghan security forces who have provided security for the elections despite great challenges.”
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a statement released on Oct. 20, 2018, that it was “encouraged by the high numbers” of Afghans who braved security threats and waited long hours to cast their votes.
UNAMA said the elections, which it described as “the first completely run by Afghan authorities since 2001,” were an “important milestone in Afghanistan’s transition to self-reliance.”
The beat of the Native American drums reverberated through the halls of the clinic as Crow Nation drummers proudly sang a war song. The ceremony began with a Crow Nation prayer and the presentation of colors.
Hundreds were on hand to witness the long-awaited renaming ceremony of the Billings clinics for World War II Veterans Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow, the last member of the Crow Tribe to become a war chief, and Benjamin Steele.
The Community Based Outpatient Clinic was renamed in honor of Medicine Crow and the Community Based Specialty Clinic was renamed in honor of Steele at the ceremony in February.
Shirley Steele beamed with pride while talking about her late husband. He was born and raised in Roundup, Mont., and joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1940. He was a Bataan Death March survivor and prisoner of war for more than three years. He died in September 2016 at the age of 98.
Tiara Medicine Crow, granddaughter of Joseph Medicine Crow, a Bronze Star holder, talked about her love of her grandfather and all that he meant to the Crow Nation.
A.J. Not Afraid, grandson-in-law of Joseph Medicine Crow and chairman of the Crow Nation, spoke to his history and accomplishments.
A.J. Not Afraid and a child performer attended the ceremony in traditional Crow Nation dress.
Joseph Medicine Crow was born on the Crow Indian Reservation in eastern Montana. He earned a master’s degree from the University of Southern California in 1939. Medicine Crow was the first member of his tribe to attain that level of education. Medicine Crow joined the U.S. Army in 1943. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his service. He died in April of 2016 at the age of 102.
The photo at the top of this story is of Not Afraid and Shirley Steele.
It’s unlikely that the U.S.-China trade dispute is going to escalate to a full-scale war any time soon — but it’s not impossible. Neither side is inclined to go to war with the other, but a war of that scale is what both plan to fight. All it would take is one bungled crisis, one itchy trigger finger, one malfunctioning automated defense system and the entire region could become a war zone.
China’s military upgrades, especially in the areas of anti-access and area-denial weapons, would make any war between the two countries “intense, destructive, and protracted,” according to the RAND corporation, America’s premiere policy and decision-making thinktank. The non-profit, non-partisan organization has been doing this kind of research since 1948.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)
David C. Gompert is the lead author of a recent study on the chances and effects of such a war. He’s an adjunct senior fellow at RAND. Gompert doesn’t predict a coming war, but acknowledges the possibilities.
“Tensions exist between the United States and China on a number of issues,” Gompert said. “And a crisis could occur and involve incidents or miscalculations that lead to hostilities. For example, China could try to intimidate its neighbors below the threshold of U.S. intervention and misjudge where that threshold is, or underestimate U.S. willingness to back Japan militarily in a crisis over disputed territory in the East China Sea.”
If the situation did escalate, both sides would suffer incredible losses in manpower and materiel. Chinese losses would be much more severe compared to the Americans, but as Chinese military capabilities improve, U.S. loss projections get much, much higher. As the war goes on, Chinese A2AD will make American dominance much more difficult to achieve. But the Chinese will suffer from a lack of resources and a protracted conflict will make affect China’s ability to suppress internal divisions.
Economically, China would suffer tremendously, while damaging the U.S. economy and anyone else dependent on China for trade. The study recommends ensuring China is aware of the level of destruction it faces in a fight with American forces — whether or not it loses a military conflict. Also, it is critical for the United States to improve interoperability with regional allies to both present a strong counterforce in the face of Chinese aggression — but it is highly unlikely that a partner like Japan would join the fighting. The international community would be divided in its support, but this would have little to no effect on the fighting.
RAND also recommends increasing military communications with China in order to avert a misunderstanding should any kind of military accident occur. The U.S. also needs to be more understanding should such an accident occur against its forces. If hostilities did break out, the U.S.’ most survivable platforms (like submarines) and anti-missile systems should be at the fore of the fight.
Finally, disrupting Chinese supply lines and technology from the sea and replacing products the American economy needs from China are critical to minimizing the damage suffered from a war.
“History suggests that wars that are very destructive to both combatants have a way of persisting as long as neither side faces complete defeat,” Gompert said. “A Sino-U.S. war would be so harmful that both sides should place a very high priority on avoiding one.”
The U.S. Air Force has officially authorized the use of two-piece flight suits while on duty.
Starting immediately, the two-piece flight suit — otherwise known as the two-piece flight duty uniform, or “2PFDU” — is authorized to be worn in both garrison and deployed locations, the service said in a news release April 22, 2019.
“The 2PFDU continues an effort to provide airmen with improved form, fit and function to perform their duties in any environment,” the release states. “Squadron commanders will now have the flexibility to make combat uniform decisions based on what is best for their airmen to meet mission requirements.”
Last week, Military.com spoke with Maj. Saily Rodriguez, the female fitment program manage officer for the human systems program office within the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, about upgrading current fighter pilot and aircrew flight suits, which are typically a one-piece garment for men and women.
U.S. Air Force demo pilots walk off the flightline during the Heritage Flight Training and Certification Course at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Feb. 28, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Jensen Stidham)
Advantages of a two-piece suit include greater ease in using the bathroom and improved overall comfort, Rodriguez said.
Along with meeting safety regulations, a two-piece flight suit, to be comprised of a standard top and bottom, would have to accommodate the needs of all aircrew members, she said.
The Air Force on April 23, 2019, said the traditional, one-piece flight duty uniform (FDU) will continue to be an option for aircrew.
A two-piece uniform has already been in use in the Air Force for those flying cargo airlift or helicopters.
The service in 2017 said that airmen flying these aircraft — anything aside from a fighter and without an ejection seat — had begun wearing the Army Aircrew Combat Uniform, known as the Airman Aircrew Combat Uniform in the Air Force, or the A2CU.
First Lt. Kayla Bowers, a 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot, looks out of the cockpit of her aircraft.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden)
The uniform looks very much like the Air Force’s Operational Camouflage Pattern, or OCP. Commanders across the force had begun giving some airmen the option to wear the A2CU as a duty uniform during training or while deployed.
Giving airmen the option to wear the 2PFDU “aligns with the traditional FDU, elevating the significance of squadron focus and identity, which supports [Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen David Goldfein’s] intent to revitalize squadrons,” Lt. Gen. Mark D. Kelly, deputy chief of staff for Air Force operations, said in the release.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
By the time the physical training session finished in the late afternoon, another five followed.
One day into the first week of Engineer Diver Phase I course, a class of 12 has dwindled to two: the first, a soldier who had already passed the course two years ago. He left the Army and worked his way back. The other: a soldier who struggled swimming the endurance laps necessary to be a deep-sea diver but passed other aspects of the course, including the classroom lessons and physical training exercises.
The cuts come swiftly. Some quit out of their own accord. Others simply did not meet the rigid standards of the course. The Army designed it this way; to weed out the weak-minded, weak-willed and those unable to remain calm during extended hours underwater. In maritime conditions, Army divers must be prepared to act in seconds; they must react to sudden changes in currents, waves and the elements.
Staff Sgt. Andrew Holdner pours water on students as they attempt to complete flutter kicks. The water simulates the sensations of drowning. The exercise tests students’ ability to perform under extreme duress.
(Photo Credit: Joe Lacdan)
More than 90 percent of students won’t advance past the school’s first phase at Fort Leonard Wood. Among those who didn’t make the first week: recruits who had years of competitive swimming experience and former high school athletes.
The instructors know oceans, rivers and lakes can be a brutally cold, unforgiving places.
They attempt to make the course as unforgiving. At Davidson Fitness Center’s 25-meter pool, divers face two crucial initiation tests. Holdner said the majority of students don’t make it past these two exercises.
The first, students must swim the width of the pool in a single breath — underwater. Then the new recruits jump off a high dive board, surface, and swim to the far side of the pool and back and tread water for 40 minutes.
Pfc. Nolan Hurrish, right, emerges from the pool with other students during an Army engineer diving training exercise at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
(Photo Credit: Joe Lacdan)
During the first half, students keep their heads out of water while using their hands and feet. During the second 20 minutes, they perform the “dead man’s float” — a survival technique where soldiers bend at the waist facing the water with arms out while holding their breath, simulating a floating corpse. When they need to breathe, they collapse arms and legs at the same time to raise their head above the water before dipping their faces back in the water.
In the second test, soldiers must swim 500 yards in 12 minutes and 30 seconds using breast stroke or side stroke, then do 50 pushups, 50 curl ups and six pullups. Finally, they must run a mile and a half in 12:30 or less.
As students attempt each exercise, they face the possibility of being dropped from the course and being reclassified into another career field.
“Every single time I’ve got to drop somebody,” said Sgt. 1st Class Eric Bailey, the lead instructor. “I feel bad because I know that they got into something that they knew nothing about. Because we’re a small field, very few people know that we exist.”
Students spend up to three and a half hours per day in the water, but also spend time in the classroom, learning about diving physics and how to maintain their equipment.
Dive instructors put students through a series of rites of passage, and ultimately test whether students can remain calm in situations that often cause heightened panic. The first such test came on the third day of training.
In addition to remaining calm underwater and developing breathing skills, diving school students must maintain rigid physical fitness standards.
(Photo Credit: Joe Lacdan)
Test of Wills
A soldier’s exasperating screams echoed in the swimming complex as he struggled to retrieve his equipment at the bottom of the pool. Instructors removed the diver’s mask, fins and air regulator and tossed them into the deep end of the pool. When the course began earlier that week, he lagged behind classmates during endurance laps.
Now at 1:30 p.m., the weather conditions in central Missouri hovered at around 95 degrees.
Inside the swimming complex the heat and humidity make the poolside area feel like a pressure cooker, not making the training any easier. During the test, instructors rip off pieces of the students’ scuba gear. soldiers must descend 14 feet and retrieve the gear in a single breath.
Holdner and Bailey bobbed at the surface, shouting instructions. They slapped water into the faces of the two remaining students in an attempt to simulate the unpredictable sway of an ocean current.
Pfc. Stephen Olinger dons swimming fins before a training exercise at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., in July 2018.
(Photo Credit: Joe Lacdan)
Here both instructors attempted to escalate the stress level to a fever pitch. Their screams, combined with the splashing water, simulate what instructors call a “rough sea state.” On missions, a diver’s rig might fail and they would no longer be able to breathe. Or divers may get bumped by an obstruction, falling debris, marine life or land they didn’t see. The current can also knock their air regulator off their suit.
When faced with the possibility of drowning, the diving instructors said water fills a swimmer’s nostrils, invoking feelings of nausea and sometimes vomiting. It can cause extreme panic, breaking down even the best of athletes and the most confident swimmers.
“We say water is the great equalizer,” Bailey said. “We have plenty of people that come here that are great physical specimens … They can do everything on land … But then, you put them in the water and guess what? They fall apart. They become two different people.”
Water can create extreme panic causing soldiers to lose their bearing, forcibly shoving fellow swimmers out of the way in order to reach for the shore. The violence of the water currents can push some soldiers to the edge.
“If you’re not comfortable,” Bailey said. “Water will bring out the worst in people.”
Bailey, a soldier with a neatly-combed crew cut and a stocky, fit build, teaches the class with a cool demeanor. He barks instruction with stern authority, but minutes later will crack a joke to put the students at ease.
Army divers must be able to communicate with the crew above before going on a deep-sea dive. Though they must operate underwater with little instruction, a deep-sea diver will have the only view of the operation.
(Photo Credit: Joe Lacdan)
An experienced veteran diver of 13 years, he tested his mettle at sea on a diverse array of maritime missions across the globe. He faced one of his most difficult challenges during a deployment to Iraq along a river. A vehicle-borne improvised explosive device had damaged a bridge and infantry units needed engineer divers to perform reconnaissance underwater.
At the river’s center in the shadow of the bridge, Bailey, then a young soldier, entered the water. He and another diver descended nearly 40 feet into the river’s depths. Almost immediately after he entered the river’s pitch black waters, disaster struck.
“As soon as I hit that water, I lost my grip,” Bailey said. “The current took me and immediately just threw me back.”
As he felt the pull to the bottom, the river broke his helmet’s seal. Cold water rushed into his head gear. His suit remained attached to an umbilical air supply cord, restricting his movement. He waited for a teammate to pull him back to shore while calming his nerves in the face of extreme conditions.
“I couldn’t swim to the shore,” he said. “I wasn’t moving. The only way I was getting out of there is if I was getting pulled out. And now my helmet was flooded. So what would have happened if I had panicked or I was not able to remain calm?”
Soldiers must face the fear of drowning and their own mortality on each mission. And each time, Divers must tame their emotions or lives will be at stake. In the worst conditions, soldiers will operate with limited visibility while carrying up to 80 pounds of underwater gear.
“I’ve been in situations where I’m using my hands as my eyes,” Holdner said. “One little mistake can be an injury for you. It’s not an environment that’s going to go easy on you.”
Holdner, a youthful-looking staff sergeant with slicked back dark hair who sports a cascade of tattoos on his right arm, graduated from the course in 2010. He entered with a larger class — 96. Only six made the cut and advanced to Phase II. Holdner said the mental hurdles the course poses can be the most difficult to overcome.
Even the second-time student looked visibly rattled as the two jockeyed for position before descending below. Athletically built with a wide upper body, the student easily passed the physical fitness tests and he seemed likely to survive to the next phase in Panama City, Florida.
Then the unexpected happened.
Inexplicably, he swam to the poolside and signaled to the instructors he wanted to drop out. He decided he had enough.
One student remained.
The private’s panicked expression reflected his extreme duress. Of the 12 students who attempted the course, he was the only remaining soldier. The shortest student in the class, this soldier struggled to finish the swimming endurance drills earlier in the week. But he persevered to make it to the third day.
But his chances have dimmed.
As the private spent more time bobbing his head above the surface, he lost valuable time that could have been spent underwater searching for equipment.
An instructor then blew his whistle. The soldier didn’t make the cut.
Slowly, the soldier swam toward the pool’s edge. Still breathing heavily, he gingerly exited the pool and walked toward his gear. He must now wait for the Army to reclassify him into a new career field.
About 12 to 20 students begin each class. Only 1 to 3 normally graduate. Sometimes, as with the July 2018 students, none make it.
Although instructors must cut the majority of the students, they don’t take each decision lightly. Often before they pull recruits from the course, they have counseling sessions. They sit down with each student and explain why they cannot advance to the next phase.
Often, emotions spill.
“They’re in tears,” Bailey said. “This is something that they’ve wanted to do for a long time or this is something that they’ve told their family about and everyone is rooting for them and they don’t want to disappoint their family.”
Bailey said recruiters and drill sergeants often don’t have accurate accounts of engineer diver training. Soldiers then arrive at Fort Leonard Wood with misconceptions about the realities of training.
Navy instructors check Soldiers’ scuba equipment. Equipment management and maintenance is critical for diver safety, instructors said.
(Photo Credit: Joe Lacdan)
Two Phase I diving school graduates joined the class of students who trained here in the July heat. Instead of sporting the black Army shirts with gold letters, they donned white shirts and brown swimming trunks to distinguish themselves from the current class. They continued to train with incoming classes to keep their skills fresh as they waited for Phase II in Panama City.
Pvts. 1st Class Stephen Olinger and Nolan Hurrish are only months into their Army careers.
Olinger, a bright-eyed recruit who was raised partially overseas, carries a swagger and self-confidence as he approaches each exercise. He graduated in March. Hurrish, a soft-spoken but diligent recruit from Wisconsin, has quietly passed each test. They don’t know if they will survive the next six months at Panama City. But they remain optimistic that in less than 16 weeks they will join the fewer than 150 Army divers worldwide.
“I have an attitude like ‘this is it,” Olinger said. “This is what I came here to do. If I fail out, I fail out. But I’m going to give it everything.”
The world’s five oceans, where many of the 12 dozen or so Army divers throughout the world must perform, can be ruthless.
The sea is an unpredictable, faceless adversary unlike any other soldiers face in the battlefield, and no less deadly.
Students will get their first taste of that adversary off the shores of the Florida Panhandle in Phase II of the diving school.
(Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-part series on the Army’s engineer diver training. For part two, click here.)
The U.S. military has always been fertile soil for firsts throughout our nation’s history, and the promotion of Carol A. Mutter to become the nation’s first female lieutenant general serves as a perfect case in point for Women’s History Month.
Women have served in the military from the earliest years of our representative republic.
Deborah Sampson (Gannett) served covertly when she disguised herself as a man under the assumed name of Robert Shurtleff, to join the Continental Army and fight in the Revolutionary War in 1782. Sampson went so far as to cut a musket ball out of her own thigh to prevent a battlefield surgeon from discovering her true gender. She was honorably discharged as a private in 1793.
Women gained the opportunity to serve openly in World War I when Congress opened the military to women in 1914. However, it took more than two centuries between the time Sampson first shouldered a musket to the time when women served as general (flag rank) officers in the American military. Mutter achieved one-star brigadier general rank in 1991.
Three years later Mutter became the first woman in the history of America’s military to achieve two-star major general rank in 1994, and two years after that in 1996 she became the first woman to become a three-star lieutenant general in any American military branch.
Lieutenant General Carol A. Mutter, Marine Corps, was the first woman in the U.S. military to achieve the rank of three star general.
Born in 1945 in Greeley, Colorado, Mutter graduated in 1967 from officer candidate school at the University of Northern Colorado as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps.
Mutter had a number of firsts during her 32-year career in the Corps:
First woman to qualify as Command Center Crew Commander/Space Director at U.S. Space Command.
First woman of flag rank (general officer rank) to command a major deployable tactical command.
First woman Marine major general, and senior woman in all the services at that time.
First woman nominated by a U.S. president (Bill Clinton) for three-star rank.
First female lieutenant general in the U.S. Armed Forces.
During a 2014 interview for the documentary Unsung Heroes: The Story of America’s Female Patriots, Mutter explains why she joined the Marine Corps during the early years of the Vietnam War.
“Because they’re the best, there’s no doubt about that,” she said. ” … when I joined, (the Corps) was only one percent female and there were no women in the deployed forces at all. So, as long as the women were back in the rear doing the jobs that the men didn’t want to do, there was not much of a problem.”
The general has been recognized as a trailblazer by several different organizations. Among them is the National Women’s Hall of Fame which inducted the general in 2017.
Mutter retired from the Corps in 1999 and lives with her husband at their home in Lookout Mountain, Tennessee.
Information for this article is drawn from several different sources including:
Everyone joins the military for different reasons. Some to pursue a better life for themselves and their families — as others just want to blow sh*t up. That said, serving can take a toll, on not only the body but the mind.
The life you thought you wanted when you signed your DD-214 isn’t what you want anymore, and now you’re ready to make a change.
So here’s how the majority of veterans change within five years of leaving the military.
Many of us dream of hitting our EAOS (Expiration of Active Obligated Service) after seeing all the bullsh*t we faced on the day-to-day — sometimes even marking down the calendar. After a while, you begin to admit to yourself how much you miss it. It’s common.
Hopefully, when you salute — you render a proper one.
2. The Billy Madison effect (non-stop school)
Many of us joined the military after high school to avoid college because we didn’t know what career to take.
Then after a detailed meeting with the school’s guidance counselor, it appears that the path to your bachelor’s degree is going to take a while, and you’re probably going to be the oldest guy or gal in class.
You probably aren’t the smartest, but you can buy beer.
3. Career change (at least once)
Maturity plays the biggest role in personal change. The fact is, you don’t know yourself as well as you thought you did. After a few semesters of school, your mental fatigue of tests and quizzes are piling up. The realization sets in that maybe studying to be a mechanic or nurse just isn’t right for you anymore.
Typically, everyone in the military deploys at one time or another. Some experience more tragic events than others, and they may start to see life in different ways. In the end, do whatever makes you the happiest.
Can you name other ways you and your buddies changed? Comment below.
As more and more states issue mandatory lockdowns and stay-the-f@$% home orders in the wake of COVID-19, people are finding any and every app they can to try and stay connected. While we’re all wishing we would have bought stock in these services in December, we’re just grateful they exist so we can have a beer with a buddy via a screen. Here are our favorite 6 apps for video chatting.
If you’ve all of a sudden found yourself homeschooling or working from home (bottoms up if it’s both!), then you’re probably already familiar with Zoom. Used for meetings, webinars and group conferencing, Zoom has a lot of great built in features for everything from the online classroom to an office happy hour. Share your screen, raise your virtual hand to be called upon and even customize your background so it looks like you’re sitting on a beach instead of hiding in your laundry room. Or, better yet, fancy yourself on the set of Top Gun: Maverick, which premieres this summer.
This is a no brainer if everyone has an iPhone. With a quick press of the button you can easily video chat with up to 31 other fellow Apple-loving users. But, let’s be honest: we all have that one friend or family member who insists that their Android takes better pictures. Fine Susan, we’ll all download a new app just so you can be included.
Houseparty is where it’s at. Simple to use with a visually pleasing layout of your fellow party goers (have up to eight in your party at a time), there are even fun little games to play while you’re using the app if you want to for the ultimate social distancing game night. When one of our neighbors had a birthday, we poured a glass of champagne and toasted our friend on Houseparty.
It’s easy to create groups and notifications so that you’ll always know when your party people are “in the house” and you can see what party they’re in. This is either super convenient or the most FOMO-inducing feature we’ve ever seen on the interwebs.
Yes, Skype is still around! We know you might have flashbacks to a frozen screen circa 2005 while you were downrange, but the technology and ease has made vast improvements since Skype’s early days. Chat with up to 50 people at a time, leave voicemails, share pictures and you can even still use that same screen name that you had back in the day.
5. Google Hangouts
Whether you want to livestream your Crossfit WOD in solitude or have 250 friends in a chat (COVID-19 wedding, anyone?), Google Hangouts is making it possible. With interactive features like posting statuses, GIFs, emojis, stickers and more, Google Hangouts is being widely praised for extending their premium capabilities to all users for freeeeeeee.
Who knew that everyone’s favorite filter app had video chat capability? Well, apparently kids these days. This popular app allows you to connect 15 users at a time and still has the fun filters for which it’s known. Which is extra helpful in the era of not knowing what day it is or how many days since you’ve washed your hair.
No matter what app you turn to, stay connected while keeping your social distance.
Fighter aces—those pilots responsible for taking down at least five other aircrafts—are almost as old as aviation itself. Since World War I, young men have been willing to risk death to earn glory and become “knights of the air” or the “cavalry of the clouds”. There have been thousands of pilots who achieved ace status, and many who have racked up far more than five downings. None, however, have ever managed the singular feat of becoming a fighter ace on both sides in the same war.
That is, none except one…
Pierre Le Gloan was from Brittany, born in the Breton town of Kergrist-Moelou on June 1, 1913. He joined the French Armee de l’Air in 1931 as soon as he was old enough to enlist. Before his death in 1943, he achieved ace status in both the French Air Force and under the collaborationist Vichy regime after the fall of France in 1940. With 18 kills to his name and France’s fourth-highest-scoring ace of World War II, he remains the only pilot in history to become an ace on both sides of the same conflict.
When war came he was flying a Morane-Saulnier MS.406. On November 23, 1939 he claimed his first kill, a Dornier DO.17 reconnaissance aircraft. Another DO.17 fell to his guns on March 2, 1940.
All pilots in Le Gloan’s squadron were then re-equipped with the newer and better Dewoitine D.520. Le Gloan lost no time in taking full advantage of the use of a better fighter. During the Battle of France in the summer of 1940 he had a hot streak. In June he shot down four German and Italian bombers: two Heinkel 111 planes and two Fiat BR.20 bombers.
It didn’t end there. The highlight of Le Gloan’s career was to come on June 15. His squadron met a squadron of Italian CR.42 fighters. Attacking with enthusiasm, he shot down no less than three of them. Encountering another CR.42 and a BR.20 on his way back to base, Le Gloan attacked and shot down both of them.
Taking down five aircraft in one day has seldom been achieved by even the highest-scoring fighter ace, and Le Gloan was justly rewarded. His five-kill streak brought him up to 11 kills, well above the five required for ace status. He was also promoted to 2nd Lieutenant to acknowledge his remarkable feat.
On June 20, his squadron was transferred to Algeria, then a French colony. With the fall of France and the installation of Marshal Petain’s Vichy puppet government, the French forces in North Africa were under Vichy command. To Le Gloan it made no difference. He’d flown, fought and killed for France. Now, he would do the same for Vichy.
His second fighting streak came in June and July of 1941. Fighting for Vichy and taking on Britain’s Royal Air Force, Le Gloan shot down five of the RAF’s Hurricane fighters, a Gloster Gladiator and another aircraft that remains unidentified. He’d taken down 11 for France and had added another seven for Vichy. At the war’s end only Jean Demozay (21 kills), Marcel Albert (23 and two probables) and Pierre Clostermann (33 kills) ranked higher among French aces. Le Gloan’s career would not, however, last much longer.
Neither would his life.
The Allies launched Operation Torch in November 1942. With Allied forces liberating North Africa and Field-Marhsal Montgomery’s famous ‘Desert Rats’ pushing westward after the victory at El Alamein, the Vichy regime’s days were numbered. So were Pierre Le Gloan’s.
Soon all former Vichy forces were siding with the Allies including Le Gloan’s fighter squadron. Reequipped in May 1943 with the American P-39 Airacobra, a new fighter might have given the newly promoted Capitaine Le Gloan another winning streak. Might have, if not for a design feature on the Airacobra that wasn’t on the Morane-Saulnier or the Dewoitine: an external fuel tank mounted under the belly meant to be jettisoned when empty or if about to enter a dogfight.
Le Gloan had never flown a fighter with a drop tank. Over the sea on a routine patrol on September 11, 1943 he began to experience mechanical problems. As the Airacobra was not the finest fighter ever built, this wasn’t unusual for pilots who had to fly them. Comparing the Airacobra to the legendary Supermarine Spitfire or P-51 Mustang was like comparing a rent-a-wreck with a Ferrari. With smoke streaming from his aircraft, Le Gloan decided to return to base and land, forgetting to jettison the drop tank. It was a fatal mistake.
Le Gloan, in severe mechanical difficulties, might have been safer bailing out than trying to land, even if he had remembered to jettison the extra tank. As it was, he attempted to land. It would have been a difficult landing at the best of times in a malfunctioning aircraft and, his mind on other things, Le Gloan forgot to drop the tank. As he touched the ground the undercarriage collapsed.
The drop tank, still full, ruptured instantly. As the Airacobra screeched along the runway, the mixture of aviation fuel and sparks caused the plane to erupt into a fireball. Pierre Le Gloan, 18-kill ace, only pilot ever to become an ace on both sides in the same war, was burned alive.
Today, his name is largely forgotten except to history buffs, aviation enthusiasts and the townsfolk of Kergrist-Moelou. Deciding to either forget or gloss over his having flown, fought, and killed in the service of Vichy, the residents of Le Gloan’s hometown named a street after him. Even so, as time passes, fewer people who use it remember either the man or his remarkable place in military history.
In the 1980s, South Africa was facing a problem. Their fighters were getting old, their hostile, Soviet-backed neighbors were getting more modern fighters (like the MiG-23), and nobody in the West wanted to sell them new planes because of apartheid (a more ruthless version of the South’s old Jim Crow laws).
South Africa needed to modernize and they needed to do it quickly.
A South African Air Force Cheetah fighter jet flies over guided-missile destroyer USS Forrest Sherman (DDG 98) as the ship departs after participating in the Southeast Africa Task Group 60.5’s first deployment to the region.
(U.S. Navy photo by Gillian M. Brigham)
Israel showed South Africa the way
Fortunately, the South Africans weren’t totally out of luck. Their force of Mirage III interceptors were old, yes, but the design was combat-proven.
In the 1960s and 1970s, after being denied a sale of Mirage V multi-role fighters from France, Israel managed to develop upgrades to the Mirage III on their own. Israel’s experiences with the Nesher and Kfir — essentially pirated, upgraded versions of Mirage III and Mirage V fighters — would came in handy for South Africa.
Two Cheetah Cs and one Cheetah D in formation.
(Bob Adams via Wikimedia Commons)
The redesign of all redesigns
The South Africans began to pull their force of Mirage III fighters off the line to be “rebuilt” using Israel’s trade secrets. The result was the Atlas Cheetah, a plane that was in the class of the F-15 Eagle as an air-superiority fighter. Armed with Israeli Python 3 air-to-air missiles as well as indigenous Darter air-to-air missiles, the Cheetah was more than a match for the MiG-23 Floggers exported to Angola.
The Cheetah was fast (it had a top speed of 1,406 miles per hour) and it had an unrefueled range of 808 miles. In addition to its air-to-air missiles, it was also able to pack a pretty significant air-to-surface punch with conventional bombs, rockets, and missiles.
The Cheetah E was the first single-seat version to see service — and it held the line until the more advanced Cheetah C arrived. A two-seat combat trainer, dubbed the Cheetah D, was also built. The Cheetah Es were retired in the 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of apartheid. The Cheetah C/D models soldiered on until 2008, when South Africa bought Gripens to replace them.
But the Cheetahs still see action — a number have been exported to Chile and Ecuador. Learn more about this South African hack of the Mirage III in the video below.
It’s safe to say that the vast majority of troops and veterans today have seen the 1997 film, Starship Troopers. It’s an expertly crafted film and its tasteful use of special effects (for late 90s, anyway) was beyond astounding.
The film is terrific in its own right, but Robert A. Heinlein’s novel, upon which the movie is (loosely) based, elevated the science fiction genre and has a place on nearly every single required reading list created by the United States military. If you’re a young private in the Marines or a battalion commander in the Army, you will be asked to read this classic — and this is why.
In case you were wondering, these were the Skinnies. 10,000 of them were killed with only one human death.
Technically speaking, the film was originally based off an unrelated script for a film called Bug Hunt at Outpost Nine until the production team realized that it only had a passing resemblance to the novel. This lead to many of the significant differences between the two and a drastic change of tone.
The adaptation of the original script to film lead to more of a statement on how propaganda affects the troops fighting in a war in a satirical manner. The novel, however, uses the Bugs as a stand-in character for some nameless enemy to focus in on the novel’s theme of the mindset of a soldier fighting a seemingly unstoppable force.
This is immediately made clear in the first paragraph of the novel.
“I always get the shakes before a drop. I’ve had the injections, of course, and hypnotic preparation, and
it stands to reason that I can’t really be afraid. The ship’s psychiatrist has checked my brain waves and
asked me silly questions while I was asleep and he tells me that it isn’t fear, it isn’t anything important —
it’s just like the trembling of an eager race horse in the starting gate.
I couldn’t say about that; I’ve never been a race horse. But the fact is: I’m scared silly, every time.”
Contrary to what you’d expect if you’ve only watched the film, they’re actually fighting a different alien than the Arachnids (at first.) The first enemies were called “skinnies” and were essentially just tall, lanky, human-like aliens that didn’t really cause a threat to the humans. Their entire Army is easily wiped out by just a single platoon but the prospect of war still frightened Johnny Rico, the stories protagonist.
Hate to break it to anyone expecting giant bug battles in the novel…but it’s fairly light on the fight scenes.
After the battle, the story flashes back to Rico’s time as a civilian before the Mobile Infantry. The idea of “service equals citizenship” had a different meaning in the novel. Despite the world being under the unified “Terran Federation,” the military and its veterans were treated as a higher caste than non-military people. You literally had to join the military to become a citizen.
This hyperbole was just as relevant in 1950’s society (as it is today in the military community). Despite the fact that signing up is a fantastic way to get benefits in our world, and definitely in the novel’s world, military service is often discouraged and looked down on — as demonstrated through Rico’s father.
The novel spends a lot of time in boot camp for the Mobile Infantry. It shows the deeper motivations about what it takes to be in the military — mainly the forced brotherhood, the “one team, one fight” mentality, and the loss of personal identity that comes with service. Which eventually leads to the “Bug War” when the Arachnids destroy Rico’s home city of Buenos Aires.
The novel also misattributes the quote “Come on, you ape, do you want to live forever” to an unknown platoon sergeant in 1918 — as if it wasn’t the greatest thing ever spoken by the greatest enlisted Marine of all time, Sgt. Maj. Dan Daly.
The troops are overzealous and believe they can handle it. Despite Rico being the only one personally affected by the attack, he’s also one of the only ones not to refer to the Arachnids as “bugs,” which was highly implied to have racial undertones. He instead keeps a level facade while remaining terrified. The first chapter happens around here. This is the exact mindset of many troops right before they’re sent to deploy.
When the Mobile Infantry arrives on Klendathu, it’s a complete disaster — the exact opposite of the battle with the skinnies. The Arachnids were massive and though the humans had the firepower, it was no match for the unstoppable numbers of their enemy.
Rico finally gets his chance to fight the Arachnids with the Rasczak’s Roughnecks. He and his men capture a Brain Bug and begin learning more about the “bug” society. It mirrored their own except the Warriors were the lowest caste fighting for an apathetic queen. Rico learns that aimlessly tossing troops at the problem would only result in more and more deaths.
The novel ends with a coda of the first chapter as Rico is about to make his drop onto Klendathu with confidence. He does this because he learned the value of military strategy — the one thing the Arachnids lacked.
Starship Troopers makes heavy parallels between the Mobile Infantry and Arachnids. It’s often incorrectly believed by casual readers, or those without knowledge of the military, that the novel promotes fascism and militarism — it doesn’t.
If anything, the novel explores the psyche of the troops as they head off into combat — it just utilizes an extreme science fiction setting to do it.