5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy

Bigger isn’t always necessarily better. Military history is replete with examples of Goliaths falling to Davids. Sometimes the bigger army is the agent of its own failure, like the restrictions placed on American troops in Vietnam. Sometimes the hubris of a leader who seldom loses leads an otherwise formidable force to destruction the way Napoleon did against the Russians. And then some armies just bite off more than they can chew.


5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy

At last try to stand up when you surrender your superior force after 18 minutes.

1. Mexico tries to put down Texian Rebellion; gets owned

In March 1836, the Mexican Army under the dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna attacked a rebel stronghold near San Antonio in an effort to keep Texas under Mexican domination. In an effort to send a message to the Texians, Santa Anna slaughtered the defenders of an old Spanish mission known as the Alamo, almost to a man. The next time the Texians met the Mexicans in a fight would be a month later at the Battle of San Jacinto. Outnumbered, the Texians took all of 18 minutes to defeat the Mexicans, killing, wounding, or capturing almost all of them – including Santa Anna himself. Texas was soon an independent nation.

5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy

If you want to end French supremacy right, you have to do it yourself.

2. Frederick earns title “The Great” after ending three great powers

The Seven Years’ War was the first true “world war,” involving five major powers and a number of lesser ones, pitting a coalition of the British Empire and Prussia against France, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Austria, and many other German states. On the high seas and in North America, Britain reigned supreme, but on the battlefields of Europe, tiny Prussia would be forced to do battle almost alone and surrounded by opportunist enemies. Frederick struck neighboring Saxony first, before anyone was prepared. He then knocked the French out of the war in Continental Europe at the Battle of Rossbach, despite being outnumbered by more than two-to-one. When the Austrians failed to take the offensive, Frederick destroyed it despite being outnumbered two-to-one – using the same maneuver.

5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy

Oops.

3. Italy tries to create an empire in Africa; Ethiopia isn’t having it

Italy tried to trick the Ethiopians into becoming an Italian client state by using loopholes in the language of a treaty. When this didn’t work, and the Ethiopians decided they were done with Italian meddling, the Italians were already on the warpath, ready to subdue Ethiopia by force. Emperor Menelik II wasn’t someone who was just going to roll over for a European army because they had guns. Ethiopia was gonna go down fighting, if it went down at all. After a year of fighting, the Italians had failed to properly subdue the Ethiopians and decided to attempt a final showdown at a place called Adwa. In the ultimate bad idea, 17,000 Italians with guns took on 100,000 Ethiopians with guns. And horses. It was just a fight that should never have happened in the first place.

5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy

That face when the child soldier you capture is twice the veteran you are.

4. China invades Vietnam; forgets about the French and U.S. invasions

You might think that the years China spent aiding and arming tiny Vietnam would be a hint that Vietnam had a well-equipped, battle-hardened army with a leadership that was well-versed in bringing down giants who tried to ruin their groove. You’d be wrong. When Vietnam invaded neighboring Cambodia to stop the Khmer Rouge from killing all the Cambodians, China saw an opportunity to attack Vietnam and impose their dominance on the young Communist country. Well, Cambodia collapsed like a senior with heatstroke, and Vietnam was able to quickly turn its attention back to those sneaky Chinese. Within six weeks, Chairman Mao was pulling Chinese troops out of Vietnam much faster than the French or Americans had.

5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy

Only in the Falklands.

5. Argentina thinks the U.K. won’t retake an island full of sheep; it’s wrong

In April 1982, Argentina invaded and occupied a series of islands off its coast that the British had occupied basically forever. Argentina didn’t see it as an invasion, really, just a decision to take what was rightfully theirs. Besides, the UK wouldn’t make such a fuss over a few fisherman and some sheep. It would be an easy win, but for one thing the Argentines didn’t count on.

5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy

In Argentina, “Thatcher” means “buzzsaw.”

Once Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher decided to respond with force, she was all a-go. The U.K. dispatched a naval task force of 127 ships immediately to retake the islands. In less than 20 days after setting sail, British Special Air Service commandos and Royal Marines were on South Georgia. Less than a week later, the Marines controlled the island, and so it went. The Argentinian fleet and air force were crippled in just over two months, the Argentinian dictatorship collapsed, and Margaret Thatcher won a new term as Prime Minister.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How this paratrooper got his trench knife back after 70 years

During the launch of Operation Market Garden, a young Nelson Bryant and thousands of fellow paratroopers from the 82d Airborne parachuted into occupied Holland in an attempt to dislodge its Nazi occupiers. Bryant, wounded in a previous mission, took shrapnel to the leg as he fell to Earth. After landing, he began freeing himself from his harness. Under fire from nearby German positions, he was forced to cut it off.

Without thinking, he dropped his knife as he scrambled for cover. It seemed to be lost forever — but it was actually only 73 years.


“There were some Germans shooting at me from about 150 yards away, and they were getting damn close,” he told the local Martha’s Vineyard newspaper, the Vineyard Gazette. “As near as I can tell, what happened was I was pretty excited, and a little upset. I remember I cut some of my clothes I was so nervous. I cut out of the harness. What I think I did, I simply forgot my knife and left it there on the ground in its sheath.”
5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy

An American paratrooper makes a hard landing in a Dutch field during the airborne phase of Operation Market Garden, September, 1944.

More than 40,000 paratroopers from the 101st and 82d Airborne divisions were dropped into Holland to support Market Garden in 1944. The 82d was supposed to capture and defend the heights over Groesbeek, outside the city of Nijmegen. They were successful in taking the position, but were forced to defend the area from repeated, powerful German counterattacks.

The 82d was also tasked with dropping on either side of the Nijmegen Bridge to hit the bridge’s defenders from both sides and keep it operational for use by Allied forces. Unfortunately, as was the story with Market Garden, things did not go as planned. The entire strike force was dropped to the south of the bridge and would have to assault it from one side, during the day.

5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy

After D-Day in Normandy, in June, 1944, Nelson Bryant reluctantly strikes a pose.

(Nelson Bryant)

The fighting men of the U.S. Army is the stuff of legend in Groesbeek. One day in 2017, 56-year-old André Duijghuisen was looking through his father’s attic when he came across a very different kind of knife. There was clearly something extraordinary about it. It was still in its sheath – and carved into that sheath was a name, “Bryant.”

Duijghuisen did some digging and found a Bryant registered with the 82d Airbone, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment. He found that this Bryant not only survived the war but later became a reporter, and even wrote for the New York Times. Most importantly, he was still alive.

Bryant almost didn’t make to Holland at all.

Nelson Bryant was a student at Dartmouth College in 1943. As a college man, he was exempt from the draft but seeing so many friends and peers go over to fight the Nazis inspired him. He volunteered to join the Army. Unhappy with his stateside supply job, he soon volunteered for the 82d Airborne. He arrived in England just in time to jump into Hitler’s Fortress Europe in the wee hours before the D-Day landings.

It was there, during a reconnaissance mission, that he was shot in the chest by a .50-caliber bullet.

5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy

(Nelson Bryant)

“I heard machine gun fire, the next thing I know, bam,” said Mr. Bryant. “It went in the front, came out the back, 50 caliber. I thought, is this it? I could hear distant gunfire, I could hear cows mooing in the pasture.”

Bryant laid in a hedgerow for four days before making it back to a field hospital in Wales. He worked to recuperate there, first walking on his own, then running. When he found out the 82d was making another jump into occupied Europe, he asked doctors if he would be able to go with them. They thought he was nuts. He wasn’t crazy, he was just determined to finish what he started. Not even a hospital could hold him back.

“When no one was looking, I got my clothes and put them on, walked out of the hospital, and thumbed rides on U.S. military vehicles back to Nottingham, England, and got there a week before we made the jump into Holland,” he said.
5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy

Duijghuisen reached out to Bryant and told him that he had his “bayonet” and asked if he would like it returned.

“He said bayonet, and I knew something was wrong because I knew the gun I carried you couldn’t use a bayonet,” Bryant said of the exchange. “Then I realized I was talking to a civilian and he wouldn’t know a bayonet from a trench knife. When he said there was a leather sheath, that was a clue.”

At 56, Duijghusen wasn’t even born during World War II, but the legacy of the men who liberated Holland is still important to the people there.

“The name on the bayonet, it made, for me, something personal,” said Duijghuisen before making the visit to Martha’s Vineyard. “Because of what he did in 1944, and because we are now living in a free world. I think a lot about that. He fought in Holland for our freedom. I’m very excited about that, it will be nice to see him.”

Duijghuisen and his wife traveled to see Bryant in 2017, 73 years after the old veteran jumped into Holland, just to return the trench knife Bryant used to free himself while helping free the Netherlands.

MIGHTY HISTORY

3 Holocaust survivors who served with distinction in the US military

The United Nations General Assembly has designated Jan. 27, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. This day honors the memories of the 6 million Jewish victims and millions of others whose lives were impacted during the Holocaust. International Holocaust Remembrance Day also provides educational programs to prevent future genocides.

Many who survived the atrocities of the Holocaust persevered despite the trauma they endured, and several even served with distinction in the US military. Here are three of their stories.

SIDNEY SHACHNOW, ARMY SPECIAL FORCES

5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy
Sidney Shachnow, front row center, was posthumously honored in 2019 with the Bull Simons Award — given to those who embody “the true spirit, values, and skills of a Special Operations warrior.” Photo courtesy of arsof-history.org.

Sidney Shachnow compartmentalized the horrors he experienced while imprisoned in a Jewish ghetto during World War II. He authored a book in 2004 called Hope and Honor: A Memoir of a Soldier’s Courage and Survival. It was within these pages he broke his code of silence. “I found it painful and I wasn’t sure anyone would believe me,” he wrote in the preface.

Born Schaja Shachnowski in 1934 in Kaunas, Lithuania, Shachnow’s entire family and 40,000 of the Jewish population of Kaunas lived in a fenced-off ghetto called Concentration Camp No. 4, Kovno.

“There was no infrastructure, no water pipes, no sewage system, and no access to running water,” Shachnow wrote. “Not only the brutality of the Gestapo, but the threat of disease was an ever-present terror to the population.” He and his family lived in constant fear for three years before the Soviets reoccupied Lithuania.

He survived the Holocaust and went on to have a historic career in the US Army. “I have been involved or played a part in some of the most significant times in history from the beginning of Special Forces, the Vietnam War and the Tet Offensive, to the fall of the Berlin Wall while living in the former home of the Treasurer of the Third Reich as Commander of US Forces,” he wrote. “The irony of circumstance has always been exceptional in my life, from being enemies with the Germans, friends with the Soviets as they rescued me and my family from Kovno, and later enemies of the Russians during the Cold War and protecting West Germany.”

When he became a US citizen in 1958, he changed his name to Sidney Shachnow. He went to Vietnam both as a Green Beret and as an infantry officer and was twice awarded the Silver Star for actions in combat, as well as two Purple Hearts. He later served as the commander of Detachment A, a covert Army Special Forces unit based in Berlin that conducted some of the most sensitive operations of the Cold War from 1956 to 1984. He retired from the US Army as a major general in 1994 with almost 40 years of active-duty military service. Shachnow died in 2018.

JACK TAYLOR, OSS MARITIME UNIT

5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy
Lt. Jack Taylor, right, earned the Navy Cross through his service with the OSS Maritime Unit during World War II. Photo courtesy of The OSS Society.

Lt. Jack Taylor was a US Navy sailor recruited into the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in World War II. He served with the OSS Maritime Unit — one of the several predecessors of Navy SEALs — and had 18 months of operational experience in the Balkans. In October 1944 he became the first Allied officer to drop into Austria. After a mission to infiltrate Vienna and set up a resistance network code-named Operation Dupont went sideways, Taylor was captured by the Gestapo.

He was held in a Vienna prison for four months. When the Russians neared Vienna, he was transferred to Mauthausen concentration camp — a horrible place in Germany where people were sent to be exterminated. 

The US Army’s 11th Armored Division liberated the camp on May 3, 1945. Taylor later spoke about his experiences in front of a film crew from within the camp. One of the liberators asked how many ways people in the camp were executed, and Taylor answered honestly. “Five or six ways: by gas; by shooting; by beating, beating with clubs; by exposure, that is standing outside naked for 48 hours and having cold water thrown on them in the middle of winter; dogs; and pushing over a 100-foot cliff.”

Taylor’s path differed from the others on this list as he was already serving his country before he was imprisoned. He recovered 13 “death books” kept by prisoners who acted as camp secretaries at Mauthausen. These recorded the “official” deaths, but unbeknownst to their German captors, the records had a secret code to mark deaths by lethal injection and by the gas chamber. This evidence was later presented during the Nuremberg Trials and was called “some of the best war crimes evidence” produced.

In May 1946, Taylor was called as a star witness for the prosecution at the Mauthausen-Gusen Camp Trials held at the Dachau concentration camp. He was later awarded the Navy Cross for his service during World War II and suffered from severe post-traumatic stress in his life as a civilian.

TIBOR RUBIN, MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT AND POW

5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy
Tibor Rubin survived the Holocaust only to face more bigotry in the US Army while serving in the Korean War. He was recommended for the Medal of Honor four times and helped save 35 to 40 lives as a prisoner of war. Composite by Kenna Milaski/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Tibor Rubin was only 13 years old when he was deported to the Mauthausen concentration camp. “When we get into the camp the German commander said right away, ‘You Jews, none of you are going to get out alive,’” Rubin remembered. “It was a terrible life. Their aim was to kill you. Nothing to look forward, just when am I going to be next.”

His turn never came. The US Army liberated the camp. He was separated from his family but alive. Rubin later discovered his parents and sister were murdered in the gas chambers at Auschwitz. He vowed to one day become like one of the liberators who saved his life.

“I have a debt to pay,” he said. “So I made a promise. If Lord help me if I ever go to America, I’m gonna become a GI Joe.”

He became more than an average soldier. He joined the US Army and deployed to Korea in 1950. Alone on a hilltop at 4 a.m. Rubin single-handedly repelled a force of more than 100 enemy troops during a 24-hour gun battle. “I figured I was a goner,” Rubin later recalled. “But I ran from one foxhole to the next, throwing hand grenades so the North Koreans would think they were fighting more than one person. I couldn’t think straight — a situation, like that, you become hysterical trying to save your life.”

He was recommended for the Medal of Honor but was denied due to discrimination against his Jewish heritage by senior leadership. One of them, a sergeant, even sent Rubin on one-way suicide missions expecting him not to make it back alive — but he always did.

On the night before Halloween, Rubin’s position was overrun by Chinese forces and he became a prisoner of war. While in the camp he would sneak out at night and steal food from the guards. He made soup for the sick, acted as a doctor for his wounded friends, and was a therapist for those who had given up hope. 

From April 20 to May 3, 1953, the Chinese forces conducted a POW exchange of the sick and wounded. He was personally responsible for saving the lives of 35 to 40 soldiers who otherwise would have succumbed to their injuries. When Rubin returned to the US he devoted 20,000 hours to helping veterans in Long Beach, California. In 2005, President George W. Bush awarded Rubin the Medal of Honor, which he’d been recommended for on four separate occasions.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Marines take the Humvee’s replacement out for a spin

Multiple units on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton have started to introduce the new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle to their Marines by teaching them the basic operations of one of the Marine Corps’ newest ground vehicles.

“The JLTV is a lot more capable than the Humvee,” said Mario Marin, the JLTV lead instructor with the I Marine Expeditionary Force JLTV Operator New Equipment Training course. “The ability for the driver to actually manipulate the system itself, using what’s called a MUX panel, a multi-plex panel, or the driver smart display. The driver has, at his finger tip, a lot of control of the vehicle. It has a lot of technological advances that the Humvee does not, and that is just your basic JLTV.”


The JLTV is meant to replace the Humvee all across the Department of Defense. The JLTV is equipped with more highly evolved technology compared to the basic equipment of a Humvee.

The JLTV is mechanically reliable, maintainable with on-board diagnostics, all terrain mobile, and equipped to link into current and future tactical data nets.

5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy

US Marine Lance Cpl. Xavier Puente, a mortarman with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, listens to an instructor during the I Marine Expeditionary Force Joint Light Tactical Vehicle Operator New Equipment Training course in 13 Area on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Oct. 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Alison Dostie)

5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy

US Marines familiarize themselves with the inside of a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle during the I Marine Expeditionary Force JLTV Operator New Equipment Training course in 13 Area on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Oct. 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alison Dostie)

5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy

US Marines take notes in a class during the I Marine Expeditionary Force Joint Light Tactical Vehicle Operator New Equipment Training course in 13 Area on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Oct. 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Alison Dostie)

5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy

US Marine Pfc. Nailey Riviere, a motor vehicle operator with Combat Logistics Battalion 15, 1st Marine Logistics Group, loosens a bolt on the wheel of a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle during the I Marine Expeditionary Force JLTV Operator New Equipment Training course in 13 Area on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Oct. 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Alison Dostie)

5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy

US Marines conduct cone skill drills during the I Marine Expeditionary Force Joint Light Tactical Vehicle Operator New Equipment Training course in 13 Area on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Oct. 17, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Alison Dostie)

5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy

US Marines conduct cone skill drills during the I Marine Expeditionary Force Joint Light Tactical Vehicle Operator New Equipment Training course in 13 Area on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Oct. 17, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Alison Dostie)

5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy

US Marines drive Joint Light Tactical Vehicles at White Beach as part of the I Marine Expeditionary Force JLTV Operator New Equipment Training course on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Oct. 24, 2019.

(Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Drake Nickels)

5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy

US Marines drive a Joint Light Tactical Vehicles through the water at White Beach as part of the I Marine Expeditionary Force JLTV Operator New Equipment Training course on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Oct. 24, 2019.

(Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Drake Nickels)

5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy

A US Marine parks a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle at White Beach as part of the I Marine Expeditionary Force JLTV Operator New Equipment Training course on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, October 24, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Drake Nickels)

“This license is better than any other license that I’ve had,” said Cpl. Devonte Jacobs, a motor vehicle operator with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. “This vehicle is capable of doing a lot more than any other vehicle, and it will help Marines become better.”

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

Articles

Oldest Navy Pearl Harbor salvage diver dies

In the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the battleships USS California (BB 44), USS West Virginia (BB 48), and USS Nevada (BB 36) were severely damaged while the battleships USS Arizona (BB 39) and USS Oklahoma (BB 37) were sunk.


Four of those ships would eventually be salvaged, three of which returned to service, thanks to the efforts of brave Navy divers.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the oldest living diver to have worked on that immense project, 103-year-old Ken Hartle, died on Jan. 24. He had been a ship-fitter when Pearl Harbor was attacked, and as a result, was unable to join the Navy until 1943 when his skills were necessary to repair ships that had suffered battle damage.

He later volunteered to be a Navy diver.

5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy
The USS West Virginia during salvage operations. Photo: US Navy

According to the Naval History and Heritage Command website, Navy divers carried out over 4,000 dives, covering 16,000 hours to salvage the ships at Pearl Harbor. The operations were not without risk. The Union-Tribune report listed a number of dangers Hartle and fellow divers faced, including getting trapped in wreckage, the “bends,” and attacks from sea creatures — all while wearing uninsulated canvas suits and using 200-pound copper helmets and having breathable air pumped down to them.

Hartle was nothing if not a survivor. During his life, the Union-Tribune reported that he was kicked by a mule at age 3, stabbed in the neck during a brawl at age 9, survived a rattlesnake bite, a scorpion sting, a car accident that threw him several hundred feet, six bypass surgeries, two bouts with cancer, and a fall while trimming trees at age 97.

5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy
Cmdr. Daniel M. Colman, commanding officer of the Pearl Harbor-based Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit One (MDSU) 1, address attendees during a change of command ceremony at the USS Utah Memorial on Ford Island. Colman was being relieved by Cmdr. John B. Moulton. The MDSU-1 mission is to provide combat ready, expeditionary, rapidly deployable Mobile Diving and Salvage Detachments (MDSD) to conduct harbor clearance, salvage, underwater search and recovery, and underwater emergency repairs in any environment. The suit to Colman’s left is similar to one used by Ken Hartle, who died Jan. 24 at the age of 103, during salvage operations at Pearl Harbor in World War II. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist David Rush)

A memorial service for Hartle will be held on Mar. 4.

Articles

Here’s who would win if US Marines went up against Russian naval infantry

The United States Marine Corps: 241 years of butt-kicking and tradition.


Russian Naval Infantry: A Russian military force with 311 years of victory — and defeat.

Which is the deadlier unit in a matchup of the U.S. versus Russia when it comes to naval infantry?

In a major crisis, the U.S. would likely send a Marine Expeditionary Brigade. Perhaps the most notable example was its use in 1990 after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

Using a force of five pre-positioned vessels, the U.S. delivered the gear and supplies needed for the 4th MEB to operate for 30 days as additional heavy forces arrived. It wasn’t anyone’s idea of a slouch: It brought a reinforced regiment of Marines (three battalions of Marine infantry, a battalion of artillery, and companies of AAV-7A1 Amphibious Assault Vehicles, Light Armored Vehicles, and tanks) for ground combat, and also featured three squadrons of AV-8B+ Harriers, two squadrons of F/A-18C Hornets, a squadron of EA-6B Prowlers, and seven squadrons of helicopters.

A Russian Naval Infantry Brigade is also quite powerful. For the sake of this discussion, let’s look at the forces of Red Banner Northern Fleet, centered on the 61st Kirkinesskaya Red Banner Marine Brigade.

5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy
030612-N-3725V-001Ustka, Poland (Jun. 12, 2003) — A Russian Naval Infantryman provides cover for his counterparts from Denmark, Lithuania, Poland and United States during an exercise at Ustka, Poland as part of Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2003. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Chadwick Vann)

The Red Banner Northern Fleet’s naval infantry force has three battalions of naval infantry, one air-assault battalion, one “reconnaissance” battalion, one “armored” battalion, two artillery battalions, and an air-defense battalion.

If things were to come to blows in Norway during the Cold War (or today, for that matter), these units would go head-to-head. In fact, ironically, the 4th MEB was diverted from preparations for a deployment exercise to Norway to respond to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. So, who would win that face-off?

With what is effectively four battalions of infantry, a reconnaissance battalion, a tank battalion, two artillery battalions, and the other attachments, the Russians have a slight numerical edge in ground firepower. The air-defense battalion can somewhat negate the air power that a Marine Expeditionary Brigade would bring to a fight.

That said, some of the equipment is older, like the PT-76 light tank and the BRDM-2 armored car. The BMP-2 is equipping some units, but many still use BTR-80 and MT-LB armored personnel carriers. Very few BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles or T-90 main battle tanks have arrived.

5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy
Marines with Company C, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, fire down range during a CS gas attack during a live fire range August 18, 2016, at Bradshaw Field Training Area, Northern Territory, Australia. The range was the final training evolution of Exercise Koolendong 16, a trilateral exercise between the U.S. Marine Corps, Australian Defence Force and French Armed Forces New Caledonia. Marines held a defensive position while engaging targets and working through the CS gas, which simulated a chemical attack. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Sarah Anderson)

That said, the American Marines have potent firepower of their own. Perhaps the most potent ground firepower would come from the company of M1A1 Abrams tanks. Don’t be fooled by their 1980s lineage — these tanks have been heavily upgraded, and are on par with the M1A2 SEP tanks in Army service.

Marine Corps LAV-25s and LAV-ATs can also kill the armored vehicles attached to the Red Banner Northern Fleet. This does not include man-portable anti-tank missiles like the FGM-148 Javelin or the BGM-71 TOW.

What will really ruin the day for the Russian Naval Infantry is the Marine aviation. Marine aviation specifically trains to support Marines on the ground, and the close-air support — particularly from the AV-8B+ Harrier — will prove to be very decisive.

In short, the Marines might be spotting Russian Naval Infantry seven decades of tradition, but they will show the Russians why they were called “devil dogs.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Marine Corps wanted to shoot down Hinds with Cobras

The Hind Mi-24D was an odd but deadly amalgamation of troop helicopter transport and attack helicopter. While it was ostensibly built to transport a squad of infantry and then protect it, American chopper pilots were worried about what would happen if they ran into the attack helicopter and its massive gun and were forced to fight it in the air.


One Marine Corps pilot, Lt. Col. Richard L. Phillips, took a long look at the problem and put together a proposal in 1979 to make his service’s Cobra helicopters a lethal counter to the newest Hinds. Some of his suggestions would go to change the Cobra program forever.

5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy

An AH-1 Super Cobra fires rockets in training.

(U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Dean Verschoor)

The first thing to understand about a Hind D vs. Cobra fight is that neither of the platforms was actually designed for air-to-air combat. Cobras were initially designed for the Army to use in protecting ground troops and Huey utility helicopters from surface threats. Hinds were made to drop off troops like Hueys and then provide close combat attack support from the air like Cobras.

The Marine Corps SeaCobras and later SuperCobras were stronger than their Army counterparts thanks to the addition of a second engine and an improved main gun. The Army would later adopt the Marine’s 20mm main gun on later Cobra models instead of the 7.62mm miniguns and 40mm grenade launchers that they had originally mounted.

But while that 20mm main gun was great for wiping out enemy armored vehicles and light bunkers, its rate of fire was limited to 670 rounds per minute in order to keep it from moving the Cobra too much while it was firing. Meanwhile, the new Hinds had a large, multi-barreled gun that Phillips and others were worried had a higher rate of fire and higher muzzle velocity.

5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy

​The Mi-24 is a great helicopter that, despite a rocky start, rose to be a major threat to U.S. forces in the Cold War.

(Rob Schleiffert via flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

It would later turn out that the Soviets were using a Yak-B main gun with 12.7mm rounds that had a muzzle velocity of 810 meters per second, less than the 1,050 m/s of the Cobra’s M195 20mm gun. But the Yak-B on the Mi-24D could fire up to 4,500 rounds per minute while the Cobra was limited to 670.

Worse, the Russian pilots were training for air-to-air combat in the Hind. When Phillips and others started matching Hinds and Cobras in simulators, it became apparent that victory or defeat in a one-on-one fight would be decided by pilot experience and main gun capability. And the Marines thought they were behind in both training and armament.

But Phillips thought it was likely that Cobras and Hinds would meet in future conflict, and that the Marines would need to up-arm their Cobras or else buy more and deploy them in larger teams so they could win through superiority of numbers.

Obviously, the Marines would prefer to win through excellence rather than throwing unsustainable numbers of pilots and helicopters at the problem. So Phillips proposed two fixes for the armament and one fix for training.

First, his simulation experience against the Hind showed that an air-to-air battle between it and a Cobra would be over quickly. Often, the helicopters settled their conflict in a single pass as one or the other shot down the enemy with a burst from the main gun. To make the Cobra more successful, he wanted to give it a higher rate of fire and muzzle velocity with improved ammunition or even a new gun. Also, an improved sighting mechanism would increase Marine chances.

But he also wanted to add an entirely new weapon onto the helicopter: air-to-air missiles. This is one of the adoptions the Marine Corps would later make, deploying Sidewinder missiles on the helicopter in 1983, four years after Phillips’ paper was written and submitted to the U.S. Army War College.

5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy

The AH-1Z Viper has an even better version of the 20mm Gatling guns used on the AH-J SuperCobra.

(Lance Cpl. Christopher O’Quin)

But Phillips also wanted to change training and briefings to address the air-to-air threat. The Russians were training specifically on combat against helicopters, and he wanted the Marines to do the same. And one step further, he wanted transportation helicopters to carry some weapons for self-defense against the Hind, and he wanted those helicopters’ crews to discuss air-to-air procedures before any mission where enemy aircraft could be in play.

All of this combined would have made it to where up-armed Cobras would escort lightly armed transportation helicopters into combat and, if an enemy Hind were spotted, the entire flight would work together to bring down the Russians before the Hind could win the day.

Luckily for everyone involved, the fight never went down. But if it had, those Sidewinder missiles and better training would likely have saved Marines and troops from the other three branches forward as Hinds fell to the snakes in the grass.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Bette Davis’ club became the best spot for WWII troops

Veterans and troops always have a go-to spot where they can enjoy themselves after hours. Oftentimes, it’s a bar where they can unwind alongside buddies and take their minds off the stresses that come with military life, if only for a brief moment. Wherever that place may be, when you’re there, you know you can just kick back, enjoy that sweet, refreshing beer, and relax.

Back during World War II, the U.S. was abuzz with patriotism and everyone who could would do their part to serve those who serve. Hollywood celebrities of the time, like Bette Davis and John Garfield, were no exception. In fact, they created a club designed specifically to cater to returning troops. Best part of all: The uniform got you in for free and troops would never spend a single cent when there.


5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy

She would spend almost the entire run of the Second World War supporting the troops at the expense of her infamous Warner Bros. contract.

Located at 1451 Cahuenga Boulevard in Hollywood, CA was the fabulous Hollywood Canteen. Troops who visited would be greeted with the words, “through these portals pass the most beautiful uniforms in the world.” Anyone was allowed in, but the troops were treated with more esteem than the celebrities who catered to them.

No one dedicated more time and effort to the Hollywood Canteen than Bette Davis herself. The beautiful actress was the president of the Canteen and would often be the first person ready to greet troops as they came through the door. Visiting troops would be escorted to their seat by a lovely celebrity and then offered a fantastic evening.

5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy

Who wouldn’t want a free meal served to you by Rita Hayworth and Marlene Dietrich?

Everything within the Canteen was offered on a donation basis, but the tickets to get were outrageously priced (for those who weren’t in the military). Tickets ran the average civilian — about 4.15 when adjusted for inflation — and they still wouldn’t get the star treatment from the celebrities. Of course, all of that money was funneled back to the war effort.

It operated at a huge loss. It was highly publicized; they welcomed in well over one million troops and spent ,000 (,697.51 AFI) weekly on food alone. As a result, the Canteen relied heavily on donations and good will from wealthy individuals to keep the doors open. The most ardent benefactors were Bette Davis and the many celebrities that came to support the troops — a long list that included everyone who was anyone at the time.

5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy

It’s probably the best business move anyways. Anyone would go bankrupt if they openly offered every troop as much alcohol as they wanted.

The troops were offered nearly whatever they wanted. Chef Milani, one of the earliest celebrity chefs, was world-renown and took great joy in making off-the-wall recipes for the troops. The troops were also offered drinks, cigarettes, and a night of entertainment free of charge.

The only real downside is that since it was unprofessional to offer a bunch of free alcohol to troops (and, as a result, have drunk troops’ photos plastered all over the tabloids), they refrained from openly serving alcohol — but you know it happened anyway. Officers were also discouraged from entering as it was more or less seen as “the enlisted’s paradise.”

In 1944, Warner Bros., who had Bette Davis under contract, made a musical, called Hollywood Canteen, which was set in its namesake club. Nearly every actor and musician who supported the club made a cameo appearance in the film. It was the fourth highest grossing film of that year and 40 percent of the profits were funneled directly back into the club.

When V-J Day finally came, the club’s purpose had been fulfilled. They threw one hell of a party before closing its doors for good. The remaining funds in the Canteen’s account were spread among various veteran organizations.

In 1980, Bette Davis was awarded the Distinguished Civilian Service Medal, the Department of Defense’s highest award for civilians, for her dedication to the troops and for giving them the Hollywood Canteen. The two-time Academy award winning actress and arguably the greatest actress of the classical film era said of the Canteen, “there are few accomplishments in my life that I am sincerely proud of. The Hollywood Canteen is one of them.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Army tankers are playing video games online to train for tank warfare during the coronavirus pandemic

Dozens of US Army tankers have been playing tank warfare video games online to train for combat during the pandemic, the Army said this week.

Tankers with D Troop, 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division are using the online game “War Thunder” to train, according to an Army news story first reported on by Task & Purpose.


Several different games were considered, but “War Thunder,” a free cross-platform online game that simulates combat, won out.

The 3rd ABCT, which recently returned from South Korea, does not actually have any tanks to train in right now because they are waiting to get upgraded M1A2 Abrams tanks, but even if they had them, the coronavirus would likely keep the four-man crews from piling into them.

3rd ABCT spokesman Capt. Scott Kuhn, who wrote the Army news story, told Insider that the tank crews have training simulators like the Close Combat Tactical Trainer (CCTT) and Advanced Gunnery Training Systems (AGTS), but, like a real tank, these simulators require soldiers to be in close proximity to one another.

Social distancing demands in response to the continued spread of the coronavirus required leaders to take a look at alternative training options.

Seeing that all their soldiers had a PlayStation, an Xbox, or a PC that “War Thunder” could be downloaded on, troop leaders decided that was the best option in these unusual times.

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An online video game that 1st Cavalry Division soldiers are using to help maintain readiness while protecting the force from the coronavirus.

US Army/Capt. Scott Kuhn

“We are able use the game as a teaching tool for each crew member,” Staff Sgt. Tommy Huynh, a 3rd platoon section leader, explained in the Army release.

“For example, drivers can train on maneuver formations and change formation drills. Of course online games have their limitations, but for young soldiers it helps them to just understand the basics of their job,” he said.

One of the big limitations is that “War Thunder” only allows players to virtually operate tanks and other weapon systems from World War II and the Cold War, meaning that the game is not a perfect training platform for modern tanks.

While there are certain limitations, there are also some advantages, the main one being a new perspective.

“Being exposed to other viewpoints through the game is extremely helpful,” Sgt. David Ose, a 1st Platoon section leader, said in the Army news story.

“If you are a driver and you’re inside a tank for real, you don’t get to see what it looks like from above. You don’t always understand that bigger picture because you’re just focused on the role of driving the tank,” Kuhn told Insider.

“This kind of broadens that. It provides a training opportunity to teach younger soldiers how what they do impacts the bigger picture for the platoon or the company,” he explained.

The training, while somewhat unconventional, remains structured. Sessions tend to include a briefing from the section or platoon leader. There are also required training manual readings.

Game play is treated like the real thing, as leaders issue commands and soldiers use proper call-for-fire procedures. And after the soldiers complete an online training session, there is an after action review to talk about how the soldiers can do better in the next exercise.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force is finally getting its long-delayed new tanker

The Air Force and Boeing have reached agreement on delivery of the long delayed KC-46 Pegasus tanker, with the two sides expecting the first aircraft to arrive in October 2018, according to Bloomberg.

Boeing’s original deadline to deliver 18 planes and additional materials was August 2017, but the $44 billion program has been hit by numerous delays and setbacks, and the Air Force said this spring it expected Boeing to miss its deadline to deliver the planes by October 2018, with the first KC-46 not arriving until the end of 2018 and all 18 planes by spring 2019.

The delivery of the first KC-46 by October 2018 is two months earlier than the Air Force anticipated. Matthew Donovan, the Air Force undersecretary, told Bloomberg the timeline was “aggressive but achievable.” Under the new schedule, the other 17 planes will arrive by April 2019.

The Air Force plans to buy 179 of the KC-46. Once it begins receiving them, the service will start phasing out its older KC-10 tankers. It will hold on to 300 of its KC-135 tankers, which average 55 years old. That would expand the tanker fleet to 479 KC-135s and KC-46s from the current 455 KC-135s and KC-10s.

5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy
A KC-46 Pegasus refuels an A-10 Thunderbolt, July 15, 2016.
(Boeing photo by John D. Parker)

Under their contract, Boeing is responsible for costs beyond the Air Force’s $4.82 billion commitment. But delays in delivery could mean the Air Force will have to keep 19 KC-135s in service through 2023 at a cost of up to $10 million a plane annually.

The most serious problem facing the tanker has been the risk of its refueling boom scraping the surface of planes receiving fuel, which can damage stealth aircraft and potentially ground the tanker.

Other issues include the operation of the remote vision system, which is used to guide the boom; problems with the unexpected disconnection of its centerline drogue system, which is used to refuel aircraft; and concerns about the plane’s high-frequency radio, which uses the skin of the plane to broadcast. The latter two issues were downgraded to category-two deficiencies early 2018.


Settling on a delivery date may mean that both sides believe Boeing is close to resolving the tanker’s deficiencies. Donovan, the Air Force undersecretary, told Bloomberg that a software fix for the boom scrapping the receiving aircraft is undergoing flight testing and that flight test verification for the fixes is set for September 2018.

‘It is prudent to explore options’

The Air Force has been trying to replace its aging tankers for years, and military officials have been critical of the recent delays, even as they’ve complimented Boeing on its cooperation.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told acquisition officials in November 2017 that he was “unwilling (totally)” to accept flawed KC-46 tankers.

Early 2018, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told the House Armed Services Committee that “one of our frustrations with Boeing is that they’re much more focused on their commercial activity than they are on getting this right for the Air Force and getting these airplanes to the Air Force.”

5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy
The KC-46A Pegasus deploys the centerline boom for the first time, October 9, 2015. The boom is the fastest way to refuel aircraft at 1,200 gallons a minute.
(Boeing photo by John D. Parker)

Her remarks came a few days after Donovan encouraged Boeing to “double down” to “get this program over the goal line” during a visit to the KC-46 production and modification facility in Washington state.

Even as the KC-46 program inches forward, lawmakers are looking beyond the current, manned tankers to adapt to emerging threats.

It its markup of the 2019 defense budget, the Senate Armed Services Committee expressed concern “about the growing threat to large high-value aircraft in contested environments” and recommended an extra $10 million in spending on Air Force research, development, testing, and evaluation, for a total of $38.4 million.

While the Air Force’s tankers allow greater operational availability and range for fighters and bombers, “these assets are manned and increasingly difficult to protect,” the committee said.

“Given the increasingly challenging operating environments our potential adversaries are presenting, it is prudent to explore options for optionally unmanned and more survivable tankers that could operate autonomously as part of a large, dispersed logistics fleet that could sustain attrition in conflict,” it added.

Boeing is researching automation for its commercial aircraft, part of an effort to address a protracted pilot shortage, an issue that has plagued both civilian and military aviation.

Russian aircraft maker Ilyushin is also working on a similar project, partnering with Kronstadt Group to develop an unmanned transport aircraft that could be used to access remote or difficult-to-reach areas.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army snipers test out new ghillie suits for future warfare

The camouflaged ghillie suits worn by US snipers are vital tools that enhance concealment, offering greater survivability and lethality, but these suits are in desperate need of an upgrade.

The US Army is currently testing new camouflaged ghillie suits to better protect soldiers and make them deadlier to enemies.

Trained snipers from across the service recently gathered at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida to conduct visual testing for several prototypes, an important preliminary evaluation, the Army revealed in December 2018.


5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy

The current ghillie suit, known as the Flame Resistant Ghillie System, is shown here. A new suit, called the Improved Ghillie System, or IGS, is under development.

(US Army photo)

What are ghillie suits?

A ghillie suit is a type of camouflaged clothing designed to help snipers disappear in any environment, be it desert, woodland, sand, or snow.

“A sniper’s mission dictates that he remains concealed in order to be successful,” Staff Sgt. Ricky Labistre, a sniper with 1st Battalion, 160th Infantry Regiment of the California National Guard explainedrecently. “Ghillie suits provide snipers that edge and flexibility to maintain a concealed position, which is partial to our trade.”

5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy

A 1st Battalion, 175th Infantry Soldier practices camouflage, cover and concealment with the fire-resistant ghillie suit during training at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., in November 2012.

(US Army photo)

What are Army snipers wearing now?

The Flame Resistant Ghillie System (FRGS) suits currently worn by US snipers were first fielded in 2012, appearing at the Army Sniper School, the Marine Corps Scout Sniper School and the Special Operations Target Interdiction Course.

The Army has decided that these suits need a few critical improvements.

The FRGS suits are heavy, uncomfortable, and hot, Debbie Williams, a systems acquisition expert with Program Executive Office Soldier, said in a statement in October 2018.

“The current [accessory] kit is thick and heavy and comes with a lot of pieces that aren’t used,” Maj. WaiWah Ellison, an assistant product manager with PEO Soldier explained, adding that “soldiers are creating ghillie suits with their own materials to match their personal preference.”

But, most importantly, existing US military camouflage is increasingly vulnerable to the improved capabilities of America’s adversaries.

“The battlefield has changed, and our enemies possess the capabilities that allow them to better spot our snipers. It’s time for an update to the current system,” Sgt. Bryce Fox, a sniper team leader with 2nd Battalion, 505th Infantry Regiment, said in a recent statement.

5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy

A southern black racer snake slithers across the rifle barrel held by junior Army National Guard sniper Pfc. William Snyder as he practices woodland stalking in a camouflaged ghillie suit at Eglin Air Force Base, April 7, 2018.

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. William Frye)

What is the Army developing to replace the existing suits?

The Army plans to eventually replace the FRGS suits with Improved Ghillie System (IGS) suits.

The new IGS suits, part of the Army’s increased focus on military modernization, are expected to be made of a lighter, more breathable material that can also offer the stiffness required to effectively camouflage the wearer.

The ghillie suits will still be flame resistant, a necessity after two soldiers from the Army’s 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment burned to death after their camouflaged sniper gear caught fire in Iraq; however, that protection will primarily be provided by the combat uniform worn underneath.

The new suits will also be modular, which means that snipers will be able to take them apart in the field, adding or subtracting pieces, such as sleeves, leggings, veils, capes, and so on, as needed.

5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy

An Army sniper scans the terrain in front of him as part of the Improved Ghillie System visual testing at Eglin Air Force Base in November 2018.

(US Army photo)

How are the new suits being tested?

Snipers from special forces and Ranger regiments, as well as conventional forces, came together at Eglin Air Force base for a few days in early November 2018 for daytime visual testing of IGS prototypes, the Army said in a statement in December 2018.

The testing involved an activity akin to a game of hide-and-seek. Snipers in IGS suits concealed themselves in woodland and desert environments while other snipers attempted to spot them at distances ranging from 10 to 200 meters.

In addition to daytime visual testing, the IGS suits will be put through full-spectrum testing carried out by the Army Night-Vision Laboratory and acoustic testing by the Army Research Laboratory.

The Army Research Laboratory will also test tear resistance and fire retardant capabilities.

Once the initial testing is completed, a limited user evaluation ought to be conducted next spring at the sniper school at Fort Benning in Georgia. The Army is expected to order 3,500 IGS suits for approximately 3,300 snipers with the Army and Special Operations Command.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The soil new infantrymen walk on is bloodied from every American war

Deep in the swampland along the Alabama-Georgia border is U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning. It’s home to many beautiful locales, such as Sand Hill, where you’ll hear drill sergeants snapping the civilian out of young infantrymen, and the Red Diamond Land Navigation course, where you’ll blink and run into a banana spider web. Most importantly, however, is the Inouye Parade Field at the National Infantry Museum.


Built and commemorated in 2009, the National Infantry Museum houses the rich history of America’s infantry dating back to the Revolutionary War. The parade field just outside is no different. Sprinkled across the field is ‘Sacred Soil‘ from the battlegrounds of Yorktown, Antietam, Soissons, Normandy, Corregidor, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy
Everyone graduating out of Ft. Benning walks these hollowed grounds. (Photo by Patrick A. Albright MCoE / PAO Photographer)

Descendants of Alexander Hamilton, Founding Father and commander of the infantrymen who forced the British surrender at Yorktown, laid their soil first. Henry Benning Pease Jr., descendant of Brig. Gen. Benning and namesake for the installation, laid the soil from America’s bloodiest single-day battle, Antietam.

Samuel Parker Moss, grandson of the most decorated officer of WWI, Lt. Col. Samuel I. Parker, and George York, the son of Sgt. Alvin York, spread the soil of Soissons, France. Theodore Roosevelt IV, grandson of Theodore Roosevelt Jr., who earned the Medal of Honor on D-Day, and great-grandson of President Teddy Roosevelt, spread the sand from the Normandy beach. Son of Charles Davis, Kirk Davis, spread the dirt of Corregidor Island to represent the WWII Pacific Theater.

Col. Ola Lee Mize, who held Outpost Harry and earned the Medal of Honor, and Gen. Sun Yup Paik laid ground from Korea. Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Hal Moore and Command Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Basil Plumley brought the soil from the Ia Drang Valley and other Vietnam battlefields. And finally, Command Sgt. Maj. Marvin Hill, the senior enlisted adviser to Gen. David Petraeus, spread soil from the battlefields of Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan to honor Operations Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom, and Enduring Freedom respectively.

5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy
The field also holds plenty of smoke from the shows Drill Sergeants put on for military families. And maybe some sweat from a cocky private… (Photo by Patrick A. Albright MCoE / PAO Photographer)

In 2014, the parade field was named after the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, who held his ground at San Terenzo, Italy against overwhelming forces and was awarded the Medal of Honor. Ever since that bright March morning in 2009, every single infantryman who graduates out of Fort Benning will have the honor of walking among the heroes of every major conflict in American history.

 

MIGHTY CULTURE

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force

In one wing, there are 435. On the other, there are 100. Luckily, this isn’t referring to a severe weight imbalance detrimental to an aircraft’s flight. These are the number of appointed individuals responsible for making the nation’s laws on Capitol Hill and the people who some Air Force legislative liaisons and fellows engage with to ensure continued legislative support for national security.

The legislative liaison and fellowship programs are designed to provide service members opportunities to improve understanding and knowledge of the functions and operations of the legislative branch and how it impacts the military.

According to Title 5, U.S. Code Section 7102 and Title 10, U.S. Code Section 1034, United States Air Force personnel have the legal right to petition and furnish information to or communicate with Congress.


“It is our responsibility to truly understand the intersection of politics and policy as members of an apolitical organization,” said Maj. Gen. Steven L. Basham, former director for Secretary of the Air Force legislative liaison, who is now the deputy commander of U.S. Air Forces Europe and Africa Command. “We are not only the Air Force liaison to Congress, but we are also liaisons for Congress to the rest of the Air Force.”

5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy

Lt. Col. Joe Wall, deputy chief of the Senate Air Force Liaison Office, salutes a staff vehicle to welcome Gen. David Goldfein, U.S. Air Force chief of staff, before a posture hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee at Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., April 4, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)

Basham says that individuals selected to become legislative liaisons are intuitive, broad and flexible thinkers. Despite donning a suit or business attire during their time on the Hill, aspiring liaisons or fellows are required to have exceptional professional bearing and appearance, exceptional organizational skills, performance and knowledge of current events in national security affairs and international relations are also desired.

“We bring phenomenal people into this program,” Basham said. “As a matter of fact, we want individuals who are experts in their career field who have the ability to look across the entire United States Air Force. When we’re working with Congress or a staff member, they don’t see a bomber pilot or a logistician; they see us as a United States Air Force officer or civilian who is an expert across all fields.”

According to Brig. Gen. Trent H. Edwards, budget operations and personnel director for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Financial Management and Comptroller, the opportunity to serve as a legislative liaison and then as a legislative fellow to a member of congress provided him valuable experience in understanding how the government and democracy work. His time working at the Hill “left an indelible impression” in his mind.

5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy

Maj. Michael Gutierrez, Senate Air Force Liaison Office action officer, and Col. Caroline Miller, chief of the Senate Air Force Liaison Office, corresponds with legislators in preparation for a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing at the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., April 3, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)

“As a squadron, group and wing commander, I frequently relied on my understanding of the legislative process to help inform my bosses and teammates on how they could positively affect their mission through the right congressional engagement at the right time,” he said. “I also left the experience with a keen understanding of the importance of relationships, communication and collaboration. Those lessons serve me well today, and I share them with younger officers every chance I get.”

Airmen working on the Hill come from diverse career backgrounds. Historically, the liaison and fellowship programs were only open to officers but have opened to senior noncommissioned officers and civilians in recent years. Typical responsibilities of fellows include assisting with the drafting of legislation, floor debate preparation, planning and analysis of public policy and serving as congressional liaisons to constituents and industry. Fellows are required to come back to serve as legislative liaisons later on in their careers and into positions where they can utilize their acquired knowledge of the legislative process.

5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy

Maj. Christopher D. Ryan, Senate Air Force Liaison Office action officer, discuss Air Force inforamation with Dan S. Dunham, military legislative assistant to U.S. Senator Deb Fischer from Nebraska, at the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., April 3, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)

Col. Caroline Miller, chief of the Senate Legislative Liaison Office,said the first step to being a legislative liaison is making sure that the liaison understands the chief of staff and the secretary of the Air Force’s vision and priorities. As members of the Senate legislative liaisons, she and her team work primarily with the Senate Armed Services Committee and its members, as well as any members of the Senate who have Air Force equity. Along with preparing senior leaders for hearings or meetings with legislators, they provide members of Congress and their staff information that helps in their understanding of current Air Force operations and programs.

“I wish I knew what I know now from a legislative perspective when I was a wing commander because I didn’t understand the power of the congressional body back then,” she said. “Every installation has challenges. Every installation has aging infrastructure. Every installation has lots of different things that they’re working through, and I did not engage with my local congressional district as much as I would have if I had I been up here and understood that (our representatives) really do want to help.”

Dan S. Dunham, a military legislative assistant who works for U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska, said the legislative liaisons are who they “turn to first” whenever they have Air Force-related questions – may it be on budgets, programs or operations.

5 little-known times aggressors picked fights with the wrong enemy

Gen. David Goldfein, U.S. Air Force chief of staff, deliver his opening statements during a posture hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee at Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., April 4, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)

“Air Force and Congress can be a tall order – both sides have different chains of command and different constituencies to which they are answerable,” he said. “That can significantly increase the risk of miscommunication. The legislative liaison fills a critical role in bridging that gap and they are frequently the ones we rely on to be the primary facilitator for getting answers and information for our bosses.”

Along with having constant interaction with the highest echelons of Air Force leadership and the key decision makers, due to the sensitive nature of information exchange at this level, legislative liaisons must be capable of thinking on their feet and making informed decisions.

“We bring individuals in who sometimes have to make the call when talking with the staff on what information they should provide,” Basham said. “I think the level of trust they have for their senior leaders having their back when they make that call is invaluable.”

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

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