Celebrating the last Doolittle Raider - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Celebrating the last Doolittle Raider

(Editor’s Note – To commemorate the 78th anniversary of a legendary mission, the following is an updated repost of a story with retired Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” Cole, the last surviving member of the Doolittle Raiders originally published October 3, 2016 and before his death April 9, 2019, he was 103.)

Standing proudly in front of a B-25 Mitchell on display for a recent airshow in the central Texas town of Burnet, retired Lt. Col. Richard Cole slowly walked up to the antique bomber and clutched one of its propeller blades.

The last surviving Doolittle Raider, who had just marked his 101st birthday a few days before, smiled as he reminisced in the shadow of the bomber — a link to his storied past.


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“When we got the B-25, it was a kick in the butt,” he later said, adding that he first flew the B-18 Bolo out of flight school. “It was fast and very maneuverable, with a good, steady bombing platform. You could fly it all over.”

Seventy-plus years ago, he co-piloted a similar bomber alongside then-Lt. Col. James Doolittle during a pivotal mission April 18, 1942, that helped turn the tide for the allies in the Pacific theater of World War II.

Celebrating the last Doolittle Raider

A U.S. Army Air Force B-25B Mitchell medium bomber, one of sixteen involved in the mission, takes off from the flight deck of the USS Hornet for an air raid on the Japanese Home Islands on April 18, 1942.

U.S. Air Force

As the final member of the famed 80-man Army Air Forces unit, Cole was chosen to announce the name of the Air Force’s newest bomber, the B-21 Raider, at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference on Sept. 19 in Washington, D.C.

“I’ve never flown in any of the modern bombers so it’s pretty hard to realize how all of the improvements have meant to aviation,” he said at the Sept. 10 airshow. “All I can say is that the B-25 was like having a Ford Model T, (and now pilots are) getting into a Mustang.”

Celebrating the last Doolittle Raider

Crew No. 1 (Plane #40-2344, target Tokyo): 34th Bombardment Squadron, Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, pilot; Lt. Richard E. Cole, copilot; Lt. Henry A. Potter, navigator; SSgt. Fred A. Braemer, bombardier; SSgt. Paul J. Leonard, flight engineer/gunner. Cole is the last surviving member of the “Doolittle Raid” crews, having celebrated his 101st birthday.

U.S. Air Force

Last of the Raiders

Following the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, Doolittle developed a plan to retaliate with a daring air raid on Japan. Without escort fighters, he and the other crewmembers flew 16 modified Army B-25s off an aircraft carrier, the USS Hornet, for a one-way trip that had the makings of a suicide mission. The plan called for the aircraft, which were incapable of landing back on the aircraft carrier, to bomb industrial and military targets in five cities on the Japanese home islands and then continue on to friendly airfields in China.

Forced to launch 10 hours earlier than planned, due to the task force being spotted by a Japanese patrol boat, many aircrews later had to bail out of their fuel-parched aircraft after dropping their bomb loads. Doolittle’s crew, including Cole, parachuted into China and linked up with Chinese guerillas operating behind Japanese lines who helped them escape.

Celebrating the last Doolittle Raider

U.S. Air Force Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Co-Pilot to Jimmy Doolittle during the Doolittle Raid, stands in front of a refurbished U.S. Navy B-25 Mitchell displayed at an airshow in Burnet, Texas. Lt. Col. Cole was honored by the community and guests as the only remaining military service member alive from the April 18, 1942 Doolittle Raid.

U.S. Air Force // Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

“The main memory I have was when my parachute opened,” Cole said of the mission. “But that was part of the job. I’d rather be sitting here than worried about a parachute jump.”

Being alone to tell the Raiders’ story these days has been something of a paradox for Cole.

“You can’t help but be happy that you’re here but on the other side of the coin you also wish that the people who were with you were here too,” he said. “But you know that that’s not possible so you have to live with it.”

The average age of the Raiders during the mission was 22, while Cole was a 26-year-old lieutenant, according to his daughter, Cindy Cole Chal.

“Dad was older on the raid,” she said. “Nobody thought that Dad would be the last one, even though he’s been in excellent health.”

Former Staff Sgt. David Thatcher was the second to last living Raider before he died at the age of 94. He was buried with full military honors June 27 in Montana.

As a 20-year-old gunner in Flight Crew No. 7, then-Cpl. Thatcher saved his four other crewmembers when their B-25 crash-landed into the sea near the Chinese coast after it bombed Japanese factories in Tokyo. He pulled them to safety on the surrounding beach and applied life-saving medical treatment, despite having injuries himself. He later earned the Silver Star for his actions.

Meanwhile, Cole parachuted into rainy weather at night and landed in a tree located on precarious terrain.

“I was fortunate in that I never touched the ground. My parachute drifted over a tall pine tree and caught on top leaving me about 10 feet off the ground,” he recounted in a 1973 letter posted on the official Doolittle Raider website. “At daybreak I was able to see that the terrain was very rough and had I tried to look around at night; probably would have fallen down a very steep hill.”

Celebrating the last Doolittle Raider

In a photograph found after Japan’s surrender in 1945, Lt. Robert L. Hite, copilot of crew 16, is led blindfolded from a Japanese transport aircraft after his B-25 crash landed in a China after bombing Nagoya on the the “Doolittle Raid” on Japan and he was captured. He was imprisoned for 40 months, but survived the war.

U.S. Air Force

Once the sun rose, Cole walked westward and the next day he found an outpost belonging to the Chinese guerillas, the letter states.

On April 18, 2015, Cole and Thatcher were presented the Congressional Gold Medal for the Raiders’ efforts, the highest civilian honor given by Congress.

In his speech, a playful Cole couldn’t resist a touch of humor.

“Tonight’s affair couldn’t have been planned more accurately,” Cole said. “As I remember, the mission was over, it was Saturday night on the 18th of April and about this time David Thatcher was on the beach in China saving the rest of his crew and I was hanging in my parachute in a tree.”

Also at the ceremony, Thatcher spoke candidly as he gave advice to today’s Airmen.

“Be prepared for anything you run into — we weren’t,” he said. “Learn everything you possibly can, and be good at it.”

Celebrating the last Doolittle Raider

Lt. Col. Dick Cole, a Doolittle Raider, smiles while looking out of a B-25 aircraft April 20, 2013, on the Destin Airport, Fla. The B-25 is the aircraft he co-piloted during the Doolittle Raid.

U.S. Air Force // Staff Sgt. David Salanitri

Turning point

Seven Raiders died during the mission: three were killed in action while another three were captured and executed and one died of disease in captivity.

The bombing runs did little damage but the mission rekindled the morale of the American people and struck fear into the Japanese with aircraft reaching their homeland.

“Knowing that we did the mission and did it like it was supposed to be done, we felt pretty good about it,” Cole said.

In response, the Japanese maneuvered their forces from around Australia and India to the Central Pacific, and sent two aircraft carriers to Alaska.

“The Japanese thought we were going to make more visits. But we didn’t have any equipment to do it and we had no plans for it,” Cole said. “For some reason they moved two carriers to Alaska, thinking that’s where we came from. When they did that, it evened up the number of carriers we had available for Midway.”

The Battle of Midway proved to be a major turning point in the war. Believing their Central Pacific flank to be vulnerable because of the Doolittle Raid, the Japanese launched an invasion force to secure the isolated atoll of Midway to establish a base and airfield. Unaware that U.S. Naval Intelligence had broken their naval codes and knew the date and location of the impending attack, the Japanese sailed directly into an ambush set by three U.S. carriers.

When the smoke cleared, U.S. Navy dive-bombers had sunk four Japanese carriers, the Akagi, Kaga, Soryu and Hiryu, all members of the six-carrier force that had launched the attack on Pearl Harbor, and more than 3,000 men, including many experienced combat pilots. The U.S. lost one carrier, the USS Yorktown, and about 300 men. The Japanese remained on the defensive for the rest of the war.

“When the time came for the Battle of Midway, the (U.S.) Navy was able to win and that started the Japanese on the downhill,” he said.

‘Single-engine time’

Nowadays, Cole has shifted his focus away from the twin-engine bomber to his tractor and lawnmower. He refuses to let his age stand in the way of his daily chores. So when not traveling for events, he tends to his acreage in Comfort, Texas, about an hour’s drive northwest from San Antonio.

“People ask me if I’m getting any flying time and I say, ‘Well, I’m getting a lot of single-engine time with the lawnmower,” he said, chuckling.

To keep the memory of Doolittle and the rest of the Raiders alive, he helps sell his book, “Dick Cole’s War,” which documents not only the Doolittle Raid, but his service after that mission with the First Air Commandos in Burma. Proceeds from the book go into a scholarship fund in Doolittle’s name for students in the aviation field.

Celebrating the last Doolittle Raider

U.S. Air Force Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Co-Pilot to Jimmy Doolittle during the Doolittle Raid, holds a coin that has a coveted picture with his mother from 1942. The personally coveted coin was created to celebrate his 100th birthday last year. Lt. Col. Cole was honored by the community of Burnet, Texas as the only remaining military service member alive from the April 18, 1942 Doolittle Raid.

U.S. Air Force // Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

Cahl estimates her father has put in hundreds of thousands of dollars from the sales of books and signed lithograph prints into the fund to honor Doolittle, who died in 1993.

“All the time when I was flying with Colonel Doolittle, I was in awe over the fact that I was sitting next to him,” Cole said. “He put the word ‘team’ in the forefront of the English language.”

Now the sole survivor, Cole wants no part being the poster child for the historic mission.

“You did the mission. You did what you were supposed to do,” he said. “The people who were involved are all passing (away) and that’s the way it ends.

“I didn’t think any of the Raiders wanted to be singled out. We just wanted to be part of the big picture.”

Celebrating the last Doolittle Raider

U.S. Air Force Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Co-Pilot to Jimmy Doolittle during the Doolittle Raid, smiles as he honors the U.S. flag during the singing of the national anthem at an airshow in Burnet, Texas. Lt. Col. Cole was honored by the community and guests as the only remaining military service member alive from the April 18, 1942 Doolittle Raid.

U.S. Air Force // Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

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

Articles

This British sub hoisted its own Jolly Roger after sinking an Argentine cruiser

The HMS Conquerer is the only nuclear-powered submarine to engage an enemy with torpedoes. In a sea engagement during the Falklands War in the 1980s, two of the three shots fired at an Argentine cruiser hit home. Her hull pierces, the General Belgrano began listing and her captain called for the crew to abandon ship within 20 minutes.


In line with Royal Navy tradition, the Conquerer flew a Jolly Roger – a pirate flag – to note her victory at sea.

Celebrating the last Doolittle Raider
HMS Conqueror arriving back from the Falklands in 1982. (Reddit)

Submarines were considered “underhand, unfair and damned un-English,” by Sir Arthur Wilson, who was First Sea Lord when subs were introduced to the Royal Navy. Hs even threatened to hang all sub crews as pirates during wartime.

The insult stuck. When the HMS E9 sunk a German cruiser during WWI — the Royal Navy’s first submarine victory — its commander had a Jolly Roger made and it flew from the periscope as the sub sailed back to port.

The pirate flag soon became the official emblem of Britain’s silent service.

Celebrating the last Doolittle Raider
The British submarine HMS Utmost showing off their Jolly Roger in February 1942. The markings on the flag indicate the boat’s achievements: nine ships torpedoed (including one warship), eight ‘cloak and dagger’ operations, one target destroyed by gunfire, and one at-sea rescue. (Imperial War Museum)

The 1982 sinking of the Argentine General Belgrano was only the second instance of a submarine sinking a surface ship since the end of World War II.

Celebrating the last Doolittle Raider
The General Belgrano listing as all hands abandon ship. (Imperial War Museum)

Argentinian sailors reported a “fireball” shooting up through the ship, which means it was not cleared for action. If the crew was ready for a fight, ideally, the ship’s doors and hatches would have been sealed to keep out fire and water, author Larry Bond wrote in his book “Crash Dive,” which covers the incident.

Celebrating the last Doolittle Raider
The Conqueror’s Jolly Roger, featuring an atom for being the only nuclear sub with a kill, crossed torpedoes for the torpedo kill, a dagger indicating a cloak-and-dagger operation, and the outline of a cruiser for what kind of ship was sunk. (Royal Navy Submarine Museum)

The Royal Navy’s Cmdr. Chris Wreford-Brown, the captain of the Conqueror, later said of the sinking:

“The Royal Navy spent 13 years preparing me for such an occasion. It would have been regarded as extremely dreary if I had fouled it up.”

Ships from Argentina and neighboring Chile rescued 772 men over the next two days. The attack killed 321 sailors and two civilians.

The Argentine Navy returned to port and was largely out of the rest of the war.

Humor

6 reasons why Marines hate on the Air Force

The military community is huge on rivalry and houses some of the most inventive d*ck measuring contests you can think of. Each branch is currently and forever waging a friendly war with one another that has no signs of stopping — not that we’d want it to.


We hate on each other for various reasons, but at the end of the day — we’re still on the same side.

Now, when Marines think about the men and women of the Air Force, they automatically think of them being hardcore.

We’re kidding. Marines don’t remotely think that and constantly hate on airmen for various reasons.

Related: 9 reasons you should have joined the Marines instead

So check out these six reasons why Marines hate on the Air Force. Shots fired (but all in good fun).

6. Marines have it tougher.

Air Force boot camp is slightly less than eight-weeks long; Marine Corps boot camp, however, is about 13 grueling weeks long. Recruits tend to join the Air Force either because they feel the Corps’ boot camp is too tough, or the Marine recruiters “just weren’t in the office that day” (cough, bullsh*t, cough).

Celebrating the last Doolittle Raider
Who looks tougher?

5. The Air Force has the best chow halls in the military. But why? Because they need all their energy to fight fly drones?

That does look glorious, though…

Celebrating the last Doolittle Raider
Freakin’ beautiful in comparison.

4. Even celebrities who visit airmen wear Marine Corps issue.

Chuck Norris, Bugz Bunny, and Bob Hope are just a few honorary Marines. How many cool celebrities are honorary airmen? Go ahead — name one!

Celebrating the last Doolittle Raider
Everyone knows Marines have the coolest reputation.

3. They get cute little command coins when they graduate vs. the beloved Eagle, Global, and Anchor after completing the “Crucible.”

Need we say more?

Celebrating the last Doolittle Raider
Look at the clean smile on this airman’s face vs. the absolute pride on this newly made Marine’s face. Stay precious, Air Force. OO-RAH

2. Their living conditions are considered five-star compared to the Corps’.

We love the teddy bear and string light additions. It really makes the room pop.

Celebrating the last Doolittle Raider
There’s no photoshopping here ladies and gents. These images are freakin’ real.

Also Read: 7 reasons why you shouldn’t be too nice in the military

1. Air Force boot camp looks fun as f*ck!

I literally know an Air Force officer who said the most challenging part of boot camp was she laughed too much…

 

That is all.

MIGHTY MOVIES

The new ‘This is Us’ military arc is deeply personal

U.S. Marine Corps veteran James LaPorta is “nervous as hell” for season four of the critically-acclaimed NBC drama This is Us because for him, the story couldn’t be more personal.

An infantry Marine with multiple Afghanistan deployments, LaPorta understands the impact of war. He also has some strong opinions about Hollywood’s depiction of it, which he shared for Newsweek when This is Us explored the Vietnam War during season three.

“While Hollywood has improved upon its depiction of military veterans in recent years, the majority of characters produced are still one dimensional. Usually, the audience is delivered a stereotype of either the incredibly heroic service member or the tragically broken veteran who is unable to function. In reality, these are plot vehicles for lazy writing that garner cheap emotional responses and that can contribute to the civilian-military divide that is already occurring,” he wrote.

Many in the military community agree and are quick to condemn military stories in film and television, but it was the Vietnam storyline that first caught LaPorta’s attention. In his opinion, This is Us had figured out the right way to tell veterans’ stories — though he couldn’t have predicted that he would sign on to be part of the team that would tackle the war in Afghanistan.

A war that, in LaPorta’s own words, is “being forgotten even as it’s being fought.”


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UzmL4KNtcb0
This Is Us Returns for Season 4

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Watch the Season Four trailer:

LaPorta, already a fan of This is Us, was impressed by the Vietnam storyline and its depiction of how our veterans of that war were treated when they came home. LaPorta reached out to This is Us creator Dan Fogleman, who told Newsweek that the story was “not just about combat in war—[it was] about what veterans, and in particular, veterans of that generation, kept from their families, from significant others. Things they may have even kept from themselves at certain times.”

Fogleman invited LaPorta to visit the set and talk with the staff writers, which lead to LaPorta’s involvement on the show. He was hired as a military advisor for season four, which introduces the character of Cassidy Sharp (played by Jennifer Morrison), a soldier who struggles to return home from Afghanistan.

The story comes with pressure to “get it right.” LaPorta didn’t want to depict another military caricature, but the balance between telling an entertaining story and showing what it’s truly like for veterans is a tricky one. For LaPorta, it’s not only personal in that he shares his own experiences, but he also wove the stories of people he served with into this season.

https://twitter.com/JimLaPorta/statuses/1176908502129938432
Late post from last night’s @NBCThisisUs premiere. Actor Rich Paul is also a @USMC veteran. His character is Sgt. Lasher, which is also an homage to another #Marine I served with in Afghanistan. Lance Cpl Jeremy Lasher was killed in combat on July 23, 2009 https://thefallen.militarytimes.com/marine-lance-cpl-jeremy-s-lasher/4207099 …pic.twitter.com/njME4HVT35

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LaPorta not only provided guidance about uniforms and weapons, but he was intent on getting every detail right, down to the proper tourniquets for the military units or the red dye in the beards of Afghan locals. He wanted it to be visually authentic at a minimum.

But he took his role as military advisor further by truly bridging the divide between the military and civilians in the cast and crew. One of the more meaningful ways he did this was by making and gifting memorial bracelets to honor the memories of fallen service members.

Among those who received bracelets were Fogleman and Morrison, the writing team, Executive Producer and Director Ken Olin, and Milo Ventimiglia, who plays a Vietnam War veteran in the show (and whose father was an actual Vietnam War veteran).

It was quite powerful and important to us my friend. Our North Star for her story this season. #ThisIsUshttps://twitter.com/JimLaPorta/status/1176714723280244736 …

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When I asked what he was most excited about with this season’s story, LaPorta mentioned that female veterans in particular are underrepresented on-screen. “We’ve seen my story before, in terms of the male infantryman. We’ve seen it. But we haven’t really seen what women go through,” he insisted.

Then, about two weeks prior to his first meeting for season four, Navy cryptologist Shannon Kent had just been killed in an ISIS suicide attack.

While Cassidy Sharp isn’t based on Kent or any one veteran in particular, she is a character who is serving in a combat zone, which many Americans are surprised to discover is the reality of post-9/11 wars. Female service members are risking their lives every day and their experience is unique.

“As we’re making this storyline, there are actually people fighting these wars,” LaPorta shared. “It’s something I’ll never forget, and I wanted to give the memorial bracelets so the cast and crew can remember that fact, too. It was a way to thank them for telling this story.”

This is not how we expected Cassidy to cross paths with the Pearsons…pic.twitter.com/dVtxFAVwws

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Watch This is Us Tuesday nights on NBC at 9/8c.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How one of the most iconic flags was made in honor of this woman’s MIA husband

On January 7, 1970, Lt. Cdr. Michael Hoff flew his Sidewinder A7A Corsair off the USS Coral Sea on an armed reconnaissance mission over Laos. After completing a strafing run near the city of Sepone, he came under heavy enemy automatic weapons fire and went down. An observer reported seeing a flash, which may have been the ejection seat leaving the aircraft, but search teams located neither a parachute nor a survivor.

Lt. Cdr. Michael Hoff was pronounced MIA that same day, promoted to commander while missing, and, sadly, was declared dead on November 16, 1978. His grieving wife, Mary Hoff, wanted the world to know that he and every other troop captured or declared missing in action would not be forgotten.


Celebrating the last Doolittle Raider

Who says randomly cold-calling the right people to get what you want never works?

Soon afterward, Mary Hoff joined the National League of POW/MIA Families, an organization founded by two wives of POW/MIA troops, Karen Butler and Sybil Stockdale. The group was quickly gaining traction in Washington, fighting for the U.S. government’s recognition of the importance of returning troops listed as either prisoners of war or missing in action.

As the group grew larger, Mary noticed that they were missing a symbol — something easily identified and immediately understood. She had an idea: a flag. Instead of going through the proper channels, she simply cold-called Annin Flagmakers, the oldest and largest flag-making corporation in the United States.

Celebrating the last Doolittle Raider

As prominent as the flag is in military culture, it only took two revisions from the original to get the version we know today.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)

The vice president of sales at Annin, Norm Rivkees, had no clue who the League of Families were at the time. During the phone call, Hoff explained everything, from who they were to what the flag should look like. Rivkees was impressed by her dedication and brought it up to the president of the company who immediately gave the idea the green light.

Rivkees contracted the job of designing the flag to Hayden Advertising who gave the task to graphic artist Newton F. Heisley. Heisley was an Army Air Corps veteran himself who flew a C-46 twin-engine transport during World War II. He drafted several designs, all in black and white, of a man’s profile with guards behind him.

His son, Jeffery Heisley, was serving in the Marine Corps and had recently returned home on leave. The younger Heisley had unfortunately been struck with hepatitis and was looking very sickly. The elder Heisley turned the misfortune into a positive as his son would make the perfect model for his design. The frail male profile that adorns today’s flag is that of Jeffery Heisley.

Newton, as a pilot, remembered his own fears from his flying days. He added the famous words, “You are not forgotten,” to the flag, to offer the reassurance he wished he had while serving. The design was then ready for approval.

Celebrating the last Doolittle Raider

That also makes the POW/MIA flag the only non-national flag to ever fly over a nation’s capitol building.

(Official White House photo by Lawrence Jackson)​

Mary Hoff and the League of Families loved the design and adopted it in 1972. Keep in mind that at this point, the flag was only intended to be used for the organization. Its prominence quickly grew within the military community throughout the 1970s and, by 1982, it was flown over Ronald Reagan’s White House.

The flag became an official national symbol through the 1998 Defense Authorization Act, which requires that the flag be flown outside most major government buildings, all VA medical centers, and all national cemeteries on POW/MIA Recognition Day, Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, the Fourth of July, and Veterans Day.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army extends infantry school to make grunts more lethal


The U.S. Army is refining a plan to extend by two months the service’s 14-week infantry one station unit training, or OSUT, so young grunts arrive at their first unit more combat-ready than ever before.

Trainers at Fort Benning, Georgia will run a pilot during summer 2018 that will extend infantry OSUT from 14 weeks to 22 weeks, giving soldiers more time to practice key infantry skills such as land navigation, marksmanship, hand-to-hand combat, fire and maneuver, and first aid training.


Currently soldiers in infantry OSUT go through nine weeks of Basic Combat Training and about 4.5 weeks of infantry advanced individual training. This would add an additional 8 weeks of advanced individual training, tripling the length of the instruction soldiers receive in that phase.

Celebrating the last Doolittle Raider
Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) Cadets Timothy Dudley and Nicholas Calderon move into position to rappel out of a UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopter during the last phase of the Air Assault Course at Dickman Field, July 23, 2013 at Fort Benning, Georgia.
(Photo by Ashley Cross)

“It’s more reps and sets; we are trying to make sure that infantry soldiers coming out of infantry OSUT are more than just familiar [with ground combat skills],” Col. Townley Hedrick, commandant of the Infantry School at Benning, told Military.com in a June 21, 2018 interview. “You are going to shoot more bullets; you are going to come out more proficient and more expert than just familiar.”

A better trained infantry soldier

The former infantry commandant, Brig. Gen. Christopher Donahue, launched the effort to “improve the lethality of soldiers in the infantry rifle squad,” Hedrick said.

“In 14 weeks, what we really do is produce a baseline infantry soldier,” said Col. Kelly Kendrick, the outgoing commander of 198th Infantry Brigade at Benning, who was heavily involved in developing the pilot.

This works fine when new soldiers arrive at their first unit as it is starting its pre-deployment train-up, Kendrick said.

Unfortunately, many young infantry soldiers arrive at a unit only a few weeks before it deploys, leaving little time for preparation before real-world operations begin, he said.

“I was the G3 of the 101st Airborne and if a [new] soldier came up late in the train-up, we had a three-week train-up program and then after three weeks, we would send that soldier on a deployment,” he said.

With 22 weeks of infantry OSUT, “you can see right off that bat, we are going to have a hell of a lot better soldier,” Kendrick said. “I will tell you, we will produce infantry soldiers with unmatched lethality compared to what we have had in the past.”

The new pilot will start training two companies from July 13 to mid-December 2018, Kendrick said. Once the new program of instruction is finalized, trainers will start implementing the 22-week cycle across infantry OSUT in October 2019.

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U.S. Army Live fire training at Galloway Range, Fort Benning, GA. C Co 2nd Btn 11 Infantry Regiment.
(Photo by John D. Helms)

The effort follows an Army-wide redesign of Basic Combat Training early 2018 designed to instill more discipline and esprit de corps in young soldiers after leaders from around the Army complained that new soldiers were displaying a lack of obedience, poor work ethic, and low discipline.

“If there are two things we do great right now, that’s physical fitness and marksmanship; I really think everything else has suffered a little bit,” said Kendrick. “If you went and looked at special operations forces … the SOF force has realized they have to invest in training and teaching. And they have done that, so we have been the last ones to get it.”

The Army has prioritized leader training for both commissioned officers and sergeants.

“[But] the initial entry, soldier side of the house, has not [changed] whole lot from the infantry perspective for a long, long time,” Kendrick said.

A new emphasis on land navigation training

Currently, soldiers in infantry training receive one day of classroom instruction on land navigation and one day of hands-on application.

“We put them in groups of four and they go and find three of about four-five points — that’s their land navigation training,” Kendrick.

The new land-nav program will last a week.

“They are going to do buddy teams to start with, and at the end, they will have to pass day and night land navigation, individually,” he said.

One challenge of the pilot will be, “can I get to individual proficiency in land-nav or do I need more time?” Kendrick said.

Celebrating the last Doolittle Raider
Ranger Training Class 4-11 completes a knots test early on day two of the Mountain Phase and moves immediately to rope bridge training and vertical haul line exercises.
(Photo by John D. Helms)

“Part of this what we haven’t figured out is hey, how long do those lanes need to be — 300, 600, 800 meters?” said Kendrick, adding that it would be easy to design a course “and have every private here fail.”

“Then I can turn around and have every private pass no matter what with just a highway through the woods,” he continued. “We’ve got to figure out what that level is going to be — where they leave here accomplished in their skills and their ability and are prepared to go do that well wherever they get to. That is really the art of doing this pilot.”

A new marksmanship strategy

Currently, infantry OSUT soldiers train on iron sights and the M68 close combat optic at ranges out to 300 meters.

The new program will feature training on the Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight, or AGOG, which offers 4X magnification.

“We don’t do much ACOG training; you go out to most rifle units, the ACOG is part of the unit’s issue,” Kendrick said. “It’s a shame that we don’t train them on the optic that half of them when they walk into their unit the first day and [receive it].”

Soldiers will also receive training on the AN/PAS-13 thermal weapon sightand the AN/PSQ-20 Enhanced Night Vision Goggle.

Soldiers will train with these system and their weapons “day and night with qualification associated,” Kendrick said.

The new program will also increase the amount of maneuver live-fire training soldiers receive.

“Everything from a buddy-team to a fire team to a squad, we are going to increase the time and sets and repetitions in getting them into live-firing, day and night,” Kendrick said. “Today when you do a fire-team, react to contact live fire, you do that twice — daytime only. At the end of this thing, when you are done, we will be doing live-fire [repetitions] on the magnitude of 20-plus.”

As with land navigation, Kendrick said, the time allotted for additional marksmanship training is not yet finalized.

“Like anything else, with being an infantryman, it’s sets and reps that make you proficient,” he said. “So now we are talking about the time to do that amount of sets and repetitions that will give them the foundation that can they can work in the rest of their career.”

More combatives and first aid training

Infantry OSUT trainees receive about 22 hours of combatives, or hand-to-hand combat training.

“We are going to take that to 40 hours,” Kendrick said. “At the end of 40 hours, we are going to take a level-one combatives test, so every soldier that leaves here will be level-one combatives certified.”

Level-one certification will ensure soldiers are practiced in basic holds instead of just being familiar with them, Kendrick said.

“We are talking about practicing and executing those moves.”

It will be the same with first aid training, he said.

Soldiers will spend eight days learning more combat lifesaver training, trauma first aid and “how to handle hot and cold-weather injuries … which cause more casualties than bullets do right now in some of these formations,” Kendrick said.

“You will have a soldier that understands combat lifesaver, first aid and trauma, all those things because right now you just get a little piece of that,” he said.

Infantry trainees will also receive more urban combat training and do a 16-mile road march instead of the standard 12-miler, Kendrick said.

The plan is to “assess this every week” during the pilot and make changes if needed, Kendrick said.

“Is it going to be enough? Do we need more? Those are all the things we are going to work out in this pilot,” he said. “In December, there will be a couple of 14-week companies that graduate at the same time, so part of this is to send both of those groups of soldiers out to units in the Army and get the units’ feedback on the product.”

The effort is designed to give soldiers more exposure to the infantry tasks that make a “solid infantryman here instead of making that happen at their first unit of assignment,” Kendrick said. “This is really going to produce that lethal soldier that can plug into his unit from day one.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

Articles

‘6 Days’ tells the story of a daring SAS raid to rescue hostages in London

It was one of the most audacious special operations raids ever launched. Nearly 30 hostages were being held for close to a week in the heart of Britain’s capital city — the target of an assault by a Middle Eastern separatist group who stormed the Iranian embassy.


And in broad daylight, after six days of fruitless negotiations in April and May of 1980, one of the world’s most skilled counter-terrorist units assaulted the target in front of news cameras who broadcast the daring operation live around the globe.

In the end, only one of the hostages was killed and two wounded and the nearly three dozen commandos from the British Special Air Service cemented their place as some of the most fearsome and capable operators the world had ever seen.

That dramatic story will be retold this summer in the movie “6 Days.” Directed by Toa Fraser and starring Jamie Bell, Abbie Cornish and Mark Strong, the movie recounts the drama of the Iran embassy takeover and the rescue mission, dubbed “Operation Nimrod,” from the perspective of the SAS team, a BBC reporter and the police negotiator trying to get the terrorists to surrender their prisoners.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the story is that the SAS assault took place in broad daylight in front of dozens of TV cameras — exposing for the first time the secretive world of Britain’s most elite warriors and making them instant heroes in the eyes of their countrymen.

“6 Days” is scheduled to open in the England in August. No U.S. release date has been set so far.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Turkey’s S-400 could give F-35s and F-22s a boost in a fight with Russia

Turkey’s purchase of Russia’s top-of-the-line S-400 missile defense system has caused a diplomatic spat between Ankara and Washington and led NATO’s southernmost member to miss out on the F-35 stealth fighter jet, but it could actually prove fatal to Moscow’s plans to take on US F-22s and F-35s.

Articles on the threat posed to the F-35 program by the S-400 are a dime a dozen, with experts across the board agreeing that networking Russian systems into NATO’s air defenses spells a near death sentence for allied air power.

Additionally, scores of US experts have argued that Turkey’s S-400 could get a peak at the F-35’s stealth technology and glean important intelligence on the new plane meant to serve as the backbone of US airpower for decades to come.


But something weird is going on with the US’s laser focus on F-35’s security. Michael Kofman, a senior research scientist at CNA, a nonprofit research and analysis organization, told Defense One this should be cause for concern.

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An F-35A Lightning II.

“For some reason coverage tends not to ask the question of how are Russians planning to deal with the potential problem of US intelligence being all over their system in Turkey,” he said.

“Russians are not crying about selling their best tech to a NATO country, despite the obvious implications for technology access. That should make us wonder,” he continued.

Basically, while Russia’s installation and support for S-400 systems in Turkey may give it intel on the F-35, Turkey, a NATO country, having Russia’s best weapon against against US airpower could spell doom for the system.

If the US cracks the S-400, Russia is in trouble

Russia relies on its missile defenses to keep its assets at home and abroad safe as it pursues increasingly risky military escalations in theaters like Ukraine and Syria. Defeating these systems, potentially, could leave Russia vulnerable to attack.

But if the US can take a look at Russia’s S-400 “depends entirely on what conditions the Russians manage to hold the Turks to in terms of allowing NATO (US) access to inspect the system,” Justin Bronk, an aerial combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider.

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Russian S-400 batteries in Syria.

(Russian Defense Ministry)

“It’s potentially a very valuable source of previously unavailable information about a threat system which is a specific priority for the alliance and the US has never come into possession of an S-400 before,” Bronk said. However, “it may be that the system is actually operated by and guarded by Russian personnel in Turkey which could complicate things,” he continued.

Also, Russia’s export version of the S-400 doesn’t exactly match the version they use at home, but a former top US Air Force official told Business Insider that the US already has insight into Russia’s anti-air capabilities, and that the export version isn’t too far off from the genuine article.

Russia needs the money?

“Russia will sell them to whomever will give them the cash,” the source continued, pointing to Russia’s weak economy as a potential explanation for making the risky move of selling S-400 systems to a NATO country.

So while Russia may get some intelligence on the F-35 through its relationship with Turkey, that road runs both ways.

Furthermore, while US stealth aircraft represent individual systems, Russia’s missile defenses serve as an answer to multiple US platforms, including naval missiles. Therefore, Russia having its S-400 mechanics exposed may prove a worse proposition than the F-35 being somewhat exposed to Russian eyes.

“Getting a look at the system architecture and the hardware would still be extremely valuable for NATO,” Bronk concluded.

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

Articles

How a new generation of Air Force pilots flew a mission for a fallen WW2 brother

On Dec. 23, 1944, 2nd Lt. Charles E. Carlson was killed in action when Nazi planes shot down his P-47 Thunderbolt. Carlson would be missing for almost 73 years until he was identified and buried with full honors at Indiantown Gap National Cemetery in Pennsylvania on Aug. 4, 2017.


When the “missing man” formation was flown, it was done by four F-35s.

The F-35s belonged to the 62nd Fighter Squadron, one of 23 assigned to the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, according to the wing’s official webpage. The 56th operates both F-35s and F-16s.

But long before it had the mission to train pilots on the Air Force’s newest multi-role fighter, the 56th Fighter Wing was a combat unit, as was its predecessor, the 56th Fighter Group.

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2nd Lt. Charles E. Carlson, who was killed in action when his P-47 Thunderbolt was shot down on Dec. 23, 1944. (USAF photo)

A July 28 release by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency noted that Carlson’s remains had finally been identified. It noted that Carlson’s wingman had believed that the pilot got out, but German officials had claimed his remains had been recovered near the crash site.

The release stated that Carlson would be returned to his family for burial. So, how did the F-35s end up flying the missing man formation?

Back in World War II, the 56th Fighter Group was known as the “Wolfpack,” which included the 62nd Fighter Squadron. Among the pilots who flew with that unit was the legendary Robert S. Johnson, a 27-kill ace who later wrote the book, “Thunderbolt!”

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Four F-35’s participated in a missing man formation fly-over during 2nd Lt. Charles E. Carlson’s funeral in Pennsylvania more than 70 years after being shot down over Germany in World War II when he was assigned to the 62nd FS. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jensen Stidham)

According to an Air Force News Service report, it was because Carlson had been a member of the 62nd when he was killed in action. Squadron commander Lt. Col. Peter Lee had been browsing Facebook when he noticed the patch for the 62nd Fighter Squadron.

“I clicked on the link and that’s how I found out. It started with something as simple as a Facebook post…and next thing you know we’re flying four airplanes over and talking with the family,” he said.

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F-35 Lightning II fighters fly the missing man formation during the funeral of 2nd Lt. Charles E. Carlson. (Youtube Screenshot)

The F-35s flew the missing man formation for Carlson, led by Capt. Kyle Babbitt, who said, “If it had been me on the other side, I would really appreciate this for my family. It’s definitely an honor to take on this responsibility.”

You can see a video about this mission by the 62nd Fighter Squadron below.

MIGHTY FIT

How to train your plank without planking

As an exercise, the plank has some crazy lore surrounding it. If you were an alien from another planet and came to earth to study human society, you would think that planks have replaced the, now extinct, fire-breathing dragon as enemy #1 to Homo sapien survival.

The plank isn’t going to kill you. In fact, it may be unrivaled in its ability to engage a large number of muscle groups in an isometric contraction. So much so that you actually become harder to kill when the plank is trained properly.


That being said, you can’t plank all day and all night. so I’m going to give you four alternative exercises to add to your training program in lieu or in addition to planks.

If you just want to learn more about planking, check this out.

www.youtube.com

1. Seated Straight Leg Lifts

The straight leg lift has gotten more attention thanks to gymnastics strength training picking up popularity in the last few years.

It’s pretty simple you sit up straight, with your legs out straight in front of you, and alternate raising each leg for a set number of reps or seconds. It seems simple, but it lights up your quads (especially the rectus femoris) like no other.

If you find your hips sagging quickly when planking or you know that your quads are a weak point of yours in general, I strongly recommend adding two sets of straight leg lifts to your leg day.

This exercise will help with your plank, the ACFT’s leg tucks, as well as building strength for sprinting and running distances under a mile where you’re pushing for speed.

If you want more quad stimulation, you better be doing this exercise…

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2. Quadruped Hand Walk-outs

This is the poor man’s ab wheel exercise. Don’t let that fool you though, at first glance, it may seem easier than a roll-out, but when you focus on the right muscles, you’ll find that it brings a whole new level of muscle recruitment to your core.

Start on all-fours, with your knees under your hips and your wrists under your shoulders. Alternate walking each hand out about a ½ a hands length away from your body. Try to open your hips and your shoulders simultaneously as you walk out. The tendency is to allow the hands to walk away from under your shoulders faster than having the hips move past their starting position, directly above the knees.

Here’s the hard part. Step your hands slowly, and DON’T allow your hips, core, or shoulders to shift from side-to-side as you walk. Instead, keep your core so tightly contracted that it allows you to hold in a balanced position even when you only have one hand supporting you on the ground, while the other is in the air changing position. Walk your hands out as far as you can and then simply walk back.

When doing this exercise, go for time instead of reps. For whatever reason, when people go for reps, they tend to cheat a lot more. Just set your timer for 30 seconds and perform 30 seconds worth of perfect and deliberate movement.

For more on not wasting your time in the gym and practicing deliberate movement, read this thought-provoking article.

To make it even harder, lift your knees slightly off the ground, like the video demonstrates above.

When you’re able to walk all the way out to arms fully extended overhead, holding a plank will feel like child’s play.

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3. The Ab Wheel

The ab wheel is basically moving you from a position that’s easier than holding a plank to a position that’s harder than holding a plank. When performing this one, really focus on that position in the middle of the movement that most closely mimics the plank.

The ab wheel has the ability to work every core muscle fully, if you do it correctly. The common cue I give is to “Stay out of your lower back!” meaning that you shouldn’t allow your low back to hyperextend. Instead, I’d rather see you hold a constant position of mild flexion, that doesn’t change throughout the entire movement. When you hyperextend in your low back, you’re basically losing all core tightness and relying on your vertebrae to stop you from arching any further. If that sentence seemed painful to read…imagine how your back feels.

Similar to the previous exercise, I prefer to do the ab wheel for time instead of reps. It prevents cheating and allows you to focus on perfect form rather than trying to hit some arbitrary number of reps that will undoubtedly cause you to throw form out the metaphoric window.

Don’t waste your time in the gym, you can probably do everything you need to in 3 hours a week…

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4. Hollow Body Hold

I like to think of the hollow body hold as pull-up junior. The engagement of muscles that a properly performed hollow body hold can achieve is exactly the same as a pull-up minus the lat engagement of pulling yourself to the bar. If that sounds crazy to you, I’m willing to bet you rarely perform beautiful pull-ups.

Yes, your core is the primary muscle of the hollow body hold, but it’s not the same “core” as the one that gets worked during crunches or other dated ab exercises. The hollow body hold allows you to isometrically contract your quads, pelvic floor, transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, obliques, lats, seratus, erector spinae (if you’re really good), neck muscles, pecs, psoas, and calves. Basically, every muscle of the front of the body and then some.

I highly encourage you to actively mentally walk through every muscle group I just mentioned the next time you attempt the hollow body hold. If you do, you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. A few sets of a solidly executed hollow body hold, and you’ll be begging to just do planks instead.

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Work smarter, not harder…even when you’re trying to work hard do it smart.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Andy O. Martinez)

Go train your core. Before you go though…

Join the Mighty Fit FB group and get in on the conversation. Join the Mighty Fit FB group and get in on the conversation. Everyone there is trying to achieve something new and bigger than they ever have before. If that’s the type of person you want to be surrounded by, I suggest you get in there ASAP.

The New Might Fit Plan is coming soon. Sign up for it here and become one of the few to put the “We” in We Are The Mighty.

Send me a message at michael@composurefitness.com if you hate these core exercises or want to know if you’re doing them right. I get a kick out of hearing gripes from those of you bold enough to message me directly, rather than just screaming into the void that is Facebook comments… or you know, just tell me how you’re training is going and what your goals are. Bringing others in on your challenges and goals is a sure-fire way to ensure you actually overcome and accomplish them.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How US uranium imports may threaten national security

The United States has begun investigating whether uranium imports threaten national security, launching a process that could lead to more tariffs being imposed on imports from Russia and Central Asian countries.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced the probe on July 18, 2018, and said it would cover the entire uranium sector, including mining and enrichment, as well as both defense and industrial uses of the radioactive metal.


“Our production of uranium necessary for military and electric power has dropped from 49 percent of our consumption to 5 percent,” Ross said, suggesting that to be so overwhelmingly dependent on imports could jeopardize U.S. security.

He pledged a thorough, fair, and transparent investigation of the matter.

The United States imported id=”listicle-2588064431″.4 billion worth of enriched uranium in 2017, along with 0 million in uranium ores and id=”listicle-2588064431″.8 billion in uranium compounds and alloys, according to Commerce Department data.

In addition to being used in nuclear weapons, uranium fuels about 20 percent of U.S. electricity generation and is used to power nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers.

Canada and Kazakhstan account for about half of the imported uranium used in U.S. power generation, according to the Energy Department.

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Cascade of gas centrifuges used to produce enriched uranium.

(U.S. Department of Energy)

Former Soviet republics provided more than one-third: Kazakhstan 24 percent, Russia 14 percent, and Uzbekistan 4 percent. About 10 percent came from four African countries.

Washington outraged major U.S. trading partners, including Canada, China, and the European Union, by citing national security concerns as justification to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum.

Those tariffs, which hit Russia’s steel and aluminum industries hard, touched off a wave of countermeasures against U.S. agriculture and other goods, alarming many U.S. businesses and lawmakers.

The announcement that Washington is now targeting uranium comes after the Commerce Department said it was investigating hundreds of billions of dollars worth of cars and auto parts imported every year to determine whether that undermines U.S. national security.

The probe of uranium imports is in response to petitions for an investigation filed in January 2018 by two U.S. mining companies: Ur-Energy and Energy Fuels. They called for a quota that reserves 25 percent of U.S. demand for domestic production.

“Increasing levels of state-subsidized nuclear fuel are expected to be imported from Russia and China in the coming years, which would likely further displace U.S. uranium production,” the mining companies said in their petition.

“If Russia and its allies take control of this critical fuel, the threat to U.S. national and energy security would be incalculable,” they said.

According to the Energy Department, as uranium prices tumbled to just over per pound between 2009 and 2015, employment in the U.S. uranium sector fell more than 60 percent, to just over 600 workers.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

This decades-old exercise is still the best bodyweight workout

It’s usually a good rule of thumb for your workout of choice to not give you nostalgic vibes. Jazzersize, step aerobics, the Thighmaster — you might remember these fondly, but you shouldn’t try to bring them back. These fitness fads didn’t actually get people fit because they hit the same muscle groups over and over with an intensity that never varied. Here’s an exception to the rule: Calisthenics, those moves you did on your high school PE test, is worth reviving. Calisthenics offer virtually everything your body needs to grow muscle, boost cardio, and improve your flexibility. And you don’t need an instruction manual to do it.

In a nutshell, calisthenics involves rudimentary fitness activities like hopping, lunging, and stretching. These exercises focus on major muscle groups like biceps and quads, but because they are full-body movements, they also engage secondary muscles for stability and balance, giving you a well-rounded workout.


Calisthenics’ major selling point, its simplicity, can also be its biggest drawback: Too much repetition of the same easy move can be boring. That’s why we’ve put together a plan that lets you mix and match moves to create a whole host of different routines.

The build-your-own calisthenics workout

Choose one move from each category, with a goal of pairing together 4 exercises to create one full circuit, which you will perform three times through for a complete workout.

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(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Angelica I. Annastas)

1. Calisthenic moves for arm strength

Pushups: Drop and give us 30. That’s right, 30.

Pullups: Grabbing the overhead bar with an underhand grip, hoist your body weight skyward until you clear the bar with your head. 10 reps.

Dips: Using a set of parallel bars, place a hand on either bar, palms facing in, and straighten arms until your feet are off the floor and your body is suspended in the air. Bend elbows and lower yourself down toward the floor without touching. Straight arms. Repeat 10 times.

Pulldowns: Lie with your chest directly beneath a bar or table edge. Reach up and grab the bar with an overhand grip, keeping your arms straight and body in a long straight line. Bend elbows and raise your chest toward the bar. Straighten arms back to start. 10 reps.

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2. Calisthenics moves for core strength

Situps: Start the stopwatch. Do as many of this classic gut-buster as you can in 60 seconds, aiming for 40.

Plank: From an extended pushups position, drop so that your elbows are resting on the floor beneath your shoulders. Maintaining one long, straight line from your feet to your head, hold this position for 60 seconds.

Hanging knee lifts: Using a set of parallel bars with elbow rests (wrap a towel around the bars if there is no padding), place a forearm on either bar and rest your weight on it. Lift your feet off the ground and bend your knees, raising them as high to your chest as you can before straightening legs. Do not let your feet touch the floor between reps. 10 reps.

L-shape lifts: Start by hanging from the pullup bar with your arms straight. Engage your core muscles as you lift your legs in unison in front of you, keeping them straight, until they are parallel (or as close as you can get them) to the floor. Release. 6-8 reps.

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3. Calisthenics moves for leg strength

Squats: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Bend elbows and tuck your hands to your chest as you bend your knees and squat down as if you are about to sit in a low chair. Stop when your thighs are parallel to the floor. Straight back up to the start. 12 reps.

Lunges: Stand with feet parallel, arms by your sides. Take a large step forward with your right leg, shifting your weight forward and landing with a bent right knee. Let your back left knee bend until it hovers above the floor. Push through your right foot and return to standing tall. Repeat on left side for one complete rep. 12 reps.

Leg raises: Lie with your back on the floor, legs extended. Place your hands by your sides or under the small of your back for support. Engaging your core, raise legs in unison off the floor and directly above your hips, keeping them straight. Lower back to floor. 8 reps.

Wall sit: Stand with your back to a wall. Pressing your back flat against the wall, bend your knees until your legs form a right angle and your thighs are parallel to the floor. (You will need to walk your feet forward about a foot so that your knees are directly over your toes in this position.) Hold for 90 seconds.

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(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Corey Dabney)

4. Calisthenics moves for cardio

Jumping jacks: Feet apart and together, arms overhead each time. Aim for 40 in 60 seconds.

Jump rope: Single bounce, no stopping. 60 seconds.

Burpees: Start in an extended pushup position. Push through your toes, bend your knees, and hop your feet forward so they land close to your hands. Immediately spring up vertically off the floor, arms overhead. When you land, drop back down into a crouch with your hands on the floor, and jump your feet back to the starting pushup position. 20 reps.

Long jump/High jump: Stand with feet hip-width apart. Swing your arms behind you, bend your knees, and propel your body forward as far as you can in a two-leg long jump. Immediately, bend knees deeply and jump as high as you can vertically. Repeat long/high jump sequence 10 times.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Blue Water’ Navy veterans are fighting for Agent Orange benefits

On Jan. 29, 2019, attorney and retired Navy Cmdr. John B. Wells sat in the office of Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), ready to meet with staff regarding Lee’s opposition to Blue Water Navy legislation, when his cell phone dinged and brought surprising news from the nearby U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

A lawsuit that Wells and a team of appellant attorneys had argued Dec. 7, 2018, before a full panel of judges on the appeals court had resulted in a stunning 9-2 victory for roughly 70,000 Blue Water Navy veterans.


For Wells, the court’s ruling delightfully deflated the importance of his visit to try to persuade Lee not to again block legislation to extend disability compensation and Department of Veterans Affairs medical care to Navy veterans who deployed decades ago to territorial waters off Vietnam and now are ill, or dead, of ailments associated with Agent Orange and other defoliants used in the war.

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Large stacks of 55-gallon drums filled with Agent Orange.

Unless the VA successfully petitions the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the decision in Procopio v. Wilkie, Blue Water veterans have won a victory denied them for two decades, both in the courts and Congress.

Wells is executive director of Military-Veterans Advocacy of Slidell, La., a non-profit corporation that litigates and advocates for veterans. He said he looked for years for the right case to challenge an appeals court decision that kept Agent Orange benefits from sailors whose ships steamed off Vietnam during the war.

Alfred Procopio Jr., suffers from prostate cancer and type 2 diabetes, two conditions on the VA list of ailments associated with Agent Orange exposure and that trigger benefits if veterans served in Vietnam for a time between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, when U.S. involvement in the war officially ended.

Procopio was aboard the aircraft carrier Intrepid when, in July 1966, ship logs confirm it deployed to territorial waters off South Vietnam. The VA declined in April 2009 to find service connection for his ailments diagnosed a few years earlier. The Board of Veterans’ Appeals also denied service connection, in March 2011 and in July 2015, because Procopio had not gone ashore.

In denying such appeals, boards and judges routinely cite the 2008 appeals court ruling in Haas v. Peake, which affirmed the VA’s interpretation of the Agent Orange Act to exclude veterans from benefits if they didn’t come ashore, even if their ships steamed through Vietnam’s territorial sea, defined as within 12 nautical miles of the coastline.

To prepare for Procopio’s appeal, Wells said he interviewed lawyers at three firms offering pro bono expertise on briefs and arguments before appellate courts. He chose Melanie Bostwick of Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe LLP, in Washington, D.C., in part because of her plan to refine the challenge to Haas, focusing on what Congress meant in the Agent Orange Act by presuming exposure to defoliants if veterans served “in the Republic of Vietnam.”

Bostwick pushed the significance of the Act’s reference to the Republic of Vietnam “a step further than we had taken it and she was brilliant,” Wells said.

For Procopio, his lawyers didn’t argue that, given his ship’s location, he must have been exposed at some point to deadly defoliants just like veterans who served ashore. Instead they contended that Congress, in writing the law, intentionally used the formal name for the sovereign coastal nation. Under international law and based on the Act’s legislative history, they argued, “service in the Republic of Vietnam” must be read by the court to include naval service in its territorial waters.

Eight of 11 judges who heard the appeal accepted that argument. Another judge decided in favor of Procopio and Blue Water Navy veterans on other grounds. Two judges dissented.

With Procopio, the appeals court reversed its ruling in Haas. It disagreed that the Agent Orange law is ambiguous as to whether the list of presumptive diseases tied to defoliants should apply to sailors who supported the war from the sea.

Haas had let stand VA regulations that limited access to Agent Orange benefits to veterans who went ashore in Vietnam or patrolled its inland rivers and waterways. In Procopio, the court said what those judges missed a decade ago was the significance of the law granting presumption of service connection for certain diseases to veterans who “served in the Republic of Vietnam.” By using the formal name of that country, explained Judge Kimberly Ann Moore in writing the majority opinion, the Act extended benefit coverage to service in Vietnam’s territorial sea.

The court in Haas “went astray when it found ambiguity” in the plain language of the Act after reviewing “competing methods of defining the reaches of a sovereign nation,” wrote Moore. It should have recognized that Congress unambiguously defined the pool of veterans eligible for benefits as any veteran who had served anywhere in Vietnam, including the territorial sea.

“Congress has spoken directly to the question of whether those who served in the 12-nautical-mile territorial sea of the ‘Republic of Vietnam’ are entitled to [the Act’s] presumption if they meet [its] other requirements. They are. Because ‘the intent of Congress is clear, that is the end of the matter,’ ” Moore wrote, citing a 1984 Supreme Court decision that found a government agency must conform to clear legislative statements when interpreting and applying a law.

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Defoliant spray run during the Vietnam War.

Judge Raymond T. Chen dissented in Procopio and was joined by Judge Thomas B. Dyk. Chen’s arguments are likely to be echoed by government attorneys if VA decides to seek Supreme Court review the case.

Chen wrote that, in his view, the Agent Orange Act is ambiguous as to whether benefits should apply to veterans who served offshore. The court majority, he said, “inappropriately pre-empts Congress’s role in determining whether the statute should apply in these circumstances — an issue which Congress is grappling with at this very time.”

By “repudiating a statutory interpretation from a 10-year old precedential opinion, without any evidence of changed circumstances,” Chen wrote, the majority “undermines the principle of stare decisis,” a doctrine that obligates courts to follow precedents set in previous decisions unless they can show clearly the previous decisions were wrongly decided.

Chen did “not find persuasive the majority’s conclusion that international law dictates its interpretation. The Haas court considered similar sources of evidence but still concluded that the statutory phrase was ambiguous,” he wrote.

Chen noted that Congress, in debating whether to extend Agent Orange benefits to Blue Water veterans, found it will require the allocation of id=”listicle-2627927786″.8 billion in fiscal 2019 and .7 billion over 10 years. With so much at stake and without “more compelling” evidence Haas got it wrong, he wrote, the court majority should have left the issue for Congress to settle.

“It is not for the Judiciary to step in and redirect such a significant budget item,” Chen wrote.

Wells said he expects the government to decide within a few weeks whether to petition the Supreme Court to review the case. Meanwhile, he said, “we are very happy with the way the case came out.”

Wells said the Haas case was ripe for reconsideration in part because “the court has been taking an increasingly jaundiced look at the VA and some of the stuff they’ve done” to deny benefits. Also, other cases had “drilled down” on weaknesses in the VA’s regulatory decisions excluding veterans from Agent Orange benefits.

“Frankly, when the VA stripped the benefit [from sailors] back in 2002, we believed that they had nobody in their general counsel’s office competent to understand” the Act and the legal definition of Republic of Vietnam, he said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

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