The name rings bells. It’s got the glitz, having been the subject of two different Hollywood films complete with big-name Hollywood actors such as Laurence Fishburne, Cuba Gooding Jr., Michael B. Jordan, and Terrence Howard. That is wonderful and, I’m sure, absolutely appreciated by the surviving members and their family. There are some things that may not immediately pop out but are, nonetheless, extremely interesting.
The Tuskegee Airmen were one of the most accomplished groups of service members of any generation, but most can’t tell you why their name is so revered. Below are some of the most praiseworthy feats ever accomplished.
One of the first defenders of the Tuskegee Airmen
(Image courtesy of OnThisDay.com)
Supreme Court Thurgood Marshall? Yes, that Thurgood Marshall. Before you go off saying he wasn’t a Tuskegee Airmen, you have to consider his tie to them. While he was a young lawyer, he represented 100 black officers who were charged with mutiny after entering a club that was then considered off-limits to them.
He would eventually get them all released.
The photo that opened many doors.
(Image courtesy of RedTail.org)
The Tuskegee Airmen came to during an age of segregated America. While the Tuskegee Airmen, or the Tuskegee experiment as it was then known, was great it still lacked the prerequisite respect and support.
It wasn’t until a visit from FLOTUS Eleanor Roosevelt that support would begin to flow in. Photo and film from a flight around the field would be the push needed to get the support to really come in.
Lieutenant General Benjamin O. Davis Jr.
(Image courtesy of AF.mil)
Three different members, or graduates, of the Tuskegee experiment, went on to become Generals. The first was Benjamin O. Davis, Sr. He was the first commander of the 332nd Fighter Group and the first Black General of the U.S. Air Force.
Daniel “Chapple” James was appointed brigadier general by Richard Nixon and also went on to become a General. The last, Lucius Theus, would retire at the rank of Major General after a 36-year career.
Batting a thousand..
The Tuskegee Airmen flew more than 700 bomber escort missions during World War II. They wound up being the only fighter group to achieve and maintain a perfect record protecting bombers.
Throughout the second World War, the United states relied heavily on cryptology — a form of communication where language was hidden or written in code so that it could not be identified by the enemy. Meanwhile, the enemy tried their hardest to determine a pattern to the code through difficult math equations or algorithms.
The U.S. wasn’t alone — other countries did the same, while their code was attempted to be broken. In fact, there was an entire field of professionals dedicated to intercepting messages and cracking them: cryptologists. Their efforts were widely successful, too, having regularly cracked the German Enigma machine messages.
However, this important job came with important responsibilities: it was not to be talked about under any circumstances. The punishment for doing so? Death in wartime. Talking in unapproved channels about their work would be an act against the nation.
After all, talking about military secrets was considered treason. And cryptologists worked on some of the most classified projects of the war.
In full form, the Constitution lists treason as being punishable by: “Death, or not less than 5 years’ imprisonment (minimum fine of $10,000, if not sentenced to death). Any person convicted of treason against the United States will lose the right to hold public office in the United States.”
Cryptologists were recruited for the war
In the early 1940s, the Army and Navy began recruiting women to become cryptologists. They searched for females who had college degrees and had studied in areas of a foreign language, math and science. Looking mainly in the Midwest and South, this meant many teachers were recruited heavily and worked for the military in codebreaking. Both branches trained new recruits in the art of cryptology but required certain education levels of their new workers.
With a mindset that women should help war efforts in any capacity, they flocked to the branches in order to lend their services. Thousands were brought in, joining and working as civilians alike.
But here’s the kicker: on their first day, they signed an oath of secrecy. Before their training even began, new cryptologists had to sign their loyalty to their country. Or, if they proved to be untrustworthy, they were reassigned to a new job. Only the most loyal were assigned to the cryptology unit.
The most secretive units were those working at Arlington Hall and the Naval Communications Annex. Military forces downplayed the importance of the cracked messages and how they fit into the war effort. In most cases, workers never learned the true value of what they were doing.
Cryptologists receive recognition
Because of these oaths, it wasn’t until decades after the war that these women began talking about their experience in the military, including the impending death threat, should they have talked. Some 70-some years later, they have given interviews and told about their contribution to WWII. Their first-person stories and interviews are available in the 2017 book, Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II, book by Liza Mundy.
Much to the joy of most airmen and the disdain of most soldiers, it looks like the Air Force is going to officially adopt the Army’s OCP uniform. Meanwhile, I’m just sitting here on the sidelines wondering if they’ll steal the Pinks and Greens as well (since, you know, they technically wore them, too, back when they were the Army Air Corps).
Have a good weekend, everyone! Enjoy yourself. Go see Deadpool 2 if you want. Just don’t do anything that Deadpool would do — that’s how you get random bullsh*t tacked on to safety briefs.
World War 1, or the Great War, was a 20th-century war fought with 19th-century tactics. The result led to the advent of war machines the world had never seen. The fearsome weapons employed sent men to the trenches and created a meat grinder of a conflict. We saw the rise of nerve gas, machine guns, tanks, and submachine guns. We also saw the rise of trench weapons.
Infantrymen at the time were armed with long, bolt-action rifles designed for warfare at a distance. These rifles were clumsy and slow to handle in close quarters combat, and when you were taking a trench, it was nothing but close-quarters combat. Trench weapons started as weapons made by soldiers who were actively fighting in the trenches. Eventually, the military forces caught on and began issuing their own.
These weapons were fielded in various designs by both sides and used to take trenches and eliminate sentries, while offering some degree of protection in the close quarters of the bloody trenches.
The most famous trench weapons of World War 1 were trench knives. Soldiers had bayonets, but they were often more of a short sword than a knife. They proved unwieldy in the tight trenches, and soldiers began making knives meant primarily for fighting in cramped spaces, where stabbing was a more feasible technique than slashing. The Germans, French, Canadians, Americans, and others all eventually had their own versions of the trench knife.
Some were push daggers, sometimes made from stakes used to pin barbed wire down or whatever else a soldier could scrounge up that was sharp and pointy enough. These little blades made it easy to launch yourself into an opponent, deal serious damage, and move on. Eventually, military forces caught up and rushed out knives for soldiers, including the famed American M1917 and Mk 1 trench knife, that could do the same job.
This knife combined brass knuckles with a blade to deliver a brutal dual-purpose weapon for close-quarters use. Speaking of brass knuckles…
Brass knuckles were a popular trench weapon brought into battle by individual Joes. Knuckle dusters have been around forever in one form or another. In the American Civil war, they were a popular choice in the trenches, and that tradition lived on as Americans headed to the fight in Europe.
Brass knuckles, or knuckle dusters in general, we made from a wide variety of materials. They offered an extra sting to your punch that could break bones by focusing the force of your punch into a smaller area. It also offered some degree of protection for the wearer’s hands during a scuffle. Breaking a knuckle in a war zone is never a good time.
You could put them on and basically forget about them. You can still wield a rifle or pistol while wearing them, albeit clumsily. However, when you came over that trench and started swinging the knuckles, some steel reinforcement could save your life.
Clubs, and not the dance type, were used to great effect by trench raiding parties. A club-like weapon is super easy to use and can deliver an extreme amount of damage. It doesn’t require any special training, and you could quickly disable or even kill a soldier with just a swing or two of a club trench weapon.
Soldiers most commonly wielded short, single-handed trench clubs made from everything and anything they could get their hands on. They used clubs as simple as heavy pieces of wood, or as ornate as custom-made maces. Some mixed in nails, bullets, and barbed wire to make their clubs even more effective.
A common adornment to the club was a lanyard to make sure your enemy never took it from you in a fight, and you could hang it from your wrist as you climbed or shot your rifle. In an instant, it can come to your hand for a fight. Similar lanyards can still be found on everything from pocket knives to flashlights used in combat today.
Spears made a bit of a comeback in World War 1 trenches. As the war started, every major force mounted lance men, but the lancemen and cavalry were put down quickly by the Maxim gun, an early recoil-operated machine gun. While lancemen on horseback didn’t prove effective in the Great War, lances and short spears still made an impact in the trenches.
These pole weapons became favored for fending off enemy soldiers who were raiding trenches. The Brits, in particular, utilized pikes to repel attackers from entering the trenches they occupied. Their long reach, lightweight design, and simplistic nature made them handier than even rifles equipped with bayonets.
I imagine this type of trench weapon was perfect for fending off men coming over the top of your trenches. They could slow an assault and allow men to use guns to kill the attack’s momentum.
Tools Turned to Weapons
Finally, soldiers turned their common everyday tools into effective trench weapons out of creativity or sheer desperation. Your basic hand tools could be quite fierce in the trench. A simple Entrenching tool could dig into the dirt but also slam into an enemy’s face with great effect.
Since World War 1 e-tools, as they tend to be known, have always been a last-ditch weapon. Even today’s infantrymen often joke about their desire to get an ”e-tool kill.” Soldiers also turned simple hammers and hatchets into trench weapons. Sometimes simplicity fits the bill, and basic tools make fearsome weapons. Plus, after you hit the bad guy, you could make handy dandy repairs. To me, that makes it a multitool.
Trench Weapons and War
World War 2 is a war we look at with some form of romanticism in our eyes. It’s harder to find bad guys worse than the Nazis, after all. Wars are always brutal, but one in which soldiers are wielding homemade knives, brass knuckles, clubs, and the like is exceptionally violent in a very personal way, even when compared to the widespread destruction of the Second World War.
Killing an enemy from thousands of feet above or hundreds of miles away is a heavy undertaking, but doing so with in the muddy trenches of World War I, armed with nothing but a shovel and your will to survive, is something else entirely.
A significant reduction in the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan won’t impact upon the security of the war-torn country, a spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani said on Dec. 21, 2018.
It was the first official Afghan reaction to reports in the U.S. media that President Donald Trump is considering a “significant” withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, with some quoting unnamed officials as saying the decision has already been made.
“If they withdraw from Afghanistan it will not have a security impact because in the last 4 1/2 years the Afghans have been in full control,” Ghani’s spokesman, Haroon Chakhansuri, said via social media.
The Wall Street Journal quoted an unnamed senior U.S. official on Dec. 20, 2018, as saying that Trump “wants to see viable options about how to bring conflicts to a close.”
The AFP news agency quoted a U.S. official as saying the decision has already been made for a “significant” U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“That decision has been made. There will be a significant withdrawal,” AFP quoted the official as saying.
CNN also reported that Trump has already ordered the military to make plans for a withdrawal of perhaps half of the current 14,000-strong force.
NATO has so far declined to comment on the reports, saying only that is aware of the reports.
In response to an RFE/RL question, NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said, “The Afghan Army and police have been fully in charge of the security of Afghanistan for over four years. They are a brave, committed, and increasingly capable force, who have ensured the security of the parliamentary elections earlier this year.”
“Earlier this month, NATO foreign ministers expressed steadfast commitment to ensuring long-term security and stability in Afghanistan,” Lungescu said.
“Our engagement is important to ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for international terrorists who could threaten us at home.”
However, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius, whose NATO-member country is a contributor to Resolute Support, voiced skepticism that even a partial U.S. withdrawal could be supplanted by the remaining members.
“Frankly, I do not believe that we can split forces and rely that something can be done in the absence of an important player. It’s difficult really to say,” Linkevicius told RFE/RL.
The Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to counter attacks from the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO combat troops in 2014.
U.S. officials have been attempting to push the Taliban to the negotiating table with the government in Kabul. Many Taliban leaders insist that U.S. forces depart before substantial peace talks can take place.
The reports came a day after Trump surprised and angered many U.S. lawmakers, administration officials, and international allies by saying he was pulling “all” U.S. troops out of Syria, where they are leading a multinational coalition backing local forces in the fight against Islamic State (IS) militants.
It also came shortly before Trump announced that his defense secretary, Jim Mattis, would be leaving his post at the end of February 2019.
U.S. media are reporting that Mattis opposed Trump’s move to withdraw from Syria. In his resignation letter, Mattis said his views were not fully “aligned” with those of the president.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
A U.S.-led coalition has been in Afghanistan since 2001, when it drove the Taliban from power after Al-Qaeda militants — whose leaders were being sheltered in Afghanistan — carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
However, the Western-backed government in Kabul has struggled to counter attacks from the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO combat troops in 2014.
U.S. officials have been attempting to push the Taliban to the negotiating table with the government in Kabul. Many Taliban leaders insist that U.S. forces depart before substantial peace talks can take place.
Mohammad Taqi, a Florida-based political analyst, told RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal that a rapid U.S. withdrawal would be “a huge mistake.”
“If we look at it in context of talks with the Taliban, then it seems [the] Taliban have already strengthened their position,” he said. “Now the reports of [a U.S. withdrawal] show a weakening stance by the U.S., which could subsequently undermine [the] Afghan government’s position.”
On Dec. 20, 2018, Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special peace envoy for Afghanistan, questioned the Taliban’s determination to end the 17-year war after the group’s representatives refused to meet with an Afghan government-backed negotiating team.
Khalilzad said that, while he was certain the Afghan government wanted to end the conflict, it was unclear whether the Taliban were “genuinely seeking peace.”
Khalilzad’s remarks came following his latest face-to-face meeting in December 2018 with the Taliban, which was held in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) and was also attended by Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
The U.A.E. hailed the talks as “positive for all parties concerned,” while the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Khalid bin Salman, claimed the meetings will produce “very positive results by the beginning of next year.”
US military snipers have to be able to make the hard shots, the seemingly impossible shots. They have to be able to push themselves and their weapons.
Staff Sgt. Hunter Bernius, a veteran Marine Corps scout sniper who runs an advanced urban sniper training course, walked INSIDER through his most technically difficult shot — he fired a bullet into a target roughly 2.3 kilometers (1.4 miles) away with a .50 caliber sniper rifle.
The longest confirmed kill shot was taken by a Canadian special forces sniper, who shot an ISIS militant dead at 3,540 meters, or 2.2 miles, in Iraq in 2017. The previous record was held by British sniper Craig Harrison, who shot and killed a Taliban insurgent from 2,475 meters away.
“There are definitely people out there who have done amazing things,” US Army First Sgt. Kevin Sipes, a veteran sniper and instructor at the sniper school at Fort Benning, Georgia, told INSIDER. “Anything is possible.”
Weapons Company scout sniper and Lufkin, Texas, native Hunter Bernius takes a shooting position during field training at an undisclosed location.
(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Tommy Huynh)
Snipers are trained to scout the movements of enemy forces often from very exposed positions, and are also used to target enemy leaders and to pin down their forces. These dangerous missions require they become masters of concealment, as well as skilled sharpshooters.
While 2,300 meters may not be a record, it is still a very hard shot to make.
US military snipers typically operate at ranges between 600 and 1,200 meters. At extreme ranges, the Marine is pushing his weapon past its limits. The M107 semi-automatic long range sniper rifles used by the Marine Corps can fire accurately out to only about 2,000 meters.
“Shooting on the ground can be easy, especially when you are shooting 600 meters in or 1,000 meters in. That’s almost second nature,” Bernius explained. “But, when you are extending it to the extremes, beyond the capability of the weapon system, you have all kinds of different things to consider.”
At those longer ranges, a sniper has to rely a lot more on “hard math” than just shooter instinct.
Bernius, a Texas native who has deployed to Iraq and other locations across the Middle East, made his most technically difficult shot as a student in the advanced sniper course, a training program for Marine Corps sharpshooters who have already successfully completed basic sniper training.
“When I came through as a student at the course I am running now, my partner and I were shooting at a target at approximately 2,300 meters,” Bernius explained. “We did in fact hit it, but it took approximately 20-25 minutes of planning, thinking of everything we needed to do with calculations, with the readings.”
Sgt. Hunter G. Bernius shoots at a target placed in the water from a UH-1Y Huey during an aerial sniper exercise.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Chance Haworth)
At that distance, it takes the bullet roughly six to eight seconds to reach the target, which means there is a whole lot of time for any number of external factors to affect where it lands.
“You have all kinds of considerations,” Bernius told INSIDER, explaining that snipers have to think about “the rotation of the earth, which direction you are facing, wind at not just your muzzle but at 2,300 meters, at 1,000 meters, you name it.”
Direction and rotation of the earth are considerations that most people might not realize come into play.
Which direction the sniper is facing can affect the way the sun hits the scope, possibly distorting the image inside the scope and throwing off the shot. It also determines how the rotation of the planet affects the bullet, which may hit higher or lower depending on the sniper’s position.
“This is only for extreme long range, shots over 2,000 meters,” Bernius explained.
Other possible considerations include the temperature, the humidity, the time of day, whether or not the sniper is shooting over a body of water (it can create a mirage), the shape of the bullet, and spin drift of the round.
“We ended up hitting it,” Bernius said. “That, to me, was probably the most technically difficult shot.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
So if a zombie were to come lumbering up your block right now, what would you do? Reach for your weapon? Bolt the doors and windows and stay inside? Rush to your nearest gun shop? Maybe try to make it on post? If you’ve watched even one episode of The Walking Dead, or if you’re a fan of any of the jokey zombie movies that have come out in the last few years, you and your buddies have probably spent at least one evening over beers talking about what you would do if zombies suddenly decided to rush you.
It turns out that you’re not the only one thinking about these plans. In fact, the DoD has been considering what the military should do if a zombie apocalypse were to take place.
“This plan was not actually designed as a joke.” So starts out CONPLAN 8888, better known as the Counter Zombie Dominance Plan (CZDP), unveiled by the Joint Combined Warfighting School back in 2009.
It’s easy to make fun of, for sure, but there might be some real training gems nestled inside this strange idea. The plan’s overall purpose isn’t to actually train and prepare for zombies, but what the military should do to “preserve non-zombie humans” from the very significant threats posed by a zombie horde. It’s also endearing that the DoD is thinking outside the box when it comes to training. Even more comforting is knowing that even if an army of the undead were to attack civilization, there’s no chance they’d win. Here’s why.
No matter if we get attacked by fast or slow zombies, they’re no match for modern aircraft. Fighter jets have serious destructive potential, and they’re incredibly accurate. And since we’re pretty sure zombies never got the training on how to shelter in place, they’d probably just stand out in the open with fighter jets zipping overhead.
This goes without saying but putting on your gear will definitely help prevent you and your buddies from being bitten by zombies. In most zombie scenarios, they’re limited to human strength, so we’re pretty sure they can’t chew through your IOTV.
Landmines are nothing to mess with, but fortunately, most humans know to stay away from minefields once the first device is detonated. We’re counting on zombies not being so smart and would expect them to continue navigating the field, even while the mines exploded all around them. And since zombies are fairly easy to predict, herding them into minefields could be an effective way to deal with them.
Mass charges are all zombies really do. They overrun their target and bite them until they become zombies too. Machine gun fire would put a stop to that quickly.
This one is pretty obvious, but so often overlooked in a takeover of the undead scenario. The truth is that the explosive firepower of tanks means that very few zombies could survive an attack. Even if ammo was low, tanks could easily just run over swarms of zombies, fixing the problem.
Training against fake nations and fake enemies is nothing new
CZDP explores what would happen after a political fallout, a broken chain of command, and a target-rich environment, as would happen if zombies were to suddenly take over the earth. It’s just like when the military issues training guides to combat fictional nations like the “Pineladians” or the “Krasnovians,” both fictional countries the military trains to fight against.
Fictional countries the military trains to fight aren’t new. In fact, it’s a standard part of lots of military training. Zombies aside, the military does this by design – in part to ensure that they don’t set off any political red flags by having our service members train against nation-states, and because it helps things stay light in the face of what could be some really dark scenarios.
Of course, the Pentagon doesn’t actually believe that a zombie takeover is likely, but the training for battling the undead is remarkably useful for other training events. And, since the training manual is so absurd, students at the Joint Warfighters College actually paid attention, were engaged in the lesson, and explored the basic concepts of planning and order development – all very important things for the future leaders of the military.
The U.S. State Department has called on other nations to repatriate and prosecute their citizens captured by U.S. Kurdish allies in Syria.
The Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of militias dominated by the Kurdish YPG, “has demonstrated a clear commitment to detain these individuals securely and humanely,” the department’s spokesman, Robert Palladino, said in a statement on Feb. 4, 2019.
The alliance, known as the SDF, say they have detained more than 900 foreign fighters who had traveled to Syria to fight with the extremist group Islamic State.
They are also holding more than 4,000 family members of IS fighters.
Questions arose about what the SDF would do with the prisoners it is holding after President Donald Trump announced in December 2018 that the United States would withdraw all of its 2,000 troops from Syria.
Few countries have so far expressed any readiness to repatriate their citizens.
Washington is set to host a meeting on Feb. 6, 2019, of about a dozen coalition partners fighting against the IS group.
IS militants have lost virtually all the territory they once held in Syria and neighboring Iraq, but Palladino said it remains “a significant terrorist threat.”
“Collective action is imperative to address this shared international security challenge,” he added.
When I heard the news of Prince Harry and Meghan sitting down with Oprah in a transparent interview, I was thrilled. It was my thought this would be their opportunity to set the record straight on so much negativity spewed in the press. I wasn’t prepared for what I heard or how it would make me examine my own life as a military spouse.
Meghan was and is an independent American woman who fell in love with someone, who just so happened to be a prince. From the outside, it looked so picturesque and romantic. I was one of the millions of people who watched their royal wedding. The beautiful outfits, world-wide traveling and ability to serve looked like an amazing life to lead. Little did any of us know how dark and ugly it really is behind the scenes. But we should have.
Those perfect pictures hid a woman who was told she needed to be less of herself. Their happy and in love smiles covered up the hurt they were feeling about the endless attack on Meghan. It definitely hid how bad things were becoming. As I watched the interview unfold, I saw the parallels to my own life as a military spouse. Being told how to act, what to say and losing your identity, having it replaced with the word “dependent;” the reminders “she should have known what she was getting into.” While the similarities might end there, it was enough to make me think about my own earlier years in this military life. The biggest difference (other than a castle and plenty of money) was the fact that I found my home and support within the community, Meghan was never given a chance.
As a therapist, I have the privilege of walking alongside my clients through some of the hardest times of their lives. The first time I heard a client tell me they wished they could disappear, I could feel the chills run down my arms. We never want to think a human being is suffering so deeply they are contemplating ending it all. While my role is to ensure they remain safe while supporting their needs through those dark thoughts, Meghan wasn’t allowed to have that lifeline.
It infuriates me. The courage it takes to openly admit to another person that you are thinking about suicide is immense, many can’t even take such a step and instead just end their lives. To listen to her share she sought help and was told she couldn’t have it because it wouldn’t look right caused the tears to openly fall down my face. It made me think of the almost 200 military dependents we are losing each year to suicide. This is what we’ve come to, despite hundreds of years of advancement and pushing against the negative stigma of mental health needs? How dare anyone care what it looks like beyond ensuring someone’s well being. Knowing the monarchy was more important than her life is unforgivable, in my opinion.
Listening to Meghan share how members of the family were worried about how dark her son would be when he was born caused me to cry even more. Here is a woman who has given up everything she knew for love and is pregnant with her first child, struggling in ways we can’t even contemplate. She was completely alone. Knowing what we know now, it’s a miracle she’s alive and I don’t say it lightly.
At this moment, I want everyone to look at what Meghan and Harry shared for what it is; a chance to get it right. As a global society we’ve allowed the tabloids, social media and the news even to do this to them. We are a part of the problem. It’s an important lesson for the military community to take in as well. Let this revealing interview be a lesson to everyone on the importance of honesty, empathy and above all, kindness. Without these things, we won’t evolve as a society to ensure the generations who come after us never know hate or unkindness.
Meghan and Harry’s revelations will be debated and talked about for a long time, not all of it in Meghan and Harry’s favor. This is their truth, their experience and is absolutely their right to go on the record to share. To those who would disparage them or deny the recount of their experiences: I hope your life is perfect enough to cast stones. I don’t think you could last a moment in their shoes otherwise.
Every single one of you reading this article has experienced hurt. We all know what it feels like to be disparaged and feel the sadness or deep loneliness that often accompanies those painful moments. These are feelings that slowly chip away at the innocence many children initially have of the world, until there is no more left. It is up to all of us to change that. We can all start today and it’s really simple: be better.
When the USS Emory S. Land, one of the Navy’s two submarine tenders, sailed into the Ulithi Atoll on Dec. 7, 2019, it was a return to a major hub for US operations in World War II and yet another sign the US military is thinking about how it would fight a war in the Pacific.
Only four of the atoll’s 40 small islands are inhabited, but they all surround one of the world’s largest lagoons, which was a vital jumping-off point for the Navy as it island-hopped closer to the Japanese mainland during the war.
“It was the logistical hub for the invasions in the Philippines, Leyte Gulf, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa — all of those operations were launched from the base at Ulithi,” Capt. Michael Luckett, commanding officer of the Emory S. Land, said in a release. “At the height, there were as many as 700 ships anchored there in the lagoon, including dry docks, repair ships, tenders, battleships, aircraft carriers, destroyers, and sea planes.”
The Philippines, which includes Leyte Gulf, and the Japanese islands, including Okinawa, are part of the Pacific’s first island chain, of which Taiwan is also part.
Farther east is the second island chain, comprising Japan’s volcanic islands, which include Iwo Jima, and the Mariana Islands, which are administered by the US and include Guam, where the Land and fellow tender USS Frank Cable are stationed.
The approximate boundaries of the first and second island chains in the western Pacific.
(US Defense Department)
The island chain strategy has been around for some time, developed with the Soviet Union in mind. It has gained renewed attention as China’s influence has risen.
The first island chain is now within reach of Chinese naval and land-based weapons, while the second island chain is an important strategic line of defense for the US. Ulithi, west of Guam, has an important place between the two.
“It’s a convenient place to operate that’s relatively close but not so close that you’re going to be exposed to large numbers of either Chinese forces or Chinese missile attack, potentially,” said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
While underway replenishment is common for the Navy today, calm waters inside atolls like Ulithi still make them valuable spots to resupply submarines and surface ships.
“One thing you can’t do while you’re underway is rearming. So a ship that launches a bunch of missiles … they can’t just send the missiles over and reload them at sea,” said Clark, who was a Navy submariner and led development of strategy as special assistant to the chief of naval operations.
“You pretty much have to pull into port” to rearm, Clark said. “So this would be a way to have the ship pull into the atoll, have the tender load up the missiles in the [vertical launching system] magazine, and then the ship can go back out rearmed,” Clark added.
In a conflict, the release said, Ulithi “could again represent a logistical hub capable of supporting the fleet.”
Sailors aboard submarine tender USS Emory S. Land look on as submarine tender USS Frank Cable departs Apra Harbor in Guam for sea trials, December 16, 2019.
(US Navy photo by MCS 2nd Class Heather C. Wamsley)
Not just submarines
The Land and Cable, usually working out of Guam or Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, provide maintenance and logistical support to US ships in the 5th and 7th Fleet areas of operation.
“They’re designed mainly for submarines because submarines have more maintenance requirements, but they actually do maintenance on surface ships as well,” Clark said.
They mostly do minor repairs, but they can work on more complex systems like nuclear reactors. Tenders also have dive teams that can do perform repairs on the hull and its coating in the water.
“They can do welding. They can do hull repair. They can do replacement of components. They can remove interference that’s in the way of replacing a pump or something,” Clark added. “So they can do lots of relatively heavy maintenance that just doesn’t require dry-docking.”
These kinds of fixes can extend how long a warship is suited for combat before it must return to an industrial hub for an overhaul.
The Land’s visit to Ulithi was meant “to demonstrate the submarine tender’s ability to return to Ulithi and successfully anchor within the lagoon,” the release said. Luckett said it showed the Land could “do all of the things needed inside the lagoon without any support from external sources.”
“The idea,” Clark said, is that the tenders would provide support “not just for submarines but also for surface ships. That’s probably the the bigger purpose of putting it into the atoll … to support surface combatants.”
An unmanned aerial vehicle delivers a 5-pound payload to the the Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS Hawaii during a training exercise off the coast of Oahu, October 10, 2019.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Michael B. Zingaro)
Keeping the fight going
The Pentagon’s shift to “great power competition” with Russia and China has put renewed emphasis on logistics networks in Europe and the Pacific, the latter of which, a vast ocean dotted with far-flung islands, presents a particular challenge for resupply and reinforcement.
The Navy has “been putting time and research into how you might do it. They actually haven’t been making that many investments changing how they do the logistics,” Clark said, but there have “been analyses and studies and some technical research on different techniques.”
One of those was illustrated in October, when sailors used a small drone to deliver a 5-pound package to a sub about a mile off the coast of Oahu in Hawaii.
“What started as an innovative idea has come to fruition as a potentially radical new submarine logistics delivery capability,” a Navy officer said at the time. “A large percentage of parts that are needed on submarines weigh less than 5 pounds, so this capability could alleviate the need for boats to pull into ports for parts or medical supplies.”
The drone’s payload and its range put limits on the additional capability it can provide to the fleet right now, Clark said.
But it would still provide some safety benefit and save time by obviating the need for a sub to sail into port to get those supplies — and in a conflict in the western Pacific, where China could sortie a lot of subs quickly, timing could make all the difference.
Plus, success with a small drone now could lead to bigger advantages in the future.
“If you take that and extrapolate,” Clark said, “a larger drone could cover a longer distance and maybe do the same operation, so now I do get a more distributed supply network.”
“If you had a bigger UAV, like a Fire Scout or something, that could go for three hours and might cover a couple of hundred miles. Well, then maybe … that’ll allow you to spread out your logistics networks,” Clark added, referring to an unmanned helicopter the Navy wants to use aboard littoral combat ships.
“Now the ship with a couple of Fire Scouts can cover a lot more area than it could if it was just doing it by itself.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Today’s military has many antiquated training plans still written into the calendar. Troops will still practice drill and ceremony despite the fact that the need for marching into combat died out more than a hundred years ago. We still sharpen our land navigation skills despite the fact that we have overwhelming technological advantages that make the use of more primitive tools highly improbable.
However, the one training that always draws the loudest “but why?” from the back of the formation is bayonet warfare. And you know what? That loud, obnoxious dude isn’t entirely wrong — the last time “fix bayonets!” was officially ordered to a company-sized element in combat was by Col. Lewis Millet during the Korean War.
But bayonet training isn’t about just learning to attach a “pointy thing to your boomstick and poking the blood out of people,” as an old infantry sergeant once told me. It’s about laying the fundamentals of everything else.
It’s only silly if you make it silly. If you do, the other guy will knock the silliness out of you.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Melissa Marnell)
Bayonet training was officially taken off the Army’s basic training schedule back in 2010 because it created scheduling conflicts with other needed skills. Still, some drill sergeants find a way to work it in on their own time. The Marine Corps still learns the skill, but it’s a part of the greater Marine Corps Martial Arts Program.
The training is always conducted in stages. The first stage is to have the recruits train on pugil sticks — giant, cotton-swab-looking sticks. This teaches a warfighter the importance of maintaining a positive footing while trying to overpower an opponent. Literally anyone can take on anyone in a pugil stick match because it’s not about size or strength — it’s about control.
Learning to control your body while asserting dominance on your enemy is crucial in close-quarters combat. Once you’ve mastered the pugil stick, you can move on to bayonets.
“Yeah! Take that, tire! F*ck you!”
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Walter D. Marino II)
Fighting with a bayonet is less like fighting with a rifle that happens to have a knife attached and more like using a spear that has a rifle on it. Much of the same footwork learned while training with pugil sticks plays a role here. Maintain good footing, thrust your bayonet into the enemy, and send them to their maker.
Maintaining good footing is a fundamental of nearly every single martial arts form known to man. Instead of having troops learn a martial art (which would take years to yield workable results), troops can come to understand the importance of footwork by just stabbing a worn-out tire — much more efficient.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Maximiliano Bavastro)
The third and most vital lesson that’s secretly taught behind the guise of bayonet training is when the troops line up to conduct a full charge toward targets.
Sure, without the real threat of danger, the point may be missed by some, but it’s important nonetheless. If you and your unit are tasked with making a last-ditch effort to stop the enemy and all you have is your bayonet, many of you may die. But when you know for certain that you and your brothers will charge into death head-on with the hopes of gutting at least that one, last son of a b*tch… you’ve embraced the warrior lifestyle.
Sure, missing out on that life lesson doesn’t hurt the “combat effectiveness” that training room officers love to care about, but there’s little else that compares to the ferocity of a bayonet charge.
Army reservists deployed to Europe were wrongly denied housing allowance payments, subjected to humiliating criminal investigations, and forced into debt by the service after the Army “willfully disregarded” its own policies to refuse benefits owed, according to a federal court complaint.
The complaint, filed in April 2018, in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, accuses the Army of “gross negligence,” saying it caused financial and professional damage by intentionally denying benefits it should have paid.
The lawsuit also says the soldiers faced threats that “jeopardized their careers and security clearances by flagging them as subjects to fraud or larceny investigations.”
The dispute began in 2016 after reservist soldiers deployed to Europe and received benefits authorized by the Army, which included basic housing allowance, or BAH, for their stateside homes. They also received overseas housing allowance, or OHA, in Europe after being ordered by the Army to live off post because of a lack of available housing.
The benefit is spelled out in the Joint Federal Travel Regulations, which govern how allowances are paid: “A Service member called/ordered to active duty in support of a contingency operation is authorized primary residence-based BAH/OHA beginning on the first active duty day . . . This rate continues for the duration of the tour.” Army regulations reiterate the policy.
Months into their respective deployments, the finance office at U.S. Army Europe decided the benefits should no longer be paid, said Patrick Hughes, the Washington attorney representing the seven soldiers who filed the lawsuit.
Army spokeswoman Lt. Col. Nina Hill declined to comment on the case, citing “ongoing litigation.”
The Army Reserve and National Guard officers, who were dispatched to Europe for contingency operations, are seeking to restore their benefits and abolish Army-imposed debts that have been levied.
Over the past two years, Hughes said, soldiers have seen entire paychecks wiped out through wage garnishments as the Army seeks to collect on debts that range from $13,000 to $94,000.
Investigated, reprimanded, indebted
Hundreds of reservists could have been affected by the Army’s actions, Hughes said.
The court is expected to respond to the complaint within 30 days. If it’s accepted as the proper venue, the soldiers will move to certify the case as a class-action lawsuit that other reservists could join.
“You do need power in numbers to get action to be taken in these situations. We are trying to address it at a massive scale,” Hughes said. “This an effort to resolve the issue in its entirety for everyone.”
In some cases, soldiers were issued general officer reprimands, which are often considered career-killers.
Col. Bradley Wolfing, one of the plaintiffs in the case, successfully appealed his reprimand, which was the result of being “erroneously placed under investigation by the Army’s CID, and ultimately punished for BAH fraud on or about March 24, 2017,” the complaint says.
A grade determination review board determined Wolfing satisfactorily served as a colonel and was allowed to retire as such, the complaint states.
In conjunction with that ruling, Defense Financing and Accounting Services reviewed the case and “concluded that the Army’s decision to ignore (the Joint Federal Travel Regulation) and deny COL Wolfing his primary residence location BAH entitlement was erroneous.”
That conclusion will likely factor into any future litigation.
“This DFAS opinion is of great significance, because its analysis is applicable to virtually all of those affected by the Army’s primary residence location BAH entitlement denial,” the complaint says.
Still, the Army continues to garnish soldiers’ wages, a move the complaint says “amounts to gross negligence.” The Army indebted Wolfing for $94,000.
In 2016, the Army launched criminal investigations into the reservists who received the benefits that the Army itself had authorized when the reservists were mobilized.
“Basically, I was criminally processed, all because they are saying I shouldn’t (have been) collecting BAH for my Connecticut residence. I was stunned,” said Capt. Tim Kibodeaux, an intelligence officer with 27 years in the National Guard.
Criminal Investigation Command agents fingerprinted him and took his mug shot for their records during the investigation.
The Army levied a $50,000 debt on Kibodeaux for BAH payments it says he wasn’t entitled to and has repeatedly garnished his wages, the soldiers’ complaint says. Meanwhile, he hasn’t received about $16,000 in owed benefits.
The six other service members in the complaint are in similar situations.
“My credit has been completely ruined,” Kibodeaux said. “I am disgusted at this point. We think about 340 people were affected by this.”
At least 140 soldiers were snared in the BAH investigation in Europe, according to the complaint, which cites information relayed by the Criminal Investigation Command.
Given the high numbers of reservists who have been rotating through Europe in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve — the campaign to deter Russian aggression in the region — the lawsuit says that the numbers are likely much higher. If the complaint grows, millions of dollars could be at stake in future litigation.
One concern now, Kibodeaux said, is that lower-ranking reservists could have been intimidated into silence and may be unaware that their rights to certain benefits have been violated.
“Several Plaintiffs were informed through their chain-of-command that any future inquiries into this issue would be met with negative consequences, and that the denial of the housing entitlement was a final decision,” the complaint says.
Kibodeaux said he and his colleagues never received a clear explanation from the Army why benefits were taken away or why they were subjected to criminal investigations.
During the probe, Kibodeaux said, he told Army finance officials about the regulation that allowed for the allowance. He said the Army investigators told him they didn’t recognize the policy, which for decades has allowed reservists on deployment overseas to receive BAH for their home of record.
(Photo by Timothy Hale)
“They said, ‘We don’t go by that. We go by the active duty one,'” Kibodeaux said.
When Kibodeaux pointed out the military’s regulations governing allowances for reservists to a criminal investigator, the agent’s response was, “We just do what finance tells us to do,” Kibodeaux said.
In recent years, the military has struggled to interpret federal regulations dealing with living allowances.
In 2013, a reinterpretation of overarching State Department regulations by the Defense Department put nearly 700 civilians in debt by cutting off their housing allowances. Special waivers were required to eliminate debts that in some cases reached six figures.
Europe-based reservists have also been affected by new interpretations of long-standing regulations. In 2013, the Army decided to stop paying BAH to reservists who lived in Germany and deployed on Army missions in other parts of Germany that were hours away from their home.
The Army, which imposed debts on about 10 soldiers at the time, never fully explained its legal rationale for changing the rules.
Service members and civilians who have gotten caught up in benefits disputes have complained that there is little internal recourse in a one-on-one fight with the military bureaucracy over benefits. And the idea of taking on the federal government in a lengthy court fight also is daunting and costly.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
China’s military took “immediate action” on May 27, 2018, against “unauthorized” sailing by US warships in South China Sea waters claimed by Beijing.
China’s defense ministry said in a statement that two US warships, the Antiem guided missile cruiser and the USS Higgins destroyer, entered disputed waters around the Paracel Islands before the Chinese navy intervened in what it considers to be a “serious infringement on China’s sovereignty.”
“Chinese military took immediate actions by dispatching naval ships and aircrafts to conduct legal identification and verification of the US warships and warn them off,” Wu Qian, defense ministry spokesman, said.
The spokesman also called the US move “provocative and arbitrary,” which he said “undermined strategic mutual trust between the two militaries.”
China has held de facto control over the Paracel Islands since 1974, however Taiwan and Vietnam also have competing claims to the area. The US warships reportedly came within 12 nautical miles of the islands.
According to Reuters, the US freedom of navigation operation was a targeted measure against China’s growing influence in the region.
The move comes at a sensitive time between the US and China. In May 2018, the Pentagon disinvited China from an international military exercise in an effort to send a message about the country’s activities in the South China Sea.
“China’s continued militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea only serve to raise tensions and destabilize the region,” Department of Defense spokesman, Lt. Col. Christopher Logan, said in a statement.