How Najaf became the Marines' forgotten battle in Iraq - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

How Najaf became the Marines’ forgotten battle in Iraq

In the Battle of Fallujah, Marines swept in to take the city away from insurgent forces, only to have politicians pull them out — and send them right back in months later. The first and second Battles of Fallujah have entered Marine Corps lore, alongside Iwo Jima and Chapultepec.


But what many don’t know is what happened at the Battle of Najaf, which played out before the 2nd Battle of Fallujah kicked off.

An Najaf is another sacred city in Iraq. It has approximately seven square miles of cemeteries — as above, so below. Under the cemeteries are miles of catacombs, haunting places where enemy fighters could be hiding, concealed in the dark.

How Najaf became the Marines’ forgotten battle in Iraq
A U.S. soldier performs a security patrol outside An Najaf cemetery where Anti-Iraqi Forces have recently launched attacks at Multi-National Forces. The patrol’s focus was on finding weapons caches, Improvised Explosive Devises (I.E.D.s), and Anti-Iraqi Forces that might be hiding in tombs or catacombs within the cemetery. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt Ashley Brokop)

A major player in the battle was the insurgent leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, a Shia cleric who brought disgruntled Iraqis together under the idea of an Islamic democracy. To enforce that idea, he created a military wing, Jaysh al-Mahdi, also known as the Mahdi Army. He suddenly turned on the coalition, demanding an immediate withdraw of all coalition forces from Iraq.

Though the mayor of An Najaf brokered a ceasefire between the coalition and the Mahdi Army in June 2004, this only lasted until the end of August. In July of that year, the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit took over operational command from Task Force Dragon. That’s when the fighting in the city started to escalate.

In August, the Mahdi Army attacked the 1st Battalion 4th Marines, starting a significant battle of the new Iraq War. The next days were long and drawn out, characterized by house-to-house fighting, open-street engagements, and fighting across open farm fields. For eight days, the battle raged through the city.

How Najaf became the Marines’ forgotten battle in Iraq
A U.S. Marine Corps M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank (MBT), 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), Special Operations Capable (SOC), in convoy along the streets of An Najaf, An Najaf Province, Iraq, on Aug. 12, 2004, during a raid of the Muqtada Militia strong points in the area. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Daniel J. Fosco)

Much like what happened in Fallujah a few months earlier, Marines and soldiers were taking the fight to insurgents. American troops were surprised by incoming small arms fire and indirect fire. Though the enemy forces were not well trained, there was a lot of them, which compensated for their lack of real infantry tactics.

At one point, the battle swept over the city’s huge cemetery, which was the stage for some of the most intense fighting of the entire Iraq War. Surrounded by the resting dead, Marines fought against extreme numbers and both sides suffered heavy casualties. Fighting on the surface was so brutal that soldiers and Marines were also forced to fight in the catacombs below.

How Najaf became the Marines’ forgotten battle in Iraq
U.S. troops at final limit of advance during a morning of clearing operations.

Fallujah was the biggest urban battle since Hue City and An Najaf saw the first tunnel fighting since Vietnam.

The end of the battle brought with it a final tally of dead and wounded. Twelve Americans were killed in action and 94 were wounded. Iraqi soldiers also saw significant losses. The numbers for the Mahdi Army, however, are far greater, with 1,500 killed in action and an unknown number wounded, estimated to be in the thousands.

The battle removed Al-Sadr and most of those loyal to him from the city. Marines began to secure their area of operations and returned to rebuilding Najaf and the surrounding region. However, some of the Mahdi Army’s militiamen stayed in the city, challenging the 1st battalion, 4th Marines at every opportunity.

How Najaf became the Marines’ forgotten battle in Iraq
Marines patrol the streets of Najaf in 2004.

Instead of their normal black militia uniforms, they now wore street clothing. This allowed them to blend into the local populace. Coalition troops could no longer differentiate between friend or foe when the streets turned to a battlefield.

Marines and soldiers at the Battle of Najaf should be proud of the accomplishment of securing the city. As time passes, they remain hopeful that Americans will know about the heroes that came out of the battle and the ones who fell there — that we never let this battle be lost to history.

It will be remembered, just as much as The Battles of Fallujah.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 ways to camp like a soldier

Camping is a quintessential summer activity, but let’s face it; we’ve gone soft. On my last camping trip, I packed pillows, blankets, a stove, a hammock, books and approximately a month worth of junk food. I brought along a car adaptor so I could blow up our three air mattresses with ease. On the way out the door, my friend asked if she could run back in to grab her straightener. Her. STRAIGHTENER.

Camping in the field is another game entirely. It’s not even a game, really. It’s challenging, team-building, possibly life-threatening work, but you’ll return knowing you fought nature and won. SO much cooler than glamping. Think you’re tough enough? Here’s how to try it for yourself. (Sort of.)


How Najaf became the Marines’ forgotten battle in Iraq
(U.S. Army photos by Pvt. Adeline Witherspoon, 20th Public Affairs Detachment)

1. Say goodbye to your lounge chair. 

As the owner of a 7-passenger SUV, I can proudly say that I have used 100% of my available cargo space on a single, five day camping trip. All of it. Camping with friends and family is about fun and convenience, not necessity.

Camping in the field, however, is more like extreme backpacking. Kiss your air mattress, propane heater, bluetooth speakers, and endless snacks goodbye. Creature comforts are out, necessities are in. Imagine you’re about to be stranded in the wilderness, alone, and you can only bring what you can carry. Marshmallows, White Claw, and movie projectors probably don’t make the cut.

2. Forget relaxing and get to work. 

This probably goes without saying, but day drinking, movie nights, and leisurely hikes aren’t exactly the point of being in the field. You’re expected to follow a strict schedule; you have a job to do, after all! Your exact duties will likely vary, but sightseeing isn’t on the agenda.

How Najaf became the Marines’ forgotten battle in Iraq
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Tawny Schmit)

3. Pick people for practicality, not play. 

Look, it’s not personal. Your buddy who starts day drinking right after rolling out of a hammock at noon just won’t be able to keep up. Nor will Pinterest camp mom, who shopped for an entire cooler’s worth of perishable ingredients to try out the nine different gourmet campfire meals she added to her camping board. By the time she’s made a three-course campfire foil brunch and mimosas with fresh-squeezed OJ, the rest of the troops will have left her behind.

Day drinking dude and Pinterest mom are ultra-fun to camp with, but camping in the field isn’t about fun. You’ll be camping with those who are the most useful to your mission, so you better learn to like them. Even if you’re not best buddies, you’ll learn to appreciate their unique skills.

4. Expect the unexpected.

If a sudden rainstorm hits during a family camping trip, you can stuff all your junk in the car and book it to the closest Motel 6. Or maybe a nice hotel with a hot tub and room service. You’ve got options. When you’re a soldier, your only option is to find the driest patch of land, build a shelter with what you have, and wait it out. If there’s a dust storm, your options aren’t much better. You just have to deal with it, basically, and hope you don’t come across a demonic-looking camel spider. Shudder.

5. Prep your survival skills. They’re not just for show. 

Who here has watched Bear Grylls eating bugs and drinking reindeer blood from the couch? Just me? As it turns out, Bear Grylls actually served in the British Army reserves from 1994–1997. He was trained in desert and winter warfare, unarmed combat, climbing, parachuting, explosives, and (duh!) survival. His training actually gave him much of the knowledge he needed for his more well-known career as a survivalist and TV persona. While you probably won’t have to resort to drinking animal blood at your cozy family campground with running water, bathrooms, and fire pits, crazy survival skills like that are actually useful in the field. While one hopes you never need them, it’s best to have them in case you do! And if you don’t, you can retire and go into reality TV.

 

MIGHTY CULTURE

Sexual assaults in the US military are on a rise

A Department of Defense report released on May 2, 2019, paints a troubling picture of sexual violence in the US military, with an almost 38 percent rise between 2016 and 2018, according to a Pentagon survey reviewed by INSIDER.

The report, which surveyed men and women in the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force, reported that around 20,500 service members experienced sexual assault in the past year — a significant leap from around 14,900 members in 2016, when a similar survey was conducted.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan called the prevalence of sexual assault in the military “unacceptable” in a memorandum sent across the Department of Defense, and reviewed by INSIDER.


“To put it bluntly, we are not performing to the standards and expectations we have for ourselves or for each other,” Shanahan wrote. “We must improve our culture to treat each other with dignity and respect and hold ourselves, and each other, more accountable.”

How Najaf became the Marines’ forgotten battle in Iraq

U.S. Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan.

The Pentagon has grappled with preventing sexual assault in the ranks for decades, and the latest survey shows their policies have failed to stem the problem as more troops report sexual abuse, nearly 90 percent of which was reportedly perpetrated by another member of the military.

Women in the military, and particularly young women between the ages of 17 to 24, are most at risk of experiencing sexual assault, the report found. Sexual assault rates for women were highest in the Marines, followed by the Navy, Army, and Air Force. The rates among men remained similar to the 2016 report.

“The results are disturbing and a clear indicator the Marine Corps must reexamine its sexual assault prevention efforts,” the Marine Corps said in a statement in response to the findings.

The survey also found increases in sexual harassment and gender discrimination compared to 2016, behavior that could ultimately lead to sexual assault.

The memo described a list of steps that the Department of Defense plans to implement in response to sexual assault, such as launching a Catch a Serial Offender (CATCH) program so members can confidentially report offenders, bolstering recruitment efforts, and better preparing enlisted leaders and first-line supervisors to properly respond to sexual misconduct reports.

The Pentagon also established a sexual assault accountability task force last month, at the urging of Arizona Sen. Martha Mc Sally, the GOP lawmaker and 26-year military veteran who revealed in March that she had been raped in the Air Force by a superior officer.

How Najaf became the Marines’ forgotten battle in Iraq

Martha McSally with an A-10 Thunderbolt II.

“As a result of this year’s report, the Department is reevaluating existing processes used to address sexual assault and taking a holistic approach to eliminate sexual assault, which include taking preventative measures, providing additional support and care for victims, and ensuring a robust and comprehensive military justice process,” Department of Defense spokesperson Jessica Maxwell told INSIDER.

Lack of confidence

Thursday’s report hints at a culture in which members may be hesitant to come forward about their assaults, especially as the majority of alleged perpetrators are also in uniform.

In total, 89 percent of alleged offenders were service members, the report found, and 62 percent of assailants had been friends or acquaintances with the victim. Alcohol was involved in 62 percent of sexual assault situations.

For service members who did come forward to report sexual assault, 64 percent described a perceived negative experience or retaliation for speaking out. Maxwell, the spokesperson, told INSIDER that there were 187 allegations of retaliation against victims who reported sexual assault in the past year.

“No one in the Department of Defense should have to fear retaliatory behavior associated with a sexual assault report,” she said, adding that measures are being taken by the department to better respond to retaliation.

While sexual assaults in the military had been on the decline since 2006, when more than 34,000 members had reported misconduct, a 35 percent increase in assaults between 2010 and 2012 led military leaders in 2013 to declare “zero tolerance” for sexual abuse in the ranks. While the percentage of sexual assaults did decline in 2016, that trend reversed course in 2018.

“Collectively, we must do everything we can to eliminate sexual harassment and assault in the military,” Shanahan wrote in his memo. “Sexual assault is illegal and immoral, is inconsistent with the military’s mission, and will not be tolerated.”

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

popular

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

The Air Force has enough people from other branches making fun of it. Airmen don’t need to be the subject of ridicule for things they don’t deserve. The facts people can use to poke fun at the Air Force are so plentiful, why go through all that extra effort to make stuff up? Just because it seems like something the Air Force would do doesn’t make it real.

The chocolate fountain inside a DFAC in Iraq? Yes, that existed. I can say I saw it with my own eyes. To be fair, there was one in the Army chow hall on Camp Victory, too, but I’ll let the Air Force take the heat for it. Dining facilities with made-to-order omelets and a salad bar? The Air Force has that, too. And yes, it was not too long ago the Air Force did its annual PT test on a stationary bike.

The reasons to poke fun are plentiful.


Related: The complete hater’s guide to the Air Force

There’s no need perpetuate myths about airmen. Forget, for a moment, that Air Force “barracks” are nicer than most Holiday Inns (no, airmen do not get swimming pools… not at their living quarters, anyway) and help us debunk these continuously repeated myths that are both untrue or unjustly attributed to the Air Force.

How Najaf became the Marines’ forgotten battle in Iraq
How’s that taste, shipmate?

 

1. The Stress Card Myth.

This has been debunked on We Are The Mighty before, but it’s important enough to reiterate here. For anyone joining the military, no, you will not be issued a Basic Training “Stress Card” that allows you to take a “break” from training if your nerves get a little frayed. The Air Force is still very much a military branch and, while it might have the “easiest” time in Basic Military Training, you will still get yelled at, still do PT ad nauseam, and it will all be very stressful.

That’s the point.

If anything, BMT is only getting more difficult as time goes on. Where it was once a six-and-a-half week course, it’s now eight weeks. Now that airmen spend more time in joint-service operations — and thus become “battlefield airmen” — it’s important that they be able to handle themselves under stress, which can often mean under fire.

Besides, it was the Navy who had the closest thing to a Stress Card.

Related: The truth behind basic training “Stress Cards”

How Najaf became the Marines’ forgotten battle in Iraq
Tech. Sgt. Zachary Rhyner medically retired in 2015 due to wounds sustained in combat that prevented mobility below the knee. Rhyner is an Air Force Cross recipient and Special Tactics combat controller attached to the 24th Special Operations Command. Rhyner served 11 years, earning three Purple Hearts in six deployments. (U.S. Air Force)

 

2. The Air Force has no enlisted warfighters.

The Air Force’s enlisted troops are mostly happy with rendering a sharp salute to our officers as they taxi out on their way to the wild blue yonder, the battlefield the Air Force controls with unrelenting hostility toward would-be interlopers both on the ground and in the air.

But there are many Air Force specialties that have nothing to do with simply letting others go into combat while waiting on the flight line. The Air Force’s battlefield airmen aren’t limited to conventional forces, like Security Forces Phoenix Ravens, the airmen who protect aircraft on the ground in a hostile environment. USAF Combat Controllers, TACPs, Weather Technicians, and Combat Rescue Officers will all deploy anywhere in the world with the best special operators from any branch. And when the sh*t hits the fan, you will be happy to know that Air Force Pararescue Jumpers are on their way to bail you out.

Fun Fact: When Air Force PJs go into action, their alarm is the Leeroy Jenkins battle cry.

How Najaf became the Marines’ forgotten battle in Iraq
The closest any of these guys will get to the stick is flying a drone. (U.S. Air Force)

 

3. We all fly planes.

This one is mainly for civilians. Anyone who’s met the average junior enlisted airman will be happy to know that flying a plane, especially for the United States Air Force, is not something you can just sign up to do. As a matter of fact, it’s incredibly difficult to get behind the stick of any Air Force aircraft anywhere.

That includes training aircraft.

The closest enlisted airmen will get to being in the cockpit’s hotseat aboard a USAF aircraft is either in a simulator or stealing one off the flightline. And before you scoff at the last part, it happens a lot more than anyone might expect.

Now read: That time a Marine mechanic took a joyride in a stolen A4M Skyhawk

How Najaf became the Marines’ forgotten battle in Iraq
[Laughs in Coast Guard] (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

 

4. The Air Force is the “smartest branch.”

I hate to debunk this one because it saves me so much stress and hassle whenever a bunch of veterans are at the bar comparing the size of their brains based on branch of service. Eventually, someone pats the airman on the back and says, “Hey! At least you’re the smartest branch!”

This myth transcends every branch and era. Inevitably, some Facebook commenter, veteran or civilian, will remark on how the Air Force is the smartest without actually reading this article and the myth will perpetuate itself. While the Air Force handles a lot of high-tech equipment and research laboratories, the people who handle that aren’t taking the ASVAB. And if they were, they would probably ace it for any branch they were going into.

Sure, the Air Force works on satellites, the Navy works on nuclear reactors, the Army operates geospatial imaging systems, and the Marines have to at least know enough to pick up Air Force women at the bar. The actual branch that is the most difficult to get into is – wait for it – the Coast Guard.

The military divides enlisted candidates into three tiers, with the top tier being those with a high school diploma and tier two being recruits with a GED. The Air Force recruits 99 percent tier one candidates, but the Coast Guard won’t even look at anything other than tier one unless they’ve been in the military before. If you prefer to judge by using minimum ASVAB score, the lowest the Air Force will go is 36, while the Coast Guard’s minimum is a solid 40.

The Coast Guard is also the smallest branch of the military, but has no trouble recruiting new Coasties. This means they’d rather send you down the street to the Army than let a substandard Coast Guardsman slip through the cracks. Meanwhile, in the Air Force, they say, “there’s a waiver for everything.”

Military Life

6 things a milspouse wants people to know about her life

The day my husband swore in to the US Marine Corps, his veteran grandfather gave me a book that had belonged to his late wife: “The Marine Corps Wife,” published in 1955.

This marked the first of many sources I came across in my quest to figure out Military Spouse 101; as a new, eager (and, frankly, naive) military wife, I was desperate to *prepare* myself for the life that lay ahead of me.


I was met with (what I believed to be) a veritable charcuterie of articles and forums — but as the years went by, I noticed that there was something missing. The spread was inadequate, repetitive, and at times, toe-curlingly tacky; a little more big box store than French boutique, if you will.

There’s a slew of contemporary literature out there for the prospective military bride, but among the twee messages about “stages of deployment” and care packages and (yawn) PCS season, there are myriad mil-nuances that your average milspouse blogger will omit.

The truth is, there’s a delicate disconnect between the star-spangled blogs and real-life immersion in military culture; the too long/didn’t read version is, quite simply, that military life is not real life.

No one — no musty tome or cheery modern blogger —quite prepared me for this.

Granted, I’ve drunk my fair share of military Kool-Aid (and — yikes — tap water) in the relatively short time my husband and I have been married, but I’m here to tell you about the subtext, the small-print: some of the things you don’t hear about military life.

amy_photo_2


1. It’s not glamorous.

Imagine: Laundry that smells worse than Lake Bandini, dowsing your true love’s blistered feet in hydrogen peroxide, and the smell of MRE farts. And I can’t speak for everyone, but when I think of deployments, I think of cheap wine, popcorn for dinner, and record-breaking Netflix marathons (shout-out to me for slaying six seasons of “Lost” in a month).

Even the movie-montage-worthy highlights are largely unspectacular. I’ll take all the flack that comes my way for admitting this, but farewell ceremonies before deployments are, honestly, rather tedious; imagine a lot of standing around for several irksome hours while bags are loaded and fed-up children cry.

Homecomings happen at relatively short notice, rarely do things go according to plan, and there’s always those awkward hours of families standing around with bedazzled signs, twiddling their thumbs. There’s the heartbreaking sight of junior enlisted troops trudging off to the barracks without anyone to greet them, the readjustment phase that no clipart-laden pamphlet can prepare you for, and work begins as usual within an obscenely short window of time.

It’s worth it — it’s always worth it — but trust me, nothing about military life is glamorous.

amy_photo_5


2. Your spouse’s job affects your social life.

Ah, the mother of all military spouse debates: does your husband’s rank determine your social life?!

Unpopular opinion: yes. Yes, it does. A military spouse’s life is at least somewhat affected by their significant other’s job. And yes, it’s as asinine and frustrating as it sounds.

By this, I do not, by any stretch of the imagination, mean that there are ranks among spouses —even my quaint 1950’s wife manual states as much, for goodness’ sake — and the (perceived) dichotomy between officers’ spouses and enlisted spouses only exists if one allows it to.

Lore of spouse’s “wearing” rank is, more often that not, just that: social myth. That’s not to say that wives who refer to “our” promotion or bluster when they aren’t saluted don’t exist, but these rare prima donnas are best left to stew in their own little worlds.

We military spouses do, however, have to accept that our significant other’s job will have some degree of influence over our social life. Fraternization rules dictate who service-members can and cannot be friends with, and therefore, socializing as a couple can get a little thorny. We learn to accept that it’s at least expected that we’ll make an effort with the spouses of our husband’s chain of command (I consider myself to be enormously blessed in that I ended up making some seriously fabulous friends this way).

We also become accustomed to pasting on a smile and being ultra-nice to the people our partner tells us to be pleasant to, even when we’re cranky and would rather not be a circus monkey, thank you very much.

Amy photo 1


3. It’s seriously old-fashioned.

Sorry, not sorry, y’all: military life is pretty archaic. The question of how to solve this is a much bigger one than I can give credence to, so, for now, I’ll stick with a few illuminating personal examples.

Recently, I took a vacation by myself because my husband had to work through the weekend. This simple endeavor was met with pure shock in dozens of my peers: to think, a married woman might travel to a new place on her own. Pass the smelling salts!

At the ripe old age of 26, no single group of people has ever been so interested in my reproductive health or family planning methods — not even my grandparents, and trust me, they are thirsty for grand-babies. Turns out, there’s an unspoken timeline in military marriages, and after a certain point — generated by some vague algorithm involving your age and the amount of time you’ve been married — people feel no shame in asking unsolicited questions.

I’ll also never forget how I read a three-page list of guidelines for wives of Marines attending the annual USMC birthday ball; highlights included a friendly reminder to “remember: this is not about you,” and a subsequent series of commandments forbidding everything to include cleavage, talking before one’s servicemember, and being afraid of utensils. Bless this lady’s heart; the piece was punctuated with a reminder to “HAVE FUN!!”

I wish someone had at least forewarned me of this before I married my husband. It wouldn’t have changed a thing — I like, like like him, guys — but this retrograde aspect of the military is something that I do wish people talked about more openly. Stay tuned for the book to follow.

4. It’s freaking weird.

There are endless quirks to life on a military base; granted, you become accustomed to them fairly quickly, but to an outsider, it’d be pretty easy to see why most people inside the military community refer to it as a “bubble.”

For example, when you live on a military base, gone are the days when you can roll out of your car and into the grocery store in your favorite Spongebob pajamas; there’s a dress code, ma’am, and you’ll be kicked out if you don’t stick to it. You get used to passing gas stations for tanks, helicopters passing overheard stopping your conversation in its tracks, and speed limits that seem more adequately designed for tortoises. You stand to attention (yes, even as a civilian) for colors twice a day. You notice the coded badges pinned to people’s collars, and you understand what they mean.

It’d take a real Scrooge to hate all these strange subtleties, though; it just becomes part of life that, when you’re extracted from it, is simply a little bit kooky.

amy bryne


5. This is a job that your spouse can’t escape from.

Now, when I come home from work, I have the luxury of becoming real-life Amy the moment I clock out. My husband? Not so much.

Servicemembers are paid by rank, not by the total amount of hours worked (which is arguably criminal if you look at the military pay rate, especially for junior enlisted ranks). Thus, they’re never “off the clock.”

This bleeds into everyday life, even when they’re not working. They’re never not a Marine, a soldier, a sailor, or an airman.

If I could only take back the number of hours I’ve lost waiting for my husband to get his weekly haircut, I could probably take a short sabbatical with them. He shaves every morning that he has to go out in public (save for the cheeky vacation scruff of 2017, RIP). He receives work-related phone calls at all hours of the day, seven days a week. Vacations are a precarious endeavor that are dictated by ops temp o, deployments, and leave blocks — not simply a whim and accumulated hours.

Furthermore, the military life whittles at the character of the person you married. In my case, this has been all positive; my husband has truly blossomed since he became an active duty Marine, and I wouldn’t trade any of the lost hours (or facial hair) for this immaculately-sculpted person.

Regardless, cheesy stories aside, no-one ever tells you that the job will mold the human you wed in ways you weren’t anticipating.

6. It does take a specific type of person to be a military spouse.

In the beginning, I naively thought that marriage would be easy (that was my first mistake).

The second, larger mistake was ardently believing that anyone could be successfully married to a service-member if they wanted to. I truly believed that grit and love were the only necessary components of a lasting military marriage.

Now, I look at long-term military spouses with nothing less than awe; to weather decades as a military spouse is a truly incredible feat.

You have to be tolerant. You have to be flexible. You have to be resilient. You have to be extroverted, or at least sociable enough to fool all the pools of new people you’re thrown in with on a regular basis. You have to be willing to make sacrifices to your career — because fulfilling, military-spouse-proof, work-from-home jobs don’t grow on trees (whatever Susan’s pyramid scheme would have you believe). You have to be capable enough to manage a household single-handedly, but humble enough to be sidelined in social situations.

Could I do it? I’m not sure; time will tell.

What I am sure of is that military couples who manage to maintain strong, healthy relationships over long periods of time deserve unadulterated respect.

The bottom line? Military life is a life of sacrifice, however large or small, for servicemembers and their families.

Admitting this is not martyrdom, it’s an admission of truth in a world that encourages marriage without making it known that civilian wellbeing is not a priority.

Ultimately, I think if we talked about this elephant in the room, instead of laughing at it and labeling it a “dependa,” we’d see some real change in military family culture.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Tommy Gun lived up to its original name: The Annihilator

Despite what many think, the Thompson submachine gun was not the first submachine gun.

How Najaf became the Marines’ forgotten battle in Iraq

But many will argue it was the best submachine gun ever put in the hands of fighting men – whether they were “good guys” or “bad guys.”

Well-made, robust, capable of firing more than 800 rounds a minute in some models and chambered for the man-stopping .45-caliber ACP round, the gun lived up to one of its original names: The Annihilator.

“I knew several soldiers who used Thompsons for special operations in Vietnam,” said Alan Archambault, a retired U.S. Army officer and former supervisory curator for the U.S. Army Center of Military History. “Even in the 1960s, the Thompson was still an iconic weapon for U.S. soldiers. Often when one soldier would rotate to the U.S., he would pass the Thompson on to another soldier in theater.”

The brainchild of Gen. John T. Thompson, a former chief of small arms for the Ordnance Department and firearms designer, the stalemate on the Western Front during The Great War (a.k.a. World War I) convinced him the ordinary infantryman needed a new weapon. Thompson wanted something he called “a trench broom.”

“Our boys in the infantry, now in the trenches, need a small machine gun, a gun that will fire 50 to 100 rounds, so light that he can drag it with him as he crawls on his belly from trench to trench, and wipe out a whole company single-handed,” Thompson wrote in a 1918 memo to firearms designers. “I want a little machine gun you can hold in your hands, fire from the hip and reload in the dark. You must use ammunition now available and I want it right away.”

Designers produced a prototype by 1919, but the first practical models were too late for the war. Still, Thompson convinced Colt to produce 15,000 M1921 submachine guns.

Early observers of the M1921 test-fired on the range were impressed by how much firepower the “little machine gun” delivered.

How Najaf became the Marines’ forgotten battle in Iraq

The problem was Thompson had no steady stream of customers, even when Thompson’s company Auto-Ordnance Corp. released the M1928 – considered by many the definitive Tommy gun model.

True, the U.S. Marine Corps purchased Thompsons and used them effectively in China and during the Latin American “banana wars” of the 1920s. The Postal Service armed its security personnel with Thompsons as well.

But the weapon was expensive – very expensive. Adjusted for inflation, its $200 price tag is roughly equivalent to $2,300 today.

To put things in perspective, consider the contemporary cost of prime, high-end arms like the Fabrique Nationale d’Herstal SCAR 17S 7.62×51 millimeter NATO – it costs about the same as a Tommy Gun did during the Roaring ’20s.

Besides, for better or worse the Thompson gained a “bad boy” reputation. A handful of criminals such as John Dillinger and George “Machine Gun” Kelly gave the weapon a bad name.

At first, potential customers such as the British government considered the Thompson “gangster weapons” and refused to purchase the submachine gun.

But by 1939, all that changed. Great Britain entered World War II starved for armaments.

The War Office eagerly purchased every M1928 it could, and the weapon was a hit with the Tommies – particularly the Commandos.

The weapon’s reliability and ability to bring devastating automatic fire to close quarters combat made the Thompson a favorite of the Commandos.

They even honored the weapon in the design of their unit recognition flash: A stylized Thompson superimposed on an anchor headed by an eagle.

There were also many American G.I.s who even relished the gangster panache of the Tommy Gun. Images of actors like James Cagney in “The Public Enemy” – easily one of the most violent movies of its time – ducking around a corner as a gangster fired on him with a Thompson were unforgettable.

“It was often seen in gangster films that were watched by impressionable young men who came of age during World War II,” Archambault said.  “So, even before its use in World War II, it was an iconic weapon.”

Sure, the M-1 Garand was the basic weapon for the American infantryman. But the Thompson found its way into the hands of officers, squad leaders, paratroopers, U.S. Marines and any soldier lucky enough to grab one.

Also, G.I.s and Marines were fighting all across the globe in battlefield environments that included deserts, jungles and snow. The sheer reliability of the Thompson, particularly in its less-expensive but equally deadly M1A1 model, made it the perfect weapon to endure the lousiest battlefield conditions.

Eventually, the cost of the Thompson prompted development of the M-3 “Grease Gun,” which could be produced in greater quantities for far less money than even the M1A1.

But by the Korean War, the Army relegated the Thompson to a secondary role. By Vietnam, the first M-16s were in the hands of GIs and the military considered the Thompson obsolete.

Today, Thompson submachine guns are in high demand among collectors legally authorized to own full-auto weapons. On average, the price for a clean Tommy Gun is about $25,000.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army practicing to take down enemy aircraft in Europe

The US military is shifting its focus toward preparing for great-power conflict, and on the ground in Europe, where heightened tensions with Russia have a number of countries worried about renewed conflict.

That includes new attention to short-range air-defense — a capability needed against an adversary that could deploy ground-attack aircraft, especially helicopters, and contest control of the air during a conflict.


Between late November and mid-December 2018, Battery C of the 1st Battalion, 174th Air Defense Artillery Regiment from the Ohio National Guard maneuvered across southeast Germany to practice shooting down enemy aircraft.

How Najaf became the Marines’ forgotten battle in Iraq

US soldiers from Battery C, 1-174 Air Defense Artillery Regiment conduct an after-action review during Combined Resolve XI at Hohenfels Training Area, Dec. 7, 2018.

(US Army photo by Charles Rosemond)

The unit worked with 5,500 troops from 16 countries during the first phase of Combined Resolve XI, a biannual US-led exercise aimed at making US forces more lethal and improving the ability of Allied militaries to work together.

At Hohenfels training area, soldiers from Battery C engaged simulated enemy aircraft with their Avenger weapons systems, which are vehicle-mounted short-range air-defense systems that fire Stinger missiles.

The unit outmanuevered opposition forces, according to an Army release, taking out 15 simulated enemy aircraft with the Avengers and Stingers.

Battery C also protected eight assets that their command unit, the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team from the 1st Cavalry Division, deemed “critical.”

How Najaf became the Marines’ forgotten battle in Iraq

An Air Defense Artillery Humvee-mounted Avenger weapons system from Battery C, 1-174 Air Defense Artillery Regiment during Combined Resolve XI at Hohenfels Training Area, December 7, 2018.

(US Army photo by Charles Rosemond)

Capt. Christopher Vasquez, the commander of Battery C who acted as brigade air-defense officer for the exercise, linked his unit’s performance to its experience with armor like that used by the 1st ABCT.

“It’s given us some insight into how they fight, and how they operate,” Vasquez said. “The type of unit we are attached to dictates how we establish our air defense plan, so if we don’t understand how tanks maneuver, how they emplace, then we can’t effectively do our job.”

The second phase of the exercise, which will include live-fire drills, will take place from January 13 to January 25, 2019, at nearby Grafenwoehr training area, where Battery C is deployed.

How Najaf became the Marines’ forgotten battle in Iraq

A Bradley fighting vehicle provides security for Battery C, 1-174 Air Defense Artillery Regiment during Combined Resolve XI at Hohenfels Training Area, Dec. 7, 2018.

(US Army photo by Charles Rosemond)

Reestablishing air defense in Europe

The unit arrived in Europe in 2018 to provide air-defense support to US European Command under the European Deterrence Initiative, which covers Operation Atlantic Resolve.

During Operation Atlantic Resolve, the US Army has rotated units through Europe to reassure allies concerned about a more aggressive Russia, particularly after Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and incursion in Ukraine.

Air Defense Artillery units like the 1-174th were for a long time embedded in Army divisions, but the service began deactivating them in the early 2000s, as planners believed the Air Force would be able to maintain air superiority and mitigate threats from enemy aircraft.

But the Army found in 2016 that it had an air-defense-capability gap. Since then it has been trying to correct the shortfall.

How Najaf became the Marines’ forgotten battle in Iraq

An FIM-92 Stinger missile fired from an Army Avenger at Eglin Air Force Base, April 20, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

US soldiers in Europe have also been relearning air-defense skills that were deemphasized after the threat of a ground war waned with the end Cold War.

In January 2018, for the first time in 15 years, the US Army in Europe started training with Stingers, which have gained new value as a light antiaircraft weapon as unmanned aerial systems proliferate.

Operation Atlantic Resolve rotations have included National Guard units with Avenger defense systems to provide air-defense support on the continent. (The Army is also overhauling Avengers that were mothballed until a new air-defense system is ready.)

The service also recently reactivated the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment in southern Germany, making it the first permanent air-defense artillery unit in Europe since the end of the Cold War.

The battalion, composed of five Stinger-equipped batteries, returned important short-range air-defense abilities to Europe, said Col. David Shank, head of 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, of which the unit is part.

“Not only is this a great day for United States Army Europe and the growth of lethal capability here,” Shank said at the activation ceremony. “It is a tremendous step forward for the Air Defense Enterprise.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the Coast Guard’s largest loss of life in a single event

“I felt and saw two flashes after which only the bow of the ship was visible. The rest had disintegrated and the bow sank soon afterwards.” – Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Perry Stinson, USS Serpens commanding officer

The quote above refers to the Coast Guard-manned USS Serpens. Nearly 73 years ago on Jan. 29, 1945, a catastrophic explosion destroyed the transport. In terms of lives lost, the destruction of the Serpens ranks as the single largest disaster ever recorded in Coast Guard history.


In March 1943, an EC-2 class “Liberty Ship” was laid down under a Maritime Commission contract as “Hull #739” by the California Shipbuilding Corporation of Wilmington, California. It was launched less than a month later as the SS Benjamin N. Cardozo. Two weeks later it was transferred to the U.S. Navy and designated AK-97. The transport was 442 feet in length, displaced 14,250 tons and had a top speed of 11 knots. For defense it carried one 5-inch gun, one 3-inch gun, two 40mm and six 20mm anti-aircraft cannons. Its crew consisted of 19 officers and 188 enlisted men. In late May, the Navy renamed the transport Serpens, after a constellation in the Northern Hemisphere, and commissioned the vessel in San Diego under the command of Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Magnus Johnson.

How Najaf became the Marines’ forgotten battle in Iraq
USS Serpens at anchor somewhere in the Pacific islands with derricks extended to take on cargo.
(U.S. Navy photo.)

Following a shakedown cruise off Southern California, Serpens loaded general cargo at Alameda, California, and, on June 24, set sail to support combat operations in the Southwest Pacific. It steamed between the supply hub of New Zealand and various Pacific islands, such as Tonga, Vitu Levu, Tutuila, Penrhyn, Bora Bora, Aitutaki, and Tongatabu. In early December, Serpens moved its operations into the southern Solomons, re-supplying bases and units on Florida Island, Banika Island, Guadalcanal and Bougainville. In February 1944, its crew was ordered back to New Zealand for dry-dock and, for another four months, they delivered materials to bases in the New Hebrides and Solomons.

How Najaf became the Marines’ forgotten battle in Iraq
An aerial view of Lunga Point, Guadalcanal, during World War II showing the airfield captured by the U.S. Marines early in the campaign.
(U.S. Navy photo)

In late July 1944, Lt. Cmdr. Perry Stinson assumed command from Johnson. From that time into the fall of 1944, Serpens resumed operations carrying general cargo and rolling stock between ports and anchorages within the Solomon Islands. In mid-November, it loaded repairable military vehicles from the Russell Islands and Guadalcanal and sailed for New Zealand. After offloading in New Zealand, three of its holds were converted for ammunition stowage. Late in December 1944, Serpens commenced loading at Wellington, completed loading at Auckland, New Zealand, and returned to the Solomons in mid-January 1945.

Monday, January 29, found Serpens anchored off Lunga Point, Guadalcanal. Lunga Point had served as the primary loading area for Guadalcanal since the U.S. military’s first offensive of World War II began there in August 1942. Serpens’s commanding officer, a junior officer and six enlisted men went ashore while the rest of the crew loaded depth charges into the holds or performed their usual shipboard duties. Late in the day, in the blink of an eye, the explosive cargo stowed in Serpens’s holds detonated. An enlisted man aboard a nearby Navy personnel boat gave the following eyewitness account:

“As we headed our personnel boat shoreward, the sound and concussion of the explosion suddenly reached us and, as we turned, we witnessed the awe-inspiring death drams unfold before us. As the report of screeching shells filled the air and the flash of tracers continued, the water splashed throughout the harbor as the shells hit. We headed our boat in the direction of the smoke and, as we came into closer view of what had once been a ship, the water was filled only with floating debris, dead fish, torn life jackets, lumber and other unidentifiable objects. The smell of death, and fire, and gasoline, and oil was evident and nauseating. This was sudden death, and horror, unwanted and unasked for, but complete.”

How Najaf became the Marines’ forgotten battle in Iraq
A chart of Iron Bottom Sound, located north of Guadalcanal, showing the numerous ships lying on the seafloor, including the remains of USS Serpens at Lunga Point.

After the explosion, only the bow of the ship remained. The rest of Serpens had disintegrated, and the bow sank soon after the cataclysm. Killed in the explosion were 197 Coast Guard officers and enlisted men, 51 U.S. Army stevedores, and surgeon Harry Levin, a U.S. Public Health Service physician. Only two men on board Serpens survived–Seaman 1/c Kelsie Kemp and Seaman 1/c George Kennedy, who had been located in the boatswain’s locker. Both men were injured, but were later rescued from the wreckage and survived. In addition, a soldier who was ashore at Lunga Point was killed by flying shrapnel. Only two Coast Guardsmen’s bodies were recovered intact and later identified out of the nearly 250 men killed in the explosion.

How Najaf became the Marines’ forgotten battle in Iraq
USS Serpens crew’s caskets arrive at Arlington National Cemetery from Guadalcanal in 1949.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

At first, the loss of Serpens was attributed to enemy action and three Purple Heart Medals were issued to the two survivors and posthumously to Levin. However, a court of inquiry later determined that the cause of the explosion could not be established from surviving evidence. By 1949, the U.S. Navy officially closed the case deciding that the loss was not due to enemy action but an “accident intrinsic to the loading process.”

How Najaf became the Marines’ forgotten battle in Iraq
Retired Coast Guard officer Richard Stoud plays taps at the Serpens Memorial in November 2013.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Today, all that remains of the Serpens is the bow section sitting upside down on the sea floor off Lunga Point. The dead were initially buried at the Army, Navy and Marine Corps Cemetery at Guadalcanal. The crew’s mortal remains were later exhumed and shipped to Arlington National Cemetery for burial. On June 15, 1949, Serpens’s Coast Guardsmen were interred on Arlington Cemetery’s Coast Guard Hill. A monument to the Serpens listing all of the lost crewmembers was erected over the gravesite and dedicated on Nov. 16, 1950.

This article originally appeared on the United States Coast Guard. Follow @USCG on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This intense first-person video shows how dangerous life was in the trenches of WWI

For the soldiers in the trenches of World War I, safety from artillery came from lines of trenches and a network of tunnels to keep the ever-present artillery off their heads. But sometimes the very fortifications that served to protect them, were just as life threatening as the incessant bombardment.


That was the reality for the countless men and some children who were assigned to fight in the trenches of WWI.

Related: These kids volunteered to fight in the trenches in WWI

With all those thousands of miles of trenches, both sides of the fight faced overwhelming odds and challenges like flooding, disease-carrying rats, malnourishment, and the constant mental strains of battle fatigue.

In many areas, the zig-zag trench construction placed the opposing forces as little as 50 yards away from one another, making it extremely difficult to watch the enemies’ activity while peering over the trench’s wall without the taking an incoming shot.

How Najaf became the Marines’ forgotten battle in Iraq
A soldier uses a periscope to search for enemy combatants. (Source: Imperial War Museum)

Since trenches had little overhead coverage, artillery shells frequently landed inside the emplacements. The distinct whistle of an incoming artillery round gave troopers just a few seconds to seek cover.

At a moment’s notice, the troops who occupied those trenches had to be prepared to defend themselves or leap out and race across No Man’s Land.

This was the dangerous area in between the enemy fronts which was covered with razor sharp barbed wire and plenty of enemy land mines.

Also Read: WWI’s deadliest sniper was from Canada

Check out SOZO 3D‘s first-person WWI reenactment video below to witness what it was like to charge the battlefield from the trenches.

PUT ON YOUR HEADPHONES AND TURN YOUR VOLUME UP!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgWmA2Qn8zc
(SOZO 3D, YouTube) 
MIGHTY CULTURE

Top podcasts for the commuting veteran

The popularity of podcasts is soaring exponentially. It is a radio renaissance. With over 500,000 podcasts on just the Apple store alone, it’s obvious that with rising popularity comes oversaturation. But have no fear—We Are The Mighty is here—to help clear the mist and show you the best podcasts for anyone with a military background. Whether you’re a veteran with a long morning commute, an on-base active serviceman with duty that could use some spicing up, or simply a prospective enlistee, at least one of these podcasts will be just right for you.


How Najaf became the Marines’ forgotten battle in Iraq

SOFREP Radio

This podcast flat out kicks ass. The host, Jack Murphy (Army Ranger/Green Beret) talk with experts across every aspect of military life. He’s straight, to the point, no bulls**t. The podcast focuses on ways of cultivating mental and physical toughness with respect to special operations. With over 400 episodes already out, there is plenty to dive in and catch up on. This is the premier military podcast.

How Najaf became the Marines’ forgotten battle in Iraq

War College

War College explores weapons, tech, and various military stories related to the instruments of war that soldiers need to be familiar with. One week they’ll talk about Navy pilots experiencing UFOs, and the next they’ll break down the Air Forces’ new “Frozen Chicken Gun.” Highly informative.

How Najaf became the Marines’ forgotten battle in Iraq

The Joe Rogan Experience

The Joe Rogan Podcast has become a cultural phenomenon. The premise for one of the most popular podcasts of all-time is simple: Joe Rogan sits across from a guest and has an intelligent back and forth conversation for about 3 hours. His guests range massively in scope: Elon Musk, UFC fighters, fellow comedians, scientists, psychologists, authors, and more. Joe Rogan’s centrist sweep highly appeals to people in the military sphere, and the topics covered on here would be interesting to anybody. It’s not just an internet meme, it’s a great listen.

How Najaf became the Marines’ forgotten battle in Iraq

American Military History Podcast

For all the military history buffs out there—look no further. This podcast goes deeper than the surface facts we usually associate with historical events. I found myself surprised to learn contextual facts about historical battles I thought I knew. The key aspect of this podcast that sets it apart from other military history podcasts is the context. It gives perspective and crafts interesting narratives out of that context.

How Najaf became the Marines’ forgotten battle in Iraq

Mind of the Warrior

In this podcast, Dr. Mike Simpson (former Special Forces Operator and highly regarded expert on both combat trauma and combat sports medicine), delves into the psychology of what it takes to be a modern day “warrior.” He talks with top-ranking policemen, to combat veterans, to MMA experts, and many more—all in pursuit of talking about combat and the common threads that loom warriors to the same fabric.

How Najaf became the Marines’ forgotten battle in Iraq

This Past Weekend with Theo Von

Every military service member needs some laughter in their life, too. Theo Von and his hilarious podcast “This Past Weekend” have just the right flavor for a military background listener. In case you don’t know, Theo Von is a rising comedic voice and one of the absolute funniest dudes in the country. His Louisiana drawl contrasts his bizarre shoehorning of the English language and, when combined with some downright brilliant joke writing, becomes a really easy recipe for some deep belly laughs on your commute. The only downside is you can’t see his glorious mullet through your headphones.

How Najaf became the Marines’ forgotten battle in Iraq

War on the Rocks

Ryan Evans swills some drinks and talks policy, life, and security on this well-produced podcast. The issues span from diplomacy to economic to domestic. Ryan has a really contagious charisma which makes for a lot of vehement nodding in agreement while listening. A must listen for anyone interested in geopolitics.

How Najaf became the Marines’ forgotten battle in Iraq

Bill Burr’s Monday Morning Podcast

And finally, we have the legendary Bill Burr, in one of the longest-running comedic podcasts out there. If you have served in the military, and you haven’t heard of Bill Burr, just listen to a single episode. All of your internal frustrations will be hilariously articulated right before your eyes as Bill Burr rants to himself (and a 1,000,000+ listeners) about issues small and large. His clear cut, no-nonsense approach is really sobering and refreshing. His east-coast Boston accent layers his precisely supported rants with an authentic edginess. Feels kinda like an audio shot of whisky on your way to work.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Jane Fonda opened up about the dumbest thing she ever did

There’s no limit to the amount of vitriol the military-veteran community can muster for actress Jane Fonda. Now 80, the actress is the subject of a new HBO Documentary film, Jane Fonda In Five Acts. Since the film covers her 50-year career, it could not avoid a discussion about her anti-war activism during the Vietnam War.

Her experience with war and the U.S. military before the Vietnam War was limited to her World War II-veteran father, actor Henry Fonda, and her work as “Miss Army Recruiter” in 1954. It was a famous photograph of her sitting on a Communist anti-aircraft gun in North Vietnam in 1972 that earned her the eternal scorn of veterans and the nickname “Hanoi Jane.”


To this day, the actress says she is confronted by veterans of the Vietnam War who are still angry about her visit to the enemy in 1972. If you need further proof, look at the Facebook comments on this article — yes, the one you’re currently reading.

How Najaf became the Marines’ forgotten battle in Iraq

In a meeting with television critics in Beverly Hills, Calif. on July 25, 2018, she talked about how she came to her anti-war beliefs and what led her to sit on that anti-aircraft gun. She says she didn’t know much about the war or what was happening in Vietnam. She told the group she met some American soldiers in Paris who told her what was going on and it infuriated her.

The actress said before that meeting, she “didn’t even know where Vietnam was,” but “believed that if there were men fighting, they were ‘on the side of the angels.'” While she doesn’t regret her visit to North Vietnam, she does regret the photo and the effect it had on the men and women fighting in the war and their families, she told Variety.


“What I say in the film is true: I am just so sorry that I was thoughtless enough to sit down on that gun at that time. The message that sends to the guys that were there and their families, it’s horrible for me to think about that. Sometimes I think, ‘Oh I wish I could do it over’ because there are things I would say differently now.”

The actress says she uses the confrontations with Vietnam War veterans as a chance to apologize and explain, to talk to them with what she calls, “an open mind and a soft heart.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The massive C-5 Galaxies are becoming air ambulances

During a cold, gloomy first week of December, total force airmen teamed up at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, to test the capability of the Air Force’s largest aircraft to perform aeromedical evacuation during a proof of concept event.

The goal was to establish the C-5M Super Galaxy as part of the universal qualification training program for AE forces. If successfully certified, the C-5M will have the capability to move three times the current capacity in one mission compared to other AE platforms.


The PoC event was made possible by recent upgrades to the C-5M that made the cargo compartment more suitable for AE operations.

“The engine upgrade allowed the aircraft to produce a lot more power and to use the jet more efficiently,” said Master Sgt. Christopher Boots, 60th Operations Group Standardization and Evaluation C-5M flight engineer evaluator. “Another factor was the environmental system received upgrades. We now have better control over the systems and we’re able to better control the environment (temperature and cabin pressure) that the AE folks would have downstairs in the cargo compartment.”

How Najaf became the Marines’ forgotten battle in Iraq

Airmen with the 22nd Airlift Squadron and 60th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron from Travis Air Force Base, Calif., along with Air Mobility Command airmen onload aeromedical evacuation equipment onto a C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., during an AE proof of concept evaluation, Dec. 2, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Joey Swafford)

The C-5M upgrades allowed the proof of concept to work, but the airmen’s innovation is what made it happen.

“The Air Force as a whole is more interested in using the assets that we have more efficiently and maximizing the capability that we can get out of different airplanes,” said Maj. Kevin Simonds, 22nd Airlift Squadron C-5M pilot. “I think this is an example of that. It’s a priority within the force and in the MAJCOM (Air Mobility Command) as well to try to maximize the way we use the assets that we have.”

With the Department of Defense’s shift to focus on great power competition and maintaining readiness, the C-5M’s greater capability to the AE enterprise could be a game changer.

“It was great to observe, first hand, our airmen working hard to make innovative strides using our existing platforms to get after a critical mission set,” said Brig. Gen. Darren James, AMC’s Operations, Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration director. “Last week’s test provided valuable learning as we move forward in evaluating ways to increase our readiness and support of the 2018 National Defense Strategy.”

How Najaf became the Marines’ forgotten battle in Iraq

Staff Sgt. Ethan Heitner, 22nd Airlift Squadron C-5M Super Galaxy loadmaster, completes a post-flight inspection on a C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft after an aeromedical evacuation proof of concept flight at Scott AFB, Ill., Dec. 6, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Joey Swafford)

Not only will the C-5M AE mission benefit readiness for any future conflict(s), it will be a benefit during any future natural disasters.

“Using the C-5 for AE is going to be a pivotal point moving forward because it can be another platform for AE to move troops and also to aid in humanitarian missions and perform mass evacuations,” said Maj. Catherine Paterson, 439th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron flight nurse.

The C-5M and crew traveled from Travis AFB. They were joined in the PoCby other active-duty airmen and civilians from AMC, Scott AFB and the 43rd AES,Pope Army Air Field, North Carolina. Reserve AE teams from the 439th AES,Westover Air Reserve Base, Massachusetts, 433rd AES, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas. Lastly, the team included the 142nd AES, Delaware Air National Guard, making it a total force effort.

This effort allowed for training standardization and boosted readiness for operational missions.

How Najaf became the Marines’ forgotten battle in Iraq

Aeromedical evacuation team members participate in a training scenerio during a C-5M Super Galaxy AE proof of concept flight from Scott Air Force Base, Ill., Dec. 5, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Joey Swafford)

“It’s always beneficial to have the total force working together as one team,” said Paterson. “You always learn new things from working along with people from different backgrounds. You get different ideas, different concepts and you work together with the sole purpose of bringing troops home safely.”

With the proof of concept successfully testing the cargo department as a viable option for AE missions, the AE community is waiting for the Air Force to certify the use of the platform before the C-5M is officially part of their mission.

“We have made a great amount of progress in the last eight months,” said Maj. John Camacho-Ayala, Headquarters AMC branch chief for aeromedical evacuation operations and training. “I think that sometime in the near future we will definitely have a C-5M as part of our arsenal and a part of our weapons systems for the AE enterprise.”

Once all the certifications are completed, the AE community will gain their biggest ally yet with the Air Force’s largest plane.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY FIT

6 things you should keep in your gym bag to save money

When we first enter the gym, we’re usually greeted by a vast inventory of supplies and supplements, all up for sale. After all, gyms are businesses, and if they want to keep their doors open, they need to find many sources of revenue.

Sure, every once in a while, you might find yourself in a bind and have to buy a product or two from their shelves, like a pre-game drink or some amino acids, but these products can be fairly expensive and it’s a known fact that enlisted troops don’t make a whole lot of cash. Pinching pennies where you can will improve your financial situation in the long haul.

If you’re looking to save more than just a few pennies, make sure to keep the following list of things in your gym bag so you’re not forced to overpay for them later.


Also Read: 6 pieces of equipment you need for your home gym

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Protein powder

Gyms make some money on your membership, but they also earn cash by selling you pre-made protein drinks. These tasty, high-protein drinks can cost you anywhere between to — which might not seem too costly at the time, but here’s some quick math for you:

You typically enjoy a drink after every workout. If you hit the gym at least four times a week, that tallies around to per month. Now, if you were to buy a 74-serving jug of protein for , that’s only 81 cents per scoop. At one scoop per drink, for the same number of drinks, you’re looking at .96 — just sayin’.

Weight belt

Weight belts support your back, protecting your spine as you lift. It’s a gym-bag essential because once you slip a disc in your vertebrae, the doctor bills will skyrocket as you embark on your road to recovery.

Invest in a weight belt now and save thousands in potential medical expenses later.

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An extension rope

Most gyms do their best to keep clean. Unfortunately, despite all the hard work the cleaning staff puts into maintaining a sanitary gym, they rarely clean the fibers of the extension ropes attached to cable machines. This means that by using a cable, you’re coming in contact with nasty bacteria, which could lead to contracting an infection.

To make matters worse, gym-goers often use their hands to wipe the sweat from their faces. If you’ve been touching a germ-infested rope and then smear your hands across your face, you run the risk of catching a bad cold. Buying an extension rope and storing it in your gym bag will help you limit your exposure to germs, keeping you healthier and saving you money on visits to the doctor.

Energy bars

Walk into any gym and you’ll probably find an assortment of energy bars for sale. While the price of the individual bars will vary based on their nutritional values, you’ll always save money if you purchase them in bulk. Buy some at a health food store and pack one in your gym bag. Just as with protein powder, the savings add up over time.

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A dip belt

What’s the difference between a weight belt and a dip belt?

That’s simple. A weight belt is used to protect the lower back from an injury while this specialized belt is worn to add weight to your workout at the dip or pull-up station.

Some gyms provide this easy-to-use piece of equipment, but, like anything, the chains and buckles can break over time. If you’re using a gym-owned dip belt and it finally reaches its breaking point, you’ll end up paying the full retail price to replace the item. It’s cheaper if you bring your own.

Like they say, “you break it, you buy it.”

An extra pair of clean gym pants or shorts

You’re probably wondering, “how the hell does bringing an extra pair of pants save me money?” Well, the ugly truth of the matter is that when we lift heavy weights, we put a lot of strain on our lower bowels. In fact, the added pressure is usually more powerful than the strain you put on yourself while using the bathroom.

Experiencing a suddenly bowel movement while lifting happens more often than you’d think. Keeping an extra pair of shorts or pants in your gym bag will save you some money — otherwise, you’ll need to purchase one at the gym at a premium price.

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