Though they’re often overlooked by military historians – not Native historians, mind you – the Plains Wars of the post-Civil War era saw some of the most brutal fighting between the American government and the native tribes fighting for their way of life. Eventually, the U.S. government was determined to move the native people to reservations. Those who did not sell their land were moved by force.
The fighting on the Plains saw the Battle of Little Bighorn, the massacre at Wounded Knee, and the Sand Creek Massacre, just to name some of the bloodiest moments. The fighting West of the Mississippi claimed countless lives, not to mention the end of the traditional ways for many Native Americans. Still, some fought back, with varying degrees of success.
Kiowa Warriors at Fort Sill, 1872.
An ally of the dreaded Comanche, the Kiowa were usually at war with anyone the Comanche went to war with, including the US Army. For 50 years, the Kiowa moved from the central United States westward to join the Comanche in raiding and trading from the American Southwest into Mexico, killing thousands. Even after most of the Kiowa moved to reservations in 1877, many warrior bands remained loose on the American frontier.
A Cheyenne “Dog Soldier”
As more settlers rushed to the Rocky Mountains area, the area began to fill up with heavily-armed militias who would raid neighboring Arapaho and Cheyenne tribal settlements. In response, the Cheyenne began to fight back, forming different kinds of warrior bands, including the now-famous Dog Soldiers – warriors who would hold their ground, no matter what came at them. The Dog Soldiers rallied Cheyenne and Arapaho tribesmen together to wreak havoc on the Colorado ranching industry.
Sitting Bull, pictured, was one of the Sioux’s most famous leaders.
The Sioux were not the first tribe to fight the U.S. government, and they weren’t the last, but they might be the most famous. The Sioux produced some of the most notable names and places in all the Indian Wars, including Little Bighorn, Custer’s Last Stand, Red Cloud, Sitting Bull, and Crazy Horse, to name a few.
When the Army came upon bands of Sioux warriors, they didn’t know if they would just be fighting the handful of warriors they saw or if another 5,000 to 7,000 were waiting somewhere they couldn’t see.
Geronimo and three other Apache warriors.
If there’s one thing the Union and Confederate Armies could agree on, it was fighting the Apache tribes. In the early days of the Civil War, Confederate forces took on Apaches in the West before transferring to the actual Civil War they were needed to fight.
Clans of Apache rarely gathered in great numbers. They only did so in order to gather their forces to hit the U.S. Army in large formations. The US Army hated the Apaches so much, they would fight any sized organization they happened to come across, fearful of them massing numbers to form a war party. It took more than 20 years of concerted effort to end the Apache resistance.
“Manifest Destiny? Never heard of her.”
The Comanches not only stymied the Army’s effort to contain or destroy them, but they also took down other Native tribes, eradicating them or driving them out of their traditional lands. The reason the Spanish Empire stopped expanding northward was because they were stopped by Comanches. The Texan Republic stopped expanding westward because of Comanches. The United States frontier actually receded because of the Comanches.
By the end of the 1860s, the men who won the Civil War for the Union were now running the country and President Grant, Commander of the U.S. Army William Tecumseh Sherman, and Gen. Philip Sheridan were determined to end the Comanche threat, finally subduing them with overwhelming force in 1875.
When Army Staff Sgt. Jesse Ray Drowley arrived alone at an American camp on the Solomon Islands with a gaping wound in his chest, a missing eye, and a shredded uniform, a junior officer threatened to court-martial him for abandoning his defense post.
Instead, Drowley was put on the path to history.
On Jan. 30, 1944, Drowley was a rifle squad leader with B Company, 132nd Infantry Regiment, Americal Division, when he displayed the bravery that would earn him the Medal of Honor.
The Americal Division arrived on Bougainville on Dec. 25, 1943, as part of the Solomon Islands and New Guinea campaigns. The division was unique in World War II as it carried a name and not a numerical designation.
It got its name from “American, New Caledonia,” the South Pacific island on which the unit was provisionally formed for defense in May 1942. Though officially known later as the 23rd Infantry Division, the Americal name remained.
A month after the unit’s arrival, Drowley was assigned a defensive role with his company as a neighboring unit launched an attack against Japanese defensive positions.
The staff sergeant witnessed three wounded soldiers from the neighboring company collapse. Intense enemy fire prevented their rescue. That’s when Drowley made a fateful decision.
According to his Medal of Honor citation, Drowley “fearlessly rushed forward to carry the wounded” one-by-one to cover.
After moving two of the men to safety amid a hail of gunfire, Drowley discovered an enemy pillbox that American assault tanks had missed. The enemy fighters within were “inflicting heavy casualties upon the attacking force and…a chief obstacle to the success of the advance.”
The dire situation didn’t deter him.
Drowley directed another soldier to complete the rescue of the third wounded soldier. Meanwhile, he darted out across open terrain to one of the American tanks. Drowley climbed the turret and signaled the crew.
He exchanged his weapon for a submachine gun and rode the deck of the tank while firing toward the pillbox with tracer fire.
As the tank ambled closer to the enemy position, Drowley received a severe wound to the chest. He refused to leave his position for medical treatment, instead continuing to direct the tank’s driver to the pillbox.
He was shot again — losing his left eye — and knocked to the ground.
But Drowley remained undaunted. Despite his injuries, he continued to walk alongside the tank until it was able to open fire on the enemy pillbox and destroy it. In the process, American forces discovered another pillbox behind the first and destroyed it as well.
With his mission finally completed, Drowley returned to camp for medical treatment.
When he reached the safety of the American outpost, his platoon leader admonished him for leaving his post. But the reason he left was quickly learned, and he was eventually recommended for the nation’s highest military honor.
After receiving the accolade, he was offered a commission and a chance to speak at war rallies, but Drowley declined and eventually left the service. He lived a quiet life for the rest of his years.
In 1991, he told The Spokesman Review of Spokane, Washington, that he shied away from the title of hero.
‘What Did You Do?’
“People say, ‘What did you do to get the Medal of Honor?’ You were only doing your job,” Drowley said. “You’re fearless, all right. You’re so damned scared you’re past fearless. But you’re going to get killed if you don’t do anything.”
Along with the Medal of Honor, Drowley was also awarded the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Clusters and two Bronze Stars.
He was the first Americal soldier to be awarded the medal and the division’s lone recipient for action in World War II.
While recovering from his wounds at a hospital in Spokane, he met his future wife, Kathleen McAvoy. He returned to Washington after the war from his native St. Charles, Michigan. He operated a service station before working as a civilian employee at Fairchild Air Force Base. He retired in 1980.
Drowley died May 20, 1996. He was 76. He was buried at Fairmount Memorial Park in Spokane.
Sen. John McCain does not want President Donald Trump at his funeral.
The Arizona senator is battling brain cancer, and news about his funeral arrangements prompted at least one fellow senator, Orrin Hatch of Utah, to protest McCain’s wish to bar Trump from his farewell service. McCain reportedly prefers Vice President Mike Pence to represent the current administration in Trump’s place.
Hatch called McCain’s decision “ridiculous” according to multiple news reports, and said that he would choose differently because Trump is “a very good man.”
In July 2015, Trump said of McCain: “He’s not a war hero … he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.” And in September 2017, months after McCain’s cancer diagnosis was announced, Trump reportedly mocked the senator again.
Leland Diamond joined the Marines in 1917 at the age of 27 to fight World War I. Diamond made a name for himself during that war as a Marine’s Marine. He was known for walking around without his cover, wearing his dungarees most places he went, and for having a loud and dirty mouth.
His uniform violations and occasional lack of courtesy were overlooked because of his conduct on the battlefield. He shipped to France as a corporal and fought at famous World War I battles like Belleau Wood and St. Mihiel. He earned his sergeant stripes and took part in the occupation of Germany before returning to the states and getting out.
He spent just over two years as a civilian, but the lifestyle didn’t suit him, so he returned to the Corps in 1921.
A few years later, he was sent to Shanghai, China to help guard U.S. vessels from attacks by Chinese criminals. He returned from China in 1933 but was sent back with the 4th Marines from 1934 to 1937.
When World War II kicked off, he was Master Gunnery Sgt. Diamond and the senior noncommissioned officer was an expert in firing mortars. He was especially well-known for his accuracy with small and medium mortar tubes.
Diamond and his unit were sent to Guadalcanal to help in the fight against the Japanese and the then-52-year-old proved his reputation. When a Japanese cruiser was spotted in the waters around the island, Diamond decided to engage it.
While a lot of legends surround the event, including the possibility that Diamond attacked it on a bet or that he landed at least one round straight down the enemy smokestack, historians agree that Diamond engaged the ship.
Japanese cruisers in World War II displaced between 7,000 and 9,000 tons and packed dozens of guns. Diamond was armed with a mortar tube and decades of combat experience.
Guess who won?
Diamond engaged the ship with harassing fire from his mortar. The ferocity and accuracy of his assault spooked the Japanese who withdrew despite the fact that it sported armor, cannons, and a large crew to counterattack with.
The old master gunnery sergeant was lauded for his actions but was still withdrawn from the fight a short time later. “Physical disabilities” resulted in the Marine being evacuated. After a short recovery in New Zealand, Diamond attempted to get back to his unit by getting orders on a supply ship to Guadalcanal.
By the time he arrived, the unit had left and he had to hitchhike his way to Australia. The Corps transferred him home soon after and assigned him to the training of new Marines, first at Parris Island and later at Camp Lejeune.
While the United States fought conflicts and insurgencies in the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa over the last seventeen years, potential adversaries were studying U.S. operations and developing sophisticated weapons, munitions, and disruptive technologies. U.S. forces must anticipate that adversaries will employ these increasingly advanced systems, some approaching or even surpassing U.S. capabilities, while also proliferating them to their allies and proxies around the globe.
Both Russia and China, our two most sophisticated strategic competitors, are developing new approaches to conflict by modernizing their concepts, doctrine, and weapon systems to challenge U.S. forces and our allies across all operational domains (land, sea, space, cyberspace, and space). Russia’s New Generation Warfare and China’s Local Wars under Informationized Conditions are two examples of these new approaches.
In the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa, non-state actors and radical militant groups are gaining military capabilities previously associated only with nation-states. Irregular forces are growing more capable as they adopt new weapons and tactics. Hezbollah has used advanced anti-tank guided missiles, man-portable air defense systems, and a sophisticated mission command system in its conflicts with Israel and participation in the Syrian civil war. Joining Hezbollah in the employment of unmanned aerial vehicles are Al-Qaeda and ISIS, and ISIS has also used chemical weapons. In addition, Iran adopted a very sophisticated warfare doctrine aimed at the U.S., and the Houthi insurgency in Yemen aims rockets and missiles at Saudi Arabia.
The U.S. Army exists to fight our nation’s wars and it rigorously prepares to reach the highest possible level of sustained readiness to defeat such a wide array of threats and capabilities. To attain this end state, training at U.S. Army Combat Training Centers, or CTCs, must be realistic, relevant, and pit training units against a dynamic and uncompromising Opposing Force, or OPFOR.
Soldiers of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment maneuver through the streets of a compound at the National Training Center, Calif., during an OPFOR training exercise.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. David Edge)
The CTC program employs several professional OPFOR units, including the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment at the National Training Center in California’s Mojave Desert, the 1-509th Airborne Infantry Battalion within the swamps of Louisiana at the Joint Readiness Training Center, 1-4th Infantry Battalion at the Joint Multinational Training Center in Hohenfels, Germany, and the World Class OPFOR within the Mission Command Training Program at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. The Army’s Cyber Command also provides specialized support to these OPFOR units with cyber aggressors.
The OPFOR is representative of adversary forces and threat systems that reflect a composite of current and projected combat capabilities. The OPFOR must be capable of challenging training units’ mission essential tasks and key tasks within the Army Universal Task List. To maintain OPFOR’s relevance as a competitive sparring partner, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command devotes major analytic efforts to studying foreign armies and determining the optimum configuration for OPFOR units that both represent a plausible threat and challenge training tasks. This also requires the Army to consistently modernize the OPFOR with replicated peer or near-peer threat weapons and capabilities.
The OPFOR must be capable of challenging U.S. Army training units with contemporary armored vehicles that are equipped with stabilized weapon systems and advanced night optics, as well as realistic kill-or-be-killed signatures and effects via the Multiple Integrated Laser Effects Systems. The OPFOR must also have air attack platforms, advanced integrated air defense systems, unmanned aerial systems, modern-day anti-tank munitions, long-range and guided artillery fires, and improvised explosive devices.
Soldiers from A Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Cavalry Regiment; 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team, race their M2A3 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle toward the opposition force (OPFOR) during a battle simulation exercise at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin.
(Photo by Maj. W. Chris Clyne, 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)
Additionally, the OPFOR must be capable of subjecting training units to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear effects and technologically enhanced deception capabilities. The OPFOR must also be capable of degrading or denying training unit dependency on Cyber-Electromagnetic Activities with threat electronic warfare, cyberspace, and space effects.
Modernizing the U.S. Army’s OPFOR program is an unremitting endeavor, because threats continuously change and technology relentlessly revolutionizes the art of war. Replicating the most realistic threat capabilities and tactics is critical for training units and commanders to practice their tactics, techniques, and procedures, and learn from the consequences of their decisions under tactical conditions.
This topic, as well as the challenges the OPFOR enterprise faces in developing much-needed capabilities to effectively replicate threats in a dynamic Operational Environment that postulates a changing character of future warfare, will be highlighted during a Warriors Corner at the annual Association of the United States Army meeting in Washington D.C. on Oct. 10, 2018, from 2:55-3:35 p.m.
When you think of moving infantry, one of three options usually springs to mind: Troops marching in unison, troops riding in infantry fighting vehicles or armored personnel carriers, or transporting troops by the truck-load. In recent years, that third option has undergone a very interesting evolution, largely due to the War on Terror.
TITUS by NEXTER on TATRA chassis, IDET 2017, Brno Exhibition Center, Czech Republic
(Photo by Karel Subrt)
Improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, wreaked havoc on Coalition troops in Iraq and Afghanistan who used unarmored wheeled vehicles, like Humvees, to move troops. Extremely effective and inexpensive, IEDs quickly became a popular choice among insurgents. In response, Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) vehicles were born, specifically tuned to reduce the risks presented by IEDs while maintaining the tactical mobility required by urban warfare.
Developing technology to protect vehicles from explosives is not a new phenomenon. Rhodesia and South Africa had pioneered such vehicles to fight insurgencies in the 1970s. Today, just about every country is developing — or buying — some form of MRAP. France, which has been fighting a radical Islamic terrorist group in Mali, is no different. Their vehicle of choice is the Nexter TITUS, which is short for Tactical Infantry Transport and Utility System.
The TITUS has a crew of three, a top speed of 68 miles per hour, and can go up to 435 miles on a single tank of gas. It can hold up to a dozen fully equipped troops. This transport system also supports an option for a remote weapon system that can hold a variety of machine guns or a 40mm automatic grenade launcher, like the Mk 19.
The TITUS also comes in several variants, including a version for police Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams, a 120mm mortar carrier, a counter-insurgency version, a water-cannon vehicle, and a “forward-support” vehicle capable of carrying ammunition.
This versatile vehicle will likely be around for a while. Learn more about this tough armored truck in the video below.
President Donald Trump called off airstrikes last minute against Iran, but the reprieve is likely only temporary from a clash that has brought the US and Iran to the brink of war.
Iran’s economy is sputtering under mounting US sanctions that it’s called “economic war” and said it will start enriching uranium and increasing its stockpile beyond the limits set by the nuclear treaty, which the Trump administration walked away from a little over a year ago.
Experts largely believe Iran’s military and its proxy forces, which Tehran supplies and trains, will continue to seek confrontations against the US and its allies across the region due to the sanctions that are damaging Iran’s economy.
“The enemy (Iran) believes it’s acting defensively in light of economic strangulation, which it views as an act of war,” Brett McGurk, the former special envoy to the coalition to defeat ISIS, wrote on Twitter. “That doesn’t justify its acts but makes deterrence via one-off strikes harder perhaps counter-productive.”
Last week, two oil tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman, which the US has blamed on Iran. The incident prompted anxiety from the UN and US allies, who’ve all preached restraint.
Iran has denied striking the tankers, in the face of a US military video showing what appears to be an Iranian patrol boat retrieving an unexploded limpet mine, and claims the downing of the US RQ-4 Global Hawk drone came after warnings it had entered Iranian airspace.
The Iranian attacks aim to raise the political costs of Trump’s maximum pressure strategy against Iran, and Randa Slim of the Middle East Institute previously told INSIDER she expected Iran to “up the ante” against the US, even by kidnapping Americans in the region.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has reportedly told Iran that the US will respond with military force if Iran kills any Americans, and so it is unclear how the US would respond to a kidnapping.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
(Photo by Mark Taylor)
With the US taking no action against Iran for the drone attack other than condemnation, and possibly added sanctions, many experts think Iran has little reason to abandon its attacks.
“Unfortunately it sends a dangerous signal to Iran,” Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings Center for Middle East Policy wrote on Twitter. “US aversion to escalation doesn’t deter Tehran from escalating. And they have every incentive to continue until they get what they want: sanctions relief.”
“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Ned Price, former senior director of the National Security Council under President Obama, told INSIDER.
Jon Wolfsthal, who served as the nuclear expert for the National Security Council under the Obama administration, told INSIDER, “Conflict between Iran and US can erupt at any time.”
Wolfsthal said he’s not aware of any new guidance given to military officials to “de-engage or avoid possible actions that could lead to provocations.”
“In fact, I expect drones are flying the same course today,” Wolfsthal added.
Meanwhile, the prospect of a diplomatic resolution to hostilities remains elusive.
Trump warned Iran of the impending, and ultimately halted, military strike via Oman on June 20, 2019, Reuters reported. The president also extended yet another offer to hold talks with Tehran.
Human rights champion Nadia Murad was recently co-awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In August 2014, Murad’s village in northern Iraq was attacked by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and she was sold into sexual slavery.
She managed to escape, sought asylum in Germany in 2015 and has fought for the rights of the Yazidi minority ever since. Upon becoming a Nobel laureate, she said:
“We must work together with determination — so that genocidal campaigns will not only fail, but lead to accountability for the perpetrators. Survivors deserve justice. And a safe and secure pathway home.”
Accountability has become a key issue. While the United States-led international coalition has dislodged ISIS from the cities it had occupied and controlled, namely Mosul and Raqqa, the group is weakened but not dead.
ISIS remains a force in the Middle East
Both the U.S. Department of Defense and the United Nations estimate that approximately 30,000 ISIS fighters remain in those countries.
At the same time, a significant number of foreign fighters from places like Canada, the U.K. and Australia have fled Iraq and Syria. Numerous countries are struggling to find policy solutions on how to manage the return of their nationals who had joined the group.
The Canadian government has stated publicly that it favors taking a comprehensive approach of reintegrating returnees back into society. Very few foreign fighters who have returned to Canada have been prosecuted.
Poster of Nadia Murad speaking to the UN Security Council at the Yazidi Temple of Lalish, Kurdistan-Iraq.
Things are about to become much more complicated for officials in Ottawa. Stewart Bell of Global News, reporting recently from Northern Syria, interviewed Canadian ISIS member Muhammad Ali who is being held by Kurdish forces in a makeshift prison.
Ali admits to having joined ISIS and acting as a sniper, and playing soccer with severed heads. He also has a digital record of using social media to incite others to commit violent attacks against civilians and recruiting others to join the group.
Another suspected ISIS member, Jack Letts, a dual Canadian-British national, is also locked up in northern Syria. The same Kurdish forces are adamant that the government of Canada repatriate all Canadian citizens they captured on the battlefield.
Soft on terror or Islamophobic
The issue of how to manage the return of foreign fighters has resulted in highly political debates in Ottawa, demonstrating strong partisan differences on policy choices and strategies to keep Canadians safe.
The Liberal government has been accused of being soft on terrorism and national security, while the Conservative opposition has been charged with “fear mongering” and “Islamophobia” for wanting a tougher approach, namely prosecuting returnees.
But the most important point is that Canada has both a moral and legal duty to seek justice and uphold the most basic human rights of vulnerable populations.
Open trials can serve as means by which to lay bare ISIS’s narrative and to help counter violent extremism and future atrocities.
They can also serve as a deterrent and warning to other Canadians who might try to join ISIS as it mutates and moves to other countries in the world like Libya, Afghanistan, Egypt, the Philippines, Pakistan or in Mali, where Canadian peacekeepers have just been deployed.
If Canada truly stands for multiculturalism, pluralism, the rule of law, global justice, human rights and the liberal international order, then we must be firm and take a principled stand to prosecute those have fought with ISIS. That includes our own citizens. No doubt Nadia Murad would agree.
Alex K. asks: Is it true that sommeliers can’t tell the difference between expensive and cheap wines?
Having a seasoned tongue that can detect the subtle differences between different kinds of adult grape juice is a sure sign of class. In fact, the go-to Hollywood trope for showing that a character is refined is to give them a penchant for expensive wines. Even Hannibal Lecter, one of the most terrifying and cultured characters in film history, had a soft spot for chianti. But the question at hand today is can even the professional wine connoisseurs actually tell the difference between a Chateau Cheval Blanc 1943 and a Bota Box Chardonnay?
To begin with, it’s important to understand what a person has to go through to acquire the label of wine expert, otherwise known as a sommelier. It turns out this varies considerably from absolutely no official required training at all (the label is technically originally a job title) to an extreme amount as in the case of Master Sommeliers, of which there have been less than 300 people who have managed to achieve that certification in the little over a half a century that title has been granted, making it one of the most exclusive professional certifications in the world.
As to the former vastly more common distinction of “sommelier”, some who achieve this certification are simply wine enthusiasts wanting to take their hobby to the next level. Others are those working in the restaurant service industry who may have even got that title via working there way up from a simple waiter at a wine bar and learning on the job.
That said, as sommelier Dustin Wilson notes, “…by forcing oneself to study hard for a long period of time, certification offers young sommeliers the opportunity to gain the context they need to understand wine much faster than they would if they simply relied on the dining room floor as their classroom.”
This brings us to more formal certification. How rigorous a given course for certification is varies from institution to institution offering such, but in general sommeliers must be able to identify with reasonable accuracy random types of wine by taste, sight, and smell, answer various questions about wine making, the various regions of the world that are major wine producers, and what makes wines from them different than wines produced elsewhere. They must also have extensive knowledge of very specific food pairings, as well as demonstrate little things like the best technique for how to open a bottle of wine and pour — while simple for those working in the industry, nonetheless often trips up the hobbyist attempting to get that certification.
On that note, while actual formal training to get such a certification may only take dozens of hours, leading up to passing a given program’s tests a person generally needs extensive experience with all things wine, whether as a long time hobby or experience within the industry.
As you might have gathered from this, all sommeliers are not created equal. Some may be immensely knowledgeable and skilled at judging various wines, while others might be littler better than your wine enthusiast cousin Jill.
This brings us to the elite of the elite — Master Sommeliers. These are the Yoda’s of the wine world, and no coincidence the average salary for one eclipses that of mere mortal sommeliers. For your reference, a run of the mill lowly just starting out sommelier might make as little as in the ,000 a year range, whereas someone who has passed the tests to become an Advanced Sommelier earns around ,000 a year on average. The Master Sommeliers, on the other hand, typically make about 0,000 per year and can usually be found working at some of the world’s finest restaurants.
The testing to become a Master Sommelier is vastly more rigorous, and those invited to test (and it is invite only), must have first passed the Introductory Exam, then the Certified Exam, and then the Advanced Sommelier Exam. Those who pursue this course also tend to already have extensive backgrounds in the culinary arts and typically have many years of experience working as a sommelier at some wine serving establishment.
Once they’ve distinguished themselves enough in the field, they may then be invited to takes the tests to become a Master Sommelier. From here, they are given three years to pass three tests, including a practical restaurant service section, a verbal examination covering all things wine related to incredible depth, from history to grape cultivation in various regions, to various wine making methods; finally, the most difficult test of all is the taste test. In this, they are given six random wines chosen from the thousands produced around world. In 25 minutes, they must correctly identify not just what region of the world each one came from, but also the exact year the grapes used were harvested.
Each candidate is allowed to take each test up to six times in the three year span, but even then, as you might expect from so few having ever achieved this certification, many fail despite already being considered advanced wine experts before even attempting the tests.
Now, given all this, surely the elite wine professionals must be able to tell the difference between random expensive and a random cheap wines, right? Well, yes, the elite of the elite absolutely can. But also, no, they can’t at all actually.
So what’s going on here?
There are several factors that go into this. First, there’s the business side with a variety of factors that go into what makes something an “expensive” or “cheap” wine that go far beyond taste. Making such distinctions smaller than ever, wine making has become huge business on a scale and with scientific vigor never leveled at the industry before — all in an effort to create the best wines for as cheaply as possible.
As journalist and sommelier Bianca Bosker notes, “One of the things that I did was to go into this wine conglomerate [Treasury Wine Estates] that produces millions of bottles of wine per year… People are there developing wine the way flavor scientists develop the new Oreo or Doritos flavor.”
Noteworthy here is that the scientists extensively use sommeliers to help tweak their mass produced wines to be as high quality as possible even to the experts. They further add a variety of things to the wine, not unlike adding ingredients to any beverage, to tweak just about every facet of it until they come up with an end product that they think will maximally appeal to consumers.
As a result, even disregarding business elements effecting price beyond taste, the gap between inexpensive wines and the finest has closed considerably in recent decades, and there are more variety of wines to enjoy today than there ever have been before, all making it an effort in futility for even a Master Sommelier to be able to consistently identify one wine as one that was probably ultra expensive vs. more of a middle of the road variety of the same type of wine.
Partially as a result, while studies using the general public tend to show most can identify the difference between the cheapest of wines at a couple dollars a bottle and, say, a or bottle, as soon as you start to go much above that, we mere mortals tend to be able to differentiate the two with about the same accuracy you’d expect in predicting the results of a coin flip.
That said it turns out there is actually a slight and very interesting correlation. In one study with over 6,000 taste tasters, comprising about 12% sommeliers and the rest the general public, trying to determine if people like expensive wines more than cheap ones, it turned out that:
[W]e find that the correlation between price and overall rating is small and negative, suggesting that individuals on average enjoy more expensive wines slightly less. For individuals with wine training, however, we find indications of a positive relationship between price and enjoyment…. Our results indicate that both the prices of wines and wine recommendations by experts may be poor guides for non-expert wine consumers.
Thus, similar to music or really any field, those who are experts do seem to tend to enjoy the finer, more complex, versions of the craft, such as a symphony, vs the general public who prefer listening to the latest from Taylor Swift. Or as one music professor the co-author of this piece once had was fond of stating with respect to pop music vs. things like a symphony, “Cotton candy tastes great, but you can only eat so much of it before you get sick of it and start craving a high quality steak dinner.”
Now, at this point you might be thinking, “Well, sure, it’s easy to be fooled by the business side of things when talking price, but what about all those studies that show wine experts can’t even tell white wine from red in blind taste tests?”
It turns out there is a lot more going on with that than the clickbait headlines tend to indicate, and should be obvious from the fact that Master Sommeliers are able to pass the test they do in the first place, which would be impossible if their skills were really as bad as that. As Wheezy Waiter wisely points out in his aptly titled song “A Headline’s Not an Article” — a headline is not an article.
You see, as ever, our monkey brain’s are gonna monkey brain. We humans are just really, really easy to trick, especially when it comes to our senses. Ever eaten something minty and then drank a room temperature glass of water? Congratulations, you’ve just tricked your body into thinking you’re drinking ice cold water because menthol binds with cold-sensitive receptors that make these much more sensitive than normal, so they trigger more easily and you feel a cold sensation, even though everything is the same temperature as before.
So everything from what you ate or drank before to scents in the environment you’re currently in, to even your level of fatigue can influence the way you perceive the taste of something.
On top of physical things like that, there’s your expectations, which can be absurdly easily influenced, especially when it comes to taste.
So let’s now talk about wine. Contained within the grape juice are many dozens of esters and aldehydes, sugars, minerals, organic acids, etc. etc. This cocktail all derives from the grapes (whose contents are in turn effected by a variety of factors), processes of the yeast as it works its magic, and what the wine is processed and stored in during its journey from plant to your belly. This all creates the colors, smells, and taste which combined to form the flavor your perceive when you ingest the wine. To give you a small idea of the scope of things here, consider that over 400 compounds that influence the scent alone have been identified in wine.
On that note, temperature by itself can make a huge difference to taste, among other reasons, because of how this can effect the boiling point and thus smell and, in turn, taste, of some of these compounds in the wine. As wine enthusiast David Derbyshire notes, “Serve a New World chardonnay too cold and you’ll only taste the overpowering oak. Serve a red too warm and the heady boozy qualities will be overpowering.”
As for the wine experts, while they may have honed their skills with sometimes thousands of hours of study into all things wine, they still have the same monkey brain as the rest of us. Case in point, we have wine expert and journalist Katie Kelly Bell, who was traveling with a fellow group of wine connoisseurs. While at Waters Vineyards in Washington State, the owner poured everyone two glasses of white wine and asked them to identify what type they were. Bell sums up:
We swirled, we sniffed, we wrinkled our brows in contemplation. Some of us nodding with assurance. I took notes, finding the first white to be more floral and elegant than the second. Drawing on my years and years (there have been too many) of tasting, studying and observation, I swiftly concluded that the first wine was an unoaked Chardonnay and the second was a Sauvignon Blanc, easy peasy. Much to my mortification I was dead wrong, as was everyone else in the room. The proprietor chuckled and informed his room… that the wines were actually the same wine; one was just warmer than the other. He wasn’t intentionally shaming us (not one person got it right); he was pointedly demonstrating the power of just one element in the wine tasting experience: temperature.
Now consider a test conducted at the suggestion of winery owner Robert Hodgson at the California State Fair wine competition. Essentially, the panels of 65-70 expert judges were given a huge variety of wines to rank as per usual. But what they were not told was that they were actually given each of the wines three times and from the same exact bottle.
After running this same experiment four consecutive years, what Hodgson found was that, to quote the paper published on the experiment, Only “about 10 percent of the judges were able to replicate their score within a single medal group.” In fact, he even found about 10% of the judges were so far off that they switched a Bronze rating to a Gold for the exact same wine from the exact same bottle.
In another study conducted by Hodgson, An Analysis of the Concordance Among 13 U.S. Wine Competitions, it was found that in the vast majority of cases, receiving a Gold medal at one wine competition had virtually no correlation to not just being ranked similarly at another competition, but in many cases that same wine scoring below average at other competitions.
As to what’s going on here, Hodgson sums up, “…there are individual expert tasters with exceptional abilities sitting alone who have a good sense, but when you sit 100 wines in front of them the task is beyond human ability.”
In yet another test, this one by Frenchman Frédéric Brochet in 2001, he found that simply changing the label of the same bottle of wine from an expensive well thought of type to a cheap one resulted in the 57 taste testers almost universally changed their tune on not just how they liked it, but various attributes about it.
In another experiment, Brochet also gave a similar panel a glass of white wine and a glass of red wine and gave them a list of common words used to describe white and red wines and told them to assign them appropriately to the two wines in front of them. It turns out the red wine was actually the same as the white wine except dyed red, and only a small percentage of the testers were able to accurately identify that both wines tasted the same in the descriptive words they chose to identify each wine. And, yes, contrary to what is almost universally stated, not all of the taste testers got it wrong.
Nevertheless, most did. While you may try to argue that perhaps the results ended up being different because the dye had an effect on the flavor, beyond that it was purported to be flavorless dye, we can at least be reasonably sure it didn’t drastically alter the taste to “jammy”, “spicy”, and “intense”, among other common terms wine professionals use to talk about red wines.
That said, important to note here is that while Brochet’s studies are often cited as definitively showing how bad wine experts are at judging wines, in this case that they can’t even tell the difference between red and white wines, that’s not what that study actually showed at all. Blindfold even amateur wine drinkers and legitimately give them a white and a red wine and they are going to likely do extremely well at telling the difference, as anyone whose drunk wine pretty much ever can attest. Rather, this test simply showed how easily our perception of things is influenced by suggestion.
Just as importantly here, what literally every single source we could find not only leaves out when reporting this story, but in the vast majority of cases falsely states, is the actual qualifications of those being tested by Brochet. It turns out, the people he was using as taste testers were not experts at all, simply undergraduate students studying oenology (wine and wine making). While certainly probably more knowledgeable than your average person on the street, nobody would call an undergraduate mathematics major just learning the ropes a “math expert”, nor would their skills be indicative of what their professors who have vastly more experience and are actual experts are capable of doing.
Thus, how expert any of these students were at the point in their education when given these tests isn’t clear. What would be far more interesting and indicative is to give that same exact test to the world’s Master Sommeliers and see how they did. Presumably because they still have monkey brains like the rest of us, they would still perform poorly, but nobody yet has run that test that we could fine.
However they would do in such a scenario, what is undeniable is that study after study shows that our perception and expectation vastly influences our experiences, not just in wine tasting, but pretty much every facet of life.
As the Master Sommeliers demonstrate by passing the taste test they are subjected to in the first place, with enough time and study, there are actually people who are exceptionally good at identifying and judging attributes of wines in the right circumstances. But overwhelm there sense with 100 wines or change their expectations about what they are tasting and their perceptions will change significantly, seemingly, making them little better than a random person off the street at telling anything definitive about the wine.
And then when adding not just telling attributes about the wine, but also whether it is inexpensive to purchase or expensive, the whole thing is an effort in futility.
In the end, a hand crafted table might cost a lot more than one that is mass produced. But if they are made from more or less the same materials and the company mass producing them hasn’t chosen to cut any corners, the mass produced and often vastly cheaper table will in a lot of cases actually be objectively better, and certainly more consistently so, thanks to machined and automated precision. But that doesn’t stop people from appreciating and enjoying their hand crafted table more than the same basic table purchased from Ikea.
As with everything, you like what you like. Wine tasting is subjective and what about a given type appeals to you is really all that matters. If knowing you paid 0 for that glass enhances your experience, then great. For others buying several bottles of Two-Buck Chuck so they can enjoy many glasses with a large group of friends at a party may make that one all the more enjoyable. For others, the experience of attending wine events where various fancy wines are sampled and discussed more than makes them worth the extra cost and the trip. For yet others, even when sipping alone at home, the cheap wine that has had sugars added to make it a little sweeter might be their preferred cup of tea. As the old adage goes, “The only thing that matters with regard to a wine is whether or not you like it.”
Whatever your preferences, just don’t be a snob about it. Whether a wine connoisseur or not, I think we can all agree wine snobs are right up there with Grammar Nazis in two groups nobody at any expertise level likes, probably not even themselves.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
The liberation of Sfax, Tunisia on April 10, 1943 was a joyous occasion for nearly everyone involved. The Allies gained an important Mediterranean port, the Tunisians in the city were liberated, and British Lt. Gen. Bernard Montgomery won a B-17 bomber from Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower.
That last one may need some explanation.
Rommel retreats to the Mareth line
Montgomery had been fighting German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel for months in North Africa. Though the campaign was slowly succeeding, Rommel and his Italian allies were inflicting heavy casualties on the British. Britain wanted to increase forces in North Africa to keep Rommel off-balance. Meanwhile, the other Allied nations wanted to capture North Africa so they could begin invading Italy from the south.
So in late Oct. 1942, Montgomery launched Operation Lightfoot. British tanks and other forces moved under cover of massive artillery barrages through minefields against dug-in German positions. By November 2, Rommel was in a rapid withdrawal east, sacrificing troops by the hundreds to try and keep his lines of retreat open.
The battles in North Africa raged back and forth as German reinforcements tried to hold the line. The Allied forces were slowly gaining ground, with Maj. Gen. George S. Patton and Montgomery both attempting to be the first to capture key cities, but Eisenhower wanted them to move faster.
Eisenhower’s chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Bedell Smith, was visiting Montgomery at his headquarters in the spring of 1943. Exact accounts of the conversation vary, but Montgomery asked about getting a B-17 for his personal use. Smith told Montgomery that if Montgomery captured Sfax by April 15, Eisenhower would give him whatever he wanted.
Smith reportedly meant it as a joke wager, but the notorious gambler Montgomery was serious.
Sfax falls and Montgomery gets his B-17
On April 10 — five days ahead of the deadline — Montgomery captured Sfax and immediately asked for payment. Eisenhower honored the bet and sent Montgomery a B-17 bomber and crew even though the bombers were needed for the war effort.
The event caused a strain between Eisenhower and Montgomery as well as between Eisenhower and Patton. Patton was incensed that a British general had a personal B-17 while he was struggling for rides or moving in convoys. Eisenhower was angry that Montgomery would actually accept a B-17 when they were needed to actually bomb targets.
Eisenhower mentioned it to Montgomery’s boss, Sir Alan Brooke, who berated Montgomery for crass stupidity. The plane was written off after a crash-landing a month later and never replaced.
Imagine if a robot could go ahead of troops, by a kilometer or more, to assess a situation and relay information back that would help commanders know what’s ahead and know how to respond?
Army Futures Command isn’t just imagining that- they’re already building it.
“This isn’t about robots or technology, this is about soldiers and this is about commanders on the battlefield, and giving them the decision space and reducing the risk of our men and women when we go into the nastiest places on the planet,” Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the Army’s Next Generation Combat Vehicle-Cross Functional Team, told reporters during a virtual discussion about the Robotic Combat Vehicle Soldier Operational Experiment.
A platoon of soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division at Ft. Carson, CO spent much of this summer sending two-person crews out in modified Bradley fighting vehicles to control robotic surrogate vehicles that were built from M113 armored personnel vehicles. The goal of the experiment was to observe the vehicles and to collect and analyze feedback from the soldiers working with them on the feasibility of integrating robots into ground combat formations.
The modified Bradleys are known as Mission Enabling Technologies Demonstrators (MET-Ds) and the modified M113s are known as Robotic Combat Vehicles (RCVs).
The goal of the program is to eventually build a collection of vehicles that can be used to provide reconnaissance capabilities and standoff distance or to replace soldiers in high-risk activities like combined arms breaches and chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives (CBRNE) reconnaissance.
Coffman emphasized that this summer’s experiment at Ft. Carson was just that, an experiment, and not a test and that there is still much work to be done before soldiers will be able to use robots downrange.
“Right now, it’s difficult for a robot, when it looks at a puddle, to know if it’s the Mariana Trench or two inches deep,” said Maj. Corey Wallace, RCV lead for the Next Generation Vehicle-Cross Functional Team. “The RCV must be able to sense as well as a human. It needs to hear branches breaking around it. It needs to know when it’s on soft sand or an incline. We still need to work on that.”
Jeffrey Langhout, director of the Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center, acknowledged that the robots still have a ways to go and noted that there are particular challenges involved in designing a robot vehicle for combat.
“Right now, we don’t have the sensors to tell us if a puddle is something we can drive through. In the auto industry, high-tech cars are operating on pavement and in a generous GPS environment. We are looking at how to operate in a denied environment, where things can go bad quickly,” Langhout said.
Earlier this year, the Army selected two companies, QinetiQ North America and Textron, to build the eventual vehicles. QinetiQ North America will build four prototypes of the Robotic Combat Vehicle-Light and Textron will build four prototypes of the RCV-Medium. Coffman said that the Marine Corps is also using QinetiQ to build an RCV-Light and the two services and working together on the designs.
All in all, Coffman said the experiment was “100% successful.”
“We learned where the technology is now and how we can fight with it in the future,” Coffman said.
And just how far in the future are we talking? Unfortunately, pretty far.
Coffman said a second experiment is planned for Ft. Hood, Texas in the first part of the fiscal year 2022 using the same M113 robot vehicles and Bradley control vehicles in company-size operations. After that, an experiment will be held to test the vehicles in more complex situations. And after that, the Army will decide if robot vehicles are worth further investment.
This is to say that, cool as the robots are, for now, most soldiers and military families will have to be content just imagining them.
As veterans re-enter the civilian workforce, many struggle to make the transition. This is why opportunities (ahem — touring with famous heavy metal bands) for employment are so important. Five Finger Death Punch has made it a mission to offer such opportunities.
Not only does the band provide direct jobs for veterans, but they also raise money for different veteran initiatives — like PTSD awareness — through their merchandise site, which also acts as a resource guide for accessing help through various links.
Zoltán Báthory, guitarist for Five Finger Death Punch, is a founding board member of the veterans nonprofit Home Deployment Project, which provides safe places to live for displaced veterans suffering from symptoms of PTSD. He is also a member on the Board of Advisors at the anti-Poaching organization Veterans Empowered to Protect African Wildlife. Although Zoltán himself is a civilian, his support for the military is without question.
“I have a lot of veterans around me and it’s not an accident.”
Videographer Nick Siemens is a Marine Corps Combat veteran touring with Five Finger Death Punch. He describes the energy and movement of working with the band as being very similar to that of his time as an active duty Marine.
“I absolutely fell in love with this job and it gave me a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging that I had lost when I left the Marine Corps and I haven’t looked back.”
Check out the video above for an inside look at what it’s like for the veterans on tour with Five Finger Death Punch.
Since the US and Chinese militaries became neighbors in the small African country of Djibouti, they haven’t been getting along very well.
Rear Adm. Heidi Berg, the director of intelligence at the US Africa Command, has accused the Chinese military of “irresponsible actions,” telling reporters recently that Chinese forces at a nearby base have been harassing US forces at the neighboring Camp Lemonnier base.
Berg, according to the Washington Times, said that the Chinese military has attempted to restrict access to international airspace near its base, targeted US pilots with ground lasers, and sent out drones to interfere with flight operations.
She also accused the Chinese military of “intrusion activity,” explaining that there have been “attempts to gain access to Camp Lemmonier.”
U.S. Marines at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti.
(DoD photo by Lance Cpl. Lonzo-Grei D. Thornton, U.S. Marine Corps)
The US base, which opened in 2001 and is home to roughly 4,000 US military and civilian personnel, is an important strategic facility that has served as a launch site for US counter-terrorism activities in east Africa.
China opened its base, its first overseas military installation, nearby in the summer of 2017. China insists that the purpose of what it calls an “overseas support facility” is the “better undertaking its international responsibilities and obligations and better protecting its lawful interests.”
The movement of Chinese forces into the area have made US military leaders uneasy. “We’ve never had a base of, let’s just say a peer competitor, as close as this one happens to be,” Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, AFRICOM commander, told Breaking Defense just prior to the opening of China’s facility. “There are some very significant operational security concerns.”
The laser incidents Berg mentioned were first reported last year, when the Pentagon sent a formal complaint to Beijing after two C-130 pilots suffered injuries.
A C-130 Hercules cargo plane.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs argued that the latest allegations against it do “not align with the facts,” adding that “China has always abided by international laws and laws of the host countries and is committed to maintaining regional safety and stability.”
Senior Captain Zhang Junshe, a military expert at the People’s Liberation Army Naval Military Studies Research Institute, told the Global Times, a state-affiliated Chinese publication, that the US has been sending low-flying aircraft to conduct spying operations near the Chinese facility.
The Global Times said that US accusations were “just the same old tune struck up again by the US to defame China.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.