It was one of the most beloved and abused weapons in the history of warfare. The Browning Automatic Rifle was the weapon of choice for infantrymen, vehicle crews, and even gangsters from its debut in World War I, through two World Wars and Korea to the jungles of Vietnam.
The BAR was invented by its namesake, John Browning, in 1917 for use in World War I. The Army, newly arrived in Europe to fight on the Western Front, was told that machine guns were the way to go in the new war, and America agreed.
One of the first soldiers to carry the BAR into combat was Browning’s own son, 2nd Lt. Val Browning. Browning and his men employed the weapon at the Meuse-Argonne offensive to good effect just like thousands of other soldiers in the war.
Just as important, the BAR was very accurate for such a light automatic weapon. It was employed in a counter-sniper role by shooters firing quick bursts at known or suspected enemy positions, suppressing or killing the enemy.
In World War II, the attributes that made the BAR so great for trench-fighting also made it great for sweeping Nazis and Japanese soldiers from bunkers. It was mostly chambered in .30-06 that left the barrel at 2,682 feet per second.
While the Browning was able to reprise its World War II infantry role in Korea, the 1957 debut of the M60 machine gun forced the BAR from the top spot in Vietnam. Still, it was a valuable asset for special operators and as a weapon for vehicle crews.
But that was the swan song for the BAR in American service. The M249 was introduced into the American arsenal in 1984, nine years after the Vietnam War ended. When the Invasion of Panama took place in 1989, it was M60s and M249s that sprayed lead downrange in the BAR’s stead.
As much of the nation struggles to keep warm during the polar vortex, here’s how you can help populations that are most at risk.
Call 311 to connect with homeless outreach teams
Many major US cities, including including New York, Chicago, Boston, and Washington, DC, have hotlines under the number 311 you can call if you see someone on the street who might need help. The number can help connect you with homeless outreach teams.
Donate clothing and other supplies to emergency shelters
Many homeless people turn up to shelters without proper clothing during a time where a proper coat can make all the difference. If you’re able to, donating warm clothing to local shelters and organizations can be a major help amid extreme weather events and low temperatures.
Click here for help finding donation centers in your area. Many of these organizations are willing to pick up donations from your residence, which you can often schedule online.
Putting together care packages and keeping them in your vehicle to hand out can also be extremely helpful. Warm items like gloves, socks, hats, scarves, and blankets are especially useful, as well as shelf-safe food, Nancy Powers with the Salvation Army’s Chicago Freedom Center told CNN.
A homeless veteran in New York.
There are specific resources for veterans you can direct people to
So, check out five things we wished we knew before joining the Navy.
5. All the additional duties
In some smaller naval commands, there typically aren’t enough Masters-at-Arms (the Navy’s military police) to guard all the bases’ gates. What’s even worse, there sometimes isn’t enough room in the budget to pay civilians to defend those iron fences either.
So, what does the Navy do to fill those roles? They turn to the junior enlisted personnel who aren’t even trained to guard a box of coloring books.
The Navy created A.S.F. — or Auxiliary Security Force — made from various Navy rates, like cooks and mechanics, to stand guard duty.
4. The rank of ‘seaman’ sounds worse when it’s yours
Some rates in the Navy aren’t even called seamen when they get to the rank of E-3 — so that’s a plus. Corpsman who are E-3s are referred to as Hospitalman while Seabees are called constructionmen, so we luck out.
Other ranks don’t have that privilege. It can be embarrassing saying, “Seaman Smith, reporting for duty.”
Catch our drift?
3. You can graduate boot camp as an E-3
Some young adults score so high on their ASVAB that when they pick an academically challenging rate, they’re automatically promoted in boot camp.
There are others ways to get promoted, like earning college credit before enlisting or recruiting other people, which most people don’t know.
Seaman Richard Cassube (left) assists Seaman Jeremy Cryer (right) with the proper measurements of the ribbons on his dress uniform in preparation for their upcoming graduation. (U.S. Navy Photo by Susan Krawczyk)
2. All the different bases you can be stationed at
Many people don’t know that the Navy integrates with the other branches. In fact, it’s not uncommon for a sailor to serve in an office building on an Air Force base. So, not only can you serve on a ship or a Naval base, but you can be stationed on an Army, Air Force, or Marine Base, too.
The Senate Armed Services Committee has set aside millions for light attack aircraft, but this time not solely for the U.S. Air Force.
In its version of the fiscal 2019 budget markup, the committee announced in May 2018, it wants to give $100 million to the Marine Corps to procure light attack aircraft such as the AT-6 Wolverine to boost lower-cost aviation support. The version passed the committee with a vote of 25-2. It heads for a full Senate vote in coming weeks.
Is the Marine Corps ready for it? It’s unclear.
“The Marine Corps continues to monitor the Air Force-led Light Attack Experiment to procure a cost-effective, observation and attack (OA-X) air platform for employment in permissive environments, with the intent to employ such an asset as a joint force capability,” said Capt Christopher Harrison of the Office of Marine Corps Communication at the Pentagon.
“The SASC’s decision to authorize $100 million for a light attack platform is only reflected in a policy bill,” Harrison said in an email on June 1, 2018.
“Nothing has been appropriated to this program yet,” he said.
But some experts say investing in light attack, though not the stealthiest or best equipped aircraft category, is not an entirely improbable idea.
“I think there’s a strong case for the Marines, or the Air Force, or both, having a few dozen light attack planes, if only for joint training and even combat missions with allied militaries in much poorer nations,” Aboulafia told Military.com on May 30, 2018.
Lawmakers and a few Pentagon officials have made the case for light attack — especially in the context of the Air Force’s ongoing experiment with light attack platforms — saying the smaller planes could come in handy to offset the cost to taxpayers to put a few fifth-generation fighters in the air, sometimes in support of missions for which the advanced jets are far overqualified.
For example, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson reiterated it is silly to use a stealth fighter like the F-22 Raptor to take on Taliban drug labs. In November, the Raptor made its combat debut in Afghanistan, targeting suspected narcotics facilities in the country with small-diameter bombs.”We should not be using an F-22 to destroy a narcotics factory,” Wilson said, echoing previous statements she has made on the topic.
Light attack aircraft in that role would be more sensible, she said.
For the correct mission set, light attack makes sense for any service, Aboulafia argued. But purchasing an entire fleet, he said, would be unjustifiable, since the aircraft’s warfighting capabilities are significantly limited, and best suited to low-risk missions and training with allies and partners.
“What kind of scenario would call for that? It postulates a giant failed state, or series of failed states, where the U.S. is compelled to intervene, and yet there’s absolutely no air-to-air and only a minimal ground-to-air threat,” Aboulafia said.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Eydie Sakura)
He added, “If there’s either of those, this type of plane is a great way to kill pilots. And if this giant, under-armed failed-state intervention doesn’t materialize, the military is stuck with hundreds of planes that have zero relevance to any other kind of strategic contingency.”
While it seems the Marine Corps has time before it makes a decision on how it can or will proceed, the Air Force is currently in the middle of choosing a future light attack platform.
The Air Force selected two aircraft — Textron Aviation AT-6 Wolverine and the Sierra Nevada/Embraer A-29 Super Tucano — to undergo more demonstration fly-offs, among other exercises, at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. The demonstrations began May 7, 2018, and will run through July 2018, with the secretary herself expected to fly either or both aircraft at Holloman.The Senate Armed Services Committee, in its fiscal 2019 proposal, added $350 million to procure a future light attack aircraft.
Carpet bombing, once known as “saturation bombing,” is a large-scale aerial bombing operation over a small area, intent on the complete destruction of a target or targets. Such an operation in a civilian area is considered a war crime under the Geneva Conventions, though the United States is not a signatory to that protocol.
German and British bombers used the tactic throughout World War II, to great effect. The United States’ Army Air Forces took it to the next level in Germany and then Japan under the leadership of Gen. Curtis LeMay. The U.S. would return to the tactic during the Vietnam War, especially for Operations Rolling Thunderand Linebacker II.
It is a devastating tactic that causes a lot of destruction. Since it is heavily dependent on unguided, “dumb” bombs, the potential for collateral and unnecessary death and destruction is very high and the U.S. Air Force hasn’t used it since Vietnam. They still train for the capability, however.
The video below is an amalgamation of U.S. Air Force footage over the previous decades. It shows real-world and training operations where carpet bombing is used as a tactic. B-52 Stratofortresses, B-1 Lancers, and B-2 Spirits are seen dropping tons and tons of ordnance on targets.
It shows the pure power potential of the Air Force’s conventional bombing force. Real air power doesn’t require nukes – overwhelming force can be just as devastating.
The Battle of Gettysburg is arguably one of the most important of the American Civil War. It was this battle that marked the end of Confederate attempts to take the offensive. Although there were many important battles throughout the bloody war, such as the Battle of Antietam, Gettysburg’s importance cannot be over-emphasized.
The Battle of Gettysburg was immense. As the Civil War Trust notes, over 165,000 troops engaged in combat across both sides. There was a total of 51,112 casualties (7,058 killed, 33,264 wounded, and 10,790 missing or captured). The Gettysburg National Military Park spans almost 4,000 acres — and the battle likely raged far further than the park grounds.
Even Hollywood couldn’t cover it all. The 1993 film, Gettysburg, backed by an all-star cast (Sam Elliot, Martin Sheen, Tom Berenger, and Jeff Daniels among them), ran for four hours and 14 minutes in theaters. The director’s cut added another 17 minutes. Even with more than four and a half hours to tell the tale, they still couldn’t cover the entire battle — omitting cavalry actions east of the main battle and the fighting around Culp’s Hill.
If you’ve got the time to kill, it’s not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon/evening, but we know many of you places to go and things to do. Thankfully, the Civil War Trust has the CliffsNotes version.
The four-minute video below briefly covers the highlights of this crucial Civil War battle, covering everything from the first day’s holding action by Buford’s cavalry division to Chamberlain’s stand at Little Round Top on the second day. And, of course, you can’t cover the Battle of Gettysburg without discussing the “high tide” of the Confederacy, Pickett’s Charge, on the third and final day of the battle.
Military snipers from several NATO countries recently practiced high-angle shooting in the Austrian Alps.
Snipers from Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, the United States, and other NATO countries practiced the shooting from Sept. 9-14 at the International Special Training Centre’s High-Angle/Urban course at the Hochfilzen Training Area.
“High-angle shooting is when you shoot further than 300 meters at angles greater than 15 degrees,” Lt. Alexander Rishovd, a sniper instructor assigned to the Norwegian Army Land Warfare Centre, said.
“Imagine the whole shooting process being a triangle and the sniper is on top, the line of sight to the target at the other end is greater than the distance the bullet travels in a flat line,” Rishovd said. “With the greater the angle the more the deviation between the line of sight and the distance that gravity has to affect the bullet.”
And the pictures are stunning.
Check them out below.
Austrian packhorses haul equipment up to a high-angle range on Sept. 12, 2018.
(US Army photo)
Multinational snipers hike to the high-angle range on Sept. 13, 2018.
(US Army photo)
And the training taught the soldiers how to pack lightly.
“With a sniper rifle and sometimes two rifles, hundreds of rounds of ammo, tripod, spotting scope and night optics, mountaineering gear, sleep system, and water and food, your pack easily gets over 40 kilos,” one Belgian special forces soldier said.
“It is a difficult balance because snipers require a lot of specialized equipment, so you have to decide what is absolutely mission essential.”
A US Army sniper team from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment engages targets uphill of their position on Sept. 12, 2018.
(US Army photo)
After ascending to the range, they started the high-angle shooting.
“Each degree of angle will have an associated number value called its cosine,” Rishovd said.
“For snipers shooting at high-angles they need to measure the range to the target in line of sight and multiply it by the cosine [to] get the actual range the bullet is going to fly. Then the sniper will set his bullet drop compensation from that distance.”
A Norwegian Army Telemark Battalion sniper team takes aim at targets across a valley on Sept. 11, 2018.
(US Army photo)
A Dutch sniper engages targets below in a valley on Sept. 12, 2018.
(US Army photo)
Italian snipers from the 4th Alpini Regiment engage targets uphill of their position on Sept. 11, 2018.
(US Army photo)
A Slovakian special operations sniper engages targets uphill of his position as smoke in the foreground is used to indicate wind speed and direction on Sept. 12, 2018.
(US Army photo)
A Belgian special operations sniper takes aim at targets across a valley on Sept. 11, 2018.
(US Army photo)
“The calculations are not very difficult,” one Belgian Special Forces soldier said. “The challenge is the shooting positions.”
“To aim at targets that are at odd angle requires getting into difficult and sometimes unstable and uncomfortable positions,” he continued. “It is also difficult for the spotter to get a good line of sight. The further out you shoot the more the angle and other factors effects your shot. Operationally it is one of the most commonly used skills, so it is good to refine them here.”
A Norwegian Army Telemark Battalion sniper and a US Army sniper run back to their rifles during a stress shoot competition on Sept. 13, 2018.
(US Army photo)
They even practiced “stress shoots,” which test a soldier’s physical fitness and firearms training together to replicate a combat situation.
A Norwegian Army Telemark Battalion sniper engages a target using a night vision optics while a US Army sniper from 2nd Cavalry Regiment acts as a spotter Sept. 10, 2018.
(US Army photo)
Snipers from different countries were paired together too.
“Each country has its own tactics, techniques and procedures,” an unnamed US Army Special Forces sniper instructor said. “When we pair snipers from different countries together, or have them compete against each other, they are able to compare and see what works best.”
Multinational snipers begin their descent down from the high-angle range on Sept. 13, 2018.
(US Army photo)
After the training sessions, the snipers hiked back down from the high-angle range.
“It is very difficult to find ranges where you can shoot at high angles,” US Army Staff Sgt. Ryen Funk said. “We don’t get to practice high angle enough, so it is good to come here and get that experience.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A US service member was killed in action on Oct. 4, 2018, Operation Resolute Support said in a statement.
The incident is under investigation, officials said.
“We mourn and honor the sacrifice of our service member,” Gen. Scott Miller, the commander of US and Resolute Support forces in Afghanistan, said. “We remain committed.”
The person’s name is being withheld pending notification of the person’s family.
Oct. 4, 2018’s death is believed to mark the eighth this year for US troops in Afghanistan.
In early September 2018, a US service member was killed in a noncombat incident, and one day prior another died in an insider attack. Another apparent insider attack in July 2018 claimed the life of a 20-year-old Army soldier.
(DoD photo by Cherie A. Thurlby)
Casualties among Afghan forces are on the rise. About 500 Afghan troops were reportedly killed in September 2018.
The latest American death comes just ahead of the 17th anniversary of the start of the war in Afghanistan, which began October 7, 2001, in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Children born after the deadly attacks are now old enough to enlist to fight in the war, a bloody stalemate with no clear end in sight.
Army Gen. Joseph Votel, the commander of US Central Command, told reporters that the Taliban could seize the initiative in short campaigns but couldn’t sufficiently hold territory to secure victory.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Boeing’s High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HEL MD) fires a beam of concentrated light that can disable anything from drones in flight to incoming mortar shells.
Lasers are already in use on military trucks and Navy ships, but Boeing premiered a new version that can fit inside a suitcase earlier last week in New Mexico, Wired reports.
HEL MD works by shooting a 10 kilowatt beam of focused light at light speed towards airborne targets.
The beam will then quickly heat the surface of the target until it bursts into flames. Boeing claims the laser works with “pinpoint precision within seconds of [target] acquisition, then acquires the next target and keeps firing.”
Potentially these lasers could serve to defend against hypersonic missiles, which fly too fast for conventional missile defense.
Wired reports that the laser is accurate within a few inches, and it can disable or destroy the flying foe depending on what the situation calls for. So an incoming mortar can be detonated from a safe distance.
The laser also has the benefit of being totally electronic, so no dangerous projectiles will be fired, and as long as the electricity flows, the machine can fire indefinitely. For that reason, the HEL MD system is a rare instance of a high tech defense product having a low operational cost.
Boeing hopes to have the system available for purchase within a year or two, according to Wired, who also report that Boeing will add sound effects to the silent machine.
The Navy is a tradition-bound military service, and few traditions are as important as burials at sea.
Perhaps the most unique services in the fleet occur on board submarines that spend the majority of their time under water. Submarine Force Atlantic says it is preparing for burials at sea on several Norfolk-based subs in the next few months.
One of those burials will be for World War II submarine veteran Marcus White, who served on seven war patrols in the Pacific theater during World War II and the Korean War, and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with the “V” device for valor, signifying it was earned in combat.
White died in June at age 95. The USS Newport News, a Los Angeles-class attack submarine, will commit him and his wife Mary Miles White, who died seven years earlier, to the sea sometime next year. White’s son, Marcus White Jr., lives in Chesapeake and said his father loved being a submariner, and that he’s fulfilling his father’s wishes. The Navy allows active-duty sailors, veterans and their family members to be buried at sea.
The chaplain for the Navy’s Norfolk-based submarine squadron, Lt. Cmdr. Richard Smothers, spoke with The Virginian-Pilot about what makes burial ceremonies on board subs unique and special for those who choose them.
Releasing of cremains
Unlike larger ships such as aircraft carriers that can accommodate caskets, all submarine burials at sea involve cremains. They also must occur at least 3 miles from shore.
Smothers said burials at sea aboard a sub primarily occur in two ways. If the weather is fair, a sub will surface, stop moving and conduct a ceremony topside that involves raising a flag the family can keep, reading any scriptures the family requests and firing a 21-gun salute with seven rifles. A member of the crew will then pour the ashes overboard. Chaplains don’t serve on board subs, and the service is usually led by a lay leader on the boat.
Smothers said the sub’s commanding officer will usually address the crew from an onboard communications system so everyone can learn about the person who was committed to the deep. If the weather isn’t good enough to allow for a full topside ceremony, the cremains can be poured overboard in a smaller ceremony from a ship’s sail, the tall structure found on the topside of the sub.
The other option involves releasing ashes underwater through a torpedo tube while the sub is still moving. Smothers said this is a popular option among those who served as torpedomen.
“I know it sounds amazing or strange, but it does happen, and it can be done very honorably, very respectfully,” he said.
Smothers said the crew will clean the torpedo tube’s surface and place the cremains inside. After the burial, the family will usually receive a letter of condolence and appreciation from the sub’s commanding officer and a chart showing the GPS coordinates where the cremains were released.
Custody of the fallen
The Navy accommodates requests for burials at sea when it can, but it’s not always a speedy process. A ship’s operational schedule takes priority, and it can be months between the time a request is made and the time the burial occurs. In White’s case, that also allowed for a traditional memorial service long before his cremains were set to sail from Norfolk.
For a burial at sea on board a Norfolk-based sub, Smothers said a family will first provide their loved one’s cremains to Naval Medical Center Portsmouth. A religious program specialist in the submarine force will then take custody of the cremains and examine sub schedules to find the best fit.
If former submariners spent most of their time in a certain home port such as Groton, Conn., or Kings Bay, Ga., they’ll try to find a sub based there. Otherwise, they’ll find the best available schedule. Sometimes family members will be allowed onto Naval Station Norfolk or another base to watch the sub carrying their loved one’s remains depart, which is a rare occurrence for an outsider to know when a sub is departing.
Smothers said a religious program specialist will go aboard the sub with the cremains and transfer it to either the executive officer or chief of the boat, where they will be safely locked away in a state room until the burial. Smothers said the Norfolk squadron typically performs about a dozen burials at sea a year.
The submarine force is a small, tight-knit, all-volunteer community that places a premium on valuing tradition and respecting their forerunners. In some cases, subs will perform a burial at sea where a sub sank so a former submariner can be committed to the deep with some of his former crew members or the sub where he served.
Smothers also said it’s not uncommon for family members to request that someone who holds the same job their loved one did participate in the ceremony.
“I think burials at sea, that’s one of the ways we not only just honor those families and their service, but we reactivate our commitment and our appreciation for serving,” Smothers said. “It’s a real privilege to be a part of. … Every sub that’s ever been part of a burial at sea has thanked us and said, ‘Hey, we appreciate being able to do this.’ It’s an honor.”
B Company, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment in Somalia, 1993 (U.S. Army photo)
On October 3, 1993, Task Force Ranger conducted a raid in the Black Sea neighborhood of Mogadishu, Somalia to capture high-ranking lieutenants of the Aidid militia. The task force was an all-star special operations team composed of elements from the 75th Ranger Regiment, 1st SFOD-D, 160th SOAR, Navy SEALs from DEVGRU, and PJs and CCTs from the 24th Special Tactics Squadron.
As Nightstalker MH-6 Little Birds inserted Delta Operators on the target building, Rangers fast-roped down from MH-60 Blackhawks to the building’s four corners to secure a perimeter. During the insertion, Pfc. Todd Blackburn missed the rope and fell to the street below. Undeterred, the rest of the Rangers fast-roped out of the Blackhawks to establish security. The last Ranger out of the Blackhawk in front of Blackburn’s was team leader Sgt. Keni Thomas. As he reached for the rope, Thomas turned to the Blackhawk’s crew chief who yelled to him, “NO FEAR!”
“SCREW YOU!” Thomas responded as he dropped into the gunfire below. In his mind, it was easy for someone to say “no fear” if they’re the ones that get to fly away from the bullets. But Thomas was a Ranger, one of America’s elite, highly trained warriors. He led his team and maintained the perimeter around the target building from the Somali militia who were shooting at them, but mostly missing by his account.
Thirty-five minutes later, the target individuals were secure, loaded up on the trucks, and everyone was ready to return to base. With everything looking good, Thomas’ thoughts drifted as he thought about how he was now a bona fide combat veteran and could qualify for a VA loan. It was then that CW3 Cliff Wolcott and CW3 Donovan Briley’s Blackhawk was shot down. What was supposed to be a quick mission on a day off had turned into a battle against an entire city; after all, an American Soldier will never leave a fallen comrade.
Super 61 went down about five blocks from the target building. As the Rangers stepped off to secure the crash site, Thomas’ squad leader was shot in the neck. As the medics treated the squad leader’s neck wound, the platoon sergeant came up to Thomas and told him, “You’re in charge now.”
“What do you mean I’m in charge sarn’t?” Thomas asked, not wanting the increased responsibility.
“Hey, hey, sarn’t Thomas,” Sgt. Watson snapped his fingers to focus Thomas’ attention. “You’re in charge.” It was then that Thomas’ NCO training kicked in and he rogered up. Taking his squad leaders’ radio, he reassigned positions in his own team and took lead of the squad. The Rangers continued to make their way to the crash site as they took fire from unseen enemies.
Suddenly, one of the Rangers spotted a hostile Somali. “He’s in the tree sarn’t! He’s in the tree!” Pfc. Floyd, Thomas’ SAW gunner, yelled out frantically.
“Well if you see him, why don’t you shoot him?” Sgt. Watson responded self-evidently. It dawned on Floyd that he had, in fact, joined the Army and was allowed to shoot at people who shot at him. But rather than firing in 3 to 5 second bursts, Floyd proceeded to let out a constant stream of cyclic fire until Thomas hit him and told him to stop.
With the barrel of his machine gun glowing from the heat, Floyd stood up, lifted his goggles, and asked naively, “Did I get him?”
As the tree fell over, cut down by Floyd’s gunfire, Thomas said sarcastically, “Floyd, I don’t know if you got him, but you got the whole tree.”
Thomas and his squad continued to fight their way to the crash site and defended it until the bodies of the crew were recovered the next day. Incredibly and in spite of their casualties, their chalk was the only one to return with everyone alive that day. Thomas credits this accomplishment to the skill of their medic and the leadership of Sgt. Watson.
After Somalia, Thomas went on to serve in the Ranger recon teams. He ended his military career in 1997 as a Staff Sergeant, having earned the Master Parachutist Badge, the Military Freefall Parachutist Badge, the Special Operations Diver badge, British and Belgian jump wings, and a Bronze Star for Valor with a “V” device.
Thomas served in the Army with distinction (Photo from KeniThomas.com)
Upon leaving active duty, Thomas worked as a youth counselor and eventually became a motivational speaker, drawing on his experiences in the Ranger Regiment. He also served as a consultant on We Were Soldiers and Black Hawk Down where he was portrayed by actor Tac Fitzgerald. However, it was Thomas’ passion for music that he focused on most after the army.
Thomas formed the country music band Cornbread and began his music career by performing in and around Columbus, Georgia. By the late 90’s, the band started to make a name for itself, playing shows on college campuses like Auburn University. In the 2002 movie Sweet Home Alabama, Thomas and Cornbread perform a cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama as the movie’s featured song. To date, the band has released three albums as Cornbread and four under Keni Thomas’ name. Thomas has also performed several times at the prestigious Grand Ole Opry, with his most recent performance in May 2014.
Though he’s broken into the country music world, Thomas has not forgotten his military roots. He has performed overseas on USO tours during which he takes the extra time to connect with each servicemember that he meets and exchange stories. His favorite venues are the remote outposts where he performs for groups as small as a platoon. He also donates some of his proceeds to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, a non-profit that provides scholarships and financial aid to the children of wounded or deceased operators.
Thomas performing in Kuwait on a USO tour in 2006 (U.S. Navy photo)
From the streets of Mogadishu to the music halls of Nashville, Thomas has lived up to both the Soldier’s Creed and the Ranger Creed in never leaving a fallen comrade. He continues to tell the stories of his fallen brothers in his music and his motivational talks. Rangers like Thomas lead the way…all the way!
It was one of the most devastating urban fights in history, inflicting nearly 2 million casualties and leaving a city in shambles.
For eight months the battle of Stalingrad raged, with the Red Army and German Wehrmacht delivering horrific blows to each side — sometimes gaining only yards of territory with each engagement.
Though fought nearly 75 ago, Army researchers say the battle has lessons for its combat leaders even today.
That’s why the Combined Arms Center based in Leavenworth, Kansas, has created a “virtual staff ride” of the wartorn city in hopes of preparing soldiers for the kinds of warfare they may see again today.
“Through digital rendering of Stalingrad as it existed in 1942, the historic battlefield comes to life, allowing leaders at all levels to study timeless lessons on tactical, operational, and strategic aspects of war,” the Combined Arms Center says. “This virtual staff ride also provides important insights into military operations, leadership, and the human dimension of warfare through focused study and detailed analysis of one of the most significant battles of World War II.”
Researchers used a wide range of imagery, documents and news reel footage to build the Stalingrad scenario, which is included in the Army’s Virtual Battlespace 3 gaming platform. One of the challenges included how much of the city to build into the simulation since much its 140,000 buildings were destroyed during the fight, with software builders settling on a city that was about 50 percent destroyed.
The simulation includes “more than 150 pages of information including instructor notes, battle timeline, vignettes, character studies, maps, photos, and other data.”
Another cool thing about the virtual Stalingrad battle scenario is that the software can be used for a variety of unit formations — everything from a corps or division-sized maneuvers to company-level engagements.
“For example, units can follow the 14th Panzer Division as it advanced on the Dzerzhinsky tractor factory,” the Combined Arms Center says. “Also, leaders of battalion- and company-size units can focus on the tactical elements of urban combat such as the week long fight for the grain elevator.”
“Free movement through the dense urban terrain of Stalingrad allows leaders at all echelons to understand the decisions, doctrine, and logistics that shaped the battle for both the Soviet Red Army and the German Army,” the researchers added.