This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades - We Are The Mighty
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This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades

When most people retire from the military, they look forward to spending more time with family, relaxing, and maybe pursuing their hobbies.


Neall Ellis isn’t most people.

After a successful career in both the Rhodesian and South African militaries, Ellis became bored with civilian life. Rather than sit back and relax, he decided to pursue the only hobby he knew — kicking ass.

With plenty of strife and a need for fighters throughout the African continent, Ellis decided to become a mercenary. He wasn’t going to be just any mercenary though. Ellis recruited a team and procured an Mi-24 Hind helicopter gunship.

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades
Russian Mi-24 Hind.

Ellis’ mercenary work eventually brought him to Sierra Leone, which was in the midst of a civil war in the late 1990s. The government of Sierra Leone, backed by the British, was attempting to quell a rebellion by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF).

Working for the Sierra Leone government, Ellis and his crew were seen as the most effective force against the rebels, even though they were a single gunship. As Ellis put it, “the gunship strikes the fear of God into the rebels. They run into the bush as soon as they see it.”

As the rebels advanced on the capital, Freetown, the British forces remaining in Sierra Leone evacuated. Freetown looked as if it would fall to the rebels.

Also read: 5 of the most badass snipers of all time

Ellis saw things differently. Though the rebels were attacking at night, and he had no night vision devices, he proposed that he and his crew fly out to meet them and try to drive them off. To his crew, this sounded foolish and none would agree to fly the mission. Unperturbed, Ellis, piloting his helicopter alone, flew against the rebel onslaught.

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades
The city of Freetown, Sierra Leone, was a front for brutal fighting during the Sierra Leone Civil War in the 90s. (Photo via Flickr user David Hond. CC BY 2.0)

In the dead of night, with no crew and no night vision, Ellis fought off the rebel advance. When the rebels came again, Ellis once again flew alone and turned them back from Freetown. Only when his helicopter broke down and he was unable to fly did the rebels finally take the city.

But Ellis wasn’t done fighting. Even though the government of Sierra Leone had lost the capital and could no longer pay him or his crew, they kept flying.

In an interview with the Telegraph, Ellis told them, “I have not been paid for 20 months. I do it because I don’t know what else to do. I enjoy the excitement. It’s an adrenaline rush.”

His staunch defense of Freetown had also drawn the ire of the RUF. His actions had so angered the RUF that they sent him a message: “If we ever catch you, we will cut out your heart and eat it.”

Ellis’ response was epic.

Ellis loaded up his bird and flew out to deliver a message of his own.

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades
Coalition forces release informational leaflets out of a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter over villages in the Logar province, Afghanistan, July 18, 2014. The leaflets are used to pass along information to the local populous regarding on going operations in the area. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Steven Hitchcock)

Arriving over the rebel camp they proceeded to drop thousands of leaflets, with a picture of their helicopter and the words “RUF: this time we’ve dropped leaflets. Next time it will be a half-inch Gatling machine gun, or 57mm rockets, or 23mm guns, or 30mm grenades, or ALL OF THEM!”

And he meant it. Although heavily outnumbered, Ellis kept fighting the rebels.

Eventually, his efforts drew the attention of the British, who decided not only to return to Sierra Leone, but also to provide support to Ellis and work in conjunction with him.

His vast knowledge of the country made him a valuable asset to the British and he actively participated in operations.

Need more inspiration? 4 Vietnam War heroes you’ve never heard of

In September 2000, Ellis flew his helicopter in support of Operation Barras, a rescue mission of several soldiers from the Royal Irish Regiment who had been captured. He would also flew missions with the British SAS.

Ellis and his crew would stay in Sierra Leone until the defeat of the RUF in 2002.

Ellis’ reputation earned him a trip to Iraq working with the British during the invasion in 2003.

Later, he would also fly in Afghanistan “where, he reckons, he has had more close shaves than in his entire previous four-decades put together.”

At the age of 67, he is currently rumored to be flying against the Islamic State.

MIGHTY TRENDING

12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school

At the U.S. Army’s Sniper School at Fort Benning in Georgia, students undergo some of the most grueling training the force offers.


“Sniper school is one of the hardest schools in the military, not physically, but mentally,” Staff Sgt. Brian Moran, one of the 11 instructors who oversees the training, told the Army News Service.

Army snipers face demanding missions and often operate with little or no support, and the training at Fort Benning tests their ability to work in isolation and under pressure.

Below, you can see some of the rigorous and, for many, overwhelming training that Army sniper candidates endure:

12. Over 300 candidates start the seven-week Sniper School course at Fort Benning each year. In early August, 46 soldiers were on hand for the first day. Each had already met demanding criteria, including navigation and marksmanship evaluations, physical-fitness tests, and psychological examinations.

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades
Students listen to their instructor at the US Army Sniper School at Fort Benning, Georgia. (U.S. Army photo by Don Wagner)

11. “Snipers are often deployed in small two-man teams, which requires a great deal of mental fortitude to remain focused on the task at hand,” said Moran, the Sniper School instructor. “If individuals have difficulty being isolated, there is a potential for mission failure.”

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades
During the first week of training, sniper students at the U.S. Army School at Fort Benning, Georgia, are given demanding physical training tests. (U.S. Army photo by Don Wagner)

10. After a battery of physical-fitness tests on the first day, candidates are taught to make a ghillie suit — a camouflage suit that uses foliage to break up the outline of the soldier’s body.

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades
A sniper school instructor at Fort Benning, Georgia, inspects camouflage after students prepared the top of their ghillie suits. (U.S. Army photo by Don Wagner)

9. The first test of their new concealment comes hours later, crawling hundreds of feet through tall grass and a ditch filled with water, mud, rocks, and vegetation.

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades
Students are taught camouflage and concealment techniques at the U.S. Army Sniper School at Fort Benning, Georgia. They learned to weather a ghillie suit by crawling through ditches filled with water, mud, rocks, vegetation and fallen tree branches. (U.S. Army photo by Don Wagner)

8. Part of the exercise requires students to carry and drag one another — testing their ability to help their comrades if one is wounded or incapacitated in the field. “The object of this training is to teach students that being a sniper can be a difficult and dirty job,” Moran said. “These are the conditions that snipers will often find themselves in.”

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades
Students learn that being a sniper can be a difficult and dirty job during training at the U.S. Army Sniper School, Fort Benning, Georgia. (U.S. Army photo by Don Wagner)

7. The second week of training sends them into the field to stalk a target, putting students’ patience and camouflage to the test. The Georgia heat and a variety of critters combine with instructors using high-powered optics to suss out prospective snipers. Stalking requires close attention to detail and “a high tolerance for discomfort,” Moran said. “Most of the students who are dropped from the sniper course have failed because of their lack of discipline.”

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades
Students at the U.S. Army Sniper School endure a constant supply of stressors; some physical, but mostly mental stressors. Students must pay attention to the smallest details in every subject of the sniper course. (U.S. Army photo by Don Wagner)

6. Also during the second week, sniper candidates are taught to do reconnaissance, which is part of their secondary mission to collect and report battlefield information. Snipers who can operate with little support and carry out those missions, Moran said, can aid commanders at every level. “Snipers are force multipliers,” he told Army News Service.

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades
Sniper instructor Staff Sgt. Brian Moran explains the importance of proper camouflage techniques at the U.S. Army Sniper School at Fort Benning, Georgia. (U.S. Army photo by Don Wagner)

5. The third week mixes classroom work with firing on a range. Students are taught how to communicate with spotters, and they fire 80 to 120 rounds a day at targets ranging from 300 meters to 800 meters away. Starting in week three, students are paired up and alternate turns as sniper and as spotter. The duos are trained to work in tandem to track targets and defend themselves.

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades
Specialist Adrian Leatherman, a sniper team leader with 1-23 Infantry, waits to proceed through a stalking lane during the International Sniper Competition at Fort Benning, Georgia. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Army)

4. After the soldier’s third week, the trials turn from physical to mental. The fourth week adds night-fire and limited-visibility firing scenarios. Record-fire tests see snipers paired with spotters and given five targets and a seven-minute time limit. The pressure becomes too much for some, and three students were sent home.

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Shelman Spencer)

3. Week five challenges sniper candidates to hit targets at unknown distances, as well as moving targets. “Students must learn how to properly lead their target so the round will impact a given position when the target will be there,” Moran said. Two more students were sent home.

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades
U.S. Soldiers with 2nd Cavalry Regiment master the Rough Terrain Run task during the European Best Sniper Squad Competition at the 7th Army Training Command’s, Grafenwoehr Training Area, Bavaria, Germany, Oct. 26, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)

2. The demands do not slack in week six. They are taught to use new weapons, like the M9 pistol or the M107 .50-caliber sniper rifle, and to fire from unstable platforms or other positions. The seventh week, known as the “employment phase,” challenges students to plan and carry out a mission after receiving an operational order.

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades
A U.S. Army Paratrooper, assigned to 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, engages targets during a recon and sniper break contact live fire exercise at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, Feb. 6, 2017. The 173rd Airborne Brigade is the U.S. Army’s Contingency Response Force in Europe, providing rapid forces to the United States European, Africa and Central Commands areas of responsibilities. (U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Gerhard Seuffert)

1. The course culminates in week seven with time-limited road march to a range for a “final shot.” Given two bullets and one target, students must calculate range and engage, with their scores determining honor graduate and “top gun” status for graduation. At graduation on September 22, just four of the 46 students remained. “The training in sniper school is hands down the best I’ve received in the Army,” said Sgt. Stephen Ray, a member of the 1st Armored Brigade who graduated No. 1 in the class — Top Gun.

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades
Sgt. Ian Rivera-Aponte, a U.S. Army Reserve sniper and infantryman with the 100th Infantry Battalion, Honolulu, Hawaii, poses for a promotional photo shoot for Army Reserve recruiting at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, July 26, 2017. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

Articles

The number of Russian spies in the US just hit a 15-year high — here’s why it doesn’t really matter

Russia’s escalation of cyber-space intelligence operations in recent years may overshadow concerns over its increase in the number of US-based spies, CIA veteran Daniel Hoffman told The Daily Caller News Foundation.


“There are more Russian operatives, declared and undeclared, in the United States now than at any other time in the past fifteen years,” a senior US official declared to The New Yorker August 7. “They’re here in large numbers, actively trying to penetrate a whole host of sectors—government, industry, and academia.”

Hoffman cautioned that “numbers can be misleading,” acknowledging that while it certainly matters how many spies are in the US, the real Russian escalation has occurred in cyber-space. “The Russians are using cyber-space very, very aggressively, and it’s not cost-prohibitive,” he told The DCNF.

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades
Photo from Wikimedia Commons user Colin

He explained how Russians who’ve never set foot in the US can now collect and carry out operations, giving Russian President Vladimir Putin “much more bang for your ruble.”

“In the past 15 years since Putin became PM, he has resurrected Russia’s influence in the world and increased its operational tempo in Africa, Europe, and the US,” Hoffman declared. This influence campaign has morphed into a sophisticated cyber campaign that escalated in the cyber domain in 2016.

These cyber escalations include Russian-sponsored dissemination of false information via social media, hacking attempts throughout the 2016 US presidential election, and ties to cyber criminals targeting American companies.

“Moscow’s influence campaign followed a Russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations—such as cyber activity—with overt efforts by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users,” a January 2017 report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Russian attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election noted.

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades
Photo from The Russian Presidential Press and Information Office

“Russia, like its Soviet predecessor, has a history of conducting covert influence campaigns focused on US presidential elections that have used intelligence officers and agents and press placements to disparage candidates perceived as hostile to the Kremlin,” the report added.

The increased number of spies in the US may even be in service of bolstering Russian cyber operations. Two suspected Russian spies were discovered lingering near underground fiber optic cables in recent months, US officials recently told Politico.

“It’s a trend that has led intelligence officials to conclude that the Kremlin is waging a quiet effort to map the United States’ telecommunications infrastructure,” Politico noted in June 2017.

Articles

U.S. Navy vet and comedian Charlie Murphy has died

Charlie Murphy, a standup comedian and Navy vet known for his work on the “Chappelle’s Show,” died after a battle with leukemia. He was 57.


Murphy joined the Navy after being released from a stint in jail. His mother wanted him to get out of the neighborhood to prevent him relapsing into his old habits and he enlisted the same day. He had to lie to get in, but has told interviewers ever since that he doesn’t regret it.

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades
Charlie Murphy played himself in skits with Dave Chappelle dramatizing Murphy’s run-ins with Rick James. (Photo: YouTube/TV One)

“I became a man in the Navy,” he said in a PR.com release. “That’s where I got my first apartment, my first marriage, my first bank account, my first car… it all happened there. That was a good experience.”

Somehow, Murphy made it through his service without ever being issued dog tags.

“I’ll tell you something bizarre. I was never issued dog tags. It’s part of your uniform, but I never got them. I thought it was for ID. But it’s not to ID you. It’s to ID your corpse. That’s why they make them out of metal,” he was quoted as saying.

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades
Comedian and Navy veteran Charlie Murphy performs standup. (Photo: YouTube/Leon Knoles)

After separating from the military, Murphy became the head of security for his little brother, Eddie Murphy, before launching his own career as a writer, actor, and standup comedian. The older Murphy helped write the movies “Vampire in Brooklyn” and “Norbit” which his younger brother starred in.

Charlie also played small parts in “Night at the Museum,” “The Boondocks,” and the 2012 reboot of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

‘Mad Jack Churchill’: The officer who carried a sword, bagpipes, and a longbow into battle

The German Wehrmacht and Adolf Hitler’s panzer corps devastated the British military through France and Belgium. Hitler twice stopped his forces from delivering the kill shot on British troops at the French port known as Dunkirk — the location of one of the largest naval evacuations in history. Historians predict that Hitler’s decision to halt his army for three days in May 1940 was to give Winston Churchill, Britain’s new prime minister at the time, “a sporting chance” — despite having them completely surrounded.

While Hitler and Churchill were making strategic moves far and away from front-line combat on the battlefield, another Churchill was gaining near-mythical status for his otherworldly tactics, brazen leadership, and his mystifying ability to confuse the enemy and inspire his peers. On May 27, 1940, Lt. Col. John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill stood at the base of a tower and watched a German patrol approach a hill overlooking the French village of L’Epinette.

The first Nazi officer who appeared in sight was hit center mass from 30 yards — sparking the signal for the ambush. The German’s deadly wound was not from a gunshot but from an arrow fired from a longbow. Alongside two infantrymen from the Manchester Regiment, Churchill unsheathed his basket-hilted claymore medieval sword and commanded orders to maneuvering elements to take out the remaining German patrol. The British officer’s legend leading men in combat armed with a bow and arrow was born, and throughout World War II he repeatedly proved the worth of his nicknames — “Mad Jack” and “Fighting Jack.”


This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades

Jack Churchill, far right, leads a training exercise, sword in hand, from a Eureka boat in Inveraray. Although this is a training mission, he did carry a sword, longbow, and bagpipes in combat. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

But who exactly was “Mad Jack” Churchill, and what emboldened him to carry medieval weapons into modern combat?

Churchill was born in British-controlled Hong Kong and raised among Anglo-Scottish parents in England alongside his two brothers, Thomas and Robert (both would also have stellar World War II exploits). He received his education at a private institution called King William’s College on the Isle of Man and Royal Military College in Sandhurst, England. Here he fostered a passion for history and poetry and had a romanticism toward adventure that birthed a broader fascination for castles, plants, animals, and insects.

He was commissioned into the 2nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment in 1926 and arrived in Rangoon, Burma, to receive further training. He rode a Zenith motorcycle 1,500 miles from his signals course in Poona, India, mistakenly crashing into a water buffalo along the way. In Burma, he balanced his motorcycle on railroad ties as he listened for any signs of oncoming trains. While on duty he participated in flag marches traveling down the Irrawaddy River, Burma’s largest and most frequented commercial highway, to visit villages to collect intelligence on suspected bandits.

The Other Churchill – WWII Hero Jack Churchill

www.youtube.com

Before he left Burma and later the Army with a decade of service in 1936, he learned to play the bagpipes in Maymyo — now known as Pyin Oo Lwin — Mayanmar, an interest piqued by his Scottish heritage. He worked as a newspaper editor in Nairobi, Kenya, and his chiseled jawline led to gigs in male modeling. The adventurer gained attention in England as an entertainer, took a small role in the 1924 film The Thief of Baghdad to advise on archery techniques, and even showcased those skills from 200 yards at the World Archery Championships held in Oslo, Norway, in 1939.

After earning the statistic for the last bow and arrow kill by a British officer in combat, Churchill volunteered for No. 2 Commando, a special operations unit that gained notorious status for daring coastal raids. Dressed in a kilt and holding a set of bagpipes, Churchill played an impressive rendition of the tune March of the Cameron Men before the commandos took part in the ironically named Operation Archery (sometimes called the Måløy Raid), against German positions on the island of Vågsøy, Norway.

During the Italian amphibious landings in Sicily and Salerno he personally captured 42 German soldiers and an 81mm mortar team armed with only his sword. “In my opinion, any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed,” Churchill later reasoned. During a nighttime commando raid in Yugoslavia on the island of Brac, Churchill was wounded, captured, and imprisoned in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin. He tunneled a route out of the prison camp with another Royal Air Force prisoner but was captured and transferred to a more secure location in Austria, where he successfully escaped once more.

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades

Major Jack Churchill examines one of four captured Belgian 75s. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

He was found by an American reconnaissance unit eight days later walking on a busted ankle after train hopping 150 miles across the Swiss Alps near Brenner pass. Following the war and into his 40s, he rescued an estimated 500 Jewish doctors and patients held hostage at a hospital in Jerusalem after the Hadassah Convoy Massacre in 1948.

“People are less likely to shoot at you if you are smiling at them,” he quipped while holding his blackthorn cane. In the 1950s, “Mad Jack” retired from military service with two Distinguished Service Order awards and found a passion for refurbished steamboats along the Thames. He also participated in motorcycle speed trials to quench his thirst for excitement.

“He didn’t brag about these things at all, but he would be happy to talk to anyone who asked, particularly if it was over a couple of nice glasses of wine in the evening,” his son Malcolm later said. Churchill was a humble warrior beyond what history proclaimed. He died in 1996 at age 89.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.


Articles

Here’s why your MRE heater says to rest it on a ‘rock or something’

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades


NATICK, Mass. (May 30, 2013) — If you’re familiar with the phrase “rock or something,” then you’ve probably used a Flameless Ration Heater to warm up a Meal, Ready-to-Eat.

To this day, the phrase remains part of a pictogram on the package of the heater, known as the FRH, which was developed at Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center’s Department of Defense Combat Feeding Directorate and is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2013. It refers to directions that advise warfighters to place the FRH at an angle when heating up a Meal, Ready-to-Eat, commonly known as an MRE.

“The term ‘rock or something’ has now reached cult status,” said Lauren Oleksyk, team leader of the Food Processing, Engineering and Technology Team at Combat Feeding. “It’s just taken on a life of its own.”

Oleksyk was there at the beginning with colleagues Bob Trottier and now-retired Don Pickard when the FRH and that memorable phrase were born in 1993.

“We were designing the FRH directions and wanted to show an object to rest the heater on,” Oleksyk recalled. “(Don) said, ‘I don’t know. Let’s make it a rock or something. So we wrote ‘rock or something’ on the object, kind of as a joke.”

The joke has legs. As Oleksyk pointed out, there now are T-shirts and other items for sale that bear those words. “Rock or something” even has its own Facebook page.

Introduced to the heater years ago, famed chef Julia Child insisted on following the package directions and activating it by herself. With no rock handy, she decided to employ a wine glass stem.

“Which is so classic Julia,” Oleksyk said, laughing. “So there have been many things other than the rock or something that have been used. There are many, many Soldiers over the years that have their own personal joke about what they might use in place of a rock.”

The FRH is no joke, however. Adding an ounce and a half of water to the magnesium-iron alloy and sodium in the heater will raise the temperature of an eight-ounce MRE entrée by 100 degrees in about 10 minutes.

“Some of the challenges were keeping it lightweight and low volume, and not requiring a lot to activate it,” Oleksyk said.

The heater’s arrival gave warfighters the option of a hot meal wherever they went and whenever they wanted.

“I’ve heard more feedback on this item than any other item I’ve ever worked on in my career here,” said Oleksyk, who has been at Natick nearly 30 years. “They’re so grateful to have this heater in the MRE. It’s almost always used whenever they have 10 minutes to sit down for lunch.”

Prior to the FRH, warfighters used Trioxane fuel bars with canteen cups and cup stands to heat their MRE entrees. As Oleksyk pointed out, the fuel bars couldn’t be packed alongside food in the MRE package.

“So if the fuel bar and the MRE didn’t marry up in the field,” said Oleksyk, “they really had no way to have a hot meal.”

The FRH has remained essentially the same over the past two decades because, as Oleksyk put it, “it’s tough to find a better chemistry that’s lighter in weight, lower in volume and that heats as well.” A larger version has been developed, however.

“We’ve expanded it to a group ration,” Oleksyk said. “So now we have a larger heater that is used to heat the Unitized Group Ration-Express. We call that ration a ‘kitchen in a carton.’ It serves 18 Soldiers.”

The next-generation MRE heater is being tested now, and it will eliminate the need to use one of the most precious commodities in the field.

“The next version of this is a waterless version,” Oleksyk said. “It’s an air-activated heater, so you wouldn’t have to add any water to activate it at all, but that’s still in development and will have to perform better than the FRH overall if it’s ever to replace it.”

Oleksyk remembered sitting on a mountain summit one time during a weekend hike with friends. Suddenly, she heard laughter behind her.

“I hear a guy — sure enough, he says, ‘Yeah, I need a rock or something,'” said Oleksyk, who turned to see him wearing fatigues, holding a Flameless Ration Heater, and telling his buddies how great it was.

“So it’s far reaching,” Oleksyk said. “It really had an impact on the warfighter.”

Articles

Dogfighting in an F-35 is ‘like having a knife fight in a telephone booth’

Civilian pilot Adam Alpert of the Vermont Air National Guard wrote an interesting and enjoyable article on his training experience with the vaunted F-35 in a mock mission to take out nuclear facilities in North Korea.


Chief among the interesting points in the article is a quote from Alpert’s instructor pilot, Lt. Col. John Rahill, about the F-35’s dogfighting ability.

Also read: Beyond the F-35: Air Force and Navy already working on 6th generation fighter

Speaking about the nuanced technical and tactical differences between the F-35, the future plane of the VANG, and the F-16, the VANG’s current plane, Rahill said this:

“If you get into a dogfight with the F-35, somebody made a mistake. It’s like having a knife fight in a telephone booth — very unpredictable.”

The F-35 has been criticized for its dogfighting abilities. But as more information comes to light about the F-35’s mission and purpose, it becomes clearer that measuring the F-35 by its ability to dogfight doesn’t make much more sense than measuring a rifle by its capability as a melee weapon.

“The pilot uses onboard long-range sensors and weapons to destroy the enemy aircraft before ever being seen. The combination of stealth and superior electronic warfare systems makes the F-35 both more lethal and safer,” said Rahill, according to Alpert.

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades
Mission planners could risk four airmen in fifth-generation planes or up to 75 in legacy aircraft when embarking on dangerous missions. US Air Force

In Alpert’s mock mission to North Korea, planners sent only four planes, two F-35s and two F-22s, instead of the older formation of F-18s for electronic attacks, F-15s for air dominance, and F-16s for bombing and airborne early warning. Altogether, the older formation totals about 75 lives at risk versus four pilots at risk with the F-35 version.

Alpert’s piece highlights many of the ways in which the F-35 outclasses the F-16 with an easier, more intuitive interface that allows pilots to focus more on the mission and less on the machine. In fact, Alpert compares the F-35’s controls to an “elaborate video game” with a variety of apps he can call up seamlessly to access any relevant information — including an indicator that tells him how stealthy he is.

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades

Lists

8 tips and tricks to get better at ruck marching

The one exercise that will never leave the military is also the one exercise that requires the most thought. Push-ups? Just find a good form and knock them out. Runs? Just get a good pair of shoes and be fast.


But ruck marching, especially if you’re going over 12 miles, takes more brains than brawn.

If you’re still in or looking forward to Bataan Memorial Death March, this helpful guide will help get you through a ruck march.

Preparation:

1. Carry heavier weights higher in the pack.

The problem most people have with ruck marching is the weight of their pack dragging them down after the first mile. The lower the weight hangs, the more effort it requires. It also causes more knee and back pain, which means more visits to the doc and, eventually, the VA if done incorrectly.

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades
Bring the weight up to your shoulders, not your hips (Photo by Sgt. Patrick Eakin)

2. Always use your best boots, but not the fancy boots.

The best boots are the ones that will give your feet and ankles the best support. The standard-issue boots are actually very good in this respect. Funnily enough, the “high-speed tacticool” boots that everyone seems to buy are actually far worse for your feet on longer ruck marches.

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades
And don’t be that fool who wears the nice boots they regularly wear in uniform. They’ll get dirty fast. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Molly Hampton)

3. Anti-chafing powder and good underwear.

Common sense says that your feet will chafe, but what some people don’t get is that there are also other parts of the body that will rub against itself.

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades
I mean, unless you’re comfortable with that rash and awkward conversations with medics… (Photo by Capt. Michael Merrill)

4. Wear a good pair of socks and keep more on standby.

When it comes to socks, you’ll want to spend a little extra money to get some good pairs. Make sure you bring plenty durable, moisture-wicking socks, because you’ll need to change them constantly.

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades
Every stop. No exceptions. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Danny Gonzalez)

During the Ruck:

5. Don’t run.

If you do find yourself slowing down or getting left behind, take longer strides instead of running.

If you run, you’ll smack the weight of your pack against your spine and exhaust way too much energy to get somewhere slightly faster. Practice that “range walk” that your drill sergeant/instructor got on your ass to learn.

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades
Just find a good pace and stick with the unit. (Photo by Spc. Jonathan Wallace)

6. Daydream.

Pretend you’re somewhere else. Think about literally anything other than the weight on your back or your feet hitting the ground. The hardest part of a ruck march should only be the first quarter mile — everything after that just flies by.

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades

7. Plenty of water, protein and fruits.

There is nothing more important on a ruck march than water. Keep drinking, even if you’re not thirsty. Drink plenty of water before the march, plenty of water during, and plenty of water after the march.

You’ll also lose tons of electrolytes along the way, so stock up on POG-gie bait (junk food) to help keep that water in your system.

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades

After the Ruck:

8. Take care of your blisters.

Even if you follow all of this advice, you may still end up with blisters by the march’s end. Use some moleskin to help take care of them, crack open a cold one, and relax. You earned it.

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades
We decided not to end this on a picture of blisters, so, you’re welcome, everyone-who-isn’t-a-medic-or-grunt. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Sgt. Audrey Hayes)

Articles

Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi testimony started with a bang

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Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is testifying Thursday before the House Select Committee on Benghazi, which is investigating the 2012 attack on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.

And before she even got a word in during the event, which is being televised live, the top Republican and top Democrat on the committee gave lengthy and passionate speeches about its work.

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-South Carolina), the committee chairman, started with a fiery statement ripping into Clinton and rejecting her accusation that his investigation is a partisan sham to try and tear down her presidential campaign.

“Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods served our country with courage and with honor. They were killed under circumstances most of us could never imagine. Under cover of darkness, terrorists poured through the front gate of our facility and attacked our people and our property with machine guns, mortars and fire,” Gowdy began, according to his prepared remarks.

Gowdy called particular attention to Clinton’s controversial and exclusive use of a personal email server at the State Department, which he said had hindered previous investigations into the 2012 attack.

“This committee is the first committee, the only committee, to uncover the fact that Secretary Clinton exclusively used personal email on her own personal server for official business and kept the public record — including emails about Benghazi and Libya — in her own custody and control for almost two years after she left office,” he said.

“You made exclusive use of personal email and a personal server. When you left the State Department you kept those public records to yourself for almost two years. You and your attorneys decided what to return and what to delete. Those decisions were your decisions, not ours.”

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Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland), the Benghazi committee’s ranking member, followed Gowdy’s remarks with a fiery speech of his own dismissing the committee as unnecessary and partisan.

“They set up this select committee with no rules, no deadline, and an unlimited budget. And they set them loose, Madam Secretary, because you’re running for president,” Cummings declared.

“Clearly, it is possible to conduct a serious, bipartisan investigation,” the Democrat added, according to his prepared remarks. “What is impossible is for any reasonable person to continue denying that Republicans are squandering millions of taxpayer dollars on this abusive effort to derail Secretary Clinton’s presidential campaign.”

Cummings pointed to the heated rhetoric of some Republican presidential candidates on the topic, including former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), and Sens. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina).

“Carly Fiorina has said that Secretary Clinton ‘has blood on her hands,’ Mike Huckabee accused her of ‘ignoring the warning calls from dying Americans in Benghazi,’ Senator Rand Paul said ‘Benghazi was a 3:00 a.m. phone call that she never picked up,’ and Senator Lindsay Graham tweeted, ‘Where the hell were you on the night of the Benghazi attack?'” he recalled.

Clinton, who spoke next, took a more measured and soft-spoken approach in her opening statement.

MIGHTY MOVIES

9 Vietnam War movies you’ve got to watch

If you’re hunting for great Vietnam war movies about the conflict and its afterrmath, look no further.

Compiled by the staff of Military.com, some of these are surprising and possibly controversial.

Check out our Vietnam movie recommendations below and share your favorites in the comments.


1. Full Metal Jacket

Besides adding the phrase “major malfunction” to the lexicon of American pop culture, “Full Metal Jacket” gave us the most riveting, foul-mouthed boot camp scene in the history of cinema. R. Lee Ermey’s portrayal of “Gunny Hartman” dominated the movie’s first half. Such a sustained volley of X-rated insults, hurled effortlessly at petrified recruits, could only come from years of experience as a Marine Corps drill instructor – and Ermey had been one. “The more you hate me, the more you will learn,” he tells his Vietnam-bound grunts. Gunny’s six-minute tirade sets the stage for the murderous outcome that closes the first act of Kubrick’s Vietnam movie masterpiece. Casting a real-life DI as a DI: Pure genius. — Marty Callaghan

GOOD MORNING, VIETNAM – Trailer

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2. Good Morning Vietnam

One of Robin Williams’s best roles, this movie brilliantly captures the experience of the Vietnam War through the eyes of someone not actively engaged in the fighting: real life Air Force radio personality Adrian Cronauer. His battles against inept leadership and the mindless bureaucracy that survives–even in a war zone–are something many service members can relate to. His rebellion against what he’s told to do is inspiring and then as he seeks to make his tour less of a soup sandwich by engaging with the local population and helping them, he is ultimately reminded that he is there to fight a war and war does in fact rage all around him. — Sarah Blansett

Rolling Thunder (1977) Trailer

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3. Rolling Thunder

“Rolling Thunder” is neither sensitive to nor concerned with the actual experiences of returning Vietnam POWs. It didn’t win any awards or play in any theater more prestigious than the local drive-in. It’s a low-budget fever dream written by Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull) and directed by the underrated John Flynn (“Out for Justice” starring Steven Seagal and “The Outfit” starring Robert Duvall are both worth tracking down. What you get is a revenge fantasy for every Vietnam war vet who felt the hate when he returned from service.

Major Charle Rane (William Devane) and Johnny Vohden (Tommy Lee Jones) are prisoners of war who get a hero’s welcome on the tarmac when they return to Texas, but things come unraveled immediately thereafter. Devane’s wife announces on his first night home that she’s leaving him for Jody and taking their son. He later gets awarded a Cadillac convertible and a huge box of silver dollars (one for each day in captivity) by the San Antonio city fathers. Some criminal hillbillies see the exchange on the TV news and track him down to steal that money. When he refuses to cooperate, they feed his arm into the garbage disposal and kill his soon-to-be ex-wife and son when they drop by the house to get their stuff.

Rane gets himself a hook to replace his mangled hand and takes up with Linda Forchet (Linda Haynes), a young woman who wore his POW bracelet while he was in North Vietnam. Rane goes on a hunt to deliver justice to the men who killed his family and picks up Johnny in El Paso along the way to help with the mission.

It’s lurid and cathartic, tapping into the same frustration and rage that many of the more awards-friendly Vietnam war movies on this list try to highlight. Sometimes primitive and outlandish works just as well as sensitive and thoughtful when you’re trying to work things out. — James Barber

Bullet In The Head Trailer HD (1990 John Woo)

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4. Bullet in the Head

Part “The Deer Hunter” (see roulette scene) and part “The Killer” but one hundred percent highly stylized John Woo.

After trouble with local gangsters in Hong Kong, three best friends flee to Vietnam at the height of the war in hopes to profit from black market penicillin and gold. The trio is soon captured by the Vietcong who force them to make a choice that will test the limits of their friendship.

Woo’s subtext to the movie relies on and attempts to recreate (as does “The Deer Hunter”) the infamous news photo of General Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing a Viet Cong prisoner in Saigon. While some scenes seem contrived, when taken in context of the Vietnam war, the chaos feels right at home, even welcome. — Sean Mclain Brown

Hamburger Hill – Trailer

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5. Hamburger Hill

“Hamburger Hill” is a gritty war film that focuses on the lives of 14 soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division’s B Company, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment during the 12-day battle that occurred May 10-21, 1969, in the northern part of South Vietnam near the A Shau Valley.

I saw the movie when it came out in 1987 as a young infantryman in the 82nd Airborne Division. I still remember that the film’s depiction of the actual battle left me, and other members of my platoon, in awe of how these Screaming Eagles endured an up-hill fight against a well-entrenched enemy under the most miserable conditions.

The Vietman war movie features a young Don Cheadle, Dylan McDermott and Steven Weber, who later played Brian Hackett in the 1990s sitcom “Wings.” One of the most powerful performances came from Courtney B. Vance who played Spec. Abraham “Doc” Johnson.

The real battle of Hamburger Hill left about 500 enemy soldiers dead. Taking the hill claimed the lives of 39 soldiers from the 187th and left 290 wounded.

To me, “Hamburger Hill” stacks up to “Platoon,” “We were Soldiers” or any other film out there that focuses on the sacrifices infantrymen made during the Vietnam War. — Matthew Cox

Rambo: First Blood – Trailer

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6. First Blood

When you think of Vietnam war movies you generally don’t think about Rambo. But the first movie in the Rambo series, “First Blood,” was in my opinion one of the best Vietnam war movies made.

Rambo meets a megalomaniacal small town police chief who doesn’t want any long-haired drifters hanging around his town, veteran or not. Rambo just wants to be left alone, the police chief wants to make a point, and you know the rest of the story.

Many people around today don’t remember when every veteran wasn’t told “thank you for your service”, or given discounts at every store. This movie shows much of the hate and discontent that returning veterans faced after Vietnam.

Vietnam veterans were drafted and sent away to somewhere that even today 90% of Americans couldn’t find on a map. The war dragged on forever and many think that we could have won.

This Vietman war movie educated the general public to the fact that Vietnam veterans lived through hell, both in the war and when they came back home, for that it deserves to be watched again and appreciated as a statement on the reality that all veterans face when they return to civilian life. — Jim Absher

Apocalypse Now (1979) Official Trailer – Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall Drama Movie HD

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7. Apocalypse Now

“Apocalypse Now” contains a lot of things I love in film – heavy use of symbolism and themes as well as exceptional acting and cinematography. Coppola does a great job of reworking Conrad’s Heart of Darkness for the Vietnam War, extending the themes of imperialism to include the madness of war, while also mixing in Dante. However, the movie feels like an abstraction, not a realistic depiction, and you could easily adapt the same script to our current involvement in Afghanistan. — John Rodriguez

Platoon Official Trailer #1 – Charlie Sheen, Keith David Movie (1986) HD

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8. Platoon

“Platoon” on the other hand plays like a more realistic depiction of the Vietnam War from a soldier’s perspective, which makes sense as Oliver Stone is a Vietnam combat vet. In general the characters are more fleshed out than in similar movies like “Hamburger Hill,” although I do have a hard time taking Charlie Sheen seriously; he’s no Martin. — John Rodriguez

The Deer Hunter – Trailer

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9. The Deer Hunter

Other Vietnam War movies have more grandeur or explosive moments, but Michael Cimino’s “The Deer Hunter” cuts the deepest. Never before had a movie about the conflict tackled head-on the emotional issues that afflict those who serve, come home, and struggle to find a place for themselves — and it’s fair to say no Vietnam War movie has ever captured the rhythms and sorrows of small-town life in the US as well as “The Deer Hunter “does.

The cast alone elevates the movie to among the best ever made: Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep, Christopher Walken in a star-making performance, and John Cazale (Fredo from the “Godfather ” movies) in his very last role before his tragic early death from bone cancer.

Looking for memorable moments? Just utter the words “Russian roulette,” and any movie aficionado will recall the harrowing POW sequences in this film. “The Deer Hunter” is not without controversy — director Cimino reportedly claimed he was in an Army Green Beret unit, but records show he only served briefly before the war started — and watching the movie can be a punishing experience. But as a lyrical, moving piece of cinema that sticks with you, very few movies can come close. — Ho Lin

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


MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army accidentally just revealed a mind-blowing new weapon

It’s no secret that the United States military is working tirelessly to develop new hypersonic weapon systems to close the gap presented by Chinese and Russian platforms that have recently entered into service. Hypersonic weapons, for those unfamiliar, are missile platforms that are capable of maintaining extremely high speeds (in excess of Mach 5). That kind of speed means these weapons impact their targets with a huge amount of kinetic force, and perhaps most important of all, there are currently no existing missile defense systems that can stop a hypersonic projectile.


Sources inside China and Russia have both indicated that these nations already have hypersonic weapons in service, which means the United States is lagging behind the competition in this rapidly expanding field, despite testing hypersonic platforms as far back as the early 2000s. In order to close that gap, the Pentagon has acknowledged at least six different hypersonic programs currently in development, including the U.S. Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike weapon, the U.S. Army’s Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW), and the U.S. Air Force’s AGM-183 Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW, pronounced “arrow”).

However, it’s now clear that Uncle Sam isn’t acknowledging all of the hypersonic programs currently under development, thanks to an unintentional gaff made by U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy at the recent Association of the U.S. Army convention. In a photo that was uploaded to McCarthy’s own Flickr account (it’s still there), a document can be seen on a table in front of him titled, “Vintage Racer – Loitering Weapon System (LWS) Overview.”

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(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Dana Clarke)

McCarthy likely didn’t anticipate that anyone would be able to make out what was written on the sheet of paper in front of him, and to his credit, most probably couldn’t. Aviation Week’s Steve Trimble, however, isn’t most people–and he not only managed to make out a fair portion of what the sheet says, but also has the technical knowledge behind him to make a few assertions about just what “Vintage Racer” may really be.

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“The Vintage Racer concept, as revealed so far, suggests it may be possible to launch a hypersonic projectile into a general area without knowing the specific location of the target,” Trimble wrote in his analysis you can find in full here. “As it reaches the target area, the projectile may be able to dispense a loitering air system, which is then uses its own sensors to find and identify the target.”
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If Trimble’s assertions are right (and they do appear to be based on the document), then “Vintage Racer” could potentially be the most advanced and capable hypersonic weapon anywhere in the world. Most hypersonic weapons currently employ one of two methodologies: they either follow a long arc flight path similar to intercontinental ballistic missiles, gaining extreme speed with a reentry glide vehicle that has to literally re-enter the atmosphere, or they utilize a combination of traditional and scramjet propulsion systems to achieve similar speeds along a linear flight path.

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A DARPA diagram of a hypersonic glide vehicle reentering the atmosphere to engage a target. (DARPA)

In either case, the hypersonic body is, in itself, the weapon: using a combination of warhead and the sheer force of transferred kinetic energy at such high speeds to destroy a target.

“Vintage Racer” on the other hand seems to leverage high speed propulsion to reach hypersonic velocities, but then rather than using all of the energy amassed from moving at that speed, the weapon would instead deploy a “loitering” system that could identify targets in the area and engage them independently with ordnance.

In effect, instead of thinking of “Vintage Racer” as a missile, it might be more apt to think of it as a hypersonic drone not all that unlike the SR-72 program we’ve written about on Sandboxx News before. The platform would enter contested airspace at speeds too high for intercept, deploy its loitering weapon system, and engage one or multiple targets that are identified once the weapon is already in the area. This capability is especially important when it comes to defending against long range ballistic missile launches like nuclear ICBMs employed by a number of America’s opponents, including Russia, China, and North Korea. These missiles are often launched via mobile platforms that move regularly in order to make it difficult to know where or when a nuclear missile launch may come from.

By the time a mobile launcher is identified by satellite or other forms of reconnaissance, there may not be enough time to deploy fighters, bombers, or other weapons to that site in order to stop a missile launch. However, a platform like “Vintage Racer” could feasible cruise into the general area of a launcher at speeds that most air defenses couldn’t stop. From there, it could deploy its loitering asset to locate and identify mobile missile launchers in the area–and then destroy those launchers with its included ordnance.

To further substantiate that possibility, Trimble points to a Russian defense technology expert who recently warned of just such an American platform.

“The fear is that [this] hypersonic ‘something’ might reach the patrol area of road-mobile ICBM launchers [after] penetrating any possible air and missile defense, and then dispense loitering submunitions that will find launchers in the forests,” said Dmitry Stefanovitch, an expert at the Moscow-based Russian International Affairs Council.

This weapon system was also briefly mentioned in Defense Department budget documents released this past February, but aside from calling the effort a success, few other details were included.

Theoretically, a platform like “Vintage Racer” could be used in a number of military operations other than preventing nuclear missile launches. By combining the extreme speed of a hypersonic missile with the loitering and air strike capabilities currently found in armed drones or UAVs, this new weapon could shift the tides of many a battle in America’s favor; from Iranian armed boat swarms, to Russian mobile missile launchers, and even as a form of rapid-delivery close-air-support for Special Operations troops. The potential implications of what may effectively be a Mach 5-capable unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) are far reaching.

In warfare, speed often dictates the outcome of an engagement–and “Vintage Racer” sounds like it has that in spades.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the Army’s battle dress throughout the centuries

From rags to spit-and-polish boots, from scratchy blue wool to the new operational camouflage pattern, from tricorn hat to helmet, the Army uniform has changed drastically through the years. In honor of the U.S. Army’s 240th birthday, and the launch of the Operational Camouflage Pattern, Soldiers takes a look at the evolution of battle dress from the Revolution through today.


The Revolutionary War

Early in the war, most Soldiers simply wore what they had, whether that was a state militia uniform, frontier dress (as seen here in the 1777 battle of Saratoga) or even their regular clothes. Washington actually ordered the use of fringed hunting shirts as a field garment to provide some uniformity until the Continental Army had a more consistent uniform.

Also read: Dress uniforms from every military branch, ranked

Supply problems throughout the war – sometimes Congress actually failed to authorize uniform funds – forced many Soldiers to huddle in blankets in the winter and tie rags around their feet when their shoes wore out.

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Even officers’ uniforms varied widely. Here, Washington sports the blue and buff regimentals he designed, whereas an aide-de-camp wears brown and another general wears black. The officers’ ribbons, instituted by Washington, indicate their various ranks and positions. Noncommissioned officers were distinguished by epaulettes or strips of cloth on the right shoulder.

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Later in the war, Continental Army uniforms became more standardized. Here, Soldiers wear the uniforms prescribed in1779: blue coats lined with white and trimmed with white buttons, worn with white overalls and waistcoats. The colors facing the coats identified Soldiers by region or branch.

For example, the lieutenant on the right wears blue faced with buff and shoulder epaulettes, indicating he is an infantry officer from New Jersey or New York. The Soldier on the left is an artillery private.

In 1782, blue coats faced with red became standard for everyone except generals and staff officers.

The War of 1812

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During the War of 1812, the Army began cutting uniform cloth at the Philadelphia Arsenal before distributing it to master tailors, in the hopes of insuring greater uniformity and more efficient sizing.

Uniforms were highly influenced by the dress of European armies. The version adopted in 1813 and used for the next two decades was single-breasted blue coat with black herringbone false buttonholes and gold bullet buttons. (High boots were only authorized for generals and general staff officers.)

Related: How new Army and Marine uniforms are signaling a looming ‘big ass fight’

The gray uniform on the right was adopted in March 1814 as an alternate because of a shortage of blue cloth. A detachment of riflemen in green summer linen rifle frocks stands at attention in the background.

The Mexican-American War

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The heat and the dust of the Southwest had a major impact on the Army’s uniforms, and Army leaders began to see the need for separate field and dress uniforms. Fatigue jackets, first introduced in 1833, light blue pants (with stripes for officers and NCOs) and forage caps became the field dress. (Many cavalrymen/dragoons like the Soldier on the left wore a yellow band on their forage caps, in contradiction to regulations.)

Most officers wore the dark blue frock coat seen on the first lieutenant to the right. His light blue trousers with a white stripe down the side and the silver buttons on his coat indicate infantry.

The Soldiers the background wear the universal dress of the enlisted infantryman: light blue fatigue jackets and trousers.

The Civil War

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(U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

The trend throughout the mid-19th century was increased simplicity and practicality for uniforms. New regulations in 1851 (refined in 1858 and 1860) had introduced the blue wool frock coat as the service uniform for all Soldiers, a style worn throughout the Civil War, with double-breasted coats worn by field grade officers and above. Mounted troops wore jackets with sky blue trousers.

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The later regulations updated the Army campaign hat, and introduced a four-button sack coat (as seen on the first sergeant above) and forage cap, often known as a kepi, for field wear.

In practice, many uniforms were purchased by individual states, privately tailored or were made at home by mothers, wives and sisters, and there was an enormous amount of variety on the battlefield.

The Spanish-American War

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Cpl. Thomas Gorman of the 3rd Regiment, Texas Volunteer Infantry poses for a photo in 1898. (U.S. Army History and Heritage Command)

The Spanish-American war was the last time the blue Army field uniform was used in a major campaign. During the war, Soldiers wore a uniform and campaign hat adopted in the 1880s. For enlisted infantrymen this meant a dark blue wool shirt or jacket, light blue wool trousers, brown canvas leggings and a drab campaign hat.

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The standard officer uniform was an undress coat trimmed with black mohair braid that was introduced in 1895, dark blue breeches, black boots and drab campaign hat.

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(U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

Cavalry Soldiers typically tied neckerchiefs around their necks, as these Spanish-American War veterans demonstrate after the war. (The famous Rough Riders wore lighter blue shirts and brown trousers to set them apart.) The Soldier on the left wears the new, khaki uniform that was issued in late 1898, after forces returned from Cuba.

World War I

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A World War I Soldier with full pack, circa 1818. (U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

The standard uniform in World War I was the service coat and breeches introduced in the first decade of the century, when sweeping War Department reforms included almost every article of clothing. Khaki and olive drab continued to replace blue, black leather changed to russet, chevrons became smaller and pointed up instead of down, and even insignia and buttons changed.

More: Why the US military has shoulder pockets on combat uniforms

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Thanks to the vast amounts of olive drab wool the Army needed during the war, uniform color varied from mustard green to brown. Other variations occurred when many officers like this lieutenant colonel had their uniforms tailored in England or France. Officers also adopted the British brown leather Sam Browne belt and wore high, brown boots instead of the leggings and brown shoes worn by enlisted Soldiers. Another item of equipment widely used by the American Expeditionary Forces was the British basin pattern steel helmet.

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(U.S. Army Signal Museum)

World War I was the first conflict in which large numbers women officially went to war, both as nurses and as telephone operators – “Hello Girls” – for the Signal Corps in France. (A few women were also attached to other branches such as the Quartermaster Corps.) They needed uniforms. The Army issued them Navy blue wool, Norfolk-style jackets and matching wool skirts, as seen in this photograph of the Hello Girls. (Hello Girls and nurses wore similar uniforms.)

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Here, an Army nurse (center) wears the navy blue worsted military overcoat and velour hat, and high tan shoes prescribed in August 1917. (A Red Cross nurse is on the left in a dress similar to what nurses would have worn for hospital work.)

World War II

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(U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

In the late 1930s, the Army introduced trousers to replace the jodhpur-like service breeches that had been in use since the turn of the century. The new trousers were worn with shorter, dismounted leggings made of khaki canvas. The introduction of a comfortable and practical field jacket in 1940 quickly relegated the service coat to garrison wear. The rounded, steel M-1 helmet made its appearance in 1941, as did new, herringbone twill, olive drab fatigues.

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(U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

After fighting began, the quartermaster general recommended several changes to make the uniform more practical, and suggested a layering system in 1943 that would keep troops warm during the cold European winters, standardized as the M-1943 field ensemble with cap, four-pocket field jacket, detachable jacket hood, field trousers and service shirt. Heavy winter coats and jackets were also available as seen in this 1944 photo of troops in Belgium. 1943 also saw the introduction of combat boots with attached leather gaiters and the field cap.

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(U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

Although an early form of camouflage was more heavily used in the Pacific, this photo taken in France in July 1944 shows that the Army did use it in Europe, particularly the 2nd Infantry Division. However, the experiment was not a success: Other Allied troops mistook the Soldiers for Nazis. Even in the Pacific, units found that the olive drab uniform offered better concealment.

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Soldiers in the Pacific fought in herringbone twill fatigues in olive drab shade number seven, which was adopted in 1943 as summer combat clothing. Local commanders had the option of allowing troops to roll their sleeves up and leave their collars open.

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Female Soldiers in the Women’s Army Corps get ready to disembark from their transport ship in an unknown location during World War II. (U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

In 1943, the Women’s Army Corps joined the Army Nurse Corps as a permanent part of the Army. Female service and field uniforms paralleled those worn by the men, albeit with a skirt.

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Army nurses train to follow the fighting man: Because the Soldier fights over hills and barricaded areas, these nurses at Fort Baker, California, train to follow him wherever he goes to engage the enemy, ready to supply ever aid and comfort possible to the wounded, 1943. (U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

In some forward or malaria-prone areas, women could replace their skirts with slacks (or even altered male trousers), as these nurses demonstrate in a training photo from 1943.

Also read: This is why there’s no excuse for Hollywood to screw up military uniforms

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In the Pacific, female personnel traded their stockings and Cuban heel shoes for cotton anklets and high quarter russet field service shoes.

The Korean War

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Two men find that several days rain has made their foxhole a small water tank. Trying to bail some of the water out with their helmets are Sgt. Robert LeGregor (left) and Sgt. George Rainwater, both of the 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division. (U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

Uniforms worn in the Korean War were those of an Army in transition and reflected innovations from the closing days of World War II. In fact, the original fatigues in this conflict were leftover World War II summer uniforms from the Pacific theater.

The combat boot widely used in Korea was actually the old service shoe with a double-buckle cuff. Its flesh-out leather was no longer treated with dubbin, but instead was rubbed smooth to accept polish.

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Sgt. 1st Class Elijah McLaughlin (left front), leads his squad down a steep hill, northwest of the Chongchon River, as they begin a 1,500-yard advance to another hill. Assistant squad leader Cpl. Luther Anderson is in the right front, Nov. 20, 1950. (U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

Adjustments had to be quickly made for the frigid Korean winter, and Soldiers needed heavy overcoats. Herringbone twill cotton clothing in a dark olive drab shade became the battle dress, with large pockets providing a convenient means to store rations and other vital items.

The Vietnam War

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(Photo by Pfc. Norman F. Bachman, U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

At first glance, uniforms worn during Vietnam are remarkably similar to those worn during the Korean War, but as the war wore on, modifications in basic weapons, clothing and equipment came rapidly as the Army tried to solve the special problems encountered in hot and humid Vietnam. The updated, wind-resistant fatigue jackets and pants brought back the use of cargo pockets and other utilitarian features. Fast-drying boots with nylon uppers accompanied the uniform.

Olive green underclothing and subdued ranks and nametapes, which became a requirement in 1968, reduced the chances of giving away one’s position to the enemy.

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Members of the Women’s Army Corps and Army nurses, seen here caring for Vietnamese refugees in 1975, typically wore uniforms similar to the men: two-piece tropical combat uniforms of olive-green, rip-stop cotton poplin.

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(Photo by Spc. 5 Raymond C. Jewett, U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

Special Forces Soldiers quickly realized they needed more concealment than their olive drab fatigues could provide. Very early on – this Special Forces unit was photographed in country in 1964 – this meant the duck hunter camouflage pattern that dated from World War II.

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(Photo by Spc. 5 Thomas A Seddon, Jr., U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

The uniform was unsatisfactory, however, and Special Forces quickly adopted the tiger stripe camouflage used by rangers in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, as seen on this sergeant first class in February 1968. Because tiger stripe was not official Army issue, units contracted local tailors to produce the uniforms, leading to a lot of variation.

By the end of the war, a precursor to the woodland battle dress uniform pattern, known as ERDL, had been introduced.

1981-2004

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(Military History Institute, U.S. Army History and Heritage Command)

The Army’s iconic battle dress uniform made its appearance in 1981. (By 1988, there was a hot-weather version as well.) Its woodland pattern meant that for the first time, all Soldiers wore camouflage, and the uniform saw service in operations around the world, including Grenada in 1983, Panama in 1989, Haiti in 1994 and the Balkans in the late 1990s.

Also read: This is how US Army uniforms have changed since the Revolutionary War

Properties of the fabric and the use of miniature rank insignia on the collar further reduced the chance of detection. The Army also issued an improved protective vest, new helmet and new field coat. A redesigned boot drew upon the best features of commercial hiking and camping gear to extend the Soldier’s capabilities in a field environment. The Army also issued a new personal armor system for ground troops, which included a new helmet and Kevlar vest.

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades
(U.S. Army History and Heritage Command)

Around the same time, the Army introduced the six-color desert battle dress uniform, often called chocolate chip camouflage. It was intended for limited use by Special Operations troops, and in military exercises in the Middle East. Although a logistics glitch kept it from being issued to all deployed Soldiers, this uniform is most closely associated with Operation Desert Storm. It was also used by some troops in Somalia in 1993.

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades
Soldiers practice house-breaching techniques in their desert combat uniforms. (U.S. Army)

After Soldiers reported that the dark patches on the DBDU made it difficult to blend into the terrain effectively, the Army began issuing a new, three-color desert camouflage uniform in July 1991. (Only a few Soldiers were issued the uniform before the end of Operation Desert Storm.) It had been developed using soil samples from throughout the Middle East. This uniform, with improved, lighter boots, was still in use more than a decade later when Soldiers began deploying to Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 (many Soldiers were issued body armor in the woodland pattern).

2004-2014

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jeffery Sandstrum)

The Army combat uniform, featuring a universal, digitized gray and green camouflage took the place of both the BDU and the DCU in June 2004. The new uniform added additional pockets, a mandarin collar that could be worn up or down, zippers, moved the rank insignia to the center of the chest and featured hook-and-loop tape for name tapes, rank insignia and badges. Later updates included flame-resistant material and the option for sewn-on tapes and badges. The accompanying t-shirt and socks were moisture wicking.

Although the black beret had been authorized for wear with field uniforms as well as service uniforms in 2001, it was further approved for use in a combat zone with the introduction of the ACU.

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades
(Department of Defense photo by Spc. Blair Neelands)

In 2007, the Army authorized the moisture-wicking, flame-resistant Army combat shirt, originally designed to be worn under the new improved outer tactical vest (also introduced in 2007) in warm weather. The sleeves featured the universal camouflage pattern, and included cargo pockets and elbow pads.

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Shane Hamann)

To allow Soldiers to operate more effectively in Afghanistan’s varied terrains, the Army introduced a new multicam pattern for the ACU, featuring seven shades of greens, browns and beige. It was issued to deployed Soldiers starting in 2010. A matching combat shirt was also available. Mountain combat boots featured a tougher, more durable sole.

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kandi Huggins)

With women taking on more combat roles than ever, their uniforms and gear are almost identical to their male counterparts. The Army even issued a new version of the tactical vest – one specifically designed for women’s bodies – in 2013.

2015 and Beyond

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades
(PEO Soldier)

The Army will begin issuing Army combat uniforms in the operational camouflage pattern, which is similar to multicam, in the summer of 2015. The cut is based on the ACU, but lower leg pockets will be closed by a button instead of hook and loop tape thanks to Soldiers’ concerns that the old fastener made too much noise in combat environments. Pockets for kneepads and elbow pads will also be removed. The Army uniform board is still considering other changes, including a return to the fold-down collar, adjustments to the infrared square identification for friend or foe, the removal of one of three pen pockets on the ACU sleeve and the elimination of the drawstring on the trouser waistband.

The Army is expected to retire the digital universal camouflage pattern in 2018.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Oracle founder backs nemesis Amazon in supporting US military

In a wide-ranging interview with Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo, Oracle founder and executive chairman Larry Ellison had a few choice things to say about Google’s newfound disdain for the U.S. military.

“Well I think it’s actually kind of shocking. Here Jeff Bezos and I absolutely agree,” Ellison said, in a rare show of kind words for the competitor that Ellison spends most of his time these days trash-talking.


Bartiromo had asked Ellison about the fight going on in the cloud computing industry over a massive cloud contract from the Department of Defense. The DoD will award the whole contract, worth about billion, to just one company. By all accounts the winner is expected to be Amazon Web Services. Oracle is one a handful of cloud competitors fighting tooth and nail to grab a portion of the contract away from AWS.

In recent weeks, cloud competitor Google dropped its bid for the contract. Google cited a new policy not to use its technology for military purposes., a policy that came about after an employee uprising on the matter. Google also admitted it was dropping the bid because its cloud hadn’t yet achieved all the government certifications that the DoD was asking for.

This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades

Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

(Flickr photo by Nguyen Hung Vu)

Fox’s Bartiromo suggested that there’s some hypocrisy with Google’s policies: it doesn’t want to do work for the US DoD but Google is reportedly trying to return to the Chinese market with a search engine that the Chinese government can sensor.

Ellison agreed.

“I think U.S. tech companies who say we will not support the U.S. Military, we will not work on any technology that helps our military, but yet goes into China and facilitates the Chinese government surveilling their people is pretty shocking,” he said.

To be fair, numerous Google employees are also protesting the company’s plans to return to China, just as they protested the military work. So the situation is more about whether Google yields to employee protests about China rather than a double-standard in the company’s business ambitions. If Google’s management had its way, it would presumably be doing business with both the military and China.

Bezos has also spoken out against Google’s policies.”If big tech companies are going to turn their back on the Department of Defense, this country is going to be in trouble,” Bezos told Wired in October 2018.

Bezos doubled down by donating million to With Honor, a political action committee fund trying to get more veterans elected to Congress.

Ellison also told Bartiromo, “I think it’s very important that U.S. technology companies support our country, our government. We are a democracy. If we don’t like our leaders, we can throw them out. If you don’t like the leaders in China, you can … fill in the blank.”

He went on to say he views China as a big threat to the U.S. these days.

“I think our big competitor is China, and that if we let China’s economy pass us up — if we let China produce more engineers than we do, if we let China’s technology companies beat our technology companies, it won’t be long that our military is behind technologically also,” he warned.

Here’s a segment of the interview where he discusses China.

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

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