In the event World War III broke out between the Soviet Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Sweden intended to remain neutral.
After all, they’d managed to sit out World Wars I and II.
But there’s also a growing recognition that their neutrality would not be respected. A 2015 New York Times report noted that a Russian submarine sank in Swedish waters in 1916 after colliding with a Swedish vessel. In the 1980s, there were also a number of incidents, the most notorious being “Whiskey on the Rocks.” According to WarHistoryOnline.com, a Soviet Whiskey-class diesel-electric submarine ran aground off the Swedish coast in 1981, prompting a standoff between Swedish and Soviet forces that included scrambling fighters armed with anti-ship missiles.
The Soviets knew Sweden could threaten their northern flank, and the Swedes knew that they may well have to fight the Soviet Union, even though they were neutral. Should a NATO-Warsaw Pact war break out, the Swedes made contingency plans to be able to deploy their Air Force, and keep fighting in the event the Soviets attacked.
Long before Chris Kyle penned “American Sniper,” Carlos Hathcock was already a legend.
He taught himself to shoot as a boy, just like Alvin York and Audie Murphy before him. He had dreamed of being a U.S. Marine his whole life and enlisted in 1959 at just 17 years old. Hathcock was an excellent sharpshooter by then, winning the Wimbledon Cup shooting championship in 1965, the year before he would deploy to Vietnam and change the face of American warfare forever.
He deployed in 1966 as a military policeman, but immediately volunteered for combat and was soon transferred to the 1st Marine Division Sniper Platoon, stationed at Hill 55, South of Da Nang. This is where Hathcock would earn the nickname “White Feather” — because he always wore a white feather on his bush hat, daring the North Vietnamese to spot him — and where he would achieve his status as the Vietnam War’s deadliest sniper in missions that sound like they were pulled from the pages of Marvel comics.
White Feather vs. The General
Early morning and early evening were Hathcock’s favorite times to strike. This was important when he volunteered for a mission he knew nothing about.
“First light and last light are the best times,” he said. ” In the morning, they’re going out after a good nights rest, smoking, laughing. When they come back in the evenings, they’re tired, lollygagging, not paying attention to detail.”
He observed this first hand, at arms reach, when trying to dispatch a North Vietnamese Army General officer. For four days and three nights, he low crawled inch by inch, a move he called “worming,” without food or sleep, more than 1500 yards to get close to the general. This was the only time he ever removed the feather from his cap.
“Over a time period like that you could forget the strategy, forget the rules and end up dead,” he said. “I didn’t want anyone dead, so I took the mission myself, figuring I was better than the rest of them, because I was training them.”
Hathcock moved to a treeline near the NVA encampment.
“There were two twin .51s next to me,” he said. “I started worming on my side to keep my slug trail thin. I could have tripped the patrols that came by.” The general stepped out onto a porch and yawned. The general’s aide stepped in front of him and by the time he moved away, the general was down, the bullet went through his heart. Hathcock was 700 yards away.
“I had to get away. When I made the shot, everyone ran to the treeline because that’s where the cover was.” The soldiers searched for the sniper for three days as he made his way back. They never even saw him.
“Carlos became part of the environment,” said Edward Land, Hathcock’s commanding officer. “He totally integrated himself into the environment. He had the patience, drive, and courage to do the job. He felt very strongly that he was saving Marine lives.” With 93 confirmed kills – his longest was at 2500 yards – and an estimated 300 more, for Hathcock, it really wasn’t about the killing.
“I really didn’t like the killing,” he once told a reporter. “You’d have to be crazy to enjoy running around the woods, killing people. But if I didn’t get the enemy, they were going to kill the kids over there.” Saving American lives is something Hathcock took to heart.
“The Best Shot I Ever Made”
“She was a bad woman,” Carlos Hathcock once said of the woman known as ‘Apache.’ “Normally kill squads would just kill a Marine and take his shoes or whatever, but the Apache was very sadistic. She would do anything to cause pain.” This was the trademark of the female Viet Cong platoon leader. She captured Americans in the area around Carlos Hathcock’s unit and then tortured them without mercy.
“I was in her backyard, she was in mine. I didn’t like that,” Hathcock said. “It was personal, very personal. She’d been torturing Marines before I got there.”
In November of 1966, she captured a Marine Private and tortured him within earshot of his own unit.
“She tortured him all afternoon, half the next day,” Hathcock recalls. “I was by the wire… He walked out, died right by the wire. “Apache skinned the private, cut off his eyelids, removed his fingernails, and then castrated him before letting him go. Hathcock attempted to save him, but he was too late.
Carlos Hathcock had enough. He set out to kill Apache before she could kill any more Marines. One day, he and his spotter got a chance. The observed an NVA sniper platoon on the move. At 700 yards in, one of them stepped off the trail and Hathcock took what he calls the best shot he ever made.
“We were in the midst of switching rifles. We saw them,” he remembered. “I saw a group coming, five of them. I saw her squat to pee, that’s how I knew it was her. They tried to get her to stop, but she didn’t stop. I stopped her. I put one extra in her for good measure.”
A Five-Day Engagement
One day during a forward observation mission, Hathcock and his spotter encountered a newly minted company of NVA troops. They had new uniforms, but no support and no communications.
“They had the bad luck of coming up against us,” he said. “They came right up the middle of the rice paddy. I dumped the officer in front my observer dumped the one in the back.” The last officer started running the opposite direction.
“Running across a rice paddy is not conducive to good health,” Hathcock remarked. “You don’t run across rice paddies very fast.”
According to Hathcock, once a Sniper fires three shots, he leaves. With no leaders left, after three shots, the opposing platoon wasn’t moving.
“So there was no reason for us to go either,” said the sniper. “No one in charge, a bunch of Ho Chi Minh’s finest young go-getters, nothing but a bunch of hamburgers out there.” Hathcock called artillery at all times through the coming night, with flares going on the whole time. When morning came, the NVA were still there.
“We didn’t withdraw, we just moved,” Hathcock recalled. “They attacked where we were the day before. That didn’t get far either.”
White Feather and The M2
Though the practice had been in use since the Korean War, Carlos Hathcock made the use of the M2 .50 caliber machine gun as a long-range sniper weapon a normal practice. He designed a rifle mount, built by Navy Seabees, which allowed him to easily convert the weapon.
“I was sent to see if that would work,” He recalled. “We were elevated on a mountain with bad guys all over. I was there three days, observing. On the third day, I zeroed at 1000 yards, longest 2500. Here comes the hamburger, came right across the spot where it was zeroed, he bent over to brush his teeth and I let it fly. If he hadn’t stood up, it would have gone over his head. But it didn’t.” The distance of that shot was 2,460 yards – almost a mile and a half – and it stood as a record until broken in 2002 by Canadian sniper Arron Perry in Afghanistan.
White Feather vs. The Cobra
“If I hadn’t gotten him just then,” Hathcock remembers, “he would have gotten me.”
Many American snipers had a bounty on their heads. These were usually worth one or two thousand dollars. The reward for the sniper with the white feather in his bush cap, however, was worth $30,000. Like a sequel to Enemy at The Gates, Hathcock became such a thorn in the side of the NVA that they eventually sent their own best sniper to kill him. He was known as the Cobra and would become Hathcock’s most famous encounter in the course of the war.
“He was doing bad things,” Hathcock said. “He was sent to get me, which I didn’t really appreciate. He killed a gunny outside my hooch. I watched him die. I vowed I would get him some way or another.” That was the plan. The Cobra would kill many Marines around Hill 55 in an attempt to draw Hathcock out of his base.
“I got my partner, we went out we trailed him. He was very cagey, very smart. He was close to being as good as I was… But no way, ain’t no way ain’t nobody that good.” In an interview filmed in the 1990s, He discussed how close he and his partner came to being a victim of the Cobra.
“I fell over a rotted tree. I made a mistake and he made a shot. He hit my partner’s canteen. We thought he’d been hit because we felt the warmness running over his leg. But he’d just shot his canteen dead.”
Eventually the team of Hathcock and his partner, John Burke, and the Cobra had switched places.
“We worked around to where he was,” Hathcock said. “I took his old spot, he took my old spot, which was bad news for him because he was facing the sun and glinted off the lens of his scope, I saw the glint and shot the glint.” White Feather had shot the Cobra just moments before the Cobra would have taken his own shot.
“I was just quicker on the trigger otherwise he would have killed me,” Hathcock said. “I shot right straight through his scope, didn’t touch the sides.”
With a wry smile, he added: “And it didn’t do his eyesight no good either.”
1969, a vehicle Hathcock was riding in struck a landmine and knocked the Marine unconscious. He came to and pulled seven of his fellow Marines from the burning wreckage. He left Vietnam with burns over 40 percent of his body. He received the Silver Star for this action in 1996.
After the mine ended his sniping career, he established the Marine Sniper School at Quantico, teaching Marines how to “get into the bubble,” a state of complete concentration. He was in intense pain as he taught at Quantico, suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, the disease that would ultimately kill him — something the NVA could never accomplish.
The acting Navy secretary is reportedly under a lot of pressure from President Donald Trump to get the USS Gerald R. Ford to work, something his predecessor failed to do.
The aircraft carrier is over budget, behind schedule, and still experiencing problems with certain key technologies, namely the advanced weapons elevators built to quickly deliver munitions to the flight deck.
“The Ford is something the president is very concerned about,” Thomas Modly, who very recently took over as acting secretary of the Navy after former secretary Richard Spencer resigned, said at the US Naval Institute Defense Forum this week, Military.com reports.
“I think his concerns are justified because the ship is very, very expensive and it needs to work,” he added, explaining that there is a “trail of tears as to why we are where we are, but we need to fix that ship and make sure that it works.”
Modly assured the audience that fixing the Ford would be a top priority. “There is nothing worse than a ship like this being out there … as a metaphor and a whipping boy for why the Navy can’t do anything right,” he said, according to the outlet.
The aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford steams in the Atlantic Ocean, Oct. 27, 2019.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Connor Loessin)
Spencer, Modly’s predecessor, had previously staked his job on getting the Ford working properly, promising President Trump that he would get the elevators working by the end of the post-shakedown availability or the president could fire him.
The PSA ended in October with only a handful of elevators operational. The Ford is currently going through post-delivery tests and trials, with plans for the elevator issues to be sorted over this 18-month period.
As Spencer was questioned about accountability, the former Navy secretary sharply criticized the Navy’s primary shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII), accusing the company of having “no idea” what it was doing with the Ford.
Gerald R. Ford under construction at Huntington Ingalls Industries-Newport News Shipbuilding.
(U.S. Navy photo by Ricky Thompson)
Now, the Ford’s challenges have fallen in Modly’s lap.
“Everything that the Ford should be able to do is going to be a game-changer for us,” the acting Navy secretary said, according to Military.com. “We just have to make sure that it can do it because we’ve got several more coming behind it.”
The USS John F. Kennedy, the second Ford-class carrier, was slated to be christened Saturday. The Navy has two more of the new supercarriers on the way after that.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Russia claims to be developing an unstoppable nuclear-powered cruise missile, a weapon with roots in technology the US considered too expensive, too complicated, too dangerous, and too unnecessary to pursue.
Little is known about Russia’s doomsday weapon, as it has been described, but the missile has links to systems the Americans and Soviets looked at during the Cold War, systems that both sides eventually gave up on.
During the Cold War, both the US and the Soviet Union “were looking at every possible idea for how to solve this problem of assured destruction,” John Pike, founder of GlobalSecurity.org, told Insider, explaining that they pursued ideas that while theoretically possible sometimes failed to close the important gap between possible and militarily useful.
In a time of renewed great power competition, the US and Russia, as nonproliferation expert Jeffrey Lewis wrote recently, “seem to be drifting into a new arms race, either out of some bizarre nostalgia or because no one can think of anything better to do.”
Last year, Putin revealed a handful of weapons, some of which have been described as “doomsday weapons.” Among them was the Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, which NATO calls the SSC-X-9 Skyfall. The Russian president has stated that the aim is to defeat American missile defense systems.
“A nuclear-powered cruise missile is an outrageous idea, one the United States long ago considered and rejected as a technical, strategic, and environmental nightmare,” Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program for the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, wrote in an article for Foreign Policy.
In the 1960s, the US looked at developing its own nuclear-powered cruise missiles, but Project Pluto, as the program was called, was ultimately abandoned. “It’s a bad idea,” Pike, a leading expert on defense, space, and intelligence policy, said. “It’s a stupid idea,” he added, further explaining that traditional ICBMs, like the Minuteman, were a “much simpler, much cheaper, and much more effective way to incinerate” an adversary.
Pike, who is deeply skeptical of Russia’s claims, characterized a nuclear-powered cruise missile as “an act of desperation.”
‘Expensive, complicated, dangerous, unnecessary.’
Hans Kristensen, the director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, told Task Purpose recently that the US gave up on developing a nuclear-powered cruise missile because “it was too difficult, too dangerous, and too expensive.”
The Americans and the Soviets also looked at the development of nuclear-powered aircraft in hopes of fielding bombers with unprecedented endurance, but these projects never panned out. For the US, these planes were going to be the Air Force equivalent of a ballistic missile submarine, Pike explained, noting that “these things could be on continuous patrol.”
In the 1950s, the US tested the NB-36H Crusader that carried an onboard nuclear reactor, but decided against this technology.
(US Air Force)
The problem was that nuclear-powered aircraft, like nuclear-powered cruise missiles, were “expensive, complicated, dangerous, unnecessary,” Pike said, calling such technology “hazardous.” He told Insider that mid-air refueling eventually made this project pointless.
Yet, here Russia is purportedly trying to revive this troubled idea to threaten the US. “A lot of technology has developed,” Kristensen told TP. “It could be some of what the Russian technicians are taking advantage of, but so far it seems like they’re not doing a good job.”
Indeed, testing hasn’t gone very well. There have been around a dozen tests, and in each case the weapon has not worked as intended. A recent explosion at the Nyonoksa military weapons testing range that killed a handful of people is suspected to be linked to the Burevestnik, although Russia has not been particularly forthcoming with the details of what exactly happened.
Russia has indicated that it was working with new weapons, and recently-released data on the cloud of inert radioactive gases created by the blast suggests that a nuclear reactor was likely involved, giving support to the theory that this may have been part of testing for a nuclear-powered cruise missile.
As for Russia’s Skyfall, expert observers suspect that Russia is either bluffing and that the weapon’s stated development is a deception or that Russia is covering up its failings as it tries to get a Cold War-era bad idea to fly.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The US Navy stands unmatched on earth in terms of size and ability, but Iran’s IRGC ships are small, fast, deadly, and designed specifically to present an asymmetrical threat to the toughest ships on earth.
The IRGC doesn’t have any interest going toe to toe with the US Navy by building its own destroyers or carriers, instead, it’s formed a “guerrilla army at sea” of vicious speedboats with guns, explosives, and some anti-ship missiles, Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst at geopolitical consulting firm Stratfor, told Business Insider.
“They understand full well that there’s a decisive qualitative disadvantage against the US and its allies,” Lamrani said of the IRGC. “They know they can’t win, so they plan to attack in a very fast way with many, many small ships swarming the US vessels to overwhelm them.”
Iran’s fast attack craft, the type repeatedly used to harass US Navy ships.
(Fars News Agency photo)
Currently, that situation is exactly what the IRGC is training for. US officials said that more than 50 small boats are now practicing “swarming” attacks to potentially shut down the strait which sees about 30% of the world’s oil pass through, according to Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson .
For the Iranians, it’s a suicide mission. But in Iran’s struggle to oppose the US at any cost, something it sees as a spiritual matter, they could employ these little ships and irregular warfare to cripple the US Navy.
How the US would fight back
If the US knew a hostile group of IRGC fast attack craft were swarming around the Gulf trying to close down the Strait of Hormuz, there’s no question its destroyers and other aircraft carrying ships could unleash their helicopters to strafe the ships to the bottom of the sea. With enough notice, nearby US Air Force planes like the A-10 Warthog could even step in.
“The biggest weapon [US Navy ships] have against these swarm boats is the helicopter. Helicopters equipped with mini guns have the ability to fire very fast and create standoff distance to engage them,” said Lamrani.
Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Levi Horn observes as Operations Specialist 3rd Class Monica Ruiz fires a 50-caliber machine gun during a live-fire qualification aboard amphibious assault ship USS Boxer.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brian Caracci)
If some swarming ships did break through, the Navy has automated close-in weapons systems and missiles it can fire to pick the ships off. But, “the problem is, with these swarm boats, there’s only so much they can engage before the vessels get in range and cause damage.”
That means the ideal scenario for the US, where it sees the enemy a ways out and can call in devastating air power, likely won’t happen. Iran knows it can only win with a sneak attack, so Lamrani thinks that’s how they’ll do it.
“If they decide to do this, they’re going to go as fast as possible, in as many numbers as possible before they get wrecked,” said Lamrani.
The US Navy’s lack of training against low-end threats like speedboats further exacerbates the problem. Navy watchers frequently point out the force is stretched thin across a wide spectrum of missions, and that surface warfare, especially against a guerilla force, hasn’t been a priority.
“Given the constraints, this is a very, very effective tactic, very cost effective,” said Lamrani. “Even if they lost an entire fleet of speedboats and they managed to sink an aircraft carrier, a cruiser, a destroyer,” the effect would be devastating.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In the early days of World War II, battleships were still considered kings and all of the combatants hunted for their enemies’ greatest ships. The battleship Bismarck, the largest battleship in commission at the start of 1941, was the pride of the German Kriegsmarine and an epic combatant. Britain desperately wanted to sink her before she could break into the open Atlantic.
Luckily for Britain, a badly timed, badly encoded radio transmission allowed British warships to find and kill the vessel.
The Bismarck fires during the Battle of the Denmark Straits in May, 1941. It sank the pride of the Royal Navy, the HMS Hood, during the engagement.
(German federal archives)
In May, 1941, the U.S. and Russia had not yet joined the Allies as combatants, and Britain had already been pushed entirely off the continent. Morale was low in Great Britain, and its control of the seas was challenged by German U-boats that preyed upon convoys from the U.S.
One of Britain’s greatest fears was that Germany would starve the island kingdom out, potentially by sending more and larger ships into the Atlantic to prey on shipping. One of the most frightful possibilities was the Bismarck, a massive craft that was, at the time, the largest battleship in active service in the world (Japan’s Yamato-class and America’s Iowa-class would later beat its records).
The Bismarck had 16-inch guns and thick armor, and it could hit most convoys with impunity if it ever broke out of the Baltic and North seas. In May, 1941, it attempted to do just that.
Spoilers are above, but this story originally played out over 70 years ago, so you should’ve seen it already by now.
(Citypeek, CC BY-SA 3.0)
The Bismarck left port on May 18 and attempted to slip out undetected. It made it through the North Sea with the Prinz Eugen as well as a number of smaller vessels. But when the flotilla passed between Denmark and Sweden into the North Sea, Norwegian resistance members and Swedish forces got a good look at the ships, and someone passed the report to Britain.
It’s unsure how much detail Britain received (Norwegian resistance members only identified “two unidentified major ships”), but British naval officers immediately suspected that the Bismarck was breaking out.
On May 21, the ships were spotted, and the British gave chase. The full story is great, from British cruisers tailing the massive vessel to attackers hiding in fog banks to when the Bismarck sank Britain’s pride and joy, the HMS Hood, with a single hit from the Bismarck’s main guns. The YouTube channel Extra History has a great series on the hunt, available here for all who want to watch it.
But we’re going to skip ahead to the final days of the chase.
By dawn on May 25, the Hood was sunk, the Prinz Eugen had escaped into the Atlantic, and the Bismarck had evaded the British cruisers in pursuit. But the Bismarck had been wounded and was now leaking oil across the ocean, limiting its range and speed.
The British, more desperate than ever to prevent the Bismarck from joining the war in the Atlantic as well to avenge the loss of the Hood, had called every available ship into the hunt.
But the days of naval maneuvering had left the Bismarck hundreds of miles out to sea, and the British didn’t know if the ship would head to Norway or France for repairs. Britain didn’t have enough ships to search both routes.
Hunting the Bismarck – A Chance to Strike – Extra History – #3
The British commander sent most of the fleet north to search the route to Norway, leaving one battleship and a few other vessels within range of the route to France.
This problem was compounded when the Bismarck made a monumental mistake, sending two 30-minute radio transmissions, but some of the British intercept officers made a mistake and pinpointed the transmission as coming from the route to Norway, when the transmission actually came from the route to France. It would take them hours to catch the mistake.
At this moment, the Bismarck’s path into France was relatively clear. The German vessel had the lead, and the British fleet was headed the wrong way. But the rumors of the Bismarck’s fighting had made it to the continent, and a concerned father made one of the worst mistakes of the war.
The general had a son on the Bismarck, and he asked after his son’s status. The request was transmitted to the Bismarck, and the Bismarck responded. Then, that response was relayed back to the general. It said the Bismarck had suffered no casualties and was now headed to Brest, a port city in France.
When the message was relayed, though, it was done on a Luftwaffe enigma machine with only four wheels instead of the more secure, five-wheel model used by the Admiralty. The British quickly decoded the message, and the entire British fleet turned back south to intercept the Bismarck before it could reach Brest.
On May 26, the HMS Ark Royal, an aircraft carrier, was chasing down the Bismarck as night came on. It was mere hours till darkness would halt any more attacks. By morning, the Bismarck would be under the protection of Luftwaffe planes taking off from France.
It was now or never, and the Swordfish planes flying from the Ark Royal had just enough time for two attacks. But the first attack was a ridiculous catastrophe. The British planes made a mistake, attacking the British ship chasing the Bismarck instead of the Bismarck itself. Luckily, they were equipped with magnetic detonators that set off the torpedoes as they hit the water.
The Swordfish returned to the Ark Royale to re-arm, and then headed back out for Britain’s last chance at the Bismarck before it was safely in France.
The HMS Ark Royal sails with its swordfish overhead.
The planes chased down their quarry, and the Swordfish flew into the teeth of the Bismarck’s guns. The rounds shredded the canvas wings of the planes, but the planes managed to drop a spread of torpedoes anyway.
There were two hits. One struck the Bismarck’s armor belt and did little damage, the other struck low in the water but did no visible damage. The Swordfish pilots turned home in dismay.
But when they landed, they learned glorious news. The Bismarck had been in a hard turn to port when the second torpedo struck, and the strike had knocked out rudder control. Since the Bismarck had been in a hard turn at the time, it was now stuck turning in tight circles in the Atlantic, out of range of Luftwaffe protection.
The HMS Dorestshire rescues survivors of the Bismarck. Only about 114 sailors made it out.
The rest of the British fleet barreled down on the stricken foe, and eventually, four battleships and cruisers were circling the Bismarck, pounding it with shell after shell. They knocked out turrets, they shredded the decks, and they terrified the crew.
It only ended when the British fleet ran low on fuel. It was under orders to sink the Bismarck at all costs, so as most of the ships headed to refuel, the HMS Dorsetshire was left to finish the job. It dropped torpedoes into the water, and finally, the Bismarck suffered holes beneath the waterline. The Bismarck sank. The pride of the German fleet was done. Just over 100 sailors survived of the 2,200-man crew.
If the general had loved his son a little less, or, you know, if signals officers had been more careful to use the best available encryption or leave the ship’s destination out of the message, the Bismarck likely would have made it to France without further damage.
It seems like, every so often, every branch of the military updates its tattoo policy. It’s done for various reasons, but ultimately, it’s to keep an orderly and professional appearance. But ever since the first tattoo parlor opened its doors in 1846, tattoos have had a well-seated place in the hearts (and on the skin) of many troops and veterans.
The art of body-marking and tattooing as a status symbol for warriors dates back well over five thousand years. Everyone from the Ancient Greeks to the Maori tribes of New Zealand marked their warriors as a sign of their strength. Even before tattoos were widespread among the U.S. military, Revolutionary War sailors tattooed personal identifiers on their skin to avoid being illegally conscripted by the British Navy.
During the American Civil War, early tattoo artist Martin Hildebrant traveled the battlefields and decorated the troops with various, patriotic designs. Even Marine Corps legend, Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler, was said to have an Eagle, Globe, and Anchor tattooed across his chest
Despite a general disinterest in tattoos among civilians in a post-WWI society, the 1925 book, The History of Tattooing, states that a whopping 90% of U.S. Sailors were tattooed. This was the golden age of sailors using their bodies as secondary service records of their achievements. Sailors would get a shellback turtle for crossing the equator, a golden dragon for crossing the International Date Line, and a golden shellback for crossing both at the same spot. Even rarer is a purple porpoise, which is for making this same crossing during the sacred hour of the spring equinox.
Seeing a tattoo on an older sailor means either they sailed through a very specific spot at a very specific time — or they just really like purple dolphins.
In today’s military, the old traditions still ring true. Sailors will still mark themselves for their Naval achievements. Marines still get the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor on their first liberty. Soldiers will still get one or more of the same six tattoos. And airmen will probably get something nice in a spot that doesn’t hurt too much.
I never went to Afghanistan. Iraq was my war, and when I think back about my deployments, there are very few things that I miss. I definitely don’t relish the sand storms or the dirt or the myriad of dangers lurking behind every piece of trash (and there is a sh#%load of trash).
Instead, I sometimes think back to those quiet moments of deployment, especially ones when I needed the rush of nicotine before stepping off on patrol or the pull of a long drag to settle down from one. Those frequent cigarette breaks with my fellow Marines were some of the most memorable moments of my life. I cherish them.
It’s been a decade since I was in the sandbox and I don’t smoke anymore, but as I unlock the door to We Are The Mighty, I have the crazy urge to light up. I’m nervous. Unlike other conflicts in our history, there isn’t a sacred place, a monument, for veterans of my generation to visit and reflect on our war and maybe even smoke a cigarette like old times. While that place may come someday, today we only have each other, and that’s why I’m nervous. I’m about to meet Staff Sgt. David Bellavia, the first and only living Medal of Honor recipient from the Iraq war.
The Medal of Honor is the nation’s highest award for valor, and it often comes at a significant price. Since WWII, 60% of all medals awarded for valor are posthumous and, for those who are able to receive the medal while living, the process is often long and arduous. Many are forced to relive and describe one of the worst days of their life — over and over again. As I prepare for the interview, I want to be sensitive to all Staff Sgt. Bellavia and his platoon in the 2-2 Ramrod faced during their war. But their story is special. They fought, and Staff Sgt. Bellavia earned his honor during hand-to-hand combat while clearing houses [Official Citation] in one of the most iconic battles: Fallujah.
Fallujah is a place that almost every Iraq war veteran has heard of. Like Iwo Jima or Hue, this battle defines an entire war. As I contemplate this idea, Staff Sgt. Bellavia and his full Army escort enter my office. As I reach out to shake Staff Sgt. Bellavia’s hand, I can’t help but think I am shaking the hand of a man who is the living monument to my war.
As I meet Staff Sgt. Bellavia, thankfully, he calms my nerves. First, he’s a very humble, open guy. He introduces himself as “Dave.” A modest father of three who’s been called back to service to tour the country in the wake of his medal ceremony. Second, he’s funny — like, really funny. He cracks a joke about how hard it is to put on a uniform after fifteen years, and I can relate; there’s no way I could wear my uniform now either. This is exactly the kind of guy who I would share a cigarette with. We laugh together as the cameras turn on.
Staff Sgt. David Bellavia MOH Lincoln Memorial Visit.
Welcome to We Are The Mighty. So, we all have a crazy story of how we got in uniform… What’s yours?
DB: Sure. I joined the Army in 1999. My Army story’s a little bit crazy because my son was born with some birth defects. He’s good now, but the Army didn’t know what to do. So they put me on what’s called a “compassionate reassignment.” So right out of basic training, infantry cord, I go to a recruiting station for two and a half years, which is the worst gig because you’re not a recruiter, you’re not an infantryman. You’re just there telling the Army story, which you don’t know anything of because you don’t have an Army story. And when September 11th happened, the Army was like, “Hey, your son’s not officially healthy. You either get out or go on what’s called an ‘All Others Tour.'”
What’s an “All Other’s Tour”?
DB: So, I had a choice of basically getting out of the Army or just going for three years without my family… and I chose the Army. And so I went to Germany for three years. I didn’t see the family except for block leave, and that was really tough. But it was the best decision I made because of the relationships and the guys, it was really special.
Special? How so?
DB: Yeah. It’s always great to introduce young 18-year-old Americans to Bavarian beer.
Haha. Nice. Did you deploy from there?
DB: Yeah. I deployed to Kosovo in 2002, and then back-to-back from Kosovo to Iraq for 12 months, 2004 to 2005.
Kosovo? What was that like?
DB: It’s unbelievable. The one thing that I learned is that, for whatever reason, those kids in Kosovo could burn a DVD of a movie that is still in production. I don’t even know … they’re like, “Hey, have you seen X-Men 2?” I’m like, “It comes out in a month,” and like, “Here it is.” I’m like, “How is that possible? How do you have access to B-roll footage of a Marvel film before it’s made?” But these guys, [they] can’t figure out plumbing. [They] can’t get a mass transit system, but [they] can burn any movie within hours of Ron Howard saying, cut.” It’s done. It’s crazy.
Do you have a family history of military service?
DB: I grew up on Lake Ontario. Small little town. My dad was a dentist. I was the youngest of four kids. Every one of my brothers has like either multiple master’s degrees or like PhDs. I had two brothers who went to seminary. My grandad was in the Normandy campaign. [Not] D-Day. This was the 35 days after D-Day, but it was the hedgerows, ton of fighting. He would tell me his World War II stories at like … I’d be six years old just listening to this stuff. He’s still with us. He’s 99.
Was he your inspiration for joining the Army?
DB: The other thing was, I remember in high school, before the book came out, before there was a ‘Black Hawk Down’ movie, I watched the [bodies] being just dragged through the streets [of Mogadishu], that really affected me. I wanted to avenge that.
So before you got into the Army, what did courage mean to you?
DB: I had no idea what I was getting into. They told me 11 XRAY meant like extra special infantry. So courage to me was being able to endure rain and having wet socks because there was no thought of combat. Kosovo was the big war and no offense, but it wasn’t really much of a war. It was kind of a … when I got to Kosovo it was like, “Hey, take your helmets off. Soft cap.”
Let’s jump ahead. So you end up in 2-2 from 1st Infantry Division, The Ramrods. And now we’re at war with Iraq. What does that feel like?
DB: Well, I mean, first of all, we’re watching the invasion of Iraq in like a chow hall with a potato bar in Kosovo. And so the 1st Infantry Division had such an incredible legacy of just always being first to fight. We had our own movie. I remember watching The Big Red One movie, if I’m going to join the Army, I want to be in The Big Red One. No one questioned why Lee Marvin was like a 62-year-old squad leader in D-Day. You know what I mean? He’s got all white hair.
Yeah, he must have been passed over a few times…
DB: Do you know what I’m saying? Like, why is he here? I love that movie. I loved just all the stories of what The Big Red One stood for. And the take away was that, we were a peacekeeping, forward-deployed division in Germany and a war was happening in Afghanistan. A war was happening in Iraq, and we were going to miss out on it. And so my chain of command took it upon themselves in nine months of Kosovo to just train us for what was coming down the road. And we hated that because we were doing 15-hour patrols and presence and yet we were doing bunker drills and clearing houses and my God, all that training ended up saving our life because we were so ready when the fight initially came.
A year later, you were in Iraq outside Fallujah. And it was also your birthday?
DB: Yeah, November 10th  was my 29th birthday. And I just remember thinking … as a kid, I’d walk through a cemetery, and I would see people born and died on the same day on their tombstone. And I just thought, “Man, that’s gotta just be the worst.” I was just, “Get me to midnight. At least I can have something different on there.” There were a lot of times where you just give up.
And you were a squad leader at this point?
How did you manage the stress maybe even fear that you were about to lead your soldiers in one of the most violent battles of the Iraq war?
DB: When I was on block leave from Iraq, I ran into a crusty Vietnam guy, and he told me … I was telling him everything I was going through. I was so mad. I saw like a UPS guy, and I couldn’t understand why people were normal. They had no connection to what the hell was happening. And I was looking at this UPS guy deliver packages and be so happy, and I’m like, “What the … how is this?” … and this Vietnam guy told me, he’s like, “You still believe that you’re coming home. And once you give that up, once you just acknowledge that you have no control over this, everything is far more manageable. You can compartmentalize everything.” It was the best advice that we had is that it’s not about you… don’t worry about your own survivability, worry about your subordinates, worry about them, put all your … anything that causes stress, put that below your young guys and then if you come home, that’s a bonus.
Is that what you were thinking when you got to a house full of insurgents in Fallujah? The house where you earned the Medal of Honor?
DB: So yeah, this is basically what happened in Fallujah. So [in] Anbar Province, 82nd Airborne leaves, Marine Corps comes in. This is their fight. It’s very awkward to be receiving anything for Fallujah when so many Marines… you got Brian Chontosh, Brad Kasal, and Rafael Peralta, legends in the Marine Corps, did so many incredible things. We were there just to supplement them.
You did much more than support.
DB: Fallujah was left basically unmolested for six months, and the Marine Corps had a very difficult time breaching through. So what ended up happening is everyone was on one side from the north pushing in, and the only real clear breach lane [was ours]. We got into the city expecting everyone to be on our shoulder. And when we pushed through, it took like two days for the rest of the task force to get into the city. In that 48-hour period, we had very little support, and we were pretty much the only game in town. And it developed this really odd way of, you got to your objective, you cleared it, and then you massaged back, started the invasion again, cleared it. Uh-oh, come back, do it again. And so you’re refighting in neighborhoods that you’ve been almost four times at that point. And so we got a report that there were six to eight, possibly 10 bad guys in a little neighborhood block. And we were clearing all these different buildings out and nothing. I mean, we’d get blood, or you’d see a weapons caches, but you just missed the guys, and we finally end up in the last house, and that’s when it all went down.
And then your soldiers get trapped inside?
DB: Yeah. So I’m on one side of the house, the other guys are on the other side, and basically, these guys are shooting belt-fed machine guns through a door. We have to break contact. My two guys outside with 240 Bravos that were John J. Rambo firing those things from the shoulder. Those rounds are coming in, the PKM rounds are coming out. No one can move. If anything that night that really took the most intestinal fortitude, it was standing in that door with that SAW because, again, I don’t know how many people there are. I just know that there’s fire coming out. And I got to be honest with you, you come up with a plan, and then you’re going to execute the plan, and then you just want to stall because your legs won’t walk, your body won’t move.
So you grab a M-249 SAW and charge inside? What were you thinking? What was going through your head at this point?
DB: I remember thinking to myself, “I want to hook my finger around this trigger, not the way we’re trained to do, which is to three-second burst. But if I get hit, I want to just hold it down and just get enough fire.” And as soon as I get in that door frame, I’m looking at these guys [and] they’re not intimidated at all. The SAW was a runaway. On the range, you would break the links, point it to a safe direction. But here it’s just, “Well, I’ll just keep it on them.” I’m not hitting anything, I’m not hitting them, and I just clunk out on ammo. Those 200 rounds went like nanoseconds. It felt like far too quick. So I’m like, “could I have shot 200 rounds at like five feet and missed every single person?” I just found my body just running out of the house. And as I’m doing it, you hear, and you feel rounds everywhere, and you’re just like, “Man, that was worthless.” And so I was upset. I was angry.
And you traded the SAW for an M-4 and went back inside the house?
DB: Well, it was me, [and] Scott Lawson, who died in 2013, but he went in with me, and I had three SAW gunners. I was worried that these [insurgents] were going to run out of the house and we’re going to lose them and then they’re going to kill someone or we’re going to get killed by them down the road. So I set up the SAW gunners around the courtyard, and I was just going to run in there like an idiot and try to push them out. And again, I had no real idea how many were in there. I like my chances against wounded guys that we’ve been shooting at repeatedly. So I figured me and Lawson could at least ding them up and then the next wave of Americans could finish them off.
And you did finish them off. Five to be exact. I have one specific question. There’s a moment that I read about that. Did you smoke a cigarette during the fight?
DB: I did. I did. So, okay, understand that when you’re in [the house] … your night vision works like a cat’s eye, right? I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. I’ve never been in this building before. And after this guy jumps out of a wardrobe and I hit him five times, I was just like, “Man, I need a smoke.” I don’t have my helmet, my IBA is open, I don’t … my rifle is somewhere in the smoke. And I just am like, “You know, I need a smoke right now.”
With the enemy still in the house?
DB: I’m an infantryman. I know how to smoke at night. I’m well-rehearsed at cupping the hands and holding. And so my biggest fear was that my guys were going to come in the building and because I was just around the enemy, I was going to get popped. So I just tried to hug a wall where I knew I couldn’t be hit by anything and just have a quick smoke and that’s when this guy jumps off the roof right in front of me and breaks his leg or does something horrible to himself. But it was just, yeah, it was stress level … that’s the weird thing about that close quarter proximity. You’re super confident. “I’m Thor, I could do all of this, America.” And then you slip and fall and almost get your head blown off, and you’re like, “What am I thinking? I’m an idiot. This was a horrible idea.” And then you see fear in the [enemy’s] eyes, and you’re like, “Oh, they’re scared, I got this, everything’s great.”
That’s the most badass smoke break that I’ve ever heard of.
DB: In the moment, grab a smoke.
Let’s move into afterward. You got out of the Army. What have you been doing since you left?
DB: So I came home right during the whole political soccer ball of Iraq. So I started a group with a bunch of other Marines called Vets for Freedom, and we just went out there and said, “Hey, don’t send us to fight unless you want us to finish it. Right? I mean, we didn’t vote for this thing. We’re the ones adjudicating this fight. You want to defund it. I mean, we lost our buddies out there. This is more important than some political soccer ball.” And so in order to become apolitical, we became uber-political, and I just hated it. That’s not what we wanted to do. So I started focusing more on just veterans in normal life.
Do you think Veterans can find some kind of “normal” in civilian life?
DB: We’re not walking around with high and tights, we’re not wearing camouflage to work, but the type of men and women who served this country are special, and we’re volunteering to do it. And when we come home, we would like to make America as great as we did serving it in uniform and we want to be teachers and we want to be coaches, and we want to lead at home the way we did in battle.
What was it like taking off the uniform and leading in a different way?
DB: The first thing I learned right off the bat is that no civilian wants to know when you’re going to the bathroom. Right? Because I’m accustomed to being like, “Hey, I’m going to go to the bathroom. I’m going to go take a leak.” No civilian ever wants to hear that. So I learned some tough lessons right off the bat.
And now, as a business owner, what do you tell other veterans when you see them?
DB: When I wore the veteran thing on my sleeve, I found that I was a bigger spectacle. And so I just decided to just compartmentalize that. Let it go, move on with your life, tell them, “Oh yeah, I served too,” and most people, especially the Vietnam generation, they didn’t get any of this reflexive love. They didn’t get free tickets to Bush Gardens. They didn’t get applause when they walked through the airport. So I’ve been really appreciative of that Vietnam generation protecting us from what they went through, and also their ability to kind of do a victory lap for our generation when we come home. And these guys in the workplace, what they’ve been able to accomplish. I love that. When I find out someone’s a vet, it’s like a Christian in the Catacomb, a little wink. You do the secret handshake, and that resume goes right to the top. I want that … I don’t care what you did.
You’re also a family man now, what do you tell your kids about courage and service?
DB: I tell them that the United States Army is the greatest … we’ve been fighting bullies since 1775 right? I’ve always told my kids, “I will never … if you come home with a fat lip because you were defending someone who couldn’t defend themselves, I don’t care what the school does, I don’t care what the law does. You will defend people who can’t defend themselves. That is why we’re on this earth.” We’re there to take care of our weaker brother. We’re there to take care of our weaker sister.
You also co-wrote a best selling memoir about your experience in Fallujah called House to House. Can you tell me briefly about the book?
DB: Well, yeah I’ve been going through that for a while. When I came out, there were very few memoirs written but, I don’t know if I would’ve made that choice again because I didn’t want to write [about me]. I wanted to write about my soldiers. My soldiers were the greatest men I’ve ever met in my life. They still are. And what we did together, we weren’t SEALs, we weren’t Green Berets [or] Recon. We were just knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathers. That’s what we were, just average soldiers doing above average things because we found ourselves in those situations.
One last question. Do you still smoke?
DB: I am a recovering smoker. I do some tobacco products here and there and nicotine lozenges, a little dip. But I’m trying to beat that. But now the smoking is definitely gone. I’ve graduated.
Dave, this has truly been an honor. Anything else I missed?
DB: No, you got it.
Click HERE to read more about Staff Sgt. David Bellavia’s actions which, earned him the distinguished role as the first and only living Medal of Honor recipient of the Iraq war.
The U.S. Air Force is hopeful it could have its first female battlefield airman spring 2019.
In written testimony before the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on personnel, Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, said one woman is making her way through the grueling challenges of Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) training.
“Currently, we have one female in Tactical Air Control Party training with a potential graduation date later this spring,” he said.
“To date, 10 female airmen have entered into special warfare training, but none have yet to qualify and graduate,” Kelly added.
Attrition is high in this elite training pipeline, ranging between 40 and 90 percent across the specialties.
“Consequently, we do not foresee large numbers of females in operational units in the near term,” Kelly said.
Since the Defense Department opened combat career fields to women in December 2015, few female airmen have qualified for Air Force special warfare training. Some have self-eliminated or sustained an injury; others have not met the standards of a particular program.
A Tactical Air Control Party Airman with the New Jersey Air National Guard’s 227th Air Support Operations Squadron scans the training area for targets on Warren Grove Range, N.J., Jan. 31, 2019.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Matt Hecht)
Recently, a female candidate entered the pararescue (PJ) training pipeline, but was injured during the first week of training and had to drop out, Air Education and Training Command (AETC) officials told Military.com in January 2019.
The woman is expected “to return at a later date to try again,” AETC spokeswoman Jennifer Gonzalez said January 2019.
“We are fully committed to the integration of women into combat positions, [and] have increased targeted marketing to further attract female recruits,” Kelly said.
The service has placed a female cadre within these training units, he added.
The Air Force has had a tough time attracting candidates for special operations, particularly in the explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) and survival, evasion, resistance and escape (SERE) pipelines. Kelly said the service missed its recruiting goals for these specialties in three of the last four months.
While the service missed those goals, Kelly said special warfare overall has seen early successes through its new recruiting squadron. The service established its first Special Operations Recruiting Squadron in 2018 to find next-generation combat airmen.
“This past year, we established a new training group and new recruiting squadrons focused on critical warfighting career fields, such as special warfare airmen,” Kelly said.
Recruiters and mentors train the candidates in a step-by-step, streamlined program to get a better sense of what type of airmen are needed for the next dynamic conflict.
“The Air Force is committed to improving how we recruit and prepare airmen to succeed,” Kelly said.
This story will be updated.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Former “Dancing with the Stars” winner JR Martinez sits down with fellow wounded warrior and current season contestant Noah Galloway for an in-depth conversation about military service, the nature of war, and dealing with a life-changing injury.
Some things you’ve learned in school may have since been proven false, and that is especially true when it comes to US history.
Many say history is written by the winner, leaving much of the truth out. In recent years, historians and experts have been coming forward to reveal the true stories around some of America’s biggest historical events.
From the first Thanksgiving to the moon landing, here’s everything your teacher may have gotten wrong about American history.
He also couldn’t have discovered America because Native Americans were already living there. In fact, Columbus is not even the first European to explore the Americas. That honor goes to the Norse explorer Leif Erikson who sailed to the Western Hemisphere over 400 years earlier.
Then why is Columbus such a notable figure in American history? It’s most likely because he started a new age of exploration and his trips to the New World led to colonization.
Drawings of Columbus’ ships.
2. MYTH: Christopher Columbus sailed on the Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria.
TRUTH: “In 1942, Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue” is a common children’s song most learn in school. The song also mentions his three ships, which are usually known as Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria.
However, his ships were likely not named any of those things. Historians know that the Santa Maria’s real name was La Gallega and the Niña’s real name was the Santa Clara. It is not known what the Pinta’s actual name was at the time.
Pocahontas as depicted in a Disney film.
3. MYTH: Pocahontas and John Smith fell in love, uniting two cultures.
TRUTH: For starters, Pocahontas wasn’t even her real name. Her official name was Amonute. Pocahontas was her nickname, which meant “playful” or “ill-behaved child.” That’s right, Pocahontas was just a child, about 11 or 12 years old, so it is very unlikely there was any romance between her and John Smith, a grown man.
In his journals, John Smith wrote that Pocahontas saved his life when her family tried to execute him. He also wrote that during his captivity, the two became close and taught each other their languages, but never mentioned anything romantic happening between them.
4. MYTH: The first Thanksgiving was a peaceful and joyous meal shared between the Pilgrims and Native Americans.
The two groups had a lot of hostile feelings towards each other. The Pilgrims viewed Native Americans as savages, and stole their farmland. They also killed more than 90% of the native population with smallpox, brought over on the Mayflower.
These hostile conditions, historians believe, did not lead to a celebratory first Thanksgiving. In fact, some say the Native Americans were not even invited to the feast.
Depiction of the Salem witch trials.
5. MYTH: Witches were burned at the stake at the Salem witch trials.
But throughout history, many referenced burning witches at the stake, so it caught on. For example, a magazine in 1860 wrote, “The North … having begun with burning witches, will end by burning us!”
Painting of Paul Revere.
6. MYTH: Paul Revere rode horseback through the streets of Massachusetts yelling, “the British are coming!”
TRUTH: Paul Revere did ride horseback to warn that the British were fast approaching Lexington, but he was not screaming. Instead, he was much more discreet since British troops might have been hiding nearby. He also wasn’t alone. He was first joined by two other patriots, with 40 more joining by the end of the night. Lastly, he would never have called them “British” because many of the colonists still considered themselves British. At the time, he would have used the term “Regulars” to warn patriots about the invasion.
First president of the United States George Washington.
7. MYTH: George Washington had wooden teeth.
TRUTH: The first president of the United States, George Washington, did not, in fact, have wooden teeth. But he did have a lot of dental issues. The former war general wore dentures made of ivory, gold, and lead. But wood was never used in dentures and it was definitely not found in Washington’s mouth.
No one truly knows how or why this rumor started. Some historians say that the ivory may have been worn down, therefore having a grainy, wooden appearance, confusing early observers.
8. MYTH: The Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776.
TRUTH: While many believe we are celebrating the Declaration of Independence’s signing on the Fourth of July, it was actually signed in August of 1776. The confusion lies in the fact that July 4 was the day the final edition of the document was agreed upon. It was the deadline the Continental Congress gave itself and wrote down, though it wouldn’t be signed for another month.
Inventor Thomas Edison.
9. MYTH: Thomas Edison invented the light bulb.
TRUTH: In the late 1800s, Thomas Edison was widely considered a genius after he invented the light bulb. But some say Edison is not the sole inventor. In fact, there were over 20 inventors who had created the incandescent light bulb before him. Additionally, it’s rumored that he borrowed (or stole) details from those other inventors.
So, why does Edison get all the credit? In part, he was a great salesman, and he knew how to outpace everyone else who was working on the light bulb. Edison was lucky enough to receive the important patents he needed to be solely credited for the invention.
11. MYTH: Neil Armstrong said, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” when he landed on the moon.
TRUTH: If you examine the famous line uttered by Neil Armstrong in 1969, you realize it doesn’t really make sense. Because “man” and “mankind” essentially meant the same thing, if his famous line was accurate, what he basically said was, “that’s one small step for mankind, one giant leap for mankind.”
Can you believe it is that time of year again? Tax season is here and it is usually the last thing you want to deal with, especially if your spouse is deployed. Deployment comes with stressors of its own; don’t let your taxes be one of them. As military families, we know that we often face special circumstances with our taxes. If you don’t know where to start, and are in need of some guidance, here are 4 things you should consider before filing your taxes.
1. Work with Your Legal Office
Did you forget to get a special power of attorney in order to file your taxes? Don’t worry! Your base legal office can help. They provide not only services to prepare a special power of attorney, but many other tax services as well. First thing you will need to do is find your legal office on a nearby military installation. Using the Armed Forces Legal Assistance website, enter your zip code and the distance you are willing to travel, you will find the locations of the nearest legal offices near you.
You will want to call ahead to ensure, however most of these services are available at legal assistance offices:
Wills, testamentary trusts, and estate planning
Domestic relations, including divorce, legal separation, annulment, custody, and paternity
Adoption and name changes
Taxes, including basic advice and assistance on Federal, State, and local taxes — see below for more details on this!
Landlord-tenant relations, including review of personal leases and communication and correspondence
Servicemembers Civil Relief Act advice and assistance
So once you find your office, give them a call and schedule an appointment. Also, don’t forget to ask them what documents to bring with you; you wouldn’t want to make a wasted trip!
2. If You Need Help Filing Your Taxes Get It
If you need help getting your taxes filed, your legal office has a Voluntary Income Tax Assistance program (VITA) that can help. Make sure to call and check with your legal center to see if this service is available at your installation. The VITA will help you file your taxes free of charge, but you will want to make sure to go as early in the day as possible in order to avoid long lines. If you have decided to go to a private tax preparer, make sure they are familiar filing returns for service members and their dependents. Or you can always file your taxes yourself for free using the Military One Source website. I personally have been using this service for years and it works great for me and my family’s needs.
3. Get The Other Things You Need
Whether you have decided to file with a professional, or do them yourself at home, there are still quite a few things you will need to ensure you have before you get started. A tax professional will let you know what to bring, but be sure to keep the following at hand and ready when filing:
• Military ID
• All W-2 and 1099 forms
• Social Security cards for all family members
• Deductions and credit information
• Bank account and routing numbers
• Receipts for child care expenses
• Last year’s tax return
• Special power of attorney authorizing you to do business on behalf of the deployed service member. If you don’t have this, call that legal office!
4. Give Yourself Plenty of Time
Lastly, but perhaps the most important thing to remember, ensure you give yourself enough time. Federal income taxes need to be filed no later than April 15, 2016, unless you qualify for an extension such as the Combat zone and hazardous duty extensions. If you or your spouse are serving in a combat zone or are receiving hostile fire or imminent danger pay, the deadline for filing income taxes is 180 days after your last day in the combat zone or hazardous duty area. The IRS has a list available of the combat zones. So make sure you have everything you need and make those appointments in time.
After Russia’s incursion into Georgia several years ago and the covert operation to take over the Crimea in Ukraine in 2014, the former Soviet Republics along the Baltic coast view the Russian bear as an increasing threat.
More fearful than ever that a replay of Sevastopol could happen in Vilnius or Tallinn, troops from the Baltic states have been working ever closer with the American military to hone their skills, forge stronger bonds and develop tactics and protocols to defend themselves if the Spetsnaz drops in on their doorstep.
While American troops have been deploying recently for joint exercises with NATO’s northern allies in Europe, some of the Baltic countries’ most specialized troops have been coming to the U.S. for real-world training.
In February a joint team of U.S. special operators from the 10th Special Forces Group, National Guard soldiers and commandos from Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia infiltrated a 500,000 acre range in the mountains of West Virginia to practice covert ops, kick in some doors and do some snake-eater sh*t.
Dubbed Range Runner 2017, the exercise includes all the facets of special operations warfare, including counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, stability operations, foreign internal defense and unconventional warfare and allows for dynamic infiltration routes, including water, air and land with support from fixed wing, rotary wing and water rescue groups, the military says.
So how awesome was this joint commando exercise? Take a look.
1. Special operators get some assaulter practice
2. The joint commando teams work on infiltration via horseback
A U.S. Army Special Operations Forces Soldier assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), conducts an infiltration movement on horseback during Exercise Ridge Runner Feb. 12, 2017 in West Virginia. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Connor Mendez)
3. The special operators work together on sensitive sight exploitation methods
U.S. Army Special Operations Forces Soldiers assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), search through a cabin room as they conduct sensitive sight exploitation training during Exercise Ridge Runner Feb. 18, 2017 in West Virginia. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Connor Mendez)
4. They even go through the bad guy’s trash…
5. The special operations troops are hounded by local forces who track their movement
6. The Special Forces soldiers use old-school methods to pass messages without radios
7. Once they’ve gotten what they wanted, the commandos exfil via helicopter