Marooned. Left on a sandbar or other island in the middle of nowhere with just a little food, water, and a loaded pistol to end your suffering. In the world of pirates, it was a punishment for breaking the pirates’ code – and was usually fatal. But the real-life Robinson Crusoe survived his marooning and lived to tell the tale of life on an island in the middle of nowhere, completely alone.
Not a Wilson in sight.
Alexander Selkirk was a Scottish sailor with William Dampier’s second expedition to circumnavigate the globe while privateering; legally pirating Spanish ships. Selkirik was aboard a 16-gun ship named Cinque Ports, a ship that was rather unseaworthy. When Selkirk repeatedly complained to Dampier and the captain of the Cinque Ports, the men decided to maroon him on an island off the coast of Chile.
Selkirk didn’t die there, however. While the Cinque Ports later sunk with almost a total loss of her crew, Selkirk survived and was rescued by English privateer Woodes Rogers… four years later. All that for wanting to make repairs to the ship – a ship he was right about needing repairs. The crew that did survive the ships founding off of Colombia were captured by the Spanish and imprisoned.
Which, historically, does not end well.
The islander spent much of his time at first at the shoreline, scanning for ships and eating seafood. But eventually, the sounds of mating sea lions drove him further inland. Despite suffering from crippling loneliness, he managed to domesticate the island’s wild goats and cultivate the local vegetation. He was eventually attacked by the island’s wild rat population, but simply domesticated feral cats to stave off the attackers. He even built two huts from the trees that grew pepper plants.
He soon began to hunt by hand and spear, as his gunpowder was in limited supply anyway. He also began to make new clothes from the skins of his goats. The only ships that stopped on his island were Spanish. Not only did he not get a rescue, he had to hide lest the men torture and imprison him. But eventually, he was rescued by British seamen.
Which, historically, does not end well.
The British sailors were astonished at the life Selkirk made for himself. He had survived an accidental fall from a cliff, learned to hunt and clean the wild animals of the island, and was the picture of physical fitness. Selkirk was even able to address the ships’ illnesses and clear its sailors of scurvy. Selkirk was able to maintain his sanity because the captain of the Cinque Points left him a bible to read and entertain himself. By the time the English came for him, he was still of sound mind, able to command a prize ship and even returned to privateering against the Spanish.
Selkirk was even one of Daniel Defoe’s inspirations for the title character of Robinson Crusoe. The story of the marooned sailor just goes to show no matter how tough things might seem, a little perseverance might see you through. Alexander Selkirk became a national hero while the people who marooned him died tragically, despite his warnings.
I had heard the story many times, personally. But until today I had never heard Marine Lt. Gen. John Kelly’s telling of it to a packed house in 2010. Just four days following the death of his own son in combat, Kelly eulogized two other sons in an unforgettable manner.
Two years ago when I was the Commander of all U.S. and Iraqi forces, in fact, the 22nd of April 2008, two Marine infantry battalions, 1/9 “The Walking Dead,” and 2/8 were switching out in Ramadi. One battalion in the closing days of their deployment going home very soon, the other just starting its seven-month combat tour.
Two Marines, Corporal Jonathan Yale and Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter, 22 and 20 years old respectively, one from each battalion, were assuming the watch together at the entrance gate of an outpost that contained a makeshift barracks housing 50 Marines.
The same broken down ramshackle building was also home to 100 Iraqi police, also my men and our allies in the fight against the terrorists in Ramadi, a city until recently the most dangerous city on earth and owned by Al Qaeda. Yale was a dirt poor mixed-race kid from Virginia with a wife and daughter, and a mother and sister who lived with him and he supported as well. He did this on a yearly salary of less than $23,000. Haerter, on the other hand, was a middle class white kid from Long Island.
They were from two completely different worlds. Had they not joined the Marines they would never have met each other, or understood that multiple America’s exist simultaneously depending on one’s race, education level, economic status, and where you might have been born. But they were Marines, combat Marines, forged in the same crucible of Marine training, and because of this bond they were brothers as close, or closer, than if they were born of the same woman.
The mission orders they received from the sergeant squad leader I am sure went something like: “Okay you two clowns, stand this post and let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.” “You clear?” I am also sure Yale and Haerter then rolled their eyes and said in unison something like: “Yes Sergeant,” with just enough attitude that made the point without saying the words, “No kidding sweetheart, we know what we’re doing.” They then relieved two other Marines on watch and took up their post at the entry control point of Joint Security Station Nasser, in the Sophia section of Ramadi, al Anbar, Iraq.
A few minutes later a large blue truck turned down the alley way—perhaps 60-70 yards in length—and sped its way through the serpentine of concrete jersey walls. The truck stopped just short of where the two were posted and detonated, killing them both catastrophically. Twenty-four brick masonry houses were damaged or destroyed. A mosque 100 yards away collapsed. The truck’s engine came to rest two hundred yards away knocking most of a house down before it stopped.
Our explosive experts reckoned the blast was made of 2,000 pounds of explosives. Two died, and because these two young infantrymen didn’t have it in their DNA to run from danger, they saved 150 of their Iraqi and American brothers-in-arms.
When I read the situation report about the incident a few hours after it happened I called the regimental commander for details as something about this struck me as different. Marines dying or being seriously wounded is commonplace in combat. We expect Marines regardless of rank or MOS to stand their ground and do their duty, and even die in the process, if that is what the mission takes. But this just seemed different.
The regimental commander had just returned from the site and he agreed, but reported that there were no American witnesses to the event—just Iraqi police. I figured if there was any chance of finding out what actually happened and then to decorate the two Marines to acknowledge their bravery, I’d have to do it as a combat award that requires two eye-witnesses and we figured the bureaucrats back in Washington would never buy Iraqi statements. If it had any chance at all, it had to come under the signature of a general officer.
I traveled to Ramadi the next day and spoke individually to a half-dozen Iraqi police all of whom told the same story. The blue truck turned down into the alley and immediately sped up as it made its way through the serpentine. They all said, “We knew immediately what was going on as soon as the two Marines began firing.” The Iraqi police then related that some of them also fired, and then to a man, ran for safety just prior to the explosion.
All survived. Many were injured … some seriously. One of the Iraqis elaborated and with tears welling up said, “They’d run like any normal man would to save his life.”
What he didn’t know until then, he said, and what he learned that very instant, was that Marines are not normal. Choking past the emotion he said, “Sir, in the name of God no sane man would have stood there and done what they did.”
“No sane man.”
“They saved us all.”
What we didn’t know at the time, and only learned a couple of days later after I wrote a summary and submitted both Yale and Haerter for posthumous Navy Crosses, was that one of our security cameras, damaged initially in the blast, recorded some of the suicide attack. It happened exactly as the Iraqis had described it. It took exactly six seconds from when the truck entered the alley until it detonated.
You can watch the last six seconds of their young lives. Putting myself in their heads I supposed it took about a second for the two Marines to separately come to the same conclusion about what was going on once the truck came into their view at the far end of the alley. Exactly no time to talk it over, or call the sergeant to ask what they should do. Only enough time to take half an instant and think about what the sergeant told them to do only a few minutes before: ” … let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.”
The two Marines had about five seconds left to live. It took maybe another two seconds for them to present their weapons, take aim, and open up. By this time the truck was half-way through the barriers and gaining speed the whole time. Here, the recording shows a number of Iraqi police, some of whom had fired their AKs, now scattering like the normal and rational men they were—some running right past the Marines. They had three seconds left to live.
For about two seconds more, the recording shows the Marines’ weapons firing non-stop…the truck’s windshield exploding into shards of glass as their rounds take it apart and tore in to the body of the son-of-a-bitch who is trying to get past them to kill their brothers—American and Iraqi—bedded down in the barracks totally unaware of the fact that their lives at that moment depended entirely on two Marines standing their ground. If they had been aware, they would have know they were safe … because two Marines stood between them and a crazed suicide bomber.
The recording shows the truck careening to a stop immediately in front of the two Marines. In all of the instantaneous violence Yale and Haerter never hesitated. By all reports and by the recording, they never stepped back. They never even started to step aside. They never even shifted their weight. With their feet spread shoulder width apart, they leaned into the danger, firing as fast as they could work their weapons. They had only one second left to live.
The truck explodes. The camera goes blank. Two young men go to their God.
Not enough time to think about their families, their country, their flag, or about their lives or their deaths, but more than enough time for two very brave young men to do their duty … into eternity. That is the kind of people who are on watch all over the world tonight—for you.
Feature image: A 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion critical skills operator surfaces from the ocean and advances up a beach, completing a combat dive exercise in Key West, Fla., Feb. 18, 2015. (DoD Photo).
Today, a female college student is set to make history by graduating from one of the toughest special operations courses in the entire U.S. military.
Sandboxx News has learned that on Thursday a female cadet will become the first woman to ever graduate from the Army Special Forces Underwater Operations School (SFUWO).
A rising junior at a state school and a member of the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), the female student has also been chosen as the class honor graduate, a remarkable distinction reserved for the best student who has distinguished him or herself through his or her physical and mental fortitude.
“The news is a very big deal. [Combat] Dive school is arguably the toughest school in the military with the highest attrition rate. It demands perfection and attention to detail every single day. The course is long and wears down everyone,” John Black, a retired Special Forces warrant officer and combat diver, told Sandboxx News.
Graduating from one of the toughest special operations schools in the military will set the female cadet up for success in her military career, whether she pursues a conventional or special operations path.
Located in Key West, Florida, SFUWO trains Army special operators, such as Rangers, Green Berets, and even Delta Force operators, to become combat divers, dive supervisors, or dive medical technicians. Although SFUWO is an Army school, commandos from other services, such as from the Air Force Special Operations Command, also attend from time to time.
A six-week course, the CDQC graduates approximately 300 students every year. It teaches surface and subsurface waterborne infiltration, including the use of the Draeger closed-circuit/ semi-closed-circuit underwater rebreather.
Admission to the Combat Diver Qualification Course (CDQC)—the flagship course of the SFUWO and the one that the female cadet will be graduating from—is highly selective. A special operator must have already excelled at his home unit and passed several in-house assessment and training courses before getting orders to Key West.
It isn’t uncommon for seasoned Rangers and Green Berets to fail CDQC. It’s also not uncommon to have fatalities in what is, by all accounts, a very difficult course, both physically and mentally. Only a few weeks ago, a Green Beret from the 10th Special Forces Group died during the CDQC.
“Dive school is extremely difficult. To endure the physical and mental aspects of the course, it’s a huge achievement. To be the honor grad is a big deal. She’s the fastest and the best. Big congratulations to her and those that will follow,” Black added.
This isn’t the first time an ROTC cadet has graduated from the Combat Diver Qualification Course (CDQC). Several universities send ROTC cadets to the schoolhouse during the summer, with a rare few making it through. However, up to this point, no female, regardless of service status, had ever graduated.
Although this is a high point for the Army special operations combat diver community, not everything is rosy within their ranks. The community has been suffering from some degree of neglect throughout the past two decades of fighting terrorism in the Middle East and Southwest Asia.
The Air Force recently updated evaluation policies for enlisted airmen, refining the process and requirements for enlisted performance reports.
The revised policies are in response to feedback from the field and are geared towards increasing flexibility for commanders and empowering performance within the enlisted corps.
“We are continuously making strides to reform our talent management system, including evaluating updates we previously made to the Enlisted Evaluation System,” said Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, Air Force deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel, and services. “Our focus is on making our system more agile, more responsive, simpler and more transparent to better meet the needs of our airmen and our Air Force.”
The updated policies will impact almost every active duty enlisted airman as well as those in the Guard and Reserve.
One of the more significant updates covers a long and widely debated subject. Under the new policy senior noncommissioned officers who complete an associate’s degree or “higher level degree from a nationally or regionally accredited academic institution” are eligible for promotion and senior rater stratification or endorsement consideration.
Prior to this update, only degrees obtained from the Community College of the Air Force could be considered for senior rater stratification and endorsement. Airmen should ensure completed degrees are updated in their personnel records in the Military Personnel Data System.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez)
Another update focuses on equitability and streamlines the stratification process by removing ineligible airmen from the senior rater stratification pool. The previous policy allowed airmen with an approved high year of tenure, or HYT, retirement date to be factored into the senior rater’s endorsement allocations. For airmen reaching HYT, performance evaluations are also now considered optional.
An additional update authorizes the senior enlisted leader, previously only an advisor, to be a voting member of the Enlisted Forced Distribution Panel. In addition, the policy affords large units the ability to use the Enlisted Force Distribution Panel process. If a designated large unit chooses not to do so, the unit commander must publish and disseminate alternate procedures no later than the accounting date for each evaluation cycle to ensure transparency.
In yet another update, commanders now have authority to designate any number of non-rated days if they determine an airman “faced personal hardships during the reporting period.” The option provides commanders the agility to reflect periods of extenuating circumstances on annual evaluations without negatively impacting the airman.
Air Force senior leaders also made recommendations regarding referral evaluations. Currently, a report is automatically referred when “met some, but not all expectations” is selected on the AF Forms 910 and 911. To allow raters the opportunity to identify and document potential areas of improvement, these ratings will no longer be considered a mandatory referral enlisted performance report. This particular policy change will take effect in conjunction with the staff sergeant static close out date on Jan. 31, 2019.
Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright said the change to referral evaluation requirements allows raters to provide airmen with more honest, realistic feedback of their performance while, at the same time, allowing airmen more room to improve.
“Under the previous policy, if we set 100 expectations for an airman and they met or exceeded 99 of them but fell short on one, in essence we were saying they should be removed from promotion consideration,” Wright said. “That doesn’t align with our vision of talent management. We want supervisors and command teams to have the option to make decisions that make sense for our airmen, tailored to each individual situation.”
Wright added that providing this decision space for commanders aligns with the Air Force’s effort to revitalize squadrons and empower leaders.
As the war raged on, infantry units began dominating the battlefield as troops increased their use of the rifled muskets and Gatling guns. These new deadly weapons caused the need for entrenchments as a form of cover.
Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban — the first known architect of trench warfare.
From Military Police to Medical Corpsmen, Gina Elise’s 2020 Pin-Ups are continued proof that military veterans aren’t just men with high-and-tight haircuts.
Pin-Ups for Vets is a non-profit organization that supports hospitalized and deployed veterans and military families. Founded by Gina Elise, who describes herself (accurately) as a very patriotic citizen, the organization is comprised of volunteers — many of them veterans — who visit service members at their bedside in VA and military hospitals; attend military events; and help raise funds for hospital equipment, gold star families, and deployed vets.
They embody service after service — and they’re changing the perspective about women in the military.
Erikka Davis on active duty (left) and in the 2020 Pin-Ups for Vets calendar (right).
Erikka Davis, U.S. Army
Erikka Davis enlisted when she was 17 and quickly deployed to Iraq as Military Police attached to the 4th Infantry Division, where she helped conduct raids, provide convoy escorts, house inmates, and support local law and order. She survived an IED attack against her three vehicle convoy, hired and retrained local Iraqi Police, and held a leadership position in the early stages of the Iraqi conflict — not an easy position for anyone.
“As a female MP, it is difficult to be respected, so hardening my personality seemed to be an effective way to keep up with my fellow male soldiers. This has been a difficult switch to turn off. Pin-Ups for Vets is slowly reminding me that I am not only allowed to be a veteran, but a lady as well.”
Davis is not the first veteran to describe this mentality — that somehow women are expected to suppress a part of themselves in order to earn the respect of male peers. Pin-Ups for Vets allows female veterans to reclaim that part of themselves within a community — and as a bonus, they get to continue to give back to the community at large.
“If I can do anything to aid in the boosting of morale for our veterans and active duty members, I would gladly partake.”
Jessica Bowling on active duty (left) and in the 2020 Pin-Ups for Vets calendar (right).
Jessica Bowling, U.S. Army
Jessica Bowling supported EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) Operations in the United States Army for eight years, during which she deployed to Afghanistan in support of 10th Mountain Division. Her company was formally recognized for its live-saving efforts by General David Petraeus, the four-star general who served as Commander of U.S. and ISAF forces in Afghanistan.
“We had a code in the Army: ‘leave no one behind.’ I love that Pin-Ups for Vets is taking care of vets and is doing so much to honor and celebrate women veterans. My passion is women veterans and ending homelessness in our veteran community,” proclaimed Bowling.
She’s in the right place; Pin-Ups for Vets has supported homeless female veterans with makeovers and gifts of clothing to help them get back on the right track.
Erika Velasquez on active duty (left) and in the 2020 Pin-Ups for Vets calendar (right).
Erika Velasquez, U.S. Coast Guard
Erika Velasquez served for 15 years as a Medical Corpsman in the U.S. Coast Guard, assisting in search and rescue operations. Medical Corpsmen have fought with their brothers and sisters in “every clime and place” since their creation — it’s a competitive and critical career field.
When asked why she wanted to volunteer with Pin-Ups for Vets, Velasquez said, “I always want to acknowledge and remind the community at large of the sacrifices of our veteran community. I am thankful to each individual who has served and contributed to better the world through their service to others.”
Gina Elise in the upcoming 2020 calendar, now available for pre-order.
Gina Elise, Founder of Pin-Ups for Vets
Elise has been creating her iconic calendar for 14 years now. “The calendar images are starting a conversation about women in the military. People see the images, and they want to know the stories behind the ladies. They ask, ‘Who is she?’ ‘Where did she serve?’ ‘What did she do in the military?’ The stories of our lady veterans need to be told. The ladies tell me that people often assume that they are not veterans because of their gender. One of our ambassadors, Jovane Marie, who is a Marine Veteran, has summed it up: ‘There is nothing that says I can’t be a hard-charging Marine and a lipstick-wearing pin-up — so I choose to be both.’ These ladies are changing the narrative of what it means to be a veteran. They are breaking the stereotype.”
Pin-Ups for Vets ambassadors — all military veterans — gather for a group shot on set at Perfect 10 Beauty Studios during the 2020 calendar shoot.
Her team has allowed the organization to donate over ,000 to help VA hospitals purchase new therapy equipment and provide financial assistance for veterans’ healthcare programs. Her volunteers have visited over 13,000 veterans at 68 hospitals across the country. The organization has also provided makeovers for veterans, military spouses, and gold star wives.
There are good days and bad days when it comes to hospitalization or mourning a fallen hero. When Gina Elise and her pin-up volunteers are around, it usually means it’s going to be a good day.
Days after President Vladimir Putin threatened the US, a Russian state TV channel pinpointed places in the US that Russia would target in a nuclear war with its new Zircon missile, said to travel at up to nine times the speed of sound, according to Reuters.
The targets listed in Russia-1’s broadcast on Feb. 24, 2019, were the Pentagon, Camp David, Jim Creek Naval Radio Station in Washington, Fort Ritchie in Maryland, and McClellan Air Force Base in California, according to Reuters and the Russian media outlet Sputnik. The latter two have been closed for about two decades, making them odd choices, Sputnik said.
Russia-1 claimed that the Zircon missile Russia is developing could strike critical US targets less than five minutes after launch, Reuters reported. Fired from a submarine, a hypersonic weapon can cover great distance very quickly; however, Russia’s claims concerning its new weapon are impossible to verify.
Tensions have been flaring between the US and Russia since the two countries in early 2019 walked away from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a Cold War-era nuclear arms agreement that NATO and the US have accused Russia of violating. Observers have said the collapse of this bilateral pact risks escalating an arms race between the two nuclear powers.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and United States President Donald Trump.
Russia is particularly concerned about the possibility that the US will position new missiles in Europe. Washington has said it has no plans to do so, but its backing out of the treaty frees it to develop and eventually deploy these weapons to Europe if it deems such actions necessary.
Putin had claimed Russia would respond to any US move to deploy missiles closer to Europe by sending its missiles closer to the US, a threat that the US State Department dismissed as propaganda.
In his state-of-the-nation address on Feb. 20, 2019, Putin threatened to target countries housing the missiles and US decision-making centers with new weapons if the US were to take that step.
It was during that speech that the president unveiled the Zircon missile, a hypersonic weapon he said could fly at nine times the speed of sound and strike targets 620 miles away.
Putin also said Russia was ready for a “Cuban missile-style crisis” if the US wants one, adding that Russia could arm its submarines with hypersonic weapons and let them lurk off the US’s coast, Reuters reported.
Russia and China, the two key threats to the US named in official Pentagon documents, will carry out their biggest-ever military drill to reportedly include simulations for nuclear warfare.
US defense officials told the Washington Free Beacon’s Bill Gertz that the drills, the largest in Russia since 1981 and the largest joint Russian-Chinese drill ever, will include training for nuclear war.
Russia, the world’s largest nuclear power, and China, another long-established nuclear power, have often clashed in the past and still hold many contradictory policy goals, but have become main targets of the US.
Under President Donald Trump, the US has redefined its national security and defense postures, and in both documents pointed towards China and Russia, rather than terrorism or climate change, as the biggest threat to the US.
A briefing slide, seen on Russian television, showing what Putin described as a nuclear torpedo.
China, on the other hand, has taken the opposite approach to nuclear weapons by opting for minimum deterrence.
Where Russia and the US have established nuclear parity and a doctrine of mutually assured destruction where any nuclear attack on one country would result in a devastating nuclear attack on the other. Russia and the US achieve this with a nuclear triad, of nuclear-armed submarines, airplanes, and ground-launched missiles so spread out and secretive that a single attack could never totally remove the other country’s power to launch a counter strike.
This innovative process uses 3-D printing software to break down a digital model into layers that can be reproduced by the printer. The printer then builds the model from the ground up, layer by layer, creating a tangible object.
Marine Corps Sgt. Adrian Willis, a computer and telephone technician, said he was thrilled to be selected by his command to work with a 3-D printer.
3-D printing is the future
“I think 3-D printing is definitely the future — it’s absolutely the direction the Marine Corps needs to be going,” Willis said.
The Marine Corps is all about mission accomplishment and self-reliance. In boot camp, Marine recruits are taught to have a “figure-it-out” mindset, and 3-D printing is the next step for a Corps that prides itself on its self-sufficiency.
“Finding innovative solutions to complex problems really does harken back to our core principles as Marines,” Willis said. “I’m proud to be a part of a new program that could be a game-changer for the Marine Corps.”
The Marines deployed here use their 3-D printer as an alternative, temporary source for parts. As a permanently forward-deployed unit, it’s crucial for the 31st MEU to have access to the replacement parts it needs for sustained operations. The 31st MEU’s mission — to deploy at a moment’s notice when the nation calls — is not conducive to waiting for replacement parts shipped from halfway around the world. So 3-D printing capabilities dovetail with the MEU’s expeditionary mandate.
‘Fix it forward’
(Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Stormy Mendez)
“While afloat, our motto is, “Fix it forward,” said Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Rodriguez, CLB-31’s maintenance officer. “3-D printing is a great tool to make that happen. CLB-31 can now bring that capability to bear exactly where it’s needed most — on a forward-deployed MEU.”
Proving this concept April 16, 2018, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 successfully flew an F-35B Lightning II aircraft with a part that was supplied by CLB-31’s 3-D printer. The F-35B had a plastic bumper on a landing gear door wear out during a recent training mission. Though a small and simple part, the only conventional means of replacing the bumper was to order the entire door assembly — a process that’s time-consuming and expensive.
Using a newly released process from Naval Air Systems Command for 3-D printed parts, the squadron was able to have the bumper printed, approved for use and installed within a matter of days — much faster than waiting for a replacement part to arrive from the United States.
‘My most important commodity is time’
“As a commander, my most important commodity is time,” said Marine Corps Lt. Col Richard Rusnok, the squadron’s commanding officer. “Although our supply personnel and logisticians do an outstanding job getting us parts, being able to rapidly make our own parts is a huge advantage.”
VMFA-121 also made history in March as the first F-35B squadron to deploy in support of a MEU.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
Making further use of the MEU’s 3-D printing capability, the MEU’s explosive ordnance disposal team requested a modification part that acts as a lens cap for a camera on an iRobot 310 small unmanned ground vehicle — a part that did not exist at the time. CLB-31’s 3-D printing team designed and produced the part, which is now operational and is protecting the drone’s fragile lenses.
The templates for both the plastic bumper and lens cover will be uploaded to a Marine Corps-wide 3-D printing database to make them accessible to any unit with the same needs.
The 31st MEU continues to brainstorm new opportunities for its 3-D printer, such as aviation parts and mechanical devices that can be used to fix everyday problems. Though only in the beginning stages of development, officials said, the 31st MEU will continue to push the envelope of what 3-D printing can do in the continued effort to make the MEU a more lethal and self-sufficient unit.
America has had a close relationship with the Philippines since it acquired the island nation following the Spanish-American War. Many Filipinos joined native units in U.S. military and served alongside regular soldiers from the states during when the Japanese invaded in 1941. After the war, the 1947 Military Bases Agreement allowed Filipinos to enlist directly into the U.S. military. The majority of enlistees joined the U.S. Navy. As a result, future generations of Filipino Americans predominantly joined the Navy as well. In fact, Filipino cuisine Filipino cuisine is often served as a specialty meal in Navy galleys. However, the highest-ranking Filipino American in the U.S. military was not a sailor, but a soldier.
Not only is Lt. Gen. Edward Soriano the first Filipino American to become a general officer, but he also retains the record for achieving the highest rank. He was born in Alacala, Pangasinan in the Philippines in 1946, His father served as a corporal in the U.S. 57th Infantry Regiment. Part of the Philippine Scouts, the elder Soriano fought against the Japanese invasion until the American surrender at Bataan. He survived the Bataan Death March and the subsequent torture as a Japanese captive. He later served during the Korean War where he became a POW again. During this time, the younger Soriano moved with the rest of the family to Guam. The elder Soriano eventually retired from the Army as a major.
In the 1960s, the Sorianos moved from Guam to Salinas, California. Inspired by his father’s service in WWII and Korea, Soriano attended San Jose State University and commissioned through Army ROTC as an infantry officer in 1970. “I thought what me father was doing was good. He was a great example for me,” Soriano said. “He was probably the reason I joined the military.” Soriano graduated from the Infantry Officer Basic Course and completed his platoon leader time in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg. He then commanded companies in the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea, the 9th Infantry Division at Fort Lewis, and the 8th Infantry Division in Germany.
Following his tour in Europe, Soriano attended the United States Army Command and General Staff College and subsequently completed a tour at The Pentagon. Afterwards, he took command of a battalion in the 2nd Armored Division at Fort Hood. Soriano attended the United States Army War College and completed another tour at The Pentagon.
During Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Soriano served as the chief of the Army liaison to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. He also served as the chief of the Army Section in the Office of the Chief of Staff where he contributed to the Secretary of Defense’s Gulf War Report.
In 1992, Soriano took command of the 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson. After changing out of command, he returned to Germany and deployed to Bosnia as part of the Operation Joint Endeavor peacekeeping mission. Soriano then completed another tour at The Pentagon, this time as Director, Officer Personnel Management. From 1999-2001, he returned to Fort Carson and commanded the 7th Infantry Division. He then served as Director of Homeland Security for the United States Joint Forces Command, the predecessor to Northern Command.
Soriano’s last command was of I Corps and Fort Lewis in 2002. During his command, the 2nd Infantry Division completed the first deployment of the M1126 Stryker. He also ordered the court-martial of Ryan G. Anderson, the former Washington National Guardsman who was convicted of attempting to provide aid to al-Qaeda. On March 1, 2005, Soriano retired from active duty as a Lt. Gen.
Following his retirement, Soriano worked for Northrop Grumman as the Director of Training and Exercises for Homeland Security and Joint Forces Support. He remains active with the military community around Fort Carson and serves as a proponent for recognizing Filipino Veterans of WWII and their families.
Unconventional warfare is necessarily a messy business. It entails finding the enemies of our enemies and convincing them to fight our mutual foes, even if we’re not necessarily friends. It reduces America’s risk in blood, but it also means our national security rests on the shoulders of foreign fighters. In the confusing situations this creates, one top officer in the Afghanistan invasion had three simple questions to cut through the chaos.
U.S. special operators pose with Hamid Karzai during the invasion of Afghanistan. Karzai would go on to be president of Afghanistan.
During the invasion, then-Lt. Col. Mark Rosengard was in command of Task Force Dagger, and he had to greatly expand the unconventional warfare program in the country. So he couldn’t spend days or weeks of time and reams of paper figuring out whether he would trust one potential guerrilla leader or another.
So, according to reporter Sean Naylor in his book Not a Good Day to Die, Rosengard just asked three questions.
First, “Do we have a common goal today, recognizing tomorrow may be different?” Basically, do the militiamen or guerillas want the same outcome as the American forces? Including, do they want to see the same people die?
Next, “Do you have a secure backyard?” Simply, do the local forces have somewhere safe-ish to train? If the forces have to constantly quit training in order to fight off attacks, then they won’t be able to actually train. But if there’s any sort of safe compound in which to get to work, then it’s time to ask the third question.
“Are you willing to kill people?”
Yeah, that’s not a very complicated one.
Taken together, these three questions would let Rosengard know whether he could get to work with a new commander. Of course, there were additional concerns that he had to keep track of.
Afghan forces in a discussion with a senior weapons sergeant of the U.S. Army’s Special Forces.
For instance, on the first question, you would need to keep track of whether the militias might really turn on you tomorrow. It’s a bad idea to spend too much time training foreign fighters who only have a few days or weeks of loyalty to America left.
But, overall, these three questions match up with American choices in other wars.
Gen. John “BlackJack” Pershing made alliances with Moro tribesmen in the Philippines and hired them as law enforcement officers even though he knew their long-term goals would be different. And President Franklin D. Roosevelt allied America with Russia to destroy Germany, adding the Soviet Union to the Lend-Lease Act of 1941 despite it being clear that the U.S. and Soviet Union would eventually be at loggerheads.
Rosengard’s gambles in Afghanistan largely worked out for the invasion, and U.S. special operators and unconventional forces took large sections of the country in the Winter of 2001, a period in which they had planned to take just a small foothold in the north. The operators and their guerrilla allies also were able to bring Hamid Karzai back to the country to take power, helping cement American control of the country.
But, of course, the issues with Afghan forces in the invasion were quickly felt. Pashtun tribesmen were extremely helpful in taking the country from the Taliban, but their half-hearted attacks at Tora Bora are thought to have been a major contributor to Osama Bin Laden’s escape from that mountain stronghold into Pakistan where he would successfully hide until his death in 2011.
The problem the Japanese had in Burma during World War II wasn’t just dense jungle and rough terrain. It wasn’t even just that they were fighting the British Empire’s best – the Gurkhas.
No, their main problem is that they were fighting in the Gurkhas’ backyard. They were in Bhanbhagta Gurung’s backyard.
In February 1945, the 2nd Gurkha Rifles was part of a greater offensive in Burma, one that sought to retake Mandalay. The elite Nepalese warriors were to fight the enemy in diversion tactics, drawing attention away from their Army’s main objective. The Gurkhas held two positions — known as Snowdon and Snowdon East. One night, the Japanese stormed Snowdon East in full force, killing many of its defenders and pushing the rest out.
By the next day, it was heavily fortified.
The Gurkhas were ordered to take it back, no matter how many men it cost them.
As they approached, the Nepalese warriors started taking intense fire from snipers, mortars, grenades, and machine guns. They were sitting ducks, and there was nothing they could do about it. Rifleman Bhanbhagta Gurung stood up in the melee – fully exposed – and calmly just shot the sniper with his service rifle.
The 2nd Rifles began to advance again but were stopped 20 yards short of Snowdon East by murderous fire. Some of his fellow riflemen were killed before the attack could even begin. That’s when Gurung sprinted into action. This time, he literally sprinted.
Acting alone, he rushed four foxholes, dodging gunfire at point-blank range. When he came to the first, he just dropped in two grenades as he rushed to the next enemy position. When he got to the second foxhole, he jumped in and bayoneted its Japanese defenders. He did the same rushing move on the next two foxholes.
This entire time, he was dodging bullets from a Japanese light machine gun in a bunker. The gun was still spitting bullets, holding up the advance of two platoons of Gurkha fighters. Gurung, despite realizing he was out of ammunition and frag grenades, rushed the bunker, and slipped in two smoke grenades.
When two partially-blinded defenders came out of the bunker, Gurung killed them with his kukri knife, the entered the bunker and gave the machine gunner the same fate.
A position that took dozens of Japanese infantry to storm and reinforce had fallen to one fleet-footed Gurkha and his kukri knife in a matter of minutes, saving the men of his platoon and another from storming the heavily-fortified position.
King George VI presented Bhanbhagta Gurung with the Victoria Cross at Buckingham Palace in October 1945. According to the Telegraph, Gurung left the service to take care of his widowed mother and wife in Nepal. His three sons also served in the 2nd Gurkha Rifles.
Everyone always remembers the sheer bad*ssery and battle prowess of the vikings, the samurai, and the Roman legionnaires — but the Winged Hussars of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth a rarely find a way into the conversation.
Don’t let the flamboyant wings fool you. These shock troops were some of the most devastating cavalrymen to ever mount a horse.
Creighton Abrams may be remembered for it, but Polish-Lithuania lived by the mantra, “they’ve got us surrounded again? The poor bastards…”
They defeated nearly every “unstoppable” empire that came at them
When history buffs bring up the three most formidable empires in history, they’ll often include the Ottoman Empire, the Russian Empire, and the Khanates. Smack dab in the middle of those three was the little commonwealth of Polish-Lithuania. As history buffs also know, everyone always tries to come grab a piece of Poland. What kept them at bay for so long were Winged Hussars.
Marching into battle looking like Roman angels was steeped religious symbolism. After all, Polish-Lithuania was (and Poland remains) a very Roman Catholic nation.
Their wings weren’t just for decoration
It might sound silly that heavily armored cavalrymen felt the need to include giant, feathery wings on either their saddles or their backs, but it wasn’t just a fashion statement — it was an effective strategy.
Hussars were shock troops, meaning that they needed to instill as much fear as they could as fast and effectively as they could — before the enemy has a chance to realize what’s going on. In an era when it was unlikely that you’d ever even see a neighboring city, what were you supposed to make of the rapidly approaching, heavily armed legion of vengeful, glittering angels?
Best thing about a sword is that you never have to reload it.
They adapted extremely well to firearms
As new technologies are introduced to the battlefield, old tactics get thrown out. No single piece of military tech changed warfare quite like firearms.
Firearms instantaneously made arrows obsolete and swords pointless — if you can keep your distance. The Hussars never really got the memo, though, and they’d still charge into battle, decked-out in armor that could take a bullet or two and close the distance before their enemy got a chance to reload.
The Hussars eventually got their own firearms, which meant their enemies now had to deal with a heavily armored Hussars charging at them with spears, swords, warhammers, and rifles.
Seriously, Hollywood? Why isn’t this a movie yet?
They put the Battle of Thermopylae to shame.
Everyone praises the Spartans for pitting 300 troops against the mighty Persian army. But when you start looking deeper into it, you’ll quickly realize there are plenty of things they left out for the sake of the comic (and, later, film adaption), like the actual numbers of Greeks aiding them and how poorly trained most of the Persians were. The Spartans were bad*sses, yes, but some elements of their most famous tale are questionable.
Want to know who undoubtedly pulled off a heroic victory when faced with 62-to-1 odds? The Polish Winged Hussars.
A 400-strong Hussar unit was being attacked on two fronts by the 25,000+ Crimean Khanate forces and they were backed into the tiny village of Hodow. The Hussars had only a single night to turn the town into a fortress, to defend themselves with no supplies and no backup.
The Crimean forces raided the half-defended town and ran out of ammunition so fast that they needed to turn enemy arrows fired at them into improvised rounds for their long rifles. Six hours of intense fighting later and the Crimean Khanate started to retreat. The dust settled and thousands of the Khanate Tatars lay dead on the floor while less then a hundred Hussars had fallen.
The famous winged banners weren’t needed.
They never really went away
As tanks took over the battlefield, people generally stopped riding into battle on horses. For the Polish, that was kind of true. Officially, the Winged Hussars ended in the 1770s because of political reforms, but heavily geared-out, horse-mounted, Polish troops existed throughout World War I and World War II.
Since Poland was being attacked from all sides and had little room to breathe, local militias needed to pick up some of the slack. The militias didn’t have tanks, but the farmers did have horses, rifles, and an undying will to fight.