During the bombardment of Fort McHenry in 1814, Francis Scott Key, a lawyer and poet pulled into port on a mission to negotiate the release several POWs from British forces.
Before a deal could be reached, the British started bombing the city of Baltimore, restricting Key’s access to the fort. Key witnessed the devastation of the battle and documented the events in a poem — which we know today as “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
The song grew in popularity, often playing at public events and various celebrations throughout the nation.
Fast forward to 1889, the Secretary of the Navy ordered Key’s song to play during the each raising of the flag at the beginning of the day.
Soon after America entered WWI, Major League Baseball started to feature a variety patriotic rituals like pregame military drills.
During game one of the 1918 World Series, the players took their traditional seventh-inning stretch, and a band started to play the anthem. The song caused the Cubs and Red Sox to stand at attention and face the centerfield flag pole.
The crowd stood on their feet and sang along to the anthem — applauding afterward. Since the song had gotten such positive feedback, the band continued to play the tune during the next few games.
Once the series moved to Boston, the anthem was played at the beginning of the game under the Red Sox owner’s request. In March 1931, the patriotic song passed through congress, confirming it as America’s official national anthem.
The military is known for its clever vocabulary. If you cut out the obscenity, you’re left with a collection of terms that are either more accurate (i.e. it’s not exactly a ‘shovel,’ it’s an “entrenching tool”) or overly sarcastic (i.e. it’s not “beating the crap out of someone,” it’s “wall-to-wall counseling”).
This overly sarcastic way of referring to things that generally suck is a coping mechanism. It’s a way to add color to the typical monotony that comes with military service. The following terms might sound exciting on the surface, but there’s a general understanding among troops to not get hyped over any of them — but it’s always a good laugh when the new guy doesn’t get it.
Cleaning connexes… Just as much fun as getting drunk in the barracks.
(U.S. Army Photo by Spc James C. Blackwell)
Out of context, this one sounds like a couple of guys within the company getting together, having a good time, and maybe accomplishing a few things in the process — and, to be honest, that’s how it almost always turns out when the NCOs turn their back for longer than two seconds.
In actuality, a “working party” is four or five lower enlisted and two NCOs. The troops will do most of the heavy lifting while the NCO that still has a spine remembers what it was like to be a private joins in. The other supervises while pretending to do work. The moment the lazy NCO turns away, three of the original lower enlisted will start slacking until the motivated NCO says something like, “the faster this gets done, the sooner we can go.” But that never happens. Ever.
There are always more pointless details to be done.
Want a real force multiplier? Why not boost morale or, you know, add more troops?
(Meme via The Salty Soldier)
“The Good-Idea Fairy”
It almost sounds whimsical. It’s as if, out of the blue, a good idea was magically sprinkled into the heads of the chain of command and logic reigned supreme.
In practice, this term is used when a lieutenant gets a wild hair up their ass after coming to an agreement in the echo chamber that is staff meetings. Suddenly, that lieutenant can’t wait to implement the newest and best “force multiplier” that has never been thought of before.
These force multipliers never really have an end-game, though, so it’s basically just a fancy way of saying, “I wonder how the troops would react if we did this?”
You can typically tell if someone earned their stuff or if they’re just really good as ass kissing by checking their ribbons rack. If they have multiples of lesser awards that are common among the lower ranks, you know they’ve worked hard from the beginning.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Paris Maxey)
Certain awards, medals, and badges confer the highest amount of respect. In some cases, a highly-decorated troop commands greater respect from those around them than the unproven leaders above them.
When the awards, medals, and badges are referred to as “chest candy,” however, it’s basically saying that none of those awards have any real substance. Take the airborne wings in the Army, for example. They look nice and say that the person is airborne qualified — but don’t, by any stretch of the imagination, think that means that “five jump chumps” are actual paratroopers. Same goes for many other awards that are handed out like it was Halloween to troops — typically anything given to staff officers who found that week’s “force multiplier” without doing a fraction of the work their subordinates did.
Chances are high that your training room clerk is dealing with more secret information than you ever will.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Gina Randall)
“Some secret, squirrel-type sh*t”
There’s nothing wrong with being in the conventional military, and yet troops will jump at any conceivable chance to play the “if I told you, I’d have to kill you” card at the bar. If it’s labelled confidential, you know they’re going to see “some secret, squirrel-type sh*t!”
In actuality, unless you’ve got CIA operatives coming into your S3 and demanding confidentiality agreements, the red stickers are actually really f*cking boring. The closest any regular military troops are ever going to get to secret information are personnel records. They’re confidential because they could realistically be used against someone. “Secret squirrel” is almost entirely used for this kind of mundane crap that is technically classified.
If you honestly think the General nothing better to do than to inspect every single room in the barracks for lint, you’ve lost your mind.
(DoD Photo by Gloria Montgomery)
“Dog and pony shows”
The military is all about prestige and perfectionism when it comes to general officers swinging by to “inspect the troops.” Everyone will spend days getting ready to impress the two-star and get the nod of approval.
Nine times out of ten, the general won’t come to the barracks. They’ll meet at the company area and talk for thirty minutes before they go on their way. That one time they do inspect the troops, the chain of command will try to guide the general to the room that they know is spotless — typically an empty room that was quickly converted to look like it’s actually occupied.
This drawn-out procedure is known as putting on a “dog and pony show” and, unfortunately, neither dogs nor ponies are typically involved.
Even worse is when troops get reprimanded for speaking to the Chaplain. Which, unfortunately, does happen in some of the toxic units…
(U.S Marine photo by Lance Corporal Tayler P. Schwamb)
You’ll often hear the commander or first sergeant tell you that their door is always open if you need to talk. When this policy works the way it should, it’s fantastic. It gives the little guy in the formation a strong ally when it comes to personal or professional issues.
Unfortunately, although their door may indeed always be open, it doesn’t mean you’re safe from reprimand. There are those in the chain of command who take it way too personally when a troop goes directly to the commander. They feel like the troop “jumped” the chain of command to fix something.
The hurt feelings are doubly potent if the problem is “toxicity in the troops’ leadership.”
The Marines of Hotel Company, 2nd Battalion 5th Marines had a pretty rough Vietnam deployment as they patrolled through the violent streets of Hue City. They managed to kill several enemy combatants all while sharing a few laughs — and a Da Nang lady of the night.
But did you ever think about where they all might be today?
After being the first kid on his block to get a confirmed kill, Pvt. Joker eventually finished out his tour of duty and moved to Southern California. He began dating a single mother who sold and smuggled marijuana into the country for a living.
Unfortunately, their love didn’t last more than a year or so. Joker then decided he needed another career change and became a scientist. Although his brilliance dominated the secret laboratory where he worked, one of his creations ended up escaping, prompting a massive manhunt.
This Marine machine gunner made an interesting career change after the Vietnam war ended. Apparently, the Marine Corps didn’t need his explosive trigger finger during peacetime, so Animal Mother moved onto the 1st CivDiv. After a few months of not getting into any fights, the commander of Area 51 got ahold of him and offered him an officer commission in the Air Force. He took it.
Luckily for him, aliens attacked earth, and he got to get back into the sh*t — where he belongs.
Take that you damn soda can. (Source: Screenshot from “ID4” Fox)
After helping to defeat earth’s unwanted guests, he went where the action is and joined the Navy. Eventually, he became the XO of a naval destroyer as a pandemic killed off most of the world’s population.
You probably thought Pvt. Pyle blew his brains out while sitting on a toilet after shooting his drill instructor, but you’re wrong. In fact, the bullet he shot himself with missed the brain’s vital structures, and he just suffered a skull fracture, along with a concussion.
After several hours of surgery, the doctors managed to save Pyle’s life, but he’d never be the same again. He got even crazier if you can believe that. Years later, a hot FBI agent pursued him after a string of kidnappings.
She busted him, entered his mind and found out about all the twisted sh*t he’s been thinking.
After the hot FBI agent busted him, Pyle faked his death and escaped to an island where genetically engineered dinosaurs now roam. But he got greedy and ended up getting eaten by a velociraptor.
Nobody liked him anyway.
After putting countless recruits through intense training and amusing hazing, Gunny was indeed murdered by Pvt. Pyle. But since the Marine Corps never dies, Gunny found a way to f*ck with people from beyond the grave.
Yup, you guessed it. He became a freaking ghost.
What cast of characters would you like us to track down next? Comment below.
Forty years ago, a two-day, American rescue mission launched on April 24 to free the hostages held by Iran in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. For John Limbert, who was held hostage for more than a year during his role as a diplomat in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, it feels like yesterday.
Last fall, the documentary “Desert One” debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival, telling the story of Operation Eagle Claw, the secret mission to free the hostages.
“For better or worse, the film does bring back memories,” Limbert told We Are The Mighty.
“Memories fade, you don’t remember all the details and particularly when you’re in the middle of it, but that was one of the powers of the film.”
Desert One is a 107-minute documentary directed by Barbara Kopple. The film gives viewers an intimate look into the military response led by then-President Jimmy Carter to rescue 52 hostages that were being detained in Tehran, Iran in the U.S. Embassy and Foreign Ministry buildings. Ultimately, the mission was aborted due to unoperational helicopters, with zero hostages rescued, eight servicemen dead and several others severely wounded. The crisis received near 24-hour news coverage and is widely considered a component of Carter’s eventual landslide loss to Ronald Reagan.
Through interviews with hostages, Delta Force soldiers, military personnel and President Carter, as well as animation done by an Iranian artist intimately familiar with the topography of the country, Kopple’s film chronicles the mission from every aspect, taking care to tell the story through people who lived it, a detail that was paramount for the two-time Academy Award winner.
“You can’t tell a story unless you have a lot of different angles of people coming at it from different places,” Kopple said. “They’re all feeling something. Whether it’s the special operators, or the hostages, or the people in Carter’s administration – there are so many different elements to it, which is also why it drew us in. We didn’t want to leave any stone unturned. Why should we tell everything about the Americans’ experience and not tell everyone about the Iranian’s experience? We’ve got to know these things exist to communicate. That’s so important. It’s a tough thing to do, but a very important thing to do.”
The ill-fated Operation marked the emergence of special operations in the American military. In 1986, Congress passed the Nunn-Cohen Amendment, citing this tragedy as part of their justification. The amendment mandated the President create a unified combatant command for Special Operations, and permitted the command to have control over its own resources.
“The film captures the best of our military colleagues,” Limbert explained. “This wasn’t a suicide mission, but that’s what it was. They didn’t have to go, but they did it. I have nothing but admiration for them. It was me and my colleagues that they were trying to rescue. They were willing to do this for people they didn’t know. It’s absolutely amazing. That’s the strength of the film. That willingness to self sacrifice so beautifully.”
Added Kopple, “What I felt is that these guys were all willing to give up their lives for the rescue. That was incredible that they wanted to get the American hostages out and they were a team. Even if one of them doubted it, they thought … well my buddies are going. They all had each other’s back — that thing inside of them not to leave anybody behind. That was their duty and that was their job.”
For Kopple, the hardest part of the filmmaking process was tracking down President Carter to speak on camera for his role in the mission and how it impacted his presidential legacy.
“I tried for three months [to get access] and there’s a guy named Phil who works for his administration who would never call me back,” she said. “So I started to have a relationship with his voicemail. I would tell them all about filming and every few days, I would call and beg him, ‘Please let us film President Carter.’ Three months had gone by and Phil called, and he introduced himself and I said, ‘I know, I’d know your voice anywhere.'”
Kopple was eventually granted just 20 minutes of access to the former president for the making of the film.
“He gave us 19 minutes and 47 seconds and we used a lot of it in Desert One,” Kopple said.
Desert One is expected to be released in movie theaters in late 2020 or early 2021, with an eventual television debut on the HISTORY channel.
“When you’re [making a film], you don’t think – where will this show?” Kopple said. “Hopefully the film presents an opportunity for Iranian and American audiences to find healing and reconcile with this very complicated history, not to stereotype people, [and] to really see who people are as individuals.”
It is now officially time we all had a talk about this ‘Stolen Valor’ craziness.
A while back, I was at the airport in Chicago passing through on business and I had just finished dinner and was standing up in the process of paying my bill. I was a middle aged guy with a heavy five o’clock shadow, physically fit without looking super athletic, and wearing civilian clothes – honestly, I didn’t much look like a soldier.
As I turned to go, this huge kid reeking of beer and at least a few percentage points over his tape test walked right up on me and blocked me from leaving, ’10th MTN, huh?’ It took me a few seconds to register I had a tiny 10th MTN pin on my backpack which I had forgotten about. Before I could answer, he jabbed his finger at the pin and got super aggressive, ‘What Battalion were you in? Who was your Commander?” I already had my wallet out and I pulled my ID card and held it out and told him to ‘back’ off. He took a look, apologized and he left.
My encounter ended well for me but it didn’t end so well for Marine veteran Michael Deflin. This Fallujah vet couldn’t produce an active duty CAC card on request from some Air Force dude and therefore he got the crap kicked out of him. He suffered a broken leg and jaw in the process. Prior to him and his friend beating Deflin down, the USAF guy accused him of ‘Stolen Valor’.
Congratulations, we have now started conducting fratricide on our own.
Stolen Valor is a real problem but not a new one – folks have lied about their service for personal and political gain after the Civil War and after both World Wars. It should be exposed when it is found. But the whole business of exposing those who lie about their service has become increasingly sordid with legions of veterans self-appointing themselves as ‘Valor Custodians’ fighting the good fight trying to find the next sad sack guy lying about being a SEAL cyber-ninja at the local Mall food-court.
I use to roll my eyes at these antics but now they have gotten dangerous. Stolen Valor fratricide folks: you’re the reason why we can’t have nice things.
Part of what makes this so laughable is that some of the loudest members of the mob are people who were FOB warriors downrange. They are the dudes you see at the PX or the Atlanta Hartsfield Airport wearing their absolutely pristine condition 400 dollar tactical packs with the ‘Major League Infidel’ patch, the always ridiculous camo cap with a subdued American flag on the velcro, and drinking a giant Monster while telling everyone who will listen about that ‘one time in Iraq, I did xxxxxx and I’m totally not making it up!’
The truth is they never left the wire on their one OIF/OEF tour – but I sure as hell hear them lying…oops, I mean exaggerating about what they have done downrange in the orderly rooms, at the PX food court, on social media, and in the customs line at Ali al Salim Air Base. Come on, guys, you don’t think we notice? You don’t think we haven’t heard multiple variations of the same story our entire career?
For many of you out there in the mob, I would say check your own shot group before you starting calling out others.
It is time to stop the nonsense. Your service makes you part of a unique grouping of Americans, but it doesn’t make anyone a hero despite what John Cena told you when you saw him on the USO tour at the Bagram Clamshell, you know, right before salsa night – the real heroes are at Arlington or Walter Reed.
Nor does it give you a right to be a jerk to others. If you think someone is lying about their service, the first thing you should do is chill and regard the situation. Separate the innocuous from the consequential. Tall tales and ‘war stories’ have been around since the beginning of time and mostly they are harmless. I would be lying if I told you I haven’t told one in my life. Unless it involves decorations, tabs, or awards which they didn’t receive, the stories generally aren’t worth your time to correct or worry about.
If you are still convinced they are rotten and they are truly disgracing the service of others like the civilian who wears a uniform and misrepresents himself at a public event or the guy who wears a Purple Heart or Silver Star they didn’t earn, then don’t confront them – the proper course of action is call Law Enforcement, local FBI field office, your chain of command, or the service investigative offices (CID, NCIS, OSI). They are the trained professionals who know how to handle these sorts of cases. It is becoming increasingly obvious many folks don’t.
And for God’s sake, take off the subdued velcro flag hats.
The Naval Air Weapons Command has collected a lot of footage at their China Lake Ranges in California, and it released a new video that’s just five minutes of bombs hitting targets, piercing the ground, crushing towed vehicles, and creating massive light shows.
The video includes rockets, missiles, and bombs, and even has a little surface-to-air action at the start, with shoulder-fired missiles taking out aerial drones.
There are plenty of live weapons in the videos, as well as some inert ones. You can tell the inert ones because they’re blue, and also they’re the ones that don’t create a massive fireball after they explode. While the footage, from armored vehicles and tanks blowing up to trucks getting crushed, is exciting, that’s obviously not why the Navy does it.
The range has a crap-ton of cameras and sensors, allowing weapon designers and testers to see exactly how current and prototype weapons act when hitting a variety of targets. That’s why you see some munitions slam through a target just before flying across a wall with black and white grids.
Personnel rail launch an Integrator unmanned aerial vehicle at Naval Air Warfare Center China Lake, California.
The high-speed cameras capture the rotation, flight path, and speed of the round as it flies past the grid, either during normal flight or right after flying through a wall or two. That lets designers figure out the best way to tweak a weapon for stable flight or for performance after piercing a bunker wall or two.
And the large ranges and massive restricted airspace allows Navy and other pilots to train in realistic conditions. So, when you want to learn to nail a fast-moving Land Rover, come to China Lake!*
*Must bring your own jet and bombs.
The range can be used for surface-to-surface warfare, but that isn’t featured much in the video, so this one is mostly for the aviation geeks. Check out the video at top.
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege is one of the most entertaining games online for the military community. It takes a much more grounded approach to game-play that isn’t seen in most games. Players must actually think about the objective and every way to approach it in order to win.
Each match pits a group of five players against another team of five to either defend or attack a position. Unlike most online shooters, you choose an operator to play that comes with their own special ability that either aids the team or hinders the enemy.
Some operators have a very real (but kinda lame) ability like having a regular old thermal scope or just having a sledgehammer. Other abilities were kind of made solely for the game and would be kinda pointless in actual combat, like a loud flying drone. But looking at their load-out, some operators would do a hell of a job in an actual scenario.
The gun is just as satisfying in-game as you’d expect.
Hibana is more of a fast moving operator with very little armor. Skilled players could use her to run through the map and peek into enemy held positions. What sets her apart from the other fast operators is her thermite launcher that can melt through nearly anything.
She is all about the element of surprise. The holes she blasts aren’t easy to walk through, but it’s helpful to fight through it. Granted, the weapon is made for the game but it’d still be awesome to have one of those.
That, and he has some of the best outfits in the game.
Pulse is your atypical FBI agent. He comes with standard American gear and is a very balanced character. He also comes with a heartbeat sensor that can detect anyone through walls.
Perfect for anyone in the real military not wanting to jump right into an ambush.
No more checking for booby traps every time you come up to a door.
IQ is apart of the German GSG-9. She’s very much on the weak side and doesn’t have any real armor but her gadgets make up for it all. Just like pulse, she has a sensor, but hers detects electronics, explosives, and traps.
If that tech were to exist in real life, it would make clearing houses in Iraq and Afghanistan so much simpler.
All hail Lord Tachanka
Tachanka is a massive character. Think of having a Russian version of The Mountain on your side carrying a RP-46 Degtyaryov machine gun mounted with ballistic shields. His ability is being able to place that BFG onto the ground so anyone can run up and defend a choke point.
Just the fact alone that he can carry said mounted machine gun without any problem puts him on anyone’s squad wishlist.
But in-game, you need to know what you’re doing or else you’ll get killed immediately.
Caviera is the silent assassin in the game and she kinda of has two abilities. She can sneak across the map quietly while everyone else is focused on the objective. Then if the player can down an enemy, can be interrogated into giving up the locations of everyone else on their team. Which also gets relayed back to everyone else on the player’s team.
Just that kind of usefulness would be amazing.
That gun works better than a change of socks and Motrin combined!
As his name implies, Doc is the game’s doctor. Automatically that makes him useful. And then his ability is a healing dart gun that nearly instantly heals someone from a distance.
No more worrying about trying to struggle with first aid kits if you can just dart someone back to full health after they nearly die.
The new Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, Black Widow, comes out this May. The standalone film will revolve around the Avenger Natasha Romanoff, otherwise known as the Black Widow.
The former assassin turned superhero has a dark and mysterious past that has been alluded to several times during the MCU run. Now, fans get to dive into that story and learn what made Black Widow and why her past haunts her.
The new trailer also featured more of the movie’s villain, the Taskmaster. The Taskmaster has the ability to learn and mimic the fighting style of anyone he faces. In the first trailer we see him take aim with a bow and arrow which means he must have gone up against Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye.
But in the new trailer, we see other Avengers mimicked by the Taskmaster. At the 1:12 mark, we see Taskmaster give the ole Wakanda Forever salute, prompting fans to wonder if there will be an appearance by Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, also known as Black Panther.
Also, we see Taskmaster pull out a very iconic tool of one of the Avengers.
That’s right, he uses (pretty proficiently) a shield as a weapon just like Captain America.
Taskmaster is considered Marvel’s ultimate copycat
In the new #BlackWidow trailer you can see him:
– Studying Natasha’s moves in ‘Iron Man 2’
– Throwing a shield like Cap
– Mimicking Black Panther
– Shooting a bow and arrow like Hawkeye
Speaking of the Captain, the movie features his old Soviet counterpart. Played by Stranger Things star David Harbour, the Red Guardian has a big role in the movie as one of Black Widow’s family members. The premise of the movie seems to be that the Taskmaster has taken control of the Red Room (used to create Black Widow assassins) and Black Widow and her family must do battle to stop him. Rounding out the superhero family are Rachel Weisz and Florence Pugh.
The movie is supposed to be set after Captain America: Civil War, and has Romonoff alone and dealing with a sinister force that is using her past against her. She must battle both the Taskmaster and her past in order to prevail.
It sounds like this will be another great Marvel action flick!
A US service member died in a non-combat incident in Afghanistan Sept. 4, 2018, marking the second American death in two days in the war-torn country.
The incident is currently under investigation, according to an Operation Resolute Support press statement that was decidedly short on details. The fallen’s name will be released 24 hours after the individual’s next of kin have been notified.
There’s a never-ending pissing contest between all of the branches of the U.S. Military but, at the end of the day, we’re all still one big, happy, dysfunctional family. We’ll always throw barbs at our brothers while we work with them because we expect the same jokes to be thrown our own way.
No two branches better demonstrate this love/hate relationship than the Marines and the soldiers. Yeah, the Marine Corps falls under the Department of the Navy and yes, the Air Force was once a part of the Army, but — sorry, sailors and airmen — it’s the soldiers and the Marines who inevitably become the closer friends in the end.
Train. Go to the field. Deploy. Clean. That’s about it for both branches…
1. Our missions are similar
Marines and soldiers often share the same FOBs, the same areas of operation, the same interpreters, and the same objectives. It’s bound to happen when both branches pride themselves on being Uncle Sam’s premier door kickers.
Hell, both branches even share the same joke about one another. You’ll hear both Marines and soldiers talk about how “we’re the first ones in and it’s up to those guys to clean up the mess!” And no matter who says it, there are historical examples of it being true.
“Locker room talk” has nothing on “deployed smoke pit talk.”
(U.S. Marine Corps)
2. We get each other’s low-brow humor
When life gets rough, the only thing you can do is joke it off — the more stressful the situation, the raunchier the humor.
Don’t get me wrong. Sailors can tell some pretty dirty, messed-up jokes, but leave it to the Marines and the soldiers to find the line you shouldn’t cross… and then go a few clicks past it.
There’s a certain finesse required to kicking in a door that only our brothers would find admirable.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
3. We share the same values
Can you shoot well? Can you max your PT test? Can you insult the boot/FNG to the point that they have to pull out a stress card? Can you and your boys drink an entire bar dry in a single evening? Awesome! You’re one of us.
We also both value our ability to speak with our fists over “soft skills,” like reasoning and negotiation. Don’t believe me? Just watch as either group shows up to a new FOB and there’s an open bunk in the back corner. Someone will get choked out and the winner will get a year in the best spot.
And we both want to smack the ever living sh*t out of that one person who always jokes, “if it ain’t rainin’, we ain’t trainin’!”
(U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Henry Chan)
4. We understand each other’s pain
Jokes about how much it sucks to be stuck in the motor pool until 2130 because the some butter-bar misread the serial number on a pair of NVGs are universal — because it happens all the friggin’ time to all of us.
But the empathy runs much deeper than that. Both groups also left in the field for a few weeks just to come back to the monotony of garrison life, where we spend most of our time cleaning things as we wait for the totally-going-to-happen-this-time visit from a general.
Here’s to you, you glorious bastards!
5. We both mock our brother’s branch viciously
It’s beautiful when Marines and soldiers sh*t-talk each other. You poke fun at the Navy, and sailors will get defensive. You mock the Air Force, and airmen will probably just agree with you, sucking the fun right out of the joke.
When soldiers and Marines go at it, you’d be surprised by how even the lowest blow is matched by another vicious, hilarious comment… that gets laughed off just as quickly.
Even Navy SEALs and Army Special Forces need heroes at times — those times when the fighting gets too thick and there are wounded that need attention on the ground. Those heroes are the Air Force’s Pararescue Jumpers; highly-trained airmen who will come retrieve anyone who needs it, almost anywhere, and in nearly any situation.
Just earning the title of what the Air Force affectionately calls a “PJ” is a grueling task. Dubbed “Superman School,” Pararescue training takes two years and has a dropout rate of around 80 percent. And PJs put all of this rigorous training to use in their everyday duties, when it matters the most. It’s not exaggeration to say they are among the most decorated airmen in the Air Force — and none of them are more decorated than Duane Hackney.
Over the course of his career, Hackney stacked on an Air Force Cross, a Silver Star, four distinguished flying crosses (with combat V), two Purple Hearts, and 18 Air Medals, just to name a few highlights of the more-than-70 decorations he amassed in his life.
His achievements made him the most decorated airman in Air Force history.
Like the rest of his fellow Pararescue Jumpers, he was in the right place at the right time to earn those accolades. Unfortunately, “right place at the right time” for a PJ means “terrible time to be anywhere in the area” for everyone else. Jumping into the dense jungles of North Vietnam to recover downed pilots and special operators was incredibly dangerous work.
With the rest of the allied ground forces in South Vietnam, once lowered into the jungles, PJs were truly on their own down there.
Duane Hackney had no illusions about the dangers he faced when on a mission. The Michigan native joined the Air Force specifically to become a Pararescueman — and the NVA made sure Duane and his fellow PJs had their work cut out for them. The North Vietnamese air defenses were good — very good. Despite the massive air campaigns launched over Vietnam, the U.S. couldn’t always count on complete air superiority. Massive surface-to-air missile complexes and well-trained NVA pilots flying the latest Soviet fighters ensured plenty of work for the Air Force. Whenever a pilot went down, they sent the PJs to find them
Duane Hackney went on more than 200 search-and-rescue missions in just under four years in Vietnam. He lost track of how many times he went into those jungles or how many times the enemy opened up a deadly barrage as he went. It was part of the job, and it was a job Hackney did extremely well.
It wasn’t easy. Just days into his first tour in Vietnam, Hackney took a .30-caliber slug to the leg. He had another PJ remove it and treat the wound rather than allow himself be medically evacuated out of the country. He was in five helicopters as they were shot down over North Vietnam, putting himself and those aircrews in the same risk as the pilots they were sent to rescue — captured troops could look forward to a quick death or a long stay in the “Hanoi Hilton.”
On one mission in February, 1967, Hackney jumped into a dense area of North Vietnam, in the middle of a massed enemy force. He extracted a downed pilot and made it back to his HH-3E Jolly Green Giant Helicopter. As they left, the NVA tore into the helo with 37mm flak fire. Hackney secured his parachute to the downed pilot and he went to grab another parachute. The rest of the people aboard the helicopter would be killed in the explosion that shot Hackney out the side door.
Hackney managed to grab a chute before being fired out the side. He deployed it as he hit the trees below, fell another 80 feet, and landed on a ledge in a crevasse. The NVA troops above him were jumping over the crevasse, looking for him. Hackney managed to make it back to the wreckage of the helicopter to look for survivors. Finding none, he signaled to be picked up himself.
That incident over the Mu Gia Pass earned Hackney the Air Force Cross. At the time, he was the youngest man to receive the award and the only living recipient of it. But Hackney didn’t stop there. Despite that close call, he stayed in Vietnam for another three years — as a volunteer for his entire stay in country.
He stayed in the Air Force until his retirement as Chief Master Sergeant Hackney in 1991.
It may take up to five years to finalize the standards for the Army Combat Fitness Test as the service struggles to address the performance gap between male and female soldiers on the service’s first-ever gender-neutral fitness assessment.
The Army just completed in late September 2019 a year-long field test of the ACFT, involving about 60 battalions of soldiers. And as of Oct. 1, 2019, soldiers in Basic Combat Training, advanced Individual training and one station unit training began to take the ACFT as a graduation requirement.
So far, the data is showing “about a 100 to a 110-point difference between men and women, on average,” Maj. Gen. Lonnie Hibbard, commander of the Center for Initial Military Training, told Military.com.
North Carolina National Guard Fitness Manager Bobby Wheeler explain the proper lifting technique of the ACFT deadlift event to the students of the Master Fitness Trainers Level II Certification Course, Sept. 25, 2019, at Joint Forces Headquarters in Raleigh, North Carolina.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Alonzo Clark)
Final test-score averages taken from soldiers in the active forces, National Guard and Reserve who participated in the ACFT field test illustrate the performance gap that currently exists between male and female soldiers.
Maximum deadlift: Male soldiers deadlifted an average of 238 pounds; females lifted an average of 160 pounds.
Standing power throw: Male soldiers threw an average of 9 feet; female soldiers three average of 5.5 feet.
Hand release pushups: Male soldiers performed an average of 34 pushups; female soldiers performed an average of 20.
Sprint-drag-carry: Male soldiers completed the SDC in an average of 1 minute, 51 seconds; female soldiers completed the event in an average of 2 minutes, 28 seconds.
Leg tuck: Male soldiers completed 8.3 leg tucks; female soldiers completed 1.9 leg tucks.
Two-mile run: Male soldiers completed the run in an average of 16 minutes, 45 seconds; female soldiers completed it in an average of 18 minutes, 59 seconds.
U.S. Army soldiers participate in a 2.35-mile run.
(U.S. Army photo by Senior Airman Rylan Albright)
All of the test-score averages are high enough to pass the ACFT, data that contrasts dramatically with that shown on a set of leaked slides posted on U.S. Army W.T.F! Moments in late September. Those slides showed an 84% failure rate for some female soldiers participating in the ACFT field test, compared to a 30% failure rate among male soldiers.
CIMT officials said the slides were not official documents. Hibbard said the field test showed that soldiers’ scores improved significantly between the first time they took the ACFT and after they were given time to work on their problem areas.
Currently, female soldiers at the start of Basic Combat Training taking the ACFT average about “a third of a leg tuck,” Hibbard said.
“If you have 144 women in basic training, the average is .3; by the end of it they are doing one leg tuck,” Hibbard said, who added that that is all that is required to pass the ACFT in that event. “So, in 10 weeks, I can get from a soldier not being able to do a leg tuck on average to doing one leg tuck.”
Hibbard said there are critics that say, “it’s too hard; females are never going to do well on it.”
“Well, we have had women max every single category, [but] we haven’t had a female max all six categories at once.”
Hibbard said the Army would be in the same position if it tried to create a gender-neutral standard for the current Army Physical Fitness Test.
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Danny Gonzalez, Recruiting and Retention Command, New Jersey Army National Guard, carries two 40-pound kettlebells during the Army Combat Fitness Test, Dec. 19, 2018.
(New Jersey National Guard photo by Mark C. Olsen)
“We would still have challenges, because you have to make the low end low enough that 95% of the women can pass,” Hibbard said, adding that the Army will likely have to make small adjustments to the standard over time as soldiers improve their performance in each event.
“It’s going to be three to five years, like we did the current PT test.”
The Army first introduced the APFT in 1980 and made adjustments over time, Hibbard said.
“Once the Army began to train and understand how to do the test, we looked at the scores and we looked at everybody was doing and we rebased-lined,” Hibbard said.
The next key step for implementing the ACFT by Oct. 1, 2020, will be to have active duty soldiers take two diagnostic ACFT tests and National Guard and Reserve soldiers take one to establish to get a better sense of the force’s ability to pass the test.
“I don’t think it is going to be hard for the Army to pass; what have to figure out as an Army is how do we incentivize excellence,” he said. “The goal of this is we change our culture so that we incentivize and motive our soldiers to be in better physical shape.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Two brothers who served in the Army during World War II were honored during the home opener for the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Seattle Seahawks with the ATI Salute to Heroes Award.
Former Cpl. Theodore “Ted” Joseph Sikora, 99, served in the Battle of the Bulge in France in 1944 and 1945. Former Sgt. Ed Sikora, 95, served in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1943 and later in the Pacific theater of operations.
The brothers expressed thanks for the tribute. “We’re not used to this much recognition, and I’m very grateful,” said Ted Sikora.
Ed Sikora said he was proud to serve. “I cherished the opportunity to serve my country,” he said.
Former Pittsburgh Steeler Franco Harris shakes hands with Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Vollstedt, grandson-in-law of Ted Sikora.
(Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Dalton Smith)
Although they are natives of Washington, Pennsylvania, both now live in the Pittsburgh area.
Ted Sikora was a crew member on a Curtiss C-46 Commando and Douglas C-47 Skytrain as a member of the 8th Army Air Force. Those transport aircraft dropped much-needed supplies to the besieged American soldiers.
He was stationed in England on D‐Day — June 6, 1944 — and remembers having trouble sleeping because of the noise from the airplanes taking off for France.
In a historic photo, Ed Sikora poses during basic training at Camp Edwards, Mass.
He also remembers planes returning damaged and on fire. He said he witnessed a lot of things he will never forget, and that he doesn’t really like to talk about.
After the war, Ted Sikora worked as a machinist. Now, he enjoys working out and taking Zumba classes.
Ed Sikora was on the opposite side of the world, assigned to the 7th Infantry Division 502nd Anti Artillery Gun Battalion.
Although Ed Sikora wasn’t in Oahu when the Japanese attacked on Dec. 7, 1941, he said the Americans were expecting another attack so they were on constant vigil.
A historic photo of Ted Sikora as a cadet shows him dressed in a flight uniform with a white ascot, black jacket, headgear and goggles.
(Courtesy of Ted Sikora)
In October 1944, he was attached to the 7th Infantry Division, which landed in the Philippines amid bombing by Japanese fighter planes. His unit was credited with downing six enemy planes.
In 1945, Ed Sikora participated in the Battle of Okinawa. His unit was credited with downing 33 Japanese aircraft.
Later in life, Ed Sikora taught high school and college, specializing in industrial arts. He later established a fruit orchard in California.
Brothers Ed and Ted Sikora, both Army service members, pose for a photo with their rifles crossed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
(Courtesy of Ed and Ted Sikora)
Ted Sikora’s granddaughter, Alia Ann Vollstedt, is married to Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Vollstedt, who participated in the game’s opening ceremony joint-service color guard. Daniel Vollstedt is with 2nd Battalion, Army Reserve Careers Division, based in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania.
Brothers Ed and Ted Sikora pose for a photo wearing World War II veteran caps in October 2018.
(Courtesy of Ed and Ted Sikora)
Daniel Vollstedt said the two veterans have shared some of their stories with him over the years and were proud of his decision to enlist in the Army.
John Wodarek, the Steelers’ marketing manager, said the brothers were selected for the honor because Ted Sikora will turn 100 in March 2020 — which ties in with the National Football League’s 100th-season anniversary being observed this year and next.