Every workplace has them: the loudest, most boisterous employees, constantly talking about how much work they’re doing and how good they are at their jobs or making a scene with their after-work activities. Meanwhile, quietly plugging away somewhere, there are the employees who really are good at their job, their performance going unnoticed because they simply just want to finish up and go home.
The Union Army in the Civil War was no different. Grant struggled with alcohol, Sherman had to work to maintain his sanity, and George B. McClellan just knew everyone in all the right places. Meanwhile, these guys were chugging along, slowly winning the Civil War.
Samuel R. Curtis
Missouri is likely a forgotten theater of the Civil War, but for the Union at the outset of the war, Missouri was the one bright spot that shined through an otherwise dreary day. The reason for that is Samuel R. Curtis. While the Union Army in Virginia was spinning its wheels, Curtis was kicking the Confederate Army out of Missouri and into Arkansas. For the rest of the war, he would be bogged down in insurgent violence in the region (Kansas was a violent mess before the war even started).
The Civil War West of the Mississippi was dominated by the Union Army, and it’s largely because of Curtis.
You may not have heard of Nathan Kimball, but that’s okay because he has one thing most Union generals could never have: a victory over Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson – in the Shenandoah Valley, no less. Kimball was a doctor and veteran of the Mexican-American War who assumed command of the 14th Indiana at the start of the Civil War. As Jackson began his famous 1862 Shenandoah Valley campaign, he tried to knock out a force a Kernstown that was guarded by the 14th, but it was the Hoosiers there who gave Jackson the bloody nose instead.
Kimball’s unit then went on to earn the nickname “The Gibraltar Brigade” for their assaults on the sunken road at Antietam. His future victories came at places like Fredericksburg, Vicksburg, and he was a division commander during the Battles of Franklin and Nashville that destroyed the Confederate Army in Tennessee.
The Civil War broke out after Prussian general August Willich emigrated to the United States. Never one to bow away from a fight, he decided he would stand up and defend his adopted homeland by raising a unit of German immigrants and drilling them into a crack Prussian unit the likes of which the Confederates had never seen.
Despite being briefly captured and held prisoner, Willich’s Prussians performed like champions at Shiloh and Chickamauga but it was his unit that broke the Confederates at Chattanooga.
Gen. George H. Thomas
Thomas might be the most underrated General of the entire Civil War. In January 1862, Thomas was leading a simple training command in Kentucky but Confederate movements forced him into a fight. At the Battle of Mill Springs, it was George H. Thomas that gave the Union its first significant win of the war. Thomas would go on to finish the war undefeated but unglorified – because he moved slowly and deliberately, caring more about his men than about his legacy as a commander.
He was responsible for some of the most key Union wins of the war. His defense at Chickamauga saved the Union Army from destruction and his later victory at Nashville completely destroyed the Confederate Army of Tennessee under John Bell Hood.
“Marines will low crawl through a thousand miles of barbed wire and broken glass to help a brother Marine or a member of his family – even when they have never met.” – MSgt Andy Bufalo, USMC
Marine Corps veteran Bobby Donald Diaz suffered a major stroke. Diaz, 79, has been receiving treatment at The Woodlands Hospital in Texas for swelling of the brain. He has lost some function of his left side and some of his vision. So he asked his immediate family to call on his Marine family to visit him.
“He was getting depressed on his back for so long,” Diaz’ wife of 40 years, Marilyn, said. “He wanted to talk to one of his brothers, so my son-in-law put the word out.”
Within hours, Marines – many of whom Diaz had never met — came running. The former sergeant, who served for four years in the Korean War, received a steady stream of visits and calls from Marines of all ages, from all over.
“I’ve lost count,” Marilyn said. “I’m overwhelmed; it’s unbelievable, and the stories [they share] are unreal.”
Marine vet Adam Blancas shared this about his visit with Diaz on his Facebook page:
I had the extreme honor of being able to show love and support to a Marine brother in need. Bobby Diaz had a bad stroke a few weeks back and had told his son/daughter in law he wanted to see a couple of his brothers (Marines). This was two days ago. When I saw him today the family said over 100 people have been by, not a single one knowing anything about Bobby other than his shared service with us.
About 45 minutes in Congressman Brady stopped by to visit. He couldn’t have been nicer and made sure the focus stayed on Diaz. Bobby’s reaction to being surrounded with brothers was amazing. He started talking and laughing while sharing old corps stories with anyone eager to listen, and we all were.
The oldest Marine on deck visiting was 82, I was the youngest at 26. Seeing that kind of love in action was an experience I’ll never forget.
“It just goes to show you that in the Marine Corps: once a brother, always a brother, no matter what,” Diaz told a KHON reporter. “When you feel bad, you can’t feel bad because all your brothers are here.”
In true joint military fashion, the Marine visitors discovered there was an Air Force veteran two rooms down from Diaz, and many of them visited him as well.
A 23-year-old California native received his first haircut in 15 years to enlist in the US Army.
US Army Pvt. Reynaldo Arroyo of Riverside donated 150 inches of hair to Locks of Love and enlisted in the Army as an infantryman on Aug. 15, 2019.
“I’m just really excited to be enlisting in the US Army,” Arroyo said in a Facebook video. “Hopefully, some lucky little girl’s going to get it.”
Locks of Love is a non-profit organization that donates hair to disadvantaged people with long-term medical conditions resulting in hair loss, such as cancer and severe burns.
Arroyo is scheduled to ship out to Ft. Benning, home of the Army’s infantry school, within the next two weeks, a US Army spokesperson told INSIDER.
US Army Recruit Pvt. Reynaldo Arroyo holds up his donation bag containing his hair.
But Arroyo will not be sporting his fresh haircut for long.
Upon arriving at Ft. Benning, he is expected to receive a buzz cut like all the other male recruits. After graduating and at his commander’s discretion, he may grow out his hair again, so long as it remains “neat and conservative,” according to Army regulations.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Azerbaijani T-72’s lead BMP’s during the military exercises on May 20, 2020. (Photo by Azerbaijan Ministry of Defense/released)
At the end of May, the Azerbaijan Ministry of Defense announced the conclusion of their Large-Scale Operational-Tactical Exercises as part of their combat training plan for 2020. The week-long exercises included some 10,000 military personnel, 120 tanks and armored vehicles, 200 missile systems, 30 aviation units, and various unmanned aerial vehicles.
According to a statement from the Azerbaijan MOD, “During the exercise, the combat readiness, planning and operation of various military units will be developed, and the small and large scale capabilities of the strike groups will be checked.” The MOD released a statement at the conclusion of the exercises stating, “According to the exercises leadership’s evaluation, the troops fully achieved the goals assigned during the completed exercises. The military personnel amassed its practical experience and skills in carrying out combat operations and also demonstrated real abilities in the field.”
The Azerbaijani Military Exercises can be likened to exercises held at Fort Irwin, CA and Fort Polk, LA, the U.S. Army National Training Center and Joint Readiness Training Center respectively. Units come to these training centers to validate their planning, tactics, crews, and equipment in preparation for deployment.
However, rotations to NTC and JRTC were cancelled in March due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. The 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the Washington Army National Guard and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, NY were on deck for the now-cancelled NTC and JRTC rotations. In lieu of their training exercises, the 81st BCT was made available to Washington state governor Jay Inslee to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2nd BCT remained at Fort Drum to continue to train for their next mission. NTC and JRTC rotations have yet to be rescheduled.
Soldiers train for their worst day of combat in “The Box”. (U.S. Army photo from army.mil/released)
U.S. relations with Azerbaijan began immediately after the fall of the Soviet Union on December 25, 1991 when the U.S. formally recognized 12 former Soviet republics, including Azerbaijan, as independent states. In March 1992, respective embassies were opened in Washington and Baku. Due to its strategic location in the region, Azerbaijan has been an integral contributor in the War on Terror. The country has provided troops as well as overflight, refueling, and landing rights to U.S. and coalition aircraft in support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Additionally, at the height of combat operations, over one-third of nonlethal equipment such as fuel, food, and clothing used by the U.S. military in Afghanistan traveled through Baku.
Relations have also been influenced by the ongoing dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region between Azerbaijan and Armenia. In 1988, the local Karabakh provincial government appealed to the Soviet Union to transfer them from the Azerbaijani SSR to the Armenian SSR. Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Armenians in the Karabakh region and Armenia held spontaneous mass demonstrations, the first of their kind in the USSR, in support of the appeal. The demonstrations sparked clashes between Azeris and ethnic Armenians in the Karabakh region, which continued through the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Clashes turned into a bona fide war in January 1992 when the Nagorno-Karabakh parliament declared the region’s independence and intention to join with Armenia. Formal hostilities ended in May 1994 with a Russian-brokered ceasefire and the de facto independence of the Nagorno-Karabakh/Republic of Artsakh. However, the region is still recognized by most nations as part of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Consequently, clashes have continued to erupt along the border to this day.
Ethnic Armenians of the Artsakh Armed Forces conduct exercises in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. (Photo by the Artsakh Defense Ministry/released)
The Azerbaijani Military Exercises have raised alarm and garnered condemnation from the Armenian MOD.
“It is noteworthy that the exercises are exclusively offensive in nature, during which massive strikes of missile-artillery, aviation, and high-precision weapons at the operational depth of the enemy will be utilized,” the Armenian MOD stated, calling them, “a threat to the regional security environment.”
On May 20th, the U.S. Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ) penned a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper expressing concern over the Azerbaijani Military Exercises and a 0 million allocation of U.S. security assistance to Azerbaijan. The letter was co-signed by Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Jackie Speier (D-CA), Vice Chairs Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Adam Schiff (D-CA) as well as Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Jim Costa (D-CA), T.J. Cox (D-CA), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), James Langevin (D-RI), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Linda Sanchez (D-CA), Albio Sires (D-NJ),Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Tom Suozzi (D-NY) and Juan Vargas (D-CA). The full text of the letter to Secretaries Pompeo and Esper is reprinted below.
Dear Secretaries Pompeo and Esper:
We are gravely concerned about the military exercises reported to be held by the Republic of Azerbaijan from May 18 to 22, 2020. These exercises are dangerous, violate diplomatic agreements and have the potential to destabilize security in the South Caucasus at a time when the COVID-19 global pandemic has taken hundreds of thousands of lives and threatened the health of many more. We strongly urge the Department of State and the Department of Defense to condemn these egregious actions taken by the Azerbaijani military.
Even in normal circumstances, these exercises would be unacceptable due to their offensive nature and the failure to follow diplomatic notification practices. On May 14, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry released information describing military exercises that would take place from May 18 to 22. Azeri reports state that the exercises are expected to include 10,000 servicemen, 120 artillery and armored vehicles, 200 missile systems, 30 aviation units, and various unmanned aerial vehicles. The failure to provide adequate notification as prescribed under the 2011 Vienna Document and the size of the exercises demonstrates Azerbaijani President Aliyev’s intention of further aggravating historical tensions with the Republic of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh.
We are especially concerned that over 0 million in security assistance the United States has sent to Azerbaijan over the last two years through the Section 333 Building Partner Capacity program has emboldened the Aliyev regime. This taxpayer funding defies almost two decades of parity in U.S. security assistance to Armenia and Azerbaijan. The aid appears to have allowed Azerbaijan to shift resources toward offensive capabilities and further threaten Armenian lives and regional stability as the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues warned in letters sent to you in September and November of 2019.
We cannot allow Azerbaijan to use the global coronavirus pandemic as cover for these dangerous military operations. We urge you to immediately condemn the reckless actions of the Azerbaijani military and to work with our allies and international partners to halt the provocative actions being taken by the Aliyev Regime.
We look forward to your prompt reply to this request.
U.S. Representative Frank Pallone. (U.S. House of Representative Official Portrait, 113th Congress/released)
The following day, May 21, U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Lynne Tracy announced during a Facebook Live appearance that the Trump administration is ending USAID’s humanitarian Artsakh demining program. In response to criticism over the defunding of the program, Ambassador Tracy underscored the benefits of the demining program and its successes over the past 20 years, but noted that the U.S. is, “preparing populations for peace…to help toward that goal of achieving a lasting peaceful settlement of the conflict.”
For decades, this region and its inhabitants have navigated a tumultuous era of changing borders and armed conflict. The U.S. has had to walk a fine line between these two conflicting nations as they continue to clash, both politically and militarily, over this area in the Caucasus region. This path of attempted neutrality between the two nations may not be an option for the U.S. in the future if tensions continue to rise.
Nagorno-Karabakh Army T-72 tanks on parade. (Photo by the Nagorno-Karabakh Army/released)
Disclaimer: The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and the Republic of Artsakh refer to the same region. Nagorno-Karabakh is derived from the Soviet name for this region and recognized by Azerbaijan and the international community, while Artsakh is the Armenian name for this region and utilized by Armenians to advocate for the sovereignty of the region. The people of the region generally prefer the Republic of Artsakh, but both are technically correct.
Just before America’s official involvement in World War II, Fido was born. It took a while for Fido to be ready to serve, though. Only 4,000 were fielded – down from a planned 10,000 — largely because Fido was so effective.
For Fido, though, the mission was a one-way trip.
Now, you dog lovers out there, don’t go flying off the handle. Fido wasn’t some poor canine conscripted for use in war to be blown to bits while killing the enemy. No, this “Fido” — as the sailors who used it against enemy subs took to calling it — was purely machine. A torpedo, to be exact.
Okay, technically Fido’s designation was as the Mk 24 Mine, but this torpedo was unique in that it could sniff out enemy submarines.
According to UBoat.net, Fido’s “nose” consisted of four hydrophones placed at equidistant points around the body of the Mk 13 aerial torpedo. These gave the torpedo steering directions as they detected the skulking submarine and guided the torpedo to a direct impact on the hull. That’s when a 100-pound high-explosive warhead would do its job. The result should be a sunken enemy submarine.
Fido could go at a speed of 12 knots and its batteries would last for 15 minutes. It could be dropped from up to 300 feet high by planes going as fast as 120 knots. Submarines could increase their speed to try to outrun it, but their batteries would run out very quickly, forcing them to the surface, where they’d be sitting ducks to American guns. If they didn’t go fast, the torpedo would catch them.
Fido was used on anything from a TBF Avenger to the PBY Catalina. It took a little less than a year and a half for Fido to make it from the drawing board to its first enemy kill. Fido claimed 33 Axis submarines in the Atlantic (32 German, one Japanese), and four more in the Pacific (all Japanese).
Fido was, in one sense, the progenitor of today’s advanced air-dropped anti-submarine torpedoes, the Mk 46, the Mk 50 Barracuda, and the Mk 54 MAKO. Such is the legacy of a torpedo that sniffed out Axis subs.
Sports, in large part, were halted when the U.S. military became involved in World War II. The Indy 500 was canceled to save gasoline, and the U.S. Open golf tournament was scrapped favoring resources in rubber, which typically made golf equipment. Several professional athletes, managers, owners, and even rules officials across many leagues enlisted, commissioned, or were drafted.
These sports icons sacrificed the prime of their careers for a cause bigger than themselves. On the anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, we celebrate the lives of some of sports’ greatest stars who served during this time.
(Courtesy of World Golf Hall of Fame)
“I don’t suppose that any of the pro and amateur golfers who were combat soldiers, Marines, or sailors will soon be able to think of a three-putt green as of the really bad troubles in life,” Mangrum said when he returned from World War II. Mangrum was both a veteran of Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge. Before he left for war to fight with General Patton’s Third Army, he made a pact with his friend, Sergeant Robert Green. Each ripped a id=”listicle-2641582160″ bill in half, vowing to each return it when the war ended. Green was killed in action, thus the pair never rekindled their promise.
Mangrum and his brother spent their childhood in the backyard where his thirst for competition began. “A small creek ran behind our house,” he told the NY Times. “My brother, Ray, and I built a crude green on the opposite bank and had [sic] pitching contests with a rustyblade old mashie somebody had discarded.” Soon he was a caddie learning how to approach the game through judgment. He took first place in the first US Open (1946) golf tournament since its hiatus during World War II. He became known as “Mr. Icicle” for his calmness on the links, which he credits how nothing on the golf course could rattle him like the battlefield.
Ralph Houk is not a name that is first mentioned when thinking of a New York Yankee, but he should be. His commanding officer, Caesar Flore, spoke of his battlefield fearlessness when he sent Houk out in a jeep to do reconnaissance on enemy scouting positions. He didn’t return until two nights later, and Flore listed him as ‘missing in action.’ “When he had returned, he had a three day growth of beard and hand grenades hanging all over him,” Flore said. “He was back of the enemy lines the entire time. I know he must’ve enjoyed himself. He had a hole in one side of his helmet, and a hole in the other where the bullet left. When I told him about his helmet he said, ‘I could have [sic] swore I heard a ricochet.'”
Houk rose from Private to Major in four years and earned a Silver Star, a Bronze Star with oak leaf cluster, and a Purple Heart for when he was wounded in the calf during the Battle of the Bulge. After the war, he secured the back-up catcher’s position behind Yogi Berra and became a manager where players referred to him as “The Major” for his wartime discipline.
(Courtesy of the New York Times.)
Gino Marchetti was known primarily for two things: being a Hall of Fame defensive end for the Baltimore Colts and an entrepreneur who co-owned a restaurant called Gino’s with teammate Alan Ameche. Their influence was so great that members of the community, including New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick, often muttered their slogan “Gino’s, oh yeah!” while they visited players at their favorite hamburger joint.
What most don’t know is that Gino Marchetti served as a machine gunner with Company I, 273rd Regiment of the 69th Infantry Division during the Battle of the Bulge. “You don’t realize that you are going to see some of your friends go down,” Marchetti told ESPN. “You don’t realize any of it. For example, the first time I ever saw snow, I slept in it. It’s hell.” Marchetti credits joining the Army as the greatest thing he had ever done because it gave him the discipline and toughness to compete in the NFL.
Nestor Chylak’s career behind home plate almost never came to be. While serving as a Technical Sergeant in the US Army’s 424 Infantry Regiment, Chylak was severely wounded on January 3, 1945, in the Ardennes Forest. While his battalion braced artillery fire in the blistering cold and blanketed snow, an artillery shell exploded a tree, which sent splinters traveling the speed of bullets into his face. He was blind for ten days, but ultimately regained his eyesight. He was awarded both the Silver Star and the Purple Heart.
Chylak would go on to become one of the most legendary MLB Umpires in the history of the game. He was never one to cower to a feisty manager’s tirade, nor did he get flustered from loud boos from fans. He umpired baseball’s bizarre promotion games like the infamous “10-Cent Beer Night” promotion in Cleveland and Bob Veeck’s “Disco Demolition Night” in Detroit. Both promotions ended in similar flair — a forfeiture and a flying chair. Chylak, however, umpired for 25 years in five World Series and was respected for his fairness.
At the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, a bronze plaque in the Umpire Exhibit says in his jest, “This must be the only job in America that everybody knows how to do better than the guy who’s doing it.”
It took sixty five years for one member of the 101st Airborne Division Screaming Eagles to learn that his actions during the Battle of Bastogne were legendary, but not for heroism or bravery. It all started with a simple request for a beer – and the greatest beer run the world will ever see.
Vincent Speranza, Vince to all that know him, had joined the Army right after graduating high school in 1943 and was assigned to Company H, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne as a replacement soldier while the unit recovered from Operation Market-Garden.
Shortly after training, Vince found himself in a foxhole in the middle of Bastogne, Belgium – cold, short on supplies, food, and ammunition. And surrounded by German troops.
“The first eight days we got pounded” by German artillery, he recalled. “But this was the 101st. They could not get past (us). They never set one foot in Bastogne.”
On the second day, his friend Joe Willis took shrapnel to both legs and was pulled back to a makeshift combat hospital inside a mostly destroyed church. Vince tracked him down and asked if there was anything he could do for his friend.
Vince told him it was impossible. The 101st was surrounded by Germans with no supplies coming in, they were taking artillery fire every day, and the town had been bombarded. But Joe wanted a beer.
Moving through the town, Vince, from blown-out tavern to blown-out tavern, went searching until serendipity hit. At the third tavern he hit, Vince pulled on a tap and beer came flowing out. He filled his helmet – the same one used as a makeshift shovel and Porta Potty in the foxhole – with all the beer he could handle and returned to the hospital.
Mission accomplished. Vince poured beer for Joe and some of those around him. When the beer ran out, they asked him to go for more.
As he returned to the hospital, Vince was confronted by a Major who demanded to know what he was doing.
“Giving aid and comfort to the wounded,” was the paratrooper’s simple answer.
An ass-chewing about the dangers of giving beer to men with gut and chest wounds lead to Vince putting his helmet back on his head, beer pouring down his uniform, and heading out.
While that could have been the end of it, the story continues 65 years later, when Vince returned to Bastogne for an anniversary celebration and learned that his epic beer run had been turned into Airborne beer, typically drunk out of a ceramic mug in the shape of a helmet.
The world of special operations is a mystery to many. This is even more true for the elite operators at the “Tier 1” level: their units aren’t officially listed by the Department of Defense, and their personnel are carefully selected from only the best of other special operations units. Their work is often shrouded in secrecy, and the general public rarely hears about their successes. But a few have stepped out of the shadows to record inspirational stories about their time serving at the tip of the spear or to provide context to missions they were on that made international headlines.
We compiled a list of these important — and sometimes controversial — books written by the operators themselves. Whether you want a peek behind the curtain or to gain a greater understanding of what our nation’s recent military history looks like, these books will no doubt satisfy!
“The Operator: Firing the Shots that Killed Osama bin Laden and My Years as a SEAL Team Warrior” by Robert O’Neill
The title pretty much says it all. As a member of SEAL Team 6, O’Neill was not only on the raid that hunted down the al Qaeda leader, he placed the bullet that ended the bastard’s life. He’s gotten some blowback from the community for speaking about things that are generally kept down low, but the story was already getting out. He told the Washington Post in 2014 that he wanted to maintain some control over the narrative and that his story seemed to aid in the healing process for families of 9/11 victims.
With a movie in the works, O’Neill’s memoir spanning his childhood through his impressive 400-mission career is something to get your hands on now before Hollywood has its way with it.
Notable quote: “‘Once we go on this mission, we aren’t going to see our kids again or kiss our wives. We’ll never eat another steak or smoke another cigar.’ We were trying to get down to the truth about why we were still willing to do this when we pretty much knew we were going to die. What we came up with was that we were doing it for the single mom who dropped her kids off at school and went to work on a Tuesday morning, and then an hour later decided to jump out of a skyscraper because it was better than burning alive. A woman whose last gesture of human decency was holding down her skirt on the long way to the pavement so no one could see her underwear. That’s why we were going. She was just trying to get through a workday, live a life.”
“Inside Delta Force: The Story of America’s Elite Counterterrorist Unit” by Eric Haney
Haney, a founding member of the supersecret and elite unit, details the early years of 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta. Released in 2002, it’s not a hot-off-the-presses memoir, but it’s a must-read for anyone who wants to get to know Delta Force. This is the book that inspired the popular network TV show “The Unit,” on which Haney also served as a producer.
Notable quote: “From the vantage point of my warm, comfortable spot on mother earth, I could see off into infinite space and the eternity of time. In just a few hours, I thought, some of us are going to make that leap into eternity. And I will be one of the instruments of that voyage. I may also be one of the travelers … . It’s going to happen sooner or later. But if today is my day—I’m going to have a cup of coffee first.”
“Leadership in the Shadows: Special Operations Soldier” by SGM Kyle Lamb
Whether military or civilian, the goal of any team is to accomplish the mission. With more than 20 years of experience in leadership positions within the U.S. Army’s special operations community, Lamb is uniquely qualified to get you there. If you need to instill confidence and encourage teamwork, you’ll find the tools in this book.
Notable quote: “You are not born with credibility. You must earn and build your credibility by becoming accountable, listening to your people, and, most importantly, performing on a daily basis. That credibility will be earned through performance and life leadership experiences.”
“The Mission, The Men, and Me: Lessons From a Former Delta Force Commander” by Pete Blaber
The former Delta Force commander distills his experience in the elite strike force into applicable leadership and life lessons for soldiers and civilians alike. And while he’s dropping all this knowledge, Blaber also shares stories about his time in combat and provides insight into the bureaucratic workings of the U.S. government — for better or worse.
Notable quote: “The question that high-ranking leaders always seemed to inject in any risk-averse-oriented discussion was, “Is it worth getting a man killed for?” Forty thousand people die on our highways each year, but when you get into your car each morning, do you ask yourself if driving to work is worth getting killed for?”
“Kill Bin Laden: A Delta Force Commander’s Account of the Hunt for the World’s Most Wanted Man” by Dalton Fury
This New York Times bestseller details how close Delta Force came to killing Usama bin Laden in the Tora Bora mountains of Afghanistan mere months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Met with acclaim and criticism, Fury (a pen name for Thomas Greer, who died in 2016) went on to write a series of books, including fiction, under the pseudonym.
Notable quote: “Many times we had to think and act instantly, with no guidance at all, but that is why Delta picks the kind of operators that it does. They have to be able to think as well as fight. The muhj allies turned their guns on our boys to stop an advance. Rival warlords weighed their military decisions according to personal agendas. When we arrived in Afghanistan in December 2001, the United States was pulling troops out of the area in a weird ploy to trick Usama bin Laden while stripping us of a quick-reaction force. The muhj that were supposed to be doing the bulk of the fighting, and we sucking up the glory, routinely left the battlefield when it got dark, at times abandoning our small teams in the mountains. Some people within the U.S. command system were extremely reluctant to commit highly trained forces because they might get hurt. Some of the highest-ranking people in the Pentagon had no idea of what Delta was trained to do. The CIA bought loyalty out of duffel bags filled with American cash only to learn later that money does not buy everything in Afghanistan. Some of this might have been funny had it not been so serious.”
“Delta Force: A Memoir by the Founder of the U.S. Military’s Most Secretive Special-Operations Unit” by Charlie A. Beckwith
The first commanding officer of Delta Force probably has a pretty impressive story to tell — Beckwith doesn’t disappoint. Originally published in 1983, you won’t find the juicy details about what it takes to be an elite warrior in what is considered by many to be the most effective fighting unit in the world, but you’ll find a detailed history — complete with war stories and the challenges he faced from a project management perspective to get the unit running and gunning.
Notable quote: “Then I remembered something I’d read that Teddy Roosevelt had said: “It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena…who strives…who spends himself…and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
“No Easy Day: The Autobiography of a Navy SEAL: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama bin Laden” by Mark Owen
Before O’Neill started talking, Mark Owen got the conversation (and controversy) started with “No Easy Day.” While it’s been praised for being well-written and providing fascinating insight into the dynamics of SEAL Team 6, Owen has also come under fire from the Naval Special Warfare Command and surrounding community for speaking out about secret missions for what appears to be personal recognition and accolades.
Notable quote: “[to Navy SEALs] Quite frankly, I didn’t even want to use you guys, with your dip and velcro and all your gear bullshit. I wanted to drop a bomb. But people didn’t believe in this lead enough to drop a bomb. So they’re using you guys as canaries. And, in theory, if bin Laden isn’t there, you can sneak away and no one will be the wiser. But bin Laden is there. And you’re going to kill him for me.”
“American Badass: The True Story of a Modern Day Spartan” by Dale Comstock
If you’re in need of some inspiration to get up and be the best American you can be, you’ve found it. Comstock chronicles the successes and failures in his life, offering a glimpse into America’s current warrior mentality. A quick and entertaining read.
Notable quote: “An American Badass doesn’t start fights, but knows if he must fight, he can with courage and conviction. An American Badass doesn’t steal, lie, or subvert the society that he lives in. He lives by a code of unwavering morality, and ethics that are tempered with honor, honesty, integrity, leadership, and loyalty to family, friends, and America.”
“My Share of the Task: A Memoir” by Gen. Stanley McChrystal
One of the most respected leaders of the GWOT, McChrystal served as the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan before retiring in 2010. In his 2014 New York Times bestselling memoir, he lays out the major aspects of his career and his path to becoming a four-star general. A leadership handbook wrapped in a personal narrative, “My Share of the Task” is both informative and entertaining.
Notable quote: “As the demands of the positions differed, and as I grew in age and experience, I found that I had changed as a leader. I learned to ask myself two questions: First, what must the organization I command do and be? And second, how can I best command to achieve that?”
BONUS: “Fearless: The Undaunted Courage and Ultimate Sacrifice of Navy SEAL Team SIX Operator Adam Brown” by Eric Blehm
Even though it wasn’t written by a Tier 1 operator, it’s such an inspiring story about one that we had to include it here. After struggling with addiction and a stint in jail, Adam Brown used his faith to propel him to the highest level of elite warrior — SEAL Team 6. This New York Times bestseller chronicles his life, his struggles, and, ultimately, his ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan.
Notable quote: “Modest, conventional expectations weren’t enough to lure Adam Brown away from the power of drug addiction that ensnared him. Instead, the college dropout already in his mid-twenties found only the big, near-impossible dream of being a Navy SEAL captivating enough to consistently draw him to different choices.”
Military working dogs go through lives of intense national service, trained from near birth to mind human commands and either fight bad guys or hunt for dangerous substances and contraband. But they’re still living creatures, and they are allowed to retire and live out their days after their service is done.
And, since this is the military, there’s a ceremony involved. But when you do retirement ceremonies with healthy, eager dogs, it’s actually a pretty adorable experience.
In this video from Fort Benning, the 904th Military Working Dog Police Detachment held a ceremony to retire two of their working dogs. Max is a Belgian Malinois with 10 years of service and Grisha is a Malinois who had spent four years at Fort Benning. Both dogs received Army Commendation Medals and were slated to live out their days in the civilian world.
Military working dogs serve in a variety of roles. The most visible is likely the dogs trained to detect improvised explosive devices and similar threats like mines and suicide vehicles. These animals are employed across the world, especially at forward bases and combat outposts.
But the military also has dogs that detect drugs to aid law enforcement agencies on military installations, as well as cadaver dogs which are unfortunately required to help find bodies after disasters.
But the animals also serve on the front lines or in raids. Special operators like Navy SEALs now take dogs on some missions to help keep curious onlookers back or even to take direct action against enemy fighters, using their teeth to harm foes or just to pin people down so the SEALs can sort hostages and civilians from fighters in relative safety.
One of the newer ways for animals to serve is in emotional support roles, a job which hearkens back to some of the earliest animals in military units. Animal mascots have been common to military units for centuries, and troops have long looked to the mascots for companionship.
If you’re a Marine or sailor and your unit receives orders to deploy, then you’re also looking at spending a little over a month training in the Mojave Desert. Every year, Marines from all over the U.S. and Japan take a trip to Twentynine Palms, California, where they eat, sleep, and sh*t war games against role players pretending to be the bad guys.
During your stay at “29 stumps,” you’ll get to blow up a lot of stuff, eat plenty of MREs, and sweat your ass off in the process.
Although you’ll have plenty of training to do, you’ll also find yourself bored as hell between activities as you sit in the middle of the desert at Camp Wilson.
(Photo by Marine Cpl Michael Dye)
Instead of twiddling your thumbs, try the following to keep your mind occupied. You’ll thank us later.
Between training revolutions, you’ll have no form of entertainment. Idle minds wander — this is when you’ll come up with new games to play with your fellow brothers. Everyone has a flak jacket and SAPI plates, right? It might be time to enjoy a semi-violent game of “knock down the other guy.”
Sleep, sleep, and then sleep some more
Do you really need any more explanation?
Search for cell service
Cell towers don’t cover most areas of the camp. However, there are a few cell-phone companies that extend service into select spots. We’ve discovered tiny, three-square-foot pockets of service and, once we left that magic spot, we got nothing.
It’s possible to find a signal, you just have to hunt for it.
Work on your six pack
While in Twentynine Palms, you’re going to sweat, which also means you’re losing weight. While you’re waiting to do whatever your platoon commander has planned for the day, you should knock out some crunches and planks. After a few weeks of training, you’re going to rotate home — those six-pack abs will be good for your dating life.
Document how much fun you’re having with a funny YouTube video
Marines can have fun just about anywhere at any time because of the dark sense of humor they proudly inherit from the grunts who came before them. To pass the time while you’re out in the blistering heat with nothing to do, make a video. Document how much fun you’re having.
Watch a movie on your phone
You better have the entire film downloaded to your iPhone or Andriod. Even if you find a little pocket of signal out there, it won’t be enough to download an entire movie — just sayin’.
During his second tour in Vietnam, Capt. Jay R. Vargas was the commanding officer of Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment about to lead his men into the enemy-infested area of Dai Do in the Republic of Vietnam.
While north along the DMZ, the Vietnamese 320th Infantry Division were on their way south with thousands of well-trained enemy troops.
Upon marching his Marines down to their base camp, hundreds of rounds of artillery flooded around Vargas’ position — but the Marines managed to reach their destination around 4 a.m.
After marching all night, two riverboats picked the tired Marines up and shipped them up the river toward Dai Do. Soon after boarding, the enemy began to fire. Vargas’ battalion commander instructed him to push on through the firing lanes once they’ve arrived.
After reaching the river’s bank, the Marines were already pinned down by heavy machine gun, but that didn’t stop Vargas coming up with a plan.
“Give me four Marines, we’re going to go take the machine guns,” Vargas recalls.
As they moved forward, the Marines took fire, wounding them instantly — leaving Vargas by himself.
On his own, Vargas knocked out three machine guns and killed 14 enemy troops, which reopened a clear lane for the Marines to safely move up.
Vargas momentarily believed he had secured the area, but the NVA decided to counter-attack. The enemy troops managed to force the Marines into a nearby cemetery — cutting them off from resupply.
The North Vietnamese began to pound heavily on Vargas’ Marines’ position. Surrounded and down to only 80 Marines, Vargas believed the end was near.
“We were surrounded and cut-off completely,” Vargas said. “The only way to survive was to dig up those graves and toss the bodies out.”
Vargas’ Marines did as he commanded and removed body after body before taking position in the graves to seek cover.
Feeling as if he wasn’t going to make it out alive, Adm. John McCain (Sen. John McCain’s father), the U.S. Pacific Command commander in chief encouraged Vargas to press on over the tact line. McCain quickly made Vargas and his Marines’ survival a priority.
Naval gunships blanketed Vargas perimeter with artillery, killing countless enemy troops as the Marines sheltered themselves in the mass grave site.
After three long days of fighting, the enemy made their last stand and once again counter-attacked the tired and wounded Marines. Vargas’ battalion commander moved into his grave as he was shot three times in the back by the enemy.
Vargas felt like he had no choice but to call artillery onto his position. After using three headsets to coordinate multiple sources of incoming fire, Vargas dragged is severely wounded battalion commander over a hundred yards to a covered area while the airstrikes were coming in hot.
Soon after the airstrikes ended. The enemy forces were silenced.
Vargas recalls that his older brothers — who also served in the Corps — gave him three golden rules to live by.
Always set a good example.
Take care of your men.
Never ask a Marine to do something you wouldn’t do yourself.
Capt. Jay R. Vargas was awarded the Medal of Honor on May 14, 1970, for his heroic acts in Vietnam.
The United States Air Force says they intend to pit an artificial intelligence-enabled drone against a manned fighter jet in a dogfight as soon as next year.
Although drones have become an essential part of America’s air power apparatus, these platforms have long had their combat capabilities hampered by both the limitations of existing technology and our own concerns about allowing a computer to make the decision to fire ordnance that will likely result in a loss of life. In theory, a drone equipped with artificial intelligence could alleviate both of those limiting factors significantly, without allowing that life or death decisions to be made by a machine.
As any gamer will tell you, lag can get you killed. In this context, lag refers to the delay in action created by the time it takes for the machine to relay the situation to a human operator, followed the the time it takes for the operator to make a decision, transmit the command, where it must then be received once again by the computer, where those orders translate into action. Even with the most advanced secure data transmission systems on the planet, lag is an ever-present threat to the survivability of a drone in a fast paced engagement.
Unmanned aerial vehicle operators in training. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman BreeAnn Sachs)
Because of that lag limitation, drones are primarily used for surveillance, reconnaissance, and air strikes, but have never been used to enforce no-fly zones or to posture in the face of enemy fighters. In 2017, a U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone successfully shot down another, smaller drone using an air-to-air missile. That success was the first of its kind, but even those responsible for it were quick to point out that such a success was in no way indicative of that or any other drone platform now having real dogfighting capabilities.
“We develop those tactics, techniques and procedures to make us survivable in those types of environments and, if we do this correctly, we can survive against some serious threats against normal air players out there,” Col. Julian Cheater, commander of the 432nd Wing at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, said at the time.
Artificial intelligence, however, could very feasibly change this. By using some level of artificial intelligence in a combat drone, operators could give the platform orders, rather than specific step-by-step instructions. In effect, the drone operator wouldn’t need to physically control the drone to dogfight, but could rather command the drone to engage an air asset and allow it to make rapid decisions locally to respond to the evolving threat and properly engage. Put simply, the operator could tell the drone to dogfight, but then allow the drone to somewhat autonomously decide how best to proceed.
A hawk for hunters
The challenges here are significant, but as experts have pointed out, the implications of such technology would be far reaching. U.S. military pilots receive more training and flight time than any other nation on the planet, but even so, the most qualified aviators can only call on the breadth of their own experiences in a fight.
Drones enabled with some degree of artificial intelligence aren’t limited to their own experiences, and could rather pull from the collective experiences of millions of flight hours conducted by multiple drone platforms. To give you a (perhaps inappropriately threatening) analogy, you could think of these drones as the Borg from Star Trek. Each drone represents the collected sum of all experiences had by others within its network. This technology could be leveraged not just in drones, but also in manned aircraft to provide a highly capable pilot support or auto-pilot system.
“Our human pilots, the really good ones, have a couple thousand hours of experience,” explains Steve Rogers, the Team Leader for the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Autonomy Capability Team 3 (ACT3). “What happens if I can augment their ability with a system that can have literally millions of hours of training time? … How can I make myself a tactical autopilot so in an air-to-air fight, this system could help make decisions on a timeline that humans can’t even begin to think about?”
As Rogers points out, such a system could assess a dangerous situation and respond faster than the reaction time of even highly trained pilots, deploying countermeasures or even redirecting the aircraft out of harm’s way. Of course, even the most capable autopilot would still need the thinking, reasoning, and directing of human beings–either in the cockpit or far away. So, even with this technology in mind, it appears that the days of manned fighters are still far from over. Instead, AI enabled drones and autopilot systems within jets could both serve as direct support for manned aircraft in the area.
The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, a long-range, high subsonic unmanned air vehicle completed its inaugural flight March 5, 2019 at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona. (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Hoskins)
By incorporating multiple developing drone technologies into such an initiative, such as the drone wingman program called Skyborg, drone swarm initiatives aimed at using a large volume of cooperatively operating drones, and low-cost, high capability drones like the XQ-58A Valkyrie, such a system could fundamentally change the way America engages in warfare.
Ultimately, it may not be this specific drone program that ushers in an era of semi-autonomous dogfighting, but it’s not alone. From the aforementioned Skyborg program to the DARPA’s artificial intelligence driven Air Combat Evolution program, the race is on to expand the role of drones in air combat until they’re seen as nearly comparable to manned platforms.
Of course, that likely won’t happen by next year. The first training engagement between a drone and a human pilot will likely end in the pilot’s favor… but artificial intelligence can learn from its mistakes, and those failures may not be all that long lived.
“[Steve Rogers] is probably going to have a hard time getting to that flight next year … when the machine beats the human,” Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, head of the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, said during a June 4 Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies event. “If he does it, great.”
The VA will provide a headstone for any eligible veteran, even if they’re already in an unmarked grave, in any cemetery around the world. In selecting a headstone, the National Cemeteries Administration has approved only 67 possibilities to date — which includes the Hammer of Thor for any believers of Norse gods out there.
Anyone can request a new emblem of belief to be added to this list. All you have to do is establish that there is, indeed, a need for the icon, that the deceased sincerely held the belief, and “submit a three-inch diameter, digitized, black and white representation of the requested emblem that is free of copyright or trademark” to the Memorial Products Service, found here:
Memorial Products Service (41B) Department of Veterans Affairs 5109 Russell Road Quantico, VA 22134-3903
In the meantime, feel free to choose from the following.