We all know Hollywood tends to get a lot wrong about the military. Uniform items, tactics, and even people from history get mixed up, dropped, and/or lost along the way. But Hollywood also glamorizes a lot of what the military is and what military life is like. If we were to actually live by Hollywood war movie standards, military life would be all yelling, push-ups, and constant field training.
Who would do all the paperwork? Some salty staff NCO who will always be complaining about all the paperwork he has to do. Well, they got that part down. Here are six things Vietnam veterans really did that you’ll never see in the movies.
I didn’t see this in Forrest Gump.
Yeah, the military still has this detail. But whenever you hear the telltale sounds of Hueys over the music of Creedence Clearwater’s Fortunate Son, the newly-deploying troops are always headed to some very green, very loud base filled with troops who are grilling out and kitting up to go on a search and destroy mission. These new privates are given their marching orders to go out on a combat patrol immediately, even though they’re still green. When (if) they get back, they get time to sit in the bunks and chatter.
No. While they were gone, the REMF NCOs made quick use of that grilled food. It’s time to do the private’s work. Here’s your diesel fuel, Tom Cruise. A lot of Vietnam vets say that’s the newcomer’s first work detail.
Remember when Forrest Gump was busy rescuing Bubba from the oncoming wave of napalm that lit up the Vietnamese in the area? He barely made it out alive. What great, gripping action. The enemy was subdued, Forrest and Lt. Dan were safe, and Forrest could go on honoring Bubba and his family.
What they don’t show is probably the Beehive anti-personnel rounds that lit up the area before the napalm was dropped. After the NVA or Vietcong are pinned to trees by exploding flechettes, it’s pretty hard for them to escape the area before the napalm comes in. Some private is going to get sent to count just how many charred bodies are attached to trees. It ain’t pretty, but it happened.
Body bag duty
When an allied troop dies, someone needs to take care of the body. That’s a junior enlisted job. In places like Saigon and in field hospitals, dead ARVN troops were bagged and moved from hospital to mortuary to burial details – really quickly if the troops were lucky. If they were unlucky, they were moving heavy, dripping bags or bodies that reeked of death and decay and were often filled with maggots.
That’s a smell you won’t ever forget, vets say.
Amazing but fictional.
The new clueless LT.
Isn’t it awesome to see a competent, intelligent, squared away officer like Lt. Dan Taylor leading American fighting men into combat? Throughout Forrest’s entire time in Vietnam, Lt. Dan led them through rice paddies, jungles, and other terrain, clearing tunnels and destroying outposts. Sure, he also led them into an ambush, but sh*t happens, and then it’s burnt to a crisp – just like that ambush.
But Lt. Dan doesn’t represent every Lieutenant who came to Vietnam. Vietnam vets remember new officers showing up to tell seasoned troops how to do their jobs, even if it was wrong or if the officer was unable to read maps.
Myth: Helicopters will drop like a rock when the engine shuts down.
In fact, you have a better chance at surviving in a helicopter when the engine fails than you do in an airplane. Helicopters are designed specifically to allow pilots to have a reasonable chance of landing them safely in the case where the engine stops working during flight, often with no damage at all. They accomplish this via autorotation of the main rotor blades.
Further, when seeking a helicopter pilot’s license, one has to practice landing using this no-power technique. When practicing, instead of actually shutting the engine off completely though, they usually just turn the engine down enough to disengage it from the rotor. This way, if the student encounters a problem during a no-power landing, the helicopter can be throttled back up to avoid an accident. Given that this isn’t an option during actual engine failure, it’s critical for helicopter pilots to practice this until they have it down pat.
A landing via autorotation is also sometimes necessary if the rear rotor blades stop functioning properly, no longer countering for the torque of the main rotor blades, so the helicopter will spin if the engine isn’t turned off. Whether this happens and the pilot shuts off the engine or in the case of actual engine failure, once the engine drops below a certain number of revolutions per minute, relative to the rotor RPM rate, a special clutch mechanism, called a freewheeling unit, disengages the engine from the main rotor automatically. This allows the main rotor to spin without resistance from the engine.
Once the engine fails or otherwise is shut off, the pilot must immediately lower the pitch, reducing lift and drag, and the helicopter will begin to descend. If they don’t do this quick enough, allowing the RPM of the main rotor to drop too far, they’ll then lose control of the helicopter and will likely not get it back. When this happens, it may well drop like a rock. However, this isn’t typical because as soon as the freewheeling unit disengages the engine, the pilot is trained to respond appropriately immediately.
Exactly what the correct glide angle is to maintain optimal rotor RPM varies with different helicopter designs, but this information is readily available in the helicopter’s manual. The glide angle also varies based on weather conditions (wind, temperature, etc.), weight, altitude, and airspeed, but in all cases a correct glide angle has the effect of producing an upward flow of air that will spin the main rotor at some optimal RPM, storing kinetic energy in the blades.
As the helicopter approaches the ground, the pilot must then get rid of most of their forward motion and slow the decent using the stored up kinetic energy in the rotors. If done perfectly, the landing will be quite gentle. They accomplish this by executing a flare, pitching the nose up, at the right moment. This will also have the effect of transferring some of that energy from the forward momentum into the main rotor, making it spin faster, which will further allow for a smooth landing. Because the flare will often need to be somewhat dramatic, the tricky part here is making sure that the rear of the helicopter doesn’t hit the ground. Ideally the pilot executes the flare (hopefully stopping most all the forward motion and slowing the decent to almost nothing), then levels the nose out just before touchdown.
Autorotation may sound like a fairly complex and difficult thing to do, but according to one instructor I briefly chatted with about this, it’s really not all that difficult compared to a lot of other aspects of flying a helicopter. In fact, he stated that most students have a lot more trouble when they first try things like hovering, than they do when they first try a no-power landing. Granted, this is partially because students don’t try autorotation landings until they are near the end of their training, so they are more skilled than when they first try a lot of other maneuvers, but still. It’s apparently not nearly as difficult as it sounds and most of the problems students have just stem from being nervous at descending at a higher rate than normal.
You can see a video of someone executing a near perfect autorotation landing below:
It’s no secret the military trains the way they fight — which is pretty hardcore. Marines and sailors train in the terrible heat and rough terrain of the Mojave Desert to prepare them to face the enemy in the harsh conditions of Afghanistan.
During their pre-deployment workup, troops pretend to get hurt so that nearby medics can practice rendering proper treatment. This training only goes so far, though, as the semi-stressful situations can’t compare to the real vigors of war.
So, to get young medical professionals ready for bloody working conditions overseas, some of the troops are sent to a live-tissue training course stateside where they must keep wounded pigs or goats alive for hours — or fail the course.
These animals are chosen specifically due to their tissue similarities to humans.
Before heading down to the live-tissue training grounds, young troops go through three days’ worth of brutal training missions throughout Camp Pendleton. These missions consist of hunting down mock “high-value targets,” several hours of intense physical training, and miles of foot patrols with little to no sleep. Then, troops board a bus that takes them to an undisclosed location — the live-tissue training grounds.
“The instructors worked us hard all day and night,” one former hospital Corpsman recalls. “We all were completely exhausted before the lab even started.”
Once at the training ground, the troops gear up in full battle rattle, place their highly anesthetized agricultural animal on an Army litter, and carry it up a steep hill where the training begins. After dropping the animal off at the first station, medics seek cover until signaled to retrieved their severely wounded patient.
Once the troops retrieve their patient, the docs make lifesaving interventions.
Three or four battle-themed stations and several massive wounds later, the troops enter a large metal container and load their “patient” on board as if it were a medical evacuation helicopter. After being locked in for several minutes, the container’s door opens to a mock-hospital, where the troops continue to care for their patient.
If the animal dies throughout this process, the student fails.
Compared to a computer simulator, the “pig lab,” as many refer to it, puts actual life into the student’s hands, forcing them to think on their toes to keep their patient alive.
Although humans control the stimulator, this lab comes with an extreme level of unpredictability and is considered “great training.”
“It was the best damn training I’ve ever received,” the former hospital Corpsman remembers. “I felt much more confident to take care of one of my Marines if they got hurt.”
Although considered to be “great training,” PETA, or the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, has voiced, on many occasions, that they are entirely against using agricultural animals for military training.
Brandon Friedman wants you to know that just because coffee has the reputation of being the military’s beverage of choice, tea isn’t reserved for Brits in silly hats enjoying crumpets. For Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, their wars have centered mostly around having tea. After all, foreign fighters and tribal leaders hold court over tea, not coffee. Friedman thought it was strange that tea isn’t more associated with the military experience. He founded Rakkasan Tea Company with that in mind.
Friedman was commissioned as an Army infantry officer in 2000 and was assigned to the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division — known as the “Rakkasans,” the old Japanese word for “parachute.” By March, 2002, he and his unit were in an air assault into Afghanistan’s Shah-e-Kot Valley as part of Operation Anaconda. In 2003, he was part of the initial invasion of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and eventually became part of the force that held Tal Afar and Mosul.
By 2004, he was out of the Army and taking his career in a different direction. His now-business partner in Rakkasan Tea was then-Pfc. Terrence “TK” Kamauf, whom Friedman met in his unit. Kamauf was a machine gunner then, but stayed in long after Friedman left. Kamauf went on to become a Green Beret and was in another six or seven years. Now, the two import tea together.
Friedman’s partner in Rakkasan Tea, Terrence “TK” Kamauf (left), in Iraq.
(Courtesy of Brandon Friedman)
But Friedman’s love for the leaf began in Iraq. As many veterans can attest, all business was conducted over tea. It was an introduction to what Friedman calls the “social experience of tea.”
“It’s hard to find that in the U.S. because this is such a coffee country and coffee is really a solitary drink,” He says. “Tea brings people together and we think the U.S. is ready for that. I know we won’t convert everyone, but the veteran community should certainly give tea a serious look.”
Friedman with his platoon of Rakkasans in Iraq.
But where Rakkasan Tea Company gets its tea is central to its ongoing mission. The company imports solely from post-conflict countries as a way to promote peace and economic development.
“As a veteran-owned and veteran-staffed company, we understand what conflict does to communities,” Friedman says. “And we want to get as many veterans into this business as we can. So, we often describe our mission as being one that helps communities recover from war at home AND abroad.”
Rakkasan Tea comes from places like Nepal, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and Laos. With the exception of Sri Lanka, these are difficult to find on American shelves. The tea imported from Laos is significant because it comes from one of the areas most devastated by American bombing during the Vietnam War — more ordnance was dropped on Laos than in the entirety of Europe during World War II.
One of Rakkasan Tea Company’s Vietnamese tea pickers.
(Courtesy of Brandon Friedman)
The latest effort in Laos centers on small farms in the mountainous Xiengkhouang Province and on the Bolaven Plateau in southern Champasak Province. The teas come from some of the oldest trees in the world and you won’t find this quality at Starbucks or Whole Foods.
To Friedman, tea is like wine: its character, flavor, and aroma are all greatly influenced by its environment. That might be why he sells tea both by the type of tea and its place of origin.
“Rainfall, altitude, soil content, processing techniques, and more all factor into the taste and quality,” Friedman says. “So when we say we have premium tea grown in Rwanda’s volcanic soil or tea grown on northern Vietnam’s 400-year-old tea trees, that’s of interest to tea enthusiasts. Because it’s really good.”
He wants you to know how good it is and he wants you to be a repeat customer. He obsesses over the returns from his customers. Their feedback really does have an influence on the direction of the company.
“First, I hope we’re living up to the Rakkasan ideal of honor, justice, and commitment,” he says. “But meeting people who enjoy our product is best part of doing this.”
Traveling about half the time of the year as a recruiter, Staff Sgt. Jon McCoy heavily relies on his wife to take care of their toddler and home.
“The whole reason why I’m here is the support that my wife is able to provide,” he said Feb. 4, 2019, before a ceremony at the Pentagon to honor some of the Army’s best recruiters.
Stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, McCoy is one of two warrant officer recruiters who handle the western region from Colorado to as far as South Korea.
While he may rack up some frequent flyer miles during his travels, he also gets numerous soldiers to stay in the Army or troops in other branches to join it.
In the first quarter of fiscal year 2019, McCoy had 150 individuals continue their careers as warrant officers in the Army — about one-third of all warrant officers boarded during that time.
Army Secretary Mark T. Esper honored McCoy and 12 other recruiters for their efforts this past quarter.
Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper, left, Under Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy and Army Vice Chief of Staff James McConville recognize Staff Sgt. Jon McCoy during an awards ceremony for recruiters at the Hall of Heroes, Pentagon, Washington D.C., Feb 4., 2019.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia)
“Readiness remains the Army’s top priority. Don’t doubt that. And you can’t achieve readiness without the right people,” Esper said. “It’s our recruiters serving across the country who are finding our nation’s best and brightest to join our ranks.”
Accessions are also now a crucial priority after Esper recently directed the Army’s recruiting efforts to modernize and give recruiters the resources they need to connect with qualified applicants.
Improvements to marketing and a larger presence in 22 target U.S. cities are also underway to bring greater awareness to the opportunities found within the Army.
Before the ceremony, Esper said he spoke to the group of recruiters and listened to their challenges and how they overcame them.
“The key to success is simple,” he said they told him. “It takes passion, it takes commitment, it takes honesty and transparency. That’s what America’s youth are looking for in a recruiter. That’s what their parents, their pastors, their counselors expect of us.”
Born and raised in Guam, Sgt. 1st Class Jesse Lujan works as a recruiter in Hagatna at the same station where he chose to enlist in the Army about 15 years ago.
Lujan, an aviation operations specialist, was able to sign up 19 recruits this past quarter.
“I’m able to relate to them and let them know that there’s more out there and that the Army is a stepping stone to help you get there,” he said.
Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper, right, speaks during an awards ceremony for recruiters at the Hall of Heroes, Pentagon, Washington D.C., Feb. 4, 2019.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia)
He also strives to be a positive member of his community. He often volunteers to help his daughter’s Girl Scouts troop, joins in cleanups of the coastline, and helped collect ,000 worth of items as part of relief efforts for Typhoon Mangkhut, which hit Guam in September.
“We’re just not there to recruit and bring people in,” he said. “We actually give back anytime that we can get.”
About 10,000 recruiters are spread out over 1,400 locations around the world, said Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, commander of the Army Recruiting Command.
“These recruiters here stand in the trenches everyday as the face of the Army,” Muth told the audience. “Their accomplishments this past quarter is a testament to their professionalism, dedication and laser focus on the mission.”
Being a recruiter still remains a difficult task to ensure the Army fills its ranks with quality applicants.
Only 29 percent of today’s youth are able to meet the minimum requirements to join the service, Esper said, and only 4 percent of them have the propensity to serve.
On top of that, the service is up against the greatest economy in decades, he said.
“This is a challenge that we must overcome,” Esper said. “We have no other choice. Failure is not an option.”
But that task should not rest solely on the shoulders of a few, he said, adding all soldiers need to educate people on the opportunities the service offers.
“Recruiting is everyone’s responsibility,” he said. “It’s the Army’s mission, not just ours. We are all recruiters.”
The Coast Guard, unlike the other military branches, is a law enforcement agency — meaning that it gets wrapped up in all sorts of operations that the Department of Defense generally is barred from by law.
One of the operations commonly undertaken by the Coast Guard is catching drug smugglers and their illicit cargos, and the Coast Guard gives special attention to the lucrative cocaine trade which has given them some of the largest maritime drug busts in history.
Written on the flag that commemorates U.S. service members that are being held as prisoners of war or have gone missing in action is a promise: You are not forgotten.
Unfortunately, those who aren’t directly affected by a loved one or military coworker who is a POW or MIA likely only actively remember these service members at important functions, with the setting of the POW/MIA table. That being said, there is a less well-known moment to take time to remember those who served and have not yet — or may never — make it home.
In 1979, Congress and President Jimmy Carter passed a resolution declaring the third Friday in September to be the date in which we, as a nation, remember those whose fates remain unknown.
The remembrance day is not just to honor those who have been lost fighting for the United States, it’s also to assure current and future service men and women that the people of the United States and its military will do everything they can to find those who were captured or went missing. And we will bring them home.
The following is an accounting of all those who’ve been captured or have gone missing since World War II.
American airmen held in a Nazi Stalag Luft POW Camp during World War II.
World War II
As of 2005, Congress reported 130,201 service members were imprisoned during World War II, 14,072 of which died. There are approximately 73,014 from World War II who are still missing, but those numbers are incomplete at best due to limited information from the time period.
Americans captured by Communist forces in the Korean War.
Of the 7,140 service members who were imprisoned during the Korean War, 2,701 of them died as a result of their captivity. There are still 7,729 missing in action.
In 2016, the DPAA accounted for 61 missing from the Korean War. Recently, President Trump’s efforts to repatriate remains from North Korea yielded the return of 55 sets, two of which have been identified.
Americans held by North Vietnam during the Vietnam War were marched through the streets of Hanoi.
Roughly 64 prisoners of war held by the enemy during the Vietnam War died as a result of being held captive out of a total 725 held prisoner. An estimated 1,603 are still unaccounted for from the conflict in Southeast Asia.
Pfc. Jessica Lynch (left) was captured by Iraqi forces after the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. Her friend, Pvt. Lori Ann Piestewa (right), was killed in that action.
Conflicts Since 1991
Since 1991, a further 37 servicemen and women have been captured by the enemy during various conflicts, including the most recent in Iraq and Afghanistan. None are still in captivity, but six are still missing from those conflicts.
This brings the total number of American missing from conflicts since World War II to a whopping 82,478. A full three-fourths are believed to be lost in the Asia-Pacific region of the world, with 41,000 presumed lost at sea.
You’re showing up and working out, but how do you know if you’re actually pushing yourself hard enough at the gym? If you’re putting the time in, but not seeing or feeling the results of all the hours spent grinding it out on the treadmill or in the weight room, you might be wondering if your effort is enough.
While techie gadgets like fitness trackers and exercise apps can help you stay focused, you sometimes need other ways to gauge your progress. INSIDER asked three fitness experts to share some ways you can tell if you’re pushing yourself hard enough when sweating it out at the gym.
1. You’re breathless during cardio
We all know that cardio workouts should make us sweat, but a better measure of an efficient aerobic workout is your breathing.”
A great way to tell if you’re pushing yourself enough in a cardio workout is if you’re getting breathless during the high-intensity moments,” said Aaptiv master trainer John Thornhill.
For instance, Thornhill told INSIDER that at the end of a high-intensity cardio push, if you were having a conversation with another person and you could only say a few words in a breath, you’re pushing yourself appropriately.
However, if you’re new to fitness, he said it’s best not to get breathless too often. Instead, Thornhill recommended working your way up to sustaining mid to high levels of intensity for longer periods of time.
2. You measure the intensity by using the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)
One way to gauge intensity while working out, said iFit Trainer Mecayla Froerer, is by Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE). Using a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the absolute hardest you can work, Froerer told INSIDER that you can take inventory of where you’re at and how you are feeling.
If your workout is supposed to be a HIIT style workout, you’ll want to work in the 8-10 RPE range (anaerobic). Additionally, if your workout is scheduled to be a recovery workout, you’ll want to be in the 1-4 RPE range. Listen to your body and adjust accordingly.
3. You’re seeing and feeling progress
If you’re feeling better, lifting heavier weights, moving faster, or recovering quicker, there’s a good chance you’re pushing yourself in the gym. But if you’re still feeling the same after putting in the time, Thornhill said you can up the intensity by increasing your resistance or weight incrementally, reduce your rest periods between HIIT (high-intensity-interval-training) sets, and increase the number of times you work out during the week.
Delayed onset muscle soreness can happen after an intense workout. In other words, Thornhill said you know you’ve pushed the limits if your quads and calves are sore after a run, or your biceps are sore after a rigorous set of bicep curls.
“Tiny microscopic tears will develop in those muscles (don’t freak out, it’s totally normal) and your muscles will repair themselves and get stronger as you rest and recover,” he explained.
5. You feel some level of discomfort while working out
Strong effort and some discomfort go hand and hand, explained Tony Carvajal, certified CrossFit trainer with RSP Nutrition. He told INSIDER that you generally want to feel some level of discomfort (even minor) and pushing hard through a workout will cause that exact feeling.
“Pushing hard will create more ATP, your body will need extra oxygen, and so breathing increases and your heart starts pumping more blood to your muscles,” he explained.
As the heart rate spikes and the body requires more oxygen, Carvajal said lactic acid starts to flow through the muscles, mainly in the legs and arms. “That’s what is usually described as the ‘burn’ and is exactly what you should be reaching for,” he added.
6. You’re thinking about the reward
If you exercise on autopilot, there’s a good chance you’re not thinking about your “why,” which often leads to a lack of effort and disappointing results in the gym. That’s why Carvajal said to remind yourself before, during, and after the workout “why” you’re doing this — what is your reward?
“You may find it beneficial to have a mental or even physical picture of your reasons for working out hard, and focusing on this will help you to push through even when it’s tough,” he explained.
7. You’re excited to exercise
It’s normal to have days when you want to skip the gym. But if you’re coming up with excuses and finding reasons to ditch your workouts, you might actually be bored.
Hitting a plateau in your exercise routine can lead to a decrease in your fitness level and a lack of motivation to push yourself when you are working out. Consider hiring a trainer or taking a fitness class. Having an expert guide you through your workouts can help to ensure that you’re actually pushing yourself hard enough.
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisInsider on Twitter.
In July 1918, militaries were experimenting with aircraft carriers, especially the American and British navies. But, as far as any of the Central Powers knew, carrier operations were an experiment that had borne only limited fruit. No carrier raids had significantly damaged targets ashore. And that was true until July 19, when a flight of Sopwith Camels took off from the HMS Furious and attacked German Zeppelin facilities at Tondern, Denmark.
The British carrier HMS Furious with its split deck.
(Imperial War Museums)
America was the first country to experiment with aircraft carriers after civilian pilot Eugene Ely flew a plane off the USS Birmingham, a modified cruiser, in 1911. But as World War I broke out, the naval power of Britain decided that it wanted to build its own carrier operations, allowing it to float airfields along the coasts of wartime Europe and other continents.
This required a lot of experimentation, and British aviators died while establishing best practices for taking off, landing, and running the decks of carriers. One of the ship experiments was the HMS Furious, a ship originally laid down as a light battlecruiser. It was partially converted during construction into a semi-aircraft carrier that still had an 18-inch gun, then converted the rest of the way into a carrier.
After its full conversion, the Furious had a landing-on deck and a flying-off deck split by the ship’s superstructure. This, combined with the ship’s exhaust that flowed over the decks, made landing tricky.
The Furious and other carriers and sea-based planes had scored victories against enemies at sea. But in 1918, the Royal Navy decided it was time to try the Furious in a raid on land.
Sopwtih Camels prepare to take off from the HMS Furious to attack German Zeppelin sheds in July 1918.
(Imperial War Museums)
On July 19, 1918, two flights of Sopwith Camels launched from the decks with bombs. There were three aircraft in the first wave, and four in the second wave. Even these takeoffs were tricky in the early days, and the second wave of aircraft suffered three losses as it was just getting going. One plane’s engine failed at takeoff, one crashed, and one made a forced landing in Denmark.
But the first wave was still strong, and the fourth bomber in the second wave was still ready and willing to get the job done.
Building housing German Zeppelins burns at Tondern in July 1918.
Hitting Tondern was especially valuable as it was a convenient place from which to attack London. So the four remaining pilots flew over German defenses and attacked the Zeppelins there, successfully hitting two sheds which burst into flames.
Luckily, each of those housed an airship at the time, and the flames consumed them both. They were L.54 and L.60. The Zeppelin L.54 had conducted numerous reconnaissance missions and dropped over 12,000 pounds in two bombing missions over England. The Zeppelin L.60 had dropped almost 7,000 pounds of bombs on England in one mission.
While the destruction of two Zeppelins, especially ones that had already bombed England and so loomed in the British imagination, was valuable on its own, the real victory for England came in making exposed bases much less valuable.
The Western-most bases had been the best for bombing England, especially Tondern which was protected from land-based bombers by its position on the peninsula, but they were now highly vulnerable to more carrier raids. And the HMS Furious wasn’t Britain’s only carrier out there.
Germany was forced to pull its Zeppelins back to better protected bases, and it maintained Tondern as an emergency base, only there to recover Zeppelins that couldn’t make it all the way back home after a mission.
This wasn’t the first or only time a fighter had caught a Zeppelin in the air, but it was one of the highest fights that had succeeded against a Zeppelin, and it meant that sea-based fighters had taken out three Zeppelins in less than a month, and all three losses had taken place in facilities or at an altitude where Germany thought they were safe.
The U.S. Marines are about to start receiving real robotic exoskeletons for testing, but these exo-suits aren’t headed into combat any time soon. Instead, they’ll be supporting logistical operations like loading and unloading pallets of gear and ammunition in the field.
While that might not sound like the sort of high-speed missions you imagined for the first widely-used military robotic exoskeletons, it’s really the most logical (and feasible) use for this burgeoning technology. America’s Special Operations Command spent years working to develop the TALOS robotic exoskeleton for specialized combat applications, but found the various systems they employed were too finicky for serious combat ops. While exoskeletons can significantly augment a person’s strength, they also consume a huge amount of power, often requiring that they stay tethered to a power cable.
Mock up of a TALOS suit. (U.S. Army photo by Anthony Taylor, 85th Support Command Public Affairs Office)
TALOS was ultimately canceled last year, but a number of different technologies developed for the forward-thinking system continue to live on in various weapon development programs that fall under SOCOM’s purview. Sarcos Defense’ new suit isn’t derived from the TALOS program, but offers some of the same significant advantages, including the ability to increase the strength and endurance of whoever’s strapped in. Despite the TALOS program’s progress in a number of areas, it was ultimately deemed infeasible for combat.
However, just because robotic exoskeleton technology isn’t quite advanced to the point where it can be used outside the wire quite yet, it could be an extremely useful solution to problems service members still have inside forward operating bases. Unloading literal tons of equipment, ammunition, and supplies that arrive on pallets is one such challenge.
By utilizing the Sarcos Defense Guardian XO Alpha robotic exoskeleton, a single Marine can do the offloading work that would normally require an entire dedicated fire team.
“As the U.S. Marine Corps focuses on logistics and sustainment modernization as one of their key priorities and looks to reduce the manpower required to conduct expeditionary operations, the Guardian XO is well-suited to fulfill a wide variety of logistics applications to address their needs and requirements.” –Sarcos Defense
As America’s premier expeditionary force, The Marines have placed a renewed emphasis on Expeditionary Advanced Basing Operations (EABO) in recent years. Put simply, EABO is all about increasing the operational capabilities of Marines working in austere environments that may not be near large military installations. The intent behind incorporating new technology like the Guardian XO Alpha is to bring big installation capabilities to forward operating areas. Whereas large military installations can utilize forklifts to rapidly load or unload supplies, smaller FOBs (Forward Operating Bases) have to rely on manpower to unload supplies when they arrive.
“Instead of a team of four Marines, maybe you only need a Marine with this capability to offload pallets or move or load munitions,” Jim Miller, Sarcos Robotics’ vice president of defense solutions, explained last year.
Sarcos Guardian® XO® Full-Body Powered Exoskeleton: Alpha Unit Preview
In the short term, Marines will be assessing this new robotic exoskeleton to see just how useful it might be in a variety of operations, including some the team at Sarcos might not have thought of yet. Of course, another important part of the testing process will be figuring out what this exo-suit can’t do, and that’s where the Marines may really shine. After all, if you want to find out just how hard you can run a piece of gear before it dies, there are few organizations more qualified for such a torture test than the United States Marine Corps.
The Guardian XO robot, an exoskeleton suit to help reduce the risk of injuries by improving human strength and endurance, is on display at the 2019 Modern Day Marine Expo on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Sept. 18, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Yuritzy Gomez)
“The Sarcos Defense team is very pleased that the U.S. Marine Corps will be testing use cases for our Guardian XO Alpha version this year,” said Ben Wolff, CEO, Sarcos Defense.
“Our military branches need to regularly address changing personnel issues and reduce the risk of injury from performing heavy-lifting tasks. We believe that our full-body, powered exoskeletons will be a huge benefit to the Marines as well as the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy and USSOCOM, who we are also working with on our exoskeleton technology.”
The global coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 230,000 people worldwide, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.
Here’s a roundup of developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast countries.
The death toll from the coronavirus in Iran continues to rise as the worst-affected country in the Middle East prepares for scaled-down celebrations of Norouz, the Persian New Year.
“With 149 new fatalities in the past 24 hours, the death toll from the virus has reached 1,284,” Deputy Health Minister Alireza Raisi said on state television on March 19.
“Unfortunately, we have had 1,046 new cases of infection since yesterday,” Raisi added.
Iran has the third-highest number of registered cases after China and Italy.
With the country reeling from the outbreak, officials have recommended that Iranians stay home during the March 20 holiday, a time when hundreds of thousands usually travel to be with friends and relatives.
The government has closed schools at all levels, banned sports and cultural events, and curtailed religious activities to try and slow the spread of the virus.
Kianoush Jahanpour, the head of the Health Ministry’s public relations and information center , noted on March 19 that the data on the outbreak means an Iranian dies every 10 minutes from COVID-19, while 50 infections occur each hour of the day.
“With respect to this information, people must make a conscious decision about travel, traffic, transportation, and sightseeing,” he added.
Despite the dire circumstances, many Iranians were angered by the temporary closure of Shi’ite sites, prompting some earlier this week to storm into the courtyards of two major shrines — Mashhad’s Imam Reza shrine and Qom’s Fatima Masumeh shrine.
Crowds typically pray there 24 hours a day, seven days a week, touching and kissing the shrine. That’s worried health officials, who for weeks ordered Iran’s Shi’ite clergy to close them.
Earlier on March 19, officials announced that the country wouldn’t mark its annual day celebrating its nuclear program because of the outbreak.
The Georgian government has ordered the closure of shops except grocery stores and pharmacies beginning March 20 to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The measure, announced on March 19, also exempts gas stations, post offices, and bank branches. The South Caucasus country has so far reported 40 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, and no deaths.
Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia on March 19 said he would declare a state of emergency, as many countries in Europe already have, if health authorities advise him to do so.
“As of today, I would like to emphasize that there is no need for this. However, in agreement with the president, we have decided, as soon as that need arises, that we will be able to make this decision within a few hours,” he said.
President Klaus Iohannis has urged Romanians working abroad to refrain from traveling home for the Orthodox Easter amid fears of a worsening of the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
Romania has been under a 30-day state of emergency since March 16.
Iohannis made the appeal in a televised speech on March 19 as thousands of workers returning from Western Europe were slowly crossing into Romania after having clogged Hungary’s borders both to the west and the east for two days in a row.
Romania is the European Union’s second-poorest country, and at least 4 million Romanians work abroad, according to estimates.
The bottlenecks were worsened by Hungary’s decision to close its borders on very short notice from March 17 at midnight — a measure relaxed by Budapest after consultations with the Romanian government.
“Romanians from abroad are dear to us, and we long to be with them for Easter,” Iohannis said. “However, that won’t be possible this year…. We must tell them with sadness but also with sincerity not to come home for the holidays,” he added.
Some 12,500 mostly Romanian travelers had crossed into Romania in 4,600 vehicles as of the morning of March 19, Romanian border police said.
They said 180 people were immediately quarantined, while some 10,000 were ordered into self-isolation once they reached their destinations.
The rest were mostly travelers in transit toward Moldova and Bulgaria, according to the police.
Romania has confirmed 277 coronavirus cases.
One of the patients is in serious condition in intensive care, while 25 people have recovered, according to health authorities.
No deaths have been reported so far.
However, authorities are concerned that the massive number of Romanians returning, mostly from Italy and Spain — the European countries most affected by the coronavirus pandemic — will lead to a spike in infections in the run-up to Orthodox Easter on April 19.
The Romanian military has started building an emergency hospital in Bucharest amid fears that the country’s crumbling health-care system will not be able to cope with the outbreak.
Some 900 Ukrainians are embarking on March 19 on a train journey from Prague to Kyiv as part of an evacuation plan amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The train is set to travel through the Czech Republic and Poland, where it will make a stop at Przemysl, before heading to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv and the capital.
Yevhen Perebiynis, the Ukrainian ambassador to Prague, tweeted that more than 3,000 Ukrainians residing in the Czech Republic had asked to be evacuated.
Meanwhile, the mayor of Zhytomyr, Serhiy Sukhomlyn, said the city located 140 kilometers west of Kyiv recorded its first coronavirus infection.
Sukhomlyn said the patient, aged 56, had recently returned from Austria.
As of March 19, there were 21 confirmed cases of the respiratory illness in six regions and the capital, Kyiv, the Health Ministry said.
Meanwhile, Ukraine recorded its third death linked to COVID-19 in the western Ivano-Frankivsk region.
An elderly woman died one day after visiting a hospital with severe flu-like symptoms, according to the Health Ministry.
Russian officials have reported the country’s first death connected to the coronavirus outbreak, but quickly backtracked, saying an elderly woman perished due to a detached blood clot.
The Moscow health department said on March 19 that the 79-year-old, who had tested positive for COVID-19, died in a Moscow hospital from pneumonia related to the virus.
Svetlana Krasnova, head doctor at Moscow’s hospital No. 2 for infectious diseases, said in a statement that the woman had been admitted with “a host of chronic diseases,” including type 2 diabetes and heart problems.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin then confirmed the coronavirus-releated death, saying on Twitter, “Unfortunately, we have the first loss from the coronavirus infection.”
Hours later, however, health officials put out another statement saying an autopsy had confirmed the woman had died of a blood clot.
A subsequent official tally of the number of official coronavirus cases in Russia showed 199 confirmed infections but no deaths.
It was not clear whether the woman’s death would eventually be counted as a result of the virus.
Though President Vladimir Putin said earlier this week that the situation was “generally under control,” many Russians have shown a distrust for official claims over the virus, and fear the true situation is much worse than they are being told.
Amid a recent rise in the number of cases, officials have temporarily barred entry to foreigners and imposed restrictions on flights and public gatherings.
The national health watchdog on March 19 tightened restrictions for all travellers from abroad with a decree requiring “all individuals arriving to Russia” to be isolated, either at home or elsewhere.
Serbia has closed its main airport for all passenger flights and said it will shut its borders for all but freight traffic in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus.
The government banned commercial flights to and from the Nikola Tesla Airport in Belgrade on March 19.
However, the airport will remain open to humanitarian and cargo flights, according to the Ministry of Construction, Traffic, and Infrastructure.
Later in the day, President Aleksandar Vucic said that as of March 20, Serbia’s border crossings will be closed for all passenger road and rail transport.
“Nothing but trucks will be allowed to enter,” Vucic said. “From noon tomorrow we will also halt commercial passenger transport inside the country.”
The move comes after some 70,000 Serbs working in Western Europe and their families returned to Serbia in the last few days despite appeals by authorities not to do so.
Serbia currently has 103 confirmed coronavirus cases, with no fatalities.
The Balkan country had already imposed a state of emergency, introduced a night curfew for all citizens, and ordered the elderly to stay indoors.
Authorities in Pakistan have closed shrines of Sufi saints in the capital, Islamabad, and elsewhere while access to museums, archaeological, and tourist sites have been banned as confirmed coronavirus cases jumped to 301, mostly in pilgrims returning from Iran.
Two Pakistanis who had returned from Saudi Arabia and Dubai became the country’s first victims when they died on March 18 in the northwest.
Schools have already been shut in Pakistan.
Thousands of Pakistanis, mostly pilgrims, have been placed into quarantine in recent weeks at the Taftan border crossing in the country’s southwestern province of Balochistan after returning from Iran, one of the world’s worst affected countries.
Pakistani authorities on March 19 plan to quarantine hundreds more pilgrims who returned from Iran. These pilgrims will be kept at isolated buildings in central Pakistan for 14 days.
Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev’s influential son-in-law says police have identified individuals who allegedly published the names of Uzbek nationals who tested positive for the new coronavirus.
Otabek Umarov, who is also the deputy head of the president’s personal security, said on Instagram that officials are now trying to determine the legality of the perpetrators’ actions.
A joint working group set up by the Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor-General’s Office has also identified 33 social media accounts involved in “disseminating false information that provokes panic among people,” Umarov wrote.
He called the accounts a “betrayal” of the country and a matter of “national security.”
Umarov’s comments come amid a campaign by the Uzbek government to crack down on information that incites panic and fear among the public amid the coronavirus crisis.
On March 16, the country’s Justice Ministry said that, according to Uzbek law, those involved in preparing materials with the intention of inciting panic — and those storing such materials with the intent to distribute them — will face up to ,400 in fines or up to three years in prison.
Those who spread such information through media and the Internet face up to eight years in prison, the ministry added.
The statement came a day after the Central Asian nation announced its first confirmed coronavirus infection, which prompted the government to introduce sweeping measures to contain the outbreak, including closing its borders, suspending international flights, closing schools, and banning public gatherings.
The number of infections had risen to 23 as of the morning of March 19, the Health Ministry said.
The ministry said that the 23 individuals are all Uzbek nationals who had returned home from Europe, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.
The Health Ministry regularly updates its social media accounts with information on the outbreak in Uzbekistan. Posts are frequently accompanied by the hashtag “quarantine without panic” in both Uzbek and Russian.
The Kazakh national currency, the tenge, has continued to weaken sharply as the number of coronavirus cases in the oil-rich Central Asian nation reached 44.
Many exchange points in Nur-Sultan, the capital, and the former Soviet republic’s largest city, Almaty, did not sell U.S. dollars or euros on March 19, while some offered 471 tenges for id=”listicle-2645571641″, more than 25 percent weaker than in early March when the rate was around 375 tenges.
The tenge has plunged to all-time lows in recent days following an abrupt fall in oil prices and chaos in the world’s stock markets caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
The Kazakh Health Ministry said on March 19 that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country had increased by seven to 44.
In neighboring Kyrgyzstan, three people, who returned home from Saudi Arabia several days ago, tested positive for the virus, which led to three villages being sealed off in the southern Jalal-Abad region.
In two other Central Asian nations, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, no coronavirus cases have been officially recorded to date.
A relative of an Armenian woman blamed for spreading the coronavirus in the South Caucasus country alleges that criminal offenses have been committed against members of their family.
It emerged last week that the woman had traveled from Italy before attending a family gathering with dozens of guests in the city of Echmiadzin, disregarding health warnings about the coronavirus pandemic.
The woman, whose name was not released, later tested positive for the virus and was hospitalized. Dozens of other people who attended the gathering were placed under a 14-day quarantine.
Armenia has reported a total of 122 cases so far, including dozens in Echmiadzin. It has not yet reported any deaths.
Echmiadzin was locked down and a nationwide state of emergency has been announced in a bid to slow the spread of infection in Armenia.
Many on social media in Armenia expressed anger over what they said was irresponsible behavior by the woman.
Some ridiculed the woman and used offensive language against her. A photo of her also was posted online.
The woman’s lawyer, Gohar Hovhannisian, said that one of her relatives who lives abroad filed a complaint with the public prosecutor on March 17.
The complaint alleges that personal information about infected people was illegally obtained and published by the press and social media along with insults and photographs.
“It affects the mental state of a person. Imagine that a person is sick and such language is used against her or him and her or his personal data are published,” Hovhannisian said.
The Prosecutor-General’s Office forwarded the report to police to investigate the case.
Human rights activist Zaruhi Hovhannisian, who is not related to the lawyer, noted that the protection of personal data is enshrined in Armenia’s law. He said that disclosure of personal data in this case made it possible to identify the infected woman.
“Moreover, under the law on medical care and public services it is forbidden to disclose medical secrets, talk about people’s medical examinations and the course of their treatment as well as to pass these data to third parties,” the activist said.
Earlier this week, a shop owner in Yerevan filed a complaint with police alleging that he had been attacked by three relatives of the woman in question for posting a joke about her on Facebook.
Police said they had identified and questioned three people over that complaint. But the authorities did not reveal their identities.
The Azerbaijani capital, Baku, has been sealed off to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the South Caucasus state.
According to a government decision, as of March 19 entrance to Baku, the nearby city of Sumqayit, and the Abseron district has been banned for all cars, except ambulances, cargo trucks, and vehicles carrying rescue teams and road accident brigades. The measure will run until at least March 29.
All railway links between Baku, Sumqayit and the Abseron district, and the rest of the country were also suspended.
Azerbaijan has reported 34 confirmed coronavirus cases, with one fatality.
In neighboring Armenia, where authorities announced a state of emergency until April 16, the number of coronavirus cases is 115.
Elsewhere in the South Caucasus, Georgia, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases reached 40.
The United States is temporarily suspending the movement of new soldiers into Afghanistan as a way of protecting them from the coronavirus outbreak.
U.S. Army General Scott Miller said in a March 19 statement that the move could mean that some of the troops already on the ground in Afghanistan may have their deployments extended to ensure that the NATO-led Resolute Support mission continues.
“To preserve our currently healthy force, Resolute Support is making the necessary adjustments to temporarily pause personnel movement into the theater,” he said.
“We are closely monitoring, continually assessing and adjusting our operations so we can continue to protect the national interests of the NATO allies and partners here in Afghanistan,” he added.
About 1,500 troops and civilians who recently arrived in Afghanistan have been quarantined, Miller said, stressing that this was purely a precautionary measure and “not because they are sick.”
Earlier this month, the United States began reducing its troop presence in Afghanistan as part of a peace deal signed in February with the Taliban.
The agreement sees an initial reduction of U.S. troops in Afghanistan from about 13,000 to 8,600 soldiers.
Miller did not mention the agreement in his statement.
So far, 21 U.S. and coalition staff exhibiting flu-like symptoms are in isolation and receiving medical care, Miller’s statement said.
The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) receives fuel from the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Tippecanoe (T-AO 199) during a replenishment at sea March 17, 2020. The Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group is on a scheduled deployment to the Indo-Pacific. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Dylan Lavin)
When most of us join the Navy, we don’t expect to be put into positions where our lives are in danger. For sure, we know it’s a possibility; as is joining any branch of the Armed Forces, but not as probable as our USMC and Army brothers-in-arms.
But now that a sailor has fallen to the virus, it’s apparent just how potent and diverse enemy combatants can be.
I served four years on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, from 2006 to 2010. The crew aboard CVN-71 refer to their ship as The Big Stick, personifying the ship as the US’s show of force to allow us to “Walk Softly” throughout the world. My job was to safely and efficiently maintain the electrical and steam plant systems within the two powerful Nuclear Reactor plants that power and propel the ship.
We steamed everywhere from South Africa to England to the middle of nowhere deep in the Atlantic ocean. We also spent six months sending F-18 Super Hornets to Afghanistan to provide Close Air Support for ISAF forces on the ground.
PHILIPPINE SEA (March 18, 2020) An F/A-18F Super Hornet, assigned to the “Black Knights” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 154, lands on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) March 18, 2020. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nicholas V. Huynh)
Sailing a warship is inherently dangerous. There are cables with thousands of volts of heart-stopping power running through them, manifolds of high-pressure steam harnessing enough force to easily cut a person in half and thousands of people carrying-out dynamic operations both above and below-deck. Not to mention the mighty (and oftentimes unpredictable) sea, rocking and listing the ship with sometimes violent and turbulent waves.
In my four years on The Big Stick I lost three fellow shipmates to these various dangers. Now that the world is fighting a new, global enemy, unconventional deaths like losing a sailor to COVID-19 are becoming a new normal for families all across the world. And now, we see that active duty military members are just as susceptible as anyone else.
Photo courtesy of August Dannehl
Part of the allure of joining the Navy is being able to see the world. The main mission of the Navy is to bring US sovereign territory, in the form of floating cities like the Roosevelt, to any corner of the planet in just a matter of hours. This allows sailors to enjoy the perks of visiting ports in places like Cape Town, Tokyo and Da Nang. Unfortunately, now, that perk also led to the death of one of my fellow Rough Riders.
The virus likely infiltrated the ship during a port visit to Vietnam’s fifth largest city. Da Nang offered its sandy beaches and opulent hotels to provide some RR for the crew of the TR but before long, the crew was ordered back to the ship, underway early and restricted to “River City” communications (meaning no phone calls or internet access).
Back in 2008, steaming off the coast of Iran, River City was set pretty much all the time (and we hated it) but we knew it was necessary. Recently, this order meant something very serious was unfolding and the sailors aboard knew it.
Photo courtesy of August Dannehl
When that first River City was set just weeks ago, it was hard to imagine just how serious this situation would be. No one could have predicted then that over 500 Rough Riders would test positive for the coronavirus, a Navy Captain with 30 years of military experience would be fired, a Trump-appointed official would resign and one sailor would ultimately die in the line of duty from this silent, unpredictable enemy.
Living for months at a time on a carrier out to sea, confined to extremely small and cramped spaces, living and working alongside fellow Sailors in close proximity; these truths have always been the downsides of Navy service. Now, in the age of COVID-19, they have proven deadly.
Over the last month, the United States (and parts of the world) erupted in protests after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmuad Abery. While their deaths drew the ire of many Americans, they set off an angry and passionate reaction to the bigger problem of police brutality and systemic racism.
Unfortunately, protests can be marred by people taking advantage and the marches that have occurred in all 50 states have seen some people take to rioting and looting. While the vast majority of protests have been peaceful, the magnitude of people on the street and looting caused some states to activate their respective National Guard units.
Director and Army Veteran Robert Ham was able to link up with National Guard Chaplain Major Nathan Graeser who was part of a California National Guard Unit that was assigned to downtown Los Angeles. With the noise of protestors in the background demanding reform of police and the end of the systemic racism that plagues this country, Graeser talked about why the National Guard was there and the mood of the troops. When asked about the atmosphere in the area Graeser said, “Seeing this today, I kept thinking to myself… this is what makes America great.”
In addition to being an Army Chaplain in the California National Guard, Nathan is also a social worker. He is an expert on programs and policies that support service members transitioning out of the military. Nathan is an advocate for veterans and leads multiple veteran initiatives in Los Angeles. He has spent thousands of hours counseling veterans and their families to deal with the challenges of service and returning home.
Graeser talks about the disconnections we have with one another, exacerbated by COVID-19 and how those disconnections flared up in the wake of these deaths. He knows, because he sees the same disconnection with his soldiers and with veterans as they themselves struggle to connect to the community they took an oath to serve.
But, Graeser said he sees the similarities between the young soldiers and young protesters, “These 19 year olds,” referring to the guardsmen, he said, “They are thoughtful, they are kind, even their interaction with the looters is as gentle as can possibly be.”
While the riots have been waning, the cries for action have not. What does the future hold for the rest of 2020 and beyond? We can only guess at this time.
But there is hope in what Graeser sees.
“We are out here to see what the next chapter is,” he shared. “One thing I know is wherever we go, we are going to need everybody.”