Since transitioning out of the military, I’ve had the, um, “pleasure” of being around a lot more civilians. Some of the questions I’m asked on an annoyingly regular basis are, “Aren’t VA loans awesome? Don’t you get a free house? Did you get yours?”
After polling some veterans, I realized I should give a little brief on the subject. Time to slay the myth around what a VA loan is or isn’t.
First: The VA loan is, in fact, not a loan at all.
The VA Loan Program, created in 1944 as part of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, is a service the Department of Veteran Affairs created to help veterans returning from WWII buy a home.
According to the VA website, “VA Home Loans are provided by private lenders, such as banks and mortgage companies. VA guarantees a portion of the loan, enabling the lender to provide you with more favorable terms.”
Essentially, the VA will co-sign a loan with you, and that gives you a few perks.
Why is co-signing helpful?
When new adults try to rent an apartment or buy a car, most people won’t trust them unless they get a “guarantor” to co-sign the loan or the lease, usually in the form of a parent or older family member. After faithfully paying rent and payments on a loan or two, civilians in their 20s build up credit and no longer need anyone to sign off their financial choices.
Military personnel and veterans are a bit different. Our lifestyle inherently makes us look financially untrustworthy.
“How are you 24 with no rental history?” I live in a barracks.
“You seem to have moved every two years...” Yep.
“You disappeared from our system for over a year except for credit card transactions from… Afghanistan. Are you a terrorist?” It’s called deployment!
Luckily, we have an Uncle Sam willing to co-sign on such a big purchase, or what’s called a Purchase Loan. You’ll be able to get better interest rates than your credit alone could get you, and you can skip the down payment.
Just because you can get a loan for down, doesn’t mean you should. Regular people are expected to drop at least 20% value of the house as a down payment.
Here are three different scenarios. Same house, same interest rate, same 30-year loan.
The less you pay upfront, the more you have to pay in compounded interest for the next 30 years. 30 years. That’s your entire military career plus half your next career!
Being able to do less of a down payment is useful in a few scenarios. For example, if you live in California, chances are you won’t ever have 0K cash for a 20% down payment on the crazy prices out here.
A few resources to see how much you can afford while buying a house: RedFin has a quick calculator (above) as well as a more in-depth option. USAA also has one with different loans they offer.
Warning: Anything offered by Uncle Sam comes with a catch
According to the VA website, “VA-guaranteed loans are available for homes for your occupancy or a spouse and/or dependent (for active duty service members). To be eligible, you must have satisfactory credit, sufficient income to meet the expected monthly obligations, and a valid Certificate of Eligibility (COE).”
A few takeaways:
VA Loans are only for houses you will live in, NOT commercial or investment properties.
You have to live in the house for at least one year.
You can’t buy a multi-family or multi-unit property. No duplexes or apartment buildings (Trust me, I tried).
Banks set the terms of the loan (interest rate, payment schedule, etc.) based on your credit and current job, not the VA.
The VA might not approve you.
Requires at least 181 days active duty completed to be eligible.
There is a limit on how much you can borrow without making a down payment based upon where in the country you live.
When good loans go bad
After nearly an hour and being transferred 7 times, I finally spoke to the most unenthusiastic Federal Employee in existence to answer my unanswerable question: “Are VA loans any different in foreclosure or the foreclosure process than a regular civilian mortgage?”
The answer: No, mostly.
The VA will not step in and save you, there are no cash handouts, and the VA will not shield you from the banks that are after their money. The VA will take care of a few fees dealing with the lenders, but that is about it. For more questions: 1-877-827-3702 or visit the payment problems page.
The United States Navy has rarely had to use its surface-to-air missiles in real combat. In fact, over the last thirty years, far more of the Navy’s action has involved hitting land targets instead of going after enemy aircraft in the skies. That’s one reason why 2016 actions involving the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) were so notable.
According to a Navy release, the upgrade is going to be an active seeker, like the ones used on the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile and the RIM-174 Standard SM-6 Extended Range Active Missiles. This is a massive shift in the missile’s capabilities.
The safe return to Norfolk by the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) was made possible by the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile.
(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Maria I. Alvarez)
Since its introduction in 1976, the Sea Sparrow (like the AIM-7 Sparrow) has used semi-active radar guidance, according to a US Navy fact sheet. That means that the ship or plane firing it has to “paint” a target with its radar in order to guide the missile. Not only does this require leaving the radar on, it also means you must predictably point your radar toward the target. Sound like a fun way to fight? We don’t think so, either.
Amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) fires a NATO Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missile to intercept a remote-controlled drone. The semi-active guidance of this missile creates a vulnerability for ships and aircraft,
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Diana Quinlan)
For a ship, having to leave a radar on to “paint” a target can invite incoming anti-radar missiles, like the Russian AS-12 Kegler, which has a range of up to 21.6 nautical miles. Not only are radars expensive to replace, such an attack would also leave the ship’s missiles without guidance capabilities.
An active seeker, which houses the radar needed for guidance in the missile, greatly reduces that vulnerability, creating a “fire and forget” capability for ships and aircraft.
The RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile can be fired from Mk 29 launchers or from vertical-launch systems.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Patrick Green)
The RIM-162 ESSM Block II, the missile with the active seeker, is currently going through live-fire testing. In the first test, held in July, 2018, the missile successfully destroyed a BQM-74E Chukar target drone.
Top Gun is an iconic movie, no doubt about it. The action flick, which came out in 1986, was a blockbuster hit and has stayed popular in the three decades since.
The sequel comes out this summer and its trailers have already made us crave the need…. the need for speed.
The movie’s lexicon has permeated into our everyday language over the years. We tell others to “Cover me, Goose,” “Be my wingman anytime,” or “take me to bed or lose me forever.”
If you have ever been stationed in or have visited San Diego, you might have sung “Great Balls of Fire” at Kansas City Barbeque, sang “Highway to the Danger Zone” as you watched jets fly around Miramar, or hummed, “Take my Breath Away” as you hung out on a beach in Oceanside. The San Diego Padres have even tried several times to make “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling” their version of the Red Sox’s “Sweet Caroline.”
One of the most iconic parts of the movie has to be the call signs.
Everyone loves call signs. They can be badass, cool, funny, and always give some glimmer of personality to a person in a military that tends to dissuade individuality.
(When my unit first got to Iraq, our command floated the idea of letting us pick a call sign. For an afternoon, I went back and forth between “Indian Outlaw” and “Buckeye” (my parents were from India and I left Ohio State to enlist the Marines). Unfortunately, the movie “300” had recently come out, and after having every junior enlisted Marine fight over why they deserved to be called “Spartan” or “Leonidas,” the idea was scrapped, and we were assigned call signs based off our rank and last name.
Hence, instead of “Indian Outlaw,” I became “Echo4Juliet”…puke.)
On the flip side, Top Gun had some amazing call signs.
So let’s rank them from worst to first. We went off how awesome they sound, if they fit the character, and if they resonate with the audience. Here we go!
Charlie, played by Kelly McGillis, was based on a real-life civilian mathematician and maritime air superiority expert Christine “Legs” Fox. Her character did showcase the amount of data and analytical studies that went into studying and perfecting the art of aerial warfare. But the call sign Charlie was pretty lazy (the character’s first name was Charlotte) and really didn’t add anything to her personality.
Chipper is barely in the movie and is more of a seat filler. The lack of character doesn’t really give us much to wonder about his name. Doesn’t look very chipper to me.
When you think of the name Merlin, you think of wizardry and magic. You would think that someone with that call sign would either be doing some type of aviation wizardry. Instead, Merlin, played by Academy Award winner Tim Robbins pretty much looks like he’s about to crap is pants most of the time. Merlin is more apt for Andy Dufrense because of his escape from Shawshank and less Robbins character in Top Gun.
“Slider…. You stink…” Does it have to do with how he gets with the ladies? Or sliding in behind the enemy? Did he slide off a runway when in training and end up in the backseat as a result? Or was he a college baseball player that just had one pitch? I don’t know why this name doesn’t sit well, but it just doesn’t.
Maybe Cougar liked to go after older women. But, he probably was named after a ferocious animal. Its not a bad call sign, but not that original. His character, losing his edge, didn’t help.
Wolfman should have been called Cowboy. He wore a cowboy hat in class, after all. But he does have a personality that shines through all throughout the movie and comes across like an old school radio DJ ala Wolfman Jack. So that pushes him up on the list.
“Your ego is writing checks your body can’t cash!” Lines like that make it obvious why Stinger is well, Stinger. His butt chewings would make him a great First Sergeant, and when he speaks, he means business. “And if you screw up just this much, you’ll be flying a cargo plane full of rubber dog shit out of Hong Kong!”
Hollywood looks good and acts the part. He’s got the shade and swagger and doesn’t seem to lose his cool. The name fits so much that after he is shot down and ends up ejecting and needed to be rescued out of the water, he still looks Hollywood-like.
It might have to do with the fact he is African American. It might have to do with the fact when he flies in, the sun goes down, and darkness arrives. Or both.
Regardless it is an awesome name. The helmet is even more bad ass.
Goose normally would suck, but it fits its characters personality so well. A guy with a callsign, Cobra wouldn’t be serenading women in bars, yelling “Great Balls of Fire” after getting in trouble, or taking Polaroids of MiGs…. WHILE INVERTED. Anthony Edwards, the actor who played Goose, later gave insight on why writers came up with the name.
“You can run kid, but you can’t hide” Jester is probably the perfect name of an instructor. He is wily, knows all the tricks, and is keen to remind you of why you are the student while he is the teacher. He also will break the rules and then throw them back in your face when you break them. (He did go below the hard deck first…..)
Jester was played by veteran actor Michael Ironside, whose own last name should be a call sign.
“That’s right…. Ice…Man… I am dangerous.”
Iceman chomps his teeth at him.
Everyone in the military fashions themselves to be the Iceman type. Cool. Calm. Collected…and Cocky. You keep your cool under pressure and stick to your training and planning. Nothing gets under his skin, and he thrives at the hint of competition.
Iceman looks Maverick right in the face and tells him why he is dangerous but doesn’t go running to higher command. He takes it as a challenge and goes out and wins. The only time he starts to crack is when he’s taking on five MiGs by himself (and can you really blame him on that?)
Based on Vietnam veteran, Top Gun instructor, and technical advisor Rear Admiral Pete “Viper” Pettigrew (holy Harry Potter name), Viper is a bad ass based on a real-life bad ass.
Vipers might look slow and sluggish but will deliver a quick strike. In the same manner, Viper doesn’t go around yelling like Stinger or Jester. He is quiet and calm and gives off the demeanor of tranquility… until he is in the air.
There he makes short work of his pupils.
Did you really think this name wasn’t going to be number one? Maverick has become synonymous with breaking the rules and flaunting the fact you’re doing it. It has been co-opted by politicians, someone you served with, and is now the #73 most popular boy’s name in America.
The name fits the character perfectly.
Jester : His fitness report says it all. Flies by the seat of his pants. Completely unpredictable. Viper : He got you, didn’t he? Jester : [pauses] Yeah.
Maverick knows what it takes to get the job done and has the talent to do it. He also does what drives a lot of the military brass (and Iceman) crazy. He thinks outside the box.
Once he is able to reconcile being a good wingman while still utilizing his talents, it is game over for the enemy MiGs. All we can do is enjoy the ride with the “oh crap” look that Merlin has.
Let us know if you had a great call sign in the military! Comment your call sign and why you got it!
Brazil has had a decent aerospace industry centered on Embraer, a conglomerate that made everything from airborne radar planes to trainers. However, that industry has gotten a little too full of itself lately. They think one of their trainers can replace the A-10.
But we digress. We’re not here to cyberbully a wannabe A-10 to the point that Selena Gomez has to consider making an aviation version of 13 Reasons Why, despite how much fun it would be to really make said wannabe feel really bad about itself. Even though it should… but again, we digress.
The fact is, the P-51 Mustang could arguably fly circles around the A-29, but the A-29 makes for a decent trainer.
No, we are here to take a look at this plane, which is already giving honorable service in the fight against terrorism. It’s been dropping bombs on al-Qaeda and the Taliban for a bit. It’s in service with over 14 countries.
The Super Tucano boasts a top speed of 229 miles per hour (the P-51 Mustang could hit 437). It can carry rockets, bombs, AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, air-to-air missiles, and gun pods for use against enemy forces. The plane also boasts a maximum range of 2,995 miles. Currently, 205 Super Tucanos are in service around the world.
The United States Air Force is one of 14 countries using the Super Tucano.
While the winner of the OA-X competition has yet to be determined, the Super Tucano does have a decent track record as a trainer and light attack plane. Learn more about this Brazilian A-10 wannabe in the video below.
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:
NASA astronaut Col. Tyler N. “Nick” Hague waits to be lowered into the pool containing a mockup of the International Space Station at the Johnson Space Flight Center’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory for Extravehicular Activity training in Houston, Tex., Apr. 27, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)
(Editor’s note: The following is a reposting of an Airman magazine story and an episode of BLUE, which aired in 2017 on AFTV, about Air Force astronauts assigned to NASA. Additional information from NASA is added to mark the culmination of a nearly decade-long goal to once again launch American astronauts from U.S. soil via NASA’s Commercial Crew Program with SpaceX and Boeing. On Wednesday, May 27, 2020, Air Force Col. Robert Behnken and retired Marine Col. Douglas Hurley are scheduled to pilot the inaugural, manned mission of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.)
A new era of human spaceflight is set to begin as American astronauts once again launch on an American rocket from American soil to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will fly on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, scheduled to lift off on a Falcon 9 rocket at 4:33 p.m. EDT May 27, from Launch Complex 39A in Florida, for an extended stay at the space station for the Demo-2 mission.
As the final flight test for SpaceX, this mission will validate the company’s crew transportation system, including the launch pad, rocket, spacecraft, and operational capabilities. This also will be the first time NASA astronauts will test the spacecraft systems in orbit.
Behnken and Hurley were among the first astronauts to begin working and training on SpaceX’s next-generation human space vehicle and were selected for their extensive test pilot and flight experience, including several missions on the space shuttle.
Behnken will be the joint operations commander for the mission, responsible for activities such as rendezvous, docking and undocking, as well as Demo-2 activities while the spacecraft is docked to the space station. He was selected as a NASA astronaut in 2000 and has completed two space shuttle flights.
It is a career in space that had its beginnings in the Air Force ROTC program at Washington University in St. Louis.
“The Air Force felt strongly that I should get a physics degree, and so I did that. But I was interested in engineering, and I did a mechanical engineering degree as well,” Behnken said in a 2017 interview with Airman magazine.
“It was a time, in 1992, that the Air Force was not bringing everybody immediately on active duty… I had a pretty long wait, so I applied for graduate school and an educational delay, and the Air Force looked kindly on that. I got that opportunity and picked up a National Science Foundation fellowship in the process, so I had a way to pay for school; the Air Force let me take advantage of that until I had earned my PhD at Caltech.”
Behnken’s first assignment was as a mechanical engineer at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, working on new development programs at the Air Force Research Laboratory. It was there that his commanders, both test pilot school graduates, suggested he plot a similar career course.
“The lieutenant colonel and the colonel said, ‘Hey, you should think about test pilot school,'” Behnken said. “I applied and was accepted, and ended up out at Edwards Air Force Base (California) doing some flight tests on an F-22 when it was very early in its development process before being selected as an astronaut and moving to Houston.”
Behnken flew two Space Shuttle missions; STS-123, in March 2008, and STS-130, in February 2010. He performed three spacewalks during each mission.
His training for the Crew Dragon mission has been unique among recent astronauts.
“Training for these missions is really wrapped into the development process. We’re learning the vehicles as they’re designed and built, and then that will be part of our training material,” Behnken said.
“All of us are Air Force and Navy test pilot school graduates and we’re really participating in a development process so that we can then kind of bring our space flight experience to the designs as they come to the table. If there’s something that needs to be changed, we give them that feedback, and then they figure out what the cost impact is and decide how well they can incorporate our feedback into their design.”
Lifting off from Launch Pad 39A atop a specially instrumented Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon will accelerate its two passengers to approximately 17,000 mph and put it on an intercept course with the International Space Station.
Once in orbit, the crew and SpaceX mission control will verify the spacecraft is performing as intended by testing the environmental control system, the displays and control system and the maneuvering thrusters, among other things. In about 24 hours, Crew Dragon will be in position to rendezvous and dock with the space station. The spacecraft is designed to do this autonomously but astronauts aboard the spacecraft and the station will be diligently monitoring approach and docking and can take control of the spacecraft if necessary.
After successfully docking, Behnken and Hurley will be welcomed aboard the station and will become members of the Expedition 63 crew. They will perform tests on Crew Dragon in addition to conducting research and other tasks with the space station crew.
Although the Crew Dragon being used for this flight test can stay in orbit about 110 days, the specific mission duration will be determined once on station based on the readiness of the next commercial crew launch. The operational Crew Dragon spacecraft will be capable of staying in orbit for at least 210 days as a NASA requirement.
Upon conclusion of the mission, Crew Dragon will autonomously undock with the two astronauts on board, depart the space station and re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere. Upon splashdown just off Florida’s Atlantic Coast, the crew will be picked up at sea by SpaceX’s Go Navigator recovery vessel and return to Cape Canaveral.
The Demo-2 mission will be the final major step before NASA’s Commercial Crew Program certifies Crew Dragon for operational, long-duration missions to the space station. This certification and regular operation of Crew Dragon will enable NASA to continue the important research and technology investigations taking place onboard the station, which benefits people on Earth and lays the groundwork for future exploration of the Moon and Mars starting with the agency’s Artemis program, which will land the first woman and the next man on the lunar surface in 2024.
“It’s a pretty exciting job. As a test pilot, the thing that we all hope is that we might get a chance to test a new airplane. We’re getting to test a new spacecraft. We’ll be the first people to fly on this vehicle, so we’re really the space test pilots for a brand-new spaceship, which is pretty cool,” Behnken said.
(Editor’s Note: Originally posted July 24, 2017, this article concentrated on the training of Air Force Col. Tyler Nicklaus “Nick” Hague, as he was the next of the Air Force astronauts scheduled to fly to the International Space Station. His first launch was on Soyuz MS-10, which aborted shortly after take-off on October 11, 2018. His second launch, on March 14, 2019, was successful, taking him and his fellow Soyuz MS-12 crew members to join ISS Expedition 59/60. He would spend just more than 202 days in space and completed nearly 20 hours of extravehicular activities, or space walks, before returning to Earth in October of 2019.)
On the rare instances when Col. Tyler N. “Nick” Hague returns from a day at the office and walks through the door of his own home, the oldest of his two boys occasionally asks, “Daddy, were you in space today?”
Not such a childish question when you consider the actual distance and travel time when Hague finally rides into space aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket in September of 2018.
It will only take him about 12 minutes to arrive in low-Earth orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, only 249 miles above the planet’s surface. In comparison, Hague traveled two miles farther when he was just a boy of 12; a total of 251 miles from his home in Hoxie, Kansas, to Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he first laid eyes on the place where his journey into space would actually begin – the United States Air Force Academy.
“Growing up in western Kansas, staring up at the sky at night, seeing all those stars, I’ve always wanted to do something involved with space,” said Hague. “I couldn’t find a better program in terms of being able to study astronautical engineering with building actual satellites and doing all that hands on work at an undergraduate level. That just didn’t exist anywhere else at that time and so that was the place I wanted to go.”
He graduated from the academy and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1998 and began a 20-year journey that would bring him to the International Space Station to begin a six-month mission as flight engineer on ISS Expedition 57/58.
During this journey, Hague earned a masters degree in engineering from MIT, worked on advanced spacecraft technologies at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, flight tested at Edwards AFB, California, completed a five-month deployment to Iraq to conduct experimental airborne reconnaissance in 2004, returned to the Air Force Academy to teach astronautics, became an advisor for the U.S. Senate on national defense and foreign policy, served as a congressional appropriations liaison for United States Central Command at the Pentagon and finally as deputy division chief for research and development at the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization before being selected for astronaut training in 2013.
“I applied the first time (to the astronaut training program) in 2003, so it took 10 years and three applications in order to finally get selected,” said Hague. “Twenty years ago could I look at what was going to lie before me and map all of that out that would connect that point to this point? There are all these different opportunities that I would have never been able to line up on my own, but the service in the Air Force has made it possible.”
When he finally received his crew assignment, Hague quickly learned that being an astronaut still means racking up a lot of miles on earth.
In this calendar year of mission training, Hague has logged five flights from Houston to Star City, Russia, where he has spent 33 weeks training on the Russian ISS modules – which make up half of the station – and the Soyuz launch vehicle.
When combined with flights to the European Space Agency training facility in Colon, Germany, and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Tsukuba Space Center north of Tokyo for eight more weeks of training on those agency’s modules this year, Hague is closing on 100,000 miles of travel within the Earth’s atmosphere to prepare for the relatively short commute to ISS.
Much of Hague’s time in Star City is spent training for that 12-minute trip aboard Soyuz into space and the corresponding return trip six months later. A training emphasis that fellow Air Force astronaut Col. Michael Hopkins explains exists for a very good reason.
“The majority of your training will be associated with the ride up and the ride home. We have a two-year training flow and as much as a year of your time during that two years will be spent over in Russia and your time in Russia the majority of that time is being spent on the Soyuz vehicle,” said Hopkins, who has already spent six months aboard ISS in 2013-2014. “But just like airplanes, the critical phase of flight is take off and landing. That’s when if anything goes wrong, when you don’t have that much time to deal with it. Aboard the ISS you usually have days if not weeks to assess and correct a problem.”
The overseas travel has two-week breaks when Hague returns to Houston for training on the US systems and for extravehicular activity (EVA), or spacewalks, and an opportunity to sleep in his own bed for a change. This fierce training and travel tempo is one of the drawbacks for astronauts, as well as their spouses and children.
NASA astronaut Robert Behnken, STS-130 mission specialist, takes a break in the mission’s second session of extravehicular activity (EVA) for construction and maintenance on the International Space Station in February of 2010 to allow air scrubbers to remove CO2 that had built up in his space suit. During the five-hour, 54-minute spacewalk, Behnken and astronaut Nicholas Patrick connected two ammonia coolant loops, installed thermal covers around the ammonia hoses, outfitted the Earth-facing port on the Tranquility node for the relocation of its Cupola, and installed handrails and a vent valve on the new module. (Photo/NASA)
“I spend six weeks in Star City, and then come back for a couple weeks, and then I’ll go back for six weeks,” said Hague. “There is a stress on the family, and they miss out on the things that I could be doing with them at home, and on the weekends. I’m TDY a lot, but my family’s making the same kinds of sacrifices that I see service families making day in and day out. I think that, that’s something that everybody that wears a uniform can appreciate.”
However, NASA has embarked on a new collaborative mission with commercial partners SpaceX and Boeing to provide an alternative to Soyuz for manned trips to and from the ISS. Cooperation in the development of new low-orbit launch vehicles by these commercial companies based in the United States will provide the Air Force with more orbital lift options and will also bring astronauts closer to home for training and for longer periods of time.
“It’s important for us to be able to return launch to Florida. You know, from a crew perspective, I can tell you that it makes it a whole lot easier on the crew, because you stop having to send people (to Star City, Russia) for six weeks at a shot over, and over, and over again and reduce the strain on the families,” said Hague.
“It’s also important from a redundancy perspective. Right now it’s Soyuz only, so if something happened with the Soyuz, now we’re looking for a way to get astronauts up there. It’ll provide us that flexibility to continue to fly Soyuz, and fly out of Florida and for the Russians to do the same.”
Once again the Air Force is a lynchpin in the development of a barrier breaking technology as astronaut Col. Robert Behnken is one of four test pilots for the commercial spacecraft and Hopkins is part of the team developing communications, displays and procedures for the new launch vehicles.
“Currently, my major focus is on one of those commercial crewed vehicles. It’s the Boeing CST-100 Starliner. I’m working as one of the CAPCOMs for that program; the communicator who would be talking to the astronauts in the vehicle as they’re going uphill and docking to the station,” said Hopkins. “There’s a lot of new material that we have to learn and figure out what the launch day is going to look like and what docking is going to look like and what the landing is going to look like.”
After one unmanned test of both the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, two-astronaut crews will fly subsequent tests before operational flights will begin taking six astronauts per flight to the ISS. Astronauts, such as Behnken, will not only flight-test the vehicles, but they are deeply involved in the design and development phase of the vehicles that is currently underway.
“The training for these missions is really wrapped into the development process. So we’re learning the vehicles as they’re designed and built, ” said Behnken, veteran of two of the Space Shuttle missions that built the ISS and the only active-duty member of the test crews. “(The test crews are) Air Force and Navy test pilot school graduates, and we’re really participating in a development process so that we can bring our space flight experience to the designs as they come to the table… that should wrap up around mid-2018 for both vehicles, and hopefully if the schedules hold, that’s when we’ll fly in space.”
These astronauts are the most recent in a continuing legacy of Air Force support of NASA and space exploration since the space program’s inception.
A total of eighty-five Air Force astronauts have traveled into space, from three of the first NASA astronauts, the Mercury Seven, Lt. Col. Gus Grissom, Col. Gordon Cooper and Major Deke Slayton, to two of the crew of Apollo 11, the first humans to set foot on the Moon, Col. Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Maj. Gen. Michael Collins to Col. Jack Fischer, flight engineer for ISS Expedition 51/52, currently traveling at over 17,000 miles per hour (5 miles per second) for 25,000 miles on each of his 15.5 orbits per day aboard ISS.
Still more, like Hague, are in training for upcoming flights, and numerous Air Force personnel support both manned and unmanned NASA missions.
“The Air Force is supporting the mission on a daily basis,” said Hague. “It’s flight docs assigned here, search and rescue crews that are helping bring us home, we’ve got the range support for launching cargo and soon we’re going to be launching Americans back out of Florida. There’s also guys that are looking at all the radar coming back down from space trying to track space debris and they help us prevent things from flying into the Space Station, so they’re protecting us on a daily basis.”
Of course, participation in the civilian space program reaps great benefits for the Air Force from supporting space exploration and research. “The Air Force gets access to space, and so from an expense standpoint, NASA’s already paid for that, now all you have to do is develop your experiment, and then we can get it onboard,” said Hopkins. “Then you get the astronaut’s time. We don’t go and charge the Air Force for the time of the astronaut on board that’s executing their experiment. You’re getting access to a microgravity laboratory, right? It’s a very unique laboratory, in fact the only one in existence.”
The Soyuz TMA-04M rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Tuesday, May 15, 2012 carrying Expedition 31 Soyuz Commander Gennady Padalka, NASA Flight Engineer Joseph Acaba and Flight Engineer Sergei Revin to the International Space Station. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
The partnership between the Air Force and NASA is a collaborative research relationship that fills gaps in each other’s research and facilities.
According to Dr. Morley Stone, chief technology officer of the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio, the Air Force benefits from NASA’s experience with human performance in microgravity environments, as NASA benefits from the Air Force’s research in the macrogravity realm of high sustained G-forces.
Both are participating in research on hypersonics, autonomous systems, artificial intelligence and materials that can survive extreme environments.
“I would say certainly NASA is up near the top, as probably our most important federal partnership,” said Stone.
Life aboard the ISS is tightly scheduled to accommodate the necessary daily planning conference with ground controllers, two hours of exercise necessary to maintain the astronauts’ bodies in a microgravity environment, performing EVA for scheduled station maintenance or repairs and conducting the experiments sent to ISS by researchers on the ground, military and civilian.
However, on occasion, there are small gaps where astronauts can indulge the kid inside that still looks upon the cosmos in wonder. Behnken had such an opportunity on his second STS mission to install components on the ISS. During an EVA to install the cupola observation window for Earth observation and photography, Behnken and a crewmate exerted themselves to the point that exhaled carbon dioxide was building up inside their suits faster than the air scrubbers could eliminate it.
“My partner and I had both worked harder than the suit could keep up with, and we got the chance to take about a 15-minute break,” said Behnken.
“They told us to “Attach yourself to the space station, and sit there, and look around. And don’t breathe too hard, because we’re trying to catch up with the scrubbing that’s on the suit.
“When you’re outside on a spacewalk, you get a panorama view that just can’t be captured with any of the windows … You get to see sunrises, and sunset, and that angular view of the atmosphere with thunderstorms lightning themselves up,” said Behnken.
“It’s of the whole majesty of the Earth, which is just awesome.”
Around 36 BCE, Chinese forces from the Han Dynasty fought a group of rebels called Xiongnu at a fortress in what is now Kazakhstan.
During the battle, the Chinese noticed their enemy employed a strange but distinctive formation. One historian at the battle recalled a unit that formed a unique “fish-scale“-style of protection using their shields.
Some modern historians think that “fish scale” was a Roman phalanx.
The battle took place in a city that was once known as Liqian, now a part of Gansu province in Northern China. And strangely, people living where the old city once stood are known to have interesting genetic traits unlike people in the rest of the country.
Aqualine noses, green eyes, and fair skin are just a few of the features found among the villagers of Zhelaizhai, where the ancient city once stood.
Some historians believe the people of Zhelaizhai are descended from the Roman Legionaries who fought with the Han Chinese.
Just 17 years before the battle in Kazakhstan, Parthians fighting the Romans at the Battle of Carrhae (in modern-day Turkey) delivered one of Rome’s most crushing defeats. They captured 10,000 legionnaires and sent the powerful Roman General Marcus Licinius Crassus packing (parts of him, anyway).
The theory does have naysayers. Some believe the DNA could be the result of contact from Silk Road trading between Rome and the Far East. Others say Caucasian Huns and warriors with other racial backgrounds fought through this area of Asia at the time.
At least one expert believes there just isn’t enough physical evidence to say these Chinese are descended from Roman legionaries.
“For it to be indisputable, one would need to find items such as Roman money or weapons that were typical of Roman legionaries,” Maurizio Bettini, an anthropologist from Siena University, told La Repubblica. “Without proof of this kind, the story of the lost legions is just a legend.”
Hitler, oddly enough, seemed obsessed with America in many ways. He admired Henry Ford and American industrialization. He liked American films and Mickey Mouse cartoons. And, perhaps most oddly for a man of Hitler’s obsession with perception and propaganda, he even named his rolling fortress of a train after the rival country, calling it “Amerika.”
Hitler had a few iconic pieces of transportation, from a famous Mercedes to the SSS Horst Wessel sailing vessel, but his headquarters train was one of the most famous during the war. Nazi soldiers would march along routes ahead of the train to make sure no one was lying in wait for it, and there were multiple decoy trains that would run up to 30 minutes ahead of or behind Hitler’s train.
And each train was a beast. Hitler had a car for meetings as well as a living car with space for his bath and sink, complete with gold-plated faucets, according to the above documentary about it. There was also a communications car and multiple cars for defense against air and land attacks. It could house up to 200 leaders, staff, and soldiers.
Hitler set an example by rolling out his train, and other Nazi leaders began buying their own top-tier trains complete with command wagons and defenses. They all had individual names, but only Hitler’s was named for a future Allied power. But it wasn’t out of respect for the American nation or people. Hitler had named the train for the destruction of Native Americans by western settlers.
Hitler holds a meeting in his personal train during World War II.
(YouTube/World at War)
Keeping these trains moving required regularly changing out the engines. After all, Hitler couldn’t be left cooling his heels on a train platform as wood and water was loaded onto the train when it ran low. Instead, the train would pull into a station, and railway workers would quickly swap out the nearly empty engine with fully fueled cars. The Fuhrer could be back on his way in minutes instead of hours.
And these swaps were required multiple times per day. Every 30 miles or so, the train would run low on fuel, partially thanks to the massive weight of all the armor on some of Amerika’s cars.
Of course, the train had to be renamed when America entered the war on the side of the allies. The name changed from Amerika to “Brandenburg,” and Hitler reduced his use of the train for meetings, instead primarily using it as secure transportation. The meetings that were held on the train were held in bunkers instead.
As the Allies started to retake territory from 1942 to 1944, the trains themselves got bunkers. One is still in decent shape in Poland, an enormous concrete bunker surrounded by grass and trees in southeastern Poland. These bunkers were primarily needed for protecting the trains from attack by air.
After all, the Allies developed tools to crack apart sub pens by using bombs that mimicked the effects of earthquakes, cracking the concrete foundations of the structures. Destroying a train is relatively easy, needing just a few lucky bomb hits to destroy even an armored engine or the tracks themselves.
For security reasons, crews were required to destroy much of the paperwork generated in support of the train; everything from supply paperwork to schedules. And the train itself was partially destroyed in May 1945. The surviving components of the train passed into civilian use after the war.
Some of the most treasured rituals involved in end-of-life care have become out of reach as we put in place the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 illness.
To protect our most vulnerable Veterans, the Community Living Center at VA Black Hills was the first ward to close to visitors. Even with compassionate exceptions, hospice visitation had a time limit and families could only visit one at a time. The policy required families to nearly give up the experience of physical touch, sharing memories and long goodbyes.
Dr. Mary Clark knew these protective measures were difficult for grieving families to accept. Hospice services aim to relieve suffering and provide bereavement support to families. Under normal circumstances, hospice care provides a comforting environment for families to share uninterrupted, quality time with their loved one. Clark is the Rehabilitation and Extended Care associate chief of staff.
Social worker Renee Radermacher works closely with Veterans and their families on the CLC. She thought of a way to give back some of what some families lost. She recommended converting one of the family rooms adjacent to the patient hospice room to a negative pressure room. This would provide an additional safety measure allowing up to three family members to visit for one hour each day.
VA Black Hills Hospice Family Room
A multi-disciplinary team addressed engineering, infection prevention, clinical considerations and social work. The team quickly added a reverse air flow machine and ready the room to receive families. Negative air flow is effective to reduce the transmission of dangerous infectious diseases. Along with good hygiene and masking, it allows families to spend more time with their loved ones, providing relief to the family
“The families are relieved” Dr. Clark said.
“Dr. Clark deserves all the credit for the hospice patients’ family visits. If not for her sensitivity and concern there would be no family visits and the patients would pass away alone,” added Brett Krout, safety manager and workgroup team member.
Providing compassionate patient care during this pandemic requires us to focus on safety while never forgetting the experience of the patient and their loved ones.
Today, we want to talk about that time he took approximately 42 German soldiers captive in World War II.
Churchill leads a simulated assault during training for the D-Day assaults.
(Imperial War Museum)
The insane capture took place in 1943 during the invasion of Italy. Churchill, then the commanding officer of Britain’s No. 2 Commando, had taken part in the capture of Sicily and then landed at Salerno with other British troops. He and his men fought for five straight days, grinding through mostly German defenders. They were even lauded for defending a rail and road hub from a determined counterattack at Vietri, Italy, until U.S. armored vehicles arrived to relieve them.
The commandos were granted a short rest and the time for showers and bathing, though they had to avoid enemy mortar fire while enjoying it. Even that rest was short-lived, though. They were serving in reserve for the U.S. 46th Infantry Division, and German forces managed to grab three hills overlooking the division area, imperiling the American forces.
So the British soldiers of No. 41 Commando and No. 2 Commando were sent in to secure two of the three hills in two attacks. Churchill, as the commander of No. 2, was in charge of that second attack.
Col. John “Mad Jack” Churchill after World War II.
(Cassowary Colorizations, CC BY 2.0)
The logistics of the assault were daunting. The men would have to attack uphill across terraces covered in vines and rocky terrain at night while trying to flush out and engage the enemy. Typically, commando attacks at night like this are conducted as silent, stealthy raids. But Churchill decided to bring nearly all of his men, broken into six columns so each column could support those to either side of it.
Churchill himself marched just ahead, spaced evenly between the third and fourth column. To ensure the columns didn’t drift apart or accidentally maneuver against one another in the darkness, he ordered them to yell “Commando!” every five minutes.
For the German defenders in the darkness, this created a sort of stunning nightmare. First, they heard No. 41 Commando take the nearby hill under heavy artillery bombardment as night was falling. Then, as pure dark set in, an unknown number of assailants began churning their way through the vines and across the terraces below, yelling to each other every few minutes. Whenever the Brits found Germans, they’d open up with Tommy guns, rifle fire, and grenades.
Churchill examines a captured 75mm gun during World War II.
(Imperial War Museum)
It caused confusion in the German ranks, and the columns were able to take dozens of prisoners. Churchill, meanwhile, grabbed one of his corporals and went to hunt out those Germans still attempting to organize their defenses.
First, he and the corporal found an 81mm mortar crew and took them prisoner. Churchill led this attack with his trademark sword, a Scottish claybeg. Then, Churchill and the corporal began moving from position to position, grabbing all the German soldiers they could find. By the time the two men made it back to the rest of the commandos, they had taken over 40 Germans prisoner (Reports vary between 41 and 43, but the more authoritative books on the Salerno invasion typically agree on 42, so that’s the number we’re using.)
The rest of the commandos had grabbed plenty of prisoners, and the total for the night between No. 41 and No. 2 Commando was 135, more than the 46th had taken in the five previous days of fighting.
This was a big coup for the intelligence folks who suddenly had access to all these prisoners. More importantly, two of the hills over the 46th were now clear of potential attackers just hours after German forces had staged there to attack.
Rod Lurie on set with lead actor Caleb Landry Jones filming The Outpost on location in Bulgaria.
Rod Lurie is a West Point graduate and former Air Defense Artillery officer in the US Army. After his time in service he worked as an entertainment reporter and film critic. He then transitioned into film making by writing and directing his first feature film Deterrence, which is a political thriller. Rod also directed The Contender, The Last Castle, Nothing but the Truth, and Straw Dogs. Most recently, he directed The Outpost, the story of the 53 U.S. soldiers who battled a force of roughly 400 enemy insurgents in north-eastern Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.
James Mardsen, Hunter Lurie, Kate Bosworth, Rod, and Paige Lurie during the filming of Straw Dogs (2011)
Tell me about your family and your life growing up?
Currently I live in Studio City with my wife Kyra who is a New York Times bestselling novelist. I have one stepson Isaac and a daughter named Paige where we have a family dog named POTUS. My son Hunter passed away two years ago today. The Outpost is dedicated to him where since he died so young his passing to me relates to the young soldiers who died at the Battle of Kamdesh.
My family growing up consisted of my father, mother and three brothers. At age five, my family moved from Israel to Connecticut and then to Hawaii. My father is a military veteran of Israel and he worked as a political cartoonist, which includes illustrations for LIFE magazine where he is “the most widely syndicated political cartoonist in the world”, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. My mother Tamar is still the most successful real estate agent in Greenwich, Connecticut.
Rod at West Point during his plebe (first) year.
What is the most distinct memory of your mother and your father?
My father focused on two things for me: creativity and sticking up for myself and our Jewish heritage. He is a wildly creative person and he told us to never stop creating where he reminded us about how God had created in the Bible. My mother was a voracious athlete where she encouraged me and my sibling to really push ourselves athletically. She is truly kind, and she raised us with empathy as well.
A picture of Caleb Landry Jones as Medal of Honor recipient Specialist Ty Carter in The Outpost.
What challenges did you face at school and in the community?
The challenge for any Jewish person in that era and in that part of the world was anti-Semitism. We had immigrated from Israel where, of course, we never faced that within our own communities.
Rod Lurie interviewing acting and film legend Paul Newman.
What values were stressed at home?
Creativity, Righteousness and Athleticism. We had a strong sense of morality in our home where ethics are what society expects and morals are what we expect of ourselves.
Rod at his West Point Graduation in 1984.
What drew you to film and media while growing up?
Growing up I saw a movie on a little TV named Ben-Hur. I couldn’t believe my eyes because I did not even know movies were made where my understanding was that they were just kind of there. I was so thrilled with film I decided my goal was to be somehow involved. Because of my lack of knowledge of the film making process I was most impressed with film critics. Roger Ebert and Pauline Kael were my idols where I wrote to them and they wrote me back. In the end, no motivation was greater than for me than to be a filmmaker. One of my beliefs is that you shouldn’t go to film school where you should go to study what you want to make movies about. The USMA is a place of leadership, which is what I want to make films on. My dream one day is to make a movie about West Point where I made a deal with Universal to make such a movie on the academy titled Heart of a Soldier with Paul Walker and Jessica Alba. Unfortunately, the film fell apart once the Iraq War broke out.
Scott Eastwood as Medal of Honor recipient SSGT Clint Romesha in The Outpost
What made you want to attend West Point and is the best lesson you learned while there at the academy?
My political awareness from an early age because of my father’s political cartoonist work influenced me to go to West Point where it seemed like a natural fit for me. The best thing I learned from West Point; when you think you have exhausted everything you have you really have only used 10% of your capabilities. This was said to me before I went in to SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) school.
Orlando Bloom, Cory Hardrict, Jacob Scipio, Bobby Lockwood, Alexander Arnold, Scott Eastwood, Caleb Landry Jones, James Jagger, Celina Sinden, Jack Kesy, Taylor John Smith, and Milo Gibson in The Outpost.
What did you enjoy most about your service as an Army officer?
What I enjoyed most about my time in service were the friendships and comradery of the people I served with. The best friendships I have had in my life were from West Point and from the service where nothing will ever top that. Another enjoyable part about my time in the Army came from the confidence generated in the team-based atmosphere. Many people think the most stressful time of a cadet is when you are going through Beast Barracks when in reality the toughest time is when you are taking your exams. I am on my own when taking those tests. When going through things with your fellow troops you are going through it together. There is something about the concept of if we all work together, then we can succeed. It creates a quiet calmness.
Rod as a cadet at West Point.
What leadership lessons in life and from the service that have helped you the most in your career in Hollywood?
Problem solving and Teamwork. The film was an exceedingly difficult movie to put together because of budget and time constraints. On The Outpost, as the boss and being a military veteran we had some actors that were veterans where I insisted on having them for a couple of reasons. One is that for all of us who have worn the uniform we can always say I have been in a tougher scrape than this. No matter what we come across we know we can solve this problem. Another part of having veterans as part of the production was realism where I had several vets that were also Technical Advisors. Because of the calm problem-solving skills and real-life team-based experiences, we functioned as military veterans; smoothly and without panic. We stayed grounded and focused unlike how it may have been on other sets where anxiety and fear set in due to such tight restrictions.
Taylor John Smith as Distinguished Service Cross recipient First Lieutenant Andrew Bunderman and Orlando Bloom as Bronze Star recipient First Lieutenant Benjamin D. Keating in The Outpost.
What did you enjoy most about filming The Outpost?
There is a great satisfaction in knowing that we are doing good on this film. There are many families that lost their loved ones in the Battle of Kamdesh which were sons, brothers, and fathers. The fact that we can give to these people and families, not just closure, but a promise that their loved ones will have their names repeated and spoken forevermore is very satisfying. When my son died, I realized the obligation we had to these families. The friendships and comradery on set were amazing because of this shared mission. The crew all got so close on the film because of its importance, especially since it was something we were going through together in a tough situation.
Scott Eastwood as SSGT Clint Romesha in The Outpost.
What is the main message you want people to remember about The Outpost?
My goal is to get people to daily remember the military currently serving abroad. The service members need to be remembered where I believe that people just don’t think ever about the soldiers that are serving overseas right now. In previous wars like WWII, Korea, and Vietnam they were on our minds and now we don’t give it a second thought. In WWII, every soldier also had the same mission; we are going to stop Hitler. Today the answer is most likely mixed with why we are there in the Middle East, which makes their service even tougher. It is just not cool that soldiers currently in the fight today are forgotten. People must understand what these soldiers went through and that their sacrifices matter.
In the short history of our country, the United States rose to global military dominance — yeah, I said it. Come at me, China.
But the road to the top was paved with the blood of good men and women. Looking back, there are some pivotal battles we remember with solemn pride and a little bit of hoo-rah. Let’s check out 10 of the most intense battles in United States history.
10. The Battle of Chosin
(Photo by U.S. Air Force)
The Battle of Chosin Reservoir was one of the defining battles of the Korean War and the stuff of legend in the Marine Corps. In the Fall of 1950, U.N. Forces under the command of General MacArthur had almost captured the entirety of North Korea when they were attacked by thousands of Chinese Communist soldiers. The U.S. X Corps was forced to retreat and by mid-November the 1st Marine Division and elements of the 7th Infantry Division found themselves surrounded, outnumbered, and at risk of annihilation in the high North Korean Mountains at the Chosin Reservoir. Their only way out was a fighting retreat back to the coast.
Although as Chesty Puller put it, they weren’t retreating, they were “fighting in the opposite direction.”
Over the course of the next 17 days, the Marines and soldiers fought the Chinese — and bouts of frostbite — with fierce determination and epic endurance. They broke through the enemy’s encirclement and even rebuilt a bridge the Chinese destroyed using prebuilt bridge sections dropped by the U.S. Air Force.
By the end of the battle, the U.S. Marines suffered 836 dead and roughly 10,000 wounded. The Army had 2,000 dead and 1,000 wounded. The Chinese had the most catastrophic losses. Six out of their ten divisions were wiped out and only one would ever see combat again. Although exact numbers are not known, historians estimate that anywhere between 30,000 and 80,000 Chinese were killed.
Although technically a loss for the Marines, the Battle of Chosin Reservoir lives on in memory as an example of the Marine fighting spirit and the ability to find strength even when the odds are stacked against them.
9. The Battle of Antietam
(Painting by Thure Thulstrup)
A year and a half into the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln needed a Union victory. He finalized the Emancipation Proclamation during the summer but his cabinet feared it would be too difficult to enforce after a string of northern losses, including the Second Battle of Bull Run (known as the Battle of Manassas to the rebels).
Lincoln charged Major General George B. McClellan with the defense of Washington D.C. against Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s first invasion of the North. Earlier in the month, Lee divided his men, sending General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson to capture Harper’s Ferry. Following Jackson’s success, Lee decided to make a stand in Maryland at Antietam Creek.
After two days of posturing, fighting began early in the morning on Sep. 17, 1862, and lasted well past sundown, with staggering casualties on both sides and no ground gained. The next day, both armies gathered their dead and wounded and Lee retreated south.
It was the bloodiest one day battle in American history, with 23,000 casualties from both sides and nearly 4,000 dead.
Sticking with the Civil War, let’s move on:
8. The Battle of Gettysburg
(Painting by Don Troiani)
The Battle of Gettysburg was not only the largest battle of the Civil War, it remains the largest battle ever fought in North America.
Confederate General Robert E. Lee had just won a decisive victory against Union General George Meade’s Army of the Potomac in Virginia. Wanting to capitalize on the recent victory, Lee led his troops on a second invasion into the Northern states to defeat the Union on their own soil and hopefully gain recognition of the confederacy by European countries.
General George Meade’s Army of the Potomac pursued Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and the two forces met near Gettysburg on July 1, 1863. The Confederates outnumbered the Yankees at roughly 30,000 to 18,000. By the end of the first day, the Yankees were forced to retreat through town to cemetery ridge and Culp’s Hill.
By the next day, both sides had gained reinforcements. Meade now had roughly 94,000 soldiers in a fish hook formation, allowing him to successfully move troops from one front to another. Lee had roughly 72,000 soldiers wrapped around the fish hook.
The Confederates attacked first but at the end of the second day, the Union defense lines held strong.
On the 3rd day, Lee tried an aggressive attack to crush the federals. He sent General Pickett with approximately 12,500 men to crush the Union Army with a direct charge.
It turned out to be one of Lee’s most ill-fated decisions. Fifty percent of Pickett’s men were wounded or killed and the rest of his troops were forced to retreat.
Casualties were high on both sides. The Union suffered around 23,000 casualties while the South suffered 28,000 — more than a third of Lee’s army.
The battle was the deadliest in the Civil War and prompted Lincoln’s iconic Gettysburg address four and a half months later at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery.
Although the fighting continued for nearly two more years, Gettysburg was an irrevocable turning point in the war in the Union’s favor.
7. Hue City
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. W. F. Dickman)
The North Vietnamese captured the venerated capital city of Hue during the Tet Offensive, a coordinated series of attacks on over a hundred American and South Vietnamese positions countrywide.
The battle to regain Hue began in February 1968 and lasted nearly a month, as Marines ferociously drove North Vietnamese and Communist Viet Cong forces from the city.
The Perfume River divided the city of Hue in two. To the north was the Citadel, a three-square mile fortress surrounded by walls 30-feet high and up to 40-feet thick, with a moat on three sides and the Perfume River on the 4th. To the south, the smaller and more modern section of Hue was connected to the Citadel by a bridge.
U.S. Marines and soldiers were tasked with clearing out the entrenched enemy in the southern portion of the city, while the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) would clear out the Northern portion and the citadel.
Untrained for urban combat, U.S. battalions had to come up with tactics and techniques on the spot — while facing a brutal enemy. The process was methodical and casualty heavy. They went from house to house and room to room to gain ground. Speed, surprise, and shock were essential to achieve victory.
After clearing the south side, U.S. battalions broke into the Citadel from the bridge to assist ARVN troops.
Finally on Feb. 24, the South Vietnamese flag flew over the citadel. On March 2, the longest sustained infantry battle the war had seen to this point was officially declared over.
The U.S. suffered 216 dead and 1364 wounded. South Vietnamese losses totaled 384 dead and 1,830 wounded with thousands of civilians were caught in the the cross-fire or murdered. The North Vietnamese casualties included 5,000 dead and countless more wounded.
Virtually all of Hue was destroyed, leaving roughly 100,000 homeless.
While technically a win for the U.S. and South Vietnamese, the news coverage of the event shocked the American population and broke their faith in the war.
U.S. troops would not experience that intensity of urban fighting again for another 36 years until the second battle of Fallujah, which is number six on our list.
An estimated 4000 enemy combatants were in the city when the fighting began — it’s even suspected that al’Qa’eda terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi held his headquarters there. They fortified their defenses before the attack, preparing spider holes, traps, and concealed IEDs throughout the town. They created propane bombs hidden in buildings, cut off access to escape routes and roofs, and designed fields of fire where they believed coalition forces would maneuver.
Nearly 70% of the civilian population fled the city, reducing civilian casualties and allowing coalition forces to launch their assault. Army, Marine, and Iraqi forces attacked with an air barrage, followed by an insertion of Marines and Navy Seabees, who bulldozed obstacles. The worst of the fighting continued for the first week, but insurgents resisted throughout the six-week campaign.
By the end of December, 82 US troops were killed with another 600 wounded. British and Iraqi forces sustained 12 killed with another 53 wounded. Over 2000 insurgents were killed while another 1200 were captured.
Keeping with Post-9/11, let’s talk about Afghanistan.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. David R. Hernandez)
The Battle of Sangin was one of the deadliest campaigns in Operation Enduring Freedom. The Sangin River Valley was a Taliban stronghold and was considered the center of opium production. In 2010, United States Marines replaced the British forces in Sangin and initiated a deadly campaign to clear out the insurgent presence in the region. The counterinsurgency lasted for four years, and during this time Marines sustained casualties at some of the highest rates seen during the 17-year conflict in Afghanistan.
IEDs peppered the landscape, killing or maiming hundreds. During the height of the fighting, there was daily contact with the enemy just meters outside allied FOBs. In October 2010, 3rd Battalion 5th Marines began a 7-month tour that would kill dozens of them in action and injure hundreds more, with at least 34 of them becoming single, double, or triple amputees. But the “Dark Horse” Marines made progress extending their security perimeter and clearing Highway 611, which allowed for the transportation and operation of future units.
By 2012, Sangin was transformed from a battlefield into a thriving rural town, but the price was over 100 British and American lives lost and hundreds more wounded. The Taliban continued to fight for Sangin, and today, the area remains in contention.
4. Operation Bolo
(U.S. Air Force photo)
This is the only air-to-air fight we’ll cover. It’s decidedly less deadly than any other battle on this list, but the tactics and implications merit a discussion.
In the last months of 1966, the North Vietnamese Army’s Mig-21 Fishbed fleet had become more active and successful at intercepting the F-105 Thunderchief formations of the United States Air Force.
The F-105 “Thuds” were super-sonic fighter-bombers with the mission of destroying communist air defense systems. They did this in the role of the wild weasels, a group that would fly slow and low enough to bait the communist surface-to-air systems into targeting them, thus giving away the enemy position and allowing the Wild Weasels to attack and destroy.
But with the MiG-21 added to the fight, the Thuds were falling vulnerable to air-to-air attacks.
The U.S. Air Force decided they needed to neutralize the MiG threat. Air Force legend and World War II Ace Colonel Robin Olds designed a gutsy plan to accomplish this.
Known as Operation Bolo, the mission was to lure the enemy MiGs into battle by hiding supersonic F-4C jets among the slower and less-maneuverable Thud formations.
On Jan. 2, 1967, Olds and his formation of phantoms took to the cloudy skies to fly the F-105 bomb run. They kept to the F-105 speed and flew in the F-105 formation.
Popping up from the clouds, the Fishbeds attacked in pairs. Olds and his formation began a legendary dogfight, where U.S. forces exploited their tactical and technical advantage over the enemy.
Within 13 minutes, seven MiGs were destroyed — roughly half the NVA Mig -21 fleet. The Americans hauled ass back to Thailand with zero casualties.
In the next week, similar missions took out more communist aircraft. As a result, the North Vietnamese were forced to ground their aircraft for several months as they re-trained their pilots and sought new air defense tactics.
Colonel Olds remains the only U.S. Air Force ace with victories in both World War II and Vietnam.
To illustrate how terrible it can be when our birds are shot down, let’s move on to Somalia.
3. Battle of Mogadishu
(U.S. Army photo)
On Dec. 9, 1992, eighteen hundred United States Marines arrived in Mogadishu, Somalia to help affect peace in the war-torn country. As part of Operation Restore Hope, the Marines supported international aid workers in the country for humanitarian aid operations, including food and supply distribution. In 1993, President Bill Clinton reduced the U.S. presence as the United Nations formally assumed responsibility for operations.
In June, however, Pakistani UN peacekeepers were ambushed by militias loyal to Somali warlord General Mohammad Farrah Aidid, and 24 UN soldiers from Pakistan were killed.
In response, the UN authorized the arrest of Aidid, and President Clinton dispatched 160 Army Rangers and Delta Force operators on a mission to capture the warlord and other leaders of his militia.
The operation went disastrously wrong. Two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters were shot down and a brutal urban battle began. The first Black Hawk was struck by an RPG, killing the pilot and co-pilot in the crash, and injuring five more passengers, including one who would die later from his wounds. A rescue mission retrieved the rest of the survivors, but then the second Black Hawk was struck, killing three in the crash. Pilot Mike Durant survived, but his back and leg were broken and he was taken prisoner.
Two Delta Force operators, MSG Gary Gordon and SFC Randy Shughart, were killed attempting to rescue Durant, who was held prisoner for 11 days until his release was secured through diplomatic negotiations. Gordon and Shughart would be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions.
(DoD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Robert M. Warren)
In the final stretch of World War II, the allies sought to gain control of strategic islands in the Pacific. Iwo Jima was a barren Pacific Island located roughly 660 miles from Japan, making it an ideal forward-deployed location for the Allies and Axis powers alike. On Feb. 19, 1945, after three days of naval and aerial bombardments, which launched over sixty-eight hundred tons of bombs and twenty-two thousand shells, the first wave of United States Marines stormed Iwo Jima’s volcanic shores.
Over 21,000 Japanese were there to greet them, heavily entrenched in a complex network of underground tunnels and artillery positions. What followed was some of the most violent fighting of the Pacific in World War II, due in large part to the determination of the Japanese to die before they would surrender.
They burned any vegetation that might have provided the Marines with cover, then launched artillery fire at the Marines’ exposed positions. Naval Seabees got to work on U.S. artillery positions, forward command posts, and field hospitals — all while holding their own in the fight.
The iconic raising of the American Flag over Mount Suribachi took place four days into the battle, but the fighting continued for a month. Marines used artillery and flamethrowers to destroy enemy defenses, and the final battle on March 26 included a massive attack against the Americans that ultimately came down to hand-to-hand combat.
In the end, nearly all of the Japanese defenders were killed, except for a couple hundred prisoners. Over 6000 Americans died helping to take the island, with 17,000 more wounded.
This one is ranked for its intensity, carnage, and outcome.
D-Day was the largest air, land, and sea operation undertaken to date and a logistics marvel. One of the most important battles in World War II, it turned the tide of the conflict in the Allies’ favor and eventually led to their victory in Europe.
Allied forces had been planning D-Day for months. Codenamed Operation Overlord, its goal was to gain a strong foothold in continental Europe by landing thousands of Allied troops and supplies on the beaches of Normandy, France.
The original invasion date was set for May, but due to poor weather conditions it was postponed until June. Despite the continued poor weather, General Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, gave the order to attack.
D-Day would commence on June 6, 1944.
On Eisenhower’s orders, roughly 176,000 troops embarked on their journey from England to France on 6,000 landing craft, ships, and other vessels.
Just before midnight, airborne troops parachuted into occupied France, surprising the Germans.
Air and naval bombardments were underway to weaken the German defenses before the main invasion began.
At 0630 local time, the land insertion struck across five sectors in a 60-mile coastal stretch of Normandy. British and Canadian troops overcame light opposition to capture Gold, Juno, and Sword beaches, as did the Americans at Utah. But the American G.I.’s at Omaha faced a tough fight.
The aerial and naval bombardment had done little to diminish the heavily fortified German defenses, both on the shore and on the cliffs above the beaches. Allied amphibious tanks were launched too far from shore and only 2 out of 29 made it to the beach. Many soldiers drowned in the waves, dragged down by the weight of their rucksacks, and many more were mowed down by the constant German fire.
Small groups of Americans managed to make it across the beach and traverse up the cliffs.
Allied casualties on June 6 have been estimated at over 10,000 killed, wounded, and missing in action, consisting of around 6,603 Americans, 2,700 British, and 946 Canadians.
By the end of the day, 155,000 Allied troops successfully stormed and held Normandy’s beaches. By Aug. 21, 1944, the allies had successfully landed over 2 million men in Northern France and suffered 226,386 casualties. German losses included over 240,000 casualties and 200,000 captured. Between 13,000 and 20,000 French civilians died, and many more were seriously wounded.
The success of the invasion was the beginning of the end of the war in Europe. It forced the Germans to fight a two-front war with the Soviets on the East and British, Canadian, and U.S. forces on the west.
The Nazi Third Reich would fall the following May.
This article was written with contributions by Megan Hayes.
Members of the US Coast Guard, US Navy, US Customs and Border Patrol, as well as the Colombian navy, intercepted a go-fast boat laden with cocaine in the eastern Pacific Ocean in early April 2018.
The various forces fought a fire on the smuggling vessel before off-loading more than 1,000 pounds of cocaine.
A CBP Air and Marine Operations P-3 patrol aircraft spotted the boat, technically called a low-profile go-fast vessel, in the waters of the eastern Pacific on April 7, 2018. Go-fast boats are specially made vessels, typically made of fiberglass, designed to carry large quantities of drugs with a low surface profile, which helps them avoid visual or radar detection.
The crew on the P-3 reported the go-fast boat to the Joint Interagency Task Force-South, which directed the crew of the US Navy coastal patrol ship USS Zephyr to make an intercept.
After spotting the Zephyr, the crew of the go-fast boat began to throw their cargo overboard. They then jumped overboard themselves when their boat caught fire.
A US Coast Guard law-enforcement team launched from the Zephyr caught up with the go-fast boat and rescued four suspected smugglers. Coast Guard and Navy personnel then fought the fire aboard the suspected smuggling vessel, extinguishing it in about 90 minutes, according to a Coast Guard release.
Coast Guard personnel and other US law-enforcement personnel were then able to recover about 1,080 pounds of what is believed to be cocaine. The Colombian navy ship 07 de Agosto arrived during the recovery to assist with documenting the case. The go-fast boat, which was severely damaged, was intentionally sunk.
“There was no doubt in our minds what needed to be done to salvage the evidence needed for a successful prosecution even if it meant laying Zephyr alongside a burning hull, with the intense heat and acrid smoke hindering our 90-minute firefight,” Lt. Cmdr. Grant Greenwell, commanding officer of the Zephyr, said in the release.
‘We’re basically giving all of this illegal activity a free pass’
The waters of the Pacific along South and Central America have become a particularly busy venue for traffickers.
Colombia, the only South American country with both Pacific and Atlantic coastlines, is the world’s largest producer of coca, the base ingredient for cocaine. (Bolivia and Peru are the only other major producers.)
Traffickers typically launch from secluded areas on the Pacific coast in Colombia, Ecuador, or Peru and head north. Limited government presence and corruption allow traffickers and criminal groups to operate with relative freedom in these areas, particularly in the coastal areas and inland waterways in western Colombia.
“During at-sea interdictions in international waters, a suspect vessel is initially located and tracked by US and allied, military or law enforcement personnel,” the Coast Guard said in its release. “The interdictions, including the actual boardings, are conducted by Coast Guard members.”
The cargoes that make it through are typically off-loaded somewhere in Central America — Coast Rica in particular has become a busy drug-transit hub— and then they’re moved up the coast via another ship or overland through Central America and Mexico toward the US border.
The US and international partners have stepped up their operations in the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, including Operation Martillo, a US, European, and Western Hemisphere initiative launched in 2012, and through the US Coast Guard’s Western Hemisphere strategy, which started in 2014.
“In 2014, we knew where about 80% to 85% of the activity was taking place, to include when a go-fast [boat] was leaving Colombia or Ecuador or somewhere in Central America with a shipment ultimately destined for the United States,” Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft told Business Insider in December 2017. “But on the best of days we could probably put a ship over next to and a plane above maybe 10% of that 80% to 85%. We’re basically giving all of this illegal activity a free pass.”
Zukunft said the ultimate goal was deter traffickers and the people who sign on to transport drugs and contraband.
“We want these smugglers to look at that same risk calculus and say, ‘You know, you can’t pay me enough to move a shipment of illegal drugs, because I don’t want to get arrested. I don’t want to spend the next 10-plus years of my life in a US prison, where I’m severed from my family in isolation.'”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.