US forces tend to believe because a nation is poor, they don’t have any fight in them. Remember that the enemies we typically fight have home field advantage.
2. Don’t f*ck with Delta Force
Enough said — and probably the coolest line in the movie.
3. Understanding what you can’t control
It’s a common misconception that the ground troops know why they’re sent to a fight.
The truth is — there’s always a mission behind the mission. But that doesn’t matter, because it boils down in the end to surviving and taking care of your men. That’s real leadership.
4. Life doesn’t always make sense
After watching one of the hardest scenes in the film, a Ranger’s death, Sgt. Eversmann (played by Josh Hartnett) questions himself and over-analyzes his own leadership. Honestly, no matter how much you train, you can’t predict sh*t.
When you’re asked what’s the most important tool for any U.S. service member who’s facing down a bad guy in battle, the most obvious response is his or her weapon.
When it comes down to it and the shots are flying, it’s the rifle or handgun that can make the difference between victory and defeat. But there’s a lot more to it than that, and oftentimes it’s what the trooper is actually wearing that can determine whether the bullets start flying in the first place.
Military uniform designers and suppliers over the last half century have been developing new ways to help soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines avoid fights if they want to and to survive them when things go loud. From things as simple as pocket placement and camouflage, to fabrics that won’t burn or show up in night vision goggles, the folks who build combat uniforms for America’s military have taken the best of material science and matched it with the conditions and operations troops are facing in increasingly complex and austere combat environments.
While the “modern” battle uniform traces much of its lineage to the Vietnam War, a lot has changed in the 50 years since that utilitarian design changed the course of what U.S. service members wear when they fight.
It was really the Korean war that introduced the pant-leg cargo pockets we all know today, according to an official Army history. But combat uniforms issued to troops in Vietnam took those to another level.
With bellowed pleats and secure flaps, there were few items the side cargo pocket couldn’t handle. Vietnam-era combat blouses also used an innovative angled chest pocket design that made it easier to reach items in the heat of battle.
In the 1980s, the U.S. military ditched the angled chest pockets for vertical ones, mostly for appearance, and the combat trousers maintained their six-pocket design until the 2000s.
But when America went to war after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, pocket placement and design took a quantum leap. Way more “utilitarian” than combat threads of Vietnam and the Cold War, the new battle rigs are like night and day — with everything from pen pockets near the wrist of a combat blouse, to ankle pockets on the trousers to bellowed shoulder pockets.
Interestingly, it was special operations troops that developed the shoulder pocket later adopted by both the Marine Corps and Army for their combat uniforms. During the opening days of the Global War on Terror, spec ops troops cut cargo pockets off their extra trousers and sewed them onto the arms of their combat jackets, giving them extra storage within an arm’s reach.
Modern combat uniforms now also incorporate internal pockets for knee pads and elbow pads, so when a trooper has to take a knee or go prone in a hurry, he’s not banging his joints on the dirt.
Marines in Iraq were issued fire-resistant flight suits to guard against burns from IED strikes.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
2. Combat uniform material
By Vietnam, the heavy cotton and polyester of the Korean War-era uniform were replaced with a tropical-weight cotton ripstop that was wind-resistant yet cooler for troops operating in the sweltering heat of Southeast Asian jungles.
Both trousers and jackets were made of this cotton-poplin material for years, until the Army adopted the so-called “Battle Dress Uniform” in the early 1980s. That uniform was made with a nylon-cotton blended material with was more durable and easier to launder than the Vietnam-era combat duds.
But the military was forced to offer a variation of the BDU in cotton ripstop after operations in Grenada proved the nylon-cotton blend material too hot in warmer climates.
Though today’s combat uniforms are made with similar materials to those of the BDU-era, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan proved that some front-line troops need kit that’s resistant to the flame and flash of roadside bombs and IEDs.
Early on, some troops — including Marines deployed to Iraq — wore flight suits manufactured with flame resistant Nomex during combat operations. But that fabric wasn’t durable enough for the rigors of battle on the ground. So companies developed new, more durable flame-resistant fabrics for combat uniforms like Defender-M and Drifire.
Now all the services offer variants of their standard combat uniforms in flame-resistant material that protects troops against burns from improvised bombs.
American Special Forces soldiers adopted the camouflage pattern of ARVN Rangers dubbed “tiger stripe” to blend into the Southeast Asian jungles.
(Image by Bettmann/CORBIS by Shunsuke Akatsuka via Flicker)
3. Combat uniform camouflage
It’s like the 1911 vs. (everything) debate, or the M-16 versus the AK-47 argument.
For decades, the question of camouflage patterns has been as much art as it was science. And over the last half century, the U.S. military has seen no fewer than 11 different patterns bedecking America’s warfighters.
The six-color Desert Combat Uniform is the iconic look of Operation Desert Storm.
Most Joes in the Vietnam War were clad in olive drab combat uniforms. But special operations troops began using camouflage garments in greater numbers during the war, and acted as the bleeding edge for pattern development within the wider military.
From ARVN Ranger “tiger stripes” to old-school duck hunter camo, the commandos in The ‘Nam proved that breaking up your outline saved lives. With the adoption of the BDU in 1981, the military locked into the service-wide “woodland” camouflage pattern.
The Marine Corps was the first service in the U.S. military to dramatically change its uniforms from the BDU design. The service also was the first to adopt a “digital” camo pattern.
In the early ’90s, the services developed desert combat uniform with a so-called “six-color desert” pattern (also known as “chocolate chips”). These uniforms were issued to troops conducting exercises and operations in arid climates and were more widely issued to service members deployed to Operation Desert Storm.
The woodland BDU dominated for more than 20 years until shortly after 9/11. And it was the Marine Corps that took the whole U.S. military in an entirely different direction.
Soldiers complained that the UCP didn’t really work in any environment
The Corps was the first to adopt a camouflage pattern with so-called “fractal geometry” — otherwise known as “digital camouflage” — that diverges from the curvy lines and solid colors of woodland to a more three-dimensional scheme designed to literally trick the brain. While the Marines adopted a digital woodland pattern and a desert version in 2003, the Army decided to try a single pattern that would work in a variety of environments a year later.
Dubbed the Universal Combat Pattern, or “UCP,” the green-grey pallet flopped, with most soldiers complaining that instead of working in a bunch of environments, it made Joes stand out in all of them. As in Vietnam, special operations troops engaged overseas adopted a commercial pattern dubbed “Multicam,” which harkened back to the analog patterns akin to woodland.
The Navy recently adopted a new camouflage uniform in a pattern developed by the SEALs.
Pressure mounted on the Army to ditch UCP and adopt Multicam, and by 2015, the service abandoned the one-size-fits all digital pattern and adopted Multicam for all its combat garments.
Likewise, the Air Force and Navy experimented with different patterns and pallets since the Army adopted UCP, with the Sea Service issuing a blue digital uniform for its sailors and the Air Force settling on a digital tiger stripe pattern in a UCP pallet. In 2016, the Navy ditched its so-called “blueberry” pattern for one developed by the SEALs — AOR 1 and AOR 2 — which looks similar to the Marine Corps “MARPAT” digital scheme.
The Air Force still issues its Airman Battle Uniform in the digital tiger stripe pattern to all airmen except those deploying to Afghanistan and on joint missions in the combat zone.
New uniforms incorporate innovative technology from the outdoor sports industry.
4. Combat uniform design
Aside from the rapid development and deployment of new camouflage patterns, some of the most impressive changes to U.S. military combat uniforms have been with their overall design.
Gone is the boxy, ill-fitting combat ensemble of troops slogging through the rice paddies and jungle paths of Southeast Asia. Today’s battle uniform traces its design to the high-tech construction of the extreme outdoor sports world, from high-altitude climbing to remote big game hunting.
Troops in the services now have uniforms that have pre-curved legs and arms, angled and bellowed pockets that stay flat when they’re empty, Velcro closures and adjustable waists. The services even use specially-designed combat shirts that ditch the jacket altogether and use built-in moisture-wicking fabric to keep a trooper’s torso cool under body armor yet provide durable sleeves and arm pockets for gear needed in the fight. With integrated pockets for knee pads and elbow pads, the new combat uniforms’ design takes “utilitarian” to a whole new level.
US Marines inside the Citadel in Hue City rescue the body of a dead Marine during the Tet Offensive.
(Photo via Flickr)
5. Combat armor
Aside from the actual clothing an American combat trooper wears, there are a host of new protective items that make up his or her battlefield loadout. These items have evolved exponentially over the last half century, and many uniform manufacturers have supplied protective accessories to integrate with their clothing.
Students from the Saint George’s University of Medicine pose with a member of the 82nd Airborne Division during Operation Urgent Fury.
(U.S. Military photo via Flickr)
Late in the war, the Vietnam-era soldier or Marine was issued a body armor vest that would protect him against grenade fragments and some pistol rounds. Made of ballistic nylon and fiberglass plates, the armor was best known as the “flak jacket.” It was heavy and didn’t protect against rifle rounds.
In the 1980s, the U.S. military developed a new body armor system using steel plates and Kevlar fabric that could stop a rifle round. First used in combat during Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada, the so-called Personnel Armor System for Ground Troops, or PASGT, was a revolution in personal protection.
Today’s armor and helmets are lighter, more protective and offer a host of methods to modify the loadout for specific missions.
Still heavy and bulky, armor evolved over the years since 9/11 to be lighter, with a slimmer profile and much more protective than the flaks of yore. Today’s vests can protect against multiple armor-piercing rifle rounds, shrapnel and pistol shots — all in a vest that weighs a fraction of its PASGT brethren.
Like the armor vest, the “steel pot” of Vietnam has changed dramatically in the last 50 years. The new Army Combat Helmet and Marine Corps Lightweight Helmet can take multiple bullet strikes and shrapnel hits, allow for greater mobility than the Vietnam-era one or the PASGT and now incorporate various attachment points for accessories like night vision goggles, IR strobes and cameras.
Public speaking is the name of the game for activists and politicians, but few speak with such power that the message of their words echoes for generations. The words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his iconic ‘I Have a Dream’ speech were some of the most influential and inspiring words ever spoken. While the black and white photos in textbooks make it seem like ancient history, the speech was given on August 28th, 1963 — a mere 57 years ago.
Just this month on the anniversary of the March on Washington, MLK’s granddaughter gave a moving speech of her very own…and she’s not even a teenager yet! The history books don’t always tell the full story, so keep reading for some of the most interesting facts you never knew about Dr. King’s most famous speech.
1. MLK’s speech almost left out his “dream”
His “Dream” speech wasn’t a new concept. He used it frequently in previous speeches, so his advisor, Rv. Wyatt Tee Walker, suggested he leave it out, calling it “hackneyed and trite.” The new speech was supposed to be called “Normalcy Never Again,” but when King got up on stage as the final speaker of the day, the audience had other plans. Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson yelled out of the crowd, “Tell ’em about the dream, Martin.” Going against his advisor’s suggestion, King paused and said, “I still have a dream.” It was a bold move, but even his advisor later admitted it was the right one.
2. King didn’t write the speech alone
While some of his speech was improvised, he had help with the first draft. It was originally written by Stanley Levison and Clarence Jones, with plenty more heads coming together to create the final version.
3. The March was originally planned to leave out female speakers
Despite the innumerable women who contributed to the Civil Rights Movement, none were included in the original speaking schedule. Anna Arnold Hedgeman, the only woman who was on the national planning committee at the time, pushed for acknowledgment of their achievements. A “Tribute to Negro Women Fighters for Freedom” was added to the docket, but it was only after additional pressure that a woman was invited to lead it.
Daisy Bates, president of the Arkansas NAACP, took the stage, saying, “We will walk until we are free, until we can walk to any school and take our children to any school in the United States. And we will sit-in and we will kneel-in and we will lie-in if necessary until every Negro in America can vote. This we pledge to the women of America.”
Josephine Baker, a famous American entertainer, also spoke, telling the crowd, “You know I have always taken the rocky path. I never took the easy one, but as I get older, and as I knew I had the power and the strength, I took that rocky path, and I tried to smooth it out a little. I wanted to make it easier for you. I want you to have a chance at what I had. But I do not want you to have to run away to get it.”
4. The March was organized by an openly gay man
Ever heard of Bayard Rustin? Most people haven’t, but he was an important figure in the Civil Rights Movement. He strongly encouraged King to avoid violence, fundraised for the Montgomery bus boycott, and organized the March on Washington in only two months. Despite his dedication, he remained behind the scenes for a reason. He was worried that his sexual orientation would be used as an attempt to discredit the civil rights movement, so he worked virtually unseen. President Obama recognized his work posthumously, however, awarding him The Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.
5. Hollywood stars attended the March to draw attention
Harry Belafonte already planned to attend the March himself when he reached out to other stars to encourage their participation. He asked Hollywood studio managers to give the actors the day off so they could attend, which they did. Many A-listers attended, including Sidney Poitier, Marlon Brando, Sammy Davis Jr, Lena Horne and Burt Lancaster. The celebrity presence had two purposes; to boost media coverage, and to ease concerns about violence. The participation of so many high-profile celebrities toned down the widespread anxiety and increased support from President John F. Kennedy.
6. Wiretapping was a real concern
Speeches and marches don’t plan themselves, and the planning continues right up until the event starts. The day before King gave his most famous speech, he got together with his advisors to discuss the final version. They were worried that King’s hotel suite at the Willard Hotel wasn’t secure enough and could easily be wiretapped, however, so they met in the lobby instead, to discuss the speech.
7. Dr. King’s bodyguard was a college basketball player
George Raveling was in the audience when event organizers asked if he would step on stage to act as King’s bodyguard. As he was standing next to King, he asked if he could keep the paper copy of the speech. Raveling, now a retired basketball coach, still owns the original, typewritten speech.
8. The media didn’t care about the speeches
Today, King’s speech is celebrated and studied as one of the best speeches in all of history. Right after it happened, however, many reporters overlooked the speech almost entirely. Instead of covering the speeches given, newspapers (including Dr. King’s) focused on the size and scope of the March itself. The speech wasn’t given much attention during King’s lifetime, resurfacing in the public eye years later.
9. ‘I Have a Dream’ was rated a better speech than JFK’s ‘Ask not what you can do’ speech
In 1999, a panel of over 130 scholars rated Dr. King’s speech as the best of the 20th century. Even Kennedy himself knew what a pivotal speech it was, commending King by saying, either “He’s damned good” or “That guy is really good,” depending on who you hear it from.
Either way, we can all agree the speech was awe-inspiring and revolutionary. You can read or listen to the full speech here!
In a recent interview with Business Insider, Justin Bronk, a research fellow specializing in combat airpower at the Royal United Services Institute, revealed why the F-15, originally introduced four decades ago, is still more useful than either the F-22 or the F-35 in certain situations.
The F-15 is a traditional air-superiority fighter of the fourth generation. It’s big, fast, agile, and carriers lots of weapons under the wing where everyone can see them. For that last reason, it’s terrible at stealth, but the other side of the coin is that it’s perfect for intercepting enemy aircraft.
Bronk says that when it comes to interception, a plane must “get up right next to the aircraft, fly alongside, show weapons, go on guard frequency, tell them they’re being intercepted, that they’re on course to violate airspace, and to turn back immediately.”
An F-22 or F-35 shouldn’t, and in some cases, can’t do that.
The major advantage of fifth-generation aircraft is their stealth abilities and situational awareness. Even the best aircraft in the world would be lucky to lay eyes on any fifth-generation fighter, which means they can set up and control the engagement entirely on their terms.
But while this paradigm lends itself ideally to fighting and killing, interception is a different beast.
The advantages of the F-22, and particularly of the F-35, diminish greatly once planes get within visual range of one another. Also, fifth-gens usually carry their munitions inside internal bomb bays, which is great for stealth but doesn’t really strike the same note that staring down an AIM-9 Sidewinder missile on the side of an F-15 would.
Simply put, a fifth-gen revealing itself to a legacy fighter would be akin to a hunter laying down his gun before confronting a wild beast.
“Fifth-gen fighters are not really necessary for that … other, cheaper interceptors can do the job,” Bronk said.
Furthermore, interception happens way more frequently than air-to-air combat. A US Air Force fighter most recently shot down an enemy plane in 2009 — and it was the Air Force’s own wayward drone over Afghanistan. Interceptionshappenallthetime, with the Baltics and the South China Sea being particular hot spots.
The fifth-gens, however, make sense for entering contested airspace. If the US wanted to enter North Korean or Iranian airspace, it wouldn’t just be to show off, and according to Bronk, the aircraft’s stealth and situational awareness would afford them the opportunity to slip in, hit their marks, and slip out undetected, unlike an F-15.
In interception situations, it makes no sense to offer up an F-22 or an F-35 as a handicapped target to an older legacy plane. F-15s are more than capable of delivering the message themselves, and whoever they intercept will know that the full force of the US Air Force, including fifth-gens, stands behind them.
In a tactical situation, the last thing a Soldier wants to do is give away his position to the enemy.
The ZH2 hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle promises to provide that important element of stealth, said Kevin Centeck. team lead, Non-Primary Power Systems, U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center at the 2017 Washington Auto Show here Thursday.
The ZH2 is basically a modified Chevy Colorado, fitted with a hydrogen fuel cell and electric drive, he said. It was put together fairly quickly, from May to September, and will be tested by Soldiers in field conditions later this year.
Charley Freese, executive director of General Motor’s Global Fuel Cell Activities, explained the ZH2 is stealthy because its drive system does not produce smoke, noise, odor or thermal signature. GM developed the vehicle and the associated technologies.
The vehicle provides a number of other advantages for Soldiers:
The ZH2 produces high torque and comes equipped with 37-inch tires that enable it to negotiate rough and steep terrain.
The hydrogen fuel cell can produce two gallons per hour of potable water.
When the vehicle isn’t moving, it can generate 25 kilowatts of continuous power or 50 kW of peak power. There are 120 and 240-volt outlets located in the trunk.
The vehicle is equipped with a winch on the front bumper.
Dr. Paul D. Rogers, director of TARDEC, said the Army got a good deal in testing this vehicle, leveraging some $2.2 billion in GM research money spent in fuel cell research over the last several decades. The Army is always eager to leverage innovation in new technology, he added.
While GM developed the technology and produced the demonstrator, the Army’s role will be to test and evaluate the vehicle in real-world field conditions over the next near.
How it works
Electricity drives the vehicle, Centeck said. But the electricity doesn’t come from storage batteries like those found in electric cars today. Instead, the electricity is generated from highly compressed hydrogen that is stored in the vehicle by an electrochemical reaction.
As one of the two elements that make water (the other being oxygen), there’s plenty of hydrogen in the world. But hydrogen isn’t exactly free, Centeck pointed out. It takes a lot of electricity to separate the strong bond between hydrogen and oxygen.
That electricity could come from the grid or it could come from renewables like wind or solar, Centeck said.
Existing fuels like gasoline, propane, and natural gas can also be used to extract hydrogen, he said. The Army and GM are comparing the costs and benefits for each approach and haven’t yet settled on which approach to use.
Christopher Colquitt, GM’s project manager for the ZH2, said that the cost of producing hydrogen isn’t the only complicating factor; another is the lack of hydrogen fueling stations.
Most gas stations aren’t equipped with hydrogen pumps, Colquitt pointed out, but California and some other places in the world are in the process of building those fueling stations. For field testing purposes, the Army plans to store the hydrogen fuel in an ISO container.
Another cost involves the hydrogen fuel cell propulsion system itself. Fuel cell stacks under the hood convert hydrogen and air into useable electricity. They are composed of stacks of plates and membranes coated with platinum.
In the ZH2 demonstrator, there are about 80 grams of platinum, costing thousands of dollars, he said. But within the last few months, GM developers have managed to whittle that amount of platinum down to just 10 grams needed to produce a working vehicle, he said.
The modern-day gas and diesel combustion engine took a century to refine. Now, GM is attempting to do that similar refining with hydrogen fuel cells in just a matter of months, he said. It’s a huge undertaking.
By refining the design, Colquitt explained, he means lowering cost and providing durability, reliability and high performance. Refining doesn’t just mean using less platinum, he explained. A lot of other science went into the project, including the design of advanced pumps, sensors, compressors that work with the fuel cell technology.
Colquitt said the ZH2’s performance is impressive for such a rapidly-produced vehicle. For instance, the fuel cell produces 80 to 90 kilowatts of power and, when a buffer battery is added, nearly 130 kilowatts. The vehicle also instantly produces 236 foot-pounds of torque through the motor to the transfer case.
The range on one fill-up is about 150 miles, since this is a demonstrator, he said. If GM were actually fielding these vehicles, the range would be much greater.
Not ready for consumers
Colquitt said hydrogen fuel cell technology hasn’t yet yielded vehicles for consumers, but GM is working on doing just that in the near future, depending on a number of factors, mainly the availability of fueling stations.
The Army is no stranger to the technology, he said. GM’s Equinox vehicles, powered by hydrogen fuel cells, are being used on several installations. The difference is that the ZH2 is the first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle to go tactical, he said.
The value of having the Army test the vehicle is that it will be driven off-road aggressively by Soldiers, who will provide their unvarnished feedback, Colquitt said. Besides collecting subjective feedback from the Soldiers, he said, the vehicle contains data loggers that will yield objective data as well.
Testers will put the vehicle through its paces this year at Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Carson, Colorado; Fort Benning, Georgia; Quantico Marine Base, North Carolina; and, GM’s own Proving Grounds in Michigan.
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Robert Gutierrez is a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) who was awarded the Air Force Cross for heroism during an intense firefight in Afghanistan in 2009.
JTACS are military personnel who direct combat support aircraft like the A-10, calling in air strikes to support ground operations.
Gutierrez was part of a nighttime raid with an Army special forces detachment to capture a high-value Taliban target, a “brutal” man living outside of the city of Herat in Western Afghanistan.
The team was attacked with heavy fire from a numerically superior and battle-hardened enemy force. Gutierrez was shot in the chest, his team leader was shot in the leg, and the ten-man element was pinned down in a building with no escape route.
“We were just getting hammered, getting peppered,” he recalls in a six-minute interview. He talked to his team’s leader who wanted to drop bombs on the enemy targets.
“If you put a bomb on that it’ll kill us all,” he told his leader. “Guys are getting wounded. Our best chance is a 30mm high-angle strafe.”
Gutierrez is having this discussion as bullets pepper the walls behind him, as a medic works on his chest wound, a through-and-through which the medic couldn’t find the entrance wound. He is also still holding off Taliban fighters with his M4 rifle.
“This is danger close, I need your initials,” he told his team lead.
“Less than 10 meters.”
Gutierrez needed the support of an A-10 Thunderbolt II, aka “Warthog,” whose 30mm GAU-8 Cannon rounds are the size of beer bottles, to make a precision strike on the attacking insurgents.
Capt. Ethan Sabin, an A-10 pilot based at Kandahar Airfield, asked a nearby F-16 pilot to mark the target with the laser on his targeting pod.
The A-10 attack was so close, Gutierrez’s right eardrum burst and his left eardrum was severely damaged from the noise. He lost five-and-a-half pints of blood getting away from the combat zone.
After the first A-10 strafing, the medic had to re-inflate Gutierrez’ collapsed lung so he could direct two more strafing runs. For four hours, the team held off the enemy fighters and escaped the battlespace.
To give an idea of the kind of interactions JTACs have with close-air support pilots in the heat of the moment, the video below is a prime example of the extraordinary actions Gutierrez and airmen like him perform on the battlefield every day.
One of the most heartbreaking things troops must do is say goodbye to their loved ones before they deploy. If they’ve found a good one, they know their love will be waiting for them back home. Those troops will look cling on to that bittersweet silver-lining while their beloved waits, always dreading, on some level, the realities of war.
It falls on the shoulders of the troops to let their love know that things will be okay. Even if the worst happens, they will always love their spouse, fiance, girlfriend/boyfriend, children, and family. No matter how long they’ve been together or how many times the troop has deployed, it never gets easier — even if they say it does.
1. Right before they leave
Logically, troops should be spending every waking moment getting ready for war — training, making sure their gear is right. And yet, troops always spend every last second they can with the ones they love.
It’s the kiss that no one ever wants to end, but it must. Duty calls.
It doesn’t have to be as expensive as a diamond necklace and it doesn’t have to be as elaborate as a diary full of love notes.
Troops can leave behind something even as simple as an old sweatshirt for their loved ones and they’ll never let it out of their sight. But they probably won’t complain if it’s something nicer than the junk they forgot to clean before shipping out.
Loved ones will always send out care packages filled with sweet cards, treats, and whatever else troops asked for.
Troops don’t usually send care packages back — there’s not much to send back from Afghanistan. But it’s always nice when troops return the favor by writing letters.
I don’t want to get anyone in trouble with their loved ones, but the mail system does work both ways. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Smith)
4. Phone and video calls
While deployed, it feels like life returns to normal for just a few moments when troops get their hands on a phone just to hear those three words: “I love you.”
Because technology is amazing, troops can now call home on video. This is a perfect chance for dads to read their kids a goodnight story (even if it’s morning time for them).
5. That first kiss upon return
It’s finally over. The plane landed. The formation is over. They’ve been trying their hardest to stand at attention while also trying to find their loved ones among the waiting crowd.
You’ll never see a truer and more passionate kiss like the one a troop’s waited an entire deployment to give.
A U.S. Navy veteran who served in the Pacific during World War II finally received his service medals April 12 at the American Legion in Fort Smith, Arkansas — 71 years to the day from when he honorably discharged.
James Donald Neal Burnett, 91, of Alma was presented several medals, including the World War II Victory Medal, by U.S. Sen. John Boozman.
The senator called Burnett among the “greatest generation” and thanked him for his service.
“It’s a real honor to pat Mr. Burnett on the back and thank him for his service,” Boozman said before a large group of veterans gathered at the American Legion Ellig-Stoufer Post 31. “We do want to thank this special generation that went off and did incredible things, ordinary people who did extraordinary things, came back and just went back to work. They not only rebuilt our country but provided the protection for Europe and much of the rest of the world so they can rebuild. We forget about this sometimes.”
The veterans were there to have a closed-door discussion about their issues with the Veterans Choice health-care program. Boozman is a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and is hosting a series of listening sessions with Arkansas veterans. Boozman also had listening sessions two other local cities.
Before presenting the medals, Boozman also thanked the veteran’s wife, Imogene Burnett, and their family because “being in the service regardless of how long…is a family affair and we always want to remember the families that sacrificed.”
One of the Burnetts’ sons, James Alan Burnett, gave the ultimate sacrifice in 2002 on the Kate’s Basin fire in Wyoming. He was the first Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Forestry Services employee to lose his life fighting a fire.
Kathy Watson, constituent services manager for Boozman’s office, said many World War II veterans did not receive medals simply because they went home after the war and did not apply for them. Boozman said his father, a B-17 waist gunner during WWII, also didn’t talk much about the war, and when asked to talk about his experiences would usually only offer a short description: “It was cold.”
James and Imogene Burnett’s son, Bob Burnett, said his father was among those who simply came home after the war and did not request the medals. A relative, state Rep. Rebecca Petty, District 93, “got the ball rolling” on Burnett’s medals after a family visit last year, Bob Burnett said.
In the recent 91st General Assembly, Petty entered House Resolution 1039 to honor Burnett for his service from 1943-1946 as a motor machinist’s mate third class on the USS Oak Hill LSD 7. He entered the Navy a few months after his 18th birthday, Nov. 11, 1943.
Anita Deason, Boozman’s senior military and veterans liaison, read a commendation letter in Burnett’s file for the ship’s crew from Capt. C.A. Peterson, dated June 14, 1945: “At Okinawa, Oak Hill participated in one of the largest and most important amphibious assaults in the history of warfare. Then for a period of 71 days, this vessel shared in the hazards of supporting armed forces on that island, often under continuous attacks by enemy planes. One suicide plane apparently aimed for this ship was splashed by the fire of our gun crews. By the cheerful cooperation of all hands, every mission assigned this ship was successfully carried out.”
The letter goes on to say that “outstanding” work was done in particularly by the repair force in the task of maintaining landing ships and craft in operation condition.
“Higher authority at first considered this job beyond the capacity of this ship, but by efficient administration and hard work it was done and earned high praise for the task force commander,” Peterson wrote.
Burnett, who was born Aug. 31, 1925, at Clayton, Okla., served two years, four months and 25 days in the Navy. He was honorably discharged, coincidentally, on April 12, 1946.
In addition to the WW II Victory Medal, the National Personnel Record Center also authorized Burnett to receive the Combat Action Ribbon, China Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Honorable Discharge Button, and Honorable Discharge Lapel Pin.
Burnett is also eligible for the Philippine Liberation Ribbon, a foreign award that is not funded by the Department of Defense.
The next time you venture into the dark netherworld of rants about Obama or Osama bin Laden conspiracy theories that is the internet comments section, you may be viewing the work of a professional “troll” in Moscow.
In The New York Times Magazine, journalist Adrian Chen writes a fascinating story about a pro-Kremlin company called The Internet Research Agency headquartered in St. Petersburg, Russia. It’s mission: Spread propaganda far and wide, from the discussion sections of news websites to Facebook comment threads.
Inside the nondescript building, twenty-something-aged employees work 12-hour shifts for great pay, while managers obsess over employees meeting their daily quotas of writing political and nonpolitical posts, and hundreds of comments.
Every day at the Internet Research Agency was essentially the same, Savchuk told me. The first thing employees did upon arriving at their desks was to switch on an Internet proxy service, which hid their I.P. addresses from the places they posted; those digital addresses can sometimes be used to reveal the real identity of the poster. Savchuk would be given a list of the opinions she was responsible for promulgating that day. Workers received a constant stream of “technical tasks” — point-by-point exegeses of the themes they were to address, all pegged to the latest news. Ukraine was always a major topic, because of the civil war there between Russian-backed separatists and the Ukrainian Army; Savchuk and her co-workers would post comments that disparaged the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, and highlighted Ukrainian Army atrocities. Russian domestic affairs were also a major topic. Last year, after a financial crisis hit Russia and the ruble collapsed, the professional trolls left optimistic posts about the pace of recovery. Savchuk also says that in March, after the opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was murdered, she and her entire team were moved to the department that left comments on the websites of Russian news outlets and ordered to suggest that the opposition itself had set up the murder.
It’s a fascinating story that should make anyone weary of reading anonymous comments on the internet. Though as BoingBoing notes, these types of organizations are not just a Russian product. China — and yes, even the United States — also employ people to do essentially the same thing.
But Russia’s Internet Research Agency certainly takes it to the next level, as Chen writes that it had “industrialized the art of trolling.”
“It’s definitely made me more paranoid about, you know, what’s on Twitter, what’s on Facebook,” Chen told NPR’s Audie Cornish in an interview. “One thing that really struck me was how big of an impact, you know, a relatively small number of people who are working in a determined manner to shape the dialogue on the Internet can have.”
A top Pentagon official has said the only sure way of eliminating North Korea’s nuclear weapons capabilities would be by putting US boots on the ground — a move that some worry could prompt Pyongyang to use biological, chemical, and even nuclear weapons against Japan and South Korea.
“The only way to ‘locate and destroy — with complete certainty — all components of North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs’ is through a ground invasion,” Rear Adm. Michael J. Dumont, vice director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff wrote in a blunt assessment to US lawmakers on the realities of reining in Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.
Dumont’s letter came in response to questions by US Reps. Ted Lieu of California and Ruben Gallego of Arizona in regards to military planning and casualty estimates in the event of conflict with the nuclear-armed North.
Rear Adm. Michael J. Dumont, pictured above, is convinced that the only way to completely disarm North Korea would be to put Troops in harm’s way. (Photo courtesy of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.)
Dumont said that a detailed discussion of US capabilities “to counter North Korea’s ability to respond with a nuclear weapon and to eliminate North Korea’s nuclear weapons located in deeply buried, underground facilities,” would be best suited for a classified briefing.
The military, Dumont wrote, “would be happy to join the Intelligence Community to address these issues in a classified briefing.”
His letter also noted that the North “may consider the use of biological weapons as an option, contrary to its obligations under the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention,” adding that it continues to bolster its research and development capabilities in this area.
North Korea, the letter went on, “has a long-standing chemical weapons program with the capability to produce nerve, blister, blood, and choking agents and it likely possesses a CW stockpile.”
The country “probably could employ CW agents by modifying a variety of conventional munitions, including artillery and ballistic missiles, though whether it would so employ CW agents remains an open question,” Dumont said, again noting that a detailed discussion would need to be held in a classified setting.
The Pentagon also said it was “challenging” to calculate “best- or worst-case casualty estimates” for any conventional or nuclear attack, citing the nature, intensity, and duration of any strike, as well as how much advance warning is given.
In a joint statement in response to the letter, 16 US lawmakers — all veterans — called the prospect of a ground invasion “deeply disturbing.”
“The Joint Chiefs of Staff has now confirmed that the only way to destroy North Korea’s nuclear arsenal is through a ground invasion,” they wrote. “That is deeply disturbing and could result in hundreds of thousands, or even millions of deaths in just the first few days of fighting.”
These estimates echoed a report by the Congressional Research Service released late last month that said renewed conflict on the Korean Peninsula could kill hundreds of thousands of people in the first few days alone, a figure that excluded the potential use of nuclear weapons.
Even if North Korea “uses only its conventional munitions, estimates range from between 30,000 and 300,000 dead in the first days of fighting,” the report said, citing North Korea’s ability to fire 10,000 rounds per minute at Seoul.
More pressingly for Japan, the report noted is that “Pyongyang could also escalate to attacking Japan with ballistic missiles, including the greater Tokyo area and its roughly 38 million residents.
“The regime might see such an attack as justified by its historic hostility toward Japan based on Japan’s annexation of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945, or it could launch missiles in an attempt to knock out US military assets stationed on the archipelago,” the report said. “A further planning consideration is that North Korea might also strike US bases in Japan (or South Korea) first, possibly with nuclear weapons, to deter military action by US/ROK forces.”
US President Donald Trump, who kicked off his first trip to Asia as president with a visit to Japan on Nov. 5, has regularly noted that all options, including military action, remain on the table.
The global community has been ramping up pressure on North Korea after it conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test so far on Sept. 3. In September, the UN Security Council strengthened its sanctions, including export bans as well as asset freezes and travel bans on various officials.
For his part, Trump, together with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has taken an approach of “maximum pressure” in dealing with Pyongyang.
But Trump, known to derisively refer to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as “rocket man,” has also variously threatened North Korea with “fire and fury” and to “totally destroy” the country of 25 million people if the United States is forced to defend itself or its allies, including Japan.
This possibility of military action has stoked alarm among allied nations and within the US Congress, including questions about planning and the aftermath of such a move.
“It is our intent to have a full public accounting of the potential cost of war, so the American people understand the commitment we would be making as a nation if we were to pursue military action,” the 16 lawmakers wrote in their statement.
The Trump administration, the lawmakers said, “has failed to articulate any plans to prevent the military conflict from expanding beyond the Korean Peninsula and to manage what happens after the conflict is over.”
“With that in mind, the thought of sending troops into harm’s way and expending resources on another potentially unwinnable war is chilling,” they said. “The President needs to stop making provocative statements that hinder diplomatic options and put American troops further at risk.”
The United States has roughly 50,000 troops stationed in Japan and 28,500 based in South Korea.
“Invading North Korea could result in a catastrophic loss of lives for US troops and US civilians in South Korea,” the lawmakers said. “It could kill millions of South Koreans and put troops and civilians in Guam and Japan at risk.
“As Veterans, we have defended this nation in war and we remain committed to this country’s security. We also understand that entering into a protracted and massive ground war with North Korea would be disastrous for US troops and our allies,” they said. “The Joint Chiefs of Staff, it appears, agree. Their assessment underscores what we’ve known all along: There are no good military options for North Korea.”
In the late 1960s, the cancellation of the B-70 Valkyrie program and the retirement of the B-58 Hustler meant that the United States Air Force was likely to struggle with bypassing Soviet defenses. The FB-111 Switchblade was coming online to help address this gap in capabilities, but the plane’s production run was cut down to 76 airframes (from an originally planned 263) in 1969.
The US Air Force needed an answer — a fast one.
That answer came in the form of the AGM-69 Short-Range Attack Missile, or SRAM. The “short range” bit in the name, in this case, was relative. The AGM-69 SRAM had a maximum range of 100 miles. That’s considered “short” when compared with something like the AGM-28 Hound Dog (which had a 700-mile range). In theory, this weapon allowed B-52s or FB-111s to take on enemy air-defense sites.
A training version of the AGM-69 Short-Range Attack Missile is loaded onto a B-1B Lancer. The B-1 could carry two dozen of these missiles.
(USAF photo by Technical Sgt. Kit Thompson)
Any air-defense site that drew the ire of a B-52 or FB-111 enough to require the use of a SRAM was in for some hurt. The SRAM packed a W69 thermonuclear warhead with a yield of 200 kilotons. A single AGM-69 sounds painful enough — the FB-111 could carry as many as six of these missiles. The B-52 could carry an even 20. By comparison, the legendary BUFF could only carry two AGM-28 Hound Dog cruise missiles.
The AGM-69 entered service in 1972 and was widely deployed among Strategic Air Command units. This missile had a top speed of Mach 3 and weighed just under 2,300 pounds. The missile was 14-feet long and 17-and-a-half inches wide. Over 1,500 SRAMs were built.
The AGM-69 could be carried in a rotary launcher inside the bomb bay of bombers like the B-52, or on pylons on the wings.
The missile served until 1990. It was retired after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The planned successor, the AGM-131 SRAM II, which would have had longer range (250 miles) and smaller size (under ten-and-a-half feet long and a little more than 15 inches across) was cancelled the following year.
Learn more about this essential, Cold War-era missile in the video below!
The Armed Forces Network provides American troops, their families, and government contractors with a nice slice of the American media and entertainment from back home. But because the way the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS, and yes, it is pronounced like “a farts”) is run, the programming needs to remain neutral, balanced, and ad-free.
AFRTS is a nonprofit enterprise owned by the U.S. government. It does not and cannot air commercials during its programs. This is to avoid looking like any company has the endorsement of or sponsorship from the Department of Defense. Television shows are created with three commercial gaps in mind and, on AFN, these get replaced with public service announcements and command information spots that are just comically bad.
AFN does run PSAs from the Ad Council that are actually high-quality and are made with great care. The Ad Council is a nonprofit organization that works heavily with agencies of the U.S. Government. Because they’re meant to raise awareness on non-partisan issues, they’re allowed to play on AFN.
They’re intended for general audiences and need to have the quality to compete against a paid advertisement. This is why troops still see ads for McGruff the Crime Dog while they’re trying to catch the latest episode of Game of Thrones.
Which brings us to the most ill-received commercials: the command information spots. To put it bluntly, the top priority is to get the message across. This can range from just a Drill Instructor telling you to wear a seat belt to ads like Squeakers, The OPSEC Mouse.
It’s funny the first time, but watching the same ad every time you go to the chow hall will rot your brain. This isn’t the fault of the creators: The budget just isn’t there, the equipment is dated (if there at all), and deadlines are tight. A typical AFN commercial request comes down from command with little more than a call to action and a quick turnaround demand. Some of the nicer AFN commercials are made at Fort Meade, while the less-polished ones are made overseas. Both are created by civilian talent and troops with film-making aspirations.
When it comes time to create a new ad, brainstorm meetings are held to come up with something that’s memorable — that’s the key to all of this. It can be goofy. It can be weird. It can even be about a man in a Batman mask running around Bagram Airfield, shaking people down for breaking rules — as long as you remember the message.
Much of NATO’s hope to remain a relevant fighting force in the coming decades has been pinned on the introduction of the F-35, but a simple look at the numbers shows that one airframe alone won’t turn the tide against Russia.
“If we think we’re going to wait for the next generation to sort the problems out, I can categorically tell you we will fail when next major conflict occurs.” Simon Rochelle, the Royal Air Force’s air vice-marshal, told the Royal United Service Institute’s Combat Air Survivability conference on March 20, 2019.
“In 2030, 80% of the European NATO forces — should one of those situations occur, God forbid — will be gen 4 fighters. You can’t walk away from that,” he continued, referring to pre-stealth jets as belonging to a fourth generation of fighters.
While Rochelle sounded confident in the F-35’s ability to meet current and future threats, he stressed that NATO wouldn’t hit critical mass in its fifth-generation fleets in time for the next big conflict.
But instead of demanding a deeper well of F-35s, Rochelle said the only practical way was to spread the benefits of the F-35 horizontally, to other airframes.
“I need the F-35’s ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) information off boarded,” he said. “We have F-35s and Typhoons, and I have to use those symbiotically. I can’t afford poor interoperability.”
Too little, too late
While the UK has its own fifth-gen fighter planned, the Tempest, Rochelle said the slow pace of fielding the fighters slightly defeated the purpose.
“If both those airframes take 10 years to mature to the next level, they won’t fit the purpose,” he said.
In the meantime, Russia has come up with a slew of new, low-cost, and potentially potent weapons systems meant to down NATO jets.
“The threats, in terms of how it is progressing, [are] significant,” Rochelle said of Russian systems such as the S-400, which has begun to proliferate across the globe with China, Syria, and even the NATO member Turkey looking to buy.
“Those systems are so complex and so capable that a price point for those systems of defense is far cheaper than the long running programs we have in the aircraft to development,” Rochelle said. “We can’t afford not to respond at pace, because our adversaries are responding at pace.”
An S-400 can spot even stealth aircraft such as the F-35 and, using a relatively cheap missile, down a jet that costs many hundred times its own value.
Additionally, Russia may have the even more advanced S-500 system online by the time fifth-generation fighter aircraft hit the front lines en masse.
“They are formidable beasts,” Rochelle said of Russia’s new systems, which include directed energy weapons.
At the Rapid Capabilities Office in the Royal Air Force, Rochelle’s job is to innovate new solutions to these mounting problems and get them done fast.
Rochelle discussed cutting down extensive, sometimes grueling testing requirements for non-mission critical components of fighter aircraft. He also explained how his office was able to get Tornado jets fighting ISIS in 191 days.
When it came to fitting the F-35 into the bigger NATO fight against Russia, Rochelle was full of ideas.
“I want to be able to connect a Rivet Joint, through space, into the cockpit … We need to be thinking in those dimensions,” he said, referencing the US and UK’s standard airborne signals-intelligence plane that can help spot anti-air batteries like Russia’s S-400.
“Ideally, I’d like to reprogram the F-35 in flight” with new information, potentially including things spotted by Rivet Joints and other legacy aircraft.
Essentially, Rochelle knows that Europe won’t have B-21s, F-22s, and F-35s of its own on day one of a conflict with Russia, and has launched a series of programs to make his Typhoons fight harder with the benefit of targeting and threat data pulled from F-35s.
In effect, he’s gunning for a much cheaper, lighter air force that takes the cutting edge of the F-35 and spreads it out across the entire mass of NATO’s jet fighter fleet.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.